Saturday, 28 February 2015

IT FOLLOWS

CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

Well, hurrah. It's taken such a long time but finally, finally, a teen horror movie that's thoughtful, intelligently made, beautifully shot, and which doesn't contain the kind of loudmouthed idiot characters, that so many second-rate horror movies seem to be saddled with (are you listening, Zombeavers?). Nor does it feel the need to season the proceedings with lazy injoke genre references: in short, it treats the audience like grown adults rather than idiots or fanboys - or fangirls, as this is also a pleasingly female led film.

There is an evil entity out there: an implacable, remorseless demon, visible only to you, that will be forever on your trail until it catches and kills you. It starts following you when you have sex with its current prey, and the only way to get rid of it is to sleep with someone else, at which point it will start following them. But if (or when) it kills them, it will then turn its attentions back to you and work its way back up the chain of sexual transmission. So it's a world where either abstention or casual promiscuity will save your life but monogamous fidelity will get you killed. Jay (Maika Monroe, from The Guest) is the latest recipient of this curse: can she and her friends find a way to defeat the demon without condemning her next partner to the same fate and the same ethical dilemma?

With the exception of a climactic resolution that's perhaps too easy and simple, It Follows is terrific. Its characters are all likeable and interesting, there's an electronic score by Disasterpeace (aka Rich Vreeland) that recalls early John Carpenter soundtracks, and writer/director David Robert Mitchell shows a fondness for long takes and slow pans of 360 degrees (and sometimes more) as well as a handful of perfectly timed jump scares - jumps which don't feel forced or cheap or just put there to keep people shrieking (are you listening, Woman In Black 2?).

And it looks gorgeous: it should be savoured on a huge cinema screen rather than shrunk down to even the largest domestic TV set. Rich, colourful photography is more effective, and more enjoyable, than dark realism or shaky camcorder (are you listening, Paranormal Activity saga and the last hundred indifferently lensed horror quickies?). This is also a movie that pleasingly dispenses with the teen horror movies' traditional authority figures whose job is to waste time telling the kids they're imagining things when we know they're not. Parents, in particular, are barely visible. It's nice to find a film where they don't debate and discuss the plot's absurdities, and instead simply steamroller through them.

In case it wasn't clear: I thoroughly enjoyed It Follows, in the way I haven't liked a suburban teen horror movie in quite a while. It harks back to the 80s supernatural bogeyman subgenre - there's a clear callback to A Nightmare On Elm Street at one point - and it has the occasional burst of visceral gore (though not enough to earn an 18 certificate), and it even ends with the subtlest of suggestions that maybe it's not all over after all. One of the best, and best-crafted, teen horrors in ages, and absolutely worth seeing.

*****

Saturday, 21 February 2015

PIRANHA

CONTAINS SPOILERS. MUNCHIE MUNCHIE.

There are two ways of looking at Joe Dante's first solo directorial feature (after the co-directed Hollywood Boulevard). One is as a Roger Corman ripoff of (or more accurately a knowing, winking and unapologetic homage to) Jaws, which set the template for fish-based horror entertainment that still holds today with however many CGI shark and piranha movies are out there. Piranha, let's be fair, is no Jaws, but it's leagues above Shark Attack 3, Snakehead Terror, Mega Piranha and so on. The other is as the original to the recent splattery 3D reboots by Alexandre Aja and John Gulager: gory, trashy and crass exploitation movies that pile on the blood and bad taste, against which it looks almost tame.

But they don't have the charm of Dante's film, which is trashy and grisly in the seventies drive-in tradition rather than today's full-on grossout approach. It has an innocence rather than a cynicism, which smacks of a love of movie-making rather than a love of the big house they're going to buy with all the money. After a pair of hiking teens sneak into an apparently abandoned military base and get munched while taking a swim, Heather Menzies (first seen playing a shark-zapping video game) tries to track them down, enlisting the help of grouchy alcoholic Bradford Dillman. But in trying to recover the bodies, they drain the pool - which just happens to be full of mutant super-piranha developed by mad scientist Kevin McCarthy - into the river, where the water and the fish can flow straight to the children's summer camp and crooked businessman Dick Miller's aquatic theme park celebrating its grand opening....

