Hatchet: a boatful of tourists go on a haunted swamp tour and end up coming face to face with a local superstition… the murderous Victor Crowley. There’s some strong horror ancestry in here; Kane Hodder (Jason/Leatherface) is the main baddie, with Tony Todd (Candyman/Final Destination) and Robert Englund (among others) popping up in cameo roles. Even though this is the kind of sloppy horror premise you’ve seen a thousand times before Hatchet is different in that it’s very well made: it’s brilliantly lit, boasts supreme gore FX & inventive deaths, and has a cast full of good performances. It takes everything that people love and expect from a slasher film and turns it up to eleven: e.g. you don’t just get to see one pair of boobs, but are treated to entire line-ups of Mardi Gras waps. It’s also got a cool comedy/horror vibe in that if it wasn’t for the brutal ultra-graphic moments of cartoonishly over-the-top deaths, the film would probably be a 12A, as it’s overall quite playful and funny; the wannabe actresses in particular provide more than their fair share of the LOLz. There’s also a beautiful ‘classic’ orchestrated soundtrack that wouldn’t be out-of-place in something like Indiana Jones. Everything comes together nicely to create a movie that’s surprisingly hard to describe or define, but is undeniably fun… it’s not quite a parody, and it’s definitely not a kids film, but it’s a rip-and-roaring “Old School American Horror” – and for once, a slasher that lives up to its tagline.
B-Movie Score: 9/10
Satan’s Blade: the evil spirit of an ancient and violent mountain-man terrorises tourists at a secluded ski lodge. At 80 minutes, you expect a punchy slasher, and with the first ten minutes only consisting of women getting undressed then shot in the tits, it’s half way there… however it all goes south very quickly. Released in 1984, this has more of a 50s/60s feel due to very basic camerawork, acting, editing, and a very poor sound mix – people talking inside a car, but no car noises; missing screams; shouting through walls but sounding crystal clear; silent shower curtains etc. Also, for a slasher, the deaths are fairly disappointing, with dabbed on blood and lots of cutting/editing; but very little gore. The acting isn’t much better, with ‘studenty’ performances, and stunted delivery of very stale dialogue. You know a film’s amazingly bad when the IMDB page is full of its actors/writers tearing it to pieces and apologising for it! Regular viewers will be disappointed by Satan’s Blade; but as a formerly rare, no budget b-movie, the Blu Ray release is a treat for hardened collectors and VHS nostalgists looking to upgrade their copy, and learn about the film through the plethora of new extras and features.
Standard death acting in this picture
In the Electric Mist (Dans la brume électrique): a New Orleans detective is trying to link the murdering of local prostitutes with a 1965 lynching and corrupt local businessmen. So you’re sitting there thinking this is a normal(-ish) police investigation then 40 minutes in BAM! Our lead is taking advice from – and having conversations with – a Confederate soldier ghost… WTF?? For a sleepy town there’s also a whole lotta murdering happening with very little law intervention. Tommy Lee Jones plays the lead pretty well, but as a grouchy, craggy, snarly, old-school detective – it’s nothing we haven’t seen already. By the time the final act rolls round there’s almost too much going on; new murders, old murders, suspicious movie set, troubled film stars, conspiracies, kidnapping. The confusion is compounded by almost everyone having a comically hillbilly name, and some fairly hooky narration. In the end ‘Electric Mist’ is watchable enough, but completely unremarkable, flat, and has a look and ‘vibe’ of a film that could be 20 years older than it is. Ultimately, it’s a pretty big waste of an impressive cast.
Audition (オーディション, Ōdishon): a TV producer and widower stage a fake TV audition in order to find the latter a new wife, but the best candidate seems too good to be true. The opening half hour feels a little too rom-com-y for a ‘horror’ film (upbeat music, cheesy jokes etc). The film trudges on and after 1hr 15m of setup it gradually becomes weirder and more interesting until the payoff semi-ending finally kicks in. Knowing that there’s something not quite right with the ‘perfect girl’ is a tad unsettling, but you couldn’t have predicted an ending as extreme as this – the sound of bone being sawed is vomit-inducing! There’s a small, but obvious social critique about the time in lines like “The whole of japan’s lonely”, and “Japan is Finished” – not-so-subtle! What makes this worthwhile is that it is a unique horror film in that is doesn’t pander to conventions, or give you what you expect. It also beat the wave of late 2000s movies that kick-started ‘torture porn’/’Splatter’ craze again. As original and unique as Audition is, it’s essentially a psychological drama for this most part with 10 minutes of gore capping off a lot of humdrum!
We Live in Public: after making millions in the dot-com era, this doc shows the various projects of Josh Harris. As a person (from what we’re shown) there’s almost no adjectives that wouldn’t describe him: reckless genius, broke millionaire, short-sighted visionary, eccentric oddball, cold & loving – as a documentary subject, he’s dynamite. The businesses and experiments themselves (Jupiter Communications, Pseudo, Quiet, We Live in Public, Operator11…) are fascinating & visionary, yet scarily insightful & prophetic. Quiet, in particular, is the ultimate/extreme version of the Stanford Prison Experiment – clearly inspiring the Big Brother TV franchise – it’s like a futuristic Sci-Fi tale, but it happened 13 years ago. The biggest thing Harris got right was the converging future of internet and televisions, which he started in 1993, and even today, it’s still not a mature market or service. The only downside is that, although it doesn’t completely worship Harris, it is clearly made by a friend, so you’re never really sure if he is genuinely that intelligent, or if he just threw thousands of ideas out there and a few of them stuck. We Live in Public is an engrossing documentary, if only because Josh Harris is such a fascinating person, with a remarkable story, and some freskishly accurate predictions.
“Everything is free, except the video that we capture of you. That we own”