Phantasm: Ravager (2016)

Posted: October 6, 2016 in horror

Phantasm Ravager (2016 Film).jpg

The Phantasm films were always strange. The original introduced flying spheres of death, an evil funeral director who could shapeshift into a beautiful woman, made a hero out of a balding ice-cream man, and featured a musical interlude where the leads dropped character and turned into the acoustic jam band “Hot as Love”. And that was the most “normal” of the bunch. The deeper into the series you get, the more bizarre the mythology became.

In that context, it almost feels like praise that the latest (and almost certainly final) instalment is the most bizarre of the lot, although it is hard to say that is of a benefit to the film as a whole.

The plot, such as it is, follows Reggie the heroic ice-cream-man, as he searches for Jody and Mike, his co-stars from the first movie; despite the fact that both were killed off in previous instalments of the franchise. But, don’t think too hard about that. Really this is just a frame-work to hang some cool scenes on, and that is the most important thing. There is some mumbo-jumbo about alternate realities, parallel universes, and a possibility hanging in the air that the whole series may just be a shared delusion; but again, it’s not treated seriously in the film and you aren’t supposed to take it seriously yourself.

Instead, the intent is clearly to have the viewer revel in the fan-service. A chase scene where two spheres barrel after a car. A full-scale invasion with giant spheres hanging overhead. A trip back to the magnificent marble halls of the first film’s mausoleum. Cameos from every major player in the franchise and a final goodbye for the late Angus Scrimm. There is even a chance for Reggie to break out the guitar and knock out a tender ballad. This is not a film made for newcomers to the franchise and even the most hardened of fans will have a hard time following exactly what is going on.

You can almost see elements of something tangible amongst the borderline gibberish of the plot. Reggie’s road-trip quest to find his buddies is clearly the main through-line, before being completely discarded. Another thread presents us with a scenario not dissimilar to the later entries in Resident Evil franchise, with a band of mercenaries fighting back against the Tall Man’s hoards under apocalyptic blood red skies. This element in particular feels undercooked, and as cool a character as newcomer to the franchise Chunk is (getting without question the best lines and the most heroic moment), if more attention had been given to building this properly, the pay-off would have been a lot sweeter. Holding all this together is a sub-plot set in a hospice, offering what explanation there is, and allowing us a tender goodbye to characters we have grown to love. It is here that the themes that have run through the films, grief and friendship, are dealt with; but in truth it feels like three unfinished scripts were mashed together with not a great deal of thought.

The most jarring aspect of the film is that it looks terrible. While it was made on a low-budget, all of the films in the series were, and it misses Coscarelli’s sure hand as a director. The CGI is awful, and David Hartman (who made his name directing cartoon series such as Transformers: Prime and Astro Boy) seems reliant on ridiculous and off-putting zooms; out of place camera trickery that does little more than detract and distract. The other Phantasm films were cheap, but this looks cheap; reminding you of micro budget productions like Kung Fury and early Astron 6 offering Manborg. And not in a good way. While it may be fan-service, it looks like a film made by fans, and not professionals.

Those who love the series will find a lot to love in this film, although even they may find it hard to genuinely like the film as a whole. If the thought of the Tall Man reprising his “Boooooyyy” catchphrase fills you with a warm, nostalgic pleasure, then you will be able to forgive many of the film’s myriad of faults. Those who are not fans should avoid. This is the worst film in the series by a distance, a silly cartoonish addendum that definitely has it’s moments, but barely hangs together.


Rudy Ray Moore was a real icon of the “blaxploitation” movie scene. He made his name on the club circuit, mixing R&B with blue comedy, his persona of a degenerate debaucher spewing obscene rhyming couplets gaining him a healthy underground following. He parlayed this character into a movie career, starting with “Dolemite”, where his stage act was coupled with low-rent action as he became the kung-fu pimp with a heart of gold. The majority of his films followed the same formula, mixing comedy with action in ever more inventive premises (“Petey Wheatstraw” even seeing him as a stand-up comic battling hoodlums while attempting to get out of a deal with the devil); until he decided to use his standing to make a “serious” movie with a real message: “Disco Godfather’ (sometimes known by the slightly more spoilery moniker “The Avenging Disco Godfather”).

Rather than his usual collection of pimps and ne’er-do-wells, here Moore is a good man, a kind man; the legendary disco DJ Tucker Williams, known to his friends as the Godfather of the Disco. He gets behind the decks every night and plays all the disco classics. Well, one disco record, which he plays over and over and over. On top of this he tells people to “put your weight on it”, an absolutely insane number of times, each with a slightly different intonation. “PUT your weight on it, put YOUR weight on iiiiiitttt, put your weeeighhtttt on it!”. If your weight is not on it by the half hour point of this movie, it never will be.

The wheels begin to come off this cosy set-up when his nephew Bucky takes some “bad shit”, trips out and the disco beats turn into rattles and left-over sound-effects from “Space 1999”. Not cool. Tucker immediately asks the most important question “Where is Bucky and what has he hayad?” before making the sensible decision to call an “Am-ber-lamps”.

Suddenly forgetting about the disco jams the film then takes on a serious, sombre tone. With one click of the Godfather’s fingers it morphs into a warning of the perils of PCP, so laughably misinformed and hysterical that it makes “Reefer Madness” look like “Requiem for a Dream”. The hospital Bucky ends up in is populated by victims of Angel Dust so demented they resemble extras cut from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” for egregious over-acting, while the doctor charged with their care wanders around wearing shades indoors and signing off on exorcisms. We are even treated to the single greatest diagnosis in the history of film: “This kid is totally withdrawn from reality; he thinks he’s an unborn caterpillar”.

At this point we discover that Tucker is not merely a DJ, but a former bad-ass cop who quit the force due to the inescapable pull of the disco. So he goes to his old Lieutenant to tell him he wants to investigate the Angel Dust problem “on his own”, but also with the help of the police (what?), and is immediately given “reserve status”. For those who don’t know what “reserve status” is, it apparently means you and a buddy can go around slapping random strangers for absolutely no reason in a long montage before stealing a dog. Which is awesome.

The film soon makes it’s next big tonal shift as Tucker works out who the bad guy is, and who the mole is (apparently there was a mole), and sets about kicking ass all the way to the top. Luckily for him he is joined by allies such as a passing jogger who just happens to hate Angel Dust and know kung-fu. Every movie is made infinitely better by having random kung-fu joggers (as definitively proved by the 1982 trash classic “Pieces”) and this is no exception.

After the obligatory badly handled melange of action, the film takes it’s final big turn; descending into a weird psychedelic brain-rape of a finale that it would be wrong to spoil before you have had the chance to experience it for yourself. Quite simply it is the absolute last way you would ever expect this film to end, a jaw-dropping conclusion so out of left-field that you need the end credits to remind you what movie you were watching before it went off the deep end.

For those who know his work, watching Moore trying to reel himself in to get a PG rating is incredibly amusing (he even manages to stop himself from rhyming “Tucker” with “Mutha-f**ker”…but only just), and at times genuinely baffling (one scene involving a female dog that has apparently lived into it’s 50’s before running away from it’s owner is seemingly only there so they could sneak in the line “that old bitch finally left me”). He (mostly) left the rhymes at home for this one, and tried to deliver a serious commentary on 70s excess and the way drugs were destroying the black community (the big pile of cocaine being snorted off the soundtrack of “Saturday Night Fever” is as subtle as this message gets).

Although intended as Moore’s magnum opus, the real pleasure comes from how misjudged and batshit crazy everything is. From Moore’s ridiculous man-boob revealing outfits, to every shot clearly being done in one-take no matter how many times lines were fluffed or the cast accidentally laughed at serious moments; “Disco Godfather” is incredibly bizarre and tons of fun. Track this down and “put your weight on it”.

5 of the Best: Double Acts

Posted: August 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

Chemistry. That almost indefinable connection between two actors that is capable of making mediocre material and good material great. Two performers who just seem to naturally bounce off each other, taking them far beyond what they are capable of on their own. So, to celebrate those duos with the effortless rapport that makes everything they do together immediately watchable, here are 5 of my favourite on-screen double acts.

Abbott and Costello

Best Parody Films - Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Originally a a vaudeville double act, Bud and Lou rose through the ranks and at one time were among the most bankable stars in Hollywood. The skinny, grumpy Abbott is arguably the greatest straight man of all time, his gravel voice, base sneakiness and ever-growing exasperation being the perfect foil for his squeaky sidekick. The rotund Costello was a bundle of idiotic nervous energy, easily befuddled and as sweet and charming an on-screen presence as he was the opposite off-camera. Their interplay was slick, refined through years of vaudeville, but still flowed naturally, the material always feeling fresh and natural no matter how many times they performed it. Here were two men who elevated each other through well defined personas and crisp interplay, the very definition of a double-act.

Must watch: Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein

Pegg and Frost

In an era where the traditional double act is almost dead, here are two men keeping it going. There on-screen partnership started in the sitcom “Spaced” (which also brought them together with directorial collaborator Edgar Wright) but they had been close friends for years before that. Both are naturally gifted individual performers with their own independent careers but their best work (by far) has been in tandem. Rather than rely on one dynamic they have taken each film made together as an opportunity to explore different facets of the double act, from the tight established friendships in “Shawn of the Dead” and “Paul”, the meditation on odd couple buddy movies in “Hot Fuzz”, and the disintegration of an old friendship in “The World’s End”. Making of all these stand out is an intelligence far above that normally seen in genre movies and a flexibility that both offer as performers. The quintessential modern double-act, and hopefully there will be many more entries in their canon.

Must watch: Shawn of the Dead

Travolta and Jackson

How can a double act appear on this list on the basis of one movie? When the movie is “Pulp Fiction” and the double act are Travolta and Jackson. Possibly the most iconic moment of one of the finest films of the 1990s is simply two guys in a car making smalltalk. Their chemistry is undeniable; two actors delivering performances as strong as they ever managed playing two characters who needed each other but didn’t know it.

They re-teamed later on for the John McTiernan military mystery “Basic”, but the best thing to do is to pretend that film didn’t happen.

Must watch: Pulp Fiction

Powell and Loy

As Nick and Nora Charles, the husband and wife detective team at the centre of “The Thin Man” film series, William Powell and Myrna Loy captured the hearts of a generation of cinema goers in the 1930s. Powell was the witty urbane sleuth, a man with confidence, style and underworld connections. Loy was his dazzling wife, a woman who was every bit his equal, as capable of putting him down with a sly one-liner as a withering look. They worked together 14 times, including best picture winner “The Great Ziegfried’ (a strong contender for the worst Oscar winning film of all time) but Nick and Nora were the roles that really defined them as a duo, bringing the best out of them both.

Must watch: After the Thin Man.

Matthau and Lemmon

Many duos have been called “the original odd couple” but these two are the genuine article, establishing their double act in an adaptation of Neil Simon’s broadway play. As the uptight Felix and slovenly Oscar Lemmon and Matthau reinvigorated the notion of the double act, both simultaneously the straight man and the comic, making simon’s expert one-liners zing. They worked together nine times in total, including in the shamefully forgotten Billy Wilder comedy “The Fortune Cookie” and the under-appreciated remake of “His Girl Friday”, “The Front Page”, again with Wilder in the director’s chair. Their double act was rekindled for a late career renaissance with mixed results, ranging from the entertaining (“Grumpy Old Men”) to the execrable (“Out To Sea”), but through it all their perfectly poised dynamic, enduring talent and obvious friendship made them a watchable duo.

Must watch: The Odd Couple

Of course thee are many that could (and perhaps should) have made the list, so apologies for any glaring omissions, and particularly to fans of Laurel & Hardy, Wilder & Pryor, Hope & Crosby and Ferrell & Reilly; all of whom could easily have made this list on a different day. No apologies at all to fans of Martin & Lewis however. They were awful. Just awful.

Haunter (2013)

Posted: August 15, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Lisa (Abigail Breslin) finds herself trapped in her home reliving the same day over and over with her oblivious family.

After a fast start to his career with the excellent “Cube” and the under-appreciated “Cypher”, Canadian film-maker Vincenzo Natali’s career had stalled somewhat with the batshit crazy but deeply flawed “Nothing” and “Splice”, a ludicrous film that almost qualifies as “so-bad-it’s-good” (but still didn’t manage to be the most laughably bad Adrian Brody film released in 2009 thanks to the truly abysmal “Giallo”).

He arrives back on the scene with “Haunter”, a supernatural mystery thriller, which has been receiving positive feedback on the festival circuit without getting a full cinema release, and is now widely available on DVD. Something of a return to basics, Natali’s trademarks are present and correct, from his inventive, silky visuals, to the labyrinthine twisting plots he seems in thrall of, and even the ramshackle CGI that has bedevilled much of his work.

The “reliving the same day” set-up is always terrific fun, mined to great effect in “Groundhog Day”, and the recent “Edge of Tomorrow” among many others, although “Haunter” does a great job in steering itself away from the ground those films covered. Here the device is used as a means to present a mystery and slowly unravel it, like peeling away the layers of an onion. This is done effectively and lovingly, and the film’s main strength lies in how engrossing the mystery at it’s centre is.

There is a healthy dose of pinching from other films, most obviously in the initial set-up but also from the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series (which is heavily mined), as well a few other notable plot lifts that are probably best left unmentioned so as not to spoil too much; although you will definitely know them when you see them. In many ways this magpie tendency becomes a positive, as the film repeatedly sheds it’s skin, morphing in ways that, although still derivative, are at least unexpected. Just when you think you have a handle on what the film is doing, it moves on, with every mystery solved just an opportunity to start unravelling the next. Although it is likely that the assembly was somewhat cynical (and the final “happy” coda feels depressingly tacked on), it does make for a gripping and surprising journey.

Abigail Breslin as Lisa shows that she is maturing into a leading lady of real standing, in no way resembling the goofy child star of “Little MIss Sunshine”, and making what could have been a frustrating role incredibly endearing. At once exasperated and scared by her situation, she is still believable when required to muster the courage to face the evil of the house, striking a fine balance that could easily have eluded a young actress (shockingly, Breslin was only 16 when this was filmed), especially when the camera is on them for much of the film’s duration. The rest of the cast are equally able in their roles, with particular mention to the wonderfully craggy-faced Stephen McHattie, who makes good use of his weathered features as the creepy and mysterious “Pale Man”. There is even time for a brief cameo from long-time Natali collaborator David Hewlett, a pleasing Easter egg for fans, even if he is somewhat under-used.

If there is one major criticism, it is that the film isn’t particularly scary, something that many consider a cardinal sin for a film in the horror genre. There are a few nice jump scares in the early going, but beyond a certain point the lack of peril is palpable, as if it fell victim to the multitude of narrative turns the film undertakes. Despite that, “Haunter” is a real return to form for Natali, a well made and creepily effective low-key ghost story that keeps your attention from start to slightly hackneyed finish.

Miss Violence (2013)

Posted: August 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

On her eleventh birthday a young girl jumps to her death from the balcony of the small flat she shares with her extended family. In the aftermath the families dark secrets bubble to the surface.

Greek cinema has undergone a real resurgence in recent years, with the excellent “Dogtooth” being joined by such well-received counterparts such as “Attenberg”, “Knifer”, “Wasted Youth”, and “Strella”. It is a country that despite, or perhaps because of, it’s recent troubles, is developing a a film-making movement of increasing confidence, no longer mocking itself with movies such as “Attack of the Giant Moussaka”. Alexander Avranas’ “Miss Violence” sits very squarely in this new, adult approach to cinema, a film that takes itself incredibly seriously and demands it’s audience do the same.
Although the film does seem to place a mystery at it’s centre (“what made this girl jump to her death?”) it is fairly obvious where this is all going from very early on; down a difficult and depressing road that most would rather not travel. As the specifics become more apparent, the film becomes ever more uncomfortable to watch, quite an achievement for a film that inspires intense uneasiness from it’s very first second.
Set primarily in one tiny, overcrowded apartment, Avranas does a great job of mixing the claustrophobia of the situation with genuine style. Shots are cleverly framed, with point-of-view scenes and recurring motifs; but the direction is never showy or ostentatious, relying on stripped down minimalism as much as camera trickery.
While well-made and well-acted, it is an incredibly tough watch; leaving you wondering at times what exactly the point of all this is. A subtext regarding figures of power taking advantage of acquiescent subordinates is a possible justification that gains more power when considering the recent history of film’s country of origin; but despite how well done everything is you can’t help you’ve seen this done before and better, most notably in Vinterberg’s “Festen” and Roth’s “The War Zone”. Of course, that cannot be a criticism in isolation, and taken on it’s own merits “Miss Violence” is undoubtedly effective, extremely troubling and powerfully sobering.

Peter Goldson is an FBI agent known as The Stabilizer, because, well, it sounds sorta cool. Don’t over-think it. When a brilliant scientist goes missing in Jakarta, Goldson suspects his arch-nemesis is responsible, so he gathers a team and sets about taking him down.

Made in Indonesia and distributed by the legendary “Troma Entertainment”, “The Stabiliser” is one of a series of trashy action knock-offs made by prolific mono-named hack Arizal. Essentially, this is his “James Bond” mixed with a bit of “Mission: Impossible”; a big dollop of nonsensical action cheese, carried out with startling incompetence.

In the title role is Peter O’Brian, a New Zealand born actor whose mere presence in a film is a guarantee of quality. Low quality. His hair is a magnificent artefact of the 80s, deserving of a place in a museum, while his performance here is stiff, wooden and full of bizarre poses; moments where he stops moving completely and seems to tense every muscle in his body for absolutely no reason. His New Zealand accent was probably not what Arizal wanted for his American super agent, so he is hilariously dubbed with a voice that would seem more at home in a toothpaste advert than an action movie.

O’Brian’s most famous role is his portrayal of the completely original and in no way copyright infringing character “Rambu” from “The Intruder”. Based on that, and the fact that here he adorns the walls of his house with posters of himself dressed up as Cobretti from “Cobra”, he is clearly supposed to have some kind of resemblance to Sylvester Stallone, although he looks far more like the illegitimate love-child of an unholy union between David Hasselhoff and a horse.

The main villain is the brilliantly named Rainmaker. Greg Rainmaker. Greg. Because there really are not enough super-villains called Greg. He is a drug-dealing, rapist murderer who has spikes on the bottom of his shoes and a pronounced limp. In a film with unquestionably the most heavy-handed audio effects ever loosely bolted onto moving pictures, the over-eager foley artists really went to town on the spikes and the limp, making any scene Rainmaker appears in an absolute hoot as he slowly “tap-pause-taps” across every room.

Seemingly filmed with no sound whatsoever, the dubbing is at once completely awful, and also strangely endearing. Bless ’em, they really did try to make the words fit the flapping lips and long pauses, leading to oddly broken up sentences and single word responses that make absolutely no sense. “Pause, Pause, Pause, BULLSHIT, Pause, Pause, Cut”.

This film has it all. Bad kung-fu. Messy gun-fights. Someone getting punched in the head by a motorbike. Incidental characters macking on live lizards before biting their heads off and eating them. Baggy leopard-print trousers. An Indonesian Mr T lookalike. A bad guy dying and leaving behind a piece of card with some squiggles and the words “Location Map” written on it. Goldson looking at that and saying “This might lead somewhere”. The word “bullshit”. Blue cans. More blue cans. Even more blue cans. Drink every time you see a blue can and your liver will pack up a bindle and hit the road long before the credits roll.

A film rammed with weirdness and ineptitude, coupled with gloriously excessive action and seemingly random explosions; “The Stabilizer” is an unmissable slice of 80s trash cinema, both hilariously bad and a hell of a lot of fun.

Fossil (2014)

Posted: July 3, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Carla Juri spielt die blutjunge französische Freundin des amerikanischen Tunichtguts «Richard», gespielt vom britischen Sschauspieler Grant Masters.

Paul and Camilla (John Sackville and Edith Bukovics) hire a gite in the south of France, seemingly in a last ditch attempt to rekindle a spark long since gone. Tensions build between the two until they find a mysterious couple (Grant Masters and Carla Juri) cavorting in their pool. 

“Fossil” is a British psycho-drama from fledgling production company Blackwall Films, written and directed by first timer Alex Walker. It is a credit to all involved how well executed everything is given the minuscule budget they had to play with.

The performances are strong, albeit in a way that reeks of British television drama from the 1980s. The couple at the film’s centre have the standard RP drama school accents, while the American and French characters are essentially timeless stereotypes, exemplars of British perception of those two races. Masters does pull off a respectable low-key Nicholson impression, something you sense was a great party trick that has now borne fruit; while Carla Juri is clearly a performer with a genuine flighty charm who we will likely be seeing a lot more of based on her promising turn here as the naive but deceptively deep Julie.

The film does have a lovely picturesque look, making good use of it’s Dordogne setting and contrasting it with the claustrophobic confines of the gite the couples are staying in. The intent was likely to blend the feel of French New-Wave cinema with traditional buttoned-down British drama, a combination that shouldn’t really work, but ultimately scrapes by due to the commitment of those involved.

For all the positives, it is incredibly hard to get away from how “middle-class” everything feels, essentially just the “first world problems” meme writ large. It is all so twee and quaint, you imagine it being cooked up over a glass of fine wine on a family holiday, such is it’s lack of edge.

As the film is primarily a drama, it is perhaps churlish to say that it takes a while to get going, as the long build-up is precisely the point. While the characters are believable, the dialogue between them lacks bite, something that makes it hard to care too much about their fates. While not every four-hander can be “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”, the interplay between the quartet really could have done with something to make it crackle.

The film is likely to be best remembered for a final third twist that is somewhat surprising, not for the explosion of violence that the film always threatened, but for the way in which it serves perfectly as an antidote to the majority of “home invasion” thrillers; a change of direction that is a pleasant surprise. However, it is all too neat and tidy in execution, squared away far too quickly and easily with scant regard for the possibilities the premise holds. For a film so rooted in relationships, it glosses over the shift in dynamic in surprisingly off-hand fashion, seeming to lose it’s focus as it attempts to quickly wrap everything up and stick a bow on it.

“Fossil” is a laudable attempt at a different kind of thriller, professionally executed in a manner that belies it’s incredibly tight budget. It is still relatively dull at times, lacking the zest and bite possessed by the best films of it’s ilk. While it may come a pleasant surprise if caught by accident late night on television, it is sadly not interesting enough to recommend actively seeking out.

All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

Posted: June 22, 2014 in Uncategorized
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When Maddy’s cheerleader friend dies she tries out to replace her on the team. But what are her true motives? And how does her Wiccan friend fit in?

“All Cheerleaders Die” is a horror/comedy collaboration written and directed by respected horror auteur Lucky McKee (“May” and “The Woman”) and his close friend Chris Sivertson, best known by most for the execrable Lindsay Lohan vehicle “I Know Who Killed Me”, a strong candidate for the worst film of the millennium.

Without any knowledge of the extent of the collaboration the viewer can only guess as to the specifics. Given the way the film turned out, it would not be a surprise if Mckee and Stiverson had shared duties in a similar way to Tarantino and Rodriguez on “From Dusk Til Dawn”; with each essentially responsible for half a film, something that would explain the wild shift in tone that occurs here.

The film starts off as a dark psychological thriller, with Caitlin Stasey’s Maddy setting off on a twisted revenge mission. The opening sequence, as Maddy follows her cheerleader friend Lexi as she goes about her life, is incredibly effective; with a haymaker of a punchline capping it all off in startlingly brutal fashion. We are kept largely in the dark as to Maddy’s goals and motivations, as well as how far she will go to achieve her aims. It seems an interesting twist on the genre, broadly typical of McKee’s work; a studied pace and increasing creepiness leaving the viewer wondering where this will all go.

The narrative takes a bizarre turn halfway through, with twists stacking up, new rules established and then broken, as the film becomes increasingly breathless. Going from tense, to mildly demented, the film ends up completely insane; sitting in a corner hugging it’s knees and screaming abuse at anyone who dares to come near. It all flies by too quickly, feeling like a script written in a drunken stupor, piling up the silliness until it becomes borderline nonsensical, albeit in a very fun way. Alongside this is a rich vein of humour, pouring exuberantly from both the outrageousness of the situations and the cheerleader’s catty one-liners, many of which wouldn’t be out of place in superior teen comedies such as “Heathers” or “Mean Girls”.

The real problem with the film is the flimsy characterisation. The main characters are one note, with no discernible arcs or development, although the cast battle gamely with the challenge of imbuing their roles with something approaching personality. The supporting players fare even less well; hackneyed teen-movie archetypes that barely register beyond the single traits that define them. The result is that it is almost impossible to care about these characters, even whether they live or die, something that severely detracts from the film as a whole, robbing proceedings of any tension.

Maybe it is due to this general lack of sympathy with the cast, but when the grand finale comes it seems a massive damp squib, as characters you barely care about are offed in quick-fire fashion, often out of nowhere. Even the big final battle is underwhelming, the film threatening a grand pay-off before petering out with a brief, listless burst of unconvincing CGI.

Ultimately “All Cheerleaders Die” is something of a mess. Most of the individual elements are well enough done, and the film is a lot of fun, but it doesn’t hang together as a whole, leaving you with a feeling of promise unfulfilled. If you disengage your brain then the ever-escalating strangeness and off-beat humour is certainly entertaining enough, although long-time fans of McKee (who will likely make up a large portion of the initial audience) are sure to find themselves disappointed by it’s disjointedness and the lack of intelligence on display.

It is still easy to see this film gaining a sizeable cult following in years to come with audiences who will forgive it’s faults because of how surprisingly bonkers and unusual it is, a dumb teen-horror flick on acid making bizarre turns that no viewer could expect; something that was probably the intention all along.

Wither (2012)

Posted: June 17, 2014 in Uncategorized


A group of young adults head deep into the woods to get away from it all and party in a remote cabin; but they hadn’t counted on one of them awaking an ancient evil that resides in the basement.

That plot summary feels awfully familiar, doesn’t it?

“Wither” (“Vittra”) is a Swedish horror film from Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wikland that mixes an “Evil Dead” style set-up with zombie mythology. Made in 2012, it’s Swedish theatrical debut came in late 2013 and it will reach UK audiences on June 23 2014 via a DVD release from Signature Entertainment.

Attempting to straddle than fine line between “homage” and “shameless rip-off”, “Wither” can’t maintain it’s balance and ends up collapsing face-first into the latter camp. The overly familiar set-up would have been acceptable if there were any originality on display in other areas, or if the film had a unique feel in some way, but early promise fades away as cliches are ticked off one by one in a rote manner, as if the script were merely a checklist of horror movie tropes. The poorly developed stereotypical characters run headlong into a melange of stale horror cliches; making the same inexplicable mistakes that you’ve seen similar characters make a thousand times before (yes, given a choice between running out of the door and hiding upstairs, they choose certain death).

The acting is truly terrible from the majority of the cast (it is a shame that Johnannes Brost didn’t get more screen-time, as his haunted delivery and craggy features hint at a background story much more compelling than the one told here), largely dull and naturalistic in style with the exception of the inexplicable wide-eyed reaction shots which wouldn’t be out of place in a “Carry On” movie. The only character in the film who has been given a discernible personality is such a monumental arsehat that you assume he will be the butt of all the jokes, but alas, he is supposed to be legitimately cool, lighting up cigarette after cigarette while the female cast try to get into his pants.

Those who like things bloody will likely get a kick, as the gore is well done and plentiful, although fairly unimaginative. The action plays out with a certain style, as Laguna and Wikland attempt to invest proceedings with a credible “Scandi-thriller” dryness. It is a shame in many ways that they didn’t concentrate more on that, as the creepy early section is definitely the most effective aspect of the film, horror seen though the prism of their national identity, threatening an interesting twist on the genre. Sadly the film too quickly descends into a knock-off of American cinema, and there is no way the film can compare to what it apes, especially on such a tiny budget.

“Wither” is a massive let-down from a country that has actually done a sterling job recently in producing high quality genre pictures like “Let the Right One In”, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, “Frostbite” and even the incredibly fun “Kopps”. Shamelessly derivative in what seems to be a calculating fashion, it really is hard to recommend this film to anyone. It tries to be “The Evil Dead”, but where Sam Raimi made a low-budget film that showcased his skill and originality, Laguna and Wikland illustrate only that they are capable mimics who lack ingenuity and humour. They may have had more luck if they had gone the Raimi route; attacked the premise with some playfulness, called it something silly like “Bork of the Dead”, and had some fun. Instead they have presented us with a dreary and dull film, lacking in imagination and, most importantly, entertainment.


A bitter and long-running feud between two rival Yakuza gangs takes in the aspiring actress daughter of one of the bosses, the love of her life that she never knew she had and a gaggle of aspiring film-makers who dub themselves “The Fuck Bombers”.

“Why Don’t You Play in Hell” is a comedy-action movie from Shion Sono, probably best known in the West for the dark horror/drama “Suicide Club”. It’s been a lean few years for fans of the talented Japanese auteur, and his most recent films have failed to live up to the high expectations set by his best work. “Why Don’t You Play in Hell” is a rip-roaring return to form, a love letter to film fans that delivers pure enjoyment in the weird, darkly fun way that only Japanese cinema is capable of.

The first hour of the film assembles all the pieces of the jigsaw, and slowly slots them into place. Relationships are established and others formed against a backdrop of silly over-the-top comedy and bursts of extreme violence presented so stylishly that they are absurd rather than off-putting. The set-up most closely resembles that of a farce, as the disparate threads are deliberately woven together to set the scene for the ultimate confrontation between the bizarre cast of mugging grotesques and delusional caricatures. While it is easy to see where the film is heading, something that those unused to the pace of Japanese cinema may find frustrating, there is still more than enough going on to make this all extremely enjoyable in it’s own right.

It is during the big battle between the Yakuza gangs, taking up the bulk of the final stretch, that the film really takes flight. Gloriously excessive, outrageously ridiculous and somehow still surprising in the turns it takes despite how telegraphed the resolution is. There is a real glee to the action, referencing the films of Bruce Lee, “Kill Bill” and even “Bonnie and Clyde”, that draws you in; leaving your jaw hanging in sheer awe at the decadence of the violence. Sono shamelessly pulls out every trick he can think of to keep it all fresh, like a conjurer high on speed pulling rabbits from every orifice without ever pausing for applause.

Despite the sheer volume of bloodshed, it was clearly not Sono’s intention for this film to be taken seriously. Never has the phrase “it’s only a movie” been more apt, given the constant reminders that this is no sort of reality. “Just sit back and enjoy the ride, film fans” he seems to be saying, and what a ride he has constructed. Knowingly weird, wilfully obscure and, at times, borderline nonsensical; this is a terrifically fun film with plenty of laughs and an epic conclusion that will leave you with adrenaline coursing through your veins.