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Hellraiser (1987)
A noble but flawed attempt to bring Cliver Barker's novel to the big screen, 19 July 2017

The big screen adaptation of Clive Barker's very own novel, The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser tells of Frank, a unsavory, lecherous man who purchases a puzzle-box which when solved, he is torn apart by hooks on chains. After some time passes Franks brother Larry, his second wife Julia and his daughter Kirsty move in to the very house that Frank was killed in. After accidentally cutting himself, Larry's brother seeps through the houses floorboards and resurrects his deceased brother, who is discovered by Julia who had previously had an affair with her brother-in-law. Being skinless and incomplete as a trio of demonic being called Cenobites had rid him of his body, he persuades his ex-lover to lure unsuspecting male victims back to the house so that he may kill them so as to regenerate his body. However, when things take an unexpected turn when Kirsty stumbles across her evil uncle…

Hellraiser is one of those movies which has so much good things going for it but at the same time it has much that is wrong with it. The directorial debut of Clive Barker, this had the potential to be something great, and indeed with his innovative talents as a storyteller there is a cracking horror year here. Chalk full with eroticism, there is most definitely themes of sadomasochism with the demonic. Cenobites decked in leather clad gear, and are something akin to fetishists. To Barker's credit he didn't do an altogether bad directing job in some areas given this was his first movie as director, however the altogether inconsistency in the quality of acting makes one wonder if this would have benefited from a more experienced filmmaker at the helm. In the main antagonist Frank who is played by two actors, the pre-deceased version and the resurrected zombified incarnation we have one of the most twisted, vile and perverse creations that have been brought to the screen to say the least. Unfortunately both actors, Sean Chapman and Oliver Smith speak with such gravelly, voice intensity that it feels artificially hokey and takes away from the sheer menace of the character, who is also rather under-developed and two-dimensional. Ashley Lawrence as the main heroine Kirsty is over fairly decent while Andrew Robinson as her good natured, oblivious father Larry is solid enough for the most part. However the biggest standout, is Clare Higgins as Julia, the "wicked stepmother" of the movie who manages to be a reluctant seductress and bored housewife while injecting real humanity and vulnerability, making her an interesting villain. More so I would wager than Frank.

One interesting aspect to this, is the Cenobites or more notably Pinhead (who is listed in the end credits as "Lead Cenobites") are really only a secondary threat in this, only making their presence made in the final third of the movie. Actor Doug Bradley, who incidentally attended the same Grammar School as Barker, brings a chilling ominous tone to the lead Cenobite and delivers a grandiose performance in the relatively brief time he appears on screen. The make up effects by eighties standard are indeed impressive, as are the overall design although the puppetry effects used in a couple of scenes haven't stood the test of time too well. Barker however does manage to create something of a otherworldly ambiance and there is some striking visual flair. This can't entirely compensate though for some of the stilted acting from some of the supporting players, and moments where it strays in histrionic melodrama. Especially in the flashbacks to Frank and Julia. This was a flawed but noble attempt to bring what I can only imagine was a great story, given the reputation of it author, to the screen. It just doesn't all come together quite as well as it should although there's still much to admire.

Jason Lives proves to be a fitting title as Tom Mcloughlin reinvigorates the franchise, 1 July 2017

The sixth in producer Sean S. Cunningham's humdrum horror franchise, the fifth sequel which would have seemed like a somewhat pointless venture, as it has increasingly just become an excuse to milk as much out of the Friday the 13th cash cow for all it's worth. However with Jason Lives, a title which is something of a contradiction in terms given the context of the story, the series went in something of a new direction as there was a divergence in to supernatural territory. It also adopted a more comedic tone with writer/director Tom McLoughlin taking up the reigns. With the psychotic, hockey masked mummy's boy lying peacefully in his grave after coming to a an unceremonious end at the end of The Final Chapter (a moniker that would prove to be an ironic misnomer), Tommy Jarvis, (Thom Matthews) the troubled hero of Jason Lives, and who was the young boy survivor of that film who's character was again, seen in the lacklustre A New Beginning, can't put Jason to rest in his mind. Determined to do so he breaks out of the mental institution where he has been residing with fellow patient Allen Hawed (Ron Palillo) to exhume the killers grave and burn his maggot infested corpse to cinders. Of course things don't go quite according to plan when Tommy, who upon clasping eyes on Jason's decomposing remains stabs it with a metal fence post after snapping and briefly losing his composure. What follows is a tremendously silly resurrection scene as a bolt of lightning strikes the metal fence post, still embedded in the lifeless body and reanimates the murderous behemoth. Tommy manages to evade Jason while Allen proves not to be quite so lucky. Donning his iconic hockey masked, the newly zombified killer sets off for Camp Crystal Lake, which has been renamed Forest Green with an inevitable blood bath and a showdown between Tommy and his old nemesis on the cards.

