Shaun of the Dead (2004)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release

Film: In this humble reviewer’s opinion, the best horror movies are the one where people like you and me are put into extraordinary situations. Night of the Living Dead stands out as an example of this; a group of faceless no-ones, drawn together to fight a common evil. Luckily for those folks they had the convenience of finding a domicile that had a firearm in it, but look around your own house, what do you have to fight back the hordes of the undead…a tennis racket? A cricket bat? A baseball bat? I imagine that the amount of houses that have NO guns would outweigh those that do, so to react against this sort of thing we would use whatever is handy…this is the world of Shaun of the Dead.

Simon Pegg as Shaun and Nick Frost as Ed

Shaun (Simon Pegg) is just like you or I, with all the same problems. His job sucks, his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield) has left him due to his flagrant disregard for their relationship, and his obsession with the local pub ‘The Winchester’, and he forgets to call his Mum (Penelope Wilton) regularly, which bring about much agro from his step-father (Bill Nighy) …general details of life that can lead a man to drink until he cannot feel his legs anymore, but Shaun’s problems are getting worse. The dead are rising, with a ravenous lust for human flesh. Shaun has to make a plan so that he can keep himself and his loved ones safe. Along with his best pal, Ed (Nick Frost), he comes up with a plan that will keep Liz, her disapproving flat mates Dianne (Lucy Davis) and David (Dylan Moran), and his mother and step father safe and well until the whole problem blows over…that is, as long as nothing untoward happens…

The walk to the pub is more difficult than normal.

Shaun of the Dead runs the gamut of gruesome gore and clever comedy…so much so you may find your head spinning. There are so many references to other zombie films that you probably won’t pick up on all of them the first time you watch it, like the Italian restaurant named Fulci’s, the electronics store called Foree’s, and the assistant manager named Ash. Seeing as how the creators and many of the other cast are from the Pegg/ Wright creation, Spaced, there are many subtle tips of the hat to that show as well, not to mention a selection of English comedy and music favourites (look out for Little Britain’s Matt Lucas, The Hobbit’s Martin Freeman, League of Gentlemen’s Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith and Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland to name a few). As for the zombies themselves, well, there are some really freakish ideas, like a wheelchair bound zombie…and I shall never look at twins the same way again. Also interesting is the way that Pegg and Wright have compared our mortal existences to those of the hordes of zombies. Are we really any different?

Score: *****

The menu screen to the Australian Bluray release

Extras: The commentary is by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Half trivia track, half informative and half stand up comedy (hang on, is that 3 halves? Oh well) this track is really one of the best commentaries I have ever heard. It is fun and entertaining, and a great way to get help to spot all the ‘horror asides’.

The special features are divided into a few sections:

Missing Bits contains:

Extended Bits is a selection of scenes from the movie that were trimmed for various reasons. This extra can be played with or without the commentary by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.

Outtakes, surprisingly, are a selection of amusing outtakes. One warning though, within these outtakes contain the worst Beatles impressions you will ever hear.

The Man Who Would Be Shaun shows Nick Frost and Simon Pegg fooling around with different accents in a particular scene.

Funky Pete which shows the ‘clean’ version of a scene for the airplane version where all the ‘F’ words are changed to the word ‘funk’…do you funking well understand what I funking well mean…you mother funker?

Plot Holes contains 3 sections: What happened to Shaun when he ran off, What happened to Dianne When She Left the Winchester and How Did Ed get from the Cellar to the Shed. These sections are done as comic strips, with the tale told by the respective characters, and fill in the plot holes quite suitably and amusingly.

Raw Meat contains:

Peg’s, Davis’ and Cornish’s Video Diaries is a selection of cute behind the scenes stuff done by, well, the people whose names each short is named after. It seems to be more of a look at how mundane filmmaking is. Cornish’s harrowing trip to his day as a zombie extra is both funny and frustration.

Casting Tapes is some footage of the casting process.

Edgar and Simon’s Flip Chart which is a run through of the film by the writer done in September 2001 using a flip book (often used by teachers or in business meetings), and is a quite amusing run through of the movie, before it was even filmed.

SFX Comparison is just that. A few scenes from the movie with the special effects removed, so you can see what had to be done to get some of the effects.

Make Up Tests shows close up views of some of the zombies from the movie, with and without the ‘eye’ effects put in, and a few ‘zombie walk’ tests.

EPK Featurette discusses the origins of the movie and what the lead actors and the director thought about their roles within the movie, and also whether they are making a horror, or a comedy, or something new altogether. It is a bit of a fluff piece, but kept interesting by the personalities of the cast and crew.

TV bits contains:

Is a bunch of ‘in the world of Shaun of the Dead’ TV spots, featuring an interview with Chris Martin from Coldplay about their charity ‘Zombaid’, a game show for zombies (featuring the ‘Gonk’ piece of music from Dawn of the Dead), some bits with Tv\V presenter Trisha and a News reader recalling ‘Z Day’; the day the dead came back alive.

Zombie Gallery contains:

Photo Gallery is a series of behind the scenes photos taken of the cast and crew at rehearsals.

2000AD Strip a comic stripped based on part of the film, taken from the English sci fi comic 2000AD.

Poster Designs, which is a series of poster ideas for the film.

Trails of the Dead contains various trailers for Shaun of the Dead, including the teaser trailer from Fright Fest 2003.

Finally, in this exhaustive and thorough pile of extras, is a storyboard feature that allows you to, during the film, hit enter on your remote whenever a pair of zombie eyes pop up, to see the storyboard for that section.

Score: *****

WISIA: Yes. It’s easily the best part of the Cornetto Trilogy and is just so much fun.

It’s a zombie movie: not everyone survives!

This review was done with the Australian Bluray release.

Scream (2022)

Scream (2022)

The cover to the Australian 4K release.

Film: The older I get… and let me tell you, I’m getting older REAL fast… the more and more sick I am of the word ‘franchise’. When I was younger, it referred to a McDonalds, or a KFC, now it appears that no filmmaker or writer wants to make a movie, they want to make a franchise.

You know, I get it. To create something that has some kind of cool legacy would be amazing. To know that something you created has a future because it has a love that is generationally significant.

