Tag Archives: gore o’clock

Psychos. Zombies. Pakistan.

hells-groundHELL’S GROUND

3 Stars  2007/18/78m

Director/Writer: Omar Ali Khan / Writer: Pete Tombs / Cast: Rooshanie Ejaz, Rubya Chaudhry, Haider Raza, Kunwar Ali Roshan, Osman Khalid Butt, Najma Malik, Sultan Billa, Saleem Meraj.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “He’s a shit-sweeper’s son and always will be!”

In a similar way to Indian Bollywood slasher Kucch to Hai, Pakistan’s entry into the genre, by way of a zombie B-movie, is a derivative little gem of a flick, reminiscent of a forgotten American 80s cheapo.

A quintet of city kids lie to their parents in order to drive their minivan to a rock festival. Unfortunately, their route takes them into the countryside, where toxic waste has contaminated the water supply and turned the locals into flesh eating zombies, one of which takes a chunk out of one of the teens. They flee and, after taking aboard and soon tossing out an unhinged hitcher, eventually break down deeper in the woods and fall victim to a burka-disguised, mace-swinging psychopath. There’s an old woman who may or may not be involved and, as the teens split up for various reasons, numbers are whittled down to good-girl Ayesha, who is forced to resort to a brutal counter attack in order to survive…

The film, titled Zibahkhana, in Urdu (the actors speak a mix of their native tongue and English throughout) has interesting cartoon-still inserts that fill in for uncertain turns in the story. There’s a cameo appearance by actor Rehan, who played Dracula in Paskistan’s 1967 version of that story.

Not for those averse to foreign imitators, this is a colourful distraction from the norm, especially the likes of Western 2007 remakes and jump-cut trash.

Disposable Youth

somekindofhatedvdSOME KIND OF HATE

2 Stars  2015/83m

Director/Writer: Adam Egypt Mortimer / Writer: Brian DeLeeuw / Cast: Ronen Rubinstein, Grace Phipps, Sierra McCormick, Spencer Breslin, Lexi Atkins, Brandon Eaton, Michael Polish, Maestro Harrell, Noah Segen, Dave Reeves, Andrew Bryniarski.

Body Count: 14-ish

Does horror cinema have a responsibility? Should it imitate life, comment, and analyse, or just serve up the grue?

Those are the questions nipping at me when I write up my thoughts on Some Kind of Hate, a well made indie slasher flick with core idea pretty much unseen anywhere else – but is it ‘okay’ to use the themes at hand for routine horror tropes?

So it goes, angsty bullied high schooler Lincoln does what all the books say and strikes back at his tormentor, slashing him with a piece of broken glass and is subsequently packed off to the Mind’s Eye Academy – a reform school ranch thingy in the middle of the desert. With no cellphone reception…

skof3In spite of all the Yoga and feelings spoken of by the three (!) staff members, Lincoln is still picked on by in-house asshole Willie and his lugs, who want to see how Lincoln will defend himself. It’s a cock war, pretty much.

Lincoln runs and hides, taking shelter in an old basement where he says aloud how he wishes they’d all just die, with inexplicably conjures up the walkin’ talkin’ ghost of a girl who killed herself in the same basement X-years earlier, bullied to the point of cutting herself to death.

skof2Ghostie girl – sadly not Frederica Krueger, but Moira – has the unique post-death talent of being a sort of voodoo doll for self-harming: She cuts herself, someone else bleeds. And this is how she does away first with Willie, then his friends, rapidly slashing her way through the teen occupants of the school.

Lincoln’s object of lust, Kaitlin, initially thinks he’s just making it up, an excuse to cover up the fact he did it, and when he tells Moira he no longer needs her services, Kaitlin steps up and girl and ghost share a bizarrely sexualised self-harmathon on a bed. This is where my eyebrow was raised in a quizzical “should they glamorise this stuff?” sorta way.

skof4As always happens in these films, those responsible for bullying Moira are still around, because if you’d caused a person to commit suicide, you wouldn’t move as far away as you could, you’d also take a job in the very place where it happened. Le sigh.

Some Kind of Hate dresses itself up in clichés of emo teens – all raven black hair that shrouds their face, the heaviest of heavy metal music, nonchalance in the face of death, but in doing so passes quite a glib comment on ‘the youth of today’. There’s absolutely no optimism, nothing for them to look forward to or strive for, just complain and/or blame someone or something else.

skohWhile the idea of a self-harming-by-proxy killer is interesting, any duty of care for the culture of mentally disturbed teenagers is virtually mocked, papered over by a cast of impossibly beautiful female cast members with shorts that creep to dangerous level up their thighs. It’s this stuff that apparently matters more than a balanced view or social comment on bullying or self-harming.

