10 Scary Things of 2010

From the Horror Blogger Alliance, the first of our end-of-year special list things

10. Human Centipedes: For many people, 2010 is the year of The Human Centipede. Not a very good movie but a beautifully disgusting concept to be sure. The Human Centipede combines grisly torture guff with scat porn. I first sawCentipede advertised as a porno, actually ("2 GIRLS ONE GUY GO ASS-TO-MOUTH"). And now there is actually a Human Sexipede. It ne ver could quite live up to that reputation, but Director Tom Six gives it a helluva shot. Bring on the Full Sequence.

9. A Horse: A ha ha ha ha haaa, look, the 24-year-old man's scared of My Little Pony. Shut up and think about it. Last week I had the misfortune of being packed away to a works' weekend in the country. This involved barbeque, camping and orienteering excercises. Being an idiot, yours truly was quickly quite lost. Much of it resembled an episode of L O S T. I wandered around the woods for a good two hours, drenched by rain and under attack from smoke monsters (well, chain smoking idiot colleagues). And then there were the horses. During our misadventures, we ended up traipsing through a big empty field. Well, empty save for the fucking horses. Lots of horses with big horsey penises. I'm not ashamed to admit that the thought of death by horse rape crossed my mind. Until you've had the thousand-yard-stare from a horse, you don't know fear. One of them whinnied and I shat myself.

7. This Is England 86: Shane Meadows' TV sequel to his seminal This Is England movie, England 86 picks up the story ten years later and, episode by episode, emotionally devastates his audience. A man with an evil beard commits two of the most horrible rape sequences I've ever seen. Johnny Harris' Mick is, for my money, the best villain of 2010, and decidedly not in a good way. As much as it adds to the plot and aids Combo's eventual redemption arc, it's a little too overpowering and threatens to derail the whole thing. I actually feel dirty even thinking about it.

6. 2012: Not the movie, which was shitty, but the year. I read Lawrence E. Joseph's Apocalypse 2012 in September, and it actually terrified me. Until I realised that I don't believe in that sort of thing, closed the book and read something about superheroes instead. Still, I'm an idiot and I think I'm going to keep expecting the world to end all the way until 2013. Then I'll find something else to worry about instead.

5. Shitty movies: 2010 has been a bad year for horror. Take a bow Eclipse, 2001 Maniacs: Field Of Screams, Nightmare 2010, Vampires Suck and news of a Buffy remake. Even scarier is the amount of money (most of) those movies made. Really, humanity? This is just like that documentary I watched... Idiocracy.

4. My own mortality: My 2010 kicked off on a bit of a bummer with the tragic death of my brother (too tragic to joke about that one line there nearly rhyming, so don't) and the following funeral. Sorry to bring the mood down, but this site sucks anyway so it's not as if you're here for the shits and giggles. In fact, I don't think there is anyone actually here. Anyway, prior to losing my kid brother, I think I'd sort of assumed that I'd live forever. This year, I learned that I won't. Scary stuff. This one should be #1 on the list actually, but I'd rather not end it on such a downer....

3. The Taint: Simply put, ew. Every bit as disgusting and horrible as The Human Centipede should have been. Hands down my favourite bit of independent horror this year. And I'm not just saying that because they sent me a DVD.

2. Not Freddy Kreuger: So not-scary that it made #2 on my list of the scariest things of 2010. Did we need to see Fred Krueger wailing like a big girl's blouse as the vengeful parents of Springwood immolate him? No we did not. Furthermore, I could've done without that crappy makeup, unimaginative dream sequence and drippy blanket of a final fight. Nightmare 2010: so not scary that it's actually scary.

1. JUSTIN BIEBER: A Lovecraftian little fuck if ever there was one, Justin Bieber represents to me the dumbing down of pop, the mass stupiddening of teenage girls worldwide and the rise of a hairstyle phenomenon known as "the Bieber". And yes, the child does actually, physically scare me. Literally the only good things to have come from JB in 2010 are (1) That South Park skit (2) Someone throwing a bottle at his head (3) Him walking into a door and saying "ow". The scariest moment of the Bieber zeitgeist? When I heard a Galaxy FM presenter compare JB playing Manhattan to Elvis in Vegas. Fuck humanity.


