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"Now we are even!", 2 April 2017

There's no safe haven, when Wings Hauser it out for revenge. Which a drug cartel soon finds out. "No Safe Haven" is your typically forgettable 80s action fodder… ridiculously over-the-top in nearly every department from the action set-pieces, clunky dialogues and the villainous bad guys (especially a lip-smacking Branscombe Richmond). Quite reckless, but done with enough panache despite its low-budget frame. It's somewhat slow to begin off, but it does pack a little punch when the frenetic action is transported to an impregnable South American jungle fortress.

After the death of his two younger brothers and his mother at the hands of a vicious drug syndicate, Hauser's CIA agent Clete is a man on a mission. He gets by with plenty of charisma, a touch of intensity (mainly those scenes in the first half when one-by-one he playfully begins picking off the henchmen to make a point) and with the aid of a weapons expert amusingly played by Robert Tessier. Gladly the story stays simple, despite the pointless distractions. Hauser goes about his brutal business accompanied by a screeching rock soundtrack. We know what it wants to deliver and for most part it serves up the stereotypical and cheesy action goods.

"Darkroom" (1981)
Well-done TV series that was cut short., 13 February 2017

"You are in a house. Maybe your Own. Maybe one you've never seen before. You feel it... something evil. You run, but there's no escape. Nowhere to turn. You feel something beckoning you. Drawing you into the terror that awaits you in the DARKROOM!"

I just watched the complete series of Darkroom over the last couple of nights and was completely surprised by how compelling, effective, creepy and amusing the short stories were in this anthology series. There was a nice variety to the tales in tone and length, with a certain cleverness within their imaginative twists and turns. Ending on a killer note. They were well-made and ably brought across with sound technical delivery despite the cheap looking origins.

The memorable intro is ominously unnerving and from the photographic darkroom James Coburn effortlessly narrates with a wry touch. Familiar faces in the cast show up, some even before hitting it big. Interesting to see some genre film-makers attached; Paul Lynch (Prom Night, Humongous), Curtis Harrington (Queen of Blood, The Killing Kind & Ruby) and Rick Rosenthal (Halloween 2). Other than one story I didn't care for (Daisies), I really enjoyed this creative, if short-lived series.

Some of my favourites were 'Make-Up' starring Billy Crystal and Brian Dennehy, 'The Partnership' starring David Carradine and 'Exit Line' starring Samantha Eggar and Stan Shaw.

Well worth a look if you were entertained by the likes of 'Night Gallery' and 'Alfred Hitchcok Presents'.


"Maybe you need blood and guts to get you going"?, 14 January 2017

Art is all about pushing boundaries and "Eddie the Sleepwalking Cannibal" puts that creativeness on the canvas. This co-produced Canadian/Denmark indie production is a well-made, quirky horror comedy with the blackest of dark humor. I wouldn't call it in-your-face, but still it's deliciously absurd and very well-timed with its dry humorous approach. This might be contributed to the cast taking their roles seriously and not letting it become camp. It just works. I found it hard not be impressed by Boris Rodriguez's directorial debut.

Lars was once an acclaimed painter, but now has hit an inspiration slump. He has settled into a quiet little town and takes up a job at the local art school. This is where he meets Eddie. And he finds himself looking after him. A towering and reserved mute man who is scarred from past events. But it's what Lars learns on his first night with Eddie. He sleepwalks, but also transforms from a friendly giant to an ferocious cannibal. But what he also discovers, that his inspiration for his art comes in the form of misery and carnage, which Eddie can bring in spades.

There are many droll character interactions, small town atmospherics and few grisly jolts. The satirical screenplay takes á compelling approach. Art is a rush with the pressure to perform, but what is one willing to do and what morals would be broken to present this to the masses.. The script does an earnest job in developing these subtle characters and that of Lars' intense deterioration. One interesting note, is that we never get to see the artwork that was transpired by this pain and suffering. The edgy humour here, perfectly goes alongside the outrageous violence. The gore make-up and dismembered body effects is authentically staged. Cinematography provides some flair and a music score is slight, but playful.

The cast look like they are having fun. Thure Lindhardt plays his character spot on. He's likable and provides good intentions, despite his unsettling addiction to bringing out those artistic flourishes. Dylan Smith as Eddie delivers a great psychical performance. The relationship formed between these two characters is endearing, even though it does go down a twisted and dependent path of Lars' eventually abusing it. Georgina Reilly is ably good too. In a small, but memorable cameo; Stephen McHattie plays a scheming arts dealer. Also the closing credits produces an amusing little radio snippet of one of Lars/Eddie's surviving victims being interviewed.

"Look out for yourself", 12 January 2017

There are many Agatha Christie's "10 little Indians" variants about, but I always find this concept entertaining despite its basic mechanics of murder and mystery. And this Japanese production is just the same. It plays out like "10 Little Indians" meets "Big Brother" and is handled by a competent director in the name of Hideo Nakata. Well known for for the influential horror "Ringu" (1998).

