Friday, 29 November 2013



Yet another found footage horror movie in which, unsurprisingly, the gimmick yet again refuses to work. As with all the other found footage horror movies (without exception) it looks cheap and ugly, with horrible camerawork, and yet again it makes no sense in terms of who filmed it, why, and how the footage has come to be available. If you are going to make the making of the film part of the film's own narrative, it has to hold up logically - so where did the film's music score come from? Where did recordings of Skype conference calls between hospitals and government organisations, police car video, closed circuit security tapes or mobile phone footage from private citizens come from?

The film can't really answer that: it frames all this material with an introduction and narration from a former TV news reporter remembering the events of three years ago, when a combination of nuclear pollution and steroid-infected chicken excrement from the local poultry farms has contaminated The Bay, and the town's water supply, with a mutated parasitic organism that eats its victims' flesh from the inside. The local hospital is inundated with dozens of citizens covered in boils and sores, spreading through the bodies as fast as the surgeons can amputate it away; others die in the streets....

Barry Levinson - who, remember, is a "proper" film director trying, successfully, to make a film that looks like it was shot by twelve-year-olds - has marshalled all this unverite footage into some kind of traditional narrative, intercutting the horror of the day with the video diaries of a couple of ecologists studying the catastrophic effects of pollution on the bay a few weeks previously. But there is nothing here that demanded a found-footage treatment, there is nothing that's more persuasive because of the undirected style. Hey, one of the producers is Oren Peli of the tiresome Paranormal Activity series: what do you expect? Instead, you're less convinced because you're constantly wondering how the material has been obtained. I don't buy the film's "claim" that the government confiscated everyone's cameras and then three years later someone Assanged it all to a subversive website, and it's all been downloaded from there and assembled into a "documentary".

If you've seen George Romero's original The Crazies, you know this kind of story can be done brilliantly without having to go through this laborious pretence of it being genuine footage. Even the inferior remake is way better than The Bay, and that's not counting cheery popcorn films like Outbreak, which is the full Hollywood studio treatment of essentially the same idea. They're all better films than this, because they are films and this isn't. There are a couple of nice jump moments, and the physical FX of the parasites and bugs are fine, but it's a chore plodding through it all.



Thursday, 28 November 2013



I really wasn't a huge fan of the first Hunger Games: a combination of sappy teen romance, children trying to murder each other, badly shot combat sequences, tacky TV shows, wonderfully absurd production design and some stuff about the rich/poor divide. But the central ideas had too many holes and it wasn't particularly well done, so it's a thrill to report than the first sequel is a massive improvement that feels as though it is heading somewhere far more interesting. It's not perfect, sure: for one thing it's far too long at 146 minutes (the first one was 142), and the Hunger Games themselves are actually the least interesting scenes in the film, though they're far better shot this time around. 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire kicks off with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), joint winners of last year's Games, forced by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to continuing their fake relationship for the benefit of the cameras, as a colourful distraction from the grinding poverty and violence outside the Capitol. Of course, it's purely a ruse, to discredit Katniss' stature as a reluctant, even unknowing symbol of the growing rebellion against the fascistic State. But it's not enough and the new Games Master (Philip Seymour Hoffman) conceives a special Champion Of Champions edition of the Games, in which Katniss and Peeta are not up against randomly selected kids from impoverished villages but previous victors....

Catching Fire is way better than the original: it doesn't have that underlying problem of children killing children, it dispenses with Peeta's rather impractical special skill of laboriously painting himself into the background, and the combat and action sequences are much more impressive, as they don't have that cheap smeary video look to them any more. The film's best scenes, though, are the ones highlighting the appalling chasm between the Capitol's pampered, empty Elite and the Districts' miserable peasants toiling in the mines and scrabbling for food. Not just because of the insane costumes and hair that the likes of Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks have to wear (though it's a lot of visual fun) but details such as the free emetics handed out at the lavish banquets so that guests can continue eating. Set against the poverty and bleak, cold despair of District 12, it's hardly surprising that revolution is in the offing. It's not that "it can't be a very good system if it can be threatened by a handful of berries" (the poisonous Nightlock berries from the climax to the first film), it's that a system that is threatened by a handful of berries doesn't deserve to survive.

