Tag Cannibals

Leatherface (2017)

Leatherface (2017)

Witness the beginning of your end.

Teenager Jed Sawyer escapes from a mental hospital with three other inmates, kidnapping a young nurse and taking her on a road trip from hell, while being pursued by a lawman out for revenge.


Did anyone really ask for this? I mean was there a massive clamour for people to get another origin story for one of cinema’s most iconic horror characters? We already had, the admittedly weak, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning which didn’t do a particularly good job of the origin stuff and left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth. Now with eight films in a franchise that has zero continuity, Leatherface comes along to try and shake things up once more.

The last entry in the franchise, Texas Chainsaw 3D, was woeful and pointless enough to exist as it did, so there was no need for yet another film featuring everyone’s favourite face-wearing, chainsaw-wielding psychopath. Serving as a direct prequel to the original 1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre rather than any previous sequel or part of the modern remake universe, Leatherface pans out more like a bad road movie, with Leatherface tagging along with some other psychos escaped from a mental hospital, and ending up crossing over into Rob Zombie ‘white trash’ territory with a dash of Natural Born Killers thrown in for good measure. It’s utterly uninspiring and a total wasted opportunity.

For a film that is titled Leatherface and is meant to be about Leatherface, you don’t get to spend much time with him throughout the film. The writers purposely try to keep which of the characters turns into Leatherface a mystery for the audience, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you couldn’t spot the obvious from the first time they appear on screen. The focus always seems to be on other characters, though given how poorly Leatherface is presented here, maybe that’s not such a bad thing that they didn’t make him the focal point. Hooper’s version of Leatherface back in 1974 deserved a more twisted, vile origin story than the one we’re presented with here – one has to question whether this was simply designed as a ‘clean sweep’ reboot to kick off a new series of films unshackled by the restraints of previous instalments. However, little of the material we’re presented with over the course of the film gives us any further insight into how Jed becomes Leatherface.

Don’t expect to see the trademark get-up till the end of the film – Leatherface, for the most part here, is a gormless teenager, as far detached from the classic horror icon as he can be. Just like Rob Zombie did with Michael Myers in his version of Halloween by showing us his infant days, and even what George Lucas did to Darth Vader by showing us whiny teenager Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels, French directing duo Maury and Bustillo kill any sort of integrity and fear factor that Leatherface may still have had by showing us this watered-down pre-mask version. I come to a Texas Chain Saw Massacre film to see fully-grown and angry Leatherface causing carnage; not some depressing silent emo kid version. It’s so easy to forget that this is actually a Texas Chain Saw Massacre film, such is the change in direction it takes the standard franchise narrative. You could give the makers of the film some props for attempting something different instead of just rehashing the same backwoods formula – but you’d only give them those props if this was even half-decent, and it’s not.

The film does pick up steam when Leatherface is ‘born’ and the narrative drifts into familiar territory in the final fifteen minutes, which will no doubt leave you thinking why they just didn’t stick with this approach all the way through. The chainsaw comes into play which finally gives us a couple of trademark gory kills, but it hardly matters by this point. Most of the gruesome moments involve bad taste scenes such a sex sequence on top of a rotting corpse. As the rest of the film exists as an almost unconnected separate entity, you’ve most likely disengaged with the story and are simply going through the motions waiting for it to end.

The older cast members do their bit to keep the film ticking over. Stephen Dorff is a good watch whenever he’s in a snarling, psycho character mode as proven with his great turn back in Blade and he steals the show as the obsessive sheriff, reminding me a lot of Dennis Hopper’s ‘Lefty’ from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Lily Taylor, as the Sawyer family matriarch, also does what she can to chew the scenery. But they’re not likeable characters and the film has a dearth of people you want to get behind – the main group consisting of the escaped inmates are wholly unlikeable. It’s almost as if the film tries to make the future Leatherface the most sympathetic character here by surrounding him with some of the worst, most despicable kinds of characters imaginable. It doesn’t work to generate any empathy, only confusion and anger that such a notoriously deranged maniac from film lore has been given a free licence purely because he was brought up in a culture of hate and violence.


The worst film in the franchise to date (and that’s saying something considering the steaming pile of horse manure that was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation), Leatherface doesn’t just do a bad job of messing up what should have been a simple and straightforward back story but it also fails on many levels as a standalone horror film. A completely pointless franchise entry which does more harm than good.





Colony, The (2013)

The Colony (2013)

When the earth froze, the rules of survival changed forever.

By the year 2045, humanity has been forced to live in huge underground bunkers, known as Colonies, due to the onset of a new harsh Ice Age which wiped out the bulk of the world’s population. The survivors face troubles controlling disease and food supplies – anyone with so much as a cough is placed into quarantine after a bout of flu could decimate a colony. After receiving a distress call from Colony 5, a group from Colony 7 make the perilous trek to the colony to establish what happened. There, they discover that the colony received a message from another group of people who claim to have fixed a weather machine and have started thawing the snow. The team return to Colony 5, without realising that a group of hungry cannibals have followed their tracks and now lay siege to the bunker.


In many respects, The Colony reminded me a lot of 30 Days of Night – both films featuring decent build-ups in desolate, snowy landscapes and then both falling apart reasonably quickly once the main threat has been established. Fortunately for 30 Days of Night, the film was at least gory and not afraid to splash the blood. The Colony starts out with great promise but fizzles out with a juddering tonal shift when they cross the cannibals. There was a vision here for something a bit grander in scale, but the low budget keeps the impressive ideas in the development phase, rendering the film rather generic and tame.

The post-apocalyptic future is well-presented here within the first fifteen minutes, with the eternal snowy landscapes invoking thoughts of The Thing and its harsh Antarctic isolation, and the underground bunkers and ramshackle way of life being very similar to something you’d find in The Walking Dead. The CGI used for the outdoor scenes is pretty impressive, albeit aided by the fact that the majority of the green screen is filled up with snowstorms. Scenes of the team crossing a frozen bridge provide the effects department with some excellent opportunities to showcase the reality of the situation the characters find themselves in. They have a very ‘Game of Thrones north-of-the-Wall’ type of atmosphere of constant biting cold and overriding evil dread just around the corner. It also helps that the production team were allowed access to a decommissioned NORAD facility in Canada, giving the colonies themselves a far greater sense of realism than the budget would otherwise have allowed. We get a glimpse into the lives that the survivors of this new ice age have had to adapt to, both is only a glimpse and we never become fully immersed into this futuristic setting before the film shifts gears.

The limited creative juices are quick to run out when the film moves into more traditional sci-fi horror territory. The team reach Colony 5, discover just what happened and then make a hasty retreat before things get too hairy. There’s some effective atmosphere as the team search around the now-abandoned colony but once the gang of cannibals make their presence felt, the film doesn’t know what direction to go in. There must be something about gangs of these mutants/cannibals/vampires and their leaders who growl, snarl and scream loudly every time the camera goes on them in films like this – Ghosts of Mars and 30 Days of Night being two of the biggest offenders. The cannibals are simply faceless villains, able-bodied minions designed to be thrown into a number of generic action sequences where the heroes shoot, scrap and struggle to survive. If you’ve seen them or any other ‘under siege’ style horror flick, then you’ll be in familiar territory in the second half of the film, where a bunch of the thinly-developed survivors are killed off, as well as a few extras who were loitering in the background the majority of the time. The problem here is that it’s not gory or violent enough for hardened horror veterans who no doubt will be making up the majority of the paying audience. There’s a big build-up but as soon as the cannibals start to attack Colony 7, it’s all very anti-climactic. The running time of ninety-five minutes doesn’t drag but considering how much time is spent building up the cannibal threat and the trip to and from Colony 5, you’d expect there to be more punch when it matters. The ending smacks of being rushed at the last minute – “You’ve got a minute of screen time left to round up the narrative” springs to mind.

Heavyweights Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton star as the feuding leaders of Colony 7 but both are woefully underused. Paxton fares the better out of the two and the film is more powerful during the opening third when they share plenty of screen time, stares and solemn speeches about how best to survive. In fact, with the murkiness of the corridors, the frenzied action scenes and Paxton looking increasingly worried, Aliens sprung to mind – The Colony plays out too seriously for self-awareness, but I’d have loved some throwaway line referencing one of Pvt. Hudson’s classic lines. Kevin Zegers has to carry the film for the most part and does alright, though his bland vanilla hero could have been played by any young male actor.


I’m not sure whether this was geared towards a sequel, with the ending being a little open-ended but The Colony would have made for a better mini-series than a full-blown feature. There are enough decent ideas floating around the production values belay the limited budget, its just that it falters badly right when it needs to be kicking into gear. A fair timewaster at best but don’t expect to be blown away by anything on offer.





Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines (2012)

Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines (2012)

Fear will consume you

A group of teenage friends head off to the Mountain Man Festival on Halloween but get more than they bargained for when they almost run down a stranger on the way. Looking to help him, the stranger attacks the teenagers but they choose the wrong time to fight back as the local sheriff turns up and arrests them all. Once locked up, the stranger is revealed to have been on the run for thirty years for murder. What’s even worse is that his cannibal family know that he’s been imprisoned and are heading to the police station to free him by any means necessary.


Director Declan O’Brien is back to helm his third entry into the series and just when I thought he’d picked up the slack with Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, things degenerate here back to the way that Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead was headed. Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines sadly sees the series limp back a little towards the doldrums after the enjoyable antics of the previous film.

Filmed in 19 days on a studio lot in Bulgaria, it reeks of cheapness from the opening minutes. Gone is the glossy, polished look that the last one had (and which belied its actual budget) and we’re now squarely in the straight-to-DVD quality zone. You know the type of film and can tell by the grainy look of it that this wasn’t made to showcase some serious coin on the screen. Even the make-up and masks that the hillbillies wear seems to have been purchased at the local fancy dress shop.

Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines is like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Meets Assault on Precinct 13, though don’t let that comparison lull you in to a false of security. The Assault on Precinct 13 idea fails to manifest itself in the way it apparently sets itself up as and as for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre comparisons – psychotic giggling hillbillies who carve up and eat American teenagers – is the only real point of similarity. Considering that the purpose of the group is to break their father-figure out of prison, they sure as hell take their time, attacking and killing everyone that goes out of their way to fall into their clutches. Every scene that the cannibals are not on the screen just serves as filler for their next appearance and assault on an unlucky victim. It’s stale writing and also stupid – the characters continue to bail on the best-defended building in the entire town to go outside for various reasons.

To say that this town is supposed to be teaming with tourists for the Mountain Man Festival, it’s a ghost town and considering all of the gunshots, car crashes and explosions going on, there’s not a soul to be seen. It’s clearly a cheap studio backlot with plywood buildings and which features one or two smaller sets such as the jail and that’s about it. You’ll wish for the return of the abandoned asylum from the last one. Budgetary reasons are obviously to blame here but then surely the script writer needed to work around this by making the plot at least reasonably believable.

One of the main issues I have with this one is how smart and cunning the cannibals have seemingly become since the earlier films. Not only content with isolating the town by cutting off the phones and then taking out the electricity in two separate incidents, they seem to have been learning a thing or two from Jigsaw from the Saw franchise as their methods of execution seem to get more complex in every films. Cooking characters alive in a flaming barrel, tying them to the back of a pick-up and then smashing their knees into a pulp, crucifying victims in mid-air with electrical cables or even digging a hole in the ground, burying one victim up to the head and then running them over with a thresher – not exactly ways to execute people quickly and they would have taken some copious planning. Whilst the kills are all creative, the gore looks to be a little on the cheaper side than previous sequels but I think that’s just how the film looks on screen.

Horror legend Doug Bradley, most famous for portraying the sadistic Cenobite Pinhead from the Hellraiser films, gets to play a human role for a change. He’s in virtual Pinhead mode here, snarling off a load of lines to his potential victims in an attempt to intimidate them. Chewing the scenery every time he opens his mouth, Bradley gets annoying rather quickly, though he does manage to back up his threats with actions. Once again, the ‘teenage’ cast does little to make themselves stand out from the crowd – I couldn’t even remember the names of most of them.  British actress Camilla Arfwedson looks far too young and way too pretty to be a sheriff and does what little she can with the one-dimensional role.

One final gripe I have with this is in the ending. Yes, if you’re a follower of the series you’ll know that they end pretty much the same way (**SPOILERS – the cannibals survive whereas the teenagers don’t END SPOILERS**)            but the finale to this one kind of left a sour taste in my mouth. There’s no major resolution. There’s no final showdown. It reminded me of an episode of Game of Thrones where all of the bad guys walk away grinning, leaving our heroes dead or dying. The set-up for another sequel is evident with the closing scenes.


Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines still has some decent moments and delivers everything that you’d expect from a fourth horror sequel: plenty of carnage, buckets of blood, a few boobs for good measure and some cackling cannibal hillbillies. Like going to your tried and trusted pair of trainers when heading out for a run, it’s a familiar option which is well-worn now and making you want to get something new. Yeah, it’s a poor comparison but I’m running out of stuff to say when a film is this generic.





Green Inferno, The (2015)

The Green Inferno (2015)

Fear will eat you alive

College freshman Justine joins a group of conservation activists heading down to the Amazon to fight off some greedy land developers who are threatening the existence of one of the indigenous tribes. The protest goes wrong and the activists are bundled straight onto a plane out of Peru. Unfortunately, the plane develops a fault and crash-lands in the jungle. Taken captive by one of the tribes they were trying to protect, Justine and her friends realise that they are now in the clutches of cannibals – and they’re next on the menu.


Eli Roth’s love-it-or-hate-it throwback to the Italian exploitation flicks of the 70s and 80s, you’ll only really ‘get’ The Green Inferno if you’ve had the courage to sit through one of the numerous cannibal flicks such as Cannibal Holocaust or Cannibal Ferox that have inspired him – The Green Inferno is actually one of Cannibal Holocaust II’s alternative titles. Generally tough to watch, even for seasoned horror veterans, these cannibal films included all manner of gruesome splatter sequences but, more disgustingly, some actual animal violence. Try watching the unedited version of Cannibal Holocaust where a real turtle is killed and ripped open without feeling queasy – it’s a difficult ask. But those films were a product of their time, where messed-up Italian directors gorged on guts and gore for a living and churned out some of the most extreme films ever made. It’s pretty ridiculous to even think that something as exploitative as The Green Inferno could make it to cinemas in 2015 when the aforementioned Italian cult films have been banned in numerous countries around the world for years. A masterful PR campaign in the build-up to release banned trailers and clips from being shared on social media and showed footage of people allegedly fainting and throwing at previews, promising a disturbing and violent experience like no other.

The Green Inferno is nowhere near as controversial as said Italian inspirations – for a start they avoid any unnecessary cruelty towards animals – and even compared to some other horror films over the last few years (or even some of the grislier episodes of The Walking Dead), it’s not the most graphic thing you’re ever going to see. As a homage to the flicks of old, The Green Inferno works very nicely. The big problem is, ironically enough, the production values that a modern day film budget brings with it. The older films were grimy, faded documentary-like productions which many believed were snuff movies (Cannibal Holocaust director Ruggero Deodato was arrested in 1981 and charged with murder after people believed he had killed his actors during filming) and worked because of the raw and natural savagery that was depicted in them. The Green Inferno swaps this realism for Hollywood gloss and cleanliness where the actors look clean, washed and their make-up is pristine. It loses a lot of its magic and impact. But that wasn’t the only thing that these cannibal films played upon so let’s move on.

As is the norm with this sub-genre, the film takes a bit of time to get going as the characters start off in civilisation. We take satisfaction in seeing their daily idyllic lives with not a care in the world, knowing full well that they’re about to face a situation straight out of their darkest nightmares. The use of a cast of relative unknowns works here as we’re under no pre-conceptions about which characters will live and die or in what order. Sadly, the script gives most of them little to break free of generic stereotyping and not many of them develop a personality. It’s true that some won’t live long enough for us to care about them but it would have been nice to see a little more humanity come to the fore with the characters.

We’re treated to some lovely cinematography of the Amazon during the sequences in which the group arrive in the jungle. Roth did film in South America and having read up on the conditions that the cast and crew faced, it adds a whole new level of realism to proceedings. Check out some of the back story to production if you have a chance. Filming on location really gives the audience a sense of isolation – these people are thousands of miles away from help, in the middle of one of the most inhospitable and deadliest places on the planet. It’s the plane crash mid-way through where Roth remembers he’s directing a horror film and he pulls out all of the tricks with a startlingly realistic sequence, complete with slow-motion sickness.

Once the group encounter the cannibal tribe, things take a turn for the worse (for them) but better for the audience. The main gore set piece involves one character have their eyes removed, tongue cut out, limbs systematically hacked off and then beheaded before being slapped into the mud oven until cooked. It’s a brutal sequence, unrelenting in its assault on the senses and arguably the highlight of the film. From then on, it’s a combination of the characters attempting to escape their prison before being served up as steaks and grisly sequences of the unlucky ones falling victim to the bone cleaver. The fact that this was all passed without Roth making edits is a sign of the times, though there is little of the outright sexual violence here as was present in the originals (hooks through nipples, penises being sliced off, woman raped with big stones, etc..

Roth doesn’t know how to play the tone and there’s a constant clash between jokey moments, outright depravity and bizarreness. Between the cannibals getting stoned, a badly-timed bout of diarrhoea and a perverse sequence in which one character’s answer to the horrors he’s just witness is to start pleasuring himself, the film throws in scary moments of genital mutilation, heads-on-spikes and flesh-eating ants. This is Roth doing what he’s doing in Hostel and Cabin Fever, toying with the audience a bit during times of tension, but here it works to kill off the horror of what is happening. The cannibal films of old were as deadly serious as anything you’ll see and Roth would have been wise to stick to the same tone, rather than imbue this with some of his usual frat-boy-esque humour. It’s a minor sticking point however and one which doesn’t detract too much to the film.


The Green Inferno is a great throwback to the Italian films of old but that’s just about all it works as. Roth clearly has a love and affection for the sub-genre (Cannibal Holocaust is apparently his favourite film) and this comes out in droves during the graphic sequences in the second half of the film. However, it treads no new ground as far as the sub-genre goes, simply repeating what always was a very basic formula and story but for the 21st century. If you’ve ever wanted to get into those older films, The Green Inferno would be a great way to start but for a genre veteran like myself, its ability to shock and scare was greatly diminished.





Anthroprophagus (1980)

Anthropophagus (1980)

It’s not fear that tears you apart…it’s him!

A group of tourists take a trip to a remote Greek island where they find that the local townspeople have all disappeared. After their boat drifts away, and with no phone service or electricity, the group takes refuge in one of the abandoned houses. It isn’t long before they discover why there is no one left on the island – a crazed cannibal with a taste for human flesh is prowling the streets.


An ultra-notorious Italian shocker, Anthroprophagus was one of the infamous ‘Video Nasty’ titles that the UK banned in the early 80s. So shocking was one particular scene in this film that Anthroprophagus was successfully prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act in 1984 and banned from publication for over eighteen years. It joined an elite list of films to be given the boot from the video store shelves including The House by the Cemetery, Cannibal Ferox and The Last House on the Left. It’s laughable to realise that the film was passed totally uncut in 2015, just showing how times have changed and how much more de-sensitized to horror films we are nowadays.

Like a lot of the titles that were successfully prosecuted, Anthroprophagus became something of a Holy Grail for horror, where a dodgy black market of rough VHS copies were traded behind closed doors. If you wanted to see it, you’d know an uncle or the best mate of a mate who had a pre-certification copy stashed away in a loft somewhere. But this is 2016 and what was shocking in 1980 is nowhere near as bad today – not exactly saintly however! Anthroprophagus’ reputation precedes it, overshadowing it somewhat much like the reputations for the likes of Cannibal Holocaust or even The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. When a film comes with a hefty reputation, nine of out ten times it usually ends up being a let-down.

Anthroprophagus is one of those nine out of ten times. What a complete dud of a horror film! Being branded a Video Nasty, you’d expect something, well, nasty or even remotely graphic and disturbing. The only reason I can see Anthroprophagus being banned was for the infamous scene in which the cannibal eats a fetus. Yes, it’s pretty gross to see though this is more to do with the thought and implications of what he’s doing rather than actually watching him tuck into a piece of butcher’s meat. The rest of the kills are tame and fairly weak given the nature of other Italian horror films from around the same time period and what they were doing in regards to gore. Ironically the best kill is saved for the end of the film and features a pick axe and a load of intestines. It’s scant pay-off for the previous eighty or so minutes.

Talky and with a plodding pace, Anthroprophagus will try and test the patience of hardened genre fans. Those weaned on giallo or late 70s/early 80s Italian horror flicks may be able to cope with the tedious speed of the narrative but anyone dipping in to this type of film for the first time will find it immensely hard going. With little plot, the uninteresting characters mope around the desolate Greek village with little purpose for the good part of forty minutes. They just go through the motions, in particular the guys who show no distinguishing features and I’d even forgotten their names by the end. Whilst this is annoying as far as the film goes, its impact on the viewer will be more so – total disengagement from the proceedings. This means that when things do perk up in the final ten minutes, you’re already so bored that you don’t really care what happens as long as the film finishes. At least the shots of the empty village look eerie and, coupled with the suitably atmospheric synth score, add up to some decent atmosphere. It’s a shame that nothing actually happens.

The film’s best asset is its imposing killer. This cannibal monster of a man looks intimidating and has a powerful physical presence but he’s hardly used – it’s a good fifty minutes into the film before we first see him. On a number of occasions, the film teases us with appearances, where something has happened or we see a point-of-view shot. But then nothing. This can be effectively managed and we know that the killer is lurking around somewhere close. But to be scared, we need something for us to be scared of and not just thunder and lightning or cheap scares with cats jumping out from nowhere. His eventual reveal, hiding behind a closing door, is good and director Joe D’Amato, famous his skin flicks and cheap horror efforts, uses natural lighting to slowly reveal his disfigured facial features. George Eastman, who also co-wrote, stars as the cannibal and brings the film to life in the final fifteen minutes. There is a chilling sequence inside some catacombs (where aforementioned fetus is eaten) and there’s a great stalking sequence where he climbs up a ladder after Tisa Farrow – but this is literally the final ten minutes of the film. Far too little, too late to save it.


Anthroprophagus has clearly relied upon one or two shock moments of infamy to become the cult classic that it is today but don’t be fooled by the reputation. You can do a whole lot worse when it comes to Italian horror but this is nowhere near as deserving its status that it has. There is something memorable about Eastman’s cannibal though and he’ll stick in your mind long after watching. I guess that counts for something.





Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings (2011)

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings (2011)

Screaming only makes them hungrier

Whilst looking for a cabin where they intend to spend a weekend partying, a group of teenagers become lost in a blizzard. Seeking shelter in an abandoned sanatorium, they soon realise that they are not alone. Still living there are a trio of inbred cannibals, former inmates from the sanatorium who had broken out over thirty years earlier, and now look to the new arrivals as an essential source of food.


After the previous sequel, Wrong Turn 3: Dead End, seemed to send the cannibal horror series in an irreversible downturn, it’s refreshing to see that the series still has some life in it yet. I’m not sure whether any fourth entry into a franchise has any right to be as entertaining as Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, especially one which pretends to go down the prequel route to show you how the main antagonists came into being (in a prologue) before fast forwarding back to the present day. Director Declan O’Brien returns from the previous sequel and seems to have learnt his lessons here, offering up a far more traditional blood-soaked affair which requires limited brain power to understand.

Don’t expect the wheel to be reinvented here. Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings is purely standard issue horror sequel filmmaking – minimum set-up and maximum carnage. You won’t see anything remotely unique. You’ll have seen everything before. You’ll have seen it done better too. Plot holes litter the narrative. Characters are barely existent. But there’s a certain level of brutality and a clear love for the genre that prevails through all of this.

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings clearly panders to a certain demographic and, from the opening minutes featuring inbred cannibals feasting on fresh human throats, people getting ripped apart from with barbed wire, electroshock therapy being used more violently than normal and then some token sex and lesbian scenes, you’ll be able to see how all of the boxes are going to be ticked off. The quick set-up allows for the characters to get to their eventual destination and run across the cannibals with two-thirds of the running time still in the bank. Being able to film in a real abandoned mental institution really allows Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings to look like a big budget horror film. The polished look that it has certainly lends it a nice air of credibility which the following sequels sadly lacked.

It’s rare for a horror film to feature a full cast of characters who are all utterly odious – usually there is at least one likeable character to get behind – but this group of friends has to be one of the most annoying, bitchy groups of friends going. Even the girl who appears to be set up as the likeable ‘Final Girl’ in the opening scenes has her fair share of bitchiness and unpleasantness. It’s difficult to even partition them off into the usual stereotypes. Whether horror writers are blurring the lines between stock characters or it is just lazy writing (my guess is the latter), it is getting hard to distinguish between who is who. They are walking targets and now instead of thinly-sketched characters, they’re literally bodies waiting to be smashed into oblivion. On the positive side, there are ten of them so expect the kills to be constant. The pace of the film is pretty solid meaning you won’t go too long before the cannibals dispatch another victim.

Like so many of its contemporary counterparts, Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings is rife with copious CGI gore but that’s not to say that there isn’t any of the old school stuff. In fact there are some excellent practical effects on display here and it’s like a slasher fan’s dream. With limbs being severed, heads decapitated and all manner of barbed wire and power tools being used, the film doesn’t skimp on the blood for one minute – clearly all of the creativity went into the death scenes rather than the script, a trait so common from the 1980s slasher craze. The film has a downright nasty mean streak a mile long running through – look no further than the gruesome scene in which the three cannibals slowly strip the flesh off one unlucky victim who keeps crying out “God kill me please.” It’s an unsettling scene, one which doesn’t really sit well within the rather jovial nature of the rest of the film.

The other great staple of horror is T&A, so often neglected in today’s more prudish genre offerings, but Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings delivers the goods, providing some extreme titillation on a number of occasions. It helps that the girls are all smoking hot but they not great actresses so acting with their bodies is about the best you’ll get. The script is truly terrible as well so the naked girls aren’t the only ones struggling with their tongues. Literally all of the dialogue is as basic as you can get and when it’s delivered by a bunch of actors and actresses who clearly sound like they need a few lessons in drama, it’s almost torture to the ears. Doing stupid things to further the plot isn’t the only crime that these people are guilty of.


Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings is a marked step up in quality from the previous film and puts this franchise firmly back on track. It’s clichéd as hell and features stuff that only the hardened horror fanatics will really lap up with enthusiasm. However what is not to love about a group of inbred cannibals chasing a bunch of horny and hot teenagers around in an abandoned building in the middle of nowhere? It’snot fine art, but it’s fine junk food horror for a rainy night.





Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

The arrival of a stranger in tiny Western town of Bright Hope sets off a chain of deadly events for Sheriff Franklin Hunt. After confronting his suspicious actions, the stranger tries to flee and Hunt shoots him in the leg. Overnight, the town doctor Samantha O’Dwyer is brought to the jail to tend to his wounds but when Hunt returns in the morning they, along with a deputy, have disappeared. When a local Indian identifies the attackers as a tribe of Indians he calls Troglodytes, Hunt sets up a posse to go and rescue them. Joined by aging deputy Chicory, Samantha’s husband Arthur who is desperate to go despite having a broken leg, and former soldier John Brooder, Hunt sets off in pursuit, totally unprepared for the fate that awaits them in the territory of the Troglodytes – the Valley of the Starving Man.


Bone Tomahawk can easily be summed up as cowboys versus cannibals. In today’s mix-and-match genre pairings, where all manner of genres are being juxtaposed together to freshen up a stagnant market (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies immediately springs to mind), it wasn’t going to be long before the western was back in the sights of filmmakers given that Quentin Tarantino was ready to burst back into the genre with The Hateful Eight in 2015. There have been sporadic attempts to mix westerns and horror over the past few years but none have been particularly successful. I can think of a couple like Jonah Hex or low budget ones like Undead or Alive but generally the genre made famous by John Wayne hasn’t been a source of inspiration for budding horror filmmakers to make a crossover film. It’s a pity because Bone Tomahawk works very well as a western before the horror elements kick in during the second half.

If you only say one thing about Bone Tomahawk, you have to say that it’s gritty. The western influence rides head and shoulders above the horror and for the better. This is a harsh world, alien to us living in the 20th and 21st centuries, and one with certain codes and conducts which seem brutal and cruel to us and where logic and reason don’t exactly go hand-in-hand with compassion and love. There’s no over-dramatisation of anything. There’s little Hollywood-esque glamour and glitz. This is an unforgiving world where it’s survival of the fittest. Be warned through: this gritty approach is rather leisurely and many horror fans will most likely tune out before Bone Tomahawk ever gets close to its gory surprises. At around two hours in length, almost unheard of for something like this, the film doesn’t exactly burst forth with energy. The narrative sets up the eventful rescue mission by introducing the characters and spending time with them as they trek across the countryside. Very dialogue-heavy, the bond between the posse is constructed with the end game in mind – not all of these characters are going to survive the eventual encounter with the Troglodytes – so that we care about them as fully-developed characters, rather than just one-dimensional cannon fodder to be served up on a platter.

Director and writer S. Craig Zahler has assembled a great cast for such a little-known film. The leading light is obviously Kurt Russell, who effortlessly slips into the moustached-wearing lawman role he had in Tombstone back in 1993. Russell has such power and gravitas in this type of role and delivers a great, no-nonsense performance, far better than he has done for a long time. The supporting players are all equally as good. Richard Jenkins is excellent as the elderly, dim-witted deputy and the rapport he shares throughout the film with Russell is one of its highlights. Patrick Wilson tackles the role of the crippled husband with vigour and really gets across his character’s desire to rescue his wife. Rounding off the four main actors is Matthew Fox who hasn’t been this entertaining in, well, ever really. His ex-soldier without a moral code and a hatred of Indians is definitely one of the standouts of the film. The chemistry between the four men is fantastic and you really get emotionally involved in each of them. There are also small roles for the likes of David Arquette, Sid Haig and Michael Paré to name a few. How Zahler managed to get this cast together is beyond me but it works wonders for the authenticity of the film.

Sadly, a lot of Bone Tomahawk’s great build-up work and sense of overwhelming dread, particularly when the group enters the Valley of the Starving Man, is undone somewhat when they actually encounter the Troglodytes. Almost everything that happens from this point, save for some great gore moments, is rather matter-of-fact. The film resolves itself rather quickly, and without a lot of major fuss, which kind of detracts from the hard work that had gone in before it. I was expecting something that packed a little more punch and delivered a few more thrills than it did. The eventual show-off with the cannibals is disappointingly brief.

Speaking of the gore, Bone Tomahawk features some disgusting moments. An opening throat-slit and early arrow-to-the-head moment hint at the brutality to come but it doesn’t really prepare you two of the images later in the film. The best thing is that the effects have all been done with prosthetics and so there’s not a hint of CGI in sight.  Don’t expect an all-out gore-fest though as the violence is sporadic but really hits home when it happens. You really get the feeling that these men are fighting for their very lives.


Bone Tomahawk features a simple tried-and-tested Western scenario which is then pushed into the extreme by nature of the horror threat the characters face. It works far better than it has any right to work but when you get a director/writer who clearly knows what he’s doing, a fantastic cast who really make their characters shine and some horrific moments which would rival the meanest scenes from the likes of The Hills Have Eyes, then what do you expect? Check it out if you get the opportunity.





Zombie Holocaust (1980)

Zombie Holocaust (1980)

Tonight, the dead shall rise again

In New York, body parts are going missing from a morgue. It is discovered that one of the hospital orderlies, a member of a cannibal tribe from a small island in the East Indies, is responsible. Anthropologist Lori Ridgway recognises the name of the island and, along with fellow expert Dr Peter Chandler, his assistant George and news reporter Susan, they head off on an expedition to track down the cannibals. However when they arrive on the island, cannibals are not the only problem that they face as a rogue doctor has been experimenting on the dead.


Zombies! Cannibals! Mad doctors performing unnecessary surgery! Zombie Holocaust has it all. Coming hot on the heels of the successes (and notoriety) of Italian cannibal films (most famously represented by Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust) and zombie films (Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters), a producer clearly had a quick brain surge and decided that a combination of the two would lead to even greater rewards. The result of this unholy union is Zombie Holocaust, another of the legendary cult classic Italian splatter films of the 80s and made in the same year. Its mixed reputation proceeds it and it is definitely a love/hate kind of film.

For a start, Zombie Holocaust is a mess of ideas so it’s best to just unplug your brain and go with the flow. The film works better as a ‘tribute’ piece to its inspirational predecessors and director Marino Girolami certainly demonstrates that he has seen many of them with a ‘best of’ selection. In between the set pieces, the narrative does its best to keep the thin plot from falling apart…but let’s face it, as soon as the characters set foot on the island you don’t really care what happens because you know they’re going to suffer. The similarities with Zombie Flesh Eaters are obvious – openings both set in New York, Ian McCulloch playing pretty much the same character (and dressed like he’s off on safari), a small group of white folk heading off to what suspiciously looks like the same island, having the same guide and arriving at the same church building for the finale.

The writing is so weak and flimsy that you wonder why they bothered to begin with. How is this mad scientist doing Frankenstein-like experiments in a shanty hut in the middle of an island without any real equipment save for an operating table, some drips and a few scalpels? Why would a doctor and a nurse from the hospital decide to take an expedition to the cannibal island? What were they hoping to accomplish there? Why, when one of the female members of the expedition is captured by the cannibals, do the survivors just shrug shoulders and decide to escape? There are so many questions that this film raises. But the beauty is that by the end of it, you won’t care.

Everyone knows that it’s going to be exploitative but you will never guess at how badly. From having lead actress Alexandra Delli Colli get stripped full-frontal and placed onto a large sacrificial rock (which looks suspiciously like the one Ursula Andress got strapped to in The Mountain of the Cannibal God) to the copious amount of intestines on display, Zombie Holocaust punches for the lowest common denominators to hook its audience. Combining the two bloodiest sub-genres going promised that Zombie Holocaust would be a messy ride and it was certainly that. From open skull brain surgery to a zombie getting a motor boat propeller right to the face, there are plenty of gory set pieces on display. However it is the cannibals who get a bigger slice of the action and they’re very handy when it comes to offing the cast early on. Porters are killed left, right and centre with bamboo traps and such and one of the unlucky Westerners falls victim to a bunch of them who slice open his stomach and gouge his eyes out. Its intense stuff and extremely gory. Sadly, the zombies don’t do an awful lot and only appear for the first time around the fifty-five minute mark. They leave the flesh-eating to the living.

One thing that these Italian horrors usually guarantee is an excellent soundtrack, regardless of the eventual quality of the visuals and composer Nico Fidenco doesn’t disappoint here. He recycles an earlier soundtrack from Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals but the keyboard emits a nice brooding, ominous vibe to certain scenes. The other aspect of the sound, the dubbing, is done reasonably well but it’s easy to see that the actors were there for a holiday and no more. As I’ve said, Ian McCulloch plays pretty much the same character as he did in Zombie Flesh Eaters and stands around looking scared or getting involved in the action as and when he needs to be the hero. It is Donald O’Brien as Dr Obrero who has the most fun, delivering scene-chewing cheesy lines such as “I could easily kill you now, but I’m determined to have your brain!” with so much unnatural depth and feeling.


It’s not one of Italian horror’s shining lights of the two sub-genres it straddles but there’s no denying that Zombie Holocaust isn’t a lot of silly, sleazy and gory fun. You’ll be reminded of all of the other films that it is ripping off but the innocent way it tries to stick it all together will have you forget that in a hurry. And if not, the film will drown you in glorious 80s gore instead.





Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978)

Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978)

When the price of lust is death!

Susan Stevenson and her brother fly to New Guinea in search of her missing husband and enlist the services of an anthropologist to guide them into the dense rain forest. They set off into the jungle but find out that he was captured by a cannibal tribe and that the same fate awaits them.


Ah the Italian exploitation cannibal sub-genre. Such an trashy, graphic and repulsive genre that it’s even hard to want to call them films sometimes because they are so depraved and perverse – I mean who in their right mind comes up with these ideas? They went to lengths that no other films dared to go out of decency and, rightfully as was the case in a few extremes, were banned across the world on the whole, Cannibal Holocaust being the most infamous of the bunch.Unfortunately it’s a sub-genre which cannibalises itself so much that once you’ve seen one of these tropical terrors, then you’ve seen them all.

Although slightly less offensive than some of the other sub-genre, Mountain of the Cannibal God adheres to the basic cannibal story of a group of white explorers (and usually expendable guides) head off into the remote jungle in pursuit of some MacGuffin where they have some minor run-ins with other natives before stumbling upon the cannibal tribe and, in rather unsporting fashion, decide to eat their guests. The film looks more polished than the rest, clearly has a bigger budget and isn’t as nasty as its companions. Everything is done as tastefully as possible – if that is possible in itself, knowing how brutal these films can get. The bad taste is kept to a minimum and the animal violence has been toned down – those who have seen the uncut version of Cannibal Holocaust will attest to the disgraceful and sickening acts of wildlife masochism on display. It is still present however and seems to be a token inclusion in this sub-genre, reflective of the no holds barred raw brutality of nature but more used for shock and horror tactics to disgust the viewer rather than send out any primal messages. It has nothing to do with what is happening on screen which is a travesty.

