In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jack The Ripper: 120 Years Later

One of the greatest mysteries in the history of crime is the true identity of Jack The Ripper. The cunningly elusive killer laid waste to London’s East End in the fall of 1888 by brutally murdering five prostitutes. On the hundred and twentieth anniversary of the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Katherine Eddowes (known as the ‘double event’), I submit to you this little piece on the most infamous serial killer in history.

Dozens of theories have surfaced over the years, naming everyone from British royalty to famous writer Lewis Carroll. One hundred years after the original crimes were committed, a two-hour special aired on British television called The Secret Identity of Jack The Ripper. Hosted by Peter Ustinov, it was here, in front of a panel of experts, that included historians and members of the FBI and Scotland Yard, that the five prime suspects were named in the interest of deducing which of them was most likely Jack. Robert Donston Stephenson and Sir William Gull – who was the Royal physician at the centre of the conspiracy outlined in Stephen Knight’s controversial 1976 book The Final Solution, which was also the impetus for Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel From Hell, later adapted into the 2001 film starring Johnny Depp – were quickly discounted due their old age and frailness. Gull had suffered a stroke a few years before the murders so, even if assisted, would not have had the physical strength to perpetrate the crimes.

The evidence was far more substantial against Prince Albert and Montague John Druitt (their main suspect) though. Druitt’s body washed up on the shore of the Thames a few months after the last killing and Scotland Yard were so sure the case was closed, that they told the vigilante committee that the streets were safe and they could cease their patrols. Alas, both the Prince and Druitt both had airtight alibis for one or more of the Ripper murders.

This only left one man. A polish immigrant named Aaron Kosminski, who was so far out of the public eye, that not even one photograph exists of him. He was a paranoid schizophrenic known for his hatred of women. The most compelling piece of evidence against him was that an eyewitness, having seen him in the company of Kate Eddowes shortly before her death, positively identified him. Alas, Kosminski was never charged because the witness would not testify, citing that he didn’t want the condemnation of a fellow Jew on his conscience. When Kosminski was put under surveillance (and later institutionalized for the rest of his life), the murders stopped. The only thing that doesn’t jive with this theory is that Kosminski lacked the surgical skill to perform the kinds of wounds to which the victims were subjected. There was also some confusion about possible mistaken identity between Kosminski and another man named David Cohen. The panel of the 1988 documentary all agreed (as do I) that Aaron Kosminski was most likely Jack The Ripper.

Despite this, there were still many who did not buy Kosminski as Jack and the search continued. Then, in 1992, the so-called Ripper Diary surfaced. Published the following year by Shirley Harrison as The Diary Of Jack The Ripper, it featured detailed accounts of the crimes and a final confession that the author was indeed Jack. The alleged author of the diary was a man named James Maybrick, a wealthy Liverpool cotton merchant. Although he never mentions himself by name, investigation into the information presented in the diary does conclusively point to Maybrick being the author. Maybrick died the year after the Whitechapel murders, allegedly poisoned by his wife, Florence.

The diary was heavily criticized upon its release and quickly put under the microscope. Expert Kenneth Rendell pointed out that some of the vernacular used in the diary was definitely not of the nineteenth century and tests later conducted on the ink suggested it was written recently and in one or two sittings, not the several over time that the entries stated. Though the diary is nowadays a widely dismissed document, there are still a small number of Ripperologists that maintain its authenticity.

The next and most recent entry into the always-expanding book of theories was the 2005 book Uncle Jack. A few years previous, writer Tony Williams had unintentionally discovered a connection between Jack The Ripper and his grandmother’s great-great-uncle Dr. John Williams. In Uncle Jack, he posed that the five women were used as guinea pigs, dissected in order to further the doctor’s medical research.

Here is a summary of the evidence Williams compiled that ties his distant relative to the Ripper.

-John Williams was a doctor, specializing in obstetrics.
-Based on the cutting pattern of neck wounds inflicted by the Ripper, he was left-handed. The statue of Williams in the National Library Of Wales in Aberystwyth shows him holding an item in his left hand, suggesting he also was a southpaw.
-All five victims were killed within a fifteen minute walk from the infirmary that Williams was thought to have worked at.
-Williams performed a documented abortion on a Mary Anne Nichols (the first victim) in 1885.
-Williams wrote a letter to a colleague saying he was attending a clinic in Whitechapel on the night Annie Chapman (the second victim) was killed.
-Chapman was said to have visited an infirmary after getting into a bar brawl a few nights before her death. Williams, though not documented, is thought to have worked in an infirmary in Whitechapel during the murders.
-Pills were found on Chapman’s body. Where would she have gotten those, if not from a physician?
-Liz Stride (the third victim) was a resident at The Lying-In Hospital in Waterloo in 1881-82, when Williams was also known to have worked there.
-Kate Eddowes (the fourth victim) was also at the Lying-In Hospital in June of 1887. She appeared in a study that year on Bright’s Disease – an afflction of the kidneys – that Williams would have been aware of through a colleague. Eddowes was the only victim to have her kidney removed. Why would this have been done if the killer didn’t have prior knowledge of her particular ailment?
-From records, we see that Williams was not at his usual post at University College Hospital on Aug 31 and Sep 25, both around the dates of the murders of Nichols, Stride & Eddowes.
-Relatives spoke of Williams having an affair with someone named Mary.
-Mary Kelly (the final victim), at the same time, was known to have lived in Kingsbridge and keeping the company of a ‘gentleman’ and resided five minutes away from the Williams’ home.
-A witness said Mary Kelly was spotted the night of her murder with a man about thirty five, five-foot-six, with a moustache and a thick coat. The witness also mentioned a red stone on his coat. After Williams’ death, a friend of wrote about as he had known him in the 1880’s. He said “he was of middle height, robust build, he wore a frock coat, silk hat, stand up collar and a dark silk tie held by a pin set with a red stone.
-During 1888, Williams specifically asked to have weekends free from UCH. Then in 1889, he asked for the opposite, requesting Saturday morning shifts. Finally, in 1890 he asked to no longer perform ovariectomies, which was not only his specialty, but also the Ripper’s M.O.

This all adds up to some very compelling evidence. Of course, like the Maybrick diary, the pundits were quick to pick apart this theory, discounting many of the above points as conjecture. Shortly after Uncle Jack was published, Ripperologist Jennifer Pegg wrote a few articles discrediting Williams’ book. She outed the Mary Ann Nichols abortion document as a forgery and maintained his link to Mary Kelly was an exaggeration, if not pure fallacy. Under further scrutiny, it appears that Uncle Jack is as much fiction as The Final Solution was. Any new angle that comes along is automatically discounted because I think all these historians either want their theory to be the correct one, or they just don’t really want to know at all. If the case was ever solved, what would all those scholars do then?

So, the mystery continues. When it comes right down to it, we know very little about Jack. Even his infamous moniker was fabricated by the press in order to sell newspapers – all the letters sent to the authorities during the crimes have all since been proven as fakes. Jack was a ghost, able to seemingly disappear into thin air. Based on the constable patrols at the scene of the Eddowes murder, Jack would have had less than TEN minutes to perform his ghastly deed, yet no one saw or heard anything.

With each passing year, the likelihood of ever knowing the truth, dwindles just a little more. For more info on the crimes and numerous theories, check out

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Shoe String Sci-Fi

This month’s Non-Horror Selection is the unique little indie Primer.

When two amateur inventors (David Sullivan & Director Shane Carruth) construct a machine that can manipulate time, they become increasingly irresponsible with the power they have stumbled onto.

I first saw this movie at the Toronto Film Festival in 2004 and was immediately struck by how such a tiny production could be so intricate and thought provoking. It is a testament to what you can do with just seven thousand dollars and a lot of drive. Carruth had so many balls in the air – as director, writer, producer, DP, editor, music composer, as well as co-star – that it is amazing that he was able to finish it. Using friends, family and locations acquired through connections, he has created a fascinating piece of science fiction. It is extremely heady material, filled with technical jargon. This was deliberate on the part of Carruth who said he didn’t want to ‘dumb down the material’. Primer is definitely a film you’ll want to watch more than once, so you can fully appreciate how events at the beginning affect things at the end. Don’t be surprised if you are left scratching your head though, as I’ve seen it a few times now and there are still parts I don’t fully understand.

