It’s a foggy night in London, where the prostitute Sally is on her way home from Cabaret Pike’s Hole. After some walking through narrow, dark alleys, she stumbles right into the hands of Jack the Ripper (Klaus Kinski) who rips her clothes off and kills her (off screen). He then carries her home over his shoulders like a dead deer, and brings her to his psychotic and slightly retarded wife Flora, who looks at the bodies he brings home with him as dolls, or whatever. The next day, Dr. Jack and Flora are rowing out into the Thames River (here filmed in the Schanzengraben Canal in Zürich) to dump the body. Jack, who is working as a doctor, is then going to work as usual to take care of today’s patients, and perhaps snatch a new victim. At the same time Scotland Yard, led by Inspector Miller, is on the case.
Written and directed by the Spanish Jess Franco who was most famous (or rather more infamous) for his uncompromising and sleazy low budget exploitation- reels, often filled with tits, hairy pussies and pretty much the normal stuff that either cinema or TV in Spain usually refused to show. It never slowed down his creativity however, and made his films so quick and simple that he could pull out ten films in one year. Well, take that, Takashi Miike. A hardcore workaholic who obviously nearly worked himself to death, until he was hit by a deadly stroke in 2013. The 82-year-old left behind a track record of over 200 films. So it was pretty evident that I had to check out some of his work sooner or later.
The first impression here is not bad, the production value is up there with some great atmosphere. The rest, however, is nothing much to be impressed by. It clearly has nothing to do with Jack the Ripper whatsoever and the mystery/mythology, so God knows what this movie really was supposed to be. The acting goes from wooden, bad to so-bad-it’s-funny, and was originally performed by German actors. It later got rather sloppily dubbed in post-production, in German, Spanish and English. The gore effects, which is a minimal aspect here, is nothing but a joke, and this is supposed to be the uncut version. Sorry, but I’m still not impressed. There’s one scene where Jack chops off one of the victims titties in which the effect looks like a burger with red paint on it. Uhm.. okay. That really sucked. Someone give Tom Savini a call, please.
And when it comes to the ending.. it’s actually so lame, anticlimactic and lazy that not even an ending credit or a simple “The End” is shown. It just ends. Which is good. I’m glad it at least ended..
Director: Jess Franco Country & year: Switzerland | West Germany | Spain, 1976 Actors: Klaus Kinski, Josephine Chaplin, Andreas Mannkopff, Herbert Fux, Lina Romay, Hans Gaugler, Nikola Weisse IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074408/
Jenn lives in an underground bunker, protected from the monsters that now ravage the world. This is the day that she goes outside…
“Monsters” by Steve Desmond is an atmospheric and tense horror/thriller short, that isn’t what you probably think it will be…
Director: Steve Desmond Country & year: USA, 2015 Actors: Caitlin Carmichael, Ione Skye, Christopher Wiehl, Joey Luthman, Eva-Marie Fredric, Paul Hickman, Brooklyn Robinson, Benjamin Waters IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4433106/
A sister (Becky) and brother (Cal) is driving close by a vast field area of tall grass in the middle of Kansas. She is pregnant, and they stop by a deserted church because she’s gotten a bit carsick. There, they hear a young boy’s cry for help from the tall grass, claiming he’s lost and cannot find his way out. They both go in there to save him, but ends up finding themselves lost as well. Something is not right about that vast field of tall grass…and something evil is lurking within.
“In The Tall Grass” is based on a novella by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill. A father & son collaboration, in other words. The director is Vincenzo Natali (director of “Cube” from 1997, “Splice” from 2009, and among many other things he’s also been directing some of the episodes in the “Locke & Key” TV Series). This movie is available on Netflix, and was released on October 4th. This makes it the third Stephen King original on Netflix (the other two includes “1922” and “Gerald’s Game”).
The film starts off pretty interesting. and for those familiar with more of Stephen King’s work, “Children of The Corn” is easily coming to mind. This story has nothing to do with that, however, and instead throws the characters into a never-ending green maze. There they meet the boy and his parents (the father played by Patrick Wilson), and they all find themselves stuck in a Groundhog Day-like time-loop, in an ever expanding maze of tall grass.
There’s no denying that the first part of the movie is the best, and there’s especially one scene in particular that comes to mind when the movie is building the atmosphere and tension: where Becky and Cal tries jumping in the tall grass to see each other’s arms reaching above it, in order to try locating each other. Upon their second jump, just a few seconds later, they see the distance between them has grown considerably…despite none of them having moved an inch. This tells us early on that there’s something totally wrong with the maze of tall grass, and that there’s no easy way out of there.
“In The Tall Grass” is pretty far from a flawless movie, where there’s very little of an actual plot which makes it feel a bit shallow. There isn’t much of an explanation either…there’s some hints as to what the area is, but nothing properly explained or delved into. The area around the church is filled with other cars, giving us a hint that a lot of people have gone missing there for quite a while…but not much of anything is really revealed. It’s prone to confuse you more than scare you…and it’s definitely not a movie for everyone. That being said, it is still entertaining, atmospheric and visually strong. Hopefully it won’t be the last Netflix original featuring Stephen King / Joe Hill based movies.
Director: Vincenzo Natali Country & year: Canada, 2019 Actors: Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted, Patrick Wilson, Will Buie Jr., Harrison Gilbertson, Tiffany Helm, Rachel Wilson IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4687108/
A young witch named Emelin and her friend Gloria perform an ancient ritual to summon a demon.
“Goat Witch” is an occult horror short with a fair amount of nudity, and even a bit of blood ‘n gore and a fitting score. The director, James Sizemore, previously made an indie-horror movie called “The Demon’s Rook” (2013), with himself in the leading role.
Director: James Sizemore Country & year: USA, 2014 Actors: Ashleigh Jo Sizemore, Maia Costello, Kevin Galbraith, Josh Gould, Athena Sanchez, Akom Tidwell IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3916828/
Dana is going out for a run, but what should have been a normal morning ends with disaster when she is hit by a car and winds up confined to a hospital bed. Bruised and broken, with a breathing tube down her neck, no ability to speak (she must use a “speak and spell” device in order to communicate), and no ability to move, she’s totally helpless. And then, when things couldn’t possibly get any worse, what appears to be a malevolent spirit starts haunting her hospital room, and tries to kill her. When everyone believes she’s just having a mental breakdown, Dana struggles to find out who the spirit is, and why it is haunting her.
“Nails” is a supernatural horror flick starring Shauna Macdonald (known for “The Descent”). She is doing a solid performance as the broken and bed-ridden patient, and the concept is not bad. The hospital is creepy and atmospheric, and the idea of a spirit residing there is a good mix of ingredients to make a decent supernatural horror film. And it starts off rather well, building up tension and atmosphere as we see Dana struggle in her hospital bed, limited and vulnerable. When she starts experiencing the spirit’s malevolence, no one believes her (of course), and in the totally helpless situation she’s in we’re curious how it will all unfold. The movie also decides to try spicing up the tension a bit more with throwing some marital problems at Dana when she’s already struggling enough as it is.
Unfortunately, the movie fails a bit when it comes to be most important aspect of a horror movie featuring a ghost, and that is the ghost itself (“Nails”). While the idea behind him and his actions are quite good, we’re seeing way too much of him for him to actually be scary. There’s close-ups galore of his zombie-like face, and in the end he feels more like a generic enemy in a horror game. Which is really sad, because this character did indeed have a lot of potential to be quite creepy if he had just been left a lot more in the shadows.
The pacing stumbles a bit once we’ve established that Dana is, indeed, haunted by a spirit and that “Nails” is not just a result of her distressed mind. Thus, you may find yourself getting a bit impatient during the rest of the movie. Overall, “Nails” has a lot of potential that it unfortunately doesn’t manage to utilize, but it still delivers a certain amount of suspense and creepy atmosphere.