Though on the surface it seems less offensive and more mainstream than its counterparts, make no mistake about it,Mountain of the Cannibal God does boast plenty of expected cannibalistic carnage. Dwarf cannibals are punted over cliffs to have their heads smashed on rocks below. Bear traps crush and maim the legs of those unlucky enough to be caught in them. Would-be rapists are castrated for their indiscretions. Stomachs are ripped open and intestines fed to the tribe. The quality of the make-up effects range from the ridiculous to the sublime.

The big difference with this one is the relatively high star power on display. Making the sub-genre a bit more accessible by casting big names, Mountain of the Cannibal God boasts Ursula Andress and Stacy Keach in the lead roles, a decent coup for such a low budget, obscure Italian film.Andress seems to need the role more, agreeing to doff her duds and go naked for an infamous scene in which she is painted head-to-toe and worshipped by the cannibals.Keach was at a career low at this point (no kidding!) and seems more bored than anything but no doubt a free holiday helped to gloss over that issue.

Despite the moments of gore and the decent cast, Mountain of the Cannibal God rarely gets going at any sort of pace. It takes the characters too long to make any sort of progress into the jungle and despite odd moments of non-speaking guides being killed off bydeadly fauna and flora, there’s not a great deal of stuff happening on-screen. Little more than a step-by-step link between set piece scenes, the narrative gears up towards a finale which never once looks like it will deliver anything short of a total dud. Despite all of the cannibal carnage on screen, the film never gives off any sort of realism vibe. You know you’re watching a film and not a snuff movie, though this may be down to the presence of ‘named’ actors instead of obscure ones.


Mountain of the Cannibal God merely goes through the usual Italian cannibal exploitation film motions, only this time with the bonus of a famous cast. More professionally made but lacking the raw, nihilistic punch of some of it’s counterparts, it’s neither the best of this sub-genre, nor the worst either.





Hills Have Eyes II, The (2007)

The Hills Have Eyes II (2007)

The Lucky ones die fast

A squad of National Guard are sent into the New Mexico desert on a supply mission to a team that is installing a new system into an abandoned facility. When they get there, they find no sign of the team until a distress call is received from the hills. Making their way up the hills, the soldiers are attacked by a group of mutants and equipment is damaged and stolen. With no way of getting back down the hill, the remaining soldiers must find their way through an old mine to get back to base.


The 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes certainly surprised me as being a brutal, gory and relentless ride which, in many ways, bettered the original. And just like the revamped The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake in 2003 saw a sequel, Alexandre Aja’s slick remake has spawned a sequel for whatever cash-related reason. Out went Aja, the man responsible for the disturbing and savage nature of the original, and out with him went that brutal and unforgiving edge – you got the sense that anything went in his film and there would be no prisoners, no matter how sick or depraved it was going to be. In its place comes a totally out-of-place comic tone, more mutants you can shake a stick at, more characters to get killed and more gore. Say goodbye to everything that made the remake such a great ride.

The problems with The Hills Have Eyes II are evident from the start and that lies with the characters. For starters, I don’t want to see a bunch of soldiers being chewed up, decapitated and hacked to pieces because surely they should be trained enough to deal with this sort of thing better than anyone (I know you don’t get mutant-fighting training anywhere but at least they practice combat regularly as opposed to say, me who has never done anything like that and wouldn’t stand a chance against the mutants). I like seeing ordinary people put into extraordinary situations and seeing how they cope with it. So by throwing the best prepared humans into that situation and watch them suffer doesn’t really hit the same nerve.

Secondly, if you’re going to give me soldiers, then at least make an effort to humanise them and characterise them a little. Names are for tombstones in films like this and it’s funny how you won’t remember 90% of the names by the middle of the film, let alone the end. Instead just sit back and call them their token names: hotshot, black guy, coward, hot chick, etc. It borders spoof at times with the silliness of the characters. Do you remember a little film called Aliens back in the 80s? That involved a bunch of bad ass soldiers taking on acid-spitting aliens. But James Cameron never once let the characters descend into caricatures. He humanised them, gave each one personality traits and made the audience care about them, even the ones who didn’t survive too long. Here they’re just going through the motions of the generic “macho bullshit” that soldiers are portrayed as having in the movies.

They also do some of the most ludicrous things I’ve seen in a horror film and as such, plot developments can be seen way ahead of time. Thinking of climbing down a mountain using a rope? Good idea but stand around dithering for ages and you’re going to be in for it! I can’t really comment on the actors involved because some of them may suck, some of them may have talent – it’s just impossible to see through the awful script. And when you consider who wrote this – WES CRAVEN no less, it’s a complete travesty.

Now I’ve had a rant over the script and characters, where else to begin? Well the fact that the film descends into a pointless sequence of chases around the dark, abandoned mine is a start. The Descent showed how you could breathe a little life back into a setting as over-used as this with its sense of claustrophobia and constantly lurking danger. No such atmosphere or skill here, just annoying characters stumbling around the dark looking for an exit or looking to be killed. How about the silly comic tone that the film has? In one moment, a mutant pulls an arm of one of the guys and waves it back at him. Mildly amusing when you see it but totally out of place here. The gore stakes have been ramped up but without the savage tone, without the brutality and without the violence of the original, it’s all wasted.


The Hills Have Eyes II is a pointless, stupid exercise in gore. It’s a total rush job and it smacks of pandering to the modern horror fans who only watch these films to be shocked with blood and gore. Does anyone know how to create a story any more? Or build up suspense? Even former genre icons like Wes Craven seem to have lost their way.