As with all serial adaptations these days, the last book is being chopped into two so they can milk more cash out of it, so the saga isn't going to finish for another two years. I'm actually getting a little annoyed at this habit of needlessly extending these things: they did it with Harry Potter, they did it with Twilight. According to the Wikipedia pages, Mockingjay is actually a page shorter than Catching Fire so why it needs to be twice as long on film is anyone's guess (except for the studio accountants; they know why it needs to be twice as long). In the meantime, Catching Fire is fine, particularly in the Capitol scenes and anything with Donald Sutherland. Well worth seeing.


Friday, 22 November 2013



There is a very weird moment in Luc Besson's Mob comedy action thriller when Robert De Niro has to sit and watch GoodFellas. This is not just for reasons of plot contrivance, but also for reasons of a post-modern injoke: but unlike that bit in Ocean's Twelve where the character played by Julia Roberts looks like Julia Roberts, no-one seems to mention that the guest of honour at this GoodFellas screening looks exactly like Robert De Niro. This is an alternate universe where GoodFellas still exists, but presumably it stars someone else, or "their" Robert De Niro looks nothing like "ours". (Plus he gets to misquote his own Al Capone from The Untouchables!) It should almost go without saying that Besson's film isn't anywhere near as good as Scorsese's (and Martin Scorsese is one of the producers); in fact it's quite fun as a throwaway bit of sitcom knockabout - Married To The Mob meets Married With Children.

The Family is the Blakes: Fred (De Niro) and Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) and their two kids, relocating to rural France so Fred can write his non-fiction book about the Normandy landings. But really they're the Manzonis: hidden in the Witness Protection Program after Fred/Giovanni snitched on his family and his organisation. All they need to do is keep quiet and out of trouble, but they're a crime family at heart and both generations revert to their old ways, whether it's beating up plumbers, sorting out the school bullies or taking revenge on the local minimarket because they won't sell peanut butter....

Minus the swearing, and the avalanche of bloodied corpses in the third act (when the tone veers suddenly from amiable comedy to brutal violence), this could function quite nicely as the pilot for a traditional half-hour TV sitcom "filmed before a live studio audience" as the family keep getting into hilarious scrapes and failing to adjust to their new identities, to the eternal consternation of their grumpy FBI handler (Tommy Lee Jones). It should run for at least three series, which is certainly more goes than it would get as a movie franchise.

As for the question of whether we should expect anything more given the level of talent involved: Robert De Niro is now 70 and frankly doesn't need to prove himself any more. He did Taxi Driver, GoodFellas, Cape Fear, Mean Streets and The King Of Comedy and has enough trophies, statuettes and baubles for two mantelpieces. If he wants to relax into retirement with chummy comedies that spoof his image of decades past, why shouldn't he? And by what right do we still expect more of him? The Family isn't stretching him, or anyone else - Tommy Lee Jones is basically doing the Tommy Lee Jones thing, which is always good fun - but it's funny enough, has a trio of watchable stars and doesn't outstay its welcome. I quite enjoyed it.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013



Maybe it's a sad state of affairs that Francis Ford Coppola has ended up making utterly generic exploitation movies. On the one hand that is where he started out: rubbishy horror movies like Dementia 13 and bits of the legendary mess of The Terror, and even a 3D sex comedy which I'm not even sure I want to see. But on the other hand how can a baffling, incoherent mess like this come from the same Oscar-winning director as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now and The Conversation and Bram Stoker's Dracula? Not that there aren't some pleasures to be had from it; it's merely that given the track record you expect something a lot better than this.