Director: Dennis Bartok Country & year: Ireland, 2017 Actors: Shauna Macdonald, Steve Wall, Leah McNamara, Ross Noble, Richard Foster-King, Robert O’Mahoney, Charlotte Bradley, Muireann D’Arcy, Veronica O’Reilly, Conor Scott, Trish Groves, Eileen Doyle IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4695098/
Charlie (Chad Lowe) and his girlfriend Rachel (Kristy Swanson) is on their way to Las Vegas to get married. On the road they take a detour and stop by a gas station, where the owner Sam warns them about two Joshua trees and not driving while falling asleep… eh, okay, thanks for the warning. Bye. While they drive past one of the aforementioned Joshua trees, they’re pulled over by a police car. Little do they know that they’ll encounter the notorious Sgt. Bedlam Hellcop: a scarred big dude with some obscure biblical text inscribed on his face, who kidnaps young virgins to take them to Hell and hands them over to Satan.
After Charlie’s girlfriend is taken to Hell, our old gasoline man Sam tells Charlie that a group of virgins have been kidnapped by The Sergeant aka Hellcop, one of them whom he was planning to marry himself. Since then he settled down by the road with his “Sam’s Last Chance Gas Station”, in order to dedicate the rest of his life to warn others. At least those who’d be crazy enough to believe him. Sam gives Charlie a shotgun and his old vintage car, that has a magical abitily to enter the portals of Hell. However, if he’s not back in 24 hours he’ll be stuck in Hell forever. Best of luck.
“Highway to Hell” is a small, obscure film written by Brian Helgeland who’s known for “The Postman”, “L.A. Confidential” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master”. A prominent screenwriter who is one of the most successful in Hollywood who still keeps going today. This movie had a distribution deal with Hemdale Films, which had titles as “The Terminator”, “Platoon” and “Return of the Living Dead” in its catalogue. The newcomer Ate De Young from Netherlands is directing his first American film, and wanted the film to look as American as possible. The funny thing is, for some reason I always assumed that Highway to Hell was filmed in the Australian deserts since there’s Mad Max-vibes are all over the place. And mixed with some quirky underworld-fantasy elements that could be taken straight out from Beetlejuice, the film has an imaginative and slightly surreal universe with a lot of funny moments and great ideas.
I especially like the concept with all of the corrupt police officers who have to spend all their eternity in a small, dusty doughnut diner, where none of them are ever allowed to have any coffee or doughnut, while the sassy waitress is laughing in their face. There’s also a bunch of cameos popping up, and the whole Stiller-family can be seen here. A young an unknown Ben Stiller plays a wacky cook, Amy Stiller as Cleopatra and their parents Frank Stiller and Anne Meara also says hello. How cute. Gilbert Gottfried also shows up as a dementia-suffering and not-so-convincing Adolf Hitler, and the ex-guitarist from The Runaways, Lita Ford, as a hitchhiker.
The most interesting character of all is Sergeant Bedlam Hellcop played by C.J. Graham who developed a claustrophobia during the filming that became so severe that he couldn’t be in his make-up for more than two hours. I wish there was some more backstory on him, though, and it would have been interesting to see him in a spin off-film (“Hellcop vs. Maniac Cop” could have been cool). However, Highway to Hell isn’t as awesome as I remembered it from watching it repeatedly on VHS in the 90s. The ending is pretty anticlimactic and dull, which gives an impression of studio interference going on. Still, it’s a fun, lighthearted and entertaining ride for the whole family to enjoy.
HorrorNews.Net called it “one of the greatest campy horror films to never arrive on DVD”, and was so hard to find at one point that the director had to do the shameful act and torrent it just to get a copy himself. Hemdale Company was also on the verge of bankruptcy during the making of this film, which caused it to collect dust on the shelf for one year until it finally got screened in only eight cinemas, and flopped spectacularly. Ouch. It later found a bigger audience at Home Video and became a cult film over the years. Ate De Jong made his second and last American movie with the comedy “Drop Dead Fred” before he dropped back to Europe to continue his directing career. In 2016, Highway to Hell was finally released on DVD and Blu-ray, with a director-commentary track.
