Torment


Director: Steve Sessions (2008)
Starring: Suzi Lorraine, Tom Stedham, Ted Alderman
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

Recovered crazy person Lauren (Lorraine) takes off for the weekend with her alcoholic husband (Stedham), only to be menaced by a masked clown that isn't as scary as the one on the DVD cover or anywhere even approaching Tim Curry. Still, Torment is a passable bit of clown horror, enjoyable for its so-bad-its-good dialogue, performances and gore.

If you have a clown phobia, you might wrangle an extra bit of terror from Torment's tedious, repetetive torture sequences and prolonged stalk n' slash stuff. As the couple bicker, it's entirely apparent that torture scenes are soon to be inflicted upon at least one of them. Indeed, the
scenes of bickering are intersected with scenes in which Dissecto The Clown pokes and otherwise annoys a pair of captive Missionaries hidden somewhere in the house. But don't worry, squeamish people, the torture scenes are so inept its impossible to be scared by them. A town Sheriff even shows up to warn Lauren that Evil Is About. Does anyone listen? Well, no, because Lauren might be crazy and probably imagined the Sheriff too. Torment is that sort of slasher movie.

Still, I've seen far worse as STD slasher features go, and collectors of ironic joys will find some amusement within. It's not quite a Torment to watch, but nearly so.

Ugh.

30 Days Of Night: Dark Days


Director: Ben Ketai (2010)
Starring: Kiele Sanchez, Rhys Coiro, Harold Perrineau
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

Yay. A sequel to my favourite modern vampire movie not to be entitled Let The Right One In. It has a multitude of problems (for a movie supposedly set over a period of 30 days, its pacing sucks) and Josh Hartnett is in it, but I love 30 Days Of Night. It's the perfect antidote to a world of sparkling and whingeing vampires.

Dark Days loses most of what made the original good. Barrow, Alaska doesn't really feature, Melissa George isn't in it, David Slade isn't in the director's chair, and it went straight to DVD. But still, Dark Days is a worthy sequel. It's a Wrong Turn 2 sort of sequel. Kinda crappy but still very much a blast.

Stella (Sanchez) has left Barrow and relocated to Los Angeles, spreading the word about vampires. There, she attracts the attention of both a vampire Queen called Lilith (Mia Kirshner) and a team of vampire hunting badasses. One of whom happens to be Michael from offa LOST. Any movie which stars a LOST alumni is usually fine by me. Also amusingly, Michael is as useless here as he was in LOST. There's also a rogue FBI agent, a girl who doesn't like Stella very much, and a nice vampire called Dane. Well, he had to be nice, didn't he? Dane is a crap vampire name.

Whilst the plot is more predictable and everyday than its predecessor's, Dark Days continues the tradition of cruel violence, ridiculous gore and cool vampire designs. The way the vampires look and sound is carried over from the last 3o Days, all teeth and black eyes and predatory squeals. Unlike most bloodsucker flicks, the emphasis here is on dismemberment over staking, and this leads to some very entertaining head-popping scenes. Heads are cut off, shot at and thoroughly caved in. The action here is wonderfully gory. It's everything one could ask for from an STD sequel.

The acting is occasionally shoddy and all of the environments look the same (the bit set on the boat could literally pass for the bit set in a warehouse and the bit set in a tunnel) but these issues can be mostly ignored for the sake of silly violence and bloodsucking action.

Scary Trek 2: Why Star Trek Is Scary: The Final Frontiers

Big Momma's House IV: The Star Trek years

Yet more Scary Trek. Yes, I appreciate that a three-part article on Star Trek might be a bit self-indulgent but shut up. You (sort of) asked for it, alright?

We conclude with a look at Deep Space 9, Voyager and Enterprise. Anyone who's ever seen any of the above will realise why I'm lumping them in one post. Because they're all shit, largely. Deep Space 9 is set on a space station in the midst of a war between the Bajorans and the Cardassians. It fails as a Trek because, being on a space station, nobody actually Treks anywhere.


