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Main Entry: exclusion
Definition: expulsion; forbiddance
Synonyms: ban, bar, blackball, blockade, boycott, cut, debarment, debarring, discharge, dismissal, ejection, elimination, embargo, eviction, exception, excommunication, interdict, interdicting, interdiction, keeping out, lockout, nonadmission, occlusion, omission, ostracism, ousting, preclusion, prevention, prohibition, proscription, refusal, rejection, relegation, removal, repudiation, segregation, separation, suspension, veto
Antonyms: acceptance, addition, admittance, allowance, inclusion, incorporation, welcome
send to Coventry, to refuse to associate with; openly and pointedly ignore: His friends sent him to Coventry after he was court-martialed.
People from the music industry that I respect, idolize or just simply appreciate: Ennio Morricone, Amy McDonald, Daan, David Bowie, Therion, Pink Floyd, Leonard Cohen, Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Joy Division, Bobby Darin, the Everly Brothers, Bobby Vinton, Gene Pitney, Herman's Hermits, The Hollies, The Animals, The Byrds, Donovan, Vargoth, Drudkh, Behemoth, Triggerfinger, Falkenbach, Finntroll, Einherjer, The Smiths, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, BB King, Ministry, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rufus Wainwright, The Allman Brothers Band, Johnny Cash, Paul Simon, Raymond Lefèvre, Children of Bodom, Volbeat, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Anathema, Velvet Underground, Norah Jones, Fatboy Slim, Moloko, Angelo Badalmenti, Sarah Brightman, Lady Antebellum, Enigma, Muse, Army of Lovers, Chris Isaak, Lesley Gore, Kasabian, Pearl Jam, dEUS, Mumford & Sons, The Subs, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Cuff the Duke, Pulp, Oscar and the Wolf,
People from the movie industry that I respect, idolize or just simply appreciate: John Saxon, Mario Bava, Joe D'Amato, George Eastman, Darren Lynn Bousman, Boris Karloff, Enzo G. Castellari, Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson, Antonio Margheriti, Klaus Kinski, Lloyd Kaufman, James Gunn, Rob Zombie, Sid Haig, Matthew McGrory, Karen Black, Dennis Fimple, Irwin Keyes, Tom Towles, Bill Moseley, Wolfgang Petersen, Nicol Williamson, Fairuza Balk, Piper Laurie, Philippe Mora, Tom Holland, Ronny Cox, Lucio Fulci, Christopher George, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Catriona MacColl, Fabio Frizzi, Nicolas Cage, Todd Farmer, Tom Atkins, Paul Verhoeven, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Ray Wise, Stuart Gordon, H.P. Lovecraft, Jeffrey Combs, David Gale, Barbara Crampton, Fernando Di Leo, Joe Dallesandro, Terence Fisher, Anton Diffring, Hazel Court, Christopher Lee, Robert Stevenson, William Girdler, Rebecca De Mornay, Mako, Ti West, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, David Carradine, Roger Corman, Adrian Hoven, Monte Hellman, Warren Oates, Harry Dean Stanton, Steve Railsback, Ed Begley Jr., Peter Fonda, Nathan Juran, Lionel Jeffries, James Glickenhaus, Ken Wahl, Joaquim de Almeida, Sam Peckinpah, William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson, Edmond O'Brien, Kurt Raab, Helene Cattet & Bruno Forzani, Karl Freund, Peter Lorre, Colin Clive, William Lustig, Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Tom Savini, Charles B. Pierce, Robert Wise, Fred Dekker, Fritz Lang, David Hemmings, Michael Ironside, Jan-Michael Vincent, Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead, Victor Buono, George Kennedy, Charles Bronson, Richard Fleischer, Elmore Leonard, Paul Koslo, Michael Winner, Brian Garfield, Lee Marvin, J. Lee Thompson, Riz Ortolani, Yul Brunner, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Steve McQueen, Michael Crichton, James Brolin, Mel Brooks, arry Cohen, Michael Moriarty, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Robin Hardy, Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough, Herbert Lom, Udo Kier, Michael Reeves, Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Dick Maas, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Paul Naschy, Paul Morrissey, Truman Capote, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, David Niven, Elsa Lanchester, Peter Sellers, Gene Wilder, Patrick McGoohan, Herb Freed, Richard Kiel, John Landis, Tim Curry, Simon Pegg, Jenny Agutter, Frank Oz, Dario Argento, Quentin Tarantino, Everett De Roche, Stacy Keach, Russell Mulcahy, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Donald Pleasence, George Peppard, Simon Wincer, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, Gary Sherman, Faith Domergue, Alexandre Aja, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, Eli Roth, Ishirô Honda, Greydon Clark, Cybill Shepherd, Neville Brand, Vincent Schiavelli, Martin Landau, Jack Palance, Alan Rudolph, Jonathan Demme, Pam Grier, Mark L. Lester, Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Kilpatrick, Don Dohler, Everett McGill, Corey Haim, Gary Busey, Jake Busey, Charlton Heston, Lorne Greene, Walter Matthau, Peter Bogdanovich, Woody Allen, John Milius, Franco Nero, Crispin Glover, Dennis Hopper, Dick Miller, Barbara Steele, Armando Crispino, Sergio Grieco, Helmut Berger, Lee Van Cleef, Robert Forster, John Huston, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., George Miller, Mel Gibson, Robert Rodriguez, George Hilton, Kane Hodder, Michael Madsen, Tony Todd, Nicolas Winding Refn, William Grefe, Cirio H. Santiago , Joe Dante, Don Coscarelli, Angus Schrimm, Tobe Hooper, Tiffany Shepis, Brad Dourif, George P. Cosmatos, John Boorman, Stephen Boyd, Tommy Lee Jones, Rod Steiger, Brian DePalma, Gunnar Hansen, George A. Romero, Simon Boyes, Adam Mason, Jack Arnold, M. Emmet Walsh, James Stewart, Darren McGavin, Kathleen Quinlan, Jack Lemmon, Robert Foxworth, Olivia De Havilland, Michael Pataki, Jerry Stiller, John Carradine, Julian Sands, Freddie Francis, Don Sharp, William Castle, Bill Rebane, John De Bello, Terry O'Quinn, Peter Sykes, Wes Craven, Michael Sarrazin, Lewis Teague, Yaphet Kotto, Sergio Stivaletti, John Phillip Law, Michele Soavi, Umberto Lenzi, Anna Falchi, Lon Chaney, Sergio Martino, Edwige Fenech, Ursula Andress, Michael Sopkiw, Edmund Purdom, Hal Yamanouchi, Barbara Bach, Cameron, Mitchell, Alberto De Martino, Ernesto Gastaldi, Maurizio Merli, John Steiner, Mel Ferrer, Barbara Bouchet, Marty Feldman, Tomas Milian, Bruno Mattei, Lamberto Bava, Luc Merenda, Anita Strindberg, Luigi Pistilli, Ivan Rassimov, Sergio Corbucci, Tito Carpi, David Warbeck, Luciano Pigozzi, Gianfranco Giagni, Florinda Balkan, Rosalba Neri, Mel Welles, Dagmar Lassander, Neil Jordan, Walter Huston, Ray Bradbury, Gregory Peck, Orson Welles, Bert I. Gordon, H.G. Wells, Ida Lupino, Kirk Douglas, David Lynch, Eddie Romero, Bela Lugosi, Al Adamson, Tor Johnson, Edward D. Wood Jr, David Cronenberg, Christopher Walken, Tom Skeritt, Martin Sheen, Dino De Laurentiis, James Wan, Anthonhy Perkins, Curtis Harrington, Julie Harris, Ornella Muti, Ray Lovelock
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Happy Death Day (2017)
Dead Girl on Campus
The idea behind "Happy Death Day" isn't new. Duh, everybody knows that! But wait, actually, I'm not talking about the obvious link with "Groundhog Day". Practically every reviewer around here already referred to the Bill Murray classic, and even the film itself mentions it as an obvious influence. What I mean is that more or less the same plot concept has already been used in the horror genre as well. In 2006, at the Brussels Fantastic Film Festival, I saw a neat little movie called "Gruesome" (also known as "Salvage") and the plot is identical to "Happy Death Day". That film ended up in total indie-obscurity, whereas "Happy Death Day" became a tremendous big hit. Too bad, because "Gruesome" is a fun and competent, albeit insignificant little horror gem. And "Happy Death Day" is just that, too!
