Blooded


Director: Edward Boase (2011)
Starring: Nick Ashton, Neil McDermott, Oliver Boot
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

So meta I had to have a lie down afterwards. Blooded is a documentary about the kidnapping and torment of five friends in the Scottish highlands. It employs the talking heads of the victims themselves as well as dramatised re-enactments of the events at hand. Except they're all actors and none of it ever happened. Since the film doesn't tell you this, you can pass Blooded off as a real documentary and use it to confuse stupid people. Mind you, the guy from Eastenders (McDermott) is in it, so be prepared to bullshit some more. "Oh yeah, didn't you know? This actually happened to him before he joined Eastenders."

Blooded tells the story of five friends holidaying in Scotland. They're there to shoot some deer, drink some booze and propose to their ladyfriends. Some pissed off anti-hunting activists have other ideas though. The friends are kidnapped from their beds and transported deep into the Scottish wilderness, barefoot and nearly naked. And then the hunt begins. Blooded is not a true story, but Morrissey (Morrissey Smith, not Maynard) wishes that it was.


Although he may not be too happy about how sympathetically the victims are painted here. Sure, they're a very pro-hunting lot (the movie is in reference to the aftermath of the UK fox hunting ban in 2002) but you're meant to root for their survival. The activists, meanwhile, are too faceless and angry for their voice to be heard. As Lucas (Ashton/McDermott) refuses to bow to vegetarian sanctimoniousness, you certainly won't be cheering on his captors. I'm no fan of fox hunting, but I'm even less of a fan of bollocks extremism. By turning Lucas and co into the victims, the activists' message becomes lost.

The film is presented very cleverly, but saps the story of its tension or thrills -a big problem when you're selling yourself as a thriller. Four of the five characters are talking in retrospect as interviewees - so we as an audience know that at least four out of five characters are going to survive their ordeal. There's an initial hoot to seeing them wake up almost naked in the freezing cold Scottish wilderness, but this dissipates rather quickly. Blooded very effectively mimics the feel of watching a documentary in that I was bored after half an hour.

Now if you'll excuse me, all that talk of hunting and Morrissey Smith has left me starving for some Kentucky Fried Shit.

Season Of The Witch


Director: Dominic Sena (2011)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Claire Foy, Stephen Graham
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

Swords n' sorcery, Nicolas Cage style. Two deserter Crusaders return to their homeland, which they find devastated by the Black Plague. Whilst Sean Bean is off looking to Tim McInnerny to solve the problem (see the imaginatively titled Black Death), Nicolas Cage tackles things the only way he knows how: by having bad hair and beating up on medieval women. This time he does so accompanied by the epic Ron Perlman and a grubby Stephen Graham.

Despite being a more serious movie, Season Of The Witch puts one in mind of Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. It feels like a throwback to the Hammer movies of old, complete with a welcome cameo from one Christopher Lee. It's a very simplistic man-on-a-mission film, the likes of which seem all too rare these days. The casting of Nic Cage and Ron Perlman as brothers in arms is inspired. The chemistry is understated (some might say almost non-existent) but I love both actors unreservedly. Their pairing works well, and it's always good to see Ron Perlman at the forefront of a movie. Supporting actors such as Stephen Graham and Stephen Campbell Moore do well too, and even young Robert Sheehan (who I hated in Misfits) pulls his weight.

The Knights, a choirboy and a monk travel across Plague infected England, delivering their witch (Foy) to a remote Monastery, where the Monks hope to use her to stop the Plague's spread. I'm not sure how exactly, nor whether 14th Century Christians had the concept of a "fair trial" which Cage preaches, but the whole thing is just a plot device to get these men on their mission. Along the way they encounter such perils as rickety bridges, their conniving witch and dodgy CGI wolves.

Season Of The Witch takes itself more seriously than it should, especially when the predictable endgame resembles a scene cut from Van Helsing. But it's an enjoyable bit of period nonsense, with Messrs Cage and Perlman in fine fettle.

Monsters


Director: Gareth Edwards (2010)
Starring: Scoot McNairy, Whitney Able
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

SPOILER: There are no monsters in this movie until the last ten minutes, when two giant space Octopuses turn up and kiss. If you want to watch a critically-acclaimed film that makes a statement about immigration and eventually turns into a sweet love story (not the octopuses) then you might find something to like in Monsters. If, however, you just wanna see giant monsters fuck shit up, then I'd advise looking elsewhere. Monsters is less a live-action Monsters Vs Aliens and more a mumblecore version of The Road.

Watch Monsters forewarned with the knowledge that you won't be getting many actual Monsters, and you'll be fine. Otherwise, you'll feel exactly how I felt when I walked into Twilight thinking it was about vampires or when I tuned into Russell Howard's Good News expecting him to announce his retirement/imminent death.

Oxymorons, y'all!

Years after the Earth's invasion by giant space octopuses (localised to a quarantined bit of Mexico) photographer Andrew Kaulder (McNairy) is dispatched by his boss to escort tourist Samantha Wynden (Able) home. With her passport and all of their money stolen, the only way for Samantha to get back to America is via the Infected Zone. Careful though, there be monsters. Allegedly.

If I wasn't so stupid, I could tell you how Monsters is an allegory about Mexican immigrants and such, and ask questions like "who are the real monsters?" But I live in England and my knowledge of American/Mexican immigration issues begins and ends with Machete. Instead, I can whine a little bit about how there aren't any monsters and then when there are monsters, all they do is kiss. I can also admit that I liked the film anyway, because it's well acted by its unfamiliar leads and the depiction of post-invasion Mexico/America is awfully well realised. It's not as good, but it reminds me of The Mist, in that the aliens aren't all that important and you generally care about the humans' plight. It reminds me of Cloverfield if Cloverfield had heart and maybe Skyline if Skyline had a brain cell.

But there are no monsters in this film called Monsters, and that is going to put a lot of people off.

Dagon


Director: Stuart Gordon (2001)
Starring: Ezra Godden, Francisco Rabal, Raquel Merono
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

No, I haven't spelled 'dragon' wrong. A sizeable portion of Lovecraft here, with vinegar and extra tentacles. Stuart Gordon's Dagon is supposedly based on the HP Lovecraft short story of the same name, despite having (some of) the (vague) plot of The Shadow Over Innsmouth instead. Gordon has picked the best bits of the two stories and made them his own. Dagon is the best Lovecraft adaptation I've seen since Gordon's own Re-Animator. And Dagon manages to be good despite the fact it has mermaids in it.


The Little Mermaid this is not, unless they cut all the singing out of this version. Paul (Godden) and Barbara (Morono) are holidaying on their friends' yacht when they encounter a rather ghastly storm. The boat crashes on the rocks and one of their friends becomes trapped under a bed or something. Paul and Barbara take a life raft to shore and look for help in a little Spanish village. The villagers though, aren't quite right. They have gills, for one thing. And webbed fingers, for another. Barbara is promptly kidnapped by the villagers and Paul goes on the run, with only a local tramp (Rabal) for company. What he encounters is a lot of tentacles, a mermaid and some really smelly hotel bedrooms. Seriously, what Paul finds could surely give The Hotel Inspector a run for her money.

The story is silly and the effects are a bit pants, but Dagon is a great movie for Lovecraft enthusiasts, Stuart Gordon fans and casual horror fans alike. It's no Re-Animator, but Gordon is on fine form here. I particularly enjoyed the messy ending and some of the slimier fish monster designs. There's something distinctly fishy about this HP Lovecraft adaptation, but I like it, all the same.

Urban Legend


Director: Jamie Blanks (1998)
Starring: Alicia Witt, Jared Leto, Rebecca Gayheart, Tara Reid
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

In my early days of horror fanaticism, my movie-watching record was spotted with a number of now-embarrassing blotches. My two most favourite and often-watched horror flicks were Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare and Urban Legend. Urban Legend, I'd recorded off've the TV and watched at least once a month on VHS. I think I still might have it buried behind a cupboard somewhere. I'm now in the awkward position of having watched Urban Legend more than I have A Nightmare On Elm Street or even Scream, the very movie which it rips off so shamelessly. Well done on making Future Me sound like an idiot, stupid Me From The Past. Although mother wouldn't let me watch The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, so you can't really blame Me From The Past for taking whatever he could get.

Indisputable bollocks as it might be, Urban Legend has its moments. Granted, all of those moments are stupid, but some of them star Robert Englund and Brad Dourif. My favourite moments all have Lex Luthor in them. The cast is full of people I recognise now, so it's odd to watch Urban Legend nowadays. You got Lex Luthor (although his having hair threw me off), Jared Leto, Tara Reid, Joshua Jackson and Danielle Harris. Ew, I'm disgusted to admit that there was a point in my life where Urban Legend was my favourite Robert Englund movie. Well done again, Stupid Me From The Past.


Watching it now, Urban Legend is a lot less bloody than I remember it being. The kill scenes are mostly bloodless. The most disturbing thing is seeing Lex Luthor with hair. I jest now, but the bit where someone microwaves Luthor's dog fucking traumatised me as a child. As did the following kill where Luthor is forced to drink drain cleaner. While we're at it, I find it hard to believe I didn't notice how atrocious Tara Reid's acting is when I watched it as a kid. I must have been distracted by how genuinely unsettling I found the film.

Script Fail: How does one bite down "real hard" on a tape gag?

The story is a complete and shameless rip-off of the likes of Scream and the equally unimaginative I Know What You Did Last Summer. It's the sort of thing that is set on a college campus and has nobody believe its heroine (Alicia Witt) when she says that there's a killer on the loose. Even when it's patently obvious that she's right. Also patently obvious is the killer's identity. It's obviously not going to be the creepy teacher or the creepy Brad Dourif or also the potentially creepy boyfriend, but Urban Legend continues with the pretense anyway. I do like the parka and leather gloves look though - it works just as well as Scream's Scream.

Like Freddy's Dead, I'll always have a little soft spot for Urban Legend. Sure, I realise now that it's complete crap, but this is the complete crap that set me on the road to horror righteousness. When other kids my age were agape at The Fast And The Furious, I was busy watching my Urban Legend VHS to death. When you put it like that, who's the real idiot? (Hint: still me).

Hobo With A Shotgun


Director: Jason Eisner (2011)
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Brian Downey, Molly Dunsworth, Nick Bateman
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

Buried beneath the big summer blockbusters this year were two movies I actually wanted to see.

When faced with the choice between stupid teenage wizards, stupid Shia LaBeouf and stupid Horrible Bosses, I'll pass and take deranged vigilantes anytime. One hits evildoers with a wrench - the other shoots them with a shotgun. Neither gets a decent cinema release. As I ventured into my local cinema on a busy Tuesday night, I noted that three quarters of the screens had been dedicated to stupid movies that I care not a jot about. Transformers and Harry Potter must have been showing in at least five screens each. My eagerly awaited Super didn't even get a look in. Hidden in a small dingy corner of the cinema was Hobo With A Shotgun, the only thing I'll care about seeing until maybe Conan or definitely The Inbetweeners. The only reason I'd see Harry Potter is to catch a glimpse of next year's Dark Knight Rises*.


With typical movie snob elitist smugness, I purchased myself a ticket for Hobo With A Shotgun (although, I'll admit I felt a little saying to the cashier "one Hobo With A Shotgun plz") and wandered into the nearly empty screening room. Warm with the knowledge that I was supporting the little guy, I was thoroughly rewarded with the most fun I've had at the cinema since Kick-Ass. Hobo With A Shotgun is a faux-Grindhouse style throwback (it originated as one of those fake trailers what are all the rage now) just like Machete, Black Dynamite and, uh, Grindhouse. Hobo With A Shotgun ranks alongside Black Dynamite as my favourite of the spoof Grinhouses.


From an aesthetic standpoint, it's the strongest. The music, setting, garish colours, crappy script and whole shebang just scream 70s' Italian sleaze, as does everything about Hobo With A Shotgun. From its excellently judged opening sequence alone, I knew I'd love this movie. The always reliable Rutger Hauer is The Hobo. He arrives via train in Hope Town; his own hope being to buy a lawnmower and start his own business. But The Hobo is waylaid when he discovers just how scummy Hope Town is. He's drawn into a vicious vendetta against Ganglord Drake (Downey) and his evil sons. The Hobo buys himself a shotgun and sets about bringing justice to Hope Town... one shell at a time.

Not everybody will like Hobo With A Shotgun, despite the fact that it is clearly awesome. Like The Taint writ large, movies like this remind me why I love movies so much. It's gleefully offensive, stupid and witty at the same time ("Hobo stops begging. Demands change") and just fun through and through. Some will think it unimaginative, but therein lies the peril in making an intentionally bad movie. Not all of it works. The very concept of pastiche Grindhouse breaks the fourth wall, so that it's hard to forget that you're only watching a movie.

But it's less boring than Machete (probably my biggest disappointment of last year) and its gags hit far more than they miss. Rutger Hauer is astonishingly earnest when one considers the material he's working with; by far the movie's biggest selling point. It's his most entertaining movie since The Hitcher and a real throwback to the likes of his Blind Fury.

Eventually, it all collapses under its own weight and the finale is a bit of a mess - too much screaming and people frantically being grabbed as hostages - but Hobo With A Shotgun is a loveable shambles, like The Hobo himself.

