The Asphyx (1973)

We meet Sir Hugo Cunningham who is an amateur scientist, and the time period is the end of the 1800s. He’s taking photographs of the dead, and have an interest in supernatural phenomena. Through photographing the dead with his newly invented camera instrument, he discovers strange spots on the photographs, that he later thinks could be an Apshyx: a ghostly entity that supposedly shows itself right at the moment when a person is about to die. Through several more experiments while having his macabre photo shoots with the recently deceased, he also gets to witness and film an execution through hanging. Through this it is revealed to him that the Asphyx can be captured by the light rays that emits from his camera invention, and when a person’s Asphyx is captured, this person becomes literally immortal and unable to die. His first test is done on a guinea pig, and when he discovers that it works, the temptation of achieving eternal life becomes too great and he decides to capture both his own and his family’s Asphyxes. But will this really lead to the bliss of immortality, or will there be dire consequences?

 

The Asphyx is an old-fashioned horror movie that can be considered to be on par with many of the Hammer horror movies, with its gothic atmosphere and scenery which is making the film a visual treat. However, similarly to the classic Hammer films there’s an abundance of dialogue and a rather scarce amount of any action. The strength lies in the movie’s rather interesting and quirky concept, together with the gothic visuals and convincing Victorian cinematography (done by Freddie Young) so if you’re familiar with this type of movie setting and can appreciate it for its attractive production design and its Poe-style gothic tale of death, loss and grief, mixed with scientific curiosity which eventually leads to obsession, then you’re in for a treat. It’s yet another tale of an upper-class scientist coming upon a discovery that offers a chance for him to play God…and of course, the decision to do so comes with dire consequences.

 

The special effects of the Asphyx itself and how they try to trap it, really reminds me of something that could have belonged in a Ghostbusters movie, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s lightly spooky rather than creepy or frightening, and the movie even comes off as slightly silly at times. Also, the pacing might be a tad bit too slow for a modern audience…but if you like classic gothic horror films, this Hammer-esque film is definitely worth a watch.

 

The Asphyx

 

Director: Peter Newbrook
Writers: Christina Beers, Laurence Beers, Brian Comport
Country & year: UK, 1973
Actors:Robert Stephens, Robert Powell, Jane Lapotaire, Alex Scott, Ralph Arliss, Fiona Walker, Terry Scully, John Lawrence, David Grey, Tony Caunter, Paul Bacon
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0069738/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Prayer (2013)

A team of investigators, consisting of Deacon (a religious brother who is some i kind of skeptic – however that makes sense) Gray (an englishman who is both a layman and a technology expert) and Father Mark (who is, of course, sent by the Vatican to team up with these guys in order to investigate reports of supernatural activity in an old thirteenth century church. The guys arrive at the old church, where they set up their recording equipment and stuff, Ghost Adventures-style. The local priest believes that the things happening inside the church is a miracle, until he later starts questioning what is happening as being something completely different – and leaps to his death from the bell tower. After this, the inhabitants in the village become hostile towards the investigators…

 

Final Prayer, also known as The Borderlands, is a found-footage horror movie from 2013, directed by Elliot Goldner. While it may look like a very standard supernatural found footage flick, it twists around to something that is more akin to cosmic horror with some obvious lovecraftian vibes. An old decrepit church situated on top of a hill, a village with hostile and weird inhabitants…yeah, if you’ve ever read some of Lovecraft’s works like “Shadow over Innsmouth” and “Rats in the Walls“, you’ll easily spot the resemblances here.

