Of all the '8 Films to Die For' that I've seen (which is most of them), this one is undoubtedly the best (though that isn't saying much). It's not what I'd call brilliant horror, and certainly could have been a lot better, but there are some really good ideas here and they're well carried off by the director and his cast. The film could be called a zombie film - although I think that isn't really an accurate description. The film does take some influence from said genre, but the monsters in the film aren't zombies - instead, they're teenagers high on PCP. The plot focuses on a small town cop, who is devastated by the loss of his young son some years earlier. He's called into work after one of the other cops took the night off sick, and is intrigued by one of the prisoners in his cells. He notices the guy is missing a finger, and jumps to the conclusion that he's holding the man who kidnapped his son. After sending another officer to the prisoners' house, all hell breaks loose when the fourteen maniacs being held in his basement are let loose!
The whole film takes place at night, and director Craig Singer (who previously made the half-decent 'Dark Ride') makes best use of this as it gives the film a tremendous dark atmosphere that serves the central plot line well. It's basically a film of two halves; the first half focuses on the interaction between the two central characters - the cop and the prisoner. The best thing about the first half is the suspense and intrigue drummed up as we wonder exactly what is in the guy's basement - the sequence that reveals it is really well done. The second half is much more action packed and sees the maniacs let loose on the streets, and then we watch as the cop desperately tries to keep his family safe. The film is rather savage in the gore department - though to the director's credit, he's restrained with the gore and uses it only when needed - which ensures the biggest impact. The fact that the special effects are well done is also to the film's credit. The plot line flowing throughout the film regarding the officer's son is interesting; but soon gets silly. It also has to be said that many of the character decisions throughout the film are questionable. Still, this is an interesting effort and I would say if you only see one 'film to die for', make sure it's this one.
French director Alexandre Aja exploded onto the horror scene in 2003 with excellent horror flick Switchblade Romance, but since then he's disappointingly veered off into remake territory. He can be forgiven somewhat for his first remake - an updating of the Wes Craven semi-classic The Hills Have Eyes - because it was quite good, but this next attempt - an Americanisation of South Korean film 'Mirrors', is not so successful. The basis for the plot is actually quite good and with some minor tweaks, Mirrors could have been a successful horror film. The plot focuses on Ben Carson; and ex-cop and ex-alcoholic who has been forced to take a night watchman's job in order to get his life back on track for the good of his children. His new job is at a shopping centre, which was forced to close down after a fire devastated the building. He soon notices that the mirrors in the building are extremely clean - as a result of the previous watchman's obsession with them - and he later finds out why, as there's an evil that lives in the mirrors; and Ben Carson is their next target.
The lead role is taken by Kiefer Sutherland. I've been a fan of Kiefer ever since I saw The Lost Boys; but he feels out of place in this film. It's probably just because I'm so used to seeing him as Jack Bauer that it's impossible to believe him doing any other role. The first half of the film is rather poor; the atmosphere of the former shopping centre is good, but most of the runtime is taken up by various CGI special effects going on in the mirrors, and it soon becomes tedious. Luckily, things pick up in the second half. There's a rather nasty murder scene; and then the film starts to develop a plot, which is fairly intriguing. It has to be said that the plot is rather lacking in logic at times, and all sorts of plot holes can be picked out; but then again, it is a film about evil inside mirrors at the end of the day. The revelation regarding how the mirrors became evil is a bit disappointing; I was hoping for something better, but at least the final twist is amusing. Overall, I can't recommend this film really but if it's a rainy day and you've got nothing else to watch, you could do worse than see this.
The Three Faces of Terror is a horror anthology film made by special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti. Stivaletti worked with many of the luminaries of Italian horror, including Dario Argento, Sergio Martino and Riccardo Freda; and their influence appears to have rubbed off on him somewhat as while this isn't a great film by any stretch of the imagination; it's an interesting one that harks back to some of the classics of Italian horror; most notably Mario Bava's masterpiece Black Sabbath, of which the title is a direct reference. The first story also takes influence from the Bava film as a major plot point involves someone taking a ring from the finger of a dead person. While on a dig, a man takes a ring from the finger of a mummy and subsequently finds himself dealing with a curse - that being that he turns into a werewolf! The story is not as interesting as it could have been (certainly a recurring theme in this film) and that's a shame. He finally does turn into a werewolf at the end and as you would expect given the director's primary vocation, it features a good change sequence and the werewolf costumes isn't all that bad either.
The second story is probably the most inventive of the three and focuses on the subject of plastic surgery. A woman goes to see a surgeon with her friend; and requests that she has her face altered to look just like said friend. The doctor and the friend subsequently disappear; leaving the girl on a strange odyssey through the surgery. While inventive in theme, this theme is not particularly thick on the story side and that leaves it rather lacking as it doesn't really go anywhere. The final story was my favourite and is entitled 'Guardian of the Lake'. This simply focuses on a bunch of friends that go for a relaxing weekend at a lake and end up becoming dinner for a monster that happens to live in the lake. This film has some originality with regards to the wraparound story as each of the stories ends; before we get the final conclusion of each story once the third story has - apparently - finished. This doesn't particularly add anything to the film; but I don't think I've seen this in an anthology before. The conclusion to the wraparound is decent also - although anyone who has seen the British classic Tales from the Crypt won't be very surprised.
