Format: Dual Format (DVD + Blu-ray), part of ‘George Romero Between Night and Dawn’ limited edition box-set Release date: 23 October 2017 Distributor: Arrow Video Director: George A. Romero Writer: Rudolph J. Ricci Cast: Raymond Laine, Judith Ridley, Johanna Lawrence
This review of George A. Romero’s atypical counterculture drama is an excerpt from horror luminary Kim Newman’s new book Video Dungeon (Titan), which explores the B-movie basement and digs out unexpected gems.
George A. Romero’s second film, made with many of the creatives who worked on Night of the Living Dead, is the odd man out in his CV: a vaguely counterculture-ish, diffident look at the relationship between smart, directionless, no-longer-a-kid Chris (Raymond Laine) and smart, vulnerable model-actress Lynn (Judith Streiner).
Screening at L’Étrange Festival, Paris (France) on 13 September 2017 Format: Cinema Director: Kinji Fukasaku Writers: Masahige Narusawa, Yukio Mishima Based on the story by: Edogawa Rampo Cast: Akihiro Maruyama, Isao Kimura, Kikko Matsuoka, Junya Usami Original tile:Kuro tokage Japan 1968
The delirious adventures of a queer criminal as seen by Yukio Mishima and Kinji Fukasaku.
Footsteps echo in the dark. A hand knocks on a door. A flap is lifted, a pair of eyes peeks out, the door opens. Footsteps lead down a corridor decorated with fluorescent drawings. Another door flings open and the psychedelic lights and music of a nightclub explode onto the screen, frenzied dancers wearing little aside from body paint gyrate to a wild groove while men gleefully grab handfuls of sequined breasts, the walls around them decorated with Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s Salome. In such a heady atmosphere of decadence and loose abandon, it does not seem unnatural that the mistress of the place, a femme fatale in slinky black dress and diamonds, should be played by a cross-dressing male actor (the celebrated Japanese transvestite Akihiro Miwa, here credited as Akihiro Maruyama). Mrs Midorigawa, aka the famous criminal Black Lizard, approaches Detective Akechi, sitting alone at the bar, who came ‘by chance’ to the secret club, and their encounter is the start of a sexually charged, fatal face-off where romantic tension is played out as the mind games of two people on opposing sides of the law.
An exceedingly dark picture that feels like it would have been at home and comfy amidst any number of classic dystopian 70s science-fiction/action thrillers.
You get off the subway in Brooklyn with your boyfriend, looking forward to introducing him to Granny. The platform is strangely empty until, naturally (it is Bushwick after all), a gent in flames barrels by, screaming in agony. As you and your beau ascend the stairs, you do so with trepidation – not only because a fiery human shish kebab has just passed by, but because you can now hear screams and gunshots from above. Your boyfriend bravely goes out to take a peek. Wrong move. He returns, near death, his flesh seared like charred corned beef. Ah well, onwards and upwards.
Format: Cinema Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky Writer: Martin Ambrosch Cast: Violetta Schurawlow, Tobias Moretti, Sammy Sheik, Friedrich von Thun, Verena Altenberger, Robert Palfrader Original tile: Die Hölle
Austria, Germany 2017
Giallo comes to Austria in this super creepy, densely layered and politically/sociologically charged film.
After a long, hard night driving hack on the meaner streets of Vienna, Özge (Violetta Schurawlow) is greeted by a foul odour wafting through her apartment. It’s not like she has an overly sensitive olfactory system, but rather, the stench involves burning flesh, chemicals and plenty of spilled, boiled blood. Yes, she is witness to an especially brutal murder. And the handsome killer (Sammy Sheik) knows she’s seen his face. He knows who she is and he wants her dead. But when he eventually slaughters someone near and dear to our heroine, the tables will turn. Özge, a deadly, rage-infused kickboxer (I kid you not!) wants him dead.
Format: Cinema Release date: 2 August 2017 Distributor: Lionsgate Director: Luc Besson Writer: Luc Besson Based on the comic strip ‘Valerian and Laureline’ by: Pierre Christin, Jean-Claude Mézières Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke
Dopey, dumb and delightfully loopy in all the right ways, Besson’s movie is eye-candy of the highest order.
’Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles
I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows’
– David Bowie, ‘Space Oddity’
Savant-auteur Luc Besson must have known all too well he wouldn’t have a dry eye in the house during the opening minutes of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. A moving montage details several hundred years’ worth of cordial diplomatic greetings twixt a multitude of interstellar species. Not only is this all presented by the candy-coloured clown they call Besson with his trademark kino-eye of dreamy, fertile, Eurotrash fancy-pants nuttiness, but it’s set to the haunting strains of the late, great David Bowie crooning his immortal ‘Space Oddity’.
Format: DVD Release date: 20 June 2016 Distributor: Lionsgate Entertainment Director: Kevin Greutert Writers: Lucas Sussman, L.D. Goffigan Cast: Isla Fisher, Anson Mount, Gillian Jacobs
A familiar plot revolving around a pregnant woman, decently directed.
SPOILER ALERT: This review discusses the big twist(s) – though anyone who’s seen a horror film in the last 50 years will pretty much be able to guess them from reading the sleeve copy.
Format: DVD + Blue-ray Release date: 26 June 2017 Distributor: Lionsgate Director: André Øvredal Writers: Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing Cast: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond, Olwen Kelly
UK, USA 2016
André Øvredal follow-up to Troll Hunter is an original, elegant horror tale anchored by a well-observed father/son relationship.
When an advance screener of André Øvredal’s Troll Hunter slipped into my machine at the end of 2011, the buzz about the film was already intense, with plenty of discussion about the fact that it had been optioned for a US remake before the film had even been released there. The remake never materialised and although I enjoyed it, I wasn’t blown away. So when I began watching The Autopsy of Jane Doe, which has been surrounded by another blaze of publicity (including favourable comments from Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro), I was a little wary. This caution was quickly dispelled, however.
Format: Blue-ray Release date: 15 May 2017 Distributor: Eureka Entertainment Director: Sidney J. Furie Writer: Frank De Filetta (original novel and screenplay) Cast: Barbara Hershey, Ron Silver, David Labiosa
Sidney Furie’s disturbing, ambiguous 80s poltergeist tale brings up difficult issues surrounding sexual assault.
Sidney J. Furie’s sunshine-set supernatural horror, The Entity, is based on an alleged true story, ‘a story so shocking, so threatening, it will frighten you beyond all imagination’. Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) is the single mother of three children, a teenage boy (David Labiosa) and two younger girls, struggling to get by in Southern California. Our brief introduction to Carla is set to menacing, clanging noises; after an exhausting day, she returns to the safety of her modest bungalow, only to be viciously attacked in her own bed by an unseen assailant. Her cries bring her son running, but a search of their home uncovers nothing – no perpetrator, no forced entry, no unlocked doors.
Format: DVD Release date: 19 October 2015 Distributor: Lionsgate Entertainment Director: David Gelb Writers: Luke Dawson, Jeremy Slater Cast: Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Evan Peters, Sarah Bolger, Donald Glover, Ray Wise
A competently horrifying take on scientific experiments gone wrong.
A decent, well-made, small-scale genre film with a great cast of on-the-cusp players, The Lazarus Effect begins as a modern-day spin on Frankensteinian mad science, but segues into more demonic matters. In a university lab, significantly named scientists Frank (Mark Duplass) and his fiancée Zoe (Olivia Wilde) supervise a team – techies Clay (Evan Peters) and Niko (Donald Glover), and documentarian Eva (Sarah Bolger) – working on a process involving a nerve-rebuilding compound and electric shock with the intention of creating a defibrillator equivalent to overcome brain death. They are successful in reviving a put-down dog, whose cataracts mysteriously heal and who develops slightly sinister abilities, before the university dean (Amy Aquino) shuts them down for breach of ethics – raising the important issue of the embattled state of science in facilities where the student body and alumni donors push a fundamentalist Christian line, a promising thread then dropped – and the process is bought through a corporate loophole by a Big Pharma concern repped by a smiling shark (Ray Wise).
Format: DVD Release date: 3 April 2017 Distributor: Kaleidoscope Entertainment Directors: Dan Berk, Robert Olsen Writer: Nick Damici Cast: Connor Paolo, Nick Damici, Laura Abramsen
The follow-up to Jim Mickle’s apocalyptic vampire tale Stake Land is disappointing but there is life still in this undead saga.
It’s nice to see Glass Eye Pix building up something like a franchise, with star-writer Nick Damici staying on from Jim Mickle’s Stake Land and the Body team of Dan Berk and Robert Olsen stepping in as directors. The first film offered an alternative to the many, many zombie apocalypses by presenting a vampire apocalypse. It also added the I Am Legend fillip of showing the last remnants of North American humanity besieged by zombie-like nocturnal monsters and equally dangerous lunatic religious factions (‘the Brotherhood’), as hints of malign intelligence suggest that there might be more traditional, calculating vampires out there. In this follow-up, the theme is only slightly developed with the addition of a vampire villainess, the Mother (Kristina Hughes) – should she get together with the Father, from Octane? – who has a grudge against Mad Maxy veteran vamp-hunter Mister (Damici) for killing her child (she’s a rare vampire who can give birth) and putting out her eye with an arrow.