The Zodiac Killer, 1971 – ★½

A first time attempt at film making by a man who previously had been the manager of a pizza chain. ‘The Zodiac Killer’ was billed less as a faithful attempt at charting the killers history, and more as a ‘stunt’ film aiming to try and catch ‘The Zodiac Killer’ himself. If he had any sense, he’d have stayed FAR away from this film.

I honestly dont have much to say about this one. Its an inconsistant plot that deals with a load of loose strand characters as they slowly come to realise that a string of murders may be at the hands of the Zodiac Killer. But the scripts pacing is so inconsistent and frankly SO dull, that I really found myself struggling to keep on top of all the stuff that was happening (or…wasnt happening more often than not)

The dialogue feels rambly and is mumbled for the most part, and this isnt a particularly heavy on dialogue script, so the fact it doesnt even manage to nail what lines there ARE present was dissapointing.

The direction was rough and rudamentary. There definitely was some guidence on set and location as to how they wanted these scenes to play out. But it’s clear that there wasnt much time for retakes and even less time for anything more detailed than ‘Walk on, say line, walk off’. it’s SUPER basic, not the worst ive seen. But not great.

The cine has a thick layer of heavy grain film and grime running through it, which DOES help add a sense of retroactive stylisation. But it doesnt help with the compositions and sequence building, both of which are really basic and frankly quite poor. Theres really not a lot of stand out cine here.

All in all? This is a reallly REALLY cheap effort, and a first time effort to boot, producing a film thats absolutely an interesting time capsule in terms of seeing how people dealt with the zodiac stuff so close to the time it happened in (this film came out less than 2 years after the final murder) But thats all it’s really good for in my opinion.

With an aimless and mumbly script, poor direction and cine, graphic violence that gets as bad as; Someone falls over, gets stabbed with a prop knife and gets a tube of fake blood poured in tiny dribbles over there body in such a way that it looks like they’re being awkwardly face painted. Its an interesting movie in a historic sense, but in a viewable sense. This was dire for me, and not one I can recommend.


Elvira’s Haunted Hills, 2001 – ★★★½

‘Elvira’s Haunted Hills’ sees the return of Cassandra Petersons infamous Macarbre Horror host to the big screen 13 years after ‘Elvira, Mistress of the dark’ offered her her first outing.

I had problems with the first Elvira movie, It felt a bit one note all thr way through and while the plot itself was fine and technically it was proficient enough for a studio picture. it was all a bit flat to me. There was nothing hideously wrong with it, it’s just that it came out at a time when a lot of alternative comedy stars were getting pictures and Elvira’s…well, to me it just didnt quite cut the mustard in the same way as say ‘UHF’ or ‘Pee wee’s Big Adventure’.

But im delighted to say that it seems that quite a few lessons were learnt from that first outing, as ‘Elvira’s Haunted Hills’ isnt connected to the first film in any way and goes off in a COMPLETELY different direction than the first film.

This, is a loving and affectionate homage and parody of a two very specific parts of horror history, the Roger Corman/Poe movies of the 1960’s and the ‘Gothic Horror’ reinvigoration that started with Hammer Horror in the late 50s and apex’d in the early 70’s with the likes of Amacus studios and titles such as ‘Blood on Satans Claw’ and ‘The Witchfinder General’

The films set in the 19th century and follows Elvira and her assistant/servent/buddy Zou Zou as they make their way to paris ahead of Elvira’s world famous cabaret show. Things get off to a bumpy start when they’re unable to pay their tab at the lodge they’re stopping at and have to flee the premesis via window. Luckily; they’re picked up by a passing stage coach and a physitian who’s on his way to castle Hellsubus to tend to the inhabitents therein. All of whome have succumb to a mysterious family curse.

Hilarity and hyjinks ensue as it transpires that Elvira bears a STRIKING resemblance to the owner of the castles long deceased wife ‘Elura’. who may not be *quite* as deceased as the death cirtificate would have you believe.

And as mentioned, it feels like with this film, they fixed a LOT of the issues that I had with the first movie. for a starters theres a lot more diversity in the type of humour being used throughout, we have slapstick, genuine wit and charismatic oneliners, double entendres and innuendos. There’s ACTUAL gags in this thing and they really go out of their way to try and cycle the different types of comedy in and out of this thing as much as possible. Which REALLY helps to hold your interest and keep things chugging along at a decent pace.

The script is essentially one big melting pot of Poe/Corman and Hammer plotlines all blended into a film that seems predominently led by Cormans take on ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ but does diversify enough across the runtime to not feel lazy or hashed out to me. it keeps a consistent tone, the dialogue is pretty rousing and acidic. I wont say this is a particularly ‘outstanding’ film because it DOES borrow a lot of its key beats from other movies. But as a parody and outright lampooning of that era.

To me? it absolutely has the vibe of a passion project, of something that the cast and crew sincerely believed in and ACTUALLY WANTED to do. and that sincerity and heart really shines through on this thing and stops it from becoming a rather lacklustre affair.

The directions pretty solid, it’s a styalised picture that manages to hit the beats of that old style of 60s gothic horror film making pretty solidly, and its clear Sam Irvin wasnt just a fairweather Corman fan in that regard as some of the gags running in the background of this thing are a little *too* deep cut to just be accidental or from someone who chugged half a dozen Price/Corman features over a long weekend.

Direction of the cast also seems pretty solid, everyone seems to get the tone of this thing, and the core cast all seem to have been fans of these kinds of movies too as they again, know exactly how to play their lines, exactly how hammy and over the top, or muted, to play there parts and everyone most importantly just seems to be having a really fun time in this thing.

The cines decent, its technically competent, but if I was being picky it does look a little cheap. I understand with a production like this the budget is basically transluscent its being stretched that thin. But a lot of the castle interior sets are clearly wood and styrophome, everything has a ‘painted’ look to it, which is great if your in a plastered bedroom or corridor. it’s terrible when your stone walls look painted on. Being kind, you could say it was ‘part of the homage’ but there were points where it became impossible to not notice it honestly.

Outside of that though, this things decent! Shots are largely composed well, with only a couple of ‘iffy’ moments throughout, theres a bit of experimentation on the composition and blocking fronts which is always nice to see. LOTS of moments where moody lighting and chiascuro can AND IS used to decent effect. There are moments this feels a little bit ‘Full Moon Features-ey’ which…isnt a compliment here. But for the most part? Im actually kind of impressed what they’ve managed to achieve with the budget.

The peformances are all fun as well! Cassandra Peterson doesnt need ANY advice on how to suck eggs here. Shes the same Elvira she’s always been, but I feel with this film she does get to break out of the ‘Cheeky one liners’ mould and grow a little as a character piece. She doesnt push things TOO far. but it feels like naturalistic growth for the character and I was really happy to see her really giving it her all and seemingly loving every minute of it!

The same could be said for Richard O’Brien who…just…seemingly materialised out of nowhere after 20ish years of just doing bit parts and TV stuff into playing a leading roll in this thing. and he’s goofy and eccentric and perfect for this kind of production. I dont know WHAT accent he was trying to do in this thing. But god bless him for trying all the same!

Mary Jo Smith also delights as Elviras Assistant Zou-Zou…yes shes basically a comedy French stereotype. But its a performance played with gusto and she gets some real moments to shine in this and some genuinely funny lines across the runtime. I thought she was a really solid match up for Peterson and the two played off each other across the runtime really well.

The majority of the supporting cast also really get into this thing and deliver performances that at best are delightful and at worst are still at least passable. they’re all lively, noones really a weak chain here and It was nice to be able to sink into a movie and not have to constantly vibe check to make sure things wernt going off the rails.

All in all? I wont say this is faultless, but I feel theres a lot to love in ‘Haunted Hills’ and, to me? It really feels like Peterson and Paragon learnt from their experiences with ‘Mistress’ and improved on the formula. My feelings on this are that, I think if your aware of the Corman/Poe movies or the Hammer films. You’ll probably get a LOT more out of this humour wise than if you’ve never seen that style of film making before.

I think you’ll still enjoy it if you HAVENT seen any gothic horror flicks. But a lot of what makes this so enjoyable is the riffing on the old tropes and styles from those films, and while im not normally a fan of films that basically spend most of their runtimes making me remember older, better movies. I feel this one here strikes the balance just about right in terms of referencing to new material.

As such, I could easily see myself popping this thing on while im mooching about the place in future, I preferred this movie over ‘Mistress’ and I think it’d be the one i’d recommend you check out if you’re curious to check the ‘Elvira’ movies in future.


Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, 1988 – ★★★

When it comes to Horror hosts, Elvira is almost certainly the gold standard. witty, quick and charming; Cassandra Petersons creation has held up for over 42 years at this point and is still more than going strong. And, inevitably in the late 80s when the likes of ‘Weird Al’ and ‘Pee Wee Herman’ all getting big budget ‘alternative comedy’ outings on the big screen, it was only a matter of time before Elvira got to strut her stuff.

Given that Elvira prior to this film was quite literally just ‘Macarbe Vally Girl on sofa periodically riffs terrible monster movies’ building a world for her to have an adventure in was always going to be an interesting development, how do you play it? What do you have her do?, do you go big or micro? theres infinite scope with a blank canvas, and while I think they could have played this thing a *bit* better than it turned out, it absolutely could have been worse.

The main plot revolves aroun Elviras late night hosting show facing the axe unless she can come up with some serious money, at exactly the same time her great aunt passes and leaves her something in her will, forcing Elvira to travel to a far flung town with incredibly modist and puritan values. It turns out that her aunt was the town parriah and as soon as Elvira rolls into town the townsfolk (led by the wonderful Edie McClurg as ‘Chastity Pariah’) almost immediately take a disliking to her.

It turns out that Elviras Aunt only has 2 relatives left alive, her and an elderly uncle. At the reading the uncle gets almost nothing and Elvira (who’s dreaming of big bucks and speedboats) is gifted her late aunts house, a delapodated wreck of a place that makes the psycho house look like graceland.

Her uncle is furious to be snubbed in the will, not because he wanted any riches, but rather because hes secretly a wizard/warlock and Elviras Aunt was a great witch who had an incredibly powerful spellbook he was hoping to pilfer. As such he immediately tries to smooth talk Elvira into selling him the book, and when that falls through he begins to plot to take it.

From there the film splits into 3 seperate stories, The Town VS Elvira, Elviras Uncle trying to take the book, and a blossoming romance between Elvira and a local townie who runs a theater by the name of Bob.

And, I like the plot of this thing, its very tonally fitting for Elvira a a character, but what drags this thing down like a stone for me is a mixture of the humour and the pacing. This things INCREDIBLY one note. it’s literally just double entendres and rude puns from start to finish intercut with boob and butt shots. You may ask how thats a problem particularly. and I agree that that type of humour IS really funny when its used appropriately and timed well. In my opinion, that isnt the case here. Instead we’re effectively blugeoned with this one type of humour and nothing else for the full runtime and after about 25 minutes it gets tiring, by 50 minutes im groaning and by the 3rd act, im waiting to get off the ride frankly.

Its the one thing thats against Elvira as a character really, cheeky jokes in 5-10 minute bursts interspersed every 15-20 minutes across a movies runtime works fabulously. But here, its like a vaccume. Films like ‘UHF’ and ‘Pee Wees Big Adventure’ had characters behind them who are layered, who do have the range to work multiple different types of comedy and can afford to give the film some breathing space. This films just the one type of comedy over and over again. and its painful.

Outside of that, this is just pretty fair studio grade fodder across the board, the pacings a little bit slower than i’d have liked. I’d have REALLY tightened up the 2nd act as, once it’s established its ‘The Town vs Elvira’ they spend most of the 2nd act just pulling pranks on each other and bitching about how the other sides terrible. It would have maybe been nice to actually put them all together more often, either that or chop some of it out to help speed things up a bit. The dialogues good and solid throughout, though it does have a bit of a TV movie quality to it. Its an okay script, technically, it’s just the execution and lack of variety that lets it down.

As for all other aspects, I dont really have a lot to say. The direction and cine are pretty standard fodder for studio movies of this time. Its not particularly standout, but its not awful either. It has the odd flourish that helps give it a sense of identity and theres a couple of nice visual gags. But nothing showstopping. Compositions solid, its got a decent stab at stylisation. its easy on the eyes…but nothing remarkable.

The perforamances are all a bit awkward as well, I think there was a bit of a debate as to *HOW* melodramatic to play this thing. With some of the cast going absolutely up to 11 on the campness, and some kind of awkwardly, half heartedly trying to be a bit campy. Which did let things down a bit for me. Cassandra Peterson is fabulous as ever as Elvira and the creaking sound you can hear throughout the movie is clealy of her and Edie McClurg carrying this thing. Because they’re both easily the best parts of this movie and do help kick things up a notch. Though, it comes to something when this isnt even the best movie Cassandra Peterson OR Edie McClurg has starred in.

I will say a lot of the cast do bring a strong character to the physical side of their performances, and it IS nice to see them really muck in to help sell this thing. I figure whether you like a good lively performance will largely dictate if you can make it through this thing, I feel it was enough to keep me seated though.

The soundtracks arguably one of the best parts of this thing, its a mix of rocky, new wave entries and some pop and rock and roll classics combining to create a soundtrack that really helps give this film a sense of identity, right out of the box. I loved it and I hope it gets a vinyl release some day.

All in all? Meh. Not one i’d go out of my way for, ‘Elvira, Mistress of the Dark’ DOES have some nice moments, some of the gags are fun and its absolutley of a standard technically. But its a very repetative experience to sit through for the most part and even some half decent performances cant fully save it from that. Its inoffensive, one i’d probably have on in the background for a lark, but its not a favourite of mine.


The Video Dead, 1987 – ★★½

It’s been a DAMN long time since I put a film on that opened so strongly only to actively ebb away any and all goodwill I had towards it across its full runtime. And yet, with 1987’s ‘The Video Dead’ I seem to have stumbled on exactly that.

Its initial pitch is great! a magic TV/VCR thingie is randomly delivered to someones house and when it’s plugged in, an old zombie movie plays, the catch being that the zombies in the movie slowly but surely hobble their way up to AND THROUGH the screen into the real world! Whats not to like!? establish a world where zombies are clearly make believe, THEN add zombies!? Brilliant!

Unfortunately, once this initial premise is put in front of the audience (basically the first 10-15 minutes of this film) it doesnt really seem to know where to go, and from there it begins to flounder, as we kill off the initial owner of the house in the first 10 minutes, then introduce a young brother and sister who’re waiting for their parents to get home, THEN they mess about about ANOTHER 30 minutes kind of sort of repeating what they did in the first 10 minutes, but with more stoner gags and nudity.

The scripts almost as slow burn and pedestrian as the zombies in this thing. quite sincerely, had the film managed to build on it’s establishing 10-15 minutes, or even if it’d managed to keep the pace of that opening for the majority of the runtime, this could have been great! You could have really knuckled down on the premise of ‘a haunted video tape’ or ‘a magical VCR’ that brings to life whatever films put into it…In a pre ‘Ringu’ world, that would have been an amazing idea with near limitless scope!

Unfortunately, the script beyond that 10 minutes slows right down to a crawl as we basically just end up spending most of the runtime with an ex stoner and a guy in a cowboy hat who comes bearing warnings about their ‘magic TV’ as they wander around a house and a woods talking about how awful and dangerous the magic TV is, intercut with VERY tame and uninteresting zombie kills.

Theres a next door neighbour who winds up being something of a love interest and the stoners sister, both of whome get almost nothing to do in the movie and barring a bit of ‘mid movie melodrama’ barely feature at all in the thing, theres an act structure but it’s SUPER rigid and clunky, the dialogues more wooden than a…wooden thing. it’s super basic, sounds like NOTHING that an ACTUAL person would say and comes across and just poor, rather than entertainingly cheesy.

Throw in an underwhelming ending, and you have a movie that I feel really was aiming to trade more on a title and a poster than in actually trying to make anything close to decent.

The directions bland, despite being shot on film, this looks like an SOV effort…and not a GOOD SOV effort, theres a couple of moments that did stick out as being reasonably impressive visually. But make no mistake, this is a cheap CHEAP looking movie, that largely feels like it was made with what was available to the crew, rather than what the film needed to succeed (likely because there was no money for this thing so they HAD to use what they had available rather than what was needed)

I will give some credit to the zombie makeup however, while some of them do resemble a cheap halloween mask and body paint, broadly speaking the zombies actually dont look half bad here. Which is arguably one of the most imporatant elements, so it’s good to see they kind of nailed that.

The cines largely drab and lifeless, theres a few moments that stood out to me, but a lot of its just really basic shot setups with not much thought to composition with mixed ability sequence structuring and a weird use of B-roll…Where its needed, it isnt, and where it isnt…it is. throw in a lack of experimentation and an ‘all filler, no killer’ soundtrack and your left with a movie thats almost as dead behind the eyes as it’s monsters.

Honestly? if they just cropped the first 10-15 minutes (basically everything from the opening titles up to the first kill) and then maybe tacked on a 2-5 minute long ending. This would have been an AWESOME short film. Something really fun and interesting. Instead its a bloated, barely coherent, stumbling picture that, had it not been for the zombie makeup, the inoffensive scripting (it’s poor, but I didnt hate it) and the odd moment of visual interest. Would have been one of the poorer offerings i’ve watched this year. Not one i’ll be revisiting in a hurry.


TerrorVision, 1986 – ★★★½

A boisterous and colourful romp, 1986’s ‘Terrorvision’ is an Empire pictures effort thats…a little bit different from the norm. The basic plot is an alien transporting a wee beastie accidentally ends up releasing the creature or is zapped down to a….lets say ‘eccentric’ family via their newly installed satellite television system. The creature then slowly begins picking off the family members and more while the families youngest son desperately tries to convince his other relatives that, if they dont act soon they’ll all be turned to mush…quite literally!

I dont have a tremendous amount to say about this one, it’s a purposfully zany script thats pretty decenly paced out, though maybe a little slow and aimless in the middle, the endings solid enough and theres a clean act structuring across the runtime that transitions pretty seamlessly.

The characters are all dialled up to 11 on the dialogue front giving hyper manic readings of wonderfully demented lines. This is unapologetically cheesy and over the top for the most part, and while I can absolutely see it turning people off, I felt quite at home (though, I do feel this is a movie I’d very much have to be in the mood for)

The directions pretty standard, they’ve heavily styalised this thing to the point that i’d argue it falls more in line with the new wave/art house movement of cinema than the more mainstream popcorn fodder that Empire was working with at the time. I really like the style of this thing (though again I could totally understand how it’s garish use of coloured lighting and the directors structuring choices for scenes could be a put off)

Direction of the cast too is loud, aggressively garish and manic to boot. It feels like they told everyone involved to really kick things up a notch. They absolutely succeed in that request, but I think there are moments here where it probably would have helped had they had some contrast to the intensity, a little dark to help offset the light. I think, for the time that it’s a unique work that is effective, but it would probably have to be something I was in the right headspace to properly experience.

The monster effects are cheap and cheerful, but funky and fun at the same time. This really isnt a movie thats taking itself too seriously, and I feel that they’ve about pegged the quality that this kind of story needed for the budget they were given. if things were *too* high quality and polished, the cheesiness wouldnt have quite worked, any lower and it would have started to look a bit depressing. So it’s a win in my books.

The cines fabulous, with some wonderful use of moody coloured lighting and a clear eye for compositional choices, even if you dont like the script, even if you loath the perfomances, as a work of mid 80s new wave cinema, the compositional choices, sequence structuring and cine in general is fine, fun and poppy. we’re not in masterpiece terratory by any stretch, but its solid enough.

Add to this a totally killer soundtrack thats equally as new wave, weird and a solid slice of 80s cheese and you’ve got the makings of an all round hunk of 80s weirdness. It reminded me a lot of Brian Yuzna’s ‘Society’ and I was actually genuinely surprised to read that this film predates it by about 3 years. while maybe not in line beat for beat on the plot front, This film and ‘Society’ could be seen as inverse versions of each other. With ‘Society’ deciding to go for the moodier, bleaker, and more toned down approach, and this film being as 80s as possible from start to finish.

In short, I enjoyed this one. Its not a ‘must see’ I wouldnt begrudge anyone for hating it even, but I could easily see myself putting this thing on when I dont know what to watch and I just want something ticking over in the background. it’s light, easygoing, maybe a little slow at times, but ultimately just a weird little piece of 80s scifi horror cinema.


The Wicker Man, 1973 – ★★★★½

Simply put, one of the greatest films ever comitted to celluloid. ‘The Wicker Man’ is my favourite British movie, it’s my joint first favourite horror movie with ‘Theater of Blood’ and it’s damn near one of the greatest films i’ve ever had my pleasue to sit through, any cut, doesnt matter if its first thing in the morning, or last thing at night. If ‘The Wicker Man’ is on, im watching ‘The Wicker Man’.

I’ll keep it brief, the script is razor sharp, acidically bleak in its comedy and while not *entirely* accurate about its depiction of pagan rituals, it goes a lot further in its accuracy than most may think. barring the ‘Directors cut’ (which in and of itself is more of a ‘complete’ cut than the directors preference) the pacing is perfectly balanced, the act structures cleanly marked and seamless in their ability to transition.

All the characters are superbly written, have solid, multi layered character arcs, are consistent, and feel fleshed out. The plot twists are genuinely unexpected and rewatches, like a fine whiskey only further enhance the complex flavours and tones of this film as, once your aware of the twists, you realise just what kind of 4d chess is going on.

The dialogue is delightful, ripe for quoteable lines and still as wonderfully fresh as the day the ink dried on the first draft. its punchy, powerful and honestly, I’ve seldom found a stronger work than this, that so fully captures a vision and narrative.

The direction, given the absolute trials and tribulations the production had to even get off the ground is nothing short of miraculous. It looks incredible and barring a couple of night shoots where the heavy grain film stock renders things a little *too* overdark. this is a professional and solid looking production that had a LOT of research put into not only the locations chosen for the shoots, but the history and mechanics involved in trying to recreate some of the more intricate moments of pagenism.

direction of the cast is faultless too, it’s a lightning in a bottle moment when a cast and a director almost in lock step seem to understand the exact tone and nature of a production. it’s BEYOND lightning in a bottle when chunks of the cast are actively falling out with a director over the terrible filming conditions while ALSO giving the performances of their careers. I cannot understate just how astounding Robin Hardy’s work is here. its unreal.

the cinematography is gorgeous, with astounding and colourful compositions, each of which could easily be a portrait, carefully curated into gorgeous and powerful scenes that blow me away on every rewatch. Depending on which cut you choose to watch, your milage may vary as to the itensity of delight with which you take this film. But for me, even the worst cuts from the worst version of this film still stand head and shoulders against some of the best offerings of mainstream cinema. it’s a gorgeous film.

And the performances!? dont even get me started. Forget Dracula, THIS, is Christopher Lee’s defining picture, the one i’ll always remember him for. He waived his fee to appear in this film because he wanted to save the production money and he so sincerely believed in it, he did anything he could to get people in front of it. and he was absolutely correct in this assertion. As Lord Summerisle he’s astounding, a genuine ‘once in a lifetime’ performance that, in my opinion is unlikely to ever be bettered and is seldom even remotely equalled. he’s lively, spry and smarmily condescending in the absolute best possible way. Every second he’s on screen is simply some of the greatest.

Same applies to Edward Woodward as Sgt. Howie. an ASTOUNDING performance of a devout christian police officer trying to unravel the mysteries of this most unusual island. he has a wonderful level of arrogance thats downplayed by a genuine sincerity in his beliefs. There are no heros on Summerisle.

and thats before we even GET to the supporting cast ALL of whome are frankly astounding. They’re absurd, bizarre and not one person given a talking role is forgettable. they’re all just…BEYOND amazing. With Britt Eckland and Ingrid Pitt astounding with cheery to the point of concern performances (and thats not even mentioning the nude scenes which, im certain for many men and women of a certain age were quite lifechanging)

add all of this to frankly one of the most gorgeous soundtracks ever put to magnetic tape. a near all acoustic folk soundtrack that, in and of itself is a tremendous work. but when coupled to such a striking script, astounding direction and breathtaking visuals only further cements this film as one of the greatest works of the 20th century and a film that I sincerely regret brushing off watching till my mid 20s. I could have easily had years of extra enjoyment from it.

I dont need to recommend this one, it speaks for itself. an essential to any film collection and beyond compare. I own it on VHS (twice), DVD (twice), Bluray (three times), I have 3 streaming copies on standby not to mention 2 copies of the 180g Vinyl pressing of the soundtrack (sealed and unsealed to preserve my folk music) and frankly, when the 4k version is released. I’ll be grabbing that too…probably in multiples. I never want to be in a position where I dont have semi-immediate access to this film.

Oh! and because I cant really fit it in anywhere else:

The Theatrical cut has always been a longstanding favourite of mine because of how concise and to the point it is.

The Final Cut is gaining appreciation from me as the years go by, at first I thought it was a bit overlong, but I enjoy the extended scenes more after rewatches and I feel it strikes a nice balance of letting the film breath a bit, but not too much.

And the ‘Directors cut’ (which now isnt really the directors cut as Robin Hardy considers the ‘Final’ cut to be the true ‘directors cut’…the ‘Directors cut’ is just, as much of the film as survives assembled and released. is probably my least favourite of the bunch. Its still a lot better than most films, but I have to conceed that its overly long and whats added in doesnt really add to the experience.

I think the final cut is probably my defacto viewing experience at this point as it keeps most people happy, followed very closely by the theatrical cut which was my introduction to the film and one im very fond of, and following up the rear is the directors cut, which i’ve seen approximately twice. and I should probably catch again at some point, but it’s just…SO long for what it is.

…Go watch ‘The Wicker Man’.


Out There Halloween Mega Tape, 2022 – ★★★½

I’ve been a long time admirer of the work of Chris LaMartina, when people have asked in the past for recs on what to watch around Halloween, ‘Dead Teenagers’, ‘The WNUF Halloween Special’ and ‘What Happens Next Will Scare You’ have usually been some of my immediate ‘go to’ picks. So when, in 2019 A crowdfunding campaign run by Chris to try and get a ‘WNUF Halloween Special’ sequel off the ground landed on my radar, I backed the everloving crap out of it, as ‘WNUF’ at this point has basically become a Halloween tradition in our household.

Then, the Pandemic happened. Production got jostled, things seemingly had to be rearranged, refocussed and replanned out before finally, in 2022 ‘WNUF 2’ emerged as ‘The Out There Halloween Mega Tape’ an indirect sequel to ‘WNUF’ set just shy of 10 years after the events of the first movie.

The films presented as a ‘Recovered’ bootleg via a ‘Something Weird Video’ style mail order company known as ‘Trader Tony’s Tape Dungeon’ and as such is a double feature recording with two features from 1995 and 1996 respectively.

The first is an episode of a talkshow hosted by one ‘Ivy Sparks’ who’s leading catchphrase of ‘Be Nice’ is designed to diffuse tension with the guests on the show. Ivy comes across as a bit of a careerist and across this first half we basically establish who she is as a character, her motivations and the kind of ‘Schtick’ shes into.

The second portion of the tapes from 1996 and covers an hour long extended special of a paranormal investigation show ‘Out There’ in which its revealed that Ivy’s talkshow has been cancelled and she’s instead been moved into co-hosting on ‘Out there’ and this is pretty much her debute on the show.

In this special, they hope to get to the bottom of all things ‘Alien Abduction’ and repeatedly refer back to the strange goings on at a top secret US airbase. As you can no doubt imagine, it doesnt take long for things to start getting a bit creepy and unusual, with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

From the off, do I think this is as good or better than ‘WNUF’? No. Unfortunately I dont. Theres a few reasons for it, but some of it lies in the cinematography choices and some of it lies in the scripting. and i’d like to preface my below thoughts with the understanding that this was largely shot in the middle of a pandemic where restrictions were in place that made it impossible in certain circumstances to shoot the movie conventionally. I appreciate that, and the below criticisms come with the awareness of this.

Probably the biggest single gripe I have with this film is, ironically the thing I loved about the first movie. The Ad breaks. With both this film and WNUF being imitations of ‘live television broadcasts’ there are ad breaks and all of them are fictitious and created entirely by LaMartina. In WNUF these were a nice breathing spaces that helped give the film a sense of time and place.

They wernt completely perfect, but they felt natural within the nature of broadcasting. we cut to them at reasonably paced intervals and because advancements in technology were reletively slow going in the world of low/no budget 80s advertising, there was quite a bit of leighway cut in setting ‘WNUF’ in 1987 as an advert from 1984 and 1988 if the budget was low could easily have happened at any point within that window.

‘Out there’ is specifcially set in 1995 and ’96. and the trouble with trying to mimic the style of 90s advertising is that the 90s in and of themselves were a constantly changing and developing era. barely 18 months would go by without a MASSIVE change in culture, style and tone. As such a lot of the adverts featured in this movie dont really feel ‘era’ approrpriate. Some feel like they’re trying to be too close to the hypercolourful style of early 90s advertising, while other feel like they’re aiming to be closer to that sleeker, cleaner minimalist future tech style of advertising that the late 90s/early 2000’s worked on.

As a result, to me at least, it made the film feel a little less immersive than ‘WNUF’ was, which wasnt helped by the compounding issue of there being SO many ad breaks in this thing, WAY more than most television broadcasts would ACTUALLY do. In WNUF they were spaced out in roughly 7-10 minute intervals, sometimes longer. Here; I dont think 5 minutes went by without a commercial break.

Thats not to diss the concept of commercials entirely I must add, when this thing nails the vibe of mid 90s television adverts it does so EXPERTLY I really cant fault it, but i’d say that happens about 30-40% of the time. theres maybe a 20% window for ads that are *close* to getting there stylistically but just dont quite hit it, and for a large % of the runtime its either adverts that are way off stylistically the time they were supposed to be happening in, or strange animated adverts that have been done on modern animation programmes and again just dont quite look right when converted to VHS.

I admit openly, that im probably too close to the subject if im being honest because I’ve spent most of my life watching old retro commercial compilations as a way to unwind, so im probably quite hypersensitive to this kind of thing. But I honestly believe that less sometimes can be more, and I think had they had longer narrative pieces with less ad breaks, that pooled together the better efforts (Dr. Pizza, Mullers Light, RB Harkers were standouts to me.) into a tighter package. it would have really helped in maintaining the immersion and probably helped out with the tone a little bit too.

Which is the only *other* thing I really had in the way of criticism for this thing, the tone is ever so slightly different compared to ‘WNUF’, ‘WNUF’ was largely trying to replicate a TV broadcast and as such, while it did have it’s tongue in it’s cheek throughout, there was always at least a vague attempt to try and sell you on the idea that this was actually ‘found footage’ it may have gotten a little silly in places, but it kept one foot firmly in reality.

‘Out there’ from a writing perspective has decided to lean eeeeeeever so slightly more into the humour than ‘WNUF’ did, and as such it kind of loses that more suspensful energy that the first film had, it means that some of the characters get to be a bit goofier and do goofier things that didnt really appeal to me, the ads get to be a bit sillier and less realistic and the ending…which I wont spoil here, essentially ends up being a bit of a gross out slapstick affair thats been done to death over the years. I enjoyed the ending more this time around than I did the first time I watched it, because the first time I watched it I audibly groaned at some of the humour in this.

With the issues I have out of the way, what are we left with? well, despite what i’ve mentioned above, a DAMN fun little sequel. from a script perspective we have something that works about as well as it can do. the pacing of the host led segments are fantastic and perfectly in spirit with the first film, I like that their are little references and extensions of the WNUF lore embedded throughout this thing, I think the characters that are introduced here are fleshed out nicely, are given decent arcs and develop smoothly across the runtime.

I love that they put little bits of bait in across the film that could be used to make more sequels (mild spoiler here: but theres a passing reference to another halloween special that Frank Stewart shot before ‘WNUF’ that mysteriously went missing…thats got to be easy prequel/sequel bait if ever i’ve seen it)

Despite my issues with the ads the ones that work are phenominal and had they been randomly inserted into actual 90s commercial blocks I wouldnt have batted an eye. and the pacing out of the broad overhaging plot is, maybe a little bit quicker than i’d like, but still very rewarding non the less.

In fact, barring the ending, which felt a bit rushed and ‘Done’ I enjoyed this script, tonally its a bit sillier than the original, but I still largely got on with it even if some of the humour bordered on ‘Dad joke’ level cheesy.

Where this film really comes into its own is the direction, and Chris, as always is 100% dedicated to the cause, multidubbing VHS tapes to get generational defects and deterioration is a pastime of mine, and what Chris has done to make this film look ‘weathered’ is beyond impressive and must have led to many a sleepless night. it’s an incredible work that looks fantastic, is heavily styalized and barring 1 or 2 tape faults here and there that I felt actually kind of worked against the aesthetic. This is if anything, better than WNUF in what it’s trying to achieve. I loved it I sincerely did.

As for the cine? well, for the most part, again, it’s perfect. a lot of WNUF’s style seems to have come from ‘Fox’ in the mid 90s at a glance, but theres clear influence from loads of different places dotted throughout and it was almost a game in and of itself to try and spot the influences than it was watching the film itself! They’ve reallly nailed the tone and vibe of mid 90s television shows, and barring the odd digital effect here and there, where, in the mid 90s it would have been analogue (a huge pain in the ass to replicate) I’d say this was damn near spot on.

In fact, barring what i’ve mentioned about the ads (some of the cine is a big factor for why the ones I personally feel didnt work…didnt work. IE: strange out of period animation work, CG that was a little too advance for the time, filming techniques on sequence building that was either too new or didnt quite use the right colour palettes for the time) This is probably one of the most decent replications of 90s tv that i’ve ever seen.

Performance wise; Melissa LaMartina has a mixed experience in the role of Ivy Sparks. I think in the talkshow portions she absolutely nails the brief and gives a really fantastic performance that captures the tone and vibe those kinds of hosts needed. Her performance in the ‘Out there’ segments are a little less spot on, she lands more than she misses, but there were times where the physicality wasnt quite there, the line delivery was a little too dry, it just felt like it wasnt quite as confident a play.

The actor playing Tate (theres no credits for this film, and IMDB doesnt have him listed) is very much in line with the kind of host you would get on shows like this back in the day, he’s equally spot on, gives a decent range of performance and holds himself in such a way that the likes of Jonathan Frakes would have in his own 90s paranomarl investigative show.

Together the pair work together wonderfully in terms of tone, it just maybe would have been nice to see them utilise the location space a bit more, as a lot of their sequences were basically just ‘bolted in place’ direct to camera pieces. but on the whole they work great.

I would comment on the lack of a properly defined and well rounded supporting cast…but y’know…covid and that…so I can kind of understand why they’re limited in that capacity. But near the end of the film, it did make me wonder whether, had this film been delayed by even 18 months on the production front. Whether the end results would have been considerably tighter…the world may never know.

Despite my criticisms above (which come very much from a place of love for these works) I absolutely enjoyed ‘Out There’ its a more than decent companion piece to WNUF and I could easily see it entering my regular rotation or forming a rock solid double feature night.

Definitely one i’d recommend. it’s not perfect, but it’s heart is very much in the right place, its good fun. and if you liked WNUF, im almost certain you’ll enjoy this.


The Wizard, 1989 – ★★★½

Living in the UK, I dont feel like ‘The Wizard’ had quite the same impact over here as it did in the US. Speaking to my US pals, this is a VERY nostalgic experience for them. Almost all of them have memories of seeing this in the cinema, or at the very least, picking up the VHS. The gamers in amongst them talk about the sequences involving the (then unreleased) latest Nintendo game “Super Mario Bros 3” as something of a ‘core memory’ from the time.

So having gone into this film completely blind barring a group of Americans telling me that it was SO weird, but a key part of their childhood, I really didnt have much in the way of expectations for this thing. But i’ve got to be honest, I had quite a bit of fun with this thing.

Its a pretty standard roadtrip movie as brothers Cory and Jimmy flee their respective parents with the aim of going to California. Along the way they meet up with a young girl by the name of Haley who, ONE; finds out that Jimmy is INSANELY good at video games, and TWO; tells the pair that theres an upcoming competition called ‘Video Armageddon’ with a $50k cash prize and the prestige of being the ultimate gamer.

The boys are intreagued, and thus a journey of life, love and self discovery begins! with Cory and Jimmys dad and a hired private investigator hot on the gangs trail with orders to bring them home. Will they manage to make it to the competion or wind up getting a game over!?

The scripts a little slow to get started but around 3/4 of the way into its opening act it finds its feet and from their we get a fairly lightweight zippy script that isnt particularly challenging, is DRENCHED in early 90s stylisation and is *largely* tonally pleasent.

It does have its faults, that opening act is a little sluggish, they keep details about what exactly is going on with Jimmy deliberately vague, but that does hinder the plotting a bit as it makes him a harder character to connect with. and while the tone is largely alright, theres a LOT of weird and uncomfortable moments in this thing. Mild spoilers but a sequence in which two truckers try to hunt the kids down and steal there money, followed a little later in the movie with a scene where Haley accuses one of the investigators whos trying to grab Jimmy of touching her breasts (when he hadnt) made me do a double take frankly that the film would even go there.

It’s also strange in the fact that, bring blunt. This is a near hour and three quarter advert for Nintendo, and yet; Nintendo arnt really the key focus of the film until the 3rd act. Yes; Nintendo consoles pop up infreuently throughout, the ‘Powerglove’ gets an airing and Super Mario Bros 2 is briefly glimpsed. But the main focus of the film is always on the kids adventure over the games and consoles themselves which almost take a back seat for most of the runtime. Even when they do pop up, it’s mainly for 3rd party titles like ‘Double Dragon’, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ and ‘Castlevania’ Honestly; this is more an advert for Konami than Nintendo.

Beyond that though, this is a somewhat wobbly, but charming movie that has memorable and quotable dialogue, well paced scenes and is absolutely every inch as cheesy and ‘of it’s time’ as it’s possible to be. I couldnt IMAGINE a kid born after 1998 watching this thing with anything other than utter bafflement and boredom. but for kids born between 1978 and 1998. I imagine it’ll give you a MORE than hearty nostalgia blast.

The direction and cine are more than of standard, it’s a studio picture and it feels every inch of it (On top of this being an advert for Nintendo and Konami, Universal Studios get MORE than a decent stint in this film to sell you a vacation) Everythings about as polished as it can be for a mid budget kids film, visually its drenched in kids culture 1988-1994 and the cine is rich. With largely solid compositional choices, decent use of B-roll and depth of field and lively camera that isnt afraid to get up to some panning or tracking action.

As for the performances, theres a wonderful energy between Fred Savage, Luke Edwards and Jenny Lewis. I try to avoid talking about child actors performances when writing these kinds of reviews. But I will say as a triptic? They brought a lot of energy to the picture, seemed to be having fun, and given a lot of the movie lives or dies by how they handled their scenes together they more than carry this thing.

Jackey Vinson as Lucas is a solid ‘baddie’. As is Will Seltzer as the private investigator Putnam. If anything the baddies in this film almost feel a bit out of place compared to usual kids film baddies. they go a little bit extra comparatively and I feel it only adds another strange layer to this wonderfully weird experiment of a movie.

All in all? I cant kid myself that this thing is anything other than an extended attempt at selling kids on an NES, the Powerglove and the near 100 games (at the time) that were available. It fails at the first rule of advertising however, which is that the focus should always be a call to action for your ONE product. it should be ‘BUY THIS!’ not ‘Buy this! and this! and this!’ As such, the advertising has a weird relationship with this film in the sense that, the film wouldnt make sense without it, but because SO MANY corporations want a piece of the pie, the message the film ultimately wants to send gets lost in the mix.

That being said, despite the clear intention of the picture. I had fun with it. It reminded me heavily of movies like ‘Mac and Me’ in terms of tone and vibe, in fact the pair would probably make for a hell of a double bill.

Is this thing gonna hold the attention of the average 21st century kid these days? ABSOLUTELY NOT. this thing might as well be dubbed into a foreign language with no subtitles for all the relevence its going to have to todays children. But if your a glassy eye’d nostalgic X0-something and looking for an hour and 40 gateway back to a time when cerealboxes had toys in them, restaurants had ‘smoking sections’ and making your food or drink ‘green slime’ coloured/flavoured was about as appitising as it got. I can almost guarentee you’ll have a fond time with this thing.


Evil Dead Rise, 2023 – ★★★½

Y’know, it’s times like this that I kind of wish we could ressurect Mary Whitehouse and take her to the movies.

Evil Dead Rise sees the return of the much beloved franchise 10 years after it’s last cinematic outing (itself a quasi reboot/remake of the original 1981 classic) and I would argue its something of a triumphant return after Warner bros damn near dumped the thing on HBO max.

The plot revolves around a family in a small collapsing apartment complex. The complex is set to be torn down in a months time, so single mum Ellie and her 3 kids are getting things ready for a move. That is until her estranged sister who’s work requires her to travel arrives at the complex with quite important news. Before too many words can be exchanged however an earthquake hits the apartment complex revealing a (previously undiscovered) bank vault, inside which sits several mysterious records and a book with teeth.

If you’ve seen an Evil Dead movie before, you know it doesnt take long for limbs to start flying, squishy bits to start being gauged and all manner of grim and unhiged oomska. With the big question hanging over the movie being: Will whats left of the family survive a night against the deadites?

Right off the bat I feel the need to clarify, if you havent seen this movie, it’s much more in line tonally with the original ‘Evil Dead’ and the 2013 remake than it is ‘Evil Dead 2’, ‘Army of Darkness’ and ‘Ash Vs The Evil Dead’ This is a movie that, while it doesnt take itself BITTERLY seriously, is not the goof around that the other ‘Evil Dead’ films can be at times.

I was quite thankful ultimately that someone told me the vibe was more in line with ‘Evil Dead’ (2013) than ‘Evil Dead 2’ because had I gone in prepared for the latter, i’d have been dissapointed. What we have here is a *slightly* uneven but ultimately VERY gory thrill ride of a movie that absolutely has its moments, but didnt quite hit the mark for me.

The script is a bit on the lumpy side, with a 1st act thats a little bit too slow for my taste in terms of setting up the characters, establishing the setting, introducing the necronimicon and the whole ‘deadite’ thing. Which then gives way to a near breakneck 2nd and 3rd act that if anything goes too far the other way, characters arnt even allowed to breath letalone develop and in the 2nd act particularly we do end up in a bit of a cycle of deadite attacks and rests.

Equally, while the more serious nature of this film is more than welcome and I do think it does a tremendous job in setting and maintaining an atmosphere of unease, I personally did kind of wish the film would have gotten at least a *little* bit more playful with its characters. For the most part everyone involved is playing it largely straight The Deadites here have some fantastic lines at times, but apart from one or two moments where they mess with the humans, they dont really do much. It would have been nice to see them play around with possessing inanimate objects, gaslighting the humans and…well…causing chaos. There are chaotic moments. But they’re just that…moments. I never really felt the film lost control, nothing surprised me and a lot of the more ‘horror’ oriented moments relied on jumpscares…Which is just cheap and really didnt do it for me.

The gore kind of fell a bit flat for me too, especially based on whats come before it. With most of the more violent sequences either being stuff we’ve seen before in previous entries or Over CGI’d gumpf that felt forced and looked poor. There were a couple of practical effects moments that did have me squirming, but they were very few and far between and the rest? well it just didnt quite have the mania of violence and carnage that previous Evil Dead movies had.

Thats absolutley not to say though that this wasnt a fun watch! quite the contrary! If you can push past the first act you’ll find a rip roarer for the most part thats entertaining, adds to the existing mythos of the franchise and most importantly, manages to survive without Sam Raimi or Bruce Campbell gripping tightly to the reigns. THAT, in and of itself HAS to be applauded. I wont get into spoilers here, but what I will say is, there were a few continuity issues that cropped up in the 3rd act that undercut the ending a bit for me. But if this thing gets a sequel (and I sincerely hope it does) it more than gives some scope for this thing to really break out and flourish.

The Directions more than decent, it’s nice to see fresh faces tackle the franchise and I feel here, Lee Cronin has done a fabulous job in taking what Raimi laid as a foundation and added to it. it carries its own distinct style, puts the occasional nod to Raimis work in there but it isnt restrained by it. it’s more than happy to go off and do its own thing. While that does garner mixed results (there were parts of this film where it started to feel a little like a generic mainstream zombie movie and less like an Evil Dead film) those moments were mercifully brief and when this thing punches, it punches HARD. A really solid attempt at re-establishing the franchise and a more than solid foundation for a sequel to build on. I thought it was great.

The cine too is punchy, creative and vile in all the best ways. While I dont quite think this entry hit the stylistic highs of ‘Evil Dead’ (2013) it certainly holds its own, and barring a few scenes in one of the hallways that were a little over-dark making it difficult to make out what was actually happening. We had rock solid compostion, decent use of colour and lighting to create a vibrantly moody atmosphere that didnt so much steal from the other films, more recycle and upcycle what was there into a more contemporary vision.

The cast were astounding Alyssa Sutherland is probably one of the greatest deadite performances the franchise has seen. Dancing the line between aggressive, quietly terrifying and unhinged. She works a tremendous range, gives her all to the performance and is EASILY worth the price of admission alone. Its a shame most film awards overlook horror as a category, because she really was a force in this thing.

Gabrielle Echols is also fantastic as Bridget (Ellies Daughter), its almost criminal just how underused she is really in this film because, while in the first act her performance is a little on the dry side, by the time the 2nd act revs up she really hits her stride, totally gets into the swing of things and then the film shifts focus away from her. I’d have genuinely loved to have seen more of her in this movie honestly.

Equally; It would be amiss of me not to mention Lily Sullivan, who does a more than serviceable job as ‘Beth’ she doesnt *quite* get the range that Alyssa does in this, and as a lead, shes maybe a tad on the dry side. but she brings her own voice to the production. I didnt dislike her and when the 3rd act opens up she really embraces the role and clearly is having fun with it.

What I will say is, a lot of these performances do teeter just a bit into a generic TV acting style, the kind of performances you’d see in a TV movie (which…again, is probably understandable given WB were going to put this on HBOs streaming) While it didnt exactly ruin the experience for me, there were a few moments in this where things felt a little too safe, and I never really felt like any of the characters (based on their performances) were ever in any *real* sense of danger. in a film where the cast should (rightfully) be panicking when their mum is turned into a deadite, instead for a lot of the scenes, the cast just came across as quiet. not concerned. and thats a bit of a problem.

And the soundtrack? it’s oppressive. Im not sure if it’s the theatre I saw this at or if this is how the films actually mixed. but it’s INSANELY loud. like…kudos to them for mixing the vocals high enough that I could actually hear what the cast were saying (a major problem with a lot of modern films) but there were points here where it very much felt like the ‘score’ was just a sound technician cramming as much noise as he could onto the timeline and peaking the crap out of it. I have ADHD and there were several points where the films score got so loud that I ended up dissassociating and I could only hear static. it was crazy. AND it didnt work if the idea was to make me feel scared or uneasy, because I was so preoccupied thinking ‘This is BLOODY loud!’ that I couldnt focus on the spooky stuff on screen.

All in all? ‘Evil Dead Rise’ is a more than fine entry into the franchise. I enjoyed it, I could easily see this being a film that improves with rewatches, I could absolutely recommend it, is it the best Evil Dead movie? No. Absolutely not. it’s probably not even in the top 3. But it’s still an entertaining piece to experience, and I really hope (based on its current success in the box office) that they do decide to build on this, because theres a LOT of potential bubbling under the surface of this thing.