Sunday, March 1, 2015

steps, dogs and sprocket holes.

Greetings dear readers, please excuse my fragile state, miniscule reviews and bad spellings as it's early Sunday morning here and I'm nursing a bruised kneecap and the slightly uncomfortable feeling that a Frenchman is living in my mouth.

Which must mean that I've just returned from a Jim Beam and Irn Bru fuelled  Glasgow FrightFest, a weekend (kinda) of killer clowns, Aussie undead, dodgy 70's wigs, foxy Spanish ladies in grubby vests and an almost (accidental) buggering off a fat sweating man as I attempted to leave the toilets.

So, where shall we begin?

Why with the pre-fest film of course!

Eliza Graves (AKA Stonehearst Asylum)
Dir: Brad Anderson.
Cast:  Jim Sturgess, 'Sir' Ben Kingsley, Dame Michael Caine, David Thewlis, Sophie Kennedy Clarke and Kate Beckinsale.

The fairly new Glasgow tradition of a Thursday night movie for those who've arrived from 'down south' a day early and are too scared to go drinking in town continued this year with the latest offering from director Brad (Session 9 - no idea if he directed the other 8) Anderson, Stonehearst Asylum.

Based on the darkly comic short story The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether by professional Tom Savini alike Edgar Allan Poe, Anderson transports the original tale from France to England (albeit one with thunderous ravines and snow topped mountains in Yorkshire), adds a wee bit of feminism to the proceedings and gives a name to it's narrator whilst still managing to give relevance to the original plot, which when stretched to a 2 hour plus running time is quite an achievement.

Fresh-faced newly qualified Doctor Edward Newgate (Sturgess) has travelled to the scarily remote Stonehearst Asylum, a creepy gothic monstrosity specially built to home some of the UK's finest acting talent, to learn more of the medicine of the mind and the art of eyebrow acting from the slightly over the top Dr Silas (Of the) Lamb (Kingsley doing what he does best - take from that what you will), whose patients are all members of either European royalty or just filthy rich.

Either way they're all embarrassments to their respective families.

I know the feeling.

Amongst them is the beguilingly bewitching Eliza Graves (Beckinsale, obviously Eva Green was busy/too expensive), the wife of a rich count who suffers from seizures every time she has her breasts squeezed.

I gather from the movie that this was an everyday occurrence in the olden days alongside consumption and rickets.

Intrigued by Lamb's methods (which seem to include getting the patients pissed whilst enunciating loudly) Newgate decides to dig a little deeper into the asylum's treatments only to come across a large group of caged British stage and TV stalwarts, led by Michael Caine no less imprisoned in the basement and claiming to be the true asylum staff.

An enjoyable old school tribute to the glory days of RKO, Anderson's movie seems less concerned with the mystery of who the real mentalists are (which to be honest is pretty obvious from the moment David Thewlis turns up in all his panto glory) than with giving the cast an excuse to enjoy playing such over the top characters.

And the film is much better for it.

An enjoyably entertaining old fashioned romp especially suited to us over 40's who grew up on BBC 2's black and white double bills of the 70's.

The crowds try to figure out where the guests have gone (clue: the fat fucker who had me pinned against the toilet door has probably eaten them).

On to Friday and the fest (of fright) good and proper beginning with the mind over mentalism mocumentary...

The Atticus Institute.
Dir: Chris (I know Ryan Reynolds) Sparling.
Cast:  William Mapother, Rya Kihlstedt, John Rubinstein, Julian Acosta and the lady who used to be in the Gold Blend ads with Anthony Head.

Back in the deepest, darkest 1970's (ask your nan), top brain boffin Dr. Henry (brother of Herbert, or was it Fred?) West (The Burrowers Mapother) creates  The Atticus Institute in order to study various paranormal type things including but not confined to, ESP, ELO, NYPD Blue and psychokinesis.

Which is nice work if you can get it.

Unfortunately no amount of spoon bending, card guessing and hideous tie wearing can prepare Dr. West and his team for what unfolds when butch barnetted Judith Winstead (Home Alone 3's Kihlstedt) arrives at the institute.

