Times have been a bit tough for fans of horror on the big screen lately, I’m not sure I can remember such a miserable year for horror films on UK screens than 2014 since the dark days of the mid-nineties, with only The Babadook really representing a break from tepid mainstream franchise horror. Which isn’t so say there isn’t still great horror to be found, but it lurks in the darker regions of streaming services or hides behind the generic DVD covers demanded by supermarkets. Everything has to look like everything else, so an original low budget film like 2013’s smart Resolution looks like any of a dozen depressing torture porn flicks racked next to it. Continue reading
Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 film Possession is a daunting movie of which to attempt a synopsis, let alone a review, defying the conventions of mainstream western film making and acting while also aligning itself with the horror genre to produce a film that is as unique and disturbing as David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Despite winning major awards for its lead actress Isabelle Adjani (César Award for Best Actress, Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award), Possession was banned in the UK on its video release as part of the Director of Public Prosecutions idiotic campaign against video nasties. In America, the film was drastically recut and re-scored with stupid optical effects added in a doomed attempt to make it appear more like a conventional demonic possession film. The films recent blu ray release (from Second Sight in the UK) offers an opportunity to sample one of the most singular of European genre films. Simply put, if you have never seen Possession then you have never seen a movie like it before. If you have seen Possession you know you have never seen anything like it since. Continue reading
Here is one of the most recent films to feature in my ‘Hidden Treasures’ selections. Ari Folman’s The Congress was actually only released in the UK in 2014 and is fresh to DVD and Blu Ray here. It is the sort of film that seems tailor made to become a cult movie, but in the current climate many films are being lost in the sheer volume of material available to view (legitimately) online. I saw The Congress at the London Film Festival in 2013 and it is fair to say it blew me away, especially on a big screen with a thunderous sound system. Continue reading
Let’s not pussy foot around, this early eighties cult musical is likely to drive most of you up the wall faster than a cat punted by a star quarterback. Made over three years by Richard Elfman primarily as a record of the cabaret performances of his musical cabaret troupe The Mystical Knights of the Oingo Boingo, Forbidden Zone evolved into a demented comedy musical. The film’s influences are many and varied including Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, German expressionism, Betty Boop cartoons and underground 60s comix. Continue reading
Michele Soavi’s 1994 film Dellamorte Dellamore (in Italian this loosely translates as “of love, of death”) is tricky to review. It is a very odd horror comedy made at a time when the Italian horror genre was in a very bad state. Many of the film’s virtues can easily be construed as negatives depending upon your point of view. A word of warning, there are a lot of spoilers in this review, the nature of the film makes it very difficult to avoid. So if you want to see this film cold, I’d stop now.
AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT, I AM NOT MAKING ANY OF THIS UP!
Where do you start with Hal Needham’s 1982 box office bomb Megaforce?
Released in the same year as Blade Runner and no doubt [cough] inspired by that rival sci-fi film, Megaforce also opens with an onscreen explanatory screed to get the audience up to speed on the concept of a ‘phantom army of super elite fighting MEN whose WEAPONS are the most powerful science can devise’.
The peaceful nation of Sardun finds its borders threatened by neighbor Gamibia and mercenary leader Duke Gurerra (Henry Silva looking for most of the film like a man recently struck with a cosh). For reasons that are entirely unclear Sardun is unable to mobilise its powerful army to retaliate when Gurerra orders the brutal destruction of a scale model oil refinery. This causes General Byrne-White (played by Knightrider’s Edward Mulhare, the man you get when even Michael Caine laughs at your script) some consternation. Together with token female Major Zara (Star Trek the Motion Picture’s Persis Khambatta, except you won’t recognise her with hair) the General seeks out the help of Megaforce – a private army of groovy mercenaries – to take the battle to the Gamibians.
Way back in the eighties an American film critic called John Bloom came to the realisation that the critical vocabulary of the mainstream film critic was incompatible with the joys and virtues of the exploitation movie. Too much film criticism is mired in the conventions and expectations of literary criticism without recognizing that film is a vastly different medium to the printed word. Film critics who ape literary critics tend to focus on an intellectual analysis of narrative at the expense of an appreciation of the visual and visceral qualities that set cinema apart. To redress this imbalance Bloom created the persona of drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs, a boorish, sexist redneck with a fine appreciation for broads, supercharged muscle cars, and good honest exploitation movies. Ninja: Shadow of a Tear is exactly the sort of movie Briggs specialises in. Continue reading