Tuesday, September 27, 2016

brief encounters.

Got an email from longtime reader David of Colchester saying that I don't feature 'the lovely' (their words not mine) Suet-Mei Leung enough (ever?) on here so thought I'd make amends.

My word that was short and to the point wasn't it?

Encounters of the Spooky Kind (AKA Spooky Encounters, 1980).
Dir: Sammo Hung.
Cast: Sammo Hung, Wong Ha, Lung Chan, Fat Chung, Ha Huang, Po Tai, Ching-Ying Lam, Biao Yuen and Suet-Mei Leung.

It's a dark night in China - well I'm assuming it's China cos when I say dark I mean it's pitch black, could be anywhere really - and our entertainment opens with a pair of burial urns floating around like some nightmarish Kinder Egg advert  discussing such pressing issues as the afterlife, hauntings and Kenzo perfumes new ad campaign.

I'm not surprised because Carol Lim and Humberto Leon (the companies artistic directors) have done wonders with it.

Plus let's be honest Margaret Qualley is so quirkily cute as to be almost painful on the eyes to watch.

But I digress.

As the urns continue their supernatural shenanigans who should come skipping toward then but the pudding-bowled, pratfalling prince of punch-ups Sammo Hung clad in a pair of sackcloth pajamas with a box of Nutella under his arm.

Obviously the urns have no choice but to attack our portly pal, poking, punching and pinching him till finally one of the spirits bursts free of his urn and bites Sammo on the arse.

Which as far as pre-credits sequences go is pretty unexpected.

Some Chinese (and English) words yesterday.

And with a huge bang Sammo falls out of bed - and into our hearts obviously.

You see t'was all a dream in the head of lovable taxi driver 'Daring' Darren Chan (or Bold Cheung if you're watching the subtitled version, me I've gone for the comedy voice-overs), the bravest man in the entire town.

And it seems from the dubbing voiced by a West Midlands version of John Wayne.

Dusting himself down he quickly prepares for work as his tiny of stature - yet harsh of face - wife Morag (yup it's readers fave Suet-Mei Leung, last seen skulking about the background of the fantastic Ni ge mie ye chang) verbally abuses him for being a bit rubbish.

Hurrying out of the house as his wife angrily shakes a rolling pin at him Daring heads off for breakfast with fellow taxi-driving pals Jeff, Tony and Stuttering Mike.

As is always the way the conversation soon comes round to Darings bravery and Mike, being a wheeling dealing wideboy type, challenges him to a fantastic new game that he's been told about from a foreign bloke he had in the back of his rickshaw a few weeks back.

Daring is, to say the least, intrigued.

And what  of this challenged of which they speak?

Well it involves spending the night in an abandoned house and peeling an apple whilst looking into a mirror.

Seems pretty straightforward eh?

Well it is unless you break the skin, then an evil demon will appear from the mirror and drag you to one of the myriad of Chinese Hells you always hear about in these movies.

Daring accepts the bet.


As is always the way with these things his pals decide to have a wee bit of fun at Darings expense so to this end rig up a series of (overly complicated) pulleys and levers whilst Mike drags up as a female ghost and hides behind the mirror.

Daring isn't that gullible and soon sees thru' Mike's disguise, beating him with a stick before settling down for a nice cuppa with him as he explains his almost Derren Brown like skills of deception.

Unfortunately everyone seems to have forgotten that Daring did in fact break the apple skin so when a demon actually appears and snatches Mike into the mirror our heavy-set hero can only stand in (faint) surprise as its ghostly talons reach out for him.

Or to be more precise his ample arse.

Not to be a man to be trifled with (he'd probably just eat it) Daring bravely cuts off the ghosts hand and in a scene reminiscent of a drink-fueled Bond pre-credit sequence as envisaged by Nick Knowles and the team at DIY SOS, smashes the mirror and leaps out of the window as the house collapses around him. 

Margaret Qualley: She's got something to put in you.

A new day dawns and Daring, with total disregard for his friends demise and utterly non-plussed by all these supernatural shenanigans heads off to work, which today involves driving local rich man and privy council member Master Tam (Craig David) to the town brothel for a wee bit of the hanky panky.

It seems that with all the work he does for the local community poor Tam doesn't have enough time to find a wife so keeps his ardour in check with a daily fix of female-based frolicking.

Concerned that his prostitute pleasing pastimes may count against him when he runs for mayor he swears Daring to secrecy with promises of unlimited doughnuts if elected.

Daring obviously agrees before heading off for breakfast.

All this plot development and inane chat is hungry work obviously.

Enjoying a Pot Noodle or two Daring and his pals listen intently as Tim the tofu seller regales everyone with a tale of love and lust.

It seems he too was once a cabbie and spent far too much time earning cash and eating rice and returned home one day to find his wife having some sex with another man.

Obviously - being male - it was totally his fault so he gave up driving and opened a fine eatery instead.

His customers look on in mild indifference as Tims wife storms out of the kitchen and berates her hubbie.

The tale strikes a chord in Darings heart tho' and he begins to wander not only how his wife can afford all her new clothes but who do the ginger pubes he keeps finding in the bed belong to.

Rushing home to check on his wife Daring comes across (not in that way, it's a HK action flick not a Cat III kinkfest) a couple of peeping toms outside his door.

Peeping thru' the keyhole our chubby chum is shocked to see his wife giggling in bed with an unseen suitor.

Luckily for them Darings cries of despair as he tries to enter the house alert the couple to his presence giving his wifes lover time to escape.

And who is this vile rotter?

Why none other than Master Tam himself.

Bursting thru' the door (and out of his trousers) Daring finds a discarded shoe  and confronts his wife with the evidence but being a typical girl she starts crying and blames him for everything wrong with her life making our hero wander off in a self-pitying huff.

