Blood Diner (1987)

Blood Diner (1987)

The cover to the UK release of Blood Diner

Film: One name that every horror fan should know is that of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Advertising legend and head honcho at advertising company Communicorp, as well as the writer of many articles and having a regular column in the magazine ‘Direct Marketing’, and over 20 books about marketing and promotion.

Oh, and during the 60s, he made the first splatter film, called Blood Feast.

He had made a few nudie-cuties before this, but Blood Feast created a whole new sub-genre of horror, and even though it might look hokey today, it was both groundbreaking and breaktaking.

Lewis influenced many filmmakers over the years, and Blood Feast, with its tale of Fuad Ramses, an Egyptian caterer who is also a serial killer, murdering young women so he can build a body for the Egyptian goddess, was his first example of it. He became synonymous with splatter films, eventually gaining the moniker ‘The Godfather of Gore’.

In the 80s, with the advent of home video, a lot of these films were being rediscovered, and thankfully, this film, serving as both a sequel AND a remake to the original, came to being, directed by Jackie Kong (The Being and Night Patrol) and written by Michael Sonye (Sorority Babes at the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama and Prison Ship).

The friendly brothers.

The films tells of brothers, Michael and George Tutman (Rick Burks and Carl Crew respectively), vegetarian restaurant owners who have made a promise to their uncle, Anwar (Drew Godderis) that they will bring back the ancient Egyptian goddess Sheetar by performing a series of bizarre and deadly rituals, involving killing many young women to build her a perfect body.

How would these young men get rid of the corpses and parts they don’t use? By hiding them in their vegetarian food and feeding it to their customers of course! As you would expect, the police are alerted by the missing women, and bumbling detective Mark Shepard (Roger Dauer) and his hard-nosed partner Sheba Jackson (LaNette La France) are put on the case, but they aren’t the only ones investigating the boys, as a rival diner, owned by Stan (Bob Loya) wants to find out their secret ingredients.

These STILL aren’t the only problems the boys face as they need to set up the ritual with many participants, and convince pure-hearted Connie (Lisa Elaina) to come along as well, as she is to be the ultimate sacrifice to the newly reborn Sheetar!

Crikey, where does one start with this film. It sits somewhere between homage and parody of the source material, which I’m not too sure Lewis was taking seriously in the first place. Kong’s talent in getting weird performances out of odd characters makes for a B-movie feast that, whilst isn’t of any sort of high-grade cinema, somehow is engaging throughout. Just when you think that a character’s bizarre behaviour with a ventriloquist dummy is the weirdest thing you’ll see, you are next presented with a wrestler named ‘Jimmy Hitler’ or you see a woman with a deep fried head get decapitated with a broom.

Not sure exactly what to say here…

This movie is a Troma movie without the name ‘Troma’ attached to it. Every effect is done at the lowest possible dollar for the most ridiculous effect, and yet you’ll be mesmerised by it.

Score: ***1/2

The Blood Diner menu screen from the UK Bluray release

Extras: There’s an absolute crackerjack box of extras, including:

Killer Cuisine: The Making of Blood Diner is a great and complete look at the entire making of the film, featuring interviews with director Jackie Kong, writer Michael Sonye, composer Don Preston and many others. Lots of amazing insights into the making of low-budget films can be found in this!

Archival Interview with Project Consultant Eric Caidin is an interview from the early 2000s discussing the his involvement in the origins of the film.

Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots and Radio Spots are exactly what they sound like! Seriously, the trailers are possibly my favourites as they a hosted by ‘Phil A. Mignon’, a ‘gore-met’ who talks about the film.

Still Gallery. Yuk. Still Galleries and still galleries, and have no place on a DVD or Bluray: put ‘em in a book where they belong.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s quaint enough, and there’s enough 80s-ness to it for me to watch it again, but it probably won’t be too high on the rewatch pile.

This film was reviewed on a UK Bluray release from Vestron Video

Sheeeeeeeeetarrrrrrrr!

The Craft Legacy (2020)

The Craft Legacy (2020)

The cover of the Australian release of The Craft Legacy

Film: I was a big fan of the original film The Craft. Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Robin Tunney and Rachel True were most certainly the ‘it’ girls of the mid-90s buuuuuuuut I was in my 20s then, so maybe it spoke to me, and it felt kind of relevant, even though perhaps it wasn’t really.

Empire Records was the same, and even in 1999 when High Fidelity came out, it ESPECIALLY felt relevant as I went from a directionless manboy in his 20s to a rudderless manboy in his 30s.

So here we are, 25 years later and a sequel has been made and I’m conflicted: I’m keen to see a sequel to this film, but after watching it I felt totally disconnected to it. I thought maybe it was me, that I was out of touch with the so-called ‘woke’ movement or that maybe I don’t think that horror movies are the place to deliver messages like that.

…but horror movies have almost always had messages, haven’t they? I don’t think the problem with this film is the messages of equality, or the other issues it covers, but maybe that it tries to be the defender of everything at once, and that the story occasionally feels more like an after school special.

Our annoying protagonists

The Craft Legacy tells of Lily (Cailee Spaeney) who has just moved to a new town with her mother Helen (Michelle Monaghan) so she can be with her new beau, Adam (David Duchovney), a self-help guru specialising in helping men find their strength, and his three sons.

Lily, of course, being the new kid, has no friends, and her having an unfortunately heavy period on her first day leads to an embarrassment that would wilt any normal kid, but Lily makes three new friends in the form of Tabby (Logie Simone), Lourdes (Zoey Luna) and Frankie (Gideon Adlon), three close friends who have been trying to find a fourth to join their coven because… you guessed it, they be WITCHES!!

The four quickly realise that Lily (short for Lilith, you know, alternatively known as the biblical Adam’s first wife from the Book of Isaiah, or a demon) is the person that they were looking for and their power grows exponentially, and being teenage girls, it’s used on silly stuff at first as they experiment, but then more insidious things, for example, their changing the personality of the school douche-bag, Timmy (Nicolas Galitzine) into becoming a super-sensitive, totally woke soul.

Yikes! David Duchovney as Adam

As usual, power corrupts and one of them makes a selfish spell that starts to unravel the friendship, and we discover more about Lily’s past and why she has her powers, and maybe that Adam is much more than he seems…

This film was not made for me. It wasn’t made for a 50-something manboy who still likes a lots of 80s styled boobs ‘n’ blood in his horror films. I have to give it credit though. It does attempt to cover a whole pile of stuff that plays on young people’s minds today, like homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism, school bullying and others, and does it so casually that its the way we should all probably act around people who live differently to ourselves. The problem is though it does so many of these things that I imagine it would alienate a less open minded person, and maybe some of the messages get lost amongst each other.

The film is beautifully shot but I do have two major issues with it. The first is that it’s not really a new story. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens showed us that a remake can be incorporated into a large storyline and not act completely like it’s a remake, but this just hits the same beats over and over and until it makes a weird left turn for the sole purpose of adding a new badguy, who is telegraphed early but when it eventuates, it’s just a bit dumb.

The other is the performances of the four leads. Now I can’t figure out if the teens are overacting and it’s disguised as being obnoxious, or visa versa. Honestly, I work in retail and they act like the people who distract the workers in a shop while another friend shoplifts. They are annoying and over-the-top and seem less like how teens actually act and more like how someone who is out of touch with teens would make them act. It reminds me of Stan Lee writing teens in the 60s, and them all having dialogue like teens in the early 50s, daddy-o. The rest of the cast seem far more grounded and real.

If I’m to be really finicky, the 11th hour connection to the first film is hamfisted and was like a studio addition that was just dumb.

All in all I’m trying to be nice to this film out of respect for the original, but it’s just dumb, annoying and boring.

Score: *

The menu screen for the Australian Bluray release of The Craft Legacy

Extras: There is a couple of extras but they are so brief they barely worth mentioning.

Franchise Legacy is a barely two and a half minute piece that references the original movie and it’s importance to this film’s legacy. I’ve had sneezes that were longer and more informative.

Powerful Story, Magical Director looks at writer/ director Zoe Lister-Jones and her approach to making the film, but I’m not sure barely 3 and a half minutes really is much of a tribute to a director’s skill set. Shame.

Deleted scenes, as usual, are better off not in the film. Lister-Jones does at least get to introduce them, and justify their removal, even though her reasoning doesn’t get fleshed out.

Score: *

WISIA: I probably won’t, unless they do a sequel, which is really obviously what they’d like to do, judging by the massive open ending they offered.

This review was done with the Australian Bluray release

Fairuza Balk is BACK… for about 3 seconds…

Cell (2016)

Cell (2016)

The cover of the Australian Bluray release of Cell

Film: I have read several articles about quantitive pedants claiming to cringe when they hear athletes claim that they ‘went out there and gave 110%’. I’ve actually read so many articles about it that I even stole the phrase ‘quantitive pedants’ from one of them, but I have to say, that as a percentage, I am 1,000,000% a zombie movie fan.

Let me tell you too, I don’t care what kind of zombies they are either! Fast, slow, virusy, no-more-room-in-hellish, metaphysical, green, grey, intelligent, stupid, whatever; I’ll take ‘em!

Another thing I love is Steven King movies! Not his books, mind, but his movies. I’m a huge fan of King’s ideas, but not his writing, which is something if you are a regular reader of this my reviews, will ready know as it is no secret.

Taking this into account, imagine my excitement when I discovered there was a zombie film based on a Stephen King novel! The only other zombie story I know of that King wrote was one published in the John Skipp and Craig Spektor edited anthology book The Book of the Dead which I liked so I had to give this one a go!

NB. There’s probably others but not being a reader of King’s work, I’m unaware of them.

John Cusack as Clay Riddell

Anyway, Cell starts with us being introduced to artist Clay Riddell (John Cusack), in an airport on the phone to his estranged wife, Sharon (Clark Sarullo) and son, Johnny (Ethan Andrew Casto) when the phone begins to drop out. Unfortunately for Clay, everyone in the airport is having trouble with their phones in the form of a signal which cause madness and sees them attacking each other without any regard for their own well-being.

Clay manages to escape the airport via the train station beneath, where he meets train driver Tom McCourt (Samuel L. Jackson) and the pair retreat to Clay’s apartment to decide on what their next move should be. They meet with another lost person there in the form of Alice (Isabelle Fuhrman) and the three decide to travel together to help Clay find Sharon and Johnny, along the way meeting many others in a similar people in a similar situation.

There is a another mystery though, in the form of an entity in a red hoodie who visits everyone in their dreams, but bizarrely has been visiting Clay for a while, and manifested in the form of a character he created… but what is it’s connection to the mobile phone call that causes people to turn into violent zombies?

The apparition in the red hood!

There’s a lot of problems with this film. A lot. The first is its boring. There are a few moments of action in the form of the zombie attacks, but in between those scenes are just banal.

The next problem is with the creation of the characters. Cusack and Jackson play the exact same characters in every other film they’ve done since 1999 (I’m sure Cusack even has the same costume on that he’s worn for the past 20 years!). All the other characters come and go so quick you just don’t care about them, even to the point when one of them has a drawn out dying sequence you just want it over with quickly, and it’s a shame because there is such an interesting mix of cast members in it… even Stacy Keach! I did like Lloyd Kaufman’s special appearance though.

Thirdly are some of the special effects are just terrible. The make-up effects are fine, if not generic, but there are several CGI fire effects that look like they came from an episode of Home and Away.

To summarise, boring, wasted actors and crappy effects make for a big waste of my time. Avoid.

Score: *

The menu screen from the Australian Bluray release.

Extras: No extras for YOU!

Score: 0

WISIA: Nope.

This review was done with the Australian Bluray release.

Zombies! Well, living people under the thrall of a weird phone call.

Creepshow 2 (1987)

Creepshow 2 (1987)

The Arrow Video cover to Creepshow 2

Film: I was born in the late 60s, which of course means two things: I’m very very old and I was an impressionable teen during the 80s, which means, I am of the boobs ‘n’ blood generation! A time where ‘banned in Queensland’ was a badge of honour!

This film, Creepshow 2, came from that era and has a special place in my heart as it was one of the first VHS films I actually owned! I honestly cannot remember if it was a sell through video I got from Kmart of somewhere like that, or if it were an ex-rental that a video shop gave me (I worked in one and they gave me tapes now and again) but it got watched over and over again.

Creepshow 1 and 2 were both written by Steven King and directed by George Romero and have their foundations in the joy the two found in reading EC Comics as kids. The short version of that company’s story is that EC Comics made pretty violent comics and caused the creation of the Comics Code Authority, which featured on the covers of many comics for years, and also resulted in Mad becoming a ‘magazine’ rather than a comic (in format) because magazines weren’t subject to it and it’s restrictions.

Basically, Google ‘Frederick Wertham’ or ‘William Gaines’ for the full story.

Tom Savini as The Creep

Anyways, Creepshow 2 is an anthology film, and the three stories contained within are bookended by the tale of a young man waiting for something he ordered from the advertisements within the pages of his favourite comic, Creepshow, and as an issue of the comic flicks through the pages it reveals our tales. This section is mainly animated, but has a pretty awesome love action piece at first and the delivery man who delivers the comics is actually a fantastic mask, worn by horror make-up legend Tom Savini!

The first tale is titled ‘Old Chief Woodenhead’ and tells of a kindly old couple, the Spruces played by George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour, who have a general store in a town which is on its last legs. There are heavy supporters of the local indigenous community, and are entrusted by their leader Ben Whitemoon (Frank Salsedo) to take care of their tribes greatest treasures, but unfortunately, the ne’er-do-well of the tribe, Sam (Holt McCallany) knows the Spruces have these treasures and has decided that perhaps he’d like them for himself…

The second story, The Raft, sees four friends (played by Paul Satterfield, Jeremy Green, Daniel Beer and Page Hannah) go to a secluded lake, late in autumn, to go swimming as the raft is still there until winter. What they don’t realise though is that there is something in the water… something hungry…

The Raft

The final story, The Hitchhiker, tells of Annie Lansing (Lois Chiles) who has been cheating on her husband, but tonight has lost track of time and needs to race to get home from her lover’s place before her husband gets home. Unfortunately, she hits a hitchhiker (Tom Wright) on the way home, and leaves him by the side of the road, but his spirit pursues her with the sole purpose to punish her…

As is typical of these Tales of the Crypt/ Twilight Zone styled stories, the objective is to show a supernatural punishment of some sort paid out to those who have transgressed some kind of moral code… and it still works!! Of the three, I think I like The Raft the best as it is nice and concise

I do have to admit that a lot of my love of this is purely nostalgic, and realistically the first film is certainly the better film, but I still enjoy every watch of it. The stories are in no way as impactful as the first film, but it is still lots of fun, and well made in every way.

Score: ****

The menu screen for the Arrow Bluray release

Extras: Crikey, does this little disc from Arrow Video have some extras on it:

Screenplay for a Sequel is an interview with Romero, where he talks about his love of comics, and how they influenced his career.

Tales from the Creep is an interview with make-up legend and actor Tom Savini about his work in the Creepshow films.

Poncho’s Last Ride is an interview with Daniel Beer, who played Randy in the episode ‘The Raft’, as he tells his anecdotes on his casting and the filming.

The Road to Dover talks to Tom Wright about his experiences as the ill-fated hitchhiker in the episode of the same name.

Nightmares in Foam Ruber (sic) sees us sitting down with Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero, the special effects team, and have them discuss their experiences of the production of the film.

My Friend Rick continues with Berger discussing his fandom of special effects legend Rick Baker, and with an accompanying personal anecdote.

Behind the Scenes is just some footage of the actual filming of the production with some nice behind the scenes bits.

Trailers and Tv Spots is the two theatrical trailers and one TV spot.

There is also an Audio Commentary with director Michael Gornick, which has some interesting information about the film within it.

Score: *****

WISIA: Creepshow 2 is a horror classic and I’ve already watched it hundreds of times!

Old Chief Woodenhead

The Unholy (2021)

The Unholy (2021)

The cover to the Australian bluray

Film: I picked up the new Blumhouse film, The Unholy, on a whim. I had wandered into my local movie retailer to pick up a couple of different films, and in a classic case of ‘while you’re down there’, I grabbed this as well.

One thing I didn’t realise until the end of the film is that this film is based on a book, The Shrine, by one of my favourite horror authors, James Herbert, who also wrote The Rats trilogy, and Sepulchre.

This film version of that book, was written and directed by Evan Spiliotopoulos, who wrote the live action version of Beauty and the Beast from Disney.

The film starts on February 31st, 1845 – we, the viewer, get to witness the burning of a witch from the POV of the victim, as her soul or spirit (or whatever) is cast into the body of a doll.

… and yes, that date is correct…

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Fenn

Flash forward to now, or yesterday, or tomorrow, and we meet scumbag washed-up alcoholic photographer Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who now works for a National Enquirer, Alien Elvis Stole My Sister- styled website who has been sent to the small town of Banfield to photograph a mutilated cow, only to find the ‘mutilation’ was actually a graffitied Metallica ‘M’ on the cow’s hindquarters.

Whilst with the farmer, Fenn notices an object shining under a dead tree and after a bit of digging, finds a small doll, which the farmer suggested may have been a ‘Kern Baby’, a doll that farmers used to bury in their fields to get good crops. Fenn smashes the idol and takes a few photos to try to salvage his journey to the small town and prepares to leave.

On the trip out he crashes his car after swerving to miss a girl standing in the middle of the road. He climbs out of the vehicle and follows her, only to find her return to the dead tree he was at earlier.

Cricket Brown as Alice

We quickly learn her name is Alice (Cricket Brown) and that she is the deaf-mute niece of the local priest, Father Hagen (William Sadler), but the very next day, both her hearing and voice return to her, and she claims to have been visited by the Holy Mother, Mary.

In addition, she discovers she is also able to heal the sick, bringing a paraplegic boy to his feet, and healing her uncle’s lung cancer… but Fenn is getting his OWN visions, and think perhaps that something more unholy might be behind the healings…

Herbert’s book was an absolute corker that took me about a day to read, which, if I’m honest, is how I find all his books. This film is disappointing in comparison. Of course, the idea is interesting, but Spiliotopoulos’ modernisation and translation of it has several tropes that are overused in this religious type of film. It’s not all bad though.

Even though Morgan feels like he’s sleepwalking at times, and Cary Else’s’ performance is occasionally ostentatious and William Sadler is… well, William Sadler, the winner of the acting department was Cricket Brown, who plays both the victim and the bold promoter of our evil, is consistently on-point. She plays every scene with the confidence the role required. I’ll point out that even though what I said of the actors sounds like an insult to each of them, it actually somehow meshed really well.

Some of the special effects were a little off, especially the fire effects, but the make up of the actual baddie was absolutely terrifying, and a credit to the make up department. It was actually difficult to look at and surprising when it’s finally exposed.

Unfortunately this film was one that was hit by Covid-19 during its filming, and one of the stipulations made when they returned to filming was that the cast had to be reduced to 10 only on set. This was something I did actually notice, particularly with a red headed cast member who stood out, so when they were reused, it was a little obvious. I wrote it off as being the same character just in a different part of town.

I wanted to like this, and I think if I really dig deep within me, maybe I do a little, but it was just to generic, and a little boring, for it to be really successful as a good film.

Score: **

The Australian Bluray menu screen

Extras: None.

Score: 0

WISIA: There is actually something about this film that would tempt me to watch it again, even if I can’t put my finger on it.

This review was done using the Australian 2020 Bluray release.

The Kern Baby

Wrong Turn (2021)

Wrong Turn (2021)

Film: In general I find it strange when they ‘reboot’ a movie series. I’m a firm believer that if a series reaches the end of its live span with the movie-going public, it should be allowed to rest. When I first heard about this film, it was called ‘Wrong Turn: The Foundation’ and I must have glossed over the idea of a ‘reboot’ and was more than happy that I’d see more of Three Finger’s cackling and his family’s murderous ways.

What I found though upon purchasing this Bluray… yep, physical media lives… is the abandonment of ‘The Foundation’ part of the name and a film that completely abandons the entire concept of the ‘first’ bunch of films, and basically just kept the concept of a weird-arse family living in the woods, and more traps than you could shake a noose at.

This film adds much more to the mix, and at the risk of burying the lead, does it quite well. The reason for that might be because the writer of the original film, Alan McElroy, is back at the writing desk for this one.

The film starts with Scott (Matthew Modine), in backwater Virginia searching for his missing daughter, Jen (Charlotte Vega). He files a missing person report with the town sheriff, who comments on her ‘black fella’ boyfriend (a foreboding of the townships attitudes, indeed) and shows her picture to several locals, none of whom claim to have seen her, but all of whom are as weird as hell.

Before we enter too far into his story, we flash back to over a month previously where we see Jen, her boyfriend Darius ( Adain Bradley) and their friends Adam (Dylan McTee), Luis (Adrian Favela), Milla (Emma Dumont) and Gary (Vardaan Arora) in the same small town ready to hike along the Appalachian trail… when unfortunately, they make a… you guessed it… WRONG TURN!!!

Very quickly, one of the party of friends is killed by a falling log which panics the others and causes them to run off the trail, making them lost even deeper in the woods. They camp overnight and in the morning, Adam finds that his girlfriend Milla has disappeared, and is caught by some weird forest dwellers in a trap. The rest of the friends confront the strangers, who don’t seem to understand them, and after Adam is untied, he kills one of them with a makeshift club, furnished from a dropped branch.

The death of one of their own upsets the other member of the forest family, and very quickly, they are pursued by their associates, whom the friends find out are part of something called The Foundation, a group who live hidden in the mountains, patiently waiting for the fall of America.

I think the biggest problem with this film is the use of the title Wrong Turn! It seems to have suffered a bit on many of the online reviews but I imagine that was due to the fact that this is in NO WAY a sequel. A better way to have sold this film would have been to have promoted it as ‘from the mind of the writer of Wrong Turn’ with the simple title of ‘The Foundation’. Franchise fans would have been extraordinarily pissed of, I imagine, when they found this to be not even slightly associated.

I, however, found this film to be a breath of fresh air, and for some reason was reminded of Jordan Peele’s films. Thematically they are different, and I can’t explain why it reminded me of them… maybe in the way it was filmed, I’m not sure, but I also was reminded of 2014’s Welp aka Cub from Jonas Govaerts, due to its environment and its constant feeling of moisture and claustrophobia.

