Thursday, 24 September 2009



Tediously in-jokey and self-referential to the limit, this lives up to its oh-so-clever pun of a title by being the stupidest piece of slasher rubbish in ages. Hack! by name and Hack! by nature, it does what it says on the DVD box by being full of hackings and being made by hacks.

A bunch of film students (who have the cumulative IQ of a Battenberg) spend a few days on a college field trip and find themselves picked off one by one. The characters are the usual stock range of generic types: the Dim Football Jock, the Shy Bespectacled Virgin, the Easy Lay With The Big Hooters, the Quietly Sensitive But Rugged Hero, the Dirty Talking Bitchy Blonde, the Wisecracking Black Dude, plus an exciting new development: the Annoying Camp Asian Guy. One, any, all or none of these might or might not be the killer. Then again, it might be the Mysterious Bearded Scotsman.

Who's doing the killing is actually fairly obvious as he/she/they is/are clearly mad as bats, and the obligatory twist makes absolutely no sense. This is actually par for the course for the DTV slasher movie and you can't really expect anything else. On a straightforward blood and screaming level, Hack! is no better or worse than the last four hundred cheap genre offerings that have cluttered up Blockbuster's shelves since the days of Betamax.

But what really sinks it, what really annoys, is the jokey self-referencing. Lines of dialogue like "This is like a scene from a ****ty horror movie" only work when they're in a really good horror movie. Wes Craven's Scream can get aware with self-deprecating knowing winks to the audience because it's a quality piece of work; Hack! can't because when the girl says "this is like a scene from a ****ty horror movie" the audience is sitting there muttering "Amen, sister: that's because this IS a scene from a ****ty horror movie." What's the name of their film studies professor? Mr Argento. Namechecking horror directors in such an obvious way is a lame injoke that's been running for decades and no-one - absolutely no-one - is going to be adding Matt Flynn to that namecheck roster any time soon. Not only do they reference Jaws with the line "we're going to need a bigger boat" but they name the boat Orca.

And all this swapping of horror film references does is to show how many movies Matt Flynn has seen. But he clearly hasn't learned anything from them because even the worst of the quoted titles (Rob Zombie's atrocious House Of 1000 Corpses) is more interesting than Hack!. Couple this with the range of cardboard morons wheeled onto screen only to be gorily despatched, and the result is a dull, stupid, utterly ordinary slasher flick, and not a fraction as clever-clever as it thinks it is.


Sunday, 20 September 2009



Every so often they produce a slab of dumb futuristic twaddle primarily conceived to showcase a hot actress in unfeasible and vaguely fetishistic costumes. It's a concept you can trace back to Jane Fonda in Barbarella and Caroline Munro in Starcrash (tragically yet to be released on British DVD). More recently, Milla Jovovich had a crack at the genre with Ultraviolet, Charlize Theron starred in Aeon Flux, and we had Kate Beckinsale in the first two Underworld films. Now it's Bai Ling's turn to don a succession of PVC shorts, shiny thighboots, skintight trousers and midriff-baring plastic tops in The Gene Generation.

In a sub-sub-sub-Blade Runner slum city built in a valley somewhere, Bai Ling is a top assassin targeting DNA hackers who mess with peoples' DNA and turn them into snakey monsters; the result of pioneering genetic manipulation technology originally designed to cure diseases but which Went Horribly Wrong twenty years previously. Ling's next door neighbour is a genetic scientist, and he's built the sole DNA transcoder thingummy but by chance, her idiot brother has nicked it and various parties are interested in acquiring it as a weapon, including the original genius Faye Dunaway (who spends most of her time standing against the wall in a cellar somewhere covered in CGI snakes).

The majority of this seems to have been done on green screen with vast computerised cityscapes that don't come close to convincing, and aren't even particularly good. CG effects have come a long way very quickly but there's no excuse for being this shabby (except for budgetary concerns). In fairness, The Gene Generation was apparently made back in 2005 but has only surfaced this month, although even in 2005 CG was massively ahead of what's on view here. It's basically nonsense and while there are occasional moments of mild interest (mainly due to Bai Ling and her strange taste in trousers), there aren't enough of them and the below-par effects work sinks the whole endeavour.


