Cherry Tree Lane

Director: Paul Andrew Williams (2010)
Starring: Rachael Blake, Tom Butcher, Jumayn Hunter, Ashley Chin
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon

Like Waiting For Godot crossed with Eden Lake or Funny Games, Paul Andrew Williams' latest movie pits hoodies against suburbanites and thankfully perpetuates the director's spot-on batting average. His London To Brighton was a heartfelt, gripping drama that marked him as talent to watch. The Cottage, whilst annoying critics who felt it beneath his powers, was a superb mean little comedy-horror that (for scare fans at least) outshone his debut and delivered a jolly good backwoods horror to boot. Cherry Tree Lane is neither a heartfelt drama nor a comedy-horror. A sparse, sharp home invasion thriller, Cherry Tree Lane is as tense and thrilling as you could ask for. And not a jot of bullshitty reality rewinding remote controls or killers too smart for their own good.

Christine (Rachael Blake) and Mike (Tom Butcher) are a bickering, slightly annoying married couple found unsuspecting when vengeance-seeking hoodies barge into their home in search of son Sebastian. Sebastian being out at football practice, the yobs make short work of taping the couple up and acting all kinds of antisocial. No digestive biscuit is left unturned as the Kidulthood rejects eat their food, steal their duct tape, trash their rooms and mercilessly critique their DVD collection. It's a fairly thankless pair of roles for Blake and Butcher, who spend literally every scene after the ten minute mark very bound and gagged. Cherry Tree Lane is the Sun/Daily Mail reader's worst nightmare. And not just because it stars black actors and young people. With its feral yobs on a rampage, Cherry Tree Lane depicts a menace most modern; and one that most people can relate to. Who Can Kill A Child? You'll certainly want to after seeing Rian (Hunter) at his worst. True story fact fans: he was in Eden Lake too.

It's not a particularly likeable movie. Like Martyrs and the aforementioned Eden Lake, it's something to be endured rather than enjoyed. It's a hard watch, but one that fascinates as much as it revolts. Mind, it's not for everyone. Despite being better handled than it could've been, a rapey subplot feels like a step too far (so much so that one character comments on it as such) and the climax is both frustrating and a little predictable. The introduction of several other characters also feels a little excessive, although it does amp the action up a notch. But if you've the stomach to handle such things, Cherry Tree Lane is well worth a cheeky little viewing. Although be warned; it's plausible and horrible enough to give you palpatations next time your own doorbell rings.

Apocalypse 2012

Never judge a book by its cover. This one will make you LITERALLY SHIT YOURSELF

Another book review? I'm afraid so, fellow cinephiles. One of the perils of working a full time job means less time spent watching movies and more time either working or commuting. But don't worry - Apocalypse 2012 is perhaps the most terrifying book I've ever read. If that sounds a bit hyperbolic then it's quite apt. Apocalypse 2012 is the most hyperbolic book I've ever read. I'm still not entirely convinced it wasn't written by Roland Emmerich or that Woody Harrelson character from his movie adaptation. Thank you, Lawrence E. Joseph for ruining my lunch break and making me want to jump on a super boat and hide behind a mountain or whatever the hell was going on in that movie.

That said, if the world does end in 2012 then I suppose it makes this blog amongst the pinnacle of human achievement. Bear with me here... look, if the world ends very soon, then that makes my writing in 2012 as like the very thing millennia and millennia of humanity have been building towards. Fuck Shakespeare and Mr. Dickens; my shitty movie reviews might very well be the last thing you ever read. And the first thing re-discovered by future generations/aliens when our Internets are discovered by future generations. Relax, I'm being at least 20% ironic here.

Lawrence Joseph's affable yet whiny prose takes in Mayan calendars, solar flares, grey goo, the Yellowstone supervolcano, nuclear oblivion and practically every other world-ending possibility you can imagine. Despite touching on religious apocalypses, Joseph's emphasis is on the science of it all. His findings: yes, it is entirely likely that we might all die in 2012. Thanks for that Joseph, way to put me off've my cheese salad baguette. He ends one chapter with the epithet "Have a nice day". Fuck off, I've just pissed all over my work trousers.

I hope for Joseph's sake that the world does end in 2012 though. After all, he's put a lot of work into his Apocalypse, and if this is as much of a dud as the year 2000 was, then he's gonna be left with egg on his doom-mongering face. Do I think that the world is about to end? Apocalypse 2012 is scary and convincing but no, I don't. I don't think the universe is stupid enough to take its cues from a terrible Roland Emmerich movie. I'm far too small-minded to even concieve of the world exploding while I'm still on it. And I hold no water with old Mayan prophecies or religious bullshit. Mind you, it's always good to be prepared. So my advice is to start building the Ark, stock up on the bottled water/tinned goods, obsessively play Fallout 3 and invest in a really good motorbike. Get John Cusack on speed dial too. Dude's got some hella good driving skills.