Back to the original question then, when should the brakes be applied? Is gritty, “real”, goes-on-everyday anguish an acceptable target to be used in this way? With sensitive handling, why not, but in that category, Some Kind of Hate should be packed off to reform school.

Needle is a far better death-by-voodoo-shit slasher.

Blurbs-of-interest: Noah Segan was in Chain Letter; Andrew Bryniarski played Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it’s prequel, and was also in The Curse of El Charro.

The Kids Aren’t Alright

deadkidsDEAD KIDS

3 Stars


“Good kids turned killers!”

A.k.a. Strange Behavior; Human Experiments; Small Town Massacre

Director/Writer: Michael Laughlin / Writer: Bill Condon / Cast: Michael Murphy, Louise Fletcher, Dan Shor, Fiona Lewis, Arthur Dignam, Dey Young, Marc McClure, Scott Brady, Charles Lane, Beryl Te Wiata, Jim Boelson.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “Here are the files from the college: 135 overweight girls.”

Strange Behavior is probably the best known title for this New Zealandianianian production, but Dead Kids is just too good a name. It’s like the producers thought “why bother with a calendar date or some schmancy As Night Falls pretense… let’s just call it what it is!”

Anyway, this is anything but your average guy-with-a-weapon fare, although things begin with a teenager in a house when the power goes out, but it soon morphs into a sorta Frankenstein Meets Friday the 13th situation, as the local teen populace of Galesburg, Illinois (though clearly NZ) who have volunteered in a weird mind-control experiment, are programmed to kill various locals.

Why this is happening isn’t crystal (lake) clear, but from the trivial dialogue scenes, we can piece together just enough to implicate an eeeeeevil scientist who was thought to be dead, probably taking revenge on the most influential families in town (mayor, police chief etc). There are more characters than necessary, many of whom appear only for a couple of lines before never again contributing to the story but are considered (by the credits at least) to be the main players

There are still some neat scenes and a good, if obvious, twist. The blood flows like wine at a Strictly Come Dancing season premiere party for 40-something women, most notably when the neighbourhood babysitter-cum-busybody drops in to make a snack for an 11-year-old, whom she finds in the bathtub being carved up by a teenage girl. Kudos for the malice – not many films would have the stones to show that on screen.

Look out also for the cringe-tastic dance routine at the party, which rivals any of the dreadful moves that Jamie Lee Curtis and Casey Stevens donned in Prom Night.

A quirky, weird experience of a film, but one worth seeing either way.

Blurb-of-interest: Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen!) was in Pandemonium.

Quite a long review of Freddy vs Jason


3 Stars  2003/18/93m

“Even a killer has something to fear.”

Director: Ronny Yu / Writers: David S. Goyer, Damian Shannon & Mark Swift / Cast: Robert Englund, Monica Keena, Kelly Rowland, Jason Ritter, Ken Kirzinger, Christopher George Marquette, Brendan Fletcher, Lochlyn Munro, Katharine Isabelle, Kyle Labine, David Kopp, Jesse Hutch, Paula Shaw, Tom Butler.

Body Count: at least 24

Laughter Lines: “I’ve got some good advice for you. Coffee. Make friends with it.”

I’m just gonna say it: Jason came first, his name should be first. New Line, Schmyoo Line.

The concept of Freddy Krueger facing off against Jason Voorhees was every fanboy’s dream back in the 80s when it was first pitched. Though I always considered Jason vs Michael Myers as a more viable outing, as both exist in the ‘real’ world.

Back in 1988 when the concept was first suggested, squabbles between Schmyoo Line and Paramount knocked it on the head and, instead, Jason was pit against a telekinetic teenager in the seventh Friday, The New Blood, to ever-profitable but diminishing box office receipts, while Freddy hit his peak offing the remaining Elm Street kids in the then-ridiculously-successful fourth Elm Street outing, The Dream Child.

fvj-freddyAs the decade ended and people got bored of the same-old-same-old, Schmyoo Line purchased the rights to the Jason franchise and everybody supposed this would be the time the two would finally meet. But like a romance doomed to fail, it was still not meant to be, and, instead, Schmyoo Line ended both series in 1991 and 93 respectively, although Jason Goes to Hell was polished off with the coda of a razor-fingered glove dragging the hockey mask into the earth, suggesting anything was still possible.

In the 90s, when Freddy’s sire Wes Craven re-invented the slasher wheel with Scream, the idea was floated again. Although Michael Myers was rejuvenated along self-referential lines in 1998, audiences seemed to be more into earth-bound concepts of regular people going nuts and killing a bunch of folk, as witnessed by the you-upset-me motives across the Scream / I Know What You Did Last Summer / Urban Legend spectrum of loons. No room for dream demons and unkillable mama’s boys.

fvj-cornfield-stonersOnce again, the genre petered out thanks to the olde logjam effect, including the ill-conceived and ill-received attempt to put Jason is space for his tenth venture (eighth, if we’re going to be pedantic), which opened in 2002. However, something good clearly had come from all this (if anyone knows what it was, please write me), because in 2003 the fifteen-year-old idea only went into motherfucking production!

How? We squawked, how will Freddy and Jason exist in the same realm? From the gazillions of spec-scripts ranging from a cult that worships Jason to characters like Tommy Jarvis and Alice Johnson returning, the eventual choice was an impressively simple proposition…

fvj-freddy-markPeter Jackson – that Peter Jackson – offered up a script for 1991’s Freddy’s Dead in which the disempowered Krueger wasn’t scary enough to haunt anybody’s dreams and so teens sought him out in their slumber to kick his ass. Part of the concept held up; in FvJ Freddy has indeed been successfully banished by the residents of Springwood thanks to a concoction of Hypnocil-doping the teen population and never mentioning his name, so no fear can spread = no bad dreams = no deaths.

Irked by this resolution, Freddy engineers a plan of his own and, posing as Mrs Voorhees, resurrects the undead Jason, sending him off to Springwood to cause a bit of mayhem that will, he hopes, instil a near fear into the teen populace that will allow him to return and slash anew.

fvj-2picsThis all goes well until Jason continues killing anybody and everybody, and Freddy realises he needs to be removed from the picture. Caught in the middle of the mess is the usual group of mostly-doomed teens: Doe-eyed Lori, who lives at 1428 Elm Street, her BFF Kia (Rowland, of RnB shriekers Destiny’s Child), Lori’s until-recently institutionalized beau Will, and a few others who matter less, although special mention should go to their drug n’ booze loving friend, Gibb (Isabelle, fresh out of Ginger Snaps).

Freddy manipulates his way into destroying the town’s stockpile of Hypnocil that the kids make a bid for, and tranqs Jason in order to penetrate his dreams. The teens take Jason’s zonked body off to Camp Crystal Lake in the hope of bringing Freddy across to the real world (the same way Nancy did in the original that nobody thought of in any of the sequels) where they will hopefully occupy each other and leave Springwood alone.

fvj-trey-markThe final third of the films descends into WWE anarchy, with the two going at each other for what seems like an eternity of machete slashes, razor stabs, impalings, limb-removal, and even decapitation. It’s liberally bloody, increasingly wearisome, and 100% stupid.

While the film wisely adopts to parody itself before anyone else can, thanks largely to Ronny Yu’s direction after his mini-miracle with Bride of Chucky, it’s dumb even by slasher movie standards: Dialogue is persistently overwrought to explain what we can see occurring on screen as if the audience is going to be too mentally challenged to comprehend for themselves…


Not quite Laurie, Annie, and Lynda, but the FvJ girls are appealing leads

Example: The first teen to encounter Freddy in a dream gets away unscathed and has to utter the lines “I’m alright! I’m OK!” followed by Freddy saying “Not strong enough yet…” Yeah. We kinda realised that. Later, the depleting teen posse look up Hypnocil online to see what it does. The screen we’re shown says ‘Suppress your dreams’ in big letters, yet the character reading from the screen mentions this last, after a load of inconsequential gobbledegook, despite the fact it’s written in huge font in front of everyone!

IQ-assumptions notwithstanding, the film works best before the two face off. Although Freddy only succeeds in slashing one victim for the whole movie, the dream sequences are good, as are the early murders dealt out by Jason, and the Scooby Doo meeting (and van!) the teens use was amusing. There are countless nods to earlier films in both series (something Halloween completely opted out of), with Westin Hills Psych Hospital back after the Dream Warriors, young Jason is seen with a sack put over his head by nasty campers, although Camp Crystal Lake seen as an untouched 50s relic was strange considering all of the films were set from 1979 onwards.

fvj-dockUltimately entertaining and operating as promised, not to mention phenomenally successful, outperforming all previous installments in both franchises combined. What Freddy vs Jason lacks in subtlety and scares (virtually everything), it makes up for in enthusiasm and loyalty to both sets of earlier films, wherever possible.

Blurbs-of-interest: Robert Englund’s other slasher flicks include Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Heartstopper, Hatchet, The Phantom of the Opera, and Urban Legend; Katharine Isabelle was in Bones and See No Evil 2; Jesse Hutch was also in The Tooth Fairy; Ken Kirzinger was a stuntman in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, and acted in Wrong Turn 2, and Stan Helsing (as the Jason rip-off, ‘Mason’); Lochlyn Munro was also in The Tooth Fairy, Scary Movie, and Hack! (with Kane Hodder).

Valley of the (not so) Cheapjack Franchises: The Texas Chainsaw Remakes

Probably unpopularly, all of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre canon ranks as one of my least favourite series’ in horror. The 1974-1994 set (plus that godawful 2013 instalment) do next to nothing for me, but what of the Platinum Dunes/Michael Bay ‘re-imaginings’?



3.5 Stars  2003/18/95m

“What you know about fear…doesn’t even come close.”

Director: Marcus Nispel / Writer: Scott Kosar / Cast: Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Erica Leerhsen, Jonathan Tucker, Mike Vogel, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, Terrence Evans, Marietta Marich.

Body Count: 7

Michael Bay has much to answer for, and I imagine a mob of horror fans would crucify him for being the poster boy of the remake era, which was a quiet zone of horror filmmaking around 2003, until the announcement of a “re-imagining” of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Twelve years on, it’s an easy equation to comprehend. The 1974 film was notorious, banned in numerous countries, and had a name that is far more suggestive than any of the content. Sooner or later, someone was going to say “Enough with sequels! Remake it!”

Fortunately for me, I have no strong feelings towards the original. I first saw it at a midnight screening in the late 90s and it was a headache of a film. My friend turned to me halfway through and said: “This is probably the most fucked up thing I’ve ever seen.” I found it entertaining enough, but not the monstrosity we all expected (same with The Exorcist, which also lost its UK ban in the same time period), and nothing I really cared about seeing again.

Authentic 70s names: Erin, Andy, Pepper, Morgan, Kemper

Our authentic 70s characters: Erin, Andy, Pepper, Morgan, Kemper

The 2003 over-do remains traceably loyal to the ‘true’ story: A van of five teenagers, on their way back from Mexico and on to see Lynyrd Skynyrd, roll into a nightmare. Stopping to help out a girl walking down the road is the grave error they make, as she wastes little time in putting a pistol in her mouth. They find that summoning help is difficult and the locals seem less than fazed about their dilemma, one which they soon argue about: Leave the body and scram, or wait for help?

From here, the Dead Teenager conventions come into play: Two of the group go to the creepy house nearby where one vanishes, looking for him reveals Leatherface, who gives chase wielding the titular weapon. Toss in the imitation-Sheriff (inimitably played by R. Lee Ermey), who the kids wrongly trust, and they sink deeper into the nightmare.


Before long it’s all down to off-the-marks final girl Erin (Biel), whose luck just keeps getting worse: Everybody she calls on for help is part of the extended family of loons, and she’s soon at their mercy until she manages to escape. From there, it’s abrasive cat and mouse scenes as Leatherface stalks her through the woods, an abandoned shack, eventually to the abattoir.

Whereas the old film pre-dated our understanding of killed-one-by-one plot structure, and is therefore only arguably a slasher film at all, there is no such uncertainty in the remake: We know Erin is going to be the last one standing, we know the others will be laid to waste (it’s just a case of picking the order in which they go), and we hope she’s able to exact a gruesome revenge on her captors.


So everything works on a mechanical level, but the over-stylized look of the film begins to work against it after awhile, and the fact that Wrong Turn had been released just a few months earlier hoovers up much of the ‘originality’ of the ‘re-imagining': Dirt, grime, rednecks who don’t give a shit.

Everything is very dark and earthy, supposedly to give it an authentic look, but at times it goes too far, while it clashes with the youngsters, who aren’t convincingly ’70s kids’ at all, no matter if you deduct cellphones and brand names, the language they use and even their names are too contemporary to wash. Gunnar Hansen – the original Leatherface – pointed out that the film was shot at chest-level to keep Jessica Biel’s bust in the frame as much as possible, not to mention the moments where her white blouse gets very, very wet.


Roger Ebert famously gave this film a rare no-stars, and his reasoning is valid enough, but it’s still a solid remake, not too entrenched in the cynicism which was to come with every other horror title they began stuffing through the machine. It’s just that they ‘re-imagined’ it with too little subtlety, so it’s more of a box-ticking exercise than a grafted horror experience.

Blame it for ushering in the dawn of the remake, but enjoy it for breaking out of the tame, studio-slick horror that was beginning to wane in the wake of Scream.




2 Stars 2006/18/92m

“Witness the birth of fear.”

Director: Jonathan Liebesman / Writers: Sheldon Turner & David J. Schow / Cast: Jordana Brewster, Matthew Bomer, Diora Baird, Taylor Handley, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, Lee Tergesen, Terrence Evans, Marietta Marich, Kathy Lamkin, Cyia Batten, Lew Temple.

Body Count: 10

While I remember going to see this at the movies with my pal Earl, I don’t remember buying the DVD, but there it was on my shelf, possibly unwatched.

As the 2003 film ended the trail of horror left by Leatherface and the Hewitts, the only logical next step to cash-in on its success was to go back… back to “The Beginning”. Ish.

Starting with a very brief 1939-set intro that sees Thomas Hewitt born in a meat-packing factory, while the credits whirr, there are old sepia photos and doctor’s notes about his deformity and within minutes it’s 1969 and Tommy loses his job at the slaughterhouse when it’s closed down as the town dies (economically, it’s not chainsawed to pieces).


He flips and kills the owner, leading to his clan intervening and ultimately shooting the local Sheriff (“the only law enforcement left”) and taking up cannibalism in the blink of an eye.

Elsewhere, a jeep of two couples heading to Austin where brothers Eric and Dean are going to enlist and be carted off to Vietnam, hurtles towards the Hewitt residence. With their girlfriends in tow for one last weekend of fun, it all goes to shit when they’re accosted by a motorcycling robber, hit a cow at high speed, and crash.

They believe they’re in luck when ‘the Sheriff’ turns up almost immediately, but when he guns down the would-be robber, something seems just a bit more than ‘off’. Eric’s girlfriend, Chrissie, was hurtled into the long grass in the crash and hides while her friends are assaulted and driven away to be tortured and eaten.


The rest of the film is largely a re-tread (pre-tread?): Chrissie sneaks her way into the house to try and save them, but is too late and eventually ends up caught and invited to dinner, in a scene reminiscent of the 1974 film that was never ‘re-imagined’ into the remake. So samey is it, that she’s chased through the woods to the slaughterhouse for the finale! And, being that we know the Hewitts weren’t caught for a few more years, things don’t look good for anybody surviving this one.

Production values are high, as before, this time with Jonathan Liebesman’s slightly more grounded direction, but whatever appealed to me in 2006 has since gone: Watching the film in 2015 was a pure endurance test. On the one hand it brings nothing new to the table, a few explanations of character attributes aren’t reason enough to make a whole new movie, and it also made contact with, and crossed, my ‘line’.


My ‘line’ exists where fun entertainment ends and cruelty begins. While the 2003 film wasn’t exactly doing cartwheels of joy, it was exhilarating without being stupidly violent; Here, the film practically revels in demonstrating how gross it is, with peeled off faces, blood rain, chainsaw vivisections… But not an ounce of a good time. A scene in which a dying character says they can no longer feel their limbs and are cold is upsetting, not exhilarating.

Plenty of people will say “well, that’s real horror” etc., but horror is like comedy – we all find different things acceptable or funny. A horror film without the re-equilibrium is just depressing, which is why the first one gets a pass and this doesn’t. There’s no element of mystery or surprise, and rooting for a survivor is futile – The Beginning is just killing for the sake of it.

The film skates over how quickly the family turns from struggling to evil, embracing their newfound cannibalism in what must be no longer than twenty-four hours, and the script makes Ermey the focal point over and above both Leatherface and the tormented teenagers, unable to realise that what made him so good before was moderation. He’s a one-liner away from Freddy Krueger levels of camp at times.


In the much thinner plus column, Jordana Brewster is a solid heroine, slightly more believable than Jessica Biel was as a child of the time. She has an opportunity to escape without being detected, but is loyal that she goes back to try and save a friend she can hear screaming elsewhere. It’s that pivot scene that tells us a lot about her character – she’s admirably unselfish, regardless of the eventual cost.

A depressing experience in all, although better than the original sequels and the 2013 film, serving only to compound my resistance to this series as a whole: It’s just not very good.

Blurbs-of-interest: Erica Leerhsen was also in Wrong Turn 2 (ha!) and Lonely Joe; Terrence Evans was in The Pumpkin Karver; Diora Baird was in the even worse Stan Helsing; Lee Tergesen was in The Collection; Cyia Batten was in Killer Movie; Andrew Bryniarski was in The Curse of El Charro; Marcus Nispel directed the Friday the 13th remake; Jonathan Liebesman directed Darkness Falls.

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