"To me!" "To you!"

Meanwhile back at his mansion, Master Tam is getting exceedingly worried that Daring will find out about the affair and kill him, which is understandable seeing as Daring does have a wee bit of a temper so to this end tam hires the local warlock cum Paul Shane tribute act Kinky Chin Hoi (Lung Chan best known around these parts as the scrapyard rapist in Mou mian bei) to get rid of him using any supernatural skills at his disposal.

Luckily for our hero Chins brother Tsui (Crime Story's Fat Chung) arrives just as the deal is being settled and angrily reminds his brother that they have vowed to help people - as opposed to killing them obviously - much to Chins disgust.

You see being a beardy bad man Chin only cares about money.

Oh and male grooming products judging by his exotic facial hair and Noddy Holder-esque sideburns.

As he's heading to work the next morning (does this guy never take a holiday?) Daring is approached by the ferret-like Steve Peng who convinces our hero to accept another ghost-based bet in order to win 10 pieces of silver and a years supply of Mars Bars.

Daring eagerly accepts not knowing that Steve is actually in the employ of the evil Chin.

As in the warlock, not Bruce Forsyth.

This time Daring must spend the night in a haunted temple.

Seems legit.

"How much for a wee mooth shite-in?"

Unfortunately Steve has neglected to mention the hopping vampire that lies in wait there.

A hopping vampire (Or as they are most commonly known - by clever, well read folk - a Jiangshi. See? This blog is educational as well as entertaining) controlled by Chin thanks to a convoluted control system that involves mumbling over a scary penyata whilst gargling warm spit from a dog bowl.

As luck (and linear plotting would have it) during the journey to the temple Daring encounters Tsui who happily gives him a crash course in surviving vampires.

Which is pretty lucky if I'm honest.

But what is this amazing piece of advice that is certain to save you from a vampire?

Well it seems that Daring must spend the night sleeping on the roof if he wishes to avoid the vampires wrath.

Fair enough.

Being a quick learner (either that or easily convinced) Daring indeed spends the night clutching to a ceiling support but as is the way with Sammo, comedic clumsiness ensues and our baw-headed bro is soon brought crashing to earth and dodging the doddering undead demon before kicking it back into the coffin as dawn breaks.

Inside Rolf Harris' mind.

But Darings dangers aren't over yet, would you believe he's tricked into spending yet another night in the temple?

Fearing for his life (if not his sanity) Daring searches out Tsui and begs him for help of a more pro-active kind that doesn't involve hanging off rafters obviously.

Being an occult wizz (think John Constantine as portrayed by an Oriental Noel Fielding wearing a sack) Tsui tells Daring to collect fifty chicken eggs and a bucket of dogs blood, the chicken eggs to throw into the coffin everytime the vamp tries to rise (because we all know vampires fear omelette's) and the dogs blood to throw at it if things get too scary.

Why did Peter Cushing never do this?

It would have at least made Dracula AD 1972 a wee bit more entertaining.

Filled with a new confidence (and high on crisps and Tizer) Daring heads to the local shop to buy provisions.

The egg seller however, only has 40 chicken eggs so sneakily fills the basket with 10 duck eggs too.

Which as all students of Chinese folklore know is a very bad thing indeed.

Back at the temple Daring spends the night perched on the coffin waiting for the vampire to rise, tho' if I'm being honest with you his weight alone should be enough to keep the lid firmly in place.

But there are supernatural forces at work (obviously I mean the title kinda gives it away) and right on cue the coffin lid rises but Daring is ready with his eggs throwing them in and holding back the vampire.

And by default causing Chin to fly around the courtyard like a rag doll.

A rag doll with child molesters hair.

On a roll (as opposed to scoffing one) Daring continues to pelt the vampire with eggs which is fine till he throws one of the duck eggs at it which enables the by now sickly smelling (and rather sticky) beast to burst forth from its coffin and attack Daring.

But he still has the bucket of dogs blood which he uses to subdue the corpse and also send Chin flying into Tam's roof breaking not only his control over the vampire but most of his bones too.


"Just remember Spike, first rule of demonic possession show the punters the suit!"

Having enough of all these beast-based bets Daring heads back to town where he's arrested for the murder of his wife - thanks to someone serendipitously covering his house in red paint whilst he was away - and quickly thrown in prison.

Awaiting execution Daring has no choice but to escape (but not before he's had a slap up meal obviously), find Tsui and hopefully clear his name.

But local law enforcement officer Morse (HK action stalwart Ching-Ying Lam) is in hot pursuit.

More hilarity, amusing falls and ghostly action ensues before Daring and Tsui are reunited culminating in Tsui taking Daring as an apprentice and training our hero in the dark arts.

But first there's lunch to be had.

Glad to see Daring has got his priorities right.

But our dynamic duo aren't the only ones plotting a slew of occult-based actions as a slightly riled Chin, fully recovered from is injuries has discovered Darings whereabouts and after a failed attempt at starving him to death by psychically controlling his eating (and wanking) hand prepares to raise an army of darkness (well three guys in pound shop skeleton masks) to destroy our heroes.

Will Tsui's training be enough to protect Daring from evil?

Will Sammo strip naked?

Will Master Tam ever get his shoe back?

Is Morag really dead?

And more importantly had Sam Raimi ever seen this movie prior to writing Evil Dead II?

Written, directed and choreographed (he probably made the tea too) by the legendary Sammo Hung, Encounters Of The Spooky Kind was many folks (me included) first experience of not only the 'hopping vampire' genre of Hong Kong cinema but also of the great man himself.

By that I mean Sammo Hung not Lung Chan obviously, tho' he's not too bad if a wee bit too similar looking to my mums pal Uncle Clive if I'm honest.

Tho' I'm pretty sure Lung Chan didn't spend his Saturday nights standing naked in my doorway staring at me thinking I was asleep.

Originally trained as an acrobat and dancer at the China Drama Academy, Hung made his film debut at the age of 12, honing his craft as an actor, director, producer and choreographer in over 60,000 films (many shot back to back over a 5 week period) before coming to prominence as Bruce Lee's sparing partner in the classic Enter The Dragon. 

But it's Spooky Encounters that really made Hung a household name in not only in Asia but worldwide too.

And on viewing you can see why.

Uncle Clive: Pervert.

Packing more energy, humour and chills into it's opening 10 minutes than most films do over a full 90, Encounters is a bizarre mish-mash of ancient Chinese lore, low-bro laughs and coolly choreographed kickings courtesy of Hung and action choreographer extraordinaire Biao Yuen.

I mean name another movie that features flying funeral urns, monkey possessed mentalists, Taoist philosophy, flame hurling priests atop telescopic alters and the greatest collection of fake moles ever committed to celluloid.

And just when you think it can't get any better Ching-Ying Lam from Mr Vampire turns up with a mustache that would make Burt Reynolds green with envy.

As an introduction to the wacky world of cinematic Orient excess you could do much worse.

Ebola Syndrome for example.

"Put it in me!"

True things turn a wee bit misogynistic in a few (well in one particular) scenes and it's a shock seeing a chicken slaughtered on screen in what is essentially a family friendly comedy but these are fiddly little things when compared to the sheer joy the rest of the film gives.

If you've never experienced Spooky Encounters then go buy a copy right now and if like me you've not seen it for years go back and watch it straight after reading this.

you wont regret it.

Tho' you may become oh so slightly obsessed with Suet-Mei Leung's milky smooth ankles afterwards.

You have been warned.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

boris the hedgehog.

For your enjoyment/education various photo's from Moscow's Museum of Arcade games.

No idea why.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

skinny deeping.

Was chatting with Mr. Paul earlier this week re: The Shallows (and sharks in general) when he asked why I hadn't done a wee review of In The Deep, a great little movie we'd both seen a few weeks earlier.
I scratched my head and said the dog had eaten the review and that I had a letter from my mum to prove it.
Unfortunately Paul called my bluff so I had to admit that the only letter I had was the one disinheriting me.
So, to make amends here's a very (for me) short review (don't want to give too much away) plus a wee bit of background first to set the scene.
Earlier this year at Glasgow FrightFest director Johannes Roberts popped along to show us his terrifying tale of totems, terror and antique tables, The Other Side of The Door as well as giving us a sneaky peek of his upcoming shark shocker 47 Meters Down.
The footage to hand promised an old school cinematic scareathon with some really nice shark effects and a taut, tight premise. 

Excited at sharks being taken seriously again we awaited its release with baited - and slightly eggy - breath.

Not this one.

Flash forward (and then forward again if you're reading this today) to the beginning of August when In The Deep (as it was now titled) was listed to appear on DVD and VOD.

Then suddenly, like a great white swimming away into the dark it disappeared.

And the reason?
Well, thanks possibly to the success of The Shallows, the movie was rescued from DVD obscurity by Freestyle Media who plan to release it in around 2,500 theaters sometime in 2017.
How bizarre - but great for film fans - is that?
Especially since In The Deep was actually completed first.
And truth be told a better film.
And with that let's go.....
In The Deep (AKA 47 Meters Down, 2016).
Dir: Johannes Roberts.
Cast: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Sir Matthew of Modine, Santiago Segura, Yani Gellman, Chris J. Johnson and Axel Mansilla.

Sugary sweet sisters Lisa and Kate (Moore and Holt) are on holiday in beautiful Mexico (which by this point should be named shark attack capital of the world), partly to get pissed and eye up the local talent (who are by the by really nice people and not these rapists and drug dealers that Donald Trump keeps shouting about) but mainly to help Lisa mend her broken heart after being dumped by her vile fiancé Chad Mantits.
And why am I taking her side?
Well he must be a total shit to dump Rapunzel from Disney's Tangled.
Nuff said.
Enjoying a few drinks in the hotel pair our cutesy twosome end up 'partying' (as you youngsters say) with local hunksters Louis and Benjamin, who offer to take the girls shark diving the next morning.
Which bizarrely enough does actually mean diving with sharks and not indulge in some kinky south of the border sexiness.

And by south of the border I mean Mexico, not something anal based.

Glad that's out of the way.
Lisa, being the shy sensible type (with a fear of water to boot) is unsure but is soon persuaded to join in by her more boisterous sister so off they go to sea alongside the boys and the salty sea dog Captain Taylor (Modine).
Their mission?
Get (wet) suited and booted and jump into a cage where they’ll be able to get up close and personal with the great white circling down below.

What could possibly go wrong?
In the midnight hour she cried Moore, Moore, Moore!
Worried, excited and aroused - I mean come on it is Matthew Modine - in equal measures the girls quickly jump into the cage and prepare to enter a magic and dangerous world under the sea.

Lisa soon relaxes, even attempting to stroke the shark at one point and admits to her sister that her fears were unfounded.

Which is nice.

With shark selfies taken the girls signal the boat to return to the surface but the cage cable snaps sending the pair crashing to the bottom of the ocean - which is 47 meters down fact fans - not only that but the massive iron pulley system has gone overboard too and is currently resting atop the cage.

Which is never a good sign.

As the scared shitless sisters struggle to save air and stay calm, the shark, obviously intrigued as to what an ex-Disney star will taste like, swims ever closer...

What do you call a fish with no eyes.....a fsh. (that doesn't really work written down does it?

As mentioned previously, you can't help but make comparisons 'tween this and
​The Shallows, both feature female protagonists taking on one of mother natures nasties and both have our leads cut off from help but for sheer claustrophobia and tension, In The Deep wins hands (fins?) down.
Although much location work was filmed in the Dominican Republic nearly all of the underwater scenes were shot in a (broccoli filled) water tank in Blightly which I'm only pointing out because you would never tell otherwise, the films (relatively) low budget in no way hindering or cheapening the overall feel or aesthetic of the film.
During his onstage Q and A at Frightfest Roberts jokingly apologized that the shark on show may look a bit ropey due to it not being completely rendered in the showreel, he needn't have worried then or now as the beast looks magnificent, I'm assuming that real sharks were composited into some shots alongside CGI equivalents but to be honest I really couldn't tell.
Nor did I care as I became totally involved in the plight of the characters onscreen as their predicament unfolded almost in real time, each character (even those sketchily drawn ones on the surface) seemed to react as real people not thriller movie cliches just there to forward the plot.

Which is a pleasant surprise.
Oxygen in mah mooth!
Roberts alongside, cinematographer Mark Silk do a fantastic job of making the most out of what is essentially a pitch black environment, their measured use of various lighting techniques (flares, hand-held torches etc) give a real sense of depth (excuse the pun) and menace to an alien world where (wo)man is just so much meat.
Lean, mean and peachy keen, In The Deep is a probably the best man vs. nature movie since Adam Green's chairlift chiller Frozen, which if you haven't seen do so now, then beg, borrow or steal a copy of this for a fantastically fearful film double bill.

No to find some shite to review, I appear to be enjoying myself way to much at the mo.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

lest we forget.

Haviland Morris as Marla Bloodstone in Gremlins 2: The New Batch.

Nuff said.

mexican wave.

The Shallows (2016).
Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra.
Cast: Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge, Angelo José Lozano Corzo, José Manuel Trujillo Salas, Pablo Calva and Diego Espejel.

Are you ready to get wet, Dr. Adams?

It's a sunny day in downtown (and pre-Trump terrorizing) Mexico where a small boy (almost Benetton like in his cuteness) is nonchalantly kicking a 'soccer' ball (as our American cousins call it) along an idyllic beach.

Coming across one of those fancy helmet mounted action cameras lying discarded in the sand he does what any small Mexican child would do and hurries off to sell it for drugs.

Only joking.

He gingerly turns it on and sits back to watch the video, hoping for some sand-based porn or the like.

Unfortunately (for him obviously, the rest of us are hoping for some shark munching action) the video consists of shaky footage of a moustachioed man struggling to climb onto a rock only before being gobbled up by a big shark.


But how did we get here?*

Taking a break from her studies in order to cope with the grief of losing (as in she died not fell down the back of the sofa) her mother, skinny hipped medical student Nancy (Carol Ferris herself, Lively) has decided to travel to the very same beach her mother surfed at right after finding out she was pregnant.

Tho' not being a surfer - or pregnant - I'm not too sure if that was safe.


Getting a ride to the beach from friendly local handyman Carlos T. Jackal
(Jaenada, star of 2010s The Valdemar Legacy II: The Forbidden Shadow), she soon arrives at the fabled beach - which is lucky cos the movie only has an 86 minute running time and we really don't need all this touchy, feely stuff if I'm honest, I just want to see a skimpily swimsuit lady fight a shark -  joining a couple of surfer dudes (one of which is wearing a camera on his hat....this maybe - or already is important so remember it) in 'hanging ten' and 'being tubular'.

Somewhere to park your bike at least.

It's not all Big Wednesday shenanigans tho' as Nancy takes a break to video-call 
her baby sister, the chinny Chloe (Legge, daughter of Eastenders GP Harold) in order to not only let her know that she has arrived at their mother's beach but also to begrudgingly chat to her dad (Cullen) as to remind the audience about her dead mum and her decision to drop out of school for a bit.

C'mon, it's only been five minutes since it was last mentioned so we may have forgotten.

With all this family drama stuff out of the way Nancy hangs up in order to 'catch' one more wave before heading back to her hotel.

Splashing about in the water without a care in the world Nancy is surprised to see the carcass of a humpback whale bobbing about just ahead of her, totally ruining her view and ultimately reminding her of her mums death.

Which is a wee bit unkind seeing as the actress playing her mom in the flashbacks (Chelsea Moody fact fans) was actually fairly hot.

Even (oh go on especially) when wearing a headscarf with her eyebrows shaved.

And played by Janelle Bailey.

Anyway back to the plot where Nancy, currently riding her last wave of the day back to the beach is suddenly thrown into the water by a huge great white shark that has decided, inconsiderately it must be said to head-butt her surf board, causing her to hit her head on a submerged rock.

Swimming to the surface and reaching for her board the shark reappears and bites her leg, pulling her below the waves.

Luckily Nancy manages to punch her way free and hurriedly swims toward the dead whale before crawling atop it to relative (if not fairly stinky) safety.

"You ain't seen me right?"

Lying atop the blubbery dead beast (exactly like that time you found your dad and your cousin at your sisters wedding) Nancy scans the area for a safer spot as the shark attempts to overturn the creature in order to eat her whole.

Tho' shark experts watching will know that they usually spit that bit out.

Noticing an isolated rock not too far away our blood spattered babe tosses herself off the whale and into the sea, swimming as fast as she can whilst the shark circles the whale playing scary mind games with Nancy like some sea-based Rob Titchener.