Twixt starts off pretty much as ordinary and been-there as possible: a struggling fantasy writer (Val Kilmer) pitches up in a small town and gets inveigled by the crazy old sheriff (Bruce Dern) into investigating an unsolved murder case for his next book. But then it shoots off in half a dozen different directions at once: vampires, dreams, serial killers, ghosts, grief. Kilmer communicates with the victims' ghosts through his dreams (in heightened Sin City style), talks with Edgar Allan Poe about the importance of endings, falls out of a bell tower (which, perhaps significantly has seven clock faces all set to different times) and meets up with the goth encampment on the far side of the river, all the while coming to terms with the loss of his own daughter in a boating accident....

It all plays as though Coppola suffered repeated blows to the head while watching a Twin Peaks marathon in the small hours of the morning. None of it makes sense, and the switching between different aspects of the story simply make it feel like two or more completely incompatible films have been almost randomly spliced together. That may be because Twixt was originally conceived as an interactive live event whereby each screening could be individually tailored by Coppola acting as a cinematic DJ, cutting, extending or shuffling scenes around on the fly. To add to the bafflement, some scenes were shot in 3D and you had to watch them through a facemask of Edgar Allan Poe.

None of which you get on the rental DVD, obviously. What you do get is a mess of a template DTV quickie pretty much condemned to the discount racks in Cash Converters, before disappearing into obscurity. Odd moments do appeal: it's always nice to see Bruce Dern, especially when he's doing crazy, and some of the visuals are eye-catching. But it's in the service of an experiment that didn't really work, for a story that was all over the place. Maybe doing it as a straight film might have resulted in a less chaotic film, but I'm not sure it would have been significantly better.



Monday, 18 November 2013



You'd really expect a narcotics-based thriller with a top-of-the-A-list cast and a recognised genius director with at least two balls-to-the-wall masterpieces under his belt (Blade Runner and Alien) to be an absolute cracker of a film. Five bona fide movie stars, a knighted auteur, a Pulitzer-prize winning screenwriter, and the added bonus an 18 certificate from the BBFC for "strong bloody violence".... Obviously it can't possibly fail. Yet somehow, somehow, they manage it.

The Counsellor is a ludicrous mess of a film in which a variety of unsavoury criminal types philosophise, ramble or talk a lot of nonsense. In order to provide his fiancee Penelope Cruz with a lavish lifestyle, unnamed lawyer Michael Fassbender gets himself into the lucrative drugs smuggling racket from Mexico. But when it goes awry, neither colourful dealer Javier Bardem nor enigmatic middleman Brad Pitt, the two eccentrics who helped him get into the business in the first place, can offer any help....

Much of this is swathed in vast tracts of prattle that make no sense; what does "Truth has no temperature" even mean? Everyone's blathering on, even the Amsterdam jeweller who Fassbender visits to buy a swanky diamond engagement ring won't shut up. There are moments of grand silliness, mainly centred on Cameron Diaz as Bardem's girlfriend: not least her obsession with cheetahs and a memorable flashback in which she shags the windscreen of Bardem's car. There are also bursts of the promised bloody violence, particularly a nicely suspenseful sequence that culminates in a graphic garrotting.

But what The Counsellor lacks is any reason to give a toss about any of these characters. Certainly by the time our presumed hero is reduced to a whining, sobbing mess who has lost absolutely everything, it's impossible to rustle up any sympathy for him at all. Meanwhile the uber-criminal triumphs. And it's not like Scarface where Tony Montana may be a loathsome sociopath whose very existence makes the world a more horrible place, but he has magnetism and charisma and balls, and we want to see him rise so high so that his eventual fall is more satisfying. This is a film about a greedy, ill-advised idiot who gets involved in a criminal business he doesn't understand (despite reams of advice, not to mention basic common sense) and we're supposed to feel sorry for him when it goes horribly wrong.

Yes, it looks fabulous, and it's fun to see these actors at work, but it's an overly talky film (it would have made a better and tighter thriller without all the incomprehensible and pointless speechifying) which, despite the occasional moments of violence and WTF lunacy, fails to work. It's a massive, massive comedown for Sir Ridley Scott after the overhyped but underrated joys of Prometheus, and I suspect it's not going to last for long on cinema screens, but it's certainly not boring and might end up as a minor cult curiosity. Given the talent involved, that's really not enough.