Outperforming every test subject ever recorded it soon becomes apparent that  her amazing plate-pushing abilities owe more to demonic possession than Peter Powers and it's not long (the film is a short 83 minutes) before the U.S. government (boo hiss) intervene in a woeful attempt to weaponize the demon inside her.

A great idea slightly hampered by the traditions of the 'found footage' genre (highly trained military cameramen filming reaction shots rather than one of a kind demonic possessions?), you want the movie to follow thru' with the frankly fantastic theme of government sanctioned demonic assassins (which if I'm honest would make a great mocumentary itself), unfortunately Sparling backs out, seemingly more interested in telling us (in the most earnest way imaginable) that state sanctioned torture is bad (really? cheers for that) before heading toward a well worn climax.

The demon is sneakier than the military?

No way.

Enjoyable but immediately forgettable save the top notch performances from   Kihlstedt and an understated Mapother, The Atticus Institute shows that there's still mileage to be had out of the whole 'possession' genre but leaves you frustrated that thits unique concept wasn't taken further, I mean imagine a movie tying in the Kennedy assassination, 9/11 et al. to government controlled Hell-born psychic assassins.


Suit yerself then.

A quick wee and a crafty ciggie before...

The Hoarder.
Dir: Matt Winn.
Cast:  Mischa Barton, Emily Atack and Robert Knepper.

Big faced New Yorker Ella (Barton) discovers that her fiance keeps a secret storage locker over the wrong side of town and convinced that he's having an affair or worse, that has a collection of comics hidden away there recruits her best buddy Molly (the even bigger faced Atack) to break in and have a nosey around.

Much death, running, violent stapling and ginger haired horror ensues.

A surprisingly early kill and threat reveal coupled with a fantastically twitchy performance from Prison Break's Knepper and a really nice twist isn't enough to lift The Hoarder above its stalk and slash origins which is a shame as the aforementioned plus points coupled with a great setting promises so much more than it delivers, which is a shame because it could have been a killer.

As opposed to just sneaking up behind you and pulling your pants up your arse in an annoying way that is.

Tho' the promise of seeing Mischa Barton hideously tortured for fun does give it a certain edge it needs to not be a total waste.

From big faced ladies to wide arsed Aussies next with....

Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead.
Dir: Kiah Roache-Turner.
Cast: Jay Gallagher and his sexy beard, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill and his big hair plus some other folk.

When a meteor shower causes an infection that turns folk into zombies it's left to the butchly bearded mechanic Barry (little known Gallagher brother Jay) to travel to the hip and happening town of Bulla Bulla to rescue his harsh of face yet curvy of hips artist sister Brooke (Bradey abley supported by the sweatiest cleavage I have ever seen on film) who is currently trapped in a garage after being attacked by her model and assistant during a photoshoot.

Leaving the city with his wife Annie and daughter Megan (not that one) tragedy soon strikes leaving Barry no alternative but to kill then both with a nailgun which, whilst sad for Baz is great for us because it means he's free to team up with a variety of amusingly one dimensional Aussie stereotypes such as Benny the Aboriginal comic relief (an amazing performance from ex- Mrs Tony Parsons Burchill) and fright-tashed garage owner Frank for a series of ever more convoluted and crazed escapades as they attempt to rescue an ever sweatier Brooke from the clutches of an evil scientist and his panto-esque Mad Max style private army.

The most hyped film of the festival, director Roache-Turner (which sounds as if it he should be listed under worlds bizarrest job title) promised a heady mix of Mad Max machine madness, zombie mayhem, typically Australian haircuts and gross-out comedy with an ample helping of KC and the Sunshine Band thrown in for good measure in this over the top tribute to everything from Peter Jackson to John Carpenter via that earlier Aussie zombie classic Undead, and whilst not always successful (the road movie elements work infinitely better than the mad scientist subplot) it chucks enough at the screen to have the majority of it's jokes stick.