I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed this light-headed, tongue-in-cheek and spirited horror comedy. Director Christopher Landon ("Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse") knows exactly what type of ambiance a tale such as this requires. The film luckily doesn't take itself seriously, and in that case, I also mercifully forgive the copious errors in logic & continuity, as well as the lack of excessive gore & bloodshed due to the dreadful PG-13 rating. Tree - short for Theresa, apparently - is a college student of the most obnoxious and loathsome sort. In fact, her entire sorority behaves like the girls in the hilarious series "Scream Queens". Tree thinks she's better than everyone else, humiliates her fellow students, sleeps around with professors, and is generally unpleasant to be around. She gradually changes, however, when she's unwillingly forced to relive her last day (simultaneously her birthday) over and over again because it always ends with getting butchered at the hands of a mean killer with a baby mask. Why a baby mask? Because it's the mascot of the local campus football team, and the masks are sold in every shop on every corner of the street, so literally everybody can be the killer. I must admit I really loved the performance of lead actress Jessica Roth. She carries the film seemingly without effort, her transformation from a cold-hearted shrew into a likable heroine almost comes naturally, and she has good chemistry with her male co-star Israel Broussard. "Happy Death Day" is a slasher, and I still think that slashers must contain extreme violence, and therefore cannot be rated PG-13. Hence, I can't bring myself to give a rating higher than 6/10, but it was a fun little movie and I will definitely watch the sequel(s).
Deadly Intruder (1985)
Having fun with the synthesizer and the body-double, are we?
Simple, derivative, bare bones and totally 80s; - that's how I would describe "Deadly Intruder" in just a few words. It's definitely one of the more obscure slasher outings from the golden decade of horror, and it's obscure for a few very good reasons. The 80s spawned literally hundreds of slasher-movies, and "Deadly Intruder" isn't the least bit memorable or special from any possible angle. The plot: simple, derivative guff: a patient from a mental asylum escapes, kills a few people during the process, and vanishes into the night. What's typically frustrating in these movies is that the supposed psychopath then reappears - incognito - as a 100% normal person. In this case, he can either be a drifter or a charming sales person as they both attempt to enter the private life of hot single lady Jessie. I don't want to reveal too much, but the script desperately wants us to think the drifter is the culprit. The production: very bare bones and amateurish. There clearly wasn't much of a budget, so the makers came up with a rather clumsy imitation of John Carpenter's "Halloween". Most of the film takes place at night, there's a lot of footage of the killer prowling around, and they make (over-)use of synthesizer music to generate atmosphere & suspense. The difference with "Halloween", however, is that it doesn't work here. Any positive aspects? Certainly, if you are - like yours truly - a sucker for cheesy 80s horror cinema! Naked breasts were practically mandatory in the 80s, but lead actress Molly Creek clearly didn't feel like undressing in front of the camera. Therefore, a body-double is used for her bath sequences, but it's done so incredibly poor and laughable! When Jessie relaxes in the bathtub, it's Mrs. Creek, but when she stands up, it's a randomly faceless (but impressively ravishing) body-double. The nudity provided by the first victim, at the kitchen sink, is even more shameless and gratuitous by the way! Another - unintentionally - hilarious detail to illustrate the incompetence of "Deadly Intruder" is how the screenplay initially leads us to believe that Daniel Greene will be the hero of the story. As police officer Danny, he even has to cancel his holiday plans to capture the escaped mental patient. He receives one night off, but guess what, he gets killed he can make a single heroic move. I'm guessing the lack of appreciation led to Greene's emigration to Italy and become a genuine action hero over there ("Atomic Cyborg", "Hammerhead", "After the Condor", ...)
A doppia faccia (1969)
Starring Klaus Kinski as ... Carroll Baker!
Is Riccardo Freda's "Double Face" a giallo, yes or no? Many people are likely to say no, but it's definitely a giallo in the humble opinion of yours truly. I think there exist two types. The prototypic and most common (and certainly also the most entertaining) giallo deals with a perverted, masked & black-gloved killer butchering scantily clad fashion models with a variety of sharp objects. There's usually a high body count, lots of gratuitous sleazy and nudity, and a fun "whodunit" aspect even though the end-twist regarding the identity of the killer is grotesque and far-fetched. The second, and slightly less popular, type of giallo generally deals with unfaithful husbands driving their mentally unstable wives crazy, for example via framing them for murder or faking their own deaths. These gialli have low body counts, psychedelic atmospheres, and for some strange reason they often star Carroll Baker as the leading lady in distress ("The Sweet Body of Deborah", "Orgasmo", "So Sweet So Perverse", "Paranoia", ...).
I really think "Double Face" fits neatly into this second giallo-category, although admittedly the trademarks are turned upside down. Here, it's the male protagonist - Klaus Kinski - who's being cheated on by his wife (with another woman, moreover) and driven insane. It's a highly unusual role for Kinski, but he's absolutely splendid as John Alexander who suspects that his wife Liz still hangs out in sex clubs and appears in pornographic movies, even though she supposedly died in a horrible car accident. The plot is a little thin to full a complete film with, so "Double Face" is overall rather dull and contains too much pointless padding footage. The climax is tense and fairly surprising, though, and the cast is full of beautiful people! Kinski's charisma and grimaces are indescribable, and the male spectators are spoiled with no less than three gorgeous women: Christiane Krüger, Annabella Incontrera and Margaret Lee. If you're still not convinced, I can also add that the idea for the story comes from the almighty Lucio Fulci! Check it out, Italian cult-cinema lovers!