In past times you could do it with just a single film, which might indicate the quality of these franchises over single films of the past. Personally I blame my beloved 80s movies, and the post-2000 need for nostalgia driven product over new stuff. I guess I’m part of the problem when you consider that this very website older movies more often than newer ones.

Scream (2020) starts with the assault of Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) in her house by the returning Woodsboro murder icon Ghostface, which causes he estranged sister Samantha (Melissa Barrera) to return home as their mother is missing with one of her many boyfriends.

Samantha has a terrible secret!

What we quickly learn is that Sam is the illegitimate daughter of the original Woodsboro murderer Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), and is in therapy as the idea of her father being a serial killer has caused a few mental issues.

Of course, the killer is back, but this time is killing the children and/ or family members of the original victims/ killers, and one by one, people are being murdered who somehow relate back to the original murders

This alerts Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) to the situation, and make there way back to the town to help in whatever way they can, but could it have been that the villain(s) of the piece wanted exactly that?

Sydney and Gale don’t have ANY secrets!

Like other Scream movies, the story is pretty silly and far fetched, and relies characters to behave in a way that real people don’t. That’s just movies I guess. One thing is, though, is the need justify its existence via a dialogue-based meta-explanation that talks about the state of franchised cinema, and also references itself in a matter more mastubatory that wanking to a home video of yourself wanking. Even down to mentioning how stupid and frustrating new horror films naming themselves like they are the original is unfunny and doesn’t shows a sense of irony: it shows the writers off knowing what they are doing, why they are doing it and are still big enough jerks to make us spend the rest of our lives saying ‘no not that one, the original one’.

As usual with the Scream films, after the first one that is, the motivation for the murder(s) is somewhat lacking, and if not for the quality of acting and violence, would have been flat and uninteresting.

I do have to say I liked the cast, no matter how unliveable the character was. The acting is on point and the cast are certainly a lot more convincing that previous entries. Some of the throwbacks to previous episodes, like Randy’s sister played by Heather Matarazzo from Scream 3, Marley Shelton from Scream 5, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette from the entire series are an obvious addition. By the way, Arquette has turned into a super-cool ex-cop action hero type, and I want to see him in something like the Bob Odenkirk movie Nobody.

I did find one thing deliciously wonderful about it: considering it’s pedigree of PG-rated, more teen friendly violence, this has some moments of brutality that are stunningly surprising. Some slow, penetrating stab shots that take no prisoners and a leg/ ankle snap that made some parts of me shrink so much I’m gonna need a hot bath to set them free from cowering in my lower abdomen.

Are we gonna see another one? It feels like it, for sure. Do we need another one, no: not even slightly.

Score: ***

The menu from the 4K release

Extras: The extras on this disc are quite interesting, and really do pay tribute to Craven’s creation (even one of the characters names is Wes).

There is a Commentary by writers James Vanderbilt and Gus Busick, directors Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and executive producer Chad Villella which is great, as it really covers a lot of aspects of the film, though their assumption of an asthma inhaler in the first scene was ‘very very subtle’ makes me wonder if they have ever seen a movie before. Come on guys, if someone is asthmatic or diabetic it DEFINITELY a plot point later in the film.

The Deleted Scenes are worthless and the film is better off without them.

New Blood compares the original film with the new film, and they talk about how important the film is in film history. Let’s face it, the original film probably did save the dire place mainstream horror was in at the time.

Bloodlines is the same as above but with the cast.

In The Shadow of the Master looks at Craven’s history and influence on the horror genre.

Scream 1996 (see, what did I tell you) trailer.

Score: ***

WISIA: If I was to watch an entire franchise again, I probably would, but I wouldn’t watch it as a single one-off film again.

Wes cops it.

The Machine Girl (2008)

The Machine Girl (2008)

Film: The trailer for The Machine Girl, aka Kataude mashin gâru, has these words boldly displayed across the screen: Yakuza, Ninjas, Tempura, Sushi, Chainsaws, Flying Guillotine, Drill Bra (yes, you have read that correctly) and Revenge. Now I don’t know about the rest of you, but that sounds to me like a shopping list for an Asian film that I want to watch!!!

Now just to confirm this is what I want to watch, let’s have a look at some of the visuals from that same trailer: cute Japanese girl, blood, Ninjas wearing cool red tracksuit styled outfits, blood, disembodies body parts, blood… by now you should get the idea.

Written and directed by Noboru Iguchi, The Machine Girl is a film made by the production company Fever Dreams in Japan, but with a western market in mind, with typical western-perceived stereotypes of Japanese cinema like ninja and yakuza. Even the movie poster has the Machine Girl wearing the loose ankle socks that have not been fashionable in Japan for several years, but are still seen as very Japanese by the west. The female leads of this film are almost Meyer-esque in their single-mindedness and their drive (but not their stature) and Iguchi is clearly influenced heavily by the Sukeban flicks of the seventies (though sans any nudity), and also maybe the USA gore flicks of the 80s, if not the blood-fests of fellow countryman Takashi Miike.

The Machine Girl tells of Japanese schoolgirl, Ami (popular Gravure model and Snoopy aficionado Minase Yashiro) whose younger brother and his friend have been mercilessly tortured by the son of a local Yakuza boss, which results in their death. Ami goes on a revenge spree against the Yakuza, which finds her captured and tortured by the boss, to the point that her left arm is fully removed.

Being a tenacious lass, Ami manages to escape the Yakuza and ends up at the auto garage of her brother’s friend. His mother Miki (Asami) is mourning the loss of her only son hard, and she and her husband decide to assist Ami in her revenge, and so they create several weapons for her to be able to attach to the stump where her left arm used to be.

Now fully armed (if you’ll excuse the pun) Ami, with Miki, goes to complete her bloody revenge…

With the treasure trove of violent film staples (and then some) featured in this film, I have a name for the category it sits in: Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink-sploitation. Decapitation, dismemberment, split bodies, hot oil burns, electrocutions, blood sprays… this is a list that could go on and on! The icing on the cake is most of it is performed by a cute Japanese girl in a school uniform.