Director: Jonas Akerlund (2009)
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ziyi Zhang, Lou Taylor Pucci
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon

There's a reason Se7en stars Kevin Spacey as the killer and not a bunch of teenagers. One, because Kevin Spacey can act and (most) teenager's can't. And two, because whingeing teenagers fucking suck. Horsemen fucking sucks, despite the best efforts of Dennis Quaid and a character called 'Stingray'. It's a stupid movie, from its Se7en-lite aesthetics to its predictable and banal use of torture. There's not a convincing or scary villain in the whole movie and it builds to a dull, highly forseeable 'climax' which is in no way apocalyptic, scary, thrilling or even interesting. Dennis Quaid looks tired and the movie's attempt at creating a teenage female Hannibal Lecter (Ziyi Zhang) is laughable. Or it would be if it wasn't so depressingly ridiculous.

It's the sort of cliched cop movie that stars professional 'that guy' Barry Shabaka Henley as a cop boss and wastes Peter Stormare as its signposted red herring. As soon as you see Quaid's hunched, depressed looking cop you can tell that he's probably suffering a dead wife (which he is) and struggling to bring up kids that hate him (he does and they do). As the thing stumbles on and on, its outcome becomes more and more predictable, more inconsequential and more stupid. It's an impressive 'thriller' that makes its villains less scary as the movie goes on. Actually, no, Horsemen is not an impressive thriller; not even in an ironic sense.

"Come and see", the movie's villains taunt, repeatedly. "Come and see." No, don't.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

Director: Samuel Bayer (2010)
Starring: Jackie Earle Hayley, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon

Not quite as bad as everyone says it is. But still pretty bad. A Nightmare On Elm Street is a remake of, well, do I really need to say any more? I will a bit, just so's you know where I stand. Wes Craven's 1984 piece is arguably one of the finest slasher movies in cinema history. And this remake isn't. At all. It gets some things right but most things wrong. Behold.

The characters that aren't Freddy Krueger all suck. Freddy Krueger kinda sucks. There's no John Saxon. There's no Robert Englund. New Nancy is incredibly bland. The did-he-or-didn't-he subplot is stupid (he did). The dream sequences are unimaginitive. The kill sequences are too reminiscent of those from Craven's original. There aren't enough kills. Freddy looks like ET crossed with a puppy. His voice is stupid. He's very rarely menacing. The pacing is off. For the first half, there's a sense of disconnection between the scenes; there's no flow and the introduction of Nancy is hashed. There's no subtext - it's just Freddy growling like Batman and acting like some torture-guff reject. Wes Craven had his Nightmare represent Nancy's awakening as a sexual being. When Freddy's glove emerges from the bathwater, it's heading for her Vajayjay for a reason - Bayer has it happen simply because Craven did it.

And this is the movie's biggest mistake: it tries far too hard to distance itself from previous Nightmares (the casting of Jackie - new makeup for Freddy) but uses too much of Craven's original material to defy comparison. It's not a re-imagining - bar the finale and a few bits and pieces inbetween, much of it is scene-for-scene copying.

The students' reaction to finding Twilight on the semester's reading list wasn't a happy one

There are good bits too, and a few more of them than one might expect given the movie's reputation. The use of the Everly Brothers is stunning. The redo of the flying bed death thing is technically very good. There's plenty of grue. The showdown between Freddy and Nancy is brutal. For all his new faults, it's good to see Freddy again and it's nice to see an attempt to make him properly scary. I liked the return of the "...my world, bitch" line. And the final bit (a homage to the 'pulling-mom-through-the-window-door' shot) is amusing, if only because it looks as shit as it did the first time around. Given the years of improvement in CGI and filmmaking technology, why couldn't they give us some Inception style nightmares? Surely we've seen enough boiler rooms and smelly teenage bedrooms?

Ultimately, it's not quite as bad as many will say, although it does pale into insignificance next to its mighty predecessor. This is Nightmare for people who've never actually had a real Nightmare.

Black Death

Director: Christopher Smith (2010)
Starring: Sean Bean, Tim Mcinnerny, Andy Nyman
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon

The bubonic plague is spreading like wildfire across Olde England. Led by an angry-looking Sean Bean, a crack team of warriors and a wimpy monk take it out on a village full of (semi) innocent pagans. It's like The Wicker Man crossed with Witchfinder General crossed with Blackadder. Whilst the trailer might have you believe it to be nonstop action and supernatural horror, the film is more grounded in faith, existential crises and Sean Bean looking like a moody Eastenders extra. And while we're at it, I find it very difficult taking this man seriously as a villain:

Black Death is an interesting movie, but perhaps a little too serious for its own good. I know there's a bloody plague on, but boring brooding glumness pervades every scene of Black Death. It's like Monty Python and the Holy Grail as remade by Lars von Trier. Only the supposedly evil pagan villagers are any fun, but even that doesn't last long. It doesn't help that the main characters are all dull overplayed stereotypes. Sean Bean plays it angry and his team of warriors are all unlikeable meatheads. It's the worst performance by a semi-talented actor since, well, his turn in The Hitcher. Even the superb Andy Nyman is trapped behind a bit of one-note characterisation and a lack of anything meaningful to do. It's all a bit of a waste. A shame really, since all involved are capable of so much better.

The Disappearance Of Alice Creed

Director: J Blakeson (2009)
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston, Eddie Marsan
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

Not horror, but thrilling, gripping and with enough ball gag action to make the Horror Review Hole cut. Proof that Gemma Arterton is more than just a pretty face. (Further) proof that Eddie Marsan is one of the most underrated actors in British film. Furthering the career of the ball gag as the gag du jour for Indie cinema. The Disappearance Of Alice Creed is a low-budget Brit thriller which sees Gemma Arterton playing a very different kind of bond girl, kidnapped and locked away in a smelly flat.

Both no things and lots of things happen over the course of the movie. The action is largely restrained (no pun intended) to one room and occasionally a toilet. Only three characters are seen throughout. In all honestly, Alice Creed doesn't need anything else. It's an incredibly tense, gripping and thrilling movie, packed full of twists and neat character moments. The main trio are all excellent, with Marsan and Compston managing to make horrible characters seem sympathetic if not likeable. Arterton, despite being tied to a bed with a gag in her mouth for most of the time, is great and manages to do a lot with very little. It can't have been an easy role, but she's brilliant in it - more than making up for dodgy turns in the likes of Prince Of Persia.

Gratuitous screencap , pandering to the Damsel In Distress fans who make up at least 20% of this site's readership*

It's difficult to talk about Alice Creed, since a lot of its power relies on its various twists and turns. It has its moments of predictability and runs out of steam occasionally, but these are very minor faults. Its UK cinema release was less than glorious, Predictable joke ->but one should try their very hardest to ensure Alice Creed makes her appearance in a DVD player near you ASAP <- Predictable joke.

* That probably includes myself**
** Yes, I'm arrogant enough to admit I'm a fan of my own site***
*** But only for the pictures of gratuitous bondage and Zooey Deschanel****
**** And you too can become a fan here


Director: Anthony DiBlasi (2009)
Starring: Jackson Rathbone, Hanne Steen, Laura Donnelly
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon

Another short story from his Books Of Blood, Dread is torture guff done Clive Barker style. It's one of his more realistic tales (no demons or ghosties or pinheads then) but no less horrible than the likes of Hellraiser. Barker's style is quite inimitable, rarely failing to disturb when at its best. Dread in its original form isn't really vintage Barker unfortunately - despite a cool premise and menacing character, the ending is a bit daft. But this movie adaptation loses some of the silly bits and makes with a lot more torture. The difference between this and, say, Craptivity, is the emphasis on psychological horror and plenty ruminations on the nature of fear.

It's a deeply unpleasant movie, thoroughly earning its title and oozing the titular dread throughout its runtime. University chap Stephen (Rathbone) runs into fellow student Quaid (Evans) during a chance meeting. Together, the pair decide to conduct research on the nature of fear. Only Quaid's a bit wacko and things soon get out of hand. Lots of horrible things happen, none of them pleasant but all pretty compelling. The basic premise sees Quaid try to bully vegetarian Cheryl (Steen) into eating a steak, but it's so much more horrid than that. The ending is tweaked too, becoming something a little more fitting than the original story's conclusion, but also a fair bit nastier too. In this age of Saws and I Knows Who Killeds Mes, there needs to be more gore and more kills than Barker had, so there is and there are. And by the way, talking of Dread:

It stars Jasper from Twilight, which I didn't know until just now. This must be why Dread had such an effect on me. This is literally the longest I've gone watching a Twilight star without vomiting. And there was me thinking it was because of the horrible story and things that Quaid does. But in all seriousness, Rathbone aquits himself well here, with his serious actorly beard and sideburns. It's well-acted all around, even if Quaid isn't quite as creepy as I'd have imagined him to be from the story.

Minor quibbles, though. Dread is pretty good, despite all of the torture and its over seriousness. The over abundance of such things in recent years has diluted the story, the concept and the movie of its originality, but it's still better than 90% of the similarly themed yet utterly inferior dross out there.

Book Of Blood

Director: John Harrison (2009)
Starring: Sophie Ward, Jonas Armstrong, Simon Bamford
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon

I've read Clive Barker's Books Of Blood (most of them) and I don't recall Robin Hood being in any of the stories. While you might think that Barker's collection of short stories might make for a fine portmanteau, there's only one story at play here: and that's the one that served as kicking off point in Barker's original. Nevertheless, I read the word 'erotic' on the back of the DVD case and that's the only incentive I needed. True fact: I will buy or rent any movie with the word 'erotic' in the title or on the back of the cover. This has led to me watching a lot of shit over the years. Terrible admission time: this has also led to me owning a copy of Bound. Ahem. Book Of Blood isn't all that erotic, although there is sex and Jonas Armstrong getting naked.

A paranormal expert (Ward) discovers a house that is supposedly at an intersection of "highways" transporting spirits into the afterlife. Instead of calling Derek Acorah like any sane person would, she instead enlists the help out of a slightly psychic student lad (Armstrong) and a sleazy sceptic cameraman. Despite feeling like a Paranormal Activity spinoff, Book Of Blood has enough going on to disguise its occasional faults.

Jonas had been taking fashion advice from Jim Carrey again

Because alas, like most short stories converted to feature length, it feels less like a movie than a prequel to something more important. Maybe if one was to follow this with a viewing of Dread and Midnight Meat Train it might be a little more effective. And alas, I'm too familiar with Jonas Armstrong from off'a British TV to be convinced by his performance.

Clive Barker's influence is the movie's saving grace, transforming a lesser piece into something marginally creepier than it should have been. The concept itself is a great one - infused with bits of everything that makes Barker so readable - and there are a few moments that send genuine chills down the spine, but Book Of Blood ultimately feels like a billion other STD haunted house stories. It should have been shorter and sleazier and had a little more Bark (ho ho ho), although when taken on its own terms, this is a perfectly serviceable bit of spook horror.

What I'm Thankful For: a Thanksgiving special

Over here in the United Kingdom, we don't really celebrate or care about Thanksgiving. Being a blogger though, I do celebrate and care about any excuse I might have to share my witless opinion. And you get to read it. Although I know no-one actually reads this blog so I'm not sure why I said that. Or am writing this. Also, I'm an athiest and an ingrate, so don't like thanking higher powers for things. We'll forget all about that for this one post, as I take note of all the things I has been thankful for this year and also forever:

- I'm thankful that I live in a world where Machete, The Expendables and The Taint could get made

- I'm thankful that I exist in the same plane of existence as Zooey Deschanel

- I'm thankful for Timothy Olyphant

- I'm thankful for The Walking Dead

- I'm thankful to be seeing Meat Loaf live next month (don't fucking laugh)

- I'm thankful for that video.

- I'm thankful that enough people give a shit about music in England to sabotage The X-Factor by making this man potentially win it

- I'm thankful for Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare and chainsaws in Dead Rising 2.

- I'm not thankful for Jack Fucking Marston.

- I'm thankful for The Oatmeal

- I'm thankful for Bruce Campbell

- And finally, on a soppy note, I'm thankful for my family and friends, to the few of you that read this miserable blog and, well, did I mention Zooey Deschanel?

Shut up, I admit it: this article was nothing but a wafer-thin excuse to post pictures of Zooey Deschanel


Wherein the poster gives away the gist of the twist

Director: Christopher Smith (2009)
Starring: Melissa George, Michael Dorman, Henry Nixon
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon

Best described as like series 5 of LOST, only set on a boat. Triangle sees Melissa George and a handful of friends trapped on a deserted ship after their own little raft goes all Perfect Storm. Throw in a masked shotgun-wielding loon and some not-really-confusing timetravel shennanigans and you have Triangle in a nutshell. It's an engaging, twisty little thriller that only manages to be about half as clever as it thinks it is. It's also, apparently, directed by Christopher Smith of Severance and Creep fame, which came as a bit of a surprise. It's his most ambitious project to date and his most mature too. It's certainly better than Black Death, which in retrospect feels like a bit of a step backwards. Plus this movie stars Melissa George and I heart Melissa George.

Melissa George: good even in Home & Away (probably) and that John Milton adaptation

You're supposed to be asking questions about paradoxes and making with your best WTF face, but I was more distracted by Melissa George and her silly shoes. She runs around the boat as if she's just drunk a whole crate of Red Bull. Her hyperactive performance here puts the 'thrill' in thriller, and yet she does so whilst wearing an implausibly high pair of wedges. Her stupid shoes are even made a plot point later in the film.

But enough about Melissa George and her daft shoes. There are other people and footwear in this film. Everyone puts on a fine show, and Smith's direction is incredibly slick. It's no gorefest, but there are some good kill sequences and very inventive nightmarish style imagery at work. One particular scene - in which a dying character crawls onto a deck filled with dead copies of herself - is guaranteed to give you chills every time. There are plot holes and bits that don't make sense, and Melissa George learns how to use a gun far too fast, but Triangle is a snappy, effective little mindbender. It's best described as like series 5 of LOST, only set on a boat.

Triangle sees Melissa George and a handful of friends trapped on a deserted ship after their own little raft goes all Perfect Storm. Throw in a masked shotgun-wielding loon and some not-really-confusing timetravel shennanigans and you have Triangle in a nutshell. It's an engaging, twisty little thriller that only manages to be about half as clever as it thinks it is. It's also, apparently, directed by Christopher Smith of Severance and Creep fame, which came as a bit of a surprise. It's his most ambitious project to date and his most mature too. It's certainly better than Black Death, which in retrospect feels like a bit of a step backwards. Plus this movie stars Melissa George and I heart Melissa George.

Melissa George: good even in Home & Away (probably) and that John Milton adaptation

You're supposed to be asking questions about paradoxes and making with your best WTF face, but I was more distracted by Melissa George and her silly shoes. She runs around the boat as if she's just drunk a whole crate of Red Bull. Her hyperactive performance here puts the 'thrill' in thriller, and yet she does so whilst wearing an implausibly high pair of wedges. Her stupid shoes are even made a plot point later in the film.

But enough about Melissa George and her daft shoes. There are other people and footwear in this film. Everyone puts on a fine show, and Smith's direction is incredibly slick. It's no gorefest, but there are some good kill sequences and very inventive nightmarish style imagery at work. One particular scene - in which a dying character crawls onto a deck filled with dead copies of herself - is guaranteed to give you chills every time. There are plot holes and bits that don't make sense, and Melissa George learns how to use a gun far too fast, but Triangle is a snappy, effective little mindbender.

It's best described as like series 5 of LOST, only set on a boat. Sorry, that was fucking terrible. And will probably only ever make sense to those who have actually seen the movie already.

The Taint

Director: Drew Bolduc & Dan Nelson (2010)
Starring: Drew Bolduc, Ariel Canton, Cody Crenshaw

Comes loaded with a perfectly apt moniker. I certainly feel tainted by this movie. The Taint is like The Crazies, only filtered through the likes of South Park, John Waters and elements of Peter Jackson's Braindead. It's one of the most gleefully obscene things I've ever seen. The Taint is a movie which you couldn't even begin to synopsisis-se for your mother without getting an earful. If you thought The Human Centipede was bad (bless you) well, you've never seen a man on a skateboard, draped in an American flag, shooting at bulging boners with a .44 Magnum. It's a bizarre movie, relishing its low budget rather than being constrained by it. It reminds me of the cult TV show Darkplace. Only a lot more disgusting.

The titular Taint is the result of medical experimentation gone terribly wrong. In an attempt to produce a manhood enhancing drug, scientists accidentally unleash a sort of horny zombie apocalypse upon the world; one which turns the infected into raging 'misogynists' - "monsters who want nothing more than to crush women's heads with rocks". Do you like penis and jizz? I hope so, because you'll be seeing a lot of both in The Taint. Awesomely haired Phil O' Ginny (Bolduc) is one of the few uninfected. Whilst fleeing the misogynist hordes, he happens across a fellow survivor, with whom he forms a tentative alliance. Can he stay uninfected, survive and maybe even discover the cause of the infection? Maybe, but I shouldn't worry. It's all just an excuse for unbelievable amounts of violence, gore, swearing and spraying jizz.

To be sure, The Taint isn't everyone's cup of tea. Those with a low tolerance for gross-out humour and bodily functions would be well advised to keep clear. Likewise, those who like their flicks with Hollywood gloss won't get on with the Troma-esque gonzo splatter and intentional trashiness. But that's fine - I've seen enough over-serious STD bores to last a lifetime. I'll take mine with a sense of humour, lots of cock and a streak of horrid inventiveness any day, thank you. Consider me proudly and forever Tainted.