From the offset, it would be quite easy to mistake Jason Lives as just another generic slasher movie in a franchise which had already ran out of steam by the time it's fifth instalment had come along. Although quite frankly, the first movie was nothing more than a poor man's Halloween and it's sequels flat out mundane. Thankfully however, while not a classic of it's genre but any stretch of the imagination, this outing manages to stand out among the rest. Silly and dumb though the film is, it's more knowing in this regard and Tom McLoughlin who directed as well as wrote the screenplay treats the material with more affectionate irreverence. It's dumb and silly but it's blatantly so that he's winking at the audience from behind the camera. I'd go so far as to say that as it stands, it could be seen as a precursor to Wes Craven's Scream Movies. The story itself is of course standard fare and the means of Jason's rising from the grave is downright ridiculous, and owes some kind of of a debt to the Frankenstein story. Jason after all is a lumbering monster in a similar vein to Mary Shelly's iconic antagonist. There's also some stupid plot twists with the actions of the movies main heroine investing too much trust in a short amount of time in the movies frantic hero. The Sheriff is also your hackneyed obstacle (who is also conveniently the father of the lead female) who typically doesn't heed the main protagonists warnings and eventually suspects him as being the killer. As for the overall standard of the acting, they're solid enough although ropy at times but then I wasn't exactly expecting Academy Award winning quality here, and it could have been worse than it actually is. Never the less, if you leave your brain behind and just go with it, it's not bad fun and there's some innovative kill scenes. Yes, the scene with the executive paint-ballers is too comedic and clownish and is out of sync with the whole tone of the rest of the movie, while the fact that none of the kids under the care of the camp counsellors miraculously go unharmed is unconvincing, but this is still watchable undemanding fodder which while not a class of it's genre makes for a passable enough way to waste an hour and a half of your time. Plus it has the added bonus of that thumping good theme tune performed by Alice Cooper 

"Man, whoever heard of being shot down a by salad?", 21 June 2017

"Man, whoever heard of being shot down by a salad?" That line succinctly sums up the absurd nature of this movie, which went direct to video upon it's release back in 1987. A fun romp which although obviously aimed at kids, there's still enough there for grown-ups who remember the series for it to appeal to the child in them. The plot involves GI Joe, a highly trained military force who defend the world against the evil terrorist organisation of Cobra, who once led by the devious and villainous Cobra Commander, are now commanded by the genetically created Serpentor. Circumstances find them allying themselves with a race of Serpent like beings who were the initial predominant inhabitants of the world. This was before the Ice age destroyed most of their civilisation of Cobra-la and mankind took it's place. Their genocidal ruler Golobulous (voiced by the late Burgess Meredith) intends to launch a seemingly infinite number of mutative spore pods In to space, which when they ripen and burst outside the Earth's atmosphere, will reign down and transform every human being on the planet in to mindless mutant creatures. For them to hatch Golobulous needs the B.E.T. (Broadcast Energy Transmitter) so that the spores will hatch in space. It's left to GI Joe who are currently in possession of the B.E.T., and are in the midst of testing it to prevent Cobra and Cobra-la from stealing it and carrying out their heinous plan.

