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Makes me appreciate the original a bit more.
The original Suspiria (1977) is considered by many to be the best film from Italian director Dario Argento. I don't agree. The garish colours, the cacophonous soundtrack, the silly premise (a renowned dance school is a front for a coven of witches): apart from a couple of inventive kills, it just didn't work for me (I prefer Tenebrae and Phenomena).
I had hoped that the remake would address these problems, but it's actually even worse.
In contrast to Argento's colourful movie, Suspiria 2018 is a drab arthouse affair, set in a bleak cold war Berlin and made all the more dull by lots of pretentious waffle, pointless political subtext and an excess of interpretive dance. If watching a roomful of girls writhe and jerk awkwardly in the name of art for the best part of two and a half hours is your idea of fun, then have at it, but I found the majority of the film mind numbingly boring, with the exception of one scene: one of the girls is horribly twisted and bent out of shape, limbs snapping and popping as she is bent into a human pretzel. I wished the same fate on all involved.
Amazingly, I hung in there for the duration - surely it would all make sense in the end - but the finale is even more incomprehensible than all that has gone before, with people inexplicably exploding while naked witches gyrate. All that and a horrible soundtrack with whiny vocals from Thom Yorke. Makes me long for Goblin's Satanic prog-rock racket.
2.5 out of 10, rounded up to 3 for pretzel girl.
Rarely have I been so bored by something so bloody.
Necrostorm's sequel to their enjoyable first person POV gorefest Hotel Inferno features bucket-loads of impressive splatter effects (and some less effective monsters) but proves extremely tedious thanks to a silly storyline that plays out like a very bad video game, repeating the same thing over and over again: central character Frank Zimosa (voiced by Rayner Bourton) wanders through Hell, performing incomprehensible tasks that bring him up against a series of infernal creatures who he proceeds to beat or shoot into a bloody mess. Frank is aided in his by quest by an annoying witch (voiced by Roland Stone) who talks like one of Jim Henson's creations from Labyrinth. Sounds like fun but there really isn't much more to this than kill, repeat.
Frank's catchphrase "I'm so ****ing tired of this ****!" sums up how I feel about the movie as a whole. However, I get the feeling that I must be in the minority: Hotel Inferno 3: The Castle of Screams is filming as I type, and IMDb has 'in production' pages for parts 4, 5 and 6.
Vacanze per un massacro (1980)
Dallesandro, De Selle and Di Leo... oh my!
Escaping the world's least secure prison through an open window and down a sturdy length of knotted rope, murderer and thief Joe Brezzi (Joe Dallesandro) legs it to a farmhouse where he attacks two men (killing one with a pitchfork) and steals their car. He then drives to a remote cottage to retrieve the 300 million lira buried under its fireplace, but finds that the poky property is now owned by yuppie couple Sergio (Gianni Macchia) and Liliana (Patrizia Behn), who arrive for the weekend in the company of Liliana's sister Paola (Lorraine De Selle ), who we later discover is having an affair with Sergio.
Joe waits until Liliana is out shopping and Sergio is hunting before making his move, surprising Paola while she sunbathes topless (this chick has a serious aversion to clothing, spending 90% of the film completely naked). He forces her to dig before deciding to rape her, receiving compliments from the woman about his lovemaking skills (this is NOT a film with a feminist agenda). Liliana returns to find Paola tied up and soon joins her sister bound and gagged while Joe hacks away at the hearth. Soon enough, Sergio returns and a power play ensues as Joe reveals the truth about Sergio and Paola, and takes a fancy to Liliana.
Obviously inspired by the likes of The Last House On The Left, Hitchhike and The House On The Edge Of The Park, this sleazy, exploitative home-invasion thriller starts off great, as Joe prowls the property preparing to make his move, but loses steam once he begins to terrorise the group. Watching them dig and argue is boring, even with De Selle flashing her big hairy bush all the time. After much tedium (even the scene where Joe forces Sergio and Paola to have sex in front of Liliana is dull), the film picks up for a bloody finale in which the adulterous couple make a crap bid for freedom, and Joe pays the price for leaving his shotgun unattended.
5/10. I might have scored it higher if Behn had joined De Selle in getting nekkid, but she remains fully clothed throughout.
Space Raiders (1983)
Not inspired by the pickled onion flavoured corn snack of the same name.