I have heard this movie compared to Kubrick’s 2001 and I can see that. In terms of appearance and scale, they couldn’t be more different obviously, but both of them have this inherent singularity. They are unfiltered science fiction. Primer though, is as bare bones as they come. There’s no DeLorean, no cyborg assassins, just two average guys who discover technology beyond their comprehension.

Primer is more engaging than some I’ve seen that cost five thousand times more to produce. If you are a fan of science fiction thinkers, be sure to look this one up.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

After Dark Update

After playing chase the ever-changing announcement deadline all day on the Toronto After Dark website, the remaining titles were finally unveiled earlier this evening. They have really taken it up a notch this year.

First and foremost of interest to me, is Donkey Punch, which won me over on title alone, when it premiered at Sundance in January. I can’t wait to see this UK import. Then, straight from Fantasia are two more titles, Home Movie (which I caught in July and liked very much) and 4bia. 4bia is a Thai anthology that I am really excited for because it has new material from Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, who gave us last year’s Toronto After Dark winner – and one of my top horror films of ’08Alone. The star-studded Mutant Chronicles is also on the docket. Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman and Devon Aoki kicking ass on a future Earth should be worth the price of admission right there.

The Raimi/Jackson fuelled zombie gore fest Brain Dead looks like a fun blood soaked time and I would assume that I Sell The Dead is pretty good to be named the festival closer, as well. I'm a little weary of South Of Heaven though. After seeing the trailer, I have a sneaking suspicion it could be this year's Mad Cowgirl and I don't think I have the mental resources to sit through another one of those. Schedule wise, I think the only weak move is where they stuck the crowd pleasing hyper violent riot Tokyo Gore Police. Thursday night at 7pm? Before Home Movie?! Surely, TGP deserves to be at least the closest screening to midnight. A pretty soft decision on that one, but everything else looks solid.

Only a few weeks left before the Toronto’s dark minions come out to play on Bloor Street once again. See you there! For more info, full schedule and all the trailers, click here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Midnight Movie

A few words about the upcoming horror flick Midnight Movie. I had seen some posters for it on Bloody Disgusting, but hadn’t given it much thought, since the one sheet looked like a blatant copy of 2006’s Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon.

However, while looking up Brea Grant, THIS

little spitfire from the Heroes premiere - that show really does prefer blondes – I saw that she's actually in Midnight Movie. This warranted a second look. On further investigation though, it looks like her part in Midnight is pretty minimal. This stint on Heroes is clearly her big break. That’s gotta be a bit of a shock eh? Going from relative obscurity to suddenly being seen by millions (and I mean meeeleeeons) of people.

The premise of Midnight Movie sounds pretty cool. The trailer doesn't show much, but it seems like a seventies horror version of The Last Action Hero. The killer’s weapon of choice does look fairly flimsy and inefficient, but from what I can gather, this might be intentional and part of its shtick.

The website is pretty slick though, click here if you want to check it out.

More Doghouse!

Last Thursday, I sounded off on the upcoming Jake West flick Doghouse. There WAS a trailer, but it seems to have disappeared from the Internets. While I was searching for a new link though, I learned some more about it and DAMN if I can't wait for this thing to drop. Check out these conceptual drawings!

And the crazy thing is, these are just three of the almost TWENTY creature designs that will be in the film. Check out the rest here. Not since Dark Castle's Thirteen Ghosts remake have there been so many elaborate and dinstinct creations in one film. I also see that Emily Booth (who starred in Jake West's previous romp Evil Aliens) is also on board for this, playing the above cringe-inducing character dubbed The Snipper. Bonus!

I am SOOOO in.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Can You Survive The Outbreak?

I discovered this cool link today over at Bloody Disgusting for a web project called The Outbreak. You remember those old Choose Your Own Adventure books that you (or at least people born before 1980) used to read as a kid? Well, The Outbreak is the latest evolution of that experience. Way back in December, I reviewed the Blu-ray edition of Return To House On Haunted Hill, which also came with CYOA functionality. It was a fun ride and the added element of choice made a mediocre movie a little more enjoyable. I'm glad this type of interactivity is catching on because I think it makes for a great hybrid of movie watching and video gaming.

The Outbreak is such an awesome website idea and the fact that it is a short, rather than a full length feature like Return was, also enhances the accessibility. I believe the full running time - with all possible branches included - is less than twenty minutes. That's the length of a coffee break! I tried it out and it's pretty cool. On my first try I died pretty quickly because I ditched simple horror movie logic to get away from the annoying chick with the baseball bat.

So, what are you waiting for? Check it out here. Good luck!

Friday, September 19, 2008

On The Shelf

The realm of straight-to-DVD genre films is a minefield. The good is so disproportionate to the crap that the question ‘why bother?’ is a valid one. There is risk involved in every trip to the video store or – more conveniently – online renting site. I’ve mentioned before about how putting obscure unknown titles on my rental queue can be quite dubious at times. I would seriously pay money to have the abysmal Reflections Of Evil wiped from my memory.

A while back, I showcased a few STDVD titles to either check out or pass on, but I want to make a more regular thing of it. Today, I’m introducing a new feature here called On The Shelf. Every few weeks, I will talk about a straight-to-DVD title that I think either deserves your attention, or should be avoided at all costs.

To start off, I’m going to throw out a few titles that all share the distinction of being made for almost NO money, but still manage to succeed where so many others fail. Productions like these are already at a disadvantage because they almost always have no stars or flash, making their chances of being discovered even slimmer than usual. Luckily, this environment often breeds creativity and originality. Like Raimi and Romero before them, these filmmakers had to work around their limited funds and brought forth efforts that I think are much more significant than most of Hollywood’s current output of cookie cutter remakes and sequels. Here is a quartet of such micro-budget movies.

Blood Car – This one about a guy who invents a car that runs on blood is even more poignant these days. I’m still not sure how they managed to pull this one off. The bare bones approach somehow comes off as charming and its darkly comic nature elevates what could have easily seemed like just another elongated short film. A grown up Anna Chlumsky (of My Girl fame) also appears. For my original review from last May, click here.

The Other Side – I had zero expectations for this one and it ended up blowing me away, mainly because it is extremely ambitious and does things that movies of this budget never do. It has dozens of extras, a ton of locations, car chases, elaborate stunts, multiple gore setups and a grandiose storyline that is (gasp) actually interesting. When I found out later that it only cost fifteen grand, I literally fell out of my chair!

Broken – Based on the first fifteen minutes, it would be easy to dismiss this is as a cheap Saw clone, but stay with it and you’ll see that crazy Brits Simon Boyes and Adam Mason go further into darkness than that long-running franchise has ever gone. With great gore, good performances and an ugliness that is hard to turn away from, Broken is right at home on the Dimension Extreme label.

Undead – Getting this movie made was certainly far from easy for these two brothers from Australia. The Spierigs endured sluggish computers, a broken down van and the inability to shoot more than two takes on any scene. This is a fun over-the-top zombie gorefest that nestles in nicely with the canon of recent Peter Jackson-influenced splatstick like Evil Aliens and Black Sheep. For my original DVDWolf review from 2003, click here.

So, there's some homework for you. Check back in a few weeks to see what else is waiting for you On The Shelf.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Two Things

Just a couple of things of interest that came down the wire in the last few days...

First, Jake West's (of Evil Aliens fame) next project Doghouse is now finished and ready to be unleashed. Here's the trailer.

Danny Dyer (Severance), Stephen Graham (Snatch, This Is England) AND Mickey from Doctor Who in a movie that looks playfully rooted in a Shaun Of The Dead-like universe? Sign me up!

Also, this pretty cool poster for the new virus flick Splinter dropped yesterday. Take a gander.

I'm cooking up something new for Friday, so be sure to check back then.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Back To The Well

I got nothing in terms of a theme for this installment of Coverbox Wednesday, so time to dip into my Queen Video archives once again. Here are some more titles from Her Majesty's Secret shelves -- and by secret I mean, in a rack, shoved down a hallway back by the porn section.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sweet, Sweet Candy.

I think you may have figured out by now that I adore Asian chicks that kick ass. So, that being said, it would be uncharacteristic of me not to mention the awesomeness of the Midnight Madness closer Chocolate. Oh boy, did we all have a fantastic time last night.

This screening of Chocolate was Prachya Pinkaew's triumphant return to Toronto after premiering his film Ong Bak here in 2003. While Ong Bak introduced us to Tony Jaa, Chocolate gave us a first look at new Muay Thai master Jija Yanin. Yanin was unfortunately not able to attend, but did introduce the film via a pre-recorded video. It is safe to say that I was crushin' on her pretty huge almost immediately. Cute, and deadly. What a combination! Like Tony Jaa before her, Yanin is a revelation. At only twenty-three, she already performs like a seasoned martial arts pro. Seeing her cut through waves of baddies is like watching poetry in motion. She may not have the brute force of Tony Jaa, but her grace and speed more than make up for it.

Pinkaew's down and dirty style has not left him, as evidenced in the end credits outtake reel - which included an accidental kick to the head that split Yanin's eyelid. This production was an exercise in hard knocks, with each sequence more elaborate and culminating in a huge chase up and down the side of a four-story building. Man, just typing this makes me want to see it again!

Director Prachya Pinkaew.

Chocolate is a rip-roaring time, filled with amazing fight set pieces that are so engaging, that the movie's end seems to come in the blink of an eye. But don't just take my word for it, check out the trailer below.

Oh. My. God. I just thought of the ensuing mushroom cloud of bliss that would happen if Pinkaew ever managed to get Jaa and Yanin in the same movie together. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Victim Or Martyr?

Coming out of the Cannes film market last May was talk of a new horror tour de force called Martyrs. A few months later, these trailers appeared.

Then, it was revealed that the French censors were slapping Martyrs with an 18+ (France’s equivalent of an X), the first genre film to ever receive such a stamp. Lining up beforehand, it kind of felt like we were awaiting the gallows. There was a high level of anticipation in the air, and the beach ball that appeared before the nerve shredding screening of Inside last year, was in attendance again. On Wednesday night, I finally bore witness to Martyrs.

One day, a half-naked and beaten young girl is found wandering the French countryside. While in hospital, Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) forms a bond with fellow resident Anna (Morjana Alaoui). Fifteen years later, Lucie is on a mission to kill all those who wronged her, with Anna in tow to make sure she doesn’t destroy herself in the process.

I find it hard to say that I enjoyed Martyrs, considering that the tail end of it is a really tough watch. It is certainly intriguing, but I’m left wondering ‘What IS going on in France that is breeding this dark, dark, shit?' Martyrs is thematically split into two halves. The first is filled with extreme gore and grotesque nightmares, but the second is something even more ugly. It goes somewhere none have yet. I was surprised that out of all the possible routes I thought this movie would go, none of them ended up being correct. On the technical side, the gore effects are phenomenal. There are countless elaborate setups, which just further emphasized the crazy world I had stepped into.

As you know, extreme horror cinema has been coming out from France for several years now, but Martyrs is in a class by itself. Where films like High Tension, Frontiers and Inside still - even as gory and violent as they were – fell within the realm of entertainment, such a distinction cannot be made with Martyrs. The last act is awfully unpleasant and the viewer has no choice, but to witness the bare brutality of it. The violence is not over-the-top and there are no Eli Roth style comic beats. It is just there in front of you. Martyrs is more of a punishing experiment than anything else. However, through all of this, it pulls itself back from the brink of blatant exploitation with an actual point. Where I’d always had a problem with the gratuitous nature of Inside’s final moments, Martyrs’ subject matter was redeemed when its overall theme was revealed.

Watching this reminded me of my experience with Gaspar Noe’s gut-puncher Irreversible. While I don’t think Martyrs has as much artistic value as that film does, it has that similar aura of realism and cruelty.

At the Q&A afterwards, director Pascal Laugier introduced both leads Mylène Jampanoï & Morjana Alaoui, maybe just to show that they were both okay. Jampanoï, when asked about her thoughts, went so far as to say that she was not happy with it, but was converted somewhat after seeing that there was an audience willing to receive it. Laugier himself was extremely well spoken and remained fully composed when some pretentious douche bag in the audience called him and his film vile and disgusting.

Director Pascal Laugier and stars Morjana Alaoui & Mylène Jampanoï.

Martyrs has merit, but that doesn’t make it any less hard to ingest. If you are expecting cheap thrills, you might be shocked to find you get more than you bargained for.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Language Of Horror

In his new film Pontypool, Bruce McDonald, one of Canada’s most prized filmmakers, tackles the zombie flick.

Grizzled talk radio show host Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) thinks it’s just going to be another broadcast day in the sleepy Ontario town of Pontypool. However, as the show wears on and the frenzied calls start pouring in about a growing epidemic, Grant and his crew realize their station may be the last safe place in town.

I have no point of reference because I have not read the Tony Burgess (yes, there are two apparently) book that it is based on, but I have heard that it does not share the single locale of the film. This is a brave choice on McDonald’s part, but I think it worked for the most part. The intimacy of the setting, coupled with the vastness of the subject matter, makes for a great dichotomy.

Director Bruce McDonald

Writer Tony Burgess

Pontypool is probably one of the most cerebral examples of this genre you are ever likely to see, possessing an intellect that is almost completely absent from this type of movie today. It is definitely a thinker and that is where it will succeed or fail with the viewer. Once McDonald and company lay the cards out on the table halfway in; you have to be willing to go where they want to take you. The film biggest strength is that it is extremely creative, going in a route that I would have never even conceived. There is something to be said for anyone who can find a completely new angle on a sub genre that has been done a certain way for so long.

Stars Stephen McHattie, Georgina Reilly & Lisa Houle.

For me, it had and lost me at equal intervals. That innate Canadian quirkiness that always seems to come through no matter the subject matter was there in spades, but I certainly got the feeling that the rest of the audience was having a much better time than I was. I know Kurt from clearly got a lot more out of it than I did.

At the end of the day, I enjoyed Pontypool, but wasn’t wowed by it. I was totally fascinated with the issues raised by the film, but as far as entertainment value goes, I wasn’t a hundred percent in. I have a major amount of respect for Tony Burgess and Bruce McDonald for attempting something new and groundbreaking in a sub genre that hasn’t moved forward in quite sometime.

From Down Under and Beneath.

On the heels of Sunday’s Not Quite Hollywood, is the film Acolytes, directed by Australian Jon Hewitt.

When high schooler Mark (Sebastian Gregory) discovers a serial killer in his midst, he, along with his friend James (Joshua Payne) and James’ girlfriend Chasely (Hanna Mangan-Lawrence), decide to blackmail him into taking out a recently paroled bully from their past.

I think the most distracting thing about Acolytes is that I often had a problem buying the three characters as friends. James is constantly berating the other two and as a group they treat each other in a way I found maddening. I know my high school days are far behind me, but I like to think that – even in today’s world of social circles and peer pressure – kids are smart enough to know when to cut someone loose. I realize that there was an unspoken bond keeping these three teens together, but it was not enough for me. This feeling had nothing to do with the performances either because all three were solid. They were much better than the trio in the previously screened Deadgirl. Much of this is due to the fact that Hewitt actually cast actors of high school age. Hanna Mangan-Lawrence is quite stunning as Chasely, exuding a sultriness far beyond her years. If I hung out with a chick like that when I was in school, she probably would have driven me insane with her I’m-interested-I’m-not-interested attitude.

The middle third of the movie is the strongest, when it actually gets into the meat of its excellent premise. Hewitt’s enthusiasm for the genre is clearly evident with several references to classic films, including a finale reminiscent of Dario Argento’s Suspiria. However, towards the end, it goes off on a few weird tangents and also suffers from having perhaps one twist too many.

Director Jon Hewitt

Acolytes is also mired by overused horror tropes. I hope we all are in agreement that this whole ‘flash cutting’ thing has run its course and should be done away with. Every time I see this in a movie now, it immediately strikes me as amateurish. There were also about twenty jump scares, of which only about two or three were actually creative. This is a shame because it all takes away from a great looking movie. The suburban locale surrounded by expansive wilderness made for an interesting visual contrast.

Acolytes is a devilishly clever idea that I don’t think meets its full potential. Overall, it is a decent movie, but left me a little wanting.

I also caught J.T. Petty's new horror western The Burrowers. Ever since I saw his previous film S&MAN (which knocked me on my ass with its overt creepiness when it screened here in 2006), I’ve been waiting to see where he was going to go next.

When Coffey (Karl Geary) travels to his girlfriend’s ranch to propose, he finds that she and her family have been kidnapped. Assuming the local Indian tribe has abducted them, Coffey sets out with a military escort in pursuit. Once out in the wilderness though, they realize the threat is not out there, but underneath!

The Burrowers is a good cross-genre effort. It looks great (as most westerns do I suppose) and the performances are strong all around. I’m always glad to see Clancy Brown and Doug Hutchison in any genre piece. I really appreciate films that try to create new nightmares and construct fresh mythologies to go with them. It makes movies – like 2001’s Jeepers Creepers for example – so much more interesting when you have a new threat to absorb. The creature design of The Burrowers is very cool, helped by the fact that they don’t look like anything we’ve seen before. Petty is very smart to utilize the slow reveal (much like the killer croc movie Rogue I saw earlier this year), delaying the CG fest that the movie regrettably becomes at its climax. Initially, I was a little put off by the ending, but after realizing what it was trying to convey, I’m okay with it.

Director J.T. Petty, with stars Clancy Brown and Karl Geary.

Alas, The Burrowers never reaches that next level. It would be a solid find if you were to come across it at the video store though. It joins the ranks of quality under seen Midnight films like Dead Birds, Isolation and The Abandoned. Even though J.T. Petty’s last two films are comparatively apples and oranges, I still prefer S&MAN over The Burrowers.

There is no doubt that J.T. Petty is a talented filmmaker. His track record is very good (even his 2003 flick Mimic: Sentinel is above average from what I hear), so he will always be on my list of filmmakers to watch.

Just a little footnote on S&MAN: It has been in distribution limbo for a few years now. When I got the chance to talk with J.T. Petty earlier, I had to ask him when S&MAN was coming out on DVD. “Soon.” He said. There is a lot of legal bullshit surrounding it apparently. Keep your eyes peeled for it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Not Quite Hollywood

Sorry guys, I’m way behind here. Sunday night I checked out the kick ass documentary Not Quite Hollywood. Director Mark Hartley said beforehand "This movie is not PC. And it is PB. Pre-Brazillian. So you’ve been warned.” That’s okay. I’m a child of the eighties. Onward!

Not Quite Hollywood is a documentary about the low budget Australian movie boom in the late seventies to mid-eighties. The doc is split in three parts, sex comedies, horror & exploitation flicks and the kung fu & road films, which were just balls-out guerrilla with safety thrown right out the window.

Not Quite Hollywood really pops, with a lot of cool graphics and animated transitions. There are so many great horror titles referenced in this movie. There’s Thirst, Razorback, The Long Weekend, Next Of Kin, and Nightmares. And Snapshot, Patrick, Road Games, Dead End Drive-In and this cool looking giant croc film called Dark Age. There’s also this Aussie Straw Dogs one that I can’t remember the fucking name of for the life of me. I’ve got to track some of these flicks down.

The doc is full of people, including Aussie genre pillars George Miller, Brian Trenchard-Smith and Richard Franklin. For a new blood perspective Greg McLean (Wolf Creek), James Wan & Leigh Whannell (Saw) are also on hand. Representing the fanboys is Quentin Tarantino, sporting his usual encyclopedic exuberance. Also appearing is film critic Bob Ellis. This fucking guy has nothing good to say throughout the whole piece. The director said later that he sifted through ninety minutes of interview footage for one positive comment for the end credits – and couldn’t find one! What a bitter old man.

Turkey Shoot takes a beating from those in the doc. Am I the only one who sees the awesomeness of this movie? I was also shocked to learn during the Q&A afterwards that I was apparently the only one in the crowd that had seen Rogue. So much for the Aussie comeback.

NQH Director Mark Hartley, Turkey Shoot director Brian Trenchard-Smith and producer Tony Ginnane.

Not Quite Hollywood is a fun and extremely informative documentary. It is imperative viewing for anyone who grew up during the early home video era and ate this shit up. You will definitely want to have a pen and paper handy because no matter how much of a scholar you think you are, there is a good chance you will be humbled by the vast amount of obscurity within.

Oh, and lastly. I totally forgot about BMX Bandits. Best Opening EVAR!