It's safe to say that GI Joe the Movie with it's silly, contrived plot doesn't deserve too much scrutiny when it comes to logic. No doubt likely due to the writers taking in to account what they would assume to be the undemanding nature of their target audience. Cobra-la's plan should instantly fall apart as surely the vegetative spores would burn up in the Earth's atmosphere let alone make it in to outer space. Also it's all rather convenient that GI Joe happens to be testing the B.E.T. in the Himilayas, not a million miles from where the remaining remnants of Cobra-la have been preserved. Despite this there's still much to be enjoyed with the amusing, infectious machismo (and believe me there's plenty of it) of the films heroic protagonists, vying against other 80's movies like Top Gun and Aliens for the most testosterone fulled characters imaginable. At it's heart though it's more good natured and humoured with colourful, likable heroes to cheer and villains to boo and hiss at. The animation by 1980's standards is actually fairly decent although it could never rival the sublime mastery of Japanese Anime, while the voice cast does a proficient job of bringing the wealth of characters to life. Plus the script is peppered with some one-liners which are fairly witty and is pretty self knowing for what is essentially an animated film for kids. If you find yourself looking after your or someone else's children then rather than find yourself forced to sit through something like Peppa Pig or Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom, then you might want to throw this on in their place. It's vastly more tolerable and something that little and bigger kids might appreciate.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A patchy Rambo spoof that Isn't as inspired as it's Top Gun parodying predecessor, 17 June 2017

After the success of the 1991 comedy spoof Hot Shot which carried on in the same vein as such movies as the Airplane and Nake Gun movies, Pat Proft along with Jim Abrahams attempted to replicate the same winning formula that helped them score the same box office bonanza. So along came Hot Shots Part Deux, which one might be so cynical as to say was just another attempt to ride the coattails of it's predecessors popularity. After all, raking $181 million on what was a a $26 million budget, you don't have to be an economist to know that it had turned in a nice profit. Two years later, we see Topper Harley now living in a Buddhist monastery and eking out a modest living in Thailand is approached by Col Denton Walters (Richard Crenna) and CIA representative Michelle Huddleston (Brenda Bakke) who want him to be a part of a mission in Iraq. The purpose of which is to bring back the men, who went in to to bring back the men who went in to assassinate Saddam Hussein. Topper refuses but when Denton and his soldiers are captured in the midst of their mission, our hero springs in to action to lead the troops who are now being sent to bring back the me previously sent to to bring back the mean who went in to bring the men. Are you following this now?

That pretty much sums things up and while no where near as funny as the first outing, failing to deliver the same ratio of gags that hit the right mark there's still some fun to be had from Hot Shots Part Deux. While it's a wry and presumably affectionate parody of the Rambo movies (as opposed to the first which spoofed Top Gun) it also lampoons No Way Out, Home Alone, Apocalypse Now, Star Wars, Basic Instinct and Terminator 2 to name but a few. Opening with a on screen literary narration, which leads in to frankly clownishly surreal, yet uneven opening which sees Saddam Hussein cosily preparing himself for bed as a U.S. task force is meanwhile infiltrating his heavily guarded palace. A scene involving him undressing for to where we see him removing his shirt to See bra-lines where a brassiere was once worn summing up the offbeat tone that Pat Proft and Director and co- writer Jim Abrahams are aiming for. While it's no where near as funny as the first outing, it partially does what it sets out to do, and it's great to have seen the late Richard Crenna wonderfully sending up his own character, Col. Trautman from what was then the iconic action trilogy. Charlie Sheen does an efficient job of playing things straight as should it be while clearly playing the right note of absurdity, as the comedic tone should allow. As for the rest of the cast which includes Miguel Ferrer who sadly passed away fairly recently, Valeria Golino, Ryan Stiles (who incidentally would go on to have a recurring role alongside Charlie Sheen in hit sitcom Two and a Half Men) and Rowan Atkinson more than adequately hold up their end. The best laughs come however from Llyod Bridges, who frankly I think the film might have benefited from more of his presence. Overall the film just doesn't have quite the same level of overall freshness in it's creativity with some set- pieces and gags being trite. However as you would come to expect from Jim Abrahams who also helmed the first movie as well as Airplane and The Naked Gun trilogy he manages to keep things running at a well oiled pace and adeptly shooting it's elaborately comical set-pieces. Flawed but an over-all noble effort which not hitting the heights of it's prequel it's worth a look if given the opportunity. Just don't expect to be rolling on the floor in tears of laughter with the same frequency as it's prequel.

