The Dark Heart of Cinema – FrightFest Guide to Exploitation | Pick up your copy at this weekend

The Dark Heart of Cinema - FrightFest Guide to Exploitation

Now here’s something to add to anyone’s horror reference library, and it comes from FAB Press and FrightFest’s Alan Jones…. The Dark Heart of Cinema – FrightFest Guide to Exploitation.

Featuring eye-popping posters, lurid lobby cards, OTT advertising, and witty editorial on 200 wonderfully trashy titles covering all manner of X-ploitation subgenres from 1935 to 1985, this A-Z volume is the first in what could become an annual publication – and I for one hope so. It’s a great size and length (unlike FAB’s weighty but equally covetable An Act of Seeing), and even boasts an intro from Combat Shock director Buddy Giovinazzo.

Ahead of its proper release on 16 September, you can bag yourself a copy if you pop into the Shepherd’s Bush Vue cinema where FrightFest is now underway over the Bank Holiday weekend. And if you can catch him between screenings, you can even get Alan to sign it for you.

Visit the FrightFest and FAB Press websites for more info.

In the meantime, here’s a sample of what lurks beneath the covers….

The Dark Heart of Cinema - FrightFest Guide to Exploitation

Sid & Nancy (1986) | Alex Cox’s harrowing punk tragedy turns 30!

Sid & Nancy (1986)

Sid & Nancy is one of the most important films ever made about the UK punk era, featuring career-defining performances from Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, and made director Alex Cox the one to watch following his 1984 cult Repo Man. To celebrate the punk classic’s 30th anniversary – as part of the Punk at 40 celebrations – comes a restored DVD/Blu-ray release from Studiocanal in the UK.

Sid & Nancy (1986)

This isn’t a tale of ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’, but a harrowing drama about ‘drugs, depression and death’ – one that deals with the tragic life of the Sex Pistols’ bass player Sid Vicious. And it all rests on Gary Oldman’s ferocious performance as the drug-addled Vicious (aka John Beverly), as well as Chloe Webb’s grating turn as his groupie American girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Cox’s gruelling depiction of Sid’s slow downward spiral into heroin addiction, self parody and miserable death is anything but entertaining, but as a sensitive and powerful character study, it makes for compulsive viewing.

Sid & Nancy (1986)

The special edition Blu-ray/DVD features the restored film approved by cinematographer Roger Deakins (Hail Caesar, The Shawshank Redemption), and a host of special features, including interviews with Deakins, director Alex Cox and Big Audio Dynamite’s Don Letts.

To celebrate its release, there’s a special screening on 29 August in support of War Child at Screen on the Green – the same venue where the Sex Pistols played in 1977 – which will also include a DJ set from Don Letts . For more information, visit:


Road Games (2015) | A suspenseful blend of And Soon the Darkness and The Hitcher

Road Games (2015)

If you’re familiar with the cult 1970 Brit thrillers And Soon the Darkness and Crescendo, then you’ll see echoes of those classics in debut director Abner Pastoll’s murder mystery Road Games.

Road Games (2015)

The gorgeous French countryside (actually Maidstone, Kent) is the setting for this unsettling thriller where suspicion and road kill is the order of the day. British drifter Jack (Rebellion’s Andrew Simpson) is trying to get to Calais when he encounters another hitchhiker, the enigmatic Veronique (Josephine de la Baume), along a stretch of road where they learn a serial killer is on the loose.

Road Games (2015)

Taken in for their own safety by the overly-friendly Grizard (The Returned’s Frederic Pierrot) and his somewhat nervous wife Mary (Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator fame), who live in a half-lived-in mansion, Veronique soon begins to suspects something amiss… And she’s right! For what follows is some splendid old dark house scares, some shocking twists – as every character become suspect – and some nail-biting The Hitcher-styled chills.

Road Games (2015)

With a cracking cast – especially former screen queen Barbara Crampton, who is firmly re-establishing herself in the horror genre of late – and direction that would make Hitchcock proud, Road Games is a winner all the way. Oh, and the house used in the film was last seen on the big-screen in 1980’s The Mirror Crack’d with Elizabeth Taylor. Check it out here:

Out on DVD from Monday 29 August 2016 and on VOD and for download from Friday 26 August 2016 from Frightfest Presents

Road Games will also be screening at Horror Channel FrightFest on Friday 26th August. Check it out here

Identicals (2015) | This British indie sci-fi wants to be Blade Runner meets The Man Who Haunted Himself

Identicals (2015)

In a futuristic Britain, a mysterious organisation called Brand New-U offers customers the chance to upgrade themselves by becoming ‘Identicals’ – doppelgängers that may walk and talk like you, but are living much better lives than you. Good-looking lad about town Slater (Lachlan Nieboer) seems to have it all, including the love of his life, Nadia (Nora-Jane Noone).

When she suddenly disappears, Slater is led to Brand New-U, where he makes a deal to take on a new identity in a bid to find Nadia. But as his quest turns into obsession, his identities start to blur, and what he must find in the end is himself…

Identicals (2015)

This Irish-made British sci-fi indie thriller from Bafta-winning short-film director Simon Pummell is a brave attempt at fusing the futuristic worlds of Blade Runner, William Gibson and a Total Recall-styled story with a heavy dose of existential dramatics – the kind that was tackled so brilliantly by Basil Dearden in The Man Who Haunted Himself (check out my review of the Blu-ray release here).

Newcomer Lachlan Neibor (whose appeared in Torchwood and Downton Abbey) is certainly the one to watch, as he dominates nearly every scene as the wideboy Slater and his various doppelgängers, who operates as a conduit for Pummell’s exploration about ‘the strangeness of our contemporary world’.

With his brooding good looks and action man heroics, Neibor could give Jack O’Connell a run for his money (and he could be his double). As for the film itself, well it certainly looks super stylish, but it seems that Pummel (making his feature debut here) and his team have spent so much time on the film’s production design that they’ve forgotten to give the film’s difficult to follow story some heart and soul in which audiences can empathise with. Still, it could be the making of Neibor.

Identicals is out on VOD now and DVD on 22 August 2016 from Arrow Films

Tale of Tales (2015) | A sumptuous and seductive anthology that will delight lovers of the macabre

Tale of Tales

A hit at Cannes, director Matteo Garrone’s Tale of Tales (Il racconto dei racconti) is a sumptuous and seductive take on Neapolitan poet and courtier Giambattista Basile’s pioneering 17th-century fairy tale collection Pentamerone, where famous fables like Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella originated.

Shot in English, the Italian-French-British co-production interweaves three tales – La Cerva Fatata (The Enchanted Doe), La Pulce (The Flea), La Vecchia Scorticata (The Flayed Old Lady) – and features a stellar cast including Salma Hayek, playing a Queen whose desire for a child has deadly results; Toby Jones as a King who rues the day he inadvertently married his daughter off to an ogre; and Vincent Cassell as a lecherous nobleman who marries an old crone disguised as a beautiful maiden.

Tale of Tales

This glossy feast has been likened to the works of Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam, but it also echoes classy Euro anthologies like 1967’s Spirits of the Dead and The Witches, which gave legendary Italian directors Lucino Visconti, Vittoria de Sica and Federico Fellini the chance to show off their trademarks styles; and also Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life films, especially 1971’s The Decameron, which drew on the stories of Italian Renaissance humanist Giovanni Boccaccio.

Tale of Tales

Now, while this glorious tableaux made not have the gravitas and depth of those cinematic classics, it certainly bewitches with its sumptuous style and macabre imagery that includes a flea that grows to the size of a calf, a sea dragon whose cooked heart adds the birth of albino twins, a fearsome winged bat creature, a monstrous ogre that looks straight out of a 1960s peplum, and a wizened old maid who turns into a bloody mess when she has her skin flayed in a bid to look young again.

If there’s one criticism it’s with the endings of each story that tend to fizzle rather than pop – thus the moral of each tale is lost and overshadowed by the film’s inherent beauty. Still, this is a dream world worth exploring and one that makes me want to revisit those bygone Euro anthologies all over again as well as Basile’s original takles.

Tale of Tales is available on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from Curzon Artifical Eye, and includes interviews with director Garrone, and stars Salma Hayek and Toby Jones, as well as the theatrical trailer.

Have you got your tickets to FrightFest 2016 yet!


Now it its 17th year, FrightFest will see 62 new features screening at its new home at the Vue Cinema at Shepherd’s Bush, West London, next week (25-29 August). I’ll be there throughout the weekend not only to see as much as I can (and get my retinas burned in the attempt), but also to promote the first officially licensed Vincent Price Ale in the UK – Black Cat, which is sponsoring FrightFest’s big director’s lunch, and whose label has been designed by FrightFest’s resident poster artist Graham Humphreys. I’ll also be posting my thoughts of each day’s offerings here each day.

Here’s what’s on offer….

The opening night attraction is the European Premiere of MY FATHER DIE, Sean Brosnan’s brutal and beautiful feature debut – an ultra-stylish, über violent revenge thriller that’s a calling card for Brosnan’s brilliant talents. And our closing night film is another breakneck paced masterpiece – the UK Premiere of TRAIN TO BUSAN, so join ‘The Commuting Dead’ as director Sang-ho Yeon takes you on a first class horror action thrill-ride, mixing slaughter, suspense and splatter with incredible visual élan.


In between these two banner titles are the scream of the crop from all over the globe, strongly represented in our line-up of World Premieres by the incredible Italian supercar tension-ratcheting MONOLITH, the gory Dutch treat THE WINDMILL MASSACRE, the stunning South African nightmare FROM A HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET, Tricia Lee’s creepy Canadian chiller BLOOD HUNTERS and three American shock absorbers KNUCKLEBONES, ENCLOSURE and the Eurotrashy radical BLOOD FEAST remake.

Reflecting a productive year for British horror, there are twelve UK World Premieres, including Shaun Robert Smith’s intensely powerful BROKEN, Jon Ford’s visceral revenge thriller OFFENSIVE, Wyndham Price’s dark fantasy CROW, Kate Shenton’s auto-satire EGOMANIAC, Ben Parker’s claustrophobic THE CHAMBER, Marty Stalker’s shock-doc HOSTAGE TO THE DEVIL and Andy Edward’s sun, sea and sex gore-fest IBIZA UNDEAD.

Five of the UK World Premieres make up the ‘First Blood’ strand, in which home-based directors are given a chance to shine with their debut efforts. These are: Phillip Escott’s harrowing CRUEL SUMMER, Brad Watson’s urban gang shocker HALLOW’S EVE, James Crow’s deadly HOUSE OF SALEM, Stewart Spark’s 666 Short Cuts To Hell entry THE CREATURE BELOW and Lawrie Brewster’s PTSD-inspired THE UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS.


Other festival highlights in the Main Screen strand include the European Premiere of Adam Wingard’s intense chiller of the moment, THE WOODS. destined to be one of the key horrors of 2016. We also have this year’s most ferocious possession movie in Cody Calahan’s LET HER OUT, as well as Todd William’s superb Stephen King adaptation CELL, starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. Then there is the top box office Italian sensation THEY CALL ME JEEG ROBOT, Adam Rifkin’s tour-de-force DIRECTOR’S CUT, starring Penn Jillette, Rob Zombie’s ultra-violent grindhouse slasher 31, ‘Saw’ man Darren Lynn Bousman’s graphic novel inspired ABBATOIR, Simon Rumley’s latest visionary masterpiece JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD, Jackson Stewart’s supernatural switcheroo BEYOND THE GATES, the zombie theme park hell ride THE REZORT, the full-blooded cracker RED CHRISTMAS, the cryogenic chiller REALIVE, the home invasion twister MERCY, the darkly unpredictable PET, starring Dominic Monaghan and the beguilling THE MASTER CLEANSE, with The Big Bang Theory’s Jonny Galecki and Anna Friel.

South America is rapidly becoming a major genre player and FrightFest is proud to be presenting seven specialities from Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Mexico. Daniel de la Vega’s WHITE COFFIN is co-written by FrightFest favourite Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Laura Casbe’s BENAVIDEZ’S CASE stretches surrealist boundaries, Patricio Valladares’ DOWNHILL mines H. P. Lovecraft for inspiration, THROUGH THE SHADOW puts Henry James’ classic tale of terror ‘The Turn of the Screw’ through a south of the border filter, THE SIMILARS is pure ‘Twilight Zone’ inspiration, FRANCESCA a thrilling Buenos Aires take on giallo and WE ARE THE FLESH comes with serious artistic endorsements from fellow Mexican filmmakers Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro G. Iñárritu.


The Discovery Screen strand is as bold as ever and includes a restored version of Shelden Renan’s controversial documentary THE KILLING OF AMERICA, Anna Biller’s gloriously art-directed THE LOVE WITCH, the cursed silent movie FURY OF THE DEMON, the Berlin Film Festival break-out, SHELLEY, the visionary sci-fi fantasy LOST SOLACE and the darkly hilarious ghost-busting ANOTHER EVIL. Then there’s Julian T. Pinder’s chilling murder investigation POPULATION ZERO, Martin Owen’s High-tec underground thriller terror LET’S BE EVIL, Tim Reis’ slimy creature feature BAD BLOOD: THE MOVIE and Michael Boroweic’s acute study of alien paranoia, MAN UNDERGROUND.

Plus, you can witness the stag party from hell in THE UNRAVELLING, the bad taste shenanigans of NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE, , the viral thrills of THE EVIL IN US, the vehicular chills of PARANORMAL DRIVE, the die-hard dystopia of HERE ALONE, the eye-popping shocks of FOUND FOOTAGE 3D, and the ‘goriously’ insane ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES.

Ahead of its FrightFest Presents DVD release, there is an encore airing for ROAD GAMES, this time with a live interactive commentary with director Abner Pastoll and a London premiere for one of the most popular movies shown earlier this year at FrightFest Glasgow, Sean Byrne’s THE DEVIL’S CANDY.

The Duke Mitchell Film Club is also back with the UK premiere of Kim Sang-Chan’s outrageously infectious KARAOKE CRAZIES and a first showing of all three episodes of the mesmerising French TV mini-series BEYOND THE WALLS.

For passes and tickets, check out:

For the full schedule:

Watch the skies! Invasion: UFO gets an exclusive release in HD!


Ahead of the restored Blu-ray release of Gerry Anderson’s cult 1970s sci-fi series UFO later this year in the UK, the feature-length compilation Invasion: UFO is now available to buy on Blu-ray exclusively through:

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Earth’s greatest fear becomes a reality when UFOs are finally confirmed – the aliens come from a dying planet millions of light years away, seeking human organs to repair their own decaying bodies. And mankind’s only hope at stopping the alien terror is SHADO, a top secret defence organisation headed up by Edward Straker (Ed Bishop), a former American Air Force Colonel, and his loyal team including first officer (George Sewell) Alex Freeman, computer specialist Virgina Lake (Wanda Ventham) and former test pilot Paul Foster (Michael Billington).

Created on videotape for syndication in Europe and America, Invasion: UFO is an amalgamation of the episodes Identified, Computer Affair and Reflections in the Water. To bridge continuity gaps, segments from ESP and Confetti Check A-OK were also used, while the ending was taken from The Man Who Came Back. If you have never seen the series before, then this makes for fantastic taste of things to come.

Having been resized in full 16:9 widescreen from restored High Definition elements sourced from the original 35mm negatives, Invasion: UFO looks better than it has ever been, and is presented here with both original mono and Dolby 5.1 soundtracks. The special extras include the original 1980 videotape version (which just shows how much work has gone into the restoration), the 1980 trailer, full-frame opening and end titles, and textless end titles.

Terrahawks | Watch out Earth scum! Gerry Anderson’s crazy children’s Supermacromation sci-fi invades in HD


Having turned to live action drama in the 1970s following his 1960s Supermarionation hits Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, Gerry Anderson returned to puppeteering in the 1980s with the Supermacromation sci-fi, Terrahawks, which he co-created with Christopher Burr.

The show, set in 2020, introduced a new generation of kids to a brand new elite force, headed by Tiger Ninestein, whose loyal crew (both human and zeroid) matched wits and state-of-the-art weaponry with a hideous-looking android crone called Zelda, as she attempted to dominate all ‘Earth scum’ with her cyrogenically-suspended monster squad.


With its latex Muppet-style hand puppets and cheap special effects, some critics called it a cut-price Thunderbirds, but the show, which ran for 39 episodes between 1983 and 1986, has become quite the cult in its own right thanks to the quote-worthy tongue-in-cheek humour, the crazy creature designs, and scene-stealing vocal performances from Windsor Davies as bullish zeroid, Sergeant Major Zero, and Labyrinth‘s Denise Bryer as Zelda (who reminded me of a potty-mouthed Witchie-Poo from HR Pufnstuf).

From Network in the UK comes the first 13 episodes, presented for the first time in High Definition from the best available materials, in their original as-transmitted aspect ratio, and with the following special features:

Geronimo! Terrahawks SFX with Steve Begg and Terry Adlam (HD) (30min)
The Composer’s Perspective with Richard Harvey (HD) (20min)
Zeroids vs Cubes: Zero’s 1980s Party cartoon (2:16) (HD)
• FX Reel (HD) (14min)
The Price is Right audio episode (SD) (35min)
• Glass Onion music video (SD)
• Image gallery (HD)
Expect the Unexpected: VHS Version (SD)
• Script and Annual PDFs
• Steve Begg Concept art and storyboards

Bloodsucking Bosses (2015) | It’s Shaun of the Dead meets Buffy in the workplace

Bloodsucking Bosses

Evan (Fran Kanz) is in a rut. He’s over-worked in a soul-destroying sales job and he’s just been dumped by his girlfriend and HR manager Amanda (Emma Fitzpatrick). To add insult to injury, his boss Ted (Mad Men‘s Joel Murray) has given his college nemesis Max (Pedro Pascal) the promotion due to him.

When his work colleagues start acting weird, Evan discovers Max is a vampire intent on replacing the entire staff with bloodsuckers. With the help of his slacker best friend Tim (Joey Kern), Evan then sets off to rescue Amanda and save his career…

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Hailed as The Office of the horror genre,with elements of Buffy and Shaun of the Dead thrown into the mix, Bloodsucking Bosses is a gory hoot and a half with a sharp script and some hilarious turns from Cabin Fever’s Joey Kern and The Cabin in the Woods’ Fran Kanz. This makes for perfect Friday night viewing after a couple of drinks down the pub.

Out now on DVD in the UK from Entertainment One

JeruZalem (2015) | This Israeli biblical horror is Monsters with smartglasses

JeruZalem (2015)

The found-footage genre gets an inventive twist in this Israeli apocalyptic horror, which puts a pair of smartglasses through a test drive that’s literally hellish.


‘Remind me never to take travel advice from you every again’
Newcomer Danielle Jadelyn is our geeky heroine Sarah who, along with her clueless pal Rachel (Jane the Virgin’s Yael Grobglas), gets trapped inside Jerusalem’s Old City following a suspected airstrike during Yom Kippur.


But as the girls attempt to find sanctuary deep beneath the city walls with the help of pot-smoking hostel manager, Omar (Tyrant’s Tom Graziani) and anthropology student, Kevin (Yon Tumarkin), they discover the city has become ground zero for an army of dark angels to be unleashed from the gates of hell.


Have you heard the one about the Muslim, the Christian and the Jew all trapped in a cave surrounded by an army of dark angels…?
Like Gareth Edwards’ Monsters, this found-footage shocker defies its modest budget, with filmmakers Yoav and Doron Paz successfully creating a sense of scale where there is none, and their clever use of smartglasses makes the over-used POV gimmick more believable – plus you get a first-person tour of the city’s most important religious sites (the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Wailing Wail) alongside the apocalyptic tale.


Cynics might say this is just an ad for the technology, but the filmmakers also make room to touch on issues of privacy and our every increasing need to stay connected 24/7. It’s a Fatal Error indeed, especially when Sarah’s navigational elements pack up…

And with Israel being the most hotly contested places on the planet, the Paz Brothers don’t shy away from some self-deprecation: and this is best summed up in a taxi-driver’s remark that: ‘we have a beautiful tradition of killing each other’; while their tongue-in-cheek irreverence for religion is touched when Kevin is locked up when he’s suspected of Jerusalem Syndrome, a psychosis which affect more Catholics than Jews or Muslims (according the film-makers); even the stereotyped characterisations of the girls (as stupid, but beautiful American Jewish princesses) is done on purpose.

While the film does get bogged down with some racing around a dark cave malarkey, the pay off is a sinister treat that begs a sequel – something that’s already in the works.

JeruZalem is out on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK from Solo Media and Matchbox films, and also gets its premiere today on Sky Cinema Premiere (Virgin 401/431) at 10.05pm.




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