Sunday, 30 January 2011

Joe Dante brings you down THE HOLE

Ok, fanboy ranting done for the moment. I have had over a week to regain some semblance of rational. Now I will return to typical, appeasing conversation... Na, I want to talk about more horror films!

This week I finally saw Joe Dante's latest effort, The Hole, a 12A horror film for the younger audience, but you got to remember, this is the same man who brought children Gremlins, a kids horror that goes out of its way to scar you for life and ruin your Christmas beliefs forever, so his version of child-friendly differs for pretty much anyone elses.


I have to say, I am a big Dante fan, even though beyond the Gremlins films and Small Soldiers I find his work very mixed, but still, he defined my childhood with his monster puppet antics, so he is forever a genius in my eyes. This latest effort of his is sadly part of the mixed bag. Full of great ideas and brilliant scares for the most part, this film will have plenty of borderline teens peeing their pants.

The general story is a mother and her two boys move into a new house, which the boys discover sits on top of a bottomless pit that seems to go to hell. With the help of their pretty neighbour, they set about investigating and trying to figure out just what this hole is. It's a simple idea and is shot lovely. What caught me off guard was just how scary this film is, especially for a kids film!

The first half of the film had me on edge, with horror owing a lot to Poltergeist and its disturbing doll, and creepy, almost Japanese-style, horror girl and some bizarre movements making sure I would be freaked out by every creak in my house for the night. The scares kind of dissipate in the later part of the film, but the first parts residual impact keeps you involved and tense.

Oh, fuck this noise...

If you have seen Drag Me To Hell, you may remember its weird style of beginning quite horrific and turning farcical when most films would normally try to up their scares. The Hole takes this same approach (er... spoiler?), which I think is what makes it into the more accessible film for youths I was expecting, wrapping up the story quite contently. It is actually this last act that brings the film down a bit, in my view. Whereas the beginning is quite unrelenting, the ending becomes a sweetened version of itself. I mentioned this film owed a lot to Poltergeist, which is a film that was also intended for kids (I know!!! What the fuck!?!), but that film retained its tone and was consistent, whereas this one, though narratively satisfying, just doesn't play ball with the concepts it was building on. Obviously, I don't want to ruin plot points on people, but if you see the film, you'll see what I mean.

One of the most annoying things about this film is the relationship between the two brothers. Both are adequate actors and have a decent script, but it is thrown in our face repeatedly that they are older/younger brothers who play fight and mock each other but are close. It was a bit much and, as can easily happen with any teenage character, makes the elder brother appear as a bit of a wuss/emo. The film also seems restrained in its 12A bindings, delivering on its plots, but pulling its punches somewhat. Another film that is thoroughly enjoyable, but will leave you with the impression that someone will make it again and fulfill these missing pieces.

I had really wanted to see the film in the cinema with its eye-goggling 3D, but alas, I missed it. I can certainly see where the 3D was intended, but I don't think I lost out with the 2D version. I'll wrap up my thoughts on the film by ending where I started. It is a mixed-bag film by Dante. It is entertaining, but probably will leave anyone looking for an excuse to complain with plenty of reason to. For someone who can take it as an enjoyable horror romp, you may have found a decent night in here.



On last note is that this film is essentially a 2000s remake of 80s B-film The Gate, which some of my older friends may be aware of. The Gate centres around kids finding a hole in their back yard that unleashes demons from hell. Whereas it is intentional, these films bare undeniable similarities and are more alike than official remakes like A Nightmare On Elm Street (pot shots, anyone?). I love the idea of a hole to hell/some kind of evil, but I will give the award to The Hole for being better overall. The Gate was enjoyable and had surreal moments, but lacked scares and was quite slow, whereas The Hole is a great update that may just traumatize some kids, just like Gremlins did two decades ago. At least this one leaves Santa alone...



  

Friday, 14 January 2011

NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: The Definitive Nightmare on Elm Street

I have never felt like such a geek in my life as I did when, just the other day, I found out about the existence of a FOUR HOUR long documentary on one of my favourite horror franchises, A Nightmare On Elm Street, entitled Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy. Needless to say, I got my hands on it as fast as I could, almost nerdgasming in anticipation.

It's beautiful...

The Elm Street series has always intrigued me on many levels. I find it one of the scarier series, with a fantastic rough/dingy style to it, and being directed by the great We Craven doesn't hurt either! I found the recent remake very throwaway and disappointing, being more like one of those backstory graphic novels than a re-envisioning of the 1984 classic. I will always remember seeing the stop-motion Freddy puppet of part 3 puppeteering a kid through tendons ripped out of his arms. The old boxset of films 1-5 were the very first DVDs I ever bought, before I even had a DVD player, as well as the first film having the very first filmmakers audio commentary I ever heard. The Elm Street films are great gateway drugs to the wider world of gore, satirical and surreal horror (the film directly led me to so many different films as Friday The 13th, Dawn of the Dead and even Suspiria) and are easily identifiable and recognised as some of the most important films in horror history.

The documentary itself is obviously made by fans (which was confirmed by 'thorough' research) and any hardcore fan will salivate throughout the whole ordeal. Too often are we subjected to short and vague featurettes on our favourite films, with others having absolutely no easily accessible history. Companies are also very famous for double-dipping with DVDs, knowing the die-hards will buy the film again for any sliver of info.

Who could ever resist that face?

This documentary does away with any of that nonsense for the Elm Street films once and for all.

The documentary is presented in a linear progression, looking at each film in chronological order with fun stop motion homages to the series used to break the piece up, giving each of them roughly the same amount of screen time and attention. No film is glazed over because it is not considered as important or good as another. Everything is covered here, from the original to 2003s Freddy Vs Jason. There are about 103 interviews here with pretty much anyone you could imagine related to the series, with the notable exception of Johnny Depp (who has always seemed to be very supportive of the films, so you'd imagine it might be schedule related), Patricia Arquette (who is described in a kind of 'too big for these films anymore' kind of way, though it might just be that she couldn't do it), and Breckin Meyer (?).

The ups and the downs of each film are realistically looked at, with seemingly no stone unturned. Time seems to bring out the truth in people, and there are plenty of truths to go around here. Wes Craven is candid about his disagreements with New Line studio head Robert Shaye, as are most of the interviewees, though most with a 'ah, Robert. What sillyness would he come up with next!' kind of attitude. Some of the underside of the movie beast come through, but it is well balanced with the more jovial fun. Without ruining it, as it should be experienced by you first hand, are great stories about Renny Harlin getting the job, how filmmakers used the Freddy's Nightmares TV show as their own little playground for insanity, and the funniest moments being the detailed discussion of how GAY Nightmare Part 2 is! It is all in good taste and you know that these people were like a family throughout the series.

In comparison to the rest of Part 2, this scenes sexual undertone is rather subtle.

Being four hours long, you'd think there would be a tedium or a desire for it all to end, but as the end credits were rolling, I was very seriously considering watching it again right away! Now, remember my geekiness about these films that I mentioned above, but still, I think the casual horror/documentary fan would still be enthralled by this thing. Freddy Krueger is as recognisable as Frankenstein or Dracula and is the only horror monster to make an impression in the past 50 years that will endure as the classic Universal beasts have done. You don't have to have a working knowledge of the films to be able to appreciate this documentary. You just simply have to be a fan of films.

As someone who is a sucker for DVD special features, this documentary, like the documentaries on the Alien Quadrilogy, blows everything that has come before it out of the water and is the definitive look at the horror films that warned us 'DON'T. FALL. ASLEEP'.

The official Never Sleep Again website: http://www.elmstreetlegacy.com/

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

HELLRAISER: The Complete Saga Reviewed & Torn Apart

Today, I finally achieved something I had been working on for a long time: I finished watching the Hellraiser films.

