The TWABM ebook – sale now on!

Hey! You there. Haven’t you bought the That Was A Bit Mental Volume 1 ebook yet?

GhouliesIf not, you are to be rewarded for your apathy and/or laziness, because I’m dropping the price for a limited time to mark the New Year.

Yes, for a short period you can now download the ebook for only £0.99 / $1.59, instead of the usual price of £2.22 / $3.49.

That’s less than a quid for 350 pages of sarcastic cult movie reviews, a hundred of the buggers in total. And you probably can’t say fairer than that – though to be fair I haven’t researched that claim much.

So pop over to Amazon and get That Was A Bit Mental Volume 1 now from the Kindle store while it’s dirt cheap. You don’t need to have a Kindle – it also works a treat on the Kindle app on iOS, Android and Windows.

NOTE: For some reason Amazon can be a little weird when I try to change the price, so you may be charged a couple of pence more (at the time of writing, for example, it’s £1.02 instead of £0.99).

Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) review

Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives posterDirector: Tom McLoughlin

Starring: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, CJ Graham

“I went to go cremate Jason… but I fucked up.” (Tommy Jarvis, Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives)

After pissing off long-time Friday The 13th fans by releasing a sequel in which Jason wasn’t actually the killer (see my review of Part V: A New Beginning), Paramount wasn’t taking any risks with the sixth film. That’s why Friday The 13th Part VI comes with a fairly definitive subtitle that states, yes, Jason is alive and well in this one.

Not that his resurrection makes a lot of sense, mind. After surviving a Friday film for the second time, Tommy Jarvis (now played by a third actor, the frustratingly spelt Thom Mathews) escapes from his mental institution, heading to Jason’s grave with his friend to convince himself he’s gone once and for all. After digging up the grave he sees Jason’s rotting body. Nice one, job done.

Except it isn’t, because Tommy decides he wants to drive a metal pole through Jason’s corpse, an act that comes back to munch on Tommy’s arse when a lightning storm hits the pole and brings Jason back to life, all zombified and annoyed and that. Continue reading “Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) review”

Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) review

Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter posterDirector: Joseph Zito

Starring: Kimberly Beck, Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover, Peter Barton, Ted White

“Jesus Christmas! Holy Jesus! Goddamn! Holy Jesus jumping Christmas shit!” (Axel, Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter)

Oh, you poor, deluded fools. To think there was once a time when the fourth film in the Friday The 13th series was supposed to be the last one ever.

Of course, hindsight tells us this couldn’t have been further from the truth – Jason would go on to star in a further eight movies – but for now let’s treat The Final Chapter as the concluding part it was seemingly intended to be.

Following on from the end of the third movie, an apparently dead Jason is carted off to the local morgue where he rests with his victims. Predictably, it’s not long before he’s up and at them again, killing a couple of doctors on his way out of the building. Continue reading “Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) review”

Argo (2012) review

Argo posterDirector: Ben Affleck

Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman

“Okay, you got six people hiding out in a town of what, four million people, all of whom chant “death to America” all the livelong day. You want to set up a movie in a week. You want to lie to Hollywood, a town where everybody lies for a living.

Then you’re gonna sneak 007 over here into a country that wants CIA blood on their breakfast cereal, and you’re gonna walk the Brady Bunch out of the most watched city in the world?” (Lester, Argo)

Regular readers of this site will have gathered by now that I don’t often go for the heavier stuff. Life’s serious enough as it is without having even more terorrism, war and courtroom drama thrust in your eyeholes, so that’s why I’m generally more Motel Hell than Hotel Rwanda when it comes to film taste. Still, I do appreciate a good film no matter what genre, so when Argo gathered a lot of attention at the Oscars I thought “Ar, go on then” (sorry).

Argo pic 1
“Well, it’s a bit too late to learn the script now because we’re actually shooting the film at this moment.”

It’s based on the real-life story of the ‘Canadian caper’, an extraordinary event in which a man was sent into Iran and tasked with getting six American diplomats back to the US while an anti-American revolution was ensuing in the background.

You see, years prior America had been backing Mohammad Reza, an Iranian shah (king) who had made life miserable for Iranians for many years. When the Iranians revolted the shah fled and America allowed him to travel there for medical treatment. Iran wanted him back so the entire country could kick the living pish out of him, but the US refused, so the Iranian people went apeshit, started massive street protests and stormed the US embassy, taking 52 of its workers hostage as they tried to destroy any incriminating files. Continue reading “Argo (2012) review”

Please Don’t Eat My Mother (1973) review

Please Don't Eat My Mother posterDirector: Carl Monson

Starring: Buck Kartalian, Lynn Lundgren, a load of other people shagging

HENRY – “Well, that’s murder or something!”
EVE – “Never heard of a plant getting arrested, have you?”

