Fragile (2005)

FragileMercy Falls is an old hospital that’s about to get closed down, but due to a horrible train accident the main hospital, St. James’s, can’t take in any more patients. Thus, Mercy Falls will need to stay partly open for a while more, keeping some of their patients there and the children located in the children’s ward. One of these children is Maggie, a little girl suffering from cystic fibrosis. She is terrified of “Charlotte”, someone she claims to see. One of the new nurses, Amy Nicholls, bonds with Maggie as they have something in common: they’re both orphans. Maggie confides in Amy, telling her about this Charlotte character which Amy later finds out is some kind of urban legend at the hospital, where several children have claimed to see her over the past two decades. When Amy starts looking even further into the mystery about Charlotte, she discovers that all the other children who claimed to have seen Charlotte are deceased, and she fears that Maggie might be next.

 

Fragile (aka Frágiles) is a supernatural horror film from 2005, directed by Jaume Balagueró (who is most known for the two first REC movies). He came up with the idea for this film after seeing an old photo of a little girl suffering from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a horrible disease where bones are easily fractured, also known as “brittle bone disease”.

 

Fragile is going in a well trodden path, but the savoring points of the film is the atmosphere from the old, gloomy hospital where the Bearwood College in Berkshire, England, was used for the exterior shots. There’s certainly a fair amount of good old-fashioned gothic atmosphere, tinged with mystery. The story unfolds slowly, where you’re being introduced to the main character Amy Nicholls (Calista Flockhart), various nurses and the sick children in the hospital. Since the plot starts with knowing that the hospital is about to be completely abandoned, but having to postpone it for the children due to the full main hospital after the train accident, you get a feeling of the characters being in an even more isolated and threatening situation. And of course, there’s the abandoned floor where we know something terrible happened. It’s all a nice recipe for a solid, albeit not especially strong, ghost story. Its suspenseful, atmospheric, and quite decent.

 

The ghost here, though…well, she’s something that looks more like she came from a Hellraiser movie and wandered into the wrong set. While there are certainly a lot of horror movies where the ghosts appear a bit over-the-top malformed (like for example the Insidious franchise), she does feel a little bit misplaced here amongst the otherwise traditional gothic elements. Then again, this does make her first full appearance an unexpected surprise. The scenes when she is more obscured works a lot better though than the ones where we see her full on, but overall we don’t really get to see all that much of her.

 

There’s a scene where the children are watching an animated “Sleeping Beauty” film (nope, not the Disney one, as you might have guessed), and this animated film was actually created specifically for this movie. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be anywhere in its entirety, aside from in the clip from Fragile. This animated clip does have a certain significance to the movie’s sad but sugar-coated ending.

 

Overall, Fragile is a familiar-looking entry into the supernatural genre of vengeful spirits, mostly held up by its atmosphere and moody locations.

 

Fragile Fragile

 

Director: Jaume Balagueró
Writers: Jaume Balagueró, Jordi Galceran
Country & year: Spain, UK, 2005
Actors: Calista Flockhart, Richard Roxburgh, Elena Anaya, Gemma Jones, Yasmin Murphy, Colin McFarlane, Michael Pennington, Daniel Ortiz, Susie Trayling, Michael Gatward, Scarlet Carey, Cameron Antrobus
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0422272/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)Two young American ladies, Lindsey and Jenny, are visiting Germany. While driving through a forest they get a flat tire. And since they don’t know how to change a tire, they have to go on foot with their high heels through the forest while it’s raining to hopefully find some help. Luckily, they come across a house where the lights are on. They ring on the doorbell and out comes Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) who invites them in for a glass of water while he’s calling the car service.

 

You have a really lovely home. Do you live here with your wife?, asks one of the girls. No… I don’t like human beings, he answers in the most unironically way with his creepy German accent.

 

Okay, then. Thanks for the water, but now it’s time to leave. Oops, too late. Because Dr. Heiter has laced their water with some strong sedatives, and soon they’ll wake up in his lab basement, strained to their hospital beds. Because, you see, this doctor has a very special passion, and that is to make the world’s first human centipede. And according to the poster, this is done with 100% medical accuracy. So this is perfectly safe to try at home, kids.