Apocalypse 2012 is well-written, well-researched and entirely effective in its aims. That is, if its aims are to scare the shit out of one's readers. There's hardly a jot of reassurance or optimism (no, "we'll evolve into a better form of humanity... but you'll all die first" doesn't count as optimism) in the book, nor any real underlying point to it aside from rampant scaremongering and over-the-top metaphors about sharks and such. Books and movies theorising about 2012 are all a bit pointless, when one stops to think about it. After all, we'll find out for sure in a couple of years anyway. Have a nice day.

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies

"Jane Austen is the Stephenie Meyer of her generation."
If that's not a pull quote, I don't know what fucking is

Yes, it's a book review. But shut up ignorami, books will make you well proper clever like what I is. Seth Grahame Smith's update-with-zombies of Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice bills itself as being a version of the classic that "you'd actually want to read." And in all fairness, this is the first time I've ever made it past the sixth chapter of the book. Zombies and vomiting definitely help, although it's still not a book you can actually power through in a quick way. In fact, Smith's undead inclusions only make it mildly more tolerable - the characters are still horrible and there's far too much of Jane Austen's original prose. It's actually a remarkably faithful adaptation if you swap the dancing for zombie attacks and the Darcy/Elizabeth flirting for silly dialogue about Katana swords, ninjas and middle eastern martial arts' training. And vomiting. Lots of vomiting. Pride And Prejudice And Zombies made me realise that I'm about 3.5% less immature than I thought I was. Smith's additions make the source material more readable, but it can come across as childish and even a little obvious. Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is not a horror novel. It's full on comedy, and not a particularly rip-roaring one.

The forthcoming movie adaptation should weed out some of the problems. Namely, less of Austen's leaden prose and more of the grotesquerie as realised by the book's wonderful illustrations. It's a project which has the potential to be great, but is neither gruesome nor funny enough to work. Perhaps if I didn't hate Jane Austen's original so much I'd have enjoyed this book more. As it stands, there's far too much Pride And Prejudice and not enough zombies. Before you call me a heathen and an idiot, I should point out that I'm allowed to hate P&P - I'm English and have a literature degree. If this book had existed a few years earlier, then maybe I'd have actually finished Pride & Prejudice in at least some incarnation. As it stands, it says a lot about my character that the only version of the novel I've ever managed to finish reading is one with added zombie action and puking. With her stulted dialogue, dull, repetetive prose and unlikeable, sulky characters, Jane Austen is the Stephenie Meyer of her generation.

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is worth a look, if only as a literary curiosity or if you find puke, zombies and ninjas overtly hilarious. As it stands, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is a version of the novel "you'll actually want to read". But not more than once.

Why the fuck not. Titanic 2

Director: Shane Van Dyke (2010)
Starring: Bruce Davison, Brooke Burns, Shane Van Dyke
Find it: IMDB. Not this, which sounds intriguing but is probably also shit.

So bad it's still very bad. Sometimes, with movies such as Titanic 2 and Mega Pirhana, they should just stop and leave it at the title. Everything that comes thereafter is just bound to be a disappointment. And unless Titanic 2 was to feature zombie Leonardo DiCaprio haunting that old lady for hogging the fucking raft (Mr. Cameron, the idea's yours for a small fee) or be that episode of Futurama, then it was never going to be any good. And Van Dyke's movie features no zombie Leonardo DiCaprio (to be fair, DiCaprio is probably a little out of Syfy's budget) and is definitely not that episode of Futurama. If it gains even a single Screaming Scream Queen below then that's because recalling the Titanic episode of Futurama put me in a good mood. Needless to say, Titanic 2 was not directed by James Cameron.

There are various ways in which Titanic 2 could have been a decent movie, none of which are present in the film itself. For starters, it doesn't star any notable B-movie stars and for seconds, it's not as self-aware or ironic as the title might suggest. In fact, it's nothing more than a dull disaster movie blessed with a good idea and that guy who played an asshole politician in X Men. It's not even as good as the director's own name. And yes, Shane Van Dyke is related to exactly who you think he might be.

On the 100th anniversary of the doomed liner's sinking, a cruise ship sets sail across the Ocean Blue. What happens next you couldn't make up, except someone did. A tsunami flings an iceberg into the ship's path. Cue many crappy CGI flames, long shots which sort of remind you of Cameron's Titanic and overuse of red and green camera filters. Thanks to the title, Titanic 2 will probably find itself more viewers than it deserves. Much like it has found this review a staggering 9,772 page views since September 2010. Compare this with The Disappearance Of Alice Creed's paltry 724 views and we can see how much Titanic 2 coasts along on its name alone.

Granted, those foolish viewers won't be watching more than the first five minutes, much like none of you readers will have gotten past the first paragraph of this review. Long enough to realise that Leonardo isn't in Titanic 2 and this review wasn't written by somebody worth listening to. The likes of Mega Pirhana and Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus sort of pretended to try to do something with the title; and both have a handful of scenes worth watching. Titanic 2 doesn't even have one. What it does have, is one single Scream Queen lady. And that's because the Futurama reference I wrote in the first paragraph put me in a generous mood. The rest of the movie made me want to go punch icebergs in the face.

Eyes Without a Face

Le Director: Georges Franju (1960)
Le Starring: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli
Le Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Eyes Without a Face is a French bit that, were it remade now, would be full-on torture porn, directed by a music video idiot and star Elisha Cuthbert. Here, a mad scientist type tries to ease his conscience and repair his daughter's mashed up face via transplant from one of his kidnap victims. Yes it's subtitled, and it's black and white. But shut up heathen, it's really quite good. And it proves that French horror existed and was good before the likes of Switchblade Romance. It makes a nice change reviewing a classic. After Vampires Suck, I needed something to restore my faith in humanity.

As touched upon in the paragraph above, the plot rather disappointingly doesn't have any eyeballs-on-stalks running around comitting murders. Instead the title refers to the daughter of demented surgeon Doc Gennesier (Brasseur) and her disfigured face. Assisted by a creepy henchwoman, the not-so-good doctor kidnaps nice young women (don't ask me, the IMDB considers it pertinent that his victims are 'nice') and cuts their faces off. Come to think of it, this movie is a lot like Face/Off, only without the John Woo gunfights and Nic Cage. While we're at it:

Exercise Your Eyes at Vision Express

Predictable joke

Despite not having itself any modern CGI tricks or Tom Savini gore effects, the scenes of gruesomeness are every bit as disturbing as anything you'd find in a modern horror film. It has an excellently jaunty soundtrack slightly reminiscent of The Third Man, of all things, which really contasts against the atrocities onscreen and creates a wonderfully haunting atmosphere. This use of music, shadows and the characterisation of the Doc's disfigured daughter really give the thing an unnerving feel that no amount of gore or jump scenes could ever hope to muster. I suppose it helps that non-consentual surgery is a fucking terrifying concept, however you film it. And the surgery scenes here are done in a workmanlike, inglorious manner - more akin to an episode of Holby City or a documentary than a Saw or Hostel. When one considers that the scenes of surgical gore were revolutionary at the time, it'd seem we have a classic on our hands here. And one that, like George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead, has aged well like a fine wine or top notch whiskey.

So whether your eyeballs have a face or not, you should totally have them fixed on this movie.

The Final Destination

Director: David R Ellis (2009)
Starring: Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Nick Zano
Find it online: IMDB

Hoping that like Rambo and Rocky before it (and a Mission: Impossible after it), losing its numerator might make it sound definitive or slightly original, The Final Destination winds up being almost a complete rehash of the three movies which had preceeded it. It isn't terrible, but it's nothing special either.

Although it has picked up a little since the disappointing third movie. The big opening set piece this time is a car crash (yes, another one) at a race track. You know the drill. Kid has a premonition of something horrible happening and escapes said horrible thing, dragging a ragtag group of fellow survivors with him. Afterwards, Death starts picking them off one by one. Although he can't just give the kids a sudden heart attack, stroke or case of adult death syndrome. No, he has to shuffle them off the mortal coil in really ambitious, spiteful ways, as though their surviving is a personal insult. Well, no-one likes to be reminded of their mistakes. This time though, he does it in 3D. "Death saved the best till 3D?" Who knew he gave a fuck. Apparently Death has all the artistic integrity of a Hollywood hack.

Or anyway, he did it on 3D in cinemas last year. I watched it on TV, in boring old 2D. And Death is no James Cameron (although, judging by his wrath, he comes close in the ego stakes). The CGI looks cartoonish and really, really fake. And the constant flinging things at the screen really grates after a while. I'm sure it looked cool in 3D cinema, but otherwise it looks silly. As we speak, home cinema is the biggest argument against 3D movies. Or at least gimmicky 3D movies like this one. It really detracts from the experience upon replay. Even more so than the My Bloody Valentine 2D release.

That said, the individual deaths and scenes of carnage are back to the cartoonish gory glory of FD2, thanks to the return of that movie's director, David Ellis. He and his crew do a great job of dragging out the individual death bits. There's nothing to rival the gruesomeness of no.2's ladder-in-the-eye moment, or no.3's sunbed deaths, but a swimming pool kill does bring to mind a short story in Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted (if you've read it, you'll know. That shit will be etched on your mind evermore). And as the movie thunders towards its explosive climax, it manages to take in a lovely escalator moment and a fun bit of cinema splatter.

The forthcoming 5nail Destination (yes, they really are apparently calling it Snail Destination for the time being) proves that this is far from a 'definitive' movie, nor even probably a Penultimate Destination. After all, Death's gotta lotta tricks up his sleeve. He can drag this one for as long as we keep paying for it.

Many thanks to the lovely Jinx of Totally Jinxed and the awesome Fred of Full Moon Reviews for bestowing this place with a zombie rabbit award. People will start thinking that this is a half-decent blog of worthwhile reading material at this rate. Nevertheless, thank you. I'm taking time out from fucking about in London to formally accept and say cheers. So once more, cheers.