Clambering onto the rock and soak in sea, sweat and blood (it's not important but does make for a fairly erotic mental image whilst reading) Nancy uses her medical training to fashion an improvised tourniquet from her surfboard strap, her earrings and the sleeve of her wetsuit to stop the bleeding before attempting to attract the attention of the two locals who were surfing earlier.

Unfortunately due to her messy appearance and lack of make-up the pair fail to notice her driving away and leaving Nancy to spend the night on the rock with only a wounded seagull - whom she names Stephen, after the late Boyzone singer Stephen Gately - for company.

Waking the next morning covered in tiny crabs (we've all been there), Nancy notices a fat drunk passed out on the beach and begins waving her arms about in the hope of getting his attention.

He must be totally rat arsed tho' (but probably not as drunk as that fucker in the Blair Witch showing) as the sight of Blake Lively in an tiny bikini drenched in blood does nothing for him save alerting him to the fact that her bag must be on the beach somewhere.

Upon finding it he decides to steal her phone and wallet before wanking into her dry clothes.

Stumbling off home he soon notices her surfboard floating in shallow water so  wades out to steal that too.


Good job then that the shark was nearby and fearing his award for nastiest beast in the film is in jeopardy bites the guy in half.

"They'll be no shite-in in mah mooth you pointy toothed bastard!"

Realizing that she can do nothing but wait - and hope - for help Nancy passes the time teaching the Seagull the words to No Matter What, which is an uphill struggle seeing as birds don't have lips.

Luckily - for us and her -  the two locals return for another days surfing, which is a good thing if they can rescue Nancy without getting eaten first.

So, do you reckon that's going to happen?

Well it wont really spoil the movie if I say that within minutes of entering the water both are killed by the shark.

Don't worry it's not all bad as the dorsal-finned fiend decides not to eat the helmet-mounted camera one of them was wearing giving Nancy a chance to retrieve it and therefore record a goodbye message to her dad and sister before throwing it (rather craply it must be said) toward the shore.

"Put it in me!"

Dehydrated, losing blood and with high tide approaching, Nancy knows the rock will soon be submerged leaving her at the sharks mercy.

But she has a cunning plan.

Not too far away from the rocks is a rusted old buoy that may offer more protection (and maybe a flare gun or something) so,  after sending Stephen out to sea on a broken bit of surfboard in order to time the sharks circling from the whale to the rock, Nancy decides to swim for it.

Narrowly avoiding being eaten by swimming thru' a school of colourfully rendered CGI jellyfish Nancy clambers aboard the buoy and does indeed find a flare gun which it turns out is a bit shit failing as it does - in a fairly spectacular manner - to draw the attention of a passing ship.

It does however wind up the shark a fair bit and not being very good at communicating its frustration decides to try and eat the buoy instead.

With night falling and only a handful of wet flares for company Nancy is trapped on an ever more chewed buoy as the shark circles closer and closer.

Will she escape unscathed?

And more importantly did Stephen make it to shore?

From the man who gave us the video for "Esperanza" by Enrique Iglesias and the hypopituitarism-based potboiler The Orphan (which if you haven't seen is worth it just for the frankly bonkers reveal) comes a surprisingly taut little thriller that makes the best of its small cast and big threat.

Collet-Serra's Euro-centric pop video vibe gives the proceedings a nice arty feel, whether it be shots of text messages and times popping up in mid-air, the genuinely chilling first shot of the shark, silhouetted in the wave on which the Nancy is surfing or the aftermath of the first attack where the sea gradually turns for bright blue to a shade of red usually reserved for Argento movies, his visual stylings never overpower what is, in essence a simple little (wo)man vs. nature story.

I wouldn't want one of them swimming up my.....no hang on.

Sure the bog-standard relationship/grief/tragic backstory is a wee bit unnecessary - it's (lucky) enough that she's in med school, let's just have her out surfing and the shark turns up, nothing else matters - and the helmet camera seems a little bit too convenient but Collet-Serra and star Lively manage to pull it off.

Talking of Lively she's actually great as Nancy, giving a pretty strong and level headed performance, thankfully not going the usual shivering wreck to superwoman route that these movies usually take and for once someones job description is actually useful, her almost nonchalant A-Team attempts at fixing her wounds are one of the high points of the film.

The Shallows may not re-invent the killer fish genre but it's an entertaining enough way to spend 90 minutes mainly due to the fact that after being trapped in the cinematic crapper of Sharknado and it's Sy-Fy shite-hole siblings for years it's nice to finally have the shark back on the big screen - and being treated with the respect and fear it deserves, not just in this film but also in Johannes Roberts' Mandy Moore starrer In The Deep, a similarly Mexican set shark shocker that, to my mind is the more claustrophobic and affecting of the two.

But don't take my word for it, go see them both.

Because if you don't the studios will think we don't want nice things and before you know it we'll end up with Deep Blue Sea II: The Deepening or something.

*Usually via a search engine (Google or the like) or because you subscribe to this page or - and this is the most likely judging by the type of comments I get - you did an interweb search for 'Blake Lively naked'.

Friday, September 16, 2016

hobly city.

Was on the phone to the famous design guru and mastermixer Master Jamie (of Mad Foxes fame) today and bizarrely this film came up.

Noticed the review had originally been posted way back in 2010 so thought I'd drag it into the light, add a few more 'laugh nows' and pass it off as a new one.

I've kinda given the game away now tho.

Horror Hospital (AKA Computer Killers, Frankenstein's Horror-Klinik, 1973).
Dir: Anthony Balch.
Cast: Michael Gough, Robin Askwith, Vanessa Shaw, Ellen Pollock, Dennis Price, Kurt Christian, Barbara Wendy, Kenneth Benda and Skip Martin.

"Now make a clean job of it, Frederick, the car was washed this morning."

It's a grim, grey day in 1970s England, empty Smith's Crisps salt n' shake bags drift across an untidy bit of unkempt woodland as a couple of blood covered 'teens' fashionably decked in dirty, egg stained bandages run from an unseen assailant.

Or from someone attempting to wash their hair.

Meanwhile perched on a nearby hill snug in his shiny Rolls-Royce is the enigmatic (re: camp as pink pants) Dr. Christian Storm (the late, great Gough dressed as your nan) and his delightful dwarf assistant Frederick (genre stalwart and one time owner of Yorkshire's best stocked tobacconist Martin).

But why?

Are they dogging?

Taking in the scenery?

Or just taking it generally?

I mean I can never tell these days.

Noticing the car our dirty duo attempt to run for the hills  but as the Rolls-Royce approaches, huge plastic blades extend from the bodywork and slice off the unfortunate couples heads.

Which means they were either very short or the car is very tall.

"That’ll teach them to try and run away from us," says Frederick in a voice that suggests that the disc must be running at the wrong speed, pushing the heads into a Sainsbury's bag for life as he goes.

Cue the titles and a blast of the DeWolf library music used in Dawn of The Dead.

Which is fairly disconcerting if I'm honest.

"Oi Henri Paul, are you sure this is the quickest way to the chip shop?"

Leaving Grimsville for swinging London, we soon come across (which makes a nice change seeing as it's usually him doing the coming) an angry young man with a lion's mane of hair, the sexy songwriter Jason (The great god that is Sir Robin of Askwith) who's decided to spend his evening drunkenly shouting (fairly) homophobic abuse at top prog-rock band Mystic (or are they actually just a mystic prog-rock band?) in revenge for them stealing one of his songs.

But not this one.

Unfortunately (for Jason) the 'silly red faggot' of a lead singer is actually hard as nails, answering the heckles by giving Jason a bloody good kicking.

Now even angrier and with a bloody nose to boot, Jason decides what he really needs is a break and noticing a flyer for Hairy Holidays - Sun and Fun For The Under 30s, decides to book one the very next day.

Visiting the local travel agency - run as it happens by the enigmatic Mr Jackson Pollack (an incredibly, ahem,  merry Pryce) - Jason excitedly rummages thru' the brochures for anything that tickles his fancy.

Jackson tho', being a totally non clichéd predatory old homosexualist is more interested in eyeing up our blond babe-magnets trouser area than sorting out a suitable break but after realizing he's backing a loser (as opposed to backing slowly yet steadily on his engorged member) in Jason, he packs our hero off to the world famous (it says here) Doctor Storm’s well-being clinic in the aforementioned Grimsville (see how it's all coming together? clever eh?) for a week of drizzle, grey skies and school dinners.

Being integral to the plot Jason agrees and is soon traveling to the clinic via some grainy British Rail stock footage.

It's not all bad weather and bad fashions tho',  as during the journey Jason meets up with the fantastically thighed Judy (button nosed beauty Shaw in her only starring role, tho' she does a great dance in the 1969 Yul Brynner thriller The File of the Golden Goose) and, after announcing that he isn't going to rape her, settles down to a nice chat and a chunk of cheese.

Judy explains that she’s going to the clinic to visit her Aunt Harris (a fantastically thin lipped performance from stage star Pollock) who originally ran a brothel in Holland but is now her sole relative.

No idea why or how these things are connected but there you go.

It seems that poor Judy was conceived out of wedlock causing her mother and aunt to fall out.

But the creepiest revelation is yet to come as it appears that Harris isn't even her aunts real name, yup she actually gets called that due of her love for Harris tweed.

It'd be worth the jail time just to cum over those smooth Lilly white knees.

Anyway, arriving at Grimsville railway station (it's the stop just after Little Rimming and just before Cleft) they're greeted by a morose station master by the name of Linda Carter (the amusingly monickered Benda, best known as the minister in the Pertwee Who classic The Claws of Axos) who begrudgingly gives them directions to the clinic.

Halfway up the bumpy country road tho' it begins to rain but luckily two motorbikes bearing the number plates Storm 1 and Storm 2 - and complete with black, leather-clad riders - arrive to carry the delectable duo the rest of the way.

Greeted at the front door by a bemused (or is that just drunk?) Frederick, Jason and Judy are ushered along to the front desk where Aunt Harris issues the pair with a key to the only room available.

You can almost smell Jason's joy at this news.

And my jealousy obviously.

Introductions out of the way and it's back to more time consuming filler material as Frederick slowly takes them upstairs (ooeerr) with the haunted look of a man trying to remember his lines.

Cut to an open door and a blood soaked bed.

And an uncomfortably long silence before our tiny chum mutters "Nothing to worry about here, I mean we all have our little accidents, you know."

Which is fair enough I suppose.

"It's my anti-mooth shite-in helmet!"

So far we've had gruesome gore, groovy tunes and some top comedy turns.

Unfortunately there's been no nudity so it's lucky for us that the shapely Judy has decided to take an incredibly soapy shower.

But before you can make a grab for the pause button on the remote control, Jason appears clad in only a pair of  Y fronts and a knight’s helmet.

Despite all this cringe inducing helmet based malarkey (or maybe, shudder, because of it) Jason does, in fact get to have 'the sex' with a still visibly wet Judy.

First Liz Fraser then Linda Bellingham and now the voluptuous Vanessa Shaw.

How can us mere mortals ever compete?

"Is it in yet?"

