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3464 reviews in total 
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Nightmares (1983)
A mildly entertaining anthology., 15 January 2017

Unlike many an anthology movie, Nightmares has no wraparound story to link each chapter, the film consisting of four unconnected supernatural tales ranging from the genuinely suspenseful to the rather routine.

Tale number one, Terror in Topanga, is easily the most intense of the group. Based on a popular urban legend about an escaped inmate from a lunatic asylum and a housewife (Cristina Raines) who unwisely leaves her home to purchase cigarettes, you'll probably know how this one is going to end way before you get there, but with sharp direction, a great central performance, and even a little gore, the familiarity of the material matters not—it's a great way to kick off proceedings.

Chapter two is The Battle of Bishop, the tamest of the four stories, which stars Emilio Estevez as teenager J.J. Cooney, who is obsessed with reaching level 13 of a particularly challenging arcade machine. Breaking into the arcade after closing time to play the game, he finally finds out what finishing The Battle of Bishop involves. Like an episode of Amazing Stories, this one isn't in the least bit scary but does deliver a likable turn from Estevez and some fairly decent computer graphics for the day.

The penultimate story is The Benediction, which stars Lance Henriksen as father MacLeod, a priest who has lost his faith. Leaving his parish, McLeod drives into the desert where he is repeatedly attacked by a mysterious black truck with tinted windows. Like a cross between Spielberg's Duel and '70s film The Car, this one offers up some reasonably exciting scenes of vehicular action (including the impressive sight of the truck bursting out of the ground), and its always great to see Henriksen on screen.

Last of the four tales is Night of the Rat, in which a family find themselves terrorised by a giant devil rat that invades their home. This one builds the tension nicely only to spoil it in the closing moments with some cheesy special effects using a real rat made to look oversized. Veronica Cartwright is great as the terrified mother, but she really deserves better than this.

An exercise in bad taste., 14 January 2017

Infamous underground figure Divine (played by fat drag queen Divine) prides herself as the filthiest person alive, but finds herself competing for the title against reprehensible baby-ring operators Connie and Raymond Marble (Mink Stole and David Lochary), who also revel in their repulsiveness.

With Pink Flamingos, director John Waters and his merry band of reprobates go all out to offend and disgust, and in that they most definitely succeed. The plot is seriously dumb and the acting utterly atrocious, but Waters' unique brand of depravity most definitely hits the mark, with something guaranteed to upset even the most jaded of viewers.

Even though I consider myself hardened to most cinematic filth, there were several moments that almost had me reaching for the off button, including a man doing very strange things with his ass-hole, Divine giving 'her' on screen son a blow-job, and the infamous dog turd scene (by which time the film was thankfully almost over). It's been forty-five years since Pink Flamingos first shocked audiences, but thank to scenes like those, it still ranks as one of the most repugnant movies ever made.

I'm not sure how to rate a film like this, so, for the time being, I'm not going to.

The film that put Hammer well and truly on the map., 14 January 2017

Locked in a cell, an hour away from the guillotine, Baron Frankenstein recounts to a priest how he built a creature from human body parts and successfully brought it to life.

The Curse of Frankenstein might not be one of my favourite of Hammer's Frankenstein films—I prefer the studio's later entries in the series with their lurid gore and overt sexuality—but I still hold it in extremely high regard for helping to revive the flagging horror genre (sci-fi having dominated much of the fifties) and for being the first film to team British horror icons Peter Cushing (as Baron Victor Frankenstein) and Christopher Lee (who plays his creation).

Working with a limited budget, director Terence Fisher stages much the action within Victor's home and laboratory, his film very much a character driven piece, with Cushing's obsessed scientist to the fore and Lee's monster taking a back seat. Thankfully, Cushing is such an accomplished performer that he is able to carry the film virtually by himself, delivering a truly chilling turn as a genius driven to unspeakable acts by his obsession. Lee, on the other hand, simply gets to stumble around a bit (he would get his chance to really shine the following year in Hammer's Dracula).

6.5 out of 10, rounded up to 7 for Hazel Court as the Baron's cousin Elizabeth, who adds some welcome glamour to proceedings.

Great effects, weak film., 14 January 2017

Having suffered the indignation of being snatched from his home planet, taken to Earth and stuck in a cage, a rapidly growing scaly alien escapes to look for food, and is pursued by the authorities who poke and prod him until he understandably fights back.

Just because a film boasts impressive special effects doesn't automatically make it a classic. 20 Million Miles To Earth features exceptional stop-motion animation work by Ray Harryhausen, whose Venusian lizard, the Ymir, is a delight to behold, but the film suffers from a tedious plot that clearly takes its cues from King Kong but which is never developed beyond its basic 'monster-on-the-rampage' scenario.

Despite one or two memorable set pieces, such as the crash of a huge spacecraft and the sight of the Ymir in a struggle to the death with an elephant, 20 Millions Miles to Earth is a frustratingly dull film on the whole, suffering from predictable action, remarkably unlikeable characters ('hero' Col. Robert Calder is brash and obnoxious and Pepe the cowboy obsessed kid is a particularly annoying brat) and a daft finale in which US soldiers recklessly destroy part of the Coliseum in order to kill the beast.

M is for Mindless Drivel., 13 January 2017

The challenge was to make a horror short of three minutes or less, inspired by the letter 'M'. Over 500 entries were submitted from around the globe, of which 26 finalists were compiled to make The ABC's of Death 2.5.

With such a short run-time in which to try and tell a story, the majority of 2.5's episodes prove predictably insubstantial, mere excuses for the film-makers to be as bizarre or outrageously gross as possible ('M is for Munging' being the winner there!). And as much as I enjoy the occasional spot of weirdness or gratuitous splatter, this rapid-fire collection left me longing for something a little more coherent.

Of the 26 entries, only a handful manage to impress: opening effort 'M is for Magnetic Tape' delivers a fun premise and some great special effects, 'M is for Malnutrition' ends with a neat Twilight Zone style twist, 'M is for Morman Missionaries' has a warped EC comics style payoff, and 'M is for Mother' features a big-ass spider.

The rest of the entries left me either disappointed or scratching my head in bewilderment.

It Follows (2014)
Catch it if you can., 12 January 2017

We're all familiar with the old slasher movie trope 'Have sex and die'; well, that's what happens in It Follows, but it's not a machete wielding maniac who comes a-calling after its characters bump uglies but rather a deadly STD: a Sexually Transmitted Demon!

After dropping her knickers for boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary), pretty teenager Jay (Maika Monroe) is informed that she is now being followed by a supernatural entity that will kill her if it catches up with her, and that the only way to stop it from doing so is to 'pass it on'. Understandably upset, Jay confides in her sister Kelly (Lili Sepe) and friends Paul and Yara (Keir Gilchrist and Olivia Luccardi), who are somewhat sceptical but willing to help. With the malevolent being approaching at walking speed, Jay has plenty of time to consider her options, but must keep an ever watchful eye out for the creature, which can take on many different guises and is invisible to the uninfected.

Like its monster, It Follows moves at a steady pace, but is never dull thanks to its ingenious plot, engaging performances from its talented young cast, and spot-on handling from writer/director David Robert Mitchell, who cleverly keeps the viewer as much on their toes as the film's central character. While the subject is somewhat reminiscent of J-horror classic Ringu, the atmosphere Mitchell achieves is more akin to the foreboding tension of John Carpenter's Halloween, with careful framing of each shot leading to heightened tension, and a suitably brooding synth score (by Disasterpeace) only adding to the fear factor. Gore is minimal, but effective when used (the early sight of one victim with her leg bent backwards, knee broken open, shows the true horror of the curse).

In a world where so many horror films are content with delivering cheap, jump scares, and practically non-existent character development, It Follows makes for a very refreshing change.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
I'll never understand the appeal., 10 January 2017

Schoolgirl Natsumi (Aimi Satsukawa) asks her friend Yuri (Mizuki Yamamoto) if she can transfer her parents' wedding video onto DVD; in order to do so, the girls buy an old VHS player in which they discover an old tape that turns out to be a fabled cursed video that, once watched, invokes deadly long haired spook Sadako (Elly Nanami), who materialises to kill her victims two days later.

After their initial attempts to break the curse fail, Natsumi and Yuri's only hope lies with spiritual medium Kyozo (Masanobu Andô) and his young assistant Tamao (Maiko Kikuchi), who decide to pit Sadako against grudge spirits Kayako (Runa Endo) and Toshio (Rintaro Shibamoto) in a battle for the girls' souls. Meanwhile, schoolgirl Suzuka (Tina Tamashiro) also finds herself cursed when she enters the haunted home of Kayako and her son Toshio — can Suzuka's life also be saved as a result of the supernatural battle?

Films featuring onryō (vengeful Japanese spooks) really do very little for me: I thought that Ringu (Ring) was mediocre and found The Grudge (Ju-on) incredibly boring. Director Kôji Shiraishi tries to inject a little life into the tired genre with this mash-up of these well known franchises, but all he succeeds in making is a film that, rather predictably, falls somewhere between mediocre and incredibly boring.

Following lots of talk and some not-at-all-scary scenes in which the spooks make brief appearances, the titular fight between the ghosts finally ensues, and it's extremely underwhelming, like two women having a pathetic cat-fight, with little kid Toshio sticking up for his mum. If you're an avid fan of Japanese ghost movies, you might get a kick out of seeing these legendary spirits scratch and claw at each other, but I'll never understand the appeal.

Yea, verily, yea., 10 January 2017

Plucky carnival performer Hubert Hawkins (Danny Kaye) poses as an Italian court jester/assassin as part of a desperate plot to depose wicked King Roderick I (Cecil Parker), who has taken the throne by force (the rightful heir being an infant who bears a purple pimpernel on his posterior).

The Court Jester kicks off with a nifty title sequence in which its star Danny Kaye, dressed in a jester costume, sings an amusing song while interacting with the credits as they appear on screen; it's an ingenious and meticulously choreographed way to start what proves to be an inventive and fun adventure throughout.

Kaye gets to give his comedy muscles a thorough workout with clever wordplay and physical buffoonery aplenty, and he is joined by a magnificent cast that includes Basil Rathbone (whose name deservedly appears during the credits three times), the lovely Glynis Johns (as Hubert's love interest Jean), Angela Lansbury (looking foxy in medieval princess garb), and horror icon John Carradine.

Admittedly, the complexities of the plot do tend to make matters a little hard to follow at times, but with so many classic moments, the best being the unforgettable 'vessel with the pestle' tongue-twister scene, it matters not if you get a little lost in the process. After the final act, during which Kaye swashes buckles with Rathbone while a team of acrobatic midgets storm the castle, there's a very good chance that you'll be the one grinning like a fool.

Who cares how many there are... they're all boring., 8 January 2017

7 Murders For Scotland Yard? There might have been… to be honest, I wasn't keeping a tally of the killings; instead, I was counting down the minutes to the end of this dreadfully dull Spanish giallo starring Iberian horror icon Paul Naschy as Pedro, an ex-trapeze artist (sh'yeah right!) with a manky leg who is suspected of committing a series of grisly London murders in which the young female victims have their organs surgically removed, Jack the Ripper style.

With way too much in the way of boring police procedure, repetitive killings that deliver minimal (and unconvincing) gore, and very little of the style to be found in many Italian giallos, about the only thing that the film really has to offer fans of '70s Euro horror are a few reasonably attractive women in various states of undress (although there's no actual nudity, quite the rarity for this kind of film) and some authentic location work (that said, the scene where Naschy has a knife fight with three men clearly wasn't shot in London—we don't have crickets chirping loudly in the evenings).

3.5 out of 10, generously rounded up to 4 for the hilarious scene in which a victim's severed head is delivered to a police inspector, and then casually passed around the station so that everyone can take a look.

A proto-slasher roughie., 8 January 2017

A mother, her two grown up kids, and a female friend arrive at a woodland cabin and proceed to explore their new surroundings. Unfortunately for them, a homicidal sex maniac is also roaming the woods looking for hapless victims to humiliate, abuse and butcher.

As a rule, I don't watch adult films unless they offer me something other than endless humping. Wet Wilderness is a typically mean-spirited '70s roughie—just under an hour of hardcore depravity that proves tedious in the extreme—but it piqued my interest thanks to its proto-slasher antagonist, who dons a ski mask (possibly inspired by the killer in Sergio Martino's 1973 giallo Torso) and wields a machete years before Jason Vorhees would make it his weapon of choice.

Wet Wilderness's horror element definitely takes a back seat to the repetitive sex (which goes all out to offend with lots of forced incest), but horror fans who hang in there will be treated to at least a couple of gory death scenes, including a machete to the groin and an axe in the chest (the blood spraying over the two naked women nearby). Sadly, my copy of the film seemed to be missing at least one more killing (that of the brother) and ended abruptly just as the killer was about to get his comeuppance.

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