Director: Ate De Jong Country & year: USA, 1991 Actors: Patrick Bergin, Adam Storke, Chad Lowe, Kristy Swanson, Pamela Gidley, Jarrett Lennon, C.J. Graham, Richard Farnsworth, Lita Ford, Gilbert Gottfried, Anne Meara, Rags, Amy Stiller, Ben Stiller, Jerry Stiller IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104418/
A man locked in a room faces inter-dimensional terror.
“Thresher” is a short that offers a little bit of inter-dimensional horror, where a man is locked inside a Victorian-styled room while trying to figure out a way to escape. Guillermo del Toro was the set designer for this short, and it was shot for the Guillermo del Toro & Legendary pictures “House of Horrors” competition.
It’s now been 27 years since “The Losers Club” had their first and terrifying encounter with the child-eating entity Pennywise. They have all moved on with their lives, and away from Derry and its awful memories. With the exception of Mike, the only one of them who stayed behind. When Mike starts noticing the tell-tale signs of their enemy being back again from its hibernation, he gives his old friends a phone call. They made a promise 27 years ago…that when It returned, they would get back together and end it once and for all.
This is the second and final chapter of “IT”, where our protagonists have become adults and need to face their worst fear one final time. They travel back to Derry, but their memories are somewhat blurred. Mike is the only one that clearly remembers everything (hinting that once you move away from Derry, so will It’s hold on you weaken). The story travels a little back and forth, with scenes of the gang as their younger selves, but mainly as the adults they’ve become who must face the terrors of Pennywise and figure out a way to beat It.
Bill Skarsgård is clowning around like never before, and keeps his performance top-notch. Just like the first chapter, scares are still packed in with a bit of a chuckle, and the part where Beverly is visiting her father’s old apartment to find an old lady residing there instead, builds up in such a fantastic and creepy way. There is also an excellent head-spider scene, where Richie exclaims “You’ve got to be fucking kidding“, referencing John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. In the original mini-series, there’s a scene where “The Losers Club” sees It as a giant arachnid creature, which was also partly revealed in one of Pennywise’s forms in the first chapter. I don’t suppose it’s much of a spoiler then to say that there will be an arachnid version in this movie as well, but at least more clownish than the original!
Some things from the book have been completely stripped away, or made insignificant to the story. Like Bev’s violent husband, who in the book becomes It’s puppet. And the affair between Bill and Bev, which doesn’t evolve at all in the movie. But even though the movie has a run-time of almost 3 hours, there would still be limitations as to what they could include while still being able to finish the story, so leaving out certain things is not only a smart decision, but a required one.
Since there were 2 years between the first chapter and this one, some of the child actors had actually grown so much that they had to be digitally de-aged in order to shoot the flashback scenes in this chapter. They also did an excellent job on casting the adult versions of the characters, as they truly do resemble the looks of the child actors. There’s also a lot of “easter eggs” in this movie (as well as in the first). The clowns in the funhouse scene for example, has the looks and resemblance of how Pennywise looked in the first movie adaption, the mini-series from 1990. Stephen King himself also has a small role as the antique owner shop, who is selling Bill’s old bike Silver back to him. Prior to this, Stephen King hasn’t had a cameo since 1996 (in “Thinner”). Even the director, Andy Muschietti, can be seen in the scene where Eddie visits the pharmacy.
Chapter two of “IT” is a solid conclusion to the story, and makes the two chapters a truly entertaining experience. Whether or not this will be Bill Skarsgård’s last performance as the menacing clown remains to be seen, as Bill himself has stated that he would be interested in playing Pennywise again in a potential prequel to King’s book. No matter what will eventually become of that idea, at least we’ve gotten yet another solid adaption of the book itself.
Director: Andy Muschietti Country & year: USA | Canada, 2019 Actors: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7349950/