Undead (2003)

Undead (2003)

The cover to Umbrella’s Beyond Genres release of Undead

Film: As far as horror is concerned, the early 2000s can be defined in two sub-genres: j-horror and zombie movies.

It was truly like someone had turned on the tap for wet-looking Japanese ghosts, blue filters and the undead… or in this case Undead.

The Americans and the English were all over the zombie sub-genre, and we got lots of stuff like Zach Snyder’s remake of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Romero’s second, less-successful zombie trilogy of Land, Diary and Survival, Paul W. S. Anderson’s movie version of the video game Resident Evil (and it’s sequels), Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool. Zombies became so popular that they were everywhere and in everything!

Our heroine, René (Felicity Mason)

The Australian writer/ director team, The Spierig Brothers (Peter and Michael) came together to make a film based on their home movie trilogy Attack of the Undead, and what they gave us was quite revolutionary.

Undead tells the story of a small town in Australia that has meteors hit, and cause an outbreak of zombies in the town! A small group of people, including the local gun shop owner Marion (Mungo McKay), a former beauty queen, René (Felicity Mason), local cops Harrison (Dirk Hunter) and Molly (Emma Randall), current (and pregnant local beauty queen Sallyanne (Lisa Cunningham) and her boyfriend Wayne (Rob Jenkins), do their best to survive the night, but zombies don’t seem to be their only problem.

A giant steel wall has encased the town, rendering it inescapable, and a weird rain that causes them to smoke also starts descending… and what are those strange lights seemingly abducting people in the sky…

A little girl zombie well before The Walking Dead did it

Undead starts as a fairly familiar zombie story, but we are well and truly shown why the dead are returning to life. To top that off, is we are also presented with a solution that at first appears to not be that at all. It’s very clever and a nice complete story that doesn’t end with a continuing threat of an apocalyptic future, or the lead players all just getting killed by circumstances.

The story has a lot of fun and comedic elements and easily one of my favourite lines from a movie comes from this film, spoken by Dirk Hunter in a scene where the survivors are defending Marion’s house from the undead… you’ll know it when you hear it… and situationally, some of the comedy is pretty funny too.

This is a part of Umbrella Entertainment’s Beyond Genres collection and has another amazing cover by Australian artist Simon Sherry.

I loved this film when it first came out, but unfortunately, it just hasn’t held up. It’s very Australian so the power of cultural cringe is high, but that honestly is part of the comedy of it, so it’s not why my opinion has changed. I think it may be because when I saw this film I had aspirations of making movies myself, and I was more impressed with their tenacity to get this film made. Now that I don’t have those aspirations I’m not as interested. It’s still a tribute to the brothers’ inventiveness, but I’m more interested in the actual story than the story behind it.

I do admit the triple barrelled shotgun is still really cool.

Score: **

The menu screen to the Bluray release of Unded

Extras: A great collection of extras that were previously available on the DVD release of several years ago, which include:

Audio commentary by directors Peter and Michael Spierig with cinematographer Andy Strahorn and it’s a good commentary for young independent filmmakers to watch to get the idea of how hard making films can be. A very interesting commentary indeed!

On the Set of Undead is literally just that; some behind the scenes footage of how the film was made, with an occasional bit of introduction by some of the cast and crew.

Attack of the Undead – a Short Film is the first from there indie trilogy which includes Attack, Rampage and Massacre of the Undead. It’s silly and dumb and exactly what you’d expect from young filmmakers.

The Making of Undead looks at the making of the film and where the Spierig’s inspiration came from, which as you expect, was from $1 horror hires from the local video shop.

Home Made Dolly Video is what independent filmmaking is all about. Ingenuity and desperation and making the most of your skill set for the result you desire. They show the design and process of how they built a dolly crane, and in a way that can only be described as ‘dinky-di’, how they welding it with no shirts on. Tough buggers.

Undead Camera and Make Up Tests looks at how the zombie make up and how it would look under various light sources and types.

Stills Gallery is photos… like in a book. Go buy a book instead of wasting your time watching this. Slideshows are boring: didn’t your grandparents holidays teach you anything?

Theatrical Trailer is exactly what it says on the box.

The Umbrella Beyond Genres release also comes with a copy of the soundtrack on CD and I love me a soundtrack!

Score: ****

WISIA: When this first came out it was a definite rewatcher for me, but it’s hasn’t aged well, so not anymore. This will probably be my last watch.

More dead people

This movie was provided by Umbrella Entertainment for review

Kraken Attack

Kraken Attack

Kraken Attack from Loki!

One of the great thing about having children is that you can mold them into being little versions of yourself. Being a horror fan is a difficult thing though, because you don’t want to say to your six year old ‘ok, sit down. It’s time you watched Human Centipede.’ The best way to develop your child into a monster kid is through stuff like Scooby Doo, and getting them to play games that have monster themes, like this one, Kraken Attack.

Kraken Attack is a co-operative game, which means the players work with each other against the game, and everyone plays a different pirate on a pirate ship getting attacked by a kraken. The pirates win if they injure the kraken three times, and the players are beaten if the kraken hits the ship four times.

The Kraken and it’s tentacles

The set up for the game is fairly simple. Each player (from one to four) picks a pirate and takes their accompanying deck of cards. The board is then set up with eight ship pieces put on the ‘ship’ part of the board, eight tentacle pieces put on eight side of the board in their starting rows, labeled with canons, guns or cutlasses and the kraken itself put into the it’s own board, separate to the main board, with some extra dice that will eventually pop up as the kraken wanders down the track that’s printed there…

… but more on that later.

Each player starts each turn with two cards from their deck face up in front of them. They roll the dice, one red and one blue, which have images of various sea creatures that represent rows that the Kraken’s tentacles are on, and move the respective tentacle along the row closer to the ship.

The cards!

Each column that the tentacles movie along are labelled with a canon, a gun and a sword, which are the weapons required to send it back to the beginning of the row. On each turn they can play the actions on their card which can be a combination of:

Hammer – repair the ship (after a tentacle attacks)

Boot – move in the deck

A cutlass, gun or canon – stop the tentacle on that row

The player can choose to do any or all of these actions, and depending on their character, can sometimes perform one of the actions more than once. If they are able to hit a tentacle on the row they are on, the tentacle goes back to the beginning of the row, ready to strike again at any chance.

The dice!

Also on each card is a porthole, and if that porthole has a funny face in it, the kraken gets angry, it moves along its personal board. Every time it hits a space with an extra dice in it, that dice is added to the dice pool so on every turn, more dice are rolled, activating more tentacles and making keeping the ship afloat more difficult.

This continues with each player taking their turns and trying to keep the tentacles away because if the ship gets hit four times and it isn’t repaired, the ship sinks and the kraken wins! Once the kraken gets to the end of its board it replaces one of the tentacles and starts attacking the ship personally, but if you wound it three times, the players win!

You may have noticed that I said the game plays from a minimum of one, which means it has a solo mode! You want your kid off the TV/ computer/ iPad but don’t have time to play a game with them yourself? Well this game has a solo mode that makes for a fun distraction for one bored child!

A 2 player game set-up and ready to play!

We love co-operative games in my house. I think it’s because we are all pretty good team players and are willing to take advice from others before playing our turn. This can occasionally cause something called ‘quarterbacking’, where one player tries to control the other’s actions, and because children are adorable little egotists, an older player might need to make an dictatorship game more of a democracy by making sure all the players get a chance to speak.

It’s great to play with children because it’s an all-win or all-lose situation, so none of them will feel singled out. The pieces are all wonderful looking toys that are inviting to play with. It’s simple to learn and really fun to play.

I honestly can’t talk this game up enough. I think Loki really outdid themselves with both the game and the components. It is a kids game, but my gaming group have found it’s just as good a game for adults who would like to play something co-operative, but don’t have the time for a game of something like Pandemic.

Score: ****

Night Killer (1990)

Night Killer (1990)

The cover to Severin;s release of Night Killer

Film: By the time the 80s had ended, there was a big problem with horror movies. Very few big movies were made as that one shot scare film because studios wanted not quality cinema, but that dreaded word that is banded around in this world of Marvels and Star Warses: ‘the franchise’.

It was our fault! We fell so in love with the big characters of the time: Freddy, Michael, Jason, Norman, Leatherface and others that the problem was one WE created, and as expected, every studio, instead of trying to be trailblazers, decided to take the weaker path of least resistance and they all just tried to come up with another franchise character.

The want of a franchise wasn’t just an American thing either, it existed in some countries, like Italy, where they would occasionally just bash a film together, and then whack a sequel used title on it to market it as one of those franchises, and why not? If we, the movie watchers were silly enough to spend our hard-earned on it, why not live the motto ‘a fool and his money are easily parted’.

