Posts Tagged ‘Films’

  Its that time again, dust off the cobwebs -below I’ve put together 21 horrors you hesitated to watch but you should watch at least one this Halloween.

Happy Halloween/Day of the Dead!

House Bound (2014)

*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A troubled young woman, attempts to steal the safe from an ATM, confined to her house she finds out that there may be more to her mother claims that their house is haunted.

What’s starts out as seemingly haunted house flick turns into something totally different, reminiscent of The People Under the stairs mixed with Grave Encounters. Those comparisons are probably not giving director Gerard Johnston’s film the credit it deserves. As while it borrows other genre elements it turns them on its head like the low budget Undead (2003) or Severance (2006) it becomes something quite original. It’s a tightly constructed black comedy horror with some genuine laugh out loud moments and jump scares.

Bloody and creepy in places this part mystery story set mostly in one house it’s a boy who cried wolf tale in some respects, or girl in this case, as no one believes Kylie’s claims apart from a security contractor, Amos.

Morgana O’Reilly is exceptional as Kylie Bucknell, the rebellious ASBO teen who has been tagged and confined to her home after a botched robbery. The small cast ensemble are outstanding with Cameron Rhodes channelling a mix of Jim Broadbent and Randy Quaid. Rima Te Wiata as Kylie’s mum Miriam is particularly notable.

Praise should also be given to Johnston’s writing as Morgana’s character Kylie doesn’t scare easily and isn’t a victim, this with a few story tweaks puts a breath of fresh air into the often stale haunted-house/slasher genre.

[REC] 4: Apocalypse (2014)

*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A woman and an old lady are removed from a building and wedding where a parasitic, viral outbreak took place and are taken to ship for confinement but things go awry.

The strong lead Manuela Velasco returns as the Spanish female TV reporter, Ángela Vidal. Dropping the found footage Blair Witch Project (1999) style of part one and two and retaining the traditional shot style of part three, Jaume Balagueró returns to the directing chair with a more action orientated sequel. Along with some sharp editing from David Gallart and fitting music by Arnau Bataller, Balagueró offers plenty of blood, guts, slicing and dicing of zombie-like nasties as the ship is overrun by the infected.

To writers Manu Diez and Balagueró credit it links all the films together and ties up some ooze ends putting the Tristana Medeiros Da Souza religious connotations from the first, second and mention in Genesis to rest. They successfully connect the series including the solider, Guzman played by Paco Manzanedo who finds Velasco’s character at the end of the second film. Guzman is sent to the ship for quarantine along with all the characters that have encountered the outbreak.

Ismael Fritschi is great as Nick the obsessed techie fan of Vidal. It’s a nice touch to have characters review the tapes from the other films. Héctor Colomé oozes presence and menace as Dr. Ricarte who wants to experiment on Vidal. The supporting cast are strong a play it straight with touches of dark humour.

Small segments of the CCTV footage on the ship is introduced for fans of REC. The change of setting to a merchant ship is refreshing and retains the claustrophobic feeling synonyms with the series, captured by cinematographer Pablo Rosso the location feels gritty and real. With blood thirsty infected, rabid monkeys and Vidal’s parasite causing conflict between the characters there’s plenty going on as they must escape the ship in an Aliens-like countdown finale.

While the tension and scares are replaced for a more action horror experience it still retains its great gore makeup and special effects and is another Fine addition to the series.

WolfCop (2014)

*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A cop at a crossroads comes to grips with the advantages of becoming a werewolf.

Director writer Lowell Dean offers a nostalgia trip in WolfCop. It took me back to the golden age of VHS horror, a time when practical effects ruled and every now again you had to clean the heads on your Video Player. The days when the story no matter how wacky was taken with a pinch of salt, was engaging and the production values felt high. WolfCop no doubt if released in the days of top loaders would chew up your tape.

Leo Fafard as Lou/WolfCop is superb as the washed up alcoholic small town cop, who after a strange encounter begins to investigate his own crimes and take down the local hoods. Put in a blender An American Werewolf in London, The Howling with a touch of Teen Wolf on the local town backdrop of Rambo, add a beer, two shots of whiskey and your close to WolfCop’s ambiance.

Packed with blood, guts, hair and humour, Jonathan Cherry is memorable as Lou’s knowing friend Willie, there’s a notable montage where they ‘pimp’ outfit a police car. An odd scene where the jail cell werewolf is given beer and doughnuts and there’s werewolf action scattered throughout. It’s well made, Dean offers lots of interesting set ups, Toby Bond’s music is fitting and the on location shoot gives the film some weight. This is not Direct to Video – DTV or whatever the kids call it these days, possibly direct to digital download DDD? Its a well executed film.

It has that 80s seediness and cheese in places and throws in a few scares, bloody limbs, fights with plenty of comedy. But the icing on the cake is WolfCop’s practical effects and old school visuals which are outstanding. Thankfully to Dean and crews credit there’s not a sniff of CGI.

Worth checking out at a full moon but be careful it may change you.

Clown (2014)

*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The perfect dad dons on a clown costume which he discovers only to find that he is unable to take if off with terrible consequences.

Relative unknown TV actor Andy Powers is excellent as the lovable dad who becomes a killer clown. With lots of welcomed grim exposition, it has horrifying background to the clown legend and costume. It’s explained convincingly by Karlsson played by Peter Stormare, the brother of the deceased previous owner of the costume. Eerie from the outset Jon Watts and Christopher D. Fordit’s screenplay is played as a straight bloody horror thriller with touch of dark humour. Never before has a children’s ball pool or the tunnels of a play area been so scary.

What sounds like a B film with its outrageous crazy concept actually works in this modest budget production that has Eli Roth on board as producer. It goes from one gloomy odd set up to the next giving it a dream like surreal quality and it gets graphic as Kent tries to remove his costume, goes on a killing spree and begins to regurgitate body parts.

Despite Roth’s involvement it’s very much director Jon Watts film who offers creepy, slicing, gore, demons and clown creatures with some interesting shots, even a bird’s eye view car crash feels different from the standard affair put on screen. All the cast are effective right down to the child actors and Laura Allen is great as Meg, the protective mother fighting for survival.

Taking a leaf from IT’s tale and channelling Pennywise clown it’s also has the psychological element of Magic and is reminiscent of in places of recent Stitches and American Horror Story Freak Show to name a few. That said, it stands on its own two feet with plenty of original ideas. To Watt’s and team credit the effects are outstanding, including and not limited to dismemberment, amputation and Kent becoming a child eating clown.

Clown is a fast paced solid grim possession horror with a splatter/slasher element that never takes it eye off the story. It’s probably the definitive clown horror and naturally those suffering from coulrophobia should avoid at all costs.

Bombshell Bloodbath (2014)

After a zombie virus takes hold a group of people try to find a cure and stay alive.

Bombshell Bloodbath is the perfect quintessential homage to the late 70s and early 80s countless churned out VHS horrors and banned video nasties. Brett Mullen and writer Sky Tilley cleverly offer a mash-up of horror ideas borrowing from the best of the worst and best of the best including Dawn of the Dead, The Beyond, The Evil Dead to name a few.

Bombshell Bloodbath is purposely all over the place with its tone harking back to the good old days of horror and grind house cinema. Moody voice overs, dramatic mad scientist, experiments with rats, tape recordings, seedy strip clubs, cabins in the wood and zombies tearing flesh and more.

The flesh eaters mostly bookend the film with the actors emulating the days of Neon Maniacs, Nightmare City and the countless horror performances alike. Samantha Mills it great as the mysterious blonde bombshell, Cara is wonderfully played by Alex Elliott in amongst the great practical effects and archetype camera angles of Italian exploitation films, like the Barbarians, Rats and Hell of the Living Dead. The music is the icing on the cake for nostalgia hounds and new fans of the old sub-genre horror with composer Matt Hill channelling the likes of Fabio Frizzi and Goblin.

Bombshell Bloodbath does what House of the Devil recreated for old school horrors, this revisits the atmosphere and execution of horror exploitation films.

If there ever was an indie love letter written to Fulci, Romero, Argento and Lenzi, it would look something like this.

Wyrmwood (2014)

A survivor of a zombie plague prepares to battle his way through a horde of sinister soldiers and ravenous monsters after the death of his loved ones.

Reminiscent at times of Dawn of the Dead, Undead and the Mad Max series surprisingly Aussie Wyrmwood stands shoulders above many indie zombie films. Written by Kiah Roache-Turner and Tristan Roache-Turner it has plenty original of ideas for the genre and while it moves away from the traditional George A. Romero Night of the Living concept it puts a spin on the sub-genre by literary injecting a scifi fantasy element which works in its favour.

Director Kiah Roache-Turner offers great special effects, black humour, buckets of blood, guns, needles and a cast of heroic and quickly characters. Starring Bianca Bradey as Brooke, she lights up the screen with some physical action and a strong performance. One of the strengths of Wyrmwood is that you care about the characters even the squeaky chemical suited, creepy music loving scientist.

Zombie gas, DNA experiments and mind control sit nicely in this post apocalyptic adventure as heart broken Barry, Jay Gallagher, goes about finding his sister, meeting an array of characters played excellently by the supporting cast long the way. Leon Burchill is notable as the likable Benny and Yure Covich memorable as Chalker.

The road trip at times ominous and tense with some nice cinematography from Tim Nagle. It has well designed costumes and make up and an excellent pumping music from Michael Lira with some clever sound design.

There are some solid setups, scary zombie girls in a garage, the shoot out in the bush and the action packed escapes. Thankfully it’s not as slapstick as the likes of Evil Dead or Brain Dead. While it may not please those wanting a straight forward traditional zombie film complete with it’s They Live-like fight scene, it exceeds all expectation as piece of horror, action entertainment.

Wyrmwood deserves more than cult status, not just for being refreshingly entertaining but for being more than competently produced, acted and directed. Roache-Turner’s offering does for zombies what Dog Soldiers did for werewolves.

The Dyatlov Pass Incident (2013)

To determine what happened to a group of young Russian hikers, five U.S. college students go back to where the hikers were found dead.

Devil’s Pass is a return to form for Renny Harlin, this offering is an epic compared to Legend of Hercules. With a scifi fictional spin on the tragic true story of Dyatlov Pass, where nine people lost their lives writer Vikram Weet’s convincing script and link to the Philadelphia Experiment, Bigfoot and other UFO conspiracies keeps Harlin’s technically well made film intriguing throughout.