11 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
Unspectacular filler that utilizes tropes we've seen before, 6 May 2017

Marking, Mike Bartlett's first writing credit for the series, "Knock Knock" sees Bill and some of her friends searching for the perfect student accommodation. Luck seems to be on their side when they're approached by an elderly landlord (David Suchet) who offers them an old house, big enough to accommodate all of them. Of course with this being "Doctor Who", nothing is quite what it seems and the young students aren't so much new tenants but unsuspecting victims of something dwelling within the walls of the house. Fortunate then of course that the Doctor just happens to be present as he was helping Bill move in, and is soon hot on the case.

With the past three episodes being of fairly strong quality; this latest entry marks a slight downturn although that's not to say it's dreadful. It's anything but, however you can't help but feel there's a whiff of being there see that about it. The whole Haunted House motif has been done before as far back as the 1989 classic story "Ghost Light" and with the more relatively recent "Hide" back in 2013. Of course because something has been utilized before doesn't mean something fresh can't be done with it, can't it? Well, yes in theory but with "Knock Knock" it takes an old trope and ultimately does really nothing particularly new with it. The concept of something alien living with walls and pouncing on unsuspecting victims was after all the basic premise of series eight's "Flatline". So far so unremarkable, and that's pretty much the best way to describe this outing. Peter Capaldi is as ever on top form as is Pearl Mackie who has been anything if not consistent since she made her debut on the show, with former "Poirot" star David Suchet putting in a blinder of a supporting performance as the enigmatic Landlord. In general the acting is the kind of standard you'd expect from a BBC production, it's really just all rather run of the mill.

It does score points I suppose in that it allows Bill, to prove her worth as a companion given her deductive reasoning, which leads to a slight twist in the tale which although mildly diverting doesn't come off as enough of a revelation to rise it's story above the so so. Compotently directed with decent enough special effects but a humdrum alien threat it just feels like nothing more than passable filler material, and really that's all that can really the best that can be said for it. The most intriguing thing that could be said for it was the stories coda which references back to the running plot involving the vault, and the unknown prisoner that Nardol (Matt Lucas) has been keeping tabs on while the Doctor is absent. With fan speculation running rife I and no doubt other fans will be waiting keenly to discover if out suspicions of who lies within are what we might suspect.

6 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
A fun romp which still manages to retain a darker edge, 1 May 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Continuing from where the previous week's "Smile" left off, "Thin Ice", the latest offering of the current series sees the Doctor and Bill in London, in 1814 where the city celebrates the largest Frost Fair in it's history. However the locals celebrating the festivities are being snatched away by a immense sea creature that is chained beneath the bottom of the river. Determined to prevent any more innocent lives falling victim to the beast, the Doctor with the help of his young companion endeavour to discover who has it chained up and why. Written by Sarah Dollard who wrote series 9's "The Raven", I'm pleased to say that while not a masterpiece, "Thin Ice" continues the up-flow trend in quality of the series which thus far I'm glad to say is proving to thus far be superior to series 9. Less elaborate in terms of it's plot than last weeks "Smile", and opting for a more simplistic one with the trope of a human villain behind the plot which has done before, despite this it still makes for a fun, enjoyable romp while still retaining something of a darker edge. It certainly isn't afraid to be a bit daring, with one of the victims of the creature being a young street urchin which I wasn't quite expecting and means Bill who along with the Doctor witnessed the boys death, struggles to comes to terms with, and leads to a superbly written and performed moment where her faith in the Doctor is undermined.