On a less relevant note: watching the DVD-version that I own was an adventure to itself. It was a restored version, so poor quality footage constantly interchanged with high quality images, and the spoken language randomly switched back and forth between English, German and French.
Why 161 minutes?
I can't deny it ... I'm an avid Quentin Tarantino admirer, and I will probably always remain an avid Quentin Tarantino admirer. The man simply is a genius when it comes down to writing dazzling dialogues, getting the most out of stellar ensemble casts and depicting extreme but delirious violence. QT also always was the only director of whom I tolerated exaggeratedly long movies. "Pulp Fiction", "Kill Bill", "Inglorious Bastards", etc, it never bothered me that they lasted two and a half hours. But since, say, "Django Unchained", I'm noticing an increasingly worrying trend when I watch his newest movies. They are getting too long and far too tedious. They are generally still fine films, but when re-watching, I find myself fast-forwarding the overlong dialogues and only focusing on the violent parts. In case of "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood", I'm afraid I'll be skipping the full first two hours!
It's interesting to watch once, perhaps, but the fan-boy fantasy tale of "Hollywood in the Sixties" that Tarantino penned down is honestly quite dull, repetitive and substantially void. It's literally just endlessly long sequences of Leonardi DiCaprio (a washed-up TV-western idol from the 50s) rehearsing his lines for a new show, Brad Pitt (an unemployed stunt double) feeding his dog and cruising around LA to pick up young hippie girls, and Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate) parading around town and looking at herself on the big screen. You probably read it before in other reviews, but it's a sad truth: absolutely nothing interesting happens, and some sequences - notably when Brad Pitt "trespasses" into the hippie trailer park - are even downright pathetic. The last forty minutes are fabulous, though. You may regain consciousness as soon as you see the message "6 months later" appear on the screen. As an enormous fan of Italian exploitation of the sixties & seventies, I really adored how Tarantino sent DiCaprio's actor character to Rome and star in exhilarating trash titles like "Nebraska Jim", "Shoot Ringo, said the Gringo" or "Operazione Dyn-O-Mite!". When returning to their home in the Hollywood Hills, they are confronted with members of the notorious Manson Family that are out to kill Sharon Tate and her friends, but Quentin Tarantino gives history a sort of absurdly cool twist. The climax isn't so surprising or innovative if you have seen "Inglourious Bastards", but at least it finally provides the movie with what I had desperately been anticipating for more than two hours: sick, extreme and unhinged violence!
Cold Pursuit (2019)
"Do you have any idea what I can do to you ... on Yelp?"
"Kraftidioten", a.k.a. "In order of Disappearance", is a brilliant 2014 black comedy/vigilante thriller from Norway. Since a lot of people in this world object to reading subtitles (and simply because it's an easy and profitable business), Hollywood is always eager to produce remakes of successful foreign movies. For once, however, I didn't immediately feel like boycotting the US remake; and this for two reasons. Number one: native Norwegian Hans Petter Moland directs the American remake himself and, number two, none other than the awesome Liam Neeson reprises the role of the grieving but vengeful father. Apart from different people in the cast, obviously, "Cold Pursuit" is practically a shot-by-shot remake of "In order of Disappearance. The setting has moved from snowy Norway to snowy Colorado, and the drug wars are fought with Native American tribes instead of with Albanian mafia families, but the plot of the quiet and introvert plow driver seeking retaliation for the murder of his innocent son is identical. This basically means that "Cold Pursuit" is still an awesomely entertaining action movie with sublime dry humor, but the freshness and the surprise elements are gone (unless if you haven't seen the Norwegian original, duh).
Florida 2019 Hurricane Wendy Swim Team!
Sometimes, all you need to relax and release stress from work or life in general is a simple but effective, entertaining and undemanding horror movie with giant animals and dumb dialogues! It gets even better when the insignificant little summer pic is helmed by one of the most talented and competent horror directors of the last fifteen years. None other than Alexandre Aja ("The Hills have Eyes", "Horns") traveled down to the Sunshine State for "Crawl"; - a derivative but nevertheless intense and nail-biting creature feature in which a couple of potent alligators complicate an already tough category-5 hurricane even more! In spite of numerous warnings to evacuate, young Haley drives back directly into the eye of the storm to look for her father who isn't answering her phone calls. They both end up trapped in the parental house's crawlspace, surrounded by massive alligators that are joyfully swimming free in the streets and houses due to the high water level. The added value of Alexandre Aja is that he definitely makes the most out of the claustrophobic settings, and that he ensures 4 or 5 effectively scary jump scares. The plot is obviously very thin and lends itself for various dreadful cliches and predictable situations. Naturally all the family feuds will become settled during this ordeal, and Haley (a trained and semi-professional swimmer) will be forced to break her own personal record time to escape from the gators. Do you doubt she'll make it? Also, since the two protagonists are most likely to survive, every other poor sucker that enters the scenes is doomed to be torn apart by the alligators, whether they are plundering punks or heroic rescue workers.
Ölüme son adim (1983)
Other acceptable titles include: Turkish Dirty Harry, Turkish Ace Ventura or Turkish Bambi
Although far from being a subject matter expert, I understand that Turkish exploitation cinema from the early 80s was all about taking a random successful cinematic blockbuster, filming their own national version of it and then unleashing it with the original title but with "Turkish" in front of it. "Turkish Mad Max" is different, however, and it makes a lot more sense to use the alternative title "One Step to Death". In the other examples that I've seen, the original film formats were logically copied and shamelessly ripped off (like "Turkish Superman" or "Turkish Rambo"), but "Turkish Mad Max" has absolutely nothing in common with George Miller's Sci-Fi landmark from 1979. The setting isn't apocalyptic, the lead hero isn't a lone avenger and there aren't any deranged psychopaths on motorbikes running around. Okay, admittedly the Turkish action here wears a leather jacket similar to that of Max Rockatansky, but apart from this tiny detail, the film might just as well have been named "Turkish Dirty Harry," "Turkish Death Wish" or even "Turkish Cinderella". Furthermore, this is the type of "bad film" that is hysterical and entertaining for about 15-20 minutes, and then it mainly becomes dull and insufferably inept. The stupidity of the dialogues and tackiness of the action sequences provide chuckles at first, but soon you'll be looking for the fast-forward button. Someone also really ought to tell the scriptwriters in Turkey that running jokes (like the "head or tails" or the "you're a terrible friend, Kaan") don't necessarily have to be repeated sixty-seven times!
