Thursday, 29 July 2010



Specifically, it's about time because I've had such a run of indifferent movies recently. That's putting it mildly: I've had some absolute stinkers turning up in the post over the last few months, some of them so dodgy-looking I've barely been able to put them in the player, and a few I've bailed on after a few minutes. Life's too short. That may not be a particularly professional attitude, I know, but then I'm not being paid for this.... Frankly, unless I'm getting money for these things I reserve the right to switch them off early or not bother with them in the first place.

Anyway, Tokyo Raiders came off my Action Movies list and as far as senseless fighting and chasing goes, it's a cracker. It may not have great depth of character development or psychological insight, but if you're after a hundred minutes of good looking people lamping one another, getting kicked in the head and charging around some terrific Tokyo architecture in the hunt for some incriminating spy documents relating to the CIA and the Yakuza, then grab the biscuit tin and settle down. Jilted Macy travels from Vegas to Hong Kong to find her not-quite-husband Takahashi who stood her up at the altar, and meets up with interior decorator Yung who wants payment for his work on the new marital home. Turns out he's in Tokyo and there they encounter private eye Len (Lin on the IMDb but Len in the subtitles) who's after Takahashi for his own reasons. And so is the biggest crime gang in Tokyo.

There are three nifty fight scenes in the first fifteen minutes, and many others spread through the film, in between bike and skateboard chases, a fight on a car transporter, and a surprisingly exciting climactic boat and jetski chase. It may be absurdly simplistic beat-em-up fodder and completely empty, but it works perfectly well on that level. What the hell, I enjoyed it a lot and I look forward to the sequel (Seoul Raiders). Though I suspect they'll send me a bunch of stinkers first.


Thursday, 22 July 2010



Whatever happened to the craft of character? Whatever happened to the idea that the protagonists of a movie - the good guys - should be people you should give a toss about? I'm not suggesting they should be saints, but when they're as charmless and noxious as these arsebags, it's hard not to be cheering for the maniacs and I don't believe that was the intention. You can't empathise with the victims because you hate them and want to see them die. This isn't horror, it's justice.

Why? Why is this so difficult all of a sudden? If your entire plot is that a bunch of innocents get trapped, chased and bloodily killed by ugly inbred maniacs, how difficult is it to steer audience empathy towards the innocents and away from the maniacs? On his titular Stag Night, the groom-to-be, his Neanderthal brother and two other idiots get stuck at an abandoned tube station under New York (actually Sofia, Bulgaria) with the two girls they'd already been thrown out of a nightclub for harassing, only to find themselves chased up track and down tunnel by a "family" of blood-crazed maniacs. Will any of them escape?

Frankly I was hoping not. With the pointless Friday The 13th remake a few years back, when faced with their array of drug dealers, sex maniacs and bimbos showing off their hooters at the drop of a five dollar bill, I was on Jason's side for the entire movie and wishing he'd get on with the job, and if he didn't then I'd try and climb inside the screen and do it myself. And it's the same here: I'm rooting for Team Murderer.

With its subway setting, it obviously brings Creep, The Midnight Meat Train and Death Line (Raw Meat) to mind but it's nowhere near as good as any of them. That's fundamentally down to the characterisations and the fact that there's absolutely nothing else going on in the movie other than running, shouting, screaming and dying bloodily. Admittedly, simplistic slashers with half a dozen grisly kill shots aren't necessarily a bad thing - it's the Friday The 13th formula all over again - but they're rarely as uninterestingly made as this one is; visually it's very drab. A couple of nicely splattery moments aside, it's pretty dull.


Tuesday, 20 July 2010



Yup, it's that ropey. Even given that one trip to the Shark Attack well was more than enough, and expectations for increasingly desperate cashins are accordingly lower than the bottom of the Mariana Trench, that's still no excuse. At least the second one had some nice Cape Town locations. But once you remove South Africa from the equation and replace it with Bulgaria standing in for Mexico (why not just shoot it in Mexico?) there's nothing to see here. Move along.

Once again ticking off a whole checklist of moments from Jaws, the basic plot of Shark Attack 3 is that there's a Megalodon off the Mexican coast, eating tourists and idiots and attracted to the area by radiation from a new fibre-optic cable. Hunky lifeguard Ben (John Barrowman and his teeth) and dull paleontologist Catalina (Jennifer McShane, who was actually in the first Shark Attack movie as a completely different character) try and take down a giant megalodon shark with the aid of a video crew and an old coot who happens, somewhat fortuitously, to have a torpedo in his garden shed. Can they save the day before the fibre-optic radiation wakes up a whole slew of megalodons and the VIP millionaires on a luxury corporate yacht get eaten?

It is quite obviously a load of old tat, and it's rubbish not in that mysterious and elusive so-bad-it's-rather-fun way, but just rubbish in that underachieving waste of time way, with subpar CG shark effects, terrible acting and obvious stock footage spliced into the underwhelming action. Eigth years on and we've not had a Shark Attack 4, and this might happily suggest that there's not enough money in this kind of thing, except we've had Shark In Venice and Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus, and Sharktopus still to come, so dumb Jaws clones are still obviously a financial goldmine. Maybe they had to upgrade to Windows Vista and the shark effects software wasn't compatible. Whatever the reasons, it's not worth bothering with, even to see John Barrowman, of all people, pretending to be attracted to Jennifer McShane, and finally getting some shower action with her thanks to the single crassest (apparently adlibbed) chatup line in movie history. Still not even as borderline passable as Shark Attack 2.


Sunday, 18 July 2010



Three points need to made right from the start. Firstly, despite the title, this has absolutely nothing to do with Ruggero Deodato's infamous film - in narrative terms, it might as well be called Hannah And Her Sisters 2 or Carry On Screaming 2. Secondly, whatever it might actually say in the title, there isn't any cannibalism in the movie: there are good tribes and bad tribes, but much of the worst behaviour is down to the evil white folks exploiting the resources of the Amazon, both animal and human, for their own financial benefit. Thirdly, the expected level of violence and cruelty is not attained, to the extent that the BBFC have only given it a 15 certificate (the 18 on the DVD cover applies to the entire contents of the DVD which include 18-rated material in the trailers section).

Cannibal Holocaust 2 features a bunch of utter fools who merrily venture into the Amazon jungle to find a missing professor. Before they can get anywhere near him, they first have to do a whole load of other stuff: humanely capture some monkeys, rescue some villagers from some evil kidnappers, and escape from a tribe previously untouched by civilisation but fully conversant in English. Only in the last reel do they actually bother to locate the missing boffin - all of the rest of the movie has been unconnected setup and timewasting, and you ultimately forget why they've gone traipsing off into the jungle in the first place.

That's frankly a major structural flaw and they don't even manage to get around it with basic savagery and violence: it's very mild and very dull. There's little or no animal cruelty so prevalent in the genre (the BBFC only had to take out 12 seconds of monkey blowdart footage) and there's no nudity beyond the anthropological (and thus non-erotic and non-exploitative). Worst of all: a happy ending! Everyone's rescued and becomes rich! Hurrah! Where's the sickening, hideous horror of the ending of the first one (hey, it's unconnected and made by other hands but if they're going to make the connection they can't complain about the comparison)? This is light entertainment: aimless, fluffly and non-confrontational, with a happy pop score completely at odds with the way Riz Ortolaini's beautiful melody for Can Hol 1 threw the brutalities into sharp relief. Even if you're after nice photography of the Amazon, or you really want to know how they make shrunken heads, it's an empty film, a nothing film, a waste of time and attention.


Wednesday, 7 July 2010



Yet more filth. I know, it's my fault for adding it to the queue in the first place. And yet despite it being directed by the legendary useless Joe D'Amato (aka Aristide Massacessi, aka several dozen other false names) I enjoyed it a bit more than the sleaze offerings they've sent me recently. D'Amato generally seems to be a very slightly better filmmaker than Jess Franco, and similarly obsessed with ladies' parts. Thanks to some nice locations in the Dominican Republic and a lounge score by veteran Stelvio Cipriani, it's actually verging on the tolerable despite acres of flesh and much shaking of booty.

The Love Goddess of the Cannibals of the title is Papaya, a hotel maid and activist in the campaign to stop the building of a nuclear reactor. You don't have to wait long for the degeneracy to kick off: five minutes in and Papaya castrates one of the engineers with her teeth before two of her associates set fire to his beach shack. When Vincent, another reactor engineer arrives, he meets up with his vacationing reporter girlfriend Sarah and the two of them are led by the mysterious Papaya to something called The Round Stone: the centrepiece of an annual village festival that incorporates blood drinking, disembowelling pigs, human sacrifice and nude dancing. Yes: rather than the usual strategy of speeches, demonstrations, leaflets and propaganda, Papaya's somewhat unusual methods of social awareness, environmentalism and proletariat revolution involve bringing the reactor's engineers to a sacrifice and orgy, then seducing them and murdering them. And wandering around in the nude.

The movie wastes no opportunities to get either or both of its female leads out of their clothes, separately or together. There's some occasional male nudity as well, though the actual sex scenes are all strictly softcore. Given D'Amato's reputation for bad movies, the relentless tide of boobs and bums, and the ludicrously overlong scene in which Sarah and Vincent wander through the deserted shanty town (the sets look the same as the ones in the tasteless Ratman), it's surprising that the movie is only occasionally boring.

Despite one brief heart-eating at the sacrifice, there are no cannibals (unless you count the castration at the start), and Papaya is not a goddess, so the title is really a lie on two fronts. And let's be honest: it is rubbish. But it's not completely terrible rubbish. I'm just hoping that they now send me something in which the main characters keep their skimpies on at least.


Tuesday, 6 July 2010



This isn't the ideal movie if you're squeamish about spiders, because there's quite an arachnophile fetish at work here. You should probably also avoid it if you're averse to fishhooks through the skin, lopped fingers, bear traps, razorblades through the hands, nails through the bridge of the nose, spikes in the ear or just a plain old-fashioned disembowelling. Nor should you watch if you really want the cat and the dog to survive to the end. This is the most mean-spirited, humourless piece of torture porn in quite a while, which is as you'd expect from the writers of not one, not two, but four Saw films.

In fact the poster tag line for The Collector is "From The Writers Of Saw IV, Saw V and Saw VI" (omitting Saw VII, probably on the grounds that it hasn't been released yet): surely the dullest advertising slogan in years. They could have used "If He Wants You, He Won't Kill You", which is actually a line from the movie and sums it up a little better. The Collector himself is an unidentified individual in a gimp mask whose MO is to break into peoples' houses, torture and kill them for no reason at all (or none that is readily apparent) - except he keeps one alive to lock in a crate to act as bait for the next household. On this occasion, though, The Collector's systematic torture of the Chase family goes awry when a handyman who's been working on the house's renovations pops back to rob the safe to pay off his wife's debts. Unfortunately The Collector has spent the last few hours booby-trapping the house with tripwires attached to nailguns, chandeliers filled with knives, guillotines and the like....

It's complete nonsense, obviously: why has this maniac bothered to set up all these devices if he's not expecting company? How has he managed to rig up so many elaborate deathtraps in about five hours? What's the business with the bloke in the box - why bother when you're already in the house? How big is this house anyway? And yet: I did enjoy it. Considerably bloodier and with a higher wince factor than many recent genre offerings (remakes or not), it may be overedited and overscored with thumpy thrash/noise music, and it may have that horrible sickly look of the Saw movies. But it's got a high rate of look-away moments involving such prosthetic joys as stitching up mouths or taking out teeth with a hammer. I mean, it is a horror film after all and not the new Catherine Zeta-Jones romcom: look-away moments are to be encouraged, and in this instance the best is probably the room full of beartraps.

In summary, if you like blood and screaming, sadistic violence and sudden, spectacularly violent deaths, there's some grisly sick fun to be had. If you like cats....well, it's a shame about the cat. (Don't worry: it's not the cat that steps on the beartraps.)




Listen: I'm not a perv. I like the nude female form as much as the next guy (with a couple of exceptions depending on who the next guy actually is) but I'm not obsessed with it, and there comes a point when you just want to be shown something else. You can have too much of a good thing. It's purely coincidence that they sent me the glaucoma-porn Bilitis (barely legal skeletons disrobing in aesthetically pleasant lighting) on the same day as this Italian sleaze offering from 1982, in which the women have at least had a good meal recently.

For the first ten minutes or so of Satan's Baby Doll, nothing happens. A woman has died and members of her family stand around staring at her and each other. It's obvious there's something not quite right here. Next thing you know, the live-in nun is masturbating for the benefit of the peeping tom paraplegic brother, and the cute daughter appears to be possessed, and is going around seducing and killing everyone for revenge, including the family doctor who's supplying morphine on the side, and a gibbering maniac who's sacrificing chickens in a cellar to save the girl's soul.

Matters aren't helped by the shoehorning in of spicy XXX-rated footage from a very battered print of low definition - significantly worse quality than the rest of the film. These scenes are mainly extended blurred close-ups of pudenda and lesbian writhing and add nothing but a few minutes of running time (which is less than an hour and a quarter even with this extra hot material).

I'd be lying if I said I hated Satan's Baby Doll (incldentally, Satan doesn't appear in the movie and only gets a couple of mentions in dialogue near the start). It's sleazy and exploitative rubbish, clearly, and far too reliant on the female characters getting them out, but when it's not pandering to the dirty raincoat audience it has a nice mood and look to it, and a halfway decent story of vengeance from beyond the grave (well, it would be the grave if she were actually buried, but she's just been left on a slab in the cellar along with several other mummified corpses). I think it's really one for the more devoted sleaze connoisseurs; it's not without interest but it's not really my cup of filth. Might be worth tracking down Malabimba, the 1979 film of which it's a semi-remake, though.


Monday, 5 July 2010



A highly artistic piece of entertainment for the undiscerning gentleman, in the same vein of sophisticated Euro erotica as Emmanuelle, this is probably the most famous movie to ooze from the mind of dirty old man David Hamilton. It's much the same as Laura and Premiers Desirs: soft-focus photography, teenage girls with a Body Mass Index of about 0.3, tinkly lift music, pretty scenery, hopeless dialogue, and endless, endless nudity. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if he's got nothing else in his bag of tricks then I'm not interested any more. And he hasn't, so I'm not.

I originally thought Bilitis was some kind of medical terminology like laryngitis, tonsilitis: inflamation of the bil, whatever the bil was. Turns out it's pronounced like cricketers and it's the highly improbable name of a young girl at a European finishing school. After an extended mass skinny-dipping sequence which is only there because the film's been running for a whole five minutes and hasn't had any nipplage or pubage yet, Bilitis (Patti D'Arbanville, actually 25 at the time) goes to spend the holiday with her guardians: she's impossibly glamorous and he's a cad, a rotter and a bounder. Frankly Bilitis is a bit of a moody cow. She tastes and loses her first love, a photographer in a red V-neck jumper, then tastes and loses her second love in a tedious lesbian sequence with her impossibly glamorous guardian, and decides to find a new man for her now that the caddish husband is no longer around. It does not end well.

On several occasions I had to look away. Not because I was revolted, but simply to ensure that my eyesight wasn't going. I know that watching these movies is supposed to make you go blind, but since the photography is so Timotei soft that the focussing is obviously done in Braille, it's equally obviously the result of making them. Add to that the horrible VHS tape source and you'll be too worried about the sudden attack of glaucoma to even think about self-stimulation.

Yes, it's very pretty, and the music score is pleasant enough on CD, but while the misty look might work for a coffee table hardback about Nude Photography, it doesn't work for a movie and there's nothing here we haven't seen before, and crisper. It's not erotic, and it's not any fun. No more David Hamilton for me, thank you very much.


Sunday, 4 July 2010



We do not live in interesting times, at least as far as cinema is concerned. How on Earth has this managed to take nearly £2,000,000 at the UK box-office when it's so hollow and plastic? Hit it with a stick and it'll echo for an hour. It's not got anything we haven't seen before, and isn't even done as well as those times when we did see it before.

The basic idea of Killers is that Ashton Kutcher is a hitman, on the South of France when he encounters recently dumped Katharine Heigl and her irritating parents. He's wanting to quit the assassination game and settle down into anonymous normality; they fall in love and get married, and everything in their horribly plastic suburban life is oging perfectly well until his old boss gets in touch - and then friends and neighbours start trying to kill them, and there's a load of fighting and chasing until a ridiculous explanation at the end as to who's behind it all and why.

So it's a bit like True Lies (because she thinks he's a corporate consultant type) and a bit like Mr And Mrs Smith. But because they've gone for a 12A rating, the action and violence is pretty muted and the movie has to fall back on the comedy. Tom Selleck knows what he's doing but I'm not convinced about Ashton Kutcher. He does spend a lot of the time with his shirt off pointing his six-pack and chest at the camera. He's also one of the producers and was probably responsible for the inclusion of dialogue about his "physical godlike perfection". A pity, because he, or at least his character, is as bland and empty as the movie is. It all passes a couple of hours with a couple of very mild laughs and that's really not enough.