Sunday, 17 November 2013



So far, 2013 hasn't been that great, cinema-wise. Certainly there've been a bunch of good movies and a dash of absolute corkers, but there's been a lot of mediocrity, stupidity and nonsense dragging the already low average down further. Happily, once in a while we'll get a film that cancels the descent, restores your faith in modern movies, and sends you out of the cinema grinning like a simpleton. And as a bonus, you'll have been perilously close to losing your lunch in the process.

Gravity is a literally dizzying science-fiction (emphasis on the science) two-hander: a gripping spectacle with a minimal cast, a thrilling exercise in suspense running just an hour and a half, a technical effects masterpiece with the simplest story imaginable. High in orbit over the Earth, astronauts working on the outside of the Hubble telescope are suddenly hit by debris from an exploded satellite and sent flying and soaring. With no gravity to stop them drifting into the void, with dwindling oxygen reserves and with their own shuttle beyond repair or salvage, can first-timer Ryan (Sandra Bullock) and veteran Matt (George Clooney) make it to the nearby Russian space station - before meeting up again with the lethal satellite debris on its next orbit?

Alfonso Cuaron's film begins with bold captions of how life in space is impossible, before a staggering single 15-minute shot of Bullock and Clooney (and their obviously doomed third wheel who doesn't even merit a close-up) whirling around in zero-gravity that quickly establishes the insanely hostile environment and dispels your ideas of up, down and falling. Yes, it's all CGI and green-screen, but it's a monumental FX sequence which is totally convincing: you'll pretty much believe they actually shot it in space. But the balance is perfectly struck between the effects and the human drama of survival against incalculable odds: the visuals don't drown the story, while the story wouldn't work without the pin-sharp detail and (at least to me) scientifically plausible imagery.

Much has been made of Cuaron supposedly having to defend his choice of Sandra Bullock, because there are apparently Hollywood dumbasses who didn't think the film could make any money with a female lead. Frankly they should all be made to wear those little hats with propellers on the top so they can be easily identified as drooling halfwits, and pointed and sneered at in public until they realise just how thuddingly stupid they are. The fact is, the character of Ryan is neither male nor female (save for the scene in which Ryan takes off the spacesuit, which is straight out of Barbarella), but human, and Bullock does a perfectly good job with it.

I loved Gravity. It's armrest-gripping in a way that so few movies manage: I've lost count of the number of supposedly exhilarating high-octane spectaculars that induced absolutely not a smudge of vertigo or motion sickness. I don't know whether the film works as well as it does in 2D: I usually go for the flat version wherever possible but in this instance I saw it in 3D because it was on the biggest screen available, and I was pleased to find I didn't mind the 3D glasses anywhere near as much as I have done in the past. Frankly the trade-off between the slight 3D light loss and the size of the image was a deal worth making (much of the film is set against darkness anyway because it's in outer space, and it also means that sunlight tends to be bright and harsh). It really needs to be viewed on the biggest screen you can get to, because it's going to end up flat and unspectacular on a TV screen, even a large one. You need it to envelop you, to fill your field of vision. One of the very, very best films of the year demands nothing less.


Saturday, 9 November 2013



I'm not an idiot. I'm not against arty movies, difficult movies, movies where you have to work a bit to get the sense of them. I'm not against movies that don't adhere to the rules and formulae of the most simplistic Hollywood thicko fodder, that try and do something slightly different, slightly individual. Not everything has to be Police Academy 5. But.... sometimes you can go too far into incoherent arty meaninglessness.

