Wednesday, 31 August 2011



What is a panic button anyway? It's never raised in the movie (except for one solitary mention in one garbled bit of shouting towards the end) and there isn't actually a physical button to be seen, panic or otherwise. Googling the phrase indicates that it's a Facebook thing that children and teenagers can use to report inappropriate behaviour, but it's scarcely applicable in the case of the film of the same name as all the inappropriate online behaviour is down to the potential victims.

Panic Button has four eminently disposable idiots winning a luxury flight to New York competition on the social networking site All2gether which, at least for the lawyers, is absolutely not Facebook or anything like it, not even a tiny little bit, look, it's even got a completely different name to go along with Friend Lists and Like This and online chats and everything, obviously completely different. After establishing the two girls as pretty but thick as pigswill and the two blokes as sub-Neanderthal bellends with the personality of amoebic dysentery, they suddenly have to play games on the flight which reveal precisely what they've been doing online - every porn video they've watched, the comments they've left, the stupid and callous things they've said in chatrooms. And if they refuse to play these increasingly sinister games, one of their online friends will be randomly selected and executed....

Despite basically being Saw in an aeroplane, this is actually a reasonably entertaining if nonsensical thriller if you can get past the thoroughly unpleasant characters and find it in yourself to actually root for any of them. One confined set, a small number of speaking parts and almost nothing in the way of special effects; the villain is a voiceover for almost the entire running time (represented on the video screens by a cartoon alligator), so it's not an expensive film although it looks terrific. Once the true nature of the flight is revealed and the villain's rationale it gets into the usual shouting and stabbing and sobbing, and racks up a reasonable degree of tension and is generally quite effective. A cautionary tale about exactly what you say and do online, it's pretty undistinguished (it's certainly no Red Eye) but rather good fun. Made in Cardiff.





Of course there are exceptions - Psycho II is a prime example - but generally speaking making any kind of followup to a genuine copper-bottomed classic is the equivalent of directing Citizen Kane II. Not only do you have to have titanium-plated balls to even set foot on hallowed genre territory, but the bar is so high that to even attempt it is a clearly doomed enterprise. Technically, this isn't a sequel to The Wicker Man as it's set elsewhere and has no returning characters, but it has a similar subject, the same director, the same themes, a brief appearance by Sir Christopher Lee and the word Wicker in the title.

The Wicker Tree is simply not in the same league as its legendary predecessor. Again it has a naive and crucially virginal visitor invited to a Scottish community to be sacrificed to the pagan gods, but rather than Edward Woodward we here get a pair of astonishingly thick Texans:  pretty but hopelessly dim country gospel star Beth and her buff but hopelessly dim cowboy fiance Steve: engaged but wearing the silver rings of chastity. Steve drops his precious chastity very quickly (along with his underpants) on encountering Honeysuckle Weeks skinny dipping, which is understandable, while devout Christian fundamentalist Beth is all too happy to play Queen Of The May at the pagans' upcoming festival.

The differences in plot are significant: the original's Lord Summerisle believes the sacrifice will restore the community's prosperity, while this followup's Sir Lachlan Morrison (Graham McTavish) openly acknowledges that it won't achieve anything. Summerisle's problems were to do with crop failures and the whims of the weather, Tressock's is due to infertility resulting from pollution from the local nuclear power station. And Edward Woodward's doomed hero was an intelligent guy while Beth and Steve are dumbo idiots.

Put simply, The Wicker Tree is a mess. Yet it's a strangely fascinating mess: more overtly and deliberately comedic than The Wicker Man (principally kilted butler/chauffeur Clive Russell) but it's never gripping or involving. Sir Christopher Lee makes a welcome but sadly very brief appearance (thankfully not another cough-and-a-spit deathbed scenes as in his last three movies Season Of The Witch, Burke And Hare and The Resident) but it's entirely unnecessary and adds nothing to the film.

As a Wicker Man film, it's nothing like it, nowhere near as interesting, exciting or scary, and completely missing the creepy madness. On its own terms, putting the glories of The Wicker Man aside, it's watchable enough, fairly amusing and well-shot and though it's ultimately an unremarkable film, it's not the disaster I was expecting and fearing. Really, though, you can't go back, and they shouldn't have tried.




Can we please ease back on the whole found footage thing? Can film-makers please stop trying to pretend that the patently fictional material is real? When it was a new and innovative technique back in the days of Cannibal Holocaust, or later with The Blair Witch Project and a couple of other early entries, it was a persuasive way of bunking up the realism. But now, with a whole raft of movies doing the increasingly feeble "it was all real, the people were never found, this is the actual footage they shot" routine, it has become less of a tool of verisimilitude and more of a getout for people who don't know anything about lighting, editing, picture composition or the price of tripods. Can't make the film look good? Simply turn it into a pseudo-camcorder job, because they're supposed to look like crap.

You can get away with the fake camcorder routine with stuff that's just about possible or at least believable - Lake Mungo is a chilling and convincing mockdoc than never drops the ball, and The Blair Witch Project did more or less work - but you can't apply it to stuff that we all know has no basis in reality at all. (If I have any quibble with This Is Spinal Tap, it's surely that the real/fake game is over when John Steed walks into shot.) In that respect The Troll Hunter is about as convincing and plausible as the outtakes they run at the end of digimations like Toy Story or Monsters Inc. Because it's about trolls! Yup: trolls are real and a trio of Norwegian college kids on a media studies course shoot 283 hours of camcorder footage (apparently less than two hours are deemed worthy of release, so Odin alone knows what the other 281 hours are like) when they encounter Norway's only official licensed troll hunter and go off on midnight troll-hunting expeditions in the woods with him.

There are large trolls, three-headed trolls, and a ginormous trollzilla thing that can probably be seen from space and yet the film is trying (and failing) to convince us that the Norwegian government is trying to keep their very existence a secret - you might think that pylons are there to carry electricity across the countryside but they're really a giant electric fence; all troll attacks are blamed on wild bears that have walked over from Russia, and the key bit of evidence that trolls exist is that the Norwegian Government have categorically denied it. In the same way that I categorically deny any involvement in the Brinks-Mat bullion robbery or the disappearance of Shergar.

Really, stop doing this. Just make a film. Make a proper film with edits and lighting and scoring, utilise the techniques of cinema that have been developed and refined over more than a century. It's a lame gimmick and it doesn't work for a second. Granted, the special effects are perfectly acceptable, in a Cloverfield style (handheld nightvision wobblicam) and there are a couple of good laughs in there, but it's pretty tiresome stuff.




Why give smartass critics the ammunition? Calling your movie Vile is like naming your son Ugly Gimp: you're asking for trouble, frankly. Maybe you're being ironic, but that can backfire as well: the dull Travolta movie Perfect gathered a bunch of reviews smugly expressing the same sentiment: "No it isn't." And if films are going to be titled with Ronseal accuracy then this should really be called Saw Wannabe: Bunch Of Uninteresting People Torture Each Other For Narratively Flimsy Reasons because that's pretty much all that happens. Whoopee.

Like far too many genre films, Vile begins with a 4x4 full of dullards driving through the drab American wilderness: they pick up a passenger in a gas station who promptly drugs them. When they wake up they're trapped in a completely sealed building with another bunch of idiots and informed via videolink that they have to torture each other. They have had glass vials (oh dear, it's a pun) surgically attached to their brains to collect a particular chemical produced during extreme pain. And the clock is ticking....

So it's basically Saw II but with more sadism and lipsmacking torture and less in the way of plausibility and plot. I'll repeat that, this is a film that makes less sense than Saw II. Has this mysterious organisation never heard of the concept of synthesising chemicals? Why do none of the captives even try to find a way out? Instead they cheerfully draw lots to see who's first to be tied to the kitchen table and attacked with hammers and boiling water. It's true that there was a loud and well-earned cheer halfway through when one of the women, who'd decided that some people should suffer more than others, was massively punched in the face, but that was really the best moment in the movie.

Still, we got several sequences of annoying dumbasses hurting themselves and each other, which is always fun, and a nasty if totally nonsensical sequence when one of the characters dies before his chemicals have been collected (wouldn't they still be usable?) and someone else has to run around repeatedly hurting themselves to make up the difference (wasn't their vial full already?). But that's torture porn for you - like regular porn, we're not really interested in the finer points of narrative. Moments excepted, Vile really isn't very good - granted there are worse movies clogging up the shelves at Blockbusters, but that's not much of a defence.


Tuesday, 30 August 2011



Radio 5's Dr Sir Mark Kermode has a rule about comedy: there should be a minimum of six decent laughs throughout the running time. Frankly I think that's setting the bar very low: for a 90-minute film that's one laugh every 15 minutes. A sitcom episode or a panel show which only had two laughs in it would be considered insufficiently funny even by modern TV comedy standards. Granted that humour is subjective - I've sat stolidly with people almost literally wetting themselves at The Hangover and still found it impossible to accept we were watching the same screen - and everyone's sense of humour (or lack thereof) is personal and unique, it's such a joy when a film with a huge number of laughs turns up AND everyone else in the cinema seems to be enjoying it just as much as you are.

So it is with Tucker And Dale Vs Evil. What apparently starts out as yet another tedious American horror film in which a bunch of pretty young halfwits in an SUV drive into the wilderness arguing about sex and beer actually ends up as an absolute hoot as it's basically Laurel And Hardy Accidentally Kill A Bunch Of Dim Teenagers. The titular Tucker And Dale - a pair of hillbilly buddies are fishing on the lake outside their "holiday home" (a fixer-upper shack) when they see one of the teens fall into the water; their rescue and subsequent attempts to return her to her friends are consistently misinterpreted as threats by the judgemental idiots. They mount a rescue operation to free the girl from what they perceive as backwards backwoods maniacs, but only end up causing more bloody mayhem....

It's not a horror movie, although there's plenty of blood and gore. Really, it's a nice, warm, rude, and rather sweet black comedy, albeit one with several spectacular and genuinely hilarious death scenes in the worst of good bad taste. At its heart is the friendship between good-hearted dimwits Tucker And Dale and the growing relationship between Tucker and their inadvertent captive Allison, taking the edge off the escalating carnage as the idiot teens start ending up dead. Maybe it loses it a little in the closing stretch as the leader of the idiot teens becomes ever more unreasoning and tiresome, but most of the film is such a good-natured if splattery romp that it's easy to forgive. Terrific fun.




It's always a little frustrating when a film reaches a fork in the narrative between two possible resolutions and promptly goes for the less interesting option. Particularly so if the film has already gone to considerable lengths to suggest the road less travelled, more scenic and headed for a far more exciting destination, before deciding to take the A1 to Stevenage yet again. On a smaller scale it's like a visually striking and fantastical sequence that turns out to be a dream as the film crash cuts into boring suburban mundanity.

The Holding is the remote farm acreage owned and run at a crippling lost by Cassie Naylor (Kierston Wareing) and her daughters, struggling to keep the place going after her obnoxious husband Dean disappeared. But a mysterious stranger named Aden (Vincent Regan) shows up one morning and immediately sets about assisting the family: sorting out the finances, taking on the neighbours who wish to acquire the Naylor land by whatever means. But who is he really? A guardian angel? A random sociopath? Or even Dean's ghost - after all, didn't Cassie kill him herself and bury his corpse up on the hill? After all, Aden has Dean's wedding ring....

But having created a story which could have either had a chilling and supernatural resolution (spot the Dean/Aden anagram) or a dull prosaic one, why go for the dull and prosaic? Really, why go for Ambridge when you can go for Dallas? It's an appropriately cold and grim and muddy film but it's not much fun and once they've decided on Option B (incidentally turning it into a reworking of The Stepfather in the process) there's only moderate tension.




There's a certain knack to plot twists. The ideal is that it's the climax of the movie that sends you mentally re-running the film to work out how it holds up now you know who Keyser Soze is or what Bruce Willis is in The Sixth Sense - or even going to see it again. In the case of The Usual Suspects it's in the last few minutes of the film, in the best of Shyamalan's films it's usually in the third act. But if you drop that bomb too early it gives the audience time to work out where the plot's going in the light of this new information. Sadly, this British psychological crime drama/thriller gives us the Big Reveal a long way from the end, and the reality is then predictable from some way off.

Maybe its open to debate who The Glass Man is - perhaps Martin Pyrite (Andy Nyman), a middle-ranking manager with a luxury car, a massive house, a beautiful wife (Neve Campbell with an English accent) and a terrible secret: he's been ignominiously fired for whistleblowing and the debts are mounting up, and if beaten enough will shatter into a million shards. Or the mysterious and initially threatening Pecco (James Cosmo) who turns up out of nowhere and agrees to waive some of Pyrite's debts if he will assist him on a clearly criminal enterprise that very night - maybe he's The Glass Man, if for no other reason on the grounds that no-one else seems to be aware of his presence.

Once that card is played, however, there's really only one way things can end and inevitably it's pretty much what you'd predict. It's generally well made and shot (although the sound recording or mixing is not great and much dialogue is lost) and Andy Nyman is terrific. But against that the character of Martin Pyrite is annoying and he could have easily got out of his financial difficulties by selling that four-storey mansion of his. The other problem with THAT twist and THAT ending is that you end up wondering [1] where did the gun come from, and [2] which other characters in this movie are projections of Pyrite's crumbling personality or figments of his imagination?Personally I'd have found it much more powerful if it turned out everyone was real and there were these sinister forces out there that would help you out in times of crisis - but for an unspeakable price.