Feeling a wee bit peckish after such hot lovin' the couple head down for dinner where Aunt Harris seats them at a huge table alongside about a dozen bowl haired, bright blue 'teens' resplendent with plastic scars stuck haphazardly to their brows.

"These are our advanced students". explains a helpful Harris. "Don't worry about the dribbling and farting, they won’t speak properly until they've been totally cured."

Before Jason can ask what the fuck she's on about the only other girl at the table, a Ms. Millie Peed (the Erika Blanc alike Wendy from Sex and the Other Woman) starts screaming (badly) before being carried out by a couple of bikers.

Five fingers - never touched the sides. The James Arthur tribute act failed to win any fans at the orphanage Christmas party.

Deciding to skip dessert, Judy and Jason he upstairs to retire to bed (and maybe a bit more sexiness) but any amorous thoughts are soon shattered when the tap starts gushing blood.

Judy screams as the door opens finally revealing the wheelchair bound form of Doctor Christian Storm, MD, BSc, RAC and Tufty Club member no. 465.

It seems he's made a special effort to come and meet his associates niece but can hardly disguise the anger he feels for poor Frederick who, it seems has not only stashed a couple of rotting heads in the cold water tank but he's also failed to post a letter to Judy telling her to stay at home.

"Women can be terribly troublesome, but then so can little men!" he creepily informs Jason just before he slaps Frederick in the face with his riding crop.

And with that he squeakily leaves the room.

Michael Gough: Tunnel or funnel?

As night descends upon Storm Manor Jason decides to go and explore leaving Judy alone in bed.

But not for long tho' as she's soon up and about giving it her best Nancy Drew impression, until that is she stumbles across a dormitory full of lobotomized youngsters clad only in greying Marks and Spencer vest and pants combo's.

Escaping this underwear nightmare our screaming sex kitten is suddenly overcome by what appears to be a man made from Plasticine skulking about in a corridor.

Hearing her screams, Jason jumps to the rescue but is soon overpowered by those shiny helmeted leather boys from earlier.

Your nan's cum face. Trust me, I should know.

Obviously there's not enough plot going on at the moment so let's welcome back the sleazy Mr. Pollack who turns up out of the blue in an attempt to blackmail Storm for more cash and a pair of Jason's undies.

Dirty man.

Unfortunately our bum fun loving chum finds himself on the wrong end of the blade wielding Rolls Royce (actually it's the right end if you think about it) adding not only a new meaning to the phrase 'giving head' but also giving Jason the rudest awakening he's had since he did Linda Bellingham in a sandpit.

His only choice now?

To grab little Frederick and attempt to pump him for information.

The Price is right.

Luckily (for both Fred and viewers of a nervous disposition) Doctor Storm arrives in the nick of time with the offer of showing Jason his army of lobotomized muscle men in the gym.

Homo-erotic subtext anyone?

That's not all tho' as within minutes of unveiling his creations, Storm is proving their might by punching them in the stomach as they do star jumps and making them do back flips by remote control.

Jason, no doubt feeling confused by all the male flesh on show makes a break for the woods followed by two of Storm's biker gang, a very slow fight ensues, ending when one of the leather boys falls into a convenient swamp.

Must admit I never saw that coming.

A wee bit like our hero who manages to not hear two more leatherette’s  squeaking up behind him ready to administer a fucking good kicking.

Confessions of a dangerous mind.

If getting beaten up by two members of The Village People wasn't enough of an indignity, Jason is thrown into the cellar and gassed to sleep, giving us the chance to see a recap of what's happened so far.

Which is very considerate of the producers if you think about it.

Meanwhile back in the main plot, Storm is sticking a kebab stick into the skull of one of his patients, trying not to be too upset that Aunt Harris has decided to go back to running a brothel.

You never get this kinda stuff on The Archers.

Realizing that there is in fact a distinct lack of bona fide male tottie on screen (as much as he tries Askwith can't manage alone), the producers introduce us to a funky young traveler named Abraham (Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger's Christian) who, by the way he's walking has sold more than his soul to be in this movie.

It appears that our exotic pal is looking for his girlfriend Millie (you remember) but before he even has a chance to flutter his cow-like eyelashes at Harris the poor sod is taken from behind and thrown into the cellar alongside a slowly recovering Jason.

"excuse me...I have a women's period".

Tired of seeing so many young men beaten off by Storm's henchmen, Aunt Harris goes back to packing her collection of market stall dildos and Russian dolls but is rudely interrupted by the plasticine man who appears to rub her face to death, whilst back in the cellar Abraham is explaining his character motivation to Jason.

Clicking seamlessly into Shatner mode, Jason deduces that their only hope of escape is if Frederick has had a change of heart and decided to become a good guy.

Which, bizarrely enough is exactly what happens because at that very moment our pint sized pal is busy cooking our heroes some hearty porridge whilst spiking the guards’ Limeade.

Cue scenes of knockabout comedy gold that'd shame David Lynch as lil' Fred has to drag the comatose guards around before piling them up so he can reach the door handle, totally ignoring the handy bucket on the wall right next to him.

Escaping the cellar our buff boys (and Frederick) race to the gym to free Jenny (hands up if you'd forgotten about her too) only to bump into Doctor Storm (again) who appears to have been sitting there all night waiting patiently for our heroes to turn up so he can explain his motivation to them.
Nah....that'd be too silly even for this film.

Wouldn't it?

Cue even more flashbacks only this time they're in order to give us a wee bit of background on the doc.

She might look uncomfortable now but just you wait till the Karaoke starts.

Surprisingly he wasn't always a camp cripple but used to be a handsome womanizer with the dress sense of Peter Wyngarde, the hair of Martin Fry and a pair of working legs.

Tutored by Pavlov (but not alas his dog) and employed by Stalin, Storm soon became obsessed with the idea of raising an army of remote controlled circus performers and gymnasts in order to entertain - then maybe even take over - the world.

As one would.

Unfortunately a passing gypsy accidentally burned his laboratory down forcing him to move to the UK.


UKiP would have a field day.

Actually they probably wouldn't care because he's white.

Tho' he does sound a wee bit Polish so maybe they would.

But I digress.

Bored with all this mindless smalltalk and random footage of an ugly couple attempting to fuck in a kiddies sandpit Storm orders his men to give Jason and Abraham another kicking before locking them up, this time alongside Frederick.

That's the look, that's the look, the look of love.

Bored with the constant running away, getting captured and frightful beatings our by now terrific threesome reckon that enough is enough and decide that this time they're gonna fuck some shit up.

But first they need to escape.

If only they could find someone small enough to crawl out of the window, crawl along the ledge, climb in thru' the catflap, beat the guard and let them out.

All eyes on Frederick then.


Believe it or not he does indeed make his way thru' the window, round the ledge and back in the catflap, even beatings the pesky guard to death with an axe before freeing the boys.

His heroism is short lived (as well as short arsed) for no sooner have they started down the stairs when a sneaky leather guy throws the poor little sod over the balcony to his doom.

One Direction...and we all know where that is.

After rescuing Judy from the operating table, Jason and Abraham set out to find Millie but alas it's too late to save her seeing as whilst all this fighting and escaping has been going on the poor girl has been totally brainwashed by Storm.

And if that wasn't enough the pervy plasticine man from earlier has just sneaked into her room and fucked her to death before making his escape out of a window just as Jason and Abraham burst in.

But he's left something behind.

Lying on the bed covered in egg, sweat and semen stains is the remains of Doctor Storms full body latex suit.

Turns out he burned more than his fingers during the lab fire.

Abraham obviously upset by the fact that his girlfriend has been murdered starts to smash stuff, stopping only to piss in the doctor's filing cabinets and torching the place before getting chased away by the remaining staff.

Stealing the Rolls Royce Jason gives chase to the doctor, hoping at last for a wee taste of revenge...

Or at least a cheeky squeeze of his Playdoh-like man boobs.

After years in the cinematic wilderness, the release of Horror Hospital on shiny Bluray a few years back means that this lost gem from a talent hardly mentioned in serious film tomes will - hopefully - and deservedly take it's place in the annals of classic British Horror.

Quite possibly the first post-modern horror movie ever made, coming across as it does like Acorn Antiques directed by Sam Raimi or Casualty produced by David Cronenberg.

Yes it's that good.

Made at a time when British horror was floundering as it tried to match it's American counterparts after years of Hammer house based costume chills Horror Hospital perfectly encapsulating everything that's great about the genre at the time.

I mean what other country would counter the fearsome sight of Leatherface wielding a chainsaw with doddery old dear Sheila Keith brandishing a Woolworth's bought Black and Decker drill as the legendary Pete Walker did in Frightmare?

It's just a pity that unlike Walker, director Anthony Balch never became a household horror name.

Well apart from in our house anyway.

And for those of you scratching your collective heads here's a wee bit of background info on the great man.

But not too much obviously I mean you're not reading Sight And Sound.

Well if you're on this blog chances are you're struggling with the words and just looking at the pictures.

Anyway, a legend within the industry, Balch was well known for snapping up European arthouse and exploitation movies at cut down prices before re-releasing them in the UK with sexed up new titles.

What a guy.

Häxan: a load of old arse.

If that wasn't enough he was also the man behind the infamous sound version of Benjamin Christensen's brilliantly batshit documentary Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922), getting his old pal, the drug, lemur and arse obsessed genius William S. Burroughs (with whom he made two short movies in the early 60's) to write and record the commentary.

Suffice to say it's well worth finding a copy of.

Unfortunately Balch only ever completed two full length features in his career.

But luckily for us film aficionados the other one was the frankly bonkers Secrets of Sex (AKA Bizarre, 1970).

But it's Horror Hospital, unloved for years by all but the chosen few that shows what a loss not just to the horror genre but to cinema in general that Anthony Balch's death (and laziness when it came to making films) was.

Secrets of Sex: She's got something to put in you.

The movie has everything, from dwarves to death dealing melted cheese men via the casting of soft core comedy king Askwith in the role of a hero, coming across for all the world like a proto-Bruce Campbell from The Evil Dead saga.

More famous for his comedy turns that his horror heroics Askwith is a revelation as the put upon Jason and it's a pity he only made three excursions into horror.

Tho' the fact that the other two were the brilliant Tower of Evil and Pete Walker's classic Flesh And Blood Show (both alongside the sublime Candace Glendenning) should be enough for anyones CV.

I mean it's three more than I've starred in. 

I like to think that in some bizarro other dimension the movie was such a huge hit that an entire series sprung up around the character of Jason as he travels the country (and Europe - stock footage permitting) uncovering various vile plots and mad doctors as he attempts to enjoy a well deserved holiday, each time his vacation is interrupted by more outlandish monsters and dishy dolly birds.

As horror fans we were robbed.

But at least we have Horror Hospital to allow us to imagine what could have been.

Running the gamut from bloody body horror to out and out comedy caper without even stopping for breath whilst wearing it's ever more surreal plot and smartly self aware performances like a bold and shiny badge of honour this is everything Nicolas Winding Refn has ever wanted to achieve.

And so much more beside.

Burroughs: more cock than your sister.

One of the greatest British horror movies ever made?


One of the greatest films ever made?

Most certainly.

And if you don’t believe me, try it for yourself.

You'll soon come round to Doctor Storm's way of thinking.