With it's loveable leads and an imagination that would shame a very imaginative man, Wyrmwood has midnight movie written all over it (not literally tho' as that would mean that it'd be impossible to see the film) and certainly delivered on its promise, if not on the hype surrounding it.

Plus it's the first movie I've ever seen where the poster art cost more than the movie.


With the bar raised it was time to change gear (literally and metaphorically) as we went from the scary undead to a sexy redhead with...

Dir: April Mullen.
Cast: Katharine Isabelle, Christopher Lloyd, Michael Ironside and Tim Doiron.

Finding herself in a diner with no idea how she got there, puppy-eyed amnesiac Gwen's (Friend of the Unwell Isabelle) day goes from bad to worse as she accidentally shoots a waitress forcing her to go on the run and outwit her many pursuers as she attempts to piece together he shattered memories.

Memories that include dead fiances, severed fingers, evil crime bosses, copious amounts of cheeseburgers and a kick-arse alter ego by the name of Flamingo.

Like an out of control Buick on a lost highway to Hell 88 veers crazily from crime caper to edge of the seat thriller via slapstick comedy and general weirdness (director Mullen's weapon selling cutie I'm looking at you) as it races to it's continuity crushing climax thanks in part to it's incredible cast and top notch writing from the fantastic Doiron, who almost steals the movie as the camps as pants and trigger happy Ty.

As for Katherine Isabelle, well she could make stripping wallpaper watchable and given the amount of goodness she's given to work with here, from the lost lamb that is Gwen to her wise-cracking, gun toting alter-ego Flamingo it's a no-brainer that she's brilliant.

And totally yumsome obviously.

I think it's safe to say I quite enjoyed it.

After more fags, urine and smoozing it was time for the final film of Friday, a multi-titled terror from the 'director' of such quality fayre as the Texas Chainsaw remake, The Friday 13th reboot and that Conan travesty with Drogo from Game of Thrones, the hacks hack himself, Marcus Nispel.


Backmask (The Asylum, Exeter).
Dir: Marcus Nispel.
Cast: That bloke from Avatar and some interchangeable teens.

With the local church run addiction treatment centre being cleared out after a massive fire ex-choir boy cum priest favourite Patrick and his pals decide to not only have a party in the grounds but a seance too, resulting in his emo little brother Rory becoming possessed by the spirit of a scabby goth girl who was once locked in a box by a priest for being mental.

Hilarity ensues as the rag tag group of friends try to exorcise the spirit using only an online exorcism guide and a variety of kitchen implements found around the building whilst trying to hide the body of the local clergyman that they accidentaly ran over whilst trying to escape.
Based on Nispel’s frankly appalling track record, this sounded as much fun as being fisted by your dad at the Christmas table during the Queens Speech.


And viewing the films opening set up you'd be forgiven for dropping your trousers and greasing up.

So it comes as a surprise that around the 20 minute mark the movies tone veers wildly into a blackly comic vein and suddenly becomes a really enjoyable romp, thanks mainly to Kirsten Elms’ blackly humorous script turning it from a turgid reshash of every horror cliche ever into Evil Dead for kids.

Even the usually leaden Nispel seems in on the joke, presenting us with a succession of wilder and funnier kills and genuinely likeable characters and a cast to die for.

I mean even to token stoner (a pitch perfect Nick Nordella) is genuinely funny, spending as he does nearly the entire film clad only in a pair of tight pants with 'I love big cocks' marker penned on his back.

Pity then that the ending makes no sense at all as the evil spirit goes from hurt party to mad mentalist to one of the main characters for no reason other than the fact that the writer had run out of paper and needed an ending.

But frankly it doesn't matter seeing as the proceeding 90 minutes are bordering on genius.

Now this is what The Evil Dead remake should have been like.

File under 'groovily guilty pleasure'.

The crowd might look happy now but wait till the mooth shite-in starts.

Next up we have tree-based terrors, clothes-based killings, red nose ravaging, some mighty moothed monsters and a wee bit of kiddie fiddling.

Feel free to join me.

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