So ultimately The Glass Man is sadly a disappointment. It's a well made film but it's a frustrating one and should (and could) have been far more interesting. There's still good stuff in there, but the plot lets it down.


(Incidentally, I might be The Glass Man - hurrying for my train out of St Pancras this morning I ran smack into the glass wall of the ticket office, bruising my face, twisting my knee and keeling over like some kind of drunken imbecile in a force ten gale. The glass wall was undamaged. Missed the fast train on account of being sprawled all over the floor of the ticket office and had to catch the slow train that stops at Harpenden and Luton Airport Parkway. Am now in pain.)



This is a difficult film to put into any kind of context, as it's the first ever Israeli horror movie - specifically a slasher/comedy in which the slasher is the only person who doesn't actually kill anyone. More than anything else it's a black farce in which a bunch of disparate characters run around the woods getting involved in each other's problems but without knowing precisely what's going on. It's a bit of a curious mix of character comedy and crunchy violence.

Rabies actually starts with a girl caught in a killer's trap in the middle of the forest and her brother running off to fetch help. He's hit by a car with four college tennis players inside; the boys go into the woods while the girls wait for the police. Meanwhile the killer has retrieved his captive but is then disabled by a passing wildlife ranger. Elsewhere, a couple of cops have arrived, but one is more interested in patching up his domestic relationship and the other is solely intent on sexually harassing the two girls in their tennis skirts. Back in the woods, the brother has spotted the ranger rescuing the sister but thinks it's the killer. And the two tennis boys are fighting. And there's a minefield.

It's one of those movies for which "interesting" is probably the best word: we just don't have anything to compare it to. It's not massively funny (there is a very traditional bit of "at 3800 shekels a week I should worry" Jewish humour towards the end but it's the only obviously comedic moment in the film), but the plot is perfectly well worked out and it is generally quite well done. Worth a look, but it really isn't a masterpiece.




Vampires are hideously romanticised in cinema: even as far back as Lugosi in the Universals of the 1930s. Subsequent incarnations - Christopher Lee in the Hammers, Frank Langella, The Lost Boys, the Blades and the Twilights - have steadily transformed the archetype from a foul and wretched parasite to an angst-ridden teenage hulk sulking with his shirt off. A cinematic reversion to the vile creature of the night, the Nosferatu, is long overdue. Aren't they supposed to be horrible and repulsive monsters?

Attempts are occasionally made to deglam the vampire, but that then becomes more of a drama about the "person": George Romero's Martin (a film I have no great love for) is the most obvious example. Or Midnight Son, which focuses on Jacob, a pallid and unsocial security guard on the night shift, who only discovers his vampiric nature by chance when drinking the raw blood from the steak packaging. But animal blood isn't enough; can he obtain human blood smuggled out of the hospital? Or will he resort to feeding his hunger in the time-honoured and traditional manner?

Even at just 95 minutes, it's a drag. Certainly there's a nicely plausible if downbeat relationship that develops between the reluctant vampire and Mary, the junkie candy seller. But there's no sense of terror or tension, and the lead is such a drab and lifeless character that it's difficult to care what happens. Ultimately you may well nod off because Midnight Son is frankly a pretty dull film. How do you make vampirism dull?


Saturday, 27 August 2011



The dispiriting thing about this abduction/torture film is just how unremarkable it is. Are we all tortured out? No-one can reasonably expect dazzling originality and innovation from every movie that comes down the river, but it would be nice if the pendulum swung back the other way once in a while.

More than forty miles from the nearest town, Rogue River is a remote and unspoiled beauty spot that Mara (Michelle Page) selects to scatter her father's ashes. Local Jon (Bill Moseley - and surely that's a tipoff to the madness to come) is initially friendly in that downhome out-in-the-sticks kind of a way but once he's managed to get her into his house it transpires that he and his wife Lea (Lucinda Jenney) and out and out screaming lunatics. Gosh. Who'd have thought?

The reasons behind Mara's incarceration and suffering as implausible and unfathomable as you'd expect, and really aren't important, although they do contain a few new medicinally-enhanced wrinkles. But it isn't long before it resorts to the usual running and ranting and shooting and screaming. Rogue River isn't terrible - it's just a perfectly well made example of something that's been perfectly well made so many times before, and indeed better. And despite it looking great and everyone doing a decent job, the end result is sadly unremarkable.




There's a lot to be said for the anthology film. Like a TV sketch show, if one segment doesn't appeal, there'll be another one along in a few minutes, whereas if you're not enjoying a feature film, tough because it's the only one there is. The variability has always been the flaw with portmanteau films: even the greats of the Amicus era - even going back as far as Dead Of Night - have sequences slightly less successful than others. (Or, at the other end of the scale with The Monster Club, slightly less sucky.)

It's even more pointed in something like The Theatre Bizarre, where all the segments are directed by different people. The wraparound (Jeremy Kasten) has a young women venturing into a strange theatre to watch scary-looking puppet Udo Kier introduce a mixed bag of several short stories. The most successful are Tom Savini's enjoyably gross story of dreams and nightmares and the return of Richard Stanley with an atmospheric tale of paganism, toads and Catriona MacColl. The real misstep is Douglas Buck's entry which concerns a child understanding death after witnessing an accident.

More damagingly, none of the individual segments have anything to do with the Theatre Bizarre: it's simply a series of entirely unrelated short films interspersed with the Udo Kier puppet saying "Here's an interesting story", then "This is a most peculiar story" and so on. It's not a failure by any means: in addition to the Stanley and Savini sections there's Buddy Giovinazzo's story of an extreme marital breakdown. But the disconnected structure and at least one story too many (the Buck section, and possibly David Gregory's food orgy, could be comfortably lost) count against it.


Friday, 26 August 2011



Much as you know exactly where you are with a vintage Friday The 13th, you know exactly what you're getting with a Final Destination movie. Just like the previous sequels, this is pretty much an identical restaging of the saga in which a group of people cheat Death purely by chance, but Death has to balance the books as takes out the accidental survivors in turn, in gloriously sadistic and hilariously convoluted ways. Death is not satisfied by a mere heart attack or a random gunshot: far more likely that you'll drop your toast butterside down, tread on it and as your feet go from under you, your hand collides with the edge of the wobbly knife rack and a cleaver slides out and hits you in the face, blade first.

The disaster in Final Destination 5 is the spectacular collapse of a suspension bridge - the official report eventually cites the cause as high winds during construction work - but seen in a vision by one hapless employee of a paper supplies company in which he and seven of his colleagues are violently killed. Managing to get them to safety, he discovers that Death will not be outsmarted and the survivors begin dying in outrageous ways. Or, is there a way to cheat the Reaper of his due souls after all?

There are times when you want subtlety, wit and solid, well-crafted film making. There are other times when you just want to see annoying people wiped out and it's enormous fun: the Final Destinations have put the laughter in slaughter over the years and they don't disappoint here - the gymnastics sequence is a genuine work of genius in the way an ordinary sports arena - or a kitchen, a factory floor, an eye clinic or a massage parlour is turned into a series of deathtraps just waiting to detonate and you'll never guess which one is actually going to kill them.

The 3D perhaps isn't necessary but it works perfectly well (I saw it in Dolby 3D which I think has the edge on Real 3D) and there are a dozen or more truly wincetastic moments in there. It's certainly an improvement on 4 and 3, although perhaps not up there with number 2 which I think is my personal favourite. And the climactic twist is extremely well done. These are reprehensible movies, perhaps, but they're great fun in the worst of taste and I enjoyed FD5 immensely.




Talking afterwards to the crowds inside and outside, the word repeatedly used was "solid". But not solid in a bad way, as in large, lumpy, slow-moving, perhaps you should see a doctor. Solid in a good way: well crafted, controlled, intelligent, sturdy. Which it is. It's a well made, traditional, old-fashioned horror film with some nicely timed jump moments in it. Yes, you should be afraid of the dark.

The plot of Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark is a simple one. A couple (Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce) and his daughter by his unseen and frankly unhinged sounding ex movie into the insanely large and sprawling old Blackwood mansion. But deep in the cellar, indeed below the cellar, something lurks. Something that allegedly abducted the Blackwood heir, something with a taste for blood and childrens' teeth - aggressive and genuinely scary gribbley monsters which young Sally has inadvertently let loose in the house, and the old faerie curse stipulates they have to kill every time they are released....

This new version not only harks back to the American TV Movie Of The Week style - no swearing, no nudity, little in the way of gore and violence - where the original Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark came from, but bears the stamp of its producer and co-writer Guillermo Del Toro. In particular there's a lot of Pan's Labyrinth in there, with a lonely young girl isolated from her family and the only one who sees the monsters, and while it isn't anywhere near as great as Pan's, it's still thoroughly enjoyable and the CGI creature effects are perfectly well done. It's certainly not a great film, but it's entertaining and good scary fun without being violently graphic. (Nice to see old Neighbours Guy Pearce and Alan Dale back together for a few scenes as well.) Worth a watch.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011



Why remake Conan The Barbarian? If you want to make a Dark Ages sword-and-sorcery rippling torso flick, go ahead. But making it Conan explicitly invites comparison with the original version, whereas doing the exact same movie and calling it Zetok The Indestructible or Korax The Swordmaster merely involves assessing it on its own terms. Invent your own Hyborian folk hero. Alternatively, remake Ator The Invincible instead because there's a good chance that you might do a better job. Even if you're Marcus Nispel: redirector of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Frankenstein, Pathfinder, Friday The 13th - none of them the faintest shadow of a patch on their originals. Has this man ever had a single original idea? Admittedly his TCM is a passable dumbo slasher movie - not a fraction of Hooper's film, but if he didn't want unfavourable comparison he should have called it something else.

Conan The Barbarian is still the story of Conan's quest for revenge against the Dark Lord who wiped out his Cimmerian village and family when he was a boy: how he grows into the roistering but simple warrior originally destined to be a king: to "wear the jewelled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow". We don't see much of that process, we don't get the Wheel Of Pain or the Tree of Woe - we cut from him being an angry kid to him being a barbarian adult. Khalar Zym (who thinks up these names?) is the Dark Lord seeking the nine parts of a sacred mask that when filled with the pureblood of one of the descendants of the Nine Families of Asheroth will give the wearer supernatural powers to resurrect his sorcerer wife and take over the world. The pureblood is Tamara (Rachel Nicholls) who Conan ends up protecting so he can avenge himself on Khalar Zym and his mad witch daughter (Rose McGowan).

As far as muscular Dark Ages flicks go, Nispel's film is absolute tosh, not particularly well done, but excessively violent and bloody, and it's tolerable enough as popcorn silliness. But as a Conan The Barbarian film it's a pretty empty exercise. That's because they don't have Arnold Schwarzenegger, they have Jason Momoa who isn't as good. They don't have the mighty James Earl Jones as the villain, but Stephen Lang (who I didn't recognise and thought it was Michael Ironside). They don't have Oliver Stone writing or John Milius directing - it's scripted and rescripted and re-rescripted by the usual committees, and they've got a director with a background in six-minute rock videos and not in two-hour film. Nor indeed do they have the late Basil Poledouris' astonishing music score - though in fairness Tyler Bates' soundtrack is more musical and less thump-shriek-drone than his usual efforts.

Nispel's film is badly-written (after having established that Tamara must be protected at all costs, they let her wander off through the woods alone simply so she can be captured) and CGI'd up the wazoo. And crucially it's no fun - there are zero laughs - although there's plenty of blood (albeit some of it CGI, which is cheating) and savage violence: heads smashed against rocks, hands lopped off, slashed tendons. There's even a level of toplessness and nudity which you don't tend to get in multiplex fodder these days. I saw it in 2D rather than the post-conversion 3D, which costs extra and is entirely unnecessary and may even make things worse as the film is so rapidly edited in the numerous fight and chase scenes that seeing it in plain 2D is dizzying. The original is on DVD and is still fantastic - hell, even Conan The Destroyer is more enjoyable and that's a long way from being a good movie.


Monday, 22 August 2011



A film probably forgotten these days, and if remembered at all it's for its star Dorothy Stratten's untimely murder before it was released; this is a space fantasy spoof that absolutely fails to work with countless dud jokes, tedious characters, shoddy effects (even for 1980) and a tone that switches from serious SF portentiousness to knockabout TV sketch show stupidity. Coming after Dark Star and Starcrash, and with Alien and The Empire Strikes Back heavy in the air, the idea to make a cheap sci-fi comedy spoof with a beautiful lead actress must have been tempting. But why didn't they go that extra half parsec and make it any good?

It's 3008 and the Infinity is a police cruiser manned by a goofy collection of crazy but supposedly loveable idiots (blowhard captain, hunky sergeant, winged Vulcan wiseass mechanic and an elderly Chinese stoner) and the mute but astoundingly glamorous robot Galaxina: gorgeous but pointlessly so, since she's programmed to give electric shocks to anyone who touches her. But during the crew's 27-year cryosleep en route to retrieve a revolutionary energy source known as the Blue Star, Galaxina confronts her awakening feelings for Sergeant Thor and reprograms herself to respond.

