Ben Bussey introduces Brutal As Hell’s 80th anniversary tribute to Frankenstein.
November 21st 1931 – i.e. 80 years ago today – saw the theatrical release (not that there was any other kind back then) of Universal’s Frankenstein, and popular culture has never been the same since. Yes, that is an absolute, inarguable fact. So often we deal in arguing the relative merits of a film, what is or is not significant and why, but in this instance there really is no debate. The horror genre, the horror film, and indeed cinema overall would not exist as we know it without Frankenstein. Sure, the German Expressionists had given us the nightmarish visions of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Nosferatu; Lon Chaney had his celebrated macabre collaborations with Todd Browning in the silent era, and Browning had subsequently brought the first talking horror picture to the silver screen with Dracula. But it was Frankenstein which – not unlike the good doctor himself – brought all the pieces together and charged them with life, creating an entirely new entity in doing so.
Let’s be candid: Browning’s Dracula is far from a masterpiece. Despite its star turn from Bela Lugosi and the unforgettable imagery of the early scenes, it rapidly descends into stagebound tedium, blandly performed, severly lacking the gall to let things get truly sinister. The key problem, or so it would seem, is that Browning was just not comfortable directing dialogue: note that the most powerful, memorable sequences are those with little or no speech involved. Nor was Browning alone in this. What the movies really needed, then, were directors who did know how to get great speaking performances out of their actors. Enter James Whale, whose experience of directing, acting and set design for the stage were pivotal to making the film what it is. (Look out for an article discussing Whale’s work in detail later on.) Read the rest here.
and check out more awesom coverage of Frankenstein’s 80th birthday here at BAH.
Sam Peckinpah’s most controversial film Straw Dogs finally makes its way on to Blu-Ray this week, just in time for its 40th anniversary and to coincide with the release of the remake (out in the UK on 4th November, and reviewed here). It was made during a difficult period in Peckinpah’s life when he’d been blacklisted by Hollywood, after the catastrophic production of The Ballad of Cable Hogue, and his drinking problem had started to take hold. Upon its release Straw Dogs was universally well received by critics but due to the violent content it somewhat predictably came into trouble with the censors, particularly here in the UK where it wasn’t available uncut until as recently as 2002.
Dustin Hoffman stars as David Sumner, an American academic and mathematician who moves with his beautiful young wife Amy (Susan George) to live on her family farm in her hometown of Wakely, a fictional West Country village. Almost immediately they run into conflict with the locals, Amy with Charlie (Del henney) the childhood sweetheart she’d left behind to attend university in America, and David doesn’t do himself any favours by walking into a pub and ordering “any kind of American cigarettes” whilst obliviously getting in-between a darts player and his board, living up to the stereotype of an arrogant American with a superiority complex. Not that the unwelcoming, borderline inbred and often hostile Cornish locals don’t equally live up to their own stereotypes.
David is a small, mild mannered man who goes completely out of his way to avoid any sort of physical or verbal conflict, making him the ideal target for the tough local group of handymen and layabouts that he hires to help fix up his garage, including Charlie who still clearly has an eye for the unruly Amy. Clearly frustrated Amy acts up and often behaves in a childish fashion; chewing gum loudly, messing with David’s mathematical formulae on his blackboard and just generally behaving in a belligerent manner. This of course is due to their marriage being on the rocks and David’s insistence on old fashioned ideals whereby he works and she takes care of the home. Amy however has other ideas; she resolutely refuses to wear a bra, believes she can control any situation and fawns over her cat (that David clearly hates). Read the rest of this review here.
The internet may be a boon for film fans in many ways, but it can also be a curse; try avoiding the reviews and opinions of your peers when you’re desperately trying not to form a verdict on a film you’ve yet to see and you’ll understand what I mean. The Woman (2011) was just such a movie: it was, for many folk (including Ben!), the best thing at this year’s FrightFest and they wanted to share their thoughts accordingly, on Twitter and elsewhere. So, I did go into my first viewing of this much talked-about movie with some idea of what was to follow – including the various debates about misogyny, or otherwise, being present in the film – but I was keen to see what had garnered such praise from nearly everyone I knew.
Well, The Woman is slick, well-packaged and well-shot. It boasts some decent performances, and good locations. There is a lot to like here. I can see that.
However, that’s where I part ways with the general consensus; I have no wish to be a contrarian, but allow me to throw my hat in the ring here: I found The Woman vulgar, bordering on stupid, with heavy-handed dialogue and sloppy symbolism throughout. As for the cries of ‘misogyny!’, that heavy-handed dialogue gives us an answer on that score. The fact that it’s used to pepper the movie with sexist platitudes actually demonstrates that this isn’t a misogynistic movie; what we have here is a screenplay designed to press buttons, designed to irritate, rather than any organic sense of a prevailing attitude, sexist or otherwise. Misogynistic? No. Offensive? Yes – it’s offensive to me when a film strives so cynically to be offensive. It smacks of a film made to be discussed first and enjoyed second.
Is it just me? Are other horror fans getting tired of being manipulated like this?
You probably all have an approximate idea of the plot by now, but just to outline it: family-man-with-a-dark-side Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) is out hunting one day when he spies a strange, feral-looking woman bathing in a creek. He decides to make it his project to take her home, clean her up and ‘civilise’ her, with the help of his unwitting wife Belle, his daughters and his son. This civilising influence consists of chaining her up in a fruit cellar and mistreating her – not that she can’t give as good as she gets, mind, hence this is one warped family unit which is about to implode. Read the rest of Keri’s review here.
How do you approach a film that has the words ‘From the director of Saw II, III & IV’ proudly emblazoned across its poster? That’s a rhetorical question, obviously. I’m pleased to say this turned out to be one of the more surprisingly pleasing guilty horror pleasures I’ve encountered this year. I have yet to see director Darren Lynn Bousman’s Repo! The Genetic Opera for the simple reason that every genre fan I ask spits the same opinion at me every time I ask – it’s shit. I only have the other spectacularly dumb Saw films to compare this to and it seems that the intelligence has been brought up a notch. Only a notch.
