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That music that bursts to life every time you move that cursor over the Ghost advert? Will be the death of me

Reviews written

since 04/02/2017


Hellraiser (DVD) 17/11/2017

Soul-tearing, Sight-Showing, Chain-Whipping Horror

Hellraiser (DVD) When you take into account that films based on books are always subject to intense criticism, and horror films from the late 1980s almost all fell into the trap of bland rip-offs of Friday the 13th, the odds really were stacked against Hellraiser, the 1987 directorial debut of Clive Barker. Unhappy with the previous transition one of his movies made to the big screen in the form of Rawhead Rex, English author Barker decided he would turn his hand to directing himself. With his short story ‘The Hellbound Heart’ for inspiration, he secured a low budget and went about carving the beginnings of what would prove to be one of the most prolific horror franchises of all time. As with seemingly every major player that would emerge in the genre during the decade, Hellraiser was never conceived as a franchise, and the truth is Barker was delighted to get his picture off the ground. While their back was welcome, producers New World weren’t huge players in the motion picture industry, and the movie would be shot mostly on location in England on a relatively modest budget. Despite it’s almost laughably obvious English setting (well ok, it may have been parts of Scotland, Wales or Ireland if you squint) New World insisted that the ‘Britishness’ of the film may be off-putting for American audiences, and ordered several characters be overdubbed with American accents. I’ve also read a lot of people comment on the fact the setting has allegedly been altered to a Stateside locale, though I’ll ...

Phantasm 2 (1988) 13/11/2017

Reggie Goes To Ball-ywood

Phantasm 2 (1988) The term ‘Life imitates Art’ is a fairly popular one, but it isn’t one I ever foresaw myself using in reference to the rather enjoyable, if entirely insane, collection of horror movies directed by Don Coscarelli known as the Phantasm series. You see, even if you strip back the fantastical elements of the movies, the evil, seemingly invulnerable Tall Man, the deadly flying spherical deathtraps and the nefarious shrunken robed zombies, the Phantasm movies all retain one defining characteristic which is a rather loose degree of continuity and timekeeping, a side-effect of the many dreams and visions that are a staple of the plot. So how has life managed to mimic this? If you’ve read my review of the original Phantasm I stated with a degree of confidence that Phantasm Oblivion was the first movie in the series I watched, purchased on ex-rental DVD in my final year of high school. However, upon viewing the second film again recently for the first time in years my memory has now thrown up having this on VHS, recorded off TV which would surely have pre-dated this. Yeah ok my house may not have blown up, my friends/relatives didn’t die or switch life status at a whim and I’m not being stalked by an otherworldy nightmare, but I can’t help but find it somewhat fitting that a series that throws so many contradictory continuities at you has left me with a genuine quandry as to what order I actually viewed its entries in. It’s also perhaps noteworthy that the recording of Phantasm II I ...

Superman 3 01/11/2017

Richard Pryor Family Special Feat. Superman

Superman 3 While they are far from perfect, the original Superman films were very much a taste of things to come when it came to the future of superhero movies. Superman established the groundwork for every origin story a costumed do-gooder you would see on screen would follow and its sequel Superman II set the bar for building upon its predecessor by upping the ante in terms of stakes and adventure, as well as introducing the element of the hero giving up his identity. When it came to the second sequel, 1983’s Superman III, it continued this trend, however Superman III’s legacy in the world of cinema is one that we can be less thankful for. You see, Superman III shares a trait with several superhero movies that would follow. Batman Forever, Blade Trinity, X-Men 3: The Last Stand, Spider-Man 3, Iron Man 3…besides the fact that their characters first came to life in the pages of comic books, all these films share one thing in common with Superman III – it’s where the wheels well and truly came off a successful movie franchise. This isn’t to say all of them are terrible, because they aren’t, but it’s almost tradition that the third entry into a series sees a severe change of pace, quite often linked to a change of director or principle cast members, and in general a downturn in quality. Released 3 years after the critically and commercially successful second film, Superman III’s production was, if nothing else, a much more straightforward procedure in terms of direction. Given the ...

