Monday, July 27, 2009

in which I dwell on French ladies.

Indoors on my own and off work, I watched a lot of French horror last Friday. Well, three films to be precise, and I now have renewed respect for the French and their bravery in making truly messed up, intense movies.

I am still mulling over Martyrs. I know I enjoyed it but I can't quite form coherent sentences as to why. It's had a funny impact on me really. I would love to study it on a film course (horror/French horror/women in horror/religion in horror - SO much fodder).

This film in particular is completely fucked up, in ways I can't really go into without major spoilers. It's cold and incredibly harsh, unflinchingly showing pain and suffering. Just when you wonder where it can go next, it takes things to degrees you hadn't even considered. I like to be challenged and this certainly did that. Really great stuff.

I also finally watched À l'intérieur which was less thought provoking but no less enjoyable for it. To complete the hat-trick was Haute Tension. All three have mainly women in the cast. Really strong, resilient hero-worship types.

Look, I'll be honest with you and confess something: I've always been a tiny bit sexist against my own gender in movies. I don't know why and I'm not proud of it, but there you go. However, these French flicks are giving me females to be really impressed by.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


It is films like this that really hit home to me how much I need to work on my film reviews. I have no idea where to start, what to say or how, with regards to Martyrs.

Perhaps eloquence about it will come with time. I hope so. It deserves more than I can give it, at the moment.

Rather than leave it at that for now however, I'd like to post some images - promotional and otherwise - that I have come across in my post-viewing internet scouring.

This shot genuinely scares me.

Mylène Jampanoï is stunning.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Spiders (2000).

"This is creepy... like a bad science fiction movie."

According to the DVD packaging, the selling point for Spiders is that it's "FROM THE SPECIAL FX TEAM WHO CREATED From Dusk Till Dawn, Spawn AND Wishmaster".

You soon learn why this is the best thing they have to say about it. The film is 89mins of bad acting and poor dialogue, punctuated by moments of exclamation-inducing effects.


Please! No more bad acting - just eat me!!!

A killer alien-spider codenamed "Mother-In-Law" is loose in a military facility. Three students smuggle themselves inside after witnessing the space shuttle crash that brought the spider back to earth. Government agents are trying to protect it, the snooping college kids are trying to find out about it and everyone else is just trying to stay alive.

Basically they scrimped in every department apart from the effects. It reeks of TV movie and even the nods to other films and self-awareness don't help it any. It pretty much sucks apart from the scenes involving arachnid-carnage.

Although the locations themselves are great (bunkers, space shuttles, helicopters) the sets give away the budget. Badly dressed sets just remind me of porn films... But I think that says more about me than the film makers.

"How do we make this place look like a lab for spider experiments?"
"Ummm... Rubber spiders in glass jars of different coloured liquids?!""Okay!"

Don't get me wrong though. I paid £1.99 for this film, I got more entertainment than I was expecting! At nearly forty minutes in, this happened.

I literally cried out. And continued to do so at more or less every moment including effects thereafter. They get steadily more ridiculous as the spider grows into what will eventually be a two storey sized beast, clumping around the university campus.

Even though you are constantly questioning the motives and actions of the supposed heroes, and they always seem to be making stupid and ill-advised decisions, the film doesn't ask to be taken seriously. It just wants to bridge the gaps between men sprouting spider legs and then exploding.

Who can blame them for that?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986).

Ahh, another horror puzzle piece slips into place. The music from this movie (the intro/title mainly) is the intro music to just about every Rue Morgue radio show! I recognised it instantly. Suddenly something in my horrorverse makes a little more sense, I love it when that happens.

Friday the 13th Part VI sees the re-birthing of Jason as Zombie Jason, hooray. This is undoubtedly why this film is the first of the franchise I have actually liked in a good while (yes, I have watched every one so far). That, the fact that I am obsessed with the number six, the Rue Morgue connection warming me up nicely AND the "self aware" moments early on...

