Monday, 19 October 2015
21 horrors you hesitated to watch (this Halloween)
Happy Halloween/Day of the Dead!
House Bound (2014)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A troubled young woman, attempts to steal the safe from an ATM, confined to her house she finds out that there may be more to her mother claims that their house is haunted.
What's starts out as seemingly haunted house flick turns into something totally different, reminiscent of The People Under the stairs mixed with Grave Encounters. Those comparisons are probably not giving director Gerard Johnston's film the credit it deserves. As while it borrows other genre elements it turns them on its head like the low budget Undead (2003) or Severance (2006) it becomes something quite original. It's a tightly constructed black comedy horror with some genuine laugh out loud moments and jump scares.
Bloody and creepy in places this part mystery story set mostly in one house it's a boy who cried wolf tale in some respects, or girl in this case, as no one believes Kylie's claims apart from a security contractor, Amos.
Morgana O'Reilly is exceptional as Kylie Bucknell, the rebellious ASBO teen who has been tagged and confined to her home after a botched robbery. The small cast ensemble are outstanding with Cameron Rhodes channelling a mix of Jim Broadbent and Randy Quaid. Rima Te Wiata as Kylie's mum Miriam is particularly notable.
Praise should also be given to Johnston's writing as Morgana's character Kylie doesn't scare easily and isn't a victim, this with a few story tweaks puts a breath of fresh air into the often stale haunted-house/slasher genre.
[REC] 4: Apocalypse (2014)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A woman and an old lady are removed from a building and wedding where a parasitic, viral outbreak took place and are taken to ship for confinement but things go awry.
The strong lead Manuela Velasco returns as the Spanish female TV reporter, Ángela Vidal. Dropping the found footage Blair Witch Project (1999) style of part one and two and retaining the traditional shot style of part three, Jaume Balagueró returns to the directing chair with a more action orientated sequel. Along with some sharp editing from David Gallart and fitting music by Arnau Bataller, Balagueró offers plenty of blood, guts, slicing and dicing of zombie-like nasties as the ship is overrun by the infected.
To writers Manu Diez and Balagueró credit it links all the films together and ties up some ooze ends putting the Tristana Medeiros Da Souza religious connotations from the first, second and mention in Genesis to rest. They successfully connect the series including the solider, Guzman played by Paco Manzanedo who finds Velasco's character at the end of the second film. Guzman is sent to the ship for quarantine along with all the characters that have encountered the outbreak.
Ismael Fritschi is great as Nick the obsessed techie fan of Vidal. It's a nice touch to have characters review the tapes from the other films. Héctor Colomé oozes presence and menace as Dr. Ricarte who wants to experiment on Vidal. The supporting cast are strong a play it straight with touches of dark humour.
Small segments of the CCTV footage on the ship is introduced for fans of REC. The change of setting to a merchant ship is refreshing and retains the claustrophobic feeling synonyms with the series, captured by cinematographer Pablo Rosso the location feels gritty and real. With blood thirsty infected, rabid monkeys and Vidal's parasite causing conflict between the characters there's plenty going on as they must escape the ship in an Aliens-like countdown finale.
While the tension and scares are replaced for a more action horror experience it still retains its great gore makeup and special effects and is another Fine addition to the series.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A cop at a crossroads comes to grips with the advantages of becoming a werewolf.
Director writer Lowell Dean offers a nostalgia trip in WolfCop. It took me back to the golden age of VHS horror, a time when practical effects ruled and every now again you had to clean the heads on your Video Player. The days when the story no matter how wacky was taken with a pinch of salt, was engaging and the production values felt high. WolfCop no doubt if released in the days of top loaders would chew up your tape.
Leo Fafard as Lou/WolfCop is superb as the washed up alcoholic small town cop, who after a strange encounter begins to investigate his own crimes and take down the local hoods. Put in a blender An American Werewolf in London, The Howling with a touch of Teen Wolf on the local town backdrop of Rambo, add a beer, two shots of whiskey and your close to WolfCop's ambiance.
Packed with blood, guts, hair and humour, Jonathan Cherry is memorable as Lou's knowing friend Willie, there's a notable montage where they 'pimp' outfit a police car. An odd scene where the jail cell werewolf is given beer and doughnuts and there's werewolf action scattered throughout. It's well made, Dean offers lots of interesting set ups, Toby Bond's music is fitting and the on location shoot gives the film some weight. This is not Direct to Video - DTV or whatever the kids call it these days, possibly direct to digital download DDD? Its a well executed film.
It has that 80s seediness and cheese in places and throws in a few scares, bloody limbs, fights with plenty of comedy. But the icing on the cake is WolfCop's practical effects and old school visuals which are outstanding. Thankfully to Dean and crews credit there's not a sniff of CGI.
Worth checking out at a full moon but be careful it may change you.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The perfect dad dons on a clown costume which he discovers only to find that he is unable to take if off with terrible consequences.
Relative unknown TV actor Andy Powers is excellent as the lovable dad who becomes a killer clown. With lots of welcomed grim exposition, it has horrifying background to the clown legend and costume. It's explained convincingly by Karlsson played by Peter Stormare, the brother of the deceased previous owner of the costume. Eerie from the outset Jon Watts and Christopher D. Fordit's screenplay is played as a straight bloody horror thriller with touch of dark humour. Never before has a children's ball pool or the tunnels of a play area been so scary.
What sounds like a B film with its outrageous crazy concept actually works in this modest budget production that has Eli Roth on board as producer. It goes from one gloomy odd set up to the next giving it a dream like surreal quality and it gets graphic as Kent tries to remove his costume, goes on a killing spree and begins to regurgitate body parts.
Despite Roth's involvement it's very much director Jon Watts film who offers creepy, slicing, gore, demons and clown creatures with some interesting shots, even a bird's eye view car crash feels different from the standard affair put on screen. All the cast are effective right down to the child actors and Laura Allen is great as Meg, the protective mother fighting for survival.
Taking a leaf from IT's tale and channelling Pennywise clown it's also has the psychological element of Magic and is reminiscent of in places of recent Stitches and American Horror Story Freak Show to name a few. That said, it stands on its own two feet with plenty of original ideas. To Watt's and team credit the effects are outstanding, including and not limited to dismemberment, amputation and Kent becoming a child eating clown.
Clown is a fast paced solid grim possession horror with a splatter/slasher element that never takes it eye off the story. It's probably the definitive clown horror and naturally those suffering from coulrophobia should avoid at all costs.
Bombshell Bloodbath (2014)
After a zombie virus takes hold a group of people try to find a cure and stay alive.
Bombshell Bloodbath is the perfect quintessential homage to the late 70s and early 80s countless churned out VHS horrors and banned video nasties. Brett Mullen and writer Sky Tilley cleverly offer a mash-up of horror ideas borrowing from the best of the worst and best of the best including Dawn of the Dead, The Beyond, The Evil Dead to name a few.
Bombshell Bloodbath is purposely all over the place with its tone harking back to the good old days of horror and grind house cinema. Moody voice overs, dramatic mad scientist, experiments with rats, tape recordings, seedy strip clubs, cabins in the wood and zombies tearing flesh and more.
The flesh eaters mostly bookend the film with the actors emulating the days of Neon Maniacs, Nightmare City and the countless horror performances alike. Samantha Mills it great as the mysterious blonde bombshell, Cara is wonderfully played by Alex Elliott in amongst the great practical effects and archetype camera angles of Italian exploitation films, like the Barbarians, Rats and Hell of the Living Dead. The music is the icing on the cake for nostalgia hounds and new fans of the old sub-genre horror with composer Matt Hill channelling the likes of Fabio Frizzi and Goblin.
Bombshell Bloodbath does what House of the Devil recreated for old school horrors, this revisits the atmosphere and execution of horror exploitation films.
If there ever was an indie love letter written to Fulci, Romero, Argento and Lenzi, it would look something like this.
A survivor of a zombie plague prepares to battle his way through a horde of sinister soldiers and ravenous monsters after the death of his loved ones.
Reminiscent at times of Dawn of the Dead, Undead and the Mad Max series surprisingly Aussie Wyrmwood stands shoulders above many indie zombie films. Written by Kiah Roache-Turner and Tristan Roache-Turner it has plenty original of ideas for the genre and while it moves away from the traditional George A. Romero Night of the Living concept it puts a spin on the sub-genre by literary injecting a scifi fantasy element which works in its favour.
Director Kiah Roache-Turner offers great special effects, black humour, buckets of blood, guns, needles and a cast of heroic and quickly characters. Starring Bianca Bradey as Brooke, she lights up the screen with some physical action and a strong performance. One of the strengths of Wyrmwood is that you care about the characters even the squeaky chemical suited, creepy music loving scientist.
Zombie gas, DNA experiments and mind control sit nicely in this post apocalyptic adventure as heart broken Barry, Jay Gallagher, goes about finding his sister, meeting an array of characters played excellently by the supporting cast long the way. Leon Burchill is notable as the likable Benny and Yure Covich memorable as Chalker.
The road trip at times ominous and tense with some nice cinematography from Tim Nagle. It has well designed costumes and make up and an excellent pumping music from Michael Lira with some clever sound design.
There are some solid setups, scary zombie girls in a garage, the shoot out in the bush and the action packed escapes. Thankfully it's not as slapstick as the likes of Evil Dead or Brain Dead. While it may not please those wanting a straight forward traditional zombie film complete with it's They Live-like fight scene, it exceeds all expectation as piece of horror, action entertainment.
Wyrmwood deserves more than cult status, not just for being refreshingly entertaining but for being more than competently produced, acted and directed. Roache-Turner's offering does for zombies what Dog Soldiers did for werewolves.
The Dyatlov Pass Incident (2013)
To determine what happened to a group of young Russian hikers, five U.S. college students go back to where the hikers were found dead.
Devil's Pass is a return to form for Renny Harlin, this offering is an epic compared to Legend of Hercules. With a scifi fictional spin on the tragic true story of Dyatlov Pass, where nine people lost their lives writer Vikram Weet's convincing script and link to the Philadelphia Experiment, Bigfoot and other UFO conspiracies keeps Harlin's technically well made film intriguing throughout.
Comparable to Exists (2014) with lots of camera's to give coverage, as with most POV camera films it comes with the clichés synonymous with that style. Harlin thankfully makes its look easier to pull off than it actually is in this mystery thriller. That said, Devil's Pass would have been as just as interesting as the team trace the original 1959 ill fated expedition and incident if it had been shot traditionally.
The unnecessary CGI effects of the creatures in the closing aside, the on location shoot is notable, it feels authentic, the cast are natural and sets in the latter half are well made along with the practical effects. The avalanche scene is outstanding and eerily realistically executed. The rural Russian and mountain setting offers plenty of atmosphere and the supporting cast who play the locals are notable.
Overall, although slow burning, the acting and story twist makes it a worth while venture.
Five vacationers find themselves terrorised by a disgruntled and legendary Sasquatch.
As a POV film it's finely executed by one of the godfathers of modern POV films director Eduardo Sánchez. However, given that there's been so many POV films since its debatably needless when you have the likes of the Rec series to contend with.
The clips and trailers steal the surprise shock value so avoid if possible. Yes it's another cabin in the wood horror as the group are picked off but it does build to a satisfactory conclusion unlike acclaimed Witch Project which built up to a single scare as copied by The Paranormal Activity series.The acting is solid especially from Chris Osborn's main character Brian but are not as rounded or fleshed out as in the low budget The Battery (2012). The effects, make up and costume are first rate and story wise it will certainly appease big foot fans.
Script aside thanks to the (predicable yet fulfilling) story and Brian Steele who plays the creature, it's possibly the most defining bigfoot /sasquatch film to date but bare in mind the majority of sub genre is as reliable as bigfoot sightings themselves.
The Dead 2: India (2013)
The dead are returning to life and attacking the living. An American wind turbine engineer with the help of a local boy attempt a 300 mile journey to reunite with his pregnant Indian girlfriend.
Brothers Howard and Jonathan Ford add an usually unexplored religious angle with the obligatory social commentary subtext making The Dead 2: India as relevant as it's predecessor. While not as eerie as the first and briefly lacking some logic in both dialogue and decision making, with Nicholas Burton's (played fittingly by Joseph Milson) seemingly six sense knowledge of what's going on there's still plenty to enjoy.
The India setting and on location shoot gives part two a realistic gritty, dusty and atmospheric feel. The traditional shambling dead are creepy enough and retain an air of menace with their biting and tearing of flesh, although their white eyes, now an over used effect do feel slightly dated. That said, there's plenty to enjoy - more gun-play, more blood and more zombies. With gripping stand out scenes, the crashed car execution, convoy executions, parachute escape and a car going over a cliff to name a few. The directors also deliver some excellent visual moments, a motor cycle blazing across the Indian wastelands, forgotten temples, grand cities, hovering helicopters, jets and burning slums to name a few.
This Ford Brother offering is probably the most grounded undead film since their first outing and Romero's original trilogy. The director/writers again manage to give their zombie outing scope with a fantastic naturalistic visual style as the engineer and boy go from one village to the next complemented by Imran Ahmad's music score.
Overall, while not as tension filled and ominous as The Dead, The Dead 2 doesn't try to reinvent the wheel giving the viewer a much needed solid and serious piece of zombie entertainment. Recommend.
Neon Maniacs (1986)
A group of teenagers in San Francisco are attacked by homicidal monsters living under the Golden Gate Bridge and set out to prove they are real.
Despite its faults, logic, editing, pace and such director Joseph Mangine's ambitious Neon Maniacs counter balances its short comings. Larry Odien, Allan A. Apone and Douglas J. White's make up and practical effects are surprisingly good and the period music score is creatively ominous. To Neon's credit Mangines creates some jump moments notably the bus scene.
Paula played by actress Donna Locke (who has disappeared off the planet) has a cute Goonie appeal. Leilani Sarelle's Natalie is a solid lead and not surprisingly went on to do bigger thing. The rest of the cast give typical 80s low budget hammy performances.
In retrospect writers Mark Patrick Carducci's ambiguous origins of the Neon Maniacs adds to the films appeal and although uneven with more style over substance it deserves it cult status if only for the 80's nostalgia, it's monsters 'cool' factor and surreal atmosphere.
A group of strangers take shelter from a storm in an old house only to find themselves hunted down by a collection of dolls, from old-fashioned china dolls and porcelain dolls to dolls that talk and move.
Written by Ed Naha 1987's Stuart Gordon's Dolls remains creepy and scary and is certainly not for viewers with a pediophobia. Fuzzbee Morse's great score is atmospherically fitting with its melodic cues and stings there's also a touch of 80s synthesiser thrown in.
The set design and locations set up the eeriness from the outset. Mac Ahlberg's cinematography coupled with Gordon's old school camera tricks and some fantastic blood, gore and practical special effects from an array of craft masters sell the horror. Watching the unsavoury characters getting picked off one by one, meeting their demise is horror fun throughout.
Choppy continuity and a spate of dodgy acting aside Gordon's offering for the most part is excellent. The tone is more oppressive than that of Charles Band's PuppetMaster (who was also one of the producers on Dolls) and those familiar with Brian Yuzna's horror work will notice his producer touch on the production.
Even though some optical effects and Dave Allen's stop motion has dated slightly they still add an uneasy air to the proceedings. The death scenes are effective and credit to the special effects team when it's revealed what's under the dolls it's enough to send shivers up and down the spine.
Amongst the dark corridors, antique furnishings, storms and lightening there's a handful of standout scenes, Hillary Hartwicke with a pram; killer toy solider death squad; Teddy bear attack to name a few. Aside from Mr. Punch and Teddy the dolls act as more of a collective.
With some dark humour perfectly cast Hilary Mason's (no stranger horror roles including Don't Look Now and The Haunted) timing and subtle delivery as the old woman Hartwicke is outstanding. Carrie Lorraine's Judy, an imaginative little girl is very effective. Stephen Lee's (Robocop 2) innocent Ralph fits the part in contrast to Guy Rolfe spooky character(who would later play Toulon in Puppet Master 3 to name a few) is on fine form.
A recommended moralistic adult fairytale highlighting that being a parent is a privilege not a right.
Franka Potente is party goer Kate, after she misses her last train, she is pursued by a deformed crazy and has to fight for survival in the London underground system.
British films had played it safe for a jolly good while with costume dramas, romantic comedies and gangster flicks. However, the UK have started dishing out a few original horror gems in recent years, Dog Soldiers, Descent etc. Writer/ director Christopher Smith (who went on to make Severance) with a small budget gives the viewer an effective, interesting chiller.
There's no bad acting here, the actors deliver the goods with a limited dialogue driven script. To build up the tension Smith utilises the underground, music and sound to full effect. He creates a genuine creepy atmosphere, the lighting is fantastic and the gore effects are note worthy.
The quirky small cast that Potente encounters are believable and the killer who dwells in the underground is one of the better original killers in a longer while.
The film is very bloody at times and was quite shocking in 2004. Creep remains a strong claustrophobic and underrated horror.
Dead and Buried (1981)
There are a handful of horror films that I can say are underrated and exude atmosphere, Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971) Dead People (1973) and Dellamorte Dellamore (1994) rank as some unsung cult sleepers. Dead and Buried while better known sits fittingly with the above for sheer eeriness, as director Gary Sherman takes you to the odd, clicky, fishing town of Potters Bluff where visiting tourists and passer through are killed only for their corpses to be brought back to life to serve the town.
Reminiscent of Jaws 2 (no one believes the sheriff), The Wickerman (1973) (plotting towns people) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) (they are not who they clam to be) to name a few, Dead and Buried still manages to remain fresh and intriguing until the shocking end.
James Farentino wonderfully plays sheriff Dan Gillis who must solve the case and wrap up the mystery, dynamic Melody Anderson is perfect as his wife. Jack Albertson gives a fine performance as the mortician and Robert Englund has a small role, the rest of the cast are all on horror form with some quirky small town characters.
Dead and Buried is only hankered by some choppy editing and despite the amount of writers on board, Sherman's well crafted film benefits from 'too many fingers in the pie', including Alien scribe Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett. The film is enhanced from a shot on location look which adds to the genuine creepiness of the goings ons and Joe Renzetti's music is fitting. There's some notable blood and gore effects by the late great Stan Winston which even though are a by product of the story they are excellently executed.
Overall, a must see excellent underrated chiller.
Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)
Francesco Dellamorte is the cemetery caretaker who at night makes sure the rising dead are kept dead. But things get complicated when he falls for one of the corpses.
1994's underrated zombie horror classic based on the comic Dylan Dog by Tiziano Sclavi, it stars Rupert Everett (in his best role) and enchanting Anna Falchi.
"Zombies, guns, and sex, OH MY!!!" was the tag line, and while it's true it has those things Dellamorte Dellamore is so much more, macabre and violent, with atmosphere you can taste. Excellent music by Riccardo Biseo & Manuel De Sica and direction amazingly executed by Michele Soavi.
Spellbinding and arguably the strangest, most effective zombie film out there to-date.
Messiah of Evil (1973)
Arletty (Marianna Hill) arrives in a small, odd, creepy coastal town in California looking for her father and she quickly learns little is as it seems.
Before Romero's Dawn of the Dead and The Crazies, there was Dead people a.k.a Messiah of evil. Shot in 1971 the film was not released until 1973. Like H.P. Lovecraft's Dagon and The Wicker Man (1973), weird locals are hiding a horrific secret... In Messiah, the people of Point Dune worship the rise of a red moon as they become zombies.
The storyline is disjointed, but this adds to the mystic, surreal and dreamlike quality of the film. Admittedly, there is some irregular editing and the score is very much of its time, but there's plenty to like about it.
Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and the aforementioned clearly have taken its cue from Willard Huyck's jumbled but effective film. Especially the scene where slinky brunette Anitra Ford is pursued through a supermarket. There is also truly creepy scene again with Ford and an albino trucker, played by Bennie Robinson, who you'd think would have been in a lot more movies.
It oozes dread and suspense, it's a chilling 70's horror flick that despite its faults is a lot better than some of today's so called horrors.
The Pyramid (2014)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A documentary crew, Egyptologist with the help of a robot on loan from NASA explore a newly discovered pyramid that holds a deadly secret.
Director Grégory Levasseur offers traps and tombs reminiscent of The Goonies, The Mummy and Indiana Jones. The found footage angle unavoidably comparable to the Blair Witch and its spored multiple found footage films including the recent similar Day of the Mummy.
The sets and atmosphere are the stars of the show here with its hieroglyphics, burial chambers, corridors and tunnels. To writers Daniel Meersand and Nick Simon credit they cram at lot into a generic horror touching on the traditional mummy curse, ancient Egypt beliefs, a labyrinth and robot probes, there's lots to enjoy. In contrast to the tension, traps and jump scares the closing act is more horror Minotaur-like myth oriented as the god Anubis, assisted by Egyptian inbred blood thirsty cats pick off the explorers and crew one by one.
The acting is solid, surprisingly typecast James Buckley's Fitzie, the voice of the viewer, is excellent here and is perfectly cast alongside David O'Hare who is on usual fine form as Holden. Levasseur's presents some nicely executed gory effects and plenty of dusty ambiance, the CGI effects are for the most part well done if not put under too much scrutiny.
Lapses in logic aside, the thing that really hampers The Pyramid (or puts its ahead of its time) is the unconventional jarring mix of switching between hand held camera POV to a mix of traditional shots in the later half which takes you out of the action grave robbing The Pyramid of the tension it setup in the first two acts. It feels like it's not sure what style of film it wants to be.
If you're into Egyptology and horror its a blast but as mentioned be prepared for the unorthodox switch in the camera work.
The Innkeepers (2011)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Two employees try to unravel the The Yankee Pedlar Inn's haunted past but they begin to witness disturbing events.
Opening with an assortment of spooky photo's accompanied by a creepy score from Jeff Grace, director Ti West sets the atmosphere for The Innkeepers from the get go. Anyone familiar with West's smouldering and finely filmed House of the Devil will know he likes to take time to build up the characters with a final pay off. Innkeepers is no exception. That said, it is pacer than the aforementioned with a few cheap scares up front courteous of a PC and a YouTube-like video.
The acting is first rate, very naturalist with lead Sara Paxton on form as intelligent dropout Claire. Paxton is very watchable delivering a good performance thanks to an equally good script. There's logic in the screenplay and supports the notion that if you were in a hotel and interested in the paranormal you'd set up an investigation.
There is a small cast of quirky characters including 80′s star Kelly Mcgillis who seems to be having a revival now in horror after featuring in Stake Land. There's a psychic, an odd old man, obligatory ghost bride and cellar. There's ominous corridors, creaky doors, piano cues, old photos and great sound design which add to its creepy factor. There's plenty of jump scares and red-herrings.
E.V.Ps, web cams in amongst the realistic sets gives credibly and suck you into Claire's and Luke's (Pat Healy) investigation plight. It's an old-school horror with the music and sound playing a big part, much of the suspense comes from what you don't see. But West's visuals of what you do see are extremely haunting. It's a homage of sorts that refreshingly leaves you with some unanswered questions and loose ends.
Debatably you can argue it builds to little more than a series of scares, yet, it's more consistent and less glossy than recent horror Insidious, furthermore grounded than 1408 and far-more finely executed with its wonderful sets, camera work and narrative than the Paranormal Activities.
Yes – it's a essentially a haunted house flick, but what a chilling, hair raising and perfectly constructed haunted inn film it is.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
10 years after the events of the first & second Halloween Michael Myers escapes and returns to Haddonfield to hunt down his niece.
There's a lot going on in this instalment that goes back to the roots of Halloween ignoring part three. Part 4 is grander, a police station is wiped out and locals turn vigilante. Teenage shenanigan's go on that are more synonymous with slasher films that weren't really present in part 2.
Despite being the fourth in a series and putting aside what the critics say Halloween Return of Michael Myers is a very strong entry.
It's strength is not only Donald Pleasence's great performance, take a look at the early gas station scene but it's the likability of both Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris' characters. Thanks to Alan B. McElroy's writing every character is fleshed out more than usual for the time and genre.
Harris is a good child actress and gives Jamie an air of realism. Whereas Cornell gives depth to Rachel's moral issues and concerns. The supporting cast are all more than adequate including Beau Starr as Sheriff Ben Meeker. George P. Wilbur's take on the Shape/Michael is debatably the best portrayal of killer in the series.
Credit should go to director Dwight H. Little and legendary producer Akkad for capturing the look and feel look of the first two instalments. Little makes good use of the lighting and music building some great tension, notably the rocking chair, rooftop scene and truck escape. The surprise ending fittingly echoes the first and 4 has the right mix of horror, action and suspense without the cringe worthy cheese that come with most copycat slasher pictures of the time.
An underrated guilty pleasure.
Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
A disturbed woman recently released from a mental institute has various nightmarish experiences. She becomes further disturbed after moving to an old farmhouse on a Connecticut island with her husband and friend where they meet a mysterious squatter.
Let's Scare Jessica to Death is a 1971 low budget gem, possibly the foundation or inspiration for many horror films that followed. It's skillful directed by John D. Hancock who creates a foreboding atmospheric horror, with chills and spills.
The supporting cast are notable and Zohra Lampert plays the lead role of Jessica admirably, with emotional range and depth. In addition, Mariclare Costello is excellent as the creepy lodger Emily.
It suffers slightly from some 70's film trappings, the intrusive use of the score, choppy editing and the sound is a little off but these are only small distractions, and to the movies credit it doesn't look like a low budget film.
The on location shoot adds to the realism and there are many surreal moments, involving the odd towns people, a girl in a graveyard and the body in a lake. Creepy old photos, folkloric tales, unexplained noises all add to the unease and tension of this smouldering horror.
It draws in the viewer making you consider is what Jessica experiencing real or not. The film builds up modestly, tackling possible vampirism, haunting and ghosts which are all handled in a believable manner. I can only compare the ambiance to that of The Haunting (1963), Exorcist (1973), House of the Devil (2009) Carnival of Souls (1962) and another underrated horror Dead People a.k.a Messiah of Evil made the same year (although not released until 1973).
It's Hancocks ability to execute pure creepiness and eeriness that sets Let's Scare Jessica to Death apart from many horrors. If only the majority of modern horrors could stir up the same sensations experienced.
Le notti del terrore (1981)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Visitors to a mansion are attacked by the disturbed dead and undead monks of the area.
Here we have Burial Ground, Le Notti del terrore, also known as Nights of Terror and The Zombie Dead. Take the sleaziness of The Blind Dead series, put in the trappings of Fulci's dubbed Zombi 2 and add the set up of the Night of the Living Dead and you're pretty close to your expectations of Burial Ground.
To this shameless perverse horror's credit it has atmosphere and a nihilistic ending. Set in and around the grounds of a European mansion it's surreal day and nights on location shoot gives it some weight as a group of visitors get killed off one by one. Directed by the elusive Andrea Bianchi who has a long list of films to his name and aliases, the gore and makeup are effective for the most part and what you'd expect from an 80's Italian splatter film. The film heats up when the zombie's start tearing, eating flesh, boob biting and ingeniously using a range of weapons including disc cutters and axes as they lay siege on a rural dwellings.
Gino De Rossi provides the special effects on a debatable less budget than Lucio Fulci's Zombi, there's a few similar moments to Fulci's classic including a woman face being pulled close to a shards of glass, worms and maggots falling from the rising dead. The zombies are Romero slow but are reminiscent of the wielding weapon dead in Amando de Ossorio's The Blind Dead.
The score is a little intrusive at times synonymous with the Italian films, there's gratuitous groping, kissing and overblown crying and hysterics at times. The infamous uncomfortable incest segment between actress Mariangela Giordano and Peter Bark, where the son makes advances to his mother is unnecessarily thrown in for bad taste sake. Possibly simply to out do Romero's classic basement setup where the daughter kills the mother. There's a notable decapitation scene of a maid where her hand is nailed to a window and her head loped off by a scythe. Actress Antonella Antinori is memorable along with Raimondo Barbieri who gets limited screen time as the Professor.
As far as zombie films go this takes its self seriously with plenty of eerie bloody moments and while not as good as the aforementioned films of the same genre it's still a video nasty worth checking out.
Zombi 3 (1988)
Not really linked to its predecessor zombi 2, a virus outbreak (similar to Return of the Living Dead) causes the dead to rise and the military must stop the contaminated. Trapped in the zone are a few soldiers and civilians that must fight to survive.
Although billed as directed by Italian directing maestro Lucio Fulci who supposedly shot approximately 70 minutes of footage, second unit director Bruno Mattei and writer Claudio Fragasso took over and only used 50 minutes of Fulci's footage. On viewing this lovable travesty it is very debatable how much of Fulic's footage really appears. There only appears smudgings of the Italians magic as it feels more like Mattei's Hell of the Living Dead/Night of the Zombies/Zombie Creeping Flesh.
Like its follow up, zombi 4 there's talking zombies, jumping undead and zombies that want to fight rather than attack and eat flesh. Also there's two crazy standout scenes, a flying head and a baby zombie birth. It may all sound like fun but it's zombie scenes with the civilians and regular soldiers fighting the government's hazardous white suit army that stand out, sadly not the wacky ones.
The zombie gore, blood, make-up and effects are inconsistent, sometimes effective and at other time revealing poor. There's overuse of a fog machine, laughable dialogue especially from the scientists and military personnel. The synthesised soundtrack is great but like the broadcasting DJ ill-fitting at times. As a sequel to Zombie Flesheaters it's below average, meandering from one silly setup to the next.
Zombi 3/Zombie Flesheaters 2 at times is more virus flick, imitating and sharing more with The Crazies or Nightmare City than Fulics cult film Zombi 2.