Swamp Thing (DVD) 31/10/2017

Bog Standard

Swamp Thing (DVD) When it comes to popular entertainment I’m sure we’ve all questioned the decision making process of studios, particularly when it comes to adapting other artforms onto screen. While in a lot of cases those in positions of power are probably there for a reason and likewise we are the ones buying tickets for a reason, sometimes decisions are so baffling that even decades later you’re left scratching your head. This brings us nicely to today’s subject, Wes Craven’s 1982 DC Comics’ adaptation Swamp Thing. Now, while in recent memory the success of the adaptation of rival funnybook slinger Marvel’s Iron Man led to a glut of pictures based upon comic book properties, it seems hard to believe that following the blockbuster success of the first 2 Superman movies released by Warner Bros. that there wasn’t more of a conscious effort to try and get more comic heroes to the big screen to try and cash in. While its known that Cannon Films had productions of Marvel’s Spider-Man and X-Men properties in development hell for decades, the real curiosity is the comparative lack of work in bringing DC titles to the big screen, something made all the more baffling given that, being a subsidiary of Warner Bros., this surely would have made rights issues a lot simpler to negotiate. With this in mind, when DC did finally find another character from the pages of their comics on the big screen, the identity of that same character is almost laughably obtuse. Bearing in mind this is the company that ...

Superman 2 (Special Edition) (DVD) 29/10/2017

The Kryptonian Factor

Superman 2 (Special Edition) (DVD) Originally intended to be filmed back-to-back with the blockbuster original, Superman II would undergo one of the most torrid productions in cinema history. Original director Richard Donner fell afoul of producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind, and was commanded to halt production of the Superman II footage in the name of completing the original film as quickly as possible. Donner would estimate that he had around 75% of Superman II completed at this stage, and was never impressed with the decision to halt him mid-shoot, and following the huge success of the film at the box offices has stated he wouldn’t have come back to finish the second even had he been asked. Enter another Richard, this time Richard Lester, to complete the movie at the Salkinds’ request. This was a decision that would prove highly unpopular with the majority of the cast, particularly Margot Kidder, Jack O’Halloran and especially Gene Hackman. This would complicate matters given that for Lester to be credited with directorial duties he would have to direct at least 50% of scenes that would appear in the movie, meaning he could not use all of the footage shot by Donner. This would lead to a situation where Lester would seek to shoot not only additional footage to complete the film, but also actually look to re-shoot a healthy dose of footage Donner had already shot, which is easier said than done years later when people’s physical appearance has changed. Couple in Gene Hackman’s refusal to participate in the ...

Superman (DVD) 27/10/2017

The Man of Tomorrow, Yesterday

Superman (DVD) While it may have emerged into a borderline genre in its own right, the humble superhero movie hasn’t always dominated the multiplexes as it does now. While depictions of a variety of the 2 main players in the American comics world, Marvel and DC, characters had appeared in black and white serials in the 40s and 50s, in 1978 when Warner Bros. dropped Superman on audiences worldwide the closest thing to a big budget superhero feature had been the 1966 spin-off of the campy Batman TV show with Adam West and Burt Ward. This would change, in a big way, when father and son duo Alexander and Ilya Salkind managed to negotiate the rights to the character of Superman from DC Comics. The Salkinds would begin an ambitious prospect to film not one, but 2 Superman features back-to-back. Assembling the team to embark upon this would prove a laborious process with several of the original choices both to direct and star in the movie turning it down or already committed to other projects when filming was due to begin in 1977. The somewhat left-field choice of Richard Donner, who had just scored a big cinematic hit, but one almost completely different in desired tone, in the form of The Omen was given the helm behind the project, which had also secured the particularly expensive talents of Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman to portray Superman’s birth father Jor-El and nemesis Lex Luthor respectively. Brando in particular would prove an infamously expensive talent to procure, securing around ...

A Nightmare On Elm Street 21/10/2017

Fred the Blood Red

A Nightmare On Elm Street If ever there was a modern movie that genuinely did suffer from the questionable term of being a ‘Victim of its own success’ then that movie would undoubtedly be Wes Craven’s 1984 horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street. While the film’s box office returns, which were plentiful, isn’t the issue, Nightmare is a film that would potentially prove too successful for its own good when it came to spin-offs and merchandise. Spawning 5 direct sequels that come in various flavours of bad, an interesting meta-Spin-Off that suffered from release before ‘meta’ became a thing, an anthology TV series, a crossover with once rival slasher series Friday the 13th that could loosely be described as a horror movie and a remake that I haven’t seen, but I’ll assume that as with most remakes I don’t like, Nightmare’s antagonist, the razor-fingered felon Freddy Krueger has become one of cinema’s most prolific boogeymen, which has somewhat defied all logic in actually working against the movie from which he spawned. You see, the Freddy Krueger you most likely know and quite possibly love, the gurning, wise-cracking dream stalker who makes wise cracks as he offs a bunch of forgettable teenagers looking to forge their careers is actually a character very much at odds with everything the first Nightmare movie stands for. Now, I’m not going to sit here and claim I hate the 5 standard sequels that followed, as most of them do have their moments, but there is no denying that everything that came between ...

Phantasm (DVD) 20/10/2017


Phantasm (DVD) As much as I love the internet, and the vast amount of opportunities it presents us with 24/7, the advent of the information superhighway isn’t without a few downsides for me. Well, when I say for me, I mean that it has led to several of the hallmarks of my youth being obliterated, the type of fond memories that I actually pity the youth of today for growing up without. Anyone of roughly the same age as me, old enough to remember the 1990s, will no doubt concede that football World Cups were so much more fun in those days, as we didn’t have unlimited exposure to every football league in the World, and as such all these far flung and fanciful teams with their players you had never heard of had a wonderful air of mystique to them that gave it a real special feeling. Likewise, the demise of the humble video store is one I find equally lamentable despite the obvious advantages of streaming. You see, while the act of requiring a physical vessel containing a movie is easy to pick holes in; anyone determined to rent or buy a copy of a film that found themselves beaten to it by another customer didn’t have the option of going online for it, and even if you got a copy there was always the liability that it may be faulty, particularly in the VHS days, there are certain memories of visiting such a place that anyone who done so as a child will undoubtedly share. Rows of different movie artwork trying to entice you in, and this was in the days before it was acceptable to throw any old ...

Horror Hotel (DVD) 19/10/2017

Worth A Visit

Horror Hotel (DVD) While it did see the shelves flooded with some complete muck, personally I’ll always be thankfully to have spent my latter teen years, ie when I had disposable income thanks to a part-time job, in the midst of the DVD boom that came around following the turn of the century as it eclipsed VHS as the home entertainment medium of choice worldwide. Yes a lot of absolute drivel was put to disk in an attempt to make a quick buck, given that new release movies stung you £20 at the time, but this also led to a lot of forgotten older movies getting another brief moment in the sun. As a glutton for punishment when it comes to bad horror movies, I made a habit of snapping up several of these budget releases, often 3-on-1 discs combining a series of older films with slightly shorter running times. The quality could shoot everywhere on these, with the rights obviously having been picked up in bulk on the cheap. On these DVDs I would encounter a strange mix of vintage horror titles ranging from ones I actually wanted to see like Bela Lugosi vehicles White Zombie & The Devil Bat, the unique Carnival of Souls and the, uh, interesting Mesa of Lost Women combing with real oddities like Attack of the Giant Leaches, Boris Karloff in The Ghoul and rather tragic Vampire Bat. One of the more interesting titles I encountered was Horror Hotel, a Christopher Lee film from 1960 that I’d never heard of. Lee had made his claim for horror infamy 2 years prior in Hammer’s Horror of Dracula, but this was a ...

Godsend (DVD) 18/10/2017


Godsend (DVD) I distinctly recall a time around the turn of the century, just as the DVD was starting to wrestle control of the home video market from VHS tapes, when there was a rather callous but nonetheless amusing practice employed by the companies who distributed budget DVDs to try and trick casual moviegoers into purchasing their wares. These companies, most prominently the infamous Hollywood DVD, would pick up the rights, dirt cheap, to a film you’ve never heard of that just happens to feature a minor role from a famous actor before they were famous. Regardless of how minute the actor’s role in the movie, you can guarantee they would be front and center of the cover art and promoted to top billing below Hollywood’s unsightly red-topped DVD sleeve. So how does this relate to Godsend, a 2004 release that actually ran in cinemas, and certainly wasn’t released to the home video market by minnows like Hollywood? Well, while it Hollywood DVD weren’t anywhere near the release of the movie, distributors Lion’s Gate Entertainment took a big leaf out of their grubby playbook when it came to promoting the movie. You see, Godsend is actually headed up by Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn, or Romijn-Stamos as she was at that point, who are both relatively safe box office performers, Romijn especially was coming off the back of success as Mystique in the first 2 X-Men movies, but Lion’s Gate obviously weren’t convinced they could sell the movie based on their presence. As such we found Hollywood ...

Road Kill (DVD) 16/10/2017

Road to Nowhere

Road Kill (DVD) I’m probably going to get myself off to a hugely unpopular start with this review by revealing the fact that I’ve never rated Paul Walker as an actor. Needless to say I thought the man’s death was tragic, but I do think it led to a huge tinting of the shade of spectacles worn by those who viewed his cinematic CV. While he made his name, and spent a healthy part of his career in the utterly reprehensible The Fast & The Furious series of car-porn turned third-rate action films, he did at least try to branch out to a series of different films following the success they brought him. I won’t lie and say I followed his career too closely, but the majority that I did see tended to fall into the lines of MTV-style cinema, full of good looking young stars, which Walker most definitely was, fast cuts and not a great deal of plot. Indeed, when looked at, Road Kill, or Joy Ride as it was originally known Stateside, could well be seen as reflective of Walker’s career by large; it heavily revolves around motor vehicles, everyone in the cast is impossibly good-looking and it has the overly smooth, edited within an inch-of-its-life look that films for the MTV generation seemed to love oh so much. In addition, Road Kill is a product of a time when studios hadn’t realised how easy it was to buy the rights and murder a good movie with a ‘remake’ and instead just stuck to good old fashioned ripping-off older movies. As such Road Kill was very much what would happen if Duel and The Hitcher had a ...

Basket Case (DVD) 15/10/2017

This isn't a hotel, it's a nuthouse!

Basket Case (DVD) As someone who spent the formative years of his childhood split between the 1980s and the 90s in many ways I got the best of both Worlds’ popular culture phenomena. Old enough to catch the tail end of He-Man, and Transformers, perfectly balanced for Thundercats and The Real Ghostbusters and young enough for Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers, I’ve always felt that by large I grew up in a rather blessed age. With that said, life is never black and white, and there are some arguments against the cherished status which I often assign the chronology of my childhood, and not being old enough to savour the cornucopia of delights that was the 80s horror boom in its prime. Realistically kicked off at the tail end of the previous decade with John Carpenter’s Halloween, that shocker would prove that low budget horror flicks grounded in an urban setting not only could succeed, but could turn a huge profit in the process. As such the floodgates opened, and while I don’t have any empirical evidence to back this up, it’s hard to imagine there ever being a point in the 1980s when there wasn’t a horror movie playing in the cinema. Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street sequels would become an annual event and a host of other young, talented directors like Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson and Joe Dante would use the genre to bust their way into the front door kicking and screaming. It was into this world a rather interesting fellow by the name of Frank Henenlotter would emerge and carve his own ...

