CATACOMB OF TERROR
 

SCREAM

1996. Directed by Wes Craven

A lot of fuss is made of this film and to be honest I really don’t know what it’s all about. This is OK but nothing spectacular and follows a routine I am more than familiar with. The in-jokes, satire and numerous 'slasher film' references are all well and good but as a film we have usual fare and nothing more.

The tale begins with Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) waiting alone for her 18-year-old boyfriend Steve Orth (Kevin Patrick Walls) when a mysterious person (voiced by Roger L. Jackson) calls on the phone. Things get dangerous and as a result Becker and Orth become victims of the killer we come to know as 'Ghost Face'. We now move on to the victim’s classmate Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) who becomes the killer’s next target. Prescott is still recovering from her mother’s rape and murder which happened 1 year ago and as a result is having sexual difficulties with her current boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich). Sidney eventually is attacked in her own home by the masked maniac and accuses her boyfriend of the assault. The plot thickens, a few twists take place but a black comedic slash and stalk movie is all that is had.

Many rate this one and yet I still remain unconvinced. It is far from a turkey but just doesn’t have enough originality and depth to thoroughly entertain my horrific self. It is one for the collection as it has its place in horror history but not particularly one I'd be watching over and over again.

   

THE OMEN (2006)

2006. Directed by John Moore

This is nothing more than a copycat film of the remarkable original and has, in many ways, a lot to live up to. It lacks the stars of the first movie and in parts some of the atmosphere but this isn't a bad effort at all and some of the gory scenes have been nicely enhanced and so add guts to the end result.

The plot is as you were with American official Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber) and his wife Katherine Thorn (Julia Stiles) soon realising that their son Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), whom is not their real son at all, is an evil entity and hell-bent on their destruction. After Julia is killed by Damien’s recently employed Nanny Mrs Baylock (Mia Farrow) and he hears details of other suspicious deaths via photographer Keith Jennings (David Thewlis) Robert teams up with the said Jennings and sets about unravelling the mystery of his murderous son.

Even though this is a remake it is still worth checking out due to the aforementioned gory snippets and also to make a comparison with the exceptional original. It may fall short in many areas but I quite enjoyed the viewing as well as judging it against its parent production. A few 'names' add weight and if you can pick this one up cheaply then do so.

   

SCREAM 2

1997. Directed by Wes Craven

After my lack of belief in the first Scream film I watched this expecting little and in all honesty that is what I got - very little. The killer 'Ghost Face' is back and a new set of murders takes place but I still remain uninspired.

It is 2 years on and we are back in the town of Woodsboro where 'Ghost Face' caused so much chaos last time around. Here we find Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) trying to get their lives together and move things into more positive pastures. Fat chance! We begin this movie with a young couple attending a premier of the film ‘Stab’ which is based on the murders of two years ago written in the book by obnoxious reporting bint Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox). The couple are killed and our villain is back and soon on the tail of our heroine Prescott. The formulised ritual that follows is in parts comedic, in parts interesting but very rarely scary. The mock of convention is perhaps why I don't like this film and perhaps I am too much of a horror purist but that's how it is and this just doesn't appeal. 

Acting wise this is OK but atmosphere is pretty low and one can't shake off the overall 'piss-take' feeling throughout. Some adore, some abhor and some take it for what it is. I expected a great deal more and will check out film 3 in the series with no hope of improvement. We shall see!

   

HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER 2

1988. Directed by Tony Randell

Following on from the superb, and may I add classic Hellraiser, this film does well to make an impression and maintain the deep-rooted darkness found within the first movie. Familiar faces abound and a solid adventure is had with all areas meeting the essential horror criteria.

After the terrifying ordeal seen in Helllraiser we now find Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) in a mental institution run by the unhinged and beautifully sinister Dr Phillip Channard (Kenneth Cranham) and his sane and sensible assistant Kyle MacCrae (William Hope). Channard is something of a sensation seeking occultist who is obsessed with the Lament Configuration (a box that can open the portal to hell) and desires things beyond the flesh. It isn't long before his plans unravel and using a bloodied mattress from the Cotton household he resurrects the superbly erotic and evil Julia (Clare Higgins) whom he plans on using to access darker areas. All this is witnessed by Kyle whom reports back to Kirsty and so the film rattles on. Add into the mix a mute psychiatric case called Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) who is particularly adept at cracking puzzles and the battle between good and evil, the desperate and the deviant is on. It isn't long before the Cenobites enter the fray and then all Hell really does break loose.

Stunning imagery is used throughout, an unpredictable edge is maintained by a no-holds barred special effects show, gory details are added for the 'yuck' factor and strong acting performances strengthen the whole spectacle. The story is adequate and the human aspect of the Cenobites unexpected but what makes the film is the atmosphere that is consistent with its predecessor as well as the underlying erotica. Clive Barker must have been pleased with the results here and I recommend you enjoy this and seek out any other works on DVD by this stylish author as soon as possible.

   

THE WASP WOMAN

1959. Directed by Roger Corman

Pseudo-scientist and general mad man Dr Zinthrop (Michael Mark) has just been ousted from his regular job at a honey bee farm after spending too much time on a wasp enzyme that he believes has the power of rejuvenating youth. In the meantime Janice Starlin (Susan Cabot), the face of a successful cosmetics firm is feeling the aging process hit her business as well as her personal life with levels of status and prestige falling. When she hears of Zinthrop and his wonder drug she becomes intrigued, makes contacts and puts herself up as the initial guinea pig. After the first few injections Starlin drops years and looks fresher and feels great although several of her work colleagues notice the odd personality change and concerns are raised.

Regular injections are needed for Ms Starlin to stay young however the unfortunate Zinthrop gets run over by a car and is in a semi-comatose state and so leaving Starlin in a real desperate predicament. Needless to say she continues treatment by herself with disastrous and murderous consequences for all concerned and the film from here on in buzzes to the end with a fair level of activity

Cheap, unpretentious, loaded with stagey acting, lacking in any convincing effects, laden with poor dialogues and with a monster that is truly dire this is still a decent caper and the running time passes quite quickly if one is amused by a good old B-movie jaunt. When I picked this one up I knew what to expect and got just that - low budget nonsense that is pure escapism and there isn't anything wrong with that.

   

INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN
 
1956
.  Directed by Jack Pollexfen
 
A film that is straight of the bargain bucket but well worth your last few quid. Very much of the era with some nice atmosphere this follows a well-flogged formula with no real surprises but does have Chaney at the helm so what’s your gripe?

Charles 'Butcher' Benton (Lon Chaney) is a robber and murderer and is sentenced to death. Before his end he threatens those who have double-crossed him and vows to get his revenge. Benton is killed but by chance his body is taken by a local researcher for a strange experiment. Benton is revived after being submitted to a massive charge of electricity whereupon he kills the doctor and his assistant and sets off in search of the people who put one over on him. Now though Benton is a menacing mute (due to his vocal chords being burnt by the high voltages) with enhanced strength and therefore not a man to be trifled with.

There is something about cheapo movies when they are done so well that they retain the low budget feel but make for an entertaining romp. This is just such a film and as well as adding to your personal collection is one to reach out for now and again and enjoy the indestructible delights found therein.

   

CREEPSHOW 2
 
1987
.  Directed by Michael Gornick.
 
Another collection of short horror comic stories with a tongue in the cheek and a finger on the chill button very much the order of the day.  This time we have 3 tales that mix up the terrifying moments in between strange and bizarre tale telling with all 3 components highly entertaining and typically bizarre.
 
The opening tale 'Old Chief Wooden Head' deals with revenge and sees an elderly couple, Ray (George Kennedy) and Martha Spruce (Dorothy Lamour) just hanging on to their local store whilst the town around them as all but disappeared.  In a cruel moment they are held up, robbed and murdered with their attackers appearing to be clean away and set for a life of leisure in Hollywood.  Never discount the powers of Indian magic though and the determination of the stores mascot who adorns the front porch.  The next tale, entitled 'The Raft' is basically about 4 friends who get stoned and head off to a local lake for a bit of fun on a raft.  What transpires is ludicrous but ridiculously enthralling and you'll do well not to be amused by this saga of the sludge.  We close with 'The Hitchhiker', perhaps the most seediest and goriest yarn of the lot with yet another unethical character being given a good dose of comeuppance!  Adulteress Annie Lansing (Lois Chiles) hops out of her gigolo lover’s bed and hopes to get home to her wealthy husband and avoid any suspicion.  Unfortunately on the way home she knocks over a hitchhiker who refuses to just lie down and die!  The haunting becomes more bloodied by the minute and the fact that Lansing gets her true rewards is most gratifying.
 
The 3 above tales are separated by animated interludes which lock all parts together and so making the film one curious and unique adventure.  I like this franchise and the style of the films and find them to be one of the better forms of horror comedy.  Despite the restricting budget these efforts do work and as far as horror sequels go this is up there with its predecessor.

   

THE HOWLING

1981. Directed by Joe Dante

A film that speaks fond memories but during the most recent viewing fell rather flat on its vulpine face. Much was expected, much was missing but I suppose to be fair this was fairly groundbreaking in its day and so must be taken as such.

Newspaper lady Karen White (Dee Wallace) has a strange and scary encounter with a serial killer, Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo), and as a result ends up at a psychiatric rehabilitation centre, with her husband Bill Neill (Christopher Stone), run by the ever charming Dr George Waggner (Patrick Macnee). The inhabitants of the centre, known as 'The Colony' are slightly sinister and what one suspects becomes wholly apparent and takes away any real suspense the film has. One inhabitant Marsha Quist (Elisabeth Brooks) attempts to seduce Karen Whites husband but he refuses her sexual advances and on returning home is bitten by a wolf-like creature thus creating several openings for the film to progress. From here on in the plot does hold up and the dated effects, unique werewolf approach and neat touches retain ones interest.

This is worth getting but please do not expect a classic. It did what it did in its own time and should be respected for that and still has some good moments but overall there is a lack of atmosphere, a strange looseness to the plot and somehow the werewolves just don't look the part. Average and just off the pace of the genres frontrunners.

 

CHILD'S PLAY

1988. Directed by Tom Holland

A thoroughly enjoyable romp with plenty of scares and hey what comes more terrifying than a foul mouthed, short arsed, red headed doll that is soaked in pure evil.

It’s the birthday of young Andy Barclay and he desires one thing - a Good Guy Doll. After opening his presents and not getting his hearts desire his penniless mum Karen (Catherine Hicks) hears of a doll going cheap from a dubious street salesman hanging around near her workplace. She makes the purchase and returns home much to her sons delight but much to the family’s peril! Little do they know that the doll contains the soul and malevolent hatred of serial killer, The Lakeshore Strangler, Charles Lee Ray, (Brad Dourif). Lee Ray wants revenge on those who killed him in his human form and nothing will stand in his way, be they innocent or guilty.  Bring on the babysitter please!

This is a sincerely disturbing film revolving around a character who is underhand, remorseless and quite chilling. The whispered relationship between doll and boy are marvellously unhinged and the general pace of the film is swift and captivating. Somewhat a cult film now and an all round good effort with many sequels. Go get it and keep checking the toy cupboard - you just never know.

   
CHILD'S PLAY 2
 
1990.  Directed by John Lafia
 

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the toy store - here's Chucky. The red-haired devil is back complete with his foul mouth and evil intent and is on the look-out for a new body - enter Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) child star from the first movie and yet again the potential victim of the demonic doll.

After his mother has been committed Andy is now in a foster home and soon finds himself placed in the care of Joanne Simpson (Jenny Augutter) and Phil Simpson (Gerrit Graham) where he befriends Kyle (Christine Elise) who is also a foster child. Meanwhile Chucky is reconstructed by the original manufacturers which revives the soul of the killer Charles Lee Ray. It isn't long before Chucky is on the prowl for Andy and many a killing takes place along the way with imaginative effect.

This is far from ground-breaking, the whole atmosphere is as expected and the storyline is highly predictable but somehow it does hold attention. That darn doll is quite captivating and the crossover between innocence and evil is stark and perhaps the most winning aspect of the film. The acting isn't great despite a few names in the mix but you will do well to get bored with this. 

   

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