 

The Human Centipede was, at the time, the most  brutalshockingsickeninggruesomegrossrevoltingdisturbingdisgusting (and add all buzz words possible) piece of horror film that has ever been made on planet Earth – and probably the most hyped and viral thing that only Megan is Missing (2011) could come close to. The buzz for this film was so colossal and huge that it managed to crawl its way into the mainstream pop-culture and was even mentioned as a parody game of Pac-Man in an episode of The Simpsons. There is also a porn parody titled The Human Sexipede. Anyway – people who haven’t even seen the film call it the most disturbing thing ever. But for most of us who have actually seen it, we can confirm that this is a prime example of how a morbid concept like this sounds so much more horrific on paper with a pretty brilliant poster design that is cryptic enough to toy with your darkest imagination.

 

Because this is not exactly the body horror you’d expect to see from directors like David Cronenberg, Brian Yuzna or the horror mangas of Hideshi Hino and Junji Ito. It’s not even close to being as gruesome and graphic as the title and the poster would trick you to believe. Yes, it’s supposed to look more realistic and grounded with the less is more approach, but still… It’s quite underwhelming, and nothing but comical to see the actors squeezing their noses between their ass-cheeks to make us believe that they’re Frankensteined together, as they’re moaning like they’re in some scat porn video. The only legit disgusting moment here is the snot hanging from the nose of the Asian guy, who got lucky enough to be the first link to the centipede experiment. I can’t imagine the actors being proud to be in this and have ever shown it to their moms and dads and their friends – Hey, look at this horror film I’m in where I’m eating ass and breathing farts. 

 

There are many unique ways to be totally humiliated on screen as an actor, but this has to take the shit cake – only until the far more fucked-up sequel The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) came and said hold my anus. And there’s no wonder why actresses who showed up to the casting sessions walked out in disgust after discovering what they were about to sign on to.

 

The Human Centipede was mostly filmed in a residential home in the Netherlands with primarily four actors and a small budget. The film could have been so much worse, but our villain, Dr. Heiter, makes sure to keep us entertained. He looks like an elderly meth-addicted Robert Pattinson with stage four cancer. A solid-looking mad-scientist villain, in other words, with an electric performance by the eccentric German actor Dieter Laser (1942-2020) which makes this film worth a watch alone. And speaking of meth… Dieter approached his role with method acting, didn’t mingle with either cast or crew between the takes, and pretty much kept to himself. According to Dieter, the white jacket he wore was by a real Nazi doctor from WW2. He took the role so seriously to a point where he started to feel some Nazi guilt, and got into a fight when he accidentally kicked the Asian guy. Welcome to showbiz. Tom Six views the film as a reflection on fascism and his fear of doctors and hospitals.

 

But at the end of the day, The Human Centipede is an unintentionally twisted, silly little comedy that got hyped out of proportions just because of its title alone, and it’s not to be taken seriously for even half a second. Our old friend Roger Ebert, on the other hand, hated the film so much that he gave it zero stars – which should be enough to pique your curiosity, if you ask me.

 

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

 

Writer and director: Tom Six
Country & year: Netherlands, 2009
Actors: Dieter Laser, Winter Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura, Andreas Leupold, Peter Blankenstein, Bernd Kostrau, Rene de Wit
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1467304/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

Creep (2004)

CreepKate is waiting for the train at Charing Cross Underground station. She falls asleep, and when she wakes up there’s nobody around and the place has been locked up for the night. Even if the entire place has been deserted and she’s the only one there, an empty train suddenly arrives. Not knowing what else to do, she boards it, hoping to get away from the place. Then, it stops and all the lights go out. Then she finds out that the place was not entirely abandoned after all, as she meets one of her coworkers who keeps following her around and eventually attempts to rape her. She is saved by someone unknown, who drags the guy out of the train, and when Kate sees a glimpse of him covered in blood, she starts running. Then Kate meets a homeless couple, Jimmy and Mandy. They also have a dog called Ray. After offering some payment, Jimmy reluctantly agrees to follow Kate to the night guard, but they will be hunted by someone else who is prowling the underground station, looking for victims…

 

Creep is a horror film from 2004, written and directed by Christopher Smith (who later directed Triangle (2009). Creep was his directorial debut, and there was also a game made called Creep: The Last Tube in 2005 which was used to promote the film. While the game went down nearly 14 years later, the developer helped making sure the game didn’t end up as lost media, and was uploaded to Archive.org.

 

Creep may at first appear to be similar to The Midnight Meat Train, but those are very different. In Creep, a lot of the movie relies heavily on portraying Kate’s feelings of being trapped and surrounded by danger all around. The movie doesn’t start off with lengthy character depictions or backstories, we simply see a young woman waiting for a train and nodding off, waking up in a place that appears to be deserted. Places that use to bustle with people where you’re used to seeing them filled with the regular everyday stress, will always seem slightly surreal and nightmarish when totally empty. Of course, Kate eventually finds that she is not entirely alone after all, there’s danger from all around and this is what makes all the twists and turns come somewhat unexpected. I say somewhat, since there is a short opening scene in the film which hints that there is indeed someone malicious in that underground station. And the actor playing this someone, this creep, is Sean Harris (who has the leading role in Possum from 2018) who is a method actor who didn’t socialize with anyone throughout the shoot. Also, none of them ever saw his makeup prior to shooting the scenes, a process which took seven hours each day. Whew! I also guess going into it so blindly must have been quite an experience for the other actors, and probably caused some genuine reactions.

 

While there are some grisly scenes and a little bit of gore here, some scenes are offscreen so there isn’t really enough to warrant a gore-badge. There’s a little bit of illogical nonsense here and there, but nevertheless Creep is an overall fun horror movie well worth a watch.

 

Creep

 

Writer and director: Christopher Smith
Country & year: United Kingdom, 2004
Actors: Franka Potente, Sean Harris, Vas Blackwood, Ken Campbell, Kathryn Gilfeather, Grant Ibbs, Joe Anderson, Jeremy Sheffield, Sean De Vrind, Ian Duncan
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0381966/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

The Midnight Meat TrainLeon is a photographer who is totally over the moon when the famous gallery owner Susan is willing to take a look at his work. This soon ends up as quite a blow to his ego, however, when she criticizes him for not being bold enough with his pictures. Despite being let down by this, he decides to take more risks when photographing the city, and goes on a search for the most gritty shots he can find. One night, he takes pictures of a group of men behaving threateningly towards a young woman, and ends up rescuing her as the guys just decide to beat it due to the security cameras nearby. Leon is satisfied with both his heroic deed and some possibly successful photographs he can use, but the next day he discovers that the woman he rescued went missing the same night. So, what to do? Well, the only responsible thing someone could do in a situation like this: he goes to the police and delivers the photographs he took from that night. The result is that he is practically just being scoffed at, which makes Leon even more intrigued. He starts his own investigation and discovers that there are numerous reports of people that have gone missing under similar circumstances. His investigation leads him to a butcher named Mahogany, and Leon suspects that this man is a serial killer that’s been killing subway passengers for many years.

 

The Midnight Meat Train is a horror film from 2008, based on a short story by Clive Barker by the same name. The story was written in 1984, and is included on the first volume of Books of Blood. The movie was directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, and while getting fairly positive reviews, it was only given a very limited theatrical release and ended up quickly on DVD. Barker was, naturally, quite angry with Lionsgate because of this. The movie certainly didn’t get the theatrical run it should’ve had, but nowadays it’s extensively available on both physical releases and several streaming sites.

 

As far as the comparisons go between the short story and the movie, the original story portrayed Leon as a bored loner in a city he used to idealize before moving there (and realizing what a shithole it actually is), while in the movie he’s got a girlfriend and a passion for photography. While I personally prefer the original story’s premise more than the movie’s, I understand how the change was necessary when implementing a bit of detective investigation. While you get a lot of things spoiled already in the opening scene, where you get to know that the title implies exactly what you’ll get, it still manages to offer enough suspense and feeling of mystery throughout. The gore is aplenty with some really visceral scenes on board the “meat train”, where guts, eyeballs and severed heads are flying around the screen like it was supposed to be a 3D production. A jolly good time indeed! The only slight disappointment for my part is the ending, which seemed rather underwhelming compared to the original story.

 

The Midnight Meat Train is a gritty and atmospheric horror film, well acted and with some very effective gore scenes (although the CGI effects are a little bit outdated in some parts, but overall decent enough). It stands well together with the other Clive Barker adaptions, like Lord of Illusions.

 

The Midnight Meat Train The Midnight Meat Train The Midnight Meat Train

 

Director: Ryûhei Kitamura
Writer: Jeff Buhler
Country & year: US, UK, 2008
Actors: Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields, Vinnie Jones, Roger Bart, Tony Curran, Barbara Eve Harris, Peter Jacobson, Stephanie Mace, Ted Raimi, Nori Satô, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0805570/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

Dead Snow (2009)

Dead SnowFirst off, here’s a drinking game: Take a great shot of karsk for each time Norway/Norwegian is mentioned in this review. Now – Just like Cold Prey, we have Dead Snow, which was also a big deal upon its release back in 2009. Because of this one, we now had our first Norwegian zombie movie to finally show off, with Nazis even. And a lot of red, blood-soaked snow while the Easter sun is shining bright. Another note for the Norwegian film history books. Dead Snow became a hit at the Sundance festival that kick-started the fruitful career of Tommy Wirkola, who’s since made several films in Hollywood – most notably the Christmas action/horror flick Violent Night (2022) with John Harbour in the main role.

 

Dead Snow opens appropriately enough with Edward Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King, as someone is getting chased in the mountain forest and killed by a group of, yes you guessed it, zombies. Zombies in Norway, you say? Huh, that was new. Thought they only had trolls, gnomes and brunost. Yes, but these aren’t Norwegian zombies, you see, so get ready for an upcoming history lesson. After this short and quick adrenaline-filled opening, we meet our group of body-counts/friends of four medical students who are on their way to a mountain cabin in Øksfjord, far up in the northern countryside to celebrate Easter, get drunk on beer and moonshine, party hard and the luckiest ones gets to fuck in the shithouse.

 

The party mode gets put on hold for a minute when our group of friends gets an unexpected visit from a hiker. And this guy has seen some dark shit, for sure, his face can tell. He gives them a history lesson of the notorious Nazi colonel Herzog, who with his death squad team occupied the area during WW2. They did gruesome things to the locals over a span of three years, and as our hiker says in his beautiful northern dialect:

Det hær va nånn onde SATANS jævla! Wich is best translated as: They were some EVIL motherfuckers!

 

To cut his story short: Herzog and co. stole a dose of valuables when the war was over and tried to escape over the mountains where they seemed to disappear. Legend says that they froze to death and there’s an evil lurking over the place that must not be awakened. Yeah, whatever. They only scoff at him and don’t think much of it afterward, because who in the right mind would. So, who wants another beer? It isn’t until they find some hidden old valuables and gold in the cabin crawlspace that the plot starts to thicken. Because, guess who also wants to claim that gold, other than the Leprechaun.

 

Nazi zombies aren’t something new, nor was it with Dead Snow. We can actually rewind all the way back to the 1940s and dig up the corpses of King of the Zombies and Revenge of the Zombies and the terrible cult-schlock from 1981 that is Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake, and more. But, of course, in a cold, winter-filled Norwegian setting, this was something we never thought we’d see on a big screen. Especially considering that a film like this would have been completely banned in a gnome country like this, or at least cut to pieces to the unrecognizable if it was made in the VHS era.

 

The effects are nice and juicy and the film goes full-out with the carnage and what they had in the gore-department. Eyes get poked out in Fulci-style, heads ripped in half, bodies ripped to shreds, people hanging from someone’s fresh ripped-out intestines from a cliff as they fight zombies, some general hack and slashing and its list of references. And of course, we have some glorious chainsaw action. Approx 400 liters of fake blood was used here. Not too shabby for being the first Norwegian zombie movie.

 

It’s all done with a dose of humor with a great group of actors in some very likable roles. My favorite is Bjørn Sundquist, one of the finest legacy actors we have in Norway. His screentime is short but none other than him would be able to tell the backstory of Herzog in such a serious deadpan manner like he did. However, some of the humor may not land as much on the non-Norwegian audience, especially the classic scene towards the end with the tunes and lyrics of Åge Alexandersen’s Min Dag.

 

It also shows that this is an early film of a newcomer. It’s of course a big step forward after Wirkola’s debut with Kill Buljo in technical terms. The pacing keeps a steady track, it’s overall fun and entertaining with a lot of energy and some great use of nature scenery. But still, there are some rough edges here. Some choppy and clunky editing choices prevent some of the death scenes to shine and breathe, and the ending gives the impression that the budget just said stop. If Tommy Wirkola already had the sequel in mind, I don’t know, but Dead Snow 2, which came five years later, surely makes this more of a warm-up, or a vorspiel, as we usually say in Norway before the big party. Så det e bare for dåkk kjære hæstkuka å håll sprit’n klar.

 

Dead Snow Dead Snow Dead Snow

 

Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writers: Tommy Wirkola, Stig Frode Henriksen
Original title: Død Snø
Country & year: Norway, 2009
Actors: Geir Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kasseth Røsten, Jeppe Beck Laursen, Jenny Skavlan, Ane Dahl Torp, Bjørn Sundquist, Ørjan Gamst
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1278340/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

My Little Eye (2002)

My Little EyeIn a remotely located house, five contestants have agreed to take part on a reality webcast, where they have to spend six months there without anyone leaving. If they manage to do it, they will win $1 million, but if just one of the contestants leaves, everyone loses. All seems fine and exciting, but of course, a lot of tension between the contestants starts to rise after a while. Since they cannot leave the house, they get packages of food, and one day one of these packages contains a letter claiming that one of the contestant’s grandfather has died. And that’s not all: it also includes a gun with five bullets, one for each contestants. One of them, Emma, finds strange messages from someone who might be a person from her past. All kinds of weird things start happening, but they believe it might all be orchestrated by the people running the show, in order to trick them into leaving and thus losing the prize money. None of them have any idea what’s actually going on…

 

My Little Eye is a British horror film from 2002, directed by Marc Evans, where the plot is of course inspired by the reality TV show Big Brother, and the title refers to the guessing game “I spy (with my little eye)”. Prior to its release it had a test screening of a four-hour version of the film, which was pretty disastrous and all distribution interest died immediately. Eventually, though, the film was cut into less than two hours of playtime, and ended up getting released in theaters. The director was worried that his directing career would go straight into the shitter if this movie flopped, as his previous two films hadn’t fared well. And even though the response to the movie was quite unenthusiastic, it became a surprise sleeper hit. Lucky for Marc!

 

While Big Brother is apparently still a thing even today, it was quite popular upon the show’s initial release in 1999 and the upcoming years. Thus, My Little Eye was released at a time where pretty much everyone could draw the parallels between the popular reality show and the plot here about the five contestants locked inside a house. The setup is interesting, and it’s offering a claustrophobic and mysterious atmosphere. The tension slowly builds, and while you know something’s wrong you keep wondering what’s actually going on. While never offering any actual scares, there are some pretty effective scenes here and there, especially some of the shots done in night vision which comes off as both creepy and unsettling. The pacing is a bit slow, where you get a lot of character building at first, but this enhances the effect when the mysterious incidents start happening.

 

Overall, My Little Eye is a solid low-budget thriller with a creepy atmosphere, and well worth checking out.

 

My Little Eye

 

Director: Marc Evans
Writers: David Hilton, James Watkins
Country & year: UK, US, France, Canada, 2002
Actors: Sean Cw Johnson, Kris Lemche, Stephen O’Reilly, Laura Regan, Jennifer Sky, Bradley Cooper
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0280969/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

My Little Eye – int trailer from PPC Film on Vimeo.

Summer of 84 (2018)

Summer of 84It’s the summer of 1984, where there are no mobile phones, no TikTok, and kids actually spend time together outside. What a time to be young! A fifteen year old, Davey Armstrong, works a paper route and spends time with his friends Dale, Curtis and Tommy. They live in Cape May, where a total of thirteen teenage boys have disappeared over the course of a decade. None of their disappearances have ever been connected, but after a local newspaper receives an anonymous letter from someone claiming to be their killer, or the Cape May Slayer, Davey starts suspecting his neighbor Wayne Mackey who is a popular police officer. His friends don’t put much value into his suspicions, though, as Davey is known for being easily drawn to all kinds of conspiracy theories and urban legends. Things change when a boy who Davey claims was inside Mackey’s house, ends up on a milk carton just a few days later. His friends agree to help him with the investigation of his suspicious neighbor, in the hopes of revealing him as the Cape May Slayer.

 

Summer of 84 is a horror film from 2018, directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissel. It was written by Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, to a fair amount of praise as many of the critics called it one of the best horror films of 2018. Since the main cast in the movie are teenagers and it’s set in the 80’s, some may think of the popular Netflix show Stranger Things, but they can’t really be compared. Summer of 84 is more like The Goonies turned into a mystery thriller, and while you’ll definitely get your fair share of the 80’s with the fitting soundtrack and certain elements from that era, this movie ventures into a much darker road.

 

As we follow Davey and his friends, we watch them do regular stuff like meeting in their tree house, watch dirty magazines, talk about who is the hottest girls in the neighborhood, and so on. Just normal teenage-boy stuff. When their attention is shifted onto a possible serial killer next door, we still have a bit of that whimsical Goonies-vibe. You’re not really sure what to expect, which makes it quite suspenseful. It also has quite a few little easter eggs: one of the missing boy posters displays one of John Wayne Gacy’s victims, and when the boys are in the clubhouse Tommy drinks from a bottle of MacReady’s Whiskey, which is a nod to The Thing (1982). While the first part of the movie builds up rather innocently when the kids are trying to figure out if Mackey really is a serial killer, offering both suspense and a few lighthearted chuckles here and there, it pretty much makes a 180 during the final act.

 

Summer of 84 is not your typical serial killer film, but offers something quite suspenseful and enjoyable. While some people really hated the ending of the movie, to the point where some said it literally ruined the entire movie for them, I personally found the choice for a dark and somewhat edgy ending to ground the movie into even more horror themed realism, and I’m glad they had the balls to do it this way.

 

Summer of 84

 

Directors: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Writers: Matt Leslie, Stephen J. Smith
Country & year: Canada, 2018
Actors: Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Tiera Skovbye, Rich Sommer, Jason Gray-Stanford, Shauna Johannesen, William MacDonald, Harrison Houde
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5774450/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

Cold Prey (2006)

Triangle Herre hær kjæm te å gjør littegrainnj vondt. E du klar? Æ tælle te tre.

 

And no, it wasn’t my keyboard that just had a stroke. It’s the Norwegian for This will hurt a little. Are you ready? I’m counting to three. Also in the dialect of trøndersk, just to mention.

 

The year was 2006, on Friday the 13th of October when we got our very first Norwegian slasher, titled Fritt Vilt (with the international title Cold Prey). Yay! So this wasn’t just any slasher you see, it was a cultural event that would have its new chapter in Norwegian film history. Yes I know, it’s quite strange that the country that had the biggest export of black metal, church burnings and Satan didn’t have any horror films to showcase until after the millennium. What held us back while the wave of New French Extremity was already near its peak, is a good question.

 

We, of course, had Villmark (Dark Woods) from 2003, which leans more into the thriller section, and from there on we have to rewind way, waaaay back to the year 1958 (!) with De Dødes Tjern (Lake of the Dead), which has not aged particularly well. What was left was decades of a pretty stiff, wooden and a ridiculously conservative film industry which had not much to offer other than sloggish, forgettable and painfully dry obscure drama films made for god knows who. Yawn. There were some very few exceptions much thanks to Ivo Caprino (RIP). So aside from that, a film like Cold Prey was a big fresh air in my tiny gnome country. A game changer and a complete shift on how films in Norway would be made from here on, which also included other genres.

 

With the success and the cultural impact of Cold Prey, it also opened the door to several young genre filmmakers to show their muscles, most notably Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) and André Øvredal (Troll Hunter). Roar Uthaug, along with the two mentioned, would also eventually work in Hollywood with various outcomes. But it’s also valid to say that we have our fair share of terrible, shitty horror movies and the last ten years hasn’t been much to be excited about. So I’m not being a blind patriot waving my flag here. There’s also several Norwegian horror movies that seem to be impossible to find anywhere due to lack of release and distribution, so for all I know there could be a hidden gem somewhere. The only titles I’ve seen which are worth watching from recently are Project Z and The Innocents, both from 2021. And soon Norway will give birth to its first sea monster flick called Kraken, which will start filming in the Norwegian coast later this year. So we’ll see how that one turns out.

 

Cold Prey follows a group of youngsters who are going snowboarding in the mountains of Jotunheimen. The sky is blue, the air is crisp with even some sprinkles of love, and life is good… until one of the poor bastards fall and breaks his ankle. Luckily, they find an abandoned hotel nearby where they take shelter. And nothing bad happens here. After spending the night, they get met by a rescue team and The End. I’m joking, of course. You know that they’re in deep shit when one of the in-love couple checks into one of the rooms that have the numbers 2 3 7. Redrum!

 

It’s not the biggest surprise that they’re not alone in the hotel. How boring would that be. We already learn in the opening sequence that the place has a dark history where a kid once disappeared under some questionable circumstances. Our group of friends also learn that a mysterious person called the Mountain Man lives like a hermit somewhere in the dark corners of the hotel, and kills anyone who has the nerve to trespass.

 

If the premise sounds familiar, you’re not wrong. On paper, Cold Prey is as formulaic as it can be, which basically follows the same footsteps of the most generic slasher films you’ve seen hundreds of already. There’s nothing much new on the surface here, nor was it back in 2006, and the film’s biggest sin is that it’s pretty tame with lackluster kills. The brutality from the early films of Alexandre Aja and other extreme Frenchmen are worlds apart, just to make that clear. Us slow Norwegians still have a lot to learn in the splatter and gore department, unfortunately.

 

And I almost forgot to mention that there’s no cringe sex scene here, so kudos for at least breaking that cliché.

 

That being said, there’s more to enjoy here. The setting itself gives the movie an eerie, grim vibe and the acting is solid. Ingrid Bolsø Berdal stands out as the heroine who can also handle a shotgun. The story is intriguing enough with a pacing that keeps the entertaining value on track. The film also looks fabulous, where the bleak coldness really spices up the claustrophobic tension and atmosphere. Cold Prey was filmed at Leirvassbu, a tourist cabin in Jotunheimen where the actors lived during the filming. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the isolated and stone-cold surroundings messed a little with their heads.

 

So overall, despite not being more ballsy with the violence, Cold Prey is an entertaining watch with some unique scenery, great suspense and a fine addition to winter horror. Still, I must be honest enough to say that it would work more as a horror film for beginners. This is also the directorial debut of Roar Uthaug, who in 2018 made Tomb Raider. If you want more of the primitive Norwegian landscape, check out Escape (2012), also directed by Uthaug.

 

The film got two sequels: Cold Prey II, which is more of a Halloween II (1981) ripoff, and I don’t remember much of Cold Prey III other than it was a prequel. The first two is on DVD from Anchor Bay and Shout Factory. Kos dåkk!

 

Cold Prey

 

Director: Roar Uthaug
Writers: Thomas Moldestad, Martin Sundland, Roar Uthaug
Original title: Fritt Vilt
Country & year: Norway, 2006
Actors: Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Rolf Kristian Larsen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Endre Martin Midtstigen, Viktoria Winge, Rune Melby, Erik Skjeggedal, Tonie Lunde, Hallvard Holmen
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0808276/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

Triangle (2009)

TriangleJess is preparing to take her autistic son Tommy on a boat trip with her friend Greg, and while getting both her and her son ready the doorbell suddenly rings. No one is on the other side. Later, Jess drives to Florida and meets up with Greg at the harbor. She arrives without Tommy, and explains that he is at his special needs school. They board the boat, together with Greg’s friends Sally, Downey and Heather. Soon afterwards, a storm is approaching and Greg picks up a distress signal from a woman pleading for help. She says she’s in danger as someone is killing off the crew members on the boat she’s on, but before this woman can complete the conversation Greg’s boat capsizes. The survivors then boards a passing ocean liner, which appears to be deserted, but they saw the silhouette of someone apparently ignoring their pleas for help when wanting to board the ship. Jess gets an uncomfortable feeling of déja vu when exploring the ship, and after discovering her own keys near a display case for the ship, which is named Aeolus, a lot of strange things start happening. Jess finds that she is stuck in a time-loop that keeps repeating itself, and she must try to figure out a way to break it.

 

Triangle is a psychological horror film from 2009, written and directed by Christopher Smith whose directorial debut was Creep (2004). The film is partly based on the story of Sisyphus, a Greek mythological figure cursed to repeatedly push a boulder up a hill without ever reaching the top. He was also inspired by Dead of Night (1945) and Memento (2000). The movie was filmed on sets and location in Queensland, Australia. It received favorable reviews upon its release, both from critics and audience, but still grossed only $1.3-1.6 million worldwide on a budget of $12 million. Ouch. But it also didn’t have a theatrical release in the US.

 

While Groundhog-day horror movies where time-loops keep the protagonists struggling with figuring out how to break them is nothing new, and some of them take on a more lighthearted variant like for example Happy Death Day. This movie on the other hand keeps everything considerably more dark and mysterious. Triangle is like a puzzle of pieces which start fitting together one by one, and small details which previously might have seemed insignificant proves to tie things together. What makes the movie even more effective is how the protagonist, Jess, keeps trying literally everything in order to break the loop, and while both she and the viewers think “aha, now she’s on to something!” we suddenly see that she’s already tried that exact same thing dozens of times in earlier loops. There is very little predictability here, and keeps you guessing throughout, making it a very entertaining watch.

 

On the whole, Triangle is a fun and thrilling time-loop horror movie, and despite having a conclusion that some might find a bit inadequate, it still ends up as a satisfactory ride.

 

Triangle

 

Writer and director: Christopher Smith
Country & year: UK, Australia, 2009
Actors: Melissa George, Joshua McIvor, Jack Taylor, Michael Dorman, Henry Nixon, Rachael Carpani, Emma Lung, Liam Hemsworth, Bryan Probets
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1187064/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

Tokyo Gore Police (2008)

Tokyo Gore PoliceNow, time for some J-splatter horror insanity to make your hair wet n’ sticky. Director Yoshihiro Nishimura had primarily worked as special makeup effects supervisor on numerous films since the early 1980s. After working on The Machine Girl, he was asked if he wanted to direct his first full-length feature for the American distributor Media Blasters. The result was a remake of his earlier student film Anatomia Extinction from 1995. Like most people in the Asian movie business, he worked fast and furiously and completed the film in only two weeks, and with some pretty amusing results.

 

We’re in a futuristic dystopian Tokyo where the police force has been privatized, and the city is now an out-of-control violent gore-zone. Tokyo is also being threatened by a scientist under the name “The Key Man” who, with a key-shaped virus, injects people around the city and turn them into mutants called “Engineers”. It’s even worse than it sounds and there seems to be an army of them that spreads like banana flies. So, who’s here to save the day? Say hello to Ruka (Eihi Shiina), the most skilled, cold-blooded and dangerous of the special police squad of “Engineer Hunters” who slices her targets in half with her blade like it was just a regular day. The actress behind Ruka is the same shy and quiet lady we saw in Takashi Miike’s Audition. Yes, that lady. She’s also deeply traumatized after witnessing her father, who worked as a police officer, getting his head blown to pieces like a big watermelon by an unknown assassin. The motive? Who knows. She deals with the pain by some self-mutilation while she’s obsessed about one day catching the one who killed her father.

 

And good luck with that. We get invited on a crazy, red-soaked journey where blood pours endlessly out of wounds like garden hoses, an effect that gets pretty old after a while as it gets overused to death. The use of blood was so messy and all over the place that the cameras had to be covered in plastic. So in that regard, the film surely lives up to the title.

 

It also has to be pointed out that Tokyo Gore Police is not to be taken one bit seriously. The film has a zany manga vibe in the same style as Meatball Machine and The Machine Girl, where we have silly fight scenes filled with video game logic and some other, bizarre, mind-bending WTF moments. There are many highlights and unique scenes here that include a cute mutant girl whose half body is formed like a hybrid of a snail and the mouth of a crocodile that chews some poor guys’ dick off. We also have a mutant guy with a big elephant trunk as a penis which he uses as a machine gun. A chair urinates on a crowd in a fetish club. Yes, really. And there’s much more. Also watch out for a minigun that shoots fist knuckles. To amp up the madness all up to eleven, the film is sprinkled with some spicy satire aimed at Japan’s extreme trend of suicides. The most notable is the cute, colorful billboard commercials around the city where pre-teen girls in school uniforms joyfully promotes the new hot thing on the market The wrist cutter. Kawaii! Only in Japan, as we say.

 

And of course, the big question is: Is this the goriest film ever made? No, but it’s certainly on the top ten list. Tokyo Gore Police is overall a fun watch, but drags somewhere in the middle. It’s wild and experimental, which mostly works best as a creative showcase of old school special effects.

 

Yoshihiro Nishimura was planning a sequel at some time, but that doesn’t seem to happen. Anyway, he’s had a pretty fruitful career as director since TGP and made films such as Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl and Helldriver, which also seems worth checking out.

 

Tokyo Gore Police Tokyo Gore Police Tokyo Gore Police

 

 

Director: Yoshihiro Nishimura
Writers: Kengo Kaji, Maki Mizui, Yoshihiro Nishimura
Original title: Tôkyô zankoku keisatsu
Country & year: Japan, 2008
Actors: Eihi Shiina, Itsuji Itao, Yukihide Benny, Jiji Bû, Ikuko Sawada, Cay Izumi, Mame Yamada, Ayano Yamamoto, Akane Akanezawa, Tsugumi Nagasawa
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1183732/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

Tokyo Gore Police Trailer from Derek Lieu on Vimeo.