Jaime King throws a party for her distinctly unlikable group of young professional friends, completely unaware that the house they are in was once the dwelling of dangerous criminal family the ‘Koffins’, who just botched a bank heist and are coming home to tend to their wounded. Two of the Koffin Brothers storm the house, armed to the teeth with their little brother in tow, mortally wounded with a shotgun blast to the stomach. Taking the entire house hostage, they wait for their mother and boss, Natalie Koffin. It soon comes to light that Natalie has been sending money to the house under the impression it was still owned by the family. One of the group has been keeping the money for themselves and the Koffins are not about to leave without it. So unfolds a night of torture and torment as the group of friends begin to unravel at the hands of the Koffins. Read the rest of this review here.
Red White & Blue is the story of Erica (Amanda Fuller) and Nate (Noah Taylor), two neighbours in a crumbling apartment building, and Franki (Marc Senter), a guitarist in a struggling rock band. It takes place in Austin. Beyond that, I’m wary to mention anything of the plot. Simon Rumley’s film is a difficult one to discuss without giving anything away, which might explain why in the run-up to its British release some reviewers seem to have thought to hell with it and given away the lot (not naming names, but shame on you). One thing I will categorically state is that if you’re looking for a horror movie to facilitate a fun night in with a curry and some beers, Red White & Blue is most definitely not the film you’re after. If, however, you want to see independent filmmaking of the highest order, filmmaking which challenges the viewer at every turn and pushes the boundaries of what we percieve to be horror, then you need look no further.
It may be set in Austin and peopled with working class Americans (yes, I’m aware Noah Taylor isn’t actually from round those parts), but at heart Red White & Blue is not too far removed from the upper class English drama of Rumley’s previous film The Living and the Dead. Both films defy easy description; both for the most part emphasise character over narrative. Perhaps most significantly when considering these films as entries in a modern horror cycle, these are films with horrific content but without clearly defined antagonists. Yes, heinous acts are committed by people in a more than questionable state of mind, but each person has their reasons for doing such things. We certainly need not condone these actions, but nor do we condemn the person responsible as evil. This is a pretty rare approach, even in the most uncompromising films of today; even A Serbian Film, notable for featuring its protagonist Milos engaging in some of the most hideous behaviour imaginable, ultimately relieved Milos of much of the blame and heaped it all on the shoulders of the unequivocal villian Vukmir. In Red White & Blue, however, the actions of Erica, Nate and Frankie are entirely their own doing, right or wrong, and each in their own way remains to a certain extent sympathetic in spite of the awful things they have done. Read the rest of this review here.
Fantastic Fest 2011 Review: Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence
by Britt Hayes
Two years ago Tom Six premiered Human Centipede at Fantastic Fest, earning high praise for the button-pushing genre film and promising a more provocative and brutal second film in the planned trilogy. This year Six is back with Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence.
Six introduces his audience to Martin (Laurence R. Harvey), our depraved antagonist — and in an interesting move chooses to construct a meta narrative, where Martin is a mentally disturbed and slightly disabled man obsessed with Human Centipede. He watches the film every day and keeps a scrapbook of key moments and information. Working as a parking garage attendant, Martin attacks and collects victims to create a 12 person human centipede of his very own.
Where Human Centipede 2 largely succeeds is in its hypothetical notion of a fan of the first film attempting to replicate the violence. It’s as if Six is in a direct dialogue with his audience, reacting to the demands to up the ante with more violence and depravity. You asked for it, you got it. Unfortunately this creates a disconnect between filmmaker and viewer, where Six is seemingly positioning himself as better than or above his audience. The meta aspect fails to cement itself as anything worthy or meaningful, but almost works as a commentary on cinematic endurance tests.
Much like the excrement passed from person to person, the gimmicky endurance tests of horror cinema have been part of a trickle down effect for decades, with each latest entity assimilating the harshest elements of its predecessors while pushing the boundaries even further. At the end of the horror movie centipede, we’re left with the endlessly processed and repulsively filthy result: Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence. Read the rest of this review here.
Screenwriter David Sumner and his actress wife, Amy (James Marsden and Kate Bosworth), leave Hollywood for Amy’s childhood home in the south – a place where David can work on his latest screenplay in peace. Once they arrive, though, all the honey-coated nostalgia from Amy’s youth quickly dissipates, as tensions escalate between the couple and the locals, including Amy’s former high school boyfriend, Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard).
A remake of the Sam Peckinpah film from 1971 of the same name, Straw Dogs is a grimy tale of baser instincts, of men motivated and driven by pure id, and the meaning and consequences of being a coward. Unfortunately, this film’s tonal disparities never allow for these messages to speak clearly or eloquently. Director Rod Lurie (The Last Castle) only seems to know what he wishes to say because it’s already been said in a better film, though he’s either unable or unwilling to convey anything poignant.
Straw Dogs concerns itself very little with the conflicts between Amy and David, though there is a brief dialogue exchange regarding Amy’s belief that David is a coward, but it is never the driving force it needs to be. Instead, Lurie chooses to focus on the good ol’ boys of Amy’s youth – the football players (including Amy’s ex) hired by David to repair the old barn on his property, the former alcoholic football coach (James Woods in a delightfully scenery-chewing turn), and a bewildering arc involving a brain-damaged Iraq war veteran (Dominic Purcell), lovingly referred to by the townsfolk as “retarded,” of course.
Straw Dogs begins as a thriller, with stress simmering just beneath the surface, ready to break into a full boil at any moment. And it’s this dramatically thrilling first half of the film that – while riddled with southern clichés and near-agonizing characterizations – feels the most genuine and promising. There’s a moment where something truly deplorable falls upon Amy, creating a distinct fork in the narrative path. Instead of telling David what has happened, when she has every reason to speak up, she chooses to remain silent, thus forgoing the opportunity to create legitimate motivation for the action that follows. Read the rest of this review here.
Definitive Directors is an ongoing series here at Brutal as Hell, examining directors we feel are currently defining the genre. Every two weeks we’ll present a director, take a look at their best work, and how their films are setting the standard for the future of horror.
by Kayley Viteo
Rob Zombie is certainly a controversial figure. Yet there’s no denying — at least in my mind — that he’s a definitive director of the horror genre. Even before entering the feature film game with House of 1000 Corpses, Zombie was attached to the genre through his music. Still, there’s no doubt that House of 1000 Corpses blew everything wide open, not the least of which was Zombie’s own potential and possibility. Although subtle isn’t one of the words I’d use to describe Zombie or his filmmaking, there’s a witty undercurrent to his work that speaks of an intelligently crafted script, and a director that works his ass off to make films that simultaneously entertain and challenge the viewer’s ability to continue watching. Read the rest of this article here.