It's a nice turn of the plot that heroine Menzies is the one who directly causes the problem and the carnage in the first place. And the last half hour or so is pretty much a Kids Versus Fish feeding frenzy as the piranhas attack the kiddies at Paul Bartel's summer camp and then Miller's tourist attraction, while Dillman and Menzies race not just against time, but against the uncooperative cops, army brass and military scientists (led by Barbara Steele - Dante movies are always a joy for film nerds) who either don't believe them or don't care. There's blood and gore aplenty, but it's never mean-spirited and sadistic like some of the OTT gags in Alexandre Aja's remake; it's fun and ghoulish and this is reflected in the 15 certificate. (Nor is there much in the way of swearing.)

Oddly, the film didn't do the traditional ripoff thing and come out close to its source - by the time it arrived they'd already released Jaws 2 and had also been beaten to cinemas by Ovidio Assonitis' ludicrous but amusing Tentacles. Piranha always looked great, especially given the paltry sum spent on it, and it looks even better on BluRay; it's genially gruesome entertainment with familiar faces of the era and a typically lush Pino Donaggio score. Coming complete with a Dante commentary, old home movies shot on set, a Making Of and the usual trailers and outtakes, it's well worth it.

****

SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT: THE HOMECOMING

CONTAINS SPOILERS AND A LEVEL OF BEWILDERMENT PREVIOUSLY ONLY ATTAINED BY WAYNE ROONEY BEING TOLD ABOUT STRING THEORY

Silent Night, Bloody Night was a grotty low-budget slasher film made in 1974 (and not to be confused with the equally grotty but more notorious killer Santa movie Silent Night, Deadly Night) which has slipped into the public domain as a minor cult title thanks to its seediness, its catchy title and the presence of genre favourites Mary Woronov and John Carradine (the latter looking particularly gaunt). Mysteriously, it's now been remade - in places word for word - and without credit or even acknowledgement (although some minor characters are named after principal cast and crew members). Odder still: it's been done in Swansea.

None of which in itself is any reason to hate Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming, of course. The story is still serviceable slasher pulp: the spooky old Butler house has been abandoned for years after the death of mad old Wilfred Butler; now grandson Jeffrey is keen to sell it below market value for a quick cash profit. But someone is hanging around the place killing trespassers as well as the syndicate of town worthies looking to purchase the property and bulldoze it along with its accursed past... Who could it be? Might it have something to do with the house's history as a mental hospital and scene of a massacre?

The problem is that it's been done so flatly and so uninterestingly to the extent that frankly it's barely professional. With mid-range digital photography that just looks like video (especially in the night scenes), an annoying music score repeatedly referencing the Christmas carol Silent Night and, most damagingly, absolutely dismal performances of the stand-here-and-say-this variety, it's a genuine chore to make it to the end. Heaven knows the original film was hardly a masterpiece but it looks like one in the light of this revisitation. All the murder sequences lack even the slightest impact thanks to rotten acting, poor camerawork and the lack of a halfway decent score (at least the original had a full orchestra): the composer, one James Morrissey, is also the co-editor as well as the cinematographer. I'm currently typing this with the soundtrack to Friday The 13th Part III in the background, and that is an object lesson in how to use music to punch up gory kill scenes. In this instance the Friday connection is even appropriate since The Scary Voice On Phone is apparently Adrienne King from the first two films in that series!

Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming is absolutely terrible on every level and I'm honestly hard pressed to think of anything in its favour. Even the occasional nods to George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead - it plays on a TV screen and the heroine has purchased it as a Christmas present, apparently for her father - are less homage to a horror classic and more reminders that the same team have also remade it in Carmarthenshire. (It's also in the public domain and the IMDb page doesn't indicate George Romero will be credited on it.) If they can't improve on a shoddy old drive-in quickie like Silent Night, Bloody Night, how on Earth do they think they can improve on that iconic masterpiece?