Comparable to Exists (2014) with lots of camera’s to give coverage, as with most POV camera films it comes with the clichés synonymous with that style. Harlin thankfully makes its look easier to pull off than it actually is in this mystery thriller. That said, Devil’s Pass would have been as just as interesting as the team trace the original 1959 ill fated expedition and incident if it had been shot traditionally.

The unnecessary CGI effects of the creatures in the closing aside, the on location shoot is notable, it feels authentic, the cast are natural and sets in the latter half are well made along with the practical effects. The avalanche scene is outstanding and eerily realistically executed. The rural Russian and mountain setting offers plenty of atmosphere and the supporting cast who play the locals are notable.

Overall, although slow burning, the acting and story twist makes it a worth while venture.

Exists (2014)

Five vacationers find themselves terrorised by a disgruntled and legendary Sasquatch.

As a POV film it’s finely executed by one of the godfathers of modern POV films director Eduardo Sánchez. However, given that there’s been so many POV films since its debatably needless when you have the likes of the Rec series to contend with.

The clips and trailers steal the surprise shock value so avoid if possible. Yes it’s another cabin in the wood horror as the group are picked off but it does build to a satisfactory conclusion unlike acclaimed Witch Project which built up to a single scare as copied by The Paranormal Activity series.The acting is solid especially from Chris Osborn’s main character Brian but are not as rounded or fleshed out as in the low budget The Battery (2012). The effects, make up and costume are first rate and story wise it will certainly appease big foot fans.

Script aside thanks to the (predicable yet fulfilling) story and Brian Steele who plays the creature, it’s possibly the most defining bigfoot /sasquatch film to date but bare in mind the majority of sub genre is as reliable as bigfoot sightings themselves.

The Dead 2: India (2013)

The dead are returning to life and attacking the living. An American wind turbine engineer with the help of a local boy attempt a 300 mile journey to reunite with his pregnant Indian girlfriend.

Brothers Howard and Jonathan Ford add an usually unexplored religious angle with the obligatory social commentary subtext making The Dead 2: India as relevant as it’s predecessor. While not as eerie as the first and briefly lacking some logic in both dialogue and decision making, with Nicholas Burton’s (played fittingly by Joseph Milson) seemingly six sense knowledge of what’s going on there’s still plenty to enjoy.

The India setting and on location shoot gives part two a realistic gritty, dusty and atmospheric feel. The traditional shambling dead are creepy enough and retain an air of menace with their biting and tearing of flesh, although their white eyes, now an over used effect do feel slightly dated. That said, there’s plenty to enjoy – more gun-play, more blood and more zombies. With gripping stand out scenes, the crashed car execution, convoy executions, parachute escape and a car going over a cliff to name a few. The directors also deliver some excellent visual moments, a motor cycle blazing across the Indian wastelands, forgotten temples, grand cities, hovering helicopters, jets and burning slums to name a few.

This Ford Brother offering is probably the most grounded undead film since their first outing and Romero’s original trilogy. The director/writers again manage to give their zombie outing scope with a fantastic naturalistic visual style as the engineer and boy go from one village to the next complemented by Imran Ahmad’s music score.

Overall, while not as tension filled and ominous as The Dead, The Dead 2 doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel giving the viewer a much needed solid and serious piece of zombie entertainment. Recommend.

Neon Maniacs (1986)

A group of teenagers in San Francisco are attacked by homicidal monsters living under the Golden Gate Bridge and set out to prove they are real.

Despite its faults, logic, editing, pace and such director Joseph Mangine’s ambitious Neon Maniacs counter balances its short comings. Larry Odien, Allan A. Apone and Douglas J. White’s make up and practical effects are surprisingly good and the period music score is creatively ominous. To Neon’s credit Mangines creates some jump moments notably the bus scene.

Paula played by actress Donna Locke (who has disappeared off the planet) has a cute Goonie appeal. Leilani Sarelle’s Natalie is a solid lead and not surprisingly went on to do bigger thing. The rest of the cast give typical 80s low budget hammy performances.

In retrospect writers Mark Patrick Carducci’s ambiguous origins of the Neon Maniacs adds to the films appeal and although uneven with more style over substance it deserves it cult status if only for the 80’s nostalgia, it’s monsters ‘cool’ factor and surreal atmosphere.

Dolls (1987)

A group of strangers take shelter from a storm in an old house only to find themselves hunted down by a collection of dolls, from old-fashioned china dolls and porcelain dolls to dolls that talk and move.

Written by Ed Naha 1987’s Stuart Gordon’s Dolls remains creepy and scary and is certainly not for viewers with a pediophobia. Fuzzbee Morse’s great score is atmospherically fitting with its melodic cues and stings there’s also a touch of 80s synthesiser thrown in.

The set design and locations set up the eeriness from the outset. Mac Ahlberg’s cinematography coupled with Gordon’s old school camera tricks and some fantastic blood, gore and practical special effects from an array of craft masters sell the horror. Watching the unsavoury characters getting picked off one by one, meeting their demise is horror fun throughout.

Choppy continuity and a spate of dodgy acting aside Gordon’s offering for the most part is excellent. The tone is more oppressive than that of Charles Band’s PuppetMaster (who was also one of the producers on Dolls) and those familiar with Brian Yuzna’s horror work will notice his producer touch on the production.

Even though some optical effects and Dave Allen’s stop motion has dated slightly they still add an uneasy air to the proceedings. The death scenes are effective and credit to the special effects team when it’s revealed what’s under the dolls it’s enough to send shivers up and down the spine.

Amongst the dark corridors, antique furnishings, storms and lightening there’s a handful of standout scenes, Hillary Hartwicke with a pram; killer toy solider death squad; Teddy bear attack to name a few. Aside from Mr. Punch and Teddy the dolls act as more of a collective.

With some dark humour perfectly cast Hilary Mason’s (no stranger horror roles including Don’t Look Now and The Haunted) timing and subtle delivery as the old woman Hartwicke is outstanding. Carrie Lorraine’s Judy, an imaginative little girl is very effective. Stephen Lee’s (Robocop 2) innocent Ralph fits the part in contrast to Guy Rolfe spooky character(who would later play Toulon in Puppet Master 3 to name a few) is on fine form.

A recommended moralistic adult fairytale highlighting that being a parent is a privilege not a right.

Creep (2004)

Franka Potente is party goer Kate, after she misses her last train, she is pursued by a deformed crazy and has to fight for survival in the London underground system.

British films had played it safe for a jolly good while with costume dramas, romantic comedies and gangster flicks. However, the UK have started dishing out a few original horror gems in recent years, Dog Soldiers, Descent etc. Writer/ director Christopher Smith (who went on to make Severance) with a small budget gives the viewer an effective, interesting chiller.

There’s no bad acting here, the actors deliver the goods with a limited dialogue driven script. To build up the tension Smith utilises the underground, music and sound to full effect. He creates a genuine creepy atmosphere, the lighting is fantastic and the gore effects are note worthy.

The quirky small cast that Potente encounters are believable and the killer who dwells in the underground is one of the better original killers in a longer while.

The film is very bloody at times and was quite shocking in 2004. Creep remains a strong claustrophobic and underrated horror.

Dead and Buried (1981)

There are a handful of horror films that I can say are underrated and exude atmosphere, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) Dead People (1973) and Dellamorte Dellamore (1994) rank as some unsung cult sleepers. Dead and Buried while better known sits fittingly with the above for sheer eeriness, as director Gary Sherman takes you to the odd, clicky, fishing town of Potters Bluff where visiting tourists and passer through are killed only for their corpses to be brought back to life to serve the town.

Reminiscent of Jaws 2 (no one believes the sheriff), The Wickerman (1973) (plotting towns people) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) (they are not who they clam to be) to name a few, Dead and Buried still manages to remain fresh and intriguing until the shocking end.

James Farentino wonderfully plays sheriff Dan Gillis who must solve the case and wrap up the mystery, dynamic Melody Anderson is perfect as his wife. Jack Albertson gives a fine performance as the mortician and Robert Englund has a small role, the rest of the cast are all on horror form with some quirky small town characters.

Dead and Buried is only hankered by some choppy editing and despite the amount of writers on board, Sherman’s well crafted film benefits from ‘too many fingers in the pie’, including Alien scribe Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. The film is enhanced from a shot on location look which adds to the genuine creepiness of the goings ons and Joe Renzetti’s music is fitting. There’s some notable blood and gore effects by the late great Stan Winston which even though are a by product of the story they are excellently executed.

Overall, a must see excellent underrated chiller.

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)

Francesco Dellamorte is the cemetery caretaker who at night makes sure the rising dead are kept dead. But things get complicated when he falls for one of the corpses.

1994’s underrated zombie horror classic based on the comic Dylan Dog by Tiziano Sclavi, it stars Rupert Everett (in his best role) and enchanting Anna Falchi.

“Zombies, guns, and sex, OH MY!!!” was the tag line, and while it’s true it has those things Dellamorte Dellamore is so much more, macabre and violent, with atmosphere you can taste. Excellent music by Riccardo Biseo & Manuel De Sica and direction amazingly executed by Michele Soavi.

Spellbinding and arguably the strangest, most effective zombie film out there to-date.

Messiah of Evil (1973)

Arletty (Marianna Hill) arrives in a small, odd, creepy coastal town in California looking for her father and she quickly learns little is as it seems.

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, it feels art house, 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), Dead & Buried (1981) and the aforementioned Dawn of the Dead clearly have taken a 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, who you’d think would have been in a lot more horror movies. If you liked Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) and Night of the Living Dead there’s some horror delight to be found here from the shocking first kill to the insane asylum ending.

Messiah of Evil 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.

The Pyramid (2014)

*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A documentary crew, Egyptologist with the help of a robot on loan from NASA explore a newly discovered pyramid that holds a deadly secret.

Director Grégory Levasseur offers traps and tombs reminiscent of The Goonies, The Mummy and Indiana Jones. The found footage angle unavoidably comparable to the Blair Witch and its spored multiple found footage films including the recent similar Day of the Mummy.

The sets and atmosphere are the stars of the show here with its hieroglyphics, burial chambers, corridors and tunnels. To writers Daniel Meersand and Nick Simon credit they cram at lot into a generic horror touching on the traditional mummy curse, ancient Egypt beliefs, a labyrinth and robot probes, there’s lots to enjoy. In contrast to the tension, traps and jump scares the closing act is more horror Minotaur-like myth oriented as the god Anubis, assisted by Egyptian inbred blood thirsty cats pick off the explorers and crew one by one.

The acting is solid, surprisingly typecast James Buckley’s Fitzie, the voice of the viewer, is excellent here and is perfectly cast alongside David O’Hare who is on usual fine form as Holden. Levasseur’s presents some nicely executed gory effects and plenty of dusty ambiance, the CGI effects are for the most part well done if not put under too much scrutiny.

Lapses in logic aside, the thing that really hampers The Pyramid (or puts its ahead of its time) is the unconventional jarring mix of switching between hand held camera POV to a mix of traditional shots in the later half which takes you out of the action grave robbing The Pyramid of the tension it setup in the first two acts. It feels like it’s not sure what style of film it wants to be.

If you’re into Egyptology and horror its a blast but as mentioned be prepared for the unorthodox switch in the camera work.

The Innkeepers (2011)

*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Two employees try to unravel the The Yankee Pedlar Inn’s haunted past but they begin to witness disturbing events.

Opening with an assortment of spooky photo’s accompanied by a creepy score from Jeff Grace, director Ti West sets the atmosphere for The Innkeepers from the get go. Anyone familiar with West’s smouldering and finely filmed House of the Devil will know he likes to take time to build up the characters with a final pay off. Innkeepers is no exception. That said, it is pacer than the aforementioned with a few cheap scares up front courteous of a PC and a YouTube-like video.

The acting is first rate, very naturalist with lead Sara Paxton on form as intelligent dropout Claire. Paxton is very watchable delivering a good performance thanks to an equally good script. There’s logic in the screenplay and supports the notion that if you were in a hotel and interested in the paranormal you’d set up an investigation.

There is a small cast of quirky characters including 80′s star Kelly Mcgillis who seems to be having a revival now in horror after featuring in Stake Land. There’s a psychic, an odd old man, obligatory ghost bride and cellar. There’s ominous corridors, creaky doors, piano cues, old photos and great sound design which add to its creepy factor. There’s plenty of jump scares and red-herrings.

E.V.Ps, web cams in amongst the realistic sets gives credibly and suck you into Claire’s and Luke’s (Pat Healy) investigation plight. It’s an old-school horror with the music and sound playing a big part, much of the suspense comes from what you don’t see. But West’s visuals of what you do see are extremely haunting. It’s a homage of sorts that refreshingly leaves you with some unanswered questions and loose ends.

Debatably you can argue it builds to little more than a series of scares, yet, it’s more consistent and less glossy than recent horror Insidious, furthermore grounded than 1408 and far-more finely executed with its wonderful sets, camera work and narrative than the Paranormal Activities.

Yes – it’s a essentially a haunted house flick, but what a chilling, hair raising and perfectly constructed haunted inn film it is.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

10 years after the events of the first & second Halloween Michael Myers escapes and returns to Haddonfield to hunt down his niece.

There’s a lot going on in this instalment that goes back to the roots of Halloween ignoring part three. Part 4 is grander, a police station is wiped out and locals turn vigilante. Teenage shenanigan’s go on that are more synonymous with slasher films that weren’t really present in part 2.

Despite being the fourth in a series and putting aside what the critics say Halloween Return of Michael Myers is a very strong entry.

It’s strength is not only Donald Pleasence’s great performance, take a look at the early gas station scene but it’s the likability of both Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris’ characters. Thanks to Alan B. McElroy’s writing every character is fleshed out more than usual for the time and genre.

Harris is a good child actress and gives Jamie an air of realism. Whereas Cornell gives depth to Rachel’s moral issues and concerns. The supporting cast are all more than adequate including Beau Starr as Sheriff Ben Meeker. George P. Wilbur’s take on the Shape/Michael is debatably the best portrayal of killer in the series.

Credit should go to director Dwight H. Little and legendary producer Akkad for capturing the look and feel look of the first two instalments. Little makes good use of the lighting and music building some great tension, notably the rocking chair, rooftop scene and truck escape. The surprise ending fittingly echoes the first and 4 has the right mix of horror, action and suspense without the cringe worthy cheese that come with most copycat slasher pictures of the time.

An underrated guilty pleasure.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

A disturbed woman recently released from a mental institute has various nightmarish experiences. She becomes further disturbed after moving to an old farmhouse on a Connecticut island with her husband and friend where they meet a mysterious squatter.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a 1971 low budget gem, possibly the foundation or inspiration for many horror films that followed. It’s skillful directed by John D. Hancock who creates a foreboding atmospheric horror, with chills and spills.

The supporting cast are notable and Zohra Lampert plays the lead role of Jessica admirably, with emotional range and depth. In addition, Mariclare Costello is excellent as the creepy lodger Emily.

It suffers slightly from some 70’s film trappings, the intrusive use of the score, choppy editing and the sound is a little off but these are only small distractions, and to the movies credit it doesn’t look like a low budget film.

The on location shoot adds to the realism and there are many surreal moments, involving the odd towns people, a girl in a graveyard and the body in a lake. Creepy old photos, folkloric tales, unexplained noises all add to the unease and tension of this smouldering horror.

It draws in the viewer making you consider is what Jessica experiencing real or not. The film builds up modestly, tackling possible vampirism, haunting and ghosts which are all handled in a believable manner. I can only compare the ambiance to that of The Haunting (1963), Exorcist (1973), House of the Devil (2009) Carnival of Souls (1962) and another underrated horror Dead People a.k.a Messiah of Evil made the same year (although not released until 1973).

It’s Hancocks ability to execute pure creepiness and eeriness that sets Let’s Scare Jessica to Death apart from many horrors. If only the majority of modern horrors could stir up the same sensations experienced.

Le notti del terrore (1981)

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Visitors to a mansion are attacked by the disturbed dead and undead monks of the area.

Here we have Burial Ground, Le Notti del terrore, also known as Nights of Terror and The Zombie Dead. Take the sleaziness of The Blind Dead series, put in the trappings of Fulci’s dubbed Zombi 2 and add the set up of the Night of the Living Dead and you’re pretty close to your expectations of Burial Ground.

To this shameless perverse horror’s credit it has atmosphere and a nihilistic ending. Set in and around the grounds of a European mansion it’s surreal day and nights on location shoot gives it some weight as a group of visitors get killed off one by one. Directed by the elusive Andrea Bianchi who has a long list of films to his name and aliases, the gore and makeup are effective for the most part and what you’d expect from an 80’s Italian splatter film. The film heats up when the zombie’s start tearing, eating flesh, boob biting and ingeniously using a range of weapons including disc cutters and axes as they lay siege on a rural dwellings.

Gino De Rossi provides the special effects on a debatable less budget than Lucio Fulci’s Zombi, there’s a few similar moments to Fulci’s classic including a woman face being pulled close to a shards of glass, worms and maggots falling from the rising dead. The zombies are Romero slow but are reminiscent of the wielding weapon dead in Amando de Ossorio’s The Blind Dead.

The score is a little intrusive at times synonymous with the Italian films, there’s gratuitous groping, kissing and overblown crying and hysterics at times. The infamous uncomfortable incest segment between actress Mariangela Giordano and Peter Bark, where the son makes advances to his mother is unnecessarily thrown in for bad taste sake. Possibly simply to out do Romero’s classic basement setup where the daughter kills the mother. There’s a notable decapitation scene of a maid where her hand is nailed to a window and her head loped off by a scythe. Actress Antonella Antinori is memorable along with Raimondo Barbieri who gets limited screen time as the Professor.

As far as zombie films go this takes its self seriously with plenty of eerie bloody moments and while not as good as the aforementioned films of the same genre it’s still a video nasty worth checking out.

Zombi 3 (1988)

Not really linked to its predecessor zombi 2, a virus outbreak (similar to Return of the Living Dead) causes the dead to rise and the military must stop the contaminated. Trapped in the zone are a few soldiers and civilians that must fight to survive.

Although billed as directed by Italian directing maestro Lucio Fulci who supposedly shot approximately 70 minutes of footage, second unit director Bruno Mattei and writer Claudio Fragasso took over and only used 50 minutes of Fulci’s footage. On viewing this lovable travesty it is very debatable how much of Fulic’s footage really appears. There only appears smudgings of the Italians magic as it feels more like Mattei’s Hell of the Living Dead/Night of the Zombies/Zombie Creeping Flesh.

Like its follow up, zombi 4 there’s talking zombies, jumping undead and zombies that want to fight rather than attack and eat flesh. Also there’s two crazy standout scenes, a flying head and a baby zombie birth. It may all sound like fun but it’s zombie scenes with the civilians and regular soldiers fighting the government’s hazardous white suit army that stand out, sadly not the wacky ones.

The zombie gore, blood, make-up and effects are inconsistent, sometimes effective and at other time revealing poor. There’s overuse of a fog machine, laughable dialogue especially from the scientists and military personnel. The synthesised soundtrack is great but like the broadcasting DJ ill-fitting at times. As a sequel to Zombie Flesheaters it’s below average, meandering from one silly setup to the next.

Zombi 3/Zombie Flesheaters 2 at times is more virus flick, imitating and sharing more with The Crazies or Nightmare City than Fulics cult film Zombi 2.

Dubbed a Bruce Willis clone, Jason Statham former French Connection model was born 12 September 1967 and came into the limelight in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. I don’t believe anyone could have predicted that football fan, cockney sparrow Statham would go on to be the next Hollywood action star. That said, the amount of dedication to his physic and skills he fully deserves the title.

Although he’s starred in some unsatisfying flicks – it’s usually the production that’s the problem, Ghosts of Mars, The One, The Bank Job and remake The Italian Job were all muddled in tone. In Name of the King, a star studded cast but that no amount of talent could redeem. There’s nice cameo in Collateral and The Expendables was a well received blockbuster. And Cellular (2004) is arguably underrated. Transporter, Death Race (remake) and Crank are notable in their own right, it’s just a pity the sequels didn’t deliver the goods.

Statham has showed he’s not a one trick pony either and while not Oscar wining he’s not a bad actor, for example take his lesser well received but excellently made Killer Elite and Revolver .

As a tribute to the man who shrugged off Kelly Brook and cracked on with things (a testament to his character) with Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley here’s a few thoughts on a handful of his outings.

Safe (2012)
Ex-cop and cage-fighter after his wife is killed contemplates ending it all. However, a chance meeting with a little girl holding information for the mob allows him a chance of redemption.

After Jason Statham’s weighty and drama driven performance in Killer Elite (2011) he returns to familiar Transporter style force in this action packed tale. Director/writer Boaz Yakin knows how to deliver high-octane action and his lead has perfected high kick and punches in his sleep. Like many on location shot films it makes everything more palatable and the Safe certainly has a budget.

It’s violent and bloody, despite being packed with clichés corrupt cops, Russian Mafia and Yakuza it’s fresh enough to remain entertaining. Concept wise it is reminiscent of Mercy Rising (1998) but where as Willis’ outing failed to deliver the Safe surpasses expectations being a bar above the average action flick. There’s a Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars and Last Man Standing play off against each crime syndicate but it all adds to the entertainment.

Notable is the ever reliable James Hong and Anson Mount gives a menacing, memorable performance as Alex. Chris Sarandon as the Mayor deserves a mention along with bent cop Captain Wolf played by Robert John Burke redeeming himself after Robocop 3. Although the relationship between the young girl Mei played adequately by Catherine Chan and Statham’s Luke Wright isn’t fully explored no doubt to avoid comparisons with Leon (1994) there’s enough emotion to make you care for the characters.

Statham is on form and overall the Safe is an engaging entertaining action film worthy of mention.

Killer Elite (2011)

One of Britain’s Elite Special Air Service is forced out of retirement to undertake one last mission but soon finds he is a pawn in a bigger game.

What maybe deemed at glance as just another action film turns out to be a multi- layered action, drama and true story. It comes with a few twists and doubling crossings. There’s a fair share of shootings, fights, explosions and stabbings but director Gary McKendry handles the scenes in a realistic fashion, possible best described as a mix of Patriot Games, Syrina and Munich with the action similar to Bourne. Killer Elite is a very hard hitting violent drama set within 1980s.

The 80s backdrop and globetrotting on location filming gives the film creditability. Due to the source material and some interesting griping writing by Matt Sherring the characters are all shades of grey which adds to the appeal. This action thriller benefits from some big named actors giving their best and most subtle performances. Jason Statham is perfectly cast as Hunter’s (Robert De Niro) protégé Danny. Notable is Clive Owen in a solid supporting role and an almost unrecognisable Dominic Purcell gives an award deserving performance.

Killer Elite is an underrated ex-special ops story that highlights some of the shady dealings of countries governments and mercenaries. Highly recommend.

The Mechanic (2011)

An assassin’s abilities are tested when he takes on an apprentice, but things get complicated when he finds he’s been used on his last job.

Entertaining assassin/mentor yarn which tries to avoid clichés. Donald Sutherland puts in a welcomed cameo but is missed throughout the rest of the film. Jason Statham is hit man Arthur Bishop, while he can do these roles action roles blind folded Statham is subtler and more complex than most previous parts he’s played. Ben Foster gives a hard hitting performance giving an edginess and weight to the character of Steve McKenna and corporate bad guy Tony Goldwyn is notable.

Some logic aside the Mechanic stands head and shoulders above the mass of recent cheap and big budget flicks due to it’s 1973 source material, smart writing and Simon West’s gritty direction. The wonderful locations give it an air of realism and the soundtrack complements the setups.

With some thought out character development, twists and well executed action scenes it’s a pleasing above average hit-man thriller.

Revolver (2005)

A revenge-seeking trickster guarantees victory when a confidence trick is applied to any game of wits. However, he’s running out of time as could be ‘rubbed out’ by the corrupt casino boss first.

Don’t expect a rehash, the humour or the structure of Mr Ritchie’s earlier films Lock Stock and Snatch. This is Ritchie’s Mulholland Drive. This film makes more sense on a second viewing or when you’re satisfied what this 115 minute marvel has given you for your cash. This film is not for a lazy audience. And while the style of filming or the story is not entirely original the way the film is put together is.

If you’ve seen it and think Zach (Vince Pastore) and Avi (André Benjamin) aren’t real or that Mr Jake Green (Jason Statham) is Mr Gold you may want sit down, watch the movie again and rethink your move. Or stick with what you originally thought. Whether it’s taken as it’s about symbolism, psyche, mysticism or take it at face value the themes are greed, tackling fear and egos to name a few. It’s up to the viewer to decide and it can be interpreted differently each time it’s reviewed. All the loose ends are tied up however you take it – just dig deeper. That said, admittedly this may put off the casual viewer who want a straight forward gangster flick.

The acting and whole production is above average. It has a strong cast ensemble, great dialogue, acting and locations. The music and colour scheme add to the retro surreal feel and set the mood in each scene. The end product is fantastic and not pretentious.

This film could be destined for a future large fan following.

A bold move for Ritchie.

Love them or hate them they make loads of money – part Blair Witch Project, part REC, part Ghost Hunters and Most Haunted. It has spawned two sequels already – not it’s not Maniac Cop or Evil Dead its… Paranormal Activity. Whhooooaaa Spooky!
As it’s Halloween weekend I thought I’d put together my findings on the films that caused a 1000 manics and wannabe film makers to run-around their houses with the lights off, their night vision cameras in hand and pull objects supernaturally on piano wire or fishing gut. Unlike Blair Witch copies the amateurs can emulate PA in doors without having to leave the comfort of their own home – no cold, no damp and no snot running from their nose… Here are my thoughts on the films that launched a thousand screams and  possibly made youreconsider home security cameras.

Paranormal Activity (2007) 

A couple becomes increasingly disturbed by Paranormal Activity in their home, wow sounds great? The films strong points is that it contains some quality direction by Oren Pel, fantastic plausible natural acting, some skilfully thought out camera work and effective sound effects.
However, it’s simply another story told through the eyes of a character, in this case Micah’s camera lens. In a nutshell builds up to a big scare at the end (depending on which version you see of the film).
It’s over ten years since the ‘The Blair Witch Project’ used the camera point of view and while Paranormal Activity looks good, is well executed and constructed, it goes over the same old formula. If you enjoyed and were scared by Blair Witch you’ll love Paranormal Activity.

That said, if you thought Blair Witch was hyped and shock-less on it’s release and you have a preference for REC or Cloverfield, you’ll be disappointed.
If you’re a big fan of these point of view camera films, and you have to see another this probably isn’t it but if you like TV’s Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures and the like this may do the trick.

A couple become increasingly disturbed by Paranormal Activity in their home that maybe linked to their an infant son. His teenage half-sister against their father wish tries to uncover the truth.
This sequel /prequel contains some quality direction by Tod Williams who takes over the reigns for this instalment. With the usage of static security camera’s and some thought out camera work it gives P2 a slight edged and a grander film quality over it’s predecessor. However, the jump out sound moments aside the sound effects and design appear less creepy this time around.
The whole cast are fantastic. The acting is plausible and natural by the leads, notably Molly Ephraim who plays the inquisitive everyday daughter and Vivis Cortez as the ‘help’. Those with young children and pets will be left a little more disturbed by this follow up and fans of the first will be pleased by Katie and Micah’s return.
Sadly, for the most part its purpose is to build up to a big scare at the end. Again it’s simply another story told through the eyes of a camera lenses and the writers inject some unnecessary connections and exposition to the goings on which takes away some of the mysteries random edge.
It’s nearly 15 years since the ‘The Blair Witch Project’ used the camera point of view and while Paranormal Activity 2 looks better than the first it goes over the same old formula.
If you enjoyed and were scared by 1st you’ll be blown away by Paranormal Activity 2. Yet, old school haunted house fans maybe left less chilled and thrilled.

Two girls befriend an invisible entity who resides in their home and their mothers partner sets out to film the strange goings on.
The two leads from one and two Sprague Grayden and Katie Featherston reprise their roles briefly. Part 3 opens with a brief insight of the events of Paranormal Activity 1 and 2. It quickly moves to 1988 (you view the contents of some missing tapes) to a time when the sisters Katie (Chloe Csengery) and (Jessica Tyler Brown) Kristi Rey are young.
This prequel directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman Paranormal 3 is technically well filmed, exceeding the likes of Blare Witch in both look and sound. Because of the 88 setting, there’s lots of nice touches, the sets, the VHS imperfections, date/time stamps and noise of the camera zooming.
Like its predecessor, there are good naturalistic performances. Sceptic Mom Julie played by Lauren Bittner and boyfriend Dennis – Christopher Nicholas Smith are more than adequate. Dennis’ character is as likable as Micah from the first. Video obsessed he makes a swivelling camera from a fan to the annoyance of his wife.

Old ground is trod, characters filming themselves, waking up late at night, creepy images, bangs, shaking rooms, noises and so. There is nothing more creepy than children talking to unseen entities or babysitters getting scared.
You follow the characters on their journey as they investigate and interrogate the video footage and strange goings on in their new house. There’s a few stand out moments, the hair pulling and balloon bedroom part complete with blanket flying at the camera. The scene where Dennis’ friend Randy experiences the ghostly goings on is a highlight.
Paranormal Activity 3 is not a horror in the traditional sense- if you enjoy these camera point of view chillers and was scared by first two this will possibly exceed expectations. That said, it’s not as clever as part 2 in its narrative intertwining.
Ultimately once again it builds up to a big snapping scare, its more of the same. Nevertheless, it still manages to suck you in an be intriguing – why I’ll never know.
—–
For anyone else outside the UK here’s the 1985 Scotch video tapes famous for the slogan “Re-record, not fade away, re-record, not fade away…” Happy Halloween!
Founded in 1934, Hammer Film Productions is best known for a series of Gothic “Hammer Horror” films made from the mid-1950s until the 1970s – notably a series of Dracula films that started in 1959 featuring Christopher Lee.
Although one of my favorites Hammer films is Countess Dracula (1971) many of earlier Hammer films were quiet formulaic and as well as Dracula included other iconic horror characters, The Mummy (1959) The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). That said Hammer produced a variety of other sub-genre films and in later years TV series. During its most successful years Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and financial success.
But all good things come to an end… Due to the saturation of the horror market by competitors and the loss of some international funding it forced changes to the Hammer-formula, with varying degrees of success. The company eventually ceased production in the mid-1980s and in 2000 the studio was bought by a consortium with the company announcing plans to begin making films again, however none were produced.
In May 2007, the company was sold again and new owners announced plans to spend money on new horror films and did with a bang. Their hit success Let me In (2010) was a remake of Let the Right One In and due to the source material and the movie template already set Let me In arguably couldn’t fail.
Regardless of Hammers ups and downs their films contain a unique charm and atmosphere with iconic imagery that you can’t help retain. Here are few thoughts on Hammer’s The Resident (2010) and Wake Wood (2011 film). No doubt I’ll update this with The Woman in Black (2011) their most recent production soon.

The Resident (2010)

Dr. Juliet Devereau rents an apartment in New York, large and affordable, but the owner Max begins to want more than just rent.

Director Antti Jokinen doesn’t glamorise New York showing the older side of the city and keeps things moving with plenty of cuts and naturalistic lighting. The music adds some tension to the on screen proceedings to what is essentially a stalker/ voyeur thriller.
The cast includes a seasoned and accomplished cast including Hilary Swank, Christopher Lee as the creepy building owner August and his son Max played excellently by Watchmen’s (2009) Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Morgan is first rate as the deranged obsessive weirdo and the casting of Swank as Devereau avoids the teen slasher cliché. Amougnst the spy-holes, secret doors and cavity walkways of the apartment it’s great to see Lee in a contemporary role albeit small.
Anyone familiar with Single White Female (1992) or Pacific Heights (1990) will have an inkling what their in for. The Resident is a small tight thriller that has few surprises, yet, it’s keeps you watching due to Swank’s allure, the simplistic premise and Morgan’s craziness.
Overall, nothing new, but maybe disturbing for many due to themes of intrusion and privacy being violated.
As a fan of Hammer horror, with a few of their many films being a spiritual inspiration for my book Blood Hunger, Hammer sent me a brand new copy and I thought it rude not to say a few words on the iconic studios latest offering Wake Wood...

Blood Hunger

Following the unnecessary, yet excellent remake Let me in Hammer returns with Wake Wood a supernatural chiller in which a child is brought back from the dead to comfort her parents for three days. But she’s not quite the angelic child she was.

Eva Birthistle plays the grieving mother Louise and Twelve Rounds (2009) bad guy Adian Gillen is exceptional as the deceased child’s father. Reliable Timothy Spall and the child actress are notable and the supporting cast are solid.
There’s some effective bloody gore, grizzly births, severed spines, dog attacks and killings. Some supernatural elements take place out of shot to avoid the use of CGI, which adds to the believability and saves the budget.
Wake Wood is dark, damp and dreary just as it should be. Nevertheless, it is slightly stifled by a filmed for TV look. That aside, with a small budget director David Keating keeps the blood flowing and the pace going. It benefits in plausibility and atmosphere with an on location shoot. There’s plenty of shadows, eerie music, sharp editing and a grounded screen-play (by Brendan McCarthy) to keep you watching with a grin that Hammer may have a place in this century.

Wake Wood [Blu-ray]

With elements of Don’t Look Now, Case 39, Carrie, The Wicker Man and Pet Cemetery to name a few you could argue it’s all be done before and better. However, Wake Wood’s great ending debatably leaves you thinking sometimes less is more.

There are many classic horrors, stacks of cult favourites, I could spend a lifetime writing about them and the characters that have put fear into us capturing our imagination.
Amongst the Universal Monsters, Hammer Horrors, Halloween, Hellraiser, Nightmare on Elm St. and modern classics like the Shining, Let the Right One In and so on, there are a string of chillers that have some leprechaun gold dust sprinkled on them. I’ve put together a handful of atmospheric grime-like horror gems that almost slipped though the horror net. And to think –  they thought they eluded us…
Dead People A.K.A Messiah of Evil (1973)

Messiah of Evil: The Second Coming

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 story-line 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 given his creepy look.
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.
Dead And Buried Movie Poster 11x17 Master PrintDead and Buried (1981)
There are a handful of horror films that I can say are underrated and exude atmosphere, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971), Dead People (1973) and Dellamorte Dellamore (1994) rank as some unsung cult sleepers. Dead and Buried while better known sits fittingly with the above for sheer eeriness, as director Gary Sherman takes you to the odd, clicky, fishing town of Potters Bluff where visiting tourists and passer through are killed only for their corpses to be brought back to life.
Reminiscent of Jaws 2 (no one believes the sheriff), The Wickerman (1973) (plotting towns people) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) (they are not who they clam to be) to name a few, Dead and Buried still manages to remain fresh and intriguing until the shocking end.
James Farentino wonderfully plays sheriff Dan Gillis who must solve the case and wrap up the mystery, and Melody Anderson is perfect as his wife. Jack Albertson gives a fine performance as the mortician and Robert Englund has a small role, the rest of the cast are first-rate.
Dead and Buried is only hankered by some choppy editing and despite the amount of writers on board, Sherman’s well crafted film benefits from ‘too many fingers in the pie’, including Alien scribe Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. The film is enhanced from a shot on location look which adds to the genuine creepiness of the goings ons and Joe Renzetti’s music is fitting. There’s some notable blood and gore effects by the late great Stan Winston which even though are a by product of the story they are excellently executed.
Overall, a must see excellent underrated chiller.
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
Let's Scare Jessica to Death
A disturbed woman recently released from a mental institute has various nightmarish experiences. She becomes further disturbed after moving to an old farmhouse on a Connecticut island with her husband and friend where they meet a mysterious squatter.
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a low budget gem, possibly the foundation or inspiration for many horror films that followed. It’s skillful directed by John D. Hancock who creates a foreboding atmospheric horror, with chills and spills.
The supporting cast are notable and Zohra Lampert plays the lead role of Jessica admirably, with emotional range and depth. In addition, Mariclare Costello is excellent as the creepy lodger Emily. It suffers slightly from some 70′s film trappings, the intrusive use of the score, choppy editing and the sound is a little off but these are only small distractions, and to the movies credit it doesn’t look like a low budget film. The on location shoot adds to the realism and there are many surreal moments, involving the odd towns people, a girl in a graveyard and the body in a lake. Creepy old photos, folkloric tales, unexplained noises all add to the unease and tension of this smouldering horror.
It draws in the viewer making you consider is what Jessica experiencing real or not. The film builds up modestly, tackling possible vampirism, haunting and ghosts which are all handled in a believable manner. I can only compare the ambiance to that of The Haunting (1963), Exorcist (1973), House of the Devil (2009) Carnival of Souls (1962) and another underrated horror Dead People a.k.a Messiah of Evil made the same year (although not released until 1973).
It’s Hancocks ability to execute pure creepiness and eeriness that sets Let’s Scare Jessica to Death apart from many horrors. If only the majority of modern horrors could stir up the same sensations experienced.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Let Sleeping Corpse Lie A.K.A The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)
Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti (original title)
A crop dusting machine from the agricultural pest-control is emitting ultra-sonic waves that are re-animating corpses…

A lot have said this is underrated, granted it’s overlooked. It is atmospheric with an ominous feel. It has great locations and is at times genuinely creepy. However, it’s shares more with Fulci than Romero. The acting is not aided by the bad dubbing. To its credit it has an eerie musical score by Giuliano Sorgini and a number of suspenseful sequences but it borrows many of its best sequences from Night of the Living Dead.I watched director Jorge Grau’s offering under the title of ‘Let Sleeping Corpse Lie’ but whichever name you see the film under don’t be mistaken or mislead, it’s a solid zombie horror movie and of its time with fine cinematography from Francisco Sempere. It’s a lot better than the low budget DTV zombie films that there’s no shortage of at the moment.

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994) A.K.A Cemetery Man (1994)

Cemetery Man
1994’s underrated zombie horror classic based on the comic Dylan Dog by Tiziano Sclavi, it stars Rupert Everett (in his best role) and enchanting Anna Falchi.
“Zombies, guns, and sex, OH MY!!!” was the tag line, and while it’s true it has those things Dellamorte Dellamore is so much more, it’s macabre and violent, with atmosphere you can taste. Excellent music by Riccardo Biseo & Manuel De Sica and direction amazingly executed by Michele Soavi.
Spellbinding and arguably the strangest, most effective zombie film out there to-date.
The House of the Devil (2009)

The House of the Devil 27 x 40 Movie Poster - Style A

Student Samantha Hughes takes a babysitting job that coincides with a full lunar eclipse, she soon realises her clients harbour a terrifying secret.
Director writer Ti West delivers an elaborate painstakingly created homage to 70’s and early 80’s style thriller/horrors. It feels authentic, from the period costumes, 70’s style title sequence, complete with font, swipes and stills reminiscent of countless films, to the music and camera work to match. The film is pure nostalgia and he does a fantastic job at handling a slow set up which keeps the viewer interested.
You’ll fall back in love with the time and more importantly the innocent, struggling student character of Samantha, played superbly by Jocelin Donahue. There’s no 80’s style bad performances, it’s naturalist oozing 70’s grittiness. The House of the Devil is wonderfully acted, every member of the cast is first-rate with their subtle and realistic portrayals. There is an exceptional stand out supporting cast which include Tom Noonan (Manhunter 1986); Dee Wallace (Howling 1981); cult horror actress Mary Woronov and newcomer Greta Gerwig as Megan is notable.
The first three quarters of the film is crisp building up an everyday tension after a series of odd phone calls and awkward situations while taking the viewer back to around 1983 America. Pay phones, walk-men, Fawcett hair and skinny jeans. The last last reel is a Rosemary’s Baby (1968) set up as you are jarred out of the normality that came before and the film turns on it’s head to blood, violence, murder and satanic ritual.
The lighting is naturalist, West is not afraid to cast shadows creating an eerie and ominous atmosphere. The effects and make up are excellent and the music soundtrack and score is well placed.
A tension building 70’s/80’s crafted horror but made in 2009. Perfect.

There are films that are great, timeless and classic.Then there films that have an edge and atmosphere that resonates and stays with you. For me there is many and I’ll start with this handful. Some you’ll want to visit again and some you wont, they are a good and bad selection but one thing they have in common is that they ooze atmosphere.

Dead and Buried (1981) Dead And Buried Movie Poster 11x17 Master Print

There are a handful of horror films that I can say are underrated and exude atmosphere, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971), Dead People (1973) and Dellamorte Dellamore (1994) rank as some unsung cult sleepers. Dead and Buried while better known sits fittingly with the above for sheer eeriness, as director Gary Sherman takes you to the odd, clicky, fishing town of Potters Bluff where visiting tourists and passer through are killed only for their corpses to be brought back to
life to serve the town.
Reminiscent of Jaws 2 (no one believes the sheriff), The Wickerman (1973) (plotting towns people) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) (they are not who they clam to be) to name a few, Dead and Buried still manages to remain fresh and intriguing until the shocking end.
James Farentino wonderfully plays sheriff Dan Gillis who must solve the case and wrap up the mystery, and Melody Anderson is perfect as his wife. Jack Albertson gives a fine performance as the mortician and Robert Englund has a small role, the rest of the cast are first-rate.
Dead and Buried is only hankered by some choppy editing and despite the amount of writers on board, Sherman’s well crafted film benefits from ‘too many fingers in the pie’, including Alien scribe Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. The film is enhanced from a shot on location look which adds to the genuine creepiness of the goings ons and Joe Renzetti’s music is fitting. There’s some notable blood and gore effects by the late great Stan Winston which even though are a by product of the story they are excellently executed.
Overall, a must see excellent underrated chiller.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

A disturbed woman recently released from a mental institute has various nightmarish experiences. She becomes further disturbed after moving to an old farmhouse on a Connecticut island with her husband and friend where they meet a mysterious squatter.
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a 1971 low budget gem, possibly the foundation or inspiration for many horror films that followed. It’s skillful directed by John D. Hancock who creates a foreboding atmospheric horror, with chills and spills.

The supporting cast are notable and Zohra Lampert plays the lead role of Jessica admirably, with emotional range and depth. In addition, Mariclare Costello is excellent as the creepy lodger Emily.

It suffers slightly from some 70’s film trappings, the intrusive use of the score, choppy editing and the sound is a little off but these are only small distractions, and to the movies credit it doesn’t look like a low budget film.

The on location shoot adds to the realism and there are many surreal moments, involving the odd towns people, a girl in a graveyard and the body in a lake. Creepy old photos, folkloric tales, unexplained noises all add to the unease and tension of this smouldering horror.

It draws in the viewer making you consider is what Jessica experiencing real or not. The film builds up modestly, tackling possible vampirism, haunting and ghosts which are all handled in a believable manner. I can only compare the ambiance to that of The Haunting (1963), Exorcist (1973), House of the Devil (2009) Carnival of Souls (1962) and another underrated horror Dead People a.k.a Messiah of Evil made the same year (although not released until 1973).

It’s Hancocks ability to execute pure creepiness and eeriness that sets Let’s Scare Jessica to Death apart from many horrors. If only the majority of modern horrors could stir up the same sensations experienced.

The House of the Devil (2009)
Student Samantha Hughes takes a babysitting job that coincides with a full lunar eclipse, she soon realises her clients harbour a terrifying secret.
Director writer Ti West delivers an elaborate painstakingly created homage to 70’s and early 80’s style thriller/horrors. It feels authentic, from the period costumes, 70’s style title sequence, complete with font, swipes and stills reminiscent of countless films, to the music and camera work to match. The film is pure nostalgia and he does a fantastic job at handling a slow set up which keeps the viewer interested.

You fall back in love with the time and more importantly the innocent, struggling student character of Samantha, played superbly by Jocelin Donahue. There’s no 80’s style bad performances, it’s naturalist oozing 70’s grittiness. The House of the Devil is wonderfully acted, every member of the cast is first-rate with their subtle and realistic portrayals. There is an exceptional stand out supporting cast which include Tom Noonan (Manhunter 1986); Dee Wallace (Howling 1981); cult horror actress Mary Woronov and newcomer Greta Gerwig as Megan is notable.

The first three quarters of the film is crisp building up an everyday tension after a series of odd phone calls and awkward situations while taking the viewer back to around 1983 America. Pay phones, walk-men, Fawett hair and skinny jeans. The last last reel is a Rosemary’s Baby (1968) set up as you are jarred out of the normality that came before and the film turns on it’s head to blood, violence, murder and satanic ritual.

The lighting is naturalist, West is not afraid to cast shadows creating an eerie and ominous atmosphere. The effects and make up are excellent and the music soundtrack and score is well placed.

A tension building 70’s/80’s crafted horror but made in 2009. Perfect.

Valhalla Rising (2009)

Valhalla RisingLess conforming than 2005’s Beowulf and Grendel and more experimental, this is an artistic, slow and wonderfully filmed piece of cinema. Sadly, marketed as something of a 300 type spectacle will leave some critics annoyed.
A fighting one eyed slave escapes from the Vikings to end up with Knights on their journey to the Holy Land but they end up in a strange and primitive land.
The small cast led by ‘One Eye’ Mads Mikkelsen and ‘The Boy’ Maarten Stevenson who speaks for him is more than adequate in the lead roles. With sparse dialogue, strong visuals and stunning scenery. Feel the icy wind, taste the fresh cold water, watch the mist, smell the bark of the tree’s. This type of film is an acquired taste, it has a dreamlike quality to it. The bloody fight scenes are few and far between, heightened by a strong modern distorted guitar score that suits the film.

Valhalla Rising is earthly, atmospheric, religious, conventual and anticlimactic. Conventional viewers will be disappointed but others may enjoy the journey.

Day of the Woman (1978) a.k.a  I Spit on Your Grave

Meir Zarchi’s Day of the Woman, better known as I Spit on your Grave was a longtime banned VHS in the UK. Later passed by BBFC like Evil Dead (laugh) and The Last House on the Left to name a few ‘video nasties’.
I Spit on Your Grave Poster 27x40 Camille Keaton Eron Tabor Richard PaceIt’s a basic tale also written by Meir Zarchi, a New Yorker Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) rents a lakeside cottage in the woods of Connecticut, however, later is she gang raped and thought dead. However, alive and recovered she takes her revenge against the rapists.

Those who say it’s a feminism film are off the mark. It’s nasty, needless and arguably gratuitous exploitation. The rape scenes are graphic and I feel unfairly more intense than the revenge scenes later. A product of its time and made to shock, it certainly does that. It’s not a film I would want to watch again or have in my collection. However, I’m sure there is a strange audience out there who would.

The film is well constructed and directed. The locations are for the most part picturesque and ooze the 70’s vibe of that time gone by, in contrast, the lack of a music score sinisterly adds to the realism of the barbaric violence. The cast are below average, however, the unknown lead Keaton gives an amazing performance, and it’s a shame she’s only known for this film. As a side-note I was surprised to find out that she is the granddaughter of actor Buster Keaton.

Only watch for curiosity, Keaton’s performance or possibly the revenge kills. That said, it’s not recommended.

Dead People (1973)  a.k.a Messiah of evil

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.
Messiah Of Evil (1973)The story-line 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.

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)

1994’s underrated zombie horror classic based on the comic Dylan Dog by Tiziano Sclavi, it stars Rupert Everett (in his best role) and enchanting Anna Falchi.
Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetary Man) Rupert Everett Anna Falchi Region 2 Pal Unrated German Import English Audio Widescreen“Zombies, guns, and sex, OH MY!!!” was the tag line, and while it’s true it has those things Dellamorte Dellamore is so much more, macabre and violent, with atmosphere you can taste. Excellent music by Riccardo Biseo & Manuel De Sica and direction amazingly executed by Michele Soavi.
Spellbinding and arguably the strangest, most effective zombie film out there to-date.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Dawn of the Dead Laserdisc (1978) (Uncut) [EE3296]Dawn of the dead, there’s loads of reviews here. I’ll start with the bad, make-up consistency, poorly edited, poor sound, intrusive score music and a pie fight. Sounds horrid eh? Like a bad B-movie? Well Dawn of the Dead through all it’s faults is still a classic sub-genre film. I wont go into all the under tones, subtext of consumerism, mass hysteria, social commentary and satire yada, yada.
This is possibly George A. Romero’s most balanced and satisfying of all his zombie films. What it boils down to is film has dated.. Even so, the script is very well written and the film oozes atmosphere, the emptiness, notably the basement, and airfield scenes.

Tom Savini provides some fantastic gore effects, many of which stand up effectively today. While it’s gory, bloody, violent and disturbing, I would think today’s film viewer has hardened up to it, but this is not fault of the film, it is an amazing product of it’s time.

Many horror buffs think it’s overrated, but it’s more that just a straight horror, the character interaction, even down to the priest speech is understated. Should they have had a bigger budget and more time, maybe the faults I mentioned wouldn’t have been made. However, made they were and Dawn of the Dead is still the finest zombie film to date, a must see.

The Living Dead (1974)

Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti (original title)

Let Sleeping Corpses LieA crop dusting machine from the agricultural pest-control is emitting ultra-sonic waves that are re-animating corpses… 


A lot have said this is underrated, granted it’s overlooked. It is Atmospheric with an ominous feel. It has great locations and is at times genuinely creepy. However, it’s shares more with Fulci than Romero. The acting is not aided by the bad dubbing. To its credit it has an eerie musical score by Giuliano Sorgini and a number of suspenseful sequences but it borrows many of its best sequences from Night of the Living Dead. 


I watched director Jorge Grau’s offering under the title of ‘Let Sleeping Corpse Lie’ but whichever name you see the film under don’t be mistaken or mislead, it’s a solid zombie horror movie and of its time with fine cinematography from Francisco Sempere. It’s a lot better than the low budget DTV zombie films that there’s no shortage of at the moment.

Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner - The Final Cut - Movie Poster (Size: 27" x 39")I must admit I’m a huge fan of Ridley Scott’s and Blade Runner is one of his finest moments, panned by critics and by most on its release, it was ahead of its time on every level.
Whichever version of Blade Runner you prefer, it has atmosphere, great costumes and a mood of gritty realism about it. The neo-cityscapes, the dark street life and polluted air; all paint a grim futuristic picture complimented by a Vangelis score; which is touching and haunting. The lines are memorable and there are fantastic performances from Rutger Hauer, Sean Young and Edward James Olmos. Harrison Ford is perfect as the moody ex- Blade Runner and Joe Turkel should have won an award as the Frankenstein -like creator.

Blade Runner is quite a simplistic tale that is complicated by the fantastic visuals and effects. Lying beneath the plot that many writers contributed to, there’s heart and soul, questions of what it means to be human and even delves into our own mortality.

Its edgy hi-tech art-house that brings science fiction to life and while it’s not the most fulfilling sci-fi film it certainly is a fantastic visual experience.

It’s that time of year, my favourite time, Halloween. As a child a few of the influences that hooked me to write this genre were ‘horror nasty’ video sleeves and the elaborate cover-art of horror novels. I’ve put together a selection of thoughts of some great horror movies (and there are countless others), perfect for that cold Autumn night, including Halloween and The Shining which in my opinion are horror must see.
Case 39 (2009)
Going against typecast Renée Zellweger plays a social worker who takes in an allegedly abused child, Lilith after her parents try to kill her. However, the little girl may not be all she seems, reminiscent of the Orphan (2009) and borrowing heavily from the Omen and it’s remake, Case 39 is an enjoyable horror yarn.
Aside from a realistic Hornet scene and CGI face changes, thankfully Case 39’s director Christian Alvart avoids using noticeable dodgy visual effects. For the first 40 minutes or so it’s a strong creepy drama which then turns into a psychological horror in the latter half.
There’s nothing new in Ray Wright story, however, what keeps you watching is child actor Jodelle Ferland and Zellweger, who both give great performances. Both Ian McShane and Adrian Lester turn up with American accents and are great at grounding the bizarre occurrences. Also Bradley Cooper of A-Team fame plays a small notable role as a child psychologist and love interest.
While it’s not the most original horror drama it is effective with some genuine well executed creepy moments. Great late night viewing.
Rec (2007)
A Spanish female TV reporter, Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Manu (Ferran Terraza) cover the night-shift at the local fire-station but thing goes awry when they go on a call to a building that becomes quarantined.
Taking style of The Blair Witch Project (1999) to a more fitting effective and aesthetics level and inspiring big budgeter Cloverfield (2008), Rec is creatively directed/written by Jaume Balagueró and Luis Berdejo.
The film is seen purely from the point of view of the cameras and at times the shock factor is high. The film is packed with excellent practical effects, great sound and first rate makeup. This with the on location setting and lighting create and eerie atmosphere.

The acting is superb (and the unnecessary remake Quarantine (2008) is pale in comparison) as Manuela leads a cast of authentic looking firemen into a building as the infection spreads making it’s victims zombie-like. The supporting cast of occupants are equally as good, the acting is superb especially in the smaller quieter segments as they are interviewed by Ángela’s character and when they find out they are trapped in the building.

The action, suspense and fear builds up to a crescendo as the truth of the outbreak is revealed. With some jump scares and a surprise ending it’s a perfect horror ride.
Rec 2 (2009
Continuing right where Rec (2007) left off, a SWAT team outfitted with video cameras are sent into a virus infected quarantined apartment to assist in retrieving some blood samples.
The same writer/directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza are back on board with an extra writer Manu Díez in the sequel to the excellent Spanish horror flick. It’s more of the same, dark corridors, frantic Point of View camera work, blood gore and mayhem.
Rec 2 wastes no time of getting back into the building where the out-break started. It is an entertaining horror piece as the SWAT team are picked off one by one, but it lacks the character development of the first and feels more of a ride than gripping. That said, the acting is first rate, Jonathan Mellor’s Dr. Owen is notable and Manuela Velasco returns.
There’s some clever story telling that inter-loops the goings on and also links it to the first Rec. However, there is less focus on the virus/zombie and the screen-play centres on a more biblical and parasite theme which takes the story in new directions. Still, it’s just as fresh and a chilling as Rec and Rec 2 comes full circle in the closing shots.
Overall a great entry that has inevitably spawned a third and a Quarantine2.
28 Days Later… (2002)
Danny Boyle’s 28 Day Later is the best mindless human being film since Romero’s zombie movies. It’s an exceptional horror film that follows a handful of survivors after an incurable virus spreads throughout the UK.
From the opening frantic scene that is quickly followed by the quiet empty deserted streets of London, you know your watching something different and fresh. Without detriment to the story there’s lots of gore and bloodshed. However, there’s also a lot of psychological terror happening and subtle character touches that make you feel for these people.
Outstanding writing by Alex Garland and a pulsating chilling score John Murphy adds to 28’s perfect tension, atmosphere and tone. The casting by Gail Stevens is faultless, it includes Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson and Christopher Eccleston in their best roles to-date. This is director Danny Boyle’s unnerving masterpiece.
A perfect gritty horror, with a realistic scary premise. A must see.
Halloween (1978)
John Carpenters 1978 textbook horror slasher film.
What make this different to many other babysitter stalker films is the production value, Carpenters direction and score that reeks of dread. Perfect leads include, heavy weight Donald Pleasence and ever reliable Jamie Lee Curtis as they try to out wit an escaped psychotic murderer.
Halloween is a well produced basic, yet essential horror that contains very little nudity or blood for this type of genre. What maybe a little tame for gore hungry audiences of today, it still remains defining archetype horror film, as without the masked Michael Myers there wouldn’t be many of the horror’s there are on your shelf right now.
A must see for any horror fan.
The Shining (1980)
A caretaker is isolated with his family in a hotel for the winter season, however they are not alone and the past guests and staff spirits still live on putting the caretaker, his wife and son in grave danger.
What can I say about Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ that hasn’t already been said? I watched the uncut 146 minute version which only reinforced the fact that it is one of the best, if not the greatest tension driven, psychological horror films that has been made.
Thankfully Kubrick doesn’t follow Kings ‘The Shining’ novel to the letter, or we have the hedged animals coming to life and an explosive ending, while grand it would have lost the reality and realism that Kubrick creates.
Jack Nicholson’s antics, Shelley Duvall’s fear, Danny Lloyd’s performance (one of the few child leads that isn’t annoying) is first-rate as Danny. Veteran and voice of Hong Kong Phooey, Scatman Crothers is superb and the array of actors small but memorable parts including, Bladerunners Joe Turkel as Lloyd the Bartender and Barry Nelson as Manger, Stuart Ullman.
It’s not the novel, Kubrick’s the Shining one of the most impressive horror films ever made and on so many levels.
Ever heard of Jonathan Ryder and Michael Shepherd? How about Robert Ludlum, the former are his pseudonyms. Ludlum has sold an estimated 290-500 million books, but more so for me he is the creator of Jason Bourne.
 
Sadly, aged 73,Robert Ludlum died 12 March 2001 during the development stage of Bourne Identity and only saw the TV version that aired in 1988 starring ageing Richard Chamberlain and Jaclyn Smith. While it was closer to Ludlum’s novel it had it dated badly and his Jason Bourne character needed an update, allegedly the charismatic author acknowledged this and was complementary of the changes and style proposed for the Doug Liman’s Bourne.
 
The film would send ripples across the movie world and wake up producers and influenced moviemakers. As a result good old James Bond was given a make over and action scenes would never be film the same again.
Below are my thoughts on the Bourne films, the legacy Ludlum left us…
 
The Bourne Identity (2002)
 
Thanks to Bourne, Bond was given that update make-over that was needed. Although a loose adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s novel it’s a far superior to closer rework The Bourne Identity (1988) TV movie starring Richard Chamberlain and ‘Angel’ Jaclyn Smith.
 
Matt Damon’s does a surprisingly great job, not just as Jason Bourne the character but against type cast, convincing the viewer that he’s a dangerous and physical spy. While the Bourne Identity is action packed with some fantastic fight choreography and car chases it feels realistically grounded as an effective espionage thriller.
 
The captivating screenplay by Tony Gilroy and W. Blake Herron gives the cast time to shine. Franka Potente Brian Cox and Chris Cooper are all on fine form and there’s also a small, memorable role by Clive Owen as an assassin.
The films has a great look and benefits from the real life European locations, Doug Liman’s direction is exceptional utilising a hand held style that has become common place in mainstream films since. The score is exciting and Moby’s theme tune is captivating, for such a high concept film Bourne Identity is very convincing,- it avoids clichés, has some twists and exudes atmosphere.
 
The Bourne Identity is must see.
 
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
 
In this action packed follow up Bourne is framed and is forced to take up his former life as an assassin to survive. The Bourne Supremacy is a gutsy squeal to The Bourne Identity (2002) using the character based on an adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s best selling novel. Paul Greengrass takes over the directing reins for Supremacy, while previous director Doug Liman’s takes a producer credit. Greengrass maybe a little over zealous with the hand-held camera work, but continues the series more than effectively, successfully injecting some more energy into proceedings. In some ways the story is more interesting and complex than the first, again Tony Gilroy ‘s amazing screenplay avoids the clichés, dishing-out plenty of surprises and a major plot turning in the first minutes.
 
Brian Cox reprises his role as Ward Abbott and his character goes though some changes as the predicament and pressure he’s under increases. Like Identity there’s some fantastic fight choreography notably when Bourne, again played fittingly by Matt Damon, goes head to head with Jarda played by the understated excellent actor Marton Csokas. Julia Stiles returns as Nicky and new comer to the Bourne series Joan Allen as Pamela Landy is convincing. The cast are all first-rate including, Karl Urban of Star Trek and The Two Towers fame, as the Russian killer Kirill.
 
The ending leaves an upbeat intrigue that few films of this genre manage to stir. The Bourne Supremacy has a great look and again benefits from the real on location feel coupled with a complimenting score by John Powell, which leaves you wanting more of the same.
 
It’s intelligent and captivating, packed with car chases, assassins and political conspiracy. Damon again is Bourne this time deeper and more dangerous. The perfect sequel.
 
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
 
Director Paul Greengrass for this instalment Ultimatum picks up (before!) where he last on left off in Supremacy. It sharp, slick and entertaining rightly winning three Oscars.
 
Although loosely based on Robert Ludlum novels, close friends of his are convinced that he would have enjoyed these film as much as the viewers have had watching them. Again with great directing, fantastic gritty and atmospheric on location shooting, which includes a remarkably key sequence in London it doesn’t fell like a third film. Bourne again has to evade, out-manoeuvre, and outsmart highly-trained agents and assassins, while it might sound like old ground, Ultimatum comes with plenty of new surprises.
Like it’s predecessors it zips along at a fast pace with exceptional stunts and gripping dialogue. You know you’re in good hands when the original writer Tony Gilroy is still on board and Matt Damon returns as Jason Bourne.
Albert Finney puts in a nice cameo appearance as Dr. Albert Hirsch who is partly responsible for origins of Treadstone and Bourne’s training. Although Brian Cox as protagonist Ward Abbott is sorely, but rightly missing, there’s enough unscrupulous officials played by seasoned actors Scott Glenn, Kramer, and David Strathairn who excellently portrays Noah Vosen to fill the gap. Julia Stiles returns as Nicky Parsons in a meatier role and Joan Allen once again superbly plays Pam Landy.
 
It’s has a gripping final act and once again the ended is exhilarating and emotionally stirring. It’s grounded, it’s understated it’s Bourne.

Planet of the Apes (1968) is without a doubt a milestone in novel adaptations and science fiction. As a series they touched on social unrest, evolution and the possibilities of space and time travel.

Four sequels followed Franklin J. Schaffner apes: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970); Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971); Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972); Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)followed apes quickly in secession and while the sequels were inciting the quality never did matched the original.

The TV series followed with Planet of the Apes (1974) and the animated Return to the Planet of the Apes(1975). The hastely speed in which they were made and released in amongst a toy spree (before the infamous Star Wars (1977) merchandising) is what probably lead to it’s downfall, in a way they slaughted the cash-cow and golden goose within 6 years.

In 2001 Tim Burtons reimagining was released and ten years later Rise of the Planet of the Apes, an original origin film that pays homage to the original 1968 film was released.

Below are my comments on the 1968 original, the 2001 reimagined version and 2011’s Rise…

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

In a personal bid to help his father’s medical condition a man’s experiments for a genetic engineering company leads to the dangerous development of an intelligence in apes.
Although it departs in many ways from the original films, it is a fantastic piece of entertainment in its own right. Rise of the Planet of The Apes mixes the right amount of character development with story, effects and performances capturing the imagination of a new generation.
Despite a good cast with great performances notably from John Lithgow and James Franco, it’s the apes themselves and Andy Serkis coupled with
some state of the art special effects that steal the show. 
Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa’s writing keeps the action and emotion somewhat believable, that Franco handles particularly well. The contemporary setting of San Francisco gives the film a familiar believable feel and it is a good contrast to the dark caged scenes and sterile lab sets. Patrick Doyle’s score compliments the action and stirs feelings during the poignant moments.
Rupert Wyatt’s direction ensures there’s enough surprises and action setups to give Rise momentum. Wyatt’s handling of Caesar manages to demand attention throughout with a welcomed display of edginess, danger and intelligence. There’s also an added odd eeriness due to the ape actions and glancing looks. In addition, the writers and Wyatt thoughtfully give enough nods to the original to humble fans and hints at possible sequels throughout to tease further interest.  
Overall, Rise manages to be an emotional ride, successfully grounding the concept of the originals while eradicating Burton’s 2001 missed opportunity. Caesar is home…

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Franklin J. Schaffner is never given enough credit when it comes to the genuine sci-fi classic Planet of the Apes. The talking points are usually the twist ending, or the late great Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall.

A philosophical sci-fi made in 1968 and nominated for two Oscars it still holds up today as a social parable, effective drama with a relevant and underlining social commentary. It’s the primitive depiction of an ape civilisation rather than technologically society made Planet of the Apes standout as the iconic film it is haled as today.

‘Apes builds up nicely, there’s a wonderful score, (groundbreaking for the time) by Jerry Goldsmith, creating eerie and ominous atmosphere with the first exciting ape reveal at about 30 minutes in.

The film is wonderfully directed and has a solicitous and thought proving screenplay by Michael Wilson & Rod Serling. That said source material was from Pierre Boulle’s very wry, whimsical and thoughtful novel. Astoundingly Boulle is also author of The Bridge over the River Kwai.

The few visual effects are sufficient but the ape make up is admirable and star of the show. Recognisable only by their voices Kim Hunter as human conservationist Dr. Zira and the anxious Cornelius played by McDowall are splendidly magnificent as they assist Taylor played by the boldly cast film legend Heston to escape the command of the apes. The attractive Linda Harrison, who plays Nova is effective and the British classical actor, in orangutan make-up Maurice Evans is outstanding, giving a weight of believability to the subject matter.

Planet of the Apes is an original science fiction must see.

Planet of the Apes (2001)

Remake, re-imagination whatever you’d like to label it as, Planet of the Apes (2001) is inferior to the original 1968 film in almost every way.

That said, the make up is excellent, Tim Roth as Thade is fantastic, Colleen Atwood costumes are notable and Danny Elfman’s thumping score is an achievement. The spaceship sets and on the location night scenes have a unique atmosphere and edge about them. Even Mark Wahlberg tries his best to handle the half-baked script and there are a few welcomed cameos from some of the original cast.

On the flip side there’s some choppy editing, an uneven story, the ape city and the sandy finale are emotionless and uninspiring. Slipped in is some unnecessary humour, usually supplied by Paul Giamatti (aptly named Limbo) and you never feel any danger or threat from the apes apart from Thade. Also, there’s no likable characters to really root for. Nevertheless, nothing can save nominated director and visionary Tim Burton’s incarnation of Apes.

The fist ten minutes and the last two are probably the most attention-grabbing of this version but with an estimated budget $100,000,000 there’s no excuse for the travesty in between. Thankfully Rise of the Apes (2011) put the series on track.

The Terminator science fiction franchise follows the battle between Skynet and the human race…
It’s probably not a surprise to most, but they have their place in movie history as they carved out a career for Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron and pushed the boundaries of visual and practical effects.

Here’s my comments on the films that made the pulsing DA-DA-DUM-DA-DUM famous.

The Terminator (1984)
The Terminator remains one of the most enjoyable Science fiction films of all time. Bradfield’s pulse pumping score, nostalgic music from an array of obscure bands all adds to the lure of this timeless classic.

James Cameron’s direction is excellent giving the visuals scope and depth, and his above average story and screenplay stop it falling into B movie territory.

The time travel is logical; in as much as if Sarah had never met Kyle, John would have been the off spring of one of her dates. Either way it’s highly satisfying science fiction and not science fact.

The films cast include Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen who play it natural and straight, Bill Paxton and Brian Thompson briefly turn up. The leads Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor give flawless performances and keep you routing for their survival from the now infamous Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the Terminator. The film has a gritty and edgy look, with some gore moments, even though some of the effects have dated, the practical effects from Oscar winner Stan Winston hold up to this day.

A defining moment for sci-fi action, Schwarzenegger and Cameron. The Terminator is compulsive viewing.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

A cyborg must protect Sarah Connor son from a prototype Terminator… Less grounded than the first gritty Terminator, James Cameron gives us a sleeker sharper sequel packed with fantastic effects, stunts and action sequences. I was blown away on its first release, however, over the years I have found it to be less personal due to its grander scale.

The score is outstanding, Robert Patrick is well cast at state of the art T1000, Linda Hamilton returns as Sarah Connor but she is far removed from her innocent character in the first. Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as The Terminator but is now the protector, whistle he is perfect as the ‘character’ in retrospect the edginess has gone that was set up in the first film.

The film is without a doubt a spectacular defining moment in movie history, notably the CGI effects and make up. I would urge anyone who hasn’t see it to see it. Nevertheless, it nothing personal but for me its not as satisfying as it was in 1991.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Fantastic third Terminator movie! It may not have the brooding atmosphere of the first film but considering James Cameron didn’t write or direct, it turns out very watchable.

T3 is close to the original concept and a nicely thought out sequel. It does disregard the notion of the T2 about the future not being set and sticks close to the first, in that, the future is set and things have to run their course.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is again excellent as the Terminator. The film is missing another Robert Patrick terminator, however, newcomer Kristanna Loken as the T-X is fantastic and the rest of cast are good. The effects and action scenes are impressive but the original music score is forgettable and the original theme turns up late at the end.

There maybe a touch too much humour in this instalment but the brave ending finishes the film fittingly on a serious note.

This film is certainly worth the watch.

Terminator Salvation (2009)

I enjoyed T3 but this is what Terminator should be like. It is reminiscent of the grittiness of the first film, from the computer like credits, to the title introducing 2018 – a real terminator fans dream.

Christian Bale is John Connor and without a doubt adds weight to the film with his acting ability.

Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright is the future; he will become a great star. Both he and Bale are the glue to this instalment.

Moon Bloodgood’s brief but pivotal appearance is very good and for once Helena Bonham Carter didn’t get under my skin and does a nice heartfelt cameo. My hat goes off to newcomer Anton Yelchin as he does a great job of ‘becoming’ Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese. The only negative remark I have is that Bryce as Kate doesn’t get enough to do and because of this is very detached from the character Claire Danes portrayed in the third.

MCG & the writers have constructed and crafted the film well and the music score by ever reliable Elfman compliments it nicely.

A welcomed voice from the past show up to add icing to the cake. The effects are great throughout apart from the showcase skin covered T800 at the end. It was nice to see ‘Arnie’ and I hope there’s more of him digitally in the future. It did look a little rushed but nothing could spoil this original and welcomed spin on this new Terminator movie that welcomely sticks close to the original subject matter.

This should please real Terminator fans and satisfy new comers.

 Kyle Reese travels back in time to save the mother of the saviour of mankind only to find himself in an alternative time-line.

Despite being void of the gritty feel, thematic depth, simplistic conceptual thrills of the 1984 scifi classic Terminator Genisys is fast paced and slick.

While surround by state of the art special effects, super costume and set design, Jason Clarke is solid in his functional incarnation of John Connor. Without drawing too many comparisons to the original actors who portrayed the characters Sarah & Kyle respectively both Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney do there best but are never given the staging or dialogue to stir the same believable emotions in this science fiction. Lee Byung-Hun, J. K. Simmons are great in their supporting roles but sorely underused.

The T-800 versus T-800 fight and Pops upgrade is a fanboy dream. You have to commend Schwarzenegger’s efforts here who is fine and the glue that tries to hold it all together as they travel from 1984 to 2017 to stop Skynet and yet another Terminator with higher stakes than before.

There’s some genuine relationship and heart buried in Genisys but it never explorers these themes or slows down for you to attach to the characters. Director Alan Taylor offers nods to the first instalment, it’s fun when its retreading and twisting past events but is less effective when it goes it alone becoming just another action going from one location to the next, mindless, car, van and helicopter chases, complete with a setup on the Golden Gate Bridge as every film needs to have one these days.

With its fan film like premise Genisys is crisp, glossy, with big set ups, great effects and a nostalgic score by Lorne Balfe to match but like many big budget contemporary films less is sometimes more. It leaves loose ends for another sequel with a mid end credit sequence but also makes you ask yourself, do you really want one.