Ten-year-old space moppet Peter (David Mendenhall) sneaks on board a spaceship that is stolen by a band of space pirates led by interplanetary rogue-with-a-heart Hawk (Vince Edwards). As the child goes on a series of adventures with his new pals, a battle cruiser run by robots is despatched to bring him back.
Recycling the special effects and soundtrack from Corman's earlier Battle Beyond The Stars, and borrowing elements from Star Wars and its countless rip-offs, Space Raiders is a family oriented piece of space-junk that delivers sloppily edited space battles, terrible matte paintings, rubbish robots and unconvincing aliens aplenty, and very little in the way of genuine imagination or charm.
The cast do what they can with the uninspired material, but their efforts are negated by the all-pervading air of cheapness and lacklustre direction from Howard R. Cohen.
Avid sci-fi fans might be amused to see Thom Christopher sporting alien make-up even sillier than that of Hawk, his half-man half-bird character in TV's Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
La sorella di Ursula (1978)
Nice and sleazy does it every time.
After the untimely death of their father, sexy brunette sisters Dagmar (Stefania D'Amario) and Ursula (Barbara Magnolfi) go in search of their estranged mother, with whom they intend to share their inheritance. Checking in at a luxurious hotel on the Amalfi coast proves to be a mistake when a mysterious killer starts to bump off the more promiscuous guests.
When it comes to gialli, I prefer 'em stylish, mean-spirited and gory, but, failing that, nice and sleazy does it every time. The Sister of Ursula doesn't feature all that much gore (although what there is is fairly shocking) and is lacking the visual verve of Argento or Bava, but it more than satisfies in terms of sex, nudity and general seediness.
Within minutes, delicious D'Amario has delivered the first of many full frontal nude scenes, and the bums, boobs and bush continue right through to the finalé, with virtually every woman baring all for the camera at some point. A hooker has sex with a friend for the pleasure of the killer; hotel owner Vanessa (Anna Zinnemann) has lesbian sex with her lover Jenny; cabaret singer Stella shags hotel manager Roberto; a pair of teenagers strip for sex (before being killed); and Dagmar masturbates with a gold chain while her sister sleeps in the bed next to her. While none of this is hardcore, it's still fairly graphic, with shots of both male and female genitals, some near the knuckle rubbing, and oral sex (a well-placed leg or massive '70s bush preventing it from being too explicit).
The killer's weapon of choice also adds to the sleaziness: a large carved wooden dildo is used to kill the women, resulting in a very messy downstairs department for those concerned. Makes a change from an open razor, I suppose!
Storywise, this one isn't anything special, and the killer's identity and motive probably won't come as much of a surprise, but all those attractive women in the altogether and the generally trashy tone made it hard for me to not enjoy myself.
6.5 out of 10, rounded up to 7 for IMDb.
Les affamés (2017)
Hungry for more zombie action?
Argentina (Plaga Zombie), Cuba (Juan of the Dead), Japan (I Am a Hero), South Korea (Train to Busan), Hong Kong (BioZombie), France (The Horde), Germany (Rammbock), Greece (To Kako), Italy (Zombi 2), England (Shaun of the Dead), Russia (Winter of the Dead): zombie movies are a global phenomenon. To my knowledge, Ravenous is the only French-Canadian entry in the genre, and as a first attempt it's not bad, a suspenseful study of a group of survivors during a zombie outbreak.
Although the basic premise will be very familiar to zombie fans, the execution is refreshingly different, the action set in the wilds of Quebec, writer/director Robin Aubert taking a measured approach to his tale of survival, gradually building the tension with excellent use of his rural setting. Like many zombie films, no explanation is given for the outbreak of the walking dead, and Aubert adds to the mystery by having his reanimated stiffs acting in a very peculiar manner: they stop and stare, which is most disconcerting, but they also build strange towers made of chairs. Why? Who knows, but it's certainly weird and surely a first for the undead.
Aubert also does a decent job of making the viewer care for his characters - with one notable exception: local loony Demers (Martin Héroux), who seems oblivious to the zombie apocalypse and who delights in appearing out of nowhere to scare the protagonists. Demers is thoroughly irritating and deservedly dies when his dumb prank backfires. It is thanks to this horribly ill-judged character that I round my rating of 6.5/10 down to a 6 instead of up to 7.
El cadáver de Anna Fritz (2015)
The perks of being a morgue attendant.