Saturday, 19 September 2009



I guess it's always dangerous making films about narcolepsy because the obvious gag is that it's contagious and the audience will catch it. Happily Parasomnia isn't dull enough to send you to sleep, but unhappily it is almost wilfully stupid.

It's directed by William Malone, who did that reasonably entertaining, flashy update of the old Vincent Price movie House on Haunted Hill a few years back and the incredibly dark and incomprehensible FearDotCom. This starts off in a clinic where they discuss patients' conditions with complete strangers, and not only do they treat drug rehab in the same building as sleep disorders, but they also keep a bona fide homicidal maniac and mesmerist chained to the ceiling in the next room to cute but narcoleptic teenager Laura. The mesmerist (going by the name Byron Volpe) is already haunting Laura's near-permanent dreamscape and is also capable of remote thought control. A passing art student falls in love with her and, upon discovering that they're going to ship her out to another facility where they can do weird and sinister experiments on her, decides to kidnap her and look after her in his apartment. Sadly she's been possessed by Volpe and starts on a gruesome killing spree....

It is spectacularly dumb but at least if nothing else it does give you a fair amount of blood and gore for your rental fee. Genre icon Jeffrey Combs turns up as a Fed, and he's always good value. But the whole thing is utter nonsense and I really didn't care for the ending. On balance it's a failure, but with the occasional splattery moment of interest.


Friday, 18 September 2009



A totally bonkers Spanish exploitation epic full of sex, violence, gore, blood and nudity - and breaking the fourth wall, fantasy sequences - Sexy Killer (subtitled You'll Die For Her) was a freebie screening for those who queued for Frightfest tickets back in July. I missed it for a variety of reasons - one of which was tiredness as I'd been in the queue overnight.

But it's now got a DVD release and I now rather wish I'd seen it at the Empire 2 instead of the flat. Because while it is all over the place, it's nonetheless pretty entertaining fun. There's a mad killer on the campus and everyone is completely unaware that it's sexy Barbara (Macarena Gomez, a great name in itself) for no reason other than.... well, no reason at all. It's just the way she is and a whole lot of people end up dead as a result. It starts off in the girls' shower room with a perv in a Scream costume wanting to see some naked girls, suddenly being attacked by someone else in a Scream costume (after a brief bit of the Marx Brothers mirror routine). This kind of grab-bag anything-goes style proceeds less in the way of a horror slasher pic than a ghoulish black comedy, until almost an hour in, when it suddenly crunches gears and turns into a traditional zombie film.

It's completely mad, obeys no rules, and doesn't make sense, and in all honesty the film's idea of sexy and mine are completely different, but it doesn't matter that much: Sexy Killer is enjoyably nonsensical entertainment, and fair fun for the evening. I don't think I necessarily want to buy the DVD and watch it again, but I quite liked it.


Thursday, 17 September 2009



I used to enjoy Steven Seagal movies. The early ones, like Hard To Kill and Above The Law, were fairly ordinary but entertaining thudfests in the Chuck Norris vein, but his 1990-91 skullcrushing double whammy of Marked For Death and Out For Justice was profoundly if thoroughly wrong-headedly enjoyable. Then, some time after Under Siege 2, he rather went off the boil and was reduced to direct-to-video cheapies that really weren't up to par. In addition, he spent a lot of time eating pies.

Recent examples of the older, tubbier Seagal have included the appallingly sweary Renegade Justice and the dull Flight Of Fury. Kill Switch is slightly better: a Memphis-set thriller which Seagal wrote himself, in which a taciturn, unconventional cop (guess who) tracks a mad killer hacking people up according to some obscure astrological gubbins. He's also getting over the death of his twin brother as a child, at the hands of another mad killer (a bit of meaningless backstory padding the running time a bit), AND coping with the presence of yet another mad killer running around butchering people because he's just a mad killer. There's also a glamorous but by-the-book FBI agent who vomits over her first crime scene, and Isaac Hayes showing up as the coroner.

