Category Archives: Maybe-Miss
Shark Killer opens with a cool graphic novel animated opening credit sequence and a comical Jaws II meets Piranha scene in which a bunch of American teens become shark food, before our square-jawed hero Chase Walker (Derek Theler) saves – then shags – the girl (think Bond as a muscled jock).
It certainly sets the scene for a tongue-in-cheek adventure in which Chase jets off to Cape Town in South Africa where he’s coerced by his obnoxious adopted (and therefore less attractive) brother Jake (Paul du Toit) into retrieving a priceless diamond swallowed by a Great White. And helping Chase in his quest is local beauty Jasmine (A Town Called Eureka‘s Erica Cerra), who looks like a cross between Jessica Alba and Courtney Cox, but sounds like she’s swallowed a frog.
Next stop, a bargain bin Romancing the Stone meets buddy comedy where gags like ‘This isn’t flipper we’re talking about’ fall flat at every turn, there’s little in the way of action (apart from a couple of well-choreographed fight scenes that show off Theler action man skills) and practically nil shark carnage (which is what we came for).
Instead we have just three CGI shark attacks (one on a fluffy white terrier) amid lots of flirty talk between Theler and Cerra. Now, they’re certainly a fit-looking couple, but they’re no Michael Douglas or Kathleen Turner – and du Toit is no Danny De Vito either.
Doing his best Bond-style villain, Arnold Vosloo is pretty cool, especially when his drug-dealing diamond collector takes his final revenge after being almost been burned to a crisp in an explosion. But, ultimately, even he can’t save this sinker.
Shark Killer dives onto DVD in the UK on 20 July from Image Entertainment
The pimps and the prostitutes and the body-snatchers. The brothels and dens of iniquity!
In 19th-century Edinburgh, Irish immigrants William Burke (Derren Nesbitt) and William Hare (Glynn Edwards), discover there’s money to be made supplying fresh corpses to noted College of Surgeons anatomist Dr Robert Knox (Harry Andrews). But when demand starts outstripping supply, the greedy resurrection men turn to preying on drunken prostitutes and vagabonds. However, the death of a club-footed simpleton and a young woman’s disappearance proves to be their undoing…
Gallows humour and saucy British sitcom-styled shenanigans make strange bedfellows in this 1972 British period horror yarn. In retelling the story of the infamous Burke and Hare murders that took place in Edinburgh in 1828, director Vernon Sewell, who had just made two horrors back-to-back (The Blood Beast Terror and Curse of the Crimson Altar), chose, unwisely – as it turns out – to take the sexploitation route for his final fright flick. Littered with penis jokes and gratuitous nipple flashing (even in the morgue – how disrepectful), it should have been called Confessions of a Body Snatcher.
Although Harry Andrews gives a terrifically hammy performance as medical pioneer Knox, playing him as a bullish obsessive gleefully carving up the dodgy cadavers while turning a blind eye to their provenance, Burke and Hare are played strictly for laughs. Thick in mentality and in their ‘Oirish’ accents, they eminded me of Stan and Jack from On The Buses. But instead of pulling birds, they are the henpecked husbands of the film’s real villains – their shrewish wives, played by Dee Shenderey and Yootha Joyce (who was married to Edwards until their divorce in 1968), who think nothing of killing old ladies for ‘a wee dram’.
The comedy thriller’s side-story, involving three medical students and a local brothel, is also an awkward mix of Benny Hill slapstick and whodunit, especially when Alan Tucker’s young doctor in the love goes in search of Françoise Pascal’s missing Marie. Yutte Stensgaard (who once guested in On The Buses) also mysteriously disappears – but it’s not clear if she ended up as another victim or just got left on the cutting room floor. One minute she’s there, the next she’s gone.
The theme tune is by the legendary Liverpudlian band, The Scaffold – who are best known for Lily the Pink. But their bawdy title song, which features the slightly unsavory lyrics ‘Beware they’re out to rape you and drape you in white’ sits uncomfortably alongside the rest of the film’s music score – which sounds like something out of an old silent movie during the brothel burning scene.
Burke & Hare is a misfire whose only merit is in seeing some fine character actors having a lark in period garb on some unconvincing Twickenham Studio sets.
THE UK RELEASE
Burke & Hare gets a UK release on Blu-ray and DVD from Odeon Entertainment as part of their OEG Classic Movies collection from 4 May 2015, featuring the film in its original 1:66.1 aspect ratio and with Dolby Digital mono sound (note: the opening title theme is rather scratchy, but the rest of the audio track is perfectly fine).
AND ANOTHER THING…
When it comes to screen adaptations of the Burke and Hare story, few stand out – except maybe John Gilling’s The Flesh and the Fiends (1960), with George Rose and Donald Pleasance playing the body snatchers and Peter Cushing in Knox role; while Robert Wise’s The Body Snatcher (1945), the last film to feature Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff together, drew heavily on the West Port murder case, but was actually based on a Robert Louis Stevenson short story. Back in 2010, meanwhile, John Landis took a comic stab at the material with Brit favourites Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis playing the rogues. But has anyone actually seen it? For information on the real Burke and Hare, check this out: http://burkeandhare.com/
With a bounty of Bollinger 1969 stored onboard his yacht, Percy Edward Anthony (Leigh Lawson) takes to the high seas to escape his notoriety as the well-endowed recipient of the world’s first penis transplant.
But when the entire male population becomes impotent after the US-made PX-123 drug accidentally gets into the water supply, Percy becomes the British Government’s secret weapon in reversing the world’s falling birth rate.
After ‘servicing’ the representatives of several countries in the Miss Conception International contest, Percy decides he’s done his patriotic duty and goes back into hiding – which doesn’t go down well with his advisors or the bevy of beautiful birds who only want a favour most men would be happy to oblige…
This 1974 British sex comedy was director Ralph Thomas and producer Betty E Box’s sequel to their box-office hit Percy, based on Raymond Hitchcock’s 1969 debut novel, with Leigh Lawson packing into Hywel Bennett’s briefs as the sexed-up anti-hero with the enviable manhood.
Drawing on themes originally exploited in the 1933 sci-fi musical comedy, It’s Great to Be Alive (a remake of the 1924 silent, The Last Man on Earth), and in the 1946 Pat Frank novel, Mr Adam, Percy’s Progress comes off like a poor-man’s Carry On. It should have been a saucy seaside postcard delight, but it’s not. Director Thomas, who was responsible for the ar superior Doctor series of comedy films, and Up Pompeii! writer Sid Colin have merely served up a series of flaccid, vulgar jokes about impotence.
Getting into bed with Lawson (who famously wedded both Hayley Mills and model Twiggy), are some well-known Hammer glamour stars, including Jenny Hanley, Madeline Smith, Julie Edge and Judy Matheson. But it’s the roll call of other famous names that’s the real reason to check this oddity out. Among the embarrassed faces on display in the messy farce are Elke Sommer, Milo O’Shea, Denholm Elliott, Bernard Lee, Anthony Andrews, Ronald Fraser, Alan Lake and Anthony Sharp.
As the Aristotle Onassis-styled tycoon Stavos Mammonian, Vincent Price is confined to a wheelchair (the last time he did that was in 1953’s House of Wax); while Harry H Corbett (who wrote some of the dialogue, along with comedy legend Ian La Frenais) gets in an hilarious Harold Wilson impersonation (albeit with a Yorkshire accent) as the British PM.
Following his multiple roles in the crude but entertaining Barry McKenzie movies, Barry Humphries takes on the dual role of scientist Dr Anderson (sporting a great whistling speech pediment) and an ‘Australian TV lady’ who bears an uncanny resemblance to his Moonee Ponds housewife, Edna Everage. Judy Geeson, meanwhile, gets a very odd role as Dr Anderson’s overly cheery assistant who become instrumental in reversing the drug’s sterility factor.
Interestingly, author Raymond Hitchcock ended up publishing a novel based on Sid Colin’s screenplay, while the film’s theme tune ‘God Knows I Miss You’ was co-written by The Seekers’ Keith Potger and Tony Macaulay, who had a string of hits for the likes of Long John Baldry and The Hollies.
EMI Films originally released the film in the UK in August 1974, but it took another two years before a US distribution was announced. Retitled, It’s Not the Size That Counts, trimmed by 90-minutes, and with additional scenes of a penis transplant and a dwarf (played by one-time Ewok, Luis De Jesus) tacked on, the film was eventually released Stateside in November 1978. You can watch a US TV trailer below.
THE UK HD RELEASE
Released as part of Network’s British Film collection, Percy’s Progress gets a brand-new high definition transfer from the original film elements, in its original aspect ratio, and in both Blu-ray and DVD formats. The special features include original theatrical trailers, image gallery and promotional material (pdf).
CATCH A BLU-RAY CLIP FROM NETWORK
WATCH THE US TV TRAILER
While scattering their mother’s ashes at a lake, estranged sisters Abby (Angela DiMarco) and Rebecca (Kate Alden) discover a sphere in the woods that exerts a strange effect as Rebecca recalls a terrifying trauma from her past and Abby’s fiancé Calvin (David S Hogan) begins to obsess over it. But for Abby, her recurring nightmares of an alien presence soon becomes all too real…
Impressed by director Jeremy Berg and writer John Portanova‘s indie mystery The Invoking last year, I was expecting their alien abduction sci-fi, The Device, to be just as twisty and inventive. But this odd melding of mental health and a marriage in meltdown drama with an X-Files-styled conspiracy is a talky affair that’s seriously lacking any action or scares.
If you pick this up on the basis of the poster or DVD cover, you’ll be expecting some exciting Species-styled transformation sequences. Disappointingly, there’s nothing like that on offer here, except one rather tall alien who uses its fleshy claw-like fingers to prod and paw at its human incubator (Abby).
What’s really creepy, however, is actor David S Hogan’s weird eyes – has he had ‘work done’? They are very distracting, especially during one supposedly emotional scene in which Abby informs him she’s pregnant and he hits the roof telling her he’s sterile. There’s no expression on his face – just a frozen visage. Could he be a real extraterrestrial in disguise?
The Device is out on DVD in the UK from Image Entertainment, and features an audio commentary by Tracy Tormé, the screenwriter of the 1990’s alien abduction movies, Intruders and Fire in the Sky.[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bgh-hHYRuss%5D
‘When the devil breeds… a new evil is born’
After finding a little girl called Lucy (Harley Graham) stranded outside a closed cafe, care home assistant Emily (Elizabeth Di Prinzio) and her four friends (who bound for South by Southwest) play Samaritan and take her back home to her concerned parents Val (Virginia Williams) and Wayne (Johnathon Schaech). When a sudden mishap causes Lucy’s parents to head to hospital, Emily and her friends decide to remain behind at the remote farmhouse to look after the girl. But when things start to go bump in the night and Lucy runs off into the woods to play with her ‘imaginary’ friends, the gang discover there’s something evil lurking in the darkness…
This supernatural hodgepodge certainly starts off promising with shots of broken creepy-looking dolls, children chanting ritualistic-sounding nursery rhymes and something growling in a closet, but while writer/director Rustam Branaman sets out to create an element of creeping suspense, he ends up just trying our patience.
Nothing happens for a long time, while the mishmash of horror elements, including a black smoke spirit jumping from host to host, a demon in the barn (that you only ever see fleetingly) and an army of ghost children (actually five or six kids starring out of an upstairs window) just don’t add up. You also have to wait almost 80-minutes before finding out what’s really going on – but even then, it’s not made clear. So when Val and Wayne arrive back in the midst of the mayhem (their absence being an awkward device to get the kids on their own) and Val turns to hubby and says: ‘Most people never figure out what’s going on’, I thought: ‘No shit Sherlock!’ as I was having terrible trouble making sense of it myself.
