Reviews

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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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Zombie Lake opens with a bit of a fib: there is no director by the name of  ‘J.A. Laser’, and the pseudonym conceals the fact that the film was actually directed by Jean Rollin, who is of course better known for rather more artistic fare. It turns out that Zombie Lake had a bit of a troubled birth, with the original director, Jess Franco, quitting the project before it began. It then fell to Rollin to take up the reins, but by all accounts he was so mortified by the script that he decided to disguise the fact that he’d had anything to do with it. To be fair, though, misgivings about the script don’t excuse some of the ridiculous errors that occur throughout on Rollin’s watch, but somehow, this is all part of the full Zombie Lake experience.

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The first thing which hit me when I settled to watch Helga: She-Wolf of Stilberg – apart from the Lidl-like almost-familiar name (what exploitation classic could they possibly have had in mind when they named this one?) – was a feeling of profound disorientation. Surely, with a title like this, we were in store for a piece of mildly-derivative Nazisploitation? Well – yes; and no. But mainly no. Perhaps, I dunno, there was a bit of mild concern about making a film which openly referenced the Nazis, in France, so relatively soon after World War II? I suspect this may have been part of it, but from the very offset, this film feels a bit like the Exploitation Movie which Dare Not Speak Its Name. We’re apparently in some sort of politically-unstable version of France (?) where the soldiers wear striking red armbands bearing a distinctive symbol which IS NOT a swastika, and don’t you dare confuse the two; the blonde lady present at the argumentative interim-governmental meeting at the beginning of the film (Malisa Longo, who has form) is indeed a tyrannical nympho who gets sent off to a remote outpost to govern over female prisoners, but honestly, I don’t know why this would make you think of a certain other film…

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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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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.

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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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In many respects, my first reaction to seeing that actor Tom Hardy had thrown body, mind and soul – and a lot of income – into a BBC period drama was one of complete surprise. I mean, coming fresh off the success of Mad Max: Fury Road, then swapping the big rigs for horse-drawn carriages is a sizable shift; why would he, alongside his father and co-creator ‘Chips’ Hardy, take such a strange turn, or risk such a big gamble? Critics have also raised the question: The Guardian was quick to sneer at Taboo, dismissing it as “silly”, but having watched – and enjoyed – the first series, I think I get it. Although (presumably) hundreds of years and miles apart from Hardy’s most recent success on-screen as ‘Max’, Taboo builds on what Hardy now clearly knows he does very well. He’s bloody good at being dark and ambiguous and he’s equally good as a vital underpin to a story, though, as it turns out, both men are dependent on a number of other miscreants in order to properly rally against powerful forces which do far worse things than they, in terms of scale and magnitude. James Kaziah Delaney and Max have been spat out by the machine and they have done dreadful things along their route back to freedom; this makes them problematic, but perhaps all the more engaging for it.

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