Reservoir Dogs meets Re-Animator in this outrageous (and outrageously bloody) heist/zombie film, surely the most fun you’ll ever have reading subtitles.
The gory mayhem kicks off when a group of jewel thieves rendezvous with their colleagues at what they think is an abandoned army base. It isn’t – it’s home to a mad doctor’s experiments with DNX, a drug that reanimates the dead. As the gangsters start falling victim to zombies the doctor leads an attack on the base, little realizing that the zombie horde is being commanded by his late fiancée, the initial recipient of DNX.
To give you some idea of what’s in store, the Japanese pressbook promised “Torn up flesh, gouged entrails and splashing blood,” giving a fair idea of director Atsushi Moroga’s intent.
Like Robert Rodriguez, he can stage a gun battle and loves comic book violence, but his make-up effects are on a par with Zombie Creeping Flesh and the ‘acting’ of the English-speaking players, whose scenes appear to have been tacked-on to expand the running time, are mostly good for laughs. If you can put that aside, then Junk is everything a zombies versus gangsters movie ought to be – loads of fun.
The story of a family being stranded in Hicksville and falling prey to crazy locals and their crazier secrets may bring to mind the Texas Chainsaw, House of Wax and Hills Have Eyes revamps, but they were formulaic, surprise-free and sucked like an Electrolux.
Nailbiter just wants to get on with the business of storytelling, and Rea delivers a lean, entertaining effort that, while not dazzlingly original, still avoids the ‘been there, done that’ feel of most fare.
At no point does any character stop to namecheck George Romero, Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven etc, nor does anyone experience a ‘Nilbog moment’ and proclaim the blindingly obvious. Okay, so maybe the monster does resemble a rubbery Orc in a few shots and the ‘storm’ is clearly being generated by a rain machine, but that’s all.
Rogue is Greg McLean’s follow-up to Wolf Creek, and if you’ve never heard of it, that’s because Dimension Films released the movie in 10 cinemas before burying it on DVD.
It’s hard to fathom their lack of faith in the film because not only is there a solid cast of up and coming Australian actors, including Sam Worthington, Radha Mitchell and Mia Wasikowska, but it’s also a decent creature feature in its own right. There’s the usual group of tourists stranded on an island with the tide rising and darkness creeping in, but the arrival of an enormous crocodile rules out swimming to safety.
Perhaps Dimension were mindful of The Asylum’s cheap creature features and figured people wouldn’t pay to see something they could watch on television for free, but whatever their reasoning, they passed up a good movie.
5. House Of The Devil
Burned by his experience on Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, director Ti West threw caution to the wind and set out to make a low budget, slowly-paced movie with a retro look, and to hell with what anyone else thought.
His singlemindedness paid off because House Of The Devil is one of his best films, a return to the days when horror movies were about anticipation rather than instant gratification. Shot on 16mm, and set in 1983, the movie manages to do something new with that hoariest of horror clichés, the terrified babysitter, but to reveal any more of the plot would be unthinkable.
This is the kind of film that separates the adolescent boys from the men – viewers that aren’t willing to go along with the deliberate pacing should really stick to movies about sparkly vampires.
4. Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl
When Monami (Yukie Kawamura), the weird new girl who avoids sunlight, confesses her love for Jyugon (Takumi Saito) with a customary gift of chocolate, it infuriates his girlfriend Keiko, played by Eri Otaguro, who’s unaware her rival is a centuries-old vampire. What they don’t know is that Keiko’s weedy father is really “The scientist of the century”, a Frankenstein descendant conducting strange experiments in the basement while wearing garish facepaint and a fright wig.
The girls’ rivalry comes to a head when Monami transforms Jyugon into a bloodsucker, which in turn leads to an untimely demise for Keiko, much to her father’s delight (“I can chop up her body! Every father with a daughter dreams of this!”) as he’s able to reanimate her as a pieced-together creature whose detachable limbs can be used as lethal boomerangs or propellers that allow her to fly around the room. Thank goodness a zombiefied killer nurse and a hunchbacked custodian named Igor are around for credibility.
A non-stop fusillade of no-holds-barred manic invention, where the geysering blood hits the lens on several occasions, Vampire Girl has no ambition other than to top its predecessors, which with its snappy pacing, brilliant make-up and agreeably demented narrative it does several times over, even throwing in a Japanese schoolgirl taking a blood shower for good measure.
3. Trick R Treat
Trick R Treat is an anthology film, but unlike the old Amicus movies, it dispenses with the connecting segments and instead weaves the narratives together in clever and innovative ways. Hollywood still considers such films to be toxic, though, so Warner Bros dumped the movie on DVD and threw their promotional muscle behind The Reaping instead.
Among the stories: Anna Paquin plays a virginal trick or treater who’s not all that she seems, a group of kids that stage an elaborate practical joke get more than they bargained for and Brian Cox has his peace shattered first by neighbour Dylan Baker (who’s burying a murdered kid in his back garden), then by the arrival of a pumpkin-headed monster.
Written and directed by Michael Dougherty and produced by Bryan Singer, Trick R Treat’s fate was fallout from Superman Returns’ disappointing box office performance – or maybe Warners didn’t think it was shallow and stupid enough to compete against the Friday The 13th reboot. Either way, you need to beg, borrow or steal a copy, because this movie deserves to be seen.
The late, great Bill Paxton made his directing debut with Frailty, which simply put is one of the finest Southern Gothics you’ve never seen.
It’s a twisted story that could’ve come from the pen of Joe R Lansdale: when Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) walks into an FBI office one evening, he tells the agent in charge a story about how his old man (played in flashbacks by Paxton) raised him and his brother to be “demon slayers”, avenging angels who target and murder wrongdoers. Is this a figment of his imagination, or is Fenton telling the truth?
Ignored on its initial release, Frailty came along at the wrong time. The slasher boom had just limped to an end with Scream 3 and Valentine, and the trend for Japanese horror was about to kick in (The Ring was released 6 months later). Frailty stands up better than any of those efforts, and there’s a twist you won’t see coming.
1. My Little Eye
Before “reality TV” became a big fat cliché that was overused in a string of worthless films (see: The Task, One Missed Call etc), director Marc Evans proved you could still use the medium to explore the dark side of fame.
It’s a simple set-up: 5 young people, lured by a million dollar prize, agree to participate in a show being streamed live on the internet. If anyone leaves, everyone forfeits the cash. But what they don’t know is that one of them is a killer, and the show is a real-time snuff movie.
Unfortunately for Evans, his movie was released around the same time as a more high profile take on the same material. In Halloween: Resurrection, there’s another group participating in a reality TV show, only this time it’s coming from inside the Myers house on Halloween, and despite the house being rigged with cameras, Michael Myers appears to carve up the cast with his usual aplomb. It’s a laughable time-waster, very different from Evans’ smart, tightly controlled movie, so you know which to check out this Halloween.