Apart from caring heroine Emily, the characters are also deeply unlikeable: pill-popping Amanda’s just out of rehab, Sean’s a stoner, Hank’s an unfunny practical joker, and her beau Tyler has a tendency to shout all the time. So when the culling starts, you end up cheering on their demise – which, as it happens, is often the result of their own stupidity rather than anything supernatural. The final shot suggests a sequel – please no!
The Culling is out on DVD and screens on Sky Box Office from 23 March 2015
Throwback (2013) | I’m a Yowie, Get Me Out of Here! – This shaggy tale from Down Under is a yawn-er!
Two mates, Jack (Shawn Brack) and Kent (Anthony Ring), take a canoe trip deep into the rainforests of far north Queensland to search for the lost gold of an infamous 1800s bushranger. The pair find their bounty but when the greedy Kent turns on Jack, they loose the bag. Suspecting Jack has hidden the stash, Kent takes him and a park ranger (Melanie Serafin) hostage in an attempt to force Jack in turning over the treasure. However, lurking in the dense undergrowth, is a ferocious ape-like creature called a Yowie, Australia’s answer to Bigfoot…
Filmed in Yowiescope (ie: digital video), this bargain bin Aussie horror is a real yawner. Especially when you compare it with the polished Norwegian adventure Ragnarok: A Viking Apocalypse (check it out here), which has the exact same story, but with a giant CGI snake instead of Humphrey B Bear with roid rage.
To its credit, Throwback (which is dedicated to Ray Harryhausen) has a nifty title sequence that evokes 70s eco-horrors and some clever in-jokes (fancy a glass of Boggy Creek Rosé?), the landscape is a knockout (of course), and the Raiders of the Lost Ark-inspired score is by the legendary Richard Band. On the downside, however, it’s very talky, littered with weakly-delivered clichés; there’s lots of running around, but little action – despite the cast getting shot at, drowned and stabbed; all the grisly bits happen off-screen; the sound editing is poor; and the Yowie (played by six ‘actors’) isn’t remotely scary (you don’t even see its face).
And to top it all, veteran Aussie actor Vernon Wells (of Mad Max 2 fame) gets little more than a cameo as a suspended detective hunting a suspected serial killer, who is bizarrely dressed like a nutty survivalist (it’s never explained why). This one joins 2014’s Hunting the Legend as one of the lamest Bigfoot-themed creature features ever.
THE UK DVD RELEASE
The Monster Pictures UK DVD release includes a host of extras (should you want to bother), including alternative ending, behind the scenes stuff, deleted scenes, trailers, Q&A, video blogs, radio interviews, shorts by director Travis Bain, and Vernon Wells reading an excerpt from Henry Lawson’s The Hairy Man.
DID YOU KNOW?
Yowies have a genetic fear of crocodiles and can throw their growls.
Stage Fright (2014) | Shriek and shriek again – The summer camp slasher genre gets a Gleeful musical makeover
SING YOUR HEART OUT!
On the opening night of her Broadway-bound musical The Haunting of the Opera, diva Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver) is brutally murdered. Ten years later, her producer Roger (Meat Loaf Aday) is running a theatre summer camp where Kylie’s twins, Camilla (Allie MacDonald) and Buddy (Douglas Smith), are helping out. But when the campers decide to revive the cursed musical and Camilla lands the lead role, the deranged killer returns. But who’s behind the kabuki mask and why does the fiend hate musical theatre so much?
IT’S FRIDAY THE 13TH MEETS GLEE
When it comes to horror musical spoofs, few can top Brian De Palma’s perfect pastiche Phantom of the Paradise and its Oscar-nominated score by Paul Williams or Richard O’Brien’s cult favourite sing-along The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The idea of sending up the tired clichés of musical theatre and the slasher genre really is just too delicious to entertain, and that’s what Stage Fright sets out to do. However, its not going to be stealing Phantom and Rocky’s crown anytime soon.
It’s a shame because Stage Fright starts so well – imagine John Waters’ Hairspray and Serial Mum fused with Friday the 13th and TV’s Glee. But the spoof quickly loses its way, becoming very predictable (the killer’s identity is obvious from the start), and wastes a talented cast who have a rollicking time with their kooky characters. The musical numbers are also unmemorable, especially those squealed and shrieked by the deranged metal killer (my ears are still ringing). And as for the neat horror film references, they just get lost in the mayhem.
It’s a careful tightrope act to get the horror/comedy balance just right in a spoof like this, but 1973’s Theatre of Blood proved you can be gory and gleeful at the same time – so long as you have someone of the calibre and range of Vincent Price to make it work. Meat Loaf (bless him) is a poor substitute.
The death scenes are also too violent and too gory to chuckle at. They’re done without finesse, and feel at odds with the bright ‘gay’ musical numbers and the cast of mainly young children singing their little hearts out (bless them, too). Sorry Stage Fright, but it’s a ‘Next!’ from me.
Director Jerome Sable got this gig on the back of his 2010 sing-a-long short The Legend of Beaver Dam (watch it below). Let’s hope Ryan Murphy’s upcoming TV project Scream Queens might just be the ticket to give the slasher genre a bloody good send up.
Stage Fright is available on DVD in the UK from Metrodome
Watch The Legend of Beaver Dam here
The world’s greatest monsters have just met their match…
Hot on the heels of taking down a nest of vampires, a group of suburban American Ninja heroes take on Dracula, the Werewolf, the Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster and a coven of witches using their newly acquired supernatural powers. Let the games begin…
‘It’s a joke and you’re the punchline’
Remember that scene in Disney’s Bambi where Mrs Rabbit asks Thumper what his father said about being impolite and Thumper replies: ‘If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all’? Well that’s how I feel about Ninjas vs Monsters.
I’m sorry, but this really is just a ‘home’ movie featuring a bunch of friends larking about like 10-year-olds play-acting an episode of Power Rangers. How and why Eduardo Sanchez, the director of the DIY cult hit The Blair Witch Project and the excellent Lovely Molly, put his name to this amateurish effort is anyone’s guest. And did you know it’s the final film in a ‘trilogy’ that began with something called Zombie Contagion (aka Ninjas vs Zombies)?
I’m afraid to admit, but I turned off after 20minutes. I just couldn’t handle the overacting, the terrible dialogue and the poor sound (though the makeup and sfx are actually better than you’d expect). Then I got to thinking about all the other films that have attempted to bring Universal’s classic monsters together. And looking down the list, they’re all pretty hit and miss. For me, you can’t beat House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and (yes!) Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). But what do you think?
Assignment Terror (1970). Paul Naschy’s werewolf defeats an alien plot to use a vampire, a mummy and Frankenstein’s monster to take over the world. Michael Rennie’s also in this weird Euro trip, which I loved as a kid.
Dracula vs Frankenstein (1971). J Carrol Naish’s mad scientist revives his ancestor’s creation with the help of his mute assistant (the original Wolfman, Lon Chaney Jr), Dracula – and Forest J Ackerman!
The Monster Squad (1987). A group of monster kids save their hometown from Dracula and his army of monsters that include The Mummy, The Gill-Man, The Wolf Man and the Frankenstein Monster (all re-imagined by Stan Winston). Now this cult classic showed its worth when Lionsgate’s 2009 Blu-ray sold out in no time. There’s even a remake in the works. Nuff said!
Van Helsing (2004) Hugh Jackman’s vigilante monster hunter joins forces with Kate Beckinsale to take down Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in Stephen Sommers’ tongue-in-cheek blockbuster which filmgoers loved, but critics hated. I so wanted this to work out!
House of the Wolf Man (2009) Five strangers discover Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster and Lon Chaney Jr’s grandson (Ron Chaney) hiding out in an old castle that they’re in line to inherit.
THE LEFT FILMS RELEASE
The UK Blu-ray of Ninjas vs Monsters includes 2010’s Ninjas Vs Vampires, the second film in the trilogy (urgh!). Left Film’s Blu-ray and DVD releases also include commentaries with director Justin Timpane and co-producer Michael Dougherty, and comedy Trekoff commentary; auditions, deleted scenes, funny (its not, actually) alternative ending, a tribute to Brian Anderson (who did the visual effects), trailers and the Until We Drop Down Dead music video.
Check out the official website: NinjasVs.com
YOU LIE! YOU DIE!
Death stalks New Scotland Yard detective James (Simon Phillips) when he goes rogue to catch a serial killer whose ‘truth or die’ methods take him from London to New York to solve the case. Horror thriller Shame the Devil from director Paul Tanter (White Collar Hooligan) aspires to be a British answer to the Saw films, but its neither clever or gory enough to be regarded as such, coming off more like an episode of a typical police procedural drama like CSI.
Having an unseen serial killer play judge, jury and executioner by giving each victim the chance to ‘tell the truth’ and ‘shame the devil’ to avoid a gruesome death (which they don’t of course) has great potential, but Tanter fails to deliver. His death scenes (shotgun to the face, pacemaker going into overdrive, an electrified collar) aren’t that inventive and lack credibility. In fact, the whole scenario is poorly written, especially the subplot involving the detective’s expectant wife Kellie (Lucy Clements) that seems to fizzle out once James reconnects with his old flame Sarah (Juliette Bennett) in New York.
The big reveal isn’t much of a surprise either, as it’s hinted at in flashbacks and the final scene is a real head-spinning downer. In trying to fuse the crime and horror genres, Tanter is out of his element here. I just wonder how he’ll fare when tries his hand at sci-fi in The Last Scout, due out next year. Watch out for Hellraiser‘s Doug Bradley in a cameo.
Shame the Devil screens on Sky Premiere (Sky 301/314, Virgin 401/431) from Friday 21 November (11.45pm) and is also available on iTunes
HOT TEENS. HALLOWEEN NIGHT. AND NO HELP FOR MILES AND MILES…
The bitchy Hogeye High Varsity Cheer team and their dumb-headed jock boyfriends on the Warriors football team share a dark secret – last Halloween they were involved in the accidental death of the high school principal’s daughter Jenny during a party prank. Now, as Halloween approaches once again, the gang, along with new girl Hannah (Lexi Giovagnoli), head out to a remote abandoned farmhouse for a night of booze, blow and banging (hopefully). But waiting in the shadows is a killer – armed with an axe and dressed as their team mascot, an Indian warrior. But who is behind the mask? Could it be Jenny’s disturbed teen boyfriend Ben, who has just bailed out of rehab, or someone much closer to home?
IT’S HALLOWEEN… AGAIN!
Using John Carpenter’s Halloween, it’s sequel and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes: Part II as its blueprint, Varsity Blood is unashamedly an old school slasher right down to the Friday the 13th slashing string score, gratuitous near nudity and gory set pieces in which the vacuous good-looking cast get dispatched by hunting knife, shotgun, axe, bow and arrow and drowning in a toilet bowl (all mostly in the dark).
As you’d expect, the acting is pretty ropey, with scream queen icon Debbie Rochon turning up the demento-meter with her crazy momma turn, while Chris Hlozek, who plays Ben’s dad Rick, gets my vote as the worst actor this side of an Ed Wood movie. Despite the paint by numbers plot and typically cardboard characters, I actually found myself getting confused as to what was going on and who was who (well jocks and cheerleaders do lookalike, don’t they?). Plus, everyone talks really fast in some kind of Texan Valley speak. But if you listen real carefully, there are some LOL lines struggling to get out (check some of them out below).
Look out for the police dispatcher (Cindy Timms), whose sole purpose is to help us understand what the hell is going on. Now, is it just me or is she channelling Kimmy Robertson’s quirky Lucy Moran from Twin Peaks? Finally, a bit of trivia. It’s shot at the same high school where 1999’s Varsity Blues was filmed (which happens to be the alma mater of writer/director Jake Helgren).
‘Sex is like shooting a bunny – guaranteed to be greeted with guilt’ (Linda)
‘Your negativity is not helping anything’ (Heather)
‘My cheergina’s going to close up if you don’t do it already’ (Tina)
‘Damn meddling kids’ (Rick)
Varsity Blood is released on DVD in the UK from Image Entertainment