Monday, 26 April 2010



Much as I enjoy horror movies, there are times when I have to try something else and, after a run of (to put it mildly) unspectacular shockers I've put them on hold for a little while and switched to martial arts and Hong Kong action films instead. Happily this particular example manages to straddle both genres so I got my money's worth both ways. Because in addition to it being a martial arts movie with several niftily choreographed fight sequences, it's also a vampire piece.

And The Twins Effect is also one of the silliest, dumbest, maddest movies I've caught in a while. A vampire hunter and his new assistant track down a lonely, reluctant European vampire prince who, unbeknownst to them, is forming a relationship with the vampire hunter's sister. Also on the trail is an uber-vampire who needs his blood to unlock some kind of magic book that will grant him unlimited power or immortality or something. Somehow woven into it is no less a figure than Jackie Chan, executive producing and taking a supporting role as an ambulance driver (with a typically elaborate fight sequence). It all climaxes with the inevitable big fight scene as the heroes and the reluctant vampire take on The Evil One.

Most of the comedy stuff is absolutely terrible and none of it's funny. But with all these things it's how the action scenes are staged and performed that's the key and as far as I'm concerned they deliver. Maybe there's a bit too much wirework for my taste (then again, they ARE vampires) and swarms of CGI bats in the opening sequence. It's not great. But it's generally good-natured and entertaining and I enjoyed it a lot. Apparently there's a sequel but it doesn't appear to have surfaced on British DVD yet.


Saturday, 24 April 2010



Maybe he was just too busy making ads for the Labour Party, the fool, but it would have been great to see him in here somewhere because Sean Pertwee suffered gorily and at inordinate length in Neil Marshall's other films Dog Soldiers and Doomsday, and he's a good strong presence on screen. Not to say that the likes of David Morrissey and Liam Cunningham aren't, but it's a Neil Marshall film and you half expect him to be in it anyway.

You also expect it to a thoroughly entertaining romp, being a Neil Marshall film, and sadly Centurion isn't: it's the least of Marshall's films thus far and a big disappointment, despite a quite surprising level of (literally) headbanging violence for a 15 certificate. AD117 (not 117AD, which doesn't make sense no matter how many Judge Dredd comics you've read): the Romans are in Britain but can't take Scotland as a band of Picts keep on beating them back. A disastrous foray into Pict territory ends with most of the battalion slaughtered and just seven battered survivors who have to make it back south of the border. But the Picts are on their trail....

Severed heads galore, axes in skulls, slit throats: there's plenty of gory mayhem on show which I'm all in favour of. But the fight scenes are all shot in that annoying Saving Private Ryan style with a very fast shutter speed, so you end up with a series of very crisp still frames but no motion blur to give them a sense of flowing action. (At least, they would have been crisp still frames if the Cineworld projectionist had bothered to focus the movie, but as I'd already harangued one of their drones about gauging and another three about the house lights in the last week, I figured if I complained again I'd be barred.) The acting's generally okay - I liked Olga Kurylenko as a mute hunter/warrior in fur and woad - but the weak link is probably Noel Clarke, who's just not very good. And animal lovers should be warned: there's a scene where they kill a deer, dismbowel the carcass and eat the contents of its stomach - a sequence that elicited several groans from the popcorn munchers somewhere behind me.

It's more disappointing than anything else - I've enjoyed all Neil Marshall's films so far, even the 80s genre throwback grab-bag Doomsday, but Centurion just didn't click with me.


Wednesday, 21 April 2010



A Taiwanese addition to the so-called "torture porn" genre - except that porn is at least supposed to be fun, and there isn't much fun to be spotted here. Certainly there's less in the way of entertainment than in either of the Hostel films, or even the more miserable bits of the ludicrously overplotted Saw saga. Still, if you really do enjoy the sight of attractive Orientals being brutalised and butchered in a badly photographed warehouse, you might just get your rental fee's worth.

