Sunday, 29 December 2013

Don Jon

Title: Don Jon
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levit
Released: 2013
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levit, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luke, Channing Tatum, Anne Hathaway

Plot: Jon (Gordon-Levit) a modern day Don Juan, ruled by his material possessions as well as his lust for casual sex and porn, only to soon find his life thrown into turmoil by his new relationship with the feisty Barbara (Johansson) .

Review: Not content with making the successful transfer from indie favourite to the Hollywood mainstream, Joseph Gordon-Levit extends his range here to include directing as he appears both side of the camera with his "Jersey Shore" esq tale. It's an interesting change of pace for JGL, while at the same time not so surprising when you consider some of the varied  roles he has undertaken previously, from a gay rent boy in “Mysterious Skin” to a high school private eye in “Brick”, he has continued to surprise with the roles he has been able to pull off while needless to say approaching all of them with a fearless attitude as anyone who has seen “Mysterious Skin” can certainly attest to. Here though he goes into Guido mode as Jon, as he engages in an endless cycle of working out, casual sex, cleaning his apartment and nightly rounds of what could almost be seen as a highly choreographed routine of porn watching before finishing out his week by attending confession to cleanse himself of his numerous sins.

Porn of course is the main subject of interest here, as Jon certainly loves his porn even openly admitting to preferring it over sex with one of his many real life partners. Needless to say these nocturnal activities don’t sit too well with Barbara, which leads to the surprising main meat of the film as Jon attempts to break away from his porn addiction. Of course if you’re now taken by surprise by that last part you would certainly be experiencing the same feeling I had while I was watching this film, as honestly the last thing I was expecting here was a study on how pornography has warped men’s expectations of sex. A subject certainly given some thought here, as Jon bemoans how his real life partners are unable to compare to his porn fantasies, their flaws being reeled off in almost a checklist. Of course such commentary on society and its porn obsessions, I’m still unable to tell if it’s a subject close to JGL or if he is just using working the subject into the film due to it currently being such a hot topic.

Jon trying to find redemption from his porn obsession forms the meat of the second half of the film, which is also the weakest part, as Jon soon meets Ester (Moore) through his night school classes, who might be what he has been looking for all this time, while together they engage in their own mutual and highly unorthodox form of therapy to try and cure each other’s issues, which generally involves smoking pot and having sex in Ester’s car. Sadly which I’m sure that JGL intended for these scenes to have some form of emotional resonance with the audience, who instead suddenly find themselves jerked to the polar opposite of the film they were watching in the first half, which ultimately proves to be detrimental to the film as a whole.

Ultimately though it is hard to classify exactly what this is trying to be classed as, with most critics seeming to be mark it as a modern romantic movie and one which aims to shy away from the more textbook fairy tale ending kind of romantic movie. JGL certainly has the experience with this films be it via “500 Days of Summer” or perhaps to a lesser extend “10 Things I Hate About You”, so it wouldn’t be overly surprising that he would choose to make a similar sort of film for his debut. Still this doesn’t truly describe the film for while the film certainly sees Jon trying to deal with two very different relationships, only the first half could be seen as trying to break this mould, especially when JGL includes a mock trailer for one of the kind of movies he is trying not to make, while also clearly making use of his little black book of celebrity fans, as Anne Hathaway and Channing Tatum camp up the romantic leads.

Such confusion over what sort of film he is trying to make alongside the polar opposite halves to this film only makes it something of a shame especially when the first half shows such potential with JGL perfectly embodying the Guido stereotypes, which have become so familiar to those of us who may have caught an episode of “Jersey Shore”. You know while flicking through the channels looking for the Discovery channel and of course not intentionally watching it for the sleazy cheap thrill it provides…but I digress as JGL here if anything only continues to prove himself every bit the human chameleon as he perfectly embodies another role. This of course is more than just dressing hip and speaking with a Bronx accent, as he even manages to include even the smaller details of the culture such as striping down to his vest when eating dinner with his family, while his ear for dialogue is none the better than these moments, as Jon has to contend with a father (Danza) more obsessed with watching the game than the lives of his children and a mother who puts most interrogators to shame with her constant stream of questioning.

Equally strong is the supporting cast which JGL assembles here, from a pitch perfect Scarlett Johansson who gives one of her best performances since “Ghost World” with a classy trashy attitude to boot as she refuses to be just another conquest for Jon, teasing him relentlessly and could at one point potentially be the one to make him settle down if it wasn’t for her adverse reaction to his porn watching habits.  Julianne Moore is equally watchable and brings a suitable amount of emotion to her more powerful scenes as she reveals that she is dealing with the loss of both her son and husband.

Despite JGL once again confirming that he is still one of the most interesting actors currently working today, he however appears less comfortable behind the camera, with a disappointing second half striving to show redemption only proving detrimental to the overall film with its sudden mood shift. This is not to say that there aren’t still sparks of potential and flashy cinematography throughout, its just more of a stumble than a memorable debut.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Alt. Christmas 2013 - The Full Countdown

Okay so for those of you who follow either my Facebook page or Twitter feed, you will know already that this month I have been counting down the run up to Christmas with some of my favourite Alt. Christmas moments. Be they musical tracks, films or even just creepy Santa photos I wanted a fun way to share my love for all things Alt. Christmas.

So now for those of you who missed any of those posts I now present the full 25 day rundown....enjoy.

Alt. Christmas - Day 1: Won't Be Home For Christmas - Blink 182

So kicking things off this great pop punk track aswell as the first of two tracks to be featured in this countdown. While this one is often more overlooked, it still contains plenty of Blink 182's trademark humour and who doesn't associate with the desire to chase carol singers with a baseball bat.

Alt Christmas - Day 2: Rare Exports Inc.

The original short film which lead to the full length film and which also answers the question as to where Santa Claus comes from.

Alt Christmas - Day 3: A Muppet Family Christmas - Pass It on

Thanks to Claire for recommending this often forgotten classic, in perticular this song, which I still can't decide if it's adorable or irritating?

Alt Christmas - Day 4: The Night The Reindeer Died

Taken from "Scrooged". Surely this is the one Christmas movie we all want to see made

Alt. Christmas - Day 5: RUN-DMC - Christmas In Hollis

Another overlooked Christmas classic, as nothing puts you in the festive spirit like old school hip-hop!

Alt. Christmas - Day 6: Die Hard / Die Hard 2: Die Harder

Arguably the greatest Christmas double bill ever, while sadly John McClaine had terrorist free Christmas's after this. Still on the plus side we are currently only two movies away from Die Hard week!!

Die Hard Review:

Die Hard 2: Die Harder Review:

Alt. Christmas - Day 7: Christmas Evil

The definitive serial killer Santa movie even if it is unfairly overlooked in favour of "Silent Night, Deadly Night" which it predated by four years! Thanks to Emily of "The Deadly Dolls House of Horror Nonsense" for recommending it.


Alt Christmas - Day 8: Creepy Mall Santa's Can you find a Santa Creepier than this?

Post your own creepy Santa in the comments section and lets see who can find the creepiest one

Alt. Christmas - Day 9: Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions

The follow up to the original short which in turn lead to the wonderfully unique film which will also be shown on Film4 this month. So why not enjoy the safety video in the meantime.

Alt. Christmas - Day 10: Making Christmas

One of the more underrated songs from "The Nightmare Before Christmas" yet in so many ways captures the fun spirit of the film, especially in seeing how the residents of Halloween Town interpret what Christmas is.


Alt. Christmas - Day 11: Bikini Bloodbath Christmas

A film which within the first fifteen minutes gives you enough nudity, foul language and toilet humour to put most teen comedies to shame...possibly one of the more random alt. Christmas movie ever


After this review was originally posted it got picked up by the director Thomas Edward Seymour, who posted on his blog

"This is a really entertaining new review for my flick Bikini Bloodbath Christmas from – Depths of DVD Hell. It’s not glowing or eve
n kind in spots but it is awesome!"

You've got to love a director who can take critism without throwing a diva strop. Thomas Edward Seymour, I salute you!

Alt Christmas - Day 12: Carol of the Bells - Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Truly epic cover while surely this is what a Viking Christmas must sound like!!

Alt. Christmas Day 13 - Jack Frost

Because if you watch only one serial killer snowman movie this Christmas...if you watch two I guess you could always watch the fantastically titled sequel "Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Killer Mutant Snowman"


Alt Christmas Day 14 - Louis Theroux Werid Christmas

What happens when you invite a preacher, a mountain man, a porn star and an intergalactic space psychic for Christmas? Documentary film maker Louis Theroux found out in his Weird weekends special

Alt Christmas Day 15 - What's This?" - The Nightmare Before Christmas

Another of my favourite songs and one were the animation is so perfectly choreographed to the music. There is also so much fun in spotting all the small details, which even now after numerous viewings I'm still finding new things.

Alt Christmas Day 16 - A John Waters Christmas

A sorely overlooked collection of Christmas songs, from bad taste legend John Waters, so here puts together a collection of Christmas songs as unique as the soundtracks of his own films. The perfect remedy to the mass market Christmas albums

Alt Christmas Day 17 - This Trinity's Goin To War

Okay not officially a Christmas song, but who doesn't like an excuse to see evil Robot Santa, Kwanzaa-bot and the Chanukah Zombie (voiced by Mark Hamill).

Alt Christmas Day 18 - Silent Night, Deadly Night

While it might be mistakenly credited with creating the idea ("Christmas Evil" was first) of a serial killer Santa it is certainly still the most controversial while also spawning an four questionable sequels.


Alt. Christmas Day 19 - "Happy Holidays, You Bastard" - Blink 182

Time for another round of festive cheer from Blink 182

And now the super festive mix feat. Ben Folds

Alt. Christmas Day 20: "The Christmas Card" - Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam uses his trademark animation style to unleash some festive mayhem, in the way only he can.

Alt. Christmas Day 21 - Mr. Bean Nativity Scene Chaos

Another of my favourite Xmas special's yet for some reason this scene is always so overlooked. Still only Mr. Bean could get so much out of a simple Nativity scene.

Alt. Christmas Day 22 - Santa's Slay

Former WWE / WCW wrestler Bill Goldberg as a demonic Santa...what more could you possibly ask for? A sorely overlooked, let alone hilarious cult movie in the making and one well worth discovering this Christmas


Alt. Christmas Day 23 - Santa Claus Conquers The Martians

Because we all remember that one time when Martians came to Earth to kidnap Santa Claus because there is no one on Mars to give their children presents. A cult b-movie and also the #83 worst movie on IMDB.

Alt. Christmas Day 24 - Gremlins

The movie I saw so many times as a child I even wrote a novelisation of it, after my granddad quipped that I could probably write the script I had seen it that many times.
This of course was the scene as a child I loved to play over and over, especially as it showcases that wonderful theme music!!

Alt. Christmas Day 25 - The Star Wars Holiday Special

One of the few things in this world that even knowing how horrible it is, still does not prepare you for this car crash of a cash in, which even the George Lucas refuses to talk about it. Bizarrely "Glee" would for some reason try to convince the world that this is the special most fondly remembered by Star Wars fans as I've yet to find even the most die hard of fans who like this one.

On the plus side it does feature the first appearance of Boba Fett in a cartoon were Han Solo looks strangely like Mick Jagger and the millennium falcon has fuzzy dice.

The Star Wars Holiday Special by FilmGeek-TV

So there you have it my 2013 Alt. Christmas countdown in full. I hope you've enjoyed it and thanks to everyone who submitted ideas for what to be featured. So until next time have a great Christmas which if its like my own will be filled with movie watching and food induced comas.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Santa's Slay

Title: Santa’s Slay
Director: David Steiman
Released: 2005
Starring: Bill Goldberg, Douglas Smith, Emilie de Ravin, Robert Culp, Dave Thomas, Saul Rubinek, Rebecca Gayheart, Chris Kattan, James Caan, Fran Drescher

Plot: Santa Claus (Goldberg) it would seem is not quite the jolly fat guy we all thought he was. Turns out he is in fact a demon who 1,000 years ago lost a bet to an angel which meant that he was forced to become a bringer of toys and happiness. Now the 1,000 years are up and Santa has now returned to his former ways which is especially bad news for the residents of Hells Township as Santa Claus is coming to town!

Review: Wrestlers as a rule rarely make good actors, somthing the failed attempts to break into the field by Hulk Hogan highlighted, especially when these movies ultimately ended up being as laughable as his wrestling career and like that one better remember through the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia. Hogan of course is not the only example as “WWE Films” have seemingly only just learned this same harsh lesson seeing how their latest output see’s the wrestlers now being given more supporting roles than anything resembling the leading roles the studio originally had planned with this off shoot. However this is not to say that there have not been those who have broke the mould as John Cena proved to be quite a watchable action star in both “The Marine” aswell as “12 Rounds” while Kane also proved himself a menacing force in “See No Evil” even if he was essentially just transplanting his wrestling persona into a horror set.

Of course with this history of wrester actors in mind you could excuse me for being alittle sceptical about the idea of Goldberg playing a demonic Santa, afterall his stabs at acting previous to this had been limited to playing a super soldier in “Universal Soldier 2” and essentially playing himself in the underrated “Ready To Rumble” but here he really nails it right from his opening dinner party massacre which not only puts the opening of “Punisher: War Zone” to shame but I would love to think that Christopher Nolan found the inspiration for the Joker’s disappearing pencil trick from this opening, were Santa makes a whole turkey leg disappear. True Goldberg might have an advantage with his dominating size certainly helping make the character truly seem imposing, but here he also proves himself more than capable with the scenes requiring him to flex his acting muscles and even pulls off the more subtle comedy moments such as hastily spraying down a stripper pole before he uses it as a makeshift club.

