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Super horror anti-hero OR super horror hoax?, 22 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Two viewings in one week and lots of contemplating later, I still can't decide what to think of – and how to rate – "Behind the Mask: the Rise of Leslie Vernon"... One thing is for certain, namely this definitely isn't my favorite kind of movie in any way. I don't like "mockumentaries" or "found footage" movies (with the exception of two or three titles) and I most certainly don't like wannabe clever movies that spoof the horror genre (and slashers in particular). They think of themselves as ingenious and witty, but in reality they are just pretentious and disrespectful towards all their colleagues in the film industry. The main reason why I postponed my viewing of "Behind the Mask" for nearly 10 years is because I read that this film was sort of like a crossover between "C'est Arrivé Près de chez Vous" ("Man Bites Dog") and Wes Craven's "Scream". To me "Man Bites Dog" is a sacred and unsurpassable classic, although I might be a little bit biased because I'm from Belgium and this is the only genuine cult monument we ever brought forward, but "Scream" is a vastly overrated and snobbish film. The comparisons are justified, though. Like in "Man Bites Dog", a psychopathic killer allows for a student film crew to follow him around and shoot a documentary about his evil activities, and like in "Scream", the screenplay clarifies several 'rules-of-the-game' as well as terms & trademarks and it magnifies the genre's biggest clichés and stereotypes. Normally I would really dislike both styles, but strangely enough I tolerated the narrative style of "Behind the Mask" and even gradually grew to appreciate it more and more. The story takes place in a world where notorious horror franchises, like the massacre at Camp Crystal Lake by Jason Vorhees and the Halloween murder sprees by Michael Myers, are supposedly real. Three young film students, led by the nervous and insecure Taylor Gentry, receive permission from an aspiring mass murderer to follow him around as he makes the preparations for the upcoming bloodbath; which is apparently something that maniac killers must do in order to be successful. The soon-to-be slasher icon thought about everything: he invented a tragic background story/urban legend, chose an abandoned farmhouse location for the killings to take place, carefully scouted a group of victims including the surviving "final girl" and drew out a detailed scenario with the exact chronological order and places for his victims to die. Leslie even receives an unexpected pleasant surprise when it turns out that he has an "ahab"; which is a good guy – like Sam Loomis - following him around. Taylor and her friends cheerfully register everything on camera, but then it's time for the actual murders to take place… Will they remain at Leslie's side and stomach his atrocities? Will the walk away with a troubled consciousness or will they try and prevent the massacre from happening now that they know the rules?

As indicated before already, I seriously don't like horror film makers that depreciate the genre by pointing out all of its clichés and shortcomings. It made me hate Wes Craven and his films "Scream" and particularly "New Nightmare". But for some reason the horror background information and clarifications that we receive in "Behind the Mask" don't come across as pretentious or satirical at all. They are even very respectful and shine new light on traditional horror franchises. Don't you think for one second that Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers were impulsive and brainless lunatics that just wandered around swinging knives or machetes… They needed a detailed plan of action, sufficient time to hide the bodies at strategic places and a great physical condition in order to keep up with their running victims whilst they are walking! Most horror spoofs aren't funny and (unintentionally?) ridicule the genre, whereas writer/director Scott Glosserman's script doesn't even try to be funny and even makes you think a little deeper about horror franchises and/or characters you probably never thought about before. Also very meaningful is the character of Eugene, who in fact represents various random (and often nameless) movie maniacs that predate Michael Myers and basically remained "supportive" characters throughout the whole film. There are some truly great signs of intelligence, expertise and respect in "Behind the Mask" and the narrative style is also fairly unique since it switches from a mockumentary into a (more or less) genuine & old-fashioned slasher in the third act. Glosserman was even slick enough to inject a couple of refreshing and inventive plot twists during the expanded finale, and admirably debunks a couple of ancient clichés (what if the supposed virgin doesn't turn out to be a virgin at all?). Fact remains, unfortunately, that the first hour is very talkative, slightly hectic and even rather boring. Horror fanatics expecting a straightforward bloodbath, complete with sleazy images and nasty make-up effects, will definitely be turned down and might not even make it towards the more exhilarating last half hour. Good performances from protagonist Nathan Baesel and the rest of the fairly unknown cast and, hey, any movie that features the song "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads during the end credits receives an additional point from me.