Contagion, the new film from director Steven Soderbergh, starts with a sickly Gwyneth Paltrow on day 2 of the film’s viral outbreak. From there we’re introduced to a sampling of people affected by the virus: Paltrow’s grieving husband and his daughter, an epidemiologist tracing the source of the outbreak, a blogger looking to profit off of a gullible and fearful public, the doctors of the CDC as they race to contain the virus and two more doctors scrambling to find the cure.
If it sounds convoluted, that’s because it is – Contagion is often overburdened with too many plots, with only three that feel vital to the narrative: the doctors of the CDC (Kate Winslet and Laurence Fishburne, turning in tremendous work), Matt Damon’s grieving widower, and the doctors (Jennifer Ehle and Demetri Martin) crafting a cure. Soderbergh seeks to create a film that feels immense to mirror the grand scale of the outbreak, but instead the threads dangle recklessly, with some that often go either forgotten or ignored and perhaps should be cut completely, regardless of the caliber of the actors involved. Marion Cotillard’s story – an epidemiologist in Macau – disappears for at least half an hour, but almost thankfully so, as the film returns to the core stories, which feel more engaging and fleshed-out. (I say almost because Cotillard is breathtakingly beautiful and a privilege to watch as an actress.)
Contagion is indeed horrifying at times, from the inspired editing choices that confront us with just how many people, places and things we touch every waking minute (it’s undoubtedly cringe-worthy stuff), to the morally gray and often bleak choices people make in the face of total chaos and imminent death. Unfortunately, Soderbergh chooses to focus on the more maudlin aspects, which, to his credit, often work; Damon and newcomer Anna Jacoby-Heron create a touching, believable dynamic as father and daughter; John Hawkes is given a small, but significant turn as a working class father struggling to protect his family. Read the rest of this review here.
According to NASA, the last documented mission to the moon was Apollo 17, but in 2011 eighty-four hours of footage was uploaded to the website www.LunarTruth.com, and that footage exposed us to a deeply guarded secret: There was another mission to the moon in 1972 – Apollo 18. Three astronauts (uncredited actors Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, Ryan Robbins) were sent to collect samples, but they found something mysterious, shocking and absolutely terrifying instead.
Or, well, sort of ridiculous.
Apollo 18’s greatest failure is its use of unfamiliar terrain to prey upon the audience’s fear of the unknown; unfortunately, since almost the entire population of the world has never been and will never visit the moon, the horror is rendered completely ineffective. Coupled with obvious limitations in the budget that prevented director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego from creating a truly immersive experience. For instance, while the moon certainly has a small amount of gravity, there are scenes where objects and astronauts are floating, and others where the spacecraft will shake and an object just falls onto the floor, or the men are standing firmly on the ground, moving with no resistance or hindered mobility.
Right up front we’re told that there is eighty-four hours of footage that’s been edited down to present as a narrative film. This allows some creative liberties – flashes between pieces of footage, various cameras used on board the module (some in helmets, one on a rover, several on the actual ship, Kodachrome cameras brought for general handheld recording purposes, et al), an array of crafty angles. Sadly, it’s these liberties that remove the film from its gimmick of found footage and into strictly narrative territory. Simply put: Apollo 18 is just too complex. Read the rest of this review here.
Within a suprisingly short distance of one another exist what would appear to be two polar opposites of human life. The Cleek family live an affluent and comfortable existence in their beautiful ranch home, whilst in the woods nearby a feral woman (McIntosh) exists day-by-day as a scavenger. Out hunting one morning, family patriach Chris Cleek (Bridgers) finds the woman in his sights and decides to take her home. He captures her, chains her up in the fruit cellar, and informs his family that it is their duty to teach this woman how to be civilised. Whether Chris Cleek is in any position to demonstrate the real nature of a civilised human being is, of course, another matter entirely. At the time of its announcement, I felt very conflicted about The Woman. On the one hand it was a collaboration between Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee, and involved Angela Bettis: this was a cause for great personal excitement, given that I regard Ketchum far and away the greatest horror novelist of our time – indeed, one of the great American writers full stop – and that McKee and Bettis’s May is one of my absolute favourite films of this century. On the other hand, this is ostensibly a follow-up to Offspring, Andrew van den Houten’s somewhat lacklustre screen adaption of what is easily Ketchum’s weakest novel. The idea of McKee and Ketchum working together on a story about wild cannibal people did not sit well, given that both artists seem at their best when dealing with very real human concerns in a realistic context. Happily (well, perhaps that isn’t the word I should be using), The Woman is certainly not just a cannibal movie. Nor should it really be regarded a sequel to van den Houten’s film; aside from the presence of Pollyanna McIntosh in the same role, this is very much a stand-alone film requiring no prior knowledge of Ketchum’s Off Season/Offspring universe (which is presumably why the title was shortened from Offspring: The Woman as originally planned). With distinct echoes of McKee and Ketchum’s respective masterworks, the aforementioned May and The Girl Next Door, this is an intensely atmospheric, intelligent, character-based tale of abuse, intimidation and inhumanity. Read the rest of this review here.
If like me you have a penchant for post-apocalyptic narratives that are unrelentingly bleak and mercilessly grim, then The Divide is definitely the film for you. Xavier Gens made his name as part of the new wave of French horror filmmakers with his flawed but endearingly bonkers Frontier(s) which soon led to the inevitable call from Hollywood, culminating in the rather dreadful videogame adaptation of Hitman. This was a disappointing turn of events from such a promising young director, however unsurprisingly reports have been flying around stating that the film was extensively fiddled with and re-shot by Fox, who reportedly thought Gens’s cut was too violent. So, with The Divide he has returned to filmmaking on a much smaller scale which has enabled him complete creative control, including shooting chronologically and allowing the cash extensive opportunity to improvise. Unsurprisingly this is also a return to form.
The premise is fairly simple; New York is nuked and a group of survivors find themselves holed up in the basement of their apartment building that also doubles as a fallout bunker, created by their paranoid 9/11 survivor maintenance man, Mickey (Michael Biehn). The survivors consist of half-brothers Josh (Milo Ventimiglia) and Adrien (Ashton Holmes) their wild card friend Bobby (Michael Eklund), Eva (Lauren German) and Sam (Iván González) a young couple whose relationship is on the rocks, Marilyn (Rosanna Arquette) and her young daughter Wendy (Abbey Thickson), and the world weary Delvin (Courtney B. Vance).
