Tuesday, 24 November 2015



If you were to go back to 2010 and make a list of all the year's movies that were likely to get a sequel, then Tekken would not, let's be honest, be in the top three quarters of that list. You can understand doing sequels to Kick-Ass, The Expendables or Insidious, but the idea of further instalments of Tekken is like the idea of further instalments of I Spit On Your Grave or Hot Tube Time Machine: who the hell is asking for them? Who even bothered to see the first Tekken movie (apart from me, obviously)?

Nevertheless, they've gone and made Tekken 2: Kazuya's Revenge anyway: they've ditched the whole martial arts tournament structure and instead gone for the amnesiac assassin routine, with ludicrous results. A man (Kane Kosugi) wakes up in a hotel: he doesn't know who or where he is but when a battalion of heavily armed badasses show up he suddenly discovers that he's very good at fighting. Captured, he's named K and forcibly recruited into the assassin ranks of The Minister (Rade Serbedzija), a cult leader with a small army of colourful killers at his command, taking out the bad guys in the slums around Tekken City. K rises through the ranks but when he discovers that The Minister is actually the biggest bad guy and he's been using K to wipe out his enemies, he goes rogue and tries to track down his past....

The biggest con in Tekken 2 is that it's only the lead-up to an as-yet unmade Tekken 3 in which our hero presumably gets to take on the supreme villain behind everything: his own father and ruler of Tekken City (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, who's barely in the movie till the last ten minutes or so). Since he suddenly has the power of teleportation this might make things a bit tricky. Tekken 2 isn't any good at all; the dialogue and story are terrible and the one visually striking henchperson (dressed as a schoolgirl for no adequately explored reason) is disposed of disappointingly quickly. It looks decent enough and the fighting is suitably crunchy with lots of kicks to the head and snapped limbs, but it's still rubbish. Directed by Wych Kaosayananda under his equally spellchecker-unfriendly alias of Wych Kaos.




I'll be honest here: there were several moments in the first forty minutes of this dreadful horror comedy (probably the most difficult genre crossover to pull off) where my finger was hovering over the Eject button and I was this close to sending it back to LoveFilm with an insulting note. I did stick it out, however, and while the last half hour or so is an improvement, it's nowhere near enough to save the movie. Like so many horror comedies it fails on both fronts: sure it's gory and bloody but it's not scary and it's really not funny.

There are times when Cooties feels like a US sitcom set in a rundown school where all the teachers are "characters". If it was, then this episode would be The One Where The Kids Get A Cold Sore Virus From A Contaminated Chicken Nuggety Thing And Turn Into Pseudo-Zombies And Start A Nationwide Pandemic. Struggling writer Elijah Wood returns to his hometown to teach at his old school, finds his childhood sweetheart engaged to a hopeless moron - but then one pupil starts biting chunks out of the others and suddenly there's a sort-of-zombie outbreak. Can the ragbag of maladjusted staff band together and stay alive, at least until home time?

Who cares? You tire very quickly of the grown-up idiots bickering amongst themselves, and the children are hateful monsters even before they get the virus. There's plenty of opportunity for graphic gore and disembowelments and violence against children, but it's all done in that too-broad way that veers towards the bad taste territory of Troma. After a few more visually stylish and unusual projects - Open Windows, Grand Piano, the Maniac remake - it's sad to see Elijah Wood in such cheap and tacky schlock as Cooties. Charmless, really not funny and, despite the noticeable improvement towards the end, overall something of a disappointment.


Tuesday, 17 November 2015



Well, about time too. Having painfully and humourlessly rebooted James Bond over the course of three films - good films, but noticeably glum - the producers have clearly decided to inject some fun into the series and steer it in the direction of Classic Bond, downplaying the psychological analysis of the maladjusted blunt instrument in favour of glamourous jetsetting and egomaniacal supervillains. In short, going back to the Moore and Brosnan years. And with maybe one misstep, they've pulled it off. Spectre is a whole bunch of fun, noticeably the lightest and silliest of the Craig entries: a Bond movie for people who like Bond movies rather than a Bond movie for people who like Bourne movies.

