Posts Tagged ‘horror review’

20130806-201805.jpg

A family move into an American country house haunted by its original owner. So after a paranormal investigative couple are called in to debunk the disturbances only to find they may have bitten off more than they can chew.

After a strong 1960s opening involving a creepy demonic doll it flashes-forward to the 70s with a family moving into their new house. From then on The Conjuring pretty much doesn’t let up on the scares. While derivative, director James Wan wastes no time building on and defining what we’ve seen in other horrors but offering a complete package.

Based on a true story, writers Chad and Carey Hayes offer basements, pianos, priests, dolls and clocks. Their natural dialogue is well delivered by the cast, here the child actors are on form (argubly faultless) with Wan’s regular Watchmen and Insidious actor Patrick Wilson delivering a good performance, his calibre adds to the proceedings. Vera Farmiga gives a subtle performance and gets the bulk of the character development. Their sub-plot sets this apart from other horrors of its kind. In addition, with some academic demonology information the lecture segments pay off once the couple being their investigation giving some scope to the proceedings. After the half hour mark the scares come thick and fast.

The 1970s is recreated perfectly, the camera work and lighting add to the ominous feel in conjunction with Joseph Bishara’s score with its piano and horns that add to the creepier moments. As it develops every horror clich√© is put on screen, dead animals, apparitions, mirrors, bruises, sleepwalking, recordings everything apart from the horror kitchen sink is thrown in. But Wan delivers the shocks and scares exceptionally as well as subtly leaving much to the viewers imagination.

With a debunking element from the Red Lights (2012), underrated Innkeepers (2011) and with moments reminiscent of The Exorcist (1973) The Amityville Horror and its remake, it shares much with these other films but still stands on its own. The Conjuring is debatably more grounded than Wan other work probably due to the true story aspect. The special effects are outstanding and although the closing act is slightly overblown, it finishes on a fitting, tense and ominous low key closing.

It may not be as nerve-racking as the recent Sinister, but if you like haunted house and possession films this isn’t one to miss.

With Halloween closing fast there’s no better time to revisit some Halloween films, in this case the Donald Pleasence (O.B.E) ones, the Sam Loomis narrative.

Halloween Part III: Season of the Witch departs from the Michael ‘Mask’ Myers storyline and is a standalone film. Halloween H20 (Twenty Years later) saw the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode but ignores part 4, 5 and 6. Needless Scream-alike Halloween Resurrection ironically killed the franchise, annihilating what was set up in H20. Then came Rob Zombie‚Äôs remakes. All of which I‚Äôll share my thoughts on over some pumpkin pie in the future.

For now here’s a few ponderings on the films that cemented amoungst other great roles Donald Pleasence’s place horror history, introducing him to a new generation while in the process making William Shatner masks famous, turning them into the stuff of nightmares.

Halloween (1978)

A psychotic child institutionalised after committing several murders now as an adult escapes and goes on a mindless killing rampage. Can his doctor stop him?
John Carpenter’s 1978 [retrospectively] textbook horror slasher film is perhaps the most a perfect horror film, arguably Jaws (1975) will always have a plastic shark. What makes 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 as Doctor Loomis¬†and ever reliable Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode)¬†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 still remains a defining archetype horror film, as without the masked Michael Myers there wouldn’t be many of the horror’s there are out now.

A must see for any horror fan.

Halloween II (1981)

Laurie Strode is rushed to the hospital after the killing spree of Michael Myers. While Dr. Loomis hunts the streets for Myers the killer has already begin another murderous rampage at Haddonfield Hospital.

To the writer/producer team John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s credit it picks up where the first left off giving it a nice air of continuity. Halloween 2 is a basic killing spree sequel that builds on the suspenseful original with a revelation of who Strode really is but more so adds a lot of bloody deaths. That said, there’s little story and literally goes from one death to the next.

