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
The Green Inferno: when she joins a deforestation activism group, a naïve student comes face to face with the cannibal savages she’s trying to protect. I’ll put it straight out there; I’m not a big fan of Eli Roth… that being said, I had a blast with this film. The naive protagonist / final girl is surrounded by thin and/or unlikable characters (angsty alternative goths, far out hippy protesters, etc) so you’re not all that fussed about their fates, and watching them get dispatched is rather entertaining. There’s some outrageous practical effects, showcasing bloody and disgusting gore, but it’s all tongue cut out in cheek – think ultra black horror / borderline stoner comedy – with several laugh out loud moments. There’s a fun Final Destination style plane crash, followed by an intense tribe meeting (the scariest part of the film) – and after that it’s all killer. The only two downsides are that the film takes around halve the running time to get going; it also feels less urgent / more detached than the ‘found footage’ ‘real life’ cannibal exploitation films of the 70s & 80s. It would have been foolish to try to pull off a ‘Mountain of the Cannibal Holocaust Ferox God’ movie in 2015, as it just wouldn’t have the same impact, so Roth has taken the ‘cannibal movie’ template and given it a nice postmodern spin. The Green Inferno got an unfair rep by people mostly focusing solely on the gore; but tonally, it feels more like an out-and-out send up of student, or ‘leftie’ activism to me. Over time I hope it’ll become a cult hit along the likes of Cannibal the Musical and Delicatessen. Disgustingly enjoyable.
B-Movie Score: 9/10
Grindhouse: Death Proof. A washed up stuntman stalks and hunts sexy wimin’ in his ‘death proof’ stunt car. Part of the ‘Grindhouse’ double feature; this is given the ‘aged movie reel’ treatment – with tons of deliberately rough editing, cutting, lo-fi mono audio, scratched film, bad ADR, black/white… to make it feel like you’re watching a 70s film. It gets confusing however when people have mobile phones, and talk about CGI and Red Bull… Also, for whatever reason, this isn’t carried on through the second half of the film – making it seem even more gimmicky than it first appears. It’s ridiculously sweary – even by Tarantino standards – and boasts more leg and bum shots than a Michael Bay outing. The pacing is all over the shop – waiting 50 mins to first Final Destination style deaths, and spending most of the runtime listening to women gossiping and referencing niche pop culture in various cars and bars. For the most part, it’s not really gripping, but the action finale saves the day as stuntwoman Zoe Bell perilously navigates the bonnet of a speeding muscle car with no tricks. Despite only being in a handful of scenes Kurt Russel steals the show as an old-skool senseless maniac. Although Death Proof is a bit of a mess it remains watchable because of Tarantino’s quirks, dialogue, and the fact that you’re never really sure what’s coming up next. Definitely not his finest hour.
The Mutilator [AKA Fall Break]: years after accidentally killing his mum (which drove his father insane), a teenager brings some friends to the estranged dads beach condo for an autumnal break. Despite being firmly in B-Movie territory, it’s quickly apparent that this is a completely amateur production. The big faults of the film fall at the feet of one-time director/writer/producer Buddy Cooper: there’s no tension, lots of awkward silence, bad original music, stale acting, and every scene feels dragged out for longer than it needs to be – to hit the coveted 90-minute mark. In fact, everything about this picture is so corny and cheap, it gives The Mutilator a certain charm that all the money in the world couldn’t buy: things like the second-long pause between lines in conversations, the stilled delivery of dialogue, the seemingly straight sentences like “I got a baaad feeling about this”, the awkwardness of every extra, and the campy death screams… The saving grace are the substantial gore effects of Mark Shostrom (Videodrome, Evil Dead II, X-Files, Buffy) as each character gets picked off with boat motors, battle-axes, pitchforks and fishing gaffs – the latter being the films single ‘ho-leeee sheeeet’ moment. A solid poster, catchy tagline, sensible re-naming, and handful of gory moments will ensure that this routine slasher flies off the shelves for years to come. Despite the professional level blood ‘n’ guts, everything else about The Mutilator has an Alan Smithee quality which will be enjoyed, but only by hardened genre fans and drunk friends.
B-Movie Score: 5/10
As always, Arrow Films have given this relatively unknown film the definitive release: it’s completely uncut and director-approved for the first time in the UK, boasts a 2K scan from the original copyright print, original mono soundtrack, and more commentaries / features / stills than you can shake a bloody axe at!
Sharknado: a freak storm is sucking sharks from the ocean and dumping them into flooded Los Angeles! You don’t watch a film called ‘Sharknado’ for its plot, cinematography, or effects… that being said, it would have been nice if the film tried! The normal shots look quite good, but the added “speshul” effects are piss poor – even basic stuff like rain looks bad; why would you not use real water!?! No tension or suspense is built up at any point; shots are disjointed and poorly cut together – everything ‘important’ to the ‘plot’ is shot as a close up, and quickly cut in and out – giving you no sense of scale, time, or location. Even silly details like the gang being chased up the street by a wave, but finding the time to individually winch an entire school bus of (50!?) kids and their driver to safety. Worst of all, it didn’t make much use of the actual ‘Sharknado’ – focusing instead on sharks swimming in flooded areas or just landing on people. The biggest distraction from all the mess isn’t even sharks; it’s Cassie Scerbo; a leggy short-shorts surf babe with a bikini / mesh top, who spends most of the runtime cocking a shotgun – as a male, this is a feasible distraction (I can only imagine American men getting a little light-headed.) There’s a few good quips, championed by “looks like that time of the month” as the guys stare at gallons of splooshing bloody water – a period joke lol. Despite a promising concept and wild title, Sharknado is more of the same from the company that brought us stuff like Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus. It feels more like a weak drinking game or marketing exercise, than even a basic attempt to capitalise on the attention-grabbing title. Not the worst film I’ve ever seen, but could and should have been way better than it was.
B-movie Score: 5/10
- Compressed Air Canister
- Pool Cue Stabbing
- Bar Stool Smash
- Shotgun (x4)
- Chainsaw Split
- Car Bumper Impalement
- Pylon Blasting
- Flaming Water (!!!)
- Knife Attack
- Internal Combustion
Shooting Robert King (aka Blood Trail): follows an aspiring war photographer through 15 years and three conflicts. First off, Robert King is a total asshat. We meet him as a young – egotistical – douche, and see him grow to a middle-aged cold-and-jaded douche. He comes across as the worst parts of the psychotic “Cool Ethan” from Slackers and the grating Josh from Generation Kill (the singing driver). A lot of the “OMG” moments feel set up, or are ridiculously convenient. For a documentary about a photographer, there’s not actually a lot of his work, and it’s mostly nondescript handheld footage from his freelance cameramen buddies in the ‘good old days’. What’s weird is that he clearly wanted to film a documentary from day 1 of his career – hence the abundance of ‘look at me’ and ‘look at the peril’ type interviews he did. There are a couple of more disturbing / shocking moments – pics of dead bodies, and bombing / war aftermath; and a boring deer-hunting simile / parallel that is just unnecessary filler. The best part of the documentary is a 2-minute montage of his best photos; however the best thing on the disc is a 5-minute slide show in the extras – which are more powerful, interesting and tell a better story than the full-length 80-minute documentary. Most annoyingly, the doc doesn’t tell you anything about the wars he’s covering, showing only Robert King trying to make it all about him. Whilst his story is remarkable, having such an unlikeable person at the centre of this makes it very hard to appreciate.
BReaking BAd (Season 3): picks up soon after the explosive Season 2 finale, Walter and Jessie’s operation keeps growing, but is attracting yet more interest from the feds and rival gangs. By the time S3 had started we’d seen the ups and downs of the Walter-Jessie relationship several times, this season was – for me – the first time that another relationship became more interesting; Walter and Gus – which ranges from courteous & professional to explosively volatile – you also get the feeling that Walt has finally met his match, as Gus puts the squeeze on him, and the people he cares about. It’s definitely the best source of drama in this season. After Walt comes clean with Skyler their relationship also changes significantly, yet, not exactly in the direction you’d expect. Because so much emphasis is put on characters, family and relationships it takes over four episodes (of only thirteen) for any real plot to happen, and the only tension comes from the two silent cousin gang bangers. I find it fascinating in America that Breaking Bad depicts in-depth drug making techniques, drug use + abuse, violence, a man’s head being crushed by an ATM machine… but the word ‘fuck’ is bleeped out. Season three has some of the best moments (Car Park, Ladder confession, finale) in the series so far… yet it’s also got some of the slowest, most plodding and outright bizarre episodes (‘Fly’ episode feels out-of-place, and Walter – for the first time – appears ridiculously simple). The most defining feature of Breaking Bad is that it all still feels relatively normal and realistic – you believe in the characters, their families, their lives, their roles. You know people like these. That’s still the show’s strongest suit, but after 3 seasons it’s hard to see how much longer it can rely on character development over drama.