They've realised that Bond's natural cinematic rival is not the Jason Bourne strain of hard, tough realism, in which everyone's damaged and miserable and no-one's sure what the hell's going on, but the Mission: Impossible school of glossy popcorn travelogue entertainment. Spectre accordingly apes the Cruise franchise, ricocheting breezily around the world from Mexico City to Rome to Tangiers to London, displaying action rather than angst, closer to comic strip than medical notes on sociopathy. With the Bond gunbarrel finally in place where it belongs at the start of the movie, Spectre kicks off at the Day Of The Dead festival in Mexico where Bond is on an unofficial final post-Skyfall mission for M (Judi Dench in a brief video message cameo) that inevitably leads to exploding buildings and out of control helicopters. Back in London, the 00 section is on the brink of being phased out in favour of a global surveillance network run by an obviously treacherous Andrew Scott, while Bond is on the trail of a sinister global crime syndicate that's been behind everything....

It's got the car chases and the fights, the glam women (Lea Seydoux and, surprisingly briefly, Monica Bellucci, probably the first "Bond girl" to be actually older than Bond), the pontificating villain in his secret lair surrounded by minions with no proper firearms training, the massive explosions: in short, everything that screams Classic Bond at you. There's a terrific fight on a train (with the traditional Bond henchman, in this instance Dave Bautista) that's clearly designed to recall the train fights in From Russia With Love and The Spy Who Loved Me. And Christoph Waltz is obviously having fun as megalomaniac Euroscum Oberhauser (sporting a facial wound towards the end which is clearly designed to recall Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice). This is much more what we want of a Bond film now the Origins Trilogy is over.

Sure you can argue that the personal backstory between Bond and Oberhauser is unnecessary, and it's painfully obvious that the character is going to be back at some point. Sure you can argue that Lea Seydoux isn't given much to do beyond look fantastic, while Q, Moneypenny and M have far bigger roles than they ever enjoyed before the reboot (M's office is clearly designed to recall Bernard Lee's rather than Dench's). Sure you can pick holes in the plot: why set a building to blow up around 007 but leave a speedboat in full view for him to escape? Sure, you could take it apart like that, but why would you take the Bond franchise that seriously now that it's lightened up a bit?

The aforementioned misstep takes place early on and is over fairly quickly: the quite dreadful opening credits song by Sam Smith, apparently performed while undergoing the rope torture from Casino Royale. Once John Barry left the series (back in the Dalton days!) the vocal numbers have been spotty at best and this is easily the equal of Madonna's ludicrous Die Another Day, and Jack White and Alicia Keys' atonal honkings at the start of Quantum Of Solace. That aside, it's great: there are actual jokes in there, a level of agreeable absurdity, such as Bond wearing an immaculate white dinner jacket at one point, for absolutely no reason other than he's James Bond and that's what happens in a James Bond film, and the large-scale action scenes are properly put together rather than being overedited into a subliminal blur. It's not just that James Bond is back, but James Bond Films are back as well. Now get on with the next one.




Here's a few details of your lead character. He's good-looking but socially inept, a little awkward around women, with a particular fixation on the one who's completely out of his league. He's been institutionalised following the traumatic death of his mother and abusive childhood at the hands of his father; he's now undergoing regular therapy sessions and is on medication (which he isn't always taking). And he hears voices. Why, I can't help wondering, is this guy the lead in a romantic comedy?

Admittedly The Voices is a macabre romantic comedy, but were it not for the pastel pink everywhere and the wacky talking animals this would be straight out of the Scuzzy 1980s Grindhouse Exploitation handbook - underneath the silly romantic farce it's a close neighbour of Don't Go In The House, Maniac or Nightmares In A Damaged Brain. Likeably goofy Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) works in the packing department of a bathroom supplies company in Nowheresville: he only has eyes for the phenomenally glamorous but uninterested Fiona (Gemma Arterton) despite the obvious attraction from her colleague (Anna Kendrick). Having fortuitously wangled her into his car, he accidentally kills her when she runs off in horror - but once he's dismembered her body (egged on by his evil cat and watched mournfully by dog) he finds her severed head wanting him to kill someone else to keep her company in the fridge....

Eventually, of course, it ends the only way it can: with a big musical number in which everyone sings "Sing A Happy Song" over the end credits while Jesus Himself turns up driving a pink forklift truck. Because....? The Voices is definitely an oddity; I can't honestly say I didn't enjoy it but it's just weird to see a straight sleazy horror Z-film transformed into a glossy date movie with a sweary Scottish cat voiceover and the kind of cast who'd never normally show up in a second cousin of Don't Answer The Phone. Interesting rather than great, but worth a look if only for the style/content disjunct.




I'm glad I'm not a kid these days. Apart from the obvious reasons (school, bullying, not having any friends) I don't know that I'd want to watch much in the way of modern movies for kids. As an adult I can, and generally do, pass on films made specifically for children, with the occasional exception for the slightly spikier digimations (generally anything with a PG is okay but I rarely look at U films). So when I do dip my toe in the footbath of kids' movies it's usually because I've been told that it's actually worth the effort. Shaun The Sheep definitely was, and I would most likely have loved that when I was nine.

I don't know what the nine-year-old me would have made of The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water, though. Obviously I've never watched the TV cartoons but I can't even work out whether that's a disadvantage for a 50+ grown adult. Near as I can make out: the underwater townsfolk of Bikini Bottom thrive on Krabby Patties, the secret ingredient of which is known only to Spongebob Squarepants and Mr Crabs, and which is desperately needed by rival restauranteur Plankton. So far so five minutes on CeeBeebies. But then the formula (misspelled throughout on the DVD subtitles as "formuler" for no good reason) disappears because live-action pirate Antonio Banderas has stolen a magic book that allows him to rewrite reality so he can acquire the formula and become a disgustingly rich burger salesman. As Bikini Bottom descends into post-apocalyptic chaos, Spongebob and Plankton team up to build a time machine and get the secret recipe back....

Their journey takes them, for some reason, into outer space where a dolphin (voiced by Matt Berry, channelling Patrick Stewart) is making sure the planets don't crash into each other, before they get thrown into the real world and end up chasing Banderas and his galleon down the street. It's very fast, anarchic, and all over the place as far as any kind of coherent plot is concerned (but hey, it's about a talking sponge). I didn't understand a lot of it but surprisingly, and perhaps worryingly, I sort of enjoyed it. Dedicated to Ernest Borgnine, who did voice work on the TV show.


Tuesday, 10 November 2015



Maybe it's time to let zombies go. Maybe it's time to turn the life support off and let the walking undead die a natural undeath. It's been fun, and the genre has yielded some genuinely great movies (Romero), as well as some entertainingly silly ones (Fulci), but the sad fact is that zombies, like vampires, just ain't scary any more. Just as Dracula's ilk have been diminished by turning them from blood-drinking demons into romantic sparkly-skinned hunks, so a decade or more of cadaver-centric comedy has robbed the Whatever Of The Dead school of horror of its shock value. And even though the zomcom subgenre has in turn had its moments (Shaun Of The Dead, Dance Of The Dead), there's now the growing sense that it's played out. (Not that a particular cinematic seam having long been strip-mined to exhaustion has ever stopped people trying, as anyone who's seen more than five post-Blair Witch found-footage atrocities will attest.)

The zombs in the dubiously punctuated Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse (it should really be either Scouts' or Scouts:) are played strictly for laughs: an outbreak at some unnamed facility (military? medical?) spreads quickly through a town, unbeknown to the three Boy Scouts camping out in the woods. Two of them actually want to drop out of scouting entirely so they don't have to wear the dorky uniforms and can hang out with the cool kids and maybe get off with the hot chicks - but when confronted by the ambulant dead they find their scouting skills coming in handy. But can they rescue the aforementioned hot chicks at the supercool secret party before the military bomb the town to contain the contagion?

Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse (a project which started afterlife as Scouts Vs Zombies back in 2010 and might have had some currency back then) is actually pretty funny in places, though it does descend too often into the needlessly puerile with its monotonously sex-obsessed young heroes groping zombie boobs and ogling zombie strippers. It feels rather like the frenzied wish-fulfilment fantasies of a 14-year-old dweeb who likes girls and zombies and really wants to see them in the same movie together - that's why there's a superhot shotgun-wielding kickass stripper (cocktail waitress) in there. The film isn't actually scary (though neither was Shaun Of The Dead) but it does have a surprisingly high level of gore and sexual material that feels very much at odds with the lenient 15 certificate, including a penis joke that is quite literally extended beyond breaking point, and a weed-whacker sequence that's referencing the wonderful Brain Dead's lawnmower scene - presumably they felt the comedic edge made it acceptable at the lower category whereas a serious film of that level would score an 18.

On a technical level it's well shot and well put together, and I chuckled more or less throughout, which for a Boy Scouts zombie comedy should be enough, and is certainly more than some official comedies I've watched in recent years (I'm looking at you, Seth Rogen and Will Ferrell). But part of me wants the zombie movie to be seriously apocalyptic, not goonish Friday night knockabout with Britney Spears references. As goonish Friday night knockabout goes, however, it's more than acceptable.




Despite the 2015 copyright date on the end credits, this is actually a 2011 film, retitled and given new artwork to disguise the fact that it's actually a meta-sequel to a miserable-looking piece of giant alien eyeball nonsense from 1999 that David DeCouteau directed under a pseudonym. I haven't seen The Killer Eye as a standalone film, but I've seen enough of it shamelessly playing on a TV set in this semi-followup to confidently state that I'll be ploughing through the entire box sets of Crossroads, Bargain Hunt and that fantastically stupid ITV penny arcade game show before I ever - EVER - sling the DVD of The Killer Eye into the player.

Charles Band's The Disembodied (originally released to an uninterested world as Killer Eye: Hollywood Haunt) is so remorselessly terrible that you'd expect it to make DeCouteau's The Killer Eye look good by comparison, in the way that someone would theoretically appear less of a monumental arsehole if they're standing next to Piers Morgan. Paradoxically, that doesn't happen. Here we have five imbecilic young women, ostensibly getting together to decorate the house for Halloween, but eventually deciding not to bother and to sit and watch The Killer Eye instead. But an evil spirit contained within Mom's crystal ball telepathically brings a promotional eyeball prop to life, which promptly goes on the rampage, taking over the girls' minds and making them take their clothes off, talk drivel and experiment with lesbianism....

There are no less than 113 "special executive producers" listed in the end credits. and it's painfully clear that "special executive producer" is a technical Hollywood term for anyone who'll toss Charles Band a dollar. It's cheap, it's incredibly tedious (even at 69 minutes with very slow credit sequences), it's so lousy it's impossible to tell if it was supposed to be a comedy, it boasts a cast hired solely for their willingness to jiggle around in various states of undress, and the script shows every sign of being written by a ten-year-old. Why? It's not as if Charles Band hasn't made proper films in the past - possessed car thriller Crash!, kinky monster erotica Meridian (aka Phantoms), cult favourite Trancers (and let's not forget Empire Pictures giving us Re-Animator, From Beyond and Prison) - but at some point he appears to have given up and is now just churning out Evil Bong and Gingerdead Man sequels. Come back Fred Olen Ray, all is forgiven.


Saturday, 31 October 2015



Exactly a quarter of a century ago I was at Art College, a mature student on a Media Studies course (for all the good it did), and right across the hall from our main classroom was a gents lavatory, the single cubicle door of which bore the following biro-scrawled graffito: "For God's Sake Write Something Funny". I don't recall anyone ever going along with this appeal; I don't believe anyone ever attempted a witty riposte. But that single sentence has stuck with me while a lot of the classroom bibble about Stan Brakhage and Maya Deren has faded like a dull dream. Write Something Funny. And I'm always reminded of this every time I sit down with a comedy film. Make me laugh. It's really quite amazing how often they fail at what is a very simple task.

