Wake Wood

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Wake Wood is somewhat of a downer. There have been quite a few horror films in recent years dealing with how parents cope after the death of a child, some dealing with the psychological trauma, others taking a more visceral approach following the lengths some parents will go to either to get on with their lives or bring their child back. It’s a tradition going back most famously to Pet Sematary, but naturally it’s a fear as old as time with numerous fairy tales, myths, and stories from antiquity using this unimaginable tragedy and the associated grief as a starting point. Wake Wood lies somewhere in between the visceral and the psychological, not truly succeeding at either, but not truly failing either.

Make no mistake – Wake Wood is a Serious Horror Film – Caps all the way. It wants to hurt, and it wants to remind you of folksy tales like The Wicker Man and drama like Don’t Look Now. It doesn’t have the money or the directing chops of either of those, but it also doesn’t want to scrimp on the gore. It’s difficult to see who the film is really for then because, while plenty of people will want to see a film like this if you heavily market it towards one crowd they’re likely going to be pissed of by the blood or by the artistry. As mentioned – the artistry is more akin to someone just learning the ropes by mimicking their forefathers, while the blood is limited by budget and, well, good taste.

We open with the fairly upsetting mauling of a child by a dog – the girl, Alice, does not survive. Her mother and father – Louise and Patrick – move to a rural village called Wakewood and try to get on with their lives. The people of Wakewood seem friendly enough, though like any of these off the grid towns, there’s something a little off about them. Turns out they have a history of resurrecting the dead via a ritual with a series of rules. This is where some of the more interesting parts of the film come in, hinting at a sprawling history. There are various ancient trinkets and tools and rules employed, but they’re not really discussed or explained. These sorts of things are always interesting to me and I’d like to have known more about their purpose or origin. The main guts of the rules are straightforward enough – to raise the dead, you need another corpse. The person you want to raise must have been dead for less than a year. The person can only return for three days, and the person cannot go beyond the borders of the town. Naturally, as Patrick and Louise makes their decision, each of these rules comes in to play.

Everything about the film is cold, sullen, the muddy brown of a forgotten English graveyard – the performances (featuring Aidan Gillen and Timothy Spall), the direction, the look of the thing right down to the costumes. It’s mournful and bleak, even in its happiest moments and anyone looking for a slice of quirky horror or a hint of joy should shuffle by. It’s not without it’s charms – watching it reminded me of many a gloomy painting or Doom Metal album cover. It’s played out with conviction and its sense of grit and foreboding feels real – if there is a town out there which can bring people back from the dead, this certainly feels like it – insular, brow-beaten, and with the look of a tweed clothed farmer nonchalantly pistoning a bolt through a bull’s skull.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Wake Wood!

Radius

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I want to gorge on films with a fanciful, intriguing premise, something unique, rather than the next multi-million dollar blockbuster. That’s what draws me to little known and little seen films such as this, and why I give a blank stare if someone asks if I’ve seen The Avengers IV: Iron Ass. The premise here, which expands outwards like a ripple the more we learn, is that a man wakes up from a car crash with memory loss, but anyone who comes within a certain distance of him drops dead. So we have the tried and tested memory loss mystery unraveling – something seen in plenty of movies – confounded by a new and deadly ability which he needs to understand.

Radius scratches the low-fi Sci-fi itch I get after seeing too many generic action movies or Sci-fi films which cover their cracks and ideas void with millions of dollars and famous faces. It’s nice to reset, be challenged, and be introduced to new faces and ideas. It can be tricky because, while there are a lot of filmmakers out there striving to bring their passion projects to the screen, many of them simply aren’t very good or are either too obtuse or amateurish for most viewers. Radius deserves to be seen – it’s not the most outlandish, it is generally well acted, shot, directed, and has a solid score – but it plays maybe one or two twists too many and sometimes fails when both trying to explain matters and when leaving things open ended. I got the sense that, while I enjoyed it, many viewers would be frustrated by the lack of guidance, the lack of answers, or indeed by the lack of really pushing any boundaries.

Written and directed by Caroline Lebreche and Steeve Leonard, Radius stars Diego Klattenhoff and Charlotte Sullivan as the man who inadvertently kills anything he comes near, and the woman who finds him but seems immune to his power. Don’t worry subtitle-phobes, the names may sound French, but the movie is all in English. The film ticks plenty of boxes for me – unusual set up and mystery, small primary cast, it’s as much a road movie as it is a Sci-fi, and it’s little known so you can get a little dopamine rush when you tell your friends about it. Horror fans will get a kick out of this – it’s not exactly supposed to be scary, but just the notion of being able to kill people by being near them sounds like a horror movie setup. There are a bunch of kills, but they’re rarely bloody and more of the ‘dude walks forwards then falls down dead’ style, and one of the twists late in the film hints at more horrific beginnings.

I had plenty of fun with Radius although I didn’t always like the directions the story wanted to go. It always felt like one step away from falling into absurdity or needless complexity. There is enough restraint in the storytelling that we are afforded the respect to fill in the gaps ourselves, but a few leaps of faith are required too. I can’t say I was ever drawn in by the characters on any meaningful emotion level and the script doesn’t leave a lot of room for ruminating or romance or outbursts, yet I was happy to follow these characters until the end of their journey. It’s not going to be for everyone, but for anybody else who enjoys imaginative setups such as this, or who want to reset after one too many blockbusters, you might get a kick out of this.

Let us know what you thought of Radius in the comments!

The Lifeguard

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It’s fine, I’ll admit it. I only watched this because the poster was of Kristen Bell in a swimsuit. Now, before you go thinking I’m some perverted pervert – I like Kristen Bell as an actor – I’ve always liked her performances, even if she has had a knack for appearing in less than good movies. The synopsis sounded interesting enough – a twenty something woman has something of a mid-life crisis and returns to her home town to become a lifeguard in her local town – something simple for a late night watch and maybe a showcase for Bell.

The film isn’t a mess – the performances are solid and it feels like a coming of age film about someone who already came of age. But there are problems – if you’ve seen any Indie, Sundance style dramas in your time then you’ll know what you’re in for – pretentious direction without achieving anything to deserve directing in such a way and the aimless soul-searching of characters you wouldn’t want to meet down a bright alley. We never get to grips with why Bell’s Leigh makes the decision (s) she does – something about a relationship breaking down and not being taken seriously as a journalist, which all leads her to moving back in with her parents, taking a dead-end job, meeting up with her old school friends, and most controversially, beginning a sexual relationship with a minor. It wasn’t immediately apparent to me if the kid was 18, or 17, or 21 or whatever, but apparently he is underage. So, we have a love story based around statutory rape, which is rarely a good starting point for a movie which wants us to sympathize with the rapist.

But putting that aside, it feels like a Gen X slacker movie – a sub genre I have a lot of fondness for, but without any of the authenticity, emotion or humour I would expect. It drifts along from A to B, ending as it starts with resolutions made but little learned. The director has the gall to film numerous scenes like a music video, complete with the most bland indie rock drivel you could imagine, and it all serves little purpose. There are a couple of decent moments which should have been focal points – one side character kills themselves and while this acts as a catalyst for later events, the actual death feels glossed over and a necessary device to get the film over its major hurdle and over the finish line. It’s a shame because Bell is always and engaging presence and the rest of the cast is peppered with familiar faces doing the best they can. It’s a shame it all amounts to nothing.

Let us know in the comments if you have seen The Lifeguard!

Scream 2 and Scream 3

*Originally written in 2003. I must go back and write some real reviews on these, because everything below is shite.

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Scream 2 is not as good as the original, let’s get that out of the way. It is part of a trilogy, and sequels are for the most part inferior. Wes Craven knows this, lets get that out of the way. But when the fans want more, and when the story isn’t finished, sequels are inevitably made. It is still a good movie, still better than any of the other teen slasher movies of the period, and retains many of the elements which made the original so good.

