Thursday, October 31, 2019

happy halloween!


So that's it.

The final entry in this years 31 days of horror.

And as this was originally written for Andy Ross' Millennium Monsters Magazine (copies still available from Amazon) I'll apologize for the lack of childish comments and semi-serious tone.

I was given a maximum 'laugh now/shite in mah mooth' quota that I had to stick to.


For the uninitiated (and new readers/viewers of quality European cinematic fayre) it may come as a surprise to find that as far as scary cinema goes Spain has always been a horrific hotbed of talent.

From Amando de Ossorio's Blind Dead saga to Jorge Grau's seminal zombie shocker The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue via the wacky world of Paul Naschy and the genius that is Antonio Mercero's La Cabina the countryside around Barcelona seems to have always been overflowing with sun, sangria and screams.

And in the case of Paul Naschy lots of top heavy actresses in too tight corsets.

And seeing as this is All Hallow's Eve and a time of Devilish delights I'm finishing up this years 31 days of horror with a - massive - overview of what is probably my favourite horror series outside The Evil Dead, a film series that gave new life not only to the found footage genre but added a whole new method and mythology to the possession flick.

As well as introducing the wider world to probably the best cover version of Eloise ever.

But for those of you still unfamiliar with the series, here's a quick recap....

[REC] (2007, Spain).
Dir: Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza.
Cast: Manuela Velasco, Ferrán Terraza, Jorge-Yamam Serrano, Pablo Rosso, David Vert, Vicente Gil, Martha Carbonell and Carlos Vicente.

Button-nosed TV reporter Ángela (Velasco) alongside her faithful cameraman Pablo (Rosso), are recording an episode of their hit reality show While You're Sleeping from one of Barcelona's fire stations, alas so far all the footage seems to be of firefighters sleeping.

Which doesn't really make for good TV.

Luckily - for them and us - the firehouse receives a call regarding an old woman, trapped screaming in her apartment so our dynamic duo decide to accompany two of Barcelona's finest firefolk, Álex and Manu (Vert and Terraza) as they head off to help.

Quickly arriving at the scene (well the film only has a 72 minute running time) our intrepid group find two police officers in waiting who hurriedly show them to the woman's apartment.

Upon entering tho' (the apartment that is not the old woman) the poor dear becomes increasingly aggressive lunging at the officers and biting one in the throat.

Which is kinda unusual as I usually find that older women don't usually start the biting till you've at least bought them dinner.

She'll never fit that lollypop in her mouth in one go.

Leaving Alex upstairs to watch over the by now subdued old lady the rest of our (not so) merry band carry the prone officer downstairs soon coming across the building's residents huddled worriedly in the lobby.

It seems that during the interim the local police alongside the military have sealed off the building, trapping them all inside.

The quiet panic soon gives over to loud hysteria tho' when Alex  is thrown over the staircase railings landing in a bloody heap in the middle of the lobby soon followed by the by now blood drenched and deranged old woman who runs screaming down the stairs and into the lobby in an attempt to chow down on her neighbours.

Luckily the remaining officer - Joven - manages to shoot her before she can eat too many of them.

Well as far as reality TV goes it beats an episode of The Force: Manchester so far seeing as that only ever seems to feature overweight balding Bobbies chastising wee ned boys for pissing up pub walls.

Maybe the producers should add a bit of cannibalism to that to spice things up?

Just a thought.

Anyway back to the matter at hand where Ángela and Pablo decide that the best thing to do in the situation is to interview the residents as to what's been occurring.

Well they do have an hour TV slot to fill.

Unfortunately the terrified chat is constantly interrupted by the throaty coughing and constant sniffing emanating from the corner of the hall where a cutesy wee girl named Jennifer is cuddled up to her worried mum.

According to her mum the crying and coughing is due to a bad case of tonsillitis and the fact that she's missing her pet dog Max, who is away at the vet due to having a cough too.

Sounds legit.

"Chase me now!"

Moving everyone to the relative safety of a textile workroom attached to the building the group are surprised when a local council health inspector - decked in a full Hazmat suit - enters the building just a a few of the residents start snarling and drooling.

Locking them in the workroom the rest beat a hasty retreat back to the lobby.

It's all go isn't it?

Seeing as we're at the halfway point with absolutely no idea what's causing all this madness our health board buddy kindly explains that the block is in lockdown due to an outbreak of a virus similar to rabies that has been traced back to a dog in that very building.

Ángela (and the rest of the folk present) realises that he's talking about Jennifer's pet and the angry crowd soon turn of the poor girl and her mum for answers.

Before the situation gets too out of hand tho' Jennifer suddenly pukes blood all over her mum's face before legging it upstairs.

Kids eh?

Handcuffing the poor woman to the banister, Joven, Manu and Pablo (alongside Angela) give chase only to be jumped by Jennifer who takes a chunk out of Joven's arm before scurrying off into a closet.

Begging them to leave him and attempt to escape our terrified trio discover that the infected folk they locked in the workroom have escaped and are currently chasing everyone else upstairs.

"Are you the farmer?"

Much chaos, screaming and biting ensues and the group are forced to flee forever upwards till only Pablo and Angela are left uninfected and trapped in the apartments seemingly deserted penthouse flat where they discover a tape recording that may hold the secret to what's happening.

Now pay attention, here's the science part.

And it's either utter genius or total toffee depending on which side of loving great films you fall.

You see it appears that the penthouse was owned by a mysterious arm of The Vatican and used for secret research into demonic possession.

The priest in charge of the project had come to the conclusion that there was in fact a biological cause for it that could be neutralized by isolating a certain enzyme found in the brain of the 'possessed'.