There are no doubt the special effects, some by Japanese SPFX artist Yoshihiro Nishimura are sub par, but that is more a reflection of the lower end budget rather than of the talent involved. The mutilated victims are obviously dummies, and the CGI at times sticks out like the dog’s proverbials, but this isn’t supposed to be a high concept, gigantic budgeted, Academy Award nominated piece of art. It is The Machine Girl, an ass-kicking, sexy super heroine for the Toxic Avenger set.

And I freakin’ love it!

Imagine if the guy who made The Story of Riki made a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie with a sukeban school girl as the heroine and a young Peter Jackson doing the SPFX. Yeah, it’s that crazy! Sequel NOW please!!!! There’s not much in the way of extras on this disc, but the sound options are many and varied, and the movie itself is just too much fun!!!

NB: Since writing this review I have discovered that there IS a sequel, and I am looking into acquiring it!

Score: ****

Extras: There are trailers for The Machine Girl and for four other Tokyo Shock titles: Heroes Two, Death Trance, Lone Wolf and Cub: The TV Series and Zebraman.

There is also a Behind the Scenes of Machine Girl which features interviews with Minase Yashiro (Ami: The Machine Girl), Asami (Miki) and Nobuhiro Nishimura (Sho Kimura). There is also a bit of special effects footage, but only of the live effects and not of any of the CGI. At only roughly ten minutes long it is not much more than a fluff piece, but I have no problem watching a bit of extra footage of the lovely Yashiro!

Score: **

WISIA: It’s ridiculous and fun, but this was the first time I’d watched it in years so maybe it’s replay ability is once a decade.

Death Proof (2007)

Death Proof (2007)

The cover of the Australian Bluray of Death Proof

Film: The idea of Grindhouse, the double feature cinema experience conceived by Robert Rodriguez and supported by Quentin Tarantino, Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Edgar Wright was an excellent one. Make two movies in a mock double feature, with trailers for either never or yet to be made films in between, with devalued image and sound so that people today could feel like it felt back in the day of the 42nd St Grind house cinemas. Those cinemas named so because they showed badly re-cut horror, sci fi, exploitation and blaxploitation flicks one after another in a constant grind.

What a shame no-one else thought so…

It would seem the general public didn’t have the idea promoted to them well enough, or the promoters just didn’t get it. After the opening weekend of Grindhouse, which was a poor one, the distributors, the Weinstein Brothers, decided to pull the film so they could re-think the promotional release. Now, there are dvd and Bluray releases that come as ‘Uncut and Extended’ editions of Rodriguez’s zombie blood fest PlanetTerror, and this one, Quentin Tarantino’s 70s styled car chase extravaganza Death Proof.

Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) observes his prey

Death Proof starts in Texas with three friends Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito), DJ Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) and Shanna (Jordan Ladd) having a few drinks and enjoying each others company when they meet a stalker, Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell). Stuntman Mike is a man stuck in the past dwelling on his past conquests in Hollywood, and can be as charming as a snake. He worms his way into their good graces and offers a member of their extended group Pam (Rose McGowan), a lift home in his car which he claims to be ‘death proof’. Soon after, a dreadful automobile accident happens and only Stuntman Mike survives. The police suspect foul play, but Stuntman Mike is a teetotaler, whilst the others were all drunk or stoned. Flash forward 14 months later and a new set of girls are being stalked. Actress Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) make up artist Abernathy (Rosario Dawson) and stuntwomen Kim (Tracie Thoms doing her very BEST Pam Grier impression) and Zoë (played by Zoë Bell, New Zealand stuntwoman), but what Stuntman Mike doesn’t realise is….these girls fight back!!!

This film is made perfectly for Quentin Tarantino fans. The cool music, hip characters, smartarse dialogue and the references to other Tarantino films (and this film is loaded with them!!!). Funnily enough, Tarantino used to riff on other great films, but now he also does it to his own, which at times felt a little masturbatory.

I saw this cut of this film before the version as a part of the Grindhouse experience, which was about 45 minutes shorter, and I must say I am glad, as I don’t think I would have liked to have missed out on any small part of this film. The action scenes are few and far between, but you are lulled into such a false sense of security with the ‘talky’ bits that when they do hit…. you stand up and shout ‘HOLY SHIT!!!!’ Tarantino has been criticised for this film being far too talky, but for me it works really well and I enjoyed watching the performances of the female cast members all spouting Tarantino-isms.

The female characters and the actresses that play them are great, and I couldn’t decide which one of them I liked the most…. Although I suspect Tarantino liked Zoe Bell the best, but with a special mention to the feet of Dawson and Poitier, which get some pretty full screen exposure!!

Tell me you’re watching a Tarantino film without telling me you’re watching a Tarantino film…

Car lovers will dig this flick as well. Stuntman Mike’s 1970 Chevy Nova is truly a site to behold, not to mention his 1970 Charger, Kim’s 1972 Ford Mustang nicknamed L’il Pussy Wagon aka ‘Brand X’ and the white 1970 Dodge Challenger that Zoe Bell spends a lot of the film on top of are nothing short of pure sex. The engines on these suckers make having surround sound a worthwhile investment.

This is certainly not Tarantino’s best film, but it clearly looks through the crowd for the fattest ass – and kicks it! While this film is a definite essential pick up for any Tarantino fan and certainly a must have for lovers of the unsuccessful Grindhouse experiment, it probably doesn’t need to sit in everybody’s DVD collection. Although if you like the 60s misspent youth and the 70s carsploitation flicks, you will probably dig it.

Score: ****

The menu screen to the Australian edition of Death Proof

Extras: Disc 1 has an international poster gallery, mainly featuring the ‘lobby cards’, and with a few ‘international’ posters, and trailers for Death Proof, Planet Terror, 1408, Black Sheep and Feast… no sign of the ‘fake’ trailers from the original Grindhouse film unfortunately!

Disc 2 has some really awesome extras.

Stunts on Wheels: The Legendary Drivers of Death Proof is a documentary focusing on the film, but with much love and respect given to some of the great stunt drivers, both old and new. Featured here are stunt co-coordinator for Death Proof Jeff Dashnaw, and his team Buddy Joe Hooker, Steve Davidson, Tracy Dashnaw, Chrissy Weathersby and Terry Leonard. Much love of their abilities is provided by Tarantino, Russell and Tracie Thoms.

Introducing Zoe Bell is a short piece about stuntwoman, and in this film, actress, Zoe Bell, who was Tarantino’s stunt woman on Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2, and how she ended up being a major character in Death Proof.

Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike is a small piece about how COOL everybody thinks Kurt Russell is!

Finding Quentin’s Gals has Tarantino discussing his female casting choices, and has additional comments from Vanessa Ferlito, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Zoe Bell, with Russell providing some additional input.

The Uncut Version of ‘Baby It’s you’ Performed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a short piece showing Winstead uncut performance of Burt Bacharach’s song for Smith.

The Guys of Death Proof has Tarantino again discussing his casting choices, this time with comments from the guys: Eli Roth, Omar Doom, Michael and James Parks, Michael Bacall and himself, this time with comments from Jordan Ladd and Sydney Tamiia Poitier.

Quentin’s Greatest Collaborator: Editor Sally Menke is an interesting look at the unsung heroes of filmmaking: the editors, and in this case, Tarantino’s editor since Reservoir Dogs, Sally Menke. This is a nice tribute to Menke, and ends with some great ‘Hi Sally’ messages/outtakes from the cast.

There is also the trailer for the documentary Double Dare, which is about female stuntwomen, but specifically about stunt legend Jeannie Epper and young stuntwoman/future legendary stuntwoman Zoe Bell.

Score: ****

WISIA: Death Proof is such an unusual thing that it deserves to be watched a couple of times, I reckon.

Zöe Bell’s in BIG trouble

Special thanks to Simon from Explosive Action for the help with this review!

Slither (2006)

Slither (2006)

The Umbrella release of Slither with amazing slipcase by Simon Sherry

Film: James Gunn is certainly one in a million. Most people know him from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and The Suicide Squad, but his career before that was SO much more fun, and honestly, creative.

There’s an amazing two pack of films that I suggest to anyone who doesn’t know his work, and that’s his superhero film Super, starring Rainn Wilson, and this film, Slither.

Slither tells of the small town of Wheelsy, and after an argument with his wife, Starla (Elizabeth Banks), Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) finds himself in the woods, potentially about to commit adultery after being reunited with a school friend, Brenda (Brenda James), but unfortunately, Grant ends up having a dart shot into his abdomen by something that appears to be not-of-this-earth.

Michael Rooker and Elizabeth Banks as Grant and Starla, respectively

Grant collapses and we see, via X-ray, the dart burrow it’s way up into his head.

The next day, Grant is a changed man: he is quieter, and is desperate to collect as much meat as he possibly can, and Starla has noticed the change. Grant revisits Brenda, and with two newly grown tentacles, impregnates her with, what we find out later, to be thousands of leech-like brain slugs.

Whilst all this is happening, Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), a childhood sweetheart of Starla’s, is investigating Brenda’s disappearance, and obviously, all this quickly collides as the slugs invade the town, and burrow into the mouths of everyone they comes across… will he and Starla survive?

This film is extraordinary in that the fun is a gory, gross out horror movie, that still has elements of laugh-out-loud comedy. The story is solid, and doesn’t overexplain where the ‘thing’ came from initially, except for in some interesting hive-mind flashbacks.

A brain slug tries to take over Emily (Matreya Fedor)

You can really see Gunn’s early career at Troma influencing this film, except for the budget. The humour is sophomoric (thankfully) and the gore is sudden, disgusting and surprising. There is a body bisection that still, after many if watches of this film, delights me to no end.

The cast is also fantastic. Fillion is charming and likeable and Banks is just adorable as well. Special mentions have to go to the appearances of Lloyd Kaufman as the town drunk, Jenna Fischer, a TV crush of mine from the Office, as the police receptionist (who also starred with Gunn in the film LolliLove) and Gunn himself as the most awkward of school teachers.

Gunn’s slick writing and directorial style is present here as well. The script is full of old school jokes, some of which may not sit well with a 2022 audience, but fit for the location and time period, and the direction has some really interesting angles which really makes the film fun to watch. The effects don’t sit as well as they did, but that’s to be expected and if you are able to overlook some of those bits of CGI due to age… this movie is almost 20 years old remember, so even though the practical effects are great, some of the CGI isn’t so perfect, but it’s all still very effective.

This film is a beautiful throwback to films like Henenlotter’s Brain Damage or Stephen Herek’s Critters and could be watched alongside them and not seem at all out of place, even though this film was made 20 years later.

I think I really like this film because of its 80s/ drive-in influences, and was more than happy to revisit it! This Bluray from Umbrella Entertainment is from their ‘Beyond Genres’ imprint and has a pretty awesome slipcase by Simon Sherry.

Score: ****

The menu for the Bluray release of Slither

Extras: A bunch of fun extras on this disc that were on the original DVD back in the day.

Audio commentary with James Gunn and Nathan Fillion is interesting and charming and full of lots of reminiscing about the films of the 80s and the making of this film.

The Slick Minds and Slimy Days of Slither: Making of Featurette is a quick ten minute look at the origins and making of the film.

Who is Bill Pardy? starts as an amusing set of outtakes of Fillion, saying ‘I’m Bill Pardy whenever he screws up, but then turns into an amusing roast of Fillion by the cast and crew.

Slither Visual Effects Progressions looks at the different plates the CGI went through from the initial filming to the resulting effect.

Bringing Slither’s Creatures to Life:FX Featurette goes through all of the practical effects used in the movie, ad is quite fascinating!

Slithery Set Tour with Nathan Fillion is a brief bit with the ever charming Fillion filming some behind the scenes stuff with his particular brand of comedy.

The Gorehound Grill: Brewin’ the Blood is basically a recipe for the blood used in the film.

The King Of Cult: Lloyd Kaufman’s Video Diary is a little bit of home video made by Lloyd Kaufman, the King of Troma, and the man who directed Gunn’s script Tromeo and Juliet, who was invited by Gunn to have a cameo in the film.

Deleted Scenes and Extended Scenes as usual are an interesting watch but ultimately not necessary.