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Tour of Duty makes an excursion to Skull Island
I usually don't comment on massively budgeted blockbusters, but "Kong: Skull Island" is such a joyfully tongue-in-cheek homage to giant monster B-movie cinema that I simply had to make an exception! This is a tremendously over-the-top and silly creature-feature, but the undemanding popcorn-entertainment value is just irresistible. The original King Kong, from 1933 already, is a monumental piece of cinema and still very powerful today. The more recent (2005) and expensive Peter Jackson remake was, at least in my humble opinion, a very boring and overlong romantic drama. "Kong: Skull Island" nicely falls right between these two extremes. By no means, it's great cinema, but at least it provides thrills, chuckles and adrenaline rushes from start to finish. The intro and scene-setting are already incredibly dumb, but oh so fun! We're supposed to believe that there exists a secret government agency (yes, another one) named Monarch, and their area of expertise is searching around the world for monsters and oversize animals. In 1973, The agency's CEO (an energetic John Goodman) benefices from the US-army's retreat out of Vietnam to recover soldiers and assets for a mission to the secretive Skull Island; a place where - and I quote - God left his creation unfinished.
"Kong: Skull Island" certainly doesn't waste any time! The helicopters have barely begun circling over the island, and there already emerges the humongous ape King Kong to slap them out of the sky like tiny ping-pong balls! The few remaining soldiers, led by the frustrated platoon leader Samuel L. Jackson, continue on foot and swear to destroy King Kong, but they soon learn that the island homes lots of other giant and unspeakably evil monstrous creations, and that Kong isn't even such a bad fella. It's a mission impossible to take this film seriously, but with the right mindset (and perhaps a few six-packs of beer) you'll have a great time. Seeing the story takes place in 1973 and has an abundantly clear Vietnam collection, it also somewhat feels like a long-feature "Tour of Duty" movie with a downright awesome 70s soundtrack. The special effects are cheesy and exaggerated, the dialogues are deliciously tacky ("hm, a mushroom...that means there must a river nearby!") and the casting is perfect. I already mentioned John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson, but there's also John C. Reilly as the bewildered WWII veteran who's been stuck on the island since 1942.
Give Us Tomorrow (1978)
Give us tomorrow? Give us a break!
"Give us Tomorrow" is quite a theatrical and exaggeratedly dramatic title for what basically just is a cheap, sleazy and uninspired hostage thriller/exploitation effort. Two masked men invade the upper-class suburban mansion of a bank director and keep his family hostage, while their accomplices rob the bank. The heist goes awry, an employee gets killed and within the chaos the robbers "forget" to inform their buddies that the heist is finished. Hence, the two remain stuck in the house while the police surrounds the house and escape becomes impossible. I usually love British horror/exploitation cinema from the 70s, but you'll have to admit that Italians and Americans simply dealt with these themes a lot better. Everything in "Give us Tomorrow" feels forced, implausible and fake. The supposedly innocent 16-year-old daughter turns into an unscrupulous nympho in the blink of an eye, the young hostage taker is naïve and clueless, the uptight mother revolts against the vulgar lead-kidnapper Ron, the idiot son is obsessed with guns, etc... It's all very cliched and predictable, to be honest. The film then becomes unintentionally funny because, even though he ought to realize that his situation is hopeless, Ron gets more relaxed and even comfortably sits down with a beer to watch horse racing on television. Still, I'm happy to state that "Give us Tomorrow" never gets dull or intolerably dumb. Derren Nesbitt gives a stellar performance as the chauvinistic kidnapper-pig and Donna Evans, although a woeful actress, look extremely hot and sexy in her girl-school uniform (as well as without). She also seemed to realize acting wasn't her greatest talent, so she became an extremely successful stunt-double with many famous titles on her resume.
Audrey Rose (1977)
About reincarnation. That's it...
I once read in a review that "Audrey Rose" marked director Robert Wise's return to the horror genre after a good fifteen years. Although admittedly I always found it difficult to believe that one and the same director was responsible for opposite landmarks like "The Haunting" vs. "The Sound of Music", or "The Day the Earth Stood Still" vs. "West Side Story", this particular film is certainly NOT horror. "Audrey Rose" is a harrowing family drama (and abruptly even turns into a sort of courtroom drama) with a few supernatural and eerie edges, but I'm convinced it never was Mr. Wise's intention to aim cheap scares or gratuitous shocks. Evidently, it's easy to see why this film mistakably gets categorized as horror. Throughout the 1970s, quite many horror (semi-) classics dealt with demonic, possessed or supernaturally gifted children, like "The Exorcist", "The Omen", "Carrie" and not to mention their countless imitations. "Audrey Rose" seems to fit right in, but this tale revolves around reincarnation instead. Little Ivy Templeton is allegedly the reincarnation of the 5-year-old Audrey Rose Hoover who tragically died in a car accident at the exact same time that Ivy was born. Her eternally grieving father Elliot (Anthony Hopkins) desperately tries to persuade parents Bill and Janice Templeton that their daughter is, in fact, his daughter. Mother Janice slowly realizes this would explain the horrible nightmares Ivy suffers from, because the poor girl re-experiences her own death every night, but father Bill stubbornly wants Elliot Hoover out of their lives, even if via a courtroom order. I can write many things about "Audrey Rose", but not that it was a pleasant viewing experience. The reincarnation-philosophy isn't something I believe in, personally, but the film also doesn't necessarily undertake a noteworthy effort to convince the viewer about the possibility hereof. However, being the father of a 4-year-old daughter myself, I found it very confronting and uncomfortable to repeatedly witness Audrey Rose's horrendous death-struggle. Also, I thought the "fatherly" methods that Elliot Hoover uses to supposedly calm down his daughter rather brutal, since he practically yells at her as if she was a dog. The ending is terribly misjudged, and underlines even more that "Audrey Rose" is an empty bubble and an unpleasant film.
Lights Out (2016)
You *might* be sleeping with the lights on tonight...
If you want to make it in Hollywood's horror industry nowadays, you have to make a scarily good short movie with one terrific idea and a handful of spooky images, and then simply hope that it'll go viral on the internet. If it works, influential producers will undoubtedly offer you a big sum of money to turn the short into a full-feature film and, with a bit of luck, your career is launched. It worked for Andy Muschietti with "Mama", and now he's helming the massively popular "It" remakes. It even worked for James Wan in 2003 already, with "Saw", and he's now so successful that he can act as influential producer to launch the careers of new arrivals, like he did for David F. Sandberg and his splendid "Lights Out".
I'm honestly happy to state that "Lights Out" is - at least in my own personal and humble opinion - the first mainstream horror movie in a very long time that is truly good and genuinely frightening. As cliched as it might sound, "Lights Out" is the type of fresh new film that restores hope and faith in in the horror genre for old and narrowly cynical fans like myself. The story is simple but highly effective, the lead characters are sympathetic and identifiable for a change, and the special effects (or even the lack thereof) definitely rank the most unnerving ones of the decade. Yes, it's another tale of an eerie ghost terrorizing a poor family, and admittedly several of the jump-scare moments are foreseeable, but the Diana character is authentically nightmarish and for me it was quite exceptional that I hoped for all these likable lead characters to survive instead of to die a quick & painfully.