Deux Fois is an experimental black-and-white French non-narrative art movie made in Spain in 1968, running just over an hour. It consists of some 32 almost entirely unconnected shots and sequences, some of which are duplicates (alternative takes rather than simple repeats) and in most of which absolutely nothing happens. There is almost no music, there is almost no editing. Instead the film is a series of odd, random, pointless vignettes: a woman stands in a doorway while a man stands on her left, then moves round to her right for a bit, then back to her left. The same woman ("director" Jackie Raynal) enters a pharmacy to buy soap but is unsure which brand to buy, the sweeter smell or the prettier wrapper; this scene is performed three times. A long static shot through a window while someone apparently practises the flute off screen, a 1,980-degree pan from a traffic island, a child sits on a train throwing a newspaper out of a window. In probably the film's most baffling sequence, Raynal stands half-naked in the corner of the room while music plays (someone doing an impression of a moose with its tits caught in the mangle, with rhythm guitar accompaniment), before urinating on the floor.

What does it all mean? Well, bugger all, frankly. It's conceptual avant-garde experimental underground art, it's not actually supposed to symbolise anything beyond what you think it means, which is a lazy get-out clause for any old tat: the onus is on you to explain it, and you're an uncultured, uncivilised idiot if you can't. What does the film suggest about dreams, the imagination, sex, feminism, society, relationships, gender, cinema, mirrors, society, art, politics or the price of fish? Nothing. If all interpretations are equally valid, then there's no shame in rejecting it as a bucketload of old arse rather than some kind of Great And Profound Statement about Humanity And Stuff. A binbag on a stick isn't Art just because the artist says so, it just means the artist isn't working terribly hard for his grant money.

Deux Fois certainly doesn't work as any kind of an entertainment, and it's not hugely surprising that it's mostly out of commercial circulation (the whole thing has been uploaded onto YouTube). Whether it works as some kind of "wow, man" head trip is another matter: it didn't for me, but if you buy into the kind of weirdo arthouse twaddle that starts with an unbroken, unmoving shot of Raynal eating her dinner before addressing the camera/audience with a list of the things we're going to see, then go for it. Me, I thought it was bunk.


Monday, 4 November 2013



Easily the weakest film of this year's FrightFest allnighter, this Slash-produced (and co-scored) religious horror nonsense was a subdued note on which to close. It wasn't terrible, it wasn't boring (it kept me awake even at six in the morning; it just wasn't particularly remarkable or unusual, and played like an entirely formulaic straight-to-disc B-movie with nothing to distinguish itself from the rest of the crowd on the rental shelves. Certainly it's well enough put together, and has some nicely unsettling moments, but overall it's just ordinary, anonymous and largely forgettable.

Pastor Dan Bramford, wife Wendy (James Tupper and Anne Heche, a couple in real life) and their children arrive in a small Kansas town where he's due to take over from the retiring minister (Clancy Brown). But it wouldn't be a horror movie if there wasn't something odd, something unnatural, would it? The townsfolk are too friendly (they even help the Bramfords move into their new home), their welcome cake has a tooth inside it, and an ancient evil is walking the streets....

Nothing Left To Fear might have suffered from being screened in a dawn timeslot, following the more grisly horrors of The Station and Mark Of The Devil, but even so it's still pretty lacklustre. And personally I'm as fed up with horror movies beginning with a family moving to a new town as I am with the ones that start with a van full of idiot teens: it's an opening we've seen too often already and the movie doesn't do anything new with it. It's a pity, but it just has the feel of another one of those generic horror movies, albeit with a few interesting ideas (the monster face is quite good), that you've never heard of but materialise unheralded at Blockbusters one Monday morning. Perfectly acceptably done, but it could and should have been more than that.


Saturday, 2 November 2013



One of the pleasures in devoting October largely to rewatching horror movies from decades past is suddenly realising that a film you wrote off back in 1989 was actually perfectly decent, a worthy entry in its franchise and with some genuinely good qualities. There's no suggestion that this fourth chapter of the Michael Myers saga is scary, frightening or remotely logical, but coming after the woeful Halloween 4, it's a drastic improvement, much more fun and much more interesting. (Let's pretend that the saga ends here rather than petering out with the dreadful Halloween: Resurrection, a film that actually gives Rob Zombie's brace of misbegotten reboots a stand-up fight for the position of Worst Halloween Movie.)

