Below – like Barry Norman on speed or Jonathan Ross with a haircut I’ve put together a few of my little pleasures, those films that unless a film geek like myself points them out they may slip under your radar. Some are wonderfully constructed, some are cult classics, some have entrainment value, some for sheer effort and some just deserve to be seen.
Of course I can’t review my very own 2010 art house vampire, hi-jinks drama Terminus- that would be cheating but here’s a full three minute clip in case you’re curious…
Blood Dolls (1999)
Entertaining low budget freaky film where the protagonist Virgil is an eccentric freak with a head the size of an avocado.
Virgil is biological inventor and his latest creations are the BLOOD DOLLS, who he uses to kill his enemies! There’s a ‘little person’ for a butler. Four leather-clad rock and roll girls-in-a-cage that play on Virgils command.
William Paul Burns as Mr. Mascaro leaves a lasting impression, Phil Fondacaro is on his usual underrated fine form as Hylas, however, the stars of the show are the dolls themselves created by the late Mark Williams.
The movie has B written all over it, it’s like a rehash of Charles Band’s own 80’s killer puppet movie Puppet Master (1989). There’some flamboyant acting, good doll designs and imaginative special effects.
If you like B movies and killer dolls with hearts, it’s not terrific, but it’s fun and does rate outlandish cult status.
MISSION X (2010)
Scottish mercenary veteran Ryan goes on a revenge mission with a group of guns for hire and a student camera-man on tow.
Arms dealers, bad language and shoot outs, are just the playing cards Mission X first lays on the table. It’s the hand that slowly dealt by director/writer David Paul Baker that makes this film stand heads and shoulders above a flurry of camera point of view (POV) films.
The editing is sharp, bringing together footage from different cameras POV, flash forwards and flash backs. There’s a minimal soundtrack music, first-rate blood effects, a great script and characters. With fitting camera work, near on perfect acting; played authentically, not just by the leads but the supporting cast too, that puts the likes of Quarantine (2008) and the interview segments of The Fourth Kind (2009) to shame.
Bond with the characters as you follow them with Ryan and camera man Grant, who’s verbal sparring on serious and every day issues are exceptional. Mission X is a joy to watch, from abandoned buildings, to night clubs and the streets of Scotland, it’s edgy, tense, harsh, hard and confrontational. Secret meetings, anonymous phone calls.
The screenplay is absorbing to the last reel. In between the shots ringing out; get to know the unit; get caught in the gun fire; it’s the closest thing to a possible suicide mission on your homeland you can see on film.
Mission X oozes tension, it’s a naturalist piece of filming that drags in and captivates the viewer from the outset, which makes it compelling viewing.
A smart cleverly crafted must see.
Grave Encounters (2011)
Lance Preston and the crew of ‘Grave Encounters’, a ghost-hunting reality television show find what they’ve been searching for but is the public is public ready to see the horror they’ve encountered.
A missing episode of lost footage directed by The Vicious Brothers, Grave Encounters is probably best described as a mix of UK’s Most Haunted, USA’s Ghost Hunters (T.A.P.S) and Ghost Adventures although it’s shows what many have been wanting to see for series’. There’s poltergeist activity, ghosts and ghouls .
Actor Sean Rogerson’s Lance is almost a parody of Zak Bagans real life presenter of Ghost Adventures. And does an adequate job of carrying the show within a film. The support cast are great intentionally or unintentionally and are as annoying as these co-presenters/investigators in the real shows themselves.
It uses hand-held and static cameras mirroring the aforementioned Television programmes with a splash of colour and night vision for good authentic measure.
As the investigators night proceeds it gets more jumpy and intense with some slick visual effects. Although it never quite makes sense why these ghosts can’t pass through walls and prefer to bang on doors.
It’s better directed and executed than the mass of copycat films that have tried to capture the spirit of these reality investigations. Grave Encounters delivers plenty of chills especially if you are a fan of these paranormal TV shows.
The House on Haunted Hill remake closing aside overall it’s more fun than the Paranormal Activities trilogy but ultimately is simply an extended uber-version of the shows it’s emulating.
Hunter Prey (2010)
After a crash landing an escape human prisoner must avoid being recaptured by humanoid aliens or caught by a bounty hunter.
A low-budget sci-fi reminiscent of Enemy Mines (1985), Pitch Black (2000), Planet of the Apes (1968), Star Wars (1977) and Star Trek’s 1967 ‘Arena’ episode to name a few.
While it may not have the production design or sleekness of some of the aforementioned, Hunter Prey has some nice make-up design and subtle effects. Lead alien performer Poitier is note-worthy as Centauri 7 shows depth and bearded Simon Potter as Logan is entertaining enough as the prisoner on the run in a desert landscape.
The costume design is effective and fan-boy cool but is let down by the original sound design that doesn’t give them weight leaving them plastic and hollow rather than heavy pieces of armour, guns and helmets. Director writer Sandy Collora delivers a watchable sci-fi but it still has the feel of limited budget filmmaking rather than a low budget with a cinematic feel.
Despite an abrupt ending there’s a few story twists and double crossings that are mainly played out in dialogue rather than action and enough visuals to keep you entertained.
Messiah of Evil (1973)
Before Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and The Crazies, there was Dead people a.k.a Messiah of evil. Shot in 1971 the film was not released until 1973. Like H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon and The Wicker Man (1973), weird locals are hiding a horrific secret… In Messiah, the people of Point Dune worship the rise of a red moon as they become zombies.
The storyline is disjointed, but this adds to the mystic, surreal and dreamlike quality of the film. Admittedly, there is some irregular editing and the score is very much of its time, but there’s plenty to like about it.
Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and the aforementioned clearly have taken its cue from Willard Huyck’s jumbled but effective film. Especially the scene where slinky brunette Anitra Ford is pursued through a supermarket. There is also truly creepy scene again with Ford and an albino trucker, played by Bennie Robinson,you’d think he would have been in a lot more movies.
It oozes dread and suspense, it’s a chilling 70’s horror flick that despite its faults is a lot better than some of today’s so called horrors.
Puppet masters premise is an ultimate, interesting horror film idea for those who like this genre. The film begins by creating an interesting back story, Nazis arrive at a hotel in search of Toulon who is tending to his puppets that seem to have a life of their own. Years later a team of para-psychologist investigate the hotel. You’ve guest it, the puppets come to life and begin to pick off the newcomers one, by one.
Unfortunately, the film suffers, as most 80’s horrors, from plot holes, some bad acting and awful dialogue. The stop motion and movement of the puppets is good but it has also dated. These faults aside Richards Bands music score is genuinely creepy and Director Charles Band creates some chilling moments. The killer puppets themselves are the stars of the show each with their own personality.
Unfortunately apart from the 2nd puppet master all of the sequels couldn’t match the quality of the first and second film in one way or another. One of the better low budget horror films of the 80’s. If any cult film deserves a re-imagining or remake it’s this one.
The world is devastated by an epidemic and is overrun by hordes of living dead. Three men, Igor and Alen, hunters of dead and a scientist, Gyno try to find an answer to what has happened to the human race.
Everyone’s having a stab at the zombie/virus flick since 28 days Later – Spain with REC, Germany with Rammbock and France Le Horde to name a few.
Although Marmite director Uwe Boll has a producer credit, this shares little if anything with his films. Both writers/ Directors Luca Boni and Marco Ristori deliver a competently constructed bleak atmospheric zombie horror that is stylishly shot and presented in washed out colour.
Eaters opens with the standard zombie exposition affair of news clips how virus infection has spread. Gyno spins that the zombie epidemic maybe the next step in evolution while the hardened soldiers believe otherwise.
There’s some good zombie make up design, lopped off heads, blood, fried zombies, undead torture, skulls and exploding heads. Guns, grenades and machetes are used to dispose and there are some interesting kill scenes as the two hardened soldiers, Igor a likable hard-man played excellently by Alex Lucchesi and Alen notably by Guglielmo Favilla go to section F on a ‘corpse hunt’. Notable is chained up Alexis (Rosella Elmi) who is a carrier of the virus. Young actress Elisa Ferretti as Cristina deserves a mention.
Although Igor is likened to Leon it’s doctor Gyno played by Claudio Marmugi who is the Jean Reno-alike. He experiments on the dead, shooting them after their used, chopping them up, feeding them scraps reminiscent of Day of the Dead. Interesting the zombies here eat their own body parts, encounters with a Cultist group, slow/fast zombies and armed zombies add to the pleasure.
This serious slick Italian production is grim with a sense of black humour and irony there’s characters reading ‘corpse and girls’ magazine. Crazy Caravaggio painter of dead people. The score is similar to resident evil with electronic heavy beat and it had a few flash backs and eerie dream sequences deliver some jump moments.
Sector b’s Nazi group aside the script delivers some tension as madness sets in as the character try to pass time, humour feels unforced and the acting for the most part realistic. Eaters may have it’s faults debatably some CGI, editing and pacing issues but for the most part it’s a fulfilling ride. Although it borrows from the likes of Resident Evil Apocalypse and 28 Weeks Later to name a few there’s enough twists and originality as the leads try to accept their situation to prevent it becoming stale reinforced with an ending that goes against the clichés in the last act.
Gory, bloody and overall more fun than it should be due to it’s great execution and grimness.
Carnival of Souls (1962)
A true horror classic Director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford both waived their earnings in order to get the film made. Upon release in 1962 the film was a failure in the box office, thankfully its subsequent airings on late night television helped to gain it a strong cult following so Clifford and Herks work was not all in vain.
The delightful Candace Hilligoss is perfectly cast as the troubled woman that after surviving a traumatic car accident, that kills her two friends, becomes haunted by a frightening ghoul and drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival. It’s a shame that Hilligoss only acted in two features as she gives an impressive performance as Mary Henry.
The music is very creepy and a little too intrusive in places, however, for it’s time and budget it is a well crafted film. Carnival of Souls many not be as sleek and stylish as the Haunting (1963) but it is far more eerie. The zombies are not as imposing as in Night of the Living Dead, however, they are vastly creepier and macabre.
Oozing atmosphere it’s a creative and unnerving film that concludes with a common place twist but back in ’62 it was ahead of it’s time, a true cult classic.
Alien Undead, The Dark Lurking (2010)
Face eating monsters run amok in a facility. The survivors try to escape the horrors of the creatures but the horror maybe within.
Also known as the marketable Alien Undead Gregory Connors offering is an overlooked interesting piece of low budget film making.
Although borrowing an assortment of ideas and dialogue from many sci-fi’s, heavily from Aliens, The Cave and Event Horizon, Connors film has an odd alluring charm. Underneath the overpowering score uneven script and badly delivered dialogue there’s plenty to like. The effects, make up and gore are for the most part effective. Stark white sets, grim corridors, rain drenched foliage and computer control rooms all add to the films interest. While some of the set ups are less effective than others and The Dark Lurking throws too many ideas in the pot it does for the most part deliver especially in atmosphere.
The cast are a mixed bag, notable are Tonia Renee, Bret Kennedy and Ozzie Devrish as Kirkland.
There’s some well executed gun play, great lighting and camera work. Connors and the editor are wise not to linger too long. When the relentless imposing score is working it compliments the many great visuals perfectly.
Although lacking pace and originality its one of the better low budget sci-fi’s and certainly worth viewing.