Jamie Lee Curtis plays the shell shocked ex-babysitter in distress perfectly although there is little room for her character to develop due to the scripts time scale. Donald Pleasence is as loopy and obsessed with Michael as ever and is the weight in this limited event. Dick Warlock plays Michael Myers and does a good job especially when taking a bullet or two. Although all the extras are Michael fodder they do enough to keep you interested.

Veteran Dean Cundey’s cinematography is the star of the show. Despite some choppy editing, possibly caused by Carpenters re-shoots and drawn out closing, Rick Rosenthal direction is more than satisfactory encompassing some suspense in the dark and ominous lit hospital.

Overall it builds on the unstoppable killing machine film concept and while not perfect it’s a good sequel to a series that arguably should have finished there.

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 feel and the 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.

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

Michael survives the shootings of Sheriff Meeker and his men and returns on October 31st with a vengeance.

In the tradition of Halloween II, Halloween 5 picks up where 4 left off then quickly moves forward a year. Danielle Harris plays Jamie niece of Michael once again and this time she is traumatised by previous events. Again Harris puts on a good acting show especially for a child actor as she seems genuinely haunted and harassed by Michael and her visions.

Due to the writers Bitterman, Jacobs and Othenin-Girard‚Äôs prerogative Ellie Cornell returns briefly as Rachel and is sadly missed for the majority of the film, which is a shame given that she set out good foundations for her character in 4. Donald Pleasence once again is Loomis and gives the film some credibility and weight. He’s obsessed to a point of madness putting pressure on the young child which is disturbing in itself. Don Shanks this time is Michael/The Shape and has an imposing presence, the car scene when he wears a different mask is particularly unnerving. He’s both subtle and brutal.

Five departs from the slasher flick formula adding a cult, supernatural and telekinetic physic connection that includes a mysterious man in black. Obligatory shower scene, teenage girls, cars and boyfriends cheapens it towards Friday the 13th territory. Although the story is uneven director Dominique Othenin-Girard and cinematographer Robert Draper give the film its own unique look with much of it shot in the daylight. It adds an air of uneasiness but lacks the ominous atmosphere of the 1; 2 and 4 until very late in the latter half.

The pacing of Revenge is off as the film is very muddled with a weak narrative linked by a series of false scares, misidentification and a few bloody killings. There’s an issue with the character of Tina (Wendy Kaplan) who for a short time inherits the role of Jamie’s protector. Kaplan lacks the credibility of Curtis or Cornell and the script doesn’t help her performance either as she aimlessly if forced to go from one scene to the next.

Even Alan Howarth‚Äôs score or the interesting spring a trap closing can’t make up for the padded middle segment. Sadly all the tension and suspense is crammed into the finale and retreads ideas from the forth, notably a Police Station assault. If Tina, the psychic link and the Man in Black had not been included the film may have perhaps turned out better leaving Loomis, Myers and Jamie being the focal point. This may have treaded old ground but it may have made Revenge more palatable.

It has some appealing moments mainly between Pleasence and Shanks or Harris and Pleasence but the scenes are few and far between.

Halloween (6): The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

After Jamie Lloyd daughter of Laurie Strode gives birth, Michael Myers sets out to find his niece’s baby.

From the elaborate opening of an older Jamie giving birth and her frantic escape, Curse’s focus shifts from the menacing unstoppable killer slightly in place of a wider underground cult theme, hinted at in the previous instalment.

Myers obsessed Tommy Doyle (child survivor from the first film) played by Paul Rudd is fine in a main role. Minus scar makeup aged Pleasence does his best with the material he’s been given and plays the retired doctor Loomis superbly despite his age and weakened voice he still steals every scene. Actress Marianne Hagan‚Äôs Kara Strode is slightly wasted, fleeting in and out like her son Danny and many of the other characters. George P. Wilbur (who played Michael in Revenge) returns once again as The Shape with good screen presence and movement.