Necrophilia usually guarantees a tastelessly entertaining time for fans of sick cinema (see Aftermath, Nekromantik and Deadgirl), but it's not long into The Corpse of Anna Fritz that writer/director Hèctor Hernández Vicens cheats his audience with a silly twist, his film becoming a rather predictable thriller as a result.
The delightfully demented initial premise - that a group of friends would seize the opportunity to bonk a famous actress, even if she was dead- descends into a trite 'woman in peril' horror. Anna, actually still alive despite her earlier appearance, tries to avoid becoming a stiff for real as her assailants desperately try to cover up their deviant behaviour.
As matters progress, friends' loyalties crumble, Anna tries to escape, and logic goes out the window: as if the woman being mistaken for dead at the beginning isn't daft enough, Anna successfully convinces the guys that she has expired once again, hoping they will leave her alone.
The not totally unexpected ending sees the actress exacting revenge on the men, but it's all so frustratingly pedestrian. Given the controversial nature of the opening scenes, it could have been so much more.
Take it for a spin.
Brummie motorbike courier Noddy (Neil Morrissey) buys himself a classic Norton Commando, unaware that his new ride is possessed by a demon and requires blood for fuel. With the help of a garlic-breathed police detective (Michael Elphick) and a biker priest (Anthony Daniels), Noddy tries to stop the evil machine's reign of terror.
A man behaving badly, Private Schulz and C3PO versus a motorbike: this loopy British comedy horror looks cheap and the humour is uneven, but it is all so delightfully daft that it's hard to hate on it too much. Similar in tone to early Peter Jackson movies (but nowhere near as full throttle, mind you), I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle combines low-brow comedy with oodles of gore, making it the perfect accompaniment to a couple of beers (or whatever you prefer to smoke).
The craziness includes a talking turd in a toilet (played by Daniel Peacock), a sword fight in a pub, an ex-Grange Hill student (Paula Ann Bland) in a nurse's uniform being cut in half, the riderless Norton decapitating a gang of Hell's Angels, a traffic warden getting her comeuppance, and Burt Kwouk as a a Chinese Takeaway owner called Fu King. All that and a healthy serving of cheesy splatter makes the film worth a go, even if we are presented with the genuinely horrific sight of Morrissey's arse rising from the crapper.
Are You Wild Like Me? (2018)
I wasn't wild about it.
Technically speaking, Are You Wild Like Me? is an impressive short with lovely cinematography and smart editing. Story-wise, it's far less satisfying, the narrative never really going anywhere. At the end, I was left thinking 'So what?'.
The film opens with an occurrence that I am sure most parents have dreaded, the disappearance of an infant, in this case from her playpen in a rural wooded surrounding. Nine years later, and the same area is plagued with missing people, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why (a big clue being the missing toddler's surname, Lenzi, which any self-respecting horror fan will automatically associate with cannibalism).
It turns out that the missing child has somehow survived dying of exposure, and is now killing people for food. A ten year old child, feral or not, overpowering a series of fully grown adults stretches plausibility, but when she meets and befriends another feral child, it's a step too far. As if the idea of two wild cannibalistic children in the same woods wasn't silly enough, the end of the film shows numerous pairs of eyes glowing in the darkness, which I took to imply that there was a whole pack of killer kids on the prowl. Now that is plain daft.
5/10. Writer/director William Nawrocki III undoubtedly has film-making acumen, but could do with stronger material.
Guai guai guai guaiwu! (2017)
This one came as a complete surprise to me: behind the rather playful title lies an unexpectedly harrowing, mean-spirited and nihilistic tale that leaves quite the emotional impact.
Lin Shu-wei (Yu-Kai Teng) is an unpopular high-school student who faces daily bullying from his classmates and a lack of empathy from his teacher. When Shu-wei is accused of stealing money, he is given community service, along with three of his most cruel tormenters, led by callous classmate Duan Ren-hao (Kent Tsai). Sent to work at an old people's home, the class bullies abuse the pensioners, with Shu-wei joining in, relieved to not be the target of the torture for a change.
One night, the four teenagers sneak into the home to steal a locked case belonging to an elderly ex-soldier, believing it to contain valuables. During the burglary, the lads encounter a ghoulish flesh-eating girl that chases them out of the building, only for her to be knocked down by a car (which promptly drives away). Taking the creature to their hideout, the bullies set about inflicting pain upon their prisoner, with Shu-wei a reluctant participant. Meanwhile, the cannibalistic kiddie's older sister is on the hunt for her missing sibling...
With almost no genuinely sympathetic characters, the message of Mon Mon Mon Monsters is that humans are the real monsters. We lose much of our sympathy for Shu-wei when he joins in with the bullies, his teacher is heartless, the driver of the car that hits the little girl immediately flees the scene, and Ren-hao and his pals are sociopaths. For some, this will mean that the film will prove too much to handle, but for those who enjoy disturbing cinema, this is a well-directed treat that keeps on surprising, right down to the bitter end.
7.5 out of 10, rounded up to 8 for IMDb.
I had zero interest in seeing another Ring movie until I noticed that Rings starred the stunning Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, whose delectable derrière helped to make Revenge (2017) an unmissable treat. Those hoping for another hefty helping of Lutz' butt will be disappointed this time around, for Rings features only one brief shot of the lovely actress's pert behind. Still, it's the undoubtable highlight of this whole sorry sequel, which mostly retreads ground already covered in the previous films in the series.
Lutz plays Julia, who stupidly watches the cursed Ring movie in order to save the life of her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe), whose college professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) secretly operates a system designed to prevent Samara from claiming any more lives. From here on in it's business as usual as the mystery behind the video unfolds, with creepy visions, mechanical jump scares, and a handful of unexceptional death scenes.
Neither innovative nor scary, the whole thing is instantly forgettable tosh, culminating in a supposedly shocking finalé that sees Samara taking control of Julia's body (and who can blame her?).
Death Wish (2018)
Definitely not a Winner.
With Death Wish, director Eli Roth proves even worse at remakes than he is at horror. Michael Winner's effective 1974 vigilante classic is gunned down in cold blood by Roth, whose movie features all manner of 'updates', none of which improve on the original. The result is a ham-fisted travesty that substitutes gritty realism and vicarious thrills with glossy Hollywood stylings and mind-numbing implausibility.
In the original movie, Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) was a mild-mannered liberal architect who swapped the pen for a piece after a gang of punks kill his wife and rape his daughter in their own home. Kersey dispenses street justice to random thugs and hoodlums encountered on his night-time strolls through New York's dodgier areas, but never actually evens the score with his family's attackers, making his vigilantism an act of sublime futility.
This time around, Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a Chicago surgeon, which comes in handy dandy when tracking down the human garbage who put his dumb have-a-go daughter in a coma and his wife in the grave. While working in A&E, Kersey recognises a gunshot victim by his tattoo, sees that he is wearing a watch stolen during the break-in at his home, secretly stashes the Glock dropped by the dying man, and swipes the man's phone to find his cohorts. There's nothing sublime about any of this contrived clap-trap.
After sloppily foiling a carjacking, Dr. Kersey trains himself in firearms and the fine art of witty one-liners, and, having also executed a drug dealer, goes looking for revenge, the surgeon patching up any wounds he incurs along the way with his convenient medical know-how. Meanwhile, a pair of cops are searching for the vigilante, who has become a media sensation dubbed The Grim Reaper.
With its flashy visuals (which include overuse of De Palma-style split screen), graphic violence (a squished head being the most fun), and occasional usage of popular songs on the soundtrack, this right-wing pro-gun propaganda piece (even the gun saleswoman is gorgeous) is mainstream trash, as one might expect from the 'genius' who gave us Hostel, The Green Inferno and Knock Knock. The plot is far-fetched beyond belief, building to a preposterous ending in which Kersey goes all-out John McClane, dealing with numerous armed home invaders like a seasoned pro.
An insult to Winner's groundbreaking original, Eli Roth's Death Wish quite rightly flopped at the box-office. Surely it's only a matter of time until his directorial career takes a nosedive as well.
The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)
Rudimentary stalk 'n' slash.
The Strangers: Prey at Night can be summarised in three words: psychos hunt family.
A more verbose way of putting it would be 'psychos wearing masks hunt family in deserted trailer park'. That's still only nine words. Needless to say, there's not much in the way of plot development or character arc in this frustratingly formulaic and consequently very predictable slasher from director Johannes Roberts (47 Metres Down).
Bailee Madison stars as Kinsey, a rebellious teen so obnoxious that her parents, Cindy and Mike (Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson) have decided to take her to a boarding school. Stopping at a secluded mobile home park owned by relatives, the family, which also includes Kinsey's older brother Luke (Lewis Pullman), becomes the target of three masked killers. Why? 'Why not?', as one of the psychos says.