"I've seen enough horror movies to know any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly."
[cut to Jason standing in front of her, threatening music on the soundtrack]

There is also a moment where a character remarks on "some folks having a strange idea of what constitutes entertainment", while looking right into the camera.

It may sound hokey, but it just plays out as cute - and bear in mind that this was pre "I'LL BE RIGHT BAAAAACK...!!!". Anyway, those are the two most obvious instances in this movie, they happen in pretty quick succession and it isn't at all NUDGE NUDGE. I liked it.

So the plot with this one is that Jason is resurrected by lightning, of course.

Cool! He then continues his normal routine of a rampage in "Forest Green" - a renamed Crystal Lake. The name change was brought about due to the residents wanting to put the blood splattered history of the area way behind them. Alas, it don't mean shit to Jason, he's had a nice long rest in the ground and has awoken all refreshed, ready to gut some motorists/greasers/paintballers/horny teens/night-time picnickers/camp counsellors/children (sadly, this last one is only ever threatened).

What is refreshing about this installment is that people are introduced purely to get killed off a few frames later. We don't even learn the names of some of them. They are plonked in front of us, giving a basic situation to exist within, and then hello Jason - goodbye innards. It's fast, it's fun, it gives the second largest body count in any Friday the 13th movie of 18 corpses, corr (topped later by Jason X with an impressive 28 kills, according to the IMDb).

You know what you are getting here, c'mon. But this one has a lot more hits than misses. Alice Cooper on the soundtrack, hello?! Why did it take me so long to mention that?

Oh yeah, stand out moments in cap form: The James Bond-esque opening titles.

??? I don't really understand it, but I love it!

The gratuitous but clothed crotch-shots of the frisky sheriff's daughter, Megan (Jennifer Cooke) as she helps 'is he crazy/is he not?' Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews), now on his third consecutive film and actor.

This shot all on its own:

I like wondering what he is thinking here. Why look at the arm rather than just cast it away (apart from getting a laugh out of us I mean)? Is he confused, irritated, proud? What's going on in that little head of yours Jason?!

Also we have the practically subliminal peek of a blood-drenched cabin after Jason has paid a visit, shown here in its full glory.

Beautiful. Makes me think of the post murder and rape scene in From Dusk Till Dawn and the flashes of horrific images in The Shining. Which is alllll goood, in my book. I love OTT horror but glimpses of it can be just as satisfying.

And finally the footage of Jason underwater in the lake, chained to a rock. Perfectly lit, eh?

"The only way to kill Jason is to send him back to his original resting place where he drowned in 1957."
This idea of Tommy's isn't true of course, but it makes for a visually arresting climax.

I've a few gripes; I mean, there's some slapstick which it could have done without. There's the quote from the two surprisingly accepting of their fate little boys at the camp...

"So, what were you gonna be when you grew up?"

, that was a bit much. However that is really all I have on my "con" list. Excuse me, I need to watch the He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask) video again...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

'The Walking Dead' get a new member.

So by chance I go into a comic shop where there's a signing by Charlie Adlard. He's signing anything of his you care to give him, he's a lovely chap and really chatty. Unfortunately, because I didn't know about the event, I didn't have my The Walking Dead trades with me.

Luckily, he was also drawing everyone a portrait. "Zombie or normal?" He asked with a grin. Silly question really.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Nights of Terror / Le Notti del terrore (1981).

Whoo, another Final Girl Film Club!

I had to buy the DVD from eBay as it doesn't seem to be widely available in the UK. Which is a shame, because it is some pretty great Italian sleazy silly horror fare.

The Nights of Terror was directed by Andrea Bianchi and also goes by the name of Zombie 3, one of three movies to do so in fact; the others being Zombi Holocaust (1980) and La orgía de los muertos (1973). The Zombi series of films all gets terribly confusing, but I hope I'm not being presumptuous here when I state that I doubt the two films mentioned above are quite as curiously entertaining as this one.