Some people might think 'ah, sure, there's only three of them. Big deal', but something a lot of people don't know is that there is a lot more to the sadomasochist series than released in the Anchor Bay box set. There are, in fact, EIGHT Hellraiser films, with a ninth on the way. What better time than to do a rundown on the series so far? Here we go!

The Lament Configuration

Beginning with a low budget 1987 horror film directed and based on the novella of Clive Barker (also responsible for the Candyman story) and currently about to continue with an eighth low budget sequel destined for Video On Demand and budget DVD shelves, the Hellraiser films set themselves as one of the most important horror franchises (obviously behind Freddy and Jason, of course) with one of the most remarkable movie monster on show, Pinhead; a demon with nails driven into his skull. 

The gist of the films is that people solve the puzzle of the Lament Configuration, seen above, in hopes of achieving pleasures not of this world. This turns out to be an eternity of suffering and agony dished out by the hellish Cenobites, led by cult icon Pinhead. They view the torture they are giving you as the most rare form of pleasure; that achieved from a never-ending pain. I'd hazard a guess almost everyone has stubbed their toe and, after a few moments of embarrassing hopping around, actually get a kind of a rush from it, so these films have my hooked in (I wonder how many people can't get past this pain for pleasure concept and instead go 'that's not fair. They keep saying pleasure, but that's pain. How can pain be pleasure? This is stupid').

As an impressionable young boy, I always remember Pinhead's mutilated visage looking back at me from the video store shelf and thinking that these films must be the most out of this world, brutal movies ever, and that the people who watch them would  probably be considered sick. Years later, I finally saw the first three films over three nights on Filmfour when they were doing a free weekend back when you had to pay a premium. I'll always remember how the first two films in particular got under my skin and hooked me in (fans of the films might find that funny!). 

As years went on and my brother gave me the gift of Anchor Bay's limited edition Lament Configuration boxset, I enjoyed the films but began to see them as what they were; low budget 80s horror that, story wise, felt very slow and inherently of their time, with the third film having an American gloss (the first two were made in the UK and later passed as the US) and ridiculous 90s pitfalls. I saw the fourth film on Channel 4, when it was coming in off the aerial, in fuzzy black and white and snow, making it all that more intriguing to me. I didn't overdo it by getting a hold of all the films and pigging out on them. I'm sure there is some fun there, and can imagine it being fun in a group (how many people wanted the kids in Scream to choose Hellraiser over Halloween?), but I decidedly gave each film a chance to breath on its own.

The results are as you might expect. The series that started out very strong gradually diminished again and again, but of course, there are some surprises. This list is certainly personal taste. Many die-hard fans will disagree with me, but this is my opinion on the best and the worst of the films. There are some gems that utilise the promising (though, ultimately, never fully achieved) premise of the Hellraiser legacy. Hopefully this may help you guide your way through the rough and tumble world of the Cenobites!

8. HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD (2005) - No. 8 chronologically
Not even the mighty Lance Henriksen could save this straight to DVD sucker. The idea is totally awful and corny (revolving around the online game based on Hellraiser, that becomes all too real), but should have been fun. I like the idea of ghosts in the machines, and look at that one sheet, it's just begging for some Lawnmower Man-like action, but instead this film passes over this popcorn element and puts its protagonists into a rave in a mansion, which also has the potential to be fun, but oh God... This film is hard to watch because it takes Pinhead so long to dispatch of all these twerps. I'll grant you there is a nice twist, but it works as well as Kane uttering Rosebud at the end of Marmaduke. My verdict? This film has drinking game potential only.

7. HELLRAISER: DEADER (2005) - No. 7 chronologically
Filmed back-to-back with the above tripe, this film also has an interesting premise, though this time it is because it could have actually been good. A reporter is sent to Bucharest to check out a cult that we see kill themselves, but then come back to life, because the have discovered the secrets of the box and essentially worship it accordingly. It has the potential to be a very dark film, and the first fifteen minutes are actually quite good (seeing the reporter undercover and seeing her enter the apartment of some victim), but that is it. The film goes downhill into nonsense. I'm not sure if the filmmakers thought they were being intelligent or if they thought they were making a fun film, but there is nothing intelligent nor fun here. It's bland, SyFi made-for-TV-esque material. Watch the first few minutes, then turn it off and imagine how it could go from there, because you will not only hate but actually feel insulted by what happens.

6. HELLRAISER: INFERNO - No. 5 chronologically
Actually not too bad a film, but very bland. I actually remember very little of this besides its TV-film feel. All the later films suffer from this, but at least this one felt like it could have been an episode of Masters of Horror (made by one of those guys you've never heard of). Since I have little to say about this one, other than that it is better than the last two on this list but not good enough to resonate (it's inoffensive, I guess), I just want to point out the elephant in the room: the film titles. I have Wikipedia open to help me remember which film goes with which title. I guess producers don't want people to view the films as lowly sequels, but there's so many of them, it is impossible not to get confused! I'm working on a conspiracy theory that this is so people mistake the ok ones for the rubbish ones. For my money, I bet people just walk away and go 'meh'.

5. HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH (1992)
Finally, a numbered film (well, Roman numeral, at least)! Always included with the first two films to make a trilogy, I have long wondered do people view this as one of the best in the series? For me, it loses the visceral and almost Gothic horror of the first two films and replaces it with techno music and stupid Americans (no offence to Americans. It's just a culture shock after the first two films faux Americans!). I respect that they try to go into Pinhead's backstory a bit more and develop the general story arch from the first two films, but it's like The Matrix; it just gets worse the longer you pick at it (actually, I prefer Revolutions over Reloaded, but I thought it was a good analogy). It seems to happen with every established independent franchise studios get their mitts on; Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday The 13th all quickly went under after the New Line 'sheen' was applied. A lesson for studios; horror fans do love visceral an awful lot!

4. HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER (2002) - No. 6 chronologically
Fans might not agree with this, and even though it was made by the same man responsible for entries 7 and 8 in this list, but this is a well crafted and worthy sequel. It introduces new themes to the films, relying heavily on distorted reality and general mind-fucking, and even has Hellraiser's equivalent to Ripley play a part and tie things in (though I have to say, I find her one of the weakest parts of the film. She seems tagged in). The story follows Trevor, who is in a car crash that seems to mess up his memory and kill Kirsty (Ripley). What follows is a lovely display of meshing of fact and fiction and him discovering who he really is. Actually quite a nice character piece. Some of the visual effects are a bit dodgy, and it still looks like a straight to video film (then again, so do a lot of films from this time), but this is probably the most overlooked film in the series. Or perhaps not. Like we've seen, director Rick Bota was given the reigns on the next sequels and squandered the faith I had in him. Damn you, Rick.

3. HELLRAISER IV: BLOODLINE (1996)
Another one that fans might not agree with, this is the film I tried to watch through that bad TV signal I mentioned earlier. I think part of my disdain for Part 3 is because I for some reason thought this was Part 3, and this one isn't quite as caught in the then-current trends on the discotheque (that's what they call them, right?). Using a nice three period structure, Bloodline starts in the future, where a man is trying to destroy the Lament Configuration once and for all but it obtained by security, where he explains the history of the box, which brings the story back to the 18th century, explaining the origins of the box and then we also have a major plot change to 'present day' 90s, where a descendant of the boxes maker has designed a building that has the box trapped in it. Obviously, the film has flaws. For me, I like ambiguity in a film and never really needed to know how or who made the box, but I find it actually works well within the film and what the series had become. Director Kevin Yagher disowned the film over disputes about the edit and story with the studio, which is a shame as what he seems to have been making was brilliant so far. There is a lovely air of claustrophobia in all scenarios of the film, keeping the plot within workable bounds, instead of trying to overachieve and failing. I'll go as far as to say there is almost an air of class about this film. A worthy part of the franchise.

2. HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II (1988)
Of course, it was always going to boil down to these last two films. They establish the hellish world of the Cenobites and don't need to over complicate or miss the point, as some of the sequels are prone to do. This is a lot like Aliens to the first films Alien. It is bigger, bolder, more action orientated. Centering around a doctor who is obsessed with the hellworld and directly continuing on the story from the first film, this film adds on to the mythos without diluting or spoiling it. The beginning of the film has some startling gore and beautiful images (skinless woman in a white house, what else!?), with the remainder of the film, which takes place in hell (or the Cenobites dimension, if you will. It may be awful, but nothing ever points to it being Hell as described by religion), toying around with ideas of labyrinths and black light. The films over-ambition is its only downfall really. The effects don't do some of the fantastic ideas justice, but it is an accessible and deservedly important film in the horror world.

1. HELLRAISER (1987)
The original, and the one that was never topped. Directed by Clive Barker, who authored the novella this is based on, we are given a dark tale of love, deceit, greed, and choices. As you would expect from an acclaimed writer, there are many layers and meanings within the story and you are able to place yourself in the position of Kirsty very easily (a 'Final Girl' by any definition), making the right choice with her along the way. The series is quite varied as it goes, but I always forget just how far this film pushes itself in the final act. It is just shy of arthouse, providing a nice closure to an isolated film. As good as this film is now, I can only imagine how amazing the rebirth scene was back when the film was released (I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it). The role of disloyal wife is portrayed gleefully by Clare Higgins, and our first glimpses of Doug Bradley's Pinhead (in a more minor role here) are just the perfect elements in what is one of the 80s quintessential horror films. Of course, there are problems with it. The effects towards the end are very 80s and even cheap by those standards, and the story feels slow and dated, a victim of time and changing tastes, I suppose. However, most of these story problems are in the first act, so once you get past that, you get a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

I will leave it there. There are plenty of hardcore fans of the series who have gone into much deeper detail than I have, but I thought I would throw my 2 cents in, especially for those unfamiliar with the films. To be honest, I might switch around the top 4 if I was in a different mood, but they are the cream of the crop of a patchy series. I hope this helps someone who is looking to get their feet wet with a bit of intense horror/gore! Happy viewings!

  

Monday, 10 January 2011

Cannibal Holocaust: The Grindhouse Edition Review

Being ill, I have fallen behind on my blog writing duties, but am now going to come at it with full force, starting with something a little different: a DVD review. This DVD release I will be looking at is the seminal cult classic, Cannibal Holocaust.


I won't spend too much time looking at the plot of Ruggero Deodato's 1980 cannibal paradigm (I say this, yet I know I will). Instead I will mainly focus on the most definitive release of the obscure piece, the Grindhouse Releasing 2-Disc Deluxe Edition. Before looking at what makes this release so 'deluxe', I'd better give the uninitiated a quick rundown on the film.

Cannibal Holocaust is one of the first found-footage films (examples you may know; Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield; Paranormal Activity). The first half of the film centres around a college professor leading an expedition to try and find a lost documentary crew, who went missing in the Amazon basin while filming a piece on the local cannibal tribes. Establishing the Amazon as a dangerous place and presenting us with some gratuitous animal cruelty, tear-inducing sexual assaults...

You don't want to know what he is about to do with that wooden dildo...


... and just enough story and nudity to get us along, the explorers discover the documentary crews remains and film cans that they had shot. The film then completely changes tone by switching the scene to modern (circa-1979) New York, where the professor is tasked with the duty of overseeing the editing of the found footage into something broadcast-able. While viewing back the footage, we see that the group were not actually documenting savage situations, but staging the situations for the camera, at the expense of anyone who was needed in their shot.