What follows is strictly by-the-numbers horror in which the family members immediately split up and repeatedly make decisions that endanger their lives, including these old chestnuts: 'not killing the enemy when the opportunity arises' and 'leaving weapons behind when it suits the story' (Luke puts down his revolver and Kinsey neglects to take a shotgun with her when she vacates a vehicle). Being a teen friendly horror, the gore is light and the jump scares frequent.
Roberts' direction is, for the most part, pedestrian, although a well-executed scene in a neon-drenched swimming pool makes an impression. As is par for the course, the ending leaves things open for yet another sequel (although judging by some of the scathing reviews here on IMDb, that might never happen).
4.5/10, rounded up to 5 for IMDb.
Fair Game (1986)
Fair to middling
Three kangaroo hunters terrorise an attractive woman, Jessica (Cassandra Delaney), who lives by herself on a wildlife reserve in the outback.
'80s Ozploitation flick Fair Game is like a rape/revenge movie, but without the rape. Some reviews suggest that a serious sexual assault is inferred, but that simply isn't good enough: if a character is going to systematically kill three men, then it needs to be clear that her victims are deserving of their fates. Fair Game fails to adequately establish this fact, and is all the weaker for it.
Sure, the guys are obnoxious sexist assholes, and are guilty of tormenting, abusing and humiliating the poor woman, but that alone is not enough to warrant multiple homicide. Jessica should have continued to pursue a legal course of action, but instead takes matters into her own hands: she antagonises the men by slapping an anti-hunting sticker on their truck, sneaks out at night to weld their guns together, steals their truck, and tries to trap them in an abandoned mine with a rock fall. Had she continued to complain to the authorities after the first couple of incidences, it's doubtful that matters would have escalated to such levels of extreme violence (sexual or otherwise).
Technically speaking, the film is a mixed bag: performances are strong and the cinematography is very stylish (the scenery looks great and the shots of the hunter's truck are very effective, the vehicle taking on a persona more menacing than the men themselves); however, the soundtrack is diabolical: none of the awful '80s music complements the action. The killings are quite tame for this kind of trash, with the impalement of one guy on an anvil (!?!) proving unintentionally funny.
Fair Game was shorn of almost a minute when released on video in the UK: all of the stuff where Jessica is stripped and bound to the hood of the hunter's vehicle like an ornament was removed. Since this is the most entertaining part of the film, that VHS release must have been particularly frustrating for British fans of Ozploitation.
4.5 out of 10, rounded up to 5 for IMDb.
N.B. Eagle-eyed viewers might spot a male predator far more despicable than any of Fair Game's villains lurking in an advert for paint in the background of the outback convenience store. Can you see what it is yet?
Ling ye (1981)
An obscure Eastern exploitation oddity.
No angels. No golden guns. What we do get is a badly dubbed, incoherent mess that is half women-in-prison flick and half revenge movie, seemingly the result of a Godfrey Ho-style splicing together of footage from two or more Asian obscurities.
The first half of the film sees a bisexual man posing as a photographer to abduct women working as models, shipping his victims to a camp where they are put to work as sex slaves. Meanwhile, a disco dancing undercover cop is captured by the bad guys, has his meat and two veg repeatedly whipped with a rod, and is tied up in a water tower.
At the camp, the women form two groups and have a massive cat-fight, which is intercut with a really nasty and totally random shot of a live hog-tied pig having its head split open with a cleaver (one of the nastiest real animal deaths I have seen in a film). Eventually, the women team up to mount an escape, which is not entirely successful: out of dozens of ladies, only three make it out alive.
This leads us to the second part of the film in which the trio seek revenge on the organisation that enslaved them, working their way through several bad guys (including the gay photographer) to get to the leader. They drown one guy by suspending him upside-down over a bath filling with water, and put a bag containing a snake over another man's head. Scared that he will ratted out by his men, the big boss sends some hit men to deal with his underlings, which results in some bloody shootings.
The film wraps things up with a fight between the undercover cop and the boss of the sex slave ring, both wrapped head to toe in bandages. Fight over, the crime boss is revealed to be none other than some guy we saw earlier on in the film -- I'm not sure who... I guess I wasn't paying enough attention.
School Spirit (1985)
The spirit is willing...