 

The movie starts a little slow, where the characters (who differs greatly in personalities) try to get along while conducting their investigations. While many found footage horror movies have their characters portrayed with bland or shallow personalities, Final Prayer spends some time with its character development. And that is not a bad thing. It’s overall spooky and creepy enough, with an atmospheric setting and a gradual build-up of suspense. It’s treading customary paths for a while where you easily find yourself thinking this is a run-of-the-mill ghost/demon film…but as strange things keep happening you realize that this is not exactly what you expected. And so do the characters…

 

Now, what makes this movie stand out a bit from other fount-footage horror movies, is the rather unexpected WTF ending, which does come as a bit of surprise despite that you’ve been getting more than a few hints and reveals as the story progresses which tells us that this is no ordinary “haunting”. There are some scenes during the ending that are shot in some really narrow caves, which actually shows some real fear in the actor’s expressions, as they suffered from those claustrophobic confines. I’m not going to spoil any more, but it was definitely unexpected and kind of weird.

 

Overall, Final Prayer aka The Borderlands (with the working title “The Devil Lies Beneath“, which is, perhaps, the most fitting title of all) may appear at first glance to be one of those found footage movies that offers nothing more than the usual and over-used tropes…but this does change, and makes this British horror movie well worth a watch.

 

Final Prayer

 

Writer and director: Elliot Goldner
Also know as: The Borderlands
Country & year: UK, 2013
Actors: Gordon Kennedy, Robin Hill, Aidan McArdle, Sarah Annis, Lee Arnold, Drew Casson, Peter Charlton, Marcus Cunningham, Patrick Godfrey, Kevin Johnson, Luke Neal
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt2781832/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terror (1978)

A lady called Mad Dolly is being chased by some mob in a forest who believe she is a witch. She gets captured and about to get burned at the stake, on order by Lord Garrick. Before they get the chance to lit her on fire, she gives her final speech with silly facial expressions, and summons some demonic forces that causes one of the executioners to catch fire, and then all hell breaks loose. Lord Garrick runs back to his mansion where an arm bursts through the wall and strangles him. Lady Garrick, who wanted to see Mad Dolly dead more than anyone else, finds her Lord dangling from the ceiling. The Lady is then confronted by a resurrected and vengeful Mad Dolly, who chops her head off and gives the most cheesy, evil laugh ever. And only eight minutes in it’s fairly okay to ask what the hell this is.

 

What we just saw was the ending sequence of the fresh, new supernatural horror film by James Garrick, which he screened for some of the cast members. What a load of rubbish, says one guy in the audience. The film is supposed to be based on true events that happened to James’ ancestors 300 years ago, and he has inherited the mansion from Lord and Lady Garrick. The inheritance includes the most important item of all: the sword that chopped the head off the Lord, hanging over the fireplace. While James is throwing a party in his inherited mansion, we meet Gary who can’t stop bragging about who great he is to hypnotize people. He gives a demonstration on Ann, a struggling actress who works for James. Things gets an unexpected turn when she slips into full trance, and picks up the sword and tries to attack James. Ok, party’s over! After she wakes up, she runs out the door and back to the hostel where her roommate sees her on the bathroom, washing her hands for what we can assume is blood.

 

And the morning after, James’ girlfriend Carol is found dead near the woods, knifed to death. James highly suspects that Ann did it after she tried to stab him with the sword the previous night and is determined to expose her.

 

This is an odd, little film, made by the English horror film director Norman J. Warren, known for his obscure low-budget exploitation flicks such as Satan’s Slave (1976), Outer Touch (1979), Inseminoid (1981) and Bloody New Year (1987). With Terror he wanted to make something new since the horror films at that time was pretty much the same, and he took a lot of inspiration from the new wave of Italian Giallo films and his new favorite, Suspiria. The inspirations are clearly visible for sure, with the use of colors, but as a whole there isn’t much new to behold here. And that’s a shame since there’s some potential here with its flexible camera work, gothic imagery and classic, gloomy atmosphere with fog machines and all. It has the visual package, but the script turns it into an unfocused mixed bag of supernatural horror, whodunnit mystery, slasher, cheese and sleaze and God knows what, stitched together frankenstein-style with several long and pointless scenes that drag on for too long.

 

One of the highlights is the scene with Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in a certain film called Star Wars the year before. His appearance comes in the most unexpected moment, it took me completely off guard. And there’s also a scene with a nude stripper in a sleazy bar in London, a long and pointless filler scene. Director Norman J. Warren added this in to make the film more commercial. And he’s really determined to give us shots from all different angles and close-ups so we can enjoy some fresh nudity and forget the rest of the movie for some minutes. But it seemed to work, though, since Terror became a box-office success in England after its release, despite the censorship from Video nasty. A fun little nugget of trivia: the stripper in the film was a real stripper they had to hire because the other stripper who auditioned for the scenes seemed too tired and bored. “She was indeed sexy and scary“, Warren said, and her act was so outrageous, they had to cut part of it because there was no way the censors would let it through.

 

There’s some decent gory moments here, such the traditional knife stabbings, glass panels that falls and chops off a head, a drunk dude who gets fence stabbed and then crushed in a garbage truck. Awesome. And then we have…a flying car. Ok, I didn’t expect that one. The last four minutes is the best part which at least ends with a great, colorful and crazy climax. Not a terrible film, but not great either. As a 70’s oddity it works fine as a curiosity, I guess, and it has its moments. Terror is available on Blu-ray/DVD Combo on amazon.com

 

Terror Terror Terror

 

Director: Norman J. Warren
Country & year: UK, 1978
Actors: John Nolan, Carolyn Courage, James Aubrey, Sarah Keller, Tricia Walsh, Glynis Barber, Michael Craze, Rosie Collins, Chuck Julian, Elaine Ives-Cameron, Patti Love, Mary Maude, William Russell, Peter Craze
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0141897/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Censor (2021)

censorEnid works as a film censor, and her daily life includes watching some truly brutal and gory movies, choosing what is acceptable for the audience to handle and what should be banned completely. One day she views a movie that makes her believe she can finally solve the mystery of her sister’s disappearance, and she embarks on a quest that blurs the line between what is real and what is not.

 

Censor is a slightly weird little horror movie set in the era of the Video Nasties. If you’re not aware, a “Video Nasty” is a term for movies that were deemed too brutal and inappropriate for people to watch, by the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association (NVALA) in the United Kingdom. These movies were typically low-budget horror and exploitation films, often heavily criticized for being too violent and for “influencing” people to commit crimes. These days, most of us have (hopefully) realized that media, whether it be movies, games, music, books or comics, cannot be blamed for people’s crimes…but back in those days, in what could probably be best described as some kind of moral panic, they literally thought that movies like this could cause an increase in crime.

 

The idea of a censor, watching tons of material that includes brutal and gruesome things, going bonkers him/herself in the end, is an idea that has already been wonderfully exploited in Sweden’s Evil Ed. Censor isn’t some kind of Evil Edna or anything like that, however…instead, it presents a surreal and creepy downwards spiraling experience of a woman whose trauma manifests and ultimately consumes her.

 

Visually, there’s a lot of nice things to rest your eyes on during the film. Many scenes blends the surrealism with a great use of lighting and colors, making it vibrant and eerie at the same time. Enid’s character is also well put together, coming off as a strong woman who doesn’t even flinch at the grotesque scenes she is witnessing at her job, but instead makes calculated notes about what can be kept and what needs to go, might even be considered a little bit prudish. But the trauma of her sister’s disappearance is always lurking underneath the surface, just waiting to break out into the open. And there is one film she watches that actually opens the crack, which is called Don’t Go in the Church. Enid becomes convinced that one of the actresses is her missing sister, and she becomes hell-bent on finding her. What she really finds is true madness instead.

 

Censor is not a film for everyone, and if you expect another Evil Ed you will probably be disappointed. It is, however, a strangely bizarre and enthralling experience.

 

Censor

 

Director: Prano Bailey-Bond
Country & year: UK, 2021
Actors: Niamh Algar, Michael Smiley, Nicholas Burns, Vincent Franklin, Sophia La Porta, Sophia La Porta, Clare Holman, Andrew Havill, Felicity Montagu, Danny Lee Wynter, Clare Perkins, Guillaume Delaunay, Richard Glover, Erin Shanagher, Beau Gadsdon
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt10329614/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul