Saturday, 14 July 2012

Movie Preview: The Wolverine - Casting

Jessica Biel has been cast as the villainous Viper in the 2013 release The Wolverine. A stand alone film, it tells the story of Logan's time in Japan. The story is allegedly based upon Frank Miller's excellent, ground-breaking story. Now, whilst Jessica Biel is popular and attractive, I've never found her to be exciting on screen. She comes across as bland and uninteresting in the roles I've seen her. She sucked the life out of The A-Team, which was overall an entertaining movie. Who would I have cast? Well, my credibility will probably go out of the window but Megan Fox springs to mind. She showed the qualities needed for Viper in the horror movie Jennifer's Body. Check out the image below. Megan can easily play vampish, which is what Viper is all about.

Casting Jessica Biel in this is typically unimaginative and sterile, after the news of Lee, Tee and Sanada being cast earlier in the wekk. See the DH story for details:

DVD Reviews: House of the Devil/Cabin Fever 2

Not so much reviews as comments, to be honest.

House of the Devil/Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever – A Ti West Too Much?
Whilst the movie was far from perfect, I enjoyed Ti West’s movie “The Roost”. It was a different take on the zombie drama at a time when low budget living dead movies were being churned out as quickly as Katie Price churns out publicity grabbing anecdotes.
House of the Devil appears to be garnering high praise for its ability to emulate 80s style horror movies and I have to ask why? Nothing much happens in the movie. Yes, stylistically, it has a great retro feel to it, but that’s no good if the plot is paper thin and the pacing laborious. Some of the build up is interesting but my patience wore thin after an hour. The conversation between Tom Noonan’s Mr Ulman and Jocelyn Donahue’s Samantha is stilted and unbelievable, when it should be far more tense. After the film ended I felt like I had watched 90 minutes of a girl wandering around a house. There are admirable attempts at referencing Hitchcock and Argento. The tension that is created by the question of wether or not the woman is actually in the house as Samantha wanders around is quite palpable and then ruined by the truly awful, badly thought out scene with the Walkman.
If House of the Devil failed to meet my expectations, Cabin Fever 2 was something else entirely. I liked Eli Roth’s original Cabin Fever. It didn’t know quite what film it was (serious gross out movie or horror comedy) but I liked the humour and the grisly nature of the gore. The sequel is horrendous.
Ti West has gone on record to say that he wanted to distance himself from the movie and blames other people for it. Well guess what? There is nothing redeeming about this piece of crap. I was suckered at the beginning by the return of Rider Strong and some genuinely cool camera angles, and then it all went to shit. I doubt that this was just caused by interventions and studio tampering.
The “story” follows the first film where water has been contaminated by the flesh-eating virus and shipped out in bottles. A nearby school is getting ready for prom night and the kids begin to feel the effects of the virus. There are attempts at a horror version of American Pie-style humour but it never works. If you get kicks out of watching a guy’s penis emitting pus and a stripper revealing pus marked breasts, then this is for you.
The side story with the first film’s Deputy Sheriff seems out of place, as if it belonged to outtakes from Cabin Fever 1.
The Director of these two movies, as bi-polar as they are, has a great horror movie to come, I hope. The Roost and elements of House of the Devil point in that direction. For horror gross-out comedy, look to the movie Wrong Turn 2: That film delivers.

The Evil Dead are coming....

The Walking Dead Season 3 Preview

 I just love Comic-Con. Sure, it's frustrating not to be there, but cool stuff always comes from the event, and this is no exception; 4 minutes of footage! After reeling from a genuinely shocking Issue 100 of the comic book, I wasn't expecting to see a decent TWD trailer for a while but here it is. I won't break it down, just watch it.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Blu-Ray review: The Reptile

Directed By John Gilling
Starring: Noel Willman, Jennifer Daniel, Ray Barrett, Jacqueline Pearce

A deadly epidemic is spreading through the remote Cornish village of Clagmoor Heath. As darkness falls its victims arefound foaming at the mouth with savage wounds upon their necks. After his brother becomes another fatality, HarrySpalding travels to Clagmoor to investigate his sibling’s mysterious death. With little help from the superstitious locals,Harry follows a trail of macabre intrigue that leads him to the sinister Dr Franklyn, his strange but beautiful daughterand a truly horrific family secret. Released in 1966, The Reptile is Hammer Horror at its most nightmarish and bizarre.

The Reptile is an underrated classic and it's easy to see why. It used the same sets as Plague of the Zombies (a practice not unique to this movie) and the budget was smaller than most Hammer movies. If you can get over that, there's still much to enjoy.

The movie jumps straight into the action as we witness an unfortunate victim of the title creature. The strange blackened, blistering make-up is still effectively creepy even by today's standards, especially if you have the benefit of a less cynical imagination. With the foaming at the mouth, the scene is quite memorable.

Once again, the Hammer production team looked for and got a cast full of memorable actors to bring the story to life. From the Christopher Lloyd-esque performance of John Laurie (Private Frazer in Dad's Army) to Michael Ripper's return from Plague of the Zombies, as a different character.

There's no gore in this film and neither is there the typical Hammer scream queen with heaving breasts, to distract us from the movie's shortcomings. I think this is why people do notice the issues with the Reptile make-up. Also, the story requires us to fill in some of the blanks, as we're not told everything. This adds interest, in my view. the whole sory is a type of “werewolf in the family” movie. Noel Willman plays Dr Franklin as if he is self-loathing in covering up what his "daughter" has been up to. Jacqueline Pearce shows some of the character that will come out more during her time as Servalan in Blakes 7. she plays the part of Anna with a tinge of pathos and sympathy so that when it is finally revealed that she is the reptile of the title, we see a pathetic creature even though it's nature is to kill. During the climax, Pearce gets a bit of humanity out as she complains of the cold.

The dinner party is the pivotal scene as we get to see Franklin and Anna through the eyes of Valerie and Harry Spalding. Here, Franklin loses his temper with Anna in what looks like a very unreasonable way. Anna betrays her closeness to the time she spent in India through her furious playing of the Sitar. Marne Maitland is superb as the Malay manservance. His performance suggests that he is much more than a manservant. His hold over the fmaily becomes more evident as the film progresses. He is an odd antoganist but I do wonder if he is the antagonist. Similary to way in which Plague of the Zombies appears to criticise the fauz Aristocracy riding around, capturing women for their own pleasure.
The Reptile appears to criticise England 's involvement in India and it's attitude towards local religions. At the very least it makes observations.So is the Malay manservant a bad guy or is he just enacting revenge for Franklin ’s part in England ’s colonisation and his part for going up against an established cult? It doesn't matter as you can read what you want into it which is the strength of the screenplay. In some ways, the Indian influence on Franklin is reminiscent of the Sherlock Holmes story A Sign of Four.

The art department tended to suck up the budget in Hammer movies and this is no exception. We can look back and see that they had a very important part to play in the success of the movies. The Reptile, despite its low budget, shows this in it’s detailed and believable sets.

Like Plague of Zombies, the restoration is superb and well worth spending out on, if you're a fan or discovering this for the first time.

Score: 7/10

The Reptile is out now

REC3 Coming Soon

[REC] Genesis
On DVD & Blu-Ray 03 Sep 2012

Directed by Paco Plaza (REC 1 and 2; Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt) and starring Letitia Dolera (Man Push Cart; The Other Side Of The Bed), Diego Martin (I Want You), Claire Baschet (Delicacy) and Ismael Martinez (Carmen; Talk To Her).

As the families and friends of Koldo and Clara gather outside the church in the bright Spanish sunshine just prior to the happy couple’s wedding, it seems that nothing could possibly cast a shadow on such a beautiful and joyous occasion. But when some of the guests start behaving oddly during the reception, it becomes apparent that all is not well. In no time at all, the party descends into a hellish scene of utter carnage as partygoers begin feeding on each other with a crazed bloodlust. Amidst the ensuing chaos, Koldo and Clara become separated as those still in control of their human minds and bodies seek whatever refuge they can find. Although apart, the newlyweds know deep in their hearts that each is still alive and set out on a desperate search for each other not fully realising that what should have been the happiest day of their lives could prove to be their last.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Blu-Ray Review: Plague of the Zombies

Directed By: John Gilling
Starring: Andre Morell, Diane Clare, Brook Williams, Jacqueline Pearce
Within a remote eighteenth century Cornish village, an evil presence lurks within the darkness of the witching hour, a mysterious plague relentlessly taking lives at an unstoppable rate. Unable to find the cause, Dr Peter Thompson enlists the help of Professor James Forbes. Desperate to find an antidote what they find instead are empty coffins with the diseased corpses missing. Following a series of strange and frightening clues, Thompson and Forbes are lead to a deserted mine where they discover a world of black magic and a doomed legion of flesh eating slaves, the walking dead.


Part of a four picture deal with Hammer's new distributors back in 1965. The film initially supported Dracula Prince of Darkness in a Double Bill feature. Ironically, it's one of the most interesting Hammer film, along with my personal favourite: Twins of Evil.

The idea of Haiti rites transplanted to a Cornish village doesn't bear a lot of scrutiny, but it's innovative nonetheless and influenced a number of movies. The look of the zombies gave way to movies like The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue and the gag when the recently revived Alison is decapitated by a shovel had to have influenced Sam Raimi when making The Evil Dead. Fulci clearly referenced Plague at the end of City of the Living Dead, with zombies being set on fire. The contacts that the zombies wore could have influenced the look of the zombies in Shaun of the Dead. So, whilst the zombies in this feature aren't cannibals, there's plenty to interest the zombie film fan.

Typically, the producers looked to provide a decent and memorable cast. Andre Morell gives a sterling performance as the Holmes inspired Professor James Forbes and can be recognised as a sort of H.G. Wells inspired character, too, perhaps even a nod to Quatermass. Morrell has a presence and charisma that is easy to like.
Diane Clare who plays his daughter Sylvia is fairly typical of the blonde woman in peril but has enough to do to avoid being a full stereotype. Brook Williams, who played Doctor Peter Thompson was unfortunately not given much to work with. As discussed in the interviews, playing the good guy isn't always easy because there's less to do. Williams did a good job of providing the movie with an everyman character that we can relate to but the character isn't the most interesting of the lot.Sadly, Jacqueline Pearce, who played his onscreen wife, felt the need to point out this defiency in the accompanied featurerette. With all the potential to talk about in the featurette, I was disappointed that Pearce chose to berate a fellow actor. It's possible that she was led to this point by the interviewer and the editing of the piece helps focus on it. With no question or interviewer to reference the anaecdote, it's difficult to judge. Thankfully, the rest of the cast chose to talk mainly about the positive experiences during the shoot. Pearce, herself was fine in the role of Thompson's wife, Alice, who comes to a grisly end in the most memorable scene in the movie.

As ever, the story is widely important to the enjoyment of the movie. The film is a bit vague as to what made Hamilton bring back Voodoo rites to the village to gain cheap labour but it doesn't really matter what his intentions are; the story is concerned with that fact that he's doing it and doesn't care who he kills to maintain it. It falls to Forbes to stop him. Whilst it would be a full three years until George Romero's hard hitting game changer hit the cinemas, Plague still has it's moments of darkness. The scene where Sylvia is beset upon by the thugs in red jackets is tinged with a cruel implication as to what fate could have befallen the young woman. She is "saved" by Hamilton and given the nature of what he does later we can only assume he saved her, either out of a misplaced sense of honor or because he needed her for his workforce.
Two stand out scenes are that of the dream sequence and Alice 's second death. The dream sequence is a zombie film lover's delight as outstretched hands burst forth from soil graves to shuffle on to murder Peter Thompson. Despite an make-up error during the scene, Alice 's resurrection is creepy enough on it's own, but Forbes finds a spade to use to lop off the undead Alice 's head. The camera lingers on the convincing severed head, and my memories of  The Evil Dead meant that I expected to see the eyes move in the decapitated head's sockets.
Later scenes with the zombies in the mine are also effective. The only downside is that the zombie that scares Sylvia, earlier in the movie, when it throws Alice 's corpse at her, whilst issuing a cackle through it's undead lips, is easily the creepiest zombie of the lot.

Benard's score gives Plague its no-nonsense attitude. The voodoo drums would be borrowed by Fabio Frizzi for Fulci's Zombie Flesheaters, over dubbing wailing on to the music giving it a further creepy atmosphere.Typically, for that era, the score borders on the avant-garde but Benard keeps the score accessible and not too abstract.

This Blu-ray presentation is fantastic. You can see how good the work has been from the restoration comparison featurette on the disc.  Extras also includeWorld of Hammer episode “Mummies, Werewolves And The Living Dead” / Brand new featurette: ‘Raising The Dead’ / Restoration comparison / Restored trailer

The restoration makes the movie look as if it had been released yesterday. Hopefully, more Hammer movies will receive this treatment in future and I know a couple are in the pipeline for restoring. This British Institution certainly deserves the effort.

Score: 9/10

Plague of the Zombies was released on 18th June 2012. Grab one!