The action is plentiful and satisfyingly violent, but the fight scenes go on way too long. More damagingly, they mainly consist of Seagal and his adversaries punching each other repeatedly in the head and slamming each other's head repeatedly into the wall. Whatever martial arts prowess Seagal once had, it's not on view any more. Partly this will be down to his age (although being in his 50s hasn't stopped Jackie Chan), and partly it'll be down to the intake of pasties. The fight scenes are so ludicrously overedited, however, that it looks as if Big Steve wasn't even there when they filmed them and he just turned up later to shoot some near-subliminal close-ups. And when there is a particularly spectacular stunt, they actually repeat the footage - a scene in the first reel has Seagal lobbing a miscreant out of a fourth floor window and the editor ensures he goes through the glass five or six times!

It really isn't very good but it's a shade better than the last few Seagal films I've caught, mainly due to the excessive violence the man dishes out: smashing teeth, breaking arms and legs and ribs. Only a shade better, though. The conclusion of the serial killer plot is perfunctory and the concluding scene of Seagal's new, happy life of peace and love is ridiculous. If the combat sequences had been better handled the movie as a whole might have been borderline okay.


Friday, 11 September 2009



Hurrah for Ulli Lommel, who divides his time between art-house and exploitation. I haven't actually seen any of his arty offerings but he did manage to get one title on the infamous Video Nasties list (The Bogey Man, which is not a film about someone picking their nose). The last thing I saw of his was an atrocious piece of incoherent sleaze entitled The Black Dahlia but, save for a few passing references in the ridiculous "Google the exposition" sequence, it might as well have been called Battle Of The Somme for all its relevance, being mainly concerned with a bunch of maniacs hacking people up in a warehouse for no reason at all.

But his 1981 offering Prozzie is much more interesting: a strange tale which starts in London and follows regular Lommel lead Suzanna Love who, years after witnessing her hooker mother's murder as a child, has ended up in a loveless marriage where she develops the need to dress up as a hooker and kill her clients (she doesn't actually do very much of this sort of thing, only favouring one bloke with an actual cash transaction, and it doesn't end well for him). Meeting and beginning an affair with the considerably more interesting Robert Walker Jr, everything unfortunately goes horribly wrong and her boorish husband ends up in the Thames. And then, weirdly, we follow not him, not her, but London Bridge, as it was sold to an American oilman and transported and reassembled in Arizona (oddly this happened 10 years before Prozzie was made). She's got a new life and identity, they meet up, and then it all goes horribly wrong again!

And the weird thing is I actually ended up rather liking it. It's a bit bonkers and the sudden lurch from the UK to the US is peculiar, but it has an odd charm about it and as an exploitation movie it delivers on the blood and nudity though most of it is more concerned with the relationships. Random DVD rentals can often throw up a ceaseless series of duff titles but occasionally a more interesting title will fall into the mix. Prozzie isn't great, but as a trashy bit of 80s nonsense it's not terrible either.


Tuesday, 8 September 2009



Die Zombiejager is a low-budget Swedish zombie film in which a German troupe of highly eccentric zombie hunters are assigned to the zomb-ridden city of Gothenberg, where a cackling maniac in a skull mask is plotting an apocalypse of the living dead by means of infected milk, for no immediately obvious reason other than he's a nutter. Our heroes show up and do the deed via the simple technique of firing sub-machine guns at them.

To say it isn't very good is putting it mildly: it's far too cheap, acting is minimal, and the shaky camcorder look is wearing. But if all you're after from a zombie movie is blood and the occasional bit of flesh eating, and you don't mind it being subtitled in occasionally bad English, then it just about delivers. This is just Generic Zombie Flick #431; there's no originality on display, which is odd considering the end credits acknowledgement (for inspiration) to George Romero, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, Wes Craven and so on. Even more curious is that the last two names on the list are Basil Poledouris and Jerry Goldsmith - veteran (and sadly departed) score composers, who as far as I can recall never scored a zombie film; and this musical dedication is made more puzzling by the fact that the bulk of Die Zombiejager takes place against a near constant background of thudding rock songs. It's like the makers of the Emmerdale Christmas special crediting David Lean with the inspiration.

The other mystery is that I can't seem to locate the film on the BBFC's website. I'm sure it's there somewhere but it doesn't show up on a search of the distributors, director or any of the cast. Strangely, there doesn't seem to be an 18 symbol on the disc itself, or the front artwork as viewed on Amazon or Play.

In summary, then, it's not really worth the time or the money although it's mildly interesting to see how other countries and cultures tackle a concept as universal, yet predominantly based around the UK, America and Italy, as the zombie. The Greek film Evil is actually more entertaining and has a memorable final scene, whereas the Malaysian film Zombies From Banana Village (no, I'm not making it up) is endearingly ramshackle and hard to dislike, though it apparently has a bit of social commentary going on which doesn't particularly translate to UK viewers. But Die Zombiejager, despite the occasional bit of blood and gore, is just too formulaic and bog-standard to do much of anything that hasn't been done before, often and generally better.


Friday, 4 September 2009



Hurrah! They've finally taken a break from sending me Jess Franco movies. Unfortunately they've swapped him for Joe D'Amato, aka Aristide Massacessi: a Eurocack director who, bizarrely, isn't as good as Franco.

The Grim Reaper dates from 1980 and also rejoices in the scrabbletastic title of Anthropophagus (among many others). Here a group of badly dubbed young wastrels sail around the Greek islands, and wander around deserted villages at inordinate length before a mumbling cannibal sneaks up behind them and murders them. Ordinarily I'd be fine with this, but unfortunately he takes his own sweet time about it, and more damagingly he mainly operates in the dark so we don't even get the blood and guts on clear display, especially given the perfunctory DVD transfer (4:3, no extras, poor picture quality).

The high point of unforgiveable bad taste occurs when the mumbling cannibal (apparently - it's hard to see) rips an unborn child from its mother's womb and eats it. But even such an appalling act of repugnant depravity doesn't break through the tedium. It's an incredibly slow film and it's hard to care who lives or who dies. Mysteriously it got a sequel, called Absurd, which was promptly banned as a video nasty. This "original" is more of a video dull.


Thursday, 3 September 2009



Zodiac America: The Super Masters? That's a bit of a surprise because it's marketed as Zombie Rivals: The Ninja Masters and is listed on the IMDb as Zombie Vs Ninja. Either way, it does have zombies AND ninjas but, crucially, no combat between the two.

It does have some sort of revenge plot in which villains kill the kindly village ginseng seller, and his son seeks justice. He becomes an apprentice to a neighbourhood undertaker with bad teeth and falls in love with a local girl, and seeks to develop his martial arts skills by carrying coffins full of rocks around. The undertaker also keeps raising the recently deceased as zombies so our hero can fight them. Meanwhile a wandering ninja, dressed in shiny yellow with a Ninja logo on his headband (just in case we thought he was a plumber or a behavioural psychologist or something), is repeatedly attacked by other colour-coded ninja assassins for no adequately explored reason. Neither plotline appears to have any bearing on the other, leading to the feeling that you're watching two separate but equally dull movies spliced randomly together.

It's directed (pseudonymously) by Godfrey Ho, something of a specialist in the quickie ninja genre if his IMDb entry is anything to go by - it lists no less than fifty three movies with the word Ninja in the title. Leopard Fist Ninja, Ninja Death Squad, Ninja Strike Force, Bionic Ninja: they're all his and frankly he's welcome to them. It's cheap and shoddy, it doesn't make much sense, the score appears to have been cobbled together from existing music, and the dubbing is absolutely atrocious even by the standards of Shaw Brothers knock-offs. All of which I could forgive, or at least accept, were it not for the fact that the movie is eye-wateringly dull. Not even close to worth watching, under any title, even for the cheapest of laughs.