Henry Fudd (which is an even more appropriate name in Scotland) is a weird bastard. He spends his lunch break spying on couples having sex, then after work he goes back home, where he lives with his possessive mother, and locks himself in his room, the walls of which are covered with pages of porno magazines. Oh, and he has a plant called Eve that eats people.

Please Don’t Eat My Mother is essentially a low-budget rip-off of Little Shop Of Horrors, only (as it’s produced by “Sexploitation King” Harry Novak) with more porn and less quality. Eve starts off as a tiny sapling that Henry feeds normal plant food, but before too long she’s grown dramatically and adopted a sexy woman’s voice. The plant asks Henry to bring him increasingly larger food, starting with flies and upgrading to frogs, dogs and eventually people, including – you guessed it – Henry’s mother.

Please Don't Eat My Mother
“C’mere baby and plant one on me. Get it?! PLANT! Because you’re a… let me just unzip these jeans”

It’s a story that might have been more interesting had it been handled better (of course, it already had), but Please Don’t Eat My Mother is a bucket of pish. Buck Kartalian is a bizarre actor to watch – it’s clear the film is supposed to be a cheesy comedy he makes some truly odd facial expressions, chewing the scenery… literally, at times.

The ‘special effects’ (and I mean special in a different way than usual) are the sort of thing you’d expect to see in a school play. The plant looks like a ridiculous papier-mâché creation and its movement is so limited (its mouth moves and that’s it) that it always eats its victims off-camera (complete with over-the-top slurping sound effects and unconvincing whimpers from the victim). Continue reading “Please Don’t Eat My Mother (1973) review”

Blood Car (2007)

Director: Alex Orr

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.

Look! it's her off My Girl! She looks happy considering her mate was killed by bees

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.

She gets her baps out five minutes later if you're into that sort of thing. You freak.

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.

Wheatgrass just isn't doing it, mate. I don't even know what wheatgrass is.

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.

Bride Of Chucky (1998)

Director: Ronny Yu

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.

"Nice work eBay, you bastards... minor imperfections my arse"

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.

Laugh it up now mate but your hand isn't articulated enough to pull the trigger

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.

When Mick Hucknall met Debbie Harry, it was awkward to say the least

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.

Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave (1976)

Director: Doo-yong Lee

Starring: Jun Chong, Deborah Dutch

WONG: “Your threats don’t frighten me one little bit.”
SUZUKI: “You should be.” 

Many martial arts films cash in on Bruce Lee’s name despite having little to do with the great man. Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave is obviously one such film, though you’ve got to applaud a movie that goes so far as making the outlandish claim that not only does Lee star in it, he actually does so after his untimely death.

Of course, this is complete bollocks. In reality the only thing this film has to do with Bruce Lee is a hastily cobbled-together intro showing a hilariously fake-looking gravestone with “BRUCE LEE” printed on it, which then explodes and is followed by some hideous fan art of Bruce Lee punching a dragon. Then the actual film, the one that has nothing to do with the legendary martial artist and was seemingly chosen at random to have this intro slapped onto it, properly begins.

Good to see the Hong Kong stonemasons have a love for the Impact font

The film tells the tale of Wong Han (played by Jun Chong – though the film credits him as “Bruce KL Lea”, no doubt to cover the filmmakers with a good “what? Oh you thought we meat THAT Bruce Lee” excuse). Wong is a Hong Kong man who comes to LA to meet his kung fu teacher friend who he hasn’t seen for three years. When he gets to his friend’s dojo, Wong finds that his chum’s been murdered by five men – “a Japanese, a white man, a black man, a Mexican and a cowboy”. Yes, a cowboy.

Wong vows revenge, and sets out on a Kill Bill-style mission to take down the five evil-doers. Don’t ask me how he goes about tracking them down, because this film is all over the place.

Some pictures are just too bizarre to caption. He's carrying his friend's bones in a sling. Nothing can top that

As he wanders around LA (while carrying his pal’s bones in a sling around his neck, naturally), Wong encounters a woman called Susan who’s being attacked. He saves her and gets talking to her, and as luck would have it she knows how to find all the men who killed his friend. What are the odds?

It’s difficult to put across how bad Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave is. The dubbing’s among the worst I’ve ever seen in a film, the fight scenes are laughably basic and poorly lit, and seriously – what the hell is the deal with the bones.

The final ten minutes, in which Wong encounters the “cowboy” shortly before finding out a horrible secret, try to provide a clever twist but in reality it just opens up far more questions. Such as “why did these actors never make the big time?”

"You're under arrest for impersonating a martial arts legend. How do you plead?" "With a horribly dubbed voice"

Despite the above you should still see this film, preferably with a group of like-minded cheese-lovers. You’ll chuckle at the scene where Wong is grilled by a police chief (“you’re gonna get the chair!” “and what kind of chair is that?”), guffaw at the pivotal car-buying scene, shake your head in amazement as Wong and Susan spend a needlessly long time looking for criminals at a racecourse only to leave and go “oh, there they are”, and watch dumbfounded as Wong, who has to meet Susan by a certain time, is distracted by the shittest-looking carnival (stock footage, of course) for literally two hours.