Kim Cardassian.

Voyager had the more interesting premise. The Starship Voyager is sucked into a wormhole or something and dumped light years out in space, deep in unexplored territories. Scary, right? Not really, it's like every other Star Trek, only with even more bad acting and a crew that bicker all the time. Enterprise, we don't really talk about, because it's the worst thing to have Trek in the title since Star Trek vs The X-Men. It's a prequel set on the first Enterprise, and features yet more bad acting and bickering.

Jeffrey Combs makes a few cameos through these series (most notably, Enterprise and Deep Space Nine), playing different characters. This bodes well, because Jeffrey Combs is Re-Animator, right? He's a scary chap. Well, no, because they choose to make him look like this:

Oh dear. Still, even buried beneath stupid blue makeup and head penises, Combs is good. Very good. As with previous series, good actors are hidden amongst the chaff ones. For every Tuvok there's a Robert Picardo. For every Sisko (surely the worst captain of any series?) an Armin Shimerman or that guy from off've True Blood.

But is there any scary amongst the Trek? Very occasionally. DS9 is too concerned with politics to even try, but it has its moments. Empok Nor does a visit to a sort-of haunted space station, whereupon the crew's pet Cardassian loses control of his faculties and tries to kill everyone. Well, he is played by Andrew J. Robinson, from off've Hellraiser (true story, trivia fans: Hellraiser 3's Terry Farrell plays a main character too). The Cardassians are sucky villains, but their history takes in lots of cruel experiments and several moments of grotesquerie that make DS9 vaguely worthwhile. For the most part though, it's a dull, self-important series in which everyone is boring and everyone talks about politics.

Voyager is known to many as the worst of the Trek series. I always had a soft spot for it myself. Darkling is my favourite episode. The ship's holographic doctor has himself a funny turn and tries to kill just a few of his crewmates. It's a fun little play on Jekyll & Hyde, and one of Voyager's more interesting episodes. There's also The Haunting Of Deck Twelve, in which sillly cook Neelix (him off've True Blood) tells ghost stories to the Borg children. Yes, they have Borg children. No, I'm not sure where they came from.

There might be scary episodes of Enterprise, but I never watched it much beyond the first series, due to it being hidden on television channels I don't have. The soft-rock bullshit theme tune is pretty scary though. Whatever happened to "these are the voyages...?" There's an episode with zombie Cardassians, and The Borg make a return (or a first entrance, even) but nothing to write home about. Unless you like writing home about how terrible things are.

In summary, and back to the original question, why is Star Trek scary? At its best, Star Trek plays on that fear of being far away from home, under attack from forces unknown. There are dangerous alien planets, salt-sucking shape shifters and William Shatner trying to rape things. Star Trek is scary both ironically and unironically. It may not have aged too well, but who can forget Deanna Troi being turned into a cake? Or Jeffrey Combs with blue penises stuck to his head? Star Trek probably isn't scary, not really, but I do so enjoy writing about it. Sorry about that.

NOT THE LEAST BECAUSE IT FEATURES AN ANDROID WHO WRITES POETRY ABOUT HIS CAT.

Scary Trek 2: Why Star Trek is Scary: The Next Generation

Why Star Trek is Scary:
Wherein the header picture says more than words ever could

Scary Trek continues. The Next Generation is set years after the Original Series. The Starship Enterprise is now Captained by Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and everyone wears really crappy uniforms. The future has become an even nicer place than it was before, with androids and klingons manning the bridge, and blind people manning the engineering department. The Next Generation has its detractors because of how well everyone gets on: there's very little conflict between the main characters and most everyone seems a little bit wet. Even Captain Picard is quite cuddly.

