The Entity is one of those wonderful films from the era of big-budget, mainstream horror filmmaking based on popular novels – following on from the venerable likes of The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, through to Demon Seed and beyond. The film in synopsis sounds, now, like that kind of film that would struggle to get made in such a mainstream setting, or at least would result in a myriad of hot-takes before it even hits a big screen (probably from myself included). The film is inspired by the true story of Doris Bither, a woman who claimed to have been repeatedly assaulted and tormented by supernatural entities. In the film, Barbara Hershey plays hard-working single-mother Carla Moran, who is, one evening, raped in her home by an unseen assailant. The attacks continue, threatening her life and her sanity. When the doctors trying to help her insist on uncovering a rational explanation for what’s happening to her, Carla turns to parapsychologists she meets at a book shop. Finally finding support from people who believe her, Carla agrees to take part in a dangerous solution: luring and entrapping the entity.
Back in 2013, actor Leslie Simpson made a foray into filmmaking with his directorial debut, the atmospheric short film Grandpa. Simpson is back with another short, written and directed by him, and it’s a wonderful step-up for the multi-talented filmmaker. Here he takes the lead as Joseph, a seemingly normal man, living in a nice house with his wife Stazi (Phoebe Ashford). Something goes bump one night, and the next morning, things in the house have moved. Stazi’s sure there’s a rational explanation. The next time it happens, more things move, and the detectives (Anna Burgess and Nicholas Politis) are even more sceptical. Joseph and Stazi become increasingly concerned by the goings-on in their home, and have to take matters into their own hands.
When an 80-minute film starts off with three whole minutes of grainy stock footage, you know you’re in for some sort of a treat. When it also includes the credit ‘Eurocine presente’ then you start to get a bit more of an idea of what kind of treat that’s going to be. And so, you’re a bit more forgiving of the bad cuts, bad editing, questionable acting and cheap costumes. Those minor details seem barely worth mentioning when considering a film that one shouldn’t really expect more of.
Elsa Fraulein SS is one of those many Naziploitation films that riffs off the Ilsa model – sadistic lady-Nazi tortures a variety of nubile ladies and grizzled Nazi-men. The exploitation of Ilsa as a pinnacle of the genre is evident in the title used here – Elsa Fraulein SS is otherwise also known as Captive Women 4 (4?!), Fraulein Devil and – surprise – Fraulein Kitty. This film’s other obvious influence is the wonderful Salon Kitty, only instead of a brothel in Berlin being used as a spy-den, the not nearly as professional spies are here based on a pleasure train, travelling all of Germany as reward for the Nazi’s greatest officers.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Raw is this year’s The VVitch or It Follows – that tentpole horror film that gets a big Spring release here in the UK. It seems to be a nascent tradition, and it’ll be interesting to see whether a contender for next year’s equivalent emerges from the upcoming festival season, or if the past two or three years have just been an accidental distribution model. Having played pretty much all the major genre fests – under tight security, no less – and gaining significant traction with stories of fainting and puking at screenings, it’s fair to say that Raw finally arrives with a fair bit of baggage.
I’d spotted the publicity for Catfight in recent weeks and hadn’t, from the images and basic synopses shared, twigged that this was the latest film from Onur Tukel. I’d seen two of Tukel’s previous films – Summer of Blood and Applesauce – and had not particularly enjoyed either of them. Then again, I don’t think I’m particularly the target audience of Tukel’s brand of low-key, cynical humour, styled after Woody Allen and the like. So, upon learning that Catfight – sold as a “brutal and darkly hilarious film” – was Tukel’s latest, my curiosity was piqued. While I’ve not been a fan of Tukel’s films, they’re certainly not bad films, and so what really drew my interest was seeing if Tukel could effectively manage to write a film led by two female leads, when his previous films have been, well, pretty damn masculine.
Ben has recently made reference to the on-going exploration of pregnancy in horror, and as a theme it certainly seems to be having a bit of a moment – from the last year or so, Shelley, Antibirth, and Prevenge have all tackled the issue, in quite different ways. Prevenge has perhaps been the most hotly-anticipated and highly-regarded of these films, at least in the UK, coming from accomplished comedy writer and actress Alice Lowe, making her feature film directorial debut.
What makes the debut all the more stunning is that Lowe directed – and starred in – the film while seven months pregnant herself. Impressive though that is from an endurance perspective, it also seems to have been quite vital to the success of the film thematically: a genuine portrayal of the psychological difficulties of pregnancy… with added murder.
If there’s been one recent Blu-ray announcement that I’m most excited for it’s got to be Arrow’s upcoming The Bird with the Crystal Plumage set. Coming in June, the set promises a 4K restoration of the film, a host of new commentaries and analyses on the film, a brand new interview with Maestro Argento himself, as well as a 60-page collectors’ booklet, a poster and re-production lobby cards. Along with the Phenomena release (May 8th), it’s looks like Arrow are revamping their Argento collection, and if they’re all getting this lavish treatment then, well, my bank account’s going to be looking significantly poorer for a while!
We’ve said it before and I’m sure it’s worth repeating – it’s hard to keep up with the number of projects seeking crowd-sourced financial backing, and it can be even harder to know which ones to help promote and which ones to leave aside. It gets to a point of saturation where it’s easier to just chuck a few quid at the ones you like best and leave it at that.
However, sometimes projects come along that you really do have to shout about, and this is one of those, if you ask me. The official documentary about the life and career of legendary actress, performer and all-round force of nature Tura Satana is seeking the funds to complete production. The documentary had Satana’s blessing before she passed away in 2011, and the people behind the production include her long-time manager Siouxzan Perry and director Cody Jarrett, who directed Satana in her final film role as an actress. The film has already secured an impressive array of talking heads, including John Waters, Dita Von Teese and the late, great Ted V. Mikels, and is offering a range of cool perks to those who help back the film, from art prints to actual items from Satana’s wardrobe (!).
The mighty Dead by Dawn festival, the UK’s longest-running horror festival, based in Edinburgh, takes place this year at Edinburgh Filmhouse April 20-23rd. They’re just announced their line-up and it’s a tantalising mix of brand new films, classics and a whopping 7 short film strands. They open with the UK premiere of The Evil Within (a film which has had some attention this week), and closes with a midnight screening of Gillespie and Kostanski’s The Void. The festival will also be featuring acclaimed new films Without Name and Always Shine, as well as a number of UK premieres. Dead by Dawn also boasts a very special screening of Arrow Video’s brand new 4K restoration of Dario Argento’s Phenomena. Other classics include a Cronenberg double-bill of The Dead Zone and Scanners, a Vincent Price strand and, much to editor Ben’s approval I’m sure, a ‘double-Dekker’ of House and The Moster Squad.
Attach the name Jess Franco to a film and unless you’re already a super fan it’s likely you’ll have your broad, generalised expectations of what that film will be like – crash zooms, extensive T&A, and, if there’s a plot, it might not make much sense. Sometimes, this expectation is not met, and in the best possible way – I’m still something of a Franco neophyte, but films like Virgin Among The Living Dead (even with that title) and Venus in Furs have proven to be enjoyable and beautifully made films. Along comes Female Vampire, then, out now on UK Blu-ray from new Euro-sleaze imprint Maison Rouge, arguably one of Franco’s most well-known, tentpole films. I think it’s fair to say that Female Vampire did indeed meet all of my expectations of a Franco film, and unfortunately for me that wasn’t a good thing.
There have been quite a few big announcements lately of upcoming home entertainment slates and there are some rather juicy morsels on their way from Arrow Video, Arrow Academy and Eureka in April and May!
Arrow Video recently revealed their release slate for April and gosh are there some juicy looking gems in there!
On April 10th Arrow Video will release a dual-format edition of Caltiki the Immortal Monster, which is something of a pivotal Italian genre film from Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava. Part-sci-fi and part-horror, Caltiki was Freda’s second film to be taken over by his regular cinematographer and soon-to-be auteur Bava, after I Vampiri in 1959. Arguably Bava’s first official film as director, he completed Caltiki when Freda left the set enraged by the behaviour of his producers. Being an Arrow release there are copious extras, including two audio commentaries, several interviews and, if you get a copy from the first pressing, a booklet featuring new writing by Kat Ellinger and Roberto Curti.