That manipulation of moviegoers has been going on for years, and the retitling of films to expand its release opportunities was rife all over, and for much longer than in the 80s, and this film, Night Killer, also known as Non Aprite Quella Porta 3, which means Don’t Open the Door 3, shows that even entering the 90s, it was still happening, especially considering that name suggested it was a part of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, called ’Don’t Open the Door’ there.

The plot clearly has nothing to do with the TCM series, as it’s tells of a masked killer (described erroneously in various online media as ‘a Freddy Krueger’ mask – it’s definitely not) who is killing women in the city, but one, Melanie (Tara Buckman) has survived and may be the secret to solving the case.

After the attack, of which she has no memory, she becomes self-destructive and wishes to commit suicide, but a total bullying douchebag of a man who tried to pick her up, Axel (Peter Hooten), witnesses her attempt and saves her, only to keep her imprisoned in his house himself.

Described everywhere as ‘ a Freddy mask’… have they SEEN Nightmare on Elm Street?

Meanwhile, the killer , full of bravado, continues his killing spree,but will Melanie’s memories come back and help with the investigation, and what is Axel’s secret… is he really what he appears to be?

The director, Claudio Fragrasso wanted to make a film that mixed the slasher and giallo sub genres of horror together but wanted it to be less a girl film and more a thriller. This, as is the old story, was not what the producers wanted so they hired Bruno Mattai to drop in some gore inserts and then instead of using Fragrasso title of Night Killer, they attempted to incorporate it into the TCM series, as I stated earlier.

The cops shakedown a scumbag motel owner

I don’t think the gore scene are out of sorts within the film though, what is a problem is the absolutely shocking performances by the leads. There is only seven cast listed and I imagine it might be because the rest were embarrassed to allow their name to be attached to it.

The plot is mostly nonsense, and I’m not saying that I necessarily thought that a slasher from the 90s was going to be a plot driven masterpiece, but this is a mess that feels like the writer wanted to do a film version of Steven King’s Misery/ Gerald’s Game in a fairly sub-standard giallo-esque film, all the while attempting some kind of psychological hoo-ha about guilt, suicide, amnesia and maybe even Stockholm Syndrome.

I mean, I’m no psychologist myself, but it all appears to be surface level, unresearched bollocks.

Amongst of all that it wasn’t such a bad watch. It probably says more about me than I want it to, but amongst the gore and the misogyny and even the bad acting and stupid mask, I can honestly see this becoming a part of my regular rotation, even though it does have an even dumber, Brian DePalma Carrie ending that should have been cast into the ‘ideas that are stupid’ bin.

Score: **1/2

The menu screen to the Severin Bluray release

Extras: Only three extras on this Severin release, and the titles of them all tell exactly what the contents of the extra are. The first two extras, The Virginia Claw Massacre – Interview with Director Claudio Fragrasso and Mindfuck – Interview with Screenwriter Rossella Drudi each discuss the various production and behind the scenes tales of the film.

There is also the trailer for the film.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: It’s just weirdly bizarre enough for me to watch it again. Yeah, it will get rewatched.

A little something for the beefcake fandom

Stupid Deaths: The Frightfully Funny Game

Stupid Deaths: The Frightfully Funny Game

Stupid Deaths from University Games

Once, there was a movie starring future all-round-adorable-guy Keanu Reeves, and in that film was a character called Socrates, who once said:’ Death may be the greatest of all human blessings”.

He was possibly right, and I suppose we’ll all find out eventually, except for those who end up suffering Stupid Deaths, who may find out sooner than they would like… and for our amusement.

Stupid Deaths is a 2 to 6 player game that FEELS like a trivia game, but isn’t.

In Stupid Deaths, the board has 24 spaces set in a circle, and at one end of the board is a green space, where you, the player, will lay your coloured token, and opposite is a red space, where Death awaits, hungry for your life.

In addition to your player piece, you are also offered an extra life token, and two coffin shaped cards, one with ‘TRUE’ written on it, and the other with ‘FALSE’.

The VERY thematic true/ false cards

The gameplay is really simple! On each turn, one player draws one of the three hundred cards, and reads the horribly stupid death that some poor soul has endured. The other players decide, using their true/ false cards, where their belief of the text lies. If they are correct, they get to move one space, if they are incorrect, Death moves one space towards them. If every player chooses incorrectly, the person asking the question gets to move two spaces. Play continues with the card reader going around the table so each player gets to do it.

An example of the stories on the cards

If the Death token reaches or passes a player, that player has been ‘touched by Death’ and is out of the game UNLESS they have an extra life token… remember, the one you got at the beginning of the game… in which case, that player get to go one space in front of death, given an opportunity to stay in the game.

The winner of the game is either the first to reach the red space, or is the last one standing after everyone else has had Death surpass them.

I always have an issue with games that are not on-point with their theme, and I have to say that this game looks does match its theme. It has a stark aesthetic that works perfectly, with skulls and coffins all over the place, and a predominantly black board, and a pretty cute little Death standee. All of this is packaged in a pretty cool gravestone shaped box.

A game ready to be played

NB: there is a cheaper version of the game with the same name that comes in a coffin shaped tin, but it has no board or pieces and only 90 cards. It can be played by itself, or the cards can be added to this version for more deaths to choose from.

It sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s not. To its credit, Stupid Deaths does know it has a limited lifespan, as regular gamers will start to remember the cards and that reduces the competitiveness of the game, but it’s not very expensive, so if you aren’t too worried about world wide resources, I guess it’s ok value? Seriously though, you might get 8 games out of it before it starts to get a little samey.

The other thing is the mechanic of player elimination. Once a player has had both their lives lost, they don’t get to play the game anymore. I understand that the game shouldn’t run much longer than 20 or 30 minutes, but who wants to sit on their hands during a board game night. Player elimination is the opposite of fun.

Also, the box suggests 2 to 6 players: at 2 players this game is absolutely terrible; you would honestly be better watching 30 minutes of Fail Army on Youtube, which would garner the same ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as the stories on these cards will.

Whilst the cards a funny and the black humour is suitably dark, it’s not much of a game. It feels like someone watched a Darwin Awards video and went ‘ I could make a game of that.’

Score: *

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

The cover to the Australian Blu-ray release of Jennifer’s Body

In the town of Devil’s Kettle live a couple of girls who have been friends their whole lives: superhot Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) and bookish Needy Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried). Needy has always been the foil of Jennifer’s whims, and more or less does everything she wants her to. Our story sees the two girls, under Jennifer’s instruction going to a local dive bar to see a band from the city, Low Shoulder, led by the quirky Nikolai (Adam Brody). After a fire burns the bar to the ground, a slightly in shock Jennifer takes up Nikolai’s offer of a ride in his band’s van. Needy does NOT take him up on the offer.

Jennifer (Megan Fox).

Later that night, Needy is at home when Jennifer turns up, covered in blood, and clearly in a worse state of shock that she was after the fire. Of course Needy immediately thinks that something horrible has happened to her, but what HAS happened is a lot worse than anything Needy could have imagined.

Jennifer is no longer the same girl as what she used to be: no, Jennifer is now a succubus, needing the flesh of men to sustain her beauty, and when she doesn’t consume, she starts to, well, go off. Unfortunately for Needy, their lifelong friendship has given them somewhat of a connection, and the burden of Jennifer’s secret plays on Needy’s conscience… especially when Jennifer’s deadly affections turn to Needy’s boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons).

What will she do? How did Jennifer get like this? Can any of them be saved?

A stressed looking Needy (Amanda Seyfried)

Diablo Cody, writer of indie smash hit film Juno, is responsible for the script for this film (and has a cameo as a bartender) and whilst her story and dialogue in that film was a pleasure, this feels a little forced, whether that is the fault of the performances or the script I am not sure, but it really feels like the script is deliberately trying to ‘speak’ to the youth of the time. I found that the script for Jennifer’s Body affected me the same way that Kevin Smith’s and Joss Whedon’s body of work did: at first I found them to be a breath of fresh air, but eventually found that someone had dropped an egg fart in my breathing space.

The director, Karyn Kusama, who previously directed Aeon Flux and Girlfight, has a wonderful eye. Visually this film is of a high standard:  the images of the waterfall, called Devil’s Kettle Falls, of which the town gets its name, which empties into in a glacial pothole in Judge C. R. Magney State Park in Minnesota, USA are as off-putting as they are amazing.  The whole film is a pleasure to look at, and not just because of Fox and Seyfried. Kusama has set some scenes whose colors should never work together, and yet somehow do.

 Every shot of the cast is amazing as well. Kusama has created this lush portraiture style that really shots the cast off well, and when you consider that cinema can potentially have a person’s face on a screen roughly 30 foot buy 70 foot, that’s brave because there is no hiding any imperfections one might have, and when you consider that for most actors their face is their fortune… wow!

The director has left some fun and occasionally clever visual cues here and there as well, such as a character playing a pinball machine called ‘Fire’ just before a fire breaks out, and the fact that the school is performing ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’, another tale of sisterly murder and betrayal. There are others, but I’ll let you find them.

Megan Fox deserves a lot of credit for the efforts she went to in this performance. She lost weight for the role, so when the succubus needs to look hungry, the make up applied makes Fox looks really sick and emaciated. It is a brave decision for a then young actress to allow herself to look repulsive when you consider that her acting ability may NOT be the reason for her popularity.

Also keep your eyes open for some interesting cameos, including everyone’s favorite artificial human Lance Henrickson, and J. K. Simmons sporting the ultimate hair-don’t!

I did enjoy this film, but essentially it was nothing more than a distraction with an OK story helped by Seyfried and Fox’s characters unusual connection. It seems to be a metaphor for when one grows out of their friends, and sometimes we do. Diablo Cody’s writing showed some real promise with Juno but feels a bit lackluster here: the direction and cinematography is a highpoint.

Score: **1/2

The menu to Jennifer’s Body

Extras:

There is a series of deleted scenes, titled Dead Boys, Jennifer Check is Gross, Needy Confronts Jennifer, Who’s Cindy Crawford, Needy Faces the Band and Ass, Gas or Grass. As expected, these scenes are superfluous and the film is better off without them.

We also have quite possibly one of the worst gag reels ever. Normally I get a bit of a laugh from these things, but nothing at all with these ones.

Score: **

WISIA: I think Fox and Seyfried are charming enough to make this a re-watcher, but not a regular one… honestly, this is probably the first time I’ve watched it in ten years.

Jennifer loves a yummy boy!

This review was done with the Australian bluray release of the film.

Top Trumps: Unofficial Guide to 30 Scary Flix

Top Trumps: Unofficial Guide to 30 Scary Flix

The cover to Top Trumps Unofficial Guide to Scary Flix

I don’t know where they came from, but I always seem to have had copies of the card game Top Trumps in my house. Maybe they came from overseas relatives along with my Beano annuals, or maybe friends bought them for me, but either way, I became the Top Trumps guy. I liked collecting tradings cards, and Top Trumps was like getting a full set all in one go.

I rediscovered them in the early 2000s when my daughter became of that discovering games age, also it was pretty cool to revisit the collection, and buy some new decks, and we started getting titles like Top Gear, DC superheroes and all the Doctor Who ones… yeah, ‘HER’ collection!

(NB: one of those Doctor Who decks has one of the most interesting cards in all of my 520 board and card games… Hitler! Yikes!)

Obviously, Amazon knows what I buy and has seen, over the years, my consumption of many decks of sets of Top Trumps, in combination with my massive horror consumption, led the algorithm to suggest this to me: Top Trumps Unofficial Guide to 30 Scary Flix.

There’s only 30 cards so the game isn’t too taxing on the brain

The rules to Top Trumps are quite simple. The aim of the game is to have all of the cards in your hand, but how do we do that in Top Trumps?

The cards are dealt evenly amongst all the players and each player holds their personal deck so they can only see the top card. Each card has a series of stats on them, in this case Budget (in millions of $), Survival Rate, Sequels & Prequels, Cult Status, Soundtrack and Fear Factor, and the first player reads out a stat of their choice. All the players compare that stat, and the one with the highest score wins all the other players cards, and places them on the bottom of their personal deck. The winner then gets to choose the next stat

If two cards have the same value, all those cards go into a pool and the same stat is picked for the next card, the winner gets all the cards including the ones in the pool.

The game is a very simple kids game, made mature by its choice of subject matter. It’s not going to tax ones brain, but occasionally a game can take so long that it may tax one’s patience. Like Monopoly, this isn’t really a game people play anymore, but collect due to the variety of geographical or pop culture themes added to it.

The plastic packaging is sturdy, and the cards are of a fairly robust nature, but there are a couple of problems. Some of the card images from the films aren’t very interesting, like the 28 Days Later card which just has an image of Cillian Murphy on a bridge. I think perhaps the movies posters may have been a better idea. There is also the grand idea of having a fun little Top Trumps File which has a little blurb about the movie… and I mean little. Like 64 words in a 3cm by 2 cm box little. Horror is so much scarier without eye strain!

A closer look at the card faces

The choices of movies are quite broad though. You would expect Nightmare on Elm St or Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but surprises like Ginger Snaps, Ringu and The Babadook are great to see.

This isn’t a game that an adult would play because it’s fun, but if, like me, you are curating a horror board and card game collection, it’s a good addition!

Score: *

The Legend of La Llorona (2022)

The Legend of La Llorona (2022)

The Australian DVD release of the film.

Film: In 2019, a sixth entry of The Conjuring series came out in cinemas, produced by James Wan, and starring Linda Cardellini, the woman who almost single-handedly turned Velma from Scooby Doo into the sexy nerd icon she is today whilst getting her glove on in the first Scooby Doo movie. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very well received and sits pretty low in most horror fans minds… even those that love the Conjuring as a series. Cardellini did, however, get nominated for ‘Most Frightened’ at the MTV Movie awards which she unfortunately didn’t win.

Surely I higher award doesn’t exist.

As one would expect, copycat films came out, usually direct to home video, and this is one of them. The Legend of La Llorona has an interesting pedigree, with the writing/ direction/ production team being responsible for such epic films as Alligator X, Sand Sharks and The Haunting of Whaley House. Surely this must mean poor acting, generic storytelling and credit fonts straight out of Microsoft Office.

Danny Trejo shares some amusing anecdotes…

Our tale is of the Candlewood family, Carly (Autumn Reeser), Andrew (Antonio Cupo) and their son, Danny (Nicolas Madrazo) who have taken a holiday to Mexico for a month in an attempt to get over the death of their baby.

They are taken to their villa by Jorge (Danny Trejo), a taxi driver who warns them that drug cartels are in control of the area, and to not stray too far from where they are staying.

At the villa they meet Veronica (Angelica Lara), who is disturbed that they have a son as Andrew did not mention they needed two rooms when they made the booking (I mean, what the hell? Have the writers NEVER booked a hotel?!?).

The distraught mother, played by Autumn Reeser

Of course, within minutes of arriving, Danny is attacked by what looks like a piece of floating toilet paper in a creek, but that’s not scary enough for his parents to leave him with Veronica, who they hadn’t met before today, while they go for dinner.

While at dinner, they run afoul of the local drug cartel boss, Pedro Pablo (Edgar Wuotto) and by the end of the night Danny has gone missing… but did the cartel kidnap him, or did the mysterious toilet paper, aka La Llorona, a ghost who steals children take him… more to the point, who actually cares?

There’s really no way to describe this film other than as an absolute piece of hot trash. Danny Trejo isn’t a bad actor, though he rarely has to stretch himself too far, but here he gets to lower his skill set to that of his accompanying cast.

Horror movies regularly use the whole ‘stranger in a strange land’ theme, but it really only works if the land isn’t filled with parodies of local that barely rise above that of a 1970s crime show. On several occasions I actually laughed out loud at the characters. The character with the name ‘Pedro Pablo’ was a particular high point of laffs: hopefully these filmmakers will get together and make an Italian based film starring a character named Michelangelo Linguini!

They even try to tap into other ‘spooky’ stuff by having some of the filming take place on that weird doll island, and by badly emulating Sam Raimi’s demon camera from Evil Dead!

Well, it might have been the acting, I can’t tell because they were both so bad.

Avoid.

Score: 0

The very empty menu screen to the film.

Extras: None. Thank goodness!

Score: 0

WISIA: Hell no: it’s a miserable piece of crap

Zamia Fandome a the spirit

This film was reviewed with the Australian DVD release

The Body Beneath (1970)

The Body Beneath (1970)

The cover to the Australian release on DVD of the film

Film: Probably known best for such horror and exploitation titles as The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! and Fleshpot on 42nd St., the late Andy Milligan, who died in 1991 of AIDS, was described as ‘the only director worse than Ed Wood’. Whilst that may be an exaggeration, Milligan’s films are incredibly low budget, but the sense of ‘camp’ within them makes them somehow humorous…and ominous. Milligan, a navy brat and dress-maker who ran the clothes shop Ad Lib in New York during the 50s, dabbled in stage productions until he finally made his first feature in 1965, a gay short film called The Vapors. From this humble beginning, he teamed up with producer William Mishkin, and together they made 11 features, sordid morality stories where the nasty antagonists are always faced with their come-uppances, which were often violent. In the late 60s, he moved to London where he made his exploitation horror flicks, including this feature, The Body Beneath also known as Vampire’s Thirst.

The Reverend Alexander Algernon Ford (Gavin Reed), an ancient vampire, who resides in Carfax Abbey, near Highgate Cemetery, close to three of his female descendants, requires the womb of one of his relatives. The lucky one being Susan (Jackie Skarvellis), to return the bloodline of the Ford family to its former glory by having her mate with strong fresh blood and give birth to immortal vampire babies. Assisted by his quiet wife, Alicia (Susan Heard), his hunchbacked Beatle-haired assistant Spool (Berwick Kaler) and a trio of green faced ghouls, the good reverend goes about organizing a vampire feast where their future is to be decided.

Clearly gay and proud, Andy Milligan’s life as been described as more bizarre than his movies, for example, to celebrate his marriage (yes, marriage) to one of his actresses, Candy Hammond, he cruised gay bars on Staten Island. Milligan’s movies, all filmed on left over film stock with a 16mm Auricon camera, are handheld horrors where ethics are thrown out the window. His flowing camera style crosses the line from claustrophobic and moody to occasionally downright annoying. His scripts, all inspired by great works (this one clearly being Dracula), are contrived but still acted quite well in a vaudevillian sense. Another note of interest with Milligan’s movies is that the more ornate costumes were made by himself under his alias Raffine. Watching this movie makes one feel as though they are watching a Hammer movie, filmed with a Carnival of Souls budget.

Camper than a row of tents, The Body Beneath somehow entertains, and proves that Milligan was no hack, but had an inimitable style. Not a movie for big budget blockbuster lovers, but with the vampires, cannibalism and immolation, fans of trash cinema will have a ball.

Score: **

The menu screen from the Australian DVD release of the film.

Extras: The Gallery of Exploitation Art is a great 6 minute montage of movie posters with a radio commercial soundtrack. Posters from films such as The Peeping Phantom, Fanny Hill Meets Dr Erotico and others are accompanied by radio commercials for The Female Butcher, The Girl Snatcher and companions of their ilk.

Trailers for Milligan’s films The Body Beneath, Guru the Mad Monk and The Vapors, which describes him as ‘the New Leader in Underground Filmmaking’.

The surprise on this disc is Milligan’s first short film, The Vapors. Running at 32 minutes and 20 seconds, the Vapors takes place in a gay bath house, where a young gay man meets an older married man, and they talk. Milligan’s epileptic camera work is particularly effective here, although the drama of the main part of the story is undercut by Benny Hill-ish queans over acting the gay stereotype with silly segues. Filmed in Black and white, The Vapors is a surprisingly moving tale.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s just silly enough that it does seem to be irresistible to rewatching.

The review was done with the Australian DVD release of the film.

X-Files: Circle of Truth

X-Files: Circle of Truth

The tiny wallet that contains the game from Buttonshy

Remember the TV show The X-Files?

It was a great mix of sci-fi and horror and took risks in storytelling that really opened the door for what we have in sci-fi and horror TV today. It even adapted as cast came and went and whilst every season wasn’t a hit, it mostly was intriguing and a good watch…

… and to say I had a crush on Dana Scully is an understatement.

The puzzling, investigative nature of the show lends itself wonderfully to board game mechanics, as investigation and puzzles are the cornerstone mechanics of many popular games. From RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, to solo games like Rush Hour, these are the mechanics that can enthral any number of players!

This means that several games have been based on the show, and this one, X-Files: Circle of Truth is a re-skinning of a puzzle game for two players from Buttonshy called Circle the Wagons. Buttonshy are known for ‘wallet games’; cheap, small number of player games that usually have very few pieces, this game has 18 cards and two player ID cards, but contain fun, or at least interesting distractions that only take 15 to 30 minutes to play.

Our heroic duo!

X-Files: Circle of Truth sees two players choose whether they want to be Mulder or Scully, each character has a different advantage that doesn’t make much difference at the beginning of the game so the choice is has little relevance until the game starts to play, but you should still keep your advantage in your mind while you select cards.

The other 18 cards have ‘cases’ on one side and 4 images of aliens, microscopes, guns and other things the FBI would use, on a variety of backgrounds representing ‘places’, like fields, sewers etc, and the game set up sees three cases picked for the middle of the table, and the other 15 cards placed with the 4 images facing up in a circle around them (‘Circle’ of Truth… see?).

The point of the game is to have the most points and points can be achieved in several ways. The first is by scoring the most amount of a particular location, for example, you would get 4 points if you have 4 sewer cards connection, but none for any other sewers. The cards with the 4 images on them are taken by the players and placed in front of them, and can be partially laid over each other in an attempt to make larger areas of the same location. The trick with the accumulation of these cards is that it’s taken in clockwise order.

A game in play.

The play is started in one position chosen by the second player, but if the first player particularly wants a card two cards away from the starting position, the first player gets the cards in between, creating a personal ‘map’ by laying the cards as mentioned above.

The other way to get points is if one of the mission cards in the middle of the circle in achieved, which could be if you have UFO logos in a row, or getting bonus points for any 4 files attached corner to corner in a square.

The game is quite fun, and quick to play. The Buttonshy games are clever in their tiny size with big gameplay execution, but I think that sometimes the cleverness is the selling point rather than the actual gameplay. This game is fun, sure, but the fact it’s a reskinned cowboy game means that other than the iconography, it’s not very thematic as an X-Files game.

Also, considering it’s a extremely portable game, it takes up a lot of room on a table, so it’s not very suitable as a game one might take to the pub. There are certainly games that are more fun that take up less room that are more thematic to their theme. Love Letter is the perfect example of a small game that alters its gameplay slightly to adhere to the theme of its reskinning, like the Thanos or Star Wars versions.

To summarise, I do like the game, but it’s theme is tacked on and for a ‘little’ game, it takes up a lot of space.

Score: ***

Studio 666 (2022)

Studio 666 (2022)

The cover to the Australian DVD release of Studio 666

Film: You know that when you get a movie starring a famous popular musical artist that your in for a treat, right? How good is Glitter, starring Mariah Carey… or Crossroads, with Britney Spears… or Spice World, with the Spice Girls…

Ok, I have to confess the Spice World movie is a guilty please, but I think you get the idea!

Dave (Dave Grohl) and his band, The Foo Fighters (played by… well The Foo Fighters) are trying to come up with something special and different for their tenth studio album. Their record company man, Jeremy Shill (Jeff Garlin) will do anything to get them to produce the new album so when they ask for a new studio environment, he gets his real estate agent, Barb (Leslie Grossman) to find them somewhere.

The Foo Fighters in all their glory!

What Barb finds them is a house in Encino that has a horrifying past, and very quickly, Dave starts seeing strange things and acting weird. The next door neighbour, Samantha (Whitney Cummings) tries to warn them of the house’s history, but has she come too late… well, of course she has!

This movie was written by Grohl and the a screenplay was adapted from it by the 2019 Pet Semetery remake writer, Jeff Buhler and Der Vulkan’s Rebecca Hughes. It’s director, BJ O’Donnell is best known for directing music clips for Slayer and other heavy metal bands, but was also responsible for Hatchet 3.

It’s certainly The Foo Fighters Show, and not only are they good at playing themselves, their comedy timing is impeccable and hilarious. It’s certainly a love letter to heavy metal, with a lot of new music played, and some amusing covers of old ones, including a hilarious scene where Grohl is abused by a dream version of Lionel Ritchie, PLAYED by Ritchie, for trying to steal his love ballad ‘Hello’!

Don’t think the guest stars stop there. In addition to Ritchie and a role played by comedian Cummings mentioned earlier, we also see a roadie named Krug (no doubt a reference to Last House on the Left) played by Kerry King, and the music producer, Rip Haight is played by director and composer extraordinaire John Carpenter, the joke being his characters name is an alias he has used occasionally when playing roles in his own films.

A tribute to The Burning

It’s a pretty solid story, both suitably gory and really funny at times. There is a lot of references to horror movies too, like Evil Dead, The Exorcist, The Burning and probably many more that I missed.

Studio 666 is an amazingly fun movie that would be a great double feature with something like Shaun of the Dead. This could have been an ego fuelled, cluster bomb of tripe but the entire production is a fun watch. The only two things that disappointed me were a lack of extras, and we only got a DVD release here in Australia.

Score: ****

The menu screen to the Australian DVD

Extras: There’s only one extra which is a gag reel, but for the first time in along time, it did actually get a chortle out of me here and there.

Score: **

WISIA: Hell, yeah! A gory horror comedy that’s ACTUALLY funny.

I’ve heard of ‘splitting the whisker’ but I don’t think this is right!

This review was done with the Australian DVD release.