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Stark and unsettling
Spoilers ahead! FRIGHTMARE (1974) is another grim and gruelling shocker from British director Pete Walker, perhaps his best-known work. It's a stark slow burner which feels like a family drama or soap at times, but with a particularly dark sub-plot that by the end turns it into the British version of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. I feel that the director's slow and mannered approach works well in this one; it's as though the viewer gradually unravels a psychological mystery which begins off extremely subtly and ends up with graphic depictions of horror and cannibalism that bring to mind both DRILLER KILLER and the films of Norman J. Warren. However, the film it's most similar to is THE BEAST IN THE CELLAR, with another kindly elderly couple hiding some very dark secrets in their rural abode. It's extremely well-acted throughout too: inevitably the frightening Sheila Keith is the stand-out here, but Rupert Davies really excels as her protective husband and the younger cast members aren't too shabby either. If you like doses of social drama and realism with your horror, then this one's for you!

Invisible Mom II

Not interesting
Another Fred Olen Ray cheapie with very little, or nothing, going for it. A sequel to a movie I never saw, this sees 1980s horror star Dee Wallace playing a put-upon mother trying to solve strife between the warring kids in her extended family. Oh, and she can regularly turn invisible, which may or may not assist her. Supporting roles from old-timers like Mary Woronov, Robert Quarry and Mickey Dolenz fail to make this in any way interesting.

Better Call Saul: Talk
Episode 4, Season 4

Has it all
An episode which once again has it all. Not much for Jimmy at this point, the writing has driven him into a corner, but Mike's emotion surprises and stuns, Kim's in another dark place, and the scenes with Nacho bring a rare shoot-out to the show.

Jessica Jones: A.K.A Customer Service is Standing By
Episode 4, Season 3

Another episode all about the supporting character of Trish while Jessica is tired and weary and traipsing around trying to solve stuff. Very boring, tiresome, and uninvolving.

Bu yi shen xiang

Superior sequel
A superior sequel to the first film, madder than ever and with an excellent, all-star cast of seasoned performers doing their bit in a lively and colourful "martial world" adventure. Norman Chu's hero isn't seen much after being wounded, but we don't miss him as there are even more entertaining characters around: Chen Kuan Tai's Japanese big bad and his henchmen are portrayed in an insanely magical way, while Tony Liu, Alex Man and new helpers Lo Lieh and Phillip Ko all prove their worth. The action sequences are garish, FX-fuelled and incredible at times, and the whole thing packs more plotting into its 80-minute running time than many three-hour Hollywood slog-fests.


A PRC programmer version of the Bluebeard story. This one plays out as a murder mystery with John Carradine essaying the role of a mysterious artist who seems to have a thing for glamorous women. It's obviously low budget which works against it, but the running time is quite snappy and director Edgar G. Ulmer - previously of classics like THE BLACK CAT - does his best with what's provided.

Jessica Jones: A.K.A I Have No Spleen
Episode 3, Season 3

Dropping quality
The worst of this season yet. I quite like Jessica's "ill" look, it makes her more vulnerable, but there's no plot or action here to speak of, just gratuitous sex.

Doctor Sleep

Another disappointment
As a massive fan of THE SHINING (1980), the recent sequel DOCTOR SLEEP (2019) has been on my radar for a while, and I've finally had a chance to catch up with the director's cut version now showing on Amazon Prime. I should add that there are going to be spoilers ahead. I was bitterfly disappointed with this one, in much the same way that the recent IT: CHAPTER TWO let me down; it's a film that seems to be basic and bland throughout, and most important it doesn't have any frightening moments at all, unlike the Kubrick movie. The biggest problem with it is the running time, and I wonder if I'd have enjoyed the theatrical cut more. At three hours this just goes on and on, and I kept thinking "wouldn't this have been a better place to start?" and later, "no, this would have been". This went on to around the hour and a half mark! I think the scene with the baseball kid would have been the perfect opening - it's an powerful and disturbing moment, the best of the film - and everything before feels extraneous.