Elsewhere the film has two great young leads with Douglas Smith and Emilie de Ravin who may not have to do anything particularly heavy acting wise, but are still a fun duo to be around especially as the film doesn’t allow itself to fall into the usual pitfalls of having Smith lust after Ravin for the runtime of the film. Instead the focus is kept purely on stopping Santa and only give into their lusts once he has been stopped, which honestly felt awhole lot more natural than it would have been had the film followed the usual template especially considering how majorly out of his league Ravin is yet alone a feisty firecracker who is more than capable of spearheading their misadventure. Still it does make me wonder why they never really went on to do more, much like why Thora Birch didn’t come off “Ghost World” as big a star as Scarlett Johanson did. I guess its this sort of situation which has resulted in me being so frequently forced to endure yet another Emma Watson performance.

Considerably lighter in tone than the other killer Santa movies which came before it, this film plays things strictly for laughs, as established from the opening dinner party massacre whose creative kills see one guest being flambéed and drowned in eggnog and another being killed by a Christmas star while the fact that the film also carries a healthy body count to boot only adds to the fun here, which alongside the quick pacing of the film, ensures that the film never gets a chance to get itself bogged down in minor subplots or disposable characters unless those characters are soon to be meeting a creative death or in one case eaten by demonic reindeer.

Meanwhile the film is shot in a deliberately over the top style this is a confident debut from Steiman, who after despite spending most of his carrer working as a production assistant to Bret Ratner who also appears as a producer here. Sadly despite the fun energy this film brings it remains the sole film from Steiman who seems to have since dropped off the radar since the release of this film. As such this remains much like this film a curiosity especially when they is such a fun film and an essential part of my own alternative Christmas viewing since I first saw it last year. Still if your able to not just the fact that the film features a wrestler in the lead villain role there is plenty to enjoy here, as this is one Santa with muscles who is worth watching even if it does leave you wondering by the end credits why it not as popular as other Alt. Christmas favourites.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Silent Night, Deadly Night

Title: Silent Night, Deadly Night
Director: Charles E. Sellier, Jr.
Released: 1984
Starring: Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Linnea Quigley

Plot: As a young boy Billy was left traumatised when he saw his parents being killed by a man dressed as Santa Claus. Now years later he works in a toy store were he after he forced to dress as Santa Claus which causes him to suffer a psychotic break which soon sees him on a murderous rampage.

Review: While “Christmas Evil” might have been the first horror film to feature a killer Santa on the rampage, it would as I covered in my review for that film, soon be overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the release of this film, which many still mistakenly credit with creating the idea of a killer Santa. Unsurprisingly though parents didn’t exactly warm to the idea of the Christmas icon being warped in this way and descended upon cinemas in angry mobs to protest the film while critics branded the films as being pure shock tactics as shown in the documentary “Going To Pieces: The Rise and Fall of The Slasher Film”. Pulled from theatres by the original distributor TriStar Pictures, the film would two years later be re-released by independent distributor Aquarius films with a market campaign which unsurprisingly played off the earlier controversy while paving the way to the film becoming a cult classic.  

It is kind of sad that the film is more remembered for the controversy it caused than the content of the film itself, which no doubt few (if any) of the films protestors bother to actually watch the film they were protesting. If they had, perhaps they would have discovered a film with surprisingly more depth than many would have expected from a slasher movie like this. For here great effort is given to establishing the cause of Billy’s psychosis, for he is far from the usual nutter of the week, for as a child we see him dealt the double whammy of watching his parents being killed by a killer dressed as Santa Claus aswell as the insane ramblings of his Grandfather, who his parents felt Christmas Eve was the perfect time to go visit him, because after all nothing spells out festive fun like a trip to an asylum. Sent to an orphanage Billy is further bombarded with a heavy dose of Catholic dose at the hands of the Sister Superior who firmly believes that Billy can be put on the right path through the use of regular punishment. Needless to say all this mental trauma leaves Billy as very much a ticking timebomb and a mind set which we see coming together with the slow burn first half as Director Sellier ensures that he highlights each piece which add to Billy’s eventual breakdown  and devoting the first forty minutes of the film to outlining these reasons.

This understandably can be frustrating to those expecting another throwaway slasher which was very much the case the first time I saw this film. Due to the build up to Billy’s snap, you can feel the tension being slowly cranked up especially during the scene were he is forced to play Santa, dealing with spoilt and figiting kids as he begs them under his breath to behave almost as if he can feel himself tittering on the edge. Needless to say when Billy does finally snap, he really wastes little time in making up for it and if variety is the spice of life, then Billy comes with a whole spice rack of creativity when it comes to his kills as he set out to punish those he views as naughty. A personal mission which sees him not only putting a fire axe to good use, but also getting creative with a box cutter, bow and arrow and even a set of deer antlers while racking up a healthy body count. However these victims frequently have no real connection to Billy and more often than not just happened to be in the bloody path he is carving on his way back to the orphanage.

While it might seem from the setting that the film is about a serial killer Santa, the whole costume is really more of a coincidence seeing how it happens to be what Billy is wearing when he snaps and unlike Harry in “Christmas Evil” is less fuelled by a Santa delusion, especially when he is judging people as “Naughty” it seems to be based more on Catholic dogma than anything to do with Santa’s naughty or nice list. However these judgements do lead to a creepy moment were Billy encounters the younger sister of one of his victims, who after being informed of how good she has been, hands her a bloody box cutter which is something I would have preferred to have been one of the candy canes we see him handing out to kids earlier in the film. As such the scene comes off slightly confused, much like the scene were Billy freezes while looking at a Christmas poster while the smaltzy “Warm Side of The Door” by Morgan Ames plays in the background.

Wilson though is really great as Billy, especially during the scenes requiring him to showcase his fragile psyche, even with his size and toned psyche he is still able to sell these moments, while at the same he never oversteps the mark when it comes to Billy’s psychotic side which never falls into a farcical performance even if it does largely consist of him growling naughty and holding a stone cold glare.

One of the real strengths of the film though is the soundtrack provided by Perry Botkin, Jr. whose soundtrack Sellier uses mainly to highlight the current state of Billy’s psyche with the music becoming more erratic the closer to the edge he gets. Outside of these moments he also provides some truly haunting themes for the rest of the film including the title sequence which is filled with dread and it only makes it more suprising considering that he was also responsible for also producing the soundtracks for both “Happy Days” and “Mork and Mindy” whose sunny setting are the truly at the opposite end of the spectrum to this film.

Creepy though is one thing this film has in spades from the crazy grandpa ramblings and the chilling psycho Santa attack on Billy’s parents, even the Christmas decorations frequently have a creepy edge to them, which really makes me wonder where these films find such creepy decorations or perhaps the 80’s Christmas’s were just a lot more creepier than today’s which is no doubt the case looking at some of the horrible jumpers of Christmas past which seem to haunt my childhood Christmas photos.

Needless to say this film is worthy of its cult status and while certainly heavier than “Christmas Evil” it still brings plenty of originality to the table, while audience seemed to prefer their Serial Killer Santa’s more icy cold than confused judging by how this film spawned a further four films, while “Christmas Evil” remained a solo curiosity.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Christmas Evil

Title: Christmas Evil
Director: Lewis Jackson
Released: 1980
Starring: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull, Andy Fenwick, Brian Neville

Plot: Harry (Maggart) a production line worker at the Jolly Dreams toy factory harbours an unhealthy obsession with Santa, especially as he takes it upon himself to become the next true Santa. However when Harry is driven over the edge by the lack of festive spirit of those around him, he suddenly snaps and embarks on a murderous rampage.

Sadly I couldn't find a spoiler free trailer so here's a creepy Harry clip instead

Review: So the season of Alt-Christmas viewing is once again here and I thought I’d make up for not getting around to this film last year by reviewing it first, especially when it came so highly recommended by my blogging buddy Emily (Deadly Dollhouse of Horror Nonsense) aswell as the high priest of bad taste John Waters who proclaimed it the “greatest Christmas movie ever made” on the commentary he recorded for the special edition dvd, while reminding me just how underrated he is when it comes to great movie ideas even if he does tend to lean more towards art house movies. Now having finally gotten around to watching this film I can safely say it’s underrated legacy is full justified especially and only when it is so frequently overlooked for “Silent Night, Deady Night” which also memorably featured a serial killer Santa, even though this film predated that film by four years.

Also known under the more colourful titles as “You’d Better Watch Out” and “Terror in Toyland” it may seem similar on the surface to “Silent Night, Deadly Night” but this film is a much different beast, which is essentially all down to the character of Harry who when we first meet him is far from the ticking time bomb which Billy from “Silent Night, Deadly Night” was especially as all Harry wants is to be Santa. It's an obsession he plays out in his day to day life as he wakes in his Santa pyjama’s before setting off to spy on the local boys and girls whose names he writes down in his naughty or nice book. As I said he really likes to play out his Santa fantasy any way he can, with his job in a toy factory only seeming like a logical choice. True Harry’s childhood drama might not be a severe as Billy’s seeing how it essentially stems from Harry finding out that Santa wasn’t as real as he thought he was, after catching his dad dressed as Santa one Christmas Eve while getting rather hansey with his mother.

Harry while a self-imposed loner is still a likable enough kind of guy, even though the world around him constantly seems to be working to try and break his festive spirit, from the crappy toys the factory makes, to the pervert little kid who wants a subscription to Penthouse for Christmas, so it really is only a matter of time before he snaps. However unlike Billy Harry doesn’t set off on a bloody festive rampage, but instead suddenly sets off to be the real Santa, as he dons his Santa suit and sets off in his white van (the reindeer might have been alittle too much of a push) to spread some Christmas cheer as he steals toys from the factory to give out to sick kids at the nearby hospital…ohh and he also punishes those still not showing the right amount of festive cheer. Needless to say Harry is not a cold blooded killer, but more of a guy trying who has been in his Santa mindset for too long, if the mindset of a particularly crazed Santa, which frequently account for some of his more random moments.

More light hearted than “Silent Night, Deadly Night” this film also comes with a lower body count aswell, yet more than makes up for it with original moments as Harry uses sharpened toy axes and even a toy soldiers bayonet to punish those who wrong him. The really special moment though here is when he attempts to further his Santa fantasy even further by trying to go down a chimney only to get stuck in the process this is of course before the truly bonkers finale involving a torch welding angry mob and an ending which has to truly be seen to be believed so I will leave that for you to discover for yourself.

What is especially interesting about this film though is the relationship that Harry has with his younger brother Phil (DeMunn), who seemingly is the only family that Harry has left even though unlike Phil who makes repeated efforts to bring Harry out of his self-imposed exile by inviting him to spend Christmas with his family only for Harry to refuse any of these offers in favour of working on his Santa inspired plans. These moments of course only seem the more potent by the end of the film when he sees what Harry has become and tries to stop Harry himself rather than leaving him to be caught by the angry mob pursuing him or turning him into the police, like a more logical person would.

Maggart the father of singer Fiona Apple, something I only found out over the course of writing this review (what a fair weather fan I am) is great as Harry and really makes the role more believable than you would expect from this kind of film, especially when he spends most of the film hiding behind a fake beard he is still able to perfectly translate through his eyes exactly what Harry is feeling, from the twinkle of excitement he gets from playing Santa in a more traditional role such as the scenes of him handing out gifts, to the cold dead eyes of his darker side it really is a memorable performance he gives here and one which never feels campy or OTT, even during some of the more surreal moments and kind of makes the fact that the film is so over looked only more of a shame.
While it never might have caused the same kind of controversy as "Silent Night, Deadly Night" this in no way makes this any less of an essential alt. Christmas watch, especially when this is such a unique take on the idea of a serial killer Santa and one only elevated by Maggart's performance.

Thursday, 28 November 2013


Title: Boardinghouse
Director: John Wintergate
Released: 1982
Starring: John Wintergate, Kalassu, Lindsay Freeman, Joel Riordan, Brian Bruderlin, Selma Kora, Tracy O’Brian, Mary McKinley, Rosane Woods, Cindy Williamson, Christopher Conlan, Elizabeth Hall, Tom Mones, Dean Disico, Elliot Van Koghbe

Plot: The Hoffman house was originally the scene of several mysterious deaths and now ten years later the house is reopened as a boarding house by Jim (Wintergate) who has recently inherited the house. Now filled with attractive young women, the killings suddenly start again.

Review: What is it that makes a movie a cult favourite? Is it a question of humour, characters or perhaps it’s the endurance race of awfulness it puts the viewer through which might especially be the case with this film, which for one reason or another have over years become quite a cult favourite. The reasons why I still can’t really explain even as I sit here wondering how I can even begin to try and describe the randomness of this film, which was given to me to review by my friend and fellow obscure movie fiend Jenn over at “Cavalcade of Perversions” who I gave free reign to name any movie for me to review for her birthday.

First it is worth nothing that this is one of those rare films which was intentionally shot on video, something legend goes was the result of producer Elliot Van Koghbe reading an article in “American Cinematographer” about George Lucas experimenting with producing films shot on video as opposed to film. Of course this was all the inspiration that he needed to team up with Director Wintergate to produce this low-budget horror film with plans to transfer it onto film, because of course that wouldn’t make it look any worse than it already does, but alas they still went ahead and did it anyway. Needless to say if that bit of history wasn’t enough of a warning, then trust me the finished film is way worse than you could imagine, especially when the film has no logical storyline and generally seem like an excuse just to shoot frequent scene of gratuitous nudity which go a way to explaining its popularity.

So while the plotline might seem straightforward and just general slasher fodder, this film manages to do a remarkable job of making things way more confusing than they ever should be, not doubt thanks to the film makers being so preoccupied with cramming as much nudity into every shot of this film, meaning that it largely plays out like an 80’s version of “Girls gone wild” video. Of course a film can’t survive on just T&A alone (no seriously it can’t) so to break things up or when they seemingly couldn’t think to do next we also get to enjoy the oh so very cheap special effect shots, many of which make no sense what so ever such as the girl whose face randomly turns into a bargain basement Halloween mask for no explainable reason.

Not content though it would seem with horrible looking practical effects, Wintergate also throws even more horrible looking computer effects, such as the pixaly swirling mass which randomly appears or the titles which appear in lines in much the same way that pictures used to back when we all had dial up internet. These effects were all shot by producer Van Koghbe who it seems was equally ashamed of these shots that he is listed as Obee Ray or perhaps this was just a way of disguising the lack of crew clearly working on the film.

Elsewhere we not only have Wintergate playing the Vietnam veteran who randomly appears to do nothing but provide red herring (something given away way to early). We also get the random psychic abilities of Jim which not only generally involve him sitting around in his underwear bug eyed but also never seem to be overly useful at any point other than doing cheap parlour tricks like making the soap in his bath float aswell giving an excuse for a confusing psychic battle at the end, which fails to really make like the rest of the film a whole hold of sense, but alas this is the slow death that Wintergate chooses for the film.

The real piece de la resistance here though is the William Castle inspired warning gimmick were either a black glove appears on the screen, or a piece of cheap synthesiser music is played so that if you have a weak heart or “easily frightened by shocking gore”. Sadly this gimmick is used haphazardly for the first half of the film before being forgotten completely and ultimately comes off as a weaker gimmick than the “Fright Break” featured in “Bloodmoon” were audiences could leave and get a refund if they felt that they couldn’t watch the end of the film, but most of the audience used this chance to claim back their money only because of how bad the film was rather than anything to do with it being scary. Needless to say this gimmick like so much of the film being handled so sloppily ensures that it is just another thing which is memorable about the film for precisely the opposite reason Wintergate intended.

The makers of the film like to claim that this was the first shot on video horror, which of course anyone who seen the wonderful documentary “Rewind This” will know was in fact the equally little seen “Sledgehammer” a horror I’m quite content to put off like “Black Devil Doll” for the time being, especially as I’m still left confounded by this film and this was just the original cut of the film and not the stonking two hour plus directors cut released by Slasher // Video something else I can’t say I’m exactly in a rush to watch. Perhaps seeing how nonsensical this cut comes off perhaps the gaps are filled in the longer cut and what this version essentially could be is just the pervert cut. Even now I’m still unsure if Wintergate even was trying to make a decent film, or if his ego was so out of hand that he deluded himself into the idea that he had actually made something half decent, after all who could write scenes for themselves like the one were several of the girls are sitting with Jim in a hot tub and telling him how sexy he is while rubbing his chest. At the same time I have to wonder if I watched this film in the right setting, seeing how it was by myself when the majority of positive reviews of the film come from group viewings, which I can see making this film a lot more enjoyable and possibly the only way I might venture a second viewing for as cinematic endurance tests go this one is a doozey.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Machete Kills

Title: Machete Kills
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Released: 2013
Staring: Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Demian Bichir, Amber Heard, Lady Gaga, Sofia Vergara, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr.
Plot: Following on from the events of the original film, Machete is put on the path of revenge when his girlfriend Sartana (Jessica Alba) is killed by a mysterious masked man while attempting to capture weapons dealers supplying the Mexican drug cartels. Now recruited by President Rathcock (Charlie Sheen, here appearing as Carlos Estevez) with the promise of citizenship, Machete is sent to eliminate Marcos Mendez (Demian Bichir) who is currently threatening to fire a nuclear missile at the White House.  Soon however Machete discovers that the mysterious masked man might also be linked to the plot aswell.

Review: For a film which started out as a joke trailer in the financial misfire (yet critically acclaimed) “Grindhouse”, Machete has turned into quite the trilogy while at the same time certainly doing no harm for Danny Trejo’s stock. Launching him from token bad guy to recognisable leading man as in the wake of the original “Machete” it seemed that everyone couldn’t get enough of the former bare knuckle boxing champion of San Quentin and young offender councillor. Needless to say it was only a matter of time before director Robert Rodriguez gave the world a follow up to his cult favourite.

While the original film might have been the tale of a badass seeking revenge after he is double crossed by his employers, this film decides to spin the franchise off in a new direction as Machete here takes on more of a “XXX” style spy role as he dashes for the border with Marcos, who has hardwired the nuke to his heart and eventually sets out to foil the Bond villain esq schemes of the “Star Wars” obsessed weapons manufacturer Luther Voz (Mel Gibson).  It’s a certainly an intresting change of pace and one which actually benefited the film, especially when the original always felt that it was being hampered by being built around its fake trailer and as such was just finding a way to link each of the trailers set pieces together.

This time taking sole ownership of the director’s chair having previously co-directed the original with his long term editor Ethan Maniquis, this time it is truly Rodriguez’s film and one which certainly finds him a playful mood once again, as he aims to maintain the Neo-Grindhouse aesthetic from the fake opening trailer for “Machete Kills Again… In Space” and classic feature presentation title card, through to even throwing in an old school 3D sequence (yes the old blue and green glasses style) to rival his breaking film scene in “Planet Terror”. Equally at the same time this also see’s him throwing plausibility out of the window as the franchise doesn’t so much jump the shark but the whole freaking aquarium! Needless to say this is a film which like its closest comparison “XXX” works best when you’re not questioning what you’re watching and just enjoy the ride. After all there are countless movies and franchises currently obsessed with realism so what’s wrong with alittle raw escapism which is what you get here.

Having established the Mexican James Bond vibe early on Rodriguez really works it in every conceivable way, with Machete getting to utilise a number of customised machete’s including a tri-bladed model which his beauty queen liason (Amber Heard) refers to as the swiss army knife of machete’s  while still managing to keep the character every bit as gritty as he was in the first film, with Trejo with his trademark tattoos and tanned leather features fully embodies this character even more so the second time around, as he makes even Machete’s habit of referring to himself in the third person sound cool. This Bond theme also continues to the main villain here as Voz is every bit the bond villain with his scheme sounding very familiar to that of Drax’s in “Moonraker”, but despite this similarity here we get to see Mel Gibson on truly bonkers form, as he embodies the role even when engaging in a machete / sword fight while wearing a cape! Thankfully Rodriguez is one of the few people in Hollywood able to separate Gibson’s troubled personal life from the actor as he is truly one of the big draws here and perhaps only rivalled by the multiple personality antic’s of Birchir’s Mexican revolutionary Mendez whose hyper personality makes him another fun character while never pushing it so far that it becomes irritating.

Much like the first film Rodriguez has assembled a great ensemble cast to flesh out this colourful world he continues to craft here and one which see’s “Modern Family” favourite Sofia Vergara cranks up her crazy to psychotic as brothel owner Madame Desdemona who not only has her own army of prostitute assassins (a nod to Blaxploitation favourite “Dolemite” ) aswell as a twin minigun bra she refers to as her “Double D’s”. Equally game is Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lady Gaga as the various faces of shape shifting assassin El Camaleón a role which not only sees Gooding Jr. giving his best performance in years, but also proving that Lady Gaga is more of an accomplished actor than first suspected, especially when I was left wanting to see more of her in this film and something which could be corrected in “Machete Kills Again…In Space” if the fake trailer is to be believed. True there are so which might argue that she has already had enough practice with the antics of her usual disco punk persona, but here she is in perfect form as she sneers her way through the film.

Upping the ante in every way possible from the first film, Rodriguez fully up the splatter as heads roll and helicopter blades especially are put to creative use on more than one occasion. The action scenes aswell are fully stepped up a number of fantastic set pieces including a “Mad Max” inspired car chase complete with George Miller style speeded up shots. Rodriguez though once again shows himself as a director with an eye for action, even if he might not be known as an action director, here he once more shows that he knows his way around a set piece and with his cousin Trejo he really does have the perfect grizzled action hero.

After the patchy “Machete” this film really steps up the fun of the first film, while correcting many of the mistakes made first time around, even if like the original it still suffers with a bloated third act. So with Sci-fi set to be the theme for the third and final part I can only imagine how Rodriguez plans on topping the madness of this film,  but if anything this film has certainly laid down a strong foundation, so leave your expectations at the door, just buy the ticket and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


Title: Blackfish
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Released: 2013 

Plot: A two thread documentary, the film investigates the orca Tikilum who has been responsible for three death aswell as the treatment of the species being kept in captivity with particular focus being placed on those kept by “SeaWorld”.

Review: It has been said that a great documentary moves their viewer as it informs, while a truly great documentary changes how we think and view the world around us and it’s the latter category I truly believe that this documentary belongs to. 

Largely comprised of interviews with ex-trainers, the history of Tikilum and his history in captivity is a compelling one starting with his capture in 1983 in incident which lead to the death of three adult whales, which as one of the divers reveals was also covered up by submerging the bodies. From here the film follows him as he was first moved to the now defunct “SeaLand”  which would be the site of his first attack on a trainer, before being finally bought by his current home “SeaWorld”. Along the way the film documents the cruelty such as inadiquent sized pools and underfeeding, aswell as the fact that he has frequently suffered aswell as attacks from other Orcas.

One Part nature documentary and the other animal activism piece, the film explores the nature and behaviour of Orca, while drawing comparisons to how captivity can changes their behaviour especially when kept in tanks and sheds too small to house creatures of their size, while also increasing aggression between orca’s as seen in the damage inflicted on Tikilum by two females he was put with as the film showcases footage and photographs of teeth raking and scaring inflicted on him from these confrontations.
While this the documentary might be unbalanced in the sense that all those interviewed are against the keeping of Orca’s in captivity, it is a strong case which is certainly put forward and in a sense only made the stronger by no representatives from “SeaWorld” being willing to contribute their side to the film, leaving their imput coming solely from the testimonals from the court cases featured here aswell as their history of attempting to cover up the attacks and place the blame on the trainers rather than admit to the risk which Tikilum poses to the trainers working with him.

It is interesting in this respect that the majority of the interviews are with ex-trainers, however these are not disgruntled staff but people who truly loved their job and the animals they worked with. They are however more than happy to shed light on the poor practices and conditions used for keeping Orca’s in captivity. It is equally worth noting that none of the trainers carry any kind of training or any form of qualifications to work as animal trainers but rather hired for their swimming ability and general enthusiasm which was something which came as a surprise to me, especially after years of thinking that the trainers must have some background in marine biology to work at the park. A myth which is only further highlighted during the section which exposes the various false pieces of information that guest are frequently told, such as the lifespan of orca being around 30 years when they can live to 100 in the wild while the dorsal fin collapsing so that it flops over is something which is something which only happens in captivity, again something which the park are keen to write off as being normal.

It is a shame that “SeaWorld” refused to be involved in the documentary if only to provide some form of balance, to proceedings rather than “SeaWorld” being portrayed as little more than corporation intrested in little more than making money with little concern for the welfare and treatment of both Orca’s and trainers. Needless to say following the release of the documentary they soon released the following statement to CNN

"Blackfish is billed as a documentary, but instead of a fair and balanced treatment of a complex subject, the film is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau's family, friends and colleagues. To promote its bias that killer whales should not be maintained in a zoological setting, the film paints a distorted picture that withholds from viewers key facts about SeaWorld -- among them, that SeaWorld is one of the world's most respected zoological institutions, that SeaWorld rescues, rehabilitates and returns to the wild hundreds of wild animals every year, and that SeaWorld commits millions of dollars annually to conservation and scientific research. Perhaps most important, the film fails to mention SeaWorld's commitment to the safety of its team members and guests and to the care and welfare of its animals, as demonstrated by the company's continual refinement and improvement to its killer whale facilities, equipment and procedures both before and after the death of Dawn Brancheau."

True this film can be written of being the documentary version of an animal rights pamphlet, especially as it lacks any kind of subtly with the facts much like both “The Cove” and “Sharkwater” which came before it, but at the same time these films are about inspiring change and reform and to this extent “Blackfish” more than succeeds in its aim. Needless to say after viewing this film I would find the prospect of watching an Orca show all the harder to stomach, while equally make me wonder if we are soon to see an end of animal acts in the same way that Circus’s no longer feature animal acts, I guess only time will tell but this documentary certainly provides much food for thought.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Jedi Junkies

Title: Jedi Junkies
Director: Mark Edlitz
Released: 2010
Starring: Eduardo Sanchez, Ray Park, Peter Mayhew, Olivia Munn, John Bardy

Plot: A documentary exploring the lasting appeal of "Star Wars" and the various ways the fanbase choose to celebrate this love, from collectors and cosplayers through to fan film directors the documentary meets them all.

Review: Star Wars fans have always been something of a curiosity, even to a lifelong member like myself. As possibly one of the first groups, to actively voice their love for a series which essentially for the longest time told only the second half of a story. Before Trekies (and certainly well before Trekker’s ), ringers the Star Wars fans were voicing their love for their franchise while finding new and ever inventive ways to promote this love. Despite this these fans have never had a real fanbase name (as far as I know) though each documentary which comes along to explore the passion of these fans has tried to brand them unsuccessfully with one name or another, as previously seen with “Star Woids” and now with this latest documentary…sorry if you though this was going to be the Star Wars version of Trainspotting.

Unlike the aforementioned “Star Woids” this film seemingly has no real interest in finding out what the lasting appeal of Star Wars is but rather sets out to look at the some of the various groups of fans and collectors who share an undying love for the saga, which seemingly even two questionable prequels and Jar Jar Binks have still not killed off. Unsurprisingly though by just reviewing the current landscape of the fan community there is little to be seen which hasn’t essentially wasn’t known by anyone whose happened to go to a sci-fi convention recently. So hence we get to look through the collections of obsessional collectors, whose obsession is so great that they can’t stop at having one boxed X-Wing and aren’t happy unless they can boast a whole squadron. Interestingly amongst these obsessional collectors is Eduardo Sanchez who directed “The Blair Witch Project” so if anyone who’s been wondering what he’s been doing since then, it would seem the answer is amassing an impressive Star Wars collection, which he is more than happy to show off like all the collectors featured here, which also serves to remind us that.

Elsewhere a whole different kind of fan dedication is seen with the guys who constructed a life sized Millennium Falcon in their backyard which was used in the fan film “Stuck On Star Wars” filling me with a slight twinge of jealously especially as I couldn’t figure out a way to convince my wife to put such a thing in my own yard, while it is equally heart breaking that it is later revealed to have been destroyed in a storm. Needless to say lightsabers play a big part in this documentary from the New York based performance group who put on lightsaber displays, through to the a closer look at the construction of these lightsabers which equally serves to show the level of detail which the fans are willing to bring to their own creations. Equally at the same time its hard to tell if such focus and naming of this particular brand of custom saber isn't just some advert sneaked in under the geise of cosplay.

Now I know that the one question you’re all dying to know and that’s if “Leia’s Metal Bikini” are featured and I can happily report that they are, while the iconic costume itself receives a fair amount of attention, as the documentary not only look at the members of the group, but also those who use it for the basis for other Star Wars activities including Leia Burlesque and even Leia belly dancing, while Olivia Munn from “Attack of the Show” highlights the downside to wearing this fan favourite at conventions.  Sadly these ladies are the only real insight we get on the female fan community, as the only other female contributions given to this documentary are with the snippets of general fan love that provide the filler between segments, outside of this it is from with any other female insight coming from the wives of the collectors or are psychologists attempting to explain the obsessions of the collectors.  As such it only further highlights the frequent feeling in the fan community that women are largely invisible unless providing some form of fan service via a revealing costume, something only further reinforced by having one of the Leia girls on the cover, no doubt to catch the attention of those skimming through their Netflix list.

Unsurprisingly while the documentary does not feature interviews with member of the Star Wars cast it isn’t with any of the big three (Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher) or even George Lucas, but instead with Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and the always enthusiastic Ray Park (Darth Maul) who even joins in on the discussion as to who would win in a fight between Darth Maul and Darth Vader. Unsurprisingly Park feels that Maul would somehow have the upper hand, but it’s nice to see him still enthusiastic about the role, especially when so many of the cast are just about sick of talking about it. One of the main downsides for me here is the overwhelming focus on Fan films the documentary has, more so the fact that it chooses to focus on several rather uninteresting additions to this genre, in particular “Tremors of the Force” which gets given way too much attention, while its director John Bardy seemingly believes it to be a lot bigger than it is. Needless to say if you were going to look at fan films there are countless better examples out there such as “George Lucas In Love” , the valley girl antics of “Pink 5” or just the rapid fire humour of “Cheap Seats” to name but a few better examples of the fan film.

Unquestionably this is a films which will only appear to the established fans, as the noticeable absence of voice over, while the general structure of the film feels very thrown together with no real order or flow to how the footage has been pieced together, especially when the film looks at collectors only to then later in the film to return to the same collectors again with no real difference of insight than was given the last time we see them. In the end I was left with a slightly hollow feeling, seeing how the documentary fails to shed any really light on the fan community or at the same time show us anything new. With this in mind I would recommend hunting down “Star Woids” or a much more rounded insight into the cult of Star Wars, even if it lacks the psychological insight that this film attempts to bring, only to end up being at best a one watch documentary and one which barely provides anything to deserve a second watch.

Monday, 4 November 2013

The American Scream

Title: The American Scream
Director: Michael Stephenson
Released: 2012
Starring: Matthew Brodeur, Victor Bariteau, Manny Souza, Lori Souza, Richard Brodeur, Tina Bariteau

Plot: Director Michael Stephenson who previously brought us “Best Worst Movie” about the making of cult favourite “Troll 2”. Now he looks at three families in Fairhaven, Massachusetts who every Halloween transform their backyards into extravagant hunted attractions.

Review: This year when Halloween when was fast approaching some of my more excitable neighbours already had their decorations out ready in anticipation of most peoples second favourite Holiday, while my neighbour across the road from me has already got a Jack-O-Lantern out, which looking at its current decomposed state 2 days before the big night left me really hoping that they were planning on putting out a fresh one by the time Halloween rolled around. Still all of these pale in comparison to the “Home Haunter’s” featured in this documentary which Lindsay over at the amazing "French Toast Sunday" brought to my attention.
While the documentary might be about the three families, the real focus is more on the husbands who also to the ones most keen on spearheading the construction of their individual attractions, starting with Victor Bariteau who works at a financial company, replacing servers while desperately trying to support his family especially as he currently finds himself with the constant risk of being made unemployed. Next we have the father and son team of Rick and Matt Brodeur, a pair of part time clowns whose basement supplies them with the majority of their haunted house props. Finally we have Many Souza, who frequently helps Victor with his props and sculptures, when he’s not working on his own haunted house.

All three subjects in focus have their own approach to their work with Victor being the most serious, as he openly expresses how stressed the lead up makes him, while equally happy to admit to suffering from a short temper as he gets closer to his deadline. This however is not so much his personality, but rather a genuine love for what he does and the constant search for perfection and to top what he achieved the previous year, as he listens constantly to podcasts in his car, while even attending expo’s dedicated to the helping these home haunters improve and hone their skills, as seen with the footage taken from one seminar Victor attends, were the speaker is shown stressing the importance of planning scares and their build up. Manny on the other hand while dedicated and certainly competitive as he likes to keep track of all the other home haunters in the local area is perhaps less detail focused than Victor who favours the quantity of props and sculptures over quality, believing that the people who come through his haunted house care more about the scare than the details which have gone into them. Finally Rick and Matt’s efforts could be considered the most amateurish out of the three, while their overcrowded basement resembles a jumble sale, yet to them is a treasure trove of lights, costumes, signs and other props which they have amassed over the year. Needless to say they represent the vision most people have when they think of people constructing their own haunted houses, yet despite this they don’t seem deterred that their efforts might be over shadowed by the setups of Victor and Manny, while at the same time they still appear to have little trouble attracting an equal size crowd of thrill seekers.