As shown in an opening recap from Halloween 4, Myers did indeed fall down a mine shaft at the end but manages to crawl out unharmed and hide in a hermit's shack for precisely a year. Now, in Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers, he puts his bleached William Shatner mask on again, kills the hermit and heads off to Haddonfield yet again, where his young niece Jamie (Danielle Harris) is now living in a children's hospital and watched over by crazy Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence). But Jamie has some kind of telepathic link with Michael....

Donald Pleasence and Danielle Harris are both incredibly good in this, a project which frankly doesn't deserve them (it is only Halloween 5 after all, it's not as if it's Halloween 1). Pleasence is always good value anyway, and Harris has the hurdle of her character not being able to speak for half the film; the music score quotes the iconic Carpenter theme just enough without overusing it, and there's enough of a body count to keep things moving. Against that, some of the victims are utter idiots who behave incredibly stupidly, and while I don't want to suggest they were practically asking for it, it's frankly a relief when they get pitchforked and the film doesn't suffer from their loss.

Obviously it's nonsense: it completely ignores the question of what Michael Myers does for the other 364 days of the year (indeed, it actively suggests he just lies on the floor of a riverside shack until October 31 rolls around again). Furthermore, there's a new plot idea woven in featuring an unseen character, the Man In Black, releasing Myers from custody at the end, a twist which sets up the next unnecessary sequel. Still, for all that I enjoyed the film far more than I was expecting given that I didn't really like it when I saw it at a film festival over 20 years ago; possibly it was screened late at an all-nighter and I nodded off a little. Considering the low levels of Halloween 4 and 8 (Resurrection) in particular, Halloween 5 might actually be the best of the sequels. It's certainly a long way from being the worst the Myers saga has to offer.


Evil on two legs!



This is as ropey and routine an early 80s teen slasher movie as you'll see: such a sub-par slab of stabby nonsense that one honestly starts to question the blanket ideal of film preservation. Couldn't we let this one go? It's not really worth keeping around for future generations, and they won't thank you for it. Even by the third-tier teenkill standards of films like Madman, Hell Night and Terror Train it's flat and dull, the characters mostly uninteresting and hard to care about. Expectations aren't high anyway, given the Troma distribution logo at the start, and they're not met.

A mad killer is bumping off members of the college athletics squad, following the accidental death of one of the runners who was pushed too far by the tyrannical Coach (Christopher George). As Graduation Day approaches, the girl's sister flies home from her Army posting in Guam to investigate, but who could it be? The sleazy music teacher and part-time nightclub entertainer who wears a bad wig and is humping one of his pupils (Linnea Quigley)? One of the other members of the track team? Coach? The principal (who's humping his secretary in his spare time)? The answer will not surprise you.

It's not the film's fault that the DVD quality is about videotape standard, but a pristine 35mm screening at a top West End cinema couldn't make this nonsense any less unbearable. Yes, it makes for a nice moment that the pole vaulter gets killed by landing on a mattress that's been filled with sharp metal rods, but it does rather depend [1] on the mad killer being able to swap the mattresses around without anyone noticing, [2] our victim deciding to practise on this particular morning, and [3] no-one else having a go at the vault first. And even back in 1981 we were already wearily familiar with the Final Girl scenario where she blunders around tripping over body parts and finding corpses all over the place.

Most of the movie is dull and tiresome, you've seen it all before and invariably much better. Despite the presence of Christopher George, it's no Pieces and Pieces is no masterpiece anyway. Really, Graduation Day's one claim to fame is probably as the weirdest namechecking of legendary soundtrack composers Bernard Herrmann, Alex North and Pino Donaggio: their names are written on the music room's blackboard. But if I'm more interested in what's chalked up on the wall behind the actors than in the dialogue and the characters, then the drama really isn't working, is it? Rubbish.


