Mild spoilers ...

6. Dec, 2015

Queen of Blood (2014)

Spoilers ...

In this sequel to Chris Alexander’s acclaimed ‘Blood for Irina (2011)’, we first see Irina clawing her way out of a stagnant woodland lake, immersed in mud and mire, a trail of red following a path in her wake. As she revives in a scene that reminds me a little of Virginia Christine’s similar resurrection in ‘The Mummy’s Curse (1944)’, she is saved and looked after by a man who lives in a cabin, before he is brutally killed – indicating that Irina has lost none of her killing nature.

There are elements of Jean Rollin’s ‘The Living Dead Girl’ to some of the more gruesome scenes. As an aside, if it weren’t for the reviews for the previous film, comparing it to the work of Rollin, I may never have been inspired to become acquainted with the French director’s work, so for that I will be ever grateful to Chris Alexander.

The performers are wonderful. Skinny Puppy founder Nivek Ogre has a seemingly great time as The Preacher (especially a bloodily protracted death scene!) and is great in the role. Interestingly, he is dressed in black (which provides a terrific, imposing look), whilst his apparent nemesis (although this is never quite established) floats around in white.

Shauna Henry is bewitching as Irina, truly a mix of the sultry and deadly, enticing and dangerous. She goes through a tough time on this shoot and is rarely seen not streaked with blood and dirt, wading through water and bramble. And throughout, she retains this magnetic, silent, vampiric aura. Which brings the question – is Irina actually a vampire? In the first few scenes we see her gazing at a mirror image and walking out into bright sunshine.

The soundtrack is suitably barren and sparse, ascending to triumphant choral tones when Irina mangles Carrie Gammel’s pregnant Widow to death.

The scenes of Irina wandering around a ruined backyard, blood streaked and carrying the sleeping (?) baby are ethereal and strange, because her glowing presence is so out of place. This conjures up moments from the previous film, whose atmospheric heights aren’t quite matched here: decay surrounded Irina and was very much central to her story (indeed her rebirth seems to be just that: she seems free of the relentless sickness that gripped her – and framed the story – in the previous film). The misty, dewy, leaf-strewn autumnal wilderness isn’t quite as an evocative world in which to place her – but equally, there would be little joy in attempting to replicate what had gone before. Also, and quite rightly, the lush and verdant surroundings create entirely a spirit of their own. It quickly becomes a world on her terms, and assumes an ethereal, heightened reality.

I would love Irina’s story to continue in further films of this nature; I would love there to be a huge volume of work about her. She is fascinating. Her journey is fascinating, and these films are captivating and so deserving of any horror fan’s time.

6. Dec, 2015

Muck (2015)

This is dreadful. A ‘skin-flick’ laced with sardonic dialogue and crazy, horny teens for whom taking selfies is a way of life and every line is a sexual innuendo. Classy it isn’t, but even as a softcore film, it lacks the courage to provide anything in the way of titillation that isn’t ‘cleverly’ masked by shadows, shower curtains or foliage. Here is a world where everyone aspires to look and act in exactly the same way and casually roll off identical low-brow dialogue.

Perhaps it is novel for a film featuring such cutesy smart-arses to begin when the youngsters have already suffered some unspeakable horror and are searching through the night for sanctuary, because that is how this kicks off. We don’t know why the scantily-clad youngsters are in the middle of a woodland (even though it transpires they are actually seconds away from suburbia) or what manner of jeopardy they have suffered. Who cares? Not the people behind this bore-fest. After finding an empty house in which to shower and continue to drink (clearly these are priorities), the second male of their number (I’m not sure they even have names, although I heard one called Billy at some point) heads to a bar five minutes away to call for help, but gets side-tracked by yet more rampant girl teens.

A joke is attempted. When one teen says to another he’s ‘At Wes Craven (the name of the bar, I think)’, his friend says, ‘Wes Craven? Used to be cool but now … eeeeeeewww.’