None of the gags are funny and one in particular - a running joke about a fanfare - is bloody annoying after the ninth or tenth appearance and the lineup of whacked-out space crazies are all surprisingly difficult to like. Some bits feel like TV sketches: the "human restaurant" in which the menu consists of human body parts eaten by aliens, or the Alien "gag" in which the cretinous Captain eats an egg and then vomits up an alien monster (which later ends up as Angelo Rossitto in a papier mache lizard suit). Other bits you look at and just wonder what the hell they thought they were doing. And in the middle is the silent, glacial Dorothy Stratten, and you get the sense that a film about Galaxina, rather than the assorted gibbering idiots she's programmed to serve, would have been far more interesting (and couldn't really have been less funny).

Scroll through the credits at the end and you'll see some decent names in the technical section - Chris Walas (makeup effects on what is clearly a hopelessly inadequate budget), Alan Howarth, John Buechler - people who went on to better, proper films. Even the music score gives the impression of a serious A-list Science Fiction film as it's predominantly made up of classical pieces, although very obvious ones: the William Tell overture for a chase, Tchaikovsky's Romeo And Juliet for the love scenes, and Liszt's Preludes for the main body of the score - very familiar music if you've seen the old Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s, which used it constantly - and even Also Sprach Zarathustra shows up. But 2001 it ain't. Hell, it isn't even first season Red Dwarf (my least favourite series, even less fun than the legendary dropoff of Series 7). There is apparently a British DVD of this, bundled with something called Hunk, but the DVD I watched was a Region 1 import with poor picture quality.


Sunday, 21 August 2011



There are times when you just want to take the producers, writers and so-called "creatives" involved in the unholy world of reality TV shows and beat them with iron bars until the iron bars break. Partly for the ghastly stench of their nauseating shows themselves: a steady parade of despicable Cro-Magnon mutants who'll do literally anything for a tabloid headline and a shedload of easy money, and a redefinition of the word "celebrity" to include anyone who's ever been on a bus. And partly because of rubbishy horror movies using the reality show as a reason to lock a bunch of tiresome halfwits in a dark place and do horrible but badly-lit things to them. For every slick, nasty and fun Wrong Turn 2 there's a godawful 2001 Maniacs: Field Of Screams or there's this.

The Task is a nonsensical horror in which a bunch of people have to spend the night in the spooky old penitentiary - rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of the former warden who liked to torture, rape and kill his captives - for a TV reality show and complete various tasks involving confronting their deepest fears. (Personally, if I was asked my deepest fear when auditioning for a reality show, I'd be suspicious and tell them I was terrified of cucumbers or Lego or something.) But before long, it's clear they're not alone in there. Is the place really haunted? Or is it all another layer added by the producers of the show?

It's another film from the After Dark stable (Fertile GroundHusk, Seconds Apart, Prowl) and it's their weakest yet, in a series that's yet to be more than okay at best. Quite apart from there being a couple of twists in the last section that mean the rest of the film makes no sense at all, the horrors themselves are unremarkably shot (in particular, a double stabbing is stunningly weak) in dark corridors. Like found-footage films, it looks cheap because it's supposed to look like a crappy TV show. And the curious casting, which includes the girl who plays Jack Dee's daughter on Lead Balloon and British sitcom and TV veteran Victor McGuire, goes for nothing as the characters are either giggling simpletons or idiots pretending for the sake of the cameras. A waste of time.


See for yourself:

Friday, 19 August 2011



Why, near the start of this frankly unremarkable retread of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, does one of the characters ask his friend whether they've seen Night Of The Living Dead? Answer: because this frankly unremarkable retread of the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is written and directed by one Cameron Romero, son of George A. Mercifully Cameron has resisted the temptation to attempt to cash in on the Romero name and legacy by making a zombie film, but unfortunately that, and the acknowledgement that it's quite nicely photographed, are pretty much the best things that can be said about it.

Staunton Hill has a bunch of young people hitch-hiking through Virginia in 1969 (presumably to get those pesky mobiles and instant messages out of the way) to get to a political rally in Washington, but winding up stranded at a remote and deserted farmhouse where they're terrorised by a family of homicidal maniacs: an obese woman, a simpleton and a ranting old bat in a wheelchair. And then they're bloodily killed off for body parts. One of them - the inevitable Final Girl - gets away, is captured, gets away....

And that's literally all there is to it. To state that Staunton Hill is light on plot is like saying that I Spit On Your Grave is light on showtunes or Full Metal Jacket is light on sequences of cage-fighting. There's nothing on display that we haven't seen dozens of times before: it's astonishingly predictable and as a result rather dull. You know what's going to happen and you don't really care what happens, no matter how much there is in the way of dismemberment, decapitation and disembowelment. So what? It's Texas Chainsaw and a score of other slashers all over again. Poor.


Thursday, 18 August 2011



Gore! Blood! Severed heads! Vultures! Disease! Dwarves! Drugs! Trepanning! Say what you like about Robert Kurtzman's needlessly splattery horror cheapie but you can't fault it for cramming as much mayhem as possible into less than ninety minutes. Certainly it's rubbish but it is rubbish at Mach 5: an entertaining and energetic, if thuddingly dumb Saturday night rental that doesn't pretend to be anything else and doesn't stint on the offal.

The Rage is a hugely contagious virus (which has nothing to do with the Rage Virus from 28 Days Later), created by a mad East European scientist (Andrew Divoff) seeking cataclysmic vengeance on the West for ignoring his discovery of a cancer cure: he's now living in a shack in the woods, performing experiments on unfortunate travellers and keeping his hideously mutated failures in cages. Unfortunately his most recent "patient" gets loose and is promptly run over by a Winnebago full of squawking teens, most of whom we don't care about - and then some vultures nibble at the corpse (and are thus contaminated). Inevitably the remaining squawking teens end up at Dr Divoff's shack....

Since director Kurtzman comes from an effects background (specifically the K from the KNB FX group) it's only to be expected that The Rage is far more interested in the prosthetics and makeup (of which there's an abundance) than in finely crafted dialogue and layered characterisation (of which there's not a scrap). Sadly there's also some very dodgy CGI work on show, including some subliminally glimpsed CG poo when one character gets a broom handle rammed up their bum, as well as the physical vulture effects that look like Rod Hull should be just off the edge of the screen. And as usual most of the cast you're frankly glad to see the back of. Regardless of the gloop and gore and general depravity (and a cameo from Phantasm's Reggie Bannister) it's not a particularly likeable film and it's certainly not a notably good one.



Wednesday, 17 August 2011



New Queer Cinema (which is what Wikipedia calls it, and if it's good enough for them it's good enough for me) is, I'll freely admit, one of the numerous areas of cinema about which I'm not even faintly knowledgeable. And to be honest, the latest Gregg Araki film would probably have passed me by entirely if it hadn't been included in, and then noisily withdrawn from, the lineup for FrightFest 2010. Frankly I wasn't massively bothered about the loss at the time, and having seen it I'm slightly relieved that it slipped through the cracks. Certainly it would have lightened the mood a little during a grimmer than usual festival, as it would have played between the dull Mexican cannibalism drama We Are What We Are and the Ryan Reynolds coffin movie Buried (itself a replacement for the stop-laughing-at-the-back horrors of A Serbian Film).

Kaboom is actually two movies bundled uneasily together: a campus drama about horny teens exploring and enjoying their sexuality spliced with a half-hearted and frankly nonsensical conspiracy thriller that's topped with a stupid ending. Smith (Thomas Dekker) is a sexually "undeclared" student with gay fantasies about his straight surfer dude roommate Thor. He meets a girl called London (Juno Temple) at a party who's only really interested in sex; meanwhile his best friend Stella (Haley Bennett) hooks up with a lesbian witch who has supernatural powers. Smith also decides to visit a nude beach and is picked up by a middle-aged guy. Also, creepy guys in animal masks are stalking and abducting people. Is Smith the Chosen Son? Oh, there's also the mystery of a murdered girl who once threw up on Smith's shoes, a drug dealer who isn't really a drug dealer and a cult of New World Order nutjobs seeking to destroy the Earth for no good reason.

Sticking to either story - the sex one or the conspiracy one - would have been better than having them both awkwardly fused to each other. With its hunky, sculpted guys, cute and uninhibited girls, its casual sex and nudity (though not explicit, given the 15 certificate) and regular bouts of man-on-man, man-on-woman, woman-on-woman and man-and-woman-on-man action, it's pretty much covering everyone's bases except for horse and granny fetishists - and it's kind of entertaining. And the crazy paranoid conspiracy theory stuff may be entirely illogical and silly, but it's also kind of entertaining.

It's certainly not boring, it's nicely shot, and unless you're a perpetually foaming bigot it's entirely inoffensive and unobjectionable. In places Kaboom feels a bit like Society - dude discovers his whole life is a fiction and unseen sinister forces are at work to ensure he fulfils his destiny, though with gay and bi sex scenes rather than mutant slime orgies. At other times it seems to have a Donnie Darko cult indie vibe about it (and I'm no fan of Donnie Darko). I actually came away from the film with the immediate response that it was absolute toss, and while it looks better the morning after, it's not that much better.


Kapow Kerrunch:

Monday, 15 August 2011



The Grindhouse style has proved surprisingly difficult to distil. The films that have tried to emulate or celebrate this elusive aesthetic have mostly missed the mark, none more wildly than the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse projects: Death Proof was far too long and talky, Planet Terror was too slick and expensive. Meanwhile Machete had too many big name stars in it, and the less said about the wretched and obnoxious Hobo With A Shotgun the better. Mostly they've had far too much money spent on them to look or feel like tatty exploitation flicks (except Hobo which I believe was done cheaply). Proper Grindhouse movies should be short, grim, nasty and full of actors you've never heard of.

Malevolence actually has a decent stab at evoking the grindhouse and precert VHS era: it's dark (literally: most of the movie takes place at night), unstylish and downbeat. Following a badly botched bank robbery, the survivors are supposed to meet up at a remote house to split the loot. What none of them realise is that the long-abandoned slaughterhouse next door is the home of a sadistic serial killer who's been murdering people in there for years. As the three surviving crooks arrive (along with their hostages), the maniac begins stalking them and dragging them off to his abattoir lair.... But who is he? And why is he?

It would be stretching things to suggest that Malevolence is even a halfway worthwhile exploitation movie, but pleasingly it looks and feels very much like a grubby 70s drive-in obscurity that we saw on tape at the dawn of the video era (it's actually set in 1999, which still does away with satnavs and mobile phones) and it has a genuinely bleak, downbeat tone to it. Chunks of it are heavily reminiscent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well as various slashers (writer-director-editor-producer-actor Stevan Mena also composed the score which emulates Chainsaw's distorted clangings as well as Carpenteresque synth stings) although it frankly isn't in the same league. But once again, the characters are all pretty unlikeable, and stupid as well, so it's hard to care when the masked killer starts knifing them.

Malevolence isn't very good but it's mildly watchable for its old-fashioned look and feel - a bit like Frederick Friedel without the sex - but sadly not much more. Incredibly, this lo-fi cheapie has spawned a prequel, Bereavement, which has proper name actors in it (John Savage, Michael Biehn) but doesn't appear to have any kind of UK release.


Grinding away:



Hurrah! A terrific summer fantasy blockbuster that's smart, funny, heartfelt, warmly nostalgic and beautifully crafted. In contrast to the amusing but disposable Captain America: The First Avenger and the thuddingly imbecilic Transformers 3, this is a thoroughly lovely film: a film in love with its period and in love with movies, rather than build-up and backstory for next year's ginormous box-office behemoth or a shrieking dollar-printing machine. And it's a film in love with movies in the best way: in love with the craft of making films rather than nerdy injokery. (Not that there's anything wrong with nerdy injokery.)

Super 8's primary comparison point has been with ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Spielberg is one of the producers and it starts with the Amblin logo) but I think it's closer to The Goonies and Explorers. In the summer of 1979 a group of kids are making a goofy horror movie on super 8 home cine when they and their camera witness a devastating train crash. But just what kind of creature was on that train that required a hige Air Force cleanup team? Where has it gone, and what does it want?

It's not just for the nostalgia that the late 70s setting is a smart movie. It forbids the use of YouTube, email, Google and Skype, slowing the pace right down. And since it takes three days for the crucial reel of 8mm to be sent off and developed, the delay gives the human character and drama a chance to develop as well. That's an infinitely better balance than, say, Transformers 3's full-throttle tactics of throwing tons of exploding metal in your face for over two hours. It's also a much darker film than ET. For much of the time the alien is a significant threat and the authorities' reponse is far more aggressive and destructive (perhaps overly so in places; maybe I missed the reason given for blowing up half the town with tanks).

Criticism has been levelled on two particular fronts: firstly the supposed anachronisms which include mention of a Rubik's Cube that wasn't available until the following year, and why the kids are making a zombie movie anyway as surely they wouldn't really know about Night Of The Living Dead at that point (having said that, with the white eyes the zombie makeup actually looks more like The Evil Dead, which although a 1981 didn't come out to US cinemas until 1983). To be honest it really doesn't bother me: it's the sense of period rather than specific details. If someone had mentioned Adam Sandler or a MySpace page it would have been different. The other so-called problem is the use of lens flare, and frankly it's not a problem at all because they look great.

In fact the film as a whole looks great. And it is great. It's engaging, funny and charming, the characters are mostly likeable and the effects are terrific (the train wreck is a genuine jawdropper). Its love of film-making is genuinely warming (if anything lasting does come of Super 8, I hope it's that kids start making their own movies over their summer holidays) and as a bonus you get the kids' complete short film against the end credits. For me the only false note was the inclusion of a stoner character which just felt out of place. But generally I just loved the hell out of the movie and it's one of my favourites of the year so far.


Thursday, 11 August 2011



There've been a few horror movies about horror movies recently. Post-Scream, it became fashionable to overtly nod to genre greats, not just by naming characters after legendary directors (which has been going on since the eighties with The Howling and Night Of The Creeps and probably before that) but by signalling the pastiche to the equally cine-literate audience with a broad wink. Movies such as the hopelessly incompetent Hack! fill the cast with machete fodder endlessly talking about slashers; or there are films like The Hills Run Red, Resurrecting "The Street Walker" and Don't Look Up, in which cine-enthusiasts ill-advisedly attempt to complete or remake abandoned horror movies only to find out exactly why they were never finished. It's no longer enough to just stick an Evil Dead poster on a bedroom wall to demonstrate that you're in on the joke.

Most of Midnight Movie takes place in a fleapit cinema that's screening a creaky old horror film called The Dark Beneath, a black-and-white rural psycho movie from around the early 1970s (no date is given, but the poster has a GP rating that the MPAA apparently only used between 1970 and 1972): it's such an obscurity that the audience of just ten - including the assistant manager, her friends and a biker couple - don't initially realise that the film is not just bringing its mad killer into the real world, but it's actually switching to the killer's POV as he prowls the cinema they're sitting in. Also in the audience is a cop trying to track down a man he believes to be a real life killer who was once inspired by The Dark Beneath to massacre a hospital full of patients....

Midnight Movie isn't a masterpiece but it's a nicely enjoyable and entertaining ride: its mix of Last Action Hero reality-flipping and straight gory slasher action is well handled, the roster of screaming victims are mostly the correct side of the like-loathe divide, and it manages to demonstrate a love of creaky old horror movies without being tiresomely nerdy about it (although I'm demonstrating that nerdiness by suggesting that The Dark Beneath doesn't have that precise feel of an early 70s horror film). And the cinema in which the bulk of it takes place is one of those tatty old downtown one-screeners largely obliterated by the soulless 20-plex chains but which are the eternal home of a film like The Dark Beneath - and Midnight Movie. Except that Midnight Movie, a film about film and cinema, went straight to DVD. Still, worth a watch.


Beneath Midnight

Wednesday, 10 August 2011



Unsurprising confession: I like slasher movies. I recognise they're not great art, they're not Bergman or Antonioni or Fellini but at their best they're terrific fun. Even when they're strictly average there's some gruesome entertainment to be had: the higher the bodycount and the grislier the gore, the better. There's little joy to be had in a 15-rated timewaster with only three discreet deaths in it, but a zippy 80-minuter with a couple of gruesome impalings or dismemberments every reel is a cheerfully shameful pleasure. The best entries in the Friday The 13th saga and the subsequent wave of campus slasher ripoffs, such as The Prowler, or even something as terrible as Pieces: disreputable and gratuitous they may be but they are enjoyable.

Club Dread is a slasher movie set in an island holiday resort in Costa Rica: as stoners, nubile nymphomaniacs and drunken cretins gather to party non-stop at Coconut Pete's island paradise, a masked maniac is macheteing his way through the entire staff, each of whom is even more sex-obsessed than the customers. Does the island really have its own bogeyman forever prowling the island hacking down everyone he encounters? Might it have something to do with the ancient Mayan cemetery in the middle of the jungle? Or is the more prosaic truth that the murderer is simply one of the staff?

Fine. The tropical locations look nice, Bill Paxton's obviously having fun, there's a substantial number of victims piling up towards the end and there's a fair amount of blood spurting about the place. Where Club Dread falls down is that, nominally at least, it's a comedy: a spoof of slasher movies which isn't actually funny as a comedy and is no more amusing than many a straight slasher movie. Even the Friday The 13ths have funny moments in them, and the laugh ratio isn't noticeably higher here. It's made by the Broken Lizard outfit: the team who gave us the mediocre Super Troopers, led by Jay Chandrasekhar, who would go on to the stratospheric heights of directing the movie version of The Dukes Of Hazzard.

At close on two hours it's a ridiculously overlong film and could have done with anything up to half an hour being trimmed out. As a slasher movie it's no better or worse than a hundred others - despite the relatively high production values it's strictly average - but as a comedy it's seriously lacking, the one big joke being that absolutely everyone has a remarkably convoluted backstory that potentially marks them out as a supremely unlikely killer (in the event, the actual maniac is the one with the feeblest of motivations). There are just enough moments to prevent it from being totally worthless, but there really did need to be many more.


Judge Dread:

Sunday, 7 August 2011



This is a monumentally silly hooters-and-gore movie from the 1990s, set in France but shot in Russia by Roger Corman's Concorde-New Horizons outfit: despite the stupidity and the fact that many members of the cast are, to put it delicately, not the planet's foremost thespians, it is intermittently amusing while remaining utterly terrible. Mercifully free of CGI and the dreaded synth score (the music is credited to veteran Russian composer Eduard Artemyev, three-time collaborator with Tarkovsky!) it's actually a fair bit of fun if you can get down to its chosen level.

Burial Of The Rats' big name is Adrienne Barbeau, Queen of the Rat Women: a secret all-female society of outcasts, runaways and victims of Perverted Men. Like the Pied Piper, she also has control over an army of rats who can strip a man to his bones in seconds (offscreen). Enter wannabe writer Bram Stoker (Kevin Alber), who is abducted by the Rat Women when he kills one of them in defence during a rat attack, leaving his father lost in the forest and his coachman dead. He falls in love with cute but giggly bimbo Madeleine (Maria Ford) at the moment of his execution, incurring the wrath and jealousy of bitchy Anna (Olga Kabo); the Queen hires him to write up the exploits of the Rat Women starting with their raids on the local church and the local brothel - but Madeleine is captured and taken to the town's torture dungeons....