Ten people have thought they got a lucrative job, but actually find themselves locked up for seven days and forced to play a experimental murder game in what they call the paranoia house.

The outline is basic, but it's how the innovative screenplay plays about our characters and puts them in difficult situations. Where danger and suspicions fuel the fire. The mystery is engaging, psychology interplay tingles and there's nothing black and white here with these unstable characters. Even if there are some questionable inclusions and elaborate plotting. Sure there are daft moments, but Nakata's direction is sure-footed and suspense well-timed. Simple, it's entertaining and with that in mind its rather ironic in what I'm typing since it's taking a shot at society's obsession of turning violence into profitable entertainment. The music is subtle, but effective and the sombre underground(?) location is sterile in appearance and taut in atmosphere. It's slickly shot with Nakata's clinical approach working in its favour. The performances are rock-solid by the likes of Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kin'ya Kitaôji, Haruka Ayase and Satomi Ishihara.

"You like mysteries"?

Roots Search (1986) (V)
God as an alien?, 31 December 2016

Obvious influences aside (Alien). And throw in 'Galaxy of Terror' and 1985's 'Creature'. "Roots Search" is a generic and run-of-the-mill sci-fi/horror anime feature. Not the worst of its kind, although quite average and largely forgettable. At about forty minutes in length, you know, you are not going to get anything truly substantial and it shows in the details. This one, gets straight-to-the-point. The story is rather simple in structure, despite some uncanny ideas and preachy passages on philosophy about the meaning of life and God's will. But there's no real depth to it all. A lack of focus shows. There's even a huge plot- hole (why is the lone survivor spared... no sins?) and characters are erratic, exposing unusual behaviours and traits. Some things happen in the plot, without much thought to how its going to affect the story. When the horror kicks in. It has a claustrophobic stranglehold and slowly creeps up with some nicely dark and macabre images. However these moments feel rushed and the sense of dread can be disrupted by an overwhelmingly, unhinged soundtrack. Just wait around for the last 15 minutes though, where bizarre developments and baffling visuals are thrown out there. It gets stranger, as there's no real cohesion and abruptly ends. The alien(s) designs were interesting and again its influence seems blatant in one of those drawings. As for the animation. It's basic and at times crude, but I have a soft spot for these rough visuals and of course strobe lighting. The voice-over work is suitably fine.

Some neat ideas and visuals, can't hide its weakly handled story.

10-eok (2009)
"Violence provides the best entertainment", 29 December 2016

A token reality-based South-Koren thriller. Although not as simple as first thought. Sure the concept is routine and fairly drawn out, but it does offer up an impulsively shady twist that actually comes off. By virtually turning everything upside down. Even if the screenplay is ludicrous and possibly forced, but further along the story goes, the more engaging the plot becomes. After somewhat a bland beginning.

Eight strangers are given an invitation to become part of a survivor type reality TV show set in the remote desert of Australia with the winner taking away one million dollars. But it doesn't take long for the contestants to realize the game has life or death consequences.

The story starts backwards, kind of switching back and forth between time lines. I thought it was going to be a smarting social commentary with psychology brushes on the manipulative nature of reality TV and society's unhealthy obsession in becoming nothing more then a spectator, but that's left behind when the twists occur. Still the selfish side of humanity plays a big part in the story's progression and revelations.

I think the biggest problem here, is the characters themselves. They're are poorly written character arches and quite unlikable. You don't really connect, but you feel like you're suppose to. You're simply compelled to what's the bigger mystery (the motivation) to it all, not for their well-being. The performances are hard to judge because of it. The choice of location is effectively brought across on the screen. Dangerous, forlorn and open, but still with a great sense of isolation. Direction is competent, even with its cheap look. However the director doesn't really generate much in the way of suspense, even his attempts of violent shocks lack any real impact. It's mean-spirited, but there's no real punch to it. I just got that blank feeling.

Curiously watchable, if senseless survival thriller.

" No-one must enter. ", 25 December 2016

With a title like this, you know what market they were aiming at. Does it pull it off? Yes, if you're looking for a gory zombie feature, but as for a mummy presentation it's disappointing. Mummy horror, there's just not enough of it... well at least, not recommendable. "Dawn of the Mummy" falls into that category.

A photographer and his models unknowingly come across a newly excavated Egyptian burial tomb when encountering some grave robbers. Despite the warnings, they decide to do the shoot in the tomb, but this begins the slow progress of reviving the tombed dead pharaoh and unleashing the ancient curse of him coming back from the death for revenge.

The problem mainly lies on its sloppy direction, flat pace and downright tedious story. It takes too long to get going, making the padded out sequences a chore. Though if you stick it out, you're given a hectic and grisly payoff. The gory make-up effects are pretty well-done with some nasty scenes involving the zombies (not the mummy). However there's no suspense to these build-ups, making the nauseating shocks measurably boring and cheap. Performances are really woeful and insufferable, but you do get a good laugh from a few eccentrics. George Peck is a standout. For all the wrong reasons. Also you got to deal with constant deafening screams from the beauties; Brenda Siemer Scheider, Joan Levy, Ellen Faison and Diane Beatty. A big plus is that it's shot-on- location in Cario, which does add the atmosphere. But in the end, visually it's quite limited and clunky. The monster of the piece is not your traditional looking mummy dressed up in white bandages, but its towering 7 foot frame, dark oozing figure and black tar face still was rather effective design. Just wished it did a bit more, as even the climax involving it is lacklustre, despite literally going out with a bang.

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"You want a beer"?, 24 December 2016

What did I just watch?! Another holiday day themed slasher, but this one you gotta see, to believe. It's bad, beyond bad. But it's how ridiculously stupid and inept, you're just so bemused to what you're seeing on screen. Some of the early death scenes are just laughable. That's even before the stalk and slash enters the picture. And Jake Seinfield's over-the-top killer's performance goes a long way to cementing that. Watch this buffed lunatic shooting up on PCP, while crazily laughing at every bruising encounter. However he's not the most irritating character. Yes, there's someone worse. A weird teenager decked out in what looks like mime makeup, while running around playing his electric guitar. And what type of name is Mistake? Oddly creepy character with an identity crisis. With these type of inclusions you just wonder if its definitely intentional in its attempts to raise your eye-brows.

The Bradley family and some of their friends are celebrating Thanksgiving in a remote country home. However this is disturbed when an escaped mental patient decides to crash the celebrations.

As for it being a slasher, it's fairly tame (after such a promising start) and predictably mundane. Some blood here and there. While the kills were rather daft, then actually brutal. Creativity was indeed lacking. But with such poor lighting and shooting it mostly in the dark, just made it hard to make out at times what was happening. The overwrought music on the other-hand wanted to telegraph everything. Just making sure that you knew there was evil around. Director Nettie Peña's handling is rough around the edges, as it's stingy budget shows and no tension whatsoever despite its rural forlorn location. It was dull, when it wasn't centering and using close-ups shots on the jacked-up, bodybuilding killer giggling away and carving up the guests. The rest of the cast give nothing more than disposable performances working with an inane script. There are some names like a very young Vinessa Shaw, Sallee Young (known for 1980 "Demented") and then you got all-rounder Don Edmonds (who's acting/producing on this one).

Aside for a few amusingly dumb moments, "Home Sweet Home" is a lousily plain 80s slasher turkey.

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The monster inside., 23 December 2016

Sometimes the idea is better then the execution. While slickly presented, the overdone plotting within a very small time frame makes it feel like a disconnected mess. That's the issue regarding the shot-on-video adaptation of 1970s spy manga "009-1: The End of the Beginning".

A beautiful, but deadly cyborg spy 009-1 tries to rescue the doctor who made her a cyborg, but on this mission she begins to discover things of her past.

It doesn't waste any time on filler, but it just feels shallow trying to squeeze a lot in. Therefore the development and emotional context loses out. Contrived story-telling involving twists and turns alongside jaded flashbacks don't have the impact as they should. Maybe this is due to the low-end budget, but certain things felt lazy and half- baked. Just like the computer effects.

Now where it didn't lose focus, was the action. This remains non- stop and bloody, as it showers the screen with fireworks. They really do punch away, other times it's over-the-top and there's some bite. But the use of special effects in those scenes do become tiring, as well long-winded. Still there are some surprises, despite the run-of-the-mill set-up. You could say it does get hot and bothered, just look at those sexy outfits and the sensual teasing. Strangely enough, it's part of the story.

The cast don't have too much to work with material-wise, but psychically it's a different story. Performances are stereotypical all round, but the stunning Mayuko Iwasa fits right at home as 009- 1. She brings the right temperament to her character, as her humane compassion starts to break away that ice-cold killing machine instinct.

On the look out for something better, 21 December 2016

At one time this was one of Jean Rollin's lost films, but in the age of DVD/Blu-ray its becoming a thing of the past. So is it worth the lime-light(?)... for me, it's a no. That's not implying its awful, just strictly mundane and forgettable low-budget drama.

There's really nothing there, outside a couple of brief moments highlighting Rollin's signature touches (two young women, erotic lesbianism and haunting tragedy). It just lacked those surreal images or better put dream-like quality, instead favouring a glum, down-to- earth reality to tell a tale about the journey of a pair of runaways from an insane asylum. The journey doesn't really add up to much, as it meanders and falls on the repetitiveness with its talkative nature. Because visually it's not striking enough, the plot less nature is found out by being bogged down and it slowly moves from one scenario to another with little conviction. Although the last 10 minutes or so, is where Rollin shines (outside the intro and ice-skating ring scene).

Laurence Dubas and Christiane Coppé are quite good as the two runaways. Watching their neurotic relationship develop made the ending much more effective. Also showing up in a minor bit part is Rollin's regular Brigitte Lahaie.

"The Escapees" is nothing more, nothing less then a curio.

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