The (Fantastic) Testament of Dr. Lang, 19 August 2015

For nearly three decades, the visionary and brilliantly gifted writer/director Fritz Lang lived in the United States, because he fled from the Nazis and particularly from Joseph Goebbels who banned all of his previous films. But during the late fifties he returned to his home country Germany and completed the final three films of his rich career. Of course he couldn't retire without dedicating one last film to the character that is probably his most personally dearest and convoluted creation: Dr. Mabuse! The ingeniously and aptly titled "The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse" is in fact a belated but direct sequel to Lang's 1933 masterpiece "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse". It's a convoluted but extremely intelligent and hugely compelling mystery/crime thriller, with many characters and even more plot twists and secret story lines to discover. Some of the plot aspects are obvious and predictable, but most of the film is very surprising and incredibly fascinating!

TV journalist Peter Barker dies in his car in the middle of an intersection, but what initially seems to be death by heart-attack turns out to be a case of vile murder committed by an ultra-advanced weapon that fires needles of steel into the victims' brains. Police Commissioner Kras was informed about the murder from beforehand, by the mysterious blind clairvoyant Peter Cornelius, and the modus operandi of the murder is very reminiscent to a murder committed nearly 30 years ago, by the henchmen of criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse. The investigation of this crime, as well as several other peculiar and unsolved murders, leads to the Luxor Hotel. While commissioner Kras meets up with some interesting people at the bar, like an insurance agent and a hotel detective, we are introduced to two other guests, namely the beautiful young lady Marion who's about to commit suicide by jumping off the hotel's balcony, and the gentle and wealthy American industrialist Henry Travers who's courageous enough to save her. What connects all these individual people to the murder of journalist Peter Barker? And what's the link with Dr. Mabuse, who allegedly died in a mental asylum 30 years earlier?

"The 1.000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse" almost entirely revolves on suspenseful plotting and the intriguing rebirth of Lang's titular anti-hero protagonist. This film doesn't feature those beautiful expressionist trademarks anymore, like the case in the 1922 and 1933 films. That's okay, though, since the film was released in an entirely different era and focuses on more contemporary relevant things, like espionage and violent gimmicks such as exploding telephones and new kinds of artillery. However, one thing that Fritz Lang definitely kept alive in his post-WWII Dr. Mabuse movie is the criticism towards Germany's fascist past, ha! Apart from a terrific screenplay and a wondrously grim atmosphere, "The 1.000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse" can also rely on a whole series of impeccable acting performances. Gert Fröbe, known as one of the best James Bond villains in "Goldfinger", is excellent as the skeptical police inspector in charge of the investigation. Other great performances come from Peter Van Eyck, Dawn Addams, Wolfgang Preiss and Werner Peters. Cult fanatics will also definitely recognize Jess Franco regular Howard "Dr. Orloff" Vernon in a delightful supportive role as merciless hit man. The reincarnation of Dr. Mabuse's character also meant the start of several more sixties' sequels, and I plan to watch them all … one day. Great stuff, warmly recommended to fans of Fritz Lang, but also to admirers of good "Krimi" (crime) thrillers.

Legendary!, 18 August 2015

In France, but also in the neighboring countries like Belgium (where yours truly lives), "La Grande Vadrouille" is more than just a cinematic classic… It's a cultural monument and even national heritage! I certainly don't intend to sound pretentious, but I doubt if such a movie could ever exist in the United States. Why? Because this film is patriotic and satirical at the same time, the script is chock-full of clichés and stereotypes whilst the humor doesn't necessarily rely on clichés and stereotypes, and although the subject matter deals with the depressing events of World War II – forever one of the darkest pages in the world's history – the tone of the film remains courteous and innocent at all times. The Nazis in this film are naturally the bad guys but for once they aren't depicted as inhuman monsters, which is probably the main reason why "La Grande Vadrouille" is also enormously successful in Germany! And last but not least, the script respects the language differences per country! The French simply speak French - or English with extremely heavy accents – while the English speak English and the Germans speak German! I don't see that happening in Hollywood, to be honest.