Gag Reel is one back from the old days when gag reels were actually funny and not staged like the modern day Marvel ones.

Score: *****

WISIA: I will easily watch this film at anytime!

Nathan Fillion takes aim!

This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment Bluray release.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

The Umbrella release of Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Film: I was a latecomer to seeing the Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Being in Australia and too young in the eighties to be part of any tape-swapping scene, and then a bit of a loner in the early 90s, I didn’t actually get to see it until it was first released on DVD.

Should I hand my horror fan card in now?

The problem with seeing it so late is I was completely entrenched in the hype from mags like Fangoria, Samhain, Fear and the hundred of other mags and books I had been exposed to before seeing the film. Could a film live up to everything I had heard for all those years? Of course not!

Texas Chain Saw Massacre tells of a group of young kids travelling through Texas to see a family home; Sally (Marilyn Burns), Kirk (William Vail), Pam (Teri McMin), Jerry (Alan Danziger) and the disabled Franklin (Paul A. Partain) who decide it would be fun to pick up a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal), an extraordinarily strange man who is kicked out of the van after attacking Franklin with a knife.

Edwin Neal as the Hitchhiker

The group go to the abandoned family house and split off in their various directions, as horror youngsters do, exploring the surrounding area. Unfortunately for them, they find out exactly where the hitchhiker lives, and that he has an extended family of the cook (Jim Siedow), the practically immobile (and maybe mummified?) Grandfather (John Dugan) and the terrifying, monstrous, chainsaw-wielding beast Leatherface (Gunnar Hanson). This family LOVE having people for dinner, if you know what I mean… and unfortunately for some, there is fresh, young meat available…

Since that first watch, I’ve respected this film, but haven’t held it in the high regard on my personal list of most loved films like others had, mainly because I had seen and fallen in love with so many other horror films before I had the opportunity to see it, and it didn’t feel as special as I thought it was going to be: it wasn’t very gory, or bloody, but I could appreciate it was a pretty good story and the family, especially Leatherface, the main killer and TCSM icon, were terrifying.

The iconic red shorts scene

There’s no doubt the film really looks the business. Made with a low budget in 1974, the film looks hot, and dirty, and horrible… but not as in horrible filmmaking, because it really looks like a proper horror movie. Hooper makes every set up scene sweat with the heat, and every scene with the bad guys in it is full of dread, and that combination of heat and dread really makes the whole experience really claustrophobic, which is what proper horror really does, and because you see the cast both hot and in fear, you find yourself in the film with them. The upgraded and cleaned up version of the film may have been criticised by some upon release as it made the film look ‘nicer’, but it’s a grimy enough film to be able to overcome that.

I must put a caveat here and say ‘except for one’ in regards to the cast of characters. For me, the entire experience of this film is spoilt by the character of Franklin. I like to get really involved with the characters experiences and feel what they are feeling, but every time Franklin’s immature, whiny drawls come out, I disassociate from the film and find it hard to get back into it. Thankfully he doesn’t spoil the final scenes of the film, so at least the pay off is good.

I appreciate just how important this film is not just to horror, but to the film industry in itself, but personally, there are a lot more films that appeal to me far more. Still, everyone should see it at least once in their lives so they can understand that a film doesn’t have to be Citizen Cain or Gone With The Wind to lay industry foundations that will forever hold strong.

The menu screen to the Bluray release

Score: ***1/2

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for the Umbrella Entertainments releases for The Babadook, and The Quiet Ones, before we get SO many extras! There’s so much information for cast and crew across these extras, after you have finished watching them, you will feel like an expert on the film.

There are 4 (!) commentaries on this disc! One with Tobe Hooper, another with cinematographer Faniel Pearl, Sounds Recordist Ted Nicolaou and Editor J. Larry Carroll, a third with actors Marilyn Burns, Paul A. partial, Allen Danziger with Art Director Robert A. Burns and finally one with Tobe Hooper, Daniel Pearl and Leatherface himself, Gunnar Hanson. The first two commentaries are labelled as ‘new’ so I assume the others are on previous releases. There is just buckets of anecdotes and recollections across these 4 commentaries they almost make the other extras redundant!

‘Off The Hook’ with Teri McMinn is an interview with the actress who portrayed Pam, who, for me has the iconic shot in the film where she walks across the from of the house in the bright red shorts. There’s also that other iconic scene where she I’d definitely ‘on the hook’ but still, I love the shorts scene.

Interview with actor John Dugan, who played the Grandfather, under LOTS of makeup, obviously. He talks about his days in set and the heat (a common theme) under that mask.

Interview with Production Manager Ros Bozman of which TCSM was one of his earliest jobs, but he went on to do films like Philadelphia and Married to the Mob… he went legitimate, if you will. Again, interesting look at the film production from the POV of the actual production manager makes for an interesting watch.

40th Anniversary Trailer is the trailer made for the remastered version of the film.

Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark – a visit to TCSM Location. I like the HHG stuff in general as the revisiting of some of the locations can be fascinating, and this isn’t different. I do have to say I hate the skate punk film clip intro, but I’m willing to forgive that for the content of the rest of the episodes.

Deleted Scenes and Alternate Footage are the usual bunch of things that the film is probably better off without, which it’s popularity obviously proves.

Blooper Reel is ok but looks like it was filmed through a screen door.

Theatrical Trailer, Tv Spots and Radio Spots is about 5 minutes of the original advertising for the film. Now we have this beautiful remastered version it almost seems weird to see it so washed out and grainy… has the film lost something with the clean up? Not to me but I’m sure there are many who prefer the more ‘grindhouse’ feel to the way it used to look.

There are two documentaries on this disc; ‘Flesh Wounds’ and ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth’. Flesh Wounds is divided into 7 parts and is a far more by-the-fans-for-the-fans affair, whereas The Shocking Truth is made as a more traditional doco about the film.

The Tobe Hooper interview and Kim Henkel interviews are certainly the nuts and bolts interviews of the entire disc. Interesting but some of the info has been heard before on the various commentaries and other extras across the disc.

Killing Kirk outtakes is exactly what it says on the box. Some different takes in Kirk’s murder. No commentary or sound though.