Anyone unfamiliar with the series may have a difficult time following the unnecessary convoluted story. The screenplay hints at a town moving on but doesn’t build on the theme, nor expand on Michael coming home. It has some interesting character dynamics but its cluttered like its predecessor with many new elements that the audience has to buy into including more characters to accept and warm to.

Alan Howarth and Paul Rabjohns’ music is edgy enough especially when coupled with the original theme. Director Joe Chappelle delivers elaborate deaths and Curse is well filmed with sharp editing, flashing images and slick dialogue but it is far removed from the simplistic, primal original concept.

Apparently it was a troubled shoot and many alternative scenes were shot, this may explain its unevenness. These issues spawned the notorious Producers Cut. Nevertheless, it‚Äôs just as inconsistent as this version. Curse suffers like the fifth entry injecting the needless cultist sect sub-plot, mysterious symbols and a physic kid. That said, even taken with a pinch of salt it’s still unsatisfying and you really feel the series has lost its way.

Worth seeing if only for Donald Pleasence’s last performance.

Italian director Lucio Fulci had varied directing ventures prior to Zombi 2, with a visual style of his own arguably less art house and more appealing than Dario Argento.
Lucio’s fan base¬†grows and grows¬†even after his death in 1996 ¬†due to his¬†ability¬†to create gory, yet, beautiful¬†atmospheric¬†films.¬†Surprisingly,¬†Fulci didn’t realise how well known and celebrated he was in the rest of the world until stuck in a snowstorm in¬†New York¬†surrounded by fans not long before his death.
Many of his fantastic framed films images linger in your mind long after the credits,¬†notably¬†The Beyond (1981) a.k.a E tu vivrai nel terrore – L’aldil√† and City of the Living Dead (1980) a.k.a¬†Paura nella citt√† dei morti viventi.
Zombi 2 brought him world cult status while it’s¬†sequels¬†dissipated¬†into dust. Nevertheless, they¬†have a small fan following but I feel they fail as follow-ups, lack cult stature and¬†Fulci’s style¬†so much so I haven’t comment on Zombi 5 (even with actor¬†Robert¬†Vaughan being a¬†personal¬†favourite¬†of mine).

Zombie Flesheaters (1979) a.ka. Zombi 2

Zombi 2 (25th Anniversary Special Edition 2-Disc Set)After an incident in New York bay a reporter and a scientist’s daughter travel to an Island aided by two locals. However, the dead are returning to life on the Island… The zombies long for human flesh and the pair find themselves in hopeless situation.

Not to be confused with Bruno Mattei’s Zombie Creeping Flesh (1980) (a.k.a Virus, Hell of the Living Dead to name a few) Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesheaters (1979) is far superior. Repots say it was written prior to Dawn of the Dead (a.ka. Zombi) (this maybe unfounded) either way most horror fans are aware that the name Flesheaters was changed to Zombi 2 and a new ending was tagged on to cash in on Romero success. You could argue that the talked about soundtrack is as intrusive as Dawn of the Dead music themes and that the eye scene is better than Argento’s vocational displays.

Comparisons to other movies aside Zombie Flesheaters (1979) suffers from Lucio Fulci’s own trappings – including badly written dialogue, choppy editing and bad dubbing. That said, there are very few directors that capture atmosphere you can taste. Fulci’s cinematic look is heightened by Giorgio Cascio and Fabio Frizzi’s excellent eerie and foreboding score.

The cast are more than sufficient, Tisa Farrow and Ian McCulloch surpass adequate, note worthy is Richard Johnson as Dr. David Menard. Notorious for the shark/zombie scene Flesheaters is so much more, Fulci creates some unmatched ambiance, the visuals are as lingering as the dead, dusty paths, an old Spanish cemetery, darkness lit up by Molotov cocktails and so on.

Zombie Flesheaters with all its low-budget faults is a creepy, slow paced, effective zombie film.

Zombi 3 (1988) a.k.a Zombie Flesheaters 2

Zombi 3

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 but it’s still plenty of fun.