The plot of Invitation Only is simplistic to the point of a Ladybird book. A handful of working class types get invited to a posh party for the rich, powerful and thoroughly vile, only to find themselves as the main attraction in a series of onstage tortures for the benefit of decadent bastards who like to watch the underprivileged suffering. Much of the movie is thus taken up with our hero and heroine being stabbed, beaten, maimed, tied up and generally abused by the obnoxious sadists, before fighting back and escaping, getting caught, being mistreated yet again and escaping once more. Except is the menace completely vanquished?

The film was scheduled for the 2009 FrightFest allnighter but was dropped for reasons I can't now recall and in all honesty I'm not sorry, even though it was replaced by the underwhelming Umbrage. It's dark, grim, humourless, and not exactly profound in its analysis of the rich-poor divide, and even the occasionally enthusiastic gore and lovingly depicted inflicting of needless pain doesn't generate more than passing interest, and doesn't generate a second star. Plus the British DVD has large print subtitles throughout, even for the English dialogue. Overall, it's really not recommended.


Thursday, 15 April 2010



Well, it's not the profoundly stupid but undeniably enjoyable Ninja Assassin, but as a DTV action quickie it's actually rather good and a lot more fun than its credits would lead you to suspect. It hails from the frankly variable Nu Image stable and is actually closer to their cheapie video fodder output than their occasional stabs at Proper Cinema like Righteous Kill and Rambo (not that either of them were actually any good and Rambo in particular was unspeakably terrible).

Ninja tells, somewhat unsurprisingly, of a Good Ninja (our hero Scott Adkins: stolid, invulnerable, with absolutely no charisma whatsoever) taking on a Bad Ninja (evil Tsuyoshi Ihara: scarred, embittered, insane) who wants something called the Yoroi Bitsu. This is a box of ancient miscellaneous ninja bric-a-brac: arrows, throwing stars, poison, blowpipes and a suit of ninja armour, probably accumulated at a ninja car boot sale. The Bad Ninja, having been thrown out of his dojo for demented acts of violence, now works as an assassin for a sinister cabal of industrialists who gather in a basement wearing robes and branding each other with the secret sign. Several niftily choreographed fight scenes and dozens of corpses later, it all ends in the inevitable crunching showdown between the Good and Bad ninjas, while the Good Ninja's girlfriend (a ninja in her own right) looks on.

It's beyond silly and ludicrously violent, full of all the things the BBFC never used to allow such as throwing stars and rice flails. It's not well written (the plot is absurdly simplistic) and not well acted but the crash bang wallop of the combat sequences and the plentiful bloodshed keep it rattling along effectively enough. Worth a look, but any kind of brain is not required.


Wednesday, 14 April 2010



It's a long time since I saw the 1981 version, which starred Harry Hamlin and a clockwork owl (given a dumb cameo in this shiny new version for no particularly good reason) and Lord Olivier as Zeus. Now comes a CG-laden remake in which all the cheesy fun has been sucked out of it, and the result is humourless, undeniably spectacular, and more than a little bit silly.

The basic thrust of Clash Of The Titans is that Zeus' illegitimate demigod son Perseus (Sam Worthington) decides to fight the gods and monsters of Olympus when Mankind starts questioning the gods' authority, and the gods retaliate by visiting beasts and destruction upon the unbelievers. They'll send a Kraken to destroy the city and its entire populace unless the fair and generous Princess Andromeda is sacrificed. Perseus and his band of accomplices have to obtain the only weapon that can defeat the Kraken - the head of the Medusa.

The monster stuff is all perfectly well done in the computer and some of the creatures are very nicely designed: I liked Charon and Medusa. The problems are: firstly the presence of big star names like Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes - the former (Zeus) in the most ridiculously shiny suit of tinfoil armour, the latter (Hades) swathed in black smoke and basically Voldemort Mark II. Secondly, when the city threatened with divine annihilation is named Argos, it's all you can do not to shout out "Item number 174 to your collection point, please" every time it's mentioned. Surely the Brits in the cast should have pointed this out to someone, somewhere along the line. "Argos is under attack" - from whom? Woolworths? Thirdly: it's only amusing in its silliness; other than the inherent daftness of hearing Liam Neeson deliver the pretty well undeliverable line "Release the Kraken!" there's not a lot of fun to be had with it. And I don't expect the acting in these things to be Oscar standard, and it isn't: it's mainly functional (I don't think Gemma Arterton is much good, and I didn't think she was much good in Quantum of Solace either). I'm also still unsure about Sam Worthington: this is the third CG-drenched movie he's been in in less than a year (after Terminator Salvation and Avatar) and I still can't tell whether he's any good. Musically it's fairly unremarkable as well, but that's not unusual for modern cinema.

Despite the advertising for its three-dimensional presentation, it was actually made in 2D and only a few scenes were retrospectively processed for 3D, so you don't really need to pay for the upgrade and can get by quite happily in a flat screening. It's not a terrible film, but it's not a particularly good one either: I enjoyed it while it was on but I kind of miss the creaky charm of the Ray Harryhausen stopmotion effects. At least they were genuine and physical rather than files on a hard drive....maybe I'll dig the original out again sometime.


Tuesday, 6 April 2010



A darkly shot, visually impressive Thai supernatural horror movie with a body count of about eighty thousand: unfortunately it's wilfully obscure and I'm not sure I entirely followed the details of what was going on.

Broadly, Demon Warriors tells of the world of the Opapatika: if you commit suicide in this world you are reborn into a grimy dystopian netherworld in which you are granted special powers. Our newly arrived hero, gifted with the power of intuition (but at the price of his existing senses) is assigned by the mysterious Mr Sadok to find four of these other Opapatika and an enigmatic young woman, for obviously nefarious purposes. I think - and I'm not sure about this - that he manages to get them all together in the same room, despite the efforts of Mr Sadok's army sidekick, who has access to untold legions of disposable goons when instructed to kill an immortal Opapatika by firing machine guns at him.

Quite why he bothers when he knows the guy is unkillable, I don't know. Nor do I know how the hero manages to function entirely as normal in fight scenes when suddenly deprived of sight, smell and hearing, not to mention losing the power of speech. As an evening's rental it's not terrible: there's plenty of death and violence, gore and bloodshed, and CGI demons, but it would have been really nice to know what was actually going on.




An Anglo-Greek horror quickie from the 70s that makes not a blind bit of sense and contradicts itself all over the place, this has the undeniable pleasure of pitting two British genre veterans against each other to commend it, but sadly not much else. Not even a half-decent title. Was The Devil's Men really the best they could come up with?

An exiled Carpathian baron (Peter Cushing) leads a gathering of robed nutbags sacrificing tourists to a firebreathing stone Minotaur in the catacombs near a Greek village, and Oirish priest (Donald Pleasence) tries to stop them. To assist him, Pleasence calls upon the services of a P.I. moron from New York, who steadfastly refuses to accept anything he's told, and the dimwit girlfriend (Luan Peters) of one of the missing tourists: she keeps on doing the usual horror bimbo things like wandering off into the woods by herself even after being spooked in the bath by black-robed weirdos, wearing the tightest and shortest shorts imaginable.

Well, it could be okay.....Except why is one of the cult's victims told that her destiny is to sacrifice Pleasence to the Minotaur, when her actual destiny is to be sacrificed to the Minotaur herself? Why do Pleasence and the dullard 'tec repeatedly ignore a woman who has significant information for them? Indeed, given that Pleasence knows exactly what to do to stop the cult, why hasn't he done it before? And why did he bother roping in the idiot American in the first place?

Plus points: the final confrontation has a few nifty effects as the villains get theirs, there's some thoroughly unnecessary nudity, and Peter Cushing is always great, even when stuck in unmitigated tosh (see also the insanely dull and cheap The Blood Beast Terror). And Brian Eno, of all people, got to do the music. Overall, though, it's a failure.