Frank Henenlotter strikes me as a director unwilling to make compromises. I highly doubt that anyone else was involved with the creative side of this film; and the result is something that is not for everyone, but is a real ride for those who can appreciate it. In fact, Bad Biology is really nothing like anything else I've ever seen; there's been some comparisons with earlier sex related horror Teeth, but this film takes those ideas much further and adds in a whole boatload of new ones. The film opens with a shot of our female lead, who goes on to proclaim that she was "born with seven clits". Naturally, this birth defects means that she has an overactive sex drive, and this means she spends her nights hooking up with various men, and usually killing them in the act of lovemaking (to say any more than that would spoil one of the film's most ingenious plot elements!). She goes through life believing she has no equal, but eventually we are introduced to Batz; a man whose penis comes complete with its own conscience.
Bad Biology is a film with no boundaries; it's never clear exactly where it's going to go next and this is one of the best things about it. The plot really allows Henenlotter to go wild and basically do whatever he likes; which the director delights in doing. However, the film does show some restraint in regards to how the story is built up; it would have been easy to just let his two central characters go wild on some kind of gory rampage, but instead the director builds the pair of them up with their own stories before they eventually meet. The film is incredibly sleazy, which I loved, and the majority of it takes place very much in the gutter. The director adds in a few sequences that aren't particularly relevant to the plot but help to instil the sleaziness of the whole thing; a conversation between some kids in a cafe was hilarious. There's a sequence towards the end in which one of the central 'monsters' goes berserk which goes on too long, but other than that; this is exactly the film I wanted and I have to thank Frank Henenlotter for making it! It's just such a shame he makes films so sporadically; with all the rubbish coming out nowadays, somebody needs to give this man a blank chequebook and tell him to do whatever he wants with it! Highly recommended for trash fans.
Run of the mill modern thriller, from the Master of Giallo
Probably one of the reasons why Dario Argento is still making films today while many of his counterparts are not (aside from the fact that Argento is still alive, obviously) is because the director moves with the times. In the seventies, he made stylish seventies films; in the eighties, he made trashy eighties films, in the nineties he made over-complex nineties thrillers; and in the decade just gone, he made soulless genre films (the fantastic Sleepless being the exception). It would appear that Argento was trying to hark back to the good old days with this film - which takes the genre name as its own title - but unfortunately he's missed the mark rather badly. The plot is pure Giallo, however. Several women in the city of Milan have disappeared; only to turn up dead some days later. When Linda's sister is abducted, she goes to the cops and is put in touch with FBI agent Enzo Avolfi, who immediately jumps to the conclusion that Linda's sister has been abducted by the killer and proceeds to let Linda help him in every area of the investigation.
The trailer got my hopes up with its line "the city of Milan is known for its beautiful women, but someone is preying on them" - of course, the fashion house is the iconic setting of genre favourites such as Blood and Black Lace; but Argento is keen to skip over this and get straight to the killer, which is a massive shame. Atmosphere is one of the major things that separates the Giallo from the run of the mill thriller - and this one has none. The title "Giallo" - the Italian word for yellow, is used farcically as a description of the killer; who has yellow skin as a result of a medical condition. Of course, Dario Argento is no stranger to grotesquely disfigured killers - having featured one in his earlier masterpiece Phenomena, but while it fit the film in Phenomena, here it just comes off as comical and difficult to buy into. The film is not overly violent, although Argento does delight in showing us some gore. The gore scenes are not particularly well directed, however and overall the film lacks tension; which means the graphic scenes don't pack much of a punch. The cast was chopped and changed several times and the lead role eventually went to Adrien Brody; who is basically wasted. The script is really weak to the point where it does actually affect the film (Giallo isn't known for great writing, but in the best examples, it isn't a problem). The basis of the investigation is silly also; I have to admit that I don't know much about how crimes are investigated in Italy, but I'm just going to assume that the general public isn't usually given almost as much authority in investigations as police officers are! As a film in its own right, this one is pretty poor and as an Argento film; it's downright disappointing. However, since I'm such a shameless fan of the director; I can't bring myself to truly hate it.
Twisted and disturbing; there's life in the zombie flick yet!
Just when you thought there was no originality left in cinema, along comes Deadgirl - a film that takes influence from the zombie genre, and manages to craft something new and totally disturbing out of it. The film transcends the genre to the point where it's only relationship to it is the fact that one of the major players in the story is a zombie - the focus of the film is always on the central characters. It has to be said that Marcel Sarmiento's film has its problems; it's rather amateurish and the plot doesn't always make complete sense, but the story always has enough to overcome this. The plot focuses on two school kids, JT and Rickie, that decide to skip class and head off to an old abandoned mental hospital. Their foray eventually leads them down into the basement; where they are shocked to discover a woman's body. Disgust turns into curiosity for JT, and he becomes fascinated by the body, which he discovers is alive though "cannot be killed". The pair begins to argue and after Rickie leaves, JT decides to act out his sick desires on the seemingly lifeless girl.
