Ben Bussey

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Back in our Brutal As Hell days, co-editor Keri O’Shea and myself would from time to time forego the conventional review approach in favour of a one-on-one discussion. This is an approach we’ve often favoured when the film in question was already the subject of widespread debate, which it seems fair to say has been the case with the film we’ve chosen to discuss here, in our first such conversation since relaunching as Warped Perspective. The debut feature from writer-director Jordan Peele but the latest in a very long line of mainstream genre releases from production company Blumhouse, Get Out is easily the most widely praised horror film of 2017 thus far, whilst also being the most commercially successful; two things which do not necessarily coincide most of the time. Naturally this was enough to get both of us interested – and happily, neither of us came out disappointed.

Hopefully as it’s already been out upwards of a week, a good many readers will have already seen the film, but we’re not making any assumptions there, so I will forewarn you that we do get heavily into spoilers early into the discussion – if in doubt, don’t read beyond the warning below…

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More than 35 years on, The Evil Dead remains as beloved and influential as ever, ranking alongside Night of the Living Dead, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween and The Blair Witch Project as one of the most endlessly ripped-off horror movies of all time (that list is by no means exhaustive, by the way). Of course, Sam Raimi’s feature debut
ranks not only as a perennial genre classic, but also as one of the key video nasties, so given contemporary indie horror’s fascination with revisiting the VHS era, it seems timely for a low-budget film to emerge with designs on directly recapturing that spirit.

As we can rather easily ascertain from its alternate title The Japanese Evil Dead, writer/director/actor Shinichi Fukazawa’s Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell is modelled so closely on The Evil Dead that it seems just as much a remake as Fede Alvarez’s 2013 Evil Dead was; indeed, it’s considerably closer to Raimi’s film in tone, content and most notably visual aesthetics. And given that this new DVD from Terracotta (released under their Terror Cotta imprint) boasts artwork from none other than Graham Humphreys, the iconic artist behind the classic Evil Dead VHS cover, Fukazawa’s film is very much being sold on that link. The key question, then, is whether we can regard Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell as a notable new addition to the horror canon, or essentially a fan film done good.

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It was inevitable that giant monsters would return to the blockbuster arena, and Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures are leading the way. With Pacific Rim and Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot in the bag, a new take on King Kong was the next logical step, paving the way to the announced Godzilla Vs Kong lined up for 2020 (but this only coming after their 2019 Godzilla sequel from director Mike Dougherty). All this being the case, it’s easy to regard Kong: Skull Island with disdain, viewing it merely as a stepping stone in yet another megabudget Hollywood franchise. However, commerce and creativity are not mutually exclusive, as I think plenty of contemporary franchises, the Marvel Cinematic Universe in particular, have demonstrated; and Kong: Skull Island offers further evidence to this effect. Jordan Vogt-Roberts is a director I must confess to having been completely ignorant of before now, and I gather this is his first time working at blockbuster level, but he’s put together a movie which pretty much exemplifies blockbuster filmmaking at its finest: simple storytelling, spectacular visuals, and enough thrills and spills to comfortably fill up a running time with the common decency to clock in at just under two hours (the latter being a particular rarity these days).

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It’s an old cliche, and sadly a truth in most instances, that a pop culture figure is never more loved than when they’re recently deceased. Few would dispute this has been the case with David Bowie since he left us just over a year ago, but at the same time many would quite reasonably argue the man and his music never stopped being vital and relevant. The comparative merits of Bowie’s numerous musical shifts can, and no doubt will be debated until the proverbial cows come home, but we can surely agree that it was the introduction of his Ziggy Stardust persona on his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars that Bowie really earned his rock legend status. As such, Bowie devotees young and old alike will surely be intrigued and excited to see that the iconic concert film of his final performance with the Spiders is returning to the big screen in cinemas across the UK – although, in the great showman tradition, it’s for one night only.

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You only really need to give it a moment’s thought to realise how absurd it is that movies starring Wolverine were ever geared toward kids. The guy is the product of heavily invasive surgical experimentation, his skeleton grafted with an indestructible metal which bursts forth from his knuckles in the form of lethally sharp claws – yet we’re expected to believe that when he goes snikt and swings his fists, the bad guys just fall over? Logan is by far the most violent, gruesome and potty-mouthed X-Men movie made to date  – yes, even more so than Deadpool – and it would be easy to write this off as 20th Century Fox cashing in on a newly-rediscovered market for adults-only action which Deadpool proved still exists. However, there’s no denying how natural it all feels. In the first fifteen minutes alone our hero drops the F-bomb at least once a sentence, bloodily hacks limbs off his adversaries, and even enjoys a gratuitous tit shot, yet none of this in any way feels like a betrayal of what went before. Really, it feels like this is what Wolverine movies always should have been like. And not before time if, as has been promised, this will indeed be Hugh Jackman’s last time in his signature role.

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What a difference a weekend makes. When I first got word last week of an upcoming new release called Mean Dreams, it was simply a promising-looking thriller; but when I finally sat down to watch it, I did so in the sad knowledge that I was about to see one of the very last performances from the late, great Bill Paxton, who left us far too soon this past Sunday.

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Funny thing; it’s just over a month since we relaunched as Warped Perspective, our mission statement being to diversify from the horror-specific focus of our previous incarnation Brutal As Hell – and yet in that time, I personally have still wound up reviewing nothing but horror movies. Old habits really do die hard. Of course, we never said we’d stop covering horror, nor would that be especially feasible given our standing within the industry, small fish in a big pond though we may be. And given that we’ve always been something of an underdog site, it’s important to me that we support other underdogs, gearing up for their own David/Goliath stories. One such plucky so-and-so ready to let fly with his sling is Justin M Seaman, writer-director of microbudget Halloween horror The Barn – and like all the best microbudget horror filmmakers, what Seaman and co lack in funding, they more than make up for in ideas, ambition, and enthusiasm.

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Watching this movie, I felt as if I was getting glimpses of multiple alternate realities. One was a universe in which we didn’t generally regard the 1990s as a wasteland for the horror genre; another was one in which Michele Soavi became as major a Hollywood player as Peter Jackson. Watching The Sect, neither of these options seemed too implausible. The 1990s rarely comes up when discussing the great eras for horror cinema: it was the period when the trusted old hands like Carpenter, Romero, Hooper and for a time Craven hit dry spells, derivative straight-to-video bilge became the norm, and the few new directors who showed any promise seemed to hit the wall at double speed. And yet in the early 90s in particular, there were more than a couple of relative newbies who showed such promise: Clive Barker, Richard Stanley, and yes, Jackson and Soavi. We know how most of these stories turned out: Barker largely left film behind in favour of writing and painting, Stanley had his infamous meltdown on The Island of Doctor Moreau, and Jackson, to the astonishment of anyone who ever saw Bad Taste and/or Meet the Feebles, convinced some bigwigs to let him make a megabudget three-film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, netting himself many millions and a bunch of Oscars in the process. Soavi, by contrast, remains a largely anonymous figure outside of Italian horror devotees, and since the mid-90s has largely worked in Italian TV; but watching The Sect, it’s not hard to envisage him reaching far greater heights.

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By Ben Bussey

As I’ve remarked many times when looking at reissues of old horror favourites, many of them feel like they need little or no introduction, and to my mind that’s certainly the case with Fright Night. Tom Holland’s 1985 directorial debut was among the first dozen or so horror movies I saw in my youth, and it’s one that’s always stayed dear to my heart. As the volume of online outrage that greeted the 2011 remake demonstrated, I’m hardly alone in that sentiment. Now, almost 32 years on from its original release, the tale of high school nerd Charlie Brewster, washed-up actor-turned-local cable horror host Peter Vincent and their conflict with the vampire next door Jerry Dandridge remains a near-perfect hour and forty five minutes of vintage creature feature theatrics brought to life in an unmistakably 80s fashion.

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the_burningApologies if this is a bit of a trite analogy, but it’s hard not to note clear parallels between slasher movies and punk rock. Both genres emerged more or less at the same time, in the downbeat days of the mid-to-late 70s, and tapped into a similar vein of youthful discontent and rage. There was a back to basics ethic, an emphasis on being loud and outrageous, a deliberate flip of the bird to the conventions of good taste, and much of this was the handiwork of young, largely inexperienced artists out to make a name for themselves. A great many punk rockers and slasher filmmakers enjoyed a brief day in the sun and were never seen again, but for an illustrious few it was merely the first step toward a hugely successful career.

One particularly noteworthy filmmaking duo whose beginnings in the slasher genre tend to be forgotten are Harvey and Bob Weinstein. To carry on the punk analogy, these guys would surely be the U2 of slashers; started out small, went on to pretty much conquer the world. Knowing their legacy of selling awards-friendly indie cinema to the masses with Miramax (though few would argue their subsequent Weinstein Company has had anything like the same impact), in some ways it’s hard to believe the Weinsteins made their debut with this rather tawdry, downmarket tits and gore film with a plot you could fit on the back of a postcard, which wound up making the Video Nasties blacklist. But as we saw with punk, there were those who could manage to play those same three chords as everyone else, yet do so with enough flair to stand apart from the rest. This, I think, is a feat managed by the Weinsteins (Bob as co-screenwriter, Harvey as ‘creator and producer’ – that’s his official credit), in conjunction director Tony Maylam, on 1981’s The Burning. Continue reading

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