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
Voice 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.

Popcorn (1991)

976-EvilPopcorn is the title and popcorn is what you get – with a lot of cheese and confusion. On the surface, if not judging by the movie poster itself, this may look like one of the numerous slashers from the mid 1980s. It managed to trick me until the very distinct early 90s hip-hop music hit the speakers.

 

Popcorn starts off with some strange nightmares from the head of the young teenager Maggie (Jill Schoelen, The Stepfather‘s girl, here at age 28) about a younger girl who gets trapped in a fire and chased by some guy who tries to kill her. This is not just some random nightmare, however, as Maggie has subconsciously developed psychic abilities. Unlike her lost twin sister, Lydia Deetz, she can’t see dead people, though. But yeah, her nightmares and visions have some more relevance later in some way or another.

 

But enough of dreaming, because a big event is just around the corner. You see, Maggie and her film student classmates are preparing for an all-night horror movie marathon-screening at the old local and out-of-business movie theater, Dreamland. Here they’ll show a bunch of schlocky public domain films in the hope of funding some money for the university’s film section. To make it more eventful, they’re adding some inventive gimmicks in the purest William Castle style with three of the films. We have Mosquito in 3-D with a big mosquito model that flies on strings over the audience. The second is The Attack of the Amazing Electrified Man with the use of “Shock-o-Scope”, or simply called electrical “buzzers” in seats. The third one is called The Stench with Smell-O-Vision and you can just imagine that one.

 

The theater also has a dark history of the film director Lanyard Gates, who killed his own family while he shot the final scene of the film The Possessor –  a short, cryptic avant-garde reel that looks much like the nightmares Maggie has recently been having. So, the question is why and how. Well, she’s soon to find out when a killer is lurking around the theater, who’s also stealing the victims’ faces.

 

Popcorn had a troubled production, which shows more and more as the film progresses. The film was first helmed by Alan Ormsby, a veteran who’s already worked on films such as Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972), the Ed Gein flick Deranged (1974) and Cat People (1980). After the first weeks of shooting, he was gone, just poof, and replaced with first-time (and last time) director and Porky’s actor Mark Herrier, of all people. Uhm…okey, then. Porkman does a steady job, though, despite the hiccups and a script that gets more convoluted. The third act is quite messy where we have twists and turns with a Saturday Morning Cartoon goofball of a villain that I would guess came out of the fart pipe of Freddy Krueger while he was playing Nintendo. We also have an intermission in the middle where the audience gets entertained by a reggae band to keep the party-mode going. Quite fitting considering that the whole film was shot on location in Kingston, Jamaica.

 

That Popcorn was released in a time when the slasher genre was more or less dead, didn’t do the film much favor. Despite the box-office failure, the film has since grown a cult-following and was also an inspiration for films like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994), In The Mouth of Madness (1995) and Troma’s Shock-O-Rama (2005). In other words, Popcorn is overall an entertaining and fun little oddball flick with an original take on the genre. It’s also far more light-hearted and jovial than the average slasher with little to no blood n’ guts. With a theater packed with teens, you’ll have some expectations, but the film doesn’t grab that opportunity, sorry to say. What we have is a scene where a body count gets stabbed by the mosquito model with its stinger and a cheesy electrocution scene just to add an extra flavor to the gimmick shtick. But what really does the film is that we get the pleasure to see some scenes from the films featured in the theater. Attack of the Amazing Electrified Man is already a personal favorite where a manic Bruce Glover alone steals the whole show. I’d love to see the full version of that film.

 

Popcorn Popcorn Popcorn

 

 

Directors: Mark Herrier, Alan Ormsby
Writers: Mitchell Smith, Alan Ormsby
Country & year: US, Canada, 1991
Actors: Jill Schoelen, Tom Villard, Dee Wallace, Derek Rydall, Malcolm Danare, Elliott Hurst, Ivette Soler, Freddie Simpson, Kelly Jo Minter, Karen Lorre, Ray Walston, Tony Roberts, Bruce Glover
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102690/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rats – Night of Terror (1984)

Rats - Night of Terror

They’re here! They’re coming!

God! No!

 

The year is 250 A.B. in a distant Mad Max world where the planet Earth has been blown to dust by nuclear bombs. A group of bikers are on the look for food and shelter and discover some decayed, empty laboratory in the city. But don’t get too comfy cuz the place is crawling with rats! Big, fat rats. Thousands of them! And like our group of bikers they’re hungry as well and takes a bite out of every human flesh they can jump on. It’s already time to find the flame thrower.

 

The only believable aspects about this very cheese-smelling low budget apocalyptic flick is the abandoned city set-designs which also was used in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America. And with a pretty decent cinematography, despite the circumstances, the film at least gets the atmosphere and the sense of the apocalyptic environment and surroundings. We also have some gory and graphic moments here as well, the most notable being the lucky rat which we can assume crawls straight into someones vagina and eats itself out of the dead victims mouth. Yum!

 

And then there’s the… rats. We have some hundreds of them running around the actors feet as they try to make us believe that they fights against them while they also do their very best to not harm them. Because no rats where harmed during the making of this motion picture. And it looks as inept and retarded as it sounds. Not that I want to see rats, or other animals, getting killed, but still. Several rats died of natural causes during the making, though (RIP), but director Bruno Mattei had no budget to waste them. Instead the genius used them as props by throwing them at the actors to make it look like they jumped on their victims. Pure movie magic.

 

We’re also entertained by a group of actors who mostly couldn’t look a bit scared even if they were paid a million. Instead we have goofy faces, monotone screams and just overall bad acting. All of course Italians which was poorly dubbed with stiff cartoonish lines, like most of the older bad Italian horror films. And if you sense the smell of cheese getting stronger, you’re not wrong. Claudio “Troll 2” Fragasso co-wrote and co-directed (without credit) the film. Other sources says that he didn’t direct a single scene. But just pretend he did, cuz that makes it even funnier. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it was him that came up with the batshit twist at the end.

 

Rats - Night of Terror Rats - Night of Terror Rats - Night of Terror

 

Director: Bruno Mattei
Writers: Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso, Hervé Piccini
Original title: Rats – Notte di terrore
Country & year: Italy, France, 1984
Actors: Ottaviano Dell’Acqua, Geretta Geretta, Massimo Vanni, Gianni Franco, Ann-Gisel Glass, Jean-Christophe Brétignière, Fausto Lombardi, Henry Luciani, Cindy Leadbetter, Christian Fremont
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0086176/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below (2002)

BelowIt is 1943, and the USS Tiger Shark, a U.S. Navy submarine, patrols the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. They suddenly get orders to pick up survivors drifting in the sea, and they end up rescuing a British Nurse (Claire Paige) and two wounded men. They tell the crew that they were aboard the hospital ship Fort James, which was sunk two days earlier from a torpedo hit. Tension starts to arise when the crew of the submarine finds out that one of the wounded men is a German prisoner of war, ending up shooting him, much to Claire’s dismay as he was his patient. A German destroyer also approaches them, and the submarine ends up suffering damage from depth charges. However, that’s not all that’s wrong here, and both the crew and Claire becomes aware of strange supernatural happenings on the submarine. Claire also finds the captain’s journal, where she notices missing pages and a different handwriting in the latest pages. She’s told a story about the death of the former captain, which comes off as somewhat unconvincing. What has happened on the submarine, and why does it appear to be haunted?

 

Below is a supernatural horror film from 2002, directed by David Twohy (known for directing Pitch Black and several of the Riddick movies) and written by Darren Aronofsky (director of Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan). It was originally intended to be a historical sci-fi thriller, but after the success with Pitch Black the director decided to go for a horror film instead. It was shot on location in Lake Michigan for the exteriors, using the World War II-era U.S. Navy submarine USS Silversides, and at Pinewood Studios. Miramax/Dimension Films wanted Twohy to edit the film so it could get a PG-13 rating instead of an R, but he refused, which ended up giving the film a limited theatrical release with very little advertising. It also flopped tragically, not only due to limited release and lack of advertisement, but also due to rather mixed reviews.

 

Now, your typical “haunted house” has been changed into different settings before, and the claustrophobic narrative of having it set in a submarine during World War II is definitely effective. The atmosphere is tight and creepy, nailing the mood while showing off just enough of the spooky stuff to keep it chilling. The supernatural effects and scenes are very subtle, and everything plays more around how the characters are spooked by it while also becoming slowly aware of its hold over them. Much of it is embraced with uncertainty and keeping you guessing.

 

Much like in Twohy’s Pitch Black, much of the story is carried on by the characters and the tension between them. You already realize from the first minutes of the film that some of the characters are a bit off, and are definitely hiding something. We just don’t know what, but their reactions to the supernatural events makes it easy to guess that something awful happened which they do not want to come to the surface. Much due to the underwater scenes and the submarine interior the atmosphere gets just right, clammy and stifling filled with apprehension.

 

Below is an underwater chiller that is actually quite decent, with its claustrophobic environment and the rising tension between the crew as the supernatural events enfold, all building up to a reveal and somewhat poetic ending.

 

Below Below

 

Director: David Twohy
Writers: Lucas Sussman, Darren Aronofsky, David Twohy
Country & year: UK, US, 2002
Actors: Matthew Davis, Bruce Greenwood, Holt McCallany, Dexter Fletcher, Nick Chinlund, Olivia Williams, Scott Foley, Andrew Howard, Christopher Fairbank, Chuck Ellsworth, Crispin Layfield
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0276816/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Watcher in the Woods (1980)

The Watcher in the WoodsPaul and Helen Curtis moves into a manor located in rural England, together with their two daughters Jan and Ellie. The manor is owned by an elderly woman named Mrs. Aylwood, and she lives in the guest house next door. Mrs. Aylwood once had a daughter, Karen, but she disappeared in an abandoned chapel in the woods thirty years ago. Upon seeing a photo of Karen, Jan notices that she actually looks a lot like this girl. And she also starts sensing something strange about the place, witnessing strange lights in the woods, glowing objects, and visions of a blindfolded girl in the mirror. When getting to know some of the townspeople, Jan wants to find out more about Karen’s mysterious disappearance in the woods all those years ago, and finds that she was together with a bunch of friends that night. What they were up to and what happened to Karen is something only they would know, but none of them are willing to talk about it.

 

The Watcher in the Woods is a supernatural film from 1980, directed by John Hough and Vincent McEveety, and Produced by Walt Disney Productions, being one of several live-action films from a time when the studio focused on targeting young adult audiences. It is based on a novel from 1976 by Florence Engel Randall, and it was filmed at Pinewood Studios and the surrounding areas in Buckinghamshire, England. The building that’s being used in the film is called Ettington Park Manor, and it was also used in The Haunting (1963).

 

Upon its release, the film had to be pulled from the theaters pretty fast as the response was overwhelmingly negative, both from critics and audiences, and many considered it “too dark”. Thus, the studio made the decision to make changes to the movie, with extensive reshoots and a brand new ending, and re-released it eighteen months later in 1981. Despite the critical response being so harsh, the film still ended up gaining a cult following over the years.

 

Now, this movie is certainly not one to watch if you want something scary. It’s from a time when Disney started dipping their toes into PG-rated films, with…well…rather mixed results. Something Wicked This Way Comes is probably one of their best and most memorable efforts among these. While The Watcher in the Woods is more aimed at a young audience, it still does have a certain appeal with a gothic teenage mystery vibe to it, and it is of course heightened by the performance of Bette Davis, who plays Mrs. Aylwood. There are some spooky goings-on, with some charming old-school supernatural effects, and I can easily imagine that seeing this as a kid during the 80’s would make a certain impact. Then again, the director John Hough previously directed the 1973 horror film The Legend of Hell House, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is at least some spookiness here.

 

So I’d say that overall, The Watcher in the Woods works as a family suspense thriller, layered with a certain old-school charm.

