Reviews

As hard as it may be for some of us to believe, it’s now been a full decade since Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse first opened, and, as I’ve discussed at length elsewhere, the big-budget box office flop wound up having a far greater cultural impact than anyone could have anticipated at the time. No, QT and RR did not single-handedly bring grindhouse exploitation cinema into the popular consciousness, but they did raise its profile significantly, to the extent that neo-grindhouse (if you want to call it that) has become a prominent subgenre in the indie/genre scene this past decade: on top of Grindhouse spin-offs Machete, Machete Kills and Hobo With a Shotgun, we’ve had Black Dynamite, Bitch Slap, Time To Kill, All Hell Breaks Loose, Run! Bitch Run! and Nude Nuns with Big Guns, to name but a few; but to my mind there’s no question that the big daddy in this field was James Bickert’s gleefully debauched 2011 bikers-versus-Bigfoot movie, Dear God No!

I’ll admit I wasn’t completely sold on Dear God No! when it first came to British shores. The post-grindhouse approach invariably hinges on a degree of artifice which is always going to leave a bad taste in the mouth for some viewers. However, with time and further viewings, not to mention holding it up alongside similar films that have been made since, it became clear that Dear God No! had a sincerity, a certain purity of intent (believe me, I’m well aware how wrong it seems to imply there’s anything ‘pure’ about it) that held it up as almost certainly the best film of its kind to emerge this past decade. As such, when Bickert announced plans to shoot an even more ridiculous sequel in Frankenstein Created Bikers, damned if I wasn’t anxious to see that right away, to the extent that I happily donated to the film’s Kickstarter fund – hence my contributor copy Blu-ray arrived at long last this past weekend.

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It’s no secret that I adored the first Stake Land film. For me, it epitomised just how much you could do with familiar horror elements, if you had a clear idea of the importance of character, and an understanding that good horror stories depend on an awareness of the ratio of ordinary:extraordinary, whether that ratio be skewed greatly in one direction or another. For all of my enthusiasm for the film, however, I had absolutely no idea that a sequel had been made; I have since found out that actor/writer Nick Damici has hopes of getting a Stake Land franchise off the ground, but in any case, it’s a pleasant thing to get the chance of a screener which is – at least in promise – a very happy surprise. Now having watched the second film, I’m completely torn. On one hand, it’s immensely gratifying to again see characters on screen that (for me) work so well, in a film which re-captures some of the striking visuals and atmosphere of the first film. But in re-capturing much of what made the first film so effective, Stake Land II has seemingly re-trod a very, very similar story arc. This has led me to ponder – when is a sequel truly a sequel? And when is a sequel justifiable?

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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.

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Just in case you wondering, no, this isn’t some sort of sequel to The Bunny Game which you hadn’t heard about.

Originally released in the US under the title Beaster Day: Here Comes Peter Cottonhell, The Beaster Bunny is the first and to date only film credited to writer, director, producer and cinematographer team the Snygg Brothers, and as you might have already ascertained from the title and the still to the left, it’s about a sleepy middle-American town (is there any other kind?) which comes under attack from a giant killer bunny rabbit on Easter weekend. Absurdist monster movies of this ilk are hardly unheard of these days, most of them coming from SyFy, The Asylum and/or Roger Corman (although more often than not they centre on sharks rather than rabbits), and I’m sure I’m far from alone in having often thought while sitting through such feeble efforts that they would almost certainly be improved if they didn’t tone things down for TV, and piled on the bloodshed, swearing and gratuitous nudity. Well, The Beaster Bunny certainly tests that theory. It’s got tits, gore and F-bombs galore, as one of the most wildly unconvincing monsters you will ever see goes on a rampant killing spree. Whether this is enough to keep the joke from getting old for a full 80 minutes is another matter.

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It can be tricky when you’re late to the party. Feverishly hyped in horror circles since its announcement, and one of the most talked-about films at the horror festivals in 2016, The Void has been on my radar for a good length of time, and all the signs indicated that it was something very much up my street. Publicity emphasised heavy use of old-fashioned practical SFX in favour of CGI, and a vision of otherworldly terror that drew heavily on HP Lovecraft, Clive Barker, Lucio Fulci, but at the same time reached out to do something new. Naturally, I went in with very high hopes… so when I say now that The Void is, well, just alright, it feels like a devastating blow. It really shouldn’t be at all, as this is not in any way, shape or form a bad film; it’s just nowhere near as great as I’d been hoping it would be, with far fewer surprises in store.

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It’s entirely logical that pregnancy has been a recurring theme in so much horror, particularly at the more grotesque end of the spectrum. As much as some of us might like to herald it as a beautiful and miraculous thing, we all know that for most women it will result in nausea, pain, exhaustion, emotional and physical distress, not to mention the fact that in many instances the lucky lady in question might not have even wanted to become a mother in first place. Absolutely, a pregnant woman can see herself as engaging in the greatest act of creation she will ever undertake – but she might just as easily see herself as the host to a parasite, and it’s hard to fault that logic.

Am I danger of being burnt at the stake for mansplaining here? Perhaps, but given that Antibirth is the brainchild (sort-of pun sort-of intended) of male writer-director Danny Perez, I feel like I should be safe given my Y-chromosome-enabled point of view on the matter. For what it’s worth I’m also a father and was present at the birth of both my children, so I do have some hands-on experience with pregnancy, in all its wonder and its ugliness. You might not be surprised to hear that it’s the ugly side which Antibirth takes the most interest in.

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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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