December 9, 2008

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

This is one of those films that I had always been meaning to watch, yet for whatever reason it passed me by. That is until recently, now I can enjoy the constant ass-kicking I will give myself for waiting so damned long. Why? Purely and simply because it is one of those movies that really is that good. However, I can assure you that it is not a feel good movie.

Requiem follows the life of four Brighton Beach residents; Harry (Jared Leto) and Tyrone (Marlon Wayans), Tyrone's girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) and his mother Sarah (Ellen Burstyn), as each of them gets slowly swallowed up by their addictions. Harry and Tyrone are drug addicts who have the great idea of starting their own business dealing. A grand plan if it were not for their own addictions, and Marion's too. She's just as eager to get as high as the other two.

Sarah, Harry's mother, has her own addictions too. Firstly it is the television, closely followed by her dieting. The two collide when Sarah believes she has been invited to appear on a TV show, causing her to fret about her weight. At the advice of one of her friends, she visits a doctor to get some pills to help her lose weight. It comes as no surprise as she becomes addicted to these; an addiction that will have a devestating effect on her world.

That's not to say the effect on the three friends is any less tragic as the movie, its story and protagonists slowly descend into the kind of Hell that is hard to imagine.

From start to finish Requiem for a Dream had me gripped, its halicinatory visual style which director Darren Aronofsky works wonderfully onto the screen is aided and abetted perfectly by the flawless cast. Although Leto, Wayans and Connelly all give incredible performances it is Burstyn who steals the show here. Her performance is wonderful, not to mention scary, as the loving mother with one too many vices. By the time the movie draws to a close she is almost unrecognizable.

On top of everything this movie features one of the best soundtracks I have heard in many a year. In fact I heard the soundtrack long before I saw the movie, and have it playing almost constant. Clint Mansell's score seems to perfectly encapsulate the events onscreen.

Requiem for a Dream is by far one of the best films I have seen and I recommend it to just about everyone. The slightly experimental style of the film may put off those that prefer a more conventional style of film, and you might need a strong stomach as it is relatively graphic in places.

Superb stuff though from start to finish.

Rating 4 stars

Review by Jude Felton

November 4, 2008

Death Bell (2008)

In my opinion Korea is becoming one of the real hotbeds of Asian horror of late. Along with Thailand there seems to be so much in the way of good, and occasionally not-so-good, genre flicks coming out on a fairly regular basis. Death Bell was however the only homegrown horror flick to hit the Korean theatres in the summer of 2008, and it is not hard to see why. It has a good-looking young cast, plenty of blood and some striking visuals. In fact, if it wasn't for the slightly touchy subject material and nasty imagery, this is the sort of horror flick that would be slapped a PG-13 rating in the U.S. and would clean up at the box office. Fortunately though it is not watered down horror, just a slick, fun and slightly disturbing mish-mash of a few other movies.

Set in a high school, Death Bell follows the fortunes of the elite pupils of the school as they await the arrival of pupils from their sister school. These pupils are the elite as they have done so well in their Mid Term exams (the original title is Go-sa, or Bloody Mid Terms), and have been chosen to stay on, along with three teachers, to greet their fellow students.

No sooner are they alone in the school though when a video kicks in on all of the monitors in the school, and believe me they are everywhere. What appears on the screen is one of the kids fellow pupils who is trapped in a large fish tank. A voice then proceeds to inform them that they have several questions to answer, failure to answer any will result in the death of a pupil. They must answer all questions and answer the question as to why they are here, or they will all die. Specifics as to whether the teachers would be killed wasn't given, but I am guessing that it would be a safe assumption that most killers want to kill everyone. I digress though. Any attempts to leave the school will result in death, and all phone lines, internet cables have been cut.

The action then follows the students and teachers as they try to solve the questions given to them, at the same time groups fracture off in their attempts to stay alive. Is it a psycho that is after them? Is it a ghost? Why does one of the kids keep having strange visions? All we be revealed come the end.

Playing off as a cool blend of Saw and Battle Royale, along with a healthy dosage of Slasher and Ghost movies, Death Bell is an exciting, if a little predictable, horror flick. Starting off with what I think is one of the most visually cool scenes I have seen in awhile, which turns out to be a dream, it soon gets into its groove. Fans of both Western and Eastern horror will see many familiar elements here, although it does manage to thorugh in enough cool ideas to keep it fresh. In fact the only real disappoint for me was the ending, but even then it managed to throw me a slight curve ball.

Death Bell is a great looking movie, all the images were nice and crisp, and the death scenes were imaginative, occasionally bloody (although not gory) and disturbing. The cast all did a decent job, even when playing some slightly cliched characters; the cool teacher, the strict teacher, the bad boy and so on. All give engaging performances which leads the viewer to actually care about what happens to them.

After watching Death Bell you can see why it did so well in its home country. It's not perfect but it is a good slick horror movie that never allows itself to get bogged down by unnecessary baggage. Well worth a watch.

Rating 3 stars

Review by Jude Felton

October 31, 2008

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

Upon its initial theatrical release there was an uproar amongst genre fans as to why it only played at about one theatre. I myself was one of these fans, I couldn't understand why Lionsgate decided to treat the movie so badly. It certainly had a lot of potential, being as it is based on a Clive Barker story, is directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Azumi, Versus) and stars bad boy Vinnie Jones, who let's face it was born to play a serial killer.

Having now seen the movie I can sort of see why. It's not a bad movie, not at all, but it is the sort of movie that will take viewers by surprise in context to its conclusion. I personally thought the ending was plenty fucked up, but it is not for mass consumption. That being said, place this next to other genre releases of 2008, such as The Happening, Mirrors and to a lesser degree Saw 5, and it pisses all over them.

The story follows Bradley, who is a photographer living in the city, who is trying to get his work shown in a gallery. However, the owner is not totally convinced with his work, and wants him to get down and dirty with it; to truly capture the essence of the city. This results in him taking pictures of a woman who is being mugged. He does eventually help her, however, after helping her she gets onto a subway train, only to come face-to-hammer with Mohagany (Vinnie Jones), and is never seen again.

Bradley slowly gets drawn into trying to uncover the disappearance, and subsequently finds himself tracking down Mohagany.

First and foremost The Midnight Meat Train is a brutal movie. When Mohagany's hammer connects, it really does connect. Eyeballs pop out, heads either cave in or come off completely. Believe me, if you don't like hard brutal violence you will probably get turned off. Mind you, if you have seen either Versus or Azumi you will know what to expect from Kitamura; hard sharp cuts with a lot of punch and plenty of blood.

The story itself is also quite nicely done, I found myself intrigued as to why Jones' character is butchering folk, even when the movie's pace lagged, and it does in parts i'm afraid. Not too much though, and any scene with Jones' in is absolutely mesmerizing; I can't believe this is the same guy that used to play football a few years back, he really is nailing the parts he gets.

Saying that, due to the strength of Jones' performance, in which he only speaks one word during the entire movie, the other actors performances did seem to suffer slightly in comparison. Leon Kaufman, as Bradley, did do a fairly decent job, especially towards the end, but mostly came across as a bit of a wimp, albeit one with large cahones. The rest of the cast pretty much just serve as filler.

Visually, The Midnight Meat Train looks awesome, the scenes on the train in particular look great, and the movie is cut in such a way that I just got swept along. Mind you I am a fan of the directors work, so I expected nothing less.

Overall, The Midnight Meat Train IS recommended. It's a brutal and bloody affair that will hit you with a few good punchs, before knocking you the fuck out come the final few scenes. The movie might not go where you expect it to go, but that is a good thing right? Fuck yeah it's a good thing!

Rating 3 stars

Review by Jude Felton

October 22, 2008

Mother of Tears (2007)

It was a long time coming, but eventually director Dario Argento got around to completing his Three Mothers trilogy. The trilogy started with Suspiria (my all time favourite movie), and was followed by the impressive Inferno, and I have to admit that I was looking forward to the final entry. Of course, over recent years Argento has been off the boil and maybe his best movies are in the past, but hope springs eternal as they say. So, I went into this movie hoping for the best and expecting the worst.

The movie starts off with the discovery of an ancient casket in Rome. The casket is shipped over to a local museum where Sarah (Asia Argento) and her colleague foolishly decide to open it. Before you can swing a monkey all Hell breaks loose with the colleague being mercilessly ripped apart by unknown assailants.

Unbeknownst to them they have awakened the Mother of Tears, or Mater Lachrymarum, an evil bitch whose effects on the folk of Rome is devastating; mothers drown their babies, fights break out and general chaos ensues.

As luck would have it though Sarah's mother helped destroy one of the previous Mothers and passed some of her powers onto her. The Mother of Tears knows this and is all set on killing Sarah. At the same time, after some horrendous acting and a word from her mother in ghost form, Sarah realises that she needs to destroy the Mother of Tears before it is too late.

Firstly, I'll get this out of the way, some of the acting here is pretty damned bad, the story doesn't always make coherent sense and the ending is piss poor. But, and it is a big but (and I cannot lie) I really enjoyed this movie. I mean really enjoyed it. Visually it was terrific, with Argento at his goriest best, I don't think I have seen gore like this in one of his movies and at times it is quite shocking. Aside from that though the whole atmosphere of the movie is filled with an evil dread that seeps out of the screen. He may not do plots well, but boy can he create atmosphere.

Having Claudio Simonetti doing the score helped this no end, the closing theme with vocals by Dani Filth was just perfect.

There is an element of fanboy gushing about this review, but believe me I was ready to rip the guts out of it had it not lived up to at least some of my expectations, as I really do expect a lot from Argento. I can honestly say though that I thought this was a good movie. Sure, the acting wasn't good, looking at Asia makes up for it though. Also at times it seemed as though Dario was rushing from one scene to another, without giving the story enough time to develop properly.

On the whole though I thought this was a success. It's not anywhere near as good as Suspiria, but it is more accessible than Inferno. It'll probably not win him any new fans due to the confusing story, and doubtless piss off some of his older fans, but as a visual spectacle this was good stuff indeed. I'm looking forward to sitting through it again as I type.

Rating 3 stars

Review by Jude Felton

October 20, 2008

Mongol (2007)

When this was first released I had hoped that it would have gotten a wider theatrical release. Alas, it was given one of those delightful "limited" releases, which basically means that next to no-one got to see it on the big screen. Having now seen it I can maybe kind of see why; it really doesn't have mass appeal, despite it being a very good movie. Having said that though I can't quite understand it creeping onto DVD almost unannounced. I only happened to come across it by chance, so when I did I snapped up the chance to finally watch it.

What you don't get with Mongol is scene after scene of Temudjin, later to be Genghis, Khan ravaging Mongolia doing what he was perhaps most famous for. Instead what follows is the early life of the warrior, following him from childhood up until he does finally become known as Genghis Khan. This did make sense when I found out this is intended to be the first of a trilogy following his entire life. That's not to say that there aren't any battle scenes in Mongol, there are, just maybe not quite as many as you might expect.

The story starts off with Temudjin being a nine year old, travelling with his father in search of his future bride. This we will find out is part of the basis for events later on in his life; Mongols aren't supposed to war over a woman, Temudjin did. Anyway, upon returning from his wife-finding expedition Temudjin's father is poisoned, leaving Temudjin as the Khan of his people. However, loyalty to this clan is not a priority for some of the other folk, and Temudjin and his family are basically cast out.

From here on in the story focuses on his struggle to stay out of slavery, his seemingly eternal search for his wife and his eventual rise to power. It is a story of loyalties, betrayals and of the love for his woman, and quie a damned good story it is too. How much of it is based on truths and how much of it was made up for the screen is not for me to say, as I have no idea, but as a slice of cinema it was most enjoyable. Mongol is filled with lavish set pieces, especially the final battle, gorgeous scenery and incredible cinematography.

For me Mongol worked on both levels; first as a stand alone movie, and secondly as a precursor of events to come later in his life. It isn't perfect, there is only so much that you can fit into a two hour movie, so some events seem to be skimmed over whilst others are dwelled on for slightly too long. That being said I did enjoy this for the most part and would recommend it to anyone that likes sweeping epics, the kind that rarely see the light of day in Western cinema these days.

Rating 3 stars

Review by Jude Felton

October 16, 2008

The Legend of the Shadowless Sword (2005)

Originally I had planned this to be a review of the Thai fight-flick Born to Fight. However, plans don't always go the way you want them to, and after two cracked discs were delivered to me I decided to depart from Thailand and head on over to Korea to give this movie a chance. I'd never heard of it before, but Korea has been putting out some of the most exciting and varied cinema over the past fews years so I thought I would give it a chance.

It's 10th Century Korea and Balhae has been invaded, with the attackers killing off as many of the royal family as possible in their attempts to create their own kingdom. Desperate, the surviving council members convene to find out if there are any princes left that could take the throne and hopefully quash the invasion, restoring peace to the country.

Wouldn't you just know it that there is one prince, one that was sent into exile many years ago and now lives in a distant village buying rare artifacts. So, they send a lone warrior to find him and escort him back to take his place on the throne.

Initially the exiled prince wants nothing to do with it, at first thinking his escort is an assassin sent to kill him. She assures him though that that is not the case, and finally persuades him to follow her. So begins an epic journey back to the palace, a journey that will involve them getting into many fights as the Killer Blade Army will do anything to stop them reaching their destination.

The Legend of the Shadowless Sword is one Hell of an epic fight movie. There isn't an awful lot going on in the way of plot, although the backstory gets filled in as the movie progresses giving it a little more depth, but for the most part it is a period piece road movie with copious amounts of fantastic swordfighting scenes thrown in, replete with plenty of wirework skills.

This is a quite sumptuous movie to look at, the scenery is gorgeous and everything looks quite superb. Limbs are hacked off, bodies explode, however this isn't a gory movie. At times it comes across as a live-action cartoon, full of over the top mayhem, evil villians, virtuous heroes and the old adage that everyone can change. It is a little sugary in places, fortunately not too much though, well not until the final few minutes or so. This doesn't really matter though as the action sequences and scenery more than make up for this and the movie's shortcomings in the plot department.

This is a battle between good and evil that I do recommend. Just be prepared for 2 hours of frantic swordplay, leaping wirework, heartfelt vocal outbursts, stunning visuals and not much else.

Rating 3 stars

Review by Jude Felton

September 26, 2008

Khon Fai Bin aka Dynamite Warrior (2006)

Seeing as it looks like we are going to have to wait awhile before Ong-Bak 2 gets any sort of release, due to Tony Jaa's breakdown, I thought I would check out some other Thai fight movies in the meantime. Following this review I will shortly be posting a review for Born To Fight, which I hope is better than this one. Not to say that this was that bad, it's just a mixed bag which I will get into presently.

So, what do we have here then? Well, the long and the short of it is that this is a movie about cattle rustling, no I am not kidding but I will elaborate. Set at the turn of the 20th century, Thailand is busy make the most of its biggest export, which is rice. To farm the ground though the farmers need cows in order to plow the fields. Traders and bandits realise this and do all they can to steal the cows in order to re-sell them. On top of this, the tractor is being introduced to Thailand, obviously this will make cultivating the land alot easier. Trying to take tractors to the masses is Lord Waeng, who isn't finding it very easy due to the high costs. So, he employs a convicted criminal to steal all the cattle thus increasing the demand for tractors.