*

BARON BLOOD

CONTAINS SOME MINOR SPOILERS

Mario Bava's 1972 horror film Baron Blood (original title Gli Orrori Del Castello Di Norimberga) is a bit of a mixed bag of a film. I first saw it back in 1998 at the NFT as part of a Bava retrospective, and remember thinking it was great to look at but the plot was silly. And watching it again, that still holds. It's visually very nice in places with a terrific use of colour (particularly for a chase sequence through the fog) and it has a fantastic castle setting, but it's lumbered with a story that, bizarrely, everyone takes completely seriously. So it rather ends up as nothing more than good looking tosh, which is frankly a shame.

Maths student Peter Kleist (Antonio Cantafora) arrives in Vienna for a break from his studies and to investigate his ancestor, the infamous Baron Otto Von Kleist. He's acquired a parchment of a witch's incantation that will supposedly bring him back to life - but before they can return him to Hell with the second half of the ritual, the parchment is destroyed. Can he and architecture student Eva (Elke Sommer) find another way to banish him as the bodies pile up? And who is Alfred Becker (Joseph Cotten), the new owner of the castle?

It's not Blood And Black Lace, probably my favourite of the Mario Bava films I've seen over the years (sadly, too many are still unavailable in this country), but it's still well worth seeing. Obviously the plot is absolute twaddle and doesn't bear any scrutiny, as it requires everyone involved to do absurd things without considering just how absurd they are. No-one ridicules the idea of an ancient curse that might have brought the Baron back: it's not just that they accept the possibility, they don't even suggest it might be a terrible idea. Even the police inspector doesn't throw them out of his office the way even the most open-minded detectives of 1972 would surely have done.

Still, if Baron Blood doesn't really work on the plausibility stakes (and let's be honest, a lot of classic horror films don't) it has a wonderful morbid atmosphere about it. It’s got the strange illogical weirdness of Lisa And The Devil with the occasional outright horror of Black Sunday, a fine climax in the Barons' torture dungeon, and Joseph Cotten is enjoyably hammy in a role originally offered to Vincent Price. A bonus for starspotters of Italian horror movies: Kleist's young cousin is played by Nicoletta Elmi, the little girl from The Night Child and Deep Red.

In addition to a wealth of extras including a brief introduction by Alan Jones and a commentary from Tim Lucas, both cuts of the film are included on the Blu: the original Export version (either in English or in Italian with subtitles) and the American AIP release which is edited by about eight minutes (nothing vital is missing) and has a more traditional horror score by Les Baxter score replacing the Stelvio Cipriani original. Personally I prefer this shorter version but the differences aren't that significant; either way it's worth seeing as a colourful and enjoyably wonky horror movie.

***

WHITE OF THE EYE

CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

The late Donald Cammell's third feature film (of only four) is a visually stylish, intriguing but not entirely successful serial killer shocker. And it's very much a mixed bag; for everything it does wrong it does something else brilliantly. While the lead character is pretty uninteresting, it has a couple of genuinely nasty and dazzlingly mounted murder scenes, and while it's too long at 111 minutes, there's a phenomenal sense of place about the locations and architecture, especially in this era of generic, identikit Anywhere settings for horror movies. Here you can almost taste the Arizona dust.

There's a serial killer on the loose in the Tucson area, and home stereo engineer Paul White (David Keith) looks to be the main suspect due to his involvement with at least one of the women and the rare tyre tracks found at the scene. (Indeed, while the film flirts with a couple of other potential suspects who also have the same rare tyres on their cars, there's never any real doubt who the maniac is.) But his wife Joan (Cathy Moriarty) is also starting to suspect him, at least of adultery, but not keeping his victims' remains hidden in the house....

