Cold Eyes of Fear (1971)

Cold Eyes of Fear aka Gli Occhi Freddi Della Paura (1971)

The cover to the Black House release of Cold Eyes of Fear

Film: Sometimes, if you have an extensive movie collection, a movie may just seem to appear like some kind of Pokémon. Recently, I’ve been cleaning up my various collections of movies, records, comics, magazines etc and in the course of that have discovered a whole pile of movies that I had either forgotten I owned, or couldn’t remember how they became a part of my collection.

This film, Cold Eyes of Fear, is directed by Enzo G. Castellari, the man who gave us films like the original version of The Inglorious Bastards, and one of my favourite VHS to hire as a kid, 1990: The Bronx Warriors. This film was written by Castellari, along with Leo Anchóriz, and Tito Carpi.

Peter (Gianni Garko) makes a move on Anna (Giovanna Ralli)

Cold Eyes of Fear tells of solicitor Peter Bedell (Gianni Garko) who leans quite heavily into the sleazier parts of town, much to his uncle’s (Fernando Rey), who is a judge, despair. On the night we start our tale, Peter meets a young woman, Anna (Giovanna Ralli) at a Grand Guignol club and takes her home.

Unfortunately for the couple, when they get back to Peter’s house, they find themselves held prisoner by Quill (Julián Mateos), a crook who has invaded their house in a hope to score some money from a safe he has been assured is in the house by an accomplice.

There is some back and forth going on until the accomplice, Arthur Welt (Frank Wolff) turns up and all of the sudden the game gets more involved as we find that perhaps Welt’s motivation is greater than money…

Welt (Frank Wolff) considers making a move on Peter… a violent move!

I was quite surprised by this film. The opening scene is a classic bait-and-switch me is the sauciest the film gets. The main part of the film, the home invasion, is overlong, but is just intriguing enough that it kept me watching.

Interestingly it is an extraordinarily small script with minimal that without some of the fluff (like the aforementioned opening scene) I could almost believe that this is a stage play adapted to the screen, like something like The Bad Seed was. Thankfully, Castellari keeps the whole thing interesting with some claustrophobic filming and some over the top performances that somehow make the spaces even smaller.

One this that stood out for me, and this is going to seem strange, but Garko’s hair was almost a character unto itself. The more he was roughed up, the more bizarre the mop on top of his became. It’s quite a special thing.

The main criticism of the film is it just goes on for FAR to long. It honestly could have been a really tight story told in 45 minutes, but cinema cannot be that short. It does entertain for the most part though.

Score: ***

The menu screen of the Black House release

Extras: There is trailers for five Jean Rollin films on this disc, for Fascination, Lips of Blood, The Iron Rose, The Nude Vampire and The Shiver of the Vampire.

Score: **

WISIA: I can see myself watching this again, but not for a while.

Peter’s very serious uncle (Fernando Rey)

Preview: Midnight in the Switchgrass (2021)

Preview: Midnight in the Switchgrass (2021)

The cover to Eagle Entertainment’s release of the film

Film: I am very easily convinced into watching a film based on the stars involved in it, and even though the name ‘Midnight in the Switchgrass’ sounds like some nonsense from a Dr. Seuss book, I was able to overlook that when I saw that it starred Die Hard’s Bruce Willis, who I could watch in anything, and Megan Fox, an actor who I loved in Jennifer’s Body, Transformers (of which she was possibly the best thing) and her coquettish turn in the Simon Pegg flop How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, a film that I think is actually quite hilarious.

Megan Fox as Lombardo

This is the first film directed by Randall Emmett, a producer who has been involved in action movies like Boss Level and The Irishman, and was written (and produced) by newcomer Alan Horsnail, and is based on the murders of Robert Ben Rhodes, aka The Truck Stop Killer, a serial killer convicted of three murders, but is suspect of about 50 others, and who is still to this day in prison.

Bruce Willis as Karl Helter

Midnight in the Switchgrass tells of FBI agents Karl Helter (Bruce Willis) and Rebecca Lombardo (Megan Fox) who are hot on the tail of a sex trafficking ring when their investigation crosses paths with that of Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent, Byron Crawford (Emile Hirsch) who is investigating a series of missing/ murdered women.

Emilie Hirsch as Crawford

It’s around this time in the film that we are introduced to truck-driving family man, Peter (Lucas Haas) who has a horrible secret: he’s the murderer that Crawford is looking for!

Machine Gun Kelly as Calvin

The two agencies combine forces and information, some collected from sex trafficker Calvin (Machine Gun Kelly), and they start to close in, but will Lombardo’s undercover skills put her at risk?