One of the problems with The Interview - above and beyond the mere handicap of Seth Rogen being one of the least comedic comedians currently walking the Earth - is that the circus surrounding its original release has completely overshadowed the film itself. Was North Korea really behind the Sony hacking and the threats to blow up any cinemas that dared to screen it a year ago? Or was it just the marketing department thinking up desperate new tactics to get people to watch a very, very stupid film which they knew would die at the box-office without a high-profile fillip? "See The Interview or the terrorists have won" is only a sliver away from "Buy Thompson's Toothpaste or the terrorists have won" - grotesquely inappropriate even if you're not engaged in a war on terror. If The Interview does make it into the history books rather than fading quickly into obscurity in the bowels of Netflix and the DVD shelves in Cash Converters, it'll be for the controversy rather than the content.

You would think that the untrammelled excesses of absolute rulers, when juxtaposed with liberal Western cynicism, would make for fertile satire. In this case the totalitarian whackjob is Kim Jong-Un, and the decadent imperialist pigdogs are an egotistical TV talkshow host (James Franco) and his producer (Seth Rogen, also the writer and co-director), whose lightweight Hollywood gossip show is apparently one of the Great Leader's favourite shows. But when our idiot heroes secure an interview with him, the CIA step in and persuade them to assassinate him for The Greater Good....

The trouble is the film isn't really interested in scalpel-like political satire. It's easier to just do the usual crowd-pleasing gags about gays, poo, willies and bums (one long sequence involves Rogen's character having to insert a metal cylinder full of ricin up his bottom). The nearest point of comparison is actually The Dictator, in which Sacha Baron similarly resorted to the lowest brow of humour rather than shine any acerbic light on the atrocities routinely perpetrated by a (fictional) Middle Eastern tyrant - it's far more tempting to cop out and sell out with lazy bad taste. Granted, The Interview doesn't stoop to Cohen's cheap shots about 9/11, child abuse and abortion, but it's still offputtingly puerile, and all wrapped up in that tiresome "I love you, man (but absolutely not in that kind of way, no sir)" flavour of American dude bromance. Towards the end the film stops even trying to pretend it's a comedy and settles for surprisingly violent action sequences in which there's spurting blood and tanks and helicopters and shootouts and explosions, which feels like it's from a different film entirely but by that point you're just grateful for any kind of diversion.

None of which would matter that much if the film had at least succeeded in its basic ambition: comedy. It's as funny as Pineapple Express and This Is The End weren't. There are a few smiles from an Eminem cameo early on, but that's about it because Rogen and (particularly) Franco just aren't very likeable company. I don't have to abide by that doctrine on the back of the lavatory door in Portsmouth, because I'm not a paid comedian; the makers of The Interview are, and they trousered a hell of a lot of money for frankly not doing their job. Ill-judged, lazy, charmless and not worth the effort - theirs, mine, or yours.




Let's not mess about here: the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a genuine, full-on, copper-bottomed classic. A demented primal shriek of a horror film, it's one of the very few films that feels as though the howling insanity on view has somehow infected the film stock itself. There's no comfort, no light relief, no sense that it's only a movie and everything will be all right in the end. It won't. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is not a human film; it's like watching a transmission from another planet. Unsettling doesn't come close to describing it. (Having seen it several times over the years, from a well-worn VHS rental to a battered print at the Scala, I've found a good way to still derive the full effect is to see it with someone who's never seen it before, and leech vicariously off their reactions).

You know the story: two couples and one of the girls' wheelchair-bound brother are on a road trip through the wilds of rural Texas, to visit a grave and the old family home. After a disturbing encounter with a hitch-hiker and the inevitable "you don't want to go messing around in those old houses" from a friendly-sounding gas station attendant, they go merrily wandering round what's left of the old homestead. But the apparently unoccupied house next door appears to have petrol, which they'll need to get home...

Leatherface's first kill is still a shock, and Pam's discovery of the room of bones, feathers and caged chickens (and her subsequent demise) is the start of the full roaring horror which never lets up but which also never goes for the easy horror option of blood and gore. Before long there's only Sally (Marilyn Burns) left, a prisoner of The Family: Leatherface, The Gas Man, The Hitch-Hiker and their 115-year-old Granpaw, barely able to grasp the hammer to kill her. It's the kind of sustained hysteria you hadn't seen in films up to that point, and you've hardly ever seen since. The film might end with Sally's narrow escape, but there's no way she'll ever recover psychologically.

This has always been a film I've appreciated and respected rather than enjoyed, and it's probably Tobe Hooper's best work in terms of pure horror (although I love Lifeforce!) while never being a film I've ever wanted to watch regularly. The soundtrack - all dissonant clangs and rumbles - is hardly music, but it's effective, the photography conveys the blazing heat and discomfort, and the set design for the inside of Leatherface's house is astonishing. In the end it's a pure horror film, a pure nightmare on 16mm, and now in what must surely be a definitive presentation. And finally: it's Chain Saw, not Chainsaw in the title.




In some ways it's sad, but it's perhaps unsurprising that the vintage Hammer horrors of the 60s and 70s have lost some of their shock value in the intervening decades. It's not that they've dated, just that the envelope has been pushed so far since then that what was once full-on horror is now pretty inoffensive. In a world of Saw and Insidious they now come across as safe, comfortable and indeed borderline family entertainment, agreeably creepy rather than outright shocking. Many have been downgraded from their original X to a wimpy 12 certificate (principally the earlier ones without the nudity) and could play quite happily on TV without upsetting anyone.

Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell is the seventh and last of Hammer's Frankenstein series (running from 1957 to 1973), and the sixth film to feature the great Peter Cushing as the mad Baron. This time, despite being killed off at the end of at least one earlier entry in the saga, he's back again and working incognito as a doctor in an insane asylum: by a happy coincidence it's the same institution to which mad doctor Shane Briant has been sentenced after his conviction for attempting to replicate Dr Frankenstein's experiments (or, in legal terms, sorcery). Here there's a plentiful supply of fresh bodies that won't be missed. And he has even more nightmarish plans for his creation, involving his mute and traumatised assistant Angel (Madeline Smith, the sole note of glamour in an otherwise pretty grim film)...

With the presence of numerous familiar faces (Patrick Troughton, Bernard Lee, Charles Lloyd Pack all turning up for a few scenes each), Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell is generally good, pleasantly nasty fun. David Prowse returns as the Monster (perhaps confusingly not the same one he played in The Horror Of Frankenstein three years earlier), an intelligent mind locked inside a more grotesque than usual patchwork of body parts. And, of course, you get the always wonderful Peter Cushing. It also ups the ante on the gleefully tasteless gore somewhat, with a graphic brain operation and some loving shots of eyeballs in a glass jar, but even with all its previously censored sequences restored it's still only deemed worthy of a 15 rating. A package well worth picking up: even if the film isn't quite the shocker it once was, it's still enjoyably entertaining, and far better than many more recent horrors I've plodded through.




This is one of the many horror movies that got overlooked in the transition from murky VHS to shiny DVD: it's 28 years since it last went to the BBFC for its tape release, when it was summarily cut by over a minute. Now it's been fully restored, it's in full widescreen (none of this pan and scan nonsense!), and it's an enjoyable and good-looking blast of trash/horror nostalgia for the ex-rental era which delivers on the gore and sleaze with a vengeance.

