“During the past 20 years I know that my compulsion to understand death was much greater than just an obsession. My dreams have dictated my mission. But now it is time to witness the final moment, to discover the circle that forever repeats ifself. The end of the beginning or the beginning of the end? I’ll leave that decision to you.” (Dr Gross, Faces Of Death)
I’ve been putting off watching Faces Of Death for years but I knew that my pledge to eventually watch all 72 video nasties meant that one day I’d have to grin and bear it. With my fiancee on holiday in France, I figured there was no time like the present. As I expected, Faces Of Death is fucking horrible.
This gruesome ’70s film is part documentary, part mockumentary, a film that claims it wants us to consider death and make us question the ways in which we kill and be killed, but in reality it’s just an excuse to show scene after scene of grotesque footage. It’s since been admitted that around 40% of the footage was faked, but that of course means around 60% was real and that’s just macabre.
Of course, even if it hadn’t been admitted that much of Faces Of Death was fake, these days it’d be much easier to tell anyway. The film originally gained notoriety and popularity in the early days of VHS, where people would rent and copy the taboo tape, passing it around their friends and constantly degrading the already fuzzy picture quality in the process. This made it easier to believe all the footage was real, because the detail lost in the tape quality would be filled in by the viewer’s subconscious and made “realistic” in their heads. Continue reading “Faces Of Death (1978) (Video Nasty review #6)”→
Starring: Ed Harris, Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, Stephen King, EG Marshall
“You see that crap? All that horror crap? Things coming out of crates and eating people? Dead people coming back to life? People turning into weeds, for christ sake? Well, you want him reading that stuff? All right then! I took care of it. That’s why God made fathers, babe. That’s why God made fathers.” (Stan, Creepshow)
If you’ve read my previous review of Creepshow 3, you’ll have noticed that it has the dubious honour of one measly Trevor mask as its rating. This wasn’t just because Creepshow 3 is bad – it most certainly is – but also because its predecessors were so good that the third film let the entire series down. To cheer myself up then I decided to re-watch the original Creepshow over the festive period.
If you’re not familiar with it, Creepshow is a collection of five short stories written by Stephen King and directed by George A Romero (back when he was still good and not slapping his name on any old shite for a fiver). It’s an homage to the old EC comics of the 1950s like Tales From The Crypt and Vault Of Horror, and as such each story starts and ends as if it were in a comic book, with garish colours and speech bubbles. It’s an interesting style that not everyone will love but it’s fun and keeps things light-hearted. Make no mistake, this may be a collection of horror stories but (much like the EC comics themselves) its tongue is planted firmly in its rotting cheek and its five tales of morality are much funnier than they are scary. Continue reading “Creepshow (1982)”→
Starring: Mike Brune, Anna Chlumsky, Katie Rowlett
“Puppies… you killed that girl with puppies.” (Archie, Blood Car)
It is the near future – a few weeks from now, to be exact. Due to a crumbling economic framework the oil market has collapsed, making petrol as rare as gold dust and turning the roads entirely car-free. Nerdy vegan Archie Andrews (Mike Brune) thinks he’s got the solution to the problem and is working on a car that runs entirely on wheatgrass, but it isn’t going so well. Until he cuts his finger.
When just a drop of his blood gets into the fuel tank, Archie’s custom-built car suddenly springs to life. He quickly realises that not only does his car run on blood, it works far more efficiently than if he was using petrol.
Owning a car that actually runs makes Archie the cock of the walk, and he soon starts getting chatted up by the slutty Denise. This pisses off Lorraine (My Girl’s Anna Chlumsky, only about 15 years older), who works at the wheatgrass stall and is Archie’s secret admirer. Thus begins a battle for Archie’s heart while he tries to keep his blood-based secret to himself.
Driving the only car in town? Having two women fight over you? Sounds like a good situation for Archie to be in. What’s the problem, you may wonder. The problem is that Archie’s car starts running out of fuel again, and he can hardly keep draining his own blood to fill it up. He’s going to need more fresh blood, and the best way for him to do that is to start killing random people. Of course, being a vegan, that’s easier said than done.