Friday, 1 November 2013



Though it's never been one of my favourite Ozsploitation oddities - for me it's not in the same league as Simon Wincer's Harlequin, a bonkers reimagining of the Rasputin story - I do rather like Richard Franklin's 1978 psychokinesis horror. It's not great: it's got huge flaws, including too much in the way of dry talk and an ending that rather lacks impact, but in places it's quite fun. Mark Hartley's remake comes from a deep love and knowledge of Australian horror movies, as demonstrated in the documentary Not Quite Hollywood: it's a lot faster, a lot jumpier and a hell of a lot louder. But it sticks to the basic story (some scenes are verbatim), has the always enjoyable Charles Dance as a mad scientist, a clutch of nice injokes, and a glorious Pino Donaggio score (though it could have used turning down a little), and the end result is terrific fun which makes up in incident what it loses in subtlety.

Patrick is a long-term and incurable coma patient, "a hundred and sixty pounds of limp meat hanging off a comatose brain": completely unresponsive to any stimulus and in the care of mad Dr Roget (Charles Dance) who is seeking answers to the usual eternal questions of life and death by basically using barbaric electric shock treatment on him. But he does start responding to a new nurse (Sharni Vinson): firstly spitting in a once-for-yes, twice-for-no fashion, then telekinetically typing through her computer - and causing the deaths of other people in her life...

While the 1978 film is fairly restrained and low-key in places, Mark Hartley's version doesn't let up at all: scarcely two minutes can go by without someone looming out of the edge of the frame, waking up from a violent nightmare or suddenly appearing out of nowhere, usually with a loud dischordant sting on the soundtrack. It's certainly effective but that "Boo!" technique can get wearing after a while. And the Pino Donaggio music is pretty full-on as well: as typically overdramatic and beautiful as some of his scores for Brian de Palma, though there are several points which could honestly have done without it. More enjoyable are the little injokes like naming a character Penhaligon after Susan, the original's star, or having Charles Dance listen to the original's Brian May soundtrack through his headphones. (Robert Helpmann, the mad scientist in the 1978 version, is namechecked with the name of the local hospital.)

Patrick is noisy and jumpy rather than creepy or scary or unsettling, but it's basically good fun: big, loud, and thoroughly unsubtle, which makes it a pretty enjoyable Friday night horror movie at the cinema, though I suspect it'll more likely go straight to DVD at some point. Shorter and more graphic than the original, it's not necessarily better but as a brasher, punchier variation on the same theme it's perfectly enjoyable.




It's always the way. You wait years, maybe even decades, for a low-budget grindhouse-inspired disco/splatter horror comedy mashup and then two come along at once. The Disco Exorcist was unutterably worthless; this is at least forty-three thousand times better thanks to impeccable production design, some decent acting, and more than a mere sense of basic professional competence on both sides of the camera rather than a bunch of halfwits throwing it together for a laugh. That's not to say Renaud Gauthier's Discopath is a classic: it veers too wildly in tone from daft comedy to bloody gore, but it gets closer to the grindhouse tone than many.

Duane Lewis is the Discopath: an ordinary young New Yorker who turns into a mad killer every time he hears disco music due to a traumatic incident in his childhood. Driven to kill his date at a local club (memorably leaving her dying under the transparent dance floor, unnoticed by the dancers), he flees to Canada under an assumed identity, taking a lowly handyman job at a convent school. But it's not long before he hears the music again....and both the local and New York cops on his trail....

To be honest it doesn't really matter too much about the silly plot: it's more about recreating the mood and feel of tatty 70s splatter movies and that's done superbly well with the hair, costumes, sets and period cars as well as some decent gore effects. The production design is fantastic and the film has enough of a grainy look without resorting to the fake print damage gimmick. But it is all over the place: there are funny bits and silly bits and gory bits, so it's rather got the ramshackle feel of one of Troma's wretched gore/comedy combos, though without the childish bad taste and considerably better done.