Sounds pretty solid so far.

Coming across a possessed girl named Nina Medeiros, he abducted her and kept her prisoner in the penthouse in the name of God's work, unfortunately during this time he discovered that the enzyme had mutated and become viral.

The priest in a fit of panic sealed poor Nina in the penthouse in the hope that she - and the virus - would die.
Using their cameras night vision filter the pair investigate further soon finding a sealed door which they attempt to open, not noticing the twisted figure hiding in the shadows.

Nina, still alive but now blind, hideously scared from botched experiments and horribly emaciated and kept alive by pure demonic energy is awake and searching for food and it looks like Pablo is today's starter.

Quickly overpowering him with her unnatural strength Angela can only cower in horror as her colleague is killed.

Grabbing the camera Ángela attempts to sneak out of the penthouse but trips over Pablo's body and drops the camera.

It continues to record as Nina slowly looms over Ángela and drags her screaming into the darkness.....

There seemed to be a bit of a renaissance for EuroHorror at the arse end of the noughties what with the releases of Ils (2006), The Orphanage (2007) and Let the Right One In (2008) amongst others but for sheer terror and good old fashioned scares you'd be hard put to beat  [REC] - the lo-fi/high concept chiller that spawned a trio of sequels, an American remake and gave us a horror heroine to rival Jamie Lee Curtis (and Bruce Campbell)  in Manuela Velasco's Angela.

Smart and scary with a perfect cast, a clever, seemingly spontaneous (and humorous)  script and a runtime that means it never outstays its welcome [REC] is a virtual text book on how to do the found footage genre correctly.

Manuela Velasco - button nosed perfection.

Cleverly casting its cinematographer Pablo Rosso as a co-star means that the footage has a confidently slick and professional feel to it that adds so much to the films the realistic approach, shots that seem clichéd in many other films of this type (lenses being covered, cameras dropped or hazy out of focus figures) are framed in such a way as to add an almost classic cinema verite style to the whole thing that directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza use to slowly unveil  hints as to the true nature of the horror unfolding - never letting the scant running time hurry them along the pair tease out the tales backstory thru' a series of unrelated events, from the throwaway mention of the sick dog and the mysterious owner of the penthouse to rumors of a girl who once may have lived there, with almost surgical precision and perverse delight.

This is horror as art in the truest sense, existing for no other reason that to scare.

And scare it does.

But could a sequel match it?

[REC] 2 (2009, Spain).
Dir: Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza.
Cast: Manuela Velasco, Jonathan Mellor, Oscar Sánchez Zafra, Ariel Casas, Alejandro Casaseca, Pablo Rosso, Andrea Ros, Àlex Batllori, Pau Poch and Claudia Silva.

Investigating the outbreak a heavily armed bio-hazard team led by the enigmatic Dr. Owen (Mellor) is sent into the apartment building to assess and ultimately control the situation.

It's not long tho' before one of the team is bitten and infected but bizarrely  Owen doesn't shoot the unfortunate fellow but binds him in a room using only a set of rosary beads and a strange religious mantra.

Yup it turns out that Owen is actually a combat trained, Satan baiting priest sent by the Vatican to recover the research material regarding Nina Medeiros.

Oh yes and a vial of her blood.

Because, um, reasons.

Entering the penthouse they find that Nina is long gone but they do find a sample of her blood over which Owen performs another religious rite causing it to burst into flames.

Fearing that at this rate the movie will be over really quickly one of the team accidentally drops it in an ashtray rendering it useless which means that the team must now get more blood straight from the source.

I have a feeling that this wont end well.

"Screams from mah mooth!"

Meanwhile outside the apartment block Jennifer's father (remember her?) has just arrived back from the all night chemist with a bottle of cough medicine for his daughter and is slightly annoyed to find that they police outside wont let him in.

Luckily (for the plot, not him obviously) a friend of Manu is on duty and sneaks him in the rear whilst no-one is looking.

At the same time three cheeky teens, Tito, Mire and Ori (Ros, Batllori and Poch sounding like the world's shittest comedy act) have sneaked into the building through the sewers and are currently wandering around the bloodsoaked lobby for no other reason than the writers reckoned we needed some other characters other than the faceless hazmat guys to identify with.

I mean Jennifer's dad and the fireman are no use seeing as they die almost immediately after entering the building.

Being the shortest Tito too is attacked and bitten and whilst trying to escape the terrified teens come across (tho' not literally - it's not that kind of movie) Owen and his squad who quickly lock Mire and Ori in a small cupboard before restraining Tito like a particularly mangy dog.

You see according to Owen the infected/possessed are all link psychically so they can use the unfortunate teen to track the elusive Ms Medeiros.

But where's Angela I hear you cry?

Well she's wandering about the apartment block in a daze still clutching her camera so as you can imagine she's quite pleased when she bumps into Owen and co. - even tho' they're all pretty grumpy - but the introductions are cut short when Tito ominously announces that Nina is "in the highest" and waiting for them.

This is how your mum and dad celebrate your birthday.

Owen figures out that this means that she must still be in the penthouse, which Angela agrees with mentioning that that's where she saw her last.

Owen is intrigued as to how Angela caught a glimpse of the demon but not them so she (helpfully) explains that she was viewing her thru' the camera.

Right on cue Tito announces that "the light blinds them from seeing the true path" which Owen deduces means that there are some things that can only be seen in the dark.

Look, it seemed to make sense at the time.

Heading back to the penthouse they quickly turn off the lights whilst turning on the camera's night vision which reveals a mysterious door leading to a hidden room containing a bath full of dark water.

As in the liquid not the 2002 Hideo Nakata horror movie.

As one of the team takes a closer look Nina leaps from the water and drags him in, disappearing as the lights are turned on.

Bored with the impromptu game of hide and seek Angela grabs a handy shotgun form the fallen team member and quickly flicks the lights off.

Then - quite surprisingly - shoots Nina in the face killing her.


Brexit in a nutshell.

Owen is understandably fairly annoyed by these turn of events and vents his anger at Angela who nonchalantly points out that with Nina out of the way they can all go home.

Owen - always the big man - refuses to comply, pointing out that with Nina dead they no hope that they can develop a cure to the possession virus.

This riles Ángela quit considerably to a point where she starts to beat Owen round the head with her fists but when Rosso - the last surviving group member - steps in to calm the situation down she shoots him too.

It seems that at the first films end Nina transferred the demonic entity to Angela via a huge slug she forced into her (very pretty) mouth in order to leave the building undetected.

Grabbing the radio from an incredulous Owen she mimics his voice and orders an immediate Evac team pointing out to them that the only survivor is a girl named Angela, Owen looks on in horror as she explains (in Owen's voice still - obviously) that he must remain as he too is infected and it'd be best if they just torched the place.

Killing Owen Angela slowly makes her way to the window where a rescue team are waiting.

When one of them asks how she managed to survive the now demonic Ángela looks toward the camera and smiles.....

Kicking off a matter of minutes after the climax of [REC] and in such a seamless way you could easily edit them both into one movie [REC] 2 takes the found footage approach of the first movie and adds a James Cameron twist.

And by that I don't mean unnecessary big blue people and an over important sense of self worth but a gritty Aliens vibe thanks to the use of Hazmat headcams and picture within picture to add even more dread and uncertainty to a film already drenched in the stuff and although this does at points take away from the originals gritty realness to be honest you're way to engrossed to care.

It's like hitting the top of a rollercoaster to find that whilst you were traveling up to it that they've actually added a new twist at the peak.

Yes there are no real characters to cheer for as much as you did with Manu and Pablo  (Dr. Owen being the exception) and it's true that certain folk seem to be there just to make up the numbers but you can't help but be caught up in the sheer madness of it all plus Balagueró and Plaza more than make up for any lack of character development by expanding the mythos of the [REC] universe; the demonic nature of the evil referencing everything from The Exorcist to Fritz Leiber’s Our Lady of Darkness via the metaphysical monsters of John Carpenters Prince of Darkness.

Well if you're gonna steal, steal from the best.

And it's this cocksure swagger that makes you a little excited (as opposed to groaning at the thought of another horror cash cow) when the movies ending is left open for a further sequel.

Manuela Velasco - pointing.

Unusually for such successful filmmakers tho' Balagueró and Plaza (well Plaza at least) decided that rather than just continue Angela/Nina's story that they'd listen to what the fans wanted.

And that was to know how Jennifer's dog Max fitted in to the whole story.

[REC]3: Genesis (2012, Spain).
Dir: Paco Plaza.
Cast: Leticia Dolera, Diego Martín, Ismael Martínez, Àlex Monner, Mireia Ros, Sr. B and Emilio Mencheta.

Spanish sweethearts Koldo and Clara (Martin and Dolera) are a newlywed couple heading to their wedding reception - being held in a huge mansion outside Barcelona - alongside their family and friends.

Documenting the day is Koldo's cousin Adrian (Monner) who is busying himself flirting with the bridesmaids whilst filming the guests in a hope of getting an amusing story or two.

Adrian's spot his uncle looking clearly unwell and after inquiring what's wrong discovers that a dog (named Max) he was recently treating had bitten him leaving him with a wee bit of a headache and a sore arse.

Well maybe not the last bit.

No catty captions as I genuinely love this pair.

Thinking nothing of it Adrian bids his uncle farewell and chases after the granite-jawed bridesmaid Natalie.

Later that evening the party is cut short when Adrián's uncle begins vomiting over the guests before stumbling over a balcony and crashing into the wedding cake.

Which means if nothing else Adrian can claim £100 off Harry Hill and the You've Been Framed team.

With all this cake/balcony based commotion going on the guests totally fail to notice the group Hazmat team and sundry police types beginning to circle the building.

As his wife approaches to help the now fully possessed uncle sits up and bites her (turkey-like) neck before spraying everyone near by with blood infecting them almost immediately and within minutes it's literally murder on the dancefloor as everyone runs for their lives.

And hopefully not get their rented tuxedos too messy.

After egg and sweat demonic vomit is the worst thing to get out of a suit jacket.

Trust me I know.

"Hello! It's the blind man!"

Amidst all the chaos and screaming Koldo and Clara are separated with Koldo ending up in the kitchen with Adrián, Clara's sister Tita, professional chubster Atun (Spanish Nick Frost Sr. B) and the MiLFy Menchu.

Accessing the buildings CCTV (and looking thru' the kitchen windows obviously) the group realise that they are surrounded, their only hope of escape being to crawl thru' the air-conditioning vents and hopefully make it outside and go for help.

Unfortunately due to his love of pies Atun wont fit so has to stay behind.

On a plus side he is in a kitchen so he wont get bored.

And by that I mean he can search for knifes to defend himself, not that he can sit and stuff his face, I'm not that mean.

After a series of hits, misses and violent bitings the group get separated with Adrián, Koldo and Tita coming across a small a chapel where a group of guests have gathered after discovering that the possessed can't enter due to it being the house of God and any that try can be held back with holy water.

Which is pretty lucky.

As the group sit around waiting for help the PA system crackles to life and Clara's voice fills the room.

She has a message for Koldo, she knows he's alive and wants to tell him she loves him and that she's pregnant.

It's all go isn't it?


Empowered with both the knowledge that Clara is alive and that he's going to be a dad our hero grabs a nearby suit of armour - and sword - and alongside a member of the buildings staff heads out to rescue his true love.

Back in the mansions control room, Clara and the priest from her wedding ceremony are in hiding, luckily she's not been idle as she's been having a chat with the priest regarding the nature of the infection whilst idly reciting chapters from the book of Jude.

Which probably explains why Clara is so keen to escape and attempt to find Koldo.

Climbing out thru' a window, she soon bumps into Koldo's pal Rafa and her friend Natalie but the reunion is short lived as they are soon surrounded by the possessed.

As they turn to run Clara notices that all the possessed have the same reflection.

That of Nina Medeiros.

Our priestly pal holds the creatures back with the power of prayer as the others escape, which would be all well and good if Koldo hadn't just arrived at the control room to rescue everyone only to find it empty.

As he turns to leave he notices in horror (and in grainy B&W CCTV imaging) as the remaining survivors from the chapel being attacked by the infected as they attempt to escape by coach.

Behind him on the office TV a newsflash reports the quarantine of an apartment block in Barcelona due to a mysterious outbreak, amongst those trapped inside is reality TV reporter Angela Vidal.

Much fighting, running and blood drenched screaming ensues culminating with Clara - armed only with a chainsaw and a bad attitude - facing down the demons in the tunnels beneath the venue.

As she hacks and slashes her way to safety the couples favourite song blasts over the PA system, Koldo is in the main hall and is sending her a message, cue more running and rampaging as the pair are finally reunited in the kitchen.

Which means that they can at least share some wedding cake.

Every cloud etc.

Their reunion is short-lived however as a swarm (do demons swarm?) of possessed guests attempt to break in, only stopped at the last minute when the priest begins to recite Bible verses over the P.A.


Slowly the couple make their way to freedom.

Being a [REC] movie things can't end well tho' and Clara is suddenly attacked by Koldo's grandfather who, being deaf as a post, is immune to the verse, a quick thinking Koldo severs Clara's arm with the chainsaw in order to quell the infection before taking her in his arms and continuing toward the line of police surrounding the building.

As they approach the cordon Clara begins to vomit blood and a devastated Koldo takes her in his arms to share one final kiss as the armed team surrounding them shouts orders for him to move away.

With an I love you Clara viciously bites Koldo's tongue out before attacking the armed team, who respond by shooting the couple.

As they lie dying Clara and Koldo reach out to take each other's hands....

(Wisely) dispensing with the camcorder/found footage vibe 20 minutes in [REC] 3 is a blackly comic, cartoonish tour de force that adds a slick, sick slice of 80s Lamberto Bava/Dario Argento Demoni polish to the proceedings, alongside a hint of Wilson Yip's Bio-Zombie at times.

And is all the better for it.

This time around Paco Plaza is alone in the directorial chair (Jaume Balagueró is credited as creative producer) which means that not only must it be a wee bit more comfortable for him to be able to sit properly as opposed to on his creative partners lap but we also get to see which one of the duo enjoys the scares and which the humour as [REC] 3 is by far the funniest - and blackest - of the series with some scenes of comedy grue that give Evil Dead 2 a run for it's money.

Tho' not Army Of Darkness which is a shame but there you go.

Sprinkled with callbacks to the previous movies as well as some genuinely funny visual gags - my favourite being the appearance of a children’s entertainer named Sponge John - in order to get by copyright-infringement claims - who ends up stuck in the suit as he's naked underneath) alongside a good few punch the air moments this change of pace reinvigorates the franchise whilst adding a few seriously spooky new tropes to the Nina Medeiros legend, the scene where we discover that the possessed all share the same reflection being particularly chilling.

Plus the aforementioned Tino Casal cover version of Eloise is worth the ticket price alone.

Leticia Dolera - She follows me on Twitter. Fact.

I unashamedly love [REC] 3 and you should too.

But there was to be no rest for the wicked (or possessed) because as all this wedding wrecking carnage was going down co-creator Jaume Balagueró was busy planning one last chapter in the [REC] saga.

And the return of Angela to the story.

[REC]4 : Apocalypse (2014, Spain)
Dir: Jaume Balagueró.
Cast: Manuela Velasco, Paco Manzanedo, Hector Colome, Ismael Fritschi, Críspulo Cabezas, Mariano Venancio, María Alfonsa Rosso, Carlos Zabala, Cristian Aquino, Emilio Buale, Paco Obregón and Javier Laorden.

Ángela suddenly awakes to find herself strapped to a table in a makeshift laboratory alongside the mysterious Doctor - is there any other kind? - Ginard (Obregón) who is testing her blood for signs of infection whilst questioning her on the events that unfolded in the apartment block.

Her memory hazy she's left alone as Ginard goes to consult his colleagues giving Ángela ample time to escape the lab coming across the hunky Guzman (Manzanedo) a surviving member of the extraction team and together the pair soon discover that they are on a boat miles from shore.

Apprehended by Doctor Ricarte (Colome) and his men he helpfully explains that they are a specialist team tasked with finding a cure for the virus and being out at sea means there's less chance of infecting the populance.

Which sounds pretty sensible if I'm honest.

Oh yes and he informs Angela that he blood is clear of infection.

Which is nice.

Your nan and her sexy lap dance yesterday.

To show that not all horror movie scientists are bad (yeah right) he introduces the duo to the ships captain Ortega (Venancio) - who it turns out is making his last voyage, that bodes well - alongside radio guy Nic (yet another Nick Frost alike Fritschi - I'm sure the casting director has a secret crush), who's a massive fan of Angela and swoons in her very presence.

Well he's only flesh and blood.

As a favour to his celebrity squeeze Nic attempts to recover the footage from Ángela's camera in order to help her remember what's happened but as he does so a power blackout caused by an oncoming storm hits the ship causing the cages holding monkeys infected with the virus to fail with one of them escaping.

The monkey, searching the kitchen for bananas attacks and infects the ship's cook who infects the ship's food supply, which in turn infects most of the crew.
This really doesn't bode well does it?

As you can imagine much boat-based carnage ensues culminating with Ricarte deciding to activate the "protocol" which will destroy the ship.

Just before he presses the big red 'blow shit up' button one of his assistants  informs him that they've recovered footage from Angela's camera showing  Medeiros infecting our heroine.

It seems so long ago.

Attempting to remove the slug via surgery, Ángela insists that she has no memory of the infection.

Jimmy Hill gettin' jiggy wid it.

Luckily before he can start to cut her open his assistant starts puking blood and attempts to bite him  which gives Ángela time to escape with Ricarte and his team quickly following in hot pursuit.

Well in a collection of lab coats and combat gear but you know what I mean.

His team attacked by the cook Ricarte hides in a storeroom only to be pounced on and bitten by Ángela in order to prove she's not infected.

Meanwhile Guzman, Lucas and Nic are busying themselves trying to restart the ships engines and find some weapons.

Tho' probably not in that order.

As they scan the rooms for the infected Nic discovers that Ángela is still alive and Guzman, being our designated hero type volunteers to go save her whilst Lucas and Nic head to the boiler room armed with a collection of hammers and a roll of duct tape.

Ricarte testing his own blood proves that Ángela was telling the truth but being a bad man is convinced that she is somehow masking the virus but as the conversation gets heated  Guzman bursts in.

It's not the happy reunion we all hoped for tho' as it turns out that during her rescue from the apartment Ángela passed the parasite onto (and into) him.

Obviously sick of all this plot heavy subterfuge and confusion Ricarte presses the ship self-destruct button and legs it to the lifeboats leaving Angela at the mercy of Guzman.

Rain in mah face.

With the surviving cast members all succumbing to the infected as the film rushes to its climax (the [REC] movies are nothing if short) we're soon back with  Nic who's found Ricarte covering in a lifeboat proclaiming to the world that Angela is as good as dead and only he will survive.

The thought of his fave celeb dying without signing his While You're Sleeping boxset is too much for Nic to bear so he promptly punches Ricarte into unconsciousness before rushing to Angela's aid armed only with a boat motor.

Which is a pretty good weapon when you think about it.

Surprisingly she's not too hard to find so the pair are soon making their way to the lifeboat only to be attacked by Guzman who is determined to re-infect Angela with the parasite (well she does have a prettier mouth) for, um, reasons but luckily thanks to a handy deep water fishing rod she is able to kill him/it/them before jumping into the sea as the boat explodes.


As the pair swim to shore the demonic Parasite, throw from the boat in the explosion regains consciousness and lunges into a nearby fish's mouth.

Picking up directly from where [REC] 2 ended - and featuring a cameo from one of Koldo and Clara's wedding guests to boot - [REC) 4 is seen by many as an oh so slightly disappointing end to the saga and on first viewing you can kind of see why with the previous installments seeming to be leading toward something big, brash and, well, apocalyptic when effectively [REC] 4 is really a splice of Die Hard and Alien 3 on a boat.

With a wee pit of the original Resident Evil games thrown in for good measure.

The claustrophobic confines of the first two movies apartment block are replaced by the creaky ships corridors and the residents are now the ships crew and, following [REC] 3 we've moved away from the found footage genre into straight on horror thrills but it's still undeniably the same universe and it's genuinely exciting to see Angela back again.

Tightly edited, tautly plotted and with a scary roller-coaster of a final act it's a great little horror film, just not the balls-to-the-wall epic that the “Apocalypse” subtitle promised.

Which on further viewing is really not a bad thing, I mean yes it'd be great to see Spain overrun by the infected (and then maybe the world) but let's be honest with ourselves, it's been done before.

And the (relatively)  happy ending with Angela heading home to her apartment by taxi is fairly unique in horror terms.

And for a successful franchise of any kind to stretch itself and not just deliver the same old thing again to ever diminishing returns has to be applauded.

Manuela Velasco - High hair.

But if they do ever decide to make a fifth movie, the thought of a demonic parasite possessed shark flopping onto the beaches of Alicante vomiting infected fish blood onto passers by would be worth the admission price alone.

Well that and the sight of a bikini-clad, blood spattered Manuela Velasco fighting it off with a beachball obviously.

And if you're reading this Messrs Balagueró and Plaza you can have that for free.

So if you've never seen them - or had your fingers burned by the abysmal American remake "Quarantine" - then I suggest you do so immediately, grab a beer and some popcorn, turn off the lights and dive in.

I can't [REC]ommend them enough.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

pussy wagon.

We appear to have adopted a stray cat here at Unwell Towers, which is nice but it seems to be taking up all my time.

I mean I go to make a cuppa so I can start work (yes I do some occasionally) and end up just sitting watching it eat cat biscuits or preening.

Maybe I should have paid more heed to this movie when I first saw it years ago.

Well I might have had it been a wee bit less forgettable, seriously I'm having trouble remembering it and I've only just turned it off.

But surely any film that starts with a Ted Hughes quote can't be that bad.

Can it?

The Uncanny (1977).
Dir: Claude Héroux
Cast: Peter Cushing, Ray Milland, Samantha Eggar, Donald Pleasence,  John Vernon, Susan Penhaligon, Alexandra Stewart, Joan Greenwood, Roland Culver, Simon Williams, Donald Pilon, Chloe Franks and Katrina Holden Bronson.

There are a couple of other folk but frankly I got bored.

You're not such a big girl anymore, are you, Angela? Why, you're no bigger than a mouse!

Our story opens on a foggy night in a foggy (Canadian) street where piss-stained mystery author Wilbur Gray (Cushing enjoying a free holiday to Montreal) has just finished his new manuscript - a massive tome that links the worlds most bizarre unsolved murders to an army of killer cats that secretly rule the world.

Which sounds just like the plot to the classic Cats And Dogs if I'm honest but heyho.

His portly - and cat loving - publisher Frank Richards (a conspicuously sober Milland) reckons that it's all utter bollocks and invites Gray round for tea, biscuits and a chance to change his mind by telling him three of the scariest stories from his book.....

"...And this bag is fully of all the fucks I give!"

So it's with a shuffle of papers and a whiff of lemon that we're transported - via the medium of wobbly dissolve - to London town in the year 1912, where the wealthy widow Mrs. Melkin (Greenwood, slumming it for beer money) has just decided to bequeath her entire fortune to her cats, completely cutting her ne'er do well nephew Michael (Williams from Upstairs, Downstairs and Doctor Who) from her will due to him spending his allowance on booze and burds.

Well, booze and Mrs. Melkin's mousy maid Janet (70s uber Brit TV babe Penhaligon).

And it's by chance - and plot convenience - that Janet overhears the old woman discussing these changes with her lawyer, Wallace (Culver, who I'm sure has been in loads of stuff but honestly I can't be bothered checking) so rushes off - after doing the dishes and the like - to inform Michael.

Shocked at the thought of having to do some actually work for a living, he hatches a plan to get Janet to steal the will from his aunts safe and burn it.

Sneaking into Mrs. Melkin's bedchamber as she sleeps, Janet carefully steps over/around the collective cats and manages to open the safe and grab the will only to be caught in the act by a suddenly very awake - and very nimble for an old bird - Mrs. Melkin who angrily threatens to call the police leaving Janet no choice than to smother her with a pillow as the cats look on planning their catty revenge.

Or they might just be thinking about dinner.

I honestly don't know.

"Fiona! Where's mah lunch?"

Actually I do know as I continued to watch in the hope of something exciting happening or at least a glimpse of ankle, which to be honest I did get but only after the cats had tried to claw Janet to death and she'd locked herself in the pantry.

You can see where this is going can't you?

Well if not tough cos I'm not going to spoil the twist for you.

I mean I had to sit thru' it so why shouldn't you?

As Gray finishes the terrifying tale he's upset to see that Richards is unimpressed so decides to take another true-crime file from his big swapping pocket in an attempt to convince him af the creepy cat capers and this time it's a wee bit more up to date, concerned as it is with the recent disappearance of a young girl, Angela Blake (Go to 70s child star Franks who was in everything from The House That Dripped Blood, I Monster, Who Slew Auntie Roo and Tales From The Crypt) in a leafy suburb of Quebec a few months earlier.


The story begins when her cousin Lucy (Bronson, adopted daughter of Charles - no really - who it sounds as if has actually been dubbed by her dad here) ends up moving in with Angela and her mum and dad (Stewart from Mickey One and Pilon whom you may remember from the frankly shite video nasty I Miss You, Hugs and Kisses alongside Elkie Sommer) after her parents were killed in an horrific Frisbee accident.

But she's not alone as she's brought her pet cat Wellington along with her.

Tho' no actual wellingtons obviously.

But she does own a rather fetching bobble hat.

So that's OK then.

Anyway Angela, being a snidey wee cow and not having a pet of her own decides to spend her days abusing Lucy and blaming the cat for everything that goes wrong around the house.

Typical girl then.

As Wellington and Lucy get blamed for more and more outrageous acts (shitting in the bin, leaving hairs in the butter, subscribing to Pornhub etc) Angela's by now pissed off poppa decides to take the poor cat for a drive and leave it in the woods to die.

Much like my parents did with my cat as a child.

And by cat I mean me.

Just the pussy I've been looking for.

To cut a short story shorter, Wellington finds his way home, partly because that's what cats do but mainly because he's actually a familiar and Lucy's mom was a witch (or something) enabling her to exact revenge on her cousin thru' the power of magic and some sub-par CSO that's so fucking god-awful it would make ex-Doctor Who producer Barry Letts vomit blood.

If he wasn't dead obviously.

It's not too surprising to find that Richards still thinks that Gray's tales are utter bollocks but fear not as he announces that he's saved the best till last.

And with that our withered handed writer begins to recount the terrifying tale of the famous 1930s horror actor Valentine De'ath (Pleasance) who, after murdering his wife onset in a bizarre pendulum accident persuades his producer Pomeroy (Vernon, best known as Dean Wormer in Animal House) into replacing his still warm wife with his thick as pigshit girlfriend Edina Clunt (Eggar, who even tho' she appeared in The Brood can't be forgiven).

Anyway for the sake of basic storytelling she does indeed get the part and the pair retire to  De'ath's mansion where their attempts to have 'the sex' are constantly interrupted by his wife's cat.

"Put it in me!"

De'ath is having none of this and promptly drowns the cat's litter in the toilet before heading off to the studio to pad the already frighteningly thin premise with some comedy swordplay.

Unfortunately tho' not in his mouth.

The cat, upset by the murder of its children, follows him to the studio and attempts to kill the actor by chewing thru' some rope in order to drop an arc light on him.

And so as the film drunkenly lurches toward its climax the scene is set for a shocking showdown 'tween De'ath, Clunk and a very angry moggy...

Oh and then we go back to what Peter Cushing is up to for a twist ending obviously.

Produced by the professor of portmanteau horror himself, the late great Milton Subotsky - unfortunately at the arse end of his career (only Hawk The Slayer and The Monster Club to come) - and co-financed by Cinévidéo in Canada (yes you can) and The Rank Organization in dear old blightly, The Uncanny is a threadbare, scare-free oddity that seems as much out of time as it does out of ideas.

Shot in Quebec for less than the cost of a McDonald's Happy Meal, most of the budget appears to have been spent on Ray Milland's bar tab with the rest going toward getting Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence and Samantha Eggar on board.

Well it's either that or Subotsky had some well dodgy photos of them stashed in a cupboard.

And let's be honest it's not like they spent anything on the special effects.

Or sets.

Or script.

Perhaps the producers thought that the behind the scenes talent would be enough to create a classic, seeing as the film boasts a fairly impressive crew - from director Denis Héroux (the man behind Naked Massacre - the film that is not an actual crime) to screenwriter Michel Parry (who gave us Xtro) and ace cinematographer Harry Waxman (The Wicker Man and Brighton Rock among others), unfortunately the end result is utter pish from start to finish.

Which is a shame really.

Candle shtick.

The cast (well some of them, well Cushing and Pleasence) do their best with what they're given whilst everyone else seems to be channeling a particularly poor community centre stage version of Tales of The Unexpected.

Minus the sexy dancing lady obviously.

Believe it or not this was actually what we had instead of porn in the 70s.

No budget, no time and no mercy, The Uncanny served as the death knell for the multi-part horror film in the UK but let's be honest - if this was a vision of things to come then it was a mercy killing.

Tomorrow something better.

I hope.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

hairy nips and side sheds.

Just been chatting online about classic werewolf movies.

Obviously An American Werewolf In London, The Howling and The Beast Must Die! came up meaning that all this talk about hairy scares made me want to go back and revisit one of my personal faves.

So ladies and gentlemen let me present probably THE best werewolf movie ever made featuring not only the wonderful Dagmar Lassander but a star turn from that blonde woman who you might remember from bit parts in Truck Turner and Blood Orgy of The She Devils.

La Lupa Mannara (AKA Daughter of a Werewolf, Naked Werewolf Woman, She-Wolf , Werewolf Woman, 1976).
Dir: Rino Di Silvestro.
Cast: Annik Borel, Howard Ross, Dagmar Lassander, Tino Carraro and lots of other folk that I can't be arsed listing, except for the amusingly monikered Felicita Fanny for obvious reasons.

The place: a cow-pat covered field somewhere in Europe.

The time: Ye olden days - probably the early 70s by the state of the bush on show.

And I don't just mean the overgrow fauna circling the flaming pentagram that's been hastily drawn on the damp, muddy grass.

Obviously if you're a regular reader of this fine blog you'll know I'm making a childish reference to lady gardens.

In particular the one belonging to the top-lining (and topless) Annik Borel, who's currently dancing about in the all together and jiggling her lady parts like her life (or at very least her next mortgage payment) is counting on it.

But she is not alone.

Watching from the woods is a bunch of evermore nervous tinker types armed with flaming torches and pitchforks gazing in a mix of awe, terror and mild apathy as our buxom babe slowly transforms from a totally naked blonde 70s sexbomb into a blonde 70s sexbomb who appears to be wearing bits of carpet stuck to her body.

And black olives on her nipples.


The group surge forward, their weapons held tightly as Borel attempts to growl menacingly at the moon whilst dribbling thru' a set of comedy pound shop dentures.

In case you hadn't guessed this is indeed the naked werewolf woman of the title.

And unfortunately the only time we get to see her in all her hirsute glory, which by the state of the make-up isn't such a bad thing if I'm honest.

Obviously not wanting us to get too excited at the thought of a hairy woman eating a group of tramps (or spend any more money than he can get away with)  we abruptly jump forward 200 years (as in the movie does, it's not like some bizarre interactive Back To The Future style performance piece) to find a very sweaty (but thankfully clothed) Borel (as the very rich but oh so slightly mad Daniela Neseri) suddenly jump up in bed with a squeak.

You see, the poor girl suffers from a recurring nightmare caused by the fact that she believes she's the reincarnation of her ancestor who was burned at the stake for being a werewolf.

Which sounds a pretty legit if not really badly constructed bit of background story.

Not all of her family agree tho' especially her dad Count Tony Neseri (Carraro from Argento's The Cat o' Nine Tails) and sister Elena (Raven-haired Giallo goddess Lassander, obviously she had a new swimming pool to pay for) who think that the whole mentalist thing could be caused by her memories of being diddled by a dustbin man as a child.

Being a wee bit stubborn Daniela refuses their offers of help preferring to 'self-medicate' her violent desires by hiding in a wardrobe and fiddling with herself whilst watching her sister and hubbie having 'the sex'.

Tho' lets be honest, do you really need a reason (medical or other) to want to watch Dagmar Lassander getting naked?

"Laugh nowwwwwooooooooohhhhhh!"

Being the cuddly and caring types her family are all very supportive, occasionally nodding in a concerned manner whilst muttering that everything will be OK whilst scrubbing the stains off the woodchip wallpaper.

And to be honest everything's actually fine, until that is Daniela decides to lure her brother-in-law into the woods, start humping his leg then tear his throat out before tossing him off a cliff.


With the Jeremy Kyle show cancelled due to the death of a guest, the family decide that it'd probably be for the best if they had Daniela committed to the local hospital, where seeing as she spends her days stripped naked and strapped to a bed, I'm assuming isn't BUPA affiliated.

It's not all nude bondage and bed-baths tho' as Daniela often passes the time shouting "whore" at her still mourning sister and hiding scissors under her pillow in case the mad lesbian patient from two doors up tries to sneak into her room for cuddles.

Sounds a brilliant place for a break if I'm honest.

I don't know what that is in her mooth but it's definitely not shite.

Daniela obviously doesn't think so because after a week she decides that she's cured and proves this by plotting a totally non-mental escape plan that involves hiding in a doctor's car, waiting for him to leave the hospital then smashing his face repeatedly against the steering wheel before driving off into the countryside to start a new life.

Which is nice.

Unless you're that poor doctors wife and kids obviously.

It's at this point that the movie bizarrely turns into a sleazy version of the old Michael Landon TeeVee show Highway To Heaven, only this time featuring a mad woman coming across (quite literally in some cases) the damaged dregs of society and killing them in a rage of sweat, screams and howls rather than that guy from Little House On The Prairie helping club-footed kids and single mums with shingles.

Tho' I can't imagine that it would have run for 12 seasons had it followed Rino Di Silvestro's storyline can you?

But our writer/director has another twist for us because just when you think the whole film has descended into poorly made - albeit fairly unique - (moderately) hairy woman kills tramps flick our heroine bumps into a hunky stunt-man (Howard Ross AKA Renato Rossini) named Luca and everything changes again.

Except her underwear obviously which by this point I could actually smell thru' the screen.

God may want you for a sunbeam but I just want to use your mouth as a toilet.

Picking up a hitch-hiking Daniela in his patented stunt-mobile, lovely Luca wins her over with his sensitivity, charm and respect for women, hairy or not.

Oh and with his ability to fall off tall burning buildings whilst dressed as a chicken obviously.

Prepare for a romance montage like no other as we see our beautiful couple frolicking on the beach, running thru' parks and gazing into each others eyes intercut with scenes of our stuntman hero crashing thru' windows, getting bottles broken on his head and the like before setting up home together on the actual movie set.

Which I'm sure is against union rules.


Somewhere to park your bike (and reuse old captions obviously).

Our lovers soon realize tho'  that a fake western town isn't the best place to raise a family so Luca pops down on one knee and asks Daniela if she would mind if he took her up the village.

To live that is.

She smiles (which frankly is much more terrifying without her false choppers in) and cries "Yes!" before falling into Luca's massively muscled arms for another wee bout of the love-making.

You see it appears that it only takes the love of a rugged, sensitive stunt-man to cure any woman of her latent lycanthropy.

Which kind of explains where I've been going wrong the last few years.

Doggy style.

At long last it looks like things could finally work out quite nicely for Daniela but you forget that this is a cheaply made Italian exploitation movie (albeit one with delusions of high art) so it wont come as too much of a surprise when I tell you that one day, whilst Luca is out buying a pint of milk and various Veet hair removal products from Superdrug a gang of very bad lads turn up at the studios looking for cheap booze and evil sex.

Will the Luca return in time or will Daniela - after getting roughly bummed by the bad men - become a werewolf and hunt down her three attackers like a (hairier) Charles Bronson?

Or will true love prevail?

Dagmar Lassander: Ask your granddad.

Thank you Rino Di Silvestro (AKA Axel Berger, Cesar Todd, R.D. Silver and your 'Uncle' Pete) for not only giving us such classic calls for tolerance and love as Deported Women of the SS Special Section, Women in Cell Block 7 and The Erotic Dreams of Cleopatra but for following your dream and bringing this unique (yet oh so tedious) tale of love, sex, mental illness and furry nipples to the big screen.

A film that even after more than 30 years since my first viewing still holds a place in my heart as well as teaching me a valuable lesson in life.

When I was 12 years old I naively swapped a copy of the Video Network big box Betamax edition of Harry Novack's Axe for a dodgy VHS copy of La Lupa Mannara after being told that not only was it utterly terrifying but that it featured some top nude lady werewolf action as well as a scene where two girls stroked each others hair in a barn.

And I fell for it, hurriedly handing over Axe and excitedly running home, stopping only to buy crisps and Vimto ready for an evening of sheer terror.

And maybe, just maybe a glimpse of lady front bum, something at that point I'd only heard whispered about.

My friend Jamie had yet to obtain a copy of The Mad Foxes so the idea of men and women being different down below was pure hearsay.

But how was I managed to be duped so badly I hear you cry.

Well it's all down to the title the movie was released under in the UK.

You see over here it was called Naked Werewolf Woman.

Says it all really.

Bizarrely enough tho' the title change actually upset Di Silvestro more than the movies scathing (and in most cases hostile) reviews ever did seeing as he favoured the title The Lycanthrope, feeling that this was more in keeping with the movies serious arthouse aspirations.

No. really.

So imagine my disappointment, dear reader when what I ended up with wasn't actually the greatest, sexiest and hairiest movie ever made but a naked werewolf flick that singularly failed to deliver much in the way of either nakedness or werewolfism.

Ok I'll admit that it has an abundance of everything else you can think of; discussions on reincarnation, pseudo-scientific psycho-bollocks regarding lycanthropy as a side effect of sexual molestation, horny 70s Italian guys, revenge, tragedy and of course a stuntman years before Colt Seavers made it cool.

But that wasn't the point.

I don't think my 12 year old self ever recovered.

Come to think of it I'm still quite upset now.

I hope you're happy Rino.