Saturday, 30 October 2010


Everyone appears to be doing one of these, so why should I be left out? These are in no particular order. And some of them at least are not terribly good, and would in all probability suck most mightily if I saw them in the cold light of the 21st century, but I kind of liked them at the time.


I'm a big fan of spaceship, moonbase and space station movies: Alien, Inseminoid, and more recent films like Event Horizon and Cargo. Any time you've got people in space suits clanking around in metal-floored corridors, I'm happy. Here an expedition to a remote planet doesn't end well because there's a monster running around the place. Klaus Kinski is in it, and there's an exploding head shot. Sadly the UK DVD is not, apparently, of very good quality, which is a shame as I'd really like to catch it again.


I remember seeing a trailer for The Witch at the old Star Centa 4-plex in the Swiss Centre. Before it was rebranded as a Cannon arthouse that showed Jean De Florette and Manon Des Sources on a loop for about a hundred years, it specialised in second-run and trashy double bills and was probably the nearest thing London had to a proper grindhouse: the rubbish Ghoulies, the dull Swordkill, the enjoyable Lone Wolf McQuade, the sleazy Vice Squad and the complete arse that was Screwballs 2: Loose Screws (a Porky's ripoff but without the subtle charm, verbal wit and stylish class). But I never saw the movie itself until its video incarnation on the Stablecane label.

Admittedly it's a generally unremarkable, cheesy little horror pic in which a witch returns hundreds of years later to wreak revenge on those who killed her. But I kind of enjoyed it for its occasional gore moments.


Isn't that a terrible alternative title? It doesn't mean anything at all. But I really love the film: a vague retelling of the Rasputin story relocated to the world of late 70s Australian politics, in which a mysterious faith-healer (Robert Powell) involves himself in the life of an aspiring but fundamentally weak senatorial candidate (David Hemmings). Is Powell a charlatan or is he genuinely supernaturally gifted? It's not particularly creepy (though Powell certainly is), but the film is definitely odd. The music, by the late Australian composer Brian May - no, not that one - was one of those scores that sparked my interest in film soundtracks.

When I first saw it on ITV and on pre-cert video, it was appallingly cropped from widescreen to 4:3, which caused huge amounts of panning problems, but the recent British DVD release is in full scope, and wonderful to see again.


It's Jaws, but with slugs, and directed by the genius who brought you Pieces. Killer slugs are attacking people in a small town, getting into gardening gloves, or surrounding the beds of naked young lovers. Can the slugpocalypse be averted? This one I saw at the Scala, as part of the second Shock Around The Clock festival, and subsequently I owned the VHS release from which I believe a fair chunk of excessive gore was trimmed (42 seconds, according to the BBFC site, though apparently it's recently been reissued uncut -hoorah!). It's not very good: the script is laughable and all it's got going for it is the silliness and the splatter. The cheapness allegedly extended to the special effects for the slug armies in the sewer, which were (if you believe everything you read) done by putting lots of the twisty black licquorice allsorts on a conveyor belt. The score was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra!


If I'm going to include something European, why not something German? It's either this or Angst, a frankly unnerving Portrait Of A Serial Killer who holes up in an empty house and takes a family hostage (including the dog), but I think Der Fan just edges it. An obsessive music fan who hooks up with her idol, but then won't let him go. Cue some frankly unimpressive dismemberment effects.... It's creepy, unsettling stuff, and I liked it. Star Desiree Nosbusch went on to host the 1984 Eurovision Contest, and the DVD is cut in this country because she was under 18 when the nude scenes were filmed.


Probably the biggest film on this list - a full-throttle slime-drenced festival of insanity with Rod Steiger as a mad scientist with a terrible wig, a mutant octopus thing in the cellar and a woman attacked by a watermelon. And Amanda Pays turns into a fish. Mysteriously not on DVD in this country, yet it had a national cinema release, and VHS rental and retail issues. I really want to see this one again.


Okay, it's rubbish. But it's kind of fun. It's the other Oliver Reed snake movie, in which people capture a giant snake monster and then act all surprised when it gets loose and starts biting people; Reed has some kind of telepathic link to the snake. This was released on precert on the VTC label (as was Superstition, and as were many other grisly genre titles from the era, from Zombie Holocaust through Possession and Nightmare City). Frankly I'll take this kind of snake mahyem over the dodgy CG snake effects of Anaconda 3 or Mega Snake any day.


During the late 80s, while the BBFC were hacking videos to pieces left and right, frequently for no overwhelmingly good reason, the cheapie Colourbox label sprung up offering all kinds of genre product. Much of it was worthless, such as Don't Panic or Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (the latter would have been more or less okay if the BBFC had had anything resembling a sense of humour at the time) but occasionally a minor gem appeared like Brett Leonard's The Dead Pit. Plenty of gore, zombies and weird coloured lighting, and the BBFC actually let it go through despite being insanely strict with far less gory films. And look at the high-profile twaddle Brett Leonard went on to (Virtuosity, The Lawnmower Man)!


I was actually reminded of this a few days ago because of the untimely death of Simon MacCorkindale; he was married to Susan George, star of this this creepy little horror which has fallen though the cracks: a young married couple move to Japan, but to a house that's haunted by ghosts from the samurai era. There's a genuinely effective scene in which they're surrounded and attacked by large crabs. I used to have the old Warner VHS issue but gave it away for some unaccountable reason. Dumb move.


Again, there's no British DVD issue. Why not? It's not a masterpiece or any kind of classic, but chuck a rock anywhere in Blockbusters and it'll bounce off at least forty massively less interesting titles before it hits the ground. This got included in a festival lineup in Manchester after another film fell through - I don't recall what it was but this made up for it. It's a frankly nonsensical voodoo and witchcraft movie with family curses and several nicely nasty death scenes; the extended climax is exciting and the whole thing is genuinely good grisly fun.

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