Tuesday, 23 January 2018

For the Love of Shorts: Hands (2013)



An early Danny Donahue this week, starring Alexa Etchart and Owen Gresswell. Typical in keeping with his style, Hands is another example of what an outstanding filmmaker can do.








Thursday, 18 January 2018

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)



JP Monroe purchases an ornamental pillar from a strange man in an antique shop for some money. No idea how much. No one knows. He's going to display it in his club - The Boiler Room - along with all of the other grotesques he has there. But he keeps it in his bedroom. Yes. This is the film where the franchise starts to break down.

Joey, a reporter, witnesses a nightclub goer ripped apart with chains from a mysterious box while at a hospital one night. Her investigations lead her to The Boiler Room, douchey owner JP Monroe, and of course the now named, Pinhead.

On paper this works as a further sequel to the franchise, but even from the beginning, it is plagued with problems. The first is that Clive Barker is no longer a creative mind in process, limited to "based on character's created by" as his credit.


Kevin Bernhardt as JP Monroe

Falling almost at the first hurdle, the pillar Monroe buys at the beginning of the film is clearly different to the one at the end of the second movie. Okay, I can forgive that, but it is the little things. The introduction of reporter Joey (Terry Farrell - Star Trek DS9) is fine, and she's a good solid actor. But when the hooks kill the kid at the start (with some pretty cool FX) I'm left wondering how? I thought the hooks were Pinhead's weapon of choice? And he's in a pillar, isn't he? Huh?

Anyway. Monroe feeds victims to Pinhead, after he spills a small amount of his own blood on the pillar and awakens the cenobite himself, allowing him to grow in power. It's a little hokey, but fine, and definitely a little slow, but it's a good callback to the previous awakenings of Uncle Frank and Julia. All the while Joey investigates the box, the club, and has surreal dreams about her dead father.

When Pinhead is finally released from the pillar 49 minutes into the movie (yes, amazing character actor Doug Bradley revives his most famous role to date to spend over half the running time as a talking head in a box) the best and the worst begin. Pinhead massacres the clubbers, and when Joey arrives, him and his new cenobites fight Joey for the Lament Configuration.

The climax has the spirit of Capt. Elliot Spencer (Doug Bradley) melding with Pinhead, and then being stabbed by the Lament in it's "daggery" form. Joey then plunges the box into conveniently wet sequel cement which turns out to be the foundation of a building where the Lament Configuration is the main design.

Welp. Where to start?

The acting is all over the place. Bradley and Farrell are good to excellent in places, but apart from that none of the actors are solid. A VHS playback of Kirsty Cotton (unused scenes from H2) is a nice touch to tie the movie in. The gore is well done. The overall story is pretty decent. Director Anthony Hickox does a reasonable job, nothing outstanding, but nothing to be ashamed of. So there are highs. But what's wrong with it? It's inconsistent.


Doug Bradley

Released one year after A Nightmare on Elm Street (6) Freddy's Dead, Pinhead is written as a wise cracking, cackling buffoon of a villain. It's completely out of place with the earlier movies - and even most after. After the cool club massacre, Pinhead is joined by a new team of laughable cenobites (Pisonhead, Camerahead, CD, and Dreamer (!) among others). Where did they come from? Who knows? They're just suddenly there.


Huh.

There are scenes of dreams being manipulated, spirits of people interacting with the modern world. None of these themes are present in the movies before. You open a door to hell, and the risen tear your skin off. You enjoy it. Hell Raiser. Geddit?

Underneath it all is a substandard Hellraiser movie, but with a supplement of beer and snacks, a watchable movie so long as you don't pay too close attention. At least it is a Hellraiser movie. The lore is there - although messed with - but there are enough callbacks and references to make it feel a part.



Wednesday, 17 January 2018

For the Love of Shorts: Mother Died: Special Edition (2014)


Continuing our Bloody Cuts love: Mother Died Special Edition. Another excellent short from the amazing team.

Starring Sarah Winter (Endeavour TV) and Carol Storey, and written and directed with aplomb and style by Neill Gorton (who has worked in a variety of different departments on films like Inkheart and Victor Frankenstein - and RED DWARF *fanboys over the floor*)

Mother Died will have you thinking. And have your heart breaking a little...



Friday, 12 January 2018

Hellraiser II: Hellbound (1988)


The direct sequel to original horror classic, Hellraiser, Hellraiser II: Hellbound increases on the mythology, ramps up the gore, and continues the story.

Kirsty (again played by Ashley Laurence), after the events of the first movie is dropped into the Channard Institute to help her deal with her grief (and perhaps deal with the rantings of a loony yelling about monsters and demons and such). But unknown to her, Doctor Channard (Kenneth Cranham) has been investigating the puzzle box (the lament configuration) for, possibly, years. Channard gives the box to a young autistic girl with a penchant for puzzles, and she opens the doors to let the monsters in once again.


Cenobites

With the story following on directly, and with it only being a year later released, the story has similar elements as the first, but with a far greater budget. With less involvement, Clive Barker still had full reigns on the story, however, and the movies pitches perfectly.

Channard releases Julia (Clare Higgins reprisal) from hell in the same way that Frank was in the first movie, but this time through the mattress she died on. The special effects are far improved, and gory as all.

Frank (Sean Chapman) is still trapped in hell. 

The ensuing story is Channard's fascination with Julia, Kirsty trying to escape the cenobites, and Julia trying to capture as many souls as she can.

Ashley Laurence, Clare Higgins, and Sean Chapman do a wonderful job of character reprisal. The main new cast members, Kenneth Cranham and Imogen Boorman do a fine job keeping up with the established cast. 

Our Cenobites are played this time with reprisals from Simon Bamford, Nicholas Vince, and Doug Bradley (although, Bradley now credited as Pinhead) and Barbie Wilde joins as the fourth. They are terrifying again, and wonderful to watch.


Julia, skinless.

The climax of the movie concludes the two-movie story. Frank is left in hell, Julia returned. Channard becomes a Cenobite. The box is closed. Pinhead et al are trapped inside an...ornamental pillar.

The end.

The film gives way for a sequel, but the story of the Cotton family appears done.

While the first film is a classic, it was really nice to get the conclusion the second gives. The story telling flows nicely, and director Tony Randel (Ticks) does a solid job. This is the sort of franchise that benefits from having a larger effects budget, and for the most part the effects are spot on.

Randel proved himself a solid director, but went on to do more work in editing.

Hellraiser II: Hellbound is a solid sequel to a franchise. It's well worth watching the first two movies back to back.



   

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

For the Love of Shorts: Suckablood (2012)


From the terrific people at Bloody Cuts Films, a gothic tale of a girl scared to suck her thumb, lest the monstrous Suckablood should come.

Directed by  Jake Hendriks (as Jake Cuddihy) and Ben Tillett, and starring Holly Jacobson (Nightmare on 34th Street), do beware...



Friday, 5 January 2018

Hellraiser (1987)


IMDB descriptions don't get much better than this: "An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover; demons are pursuing him after he escaped their sadomasochistic underworld." Well. I suppose.

Uncle Frank (Sean Chapman - he'll always be Uncle Frank to me / and Oliver Smith in Frank's, um, skinnier form) has opened the puzzle box and been dragged to the netherworld by grotesques who wish to show him such things. Sister-in-law Julia (Clare Higgins) and Brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) are moving into the house he was squatting in, accidentally bringing him back.

Larry's daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) weaves into the story, and suddenly those of the netherworld are being offered a deal to swap Kirsty's soul for Frank's.


Skinless Uncle Frank and Julia

The thing with Hellraiser is less of the spectacle. and more of the heart and soul of writer/director Clive Barker. What I mean by that is that the story is there. As Barker famously moved away from the franchise the entries become more and more, well, bizarre.

Hellraiser, based on Barker's own "Hell Bound Heart", is clever storytelling. That, mixed with the love that he has for his own source material, and his unflinching desire to get from the page to the screen in his words.

Consequently the film is great.

Barker's keen eye and deft storytelling are matched by the primary cast, with Chapman, Higgins, Robinson, and Laurence doing a solid job. The special effects (practical) were outstanding for the day, and mostly still hold up today.

Then there is of course the mainstay of the franchise. The Cenobites, Lead, Chattering, Female, and Butterball.


Icons

Obviously to reach infamy as 'Pinhead', Doug Bradley leads the Cenobite demons (purely, I understand, only because he was able to speak more clearly in makeup), with Nicholas Vince, Grace Kirby, and Simon Bamford.

This all comes together to make something most horror fans today still consider to be something special.

The film has an underpinning terror throughout. The scenes are shot delicately (sometimes out of choice, and sometimes necessity).

Together this leaves us one of the most respected horror movies of all time, falling with grace next to Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th.

And it had sequels.

Oh, so many sequels.


Friday, 15 December 2017

Our Evil (2017)


Forewarning: some of this film is brutal. Brutal.


Our Evil


Synopsis

A man with spiritualist powers is told by his mentor that a demonic entity is returning to destroy his daughter's soul, and that he should take drastic measures to prevent this from happening.

Review

Okay, so this one not only took me by surprise, but it's also kinda hard to review. But first off, let me say it is fantastic. Part drama, part horror, a dash of torture porn, a little thriller... like I said, hard. You couldn't pigeon hole this film at all.

I won't talk at any length over the plot - the synopsis says enough - for not wanting to drop spoilers. The film has twists galore, and each one is kind of sweet, so I won't ruin anything. The debut feature of writer/director Samuel Galli, Brazilian film Our Evil (Original title: Mal Nosso) drips with tension. It's raw brutal aesthetic makes it hard to look away. And sometimes you want to.

What I'll refer to as the villain - Charles - played by Ricardo Casella (debut feature) is cool, calm, and very sinister. He looks so...ordinary. Lead of the piece is Arthur - played in two time periods to aplomb by Ademir Esteves (debut feature) and Fernando Cardoso (debut feature). Casella and Esteves spa on screen like seasoned professionals.


Ricardo Casella (with knife)

The real win is the story telling. The film doesn't hold back on the underlying good vs evil arc within the narrative. It bounces back and forth unpredictably, until the last.

It would also be remiss of me not to mention the horror effects. I think credit should fall to Special Makeup and Effects Artist Rodrigo Arag√£o (Mud Zombies) for producing true Savini effects.

Not only is the film thought provoking, gripping, and gore quenching, it really does show what can be achieved on a low budget with determination, grit, and perseverance. A must watch.