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Halloween III: Season of the Witch

An unfairly maligned entry in the franchise
Halloween was meant to be a stand-alone film, Carpenter never intended it as a franchise. After the success of Halloween Carpenter was asked to write Halloween II which he did not want to do, in fact in an interview he said he wrote one night with a six pack of beer. It shows as well, Halloween II pales next Halloween but is good enough as a slasher. Halloween III was meant to begin Carpenter's anthology idea, have a new story based around Halloween each entry.

This was entry focuses on Dr. Challis (Tom Atkins) who becomes entangled in a plot which revolves around a cult aiming to kill a lot of people on Halloween through cursed children's masks. It sounds outrageous and it is, but it is original and a hell of a lot of fun. The plot moves swiftly and is often engaging, Atkins is excellent as our hero and he plays well alongside Stacey Nelkin (who plays Ellie Grimbridge) and a deliciously evil Dan O'Herlihy (the villain Conal Cochran).

There is a lot to like here aside form the acting: the score is excellent (and no one will soon forget the infamous Silver Shamrock jingle) and the gore effects are fantastic. In fact this film is incredibly gore and is often not mentioned when talking about cool death scenes. One man gets his skull crushed by someone's bare hands, another their head ripped off by bare hands and one poor lady has face melted off with a laser. And the movie has the balls to kill a child in a fairly graphic way. The downbeat ending also plays in the films favour.

I think this film deserves way more attention than it gets. It is by far one of the strongest entries in the franchise and as a stand-alone works well. If this were not Halloween III but just Season of the Witch it probably would get far better reception.

Annabelle: Creation

Annabelle: Creation comes completely out of left field to deliver the goods
Annabelle: Creation is a prequel of a spin-off, a frightfully bad spin-off at that. Annabelle was a shoddy movie through and through, taking the premise of a haunted doll and turning into a yawn- inducing cliché filled mess typical of most Hollywood horror.

When they announced a prequel I first thought: why? Why do a prequel to such a crappy film which was poorly received by critics and moviegoers? Why not just come up with something origin....hold on, we've heard this before haven't we? Anyway they went ahead with it and we have this, a movie for intents and purposes does not deserve to be this good!

Annabelle: Creation shocked the hell out of me, and not just because it was scary, it was actually good. Yes there may be a reliance on jump scares and characters making silly decisions, and generally there are minimal surprises in the plot but what makes this movie good is solid cast, choice of setting and director David Sandberg's confidence in scaring us. Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto add a touch of class to an already solid cast, which makes the proceedings that much more interesting when you have characters you actually care about. Lulu Wilson and Talitha Bateman, the two young orphans who become the target of the doll, give great performances. The movie really rests on these two young girls, and the scares revolve around them, so kudos to these two for such a good job.

The country setting is used very well here, the house is a character on its own and the certain scenes that solely rely on this house to scare really work. David Sandberg directed last year's Lights Out, a very successful film critically and with many horror fans. Although I found it only average I could see potential in many scenes. I think Sandberg has found his breakthrough film, or at the very least cemented himself as someone to look out for. He definitely knows what is scary, and how to use light to his advantage. The way certain scenes are framed to show us only certain things, or make us think we see something we don't is particular clever.

Annabelle: Creation will not win any awards and nor is it the best horror film of the year but what it is is scary and at the end of the day, isn't this what horror is all about?



An almost perfect adaptation of King's epic horror novel
A brief foreword: Stephen King's It remains my favourite horror novel ever since I read it 13 years ago. It terrified me then and terrifies me still. I always wondered how they could adapt this huge 1000+ page novel into a well-made, scary film. In 1990 a miniseries was released and unfortunately failed miserably. As much as I like Tim Curry as Pennywise and the flashback scenes the series is generally terrible and fails to do the book justice.

Enter this adaptation which, while not 100% faithful, captures the essence of the book. The film is set in the 80's, not 50's, and follows only the parts of the novel that deal with the group as children (rather than flashing forward and back). A few other parts of the novel are changed or left out which I won't go into much detail about so as not to spoil anything. Some of the omissions I can understand, others are slightly disappointing as I think they would have made the film scarier.

Briefly, the film follows The Losers Club, a group of seven children who face day-to-day challenges of overprotective, ignorant or abusive parents while trying not to get eaten by a shape-shifting entity that often takes the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

The movie's biggest strength lies in the casting. The group of child actors are just so fantastic and an absolute pleasure to watch. In fact, I could just watch a movie about their antics without any of the horrors for hours. The actors give life to such an eclectic group of children and they deserve all the praise they are getting. Bill Skarsgard absolutely nails Pennywise, rather than Tim Curry's more human looking version, Skarsgard appears demonic and alien from the get go (also thanks to a fantastic SFX team).

Thanks to cinematographer Chung Hoon Chung It looks beautiful, every shot feels carefully framed, clearly a lot of effort was put into making this so. Everything from the opening scene with Georgie running through the rainy streets of Derry to the children playing in the quarry could be framed a work of art.

Andres Muschietti is the man behind all this and I must respect his vision for It, even if others may not see it or agree with it. Previously he has directed Mama, a fairly standard horror film and not in the same league as this. Maybe this was a special project for him, whatever the case this is a massive improvement and a fantastic showcase for his directing abilities.

As I mentioned earlier the screenplay deviates slightly from the source, generally not to the movies detriment. However, it feels somewhat light on scares and tends to focus more on "Stand By Me" type scenes. If there is one thing I would have liked more of is scares but not at the expense of spending time with the characters. The films running time is over 2 hours but this goes so quickly a few more scenes of horror wouldn't have gone astray. What is there is genuinely frightening with some scenes more effective than others. The film is not overly graphic (I expected more honestly) but stays true to some key scenes, particularly young Georgie's famous encounter at the beginning. What I did find interesting is the stories focus not only as It as the villain but the adults almost like secondary villains. Aware of the evil present but preferring to turn the blind eye. This idea stood out quite prominently, and further highlighted the children's struggles, which in turn makes the film even more satisfying come the credits.