The film is quite a good portrayal of the dangers of sensationalist media in the modern day, with these pure bred all-Americans feeding the media horror machine. It is impossible not to find this film relevant, even 30 plus years later. The film is notoriously controversial, though not for its lambasting of our TV culture, or its disturbingly realistic violence and horror, but for its actually real animal killings...

Even with Google Safe Search off, this is the closest image to animal violence I found. 
There is a God.


It is dependent on the viewer how they take the film, but unlike a lot of satire, it is very easy to dismiss this as pure exploitation owing to the genres reputation. You could watch this and think it is a pure horror film that tries to go over the line, or you can look at it like a film taking pot-shots at modern media and its predisposition to associate violence and scares with ratings. I won't get into this too much here as it is a debate that has gone on for a long time, but to me, the film is a piece of art and must be taken as it is, warts and all. Indeed, director Deodato stated in an interview with short-lived cult film show Shock Movie Massacre that the film was written as a response to the violence his children were watching every night on the news. Even if he came up with this line after the fact, it is still an unabashedly good point. The only thing about the film that distressed me on a level beyond normal cinematic bounds (sexual violence is nothing unusual, even The Green Mile has some in it) was the animal violence. If done nowadays, this violence wouldn't have been committed. The film seems to have been taken out of context and attacked under guise of this, when perhaps it was just another reason people wanted to attack it. The film was made during the Mondo Cane stage of Italian Cinema, which was notorious for such acts. People seem to forget that Apocalypse Now very vividly features a cow being slaughtered. Again, it's all context. I don't agree with it, but it is the film as it was made in the way films were made in that era. Just like Disney can never undo Song Of The South, Cannibal Holocaust can never undo its animal violence.

It's ok, Gizmo. We're moving on from the hard stuff now.

I first heard about the film due to an article by disgraced and discontinued Dark Side magazine (which I always loved and was horribly disappointed to find had gone under just as I moved to the UK and could readily buy it) in an article outlining the cuts to the piece. The film has been outright banned in a lot of countries, but as censorship laws (rightfully) slacken, Cannibal Holocaust began making its comeback to the secondary (DVD) market, in a form other than bootleg videos. Just getting into the more grotesque side of horror films, I took the challenge of trying to find an uncut version of this film. After some trying, I eventually got a hold of some obscure German release that was film only and set me back a good £35, which even at the time was a lot of a DVD.

That's the culprit! Lovely looking cover art though.


To my chagrin, about a year after I spent a lot of time and money getting a hold of the film, Grindhouse Releasing (a company partially owned by Sylvester Stallone's son. No joke) released a definitive edition of the film. Now, after only about 900 words 'quickly' looking at the film itself, I will take a look at the release of all releases of the film. It is worthwhile to take note that the version I am reviewing is out of print (111,111 copies, allegedly), but there appears to be another 2-disc release by the same company, so I'd hazard a guess it is the same but repackaged.

So, the film itself. As with most older films, it is fairly grainy and rough looking, which works perfectly for a film like this, especially since a good third of the film is grainy and deteriorated 16mm footage. The sound also seems in line with what you'd expect from a film this old. For some reason I am still not 100% clear on, most Italian films are completely dubbed, even if the actors were speaking English, so that slight disassociation between the characters and their voices will always exist. All in all, it was fine too. There is an option to watch the film without the animal violence, which I think is a very tactful feature. I personally feel that taking out the violence can lessen the negative impact of the film and may make some people miss the point and take it as another gore flick, but it's a great option.

Nothing to see here, folks.

Now the interesting part of things (for a film geek like me, anyway), the special features!

The commentary with Deodato and star Robert Kerman makes for an interesting listen. Deodato's English is a bit poor at times, but for the most part, he comes across as a sensible, intelligent man, providing insight and explaining a lot of what he was doing with the film. Kerman, on the other hand, who has probably had to deal with years of persecution for his role in the film, uses the commentary as a means to try vindicate himself from the animal violence. It's almost hilarious to watch him try and take down Deodato at every chance he can in attempts to make sure people know he didn't agree with aspects of the film. You can make up your own mind, but Deodato actually comes off the better for this as he remains calm and rational (though I do wonder if he understood what Kerman was saying to him). There is selected on-camera sections of the commentary, which is pointless as we witness two men sitting watching the film, mainly with long pauses between conversation. Don't bother yourself with this if you've already listened to the commentary, as it is the same audio, just with video.