We also get to see more of the softer side of Capaldi's incarnation, who in attempting to win the trust of a small group of street urchins seemingly led by Kitty played by young newcomer Atu Koroma, who gives a phenomenal performance for one so young and could potentially be a future star in the making. Displaying compassion and empathy we see a man less reluctant to bond with others, as he quite contently reads to the children who he temporarily finds under his and Bill's charge. Pearl Mackie continues to impress as Bill, who as the series is progressing I'm finding myself liking immensely and continues to be spirited and resilient while sweet and caring, the kind of qualities that you want in a "Doctor Who" companion. She is a perfectly match for Capaldi's incarnation with the chemistry and the growing relationship between the two being palpably felt when the Doctor makes a noble gesture of trust. A move which cements the faith he is already having in her. This is a man who has previously learned from previous mistakes ie "Kill the Moon", with his behaviour neatly contrasting that.

If there are flaws, the story is rather unremarkable and is slightly reminiscent of series's 5's "The Beast Below", while Lord Sutcliffe is a rather two dimensional villain, despite actor Nicholas Burns giving a very solid performance given what he has to work with. Overall, though despite these faults, "Thin Ice" still manages to be more than it's parts and although not as clever or imaginative as previous stories it never the less makes for n entertaining, traditional monster story which isn't afraid to dally with the grimmer themes with the story even if it's plot is somewhat hackneyed. And with an intriguing coda which may or may not foreshadow the return of Missy who it has been revealed to return (as is John Simm as his incarnation of Missy/The Master) I await next weeks episode, "Knock Knock guest starring David Suchet with baited breath.

Get Out (2017/I)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Despite a promising start it's a wasted opportunity at social satire, 26 April 2017

It's fairly rare these days that a horror movie get's the kind of critical praise that it receives and "Get Out", which marks the directorial debut of Jordan Peele has managed to somehow pull off just that. This having been said, Peele has called his movie a social thriller but let's face facts, it's a Horror movie and a rather mediocre one at that. Starring Daniel Kaluuya, who incidentally I previously know from his role as Tealeaf in the cult British Horror/comedy TV series, "Psychoville". The film centres around a young black man meeting who goes to meet the affluent parents of his white girlfriend. Upon meeting the potential husband to be finds something unsettling about the unnatural friendliness of the father, and as the day progresses he begins to learn some disturbing truths by which time it might already be too late.

Although a tad rough around the edges which I could forgive that being that this was the directorial debut of Jordan Peele, who also wrote the screenplay. It still however gets off to a strong start, and there's an intriguing set-up with a potent air of mystery and a quiet unease which is palpably felt early on. It also easy to see shades of Ira Levin's "The Stepford Wives" and Kevin Smith's "Red State" where I think it's fairly safe to say Peele was influenced by. Serving as a satirical allegory (very much in a similar vein of "The Stepford Wives") of post racial tensions in the U.S., any sharp observations it attempts to make end up playing second fiddle to it's horror movie elements. And even then when those start to come to the fore the movie lacks any real tension. I simply didn't feel as if I was on the edge of my seat quite like I was supposed to be.

The occasional humorous moments with the lead character's best friend doesn't really gel with the whole tone of the movie, and it really beings to lose it in the final third where it descends in to sloppily handled cliché ridden fodder. Worse yet, the family are so aloof and cold within the context of how the story plays out to the point that it's laughable. Add to this a tacked on denouement which given that there was an alternate, original ending and it's more than apparent that it's being clumsily shoehorned in.

Despite all this there are some some wonderful performances with both Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener being unnervingly clean-cut and buttoned down parents, with Stephen Root also on top form. The stand-out however is Daniel Kaluuya who makes for a likable and charismatic protagonist, who manages to understatedly invoke the sense of paranoia and threat that he feels. Sadly although not terrible he really deserved better to work with in terms with than what feels like something of a wasted opportunity. As social commentaries go it just doesn't hold entirely together well as it should. Although to be fair this is not the worst attempt at melding social commentary with the Horror genre, with director Brian Yuzna's awful 1989 effort, "Society" taking the number one spot. This is the "Citizen Kane" of Horror movies in comparison.

14 out of 31 people found the following review useful:
Innovative with a quirky threat that parallels "The Girl in the Fireplace", 22 April 2017

Marking the second episode of the tenth series, "Smile" also marks the first adventure Peter Capaldi's twelfth Doctor has with new companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) since she joined him in the TARDIS. A colourful, somewhat quirky episode which is also more innovative and original than last weeks never the less highly entertaining "The Pilot", it's also a more colourful one, with both Capaldi and Mackie being the only two actors on screen for the majority of the story. On the planet, Gliese 581d[, a group of colonists are slaughtered by their robot servants called Emojibots when they display feelings on unhappiness. Not so long after, the Doctor and Pill sans Nardole (played by Matt Lucas, who makes an all too fleeting appearance) arrive on the world where they find the colony deserted apart from it's robotic inhabitants. Puzzled by the lack of human presence, the Time Lord begins to investigate. However not before he and his new companion have their ears connected automatically to a network via their nervous system, meaning they can communicate to each other through their ear, and they are given discs which using emoticons reflects the emotions they are feeling. Before long, the Doctor comes to the realisation that their emotions could determine their fate.

Straight from the off, I thought this episode would have a fair amount in common with the 1988 classic series story, "The Happiness Patrol" and I'm glad to say that beyond the theme of being sad could be a death sentence, any similarity beyond that apart from it being set on a planetary colony ends there. With nothing subversive and political below the surface of it's inventive exterior, early on there is an eerie sense of foreboding that director, Lawrence Gough who also manages to capture the isolation and deadliness of the robotic threat. When it's all said and done, it can be deemed as a cautionary tale which taps in to man-kinds over reliance on technology and how, when it can become a hindrance rather than a help. The emojibots here make for a genuinely unsettling foe, if that is the right word to be used given the context of their ultimate motivation which is revealed before the end. A sublime creation in both concept and execution, there a testament aesthetically to the design team behind the series who do a fantastic job in bringing the colony to life.

As with last weeks "The Pilot", the chemistry between Capaldi and Mackie is perfectly solid, the relationship between the two now well and truly cemented with the latter making for an excellent foil to her older co-star. Capaldi once again captures the curious nature of the Time Lord perfectly who here eventually takes on the role of diplomatic mediator. Mackie as Bill, also once again captures the wide eyed wonderment and awe that the character experiences.

If there is a flaw, is that the story perhaps reaches it's climax a little too soon, with everything being wrapped up too expediently without allowing more time to dwell on the plight of certain characters. That being said, the story thematically does brilliantly capture the essence of the power of grief, and how the robots failure to grasp the concept given their programming which manages to parallel the series 2 episode, "The Girl in the Fireplace".

For all it''s innovation and originality, "Smile" marks a an overall satisfying outing which while flawed, marks a continual upturn in the quality of the new series which thus far is proving to be a more rewarding experience than Series 9. If it keeps on this trajectory, I can see this being a good 10th series, and with the episode ending with a neat little coda which acts as an eye-catching means to seagueway in to next weeks adventure entitled "Thin Ice", I can't help but be excited.

A superbly realised parody of TV Detective show conventions, 7 October 2016

From the outset, "Detectives on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" pretty much follows in a similar vein to the Comic Strip Presents... previous, seventies detective series spoof: "The Bullshitters." Especially considering the maverick duo of Bonehead and Foyle were brought back for this hilarious outing. It's straight forward premise concerns the murder of master TV sleuth and chef, "The Gourmet Chef" after the filming of one of his cookery shows has ended. With a spangly boot found at the scene of the crime, it is left to the Police forces commander and chief to call in seventies coppers, "Shouting" George of "The Weeny", Bonehead and Folye who make up "The Bullshitters as well as the flamboyant, sophisticated, David Bentley. The purpose of which is to assist contemporary Geordie detective, David Spanker crack the case as it appears to be a seventies style crime that needs to be solved by seventies style crime-solvers. Inevitably the clash of styles and egos proves to be problematic at best.