Ever since I read It I dreamed of what a film adaptation would be like, and how scary it could be. This may not be exactly what I pictured, and there are things I would have done differently, but as it stands this is an excellent film. A beautiful blend of drama and horror with a group of lovable kids and a terrifying villain. This is easily one of the best King adaptations put to screen and quite simply a high quality horror film, something I haven't seen in some time. Consider me thoroughly excited for Chapter Two, and for The Losers Club to confront It one last time.


Evil Dead

Good, but a major disappointment
When I heard they were remaking (or rebooting, which seems to be the term these days) Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead (1981) I first thought: why? Even with the approval of Raimi, producer Rob Tapert and actor Bruce Campbell why even bother? In my view, The Evil Dead is perfect and needs no modern update, even then, I would have thought the rabid fan base would be enough to scare someone off touching this. Well, it doesn't really matter what I think because here I am reviewing Evil Dead, directed by newcomer Fede Alvarez and boasting the very bold tagline "The most terrifying film you will ever experience."

Well, this is most definitely not the most terrifying film I have ever experienced. In fact, it is probably one of the most disappointing films I have ever experienced. Is it bad? No, not at all. Is it as good as it could have been? Definitely not.

It's a fairly fun ride for the most part, with a strong opening and plenty of neat gross-out gags (with minimal CGI, which is a big bonus). The actors are serviceable, as is the music and direction. But to me it feels lifeless, almost like it tries too hard to be gross and disturbing. The story also leaves a lot to be desired in some parts.

I will not break the plot down, it is basically the same as the original with minor changes I will not spoil here. My big issue is that no character is really likable or interesting. Now, the original didn't boast deep or complex characters, but they all seemed more human, more easy to relate to in some strange way. There is no hero like Ash which I found really strange, as that was a huge part of the original. There are also plot holes and contrivances which I can't go through otherwise I will spoil the movie, needless to say they are fairly obvious and disappointing.

As I mentioned previously, the acting is serviceable, Jane Levy is the stand out as Mia and Lou Taylor Pucci does a great job as the unlucky Eric. The other three are okay, but nothing to write home about. I think for a debut film Alvarez does a great job behind the camera, the direction feels assured, he definitely knows what he wants, which in this case is blood, lots of it. Once the carnage starts it doesn't let up, there are plenty of gags that the special effects team get to show off. No body part is safe, no sharp object unused. These scenes are nasty and in your face, with a darkly humorous edge to them. By the end of the movie they do feel a little forced, but overall the level of gore in the film is not disappointing and any hardcore horror film will appreciate what is on show here.

Overall the film is enjoyable and easy to watch. I can't say it was ever boring, and I am impressed that this is a debut feature film. For this reason I am giving it a more positive rating; however I think the excessive praise that Evil Dead is 'near perfect' and 'astonishing' is mostly hype. I enjoyed it enough to buy the Blu-Ray to add to Evil Dead trilogy Blu-Ray collection, it is something I can watch if I want some cheap thrills or to gross out a friend, but when compared to the original it just doesn't make the cut. Sam Raimi's film was scary, funny and insanely gory yet very simple. This tries too hard to be all of the above, and only just succeeds.


Hotel Transylvania

Great voice acting and visual effects save this otherwise average animated adventure
Although I am only 21 I feel I am too old when watching these new children's animated films. What looked like a fun, entertaining movie ended up being disjointed, manic and sentimental. It's like all the kids these days have ADD and can't concentrate on a well-told story so the filmmakers feel the need to have almost no pause in the action and just go from scene to scene with no breather, inserting pop-culture references everywhere. Even my eight year old cousin who I took to see this said the movie felt "like it went faster than other movies."

The voice cast is excellent, with Adam Sandler, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Andy Samberg and Kevin James lending their talents. Visually the film is quite stunning, with vibrant colours and hideous monsters sure to scare the kiddies. In terms of the 3D I wasn't really impressed but I haven't been impressed with any 3D movie as I find it adds next to nothing to the experience but hey, the children seem to love it and it brings in more money so I'm sure it's here to stay.

So why does this animated kids' film fail to come together? Bursts of manic pacing steamroll over most of the wit in the story, and by the end the whole movie is bogged down by parental mush about trusting one's kid to make her own discoveries. It really is a shame that this was just average, but hey, you could do worse these days.


Ang-ma-reul bo-at-da

By far one of the best movies I've seen in many years
Personally I believe South Korea have been making the best films over the past few years. The movies they make take simple stories and create wholly original pieces driven by well-written characters, fantastic scores and directors with more talent than the majority of America's combined. I Saw the Devil just proves my theory without a shred of doubt. What sounds like a typical revenge thriller is just so much more and by the end of this movie I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. What I thought would be a good way to kill a couple of hours ended up making me laugh, cringe and ultimately move me.

Jee-woon Kim, who has previously directed A Tale of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life and The Good, The Bad, The Weird, all excellent movies that would have been hard to top has done just that. With a simple story involving a federal agent (Byung-hun Lee) hunting down a serial killer (Min-sik Choi) for murdering his fiancée one would think it would be standard revenge-action fodder. But the two leads, who are two of the greatest actors at the moment, pull out amazing performances. Byung-hun Lee who is probably one of the best actors I've seen grace the screen in a long time is just so good it's hard to believe as he goes from a seemingly good guy to a completely tortured soul. Min-sik Choi plays the roll of serial killer almost too well, creating a cinematic villain to rival that of Hannibal Lector or Norman Bates.

Watching these two clash is fantastic, but that's not it. There are few scenes in this film that are just mind-blowing and one that comes to mind (and is always mentioned in a review) is the scene in the taxi cab when three criminals face-off as the camera does a 360 degree spin for a good 30 seconds. Another is a face-off between Byung and three other crazy psychopaths in a secluded retreat home to a cannibal couple. THe other thing I need to mention is the fantastic score, in particular the final piece over the credits which is so moving I shed a tear.

At 141 minutes long it seems like it may be overly long but the time just flies by. The film balances character-based scenes and drama with glorious action set-pieces and unflinchingly graphic violence not for those with a faint heart. Heads roll, jaws rip, flesh is consumed and bones break...no part of the human body is safe in this movie.

I can't say enough about this, just go see the damn movie, you will not regret it. An easy 5/5

The Dark Knight Rises

Nolan concludes his trilogy on a flawless note
In 2005 Christopher Nolan gave us Batman Begins, a near-perfect film detailing the story of Bruce Wayne and his journey to becoming Batman. This film brought Batman out from the depths of movie hell, there courtesy of Joel Schumacher's appalling Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, which turned Batman into a joke who no one would want to touch with 10-foot pole. Thankfully Nolan was brave enough to resurrect him in 2005, and in 2008 we got The Dark Knight, a film which turned what we knew about blockbusters and superhero flicks upside-down. With a phenomenal performance by Heath Ledger and an even darker journey into Gotham City this was a perfect film.

Now, after four years, Nolan concludes his epic trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises. There is no denying the hype for this movie is huge, people are bound to be disappointed, fans divided and angry, but when after I finished watching this (after having attended a back-to-back trilogy screening on an IMAX screen) I realised just how fitting this movie was. These aren't simple superhero movies with loud noises and non-stop action, he has imbued each character with true personalities and the story with multiple themes. Bruce Wayne became Batman in the beginning, fell into dark times in the middle and rose to become Gotham's hero in the end. Emotions run high in this final installment as Batman comes out of hiding to face a truly menacing villain along with the people close to him.

Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is in hiding and his corporation is going broke, but the emergence of Bane (Tom Hardy), a mercenary with a dark past out for trouble, and Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) bring Wayne out of retirement. Now Batman, along with up and coming Detective Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Alfred (Michael Caine) and newcomer millionaire Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) must try and save Gotham from Bane and his mercenaries.

Where do I start with reviewing this movie? There is much to say and an unfortunate limit on my word count so I will be brief. The acting is outstanding from each cast member, Bale has been so good as Wayne/Batman and he completes his character arc with raw emotion. Hardy is exceptional as Bane, physically intimidating and always a scene-stealer, most of the film's best scenes involve Bane addressing a large crowd or brutalising anyone in his way. Hathaway does well as Catwoman, neither hero or villain she is a complex character who I wish we saw more of. Of course Oldman, Cotillard and Freeman are excellent, but I must mention Michael Caine who really shone in this film, delivering an award-worthy final turn as everyone's favourite butler. Finally Joseph Gordon-Levitt is proving again and again he is becoming one of the best actors of our time, he does a fantastic job as the optimistic detective who never loses hope.

Nolan's direction is perfect and his script (co-written with his brother Jonathon) is an emotional roller-coaster packed with some truly breathtaking action set-pieces filmed in glorious IMAX. Cities crumble, bridges collapse and civil wars are fought and look fantastic, thank you Nolan for not shooting in 3D! Hans Zimmer's score suits the tone of the film well, the now very well known chant is used to good effect in a pivotal scene towards the end.

This is a truly cinematic experience, expertly blending the action genre with drama, creating a fitting final act to Nolan's Batman trilogy. I may seem to be heaping too much praise on this movie, but really, it deserves it, it is engrossing and quite simply one of the best films I've seen in a long, long time. Nolan's Batman trilogy is possibly one of the greatest conceived and it will be a long time before a superhero movie of this calibre will be made.



Totally surprised at how good this film was
Michele Soavi's directorial debut StageFright: Aquarius is simply excellent, a slasher film on par with Halloween, Black Christmas and Scream. The plot itself isn't fantastic, a psychotic actor, now serial killer, escapes from a psychiatric hospital and hitches a ride with two actresses to a theatre, where a group of struggling thespians are working on new production. Once there the actors are locked in with the killer, who dons an owl mask from the costume room and wrecks havoc with various sharp objects. But when one looks at a slasher film the plot isn't important, it isn't why we watch a slasher film, if story is what we are after we would watch The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby or Psycho.

StageFright is stylish, fast-paced and gory with a groovy soundtrack and some genuine scares. Soavi seems to take influence from various other Italian horror directors, including Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava. The setting is used to maximum effect, especially the main stage with its eerie blue lighting and the backstage corridors, dimly lit and claustrophobic. The killer's outfit is very simple, all black but with a giant owl's head, this sounds silly but is actually very creepy, with large glowing eyes it makes for a unique and entirely unforgettable villain.

Soavi also knows how to stage some incredible scenes, two of particular note include a character trying to pry a key from underneath the killer and the killer appearing during a rehearsal and being mistaken for an actor, and when told to kill by the director does just that. These scenes are so well crafted it is hard to believe this is Soavi's first film. This being a slasher one would expect gory deaths and this film does not disappoint, with power drills, axes and chainsaws being used to dispatch our cast.

The film maintains a serious, dark tone up until the very end in which the director pokes fun at slasher conventions in a rather amusing, if not out of place way. Ignoring this change in tone in the last five minutes StageFright is basically a perfect slasher film, expertly crafted and although not entirely original, is definitely unforgettable.


A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child

A good story traded in for FX leads to another dud Nightmare sequel
The A Nightmare on Elm Street series is one of thee most uneven horror franchises out there (not the worst, however) and after the 3rd gets progressively worse (until New Nightmare). ANOES 4: The Dream Master (1988) was a clear drop in quality after the fantastic ANOES 3: Dream Warriors (1987), but it was bearable. ANOES: The Dream Child goes one step further and becomes almost unbearable but to be fair these sequels were stretching the story to unsalvageable lengths. But being the cash cow these horror sequels were in the day they dreamed (excuse the pun) up another way to resurrect Freddy. This time Freddy is literally reborn and begins picking off the Springwood kids through Alice's (Lisa Wilcox, who returns from Part 4) unborn child. To stop Freddy Alice must seek help from Amanda Krueger, Freddy's mother.

Many consider this sequel the worst in the series, including Robert Englund. Even Stephen Hopkins, the director this time around, stated this movie was a miscalculation. One of the most obvious issues this time around is the lack of deaths, three all up which is the lowest in the series. Now, this is the part where the horror purists come out and say "oh, if the story is good you don't need blood and gore" and so on, but let us be honest here, when watching a slasher film a good story is a bonus to the inventive kills, which this series is famous for. Part 3, and Part 4 to a lesser extent, had high body counts with an interesting story. So here we are left with minimal deaths and a pretty average story. Furthermore, by this sequel Freddy had truly become the comedian, no longer scary in the slightest, although Englund still gives it all he's got. The only two positives in this installment are the excellent special effects and Gothic settings.


La horripilante bestia humana

An Ape + Blood + Lady Wrestlers = A Good Time
Don't wish too much from this cheap Mexploitation flick except to have a damn good time, and with a title like Night of the Bloody Apes (although there is only one ape) what would you really expect! The film is ineptly made on all accounts, some of the more hilarious aspects include the random subplot involving a female wrestler feeling sorry for another female wrestler she injured, the poor dubbing and translations and general laziness in concealing goofs (a good example being the grass moving underneath someone's body revealing the stage).

The story centres on a doctor who plans to cure his son's illness by performing a heart transplant with an ape. Unfortunately this turns the son into a dirty man-ape who wanders aimlessly and maims various people.

There isn't much to see in this review really, I'm not gonna do some page-long dissection of all the different filmmaking aspects when really, the bottom-line is if you enjoy Grindhouse theatre then this movie was made for you, with all its inept special effects, uneven pacing and overall oddness.


Love Camp 7

Who knew the beginning of Nazisploitation could be so boring?
Love Camp 7, directed by Lee Frost, is an important film, as it began a sub-genre of exploitation cinema, suitably called Nazisploitation. Essentially, Frost gave birth to a much maligned sub-genre, with a good few of the films being persecuted in the UK and dubbed video nasties, this one included. These films generally contain copious amounts of nude women getting abused by Nazis, this one, however, is about a 'Love Camp' in which women are forced to please soldiers. Two young officers agree to go undercover to get information from a scientist being held in the camp, but alas things go wrong and the women are forced to endure indignities. Apparently this is based on a true story, but the film is so unrealistic and stupid you would have to be a fool to think this film is based on truth.

Quite frankly, this film is incredibly boring, and the 90 minute run time feels like 3 hours by the end. There is a wraparound plot where some guy in London is telling the story to another guy, it just meant that production values could be lower because the story could just be narrated rather than shown. Considering the film's reputation, there is very little blood or gore, and maybe a couple of scenes of torture e.g. girls holding buckets over their heads, the standard whipping, the 'seat of honour', but it all just seems like softcore porn than horror cinema. Even then, the film is not that graphic, and despite the fact the BBFC think the point of the film is for males to be aroused by the events taking place, it is the most unerotic film one could see.

The film scores points for Bob Cresse, who plays the cruel Commandant with relish, it is obvious he loved his role. Also, the final shootout is kinda cool, it also meant the movie ended which was a relief.


The House of the Devil

Good, but uneven, throwback to 80's religious horror
Ti West, who directed the underrated Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, is a name to watch out for. The House of the Devil, although not fantastic, proves that West has an excellent eye for visuals, details and creating suspense. This film feels as though it has come directly out of the 80's, more like a lost film of some horror director like John Carpenter or Tobe Hooper than a second feature by a new millennium director. From the opening and end credits, to the walkman, fashion, soundtrack and the slightly faded visuals, even the storyline, centred on babysitters and Satanists feels like the movie belongs back in the 80's.

Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) is a college student who needs money fast. Her roommate is a disgusting slob, and Samantha is a neat-freak, lucky for her she has found an apartment, but needs money to pay the rent. She stumbles across a babysitter advert at the college and quickly applies. Soon enough she is meeting with Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan) and his odd wife Mrs. Ulman (Mary Woronov) on the night of the lunar eclipse. Straight away it is obvious to us, and Samantha's friend Megan (Greta Gerwig), that this job is a setup for some sinister goings down (hence the title 'The House of the Devil').

The first 40 minutes of this movie are excellent. Samantha is a character we can care about and a sense of dread permeates the proceedings. However, once the babysitting starts very little happens and the movie slows to a halt which ultimately destroys the fantastic mood setup. Events pick up at 75 minute mark, but with only 15 minutes left the final act is rushed with no time to generate any scares (apart from some nice gory deaths).

The cast do an excellent job, the exchanges between Mr. Ulman and Samantha are deliciously creepy, and the house itself is reminiscent of the Amityville house. The actual story is quite good, nothing new or exciting but a simple little devil-themed yarn with a little twist. Unfortunately it is the pacing which is this film's undoing, and it is a shame because it really could have been an amazingly good film otherwise.


American Reunion

A fitting end to a series that defined my generation
I remember not being allowed to see American Pie when I had just turned 13 as my parents deemed it too raunchy. Being the young rebel I was I found a way to see it anyway. To this day it, and the two true sequels, remain some of favourite comedies. Sure, the American Pie 2 and American Pie: Wedding weren't as good as the first, but they all provided copious amounts of good-spirited yet raunchy and filthy laughs with characters you really liked. After a slew of shockingly bad direct-to-video sequels I was extremely excited to see the gang return for one final film in American Reunion. These are characters that have been gone from the screen far too long if you ask me, and their return, although not as good as the first, is still a hilarious trip down memory lane.

It's been awhile since the gang have been together, 13 years to be exact, which is the year their high school reunion takes place. Jim (Jason Biggs) is married to Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) with a son, Oz (Chris Klein) is a sports news reporter and engaged to model Mia (Katrina Bowden), Finch has dropped off the radar (Eddie Kaye Thomas), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is married and an architect and Stifler (Seann William Scott) is a PA at a big firm. When they meet up for their reunion, they are once again up to their old shenanigans.

Writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg stick to the same formula which made the others so successful, and it worked. The situations these guys get themselves into are weaved into the story well, nothing seems forced. All the actors do a fantastic job of bringing these characters back to their old selves, it's like they were born to play these roles. Obviously the movie is somewhat predictable, with certain characters ending up with another person. By the end, American Reunion has come full circle, and for the people who grew up with American Pie as a teenager it is nice to see it wrapped up as well as it has been.


La sindrome di Stendhal

One of Argento's weakest efforts
Dario Argent is one of the finest directors of horror worldwide and has many fine films under his belt. Unfortunately The Stendhal Syndrome is not one of them. The 90's are seen as a weak era for Argento, personally I have only seen this and The Phantom of the Opera from this time, and I actually enjoyed the widely lambasted Phantom. Phantom, although far from perfect, was still an enjoyable movie with plenty of whacked out Argento touches. The Stendhal Syndrome, starring Dario's daughter Asia, has a promising story that ultimately goes nowhere, and with horrible CGI effects and slow pacing the movie fizzles out into nothing.

The story centres on Detective Anna Manni (Argento) who is tracking down an elusive serial killer/rapist in Florence. To Anna's disadvantage she suffers from Stendhal's syndrome in which she gets bouts of dizziness and hallucinations when she is exposed to the sight of paintings and artistic masterpieces. The killer begins to target Anna, using her illness to his advantage.

Argento creates an unsettling atmosphere throughout, this is definitely one of his darkest movies. Camera-work has always been one of Argento's strongest points, and this movie is no different. There are some fantastic shots here, the streets of Florence are dark and menacing, and there is a excellent sequence where a victim is stalked through a room of marble statues. Ennio Morricone's score is perfect, creating a suitably unsettling atmosphere.

But these cannot save the movie from being generally uneven. The structure of the story is it's weakest point, with 2/3 of the movie dedicated to the serial killer and the last 1/3 to Anna. There are many points where nothing really happens in a movie that is character-driven. This, and shocking CGI in certain scenes where it really wasn't needed detract from what could have been really good.


The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)

It's actually good, much better than the first (UNCUT REVIEW)
I had the opportunity to see this on its one week tour of Australia, and I was lucky enough to get tickets to the premiere followed by Q+A with Lawrence R. Harvey. Having literally just finished The Human Centipede before leaving to see this I was quite excited to see what Tom Six would do with this sequel (considering I stayed away from any reviews and spoilers). Well, I must say, Six has produced one of the best genre pieces in quite some time. It's a strange little movie, black and white, with a silent villain and an intense final half hour. It is well known that part of this film is Six responded to the negativity from horror fans of the first film, which was berated for not being extreme or sick enough. Now, I didn't LOVE the first film (I gave it a 6/10), but this was for different reasons. I though Six did a fantastic job with The Human Centipede, the direction and setting were fantastic, and the concept was just so screwed up! Where the first one fell short was the writing and acting from the three victims, which seriously detracted from the horror of the movie. With The Human Centipede II I think there has been a big improvement in writing and acting, but more importantly for Six, an increased amount of depravity.

Martin is a parking garage attendant. A loner, with mother issues and who was abused by his father. Already mentally unstable, his fixation with The Human Centipede inspires him to create his own, by knocking people out in the garage, dragging them to an abandoned shed and using kitchen appliances to perform the surgery. The first fifty minutes aren't exactly violent, but still quite good. The scenes in Martin's apartment reek of David Lynch, and are darkly comic. Once Six gets into making the centipede there is a kind of joyfulness about it all that is disturbing, yet still enjoyable. Teeth are knocked out, tendons are cut, flesh is stripped and staple guns are used instead of stitches. The assembly of the centipede isn't the end, and what follows blends very dark humour with some very disturbing imagery.

I won't go into anymore detail, needless to say, the uncut version is MUCH better than the cut version. Having read the descriptions of certain scenes in other versions, let me say, they are FAR worse here! So for those waiting for the uncut version you are in for a pleasant surprise. Lawrence R. Harvey, for a debut performance, is fantastic. He is easily one of the best horror villains to grace our screens in years. Meeting him afterwards was a pleasure, he is an incredibly friendly, well-spoken man. The cinematography is fantastic, the whole film has a dirty, grungy atmosphere.

On a sad note, the film just got banned in Australia, a disappointing choice by the OFLC. Will this film ever see the light of day in Australia uncensored? Not in the near future. Much like A Serbian Film, an incredible viewing experience has been denied to adults who are able to consent to the films they want to see. I don't want to get into a censorship essay though!


Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings

This series took a Wrong Turn a couple sequels ago
To be fair, I had low expectations going into this after the previous sequel, but I was still shocked at just how bad this was. This is almost a carbon copy of the third movie: bad acting (check), predictable story (check), poor CGI (check), lame shock ending (check). The only difference is Wrong Turn 4 is a prequel, detailing the beginnings of our three favourite inbreds and the first lot of teens that stumble across their hideout and consequently die one by one. That really is all there is to this prequel, those hoping for a proper explanation or detailed history will be disappointed, as this is just an obnoxious bunch of college kids getting butchered.

On that topic, this movie does has some neat and gruesome deaths, some ruined by some cheap CGI. And it is satisfying to see this group get knocked off, as the writer obviously missed the class on how to create characters that are intelligent and have personality. The fact these are the only positive aspects of the movie says it all really, we can only hope this series has come to an end before we have Wrong Turn 8: Space Cannibals (that might be better than this actually).


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

A milestone in cinema...still the greatest animated film of all time
Having just picked up quite possibly the last copy of the recent Diamond Edition of this film, and watching for the first time in 15 years, I am compelled to write this review. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is 74 years old this year, and it doesn't feel like it has aged a bit. What everyone thought would be a flop is the reason we have the likes of Pinocchio (1940), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), Toy Story (1995) and Tangled (2011). This film blew away audiences back then, being hailed as one of the greatest cinematic achievements and even being proclaimed the greatest film of all time by Russian director Sergei M. Eisenstein. The amazing thing is, Snow White blew people away when it was re-released in 2001 in the Platinum Edition, reminding people that the older Disney movies are timeless, and will never be topped.

Adapted from the Grimm Fairytale and made family-friendly, Snow White follows the story of...Snow White (Adriana Caselotti), who is proclaimed the "fairest of them all," much to the distaste of her stepmother, The Queen (Lucille La Verne). A hunter is hired to take Snow White out into the woods and kill her, returning her heart to The Queen as proof, but having a change of heart, lets Snow White escape. She stumbles across an old house in the woods, which houses seven dwarfs.

The re-master is gorgeous, highlighting just how beautiful the animation is, and why hand-drawn will always be the best. The animals are cute as ever, the "evil woods" scene looks stunning, The Queen's transformation still frightening, and the final scene in the storm is just as epic as it was when I was five! I forgot just how many fantastic musical numbers this movie had, with "Whistle While you Work," "Heigh Ho" and "Someday My Prince Will Come" sounding as good as ever.

This film spawned some of the greatest family films of all time, with Pinocchio, Bambi, Dumbo and Fantasia following straight after Snow White's success. As a 20 year old guy, I thought the magic may have worn off, but this film is a lasting legacy, a testament to the brilliance of these old Disney films. Watching this again, I found myself smiling at the antics of the dwarfs, singing to songs I'd long forgotten, and crying with the dwarfs over Snow White's body. Snow White has managed to enchant audiences for 74 years, and will continue doing so for as long as I can imagine.


Sorority House Massacre

Despite being mildly entertaining, this slasher has no edge
By 1986, the slasher craze was basically at a point where originality was out of the door, and rehashing old plots was the way to go. Four years after Slumber Party Massacre, and three after The House on Sorority Row, Sorority House Massacre is another college-girls and boyfriends being stalked by a maniacal killer with a sharp object. Carol Frank, writer/director, tries to add a semblance of authenticity to the table by introducing psychic connections, but that plot ultimately ends up being a direct Halloween rip-off so unfortunately, the story here fails.

However, we're watching an 80's slasher flick, story is not important here, we want the T&A, stalking and slashing! Alas, this is mostly missing as well. I mean, there are a couple of standard flashes skin, and splashes of blood here and there but overall the movie lacks any interesting kills or suspense.

There is plenty of fun to be had though, with a hilariously out of place montage where the girls try on a bunch of clothes, and some fantastically bad acting sure to delight lovers of bad cinema. Sorority House Massacre is very short, barely clocking in over 70 minutes, so at least Frank understands the intended audience. And really, you can tell the movie is striving to be good and looking for love, unfortunately it will be loved for the wrong reasons. It is hard to glance over the horrid dialogue, and the ease at which someone can escape a psychiatric institution.

Would I recommend this movie? Absolutely! It's short and for the most part bad enough to be very entertaining, and if you are a slasher enthusiast, you could do worse than Sorority House Massacre.


Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead

About as much as you'd expect from a STV sequel in this series
Not having been a fan of Wrong Turn or Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, I had low expectations coming into this third entry of the backwoods hillbilly slasher series. This was fortunate, because this ended up being fairly entertaining, even if it was ineptly made. If I were to break this down:

STORY - Basic basic basic. Starts off with four college kids being attacked, one surviving. Cut to a bunch of inmates being transported to another prison, their bus gets overturned, they meet up with college girl and try to survive the rest of the night. Nothing particular genre-bending or interesting, but to be expected from this type of movie.

ACTING - The hillbillies and the dog were the standouts here, with every other actor either reading straight from cue cards or overacting to the point of hilarity. But hey, did you expect award-worthy acting from a movie titled Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead? Nah, didn't think so.

SPECIAL EFFECTS - Appalling, with an overuse of poor CGI absolutely killing most scenes...for heaven's sake, they used CGI helicopters and roads!!! However, the death scenes were inventive and gory enough to satisfy, with plenty of brain-munching, face-slicing and general mutilation.

Overall, it is as you would expect, nothing brilliant, but unwatchable? Not by any stretch of the imagination. For the 90 minutes or so it went for I was entertained and really, that is good enough for me. Despite the poor acting, terrible CGI, shoddy directing and weak script, for so bad it's good value, this gets a 1½/5

Scream 4

Not as good as I'd hoped, but still an excellent, funny sequel
I am a huge fan of Scream (1996), it gave a shot of adrenaline to a dying genre in an original and intelligent fashion...inevitably sequels were going to come. Scream 2(1997), although not as good as the first, was still very good, with a great new cast and story. Scream 3 (2000) was a disappointment, two of the main reasons being the change of writer and political climate at the time. There was a lack of interesting characters or tension, and the whole movie just felt like a comedy. Now, into a new decade, much has changed in the horror genre. Remakes are the go, with almost every horror classic receiving the remake treatment, and of course the sequels that follow the remake. Just recently reboots have become incredibly popular, especially in the comic adaptations department, with numerous series being redone to fit in with the modern audience.

Scream 4 (or Scre4m, whichever you prefer) reunites horror director Wes Craven with the original writer Kevin Williamson and actors Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox to deliver a fresh take on the horror genre and I must say, I am impressed. After a fantastic opening which takes multiple 'stabs' (excuse the bad pun) at sequels, remakes, 'torture porn' and movies-within-movies I knew Scream 4 was a step in the right direction not only for the franchise, but the horror genre. The plot is no different from the other films, it revolves around Sidney (Neve Campbell) returning to her hometown Woodsboro to promote her new self-help book. Unfortunately, her return has caused the return of Ghostface, who busily hacks through various citizens of Woodsboro.

Scream 4 feels very familiar, but at the same time fresh. There are many references to horror movies, Iphones, Twitter, Facebook and blogs, with almost every joke hitting the mark. The new cast is fantastic: Hayden Panettiere, Alison Brie and Rory Culkin are amongst the many who bring their characters to life very well. Of course, the original actors are excellent, seeing their return will bring a smile to any fans face. The film is very fast paced, almost too much so for the amount of new characters introduced. At times it all feels very rushed, and characters are only in one or two scenes before being murdered. There are scenes which have been shown in stills and trailers which are not present, and it would have been good to see them as it may have fleshed out certain characters and allowed more of a connection (expect a director's cut/unrated DVD). In terms of violence, this is easily the most violent of the series, with the most victims and copious amounts of blood. The deaths are drawn out longer than in the other films, with some being particular nasty.

I can't say I'm disappointed with Scream 4, because I'm not. It is very self-referential, and barely a scene goes by without a reference to a movie convention. Despite the film being too short for the amount of characters present, Craven and Williamson have successfully revived the franchise and once again parodied the horror genre with intelligence. If you are a fan of the series, this will not disappoint you.


Sans queue ni tête

Great performances and beautiful cinematography can't save this good, but ultimately underwhelming black comedy
Alice Bergerac (Isabelle Huppert) is a upper-class prostitute who 'specialises' in role playing for businessmen in order to pay for certain antique items she enjoys collecting. Xavier Demestre (Bouli Lanners) is an uptight, angry psychoanalyst whose marriage is falling apart. These two end up crossing paths, and changing each others lives for the better. What appears to be a very promising film about the relationship between psychoanalysis and prostitution ends up being very underwhelming and unsure of itself.

The similarities drawn between the two professions are not subtle, with the patient/client interactions and payment methods all much the same. The performances in these scenes, and generally across the board are fantastic. Huppert is particularly good, especially in the second half as we witness her question her career and future. It is the characterisation and story that are the weak points, as there are many sub-plots and characters throughout, all of which could have been taken fascinating directions, but none feel fleshed out or even completed. The film ends in a very conventional manner, and by this time it feels like we have seen a series of disjointed scenes rather than a proper film.

Unfortunately, there are many good ideas here, and technically the film is fantastic. The score creates an interesting, almost menacing atmosphere throughout, and the film is shot beautifully, but there is not enough story for this movie to be anything other than a bit above average.


Wai dor lei ah yat ho

Refreshingly great horror/comedy with a relevant social commentary
When going in to seeing this film, I knew the general outline of the plot and much talked about death scenes, what I did not expect was a genuinely well-made, acted, written and shot horror movie with a great blend of comedy and social context. Dream Home is one amongst a recent slew of fantastic Asian horror films, and shows that it is the foreign horror filmmakers who are making the top quality movies.

Ho-Cheung Pang (who directed and wrote) has made a simple story very entertaining. Cheng Lai-sheung (an incredibly beautiful Josie Ho) works two part time jobs in order to save her money to buy an apartment with an ocean view. This dream goes back to her childhood where various events and friendships lead her to this apartment. Unfortunately, with market prices the way they are she can't really afford the price being asked, and her obsession turns into a madness which only blood can satisfy.

Dream Home is not told in a chronological manner, rather, the story is told in bits and pieces, slowly revealing how Cheng became the murderer we are seeing. I found this to be a fantastic way to tell the story, as it doesn't follow that standard path of showing a descent into madness, instead, it gives us snippets in between the carnage in order to hold our attention, so we don't get bored with all the killing, but we also don't get bogged down with explanations. Speaking of the killings, this movie contains some extreme violence which most fans of this genre will love, I know I sure did. The majority of these are over-the-top and comic in the way they unfold (apart from the most talked about scene involving the suffocation of a pregnant woman), most of the scenes go for a few minutes, in which we see Cheng is not that adept at killing, and she will only get the upper hand out of luck. No body part is safe as we see eyes gouged out, heads blown off and major amounts of arterial spray. These scenes are also where the movies major drawback lays: the use of CGI. Although it wasn't terrible, it was obvious and did detract a little in some scenes, but that's just me being finicky.

Dream Home is not just about the death scenes, the film is technically well-made in all aspects. The directing, editing and cinematography give the film a beautiful look, with many gorgeous shots throughout the film. The scenes in the apartments where the all the murders take place are filmed in a variety of ways and angles, giving these scenes an intense, claustrophobic and sometimes surreal feel. The acting is fantastic from everyone, especially Josie Ho, who turns her psychopath into someone that at times you can sympathise with.

This movie, while being a great horror film, is also a very relevant commentary on the future home owners issue. With the price of housing increasing steadily (especially where I live) this story can feel a little close to home. Not that I, or any normal person, would go to this length to get a home, but it still brings up an important issue.


127 Hours

An intense and emotional experience; draining yet very uplifting
Once again Danny Boyle has created a cinematic treasure. Much like Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting and 28 Days Later; 127 Hours is such a fantastic experience, despite the incredibly heavy subject matter. From the beginning to the end 127 Hours had me glued to the screen, leaving me speechless and incredibly emotional. What made this even more powerful was the ever-present theme of the importance of human contact, which was never made to be sentimental, but which was a gentle reminder of the significance of family, friends and partners.

Boyle took on a big challenge when he chose to make a film based mostly in a canyon with a man whose arm is trapped under a rock. It was never an easy task, as it is an action movie with no action in the typical sense. However, Boyle uses his creativity, which can be found in many of his previous films, to keep his audience captivated and thoroughly engaged in the proceedings. Showing us views from all different angles (even from inside water bottles and tubings) in order to enhance the horrible situation and make it seem more "in your face." For instance, we see inside the tubing of the water backpack a couple of times, which may seem pointless, but when we see it as he is drinking his urine from it it becomes much more visceral and gut-wrenching. During the many flashbacks and hallucinations that Aron Ralston (James Franco) experiences Boyle utilises his hyper-kinetic editing style to show his delusional state of mind, although sometimes it can be slightly overdone.

Another reason this movie is so good is a result of James Franco's outstanding performance. A whole range of emotions are re-enacted with such realism and grittiness it is hard not to be blown away. He is just a tour-de-force...his pain seems real, his psychological breakdown scary and his dark humour uncomfortably funny. Franco is rightly being recognised for his job, and if he gets the Oscar I will not be surprised or disappointed.

A.R. Rahman once again collaborates with Boyle to produce a stunning soundtrack never seems out of place, perfectly accompanying the dramatic scenes and the horrific amputation scene. Yes, the scene is shocking, brutal, and graphic, but is not the reason to see this movie. It is the events leading up to it, and the reasons behind it which truly make this movie worth seeing. Boyle has managed to turn a tale of survival, courage and hope into a very un-American, uncliched story. It is not an epic tale with a thrilling climax, it is an honest story of one man's will to live once he realises what he has to live for. It may not be totally uplifting, but its message is nonetheless important.

127 Hours is not for everyone, but I would recommend it to anyone and everyone I could. It is hard to watch at times, but it is so well made on all fronts (be it directing, writing, acting, or scoring) that it is easily one of the best films of 2010.


Apocalypse domani

Kinda entertaining but ultimately dull video nasty
On my mission to watch all the video nasties I realised most would be pretty poor, so I did not expect much going into this, especially with the title Cannibal Apocalypse. I was excited, however, because I thought it might deliver some gruesome gut-munching and hilariously cheap production values. However, despite some cool moments, John Saxon and a story with a lot of potential the movie is kind of boring with not a lot actually happening. The basic story follows Norman Hopper (John Saxon) a Vietnam vet who has recurring nightmares about his time in Vietnam, in particular being bitten by one of two POWs who have turned to human flesh for a food source. Back in Atlanta, Charlie Bukowski (video nasty regular Giovanni Lombardo Radice) has been released from a psychiatric clinic after intense therapy, but soon resorts to his old ways, which leads Norman, Charlie and Tom (Tony King) on a trek through the city infecting people along the way.

I actually think this is a really good story, and seems to touch on how the Vietnam war affected all those involved; unfortunately director and writer Antonio Margheriti never expands upon this (nor did I really expect him to, but it would have been nice) leaving a story of cannibals on the loose. At this point you would be asking, why complain about cannibals in a movie called Cannibal Apocalypse? My main qualm is the distinct lack of gore. What was present was good and suitably gross, especially the tongue biting and eye gouging, but these scenes were to few and far in between. Maybe I'm hardened from all the other horror films I've seen, but I found this one fairly un-nasty.

Cannibal Apocalypse is not a terrible movie by any stretch of the imagination, the acting and direction are all fine (the department store and sewer scenes are two stand-outs) and the special effects are effective when present. It really boils down to the fact the story is just boring, with not a whole lot happening, and when it does happen it's nothing outstanding enough to make up for the boredom. The score is unsuited, especially the disco music during the Vietnam war scenes.

Overall the movie deserves nothing more than a 2/5

Eden Lake

Brutal and bleak, not a film to enjoy, but definitely appreciate
Modern horror is becoming more and more predictable. If it isn't a remake, it's a movie based around torture, blood, gore and suffering. Now, I am not implying all modern horror is bad, as there are plenty of gems (both mainstream Hollywood and foreign), but I am saying originality is scarce and cliché is abundant. Eden Lake, directed by James Watkins (who wrote My Little Eye), turns a tired formula of 'vacationing couple attacked by strangers' and turns it into a brutal tale of survival with fantastic performances and a great script.

The story is relatively simple, which in this case is a strength, as the film is not bogged down with unnecessary twists or development. Steve (Michael Fassbender) decides to take his girlfriend Jenny (Kelly Reilly) to a secluded lake which is about to be populated with homes in order to propose to her. This turns sour when a group of rowdy teens show up, led by the violent and unpredictable Brett (Jack O'Connell from Skins fame), and a confrontation gets ugly. From here on the couple are brutally attacked by the gang, and things get ugly quick.

This simple setting allows for maximum tension, as the couple need to think on their feet to get away from the hoodlums. Some have claimed it is unrealistic and that the characters are stupid, but I think some people need to remember that in a situation like this, not everyone can stay calm and think rationally. Some people do stupid things not knowing they are stupid, and in a movie, especially a horror, it is these decisions that drive the movie forward. Also, I found that this movie was fairly good in avoiding making the characters overly stupid. For the most part this movie was quite real and unrelenting in its portrayal of violent youth and two normal people driven to violent actions.

Eden Lake is beautifully shot and overall very well made, which makes it one of the best entries of recent horror. However, Eden Lake is also very disturbing and at times rather graphic, yet not so much that it is gratuitous. The film is depressing, with no happy ending for any characters, which suits the tone Watkins is obviously going for. At times the movie had me feeling a little upset, not because of the on screen violence, but the way the film is made. The group of teens are not all psychopathic, and seeing some of their reluctance and fall to peer pressure is all too familiar. Although Watkins isn't subtle about it, the current issue of gang violence is definitely important and Eden Lake does raise it. If you can stomach it, this is a very well made horror film which had me frightened, tense and utterly glued to the screen.

A solid 4/5

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