The direction is great and the ‘hero’ group feel far more like real people than franchise victims. The bad guys are suitably scary, and their actions justified rather than just moustache twirling evil-for-evil-sakes types. The main villain, Venable, played by Bill Sage, has an oppressive presence, though for me I’m afraid that someone who is a wood dwelling priest-like character, his hair was far too well-groomed, and that’s possible my only criticism.

This film is less a horror movie, and more the cinema version of a Far Cry movie… and I don’t mean the god awful Uwe Boll one staring Til Schweiger and Udo Kier! It travels along a quite the clip, and is full of surprises. I can’t recommend it enough.

Score: *****

Extras: Not a brass razoo!

Score: 0

WISIA: I’ve watched it twice already, so yes!

Death of Me (2020)

Death of Me (2020)

Film: I’d like to say I’m a fan of Darren Lynn Bousman, but I just can’t. For me, his output has been massively hit or miss for me. I loved his additions to the Saw saga, and the Mother’s Day remake (was it REALLY a remake? I’m not sure), but films like St. Agatha completely missed the mark.

There’s no doubt he has a great visual eye and he gets good performances from his actors, but I think occasionally the stories are duds, and that reflects on him.

This film, Death of Me sits smack bang in the middle of the two extremes.

Death of Me tells the story of Christine (Maggie Q) and her husband, travel writer Neil (Luke Hemsworth… how many Hemsworths are there?!? There seems to be more than the Baldwins and Daddos combined) are staying at a small AirBnB on a remote island in Thailand when something strange happens.

The film opens with our couple waking up in their room which has been destroyed. There is mud everywhere and they are both filthy. They do some investigation and find a two hour video on the memory card, which shows them both doing shots in a small bar, before finding themselves outside the AirBnB, where Neil rapes Christine, strangles her, and then remorsefully buries her right there and then.

If he killed her though, how is she still alive? Christine seems to be getting strangely sicker too, with her vomiting up grass and dirt initially, followed by a small snake, and the local doctor, suggested to them by the owner of the AirBnB, Samantha (Alex Esso, from Starry Eyes and Doctor Sleep), tells her that there is nothing wrong.

They continue their investigations until Neil suddenly goes missing after Christine seemingly witnessed him committing suicide on a nearby dock, and then it starts to get REALLY weird… but how is it all tied into the weird necklace, and the threat of an incoming typhoon?

Easily the two best things about this film are the location, which was filmed in Thailand and looks so lush and fresh that it’s almost unbearable, and the casting of Maggie Q, an actor I have adored since I saw her in Naked Weapon and followed her career through various Die Hards and Mission Impossibles.

Another point on the location: Bousman does a fantastic job at mixed the wide open spaces and beautiful landscapes, with some really claustrophobic interiors that make for an occasional effectively creepy scene.

Now the problems: the story is somewhat bland. It’s clearly influenced by films like The Wicker Man (even to the point one of the characters even references it) with its ‘strangers in a strange land/ odd locals’ theme but it just doesn’t resonate, and the Carrie styled ending is a little bit daft too. Hemsworth probably wasn’t the greatest companion for Q either; she is far to strong an actor and he is somewhat pedestrian.

It’s a shame. This film could have possibly been great, but it just flapped around, not really doing anything extraordinary.

Score: *1/2

Extras: Nothing. Sorry.

Score: 0

WISIA: No.

The Haunting (1999)

Film: The 90s were a time where horror was really suffering. The idea of creating a franchise rather than good, quality horror, due to the popularity of Jason, Michael and Freddy, had become paramount to the studios and it didn’t kill the genre, but it certainly put it on life support.

The Blair Witch Project was a clever manipulation of the general populace with a crappy film made interesting by the suggestion that is was real, and many people fell for it. It want u til Scream thoigh that Wes Craven really pulled horror back from being like westerns or musicals: only made now and again for nostalgias sake.

Another thing that saved horror in the late 90s and early 2000s was the remake, the idea that taking an older film and redoing it. Not a new idea surely, especially when you consider the popularity of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Chuck Russell’s The Blob. Also, taking a film from another country and making an English version of it seemed to really give the genre a kick in the pants. Yep, remakes were the way to go…

Unfortunately, and I’m burying the lead here, The Haunting possibly wasn’t a great choice.

The Haunting is a close to the book film, based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and this version was written by Road to Perdition’s David Self and directed by Speed’s Jan De Bont.

It’s tells of Nell (Lili Taylor) who after 11 years of taking care of her ill mother, has joined a group including Theo (Catherine Zeta Jones) and Luke (Owen Wilson) of people with sleep disorders, collected together by Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson), at Hill House, a beautiful old mansion with a hidden secret.

The house isn’t the only thing Wilma secret though, Dr. Marrow hasn’t brought them to the house for an insomnia study… no, he had brought them together to study fear, and house suggestions can make the human mind create a false narrative, but what he didn’t expect was that the house MIGHT just actually be haunted…

This film starts of with a casting choice that’s pretty impressive. Taylor, Neeson and Zeta Jones are really quite adept at the character archetypes they create (the shut-in, the nutty doctor and the slut) but unfortunately Wilson sticks out like a sore thumb. Sure he’s fun in the comedies he’s been in, but here he feels like he’s taking nothing seriously. I’m not sure if De Bont thought he could take the bone-headed surfer dude-type and make him a serious actor route again, like he did with Keanu Reeves in Speed, but it doesn’t work here. He seems to take none of it seriously, and that’s a detriment to the story, which is a shame because with the right cast this could have been ok… even a challenger to the other remake about a haunted house that came out at a similar time, The House on Haunted Hill.

It is, however, nice to see cameos from Marian Seldes and Bruce Dern.

Unfortunately the visual aspirations of the film were possibly a little high too. There are several cgi effects that are so bad… SO BAD… that it’s hard to take the film seriously. I’m not a fan of bagging a film too much due to its effects, I’ve seen some films with truly DIRE special effects, but these are really horrible. A product of the time, sure, but terrible.

On the flipside if that, the set design is grand, and majestic, and overdone as some if those old mansions were!

It’s final and main problem is it’s just not good! The story is fine, but the jump scares aren’t jump scares, and the slow burn scares just don’t work. It’s never truly a scary film as a movie about scary ghosts SHOULD be!

Another issue I have with this film is the packaging. Lili Taylor is clearly the star of this film, but she is 4th billed on the cover, and in the original marketing. She’s a fine actor and that’s a bloody crime!

On a good note though is the quality of this Bluray. The image is super bright and crisp and presented in a 2.35:1 image, and the audio, which will really work out your bass channel, is presented in Dolby DTS-HD MA 5.1.

Even though the accuracy to the novel is lacking, the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House is a more entertaining prospect, you’d honestly be better off watching that.

Score: **1/2

Extras: Absolutely nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s not really very interesting, so no.

Video Nasties: Draconian Days aka Video Nasties The Definitive Guide: Part 2 (2014)

Film: I wonder if Jake West realised that his first documentary about banned films, called Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Video Tape, was going to be such an amazing piece of work. I have to say that there is probably only two documentary films series that I really could watch as much as I watch regular cinema, they are these two films, and a Gary Hustwit series of three films called Helvetica, Objectified and Urbanised (a loose series starting with regular things we see every day, but looked at from a design point of view (if you haven’t seen them, give them a watch!))

The first film in this series, reviewed elsewhere on this very site, dealt with the banned films of the so-called ‘video nasty’ era in the UK, whereas this film deals with the fallout; the censorship and movie classification under the direction of the Secretary of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), James Ferman.

It’s an interesting look at the pointlessness of having both censorship and classification, as they don’t work together: why have an age related classification of (18) if you are then going to cut it?

It makes no sense.

The reasoning behind it damaging people psychologically wasn’t proven then, and nor is it proven now… and if these films are so bad, why do the censors get to watch them? What makes THEM above us… and why is age a level for censorship? I know immature 50 year olds (I am one) and I’ve observed 20 years old far more mature than me… and hang on, what is maturity anyways?

It also steeps into the specifics of ridiculousness of some decisions. For example, nunchucks and ninja stars were seen as problematic weapons for films, so those films were rejected or edited. This led to cuts made to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze.

Yep.

It would seem that Ferman’s rule seemed to become an excuse for him to exert his lost career as a director and re-cut others films. One of his criticisms claims he made ‘censorship by stealth’.

This film features interviews with everyone involved, from ex-BBFC employees, government officials, film-makers, film journalists and so many others that it presents a quite an even discussion about censorship, especially considering some of the interviewees have such varied opinions about what is ‘good’ censorship, and when does it become borderline fascism? There is also a lot of supplementary material from the time that shows how moral panic can lead to dangerous societal results.

This documentary seems to be far more relevant now with the rise of the so-called ‘cancel culture’. Is it right to delete art because it doesn’t stand up to current standards? If we delete prejudice and violence will it change our state of thought or are those things printed on some of our DNA strands?

I’m just a guy who likes movies so don’t look at me for the answers!

All in all it’s a fascinating look at archaic laws, how some politicians who believe themselves to be better educated than you DECIDE what is good for you, and just how quickly power can corrupt anyone.

The image and sound on this disc aren’t great, but it’s just talking heads so the need for hi-def, 1080hp with super duper surround sound probably isn’t needed.

Score: ****

Video: **

Audio: **

Extras: Oh did you want extras? Well, buckle up, sunshine!

Disc 1 has a series of slideshows: the first is a selection of fanzines who traded in illegal video tapes, then we have DPP72 and DPP82 which show the covers of films banned/ almost banned.

This disc also has trailers for The Playgirls and the Vampire, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2, Night of the Bloody Apes, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Dead of Night, Cannibal Girls, Teaserama, Varitease, Ghost Story, Bloodbath at the House of Death, Fausto 5.0, Gwendoline, Between Your Legs, Cruel Passion, Escort Girls, Some Like It Sexy, Fantasm, Fantasm Comes Again, The Good Little Girls, Justine’s Hit Nights, Scandalous Photos, Dressage and Education Anglaise. (Though both Fantasm and Fantasm Comes Again attach to the same trailer, which is a bummer)

There is also a couple of Easter eggs that feature images of programs and passes from various film festivals, and a short film “It’s Just A Movie’.

Disc 2 and 3 have, in total, about 10 hours of trailers (which for length-of-review reasons I won’t list them all) of the Section 3 video nasties, with introductions.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s fascinating and a great supplement to the first documentary, but meanders a little. That hasn’t stopped me from giving it several watches.

Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser (1987)

Film: I may be a little old and set in my ways, but I am willing to listen to alternate opinions and think about stuff that I may not agree with, and can sometimes even be swayed. There is a caveat though: one thing I have to assure you about is I will never EVER be convinced that the 80s WASN’T The best time for horror!

Because it was.

100%.

Truly the 80s were one of the generations of horror when legends were built, not just in film, but also in literature. Clive Barker is certainly one of those legends. Not just with his selection of six volumes of horror short stories The Books of Blood, but also with his debut directorial effort (also based on his novella The Hellbound Heart, first published in volume 3 of the Dark Visions anthology series of books) Hellraiser, described by the reviewer for Melody Maker magazine as the greatest British horror film ever made.

Hellraiser tells of Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife Julia (Clare Higgins) who are moving into his abandoned parents house after his mother’s passing. They find that his brother Frank (Sean Chapman) a ne’er-do-well who is also Julia’s adulterous partner, unbeknownst to Larry, has been staying there but now appears to be missing… and seemingly in a hurry…

What they don’t realise is that Frank was the recipient of a mystical puzzle box called The Lament Configuration, which opens a door to Hell and drags you in. When Larry cuts his hand whilst moving in, his blood dripping onto the floor allows Frank (now a skinless monster, played by Oliver Smith) a door to escape from Hell, but he requires more blood to regain his full human appearance, and Clare is more than happy to spend her days luring men back to the house for him to consume from his hideout in the house’s attic.

He does eventually reveal himself to Larry’s daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Lawrence) who escapes his clutches and steals the puzzle box, accidentally activating it and releasing Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and fellow Cenobites, creatures who collect the souls of people, offering them an opportunity to feel the ultimate ecstasy. Instead of taking her though, Kirsty offers them Frank, whom they don’t believe managed to escape Hell… so it’s up to Kirsty to prove to them who he is.

I still remember seeing the trailer for this at a Village cinema in Sydney, and even that creeping me out, so when it finally arrived I couldn’t wait to see it, and I was thrilled by what I saw. For me, horror before this has been either monsters or slashers, and this film certainly opened my eyes to a different form of horror, and how in the right hands, a low-budget film could be just as, if not more thrilling than the biggest of blockbusters.

This film has quality thrills, great acting and a solid storyline that’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. Of all the big guns of 80s horror, Hellraiser is certainly one of the biggest, and shouldn’t be missed. The sequels, of course, get lesser as they go on and honestly, if you must watch any of the 9-odd films, you should watch the first three, and then stop.

Score: *****

Format: The quality of the feature seems to be only slightly above that of a DVD release, but it’s 1.77:1 image and Dolby HD-DTS Master Audio 5.1 sound do the job.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Whilst Umbrella used to be the legends of extras, they seem to care less about it now.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s a classic and deserves to be rewatched regularly. Mind you it also deserves a more complete package of extras so THIS release might not be the one to get!