Saturday, 31 October 2020



Incredibly, we're already back in Texas Chain Saw Massacre territory. If it only seems like a week since I was doing the same old routine with the not-awful Argentinian horror What The Waters Left Behind, that's because it was - and here we are yet again. To be strictly fair, we're actually doing Wrong Turn again, but Wrong Turn was basically riffing on TCSM's demented backwoods psycho theme - stranded motorists meet up with homicidal lunatics, hilarity ensues - and this particular cover version doesn't change that much of the tune.

Butchers sets its stall out very early, with a car breaking down on a lonely road and the two titular maniacs killing the driver and abducting his girlfriend for mercifully unseen horrors. Months later, another car breaks down in the same spot, and the two couples split up to wait with the car or walk on to the nearest garage (as per TCSM, it's absolutely no surprise to discover that the gas station attendant is Not To Be Trusted); neither course of action ends well. Inevitably, the girls are chased and caught by the bickering redneck brothers, they effect an escape and are promptly recaptured, drugged, chained up and abused...

It's slightly hampered by the fact that the two girls look similar, and the two guys look similar as well, and it's not as if we're given a huge amount of reason to care that much about them: it's a sleazy and nasty exploitation movie with a thick streak of irrational brutality and tastelessness. In the plus column, the film looks terrific, with the period (unspecified, but clearly somewhere in the 1970s) nicely evoked, not just by the cars and costumes but by someone going to a lot of trouble to give it that 1970s look with the lighting and cinematography. Is that enough? In the end it kind of gets by: it's certainly not a masterpiece and has very little depth, but that's not what it's aiming for. On its chosen level of grindhouse throwback schlock, it's decent enough.




Your heart sinks at the idea of yet another film about a vanload of "documentary film-makers" going to somewhere weird and creepy, because we have seen this all before in so many horror cheapies (Investigation 13 was the most recent to unspool before my rapidly disinterested eyes) and you absolutely know for a fact that there are few surprises to be had. In the event there are two: firstly the impressive (and genuine) setting of Villa Epecuen, a small Argentinian town that was flooded in 1985 and remained so until the waters receded in 2009, leaving a landscape of bleached ruins and rubble, and secondly the realisation that we are dancing the Texas Chain Saw Massacre Tango yet again, right down to the creepy gas station people and the Joe Bob Briggs sense that any of these people could die at any time as you wonder who will survive and what will be left of them.

Despite the film crew angle, What The Waters Left Behind mercifully turns out not to be a found-footage film (just as well, as these guys barely know one end of a camera from the other), but a proper movie shot in bright teal-and-orange to highlight the dazzling white ruins and the scorching sunlight. Not long after refuelling and sampling the revolting looking fare at the gas station, the van breaks down in the deserted ghost town and the gang split up, some to look for help, others to do some filming for their documentary project. Of course, they're not alone and things end up, as usual, in blood, screaming, insanity and death...

It's a long way from being essential viewing, but it's perfectly alright as these things go, with a large measure of madness and shrieking towards the end and a suitably bleak and downbeat ending (even less joyous than TCSM's). The actual on-screen title is Los Olvidados (it's nothing to do with the Luis Bunuel film from 1950), which Google translates as The Forgotten, a nondescript title that's already been used for other things, including an (ironically) unmemorable SF/horror with Julianne Moore. Not great, but not bad and you've happily sat through a hell of a lot worse.


Tuesday, 20 October 2020



More camcorder-wielding idiots get chased around an abandoned location by some kind of evil horror idea, variously identified as a ghost, an escaped mental patient, or a creepy homeless guy, and then it stops. Mercifully it isn't found footage, despite the basic setup of a quartet of students seeking definite proof of the afterlife by wandering around the supposedly haunted asylum in the middle of the night with walkie-talkies and cameras, but the film not being found footage is hardly any kind of recommendation.

After their twelfth investigation into paranormal activity failed to produce the required results, the team are now under pressure to come up with something - anything - in the old mental hospital where a particularly violent patient allegedly escaped after twenty-five years of increasing electro-shock treatment, but might now be haunting the place. Quite why they've settled on the asylum as a suitable site to research the possibility of ghosts when there are two other earthly possibilities to entirely invalidate their findings is left unexplored. In addition, the film completely ignores his age: if he was being brainzapped back in 1951 he'd be in his eighties at least by now and thus unlikely to be lurking around in the darkness eating rats and offing stray teenagers. Oblivious, the gang set up Investigation 13, posting cameras all over and wearing Google Glass spectacles....

There's no atmosphere to be had here: even the location, which would normally do a lot of the heavy lifting in this sort of thing, can't be bothered to be even slightly creepy. Early on, the script infodumps mightily upon us via guest star Meg Foster, but much of the backstory is actually told via rudimentary animation sequences detailing poor Leonard Craven's miserable upbringing and his sentencing to a psychiatric institution after killing his abusive and heroin-addicted parents. The rest of it is just the usual routine of bickering halfwits stumbling around in the dark and screaming. Some might consider this a good time; I'm not one of them.




Yet another entry in the seemingly endless horror subgenre of Stupid People Do Stupid Things For Stupid Reasons, this combines its intergalactic stupidity by featuring Particularly Stupid People Doing Really Stupid Things For Staggeringly Stupid Reasons, topped with an even more stupid conclusion and a weapons grade stupid shock coda. This much stupid in one place would be thought excessive in a cauliflower.

The Stupids in this instance are a gathering of high school dimwits (there are seven of them, hence the title) who break into school after hours because one of them wants to shag his girlfriend and the others are there to make sure everything's okay. But they get locked in by the caretaker (nicknamed Squeaky because of the wheels on his cleaning trolley) and are faced with spending the weekend in there - until they start getting bumped off by the ghosts of a Satanic cult, led by Dean Cain of all people, who all died when the old mansion burned down and the school was later built on the site...

It's impossible to care whether any of these dullards survive and there isn't even any fun to be had watching them being offed. Even if you could rustle up some unearned empathy for them, it's all undone by a third-act Groundhog Day have-another-go plot twist that undoes absolutely everything the film had thought it had done up to that point, which means the final It's-Not-Over obligatory last shot makes no sense. The very, very best you can say about The Seven in its defence is that one of the girls is kind of cute and it's only eighty minutes long, and neither of those should be anywhere near enough reason to watch the damned thing. Thoroughly useless.