Dude, it's a movie about a Hobo With A Shotgun. Make of that what you will. I like it unironically, but you may love it however you wish.


* I make exceptions for big Blockbuster movies when they're about the Goddamn Batman.

The Box


Director: Richard Kelly (2009)
Starring: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

At silly o' clock in the morning, Norma and Arthur Lewis (Diaz & Marsden) are rudely awoken to find a mysterious wee box on their doorstep. It's adorned only with a big red button. A mysterious stranger (played by Frank Langella) later arrives at their house and offers them a deal: press the button and receive $1 million. But someone, somewhere in the world will die. Can the seemingly quite nice Norma and Arthur bring themselves to do it? Maybe they can spend some of the money buying Norma a less stupid name. Although these are the 1970s. I suppose people called Norma were all the rage, otherwise we wouldn't have so many pensioners called Norma now.

Also, Norma doesn't have any toes on her right foot, which really pissed off that totally pretend foot fetish I made up yesterday. She's not alone though, Frank Langella is missing half of his face. The inevitable moral wonderings soon give way to cosmic nonsense of the highest order. A later scene sees James Marsden step into a liquid box reminiscent of something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. This isn't 2001: A Space Odyssey though, so its trying just seems daft. Admittedly, the psychedelic music and wallpaper and James Marsden's sideburns are fun.

The Box is ambitious but silly, disposable guff. It's an amusing concept, but not deserving of its extended runtime. Stick with the Richard Matherson short story Button, Button or Twilight Zone episode instead. Like Frank Langella constantly turning up at the Lewis' home, this one outstays its welcome too.

The Lost


Director: Chris Sivertson (2006)
Starring: Marc Senter, Shay Astar, Alex Frost, Megan Henning
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

Like his Girl Next Door, Jack Ketchum's The Lost is not strictly a horror movie. But it contains such disturbing scenes of violence and cruelty that it's completely horrifying in the most human sense of the word.

One night, just for shits and giggles, 19-year-old Ray Pye (Senter) breaks out his rifle and shoots two innocent, unsuspecting teenage girls. Complicit but uneasy are his friend Tim (Frost) and occasional girlfriend Jennifer (Astar), who help him cover up the crime. Four years later, and the gang seem to have gotten away with their crime. Everyone knows that it was Ray what done it, but no-one can prove a thing. Detective Charlie Schilling (Michael Bowen) is determined to bring Ray to justice, dogging the lad to his wits' end. But will his obsessional harassment of the kid lead Ray to do something even more terrible? It's certainly starting to look that way.


Like everything else the author has done, I loved The Lost. It's a hefty novel, juggling multiple characters and motivations. There's this tendency with Ketchum's books to make the villains a little too evil (Crazy Aunt in The Girl Next Door, Chris Cleek in The Woman) but his Ray Pye is almost sympathetic. As sympathetic as a multiple-murdering psychopath can be, anyhow. Ray is a bizarre creation - easily one of the most memorable literary villains in the genre - a quiff and makeup wearin', Elvis listenin', smooth talkin' kid who wears crushed beercans in his boots to make himself appear taller. He's a ridiculous boy, but charismatic and hypnotic all the same.

This doesn't translate to film too well. The Lost is a very faithful adaptation of the book, every bit as much as The Girl Next Door and Offspring. Whole strings of dialogue are repeated verbatim, and the characters are very faithfully recreated. This doesn't give everyone space to breathe; Pye has more than enough screentime, but his victims and lovers less so. The Lost may have worked better as a TV miniseries than a 90 minute movie. But no amount of runtime can make up for the fact that Marc Senter's Ray Pye steals literally every moment and scene of the movie. And not in a good way.

The book doesn't shy away from Ray's inherent ridiculousness, but the movie is overpowered by it. He's impossible to take seriously. In the book, there were glimpses of charisma and charm, but here he looks and sounds like a fool. I find it hard to believe one woman would give Ray the time of day, let alone the great many he has swooning over his every word in this film. He's not menacing, seductive or sympathetic. By the squealy, annoying finale, he's become an annoying mess of tics and nonsense. Marc Senter is fully channeling 90s-era Jim Carrey. So much so that I expected Ray to drop a "somebody stop me" or "smokin'" during all the climactic noise.


It's not that Senter is bad in this movie - quite the opposite - if anything, he's too good. His performance is uncomfortable to watch, veering between comic to tragic. He's never scary, although some of the things he does become quite affecting. None of the other characters or actors stand a chance.