Doesn't sound too riveting does it?

Well, the other side of the story involves Jone Bang Fai, a loner, who is trying to find the cattle rustlers that killed his parents when he was but a wee lad. He's grown up learning some bad-ass fighting skills as well as creating all manner of rockets (fireworks, not the Apollo sort) which he uses as weapons.

Eventually the paths of the two party's meet during the course of the movie, but into the mix you need to throw a couple of wizards, cannibalism, virgin's menstrual cycles and a fair bit more.

Dynamite Warrior starts of with a bang, with one hell of a cool fight scene, but then gets a little too fractured as it bounces from viewpoint to viewpoint before eventually settling into a decent rhythm. As you might expect the fight scenes are quite excellent, if a little over the top in places, and when Jone Bang Fai unleashes his fireworks it is a joy to watch, however the need for the Thai filmmakers to add in some completely out of place comedy left me feeling a little disappointed. Now, comedy in Thai movies isn't something new, they seem to do it all the time, but here it was just too much especially with Lord Waeng's character.

Technically Dynamite Warrior was an efficient movie, although the editing could have been a little tighter in places and the CGI varied from good to ok. Chances are though that you will watch this for the fighting, and it does come through in that respect. Some of the moves are incredible and, although it looked like wire-work was employed in some instances, there are still plenty of jaw-dropping moments. Some of the fight scenes are also surprisingly bloody, with limbs being lopped off and throats being slashed. That being said this isn't a particularly nasty movie, it's your basic good guy fighting the odds kind of flick so there aren't too many surprises in store.

Overall, I'd recommend Dynamite Warrior if you like your fight scenes, and I'll give the writer(s) credit for giving us a different kind of premise, but on the whole it was too much of a mixed bag for me.

Now, if only Mr Jaa could rejoin us on Planet Earth in the near future...

Rating 2.5 stars

Review by Jude Felton

September 22, 2008

Slayer - Still Reigning (2004)

In 1986 the band Slayer released the album Reign in Blood. It clocks in at around 28 minutes, and is a beautiful assault on the senses. Never letting up for one second, it was, and still is over 20 years later, one of the most brutal Metal albums ever released. Although the band have released some fine albums since they have never managed to surpass Reign in Blood, and quite truthfully they don't need to try.

This live DVD showcases the band, with their original line-up of Tom Araya, Kerry King, Jeff Hanneman and returning drummer Dave Lombardo, playing the Reign in Blood album in it entirety start to finish. From the opening screams of Angel of Death through to the onstage bloodbath of Raining Blood, this is quite honestly a splendid live performance. Now, I am sure there was some technical jiggery pokery in the sound department prior to release, but what the Hell, this is quite exceptional viewing. For a band where the members of pushing 40 they never let up for one second. They don't rely on a stageshow, just four blokes, a stack of amps and a wall of sound. It's nigh on perfection. A fact that is helped no end by the numerous cameras used to capture the show.

As per usual the inbetween banter is kept to an absolute minimum, Araya knows that the fans are there to hear the music and that is what they get. I've seen Slayer play 4 times so far, and every time they have been amazing, and watching this DVD only goes to show that they have nailed down what they do best, and don't deviate from it. The only thing different here is the blood during Raining Blood; yes it does rain, and rather than coming across as cheesy worked quite well I thought.

Aside from this main performance of Reign in Blood there is also the option to watch the band belt out a few other of their classics, which include South of Heaven, Hallowed Point and the immortal Necrophiliac, and yes Araya does give us the maggot-crunching intro. There is also an interview with the band contained on the disc. Really though, the live performance alone makes it worth the price. It looks good, and it sounds good, having the choices between Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0.

Finally, i'll put aside the fanboy for a minute and just add that this is definitely a DVD for the fans, it's not the sort of release that is going to get a lot of casual viewers. If you don't like Slayer this probably won't win you over, although it might. If you are a fan? You'll love it!

Rating 3.5 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

September 15, 2008

Treevenge (2008)

A short movie playing at 2008 Fantastic Fest Online is this Canadian, what I can only call, Treesploitation splatter flick. I shit you not.

Opening to the beautiful strains of the Cannibal Holocaust theme, Treevenge follows the life, and death possibly, of the good old fashioned Christmas tree. From its chopping down out in the wilds, to its new home, wherever that may be. And i'll tell you what, it's a fucking funny journey if I do say so myself. It's told from the perspective of the trees themselves, and yes the trees do talk in their own funny kind of way, and is a laugh a minute funride.

Of course, towards the end it all gets very, very bloody as the trees take their...well, just look at the bloody title and I think you'll get the picture!

Treevenge nods its head to the odd splatter flick here and there, the aforementioned Cannibal Holocaust being one, as well as The Burning being a more blatant one. At the end of the day though this is a movie that will make you laugh, even during its nastier moments, and there are a couple here that is for sure. The language is fruity, the blood is freeflowing and the laughs keep coming.

It is well made, well acted, with some wonderfully over-the-top performances, and running at around 16 minutes will leave you wanting more. Bloody good fun indeed. Now, where did I leave that chainsaw?

Kingz (2007)

Screening as part of 2008's Fantastic Fest Online, Kingz is a 20 minute short movie from Germany that follows in the vein of movies such as From Dusk Til Dawn and Botched, and does it quite well I must say.

The story itself follows two young thugs, Olli and Mathis, as they go to a nightclub to close out a drug deal. Once there they slowly realize that something isn't quite right about some of the patrons. We then get treated to a madcap and frenetic slice of onscreen mayhem, as the blood and guts are unleashed, the guns start-a-blazin' and for some reason we get some martial arts swordplay thrown in.

As I mentioned Kingz is only 20 minutes, or about 17 if you cut off the credits, but it does manage to pack one Hell of a punch in that time. It's well shot, with some excellent camera, and is very slick looking throughout. Maybe a little too slick if anything. That being said, the cast do a decent job even if the characters are on the cliched side.

What really holds it all together though is the choreography of the action scenes, which for a movie this size are nothing short of excellent. Cool fights, decent gore and some computer work that for once i'm not going to bitch about.

In terms of the plot it isn't something that is particularly mindblowing in its originality, it's in the execution though that makes it work. I definitely recommend giving this a viewing as it is a blast. Worse case scenario? You waste 20 minutes.

Rating 3 stars

Review by Jude Felton

Fantastic Fest Online Kingz Link

August 23, 2008

Death Race (2008)

Set in 2012 this loose remake of Death Race 2000 follows the exploits of Jensen Ames (Jason Statham), a steel worker and former race car driver, who has just been laid off from his job as the plant has closed down. Still, he has a loving wife and a young baby to keep him occupied. That is until his wife is murdered and Jensen is framed for the crime.

He ends up on Terminal Island, which is a privately owned prison as are all prisons now, and is a charming place ruled with an iron fist by Hennessey (a disturbing youthful looking Joan Allen). To keep the money coming in she runs the Death Race, a pay-per-view event in which drivers race over three stages, trying to kill the opponents and still come in first in an attempt to win their freedom. Frankenstein is the most famous driver, and the one that viewers want to see, however he was killed by Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson). The public and other inmates don't know this though, so Hennessey want Jensen to take over the role of Frankenstein and race for her, with promises of being reunited with his child along with his freedom.

First off, let me just say that I am sure there will be many that will hate this movie. Some because it is a remake, some due to it being a Paul W.S. Anderson flick and others because it offers absolutely nothing substantial to the viewing experience. This is all good and well, but I thought it was terrific good fun. It is loud, brash and ultimately incredibly daft and there are flaws aplenty; the drivers never wear helmets, 18 wheel trucks can keep pace with the cars and the cars themselves have enough armour and weaponary to sink a battleship yet they hit incredible speeds. And that is just scratching the surface.