Friday The 13th (DVD) 13/10/2017

A Family Affair

Friday The 13th (DVD) Of the slew of ‘Slasher’ movies released in the aftermath of the monumental success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, few can claim to have had anywhere either the financial success or the pop culture impact of Sean S. Cunningham’s 1980 picture Friday the 13th. Seeking to follow the footsteps of Halloween not only in terms of genre, but also in terms of its gimmick setting on a holiday, it could be argued that while no single movie to bear the Friday the 13th name matches up to Halloween as a movie, the series on the whole has actually possibly proven a bigger success story, off the top of my head only Godzilla and James Bond have clocked up more cinematic outings, and that’s with the somewhat loose confines of those ‘series’ guidelines. The funny thing is that on release Friday the 13th was panned by critics, most prominently Siskell & Ebert, who famously gave away the movie’s ending in an attempt to dissuade viewers from watching it. Despite this, the film would go on to huge success, and this discord between critical scorn and box office popularity is one of the things I’ve always loved about the franchise – it’s a series built on the principle of not necessarily aiming for artistic appraisal but instead simply looking to entertain. While there is no denying Halloween set the groundwork for what makes a successful slasher movie, a great deal of the nuances of the genre were established here. The movie opens following a group of youths named Annie (Robbi Morgan), Alice ...

Curfew (DVD) 12/10/2017

Better Left Indoors

Curfew (DVD) 2 trends that would intertwine countless times over the course of the 1980s were the emergence and boom of not only home video in the form of VHS tapes and also the ascendency of the ‘Slasher’ sub-genre of horror pictures. While horror films had been a staple cinematic genre since the earliest days of the art, the release of John Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978 ushered in a different kind of horror movie. While Halloween itself is actually a very well crafted, tight and atmospheric horror picture, its low budget, contemporary setting and very human protagonist who stalks and kills his prey in violent, brutal fashion would open the floodgates for a host of imitators. The issue was, that it was hard to try and replicate Carpenter’s talent for music and atmosphere, so instead opted to take its concept and try to up the ante in terms of nastiness and violence. As such a glut of cheap, nasty horror pictures would flood the shelves during the decade of the 80s, each trying to out gore and shock the next. While there are plenty of examples of these films actually providing a precursor to wider talents, with a host of actors and directors who would go on to carve highly respected careers cutting their teeth in low budget horror titles in the 80s, there are countless other examples of horror movies released during this period which slipped through the cracks. Today’s subject, 1989’s Curfew is one such picture. Actually banned by the BBFC until 2002, Curfew is not only one of the least ...

Scars Of Dracula (DVD) 11/10/2017

It Certainly Leaves A Mark...

Scars Of Dracula (DVD) Something I always loved about your classic era horror movies is the creativity that went into their titles. Despite making countless pictures based on the character, Universal managed to never have to resort to making ‘Dracula 2’, instead we had Dracula’s Daughter and House of Dracula. This was a trend Hammer Studios would pick up when they came to reinvent the character for a series of successful pictures. I actually credit Hammer with managing to never have to regurgitate any of Universal’s titles, instead actually serving up some rather creative monikers for their Dracula spin-offs that ranged from almost hilariously over descriptive Dracula Has Risen From His Grave to slicker, iconic subtitles like Prince of Darkness. That brings us to today’s subject, Hammer’s 5th Dracula picture, where they were obviously starting to lose momentum, the laughably titled Scars of Dracula. Why is it called Scars of Dracula? Truth be told I don’t know, only one character is actually scarred by the Count, and in a throwaway scene, and the vampire himself has no visible scars so it doesn’t make sense either way. It’s almost like Hammer execs just flipped through a dictionary a picked the first menacing word they came across. While the sex and violence approach Hammer adopted throughout the 1960s had paid dividends, as the decade wore on and box office returns diminished, the studio struggled to find backing from America, and as such the budgets of their pictures were slashed. The box ...
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