 

The Watcher in the Woods The Watcher in the Woods The Watcher in the Woods

 

Director: John Hough
Writers: Brian Clemens, Harry Spalding, Rosemary Anne Sisson
Country & year: UK, US, 1980
Actors: Bette Davis, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Kyle Richards, Carroll Baker, David McCallum, Benedict Taylor, Frances Cuka, Richard Pasco, Ian Bannen, Katharine Levy, Eleanor Summerfield, Georgina Hale
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081738/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Resurrected (1991)

The ResurrectedCharles Dexter Ward is showing increasingly bizarre behaviour, and his wife Claire hires a private investigator to look into his strange affairs. The investigator, John March, starts peeking around the isolated farmhouse which Charles recently started using after uncovering his family history and discovering that this abandoned farmhouse belonged to his ancestor. Said ancestor’s name was Joseph Curwen, to whom Charles bears an uncanny resemblance. John notices that there are numerous deliveries made to the place, and upon asking Charles himself, he explains that he is undertaking some chemical tests where he uses animal cadavers. While certainly showing off eccentric behaviour, there’s nothing John can use here to offer any explanations to the worried wife. Then, after a man in a neighboring house ends up brutally murdered, where his remains have been attacked and eaten as if by a crazed animal, John starts to believe it’s not a coincidence. He brings Claire with him to the farm in order to confront Charles, but find him in a state where he ends up committed to a hospital. The doctors find that his metabolism is inexplicably high, which causes him to become extremely hungry, and his cravings are for blood and raw meat. John decides he must uncover the secrets of the old farmhouse and what Charles was doing at the place.

 

The Resurrected (aka The Ancestor and Shatterbrain) is a 1991 horror film directed by Dan O`Bannon, and it’s an adaption of the H.P. Lovecraft novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. The screenwriter, Brent V. Friedman, had developed a version of the script which was titled Shatterbrain, while O`Bannon wrote his own ideas and had imagined the title to be The Ancestor. Friedman’s script was mainly used, but O`Bannon also incorporated some of his own ideas into the movie. Interstar Releasing planned for a wide theatrical release in 1991, but they went bankrupt before it could happen and thus it ended up straight to video in 1992. This movie was O`Bannon’s second and final movie as a director, after his directorial debut in 1985 with The Return of the Living Dead.

 

The Resurrected is not the first film to be based on Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. In 1963, Roger Corman made a film called The Haunted Palace, starring Vincent Price, which also provides a take on this story but very loosely and mixed with the Edgar Allan Poe’s story by the same name as the film. I haven’t yet seen this one, so can make no comparisons here. I have read the Lovecraft novella, and while it should go without saying that movie adaptions rarely manages to capture the essence of horror and wonder in Lovecraft’s stories (there are, of course, exceptions), this movie actually does follow the original story for the most part, just setting it in more modern times. Many Lovecraft adaptions tend to change so much that the original story is barely recognizable, and some just doesn’t really do the original stories justice. However, this is something I’ve come to terms with a long time ago, I don’t expect any Lovecraft adaption to be on par with the source material. I just want to be entertained. And some of the movie adaptions (both the decent and the bad ones) often manages to do exactly that, so I’m not gonna complain.

 

Now, most horror movie fans are well aware of O`Bannon’s The Return of the Living Dead, and have most likely witnessed some of his screenplay work in several of the movies in the Alien franchise, and other horror films like Lifeforce. Just like the original Lovecraft story, it starts in a mental asylum where Charles is incarcerated, and then the story moves backwards in order tell what happened. It’s set up a bit like a detective mystery, with a pretty blonde wife begging the investigator for help and all. Set in the modern times, which were the 90’s when the movie was made, works well enough. The opening scene which includes a bit of blood and gore before getting a scene where the investigator starts retelling his experience, helps fuel the story as the next parts are, unfortunately, a little bit too slow before it finally picks up the pace and delivers.

 

While there were some issues with the pacing, the viewing experience was upheld by a constant feeling of mystery. You keep wondering what Charles has been doing at the farmhouse, but it takes a little too much time to actually get there. Once secrets are revealed we get some really nice shots of monstrous creatures and a hellish underground basement lab. While apparently trying to veer away from your typical B-Horror cheeseflick with a more serious approach, there’s no doubt that once the blood, guts, and otherworldly creatures fill the screen we get to see that this movie doesn’t stray too far away from the B-movie range. And I mean that in a positive way, of course. Originally, O`Bannon actually planned for the movie to have more humor, but it was re-edited and re-cut which removed this, much to his disapproval.

 

Despite a few flaws, The Resurrected is a decent horror film with an ominous mystery-fueled atmosphere, great creature-effects by Todd Masters, and a fitting music score by Richard Band.

 

The Resurrected The Resurrected The Resurrected

 

Director: Dan O’Bannon
Writer: Brent V. Friedman
Country & year: US, 1991
Actors: John Terry, Jane Sibbett, Chris Sarandon, Robert Romanus, Laurie Briscoe, Ken Camroux-Taylor, Patrick P. Pon, Bernard Cuffling, J.B. Bivens, Robert Sidley, Des Smiley, Eric Newton
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105242/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold Ground (2017)

Cold GroundThe year is 1976, and two young journalists named Melissa and David are in search of their very first big story which will lead to fame and notoriety. They decide to investigate a strange case of cattle mutilations which have happened on the French-Swiss border. With their newly acquired camera they decide to film the entire investigation, from start to finish, where they plan to do interviews with the local residents in the area. Both are excited like a fresh TikTok’er who believes their video will lead to an instant success, and they dive head-in and already start planning to present the full story to a television channel which will get the ball rolling into the inevitable road of success and fortune. No feet planted firmly on the ground here, that’s for sure. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan, and it already goes a bit sideways when they are supposed to meet a scientific team which has inexplicably just gone – poof – missing. They do not give up however, oh no, this is just a little bump on their golden road, so they enlist the help of an expert in first-aid, and American Forensic Investigator and a British Biologist which will escort them into the depth of the mountains in search of the missing scientists.

 

Cold Ground is a French found-footage horror movie from 2017, written and directed by Fabien Delage who also directed the 2016 mockumentary film Fury of the Demon. As far as found footage movies go, this one is certainly not breaking and new grounds as the story and setup threads very familiar roads: it’s your typical story of people lost in unknown territory, slowly finding out that something is wrong and then doing a lot of screaming and running with shaky cameras. Yup, seen all of that a number of times before. Still, it does provide some good stuff: set in the 70’s, they have nailed the 70’s aesthetics which they went for, and the monsters in the movie are actually decent enough, most likely because they are barely visible in any scenes. Their predatory nature is mostly shown in aftermath-scenes where mutilated animals and people are shown, and this actually works in order to heighten the suspense a bit. I’m not sure what the monsters are supposed to be, but I guess they’re some kind of Bigfoot/Yeti/Werewolf hybrid.

 

Overall, despite not being very memorable and having little new to offer in the genre, Cold Ground was certainly rather pleasant to watch where the nature scenery with snowy areas, mountains and caves makes for an interesting viewing experience. I also like the 70’s style, with added camera grain to make the look more authentic. The combination of filming in those snowy nature landscapes and convincing us that it’s indeed the late 70’s, is what makes this movie stand out at least a little bit.

 

Cold Ground

 

Director and writer: Fabien Delage
Country & year: France, 2017
Actors: Doug Rand, Philip Schurer, Gala Besson, Maura Tillay, Fabrice Pierre, Geoffrey Blandin, Cyril Lesage, Regis Testa
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4144350/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

976-Evil (1988)

976-EvilIn this directorial debut of Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund, we dial the number 976 to hear our horrorscopes. Yes, with three R’s. And anyone who dials this cursed number will hear a voice by Satan himself as he speaks in riddles how you’ll die in just a few moments.

 

In real life, 976 was an actual premium-rated telephone number that allowed people to call services of everything from Tech support, overall entertainment to phone sex. And, of course, having your horoscope read (with one R). The service also charged extra, which was every parent’s nightmare when they got the next phone bill.

 

Fun fact: Robert Englund still meets fans at comic cons who tell him that their worst grounding by their parents was when they called Freddy himself on a 976 number where Englund laid down a bunch of stock replies. He would also on occasions answer the phone for people all over America for an hour. This was at the peak of Freddy mania. Fun times.

 

One of the callers we meet here is the teenager Hoax (Stephen Geoffreys). He’s an awkward nerdy introvert on the spectrum of mentally retarded. He lives across his cousin Spike (Patrick O’Bryan), who is the polar opposite of Hoax: cool and a badass pussy magnet. And Hoax looks up to him as Spike has to protect him from being bullied. He also lives with his crazy, religious mom who doesn’t make things easier. And Spike can’t protect his sorry ass every minute as he also has a girlfriend to be with. Hoax gets frustrated, angry and now wants to show the bullies and even his mom that he’s no longer to be messed with. After a Satanic ritual and a 976 call, he gets slowly possessed by Beelzebub, develops supernatural powers and big claws to have his sweet revenge.

 

The first forty minutes or so in this “anti-bullying film” (as Englund calls it) are pretty slow and clunky, and with a script co-written by Brian Helgeland (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Highway to Hell, Mystic River), I expected some more insanity, for lack of a better term. We have a weird love/hate relationship between the cousins Hoax and Spike to build up some dramatic tension. Unfortunately, their chemistry isn’t quite there. Spike also has a girlfriend, Suzie, who mostly looks bored until she gets attacked by spiders. We have a detective, who investigates the source of the cursed 976 call, who looks even more bored. The only one who stands out among the flat characters is the clumsy goofball Hoax as he wears the same nerdy outfit throughout the whole film, except some scenes where he’s wearing a cute pajamas.

 

The real fun is when Hoax starts to get possessed through several stages with some really tasteful make-up effects by Kevin Yagher, who also worked on the original Child’s Play and several of the Elm Street films. We also have some clever use of miniatures, and a climax with set-designs which look like something from a dream sequence from the already mentioned franchise. The direction is mostly solid with colorful, vibrant cinematography in the purest 1980s style. Robert Englund is of course the one behind the evil 976 voice, where he does his very best to not sound like Freddy Krueger. The gore is very minimal, as low-budget as this is, but the little we have is at least well done.

 

As much as we love the cheesy and distinct corniness of the 1980s it must be said how ridiculously dated the film is. Such as being a nerd in that decade was the most “gay and uncool” thing ever. The concept with payphones and if not novelty phones where you actually had to get your fat ass from the couch to dial the number to the local pizza delivery. Could anyone born after the 2000s even grasp to imagine? My oh my, the ole’ days… It’s funny how Robert Englund had to repeat himself during the commentary track on the Blu-ray to remind the Gen Z how insanely different the world actually once was.

 

976-Evil overall is a very mixed bag that maybe works best just as a curiosity to see how our favorite boogeyman from the 80s is as a director. Slow first-half, full popcorn entertainment with some extra cheese during the rest. The film was released on Blu-ray from Eureka Classics in 2020 with an extended version and commentary track by Robert Englund and his wife Nancy Booth, which both met on the set of the film and has been married since. How cute.

 

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Director: Robert Englund
Writers: Rhet Topham, Brian Helgeland
Country & year: US, 1988
Actors: Stephen Geoffreys, Jim Metzler, María Rubell, Lezlie Deane, J.J. Cohen, Patrick O’Bryan, Sandy Dennis, Darren E. Burrows, Gunther Jenson, Jim Thiebaud, Robert Picardo, Paul Willson, Greg Collins
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094597/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat’s Eye (1985)

Cat's EyeThis feline adventure starts with a stray tabby cat which is getting chased by a dog, and ends up hiding in a delivery truck. This truck drives to New York City, where the cat sees the vision of a young girl through a display window. She pleads for the cat to come and help her, but then a guy comes and pick the cat up and puts it in a cage, and here the first story of this film starts. The cat is taken to a clinic called “Quitters, Inc.”, where smokers are coming in order to kick their smoking habit. Dick Morrison, a smoker who has been advised by a friend to join Quitters, is signing up before he knows anything about what he’s in for: he’s told that from now on, every time he fails holding back the urge and smokes a cigarette, horrors will befall his wife and child. The sadistic counselor shows him a room, where Dick gets to see the tabby cat inside where electric shocks comes from the floor, causing the cat to jump around in fright and pain. After this display, he says it will be his wife in that room if the smokes just one cigarette from now on. If he fails a second time, it will be his child. And if he fails a third time…well, I’m not even going to say what he claims they’ll do to his wife then. What could possibly go wrong from here… but at least, in the end, our cat hero manages to escape the place so we can get to the second story of the film.

 

Next, the cat manages to leave Manhattan via the Staten Island Ferry, and ends up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he once again sees the disembodied image of the girl asking for his help. But then, the cat is taken home by a crime boss and casino owner, Cressner, whose wife plans to leave his abusive ass for another man named Norris. Cressner has Norris kidnapped, blackmails him, and gives him the chance to get away if he manages to successfully circumnavigate the exterior ledge of Cressner’s penthouse. Nothing goes smoothly for the people involved in this story either, of course, but once again the cat manages to get away of course.

 

Then we get to the final story, where the cat gets on a freight train and ends up in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he finally meets the girl that he’s been seeing visions of. Her name is Amanda, and she eagerly adopts the cat and names him General. The mother tries to protest, because she’s afraid the cat will harm their parakeet Polly. What they don’t know is that something else has gotten inside the house that will harm not only Polly, but Amanda as well: a malevolent little troll who kills the parakeet with a tiny dagger. Guess who gets the blame for that. But the troll is also after Amanda, trying to steal her breath while she sleeps, and General is the only one who can save her.

 

Cat’s Eye is a 1985 anthology fantasy horror film, directed by Lewis Teague and written by Stephen King. Teague also directed Cujo (1983), another film based on a Stephen King book. The three stories included are Quitters, Inc., The Ledge, and General. The first two are based on two short stories from Night Shift, while the third story was written for the film. It had a budget of $7 million, and grossed a little over $13 million at the box office. It was nominated for the International Fantasy Film Award for Best Film in 1987. The theatrical trailer for the movie actually claimed that this was Stephen King’s first motion picture screenplay, but that’s actually incorrect, as he previously wrote the screenplay for Creepshow (1982). This being a movie based on Stephen King’s stories, it comes as no surprise that it’s stuffed with several easter-eggs from King’s other stories, where the dog chasing the cat in the start of the movie is none other than Cujo himself, and the cat also nearly gets run over by Christine. The child actor who plays Amanda, Drew Barrymore, previously appeared in Firestarter (1984).

 

Now, Cat’s Eye is pretty much exactly what you would expect: fun, whimsical and overall very entertaining. It’s filled with 80’s magic. Prior to watching the movie, on a blu-ray release from 2022, we were greeted with a notification saying “Please note that this film reflects historical attitudes which audiences may find outdated or offensive“. Now, this ghoul woman is certainly not a youngster anymore and literally grew up with movies that are considered offensive today, but I honestly had problems finding what could be so offensive here. The smoking, perhaps? Er, well, whatever. Offended people will be offended, I guess. Talking about the smoking parts, there are some scenes in that story that is truly over the top where the smoke-craving guy starts hallucinating and sees a dude blowing smoke out of his ears while making train noises, and cigarette packs walking around the place with lady legs. Jeez! Overall the movie has a very lighthearted tone, despite a couple scenes that are rather dark, and it mixes the fantasy elements with the horror and humor quite well.

 

The effects are solid, where they used huge props for the girl’s room in order to make the little malevolent troll appear small. While the final story with the troll is a lot more cheesy and fantasy-themed compared to the other two stories, it still fits surprisingly well with the rest as the quirky tone from the very get-go makes us expect pretty much anything to happen. It’s fun, charming, and could easily make you purr over the fanciful 80’s nostalgia. The movie also includes a synth-score by Alan Silvestri, which bears some resemblance to his score for Back to the Future which was also released the same year. And who can resist the catchy theme song!

 

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Director: Lewis Teague
Writer: Stephen King
Country & year: US, 1985
Actors: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Alan King, Kenneth McMillan, Robert Hays, Candy Clark, James Naughton, Tony Munafo, Court Miller, Russell Horton, Patricia Benson, Mary D’Arcy, James Rebhorn
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088889/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul