Video Nasties: Draconian Days aka Video Nasties The Definitive Guide: Part 2 (2014)

Film: I wonder if Jake West realised that his first documentary about banned films, called Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Video Tape, was going to be such an amazing piece of work. I have to say that there is probably only two documentary films series that I really could watch as much as I watch regular cinema, they are these two films, and a Gary Hustwit series of three films called Helvetica, Objectified and Urbanised (a loose series starting with regular things we see every day, but looked at from a design point of view (if you haven’t seen them, give them a watch!))

The first film in this series, reviewed elsewhere on this very site, dealt with the banned films of the so-called ‘video nasty’ era in the UK, whereas this film deals with the fallout; the censorship and movie classification under the direction of the Secretary of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), James Ferman.

It’s an interesting look at the pointlessness of having both censorship and classification, as they don’t work together: why have an age related classification of (18) if you are then going to cut it?

It makes no sense.

The reasoning behind it damaging people psychologically wasn’t proven then, and nor is it proven now… and if these films are so bad, why do the censors get to watch them? What makes THEM above us… and why is age a level for censorship? I know immature 50 year olds (I am one) and I’ve observed 20 years old far more mature than me… and hang on, what is maturity anyways?

It also steeps into the specifics of ridiculousness of some decisions. For example, nunchucks and ninja stars were seen as problematic weapons for films, so those films were rejected or edited. This led to cuts made to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze.

Yep.

It would seem that Ferman’s rule seemed to become an excuse for him to exert his lost career as a director and re-cut others films. One of his criticisms claims he made ‘censorship by stealth’.

This film features interviews with everyone involved, from ex-BBFC employees, government officials, film-makers, film journalists and so many others that it presents a quite an even discussion about censorship, especially considering some of the interviewees have such varied opinions about what is ‘good’ censorship, and when does it become borderline fascism? There is also a lot of supplementary material from the time that shows how moral panic can lead to dangerous societal results.

This documentary seems to be far more relevant now with the rise of the so-called ‘cancel culture’. Is it right to delete art because it doesn’t stand up to current standards? If we delete prejudice and violence will it change our state of thought or are those things printed on some of our DNA strands?

I’m just a guy who likes movies so don’t look at me for the answers!

All in all it’s a fascinating look at archaic laws, how some politicians who believe themselves to be better educated than you DECIDE what is good for you, and just how quickly power can corrupt anyone.

The image and sound on this disc aren’t great, but it’s just talking heads so the need for hi-def, 1080hp with super duper surround sound probably isn’t needed.

Score: ****

Video: **

Audio: **

Extras: Oh did you want extras? Well, buckle up, sunshine!

Disc 1 has a series of slideshows: the first is a selection of fanzines who traded in illegal video tapes, then we have DPP72 and DPP82 which show the covers of films banned/ almost banned.

This disc also has trailers for The Playgirls and the Vampire, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2, Night of the Bloody Apes, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Dead of Night, Cannibal Girls, Teaserama, Varitease, Ghost Story, Bloodbath at the House of Death, Fausto 5.0, Gwendoline, Between Your Legs, Cruel Passion, Escort Girls, Some Like It Sexy, Fantasm, Fantasm Comes Again, The Good Little Girls, Justine’s Hit Nights, Scandalous Photos, Dressage and Education Anglaise. (Though both Fantasm and Fantasm Comes Again attach to the same trailer, which is a bummer)

There is also a couple of Easter eggs that feature images of programs and passes from various film festivals, and a short film “It’s Just A Movie’.

Disc 2 and 3 have, in total, about 10 hours of trailers (which for length-of-review reasons I won’t list them all) of the Section 3 video nasties, with introductions.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s fascinating and a great supplement to the first documentary, but meanders a little. That hasn’t stopped me from giving it several watches.

The Hills Run Red (2009)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Hills Run Red (2009)

Film: One of the joys of being a VHS/ DVD/ Lazerdisc/ BD/ Betamax collector is the hunt. Thinking you know everything about a certain type of film, but then discovering, either through research or, thanks to the internet, a group interest that there is more to buy, more to collect. The most satisfying moment is when you get your hands on that rarity: though the joy is generally shortlived as you quickly discover yet another missing treasure. 

If this sounds familiar, The Hills Run Red is the film for you.

Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrinck) is a film fanatic who is obsessed with a missing film called The Hills Run Red, a horror film about a killer nicknamed Babyface (Danko Iordanov), which was directed by notorious reclusive filmmaker Concannon (William Sadler). He has plans of making a documentary about it, along with girlfriend Serina (Janet Montgomery) and best pal Lalo (Alex Wyndham) but all he needs is a lead in.

This lead comes when his research brings him to Concannon’s daughter Alexa (Sophie Monk), a heroin addicted stripper who he helps get cleaned up. After Alexa dries out, she takes the three to the backwoods town where the film was made, but what they find is a lot worse than anything they could have possible imagined.

What they find is that Babyface is a real creature and not a fictional character at all, and maybe film and reality aren’t so different from each other.

This film is directed by Dave Parker, who was also responsible for The Dead Hate the Living and written by David J. Schow, a fairly well known name in horror as he wrote 2 Critters films (specifically 3 and 4), Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part III, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and probably most famously, The Crow.

This has some interesting Scream type elements that appropriately get turned on their head. One of the characters whilst venturing into the woods talks about horror film conventions, and shows his mobile phone is working, he has back-up flares in case the torches don’t work and a gun in case they get into trouble. Brilliantly, these modern back-up plans backfire and are used against them.

This is a thematic constant in the film as well; just when the bitter old horror fan inside you goes ‘I know what will happen next’, it doesn’t. There are some great extra creepy moments in this film that are all based around this idea of being atypical.

The film is only quite short, and the I believe that even so, this films bangs along at quite an appropriate pace. At no time was I bored, except maybe during the five minute long closing credits and the film had my attention at all times, especially during any scene of Babyface- driven carnage or of Sophie Monk supplying anything contained within her knocker locker.

I honestly think this is the best 80s styled slasher that wasn’t made in the 80s, and I enjoyed it thoroughly!

Score: *****

Format: Whilst the film is only a fairly recent one and maintains a fairly good level of detail, I did find on occasion that the picture was a little soft. Also a few CGI effects weren’t blended into the color scheme of the film and stuck out like dogs balls in mouse ball soup. The Hills Run Red was presented in  2.40:1 widescreen.The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The use of the subwoofer in jumpscares is so great that I must admit I almost blasted excrement from the depths of my bowels on at least two occasions. A grand time was had by all… well except for the lounge I was sitting on.

Easily my favourite slasher film in years. Perfect sized doses (all lethal) of beatings, brutalizations, babes and breasts all make for a great film, but don’t think this film is light on story either. I love it.

Score: ***

Extras: Only two extras on this:

Commentary by Director Dave Parker, Writer David J. Schow and Producer Robert Meyer Burnett  is a quite animated commentary from the three. It covers a hell of a lot of stuff about of the film, and one gets a greater appreciation of the film when one hears how deliberately they avoided referencing other films directly, even though the film is about film fans falling afoul of filmmakers.

It’s Not Real Until you Shoot It: The Making of the Hills Run Red is a great look at the filming of The Hills Run Red. It has a selection of interviews with almost all the cast and crew and is both funny and informative.

Score: ***

WISIA: Oh goodness, yes.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

One from the rewatch pile…

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Film: The history of cinema has had a rocky road with remakes, generally fans of an original story will immediately talk against their ‘holy grail’ being polluted by a modern team’s tinkering, but sometimes it works. Most horror or science fiction fans will name John Carpenter’s The Thing as an important movie within both genres and Carpenter was successful as he didn’t just remake it, he ‘re-imagined’ it. He took it’s basic premise, but told a different story. It worked with 1988’s The Blob, 2004’s Dawn of the Dead and here with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. The usual ‘It shouldn’t be done!’ rubbish surrounded it when it was first announced, but scriptwriter Scott Kosar (The Machinist) and director Marcus Nispel’s (music video director for Faith No More and Cher, amongst others) proved that you can take an idea, in this case Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel’s, and tell a vastly different story with similar elements. This film won many awards upon its release (BMI Film Music Award – Steve Jablonsky, Catalonian International Film Festival Best Art Direction – Scott Gallagher, Teen Choice Award – Choice Movie Thriller) and was nominated many times as well at many respected film festivals.

The premise may sound familiar, but this story is much different to the original 1973 Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It is August 18th, 1973, and five youngsters (Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Mike Vogel, Jonathon Tucker, Erica Leerhsen), are traveling from Mexico through Texas to see Lynard Skynard, when they decide to stop and pick up a hitchhiker. Meeting this hitchhiker causes a chain of events that will have them meet the Hewitt family of Travis County, and their lives will never be the same again.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, like Psycho and Silence of the Lambs, is loosely based on the serial killer Ed Gein, who kept the tanned hides of women around his house, and occasionally dressed in them. What helped to give this remake some credibility was the involvement of original Texas Chainsaw Massacre cinematographer Daniel C. Pearl and the fact that original screenwriter’s Henkel and Hooper acted as co-producers. Unlike the original, cannibalism is only suggested in this redux, but the cruelty of the family seems much more extreme. A special mention goes to R. Lee Ermey’s portrayal of the Travis County Police’s Sheriff Hoyt. Redneck through and though, this is a great example of both inspired casting and brilliant acting.

Marcus Nispel and Daniel Pearl also deserve much respect for creating a very claustrophobic sensation, even in the scenes that take place in wide open fields, there is a sullen feeling of oppression that cannot be shaken.

As far as a bluray package is concerned, this Texas Chainsaw Massacre release is amazing!! A combination of a good movie, with great commentaries and relevant extras that don’t appear to be sales propaganda, that sets a standard for others to aspire to.

Score: *****

Format: The transfer for Texas Chainsaw Massacre is crisp and clear and sensational and is presented in a 2.35:1 image which is a real delight to behold. A choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1, and the subtleties of both are breath-taking. Every drop of water heard in the background feels like it is running down your back.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s an absolute cornucopia of extras on this disc:

Photo Gallery and Art Gallery have pre-production drawings of both Leatherface and the set design.

The Alternate Beginning and Ending have footage that was originally to book end the feature, with an interesting look into the future of one of the main characters.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Redux documentary is a 1 hour 17 minute look at every aspect of the remaking process. Interviewing Nispel, Bay and others associated cast and crew, not to mention fan favorite and favorite fan Joe Bob Briggs, also looks at the origins of the original and the crowd reactions both before and after the first screening.

Ed Gein: The Ghoul of Plainfield is an informative, if not incomplete (they completely overlook the death of Ed’s brother in a forest fire and his grave digger assistant) 24 minute documentary about the ‘real Leatherface’ Ed Gein. Interviews with various historians and psychologists, this is not only an interesting look into the origins of Leatherface (and Norman Bates and Buffalo Bill), it is also a fascinating insight into the mind of serial killers.

Deleted Scenes are the usual gambit of alternate takes and additional scenes. I must say though, the alternate Morgan Death scene is very visceral.

Severed Parts has us take a deeper look at the deleted scenes and bookends and why they were deleted and trimmed for various reasons.

The Cast Screen Tests are the screen tests for Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour and Erica Leerhsen.

Art Gallery looks at some of the preproduction sketches for the film.

The theatrical Trailer is one of the best cut trailers I have ever seen, with Leatherface not seen until the very end and there is also a selection of TV spots.

The Music Video is a track by Motograter called Suffocate.

Finally, there are three of quite possibly the best and well organized commentaries I have ever heard. Every speaker states his or name before they speak, therefore removing and misunderstanding with regards to who is making what comment, although Marcus Nispel’s German accent makes it quite obvious when he speaks, and no-one talks over each other or interrupts each other. All are given a fair go with comments appropriate to the scene. Nispel has a voice on all three commentaries so occasionally he repeats himself, but from different points of view. There is a Production commentary where Nispel is accompanied by Producer Michael Bay and Executive Producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form to discuss the foundation elements of the film: the casting, the locations and the general ideas behind the look and tone of the film. Nispel is joined on the Tech commentary by Daniel Pearl, Greg Blair, Scott Gallagher, Trevor Jolley and Steve Jablonsky to discuss everything from the score to the cinematic elements of the film. Finally, the Story commentary has Nispel along with Bay, Fuller and Form, scripter Scott Kosar and also cast members Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Mike Vogel, Jonathon Tucker, Erica Leerhsen and old Leatherface himself, Andrew Bryniarski, discussing character motivations and backgrounds.

Score: *****

WISIA: As you might be able to tell, I love this movie so it sure does get a re-spin quite regularly here at the To Watch Pile Mansion.

Monster Party (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Monster Party (2018)

Film: Occasionally I’ll peruse my local entertainment retailer just to see if anything jumps out at me, be it a lurid cover or a ridiculous title or a ‘produced by’ credit (you know, because the sign of a quality film is if someone PRODUCED a previous hit) or a couple of names of actors whom I like.

Today was a lucky day, as I secured a film that ticks all those boxes: the cover to this film (as you can see) has the back of a couple covered in blood facing some people who look well-to-do, the name ‘Monster Party’ is immediately evocative of something awful, it’s ‘produced’ by ‘The Producer of SINISTER’ (golly, it MUST be good… actually, I did like Sinister, so I’ll cut it some slack) and finally, it stars Robin Tunney (from The Craft and End of Days) and our very own Julian McMahon (Fantastic Four and Bait): this all sounds like a winner to me!

I’ll of this was also helped by Australia’s awful classification badge, which screamed at me ‘R18+ Restricted: High Impact Bloody Violence.

I’m in.

Monster Party tells of three burglars, Iris (Virginia Gardner), Dodge (Brandon Michael Hall) and Casper (Sam Strike) who are on the hunt for a big haul, as Casper’s father, a gambling addict, has been grabbed by a local gangster and is being tortured to pay off his gambling debts.

Luckily, Iris manages to secure the boys some work waiting on guests at a private party in a mansion, which they decide will be the object of their thievery, and the hosts, Patrick (McMahon) his wife Roxanne (Tunney) and their kids, Eliot (Kian Lawley) and Alexis (Erin Moriaty) seems nice, if not a little… well, strange.

As the guests arrive, an even stranger bunch of characters, our thieves become even more unsettled, until one of them is murdered by one of the guests, and the remaining two discover that the entire party is a ‘Murderers Anonymous’ meeting, as killers attempting to shake their addicting to killing.

With a little blood spilt though, the addiction kicks off, and our remaining heroes must do whatever it takes to survive… even become killers themselves!

As you may be able to tell from that synopsis, this film finds its influences from things like Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs, and more recently, Fede Alvarez’s excellent Don’t Breathe. What the film does is take that and mix in a little Tarantino-styled revenge, some kooky plot devices that go nowhere and an occasional bizarre choice of lighting schemes straight out of Bava or Argento films.

There is a few other strange choices as well. The casting is straight out of American soap opera so there’s this air of falsity to the whole film, which makes it feel somewhat insincere. One thing I did really like was establishing that the private party was VERY private so the mobile phones of the main characters were confiscated for privacy reasons. They could have very easily used that common nowadays trope of setting the film in the 80s (which I reckon is a cop out, but also better than a character tapping their phone and saying ‘mmmm, no reception’) but to actually have them hand over their phones was refreshing.

This film, though, is actually highly entertaining despite those couple of gripes. I don’t believe the ‘R rating’ is needed as even though there are some pretty violent acts, they take place just out of camera with just the results seen, and those effect that are clearly visualised are either really fake or very quick, the film does however take lots of twists and turns that all in all make for an entertaining jaunt amongst serial killers.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This movie was reviewed with the region 4 Australian DVD which runs for approximately 85 minutes and is presented in a mostly clean 2.40:1 image with a matching 5.1 audio. I say mostly as occasionally the colour seems washed out but that may have been a deliberate choice.

Score: ****

Extras: Empty plates all round, here.

Score: 0

WISIA: It was just entertaining enough for it to warrant repeat viewings.

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.

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.

Jigsaw (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

Jigsaw (2017)

Film: Am I a fan of the so-called sub-genre torture porn? Oh yeah, you better believe it, though I think that ‘torture porn’ is somewhat of a misnomer. I don’t find a sexual excitement from the films labelled such, but I do find them to be thrilling and I can’t say that I don’t hate the gore of them either.

I’ve stated several times in my career writing horror movie reviews that I don’t find supernatural films in the slightest bit scary, mainly because I don’t actually believe in the supernatural, but I think I like these film is because I find the concept of being trapped horrifying. I just gotta be free…

Jigsaw is the 8th film in the Saw series, this outing directed by Australia’s very own Spierig brothers, who previously gave us Daybreakers and the oddly groundbreaking Undead. The script was written by writing team Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg, whose previous outings include Piranha 3D, Piranha 3DD and Sorority Row.

Our film starts with a young man being pursued by the police, but he has an objective which is a remote trigger hidden on a rooftop, but when he is shot, it starts a series of events…

Five people, Anna (Laura Vandervoort), Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles), Carly (Brittany Allen), Ryan (Paul Braunstein) and another poor individual (who is namelessly dispatched as as an example of the violent nature of our killer) are chained to a series of doors in a room that has circular saw blades through them, and a mysterious voice (that we as Saw viewers have obviously heard before) tells them that to free themselves blood must be shed… this of course leads them on a series of trials that reduce their number one by one.

As the story of their trial continues, we are also introduced to coroner Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore) who begins assisting the investigation on bodies that are being found with a jigsaw piece cut from them… but isn’t the killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) dead? If he is, who is committing all the murders? Could it be one of the members of the website of people obsessed with his work?

The thing about the Saw films is, just like porn, you want the ‘money shot’… the building of tension, and then a wad of gore exploding all over your face. The story is almost secondary to those points, and I’m sure if this were the age of VHS, the tape stretch marks would be all over the kills, which would be rewound and replayed over and over.

That’s not to say the story wasn’t a good facility to move from blood-soaked pillar to barbed-wired post, but I think that the straws are well and truly being clutched at. The persistence of there being a history of people working with Jigsaw is a plot device necessary since his early-in-the-series demise but the excuses for them helping are getting thin.

The murders in this film are fun but the innovation of the machines has become stretched to the point of being ridiculous. One must wonder exactly what type of connection Jigsaw had to be able to get his hands on some of the ironic additions to the devices.

The acting in the film is interesting. There seems to be some characters who are well and truly placed within reality, like Vandervoort’s Anna, and others, like Callum Keith Rennie’s Detective Halloran are over the top, almost parodies but somehow, they work together.. and I can’t figure out how. Maybe Tobin Bell’s John Kramer is the blue that holds it together, with his quiet manner and sociopathic hobbies.

The special effects are are nice and bloody, which is what you expect… though the occasional rubbery barbed wire might spoil the authenticity.

Basically, what we have here is another in a series that has a particular method to its delivery of the goods, and this doesn’t fail in that, it’s just we’ve seen all the gore, misdirection and torture before. It might be time for the good name of Jigsaw to be permanently laid to rest.

Score: **

Format: Jigsaw was reviewed on the Australian Region B Bluray which has both an impeccable 2.40:1 image and DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: A pretty cool bunch of extras on this disc that explore not just the making of this film, but the legacy of Jigsaw as well. Also I have to point out just how cool the menu is: it’s bizarre and creepy with a bunch of actors made up to look like Billy, and it reminds me of the Rammstein album ‘Sehnsucht

There is an amazing 7 part documentary, with each part exploring a whole different aspect of the film. They are titled A New Game, You Know His Name, Survival Of The Fittest, Death By Design, Blood Sacrifice, The Source Of Fear and The Truth Will Set You Free. I don’t know why they cut this into 7 mini-docs when one big one would have been a better plan. Maybe it was they assume we have short attention spans. The cool thing is though that it cover every aspect of the film, from the writing to the soundtrack and lots of cast and crew are interviewed.

The Choice Is Yours: Exploring the Props looks at the props that were created for the film. It was odd that this was presented separately to the rest of the mini-docos but it was still a welcome addition.

Score: ****

WISIA: I doesn’t matter if a Saw film is good or not, at some point I’ll end up watching it again whilst having a Saw-festival.

Rupture (2016)

One from the to watch pile…

Rupture (2016)

Film: When is a superhero movie not a superhero movie? When it is an exploration of ‘super powers’ and what it may take to get them to manifest in regular human beings! With the glut of fairly generic superhero films littering the cinemas, it’s nice to see someone doing such an exploration.

As one would expect, such a film would be made by people who are perhaps somewhat subversive with their previous productions, and in this case we are treated by the writer and director of the film Secretary, Steven Shainberg and Brian Nelson.

Reneé (Naomi Rapace), divorced, lives in the suburbs with her son, Evan (Percy Hynes White) but unbeknownst to her, her house is littered with camera, feeding the details of her everyday life to…someone?

After dropping her son off at his father’s house for a few days, Reneé is kidnapped and tasered by a group of people (including Fantastic Four’s Michael Chiklis) and taken to a facility, run by Dr. Nyman (Lesley Manville) and her team (including Peter Stormare) where she is subjected to a series of experiments by that are seemingly meant to test her endurance… it to what end? What will happen if and when she finally breaks?

Imagine making Hostel with a Twin Peaks color palette via a Croenenberg body-horror nightmare mixed with a Marilyn Manson filmclip hoping for a X-men styled result and you’ll get where Rupture is coming from. Mind you, if I’m totally honest, it’s a Diet Coke version of Martyrs.

Shainberg has an extraordinary mix of cast members who possibly shouldn’t work well together, but do so well, and to an increasingly odd effect as the film goes on.

It’s extraordinarily claustrophobic and the villains are persistently moustache-twirling weirdos with a mysterious agenda and that is what will keep you entertained for the entire film. Sure there are some inconsistencies, like the bad guys wiring up Reneé’s entire house with cameras, but there are none in the entire facility except portable video cameras carried around for the experiments, but I’ve seen far worse plot devices in my 15 odd years of reviewing films.

By the way, there is a couple of tributes to other genre films… keep a look out for them.

Score: ****

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Australian Region B Bluray, which runs for approximately 101 minutes. The image and sound, presented in 2.35:1 and DTS-HD 5.1, are both perfect.

Score: *****

Extras: Not a single one.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s a great story with an awesome cast, though once it’s secret are revealed a second watching probably isn’t going to have the same effect.

Intruders aka Shut In (2015) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Intruders (2015)

  

Film: Today is the day that I have to admit to the crime that separates a movie connoisseur from a horror movie hoarder. The thing that separates the highbrow champagne film critic from the lowbrow, beer skulling scumbag who is looking for the next film that he can cringe at whilst someone cops a claw hammer to the head.

Occasionally, I buy movies based on the picture on the cover. Even worse, this cover wasn’t a cool Roger Corman 80s schlock flick… It’s a modern, post-millennium, photoshopped cover.

Yes, I am hanging my head in shame.

I found this cover evocative though, and in my defence, like most ‘good’ items used to promote a film, it has very little to do with the story.

This film is the first feature film for director Adam Schindler, who is previously known for writing the 2013 horror film Delivery, and is written by T.J. Cimfel and David White, who previously worked together on V/H/S/ Viral.

This film is also known by the far better title ‘Shut In’ which certainly is more in tune with the story rather than the less interesting, and easily confused with the Clive Owen pic ‘Intruders’. I just don’t get why movies with good names get them changed when released in different countries/ regions.

  

Intruders tells the story of Anna Rook (Beth Reisgraf), an agoraphobic who has been taking care of her sick brother, Conrad (Timothy T. McKinney), who is suffering with pancreatic cancer. Her only real contact with the outside world are their lawyer, Charlotte (Leticia Jimenez) and a homecare meal delivery man, Dan (Rory Culkan). 

Tragically, her brother dies and due to her psychological disorder, she is unable to attend his funeral, and she hides inside from the outside world. Unfortunately for Rose, staying at home on a day she was supposed to be out was plain old bad luck, as a gang of three decide to rob the house as they have heard of money hidden within.  

What these intruders don’t realise is that Anna and her brother have a secret that they keep in the basement, and for their own good, it would be better if they stayed out…

Essentially the film is a combination of seventies home invasion films with Home Alone, but in this film, Kevin McAllister is replaced with a sexy, blonde female 20-something year old, and maybe, if I were the type to be a spoilerer, I’d suggest their to be just a drop of Saw.

I really liked this movie, and considering I knew nothing about it, was very pleasantly surprised. The intruders were great in their different levels of menace, though they may have watched Panic Room for inspiration, and Reisgraf’s performance remained delicate as her character reacted to misfortunes placed in her lap, even when it caused her to become aggressive  

Rory Culkan, on the other hand was the unfortunate exception. He plays his role like an actor playing an unpleasant, sarcastic nerd from an 80s teen comedy, but who has the memory of a goldfish and has to read his lines off a large piece of cardboard held up by an assistant director. I’d say this is an example of nepotism running rife in Hollywood, but how much pull older brother McCauley Culkan has I imagine would be dubious.

One other thing I definitely must point out with this film is that their are several elements within the house that require fairly large leaps of faith to believe that just two people could have set up. It’s difficult to properly explain exactly what I mean here without spoiling massive elements of the film, and I don’t wish to do that, but basically if you can believe the one-man-show aspects of some horrors and thriller antagonists, you should be OK.
I really liked this modern take on the 70s styled home invasion film, with the agoraphobic element thrown in as the first of a couple of twists… Not M. Night Shyamalan styled story-altering twists, just little tweaks. The quiet elements are balanced nicely with with the acts of violence, and fans of budgerigars be warned: this film contains scenes that may cause you to sit in your aviary and rock backwards and forwards for a few hours.
Score: ****

Format: A modern film in the digital format has no excuse for being bad, and this film looks great! The version watched was the Australian region B bluray which runs for 90 minutes and is presented in 2.40:1 letterbox and has a perfect DTS HD 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: None.

Score: N/A  

WISIA: I don’t think Intruders is going to make its way to the rewatch pile, even though it was a pretty good movie. Like a magician teaching others his tricks, once you know the secret, the interest diminishes. I will add that some of the dialogue between Anna and Conrad has a different meaning once you have seen the film, so it’s possibly worth one do over just for that.