Beyond the Seventh Door, 1987 – ★★★★

I was put onto this film by a friend who caught it totally at random and immediatley knew it would be my kind of party….and man oh man, she was NOT wrong.

Beyond the Seventh door is a…strange STRANGE canuxsploitation flick that seemingly had it’s biggest circulation on cable TV in the late 80’s and early 90’s, it was shot on film, edited on tape and as such is often mixed in with the SOV subgenre. Though i’d argue this is more filmic than a lot of the SOV fodder thats out there.

The plots ultra simple, a guy named Boris gets released from a stint in prison for robbery, he meets back up with an old flame called Wendy who wants nothing to do with him, promising that he’s changed his ways and that he’s getting out of the business after just ONE last job.

He wants Wendy to act as an insider at her place of work, a castle owned by a certain ‘Lord Breston’. Breston has apparently been maintaining and protecting a HUGE fortune in treasure within his family for the best part of 200 years, and Boris wants Wendy to give him an ‘In’ late at night so that he can find the treasure and quit his life of crime, taking Wendy with him so they can start anew as multi multi multi millionairs.

What Boris didnt back on is that ‘Lord Breston’ has hidden the tresure at the end of a series of trap filled puzzle rooms, and in order to secure the fortune, they’ll have to work together with little to no hints in order to solve all 6 rooms (and the final seventh puzzle) to escape with the treasure…and their lives.

and, I cant in good faith say that this is a particularly well made film, but what it lacks in technical and written ability it more than makes up for in little eccentric flourishes that really helped keep me on board.

The scripts SUPER basic. The whole film runs to only 76 minutes and at least 15 minutes of that is titles and credits or our cast slowly wandering around set spaces or just…emoting to camera. each new scene is best described as ‘They walk into a room and the entrance closes up behind them, they’re given a puzzle, they say ‘WE CANT SOLVE THIS!’…they try to solve it and fail (nearly dying in the process), they try again and succeed, they move into the next room, scene resets’

Thats the whole movie. and had this film been ANY more professionally shot, this would have been a TERRIBLE movie. But the eccentricity of the cast and director combined with a lot of onset stresses has transformed this repetition into something all together much more interesting.

What I need to do here is detour slightly on my thoughts on the script to explain that…our main cast consist of two people, and our entire cast only comes to about 4-6 people. and every. single. one of them is ABSOLUTELY nuts.

You have ‘Lazar Rockwood’ (his actual name) an actor who claims that you can learn to be a master actor by studying cats. he plays our leading man ‘Boris’ in this thing, in a role that was SPECIFICALLY written with him in mind. and when I tell you that this guy is basically 80’s Tommy Weisau, I mean that in EVERY sense of the word. the guys a total out and out eccentric and his performance is completley and utterly mesmorising, as he hams his way through 99% of the film chewing through the scenery as if he hadnt eaten in years. his performance is delightfully daffy, manic and just…plain ODD for lack of a better expression.

He’s easily this films absolute saving grace, I think he’s amazing whenever he’s on screen and I think, having JUST watched this film, I could happily sit through the whole thing again just for him.

Bonnie Beck as Wendy is also playing things very melodramatic, but theres an awkward stiffness to her performance, which is only exasserbated when Lazar goes off on one completely at random. The two work together about as well as lemon juice and milk. and it’s HILARIOUS to me to learn that the guy in this who plays ‘Lord Breston’ was going out with Beck at the time, he was a lawyer who CONSTANTLY had arguements with the director about what he felt Bonnie should and shouldnt be doing AND he had a PAINFUL dislike of Lazar. which made the scenes where Lazar had to caress and kiss Bonnies theighs all the more horrendous for all involved.

This frictions spilt out to the crew too, who were having long arguements with the director about how the film should be shot (all while tremendously running overtime and over budget)

Oh! and for some reason a chap called Ben Kurr has a cameo in this thing…apparently he was a street performer who was renowned for his ultra positive attitude and 30+ year attempt to become mayor or Toronto. he just rocks up in this film for like…10 minutes and then leaves. *Shrugs*

ANYWAY! the reason I mention this is because, while this films script is super basic, it’s the flourishes the cast bring to their roles that really help sell this thing. they both just….have a way with the crumby dialogue to make it always sound just…hilarious. Everything is SUPER awkward, poorly paced out, the tones all over the place. but this gaggle of eccentric characters are SO watchable, it almost negates any of the poor technical choices.

The closest thing I can compare the script to this film to is the old ‘adventure gameshows’ of the 80s and 90s such as ‘The Crystal Maze’, ‘Fort Boyard’ or to a lesser extent ‘Legends of the hidden temple’ It feels like they took the gameshow mechanic of those shows, but instead of just having ‘Joe Public’ take part, they scripted the ‘member of the public’ element and turned it into a movie.

You’d expect, given the explanation, that the style would be similar to something like ‘Cube’ or the ’13 Ghosts’ remake. But no. this literally does just feel like a slightly better shot TV episode of one of these adventure gameshows.

Beyond that, what more can I honestly say? The direction and cine are *technically* above average for the SOV genre. maybe a little on the low end for a film production. Given the rucus going on behind the scenes its amazing the film turned out the way it did, and it’s nice to see a low budget film have SO much spirit. Like…they have water filled pits, random mystery elevators that spring out of nowhere, a spikey ceiling drop sequence. There’s a LOT of really cool and novel moments that happen here that you just dont see in low budget film making.

Throw in a SUPER cheap, but…oddly compelling synth score and a 3rd act plot twist that is quite frankly jawdropping. and…This isnt really a *clever* movie. But it is a movie that I felt absolutely at home with, something I could easily see myself putting on as a comfort watch in future and something I could absolutely recommend checking out.

Its a nippy, lumpy little movie that has a HELL of a lot of heart and seems to be genuinely trying to entertain…and I have a lot of time for movies like that.


The Return of the Living Dead, 1985 – ★★★★½

I was quite late to the party with ‘Return of the Living Dead’ and man oh man! do I regret it! It wasnt that easily available in the UK for various licensing reasons, but in the mid 2010’s I nabbed an original VHS copy from 1986 (God bless Vestron) followed quickly by Second Sights Bluray release and more recently Scream Factories 4k offering. Frankly? After the first viewing I never looked back.

This things just…INCREDIBLY daft good fun. a something of a sequel to ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (In universe the 1968 movie was released, but it transpires the movie was actually a fictional retelling of an ACTUAL failed government experiment that got largely covered up, with the film being made to muddy the waters) As we follow a hapless group of punks, new wave kids and some technicians at a medical supply facility (and mortuary) as they accidentally release Trioxin, a chemical that reanimates the dead onto some medical supplies, reanimating them, ultimately leading to a mass ressurection of the dead.

And this things damn near perfect in that subgenre of zombie movies that dont take themselves too seriously. The scripts zippy, perfectly paced, with a rock solid tone, some fantastic comedy on multiple levels thats near perfectly balanced between slapstick and witty dialogue. Speaking of which, the dialogues largely rock solid as well. Its a clean 3 acts that transition seamlessly and effortlessly. a minor criticism is it DOES slow down just a tiny bit in the 3rd act…at least…a tiny bit slower than I personally would have liked. But im splitting hairs honestly, this things one of the best horror movie scripts i’ve ever seen.

The directions more than solid too with a cast and crew that seemingly really got into the swing of things and as a result, we have a highly styalized, creative and unique looking picture thats Iconography absolutely preceeds it. How do you one up a near perfect script? you marry it up to some near perfect visuals!

The cast direction is unlike anything i’ve seen before, this thing plays like a comic book, and I love it for that. the cast are all very melodramatic, know exactly what tone to play this thing as and its clear Dan knew what he wanted from the cast because, they deliver something that, I dont feel any other cast would have quite been able to match.

As for the cine? Wonderful, simply wonderful. We have a lovely grungy punk aesthetic with PLENTY of wonderful uses of colour and lighting (the night work here is fantastic) for a largely wet set, the work thats been done here is nothing short of miraculous. shots are well composed, with moments here that EVEN TO THIS DAY, are considered the high water mark for zombie movies in terms of cine.

The camera is constantly moving around the sets and locations, this is a production that feels like it has a personality behind it, it doesnt feel dead behind the eyes, it doesnt feel like its going through the motions. It feels like, between the direction and cine, these people WANTED to tell you this story. and I absolutely loved it. It looks gorgeous quite frankly.

Time HAS revealed a few cracks in this thing I will say, while the puppet work in this thing is just beautiful, modern remastering has revealed a lot of the string and wire work that fuzzy VHS vision was very kind towards, the same goes for some of the prosthetics. On VHS and DVD they were more than fine, but in the age of HD, there are a few cracks appearing. But honestly? I’d say given everything that DOES work here, a few signs of age is neither surprisng or unwanted. It still looks damn fine doing what it does.

The performances are equally utterly delightful, for my money the pairing of Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa and Thom Matthews as the owners of the morg and medical stock suppliers (With Tom tagging along as Freddy, the ‘learning the ropes’ first day-er) Was an absolute force, that gave this film some of it’s absolute best moments. they balance genuine horror with some delightful black comedy near perfectly, and this film gives them the chance to work a full range of delighted to violently ill across the whole runtime. They do NOT dissapoint.

Linnea Quigly is probably most peoples go to here as ‘Trash’ playing a wonderfully demented punk who quite literally gets turned on by the thought of death (her tombstone dance sequence was no doubt one of the key moments in many a horror fans lives that convinced them they’d made the right choice on movie night) But the other punks all have their own unique characters and much like the above they bring their all to proceedings creating a film that feels a touch hammy, but certainly all the better for it.

Oh! and because most people miss him, good LORD can we raise a beer to Allan Trautman, The ‘Tar Man’ in this movie. I’ve NEVER seen someone move like that before, he genuinely sells the audience on being a rotting and decomposing tub zombie.

And the soundtrack OH MAN THE SOUNDTRACK, all punk and new wave. it’s just…*chefs kiss* its the perfect marriage of a fantastic piece of work to another fantastic piece of work, with the likes of ‘The Cramps’, ‘SSQ’, ’45 Grave’ and the ‘Jet Black Berries’ this score enhances the film 10 fold, taking it WELL above and beyond anything a more conventional scoring could have ever hoped to achieve.

What more can I say? this is the ‘Comfy Chair and roaring fireplace’ of movies, it’s the ‘Steak and mash potatos’ of movies, it’s a total comfort watch, its easy going, incredibly well made, and most importantly FUN. i’d argue it was quite possibly my favourite zombie movie (it’s definitely top 3) and I have a real soft spot for it, absolutley one not to miss!


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’.