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.


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.


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


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.


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.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

For the Love of Shorts: Burn Time (2017)

Could an Australian seagull have saved a New Zealand star from summer’s greatest horror?

Since 1985 New Zealanders and Australians have known they are in the firing line of one of the greatest horrors imaginable - extreme UV levels increasing risk of melanoma skin cancer. 

At the same time, many Kiwi and Aussie lives were already being saved by an unlikely Australian bird -  Sid the Seagull, the star of the classic Slip, Slop, Slap, sun safety advertisement that premiered in 1981. 

Produced by Cancer Council Victoria, Sid’s simple message of Slip, Slop, Slap has been recognised as one of the most successful public health campaigns ever created on either side of the Tasman. Variations of the campaign with added advice are still in use a quarter of a century later, and the core message is as relevant as ever. 

In fact slip, slop, slap is so ingrained in Australasian consciousness that it is not surprising that a team of New Zealand filmmakers are paying homage to Sid’s message over 25 years on. 

However, the form of that homage might surprise you. 

Burn Time is the sixth and final short film in the web series Ao-terror-oa, an anthology of New Zealand themed horror movies, jointly funded by Youtube and New Zealand On Air and created by H2Ow Productions. 

Set in 1985, Burn Time depicts a nightmarish vision of the worst sunburn imaginable, caused by a fictional rogue solar event. 

While the events in the film are fictional, the filmmakers are deadly serious about warning people young and old about the dangers of forgetting or ignoring Sid’s original simple message: 

Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat.

Released worldwide on YouTube on the 1st of December 2017, Burn Time stars New Zealand actress Brittany Clark (Mia Halston of Channel 9’s production Doctor, Doctor, screening in New Zealand via TVNZ) 

Mia is set to return to screens on both sides of the ditch in season 3 of Doctor, Doctor, but first is excited for those with a stomach for horror to see her in Burn Time, where she underwent an extraordinary and terrifying transformation thanks to the incredible SFX makeup team of New Zealand company BodyFX. 

How terrifying? Well let’s just say it could turn you off your morning cup of tea... forever. 

To find out more you’ll have to watch for yourself. 

Those brave enough to reach the end of the six minute short will be reminded of just how important and effective the original slip, slop, slap message still is today. 

For those that don’t have the guts, or somehow see the film and miss the point, the filmmakers have this message: 

In horror films, if you ignore the danger signs and scoff at warnings you will very possibly be the first to die amongst your friends. 

It’s a sad but vitally important lesson that the exact same thing is true when it comes to sun protection and the risks of  sun exposure, namely melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. 

The most recent data shows 1,520 deaths in Australia will likely be attributable to melanoma in 2017 and in New Zealand over 300 people die of Melanoma Skin Cancer each year. 

Our two countries have among the highest rates of both melanoma skin cancer and mortality from melanoma skin cancer in the world. 

Don’t be like the first victim in a horror film, heed the following SunSmart advice this and every summer: 

Check your local sun protection times each day for your location – at in New Zealand or on the free SunSmart app in Australia. For the best level of protection when you’re outside during these times, use a combination of: 

- Slip on clothing that covers as much skin as possible; 
- Slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen. Re-apply every two          hours outdoors – or immediately after sweating and swimming. 
- Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears 
- Seek shade  
- Slide on sunglasses. 

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Friday, 8 December 2017

The Good Neighbor (2016)

You haven't seen this. You need to.

The Good Neighbor


A pair of mischievous high school kids create the illusion of a haunting on an unsuspecting elderly neighbor while keeping his every reaction under surveillance. A series of coincidences leads to tragedy.


Trigger Warning
Review contains words like powerhouse, and masterpiece.

This is a masterpiece of tension, mis-direction, character building, and OMG moments.

There, I said it.

The premise of The Good Neighbor is simple: How does someone behave when they think they're being haunted? After that, it's hard to say much about the actual plot of the film without running so deep into spoiler territory, it would wreck the magnificent, heart-wrenching finale of this amazing piece of work.

The film centers on three characters - the "mischievous high school kids" and the neighbor - Caan - a reclusive, ill-tempered, and violent, possible sociopath. Perhaps psychopath.

So let's focus on the acting for a moment. The two young leads are portrayed by Logan Miller (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) and Keir Gilchrist (It Follows). Both are decent actors, and both create their characters well, by which I mean they give their deeply flawed personas life. They are initially perceived as inherently good people, with an ill conceived idea. Then as more is revealed the realization that all is not as it seems comes to the front. Some of this is, of course down to a craftly written script (Mark Bianculli and Jeff Richard) and the excellent direction of Kasra Farahani (best known as Art Director on movies such as Star Trek Into Darkness and Thor). But I want to take a moment to mention James Caan.

James Caan (left)

Caan lays down a powerhouse performance in what should be a b-grade low budget thriller. As I said, he gets great support from the rest of the cast, but Caan has without doubt been in a slump, or under a shadow for years now. When we think of great Caan performances what comes to mind? Sicilian Vampire? Preggoland? Or The Godfather Part II? Rollerball? They came out over 40 years ago. They're older than me. His performance here secures that he still has it.

And that is why you have to see this.

James Caan is still one of the finest actors working today.

Anyway, the film grinds tension throughout. It plays with the expectation of the viewer and twists throughout. Part thriller, part horror in places, even with some found footage vibe going on, this is a taut movie, with a massive pay off at the end. Utterly amazing.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017