Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Rediscovering IT

I'm 66 pages into rereading Stephen King's IT (my current bedtime reading- apt huh?), after an urge to revisit this book which has meant so much for me as a kid. A kid, you say? Aye. I first read IT when I was 12 years old, and I blame the 1,116 pages of this paperback (the very copy I was bought as a kid, which I've now owned for 21 years) for pretty much everything I have become. Heh.

When I was first reading the book and discovering horror, I was perhaps a little young to be doing so (okay, I was very much too young to do so), but it fascinated me. I wanted to know what made these stories (and latterly films) scare people. What was it hidden in those words that could send shivers up peoples' spines? I wanted to harness that power for myself.

The same year, my teachers called my parents into school to talk about the books I had been reading and the stories I had been writing. As well as IT, I had been reading things like William Peter Blatty's original novel of The Exorcist, Craig Thomas thrillers, James Herbert novels and a couple of sleazy, cheesy Nick Carter spy novels. I was reading far higher than the rest of my age group, and had discovered that writing stories about zombies and exploding innards was a good way to freak out my peers and stop a few bullies bothering me (this never worked - They just hit me more for being so odd).

My teachers were freaked out that a shy 12 year old was devouring such material, but my parents didn't have a problem with me reading adult books as long as I knew that they contained adult situations and that I was aware that kids shouldn't try and replicate anything in the books. What I think was a big factor is that for once I was reading something other than comics or cartoon tie-in books.

Anyway, I loved the book then and grew into a massive Stephen King fan. For all of the influence that people like Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Isaac Asimov and Clifford Simak have had on my fiction writing, there's always a very direct influence from Stephen's early horror novels.

Reading the book again now is a weird experience, as the mental images are very similar to the ones I had as a kid, sentences are familiar and the atmosphere is much more effective. I 'get' it more now than I did as a child, which is to be expected, but it's just as much fun a lifetime later. He did kinda need a more brutal edit, but the book remains a milestone in my life as a reader, as it sewed the seeds of me wanting to write horror and fantasy myself. Maybe one day those endeavours will pay off. Until then, I'll get back to reading IT in bed and worrying that Pennywise is watching me sleep.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

DAY OF THE DEAD (1985)

Day of the Dead seems to be the ugly sibling in George A. Romero's original Dead trilogy, but in honesty I think it's possibly the best of the three, despite how sacrilegious that may sound. It's a bit more bizarre, a lot gorier, and gets across the epic scale of the zombie apocalypse that began with Night of the Living Dead in 1968.

A dozen military personnel are working on a solution to the zombie menace from an underground missile silo, but once the facility becomes overrun with flesh-gnawing undead, a frantic battle for survival ensues. It's bleak, nasty and claustrophobic, which is where its power lies.

The chilling dream sequences that pepper the film add to the feeling of despair and inevitability felt by the people in the silo, and the internal conflicts between those characters work well to humanise people who are basically rather stereotypical.

It's very different to the two earlier films, which may be one of the reasons that it is seem as a lesser entry by some people, but I think it is a marvellously paced and wonderfully frightening horror movie that has aged much better than the iconic first two movies.

The conflict between military personnel and the scientists of the group is wound tighter and tighter throughout the film, until it all boils over right in the middle of a zombie invasion. This drags the viewer in and adds to both the entertainment value and the scares. The examination of what drives the zombies onwards that the film offers is fascinating and adds to the mythos, while the grisly visuals up the ante set down by 'Night...' and 'Dawn...' with gleefully nasty relish.

Some of the gore scenes are amazing, and rank amongst my all-time favourite. These of course include the cutting-off of the infected guy's arm, the vividly gory experimentation scenes and the scenes of zombies tearing characters apart in glorious technicolour.

The inclusion of Bub, the domesticated zombie, is a masterstroke, reminding us that the cadavers are moe than just cannon fodder and that they used to be human once upon a time. Of course, he does offer a bit of comedy relief too, but that serves to alleviate the darkness of the otherwise relentlessly bleak story a bit.

Day of the Dead isn't a perfect film, but it successfully built on what had gone before and brought the horror to a new level. It was my first exposure to Romero's work way back in the mists of my teenage years, which may have coloured my opinion a bit, but I love it. Most horror fans have their favourite Romero zombie flick, and I'm proud to say this is mine.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

CHOPPING MALL (1986)

Two things made me love this film before I'd even seen it. First up is that gloriously puntastic title, and the second is the fact I worked in a shopping centre (mall to my American readers) for nine years, which makes the thought of gory mayhem in a mall oh so very appealing.

While the Beyond Terror DVD edition I'm viewing may look like it was ripped from a battered VHS copy, it's uncut and an absolute cheesy delight from start to finish. The story is nice and simple for late-night viewing: Security robots run amok in a shopping mall one night when a bunch of kids have hidden away in order to have a midnight party once the place is shut. Carnage ensues, at one point including the best head explosion this side of Scanners.

The characters are about as 80s-horror-teen-stereotype as it gets, and it's almost a relief when the INSANE SECURITY ROBOTS OF DOOM start butchering them with lasers and all manner of other methods of crowd control.

It should really have been quite clear what was going to happen as soon as the robots were unveiled to mall officials at the start of the film, considering the things look like a cross between Daleks, tanks and KITT from Knight Rider. One lightning strike is all it seems to take in order to send them mental and start laying waste to humans. I bet they were running Windows.

Chopping Mall stars That Guy From Deathstalker and a few familiar faces, but who gives a crap about the cast when there are robots making people's heads explode? The young cast get up to all of the naughty things that teenagers do in 80s horror movies, but with the added bonus of getting away with it in a closed shopping mall.

It's like Dawn of the Dead with robots and shagging. I mean, how can anyone fail to love a scene involving a very 80s girl in typical old horror flick knickers and t-shirt ensemble being chased by a marauding robot that blows her head to pieces and then says 'have a Nice day!' in a robotic monotone. It's great.

The film isn't quite as graphic as the cover art suggests, but Chopping Mall is just as much silly 80s fun as you would expect from the title and its reputation. It's a rubbish film when looked at in a critical manner, almost childish in its execution, but when viewed as I am doing now, with a couple of cans, some BBQ chicken wings and chips, I think it's fantastic.

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RECENT ADDITIONS:

It's been my birthday this week and as such my stash has grown rather a lot... New arrivals include:

CHOPPING MALL DVD
AMER DVD
LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT 2 DISC DVD
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD - 90S REMAKE- DVD
DAY OF THE DEAD VHS
THE EXTERMINATOR - BIG BOX VHS
ARCADE - BIG BOX VHS (Oh how I've missed owning this film)
FUTURE HUNTERS BIG BOX VHS
HARDWARE BIG BOX VHS
THE ATTIC BIG BOX VHS
DEATHSTALKER III BIG BOX VHS
ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS - EXTREME EDITION VHS
ICE CREAM MAN DVD
HELL ASYLUM DVD
IT VHS
PHANTASM VHS
SHE - BIG BOX VHS
THE HUNGER VHS
(and at least a dozen SF paperbacks)

...and possibly some I've missed out. Crikey.

Monday, 22 August 2011

I Miss The Horror Mag Years

I'm thrilled that The Dark Side is back on UK shelves in all of its gory glory, but of late I have found myself missing the golden years of the horror magazine, around 1990-1992. Back then we had titles like Shivers and suchlike alongside US fare such as Fangoria and the original version of GOREZONE (nothing to do with the UK soft-porn/ occasional film mag currently out there with that name), along with smaller titles such as TOXIC and many more.

I was born in the wrong era and the wrong country to get into Famous Monsters of FilmLand, which I've always felt bad about as I'm a huge fan of the late, great Forrest J. Ackerman, so I was limited to what I could find in newsagents and specialist shops at the time.

Those glimpses of gory delights within those luridly designed pages told the young, impressionable me of the wonder and majesty that was possible in the horror genre, and it was the passion with which their writers spoke in those features and columns that gave me a love for writing about film, long before I first visited Ain't It Cool back in 1999.

Those magazines were magical to me, and while I did get rid of my collection one awful day years ago, I have been able to replace those much-missed issues from a variety of sources and even expand my collection further than before. They speak of a different era of genre cinema, different distribution methods, different production methods and a different outlook on what horror was and is.

Plus, like classic comics, they contain some amazing adverts for things like Makeup FX schools, underground films, collectibles, masks, costumes and much more that set my imagination alight as a kid and a teenager.

Yes, I was into horror far younger than I should have been, but rather than the violence fascinating me, it was the craft and the tricks involved in putting those scares onto screens that held my interest. Those magazines were inspiring and, much to the chagrin of my teachers and parents, a big influence on the person I became. It's all their fault, I swear!

==========

New Additions (quite a haul today!):
SHE FREAK/A TASTE OF BLOOD DVD (Something Weird Double Feature disc. The extras are AMAZING!)
Writers of the Future XXV (paperback, 2009)
Through a Glass, Clearly – Isaac Asimov (anthology – paperback, 1967)
Beyond The Barrier – Damon Knight (paperback, 1966)
The People Trap – Robert Sheckley (paperback, 1969)
Options – Robert Sheckley (paperback, 1977)
The Same To You Doubled – Robert Sheckley (anthology- paperback, 1972)
THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE ISSUE 1 (magazine, 1988)

Watched: Trailers and short films on the Something Weird double-bill I got today :)

Reading: Destination: Universe! by A.E. van Vogt (only 2 pages of it today- too busy for more!)
Also have started proofing my next novella.

Making plans for: Display cases for action figures and racks for DVD/VHS collection.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Terminal Force (aka GALAXIS – 1995)

Brigitte Nielsen stars in this delightfully daft science fiction epic-on-a-shoestring. A marvellously noisy and gimmicky film, it comes across as a mix between Star Wars and the 1980s live action Masters of the Universe, and to these eyes this is no bad thing.

Released in the heyday of straight-to-video SF, Terminal Force certainly had ideas above its station, and it's that valiant attempt at doing something epic with a less-than epic budget that endears it so much to me.

Before the obligatory shift into the 'present day Earth', there are spaceships, futuristic battlegrounds, a quest for a crystal, a cackling villain and a bunch of battle sequences and giant explosions, (not to mention a beautifully awful 'Nooooooo!' from Brigitte over her fallen brother's body) all in the first fifteen minutes.

The plot is nice and simple: Aliens fighting over a crystalline power source head to earth, where a random guy is hiding an identical crystal, and explosive mayhem ensues. Those opening minutes feature a cameo from none other than Sam Raimi, who was clearly enjoying rubbing ham into the camera lens (along with a young Craig Fairbrass!).

The thing is, after that superb opening salvo of robots, spaceships and the villain escaping into the void, we're brought to earth for a typical 1990s SF action flick where the buxom alien warrior strides around the streets of L.A. Blowing things up and being all 'alien' about it.

Brigitte plays it straight, well, 'play' is a stretch when talking about her acting, and the rest of the cast seem to be taking it all very light-heartedly considering a giant alien warrior lady has landed on earth and is shooting stuff and walking through badly composited explosions in search of a magic crystal from space.

It's hokey beyond all reason, hitting every sci-fi b-movie beat in the book along the way, but I like it. It's not trying to be high art, and there's never any pretense to the film that it is anything other than a brash and cheesy series of fight scenes and clich├ęd moralising.

Brigitte Nielsen and John Brennan play the alien badass and the hapless human chancer with nary a glance at the script by the looks of things, and the police on the trail of their mayhem fit with Generic Police Characters from a thousand other films. I love it. It's so bad that it may well be amazing.

Amidst the early attempts at CG effects, morphing, hapless criminals and set-piece battles between Nielsen's Ladera and Richard Moll's Darth-Vader-esque Kyla, there's a cartoonish and entertainingly silly film that should not be taken seriously on any level, but should be enjoyed for what it it. A bit of trash that goes BANG.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

TRAILER TREASURES: WARRIOR OF THE LOST WORLD


I need to write about this 1983 film at length sometime. I had a big-box VHS tape of it that was missing the cover art, so someone had inserted an original full-page magazine advert for it into the case instead. I hope I still have it in storage somewhere, otherwise I may weep.

The film was very silly indeed, even being ridiculed on Mystery Science Theater 3000 once upon a time, but I loved it. A basic Mad Max rip-off with some added spiritual stuff and a Nazi organization enforcing a 1984 utopian society subplot, it starred Robert Ginty and the late Persis Khambatta in a loud, weird and fun science fiction action movie with a talking motorbike, explosions, 80s punk gangs and more explosions. The trailer was a hundred times better than the actual film, but I loved it anyway.



==========

NEW ACQUISITIONS:
ELVES (VHS Big Box)
PIN (VHS Big Box)

READING:
Destination: Universe! by A.E. Van Vogt

WATCHED:
Garth Marenghi's DARKPLACE - Episode 1 - 'Once Upon a Beginning'

Friday, 19 August 2011

HELLGATE (1989)

A ghost story told between college friends by a fire gives way to a flashback to the 1950s, albeit a cheesy, brightly coloured vision of the era. The events in this lengthy flashback set up the rest if the film in a fashion that can only be described as 'Beat you over the head with the plot points'.

A local beauty is attacked, and thirty-two years later the secret of the place it happened, a town called Hellgate, no less, a secret is uncovered by the college friends in the present and a zombie army is unleashed. Sounds a bit odd, yes? It is.

This entertaining but brainless horror movie plays like an Amateur Dramatics production rather than a feature film, thanks to performances that are cringeworthy at worst and flat at best (although the divine Abigail Wolcott is the best thing in the film as Josie). Some of these issues could have been improved with tighter editing or more snappy takes, as there's nothing particularly wrong with the film- it just places a little oddly.

Too much is going on for any one idea or indeed genre to stick. There's horror, comedy, SF and more all jostling for space within its 87 minute running time. That's the trouble- it has no idea which of these things the film need to be.

As the ghost story unfolds in the present day and a typically heroic stranger comes to town, a crystal is discovered that has the power to raise the dead (It brings a rubber bat 'back' to life), and thus the mayhem begins. Hellgate looks, sounds and plays cheap, but it has its charm thanks to the oddly cheerful atmosphere of the piece.

Behold, a creepy run-down carnival. Behold - ghosts, zombies and splatter. Behold - a stately home. It's missing a coherent plot (or even an incoherent plot, to be honest), but there is still some perverse delight in watching something so bad. There are some impressive bladder effects on show and some squelchy gore, but many viewers will find that Hellgate lacks pace or scares. A fun little watch, though, once it gets going.

Diary: Kindred Spirits

Buried deep in the guts of the dark fiend that is Facebook there lies a group that makes me very happy indeed. I don't take part in the discussion much, which I shall be correcting shortly, but every time I go there I am reassured that I may not be all that odd after all. The group is HORROR VHS COLLECTORS UNITE! and it is populated by people I feel a great affinity towards- film fans with a passion for horror on VHS.

There are almost five thousand images of big-box VHS tapes, tapes in card sleeves, cover art and more, and it makes me dribble between my keys. It's nice to know I'm not the only person around with a fondness for this obsolete format, and I can find some solace in the adventures of this group, as it means that I don't feel quite so much like my Dad talking about eight-track tapes.

I'm sure when I have a kid that it will stare at my collection of big-box VHS tapes and wonder how the hell you play them, what they were for, why the format was so clunky and why the covers tended to be much better than a lot of the films themselves. Well, I love those black chunks of plastic and tape. I love their garish covers, their bad effects, their over-saturated colours and fuzzy edges. I love their distorted audio and their awful effects.

I love horror on VHS. Simple as that.

I love the search, the anticipation and the excitement of finding something rare, something cool or something awful but still fascinating. What I love the most right now is the knowledge that I'm not alone in my quest. So, to every member of that group, I salute you, my comrades. I salute your collections and your passion, and am glad to be amongst your number. Here's to digging out forgotten gems and sharing the discovery of those treasures with our obsessed brethren.

Diary: Lunch Amongst The Stars

I'd started reading Pohl's 'Slave Ship' novel this week, but just couldn't get into it. It's hard to explain why, though. The book is very well written, but something about it didn't grab me right now. I shall come back to it another day. Thus, today while on lunch at work I began reading another classic SF title I'd never experienced before, namely A.E. Van Vogt's collection 'Destination: Universe!' The first story, 'Far Centaurus' (from 1944) is instantly engrossing and quite wonderful. It's strange how some things will grab you straight away while others take longer to imprint themselves on your consciousness. I do hope one day I'll be able to write something so accessible. Anyway. A lunch break well spent, methinks.

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Watched: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance trailer (looks great), various Grindhouse trailers

Reading:
Destination: Universe! by A.E. Van Vogt (started)

New A
cquisitions: 'Terminal Force' (aka Galaxis) VHS tape, 'Serenity' mini poster.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Diary: That odd feeling

You know that odd feeling you get when you arrive at the end of a good book, or the credits roll on a favourite film? That feeling of slight disappointment because the delights have come to and end? I've had that today on a train, when I reached the end of Robert Silverberg's magnificent anthology 'Capricorn Games' from the mid-1970s.

It's a surprisingly strange and deeply moving collection of eight very varied science fiction stories, and even though I own a huge amount of his other work, I felt somewhat lost when I arrived at the last page. It's like la petite mort, the little death, that moment of post-coital depression.

I hate that awkward feeling, that sense of being set adrift upon a fictionless sea, and thus I remedied that by starting on Frederik Pohl's 'Slave Ship' novel a minute later. That odd feeling must be kept at bay at all times, which means more books and movies should be taken in. Oh, what a chore! ;)

__________

Today's intake:
Reading: Capricorn Games by Robert Silverberg (finished)
Slave Ship by Frederik Pohl (started)
Watched: Nothing - I've been out and busy all day :(
Stuck in my head: The theme tune from 'Firefly'

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

TRAILER TREASURES: UNDERWORLD (2003)

Love them or hate them, the Underworld movies had great trailers, and the finest of them was for the first film in the series. Looking like a mix of The Crow and The Matrix, the editing of this trailer perfectly suits the tone and structure of the movie.

For once it's a trailer that doesn't give everything away, and it certainly seemed to work in the film's favour (although this is possibly also down to what became known as 'Kate Beckinsale's shiny arse' amongst viewers with a less discerining vocabulary). With Underworld: awakenings on the horizon, maybe it's time to revisit the films and remember that not all films with vampires against werewolves are as shit as Twilight.


Monday, 15 August 2011

New Additions/Recent Viewings

A new feature, starting here, will be a chronicle of new additions to the Diary of a Genre Addict film collection and library. These lists will be posted at the end of diary entries, but here are the first lists to get started with:

Recent additions:
HELLGATE DVD
PROFONDO ROSSO (aka DEEP RED) DVD
NOIR VOL 1 DVD
THE MAD BUTCHER (MEAT IS MEAT) DVD
ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION AND FACT - OCTOBER 2011 ISSUE
RACHEL RISING ISSUE 1

Sunday 14/8/11
Watched: Ghostbusters, NOIR Episode 1
Reading: Capricorn Games (Anthology) by Robert Silverberg
New additions: The Reassembled Man by Herbert D. Kastle (paperback, undated)
The High Crusade by Poul Anderson (paperback, 1968)
Off The Beaten Orbit (Anthology edited by Judith Merril - paperback, 1961)

Monday 15/8/11
Watched: The Mad Butcher (Meat Is Meat)
Reading: Capricorn Games (Anthology) by Robert Silverberg
New additions: Slave Ship by Frederik Pohl (paperback, 1967)
Over The Edge by Harlan Ellison (Anthology - paperback, 1970)

Sunday, 14 August 2011

GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)

Ghostbusters. Ahh, dear, sweet Ghostbusters. This film makes me extremely happy. It is essentially perfect, and in my eyes will always be so. As a child I watched this film time and again on a battered old Betamax tape, and by the time I was ten years old I was able to recite every single word (but I always missed out the rude words in case I would be told off).

When I was eleven, my mother bought me the 'Making Of' book, which was essentially the starting point for my obsession with filmmaking, genre cinema and special effects. That book was immense. Containing the full script, the deleted scenes that were never filmed, the production sketches, storyboards, production stills and a massive amount of development information, it made me love the film even more.

Sad as it sounds, I can still remember pretty much every word of that amazing book. I loved the cartoons. I had the figures, the comics, the t-shirts, the videos, the tie-in books. I was completely and utterly obsessed. Ghostbusters is such an enormous part of my life that even the soundtrack has instant nostalgia quality for me.

Today has been a pleasant Sunday, and as such some pleasant afternoon viewing was in order. Time to revisit GHOSTBUSTERS. This would be the first time I've seen the film on DVD, as previously it had only been available to me on the aforementioned Betamax or the VHS I replaced it with years later. It's also been a few years since I've watched the film, which I realize is an absolute crime. This had to be rectified.

Of course, there was the fear that it wouldn't be as good viewed through my eyes now I'm in my thirties. Would it seem cheap? Dull? Hackneyed? HELL NO. Ghostbusters is every bit as wonderful as it always has been, and while so many eighties movies may seem hopelessly old-hat now, Ghostbusters is still the masterpiece that it is seen to be.

Quick recap of the story (surely you've seen it, but in case you haven't, -AND WHY NOT? - here we go): Three bumbling scientists are thrown out of the university they work in after the University loses all faith in their studies into psychic phenomena and parapsychology. They go into business for themselves as GHOSTBUSTERS, professional paranormal investigations and eliminations.

Suddenly, as they arrive, New York is awash with a growing number of spooks and spectres for them to attack with their Proton Packs and suck into their hi-tech traps. This culminates in an epic battle with an otherworldly entity that ends up manifesting as.... a giant marshmallow man that attempts to destroy everything. Follow me? No? Watch the damn film. It's brilliant.

The script by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis is a thing of beauty in itself, but it's the combination of that gorgeous script (which was originally massively different) with the glorious cast (Aykroyd and Ramis alongside Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson) and the fantastic direction of Ivan Reitman.

With such talented people behind it, there was no way it could fail. The world may have moved on from the vision of New York depicted in the film, but the humour, the action and the excitement lives on. Even on DVD, the film still looks beautiful, even with Matte lines visible, stop motion limitations visible and suchlike. It's lovely. Ghostbusters is fun, exciting, a little scary and very funny, and no matter how much I age or how much the movie industry changes, Ghostbusters will always be there as a shining light in the annals of film history. Dear reader, Ghostbusters is perfect.

(Coming Soon: GHOSTBUSTERS II review and pieces on THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS, EXTREME GHOSTBUSTERS and the saga of GHOSTBUSTERS III)

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Diary: Paperbacks and Pork Products

I needed a break today. It's been a hell of a week with one thing and another (hiding from rioters, busy at the dayjob, writing, doing interviews and writing lots for the magazine), and as my girlfriend had a friend over for a couple of days, some Me time was in order. I sat with a Full English in my favourite cafe and took in a few pages of Robert Silverberg's "Capricorn Games" anthology from 1976 (1979 edition). Bliss.

Following the inhalation of pork and a chunk of a story of deep-space adventutring, I set off for one of my customary wabders around town. Time alone is important to me. As much as I love my girlfriend, my friends and family, I need a bit of time each day when I can do my own thing for a while. It can be as little as half an hour or as long as an afternoon, depending on the time available, but it's essential to keep me sane.

Naturally, my wanders around town usually end up with me coming home with a lighter wallet and a heavier messenger bag. Today I discovered three gorgeous SF pulps with beautiful painted covers and the first issue of Terry Moore's "Rachel Rising" comic book.

As if by the decree of some psychic deity, my mobile rang on my way home and I was informed by our delightfully old-fashioned mewsagent that the latest issue of my special order, Analog Science Fiction and Fact (I love the magazine, but the American spelling of the name still bugs me) had arrived.

I came home happy, which has been most welcome after this week's stresses. It's easy to get stuck in a spiral of tension when there's a lot going on, but it's important to take some time out and just do your own thing. I guess what I'm saying is; Always leave room in your life for paperbacks and pork products.

VOLUME TWO BEGINS!

Last night I completed compiling Diary of a Genre Addict Volume 1 into book form, formatted it and built the file. A test copy is on its way to me now (release date annoucnement soon), and thus VOLUME TWO of Diary of a Genre Addict begins HERE!

The reviews will continue, as will the articles. Trailer Treasures will return, and actual diary entries will begin.

Thanks for sticking around. Now, where were we?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Slaughter (2006)

This low-budget tale of demons, bloodshed and a strange, haunted house was made with big ideas and little cash, resulting in something that very nearly works extremely well. Opening with a lengthy title sequence involving copious amounts of nudity, a demonic invocation and buckets of blood, you think you know largely what you're in for.

Unfortuntely, the film that follows that memorably cheap and nasty opening is pretty run-of-the-mill until the demented final act. From the moment it fades up, the limitations of the budget are very apparent. Clearly shot on digital video and featuring a cast of b-movie stereotypes (the jock, the geek, the stoner, the pretty girls, the villainous businessman, etc), The Slaughter is a slice of bloody, nudity-packed nastiness that is worth the bargain price you can get it for.

Yes, it's rather by-the-numbers, but as far as ultra-low budget DV Camera movies go, it's pretty much a work of genius. The story is simple. A spooky house sits on ceremonial ground. The aforementioned group of stereotypes are hired to clean up the house. Demons pop up (and the lead lady demon spends the entire film naked apart from her demonic makeup, like a grimy version of the X-Men's Mystique). Gore, screaming and running ensues.

Pretty much all of the attention has gone into the gore scenes and effects sequences, judging from the wobbly camera work and lousy dialogue recording on show in the regular scenes. You can pretty much skip past the pre-mayhem scenes and not miss much before the good stuff kicks in, which is a shame.

The effects range from impressive all the way down to atrocious, but that's part of the fun with stuff like this! Mixing practical effects, CGI and some awesome Evil Dead style stop-motion, The Slaughter throws every trick in the book at the screen.

Jessica Custodio (billed as Jessica Ellis) is the high point off the cast as the lead character of Dana, and indeed the best thing about the film as a whole. She comes across as the one amongst them with the most promise of a career. The rest aren't without merit, but she's the star of the show. Once the red stuff starts flying and demons start going 'WOOOOAAARGH!', The Slaughter is brilliant fun. However, the non-setpiece sections of the film let it down, big time. Definitely worth a look though, folks!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT VOLUME 1 - COMING SOON

So, this site will be making its way to old-fashioned printed matter and ebooks very soon.

Diary of a Genre Addict Volume One
will contain all of the reviews thus far from the archive along with the diary entries and a lengthy BRAND NEW essay.

When read in this collected format, you get a whole new perspective on the site, at times almost autobiographical. Release date to be announced soon! :)

Friday, 5 August 2011

EATEN ALIVE (1980)

This infamous film (not to be confused with Tobe Hooper's film of the same title) from one of genre cinema's genuine oddballs, Umberto Lenzi, is one of those flicks that is always mentioned as a lesser Cannibal Holocaust, and with good reason, as it has far less in the way of charm, gore or social commentary.

It's a film I've seen mentioned several times in all of the literature I've been studying in recent months on the wave of Italian Cannibal and zombie movies that became such an intense and demented period in genre cinema. I've never had the chance to see it until now and see if it's as bad as many people say (or as good as a few claim). A copy was found in a delightful second hand DVD emporium at the right price, and here I am, watching more tasteless violence and suffering awful dubbing in order to bring you a review. I hope you're grateful, heh.

Eaten Alive (aka EATEN ALIVE! The exclamation mark is very evident in the opening titles) is your basic cannibal movie. The plot makes the film stick out from the aforementioned cannibal flicks in that it's not about a film crew, which makes for a nice change. At it's heart it's a heist movie, with two people on the trail of a jewel thief in the jungle after a bunch of people are murdered with a blowpipe in the west.

The film flounders for 29 minutes until the gore starts to fly, and then it gets interesting. While Eaten Alive is every bit as exploitative, politically incorrect and outrageous as both its title and reputation suggest, it is nowhere near as unpleasant as either Cannibal Holocaust or Lenzi's own Cannibal Ferox.

It runs like much more of a well-rounded film that either of those hugely notorious efforts, and Lenzi displays a rather more traditional approach to direction and plotting than those other nasties. Then again, it also has nowhere near as much social commentary as Cannibal Holocaust, or the relentlessly unsavoury onslaught of Cannibal Ferox.

"Their idea of lunch is fresh, hot entrails soaked in blood!" one character declares while talking about the natives, all of whom are depicted as demented cartoon characters rather than believable people. They're clearly from a number of different ethnicities, and are made to look rather foolish throughout, as is the staple of the cannibal genre.

That aspect of the film sits uneasily with me, and while it does feature a shockingly nasty cameo from the cannibal genre's own Audrey Hepburn, namely the ubiquitous Me Me Lai, the natives are never given much to do other than grunt and yell. Bah. What a waste of peoples' time.

The Western cast don't fare much better really, with wooden performances aplenty masked behind an even more wooden dubbing job. Once you hit 40 minutes with the film, it goes off on a weird tangent with a strange cult in the jungle showing up for no apparent reason other than to preach about the evils of 'Civilization' by way of clunky dialogue.

The film continues to get ever more mad, jumping from one tangent to the next with seemingly no interest in a coherent plot. That's not the point of these films though, is it? You're here for gore, and gore you will get, although spread out rather thinly. This is more of a drama with bits of action thrown in, and scenes of mutilation and butchery at a minimum. This is kind of a good thing though, as it gives the gore scenes more impact when they do arrive.

Thankfully there's barely any animal cruelty (at least not in this cut I saw, which claims to be uncut- and I would prefer there was none at all!), and there are moments that feature an absolutely agonizing disco soundtrack, but on the whole it's an entertaining piece of exploitation cinema with some nice splatter shots and a valiant attempt at something a bit different. For some reason I really fancy a rack of ribs now. Should I worry?

A Marvellous Discovery

The film library that provides fodder for Diary of a Genre Addict is about to grow even larger, as I have recently made a marvellous discovery. While in the local indoor market last week, I stumbled across a stall I'd not seen before, tucked away in a corner of the complex like a deformed relative. Offering discount second-hand DVDs and games, the stall is run by a man who understands my addiction and is keen to feed it with ever more cheap horror DVDs.

I have already stripped the stall of several gems and stinkers, several previously banned Video Nasties that found their way into the hands of cheap DVD companies and a couple of newer b-movies, and I intend to revisit the place as much as possible. I have to. I need to. I can't not.

I think I have found, for want of a better term, a new pusher. He doesn't know it, but he is feeding my addiction in the best way possible- by putting a big rack of tantalisingly awful horror films at my eye level, all with delightfully low prices stuck to their spines. Dear reader, I have discovered a little slice of movie-geek paradise.

Granted, my bank balance will soon shrink to painfully light proportions, but as long as I can help keep this guy in business, then I will continue buying dreck from his shelves. He doesn't judge me in the same way as some people have when I've brought obscure flicks to the cash desk.

Some will sneer at my choices, some will sigh, and once someone in a chain DVD outlet blurted out "Are you sure you want this? It's bloody awful!" when I placed a DVD onto their counter. This guy is different. I should probably introduce myself to him and let him know his wares are being devoured and appreciated and enjoyed.

While the bulk of entries for Diary of a Genre Addict have been born of adventures on eBay and in charity shops as I reclaim my misspent movie-watching youth (Not that distant, folks- I'm in my early thirties), this stall offers me a place to go, a single destination where I know that, for the time being at least, I will be able to keep my cravings at bay with a new addition to the addict's library. Or two. Or three. Or... I need to get back there soon. What? I can stop any time I like. *twitch*