Apparently this is a spoof of 1980’s horror ‘flicks’. But it really isn’t. There’s nothing remotely funny here, there’s no concept of story, no reasoning for anything, no pretence at the first level of making the viewer want to continue watching beyond the repeated lame nudity teases. It’s the worst film I’ve seen for a very long while and just exists to fill the running time with no discernible talent on display (and yet it appears to be adequately budgeted and directed. Couldn’t the money have been spent on something else?) Even the special effects, never called on to do much, fail to convince, with only gurgling sound effects laid over the soundtrack to let us know that a gore scene is being attempted. More fulfilling to simply watch some straightforward pornography and miss out on the stilted, unfunny drivel in between repeated cleavage shots. Awful.

30. Nov, 2015

A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1974)

This was made in 1971 but released two years later, and then again in 1981 as a zombie film with additional sequences directed by Jean Rollin. Of its many titles (Une Vierge chez les Morts Vivant · Christina, Princess of Eroticism · The Erotic Dreams of Christine · A Young Girl Among the Living Dead . Una Vergine tra gli Zombi), ‘A Virgin Among the Living Dead’ is among the least advisable as it gives away a major spoiler. There’s little use in carefully building up suspicion that the relatives Christina visits aren’t quite ‘normal’, when the truth behind their behaviour is revealed in the title!

Leading lady Christina Von Blanc is effective as young lady who visits a small castle for the reading of her father’s will. She has a look of Hammer starlet-at-the-time Veronica Carlson about her, but is required to do little more than cower in terror. Uncle Howard is played by Howard Vernon, part of Director Jess Franco’s ensemble cast and gives his head of family a certain menace.

I was drawn to this because of Rollin’s involvement, and also that certain reviews compare Franco’s work to that of the French director. Although this film has a certain low-budget appeal, there is little of the poetry here that Rollin brought to his equally under-funded work. Having said that, there is also a weirdness to the narrative and eccentricity to the performances that are quite interesting.

The constant zooms in and out of locations and items often seems haphazard and unnecessary, but there are times (when Christina goes for a night-time wander prior to finding a hanged man) when the approach effectively communicates a trance-like state. The ending, too, is extremely effective – by far the best sequence in the film. Although Christina’s fate is tragic, it is handled beautifully, with the rest of the ‘family’ standing by, seemingly in a somnambulist state with a haunting incidental score.

30. Nov, 2015

13 Eerie (2013)

People are stupid. Some people are very stupid. Usually, characters in horror films are at least slightly stupid, otherwise they wouldn’t constantly get entangled in the mess that fuels the drama. But when the leads are six forensic undergrads who embark on a scientific expedition, you expect a certain degree of sense. Their project takes them to a remote island that was once used as illegal biological testing grounds for life-term prisoners. When we get our first glimpses of what remains of these prisoners, the effects are stomach churning. Also, the Canadian woods used as location used are pleasingly bleak and bathed in winter crispness. To their credit, the undergrads do many things right here; it’s just that the walking dead keep on coming.
There are many, many zombies in popular entertainment currently, and as is often the case, their ubiquity has reduced their effectiveness. Rather like the found footage genre, there are still effective stories to be told, but you have to search for them.

I enjoyed ’13 Eerie’ a lot. Although it is all played straight, I suspect the effects planners had a great deal of fun conjuring up the imaginative ways in which people/zombies are impaled, stabbed, mangled and injured. The results are joyfully convincing. The ending is especially amusing – when the credits come crashing in, it’s hard not to laugh out loud. Intentional horror is rare in these kind of films, and it works very well here.

The zombie creatures are very detailed and suitably gruesome, but their torso/body-suits occasionally let them down, betraying a certain bulkiness or fold in the fabric. But they are a force to be reckoned with – they run, snarl and hiss, indicating their infection has given them a certain primal ferocity.

On a personal note, I have watched a lot of horror films recently that have struck me as banal and formulaic and it made me wonder if I was becoming over-familiar, or tired of the genre. Luckily for me, an enjoyable experience like ’13 Eerie’ has restored my faith and enthusiasm.

30. Nov, 2015

Leprechaun: Origins (2014)

Is this film racist? The story involves a remote Irish village full of portly, suspicious middle-aged old-world types which is visited by a group of American friends who are young, casually confident and beautiful. It reminds me of old Universal films where Wales would be represented by a studio backlot and frequented with Americans, Scottish and comedy cockneys. The earlier films can be forgiven because of their naivety, made at a time where the world wasn’t quite the open book it is now with the advent of economy travel and the internet. ‘Leprechaun: Origins’ initially appears to be an exercise in contrasting a ‘civilised, acceptable’ world where everyone is young and perfect (good) and a ‘lesser, foreign’ world where everyone is backward, stupid and no-one is younger than 50 (bad). To use a frequently (and inaccurately) used word, I find this vaguely offensive.

‘Leprechaun: Origins’ is apparently part of a series of films and is the only one not to star Warwick Davis in the titular role (the Davis films are a lot better than this, going by reviews). It is entirely formulaic with cries of ‘awesome’ (when giggling at the backward locals) being replaced by ‘Holy fuck’ (when the Leprechaun starts killing the squealing youngsters).

It’s directed very nicely and lit in a way to make the pretty people even prettier (there’s clearly been a decent budget here), even when in underwhelming dire straits. The leads offer nothing beyond some distressed pouts and some impressive screaming. One of the most ingenious aspects of the film is how the director manages to find ways of avoiding showing the creature – a blurry image here, glimpse of a claw or profile there; there’s one amusing moment when two of the hapless leads attempt to axe the Leprechaun but succeed only in killing one of their companions instead.

Remember, kids, don’t go to Ireland if you want to stay pretty!

23. Nov, 2015

Fertile Ground (2011)

Fairly formulaic story. A likeable couple move into an isolated country house after suffering a miscarriage, wife is sensitive to ghostly manifestations and grows tetchy when hubby doubts her. Are the manifestations real or a product of her spiralling instability?

The direction is very effective, very fluid, it is rare for the camera not to be slowly panning around events. And while the acting of the two leads is very strong (Leisha Hailey as Emily and Gale Harold as Nate – Hailey in particular provides a convincing essay on descent into total misery), this kind of story has been told many times before. It doesn’t help that the ghosts are very solid looking, and that the undead William is played by Gale Harold in a wig.

In the end, as is often the case, we are undecided whether or not Emily’s tragedy is to blame for her own cruel madness or whether the curse of the house has been pre-planned all along.

22. Nov, 2015

Judas Ghost (2013)

“We take no shit off the Hereafter.” With dialogue like that, it’s easy to detect a certain casual arrogance from the team of ghost hunters on display here. And it is in plentiful supply; Martin Delaney plays designer-stubbled, unblinking host Jerry Mackay (a clever Jeremy Kyle namecheck?), and Lucy Cudden is Anna Gilmour, the pouting, tight-mini-skirt wearing telekinetic, none of whom are short of posturing self-assurance.

There is the technology geek (Alexander Perkins), who operates the equipment for the subsequent broadcast, and the strong and silent engineer (Simon Merrells) who isn’t asked to contribute much until the finale. Grahame Fox plays the manifestation of the Judas Ghost in probably the film’s best performance.

Mackay’s insistence on meeting with the ghost (“I want to talk to it,”) comes across not as a brave stance, or even reckless determination, more testosterone-fuelled petulance. That’s the problem really. The characters start off as cyphers and don’t progress. Their CGI-influenced jeopardy doesn’t help them become sympathetic and despite competent performances and apocalyptic dialogue, no threat is particularly tangible and chills are notably absent.

One development is that Mackay is seen to blink several times after the climactic moments, which suggest he has been moved beyond ‘smouldering’ by the fairly lame supernatural experience.

15. Nov, 2015

Vampyres (1974)

An attractive young lesbian couple are gunned down in the mansion where they live and, for some reason, then become vampiric creatures who seduce passers-by from the nearby road.

Husky, busty Marianne Morris and blond Anulka Dziubinska (billed as Anulka) as Fran and Miriam seem very at ease with the plentiful nude/sex scenes – even though the DVD extras refute this. Both actresses’ voices are also dubbed, much to their chagrin, and while such a practice seems unnecessary, the dubbing is more convincing than is often the case. They really do represent a kind of other-worldly sensuality that is essential for this kind of role. Whether stalking the misty, dewy countryside or the corridors of their magnificent home in their velvet capes, they look exactly like the spooky sirens they are meant to be. Other, sundry characters are deliberately dressed down to make the main couple look comparatively more exotic.

It’s hinted that Ted (Murray Brown), who is enticed to the country house and tormented throughout, is the man who originally ‘murdered’ the girls, although this is never really explained. Neither is the fact that he fails to recognise the house he is brought back to.

And yet the plot is not particularly high on the agenda. The endless discussions on the sophistications of wine and the charming attributes of the ladies could have been spent on making things clearer, but it seems there was an artistic decision to leave things enigmatic – which I have no problem with, as it fuels the Jean Rollin-esque dream-like atmospherics of the film. Equally, the nature of Fran and Miriam is muddy; the (rushed) ending of ‘Vampyres’ speculates they may have been ghosts all along, although the trail of bloodied destruction they leave proves them too tangible for that!

15. Nov, 2015

Kiss of the Damned (2012)

This is an erotic and stylish vampire story in the mould of ‘Daughters of Darkness’ and ‘The Hunger’. It looks lavish and sounds exotic (at least to my UK ears – the soft European accents of the actors occasionally makes their performances seem a little flat, but there’s no denying it helps give the characters a sense of grace).

The vampires are beautiful but wary of harming humankind, instead choosing to feast on wild deer and the like. When they do bite another of their kind, it is usually to the sound of opera and surrounded by sumptuous décor – and often because of the machinations of wild-child Mimi, who comes to visit her sister Djuna and her new lover, Paolo. While Paolo’s relationship with Djuna goes from furtive glances in a video store to a passionately established couple-dom within the space of a few short scenes, the pace is otherwise leisurely, and there is much chance to drink in the glamour of their vampire society before Mimi crashes the party and seduces and bites as many people as she possibly can.

Inevitably, she seduces Paolo, which is dealt with in an understanding, mature way by Djuna. Mimi’s eventual undoing occurs with no intervention from her sister. She swerves her car to avoid hitting a deer – an act of kindness, ironically - the kind of livestock that sustains her sister’s appetite.

With such beautiful production values, it’s tempting to think the plot would be more profound than it is. However, the simplicity of the telling allows us to drink in the haunting landscapes, architecture and incidental score without much interruption. My only slight problem is how quickly Djuna and Paolo settle into cosy domesticity in order to underline, and contrast with Mimi’s debauchery.

2. Nov, 2015

Toolbox Murders (2004)

Daisy has come to Hollywood to pursue her dreams. The apartment and surrounding areas where she lives are less than salubrious so she is confident her personal taser will halt any unwanted advances. With that kind of forethought, it is only ever a matter of time before she’s beaten to death. It happens with a hammer in the – currently under renovation – ‘luxury’ hotel, The Lusman Arms where she was staying. This place is populated by OTT stereotypes who are mainly played as caricatures. This gives The Lusman Arms a heightened sense of reality in which new arrivals Nell and Steven, refreshingly normal, seem instantly out of place.

Nell meets Chas Rooker, an elderly resident, whose job it is to provide (a) a sympathetic voice of reason, and (b) a lot of the backstory concerning how Jack Lusman, an occultist who built the place, mysteriously disappeared many years ago.

When the (implausibly and awkwardly framed) attacks come from the black-clad killer – utilising hammers, drills etc – the victims have proven to be so ridiculously excessive in character, the murders take on a cartoonish aspect, which I find neither terrifying or particularly amusing. Only towards the end, when the killer’s face is revealed in a long shot as he shrieks and howls like an animal in torment, does any sense of fear emerge. The stings and whirls of the incidental music that have been trying to convince us to be scared since the beginning, finally have some horror to embrace.

The idea of the building being cursed, and the killer being a ‘coffin birth, born of death’ is fascinating but is only briefly touched on. His possible spectral existence seems to have been eschewed in favour of whacky characterisations of the residents. This is a shame. The final ‘he’s dead – no he’s not – yes he is – no he’s not’ is inevitable before the thrash metal screams of the closing music roll over the credits.

The performances verge from the capable to the unconvincing (an abusive punk rocker is less than threatening). Only Angela Bettis as Nell really impresses, making the most of her character. She had proven excellent in the 2002 film ‘May’, in which she played a sympathetic outcast.

22. Oct, 2015

SX Tape (2013)

Spoilers ...

With one of the film’s final moments given away in the first few minutes, we find out that Jill’s boyfriend Adam is dead. Adam is that vital ingredient of any found-footage project, a fanatical film-maker. He spends so much time behind the webcam that we only really see him at the close, with an impressively rendered hole in his head.

Jill is a carefree wild-child, an unsuccessful artist who feels that a show staged inside an abandoned hospital, The Vergerus Institute for Troubled Women would help give her the exposure she craves, in more ways than one. Not long after they (illegally) enter the hospital, the couple talk about filming a sex-tape with her strapped to a bed. Momentarily abandoning her in that vulnerable position, Adam fails to realise that in his absence, she appears to have been entered by a malevolent spirit. From then on, her behaviour spills over from impetuousness into murderous intent and madness.

SX Tape is exceptionally well-played. Caitlyn Folley is terrific as the central character, persuasively and increasingly erratic. Her boyfriend Adam (Ian Duncan) is irritated by her behaviour, but goes along with her anyway. It isn’t until they meet up with two friends Ellie and Bobby that her behaviour gets really cruel. Bobby (Chris Coy) is an objectionable bully – we don’t know whether this is the influence of the spirits, or just an extension of his overbearing personality.

As the group unwisely re-enter the hospital, ‘SX Tape’ becomes less focussed and less interesting, relying on endless investigation of (admittedly creepy) rooms and wards, punctuated by sightings of the very unfrightening spirit. Things are lifted toward the end as we realise the extent to which Jill has been influenced by the spirit, and yet further by an implausible ending which is nevertheless painfully amusing.

Online reviews have been unnecessarily scathing of ‘SX Tape’, mainly because any sexual activity is not as graphic as some people would like. As a found-footage project, I was thoroughly entertained by this, mainly due to the actors.

20. Oct, 2015

The Houses October Built (2014)

A group of friends are making a dedicated trip round as many haunted houses as they can, and their experiences get more and more extreme with mannequins and human attractions that appear not only to take their parts far too seriously, but actively appear to ‘live’ them. And yet the group soldier on because of one of their number’s inexplicable passion for the project. Such a passion drives this and many, many other horrors – without the implausibility of pursuing something obviously dangerous, there would be no sustained jeopardy. ‘Now we have the chance to do something really cool, so just relax’ isn’t exactly a reassuring statement given the circumstances.

So while the bull-headed ‘character with camera’ has become a necessary staple of (most) found-footage films (Found Footage Syndrome - FFS?), it’s the fact that his friends go along with him that is difficult to rationalise. And yet despite this implausibility, ‘The Houses October Built’ is a tremendous fright-fest. Haunted houses, one after another, each resplendent with its own family of ghouls, freaks, lunatics, clowns and mannequins saturate the viewer in grotesquery; there is little let-up. The world becomes a line-up of the staggering, murderous and chuckling depraved.

Hillbillies, the scapegoat of horrors from ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ to ‘Wrong Turn’ and beyond, are the suggested inbred monsters here. Although identities don’t break free from the costumes and masks, and personalities are removed, things become increasingly dangerous for our thrill-seekers. And, let’s be honest, it doesn’t end well for them. The idea of ‘found-footage’ is stretched into the realms of impossibility with us actually seeing the characters buried alive, each in their own individual caskets. This would suggest a multitude of webcams, and that the characters must break free, for the footage to become available to view!

But don’t let implausibility worry you; this is fine, depraved, overwhelming horror. Of all the skull-bearing lunatics and other assorted creatures, the most effective is a doll-like girl. Only on screen for a few brief scenes, she steals the show. Her posture, awkward movements and unearthly shrieking is enough to dish out true nightmares on her own.

16. Oct, 2015

Under the Skin (2013)

Scarlett Johansson won much acclaim for her playing of the unnamed woman in this strange and powerful film, which failed at the box-office, but received many positive reviews. She plays an unspecific alien who assumes the appearance of a young woman.

This reminds me a little of Chris Alexander’s ‘Blood for Irina’ (a favourite of mine which I mention at every opportunity!) – a wearied seductress who appears to have her victims ‘tidied away’ by an un-named male protector (or protectors), lingering scenes, not a lot of dialogue. Where it differs though, is in people’s reactions to the woman, who initially appears to pick up men with a calm confidence. They are mesmerised with her. The sight of hopeless Lotharios, alcohol fuelled antagonists who see her as sport, or those who just want to molest her. There are two exceptions. One man she picks up suffers from a facial disfigurement – his shy, inexperienced exchange with her is difficult to watch. She is fascinated with him, and he survives (for a while) the fate usually bestowed on her ‘conquests’. The other exception is a quiet reclusive man who genuinely seems to want to help her (her confidence has been worn away and she becomes virtually somnambulistic by this point – quite why is not clear), but their closeness comes to an end when sex is attempted and she appears incredulous at the workings of her own body.

We find out why in the next ‘episode’, in which a logger in a snowy forest attempts to rape her, and tears the flesh from her back, revealing featureless jet-black skin beneath. His sudden fear propels him to douse her in petrol and set fire to her. Her descent from dominant, confident protagonist to cowering, submissive victim is cruel and frustrating.

I can’t help but feel that a few more explanations might have made this a more satisfying experience. It is based on a book of the same name which leaves far less to the imagination. However, this is a fascinating film, beautifully acted. It looks wonderful too, from the sight of the beautiful Johansson in relentlessly freezing, harsh conditions, to the brief but incredible glimpse of her true form. Spellbinding.

16. Oct, 2015

The Canal (2015)

This is a tremendous low-budget shocker from Ireland and it stars one of the most convincing casts I’ve seen in a long, long time. From dinosaur-obsessed little scamp Billy (Calum Heath – one of the most appealing child actors you will see) to a truly incredible performance from Rupert Evans as David, everyone plays their parts to perfection, and I don’t use the word lightly.

If I’m brutally honest, ‘The Canal’ could have done with being perhaps ten minutes shorter. The ordeals faced by David are plentiful, but sometimes – as is often the case in these films – the continual reversion to ‘normality’ after a particularly frightening incident occurs once or twice too often. Other than that, the writing, direction and acting truly place the audience in the position of not knowing whether David is being shadowed by a ghostly child-murderer or he is the killer himself. Even as the end credits roll, we’re still not entirely sure.

This is a close-knit, intimate horror that unfurls at its own pace, slowly revealing – or appearing to reveal – clues as to the truth of events. We are in skilful hands here. Writer/director Ivan Kavanagh ensures that any confusion we experience is entirely deliberate, and when the scares become graphic, we really feel for the characters affected by them.

If there is any justice, Ivan Kavanagh has a fine future.

16. Oct, 2015

Dracula has Risen from the Grave (1968)

This is Sir Christopher Lee’s third outing as Dracula, and this time he has some dialogue. Already the character is far more effective here than in his last appearance, despite not being directed by the poetically-inclined Terry Fisher. Instead, Freddie Francis is at the helm, and marks his territory with heavy use of toned camera filters framing certain scenes that enliven the sometimes drab greys of the sets.

To once again make up for the lack of Peter Cushing as Dracula’s sworn enemy Van Helsing, we have two heroic types. Monsignor Ernest Mueller (Rupert Davies) is the man with the relevant vampiric experience, and to take on the brawnier side of things is Paul (Barry Andrews). For the young hero to be a hot-headed atheist is an interesting departure (even if such a development makes the character somewhat arrogant and hard to like), and also reveals that you cannot successfully stake a vampire without believing in the powers of good. I like this idea. It provides a nicely grisly scene when Dracula is staked but refuses to die. Lee, who made something of a habit of publically lambasting these films, felt this went against the wishes of Bram Stoker – but there’s no denying the impotent staking is one of the highpoints of the picture.

As the title suggests, blood plays a big – if fairly impractical – part in proceedings here. Who would have thought that that gash on the fallen priest’s head (Ewan Cooper) would produce a trail of the red stuff that should trickle down a rockface and into the very mouth of the Count to resuscitate him? Perhaps it is Dracula’s inexplicable will that this should occur. Also, the first time we see Dracula is in a reflection, despite the fact that vampires cast no reflection.

Despite these flaws, this is an entertaining film, from its psychedelic opening titles to the (somewhat implausible) revelation of a drained girl stuffed into a church bell, and especially the impressive rooftop scenes which muster up the dreamy atmospherics Terry Fisher favoured. The casting is good; Veronica Carlson’s debut is delightful as the somewhat chaste Maria, as is Barbara Ewing as the more worldly-wise and therefore doomed Zena.

26. Sep, 2015

Creep (2004)

Kate, the central character in ‘Creep’ reminds me a little of Naomi Watts’ character in ‘The Ring (2002)’, in that she is so brash and mean-spirited it is difficult to warm to her. She not only declines a polite plea from a homeless man for some change, but patronises him too, and seems pleased with her spite. Possibly this is to highlight the irony of being mistaken for a vagrant herself, bloodied and filthy as she is by the film’s end.

The plot? Horrible bloke kills people by a train-line. It’s something that has been attempted similarly countless times over. And yet I absolutely love this. It is laced with good characters (often more likeable than the heroine) and given some really nice touches – and that is before we’ve even met the wrecked, unsightly killer.

It is a little unclear as to what exactly ‘Craig’ is, although there are plenty of partial clues. Is he a survived abortion, the result of an illegal experiment, or something else? The specifics don’t really matter because he is a powerful character in his own right, often due to the ticks and painful movements Sean Harris brings to the part. He glances at a selection of pickled foetuses in the abandoned medical facility where he lives, and hears the sound of babies crying in his mind. Equally, in one of the most effective scenes, he straps homeless victim Mandy (Kelly Scott) to a delivery chair and goes through the motions of a surgeon before disembowelling her. It’s all grim and extremely effective.

As with many things, there are logical shadows cast over this – Craig has been alive a long time and presumably these are not the first people he’s killed. He shows no intention of covering his tracks, so why hasn’t he been apprehended by now? Also, Kate has the advantage over him on two separate occasions before she finally kills him.

Filmed in brash, early morning tones – all sickly yellows and blues, it’s a persuasively shocking production, but at least Craig’s eventual demise seems permanent. A shame, actually – a sequel would have been welcome.

28. Sep, 2015

Vampire in Venice/Nosferatu a Venezia (1988)

The star of the show here is the location. Venice lends itself beautifully to the mythos of Nosferatu. The slow build of characters and their motivations are made compelling because of the flaking, ornate, weather-ruined magnificence around them. Chill sunlight shining through red curtains onto gleaming marble floors; the vampire chasing a hapless victim through crumbling streets; elegant silhouettes of Nosferatu on the water; beautiful dawn shots of Venice in all its haunting, craggy glory – all these things (and more) ensure this is a visual tour-de-force.

This was a troubled production, with central actor and powerhouse Klaus Kinski allegedly causing many of the crew to resign due to his behaviour; Kinski also declined to repeat the make-up process used in the original Nosferatu; not many actors could pull of a shock of white hair, but Kinski not only pulls off the look, but appears engagingly menacing too. His vampire is not only a seducer, but a sexually charged one – and again, not many 62 year old men who could get away with that. When viewed in semi-darkness, with his darkened eyes and mouth, he exudes a truly unnerving skull-like appearance. Kinski was, for all his wayward behaviour, a tremendous actor.

Christopher Plummer stars as an ineffective Van Helsing type (Professor Paris Catalano), despite a terrific performance. When he and Nosferatu meet, the vampire barely even acknowledges him or his prayers. Donald Pleasance is wonderful too, as the cowardly Don Alvise, despite being given very little to do.

The production is not fluid. Some scenes drag on too long and some are abruptly cut and don’t always appear to flow smoothly. The slower scenes are a lot more successful than when the story needs to take hold in a fast-past manner, and we are left wondering what happened at the end to key characters. At the close, Nosferatu has assumed the role of the tragic succubus. The last view we have of him disappearing into the mist, cradling the naked corpse of his would-be benefactor, is not the swansong of a monster, more of a haunted lost soul. This shift in character from the alien, lizard-like creature from the original is a shift in tone certainly, but an interesting and successful one.