Also found on this disc that is worth mentioning is the full version of the film-within-a-film, The Last Road To Hell. This mini-film is documentary footage and quite startling, though not all that different than the similarly tough one featured in the film itself.

Disc 2 provides the pièce de résistance, The Making Of Cannibal Holocaust. This hour long documentary is subtitled and very interesting. I'll be honest, I fell asleep the first time I watched it, but for the non-narcoleptics out there, it goes behind the scenes with footage and stills of the production crew, finally getting past the stigma of the animals and focusing on the film itself. A treasure and informative.

Also very informative are the interviews, but the stand out of them all is Gabriel Yorke (who plays the filmmaker Alan Yates in the film). It's long, informative and funny. He doesn't dwell on trying to make himself look better as Kerman does, but instead we get the insights of a man who was a young actor swept into an insane grindhouse flick. He tells a fantastic story of his co-star wanting to have sex with him before they filmed an upcoming sex scene, to make it more natural for them both. He declined, as he had a girlfriend at the time, and says the actress never forgave him for the slight for the rest of the shoot.

The last extra I want to note is the Necrophagia 'Cannibal Holocaust' music video. The song: rubbish. The music video: even more rubbish. Jim Van Bebber, director of the Charles Manson film The Manson family directed the video, which isn't that bad a film. It's even a bit crazy and wild. This music video is such toss that you'd swear one of the bands mums taped it on the home camcorder, then put it through Movie Maker, inserting some Cannibal Holocaust clips, and were all chuffed with what they did on their own.

There are some other bits and bobs I am glazing over on the discs (trailers, stills, etc) but I have mentioned what I think are the main things to enjoy. Cannibal Holocaust is not an easy film in any sense of the word. I have watched it a lot of times and find new layers all the time. The animal violence is definitely gratuitous, the scenes in New York date horribly, and the film lets down its side by introducing the ham-fisted voice over 'I wonder who the real cannibals are ' into a film with no other VO but this. With that said, this film, like so many before and so many after it, is important in that it does push our boundaries, test our taboos, poke our own views on right and wrong and get us to reevaluate our morals in an age where beheadings can be readily found online. This film will not sit well with a majority audience, but it is to the individual and what the draw from it that really matters.

Plus there's a porn star in it.

Bet you thought it was going to be a woman. Now stare at the moustache!

If you want to find out more about Cannibal Holocaust, it has a very detailed and insightful Wikipedia entry that has a full history of its legal issues and controversies here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannibal_Holocaust


  

Monday, 3 January 2011

The Mist at The Ruins in Pontypool

Happy new year!

Another digit change and a new blog name (perhaps the first of many. I am rather indecisive). Unlike the previous title, I will probably not go into detail about this name. I did think that it was appropriate to have a title that reflected the content at least some way. I like horror, this blog is typically about horror, so the title now has the word horror in it. There you go.

With this new year, I have several ambitions, one of them to continue with this blog and regularly update it (I even have subjects to write on for the next few posts! I am shocked at my level of commitment!). One thing that might make this a bit more fun is if anyone who reads this and has any thoughts on the mumblings should contribute their own thoughts/criticisms/insults to it and maybe share it with any friends who are horror driven. I have a good clue who will actually read this (hi, Ally and Joey), and the conversations we seem to have from this are always a bit of fun. I'd love to see peoples thoughts and opinions popping up. It may be a pipe dream, but things like horror are always better in groups!

