Wrong Turn (2021)

Wrong Turn (2021)

Film: In general I find it strange when they ‘reboot’ a movie series. I’m a firm believer that if a series reaches the end of its live span with the movie-going public, it should be allowed to rest. When I first heard about this film, it was called ‘Wrong Turn: The Foundation’ and I must have glossed over the idea of a ‘reboot’ and was more than happy that I’d see more of Three Finger’s cackling and his family’s murderous ways.

What I found though upon purchasing this Bluray… yep, physical media lives… is the abandonment of ‘The Foundation’ part of the name and a film that completely abandons the entire concept of the ‘first’ bunch of films, and basically just kept the concept of a weird-arse family living in the woods, and more traps than you could shake a noose at.

This film adds much more to the mix, and at the risk of burying the lead, does it quite well. The reason for that might be because the writer of the original film, Alan McElroy, is back at the writing desk for this one.

The film starts with Scott (Matthew Modine), in backwater Virginia searching for his missing daughter, Jen (Charlotte Vega). He files a missing person report with the town sheriff, who comments on her ‘black fella’ boyfriend (a foreboding of the townships attitudes, indeed) and shows her picture to several locals, none of whom claim to have seen her, but all of whom are as weird as hell.

Before we enter too far into his story, we flash back to over a month previously where we see Jen, her boyfriend Darius ( Adain Bradley) and their friends Adam (Dylan McTee), Luis (Adrian Favela), Milla (Emma Dumont) and Gary (Vardaan Arora) in the same small town ready to hike along the Appalachian trail… when unfortunately, they make a… you guessed it… WRONG TURN!!!

Very quickly, one of the party of friends is killed by a falling log which panics the others and causes them to run off the trail, making them lost even deeper in the woods. They camp overnight and in the morning, Adam finds that his girlfriend Milla has disappeared, and is caught by some weird forest dwellers in a trap. The rest of the friends confront the strangers, who don’t seem to understand them, and after Adam is untied, he kills one of them with a makeshift club, furnished from a dropped branch.

The death of one of their own upsets the other member of the forest family, and very quickly, they are pursued by their associates, whom the friends find out are part of something called The Foundation, a group who live hidden in the mountains, patiently waiting for the fall of America.

I think the biggest problem with this film is the use of the title Wrong Turn! It seems to have suffered a bit on many of the online reviews but I imagine that was due to the fact that this is in NO WAY a sequel. A better way to have sold this film would have been to have promoted it as ‘from the mind of the writer of Wrong Turn’ with the simple title of ‘The Foundation’. Franchise fans would have been extraordinarily pissed of, I imagine, when they found this to be not even slightly associated.

I, however, found this film to be a breath of fresh air, and for some reason was reminded of Jordan Peele’s films. Thematically they are different, and I can’t explain why it reminded me of them… maybe in the way it was filmed, I’m not sure, but I also was reminded of 2014’s Welp aka Cub from Jonas Govaerts, due to its environment and its constant feeling of moisture and claustrophobia.

The direction is great and the ‘hero’ group feel far more like real people than franchise victims. The bad guys are suitably scary, and their actions justified rather than just moustache twirling evil-for-evil-sakes types. The main villain, Venable, played by Bill Sage, has an oppressive presence, though for me I’m afraid that someone who is a wood dwelling priest-like character, his hair was far too well-groomed, and that’s possible my only criticism.

This film is less a horror movie, and more the cinema version of a Far Cry movie… and I don’t mean the god awful Uwe Boll one staring Til Schweiger and Udo Kier! It travels along a quite the clip, and is full of surprises. I can’t recommend it enough.

Score: *****

Extras: Not a brass razoo!

Score: 0

WISIA: I’ve watched it twice already, so yes!

The Haunting (1999)

Film: The 90s were a time where horror was really suffering. The idea of creating a franchise rather than good, quality horror, due to the popularity of Jason, Michael and Freddy, had become paramount to the studios and it didn’t kill the genre, but it certainly put it on life support.

The Blair Witch Project was a clever manipulation of the general populace with a crappy film made interesting by the suggestion that is was real, and many people fell for it. It want u til Scream thoigh that Wes Craven really pulled horror back from being like westerns or musicals: only made now and again for nostalgias sake.

Another thing that saved horror in the late 90s and early 2000s was the remake, the idea that taking an older film and redoing it. Not a new idea surely, especially when you consider the popularity of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Chuck Russell’s The Blob. Also, taking a film from another country and making an English version of it seemed to really give the genre a kick in the pants. Yep, remakes were the way to go…

Unfortunately, and I’m burying the lead here, The Haunting possibly wasn’t a great choice.

The Haunting is a close to the book film, based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and this version was written by Road to Perdition’s David Self and directed by Speed’s Jan De Bont.

It’s tells of Nell (Lili Taylor) who after 11 years of taking care of her ill mother, has joined a group including Theo (Catherine Zeta Jones) and Luke (Owen Wilson) of people with sleep disorders, collected together by Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson), at Hill House, a beautiful old mansion with a hidden secret.

The house isn’t the only thing Wilma secret though, Dr. Marrow hasn’t brought them to the house for an insomnia study… no, he had brought them together to study fear, and house suggestions can make the human mind create a false narrative, but what he didn’t expect was that the house MIGHT just actually be haunted…

This film starts of with a casting choice that’s pretty impressive. Taylor, Neeson and Zeta Jones are really quite adept at the character archetypes they create (the shut-in, the nutty doctor and the slut) but unfortunately Wilson sticks out like a sore thumb. Sure he’s fun in the comedies he’s been in, but here he feels like he’s taking nothing seriously. I’m not sure if De Bont thought he could take the bone-headed surfer dude-type and make him a serious actor route again, like he did with Keanu Reeves in Speed, but it doesn’t work here. He seems to take none of it seriously, and that’s a detriment to the story, which is a shame because with the right cast this could have been ok… even a challenger to the other remake about a haunted house that came out at a similar time, The House on Haunted Hill.

It is, however, nice to see cameos from Marian Seldes and Bruce Dern.

Unfortunately the visual aspirations of the film were possibly a little high too. There are several cgi effects that are so bad… SO BAD… that it’s hard to take the film seriously. I’m not a fan of bagging a film too much due to its effects, I’ve seen some films with truly DIRE special effects, but these are really horrible. A product of the time, sure, but terrible.

On the flipside if that, the set design is grand, and majestic, and overdone as some if those old mansions were!

It’s final and main problem is it’s just not good! The story is fine, but the jump scares aren’t jump scares, and the slow burn scares just don’t work. It’s never truly a scary film as a movie about scary ghosts SHOULD be!

Another issue I have with this film is the packaging. Lili Taylor is clearly the star of this film, but she is 4th billed on the cover, and in the original marketing. She’s a fine actor and that’s a bloody crime!

On a good note though is the quality of this Bluray. The image is super bright and crisp and presented in a 2.35:1 image, and the audio, which will really work out your bass channel, is presented in Dolby DTS-HD MA 5.1.

Even though the accuracy to the novel is lacking, the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House is a more entertaining prospect, you’d honestly be better off watching that.

Score: **1/2

Extras: Absolutely nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s not really very interesting, so no.

Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser (1987)

Film: I may be a little old and set in my ways, but I am willing to listen to alternate opinions and think about stuff that I may not agree with, and can sometimes even be swayed. There is a caveat though: one thing I have to assure you about is I will never EVER be convinced that the 80s WASN’T The best time for horror!

Because it was.

100%.

Truly the 80s were one of the generations of horror when legends were built, not just in film, but also in literature. Clive Barker is certainly one of those legends. Not just with his selection of six volumes of horror short stories The Books of Blood, but also with his debut directorial effort (also based on his novella The Hellbound Heart, first published in volume 3 of the Dark Visions anthology series of books) Hellraiser, described by the reviewer for Melody Maker magazine as the greatest British horror film ever made.

Hellraiser tells of Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife Julia (Clare Higgins) who are moving into his abandoned parents house after his mother’s passing. They find that his brother Frank (Sean Chapman) a ne’er-do-well who is also Julia’s adulterous partner, unbeknownst to Larry, has been staying there but now appears to be missing… and seemingly in a hurry…

What they don’t realise is that Frank was the recipient of a mystical puzzle box called The Lament Configuration, which opens a door to Hell and drags you in. When Larry cuts his hand whilst moving in, his blood dripping onto the floor allows Frank (now a skinless monster, played by Oliver Smith) a door to escape from Hell, but he requires more blood to regain his full human appearance, and Clare is more than happy to spend her days luring men back to the house for him to consume from his hideout in the house’s attic.

He does eventually reveal himself to Larry’s daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Lawrence) who escapes his clutches and steals the puzzle box, accidentally activating it and releasing Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and fellow Cenobites, creatures who collect the souls of people, offering them an opportunity to feel the ultimate ecstasy. Instead of taking her though, Kirsty offers them Frank, whom they don’t believe managed to escape Hell… so it’s up to Kirsty to prove to them who he is.

I still remember seeing the trailer for this at a Village cinema in Sydney, and even that creeping me out, so when it finally arrived I couldn’t wait to see it, and I was thrilled by what I saw. For me, horror before this has been either monsters or slashers, and this film certainly opened my eyes to a different form of horror, and how in the right hands, a low-budget film could be just as, if not more thrilling than the biggest of blockbusters.

This film has quality thrills, great acting and a solid storyline that’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. Of all the big guns of 80s horror, Hellraiser is certainly one of the biggest, and shouldn’t be missed. The sequels, of course, get lesser as they go on and honestly, if you must watch any of the 9-odd films, you should watch the first three, and then stop.

Score: *****

Format: The quality of the feature seems to be only slightly above that of a DVD release, but it’s 1.77:1 image and Dolby HD-DTS Master Audio 5.1 sound do the job.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Whilst Umbrella used to be the legends of extras, they seem to care less about it now.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s a classic and deserves to be rewatched regularly. Mind you it also deserves a more complete package of extras so THIS release might not be the one to get!

The New Mutants (2020)

The New Mutants (2020)

Film: A strange thing happened to the 13 year old me in 1983… no, not pubic hair and the realisation that boobs are amazing… no, I became a ‘proper’ comic collector. I had been collecting comics for almost a decade at this point, but comics were something I rolled up and shoved in my pocket, and carried around in cardboard boxes with little regard for comic company, numbering or continuing stories.

I just liked the pictures with the words.

In 1983, though, I picked up something special whilst at the local news agency with my mum, who was doing her lotto: the first issue of a comic which would change my life, The New Mutants.

The New Mutants told of teens, some the same age as me, who upon hitting puberty, discovered that hidden in their DNA was a horrible secret/ curse of special abilities that if untethered, could accidentally kill others. Thankfully, they were taken on by the kindly teacher Professor Charles Xavier, who at his private school would just teach them and protect them, would also train them to use their powers, but unlike his other team, the missing (at the time) X-men, he wouldn’t allow them to become ‘super heroes’… but they are strong-willed teens, so obviously THAT wasn’t going to happen!

Imagine my excitement, then, when it was announced that 20th Century Fox was going to make a HORROR film based on my favourite comic of all time! Imagine my disappointment at the constant delays, some COVID-related, and some due to the Disney buy-out of Fox, and other because it was getting some bad press, even though no one had actually seen it.

The New Mutants FINALLY got a release in late 2020, where it was unceremoniously dumped… even though it was part of the successful but floundering (well, except for Deadpool and the magnificent Logan) X-men series… to DVD and Bluray (in the companies defence, it was right during COVID lockdowns and few, if any, cinemas were actually open). Tragically you can tell it was dumped by the fact that bother the symbols for Marvel, and it’s parent company Disney, and not mentioned on the front of the packaging, and are a tiny part of the back cover, which is a resounding ‘we are embarrassed by this movie’.

At the risk of spoiling the rest of the review, they are wrong.

This film was directed by Josh Boone, the director of teen drama The Fault in our Stars, who had envisioned it to be the first in a trilogy, which is now obviously abandoned, and was based on a script by him and Bad Grandpa’s Knate Lee… please don’t let those credentials scare you off… and is based loosely on the comics Demon Bear Saga, written by Chris Claremont, with art from Bob McLeod and Bill Sienkiewicz.

The New Mutants tells of Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt), a teenage girl who has been admitted to a hospital after a tornado destroys her community, and her father is killed by… something…

At this institute, she discovers that the doctor in charge, Dr. Celia Reyes (Alice Braga) intends on keeping her there until she understands and can learn to control her mutant powers of being able to make people’s worst nightmares come to life.

Maisie Williams and Blu Hunt

Dr. Reyes already has a group of kids at the institute though: the quiet, but lycanthropic Rahne (Maisie Williams), the Brazilian hothead, Roberto (Henry Zaga), southern boy Sam (Charlie Heaton) and Uber-bitch, is-she-actually-a-demon Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), and quickly, Dani discovers that she is being held with these others, in a cage if sorts.

The problem with cages, though, is sometimes they keep what’s outside, outside, but they also trap everything inside, perhaps even whatever it was that killed Dani’s rather… and with 5 super powered and erratic teens, that could be a dangerous mix!

Roberto’s girlfriend is a hottie!

Now this film isn’t your traditional ‘Bang! Pow!’ Superhero movie, oh no. This takes all that bluster and works it down to something that you saw in some of the X-men films, especially with the horrors of Rogue’s (Anna Paquin) powers which caused he to be unable to touch the skin of another human being: getting your powers for the first time would be horrible. Mix with that the difficulties of puberty and a bit of sexual chemistry and you have an absolute cracker of a movie.

It reads very much like a super powered, horror version of The Breakfast Club, and honestly this probably does tap into my love of that John Hughes film, with maybe a little of A Nightmare on Elm St 3: The Dream Warriors thrown in for good measure.

The cast, for me, are an absolute dream. Maisie Williams, hot off her time as Anya in Game of Thrones, Charlie Heaton, the creepy hot guy from Stranger Things and Anya Taylor-Joy, my current obsession, and star of The VVitch and hit Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit. In a weird piece of chance, and I guess it’s what a good casting person does, the cast somehow both fit, and don’t.

The story is a great introduction to these characters, and choosing to make this film with horror and teen elements is just as clever as making Deadpool a full-tilt comedy. It was supposed to be the first part of a trilogy and it’s a shame we’ll miss out on that as this film quite heavily leans into a future appearances of X-men baddie, Mr. Sinister.

Just because this film was dumped by Disney, please don’t assume it’s anything bad. It’s great!

Score: ****

Format: This movie was reviewed on the Australian release, region B Bluray copy of the film. The 1.85:1 image and 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track are fabulous.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a bunch of extras on this Bluray:

There are 7 deleted scenes which the movie really doesn’t miss at all.

Origins and Influences sees Boone, Lee and Sienkiewicz talk about the New Mutants comic. For me this is an unusual featurettes as Boone and Lee talk about how much they loved the New Mutants comic but it started off as a usual superhero comic, which for me, it definitely did not. Towards the end, it became boring and generic, but at first it was a proper school for people learning to control their abilities. I do appreciate it did become something unique when Sienkiewicz could really unleash his art style into it.

Meet the New Mutants introduces us to the cast and the characters they play.

Audio commentary with Boone and Sienkiewicz is really fascinating. To hear two storytellers from different areas of creative storytelling coming together and discussing a project they both worked on in different media. It’s so refreshing to see a comic creative get such a voice in a commentary. Normally in most superhero movies, a tiny bit of lip service is paid to the source material, or poor Stan Lee was forced to tell one of his oft-told tales again, but this really feels like a tribute to the comic. Fantastic.

There’s also the teaser and theatrical trailer.

Score: ****

WISIA: Oh boy, it’s so good it’ll get regularly rewatched!

Anya Taylor-Jot is Magikal

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2010)

Film: There is only one difference between a so-called ‘A’ movie and a B movie: The Budget.

Budget can make a story that is cheap, tawdry or nasty something that people take notice of because budget pays for bigger stars, better effects or a more ‘international story. There was an amusing meme that went around when 50 Shades of Grey was released that if Mr Grey was poor and lived in a trailer park, it would be an episode of CSI.

So too, this film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the first book of the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, could have been a sleazy little film that slipped by and only had a fan base of those who liked the books, but instead, it attracted names like director David Fischer, screenwriter Steven Zaillian, actors Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård and Christopher Plummer, and a score by Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor.

Interestingly, this is an English remake of the film which was originally made in Sweden two years earlier with Naomi Rapace (also from Alien prequel Prometheus), along with two sequels made immediately based on the other two books of Larsson’s trio. I say ’remake’ but that is unfair; it is another movie version of the book. Unfortunately o date they haven’t made the other two books, and judging by the next Lisbeth Salander film made, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, they won’t be made anytime soon, nor with the same cast.

This film tells of shamed journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) who takes on an assignment searching for a missing member of Henrik Vanger’s (Christopher Plummer) family, who went missing forty years ago.

Vanger’s family, one of great wealth, has been at war within its ranks for years, which hinders Blomkvist’s investigation. Most of the family members are compliant as his research is under the guise of a biography, but still he finds insults and resistance.

Soon, he gets help from Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a sociopathic hacker with a fast motorcycle and a vicious sense of vengeance and the two of them discover a horrible secret the family has kept hidden for years…

I’m going to gush a little here as I absolutely love this film. I think it’s directed brilliantly, the ‘administration’ and research the characters do is fascinating and the cinematography is exquisite. Of course the ‘hacking’ is almost of a science fiction level and one has to assume it’s not like that at all, but who wants to watch three days of coding instead of something a little more video game-ish.

In a podcast I am the host of (not the To Watch Pile one, another one called The Nerds of Oz) in an episode where me and my co-hosts talked about our favourite characters of all time, I actually named a Lisbeth Salander as mine. Of all the actresses to have played her, including Clare Foy in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Mara is certainly the most convincing, and terrifying!

The ultimate results of the story vary from the book, but in this case I am ok with that as it did make the ending surprising, which was nice.

If I am to criticise this film, and it really hurts me to say this as he is my favourite Bond, is Daniel’s Craig’s performance. It is a performances of subtleties and the character probably requires that, but occasionally I find him a little wooden.

That said, this is easily one of my favourite films, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian multiregion Bluray and is presented in an absolutely pristine 2.40:1 image with a flawless Dolby Digital DTS-HD MA 5.1 track.

Score: *****

Extras: This film comes with two discs. The first disc features the film (of course) and a commentary by David Fincher. Like most of his commentaries, it’s fairly complete and he clearly enjoys the act of filmmaking. There is also a whole second disc worth of extras on this one:

Men Who Hate Women sees the director, screenwriter and stars of the film discuss the popularity of the Millennium Trilogy books.

The Character and location tabs open a separate, quite inventive yet very Fincher series of menus (that’s evocative of a research part of the film) that feature the entire making of the film, from casting to location b-roll and the visual effects design of the very James Bond-like opening sequence. Fascinating yet exhaustive stuff. There is also a fairly complete look at the promotion stuff for the film as well.

Score: *****

WISIA: Love this film, love the characters, love the story, love rewatching it.

A Bay of Blood (1971)

A Bay of Blood (1971)

Film: Truly, in English speaking countries and outside of the fans of horror or cult cinema, the name of director Mario Bava, unjustly seems to be ignored.

Bava was the son of a filmmaker and started as a cinematographer, and was also adept at screenwriting and special effects, but really, as a director is where his talent lies. In his career he directed over almost 40, with genres including horror, fantasy, science fiction and comedy… even a movie based on a comics character (yes, Marvel didn’t do that first OR best), and many directors including Dario Argento, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, Joe Dante, Lucia Fulci and others claim to have been influenced by his work.

This film, A Bay of Blood, aka Twitch of the Death Nerve, Carnage, Ecologia Del Delitto (and many others) tells the tale of a series of murders that take place by the titular Bay.

The worst haircut ever gets it’s due punishment

First, the disabled owner of the bay is found hanging in her house in what was a murder made to look like suicide, but almost immediately, her murderer is also dispatched by a mysterious assailant. These events lead to a series of murders that all appear to be a cover-up for a real estate scam and an inheritance issue that just seem to escalate.

This film is clearly one of the templates for the slasher movies that came ten years later in the eighties: really just a series of gory murders, intercut with some images of boobs/ butts and a barely incoherent story to link it all together.

Not sure about the rest of you, but I don’t really have a problem with that!

Clearly, Sean Cunningham was inspired by this scene

Honestly, the story is REALLY stupid and doesn’t feel at all like any attempt has been made for any type of legitimacy for the story, and it assumes the viewer has NO understanding of how police investigations go. One could never remake this film now as the perpetrators of the film left fingerprints everywhere and even a rock with a slight understanding of forensics would have the ‘mystery’ solved within minutes. Also, so many unnecessary scenes drag on for far too long, and characters whose back stories we really don’t need to know are over-explained to the point of slowing down the story.

I say all that but it the end it is still charming, and the scenes of violence, considering this came out in 1971, are quite shocking and occasionally sophisticated in their execution. Sometimes the victim’s death scenes are just dumb though… for example, Brunhilda is clearly still breathing after her demise… for them not to ring too true, but they are excusable as not much of it feels realistic at all.

Island of Death director Nick Mastorakis said (and I paraphrase) that in making his film that he asked members of his team to come up with a bunch of horrible ways to die, and a bunch of perversions and he wrote a script around those parameters: this feels like it was made similarly.

This film also boasts the worst haircut ever seen in the history of cinema. It’s a pseudo-Afro-mullet that looks like a fake artist tried to flock a motorcycle helmet. It’s both the most horrifying and funniest thing in this film.

Having said all that, this film has a weird endearing honesty about it that makes it a joy to watch, even if the final scene is one of the most ridiculous things you’ll ever see.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow films multiregion Bluray release from 2010. It is presented in a clear, but artefact-filled 1.85:1 image with a fairly decent mono audio track.

Score: ***

Extras: Oh boy, it’s a smorgasbord of extras on this disc… are smorgasbords Italian? Do I mean tapas? No that’s Spanish… Buffet? Whatever: the point is there’s heaps of extras!

The Italian Version of the Film, with or without subtitles is included in the extras.n

The Giallo Gems of Dardano Sacchetti is an interview with the story writer of A Bay of Blood, Sacchetti, and his experiences in the Italian/ giallo film scene, including working with a Bava on this film.

Joe Dante Remembers Twitch of the Death Nerve sees director/ film enthusiast Joe Dante talk about Bava and his reception in America.

Shooting a Spaghetti Classic looks at how A Bay of Blood was shot through the eyes of assistant cameraman Gianlorenzo Battaglia.

There are also two Trailers from Hell narrated by Shaun of the Dead director, Edgar Wright, which are both for A Bay of Blood, but under two of its other names, Carnage and Twitch of the Death Nerve.

Finally there are two radio spots for the film.

Also, the review edition is the Arrow Films release from about 2010 and it has a choice of 4 different covers, a poster and a booklet about the film by Jay Slater.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s kitschy and cute, and gory as hell! It’ll get watched again, for sure!

Follow Me (2020)

One from the to watch pile…

Follow Me (2020)

Film: I hate getting old. I really do.

Some parts of me don’t work as well as they used to, I’m not as sharp as I used to be and forget things and even worse, I don’t understand why in modern movies, the new heroes are Youtubers or Tiktokkers or Facebookers or MySpacers or whatever. Maybe that’s because in my experience a lot of these people are loudmouth jerks… occasionally entertaining, but usually obnoxious, and the youngsters these days see them as celebrities.

It would seem that filmmaker Will Wernick is hip to the kids, though! The first film of his I saw was 2017’s Escape Room, which certainly tapped into the trend of Escape Rooms as being a form of entertainment. This film, Follow Me, could essentially be a sequel as the escape room aesthetic is certainly its vibe.

Follow Me tells the story of online personality, Cole (Keegan Allen), a douchebag of the highest order with no real skill set other than to be annoying and to travel the world doing stunts and performing feats to entertain his low IQ viewers who no doubt donate to his Patreon (or whatever the universe this takes place in calls Patreon). Of course, wankers like this have entourages of similar jerks, like the girlfriend who ‘grounds’ him, Erin (Holland Rodin), his wannabe act-alike Dash (George Tanko), the extreme sports hanger-on Sam (Siya) and friend-he’s-had-for-years, Thomas (Denzil Whittaker).

Cole gets a challenge to journey to Russia by Alexei (Roman Rubinstein) to do an extreme Escape Room that will test his very limits. It starts with his friends being restrained in various traps which he has to solve the tests to release them, but when they don’t do it in one hour, he finds that his friends are in some very real trouble from Russian psychopaths who kidnap them and start torturing them for their very own YouTube channel styled thing… will Cole and his friends escape this seemingly unreal adventure, or will their bodies just go missing and they never get seen again?

Essentially what we have here is a low-rent, crappy version of Hostel, which riffs on the 80s April’s Fools Day with completely unlikeable characters performed by unlikeable actors, but modernised for the PG13 crowd.

Wernick does have a wonderful directorial style though. The set pieces are all pretty cool, if not a bit Saw-like, and the traps aren’t so hard that you or me wouldn’t figure them out so it does feel like there’s an element of realism to the events. Unfortunately there was a couple of things I was surprised at: one of the bodies in the film looks extraordinarily fake, and for some reason, occasionally Keegan Allen’s lips are lit so it looks like he has the very pinkest of pink lipstick on. Remember that episode of the I.T. crowd where Roy has lippy on after a buck’s night? THAT colour.

Unfortunately this film is just forgettable. When it’s competing for airtime against stuff like the aforementioned Hostel or any of those human-hunting-human for entertainment styled flicks, it just doesn’t stand out. Honestly, even Escape Room, which I didn’t like that much, was far better than this. I will give this film one saving grace: the absolute violence of the final kill, whilst reminiscent of Bruce Willis’ pasting of the Yellow Bastard in Sin City, was surprising.

Score: *

Format: This review was performed with the Australian Bluray release of the film whose 2.40:1 aspect ratio and Dolby digital 5.1 sound are as excellent as you would expect them to be.

Score: *****

Extras: Absolutely nothing, which to be honest, so a relief as I couldn’t care less about any behind the scenes stuff of this piece of trash

Score: 0

WISIA: Oh HELL, no! I wish I could find a way to forget I watched it ONCE!

BOOK REVIEW: THE ART OF THE NASTY

The Art of the Nasty by Nigel Wingrove and Marc Morris

My horror addiction doesn’t just stop at DVDs and Blurays (and a very small quantity of laserdisc and VHS), I also have a far-too-large collection of horror related toys, novels, board games, video games and comics, but my favourite non-plastic disc collectables are my books ABOUT horror films especially of they take a specific aspect of horror cinema and completely dissect it. At the top of those books that sit amongst my favourites is the wonderful second edition of Nigel Wingrove and Marc Morris’s The Art of the Nasty.

The book looks at the ‘Video Nasty’ part of England’s VHS and cinema history. Honestly if you are a horror fan and don’t know about this or at the very least haven’t seen the documentary Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide perhaps you should go outside and shake yourself, and then look it up before reading any further, but here’s a quick recap anyway: in the late 70s/ early 80s in the UK, during the rise of VHS, the politicians and media got stuck into home cinema because of the sex and violence contained within, and this may have been due to the way they were advertised and their lurid, and occasionally misleading covers which singled them out and basically lead to massive cuts as the British Board of Film Censorship (known as the BBFC, and the latter letter eventually changed to mean Classification) flexed its muscles and went on a cut-fest.

That’s basically what happened but obviously there is a HELL of a lot more to it. The effects are felt still today, as some films that have been released in other parts of the world uncut are still edited in the UK; Shameless’s The New York Ripper being a standout.

Anyway, this book is a celebration of the VHS covers of the time and just how the sex and violence of the contents were used to sell the film, seeing as how the covers were the ONLY selling point back in the non-internet days. Wingrove speaks from a firsthand experience in a lot of this, seeing as how he founded Redemption Films and Salvation Group and created the online experience Satanic Sluts. He also had his film, Visions of Ecstasy, refused distribution on the grounds of blasphemy!! His co-author, Marc Morris is a historian and broadcaster who mainly writes books about the middle ages, but also assisted Francis Brewster and Harvey Fenton with the book ‘Shock! Horror!’ another book about the art of the Nasty VHS.

The books opens with 2 forwards, titled The Nasties: A Personal View by Wingrove, one from the original edition from 1998 and the other more recently in 2009. The two forewards are definitely necessary as post-millennium so many previously banned films have been released, mostly completely uncut, and Wingrove discusses the change opinions in the new one.

The book then breaks down into chapter relating to different aspects of the Nasties. The Official Nasties, which covers the 39 films deemed obscene by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Nasties On Parole, which are the ones the DPP couldn’t get a conviction, Nasties – The Ones That Got Away, which are ones that completely avoided the DPP’s eye, Nice and Sleazy Does It, which looks at covers from the pre-certification era of VHS and finally The Good, The Bad and the Vomit-Inducing which is described as the best of the rest, still sleazy, but not to the extent of some of the others. The book concludes with a Video Company Listing which lists VHS companies and the films they released: essential reading for UK VHS collectors.

The book is, as you would expect, lavishly illustrated with some of the most striking images of VHS releases of the time and really, even as a devout horror collector, I am surprised by some of the images on these VHS covers (I don’t object to them, I just am surprised that middle class shop owners of the less-permissive early 80s would have allowed these images on shelves in their shops!!). All the images have a small blurb which tells the Original Title of the film, its country of origin, the director, the year and time and the video label that released that particular version. There is also a supportive paragraph which describes what the film was about and any interesting situations in which the film may have been involved. If I am to pass any criticism of this book, it is in these paragraphs as mostly I wanted more… but then again, the book is about the images, and essentially I can research any film on which I wish to gain more knowledge.

Each page also has a contextual historical snippet to show what was happening in the world at the time, which whilst not entirely necessary, is an interesting idea as it shows, now and again, what was happening in politics and other areas of pop culture at the time. It is a nice garnish to the feast that is the images and their accompanying text.

On the whole, this book is a horror gem, as inadvertently becomes a GREAT support to the aforementioned Video Nasties doco. It is well written and the bold images are an absolute treat!

Rating: *****

Evil Dead (2013)

One from the rewatch pile…

Evil Dead (2013)

Film: Sometimes the tone of a film is really what makes it. Films like I Spit On Your Grave achieve what they set out to do by having the correct attitude, and succeed because of it. Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead succeeded not just for its gory setpieces and crazy storyline, but also because of its chutzpah and the wry sense of humour, which at its core has the blackest of hearts. For me, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, the FIRST Evil Dead remake, made that black humour far too obvious and slapstick, and fails because of it.

This film suffers the exact opposite: its failure lies in that it takes itself FAR too seriously.

Mia (Jane Levy) is a drug addict, and her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) along with friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore)  have taken her to her family’s secluded cabin, in the woods, to help her dry out and support her through the coming down process.

What they find when they get there though, is that the cabin has been broken into, and some ritual performed in the basement. Eric finds a book, wrapped in plastic and bound in barbed wire, and curiosity being what it is, opens the book.

We all know what curiosity kills though, and after Eric reads a passage in the book, weird things start to happen. Is Mia’s coming down tougher than they all thought, or has something taken her… something that wants to swallow their souls…

Straight up I have to compliment director Fede Alvarez on the direction of the film. Whilst it may not have some of the innovation brought on by budgetary constraints that Raimi had to deal with, it is at times breathtaking. He managed to keep the film quite timeless by not having a load of current gadgets and by giving it that washed out ‘sepia’ look. Initially, the level of gore that has been reached made the little gorehound, hidden deep inside me, stand up and applaud, and more than once, cringe… which rarely happens these days.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where my interest in it stops.

The script was OK, but essentially the plotline is rehashed from the original, but updated to suit more current moviegoers attitudes, and with a few deliberate twists thrown it to throw fans of the original off. This is something that perpetually annoys me about remakes: the need to turn a story on its head JUST for the sake of being different. This is little more than a writer’s ploy to say he put ‘his’ mark on the film.

Sorry guys, but putting butter UNDER my popcorn doesn’t make me an innovator.

Of course, the film is full of those ‘fan service’ bits where iconic imagery from the original pop up for no reason other than to make you remember this is a remake, and not an homage or a flat out rip off.

The characters were photocopies of each other, and really any of them could have said each other’s dialogue and you wouldn’t have even noticed. This was made even more apparent by average performances, except for the one executed by Lou Taylor Pucci, whose performance was so annoying I considered punching the chips out of my television.

The real problem with this film though, lies in the fact that it didn’t ‘get’ the first Evil Dead. I stated earlier that I initially enjoyed the gore, but when you batter a viewer with non stop images of it, eventually the old brain starts to stop being shocked. Raimi’s Evil Dead understood that to make the violence and gore more shocking, you need shades of light and dark within the entire tone of the film. Raimi himself failed this uneasy balancing act with too much light in Evil Dead 2, and this film fails with its constant darkness. The original film had the idea of friends on a holiday to give the film some levity, but with idea that the friends are helping one of their own overcome a drug addiction, the story starts in a dark place, and doesn’t allow for any variation.

The last thing that really rubbed my rhubarb the wrong way here was the appearance of the ‘buried’ demon. Seriously, since the exposure to the Western world of Eastern films, particularly that of ‘ j-horror’, demon possession designers have gotten lazy, and I assumed I had fallen asleep, and someone had changed the disc I was watching to that of The Ring, or The Grudge, or any one of the other scary, black haired girl ghost films.

I really wanted to like this film, and honestly, the gore level almost fooled me into thinking it was a good film, but it’s not. The violence level is of what a good horror fan would want, but without levels of light, it’s just a barrage that eventually become overwhelming, and dare I say it boring and disappointing.

This, the SECOND remake of Evil Dead suffers from the same thing that the first remake, Evil Dead 2, suffers from, but from a polar opposite point of view. If you could take this FAR too dark remake and mix it with Evil Dead 2’s high level of levity you’d have a spectacular film. Wait a second… that already happened: it’s a film called The Evil Dead, directed by Sam Raimi. Watch that instead: it’s the best of both worlds.

Score: **1/2

Format: The sound and picture quality of this disc are outstanding. The picture is presented in Hi-def 2.39:1 widescreen and the sound punches you in the head with a Dts-HD 5.1 track that has some pretty amazing levels to it.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s some ok extras on this disc!

Commentary by actors Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas with Director Alvarez and writer Rodo Satagues is pretty good, and most of their recollections are either informative or amusing.

Directing the Dead is a look at what processes director Alvarez used to make the film, and get performances from the cast.

Evil Dead the Reboot has interviews with Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell about being convinced to do a remake… sorry, a ‘reboot’, and with Alvarez and Sayagues about approaching a cult favourite and the risks therein.

Making Life Difficult discusses how psychologically hard it was for the actors to film the intensity of a film such as this.

Unleashing the Evil Force talks about the lore of the Book of the Dead.

Being Mia follows Jane Levy around on a day on the set, and looks at some of the tortures the director put her through… actually, a lot of the extras are very Levy Heavy, so the producers must have decided she is the Next Big Thing.

Previews starts with a trailer promoting Bluray as a format (hot tip idiots: I’m watching a Bluray disc, so I possibly already know about it) before giving us trailers for Django Unchained, After Earth, This Is The End, White House Down and Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore.

Score: ****

WISIA: There is enough gore to keep me going back, so yeah, I’ll watch it more than once!

Poltergeist (2015)

One from the rewatch pile…

Poltergeist (2015)

Film: So as cinema fans we have decided that remakes are something that we will no longer completely argue about as there have been enough good ones and enough bad ones for both sides of the conversation to have ammunition in a non-winnable war, but now, the detractors have a new weapon, a carpet bombing, nuclear, anthrax-filled, DNA bomb that will melt the argument of remake fans.

That weapon is the turd laden, disappointment fuelled crapfest known forever more as the Poltergeist remake.

This hunk o’junk was directed by Gil Kenan, whose previous efforts were the kid’s movies Monster House, which was pretty good, and City of Ember, but essentially we have a kid’s film director remaking one of the great all time horror films. It was written by David Linday-Abaire, who did the screenplay for Robots, Inkheart, Rise of the Guardians and Oz, The Great and Powerful, so again, another family film maker attempting to ‘reboot’, ‘redux’ or ‘reimagine’ a classic.

Sigh.

I assume you all know the story but this has a few tweaks, so I’ll share those with you. The Bowen family have moved into a new, cheaper house as dear old dad, Eric (Sam Rockwell) was made redundant from his job at John Deere. He’s moved with wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt), and three kids, Madison (Kennedi Clements), Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) and Griffin (Kyle Catlett) in a new house. Very quickly though, they find there is something wrong with the house… Something supernatural… And when Carolanne… Sorry, Madison, is stolen by the evil entities living in her closet, the family enlist help of a seemingly useless university paranormal investigation team and a television psychic, Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), but will they all be able to retrieve her, or has she, and the entire cast”s acting careers, been lost forever.

Now in the throes of writing for various websites over the last 20 odd years (yep, still plugging away for no financial reward…sigh), I’ve sat through some absolute dire films in the name of cinematic, journalistic integrity, but never have I sat through such a waste of time, talent and resources. I actually should have watched it twice but I decided that seeing as how I’d already sat through the extended cut, there was no reason to poison myself again with a shorter, more incomplete film, I mean, you wouldn’t take half a dump, right?

Honestly, the only thing I can compliment this film on is one element of the production design, specifically the undulating, Croenenberg via Fulci look of the ghost world, as far as the rest of it though, well, my problems with this film lie in three measures, and I shall break them down individually.

First, the cast. I really like Sam Rockwell, and even when he is in dire rubbish like Charlie’s Angels, he stands out as a scene stealer, but here he appears to be collecting a weekly cheque, or his Downers have really kicked in, and he just fades into the background. The others are just terrible, and the director doesn’t seem to know how to get good performances out if any of them, and they all trudge through this mess like they are being forced to be there. Jared Harris normally stands out as well, and does here but it is due to his accent rather than his performance. It seems the director has no idea how to get actors to act and what he has achieved is the very definition of generic characterisations.

Second, the script. A director can perform his craft better if he has a decent script, and here he doesn’t. The story starts quickly and uses a few of the trappings of the original, but then it has jumps in the narrative that are awkward, and characters that change at the drop of a hat, making them nonsensical, not to mention a paranormal team that don’t share every scrap of information that they have experienced with each other. Their equipment is also eye rolling, especially the iPad controlled drone that is sent in to find Madison in the ghost world. At first I thought it was a cool idea, until the controls were handed to Griffin, the ten year old boy, to fly into the void. By the way, if I were watching images sent back from limbo of the tortured souls within, I’d probably react, rather than watch it like a repeat of the most boring of Richard Attenborough’s wildlife documentaries.

A lot if the script just doesn’t ring true, and even in the most fantastic of fantasies, lore and truth of the story must prevail or it becomes hard to swallow, and it happens so frequently in this film that it’s the size of a horse sedative.

Finally, the overall production design. In a post Paranormal Activity/ The Ring world, making a film about hauntings has its own visual language, but guess what: that doesn’t mean you have to adhere to it. This film has a complete lack of a visual originality.  All the flags are raised here: blue tinted imagery, little black haired girls, grabbed by your leg and pulled up the stairs, bubbling black ‘stuff’  from the ground. Even a casual horror fan, who may be suckered in completely by all these modern haunting films, would sit with arms crossed, and be able to identify from where each bit was stolen! Sure, it’s a remake so clearly originality HAS to as issue, but the good remakes generally distance themselves from the original to get a look of its own. This distances itself from the original by using all the looks from the post The Ring ghost films.

I really can’t advise you against this film enough, and have a slew of casual horror friends who have told me not to see it but I didn’t listen to their advice, but I expect that you all should listen to me: do not waste your time watching this film. The only thing wrong with this film is everything.

Just a horrible, horrible waste of a film. Don’t see this, please. I have thrown myself on a grenade for you, don’t make my sacrifice in vain.

Score: *

Format: One positive thing I can say about this disc is how well it is presented. The film is in 2.40:1 with a 5.1 and a 7.1 soundtrack (I reviewed this on the 5.1) and as one would expect from a film of this era, it is perfect. In addition to 2 versions of the film, the disc also features the 3D version of film.

Score: *****

Extras: The extras, like the film, are a pile of rubbish. An alternate ending, which is almost as stupid as the original one, a stills gallery, which is an extra that never fails to infuriate me, and 2 trailers, which in their favour make the film look like it is going to be mildly entertaining.

Score: *

WISIA: No, thousand times, no.