Mark shoots first, which is probably why he doesn't solve many cases...
Well, the title certainly doesn't lie... There are at least 2 or 3 instances in the film where Commissioner Mark Terzi bluntly guns down a suspect rather than arresting or lightly wounding them, which easily could have been the other option. If he had made the arrests instead, the crime cases Mark was working on perhaps would have been solved much quicker. But hey, then it naturally wouldn't have been a genuine Italian Poliziotesschi!
Apart from this minor footnote, I actually regret admitting that I found "Mark Shoots First" a rather disappointing and thoroughly unmemorable sequel. The first film, "Mark il Poliziotto", was an unexpected but tremendously pleasant surprise. Although reasonably obscure and unknown today, it must have been successful at the Italian box office in 1975, because it spawned two sequels in a period of barely one year. Number two, however, isn't half as compelling or stylish as the original film. The plot comes across as chaotic, unstructured and utterly implausible, as the storyline of a serial sniper killer overlaps with that of corrupt businessmen and organized crime networks. Mark Terzi moves from Milan to Genova to solve two cases; - the bizarre murder of bride (fantastic opening sequence, by the way) and the kidnapping of a wealthy businessman. Mark finds the latter very quick, but he turns out to be his powerful enemy Benzi from the previous film. Apparently the serial killer, calling himself The Sphinx, is after Benzi too, but I never fully figured out why the poor bride had to die. "Mark Shoots First" contains a couple of exhilarating car chases and tense showdowns (including in a theater were "La Polizia ha le Mani Legate" is playing) but it's much less spectacular than what I'm used of seeing from Stelvio Massi. Also, I didn't see the added value of Terzi having a St Bernard dog and still can't believe that Elly Galleani kept her clothes on the entire time!
Wolves at the Door (2016)
Like the actual Manson Family murders, this film is cruel, meaningless and disgusting...
In the Trivia-section for this film I read - and I quote - "Loosely based on the Manson family murders in the late 1960s". "Loosely", are they serious? That's like stating "Saving Private Ryan" is loosely based on World War II. "Wolves at the Door" EXACTLY attempts to re-enact the events of the fatal night of 9th of August 1969, including the usage of the victims' real names (Shannon Tate and the four others) and horrific but accurate little details (like the writing of the word "pig" in blood on the wall). Heck, the film even ends with actual footage of Charles Manson and a written description of the murderers' trials, so "loosely based" quite isn't an appropriate term to use here. Now, I certainly don't have anything against thriller/horror movies based on factual murder cases, but "Wolves at the Door" is really, really poor. John R. Leonetti, also the director of the mediocre-at-best "Annabelle", doesn't undertake the slightest effort to create atmosphere, generate tension or bring depth to the lead characters. Particularly this last default is horrendous, because it displays a serious lack of respect for the victims and the families they left behind. If you are going to use their real names, don't raise the impression they simply were whiny, spoiled and empty-headed slasher-movie stereotypes. Or at least have the decency to display the murders a bit more subtle instead of exploitative, for the relatives' sake.
Before I Go to Sleep (2014)
Kidding around with Mrs. Kidman
In my beloved home country - the beautiful Belgium - there's a channel that is officially named Five-TV, but it's commonly known as "Wife-TV" because it's exclusively targeted at women aged 15-65. All day long they air shows like "Sex and the City" and "Grey's Anatomy", and the movies they program are either feelgood romantic comedies or heart-breaking TV-movies inspired by true stories. Once every two months or so, Wife-TV also programs thrillers/wannabe horror movies, but of course only if the female lead is a famous and respectable Hollywood actress. Since my own darling wife is a fan of this particular TV-channel, I already had the pleasure of watching stuff like "The Premonition" (starring Sandra Bullock), "The Forgotten" (starring Julianne Moore) and "Gothika" (starring Halle Berry", and last weekend it was Nicole Kidman's turn with the kitchen-bedroom thriller "Before I go to Sleep".
Mrs. Kidman depicts the 40-something Christine who suffers from a dreadfully annoying condition. Every morning she wakes up not knowing who she is, who the man next to her in bed is, or what happened in her entire life thus far. Each day, her loving and caring husband Ben (Colin Firth) has to calm the hysterical Christine down and re-explain to her they are married since several years and that she lost her whole memory due to a terrible accident. Thanks to a secret therapist and a tape recorder, however, Christine gradually discovers more about herself, as well as about Ben and the so-called accident which actually was a brutally aggressive attack in a hotel room.
The plot is incredibly far-fetched and quite implausible (I can't picture myself anyone who could or would want to live like this) but I'm also not too ashamed to admit that "Before I go to Sleep" remains reasonably entertaining and compelling throughout the entire running time. This is definitely thanks to the engaged performances of Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth, with strong support from Mark Strong and Anne-Marie Duff. It's a small but very professional cast, to say the least, and Mrs. Kidman is obviously very familiar with this sort of troubled and mentally tormented characters. The plot comes across as predictable and derivative, but it does have a very surprising and unforeseeable plot-twist in store at the end; - one that I certainly appreciated being a fan of mysteries, whodunits and Gialli.
There exists no such thing as "mafia" in Sicily...
It's been several long years since I've seen a gritty realistic and genuinely good Sicilian mafia epos, hence I was really enthusiast when finding out about the "Maltese" mini-series! Also, the series is set in the year 1976, which incidentally means that it features all the trademarks of my beloved and utmost favorite Poliziotesschi genre, namely: rough macho cop-protagonists with mustaches, savage car chases with fragile Alfa Romeo Giulias and exaggeratedly heavy smoking in concealed spaces! Add to this a fantastic contemporary soundtrack, a compelling plot, strong performances and per episode a few bits of harsh violence, and you've got yourself an absolute must of a euro-crime series.
Roman police commissioner Dario Maltese travels back to his hometown Trapani, in Sicily, to attend the wedding of his oldest friend who's the head of local police. Dario left Trapani when he was sixteen, following the suicide of his father (again, a police commissioner) who got involved in a sex-scandal with a minor. Barely arrived in Trapani, Dario's friend and his fiance are brutally executed in their car. Maltese discovers that his friend was attempting to clean up the mafia practices in Trapani and began to make good progress. Fed up trying to run from his past, Maltese promptly arranges his permanent transfer to Trapani to continue his friend's work and capture his assailants. Needless to say, Maltese rapidly runs into typical mafia obstructions, like utterly corrupt authority figures, key-witnesses getting murdered, money laundering and cover-ups. His persistence as well as his unorthodox methods are nevertheless successful, as he manages to revitalize the team of fatigue inspectors and even uncover some dark secrets surrounding the death of his own father.
The first episode of "Maltese" is extremely powerful and immediately establishes that we are dealing with an intelligent and qualitative series here. Admittedly, the next 3-4 episodes are slightly less absorbing and memorable, but for comprehensible reasons. The plot is thickening, Commissioner Maltese faces dead ends or useless leads in his investigation and there naturally also are the mandatory sub plots, like the romance with the beautiful press photographer. The last three episodes, however, are so suspenseful and fast-paced that I bench-watched them without interruptions. The coastal filming locations are astounding, and likewise are the performances of the entire cast. Throughout the series, there's quite a lot violent content, like stone-cold executions, but evidently several eminent characters in Trapani continue claiming that the Sicilian Mafia is nothing but a fable. Great stuff, highly recommended if you are into Italian exploitation cinema of the 70s (Umberto Lenzi, Stelvio Massi, Fernando Di Leo, ...)
Die Sister, Die! (1978)
Die, live, whatever! Just do something, Sister!
Like most people, I reckon, I got enticed by this film's awesome-sounding title as well as by the sinister poster image (yes, the one with the arms coming out of concrete walls and the creepy old mansion in the background). But then - and also like most people, I presume - the disillusion quickly became apparent, because "Die Sister, Die" simply is an extremely slow-paced, dull, cheap and unsurprising little mystery/thriller! Usually I love low-budgeted exploitation movies of the 70s, as they are often grim and shockingly nihilistic, but unfortunately this one isn't. "Die Sister, Die" starts slow and uninvolving and remains that way throughout. The only somewhat noteworthy moments are the rants of lead protagonist Edward Price (Jack Ging), in which he frustratedly complains how badly he wants his sister's suicide attempts to succeed for a change! And so, Edward hires a private nurse for the completely wrong reasons, namely to ensure that Amanda dies so that he can inherit the family estate and fortune. Instead, however, nurse Esther stumbles upon a few dark family secrets where Edward and Amanda were both involved in. There's hardly any suspense or creepy imagery, except during one dream/hallucination sequence and a brief shot in the finale. The rest of the film exists of endless dialogues in which the characters keep repeating the same things. The production values are poor; - even poorer than most contemporary made-for-TV thrillers, and this probably also explains why the film spend several years in the post-production phase. The director didn't even live long enough to see the release of his work.
Norwegian Native Art!
Warning/disclaimer: you are not likely to find a very objective review here. The author is tremendously biased because he loves everything that has to do with Scandinavian countries; - and Norway in particular. He loves the country, the people, the language, the culture and most notably everything they did in the domain of cinema and television. When he found out about a vigilante/revenge thriller set in the snowiest regions of Norway, the high rating and favorable comments already were as good as established...
Still, even when trying to remain skeptical, I can't find anything negative to write about "Kraftidioten", a.k.a. "In Order of Disappearance". The plot may be simplistic and quite derivative, but this gets massively compensated for via the sober atmosphere, the stoic tone of narration, the subtle dry humor, the genius character drawings, the astounding filming locations, ... Let's see, what else is great? Oh yes, the phenomenal performances of the ensemble cast, with Stellan Skarsgard in the lead. Nils Dickman, a calm and introvert plow driver with an unfortunate last name, has just been awarded with the title of "Citizen of the Year" in his quiet and peaceful community. But then tragedy strikes, as his 19-year-old son Ingvar is murdered - by mistake, in fact - by the local drug cartel. Since they made it look like a simple overdose, Nils is the only person (including his wife) who believes Ingvar's death wasn't accidental and sets out to avenge his son. Rather amateurishly but efficient, Nils begins at the bottom of cartel's hierarchy ladder and works his way up. The killing Nils does unwillingly ignite a gang war between the Norwegian drug lord and their Serbian associates.
Admittedly, we've all seen this plot numerous times before, but the simple fact that it's Norwegian makes it unique and refreshing! Also, writer/director Hans Petter Moland adds a few splendid little gimmicks, like displaying the name (and nickname) of each newly deceased person on a black screen with a cross. "Kraftidioten" is also really, really funny in case you like your humor pitch black and dry as the desert. Personally, I laughed very loud with the dialogue about snow and bad weather being the reasons for a country's prosperity. That scene could have come straight out of Quentin Tarantino's pen, actually. The constant battling and bickering between the merciless gangster and his ex-wife, principally about the custody of their son, is fantastic as well. You don't immediately expect this type of situations happening to relentless criminals, but it's very original and downright hilarious. "Kraftidioten" often gets compared, especially around this wonderful website, with the work of the Coen brothers (evidently with "Fargo" in particular) and the aforementioned Quentin Tarantino. I believe Moland's film stands entirely on its own, but obviously there are far worse people to get compared with in the film industry. And, for once, I'm also really looking forward to the Hollywood remake, because Moland remained the director and because Skarsgard's role is reprised by none other than the amazing Liam Neeson.
Shut In (2016)
Watts Naomi doing in this dull thriller?
"Shut In" is a very mundane, predictable and derivative thriller, so the only noteworthy thing to wonder is why a classy and multi-talented actress like Naomi Watts agreed to star in it. She appeared in horror movies/thrillers before - like "The Ring" or the remake of "Funny Games" - but that was quite a long time ago. The times and the competition must be rough in Hollywood these days, I guess. Sure, "Shut In" remains a watchable and competently made little film, but it isn't the least bit memorable and you honestly have to be pretty naïve NOT to see the principal plot-twist coming. From quite early in the film already, in fact. Watts is a great actress, and if there still are a few atmospheric and intense moments to enjoy, it's undeniably thanks to her performance. She just deserves better than to depict a so-called "damsel-in-distress".
Talk to the horns, 'cuz the face ain't listening!
The career of French horror prodigy Alexandre Aja is a fairly odd and uneven one, to say the least. The downright phenomenal "Haute Tension" that he made in his native country in 2003 granted him a one-way-ticket to Hollywood, but since then he has some issues establishing himself as a director of either light-headed gore flicks or serious atmospheric horror tales. His first Hollywood pic "The Hills have Eyes" was fantastic, and actually even one of the sole remakes that can claim superiority over the original, but since then there were a few misses ("Mirrors") and hits ("Piranha"). With the more ambitious "Horns", Aja attempts to blend several genres at once, since the film qualifies as comedy, love-story drama and horror, but the end-result is also very much a mixed bag.
The film is an adaptation of the novel by Joe Hill, who's actually Stephen King's son but wisely chose a different family name in order not to get confused and compared with his father. "Horns" has a rather intriguing and original plot, although it does require a large dose of suspension of disbelief, as it's a good old-fashioned whodunit mystery set in a quiet little town, but with unusual supernatural elements. Daniel Radcliffe takes further distance from his goody-two-shoes Harry Potter reputation as Ig Parrish; - a loner whom the entire community and the media believes he's guilty of raping and murdering his ex-girlfriend Merrin. But then something odd happens... Devilish horns grow out of Ig's forehead and, suddenly, all townspeople start confessing their darkest and most depraved sins and fantasies to him. Hey now, this might help him to unmask Merrin's real killer for sure! "Horns" is very well-directed by Aja and benefices greatly from the stellar cast, notably Radcliffe but also June Temple, James Remar and David Morse in supportive roles. Some of the sequences where people are painfully honest and straightforward to Ig are extremely powerful, like the interactions with own mother and father. Sadly, however, the concept also leads to a few dreadful clichés, like the hidden homosexuality confession or Heather Graham's pathetic role as an attention-seeking waitress. The film is also slightly overlong, in my humble opinion, and much of the flashback footage could have stayed behind in the editing room. The drama doesn't always work, and personally I would have scripted a completely different denouement, but I'm not complaining too much because "Horns" is an entertaining movie! For gore and graphic make-up effect, you'll need patience until the final act, but then Aja surely delivers.
Der Name der Rose (1986)
These nasty monks haunted my nightmares for 25 years...
Only a limited number of films that I watched during my youth managed to leave an everlasting impression on me, but Jean-Jacques Annaud's adaptation of Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose" is one most definitely of them! I forgot for what purpose it was, but I actually watched "The Name of the Rose" in the fourth grade at school. I don't know what my teacher was thinking because this seriously isn't the type of film to show to a bunch of 9-year-olds, but on the other hand I'm strongly convinced the experience contributed a great deal to my current obsession for grim horror movies and convoluted murder mysteries. Even though we are 25 years later, and I've seen perhaps 15.000 films since then, I still remember practically every detail of that wondrously grim and mysterious film in which creepy monks were being killed off in a remote and petrifying old monastery. I found it even more impeccable & effectively disturbing now, especially since the recently released TV-series (produced by and starring John Turturro) was somewhat disappointing and tedious.
The charismatic Sean Connery puts down one of the most stellar performances of his rich career as William of Baskerville; - wise Franciscan friar and Sherlock Holmes ahead-of-time. He and his young novice Adso Von Melk (Christian Slater) travel to a remote monetary in the Italian alps, supposedly to participate in a grand Catholic debate, but the vicious murders quickly absorb all of Sir William's attention. Undoubtedly the #1 reason why "The Name of the Rose" forever kept stuck in my head is the extraordinary casting work. These monks are a dozen times scarier-looking and more menacing than immortal horror icons like Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger, and the image of several of them (like the hideous Malachia, the old & blind Jorge de Burgos, the disgusting Salvatore, ...) appeared in my nightmares for several years. The film also looks simply stunning! The 14th century set-pieces, and most notably the claustrophobic library-labyrinth are downright astounding. The costumes and photography are fantastic, and the script also contains a few fascinating history lessons that are far more educational than anything you'll ever learn in school, like for example the completely opposed interpretation of religion by the Franciscans and the Vatican.
Hatchet III (2013)
The more (gore) the merrier!
Admittedly I found the first "Hatchet" a bit obnoxious, but it was still the closest thing to a genuine slasher landmark we had in a long time (since the 80s, in fact). For parts 2 and 3, and meanwhile also the fourth part "Victor Crowley", I simply put all possible prejudices aside and became a huge fan of Adam Green's blood-soaked franchise set in the Louisiana swamps and centering around an indestructible 'urban legend' killer with a daddy-complex! The "Hatchet"-series has pretty much everything going for it: a thin but effective plot, a cast full of legendary names (in this entry: Danielle Harris, Kane Hodder, Sean Whalen, Sid Haig, Derek Mears...), hot & humid filming locations, delightful tongue-in-cheek comedy, and - most importantly - copious amounts of insanely OTT gore that is (unlike in other horror franchises) manufactured through good old-fashioned special effects instead of with computers!
The narrative structure is also logical and straightforward. Part 3 begins where part 2 ended, and the plot is thus is quickly and easily summarized. Marybeth, as the sole survivor, stumbles out of the swamp and straight into the nearest police station, still covered in blood and carrying with her Crowley's scalp. Naturally nobody believes her story about the malevolent urban legend killer, and she's put in jail while the local troopers, as well as a forensics team and a SWAT delegation, venture into the swamp. Crowley resurrects once more, because, like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers before him, he cannot be killed with guns or even chainsaws. If you like undemanding slasher movies, you simply must worship "Hatchet". The body count is immense, and the gore-level is extraordinary. Some of Victor Crowley's favorite butchering methods are there (like squishing skulls with his boots or tearing heads off torsos) but there's also room for inventive new methods, mind you. By now you also know, I guess, that generating suspense isn't too high on Adam Green's priority list, and he also doesn't like to waste too much time on character development. He is, however, a master in pleasing the crowd with tremendously amusing horror flicks. If he should decide to make another twenty-seven "Hatchet" sequels, I'll probably watch every single one of them with a big evil smile on my face.
PS: I watched "Hatchet III" in memory of Sig Haig who passed away on 21st of September 2019. His role in this film is small but nevertheless very memorable, and Mr. Haig will surely be missed by all genre fanatics.
Beefcake Dean for President!
Stupid as it may sound, I still think the best sequence of "Nightwish" plays rather early at the beginning, when this excessively muscled but dim-witted idiot named Dean deliberately drives over a cute little bunny rabbit with his ramshackle van. The other passengers are shocked and upset, but Dean just laughs hysterically and speaks the immortal words: "The fields is his, the highways is mine". Dean, played by Brian Thompson who previously demonstrated his acting talents in the Stallone vehicle "Cobra", isn't even one of the lead characters in "Nightwish", but he most definitely steals the show! There's more random footage of him sitting at the wheel of his beloved van and laughing out loud for no particular reason, or him toying around with the mentally disabled caretaker Wendall. "Nightwish" is a pretty ambitious and convoluted scientific/supernatural thriller, with decent performances and solid peaks of tension, but the only thing I'm most likely to remember is a beefcake in his minivan. It's sad, really...
For the record, "Nightwish" truly is a more than adequate late 80s genre effort, and I can certainly understand why the film has a fair share of loyal admirers. In terms of atmosphere, structure and script aspirations, it's somewhat comparable to David Cronenberg or perhaps some of John Carpenter's more complex movies (like "Prince of Darkness" or "In the Mouth of Madness"). There is a good amount of genuinely uncomfortable moments, explicit gore and overall absorbing weirdness. Jack Starrett is excellent as the obsessive university professor who lures four of his students to a remote mansion with a dubious past, and subsequently manipulates them to dream their own deaths as realistically as possible. The students are confronted with sadist monsters and ghostly hallucinations, but it's their own damn fault for volunteering to partake in extracurricular activities!
The script is ambitious but makes very little sense in the end, and even though the very last shot is surprisingly clever, the film continuously drags towards a predictable and clichéd finale. The two lead actresses, Elizabeth Keitan and Alisha Das, are stunningly beautiful and show a modest (but nevertheless welcome) bit of nudity.
The Force of Evil (1977)
"Cape Fear" remains the most forceful evil, but a tense TV-thriller nevertheless
It's always good and useful in case you learn a few things from watching a movie, is it not? I learned two things from "The Force of Evil". Number 1: the basic plot of the classic thriller "Cape Fear" remains effectively disturbing and scary regardless of the setting, characters and production values. Number 2: like with Leslie Nielsen, it has practically become impossible to watch an older and serious role of Lloyd Bridges without being reminded of his slapstick roles in "Airplane!" or "Hot Shots". The second learning might as well be very personal, so I feel it's better to elaborate on the first. "The Force of Evil" is a modestly produced and rather anonymous late 70s TV-movie that also got released as a 60-minute episode in the cult series "Tales of the Unexpected". Although not credited as such, it's a pure imitation of J. Lee Thompson's "Cape Fear" (adapted from the novel "The Executioners" by John D. MacDonald) with a few minor changes in the plot and the adding of a supernatural atmosphere. The villainous, downright evil role put down by Robert Mitchum in "Cape Fear" is obviously unsurpassable, but I'll gladly admit that William Watson also depicts a truly menacing and uncanny monster here in this version. He, Teddy Jakes, is a rapist/murderer on parole and returning to the remote little Arizonan town where he used to live and work in the local clinic. The eminent surgeon there, Dr. Carrington, refused to provide him with a fake alibi 8 years ago, and that's why Jakes ended up in jail. He's back with an intense grudge against Dr. Carrington and his family, but Terry Jakes is smart enough to stalk and terrorize people without leaving any evidence or even doing something illegal. The good and noble Doctor is driven to desperation so badly that he's even ready to take the law into his own hands.
You see, it's "Cape Fear" all over again, but "The Force of Evil" is nonetheless worth tracking down for its tense atmosphere, the strong performances and a handful of noteworthy creep-moments. For example, the home delivery of a box of flowers (or are they?) is quite grim, and so is the first confrontation between Teddy Jakes and Dr. Carrington's daughter on her horse. Oh, and I also want to congratulate the casting director with his/her choices. The odd-faced Watson is perfect and the pairing of Lloyd Bridges and John Anderson as brothers is also really smart.
La polizia ringrazia (1972)
Fetch a ride on the midnight crime-sightseeing city tour bus!
"La Polizia Ringrazia" is, at first sight, a prototype of an Italian euro-crime/poliziotesschi thriller like there were dozens during the first half of the 1970s. They practically always featured the same recurring themes, like unorthodox coppers, the ever-failing Italian justice system, vigilante squads violently cleansing the streets, corrupt politicians and police superiors, media circuses and liberal newspapers influencing the public opinion. You'd think the audience eventually grew tired of these familiar and continuously recycled themes, but no. Quite the contrary, every Poliziotesschi is unique and, for avid genre fanatics like me, it's almost becoming an obsession to track them all down. "La Polizia Ringrazia" is a downright stellar example of the euro-crime's peak period, complete with a compelling & intelligent script, an intensely raw atmosphere of realism, a few shocking bits of violence, a great soundtrack (Stelvio Cipriani, of course) and brilliantly devoted performances by some of the finest contemporary stars (notably Enrico Maria Salerno, Mario Adorf, Cyril Cusack, ...)
Salerno is truly amazing as the clearly tormented Commissioner Bertone, caught between the frustration of seeing criminals getting released without a proper punishment and the accusations of the press about the police being too violent when making their arrests. Whilst on the case of finding two bank robbers who killed two people during their escape, Salerno is suddenly confronted with another major challenge. A secret group, existing of former policemen and even judges, are hunting down acquitted or fugitive criminals and brutally execute them in true mafia-style. Moral dilemmas aside, Commissioner Bertone must find now the bank robbers before the so-call "clean up squad" does. The material may be familiar, but writer/director Stefano Vanzina (better known as Steno) keeps the levels of suspense, plausibility and originality quite high and steady. I was particularly surprised by this, because Steno is mainly known for his light-headed comedies starring Bud Spencer!
The last thing you can say about "La Polizia Ringrazia" is that it is light-headed! There are a couple of sequences that initially seem very bizarre, but they actually work quite effectively. For example, Commissioner Bertone invites a whole bunch of journalists on a nightly tour bus drive through the city, just to demonstrate how disastrous the crime plague is. The role of Mario Adorf, as the unreliable district attorney, is also quite unusual for this type of film, but the role (and, of course, Adorf's performance) add a great deal of value to an already intelligent film. "La Polizia Ringrazia" is far from being the most explicitly violent Poliziotesschi, but several scenes are nevertheless immensely brutal and gritty. The clean-up squad's cold-blooded executions, for instance, and especially the horrendous fate of a poor woman who's taken hostage and eventually thrown off a driving vehicle. It's the second time in a short period that I've seen such a similarly shocking death, the other movie being "La Legge Violenta della Squadra Anticrimine", starring John Saxon and J. Lee Cob. And no, it's not recycled footage, as I know the Italians were infamous for that.
Ah, the old trick with the self-playing piano! Does anyone still fall for that?
The absolute most positive comment I can write about "Dominique" is that director Michael Anderson and his entire cast & crew remained 100% faithful to their initial intention of making an old-fashioned convoluted and atmosphere-driven "vengeance-from-beyond-the-grave" mystery thriller/horror. "Dominique" undeniably relies on plot clichés, stereotype characters and predictable jump-scares, but somehow it still stands as a respectable and potent semi-classic of the late 70s, and (correct me if I'm wrong) no true horror fanatic would ever criticize it entirely.
It's quite easy to list all the minor and less minor defaults of this production. Heck, I'm also guilty of jokingly referring to the title as "Dominique is Dull" instead of "Dominique is Dead". The pacing is incredibly slow, often on the verge of comatose even. Almost a third of the footage easily could have been cut as well, notably all Cliff Robertson's snail-paced trips through the corridor and down to the greenhouse to check whether or not his supposedly dead wife is bungling from the ceiling. Most of the supernatural gimmicks and tension builders are pretty weak and transparent (especially the self-playing piano) and the denouement honestly is quite easy to foretell, even if you haven't seen "Diabolique" and its four dozen of inferior imitations.
And yet ... it's utmost admirable, I think, that "Dominique" stubbornly and wholeheartedly persists in trying to disquiet you with minimal resources. Contrary to many other, similarly themed films, this one didn't cause me to go eye-rolling or hit the fast-forward button. A handful of sequences really are effectively uncanny, like the arrogant husband suddenly getting confronted with his own date of death on a tombstone, and some sub plots really are clever, like what's the dubious role of the doctor. It also helps, of course, that the cast exclusively contains extremely professional and experienced names. Cliff Robertson is terrific, and he receives qualitative support from Jenny Agutter, Simon Ward, Jean Simmons and even that lovely elderly Flora Robson. "Dominique" may be routine horror guff, but I daresay that I'm proud to have it in my collection nonetheless!