Horny college student Billy Batson (Tom Nolan) is killed in a car crash before he can bed leggy blonde beauty Judy Hightower (Elizabeth Foxx). Billy's spirit is greeted by his deceased Uncle Pinky, who has been tasked with escorting his nephew to heaven, but with unfinished business, Billy refuses to leave. Able to switch between ghostly and corporeal form at whim, the sex-mad student uses what time he has left on Earth to try and score with Judy, but instead finds love with the college's tasty French benefactor, Madeleine (Danièle Arnaud).
A puerile '80s sex comedy with a supernatural twist, this is about as low-brow as it gets, the movie's trashy screwball antics unlikely to generate many laughs. Where the film does score big is with its eye-candy, almost every woman an absolute stunner. Foxx lives up to her surname, Arnaud is gorgeous, Batson's neighbour Rita (Toni Hudson) is lovely, and Ursula (Marta Kober), jail bait daughter of college president Grimshaw (Larry Linville), has a cracking body. Sadly, none of the aforementioned provide any nudity, but there are plenty of other hotties willing to strip off for the camera, the film delivering a breast tally so high that I gave up counting. A shower scene, a slime slide, and a pool party help to rack up the titty total.
Also serving to help make the movie a mindlessly enjoyable experience are the '80s tunes, including several tracks by wacky new wave group The Gleaming Spires, who make an appearance at the students' wild 'hog party' and some not-so-special effects (invisibility and 'floating' objects on wires).
Twice Dead (1988)
Worth seeing at least once.
Those who enjoy trashy '80s horror served with a hefty dollop of cheeze will no doubt get a kick from Twice Dead, which benefits from a very silly plot, competent direction and a decent pace, likeable protagonists, loathesome baddies, some sexy ladies, a handful of gory deaths and even a supporting role for Todd Bridges of Diff'rent Strokes fame. High art it ain't, but it sure is entertaining.
The film opens in the 1930s, as film star Tyler Walker hangs himself, having been jilted by his love Myrna. Half a century later, and the Cates family -- Harry and Sylvia, and their kids Scott and Robin -- inherit Walker's mansion, which is supposedly haunted by the actor's ghost. Before they can move in, the family must get rid of the street gang who have been using the building as their playground. In doing so, they incur the wrath of the hoodlums, one of whom develops an interest in Robin (Jill Whitlow).
When their parents leave them alone for a couple of weeks, Scott (Tom Bresnahan) and Robin devise an elaborate (and preposterous) plan to scare off the gang once and for all. Instead, they further anger the thugs, who return to seek revenge. Luckily for the Cates kids, Tyler's ghost is on hand to help deal with their attackers.
For much of the runtime, Twice Dead is less horror and more teen drama, focusing on the kids's run-ins with lowlife Silk (Christopher Burgard), his equally scuzzy pals, Crip (Jonathan Chapin), Stony (Shawn Player), Melvin (Travis McKenna), and un-named gang member (Raymond Cruz). Less objectionable are the gang's ladies, appealing blonde Candy (Joleen Lutz) and sexy brunette Tina (Charlie Spradling). These altercations are entertaining enough, but the final act, in which the gang members get their ghostly comeuppance, is where the most fun is to be had, the bloody death scenes including a head crushed by dumb waiter, death by possessed motorbike, electrocution during sex (the gorgeous Spradling providing the obligatory nudity), and a shotgun blast to the head.
A silly storyline, cartoonish baddies, Todd Bridges being run down, fun splatter, and Spradling's big boobs equals a good time in my book. 7/10
Friend Request (2016)
Online and off her rocker.
My virtual friends on social media are a strange old lot (we weirdos need to stick together) but none are quite as screwy as Ma Rina (Liesl Ahlers), the oddball outcast from Friend Request, who stalks pretty teenager Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) after they become 'friends' on Facebook. When Laura finally sees sense and unfriends the psycho, Ma Rina kills herself in a magic ritual that sees her return as a vengeful demon hellbent on leaving Laura as popular as a sausage at a Bar Mitzvah.
What follows is bland teen-friendly supernatural horror that delivers predictable jump scares and a modicum of gore, but virtually nothing in the way of originality. I was so enthralled that I found myself frequently distracted by a Catfish marathon on MTV. A dumb twist in the final act and a really crap ending are the final nails in the coffin.
3.5/10, rounded down to 3 for having Laura receive a deep stab wound in the abdomen, but still manage to run away from her attacker and hail a taxi and not bleed to death or pass out from the pain.