It has to be said that Deadgirl is not a film for the weak stomached as the main themes of the story are completely sick and twisted, and the film has the ability to keep on shocking the further it gets into the horrific plot. The plot heavily hinges on the sexual desires of the male leads. Many have questioned the plausibility of the plot in this respect believing that the majority of kids would not act in the way that the majority in this movie do. However, it's clear that the film is not meant to be realistic. At its heart is a naked zombified female found in the bowels of an abandoned asylum, so obviously realism is not one of Deadgirl's key elements. The film is more a coming of age story; albeit a twisted and depraved one, but the way that it examines the leading characters is always interesting. The pacing is slightly skewed in that it's rather slow burning for the most part, but builds into something of a frenzy at the end, and it is somewhat predictable how it's all going to turn out. But in spite of it's problems, Deadgirl needs to be celebrated for it's originality and for being one of the only films I've seen to take the subject of necrophilia and make something interesting out it (it's MUCH better than the God-awful Nekromantik). The film is clearly not for everyone; but I would certainly recommend everyone gives it a look.
Deadly blind gunslinger seeks fifty mail order brides
Italian filmmakers were famous for ripping off popular franchises from other countries (usually America). Often these rips offs were near carbon copies (only with terrible actors being badly dubbed), but every now and then, an Italian rip off will become more than just another rip off. Setting a rip off of Japan's popular Zatôichi series in the wild west wasn't an obvious thing to do; western heroes are famous for their eagle eye gun handling abilities, among other things; but director Ferdinando Baldi dared to go there; and the result is Blindman, which despite the unimaginative title; is a rather decent western. The plot, as the title suggests, focuses on a blind gunslinger. He's been hired to escort 50 women across America; but runs into trouble when he is double crossed by his 'business partners'. Not willing to lie down on this one, Blindman sets off in pursuit of those that crossed him, with deadly results.
Tony Anthony takes the lead role and does a good job with it. This is the only western I've ever seen with a blindman in a central role (unless you count Johnny Depp in Once Upon a Time in Mexico) and I really don't see how anyone could have done the role any better. I also liked how the film depicts the title character going about his business with modified tools - for example, a 'Braille' map and a compass without a casing. Naturally, due to the plot, the film is not completely serious but the tongue in cheek style works fairly well. The film is not overly violent compared to other films of its type, but there is a fair bit of violence directed towards women which might shock some viewers. There's also a small role for Beatles star Ringo Starr, which was a nice surprise. Overall, I can't say that this film ranks among the best of the genre; but its good fun and I'd certainly rank it as a western worth seeing.
Goodbye, Uncle Tom is one of the Mondo films released in Italy in the seventies. I'm not a fan of this type of film and therefore I've only seen a handful of them - however, from my basic knowledge of the genre; this one is way above average and actually delivers a good film to go along with the numerous shocks. I have to be honest and say that the central theme doesn't really interest me. The film is basically an exploitation style documentary the American South prior to the civil war and primarily focuses on the slave trade. I don't know a great deal about this period of history and so I can't say how accurate this film is - but really it doesn't matter. While the film follows a documentary approach; that's really not the strongest element of Goodbye, Uncle Tom. The film, for me, is all about style and directors Franco Prosperi and Gualtiero Jacopetti lay this style on thick and it really works brilliantly. The music (excellent score by Riz Ortolani) and the cinematography are fascinating, and this is a real bona piece of seventies Spaghetti film-making.
Films like this are generally designed to shock the viewer, and that is certainly the case here. The central theme allows for plenty of shocks and the most shocking scene on a visceral level is probably the rape sequence. However, the core of this film's ability to shock stems from the premise upwards and it's uncomfortable, especially in these times, to see how black people were once treated by their "masters". A scene in which a slave trader explains what his slaves are worth in the same way a cattle rancher might try and sell his stock, and why you cannot train an Indian to be a slave is the most shocking in this respect. It's hard to really rate the film alongside others in terms of acting and the script; but suffice to say, everything shown in the film is very realistic and it wouldn't be hard for an audience to believe that the film is taking place in pre-civil war America (if it weren't for the fact that film-making equipment was not invented back then, of course). Overall, Goodbye Uncle Tom is a great piece of exploitation that shocks, thrills and intrigues in equal measures. Highly recommended viewing.
I didn't like Sabata, or Return of Sabata; which begs the question; why did I watch Adios, Sabata? Well basically because I got the set on DVD. This film is set apart from the other two owing to the fact that unlike them, it doesn't star Lee Van Cleef. I thought this might condemn the film to being even worse than the first two; but Yul Brynner steps in and does a fairly good job with the title role. The plot does not follow on from the other two films and is just your basic Spaghetti Western stuff, with the title character this time helping a bunch of people steal some gold. The first thing I noticed about this film is that the music is a lot better than it was in the last one and there isn't so much of the jokey style, which is welcome. The plot is a bit of a problem as it's rather confusing and this makes things difficult to follow. It's also not all that interesting, which doesn't help. Director Gianfranco Parolini does well with the Spaghetti Western style and the cinematography is not bad. Overall, I can't say I'm a fan of this film; or of the series on the whole, but at least this third entry isn't any worse than the other two.