With a neat although not entirely fresh concept DOTVNB showcases much of what was best about The Comic Strip Presents....when it was at it's most ingenious. Inspired casting, some clever and amusing set pieces with a wonderfully funny musical number to set the comedic ball rolling, it never really let up up until it's satisfying conclusion. The entire cast bounces off one another superbly and seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves in each of their individual roles, with the most enthusiastic turn coming from a an aggressively, load mouthed and abrasive Jim Broadbent who parodies the late John Thaw's Jack Reagan superbly. Peter Richardson and Keith Allen are once again reliably effective as the swaggering Bonehead and Foyle with the former also donning a silk suit with frills to play the smooth talking charmer Jason Bentley with considerable aplomb .

The hilarity that ensues as the mismatched members of the team figuratively butt heads and the natural chemistry that flows, especially in the amusing pub scene nearer the end would be close to impossible to match. If there is a flaw however that at only half an hour in length (the majority of Comic Strip episode were about an hour long) it perhaps seems to end after it's only just got started. Never the less, that aside it's still difficult to fault what is essentially an effortlessly constructed piece of lampoonery. Not one to miss if you can get a hold of it to watch.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining yet vacuous attempt to blend Hitchock's Vertigo with Rear Window, 25 August 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Arguably the one movie among Director Brian DePalma's back catalogue which owes a great debt to his hero, the late great Alfred Hitchcock. Body Double marks something of an oddity which far from perfect didn't deserve the critical dismissal it received, leading to it being a commercial failure at the box office. It also marked the closest thing that actor Craig Wasson had to a mainstream leading role.

The movie revolves around Jake Scully, (Wasson) a struggling actor starring in cheap, tawdry Vampire flick which proves more trouble than it's worth. He suffers from claustrophobia which Isn't exactly helpful when he has to appear in scenes of him sleeping in a coffin. Upon arriving home he finds his girlfriend in bed with another man, forcing him to find a new home. A chance meeting with fellow out of work actor Sam Bouchard at an acting workshop proves fortuitous as he needs a house-sitter while he's away on an acting job. Jake jumps at the chance of taking care of the plush apartment, and to top things off, each night a sexy alluring neighbour who lives in the building across performs a sexy striptease which Jake views via a telescope. This leads to an unhealthy obsession with wanting to meet her which eventually leads to him witnessing her murder. Inevitably finding himself the chief suspect he finds that he must work to clear his name which gradually draws himself in to the seedy world of the porn industry and where he learns that everything he saw that night wasn't quite as it seemed.

Glossy, beautifully filmed and with a slightly surreal edge Body Double while largely effective and never boring is marred predominantly by a vacuous plot which tries to hide the silliness behind flashy window dressing. De Palma delights in excess which was very much a hallmark of the eighties, especially in the shamelessly O.T.T. murder scene and when Jake reluctantly appears in a pornographic Horror Movie, marching through a brothel to the strains of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's, Relax, and marks an inspired foray in to opulence and indulgence which De Palma captures beautifully.

Ultimately a movie of two halves with the first being one long set-up for the main plot as Jake's obsession with the mystery woman grows unabated. Wasson, a limited actor in some people's view is actually effectively cast here as he makes for a likable screen presence. He has an amiable, good natured quality which makes for it being all the more troubling and cringe-making as he descends in to essentially becoming a stalker. It's these moments which ironically prove more tense and unnerving than the inevitable killing. Unfortunately the combining of plot aspects from of two of Hitchcock's more renowned thrillers don't exactly make for a cohesive plot, which under close scrutiny is rather flimsy. The eventual plot twists are either predictable or when they do arrive although unexpected don't have the jarring effect of shock they were clearly designed to invoke. On the plus side, Melanie Griffith who doesn't make her long awaited appearance until over an hour in to the picture is on top sleazy yet naive and ultimately bemused form as porn star, Holly Body(moniker which was actually taken by a genuine porn star after the movies release.

Below the surface there is however some rewarding self referential observations on the pitfalls of the Hollywood film industry, De Palma sublimely delights in bewildering his audience with a neat psychological deception which will have you double guessing yourself. Topped off by a beautiful, haunting score by Pino Dinaggio it's an entertaining foray in to style over substance, deserving of the critical reappraisal it has garnered. Not necessarily to be missed if you can get past it's shortcomings.

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