Category Archives: Might See
This semi-sequel/remake of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast (1963) was written by Michael Sonye (aka Haunted Garage’s Dukey Flyswatter) and directed by Jackie Kong. It follows two weirdo brothers Michael (Rick Burks) and George (Carl Crew) and the reanimated brain of their serial killer uncle Anwar (Drew Godderis) as they attempt to resurrect an ancient Lumerian goddess, Sheetar, using the body parts of immoral young women and the sacrifice of a virgin to awaken Sheetar’s powers…
Given only a limited release back in 1987, Blood Diner’s cult reputation has grown over the years. Now, I do remember seeing it lurking in VHS bargain bins back in the day, but I never saw it until now as it’s been dusted off and given a HD Blu-ray makeover as part of Lionsgate’s Vestron Video re-issues – and I must say Blood Diner certainly belongs in the ‘it’s so-bad it’s good’ section of my cult film library.
The music is a bizarre mix of dire synth score, 1960s soul and mambo; while the acting (featuring the worst accents ever) is abysmal, but it’s all shot with such energy and OTT garishness – just like the Troma films of the day – that I’ve actually gone back for a second helping.
Featuring hilarious gross-out sequences and lots of blood, gore, cartoon violence and projectile vomiting, Blood Diner is one seriously insane ride. It also boasts the kind of way-out characters you’d expect from an early John Waters movie, including a burger bar owner whose ventriloquist dummy does all the talking, an obese food critic, a manic archaeologist, and that talking brain in glass jar.
Naked female flesh – and their entrails – are high on the menu alongside some quite nasty acts of violence against women and misogynist humour like ‘Every heard of battered girlfriends?’, which made me question whether the film’s female director was making some kind of a statement or not? There’s also some broad swipes against health food fanatics and the homeless which border on being just a little too unkind.
Filling out the running time is a unnecessary wrestling match involving an Ayran bloke wearing a Hitler moustache and Nazi insignia, while the film’s big set piece is the ‘blood buffet’ where Sheetah, now resurrected, and sporting what looks like a man-eating vagina with teeth in place of her stomach, causes complete mayhem.
Given the cult status that Troma’s Toxic Avenger has acquired over the years, this insane 1980s horror comedy is certainly in the same league. And now that its been restored and remastered – you never know, we might just see a stage musical adaptation one day soon. I know I’d pay to see that (just minus the misogyny).
Blood Diner is released through Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK, and includes the following special features:
• Audio commentary with director Jackie Kong
• Six Blood Diner featurettes: Queen Kong; The Cook, The Uncle, and The Detective; Open for Business; Scoring for Sheetar; You Are What They Eat!
• Archive interview with project consultant Eric Caidin
• Trailer, TV Sports and Still Gallery
Recently, I got a hold of Universal’s The Mummy: Complete Legacy Collection on Blu-ray, which gave me a chance to revisit not only the Karloff original, but also the 1940’s Kharis Mummy movies, which I had not seen since I was a kid.
Now released in HD for the first time, they sure look great, but – boy! – aren’t they a perfect example of the law of diminishing returns? Here’s a look back at the shuffling mis-adventures of Kharis, the ancient Egyptian avenger…
The Mummy’s Hand, 1940
Starring Dick Foran, George Zucco, Cecil Kellaway.
Director: Christy Cabanne.
Eight years after Boris Karloff donned bandages for Karl Freund’s The Mummy, Universal resuscitated the movie monster (now called Kharis, as Karloff’s Im-Ho-Tep had crumbled to dust) for four new adventures. Cowboy star Tom Tyler is the black-eyed Egyptian avenger restored to life (with the fluid from a handful of Tana leaves) by Andoheb, George Zucco’s-newly appointed High Priest of Karnak, to wreak revenge on the archaeological team who are trying to locate the tomb of the Princess Ananka (whom Kharis tried to raise from the dead back in 1472 BC, but ended getting buried alive with his tongue cut out).
Dick Foran is the archaeologist, Steve Banning, and Wallace Ford is his wisecracking sidekick, Babe Jenson; while Cecil Kellaway is the travelling magician who funds their doomed trip, and Peggy Moran is his daughter who gets carried away by Kharis (literally) when Zucco’s Andoheb decides to make her immortal – much to Kharis’ annoyance.
To save on the budget, Kharis’ back-story incorporates Karloff’s incarceration from the 1932 film, while the temple from Universal’s 1940 adventure Green Hell is also re-used as Zucco’s secret lair in the Hill of the Seven Jackals. Looking at it today, the film is a bit of a joke as there’s no real horror on display, suspense or drama (although Tyler’s weird black eyes still disturb). It plays more like a comical adventure serial, and nobody bothered to double-check the hieroglyphics (which are meaningless), the Arabic (misspelled), or doing any historical research (Zucco’s temple is more Mayan than Egyptian, and his character mistakes the Incas as coming from Mexico).
Except for the odd flash of inventiveness that recall Universal’s 1930s glory days when German expressionism informed its production design, it’s a poor start to the Kharis series. Thankfully, Hammer would put their own macabre stamp on the iconic creature when they used this film and its sequel, The Mummy’s Tomb, as the basis for their 1957 Technicolor version.
The Mummy’s Tomb, 1942
Starring Lon Chaney Jr, Dick Foran, Turhan Bey.
Director: Harold Young.
30 years after the Banning Expedition desecrated Princess Ananka’s tomb in The Mummy’s Hand, Kharis (who survived his blazing demise) is transported to a cemetery in Mapleton, Massachusetts by Mehemet Bey (Turhan Bey, aka the Turkish Delight), under the orders of George Zucco’s expiring Andoheb (who somehow survived being shot multiple times in the previous entry) to hunt down and kill the remaining members of the dig and their descendants.
Purists have often wondered whether it really is Lon Chaney Jr all the time under Jack Pierce’s make-up and bandages (as there are three stunt people also credited, including Eddie Parker); and whether playing a role in which he neither speaks nor is recognisable was a wise career choice. His shuffling Kharis is pretty poor. Moving at a snail’s pace with one lame arm, it’s incredible that any of his victims don’t just run away – instead they stay put (as though frozen in fear), or pretend to be cornered so that he can lunge at them with his one powerful arm (he was supposedly restored partially paralysed in the first film because of a lack of Tana leaf juice) and strangle them to death.
To keep the budget small and to fill out the running time, extensive flashbacks from The Mummy’s Hand are used before we get a repeat of the previous film’s revenge plot – only minus the wise cracks and pratfalls. The film does have some atmospheric cinematography and lighting effects, courtesy of George Robinson (Son of Frankenstein, Tower of London), especially the scenes set in the American gothic-styled cemetery. And it all looks a treat in this HD Blu-ray presentation, although it does show up the rubber mask on the Mummy as well.
Like the first film, it ends with a frightened lovely (Elyse Knox) dressed in another stunning Vera West gown being carted off by Kharis, so that the infatuated High Priest can make her his immortal bride. And, once again, the villain is shot while Kharis goes up in flames…
The Mummy’s Ghost, 1944
Starring Lon Chaney Jr, John Carradine, George Zucco.
Director: Reginald LeBorg
My favourite of the Kharis mummy series, this one starts off just the last two, with George Zucco again playing the withered old High Priest (who seems to have more lives than a cat) who tasks another acolyte, this time a youthful John Carradine (as Youssef Bey) with bringing Ananka and Kharis back home to Egypt.
Bizarrely, Ananka’s protectors aren’t the High Priests of Karnak now, but Arkam. However, those Tana leaves are still lurking about – but with added mythology. Just as wolfbane can cure lyncathropy if prepared during a full moon, the fluid taken from the Tana leaves during the same lunar cycle can usher forth Kharis’ ghost (hence the title).
While the film is basically the same plot as the previous two, director Reginald LeBorg does stir things up by having the Princess reincarnated in the shapely form of former pin-up Ramsay Ames. She plays Amina Mensori, a student of Egyptology who is based in the very same town that Kharis shuffled amok years beforehand. LeBorg brings much flair to the proceedings, and there’s a real effort to make Chaney’s Mummy more menacing looking (BTW: his appearance ended up being used as the template for Aurora’s classic glow in the dark model kit that I have had since I was a kid).
In a clever nod to The Bride of Frankenstein, Ames gets a white streak in her perfectly-coiffured bonnet, which turns pure white as Ananka’s soul takes over (causing her to age rapidly) when Kharis ends up carrying her down into the murky depths of a nearby swamp in the film’s climax.
The Mummy’s Curse, 1944
Starring Lon Chaney Jr, Virginia Christine, Martin Kosleck.
Director: Leslie Goodwins.
Five months after the release of The Mummy’s Ghost, Universal rushed out this final sequel for a Christmas release, thus completing Lon Chaney Jr’s trio of turns as the shuffling undead Kharis (although he did spoof the character in an episode of Route 66 in 1962’s Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing). And – except for one sequence – this is the worst of the lot.
Unlike today, Universal had little care for their franchise and totally stuffs up the continuity and mythology by setting this follow-up in Louisiana instead of New England. When the swamp where Kharis and Ananka drowned is planned to be drained the Scripps Museum sends two representatives, Dr James Halsey (Dennis Moore) and an Egyptian colleague Zandaab (Peter Cobb), to retrieve their bodies. Of course, Zanbaab is secretly a high priest of the Arkam set, and he has help in construction worker Ragheb (Martin Kosleck), who has Kharis’ body interred at an old abandoned monastery.
Meanwhile, Princess Ananka emerges from a muddy coffin and ends up a Jane Doe in the care of Halsey and his girl Betty (Kay Harding). Of course, its not long before Kharis arrives on the scene and whisks her away for the final showdown at the monastery… which ends badly for one and all, especially poor Ananka.
This was a rare horror entry from British-born director Leslie Goodwins, who was better at low-budget comedies, and also marked the feature debut of Virginia Christine, who’d go onto light character roles. It’s quite poor, and reeks of racial stereotyping, especially the Cajun Joe character. Chaney only gets one good scene, at the end, as the monastery collapses on him (watch him keep his composure as a heavy brick smashes into his face); and the day-for-night shots are infuriating. But it does have one scene which still haunts, and that’s when Christine’s Ananka emerges from her resting place in the swamp. It’s a striking scene, especially in the way in which Christine plays it.
Of course, Universal couldn’t keep their Mummy down for too long. In 1955, Abbott and Costello got their chance to have a date with Klaris (a pun on Kharis) for their 28th and final film comedy, with Eddie Parker wearing what looks like a onesie decorated with a bandage motif. Except to fans of the comic duo and their verbal gymnastics, this was a poor end to their feature film careers.
A staple of VHS rentals in the late-1980’s and early 1990’s – when horror films were becoming increasingly self-reverential thanks to the likes of An American Werewolf in London (1981) and Fright Night (1985) – Waxwork was the directorial debut of Anthony Hickox, the son of Theatre of Blood director Douglas Hickox, and is his love-letter to Universal’s classic monsters as well as contemporary horror icons by way of 1953’s House of Wax.
Gremlins star Zach Galligan is rich douche Mark who is forced to man-up when his high-school pals start disappearing after visiting a waxworks museum that has bizarrely just opened up in an old mansion in their swanky LA neighbourhood.
Run by the mysterious Mr Lincoln (David Warner, dressed like a ’66 Batman villain) and his vertically-challenged assistants, the mansion is a front for their diabolical plan to collect the last remaining souls they need to bring life to 18 effigies of ‘the most evil souls who ever lived’ in order to raise the dead and bring about the end of the world.
After three friends step over the ropes of the exhibits and find themselves at the mercy of a werewolf, Dracula and the Phantom of the Opera, while a chain-smoking detective (Charles McCaughan) has a live burial date with The Mummy, Mark and another of the gang Sarah (Deborah Foreman) discover a link between Mr Lincoln and Mark’s late grandfather – who was fascinated by death and horror.
They then seek out Patrick Macnee’s wheelchair bound Sir Wilfred, a friend of the family, who reveals Lincoln’s diabolical plan. But when Mark and Sarah set out to stop Lincoln, Mark finds himself trapped in a Romero-esque zombie graveyard while Sarah is lured into the Marquis de Sade’s sex stable….
Waxwork certainly ticks lots of boxes. It’s very gory, with great physical effects of heads being ripped off, crushed and exploding, and one particularly gross out scene of a human leg being gorged on as though it were a shoulder of Serrano ham.
It’s got great visual style, with nods to EC Comics and Mario Bava’s colour palette; and packed with little in jokes (I particularly liked the references Vincent’s Price Henry Jarrod in House of Wax: indeed the idea of using real people as waxworks is lifted straight from that classic horror). Even the synth score (always the letdown of movies of this era) from Emmy-nominated composer, Roger Bellon is pretty darn effective.
All-in-all it’s tremendous fun, and now that Lionsgate have resurrected it from the Vestron archives and given it a re-mastered restoration it is well worth a revisit – just mind you don’t step over those ropes.
Film location fans might like to know that Mark’s house (aka the Higgins-Verbeck-Hirsch Mansion in Wiltshire) was also used in William Castle’s The Night Walker, as well as Willard and Ben, and Witchboard.
• Audio commentary with Anthony Hickox and Zach Galligan (after listening to this, I really would like to hang out with these guys).
• The Waxwork Chronicles featurette (This leans quite heavily on the sequel, which I now so want to see. To bad it wasn’t released here as a double bill like in the US).
• The Making of Waxwork (This 30-minute archive featurette is narrated by Patrick Macnee – yeah!!!!)
• Theatrical trailer
• Still gallery
Waxwork is distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK as part of the Vestron Video Collector’s Series
DID YOU KNOW?
The evil souls collected for Waxwork exhibition are:
• The Marquis de Sade
• The Werewolf
• Count Dracula, his son and the Brides of Dracula
• The Phantom of the Opera
• The Mummy
• A zombie
• Frankenstein’s monster
• Jack the Ripper
• The Invisible Man
• A voodoo priest
• A witch
• A snakeman
• Pods from Invasion of the Body Snatchers
• Rosemary and her Demonic Baby
• An axe murderer
• A multi-eyed alien
• Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors
• Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
A Dark Song (2016) | This terrifying occult head trip should come with a ‘Don’t Try This At Home’ warning
Grief-stricken over the murder of her son, Sophia (Catherine Walker) is desperate for closure (and revenge) and seeks out ceremonial magician Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram), in a bid to communicate with her dead child.
But the arcane ritual she must undertake requires arduous preparation, which risks both hers and Solomon’s mental and physical well-being as they prepare open the gates to the other side…
Winner of the New Visions award at the 2016 Sitges Festival, A Dark Song is an astonishing first effort from director Liam Gavin, chronicling the performance of the Abramelin operation, an intensive 17th-century magic rite that ends in knowledge of and conversation with one’s Holy Guardian Angel. It is well-known amongst occult scholars, including Aleister Crowley, who created his own ritual as part of his Thelema religion.
Gavin sets his supernatural drama in a derelict house in a bleak Welsh countryside where two strangers lock themselves up to perform the elaborate six-month rite, which includes much preparation, including daily pray, chastity and abstinence.
Being a two-hander in a single setting, you’d expect it run out of steam after a while, but Gavin uses the very realistic practicalities of the ritual to weave a compelling dark narrative that allows the two leads to explore hidden depths in order to bring their damaged characters to nervy obsessed life before the real horrors begin.
With the soiled dress sense of Rab C Nesbitt or Andy Pipkin from Little Britain (but minus the laughs), Oram convinces as the dour outsider who is more in tune with the spirit world then the real one; while Walker genuinely disturbs as the grieving mother walking in a tightrope across a black abyss.
Now, most films dealing with the occult tend to focus on the attainment of power, but A Dark Song is all about Sophia’s quest for inner peace (and the ability to forgive) through gnosis. What we get is a harrowing and intense experience in which you can practically feel the power of the ritual emanating through the images and Ray Harman’s sparse score. It’s a bold and inventive piece of indie cinema – just don’t try it at home – you might regret it!
X Moor (2014) | Some nasty surprises await in the British indie horror – welcome to the lair of the Beast!
With her sights set on fame and fortune, American student journalist Georgia (Melia Kreiling) and her cameraman boyfriend Matt (Nick Blood) head to Exmoor in North Devon to capture footage of a legendary panther that is said to roam the moor.
With the help of an experienced animal tracker Fox (Matt Bonar), the couple set up camp in Slew Wood and begin fixing up 42 cameras to the trees and rocks. But when they uncover the rotting corpses of dozens of young women in the undergrowth, Georgia and Matt realise that Fox has intentionally led them into a serial killer’s dumping ground in a bid to hunt him down… So will they stay or will they go?
From writer/director Luke Hyams comes X Moor, an atmospheric survivalist horror. It’s a handsome looking film, with cool score and credits, and evocative photography of the wet and windy terrain (with Ballymoney, Northern Ireland standing in for Exmoor). The characters are well drawn and the cast is excellent.
Melia Kreiling’s Georgia’s got balls and a conscience and given what she goes through in the course of one night, she’s destined to join the ranks of horror’s other fierce Final Girls. Typically, Nick Blood’s Matt is a bit of a dick, although his relationship with Georgia comes off as playful and genuine. And when he sprains his leg and risks getting hypothermia, you can’t help but feel sorry for him.
Mark Bonnar’s Fox, meanwhile, is the film’s most intriguing character – part menacing, part sympathetic. He provides real gravitas to the proceedings and also one the film’s big shock moments. The other big jump-in-your-seat moment is when one of the six corpses the trio uncover is found to be still alive! That one really got me – as did the idea that the killer (the Beast) drugs his victims and buries them so that he can hunt them down later. That’s just sick!
The film however is ultimately let down by some serious randomness, especially the introduction of Charlene (Jemma O’Brien), the unseen killer’s one-eyed daughter, who is found by Georgia waiting for her father to return from grouse shooting. That was just too leftfield.
Then there’s the messy climax, in which everyone (killer included) make really stupid decisions until its just Georgia left to face her hunter armed with the jaw bone of a deer. What happens next is suppose to be the film’s big shock twist. But it just left me scratching my head and, in the end, there’s no closure for either Georgia or the audience. There’s also a suggestion that there’s more than one killer involved. I really wanted that one explained. The panther, by the way, does make an appearance on one of the CCTV cameras at the very end of the film. Growl!!!
‘Smells like a giant kitty litter’
XMoor gets its UK TV premier on The Horror Channel today (Friday 18 August) at 9pm.
‘Any similarities to persons living, dead, or undead is purely coincidental!’
College buddies Keith (Chris Makepeace) and AJ (Robert Rusler) are busting to get into the best frathouse on campus – but they need to make an impression. Heading out to the After Dark Club in the seediest part of Los Angeles, they seeks out a stripper. But they end up in a nest vampires overseen by their kinky queen, Katrina (Grace Jones), and being targeted by a street gang led by a psychotic albino (Billy Drago). But when Katrina puts the bite on AJ, the undead fun really begins…
An obvious influence on Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk till Dawn, Vamp (which was original released on 18 July 1986) is an oddball fusion of gore, black comedy and sexy vampire hotness, featuring day-glo noir visuals from three-time Oscar winner Greg Cannom (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mrs Doubtfire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), OTT costuming under the direction of Grace Jones (who is genuinely terrifying), and a career-best turn from Deedee Pfeiffer. Director Wenk would later pen screenplays for reboots of classics like The Equalizer and The Magnificent Seven. Like Porky’s with fangs, this comedy horror romp may not be a classic of the genre, but its a hoot!
Following Arrow Video’s 2014 release of the 1980s comedy horror, this 2016 digital transfer release on DVD and Blu-ray features a host of different bonus extras.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• High Definition digital transfer, with original mono audio and optional English subtitles.
• One of those Nights: The Making of Vamp – NEW documentary featuring interviews with director Richard Wenk, and stars Robert Rusler, Dedee Pfeiffer and Gedde Watanabe.
• Behind-the-scenes rehearsals with Grace Jones and Robert Rusler.
• Blooper Reel
• Image gallery
• Dracula Bites the Big Apple (1979) – Richard Wenk’s disco-themed short film
• New artwork by the Twins of Evil
• Booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Cullen Gallagher
Convinced by her unborn baby (who speaks to her from her womb) that her partner’s death in a climbing accident was the result of a group decision to cut his rope, Ruth tracks them down and kills them with a large kitchen knife. But when her waters break as she finally confronts the group’s leader, Tom, (Kayvan Novak), Ruth finds herself on a cliff edge (both literally and metaphorically) swaying between redemption and destruction…
Shot in just 11 days during Lowe’s own real-life pregnancy, Prevenge is an assured directorial debut from the writer/actress, who is best known for her turns in Ben Wheatley’s Kill List and Sightseers. Now I came into the film expecting it to be played strictly for laughs, but there’s an emotional core that quietly drags you in.
And that’s down to Lowe’s compelling performance as Ruth who, throughout her murder spree, which includes slashing the throat of Kate (Game of Thrones) Dickie’s bitchy boss and the gory castration of Tom Davis’ sleazy DJ, the viewer is left wondering if she’s clinically mad or just having a really bad day?
Thankfully, Ruth’s got Jo Hartley’s caring midwife to help ground her back to reality. But Ruth is a deeply sad and lonely woman – and you can’t help but sympathise with her because she has no family or support as she awaits the birth of her baby.
Ruth’s bland apartment – which looks like temporary council accommodation – only heightens her loneliness and sense of alienation. So do the other-worldly neon-lit Cardiff city locations – which were chosen on purpose according to Lowe in the extras.
Speaking of which, do check out the Post Natal Confessions extra, it’s really informative in shedding light on the making of this surprisingly emotional black comedy that deserves multiple viewings. It also reveals the genesis behind my favourite scene in which Ruth meets ‘Death’ in the form of a Halloween party-goer.
Prevenge is out on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD from includes an audio commentary with Alice Lowe, cinematographer Ryan Eddleston, editor Matteo Bini and producer Vaughan Sivell.
The Prevenge soundtrack by ToyDrum is also available digitally through Invada Records at www.invada.co.uk
From the man who gave us Tentacles, The Visitor, Beyond the Door and Piranha II: The Spawning, Ovidio G Assonitis, comes Madhouse (aka And When She Was Bad/There Was a Little Girl), an Italian-made/Savannah, Georgia-shot slasher that was once on the UK’s video nasty list – and its a genuine find, courtesy of Arrow who have dusted it off and given it a 2k-restored release.
Julia (Trish Everly), a teacher in a school for the deaf, has spent her entire adult life trying to forget the torment she suffered at the hands of her twisted twin Mary (Alison Biggers)… but Mary hasn’t forgotten. Escaping hospital, where she’s recently been admitted with a disfiguring illness, Julia’s sadistic sister vows to exact a particularly cruel revenge on her sibling – promising a birthday surprise she’ll never forget…
While nothing as gut-wrenching violent as the British authorities felt necessary to outlaw, Madhouse is a curious concoction of serial killer thriller, giallo whodunit and gothic histrionics. Think Happy Birthday to Me (also made in 1981) meets Rebecca, but with added camp – courtesy of character actor Dennis Robertson doing his best Roddy McDowall impression as the overly-friendly and rather odd Father James.
Indeed, director Assonitis told his cast to go over the top with their characterisations and indeed they did – which makes for some wonderful LOL moments (especially Alison Biggers as the bonkers mad Mary). And true to his honorific title as the ‘Rip-Off King’, Assonitis also chucks in a purely Omen-esque element – a Rottweiler trained to attack on command. It’s grisly demise – a power drill to the head – will most undoubtedly upset dog lovers everywhere, but the special effects will have you howling…
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
• Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition presentations
• Original Stereo Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
• Interviews with cast and crew (my favourite is Edith Ivey – who knew she was Indian Princess Summerfall Winterspring on The Howdy Doody Show?)
• Alternate Opening Titles
• Theatrical Trailer, newly transferred in HD
• Reversible sleeve featuring artwork by Marc Schoenbach
• Booklet featuring new writing on the film (first pressing only)
Heading up the survivors are tough army sergeant Mac (Jim Sweeney) and cowardly Major Gibson (Joe Rainbow), who are transporting the alleged architect of the virus, Dr Sykes (Eric Colvin), to the city of Imperion; the golf-mad Beaumont (Danny Brown) and his teenage daughter, Becca (Rachel Nottingham); office worker Gandhi (Simon Burbage); Essex slag Harden (Jade Colucci); and a pint-sized, heavily-pregnant, religious nutter (Shamiso Mushambi).
Once inside, however, the survivors discover they are not alone – a messiah-like zombie (Rupert Phelps) with the power to heal the infected is wandering the corridors. Believing him to be the cure, Sykes convinces his captors to try and capture the unholy undead dude. But their task isn’t made easy when the virus starts spreading amongst the survivors…
‘Die down the negative energy, it’s not the end of the world!’
This low budget zombie comedy horror from Hampshire-based film outfit Charmed Apocalypse Pictures (aka Andy Phelps and Jake Hawkin) is way better than it ought to be. If you can forgive the copious amounts of swearing and questionable acting ability, this homemade horror is a riot.
It’s got a cracking script, whose black humour owes a big debt to Monty Python, Blackadder and Shaun of the Dead; gory special effects that really do deliver (decapitation by golf club, anyone?); some nicely twisted takes on the horror genre’s stock-in-trade characters; cool comic book style graphics; and a catchy darkwave electronic theme tune (that sounds not unlike Laibach).
Much fun is made about death and religion and some of it is very dark, like when the Bible-spouting Esther tries to crucify herself. It’s also incredibly inventive – who knew wearing a coat of rotting human skin will make you invisible to zombies? Then there’s the fatalistic central theme of being eaten, resurrected and eaten again: now that’s really scary. If there’s one downside, it’s that the comedy ends up taking the back seat as the grisly theme plays out. But then, we wouldn’t have the film’s Romero-esque final shot…
The Butterfly Room (2012) | This dark psychological thriller demands to be seen by a wider audience of horror fans
Reviewed by Alan Hoare
The Butterfly Room is a 2012 American-Italian psychological thriller-horror film directed by Jonathan Zarantonello, based on his unpublished novel Alice dalle 4 alle 5 (Alice from 4 to 5). A reclusive, butterfly-obsessed, elderly lady suffering from bipolar disorder develops a disturbing relationship with a mysterious but seemingly innocent youngster…
Barbara Steele as Ann
Ray Wise as Nick
Erica Leerhsen as Claudia
Heather Langenkamp as Dorothy
Camille Keaton as Olga
Adrienne King as Rachel
P. J. Soles as Lauren
Ellery Sprayberry as Julie
Julia Putnam as Alice
James Karen as Sales Clerk
The film opens with a young girl taking a bath, as her mother knocks on the door, the girl’s period starts and her mother bursts in, calling her a filthy child and saying she was so much nicer when she was younger. The mother pushes the child’s head into the bath water.
We next see Ann, a reclusive elegant lady, walking down the street, kicking a workers ladder causing him to fall of the ladder, only being saved by his lanyard. His supervisor, Nick, apologies to Ann, claiming it was the workers fault. Ann returns to her apartment and hears the sobbing nine-year-old Julie in the hallway. It seems her mother has failed to collect her from school, so Ann invites her in, and introduces Julie to her world of butterfly collecting.