The rest is a mixed bag of good and bad. The acting is generally good, particularly on the part of Kyliegh Curran, very good at appearing older than her years. McGregor underplays it but that's fine, he's reactive character here. The one exception in the acting stakes is Rebecca Ferguson as the villain of the piece, I couldn't stand her. Not because I found her scary, just the opposite: she's overexposed and irritating, more hipster chick than menace. She talks a lot but seems to totally miss the mark when it comes to being imposing. The bad guys are in general a let down, feeling like a simple copy of the vamps in NEAR DARK, except with that "psychic vampire" twist which was handled better (and in a scarier way) in an old episode of BUCK ROGERS I once saw. Plenty of CGI here, of course, ranging from the decent (the 'flying' scenes were pretty cool, as was the Overlook Hotel recreation) to cheesy BUFFY-style vampire deaths. And then there's the extended climax, just a crowd-pleasing way of adding in as many SHINING references as possible, but in a modern-feeling, slick and superficial way. I should be glad that this is better than the director's other King film, the awful GERALD'S GAME, but even so it's not one I'll be revisiting for the reasons stated.

Follow a Star

It generally works
A typical Norman Wisdom, and lesser known than many. It's only really notable for featuring Wisdom's singing voice, as he gets to belt out a couple of numbers. Elsewhere it's less slapstick and more about a villainous singer (the excellent Jerry Desmonde) ripping Wisdom off for his own means. A little staid and ordinary at times, but it generally works.

Charlie's Angels

Every bit as awful
A reboot of the CHARLIE'S ANGELS franchise, and every bit as awful as its predecessors. It looks hip and new but it's just as insubstantial as ever, with sound bites and snappy dialogue replacing proper conversations, and a pretend feminist plotline which still gives all the men the real power (including writing the script, big surprise). Elisabeth Banks proves to be as good a director as she is an actress - i.e. Not very good - and it's sad to see Patrick Stewart dragging his name through the mud.

Better Call Saul: Something Beautiful
Episode 3, Season 4

Exceptionally strong
Another exceptionally strong episode. The sub-plot featuring Nacho is shockingly violent and very well acted with subtlety throughout. Mike isn't a strong contender here, but Kim excels and Jimmy's plan boasts oodles of suspense.


Brisk remake
A brisk and efficient Korean remake of the French classic POINT BLANK. The French movie is one of my favourite-ever thrillers while this is merely good, and obviously there's no real comparison between the two. But it's still fun to see the differences between the productions and the way in which the Korean version ladles in even more action than the original. The characters suffer a bit and there's not as much depth, but the constant twists and turns and endless chases and fights make this fun to watch.

Don't Tell a Soul

Left me restless
One of those cheap and dark dramas made on an obvious low budget and shot out in the woods somewhere. Rainn Wilson is surprisingly good in a serious role for once but that's where the interesting stuff ends here. You get the bickering brothers and the power play between them which is interesting to a degree, plus their ailing mother played by Mena Suvari. But the material is stretched to breaking point by the lack of plot development, and in the end I was restless.

Better Call Saul: Breathe
Episode 2, Season 4

Everything excels
This was everything I could hope for in an episode. Mike being badass, Gus in a scene of phenomenal surprise and power (almost as good as the box cutter episode) and Jimmy relying on his mental ability to make him shine. Plus, Kim gets a stand-out scene too. Everything excels here.

Jessica Jones: A.K.A You're Welcome
Episode 2, Season 3

Another disappointing and pedestrian episode. Scenes of the Trisha character training and the like are quite ridiculous and I felt embarrassed for the actress involved. The only saving grace here is an always-welcome Rebecca De Mornay.

Jarhead 3: The Siege

Poverty row version of 13 Hours
The third in this franchise is a straight to video action flick, presumably set in Iraq, in which a squad of American soldiers are ambushed in their base by terrorists. It has little to no connection with the other movies and is only of note for featuring Scott Adkins in a supporting role (playing his usual tough guy character). However, for a low budget movie, it's pretty snappy, keeping the action going once it hits and coming across as a poverty row version of 13 HOURS.

Death in Texas

Does the trick
A B-movie thriller that turns out to be a lot better than I was expecting. The lead is unknown to me but Stephen Lang and Bruce Dern bring solid support, the latter particularly menacing even at an advanced age. The film mixes slow burning tension with some stark and gritty moments of violence, mixed with a hefty dose of non-Hollywood realism. Not amazing, but it does the trick.


Nothing to dislike
This was a really enjoyable cross between hostage thriller and 'animal attack' horror. Essentially it's two films in one but with Oliver Reed and Klaus Kinski headlining the cast it's pretty much impossible to get wrong. On the one hand you have a tense, police procedural-lead stand-off reminiscent of the same year's WHO DARES WINS, and on the other you've got JAWS-style stalking and animal tension. The running time flies past and Reed and Kinski compete to bring the most menace. Nothing to dislike about this one!

Better Call Saul: Smoke
Episode 1, Season 4

Great opener
Love this season opener, one of the strongest yet. It hits the ground running with the emotion of the Jimmy storyline and the huge suspense of the Mike sub-plot. The scene of Mike going undercover at the business is incredibly good, funny and tension-filled at the same time.

Jessica Jones: A.K.A The Perfect Burger
Episode 1, Season 3

Entirely dull
Incredibly, the show returns for a third (and thankfully final) season. This first episode is entirely dull, carefully introducing old and new characters alike, but failing to engage throughout. I hope the rest of the season's not like this.

Murder, Inc.

A good, tough, and no-nonsense Hollywood crime drama based on a true story from the 1930s. The story sees Stuart Whitman and his wife getting involved with various real-life gangsters and struggling to survive against them, while the justice system works to bring them down at the same time. Towering over everyone else is a debuting Peter Falk, outstanding as an amoral hitman.


Not bad
SPELL is essentially a modern blaxploitation horror movie clearly indebted to GET OUT, yet with enough originality to work for and by itself. It suffers from an obvious low budget and from being an essential single location movie for most of the running time, but other than that it works fairly well. The cast give fun and dedicated performances and there's a sinister kind of feel to it, much like in the similar MA. Plus I'm always a sucker for voodoo, which we don't see enough of in the movies.

Gin chap hak mooi gwai

All over the place
Another senseless movie featuring the dreaded Twins, here shoehorned into a sequel to BLACK ROSE II, made some ten years after the last. Teresa Mo essays the role of the retired superhero/crime fighter, but this is very much the Twins show, given over almost entirely to their own unique brand of mugging/non-acting. Directed by Donnie Yen, it has a cheap, slapdash approach, with dreadful FX and unfunny humour, and seems merely to exist to reference such things as CHARLIE'S ANGELS, THE MATRIX, THE POWERPUFF GIRLS, BATMAN and KILL BILL. The only good bits are a decent Ekin Cheng, a nice homage to DRUNKEN MASTER, and a henchman role for Donnie's own sister, who proves surprisingly adept.

Who Dares Wins

Top marks
This is one of those British thrillers that imitates Hollywood and manages to better it in many respects. It's a taut and heavily realistic story of terrorism and a siege, but the emphasis is on realism which means that the gung-ho antics are brief and over very quickly. Personally I like the slow build approach, I think it works very well here, and it makes the climax oh-so-great. Lewis Collins has never been tougher as the SAS agent infiltrating a left-wing group, and everything else just comes together to build an engrossing, highly suspenseful picture. Top marks.

The Little Things

Another thoughtful, character-focused drama with Denzel Washington. It plays against type and the lack of action might frustrate some viewers but I thought the realism worked in its favour and made it unpredictable. The story is essentially a loose remake of SE7EN, with Washington and young partner Rami Malek tracking a creepy serial killer, played with relish by Jared Leto. It's slow and mannered, bolstered by strong performances, building to an emotional rather than physical crisis at the climax.

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