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13 Dolls in Darkness

Breathing new life into the horror genre
I have been an obsessive fan of horror films since I was a kid (way back in the 70's). Brought up on Hammer and Universal monster films it wasn't long before I delved into pre-cert exploitation films and that is where my preference has been ever since. Over the last 20 years I have felt that the horror genre hasn't really offered its fans anything new (bar a few exceptions). Having been left despondent, disappointed and bored senseless by the over-saturation of remakes, reboots and just plain dull horror fare, it comes with great surprise that a black and white silent film from Australia would be the breath of fresh air that the horror genre desperately needs. The plot of 13 Dolls is pretty straightforward. Marjorie receives a letter from her ailing mother to return home after a 13 year absence. On her return home Marjorie realizes that things are not what they seem... Written and directed by the talented Zeda Müller, this is a film that demands your attention from the start. With its eerie score and moody camera-work it sets a very atmospheric and claustrophobic feel to proceedings. It's a great take on the 'old dark house' horrors of a bygone era, Robert Wiene and Tod Brownings early work spring to mind... yet it draws on influences from the likes of Dario Argento, Mario Bava's Gothic horrors, giallo and slasher films (there are some nicely placed references for the sharp- eyed viewer). The fact that this is a silent film (I'll get to the score in a bit) actually works in its favour. Gone are the usual mundane dialogue pieces that fill out most horror films these days and the viewer is reintroduced to dialogue cards when required to move the story along. This also means that the actors are given room to act through expression and emotion and they all do a sterling job. The masterstroke of 13 Dolls though is the excellent use of camera-work and soundtrack. The soundtrack is interspliced with sound effects (church bells, howling wind, dripping taps etc), moody piano and tension building synths, all used to full sensory effect. The footage and score intertwine brilliantly together and I found some scenes genuinely eerie and creepy (a rare feeling for me whilst watching a new film these days). Overall 13 Dolls is a mesmerizing experience, interspersed with some cleverly executed gore scenes, and at a scant 75 minutes long, it motors along at a cracking pace. So, you have probably guessed that I liked this film a lot. I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you are looking for something different. Shot on a low budget ($200 approximately) it's an outstanding achievement and I for one am looking forward to Zeda Müller & Co's next venture...!

Shark's Paradise

Bonkers Aussie Fun...
"Get your damn hands off me or I'll give you a social disease you wouldn't believe...!"

This is a pretty crazy Australian made for TV film. Throw in every film cliché you can mention, some extremely bad 80's fashion, hilariously bad dialogue, speed boats, car chases and you get the Aussie equivalent of Miami Vice. It's great fun and there's never a dull moment. Don't expect much shark action though. Apart from a couple of brief scenes at the beginning and the end the Shark's are barely in it. Not that it really matters. The idea that a mad genius is holding a city to ransom with the threat of sending 100's of sharks to their coastlines to decimate the public is fun but the loop hole is massive (just stay out the bloody water and the mad mans plans are pointless). When our leading lady is hanging off the feet of a helicopter it is so glaringly obvious it's a stunt double (twice the size of the actress and more 'blokey' looking). I laughed my ass off all the way through. An added bonus is the soundtrack, featuring the likes of Split Enz, INXS and The Hoodoo Gurus and The Church among others. Trashy fun. Neat...!

Self Defense

Overlooked classic grindhouse thriller
I first rented this out under the title Siege back in the 80s. This film needs an official release desperately. Cannot believe that it hasn't been done already. Siege motors along at a fast pace, no lulls, just scene upon scene of intense cat n mouse between a gang of murderous thugs n a group of people (in what looks like the most rundown n scuzziest building ever) who take in a survivor from the gangs previous assault. Shade of Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 n a cheeky wink towards Escape From New York, the gang take on more than they bargain for when the ever resourceful victims strike back. Solid acting all round n a sucker punch of a twist at the end. This is a must see..! Classic grindhouse..!

Mil gritos tiene la noche

Good fun but makes little sense
A strange slasher film with some very poor acting. Paul L. Smith wins the honours for worse acting in this daft gore flick but he is also the most entertaining as the very unhelpful gardener whose chainsaw goes on walkabout (why he never feels the need to lock it up to keep it away from the deranged killer is beyond me, but then again there are many points like this in this film). For such a big campus we have very few suspects, three in total (which includes the gardener who is ruled out pretty early) which get wittled down even quicker within the first 30 minutes leaving the viewer with only one glaringly obvious suspect, but never mind... How the murder gets around the campus with this chainsaw hidden is beyond me but there are some pretty neat hacking and dismemberment to watch and the piles of limbs left behind is quite comical. Speaking of which, we are subjected to a hilarious scene when undercover tennis playing police woman finds another victim in the changing rooms (this victim is sawn in half and the legs taken. She screams out "Bastard!" numerous times whilst clenching her fists, and then we have a random martial arts instructor kicking out at her in another scene for absolutely no reason..! There is a God-awful and stupid plot twist 20 seconds at the end of the film that makes no sense whatsoever and almost destroys what is a daft but fun addition to the slasher cycle. I give it 6 out of 10 (an extra point for the gore and a rather good axe job at the beginning of the film).

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