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.