Maniac Cop 2 (1990)

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I enjoyed “Maniac Cop” recently, but had been told by a few smart people that part 2 was better, that director William Lustig and writer/producer Larry Cohen had figured out what worked and what didn’t and built on the strengths. And those smart people were absolutely right – “Maniac Cop 2” is a stronger, leaner, more fun movie, with its weaknesses buried way down and its strengths magnified. Plus, it’s got an amazing purpose-written rap song playing over the end credits! One of my favourite movie things is when they have a song which is about the movie – in fact, I might make a compilation of them one day.

 

What “Maniac Cop 2” does is bring the slasher movie subtext out, front and centre. This is about a horribly disfigured, supernaturally powerful killer with a very strange moral code, who relentlessly pursues his goal, slaughtering everyone who gets in his way (although he does hide his actions quite cleverly at the beginning). We see Matt Cordell (the late great Robert Z’Dar) thanks to this movie repeating the last few minutes of part 1, getting a metal bar to the chest and driving into the bay, but as part 2 starts – with Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon being cleared by the Commissioner – he’s nowhere to be found, as he wasn’t recovered with the dredged police truck he was driving. But you know that he’s just biding his time before going back to work!

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The Commissioner is still trying to stick to the line of part 1, that it’s just a large psychopath dressed in a police outfit, but luckily this rather pointless stance is mostly ignored. As Campbell and Landon are both dispatched – in classic slasher movie fashion – fairly quickly into the sequel by a revitalised Cordell, with grey skin, horrible scars and a missing nose. Now, this might be a problem with HD versions of the movie, but as they try and half-hide Cordell’s face, it’s mostly visible on several occasions, making the big reveal when it comes a little anti-climactic. But anyway.

 

The stunts, thanks to Spiro Razatos (who’d go on to do the stunts for “The Expendables”, the last three “Fast and Furious” and the two “Captain America” movies) are superb, and are peppered liberally throughout the movie. The two new stars – Robert Davi as Detective Sean McKinney and Claudia Christian as police psychologist Susan Riley – are put through the ringer, most memorably as Christian is handcuffed to the wheel of a car (from the outside) then the car is pushed down a hill. But there’s tons of great action, to go along with Cordell’s slaughtering.

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There is a plot, in case you were wondering. Leo Rossi is Turkell, a deranged fella who sees it as his job to clean up the filth from the streets – he’s killed a number of strippers before he and Cordell cross paths. The two of them form a friendship, of sorts, and even though Cordell utters one word (his name) they’re able to communicate. Anyway, Rossi is eventually caught, which gives them an idea – take a guy who’s about to be committed to Sing Sing prison, pretend to be his guards to gain access, then slaughter their way through the prison to bust out everyone on Death Row and form an army of psychopaths. Oh, and while he’s there Cordell can get revenge on the people who “killed” him when he was an inmate there too, which is a nice bonus.

 

McKinney and Riley, while initially sceptical, meet Cordell themselves and head up the search for him, going over the head of the Commissioner to the press (again). I like their little team – not a hint of romance, but a believable friendship. Also, I reckon Robert Davi and Claudia Christian must have quite enjoyed the chance to star in a movie, and they’re both excellent. They give fairly straight police-thriller performances, even though they’re in a slasher movie, and I like it. Oh, and popping up in an entirely wordless cameo is Danny Trejo as “Prisoner”. That guy got around.

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But all this plot and investigation is really just a framework on which to hang some brilliant set-pieces. Seeing Cordell shoot his way through a police station (never mind how a grey-skinned zombie monster got in there in the first place) is super-exciting, and the final set piece in Sing Sing is brilliantly done as well. Although…the way they finish off the Maniac Cop, by clearing his name of the stuff which landed him in prison in the first place and giving him an official police burial, making sure the corrupt cops admit to their crimes too, is a fascinating way of doing things.

 

It’s a huge improvement over part 1, a tense, tight, gore packed, stunt packed, little gem of a movie. I’m moderately afraid part 3 will be a flop, but after two such strong entries, this series is already strongly in the “win” column for me.

 

Rating: thumbs up

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Poltergeist (2015)

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It really seems like Hollywood has run out of ideas and has turned to mining the back catalogue of old movies and remaking them. But the truth is Hollywood has been doing it for years, only these days people are much more aware of it.

And remakes are a funny thing: there is no guarantee that new version is going to be any better or, in fact, any worse than the original. For example, The Thing is a fantastic remake of a 1950s science fiction B movie, Thing From Another World. And the 1970s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is suitably terrifying.

But for every time that the remake is better, there are just as many, if not more, examples where the result is worse, e.g. The Italian Job, Total Recall and The Day The Earth Stood Still.

I’m not sure that the horror genre has any more remakes than any other genre but it certainly seems that way to me. Carrie, Children of the Corn, Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Fright Night, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, for example.

Worse, I am not a fan of the horror genre but there are a few horror movies dear to me: the aforementioned The Thing, An American Werewolf In London, The Descent, Paranormal Activity and, my absolute favourite, Poltergeist.

Poltergeist just received the remake treatment this year, 33 years after the original was released. The world has changed a lot since the first version was made and consequently, I can see there is scope to make a new, more relevant version of a classic suburban horror story.

So yes, curiosity got the better of me and I watched the new version. And then the original, immediately after, as I wanted to review the new version in context of the old (but mostly because it is awesome).

Inevitably, this is going to be more of a “compare and contrast essay” than a review, so rather than bore the people who just want to know whether the remake is worth watching, let me lay that spirit to rest: the original is better, in spite of its age. The remake isn’t a bad film per se, it just doesn’t improve on anything and actually does a lot of things worse.

Right, that’s the verdict, let me go into a bit more detail about why…

Warning: there are spoilers below!

Both films follow the exploits of a nuclear family moving into a new home in the suburbs. There is a father, a mother, an older daughter, a boy in the middle and a young girl.

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In the original, the father is a successful estate agent who works for a development company selling the homes in the suburban estate his family have just moved to. In the remake, the father is out of work and the family have moved into cheap housing out in the sticks.

The key differences here are that the original family are an ordinary, fairly happy family: the kids are typical kids who play and fight. The parents are ordinary parents, Dad watches football with his mates, has problems with the next door neighbour, Mom smokes weed in the bedroom once the kids are in bed and big sister is secretly on the phone to a friend.

Whereas the remake family are struggling with financial worries, mother is a writer (who doesn’t write and considers herself a crap mother), the eldest daughter is (stereotypically) horrid to her family for forcing her to move and the boy is somewhat neurotic, after a traumatic experience being lost in the mall by his mother for a couple of hours.

I don’t think modern families are suffering any more than they were 30 years ago. Has society changed so much that we don’t want to see happy families anymore? Do we only empathise with down on their luck Joes or families that worry about sending their children to psychiatrists?

Here, the original does a much better job of simply making the family look like a family. The phrase “show not tell” comes to mind as they let the family just get on with being a family. In the remake, the characterisation is so bland you can easily imagine the two sentence paragraphs that were written to describe the characters of the remake family.

Worse, there is real chemistry between the original cast members and a real sense of them living in a suburban community (but then I suppose that is Steven Spielberg’s influence there). Conversely, there’s little chemistry between the cast members of the remake, especially between Sam Rockwell (Remake Dad) and Rosemary DeWitt (Remake Mom). I guess Rockwell can only play off-beat characters with any conviction?

There are further, more subtle but quite important differences between the two films. To start with, 1982 Poltergeist has the family already living in their home where as 2015 Poltergeist has the family viewing the house and then moving in. The original has a lot of humour in the first act, which goes a long way to disarming the audience.

This to me changes the subtext of the film from an ordinary suburban family being terrorised by ghosts to a troubled family moving into a haunted house. Subtle but important.

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Then the spooky things start happening. Carol Anne (youngest daughter in the original) starts talking to people in the TV, then the ghosts fly out of the goggle box and into the walls of the house, Carol Anne giving the viewers the creepy line, “They’re here!” It is all very downplayed at the beginning, again, lulling you into a false sense of security.

Maddy (youngest daughter in the remake) starts talking to people in the TV, a nice modern LCD TV, then there is a closet they cannot open in her room (but touching the handle makes the kids hair stand on end), there is a collection of creepy clown toys in the attic… there are a lot more jump scares and attempts to ramp up the tension. Completely opposite to the original. Even to the classic “They’re here!”… Maddy announces “They’re coming…” and then “They’re here!”

Everything is more contrived to scare you in the 2015 version. The original wanted you to feel like you were watching a family movie, when ghosts turn up, the horror being that this could happen to your family… The remake, realising the audience expects certain horror tropes, just plays it as a straight horror film.

Once the ghosts arrive, there are major differences between the original and the remake. The latter is more about Griffin, the son, exploring the house and catching Maddy talking to nothing. The former is more about the mother experiencing really strange occurrences, like the chairs rearranging themselves and objects sliding across the floor, as if moved by an unseen hand.

I really feel like the remake missed a trick here. They talk about the son needing therapy and if they had given him medication, they could have played up the family not believing him and really done something interesting.

In fact, the film does focus on the son a lot more whereas the original was more about the mother in general but we will get to that later.

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The mother experiences lots of supernatural occurrences which they simply cannot explain. The father is suitably disturbed by it and seeks to come up with a solution. In the remake, all the supernatural weirdness happens to the son and Maddy.

Just a quick ‘sidebar’, in the original, when the mother shows the father the supernatural happenings in the kitchen, she gets excited, doing a star jump and a high kick, clearly indicating that she was probably a former cheerleader. It’s the little “show, not tell” details of the first film which demonstrate just how much better made it is.

Anyway, so when Carol-Ann and Maddy both get ghost-napped, it makes sense that the 1982 family go straight to parapsychologists whereas in the 2015, it is a bit of leap of logic when the family ignore the Police or any other explanation for the disappearance of their daughter and go straight to parapsychologists…

The ghost-nappings themselves are similar. Unsurprisingly, the original uses a lot of practical effects (some more ropey than others) while the remake uses more digital effects. Both feature a tree coming to life and trying to eat the son. I can’t objectively judge which version did it better because the original has terrorised me for 33 years… though looking at it now, the original is an impressive feat of practical effects that, while looking fairly good despite the age, you can see how it was done. The new version looks great but doesn’t impress me, given how much easier it is to do SFX these days.

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Then there is the youngest daughter actually being kidnapped. In the earlier version, the closet sucks her into a ghostly purgatory. This clearly involves a mocked up bedroom on a rotating spindle, to give the effect of the furniture being drawn in. That’s a big practical effect and looks really good (though I had to smile when it became clearly obvious that the “Carol-Ann” in this scene is a doll). In the modern version, the ghosts just kind of trick her into walking into the portal. It’s a stylistic choice I guess. I really liked the original though, so the new version just seems a bit underwhelming.

The next act plays out pretty similarly between the two films: a team of parapsychologists arrive at the house to investigate the supernatural activity. Both a led by a strong woman, have a cynical white guy thinking the family are trying to fool them (though interestingly, in the new version, he thinks it is to get their own reality show) and an African American (which is pretty important for 1980s film but a bit sad that there is only one person of colour in a 2015 film).

In the original, it feels like the family have been living under the threat of supernatural craziness for a while before the parapsychologists arrive. In the remake, the parapsychologists are right there when everything happens, so the family feels less important to the narrative.

For example, the mother has clearly been experimenting and tells the parapsychologists about the best way to contact Carol-Ann. In the remake, it is the parapsychologists that tell them to call out Maddy’s name and so on. Again, subtle but important differences.

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This act of the film is mostly the family and the parapsychologists investigating the supernatural occurrences. Both result in failure, resulting in a specialist being called in. In the original, it is “Tangina” (Zelda Rubinstein), a very unusual individual who you could imagine as a psychic, and in the remake, it is “Carrigan Burke” (Jared Harris of Fringe and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), a TV psychic, complete with famous catchphrase “This house is clean!” (which is also a call back to the last line uttered by Tangina in the original).

With the focus on the parapsychology team in the remake and Carrigan Burke being a TV supernatural investigator, it becomes clear that someone was thinking about potential sequels, which is why I think they changed the emphasis of the narrative: I can really see a series of films following the exploits of Carrigan Burke investigating various supernatural haunting and that being quite good! Maybe I am just being cynical but the changes seem deliberate and I think they weaken the remake.

Indeed, the original has powerful performances from the various cast members, from the sense of wonder, joy and the pain and sorrow (there is one bit where the mother clearly distrusts Tangina’s instructions but reluctantly obeys, hissing “I will hate you for this”), it just makes for a believable experience, whereas the only the character of interest is Carrigan Burke in the remake. The most cynical part of that being when the 2015 father has a moment to witness Carrigan Burke seemingly-sacrifice himself to lead the ghosts out of purgatory.

A large part of the new film is about the son’s guilt at leaving Maddy alone. As stated earlier, the ghosts seem to torment him and no one believes him. I think the film does focus on him more as a character, less on the family and has the parapsychologists calling all the shots, rather than investigating something the family has had to suffer through.

It makes for a different movie but I prefer the mother-daughter relationship of the earlier one (largely because JoBeth Williams who plays the mother is a really good actress).

The remake then seems to focus a lot more on the supernatural plane of existence, from sending an aerial drone through the gate (which for some reason can transmit camera footage through to our reality) and an extended sequence as the son goes into purgatory to rescue his sister. I mean, it looks good, particularly all the lost souls tied to the house reaching toward the light, but they forgot the other maxim of “less is more”.

Once they get the youngest daughter back, there is a final act where the restless dead make one last attempt to get her back.

In the original, the father has to take care of something but insists that they will leave the house forever when he gets home. The mother is assaulted by the ghosts, in another practical effect where she is dragged up the wall of her bedroom and across the ceiling. Then she attempts to get into the children’s bedroom but is barred by a weird ghost creature (which I think looks pretty good, given it is 30 years old!).

One of the best bits is when the father returns home, caskets bursting out of the ground, and he screams in his former boss’ face, “You moved the headstones but you left the bodies!” (sidebar: in the remake, Carrigan Burke arrives and just tells them that he thinks they just told people they moved the bodies… against, placing the emphasis on Carrigan and the parapsychologists).

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In the remake, the family fully get into a car and are about to drive away when the oldest daughter gets Carrigan Burke to say his catchphrase, “The house is clean”. And then Maddy goes “It isn’t though”. I liked that, it was quite chilling… then ghosts grab the car and flip it.  They are dragged into the house and have to effect an escape as it starts to collapse, complete with Carrigan Burke going in after them.

The original finale deliberately lulls you into a false sense of security once more with the mother taking a relaxing bath, the kids are in bed (and the daughter lies there with her brother’s Luke Skywalker action figure in her mouth) and then all hell breaks loose again.

The remake literally has them leaving the house and then all hell breaks loose again (and I still have no idea where the pristine Mini Cooper they escape in comes from, despite watching the end sequence twice… the power of product placement compels you!).

I think the stylistic choice of the remake is just an example of the differences between what modern cinemagoers expect (or what Hollywood thinks we expect) and what the 1982 filmmakers decided on.

The original isn’t slow paced but just more deliberate. The remake is pretty much breakneck speed by comparison however, assuming that the modern audience needs constant stimulation to hold its interest. In fact, the only time there is a break in the action is when they are building up for a jump scare, a technique now so common in horror that it only serves to telegraph the scare.

Where I think the original wins hands down is the destruction of the house. The original has the house collapse in on itself as it is sucked into the gate in a really cool effect. The remake has the house explode in a beam of light as the ghosts are led toward final release.

Both films end on a similar joke. The original has the family in a hotel room whereupon they put the TV outside. The remake has the family viewing a new property and the estate agent talks a lot about closet space and the age of the house, whereupon the family just leaves.

So there you have it. A fairly faithful, fairly decent remake of a classic horror movie for a modern audience. Mostly the changes are stylistic alterations (though I did raise an eyebrow at the GPS and aerial drone working through a portal to purgatory and why they had an aerial drone in the first place), complete with very pretty special effects.

I don’t think the remake really adds anything, to be completely frank. The original is just better paced, better made and has a stronger theme of normal folks brushing shoulders with the supernatural. And that is where the horror comes from. The remake seems to have missed that and focused on SFX set pieces and jump scares.

I think it also highlights the difference between modern computer generated SFX and the practical SFX. When creating special effects, they didn’t have computers and so they either hand animated it or used real effects to do things. And good practical effects will always trump CG effects.

I mean, compare the gate between worlds in the closet in both films. In the original, they used lighting and fans to create the effects and although it seems obvious to us modern viewers how they did it, it still feels more ‘real’. The remake is all CG, all the time. And while it looks better, it doesn’t feel as solid. I really want Holllywood to understand that practical effects touched up with CG would yield far more impressive effects.

This is why films like Alien, the original Poltergeist, Close Encounters of the Third Kind etc still look damn good, despite 30 years having elapsed.

TL:DR; “While I can’t say it was an unnecessary remake, I can say that it fails to really trump the original. Worth a watch, if only to satisfy curiosity.

Youtube Film Club: The Pit (1981)

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They missed an S off the end of the title because THIS MOVIE SUCKS – boom! Nailed it! I feel like I ought to do the film reviewer equivalent of dropping the mic and walking off stage, but this film is so peculiarly bad, and its status as Youtube-available means I can spoil the hell out of it, that I’ll try and make this fun for us all.

 

Sammy Snyders, playing lead kid Jamie, never worked again after 1982. That’s not curious, because he’s staggeringly terrible, but what’s curious is how he ever got work in the first place (he was one of the leads in the late 70s version of “Huckleberry Finn”). Jamie is an unfortunate kid – mocked and bullied at school, ignored by his parents, no friends. What seems glaringly obvious to the viewer of 2015 is that Jamie is autistic (actually, this is mentioned on the box of the VHS tape, even if the movie never goes anywhere near it, apparently), so with a bit of medication, some psychological professionals and lots of patience, he could live a normal life. But in the world of 1981, he’s that crazy kid who everyone hates for no reason!

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With no explanation or backstory, Jamie’s teddy bear starts talking to him; but more importantly, he finds a large pit in the middle of the woods that has a group of “trollologs” in it. They look like skinny teenagers wearing monkey outfits with weird glowing eyes, but are supposed to be trolls, troglodytes or something of that ilk. The trollologs must have fallen in  the pit themselves as they don’t appear able to move or get out on their own…in the original draft of the script, the monsters only existed in Jamie’s head, which would sort of make sense, but in the finished “masterpiece”, they’re real creatures. I’d lay money on this having been a last-minute change, perhaps even after they’d filmed most of the movie. Don’t question it, because far stupider is yet to come.

 

Jamie’s parents, clearly sick and tired of their problematic son, go off on a surprisingly long holiday and leave him with a live-in babysitter. Jamie’s only friends are the mute monsters in the pit, so he starts feeding the trollologs raw meat, but when he runs out of money he decides to kill two birds with one stone and takes people who’ve wronged him out to the woods and shoves them down the pit. This works remarkably well, but when the babysitter gets creeped out by him doing stuff like spying on her in the shower, will he feed her to them?

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The whole “he’s the creepy one” narrative is spoiled by stuff like her giving him a bath. Now, I can’t think of a single reason an adult woman should give a 12 year old boy a bath – he’s not physically disabled, they aren’t related…it’s a truly horrific scene. It’s moments like this that make you wonder what on earth they were aiming for – although it makes a little more sense when you discover that this is the only movie that Lew Lehman ever directed and the only one that Ian Stuart ever wrote (hilariously, Lehman’s wife refused to let him shoot the scenes with nudity in them, so the screenwriter took over for those).

 

Even for a site that specialises in poorly made movies, this stands out. As you’ve either watched it or will never watch it, I’ll go into a bit more detail. First up is the scene where Jamie records one side of a conversation on his Dictaphone and calls up the mother of one of his tormentors. He’s able to predict what she’ll say and gets her to take her top off in the window so he can photograph her, by claiming to have kidnapped her daughter (she walks in seconds after the photos are taken). There’s the jokey comedy music playing over scenes of kidnap and murder. But weirdest of all is the timeline.

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Jamie kills one of his classmates and his girlfriend, then what appears to be several days passes. Now, think about famous child disappearance cases in this country – the media panic, the huge searches, all of it. In “The Pit”, one policeman is mildly curious about the missing kids, and literally no-one else seems to give a damn. Jamie also kills his babysitter’s boyfriend so he can have her all to himself, and her attitude towards her boyfriend’s disappearance is slightly less bothered than you or I would be about a missing sock.

 

After he’s let the trollologs out of the pit, they kill a bunch more people then are hunted down and killed by the townspeople (who just fill up the pit and go about their business as if nothing happened, who cares about missing children). But we’re treated to a little coda, as Jamie goes to live with his grandparents, now seemingly cured of whatever was ailing him before. There’s even a girl around his own age for him to play with…and that’s when ISCFC reviewer Kilran, joining me for this gem, said:

 

“There’s going to be another pit, and she’s going to shove him into it”

 

He was right, of course. The countryside is chuffing packed with pits full of creatures previously unknown to science, but only kids can find them or something. Seriously, movie, you suck.

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It’s absolutely awful, just slow and stupid and full of bad choices, ugly camerawork, and poor acting. The truly odd thing is, how I seem to be in a minority. IMDB rating is currently 5.9, there’s a number of positive reviews by sites like this, and I have no idea what’s happening with the world. I would rather watch “After Last Season” again than this.

 

Rating: thumbs down

Trailer Trash: Save Yourself

Here is the short but sweet trailer for ‘Save Yourself’. The trailer suggests that in the fiercely contested film industry an actress called Crystal has screwed over three of her contemporaries and lured them to an isolated house in the middle of nowhere. The perfect setting for a horror movie.

We hear screams, see our heroines in deep danger, doused in petrol, bound, glimpses of gory tools of torture, and then the women flee from whatever malevolent being is chasing them.

The female driven horror stars Jessica Cameron (Truth Or Dare), Tristan Risk (ABC’s Of Death 2), Tianna Nori (Clean Break), Sydney Kondruss (The Drownsman), Bobbie Phillips (Carnival Of Souls) and a slew of other Canadian actresses.

Most horror trailers give too much away, which is why when promoting a horror movie the teaser can be so much more effective. There seems to be a lot going on, and this raises questions like what’s with all the bodies wrapped in polythene bags? Who is the villain of the piece? Certainly being the inquisitive sort I’m not keen to watch the movie and find out.

 

For more details on ‘Save Yourself’ visit:

 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/SaveYourselfMovie

 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/SaveYourselfMVE

 

Website: www.SaveYourselfMovie.com

BBFC bans the horror film HATE CRIME

A big story is brewing…

Monday 2nd March 2015 – THE BBFC announced today that HATE CRIME, the first release in a new joint VOD venture between geek blog Nerdly.co.uk and TheHorrorShow.TV – has officially been banned in the UK. It is one of only four horror movies officially refused classification by the BBFC since 2009, the others being Grotesque, The Bunny Game and The Human Centipede 2, later released with nearly 3 minutes of cuts.

Set to be the first release under the new Nerdly Presents banner, HATE CRIME tells the story of a Jewish family, having just arrived in a new neighbourhood, who are recording their youngest son’s birthday celebrations on video when their home is suddenly invaded by a bunch of crystal-meth-crazed neo-Nazi lunatics.

The film is the second feature from director James Cullen Bressack (To Jennifer, Blood Lake, 13/13/13), and has already had a successful release in the US, reviewed favourably by the likes of Bloody Disgusting, MoreHorror and even the UK’s very own Starburst Magazine.

The full official statement from the BBFC:

“HATE CRIME focuses on the terrorisation, mutilation, physical and sexual abuse and murder of the members of a Jewish family by the Neo Nazi thugs who invade their home. The physical and sexual abuse and violence are accompanied by constant strong verbal racist abuse. Little context is provided for the violence beyond an on screen statement at the end of the film that the two attackers who escaped were subsequently apprehended and that the one surviving family member was released from captivity. We have considered the attempt at the end to position the film as against hate-crime, but find it so unconvincing that it only makes matters worse.  

 

“The BBFC’s Guidelines on violence state that ‘Any depiction of sadistic or sexual violence which is likely to pose a harm risk will be subject to intervention through classification, cuts or even, as a last resort, refusal to classify. We may refuse to classify content which makes sexual or sadistic violence look appealing or acceptable […] or invites viewer complicity in sexual violence or other harmful violent activities. We are also unlikely to classify content which is so demeaning or degrading to human dignity (for example, it consists of strong abuse, torture or death without any significant mitigating factors) that it may pose a harm risk.’

 

“It is the Board’s carefully considered conclusion that the unremitting manner in which HATE CRIME focuses on physical and sexual abuse, aggravated by racist invective, means that to issue a classification to this work, even if confined to adults, would be inconsistent with the Board’s Guidelines, would risk potential harm, and would be unacceptable to broad public opinion.”

“Of course, the Board will always seek to deal with such concerns by means of cuts or other modifications when this is a feasible option.  However, under the heading of ‘Refusal to classify’ our Guidelines state that ‘As a last resort, the BBFC may refuse to classify a work, in line with the objective of preventing non-trivial harm risks to potential viewers and, through their behaviour, to society. We may do so, for example, where a central concept of the work is unacceptable, such as a sustained focus on sexual or sadistic violence. Before refusing classification we will consider whether the problems could be adequately addressed through intervention such as cuts.’ The Board considered whether its concerns could be dealt with through cuts. However, given that the fact that unacceptable content runs throughout the work, cuts are not a viable option in this case and the work is therefore refused a classification.”

Says director James Cullen Bressack: “I am honoured to know that my mind is officially too twisted for the UK. So it goes … I find it unbelievable that a film that shows little to no on screen violence and no nudity was actually banned. it just shows the power of what is implied and peoples imagination; and is a testament to the fact that the same crimes that happen in the world are truly horrifying.”

Nerdly.co.uk‘s Phil Wheat adds: “HATE CRIME was always going to be a contentious title to submit to the BBFC, especially given recent racial tensions. But as part of Nerdly Presents’ remit to uncover great underground movies it was worth taking the gamble on James Cullen Bressack’s movie. After all, horror is often about pushing boundaries and making your audience uncomfortable. HATE CRIME does that by throwing political correctness out of the window to create a raw, emotive and disturbing film that is a tour-de-force in reality filmmaking, taking the found-footage genre to a whole new level – asking questions of both the filmmakers and the audience. As such it’s definitely worth championing.”

TheHorrorShow.TV’s Jack Bowyer said: “Although it may surprise some people, TheHorrorShow.TV supports classification over censorship, as we would hate for any of our growing number of films to be viewed by an inappropriate audience. We work in collaboration with the British Board of Film Classification to ensure that our content is appropriately rated, but sometimes you need to test boundaries to find out where they are. In the case of HATE CRIME, it appears that the BBFC has deemed the content inappropriate for people of any age, even adults, and regrettably we will be unable to bring the film to the UK as part of our very exciting collaboration with Nerdly.”

You can read our reviews of ‘Hate Crime’ here –

https://iscfc.net/2012/07/19/preview-hate-crime/

https://iscfc.net/2012/07/21/preview-2-hate-crime/

Fright-Rags’ CHUCKY collection

Fright-Rags’ CHUCKY collection honors one of horror’s most iconic villains
Limited edition box set, shirts and posters up for pre-order: http://bit.ly/chuckyfr

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Wanna play with Chucky? The pint-sized killer has been terrifying and entertaining audiences for more than 25 years. Fright-Rags is excited to honor one of horror’s most iconic villains with the Chucky Collection.

The Chucky box set includes three Chucky shirts – one designed by Justin Osbourn, a second from Abrar Ajmal and a third tee exclusive to the set – as well as an exclusive 18×24 screeprinted poster by artist Matt Ryan Tobin, a prismatic sticker and a full-size Good Guys replica box. This killer set is limited to only 225.

Osbourn and Ajmal’s designs are also available separately, as are additional Chucky shirts from Coki Greenway and Christopher Lovell. Rounding out the Chucky collection is an 18×24 screenprinted poster by Kyle Crawford. Limited to 100, the print features a glow-in-the-dark layer that reveals Charles Lee Ray’s voodoo spell.

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The Chucky collection can be pre-ordered from Fright-Rags. Limited edition items may sell out during the pre-order period, so act fast if you want a friend ’til the end. Orders will ship in late March.

Fright-Rags other new releases include shirts inspired by Freddy Krueger, Castle Freak, Subspecies and Sleepwalkers. Find all these and more at Fright-Rags.com.

Pernicious (2015)

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Directed by: James Cullen Bressack

I was thinking of the best way to describe Pernicious. It’s not really a slasher flick, and though it contains some gore, and indeed some sadism, it’s not really nu-torture porn, a child of Saw and Hostel. What the story reminded me of was Nickelodeon’s ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’; a programme I used to watch avidly as a kid. So is director James Cullen Bressack dabbling in Nickelodeon Extremism?

Like most modern Horror’s, pick any horror film out of a hat, you will find a cast of attractive people in their early twenties lined up as lambs for slaughter. ‘Pernicious’ is no different; you have three attractive young women who have gone out to Thailand for a month to teach Children. The friends Julia (Emily O’Brien), Alex (Ciara Hanna) and Rachel (Jackie Moore) stay in a rather nice old riverside house. Inside the house they uncover a golden statue of a little girl, which gives off some right creepy vibes.

What follows is unpredictable in the sense that the film is a real slow burner. The women head off into town and bump into a trio of lecherous leary Brits, lads on tour if you will. Rachel, the stereotypical dumb blonde flirts up a storm and the group end up back at the girl’s house; it is here where one of the Brits pulls out a bottle of laced liquor and something rather untoward happens.

Just when you think the blokes take advantage of the women things take a blood curdling about turn. The women end up butchering the blokes. When the ladies wake the next morning they think it’s all been a horrible dream, as the lads have vanished and the golden statue has disappeared. For some reason the girls care what has happened to the statue and try to track it down.

The rest of the movie is a treasure hunt, as the women discover the story behind the statue from a gravelly ill old man, and end up on a bit of a wild goose chase cum evil spirit story. It’s this curious second half of the movie, which is rather non-eventful but at the same time really engrossing. I can’t really put my finger on why this is, because aside from Jackie Moore, who adds quite a bit of humour as the ditzy Rachel, there is no real stand out scream queens or OTT acting performances. It just seems that the story works because it is frugal throat slashing throwaway film candy.

– RJW

7/10

Pernicious on IMDB

Annabelle (2014)

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The Conjuring was released a couple of years ago and was a fairly uninspiring horror movie (based on the same real life story that would inspire the Amityville Horror).

At the beginning of The Conjuring, there is a little prelude about a china doll called Annabelle. That prelude is used to set up the concept of conduits, demonic influence and the paranormal investigation team.

That small sequence was really creepy and very effective, more so than the actual film. And so it doesn’t surprise me that they decided to make a prequel based on it.

Annabelle opens with the same prelude from The Conjuring. Set the year before that scene, this film shows how Annabelle came to become a conduit for a demon and how it terrorised a suburban family.

As always, I will keep my plot summary brief as I don’t like to give away too much: Ed and Lorraine Warren are newlyweds expecting their first child. Lorraine is a collector of china dolls and Ed has gone to great expense to find one of a set she is missing, which takes centre place in the collection.

"I refuse to believe that anyone would actually collect these in real life."

“I refuse to believe that anyone would actually collect these outside of a horror movie.”

There is some stuff about cults, a ritual, conjuring a demon, possession, all which result in the devil’s doll. Then there is the usual running around, seeing things through the corner of your eye, fast cuts and people deliberately turning around really slowly… look, if you’ve seen any number of horror movies in the last 40 years (man, is The Exorcist really that old?), there’s nothing new here. It’s slow paced, so as to build tension and atmosphere and has its fair share of ‘jump scares’… you know the drill.

Say what you will about the ‘found footage phenomenon’, at least Paranormal Activity injected some creativity into the horror genre (which of course was aped and then suffered ‘sequelitis’ to the point where it was no longer creative).

There are a few things which make this film stand out from its peers (and notably more interesting than its parent film). For starters, Annabelle herself. Now, I don’t like china dolls. I think they are inherently creepy. Presumably I am not alone in this and therefore that’s why they made a china doll an evil doll of evil. The pre-demon version of Annabelle is pretty terrifying and the post-demon version is a nightmare come to life. So in that sense, good show prop department!

"A demented verison of Joanna Lumley as a doll."

“A demented verison of Joanna Lumley as a doll.”

Also, there are a couple of genuinely creepy scenes: the whole basement sequence for instance (which is only ruined by the director by breaking the cardinal rule of ‘never reveal the face of the monster, because it can never be worse than the imagination’) and any time the doll is just on screen, being creepy (there was only one moment I called ‘bullshit’ and that was very late in the movie, they otherwise restrain themselves from the doll doing anything other than looking really wrong).

"At no time does any of these people attempt to burn the creepy demon doll. I call bullshit."

“At no time do any of these people attempt to burn the creepy demon doll. I call foul.”

The ending, to be blunt, is so overwhelming telegraphed I am sure people who have never even seen a horror movie could figure it out.

I’m not a fan of the horror genre because I find it creatively moribund. Very much like it’s cousin, the slasher movie, it is tired and worn with little new to offer.

And, like comedy, it is a very subjective experience, so what one person finds scary, another finds laughable. For instance, I think that The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Paranormal Activity are great films, both very creepy. Friends of mine found the Mothman Prophecy to be terrifying but I only thought it was a good film, not particularly scary at all.

To me, The Conjuring was fairly representative of modern horror and didn’t really offer anything new. The prequel, Annabelle, is much the same, only I find china dolls to be freaky and so I was a bit creeped out at times, possibly more than I should have.

I can’t say I particularly recommend this film. Like its peers, it isn’t particularly original or scary but it is competently made and the direction is very good. The performances are good and really, there’s nothing wrong with this movie, if you haven’t watched any of the major horror movies of the last 40 years.

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That said, if you find china dolls to be creepy and fancy a bit of a scare, you could do a lot worse than this.

TL:DR “Competently made, not particularly original horror movie about a possessed china doll. The china doll really is the scariest thing about it.”