Category Archives: Horror

The Toxic Avenger (1984) – 24 Carat Crud…

Toxic 4

Woody Allen famously keeps a drawer full of ideas scribbled on bits of paper, which he dips into when he needs inspiration for a new movie. It’s not always successful – it seems like he forgot to add anything else before shooting Magic in the Moonlight.

I’d like to think Troma movies get made in a similar fashion. I can picture Lloyd Kaufman, Troma’s cartoonish co-founder, sitting in a hottub with a couple of poodle-permed babes, scribbling crazy titles on cocktail napkins and handing them to his butler for safekeeping.

Titles include A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell, Dumpster Baby, Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid, and Maniac Nurses Find Ecstasy. They’re friday night four-pack-and-a-pizza movies, and any VHS junkie from the ’80s and ’90s will be familiar with the lurid cover art of Troma’s oeuvre. They’ve been going for over forty years now, barfing a steady steam of lowbrow, z-grade schlock into existence – if it’s got aliens, monsters, psychos, guns and tits, all on the front of the video box, chances are it’s Troma.

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) – Don’t dream it, be it…

Rocky picture 1

“If you’ve been itching for an opportunity to slip out in public dressed in just fishnet stockings, high heels and corset, you’ll be thrilled to hear that at Kino Scala they are showing The Rocky Horror Picture Show as part of this year’s Mezipatra Queer Film Festival. It’s an extra cause for celebration because this year marks the 40th anniversary of the cult classic.

By turn a musical, gaudy pastiche of 30s and 50s sci-fi monster movies, and creaky sex farce, Rocky originally bombed at the box office before being immediately picked up by a young, hip, counterculture crowd who turned late night screenings into a riotous exhibition of dress up, props, sing-a-longs and dancing in the aisles.

The story – for what it’s worth – concerns a young clean cut couple, Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), caught out one stormy night when their car breaks down. They stumble upon the spooky mansion of Dr Frank N Furter (Tim Curry), on a night of celebration – he is about to reveal to his “unconventional conventionalists” an amazing scientific breakthrough, namely building a musclebound blond hunk named Rocky (Peter Hinwood) for his own sexual pleasure…” to read the rest of this article, please click here (opens in new tab)

Pontypool (2008) – Shut up or die…


I’ve never found zombies scary, especially in the traditional slow-and-stupid incarnations. Sure, there’s a sense of repulsion, largely generated by our anxiety about what happens to our bodies after we’re dead – many people agonise between burial and cremation, so the idea of rising from the grave as brain-eating cannibals is pretty repugnant.

Then there is the sense of creeping nihilistic dread, particularly in the Romero movies. While zombies are usually pretty easy to avoid or kill individually, you know they will always reach critical mass, ready to tear apart the survivors just as internal conflicts tear the group apart figuratively. But still, as terrifying as zombies are on paper or the imagination, to me there’s always the nagging doubt that they’re pretty naff on film – one bullshit metaphor away from a last-minute, unimaginative Halloween costume.

Pontypool, a low-budget Canadian curio, largely avoids the traditional pitfalls of the zombie pic by barely showing any zombies at all. By withholding the usual limb ripping and gut munching, it engages something usually reserved for the supernatural horror genre – our imaginations.

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Insidious and the Future of the Horror Genre


If you’ve even kept half an ear to the ground of the international horror scene over the past decade or so, you can’t have missed Insidious, the haunted-house horror from the minds of James Wan and Leigh Whannel, the duo behind cult slasher flick Saw. I say this because I am someone with my ear permanently stuck to the floor (like that bit in Blair Witch Project!) and constantly on the look out for cool new horror movies, and when I saw the hype surrounding Insidious I swore I would see it as soon as I possibly could. So I did.

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Rebels of Iranian Cinema: I’m not Angry! and Fish & Cat…

I'm not Angry

I’m not Angry!

“The Brno edition of the Iranian Film Festival opened Tuesday with two bracingly good movies, Reza Dormishan’s I’m not Angry! and Shahram Mokri’s Fish & Cat. The overall theme of the festival is “Rebels of Iranian Cinema” and the double bill was a fitting opening, showing the verve, innovation and fearlessness common in the best independent filmmaking, and showcasing two young directors of startling talent…” Click here for full article and reviews.

Fish and Cat

Fish & Cat


Under the Skin (2013) – A chilly meditation on being human…

You spend a lot of time gazing into the eyes of Scarlett Johansson’s alien temptress in Under the Skin, Jonathan Glazer’s obtuse adaptation of Michael Faber’s acclaimed novel. You also spend a long time scrutinizing the expression on her face, which is usually as enigmatic as the Mona Lisa’s. If the eyes are the windows to the soul, does this creature have a soul? What is she thinking – or is she just computing? The facial expressions are like ones we use, but does she share any comparable emotions with us?

Questions such as these arise because Glazer has stripped the story to the absolute minimum. We are given almost no information about Johansson’s character Laura. In his last film, Birth,Glazer left it up to the viewer to decide exactly what had happened. In Under the Skin, he pares it down even further, so there is almost no dialogue to help us along. We’re left alone to draw our own conclusions.

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Mr Brooks (2007) – No Sympathy for this Drivel…

mr brooks 2

They say the Devil gets all the best lines, which is perhaps why most actors are drawn to the darker side of human nature during their careers.  It is often the actors with a “nice guy” image that make the most startling transformation – one of James Stewart’s finest films was Vertigo, playing out Hitchcock’s fetishes as the obsessive cop Scottie Ferguson; Henry Fonda’s warm blue eyes famously because the stone-cold glare of a killer in Leone’s Once Upon A Time in The West.

It doesn’t always work out, though – Jim Carrey in capable of playing baddies and morally dubious characters, but his misguided The Number 23 stank out theatres the same year as Kevin Costner potrayed a serial killer in Mr Brooks.  Carrey’s alter-ego looked just like an evil Ace Ventura, and was impossible to take seriously.

Mr Brooks isn’t much better, but luckily Costner is an inspired choice as the title character, a successful businessman who aso happens to be a meticulous serial killer.  Costner has played bad guys in the past, most notably as an escaped convict in Eastwood’s A Perfect World, but is usually associated with upstanding, honest types – Eliot Ness in The Untouchables; Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams; Jim Garrison in JFK.

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The Exorcist (1973) – The Ultimate White Hats vs Black Hats Movie…


There are few films with the diabolical aura of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist.  The story of demonic possession built its fearsome reputation during the long years of exile from videotape – while it was not included in the BBFC’s list of banned films via the Video Recordings Act 1984, it became an unofficial member of the “Video Nasty” club. BBFC censor refused to issue a home video certificate, thus depriving a generation of latchkey kids with access to their dad’s video card the joys of a head-spinning, pea-soup-puking, spider-walking little girl, and the brave priests who try to save her.

Nowadays, the special effects sequences look a bit creaky and rather tame compared to what our torture porn era has to offer, but what is left is a film of undeniable power.

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Kill List (2011) – Instant Hitman vs Occultist Classic…

Kill List

In the year of our Lord, 2012, most screwed-on Westerners are aware that the Catholic Church is the most institutionalized hive of nonces and kiddy fiddlers in the history of mankind.

This is interesting from a British perspective, because as a nation who forcibly battled and rejected Catholicism in its middle-past, our national conscience has found other ways of repenting.  Most notably is cinema – our flicks must rank amongst the most confessional and penitent movies in the world.

As an Englishman living abroad, I socialise with many nationalities, and some of my best friends are American.  One thing you will never hear an American expat say is; “America’s a fucking dump, and I couldn’t wait to get out of that shithole.”

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The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – Crowd-pleasing Monster Mash, with Brains…

Horror has been in a dark place for the last decade.  When Scream 4 crawled out of the gate last year, with the tagline promise of “New Rules”, I hoped the writer-director team of Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven would apply the intelligence so freshly applied to the cliched stalk n’ slash sub-genre in the original movie to the depressing, sadistic trend of torture porn prevalent in the 2000’s.

While Scream 4 acknowledged the presence of grungy, industrial strength reboots of classic horror franchises and video nasties, and incorporated streaming live blogs and iPhones, the movie bottled out & played safe.  Instead, it came across as deeply anachronistic and twee – in the era of Hostel, Human Centipede and The Devil’s Rejects, there was something nostalgic and almost comforting about seeing good-looking, middle class kids disemboweled by a nutter in a mask.

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