Now that we understand that Wes Craven knew exactly what he was doing, we can discuss the good and bad points. Bad – too many unnecessary characters (though strangely many of them are not killed or even put in danger), and most of them do not do much, the twists are too unpredictable to work well, and it is maybe too short. Now the good stuff – each central performance is good, though the Killer (s) is (are) too over the top. Neve is excellent again and has grown as an actress after coping with the fame Scream brought her, ironically mirroring the fame Sydney gets from what happened in Woodsboro. The Arquettes are both very good, Randy is very funny again, and the scares are reasonably effective. The police car scene stands out.

Again the film deals with mistrust and uncertainty, like most of Craven’s films, and we sympathize with Sydney’s struggles – it seems inevitable that she will never put these events behind her, and that it will be a great struggle for her to get close to anyone – her relationship with her new boyfriend shows this (played by Jerry O’Connell). The script is sharp, and there are many in-jokes and meta fun.

Overall it is a good film, and it’s nice to have the continuation of Sydney’s story because the impact the characters of the first film had on me was so great. It cannot be as original or fresh as the first film, but that does not matter, that’s not the point.

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aaah Neve… while it’s probably the least satisfying, well, worst of the series, I think it is the fastest paced, and knowing that it is the final part of the trilogy it tries to be a crowd-pleaser. It is meant to over the top, answering any remaining questions from the previous films, and you can tell Craven was having fun making it.

As always, for me at least, Neve gives a fine performance, doing that thing she does with her eyes and lips at every chance, and although she does seem a bit tired of the whole role, she will go out fighting. The survivors, and Randy, from the other movies, all perform well again, while most of the new additions are simply there to be slaughtered. The guesswork is still there, but it is not a primary part of the film, and there are plenty of gory, funny deaths to keep us amused. I saw an advance screening of this when it first came out, and had a row of girls behind me, screaming and booting me in the back at the slightest opportunity. No, it wasn’t as scary as they made it out to be, but it has its moments: Mother coming up the path, was one I found quite disturbing first time round, and the opening scene is pretty good too. For me, the highlights are not the in-jokes, (Carrie Fisher’s appearance etc), which are good, but the scenes which go for pity and sadness. Randy’s video tape always brings a tear, as does Neve’s discovery at the end. Strange for a horror movie, even more strange for one which is 35% spoof, to have that kind of emotion, but it’s what always set the Scream series apart from the countless other teen slashers of the time. We, or at least I, felt for the characters, especially Sydney, and in the end, I suppose it is a fitting end to the most important horror trilogy of the decade. 

Sorry about that… the quality of these old reviews isn’t great, but I’m too lazy to rewrite them for now. Don’t worry, there are plenty more old and new ones to come. Let us know in the comments what you thought about Scream 2 and 3!

Captain America – The First Avenger

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I have a habit of writing an introduction to my movie reviews long before writing anything else. For example, I’m writing this opening paragraph on 27th October 2017 – I probably won’t write the rest for a few months after and then post the thing months after that. As I write, I have really only started to embark on my Marvel Movie adventure, having never really been swept up in the whole universe. I’m pretty much the prime target audience, having grown up with these characters in their various guises. However, none of the movies I’d seen really reached out to me in the way that say, a Batman movie, or The Crow, or 1978’s Superman did. I’d seen The Avengers, the first Iron Man, some of the early Hulk movies where there was a new actor each time, but they all felt identikit and meh. Lots of ‘splosions and lots of meandering plot which really boiled down to big man saving world and/or girl from big bad man. I didn’t go in to The First Avenger with too many expectations, but I was nevertheless keen to see what the fuss (of the extended universe) was all about.

Our story begins in present day as a mysterious aircraft is discovered in The Arctic. We flip back to the 1940s and get a battle scene where Nazis are doing a bit of mystical treasure hunting – finding something called The Tesseract which can grant them massive power. Cut to the US and we meet the scrawny Steve Rogers, your typical old school white patriot who wants to sign up to the Army to help in the war but is turned down for being sickly and weak. Impressed by his resolve, he is snapped up by a US experimental intelligence team who give him some magic juice, turning him into a Super Solider – a much stronger and faster version of himself. He is now Captain America and while acting as a symbol for all that is good, holy, and American, he chases down the evil Nazi (who also took the magic juice but something went wrong with his experiment) and lots of fights and ‘splosions happen.

First the positives – good effects, good attention to detail in all aspects, especially in creating a believable 1940s world. Not being a fan of Chris Evans beforehand, he is good in the role and abandons all of the annoying ticks and quirks from his earlier movies making him a well-rounded, if a little bland, action hero. The rest of the cast do their jobs as expected, Hugo Weaving having fun as the villain and Hayley Atwell adding some spunk as Peggy Carter. That’s pretty much it – it works as a world building movie and all the expected cameos and geeky nods are there. As an origin story it ticks all of the boxes. The main negative, as I alluded to in the intro all those months ago (now writing on 20th July 2018) is that it’s all so plain. Maybe I’m not the target audience anymore – I’m not wowed by anything, the geeky nods don’t do a lot for me, and there’s an air of ‘seen it before’ about it all. The conflict never seems real, we know how the film is going to end, and try as they might to form some sort of tortured love story, it never comes off. There’s not enough here for me to sink my teeth into. In another world this would be just a very average action movie – it is a very average action movie – but in our world that’s seemingly enough to warrant making almost half a billion dollars at the box office. I can’t come off as too critical – clearly a lot of work goes into a film on such a grand scale and clearly a lot of people love it – it’s fine, I just need something more these days.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of The First Avenger!

John Wick

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Keanu keeps knocking them out of the park – he’s probably the most successful diverse A-List male star at this point in time. By that I mean that he bounces between genre films, smaller budgets, huge budgets, all generally with great box office success and audience enjoyment. John Wick is another action notch on his cap and while it doesn’t come near the majesty of The Matrix it’s still another fun, ridiculous slice of bullet mayhem and grim faces.

Sometimes in action movies, simplicity is best. We’ve seen a lot of overly grim, or needlessly convoluted, or overblown epic action movies in recent years so to have a plot stripped back to basics is pleasing. What’s equally important is that the complexity and finesse which the plot lacks is transposed onto the action – which is fantastic. As always, Reeves fully commits to this side of his character – the unstoppable hitman who never lacks a sleeve to whip out a pistil from. This being a Reeves vehicle, there is a certain moody quality to proceedings – dialogue is light, facial expressions are as blank as the victims of his bullet storm. The cast spices up any gaps in acting exuberance, with veterans such as Ian McShane and John Leguizamo bringing exactly what you would expect them too and Alfie Allen and Michael Nyqvist heading up the villains. Co Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch bring a certain brutal realism to the over the top frenetic action – the pair well versed in action and stunt co-ordination having worked with Reeves during The Matrix Trilogy. The sort of balletic gunplay merged with martial arts with be familiar to fans of The Matrix and shows that the directors have a love for the films of John Woo and friends, and the minimalist characterization of European action heroes of old.

The plot, already the subject of many a meme long before I’d even seen the film, sees John Wick mourning the recent death of his wife. She left him a puppy, hoping he could find some comfort in overcoming his grief. Enter Russian gangsters who take a fancy to Wick’s vintage Mustang – they attack his house, steal his car, and kill the dog. Wick, we learn, is a recently retired Hitman – the best in the business, and he wants revenge. The rest of the film is little more than a sequence of action set-pieces and world-building. A puzzle unfolds with each new face Wick interacts with – a random guy on a street may be a deadly assassin, a luxurious hotel is a hub for the world’s payed killers, and we get snippets of information about their rules, integrity, history, the people who hire them and the people they re paid to kill. It’s all very shadowy but it quickly reaches the point where it seems pretty much every person in the world is involved.

As furious and neck-snapping as the action is, there’s still an inevitability to it all – you know what the outcome will be – but that’s not necessarily a criticism. We’re here to see the ‘good guy’ win, and it doesn’t matter how many hundreds of faceless or gimmicky henchmen are sent his way. It takes the final premise of Game Of Death – fighting a procession of increasingly deadly warriors to reach the end goal – to the next level, toning down the philosophy but instead crafting a world of intrigue and danger. It’s the sort of film which has a charm and enthusiasm which will win over viewers who don’t usually care for this sort of thing and with the style and invention to please hardened action fans.

Let us know what you think of John Wick in the comments!

The Divide

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Michael Biehn is a national treasure. Scratch that; he’s whatever the planetary equivalent is. Universal Treasure? Milky Way Treasure? Whether it be his most well known hits such as The Terminator or Aliens to cult movies like Cherry Falls, or even his own directorial work in The Victim he’s always a fully committed bad-ass. In short, I’ll watch anything he’s attached to, even something which was as critically slaughtered as this. Normally I would go in cautious, but a brief look at the rest of the cast – Rosanna Arquette, Milo Ventimiglia, Courtney B Vance raises hopes. The fact that it was directed by Xavier Gens, whose Frontiers is one of the best horror movies since 2000 cements it for me. The cherry on top is the premise – a group of New Yorkers are trapped in a basement after a catastrophic event. That sort of fixed location story is always intriguing to me, and a good director and writer can wring gut-loads of tension from a small budget. Is it as bad as everyone has claimed?

The film gets straight to the point – there is no build up or warning and within the opening seconds some sort of explosion rocks an apartment building in New York – as people run for cover, a small group decides to escape to the basement. The building superintendent Micky (Biehn) lives there and isn’t pleased that others have crashed his survivalist dream. We meet a girl called Eva and her boyfriend Sam, brothers Josh and Adrian and their friend Bobby, a young girl and her mother Marilyn, and another dude. Micky tries to enforce his will on the group and the various parties butt heads and discuss what happened. Just as it looked like this would be the continuing sequence for the rest of the movie, a group of dudes in Hazmat suits burst in with guns and kidnap the little girl before running out, but not before the group fights back and takes out a few of the intruders. Understanding that the air outside is infected they formulate a plan to get the girl back.

At this point in the movie I hoped the narrative would continue in this twisting manner but we quickly revert back to the group’s infighting and attempts to survive. It doesn’t take long for secrets to be uncovered, sides to form, and minds to slip towards insanity, all while the lethal air outside threatens to seep in. Rather than the descent into violence and madness feeling natural, it comes across as both abrupt and hardly surprising because several of the characters are dicks to begin with. The performances are fine across the board and quite a few of the cast go above and beyond, fully committing to the growing madness. The story and the colour palette grow continually grim and there is sporadic physical and sexual violence, though few surprises. Throughout, it seems unlikely that there is going to be a happy ending.

Horror fans looking for thrills and shocks won’t find what they’re looking for here, but they will find a fairly dark vision of people in an impossible position. Biehn, and most of the cast play generally unlikable people who progressively get worse, but their performances are strong enough to cover the issues which are inherent in watching characters we don’t like. Gens wallows in the filth and misery and doesn’t explore some of the film’s early surprises or obvious questions. Due to all of this, it’s likely that the film will only find fans if they enjoy the premise or the stars, but it’s worth a watch for those of us interested in humanity’s collapse.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of The Divide!

It Comes At Night

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I’m sure it has been said before, but I’ll take the bait – ‘what comes at night’? The cynical part of me wants to say that the name was crafted carefully to cash in on a resurgent horror market, and certainly the backlash the film received by the horror community supports this theory. The realist in me acknowledges that this feeling is a symptom of a larger problem; the growing disparity between fan and critical consensus as exemplified by the juvenile antics on such adolescent sites such as Rotten Tomatoes. This insidious ownership of a product you have zero claim in, this growing distrust of critics by the public concerning things which don’t really matter, is like a disease swarming from city apartment blocks to backwoods retreats where the custodians of opinions board up their windows to prevent unwarranted discussion with the outside world and the comfort of a hazmat suited confirmation bias is the only thing blocking your own enlightenment.

I’ve written before about the subjects of fanboyism, the role of the critic, and the toxic entitlement as consumers feel to the point that we feel like we have to protect the movies or music or videogames or books we love. I get it; we’ve all had that pang of thinking what the hell does this guy know – he doesn’t like (insert favourite thing), what a moron. I know! I’ll go and review bomb everything he’s ever written – that’ll teach him! And it will teach him – that you’re the moron. We like different things – Critics just tend to be able to speak more knowledgeably and with greater experience about these things than most. Maybe they come to a film with a certain approach. Maybe they come with a certain bias. You’re lying if you say you don’t, or an even bigger moron than you already appear. With the explosion of the internet, every twat with an internet connection and an interest in movies can call himself a critic. I’ve written thousands of reviews and I in no way consider myself to be a critic. I just like watching, talking, and writing about movies.

While there are few certainties when it comes to opinion or something as intangible as movies and criticism, there are instances when a critic just simply gets it wrong. There are plenty of critics, or just plain fans and reviewers like myself who I more often than not disagree with, and there are plenty who I by and large agree with, or at least respect. Am I going to quiver and mewl like a newborn lamb with its throat caught in the jaws of a wolf, because someone gave a movie I rated a 91, a mere 76? No, because I’m not an asshole. At the time of writing, It Comes At Night has a Critical score of 87, and an Audience Score of 44 on RT. Look at any popular Horror release of the last few years, and in almost every case you’ll see something similar. The Witch, The Babadook, and the newly released The Joker all have a large gap between audience and critical feeling. Do I care? No – I barely find it interesting, but I acknowledge it’s a talking point. I know people get deep into the impact these scores have – advertisers using the higher score in trailers, audiences in turn being hyped up for something they later hate or getting up in arms because something they consider to be better gets buried because of the lack of critical interest. It’s all valid. But in this day and age, it’s all pointless. My advice? Take a step away from it all. Sites like RT exist only to get money. Critics are paid for their work. You simply sit and watch. Just ignore the reviews – the movie still exists, as do you, so let the two of you be the only relationship that matters.

It Comes At Night is a horror movie. It attempts to scare and disturb the viewer, and it attempts to make the viewer think by loosely placing us in the secluded house our protagonists eek out their final days in. As the film opens, we know the world has gone to hell due to the spread of some killer disease. It’s a premise we’ve seen since the dawn of time and a fear we all have, because it is a real, valid threat. Old gramps has somehow contracted the thing, so it’s out to the yard for a bit of marshmallow and OAP cooking. That leaves Mum, Dad, and pervy teenage son who live with no clear purpose beyond trying to not get sick. Oh, there’s a dog too – because there’s always a dog. One night they catch another survivor breaking into their house, tie him to a tree, and beat some good old fashioned truth out of him. Seeing he isn’t sick and cautiously believing he’s legit, they allow him and his wife and son to move in. As time progresses, they help each other out, yet the mutual distrust is still bubbling under the surface.

And that’s it really. Something happens near the end which propels us towards the bleak conclusion. The scenes of the pervy son seem shoe-horned in, his nightmares edited in such a way that they realized they wouldn’t be able to sell the movie without some actual generic horror. If they are supposed to be ambiguous or prophetic or suggestive, they’re not, and horror fans will be more than familiar with each stunt pulled. It’s still interesting – none of the performances are outstanding beyond some screaming in the final moments, but the coldness does add to the overall tone of hopelessness. As much as I hate to use the term ‘elevated horror’ because as far as I can tell that term simply means horror without humour, that’s what they’ve gone for here. The house is suitably shadowy and the director does manage to squeeze out some memorable shots and some low-level tension, but for me it neither scares nor does anything particularly new or well. The characters feel as empty as the first victim in a slasher movie and with no end game in mind the film simply drifts towards its inevitable conclusion. Credit for ending it the way they did, rather than leaving a glimmer of light. Did I like it? I didn’t hate it? It didn’t make me care enough to go and check out how anyone else felt about it. Put most simply – in my opinion, it’s neither 44% bad, nor 87% good.

But let me know how you felt about it in the comment – are you more on the critics’ side or the fans?

Creepshow 2

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Creepshow is a mainstay of Halloween viewing for me. It’s that combination of ghoulish fun and macabre humour which makes it endlessly rewatchable and a perfect gateway movie for younger fiends. Plus, the fact that it’s an anthology means you can step away to grab more snacks without pausing, or check that the lady you have tied up in the basement hasn’t escaped; you’ll need her for later.

Creepshow 2 is, obviously, the follow-up and features more grisly tales penned by Stephen King. George Romero steps down from the Director’s Chair and writes the screenplay instead, while his frequent cinematographer Michael Gornick directs. While certain elements remain – the use of effects, the authentic comic book style, the film is not near the same level as the first. The stories, the cast and performances, the humour, and the thrills all suffer, meaning Creepshow 2 is merely a watchable, not essential anthology.

The wraparound is one of the more notable aspects of Creepshow 2, acting like more of a standalone segment than what the first delivers. We follow a boy who eagerly awaits the next edition of the Creepshow comic. It is delivered by The Creep himself and the film switches neatly from live action to animation. This is fairly well done, although now the actual animation is looks dated and cheap. Also, The Creep’s head is clearly nothing more than a giant cock and balls. These animated sequences return between each main segment as we follow the boy’s quest to pick up his venus fly-trap and get home without being attacked by bullies. Added together, these pieces form a long enough segment, but I can’t shake the feeling that this was padding given that two further planned stories by King were removed from production and inclusion.

Out first story eases us in, with a languid, over-long intro to tell of a couple of old-timers living in a ruined shell of a town who are terrorized by local hoodlums. The old-timers are played by the film’s big-hitters – Dorothy Lamour (in her final film) and George Kennedy. They add a touch of class, but it’s a pity the story is a non-mover. The couple are friendly with the local Native Americans, but when the hoodlums cause havoc in their store, the Old Chief Woodenhead statue who adorns the store-front comes to live and hunts down the bad guys. There are some genuinely cool facial effects here, but the story takes too long to get moving.

Next up is the best segment, sadly let down by being shorter and more amateurish than it should have been. The Raft is a favourite among Constant Readers, but the adaptation is another case of ‘what works on page doesn’t work on screen’. It’s still the best segment in the movie, but with a longer running time and better cast it could have rivaled the best offerings from the first movie. Four college aged kids are heading to a secluded lake for a day of drink and debauchery – the major selling point being that there is a large floating raft in the middle of the lake. The only way to get there is to swim, so they strip off, leave their clothes and food behind, and swim over. As they reach the raft, they notice something else floating in the water and it soon becomes clear that the thing is attracted to them. Not long after, one of the group is gruesomely pulled into the water and devoured by the foreign lifeform. The rest of the segment is mostly screaming and not a lot of thinking as the survivors are picked off. The segment lacks the thought and tension of the original story, and it’s one which deserves a modern retelling. Although imagining four modern day kids leaving their phones on the shore takes too much suspension of belief.

The final story almost works – having Lois Chiles talk to herself would be all fine and well if the dialogue was interesting, and ,the idea of an undead hitch-hiker is nifty. The set up is too long and a more ambiguous character would have lent some depth rather than the ‘here’s a self-interested lady who’s having an affair so she’s clearly evil – I hope she gets some ironic comeuppance’. Again, a little more thought, and this could have been a stronger segment. I get the feeling that this one would creep out younger viewers – the thought and the sight of the hitch-hiker, his body getting progressively more battered and deformed, relentlessly chasing Lois is something appealing – both funny and nightmarish, but it feels a little flat. We do get another classic Stephen King cameo as a mumbling trucker which is almost worth the price of admission alone.

I’m not sure what is missing from Creepshow 2 beyond more care and experience behind the scenes. The first and last segment are overlong and the middle is too short – another story could have balanced things, Lord knows there are still plenty of unfilmed King shorts. It’s middling tier Horror Anthology fare, and if it wasn’t for the title and the fact that King and Romero were involved, it’s likely this would have been swept under the rug long ago. There are good ideas here, and potential for a stronger installment, but as it stands it’s really only one for die-hard anthologists, King, and Romero fans. One final personal note – I always loved the poster for Creepshow 2; it was one which stayed with me for the years between seeing the poster and seeing the film.

Trilogy Of Terror

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As a horror movie fan, I’m a member of various groups on Facebook. Those groups feature the same movies, actors, and arguments over and over again as you may expect. One type of post which comes along every so often is ‘what scared you as a kid’ and one image which is typically given in response is the image at the top of this post. Yes, that cute little fella apparently spawned millions of nightmares in the bedrooms of millions of kids all around the world – but it was from a movie I had never seen. Somehow I had made it into my thirties without ever seeing Trilogy Of Terror – one of the most famous horror anthologies. It’s time to right that wrong.

It’s difficult to understate the loss the movie world suffered when Karen Black died a few years ago. From appearances in cult movies such as Easy Rider and Dogtown, to mainstream hits like Nashville and Five Easy Pieces, the horror world quickly claimed her as one of their own. With Burnt Offerings near the start of her career to House Of 1000 Corpses near the end, she was an icon of the genre. Trilogy Of Terror is a masterclass from Karen Black, appearing as no less than four wildly differing characters over the three stories we are told. Dan Curtis directs, himself no stranger to the horror genre having crafted cult series Dark Shadows, The Night Stalker, and many others. The three stories here are each solid, offering different ideas – some of which seem ahead of the curve, even if one is the obvious standout. Based on stories by Richard Matheson, it’s hardly surprising the tales have credibility and twists.

In Julie, Karen stars as a college professor who receives unwanted advances from one of her students – Chad. The story covers obsession, perversion, voyeurism, and date rape, with Chad pursuing Julie for sexually sadistic purposes. Julie meanwhile, has her own plans. In the second story Black plays two sisters – Millicent And Therese – one being dour and repressed, the other direct and adventurous. Even with voodoo and rivalry and psychoanalysis, it’s the weakest of the bunch – raised by Black’s performance. The finaly story is the one I hear mentioned regularly on the horror pages and forums – Amelia. Following on from the other stories, the title is the name of the main character. I feel this has been to the detriment of the story because no-one even remembers the name, only calling it ‘that one with the creepy African doll which comes to life’. That’s a pretty apt title.

Presumably a lot of people saw this in their youth and it stayed with them. Fair enough – it does a job of portraying the doll in a creepy light, it’s certainly a freaky looking wee bastard, and Black’s performance convincingly conveys the peril. One thing keeps coming back to me though – it’s a doll. Doll horror movies, or even movies with smaller creatures in the vein of Critters, Ghoulies etc, are one step past ridiculous for me. If people are genuinely afraid of these things when they’re young, it’s a fear that passed me by. I can’t take them seriously and I almost take them as a full blown comedy. I do’t know about you, but when I was young I viewed my toys – my He-Man, Transformers, MUSCLE men etc, as my protectors – coming alive to stand guard against nightly threats and terrors. If they happened to turn evil? Well then I’d kick them over and casually walk out of the room.

So even though the scares don’t work for me, I appreciate that they do for others and Curtis manages to create both creeping dread and efficient jump-scares. It’s the most straight tale of terror in the bunch, the most visceral even if it doesn’t rely on gore. Indeed, none of the stories are bloody and most are psychological in nature. It’s a brief watch, both fun and interesting, and if anything it’s a must due to the pedigree involved. The fact that none of the segments are weak will make it a seasonal favourite for horror fans – this horror fan just isn’t creeped out by dolls.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Trilogy Of Terror!