I'm not a massive fan of the possessory credit - I'll make an exception for the authors' names on the Coppola Dracula, the Branagh Frankenstein and maybe the Luhrmann Romeo And Juliet for the sake of clarity but there aren't four versions of Burial Of The Rats that need to be handily distinguished - but the actual onscreen title card states "Bram Stoker's Burial Of The Rats". And apparently (I haven't read it) the film is very different from the story, so it's really Bram Stoker's Burial Of The Rats in the way that Moonraker is actually Ian Fleming's Moonraker.

It's a hopelessly shoddy (Madeleine's hairstyle changes from scene to scene) and unspeakably silly film: the Rat Women are all fabulous hotties parading in anachronistic fur underwear (or dancing nude for their Queen). But there is some fun to be had: there's a bit of energy in the fight scenes, grue in the torture scenes, the skin is plentiful and there's no knowing wink to the audience to convey how clever-clever they think they're being. It isn't very good, but it isn't eye-gougingly atrocious either.



Thursday, 4 August 2011



You know how you get a new horror movie and it proudly bills itself as the first film done in one continuous take even though it is only recently that you watched The Silent House and that predates it although technically speaking that Uruguayan film probably cheated on that count as there are several cuts to black in it and even Adam Mason of all people has also had a bash with this technique with something called Pig that I have not seen and would not want to and by the look of it has yet to obtain a proper release in this country anyway and besides Rope is a sort of genre film on account of it having a motiveless murder and echoes of Leopold and Loeb and that was made way back in 1948 although that is merely made up of a number of very long takes but not one single continuous

Really, how annoying is that? I hate to get all Radio 4 over this, but if cinema is a language then editing is punctuation, and a misplaced cut can wreck a scene as surely as a misplaced comma can, wreck a sentence. See? Editing, like punctuation, is there for a reason. (I've never read James Joyce's Ulysses, but I do know about it and Joyce's decision to not bother punctuating the last chapter - I have it open in another window even as I type.) It gives rhythm, it directs focus, it provides structure. Like Tony Scott, you can use it too much, which is the equivalent of littering your text with commas, full stops and inexplicable changes in font - or you can opt for very discreet editing which people mostly don't notice. And there's nothing wrong with a little showboating by having the occasional long flamboyant take - Goodfellas, Snake Eyes, Boogie Nights - which I guess is the cinematic equivalent of the run-on sentence. But in order to get away with breaking the rules, you first have to know the rules: you really do need to be a De Palma or a Scorsese. First-timer Alexander Williams, it's safe to say, is neither. To be frank, you're not even looking at a Fred Olen Ray here.

Cut has five people - a couple, three friends - in a remote farmhouse which for no apparent reason is besieged by a troupe of grinning maniacs in facepaint who terrorise and kill them over the course of about 67 minutes. That's it. There's not a shred more that happens. The five argue and bicker about the who and the why and the what to do next, whether it's real or a prank - then it turns out to be real, people die, and it stops.

The technical limitations of the one-take technique mean that the sound quality is frequently very poor and it basically degenerates into a bunch of dislikable halfwits bellowing incoherently at each other in a confined space for an hour. If there is a reason for their victimisation, it's lost in the foul-mouthed shouting and the atrocious acting: the performances aren't even first read-through level. Maybe they did have to learn 67 minutes' worth of stuff, but that's not a huge achievement: isn't that what every theatre actor does, even at the amateur level? And yet again it's absolutely impossible to give a toss whether any of these cretins survives the night, rather you find yourself not caring one whit about the psychos' motivations just so long as they get on with it.

Would it have been any better if they'd just made it as a proper film? On one level, no, because two of the key problems at the heart of the film are dismally inadequate acting and an almost literally unspeakable (but clearly not unbellowable) script. On a technical level, yes: the photography would have certainly been better, and they'd have been able to create a better sound mix. The kill shots would also have benefited. But the director (actually a pseudonym for actor Dominic Burns, one of the cast) has deliberately chosen to hobble himself by boycotting a standard cinematic technique, like a pianist breaking his own thumbs at the start of a concert. The proof of this is in the first few minutes of the film, where a TV set shows the climax of a generic horror movie in which a dim babysitter is menaced by a homicidal clown doll. But that generic horror movie, just as badly written and acted as Cut, is at least edited properly: it's still rubbish, but at least it's technically proficient. This isn't: it's a miserable failure on every level.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011



One of the pleasures of the bodycount slasher movie or the modern torture porn film is placing your bets as to who's going to be killed [1] first and [2] next. You can watch the opening ten minutes of a Friday The 13th or a Halloween and decide "him, probably him, and definitely her". Sometimes they surprise you, either by deliberately killing off the natural choice, by killing everyone in the movie (only one character is still alive at the end of Tenebrae) or by making everyone so thoroughly tedious that you don't really care who's next on the machete list, just so long as they get on with it (such as the remake/reboot Friday The 13th). But the structure of this British mockdoc reveals that at least four of its five potential victims make it to the end reels by including equally mock talking head interviews with the survivors. Instantly all tension is defused - you know that him, her and those two survive because they've already been seen reminiscing about it. This maintains the illusion of "reality", juxtaposing the dramatised reconstruction with commentaries and cutaways, but it kills any suspense stone dead.

Blooded has its five potential victims targeted by a squad of animal rights extremists because the leader of the group is a big name in the world of fox-hunting. Following death threats because of his participation and support for blood sports, he and his friends are drugged and chased across the Isle Of Mull in their pants to see how they like it. If they can get back to the cottage they might be able to regroup and fend off their attackers. But what do the extremists actually want and how far will they go to obtain it?

Is it a film in which obnoxious trustfund toffs are shown the error of their ways by people who value of the sanctity of life, even the life of vermin? Or a film about how the hereditary custodians of the countryside have a duty to maintain the wider natural ecology, regardless of the objections from well-meaning but misguided individuals? Whatever stance you personally take, it's an unexpected one for a modern British genre film to hold. In their balaclavas and combat gear, the animal rights squad look more like paramilitaries and terrorists than people opposed to cruelty on a principle. They're quite definitely the bad guys of the piece. But that means that their victims - a bunch of ridiculously rich poshos who actually own half the Isle Of Mull and indulge in the slaughter of wildlife (and, worse still, enjoy it) - are the good guys in what is clearly a pro-hunting movie.

The film's structure as a reconstruction intercut with "that was a horrible moment for me" commentaries also means that all the fictional characters are played by two actors - one for the location footage and one for the to-camera documentary bits (as well as the "found footage" shot by the activists themselves). Blooded is an interesting attempt, but it's muddled and doesn't really work as a drama. They could have junked the documentary angle entirely and just made a straight thriller about people in a remote location victimised by masked lunatics: certainly it would have been unoriginal, and you can't fault them for wanting to do something a little different, but it doesn't entirely come off.


Fox ache: