Sunday 25 September 2022

When the Screaming Starts (2021)

"Great British Horror Comedy"

One of my favourite films from Frightfest 2021 is getting a digital release from Signature Entertainment. 

Aidan (Ed Hartland) who also co-wrote this with director Conor Boru) has aspirations to be a serial killer but he hasn't actually murdered anyone yet. Norman Graysmith (Jared Rogers) is a documentary film-maker currently living in a camper van who is desperate for a subject. When Norman starts filming Aidan's life story it's the spur Aidan needs to put together his Family ("Like the Mansons but not racist"). 

After a series of interviews Aidan finally has his eccentric band of misfits which include an ex-con, psychotic twins who have joined "for the orgies", an ex public schoolgirl who keeps the housemistress responsible for her dismissal locked in a cupboard in her gothic home, and a prospective yoga student who speaks no English and is there by mistake. It's when the gang go on their first mass murder spree that power struggles begin to develop that threaten to not just break the group up but leave Norman without a film. 

WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS does a very good job of getting its mix of comedy and horror right, with the film starting off silly and getting gradually darker, with the result that later killings have all the more punch. It's all riotous fun, delightfully and eccentrically performed, and all slickly put together. You won't see a better British horror comedy all year. Let's have a trailer:

WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS is out on digital platforms from Signature Entertainment on Monday 26th September 2022

Saturday 24 September 2022

Jeepers Creepers Reborn (2022)

"Low Budget Horror Reboot. Er...That's It"

"Didn't they make three films about it?" a character says close to the beginning of director Timo IRON SKY Vuorensola's latest movie, doing its best to distance it, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD-style, from previous films featuring the same character, an anthropoid flying monster in a big coat and hat who chases people using a battered old truck.

There's a grungier, more folk-horror feel to the creature in this one, dragging itself, semi-formed, from the depths of a ruined building, feasting on worms in order to put flesh on its bones and keen, it would seem, to have an heir - hence the title.

There's no Creeper sex in JEEPERS CREEPERS REBORN, by the way, in case you're now expecting it. Instead we follow newly pregnant Laine (Sydney Craven from Eastenders) and her unknowing boyfriend Chase (Imran Adams from Hollyoaks) as the attend the 'Horror Hound' convention, win a ticket to an escape room / ex-haunted house of the Creeper, and have to save themselves from being clawed up and eaten. 

JEEPERS CREEPERS REBORN has suffered a spate of bad reviews, and while it's not completely terrible (the Creeper resurrection at the beginning isn't at all bad), the sequence at the festival does become rather interminable, and this may be the film with the most use of green screen to be seen in cinemas this year. The film's exteriors were filmed in the US and interiors at the Black Hangar Studios in Alton in the UK, which might even be why the final act feels like an amusement park ride. There's not much of the humour seen in IRON SKY but fans will be pleased with the off the cuff bit of dialogue referencing the director's debut feature. Anyway, here's the trailer:

Timo Vuorensola's JEEPERS CREEPERS REBORN is getting a cinema release on Saturday 24th September followed by 

Digital, Blu-ray and DVD releases on 

Monday 10th October 2022

Friday 23 September 2022

Eurotrash (1993 - 2004)


"A Great Big Package of Brightly Coloured Trashy Nostalgia"

By 1990 Channel 4 had worked out that, rather than a subtitled art film or even something with a little red triangle in the top right hand corner to indicate 'special discretion advised', what the post-pub Friday night crowd really wanted more than anything was brightly coloured soundbite-sized doses of lurid and frequently titillating material. Initially this was achieved with Charlie Parsons' frequently embarrassing 'The Word'. A couple of years later the rather better made, slightly more tasteful and infinitely more entertaining Eurotrash hit the screens.

Conceived by Peter Stuart, who oversaw the show during its entire run, and hosted by Antoine De Caunes (already known to UK audiences for the BBC2 series Rapido) and French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier (who departed after the sixth series), Eurotrash was ostensibly a cultural magazine programme highlighting the more outré (ie entertaining) aspects of European culture. It lasted for eleven years and now it can be revisited in all its brightly coloured, brain-frying, taste-challenging glory as Network releases the entire run in a single, massive box set.

Watching it now, it's surprising to realise that, amongst the pieces on a man dressed as a smurf trying to get thrown out of Disneyland, the disastrous BBC TV soap 'Eldorado' scene recreators club and pubic hairdressers, you also get interviews with Paul Verhoeven (talking about BASIC INSTINCT and his next exciting and secret project which of course turned out to be SHOWGIRLS), Sylvia Kristel and Kim Newman talking about the EMMANUELLE films, a 22 year old Charlotte Gainsbourg  talking about THE CEMENT GARDEN, and Tinto Brass waxing lyrical on the female bottom. There are also decent pieces on Tom Of Finland, the Leningrad Cowboys and a well-observed piece on 'How to Watch a Jean-Luc Godard Film' followed by a profile of the late director's quite unbelievable KING LEAR. 

Of course it doesn't take long for the show to give the audience what it really wants, including regular appearances by bizarre personalities like Lolo Ferrari and Belgian singer Eddy Wally, regular items like 'Sit On Me' and stories on curious eccentrics like the man who hires out his buttocks to use as a bicycle stand.

Network's box set consists of 20 discs covering all 16 series. Not all were provided for review and it's not clear if the specials are included. There are no extras. 

Network are releasing the Eurotrash Box Set on DVD and on Digital on Monday 26th September 2022

Saturday 10 September 2022

Strawberry Mansion (2022)

"Excellent, Quirky, Low Budget SF"

Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney's charming and highly creative tale of love in a world of dream taxation and intrusive advertising gets a cinema and digital release from Bulldog.

In 2035 your dreams are taxed, with each item you dream about being assigned a value, and a percentage of that being charged to you. Preble (co-writer and co-director Kentucker Audley) is a dream tax assessor charged with auditing Bella (Penny Fuller) who lives in a remote house in the country. All her dreams are recorded on VHS tape ("around 2000 of them") despite the format having been made illegal for the last seven years. As Preble starts to go through the tapes (and enter Bella's dreams) he starts to received strange messages that seem to suggest his love of fried chicken and fizzy drinks might not be entirely voluntary.

Very low budget and shot on what looks like 16mm, STRAWBERRY MANSION is nevertheless packed with creativity, ranging from imaginative model shots to stop motion animation to some excellent masks. The film's quirky style is reminiscent of the films of French director Michel Gondry while its subject matter will remind fans of classic SF literature of the works of Philip K Dick and also Fred Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth.

The low budget actually adds to the film's appeal. If this had the budget of a Marvel movie it would lose a lot of its charm. It's still worth catching on the big screen, though, if you can - the images and ideas are big even if the budget isn't. In a market still saturated with super hero films, sequels and knock offs, STRAWBERRY MANSION is a tiny gem shining brightly that deserves all the love and support it can get. Here's the trailer:

STRAWBERRY MANSION is out in UK cinemas and on on-demand digital platforms on Friday 16th September 2022

Friday 2 September 2022

Frightfest Extras

Because there just wasn't time during the festival (or before it) for me to watch all the films made available to me, here a couple of late additions before I climb back into my coffin for a few hours: 


A woman wakes up in a windowless room with vague memories of a trip to the beach with her young daughter. She is compelled by a faceless voice to perform greater and more complex feats of telekinesis  with the threat that if she does not complete them within a particular time frame her daughter will die. After each task she is rendered unconscious. Eventually she is able to escape the room and discover what kind of a place she has been imprisoned in.

CONTROL is directed by James Mark who also made 2019's Frightfest ENHANCED. I said ENHANCED felt like the kind of low-budget superhero picture Empire Pictures might have made in the 1980s, and CONTROL feels very much like an origin story in the same universe. It's actually better than ENHANCED despite having what looks like a lower budget, and as such it's an entertaining time waster for undemanding fans. 

CONTROL will be getting a release on digital platforms from Signature Entertainment on Monday 26th September


        Writer-Director Carter Smith (THE RUINS) returns to the big screen with this noirish tale of smuggling gone horribly wrong. Benjamin (Cooper Koch) is about to leave his sleepy little town to become a gay adult film star in Los Angeles. His best friend Dom (Jose Colon) has an idea to make some money to give Benjamin to help start him off in the big city. 

        Unfortunately that idea involves ingesting a number of small packages for Alice (Jena Malone) so they can be smuggled across the Canadian-US border. The two get to the other side only for Dom to receive a blow to the stomach that causes one of the packages to rupture. Alice isn't pleased and neither is her boss (Mark Patton). The pair are dragged out to a remote shack in the forest where the nature of the bizarre packages is revealed.

SWALLOWED combines noir crime with another genre that might be a spoiler if I was to name it, suffice to say that this is a tense, tight little piece with excellent performances from everyone. Jena Malone is always a welcome sight (and often a mark of quality when it comes to outré cinematic subjects) while Mark Patton, still best known for playing the lead in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2) is quite excellent as a psychopathic murderous version of Joe Exotic. In fact if they ever do the Tiger King biopic he absolutely deserves a crack at the audition.

SWALLOWED will be getting a release from Blue Finch Releasing.

Next Exit

In the near future research scientist Dr Stevensen (Karen Gillan) has proved that there is life after death. This has led to a tremendous rise in both the suicide and the homicide rates, but Stevensen's work is in its infancy. Not all deaths are trackable into the afterlife and she needs more research subjects willing to die to further her work. 

      Two of the research study volunteers are unlikeable Rose (Katie Parker) and affable Teddy (Rahul Kohli). Thrown together at the Charon (oh what a giveaway) car rental agency they end up driving across country together to get to their respective appointments at Dr Stevensen's lab. As they travel we get to witness what Stevensen's discovery has meant for many of the country's inhabitants as well as learning a lot more about Rose and Teddy along the way.

Don't expect NEXT EXIT to go into the details about Dr Stevensen's research as this is essentially a road movie, with Karen Gillan's brief appearance there to get things moving. It's therefore very much a character driven piece, and something of an odyssey as our two leads encounter people from different walks of life (a priest, a cop) as well as individuals from their past. Writer-director Mali Elfman is the daughter of composer Danny Elfman and the niece of Richard Elfman and it looks as if her talent lies in rather more sober works than the man who gave us FORBIDDEN ZONE

NEXT EXIT will be getting a release from Blue Finch Releasing