Sabata returns...for another poor Spaghetti Western
I have to be honest and say I didn't really like the first Sabata film, but I decided to see this one anyway. I would say that, actually, The Return of Sabata is slightly better than the first film in the series - although slightly is the operative word as both are rather poor Spaghetti Westerns. It's obvious that this film wasn't meant to be completely serious - as shown by the opening score, which is rather silly. The plot focuses on gunslinger Sabata. He rides into Hobsonville and discovers that the locals are being taxed by a man named McIntock. Sabata don't pay taxes to no man, so he decides to do something about it. The plot is not really all that interesting and there doesn't seem to be a great deal of point to it either. The film is also rather strange and features plenty of things you wouldn't expect to find a film like this; which is great for originality, but not so great considering most of it doesn't work. Naturally it's Lee Van Cheef as the master gunslinger who is the main standout, and he provides the best thing about the film with his role; although I'm not surprised he didn't come back to do the third film. Overall, this is a rather poor Spaghetti Western and I wouldn't recommend this - or the first one - to anyone (unless I didn't like the person, in which case I'd recommend they skip Leone and see these films!).
Pretty Maids All in a Row is based on a novel by Francis Pollini and has all the makings of a cult film. We've got a cast peppered with cult stars, a story involving a sex killer and some great black humour, but somehow it missed the cult film boat. The film is set in a California high school, and clearly the writers decided to throw caution to the wind where any political correctness was concerned as Pretty Maids All in a Row delights in showing Rock Hudson's teacher character getting up to allsorts with his young female students. The film basically has two main plot lines. The first of which focuses on a young man named Ponce de Leon Harper. This guy is cut up because he's seventeen and hasn't lost his virginity yet, and so turns to his teacher friend, Michael McDrew, for help. Mr McDrew decides to help Leon by hooking him up with someone; only thing is, he decides to hook him up with his English teacher, Miss Smith! Meanwhile, teenage girls are turning up dead with a note attached to their bottoms...
The black humour features throughout the film and at times is subtle, and at others; less subtle (for example, "we never have practise on the day of a murder!"), but it works really well. The cast is superb, with Rock Hudson getting the main plaudits for his central performance. He's every bit the middle aged pervert and he plays the role with relish. John David Carson is less impressive as the young kid, but still turns in a good performance. There are also roles for the likes of Telly Savalas, Roddy McDowall and Angie Dickinson. The film remains interesting for the duration due to its range of characters and various plot lines. The film actually does handle some interesting themes too; the boy losing his virginity being the main one. The sequence in which that happens is really great, too! The film doesn't work at all as a mystery - it's completely clear who the murderer is right from the start - but still, getting to the conclusion is a lot of fun. Overall, I would have to say that this film falls somewhere short of 'great', but it's certainly very good.
I had rather high hopes for this film going into it as I still consider myself a Clive Barker fan (despite disliking every film based on his work except Hellraiser) and the trailer looked interesting. Unfortunately, however, The Midnight Meat Train does not capitalise on its interesting premise and is more damp squib than great horror. The main problem is definitely the plotting - in short, it just isn't interesting enough. The film is based on just a short story and clearly there wasn't enough material to stretch it out for one hundred minutes, meaning that the film feels drawn out and is not very exciting as a result. The plot focuses on a man named Leon, who is a photographer that specialises in pictures of the dirty city he lives in. He takes his work to some woman who sells photos and she tells him it needs to be better, which means Leon goes back out onto the streets to find something to take a picture of. He finds it in the form of a young girl being attacked. After convincing her attackers to leave, she gets on a train and is never seen again...leading Leon to investigate the disappearance.
The title suggests that the film will be gory, and it doesn't disappoint in that respect. The Midnight Meat Train features plenty of people getting butchered in a variety of nasty ways; but the violence is spoiled for two reasons. First of all, the CGI is awful. Real special effects, when bad, can still be appreciated; but that isn't the case with CGI and the effects are just poor. Secondly, since the story is not interesting, the gore packs less of a punch than it should do. Bradley Cooper is decent enough in the lead - providing a kind of 'everyman' performance that is easy to like. Vinnie Jones is the main standout in a role he was pretty much made for; shame the film wasted him. The story really starts to drag when we reach the middle of the film and each revelation becomes more tedious than the last. I was starting to worry that the film might not actually go anywhere at all and unfortunately my fears were confirmed by the ending; which while definitely the best part of the film, leaves far too many questions unanswered and left me feeling like there was a lack of imagination in the writing of this film. If you want modern subway related horror, see Creep instead. That film wasn't great, but it was better than this.
Deep End is a practically unheard of film these days - but it's a surprisingly good one that urgently needs a bigger audience. The film is basically a coming of age story involving young love and teenage angst. Despite the fact that everything in this film has been seen before in other films, it all comes together well and doesn't feel like it's just rethreading old ground, which is very much to it's credit. Writer-director Jerzy Skolimowski does a really good job of telling his story too, which means that deep End is an easy film to get along with. The title refers to the film's central location - a swimming pool. We focus on Mike, a young lad fresh out of school who has just got his first job as a pool attendant at the local bath house. On his first day, he meets the beautiful Susan and falls head over heels in love with her. Trouble is, Susan already has a fiancé and while she kind of likes Mike, she doesn't take him seriously...leading Mike to become frustrated and willing to do anything in order to have Susan all for himself.