Needless to say the families in focus of their light hearted documentary, really love Halloween or more precisely the men of these households who spearhead the yearly efforts to pull out bigger and better shocks for the delight of the local neighbour, with their efforts and hard work not being for profit with seemingly any money they make being given to charity, but out of pure love for the joy of scaring the hell out their neighbours. What is most interesting about them though is the fact that these are not professionals who work in the special effects industry, but rather average guys who have taught themselves how to make their attractions, slowly building on what they learn with each passing year. Still despite the men being at the center of the documentaries focus it also takes time to look at their families and friends, many who work behind the scenes with costuming and make up, while really coming into their own on Halloween night as especially true with Victors house were it seems that he has a small movie production happening just from looking at the sheer amount of people involved. What is really touching though is how far they are willing to go to help them realise their vision, something no truer than with Victor’s wife who despite the long hours which Victor puts into what is essentially his hobby, she still stands by him and his vision even if you do get the feeling that she isn’t as into the whole event as much as he is, though it is certainly a love shared by his 10 year old daughter who can be seem mutilating her Barbies for inclusion in her father’s haunted house, while even relishing the celebrity status she has in her school for being Victor’s daughter.

While this documentary is a lot of fun it does however run alittle too long leaving you no doubt feeling that it would have been perfect it had been cut down to an hour, especially with the focus being soley on the three families and no voice over the end result can seem alittle tedious in places, especially when some of the footage is not overly remarkable or insightful. No doubt this extra length could have best been used for perhaps interviews with speakers at the seminar or perhaps one big name name from the special effects industry given their own opinion on the home haunter trend.
True this is far from a perfect documentary especially with its length and footage selection, it is still at times a touching documentary about a group of people who not only love Halloween, but genuinely get a real kick out what they do.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Four Horror Movies of The Apocalypse

Always a fan of an interesting blogathon, I found out about this one being hosted by “Cinematic Katzenjammer” thanks to The Gore Report over at “French Toast Sunday”. This one is especially cool seeing how it requires participants to pick four movies to represent each of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Despite the title, the rules of this blogathon do allow for movies outside of the horror genre to be chosen, which is something I have chosen to do here, while at the same time only choosing films I would write about here. So allow me to now present the movies representing the horsemen for me.

War - Starship Troopers

There is no doubting that “Starship Troopers” is the embodiment of war. Here is a film which takes frenzied battlefields aswell as the gruelling training of boot camp and transfers it into a sci-fi setting as we follow a group of friends recruited into various parts of the intergalactic war machine when earth enters into an interstellar war with the insectoid “Arachnids” in much the same way that James Cameron did for the Vietnam war when he made “Aliens”. Here though Verhoeven uses the underused sub-genre of Military Sci-fi to high certain aspects of American society as he plays around with fascist imagery while he also describes the movie “Let’s all go to war and let’s die”.

Throughout the film Verhoeven gives us various war film elements, even adapting his species of Arachnid to play various military roles from the swarming Bugs (Foot Soldiers) to the fire breathing and lumbering tanks (Heavy Artilery), elsewhere he fills the film with mock newsreels and propaganda films, while Verhoenen forever the agitator used Leni Riefenstahl’s Nazi propaganda film “Triumph of the Will” for inspiration when crafting the opening recruitment advertisement for the mobile infantry, something rather fitting considering how similar the iconography and uniforms seen throughout are to the Nazi’s especially when it comes to the intelligence division. All in all This is war, just on a very different battlefield.

Pestilence – Dawn of The Dead (2004)

Okay I know, I know I have no doubt committed a cardinal sin in opting for the Zack Snyder remake over the George A. Romero classic, but I do feel that if any film shows the chaos of an expected virus outbreak in the human population it is this film. Even more so when Snyder treats the zombie outbreak as a disease, with a focus on symptoms aswell as how the disease is transmitted all things barely glanced at in the original, which focused more on survival and containment.

Switching almost without warning from a suburban daydream to an apocalyptic nightmare, we are taken along with Ana as her world into thrown into chaos as she battles to escape from her house while all around her chaos reigns as the living soon succumb to this rapidly transferred zombie virus, while the sheet scale of the devastation is only further reinforced by the opening credits, which show cities falling into anarchy as the infection continues to be passed from one person to another, with no sign of salvation anywhere to be seen.

Famine – The Hole

Perhaps not the most extreme example of famine I could have chosen it’s true especially when the most obvious example would be to opt for Christian Bale’s shocking weight loss antics in “The Machinist” or perhaps Stephen King’s “Thinner”. Instead I opted for this film bizarrely over looked film which not only features memorable performances from both Thora Birch and Daniel Brocklebank but also memorably gruesome deaths for Laurence Fox and Keira Knightley which seeing how grating I find them, only adds to the appeal of this film.

Here the famine element is imposed on the group who duck out of a school field trip to instead hide out in an abandoned fallout shelter, while being locked inside by Liz’s (Birch) friend Martyn (Brocklebank). However when he doesn’t return to release them their supplies soon start getting low, a situation the film unflinchingly watches unfold as the group slowly begin to starve to death, especially the psychological aspects as the claustrophobic nature of the bunker only adds to the tension slowly being cranked up. At the same time though as the events are replayed by Liz it soon becomes apparent that not everything might not be as its seen, as the film slowly reveals what exactly happened in the hole.

Death – Kill Bill

True the most obvious choice would have been to choose one of the “Final Destination” films but if we are looking at one character who is essentially death incarnate it would be “The Bride” as she sets out on her quest for revenge against Bill and the members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. This comparison is especially true for Vol.1 where it seems that anyone who stands in her way is soon set to meet a painful end one way or another, be it a opportunist coma ward orderly Buck or the members of the Crazy 88’s whose battle with the Bride even now is still one of the standout moments (of oh so many) of Quentin Tarantino’s career.

Needless to say be it by by Hatori Hanzo sword or bootknife, The Bride certainly proves herself to be as deadly as she is beautiful, but like the black mambo she takes her codename from death is always close by.

Bonus: Conquest – War of the Worlds

Okay while most people would reel of War, Famine, Pestilence and Death if asked to name the four horsemen of the apocalypse, it would be unlikely that many (if any) would name Conquest who was part of the original line up, only to later be replaced by Pestilence (either that or he quit before they became famous). So perhaps if only as an excuse to include one more movie, especially this movie I choose to include it as part of my line up.

Bringing back fond childhood memories every time I watch it, while also being a sold adaptation of one of my favourite books, this well-known tale of invaders from Mars invading the Earth only to be defeated when mankind seemed doomed by microscopic bacteria is perfectly brought to the screen, even if the tripods are exchanged for sleek flying machines (some argue they use invisible legs) while also bringing the books setting forward to 1950. The aliens here care little for co-habiting Earth, having burnt out their resources on their home planet, their focus is solely on the conquest of Earth and making it their new home planet. These ideas would later be carried over and explored further in the TV series, but when it comes to conquering alien forces “War of the Worlds” is the definitive story.
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