Tag Archives: Rule Brittania!

STAGKNIGHT

stagknightSTAGKNIGHT

3 Stars  2007/79m

“Sex, drugs, guns and one killer knight out…”

Director: Simon Cathcart / Writers: Simon Cathcart & Rob Mercer / Cast: Simeon Willis, James Hillier, Jocelyn Osorio, Sandra Dickinson, Martin Bayfied, Simon Cathcart, Brian McNeill, Joe Montana, J.C. Mac, Jason Hyde, Harry Athwal, Tony Tang, Danielle Mason, Santos De Castro.

Body Count: 11

First-rate Fatality: Sword through the mouth and out the arse! Ouch.


Recently, I had the disctinct displeasure of watching a Brit-slasher flick called Small Town Folk. It was a vignette stretched to feature length that required a stretch of patience to get through it. So, when sitting down to watch StagKnight last night I had similar reservations.

Blissfully, StagKnight looks like Halloween by comparison. Evidently shot with next to no budget in place, financial constraints are compensated for by a quirky sense of humour and a central premise so very simple it’s a wonder nobody has ever tackled  it in horror before now.

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Dorky historian Brian’s stag night with the Weekend Warriors’ paintball team is taking place around the back of nowhere at an inn owned by sub-wiccan Fay (Dickinson) and her Egor-like son William (ex-rugby giant Bayfield). She tricks the group into performing a chant that resurrects a Templar Knight and subsequently opens up access to a cauldron of eternal life-serum or some such twaddle. It’s never made clear really. But we’re strictly here for the slashing…

After they’re bored of the strippers and pranks, the guys opt for a nightgame of Paintball and split into two teams to enter the woods where, of course, our Templar Knight is waiting with his big sword. Meanwhile, reluctant stripper Blossom is cast early into the nightmare when she and the crazy driver crash into the Knight’s tomb and she escapes wearing an important artefact that will assist in Fay’s plan to get to the cauldron.

The Knight soon begins taking out the players in a variety of ways until the inevitable showdown in the tomb. Victims are impaled, skewered, have their faces punched to oblivion and choked on paintballs. It’s impressive but the dim lighting and CG-mist makes things difficult to see from time to time and we never get a really good look at the Knight himself.

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Bayfield and Dickinson are good, as is Willis as Brian and James Hillier as the sleazy exec-type. The crowded background cast have less to do with their one-note roles, including Korean guy, American guy, comedy Indian guy and camp gay bloke, but serve their purpose as Knight-fodder well enough for it not to matter. With a larger wad of cash at its disposal, StagKnight could have been on a par with Shaun of the Dead and is currently in limbo awaiting a DVD release. At least it never tempts you to hit fast forward which is more than can be said for a lot of contemporary horror comedies. A fun little timewaster and maybe a predecessor to HenKnight with a gun-toting bride?

Blurb-of-interest: James Hillier was Spencer in Long Time Dead.

KILLER’S MOON

KILLER’S MOON

2 Stars 1978/18/89m

“One endless night of terror!”

Director/Writer: Alan Birkinshaw / Cast: Anthony Forrest, Tom Marshall, Georgina Kean, Alison Elliott, Jane Hayden, Jean Reeve, Nigel Gregory, David Jackson, Paul Rattee, Peter Spraggon, Elizabeth Counsell, Jo-Anne Good.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “One minute you’re a person, then you’re a sheep…all covered in blood.”


I was born in 1978. The year of Halloween, Grease and…uh…Killer’s Moon, a film possibly even more fucked up than The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. ‘Ooh, I must see it!’ you may crow. But wait, remain in your seat with the belt fastened, for this is not a recommendation by any means. Tobe Hooper’s film is screwy in a truly horrific way. Killer’s Moon is shot to pieces. It’s like that mental middle-aged woman in accounts who talks gibberish on eleven different subjects at once.

It’s part Clockwork Orange, part exploitation trash and part girls’ school comedy. Said schoolgirls are in fact a choir travelling through the Lake District – yes, it’s 70s England! – when their bus conks out and they take refuge in a secluded hotel. Meanwhile, we learn that four nutters have broken free of an institute and, thanks for a new type of therapy, believe they’re dreaming.

The loonies eventually crash the big sleepover to rip off blouses, rape and strangle any jailbait they can get their grubby mits on. They abduct others and force them to…prepare food for them! OH MY GOD! The depravity! Sooner or later, a couple of camping buddies team up with the girls to escape and reap their revenge.

Author Fay Weldon rewrote much of the girls’ dialogue but some of what comes out of their mouths is unbelievable. We start off with; “I just want to die and get it all over.” Fine, stupid, but fine. But later, proto-heroine Agatha turns to a friend of hers and tells her: “Look – you were only raped. As long as you don’t tell anyone you’ll be fine.” Only raped!?!? By an insane escaped convict, no less! Oh, don’t worry Lucy, all is well, just internalise the anxiety for the next sixty years and all shall remain just tickety-boo.

Whether or not Killer’s Moon is supposed to be humorous is debatable. It could be that it just sucks. Characters don’t question anything they’re told, trust absolutely anyone and spit venomous insults akin to “you’re just horrible!” at the killers as if they’re all at a seventh birthday party. Throw in a random three-legged dog who saves the day, indifference to bodily violation and nightgowns so cheaply made they simply fall off in a passing breeze and you’ve got one of the weirdest 89 minutes one could hope to experience… Approach with caution.

Blurb-of-interest: Birkinshaw later directed a slasher remake of The Masque of the Red Death, which is immeasurably better.

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LONG TIME DEAD

3.5 Stars  2002/15/90m

Director: Marcus Adams / Writers: Marcus Adams, Eitan Arussi, Chris Baker, Daniel Bronzite, Andy Day, James Gay-Rees / Cast: Alec Newman, Marsha Thomason, Joe Absolom, James Hillier, Lukas Haas, Lara Belmont, Mel Raido, Melanie Gutteridge, Tom Bell, Michael Feast.

Body Count: 10


Ouija boards…evil ancestors of Monopoly and Cluedo. Everybody knows someone who’s friend Claire dabbled and then went mental. Scary stories are almost as common as people who say sod all happened.

Having learned nothing from Linda Blair’s experiences and probably never even having heard of the fab homage to 80s hair-don’ts that is Witchboard, eight London students discussing the most exhilerating things they’ve gotten up to decide to try a little seance for kicks with a homemade Ouija. When the message from the other side is a less than encouraging ‘All Die’, one of them breaks the pre-assigned rule of removing his finger from the glass while the cross-plains call is still in progress…

According to the spiritually-learned Lucy, the Djinn – as it identifies itself – is now locked on their side of the divide. It quickly does away with one of them and subsequently begins offing the rest, leaving scorch marks on each victim, because it’s… a fire demon!

What!?

No, really, it is.

ltd-seance2Anyway, the group sink into a depression, which, in true Brit-grit style, is nicely realised by the less-than-pristine set pieces and hints at the respective lifestyles of the characters; open to drugs, chronic smokers, short-fused and untrustworthy. This is one thing that distinguishes British horror from American and it’s used to good effect in Long Time Dead, although it could be a turn-off to others, an overused cliche thanks to the rinse n’ repeat tactics of the Guy Ritchie brethren.

Take it or leave it… none of the kids here are particularly sympathetic. Liam, bereaved boyfriend of the first victim, is set up as the moral centre for viewer identification, possibly due to the hallucinations that bother him during the seance, which we know are going to play a part down the line. His buddies Rob, Webster, Joe and Spence round out the largely indistinguishable guy cast, while Lucy, Stella and Annie are apparently best friends who barely have any scenes together.

The middle section of things is a deathfest, as the group learns what they can from creepy landlord Becker – who has a convenient fascination with the occult, from the camcorder footage token American Webster (the cute mouse that is Lukas Haas) made and finding melted plastic bottles around the homestead. All of this does them no good, they just keep on expiring at an alarming rate…

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With half the cast annihilated at the scorchy hands of the fire demon (…phnarr!!), it becomes clear that the fiend has possessed one of their number to do its bidding. Liam, meanwhile, finds out some home truths to do with his flashbacks that might aide him in stopping the chaos. We’ve seen more than three teen-horror films and therefore know better and when the other survivors return to the original spot to perform a banashing, it aligns the required planets of horror for the grand unmasking-slash-showdown. The identity of possessed schmuck houses few surprises – the posters and DVD cover all but give it away. Here, Long Time Dead begins to flap around like a landed fish until it staggers drunkenly towards the predictable final shock.

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ltd-blood-on-floor2Ultimately an interesting genre flick; there’ve been plenty of possession-based slasher flicks and the added niche of ornate Britishness elevates Long Time Dead a notch above what it could have been, were it a straight-up stalk n’ slash opus. Temptations to ape American conventions do more harm than good, especially when it comes to the string-rich score, which sounds outdated and plain wrong in a film that visually trades on student-class squalor and apathetic youths in the shit. The Ouija Board angle is a good sell and wouldn’t prompt many to try one for themselves, it’s simply a shame it turns out to be a bit of a ghost train with no more than a few dirty sheets alongside the track…

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Blurbs-of-interest: Thomason and Haas were reunited for David Arquette’s The Tripper in 2007 and she was in a few episodes of ‘Lost’ as well. James Hillier was in StagKnight.

Whodunit? No, really, who???

RIPPER: LETTER FROM HELL

4 Stars  2001/18/110m

“Jack’s back…”

Director: John E. Eyres / Writers: John Curtis, Evan Tylor & Pat Bermel / Cast: A.J. Cook, Bruce Payne, Ryan Northcott, Claire Keim, Jurgen Prochnow, Derek Hamilton, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Daniella Evangellista, Kelly Brook, Courtenay J. Stevens.

Body Count: 12

Dire-logue: “For the second time in a few years, people are being murdered around you and you don’t think there’s a connection?”


Looking at the DVD cover for Ripper, it’s plain to see where it’s got some of its ideas from. That old triangle formation of pretty cast members up for the chop from another merciless killer. Mwa-ha-ha-haaaa…

Brit Director Eyres gave us the pitiful Goodnight, God Bless back in ’87 but his eye for what makes a decent body count flick has doubtlessly improved in the 14 year gap between that tripe and this impressive looking Canadian export, which owes as much to Urban Legend as it does to the story of Jack the Ripper.

We begin with a blonde girl running through the rain, finding her friends dead – nailed to trees; covered in a mountain of soil (!?) – and watch her swim to a nearby yacht where more bodies are found and one unlucky gal gets sucked into the propeller (pictured). Ouch.

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Blonde girl – Molly – ultimately survives and we leap five years into the future and rejoin her, now a red-head and full of attitude, at a college where she is studying criminology under Professor Marshall Kane (Bruce Payne), currently learning about serial killers. During a lecture we get to the meet the meat in the form of Molly’s student colleagues. There’s prissy French girl Chantelle, wannabe-lothario Eddie, stuttering, frowny Aaron, and a few less interesting ones. Then there’s Kelly Brook as the (who knew) oversexed chick with in a short skirt, Marisa.

At a costume party-slash-rave in some delapidated city building, Marisa is chased and murdered before being flung through a window for all to see. Eyres makes the most of this debut murder (excluding the stuff at the beginning), as it occurs quite some way into the film. Marisa is first suspended upside down out of a window several stories from the ground and then hoisted back in by the killer who proceeds to knife her to death while her blood drips on to a starlet dancing on the floor below. We also get a few of those cool screaming-face-reflected-in-the-blade shots.

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Back at school, everyone’s talking about what happened at the party. Which is to be expected, I suppose. Some of the students in Molly’s study group want to investigate on their own despite her preference to steer clear. It’s already been established that Molly is a bit of a cow. She’s pretty damn aggressive, doing a goth-chick thing that slowly dissipates over the course of the film. Her attitude is one of Rippers shortcomings, evidently an attempt to give things a ‘gritty’ feel by having her wear dogtags and reside in a graffiti-walled shithole. One must wonder what she’s doing at such a pompous university with all her inoffensive, pastel-wearing classmates. A.J. Cook later played the psychic girl who predicted the freeway crash in Final Destination 2, so we know she can be a nice girl too.

When another of the group is murdered in a stylish road-rage manner, Molly connects the dots and puts it to the Professor (and the class and Jurgen Prochnow’s apple-chomping detective) that the killer is copying Jack the Ripper’s M.O., right down to the number and location of stab and slash wounds on the victims.

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Stupidness soon ensues after a third murder (coupled with some weird hallucinations) and the remaining four teens feel it’s wise to go, with the Professor, to his cabin in the middle of the woods where there is no phone reception or shortage of cutting implements to hand. It must be noted at this point nobody has proposed why their particular study group is being targeted…

The inevitable soon unravels and nasty ends await Eddie, Chantelle and Aaron (who has followed them). The latter two endure falling into a logging conveyor which drags them into enough deadly saw blades to make Leatherface squeamish. So it’s between Molly, her love interest Jason and Professor Kane. Having worked out that the initials of the group correspond to those of the Ripper victims, they’re all concerned that they may be next.

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Ripper suddenly stalls once the remaining characters enter the rain-soaked woods. The identity of the killer – and whoever slaughtered Molly’s friends five years before – is revealed, and then unrevealed, and then sort of revealed again. In short, there are maybe three twists that overlap in the last few minutes, each negating the previous one. According to the commentary, Eyres didn’t get the end he wanted, so it’s debatable whether the close we’re left with is a comment on The Ripper’s true identity, something that will remain cloaked in mystery forever.

Ultimately Ripper is a handsome, engaging film that sadly loses its way in the last ten minutes. It runs too long and takes itself too seriously but is leagues ahead of the usual straight-to-DVD shelf filler in terms of its production values and core ideas alone. The gore is plentiful and, watching it yesterday, I noticed for the first time a fleeting shot of the poor sod’s head meeting with the saw blades during the gruesome logging mill scene. I wasn’t keen on all the violence against women stuff that came through good n’ strong, it’s something I still find a bit uncomfortable, not helped in this case by one of the least likeable final girl’s going. There’s also the killer’s copy-the-killer schtick that Molly latches on to – did Jack the Ripper use a jeep to mow down any of the Whitechapel hookers? Hmm… Not sure he had access to a saw mill either. It’s a slightly pretentious, wannabe slasher par intelligentsia, followed by a really rubbish sequel a couple of years later.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Three of the actresses – Cook, Vaugier and Evangellista – appeared in various Wishmaster sequels. Vaugier crops up in The Fear: Resurrection too. Chantelle’s accent is actually real, contrary to what some IMDb critics assumed. Derek Hamilton was in Taboo. If you’re feeling masochistic, check out the more-or-less unrelated sequel.

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