This isn’t a bad film, but I do think it may be about 20 years too late. I’m sure this film would have been a pretty popular film then, but now, with TV shows that tell similar stories becoming so popular, it’s just out of time.

The heroes of the piece are definitely Hirsch with his wide-eyed cop who just wants to finish ‘the job’ of saving these young women, and surprisingly Machine Gun Kelly was pretty good as the scumbag pimp… though the person who watched this with me who knows his non-acting work better than suggested that his personality may not have been too different from his own. Lukas Haas wasn’t bad either but his creepy performance came more from his looks that anything else.

Megan Fox was ok in the film, but was more convincing in the victim role than the cop, unfortunately Bruce Willis felt like he just turned up to collect a pay cheque, and disappears half way through.

I have to point out one thing: there is a particularly unintentionally funny bit in the first few minutes where Fox has to subdue Machine Gun Kelly’s character, and I don’t know if it was that the actors afraid of hurting each other or the direction was lacking but I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a more awkward fight scene in a movie

This is the thing though; I really loved those thrillers from the late 90s and early 2000s like Taking Lives, Copycat and The Bone Collector, and even the ones a bit later like Alex Cross and Jack Reacher, so I actually quite enjoyed it. It is certainly not as good as some of those films, but if they made a sequel to this with Fox and Hirsch in it, I’d probably give it a go.

Score: ***

Lukas Haas as Peter

Preview copy was provided by Eagle Entertainment and watched via the Vimeo app.

Whiteout (2009)

Whiteout (2009)

The cover of the UK release of Whiteout

Film: One of the big problems with comic to film projects is compression.

If one is making a film of say, Spiderman, a cinematic script writer needs to look at 50 odd years of history and compress that into 2 odd hours of movie. Some writers attempt this by directly adapting a story, others just try to get a ‘feel’ for the character and others try for an amalgam of tales. Some would say that this is why many comic to film movies didn’t work, and why the modern comic movie DOES work as it simply gets its inspiration from the original work.

Ideally what one would do is to get a story that is a one off, like a novel! Whiteout is a comic written by Greg Rucka, who has written for DC’s Wonder Woman and Action Comics, and illustrated by Steve Leiber, who has illustrated Detective Comics and Conan and is published by independent publisher Oni Press.  Whiteout was popular upon its release in 1999 and to date has produced a sequel, Whiteout: Melt which earned an Eisner Award in 2000 for Best Limited Series. A third series Whiteout: Thaw, renamed Whiteout: Night, is yet to be published.

The film adaptation of Whiteout was directed by Dominic Sena who also directed the Nic Cage vehicle Gone in 60 Seconds and the Travolta/ Jackman thief gumbo Swordfish.

Kate Beckinsale as Stetson

Whiteout starts in 1957, with a Russian transport plane crashlanding into the snow after a gunfight between the co-pilot and a security team who are responsible for guarding ‘something’ results in the pilot getting his brains blown out.

Flash forward to now, and we are introduced to US Federal Marshall Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) who, after a disastrous experience with a traitorous partner, has worked in a research station in remote Antarctica for 2 years. The station is in a part of Antarctica that becomes so cold in the winter that planes aren’t allowed in or out for three months, and so the majority of the workers leave for that period. Stetko has decided to leave her position as ‘town sheriff’ permanently, and make preparations to leave for the last time. Unfortunately, her last days are marred by what appears to be a body seen by a pilot in a fairly remote part of the area which she has to investigate.

She grabs the Station’s doctor ‘Doc’ (Tom Skerrit) and they, along with a pilot Delfy (Columbus Short) fly out to the remote area where the body was seen, and what they find is not an accident victim, but the corpse of one who has been… murdered.

The body mysteriously abandoned in the snow.

So the story begins, and we have Stetko having to solve a murder in only a few days, and when it becomes compounded with the mystery involving the aforementioned crashed plane, and a case of gangrene to contend with, she has her work cut out for her.

The film on the surface appears to be quality, but somewhere along the line, just doesn’t click. There is nothing wrong with the acting, the story is a fine murder mystery, the direction is good, but for some reason it just doesn’t all gel.  I think it might be just that it has all been seen before, and the film doesn’t really offer anything new to the table. Essentially we have a Wild West sheriff attempting to solve a Holmsian mystery on the set of John Carpenter’s The Thing. I suspect this problem with it stems from the producers being dazzled by the visuals of the comic, but didn’t really see that it was a fairly average mystery story, and when those clever drawn visuals are removed, the story can’t quite hold its own.

Think of it this way; would the film Sin City have been so clever if they had made a straight up colour film adaptation, or would it have been a collection of fairly generic noir (without the noir) stories. I love that film, but am well aware that a good percentage of my affection for it comes from the visuals.

It has all the elements of a great thriller, with a pretty good cast to boot, but somehow, tragically, falls flat.

Score: ***

The Whiteout Bluray menu screen

Extras: After the disc starting with trailers for The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, The Hurt Locker, The Keeper, and a Snickers advert starring Mr. T (remember them? ‘GET SOME NUTS!’) there’s a couple of decent extras on this disc:

Whiteout: The Coldest Thriller Ever is a traditional ‘making of’ documentary. It shows behind the scenes footage and has interviews with various cast and crew. Work-a-day DVD and BD extra stuff.

Whiteout: From Page To Film is a look at this process of writing and drawing the comic, and how it was adapted to the screen. There are some good insights into how an adaptation can work, or not work.

Deleted Scenes: At about 4 minutes you can see that these deleted scenes don’t really show too much extra, though they one shows both an appearance by writer Greg Rucka, and a look at just how mundane Carrie’s regular policing of the station are.

Score: ***

WISIA: Watch it once and give it away.

This film was reviewed with the UK Bluray release.

The killer kills again!

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2010)

Film: There is only one difference between a so-called ‘A’ movie and a B movie: The Budget.

Budget can make a story that is cheap, tawdry or nasty something that people take notice of because budget pays for bigger stars, better effects or a more ‘international story. There was an amusing meme that went around when 50 Shades of Grey was released that if Mr Grey was poor and lived in a trailer park, it would be an episode of CSI.

So too, this film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the first book of the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, could have been a sleazy little film that slipped by and only had a fan base of those who liked the books, but instead, it attracted names like director David Fischer, screenwriter Steven Zaillian, actors Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård and Christopher Plummer, and a score by Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor.

Interestingly, this is an English remake of the film which was originally made in Sweden two years earlier with Naomi Rapace (also from Alien prequel Prometheus), along with two sequels made immediately based on the other two books of Larsson’s trio. I say ’remake’ but that is unfair; it is another movie version of the book. Unfortunately o date they haven’t made the other two books, and judging by the next Lisbeth Salander film made, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, they won’t be made anytime soon, nor with the same cast.

This film tells of shamed journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) who takes on an assignment searching for a missing member of Henrik Vanger’s (Christopher Plummer) family, who went missing forty years ago.

Vanger’s family, one of great wealth, has been at war within its ranks for years, which hinders Blomkvist’s investigation. Most of the family members are compliant as his research is under the guise of a biography, but still he finds insults and resistance.

Soon, he gets help from Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a sociopathic hacker with a fast motorcycle and a vicious sense of vengeance and the two of them discover a horrible secret the family has kept hidden for years…

I’m going to gush a little here as I absolutely love this film. I think it’s directed brilliantly, the ‘administration’ and research the characters do is fascinating and the cinematography is exquisite. Of course the ‘hacking’ is almost of a science fiction level and one has to assume it’s not like that at all, but who wants to watch three days of coding instead of something a little more video game-ish.

In a podcast I am the host of (not the To Watch Pile one, another one called The Nerds of Oz) in an episode where me and my co-hosts talked about our favourite characters of all time, I actually named a Lisbeth Salander as mine. Of all the actresses to have played her, including Clare Foy in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Mara is certainly the most convincing, and terrifying!

The ultimate results of the story vary from the book, but in this case I am ok with that as it did make the ending surprising, which was nice.

If I am to criticise this film, and it really hurts me to say this as he is my favourite Bond, is Daniel’s Craig’s performance. It is a performances of subtleties and the character probably requires that, but occasionally I find him a little wooden.

That said, this is easily one of my favourite films, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian multiregion Bluray and is presented in an absolutely pristine 2.40:1 image with a flawless Dolby Digital DTS-HD MA 5.1 track.

Score: *****

Extras: This film comes with two discs. The first disc features the film (of course) and a commentary by David Fincher. Like most of his commentaries, it’s fairly complete and he clearly enjoys the act of filmmaking. There is also a whole second disc worth of extras on this one:

Men Who Hate Women sees the director, screenwriter and stars of the film discuss the popularity of the Millennium Trilogy books.

The Character and location tabs open a separate, quite inventive yet very Fincher series of menus (that’s evocative of a research part of the film) that feature the entire making of the film, from casting to location b-roll and the visual effects design of the very James Bond-like opening sequence. Fascinating yet exhaustive stuff. There is also a fairly complete look at the promotion stuff for the film as well.

Score: *****

WISIA: Love this film, love the characters, love the story, love rewatching it.

A Bay of Blood (1971)

A Bay of Blood (1971)

Film: Truly, in English speaking countries and outside of the fans of horror or cult cinema, the name of director Mario Bava, unjustly seems to be ignored.

Bava was the son of a filmmaker and started as a cinematographer, and was also adept at screenwriting and special effects, but really, as a director is where his talent lies. In his career he directed over almost 40, with genres including horror, fantasy, science fiction and comedy… even a movie based on a comics character (yes, Marvel didn’t do that first OR best), and many directors including Dario Argento, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, Joe Dante, Lucia Fulci and others claim to have been influenced by his work.

This film, A Bay of Blood, aka Twitch of the Death Nerve, Carnage, Ecologia Del Delitto (and many others) tells the tale of a series of murders that take place by the titular Bay.

The worst haircut ever gets it’s due punishment

First, the disabled owner of the bay is found hanging in her house in what was a murder made to look like suicide, but almost immediately, her murderer is also dispatched by a mysterious assailant. These events lead to a series of murders that all appear to be a cover-up for a real estate scam and an inheritance issue that just seem to escalate.

This film is clearly one of the templates for the slasher movies that came ten years later in the eighties: really just a series of gory murders, intercut with some images of boobs/ butts and a barely incoherent story to link it all together.

Not sure about the rest of you, but I don’t really have a problem with that!

Clearly, Sean Cunningham was inspired by this scene

Honestly, the story is REALLY stupid and doesn’t feel at all like any attempt has been made for any type of legitimacy for the story, and it assumes the viewer has NO understanding of how police investigations go. One could never remake this film now as the perpetrators of the film left fingerprints everywhere and even a rock with a slight understanding of forensics would have the ‘mystery’ solved within minutes. Also, so many unnecessary scenes drag on for far too long, and characters whose back stories we really don’t need to know are over-explained to the point of slowing down the story.

I say all that but it the end it is still charming, and the scenes of violence, considering this came out in 1971, are quite shocking and occasionally sophisticated in their execution. Sometimes the victim’s death scenes are just dumb though… for example, Brunhilda is clearly still breathing after her demise… for them not to ring too true, but they are excusable as not much of it feels realistic at all.

Island of Death director Nick Mastorakis said (and I paraphrase) that in making his film that he asked members of his team to come up with a bunch of horrible ways to die, and a bunch of perversions and he wrote a script around those parameters: this feels like it was made similarly.

This film also boasts the worst haircut ever seen in the history of cinema. It’s a pseudo-Afro-mullet that looks like a fake artist tried to flock a motorcycle helmet. It’s both the most horrifying and funniest thing in this film.

Having said all that, this film has a weird endearing honesty about it that makes it a joy to watch, even if the final scene is one of the most ridiculous things you’ll ever see.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow films multiregion Bluray release from 2010. It is presented in a clear, but artefact-filled 1.85:1 image with a fairly decent mono audio track.

Score: ***

Extras: Oh boy, it’s a smorgasbord of extras on this disc… are smorgasbords Italian? Do I mean tapas? No that’s Spanish… Buffet? Whatever: the point is there’s heaps of extras!

The Italian Version of the Film, with or without subtitles is included in the extras.n

The Giallo Gems of Dardano Sacchetti is an interview with the story writer of A Bay of Blood, Sacchetti, and his experiences in the Italian/ giallo film scene, including working with a Bava on this film.

Joe Dante Remembers Twitch of the Death Nerve sees director/ film enthusiast Joe Dante talk about Bava and his reception in America.

Shooting a Spaghetti Classic looks at how A Bay of Blood was shot through the eyes of assistant cameraman Gianlorenzo Battaglia.

There are also two Trailers from Hell narrated by Shaun of the Dead director, Edgar Wright, which are both for A Bay of Blood, but under two of its other names, Carnage and Twitch of the Death Nerve.

Finally there are two radio spots for the film.

Also, the review edition is the Arrow Films release from about 2010 and it has a choice of 4 different covers, a poster and a booklet about the film by Jay Slater.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s kitschy and cute, and gory as hell! It’ll get watched again, for sure!

The Curse of the Weeping Woman (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

The Curse of the Weeping Woman aka The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Film: Sometimes, when choosing a movies, alarm bells should ring.

First, I don’t like supernatural films, but like some kind of self-flagellating moron, I still like to give them a chance, hoping that I might find another Sinister, instead of another dumb piece of tripe like Insidious. My mistake here was that the cover quite clearly states ‘From The Producers of The Conjuring Universe’ which for someone like me who isn’t a fan, that basically is like a restaurant having a sign out the front that says “our chef has a cold and never washes his hands after taking a dump’ and me going in and eating there anyway.

I deserve whatever I get.

Secondly, I occasionally make the mistake of watching a film because of the lead actor, and I have sat through some buckets of poop because of this. In this case, the tempting lure was two-fold: Linda Cardellini, Velma from the 2002 and 2004 Scooby Doo movies, stars and one of the supporting actors is Patricia Velasquez, from 1999’s The Mummy, and I bit like a hungry trout at a fish farm.

This film is directed by Michael Chavez, from a story by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, who co-wrote Five Feet Apart, the teen tear-jerker… was that another alarm bell?

Set in 1973, The Curse of the Weeping Woman tells of social worker, Anna (Cardellini) who has been called to investigate Patricia Alvarez (Velasquez) who has apparently been abusing her sons, but when she gets to Patricia’s house, she finds the boys locked in a closet, and Patricia willing to defend their imprisonment… violently if need be.

The police step in and Patricia tells Anna she needs to protect the boys from La Llorona, before she is taken away, and her sons are placed in temporary housing. On the first night there, though, they are taken by ‘something’ and drowned.

Anna, a single mum herself, is called to the scene of the crime late at night and has to take her son and daughter with her. Her son sneaks out of the car to see what’s going on and is attacked by a spirit of a woman, who attaches herself to the family, and the terror of the Weeping Woman, a scorned women who killed her sons and then herself, continues…

Will Anna and her children be able to survive her grasp, even after they enlist the help of father religious man, Rafael (Raymond Cruz), a shaman with seeming insane practises for exorcising ghosts?

Now the first thing I must point out that this isn’t just from ‘the producers of the Conjuring universe’ but IS a part of the Conjuring universe, and the character of Father Perez, played by Tony Amendola, was also in 2014’s Annabelle, so maybe that blurb on the cover should say ‘ steeped well within The Conjuring universe’.

Now, this is one of those post-millennial ghost stories that all seem the same: set in the seventies (to avoid technological trappings like mobile phones), deep bassy sounds to add to the terror, a ghost style-guide that fits an aesthetic that has worked so far in far too many films, a cold filter on the image to make everything look dark and wet (or should I say ‘the Wan Ghost Aesthetic) and a bizarre re-installation of Christianity/ Catholicism wielded loosely by a bizarre shaman as the heroic tool.

It’s boring, made seemingly exciting by SUDDEN INCREASES IN VOLUME, but essential is just another forgettable ghost story that’s directed well and has a half-decent cast

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian, region B release which runs for 83 minutes and is presented in a high definition 2.4:1 image with a matching Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track, which it relies on heavily for its scares. Honestly you couldn’t watch this late at night while everyone else was in bed because you would be adjusting the volume up and down for the quiet ghostly bits and the LOUD SCARES!

Score: ****

Extras: There are 5 extras on this disc.

The Myth of La Llorona is a brief look at the history of the myth of the Mexican ghost ‘the Crying Woman’ and how it apparently dates back to the days of Cortez. This isn’t the first time this myth has been filmed: the TV show ‘Supernatural’ used her legend in the pilot episode, and in 1963, Mexican Director Rafael Baladón’s Le Maledición de la Llorona entertained the legend as well. This featurette is two minutes of cast members talking about the legend.

Behind the Curse looks at the making of the film and the incorporation of the legend into the film. Hilariously, one of the cast members mentions how it’s ‘not cliched’ which is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

The Making of a Monster looks at the design of this ‘new, original’ monster. Make up effects are always interesting so at least it did offer that, and the performer Marisol Ramirez is a trooper.

Deleted scenes are just that! About ten minutes worth of stuff that really didn’t add to the film at all, if anything, it detracted from it somewhat, and would had slowed the film down, and even made Cardellini’s character seem maybe less of a good mother than she was.

Storyboards shows some PIP storyboards in comparison to the film, but don’t expect beautiful lavish illustrations here! No these are fairly crudely drawn thumbnails but they show they sat pretty close to the final film and it’s always interesting to see a director or cinematographer’s processes.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I can 100% guarantee the next time I need to see something with Cardellini in it, I’ll watch Scooby Doo again and that’s a much better rewatcher.

Fear in the Night (1972)

One from the to watch pile…

Fear in the Night (1972)

Film: It seems to me that every time I reach a point where I think I have seen every Hammer film, ten more that I haven’t seen pop up. The best thing about these films is in general the reason I didn’t know about them is because I was a ravenous lover of Hammer’s monster movies, like the Frankensteins and the Draculas, but a lot of these thrillers and real fun and a great watch.

This film, Fear in the Night, is directed by one of the real creative forces of Hammer, Jimmy Sangster, who also directed Lust for the Vampire and The Horror Of Frankenstein. Being a prolific writer of Hammer films, he do-wrote this screenplay with Michael Syson, who also wrote the 1979 western, Eagle’s Wing.

Fear in the Night is a thriller starring Judy Geeson as Peggy Heller, a newly wed who is packing her things from the sharehouse she lives in so she can go with her new husband, Robert (Ralph Bates) at the boys boarding school where he is employed as a maths teacher.

On this night, though, she is attacked by a man with only one arm, and as she is someone with a history of mental issues, she is not immediately believed though the police are called and a report made.

She travels to the school where she finds it abandoned, as it is apparently end of term, and meets the headmaster, Michael Carmichael (Peter Cushing) and his wife, Molly (Joan Collins). Molly is immediately hostile towards Peggy, but Robert explains that she is apparently a bitch to everyone. Michael is a calm, studious type… WITH ONLY ONE ARM!!!!

DUM, dum, DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM!!!

Is Michael the man who attacked her, or is there a highly detailed plot involving misdirection leading to MURDER?

Well obviously there is, this is a Hammer film for goodness sake!!

This is a beautifully shot film, with some cool cinematic subtleties throughout, for example, Geeson’s costuming changes as her state of mind becomes fractured.

Considering Geeson basically holds the film single-handedly, she is perfect for the role. Girl next door pretty and with a tragic demeanour she nails this mentally-unstable waif brilliantly. That’s not to disparage the others: Collins plays perfect bitch, Bates plays perfect cad and Cushing? Well, Cushing is Cushing, and what else would you want?

All in all, it’s a quality Hammer Horror thriller, but it telegraphs most of its surprises quite early, and whilst the pay-off works, the epilogue is somewhat lacklustre.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian, region B Bluray which runs for 94 minutes and is presented in a clear 1.66:1 image with a matching Dolby DTS-HD audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: There is not a great deal of extras on this, but what there is is quality.

End of Term: Inside Fear in the Night has various film experts from the UK like Jonathon Rigby, who wrote the amazing Euro Gothic, Alan Barnes, co-author of The Hammer Story, Kevin Lyons, the editor of eofftv.com and cultural historian John J. Johnston talking about the history and providence of the film. The only problem with this extra is it only goes for just over 15 minutes!

There is also a trailer for the film.

Score: ***

WISIA: Once the well-telegraphed twist is revealed, it doesn’t really lend itself to repeat watching.

The Champagne Murders (1967)

One from the to watch pile…

The Champagne Murders (1967)

Film: I’ve only ever been to Europe for three days… yep, you read that right: three lousy days! All that flying, exhaustively long stop-overs at other airports so I could get off a plane in England, be shuffled onto a bus to a place called Retford where I was involved in a three day conference and sales meeting, and then was shuffled off back to the airport and thrown back here to sunny Australia.

That was about 21 years ago and I have to say it’s been a constant thorn in my paw that I didn’t get to see more of Europe other than jolly old England. Why? Well I’ve always loved movies set in Europe, I guess mainly the ones from the 60s and 70s, and that probably started with things like Roman Holiday and even tripe like Gidget Goes To Rome, and even the Carry On films to some extent.

This affection continued to grow when I started to really get stuck into watching gialli and from there the films of Armando de Ossorio, Jorge Grau and other European directors of varying quality. I’m not sure if it’s the environments, the architecture, the women or just the fact that even the slimiest of bad guys still seems to be cooler than anyone in a Hollywood film.

This film, The Champagne Murders aka La Scandale is from this period I love, 1967 specifically, and was directed by prolific French director and member of Nouvelle Vague (the French film movement, not the band), Claude Chabrol and was written by Claude Brulé and Derek Prouse from an original story by William Benjamin.

To finish a deal to sell Wagner Champagne, Christine Belling (Yvonne Furneaux) requires the approval of Paul Wagner (Maurice Ronet) to continue to use his family name on the product. Paul has a few problems of his own though: after a violent incident a year or so ago for which he had treatment, he still suffers from an occasionally blackout, which is exacerbated by his chronic alcoholism.

After Paul and Christopher (Anthony Perkins). Christine’s conniving husband, go on a trip to Hamburg, Christine receives a blackmail letter with a newspaper article about a murdered girl, who happens to be the escort that Paul spent the night and had one of his blackouts withhold they were there.

Christine then decides to blackmail Paul into giving up his name, but very soon, another girl in Paul’s company turns up dead… but is it Paul committing these murders, or is he being set up by someone else?

I have to say I did really love this film. It has a deliberate pace so if big budget action films are your thing, this isn’t going to wash. This film doesn’t just convey a story, it is a series of carefully built scenes with amazing subtle and fluid camerawork and spectacular performances from all involved. The best thing about it though is it’s inconclusive ending: yes, the killer is revealed but the circumstances of their comeuppance are left in a delicious open ended finale that reveals that perhaps all problems in the world are just a microcosm, and maybe even insignificant and that the pursuit of money can reduce one’s humanity, and enslave.

The reviewed version was the English language one, so not all of the visuals match the sound perfectly, and the appearance of Perkins must be based on the popularity of Psycho give both the themes of duality, and the fact the score at times feels like it hits some very Hitchcockian notes.

I had never even heard of this film before this week, and it’s rocketed into being one of my favourite films of all time. Give it a look.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release. Mostly, the 2.35:1 image is of a high quality though some of the stock footage of vineyards suffers from a few artefacts and some damage to the film. The sound is presented in 2.0 and suffers from occasional inexplicable peaks and troughs of volume, but for the most part is clear.

Score: ***

Extras: Not a single thing at all!

Score: 0

WISIA: As a matter of fact, one SHOULD watch it at least twice as the second watch will no doubt reveal several little tics and looks that make so much more sense.

The Skeleton Key (2005)

One from the re watch pile…

The Skeleton Key (2005)

Film: Every now and again, big budget Hollywood make an attempt at trying something new at the movies, and they will find a team of actors who are a mix of up-and-coming A-listers, and stars from years ago to deliver a movie that is inoffensive and never… NEVER… will be referred to as a horror movie. It happens so frequently even Fangoria once had a section called ‘It’s Not A Horror Movie’ so these films could be celebrated.

In this case, the attempt was made using Hackers director, Iain Softley from a script by Ehren Kruger, who adapted the J-horror film Ring to an English version, and more recently, wrote the Ghost in the Shell movie. The stars picked from the ‘little bit old’ column were John Hurt and Gina Rowland, and from the new, Kate Hudson and Peter Sarsgaard.

The Skeleton Key takes place in New Orleans and tells of a hospice nurse, Caroline (Hudson) who answers a wanted ad placed by a lawyer, Luke Marshall (Sarsgaard) on behalf of one of his clients, Violet Devereux (Rowlands) to nurse her husband Ben (Hurt) whose health is failing after he has had a severe stroke in the attic of their mansion.

Violet is protective of her crippled husband, as one would suspect, but the longer Caroline stays in the house, the more she thinks that there is MUCH more going on and that perhaps the house contains a secret… a ghostly secret… with its origins steeped in Hoodoo…

This is an interesting film in that it takes itself seriously even though the story is preposterous, and that’s what makes it work. The four leads perform their roles with a great deal of conviction, especially Kate Hudson, which is saying something when you consider she’s mostly known for being the femme foil for lunkheads played by Matthew McConaughey in totally moronic romantic comedies. In this, she is sensitive and as her character evolves, she changes her style of acting. She has an amazing gear shift during the film too and does it convincingly.

John Hurt needs some recognition too considering he does most of his acting as a semi-comatose stroke victim, but what he can do with a wide eye and a stretch of the neck speaks volumes of fear. Amazing.

The whole design of the movie is quite beautiful. The spooky places look decidedly spooky and the old house the majority of the film takes place in is ominous and doesn’t feel right from the start, which suits the general unsettling feel the majority of the film has.

I really like this film, even though it isn’t really ‘proper’ horror it still resonates and as I said, it’s wholly due to the convincing performances.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This multi-region Bluray copy of The Skeleton Key runs for about 100 minutes, and is presented in a clean and clear 2.35:1 image with a perfect DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: ****

Extras: Speaking of skeletons, there is no extras on this disc. That’s a great disappointment too as the DVD release from 11 years ago was packed full of extras!

Score: 0

WISIA: I saw it first in 2005 and haven’t watched it since, so I guess any impact it may have left in zero for me not to bother with it again. That’s not to say it’s bad, there is just stuff I’d rather watch.

Life (2017) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Life (2017)

Australian Bluray cover


Film: Have you ever seen a trailer for a film and had it cause a horrible disorder called UERS also known as Unstoppable Eye Roll Disorder? For me, when I first saw the trailer for Life I thought, ‘wow, they have remade but not name-checked Alien’, which seemed to me to be a pretty brave thing to do, after all, Alien is a scifi/ horror film that is still relevant, and still resonates almost 40 years later!

Upon watching the film, however, I realised that yes, it is similar to Alien in two ways: one, that it takes place in space, and two, that an alien life form is at fault, but essentially this is another version of the Agatha Christie/ Ten Little Indians film (with people being picked off one by one) that has been done hundreds of times in the horror genre, and you can namecheck many giallo and slashers that use them. 

The difference with this was that this film adds in the threat of being in space, such as the film Gravity did. Sure, Alien had that same threat, but rarely were you reminded that the whole thing took place in space. It was about the isolation but that isolation could have been anywhere, and until the end and Ripley gets to the escape pod, you aren’t really reminded regularly about this taking place in space. Life constantly reminds you of its external environment, with large windows showing the external views of the space station in which the film takes place, and that exterior is both a threat and a weapon.

Anyway, what is the film about?

Well, a very exciting experiment is coming to an end on the International Space Station (ISS): a probe that has visited Mars has returned with a sample from the surface, and that sample contains the first evidence ever of life from another planet. 

Ryan Reynolds loses this Deadpool.


This single cell organism, nicknamed ‘Calvin’, evolves and grows at a typically science fiction rate, and when it is probed by Derry (Ariyon Bakare) it freaks out and attacks him, and sure enough starts its way through the rest of the crew (played by Ryan Reynolds, Olga Dihovichnaya), Hiroyuki Sanada, Rebecca Ferguson and Jake Gyllenhaal).

It’s aggressiveness, both in evolution and attitude, would suggest that it should be kept of the earth, but how can the crew survive both the creature, and the oppressive nature of space…

The first thing I have to point out this film space-based environment is utterly convincing. This is not just due to the special effects and the practical effects, but also due to the cast’s performance. The constant motion they go through, even when ‘sitting’ together at a table is a clever acting mechanic to make sure we are aware that this all takes place on a space station. Honestly, it’s quite possibly the first film I’ve seen where no main character talks a single step, which makes for another great point insomuch as one of the characters is a paraplegic, but in space, it doesn’t matter as legs aren’t required to me mobile.

Jake Gyllenhaal abandoned is human suit for a space suit.


The tragedy of the film is Calvin isn’t realised as well. Sure it is difficult to do these kind of constantly evolving creature, but occasionally it looks flat: that doesn’t take you completely out of the film, and doesn’t effect the ultimately devastating ending, but my right eye would occasionally close in disappointment.

Another thing with Calvin is that he seems to work out things very quickly: whilst I appreciate the story needs to travel along at a clip, occasionally I did think that ‘instinct’ was replaced with ‘convenient, highly intelligent thought’ and this is my only real criticism of the film.

One thing I really did like though was a really spectacular directorial sleight-of-hand which did actually fool me, and generally I’m pretty savvy!

Life is a well executed film that echoes what has come before it without completely copying it, and has some great acting and cool effects.

Score: ***1/2

Life Australian Bluray menu screen


Format: This review was performed on the multi-region Australian release bluray of the film. It runs for approximately 104 minutes and is presented in an impeccable 2.39:1 image with an amazing DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: A bunch of extras appear on this disc:

Deleted scenes sees 6 deleted scenes that really weren’t necessary to the flow of the film and aren’t missed, though the ‘Tang’ scene shows the crew’s disappointment as to not being able to go home after the discover of the lifeform could have still slipped in.

Life: In Zero G shows how the effect of the cast being in ‘zero gravity’ for the film and how the casts acting skills, the stunt team and special effects crew achieved it.

Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin looks at the research that had gone into creating Calvin as a scientifically convincing creature, and the special effects execution of that.

Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space looks at the director’s objective on making a science fiction film that feels like it could be real.

Astronaut Diaries is a series of interstitials of the cast in character talking directly to the camera.  

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s a good movie with some great performances, but I can’t see myself revisiting it frequently, if at all.

Baby Calvin: he ain’t no Baby Groot!