Zombi 3/Zombie Flesheaters 2 at times is more a virus flick, reminiscent of The Crazies or Nightmare City than Fulics cult film Zombi 2. Overall, with its gooey opening restored despite it’s short falls Zombie 3 remains none the less entertaining.

Zombi 4 : After Death (1989) a.k.a Zombie Flesheaters 3

Zombie 4 - After DeathA woman inadvertently goes back to a zombie infested island where her parents were killed.

Writer /director Claudio Fragasso wild abysmal sequel has very little link to Fulci’s Zombi. Fragasso’s film seems predominantly like Mattei’s Virus/ Hell of the living Dead / Night of the Zombies (1980). Like Night of the Zombies was a Dawn of the Dead wannabe, this is another bad cheese festival of zombie nonsense.

While the phrase so bad it’s good can be be applied to Night of the Zombies, Zombi 4 is plain borderline with a few¬†redeeming features. Mainly some make up effects and lead cast. There’s awfully executed effects, shoddy lighting, sub-par directing, illogical storytelling and coupled with daft exposition dialogue in every scene at times its simply cheap but not cheerful. While fun, talking zombies, guns, candles falling over, jumping undead add up to very little.

The 80’s rock soundtrack of is probably its best redeeming feature.¬†As another cash-in follow up to Zombie Flesheaters it’s slightly disappointing.

Oh horror, you can’t beat it, so many people have different ideas of what horror is and what makes a good horror film. Here’s a selection of recent examples I’ve watched but what strikes me is how diverse horror can be especially in style, content, rating and budget…

The Last Exorcism (2010)

A Reverend takes a crew of two to Louisiana to film him carry out an exorcism.

Director Daniel Stamm gives a polished and perfected hand-held camera POV film. However, Eli Roth’s name has been used heavily in publicising the film and his producer touches are few and far between. As a fan of Hostel The Last Exorcism is disappointing.

Many elements are reminiscent of many old and new horror films and the ending comes as no shock or surprise. The acting is average and is not as naturalist as you’d expect from the realistic setting. That said, Ashley Bell is creepy enough as the possessed girl, who’s fine performance is further enhanced by the great sound design and score.

Overall, the take on the trodden subject matter is just not clever enough to standout, especially when compared to the traditionally filmed House of the Devil (2009) and p.o.v films for example REC (2007) & 2 (2009), which have delivered more thrills with less effort.

The Last Exorcism is in no way a bad film, but this style of filming making has become competitive, common place and this Exorcism appears mediocre and unauthentic in the crowd.

The Human Centipede (2009)

A warped mad Dr. Heiter experiments on humans and animals to create the perfect pet centipede, this involves stitching mouths to rectums.

If you are shocked by the previous sentence don’t even consider watching director Tom Six’s Human Centipede. It’s horrific, but not hofficially bad. The film given it’s subject matter is very well-made with a clinical stylised look.

Lead Dieter Laser without a doubt is a fine actor and gives an excellent performance as he kidnaps, drugs, experiments and kills his way through the film, he is truly creepy The supporting cast are a diverse mix and are more than adequate in the supporting roles.

Nevertheless, the film goes beyond recent torture films a-la-Saw, Hostel and oozes more grossness than 80’s flick Society. That said, there’s problem with Six’s horror and that is it isn’t horror, it appears to be made for shocks sake and bad taste. It may not have been Six’s intention but oddly, as good as the settings, music and acting is you can’t get lost in the film. At times you may feel like an unwilling voyeur, dragged into one man’s mind. However, in this case it’s the writer/directors sordid fantasy and you’re watching him play out a desire and not the character of Dr. Heiter.

Overall, it’s one film a selective few will get off on and give others something to talk about down the pub.If the aim was to get the writers/directors name out, it works, but for most viewers wanting a satisfying horror flick it fails for all the right reasons.

