Tag Supernatural

Hellgate (1990)

Hellgate (1990)

Beyond the darkness terror lives forever.

A deserted mining town has become a shrine to the daughter of its only resident, Lucas. His daughter, Jessie, was brutally murdered years earlier and he became obsessed with her. Finding a powerful crystal which has the ability to bring the dead back to life, Lucas resurrected her and now uses her to lure people to their deaths in the town.

 

Hellgate is a film that’s so terrible that you’d really want to cry if you should waste your time watching it. It’s just so mind-numbingly shocking from start to finish and there’s not a shred of evidence on display to suggest that anyone had a clue what they were doing. Its silly 80s nonsense on the grandest scale with ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ thrown in for good measure. You can’t take it as a horror. You can’t take it as a comedy, despite my best efforts to laugh at everything stupid. It’s goofy and silly but unintentionally so and that’s a bad sign.

The plot is extremely confusing. In fact, too confusing to even try and go through as it hurts my brain just trying to work it all out. None of the characters in the film have a clue what is going on so what chance we have of piecing everything together I just don’t know. It’s as if the writers just watched a load of other films, thought that certain scenes would work well and decided to write them all into a script. As a result, there are no rules in Hellgate. So what causes instant death in one scene will then be pointless in the next. What happens to one character when they do something doesn’t happen the same way again when somebody else does it. It’s so hard to sit through because it’s bland and boring as well as confusing. Too much of it seems to be pointless as if the script was only half finished – the zombies wander around the ghost town of Hellgate doing little but make faces at the camera and there are a few characters in the film who seem geared up to do something worthwhile towards the finale but just end up being killed off before they have a chance to do anything.

The special effects look really dated and typically 80s. Expect lots of bright, multi-coloured beams of light when the crystal is used and lots of dry ice to blanket the town in fog. There’s just no atmosphere or tension at all and the effects just make the film look like some cheap 80s music video at times. The gore is tame and the body count is low. Lest we forget the mutated goldfish and killer turtle that both pop up later in the film or even the cheesy rubber bat that makes an appearance. Yes, despite going out of date back in the 1930s with Bela Lugosi and Dracula, the bat-on-a-string prop makes an appearance here.

Abigail Wolcott is the pick of the cast which is saying something as she’s a pretty terrible actress and delivers her lines like she’s reading them for the first time. But she only had to act with her chest and accomplished that quite well – the people concerned knew this and had her shed her clothes quite a lot. There’s a dude who looks like Gomez Addams, some pointless bikers and a 40 year old guy playing a college hero. Casting isn’t one of the film’s strengths. In fact there aren’t many strengths to be found at all here. There aren’t too many times when I really regret watching a film. Some films are at least watchable in a “so bad it’s good” way but Hellgate isn’t. It’s almost unwatchable and thankfully has been almost been forgotten about. It’s no surprise to see that most of the cast and crew haven’t had anything called a career both before and after this. If this were my only entry onto a film CV, I’d forget I ever wanted to be in the business and take up welding instead.

 

Hellgate isn’t just bad, it’s on the same ‘utterly terrible’ plane of existence as the likes of Troll and Raging Sharks. It’s not a film you can even watch if you’re curious about how awful it is. Just forget it ever existed.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Beneath Still Waters (2005)

Beneath Still Waters (2005)

Fear is rising.

In 1965 in Northern Spain, a new dam is to be built which will flood the small town of Marinbad forever. Two young boys cross over the security barriers to play in the abandoned town for one last time, inadvertently releasing a horrible evil force that was trapped there and doomed to be submerged underwater forever. Forty years later and Desbaria, the new town built to replace the old one, is celebrating the anniversary of the damn when weird things start to happen in the water. People are going missing. The dam is beginning to leak. It seems that the evil force beneath the water has resurfaced.

 

Beneath Still Waters is an absolute train wreck of a film. I honestly don’t know where to start. Some have good intentions but end up paying the price for their budgets or lack of originality. Some are just designed to fail from the start. Some, like this, just have the best of both worlds. It’s got a pretty decent budget by the looks of things and clearly has good intentions. But it looks as though they had five directors each doing their own thing before banding it all together at the end. Brian Yuzna, the director credited with this fiasco, must have been coked to the gills or stone drunk when he oversaw it.

Beneath Still Waters starts well – the opening is decent enough with the two boys playing in a semi-submerged town only to come across a bunch of people chained in a basement in a house. Then one of them stupidly sets the big scary-looking guy free and he shows him his thanks by ripping his head in two and eating him. Kudos to the filmmakers as you rarely see kids being harmed in horror films, let alone being brutalised like that. Unfortunately it’s at this point where the film just goes off in about ten different directions.

Not just content with the original story of the devil-worshipping cult being submerged underwater, we then get throat-ripping zombies appearing. We’ve got a dude who looks like The Tall Man from the Phantasm series barking orders to his minions and using magic powers. We’ve got black goo which attacks people like The Blob. We’ve got horribly deformed demonic creatures dragging people into the water. We’ve got ghosts warning about what is going to happen next. I mean how much can you cram in? It would have been good to have someone or something explain the connection to all of these occurrences. Someone thought “I’ve got a cool zombie scene to film” and they went ahead with it purely because it would cool to have it in the film.

As well as the above events happening, we also have a mayor who refuses to believe anything is happening because he doesn’t want his festival ruined (oh boy, I thought that old chestnut only came out during ‘monster on the loose’ flicks). We’ve got a spooky-looking caretaker who finds a bottle of scotch just floating around and starts drinking from it (like you do). There’s an amazingly hot chick who goes skinny dipping, only to come across her dead boyfriend and they proceed to have sex before he kills her. And there’s a massive orgy at the festival when the townspeople become possessed and start having sex with each other (and also having sex with cakes, lots of cakes). Added to all of this is the fact that the film is bloody. People get ripped apart constantly. They cut their own legs off. The make-up effects of the zombies and demons and stuff (whatever hell else wasn’t CGI) is top notch. But it’s just complete mayhem.

The cast are all pretty good actors in their own native language I am pretty sure. But apart from Michael McKell, it’s obvious that English isn’t their first language. So they talk as if they’re following one of those ‘learn to speak English in ten weeks’ tapes. I’ve seen some lame attempts at speaking English. Heck, I can cope with a few of the cast speaking like robots but when 99% of the cast talk in this manner, it’s just horrible. They unwittingly kill any emotions in their voices. They are devoid of any expressive speaking. I honestly can’t believe how annoying and ear-splitting it is to hear them reciting their lines. It pains me to hear them butcher the English language in that manner.

Their understanding of the script isn’t in question though, given how the script manages to twist, turn, reverse, fast forward and double take so many times. Maybe the script writer was the same guy who did the special effects. As I’ve already touched on, the physical make-up effects are top drawer. It’s the ropey CGI that leaves a lot to be desired. And I mean a lot. But like the rest of the film, one minute there’s something decent and the next it’s just organised chaos and sub-standard quality. I’m exhausted now and I probably haven’t even covered half of the things I wanted to.

 

Beneath Still Waters is just mayhem personified. Words can’t describe how chaotic this film really is. I don’t even know whether I should give it ten out of then or zero out of ten for it’s ‘against the rules’ behaviour. It’s totally and utterly bonkers. Madness or masterpiece? I can’t decide. You’ll have to see for yourself and decide.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Dead Wood (2007)

Dead Wood (2007)

4 Friends. 1 Stranger. No Hope

Four friends looking to escape the madness of the city head out into the woods for a peaceful camping trip. However events take a turn for the worst when a cold and frightened girl turns up at their camp site looking for her boyfriend. From then on, the idyllic weekend turns into a nightmare as the friends are stalked by a deadly force.

 

I got just a little taste of The Blair Witch Project when I had finished watching this. Whether that’is a good thing or a bad thing obviously depends on whether you liked The Blair Witch Project or not. For me it was a bit ho-hum and the same can be said about Dead Wood. It doesn’t do an awful lot in eighty-five minutes and isn’t really engrossing enough to warrant a repeat viewing. But there are one or two signs that some of the people involved here have some talent and a bigger budget may have helped matters dramatically.

It also helps that this is a British film which means that we do our own thing and don’t go with the times simply to cash-in on current trends. Torture porn is where it’s at the moment so it’s nice to see the UK horror scene is bucking the trend and just making whatever horror films it wants instead of rehashing Hostel or Saw like so many American filmmakers are content to do.

With a reasonably short running time, you’d expect the film to kick in pretty quickly but after the inevitable opening death scene to set the stall, the film drags its heels for what seems like forever. The characters trek off through the woods and the film is padded out by plenty of wildlife shots of weasels and deer. There’s even the token ‘we’ve got no mobile phone signal’ moment which every modern horror set in the middle of nowhere has decided to include. The characters seem very unnatural as if they were told to improvise their dialogue on the spot instead of rehearsing a script. You don’t really get to feel for any of them so when they start to disappear, you don’t miss them. Not a great deal happens even when the first person goes missing. They just wander around the woods aimlessly looking for a way out. I know it’s set in the woods but did they have to be walking/running through at almost every given moment?

Even when the ‘action’ kicks in the force starts picking them off one-by-one, the film never seems to have an urgency to pick up the pace. The story doesn’t really go into much detail about what is going on so you’re almost left to think for yourselves. Looking at it, Dead Wood just doesn’t get you involved in the film at all. There are no major hooks. The story doesn’t do a lot. The characters are just bland and dull. Suddenly the short running time of eighty-five minutes turns into a gruelling marathon of endurance and whether you can last until the end before you give up.

Actually you shouldn’t give up at the half-way stage. Despite clichés like shadowy outlines jerking across the camera, rustling trees in the woods to indicate something otherworldly is coming, flashlights going out at inappropriate moments, characters falling over when being chased, characters splitting up in the middle of nowhere, etc. there are a few moments of skill and vision. The up-close-and-personal camera work does add an element of panic to the stalking and chase scenes. Lots of close-ups of scared faces in the woods fill the end half of the film which totally reeks of The Blair Witch Project. Noises in the distance. Flashlights shining into the dark abyss of the woods looking for something. There’s even a few scenes borrowed from The Evil Dead in which the survivors find an old shack in the woods and barricade themselves in from the menace outside, which charges towards them in a nauseating The Evil Dead-style POV shot. I guess that I should be crediting the cameraman on The Evil Dead then for his fine work, not the plagiarist here.

The limited amount of special effects are excellent when they are used and it’s clear that with a bigger budget, more could have been made of this. The ‘deadly force’ has a tendency to absorb it’s victims into trees which leads to all manner of awesome moments of people being slowly turned into bark. In all honesty, these effects are that good that they deserve to be in a better film.

 

Dead Wood is quite simply an inferior cross-breed between The Evil Dead and The Blair Witch Project. I’m not trying to knock the hard work that has gone into an indie film like this but borrowing elements from two massively successful films isn’t going to make a decent flick. When you read highly positive reviews from across the world before you sit down to watch and it turns out this uninspired and dreary, it’s a big let down. Thankfully I’m here to set the record straight.

 

Spookies (1986)

Spookies (1986)

The ultimate in fright and fun

A group of teenagers looking for a party get trapped inside an old mansion by an evil sorcerer who needs human sacrifices to give eternal life to his bride. Inside, they are threatened by all manner of monsters and demons.

 

With the advent of home video and the successive increase in audiences during the 80s, perhaps no other genre came off better than that of the horror genre. In a manner of speaking, almost anyone with a camera and a bit of money could go out and make and film and then release it straight-to-video. It’s something we take for granted now and something to which the big studios have taken over once they adjusted to it. But back in the day there was an explosion of B-movie genre flicks, most of which have been consigned to the scrapheap of history. For avid horror buffs, this isn’t so much a scrapheap but a minefield. For every couple of hits you take, there’s always a little gem around the corner. Spookies can’t be considered such a gem but it’s a film which does more to personify the 80s B-movie market than most other films.

One of the most bizarre, disjointed horror films I’ve ever seen, Spookies is actually quite a hoot if you just sit back and see how much the makers of the film crammed into the house as ‘surprises.’ This one will leave you scratching your head in confusion, shaking your head in disgust and then nodding your head in delight. Think of it as walking through a haunted house ride at a fairground, taking you on a journey through the weird, the wonderful, the eerie and the scary. I actually prefer to think of Spookies as eighty five minutes of pure FX wizardry as opposed to an actual film. It’s like a tour-de-force of various monsters, demons, ghosts and ghouls as the cast of characters split up to explore the mansion with little structure to their adventure.

The characters are one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs. You know the type by now: joker, jock, slut, nerd, shy girl, bitch, etc. Spookies spends little time in letting us get to know them and even less time giving them worthwhile reasons to go to the mansion. As soon as they get to the mansion and split up, that’s where the fun begins. Trying to explain any form of plot would be pointless as nothing much makes sense from the opening scene right down to the ending. As I’ve said, it’s best to just sit back and take everything as it comes because as crazy as this is, you just never know what is around the next corner!

We’ve got zombies lurking in the graveyard outside, muck men who live in the basement, a spider woman, a possessed ouija board witch, statues of the Grim Reaper which come to life, imps and even more bizarre things which kill the cast one-by-one. Treading a fine line between being serious and being silly, Spookies mixes it up at every opportunity. So after one comedy scene in which the monsters are played for laughs, the next one will be deadly serious. The make-up effects for the monsters are exceptionally done. The transformation of the spider-woman is great, the Grim Reaper looks a bit comical but you won’t forget him in a hurry and the muck men, although flatulent creatures, are disgusting creations, aptly named after their revolting appearance. It’s clear where the budget for this one went. Literally anything and everything in the mansion is liable to come to life and try and harm the characters. And let me state one more time that there’s no point in trying to understand what and why – just let it happen and you’ll be better off for it.