As a piece of entertainment though it was quite excellent, there are fights, great driving scenes, blood, guts and gore throughout the movie. It is an incredibly violent movie rife with cliched characters who say cliched things. Did I care though? Not in the slighest. The movie flew by, rarely letting up to get its breath back. If you want deep plots and complex character development I suggest looking elsewhere, as this offers none of that. However, I thought it was an exciting, if a little predictable, with some humourous moments to help leviate the brutality that runs throughout.

As I said, many will hate it. But just like fast food, it does the trick for a short amount of time and then is forgotten about.

Death Race is popcorn cinema that offers up no pretentions, just plenty of mayhem for your money.

Rating 3 Stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

August 14, 2008

Dead Fury (2008)

In 2006 the one man movie making machine that is FSudol gave us City of Rott, which was a animated tale of a cranky old bastard searching for his shoes in a city that is overrun with zombie. It was a gore drenched spectacle, laced with great humour. Unfortunately there were issues with the pacing which let it down slightly.

Now he is back with Dead Fury, which once again features Pop although not in the lead role, in another animated tale that follows a group of hunters that do battle with some possessed zombie-esque creature in the great outdoors. This time around we get a leaner, meaner movie that still keeps the gore quota sky high, the humour coming thick and fast yet keep the plot tighter and a lot more focused.

Max, Pop, Jen and Jake are off on an illicit hunting trip. Unbeknownst to them a hiker has stumbled across some sort of ancient book, which upon reading a couple of lines from it transforms him into some sort of demon. Initially Pop thinks he's a deer, yeah right, but soon realise he is not and proceed to shoot the proverbially shit out of him. In the melee Jake gets wounded and so they seek refuge in a nearby cabin. Now, if this sounds a little Evil Dead-like you would be right, as this movie openly admits that it is a parody with an homage to many horror flicks of the past, and it's all done in such a way that you can't but help enjoy it.

I did have a couple of issues with the movie though. My main one being the voice of Jen, who really does sound like a possessed chipmunk which I found a little distracting. The other gripe was the repetetion of some of the insults hurled around by the characters. Initially very funny, but ultimately overused. Nonetheless, there is plenty to keep you amused and engrossed throughout its running time, and I for one have already watched it several times.

Virtually everything to do with the movie was carried out by FSudol, and I do mean everything just read through the bloody credits! I really must praise him for bringing such a colourful and energetic movie to the screen. I will say that the animation style may not be to everyone's taste, I thought though that it has its own unique charm, and when the blood and guts start flowing, of which they do quite frequently, you can't help but get swept up in the hilarity of the moment.

Dead Fury isn't without it faults, as i have mentioned, but look past them and you will find an incredibly entertaining, gore and humour filled slice of B-movie fun!

Rating 3 Stars

Review by Jude Felton

July 12, 2008

Absinthe (2007) - CD Review

The Shrubbers

To me The Shrubbers sound like they should be in some sort of Horticultural society, they are however an experimental electronica outfit hailing from the wild barrens of Eugene Oregon. Where, I must say that it sounds like a place that could truly mess with your head if this crazy soundscape of an album is anything to go by.

An album of off the wall song titles such as Accidental Lotus, Ctrl Alt Dlt and Particle Light Dance, Absinthe brings to mind a frenzied blend of the Fight Club soundtrack by The Dust Brothers, the music of John Carpenter fused in places with an Oriental twang. Mind you, that doesn't really begin to cover the sounds and music contained on this disc.

Absinthe is definitely an upbeat kind of album that really needs to be played loud. There are so many layers to it, that on repeated listens you will hear things that you will have missed before. Pulsating beats, mixed up vocals and voices help keep this album moving along; there really is no chance of getting bored whilst listening to this.

You will lose all your social training after giving this a blast, or so the accompanying blurb will tell you, and who am I to disagree?

If you like challenging electronica music I recommend you give this a try. It really is a most enjoyable collection of tunes.

You can grab a copy at the below link

Mental Advisory Productions

Rating 3 Stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

July 8, 2008

People Are Strange (2008) - Book Review

Author - James Newman
Publisher - Croatoan Publishing

Having read James Newman's novel Midnight Rain not so long ago I was eager to read more by this talented author. So, when the opportunity arose to read his collection of short stories entitled People Are Strange I jumped at the chance. Now, whereas Midnight Rain was a more traditional style of thriller, albeit an expertly crafted one, People Are Strange really allows the reader the chance to see just how twisted Newman can be. Not to mention funny as well, with the humour being a little on the warped side I will admit, but that is the kind of humour I relish when reading.

The book itself consists of nine short stories, varying from a couple of pages in length as is the case with Bless This Meal O' Lord, which is a nasty little critter of a tale if ever there was one, to a 35 page or so novella entitled Holy Rollers which concludes the collection. Each story is prefaced by an introduction by Newman, more often than not giving a backstory to the following tale, or where he drew his inspiration from. Sometimes he just rambles! I kid you, these introductions are almost as enjoyable to read as the stories themselves. What they do convey though is the author's sense of humour, which as I previously mentioned is a little off centre.

Although none of the stories herein are connected by any characters or location, they are all connected in the sense that they show people being, well, strange really. Strange, and violent, and funny, and not quite there if the truth be known.

Opening with the wonderfully titled The Honest-To-God True Story of Earl P. and a Bug called Abraham Lincoln, this is a hilarious black humoured tale of murder, madness and a talking fly. It's a tale filled with rich dialogue and an abrupt ending. This is followed by my personal favourite, The Good, The Bad and the Severely Maladjusted, which I won't spoil at all, but you will not have any idea where this one will take you; it will stun you.

Your Cold, Black Heart is a short sharp shocker that once again will play on your perception of what is unfolding, and is quite the headfuck in its own twisted way. The mood is then lightened, slightly I will admit as it does involve murder, by The Tell-Tale Fart. Yes, it does involve gas, bad gas i will have you know, and is quite the funny-bone tickler.

Bless This Meal O' Lord is just plain evil, and I loved it. You'll definitely look forward to your dinner after this story, even though it will leave a nasty taste in your mouth! Suffer The Children is next on the agenda, and I will admit to this one being possibly my least favourite of the stories included. That being said though, it is a quite disturbing tale and is written perfectly from the point of view of a woman who isn't quite all there.

Keeping up with the Joneses takes neighbourly rivalry to a whole new level, and is quite the shocker which even though it is a very dark tale it still managed to coax an illicit laugh or two from me.

The next tale, entitled A Town called Hatred, really allows Newman to go overboard in the violence and shock department, which he does with a seemingly gleeful abandon. He does admit in his intro that there is no real rhyme or reason to this tale, however it is still a wonderful exercise in wanton carnage.

Closing this collection is the novella Holy Rollers which, if you have ever had a visit from door to door religious types, will tickle your funny bone whilst at the same time remove it with a razor sharp scalpel. It plays on one of the things that many folk find incredibly annnoying, myself included, then turns the tables on what you might expect to happen. It is a cracker I can assure you.

People Are Strange is a wonderful collection of stories, each one has its own distinctive style and really goes to show what a talented, and underrated, author Newman really is. His use of language is spot on, allowing him to bring these quite unique individuals to life with ease, regardless of the length of the story. Yes, these are tales of horror, and some are quite disturbing, but Newman never allows them to get bogged down in an endless cycle of bleak and uncaring tales. As I mentioned there is a lot of humour here, in fact most of the tales lean just as much towards dark humour as they do towards the horrfying; more often than not blending the two together perfectly. Mind you, this does all depend on your sense of humour.

If Midnight Rain was Newman in a more serious frame of mind, then People Are Strange is the author playing an evil court jester; lulling you into a false sense of humour with a joke or two, before stabbing you in the gut when you least expect it. This was quite the joy to read, and at a brisk 120 or so pages, is a perfect quick read.

Rating 4 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

July 2, 2008

Otis (2008)

Otis is released under the Raw Feed imprint, which previously gave us movies such as Rest Stop and Sublime, and unlike those two is more of a comedy than a straight out horror flick. Admittedly it is a very black, sick and twisted kind of comedy, but a comedy nonetheless. There are laugh out loud moments throughout, although the best moments are to be found during the second half of this quite cool movie. That is not to say that there isn't any horror to be found here, there is, and plenty of it, although the straight horror scenes are generally to be found in the scenes which focus on the titular character, whereas in other parts the comedy almost overshadows the nastiness occuring on the screen.

The movie itself is about a character, who is funnily enough, named Otis. He's a bloody mountain of a man who has a penchant for abducting girls, holding them captive and trying to force them into his fantasy world where they are his date to his high school prom. Each girl he kidnaps he names Kim, for some reason, and throws a tantrum if they tell him their real name. So far he has taken five girls; all have ended up dead, and in one case, chopped up into little pieces.

His latest victim is Riley, who reluctantly plays along with his game in order to avoid getting a beating. Unbeknownst to her though her parents have brought in the FBI in order to try and find her. The trouble is the lead Agent, named Hotchkiss, is bloody useless, and extremely funny, and this causes Riley's parents and brother to take matters into their own hands.

Otis starts off in a fairly dark vein, with snippets of humour thrown in; such as the over-the-top news reports and the banter from Agent Hotchkiss. You see, Otis may act as though the girls are the love of his life but he isn't adverse to using a little violence, and incredibly crude language, in order to get what he wants. As mentioned though the movie gets gradually more comedic as it progresses, which is quite strange being as the latter stages are probably the most violent parts of the movie. This is due in part to the wonderful performances by Illeana Douglas and Daniel Stern as Riley's parents. This is where the humour really kicks into overdrive, it is deliciously sick and twisted, and along with Jared Kusnitz as Riley's brother Reed, they proceed to throw out the laughs with glee.

Kevin Pollak turns up as well playing Otis' brother, but his role is very much a one-trick pony, and gets a little tiresome. Fortunately it is no more than an extended cameo until later on in the movie. One other role of interest, to me anyway, was the very brief cameo by Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs who reprises his role of Mandingo, who was a character in the Raw Feed release of Sublime. This seems to have been included for nothing more than an in-joke being as though he says nothing and only appears in the background. It made me chuckle though.

The central performance of Otis, by Bostin Christopher, was pretty good too. At times a little monotone, and predictably temperamental, it does get better as the film moves along when he is allowed a little more freedom in which to expand the role. It isn't however anything we haven't seen before.

This is a well made movie that is great to look at, it has a cool 80's soundtrack and it fairly brutal in places. My problem with it though was that it leaves too many questions unanswered for me; a little more backstory certainly wouldn't have gone amiss.

Otis isn't a perfect movie but it is fun, a decent mix of comedy and violence that thinks it is a little more clever than it actually is. Saying that though I do recommend you check it out as you will get more than a few laughs out of it. It is certainly one of the better, but far from the best, examples of blending horror and comedy together.

Rating 3 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

June 27, 2008

Wanted (2008)

If anyone has seen director Timur Bekmambetov's Nochnoi Dozor (Night Watch) or Dnevnoy Dozor (Day Watch), then you will know that although the stories didin't always make perfect sense, but boy, did they look absolutely wonderful, with some absolutely amazing effects to boot. Well, his latest movie, Wanted, does make a lot more sense even if it does stretch the boundaries of plausibility even further. Oh, and yes it has some of the most breathtaking scenes I have seen in a long while. Wanted is eye candy for the 21st Century delivered with a shot to the head.

The backstory of Wanted is that apparently 1000 years ago a group of weavers decided to form a secret society of assassins called The Fraternity to help retain balance in the world, because, that would be a natural career step of course. And so, over the years they have hidden away taking out whomever is required. Ok.

Back to present day and we meet a member of the Fraternity who is hunting down a former member who has left, and gone rogue so to speak.

Skip forward a little more and we join up with Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), an average Joe who gets shat on on a daily basis in his present job, by his girlfriend and by his best friend. He suffers from anxiety attacks, and is a self proclaimed pussy. And...before you know it he is approached by Fox (Angelina Jolie), and is informed that his father, who walked out on him as a baby, was an assassin and that Wesley also has the skills required to be one too. Ah yes, I forgot to mention that members of the Fraternity aren't normal everyday assassins. No, these crazy feckers seem to have almost superhuman skills; one of which is being the ability to bend bullets in mid-air.

Anyhoo, the Fraternity want him to join up with them so that they can train him so that he can go out and kill the rogue member. Cue non-stop action, violence, bloodshed, chases and other such coolness.

To go on about whether or not Wanted is realistic would be just pointless, this is just an all ot over the top ballet of bullets composed by an incredibly talented Russian. There's no other way to describe the onscreen action other than poetry pure and simple. It's not always believable; how can this society be secret when they are destroying half of the city? But damn it all to hell it is a fun ride!

At times predictable, in terms of the plot and character development, whereas the rest of the movie will continue to stun you throughout. It's surprisingly bloody, there's plenty of foul language, Jolie's butt, wonderful set pieces and one of the finest shoot-outs I have ever seen. Extra points are also given for the inclusion of Nine Inch Nails on the soundtrack.

If movies such as Crank or Shoot Em Up pumped your nads then you will love this. Just imagine those crossed with The Matrix whilst John Woo called the shots, and you might get a rough idea of what to expect.

There are flaws galore, the biggest one being the total waste of Terrence Stamp, I just can't be arsed to go on about them as I just had too much fun watching this ridiculously over the top movie. Suspend your disbelief, throw all rational thought out of the window and sit back and enjoy the ride, because it is going to be a bumpy one.

Wanted is a quite terrific action flick that demands you turn all reason off and just enjoy the carnage that is up on the screen.

Rating 3.5 stars (out of 4)

The Signal (2007)

When I first heard that The Signal was made by three directors, with the film split into three sections, or transmissions, I will admit that I felt a little unsure as to whether I really wanted to see it or not. Sure, the trailer looked fun, but three directors? Surely that will get a little messy? Well, it does get messy, but not in the way I thought it would, no it gets messy purely due to the fact that everyone spends the majority of the movie covered in blood. Su-bloody-perb if I do say so myself.

The Signal is about a strange occurence that infects televisions, telephone and radios, amongst other things, transmitting an unknown message to the viewer/listener that basically sends them off on a looney tune trip, roughly translated; they kill everyone they see. Although it isn't as straight forward as that; it plays with their minds causing them to believe people are someone else, making them believe that what they are doing is the right thing. Those affected are convinced they are normal, and it is everyone else that is infected with "the crazy", as it is often referred to.

The film itself focuses on a married woman, her husband, her boyfriend and a few neighbours and friends in the city of Terminus, and although it is split into three segments the characters and main thread of the story continue throughout. Now, although the storyline does continue through all three sections, the tone in each part is quite distinctly different to the other, yet they all work perfectly well together. So, you have moments of stark and quite horrific violence, tension and gore mixed in which some quite delightfully offbeat humour, all of which is delivered perfectly by the quite excellent cast.

Experimental at its core, The Signal never comes across as anything other than a totally accessible film; it won't baffle you, although it doesn't give you all the answers on a plate. It is very well made and belies its limited budget, aside from one or two suspect moments involving the bane of my movie-viewing life; and that is poor CGI. As I say though that is only once or twice during the movie, and didn't really spoil my enjoyment of it.