So, to ring in the new year I am going to quickly look at three films that all get a big thumbs up from me. I mention them because apparently just before I make my way back to the land of the Swans, Ally, Joey, Rob and I shall be partaking in a good old horror film night. If anyone else out there was looking for a good marathon of films slightly different than the norm, these less obvious choices come highly recommended.

PONTYPOOL
This slightly obscure Canadian horror is one that many people might not be familiar with. A friend recommended it to me after I talked to him about low budget zombie film Colin, so I was expecting something similar. Damn it if this isn't as far away from lo-fi as possible! Set in a radio station, the story revolves around a grizzly DJ reporting a sudden outbreak of insanity throughout the region. It comes to turn that people are being infected by certain words. It's pretty much a zombie film that replaces the Trioxin with vocabulary. I'll be honest, I only half-watched the first half, but was really intrigued by it and got fully into the plot. It's a bit of a head wrecker trying to figure out if the whole word infection plot device works (I'm still on the fence, but my suspension of disbelief is high), but the way the film deals with it is fantastic and enthralling. I've read a lot of reviews trashing the film for its plot devices and general storyline but to be honest, even though I think it breaks down into typical horror fare for its last act, the film itself is too original and intriguing to not enjoy. I'd be inclined to think some people couldn't get their head around the infected words idea and became frustrated at it. Like I say, I am still unsure if I buy that myself, but screw it, go with the film and trust it to give you a good time!



THE RUINS
One of my favourite finds of all time, The Ruins is set on top of an ancient Mayan ruin that six twenty-somethings on top of, trapped by locals who are trying to stop any infection spreading, and terrorised by, ok, this sounds ridiculous but bear with me, killer plants. I amn't talking about Day Of The Triffids here. These are savage beasts that trick, stalk and attack. I picked up the film for a song, and boy am I glad I did. For some reason, it never sticks in my mind, maybe it is because there are certain moments that feel so intense and graphic, even though they are visually tame by many comparisons. It is quite an unpleasant film for all the right reasons. There are characters, there is plot, there is tension. In the vein of Pontypool, there is an almost plague like device in operation here, and like Night of the Living Dead, we are left to figure out what we would do in the same situation. The characters are trapped, they have no supplies, the situation is dire and they do exactly what anyone else would do. I love films like this and think it is one of the better horror films to come out over the last few years (and certainly one of the most overlooked). Enjoy!



THE MIST
Ah, the granddaddy of all modern day horror films! Frank 'Walking Dead/Shawshank Redemption' Darabont gives us one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King story in the form of this intentionally 50s style B-movie. While trying to be a slightly campy throwback, Darabont actually gives us a modern classic. The action revolves around Thomas Jane (The mutta fukkin Punisher), his kid, and a lot of locals trapped in a supermarket when a mysterious fog rolls in, bringing with it hellish monsters to terrorise everyone and their attempts to protect themselves. It is fascinating to watch what people do when they think it is the end of the world. Everyone is accounted for: the families; the military; the religious nuts; the everyday person. As with most Stephen King work, there is a slightly comic book feel to the action, but not in a completely over-the-top way, more a people-being-braver-than-you'd-probably-be kind of way. The film has an undeniable charm and is so re-watchable it is sickening! Performances are great and the story matches up perfectly. I've had many discussions whether or not the ending suits the film. To me, it is perfect and the only way I would have liked to have seen it end, whereas others found it a bit gratuitous. Even with this point, I have yet to find someone who has seen The Mist who didn't instantly love it.

A quick side note on The Mist; if you can, get the special edition version. It includes a black and white version of the film, which is what the director originally intended for the film to be displayed in. You wouldn't think it, but the difference is astounding. Whereas the colour one feels vibrant, modern, yet slightly kitsch, the black and white version feels like a proper 50s nuclear monster piece. I find it makes it two completely different films, both of them fantastic. A powerful and interesting technique!



So, yes, there you go, a good old horror film night in planned for you. It's a bit different than an Evil Dead night or Saw marathon! Have a good one!