Julie’s mother, Claudia, eventually turns up and thinks Ann, inviting her to dinner the following evening. Before leaving, Claudia queries the frequent banging noises emanating from Ann’s apartment. Ann denies any such noise, but as Claudia and Julie return arguing in their apartment the banging starts.
The narrative takes its first jump and introduces us to Ann’s earlier meeting with the eerily beautiful young Alice whilst in a shopping mall. Using her seductive innocence, Alice establishes a disturbing mother/daughter relationship with Ann, which is based around receiving money from Ann. We soon learn Ann craves this relationship to replace the loss of her own daughter. Each time they meet Ann has to pay more and more money to Alice.
Once again the narrative jumps and we see Ann in full fumigation gear in a lift spraying acid on bodies hidden in the lift shaft. The scene is made even stranger when an obviously stoned passenger joins her. As the relationship between Ann and Julie continues to develop, the back-story of Alice’s other “mothers” unfolds. Ann soon learns of this and begins to murder them, throwing one down the lift shaft and causing an air embolism in the other. Anne is now free to look after Alice, however they have a row, and the resolution of this is never resolved.
Claudia asks Ann to look after Julie whilst she is away for a romantic weekend. With the inevitable curiosity of a child, Julie begins to explore the corners of Ann’s apartment, discovering the dark secret of the girl (Alice) hidden in the walls of the forbidden butterfly room. No one believes what Julie has seen except for Ann’s estranged daughter Dorothy.
The next day, Ann asks Janitor Nick to block the door to the butterfly room with a large wardrobe. Nick offers to do some cash in hand work for Ann as he knows she is illegally breaking down a plasterboard partition in the apartment. She reacts violently to this and throws him out. Ann’s estranged daughter Dorothy visits Ann and it becomes clear she was the girl seen in the opening scenes. They argue, causing Julie to hide in the wardrobe where she discovers the back is flimsy and can gain access to the butterfly room.
Claudia returns from her weekend to collect Julie and is drowned in the bath by Ann, just as Julie learns the terrible truth of the butterfly room. Nick arrives to find Claudia’s dead body and the body of his missing co-worker and see Ann chasing Julie with a sledgehammer Ann and Julie run out to the street where Ann is run over and killed by Dorothy who has just arrived at the scene after summoning up the courage to confront an evil that has haunted her for years.
The narrative jumps forward and we see that Julie now lives with Dorothy’s family and as they pose for a family photo Dorothy says the chilling words to her son ‘you were so much nicer when you were younger’.
Jonathan Zarantonello has produced a marvellously-complex, dark psychological thriller that examines the human psyche on many levels. His use of the regular jumps (backwards and forwards) in narrative confuses and misinforms the viewer, however all the disparate plot strands come neatly together in the final reel when we discover the true nature of the psychotic Anna.
Barbara Steele is amazing in the role of Anna, making her both malevolent and sweet at the same time. She clearly relishes the role and has some wonderfully playful dialogue and marvelouslly bizarre scenes, such a meeting the dope head in the lift whilst she is fully dressed in bug spraying costume. It’s not made clear if Anna is psychotic from the start, or has been made this way by her own experiences with her daughter Dorothy, and surrogate daughter Alice. But this just adds nicely to the mystery and darkness of the plot. All the characters, except Julie, appear to have agendas that will benefit themselves, at the expense of others. Alice has several mothers for reasons unexplained, Claudia has a clandestine affair with a co-worker, Ann certainly has her own agenda and Nick appears to be besotted with Ann.
The use of former horror scream icons is handled well and they all play their part very well in this densely plotted well acted film. The soundtrack is suitably dark and aggressive and matches the on screen action very well indeed. The film won the Denis-de-Rougemont Youth Award at the 2012 Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival, but seems to have been relegated to sell through DVD Oblivion. This is a real shame as the film certainly demands to be seen by a wider audience of horror fans.