Saturday, 29 September 2012

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Tepid Telly Terrors

Spectre is a hoary TV movie of psychic intrigue and satanic worship from the bonce of Gene Roddenberry and starring Robert Culp and John Hurt. A pair of criminologists join forces to investigate a case involving demons and black magic rituals after being contacted by a damsel in distress but even before their flight to London and they find themselves beset by dark forces. The made for tv budget is stretched beyond breaking point by some crummy effects and the plodding script leaves the actors floundering, relying on meaningful (but idiotic) expressions to carry the plot forward. The whole thing is as scary as a cheese sandwich and a complete waste of time.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow manages it's modest TV budget a little better despite it's plot being just as hackneyed. When a local girl is mauled by a dog, the town 'tard gets blamed and a posse of enraged rednecks, finding him hiding as a scarecrow, mercilessly riddle him with bullets only to find themselves hunted by an apparition after their acquittal. Charles Durning dominates the film as the creepy posse mouthpiece mainly because the rest of the cast snooze their way through their lines and although it's a fairly tame tale of revenge it manages a few wisps of atmosphere along the way.

Tversity Toonery

Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, first published in 1986, is a bit of a classic in the world of graphic novels with it's amusingly bitter cynicism and crumbling vision of the caped crusader and so following the success of the Batman Year One adaptation/test run it's no surprise that the animators turned to this seminal work next. Bruce Wayne in his mid fifties, ten years into retirement but get itchy fists when a gang of mutants take hold of the city and old enemies are released from jail seemingly rehabilitated. Though the animation isn't as flashy as Damnation it's a stunningly faithful transliteration, mirroring the style and even individual frames of the original. The film makers have wisely split the tale into two halves but it means, unfortunately, a six month wait for the conclusion to this excellent adaptation.

Resident Evil Damnation is a cgi animated feature about a vaguely Eastern European country using the virus riddled zombie mutants as weapons in a civil war with the inevitable flesh shredding consequences. This is the 2nd or 3rd animated spin off from the video game/movie franchise and although I've no idea how it fits with the larger story it's really not that important, it's less about plot, characters or script and more about pressing the requisite fanboy buttons with munching, favourite monsters and sexy lady fights peppering proceedings. Though this is simple minded action nonsense it does look stunning with some of the best CGI I've seen to date so if your looking for cartoonish gore which requires zero brain activity this should do the trick.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Cultish Cinema

Sound of My Voice follows a young couple infiltrating a suburban cult with a nebulous plan to make an documentary expose but find themselves out of their depth in the presence of supposedly time travelling leader. It's a modest little film, with confidently quiet performances from the cast but it's lowfi, hipsterish style isn't backed up with enough substance and as the plot progresses it loses focus and the tense atmosphere is frittered away in a trite ambiguity.

Elizabeth Olsen puts is an unexpectedly nuanced performance as a cult escapee in the unsettling drama Martha Marcy May Marlene. No condo basements and soft following robes here instead it's a rough and rapey country commune with a Manson-esque hillbilly ruler, which, through flashbacks, explains our protagonist's difficulty in readjusting to everyday life and the unshakable paranoia that haunts her. Like Sound.... it's a modest, sparingly scripted film that culminates in a predictable finale but it at least manages to sustain it's atmosphere right to the end. A creepy, disturbing little film.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Sound Small Screenery

The Deadly Tower stars Kurt Russell as notorious sniper killer Charles Whitman in a taut dramatisation of his clock tower rampage. Made for American TV this modest little feature sticks, as far as I can discern, to the facts of the terrible tragedy and this spartan almost documentary approach actually adds to the tension and brutality as Whitman's careful preparation soon turns into callous mass murder. Whitman's robotic character and lack of dialogue isn't exactly a demanding role but Russell does a decent enough job, much like the rest of the cast and despite the bare bones production there's plenty of atmosphere with a leaden dread giving way to the manic randomness of the slaughter.

John Carpenter's TV movie effort Someone's Watching Me is a psychological thriller about a woman endlessly stalked by a stranger after moving into a new apartment. Carpenter skillfully, carefully builds the tension as the besieged Lauren Hutton's torment escalates and violence becomes inevitable. The script is a bit workmanlike and the plot a little hackneyed (only after being retread for the past 30 years or so but there's plenty to enjoy here with Hutton putting in an excellent effort while Carpenter works his particular nerve jangling magic to excellent effect.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Kings of Cult

Monte's classic automative fable, "Two Lane Blacktop.

Meyer's masterpiece of mammaries, Supervixens.

Noe's afterlife odyssey, Enter The Void

Exquisite Earfuls

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Classic Creations

Quatermass and the Pit was broadcast live for the Beeb in 1958 and it's a glorious slice of vintage speculation that reeks of it's era and has a wonderfully British sense of understatement. Professor Quatermass, stiff lipped maverick scientist, fresh from a row at the War Office, is dragged to a building site turned archaeological dig that's unearthed a mysterious craft in a 5 million year old strata with some curious alien corpses inside. Despite the amusingly dated styling and script there's plenty of vigour in the plot and a few wisps of genuine atmosphere as the well mannered team find themselves besieged by incomprehensible forces. This is brilliant stuff but something that's probably only going to appeal to fans of retro scifi.

Frankenstein: The True Story is a reasonable, if mis-titled, TV mini-series version of the classic horror. I was expecting some sort of psychological retelling of the man-made monster but it's quite plain interweaving of the original with the sequel The Bride of... . When the naive Dr assists a demented colleague and inherits his life giving experiments his first bash slowly turns into a disaster and he's offered a second go, this time with lady bits, but it quite unsurprisingly it all ends in tears. The production is decent and the talents of James Mason and David MacCallum assist with proceedings so although I was a little disappointed with the unimaginative retelling it was still an entertaining 3hrs of vintage scifi.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Capering Chucklers

Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn are at the top of their respective games in the charming comedy thriller, Foul Play, released in 1978. The Hitchcockian plot sees Hawn unwittingly embroiled in a preposterous goulash of murder, intrigue and albinos after coming into possession of a mysterious roll of film but luckily she has laid back police detective Chase in her corner. The blend of comedy and thriller is actually not bad and played, quite wisely, with tongue firmly planted in cheek but it's the excellent performances which make this fluff into something special and the two excellent leads are joined in the fun with some brilliant turns from Burgess Meredith & Dudley Moore.

Seems like Old times sees Hawn & Chase reunite a few years later in another comedy thriller this time from the pen of Neil Simon. This time it's Chase, playing a feckless author, who finds himself caught up in a miasma of crime and misunderstanding who turns to his beautiful ex wife for help, only to discover she's now married to the District Attorney who's trying to bring him to justice. The comic pair are joined by Charles Grodin in the fun and like Foul Play manage to lift this whimsical, farce from drifting into mediocrity and though it doesn't quite match the former in pace it's still an entertaining, undemanding piece of fluff.