Season of the Witch (2011)

Discredited 14th-century knights transport a suspected witch to a monastery as her powers could be the source of the Black Plague. It’s possibly fitting to describe Season of the Witch as a Hollywoodised version of Blackdeath, and In the Name of the Rose mixed with a dash of the opening of The Kingdom of Heaven.

Bragi F. Schut’s story delivers everything you’d expect from a supernatural action adventure. Director Dominic Sena delivers a fantastic looking film with good sound design and lighting. Over elaborate set ups aside the film is entertaining, the opening scene truly eerie. It has a Gothic feel reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow and The Wolfman.

Nicolas Cage (sporting his suited Sorcerers Apprentice style hair) is on form and Ron Perlman is a joy to watch as usual. However, oddly between the engaging dialogue there’s some forced jokes that are ill-fitting at times and borderline cringe worthy. Maybe due to rewrites or an uneven script, either way this injection of humour slightly mars the overall tone of the film. The supporting cast are first-rate including Stephen Campbell Moore, Stephen Graham, Ulrich Thomsen, Claire Foy,Robert Sheehan and Christopher Lee as the Cardinal.

It has great costumes, sets and eerie pious music. Despite the aforementioned problem there’s wolves, witches, demons, exorcism, possession, brooding fog, castles, dark forests, swordplay and everything you’d expect from an atmospheric fantasy period piece. Recommend.

For me it’s comparable to Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro meeting in Heat as horror stars Vincent Price and Peter Cushing converge in Madhouse. It’s a surreal and momentous moment in horror so I was compelled to share a few thoughts on the occasion.
An ageing horror star comes out of retirement only to find murder follows him everywhere he goes.
There’s nothing better than watching two stars, in this case horror stars grace the same screen. Very loosely based on Angus Hall’s novel Devil day (1969) Madhouse is certainly of time (1974) which is a good thing, making it contemporary of that time and different their older films. After parties, Cine films, film reels, film launches, tributes and the trappings of fame are on show indicative of film world at that time. Madhouse is wonderfully shot, rich in contrast, with excellent set design and locations. It exudes atmosphere in places and is genuinely creepy in spots, still it’s an odd film, almost surreal in places, especially the scenes in the cellar and the body on the boat.
With a striking looking supporting cast both Vincent Price and Peter Cushing are excellent. Even though in their fermenting ages which is a shame, it’s fitting to the story, and you can’t help feel that there’s irony baste over irony in Prices role of Paul Toombes, even maybe a hint of truth in the dialogue of his character. Mild-mannered Cushing as Herbert Flay unfortunately doesn’t get as much screen-time as you’d like. This is certainly Price’s show and he effortlessly captures the viewer with his immense presence and deep tones as much as he did 10 years earlier in The Last Man on Earth (1964).
Although reminiscent in feel of The House on Haunted Hill (1959) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) it’s my no means a ‘classic’ but there is enough killings, spiders, old horror clips, kooky cops and good performances to keep you watching veteran editor Jim Clark’s (Charade (1963), Memphis Belle (1990)) last and only horror directing contribution.
All in all, Madhouse an intriguing must see for its possible comparable look at how much real life Price was injected into Dr. Death by Ken Levison in his screenplay.
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 brad 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. And 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.
Spiderhole Poster Movie (11 x 17 Inches - 28cm x 44cm)As a¬†self-confessed¬†horror fan I took sometime out from writing when I was asked to take a look at Daniel Simpon’s horror offering Spiderhole just released on DVD. The usual press kit arrived and while¬†tantalising¬†I wasn’t sure what to expect…
Four London Art Students squat in a derelict house to save money with the intention to live-free in a meaningful, creative and partying student lifestyle environment. However, they find themselves trapped inside a large house and their unlawful entry may come at a price, possibly their lives.
Daniel Simpson’s director / writer feature film debut is an exciting offering of a well-crafted film with an effective and expensive looking production design. The lighting is excellent, creating a dark and ominous atmosphere in the confinement of the empty building. He throws in enough camera angles, movement and cuts¬†though-out¬†to prevent events ever becoming static.