With its plot veering in several different directions, White Of The Eye does feel like three or four films at once: with the small-town affairs of gossipy housewives, flashbacks to Keith and Moriarty's early days together, the police hunt for the serial killer, the sudden reappearance of Moriarty's ex and Keith's disintegration into ranting lunatic. In its last stretch it turns into a more traditional, albeit good-looking, psycho thriller with the maniac stalking the Final Girl, and the stakes are raised to insane levels for a memorable ending, but the most shocking moment has to be Alberta Watson's demise in the bath, as the killer stomps her under the water before holding a mirror in front of her so the last thing she sees is her own death.

While much of the movie looks fantastic, there are several scenes with a huge amount of grain on them, though some of that may be traced back to the apparently deliberately antagonistic atmosphere Cammell created on set (for example, by hiring two cinematographers) and the demands of the schedule. It probably wasn't apparent on the VHS release, but it is noticeable on the BluRay. Other scenes, mainly the flashbacks, were subjected to a "bleach bypass" effect that lightens the image and whacks up the contrast.

It's not a great film, but it is intriguingly different, beautiful to watch in places and has a character an intelligence about it that seems rare these days, so in spite of the flaws it's absolutely worth picking up. I first saw this sometime in June 1987, in the smallest screen of what is now the Cineworld Haymarket, so this was probably my first viewing of a film that I'd all but forgotten in 27 years, and I think I probably enjoyed it more this time around.

***

Monday, 16 February 2015

THE CALLING

CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

Assuming they're well done, I'm generally a fan of serial killer movies. Whether they're Proper Serious Films like The Silence Of The Lambs or Se7en, or 80s DTV quickies like the Relentless series, I'm more often than not engaged by the convoluted clues and tortured motivations, the twisted relationships formed between the homicidal maniac and the dogged but flawed cop on the case, and the grisly crimes themselves. I'll also award bonus points for hints of religion. Happily this latest example, from the novel by Inger Ash Wolfe, pretty much ticks all the boxes, tosses in a nice ethical variation on the theme, and the end result is a perfectly watchable if scarcely earth-shattering thriller.

Susan Sarandon is a small-town detective with a (sadly typical) fondness for the bottle who checks up on a neighbour and discovers she's been murdered. Gradually she and her team tie the crime in to a string of similar killings, all of whose victims had their mouths manipulated post mortem. Through a frankly implausible and contrived visual clue, the trail leads to a local priest who explains that it may be part of a biblical resurrection ritual. Meanwhile the killer (Christopher Heyerdahl) is methodically tracking his next victims....

The Calling is surprisingly well cast: in addition to Sarandon we have Ellen Burstyn as her disapproving mother, and Gil Bellows and Topher Grace as her fellow cops on the case (the latter has a nice line about his former partner), and the always wonderful Donald Sutherland for a few scenes as the priest. The film largely eschews the gore and grue of bloody crime scenes, in favour of the idea of a serial killer who's apparently killing for a good and selfless purpose, as well as only killing people who are willing to let him. Does this still make him an evil man? If it hadn't been for a sequence where one of his potential victims is a young child, the question would have been much more pointed, but that scene does remove any justification he might have claimed.

The original novel, which I haven't read, may have been voted one of the best mystery books of the year, but the film has little mystery about it, revealing its killer early on, and chunks of the film play out pretty much as you expect (although there's a nice payoff in the last scene). There's nothing specifically wrong with The Calling: it's engaging, well put together and you probably wouldn't switch it off if you caught it on TV one evening. Really the only downside to it is that it's generally unremarkable: it could play quite comfortably on post-watershed Channel 5 and no-one would bat an eye. It's hardly a must-see so don't expect too much, but it's more than enjoyable enough and worth a rental.

***

RABID

CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

Much like Woody Allen's "early, funny ones", I've always had a preference for David Cronenberg's "early, gloopy ones". I don't deny that his more recent films like A Dangerous Method are well put together and well performed, but give something with exploding heads and sex parasites any day over endless scenes of middle-aged guys talking. Cronenberg's films were always intelligent and adventurous, filled with serious ideas about the world and about the human body, but I'll always prefer the ones that have the startling, grisly imagery as well.

Now coming up on 40 years old (it's generally listed as a 1977 film but the copyright date is 1976), Rabid falls squarely into his "early, gloopy ones", with blood and grue as well as the intellectual meat that later took over his films completely. Medical experimentation gone wrong is the theme: following a motorcycle crash Rose (Marilyn Chambers in one of her very few non-porn roles) is given emergency skin grafts. But they've been augmented in some way to fuse with the tissue they're supposed to replace, and Rose ends up with a new bloodsucking organ under her arm, and an insatiable craving for human blood. Worse, her victims become like the walking dead, seeking only to bite and infect others. Martial law is Montreal's only defence against a potential panic....

So Rabid is partly a vampire movie, and partly a zombie movie. It's also an outbreak movie that would make a terrific double bill with George Romero's original The Crazies - indeed, the staggering, foaming-at-the-mouth infectees are referred to as "crazies" throughout the second half when the action moves from the remote Keloid clinic to the bustle of Montreal. Strangely, no-one at Keloid seems to tie in the mysterious epidemic with their recent patient who attacked three people there in the same manner and who has since disappeared; it's only her boyfriend Hart who's trying to track her down. Equally strangely, there's no real explanation given as to just how Rose's skin grafts have resulted in the growth of a physical sexual/vampiric organ.

I hadn't seen Rabid for maybe thirty years, and back then it was a battered VHS rental tape, so obviously the BluRay looks immeasurably better (though the enhanced picture quality now means in the external shots of Hart's car being attacked, you can now see the cameraman in the back of the car filming the interior shots). Musically, this is the last Cronenberg feature to not have a proper score, instead being tracked with library music, some of which is a bit "da-duuuh!" and makes you wish he'd met up with his regular composer Howard Shore a few years earlier (their collaboration started with The Brood in 1979). Personally I like the first half of Rabid, with the strange, chilly atmosphere of the clinic, more than the second with its larger scale and less focus on Rose and whatever she has become, but it's good to see the movie again and I enjoyed it more than I remember from sometime back in the 1980s. It's not up there with Cronenberg's later double of Videodrome and The Fly, both of which are absolute masterpieces, but it's still a great reminder of his more visually graphic horror of twisted, mutated flesh.

****

Sunday, 15 February 2015

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

SIX DEGREES OF SPOILERS

Well, I was shocked. Shocked and stunned. Not by the phwoooar factor of Dakota Johnson naked and tied up, attractive though she is; mainly by the realisation that this long-heralded, much-hyped and hugely controversial odyssey of sexual discovery and corrupted innocence is actually a tiresome bore that does absolutely nothing interesting. Obviously it's hardly surprising that the film doesn't shock and appal - anyone with an internet connection can find a billion images of the filthiest sexual degradation to click through over their cornflakes of a morning - but what is surprising is that Fifty Shades Of Grey is so sheerly dull. I wasn't exactly expecting two hours of cheerless, in-out mechanical gonzo pornography at the Odeon Milton Keynes, but something a tad more substantial than Pretty Woman with handcuffs would have been the least they could have offered.

It's pure chance that virginal Eng Lit student Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) meets up with finely sculpted telecoms billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), to interview him for the college newspaper. She works part-time in a hardware shop to make ends meet, he has his own fleet of cars, a glider, a helicopter and a phallic skyscraper named after himself (how many men are going to start referring to their penises as "The [Surname] Tower"?). But there's enough of a spark between them for a fairly normal relationship to start to develop between them - until he introduces her to his playroom, a well-stocked chamber of whips, canes, gags, cuffs and ropes. Rather than running screaming in horror, she lets the relationship develop, giving him her virginity and negotiating (though never actually signing) his contract stipulating in writing the specific things she will and won't permit....

Much time, perhaps too much, is spent on Ana dithering about whether to sign a legally binding agreement consenting to being flogged, that it all ends up more Marquess of Queensberry than Marquis de Sade, when what it really needed was the sleazy hand of a Jess Franco to throw the character and relationship stuff out of the window and concentrate on the rampant censor-baiting exploitation filth. Fifty Shades Of Grey (which passed through the BBFC without hindrance and in France has incredibly been rated 12) needs to be disreputable but it ends up as decorous. Shot by Oscar-nominated Seamus McGarvey, behind the camera on films like Anna Karenina and Atonement, and scored by Oscar-nominated Danny Elfman (though his music is secondary to the Various Artists compilation soundtrack), everything looks and sounds lovely but it's all too tasteful, like an extended cosmetics commercial. Maybe the film is trying to reflect Grey's sadistic nature by teasing us, the audience, with ideas the film cannot depict.

You can argue as much as you like about whether the film is seeking to legitimise domestic abuse (it isn't - everything's thoroughly regulated and agreed beforehand, whereas there are no safe words in wifebeating, and anyone who claims the original "I do" counts as a permanent "yes" is a moron of intergalactic proportions). You can argue whether, regardless of the setup that he's the dominant and she's the submissive, it's actually Ana who's in charge and who decides what is and isn't acceptable, and it's Christian who meekly agrees to all her terms (in a film whose tagline is "Lose Control", he's the only one who does). You can argue whether the film stands as an advertisement for debatably unhealthy relationships based on power and control and the infliction of pain (it's certainly not selling me on the lifestyle). Never mind about whether it's any good as erotica (suffice to say it isn't, but no-one would want to know if it was), what I'm having trouble with is the idea that this is any good as a drama: a believable, plausible drama about believable, plausible human beings. I frankly did enough of my own eye-rolling at the almost literally unspeakable dialogue to earn the full twelve strokes.

With or without the hints of kink it doesn't show us anyway, it's too long and very silly. Blue Is The Warmest Colour also kept you waiting a long time for the hot'n'heavy XXX action, but no-one was checking their watch because you believed enough in the characters. Fifty Shades is at heart a soft-centred, indeed gloopy fairytale romance between the handsome but miserable Prince Charming and the pretty but happy commoner, and shorn of the S+M themes it would have sat happily as a 12A piece of teengirl fluff, but it's fatally skewed to an older audience by incorporating the use of riding crops and the phrase "anal fisting". To be honest, I'd rather have a bag of chips. Yet it's taking money, at least on its opening weekend, with multiplex screenings packed out, and the film ends inconclusively so there's always the prospect of a sequel (The Fifty-First Shade? A Hint Of Beige?). Still, if it demonstrates that there's enough commercial interest in nominally serious 18-rated films, maybe more will come along, and they'll hopefully be better. This one really doesn't work at all.

**

Thursday, 5 February 2015

BLOOD SHOT

CONTAINS SPOILERS?

You will probably have to go a very long way to find a film as catastrophically misjudged as Blood Shot, the latest (2013) attempt by Danny Dyer to break out of his trademark screen persona: a laddish Sun-reading Cockney geezer forever shouting "Oi, you muppet!" and lamping people. He's tried sinister crime boss (in Pimp, which I confess I haven't seen and probably never will, on the grounds that I'm not a complete imbecile), he's tried tortured psychopath (in Deviation, which I have seen, because I am at least a partial imbecile), and he's tried lovable comedy bigamist (in Run For Your Wife, aka Run For The Exits), but he hasn't been able to escape his signature role of Aggressive Simpleton. And he doesn't escape it with this film either: part romance, part comedy, part splatter movie, part social commentary, total disaster.

Danny Dyer is Philip, an unassuming but blokey (and apparently very well paid) prosthetics effects sculptor for the kind of extreme splatter movies that give splatter movies a bad name. Out jogging one night, he encounters a young woman in the park screaming incoherently: he takes her home and they begin a tentative relationship. But while Jane (Zoe Grisedale) may be sexy and alluring and intoxicating, she's also screaming crazy, foaming at the mouth and shrieking rather than endearingly kooky. She has secrets and scars, he wants to help, they're falling in love. It's sort of like Brief Encounter, if Celia Johnson had been a paranoid babbling smackhead and Trevor Howard had spent all his spare time creating lifelike plastic tits in his attic.

