Monday, October 31, 2022

Viewings: October 2022

During the very twilight of the noughties, me and a fellow movie geek got into an epic nerd debate over our fave sci-fi film of 2009; he was all for that rancid Star Trek reboot, while your humble host was championing District 9. Thirteen years later and it turns out there was a far better contender out there. Pandorum is a neglected gem which I foolishly glossed over simply for its made-for-SYFY vibe and Dennis Quaid being in it. Well, it turned out to be a fantastic blend of mystery and sci-fi horror.

Another great film I appreciated this month was Brian and Charles. The latest example of Brits successfully pulling off awkward, offbeat and endearing comedies better than Wes Anderson's aloof efforts ever could.

Other fresh first viewings were: The Boys Next Door, Deadstream, Doppelgänger, Pearl, Some Like It Rare, Terrifier 2 and Vesper.

Also dug that Emmerdale 50th Birthday promo trailer. Had no time for any of the episodes, though.



Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)

Doppelgänger AKA Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (Robert Parrish, 1969)*

Colossus: The Forbin Project (Joseph Sargent, 1970)

Horror Express (Eugenio Martin, 1972)

The Mutations (Jack Cardiff, 1974)*

House of Mortal Sin (Pete Walker, 1976)

Out of the Blue (Dennis Hopper, 1980)*

The Boys Next Door (Penelope Spheeris, 1985)*

Krush Groove (Michael Schultz, 1985)

Ghostwatch (Lesley Manning, 1992)

Ghosts of Mars (John Carpenter, 2001)

Dog Soldiers (Neil Marshall, 2002)

The Aviator (Martin Scorsese, 2004)

Pandorum (Christian Alvart, 2009)*

Victor Crowley AKA Hatchet 4 (Adam Green, 2017)*

Brian and Charles (Jim Archer, 2022)*

Bullet Train (David Leitch, 2022)*

Dark Glasses (Dario Argento, 2022)*

Deadstream (Joseph Winter & Vanessa Winter, 2022)*

Don’t Worry Darling (Olivia Wilde, 2022)*

Halloween Ends (David Gordon Green, 2022)*

Hellraiser (David Bruckner, 2022)*

Mutant Ghost War Girl (Liu Beige, 2022)*

Pearl (Ti West, 2022)*

Piggy (Carlota Pereda, 2022)*

Some Like It Rare (Fabrice Eboué, 2022)*

Terrifier 2 (Damien Leone, 2022)*

Two Witches (Pierre Tsigaridis, 2022)*

Vesper (Kristina Buozyte & Bruno Samper, 2022)*

V/H/S/99 (Flying Lotus, Maggie Levin, Tyler MacIntyre, Johannes Roberts, Joseph Winter & Vanessa Winter, 2022)*


Mastermind - Episodes 1-7 (Bill Wright, 2022/2023)*

Doctor Who - The Power of the Doctor (Chris Chibnall & Jamie Magnus Stone, 2022)*


*First time viewings.


Dada Debaser Notes:

  • Why is Blair Underwood playing Russell Simmons in Krush Groove while Russell Simmons is playing someone else in it?
  • Gerry & Sylvia Anderson's production of Doppelgänger is both surprisingly mature and dark considering it's essentially a film geared towards a young audience. Definitely feel sci-fi has regressed a lot since then.
  • Once scene from Dennis Hopper's Out of the Blue appears like a dress rehearsal for that scene from Blue Velvet (1986).
  • Adam Green's career went completely nowhere after all these years.
  • There's an entertaining yet very skewered retrospective on Y.A Dystopia by the BFI. Possibly the effect of recency bias, but Vesper might be one of the better entries in this dead genre.
  • One to mull over: there are now more awful Halloween films starring Jamie Lee Curtis than awful Halloween films without her.
  • Letterboxd will always be a trash playground for film hipsters. Reading pseudo-intellectual babble over what's at best, a mediocre film by Argento, is comically pretentious.
  • Can't believe Collider shared similar sentiments with me over the recent Hellraiser film.
  • Quietly predicting Piggy being this year's Titane by all the poncey critics.
  • John Carpenter had a particularly fashioned antihero in mind back when he made films.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Sunglasses at Night

Dark Glasses (Dario Argento, 2022)

Had the naive hope that whenever a Dario Argento film would make its eventual debut on this blog, then it would have been one of his classics; such as Deep Red (1975), Suspiria (1978) or Tenebrae (1982). However, considering Argento is now in his eighties and hasn't made a film since the thoroughly detested Dracula 3D (2012), his latest film, Dark Glasses would be worth the effort just to check up on him; the sort of thing you would do whenever you're worried about an elderly neighbour.

Kicking off with a solar eclipse darkening the city of Rome, the film's high class escort heroine, Diana (Illenia Pastorelli), experiences some not so subtle forshadowing by being temporary blinded by the celestial phenomenon. After a graphic, quintessentially giallo style kill of another sex worker, the film reverts back to Diana as she flees from a physically abusive client and into a car chase with the said serial killer. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. The chase results in an impressive car crash scene, where the driver of another vehicle is left dead and his wife in a coma. The couple's son, Chin (Xinyu Zhang), sat in the back seat, winds up remarkably unscathed. Diana is left blind by the ordeal. It's from here where the film focuses on the adjustments Diana is forced to make in her life, and the guilt she feels over Chin's tragic predicament. Meanwhile, the killer is still out there and has his eyes on her.

Adapted from a script which was languishing on the back burner for at least twenty years, Argento's film feels surprisingly underdeveloped. Reliant on recycling elements from his past works for some essential substance; the most notable attempt is the rehash of Franco and Lori from The Cat O' Nine Tails (1971). However, that's an already established relationship and here it's the formation of one, and so there's an uncomfortable awkwardness while trying to find common ground. One of which results in an unintentionally comedic scene where a guilt ridden Diana visits an orphanage and gives Chin a bootleg game console to cheer him up. How wrong is that? Another obvious throwback is the dog scene from Suspiria; which lacks any real intensity here and only exists just to up the gore factor by a notch.

Worth pointing out that despite some visual flourishes here and there, harkening back to Argento's glory days, Dark Glasses is a very low budget film. It has the whiff of TV crime drama all over it. The kind that's on a Sunday night, where you're already grabbing your coat and leaving the house. Hardly a bad thing for fresh-faced film makers cutting their teeth, but Argento is a veteran and his old masterpieces have been cinematic in scope. Arguably, budgets got much lesser, hence the transition from film to television for many of Argento's peers. Ultimately, the reason why Italian horror and giallo fizzled out during the nineties and what little has been made since then resembles cheap looking tat like Argento's The Card Player (2003)

Despite its faults, there are genuine positives I like about Dark Glasses: the film has a breezy fast pace to it, which feels refreshing after all the unnecessarily long movies released nowadays; Diana is an unexpectably likeable protagonist; Asia Argento delivers a fine performance for her supporting role as Diana's carer. There's also the fact that the killer's face is revealed relatively early in the film; subverting most people's, including my own, preconceptions of the rules in gialli. Arnaud Rebotini's synthwave soundtrack is most of the time atmospherically effective whenever it doesn't stray into Euro-Techno territory. Also, the typically Argento WTF? setpieces like the water snakes scene is very well executed and one for any Argento highlights reel.

All in all, it's a decent time waster. Objectively, an average film that I would have probably forgotten about already if it wasn't for the fact that Argento has been churning out shite for decades, and this is begrudgingly his best offering since The Stendhal Syndrome (1996). Fellow octogenarian film maker, Paul Verhoeven, gave us the spectacular Benedetta (2021) last year, and Dark Glasses is nowhere near the technical nor artistic level of proficiency. Still, I would rather Argento make a back to basics giallo like this in 2022 than sully his name even further by attaching it to pretentious shite like She Will, or acting in some depressing Gaspar Noé film about Alzheimer's Disease this year.

Dark Glasses (Trailer)
(Dario Argento, 2022)

Friday, October 28, 2022

We Need to Talk About Kevin Tripp

Ghostwatch (Lesley Manning, 1992)

Considering how there's practically sweet F.A. worth watching on the BBC these days (other than Mastermind, of course), this is a good opportunity to revist a nineties gem from "Auntie" on its 30th anniversary. Ghostwatch was a reality TV mockumentary featuring familiar TV presenters, cast as themselves. This included: famous chat show interviewer, Michael "Parky" Parkinson as the condescending and cynical studio host; Sarah Greene as the on the spot presenter at the haunted North London home (obviously inspired by the notorious Enfield Poltergeist); her actual hubby, Mike Smith, back at the studio as the phone line presenter, while Craig Charles, of Red Dwarf fame, dilly dallying about outside the spooky house talking to a gathering crowd.

The beauty of Ghostwatch was its gradual escalation from supernatural folly to full blown paranormal absurdity. The program was and still is absolutely hilarious. From the creepy house's basement nicknamed "The Gloryhole", to Ken and Joyce Shrivener from Telford, reporting their radio died and the microwave wouldn't stop pinging, or Sarah Greene finding a mysterious wet patch on the carpet - pure comedy. Pick of the bunch was a caller named Kevin Tripp being spooked while having a sandwich. Parky was not amused and dismissed him as a crank caller.

"I had this sandwich; cheese and pickle sandwich it was, and well, it frightened me to buggery it did. I was minding my own business and this dirty, great plate sitting on the arm of my chair just dived off." - Kevin Tripp, Ghostwatch, 1992.

Aside from the over acting from both the distressed mother and the para-psychologist expert, I found the rest of the performances fairly convincing. The two young girls terrorised by Pipes (I shit you not), the resident ghost, were the best performers, in my opinion. They really do help sell the premise of this mockumentary. There's an air of Alan Patridge awkwardness about the film, but they do an awful lot to convey their fear in a believable manner.

Ghostwatch left a much talked about legacy in its wake. Many viewers hadn't tuned in at the start to see the opening credits, which revealed it was all fake. The BBC were inundated with complaints by proto-Karens after it aired. Cosidering the show was upfront, it was hardly on the same level of spectacular trolling like Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio play had been in the 1930s. Still, it's funny knowing so many people out there fell for this admittedly well conceived prank. To be a fly on the wall of some poor pill head's crib that Halloween night and watching them freak out. Off your face and having Parky's demonic voice coming out of the TV would have been f**king priceless to witness.

It's worth noting Ghostwatch predates the likes of Orell Peli's Paranormal Activity franchise. That entire series of films owes its entire existence to this show. I also wouldn't be at all surprised if The Blair Witch Project (1999) and The Conjuring 2 (2016) took notes from the BBC one-off; especially the latter.

Definitely considered Ghostwatch while compiling my G.O.A.T Brit Flicks, but I hadn't seen it since it originally aired and didn't feel comfortable including it as it wasn't fresh in my mind at the time. Kind of wish I did after revisiting it, since despite being much older and even more cynical now, Ghostwatch was a definite gem from back in the day, and it still holds up. Classic television, right here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Art is Long, Life is Short

Terrifier 2 (Damien Leone, 2022)

Like any fad, Horror trends eventually outstay their welcome at some point, and this is definitely the case with the dominant wave of folk horror. Damien Leone's mean-spirited Terrifier (2016) was an ultra gory return to the slashers of yore. It was a Marmite film in the horror film community; a crowdfunded slasher throwback with a grindhouse aesthetic that garnered many fans, while its detractors turned their noses and dismissed it as nothing more than a demo reel for Leone's make-up and special effects talents. Personally, I loved Terrifier and it was one of the few Gen-Z slashers worth raving about.

The return of Art the Clown, the demented clown mime, is something that I had almost lost hope on ever since the pandemic hit. He was the main highlight from the otherwise bad portmanteau All Hallow's Eve (2013) and thankfully got his own film eventually. However, it's finally here; the sequel that even trumps The Sadness and Mad God for grossest film of year. Not only that, it conveniently arrives at the same time as the thoroughly dreadful Halloween Ends; saving some lucky folks from another subversive Hollywood shit take. Evidently, based on its box office success, Terrifier 2 has stolen the mantle from Michael Myers' latest outing as this year's Halloween film of choice.

From Damien Leone to Sergio Leone, Dada Debaser can't honestly proceed without a disclaimer regarding Terrifier 2's running time. Clocking in at a whopping two hours and eighteen minutes, this will not bode well for many weak bladdered people. Personally, it goes against my belief that today's films should stick to a lean and trim ninety minutes to maintain interest. Obviously, there have been few exceptions like the recent RRR which have proven me wrong, but as a general observation, pacing issues and filler scenes tend to be more prevalent the longer the film time. In the case of Terrifier 2, the big showdown doesn't really set into motion until after around the ninety minute mark. There's also Art's origin and his connection with Sienna, the final girl of the film, being revealed in the most vaguest way possible. To its credit, I found it way better paced in comparison to the utterly awful Everything, Everywhere All at Once, another film from this year with virtually the same running time and felt three times as long.

Leone took note of all the fan love for the extreme gore featured in the first film and devised the sequel to go even further into depravity. Being a self-taught make-up and special effects artist, Leone did not leave much for the imagination. One scene in particular, inspired by that infamous photograph of Mary Kelly's butchering at the hands of Jack the Ripper will no doubt be discussed by gorehounds for years to come. Marketing gimmick or not, reports of people throwing up from seeing the movie harkens back to good ol' H.G Lewis' movies.

It's not all blood and gore that Terrifier 2 has going for it. David Howard Thornton is genuinely fantastic as Art the Clown and cements his postion as a new horror movie icon. The demonic Marcel Marceau switches from silent action comedy to sadistic brutality in a blink of an eye, which makes him a compelling character to watch on screen. The film's maniacal antagonist is counterbalanced by Lauren LaVera, who resembles a young Annabella Sciora, as the valiant final girl, Sienna. Liking the fact that LaVera's Halloween costume is based around a warrior angel, thus the film's two main characters are symbolic of Heaven and Hell. This is further reinforced by the constant dichotomy of red and blue lighting in the spectacular final act of the film. I also like that Sienna is a real fighter and gives as well as she gets; it's cool seeing her get up after such a beatdown and strike back with such ferocity. The fact that she goes against the current template of final girls possessed of annoying traits with unwarranted accomplishments, makes her a true winner in my book.

There's a lot I love about Terrifier 2, but that running time is going to be a problem for many and it's the main reason why I still prefer its predecessor over it. Still, Leone's achievement is unprecedented. A sequel slasher film with an epic two hours and eighteen minutes is unheard of; but it being an unrated film and breaking into the box office charts with no studio backing, is bloody phenomenal. I do wish it was leaner, there were scenes that could have been left on the cutting room floor, but I still enjoyed this a lot, and I really do admire Leone's unapologetic and loving respect towards a critically maligned film subgenre like the slasher.

Terrifier 2 (Trailer)
(Damien Leone, 2022)

Saturday, October 22, 2022

The Farmer's Daughter

Pearl (Ti West, 2022)

When director Ti West went the Joe D'Amato route by starting another film while already working on one, and decided to release them both in the same year, this blogger was a little concerned. Thankfully, Pearl isn't the Vincent to X's Julius, but it certainly does suffer from some very apparent faults which I can only attribute to the film being released way too soon.

Set in a much earlier period of the twentieth century, Pearl serves as an origin story to its predecessor's elderly and insane, titular antogonist. Numerous historical references are used to illustrate its 1918 setting: from the Spanish Influenza pandemic, which mirror more recent times; to the horrendous events in Europe with The Great War; and of course, the illuminating appeal of silent cinema. All of these play a profound part in Pearl's life; above all, though, is her desire for stardom. Her escapist fantasy to be famous becomes so important that woe betide anyone or anything that brings reality crashing down upon her.

Ti West mostly avoids the slasher path like he did with X, and instead focuses on Pearl having the  psychodrama treatment.This might irk some fans who expected more in a similar vein to its predecessor. Personally, I found the character study into Pearl's mental state the strongest aspect of the film. Pearl's origin elements are a little threadbare and contrived for my liking, but it's Goth's convincing performance that makes it so compelling. She puts so much into the film that she carries the weight of it on her back. Sharing co-writing credits with West, it's abundantly obvious how much Goth has invested into her character; replete with what appears to be an epic one-take monologue.

If only the rest of the film was on an equal par to Goth's performance. The supporting cast are a mixed bag, with only Tandi Wright, who served as an initimacy co-ordinator on X, delivering a credible performance as Pearl's oppressive and domineering German mother, Ruth. The chemistry between them is superb and you get some insight that Pearl's psychopathy is an inherited trait from her. Matthew Sunderland plays her infirmed father. Being severely disabled, there is little he can do other than offer reactionary eye acting and gasping. It's so morally disturbing seeing Pearl treat her invalid father like a beast of burden. That's the good actors out of the way, but what about the bad ones? Glad you asked, because the rest are a bunch of young actors who would be cringeworthy even on an episode of Hollyoaks. A Henry Cavill looking David Corenswet plays a local projectionist who introduces Pearl to both cinema and porn. He's a very two dimesional character who simply exists as a place marker between points A and B in Pearl's character arc; along with Emma Jenkins-Purro as Mitzy, Pearl's blank canvas of a sister-in-law, whose acting is nothing but a cartoonish do-gooder. These two characters feel very underwritten in the film.

Pearl has a general sparsness about it; which works to a certain degree with the isolation Pearl faces on a daily basis living and working on a remote rural farm, but the few scenes set in the local town and the crude special visual effects (particularly that one scene with the crocodile and the dance number) betray its very obvious low budget ($1M apparently). You could almost give it a free pass, but being a Ti West film, a director with a habit of capturing a historical periods effectively; examples of which, The House of the Devil (2009) and more recently with X, it feels a bit of a let down here. Couldn't help but get the sense that this was just one example of the film being a rushed production.

I partially get Martin Scorsese's appraisal for the film; certainly so for Mia Goth's performance, but I'm guessing it being the cause of his sleepless nights as pure hypebole, however. It's certainly a good film and better than a bunch of other horror films I've seen so far this year, but X offered more authenticity, variety and bottom line, didn't feel quite so one note. Also, for a prequel film, I walked away from it having more questions than its predecessor. Ironic that an origin film would pose more questions than answers. Based on the common consensus, my sentiments on Pearl come across as an unpopular opinion since it appears to have a more positive reception than X. Dada Debaser can only conclude that this is another example of recency bias in full effect. Hopefully, both West and Goth have had more time and effort afforded to them with the third outing, MaXXXine out next year. They're a good working team, with plenty of talent; hopefully they can manage their production time much better.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Chamber Music

Jerry Goldsmith - The Invaders
(The Twilight Zone soundtrack, 1959 - 1964)

Chances are you've already heard an extract from Jerry Goldsmith's The Invaders suite without even knowing as it's cropped up in various television shows and films since its creation. Different sections of the track have been mined like it was the stock musical equivalent of Bob James' Nautilus for shows like Rawhide (1959 - 1965) and The Fugitive (1963 - 1967).

Named after The Invaders, from The Twilight Zone episode where a mute Agnes Moorehead is besieged by tiny alien invaders in her cabin, Jerry Goldsmith's composition would make a recurring musical appearance throughout the show. A favourite example of this being for the episode, To Serve Man, where it can be heard as the musical motif to the big twist:

The Twilight Zone (To Serve Man - "It's a cook book!" scene) 
(Richard L. Bare, 1962)

The first time I recall hearing it was on Lewis Teague's awesome Jaws rip-off, Alligator (1980), where baby Ramón, the pet alligator, is flushed down the toilet in the pre-credits. What are the chances the Farrelly brothers watched the film and made the same musical association with a toilet as I still do? The reason being, the tinkling of the ivories portion from The Invaders can also be heard during the unforgettable toilet scene twist from the nineties classic Dumb and Dumber (1994):

Dumb and Dumber (Toilet scene)
(Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly, 1994)

Guessing the Farrellys weren't content with having just one toilet escapade as The Invaders turned up in a deleted scene from the film. Kind of thankful it wasn't included in the theatrical cut of the film as it might have ruined the overall tone, in my opinion.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

The Moment I Feared: Part 5

Worzel Gummidge 
(Willis Hall & Keith Waterhouse, 1979 - 1981)

There's a discreet chance it might have originated over Gloria Hendry's cruel demise by a remote controlled scarecrow in the James Bond film Live and Let Die (1973), but if ever a medium administered unexpected formidophobia to a young, urban audience then it would have undoubtedly been the children's television series Worzel Gummidge. Based upon Barbara Euphan Todd's children's books, the show about Worzel, an endearing dim-witted scarecrow, played by ex-Doctor Who Jon Pertwee, would wind up in a series of scrapes and adventures during its original run. 

It was bad enough having to witness the constant beratement by his object of desire, Aunt Sally (Una Stubbs), an uppity and rude, life-sized fairground doll; but seeing him endlessly disembowled and headless during many altercations, or wearing one of his alternate creepy looking heads was positively frightening for a young whippersnapper like me back in the day. 

Worzel and Sally weren't the only inanimate humanoid creations come to life, there was an ensemble of other characters who would appear on the show, including personal favourites: ship's figurehead Saucy Nancy (Barbara Windsor); Worzel's Sid Vicious inspired nephew Pickles Bramble; and Jolly Jack (Bernard Cribbins), a fish and chip shop figurehead. Those were the ones that looked half normal; the rest of Worzel's fear mongering kind were a motley bunch who resembled something between Edward Lionheart's mob of meths drinkers in Theatre of Blood (1973) and the typical crumbly rotten variety in Lucio Fulci's zombie films. Pure terror.

The series eventually wound up on the otherside of the world when it was relaunched and filmed in New Zealand as Worzel Gummidge Down Under (1987 - 1989), which I have no memory of. It was resurrected once more, this time by the BBC in 2019 with that scrawny bloke Mackenzie Crook from The Office. No idea if it was any good, though.

Coincidentally, around the same time as the original series, the classic television movie, Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981) came along. Sadly it spawned a sequel earlier this year. Is nothing sacred?

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Some Like It Hotpoint

Brian and Charles (Jim Archer, 2022)

Based on a short film, Jim Archer's captivating adventure set in the idyllic Welsh countryside revolves around the friendship between Brian, an oddball, reclusive inventor and Brian, his robotic creation, possessed with an infantile mind and a washing machine torso, is a wholly charming affair. The beauty of Brian and Charles is its focus on a childlike innocence exhibited in both man and machine. The result is a heartwarming tale that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Not really down with the millennial stoner type detritus that passes as "teh funny" ever since Seth Rogen became a thing, nor any of that inescapable political shite mistaken for humour  (The Mash Report), thus, it becomes salutary whenever a down to earth comedy of Brian and Charles calibre breezes along. It feels positively invigorating. Love the awkwardness of it, without it feeling forced nor contrived.

The plot has a fairly basic premise. Within the first act, it's easy to second guess how the film will unfold. Predictability isn't a negative in the film, it's a refreshing plus as it works in two distinctive ways: it allows for more time and effort invested with the bromance of Brian  (David Earl) and Charles (Chris Hayward), which is the main drive of the film; and the other is we don't have to endure the utterly played out concept of film creators thinking they're being smarter than the audience by subverting elements all while forgoing any organic progress within the film. This is an overworked trend which has become a bigger cliche in itself over recent years. Seeing both Brian and Charles develop over the course of the film is a real delight. All the eccentric humour would mean nothing if there wasn't some effective emotional bond between the two. Brian has an almost paternal love for the unwary and full of wonder, Charles. It's wonderful to see how Charles instills confindence in his introvert friend, Brian; helping him make that first step in finding love with Hazel (Louise Brealey), a fellow introvert from the local village. In the case of Charles, he grows from an inquisitive like child to a stroppy teen wanting to make a go in life away from Brian's protective umbrella. Felt so invested in the film, I wound up being genuinely enthralled by Brian and Charles standing up to the film's antagonist, Eddie the bully and his miscreant family. At one point toward the end of the film, I was hoping for Charles to go into a full robot rampage to save himself.

One very minor gripe I had with the film which could have been worked on a little better, would be the faux-documentary treatment being somewhat lost and forgotten within the film at times. Hardly a big deal, but it is noticeable.