Tonally, The Lost is all over the place. It has the tone of a comedy but the script and story of a crime drama, with the hard violence of a horror. Due to budgetary constraints, it's set in the modern day, but completely feels like a period 70s' piece. Maybe it's my own fault, reading the book so soon before watching the movie. It's gripping, well-directed and well-acted, but something never quite sits right with this adaptation. It simply feels a little... lost.

The Matrimony


Director: Hua-Tao Eng (2007)
Starring: Bingbing Fan, Leon Lai, Rene Liu
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

A stylish but nontheless silly ghost story, The Matrimony sees a woman team up with the ghost of her husband's one-time girlfriend in the hope of cheering the poor bloke up. Why they'd do such a thing is unclear. He married a different woman less than a year after losing his missus. Clearly he is a bit of a dick and neither woman should want anything to do with him.

But both women love him, despite Junchu's flaws and creepy attic full of his Dead Girlfriend's crap. Dead Girlfriend and Miserable Wife join forces, with Dead Girlfriend temporarily possessing Miserable Wife to show Junchu that Miserable Wife can be cool too. Obviously no good can come of this.


Set in 1930s China, The Matrimony is very pretty. I don't usually notice such things, but the dresses in this movie are very nice, as is the opening bicycle sequence and a snowy boat ride. It's all a bit fairytale, which is a good look for a film like The Matrimony to have. The romantic scenes are quite charming and cute. The ghost stuff, meanwhile, is spooky but not remotely scary. There's the most unintentionally funny car crash I've ever seen and then a bit where Miserable Wife vomits in her Mother In Law's face.

A supernatural remake (in all but name) of Hitchcock's Rebecca, it'll win no prizes for originality. The story is good but never gripping. Both actresses do their respective jobs well (with Miserable Wife doing an exceptionally good line in looking scared) and Jinchu is sympathetic despite acting like a dickhead all the time.

A leftover from 2007, The Matrimony has only just found itself a Tartan Asia Extreme release. Ignore the rubbish packaging, which suggests something Saw, and instead check it out if you're after something safe, sweet and surprisingly likeable.

Drive Angry


Director: Patrick Lussier (2011)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

The movie Death Proof should have been. Everything a Grindhouse movie should be. Everything a Nicolas Cage movie should be (sans dressing like a bear and punching women in the face). Everything 3D cinema should be. Drive Angry is the most fun you'll have with a movie this side of a Piranha.

Nicolas Cage breaks out of Hell to save his baby granddaughter from Satanic sacrifice. He hooks up with a sweary, ass-kickin' Amber Heard and tries to fend off the cold determined might of William Fichtner, who has been tasked with dragging Cage back to Hell.

As the title might suggest, he does this whilst driving a car and looking very angry. And then, just when you think it couldn't get any better, Tom Atkins appears as an equally angry cop. And then there's a Meat Loaf song over the closing credits. What I'm saying is this: Drive Angry is the very pinnacle of modern cinema. Give up, go home. There will never be a better action movie than Drive Angry.

I loved every moment of it. Nicolas Cage plays a character called John Milton (geddit) who has stupid hair and looks angry all the time. Milton is a cross between Cage's character in Con Air and The Terminator. If Milton is Drive Angry's T-800, then William Fichtner is his T-1000. He doesn't so much steal scenes as he does the whole movie. When William Fichtner is onscreen you'll be looking at William Fichtner. And when William Fichtner isn't onscreen you'll be wishing William Fichtner was onscreen. The man effortlessly owns every scene in which he appears.

It's a good job I can't drive, because I'd be a right menace having just watched Drive Angry. The vehicular carnage is bested only by the fantastic gunplay and fight scenes. There's an action sequence in which Cage kills a whole gang of assassins during coitus. He kinda sucks at driving though; his general tactic seems to be just to drive down the wrong side of the road whilst looking angry. Although he doesn't cry, which is more than we can say for Kurt Russell.

People who like their movies to be not ridiculous will enjoy Drive Angry considerably less than I did. For me, it's Cage's best movie since Con Air (my favourite of his movies, and perhaps my favourite action movie of all time) and more than makes up for the disappointment of Ghost Rider. Okay, its main villain (Billy Burke as a cult leader) is a bit rubbish and there's a spectacularly bad FX cock-up later on, but Drive Angry is difficult to argue with. It doesn't take itself too seriously and it has Nicolas Cage with stupid hair. Amber Heard's character is just window dressing, but she does this sort of thing well, and goshdarn it, she's just adorable. I got more than a little jealous during the scene in which a guy paints her toenails. What I wouldn't give to paint Amber Heard's toenails.

Yes, I love Drive Angry. It has Nicolas Cage with crap hair playing a man called John Milton, William Fichtner being a legend, Amber Heard driving my foot fetish crazy and The Meat Loaf on its soundtrack. Drive Angry is the greatest movie I have ever seen.

My Big Fat Gypsy Horror Movie


Director: Kris McManus (2011)
Starring: Shane Sweeney, Tom Geoffrey, Alex Edwards
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

A family of innocent Irish Travellers are minding their own business when a gang of four holidaying city boys happen across their home, trash the place and daub racist graffiti all over the walls. Understandably miffed, the travellers give chase. Racism ensues.

Travellers is the most offensive movie I have ever seen. See, I myself grew up as a Traveller (taken by the movie to mean a family of Irish unfavourables who live in caravans, do bareknuckle boxing and are generally a bit dodgy). Until I was sixteen and we moved into a real house (without wheels or anything) I had dreadlocks and had never set foot inside a school. I grew up on campsites with 'pikeys', 'gyppos', 'didacoys' and what have you. I suppose this is how folks from Down South (USA, I mean, not Bournemouth) must feel about constantly being portrayed as arse-raping cannibal Hillbillies. I seem to recall comedian Rich Hall making a BBC4 documentary to that effect.

The movie's 'heroes' trash the Travellers' caravan, insult its inhabitants and cast numerous aspersions on their lifestyle (I believe not a little inbreeding is insinuated). Which, by the way, seems to consist of deleted scenes from Snatch, My Big Fat Gypsy Bollocks and Danny Dyer's Hardest Men. And the only one of the lads shown 'tough' enough to fight back is revealed to be half-traveller himself. Believe it or not, but growing up in a caravan does not automatically make you hard. I got beat up by a girl once. And not even a gypsy girl.

Eventually Travellers calms down with the racism and the action amps up a fair bit - there's some neat bareknuckle boxing scenes in the last half - becoming almost watchable in the process. There's an effort to make both parties more relateable. But it's hard to give a shit about any of the urban cunts, whilst the Travellers are too thinly drawn to care about either. Attempts to show the traveller lifestyle in a favourable light smell of condescension (then the sole sympathetic traveller girl admits to thinking her life kinda sucks). And even the few vaguely good bits of the movie are ruined by it originating from its main characters' unfathomable dipshittery. At one point they even decide it a good idea to throw away their only weapon. Say what you like about Travellers, but I've never had them paint badly-spelled insults over my house. If anything, my house looks better since I had the travellers visit. How many of you can say you had a city boy tarmac your drive?

Oh well, I suppose it's completely fine to insult Travellers, After all, not many of them own a TV and will therefore be unable to watch Travellers. Lucky them. This movie deserves little more than a big fat gypsy fuck you.

The Wake Wood


Director: David Keating (2011)
Starring: Aiden Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Spall
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

Pet Sematary, Hammer Horror style. When their daughter is killed by a savage dog, Alice (Birthistle) and Patrick (Gillen) relocate to the little Irish village of Wake Wood. In true Wicker Man fashion, Wake Wood is populated by shifty-eyed hippies and a sinister fellow with dodgy dress sense - in this case, Timothy Spall's Arthur. Where Christopher Lee was more concerned with burning virginal coppers in his Wicker Man, Arthur offers the parents an opportunity to see their little girl again. They've discovered a way to resurrect the dead for three days only.

Things seem to be going well at first - their little Alice is back, sans doggy chomp marks - but Arthur and Wake Wood's fellow villagers seem to suspect something is amiss. Cue violence, Timothy Spall looking worried and more than a little undue violence towards a dog. Although if my daughter had recently been murdered by a dog, the last thing I'd be doing is letting her hang around with more dogs. Animals, in The Wake Wood are responsible for a lot of the gore and violence. There's the initial scenes in which Alice is munched on by a dog, and then a poor unsuspecting farmer Giles type is squashed by a cow. The Wake Wood is like a scary version of Emmerdale.

The Wake Wood, like Let Me In and The Resident is a fine horror movie but nothing like the standards as set by old Hammer. It's another step in the right direction, but at the moment there seems to be something missing. Maybe the budgets are too high, the American influence too obvious... it's too contemporary, perhaps. Otherwise, it's perfectly enjoyable, plenty chilly and done with class and style.

Blood River


Director: Adam Mason (2009)
Starring: Andrew Howard, Tess Panzer, Ian Duncan
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

A bit like The Hitcher, but with a religious twist and nobody really hitches anywhere. There's also very little blood and no river. Eh, it's probably all metaphorical anyway. I think we've established by now that this blog understands neither metaphors or religion. But we'll struggle on. And I enjoyed Blood River very much, despite its use of metaphor and religion. Blood River is one of those movies that might very well take place in purgatory but refuses to spell it out for you. Way to discriminate against us stupid athiests, movie.

Clark (Duncan) and Summer (Panzer) are a seemingly sweet married couple, travelling through desert America to visit Summer's dad. The car breaks down and the pair are stuck in the middle of nowhere. They walk to a nearby deserted town where they encounter the mysterious Joseph (Howard) who wears a stetson, drinks whiskey, calls people "pilgrim" and talks about god a lot. You're never more than six feet away from a god-botherer, especially in America. When not being smug and talking about god, Joseph offers to help Clark and Duncan reach civilization. Only no. It becomes patently obvious that Joseph is more than a simple hitch-hiker. Metaphysical torture guff ensues.

The lead couple is somewhat annoying - particularly the embodiment of all things chode, Clark - but the bad guy duties are handled very well by Andrew Howard. He comes across as something between Michael Rooker and Rutger Hauer, swaggering his way through the movie, managing to be both sinister and sympathetic at the same time. It takes itself a little too seriously at times - and there's an air of predictability - but Blood River is ultimately an intelligent, gripping horror Western with a fine supernatural twist.

Red


Director: Trygve Allister Diesen, Lucky McKee (2008)
Starring: Brian Cox, Tom Sizemore, Noel Fisher
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

Stars Brian Cox as an ass-kicking old man. But this is not the Red you're thinking of. This is a far more subdued affair, with Cox quietly mourning the death of his beloved doggy Red and not making moves on any Dame Helen Mirrens.

Cox plays Avery Ludlow, a reclusive widower who lives a quiet life of fishing and relaxing with dog Red. During one fateful fishing trip, Ludlow and Red happen across a trio of delinquent youths who attempt to rob the old man. Out of spite, the most vicious of the kids (Fisher) shoots Red dead in the head. Seeking justice, Ludlow finds the boys' respective parents and appeals for them to do the right thing. The brats deny everything and the parents simply dismiss poor Ludlow. Still though, the old chap doesn't go as Harry Brown as one might expect. This is no average old-bloke-on-the-rampage movie.

Which is refreshing. I'd signed up to see Brian Cox blast ten shades of bollocks out of some hoodies, but what I got was something more fulfilling and even a little sweet. Ludlow, unlike Michael Caine or Charles Bronson isn't out for revenge; there's a difference between justice and vengeance, see, and Red realises this. So whilst there is violence, you'll find it avoidable at every turn. Ludlow is persistent and forceful, but not out for blood. At least, not initially.

If ever there was a brat to deserve the Could You Kill A Child treatment (answer: yes), it's Noel Fisher's Danny. Danny is a classic Jack Ketchum villain. With no redeeming features and easy to hate, he makes it very easy for us to root for Ludlow. And he's backed up by an even more despicable, sleazy Tom Sizemore. Robert Englund pops up in a surprising cameo as a sheepish father. Red is brilliantly acted, even by the kids and dogs. Red is the exception to that one rule about kids and animals.

It's one of the few Jack Ketchum novels I've not read (it's on my to-do list) but surprises with its subtlety and restraint. Even the emotion - I expected to be weeping like I did at Jurassic Bark - holds back a little. Which is good. I don't think I could handle this all over again:


At first I thought that Cox's Avery didn't seem to be particularly broken up by the death of Red, but you'll understand why over time. There's far more going on than the death of a dog. Shocking revelations are made. There's a fist-pumpin' moment with a baseball bat. Robert Englund wears a vest.

Red is the best adaptation of a Jack Ketchum novel so far. Dog lovers though, beware.

Independence Day


Director: Roland Emmerich (1996)
Starring: Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Randy Quaid
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

You betcha I'm gonna be that lazy. Independence Day is the Will Smith vs Aliens movie in which he doesn't wear a black suit or team up with Tommy Lee Jones. As befits its title, Independence Day is a fist-pumping America-saves-the-world movie that still manages to be good despite both its shonky science and the fact that it stars Will Smith being very Will Smith.

Much like they did under Tim Burton's supervision that very same year, aliens decide to invade. But if we're to examine Mars Attacks and Independence Day side-by-side, it's plain to see where the directors' respective loyalties lie. Where Burton's (superior) movie is a loving homage to B-movie cinema and trading cards, Emmerich's Independence Day is merely an excuse to blow up as much shit as possible and make Americans feel good in the process. Thanks to the likes of 9/11, Independence Day hasn't aged too well - one feels somewhat ill at ease seeing such great American landmarks destroyed within the blink of an eye - but is nevertheless a very entertaining movie.

There's that great iconic image of the Whitehouse being obliterated and grand scenes of carnage in the streets. A counter-strike is put together and Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum are employed to save the world. These being the early days of Will Smith's acting career, where he still rapped and nobody trusted him to save the world without a grumpy white man by his side. Meanwhile, Randy Quaid goes a little crazy and even President Bill Pullman lends a hand.

In a scene which utterly traumatised me as a child, Data (Brent Spiner) from off've Star Trek is murdered by one of the aliens. For all the unsubtle explosions and hoo-ha-ing, Independence Day has its moments of genuine creepiness and unease. It doesn't rely too much on special effects, unlike the director's most recent, duller works. Alien spaceships and slithering monsters are far more interesting to watch than John Cusack or Dennis Quaid pouting at earthquakes.

The finale is silly, anticlimactic and dumb, but I love Independence Day. It's something of a relic of more innocent times; the days when Roland Emmerich could blow the shit out of whatever he wanted without people feeling bad; the days when Will Smith was just 'that guy from off've Fresh Prince'; the days when Jeff Goldblum made summer movies and Randy Quaid wasn't (too) insane. Independence Day is the blockbuster movie at its best.

Happy Independence Day.

The Final Girl Film Club: Cold Prey

This review is in association with the quite wonderful Final Girl Film Club

Director: Roar Uthag (2006)
Starring: Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Rolf Kristian Larsen, Viktoria Winge

Essentially the same sort of thing you've seen countless times by now, only with snow instead of trees and pretty Norwegians instead of pretty Americans. Snow is better than trees though, and the Norwegians are actually slightly prettier than the Americans we're used to, so it's better on that front, I guess.

Everywhere else, it's business as usual. Five friends take a snowboarding vacation in the snowy wildernesses of Jotunheimen. I would swear that Jotunheimen is where the Ice Giants live in Thor, except it's probably a little bit racist, so I won't. The most likeable of the menfolk falls and breaks his leg after only a few minutes of being out in the snow. Seems that being an idiot isn't just a thing they do in American slasher movies. This is but the first of several dipshit moves made by our friends. They carry injured Morten Tobias (not only is he the most likeable, but he has the best name) to a seemingly abandoned lodge and settle down for the night. Which translates to breaking windows and treating the place like they own it.

Bum move, kids. The lodge is not so abandoned after all, and run by a hulking great nutter with a pickaxe. The very prettiest of the group gets it first, but not before expending the opportunity to wander around in some very tight undercrackers, flashing a very pert bottom to any serial killer in the near vicinity. From that first death onwards, it's a fight for survival, leaving the strong but scowly Jannicke (Berdal) to fend off the killer.

'Careful', as my old nan used to say, 'if the wind changes, your face'll stick like that.' Big problem if you're in Yodenheim Jotunheimen.

Other than there being a bit of snow outside, Cold Prey rarely departs from the template as set by every backwoods horror since The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. There's even room for a bit of violence via bear trap. Which came, funnily enough, just as I was thinking "all this movie is missing is a bear trap". The rest is all pickaxes at dawn and some useless fumbling with a shotgun. Huh. Kurt Russell would've made mincemeat of the lot of them with his beard alone.

The kids are fine but vaguely annoying with their stupidity. Thankfully, the most irritating of the characters die first, whilst Jannicke is a decent if uninteresting Final Girl. She looks a lot like my ex actually (especially with all of the scowling) so I was kinda rooting for the killer; but only up to the point where she realises she's made a massive mistake, her new boyfriend's an arse and she should have stayed with Joel instead of going snowboarding. Yeah, Cold Prey sure showed her.

Cold Prey is predictable, slow, a little bit annoying and stupid. But it's also inoffensive, well-acted and looks beautiful. There's one shot in the final scenes that shows what the movie could have been if it had tried, whilst some of the kill sequences are admirably cruel. The killer looks good, and the movie's environment is enough to justify its existence. Mostly though, it just left me feeling Cold.