Tuesday, 25 December 2012

ROBOT JOX (1989)


Robot Jox, for all of its failings (mainly budget related), has a very special place in the hearts of a lot of genre film addicts. It has a charm to it which is hard to beat, and the makers of the film strived to bring an epic film to the screen with a tiny budget and actually pulled it off.

Directed by Stuart Gordon (yeah, THAT Stuart Gordon!), Robot Jox tells of a world in which war between humans is outlawed, and thus disputes are cleared up via giant robots (piloted by humans) beating the crap out of each other. Based originally on a story from SF legend Joe Haldeman, it's the sort of pulpy, fun, exciting romp of a sci-fi movie which just doesn't get made any more.

Sure, the robots, the models and stop motion animation used in the battle scenes look cheesy, but it works in the context of the film itself. The key to the look of Robot Jox, and its success of execution in terms of production, is the sterling editing job which cuts the live action seamlessly with stop-motion and model shots into one fluid sequence which is still very exciting if not all that convincing.

Robot Jox was one of the films that everyone would be desperate to say they had seen. Giant Robots and cartoonish violence are, after all, very appealing to kids. We would make up scenes that weren't even in the film, just to sound like we'd seen it, using only what we'd seen on the cover and in the cover blurb as the basis for our wild claims.

Kids of today would despise it, as it's very much of its time, but that won't stop legions of balding old farts like me loving the hell out of it, along with anyone else who can appreciate genre cinema of any level.

Clad in brightly coloured costumes, the assembled cast must play out a politically-themed plot in-between the scenes of robot based mayhem, making them look remarkably like middle-aged Power Rangers. But really, who gave a damn about the plot of this film? Most viewers were there for the robots and the robots alone, and in the scenes of mechanical carnage, there's nothing onscreen but pure, golden entertainment.

It's not quite Ray Harryhausen quality, and the models used in the animated sequences do look rather like Transformers toys, but Robot Jox has a great time not taking itself too seriously. I'd liken it to a low budget Starship Troopers or original series Star Trek in terms of atmosphere, and it takes me back to an era of filmmaking where science fiction movies were as pulpy and kitsch as a lot of the fiction which spawned them.

A lovely, nostalgic film which holds up very well to these eyes, but those more critical towards the 1980s aesthetic will hate it. I couldn't care less really though, as I love it, in all of its cheesy glory.


Monday, 24 December 2012

HEATSEEKER (1995)

An Albert Pyun film involving kickboxing and cyborgs? Really? Wow, there's something I've never seen before. Sarcasm aside (as well as Cyborg and Nemesis), I'm actually quite fond of Pyun's deliciously tacky low-budget sci-fi action flicks, unless its Nemesis 4. That was painful.

Heatseeker isn't awful when compared to that surreal gob of puke, but it lacks a few aspects which would have made it great. Namely a plot and some characters.

However, it's a Trimark Pictures release (I love those) and it cost me the grand some of 10p for the ex-rental tape I've watched now. Bargain.
The premise is all based on futuristic tournaments, either fought between humans or cyborgs, but rarely between humans and cyborgs.

Our hero Chance O'Brien (Keith Cooke, from, erm, the Cynthia Rothrock classic China O'Brien) is an all-human fighting champion, who takes it upon himself to face down the greatest cyborg fighter of them all (Xao, played by Gary Daniels) when his girlfriend is held to ransom by a megalomaniacal corporation.

Also starring Thom Mathews and Norbert Weisser alongside the remarkably sweet Tina Cote, Heatseeker should really be a post-apocalyptic-cyberpunk-martial-arts-movie fan's wet dream, but unfortunately the story is kinda vague, the characters never get past a name and a fighting style, and it's hard to really care about what's going on onscreen.

That said, the cyberpunk visuals and martial arts battles are a joy to watch. It's just a shame about the actual film itself. It does kinda read like a cyberpunk checklist at times (the clothes, the action, the corporations, the shady dealings and stylised dialogue), but that doesn't make for a classic film.

It's fun if you're in the mood for mindless cheese, but if you're after a compelling story, best to look elsewhere. Although, if you're going to pick up a movie like Heatseeker, I doubt you're really looking for high art. Me? I enjoyed it. It's flawed and silly, but hey, so am I.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Reconnecting With My Addiction


Wow. So, apart from this, I've only posted here at Diary Of A Genre Addict 42 times this year. The explanation is simple, and comes down to two things which happened this year which have changed my life and made me a billion times busier. Those two things are parenthood and becoming a homeowner. Trying to figure out an entirely new routine for living my life has not been easy, and is still to be fully decided upon.

I have had very little leisure time in months, literally five minutes here and there, or bus journeys. Thus my genre addiction has not been fed as much as it should have been this year.

It's not for lack of trying, though as I must have attempted to sit down with a film something like fifty times and yet something always came up, or my phone would ring, or someone wold arrive to visit, or even those few occasions where I just blacked out from fatigue and woke up a couple of hours later, wondering where the hell I was.

Some semblance of a regular routine is taking shape now, and as such I am taking time out for a movie night on my own with snacks and gore. The film? The uncut edition of Lucio Fulci's masterpiece THE BEYOND. I'm hoping I can stay awake through it. It's not that the film's dull (it really isn't) – it's juts that I am so very tired and zombified that it's hard to focus on anything at all.

This mental and physical struggle has forced me to cut back on my leisure writing so I have been able to focus on my magazine work and my forthcoming seventh and eighth books. However, Diary Of A Genre Addict has been very much on my mind lately.

The site is not ending any time soon, but it has to be said that I have neglected it in recent months. So I guess what I'm saying is that service has been resumed, albeit service which is anything but normal. How the hell have you been?

Friday, 12 October 2012

NEMESIS 4: CRY OF ANGELS (1999)

NEMESIS 4: CRY OF ANGELS 
AKA NEMESIS 4, NEMESIS 4: DEATH ANGEL AND NEMESIS 4: ANGEL OF DEATH 
Director: Albert Pyun 

So at last I have finally completed my NEMESIS set. All four films are now in my possession, and I've finally seen the final movie. I kinda wish I hadn't bothered tracking down a nice imported NTSC VHS copy for my library, as I really do feel I wasted my time getting hold of it and watching the damn thing. You can find my reviews of the first three namely NEMESIS, NEMESIS 2: NEBULA and NEMESIS 3: TIME LAPSE elsewhere on this site.

In a nutshell, I loved the first two and can tolerate the third. The first is a classic of low budget cyberpunk cinema involving long coats, ultraviolence, Olivier Gruner, Brion James and some cheap but cool special effects.

The second and third are nothing like that, instead bringing us ludicrously muscular bodybuilder Sue Price as Alex, a genetically engineered warrior flung into the past as a child in order to escape the marauding cyborgs which are at war with humanity in the future (yeah, I know, shades of a certain series of flicks starting with the letter 'T').

The second was a rip-off of Predator, while the third was just a demented mess. I still kinda liked it, though. At the end of that film, there was a stinger promising all kinds of explodey mayhem in NEMESIS 4.

Instead.... this.

In NEMESIS 4: CRY OF ANGELS, the war has ended (we missed that film, evidently) and Alex is working as an assassin in a burned-out city. The film looks dreadful, although it has a certain art-house quality to it. That quality is hugely out of place though.

Alex wants to quit her life of killing, and asks for a final assignment. As she takes the target out, she begins to hallucinate, seeing a strange woman in black... is this the angel of death?

Uh... then some other stuff happens, involving some dull action scenes and far too many scenes of Alex semi-or-fully naked, shot in such a fashion as to feel nothing but exploitative, and not in a fun way.

Andrew Divoff shows up as a close-up face with some daft makeup on, being all cyberpunky at the camera. And there are some mutants, or cyborgs, or something. And lots of messy sex. Uh... I'm really struggling to tell you a great deal about the film because not much actually happens in it. Minus the credits, it runs for about 70 minutes and even that running time it's stretched.

The run-down locale is nice and atmospheric (looks like central Europe somewhere), but it's an utterly pointless film and answers none of the questions left by the third. It certainly doesn't deliver the sort of film that previous sequel promised, and it's hard to work out why it even has the NEMESIS title. It's a shame, as it really feels like a film series I have enjoyed many times has been ruined by seeing this last one. A huge wasted opportunity.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Revisiting... VIDEO NASTIES: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE

This three-disc box set remains one of my favourite releases in years, containing the VIDEO NASTIES: MORAL PANIC, CENSORSHIP AND VIDEOTAPE as well as trailers for all 72 films on the DPP Video Nasties list, hours of Video company idents, interviews and more.

It's ridiculously entertaining even after many viewings, and its 13 and a half hour running time is offering me some brilliant background noise and inspiration while I write my new book. Speaking of which... I haven't posted about that here have I?

Coming October 15th: VHS ATE MY BRAIN

An account of life as a VHS horror collector, memories of the video rental era, interviews with other collectors and more! Told with humour, passion and my typically self-depricating tone, VHS ATE MY BRAIN is my next trip into waters cult, geeky and obscure.

Coming October 15th in paperback and ebook from DREAMRIDER MEDIA.

DREDD 3D (2012)


The new Judge Dredd movie is here, and it has its work cut out in order to scrub the 1995 Stallone version out of the memory. The previous Dredd movie got a lot of things right such as Mega City One, the Angel gang and Judge hershey, but it got Dredd himself compltely wrong. Now, with Karl Urban under the helmet and Olivia Thirlby at his side as Psi Judge Cassandra Anderson, audiences have a film in which Judge Dredd himself is absolutely, utterly perfect, but everything around him in the film is dividing opinion to a rather alarming degree.

From the moment the film starts, you know that this is not a Hollywood film, and that fact alone gives it so much more power right from the first scene. Shot in Johannesburg and featuring a cast which is largely unfamiliar to global audiences, the film is bleak, brutal, stylish and so gritty it hurts. He keeps the helmet on, there's no Rob Schneider, no Hollywood meddling, and it has come out beautifully as a grim and relentless action film which is absolutely nothing like what came before.

It isn't the Judge Dredd film that fans of the character have had in their heads for years, but in terms of bringing the character to the screen properly and without a big, crass Hollywood polish, it's absolutely perfect.


Dredd and a rookie Judge the psychic Anderson, are dispatched to calm a turf war between drug gangs in the Peach Trees block. They get caught up in the battle, and end up as the prey as all 200 floors of the giant block turn against them. Yes, it shares some plot similarities with 'The Raid', but who actually gives a crap? This is a DROKKING JUDGE DREDD FILM, and thus by definition is set apart from that other film. It's just a shame that they came out so close together, as comparisons are inevitable.

DREDD 3D is a beautiful symphony of ultraviolence which brings the brutal 2000AD concepts to the big screen in a fashion a million times harder than the Stallone version. The two films are so utterly different that there is absolutely no way anyone watching it can see it as a remake. This is a new start, and it kicks ass.


The violence is gorgeously shot, and you'll be surprised at just how pretty the sight of someone's face being blown to pieces (and splattering out of the edges of the letterboxed film) can be. The Slo-Mo sections are a wonder to behold, psychedelic and aesthetically very pretty, but again they mainly serve to make the brutality on show even more shocking. The Slo-Mo effect is maybe used a little too often, but that's a small gripe, really. Lena Headey clearly had a blast playing the villainous Ma-Ma, and she steals each of her scenes with a performance at once quietly malevolent and utterly unhinged.

The film may be lo-fi and relatively low budget, but it blasts at the viewer like a Hi-Ex from Dredd's Lawgiver, and will hopefully lead to larger scale sequels. The world of Judge Dredd is so vast and rich and entertaining that it would be a crime in itself not to see more of it. So get to it, Urban and co, or you'll end up in the Iso-Cubes with the rest of the perps! DREDD is brilliant.

PS: Yes, it's better than the oddly-cut trailers make it seem.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Coming tonight - DREDD 3D review!

Tonight I'll be posting my first new review here in far too long. DREDD 3D. Saw it last monday. A teaser: It drokking rocks. Later on I'll tell you why the naysayers are WRONG, as I'm on the internet and that's how the place works. This film rules.

BACK IN THE GAME

Sorry for the lack of posts of late folks. That 'life' thing seems to be getting in the way of serious film time, but I'm back now and geeking out like mad. BEHOLD, THE ADDICT HAS GOT HIS FIX AGAIN.

ODDITIES: ROCK N' ROLL NIGHTMARE

I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

TRAILER TREASURES: THE DEMOLITIONIST (1995)

I first saw this charmingly fun SF/action flick on the Sci-Fi channel, back in the days before the stupid SyFy rebrand, an era in which they actually did show science fiction. Oh happy days.

This low budget bit of fun starred Baywatch's Nicole Eggert as a cop resurrected as a cyborg superhuman after being murdered by a gang. Yeah, it's a RoboCop rip-off, but I enjoyed it. Low budget SF movies are always more fun when the main character wears a superhero style costume and stuff explodes. I'm easy to please.

Friday, 10 August 2012

THE DARK POWER (1985)

“It looks like a refuse heap and smells like a fart!” 

That's just one of the golden lines from DARK POWER, a slice of pleasingly stupid horror nonsense from the early-to-mid eighties. Blatantly ripping off The Evil Dead (right down to the camera-through-the-forest shots) and Poltergeist (ancient spirits returning to exact revenge on the living), the film gets all of its exposition out of the way in the first ten minutes or so.


This is done by explaining the Dark Power and how it can be controlled with a certain artifact, during conversations between whip-toting Exorcist/grizzled old Ranger Girard, played by the grizzled old Lash LaRue (I swear that's his name, and it's amazing) – who offs bad guys and demonic zombies with a magic whip (this just keeps getting better), a lardy hick and a typically 80s news reporter.

Bugger characterisation, here's a bunch of dialogue about the Toltecs and their mystical ways, bashed about the viewer's head minus any subtlety, but somehow delivered in such a boring manner that you're soon desperate to flick forward to the bits where teenagers are being massacred by rubbery zombies.

One night, a bunch of students have a bit of a party in the house they've moved into together (despite the fact they'd hate each other if any of them even actually met), but of course, the house is over the ground where the Toltecs buried themselves alive in order to return from the dead and butcher the living every now and again.

Subplots? Pah. Subtext? Pssshh! Stereotypes, cheese, crap acting, an atrocious script, wonderfully cheap effects and woeful production values? Come on in! The Dark Power is a really, really bad movie, but it is also a really enjoyable movie too. It's so inept and deliciously, incredibly bad, but there's enough black comedy in the script and enough typically 80s kill scenes that it makes for a pleasant enough evening's viewing, but only if you've already been desensitized to crap and enjoy it as much as the rest of us genre addicts. In fact, it does bring to mind the later (and better) films THE VIDEO DEAD and NEON MANIACS thanks to the group of undead entities turning up out of nowhere and slaughtering everyone in sight (while wearing costumes which look like torn old clothes and discount shop Halloween masks).

The cast of teenage girls are uniformly awful, but so are the rest of the cast. The glorious presence of Lash LaRue and his magic zombie/demon destroying whip is the icing on a very cheesy cheesecake.

If you want lashings of gore and mayhem, then the first half of the movie is going to bore you stupid, but once the fun kicks in, the entertainment value skyrockets. If you're happy to sit through endless bad movies for the sake of cheap entertainment, then feel free to come sit next to me. I'll crack open a cold one and we can watch this slice of ultra-low budget nonsense.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

STREET TRASH (1987)


You really haven't lived until you've watched a film in which a hobo sits on a toilet in the ruins of a burned-out building, drinks a noxious liquid and then proceeds to convulse and suddenly melt into multicoloured slime and gore. Seriously, STREET TRASH is a thing of demented, messy joy.

The film had one of the most memorable VHS covers of the rental era, thanks to the main image of the melted hobo sticking his blobby, slimy face out of the toilet bowl. It really sums the film up – a tasteless, insane slice of gleefully exploitative nonsense. I picked up the Arrow Video DVD set of the film, including the essay booklet and a second disc of extras, and as ever, Arrow didn't let me down.


Reading the booklet essay, I was delighted to find out that the filmmakers did indeed intend to make everything in STREET TRASH as offensive as possible, and they do just that. There's extreme violence, endless jokes about mental illness, rape, alcoholism and more.

Of course, something that is a bit of a talking point is the lengthy scene in which a hobo has his penis sliced off and thrown away, resulting in a slapstick comedy chase scene in which the dickless hobo tries to get his severed member back from the other hobos that live in the junkyard where a lot of the action takes place. That scene features repeated shots of a flying, severed cock. Add to this the famous decapitation-by-gas-cylinder and a plethora of melting and exploding hobos, and you have a very odd but very entertaining evening's viewing.


The actual plot, such as it is, revolves around a crate of 'Viper', which a liquor store owner finds hidden on his premises. He sells it cheap to bums, who down it and melt/explode/leak slime everywhere. A subplot (I use the term loosely) follows life on the streets, albeit in a hyper-stylised sense, and played completely for exploitative laughs.

There's a hell of a lot of nasty stuff going on in STREET TRASH, but the film is so silly and so delightfully ridiculous that even the worst scenes seem blackly comedic.


The only sympathetic character in the entire film is Wendy, played by Jane Arakawa, an employee of the junkyard who befriends a number of the homeless people who inhabit it. Mind you, even she comes in for a massive amount of abuse both verbally and physically. A lot of STREET TRASH should be very unsettling, but it's just so deliciously stupid and gratuitous that you can't help but laugh. Trashy bliss.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Thursday, 26 July 2012

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, BUT THE CERT REMAINS THE SAME


I saw The Dark Knight Rises yesterday, and absolutely loved the film, which pleased me greatly as I seem to be one of the only people in the world who absolutely despised the previous flick, namely The Dark Knight. I found that one bloated and meandering, while this one I found to be jam-packed with plot and entertainment.

That's not what this piece is about though. This piece is about the rating. The film is a 12A here, and, like the previous film, that rating is absolutely ridiculously inappropriate.

The Dark Knight Rises should be a 15 certificate, or at the absolute outside a 12. Allowing a film which is chock full of onscreen death and onscreen violence to be viewable in cinemas b small children is grotesque in the extreme. As a devout fan of grossly inappropriate cinema, I am fully aware that kids want to see the new batman film, but parents have to pay some attention and check these things out to see if what they are showing their children is appropriate for both their age and their mental development.

Yes, The Dark Knight Rises is a superhero film. Yes, it features Batman beating up bad guys. Yes, it features comic characters Bane and Catwoman. However, this is not a film which is suitable for small children to see. The violence isn't stylised enough to be cartoonish. The situations are not camp enough to come across as tongue-in-cheek.

The Dark Knight Rises is a relentlessly bleak and violent film, a masterpiece, yes, but a masterpiece which should be off-limits to kids. Blah blah blah, “they'll see it anyway”, blah, “They know it's not real”, blah blah “I downloaded it and they love it” blah. They'll see it anyway? Why? Are you that bad a parent? Get some perspective, you moron. They know it's not real? Possibly, but it is frightening and the realism of much of it will desensitize them still further to just how crap violence is in real life. You downloaded it? Get out of my sight, you traitor. If you love films so much, then you should be supporting them properly. The same with your kids.

I fully understand that money must be made, but, especially after the controversy surrounding The Dark Knight, this new one should have been given a 15 certificate. The BBFC are now so very lax that they can't stick by their own rulings (remember their stance on The Human Centipede 2? “No matter how many cuts are made, it will not get a UK release” and then BAM, there it is, with minimal cuts).

The BBFC are cowards now, bowing to studio pressure rather than sticking to a set of morals which were put I place to preserve some decency. I am not for a second detracting from The Dark Knight Rises, as it's an incredible film, but it's an incredible film which needs to be seen by viewers of a suitable age.

Remember the Video Nasties era? People were PROSECUTED for letting ADULTS see a lot of those films, hence the BBFC coming into existence in the first place. Do they even care any more? Hello? BBFC? Would you stick a child of four years of age in front of a giant screen with musclebound psycopath Bane snapping people's necks (and more) on it? Snap out of it.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Place Over The Market: My Early Adventures In Horror VHS


My initiation into the ranks of underaged horror fans began around the age of 12, thanks to me being cheeky enough to try and buy cheap horror films from dodgy market stalls. There were two within close proximity to each other; One outdoors between the Castle and Sheaf markets in my hometown of Sheffield (years before the Sheaf was demolished), and one in a far scarier place – the upstairs 'speciality' shops over one side of the Castle market.

Those shops were a strange netherworld to me. They were dank and dirty, tacky and dilapidated, but teeming with charm (and probably TB as well). Along the walkway once you had braved the filth-ridden staircase outside the market's main entrance, you were greeted by the smell of piss from the path itself and the musty air of places which had been left behind by the passage of time.

One large place housed four or five small stalls selling records, stamps, books and magazines. That was an early hunting ground for cheap metal vinyl for my burgeoning rock and metal fixation, but it was a couple of doors down from there, at the video shop run by a lady with questionable morals (or who just didn't care), where my imagination really took flight.


I can't remember what the place was called, or even if it actually had a name over its door, but I do remember the racks of ex-rental video tapes at 1.99 each, and their gaudy covers and titles. The first two tapes I bought from there were to build on my limited experience with genre film at the time (Elm Street 3 and Day of the Dead were very early titles my impressionable mind was exposed to) were the schlocky comedy-horror sequel Return Of The Living Dead Part 2 and martial arts b-movie cheese masterpiece China O'Brien. Not the best films ever made, but they were magical to me.

You may pass judgement on a child being able to watch adult themed movies at such a young age, but those films were clearly fantasy (be they horror, action, sci-fi or otherwise), and light-years away from the torture porn which calls itself horror right now. The horror films I watched at that age had a sense of humour and real atmosphere, and it was very clear to me that it was all pretend. My childhood fascination with special effects may have had something to do with it, as by the time I saw horrific gore scenes, I could pick out how each one had been done, which was absolutely fascinating to a kid.

Did my mother approve? Not really, but as long as I knew these films weren't real, then she tolerated it. I watched a ridiculous amount of horror between 12-13, and I am yet to become a serial killer (no matter how tempting it may become during dayjob hours sometimes).


The videos themselves seemed huge to me back then, such was the size of the large format clamshell boxes in my young hands, and there was an atmosphere to the place which made those tapes seem taboo, dangerous, exciting. That was the allure of horror movies and the action films of the era, and it is an allure which still drives me to seek out more of them from those days. There is definitely an element of nostalgia for me and my quest, but there is also the point that if I don't rescue these films, then they may be thrown away and lost forever.

There was something grimy and seedy about the shops on that upper level, a little dangerous and a little scary, thanks to the gangs and drunks who would hang around at either end of that level and the strange people who both worked in those places and frequented them. That was my own version of the famous Grindhouse cinemas over in the USA. This was my 42nd street. Awful yet exhilarating.

Passing by the place on a recent visit back to my home town, all traces of those shops are long gone, erased in the council's slow, ponderous crawl towards renovating the area, which has now been going on for about fifteen years. I just wish my memory of the place was clearer. I wish I knew its name, or where the people who ran it went. I remember those racks of scary and exciting video tapes on shelves that were difficult to reach very clearly, and viewing the many films I bought from there all these years later, I remember the thrill of those early days of my endless genre film hunt. There's magic in those memories, and still magic for me in the films I collect and enjoy to this day.

Friday, 8 June 2012

DREAM DEMON (1988)

A delight which had taunted me from many a video trailer, Dream Demon is an oddity in 80s horror movies, in that it was made here in the UK and features two British TV stars in supporting (and very creepy) roles. I finally own a copy (in the set of Palace Horror tapes I'm trying to amass – the ones with the brightly coloured covers and unified title font), and it's a very worthy and rather fun watch.

In terms of atmosphere, it reminds me a great deal of Dario Argento's 'Suspiria' and 'Inferno', that sort of dreamlike horror where reality and a strange fantasy world seem to be blending together. Add a touch of A Nightmare on Elm Street (only a touch, mind you) and you have a recipe for 90 minutes which are in turn entertaining, confusing and deeply atmospheric.

A young lady is about to be married to a military hero, but in the run-up to her wedding she begins to have nightmares about a pair of demons, played by Timothy Spall and Jimmy Nail.


In the waking world, those two guys are a pair of crude newspaper reporters after the dirt on her husband to be, but how much has the line between worlds been blurred? As murders begin to be committed, it seems the dream demon may have crossed over to our realm.

The young woman, Diana (played by Jemma Redgrave) finds a kindred spirit in visiting American girl Jenny (an intriguing Kathleen Wilhoite), who is in the country searching for her forgotten past, but even she seems to be caught up in the dreams too...

Timothy Spall gets all of the best moments of the movie, especially when his appearance begins to change in every shot. His performance is sinister and restrained, which makes the character that bit more frightening. Some may claim it is nothing more than a retread of A Nightmare on Elm Street, but it's a far more refined and dreamlike film that Craven's masterpiece.

Dream Demon may not be particularly elaborate or gory, but what it lacks in scale and splatter is makes up for with bags of tension, otherworldly unease and nightmarish moments of psychic bait-and-switch. Is it a dream? Is it real? I don't really care, to be honest. It's just a very watchable horror movie with more brains than guts, and that's fine by me.

 

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

TOUCH OF DEATH (1988)


One of splatter master Lucio Fulci's later, and lesser-seen works, this Italian TV movie is extremely violent and ridiculous in a way only Fulci can manage. Within the first ten minutes, a corpse has been dismembered with a chainsaw, a human thigh has been eaten as a steak and the body has been minced and fed to pigs. It's quite an opening few scenes, I can tell you.

The film follows the character Lester Parkson, a lunatic cannibal who meets up with women via the lonely hearts pages of the local newspaper, has sex with them and then butchers them in an array of manners, all egged on by a strange voice emanating from a constantly-playing cassette.

Touch of Death has none of the atmosphere of Fulci's earlier work, but despite the limited budget and resources, it still manages to have that Fulci factor, in which gore scenes are taken way too far, the plot make little sense and the characters are all mental.


Throughout the carnage, people are beaten to death with a big stick (resulting in a spectacular bursting-skull shot), a head is microwaved, a man is run over back and forth with a car until he explodes under the wheels, and more. All the while, there is an almost whimsical sitcom style feel to the film itself, which is even more unsettling than the vicious murders.

It's a really, really bad film if viewed as anything other than a curiosity for fans of the late Lucio, but it does have its charms, such as the comedy manner in which Lester changes his appearance every time a description of him is published or mentioned by the TV or radio, or indeed the general air of hapless silliness about the Lester character in general. Bloody, nonsensical, silly and shocking with a typically clueless ending – what else do you want from a Fulci film, eh?


Saturday, 26 May 2012

THE MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD (1978)


Before Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox made all of the dull people angry, and after Deep River Savages got the ball rolling, there came this interesting little movie from director Sergio Martino. It differs from the rest of the flock of Cannibal movies in one major way – it has two actual movie stars in the lead roles.

Unlike the other, more notorious cannibal movies from that era, which featured largely unknown or cult cast members, this one had the talents of Ursula Andress and Stacy Keach top-lining a film in which a band of people searching for a missing man fall foul of jungle natives. There's no documentary being made and no film crew following them, so it plays much more as a straightforward movie drama for the most part, which helps it move along at a steady pace.


However, the abhorrent animal cruelty scenes and the really quite startling gore scenes (when they finally arrive) that feature in the film got the title listed as a Video Nasty. Viewing it uncut now, it still shocks where it always did, but if you take away the real animal shots and leave in the dramatised violence, it becomes one of the most competent and enjoyable of all of the slew of Italian cannibal movies which were made around the same time.

Of course, it features all of the cliches that come with the sub-genre, but they seem slightly less hokey here, thanks to Andress and Keach both playing it straight and not hamming up their roles in a 'hey, we're in some trash!' way.


The film does feature one particularly notorious scene which doesn't involve masses of gore – the scene in which natives strip Ursula Andress naked and gratuitously smear her in paint.

It's scenes like that and the casual stereotypes put forward in the portrayal of innocent natives (and indeed the brutal cannibals) which give the film the seedy air of the exploitation era, but The Mountain Of The Cannibal God plays much more like an action-adventure film than the relentless gross-out films of Ruggero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi.

It's not an all-encompassing genre classic, but it is a better made, better written and better directed effort than the titles which got most of the hype.


Thursday, 24 May 2012

DOKKEN: “DREAM WARRIORS”

This song and music video is the ultimate nexus of the things that I love. It is the meeting point where horror and hard rock/metal worked its way into my soul and took up permanent residence. The song appeared on the soundtrack to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS, one of the greatest horror movies of the 1980s and definitely the greatest of all of the Elm Street movies.

It also appeared on the Dokken album “Back For The Attack” in a reworked form, but it's this version from the movie soundtrack which I love the most. Everything about it just oozes the era, from the song and production to the band themselves and the movie clips.

So here it is, folks, three and a half minutes which changed my life forever. Hell, the solo by George Lynch in this track is one of the early moments which got me into playing guitar two decades ago. Of course, when this originally came out in 1987 I was far too young to know what it was or have even heard of the band or the film, but when I discovered horror and metal in 1990, I was old enough and impressionable enough to be drawn in and enslaved by the dual majesties of rock and horror.

It's been a hell of a ride ever since, and I'll never change as long as I live. This is what made me the genre addict I am. This film. This song. This video. So there.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

JASON X (2001)


Just when you thought the Friday The 13th franchise couldn't get any more silly, there came this tenth entry in the series. I loved it. It's cheesy, camp, noisy and nonsensical, but it does something which was sorely needed at the time – a different direction for Jason Voorhees and his merry mayhem.

He's not in Camp Crystal Lake this time around, or indeed on earth – he's in space, hundreds of years in the future, and when he is awakened from cryogenic suspension (along with the woman who put him there, played by Andromeda's Lexa Doig), he contineus where he left off – butchering people left, right and centre.

It's a fun film and no mistake, but it feels noting like the previous entries in the series and more like a TV movie (the fact that it also features another Andromeda cast member, Lisa Ryder, gives it the feel of a sci-fi TV series two-parter). That may be something to do with the production values and effects style of the era in which the film was made, as the start of the 2000s was all about slick, bright effect and shiny sets, wasn't it?


The effects and production both look very dated now, but it adds to the charm of the film. Less of a horror movie and more an action/sci-fi movie with some horror elements, Jason X is certainly the most fun Friday The 13th film since, hmm, maybe part 6. How can anyone not enjoy the sight of Jason going up against a cartoonish lady robot, or the sight of the upgraded 'Uber Jason' causing carnage? It's a much less bloody and less serious movie than all of the nine that came before it, and while it's also the least filmic of the lot, it's one of the most entertaining by a very long way.


Like some very colourful comic book clashing with a video game and some Jason fanfic, Jason X is just simple popcorn fun, and should not be taken seriously at all. I don't even really see the film as canon in the Friday the 13th series (hell, none of the sequels really are canon, are they? Jason wasn't even real in the first movie), more as a fun aside to the series it is based on.

Kane Hodder puts in a great performance as Jason and Uber Jason, but the rest of the cast other than the always excellent Lexa Doig seem to struggle a bit with the tone of the script, unsure whether to play it straight or for laughs. Uneven and ridiculous it may be, but Jason X is well worth revisiting, and it's a damn sight better than the bloody remake of the first film. Mind you, that wouldn't be difficult, really.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

SHOCK 'EM DEAD (1990)


A low budget comedy-horror b-movie featuring shred guitar legend Michael Angelo Batio, cult actress/pin-up Traci Lords and lots of visual cheese? Why the hell haven't I seen this years ago? The VHS group I'm part of talked about this film recently and I was foaming at the mouth instantly.

I needed it in my life. There was the promise of shred guitar, bad acting, demons, cheap laughs and Traci Lords doing her best with a lousy script. I was sold. Ebay was visited, and an ex-rental big-box VHS was purchased. Unfortunately, the tape sat on my shelves for weeks due to a very busy period (having a baby kinda eats time a bit...), and I was left gazing longingly at the spine of the box with no idea when I'd get to fire it up.


Thankfully, my lady and our baby are asleep right now so I've taken the opportunity. I'm glad I did, as this is an absolute treasure of trash cinema, and I'm loving every second. It's about as cheap and tacky as it gets. Visually it looks like it was shot by the people who made Saved By The Bell and California Dreams, while the script plays like the fevered rantings of a randy 14 year old with dreams of rock stardom and consorting with demons.

Stephen Quadros plays Martin, a hopeless geek with dreams of being a rock star. After being humiliated at work, he auditions for a band and is tossed aside for having no talent. Thus, naturally, he meets a Voodoo priestess and makes a pact with her to become the greatest rock star ever. He is transformed into the enigmatic guitar god Angel Martin (looking very much like W.A.S.P. mailman Blackie Lawless), but at a price – he must kill and feed on human souls to stay alive.


In his new life as Angel, he is given a mansion, a squad of scantily clad ladies who are all in cahoots with the demons, massive hair and serious guitar skills (played in closeup by the aforementioned Michael Angelo Batio, who also plays the double guitar-wielding demon).

It's about as scary as a particularly tame Point Horror novel, thanks to cheap glowing green eye effects and some gloopy vomit being just about the only concessions to the horror genre.


With plot holes galore, a budget which would just about buy a Happy Meal, Traci Lords playing it straight as the character of Lindsay and the rest of the cast hamming it up beyond belief, Shock 'Em Dead is a great example of a film which doesn't take itself too seriously, which is good, as it's impossible to take any part of this thing seriously at all.

Still, I have to say it's thoroughly entertaining, and that's good enough for me. Incidentally, I love the fact that Michael Angelo Batio still has the famous guitar he used in the film, amidst his collection of several other double guitars. My hero.

Friday, 11 May 2012

ALICE COOPER: "He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask)"

Taken from the soundtrack to the delicious cheese-fest that is FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES (1986), this is a great example of 80s rock and 80s horror going hand in hand like some kitsch couple in the throes of passion. It's softer than a lot of Alice Cooper's stuff, but it packs a great chorus and is stuffed with movie references. A fun track from a fun, if daft, entry in one of the greatest horror franchises ever.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

THE AVENGERS (aka AVENGERS ASSEMBLE and MARVEL AVENGERS ASSEMBLE – 2012)


Iron Man. The Incredible Hulk. Iron Man 2. Thor. Captain America: The First Avenger. All of the Marvel Studios movies thus far have been working towards this point. The point where earth's Mightiest Heroes finally assemble in order to protect humanity from an intergalactic menace. Has the wait been worth it? Has the build-up of several years resulted in a let-down of a movie or the payoff we have all been salivating for?

Definitely the latter.

Ladies and gents, The Avengers (or 'Avengers Assemble' as it was pointlessly renamed over here), is far and away the greatest superhero movie of the modern age. You can take your gritty, bleak Batman movies and shove them, thank you very much. This is the most successful adaptation of a comics property yet, and it makes for one hell of an entertaining movie.

Absolutely stuffed with big set pieces, cartoonish action and witty dialogue, the film also succeeds in fleshing out the characters and continuing their stories from their respective films very well indeed. It's exciting, funny, loud and moving, and in all honesty it is very nearly perfect.


Director/Writer Joss Whedon has perfectly captured the essence of Marvel Comics with this film. It has the humour, the wit and the scale of the classics as well as the modern age of comics storytelling, while never feeling overly cheesy or camp. The script manages to tie together all of the Marvel Studios movies so far, whilst still dripping with all of the wit and style audiences have come to expect from Whedon's dialogue.

I was impressed with the way in which magical/alien elements have been introduced into the Marvel film universe via the Thor movie and this one, as it feels very much like a natural progression rather than jarring. The main cast have all played these parts before, and do so again here with gusto, but new characters such as Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) also have a great presence throughout the film.


Most of the big players get ample screen time, but due to pacing issues some of Captain America's own scenes were trimmed, resulting in the continuation of his story being a little less brilliant than it could have been (I'm looking forward to the DVD extras, including the scene in which Cap meets up with his sweetheart after 70 years apart). That's a small issue with what is one of the most satisfying, exciting and entertaining big-scale movies to have been made since, well, the Marvel movies which preceded it.

Of course, the star of the whole show has to be Robert Downey Jr's portrayal of billionaire genius and armour-clad superhero Tony Stark/Iron Man. He delivers once again with all of the humour and wit you could want from the character, but also adds some spectacular performances when the character is humbled, or enraged. Thor is something of a centrepiece to the whole film, considering the villain is his brother, and Chris Hemsworth seems even more at ease with the part this time round than he did with his solo film.


The fleshing out of the Black Widow character is another high point, with Scarlett Johansson being given far better material to work with than her scenes in Iron Man 2. Hawkeye, the newcomer to the Marvel movie universe (aside from the glimpses in the Thor film) is a great asset to the team, as well as Jeremy Renner giving him a very human feel, despite his skills. Samual L. Jackson is once again wonderful as S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury, and his understated delivery just adds further weight to a role which in lesser hands would have fallen apart.

Mark Ruffalo needs special mention for his damaged, nervy portrayal of Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, as he is far and away the finest actor to have brought the character to life onscreen. You genuinely feel for the guy and his struggles with 'The Other Guy'. When he does Hulk Out, we are treated to the best Hulk ever created, looking very much like the comics version of the big green brute while clearly having its facial features based on Mark's. Hulk steals every scene he's in, especially one particular moment while stood beside Thor (watch it - you'll know it when you see it), which is absolutely spot on for the character and the Marvel sense of humour.

The build up is beautifully handled, the gathering of the Avengers and their various inner turmoils is handled extremely well, and makes for an immensely rewarding rush when they do finally assemble. The climactic battle through the streets of New York between the assembled Avengers, Loki and his Chitauri minions genuinely redefines how action sequences should be constructed for films like this, and of course, there is an extra payoff for the comic geeks during the end credits, when it is revealed who was behind Loki's army all along, and who the Avengers will have to face further down the line.

While some fans would have liked to have seen Spider-Man and Wolverine (and any number of other characters) as part of the team, this gathering of Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow and Hawkeye is very, very close to the perfect superhero movie.


Saturday, 5 May 2012

TRAILER TREASURES: THE FLY II (1989)

The sequel to David Cronenberg's 1986 movie version of THE FLY has been widely derided since its release thanks to accusations that it's just a gorier version of the fist film. This is somewhat unfair, but still, the film is nowhere near as wonderful as its predecessor.

However, its trailer is note-perfect. It builds suspense and tension in those opening moments, and then delivers the goods with glimpses of the film which are just enough to get you interested, while not giving the whole thing away.

It's a trailer I have a great fondness for, especially when it hits that famous music cue at the end of the trailer. An excellent trailer for a somewhat lacking film? That's how Hollywood was built, people!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

VAMP - Main theme

This is one of the best pieces of music ever to be used in any 80s horror movie. VAMP is an excellent piece of 80s horror comedy trash, and an early favourite of mine as a genre addict. This tune is performed by the film's star, the cult pop icon Grace Jones, and it's rare as Hell. I picked the film up for a third time this week, so expect a review. Until then, let this stirring tune wash over you. Fans of the film find it impossible not to feel chills at that ghostly main refrain...


Tuesday, 1 May 2012

METALSTORM: THE DESTRUCTION OF JARED-SYN (1983)

What the Hell did I just watch? What happened in the 80 minutes which followed some awesome trailers? I saw the trailer for this insane sci-fi flick on YouTube recently and found a dirt-cheap big-box VHS of it on eBay as my interest had been piqued. Well, what can I say about this film? It was worth the price I paid, I can tell you. Hell, I'd have happily paid more to watch this demented, nonsensical, hilarious and silly film. It's so bad that it may very well be amazing.

The plot is so very incoherent that I don't actually think I can do it justice here. Let's see. The film is set in what looks like a post-apocalyptic Earth, which is apparently called Lemuria, and is pretty much the setting of every sub-Mad Max movie ever (mental note- I need to track down another copy of Warrior Of The Lost World sometime). After a girl named Dhyanna sees her father murdered by Generic Sci-Fi bad guy Jared-Syn, a 'Ranger' named Dogen (basically a cross between Han Slo and Mad Max) joins forces with her in order to end the tyrannical villain's reign of terror over the arid wasteland he seems to rule.

Along the way they must face off against the assassin Baal, a half-robotic creature with a mechanical arm which shoots some form of acid (which then causes people to have mad, hallucinogenic experiences before they die), Cyclopeans (typical post-apocalyptic scavenger badass types, but with mutilated faces resulting in them only having one eye each) and assorted ripoffs from Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and numerous other properties.

The film was released in cinemas in 3D as part of the short-lived 1980s 3D revival, and I can only imagine how ridiculous it looked in 3D, as it looks cheap and demented in 2D alone. The bad guy Jared-Syn is collecting magical crystals (of course, why wouldn't he?), seemingly for the sole purpose of setting up the 'climactic' battle, but by the time that scene arrived, I had lost any sense of what was going on and was just letting the film wash over me.

It's a PG rated film, but the level of violence made me check the box a couple of times. A close up of a gory head wound at one point was quite a surprise for a PG movie, but after twenty minutes of this film, anything is possible. Scenes play seemingly at random after about the first ten minutes, breaking off into other scenes at odd points and back again. Everything is covered in fake smoke. Fight scenes erupt out of nowhere and last ages, and when the atrociously superimposed airborne battle hits you, there is nothing left to do but laugh while quaking with terror at your mind being unravelled by what's going on before you onscreen.

Like a loose mix of Krull and Mad Max, with a hndredth of the budget and none of the compelling bits, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn is an absolute car-crash of a movie. It's awful in every possible way, but it's bloody hard to look away from it. One to watch when drunk or suffering from sleep deprivation. Just don't try to make any sense out of it, or you'll end up naked and crying while dousing yourself with cold baked beans.

Friday, 27 April 2012

I DEMAND SPACESHIPS


Give me spaceships, cheap costumes and convoluted intrigue. Right now. I don't want gritty realism or perfect special effects, or a cast of great actors. I want loud, silly space adventures filled with cheap alien costumes, characters painted different colours, plots that sound like playtime games and big, stirring theme tunes.

I have been craving old-fashioned sci-fi shows of late, and have thus been stocking up and revisiting things like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5, Farscape, LEXX and... Andromeda. Yes, I admit it, I liked Andromeda. Even the first season, with bloody Rev Bem in it.


Shows featuring Kevin Sorbo delivering 'witty' one-liners aside, I have really been craving some spaceship action this week, and as such have been revisiting all of these televisual treats and more. It seems that the age of space-based drama is finally dead, and I miss it. For years on end I was an addict of anything set in space, be it on a ship, a colony or a station. I couldn't get enough of that stuff, and even sat through the bad years of Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise to get my fix.

Babylon 5 is a particular love of mine I have been revisiting, and despite the clearly dated effects and sets, it holds up very well as a story, and once you are immersed in that world again, it's absolutely wonderful. It has its detractors, but I am most certainly not one of them. Then there was Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff which lasted a mere 13 episodes but was wonderful (despite the TERRIBLE music used throughout each episode). Hell, I even enjoyed The Legend Of The Rangers. The Lost Tales was fun to watch, but need more oomph, really. More B5 please!


LEXX was a guilty pleasure, too. That show was insane, and not always in a good way, but lead characters Xev and Stanley Tweedle were delightfully different to the usual good guys on our screens. 



However, it was Farscape which really got it right for me. The mix of characters, the mix of computer-generated effects and Jim Henson Workshop practical puppets and effects, a multi-layered story which was at once high-concept and easy to understand, a superb cast and a very different production style (it being a joint Australian/Canadian production, if I remember rightly) all added up to a beautiful science fiction franchise which was ended before its time with the lacklustre finale to series four.

Of course, there was sufficient demand for the show to get a proper ending, and as such the miniseries Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars was produced, and ended the Farscape story properly. The only other example of a series coming to such a stylish end is, of course, Joss Whedon's Firefly.


Again, there was a show with a great cast, a great production style and some superb stories, which was cancelled way before its time. In Firefly's case, it only lasted one season, which was criminal. The movie Serenity eventually saw light of day, and capped off the series with a feature film which was both a satisfying climax for the legions of TV show fans and also a fine science fiction adventure movie in its own right. In fact, I saw Serenity before I saw Firefly, and was blown away by the character interplay and the background to the whole mythos.

Stuff with spaceships in it makes me happy, and, dear world, you don't need something to be gritty in order for it to be entertaining. You just need spaceships. And more spaceships.