Outtakes from ‘The Shocking Truth’ is about 7 minutes of extra footage from the Shocking Truth doco not used in the film.

A Tour of the TCSM House with Gunnar Hansen is a 1993 shot-on-video look at the original location for the house where the original film was made, with commentary by Hanson as he wanders through with the camera crew, and then another in 2000 after the house had been restored… and it’s disturbingly filled with Easter bunnies and paraphernalia!

Score: *****

WISIA: Even though it’s not even in my top 20 favourite horror films, I still will watch it now and again to remind myself of it’s importance not just in the horror film industry, but the entire film industry.

Marilyn Burns as Sally, freaking the hell out!

This review was done with the Australian release of the film, provided by Umbrella Entertainment.

Turkey Shoot (1982)

The slipcase version of the Australian release from Umbrella Entertainment.

Turkey Shoot (1982)

Film: I didn’t know I was a fan of what I discovered was called ‘Ozploitation’ movies until the Mark Hartley documentary Not Quite Hollywood, told me I was. I had been a fan of Mad Max, Alvin Purple, Thirst, and so many others of the films made during this period, including this film, director Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Turkey Shoot.

(Just as a side note, a family friend actually invited Australian actor Roger Ward to a party I threw when I was in my 20s and I swear, having Fluffy from Mad Max/ Ritter from Turkey Shoot at my house was just an absolute thrill)

Michael Craig as Thatcher

Anyway, Turkey Shoot was probably the first time I had seen a film about humans hunting humans and I thought it was both a thrilling and horrifying concept, and one that I have since enjoyed in films like Battle Royale, The Condemned, Countess Perverse and even the Hunger Games films.

This film is set in a dystopian future where dissidents are sent to re-education centres, and one such revolutionary is Paul Anders (Steve Railsback) who for crimes against the state is sent to one such centre run by the notorious Charles Thatcher (Michael Craig).

Thatcher, and his cohort Ritter (Roger Ward) have something different in the way they run their re-education camp though. For a small fee, they allow the rich to hunt selected difficult prisoners in a ‘turkey shoot’, but with Anders, and a girl he has taken under his wing, Chris Walters (Olivia Hussey), Thatcher may have bitten off more than he can chew…

This film is less a who’s who of Australian actors, and more a who’s who of celebrity contestants on Graham Kennedy’s Blankety Blanks or Cop Shop… maybe with a touch of a Country Practice (?), with names like Noel Ferrier, Carmen Duncan, Lynda Stoner and Gus Mercurio added to the mix.

Roger Ward and Noel Ferrier

I honestly can’t help but love this film, and have over the years repeatedly hailed it as being fun… but it’s like a silly violent pantomime rather than a gruesome look into a frightful future.

Score: ****

The Umbrella Entertainment release of the film’s menu screen

Extras: Woooosh! Soooooo many extras on this disc, some of them taken from the old DVD release, but still, it’s a lot!

There is 2 quite interesting commentaries, one with Mark Hartley and Producer Antony I. Ginnane, and a 2003 commentary with Trenchard-Smith in which both talk about the troubles of making the film, the loss of finance money and the cast issues. Unfortunately these issues are discussed ad Infiniti’s over the course of every extra, so by the time you’ve finished you won’t know who is to blame for any of the films shortcomings.

Blood and Thunder Memories is a tragic/ humorous look at just how bad a production of a film can fall apart. Interviews with the main cast reveal different opinions of what was going on, but it would seem that the film went from political/ social commentary to schlock of the highest order.

Not Quite Hollywood extended interviews has some of the interviews from 2008’s Not Quite Hollywood doco by Mark Hartley in their entirety… or at the very least, a longer version.

The Ozploitation Renaissance Featurette is MOrE recollections of the film, and a peek into the careers of Ginnane, Trenchard-Smith and cinematographer Vincent Monton.

A Good Soldier – an interview with Brian Trenchard-Smith is an interview with the director from 2002. Unfortunately by this point in the extras you’ve heard every story and every anecdote so this feature is somewhat superfluous.

Escape 2000 – the 80 minute version of the film from a VHS source… it’s a tough watch though due to the quality… is it worthwhile being on this disc? I’m not so sure…

Then there is a bunch of trailers, including an Antony I. Ginnane sizzle reel, a Trailers from Hell trailer (with Trenchard-Smith commentary), the original trailer, TV promos and stills and poster gallery.

Weirdly, this release comes with a CD copy of Australian composer Brian May’s soundtrack (no, not THAT Brian May, the Australian composer)… on CD… maybe you can put it on your miniDisc, or upload it to Napster or something…

Score: ****

WISIA: I think Turkey Shoot is a hilarious example of Ozploitation, and it’s overcooked performances and over the top violence mean it’s a regular watch for me.

This review was performed on the Australian Bluray release, supplied by Umbrella Entertainment.

Warning: may contain traces of boobs, bums, balls and b-dussy.

Spiral (2021)

Spiral (2021)

The cover of the Australian Bluray release of Spiral

Film: As far as I am concerned, 2004 was an amazing turning point for horror.

I still remember being put flat on my butt by a little film by a couple of guys who used to be on some music/ youth program on ABC, James Wan and Leigh Whannell, and a little low-budget blockbuster they made called Saw.

What was quickly called ‘torture porn’ was something high on my radar and whenever Rue Morgue or any other mag suggested a film might be in this sub-category I searched it out. I was also pretty stoked to find sequel after sequel too.

In 2017, an attempt was made to relaunch the franchise, and it was more of the same and it was fine. It, as I said in my review for that film, was a series of gore ‘money-shots’ which is what the series did become, and you endured a sometime ludicrous whodunnit in between.

Did this film try and do something different? Well no, but instead it changes the idea of an acolyte of Jigsaw, so someone impersonating his methods to a similar end.

Max Mingella and Chris Rock

Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock) is not a well-liked police officer. A few years ago he ratted out a fellow police officer and no one has trusted him since, so he’s worked fairly solo, sometimes not quite toeing the line of the law to solve investigations.

As these stories work out, he’s not played the game for the last time and his boss, Captain Angie Garza (Marisol Nichols) has decided he needs,to have a partner to ‘tame’ him, and so he is lumped with young and green Detective William Schenk (Max Mingella).