The film received the funny but rather hokey sounding English title "Don't Look Now, We're being shot at", but actually "La Grande Vadrouille" simply means something like "The Big Stroll" or "The Giant Walk". As you can derive from the above paragraph, the film takes place in during the WWII Nazi occupation of France. The story already starts out hilariously, when the pilot of a British bomber plane asks his fellow passengers what their location is. They claim the plain is more or less above Calais, but when the clouds clear up they are surprised to see the Eiffel Tower directly beneath them. The plane is shot down by German ground troops and each of the three British soldiers wanders off towards a different part of Paris with their parachutes. The British pilots receive help from two typical yet entirely opposite French citizens, namely the simple but hard- working painter Augustin Bouvet and the snobbish orchestra leader Stanislas Lefort. Both men, along with the help of various other French citizens, take several risks in order to reunite the British team, which of course makes them enemies of the Third Reich as well. The whole group has to flee towards the South of France, but naturally the journey is full of obstacles and dangers. Many, and I do mean MANY, sequences in "La Grande Vadrouille" have become immortal cinematic highlights over the years and it's almost impossible to list them. The mix-up with the room numbers in the hotel, for example, is very famous and still as incredibly funny by today's standards as it must have been back in 1966. Other unforgettable highlights include the rendezvous in the Turkish bath house and the pumpkin counterattack. In fact, every single interaction between the legendary French actors/comedians Bourvil and Louis de Funès qualifies as classic comedy cinema. Both geniuses where at the absolute heights of their careers at this point, but Bourvil sadly passed away far too young a couple of years later, at age 53. Louis de Funès continued to make several more French comedy classics until his death in the early 1980s, including the sequels in the successful "Les Gendarmes de Saint-Tropez" franchise, "Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob" and "La Soupe aux Choux". De Funès truly was, without any exaggeration, one of the funniest people who ever lived. His looks and his energetic facial expressions were his main trademarks. He wasn't very tall and his almost naturally cantankerous apparition, in combination with his distinct voice and habit of talking really fast, made him the ideal hothead-character. "La Grande Vadrouille" is a brilliant film, with a brilliant cast and a brilliant director, as well as brilliant music (courtesy of Georges Auric) and brilliant cinematography by Claude Renoir. It's warmly recommended to all admirers of genuinely funny comedies and fundamental viewing for everyone living in Europe.

Schizoid (1980)
Therapy? With Kinski? What a crazy idea!, 17 August 2015

Although the plot and rating of "Schizoid" didn't look too promising, I nevertheless really wanted to see it for three (very good) reasons… Number one: I generally like slasher movies from the year 1980 or 1981, because back then this sub-genre wasn't yet impacted by the overload of "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th" clones. Number two: I was really interested to see a horror/thriller that starred both Klaus Kinski (one of my all-time favorite actors) and Christopher Lloyd in the earliest phase of his career (or at least, prior to the successful "Back to the Future" movies). And perhaps the biggest reason for me to track down "Schizoid" is the fact that it features so many typical trademarks of an Italian giallo! The killer, as he/she is briefly introduced during the opening sequences of the film, wears a long black raincoat and black leather gloves while his/her murder weapon is a sharp pair of scissors. These are preferred accessories of giallo-killers and, on top of that, he/she exclusively targets female victims and the murders bathe in a sexist atmosphere. My conclusion is that "Schizoid" is a moderately absorbing thriller with a handful of tense scenes and original touches, but regrettably also a large number of implausible twists. Beautiful Julie works as a columnist for a Californian newspaper, but she's caught in a difficult divorce and participates in the group therapy sessions of the acclaimed psychiatrist Dr. Pieter Fales. Julie starts receiving eerie letters that exist of newspaper clippings and talk of gruesome murders. The female members of her group therapy sessions are being killed off one by one as well. Who is the culprit? Is it the perverted Dr. Fales, who has sexual relations with all his patients? Or is it Dr. Fales' pre-ripe 16-year-old daughter, who hates her father and all the women he has sex with? Is it the mysteriously roaming and voyeuristic janitor Gilbert or Julie's ex-husband Doug who never wanted the divorce? Or perhaps Julie herself is the killer because, after all, the murder cases help increasing her popularity as a columnist! Like other reviewers already righteously pointed out, the biggest default of this film is the credibility of Klaus Kinski's character. As much as I worship this eccentric actor, he simply cannot pass for a psychiatrist; let alone a psychiatrist who manages to seduce and sleep with all his female patients. The search for the killer's identity, on the other hand, results in a couple of exciting sequences and a tense climax. The body count is sadly low for an early 80s slasher (only 3 victims) but the murder sequences are grim and atmospheric. The performances from the ensemble cast are just mediocre, with the exception of Donna Wilkes… She's downright fantastic and amazingly makes her young character Alison simultaneously sensual, creepy and forbidden. Solely based on her performance in this film, I've added the film "Angel" to my must-see list.