The Beast Within starts off in 1964, when newlyweds Ronny Cox and Bibi Besch break down in the middle of nowhere: he goes off for help and she's brutally attacked and raped by some kind of forest creature. Seventeen years later, their son's (Paul Clemens) worsening health sends the family back to the quiet rural town where it happened. But he's changing, metamorphosing into the same kind of monster, apparently taking revenge for crimes a generation past and ultimately sowing the seeds for further horrors in another seventeen years....

It's true that the Tom Holland script doesn't entirely clear up whether the new creature is possessed by the original, whether it's a whole new life-form (somehow derived from cicadas), or how cannibalism has contributed to its development. The Beast Within is only passingly interested in that. Far more important are the gore sequences: Tom Burman's full-on transformation effects run the likes of The Howling and An American Werewolf In London a pretty close race, but they're badly undercut by the scene running far too long. It's as if they're so proud of the prosthetics and animatronics (and quite rightly so) that they can't bear to trim them back. Elsewhere the gory kill scenes are enjoyably gruesome, including a terrific decapitation, while the two rape scenes are more than nasty enough, but feel unnecessarily graphic in this slightly more progressive age (albeit an age where I Spit On Your Grave 3 actually exists).

The Beast Within is probably not a classic, though it's certainly leagues better than director Philippe Mora's atrocious brace of Howling "sequels" (but then what isn't?). It's messy and trashy, and the explanation for its monster makes no sense, but it's well-mounted with an upfront horror score by Les Baxter, and it looks wonderful now it's in high definition and the correct aspect ratio. More importantly, it's a reminder of a time when even splattery B-movies could be well crafted and atmospheric, with believable and likeable characters, in the way that you don't see often enough these days.




Olatunde Osunsanmi's latest attempt to give the found footage subgenre some credibility has a few terrific moments but overall doesn't add up to very much at all. It didn't work in the ridiculous alien conspiracy movie The Fourth Kind and it doesn't work here. Rather, it reveals yet again how tiresome and empty the camcorder horror bag of tricks is: we've had so many of these reality horrors that they've lost the power to shock or to scare. More damagingly, we just don't believe them any more (assuming we ever did). The Blair Witch Project was fifteen years ago and we're still seeing the same faux reality schtick trotted out again and again.

The best scenes in Evidence (which has nothing to do with Howie Askins' unwatchably terrible found-footage horror film of the same name) aren't to do with the camera and cellphone footage found in the aftermath of an apparent bus crash and a massacre in the Nevada desert, but the scenes of the cops (led by Radha Mitchell and Stephen Moyer) wading through all this glitch-ridden video material in an attempt to piece together what happened, and identify the homicidal maniac who killed most of the bus passengers with some kind of welding torch....

We get footage seen from four different phones and cameras, some of it showing events from different perspectives, and this material comes in a variety of ratios from 4:3 to 16:9 to full 2.35 scope (do regular digital cameras even shoot in that format?), and even pillarboxed mobile phone footage looking like a stamp in the middle of the screen. However, there is a plot twist at the end that comes straight out of nowhere, complete with one of those Saw-style recaps that strings together all the important shots and dialogue intercut with the cops as they finally understand what happened. It's a pity that that final plot twist makes absolutely no sense as it yet again depends on the killer having far great control over events than could possibly be predicted: it's a great "Wow!" moment but it comes about two minutes before a "Hang on a second..." moment.

Nor does it hold water that one of the leads claims she's a documentary film maker when she patently has no more idea of film making than simply pointing the camera vaguely in the direction of stuff and forgetting to press the Stop button. Or that those other cameras would capture precisely the required footage and no more. Still, while the found stuff is typically as annoying as expected, the "proper" film surrounding it is far more watchable, and like Cannibal Holocaust it does provide a fictitious (but more plausible) dramatic context for all the shakycam sequences which wholly "found" films like The Blair Witch Project don't have.

In the end, while chunks of it are a chore to get through and none of the victims are remotely worth rooting for, Evidence isn't very good, and it hasn't persuaded me that there's much value in "found" as a viable film-making technique. It is, however, better than I'd feared and even though it doesn't entirely hang together it is probably an okay watch if you keep your expectations down.