Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010)

One from the re-watch pile…

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010)

Film: As I sit here at the To Watch Pile Mansion, in my movie room, I look around and enjoy the fact that one wall is covered in blurays and DVDs, another has my vinyl soundtrack collection, the third is my TV screen and finally a big pile of books all about film, more specifically, horror, cult and sci-fi films. To say that I am a movie fan is a slight understatement: I simply LOVE cinema!

One thing that has always fascinated me was the Video Nasty scare in the UK. I first heard the term ‘video nasty’ as a kid when it was mentioned on an episode of The Young Ones, a hilarious 80s UK comedy series starring Ade Edmondson, Rick Mayall and Nigel Planer.

If you haven’t heard of this show, for me and my friends in high school, it was our Simpsons: funny and infinitely quotable. I don’t necessarily suggest everyone needs to see it as I’m not sure if a new, younger audience would appreciate it.

Anyway, this term fascinated me and I had read about it in everything from magazines like Fangoria, Samhain and Deep Red, but it didn’t seem to be something we experienced here in Australia as I worked in a video shop when I was about 15, and things like Evil Dead, and Lucio Fulci films were readily available to watch, perhaps cut in various ways, but still there to hire.

Anyway, to get the full deal on what the Video Nasty was about, I had to glean information from various sources, but now, this wonderful documentary exists, directed by Jake West, whose name you might know from films such as Doghouse and Evil Aliens.

West has managed to get so many interviews with both sides of the argument that you really get a complete picture of what was going on both socially and politically in the UK at the time, and whilst it does come from a director of horror’s hands, it’s surprisingly balanced, but even the least politically-motivated viewer will see that the hands of oppressive moral majority were heavy and unreasonable, bordering on WW2 book-burning and Frederick Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent’s almost destruction of the comics industry in the US.

In addition to the incredibly informative amount of experts giving their opinions and recounting their tales, we also have a bucketload of bloody clips taken from the films in question.

I can’t express how enjoyable and informative this documentary is. It completely recounts the whole period, and even has a sequel: Video Nasties: Draconian Days which looks inside the censorship board in the UK. Both are must-sees for horror movie fans.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the UK DVD, which runs for 72 minutes approximately. It is presented in a 1.78:1 image of varying degrees of quality (to express points the director has deliberately degraded the film at times to visually explain how repeatedly copies VHS eventually looked) and the sound is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, with similar eff ts performed on it to audibly explain VHS sound. It doesn’t, however, ever become unwatchable or inaudible.

Score: ****1/2

Extras: Extras… EXTRAS? How about two full discs of extras?!?

Disc 1: Video Ident-a-Thon is a selection of the video distribution companies of the time idents played at the beginning of every tape… and there is almost a FULL HOUR of them!

Bonus Gallery has a selection of VHS covers played as a slide show with a soundtrack.

Also available has trailers for other DVDs available from Nucleus films, including The Playgirls and the Vampire, Night of the Bloody Apes, Cannibal Girls, Teaserama, Varietease, Ghost Story, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2, Bloodbath at the House of Death, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 1, Death Ship, Fausto 5.0, Gwendoline, The Ugliest Woman in the World, and Between Your Legs. That’s not to mention trailers for titles from Naughty Films such as Fantasm, Fantasm Comes Again, The Good Little Girls, Justine’s Hot Nights, Scandalous Photos, Dressage and Education Anglaise.

Disc 2: This disc has the trailers for 39 videos which became the actual Video Nasties. These trailers can be watched either with or without title cards, showing the release dates and other information, followed by introductions from Emily Booth, Kim Newman, Alan Jones (the UK one, not ‘ours’)and Stephen Thrower, all who were featured in the main documentary.

This disc also has another brief slideshow of the VHS covers of the 39 banned films, again with a score played over the top.

Disc 3: This disc is similar content to disc 2, but instead this has the 33 films that didn’t permanently achieve the Video Nasty status, or as they are called here ‘The Dropped 33’. This again has introductions from subjects from the documentary like Emily Booth, Dr. Patricia MacCormack, Alan Jones, Marc Morris, Allan Bryce, Xavier Mendik, Brad Stevens, Kim Newman and Stephen Thrower.

This disc also has a slideshow similar to disc 2,but of the Dropped 33.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’ve already watched it a 100 times and I’ll probably watch it a 100 more.

Podcasts, Podcasts, Podcasts

To The To Watch Pile has expanded its internet reach to the fine art of podcasting! We are hosted by Anchor. FM and currently have two podcasts!

The first is the movie related podcast which will be counting down my top 50 favourite horror movies, and which was launched last week. The link for this podcast can be found here: The To Watch Pile After Dark Podcast. This link takes you to the Anchor version of the Podcast, but links for other avenues such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify (plus many more) can be found on that page.

The other podcast is the Nerds of Oz Podcast which looks at the more comic and superhero movie side of what the To Watch pile represents. This film is not just hosted by me, it also has cohosts Shane Emery and Josh McKeller, who can be found on Instagram at @batfleck44 and @saucelesswhiteboy respectively.

We hope give our podcasts a listen and enjoy them both

The Innkeepers (2011)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Innkeepers (2011)

Film: Vegemite and I have an interesting relationship. There are some days when I just can’t get enough of it, but on other days I think it is just the most revolting food ever. To me, it seems that that is an interesting look at just how taste can constantly change.

To write this review, I have watched The Innkeepers more than any other film that I have ever reviewed. Why? Well like Vegemite, every time I watch it, I have a different opinion of it. Sometimes I like it, and sometimes it’s like watching Big Brother: just a few people wandering around talking and doing stuff.

The Innkeepers tells of the last opening weekend of a hotel called the Yankee Pedlar Inn and the people that work there, Claire (played by a totally surprising and against type Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy). Luke runs a website about the Inn, and the apparent haunting that infects it, which Claire, who plays along with his investigations, has totally bought into. On this final weekend though, they have a few strange happenings, and as the weekend goes on, especially after the suicide of one of the guests, Claire becomes more and more uneasy. Actually borderline hysterical.

And then, the ‘terror’ begins….

Director Ti West has crafted a visually stunning film. He captures the quaintness of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, which is a real Inn I might point out, and creates tension throughout the entire film using all the usual horror tricks like sudden scares and low bass audio to produce that feeling of anxiety in the viewers chest, but he stops it just in time so the scare is even more jumpy!

West’s ability to inspire some great performances from the actors is notable as well. Sara Paxton, who normally plays the beautiful mean girl in films like Sydney White (yeah, I watch stuff other than horror and sci fi) or bland shark bait in Shark Night, plays this role with natural dorkiness ,and has even geeked herself up visually to complete the picture. It’s hard to believe she has played bitches in some other films she is so in tune with this dorky character. Pay Healy is also excellent, playing the computer nerd with such aplomb that I almost believe he must either be the greatest actor in the world, or he is really like his character. There are also some amazing performances from the unrecognisable from Top Gun Kelly McGillis and George Riddle along with a brief appearance from Sesame Street’s Alison Bartlett, whom I only mention as I have always had somewhat of a thing for her.

Fans of horror films and of haunted house films might find The Innkeepers a little on the lame side though, as it feels for the longest time like nothing happens. And it doesn’t. People who like films such as Ghost World or Art School Confidential will probably love The Innkeepers as it is one of those films that is more character driven than story driven, which to me seems to also be its failing, and this is where my dissatisfaction lies.

Whilst I completely enjoy the performances and the dialogue the actually story itself just doesn’t wash. The whole time I watched this film, I felt like I was watching a well acted and scripted final episode of a soap opera.

To me, this film is cinematic Vegemite. I wanted to like The Innkeepers, but it just hovered around mediocrity without doing a whole lot to actually entertain the viewer.It is well scripted, but at times it just feels like you are wandering around with no clear destination, and it’s just a disappointment.

Score: **

Format: Accent’s disc features a pristine and very natural looking 2.40:1 transfer. Like the image, the DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track is exceptional, using all available channels to subtly produce a feeling of unease on occasions.

Score: ****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for other Accent releases including Norman, Absentia, Forks Over Knives and Chasing Madoff, and one for this film, The Innkeepers.

The Innkeepers: Behind the Scenes is a fluff piece that tells an abbreviated version of the commentary information, which is the better option if you are interested in that sort of thing.

There are two commentaries, one with writer/ director/ editor Ti West, Producer Peter Phok and Larry Fessenden and 2nd Unit Director/ sound designer Graham Reznik, while the other features West and stars Sara Paxton and Pat Healy.The first commentary is an interest one that focuses on the making on the film, whereas the second one wis funny, but features people who are a tad conceited… typical actors.

Score: ***

WISIA: No. Never again.

Lords of Chaos (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Lords of Chaos (2018)

Film: In addition to collecting movies, and books, and toys, and comics, I am also, stupidly, a record collector. This is an expensive hobby that is wonderful and a money pot if you allow it to be. As I am a movie lover, I predominantly own soundtracks to films, but I also have a fair bit of new wave, synth wave and heavy metal.

Now I understand that within the sub-genres of metal there is some quite opposed to each other, but I just don’t know why we can’t just all get along. Thematically, I do tend to lean more towards the harder, darker side of metal when I listen to it, though seeing as how my significant other is a country and western fan, I listen to it by myself. I also have read many biographies about musical artists and amongst those is a book by Didrik Søderlind and Michael Moynihan called Lords of Chaos, whose popularity is probably WHY this film was made as it is a fascinating story, and to paraphrase an old saying, the truth is almost always stranger than fiction.

Lords of Chaos tells the tale of Øystein Aarseth aka Euronymous (Rory Culkin), from whose point of view the entire tale is told, and the inception of a musical sub genre called Norwegian Black Metal.

Euronymous has a band called Mayhem which is looking for a new singer, which they find in a young man from Norway nicknamed ‘Dead’ (Jack Kilmer) who has a severe case of depression and a suicidal nature.

Euronymous has an ‘inner circle’ of devout followers to whom he preached the bands themes of destruction and rebellion, but it wasn’t until he met a young man named Varg Vikernes (Emory Cohen) that someone actually decided to act upon them.

Varg’s yearning for acceptance means he is willing to take Euronymous’ word as gospel, and eventually it seems Varg is more of a believer than Euronymous…. and this competition can only end in bloodshed.

Apparently, those who have survived this story, which has a subtext of ‘based on truth… and lies… ‘ have been critical of the accuracy of the film but a good filmmaker doesn’t always let the truth get in the way of a good story: the film ‘24 Hour Party People’ is a good example of this, where even within the confines of the film itself, the real people the film is representing appear to deny claims made about them, which makes for a seriously meta experience. Varg Vikernes was one who apparently particularly made commentary about the lack of accuracy within the film with reference to his character, and also it’s apparently not true that Euronymous had a girlfriend during some of the events of this film, but any excuse to see Sky Ferreira (from Eli Roth’s Green Inferno) is a good one, right?

As for the quality of the film itself, it’s completely engaging and the cast are a likeable bunch of teenage miscreants and Rory Culkin certainly makes the film his own and he controls every scene he is in even if he’s not the focus at that moment. The subtleties of his performance really makes ring true.

The director, Jonas Åkerlund certainly gets the best out of all the actors and his re-telling of some scenes from different points of view really makes this film tragic as well as just a fun ‘let’s make a band’ film. What’s also amazing, and this might be a result of his Swedish heritage, he really knows how to make places look cold, and the bleakness of the environment reflects the attitudes the characters have towards each other… well initially.

Another choice that was made to make this film more agreeable with an audience not into the music is that it doesn’t actually appear on the soundtrack too frequently. This was a wise decision and the music is only really present during performances so the story of the people and the scene, which is what the movie is about takes precedence over the music.

From the amazing cinematography to great acting and sublime direction, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this film and really think anyone who is into music biopics should look into it, even if they aren’t into the music.

Score: ****1/2

Format: The film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release and is presented in a thoroughly decent 1.85:1 image with a matching 5.1 audio.

Score: ****

Extras: When one considers this is based on a true story, it’s a shame they couldn’t find any extras. There is a couple of cool interviews on the Arrow Bluray release so if extras are important to you, that might be an option.

Score: 0

WISIA: This is one of those films that the filmmaker has been so careful in creating subtleties in the mise-en-scène that it really does take a couple of watches to take it all in. Make SURE you watch it more than once!

Kill Bill Volume 1

One from the rewatch pile…

Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)

Film: Quentin Tarantino is one of those writer/ directors whose films are either loved or loathed. QT is regularly accused of plagiarism and being unoriginal on one hand, and on the other hand, he almost single handed lay brought back the popularity of some exploitation and international films into the limelight. It is unfair to call QT a plagiarist, as he freely acknowledges his influences, and ha always worn them on his sleeve. This film, Kill Bill Volume 1, was conceived during the filming of Pulp Fiction, where GT could see a potential in Uma Thurman to be a great female action lead, and decided to write an entire film around her.

As the title suggests, Kill Bill Volume 1 tells the first part of a revenge tale. ‘The Bride’ (Uma Thurman) was thought to have been murdered by a squad of killers she was once a part of, The Deadly Viper Assassin Squad, a group led by the mysterious Bill (David Carradine). She cuts a swath of violence in this film to get to her intended victims: O-ren Iishi (Lucy Lui) , Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah), Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), Budd (Michael Madsen), but will she get to them all? Will she survive countless battles so that she can finally Kill Bill? Mmmm…I guess you shall have to watch Volume 2.

So, what is your pleasure? Wuxia? Got it! Exploitation? Yeah, got that too. What about gangster flicks? Yep, there’s a little of that as well. We even have a little bit of anime!! Some of the dialogue in this film suffers from ‘Lucas’ Romantic Scene Disorder’, where the lines seem to have trouble coming out of the actors mouths, and feel as awkward as a contestant on Young Talent Time. Tarantino’s plotting talents however should keep you interested enough that it is only a minor bother.

As usual, QT’s supporting characters are just as interesting as the main cast, and the plot, disjointed though it may be (like Pulp Fiction), moves along at a great pace. A fan of the type of cinema QT has interests in could really spend hours with a group of like-minded friends spotting the massive amounts of nods to other films.

With influences ranging from Tobe Hooper to the Shaw Brothers, and even sometimes borrowing from his own films, Kill Bill Volume 1 could have easily been takeaway crap, but instead it is a fresh dine-in meal with all the trimming… though the dessert has been saved for a Kill Bill Volume 2.

Score: ****

Format: Kill Bill Volume 1 was reviewed with the Australian release Bluray, which is presented in a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen which is clean and perfect. The reds are SO red, the yellows are SO yellow and the black and white is… well, contrasting! This film is in Dolby 5.1 and is a kick ass track. The sounds of blood spraying and swords clanging together will ring in your lounge room long after the film has finished. There is some great use of musical cues that really make full use of the 5.1 sound stage as well.

Score: ****

Extras: The Making of Kill Bill should have been a three hour extravaganza where QT goes through everything that influenced this film and his career, but instead we get a 22 minute fluff piece that admittedly has a lot of interviews but ultimately leaves you unsatisfied.

There are two music clips from the 5,6,7,8’s, ‘Walk like Jayne Mansfield’ and “I’m Blue’. Is it surf music, is it pink? Who cares, it’s awesome!

There is also two trailers for Kill Bill Volume 1: a teaser trailer and a‘ bootleg’ trailer, which weirdly contains some footage from Volume 2!

Score: **1/2

WISIA: Oh HELL yeah I’ll watch this again!

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)

One from the re watch pile…

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)

Film: You have to love the way some people think. When director Bo Arne Vibenius’ 1969 family film flopped, he did what any good director would do: he got straight back on the horse and made what was to become one of the most un-family oriented mainstream releases ever made (albeit under the pseudonym Alex Fridolinski). This film, Thriller – En Grym Film, in its original Swedish title, has gone by many names: Hookers Revenge and They Call Her One Eye to name a few, and has been released in more running times, due to censorship laws in various countries, than you would find at the Olympics. Notorious to its core, this version, Thriller: A Cruel Picture, is unrated and with the unnecessary hardcore sex and (apparent) actual corpse mutilation in lieu of special effects. Synapse released both the hardcore and no-core versions on DVD, the Red cover, with the subtitle ‘A Cruel Picture’ is the XXX one where as the yellow cover, with the subtitle ‘They Call Her One-Eye’ is the non-awkward porn version.

Thriller: A Cruel Picture tells the tale of young Frigga (Christina Lindberg), who lost the ability to speak after being raped at a very young age. Her mother and father regularly send her to various doctors in the hopes that she will regain her voice. One day, after missing the bus to one of her appointments, she accepts a lift from Tony (Heinz Hopf) who dopes her and within ten days has her hooked on heroin and working for him as a prostitute. After she attacks a client, Tony cuts one of her eyes out. Eventually the pressure of all her woes gets to her, and she decides to fight back…with a vengeance! (Cue zoom in and stabbing strings)

The first thing to say about this movie is hubba hubba: even with one eye covered, Christina Lindberg oozes a sweet sexuality that would be slipped on if you stepped in it. It is unsurprising however that Vibenius had little success with his previous film, as he is an extraordinarily BORING filmmaker. His action scenes are suitable enough, although the use of slo-mo is somewhat excessive. The dialogue or ’emotive’ scenes are done with such extreme close ups of the actors faces that instead of looking sad or friendly, they just all looked ominous. Also of particular note are how badly the cars must be made in Sweden: even the slightest bump during the car chase scene causes these pieces of rubbish to explode. Having said all that though, it was kind of like watching a train wreck; you just couldn’t take your eyes off its grizzly allure.

The hardcore scenes in this film also deserve a mention, as the ‘stunt actors’ in them are quite obviously not Lindberg and her fellow cast mates.

This film never quite fits a certain genre. It’s sometimes arthouse, grindhouse and porno-house all mixed in one. Even though the hardcore parts were obviously tacked-on and felt completely out of place, they didn’t really effect my overall enjoyment of the film (although there was one bit of going-in-dry footage that made me cringe). This is one of those must see oddities. You have heard a lot about it, especially in the wake of the Kill Bill films, but few will probably enjoy it. I was one who thoroughly did, and it will become a regular rotation… although I might fast forward through some of the hairy nut parts, or watch the alternate release, Thriller: They Call Her One Eye.

Score: ****

Format: The picture quality is all over the shop. Grain, cigarette burns… you name an artefact, and this film has it. I will say though, the image is still clear enough to be watchable, and judging by the amount of bootlegs there are around of this film, it is probably the best it has looked in years. To be brutally honest, the slightly off image just adds to the sleaziness of the entire proceedings, and is probably reminiscent of those old grind house cinemas that exploitation stuff like this used to get shown in. The film is presented in an anamorphic 1.66:1 aspect ratio, even though the package states it’s 1.78:1. Presented in spectacular 1.0! This is a fairly clear mono track, but to fully appreciate this film you need to watch it both in English, and then with the subtitles…they are almost a different story! Even the main character’s name goes from Frigga (English dub) to Madeline (English subtitle). Keep your ear out for sound effects straight out of Scooby Doo cartoons, especially during the car chase scenes

Score: **

Extras: There are 4 theatrical trailers on this disc: the TV spot (for They Call Her One Eye), the theatrical trailer (for They Call Her One Eye), the Double Feature trailer (a grind house double feature trailer where the film is called the Hooker’s Revenge and is accompanied by The Photographer’s Model) and the Thriller trailer.

Outtake Reel is a few short outtakes, all in complete silence.

Alternate Harbor Fight is a reconstructed version of the harbor fight sequence using pieces of thought to be lost footage, which is then put together with some actual film footage to make a ‘new’ version of the fight.

Movie in Pictures (38 seconds) is the entire movie shown with a single shot from each scene…why? It’s like a crappy View Master version of the film.

There are 5 stills galleries: In Bed with Christina, a series of nude shots of Lindberg. Behind the Scenes, which is a collection of BTS footage, mainly of Lindberg, but dressed this time. Advertising and Promotion shows the posters and other advertising paraphernalia for the film. Deleted Fight Scene shows the still pics from a scene omitted from the final film, and Production photos are on set photos taken during the production of this feature.

There are also text filmographies for Lindberg and Vibenius.

Score: ***

WISIA: This film is such a weirdo watch, I actually can’t resist it, and have watched it several times.

Reform School Girls (1986)

One from the re-watch pile…

Reform School Girls (1986)

Film: The Women In Prison (WIP) subgenre of exploitation films has been around for a long time, the first really of note being 1933’s Ladies They Talk About which starred Barbara Stanwick and Lillian Roth. The genre continued not just in films but also in the men’s pulp magazine like Argosy and even still continues to this day with stuff like 2009’s Sugar Boxx, though the post 60s films were slightly saucier than the ones previous to that decade.

Reform School Girls was a 1980s entry in the subgenre, written by Jack Cummins (co-writer of another WIP film The Concrete Jungle) and directed by Tom DiSimone who also directed The Concrete Jungle as well as other exploitation classics like Savage Streets and Hell Night.

Reform School Girls tells of the ‘fresh meat’ being delivered to a girl’s reform school for rehabilitation. Jenny (Linda Carol) decides to be a ‘protector’ of sorts to psychologically damaged Lisa (Sherri Stoner) and it’s something she desperately needs in this particular reform school as it’s run by the vicious warden Sutter (Sybil Danning), her fearful second-in-command Edna (Pat Ast) and a group of lecherous cruel guards.

Problem is though, the guards aren’t the only ingredients in this prison that are potentially deadly. The dorm bully is Charlie (Wendy O. Williams) who is constantly causing trouble for our heroes. Thankfully, there is relief in the form of the school psychologist Dr Norton (Charlotte McGinnis) but that doesn’t matter to Jenny, because she is slowly formulating a plan to escape…

From an exploitation point of view, this film has some epic exploitation pedigree, from the director’s previous output, the appearances from the They’re Playing With Fire and The Howling 2’s Sybil Danning, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning’s Tiffany Helm, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Loves Darcy DeMoss, Heat’s Pat Ast and most importantly, The Plasmatic’s singer Wendy O. Williams.

Does that make it a good example of the genre though?

Well, no.

At it’s best, Reform School Girls is a parody of WIP films, and really doesn’t stretch itself beyond the generic tropes it’s type: naked shower scenes, delousing, food hall fights, initiations, fire hose torture etc, and it does all seem to be done quite tongue in cheek… especially when you consider the uniforms for Pridemore doesn’t include pants, and the bed clothing consists of everything from g-strings and bras, to aerobic fitness tights rejected from the Olivia Newton-John ‘Physical’ filmclip.

Unfortunately for the film, it’s so badly acted that it fails to execute the timing of any comedy it attempts, and any times it attempts to take itself seriously, it fails miserably. Also, for a ‘reform school’, there isn’t an inmate less than 25 years old!

When this came out, I am sure for a young man that the amount of female nudity would have been a great reason to watch it, but with the level of nudity available on the internet I’m sure it’s not so appealing now. It does, however, have an amazing soundtrack… mainly featuring Wendy O. Williams… which kicks arse.

Score: **

Format: This movie was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release, presented in a decent 1.77:1 image with a 2.0 Mono soundtrack that does the job well enough.

Score: ***

Extras: Not a sausage. Not even a disc menu.

Score: 0

WISIA: I saw thins when it was first released on VHS back in the 80s and this is the first time I’ve watched it since. The next time I watch it will probably be in two new formats time, for whatever the future of the internet looks like, but not before that.

Ouija House (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Ouija House (2018)

Film: The cover to this film boldly presents this film to star both American Pie’s Tara Reid and The O.C.’s Mischa Barton which I find really weird as it seems to me that having their names on a DVD is like those awful photos and warnings that you find on a cigarette packet, though just like those warnings, those of us addicted to horror sally forth regardless and suck up their awful goodness.

Maybe the addition of Dee Wallace (Cujo) takes the edge off?

I’d like to suggest that perhaps Carly Schroeder’s name helps too, but I’m not sure one of the Lizzie MacQuire stars is quite horror royalty.

Anyway, I should point out that this is not a part of the ‘Ouija’ film series that includes ‘Ouija’ (2014) and ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ (2016) but instead one of the knock offs using the ‘Ouija’ name to tap into some of those films popularity… did they even have enough popularity to even do that?!?

If we are even questioning that, I guess they MUST have!

This film was directed by Ben Demaree, the director of Apocalypse Pompeii and Dear Diary I Died, and was written by Justin Hawkins and Jeff Miller, who also co-wrote 2019’s Dolls.

Our tale of the Ouija House begins in 1988, with a group of people, (including Tara Reid and Tiffany Shepis) who are in what appears to be an old, unused house where it was rumoured murder and torture and witchcraft occurred, using a Ouija board to communicate with any spirits who may exist within the house. Of course, this being a horror movie and not an historical drama, everything ends badly.

Flash forward to now, and we are introduced to Laurie Fields (Carly Schroeder) who is studying demonology at University (cool uni!) and intends on going to the same house, her Aunt’s, for research, even though her mother Katherine (Dee Wallace Stone) has strictly forbidden it.

Laurie goes against her wishes and travels to the house regardless with her friends, Nick (Mark Grossman), Tina (Grace DeMarco) and Spence (Derrick A. King), where they will be meeting her cousin Samantha (Mischa Barton).

The house seems normal enough but after Tina finds a doll, she begins to act… off, and the supernatural shenanigans begin…

The premise of the story is actually pretty good, and even the some of the performances are ok: it’s cheap popcorn horror, but it’s executed well. There’s some pretty stupid inconsistencies in the story, and I mean glaring, dumbass inconsistencies, but there are a few conceptual ideas that are pretty innovative… none I can discuss without spoiling the movie, so please, just trust me.

Barton and Reid are clearly here for name purposes only, though I’m not sure if their names either hit the young hip horror crowd, or the older, degenerative fans (like me, and you can tell I’m one of them as I used the word ‘hip’. These days it’s more ‘hip replacement’). I think the marketing department on Ron Lee Productions need to look deeper into who is cult-popular and cheap.

Overall, it’s a tidy, and mildly innovative story, with a cute cast and a soundtrack reminiscent of some 80s synth scores (by Johnathon Price) so it gets an extra bit of credit from me for that.

Score: **

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Umbrella Entertainment Australian DVD release, presented in a decent and unblemished 1.77:1 image with a clear and precise 5.1 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: Nothing, not even a DVD menu screen.

Score: 0

WISIA: I can confirm any prediction that may suggest I will never watch this again. Not because it’s bad, but just because it’s a one-watch screamer.

Sidecar Racers (1975)

One from the to watch pile…

Sidecar Racers (1975)

Film: I fell absolutely head-over-heels in love with Australian filmmaker Mark Hartley’s documentary Not Quite Hollywood, which was an amazing celebration of the Australian film industry’s darker, and perhaps occasionally sleazier side. There is a problem with admiring that doco as much as I do, though.

I have found myself in a situation where all you have to do to sell me a film, is describe it as an ‘Ozploitation Classic’ and dammit, Australian company Umbrella Entertainment have found so many films of this ‘Ozploitation period’ that my stupid DVD and Bluray collection is swollen with so many films that I may not have bothered with.

The Gods of Marketing have discovered my Kryptonite and take advantage of it at every opportunity.

This offering is certainly a film that I would never have bothered with as it’s about a sport, and I have a mind and a body made for horror, sci-fi and action, I’m afraid, but here we are, due to that dastardly label.

Sidecar Racers was directed by prolific American TV director Earl Bellamy, who worked on everything from The Brady Bunch to The Mighty Isis, from a script by John Cleary, who has several of his novels made into movies, such as High Road to China and Scobie Malone (based of his book ‘Helga’s Web’).

Sidecar Racers tells of Jeff Rayburn (Ben Murphy), a former American Olympic swimmer who is spending is time bumming around Australia, trying to figure out what to do with his life when he happens upon Lynn (Wendy Hughes) who sees his amazing balance whilst surfing and introduces him to her not-quite boyfriend, Dave (John Clayton), a sidecar motorcycle racer who was responsible for the death of his former racing partner in a horrific crash.

Dave and Jeff become a solid team and have dreams of hitting the European Sidecar Racing Circuit, but only if their partnership can survive their mutual affection for Lynn, a local motorcycle gang and more importantly, Dave’s seemingly self-destructive nature.

One of the things I found amazing about this movie is the fact that you’d have to be an absolute bloody mad-person to have ever engaged in this sport! Crappy 70s cycle-gear, nutso-drivers and insane daredevilry make for a spectacle that I can’t say I’ve seen before.

This film, of course, has a few names floating around in it other than the ones I’ve mentioned above. John Meillon (Crocodile Dundee) plays a mechanic known as ‘Ocker’, Peter Graves (Million Impossible TV series) plays Lynn’s father and type magnate Carson and Australian well-known TV face Serge Lazareff, seen in things like Bluey, Cop Shop and A Country Practice.

It’s a weird film too. It comes across as a pretty straight drama, with an occasional odd directorial choice. For example, there is a ‘musical interlude’ scene where a live band is playing at a party, and the singer spends part of the time looking directly into the camera as if she’s aware that it’s there. Fans of understated and subtle acting won’t find much here for them either as it’s as melodramatic like you wouldn’t believe. Every piece of emotion is underlined with shouting rather than actual ‘acting’.

The films also runs at 100 minutes, which is probably about 20 minutes too long, and even then, the ending is ultimately, a little unsatisfying.

This is a fun, albeit silly film that for me is more interesting as a document of Australia in 1975. Honestly, I didn’t realise that Wendy Hughes was such a stunner either, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Score: **1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release which is presented in a surprisingly good 1.33:1 image with a clear 2.0 mono audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: None, not even a menu screen. The disc rolls straight into playing the film.

Score: 0

WISIA: It not being the type of film I’d normally watch, but for the images of Australia in 1975 it’s worth looking at again.