There first investigation together is what looks to be the death of a hobo in a subway, (a death that we, the viewers, know to have been a quite torturous murder) but very soon, Zeke receives a parcel that contains his tongue and a police badge, and we learn that this body is actually that of Zeke’s only friend in the force, Boz (Dan Petronijevic).

Of course, all the police want to be involved in the investigation of a cop murder, but soon, other cops start disappearing, each of them tortured in some horrible way before they died, and the tortures representing some way in which they were corrupt… but who is committing the murders, and will Zeke be able to save his father, Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson), the chief of police, who has also been taken…

Boz discovers the absolute worst way to catch a train… from the front!

I like the idea if the Spiral killer taking Jigsaw’s methodology of being a vigilante of justice and applying that the the police force, and the writers seemed to have hit the current feelings in America with that as an idea as well. Perhaps in a BLM world, Rock’s employment as the male lead echoes that thought too.

Whilst on the subject, I like Chris Rock, and I’ve liked his performances in most roles he’s been in, but let’s face it, his range isn’t great. Rock is GREAT at playing Rock! His performance here is surprising, I admit, but occasionally, just occasionally, it doesn’t ring true, which is a shame as he is such an atypical hero for this type of film. Not just being an African-American in a horror movie lead, but also that he’s wiry, and his character is abrasive and almost unlikable at times.

The rest of the cast were fine. Max Mingella wasn’t really given much to do at first and unfortunately his flaccid performance didn’t really pick up. Jackson played Jackson as he always does and no one plays it better. The standouts were all the cops, each one playing their role like a hard done by SVU character, who’s performances never seemed over the top due to Chris Rock screaming ‘MOTHERFUCKER’ at the top of his voice every other minute.

One other problem with this film is just that it’s like every other Saw film. A new name and a fresh coat of paint, and a younger villain don’t really make the film stand out too much, which is a shame because I was looking forward to more of the same, but something different.

The film is ok, but it doesn’t really stand out because of these reasons. I do hope this becomes a new series because I’d like to see some growth of our new hero and villain combo, but I’m not sure that will happen.

Score: **1/2

The menu screen of the Australian Bluray release of Spiral

Extras:

The Consequence of your Actions: Creating Spiral is a documentary for some reason divided into stupid single chapter instead of just cutting it together as a single ‘making of’. These chapters are called A New Chapter in an Old Book, New Blood, A Steady Hand, Setting the Traps and Hacking Away. As a making of, it’ s fine.

Drawing inspiration: Illustrated Trap Breakdowns sees Bousman look at two of the trap effects and how they were conceived and what the MPAA wanted removed!

Decoding the Marketing Spiral looks at the consistent marketing of all the Saw films. It’s a brief but interesting look at how movie marketing works. I’d like a whole documentary about this please!

Score: ***

WISIA: Just like Jigsaw, it’ll get trundled out whenever I go on a Saw/ torture porn binge, but it will not finish with a happy ending.

This review was done with the Australian release Bluray

Electrocuted and de-fingered.

Freaky (2020)

Freaky (2020)

The cover to the Australian release of Freaky

Film: So what are the three 80s movie tropes that get rehashed across genres? Surely it would be the ‘repeat the same day over and over’ (like Groundhog Day, Big, Happy Death Day), the ‘kid-gang achieving something incredible’ (like Goonies, Monster Squad, Stranger Things) and finally, the body-swap/ age-up trope (like Freaky Friday, Big, and this film, Freaky).

Our film starts in the town of Blissfield, on Wednesday the 11th… think about it, you’ll get it… and we find 4 cookie-cutter teens partying at one of their houses, talking about a local legend of a serial killer know as The Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn). The parents of the kid who own the house are collectors of historical antiquities, and they are impressed by a ceremonial dagger that they recently acquired.

The freaky mask of the Blissfield Butcher!

Of course, as you would expect, ‘partying = death’ and the Blissfield Butcher appears, dispatching them all, and making off with the knife.

Next we meet local school student, Millie (Kathryn Newton) who is a bit of a dweeb, and unfortunately finds herself stuck alone at night outside the school football field after the latest game of sportsball. Guess who turns up, not to pick her up, but instead to take her down? That’s right, it’s the Butcher (I’m dumping the Blissfield bit from now on as I assume you’ll know who I’m talking about!)

He pursues her, finally catching her and stabbing her… but something strange happens: they swap bodies, so now we have the scary concept of a psychopathic killer trapped in a teenage girl’s body, and a teenage girl trapped in that of a killer’s!

This leads to Millie (now played by Vaughn) having to try and find out what happened to her, and how to get her body back but not before convincing her friends that she’s not the Butcher… hell, that she’s not a 50 year old man.

Meanwhile, the Butcher (now played by Newton) has the perfect disguise to slip into school-age culture and continue his… her?… their carnage hidden amongst the teens.

The Blissfield Butcher in Millie’s body!

Obviously, Millie wants her body back, but how will her and her friends do it?

Like all of these sort of films, the comedy comes from the actor’s ability to impersonate each other, but neither do it very well. Newton goes from being bubbly and cute to deadening her eyes to the point that even though she is a good foot shorter than Vaughn, she possible even scarier. Vaughn, on the other hand, gets to display his comedy-skills in his performance as a teenaged girl, though I think perhaps his impression of Newton is far more a parody of the teenage girl trope rather than an accurate portrayal of her.

The story, written by Michael Kennedy and director Christopher Landon, though derivative of all of these types of stories, is still fun, and it’s not the first time Landon has plumbed a comedy trope for a film, as he mined Groundhog Day for Happy Death Day and Happy Death 2U. Landon also responsible for A Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, which I like a lot. He’s a director who is happy to combine a bit of a laff with a good dose of violence and gore.

He’s also responsible for 4 of the Paranormal Activity sequels, but let’s NOT talk about those…

Speaking of gore and violence, let it be known that even though this is modern horror, it doesn’t skimp on either, to the point I was actually surprised by just HOW violent it gets, and most of it is onscreen and in your face!

