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Showing posts from October, 2009

Wilderness

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2006
Dir. Michael Bassett

After the suicide of one of their dorm-mates, a group of juvenile delinquents are sent to a remote island off the coast of Scotland for some character/team-building exercises. Once there, the wardens are viciously slaughtered by a mysterious assailant commanding a pack of fierce hunting dogs. The young offenders must work together to stay alive and find a way off the island before they too fall prey to the stealthy stalker.

A grim prologue unspools in the young offenders’ centre where we are introduced to the eclectic bunch of mainly unsavoury sorts. The use of young offenders as main characters adds a dark and interesting element to the mix and the prologue expertly introduces us to the volatile, unhinged and aggressive young men.

Once the story moves to the island location, it navigates into very familiar Slasher movie territory, and utilises an abundance of that genre’s conventions - right down to the use of a killer extracting revenge for a past misdeed,…

Triangle

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2009
Dir. Christopher Smith

Troubled single mum Jess (Melissa George) takes some much needed respite from taking care of her severely autistic son to join her friend Greg (Michael Dorman) on his yacht for the day. They are joined by a group of Greg’s friends. Their day is shattered when the boat is capsized in a freak storm. They eventually see a huge ocean liner and board it to seek help. Once on board though, it gradually dawns on the group that all is not what it seems and something very ominous is afoot...

Director Christopher Smith is no stranger to horror, having already directed Creep - a genuinely chilling and taut horror set in the London Underground that eventually descends into ludicrous ‘monster-movie’ mayhem - and Severance – a morbidly humorous and very splashy horror about a corporate team building excursion that goes very, very wrong. With Triangle though, Smith keeps things very sombre and gradually builds an overwhelming mood of quiet dread and foreboding before unl…

Death Line

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1972
Dir. Gary Sherman

AKA Raw Meat

When students Alex and Patricia (David Ladd and Sharon Gurney) find a dying man on the London Underground, naturally they go for help. However, when they return the man has disappeared. Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasance) launches an investigation which leads them into London’s murky Underground system, where they make a grisly discovery – a group of cannibals that have been feasting on the flesh of London commuters!

Death Line is one of the more interesting and unusual British horror films from the Seventies, with its tale of cannibalism in the London Underground and a scathing, scarily accurate commentary on the bygone British Class system. No mean feat for a film written and directed by an American.

The sleazy opening follows a distinguished looking gentleman on a trawl through the seedy, neon-drenched streets of Soho, as he wanders through various peep shows, smut-rag stalls and propositions various women before venturing into the London Under…

The Ten Steps

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2004
Dir. Brendan Muldowney
Duration: 10 mins

Young Katie (Jill Harding) is left to babysit her brother in the family’s new house in rural Ireland while her parents dine out with her father’s new boss. There is a power cut and Katie calls her father who tells her to go down into the cellar to flip the fuse switch. He attempts to keep her calm as she descends the stairs – only a few weeks prior she had a panic attack in the cellar after a classmate told her the Devil was once seen down there…

Director Brendan Muldowney may employ familiar conventions to tell this sinister tale – a young babysitter, an isolated and spooky house, a power cut, rumours of morbid events from the past and a candlelit descent into a dark cellar - but he keeps things suggestive, creepy and offers us something genuinely memorable and deeply unsettling by the end. Carefully building an atmosphere of mounting dread, he slowly but surely cranks up the tension and distress to almost unbearable levels before the ch…

Interview with Ivan Zuccon: Director of Colour from the Dark

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Italian director Ivan Zuccon is no stranger to the cosmic terrors of H.P. Lovecraft, having already adapted various narratives for the screen in his anthology The Shunned House (2003). Indeed some of the director’s other work such as The Darkness Beyond and Nympha are indelibly imbued with a distinct Lovecraftian feel.
Zuccon’s most recent film, Colour from the Dark (an adaptation of HPL’s short story The Colour Out of Space) really hits the mark and effortlessly transfers that tale of insanity and other-worldly intrusion upon humanity from page to screen. Few other directors who have tackled the oft regarded ‘unfilmable’ work of Lovecraft have done so with such respect and understanding of the source material. Zuccon deftly creates an atmosphere saturated with dread and foreboding, and effortlessly conveys the insanity and darkness that perforates Lovecraft’s tale. Behind the Couch felt very privileged to have the opportunity to talk with Zuccon about his work, his love of horror and…

Argento Book Update

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I received an email from the publishers (Kamera Books) to say they’ve had to stall on the publication of ‘Dario Argento.’ I’ve been assured that all is well and the book will be available soon.

Apparently this is quite normal in the world of publishing. A bit last notice, to say the least, so all I can do is apologise for getting hopes up.

Keep checking back here at Behind the Couch for updates – which I shall post as and when I receive them.

Thank you for your patience.

Sanguis Gratia Artis!

Shameless Self Promotion AKA My book on the films of Dario Argento - due out THIS WEEK!

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As Chuck Norris Ate My Baby and Paracinema have rightly pointed out, my first book - a guide to the films of Dario Argento - is due out this week courtesy of Kamera Books.

It is my hope that it will act as an accessible introduction to a general readership of Argento’s work – and will also appeal to his hardcore fan base.

If you feel inclined, you can pick up a copy by visiting amazon.co.uk, or indeed amazon.com, if you are on the other side of the sea.

Written last summer, the book is the result of painstaking research that involved watching, and re-watching, Argento's entire back catelogue (yes, even THAT one) along with a plethora of other stylish and badly dubbed Italian Horror films that he was involved in the making of. Or just mentioned in an interview once. It was tough going, as I am sure you can imagine... And that was only after I managed to track down some of his more obscure titles. There was also the reading, and re-reading of a flurry of academia-soaked tomes by…

House of Whipcord

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1974
Dir. Pete Walker

A young woman finds herself incarcerated in a privately owned prison run by sadistic, self-appointed Daily Mail readers wardens who deal out torturous lessons in 'good old fashioned' morality…

Peter Walker is arguably the greatest unsung hero of British Horror cinema. His grubby, sordid and darkly mischievous films usually form scathing social commentaries rigorously attacking British institutions such as class, family and the legal system. Unapologetic, shockingly violent, strangely thoughtful and extremely anti-establishment in their outlook, Walker’s films were always controversial; indeed the director openly admits his work was deliberately shocking because he wanted to jolt conservative British audiences out of their own skin and raise high his middle finger to ‘The Man.’ A goal he certainly achieved with his tenth film House of Whipcord.

Walker doesn’t so much skim the surface, as plunge us face first into the murky, dank and unsavoury depths of…

The Gay Bed And Breakfast Of Terror

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2007
Dir. Jaymes Thompson

Making their way to the biggest LGBT Festival of the year, five couples consisting of every gay and lesbian stereotype imaginable stop over at a creepy hotel for the night - unaware that the proprietor is a God-fearing homophobic Republican intent on whittling down their numbers. Mainly by feeding them to her cannibalistic mutant son Manfred...

To call The Gay Bed And Breakfast Of Terror 'trash' would be stating the obvious. This is not a subtle film. It is cheap, exploitative and more than happy to wallow in its own mire of perverse charm. The title alone should alert you to what to expect, really! Which in a nutshell is Mommie Dearest-theatrics, George Bush-baiting jokes, complete irreverence and the deployment of every gay stereotype to increasingly hysterical effect. Kind of fun in a schlocky, dreadful kind of way.

Head over to Eye for Film and check out my full review.

Halloween II (2009)

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Dir. Rob Zombie

One year on from her ultra-violent and blood-drenched encounter with her psychotic brother Michael Myers, and Laurie Strode is still trying to come to terms with the trauma. With her brother’s body still missing and All Hallows Eve just around the corner, Laurie soon realises that the terror she experienced the previous year was just the beginning. Like the tagline states, and because slasher villains are just too darn lucrative to kill off: Family is forever. We learn that, unsurprisingly, the supposedly dead Michael Myers has actually been living a hermetic existence in the countryside, and as the anniversary of the massacre approaches, he returns to Haddonfield once more to ‘reunite’ his dysfunctional family.

With his remake of Halloween, Rob Zombie attempted to explore the man behind the mask - Michael Myers. Delving into Myers’ troubled childhood and dysfunctional family Zombie attempted to address the issues that made Myers the relentless killing machine he grew…

Rogue

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2007
Dir. Greg Mclean

A group of tourists are forcefully nuzzled down the food chain when they encounter a giant crocodile whilst exploring the lush and eerily beautiful backwaters of Australia’s outback.

Director Greg Mclean is well known to horror audiences for his grim and ultra-sadistic feature debut Wolf Creek. With Rogue, a tense and nasty giant crocodile Creature Feature, the director has turned from the horror of man to that of nature – and proves it is every bit as harrowing.

With a cast of likeable characters (including Radha Mitchell, Michael Vartan and Sam Worthington), a sturdy script, seductively lush cinematography, a haunting and evocative score and a very realistic monster, Mclean has deftly side-stepped the quagmire of horrendously bad giant croc films such as Primeval and Crocodile to deliver a genuinely pulse-pounding and effective chiller that begins as an ominous ripple and ends with an almighty, blood-soaked tidal splash.
Intrigued? Head over to Eye for Film t…

Vinyan: Lost Souls

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2008
Dir. Fabrice Du Welz

The lives of Jeanne and Paul Bellmer (Emmanuelle Béart and Rufus Sewell) are thrown into chaos when they think they see their son, thought drowned in the Southeast Asia tsunami in 2004, in a film about orphans living in the jungles of Burma. They set off into an impenetrable heart of darkness in search of an elusive and perhaps unattainable truth, aided only by human traffickers who are intent on exploiting their heartache. Stranded in the middle of a strange and hostile country, the couple are besieged by a band of feral children and begin to lose sight of the hope they once so desperately clung to.

‘When someone dies a horrible death, their spirit becomes confused and angry. It becomes…Vinyan.’

Vinyan unfolds as a strange reflection of Don’t Look Now in its exploration of a couple’s grief, denial, hope and obsession as they try to come to terms with the death of their child. The story tracks Jeanne and Paul’s personal descent into the maelstrom as they frant…

Zombieland

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2009
Dir. Ruben Fleischer

A small group of people team up to seek sanctuary in a world overrun by zombies.

Zombieland, unsurprisingly is a zombie film. The title sort of gives it away. In a similar vein to the likes of Shaun of the Dead however, it’s a comedy zombie film dealing with the aftermath of a global event that has turned the world’s population into maurading living-dead.

Zombieland, again like Shaun of the Dead (note the comparison - yes, its actually THAT good) and unlike so many other zombie flicks, doesn’t concern itself with why or how the world’s population have become slathering, flesh-hungry, blood-thirsty zombies. There is no subplot about environmental issues, global pandemics or chemical warfare. It’s not that kind of film. Instead, it plonks us down in the midst of a small number of survivors already in the thick of this dark new world and whisks us off with them as they travel across the States to find a safe haven amidst the carnage and apocalyptic mayhem. Whils…

The Boris Karloff Blogathon

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Beginning on November 23 — Karloff’s 122nd birthday — and on through the 29th, Frankensteinia: The Frankenstein Blog is inviting bloggers far and wide to post something about Boris Karloff, his life and his wide-ranging career.

Karloff is perhaps best known for his work in the horror genre, particularly his Universal horror films such as Frankenstein, The Mummy and Bride of Frankenstein. With an impressive career spanning over 50 years, Karloff collaborated with a staggering array of acclaimed filmmakers such as James Whale, Val Lewton, Mario Bava and Roger Corman to name but a few.

Why not head over to Frankensteinia: The Frankenstein Blog for more info... And stay tuned throughout November for all things 'Karloff The Uncanny.'

Dead Snow

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2009
Dir. Tommy Wirkola

AKA Død Snø

A group of medical students on a skiing holiday in deepest, whitest Norway come face to face with marauding zombie Nazis…

Yes. Zombie Nazis.

Dead Snow is every bit as preposterous as it sounds. In a similar vein to Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, Wirkola’s striking looking film is an outrageous comedy-horror that deftly mixes chills with chuckles and gore with guffaws. The film sets its tone in the opening scene as a young woman flees in terror across a desolate snowscape accompanied by the strains of Dukas’s mischievous symphony The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Director Wirkola wisely keeps her pursuers to the shadows and we only catch the briefest glimpses of them before they set upon the unfortunate woman and tear her asunder.

The film’s cine-literate characters are an amiable bunch and the script (by Wirkola and Stig Frode Henriksen) takes time to establish group dynamics and ease us into the company of the group before all hell breaks loose… And un…

Random Creepy Scene # 443: Lost Highway

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While not strictly a horror film, David Lynch’s beautiful, nightmarish and deeply unsettling Lost Highway contains more than its fair share of intense and disturbing moments. The opening scenes alone are, in my opinion, amongst some of the most uneasy, upsetting and creepy moments of cinema. Lynch effortlessly creates such a feeling of anxiety in these opening scenes, and all without anything much really happening. Unhappily married couple Fred and Renee Madison (Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette) blankly wander around their dark and foreboding home. Fred appears to suspect Renee of being unfaithful and she does nothing to alleviate his suspicions. Videotapes containing footage of the outside of their house begin arriving. Eventually one of the tapes contains footage shot inside the house and reveals Fred murdering Renee. A bizarre encounter with a mysterious man at a party flings events further into overtly abstract territory. The mystery man tells Fred they've met before. Where…

Baron Blood

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1972
Dir. Mario Bava

Headstrong student Peter Kleist (Antonio Cantafora) travels to his ancestral home Castle Kreuzenstein in Austria to take a break from his studies. Peter has become obsessed with Baron Otton von Kleist, a distant relative whom the locals nicknamed Baron Blood due to his masochistic and murderous tendencies. Our foolhardy student sets about resurrecting his ancestor by reciting an incantation on an ancient scroll and before long the Baron is up to his old tricks, wrecking bloody havoc and slaughtering anyone who stands in his way… Can Peter and art restoration expert Eva (Elke Sommer) put a stop to his murderous rampage before its too late?

Baron Blood was filmed after Bava’s stylish and grisly slasher opus Bay of Blood and was one of the director’s last films. It delivers what one might expect of a Bava film (or perhaps any Italian horror film) from this period – stylish camerawork, uneven pacing, evocative score, lack of plot and dazzling atmospherics. While certa…