It may not be the Bruce Lee film it masquerades as, but Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave turns out to be so much more. It’s a love story, it’s a thrilling mystery, it’s an action-packed extravaganza and, most of all, it’s a load of old shite. Get it watched.

Oh, and be sure to check out the trailer below, which blatantly states over and over again that this is definitely Bruce Lee and the film’s all about him fighting the “black angel of death” to come back to life. Which is like saying I’m Freddie Mercury.

Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave is only available on Region 1 (US) DVD. If you live in the UK and can play these discs, you can order it very cheaply by clicking here. If you live in the US and have a few bucks spare you can get it by clicking here.

Halloween (1978)

Director: John Carpenter

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.

Woody Allen wasn't very inconspicuous when he tried to be a ghost

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.

That lamb vindaloo was coming back on young Michael. That's right, we make jokes about boys shitting themselves here

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.

The awesome Donald Pleasance would appear in five Halloween movies in total

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?

"I really need to get this wardrobe fixed"

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.

There are loads of ways to get Halloween so here are a bunch of links:

UK Blu-ray
UK DVD box set (Halloween 1-5 and H20)
US Blu-ray

Sharktopus (2010)

Director: Declan O’Brien

Starring: Eric Roberts, Kerem Bursin, Sara Lane

“There is a way we can stop this thing. Virgin sacrifices. Yes, the Mexican Fish & Game Commission assures me the only way to appease this beast is to offer it a beautiful virgin, preferably 18-25 years old. I repeat: Sharktopus wants our virgins. ” (Captain Jack, Sharktopus)

For those who don’t know, the slew of “mutated animal” creature features that have been doing the rounds for the past few years is partly thanks to the folks at SyFy (formerly known as the Sci-Fi Channel), who help fund them in return for exclusive premiere rights. That’s why many of them seem very similar.

What happens when the Sharktopus meets a normal shark? He fucks him up, basically

Take Sharktopus, for example, and compare it with Dinoshark, which I reviewed recently. Both films feature mutated sharks, both films have atrocious CGI scenes where the shark in question attacks and both films, for some reason, take place in Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. I’d like to think money’s probably exchanged hands between the filmmakers and the Puerto Vallarta tourism board, but considering the films are essentially saying Puerto Vallarta is packed with killer mutant sharks I’m not so sure.

Anyway then, Sharktopus. As you may be able to deduce with your keen mind, it’s about a half-shark half-octopus monster. Rather than hatching from ice like Dinoshark did, Sharktopus is the result of a dodgy biological experiment to create the ultimate killing machine. Naturally, it breaks free and heads to Mexico– where the women are hot and the budget is cheap – meaning it’s up to the scientists who created it to stop it.

Not a good time to lose your head! AHAHAHAHA! Oh dear, I may actually be the most original writer in history

The big boss of the scientists (played by made-for-TV maestro Eric Roberts) wants Sharktopus kept alive because he’ll lose his contract with the military if it dies, so he hires Andy Flynn (Bursin), an ex-Iraq War veteran, and offers him a whole heap of money to catch it without killing it. And if you think he’s not going to change his mind later and instead blow it to smithereens when it gets out of control then I appreciate your optimism but you’re obviously delirious.

Some of the deaths in Sharktopus are actually fairly impressive, especially given the sort of off-camera rubbish we’ve been “treated” to in other movies of its ilk in the past. Expect to see some decapitations, tentacle impalement, and of course the odd chomp or twelve to keep things moving along. There are even times where the Sharktopus leaves the sea, using its tentacles to waddle along the coast in a big up yours to the snarky “well, why don’t you just stay out of the water” argument people often use during shark movies.

Let's be honest, this is cool as fuck

The most curious moment for me is the scene with the two ship painters sitting on scaffolding above the water, painting the side of a boat. The Sharktopus attacks them both, but as the second one dies he yells “Nooooo, not like this”. Are you kidding me? Being killed by a Sharktopus is clearly one of the most awesome ways to go. Imagine your wife at your funeral talking to people:

“I’m sorry to hear about Jake, ma’am. You have my deepest condolences.”
“Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say.”
“If you don’t mind me asking ma’am, how exactly did Jake leave us? Was it a heart attack? In his sleep?”
“No, he was pulled into the sea and eaten whole by a Sharktopus.”
“If you don’t mind me saying, ma’am, that is fucking epic.”

Of the countless killer animal films currently doing the rounds, Sharktopus is one of the better ones… not that that’s saying much. The CGI effects and story are still hokey garbage but at least there are some clever death scenes in there, which is more or less what these otherwise mindless films are all about.