Early on in the film outsiders in HAZMAT suits break into the basement and quickly prove themselves to be pretty far removed from the rescue committee that the survivors had been hoping for, instead welding the basement door closed, permanently trapping the survivors inside. This is when their resolve starts to slip; they realise that no help is on the way, their supplies are dwindling, and the radiation poisoning is starting to set in. What little trust they have in each other soon begins to vanish as they discover that Mickey has been holding out on them and keeping a massive stash of supplies hidden, creating bubbling tension that erupts in violence and torture. Read the rest of my review here.
Contract killer Jay (Maskell) hasn’t worked in months. He lives comfortably with his wife (Buring) and their son, but the debts are starting to pile up, not to mention the marital tensions. Anxious to avoid taking on a job after a bad experience on his last one, Jay resists any offers until the problems at home reach breaking point. Seeing no alternative, he accepts an offer from his best friend and business partner Gal (Smiley). The client is enigmatic; the contract is for three deaths. But it soon transpires that this is not the sort of job Jay and Gal are used to, which threatens to push them way beyond their comfort zone and into some very dark and dangerous places indeed, both figuratively and literally.
Kill List premiered on Sunday 28th August at FrightFest; i.e. almost 48 hours before this review came online. During the festival I’ve been doing my best to get reviews of the most notable films up as soon as possible, but in this instance I’ve held back just a little, and there’s a reason for this. When writing up a film within hours of seeing it, there’s always the danger of rushing out a gut reaction that isn’t necessarily the most level-headed response, and I think if I’d rushed this one out straight away that’s what you’d be reading now. See, here’s the thing; the problem I’ve had with Kill List isn’t so much to do with the film itself as the way it was sold to us at FrightFest. As the weekend’s sole Total Film-sponsored screening it was clearly marked out as a festival highlight, and given a gushing introduction from Total Film’s Jamie Graham, promising something which would rock us to the core. However, by the time the end credits rolled, I for one was distinctly underwhelmed. This gave way to annoyance. I’ve already gone and expressed that annoyance on Twitter, and I gather (in turn) I’ve rather annoyed director Ben Wheatley in doing so. I hardly think that should weigh too heavily on Wheatley’s mind right now, however, given the huge amount of praise the film is gathering elsewhere. Many are declaring Kill List not only the best film of FrightFest 2011, but also the best British film of recent years. Read the rest of this review here.
Traditionally the August bank holiday weekend is synonymous with the last hurrah of summer, people insist on BBQing come rain or shine and enjoy the three day weekend relaxing and hoping for sunshine. For me however it means one thing… FrightFest, the UK’s best known and largest genre film festival.
I’ve been coming to FrightFest since 2003 when it was still housed at the much loved but (at the time) rather dingy repertory cinema The Prince Charles, just off of London’s Leicester Square, a 300 seat cinema that dipped in the middle and didn’t have air conditioning. Despite the rather humble and inauspicious beginnings FrightFest has continued to grow in size and popularity into a festival which now spans across five days, is housed in the 1300 seat Screen 1 of The Empire cinema and attracts a host of international filmmakers and genre fans.
FrightFest is always a mixed bag, I’ve seen films that have completely blown me away (Let the Right One In, Red, White and Blue) and films that are so diabolically bad they’ve left me longing for those 90 minutes of my life that I’d just lost back (House of the Dead, The Tortured) but from experience I’ve found it’s best to keep your expectations low and your caffeine intake high because there are always a few surprises and almost certainly never a dull moment. Read the rest of my FrightFest write up here.
The opening credits of Fright Night pan over a desolate Las Vegas desert and focus in on a perfectly contained slice of suburbia with the bright, flickering lights of the city hovering in the periphery like a foreign and exotic destination. It provides the audience with a startlingly isolated context. This opening credits sequence also features the only stunning use of 3D in this remake of Tom Holland’s 80s vampire comedy, with its presentation of the film’s title splayed crudely in blood across the sand.
Charley Brewster (Yelchin) is a kid climbing the social ladder: dating the hot girl in school (Poots), hanging with the stoner jocks and deliberately ignoring his former best friend and LARP partner, Ed (Mintz-Plasse). Especially when Ed starts confronting him with the impossible notion that a mutual friend who hasn’t been in school for a few days may be the victim of a vampire. Especially when that vampire just happens to be Charley’s new next door neighbor, Jerry (Farrell).
Fright Night dispenses with the emblematic high school melodrama early on and moves with an almost reckless fluidity into the action. The dialogue and pacing are equally razor sharp, courtesy of a smart, tidy script from Marti Noxon, whose credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer and more recently, Mad Men. Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) utilizes smoky flourishes and grays that let the dull suburban atmosphere communicate visually in the muted palette; it also happens to supply a stark contrast when the blood begins to flow. Read the rest of this review here.
It might seem incongruous, after the first two Definitive Directors articles celebrated the work of two independent filmmakers working on the comparative fringe of the industry, to now give similar treatment to a world-renowned director with several eight-figure budget films under his belt so far and doubtless more to come. But great filmmaking is great filmmaking, be it studio or independent, mainstream or underground, multiplex or arthouse. And one of the greatest things about Guillermo del Toro, one of the principle reasons he is a definitive director working in horror today and playing a significant role in defining the future of the genre, is that his work crosses all those aforementioned boundaries. For the bulk of his career thus far he has alternated between low-budget, intimate, personal projects and high-profile blockbuster gigs, and the further he has gone the closer he has come to merging those two identities.
The term ‘auteur’ tends to get bandied around so haphazardly that its actual meaning often seems to get lost, so if you’ll excuse me getting a bit didactic I’d just like to give its definition, and in so doing explain why it’s applicable to del Toro (though I have no doubt I’m damaging my credibility by quoting Wikipedia): a director who “exerts such a distinctive style or promotes such a consistent theme that his or her influence is unmistakable in the body of his or her work.” True to this, there are clear thematic and stylistic links between all del Toro’s films: an abundance of cavernous, underground spaces; a fascination with insects and the insect-like; a longing for the enchantment of childhood and the imagination that is lost in the face of the mundane; a heartfelt Catholic morality, combined with an insatiable interest in pre-Christian myth and folklore; the contrasts between humans and monsters, with a large question mark over which species is really worse. Even in his least heartfelt and least satisfactory work (i.e. Mimic), these core elements are present.
Choosing two films that best represent del Toro’s work is at once simple and difficult, as his films can and indeed have been quite easily separated into two camps: his small, personal, Spanish-language films (Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth) and his Hollywood blockbusters (Mimic, Blade II, the Hellboy films). Well, in this case I’ll defer to the man himself, and as he has stated that his last two directorial efforts are his personal favourites, I’ll focus on those. Read the rest of Ben’s article here.
And so we have another entry from director Adam Green and the ‘Hatchet Army’. On some American posters Green has even seen fit to fit his name just above the title à laJohn Carpenter, seemingly under the impression his ‘household name’ should be enough to sell the damn thing by now. I’ve watched many a sub par low budget slasher, so why does this piss me off so much? Maybe it’s the way the first Hatchet arrived into the slasher pantheon, amid tremendous fanfare, declaring itself the saviour of ‘old school’ horror and perhaps even subverting the subgenre beyond our expectations – Marylin Manson screeching over the opening credits that this is indeed the ‘new shit’. Call me gullible but I fell for it hook line and sinker, losing my tiny little mind when a friend told me he had a copy ready and waiting for us one rainy day. The disappointment that unfolded over the next painful ninety minutes was deeply frustrating.
Now we have the sequel or continuation (we pick up where the first left off – right from its final frame albeit with new lead final girl, Danielle Harris); for me this is the potential redemption. Marybeth manages to make it back from the swamp alive and seeks help from the Reverend Zombie (played by the returning Tony Todd) in the hope of seeking answers and help in returning to the home of Victor Crowley to finally avenge the death of her father and brother. Zombie reluctantly agrees and somehow manages to scrape together a band of backwater rednecks with the promise of five grand to the one who bags Crowley’s head. Aside from a much unneeded dip into Crowley’s back story that’s pretty much all you get as far as the plot is concerned. It’s not long before we find ourselves pretty much watching the first film all over again as we follow the hapless gang as they wander, split up, die horribly, repeat then finish. Read the rest of this review here.
Tattoos Come Alive in Canadian Indie Horror ‘Comforting Skin’
by Marc Patterson
There have been a small handful of films made over the years about tattoos taking on a life of their own. I’ve always found these films to be conceptually interesting, since tattoos often carry deep meaning to the bearer, ones that are often tied to a persons sense of identity, but Comforting Skin appears to be the first film to execute on the idea solidly.
The two line synopsis reads simply, “A lonely young woman’s desperate need for emotional and sexual companionship draws her into a surreal and ultimately destructive relationship with a shifting and whispering tattoo she has willed to life on her skin.
What is selling me early on is the careful construction of the trailer, and how the tattoo is brought to life as a character within a character. The visual effects work well and the quiet tone indicates careful restraint from making this another overblown slasher. Currently there’s no word on a release date, but you can be sure we’ll be watching.
Comforting Skin is written/directed/produced by Derek Franson and stars Victoria Bidewell as “Koffie”.
I have a soft spot for the Final Destination franchise. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that at least half of the movies have been downright bad (four is by far the worst of the bunch), but I never really care because I’m entertained. Final Destination always gives me exactly what I expect: spoiled, pretty kids dying in incredibly inventive ways.
If you don’t know the plot of Final Destination by now, you’ve been living under a rock. It is essentially this: you can’t cheat death, no matter how hard you try. An awful disaster is predicted in the first 20 minutes of the movie, people are saved, Death comes to take the lives of those who should have died. The fifth installment, however, finds a few new ways to spice up the franchise.
It’s rather amazing to look back on Final Destination and realize that the first movie came out in 2000, when I was 12 years old. Since then, a new movie has come out roughly every 2-3 years, providing me with regular, gruesome entertainment. Final Destination 5 is no different. Like many of the films before it, the script is clunky and slow whenever death isn’t involved. That being said, the pace picks up when the “lucky 8” saved from the catastrophe in the beginning start dying. Two of the death sequences in particular stand out to me, and I’ll just say this: gymnastics and then eyes. The weakest portion of the script is when Peter, played by Miles Fisher, starts to lose it and suddenly the film feels less like a horror movie and more like a bad thriller. And, although I saw the film in 3D, I promise you it is not worth the extra expense – you can predict exactly when things will punch out at you and it ends up being distracting. Read the rest of this review here.
Any fan knows that it’s not easy to find a good horror film that was made in the last few years. While everything is being remade, made into sequels or just plain bad nowadays, we bring you a solid, original feature- I Sell the Dead. Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) and Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) are grave robbers, digging up fresh remains for profit, but while they’re out looking for the dead, the dead are out looking for them. I Sell the Dead has all of the right stuff for a great film. Ron Pearlman, the undead, great makeup, cool costumes, good humor & an even better storyline make this one of the better films we’ve seen lately. Since there’s a whole lotta drinking going on in this film, we thought it was only appropriate to pair I Sell the Dead with a beer infused milkshake.
Psst… Don’t forget to read below the recipe for some super exciting Slash & Dine news!
DVD Review: Softcore Sci-Fi Silliness in ‘Erotibot’
by Ben Bussey
Sukekiyo (Yuuya Tokumoto) is not the greatest android in the world. The third robotic manservant of his household, he is neither as charming as Number 1, nor as physically powerful as Number 2, but he has one quality they lack: feelings. Specifically, he has feelings toward their mistress, the fabulously wealthy young heiress Tamayo (Mahiro Aine). To say Tamayo lives a sheltered life would be a severe understatement; she has never been beyond the confines of her mansion home, and lives alone with only these droids who have been programmed to serve her every need. Given that she is ‘of age’, these needs grow more varied as time goes on. But whilst a romance of sorts blossoms between nubile rich girl and bumbling robo-butler, unbeknownst to them they are under surveillance by a long-lost relative of Tamayo, a samurai sword-weiling badass bitch named Tsukiyo (Maria Ozawa). Wanting all the family fortune for herself, she and her minion Azami (played by – er – Asami) hatch the requisite nefarious plot. But have they reckoned without the strength of the love a third-rate malfunctioning robot has for his human charge?
Phew. I can’t quite believe I just spent around 200 words on a respectful synopsis of what is, obviously, an extremely silly and inconsequential film. But what can I say; whether it is in spite of its knowing stupidity or because of it, Erotibot rubbed me up the right way. And you can take that statement any way you like. Read the rest of this review here.