Death Tube

Director: Fukuda Youhei (2010)
Starring: Shoichi Matsuda, Wataru Kaoru
Find it online: Amazon UK, Amazon US

If Jigsaw was a bit of an Icarly wannabe and didn't have as much money and whinged less and wasn't in as many sequels, he might produce something a bit like Death Tube. Except there's a big yellow teddy bear instead of a puppet and it goes on for a bit too long. There's also the sneaking feeling that you already saw this movie back when it was called Untraceable and starred Diane Lane.

For all of its Internet commentary and affectations of modernity, Death Tube doesn't even have an IMDB page. And it certainly doesn't have Diane Lane. It doesn't even have Stephen Dorff. What it does have is half of the Youtube logo (I'll let you look at the title and guess which) and a really really nasal Bear encouraging its victims to mutilate themselves and betray one another. Poor Saw bear couldn't even afford so much as a tricycle - his traps and gadgetry consist largely of rubiks cubes, hula hoops, poisoned doughnuts and what I assumed to be a wrecking ball but probably wasn't paying attention. Well, he must have spent all of his money on the domain name. And yes, I did just type the URL into Internet Explorer. For the record, fear.com isn't much cop either.

It's perfectly fine but instantly forgetteable and goes on for a bit too long. It having a twist feels obligatory rather than organic - as though it's only there because Saw had a twist too. It's not obvious, but serves no real purpose and is forgotten as quickly as it's introduced. That said, the moustache bear is creepy enough and at least we won't have to put up with seventy-odd sequels afterward. Never mind any DeathTube - the real thing is scary enough (link very NSFA).

Night Of The Demons (2009)

Director: Adam Gierasch (2009)
Starring: Edward Furlong, Shannon Elizabeth, Linnea Quigley, Michael Arata
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

An all-growed up but still quite cherubic Edward Furlong battles demons in a haunted house on Halloween. There are also breasts, sex and quite a lot of gore. What more do you need to know? Furlong plays a harrassed drug dealer trapped in a New Orleans mansion where demons are unleashed and dangerous games of spin the bottle are played. A demon shags a woman up the botty until she turns into a demon too, and unpleasant things are done with a tube of lipstick. Can Furlong and his crew of fellow partiers survive until daybreak? For all its gross-out horror and, um, Shannon Elizabeth, Night Of The Demons is like American Pie crossed with From Dusk Till Dawn.

If that sounds terrible, it's because Night Of The Demons '09 is pretty terrible. But in the very best way. It's tasteless and horrible and the pacing sucks - it takes too long to get going and there are too many lulls in the action -but it makes for an eminently watchable movie. Sincerely, this is Shannon Elizabeth's best performance to date. Make of that rather odd sentence what you will. For all its considerable faults, Night Of The Demons is a fun movie. It's a funny but unironic splatterfest in the tradition of such classics as Evil Dead, the original Night Of The Demons and Braindead. It's not as good as any of those movies, but infinitely more preferable than yet another modern torture bit. I loved Night Of The Demons. But yes, I am ever so slightly ashamed to admit that.


Director: Adam Green (2010)
Starring: Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon

This review is in association with the Final Girl Film Club.

It's like that movie where everyone falls off the boat, except set on a ski lift. Or like that one with the sharks, but with wolves instead. Three college students take off to the mountains for an afternoon of skiing and frolicking in the snow. Things take a darker turn when they get themselves stuck on a ski lift. Perils include frostbite, Dumb and Dumber style skin-on-frozen-metal trauma, broken limbs, wolves and, y'know, it being a bit chilly up there. And one of the kids is Iceman from off've the X-Men. Talk about being typecast.

By the time it came to the Iceman VS Wolverine fight scene, it became obvious that Aronofsky had never read an X-Men comic in his life.

Perhaps surprisingly, Frozen is a really good film. Writer/director Adam Green takes a not-terribly-great concept and pumps it full of tension. There's just the right balance of bickering and whingeing, with Green wisely deciding not to play up the brats' arguing too much. The otherwise serviceable Adrift was ruined by its cast of idiots and spoilt wee arseholes. Green understands that the idea of, y'know, FREEZING TO DEATH is scary enough without needing to have his characters constantly argue about it. Whilst a couple of them might be a tad irritating, you'll root for at least one of them (the lovely Emma Bell) to get down in one piece. Equally so, there's more than a little schadenfreude to be had in seeing spoilt ski kids getting their commeupance.

It may be a minor piece, but it's definite proof that Green is good for more than just splattery gorefests (ala Hatchet and its sequel) and equally good with straight horror. There's even a cameo from Kane Hodder. All movies are better with cameos from Kane Hodder, even when he isn't stabbing people. Bejesus willing, it might cause viewers to think twice about booking that ski trip with their mates. And let's be honest, ski-ers deserve everything they get. Even that bit with the wolves.

Saw: The Collected Reviews

Saw - "It's easy to forget how unterrible the first Saw movie is."

Saw II - "The second Saw movie in a row to not suck."

Saw III - "(?) (?) and (?)"

Saw IV - "Destroys any hope that Jigsaw might be resurrected as a zombie, Jesus or Frankenstein's Monster."

Saw V - "A resounding 'shit off' to your boxset"

Saw VI - "I can't actually remember what happens in this movie."

Saw 3D - "Like that one time I drank a whole bottle of Bailey's in one sitting"

Saw: The Final Chapter

Director: Kevin Greutert (2010)
Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandaylor, Betsy Russell
Find it online: IMDB

Like that one time I drank a whole bottle of Bailey's in one sitting, the Saw franchise leaves feelings of self-loathing, nausea and disgust. All this after a brief feeling of enjoyment and surprise at how good it feels at the time. And, to labour the not-very-good point even more, both alcoholism/gluttony and the watching of Saw movies are disgraceful behaviours and shouldn't be in any way encouraged. There's another crappy point too: both times, I swore 'never again'. And yet I will again, repeatedly, until either my liver or my brain gives in.

Simply by virtue of its extra dimension, Saw 3D will do your brain in faster than any of its predecessors. All the guts and gore and bodily fluids flung at the screen will titillate every bit as much as they instigate migranes. Although you might as well see Jackass 3D if that's your bag. At least the plot and acting will be better. Minor bitching aside, the 3D lends a certain gusto to some otherwise uninspired traps. The devices here are either too simplistic (a noose? Tooth pulling? Really?) repetitions of earlier glories (those fuckbloody reverse bear traps again) or ridiculously over the top. The final thing sort of resembles a cross between Optimus Prime and Thunderbird 2 and is funnier than it is scary. Saw 3D takes Avatar as inspiration in using its extra dimension: make everything look real pretty and no-one will notice how much it kind of sucks.

Saw 3D picks up exactly where part VI left off. Hoffman (Mandaylor) is pursuing Jigsaw's ex-wife (Russell); apparently the only one who knows his secret. She manages to escape and hands herself in to the cops. Hoffman is infuriated and goes trap-crazy, setting a bunch more silly contraptions into motion. First to die are some kids bickering over a petty love triangle. Judging by this motley trio, Hoffman's begun selecting his victims via facebook and twitter updates. It's all done in public though, which is kinda interesting and what tricked me into seeing the film in the first place. This is very quickly dropped though, and never mentioned again. Likewise, Hoffman's silly little Arrowmobile, so prominent in the trailer, is relegated to a brief dream sequence. Now it's back to business as usual. Namely, torture and Costas Mandaylor doing his Steven Seagal body-double shtick.

Meanwhile, someone is cashing in on Jigsaw's legacy. Self-help guru Bobby (Flanery) claims to be one of the few Jigsaw survivors, despite having never crossed paths with John or any of his disciples. Before you can say 'book deal', Bobby has been kidnapped and ends up trapped in one of Hoffman's dingy torture basements. If you've seen Saw III - VI, there's no surprises here. I even predicted the twist long before I'd entered the cinema. Whilst Bobby runs around a basement failing to save people, Hoffman does his best Terminator impression and cuts swathes through the police force.

I don't believe for an instant that this is 'game over'. The door is left wide open for more sequels. There's no sense of deconstruction or climax or finality to anything. True, there's more of an effort towards companionship to the original movie. Cary Elwes makes a glorified cameo, Jigsaw has yet more whingeing to do and another message to impart. It's just hard to care anymore. Not even the sight of fat Cary Elwes doing a bad Christian Bale/Dr. House impression can aleviate our overfamiliarity with the franchise. Still, it's got more going for it than parts V and VI, and is innocously sort of engaging until you bother to stop and think about it. It's thoroughly mediocre, which at this point in the fumbling franchise, is a definite improvement.

The Final Chapter plays better on DVD, shorn of its 3D gimmick and expectations. Embrace the shlock and ignore the bad, and there's fun to be had. And finally, now it's all over, you can rest easy and buy the complete box set without having to worry about there being another one to mess up your collection. Well, at least maybe not for awhile.

Saw VI

Director: Kevin Greutert (2009)
Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandaylor, Mark Rolston, Betsy Russell
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Agent Strahm is dead, splattered all over the inside of Hoffman's last trap. But because nobody at Lionsgate has enough money already and I was stupid enough to watch the last one, another game is set into motion. Oh goody; I really wanted to see a flashback of that one time Jigsaw had to scratch his ass during the first Saw but was pretending to be dead at the time. Saw VI has the least artistic merit of all the movies so far (I haven't seen 3D yet, mind), which is no mean feat when one considers how completely irredeemably pointless the last one was. Well in the tradition of sequels, this one is even more pointless. I'm playing for time here, because I can't actually remember what happens in this movie. Not a jot, except for that bit at the end where Hoffman ends up stuck in one of his own traps. Ha. Although we all know he'll be back for the next one.

A bit like me, because I'm an idiot and bought into that "final chapter" stuff. Bad horror fan.


Director: Yorgos Lanthimos (2009)
Starring: Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

In the interest of full disclosure: I myself was homeschooled. Whilst I was never treated to a lexicon of bullshit words, incest and mouthwash torture, the events of Dogtooth aren't exactly outside the realms of possibility. This one time, I met a kid who slept with a samurai sword under his bed and was withdrawn from school because Mom & Pop disapproved of dinosaurs. But enough of that, because no-one cares. It's an intriguing concept, and one which is milked for all its worth by director Yorgos Lanthimos.

In Dogtooth, three teenagers are sealed away on a country estate with doting but strict Mum and Dad. None of the kids have ever seen the outside world, and Mum seems content enough to stay locked away. Only Dad ever leaves their home. See, the kids believe that it's a dangerous world out there. Only when you've lost your left or right 'Dogtooth' (situated somewhere in the back of your mouth) are you old enough to go outside. Otherwise, death awaits. Ma and Pa's motivations are never really explained, but their education of the kids basically consists of teaching them bollocks definitions ("a zombie is a small yellow flower", a telephone is a salt shaker and a keyboard is a vagina) and hitting them with video tapes. The kids are also told that cats are really dangerous creatures, capable of climbing through windows to bash you one with a hammer. And Grandpa was Frank Sinatra. Also, it's perfectly fine to bone your brother. One scene sees the siblings naked in a bath as brother gropes first one sister's boobies/buttocks and then the other's. Another sees Younger Sister offering to lick out Big Sister's 'keyboard'. It's like a Greek Oldboy crossed with The Village crossed with Mum and Dad.

What with the naturalistic performances, explicit sex scenes, low-key cinematography and lashings of nudity, Dogtooth is about as arthouse a movie as one could expect to find this side of a Lars von Trier. We know that it's arthouse because none of it is really arousing and they do it with their socks on. And as such, the movie's not very accessible nor is it particularly interesting to lovers of plot or things happening. With not much happening in Dogtooth, it would be remiss of me to spoil that which actually does. It may not be horror proper, but there's enough here to disturb and peak the curiosity of even the most hardened horror fan. The incest is a bit much though. It's the inaccessability and lack of purpose that holds Dogtooth back from greatness. Somewhere towards the end, it seems like it's amping up towards a big happening - but not much does. It sort of just, well, ends. Like this.

Saw V

Director: David Hackl (2008)
Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

In a resounding "shit off" to your Saw boxset, Jigsaw's back for a fifth outing. It's ironic really. Fella gets more screentime in death than he did during his prime in the first movie (lying pretend-dead on a toilet floor not withstanding). Because the series creators seem to regard Jigsaw as an interesting character worthy of screentime, Tobin Bell's killer is crowbarred into a bunch of flashbacks and nonsensical bits which supposedly happened over the course of the first few movies. Only this time I care even less. Yes, less than this.

The whole thing trundles along in its usual way, towards a predictable climax (come on, there was no way Hoffman would ever be caught. Strahm was always destined to die the same death of all Saw heroes) intercut with various tortures and false promises of some sort of meaning. Not even the normally quite likeable Julie Benz can elevate this episode. She plays a boring, uninteresting and unlikeable businesswoman type, trapped in an underground dungeon type thing with a host of other disparate, boring, uninteresting and unlikeable people. Their big game plays out like a team building exercise, with the resounding moral message being that teamwork overcomes all. Meanwhile, Strahm was fucked from the start. His final test is unwinnable really, as the franchise needs its heroes to keep dying in order to keep going. It's very lazy and very predictable. Just for once, the twist should be a Happy Ending for all; Jigsaw and his cronies left dead and run out of silly games.

"You won't believe how it ends". My dear Saw, I couldn't give a fuck.