Overall, this is a film that's a refreshing alternative to all that hackneyed, humourless, bullshit around these days. It oozes oodles of that quirky British charm, where even a jaded cynic like myself can't help being spellbound by it.

Shout out to The Martorialist for putting this on my radar.

Dada Debaser Bonus:

Glad I'm not the only one out there drawing the comparison between the striking resemblance of Charles Petrescu and Jim Broadbent. A number of other people have also mentioned it in the comments section for Kermode's video review of the film.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Picks of 1982

Film snobs can talk as much as they want about over praised shite like Gandhi and Tootsie, but those films were the Voight-Kampff test which separated folks like me from them. 

1982 was the year we finally kissed goodbye to the last vestiges of the nihilistic seventies and saw the start of over the top eighties excess; and what a year it was.

48 Hrs. (Walter Hill)

Basket Case (Frank Henenlotter)

Blade Runner (Ridley Scott)

Class of 1984 (Mark Lester)

Conan the Barbarian (John Milius)

Creepshow (George A. Romero)

Death Wish II (Michael Winner)

The Entity (Sidney J. Furie)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling)

First Blood (Ted Kotcheff)

Fitzcarraldo (Werner Herzog)

Five Elements Ninjas (Chang Cheh)

Friday the 13th: Part III (Steve Miner)

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (Tommy Lee Wallace)

The House on Sorority Row (Mark Rosman)

Human Lanterns (Chung Sun)

The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese)

The Living Dead Girl (Jean Rollin)

The New York Ripper (Lucio Fulci)

Next of Kin (Tony Williams)

Pieces (Juan Piquer Simón)

Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper)

Q the Winged Serpent (Larry Cohen)

Rocky III (Sylvester Stallone)

The Slayer (J.S. Cardone)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Nicholas Meyer)

Superstition (James W. Roberson)

Tenebrae (Dario Argento)

The Thing (John Carpenter)

Turkey Shoot (Brian Trenchard-Smith)

Vice Squad (Gary Sherman)

Visiting Hours (Jean-Claude Lord, 1982)

Who Dares Wins (Ian Sharp)

A bunch of slasher films that I wasn't confident enough to list and really ought to revisit are: Alone in the Dark, Girls Nite Out, Humongous, The Dorm That Dripped Blood, The Slumber Party Massacre and Unhinged. To highlight how mainstream the subgenre was back then, even Chuck Norris had his own slasher film this year. A pity that it's awful, though. Also, I've been mixing up Visiting Hours with X-Ray all this time, thinking they were the same film under alternative titles.

Other 1982 films I haven't seen in ages, but remember liking were The Dark Crystal and Night Shift.

Unpopular Opinion: 

I never cared for Tron.

Film Fact: 

The first S.O.V film granted a theatrical release was from this year, and it was indeed terrible.

Boardinghouse (Trailer)
John Wintergate (1982)

Dada Debaser Bonus:

Picks of 1992, 2002 and 2012.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Jesus Wept

Hellraiser (David Bruckner, 2022)

Somewhat breaking my own golden rule in discussing a movie that annoyed the hell out of me. Would rather talk about films I enjoy, but this is a very special exception on account of the original film and its sequel being very dear to my hellbound heart.

February 20th, 1993 was the night I sat in the rather swanky Empire cinema watching Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992). Fairly sure I had seen it on bootleg video prior, but that's when I realised the franchise had officially jumped the shark. Even though I guiltily enjoyed it for Pinhead going full on Freddy, Terry Farrell, and that Motörhead video, it has never recovered since. Subsequent sequels became lesser and lesser movies; straight to video junk forcefully dropping in the brand onto scripts for unrelated movies. It was a mess. Rumours of a remake or a reboot stretched all the way back to the noughties, but it hasn't been until now that it's come into fruition.

Enjoyed David Bruckner's laddish folk-horror, The Ritual (2017), but I was somewhat underwhelmed by his follow-up film, The Night House (2020) and I never understood the positive praise for it. As you can imagine, knowing he was helming this latest incarnation of Hellraiser put my expectations on tenterhooks. What's obvious about Bruckner's offering is it borrows a lot of winning elements from the first two and best films of the franchise, but it makes some very major errors in the process.

The biggest grievance I have with the film is how insufferably annoying the film's main protagonist is. Riley (Odessa A'zion), a drug addict in rehab and a burden to her brother and his friends, is so bothersome, I found myself praying for her to have an early death. Don't get me wrong, Frank and Julia Cotton, the original hellraisers, were hardly likable characters, but they were essentially the film's real antogonsits, while Riley is meant to be the film's lead and does her utmost to be a thorn in everyone's existance; including me, the viewer. If her personality is bad, then prepare for the weird collagen lips and unkempt mop of hair which makes her look like the illegitimate daughter of Howard Stern. Sure, that sounds immature and pedantic, but wondering whether or not her lips were real was an unnecessary and constant distraction throughout the film. Although not to the same extent, Riley's "friends" are also rather unlikable. Not sure if it's today's scriptwriters, but the way young people are portrayed in today's cinema is unbelievably poor. However, considering this is a horror film, they're merely in the film to serve as body count fodder; so forget about character developement and all that rubbish, right? The only non-cenobite character that is remotely interesting is Goran Visnjic's Roland Voight; the rich investor bad guy who comes from a similar mould to Dr. Channard from Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1989).