Definitive Directors is an ongoing series here at Brutal as Hell, examining directors we feel are currently defining the genre. Every two weeks we’ll present a director, take a look at their best work, and how their films are setting the standard for the future of horror.
by Keri O’Shea
He may have relocated Stateside in recent years, but writer/director Adam Mason is definitively British, and it’s not just that self-deprecating streak of his which tells us so. Whilst Mason readily criticises his own work when necessary, he remains defiant about carrying on with filmmaking despite experiencing numerous setbacks; this is, in many ways, due to years of trying to get indie projects made in the UK. It was the utter frustration of getting knocked back, ripped off and having his time wasted by so many shit-chiselers in the lower echelons of the British film industry that led directly to Mason (and his writing partner Simon Boyes) writing Broken, the first of Mason’s films which I saw – and loved – at the Leeds Film Festival some years ago.
Broken, like all of Mason’s films, starts strong. A barrage of close-ups — a woman’s eye, mouth, possibly some blood just in shot — emerge out of the darkness, though couched in enough darkness that we can’t see what is happening yet, just like the anonymous victim – and, also in common with her, we only see what she must do when she finds the razor. These shots have by now pulled back from their closest focus on the woman’s features so we can see her as a whole but still, everything feels confined here, despite the fact that we know from the aerial shots that we are actually in a vast open space. The woman’s ordeal reaches its climax when we hear an ultimatum from the anonymous, shaded figure that approaches her. ‘Will you continue?’ he asks – and any illusion that we might have met our protagonist is shattered when she gives her answer. The film gives us its first moment of light: gunfire.
After this attention-grabbing assault on the viewer, we’re taken out of the forest — perhaps suspecting now that it’s just a respite — and we head to a city. Here we meet Hope (Nadja Brand): Hope is a young mother who, as she tells a companion, has always enjoyed the security of a family, of ‘having someone there’: those words will come back to haunt her. Her affection for her daughter is expressed simply as she sits with the sleeping girl, stroking her face and hair (and it’s a shot mirrored in a ghastly way later). This warm familial scene is short lived. We cut straight from it to darkness – and this time, we the audience know what it means… read the rest of Keri’s article here.
Director Jim Mickle and co-writer/lead Nick Damici have gone beyond the “horror” and “vampire” genre cliches to create a post-apocolyptic road movie that kicks major ass. Stake Land builds you up with scenes of laughing, ice cream and dancing that give the characters and audience hope of a New Eden and then literally comes crashing back down to the reality of vicious, blood-thirsty vampires. It’s bleak, promising, horrific and beautiful all at the same time. We’ve heard a lot of people say that it’s one of the best new films of the year and we couldn’t agree more. Since we knew Jim Mickle was a bit of a foodie himself, we asked him a few questions about the film, his favorite meals and somehow had a whole conversation about chicken coops (did you know chickens have earlobes?) So, do yourself a favor and pick up the DVD and Blu-ray and try out these tasty recipes to really top off your night.
I'm sure you get asked this a lot, but I really like horror movies, but probably haven't seen a lot of the obscure stuff. What movies would you really recommend as favorites (outside of torture movies like Hostel and Saw)?
Some of my favourite horror movies include: An American Werewolf in London, Day of the Dead, Don’t Look Now, Let the Right One In, Audition, The Thing, Martin, Evil Dead 2, The Wicker Man, Near Dark, Braindead (Dead Alive), Martyrs and recently I liked The Loved Ones a lot. But none of those are particularly obscure…
“What if it blows up or something?” “Then we’ll be on fire.”
The running theme through Bellflower is blowing shit up; whether it’s with a flamethrower or a bad-ass post-apocalyptic car lovingly dubbed ‘Mother Medusa’ or things more subjectively tangible, like a relationship with a girl who eats crickets for fun.
Woodrow (Glodell, who also wrote and directed) and Aiden (Dawson) are two hipstery friends living in California, running on the fumes of a dingy fantasy, one that involves building a muscle car that shoots fire and will serve as the beacon in a post-apocalyptic world. The two slackers hazily booze their way through the days, collecting parts for a flamethrower and hanging out in bars, like the one where they meet Milly (Wiseman), a feisty blonde who beats Woodrow in a cricket-eating contest, and her sweet friend Courtney (Brandes).
Woodrow and Milly immediately hit it off and spend their first date on a days-long, intoxicated road trip to the most disgusting restaurant Woodrow can think of because that’s what Milly wants: she doesn’t want to be impressed with nice places or things; she wants to be horrified.
Bellflower follows the relationship between Milly and Woodrow, but also the steadfast friendship between Woodrow and Aiden – and it’s a refreshing change of pace to view a relationship in a film that manages to avoid the typical pitfalls when a woman is introduced, like petty jealousy and envy. Read the rest of this review here.
It’s a rare treat to come across a film like Evil Rising (more on that damn title change anon): a project with unusual vision and high production values such as this comes around but seldom. This is definitely not your typical horror movie fare: Evil Rising has many elements in common with art house as well as horror. An ambitious, allegorical story with a thoughtfully-realised historical setting, it’s fair to say this Finnish film has moments of brilliance. It does, however, also have its moments of weakness.
The year is 1595 and a lengthy conflict between Russia and Sweden has finally come to an end: two Swedish soldiers and brothers, Erik (Ville Virtanen) and Knut (Tommi Eronen) have been charged with travelling North alongside a group of Russians to assist with marking out new territorial borders between Finland and Russia. Erik, however, is finding it difficult to renounce the savagery of war – the only life he has ever known. The two men had been seeking shelter with a farmer and his young daughter and, before Erik and Knut set off on their mission, Erik butchers the man, claiming that he is a Russian conspirator. Knut, deeply affected both by his brother’s paranoid cruelty and by feelings of his own, locks the girl in a cellar ostensibly to ‘protect’ her. He makes his brother promise to free her before joining him…read this rest of Keri’s review here.
I realize this is old news by now and this year’s Comic-Con is but another panel in the graphic novel of history, but I read something that really stuck in my craw and, as usual, I have an unnatural urge to share. Be glad you aren’t around when my exhibitionist tendencies show up; that’s an urge to share you want no part of. Think Chief Wahoo McDaniel. Hot.
The article that irritated me is from a website I love, io9, and it’s about the new ABC television show created by Oren Peli. You can read the full article here, if you so desire, but here’s the thing that really pissed me off:
“Oren Peli and writers Michael Green and Zack Estri were very clear that the scariness in The River would be based on tension and character-driven situations. ‘Our goal isn’t to shock the audience with gore and blood and torture porn,’ Peli emphasized. ‘We want to scare people with scary stories. And the network, ABC, they said to get as scary as we can.’ Added Green, ‘It feels like we’ve reclaimed horror from people who want to make it as disgusting as possible. We don’t want to show you crazy extremes of gore – we want to make it real.’”
This paragraph lives under the heading, “Taking back horror from the torture porn merchants.”
I want to see if I have this correct, so bear with me for a second. Oren Peli is the man who wrote and directed Paranormal Activity, the biggest sham perpetrated on American movie audiences since William Castle was alive. Disagree with me all you want, but I sure as shit didn’t spend my money to watch fake surveillance tapes in a theater. It was a joke – a shell of a movie that blew its single jump scare wad in the trailer. Read the rest of this article here.
DVD Review: F.W. Murnau’s The Haunted Castle AKA Schloß Vogeloed
by Keri O’Shea
An incredible ninety years old, The Haunted Castle predates what is arguably director and auteur F. W. Murnau’s best-known work, Nosferatu (1922) and also diverges from it in style in several ways. Originally adapted from a semi-successful Rudolf Stratz novel, it does have its share of feminine histrionics and a few great early horror sequences, but by and large it is a lot more sedate than Nosferatu or the also well-known Faust (1926). What we have here is an early ‘old dark house’ movie; it’s very watchable, but it’s perhaps more interesting for the glimpse it gives of film as a new medium.
As with all the ‘old dark house’ movies which appeared in its wake, The Haunted Castle sees a gathering of people who have secrets – secrets which will be revealed before the folk concerned can leave. Chez Vogeloed, a hunting party kept indoors by the bad weather are surprised by the arrival of one Count Oetsch; this isn’t just because no one invited him but because he was suspected, though not convicted, of the murder of his brother some years before. And guess who else is due at the castle? – The murdered brother’s widow, Baronness Safferstätt (The fantastically-overblown Olga Tschechowa) and her new husband. The Countess is understandably not all that keen to hang around once she finds out who’s there, but she agrees to stay when she finds out that a priest (and relative of her first husband) is coming from Rome especially to see her: she has one or two things she would like to speak to him about, after all. The rather put-upon Oetsch meanwhile professes to have learned powers of prophecy during his travels, and – as you might expect – he predicts trouble, in the form of ‘two gunshots’ which will occur while everyone is together. So, a nice relaxing weekend, all told… read the rest of this review here.
This Slash & Dine post is a very special one for us. We would like to dedicate it to our beautiful friend Jess, who married the nicest mean guy we know, Steve, earlier this year on Friday the 13th. We can’t think of a better way to show them and the rest of our horror-lovin’ brides out there how happy we are for you, than to bring you a gore filled wedding feast with the classic film The Bride of Frankenstein. A true cinematical masterpiece, The Bride came as the first follow up to the original Frankenstein and was widely acclaimed. The film starts out with a subplot of Mary Shelley describing her plans of continuing the story of Frankenstein and picks up exactly where the first one left off. Henry Frankenstein & the Monster (again played by the incredible Boris Karloff) are surprisingly alive and while Henry wishes to no longer work on such hideous creations, his former mentor, Doctor Pretorius convinces him to create a mate for the Monster. After the lightening-struck Bride comes to life, we all soon realize that life should never be brought back from the dead. While we all know this one didn’t have a happy ending, we wish Jess & Steve and all of the other newlyweds out there (like Brutal As Hell’s own Britt!), the absolute best. If you’re planning a unique wedding like our awesome friends did, check out these gory, yet delicious dishes to serve to your monstrous guests.
Sometimes the best compliment is one that appears to be a slight. Such is the case of Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky, during which one will likely utter the following at least once: “What the fuck?!” From the opening strands of a cue so dark and ominous it could have been the entrance theme for a late ‘80s WWF monster heel (think Earthquake or Vader, but I’d rather you didn’t think of El Gigante) to the final damning sight of a 50’ high concrete wall being leveled with a single punch, there ain’t nothin’ in the history of cinema like it. Sure, there have been other genre films that are as simultaneously dark, cynical and unintentionally comedic, but Riki-Oh is the only one that’s a wall-to-wall foray into absolutes, most importantly the quest for absolute freedom.
“Enough! We’re human beings! Human beings!” – Riki-Oh
Like many others, my introduction to the film came via the Five Questions segment on The Daily Show with Craig Kilborn. Ah, Craiggers, it was you who brought me unwittingly back into the fold, the first time you relayed that masterful loop of Tarzan crushing some poor sap’s head with a simple clap of his hands. I had come to you for some insightful levity on the news of the day and instead you gave me a massively bloody melon-smash. And as that nut exploded, so did mine. The proverbial light bulbs went off. “There must be more shit like this out there, right?” Read the rest of this article here.
Yet again we are treated to another fine Blu-Ray release from the ever expanding Arrow Video label. This time it is the turn of Brian De Palma’s Obsession, a lesser known film that sits comfortably within De Palma’s varied oeuvre, which ranges from the highs of Scarface to the lows of Mission to Mars. Ostensibly a reworking of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Obsession is an overly melodramatic psycho-thriller that remains highly enjoyable and even a little surprising as it twists and turns to its completely bonkers conclusion.
The film starts in 1959 at the 10-year wedding anniversary of blissfully happy couple; Michael (Cliff Robertson) and Elizabeth Courtland (Geneviève Bujold). Disaster strikes however and on that same night Michael’s wife and young daughter are kidnapped and held to ransom for $500,000. A botched scheme cooked up by the police to foil the criminals ends in a car wreck and the bodies of Elizabeth and her daughter are never found. Fast-forward fifteen years and Michael is still blaming himself for accident and regularly visits the elaborate monument he has constructed in the honour of his beloved wife and daughter, endlessly obsessing over the events that happened all those years before. Michael’s long time business partner Robert LaSalle (John Lithgow, who gives a fine performance) convinces him to tag along on a trip to Florence, where he had originally met Elizabeth, hoping that by revisiting the city Michael may finally be able to find some peace and let sleeping dogs lie. Once in Italy Michael takes a trip to visit the church where he first laid eyes on Elizabeth and is shocked to encounter an restoration artist named Sandra (Geneviève Bujold, again) who is the spitting image his late wife. After a whirlwind romance the pair return to America intent on getting married, much to the dismay of Michael’s friends who think, unsurprisingly, that what he is doing is decidedly creepy. Read the rest of my review here.