As it goes along you start to wonder if there's actually some hidden twist somewhere: might it have something to do with psychiatrist Keith Allen, who's quite clearly only in the film because there's a scene where he gets to cavort with some scantily-clad women? But no: the big surprise plot development is that there is no surprise plot development. Dramatically it's uninteresting and has no suspense or thrills, and barely any moments where Danny at least gets a bit handy with his fists. You can also ignore the DVD cover which thoroughly misrepresents the film as some kind of slasher with a moody-looking Dyer holding a bloodied knife behind his back, in front of an artistic rendition of the London skyline. That doesn't appear in the movie and no-one gets killed.

Rather, the film develops an unsubtle and frankly insulting line in social commentary as it posits the idea that hardcore splatter movies are only for the emotionally immature and psychologically stunted. "If you'd ever experienced real violence you wouldn't deal in these fantasies of violence," Jane declares in one of her less batshit moments, as the film effectively gives horror movie fans the finger. (To be honest, you could make an equally valid generalisation that the more avid fans of Danny Dyer's consistently low-aiming fare have something wrong with them up top.) Worse: having insulted the gorehound audience the film shamefully panders to them with an extended dream sequence that not only riffs on the original Maniac (with Philip's sculpted mannequins coming to life) but has Jane turn demonic and tear his face off before ripping his heart out and clawing his ribcage open. It's an enjoyably grisly frenzy of gloopy gore, but in a film which has just told its audience they're backward morons for liking precisely this kind of thing, it leaves a very bad taste.

Blood Shot is rubbish: the kind of nonsense that thinks layering on a bit of classical music will improve matters, as though the class will rub off. That it doesn't make any sense whatsoever - is this Philip's house or is he housesitting? If Jane has had her passport stolen how is she getting back to New York? - seems hardly the point, but then you have to ask what the point is and in truth I have no idea. It doesn't work, it doesn't hang together, the big gore scene feels like it's from a different film entirely and the leading man is yet again just not up to the job. Stunningly missable.

*

CODE BLACK: PRESIDENT DOWN

CONTAINS SPOILERS AND BOLL

I'm not a fan of Uwe Boll. Certainly his films are a long way from being classics, but I suspect he's got his reputation as the Worst Director Ever more from disappointed videogame fans than from disappointed movie fans. House Of The Dead isn't terrible: it's a functional, unremarkable and anonymous teen/zombie horror movie with lots of gore and stupidity, and it isn't any good, but it's scarcely the worst film ever made. He's a better filmmaker than, say, Al Adamson, and he manages to secure surprisingly big names for his nonsense - Burt Reynolds, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Christian Slater and Ben Kingsley have all taken the money at some point. Some actors come back for more than one, and Michael Pare is as much a fixture as Charles Hawtrey was in the Carry Ons.

But even by Uwe Boll's slipshod standards, Code Black: President Down is a disaster. It's dull, cheap, uninteresting, badly put together and lifeless; it looks like it belongs on Channel 5 late on a Tuesday night after the proper film has finished. A squad of assassins plan to shoot the President (they've even cast an Obama lookalike for the role) using a long-range sniper rifle from a family home overlooking the small town the Prez is due to briefly visit: the only hope for the family taken hostage in the house is town deputy sheriff and belligerent alcoholic Ray Liotta, carrying a Dark Secret from his military service....

Though it's not billed as such, this is apparently a remake of Suddenly, a Frank Sinatra movie from the 1950s on which the copyright has presumably lapsed because it's widely available on the free streaming sites. What's surprising is how thoroughly all the opportunities for excitement have been completely ignored. This surely isn't a difficult story to tell well or at least efficiently: any first-timer straight out of a Media Studies course should have been able to make something of it, but not Boll. Code Black isn't the worst thing you've ever seen, but it probably is the most staggeringly mediocre.

*