*After writing this review, I did a little bit of research on the film and it turns out that it has a problematic history which explains many things. Spookies started life out as Twisted Souls in 1984 but for some reason it was shelved for a few years until a new director was brought in, new scenes were filmed and added to the existing footage and the result is what you see on the screen. No wonder the film is so disjointed! It’s not bad editing or a bad script when you’ve got three directors, each coming at the film from a completely different standpoint, each with different scripts, budgets, actors, etc. This explains why the film is such a continual contrast to itself and why nothing really seems to click together.

 

Spookies doesn’t hold up well as a proper feature film for obvious reasons. It seems too much of a patched together creation solely based around what make-up effects the FX team could come up with. But what FX! A tour-de-force of 80s horror at its most grandiose and most sublime, Spookies is as entertaining as it is infuriating!

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Headless Horseman (2007)

Headless Horseman (2007)

The Final Cut

A bunch of teenagers on a road trip decide to take a shortcut through the backwoods only to find themselves stranded in a town in the middle of nowhere. The town is celebrating it’s Headless Horseman anniversary but it isn’t long before the teenagers realise that the townspeople need to offer up seven heads to the headless horseman every seven years – and there are seven of them stranded in town!

 

Sleepy Hollow meets 2001 Maniacs in this rather plain supernatural slasher film. Headless Horseman is another Sci-Fi Channel flick and was made to be broadcast debut on the channel so expect as much as gore as you could get away with on TV (ie. not much), no nudity, the generic slasher script and the usual array of cannon fodder teenagers that the film is aimed at. Most of the Sci-Fi Channel flicks are pretty average, bordering on dreadful with the odd exception to the rule (Abominable was a decent effort to name one) so how would Headless Horseman stand up? Given that everyone has heard of the tale of the Headless Horseman from Washington Irving thanks to his more famous story Sleepy Hollow, there’s not a lot new to really cover. There’s a supernatural dude without a head who goes around cutting other people head’s off. However with the direction in which director Anthony C. Ferrante takes the material, you could have had any number of unnamed guys in masks killing the teenagers off.

The characters are stock: the joker, bitchy girlfriend, nerd, etc. and they might as well have been tagged with the order of their deaths. You know once in a while it may be nice for a film to swerve us and actually kill off different people first and leave the jocks and black people until the end! This bunch of characters is very unappealing and it says something that the dumb girlfriend is the best of the bunch. She actually gets a lot of decent throwaway lines that play off her stupidity. But at the end of the day, when you have bad actors in bad roles, you can’t really paper over the cracks can you? It wouldn’t surprise me to hear any of the actors in this say that it was the best role they ever played – possibly because (hopefully) for most of them, this is their only role!

Even the creepy hicks in the town just live up to stereotyping with the grizzled shopkeeper, some inbred-looking brothers and various other characters with Grizzly Adams-style beards. I simply can’t believe how many times I moan on about the characters in slasher films but time and time again, writers just serve up the same annoying cut-outs. Wes Craven veered off the beaten path with his unique characters in Scream and look at the response that got. I’m just begging someone to show an ounce of creativity and change the characters around for a change. Give them some intelligence so that they make logical decisions, not just hang around to be killed.

On the positive side though, the headless horseman is given plenty of screen time. Sometimes he sports a flaming pumpkin for a head; other times he just lets bloody veins sprout out of his neck. He is pretty bad ass and you do get a sense of dread when he was around. The film is better for it because too many TV movies just relegate their main attraction to a supporting role for budget reasons. Here, the horseman is the boss of the town and he throws himself around in great abundance. There is plenty of gore too and the beheadings are all pretty slick. To say it was made for TV, the level of creativity and skill involved in them is on par with some the lower budget theatrical releases I’ve watched.

 

Overall though, Headless Horseman is a run-of-the-mill slasher film with little or no remarkable qualities about it. Even the horseman can’t save this sorry mess of clichés from the scrap heap after the opening few minutes. Definitely not one to lose your head over!

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992)

Children of the Corn 2: The Final Sacrifice (1992)

These children are home alone ,too. But their parents won’t be coming back.

After the children of the secluded town of Gatlin slaughtered all of their parents, an tabloid reporter and his son arrive to investigate. They find out that the neighbouring town agreed to foster the orphaned children but it’s not long before they return to their murderous ways to appease ‘He Who Walks Behind The Rows.’

 

The original short story by Stephen King was hardly long enough (or good enough for that matter) to be fleshed out into a feature film which it was with Children of the Corn. To see not just one but six sequels and a remake is somewhat staggering given how average the original was. Funnily enough, it is still one of King’s most famous adaptations and what is weird is that it took eight years for a sequel to come about. I don’t know whether an employee was just ploughing through the vaults one day looking for random films to sequelize and came upon the original but cash cows are normally milked long before they’re mature in Hollywood. Whatever the reason there is no doubt that this is a sequel which should never have been made but one which has and one which continues to contribute to the bad name of sequels. The original was hardly a classic – this sequel is instantly forgettable.

Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice is virtually the same film as the original with simply different leading characters and it is set in a different town. It picks up shortly after the original ends but takes liberties with the ending, opting to forget about the surviving adults and conveniently replacing some of the child actors with lesser-talented replacements (let’s face it, after eight years the children from the original would have been way too old to be reprising their roles). These new child actors share none of the villainous characteristics of some of the original children, ending up as mere drones and bringers of death. The mildly eerie and unsettling nature of the original has been replaced by a film that has more in common with an out-and-out slasher flick than anything else. Simply replace Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees with this bunch of demented kids and you have almost the same type of film. The film seems to be a thinly-plotted sequence of death set pieces much akin to a slasher. There’s way more on-screen violence and the death sequences are way more elaborate than they should be given that we’re dealing with killer children. In a couple of highlights, an old lady has her electric wheelchair controlled by the children who direct her into the path of a truck. There’s also a bizarre Wizard of Oz moment as another old lady (jeez these kids have it in for the pensioners in this one) is killed when her house crushes her like the Wicked Witch of the East.

The trouble is that because it’s a direct sequel, there’s already a story to follow and this picks up directly after the original. So it’s a tad idiotic to see the children all standing around dressed in Amish get-up with blank expressions on their faces when the authorities arrive in the town of Gatlin to kick off the film. At no point does anyone even consider that the children had anything to do with the killings and instead of investigating the matter further, the children are simply shipped into new homes within days of the massacre. I’m not a police officer but if I had no major clues and a bunch of weird, expressionless children standing around a ghost town, then I would be thinking that all bets are off and anything was possible.

This sequel makes no attempt to explain ‘He Who Walks Behind the Rows’ and I assume that it is simply the MacGuffin needed to get the children on a killing spree. The laziness of the script extends to the other plot clichés to which it panders. We’ve got the ‘dad who wasn’t there for his son when he was younger and now his son hates him’ sub plot which gives us the inevitable sequence where said son confronts his father about it. You’re a little too late kiddo. I should have turned it off there but it gets worse as the only single father, single son combination in the town inexplicably hits it off with the only single mother and daughter combo in the town. Highly convenient! It’s dreadful character development and the love affair only puts the cherry on the top of the overall pathetic rehash of the original story.

 

Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice is a poor sequel, not even worthy of being a guilty pleasure. It’s so run-of-the-mill that the story of these killer children overstays its welcome within the first two films – and there were far more to come. Certainly someone in the money was working for ‘He Who Walks Behind the Rows.’

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Something Beneath (2007)

Something Beneath (2007)

Evil Lurks In The Most Unlikely Of Places

A group of people attend an ecological conference at a newly built conference centre where the guests realise that there is black slime oozing from the taps instead of water. This black slime is an evil toxic agent which makes the guests biggest fears become reality and they begin to die as a result. The greedy hotel manager knows how financially important this conference is to his hotel and begins to cover-up the events. But a priest staying at the hotel realises that something is up and begins to investigate. He eventually uncovers a sinister organism in the sewers that preys on human fears and uses the slime to lure people to their deaths.

 

That’s about as good as I’ll be able to explain the story because it’s pretty much non-existent. I thought that this was going to be some sort of The Blob style creature feature. After all, it’s a Sci-Fi Channel original and we know their track record of pilfering monster flicks of the past. It’s actually nice to see them do a sci-fi-horror film without a giant snake, giant crocodile, giant prehistoric monster, killer shark or any of the usual suspects that they tend to trot out. Although in many respects, I wished they had have done because, despite featuring something other than your flesh-and-blood monster, Something Beneath ends up in exactly the same dead end as it’s fellow TV films.

I’d like to state that at no point in proceedings does the gooey substance grab some chick like it does on the front cover. Nor does the hand reaching out of the reservoir on the back cover make an appearance. You can understand why memories of The Blob came flooding back when I saw those images. The slime does ooze around the screen a lot and does a lot of dripping and running along tiles and porcelain but that’s hardly pant-wettingly scary stuff is it? The slime starts off rather interesting as a monster when you think it’s going to do what the front cover promises but once it’s explained as some new species which can think for itself it loses any sort of fear factor it had (it didn’t have a fear factor to begin with, it just seemed like a good line to use). The slime kills people by forcing it’s victims to hallucinate and think that they are confronting whatever their worst fear is. So they obviously came up with people that have the single worst fears in the world to avoid showing anything remotely exciting or expensive. If you’re scared of a flying walrus which shoots out fire breath and commands an army of ravenous pigeons, then you wouldn’t be allowed into this hotel. A man is chased by a bulldozer on a construction site in the opening scene – this is the extent of the fears that the characters have here. Things that would have been on set anyway and they make use of them!

Apart from said bulldozer chase and eventual decapitation (come on, it’s the opening scene and these films always open with a bang), there’s little gore to be had in the film as most of the deaths take place off screen. You see not only does the slime make it’s victims imagine they are facing their fears, the film makes it’s audience imagine that there’s a lot more going on than there actually is.

Something Beneath takes a while to get going and even then it never really gets into any sort of gear. It only picks up in the final third when a group of people finally head down into the sewers to confront the slime creature, which has now grown itself a head and tentacles and is brought to unrealistic life by some shoddy CGI work. Cue the obligatory climactic tussle between good and evil which culminates in possibly the worst way to kill off a monster in many a year.

Something Beneath has also got Hercules himself, Kevin Sorbo, as a priest! What sort of moronic casting director made that decision? I’m not knocking Sorbo as he’s the best thing in here by a mile, giving us character a lot of depth, warmth and likeability. He’s turned into a reliable hand in TV movies and is coming along reasonably well as an actor. But a 6′ 3″ mountain of a man as a priest? I’m not too sure that casting a PRIEST as the MALE ROMANTIC LOVE INTEREST in a horror film was such a good idea either. Apart from an irritating Paris Hilton wannabe, the cast and characters aren’t exactly bottom grade junk. It’s a pity that there just do little other than talk about what is going on and then do a lot of wandering around the hotel looking for clues.

 

Something Beneath is a below mediocre TV movie which is almost total rubbish if it hadn’t been for Kevin Sorbo. Not content with saving the lives of damsels in distress and desperate villagers in Hercules, he’s now saving dire TV movies just by starring in them. However unless you have a desperate urge to watch every film he’s in or have a crush on him, then go and get your gooey, slimy creature feature frights from somewhere else.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Boogeyman 3 (2008)

Boogeyman 3 (2008)

She left for college and terror followed

Psychology student Sarah witnesses the alleged suicide of her roommate, Audrey, but after reading through some books that Audrey’s late father left her, she believes that she was actually murdered by the Boogeyman. Sarah has impossible task in trying to get everyone to believe her as they think she’s still suffering from her own mother’s suicide. But as her friends begin to die in mysterious ways, Sarah realises that she alone must stop the Boogeyman.

 

Straight-to-DVD horror sequels are the norm now as studios attempt to milk every last penny from ‘named’ franchises. Wrong Turn, Anaconda and The Grudge are to name a few big budget films which have spawned, well franchises on the straight-to-DVD market. Following the rules of ever-diminishing creativity and budgets, these films usually recycle the same plot over and over again with a new cast and crew and less favourable reviews. Bizarrely enough, the Boogeyman series must be the only franchise which seems to get better with every entry. I loathe the original Boogeyman and proclaimed that it was everything wrong with modern horror when it was released. The first sequel, the imaginatively-titled Boogeyman 2, turned into more of a slasher film which lacked originality but was still entertaining enough in its own right. Now we have the even more imaginatively-titled Boogeyman 3 (when do we get the semi-colons and sub-title?) which despite trying to milk as much out of the Boogeyman name as it can, is even better than the last one.

I can’t really explain why this series has suddenly found itself on DVD. Maybe it’s because the producers can up the stakes a little bit. The original was a tame, feeble affair with a lower age rating, theoretically meaning more cash in the till (the film actually has to be good for people to go and see it though!). On DVD, there are fewer boundaries. The producers, directors and writers are now able to pander to the horror market and up the ante with blood and gore and get away with it. There’s little in the way of style or substance in this sequel. It’s by-the-numbers to the tee.

Boogeyman 3 isn’t going to be the worst film you’re likely to see: it’s just not memorable in the slightest. You’ll have seen the exact set-up in dozens of other films. This second sequel sees a return to the more supernatural elements of the first film but it’s almost a re-run of the same events of the first sequel. Instead of a mental asylum, this time it’s a college dorm. Since the majority of the film is shot here, you’d almost think that the characters were permanently locked in the building. The bland corridors, the sparse bedrooms and the general lack of people walking around makes it look like the least fun college dorm you’d ever want to live in.

It’s the classic A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors set-up that the first sequel used, filled with the usual gang of caricatures including stoners, bimbos, etc. The characters may be groan-inducing but at least some of the cast are appealing and likeable, specifically Erin Cahill in the lead role. Not only is she cute but she’s easy to root for so immediately we have a connection with what is going on.

The Boogeyman doesn’t look scary in the slightest. He’s your average Goth-looking dude with long hair who likes popping out of closets. The flesh-and-blood approach instead of a CGI creature gives him more of a physical presence but ultimately makes him look more human and less scary. His back story isn’t fleshed out very well and characters mention his name a lot but little is eventually revealed. It’s ironic then that this second sequel is the only film of the three to really focus on the Boogeyman as the main villain. He gets a lot of screen time (inevitable in any sequel) and is made out to be quite a threat to the characters. The film backs this up with a decent body count. There’s enough creativity in the death scenes with victims being crammed into small trunks and an effective demise involving a washing machine and the laundry room. The deaths get crazier and more off-beat as the film goes on. There’s a ton of blood on show here, mainly during the aforementioned laundry room scene but it’s mainly CGI which is a big shame and the effects let down the film on more than one occasion.

 

Boogeyman 3 is another reasonable sequel which improves on it’s predecessors to deliver some cheap scares and blood. I can’t really recommend it because it’s so formulaic and predictable but it’s competently made and is the best of the series to date. If they keep going at this rate of progress, the tenth sequel may get full marks.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

City of the Living Dead (1980)

City of the Living Dead (1980)

The Dead Shall Rise And Walk The Earth

In the town of Dunwich, a priest commits suicide which opens the gates of Hell and sets about a terrifying chain reaction of events which, if unstopped, will lead to the dead rising up from the grave. A psychic in New York has the terrible vision of these gates opening and, with the help of a reporter, heads to Dunwich to investigate.

 

The first entry in infamous Italian director Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell Trilogy, City of the Living Dead is like the marmite of horror films. You’re either going to love it for it’s outlandish approach and the gory set pieces or you’re going to hate it because it makes not a blind bit of sense and can be hard to follow at times. There’s little in the way of middle ground here but I’m going to try and take it, although I don’t quite get the love for City of the Living Dead as I do for some of Fulci’s other films. Heavily censored for many years in the UK because of its content in the wake of the ‘video nasties’ scandal, it wasn’t released uncut until 2001 but now everyone is able to enjoy this in its original form.

Let’s get the awesome stuff out of the way with first though. I’d question anyone who says that this doesn’t ooze some ether-worldly atmosphere. City of the Living Dead reeks of doom from the opening scene with the village of Dunwich alternating between gusty winds and being drenched in fog. The atmosphere is constantly brooding, with Fabio Frizz’s superbly-ominous soundtrack highlighting the impending terror that will be unleashed upon the Earth. It’s a living nightmare, with each frame of the film ready to burst out from the screen and grab a hold of the audience. There’s always unease and always the feeling that something nasty is literally just around the corner. And this is usually the case, with a variety of zombies which seem to appear and disappear at random (one of many plot holes) as well as the priest, who has now turned into some kind of demonic preacher who can make eyes bleed through his gaze. They didn’t call Fulci ‘The Godfather of Gore’ for no reason and City of the Living Dead contains some of his most memorable moments as the nightmare comes to horrifying reality for some of the characters. We’ve got a couple of unlucky victims who have their brains ripped out by having their heads crushed and there’s the aforementioned eye-bleeding moments.

It is the film’s two major gore set pieces  that are some of the most visually-disgusting but outstandingly-produced set pieces you’re ever likely to see. The first involves a girl puking up her entire digestive system and intestines out through her mouth – it needs to be seen to be believed if you can ‘stomach’ it. The second involves a pervert having a drill slowly inserted into the side of his head by an overly-protective father who thought he was trying it on with his daughter. The scene looks frighteningly realistic and total credit must go to the special effects team who give the illusion that everything witnessed is a continual shot. Possibly the most effective shock scene in the film is the one which doesn’t need gore to work and that’s when Catriona MacColl’s psychic character is presumed dead at the beginning of the film and buried alive. Anyone with a remote fear of this should be advised to stay well as its claustrophobic and unsettling in its depiction.

But this is where the problem lies and it’s a common theme across Fulci’s output. The film makes little sense. I can understand the film working as a simple collage of nightmarish visions designed to replicate the randomness of dreams but he could at least make an effort to get everything to gel better than it does. Literally all the story you need to know is from the opening ten minutes or so when the priest hangs himself and then the physic tells everyone that the gates of Hell have been opened. City of the Living Dead seems to just go on that bone alone and it’s not enough to really keep it from struggling along at times, especially when there’s nothing supernatural happening on screen. The flimsy story simply serves as a loose connection to a series of gruesome set pieces. We never find out why one man’s decision to take his own life spells death for the rest of humanity. We never know why these zombies are able to transport in and out of locations at will. The ending also makes no sense whatsoever – understandable given that they ran out of time to do re-shoots – but I can only review what’s in front of me! And as an end product, the final ‘twist’ in the film is ridiculous. No more so than the characters that have just survived a confrontation with the undead priest.

Speaking of which, the characters suffer from the same fate as the story in that they’re thinly-written and poorly constructed. Both Catriona MacColl and Christopher George do alright in their roles but they play second fiddle to the horrors around them and the robotic dialogue does them little favours. They’ve also clearly had to re-dub their voices over the soundtrack which adds a bit of jarring to the sound, especially when some of the dubbing is a little over-the-top. They’re the only standouts from the cast which features many unnecessary minor characters who serve little purpose other than clog up the screen and provide extra ammunition for the zombies to rip apart (for instance the whole sub-plot with the pervert could have been easily removed).

 

I’ll go out on a limb and advise people to check out Fulci’s far superior Zombie Flesh Eaters (to give it the UK title) before they decide whether they want to venture into his other works. City the Living Dead works purely as a nightmarish journey with some excellent imagery, an amazing mood and some of horror’s finest gore moments. But aside from the gruesome gloss, there’s little substance and I’m sure you could tear the film apart if you tried to piece it all together coherently.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, A (1989)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5; The Dream Child (1989)

It’s A Boy!

After being defeated by the dream master, Freddy decides to try something different to get to her. He uses the dreams of her unborn child to kill off her friends and attempts to return to life through him.

 

After A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors produced a hit formula with the right mix of scares and special effects, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the series stuck to the same tactic. But even then, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master didn’t strike the same notes, becoming more gimmicky, more self-aware and, sadly enough, more 80s. Cheesy comedy, dated special effects and pop culture references galore dogged the film. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child doesn’t even attempt to reverse that trend, continuing the self-destructive path with even more daft gimmicks and self-awareness.

Arguably the worst entry in the series, this sequel continues the downward spiral that began with the previous film. It’s an effects-driven slasher where the main focus of the story is driven towards creating as many innovative as set pieces as possible and trying to string them together with a flimsy plot. There’s a sad lack of focus on what made this series so great in the first place.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child is repetitive and silly drivel which does exactly the sort of things that screw franchises up. The main factor is the use of Freddy Krueger. Granted he was starting to turn into a cartoon villain in the third film with his use of one-liners but he was still reasonably scary and malicious. He’s come a long way from the cruel and demonic killer in the original to more of a sadistic Japanese game show host! I’m not knocking Robert Englund’s performance as Freddy. He’s the only constant of the series and he’s brilliant in each one. But he can only bring to life whatever character is written down on paper and, as we saw from the first one and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Englund can hit ‘serious Freddy’ down to a tee when he needs to. It’s a pity that most of the sequels turn him into a campy buffoon, only happy to gloat, crack jokes and mess around at his victim’s expense. Some of his one-liners are downright terrible and I bet even back in 1989 they were frowned upon with disdain.

I guess I could tolerate this version of the character even more if he wasn’t on the screen as much. He was a background player in the original, content to lurk in the background waiting for people to go to sleep. But as the sequels increased, so did his screen time. Now the films are focused on him, not the characters he’s killing off. We’re treated to more back story of how Freddy came to be – another downfall of horror sequels which attempt to flesh out back stories and just end up confusing the audience and watering down their main antagonist (I mean look at what they did to Michael Myers, turning him into some sort of Druid-like enforcer). Freddy’s family history is now more intricate and confusing than ever before with flashbacks to his nun mother and conception. But whilst the writers attempt to flesh out his character, they must have ran out of time in trying to figure out a decent way to resurrect him, giving him another lazy rebirth which will just have you shrugging your shoulders.

I do think that the story had potential as Freddy uses Alice’s unborn baby to haunt her dreams. It’s a clever twist on the usual Nightmare story as Freddy is unable to get into the Dream Master’s mind and needs to find other ways to do it so uses her unborn baby as a conduit. But in all honesty, the plot is just a weak excuse for more carnage. I mean how many friends can one person have? The character of Alice Johnson has a seemingly endless supply of friends in this film and the previous one. You would have thought that after most of her friends died previously under mysterious circumstances, no one else would dare to be her friend for fear of sharing the same fate – she must be cursed or something!

But here she has made a whole host of new friends only too willing to be destroyed in highly imaginative set pieces. Elaborate kills this time around include one motorcycle rider melding into his bike as he’s riding it and a teenager being drawn into a comic book before the paper he’s trapped in is slashed to pieces. The worst sequence involves Freddy force feeding a teenager until she’s extremely fat. The special effects might have been cutting edge back in the mid-80s but nowadays they look extremely dated. Even Freddy’s facial make-up looks to have been softened so that he doesn’t look as sinister. But this softened approach is just a damning indictment of the overall film.

 

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child is a stale, ultimately shallow effects driven sequel which drove another nail in the coffin of the franchise. The effects have dated as bad as the 80s wardrobes and soundtrack. Even die-hard fans of the series will be hard-pressed to find much of worth in this one.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