Gone is the BDSM leather apparel. The look of the new cenobites (the collective term for them is "gash") are a mixed bag. Liking the look of the new Pinhead / The Priest as played by Jamie Clayton and I'm not bothered about the character's obvious gender switch like some folk seem to be online. The character was originally described as "androgynous" in Barker's original novella, The Hellbound Heart. Too nitpick, I do feel Clayton's Pinhead voice lacked the commanding presence of Doug Bradley's original portrayal. Pinhead is also robbed the best line from the film, "save your breath for screaming!", which is uttered by what looks like a Poundland Angelique named The Gasp. Best and most unique looking one of the lot is The Masque, probably because it looks like an anorexic Michelin Man. The rest, really are nowhere near as striking as the original clique from the eighties film; or from some of the follow-up movies. They also lacked any real dread and acted like slasher villain wannabes at times; which hardly separates them from the cenobites in the sequels, does it?. The cenobites don't distinguish between the summoner, the innocent or other cenobites to tally up the score of sacrificial souls in this film. Really grinds my gears, since one of my favourite lines from the O.G Pinhead is "No! No! No! It is not hands that call us. It is desire". Other than the obvious, what made Pinhead so unique was you could bargain with this ambassador of pleasure and pain. It seperated him from the other horror movie villains at the time. This update does away with that and just has Pinhead and her gash (ha!) act like your typical monsters; there's even a scene where one of the cenobites chases after Riley like your typical movie maniac, which feels like a massive blunder to me. Another scene where the Chatterer cenobite employs brute strength on an iron gate. This is taken even further with Voight's mansion serving as a trap for the cenobites. Physical obstructions now pose as obstacles to these dark angel travellers of time and space. What the fuck?

For a modern update of the franchise, it considerably feels dated. The second half of this laboriously paced film essentially consists of twenty-somethings inside a creepy mansion running from monsters. There's even the predicatble betrayal cliche, which adds insult to injury. Admittedly, Voight's motivations, along with his mansion, does move the film into 13 Ghosts (1960) territory. Sadly, the viewer is still made to suffer from Riley's exasperating behaviour amongst it all. The way the lore is updated feels like Hellraiser for Dummies with its simplistic explanations of the configuartions of the Lament Configuration puzzle box.

Much of the film's cinematography and art direction attempts to evoke the first two Hellraiser films, but it's usually ruined by that awful digital sheen that's so common today. Along with some very obviously shoddy computer generated visual effects, such as chains and gore effects, and the film really feels like a noughties horror entry rather an a contemporary one. Leviathan and the labyrinthian maze look considerably worse in this film in comparison to their realisations from the Hellbound: Hellraiser II

All in all, this Hellraiser reboot makes the same egregious errors as many other modern updates we've had to endure. Bruckner's attempt is reminiscent of J.J. Abrams franchise "fixing" atrocities. It jumbles up past glories and throws it all into the mixer as one film; passing them off as new creative efforts with the vain hope no-one will realise, or if they do, label them as "homages". There are a few redeeming highlights like Jamie Clayton and Goran Visnjic's performances, but all the numerous aforementioned problems I had with the film make me never want to revist this film ever again. It's better than many of the Hellraiser sequels; but a turd is still a turd, no matter how much spin it's given. Tore my soul apart.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Not Quite Hollywood

With Halloween around the corner, it's that time of the year where the boutique blu-ray labels attempt to shamelessly repackage the usual horror movies without so much as a new transfer and bare bones extras in an already oversaturated market. Australian label, Umbrella Entertainment at least get props for providing localised releases of familiar films. The humble Antipodean cinephiles have had to make do with expensive imports for their love of film as it's an under represented territory in comparison to the other world regions.

Loving Umbrella Entertainment's Aussie tinged homages for their latest products in their "G'Day of the Dead" big bundle. The Day of the Dead meets Crocodile Dundee mash-up looks like schlocky Troma cover art. Genuinely impressed by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre release paying tribute to the poster art from Wake in Fright; as it looks legit as hell. The best and most hilarious of the bunch is Frank and Julia Cotton from Hellraiser running through the bush, obviously parodying ozploitation classic Turkey Shoot. Humbly, but proudly feeling sweet that I've covered two of these films on my fledgling blog already.

What's equally hilarious to me are collectors with fat wallets on various social media moaning about these artworks and not having a didgeridoo that they're homage parodies.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express

Horror Express (Eugenio Martin, 1972)

Considering how much of a washout the majority of  last month's film were, it was an utmost necessity for this blog to seek out the comfort blanket of the safe and familiar. Eugenio Martin's 1972 Spanish monster romp, Horror Express is the cinematic equivalent of chicken soup for the soul; or sopa de pollo for the sake of the inclined.

Loosely based on Joseph Campbell's 1938 science fiction novella, Who Goes There? Horror Express shares common DNA with both Christian Nyby's The Thing From Another World (1951) and John Carpenter's remake, The Thing (1982). Actually, both Martin and Carpenter's films are much closer to the creature's literal depicition in certain respects. Christopher Lee's paleontologist character, with the bad ass name of Alexander Saxton, discovers the frozen remains of what's presumably the missing link. It's being transported in a crate, en route to Moscow via the Trans-Siberian Express. Things don't exactly go smoothly however, as while at the train station a thief attempting to rob the crate winds up dead on the platform with hemorrhaged blood exiting his orifices (ooh, er missus!) and his eyes missing  pupils. The body count escalates even further once the train departs to Moscow. Hilariously, in typical British aristocratic swagger, Lee isn't too bothered that his scientific discovery of the century might be behind the deaths of a baggage man and a theif; they're only common riff-raff, innit? Set in the early twentieth century, Horror Express has the air of Hammer and Amicus about it which instantly has me attached to it like an intravenous drip.

The casting choices are phenomenally good, and it goes without saying that having both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing; for me - the illest acting combo of all time, automatically give the film a sense of prestige, regardless of how ridiculous events might get. Really ought to take a brief detour here and add that The Cush was in a raw state since his wife had recently passed away at the time. This in turn made him want to pull out of the film which had already begun shooting a week earlier. Lee being a true friend managed to persuade him to stay on and give him a necessary positive distraction during his time of grief. The result is some of the best on-screen chemistry exhibited between the pair of legendary actors and one of those rare times where they're working together as a team as opposed to being bitter enemies The rest of the cast aren't slouches either, as they're a recognisable bunch of Euro genre veterans littered throughout the film; including Helga Liné, George Rigaud, Julio Peña and Silvia Tortosa as the flirty Polish countess trying it on with Lee (get in there!). Big fan of Alberto de Mendoza as the Rasputin-style mad monk, Father Pujardov. If that's not enough then the icing on the cake is undoubtedly Telly Savalas memorably ab-libbing his way as Captain Kazan, a maniacal cossack leader introduced in the film's third act. 

What's amazing about Horror Express is how it escalates into such a grand scale of spectacle. It's a gothic adventure which features: a creature that drains brains, slasher style set-ups; Quatermass worthy  science fiction; and a psionically controlled army of zombies. All of this and the fate of the entire human race being fought on an old fashioned steam train hurtling through the Russian frozen wastes. Bizarrely, the with all those factors, the films doesn't go off the rails like one would presume. It works, because the film is delivered with such earnest passion from the cast and crew, that it's too enthralling to remain completely cynical. It also helps that both Cushing and Lee are such veritable masters in their craft at churning the most outlandish and fantastical scenarios, including schlocky dialogue, into convincing realisim; making it all the more a rollicking adventure. They're also in charge of the levity quota; when a policeman accuses that either Lee and Cushing could be the deadly creature, The Cush responds with the best line in the film, "Murder? We're British, you know!". Cut! Print! Classic!

Mark this one up as one of those long lost gems wallowing in public domain hell that rarely gets the props it deserves. Way too good to be some best kept secret by aging horror film boomers; and way too ancient to be appreciated by youngsters with the inability to watch any film over a few years old. A real shame then.

In the same year, Eugenio Martin helmed Pancho Villa (1972) with Telly Savalas playing the titular Mexican revolutionary. Other than using the same model train set featured in Horror Express, the film doesn't interest me in the slightest; what does though, is another Brit abroad themed Spanish horror helmed by Martin in the following year, A Candle For the Devil (1973). That film starred cult British actress Judy Geeson; in what I personally consider, a very prolific career streak at the time. A Candle For the Devil takes the template of Horror Express' Father Pujardov and his religious fanaticism into very engrossing type chiller.

Horror Express (Trailer)
(Eugenio Martin, 1972)

Dada Debaser Bonus:

Mind blown that John Cacavas, the film's soundtrack composer, was an American and not a Spanish bloke like I originally thought. Other than composing that highly catchy eerie whistle motif which played a big part in the film (and subsequently made it onto my Bork Funk Soundtracks list), he was also a friend of Telly Savalas. Mind blown even further that he produced Savalas' debut album, This is Telly Savalas... kicking off his crooner singing phase. Considering we've had a Peter Cushing rave song and a ninety-something Christopher Lee pumping out metal music, I'm not too fussed over actors' musical careers; unless it's J Lo and her beat jackin' of The Beatnuts - she can burn for that travesty. Not masochistic enough to bother checking Telly's music out, but I do find it freaking hilarious that the album cover is a mugshot of him in his cossack uniform from Horror Express while brandishing a gun and a cigarillo, especially since my lasting memory of him in the film is his horrific demise.

"So you want to be a cossack, all that shit"