Blood Car may be decidedly low-budget but that’s part of its charm. You forgive the cheesy special effects and the hammy acting because the cast seem like they’re having a ball and you don’t want to rock the boat by saying “um, no offence, but you’re shit Chlumsky”. While many of the jokes are iffy, there are some real winners in there and the film’s general quirky mood will eventually have you smiling.
The only real problem with Blood Car is the ending, which just gets so ridiculous it stops being the funny little horror film it is and instead becomes a film trying too hard for attention.
Blood Car is cheesy, it’s eccentric, it’s low-budget and it’s funny. It’s not the greatest film of all time and it’s not exactly packed with memorable, show-stopping moments but it’s a pleasant enough way to spend an hour and a half.
Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Katherine Heigl, John Ritter, voice of Brad Dourif
Jesse: “How’d you end up like this?” Tiffany: “It’s a long story.” Chucky: “Let me put it this way. If it were a movie, it would probably take three or four sequels to do it justice.”
A lot can change in seven years. When Child’s Play 3 was released in 1991 the idea of a killer doll was still considered scary. By the time Chucky’s fourth film went into production however horror was in its post-Scream phase and slasher films were being taken less seriously when their killers were human, let alone a tiny ginger plastic midget. Chucky would have stood no chance as a convincing horror star anymore had his fourth film stuck to the super-serious Child’s Play formula, so things would have to change.
And so, rather than following the tried-and-tested “Chucky stalks a young child” routine as seen in the previous three Child’s Play movies, Bride Of Chucky instead became a knowing, tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating movie that knew audiences wouldn’t take killer dolls seriously anymore and so chose not to take itself seriously either.
The film opens with Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), an ex-girlfriend of Chucky’s when he was still a human, tracking down the remains of the Chucky doll and bringing them home. After performing voodoo on the doll and bringing Chucky back to life, she tells him she’s going to help him find a human body so they can finally get married like they’d planned. Problem is there’s been a little misunderstanding and Chucky never wanted to get married, so a dejected Tiffany locks Chucky in a cage, vowing to keep him in his doll form.
After breaking loose, Chucky decides to give Tiffany a taste of her own medicine and voodoos her soul into the body of a bride doll. The plastic pair grudgingly form an alliance to seek out the corpse of Charles Lee Ray (Chucky’s original form) so they can find the amulet he was buried with and use its power to turn them both human again.
Whereas the Child’s Play trilogy played things out with a stony-faced solemnity as if it were Cape Fear, Bride Of Chucky knows it’s a bit mental and because of this it’s far funnier than Chucky’s previous films. The one-liners come thick and fast and the characters of Chucky and Tiffany play well off each other. They’re an odd couple both literally and figuratively – Tiffany wants a happy home where she bakes cookies for her loving man, while Chucky is a foul-mouthed sleazeball who doesn’t have a romantic bone in his plastic body – so it’s fun watching their personalities clash.
Humour aside, Bride Of Chucky’s level of violence is also brought killing and screaming into the late ‘90s. At one point being told his traditional knife is “too ‘80s”, Chucky is encouraged to improvise new ways of offing his foes and this results in some interesting kills. Safe to say you’ll never sleep in a water bed, break into a car or step into the middle of the motorway again – though if you do the latter you’re sort of asking for it anyway.
Bride Of Chucky may not be to everyone’s taste but it’s really the best direction the series could have taken. Chucky just wasn’t scary anymore by the time this went into production (though the upcoming Child’s Play remake may change that) and so it’s ultimately better to get audiences laughing with him than laughing at him. With this change in tone, what could have become an ‘80s slasher character long forgotten among the Leprechauns, Critters and Ghoulies of this world is now a cult hero among genre fans, with merchandise up the wazoo and a horde of followers. Bride Of Chucky was a big risk but, as the film’s poster says, Chucky got lucky.
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, PJ Soles, Nancy Loomis
“I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply evil.” (Dr Loomis, Halloween)
There are a sacred handful of films that will forever be considered horror classics, films that revolutionised the genre and influenced the creation of countless others that followed in its wake. Look inside the wallets of Night Of The Living Dead, Psycho,The Exorcist and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and you’ll find they’re all card-carrying members of this elite club, but John Carpenter’s Halloween was the one who went to the printing shop and had the cards designed. Shite metaphors aside, the influence Halloween had on horror is one that continues to this day, largely because it was the first film to successfully introduce the slasher genre to the mainstream public.
While it’s often wrongly credited as the first ever slasher movie (the likes of Black Christmas, The Driller Killer and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre came before it), there’s no denying that Halloween was the first to nail it and the one that would inspire the endless stream of low-budget slashers that followed it (a stream that would flow right through to the present day). Its simple premise – a babysitter stalked by a faceless, unstoppable killer – made it easy for the viewer to relate and as such made it terrifying to the teenage audiences that came in their droves to see it. Simply put, Halloween changed horror cinema forever.
It tells the story of Michael Myers, a young boy who suddenly snaps one Halloween. Putting on a clown mask, Michael grabs a kitchen knife and goes upstairs, stabbing his older sister over and over. When his parents get home and find that young Mike’s turned his sister into a human colander, he’s sent to a mental asylum for the rest of his life.
Naturally, someone sitting in a cell of 90 minutes would make for a fairly shit movie, so Michael (now aged 21 when we catch up with him) has the common courtesy to escape the asylum and head back to his home town of Haddonfield to raise some hell again.
Halloween is bloody impressive given its shoestring budget. Jamie Lee Curtis and the actresses playing her friends had to go to a charity shop to buy their own outfits, director John Carpenter also composed the music on a cheapo piano and synthesiser, the cast are complete unknowns (other than Donald Pleasance, who plays Michael’s doctor Sam Loomis) and there isn’t a special effect to be seen throughout. Yet despite (or perhaps because of) this, it’s one of those rarities – a horror film that remains genuinely scary more than 30 years later.
Michael Myers is the perfect bogeyman. With his expressionless white mask (a painted William Shatner mask, incidentally) it’s impossible to tell what he’s thinking. He doesn’t just kill like Jason or other slasher villains do, he stalks his prey, watching them and waiting for the right moment to attack, catching them off guard then studying how they react as they die. He’s chilling.
Even his mere presence in the background is enough to cause a fright, a fact taken advantage of by John Carpenter’s clever direction. During some indoor scenes there are occasional subtle glimpses of the white mask outside the window as he stands in the darkness. This keeps the audience on edge and puts them in the odd position of actually hoping to see complete darkness outside. What other film makes its viewers NOT afraid of the dark?
Halloween may be near-perfect but there are one or two tiny elements that make it fall just short. While the young Jamie Lee Curtis is fantastically believable in the lead role of Laurie – giving a real girl-next-door feeling that greatly adds to the film’s authenticity – and PJ Soles is funny as her friend Lynda, the same can’t be said for the third member of the group, Annie (played by Nancy Loomis). She’s so wooden they might as well have put a charity shop skirt on a table and wheeled it alongside the other two, and while her character’s fairly unimportant in the grand scheme of things, she’s the sole reminder that we’re dealing with a low budget film here. Her stupidly hammy facial expressions during her strangulation scene are ridiculous, cheesy garbage and as a result she ruins what should have been a classic moment in horror cinema.
This is made up for by the amazing Donald Pleasance, who steals the show as Dr Sam Loomis. The only real star in the film, Pleasance only signed up for the movie because his daughter was a big fan of Carpenter’s previous movie, Assault On Precinct 13, but it’s a good job he did because it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the role.
While it could be argued that the point of film reviews is to give opinions on – among other things – the likes of plot development, to say much more about Halloween would be to spoil it. It’s the sort of film where, if you’ve been lucky enough to come this far without finding out what happens, you should track it down as soon as possible and enjoy it. All you really need to know is that it’s a true horror classic and is essential viewing for any fan of the genre.
WHERE CAN I GET IT? There are loads of ways to get Halloween so here are a bunch of links: UK DVD
Starring: Alex Vincent, Jenny Agutter, Christine Elise, voice of Brad Dourif
“Why fight it, Andy? We’re going to be very close. In fact, we’re gonna be fucking inseparable. ” (Chucky, Child’s Play 2)
You just can’t keep a bad doll down. Even though it seemed fairly clear Chucky was dead at the end of the original Child’s Play, it turns out while the body was weak the spirit was still willing. So when the company responsible for Good Guy dolls gets hold of Chucky’s remains and sets about cleaning the doll up as a publicity stunt to show it wasn’t cursed, Chucky’s soul awakens again and shit goes down. He then sets about finding Andy, the kid from the first film (who’s now staying with a foster family after his mum was deemed… well, a bit mental), to finally take over his body.
In a way, Child’s Play 2 is faced with the same dilemma as Jaws 2 – when you know who the killer is and you’ve already had a good look at them at the end of the previous film you can’t spend another 50 minutes playing it all mysterious. Half the original Child’s Play was spent trying to guess if Andy’s doll really was the one doing the killings, or whether it was just Andy using the doll as an excuse. Now we all know it’s Chucky, that whodunit angle goes right out the window for the sequel, which is why this time Chucky springs into life and starts the bodycount before your arse has even started to warm the seat.
Andy’s foster home provides a refreshing change of scenery while still keeping the story grounded in reality a little – his foster parents understandably think all the events from the first film were in Andy’s head and so they aren’t having any of it when Chucky finally tracks him down and he tries to convince them to kill it. Instead they think it’s Tommy, a different Good Guy doll they bought which, unknown to them, Chucky has already buried in the back garden. Having Andy trapped in an unfamiliar house with his would-be killer with no way of convincing anyone to help him creates an interesting tension which at least brings back the whodunit angle in some form, even though we’re all in on it this time.
A few unconvincing kills later (it’s hard to imagine a small doll can effectively beat someone to death with a ruler or be strong enough to suffocate someone with a plastic bag) the film finds itself in its final location, a huge toy factory where the Good Guys are manufactured. It’s a fun setting for the typical fifteen minutes of “killer stalking the heroes” shenanigans you’d expect from an early ‘90s slasher, with loads of conveyor belts and dangerous equipment lying around to keep things lively.
It all has to end eventually though, and Chucky’s demise this time is even more decisive than it was in the first movie, leaving absolutely no chance that they could put him together for a third film… or could they?
Although its predecessor was a stronger film when it was first released, now we all know Chucky is the killer these days Child’s Play 2 is the more entertaining movie. It’s got more action, more tension and more Chucky quips. It’s still not exactly a classic, but if you’re looking for one Chucky film to watch from the pre-comedy trilogy this is the one to go for.
“Do you already regret your little escape? In fact, I’m thankful for it, because now I know you are definitely the middle piece.” (Dr Heiter, The Human Centipede)
(Short note: this is a particularly nasty movie, and while there are no overly offensive screens in this review there’s a little colourful language explaining some of the more controversial scenes. If you get queasy just reading about bodily fluids and medical experiments, let alone seeing them, it might be best to give this one your own zero-star rating and move on.)
There are plenty of positions in life that it would be best to avoid. Being in goals for San Marino when you’re playing Brazil at football would be one of them. Being the man in charge of cleaning up after an orgy would be another. There’s one position however that’s probably worst of all, and that’s being the middle piece in a human centipede. The reason for this will become obvious later.
The Human Centpiede opens with two attractive young American women getting lost on the way to a party in Germany when suddenly their car breaks down. They wander through the woods until they finally reach a huge house and when they ring the doorbell an odd chap answers and lets them in. So far so shamelessly stolen from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but what follows makes Rocky Horror‘s transvestite shenanigans seem about as shocking as someone blowing their nose.
The man, a stony-faced German chap called Dr Heiter (Laser), offers the girls some water. They accept and realise it’s been spiked, but it’s too late and when they wake up they find themselves strapped to hospital beds.
In fairly graphic detail, the doc explains to the girls along with a third prisoner (a Japanese man) that he wants to create a human centipede – a single organism made up of three people. He’ll do this by joining up one person’s mouth to the anus of another, and then joining the other’s mouth to a third person’s anus. In that way, all going well, the three will work together as one functioning body.
Surprisingly, despite that previous paragraph, The Human Centipede isn’t very disturbing to watch, at least not with regards to what actually appears on screen. Much like Psycho and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Human Centipede plays on the notion that the viewer’s imagination is much more powerful than anything film can show. In actual fact, the film shows nothing graphic relating to the experiment other than around 20 seconds of operation footage where the doc cuts a slice out of someone’s bum. Movies like Saw and Hostel, which explicitly show body parts being sliced, stabbed and crushed, are a million times more visceral and graphic.
Indeed, mercifully (or more likely simply thanks to budget constraints), each person in the centipede wears a sort of nappy so as to block the view of the actual mouth-to-rump connection, leaving what it looks like entirely within the confines of your own mind. This extends to the most grotesque scene in the film where the Japanese chap, having eaten some food laced with laxatives earlier, realises he suddenly has to (to put it politely as possible) dispose of his waste. Though you never see anything, the thought of what’s going on in that poor middle woman’s mouth is enough to put a bad taste in your own. Simply put, this film is more likely to shock you if you have a vivid imagination.
Dodgy content aside, The Human Centipede is actually a fantastically shot film. The lighting is moody, the outdoor shots are atmospheric and Dr Heiter’s house is so geometrically unusual it’s almost a character in its own right. Had it not been for the small matter of people with their gums wrapped round each other’s arses it could even be considered beautiful. While it seems the soon-to-be-released-unless-you’re-British Human Centipede 2 may not be quite so artistic (we’ll see in a future review… if I can get hold of it), there’s no denying it would be unfair to pass this first film off as low-budget trash simply because of its tasteless subject matter.
Also stunning is Dieter Laser’s performance as the insane doctor. He’s like Christopher Walken with the intensity turned up so far the dial has broken off, and is simply terrifying to both see and hear.
If the mere thought of what happens in The Human Centipede makes you feel physically ill then this film clearly isn’t for you. Many of the scenes, while not graphic, will still give enough information to get your mind working and make for very uncomfortable viewing.
If, however, you’re intrigued by the concept but are simply worried about what you may see than by all means watch it. It is nowhere near as visually horrifying as you may have heard and if the only thing holding you back is the fear of what is shown rather than what is simply implied then there’s very little to be concerned about. Either way, this is a far more accomplished, professional film than some of its critics would have you believe.
Starring: Jessica Morris, Meredith McClain, Deb Snyder
Also known as: Dangerous Chucky Dolls (UK DVD)
“Worry dolls. You gotta be fuckin’ kidding me.” (Alexis, Dangerous Worry Dolls)
Full Moon Features are known for their incredibly low-budget horror movies and, as spoofed in Gingerdead Man 2, many of these involve dolls. The likes of Puppet Master and Demonic Toys were very successful for Full Moon, so it’s no surprise that they’d want to continue trying their hand at something similar. Despite its name, Dangerous Worry Dolls isn’t really that sort of film. At least, not at first.
It’s set in a young women’s reform institute (essentially a very low-security prison), where Eva (Jessica Morris) has been sent for killing someone. Eva just wants to serve her sentence without any hassle so she can get out quick and be with her young daughter again, but she”s getting hassle from Killa Kim, a drug smuggler who wants her to be her mule. Even worse, the militant cow who runs the institute isn’t listening to Eva’s complaints because she “knows her type” and doesn’t think she’s capable of turning over a new leaf.
Eva’s luck changes when her daughter comes to visit and gives her some worry dolls, tiny little voodoo-like skeleton dolls who come in a dinky coffin-shaped box. Her daughter explains that if she puts the worry dolls under her pillow as she sleeps, all her worries will go away. After being sexually assaulted by one of the guards (off-camera, thankfully), Eva reaches the end of her tether and lays the worry dolls under her pillow, hoping they’ll help. As she sleeps they come alive and crawl inside her ear, and that’s where it starts getting a bit odd.
The worry dolls give Eva renewed confidence, so she starts dishing out kickings and the odd murder to the other girls and staff in the facility. She also grows a spot in the middle of her forehead, a spot that continues to grow until eventually a tiny skull comes out of her forehead, squealing like a pig. Incredibly, thanks to the poor acting on display, hardly any of her fellow inmates pay any attention to this screaming forehead-skull, seemingly unimpressed by it and completely undermining the impact of the film.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about Dangerous Worry Dolls is that its sole great performance is the lead role, played by Jessica Morris, an actress I once described as “consistently wooden” in my review of the shitefest that was Scream Bloody Murder. She’s greatly improved in the years since that abomination, and she delivers her lines just right. It’s just a shame that, this time around, it’s the rest of the cast letting her down.
Dangerous Worry Dolls is dull. Its deaths mainly happen off-screen, its characters (with the exception of the lead) are more or less universally hateable, the “twist” scene involving one of the guards is just a complete cringe for all involved and the titular dolls are about as terrifying as dropping 5p. Despite its dramatic title, this is one film you really shouldn’t worry about.
Starring: Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller
“I think the point is to make us despair. To see ourselves as animal and ugly. To make us reject the possibility that God could love us.” (Father Merrin, The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen)
(Note: if you haven’t read my review of The Exorcist yet, it may be best to check it out first.)
Although The Exorcist was a worldwide smash hit and remains Warner Bros’ highest-grossing film at the box office (after inflation), William Peter Blatty remained unsatisfied. As the author of the book on which the film was based he felt some key scenes had been dropped, scenes that would have given viewers the message he originally wanted to express.
William Friedkin, the film’s director, disagreed. He felt the film worked perfectly as it was and told Blatty he was being “a bad winner”, that they were both making a fortune on a hugely critically successful film and he should be happy with the recognition. The two fell out for a while because of this dispute.
Time passed and Blatty and Friedkin resolved their differences and became friends again. Blatty still maintained that he wasn’t happy with parts of the film, in particular the ending, which he felt ended too ambiguously and left people leaving the cinema on a downer thinking the devil may have won. Friedkin remained unconvinced, and maintained that the film should stay untouched.
Eventually, around the time of the film’s 25th anniversary, Blatty persuaded Friedkin to dig out the unused footage from the film and put together a new cut of The Exorcist that more closely resembled Blatty’s original vision, a sort of ‘Writer’s Cut’. The result was released in cinemas in 2000 as The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen.
Despite Blatty’s original intention for the re-release, the most notable change in this new cut is the inclusion of the legendary ‘spider walk’ scene. This deleted scene, in which Regan flips upside-down and walks down the stairs like a spider, had been part of Exorcist lore for years with fans eager to see it as it was originally intended. The scene itself is pretty effective – here it is if you fancy a gander:
So, the spider walk aside, what else is in there? Well, the other main addition is of course the aforementioned alternative ending, which involves an extra scene at the end where Father Dyer and Lt Kinderman have a pleasant chat. This was the scene Blatty wanted to add to reassure the viewer that all was well with the world, and I could take it or leave it really.
There are also a few little trims and additions dotted here and there throughout the movie. Father Merrin has a few extra scenes with Chris MacNeil and Father Karras which flesh his character out a little, and there are some new digital effects where a demon’s face subliminally pops up from time to time.
Do these changes make The Version You’ve Never Seen a better movie than the original? Not necessarily, it just makes it a slightly different one that perhaps feels slightly more modern. Both versions are effective but if pushed I’d recommend you watch the spider scene above then just check out the original version of the film, since its more ambiguous ending leaves a greater feeling of unease.