Monday 31 August 2015

Frightfest 2015 Day Five

The Lazarus Effect

        Cliched claptrap from the Blumhouse blender factory. A group of unbelievable researchers use ridiculous science to conjure up a melting pot of cliches we've seen done better elsewhere. Far too many well-worn ideas are crammed into the 83 minute running time resulting in an ultimately empty viewing experience. Can you tell I didn't really like this one?  

Alterate title: Event Horizon on Elm Street Part 2: Oh Forget It


        Not just werewolves on a train, but British Werewolves On A Train! Paul Hyett delivers a movie that's well thought out, tense and exciting, with some great performances and decent special effects. He still manages to lend the same gloomy sense of misery to landscape that he did with THE SEASONING HOUSE, and Hyatt is getting better with every film & I can't wait to see what he does next.

Alternate title: Werewolf Express


        Girl with marriage and pregnancy anxieties gets bitten by Something on her hen weekend in some South American country. When she gets home the bite leaks gallons of pus & she starts spewing fish eggs everywhere. An extremely gloopy horror with questionable acting and writing that could all have been justified & explained if the right ending had been there. It wasn't. 

Alternate title: Slime Girl From Beyond the Jungle


        Sexy psycho babysitter puts three children through cruelty for a not entirely satisfactory reason but who cares? This is unnerving stuff that's bound to strike a real chord with parents, if they can even bear to make it to the end. Not exactly original but it will make you squirm.

Alternate title: Strait Jackets Won't Hold Her

Tales of Halloween

        A mega anthology picture that came as a bit of a shock to many (including me) because of its playful nature. Expect very little of serious intent in these eleven (yes eleven!) Halloween-themed stories & you'll have a good time. Best stories were probably Mike Mendez's Friday the 31st and Neil Marshall's mad killer pumpkin episode. Steer clear, though, if you are expecting something darker. 

Alternate Title: October the Thirty-Worst

And that's it! It's 2.50am as I write these words, having just got back from the Frightfest after party at the Phoenix Artists Club. This weekend I have shaken Bernard Rose by the hand, hugged Barbara Crampton, told Pollyanna McIntosh she's sexy and generally had the most marvellous time. The above has all been written with the assistance of a large quantity of red wine so I apologise if it's not entirely coherent, but then neither were some of the TWENTY FIVE films I have watched over the last five days. I would do it all over again starting tomorrow if I could, but I'm just going to have to wait until next year. Frightfest 2016 just can't come soon enough.

Sunday 30 August 2015

Frightfest 2015 Day Four

Over Your Dead Body

        Takashi Miike tackes the kwaidan and links it to some very weird goings-on in the present day as cast and crew rehearse a lavish stage production of a classic ghost story, and fantasy and reality begin to bleed into one another. Similar to AUDITION in that all the extreme horror happens right at the end. I'm still not quite sure what was going on altogether but this is beautifully filmed and with Miike's trademark stamp of exquisite cruelty.

Alternate Title: Stage Struck

These Final Hours

        Incredibly moving and pitch-perfect Australian end of the world picture. The bomb goes up but it's twelve hours until the effects reach Australia. Exploring just how people would spend their last hours on earth this is a film that pulls no punches, is remarkable affecting and touching and has an ending that is just right. Go and see it when it finally gets a UK distributor.

Alternate Title: All Good Things

Road Games

        Nothing to do with Richard Franklin's early 1980s slasher starring Jamie Lee Curtis, this is all about fear and murder in the French countryside. ROAD GAMES has been compared to Robert Fuest's AND SOON THE DARKNESS. By the end I could see why but Fuest's film is rather better, although you do get the added bonus of Barbara Crampton speaking French.

Alternate Title: Let's Go France!...Not

Summer Camp

        Oh yes! Coming entirely out of left field (I had no idea what this one was about) this may well be the best horror film of the festival. At the Q & A afterwards the director said the plan was to make [REC] meets EVIL DEAD, which it is, but fans of those two movies will find plenty of original twists and turns in this as well as plenty of edge of the seat ferocious violence. With an ending that had the Frightfest audience cheering and clapping at its sheer delicious outrageousness SUMMER CAMP becomes my number one film so far.

Alternate Title: I Drink Your REC.

(I know, that's not very good, is it? But goodness they need a better title than SUMMER CAMP)

A Christmas Horror Story

        An anthology idea that takes Christmas as its theme and William Shatner as its link and delivers a film that needed some rewriting and a lot of tightening up. Some of the ideas are excellent (changelings, the Krampus) and one sequence that plays like a Robot Chicken gag has a superb punchline, but overall this isn't anywhere near as good as it could be. The stories are told in an interlinked way that doesn't serve them well - standard beginning middle and end for each would have worked much better and would have prevented climactic moments being defused by cuts to the next scene of another story. William Shatner is great, though.

Alternate Title: William Shatner's Zombie Elf Massacre

Saturday 29 August 2015

Frightfest 2015 Day Three


        Wow. Here's something completely unexpected. Unique, elegant, excellent. Bernard Rose's moving and thoroughly successful modern updating of the Mary Shelley novel dispenses with dwelling on the creation of the monster and instead follows him on his journey through an increasingly vicious Los Angeles. Superb acting all round, especially from Xavier Samuel as the monster, and Tony Todd as the blind man he befriends. So far in the festival, this is THE one to see. 

Alternate title: Frankenstein & the Monster From LA

Shut In

      A home invasion horror that promises to develop along the lines of Stephen C Miller's superior THE AGGRESSION SCALE with its socially challenged female protagonist who is incapable of leaving her home and has to deal with crooks who come hunting for her hidden stash of money. Unfortunately the third act all goes a bit preposterous but sadly not preposterous enough for what it's suggesting to really work. Watch AGGRESSION SCALE again instead.

Alternate Title: Three Men In A Box


       The spirit of Pete Walker country house class horror is alive and well in this, a film that starts off by aping the eccentricity of Freddie Francis' MUMSY, NANNY, SONNY & GIRLY before becoming a far grimmer and really quite bitter dissection of the British class system. It wouldn't be fair to reveal any of the twists and turns in this but rest assured, at the beginning, no-one living in the threadbare country house where most of the action takes place is who they claim to be. Another highly recommended.

Alternate Title: House of Death & Lies


        Metalllll!!!!! The funniest film I've seen at Frightfest - packed with great one liners, lots of huge dildo fights and of course a pounding soundtrack. A couple of metalheads form a band with their dungeons and dragons-playing geek friends and end up playing the 'Black Hymn' that causes everyone in the neighbourhood to turn into demons. Utterly daft, extremely good natured, and loads of fun. Winner.

Alternate Title: Death Metal Dildo Wielding Disc Cutters

Sun Choke

        The first bum note of the festival for me. Some terrific performances (especially from Barbara Crampton, who is deliciously scary) but the plot is not so much out to lunch as away on permanent compassionate leave. I have no idea what the title means (but neither did the director) or why that girl was trapped in the house or what she was up to. And after ninety minutes of art house arseing around I was none the wiser. 

Alternate title: Psycho Vixens

Night of the Living Deb

        Utterly charming. I usually steer clear of zombie rom-coms but this was the best of the bunch on the midnight slot to round up the total to six again today. And I was glad I did. It's another zombie apocalypse but perky Deb is determined to save hunky one-night stand boyfriend Ryan from the rampaging hordes and his awful family. Terrific lead performance by Maria Thayer and a pretty decent guest appearance by Ray Wise made this a lovely way to finish the evening. Even the film breaking down twenty minutes in didn't deter the audience from having a great time with this one.

Alternate Title: 28 Debs Later - this one suggested by NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEB's director, whom I thank because it's now 2am & I have to be up tomorrow to crack on with Takashi Miike's new one - hurrah!). 

Friday 28 August 2015

Frightfest 2015 Day Two


        Is mad Martin the ex-soldier keeping a monster in the basement of his isolated cabin in the woods, or is he just, well, mad? And either way, can his straight-laced brother and alcoholic screamy whiny druggie sister help him? Low budget horror with a cast of five, including this year's first appearance by Larry Fessenden, POD isn't top notch horror, but it's a reasonable time-waster and the revelation of what actually IS locked in that basement room did keep me guessing right up to the reveal. 

Alternate title: Monster in the Cabin


        Pregnant teen gets threatened by ghost children wearing an array of sacks, buckets and various utensils on their heads in a movie filled with some lovely dreamlike imagery all spoiled by an ending that will have you shouting get stuffed (or worse) at the screen. After this & CHERRY TREE I really hope this isn't going to develop into Teen Pregnancy Fest. If only John Carpenter had directed this one. Exploding pumpkins and gratuitous llama placement do HELLIONS no favours either.

Alternate Title: Halloween Blood Moon Spawn

Worry Dolls

        WORRY DOLLS opens with a sequence so crackingly brilliant that you wonder how the rest of the film is going to top it. Sadly it doesn't, but this tale of cursed Guatemalan dolls that make you kill anyone you're slightly annoyed with is still reasonable pulpy fun, even if it does overdo the broken family stuff when a movie like this should be getting on with the murders and the monsters. 

Alternate Title: Curse of the Death Dolls


Wow. Oh yes, this is what Frightfest is all about - subtitled Russian art house horror that you'll probably never get the chance to see again. In a Russian village people are dying from an unexplained malady. The only way to cure it is to obey the village priest's instructions and enter the subconscious of the afflicted. Cue loads of scary, bizarre, and often overwhelming imagery that doesn't necessarily form a cohesive narrative but which looks amazing. Best film so far, and most likely the best all weekend to have been made with a budget of 15 000 Euros.

Alternate Title: Beyond the Horrors

The Shelter

        Michael Pare stars as a down and out who ends up reliving his past sins in a deserted house from which there seems to be no escape, except perhaps the obvious. Not bad, with definite talent behind the camera, but the real star here is Pare who makes this film worth watching. So far the winner of the Most Self Loathing In A Film, and also the film with the most biblical quotes and references. Could there be a connection?

Alternate title: Dying for Your Sins

We Are Still Here

        A tribute to Lucio Fulci's HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY starring Barbara Crampton means this one was already winning with me even before the credits rolled. Paul and Ann Sacchetti (nice) move into a chilly Boston house that just happens to harbour Horrible Burned Things in the basement. Plenty of macabre backstory, some outrageous gore, loads and loads and loads of B&J whiskey consumption (well done chaps) and plenty of in-jokes for Fulci fans makes this one of the highlights of the festival.

Alternate Title: House by the Crematory

And that's it for day two as I finish typing this at just after one in the morning. 

Thursday 27 August 2015

Frightfest 2015 Day One

It's that special time of year again, when London is host to one of the best horror film festivals in the world. A massive number of brand new films will be screening at the Vue Cinema Leicester Square over the next five days. You can probably manage a maximum of 25 out of all that are on offer, if you make careful toilet choices and are prepared to go without food every now and then to brave something that could turn out to be the best film of the year, or just as easily be some interminable brain-numbing found footage rubbish that will never, ever be seen again anywhere.
        I usually post my top ten favourite films for each year of FrightFest, but this year, with the aid of a laptop and free WiFi, I'm going to try and say something about every film I see. I intend to wax lyrical (and at length) about the good, and perhaps even longer about the bad. Apologies beforehand if by day three I'm reduced to merely uttering 'It was good' or 'Please never again' before I plunge recklessly on into the next one, but let's see what happens shall we? 
        By way of extra fun, I have been formerly challenged to come up with more suitable Hammer / AIP / exploitationesque titles to replace the numerous, and often interchangeable, one word titles a lot of these films seem to have. If I can come up with even one I shall be pleased.
        And so... I have my dinner suit on, a scarlet satin shirt and a black and red bow tie to bring the ensemble together. It's opening night at Film 4 FrightFest 2015, and we start with...

Cherry Tree 

        A tale of British (or rather, Irish) witchcraft that starts off a little bit Mario Bava BLACK SUNDAY, quickly becomes more like Norman J Warren's SATAN'S SLAVE, and then goes totally off the rails with weird transformations, voice overs to explain what's (probably) going on, and an ending that's just daft. 
        A couple of great lead performances and a few splendidly original and scary scenes can't overcome some cringeworthy dialogue and totally bonkers plotting. Full marks, though, for giving Uncle Monty's Centipede Talent Agency more work than the little fellows must have had in years. Director David Keating gave us WAKEWOOD and I'll admit it's better than that, which isn't really saying much. I did like the rubber centipede he flung into the audience during his introduction, though.

Alternate title: Witch Centipedes of Satan

Turbo Kid

        Frightfest gets properly underway with this terrifically entertaining, micro-budget tribute to the MAD MAX rip-offs of the 1980s. It's 1997 and the apocalypse has rendered the world barren. No power means the only method of transport is the bicycle (or tricycle), and water is scarce, with villain Michael Ironside obtaining his from people. MANBORG meets THE NEW BARBARIANS in this action-packed and unexpectedly charming picture that hits all the right notes. I'd watch it again now if I could.

Alternate title: BMX Bastards


Giant wasps do not a good film make, which is a shame because the giant wasps in this are really pretty good. Sadly the rest of the film doesn't really know what it wants to be, and the result veers between a not very funny comedy to a not especially scary horror film. Lance Henriksen's in it, looking as if he's waiting for the cheque to clear. Otherwise this is Bert I Gordon for the 2010s, growth hormone and all!

Alternate title: Invasion of the Wasp Creatures

Monday 24 August 2015

Madman (1982)

Obscure backwoods 1980s slasher flick MADMAN gets a whistles and bells Blu-ray release courtesy of Arrow Films. 
Around a campfire at a summer school for gifted children, we learn the story of Madman Marz, who killed his family and escaped the gallows only to roam the forest in search of fresh victims. The only thing you mustn’t do is say his name out loud. Of course someone promptly does and the scene is set for ninety minutes of pure backwoods slasher material, i.e. a group of "teenagers" wandering around in the dark and being slowly bumped off.

The first thing to say is that this movie should not be confused with 1989's (superior and far more entertaining) I, MADMAN about an insane fictional doctor who escapes from a novel to terrorise Jenny Wright. Having cleared that up, is there anything to make MADMAN stand out from its contemporaries? Well, the ending is pretty downbeat, and the skill of director Joe Giannone elevates it above homemade rubbish like DON’T GO IN THE WOODS...ALONE! Be warned, though, MADMAN is no HALLOWEEN or FRIDAY THE 13TH. It’s not even on a par with George Mihalka’s MY BLOODY VALENTINE, although you do get a song about the title character at the end. Acting is par for the course with these things, although the lead is played by DAWN OF THE DEAD’S Gaylen Ross under the name Alexis Dubin. 

Fans of this sort of thing will spot similarities to Tony Maylam’s THE BURNING and Steve Miner’s FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 with its campfire way of relating the slasher legend, and a more recent slasher that was obviously influenced by MADMAN is Adam Green’s series of HATCHET movies - Victor Crowley looks very similar to Madman Marz.

There seems to be quite a cult around this film, although I will admit I can’t really see why. Anyway, fans are going to be delighted by the package on offer from Arrow here. There’s a ninety-one minute making of documentary, two audio commentaries and numerous other extras, including a piece on music inspired by the film (!), interviews with cast and crew, a profile of the career of producer Gary Sales, convention interviews, stilsl, a trailer, TV spots, a collector’s booklet and an ‘In Memoriam’ piece for director Joe Giannone and actor Tony Fish amongst others.

Fans of obscure backwoods USA slasher fare are going to be delighted with this. Everyone else can probably give it a miss.  

Arrow Films are releasing MADMAN on dual format Region 2 DVD and Region B Blu-ray on 24th August 2015

Sunday 23 August 2015

The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)

The third film in Universal’s CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON franchise, better known as The One That Was Never On TV When We Were Kids gets a UK DVD release courtesy of Fabulous Films.

Insanely jealous and generally mad doctor Jeff Morrow sets off in his luxury boat. With him is his THIS ISLAND EARTH costar deep-voiced Rex Reason as a deep-voiced geneticist (“I’m also a doctor”), some other doctors (James Rawley and Maurice Manson), and Gregg Palmer as the tight T-shirt espadrille and black leather cap on a bit too far back wearing bit of eye candy who’s constantly trying to deny his true sexuality by trying to get it on with Mad Jeff’s blonde slip of a wife (Leigh Snowden) when she’s not succumbing to the bends with two of the other chaps and making Mad Jeff even more mad.

They’re all journeying upriver to catch the Gill-Man, set him on fire, cover him in bandages, give him a tracheotomy, and change him into a far cheaper and tattier looking monster altogether. Is it any wonder he’s the only character in this we feel sorry for?
Not content with being the most despicable and miserable bunch of characters ever to grace a Universal monster movie, our band of bastards take the Gill-Man to San Francisco. Well not San Francisco exactly, but the removal van that takes all their stuff to a house in the middle of nowhere has San Francisco written on the side, and it allows Universal to then put the Golden Gate Bridge on the poster when it has no involvement in the film whatsoever. Boo!

In Probably-Not-San-Francisco the evil scientists lock the Gill-Man up in a compound, muse about how he can now never go back in the water even though he yearns to, and throw a mountain lion at him. Mad Jeff goes completely mad and kills Gay Gregg, probably in some fit of unrequited passion or something (these films were all about subtext after all, weren’t they?).

Mad Jeff blames Gay Gregg’s death on the Gill-Man. The bars on the Gill-Man’s compound turn to cardboard. The Gill-Man escapes, kills Mad Jeff and runs off. Cut to Mad Jeff’s funeral and the usual pontificating that goes on after the climax of a film like this except we haven’t really had one. “Where’s the Gill-Man gone?” asks someone. “Oh probably to kill himself” is the gist of the reply. We see the Gill-Man walking along the beach and staring at the sea. He looks very sad indeed. The End.

Bloody hell. For a low-budget entry in a 1950s monster movie series it’s actually hard to think of a bigger downer than THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US. In fact its nihilism almost makes it feels as if it should have been made 15 years later. Pretty much no-one is likeable and nothing much happens except squabbling and pointless experiments on nature to no good whatsoever. One wonders what audience reception to this was at the time, but the absence of a fourth film probably answers that.
        Fabulous Films’ DVD is no frills and lacks the commentary track you get if you go for Universal’s Region 1 release. You do get still and poster galleries, though. 

Fabulous Films are releasing THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US on Region 2 DVD on 24th August 2015

Saturday 22 August 2015

The Falling (2015)

In the tradition of ‘weird school’ movies like Peter Weir’s PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (1975), Sidney Lumet’s CHILD’S PLAY (1971) and John MacKenzie’s UNMAN, WITTERING & ZIGO comes Carol Morley’s low budget UK entry into this curious subgenre, now released on Blu-ray and DVD by Metrodome.

It’s 1969 and at a posh girls’ school student Lydia (Maisie Williams) is best friends with Abbie (Florence Pugh). There’s a touch of lesbian heroine-worship about the relationship that hasn’t stopped the more adventurous and confident Abbie from losing her virginity and getting pregnant in the process. When Abbie dies Lydia begins to suffer from fainting spells that quickly become communicated to a number of the other girls, and also their young art teacher. The problem quickly becomes so bad that the school is closed while the affected girls are admitted to hospital for a series of tests. Is there something significant going on here? Or is it just the effects of hysteria?

A somewhat awkward and at times ham-fisted attempt to do THE CRUCIBLE by way of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, THE FALLING features some excellent performance by its almost entirely female cast, including Greta Scacchi as one of the teachers and Maxine Peake as Lydia’s mum who has secrets of her own. Sadly they’re all a bit failed by the direction, which never quite knows what it wants the film to be. The first half an hour or so suggests we’re going to get a folk-horror version of Weir’s film, with Wordsworth instead of Poe and rainy England instead of Australia. However if there is any intended mystic element here it’s all a bit cack-handed. Every few scenes we get shots of trees and leaves that are no so much subtle as like someone regularly poking you with a great big stick marked ‘symbolism’. 

THE FALLING is a movie that desperately needs a lighter touch than its been given, irrespective of what the message is meant to be. In fact I would have loved to see what Ben Wheatley might have done with it. As the film goes on we lose any mystical element, and oddly enough as the film tries harder to rationalise what has happened it actually becomes less interesting. Add in bits pinched from other films (“My watch has stopped” from PICNIC, and a male jibe lifted from Brian de Palma’s CARRIE) that feel very shoehorned in, and you have a film with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. 

Metrodome’s Blu-ray transfer makes the English countryside look gorgeous. Extras include a trailer and a Carol Morley short film ‘The Madness of the Dance’. THE FALLING is ultimately a disappointment. There are some very good ideas here and, as I said, some good performances. The music keeps threatening to go all folky and weird but actually just ends up bland and uninteresting, a bit like the film itself. I listed some films at the beginning of this review. They’re all better than THE FALLING. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look but it’s probably best approached with lowered expectations, which I hope is what I’ve done here. And The Guardian loved it so what do I know? 

Metrodome are releasing THE FALLING on Region 2 DVD and Region B Blu-ray on Monday 24th August 2015

Friday 21 August 2015

Sinister 2 (2015)

Haiku Review:

Sinister sequel
Deeply boring, deeply dull
Please: no Part Three. Please

I loved the original SINISTER. It was almost my number one film of 2012. Quite why it’s taken so long for a sequel to come along is anyone’s guess, and if anyone said ‘because the film-makers were too embarrassed’ they’d probably be right.
SINISTER 2 I did not like.
At all.
It’s difficult to know where to begin with how terrible this film is. Long, interminable dialogue sequences that bear little service to the plot, punctuated every now and then with shot on 16mm archival death sequences. The way these have been shoehorned into a frankly uninteresting storyline merely emphasises how awful and mechanical this whole endeavour is. A male lead who should be relegated to supporting actor status forever, and a female lead so bland she just shouldn’t be allowed on screen again. And neither should the work of her costume designer, who has designed her a set of outfits to wear that range all the way from baggy to frumpy with every shade of bland in between, just to match her character. The photography is blurry and muddy, perhaps to make you wonder which bits are 16mm flashbacks and which aren’t, but somehow I don’t think that was the intention.
To be fair there were quite a few plot points in SINISTER that were, for want of a better term, total bollocks. But by the time the film got there it had done such a good job of being terrifying that nobody was especially bothered. Here we start with the idea that a child has to be shown the death-record film clips by other ghost children because the demon-thing is either too busy perfecting his Slipknot-look, or perhaps can’t even be bothered to do the scary stuff in his own film.
Are the 16mm bits scary? Not really, partly because they obey the law of the sequel in having to be more excessive than the first film. There’s a good jump scare with an alligator but on the whole they’re just ludicrous, with one massive pinch from the Pan Book of Horror Stories (and George Fielding Eliot) to top it all off.
I haven’t mentioned the plot in any detail because the mere thought of trying to recall it has me threatening to nod off. SINISTER 2 is not just disappointing, it is truly terrible. In fact if someone held a gun to my head and made me choose I would rather watch PIXELS again than this.

SINISTER 2 is on general release from today. 
And is even worse than PIXELS

Thursday 20 August 2015

Eyes Without A Face aka Les Yeux Sans Visage (1960)

The very first film I wrote about for House of Mortal Cinema gets a sparkling dual disc Blu-ray and DVD release courtesy of the BFI, in a finely restored print that looks an awful lot better than the version that toured UK cinemas back in 2011 when the site started. It's influenced everyone from Jess Franco to Pedro Almodovar, with Robert Hartford-Davis' CORRUPTION in there somewhere as well. None of its imitators, however, can compare to the original. 

Plastic surgeon Dr Genessier (Pierre Brasseur) has, through his careless driving, caused extensive damage to the face of his daughter Christianne (Edith Scob). Being the kind of surgeon usually encountered in pulp horror fiction of the period, Genessier hasn’t heard of trying to take skin grafts from elsewhere on Christianne’s body to try and improve her appearance, even though he gives a lecture on the subject at the start of the film. But why should he when he lives so near Paris and there’s a bevy of beautiful women whom he can kidnap and graphically remove the faces of in increasingly desperate acts of transplantation?

With its pulpy source material it’s not surprising that George Franju’s film kick-started a subgenre of horror cinema that concentrated on the lurid rather than the lyrical aspects of his movie. As I mentioned back in my post four years ago, I would always argue that Franju’s film is a horror picture more than anything else, but it’s fair to say it has its moments of high art. The tale of the surgeon responsible for destroying his own daughter’s face and willing to do anything to repair his actions is the stuff of pulp paperback luridness, and Franju certainly elevates it way above its penny dreadful potential, making as fine a horror film as one could hope for with the material. 

Apart from the nasty bits there’s a pervasive gloom to the film that serves to augment the desperate situation of its central character, wandering her father’s isolated country mansion, a literally faceless wraith assumed dead by the rest of the world. One imagines the city-set scenes at the police station and its environs would be grey even if the picture were in colour, and it never seems to stop raining. Almost from the beginning there is no suggestion that the film is going to end anything other than badly, which is possibly why the final scene is all the more moving, simultaneously suggesting hope and hopelessness, freedom and utter loneliness.  

EYES WITHOUT A FACE was made in 1959 but it’s best viewed out of context with contemporary horror cinema of the time, when Hammer was well on its way to becoming the most successful producer of horror films in the world, Hitchcock was about to make PSYCHO, and British company Anglo Amalgamated had just released Michael Powell’s PEEPING TOM. Compared with these slicker movies the Franju film seems a bit creaky. The horror is no less effective, but nevertheless the movie feels as if it belongs to a different age, making the surgical scenes and the deaths at the climax possibly even more shocking and unexpected. 

As I’ve mentioned above, the BFI’s transfer looks excellent, and really gives this film a new lease of life. Extras include a commentary track by Tim Lucas, a fifty minute Franju career overview (LES FLEURS MALADIVES), an interview with Edith Scob, and two short films: MONSIEUR ET MADAME CURIE is fourteen minutes long and tells of the work of the scientists from the point of view of Marie Curie; and LE PREMIER NUIT, which comes with a Georges Delerue score and tells the twenty minute tale of a young boy spending a night on the Metro. There’s also the usual excellent BFI booklet with essays about the disc’s contents, including one on Maurice Jarre’s score. 

George Franju's LES YEUX SANS VISAGE is being released by the BFI on dual disc Region 2 DVD and Region B Blu-ray on 
24th August 2015

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Infernal (2015)


Signature Entertainment are releasing INFERNAL on 
Region 2 DVD on 24th August 2015

Sunday 16 August 2015

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976)

Hot on the heels of Metrodome releasing the remake, here comes Eureka with their dual format DVD & Blu-ray release of Charles B Pierce’s original docu-slasher. It’s one of those movies remembered with fearful fondness by kids growing up in the UK in the 1970s (another would be INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN) simply because the trailer was one of the few for a horror film to be played frequently (and terrifyingly) on ITV regions during daylight hours. But is it actually any good? 

“The incredible story you are about to see is true...Only the names have been changed.” Starting in true exploitation fashion with a Kolchak-style voiceover (which keeps popping up at increasingly annoying intervals to break the mood), TOWN veers between (at times) plodding police procedural and some truly excellent murder sequences.
March 1946: months after the second world war has drawn to a close, the town of Texarkana is terrorised by a masked killer who strikes randomly and without warning. The police, including Deputy Norman Ramsey (exploitation veteran Andrew Prine) are baffled, and Captain J D Morales (Ben Johnson) is called in to organise the forces. Despite their best efforts (and a chase near the end) they never catch him.

It’s not an entirely accurate representation of events, of course, but TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN sits very respectably between the backwoods scuzz of Tobe Hooper’s TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and John Carpenter’s suburban-set HALLOWEEN, both chronologically and thematically. There’s no doubting the horror of the suspense bits, but the rest of the time you’re sitting watching the police and waiting for the next good bit to happen. This interim sequences are not helped by the addition of some painfully unfunny comedy featuring the director himself as an incompetent police officer. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so noticeable if the scary bits weren’t so good.

And they ARE good. The sack-headed killer is an excellent horror ‘creation’, predating FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 and many other movies that have copied the look since. Unlike those, this killer speaks, and where that would normally detract from the horror, here it actually adds to it because you’re being reminded that the killer isn’t some deformed horror comics creation but someone you could walk past in the street and not recognise. 

Eureka’s dual-disc set offers a decent widescreen presentation similar to the Scream Factory Region A release. Extras are similar too. We get the commentary track from case historian Jim Presley, interviews with cast and crew, a trailer, and an optional isolated music and effects track. There’s also a trailer for the 2014 remake to round the package off nicely.

Eureka are releasing Charles B Pierce's original THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN on dual format Region 2 DVD and Region B Blu-ray on 24th August 2015