Please excuse me while I poke out my eyes with the rusty and HIV-infected side of the axe…, 17 August 2015

Every living organism gradually gets better in what it does… It's a simple process called development or normal learning curves. You know, like little babies that learn to walk and then run, or puppies that learn they shouldn't urinate on the carpet. Directors usually also have a learning curve, as the first couple of movies in their careers are often experimental tryouts while their final films are the best and most qualitative achievements. However, this 100% natural process seemingly doesn't apply to Doris Wishman because her last films are just as worthless as the first films in her career. In fact, the latter films are arguably even worse! Films like "Bad Girls go to Hell" or "Nude on the Moon" were still enjoyable whereas this "A Night to Dismember" is downright unwatchable. After nearly three decades of experience, Doris' movies are still dreadfully amateurish, unendurably boring, miserably inept and unbelievably pathetic. Every inexperienced but aspiring horror director should see this movie and take notes on how it is NOT done… Do NOT make use of an awful voice-over to narrate the already simplistic plot, do NOT hire random retards from your family and neighborhood and pretend they are actors, do NOT use the world's most inappropriate and monotonous music from start to finish, do NOT assume that grotesque gore and splatter compensates for the lack of screenplay and so on, and so on… I'm not even sure why I'm bothering but here's the plot synopsis: every member of the whole wide Kent family has the bad habit of dying in nasty axe-related accidents. Samantha Fox – no, not the one you think – plays Vicki Kent and she's prematurely released from a mental institution. Mum and day are ecstatic that the family is united again, but her wicked brother and sister want to send Vicky back to the loony bin as soon as possible. They do everything they can to drive her nuts and bloodied corpses start piling up again. Whenever the stupid narrator isn't mumbling redundant nonsense, "A Night to Dismember" is just a horrible series make-up effects and laughable splatter situations that are practically impossible (for example, a severed head that gets stuck on the axe…). I'm fully aware of the fact that the title sounds extremely cool and that the DVD cover image looks irresistible, but please don't watch this so-called "cult-classic". It is, hands down, the biggest piece of rubbish I've ever seen.

Devil (2010)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The Devil went down to Philly, he was looking for an elevator to hijack…, 15 August 2015

I'm not a big fan of the movies written & directed by M. Night Shamalalla… No wait, let me rephrase that, I seriously loathed every single M. Night Shamalalla I ever watched, from the tremendously overrated and unoriginal "The Sixth Sense" down to the preposterous and retarded "The Village". The guy is a hoax and a thief, and his most recent movies – like "After Earth" and "The Last Airbender" – look so pathetic that his Hollywood career is probably as good as over by now. Shamalalla didn't direct "Devil", but he was the main producer and penned down the basic story on which the screenplay is based, so I still was very skeptical. I'm more than happy to announce this is the best Shamalalla movie; not directed by Shamalalla! "Devil" is far from great, mind you, since it's a very derivative and predictable thriller, but at least it's also a straightforward and frequently tense thriller. In a skyscraper in Philadelphia, five seemingly random and innocent people step into the elevator. Somewhere halfway, the elevator blocks entirely and the quintet is trapped. Strangely enough, the mechanic can't reach the cabin and the intercom only functions in one direction. Strange occurrences begin to happen and it becomes apparent that these five persons are not randomly gathered together and they are definitely not innocent. When people start getting injured inside the cabin, the security guards call in police detective Bowden who just happens to be in the building to investigate a bizarre suicide. Too many aspects in Brian Nelson's screenplay are unoriginal and predictable. Perhaps it's just me, but the last ten years or so, there have been too many psychological horror/thriller movies dealing with heavy subjects like penance and redemption, including stuff like "The Machinist" and most of the "Saw" movies. It is so damn derivative: (additional spoiler warning) as soon as you hear about the unsolved family tragedy that overcame Detective Bowden, you just know that it will play an important role during the finale. There are many illogicalities and holes in the plot as well, still I'm not complaining too much because at least I wasn't bored or didn't get irritated like I did during all the other Shamalalla movies.

Unique cinematic heritage, 10 August 2015

I'm sadly not an expert on director Fritz Lang's life and wondrous film repertoire, but I read somewhere that the original 1922 "Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler" was like a metaphor for everything that went wrong in contemporary Germany, what with its decadence and corruption. Eleven years later, the Nazi party had risen to power, and the notorious (and nefarious) Joseph Goebbels single-handedly decided that the follow- up "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse" should be banned from the public. Ironically enough, the same Joseph Goebbels almost simultaneously offered Fritz Lang to become manager of the German Film Institute. According to the legends, Lang suspected that it was some kind of ambush and fled the country overnight. I don't know if the whole story is true, but it's definitely fascinating! The film itself is truly a must-see for cinema fanatics and historians, although I have to admit it is a very complex and demanding movie to watch. It's a genuine crime thriller, albeit with unmistakable horror aspects. Vile crimes are being committed all over the city and all traces lead back towards the infamous Dr. Mabuse. One minor little problem, however, Dr. Mabuse resides in a hermetically sealed off cell in a mental institution. But like his obsessive fan Dr. Baum proclaims in all his lectures, Mabuse is a true genius that even masters the art of hypnosis. Could it be that he is mind-controlling his minions all of town in order to commit his crimes? Commissioner Lohmann, the same cop who chased presumed child murderer Peter Lorre two years earlier in "M", is in charge of the investigation. Certain sequences in "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse" are incredibly tense and petrifying, like for example when the sinister doctor appears and disappears like a ghost. Other scenes, particularly the crime sequences, are very intelligent and utmost ingenious! For example, I'll probably never forget the scene where the targeted victim of a murder is driving his car and stopping at the red light. His killer, in one of the cars next to him, evokes a series of honking among all the cars in front of the red light and even the targeted victim joyously joins the honking concert. Then, with all the noise of the honking, the killer can inconspicuously pull the trigger of his shotgun and nobody noticed the loud blast. Only when the light switches back to green and all the other cars are long gone, a policeman discovers the lifeless body behind the wheel. Rudolf Klein-Rogge doesn't have a whole lot to do, in fact, but performance as the titular Dr. Mabuse still stands as one of the most legendary villainous characters of all time. The film is a technical and visual masterpiece that still also carries a lot of trademarks and atmospheric characteristics of the silent era with it. Truly unique cinematic heritage…

Hell Squad (1986)
Behind Enemy Lines and Between Enemy Sheets!, 7 August 2015

I honestly wish I could say that I invited the juicy catchphrase of my review's subject line myself, but alas, I blatantly stole it from the back of the cover of the original Belgian VHS-release. Roughly translated the brief plot description on the box of the old video cassette that I own says: "This battalion of incredibly hot girls is on a top-secret and ultra-dangerous mission that will bring them BEHIND enemy lines and BETWEEN enemy sheets!". As a sucker for 80s trash/exploitation I simply had to see this film. Now, I personally think that the clichéd expression "so-bad-it's-good" is very much overused, but it is definitely the most apt description of Kenneth Hartford's "Hell Squad". The son of an American ambassador in the Middle-East is kidnapped by terrorists and they demand nuclear weapons in exchange for his release. Instead of looking for any kind of alternatives, the ambassador's personal assistant travels to Las Vegas all by himself and recruits a bunch of buxom strip dancers for a secret mission. Without knowing what purpose they'll serve, the girls follow an intense 10-day military training and then they are subsequently dropped in the desert. This really could have worked very efficiently as a sexploitation-spoof (or even a porn movie, perhaps) but the problem is that this film, and its entire cast and crew alike, take itself so damn seriously! Besides, the glorious description about the sheet and all isn't even true. The action sequences in "Hell Squad" are as follows: the women storm into a random enemy camp or underground lair, blow away all the evil Arabs and subsequently return to their luxurious hotel room where they all sit and relax in the jacuzzi together. Yes, apparently hotels in the Middle-East standard offer gigantic hot tubs in each room. You guessed it; a truly bad but unique film-experience!

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Imagine your worst parental nightmare. Then, imagine never waking up from it…, 4 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm not a fan of dramatic family stories, whether or not based on true events, and definitely not when they are stretched to a long- running mini-series instead of a normal-length film feature. But when my wife said that she really wanted to follow this series when it aired on television, I didn't object at all and this initially because of (a) the involvement of some of the names in cast and crew and (b) because apparently the vast majority of the series – even though set in France – was filmed and produced in my native country Belgium. "The Missing" is directed by the Brit Tom Shankland, who made a couple of intriguing and semi-successful horror flicks ("The Children", "W Delta Z"), and stars a number of talented actors and actresses, like Tchéky Karyo ("Bad Boys") and Jason Flemyng ("Snatch."). It rarely ever happens that such an interesting bunch lands in Belgium, and it's even rarer that local TV-actors from this country (like Titus De Voogdt or Hilde Heijnen) receive the opportunity to co-star in such a prestigious and international production. The fantastic Belgian band Amatorski even had the chance to deliver the fantastic title song that'll remain stuck in your head and heart after each and every single episode (oh my love, I pray each day that you come home and be okay…)

So, I started watching for the cast & crew and the Belgian filming locations, but it didn't even took half an episode before I got completely absorbed by the identifiable and heart-wrenching story. In the summer of 2006, during the World Cup Football, The Hughes family (Tony and Emily and their 5-year-old son Oliver) are on their way to a vacation in the South of France when their car breaks down in the Northern part of the country. Since it'll take a few days to fix the engine, they book a room in a cheap little hotel in a sleepy little village. Father and son go swimming in the evening, but when Tony tries to order drinks at the crowded cafeteria bar, Oliver lets go of his hand. Only seconds later, it seems as if the little boy has vanished off the face of the planet. The authorities immediately take the case seriously and abduction seems the most logical scenario. The French super-inspector Julien Baptiste is in charge of the investigation, along with his British colleague Mark Walsh, and the case promptly gets international media attention. Experts in the field of children disappearances claim that the first month is crucial to find the missing child; otherwise the case is likely never to get solved. And yet, the series isn't mainly set in 2006 but in 2013. Seven years after that dreadful summer, Oliver – or Olly – is still missing and Tony Hughes never gave up his obsessive private investigation. In 2013, Tony claims to have found new and breakthrough evidence when he stumbles upon a photograph of a random tourist kid wearing the personalized scarf that Oliver was wearing on the day of his disappearance. After quite a bit of political and administrative interference, the case is re-opened and more suspicious details surrounding Oliver's disappearance are brought to the surface, although very slowly and often with severe difficulties. Many things have changed between the summer of 2006 and the new 2013 investigation, but they are all gradually clarified during flashbacks back and forth in time. Tony and Emily are separated and she's about to get re-married to inspector Walsh, Julien Baptiste comes out of retirement and suffers from a permanent leg injury, a French policeman is serving a sentence in jail, a seemingly gentle British businessman that offered financial support went missing as well and old witnesses are finally willing to collaborate in exchange for a compensation.

When you are a parent yourself – like I am – it's extremely difficult to watch realistic and emotionally agonizing TV-series like "The Missing", especially because you know that at some point the script will have to tackle taboo subjects like pedophilia and child murderers (at least if the series is courageous enough). I have a five-year- old son myself and I can assure you that my wife and I often saw our worst parental nightmares come to life because in our minds we replaced the image of Oliver Hughes with that of our own son. It is assumed that "The Missing" is loosely inspired by the case of Madeleine McCann. There are indeed a lot of similarities between this fictional tale and the real-life McCann case, like the circumstances of the disappearances, the painful accusation (one of) the parents, wealthy financial sponsors and the many dead-end investigation theories. Based on what I've seen in "The Missing", I can only express my deepest respect and sympathies for the McCann family as well as for any other parent who ever had to struggle through this nightmarish ordeal. With regards to the pedophilia aspects, I must say the screenplay handles this matter professionally, with different profiles of culprits. The facts in the case of Oliver Hughes are often extremely complex, far-fetched and hard to believe, but everything somehow gets properly explained in the end… except for one thing. Director Tom Shankland and his entire cast & crew manage to maintain a very high tension level throughout eight episodes of nearly a full hour running time, and each and every single episode ends with a downright astounding cliffhanger that makes you hold your breath until the next one. One last comment about the ending, though. There are a lot of people (on internet forums, for example) complaining about the ending and the lack of closure. Well, guess what, a lot of people – like the protagonists in "The Missing" – go through dramatic and life- altering ordeals and never get any closure, neither. Contemplate about this for a second, and you'll realize it's the most powerful ending imaginable.

She'll make you scream, with her Bette Davis' eyes…, 3 August 2015

There are quite a few interesting names linked to this delightfully titled "ABC Movie of the Week", both in front as well as behind the camera. Although a 100% American TV-production, the script was penned down by the multi-talented British writer Jimmy Sangster, who was responsible for a few dozen amazing screenplays for the legendary Hammer Studios including "Horror of Dracula" and "The Curse of Frankenstein". Director Gordon Hessler has always been a very underrated but professional genre expert, with awesome titles on his repertoire like "The Oblong Box", "Cry of the Banshee" and "Murders in the Rue Morgue". The most exhilarating name in the cast list is undoubtedly Bette Davis. What with her notoriously penetrating eyes and natural charisma, she single-handedly made all the movies she ever starred in somewhat creepy and unsettling! When I browse through the user-comments around here, I notice that "Scream, Pretty Peggy" is very popular and several people even refer to it as one of the best made-for-TV movies that got released during the 1970s. I honestly can't agree with the latter statement, therefore the subject material is too derivative and the denouement too predictable, but I will definitely emphasize that it's a very atmospheric and absorbing thriller that'll keep you glued to the screen throughout its (short) running time. The cute, cherubic and over-enthusiast art-class student Peggy Johns is delighted when she finds a job as a housekeeper in a remote and creepy old house. For you see, her employer is the bizarre sculptor Jeffrey Elliot, who happens to be one of young Peggy's idols. He lives in the house with his scary and tyrannical mother and Peggy also soon discovers that there's another secret inhabitant, namely Jeffrey's mentally unstable and unreliable sister Jennifer. An obtrusive man often visits the house, because his daughter Agnes disappeared and he claims that she was last seen here, but naive little Peggy blindly trusts her mentor Jeffrey and even tries hard to become friends with his creepy mother. If you're even just slightly familiar with the horror genre's greatest and most influential classics, you'll guess the twist-ending of this film in a matter of mere seconds. Still, I didn't mind for one second that the film was predictable, thanks to the fast pacing and the spirited acting performances. Bette Davis is great as always, Ted Bessell is intriguingly mysterious and particularly the young Sian Barbara Allen gives a very likable performance.

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