Welcome to our newest column here at Brutal as Hell: Definitive Directors. In this series we’ll take a look at directors who we feel are currently defining the horror genre. Each entry will present a director, their best work and how that work is setting the standard for the future of horror.
Ti West entered the scene in 2005 with The Roost, a divisive little horror film presented as part of a fictitious late night television program. It was instantly apparent that West was not interested in playing by any rules we’re accustomed to, a notion that became more transparent when West encountered issues shooting Cabin Fever 2, leaving the finished product a Frankensteinesque mish-mash of his own work and that of the studio.
His next two films, The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers are the films that have truly established and cemented his vision within the genre, challenging audience perceptions and expectations with an almost anarchic approach to narrative. Read the rest of Britt’s article here.
Having been involved in film making myself, I know only all too well how much of a battle it is bringing your precious vision to the screen, especially when you lack the fundamental basics needed such as a budget. This is probably the reason why whenever I sit down to give one of these independent horror films a shot, I want to like them. How maddening it must be to pour everything you have into a production, maybe even mortgaging your mother’s house, just to have some stranger sat behind a keyboard critically rape your little opus. I like to think I’m way more forgiving than a lot of horror fans.
I approached Strigoi with a wide open mind and I’m sad to say this was one huge disappointment.
Nearly every recent vampire movie claims to have subverted the sub genre, promising us that if we spend the cash to see their movie, we’ll see something we’ve never seen before, only to let us down spectacularly. Now we have Strigoi. A vampire film set in a small Romanian village. Sounds promising, right? Wrong. Dead wrong. The vampire film has come full circle, returning to its homeland.
Vlad Cozma (Catalin Paraschiv) heads home from his studies in Italy, greeted by the strange sudden death of one of the villagers. Convinced something rotten is going on he begins to investigate, discovering disputes of land ownership with Constantin Tirescu (Constantin Barbulescu) and his wife. He confronts them and realises some horrifying truths, that will not only rock Vlad’s existence but those of the entire village too. Read the rest of this review here.
I knew going into it that choosing Quarantine 2 as my first horror movie after a self-imposed exile in order to focus on graduate school was perhaps not the wisest idea I’ve ever had. I was right for several reasons, the first of which being that there isn’t much to the plot; it’s Quarantine, except it starts on a plane and takes place only hours after the incident in the apartment. That’s all you really need to know, period – you don’t need to see it. In fact, I beg you not to.
The beginning of Quarantine 2 is like a checklist for future emotional manipulation. Passengers include an old couple (one of which has Parkinson’s and can barely move), a young boy flying by himself, an obnoxious fat guy, an Army medic who is afraid of flying, newlyweds, a couple expecting a baby, and an old lady with a cat. Seriously? Don’t forget the man boarding with hamsters, who appears to be the key to it all.
In short, Quarantine 2 is one baffling what the fuck moment after another. The sole good news is that only about fifteen minutes are spent on the airplane itself, afterwards moving into a connected, but enclosed, section of the terminal. That at least opens the film up to some possibilities, which I wish could say were actualized. In truth, the film is never anything but shitty. The acting is stale and predictable, although Mattie Liptak playing the young boy is easily the highlight. As for everyone else, there just isn’t enough to work with, and what they are given is played as if they were reading them off cue cards. Lead actress Mercedes Masohn seems to at least be trying, but when she’s required to act scared this mostly amounts to her screaming and flailing. The fact that the script is just so badly conceptualized helps absolutely no one and shouldn’t be a surprise given the setting, which they felt was somehow appropriate. Yet, the real surprise is that it somehow manages to get even worse an hour in when it tries to explain the source and reasoning behind the infections. I do have to give credit to whoever wrote the line “Yeah. You ever heard of terrorism?” just because it made me laugh out loud in disbelief. Read the rest of this review here.
It’s not a new thing for irate horror directors to take on their critics: as an extreme example of this, in 2006 Uwe Boll challenged – and apparently beat – five of his most vocal critics in a series of boxing matches. Most reviewers, it’s fair to say, will not end up in the ring with directors whose work they’ve criticised, but it’s not uncommon to be on the receiving end of negative responses which are often pathetically similar to one another. A certain type of embittered filmmaker will react to negative reviews of their film simply by claiming that the reviewer is wrong and in fact – what the fuck do they know? We’ve had it here at Brutal as Hell (see here) and you see it at other forums too. So, what the fuck do we fan writers know, anyway? Funnily, positive reviews are embraced; links are posted; quotes are used on DVD covers. Yet these good reviews are written by the self-same schmucks and fanboys which disgruntled casts and crews feel that can criticise for knowing nothing. Why accept the praise, if we don’t know what we’re talking about? Surely whatever we say, good or bad, is meaningless?
Aside from basic hypocrisy, the answer’s simple: some idiots in the business have convinced themselves that the horror community owes them a living: the act of sending out screeners therefore entitles them to free positive PR with a rapid turnover. That is the key concept here, folks – entitlement. They send a disc, they await a pithy sound bite and that’s the totality of the interaction they require. Sadly, there’s at least one opportunistic organisation which gives seminars advising would-be actors and directors how to manipulate bloggers and boost their IMDb scores. When people like this don’t get the responses they expect, at the very least bewilderment ensues. This is sometimes followed up by hostility, as we’ve seen on this site and elsewhere. Read the rest of Keri’s article here.
Tobe Hooper is an incredibly inconsistent filmmaker; when he is good he is very, very good (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Poltergeist) but when he is bad he is horrid (The Mangler, Mortuary etc.) So I entered into The Funhouse with some trepidation, only to find myself pleasantly surprised.
Released in 1981 during the heyday of the slasher film, The Funhouse could so easily have been a forgettable paint-by-numbers affair, but right from the very first scene Hooper plays with our expectations of the genre. In an opening scene that borrows heavily from Psycho and Halloween we see a beautiful young woman preyed upon by a knife wielding masked killer whilst she takes a shower. It is revealed to be a fake knife wielded by her younger brother Joey (Shawn Carson) as part of an elaborate practical joke. Traditionally the opening scene of a slasher film would end with a horrific murder and provide a set up for the rest of the film, but here it transpires to be the film’s main protagonist, Amy (Elizabeth Berridge). This initial unexpected twist is the first of many, meaning that even the most jaded horror connoisseur will find much to enjoy here. Read the rest of my review here.