Saturday, 24 March 2012

Review : A Comedy of Terrors (1964)


Jacques Tourneur


Richard Matheson (screenplay), and 2 more credits »

A COMEDY OF TERRORS tells the tale of Waldo Trumbull, (Price), a 'morally dubious' undertaker trying to keep his business afloat in 19th century New England. His methods are less than noble, (right away we see him preside over a funeral, wait for the attendees to depart, then swiftly proceed to toss their loved one out the coffin into the grave, fill it, and head home with the coffin the grieving family have recently paid for!). Despite his money-making sins, he's still having a hard time keeping the business afloat, not to mention keeping the roof over his head, and alcohol in his belly. When things get too difficult, he decides to kill off his curmudgeonly, and rather insane landlord, (Rathbone), with the help from his none-too-happy assistant, (Lorre). Problem is, he's unaware that his landlord suffers from an affliction that periodically places him in death-like state. Cue much hilarity, high-jinks and farce.

The film finds its legendary director, Jacques Tournier, in an unusually frivolous mood; a million miles from his other forays into the horror genre. His classics, NIGHT OF THE DEMON and THE CAT PEOPLE are still terrifying to this day, but here he's cutting loose, as are all concerned, (the film is written by Richard Matheson, for god's sake).

Friday, 23 March 2012

Review : Undocumented (2010)


Chris Peckover

UNDOCUMENTED tell the pitch black tale of a group of American student film-makers who travel to Mexico in order to produce a documentary that details the plight of illegal immigrants, including a fly-on-the-wall look at the actual border crossing itself. As the group of students and a busload of Mexicans make their way into the Us, however, they are captured and detained by a militant extremist group from America, who have taken it upon themselves to rid the country of the 'scourge of immigration'. When they learn that six of the captives are American, and making a documentary, the decide that the kids will document their story, and deliver their message to the world, or suffer the consequences.

First time Writer/Director, Chris Peckover has crafted a debut film that really does impress. It seems to have gotten lost among the myriad torture porn bullshit that the genre has been flooded in, in recent years, but it's much more than just another HOSTEL rip-off. Actually, its far, far better than HOSTEL could ever hope to be, and has a great deal more intelligence and darkness to boot.

Horror Hotel Cinema : Vincent Price's Dracula- The Great Undead (1985)

Something a little different for your viewing tonight, folks.

Question : What do you get when you combine the wonderfully dark origins of Vlad the Impaler/ Dracula, and one of the few undisputed kings of classic horror? What you get is an hour of sheer, uncut awesome; a history lesson delivered with that brilliant wit, insight, gentle humor and spooky camp that is so unmistakably Mr Price.

In truth, I could listen to the man read a grocery list and still be grinning like a fool, so having the rich history of Dracula, from factual figure to literary horror, and all the way to silver screen icon; is one hell of treat. I'm sure most of you will agree.

Somewhat surprisingly, the documentary doesn't skimp on the violent, grim wordplay while charting the rise of the infamous Vlad. As was so often the case, Vincent has his tongue firmly in cheek, yet theres some dark material here to get your teeth into, (pun, sadly, intended). As things progress, you'll be treated also to some nice snippets from classic cinema, including some real rarities that are all but forgotten, (though still loved by some). It's wonderful to see scenes from the Hitchcock inspired, RETURN OF DRACULA sharing screen-time with the usual suspects. These little moments of care and attention really help the whole show go down smooth, (aided in no small part by Mr Price's velvet tones). The whole thing is just a delight.

So, with no further nonsense from me, I ask you to join me in a toast. To Vincent......we will remember you, always, old friend.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Review : Night of the Living Dead 3D- Re-Animation (2012)


Jeff Broadstreet

After inheriting the family mortuary, a pyrophobic mortician accidentally exposes hundreds of un-cremated bodies to toxic medical waste. As the corpses re-animate, the mortician's inheritance-seeking younger brother unexpectantly shows up, stumbling upon a full zombie outbreak!
Andrew Divoff. Jeffrey Combs...

Those names above are two of a very select few reasons anyone could ever conjure up to entice me to watch a film titled NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, these days. Since Tom Savini's excellent re-working of George Romero's classic game-changer, its been a downward spiral into serious shitsville. You gotta feel sorry for poor old George. Having been royally fucked over by the system and watching his masterpiece fall into the dreaded 'Public Domain', where it can be reworked, re-envisioned, remade and fucked in its already tormented ass just that little bit deeper.

I still have sour taste in my mouth from purchasing the 'Dead Trilogy' only to find it featured a '25 Anniversary Edition' of NOTLD. My eyeballs, (and possibly my eternal soul), are scarred to this day. Romero's classic had been tampered with to the point of destroying the film entirely; new and godawful music, new and utterly fucking terrible scenes and continuity that would make Ed Wood blush, made a mockery of the dark nihilism that Romero's wonderful film evoked. It hurt me like a swift kick to the balls, so I can only imagine the sheer volume of Scotch that was downed at the Romero house when that little ditty found its way into the public realm. Romero's a chill guy, but someone doing that to your art would drive anyone to alcohilism.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Review : The Awakening (2011)



Nick Murphy
1921 England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she knew in unravels as the 'missing' begin to show themselves. 

From the opening moments, Nick Murphy's THE AWAKENING sets its stall as a refreshingly old school, ghost story; the likes of which we rarely see anymore. It has that quintessential M.R James feel that only comes from the shores of the UK, and even then, rarely works as effectively as it does here. While billed as a horror film, THE AWAKENING really doesn't feel like one. Supernatural? Yes. Period drama with Gothic overtones? Definitely. Theres little here by way of genuine fear, though. This is as gentle and subtle, (for the most part) as our genre gets, and that's no bad thing here.

The film evokes fond memories of classic Hammer Productions, with its lavish sets and gentile English manner. Its charming from the very first moments, and boasts some beautifully atmospheric music to help set the somewhat sombre tone that carries the film through. We open on a seance taking place in turn of the century London, and boy does it look the part. In fact, the scene is effectively frightening up until the reveal, where it cleverly and quickly turns it gaze onto our central character. What we have here is a study of grief, loss and guilt, masquerading as a horror story. And it works.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Horror Hotel Cinema - Phantasm (1979)


For most of you guys, this stone cold classic will need no introduction. The word 'Phantasm' has become synonymous with flying silver balls that drill through the brain, eerie crematoriums and, of course, the frightening image of 'The Tall Man'. A character that's every bit as beloved and respected in the annals of horror cinema as Jason, Myers, Freddy et all.

This here, the first of the four films in the series, is arguably the finest also, (some do prefer the more action oriented sequel). It kick started Don Coscarelli's career, and marked him out as a bold and original talent in the horror field. By blending science fiction and horror in such a surreal and nightmarish manner, he broke all the rules, and gave the herb-clouded year of 1979 one of its truly classic works.

Thought provoking, creepy, and down right fucking weird; PHANTASM stands tall (pun intended), as an ingenuous, loopy trip into uncharted, bonkers territory, and its a great now as it was then. How could it not be? It has flying death-balls, compressed undead humans, parallel dimensions, a scary as hell big tall bastard,  and a completely unnecessary acoustic jamming scene with an ice-cream man and a Han-solo lookialike. Its the late 70's, man. Get down on it.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Review (Horror Short) - Familiar (2011)


Richard Powell

Its amazing what you can accomplish in a mere twenty four minutes..

FAMILIAR, running barely longer than an episode of FAMILY GUY, manages to draw us into its main characters world completely, and bring us a fully formed, expertly realised portrait of a man on the verge of complete mental collapse; overtaken by discontent. It's an incredible achievement.

As we open, we're introduced to our protagonist, via unflinching close ups and a truly unnerving voice-over that serves as a window into his worldview. John, we soon learn, is a man who has a serious attitude problem. This guy has it all, a beautiful daughter, an attentive loving wife, a charming home and a serviceable job, but John ain't happy. Not one bit. Luckily, John has a plan..

Monday, 5 March 2012

Review : Horror Short - Creak (2011)

CREAK tells the tale of a young couple who are awakened through the night by a strange sound, emanating from somewhere within their home. Its a simple, home invasion motif that most, if not all of us, can identify with. We've all been there, alone in the dark, with our minds conjuring all manner of untold horrors, come to roost in our normally safe haven.

Director, Luther Bhogal-Jones, has created a short, sharp nail-biter that manages to wring an impressive degree of tension from its premise, during its five minute run-time. Channeling Carpenter, Bava and Argento, Bhogal-Jones CREAK can be viewed as an exercise in precision film-making. It wisely goes with a minimalist approach that helps the audience connect with the inherent reality of the situation. Using sparse lighting, a claustrophobic location and stripped down dialogue, it draws the viewer into its protagonists sense of apprehension and paranoia with great effect.