Friday 30 March 2018

The Facebook reviews! Part 1

Over the last few years as well as running this site I've posted up on social media a number of micro reviews for a range of films across many genres, but mainly focusing on horror and sci-fi. In an irregular feature I'll be posting them up, six reviews at a time, on DEoL. So pull up a coffin, snap open a can of AB Negative and have a read!

Hell Night (USA 1981: Dir Tom DeSimone) Apparently the power of a very jittery MPAA severely impacted on the amount of explicit gore on show in Hell Night. But the relative lack of the red stuff actually helps this movie along. Marti (Linda Blair) is one of a gang of freshmen students who have to spend the night in a house with a macabre history as part of a hazing ritual. The grim legends turn out to be true, with one of the deformed children of the original occupant remaining hidden in the mansion, ready to prey on unsuspecting students.

The first part of the movie provides the usual studenty hi jinks as actors way beyond school years fool around fairly annoyingly. It then settles into something a lot more interesting when it's basically Blair and her BF running around the basement of the house pursued by a giant misshapen killer who in close up seems to be facially modelled on the subliminal demon glimpsed in The Exorcist.

Of particular interest is the presence of Suki Goodwin, playing Marti's friend Denise. Goodwin's English accent sounds rather odd against the rest of the US cast, and a little research shows that she is the daughter of the late Denis Goodwin, one time scriptwriter with Bob Monkhouse, who took his own life at the age of 45. Apparently Goodwin was happy to do nudity in the film, but was acting as the girlfriend of the rather more reserved Vincent Van Patten, who insisted they both kept their clothes on in the spirit of decency.

The Mutilator aka Fall Break (USA 1984: Dir Buddy Cooper) Somebody asked me why I would rewatch terrible films? Just subjected myself to what I think is the fourth viewing of this movie. It's a difficult one to answer because, well, this film is dreadful. Firstly you know who's doing all the slaying and mutilating so that fun is taken away from the viewer. And then there's the acting, which improves as the body count rises (less terrible acting to deal with) but in the opening scenes is excruciating. 

But look a little closer. This is good old fashioned independent film making, supposedly shot in 29 days, with lots of local colour (and local people fleshing out the cast). There are some terrific old school effects on display courtesy of then fledgling Mark (From Beyond, Evil Dead II) Shostrom. It's got an at times faux musique concrete soundtrack and an ace theme song. And the killer looks like a mentally disturbed Rock Hudson! An indefensible waste of 90 minutes of my life? No, no and indeed no.

Beyond Skyline (UK/China/Canada/Indonesia/Singapore/USA 2017: Dir Liam O’Donnell) For those who don't remember, Skyline was a 2010 aerial alien invasion movie directed by brothers Colin and Greg Strause. The film delivered top notch effects but bottom notch drama, an uneasy mix with much of the human cast trapped in an LA apartment building watching the CGI carnage through a telescope. The brothers Strause haven't directed anything since, preferring to fall back on their SFX skills (they also did the visuals for Skyline) for movies like Into the Storm (2014) and Geostorm (2017). Liam O'Donnell, the producer of the first film, has chosen to move into the director's seat, for the first time, for a belated and not particularly needed sequel - actually, it's more of a big budget reboot.

At the end of the first movie, the tentacled aliens had asserted their hold on New York City as well as LA, and had just perfected the art of transferring the brains of their victims into ambulatory alien but human shaped bodies, presumably to extend their invasion from airborne attack to ground combat. Beyond Skyline develops the ground combat idea, and chucks everything into the mix, including martial arts, kaiju creatures, exotic locations, a baby who grows up in two days, and some effective CGI work. It's pretty dumb but looks good, and O'Donnell leaves room for a third movie, which if it's anything like this might be worth catching.

The Possessed aka Demon Witch Child aka La endemoniada (Spain 1975: Dir Amando de Ossorio) This one sometimes gets left out of the discussions on post The Exorcist euro cash ins, but is a demented classic from Mr 'Blind Dead' himself, Amando de Ossorio. Veteran actress Tota Alba looks extraordinary as sweary old Mother Gautère, who is persecuted for her crimes of witchcraft, killing herself before she can be dealt with by the authorities. Her coven arrange for Gautère to possess the body of the police commissioner's young daughter Susan, and before you can talk about somebody sucking something in hell, the young girl gives local sailors a run for their money in the cussing stakes.

Marián Salgado as Susan (who dubbed Linda Blair in the Spanish version of The Exorcist) is as game as her American progenitor and particularly vile looking when she transforms into a pint size Mother Gautère, all wispy hair and challenging dentistry, with a side order of castration and random cackling. de Ossorio takes his usual side swipes at organised religion and the nature of good and evil, and the soapy and often wildly theological plot goes off in all directions before the final showdown. This is great value film making from a director never afraid to show his influences, but who rarely turns in a boring film.

Beyond The Door aka The Devil Within Her (Italy/USA 1974: Dir Ovidio Assonitis) The second The Exorcist knock off this week, and by no means as entertaining as Demon Witch Child. I remember this one getting blanket coverage on commercial radio back in 1975 under its UK title The Devil Within Her (much as Suspiria did a year later), which was an indication even then that it wasn't exactly box office gold. Juliet Mills, who had thus far made her fortune in rather wholesome TV roles, plays Jessica, pregnant and undergoing all kinds of disturbances both at home and in her own mind. Her husband Robert (Gabriele Lavia) seems powerless to help, and only former flame Dimitri (Richard Johnson) has the necessary credentials to battle Jessica's possessed soul and stop the creamed spinach exiting from her mouth.

This is a long, drawn out movie with very little narrative tension and some terrible performances. Assonitis' first directorial outing did not bode well for future outings - he would continue to bore with mutated Octopus vehicle Tentacles (1977) and the equally baffling Madhouse (1981) - his lumbering exposition giving way to a frankly silly climax and incomprehensible denouement. Mills is quite game and looks the part, and the San Francisco locations are pretty (all interiors were shot in Italy though) but it's unintentionally funny in places (Mills's wonky eye effects and a scene where a harassed Richard gets hassled by some serenading buskers stand out) and it's all a far cry from the movie that started it all. A sequel of sorts followed with Mario Bava's 1977 movie Shock being retitled Beyond the Door II because of its possessed child storyline, but I wouldn't recommend a double bill.

The Cloverfield Paradox (USA 2018: Dir Julius Onah) I was considering a single DEoL entry for this one but in the end couldn't summon up the enthusiasm to write more than a few sentences. Directed with hod carrying finesse (apologies to brickies) by newcomer Julius Onah, this finds a space station full of scientists from around the globe testing out a solution to a worldwide energy crisis, who all descend into stereotype when faced with an on board catastrophe, rather like an interstellar version of Mind Your Language.

Of course things go wrong (and the going wrong provides a kind of Lovecraftian 'why' to the events in the first movie). Chris O'Dowd as the Irishman of the group gets all the gags, including some limp one liners when his arm, which has been severed in an accident, takes on a life of its own. I will admit that some of the FX look rather good (thanks to what looks like the entire eastern branch of IL&M judging by the credits) and it's a blessing not to have any on board robots, but it's all really silly with a script that is more than unusually sucky for this type of thing.

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