Podcast Transcript – Episode 3

Welcome back, terrorphiles, to The To Watch Pile After Dark Podcast. My name is Justin McNamara and we are counting down my top 50 favourite horror movies.

You’ll find in this list that there is a lot of 70s and 80s films, and that’s because my opinion is that the best films came out in this period, and certainly the ‘horror franchise’, a pop culture trend that I love, was at its height towards the end of the 80s. This film WAS a one off, but the 2010 remake, and its sequels, were so successful that they eventually spawned a sequel to the original in 2019, which feels like Déjà Vu…

(Play trailer)

I Spit on your Grave aka The Day of the Woman tells the story of writer Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) who retreats to the countryside of Connecticut from New York to work on her latest novel. At a service station near her house she meets a bunch of ne’er do wells who act in a lecherous manner towards her, and her casual way is taken by them as flirting.

She goes to her country house and has some groceries delivered, which is done by mildly mentally disabled man Matthew (Richard Pace), goes tells his friends, the same ones at the service station, included ringleader Johnny (Erin Tabor) that she had been VERY nice to him and shown him her boobs, which they take an an invitation.

They descend upon her house and tell Matthew that he should rape her and that they are helping him to lose his virginity, but we he declines, the other men repeatedly violate her, beating and raping her, until Matthew, under the influence of alcohol decides to join in. This torture lasts for hours and they finally leave her for dead…

… but she’s not dead…

She carefully creates plans to exact her revenge on the men, and does so one-by-one, taking no prisoners, and doing so in grisly, violent ways.

This film was written and directed by Mier Zarchi after he and a friends found a naked woman who had been beaten and raped, and took her to the police. Zarchi claims the police officer was extraordinarily cavalier in his behaviour towards the woman, even insisting that she answer questions even though her jaw was obviously broken. Zarchi was offered a reward by the woman’s father, which he declined, but the experience stayed with him and he eventually wrote the film whilst on his commute to work.

As a writer and director, Zarchi isn’t really know for many other films, other than 2019’s sequel, I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu and the terrible ‘Don’t Mess With My Sister’ whose title offers some sense of dread, but never actually gets to the levels of this film.

This film, depending on the version you get your hands on as it’s received many cuts over the years, and was even one of the UK’s ‘Video Nasties’, goes for between 93 and 101 minutes, which is a standard movie length of its era, but what is unusual is the length of the gruelling rape scene which sits at around the 25 minute mark in the full uncut version, and Keaton spends all that time totally naked, a brave, potentially career killing choice in that day and age.

Rumour has it that the rape scene was so emotionally difficult to film that two crew members quit, one being a make up artist who was struggling with her own demons after experiencing a gang rape.

Zarchi skills as a director aren’t great and this shows in the average performances and dialogue delivery of his male cast, but his ability to direct an assault scene is amazing, and the scenes of Jennifer’s rape are gruelling, so gruelling in fact that by the time you get to the ‘revenge’ part of this ‘rape revenge’ film, you feel the men are actually let off lightly in comparison. The remake shows the Jennifer character, this time played by Sarah Butler, offer the men far more ‘torture porn’ styled punishments, which is to be expected in a post-Saw version of the film.

I Spit on your Grave was originally released as The Day of the Woman in 1978 and wasn’t received very well, but Jerry Gross renamed it I Spit On Your Grave and redistributed it in 1978 to a bit more of a response, though film critics Siskel and Ebert hated not just it, but the audiences response to it. In the UK it was labelled a Video Nasty and feminist Julie Bindel protested against its release, though she later claimed it was actually a feminist film.

I think many people protested this film initially without taking into account, described best in the 1986 book The Encylcopedia of Horror by Tom Milne and Paul Willeman, that ‘the men are so grossly unattractive and the rapes so harrowing, long drawn-out and starkly presented that it’s hard to imagine most male spectators identifying with the perpetrators’. I don’t think this quote means the men are physically unattractive, but instead psychologically unattractive with their attitudes which manifests initially as leering lust before escalating into so much worst.

Keaton’s performance in the ‘revenge’ part of the film has been criticised as well as being flat and almost catatonic, but I think that the assault causes her to be stripped back to an almost avenging angel figure, and that perhaps she has actually lost some of who SHE was.

The reason this film is in my top 50 is it is a film that effects me. As a married man with a daughter and mostly female friends, I find the film difficult to watch, and isn’t that what horror is supposed to be? It effects you in a way that I haven’t seen in many films, and this is all due to Keaton’s performance: her fear of her solitude being invaded, the response to every part of the rape, the dead-eyed horror of being stripped back to nothing more than a thing to be abused by bad men, and rebirth as an angel of vengeance with a cold heart.

I have to admit to being a latecomer to this film, and was surprised by how violent it was for the era it was from, and I have wrote at length about it, even to the point that the current release on DVD and Bluray in Australia has a quote from my review from my days as a film reviewer for now-defunct website Digital Retribution.

Thank you all for listening! At my website The To Watch Pile, (www.towatchpile.com) you can find movie reviews and a transcript of this episode of the To Watch Pile After Dark, and please, give a 5 star review on your listening program, hit the subscribe and even drop a few works of support: it heaps a great deal if you do.

You can also find me on Twitter at @thetowatchpile or on Instagram, seeing as I am part of the Nerds of Oz network, @thenerdsofoz. Also please check out our comic and nerd-related podcast Nerds of Oz, available where all good podcasts can be found.

See you on the next episode…

The House That Jack Built (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The House That Jack Built (2018)

Film: It is a strange thing that sometimes, the viewing of a film makes you realise that you haven’t experienced a particular director’s work at all. Before starting the review on this film, The House That Jack Built, written and directed by Lars Von Trier, I looked at the directors filmography and discovered that even though I have both volumes of Nymphomaniac and Antichrist, I don’t remember actually watching them.

This is why this is called the To Watch Pile: too many movies, too little time.

Von Trier originally perceived this film as a television series, which it would have possibly suited considering it is played out episodic in a series of 5 ‘Incidents’ that take place over a 12 year period from the 70s to the 80s.

The House That Jack Built tells the story of architect, engineer and serial killer, Jack (Matt Dillon), and a discussion he is having with Verge (Bruno Ganz), a disembodied voice whose identity we eventually discover, but to share here would be to spoil the ending.

The two are looking over a series of incidents, in reality murders, that Jack has committed on various victims (played by Uma Thurman, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Sophie Gråbøl, Riley Keough and others) that Jack attempts to justify as psychological soothing acts which result in art. Jack and Verge explore Jack’s origins as well as his state of mind during the acts, and the highs and lows of the act of murder itself.

This is a quite fascinating look at the functions of a serial killers mind, and Von Trier has done his research. Von Trier doesn’t just reference psychology though, as Jack finds justifications for his ‘art’ everywhere, and his fractured thought process is shown through archival footage from hunts, World War 2 newsreels, cartoons… everywhere really, and it represents the state of mind perfectly.

One thing I can say is that even though its a discussion on serial killers, their acts and their origins, it certainly doesn’t mind showing you the acts of violence and the ensuing gore or the results of the violence, and even though it appears to be practical special effects, some of them aren’t necessarily great… but that also might be the point: it’s hard to tell whether Von Trier’s restrictions are deliberate, or an accident of budget or lighting. There is also a little bit of animal violence, both in the afore mentioned archival footage of hunting and special effects, so if that’s something that completely and utterly repulses you, this film definitely isn’t for you.

Von Trier’s camera style is unusual too. The whole film is told in this almost voyeuristic news camera-styled look that perpetually moves and keeps every scene, no matter how static, interesting.

The casting is fantastic too. It’s easy to forget just how good an actor Dillon is, and he both recounts his tale to Verge, and acts like a psychopath with such a lack of enthusiasm that is comes across as very real. The other cast are fantastic in their roles too, a highlight being Thurman playing quite possibly one of the most horrible human beings ever put to film, which in a movie about a serial killer is saying something, and is an interesting juxtaposition on character.

It’s a long film, but there is always something happening, and it is constantly saying something about the psychology of killers, and also how societal norms have changed the regular human being into a lamb, and there are very few tigers.

Score: ****

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Umbrella Entertainment release, which is apparently the complete and uncut version, which runs at about 2 hours and 32 minutes and is presented in a fines 2.35:1 image with a deep Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: Whilst this film is both interesting and provocative, I am not sure if it does hold itself up to repeat watches.

Saw (2004)

One from the rewatch pile…

Saw (2004)

Film: The genesis of Saw came from two young Australian writers trying to overcome the main problem of limited budget independent film-making: an interesting story utilizing a small cast. Sometimes, as in the case of this story by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the story can be so good that it gains the attention of Hollywood producers. With that kind of interest it’s only a matter of time before you get a decent cast, including Cary Elwes (Twister), Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon), Monica Potter (Along Came a Spider) and Shawnee Smith (The Blob) and Whannell himself, and you have a serious movie on your hands, though it has been suggested that the inclusion of names like Glover and Elwes were working of a contractual obligation.

The Saw films became an impressively successful series that saw one being released every Halloween until 2010, and the sequels, which revelled in their love of the torture devices, became a part of the ‘torture porn’ titles named by critic David Edelstein (apparently: he is regularly cited as the one who coined the term) in 2006. People got up in arms over the whole ‘torture porn’ thing, but splatter movies had been around from the sixties, so they all needed to cram the Hell down.

The story of Saw is simple: two men wake up chained by their legs to pipes on either side of an abandoned men’s room. A doctor, Lawrence (Cary Elwes) and a young photographer, Adam (Leigh Whannell) have to sift through a series of clues and lies, to figure out how to get out, but the clock is ticking. As they discuss previous experiences that may have led to their imprisonment, including Lawrence’s being pursued by an obsessed ex-cop (Danny Glover) who believes him to be a violent criminal; they slowly start to realise the truth of their terrifying predicament.

The performances from all the actors are impressive, although Leigh Whannell’s character has more whine than the entire Hunter Valley, and it tends to become a bit annoying at times. I honestly not sure if it’s Whannell’s This film is powerful and has many moments where you really cannot begin to guess the outcome.

In a time when the average viewer expects twists and turns, it is hard to come up with new ideas, but Wan and Whannell delivered the goods, enough so to be some of the ‘pioneers’ of torture porn, if that’s something they want to own up to… I know I would as I enjoyed the whole sub genre. Unfortunately, the story does rely occasionally of coincidence or for characters to do specific things for Jigsaw’s plan to work, but I guess that’s cinema, isn’t it?

A really good film let down by a poor extras package. Saw deserves a lot more respect than what it gets from this release. On it’s own however, it is certainly worth all of it’s hype, make sure you see Saw.

Score: ****

Format: This is a real interesting film to watch. Using everything from an Argento-ish palette to CCTV style images, Saw is very nice to look at, especially on bluray, coming in on the a]Australian multi-region release at a 1.78:1 image. It has a sharp image and even treats its ‘total darkness’ scenes with a nice lighting style. There are only two choices for sound: 5.1 Dolby Digital EX and 6.1 DTS ES (which was not reviewed.. The sound have great depth to them and each echo lingers and creates a truly spine-chilling atmosphere.

Score: ****

Extras: The old DVD release had some pretty poor extras on it but that’s NOTHING compared to this BD release, which has nothing on it but a bluray trailer which talks about the format, and what releases are coming. This release of Saw did come out fairly early in the Bluray lifecycle, to the point it even has a ‘this is how bluray works’ feature on it!

Score: *

WISIA: Oh yeah, I dig this film and some of its ever-unfolding sequels.

Piranha 3D (2010)

One from the rewatch pile…

Piranha 3D (2010)

Film: The remake debate of today is as boring as the sequel debate of 80s and 90s. It is said it shows that Hollywood has run out of ideas and needs fresh blood, and this review will not enter into it other than to comment that this film, Alexandre Aja’s Piranha is a remake of the legendary Joe Dante film Piranha from 1978 albeit with a lot of changes.

A lot of sexy changes.

Unfortunately, I was unable to review this film in 3D, due to the fact that I don’t have the equipment, but what I do have is a decent Bluray Player and a nice big TV so I can at least review the film in 2D. While I am not a huge fan of 3D anyway, I admit I was disappointed to not see naked chicks, eyeballs and vomit in the third dimension.

Piranha tells this tale…

A subterranean quake causes a fissure to open beneath the waters of Lake Victoria, a quiet town that becomes are Mecca for drunken, carnal pleasures (aka fun) during American spring break. Problem is though the fissure has released prehistoric piranha into the otherwise calm waters. Our story follows several of the townsfolk and a few of the spring break visitors and how they survive – or don’t survive – the attack of these flesh eating beasts.

Elizabeth Shue plays Sheriff Julie Forester, a member of the local constabulary who has never really had to face more in the town than drunk and disorderly charges, but who has to rise to the occasion when her town and family is threatened. After the quake she escorts scientist type Novak (Adam Scott) and his assistants (played by genre stalwart Dina Meyer and Ricardo Chavira) to explore the crack but after two of the team are eaten, they realise the entire occupants of the lake are in danger, and need to clear it immediately.

Steve McQueen’s grandson, and Vampire Diaries actor Steven R. McQueen plays Julie’s son, Jake, who is supposed to be babysitting his brother and sister (played by Brooklynn Proulx and Sage Ryan) but instead decides to play tour guide on the lake to Girls Gone Wild wannabe director Derrick Jones (Jerry O’Connell, his assistant (Paul Scheer) and his two stars (played by super hot duo Kelly Brooke and Riley Steele) so they can film heaps of titty shots in beautiful locales. His NOT-girlfriend Kelly (Gossip Girl’s Jessica Szohr) tags along which spoils Jake’s plans of porking a hottie, but she finds perhaps she could be one of these types of girls herself.

Of course, like everyone in the water, they run foul of the fish, and need to be rescued. Mucho bloodshed ensues…

Like all 3D films watched in 2D, a visual problem is revealed. When in 3D, one manages to overlook any dodgy effects as you are apparently dumb-founded by the visuals, but some of the effects in this film are deplorable, and while they are supposed to ‘pop’ in 3D, they just look out of place and tacked on in 2D. Haters of CGI will feel justified in their loathing with how poor some of the fish effects are.

In the August 2010 issue of Vanity Fair, James Cameron said that films like this “cheapen the medium and reminds you of bad 3D horror films of the 70s and 80s”. Now while I think that Cameron can pull his head in for casting hate towards films from the 70s and 80s, I think that this would have been a much better film if it had not been in 3D as more of the budget could have been spent on the actual effects instead of the 3D gag. The ultimate scene of carnage was one of the bloodiest of its type and probably couldn’t have been much better, but some of the more quiet scenes, like our first proper look at one of the piranha in a fish tank, were terrible. All of this is quite a shame as Aja’s abilities as a director are spectacular, and the cinematography, especially of some of the landscapes are beautiful.

One last note I should make is that horror fans need to look hard at this film as there are cameos aplenty, some more obvious than others, and the name of Richard Dreyfuss’ beer is a classic.

Boobs, blood and a collection of movies ‘legends’ make for an enjoyable experience, but not the greatest horror film ever made. As a tribute to eighties horror flicks, it is a fun distraction, but not a great rewatcher, and certainly not a classic of the horror genre. After Aja’s previous output, including impressive remakes of both The Hills Have Eyes and Mirrors, I expected more.

Score: ***

Format: The film is presented in 2.40:1 1080p widescreen and is fantastic. I don’t think I have ever seen a horror film set in such a bright daylight setting, and the colors are fantastic. Boobs in hi-def are a blessing from the home entertainment gods as well! The sound is presented in DTS HD 5.1 Dolby Digital and is loud and aggressive.

Score: ****

Extras: This Bluray has four extras on it:

The Making of Piranha Documentary is an extraordinary complete and interesting doco, and all involved talk of all aspects of making the film, even the legalities of location filming.

Deleted Scenes: Usually deleted scenes don’t add much extra, and essentially these don’t either, but they do complete some of the stories of which you only saw a part, like the male and female leads relationship, and there are additional scenes of boob manipulation, so winners all round.

Theatrical 3D Trailer: My favourites of all extras are trailers of the film. After one has watched a film it is interesting to see how it was marketed.

Audio Commentary with Director Alexandre Aja: The commentary is actually by Alexandre Aja, and producers Gregory Levasseur and Alix Taylor. It is a really nice commentary that is wholly informative.

Score: ***

WISIA: Like I said in the body of the review, it’s not a great rewatcher, but it does however, have a couple of good points that make it worthwhile… and I’m not talking about the ones on pornstar Gianna Michael’s chest either… so I have to admit to multiple watches.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ghostland aka Incident In A Ghostland (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Ghostland aka Incident in a Ghostland (2018)

Film: Many film critics and academics have discussed the important virtues of films that James Quandt described as ‘the New French Extremity’. Hell, it’s such an important part of film history that the Faculty of Horror’s Alexandra West wrote a whole damned BOOK about it (titled Films of the New French Extremity, available now). The key things, according to Wikipedia (who were quoting an article from MUBI), that define the New French Extremity are a ‘crossover between sexual decadence, bestial violence and troubling psychosis’.

Now, I am no academic, and I write this site because I just love horror and cult and sci-fi movies, but to me that also sounds like a description of ‘torture porn’. I guess because it’s French it becomes artistic rather than lowbrow (you can tell it’s lowbrow as it doesn’t deserve capital letters).

Anyway, this film was made by a person who is associated with this movement (New French Extremity, not torture porn), Pascal Laugier, writer and director of the award winning, and critically-acclaimed film Martyrs, a film which he claimed was written whilst under the influence of clinical depression, and by the torture porn poster boy Hostel: in some hands that mix might be a recipe for destruction, but in this filmmakers hands it was an exercise in the futility of existence.

This film, Ghostland, has thematical similarities to Martyrs, but honestly, effected me far more.

Pauline (Mylène Farmer) and her daughters Beth (Emilia Jones), a studious, wannabe-writer who resides mostly in a fantasy world, and Vera (Taylor Hickson), an obstreperous teen-bitch, are travelling to an old house they have inherited from Pauline’s cousin’s step-sister. On the way they encounter a strange candy truck, driven by an odd woman (Kevin Power) who waves and then drives off, only to return to observe them when they stop at a truck stop for directions.

The continue on their way to the house and find that their relative was an odd person who had a dramatically large collection of dolls and other bizarre curios all through her two-story house. Something else that becomes a surprise to them is the Candy Truck Woman turning up again, but this time with a large, brutish accomplice (Rob Archer).

It would appear that these two travel around, collecting victims for the larger of the two to rape and beat, but this man has a particular kink which is the person he is raping has to lie perfectly still like a doll. Beth has just started her first-ever period, and after sniffing her, the brute decide to start with Vera instead, and drags her off, kicking and screaming.

Beth attempts an escape and witnesses her mother, previously incapacitated by the men, attack and kill the Candy Truck Woman, before turning her attentions to the large man, and after a fight, dispatches him also.

We then flash forward several years and Beth (now played by Crystal Reed) has a perfect life. She is a successful author, happily married to a wonderful man and has a young son. After a stint on a TV show promoting her latest book, she is contacted by Vera (now played by Anastasia Phillips) who is screaming and in a panic.

Beth returns to the house and finds that Vera is now completely mad, and lives in the basement where her rape occurred, and her mother is dealing with it as best she can. She decides to stay for a few days, but the longer she stays, something seems to be fracturing her psyche… or maybe her memory… and all is definitely NOT what it seems!

There was basically nothing to dislike about this film. Laugier has directed it perfectly and gotten performances from everyone, no matter how small their role, that really creates tension and once it really kicks off, doesn’t let up. At no point during this film did I look at the time or become distracted, which is unusual for me, and the sense of dread throughout the film is SO pervasive that my stomach felt like I had a rock sitting in the bottom of it.

Please, see this film but make sure you have a cartoon or some ice cream to eat after it: you’ll need it.

One small note: the cover of the Australian release of this film clearly has the title ‘Ghostland’ emblazoned on the front, whilst the actual movie itself presents us with the alternate title ‘Incident In A Ghostland’. Weirdly, IMDB has this listed as ‘Ghostland’ but the cover used to represent the film has the other title. Subsequently, I have no idea what this film is called, exactly.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed using the Australia release, marked as region B on the back cover. Both the 2.40:1 image and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio were of a high quality.

Score: *****

Extras: Nothing

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s an enormously good film, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but I am not sure I could watch it again.

We Are Still Here (2015)

One from the to watch pile…

We Are Still Here (2015)

Film: I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural. I don’t, which may be unusual for a fan of horror movies but because of this, a ‘ghostly’ horror movie has to be REAL good to either engage me or get a reaction from me. In general, the western output of these types of films, the ‘post-millennial ghost story’ if you will, hold very little interest to me. You know the ones: the Conjuring films, the Insidious films and their ilk, the ones that desperately try to emulate the j-horror movement of the late 90s/ early 2000s… the ones that try to put a fear of the supernatural into a generation that don’t believe in anything, and considering everything they do has to be filmed as proof, not even each other.

This film, We Are Still Here, feels very much like a film from another time and doesn’t seem to relate to those modern films at all. I imagine writer/ director Ted Georghegan, writer of Sweatshop and co-writer of Andrea Schnaas’ first English language film, Demonium, is much more a fan of of those earlier horror films as this feels like a European thriller, and maybe he does wear it a little more on his sleeve when you consider the scotch the characters are drinking is B&J Scotch, an obvious tribute to the J&B Scotch labels frequently seen in 60s and 70s giallo.

We Are Still Here tells of the Sacchetti family, Anne (Barbara Crampton) and husband Paul (Andrew Sensenig) who have moved to the country into a house that has been empty for 30 years, to escape the memories of their son who died in a car accident.

In the first two weeks they live in the house though, weird things start to happen. There’s an odd smell of smoke, the basement is always hot, and the townsfolk have a strange story regarding the history of the house and the original occupants.

Anne invites their son’s friend, Harry Lewis (Michael Patrick Nicolson) and his parents, May (Lisa Marie) and her husband, Jacob (Larry Fessenden) to visit, as May is a psychic and she may be able to contact what Anne thinks is the boys spirit… but May detects something darker, something that the town needs to feed once every 30 years….

If I’m totally honest, the thing that attracted me to this film was mainly Barbara Crampton, an actress I’ve adored since seeing her… a LOT of her… in my favourite film, Re-animator, and I’m willing to give anything she is in a go… well, except maybe for The Bold and the Beautiful.

This film was surprising in every way. The story was surprisingly good. The acting was great, the cast was a good mix, and the gore was totally unexpected. I won’t say I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it certainly is one of the better ghost stories I have seen in the past 20 years, but that may be due to the film deliberately being set in the late 70s/ early 80s.

Essentially it’s a pastiche of Fulci’s House by the Cemetery and A Nightmare on Elm Street that really works.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Bluray release which is presented in a perfect 2.35:1 image and a matchingDolby 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There is a bunch of trailers on this disc for other Áccent releases, such as Late Phases, Jug Face, In Their Skin and Static, as well as one for this film.

There is a short extra called We Are Still Here: Building A Haunted House which discusses the foundations of the story and making of the film.

There is also a commentary by Georghagen and Producer Travis Stevens which is interesting as it’s a proper ‘making of films’ type commentary.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: It was great, so yeah!