But beyond that, The Next Generation has its moments of future-scariness. One of the movies even stars Tom Hardy. There's a main character played by Brent Spiner. Brent Spiner is creepy even when he's playing a good guy role. It's a good job the crew get terrorised on a regular basis, as this bit of schadenfreude helps distract from the fact that The Enterprise is now manned by a crew of dickheads. I never use the word douchebag, but for this man I'll make an exception:

I like bearded Riker because it hides some of the Smug

There really is no other word. Anyway, onto the scary. For the Next Generation of Scary Trek, Borg episodes are generally good. In the later seasons, The Borg would become a bit overused; the Star Trek equivalent of Freddy Krueger. But generally, when The Next Generation was at its best, The Borg weren't far behind. Q Who and The Best Of Both Worlds are probably the best Borg episodes, and, thanks to them, First Contact is hands-down the best Next Generation movie. The Borg, by the by, are a race of robo-aliens who travel the galaxies "assimilating" other races into their number. They even get to Captain Picard and give him a stupid name (and his name was already pretty stupid to begin with). Enter Locutus:


But the crew of the Enterprise aren't having none of this, and kidnap their Captain back, reversing his brainwash. Like that episode of The Simpsons where Homer joins a cult. The Borg would make several more appearances in the Star Tchrek universe, not the least in Voyager, where they got a sexy lady-Borg to join the crew. The last time they managed to be scary though, is in First Contact (where another sexy lady-Borg kidnaps android Data and tries to brainwash him too).

In Skin Of Evil, one of the main characters actually dies. Data's love interest, Tasha Yar is held captive by an evil black slime, who kills her stone dead. It's the first time one of the bridge crew is killed in a Star Trek series, and that really sets it apart from the rest. In an otherwise mediocre first season, Skin Of Evil is a highlight.

The Brain-rape episode, Violations, seriously scared Idiot Me as a child. It features Picard in a dodgy hairpiece and pornographic amounts of Riker's beard. The brain rape bit is returned to briefly in Nemesis, when Tom Hardy tries to have his wicked way with Troi. Five minutes in the Star Trek universe, and already he's trying to rape someone. This does not bode well for Batman.

An episode in which the crew are all brainwashed by an addictive computer game-type thing is pretty chilling if only because it leaves Wesley Fucking Crusher to save the day. Brainwashing is a common theme in The Next Generation. I lose count of the amount of times Data turns evil and starts trying to kill his crewmates. In Insurrection, he sings Gilbert and Sullivan, which is really fucking scary.

Other episodes of note are Schisms (crewmembers are abducted and experimented on) Conspiracy (an Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers thing) and my personal favourite, Realm Of Fear, which is a Lt. Barclay-heavy episode. Barclay is The A-Team's Murdock, and is therefore awesome. Realm Of Fear deals with Barclay's transporter phobia, and has weird transporter-worms and such. It feels like it should have a cameo from Freddy Krueger.

Ignore the fucking haunted house episode (Sub Rosa) though, because it's a Dr. Crusher-heavy episode. Crusher (Gates McFadden) attends her dear grandma's funeral and spends time in a haunted house. Even Idiot Child Me wasn't scared by Sub Rosa. Probably because McFadden is The Next Generation's worst actor by far, and her character's pretty dull too. Most disturbingly, and harder to ignore is the episode where Deanna Troi is turned into a cake:

And not even an erotic cake

Aside from such highlights, The Next Generation is pretty failsome in the scary department. Unless bad acting scares you. Ooh, feel the burn. Where The Original Series exploited a variety of monsters and aliens, TNG plays up the humour and is more reliant on recurring villains such as The Romulans, Q and The Klingons. Klingons would probably be scarier if their name didn't remind me so much of something which happens when I don't wipe my bottom properly. Still, there are a few highlights and Star Trek is so much a part of my childhood that I can't help but love it.

Next up, Deep Space 9, Voyager and Enterprise. Or the dark shit years, as I like to call them. Truly scary stuff.

Scary Trek 2: Why Star Trek Is Scary: The Original Series

Warning: This article contains Star Trek

Here at The Horror Review Hole, we like to cater for all audiences (provided those audiences are all me) and keep everyone happy. So when I saw the phrase 'why is Star Trek scary?' pop up in blogger's Search Keywords, what more invitation was needed? Even better, I'm going to resist the urge to say things like 'because of its fans'. Because that would be mean. But I'm a Trekkie, so I'm allowed to say things like that.
Star Trek takes place, as the name suggests, in space. The final frontier and all of that. Imagine yourself, far away from home. Stuck on a ship that keeps breaking down, constantly at threat from things with silly names like Romulans and Klingons and Ferengi. Double that thought if you happen to wear a red shirt. Triple it if your name's Tasha Yar. Whilst Star Trek is cheesy and naff and socially unacceptable, it's pretty damn scary too. Or it was, when I was ten, anyway.

The Original Series was probably the most disturbing, despite its crap special effects and penchant for melodramatics. Forget The Tribbles and the rubbish Klingons, The Man-Trap features a salt-sucking shapeshifter who seduces Doctor McCoy and tries to suck William Shatner off. Ahem. Even today, the Man Trap monster looks grotesque and a little bit scary. Watching The Man-Trap at such a young age probably explains why I'm so scared of women, and why I hide all my salt before I'll invite a girl round for sexytime.

Also good is The Enemy Within, in which Kirk is seperated into two entities (wimpy and evil or rapey and less rapey, as I like to call them) and is forced to literally fight himself. Wimpy Kirk is incpable of doing anything whilst Evil Kirk runs around in eyeliner, trying to rape everything. No, I'm not going to make a joke here that besmirches the name of Shatner. What is odd, however, is the episode's closing sentiment. Spock states that Evil Kirk, despite being evil and all, had his advantages. Never mind all that attempted rape eh, Spock? Just like a Vulcan.

Wolf In The Fold brings back Jack The Ripper for the 23rd Century. Everyone blames Scotty because, well, he's the only Scottish person on the Enterprise. Jack turns out to be an entity called Redjac who is defeated when they beam him out into the depths of space. Not all that scary an episode, although it is interesting to see how the 23rd Century spacemen cope with knives over their fancy-pants phaser guns. Blame the Scotsman, that's how they react.

Catspaw is the series' only foray into holiday specials. One Halloween, Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to a haunted planet and encounter a coven of witches, sort-of-zombies and a black cat. Kirk finds a skeleton and says "bones?" Geddit? Because that's McCoy's nickname. Arf arf. It's not a very good episode, nor a particularly scary one, but it has its moments.

The best horror moments in Star Trek tend to be incidental ones, organic to the plot. Miri finds a planet populated only by children. The feral children are pretty scary. The way Kirk grooms an underage girl is bloody terrifying. Star Trek is camp and silly and hasn't aged too well, but it chilled idiot me as a child, in the same way as Doctor Who's Daleks did my own father.
Lest I remind you Bill Shatner is the face of a certain Michael Myers

Even today, The Original Series manages to be a bit scary. No, I'm not talking about the reboot (although Zachary Quinto's Spock is horrifying). IDW comics have produced what is essentially Star Trek vs Zombies and called it Infestation. There are apparently robots and shit too, but the zombies are what I'm really interested in.



The whole thing more or less leading up to that joke. Still, I think I've been waiting my whole life to read Star Trek vs Zombies. As crossovers go, at least it makes more sense than Star Trek vs The X-Men. Yes, that actually exists. Next up on Scary Trek, Scary Trek: The Next Generation. Yes, there's more. Sorry.

The Liam Neeson fanclub presents: DARKMAN


Director: Sam Raimi (1990)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Larry Drake

What has Darkman to do with St. Patrick's Day, you ask? Well, gentle idiot, look no further than its leading man - a Mister Liam Neeson. You don't get much more Irish than Liam Neeson. A man so awesome he has this Tripod fanpage dedicated to his awesomeness, Neeson can these days be found badassing his way through such actioners as The A-Team, Unknown, Crash Of The Titans and that xenophobic one where he beats up half of France.

Such a massive loss :-(

There seems to be a lot of surprise at Neeson's rebirth as Mr. Action, but I'm not sure why. Neeson's badassery is hardly unprecedented. Never mind his roles in The Phantom Menace and Rob Roy (in which he played , um, a Scotsman), Neeson's awesomeness was cemented for me by the first time I saw Darkman.

Massive Sam Raimi fan that I am (even Disco Peter Parker gets teh LOLs), Darkman was my first experience of the director's work. It's his third best piece, and one of my favourite superhero movies of all time. Neeson plays Doctor Peyton Westlake, a scientist hard at work at the invention of a fully functional but laboratory-constructed skin. Just as he seems to be making a breakthrough, Westlake runs afoul of gangster Durant (Drake), who destroys his work, kills his assistant, blows up his lab and leaves Westlake for dead. Completely disfigured, Westlake becomes Darkman; a cross between The Burning's Cropsy and a really pissed off Batman. He uses his fake skin thing to create a variety of masks and disguises for himself, but the stuff can only last a few hours at a time before it melts. Oh, and a biproduct of his disfigurement leaves him unable to feel pain and liable to get really really pissed off with things.

Talking of teh LOLs...

Can Westlake rescue his love life and get revenge on the thugs what wronged him? And will there be a cameo from Bruce Campbell? All these questions and more are answered in Darkman. The movie is Sam Raimi on a form he wouldn't recover until Drag Me To Hell. There's black humour, ultraviolence and his brother Ted. Liam Neeson is brilliant as the conflicted hero, the underrated Frances McDormand makes for a sympathetic girlfriend and Larry Drake is reliably slimy as villain Durant. The action is extremely well done and the special effects do a wonderful job with Darkman and his shonky face.

Darkman is brilliant. There's a fight with a helicopter and Larry Drake cuts people's fingers off with a cigar cutter. Liam Neeson has a Nicolas Cage moment with a stuffed toy. There's plenty of Raimi's usual camera trickery. Darkman is a great film. Also great:

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT!!!

I can't say I'd ever thought about Liam Neeson's virginity. But now that you mention it... Also, I resent that jibe at the Irish. Also, do any jokes actually exist about fishing or acting? I'd definitely recommend visiting the Liam Neeson fan club. But not all at once, because you'll probably crash it. The joys of Tripod. The below score applies both to Darkman and The Liam Neeson Fan Club.

Shrooms


Director: Paddy Breathnach (2007)
Starring: Lindsey Haun, Jack Huston, Max Kasch
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

Because it's St. Patrick's Day next week, I'm half Irish, and also why not, now commences a week of Irish themed updates. Top of the morning to ye, and other utterances.

First up is Shrooms, a movie in which a gang of idiot kids travel to rural Ireland in search of shrooms. Shrooms, to the uninitiated, being hallucination-inducing mushrooms which make a crappy cup of tea but are good if you like talking to inanimate objects and cows. Whilst shrooms are fine in small doses and a controlled environment, no-one seems to twig that noshing on them in the middle of a Gothic looking forest is a bad idea. Also a bad idea, sitting around the campfire telling ghost stories about evil spirits. Unsurprisingly, the kids have a bad trip.

Not the least Tara (Haun), who accidentally eats the wrong type of mushroom and totally ends up with magic powers and puke all over herself. She now experiences premonitions and sees each of her friends dying at the hands of some mysterious force. I guess that's why they call them magic mushrooms. One by one, the kids are killed off. This movie didn't exactly deter me from trying shrooms so much as it did hanging around stupid people.

The fact that everyone is stoned lends itself to some trippy (HA) kill sequences and fun bits of cinematography. The movie's setting is its strongest suit, far better than the boring forests of Friday The 13th and Cabin Fever. If there's one thing us (half) Irish do well, it's gloomy wet forests. And getting drunk. Shrooms goes to the trouble of embracing its Irish roots in that aspect, but completely forgets to include any real Irish characters in the story. For some ridiculous reason, the American characters' tour guide is even an English hippy (Huston). But I digress. There are Irish people in the movie. They look like this:


Shrooms won't have the Tourism Board calling anytime soon. Not that I didn't find the Irish hillbilly brothers funny. A sequence involving a telephone is particularly amusing.

Other standout sequences include an imaginitive use of dogging and a scene in which Bluto (Robert Hoffman) talks to a cow. Otherwise, Shrooms is nothing special. The characters are irritating, the acting competent and the story is virtually non-existent. The premonition gimmick gets old fast, and the movie's twist is stupid. For a good movie about kids getting stoned and dead, I'd recommend The Tripper everytime.

But, y'know, Shrooms will do in the absence of that. In the same way that people only scoff shrooms because they don't have anything better to do.

Dreamcatcher


Director: Lawrence Kasdan (2003)
Starring: Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Thomas Jane, Morgan Freeman
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

If I've learnt anything from Dreamcatcher, it's that 16-year-old me was a fucking idiot. 16-year-old me was the first incarnation of me to watch Dreamcatcher, and he loved it. 24-year-old me, not so much. And I've a feeling I'd think the same about the novel if I tried to re-read that about now.

Ironically, Dreamcatcher's own age is its saving grace. Whereas 16-year-old me (or indeed, the cinemagoing public at the time) couldn't hope to appreciate its cast of relative nobodies (a certain Morgan Freeman aside), now the thing plays like man-crush central. It's a dream cast, starring the likes of Timothy Olyphant, Thomas Jane and My Name Is Earl. There's also Tom Sizemore and Donnie Wahlberg, alongside Morgan Freeman (who completely rocks a rare bad guy role).

Unfortunately, everything else is a bit IT-lite. The childhood flashbacks, psychic abilities and possession all feel like Stephen King trying to reclaim former glories. Only this time, with aliens. The lines of dialogue that might work in a King novel (or even not) don't translate well to film. The 'memory warehouse' stuff should have been wiped from the script. And the Duddits stuff is just cringeworthy. If I hear Donnie Wahlberg say "ister gay" ever again, I'll crush his head between two blocks of ice myself. The mentally disabled Duddits saves the world nonsense is both condescending and cheesy. Although I did laugh when Duddits got stabbed by tentacles at the end. Duddits. Even his name grates.

Knowing what we know now about the actors involved (namely, that Tom Jane, The Olyphant and My Name Is Earl are awesome) the decision to give wet Damian Lewis the lead role feels like a particularly bad one. Anyone who's seen The Baker *shudders* will know he finds it difficult holding a film on his own. Lewis's Jonesey is an achingly irritating character, especially when he's doing his stupid 'possessed voice' (an RP English accent) and to have him (spoiler) outlive both The Olyphant and Jason Lee is a slap in the face to fans of Awesome everywhere.

It's a story so stupid that the characters have to explain it to us in the movie's final line. "So Duddits was the dreamcatcher!" If they'd spent less time on the fart joke and poo-aliens and more time working the script into something intelligible, Dreamcatcher might have been salvaged. Duddits might have saved the world, but less Duddits might have saved this movie.

Still, I can appreciate Dreamcatcher for the things it does well. Morgan Freeman's eyebrows are incredible. Any scene with Jason Lee is a good one. Tom Jane gets to do his action man thing. The snowy environments are nice; very reminiscent of The Thing. And there are a few fun scenes of extra-terrestrial carnage. Fucking Duddits gets attacked by an alien. Timothy Olyphant is in it. Even if he does get a raw deal.

After watching this movie, I too will take to hanging a dreamcatcher above my bed. Not a mentally disabled psychic kid, no, A real dreamcatcher. I'll be hanging it there in the hope that I can forget all about Dreamcatcher.