Typically, as you would expect in a slasher film, there are some moments of frustration due to the characters movements, but let’s face it, to criticise character stupidity is to criticise the genre as a whole. Another criticism is the Hollywood trope of the dweeby girl, who is played by an attractive actress and it not quite ringing true. It IS a Hollywood trope however and hard to criticise because again, it would be criticising an entire genre.

All-in-all, I was really entertained by this film by its bloody horror, entertaining story and charming cast.

Score: ****

The menu screen to the Australian Bluray release of Freaky

Extras: There’s a decent bunch of extras on this Australian Blu-ray Disc. Unfortunately the features are quite short but they have a few snippets of interesting info throughout them.

Deleted Scenes are, as one can occasionally appreciate, definitely unnecessary.

Split Personalities: Millie vs The Butcher discusses the way the two lead actors swapped personalities for the film.

Crafting the Kills is great for fans of the special effects stuff.

Christopher Landon’s Brand of Horror is a little dumb. It’s a fluff piece celebrating the directors choices but it doesn’t really look at his ‘brand’, so much.

Final Girl Reframed looks at how the idea of the ‘final girl’ in horror movies is turned on its head for this film.

There is also a Feature Commentary with Christopher Landon, which is full of not just interesting anecdotes about the making of the film, but some funny Easter eggs and the occasionally filmmaking tip.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: Like the aforementioned Happy Death Day and A Scout’s Guide to the Apocalypse, I find this movie charming and light enough, even through the gore, to be a fun film just to watch whenever, so yeah, it’ll get watched again!

A pile of deceased jocks.

Nightmares (1980)

Umbrella’s release of Nightmares

Film: When I was a teen in the 80s, I worked in a video store, and for a movie fan, it was a dream come true. I spent 5 or 6 hours by myself every Sunday afternoon, and because it was still a little bit of the Wild West as far as films were concerned, I could watch what I liked in the shop, and could usually get three movies in on one shift.

I predominantly watched horror, sci-fi and action, and didn’t realise it but became a fan of what I discovered (because of Mark Hartley’s 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood), a thing called Ozploitation! Mad Max, Mad Max 2, Turkey Shoot, Thirst; I loved these films because they looked like low-budget Hollywood films, but were full of Australians, and that made me think that maybe I mould be in a movie, or write a movie, or direct a movie.

Tragically, my talents don’t lie in those areas and instead I have spend 20 odd years writing about movies, and occasionally I’ve been lucky enough to review one of those Ozploitation films, and here we are today, with John D. Lamond’s Nightmares, aka Stage Fright ready to review for your pleasure.

Jenny Neumann as Helen Selleck

Nightmares tells of Cathy (Jennie Lamond) accidentally causes a car accidentally that kills her mother, which it combination with the suggestion of abuse, turns her into a psychotic fruitcake of the highest order!

Years later she has changed her name to Helen (now played by Jenny Neumann), and has become an actress, because, you know, the best thing psychologically a psychopath can do is further their issues by getting a job where they lie for a living by pretending to be other people.

She lands a part in a play produced by George D’alberg (Max Phipps), co-starring Terry Besanko (Gary Sweet) who promptly becomes besotted with her. Unfortunately for them all, there is a murderer loose in the theatre, but who will be the next victim, and what do the murders have to do with the psychotic flashbacks Helen/ Cathy has been having?

This isn’t going to end well…

Some might call this B Grade trash, but it’s A grade trash, and that A for stands for Australia, and it stands proud, with a kookaburra shitting on its shoulder as it slips in kangaroo shit because it was too busy looking a bikini-clad tits on Bondi beach.

As expected for a film by John Lamond, it’s as sleazy as an unwashed buttplug abandoned on a train. The idea was devised by Lamond with John-Michael Howson (who also plays camp critic Bennett Collingwood) and the screenplay was written by Colin Eggleston, who wrote scripts for Cop Shop, The Sullivans and Division 4, and was the director of Briony Behet film (who is ALSO in this) Long Weekend.

I’m not sure quite what the script was attempting to do, but surely George Lucas must have used this for the template of ‘the worst hidden bad guy/ whodunnit’ in a film when writing the Star Wars prequels.

Those who prefer to avoid films featuring ‘cultural cringe’ might prefer to avoid this film, but loving Ozploitation like I do, I revel in it. It’s definitely not for the easily offended, or for PC crusaders, but I have to admit to giggling and chuckling at the strine, the ockerisms and enjoying the appearances of many actors of this period in Australian cinema and television.

The nudity isn’t bad either.

Clearly the idea behind the film was to emulate things like Halloween, Friday the 13th and maybe even a few early giallos and honestly I can’t figure out if the addition of the Australian-ness to it makes it or breaks it. The whole film is overacted and paced oddly but I can’t help but enjoying every second of it.

As a side note, I have to give this film credit for possible the finest lines of Max Phipps’ career; ’You are not an actress, but instead are an actress’s big brown freckle!’ With every ‘r’ rolled off the tongue with spite. Hilarious.

Score: ***1/2

Umbrella’s Nightmares menu screen

Extras: This disc has a great set… of extras!

First we have an audio commentary by Lamond, along with Not Quite Hollywood director, Mark Hartley which also leads into extended interviews from the documentary with Lamond, actress Nina Hartley and cinematographer Gary Wapshott. There’s some real interesting insights into the Australian film industry of the time, and some great anecdotes, and can I say how much I love actors who say ‘I wouldn’t see a film like this’ but they don’t mind acting in them.

There’s a bunch of deleted scenes which, as usual, the film doesn’t miss. They are in pretty poor quality but that’s to be expected as they are sourced from a VHS in Lamond’s archives.

Confessions of an R-rated Film Director is a short with an extended interview with Lamond.

There’s a Lamond trailer reel featuring Australia After Dark, The ABCs of Love and Sex Australia Style, Felicity, Nightmares, Pacific Banana, Breakfast in Paris and Sky Pirates.

There is also trailers, a TV spot and promotional stuff for Nightmares.

Score: *****

WISIA: How could I NOT watch it again?!?

Max Phipps as George

This review was done using the Australian Umbrella Bluray release.

This review copy was supplied by Umbrella Entertainment.