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Showing posts from May, 2011

Happy Centenary Vincent Price!

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Born this day one hundred years ago, Vincent Price was an actor renowned for his distinctive voice, wryly theatrical performances and flamboyantly gothic horror films throughout the 60s and 70s. What better way to celebrate the velvet-voiced Price’s centenary than to settle back, raise a glass of something shockingly red and full-bodied and treat your eyes (and ears) to one of his many atmospheric and cobweb-hewn gothic masterpieces. But where to begin?? I’ve made a list of some of my favourite Vincent Price films - this isn’t a selection of his best films; merely some of the ones I love most and ones that have ensured my admiration of him so much as an actor and a sophisticated master of the macabre.

House on Haunted Hill(1959). Eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren (Vincent Price) has invited five carefully selected strangers to a ‘haunted house’ party and promises to pay whoever stays in the house for the whole night $10,000 dollars. With no way of contacting the outside world, the …

Happy Birthday Sir Christopher Lee!

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Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE, CStJ – who turns 89 today - really needs no introduction. Born in 1922, he is well known for his portrayal of various exquisite villain-types throughout the years, particularly Count Dracula in the fabulously gothic Hammer Horror films of the 60s and 70s. Despite having performed in over 266 films since 1948 – a fact which gains him an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most film acting roles ever – one of the films he is most proud of is Robin Hardy’s pagan folk horror, The Wicker Man (1973). Lee plays Lord Summerisle, the leader of a small pagan community not averse to ritualistically sacrificing virgin coppers from the mainland in order to help their failing crops.

Lee was knighted in 2009 and received the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011. Some of his more recent film work includes Hammer’s latest excursion into dark matters The Resident, medieval action-horror Season of the Witch, body-snatching horror-comedy Burke and Ha…

Happy Birthday Peter Cushing!

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Today is Peter Cushing’s birthday! One of the most recognisable faces of Hammer Horror, Mr Cushing was born on 26 May 1913 and is well known for his portrayals of Baron Frankenstein and Dr. Van Helsing, often appearing opposite his best friend Christopher Lee. If you’re planning on watching some Peter Cushing films later, why not enhance your viewing pleasure by preparing one of the recipes below – personal favourites of Mr Cushing himself...

Peter Cushing's Pain - Grille Brule
From the book "The Cook Book of the Stars" - Copyright 1983

"It is surprising how my passion for this delicacy will not be taken seriously. Even the best Maitre d'Hotel - possibly because of that - smiles indulgently and serves the usual rack of something that looks (and tastes) like white flannelette - made of rubber.

Place 1-2 slices (according to appetite) of brown bread under a grill set 'high'. When flames appear, it is done. Reverse until the other side cries for mercy. Do…

Stonehenge Apocalypse

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2010
Dir. Paul Ziller

When Jacob Glaser, a disgraced award-winning scientist turned conspiracy theorist and pseudo-science radio talk show host, is alerted to unusual electromagnetic energy fields occurring throughout the globe, his initial investigations lead him to Stonehenge. Somehow, the stones have begun to move independently and are building up enough energy to vaporise humans within a certain range. Jacob’s theory is that Stonehenge is the key part of a massive alien terraforming machine connected to other historical sites around the world that are now in the process of modifying the planet for new forms of life, to the detriment of humans!

Meanwhile, in the US state of Maine, a former colleague of Jacob’s has discovered an underground pyramid linked to the ongoing events at Stonehenge and is actively working towards the destruction of mankind in the hopes that he and his followers can survive the coming apocalypse and be the rulers of the next era of life on earth. When Jacob…

The Bat

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1959
Dir. Crane Wilbur

Murder-mystery author Cornelia van Gorder rents a country mansion for the summer while its owner, bank manager Mr Fleming, is on an extended hunting trip. Unbeknownst to Cornelia and her faithful PA Lizzie, Fleming has been embezzling bank bonds worth one million dollars, and hidden them in the manor. The women and their guests are menaced by a notorious killer dubbed 'The Bat' - who uses steel-clawed gloves to tear out the throats of his victims and will stop at nothing to get his hands on the loot!

The Bat is based on the 1920 Broadway play of the same name by Avery Hopwood and Mary Roberts Rinehart. It was previously filmed by Roland West in 1926 as The Bat and as The Bat Whispers in 1930. Its stage origins are evident in the sets and locations, mainly limited to a couple of rooms in the seemingly sprawling mansion.
The premise of a mystery writer renting a big house in the country while the surrounding area is gripped in queasy panic by a crazed ma…

Red Canyon

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2008
Dir. Giovanni Rodriquez

Several years after experiencing a traumatic event in their hometown, siblings Regina and Devon, along with a few of their friends, go back to sell off their late mother’s house. Ever since the incident took place, Regina has experienced flashbacks and is easily spooked. In order to face her fears, she returns to the nearby cave where the horror first began. Little does she know, what she discovers there will only worsen her deep-rooted terror, as a brutal assailant begins to shoot, slice, chop and stab his way through her friends…

At the heart of Red Canyon is an interesting premise. The idea of returning to a place from childhood that was the source of great trauma is one pregnant with dark promise. Intrigue is established early on, particularly through Regina’s flashbacks scattered throughout the narrative, and while director Rodriquez’s direction exhibits a number of deft moments, the befuddled screenplay tends to detract from what should be a compel…

Short Film Showcase: Crestfallen

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2011
Dir. Jeremiah Kipp

Director Jeremiah Kipp follows up his stark and unsettling brood-fest Contact – a Cronenbergian meditation on addiction and paranoia – with a similarly provocative short focusing on a young woman’s suicide bid and the myriad instances and thoughts that have led to it.

Much like the scene in The Rules of Attraction in which a young woman slips into death’s embrace by slitting her wrists in a warm bath, Crestfallen captures the painfully wrought moment in an abstract, lyrically beautiful way that, while poetic, doesn’t lessen the impact. An ethereal atmosphere is conjured with shards of sunlight streaming through a window into the darkened world of the woman (Deneen Melody). As the life bleeds out of her and swirls into the bathwater, we are privy to her equally swirling thoughts.

Unfolding as a series of disarming and striking images, Crestfallen is tentative in its observation of shattered dreams and submerges us deep within her trauma. While not strictly a…

Grindhouse Horror Double Bill In Belfast

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Local indie production company Yellow Fever Films are hosting a Grindhouse movie double bill in Belfast’s Black Box on Sunday 15th May, with a screening of The Knackery and Isle of the Damned.

The Knackery is the eponymous extreme reality TV show in which a group of contestants prepare to fight to the death. With a reward of £1 million for the last player left standing, the stakes are high. They are raised even higher when a horde of flesh hungry, genetically modified zombies are unleashed to liven things up a bit… Unspooling as a vicious satire on reality TV, The Knackery poses the pointed question - How far will producers go to entertain their audiences? The pitch black humour and caustic parodying of reality TV echoes the likes of Series 7: The Contenders, Dead Set and The Running Man; whilst its tongue may be in cheek – it is wedged there pointedly.

Next up is the banned-in-492-countries grit-fest, Isle of the Damned! Private Investigator Jack Steele is hired by a mysterious tre…

Dead Hooker In A Trunk

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2010
Dirs. Jen & Sylvia Soska

Four friends set out on an errand and end up in a fight for their lives when they discover the body of a dead hooker in the trunk of their car. The ragtag group must put aside their differences to dispose of the body and evade attempts on their lives by shadowy underworld figures, corrupt police, a sleazy motel manager, chainsaw wielding triads, and a brutal serial killer.

Energetic, oddball and effortlessly cool, the tantalizingly titled Dead Hooker In A Trunk is one of a few current films boasting impossibly exploitative titles that hark back to sleazy grindhouse flicks of the past. But can it live up to the promise of that title? Unfolding as a love letter to exploitation movies, the feature debut from Canadian twin sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska is an anarchic and eccentric road movie that subverts expectations and doesn’t stop for breath until its surprisingly poignant ending. That it has an unexpectedly big heart, and is a statement about the dy…

Sweatshop

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2009
Dir. Stacy Davidson

Charlie has a reputation as the promoter of the hippest and edgiest Dark Wave parties in town. In an enormous vacant warehouse situated on the edge of the city, she and her friends gather to set up an explosive rave without attracting unwanted attention. But someone, or something, is already watching… Unknown to the fun-seeking ravers, an inhuman beast resides within the confines of the warehouse armed with a mammoth weapon that serves only one purpose: to end the lives of those who trespass within its lair. Charlie had hoped this party would be the best she’d ever thrown – now it looks like it may be her last!

Another month, another straight to DVD ‘torture-porn’ flick featuring the innards of poorly developed characters getting sloshed across our screen. Sweatshop is by far one of the most rudimentarily scripted of the bunch. It also boasts some of the most inexcusable characters in recent memory, but it somehow manages to set itself slightly apart from th…

Faust: Love of the Damned

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2000
Dir. Brian Yuzna

When John Jaspers’ girlfriend is brutally murdered by a gang of thugs he loses the will to live and plans to kill himself by jumping off a bridge. Just before he jumps he is approached by the sinister "M" who offers a dubious proposition: he will enable Jaspers to wreck brutal revenge in return for the man’s soul. Jaspers accepts and is transformed into Faust, a demon-like superhero who embarks on a bloody trail of vigilante vengeance… However when “M” returns to claim Jaspers’ soul, all hell breaks loose when Faust refuses to stick to the bargain.

“I am the pornography that makes you hot!”

Based on the graphic novel by David Quinn and Tim Vigil, Faust was the first film produced by Brian Yuzna’s Spanish-based production company, Fantastic Factory. Something of an oddity, the film is, if anything, an interesting attempt to approach the super-hero movie from a slightly different angle. The notion of an avenging demon is a tantalising one akin to the lik…

Arachnid

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2001
Dir. Jack Sholder

A man is taken to a hospital in Guam with mysterious bite marks on him. This sparks a search for what could have caused such wounds. A small group of doctors and scientist-types are flown to the island he lived on to investigate by tough, straight-talkin’ pilot-chick, Mercer. Needing to make an emergency landing due to technical difficulties, the group become stranded and a brief exploration reveals the island is strangely deserted. Before long the group realise, to their horror, natch, what caused the bites… Strange new breeds of killer arachnids! From outer space! Or something.

Bad CGI aliens! Giant spiders from outer space! Cheesy dialogue! Macho posturing with big guns! Alex Reid! On the surface, Arachnid has everything a great B-movie should have and one could be forgiven for expecting a tongue-in-cheek irreverent romp. What becomes apparent though is that Arachnid actually takes itself quite seriously. Director Sholder never manages to muster much suspen…

House of Wax

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1953
Dir. André De Toth

This month marks the centenary of the velvet-voiced Vincent Price. Born on May 27, 1911, Price would have turned 100 years old this month. What more reason could you possibly need to revisit one of his classic chillers… Like House of Wax!

In House of Wax, Price plays oddball wax sculptor Henry Jarrod, who seemingly perishes when his financial partner deliberately sets their wax museum on fire, intending to claim the insurance money. Miraculously, he survives with severe injuries, and builds a new wax museum. His "Chamber of Horrors" exhibition coincides with bizarre deaths and the disappearance of bodies from the local morgue. Could it be that Jarrod’s waxworks are the wax-coated bodies of his victims? Of course it is! When Jarrod notices a startling resemblance between down-on-her Sue Allen and his wax model of Marie Antoinette, which perished in the fire, he intends to dunk her in wax and immortalise her in his museum… Cue much maniacal laughter i…