There are plenty of similarities between The Signal and other movies, and books, such as 28 Days Later, Hater and Kairo, yet it never seems to lose its own identity. To me this was due in part to the terrific script, it completely took me by surprise in places as there are some real gems in the dialogue. Aside from that it was purely speaking a terrific and well made movie.

Gory, funny, bleak and shocking, The Signal definitely impressed me, and I can only recommend it to those that like something that is just a little unusual yet strangely familiar.

Rating 3 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

June 24, 2008

The Ruins (2008)

More often than not if I watch a movie after reading the novel that it was based upon I find myself disappointed. Of course you can't fit everything that is in a book onto the screen. The Ruins has gone against that rule for me though. I did think the book was ok, it wasn't great by any stretch, but for the most part I thought it was fairly enjoyable. There was a little too much waffle and self-indulgence on the side of the main characters that just turned me off, although when it came to some of the many set-pieces it was quite terrific. The movie though, which was written for the screen by the author Scott Smith, seemed to be a more streamlined affair. Not perfect by any stretch, although I did have more fun with it than the novel.

The plot of the movie revolves around four Americans that are holidaying in Mexico. They meet up with a German, Matthias, who informs them that his brother has gone off to help on an archealogical dig at some ruins, that don't happen to be on any maps. The brother was due back, but has yet to return, so he wonders if the Americans, Jeff, Eric, Stacey and Amy, would like to come with him to find the ruins.

Of course they go along, it'd be a pointless movie if they didn't, however, on their journey there they are warned off by a local taxi driver, and then by the local Mayan's. Well, we assume they are being warned away as they don't speak English and no subtitles are given, which adds to the suspense if you ask me, something that worked well in the Hostel movies.

Once they make contact with the ruins themselves though they find they have no choice in whether to turn back or not; the locals won't let them leave now. What is it that is so bad that the Mayan's won't let the tourists leave?

We will, in due time, find out.

Now, first off, there are several events that have been changed from the novel to the movie. Some events do happen, but to different characters, and some events are new to the movie, which was great for me as it added an element of surprise to proceedings. For the most part though it was a fairly faithful adaptation, aside from the godawful end to the movie.

The Ruins was a fairly gruesome, surprisingly so in places, director Carter Smith not being afraid to show the gristly bits when needed. The bloody scenes further helped to enhance some of the later scenes when cleanliness may well have been the ideal option for the characters involved.

The special effects ranged from very good to slightly dodgy, especially when it came to the CGI shots of the ruins themselves. But, I was quite impressed with the rest of the effects work.

The cast did an ok job, although a couple of the actors seemed to struggle with the intensity of the situation. Nothing too much to grumble about though. Sure, they do stupid things, but don't they always? It is afterall a horror movie. If they did the right thing all the time they would still be sat at the beach getting drunk.

What really let it down for me though was that ending. Oh dear, it just annoyed me. Up until that point though I was having quite a good time with this movie. It was fairly well paced, nice and visceral, and had enough surprises to keep me hooked, even though I knew the main plot points from the book.

The Ruins is flawed, although I would definitely recommend it as a rental, if not a purchase.

Rating 3 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

June 20, 2008

Murder-Set-Pieces (2004)

When it comes to movies there are a couple of things that will immediately put me off watching them. One of them being incessant hype surrounding it. I'm all for promoting a movie, but sometimes it gets to be too much. I know I will eventually cave in and catch the movie but don't smash me around the head in order to get me to watch it.

That being said I tried to ignore as much hype and gum-flapping surrounding Murder-Set-Pieces as possible. Of course I had heard of it, and I had heard about both the positive and negative press about it. However, all I had really read, and properly digested, was an article in an issue of Ultra-Violent. That did get me interested, but I still didn't get around to watching it, probably because the price tag was too high.

One thing I was sure of though is that I did not want to watch the Lionsgate release, without having seen the unrated version first. If I am going to watch something I want to see it as it was originally planned by the director. Fortunately I recently acquired a copy from a friend (cheers squire) and a couple of days ago sat down to watch it.

The plot, of which there isn't an awful lot of in all honesty, surrounds the exploits of a photographer, who happens to be a Neo Nazi, that likes nothing more in his spare time than to rape, murder and generally abuse young women.

The bad news for camera boy is that his current girlfriend's younger sister Jade (Jade Risser) has her suspicions about him, not that anyone believes her of course.

So the movie alternates between the two characters right up until the very end.

Murder-Set-Pieces is an incredibly nasty movie from start to finish, and credit must be given to director Nick Palumbo for bring a character as repellent as the Photographer to life. Here is one person that has no qualms about who he kills, which does include children, or about how he goes about killing them. nasty doesn't even start to describe him. Actor Sven Garrett really did give an excellent, if chilling, performance here.

Murder-Set-Pieces also has cameo performances by Tony Todd, in an amusing Porn Store scene, as well as Gunnar Hansen as a Nazi gundealer. The rest of the cast do perform quite well, especially young Jade Risser, who probably had the hardest role to play of them all.

This is also a rather well made movie, surprisingly so in-fact. From the lighting and sound to the quality of the film itself, i have to say I was impressed.

Despite all this though I did feel slightly underwhelmed by the whole experience. It could have used a little more in the plot department, as we don't really get to know much about the Photographer's background other than his apparent family links to the Third Reich. I just would have liked to have seen a bit more in there to beef it up a little.

There is also a scene that some may well feel goes a little too far involving an infant. I didn't feel it was necessary to the movie's development as we already know the lead character is a despicable asshole. If it was an exercise to see how far Palumbo could push what is acceptable then I guess he succeeded, even if it the scene mentioned is not in the slighest bit graphic, it was still disturbing.

That aside Murder-Set-Pieces is a good movie, not great, but certainly one that grabs your attention and holds it until the end.

So, regardless of all the hype surrounding it, I would definitely recommend catching this at least once, especially if you like your movies on the brutal side. All I'd say though is you try and catch the unrated version, as I really can't imagine what the R rated version would be like, apart from very short!

Rating 2.5 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

Dead Silence (2007)

Clowns and puppets are two things that seem to creep the fuck out of a good many people. Personally I love clowns, but puppets, well there is something not quite right about the evil little bastards if you ask me? Don't get me wrong, I'm not likely to have an episode if confronted by one, I just think there is something inherently wrong with them.

So, with that in mind, I was actually quite looking forward to watching Dead Silence. Here was a chance for a movie to elicit a few chills down the old spine; something that is all too lacking in movies these days. The fact that is was written and directed by Leigh Whannel and James Wan, the creative force behind Saw, only heightened my expectations. After the success of that movie, and its subsequent sequels, it would have been quite easy for them to make another visceral and altogether more brutal movie than the movie they did make. More power to them though, as Dead Silence, despite a few shortcomings, turned out to be a fairly well crafted movie that relies more on the scares than the blood and guts.

James Ashen and his wife are having a pleasant enough evening at home when he receives an unexpected package. There is no return address, just his name on it, so of course he opens it. Inside is a puppet, which wasn't really unexpected to tell the truth. Anyhoo, James pops out to pick up Chinese for dinner not realizing that this is to be the last time he will see his wife alive.
Of course, despite his grief, James is the number one suspect in his wife's murder, something that isn't likely to change when he tells the police that he heard his wife calling him when he returned to the apartment. Best thing to do is blame the puppet, which goes down even worse with the police!

Despite being the only real suspect the police let him go giving him the chance to further investigate the murder; an investigation that leads him back to his home town of Ravens Fair and the legend of Mary Shaw.

Mary Shaw, although once a renowned ventriloquist, has now become the thing of nightmares and urban legend. Being killed by the townsfolk many years ago did not stop her from coming back to have her revenge.

On the surface the story here is a little unbelievable, in fact if you really think about it, it's just plain daft. However, it is put together in such a way that you can't help get drawn into it. I'll even excuse the fact that the police allowed James back to his apartment, even though items that could be classed as evidence were still there.

What really sold this movie to me was the inventive camerawork, the sense of dread throughout the story and the wonderful score by Charlie Clouser, which only added to the film's ambience. At times the film felt almost dreamlike; from the eerie ghost town of Ravens Fair, the use of fog and the muted color of the visuals. This is a movie that relies more on chills than on graphic scenes of butchery. In fact it is a relatively bloodless affair aside from the odd death scene, of which there aren't that many really.

Technical aspects aside, the movie also wouldn't have worked for me had there not been a decent cast to back it all up. Good thing that the majority of the cast here were spot on. Donnie Wahlberg was excellent in combining some quirky humor into his role as the detective investigating the murder. Apart from Wahlberg the rest of the characters, including Mary Shaw herself, the local Funeral Home director and his wife, James' father and stepmother were all impressive. In fact the only weak point to me was James himself, he just seemed a little bland, but that could have been down to the eccentricities of his fellow cast-members.

After not being quite sure what to expect from Dead Silence I found myself thoroughly enjoying it. It was creepy, atmospheric and, if you excuse a couple of plot-holes, one of the more enjoyable big budget horror releases I have seen. It was definitely a pleasant change of pace from some of the more violent movies that have been so prevalent recently.

Pan's Labrinth (2006)

Although I enjoyed Guillermo Del Toro's Hellboy, Blade 2 and to a lesser extent Mimic, I have always much preferred his Spanish language movies The Devil's Backbone and Cronos. They might not have been the visual extravaganzas such as Hellboy was, they were however beautiful, almost poetic pictures, all in all far more satisfying viewing experiences. So quite why it took me so long to get around to watching Pan's Labyrinth is beyond me; unfortunately it never screened at a theatre near me, and for one reason or another I never picked up the DVD. Obviously that has changed now, and all I can say is that I am kicking myself for not catching this amazing movie sooner.

Set to the backdrop of the days following the end of the Spanish Civil War, the story follows a young girl named Ofelia who travels with her pregnant, but sick, mother to live with the baby's father. The father also happens to be a Captain in Franco's army, and is hellbent on flushing out a group of rebels from the surrounding hillside. Here Ofelia discovers an ancient ruined Labyrinth, within which she meets the titular character who explains to her that she is indeed a princess, but in order to prove this she must complete three tasks.

The fantastical story of Ofelia slowly unfolds against the horrors of the aftermath of war, which shows her stepfather to be not only a tyrannical Captain, but also a maniacal one. He's determined to find the rebels, whilst also ensuring the safe birth of his future child.

Pan's Labyrinth is quite simply a great movie, one of stark contrasts between harsh reality and this wonderful but quite often disturbing other realm. At times beautiful to watch, yet at times you almost have to cover your eyes during some of the scenes, this is at times a very dark film. Despite the sometimes shocking tone though the whole movie flows seamlessly reaching an emotional level not often seen in films of this scale. By the time the closing credits rolled I was absolutely drained, I say that in a good way though as I had a huge smile across my face at the same time.

The cast were universally flawless, in particular though Ivana Baquero as Ofelia, who gives a tremendous performance, one that belies her age, and also Sergei Lopez who plays the Captain. His is truly a powerhouse performance of pure evil, his cold detachment from everything except his mission and future child is quite chilling to watch as he progressively get more and more violent. This isn't to take away anything from any of the other cast though as they were all superb.

The movie itself was visually stunning, switching from a very cold and wet looking war ravished Spain to the wonderful world of the labyrinth; say what you will about CGI effects, here they could not have been put to better use if they had tried. Along with the cinematography and terrific script the whole movie was finished off with a haunting score that, whilst it never intruded on the movie, it did at the same time add another level to the storytelling.

There probably aren't quite enough superlatives to describe Pan's Labyrinth, so if you haven't seen it yet I suggest you do. Don't be put off by the fact that it is a Spanish language movie as this probably wouldn't have worked as well had it been filmed in English.

Violent, beautiful, cold, uplifting and an absolute joy to watch, Pan's Labyrinth is quite possibly one of the greatest movies of modern cinema.

Rating 4 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

June 13, 2008

Scream For Me (2000)

Scream For Me is the first movie in the 3 Dead Girls trilogy from the sordid mind of director Christopher Alan Broadstone, and is possibly the most accessible. I say possibly, as this contains murder and male rape, but the structure and style lend it to a more conventional style of filmmaking. Even so, this isn't your average run of the mill horror flick, no, this is head and shoulders above average. It's a sick and twisted journey into madness.

The plot of this short (22 mins) movie revolves around a murderer, who just after killing his victim, gets visited by another killer, who quite frankly is way out there on the crazy scale.

Scream For Me is easily the most violent of the 3 Dead Girls movies, as well as being the nastiest in tone. It is a visual tour de force that never lets up from the opening scene until its climax. As a debut short movie it is incredibly assured, the camerawork isn't flashy but does serve to keep the action firmly in your face without being gratuitious.

As in the latter movies actor Tony Simmons once again plays the lead role and, once again puts in a performance a million miles away from those in My Skin! and Human No More. Nonetheless he is no less impressive, putting in a performance that is scary in its intensity. Believe me you would not want to meet this character.

As mentioned Scream For Me is probably the most accessible of the three shorts, the narrative style is far more traditional without even remotely touching on the mainstream style of filmmaking, so it would make sense to catch this one before the other two. It actually makes no difference what order you catch them in as they aren't linked through plot, just the theme of murder and death.

This is a fantastic movie which I wholeheartedly recommend to fans of alternative cinema. It is raw and visceral viewing that won't let up until it reaches the bitter end.

Rating 3.5 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

The Happening (2008)

I really don't like to use expletives in my reviews, preferring to save them for other occasions, however M Night Shyalaman is really starting to fucking piss me off. This is a director who's output has steadily declined in quality since his debut flick The Sixth Sense. Unbreakable was damned good, Signs wasn't bad, The Village was piss poor and I gave The Lady in the Water a swerve. So, maybe against my better judgement, although I am all for giving him the benefit of the doubt, I decided to catch The Happening. By all accounts the previews looked sharp, and I think Mark Wahlberg is a quality actor. Add into this the fact John Leguizamo also stars in it, I thought we might have a winner. We don't.

The story starts in New York, Central Park to be precise, where people suddenly become all befuddled, lose their speech, followed by their co-ordination, and soon thereafter decide to kill themselves. This spreads to the surrounding streets before moving onto other cities such as Philadelphia.

Caught in the midst of this strange outbreak is Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) and Julian (John Leguizamo), two teachers and friends, who, along with Elliot's wife and Julian's daughter, decide to get the Hell out of Philly, and make their way to the country in the hopes of being safe.

Now, I will start off with the positives, because there are a few hidden away in here. Some of the deaths are quite nasty, and on the odd occasion a little shocking. Nothing too graphic really, although some are a little grisly, but there are quite effective for the most part. Also, the movie as a whole does look good, Shyalaman does seem to have his visuals down to a tee. That's about it though for the good stuff.

Where do I begin on the negatives though? The acting was fairly attrocious throughout, the cast being given a horrendously disjointed script that will no doubt have many viewers laughing at the stupidity of it. Characters quite often repeat what the previous person has just said, and all of them state the bloody obvious time and time again. Script aside though, the delivery and acting was just plain poor.

There are far too many scenes that provoked unintentional laughs. I really don't think that was what Shyalaman was looking for when he made this.

The main problem with The Happening though is that the story felt incredibly under developed. It's as if there was a good initial idea, but no-one had any clue how to further develop it. As such everything seemed a little underwhelming. Whether or not the events are explained is irrelevant to me, I can take it or leave it, but please give us something to work with.

I really can't recommend this movie. I would have liked to, had it not been such a disappointing effort. There is plenty of potential here, none of it is allowed to blossum though in this movie that really isn't happening in the slightest. Will I watch M Night Shyalaman's next movie? Possibly, but he really needs to open the possibility of bringing in someone to help write his damned movies, because it obviously isn't working when he pens them himself these days.

A real shame.

Rating 1 star (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

The Machine Girl (2008)

I'll be honest with you, however this movie turned out, I would have given it at least one star for the cover artwork alone. Yes, I'm a twisted pervert, but at least I admit it! As it turns out though there is no chance of giving this joyous and warped exercise in reckless abandon a bad review. It has is faults, yet these are far outweighed by all the juicy goodness contained in it.

Ami is a loving sister, and thinks the world of her brother. The two of them have been looking after each other since the death of their parents a few years before. Unfortunately he, along with his friend, has become the victim of the local group of bullies which is run by the son of the local Yakuza boss. Unable to make the payments demanded of him the gang mercilessly kill the two friends, leaving Ami heartbroken and fueled with the sort of vengeance you can only imagine.

After a little research she hightails it to the residence of the Yakuza boss and his son in order to get some payback. However, this doesn't go quite according to plan and, although she does kick a little ass, she ends up losing an arm.

United in their grief Ami befriends the mother of the other victim, and through the wonders of modern mechanics ends up with a replacement arm, which as you might be able to guess from the cover art is a high powered machine gun. The two of them then set forth to finish of the job Ami tried to start beforehand.

The Machine Girl truly is a wonderous movie to behold; wall to wall bloodshed and gore, a nasty sense of humour and a hot, hot lead actress. It is almost cartoon-like in its approach, this isn't the violence of movies such as Hostel or any other number of the so-called torture porn sub-genre. You will be howling with laughter, as opposed to wincing in pain, as the bodies get sliced and diced, and deep fried.

There is the odd moment where there is a little dodgy CGI, but for the most part this movie relies on practical effects, with gallons of blood which seems to cover absolutely everything. My only other concern about this movie was some of the acting. For the most part it was pretty good, with most of the characters being played completely over-the-top, but there was, on occasion, some seemingly strained dialogue. Who really gives a shit though? This movie is all about the action, and boy does it deliver in that department. I could go on about how much fun this flick is, instead though I will just recommend that you go and watch it right now.

Still reading this? Go, I said, and watch this movie. It is quite possibly the most fun you can have without getting arrested!

Rating 3.5 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

June 11, 2008

Deranged (1974)

The Plainfield Ghoul, Ed Gein, has inspired many movies over the years, most notably Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, however this 1974 movie from writer and director Alan Ormsby probably comes closest to capturing the real story and events that occured in Wisconsin in the mid part of the twentieth century. Whereas other movies took elements, such as furniture made from human bones or Gein's relationship with his mother, and incorporated them into the story Ormsby has tried to paint a picture of this infamous killer as the facts were laid down. The movie even has a warning at the beginning claiming the events portrayed are true and only the names of people and places have been changed. Mind you, once we reach the end of the movie there is also the disclaimer that any similarity to real events is purely coincidental. Of course, this isn't a biography of Ed Gein, it's a movie about a character names Ezra Cobb, however, aside from the omission of certain facts and other cinematic license there is no denying the similarities between this movie and real events.

In Deranged itself we, the viewer, are introduced to loyal son Ezra Cobb, by way of a Reporter who incidentally pops up throughout to fill us in on certain facts. Ezra is tending to his sick mother out on their remote farm, she is bedridden due to a paralyzing illness and is not in good shape. Before she has time to finally shuffle of this mortal coil though she does find time to instill an intense distrust of women into Ezra. This is just the start of Ezra's downward spiral into the insanity that will follow, as when she does die he withdraws from the world, visiting only a family friend. Most of his time being spent keeping his mother's room just as it was whilst she was alive, and writing letters to her. That is until he is pursuaded, by his mother, or should I say the voices in his head, to dig her up and bring her home. This is just the catalyst of the events to come as Ezra takes to more graverobbing and eventually murder.

Deranged, despite or even because of, its low budget origins does truly manage to capture the decent into madness of the character Ezra Cobb, who was played quite wonderfully by Roberts Blossom. There are times though during the movie where certain elements seem a little over the top, not in the actions of the characters a such but more with the delivery and certain areas of the script. On the whole though the atmosphere throughout is decidedly macabre. The effects throughout are basic but effective, some of make-up being applied by a youthful Tom Savini no less in one of his first features. However, it is not the effects, or even necessarily the crimes, that raise Deranged up amongst the more superior serial killer movies; no, that would be down to Blossom's performance along with the wonderfully bleak and wintery locations that were used during the filming. Everything seems so isolated in Deranged, not least Ezra Cobb himself, and that is due to in part to some solid direction at the hands of the Ormsby and Jeff Gillen, who shared directing duties here. Deranged isn't a movie that gives you gory or flashy set-pieces, in fact some might find it a little dated, it is however a measured character study into the mind of one twisted character.

Rating 3 (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

June 9, 2008

August Underground’s Penance (2007)

After watching Mordum, which was the previous entry in the August Underground series, I in all honesty wasn’t wholly impressed. It was shocking, violent and thoroughly disturbing; my problem though was that for the most part it was a fairly incoherent mess. Constant bickering between the lead characters, at the expense of any real script, and poor camera-work made this a movie that in all likelihood I won’t watch again. So it was with a little trepidation that I approached Penance; what more could they do to this series? Surely pseudo snuff is pseudo snuff, nothing more nothing less, so will I just get more of the same? Well, the answer there is a resounding yes, but there is so much more in this movie, the similarities to Mordum are there for sure, however this is a far superior effect in just about every department.

The movie itself has a minimal plot that follows the exploits of murderers Fred and Christie in scenes that alternate between their “work” and play. We see them messing about and generally having a whale of a time, whether it is out for a walk harassing the homeless or letting off some steam on a firing range. Then without warning, as if you need one, the action will switch to one of the many heinous acts that they perform; no subject is taboo here. It will shock you, fuck, it may even offend you. This is a movie that just when you think they can’t go any further they do.

The movie progresses way the whole time we see the steady decline of the murderer’s mental stability; their inevitable road to self destruction. At one point Fred says “Today is the day that our sins will be over” to the camera, and that perfectly sums up the entire movie. It’s a bleak piece of work that has no real respite, and quite frankly I wouldn’t want any from a movie such as this.

Technically this is leaps and bounds ahead of Mordum, from the camerawork, which although still shaky in places (but that is part of the nature of home videos), is now far more watchable for want of a better word. Bear in mind that the two leads handle all the photography this is no mean feat. All the action is caught on screen leaving nothing, or very little, to the imagination.

The acting and scripting is also far more accomplished; both leads put in truly disturbing performances, whilst also conveying the depth of their relationship to each other. There is far less arguing and much more everyday banter between them which only lent to the realism of the action on screen. Credit must also be given to the numerous victims on display here. They may not have much to say in the way of speaking parts, but the expressions of torment on their faces spoke a thousand words, and the situations in which they find themselves can’t have been the easiest to perform.

August Underground’s Penance is truly an accomplished exercise in pure horror, the real horror of having someone come into your house late at night and putting you through Hell. It is unrelenting in its physical and psychological violence throughout its running time, so that by the end you may just find yourself taking a deep breath and telling yourself “Thank fuck that is over”! That is the highest compliment I can pay this movie. It is sick, depraved and even on the odd occasion humorous. But overall it is a very real horror movie that I recommend to anyone with a strong stomach. Do not watch it if you are easily offended as it will offend you.

Rating 3.5 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton