Friday, 30 December 2011

Diary: Daily Arrivals Of Nastiness

My vintage VHS horror addiction is continuing to dominate both my movie-viewing and my hobby time right now. Searching for classic and less-than-classic titles out in various cities or snapping them up on eBay is proving to be both fun and lucrative, as I have got back into VHS dealing in a big way recently. Yup, this is down to the Facebook group I remain obsessed with, Horror VHS Collectors Unite! My passion for horror has always been strong, but I am now in a position to seek out the titles I loved as a teenager (or craved, yet never got to see) and also find titles that I know people will want to buy.

Case in point is a guy called Ian, who I have come into contact with via the group. He's very cool indeed, and as we're both in the UK we have struck up a kinship over tatty old VHS tapes of bad horror movies and other genre delights. This has come to a head over the Christmas period with us swapping gifts of rare VHS tapes that we knew the other would enjoy.

My girlfriend finds this both sweet and amusing, that two grown men who barely know each other have started sending shady looking brown parcels back and forth between themselves in the name of gathering obsolete media, and I can't say I blame her.

I feel like a big kid right now, searching out all of the films I never got around to renting in the video heyday, as well as gathering all of the titles that mean a lot to me. I see these my collection as somewhat autobiographical now, which is a weird thing to say about old video tapes, but I would liken it to people who collect vinyl – that same sense of an item evoking a period in your life.

Of course, I am not just picking these things up for nostalgia's sake and to watch a few flicks, but also to sell some on as I tend to be broke (and as we have a baby on the way, I will be broke for the rest of my life) and to get quality tapes back into circulation on the collector market. I hate to think of these items going to waste, being thrown away by their old owners or just scrapped by charity shops for being obsolete.

They belong with us, the freaks who value those beautifully trashy covers and sleazy films the most. This is probably why I spend far too much time feverishly looking for forgotten gems online and why I have to raise a sheepish grin at my girlfriend when the postman arrives and there is the tell-tale THUNK of another VHS tape hitting the mat. Thankfully, she understands my fascination even though she doesn't share it, and as long as my core collection remains largely the same size and the transient tapes are sold off and recirculated, then I can't see any problems to come.

That is, aside from hipsters collecting tapes for kitsch value alone. You weren't there, man. If you don't love the films and the era, then leave them to those of us who do. I mean, I need my fix of hearing the daily arrivals. It's almost as much fun as picking out where films were cut and bitching about it online. Almost.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

DOLLS (1987)


A precursor to the Puppet Master movies, Dolls is a thoroughly enjoyable b-movie horror yarn stuffed with murderous living toys, some nonsensical plotting, a partially-brilliant cast and a typically silly ending. The cover alone is enough to send some people into fits of screaming, but if you're familiar with the work of Charles Band and his merry, erm, band of cohorts, you'll know what you're in for with this film. If you find dolls to be terrifying thing, then for crying out loud, don't watch this flick, ever.

Dolls wasn't directed by Band, though. That honour fell to none other that Stuart Gordon, which is probably why Dolls plays and looks much better than it would have done in other hands. The film is cheap and schlocky, but also contains sequences that are surprisingly creepy, thanks to the use of myriad methods of bring the dolls to life, including puppets, animatronics and stop-motion animation, all executed with great flair and style.

The story is sadly pretty stupid, to be honest, but come on, we don't watch a lot of these things expecting to have our minds expanded and enriched do we? A family stops at a creepy mansion to shelter from a storm, soon followed by a loveable oaf of a guy with the same problem. These are then complemented a little later by – out of absolutely nowhere – two punk girls (one with a ludicrous English accent which is torture to hear to these English ears, but probably 'quaint' to everyone outside of the UK).


The old couple who live in the creepy mansion are pantomime-scary old timers (featuring none other than Guy Rolfe - Andre Toulon himself from the Puppet Master movies) with a passion for making terrifying dolls. Of course, the group of unwitting guests soon discovers that these dolls are more than just toys, and very soon there is mayhem, mutilation and murder as playtime gets underway for the army of chilling toys.

Something that is immediately frightening about the dolls is that they really do look like toys rather than movie props, which is where other films with a similar concept fall down dead. These things are freaky. The flick is basically an excuse to have some horrible living dolls kill a bunch of people in nasty ways, and on that level it succeeds completely. As a coherent narrative, it fails miserably, but hey, there are dolls, so who cares?

Stuart Gordon's direction demonstrates the visual ingenuity he is known for (even on such a small budget production), while the effects team brings a unique addition to the animated doll genre, namely gory skulls that are revealed within the dolls' heads when they are destroyed. Nice touch there guys. Thanks for the nightmares.


The kill scenes are well done, but the creepiest has to be the slow-motion death of one character who falls foul of a squad of toy soldiers. In true war movie style, the footage slips into slow-mo as the soldiers unload their ammunition at their enemy. The look of horror on the character's face as they are gunned down in a cloud of their own blood is actually very effective.

One of the finest moments in the whole movie comes very early on, when the daughter of the snotty family that first arrives at the mansion (played by Carrie Lorraine, who incidentally makes for a very cool lead character as she's played so well) visualizes her teddy bear growing to monstrous proportions and eviscerating her parents in a shower of gore. This is played out on camera exactly how she pictures it, and it's a beautifully mad moment worthy of the Evil Dead movies or indeed Gordon's own Re-Animator.

With a short running time (about 75 minutes in total) and no pretence of being anything other than a slightly patchy and nonsensical horror movie, Dolls does exactly what you would want it to with that title. They're watching you, y'know. Be nice to your toys, folks.


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Cynthia Rothrock – B-Movie Master


One name that popped up throughout my formative years as a genre addict was that of Cynthia Rothrock, the martial arts and action movie heroine who has starred in more films than I have had hot dinners, and that's a hell of a lot of dinners.

The blonde ass-kicker first came to my attention via a big-box copy of the first CHINA O'BRIEN movie, then its sequel, and then titles like UNDEFEATABLE, HONOR AND GLORY and a ton of others. After a while I discovered her earlier years as a Hong Kong action star, in films that came across as harder-edged versions of Jackie Chan's Police Story movies.


Often derided for her acting ability, I personally think that Cynthia is one of the greatest stars of action cinema, ever. Her films rarely disappoint, and in fact films like Guardian Angel or Lady Dragon outstrip many bigger budget flicks in terms of entertainment value. She is a diminutive figure, but there is never any doubt that she could tear you limb from limb, and even though some of her roles have been painful to watch (Sci-Fighter) or just kinda nonsensical (her cameo in 24 Hours To Midnight, before she puts on a mask and is suddenly played by someone else for the whole film), she puts in a great effort every time.

A lot of the films she has featured in do follow a certain blueprint, but hey, don't all action movies follow a set routine? Just enjoy them. Basically, Cynthia's films tend to be centred around any possible method of getting her to kick people's backsides as often as possible. This is no bad thing, as Cynthia is a former Karate world champion (many times over) and is one of the most consistently entertaining and exciting martial arts movie stars to watch onscreen.



Yes, some of the films are formulaic (Undefeatable is a prime example), but they are a ton of fun too, and who can't fail to enjoy watching her beat the crap out of the bad guys? In addition, from what I have read she is very accomodating with fans at conventions and suchlike, which is always nice to know.

Mind you, I doubt anyone would NOT be pleasant to her, in case they put themselves at risk of one of her legendary kicks.

Cynthia, I salute you. Cheers for the years of beating up the bad guys in the name of keeping geeks like me entertained.

A 'suggested viewing' list of Cynthia Rothrock movies: 

CHINA O'BRIEN

CHINA O'BRIEN 2

MARTIAL LAW

LADY DRAGON

UNDEFEATABLE

GUARDIAN ANGEL

TIGER CLAWS

RAGE AND HONOR

RAGE AND HONOR 2

HONOR AND GLORY

SWORN TO JUSTICE

Saturday, 17 December 2011

CREEPOZOIDS (1987)


It's a blatant rip-off of ALIENS, with added stolen bits of THE THING and a bunch of other high-end sci-fi/horror crossover movies, but Creepozoids captured my attention as a teenager thanks to two factors. First, the cover art for it was brilliant, and second, it had Linnea Quigley in it. The film follows a bunch of army deserters who take shelter in an abandoned lab while acid rain pelts the land outside after an apocalyptic nuclear war has taken place in the near future.

Of course, this being the sort of film that it is, the lab was home to a genetically-engineered monster, which lives on deep within the lab. The deserters, when not bickering amongst themselves, having sex in the shower or being macho, discover they need to band together to overcome the threat of the monster and also the secret threat which is lurking within one of their number.

It's cheap, tacky, a complete rip-off and rather wonderful. Creepozoids was one of the earliest films of my development as a genre addict, it being one of my first 18-rated VHS tapes back when I was far too young to be buying videos with that certificate.


What can I say? I knew where to go to find people with very shaky morals who would sell horror movies to kids. I turned out okay – honestly! Sadly, I can't say the same for kids who are seeing today's horror output. I guess they just don't make 'em like they used to.

Anyway. Creepozoids introduced me to many things that would play a big part in my further development as a fan of low budget cinema. The first and foremost of those things is of course Linnea Quigley, who I had a crush on in my early teens due to this film and whatever else I could find her in (of which there was plenty).


It also introduced me to the concept of forcing big ideas into tiny budgets and how suspend disbelief even further (the 'secure' lab looks about as secure and sturdy as a limp banana skin). Ladies and gentlemen, Creepozoids is one of the worst, and best, films I have ever seen. It reeks of cheese from the script, the acting, the effects and the score.

Thankfully there's enough swearing, violence and nudity to keep the teenager in all of us sated. Once the Creepozoids are revealed, there may be a bit of a sense of underwhelming disappointment unless you expect rubber, vaseline and, erm, just one of them. It's a far cry from the giant scale of the Ridley Scott and James Cameron epics the makers stole so many ideas from (right down to the John Hurt chest-burster scene from 'Alien' homage), but in it's own way, Creepozoids is awesome. Trash, yes, but awesome trash. B-movie gold.


3 ON A MEAT HOOK (1973)


This is one of the sleaziest films I've ever seen, and certainly the sleaziest that I have covered here for the diary. It's far from being a great film, but as nasty exploitation films go, it does have its entertainment value. One thing I'll say is that as horror flicks go, it certainly lives up to its title. There are far more gore scenes than your average slasher, and the tiny budget and low production values give the film the air of prime time grindhouse filmmaking.

Apparently based loosely on the crimes of notorious maniac Ed Gein, 3 On A Meathook tells the story (I use the term loosely, by the way) of four girls who go off on a road trip, go about the hi-jinks of the time and then run afoul of a lunatic when their car breaks down and a young man takes them to a farm to shelter. Thus begins the meat of the movie, if you will.


The girls are stuck at this guy's place until their car can be fixed, and while there they discover that their time is running out fast. One by one, the girls are butchered, until only one is left alive to discover the truth about the farmer and his meat.

There's actually a pretty good twist if you can stomach the low grade quality of the film stock, the production and the music (that poor, abused wah-wah pedal), and while there is a great deal of padding (entire musical performances by a club band, lingering sequences of the girls skinny-dipping), 3 On A Meat Hook does contain some fun exploitation thrills.


This is a proper, old-school drive-in horror movie, with grisly shots of mutilation, murder and butchery that are surprisingly nasty, if not completely convincing. Liberally stealing ideas from PSYCHO, having the girls onscreen without their clothes for large chunks of screen time, aiming great swathes of exposition at the camera and wah-wah-guitar-playing its way through woodland frolics as well as demented violence, 3 On A Meat Hook is not a film for the modern horror fan.

Much more suited to the connoisseur with a taste for low-budget 70s exploitation movies rather than slick, modern yawn-fests, it's a mean, nasty and shoddy little gem that really evokes an era of horror cinema.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

SLAUGHTERHOUSE (1987)


Rowdy teens, sweaty hicks, lots of pigs and a huge lunatic with a meat cleaver – welcome to SLAUGHTERHOUSE. Quite a sought-after tape amongst the VHS geeks I frolic with, it's a flick I've wanted to check out for a while on the strength of the marvellously tacky cover. I'm not disappointed now I've seen it, either. A steal on eBay, even with a battered cover, the film ticks off 80s horror tropes one by one; The soundtrack is a great slice of cheese, the cast are pretty and pretty irritating, and there's chaos with a cleaver. What's not to like?

Buddy, the simpleton son of a pig-farm owner, goes on a killing spree inspired by his father when their dilapidated slaughterhouse is put at risk of closure by the local sheriff and officials. A group of teenagers who are joking around making a shot-on-video horror movie get caught up in the mayhem when they stop off at the slaughterhouse for kicks, and eighties low-budget horror fun ensues.

There are plenty of high-spirited hi-jinks from the teenagers which tell us quite clearly that they are full of mischief and ever so slightly naughty, but they're not all that bad really. There's even a party montage scene with obligatory eighties edits and a bouncy pop band onstage who are described as 'Rock n' roll' despite their synths and smart haircuts.


It's all a bit wholesome, until the slaughter starts for real. Buddy, the giant, idiot, mute maniac on the cover, is in turn hilarious and formidable. The performance from Joe. B. Barton as Buddy Bacon (seriously) would have made for a fine Leatherface knock-off had it not been for the forced moments of comedy evident in his every facial expression and each scene featuring him when he's not hacking people to bits or hanging them from meat hooks. He is constantly snorting, squealing and grunting. Just like his piggies.

Now, as someone who loves bacon (and indeed pork products galore) very dearly, while also thinking that pigs are delightful creatures (hypocrite, I know, but they're cute and delicious, so everyone wins really), it's great to see pigs being pigs throughout the movie. It's when anyone tries to push the plot forward in a sensible direction that it falls apart entirely. The makers should really have spent less time trying to turn the film into a cop drama and more time with Buddy swinging his cleaver at people's heads while jaunty country music plays in the background, as that's when Slaughterhouse really makes a killing. Now I want a bacon sandwich.



Saturday, 3 December 2011

Evilspeak (1981)


One of the DPP's notorious (I really need to use the word 'notorious' less, don't I?) 'Video Nasties', Evilspeak is a brilliant piece of trashy horror entertainment that his head and shoulders above most of the films that make up the 72 that were lumped in with the controversy.

This may well have something to do with the lead character being played by Clint Howard, who, dear addicts, is a god amongst men when it comes to horror movies.

He rapidly became a go-to man for the freaky/weird/oddball in many movies and TV shows, but he's more than just a distinctive face. Clint Howard is also an extremely talented actor, and he brings a great deal of pathos to the role of Stanley Coopersmith, the computer nerd at a military school who is the butt of endless jokes and pranks from his peers.


Of course, he winds up with incantations left behind by a mad Satanic cult leader from hundreds of years ago, which enable him to harness the power of the underworld in order to wreak bloody mayhem upon his enemies.

The film is a little slow to offer much in the way of horror material, but when the chaos kicks in, it's mental. I say a little slow, but the film is actually kinda painful in its build up towards the inevitable bloodshed.


Actually, at several points in the first 50 minutes of the movie, Evilspeak could be taken for a regular comedy/drama film, albeit one with satanic rituals. And demonic pigs. And flashbacks to a mad cult. In fact, forget I said it could be taken as anything other than a horror movie.

The thing is, it feels rather comic-booky in terms of tone rather than pure evil. I can understand the controversy surrounding this particular entry on the Video Nasties list to a certain extent due to the graphic gore and some of the more unsettling scenes (the simulated killing of a puppy is all wrong), but overall Evilspeak is a bit of gory fun with Clint Howard mugging for the camera with all his might.

A fun film for an evening session with beer and salty snacks. Just watch out for the rubber-faced fake pig head which is used in close-ups. You may snort your snacks up with mirth.

Monday, 21 November 2011

NECROPOLIS (1987)


Y'know, I'm not actually all that sure what I just watched. I know it was as movie, but I'll be damned if I can tell you much more than that. I'll try. 300 years ago a witch was executed for being all evil and stuff. In the present day, she is resurrected as a punky clone of Madonna (and blatantly so, although here and now she looks more like Lady GaGa than Madonna), who sets about taking revenge on people associated with, wait, I've lost it. No, there must be a plot somewhere.

You see, there's a moment in this film that is so odd that it blots out the rest of the film entirely. Actually, maybe the rest of the film (which only clocks in at 75 minutes in total) is just so tedious that the one truly insane scene in the flick just cancels the rest out. The scene in question? It's the scene where the villainess unveils her six boobs and suckles three hooded zombies with gooey ectoplasm from her prosthetic nipples. No, seriously.


It's the only reason this film has any notoriety, as the rest of it is a plodding mess. Basically the evil punkette goes from lowlife to lowlife, encompassing drunks, hookers and more, and psychically forces them to kill themselves and other people.

Oh, wait! Now I remember. The basic crux of the plot is Miss Eva, the witch, attempting to resurrect her cult members from way back when by sucking the life force out of her victims, which then manifests as the goo from her prosthetic boobs. A counsellor, a doctor and a cop are soon on her trail, with every predictable moment of skepticism in there that you can imagine (mmm, padding) before the inevitable revelation that the camp counsellor really was onto something and the witch is killing folks.


There are some hilariously bad moments throughout it, but one of my favourite has to be the moment the counsellor is shot in the arm when the witch takes a character over and forces her to turn the weapon on her colleague.

The resulting squib in his arm goes off wrong, and hangs out of the fake blood of the fake wound for all the world to see. The actor actually pauses a moment, as if to go 'Oh shit!' before screaming in apparent pain. The camera holds on this slightly too long, making it plainly obvious we are watching a botched effect.

That sums the film up, really. A botch job that we see for far too long. The problem is, I actually found its complete ineptitude as a film quite endearing. Something I do find quite endearing is the fact that so much of the score is stolen from other films from C-movie legend Charles Band and his ilk, utilising music from films like Trancers, Puppet Master and more throughout the movie. It's absolute 80s, shot-on-video trash of the lowest order, but it's also passable viewing material if you can't be arsed to pay too much attention between the nasty bits. And by nasty bits I don't mean her terrifying, ectoplasm-leaking six boobs.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988)


Ahh, you know you're in for a fun film when Linnea Quigley's in the cast. This is a delightfully chaotic and entertaining piece of mid eighties horror which spawned two sequels and a remake, none of which matched the fun of this first film.

A bunch of teens head to a spooky house in order to indulge in The Standard 80s Horror Film Party Somewhere Bad. This time it's in an abandoned mortuary. After the kids conduct an impromptu séance as a party game, demons are unleashed from their otherworldly prisons and go about butchering some characters, possessing others and causing some beautifully manic chaos for eighty-something minutes.


Night of The Demons is a gloriously archetypal look at 80s horror, from the soundtrack and the cast to the tracking shots, the demon makeups and the set dressing. It's awesome. Angela, the lead demon by the time the climax comes around (and indeed in the two sequels), is everything you could want from a b-movie horror icon. Her outfit, her voice and her demonic makeup are perfect fodder for fans of 80s schlock.

The story is hokey and full of plot holes, not to mention moments where characters could EASILY have escaped their fates if only they had actually stopped standing there screaming and had actually run off, but that's part of its charm.


Linnea is clearly having a bit of a laugh with the whole thing, even when she's required to force a finger right through her own nipple. She certainly earned her Scream Queen credentials in this (and indeed 'Return of the Living Dead') and deserves every bit of fan appreciation she gets, for the simple fact that whenever she's onscreen she seems to be having such a great time making the film. That tongue in cheek atmosphere is very appealing.

The glorious thing about Night of the Demons is that it holds up well as a film despite its dated effects and hammy acting, well, because it never takes itself remotely seriously. It's a valiant attempt at creating a budget Freddy/Jason/Pinhead type character in Angela, and it's hard not to be entertained by her demonic antics, even when they're a tad nonsensical.

It's the sort of film which is referred to as a 'romp', because that's exactly what it is. Beheadings, gore, zombies, demons and teenagers being taught they shouldn't play with the supernatural? It must be Night of the Demons.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

PSYCHIC KILLER (1975)


This entertaining little shocker from '75 has an IMDB score which seems to be far too low. Yeah. It's cheap, hokey and looks like an episode of a cop show, but Psychic Killer has a lot of charm. The basic premise surrounds a man who is able to kill people via sending his spirit out by astral projection and using his psychic abilities to telekinetically influence the world around his victims.

It's a film that has been on my radar for a while as the rather brilliant trailer is attached to a bunch of low budget horror DVDs I've been gathering lately. Pretty much every Vipco title I've found of late has the trailer for Psychic Killer on it, so the power of advertising finally pushed me into checking out what I see as an under-appreciated gem.


Quiet guy Arnold Masters is in a jail's mental ward for a murder he didn't commit. While in jail he meets a man who introduces him to the concept of psychic powers, who then promptly dies in a scene which is both chilling and hilarious. When his innocence is revealed, he is set free and sinks deeper into his own world of strange and dark thoughts. With an amulet the guy leaves behind, Arnold is able to set about tracking down and offing all of the people that screwed his life up with the murder case.

Of course, there's a sexy doctor and a grizzled cop on his trail as Arnold goes about murdering people in very inventive ways. I think my favourite has to be the scene in which a butcher is killed in a rather grisly fashion. The scene really kicks in when a load of raw meat chases him towards a meat grinder, which then spews chunks of meat as we watch his hand minced into a bloody mess (you may well recognize the butcher from Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive/Death Trap flick).


Arnold, played by the deliciously creepy Jim Hutton, is actually quite likeable in an odd way. It's everyone else that's kinda irritating in the film, which makes it oddly satisfying when they are minced, flung off cliffs, burned to death in the shower or whatever fate Arnold sees fit for them. The film mixes thriller, horror and science fiction together, and while it doesn't always work, for me me it hits the mark more often than not.

I just wish the ending had been longer, a bit more fleshed out, and that there had been an epilogue. Psychic Killer is one of those film that literally stops as the climactic moment ends, which is rather annoying after such a build-up to what is effectively a very short finale. There are moments throughout the film that show great promise, with some very creepy moments where the atmosphere is pitch perfect.

The character of Arnold is classic lunatic, quiet and gentle but always slightly off-kilter. The answer to beating him is a bit of a cop-out and there are loose plot threads dangling here and there, but those final moments, however short they are, are worth waiting for. Psychic Killer does live up to the hype I had built up around it after seeing the trailer so many times, but only just.

Monday, 31 October 2011

DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE (1980)


One of the DPP's list of Video Nasties, Don't Go In The House originally found its way to my eyes via a cheap Apex slipcase VHS I bought for 1.99 from a market stall when I was about 14. It scared the crap out of me at the time thanks to its truly nightmarish concept, and recently I picked up a big-box version of the same Apex release on eBay in order to revisit what I remember as a film that really unsettled me.

How does it stand up? Actually it's probably more frightening now, despite the bad acting, dodgy internal logic and tiny budget. The film follows a demented young man whose mother lies dead in the living room. He can still hear her voice, berating him, screaming at him, even while she decomposes in an armchair. Another mad voice has joined his psychic turmoil, and is persuading him to take out his frustrations, anger and madness on innocent women. He builds a steel room in the house, buys a flame-proof suit and a flamethrower, and proceeds to chain people up and burn them alive.


As the film progresses, his madness escalates until he sees his victims (whose charred corpses are dressed in his mother's clothes and arranged in the living room with his dead mother like some insane tea party) coming back to life and taking out their revenge upon their killer.

The film features some very graphic scenes of horrific violence (although the version on this tape is cut a bit), but it is the atmosphere of the flick itself that makes it so unsettling. There is little build-up before our main character goes mental, and then we are taken along for the ride as he goes deeper and deeper into his own psychotic world and his own sense of murderous logic, egged on by the voices.

There's also a great use of a minimal score and some stylish cinematography, but the acting lets the film down and stops it becoming anything other than a creepy little Grindhouse movie that built a lasting reputation thanks to a couple of very nasty scenes. That said, Don't Go In The House is an interesting curio for the discerning horror fan who has a taste for low budgets and buckets of atmosphere rather than tons of gore.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Yearly Hiatus Is Here...

Folks, it's that time of year again. NaNoWriMo is upon us again, and thus I will be putting Diary of a Genre Addict on hiatus for the duration of November. Time permitting, I'll be back to bring you more content, but for the most part I'll be beavering away trying to write 50,000 words in a month.

There's plenty to look forward to when the site gets back in action in December... 

-MORE reviews!
-MORE autobiographical posts!
-MORE new features!
-MORE pages!

And of course...

-DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT: THE WEB SERIES!

See you in December, addicts! Thanks for visiting!

Your humble Genre Addict,
Andrew

Thursday, 27 October 2011

TRAILER TREASURES: DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE (1980)

I just watched this classic piece of nastiness again yesterday for the first time in about 15 years, and it holds up really well. This trailer is a nicely creepy teaser for the film and gives it an awesome Grindhouse kind of atmosphere. The flick itself is demented from about five minutes in, and while it's quite sick in places, I recommend it to horror connoisseurs everywhere, as there's so much atmosphere to soak up during the flick. Check out the gloriously tacky trailer.

(Full review coming soon!)

TRAILER TREASURES: WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994)

I was a massive Freddy fan as a teenager, and those films are still dear to my heart, but it was the seventh entry in the series, Wes Craven's New Nightmare, which really caught my imagination. The concept was incredible - A demonic Freddy Krueger stalking the people involved with the original movies, and while the effects haven't dated all that well, the idea is still as powerful as ever.

 Freddy isn't in the film much, but his menacing presence is there in spades, and it's this film that feels like the final part of a trilogy alongside the first A Nightmare On Elm Street movie and its perfect second sequel, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. I remember walking out of the cinema when New Nightmare came out and being stunned by it. I still love the idea of it, and the execution has aged well.

This version of the trailer is genius, mixing faux documentary footage in with the action of the movie. Excellent.

 (A full review of the film itself is coming soon)

Monday, 24 October 2011

THE VIDEO DEAD (1986)

This film has got to have one of the best covers to ever grace a VHS horror film. Seriously. It's an '80s horror fan's wet dream of a video cover, and even better, it's double sided and boasts an equally awesome (although very similar) image on each side. It's one of the few 80s horror movies that has never been released on DVD, and is highly collectable (look, I don't MEAN to sound like Comic Book Guy from the Simspons. It just happens). I've lost four or five of these to higher bidders on eBay, but finally a copy has slipped into my grasp and is being appreciated properly.

The Video Dead has one of the greatest – and silliest – premises of any horror flick of the era, and I absolutely adore every frame of it. A haunted TV is delivered to a regular suburb (full of regular suburban characters and the ubiquitous teenage hero and heroine), and while the occupant of the house it arrives at is asleep, zombies from another dimension emerge from the TV and the horror begins, sort of.

As soon as this happens we jump forward in time to when the house is empty and has been sold. Our young heroes, Jeff and Zoe, are moving into the house and, naturally, discover the TV. After a nicely-paced build, the TV unleashes its hordes of zombies (who are sporting some pretty damn effective makeups) upon the house and the suburb, and the red stuff starts to flow.


The Video Dead is a beautifully cheesy piece of genre cinema that is the perfect addition to any vintage VHS collection, as alongside that glorious cover art there is a film which manages to be fun, funny, gory and just plain entertaining, which can't be said of every flick from that era, can it? The zombies are shambling, iconic visions of those notorious undead flesheaters, each with a nasty visage and a unique costume.

Despite the low budget and limited scope of the cinematography, there's a nice amount of atmosphere down to the well-placed musical cues and some tense editing. Add to this a soundtrack featuring some deliciously cheesy 80s pop-rock, characters with era-specific hairstyles and clothes, some nicely stiff acting, plenty of comedy moments and some pleasingly nasty zombie sequences, and you have a very precious thing indeed.


If you love your 80s horror, then you need to track a copy of this film down while there are still some on the collector's market. In fact, I think it's actually better that this film doesn't show up on DVD, as the best way to watch The Video Dead would have to be on VHS, if only to capture the right mood. DVD would probably ruin the look of the film (at points there's so much dry ice that it looks like a Bonnie Tyler video...heh). Sometimes, you see, it's better to have a lower quality format in order to enjoy something properly. The Video Dead is a great example. Have an old-school horror night, and make sure a copy of The Video Dead is standing by beside your ancient VHS player. Just be wary of what comes out of your TV...

Monday, 17 October 2011

Elves (1989)

I'm really glad I didn't pay much for this film. It's not that I thought it was a waste of 50p – not at all – it's just that paying small change for it seemed most appropriate considering the apparent budget of this notorious-in-VHS-collecting-circles film.

The guy that was Grizzly Adams (I'm not kidding) is a failed cop working as a department store Santa. One night he stumbles across a bunch of girls having a late-night party in the store, who are (of course) being stalked by a bunch of murderous rubber elves who were once the basis for an evil plot of the Third Reich (wait, skip back to the HARD ROCK ZOMBIES review recently- the nazis certainly seemed to be a popular explanation for stuff in z-grade 80s horror...), and who can only be stopped with the help of a former member of the Gestapo.

Erm, right.

Elves is every bit as stupid as that description makes it sound. It's also bloody, but every time the Elves are onscreen you can't help but cringe due to the woeful effects job on them. It's an effects job that didn't even stretch to giving them working jaws, so every time they appear to be trying to eat someone, they look like shiny muppets nibbling as a cake, rather than demonic beings with razor sharp fangs.

The thing is, Elves is so bad it's almost amazing. I couldn't look away throughout it, and wanted to cheer every time Grizzly Adams attempts to deliver his lines. The acting, script and production are all real bargain-basement stuff.

The cinematography is shoddy, the music is cheap, and everything is tacky enough for a real kitsch factor to kick in. For all of its faults, I really liked this film and would recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind spending 90 minutes with their tongue planted hard in their cheek.

Friday, 14 October 2011

TRAILER TREASURES: THE VIDEO DEAD (1986)

I've been trying to get hold of a copy of this movie for a while on eBay, but kept losing it to people with more money. At long last I've managed to win one, and am really looking forward to reviewing it here for you. It's a brilliant slice of 80s horror cheese, and I'm looking forward to revisiting a gem that is still yet to be released on DVD. Here's the trailer:


From your addict: a FREE Horror story download!

Hey all, here's an early halloween gift from me to all of you. I wanted to hand out a fiction freebie in the run-up to Halloween, and here it is- UNDEAD AND BURIED, an original short story available completely FREE to download. Right-click on the cover below and download your copy!


I hope you enjoy the story, and please do share the file (or a link to this post) with likeminded friends and addicts. happy (early) Halloween all!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

HARD ROCK ZOMBIES (1985)


In no uncertain terms, this film is absolute crap, but it's absolute crap that managed to entertain me for ninety minutes with utter nonsense of the 1980s shot-on-video variety. If I wasn't shot on video then it certainly looks like it was, anyway. A trashy rock band heads to a trashy small town where they are to play a trashy concert for an A+R guy.

Beyond that plotline, there's a creepy dude and a pair of dwarves (one clad in a remarkably unconvincing rubber mask) along with a young lady who are slaughtering people for their own ends lurking around and being comically sinister. The band fall foul of local do-gooders (and the aforementioned creepy types) and find themselves dead and buried.


 However, a local girl who has befriended the band manages to resurrect them by means of a chant (I don't know either, folks) and the band make a comeback (sorry) as zombies. Well, I say zombies, but what I really mean is 'guys with a bit more makeup on than before'. They also have the most comical zombie walk ever.

Then there comes the part with Hitler turning up in modern-day small-town America and trying to kickstart the fourth reich by building an army of zombies. Uh. Yeah. Cue a guy done up (quite convincingly) as Hitler, yelling at nobody in particular about how he's going to take over the world with the undead. Classy.


Hard Rock Zombies is ultra cheap, relentlessly awful in every respect and rather delightful because of it. Most people that pick it up now are going to fling it in the bin after about ten minutes unless they know what they're getting. The band's music is a point to talk about, actually. It's as cheesy as it gets, but there's a joyously anarchic feel to their dubbed tunes that perfectly sums up the era and the tongue-in-cheek nature of the flick.

For some reason my local HMV had a big display of this title out recently. I'm guessing someone over-ordered and was being punished with sticks while the shop tried to shift them. Sadly, I only wanted one copy and thus I think the whole audience for it around here has now been used up. Hard Rock Zombies (which should really be called 'Light Metal Grey Guys') is awful, and thus, right up my street.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

THE KINDRED (1987)


Aw man, I hate it when this happens. The Kindred is one of those film that I've wanted to see for years, thanks to the trailer for it showing up on a lot of my early horror rentals back in the day. I finally picked up a copy on eBay as I thought it was about time I gave the full length film a chance instead of just the trailer, and aside from the awesome cover art, I'm kinda disappointed.

I'm not sure if this is down to the film itself or my overblown expectations after loving the trailer for years, but I feel kinda let down by it. The film has plenty of rubber monsters, blood, action and invention, but it's also very slow between the monster scenes, to the point that a lot of it feels like a TV show episode, padded out with endless dialogue rather than moving the plot along a great deal.

An elderly scientist reveals secrets to her son while on her deathbed, and requests that he goes and destroys the notes for the secret project she has been working on. With the help of various scientists and other bland characters, John (the son) sets about unravelling the mystery of his mother's weird experiments... and meets a number of freakish mutants along the way!


An uneven mix of horror, science fiction and thriller, The Kindred doesn't really get going until about seventy minutes into its running time, by which time you'll either be engrossed or asleep. Once it does kick into gear and starts flinging scares at the screen, the film is extremely effective (there is a transformation scene involving gills erupting on a character which is a sequence that has haunted me ever since I saw the trailer).

If you make it to the eighty minute mark, it's great. The characters are all a bit pointless, with little in the way of chemistry or conflict between them, but somehow they do manage to muddle through. The effects for the monsters and failed experiments are cheesy and rubbery, but very effective in the confines of this film.

It's complete b-movie addict fodder, but thanks to that excellent third act (echoed stylistically in later films such as Species, Mimic and the like) it at least offers some real entertainment. This is helped by liberal amounts of thrashing tentacles, close ups of the monster's hideous face and plenty of blood.

The use of serene music at the end of the film really adds a creepy atmosphere to the onscreen mayhem. I do feel disappointed by it though, as nothing could really live up to the expectations the trailer gave me. I'm glad I've seen it now though, and even more glad the big-box VHS of it has been added to my collection at long last.

Friday, 30 September 2011

MIRRORMASK (2005)

A script by Neil Gaiman. Production by the Jim Henson Company. Designs and direction from Dave McKean. Mirrormask is a thing of rare beauty, a treasure, precious and lovely. It's also criminally unappreciated by the masses, and bombed on its original release.

This is sort of understandable, really, such is the magnitude of invention on display throughout it. It's easy to see why the moviegoing public didn't take to it during its limited theatrical run, but it's also plain to see how and why the film has developed such a strong cult following over the last few years.

I was introduced to the film when a pack of promo material was delivered to the comic shop I used to work in. It contained posters, postcards, film cells and the like, and I was instantly captivated. As soon as the film was released, I took it in and was swept away by its sublime and fantastical escapism.


Mirrormask is an extremely rewarding film with multiple viewings, but on first impressions there may be a little too much going on to take it all in. It tells the story of Helena, a teenage girl who lives with a circus troupe and dreams of escaping her life of performance. Following the hospitalization of her mother, she finds herself trapped in a dream world in which she must set about a quest to find the mythical MirrorMask in order to save a dream version of mum (and in turn the kingdom itself).

She is helped along the way by the mysterious rogue Valentine, a juggler with the gift of the gab, and an assortment of otherworldly creatures amidst a landscape the likes of which had never been seen on screen before.


It is dreamlike rather than epic, unsettling rather than thrilling, and completely unforgettable. Another point is that at times, the film is remarkably frightening. Many people raise issue with the script, as it does carry a great deal of resemble to Labyrinth and suchlike, but I find it beautiful.

Starring Stephanie Leonidas as Helena alongside people such as Gina McKee, Rob Brydon and Stephen Fry, the film is a unique look into the minds of both Gaiman and McKean, and carries all of the hallmarks of their individual talents with a computer-generated land of miracles and horrors.

The CGI holds up well even now, and I would say that the fact the world is so stylized and the story involves such deep and strange dreams has stopped it dating much. The film has its devout fans and its harsh critics, but for some of us it worms its ay into our minds and doesn't let us ever stop loving it. The world of Mirrormask is a collage of bizarre images and scenes interspersed with progressive jazz rather than epic orchestrations, which works together in a surreal and sublime fashion.


Actually, it may be the score that goes some way to making Mirrormask feel even more avant-garde than it really is, which in turn may have turned some viewers off of it. The influence of the Henson company is rather apparent throughout the film's length, but this is never a bad thing. Seldom has there been a company whose name alone assures you that quality and imagination will be flashed before your eyes, and wherever Mirrormask may disappoint some viewers, it is sure to thrill them in others.

The use of multiple roles for cast members (i.e. real world/dream world counterparts) is very well handled, and a big shout-out must go to Gina McKee for her gorgeous portrayal of both Helena's mum and the terrifying evil Queen of the dream realm. This is a film that will not be to everyone's tastes, but for those with a sense of wonder and an appreciation of the work of the people involved in creating it, it is a beautiful experience that only gets better with age. A disaster to some, but a masterpiece to others. I'm proud to be in the latter camp.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

MACABRE (aka FROZEN TERROR- 1980)


This first directorial effort from Lamberto Bava, Macabre (aka Frozen Terror) has had its twists revealed and spoiled via many a VHS and Dvd cover, so it won't spoil thing too much more if I tell you there's a severed head in the fridge. I don't mean MY fridge, by the way (although what's in YOURS is your own business). This horror-tinged thriller does live up to it's name, as some parts of it are extremely macabre indeed.


Including child murder, grisly accidents, necrophilia and the aforementioned severed head in the kitchen, the film follows a middle aged woman who moves into a boarding house after the death of her young son and her lover, whose head ends up on ice (and in her bed on multiple occasions).

 The, erm, macabre aspects of the film work very well, and some shots are deeply unsettling (the sex scene with the severed head is particularly weird), but a tiresome dub and some cumbersome scenes rob it of much tension outside of those scenes. The woman's psychotic daughter is a high point of a wooden cast, and she gets some very creepy scenes indeed, not least the shocking murder of her brother.

There is an air of taboo about the film, which itself creates the atmosphere rather than the actual plot, and the strong climax rounds it off nicely, leaving you with a more positive opinion of the flick than the other eighty minutes. It's based on supposed real events, which adds a bit more authority, but not much.

One aspect of the movie that is noticeably good is the cinematography, much of which is quite beautifully framed. Beyond the shocks and the look of the film, there's not a great deal to recommend Macabre with, but it is worth watching as a curiosity of an earlier style of moviemaking and the burgeoning style of Bava.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

COMING SOON: DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT - THE SERIES!

The web series version of DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT will be starting soon, featuring a new review each episode and informal wibbling about the geek lifestyle and cult movies from me, your humble writer-turned host! The textual version of the site will continue alongside these videos. Here's the opening title sequence that will usher in the show!


Friday, 23 September 2011

BRAIN DAMAGE (1988)


Frank Henenlotter, the man behind the classic BASKET CASE (and its not-so-classic sequels) took a trippy detour with this bizarre horror comedy. Coming across like a drug-fuelled Sam Raimi flick, it follows normal guy Brian as he becomes dependent on the secretions of a phallic brain monster called Elmer, whose 'juices' send Brian into a state of euphoric hallucination. The thing is, Elmer needs to eat human brains in order to stay alive, and once Brian is hooked on his juices and addicted to the glowing lights that each hit makes him see, chaos is the order of the day. 

Brains are sucked out through people's mouths, the tops of their heads and more, Brian is subjected to mad hallucinations (including the sight of him pulling out his own brain matter which is then followed by a torrential explosion of blood), and a deranged elderly couple spend a lot of screen time screaming 
'Aaaayyyylllmmeeerrrr!' 


Deliciously mad, gloriously messy and fabulously crude, Brain Damage is one of the most unique horror films of the 80s in terms of visuals, the comedic terror of the Elmer creature and the thinly-veiled drug addiction allegory. 

The budgetary and technological limitations of the film actually work in its favour, adding a somewhat cartoonish feel to the violence and the delirious dream sequences and trippy moments. That's what gives it that Raimi style atmosphere, and also what makes the film seem so cheerful even while Elmer is sucking people's brains out of their skulls. I mean, it's hard not to love a film featuring a well-spoken demonic cock/turd with a cheerful face as a main character, and even moreso during the unnerving fellatio scene. 


One moment fans should keep an eye out for is the rather unexpected cameo from a certain other Henenlotter film, namely BASKET CASE. It's a beautifully placed little moment that works perfectly. For all of the chaos that fills Brain Damage, there's a serious message about drug dependency somewhere in there, but amidst the outlandish mayhem, wooden acting and brain-sucking fun, it can get a little lost in the mix. 

Rick Hearst is the best onscreen actor in the film, giving Brian a sympathetic demeanour even while tripping on Elmer's blue goo while it;s being pumped into his head. The film was trimmed a fair amount upon its original release in cinemas and on home video, but it is now available uncut on DVD and is well worth your time. 

Personally I tracked down the Palace Horror VHS edition of it I remember craving as a teenager and watched it in all of it's videotaped, blurry glory. While not the greatest film in the world, Brain Damage is the perfect alternative viewing when you don't think you can sit through Evil Dead II again for a while. And remember, kids: Don't take drugs, especially if they are administered by penis-shaped parasites with several rows of fangs.  

Sunday, 18 September 2011

NEON MANIACS (1986)

Neon Maniacs is one of the most sought-after films of my teenage video-renting days. For some reason I've never owned a copy until now, but it was one of the best rentals I ever got back in the day. The cover art alone was enough to entice me in with its promise of mutants and mayhem, and now, after many years, eBay has provided me with a gloriously well-preserved big-box VHS tape of this glorious horror/SF/comedy movie. Twelve varied, mutated, armed and dangerous maniacs attack a group of kids in San Fransisco, hacking them to death and leaving only one survivor, Natalie. She goes to the police, who of course don't believe her story of monsters and carnage, especially as there are no bodies and no evidence other than some green goo.
A young geek girl (and amateur Ghostbuster) believes the tale though, and attempts to learn more with the help of her trusty video camera. Along the way she discovers the secret to harming the monsters, and forges a typically uneasy alliance with Natalie and her new boyfriend Steven, a wholesome guy who happens to front a very wholesome rock band, as they plan to stop the Neon Maniacs (who are now chasing Natalie for reasons that are never explained). The maniacs themselves are a mix of awesome and awesomely bad, either looking fantastic or just plain silly, but it works, dammit.
There are moments in this film that are unintentionally hilarious, such as the gloriously cheesy battle of the bands at the film's climax, but there are also some fine scenes of good old-fashioned 80s horror action, with the various monsters chasing and attacking folks in the blunt visual style of the era. There's no real explanation for the existence of the creatures, or why they can be destroyed a certain way, but that matters little.

Neon Maniacs is a near-perfect slice of low budget 80s horror mayhem, although there's less gore than you may expect. Something that sets it apart from a lot of schlock though is that the main characters are pretty well thought-out, but it's the incredibly endearing geek girl and budding badass Paula (played by Donna Locke, whose IMDB page only has Neon maniacs on it. I wonder what happened to her?) that steals the show.

There's an odd mix of teenage drama, comedy, action and gleefully demented horror at play throughout Neon Maniacs which gives it an atmosphere all of its own, and if you share my love for cheap 80s b-movies, then you are sure to love this film as much as I do. For the proper effect, find a copy on VHS and watch it on an old analogue TV in the middle of the night, and do your best to ignore the jumps in logic that pop up throughout it, or just how incredibly silly the whole thing is. Aaaahhh, perfect.