Apologies 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
If I were to do some of that word association business, my response to the word ‘Mycho’ would be ‘bold.’ It applies to the company’s work in just about every meaning of the word. On an aesthetic level, bold is an accurate summation of their in-your-face approach, particularly when it comes to colour schemes: as I noted of the original Slasher House, writer-director MJ Dixon has clearly never heeded the maxim ‘red and green should never be seen,’ and as the above image demonstrates, he hasn’t faltered there. But beyond that, boldness is clearly something that Dixon, producer Anna McCarthy and their cohorts at Mycho Entertainment clearly have in spades. Making movies for next to no money, taking on multiple roles within the filmmaking process, enlisting others willing to pour in the blood, sweat and tears without monetary remuneration; this in itself takes some gusto. But to attempt to forge your own overlapping cinematic universe at this level of filmmaking, spending less per film than Marvel spend on the baby oil for their lead actors’ shirtless scenes; yes, bold is the word. Continue reading
Shakespeare’s celebrated adage “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” may carry some weight, but it’s fair to say that when it comes to exploitation movies, by any other name they might not get such great numbers. Director Abel Ferrara’s more-or-less debut feature (he’d previously directed hardcore porno Nine Lives of a Wet Pussy under a psuedonym) may well have courted controversy and gained a cult following under any title, but would it have gained anything like the same attention had it not been given the attention-grabbing moniker of The Driller Killer?
Thinking back on my vague memories of the video nasty era (I was but a wee lad at the time, four years old when the VRA was passed), Driller Killer was one of three films – the others being The Evil Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the latter of which, I know now, wasn’t strictly speaking banned as a video nasty) – which were the most whispered of in the playground, epitomising this strange, truly terrifying realm of forbidden material. These were titles whose mere mention was liable to leave young minds scared shitless, yet also burning with curiosity. They were also titles which seemed to tell you everything you needed to know about the films in question: one was about dead things that were evil, one was about a guy from Texas going on a massacre with a chain saw, and the other was about a guy who killed people with a drill. Simple as, right…? Continue reading
Novel concepts in horror movies often seem hard to come by. Fear, Inc., the feature debut of seasoned short film director Vincent Masciale, comes close to doing something relatively unique in what initially seems a fairly fresh and funny fashion, but it winds up hitting pretty wide of the bullseye. I’ll do my utmost to avoid spoilers here, but honestly the film shows its hand pretty early on with a single direct reference which, to any reasonably erudite cinephile (i.e. anyone who’s seen a few movies), pretty much tells you all you need to know straight away. Blending heavy-handed film geek and stoner humour with home invasion horror and elements of the slasher and torture subgenres, the film proceeds to throw in so many twists and turns that even M Night Shyamalan might find it a bit much; and, as Shyamalan learned the hard way, there comes a point when the audience just won’t accept that bullshit anymore, and would much prefer some coherent storytelling that actually holds up to scrutiny. Continue reading
One good microbudget indie horror anthology movie deserves another. 2015’s Volumes of Blood (my review here) was an enjoyable addition to the pantheon of portmanteau horror made with a cut-price charm and unmistakable affection for the genre, so it should come as little surprise that the sequel Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories continues in a similar vein; although speaking of veins (heheh… sorry), this installment sees a far greater emphasis on bloodshed than its comparatively sedate predecessor. While this alone doesn’t necessarily make it a stronger film, it does demonstrate that Horror Stories is a sequel which is not content to retrace its steps, but rather seeks to improve on what went before – and I’m happy to report that, all things considered, it is largely superior to the original Volumes of Blood, even if it comes close to being undone by its own ambition.
In common with its predecessor, the sequel centres on a single location and tells several creepy tales which take place in that setting; but where in the first film this was a library where a group of college students devised their own urban legends, this one sees the prospective buyers of a house shown around the now empty property, before regaling us with morbid tales from the house’s history, whose most horrific moments occurred in specific rooms. And there’s another unifying theme, as each tale takes place on a family holiday: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Father’s Day, Christmas, and then just to mix things up a bit, a birthday. Yes, this approach is more than a little reminiscent of another anthology movie which came out this year, Holidays, though given the timing I think it’s fair to write this off as an unfortunate coincidence; but in any case, Holidays left quite a lot to be desired in my book, and in fact VOB:HS beats it at its own game, as for the most part the stories are far more closely related to the holidays in question. Continue reading
Given that at the time of writing the filmmaker and musician has been thrilling audiences all over the globe with live performances of his classic synthesizer scores, I find myself wanting to open this review with the note that John Carpenter is very much in fashion at this moment – but that seems a moot point. He may have never made billions at the box office or been showered with awards, but for most film fans – particularly those with a preference for genre-based material – the films of John Carpenter have never gone out of style, and I very much doubt they ever will. He may have produced the real meat of his filmography in that most equally revered and reviled of decades in pop culture history, the 1980s, yet there’s a distinctly timeless quality about his work which makes it stand apart and, in most instances, head and shoulders above most mid-budget genre fare produced in Hollywood at the time.
Generally speaking, the first film anyone will mention in relation to Carpenter was his breakthrough hit Halloween, and that’s entirely fair given how influential that film became, and how it launched the director into his most prolific period; but at the same time we shouldn’t forget that Halloween was in fact Carpenter’s third feature film. His debut, Dark Star, was an extension of an ultra-low budget student film made with his classmates at UCLA, and while it’s not without its entertainment value, it’s pretty far removed from what we would typically identify as a John Carpenter movie. However, his sophomore effort – Assault on Precinct 13 – is in many respects the real starting point for Carpenter, boasting many of the key themes, motifs and fetishes that generations of film fans would come to know and love him for. Continue reading
By Ben Bussey
Anonymous small-town middle America: always the last place anyone anticipates crazy things happening, yet more often than not the first place crazy things happen in horror fiction. Stephen King’s main stock-in-trade for much of his career has… Continue reading
By Ben Bussey
Just when you thought ‘Sinister’ was the most generic horror title you’d ever heard… but, much as was the case with Scott Derrickson’s 2012 film, this may belie a film which sports more surprises than you might… Continue reading
I get so giddy with excitement every time another anthology horror film is released. They always remind me of some of the older films I saw as a kid and there’s just something comforting about them. I also… Continue reading
By Ben Bussey and Keri O’Shea
Sheffield horror festival Celluloid Screams hosted a screening of Kevin Smith’s (how to put this generously) somewhat divisive latest movie Yoga Hosers, starring the writer-director’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp (daughter of… Continue reading