Deep Blue Supermarket
A tsunami floods a supermarket trapping a group of unfortunate people inside with a couple of ravenous great white sharks for company. It sounds stupid, and perhaps it is, but this shark movie from the pen of Russell Mulcahy (director of Highlander) is loads of gory fun, which is precisely what I want from such a film. The relatively low budget limits what can be done in terms of CGI, and the digital shark effects are the film's weakest point, but director Kimble Rendall doesn't let the obviously fake killer fish prevent him from delivering genuine suspense and thrills.
In the underground car park, several survivors try to avoid being eaten by a twelve footer circling their vehicles, while in the shop itself, a group find themselves trapped on top of shelving units, the aisles now a hunting ground for a great white. Unsuccessful escape attempts see the characters whittled down to a handful, those that don't make it going out in a welter of blood and mangled body parts. The film's gory highlight sees one poor victim having his lower half ripped off leaving his entrails dangling from his ravaged torso. Yum!
According to IMDb's trivia section, a sequel was announced, but there's been nothing yet. I'm up for another bite: when sharks are involved, I always take the bait.
Tomb Raider (2018)
As much as I disliked the original noughties Tomb Raider movie, I have to admit that Angelina Jolie had the requisite physical attributes to play the part, namely pneumatic boobs and a strong pair of thighs; Alicia Vikander is a more politically correct Croft for 2018: pretty rather than sexy, much more realistically proportioned and lacking a really short pair of shorts. Put simply, she's not the character that fans know and love from the video game.
Not only does this reboot get the central character wrong, but it also falls short in the plot department with a generic adventure involving a lost tomb and a secret order that seeks to rule the world. In order to appeal to the lucrative Asian market, the film is predominantly set in the Far East, where Lara attempts to locate her father, who went missing seven years earlier while searching for the tomb of Himiko, first queen of Japan. Her quest leads her to an island where she encounters bad guys also looking for the tomb. Forgettable set-pieces follow, with tepid thrills and lots of CGI, all leading to the inevitable climax where Croft defeats bad guy Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) before running for her life as the tomb collapses around her ears.
It's all very predictable and far from the impressive reboot that I had hoped for. Despite the final scene in which we see Croft purchasing her iconic fire-arms (she uses a bow and arrow in this film), I doubt very much if we will get to see her using them anytime soon.
Doctor Strange (2016)
The visuals make it worthwhile.
I was reasonably entertained by Doctor Strange despite not fully following the plot; my enjoyment was largely thanks to the sheer spectacle of the whole thing, the film featuring several jaw-dropping set-pieces that make the absolute most of modern digital technology. The basic story sees talented but arrogant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) seeking help from a mystical source when traditional methods fail to help him recover from a devastating car crash. Trained by a sorcerer known as The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), Strange learns powerful magical spells that come in handy when he and his new friends are attacked by Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), who is trying to help a dark being from another reality take over Earth.
While the script might be lacking somewhat in originality and clarity, every last cent of the budget is up there on the screen, director Scott Derrickson delivering mind-bending special effects sequences that really grab one's attention, from the opening fight in London in which buildings fold and distort, to the spectacular car crash that claims Strange's dexterity, to the astounding finale in which our heroes battle the bad guys while time runs backwards (words can't do this incredible technical feat justice: it needs to be seen to be believed).
While not the greatest film in the MCU, Doctor Strange is a worthy enough entry that provides enough eye-candy for the duration. My rating: 7/10
Give it the brush off.
This is one of those films where the writer obviously thought it would be a clever idea to name the characters after horror luminaries; it wasn't. However, with H.G.Lewis being one of the genre greats given a name check, I had hopes that some graphic gore would make up for the lack of originality; it didn't.
There's a couple of reasonably juicy death scenes, and one awesome moment where a guy gets his head torn off by a monster (the creature following this by ripping the clothes off a blonde), but the majority of the film is crap that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever: having wandered into an abandoned film studio, a group of people find themselves unable to leave thanks to a poisonous fog, and are hunted down by a savage monster and some zombies. The messy script makes a weak attempt to explain events (some rot about time shifts) but logic is in short supply (there's even a flying saucer for some reason).
Horror/fantasy fans might have some fun with all of the references (Arkoff, Agar, Romero, Arne Saknussemm, London After Midnight), but I imagine most people will quickly tire of the aimless wandering around dark corridors and gloomy rooms.
3.5/10, generously rounded up to 4 for the bloody decapitation/gratuitous nudity double whammy.
The Jigsaw Murders (1989)
For ages 15 and up.
Cop thriller The Jigsaw Murders follows Los Angeles Detective Sergeant Joe DaVonzo (Chad Everett) and Detective Elliot Greenfield (Michael Sabatino) as they try to bring to justice psycho photographer Ace Mosley (Eli Rich), who is teasing the police by leaving severed limbs all over the city. Greenfield is trying to wrap up the case before his impending nuptials, while DaVonzo is ***cliché alert!** struggling with alcoholism and a troublesome daughter (Michelle Johnson) whose career as an erotic model makes her a potential victim of the killer.
Director Jag Mundhra's previous film, Hack-o-Lantern, was a technically shoddy affair, but entertaining nonetheless; The Jigsaw Murders, on the other hand, is a touch more professional, but actually proves a lot less enjoyable. It's banal, unexciting, tedious, and trite, with unmemorable performances from all involved (even Yaphet Kotto as quirky coroner Doctor Fillmore fails to impress). Those looking for graphic violence will be disappointed by the film's few unconvincing body parts, while those hoping for a smattering of sleaze will find the T&A most unsatisfying, with buxom babe Johnson only going so far as to wear a skimpy swimsuit and a leotard (those who want to see more of the actress should watch Blame It On Rio, in which she bares everything).
4.5/10, rounded down to 4 for Rich's dreadful performance as Mosley.
The Single Girls (1974)
Too much talk, not enough stalk (and slash).
A group of men and women travel to an island retreat where Dr. Phillip Stevens (Wayne C. Dvorak) helps them to expand their sexual awareness by discussing their needs, getting them to fondle each other in the dark, and walk around blind-folded. One visitor in particular is in need of some serious therapy: they're sneaking around the island bumping off the women (all of whom are, rather unbelievably, absolute babes).
Opening with a murder - the harpooning of a young woman - by an unseen killer, Bloody Friday (AKA The Single Girls) looks set to be a fun photo-slasher, perhaps inspired by the success of the Italian giallo genre; instead, it winds up being a rather tedious slice of highly dated hippie nonsense that focuses more on the characters' relationships than on their untimely demises.
The first half an hour is particularly wearisome, with lots of dull chit-chat, weird group sessions, and belly dancing. The film eventually picks up a bit with some gratuitous nudity from most of the women and a couple more murders (although they are frustratingly tame in terms of bloodletting), but the film as a whole is an unremarkable and instantly forgettable drive-in flick, one that even slasher completists and fans of exploitation babe Claudia Jennings (who plays 'final girl' Allison) might struggle to sit through.
What Keeps You Alive (2018)
What a coincidence!
The night before last, I watched Revenge (2017), in which a young woman is pushed off a cliff by her lover. She somehow survives this ordeal and crawls to safety, where she patches up her wounds. Meanwhile, the lover goes on the hunt for the missing woman, but doesn't account for her lust for life and ability to fight back.
Guess what happens in What Keeps You Alive...
One notable difference between the two films is the main characters' sexuality, the couple in What Keeps You Alive being gay women. The other big difference is that, while Revenge acknowledges its preposterousness and goes all out for excess, What Keeps You Alive fails to realise how incredibly implausible it all is, aiming for realism. The result is a film that is frustratingly dumb, with both women making unbelievably stupid decisions simply to further the plot. None of it works.
Victim Jules (Brittany Allen) does little to help her situation. Instead of using the cover of night to make her escape, she cowers behind a tree and falls asleep until morning. While trying to cross a lake in a boat, pursued by psycho wife Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson), a neighbour on the shore asks if everything is okay; rather than shout for help, Jules invites the neighbours round for the evening. And when she finally has the upper hand, having stabbed Jackie with a tranquilliser dart, Jules doesn't finish off her attacker (or even incapacitate her): she drives to safety, but then turns around around only to discover that Jackie has woken up and isn't very happy.
After much more stuff and nonsense, the film closes with a totally contrived twist that requires Jackie to act in a very specific manner. Had she logged onto her computer before she does, Jules' posthumous plan for retribution (yes, she very deservedly dies!) would have been a complete waste of time. Had Jackie given herself her injection without watching the video, the end wouldn't have made any sense. The way things actually play out is very contrived. Revenge (2017) might be far-fetched, but at least it is fun and doesn't leave the viewer feeling like they've been taken for a fool.