The two central performers are really good and responsible for a lot of the film's success. Jane Asher is absolutely beautiful and it's easy to see why she'd have a young lad lusting after her. Horror fans will likely recognise John Moulder-Brown from classic horror The House That Screamed, as well as Hammer Horror Vampire Circus. He's good here too, and expertly captures the immaturely and lust of youth. The film itself is always interesting and the director keeps the central relationship at the forefront of the film, which helps to keep things interesting. The film is set in 1970's London, and the director does a good job of capturing the gritty feel of the city. A lot of the film takes place inside a swimming baths, but sequences that take place in sleazy corners of the city are among the best of the film. The director does have an eye for sleaze too - some of the bath house punters are rather shady characters, and we've also got scenes set inside a prostitute's room and an adult movie theatre. The ending is iconic and memorable, and manages to tie up all the film's central themes. Overall, this really is a very good film that more people need to see!
Women in Cages is yet another sleazy women in prison film from the same people that brought us classics such as The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage. This film is nowhere near as good as those two, but it's still an entertaining effort that fans of this sort of trash will surely appreciate. The plot is just your general women in prison sort of story and, naturally, focuses on a bunch of women inside a women's prison. One in particular has been sent to jail after being set up by her boyfriend; meanwhile, another prisoner has been given the task of murdering said unfortunate prisoner. There's also an escape attempt being plotted. This women in prison film stands apart from many of the others simply because it stars Pam Grier in the role of a guard rather than a prisoner. Naturally, she steps into this role well and plays the antagonist with relish. Unfortunately, there's no role for Sid Haig in this one. The film is directed by Gerardo de Leon, and regrettably he doesn't have the same flair as Jack Hill and the film does fall a little flat in that respect. However, it's still decent enough entertainment and at about seventy five minutes, it doesn't outstay its welcome either. Worth a look.
Summer Affair is kind of an Italian version of Romero and Juliet, intertwined with themes of free love, overbearing parents and a sun-baked island. The film is basically the story of a young girl who is enticed by a good looking, 'free spirit', much to the dismay of her father. The pair spends time together and eventually they end up on a boat. The boats gets out of control and the pair find themselves on a deserted island together. Meanwhile, the girl's father gets the police involved to try and 'save' his daughter. It has to be said that the film isn't all that interesting - not a great deal really happens and it tends to rely on the themes of the plot rather than the plot itself. The film does look nice, however, and director Giorgio Stegani does a good job of capturing the sun drenched locations and the picturesque island at the centre of the story. The film stars the beautiful Ornella Muti in one of her first roles, and while she doesn't get a great deal to do; she is always nice to look at. Starring alongside her is Alessio Orano and the two share a believable chemistry. The plot really is rather predictable and the film doesn't feature any surprises either. I wouldn't heavily recommend anyone goes out of their way for this film...but it is at least a decent watch.
Like most fans of the Resident Evil games, I was less than impressed with the movie cash-ins started by Paul W.S. Anderson in 2002. Therefore, I was delighted when I found that Sony were releasing a 'true' Resident Evil film, done in the style of the games (computer animated) and featuring real Resident Evil characters. It's very clear from the outset that this is a Resident Evil film purely for fans and I highly doubt that anyone who doesn't love the games will be impressed by it. As a film in its own right, it has to be said that it is a bit lacking; but it's still a treat for fans and a lot better than the live-action counterparts. The film focuses on Resident Evil 2's protagonists; Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield. Claire just happens to be at an airport where a T-virus outbreak takes place. She manages to survive the initial outbreak along with a few other people. Shortly after, Leon Kennedy is sent in to save the day, and after doing so; the pair realise that they're up against a much bigger threat.
The film is very much like the games; although less exciting since the audience does not get an opportunity to pick up a controller and have a go at blasting zombies themselves. However, it features many trademarks of the series and the animators really did get that side of the movie spot on. Unfortunately, the awful dialogue also makes an appearance (though thankfully there's nothing to rival the "Jill Sandwich"). There's also a number of nods to the game...some of which, it has to be said, are a bit ham-fisted. The story itself is not great and really doesn't get going, which is a bit of a shame. The first half of the film is more action packed, while the second part of the film is more story-orientated and is probably the one that will most interest fans of the series. There's not a great deal of characterisation, although that's not too big a problem as the target audience will already know enough about the main players. All in all, I have to say that this film is not great; but it's a fun watch and Resident Evil fans shouldn't be disappointed.
The Fourth Victim is a film very much in the style of Umberto Lenzi's late sixties Giallo's (including Orgasmo and So Sweet...So Perverse). The film is very tame and relies on its story, rather than brutal and bloody murders, for its thrills; and that, unfortunately, is its downfall. While the storytelling is not particularly bad for the most part; it's just not exciting enough and by the time the film takes a turn for the final third, many audience members will already be switched off; and that's a shame because the basic story here is stronger than that of a lot of other genre films. The film takes place in Britain and the plot focuses on Arthur Anderson. We begin with a wordless sequence that sees Anderson find his wife dead in the swimming pool. He and his housekeeper drag her body from the pool and call a doctor, who gives a death certificate. However, it transpires that Anderson has already had two wives die on him; but an insurance investigation leads to there being no wrong-doing on his part. Shortly thereafter Anderson meets Julie and marries her...but will Julie become 'the fourth victim', and is there more to her than meets the eye?
The film stars American actress and Umberto Lenzi favourite Carroll Baker alongside Michael Craig. The male lead is good and provides just the right tone for his slightly sinister character; while Baker just goes through the motions in what is a rather lightweight part in the movie. The script is the film's downfall as it is rather dull and not very realistic. Most of the film is just soap opera stuff that fails to fascinate, and it's not very realistic either. The dialogue is poor and the film rushes headlong into its first major plot point - a wedding - all too quickly and unrealistically. The film does deliver a twist around the start of the final third, and it does serve in making things more interesting...although it's a rather strange twist that comes in almost from nowhere and pretty much undermines the main plot of the film. This is made worse by the fact that the ending doesn't give any credibility to the main plot, and it's all just kind of brushed away, almost like the filmmakers got bored and just wanted to end things early. Overall, this is just an average Giallo and I wouldn't recommend anyone goes out of their way to see it.
I went into this film expecting/hoping for a sleazy drive-in style slice of seventies exploitation, but what I got was more of a bizarre pseudo western with far too much talking and not enough action. It's clear that this film was made on a budget; the locations are drab and poorly shot, while the acting leaves a lot to be desired also. The plot focuses on a trio of robbers (a father and two sons) that steal a load of gold after killing some miners. They come across a cabin inhabited by a young girl and her stepmother...and all this is told in flashbacks by the young girl, currently residing in an asylum. It's clear that directors Louis Leahman and William Sachs thought they were making something really shocking; but despite its best efforts, South of Hell Mountain is just too boring to shock the viewer. The film drones on for about eighty minutes and most of it consists of boring characters spouting off boring and long-winded dialogue. The only good thing I have to say about the film is with regards to the music; which is good in places. The ending is the only other good thing about the movie; and that's only because it's the last thing that happens. I wouldn't recommend anyone bothers tracking this down...there was much better trash made in the seventies.
Soledad Miranda plays a British spy in this movie and is not believable in the slightest; but thank God she is in it because if she weren't, this Krimi-style James Bond send-up would have been a complete dead loss. This movie is rather strange all round. It's based on an Edgar Wallace story and therefore is shot in the same style as the popular Krimi films from the sixties and seventies; but it's directed by Jess Franco, who is more famous for his trashy euro-exploitation flicks, and it takes obvious influence from James Bond; although the suave spy featured here is a sexy female. The plot is complete nonsense of course and focuses around some mineral that has been discovered by some researchers. It has unique properties; it can turn ordinary metal into gold and...wait for it...humans into zombies. Naturally this mineral becomes pretty sought after and it is soon stolen. Shortly thereafter, Scotland Yard sends spies to investigate its disappearance and stop whoever has stolen the mineral.
Soledad Miranda made a handful of films with Jess Franco before her untimely death in 1970; and it's unfortunate really that this had to be one of them. She was in her element in films like She Killed in Ecstasy and Eugenie De Sade, whereas here she's out of her element and it's not really a very good performance. One of the most noticeable things about this film is the score. It's groovy and entertaining, but it's also constant and it does become a bit grating after a while. The madcap plot starts to wear thin rather quickly also and to be honest I was getting bored long before the movie ended. The whole zombie plot might make you believe that there'd be some horror element to the movie, but this is hardly touched on...although that might be a good thing as the quality of this production is very low even without that. It all bubbles up some stupid conclusion that fits the movie well. Overall, The Devil Came from Akasava is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. Soledad fans will of course want to track it down, however, and it is worth seeing just for her.
This film was included in the Region 1 Pinky Violence Boxset, and unfortunately it has to be said that it's the worst of the set. Like many of this type of film, the plot is overly complicated and confusing; but unlike other genre films, the overall film is entertaining enough to adequately mask the plotting problems; and therefore the film is more of a boring mess than an entertaining one. That being said, Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess still has it's moments and is not a complete waste of time for fans of this type of film. The plot focuses on delinquent girls, and one in particular is Rika - she's fresh out of reform school and decides to track down the father of one of her friends from inside. She finds him and it turns out he runs a garage. He offers her a job and lodging, and being short on other options; she takes him up on the offer. However, the local Yakuza want a share in the garage and insist on getting it despite the owner's reluctance to agree. Naturally, it all ends in violence.
The film is not nearly as over the top as some other films in the genre and that's a shame as it gets boring too often. There's also not a great deal of skin featured - naturally there's no full frontal nudity, but oddly there isn't any naked breasts either. Luckily the film is decent enough on the style side of things and director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi provides some vibrant colours and there's a decent musical score also. Reiko Oshida takes the lead role in the film. She's not one of the big Pinky Violence stars, and I'm not too surprised at that as she doesn't have the same level of charisma as the likes of Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike. However, it's a good performance and she leads the film well. There's a handful of fight scenes but nothing really all that memorable up until the end. Suffice to say the film does end on a high with a good bloody battle, but the process of getting there isn't as exciting as I would have hoped. Still, while this isn't a great genre film; I'm sure that fans of Pinky Violence will get some sort of kick out of it.
The Man With Icy Eyes is one of the rarest Giallo's out there, and to be honest I'm not really surprised that it hasn't cemented itself a more profound place in Giallo history. The film is undoubtedly very well made and features a strong plot; but unfortunately Alberto De Martino's film is not particularly exciting at any point and the lack of gory murders that made other genre films such highlights makes the film's chances of becoming a genre favourite slimmer still. I would say that the film is something of a cross-over between the Giallo and Polizi genres, with a lot of the focus being on an investigation carried out by the lead character. The film begins with the assassination of an Arizona state senator. Ambitious journalist Eddie Mills (an Italian immigrant) is assigned to report on the case and he promptly begins investigating the crime. His investigation leads him to a stripper who seems to know more than she is letting on. The police later arrest a man they describe as having 'icy eyes', but Eddie believes he may not be the real killer.
The film is fairly well placed; although it does have a tendency to get confusing, and this is at least partly caused by the lack of excitement which can make concentrating on the film difficult. The mystery itself is not particularly interesting either, and I found myself not particularly caring who the murderer is on more than one occasion. I have to admit that the copy I saw was not of the best quality, so I couldn't fully appreciate the director's capturing of the locations; but most of it looked pretty desolate and the film doesn't feature the captivating colour scheme shown in many of the best Giallo's. Antonio Sabato takes the lead role and it decent in it, and he gets good support from the sexy Barbara Bouchet; whose role was too small for my liking. There's not a great deal of distraction from the central plot; only a 'supernatural' side plot that doesn't go anywhere. Overall, I have to admit that I found this film to be rather dull. There's nothing outstanding about it, and I'd only recommend it to real hardcore collectors.
I saw The Red-Headed Corpse because somewhere down the line I'd heard it was a Giallo. Well, it's Italian and could be described as a thriller; although for me it certainly doesn't tick many of the 'Giallo' boxes. However, it's an interesting and surreal film that I would certainly rate as worth a look. The film plays up the surreal atmosphere as much as possible - and it's one of those where you're never really sure exactly what's going on, and whether what we're seeing is actually happening or just a figment of the lead character's imagination. Luckily, it's all rather interesting. The plot focuses on troubled artist John Ward. He's an alcoholic and suffering in the wallet department because nobody will buy his paintings. He meets a drifter in a park one night who gives him a mannequin (err...naturally?). John takes the mannequin home, and it promptly takes on a life of its own; in the sexy form of Erika Blanc, who proceeds to take over John's meagre life.
Erika Blanc is clearly the best thing about the film. The actress takes on the seductive central role and does really well with it. She's at her best when getting her claws into the various male members of the cast, and that happens often. However, I'm not sure if the version I saw was cut because I didn't see so much as a naked breast from her! (Other than the ones featured in her likeness on canvas). She is joined by Farley Granger, who is at home in his role as an alcoholic artist. The pair shares a good on screen chemistry, and it's their interactions with one another that provide the film with its most interesting moments. It's lucky they are so good too, because the film would have fallen flat on its face if it were forced to rely only on the central plot! It soon becomes clear with regards to the plot that it's easier just to sit back and let the film get on with it, rather than giving yourself a headache trying to work it out. In spite of that, however, this is still a stylish Italian film and I'm sure fans of this stuff will appreciate it.
Bunch of suits cashing in on popular eighties horror
Hollywood's remake machine still droning on, and eighties semi-classic Friday the 13th is the latest film to get the unwelcome treatment. I can't say I'm a massive fan of the Friday the 13th series; certainly it's one of the better slasher film examples, but that's not saying much in a niche so lacking in good films. However, compared to this remake; the original Friday the 13th is like Ferrari compared to Ford, it's Led Zeppelin to the Spice Girls; Mario Bava to Michael Bay. To say this update is poor would be a gross understatement. The plot is, of course, just your basic slasher fare. The scene is set at Camp Crystal Lake; where a bunch of kids have travelled to camp in the woods and steal some of the local weed that grows wild in the area. It's not long before there's a discussion about the legend of Jason Voorhees, and shortly thereafter all the kids are butchered. A while later, someone named Clay sets off on his motorbike to look for his sister (who was one of the kids from the start) and he meets some other kids who are there to be slaughtered.
The film is a remake of Friday the 13th, but effectively it's a mish-mash of ideas from the first few films of the series. The plot involving Jason's mother is briefly skipped over in the first few minutes as the producers knew they couldn't market a movie without Jason Voorhees in it. There's also a scenario where Jason finds a hockey mask and puts it on, which feels completely out of place. Obviously the producers knew Jason had to wear the mask so they could put it on the posters, but it would have been less silly if he was just wearing it from the start. None of the characters are interesting at all, and only one is memorable. I don't remember his name but he's the one doing a Tom Cruise impression. Director Marcus Nispel (who did quite well with the TCM remake) expertly captures the modern horror MTv music video style, and this basically glosses over any attempt the film makes to be shocking/scary. There's some gore but it doesn't make any impact. There's also some RIDICULOUS idea about Jason taking a prisoner, which was obviously put in the movie to dampen it and ensure that it got the 'R' rating, which helps the producers to make more money. Overall, this is an absolutely abysmal effort that does no justice to the original and was clearly made to cash in. Luckily, it didn't cost me anything to see (but I still want my money back!)
Tarantino does World War II with Glourious results!
