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.
As most of you have heard by now, Adventure Time will be coming to an end in 2018. While that’s not until the far off future where flying cars and steam-powered monsters have taken over our everyday lives, it’s still going to leave a gap in our hearts that no amount of candy can fill. Well, thanks to the creators over at BOOM! Studio, not only are there no plans to end the comic run, but they have added a second Adventure Time series to the growing franchise. Titled Adventure Time Comics (not to be confused with the initial series Adventure Time that is currently on its 60th issue), the work features disconnected short stories focused on various characters in the series. Basically, it’s like those Short Grayble episodes of the show but in comic form. With its mini story accessibility, it’s the perfect comic for those who aren’t caught up on the longer Adventure Time run.
The so-called ‘Satanic Panic’ of the Eighties (with some fallout in the following decade) is a curious phenomenon – one born out of a collision of new media, psychiatry, pop-psychiatry and pop culture. It’s one of those things which could – and did – run and run, borne aloft by its ‘hidden’ status (how do you disprove a secret?) and of course its seductive promise of illicit sex, cult activity, crime and murder – all available for concerned parties to enjoy, whilst simultaneously fretting and disdaining it all, of course. Various theses and books on the subject have appeared piecemeal over the years, but never before has there been such an exhaustive examination of the phenomenon as offered by the recent FAB Press release Satanic Panic – a book which brings together a number of commentators and invites them to offer their expertise on the topic in their own particular styles and from their own perspectives.
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.
By Nia Edwards-Behi
Hong Kong martial arts films have always had an evident spiritual connection to the Western – similar narratives playing out in different settings and with different weapons: fists and feet instead of Colts and Winchesters. This connection is drawn to the surface to full effect in Benny Chan’s Call of Heroes, as a mis-matched group of local heroes stand-off to protect a town from the psychopathic son of a warlord. Horse-back hero shots, sunsets, and a Morricone-lite score are notable Western icons in this otherwise blisteringly-violent and not-so-subtly political film. Add a dash of Mifune and a hefty helping of Sammo Hung’s excellent action direction and Call of Heroes is a gift for genre-lovers.
Hello, Happy New Year, and welcome to our new project, Warped Perspective…
For those of you who have followed us over from our previous site, Brutal as Hell, then you may already see how and why we’ve chosen the new site name. Truth be told, it was co-founder and co-editor Ben Bussey who came up with it very early on in the process of finding a new name which we felt encapsulated what we already do (and what we’re planning to do here). On several occasions, over the many years that our team has now been writing together, we’ve jokingly said that Brutal as Hell should rightly be re-named ‘Contrary as Fuck’ – because it’s often felt as if we’re at odds with so many consensus opinions on genre film: not through deliberately being bloody-minded, but because first and foremost we’ve always approached our writing from our point of view as fans, not in anyone’s pay or employ, not trying to shower directors with hyperbole to get their attention and certainly not being motivated by the (for some) tantalising prospect of cover quotes or bogus thumbs-ups for diluted or downright dishonest opinions. Our perspective has always been very much our own; once Ben had come up with the now-current title, we felt it was a good fit. But there’s more to it than that…
1971 saw something of a cinematic seismic shift in Britain, with three films seeming to trouble the censors and moral guardians of Britain more than any others before. Arriving in quick succession were The Devils, A Clockwork Orange, and Straw Dogs, three films which seemed to pave the way for a landslide of taboo-breaking and controversy-baiting – hot on the heels of these three landmarks were the likes of The Exorcist and Emmanuelle. While The Devils somehow remains cut in this country, and A Clockwork Orange retains its infamous status despite being a widely-seen and praised film, it’s almost easy to forget that Straw Dogs was as controversial as it was when it first hit screens. Although it’s now a celebrated and canonical film, even remade by the Hollywood machine, on first release Straw Dogs almost brought the BBFC to its feet and proved one of the most controversial films in British cinema history.
Straw Dogs is Sam Peckinpah’s adaptation of Gordon Williams’ novel, The Siege of Trencher’s Farm. It stars Dustin Hoffman as mild-mannered American mathematician, David Sumner, who is spending research leave in Cornwall with his wife, Amy (Susan George), who hails from the area – escaping from the violent climate of America as well as getting away to work on his book. Once there, David very quickly finds himself at odds with the locals, in particular Charlie Venner (Del Henney), Amy’s former flame. As the blissful veneer of Amy and David’s relationship begins to crack, particularly after a violent assault on Amy, the tensions between David and the locals escalate. When David defends a local man accused of murder (David Warner), he must face off in a violent confrontation with Charlie and the other locals. Continue reading
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
I can’t say anything more eloquent than my colleague Ben already has regarding the imminent closure of our last little website, but I do want to point you in the direction of what’s left of our ‘best of’ Brutal as Hell magazines: for any of you who were meaning to buy one, but haven’t got around to it, then now’s your chance to support print media. I remain very, very proud of how the magazine looks and of what’s in it – the BAH team at its finest, offering reviews, interviews, special features and retrospectives – all in full colour.
And if that wasn’t enough, then please note that the price has now been reduced to our ‘festival price’ of just £2. You’d be mad not to, frankly.
A limited number are available now on our site store (or if there is any issue with the store, please fire us a line on Facebook and we can arrange a Paypal sale). There aren’t many left of these, but it would gratify me to get a few more sent out. Oh, and massive thanks to those of you who have already purchased and given positive feedback! Print certainly isn’t dead. Continue reading
Unless something else just sneaks under the wire over the next couple of weeks, it seems this could be my final Horror in Short feature for the current site. Huh. It feels like only yesterday that I decided it was high time we spent more time championing these often brilliant, inventive and grossly-underrated cinematic projects; and now here we are, years down the line, many films covered, and as usual, I was right. Happier still, today’s likely last short film – Remnants – is a stylish, well-paced offering which is clearly aware of its horror heritage, but has something pleasantly smart and knowing to say in a mere fifteen minutes. Take a look for yourselves, folks, before you read the review which follows…
Why do I think this works so well as a short film? Well, I was impressed by how director David Ugarte gives us an immediate sense of character via actors Terrance Roundtree and Hugh McCrau Jr; it’s achieved with a light touch, primarily thanks to natural dialogue (something lost on so many filmmakers). The early conversation between these two homicide detectives, who are en route to a crime scene, allows you to feel that these really are two men who know each other well, and also establishes that Ugarte feels confident enough to drop some humour into the mix in places too, both in what’s said and what’s shown (the final shot of the ‘demon’ against a backdrop of Instagram-worthy lines about love and happiness hanging on the wall definitely made me smile).
There’s also some nice technical prowess here. I liked the use of practical make-up FX, something which I know is a deal-maker-or-breaker for many genre fans but hey – it showcases a set of skills we might not get to enjoy otherwise, and it does make a difference to how a project comes across. Here, the film manages to switch between its initial realism and then scenes which deftly build dread and suspense – lots of the initial investigative work could make the audience feel as involved as our protagonists as we peer under furniture via the camera, just like they do. And then, maintaining a pace which works very well, extra tension builds as possible otherworldly influences steadily creep into the narrative – which they do without feeling tacked on… Continue reading