Spiderhole begins customary enough with a carefree student Molly having a check-up at the doctors on a sunny London’s day, but once she meets her three friends to go on a squatting adventure of free spirited living things take a turn for the worse and it becomes a claustrophobic nightmare.

 

Simpson sets-up the perfect intro for a haunted house thriller, shadowy corridors, locked doors, complete with bangs and bumps. You almost feel you‚Äôre in for a rework of 1962 The Haunting. Nevertheless, as the supernatural element is dispensed with and the ‘torture porn’ element begins with plenty of blood, mind-games and grime to get Saw-esque fans jumping in their seats. Executed with some excellent practical and realistic looking effects and blood.
Although the characters are thrust  into the horror very quickly the Brit slang dialogue is naturalistic enough to keep the tension on track. George Maguire’s performance as the edgy sculpture lover is notable and Molly character is written logically and cleverer than most heroines of this genre and is wonderfully played by Emma Griffiths Malin. Both Amy Noble and Reuben-Henry Biggs are more than adequate in the supporting roles and a nod goes to John Regan’s subtle performance as The Captor.
Jason Cooper and Oliver Krauss score and the sound design is pounding, nauseating which fittingly adds to the on screen action, touching nerves and senses, evocative of the feelings stirred by Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson’s RE (2002) score.
Some plot and style elements are reminiscent of Creep, The Collector, Severance, REC, Catacombs, Hostel and Saw 2 to name a few, however, there’s enough originality, mystery, twists and a surprise ending to satisfy the casual horror viewer. Overall, if you enjoy blood, torture and captivity Spiderhole is made for you.

Spiderhole Official Website

 

Romero never set out to become a Hollywood figure, yet, he has become one of the most defining, successful and imitated director/writer in recent times.¬†Below are a collection of my comments on George A. Romero’s zombie films, the Godfather of the undead.¬†Sit back and I hope you enjoy.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)

George A. Romero has readily admitted that Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls influenced in his making of Night Of The Living Dead (NOTLD). For me, they’re both low budget, both filmed in black and white and both are chilling creepy in places.
Both went onto be get ‘lost’ but unlike Carnival of Souls, NOLD was haled by critics abroad, who saw it not just as another horror movie, but a film that reflects society. Romero has gone on to define a genre, a feat that very few have accomplished. Many films have been influenced and have imitated George’s creation but few successfully.
A group of people hide from bloodthirsty zombies in a farmhouse…
NOLD is seeped in history and has become as intriguing as the chiller its self. There’s really not too much to comment on that hasn’t already been said before. The dead are played mindlessly well. Duane Jones is a fantastic lead actor and stands out, an actor ahead of his time but the others are less convincing. The stock music is bold, and the sound is an adequate mix but all these things with their faults add to the charm of this little horror classic.
It’s dark, gloomy and entertaining but more importantly it was a turning point in horror history.

DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

A pandemic has caused the reanimation of the dead and four survivors of the outbreak hide inside a suburban shopping mall and attempt to keep out the dead.Dawn of the dead, there’s loads of reviews on the net. 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.
DAY OF THE DEAD (1985)

A small group of military officers and scientists reach breaking point in the confines of a bunker as the world above is overrun by zombies.The first two scenes set precedence that the rest of the film can’t equal. The jumpy dream sequence is followed by and eerie deserted city during the day that soon comes to ‘life’ with the walking dead. The city scene creates tension, the howling wind and echoing voices.

Lori Cardille acting is excellent as Sarah, as too is Terry Alexander, as realist pilot, John. Jarlath Conroy is the alcoholic radioman William McDermott, however, after this strong introduction and the movie looses it lustre and wider audience as it goes into the underground bunker.

From here on in, we’re treated with a great performance from Sherman Howard as the ‘thinking’ zombie Bub and a fantastic monologue from Alexander, this is where the film finds it feet. There are fantastic special effects by Tom Savini, who fine-tunes what he did in Dawn’ and adds some more gore into the mix. Over the years the score by John Harrison has really grown on me and given the film a memorable lost hope feel.

There are other fine moments in Romero’s script, Miguel Salazar’s break down, Sarah’s struggle and some memorable on liners mostly from Richard Liberty’s Logan and Joseph Pilato’s Rhodes. However, what lets this film down slightly is some uneven acting. That said, John Amplas underrated and overlooked subtle performance as Dr.Fisher is a hidden gem and Johns monologue at the ‘Ritz’ is Oscar worthy.

Day of the dead is a tight zombie film, and debatably a classic but even if you disagree it’s worthy enough to enjoy time and time again.

LAND OF THE DEAD (2005)


The living dead have taken over the world, and the last humans live in a walled city as they come to grips with the situation but how long will it be a safe haven.

Panned by fans and critics, I feel Romero’s grander scale zombie instalment has got a rough ride. It’s true it lacked that roughness of the previous zombie outbreaks, I’m talking about zombie grit but truth be known it was only really Dawn that had this (as it was a 70’s product film of it’s time). That said, Diary’s shaky cam didn’t do the job either.

What Land’ does have is an ominous tone, story and great performances notably from Simon Baker, John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper, who delivers some great one liners. The music score is fitting. In honesty aside from some CGI blood there’s nothing really wrong with George A. Romero’s movie. Although some of the themes, like ‘putting out the trash’ could have been explored there’s some visual striking set pieces, great zombie ideas and more.

Either way George can’t win, every time he panders to ‘fans’ whims he shoots himself in the foot. Let the guy just make his movies, watch Land’, it’s dead good.

DIARY OF THE DEAD (2007)

As the dead rise a group of people during their plight for survival decide to record the epidemic incident.Actress Michelle Morgan, an Eliza-Dushku-a-like thankfully holds this film together. It was said to be a George A. Romero goes back to basics after the studio look of Land of the Dead. However, the filming while commendable is unnecessarily complicated as the story is told through the lens of a cameras (but that’s been done to death).

My gut feeling is that if this film were to have been filmed in the ‘traditional’ manner with some tweaks on the dialogue, it may well have been more satisfying as the characters journey is quiet interesting. The effects are also executed sleekly and the acting, bar a few dodgy moments, is above average for this type of horror.
It tries to be to clever for it’s own good, all in all watchable zombie film but lacks Romero’s secret magic formula.

Survival of the Dead (2009)
On an island local residents and a group of soldiers simultaneously fight a zombie epidemic while some hope for a cure to return their un-dead relatives back to their human state.Zombie heads on sticks, underwater zombies, zombie children, soldiers, horse back zombie, Irish accents, yeap, is it’s Romero’s latest dead flick. In George A. Romero’s 2009 zombie instalment there is anisland off the coast of North America where local residents try tocontrol and fight a zombie epidemic.

The ferry scene covers a lot of exposition ground and there’s a flash back to diary. One jumpy scene stands out but the whole story feels like a forced rehash of ‘For A Few Dollar More’ or ‘Last man Standing’with a few zombies thrown in. Every living character is borderline stereotype, there’s no one to root for, the dead are not menacing and just set up to be killed (on occasion with poorly executed CGI).
The acting is a lot better than in Day, the script is not bad, however,there’s a little too much humour in it for my liking but there are plenty of rotten zombies. The female characters are underdeveloped¬†written but the actresses do their best. Athena Karkanis rightly grabs some attention. Adam Swica’s cinematography deserves a mention great Autumn-like backdrops and moonlit sky’s. Romero’s direction is fine as too is the editing, with plenty of cuts and gone is the shaky point of view ofDiary.
It’s a shame that George hasn’t found that balanced zombie diet of Dawn’s eerie, foreboding and empty feel…