I have to admit that I've not always been the biggest fan of everything that Quentin Tarantino has released; but I have always admired the man both for making exactly the films he wants, and for trying his hand at different genres. World War II was not the obvious place to go, and it becomes even less obvious when you take out any ties to actual history and replace it with a black comic surreal style that is fleshed out with absurd characters and intense violence; but Tarantino has done just that, and for me has masterminded the best film of his career! Tarantino himself calls this a 'men on a mission' film, but really it's much more than that and the film would better be described as a World War II themed ensemble. The bulk of the film takes place in 1944 and the stage is set in Nazi-occupied France. A group of Jewish-American soldiers nicknamed 'The Basterds' have been dropped into enemy territory in order to hunt down and kill as many Nazi's as possible - a task they carry out with relish. Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Nazi's are holding a film premiere in a small theatre in France owned by a Nazi hating French-Jewish girl. Naturally, the Basterds soon take an interest in the event - since every major Nazi will be in attendance - but their plans to spoil the Third Reich's evening coincides with those of the theatre owner...who has a revenge of her own in mind.
Like most of Tarantino's films, this one is executed in chapters - there are five of them and they all follow in chronological order. Each chapter has a distinct style and purpose and in fact each one could almost be a film within itself. Tarantino sets the benchmark immediately with the first scene - an intense sequence that sees ruthless SS Officer Hans Landa turn up at the house of a French farmer whom he suspects of hiding Jews. This scene is unbelievably intense; Tarantino expertly builds the pressure throughout the scene until it finally reaches boiling point in spectacular fashion. That's basically the crux of the film; each sequence featured is completely gripping and intense, and this makes the two and a half hour running time fly by. The film is peppered with Tarantino's trademark sharp dialogue, (which is featured in English, French, German and Italian!) and it is unbelievably good - almost every line uttered is infinitely quotable, and each of the conversations between the many characters is interesting in its own right. Every scene appears to have been meticulously planned to the finest detail – and there honestly isn't one moment in the entire film that isn't extremely well done. I'm also amazed at how funny the film is – several sequences in this film wouldn't be out of place in a comedy, and yet they blend seamlessly with the intensity and violence on show elsewhere.
Throughout his career, Tarantino has excelled at casting the right people for the right roles; and Inglourious Basterds is another success on that front. Brad Pitt is the biggest star name in the cast, his Lieutenant Aldo Raine is a gloriously over the top stereotype and Pitt pins down the role fabulously. However, it is in fact Austrian actor Christophe Waltz who comes out of the film with the most praise; his subtly psychotic portrayal of SS Officer Hans Landa is absolutely brilliant and will surely go down as one of cinema's great villains. The mesmeric French actress Mélanie Laurent also stands out (both for her beauty and acting), and there's also memorable roles for Michael Fassbender, Til Schweiger (his awesomely cool character doesn't feature enough!), Diane Kruger and Hostel director Eli Roth, who gives a surprisingly effective performance as a baseball bat wielding lunatic nicknamed "The Bear Jew". All of the central characters are very well written and Tarantino excels at getting the point of all of them across, even though the screen time is generously shared between them all.
Rumour has it that Inglourious Basterds was ten years in the making, and I can say that the wait was worth it! I really am struggling to comprehend just how amazingly brilliant this film is. Tarantino has made a movie the likes of which has never been seen before, and if a better movie than this one is released in my lifetime, I will be surprised.
Interesting thriller, but a bit too high brow for it's own good
The influence for this film is clear; it's basically an Italian twist on the Hitchcock classic Strangers on a Train. Being a big fan of that film, I was of course intrigued to see how this was going to turn out. I wont say I was too disappointed overall, but it's nowhere near as good as the original and certainly could have been a lot better. The main problem with it is that director Maurizio Lucidi has aimed too high; it's clear he wanted this to be a high quality thriller rather than a slice of Italian exploitation - and personally I'd rather it have been the latter. The basics of the plot will be familiar to most fans of thrillers, and in this film we focus on Stefano Argenti, an advertising executive who is at odds with his wife over the sale of a joint business. He wants rid of it so he can live a life of luxury with his mistress; but his wife wont agree the sale. Stefano meets Count Mateo Tiepolo, who it transpires, is at odds with his violent brother. Mateo suggests a plan in which each man murder the other's vice; though Stefano is reluctant. But then Mateo kills Stefano's wife, and demands that the favour is returned.
The lead roles are taken by Tomas Milian and Pierre Clémenti, and both perform well and share an intriguing (almost homo-erotic) bond on screen together. The plot itself is rather slowly paced and it has to be said there's not a great deal of excitement; I was never on the edge of my seat waiting to see what's going to happen, and that's unfortunate since the film is supposed to be a thriller. It's all very well orchestrated, however, and the film has themes that go deeper than merely what we're seeing on screen. Director Maurizio Lucidi obviously wanted to keep the film clean, and therefore we don't see any murders actually happen, which is a bit of a disappointment. The locations are all very beautiful and well shot, and this brilliantly offsets the dark themes of the film. The soundtrack is rather interesting also and not merely the norm for Giallo. The film deviates from Hitchcock's original with the ending, which features a clever twist; though I have to say I prefer how the original turned out. Overall, I would definitely say that this film is worth a look; however, I'd have preferred some more of the classic Giallo style.