The set up is that a professor with an immense beard manages to reanimate the dead whilst working in a crypt. He finds a stone tablet with what looks to have Wingdings etched onto it...

...and the next thing he knows some reanimated corpses are advancing on him. Laying the foundations for all of the death scenes in this film, he doesn't run away or attempt to put up any real fight with the decomposing attackers. He pleads with them, tells them "I'm your friend!" and then gets eaten. Offal for everyone!

For a reason not explained, he had previously called a group of couples (and one very odd child) to the house, to tell them of his discovery. They have no idea what he was up to, and therefore no idea that as they frolic through the house and grounds, the undead are slowly but steadily closing in, bent on eating the flesh of each and every one. Who will survive and what will be left of them? Etc etc.

So the group of socialites arrive, oblivious to the impending doom that's shuffling up the hill toward them. They think nothing of the prof not greeting them when they get there, and set about making themselves at home in the gorgeous surroundings of the vast villa.

Making themselves at home involves having sex, of course. One of the women finds some raunchy underwear in a trunk(?) and parades around in it. Then her partner utters one of the more memorable lines in the movie:
"You look just like a little whore - but I like that in a girl."

Evelyn (Maria Angela Giordano) checks on her son Michael (Peter Bark) before indulging in any bedroom antics. She finds him seemingly asleep - but is he really?

Anyone who writes about this film has to mention Bark. Due to the incest/oedipal subplot in this film, a child actor could not be used. Step up one Peter Bark, a midget thespian and, as many other reviewers have said before me, potentially far creepier than the zombies in this film. I mean, just look at the guy.

"Young" Michael (I think he's meant to be about ten or eleven?) has an unhealthy obsession with his mother. After escaping a zombie attack, he takes the opportunity to make a move on Ma.

He's rewarded with a slap in the face, and runs off, returning later as one of the undead - still holding a fascination with his mother's breasts. Deliriously happy to have her son back with her, Evelyn finally permits him a suckle. Bad idea.

This storyline makes an already crazy film one hell of a lot crazier. It's brilliant.

I can't go any further without a mention of the zombies. Artist Giannetto De Rossi was Fulci's favoured one, and you can tell. These zombs are of the "we are going to eat you!" variety, which means heavily decomposed, wormy, robed. They look like they are part clay, like they have merged with the earth somehow after burial. They totally rock.

My favourite is probably this one however:

I am a big fan of the one staring eye. He reminds me of Dr Tongue, too, I think it's the hair.

As an aside, one of the "newer" therefore less rotting members of the zombie horde in this film, really looks like my mate Rob.


When any walking corpses meet a sticky end, the pleasing effects work continues. We have shotgun blasts to the head, making them explode in an unsettling dry, dusty manner; we have noggins being smashed in with rocks, disintegrating into large pieces. One assumes that the thick make-up was just being knocked off, but it looks amazing as it crunches to bits and falls off of the actor's head.

Watching these zombies has made me question how I do my make up for zombie walks. I think things are going to get much more putrefied in future. These guys are genuinely unsettling.

In many ways the zombies come across as somewhat smarter than the humans; as they surround the villa and relentlessly pick off victims. They are also adept at using tools. One scene involves the maid meeting a grisly end as a zombie wields a scythe...! In an excellent sequence, she is pinned and then beheaded from beneath the window she is leaning out of. Shadows are utilised to hide what the fx couldn't stretch to. Never mind that she probably could have escaped, had she really thought about it - it works well and was the best death scene in the movie.

I'm so glad I enjoyed this film. I feel like I have watched a lot of shit horror lately. Yes, the people are stupid, the acting is questionable and dubbed sex noises are one of the most un-erotic things ever. Yes, the closing quote has two spelling errors in it:

But I don't care. There's boobies, oedipal issues, quotable lines and amazing electronic music on the soundtrack. This film delivered. It's also as old as I am. Go team '81!