Chain Letter


Director: Deon Taylor (2010)
Starring: Nikki Reed, Keith David, Brad Dourif
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

Like The Ring as crossed with Scream, Chain Letter sees idiot teenagers murdered for not passing on a chain e-mail. It fancies itself a commentary on internet addiction and the lack of anonymity in these modern times, but is actually as stupid as its own very stupid characters.

Note to movie: if you're going to try to make your film seem all modern and relevant, don't have all your characters use myspace. Nobody uses myspace these days, not even psychotic serial killers and certainly not college students. Maybe Justin Timberlake.

Crease with LOLS as Brad Dourif hilariously calls myspace and youtube 'mytube' and 'youspace'. Scenes like these which are supposed to be funny really aren't, whilst everything else is just unintentionally so.

ROFL and PMSL as a girl vows to stop picking up boys online. Not that there's anything wrong with that sort of thing, but myspace is really the wrong place for it. I dated a girl through myspace once. Her lifetime ambition was to go live inside her television with Wolverine. Myspace is only a marginally safer dating avenue than match.dead or fear.com. Chain Letter proves the rule that all horror movies about the Internet suck.

Everyone seems to think that the killer's threatening chain letter (which is actually a chain e-mail. But I suppose Chain E-mail is a stupid name for a film) is "extreme" and scary. But only if you've never actually had a chain e-mail. A week after setting up my first e-mail account, I received a message informing me that a girl with no eyes would appear as I slept and murder me if I didn't forward the mail. Now that's "extreme".

The terrible teenage acting is broken up with good performances from the likes of Brad Dourif and Keith David. Betsy Russell makes a cameo as someone called Sergeant Hamill; a name that doesn't really go with the face of Betsy Russell. Brad Dourif appears bored as the kids' university lecturer. It's quite apt that he should appear in Chain Letter, since the movie is very reminiscent of Urban Legend, which he didn't really seem enthused about either. Keith David shuffles around looking oddly like a tramp, playing a cop left over from the Saw school of police work. Why he dresses like a character from Shameless USA is beyond me.


It's a shame that Chain Letter's story and characters are so rubbish, since the kill scenes are wonderful; gory, over the top and sadistic, they're really the sole reason to watch the movie. The opening is just brilliant. And whilst nothing lives up to that initial promise, there are plenty of gore gags and numerous gruesome stabbings and bludgeoning all around. The killer's gimmick is that he ties people up with chains; and I've only just got the relevance of that now. Ha. Chain Letter. Geddit?

This is a disappointing, silly movie that takes itself too seriously and irritates with all of its techno-speak. It's embarrassing, like hearing your nan talk about facebook or your dad trying to understand the Iphone. Watch the opening sequence and then give up. Everything else is just a waste of time.

Now, forward this review to twenty-seven people by next Friday or else I'll stab you in the balls or something.

Cornered!


Director: Daniel Maze (2009)
Starring: Steve Guttenberg, James Duval, Peter Story
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

The exclamation mark was not my idea. It's in the actual title of the film. I should point that out because exclamation marks offend me and I wouldn't want anyone to think that I was the sort of person who used exclamation marks in his writing. True story: nothing ever printed with an exclamation mark in it has ever been worth reading in the history of ever. Not even Shakespeare.

That said, if I were ever to use an exclamation mark, this review would be the place. Because Cornered! stars Steve Guttenberg (!) In other news, I've just decided that exclamation marks are fine when accompanied by parenthesis. I don't think I would ever have watched Cornered! if it didn't star Steve Guttenberg. What, I wondered, is the star of Police Academy up to these days? Well, if Cornered! is anything to go by, Steve Guttenberg is a little down on his luck. I suppose you can't blame a guy for killing time while he waits for an inevitable Police Academy reboot.

Some people (not including Guttenberg, who mostly disappears after a
two-minute cameo) play poker in a dingy apartment above their boss's grocery store. Said people include the asshole boss, his crackhead nephew, a fat security guard, a hooker and a sex-line operator. They swap uninteresting banter for a while before the movie's serial killer arrives to kill everyone.

Aside from the fact that Steve Guttenberg is in a couple of scenes, Cornered! is an utterly unmemorable slasher movie. It's antagonist is derivative and dull - reminiscent of The Collector and too many other recent horror baddies - whilst the rest of the characters are both annoying and uninteresting at the same time. Its hero is a fat security guard ala Paul Blart: Mall Cop, but the script isn't clever or funny enough to work this underdeveloped concept.

Without Steve Guttenberg, Cornered! is an unfunny, boring whimper of a horror/comedy. The horror isn't scary and the comedy isn't funny. The ending is predictable. Neither the acting nor the direction ever raises above being mildly competent. Steve Guttenberg looks utterly bored, and he's only around for ten minutes or so. I know the feeling, times nine.

Exorcismus


Director: Manuel Carballo (2010)
Starring: Sophie Vavasseur, Tommy Bastow, Stephen Billington
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

No, I don't think 'exorcismus' is a real word either. Emma (Vavasseur) is a typical sullen, emo fifteen year old. Not only does she have to deal with the usual teenage nonsense, but it appears that she's gone and gotten herself possessed by a demon too. Her initially skeptical parents are convinced when she begins levitating around the kitchen. Emma's parents are easily forgiven though. I have a fifteen-year-old sister and she acts demonic all the time. It's very hard to tell the difference between possession and puberty. Kids, eh.

Exorcismus starts out like an episode of House, before building to a chilly, violent climax. Its midsection is where Exorcismus is at its best, carefully cranking up the tension and letting us care about Emma's family before its demolishment by demon. Even the overbearing, naggy parents prove sympathetic over time, whilst the kid playing Emma's little brother is far less irritating than most child actors. Even if the character is called 'Mark'. Yes, my biggest gripe with Exorcismus is its decision to call a child Mark. Nobody under the age of 30 is called Mark. Anytime anyone in the movie says "Mark", there's me sniggering.

Otherwise, Exorcismus is an effective, affecting slice of spooky; as sad as it is scary. You'll root for Emma to overcome her problems and hope that her family manage to survive it all. Eventually, Priest Christopher (Billington) arrives to help the family, and it's here that the movie's biggest problems begin to emerge.

Aside from some cursory exorcism scenes, the Priest and Emma/the demon's dialogue consists largely of unwieldy exposition and castoff nonsense left over from the likes of Constantine and The Rite. It's far less subtle than the preceding scenes, and heralds a messy, shouty finale overreliant on its sulky teenager and scary demon voice FX. It's still good though, and better than a great deal of most demon horror post-The Exorcist and The Omen. It's just that the low-key drama and underplayed eyelid batting tends to work better than theatrics in this case, and I didn't really feel Exorcismus needed to go down such a conventional route.

Even with its more overdone elements intact, Exorcismus is a fine horror movie. Demons be damned. Nothing is scarier than a sulky fifteen-year-old girl bedecked in a hoodie, thowing a wobbler. Except maybe for kids called 'Mark'. It's unnatural, I tells you.



Skyline


Director: Colin & Greg Strause (2010)
Starring: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, David Zayas, Turk from Scrubs.
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

One fine morning in LA, some aliens arrive and begin abducting citizens. With a giant sky vacuum cleaner and some pretty blue lights, hundreds of thousands of humans are sucked into the sky and the depths of the alien ships therein. Not, shockingly, for anal probing, but something even stupider.

Talking of stupid, Skyline's cast consists of a lot of stupid characters played by actors who played other stupid characters in equally stupid TV shows and movies. Eric Balfour plays a man called Jarrod, whose stupid (long) face and stupid hair matches his stupid name. And Turk from off've Scrubs plays Jarrod's friend, who is also stupid and drives a fucking convertible when aliens are sucking people up into the sky. Scottie Thompson and Brittany Daniel play the respective stupid girlfriends, whilst Dexter's David Zayas makes a neat appearance to play the sole character who isn't a complete idiot in the movie.

Why the long face?

At least three times our intrepid heroes are shown struggling with bloody doors. And the first of those happens after the dipshits manage to lock themselves on a roof. The characters in Skyline are more witless than Justin Bartha in The Hangover. And considering that this is allegedly a serious role, Turk manages to show less intelligence than his character from Scrubs. Skyline is a movie so stupid that if you type 'skyline' into google, the first few pages of image results you'll get is for stupid sports cars for stupid people. I'd imagine that the cast of Skyline all drive Skylines.

But stupidity is apparently epidemic in LA. It's an invasion that should be defeated with a pair of sunglasses (much of the aliens' weaponry depends on their victims looking 'into the light') and yet the city is mostly destroyed within a matter of days.

But there are some good action sequences in Skyline, and the aliens do look pretty cool (if reminiscent of those from Independence Day). The final quarter owes a lot to both Spielberg's War Of The Worlds and the more recent District 9. The CGI isn't the best ever, but it comes fast and loose enough that you won't really notice. David Zayas gets at least one good moment to be badass and there's plenty of schadenfreude in watching the more dipshitty of the dipshits die as they do. In its final quarter or so, Skyline starts to get pretty good

And then gets very, very stupid again. Videogame stupid, crossed with Michael Bay stupid and then multiplied by its own particular brand of stupid; Skyline is, well, stupid.

Zombie, Ohio


Written by: Scott Kenemore

College Professor Peter Mellor crashes his car and wakes up a zombie. But not a regular stupid zombie, no. Even after death, Mellor seems to retain his mental faculties. Sure, he wants to eat himself some brains, but he's capable of thinking, talking and regular-person activities too.

I shall admit, I was a little hesitant in picking up Zombie, Ohio. Zombie books are a dime-a-dozen these days, from survival guides to comic books all the way through to classical literature mash-ups. But Zombie, Ohio is none of those things. Zombie, Ohio is a proper novel that was written by one person with no help from Jane Austen or JK Rowling or Stieg Larsson (I made those last two up. I might actually finish The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo if it were to throw a few zombies in).

And it's not crap either, which is always a nice surprise. A crap book is worse than a crap film because by the time you fully decide that it's crap, you're generally too invested to stop reading. Also, you can't burn a crap book without someone accusing you of being Hitler or an idiot. Crap DVDs make good frisbees for throwing at your Mom's head or funky coasters or even little things you can hang above your baby's cot if you're a cheap fucker. Crap books are good for nothing except taking up space.

Anyway, Zombie, Ohio follows Mellor as he adjusts to life as a zombie. He's something of an oddity in that his fellow zombies are your more traditional slow, stupid shufflers. As Mellor turns his back on his own humanity, he begins to embrace his zombie side. Yummy, brains. Zombie, Ohio takes a shocking turn that I really didn't see coming. A less talented writer than Kenemore might lose his audience at this point, but the witty, touching first-person narrative keeps the readership on board even at the story's grislier touches. A zombie novel from the zombie's perspective, Zombie, Ohio reminded me a little of the Dexter books crossed with Max Brooks' World War Z. Kenemore's descriptions of apocalyptic America are a joy to read, vividly describing a society in decay; fully living up to the standards as set by Brooks and his peers.

I thoroughly enjoyed Zombie, Ohio. It's packed with humour, gore and mystery aplenty. It's the best zombie movie George Romero never made.

Dead Cert


Director: Steven Lawson (2010)
Starring: Craig Fairbass, Billy Murray, Dexter Fletcher, Jason Flemyng
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

Essentially Lock Stock And Two Smoking Vampires, Dead Cert enlists a cast of ex-Eastenders, rubbish British hardmen, 'that guy' faces, Jason Flemyng and adds vampires because that's totally a movie worth watching. If there's such a thing as a 'Dead Cert', it's that any movie about cockneys and fucking vampires will suck, especially if it stars ex-Eastenders or Danny Dyer.

Dead Cert is a veritable who's who of shady British actors, none of whom you'll know by name. Not quite so amusing if you don't watch a lot of English TV. A little like this review. Sorry about that, abroad people. Mickey from Shameless does a terrible Romanian accent. This is still more of an effort than Billy Murray makes - playing a character called 'Livenko', yet sticking with his cockney accent all the way through. You sla-ags.

Craig Fairbass plays Freddie 'Dead Cert' Frankham, a tough club owner in gangland London. One day, vampire Dante Livenko and his Eastern European mob enter the club with the intention of buying Freddie out. Before you can say "apples and pears", there's a Snatch style bit of bareknuckle boxing going on. One of Freddie's wet boxers VS one of Livenko's vampire musclemen. Needless to say, Freddie's man gets torn to shreds. We got us a fahkin' gang war on our hands, son.

Perry Benson and Dexter Fletcher seem to have been imported from a better movie. Danny Dyer makes a ridiculous cameo appearance. Dead Cert is a movie so bad that it seems rubbish even before Danny Dyer turns up.

Aside from a couple of silly flourishes, it's a script that consists of witless swearing ("you don't know fuck all about fuck all"), gruff threats and macho silliness. There's a lot more talking than there is action. Much of the movie's second half consists of the men sitting in a basement grumbling. Dusk Till Dawn managed to keep its vampires offscreen for much of the running time with much success. Dead Cert fails in this because the scenes without vampires aren't very interesting at all. But then, neither are the scenes with vampires.

The climax so desperately wants to be Dusk Till Dawn that you'll almost feel sorry for it, as the gangsters and vampires clash in a fairly crap way. The cockneys opt for beating the vampires over the head with their stakes instead of actually impaling them. Characters seem to just disappear or die in incoherent death scenes. Fairbass grunts his way through a number of fight scenes like a low-rent Ray Stevenson before clashing with Murray in the most anticlimactic of battles.

Deduct one Scream Queen from the below if you're incapable of enjoying crap movies ironically. Then deduct another if you don't recognize any of the names attached. You have no reason to watch Dead Cert.

After.Life


Director: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo (2009)
Starring: Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson, Justin Long
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

Christina Ricci is apparently dead, and only Liam Neeson's mortician can see/hear her. Or maybe she isn't dead and Liam Neeson is just crazy, having kidnapped her. Justin Long once again takes on a thankless doormat boyfriend role. There's a creepy kid who may or may not be able to speak to dead people. But the most important thing is this: Christina Ricci gets naked in this movie. Nipples and everything.

I'm sure there are other reasons to watch After.Life, but none of them are quite as compelling and nothing you can't get elswehere. You can't really say that about Christina Ricci's nipples. If you have no interest in Christina Ricci's nipples, then you'll have very little interest in After.Life. It boasts fine actings from Neeson, Ricci and Long, but you can't help but feel the movie doesn't deserve any of them. It's basically a Straight To TV movie granted a cast out of its league.

Quite rightly, Ricci is a bit pissed off to be told that she's dead. Neeson, meanwhile, is irate to have her talking to him. Which isn't exactly fair on his part. There are like a billion other jobs he could get which'd mean him not having to talk to confused dead people on a regular basis. That'd be like me hating ramblers and then getting a job in a well-known supplier of hiking equipment.... Oh, right. Or a vegetarian becoming a butcher.

Other than Christina Ricci's nipples, After.Life sports a couple of other gems. Justin Long punches a child in the face. Liam Neeson's gradual unraveling is entertaining to watch. I certainly enjoyed seeing him bicker with corpses. The whole thing sounds like it should make for a funny film but it isn't. At least, not on purpose.

After.Life is a dull movie punctuated with good performances and unexpectedly amusing moments. Liam Neeson, arguing with dead bodies. Justin Long bashing a child in the face. A cop, um, copping an eyeful of naked Ricci. These things all make for a passable night's viewing. Not bad for a movie which is essentially a crap ghost story built around a bunch of nude scenes.

The Girl Next Door


Director: Gregory Wilson (2007)
Starring: William Atherton, Blythe Auffarth, Blanche Baker, Daniel Manche
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

No, not that one. No stranger to bondage or Captivity though she might be, Elisha Cuthbert is nowhere to be found in this adaptation of Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door. Jack Ketchum is maybe my favourite horror novelist of all time. It's always good to see a little recognition in adaptations such as this, Offspring, The Lost and the forthcoming The Woman.

That said, I find The Girl Next Door to be the hardest of his books to read. It's emotionally exhausting, a little too realistic and just bloody heartbreaking. There's a scene in which one of the boys makes their victim eat a poo. Scat is one of the few things I find hard to stomach (no pun intended) in my horror movies, so I'm glad they cut that bit from this adaptation. The physical torture has been toned down some, but the movie is every bit as hard-going as the book.

Sweet girl next door Meg is held captive in her abusive aunt's basement, mentally and physically tortured by both aunt Ruth and the neighborhood contingent of horrible boys. Exception to the rule is David, who is sweet on Meg and unsure of the morality of torturing her so. Eh, I would have thought it a fairly black-and-white moral dilemma, but then I guess most little boys are stupid in the head. David is so traumatised by what he sees that he grows up to be William Atherton from off've Ghostbusters and Die Hard. I suppose seeing such sights is bound to turn a guy into a professional asshole.

The problem with adapting the work of an author like Jack Ketchum is that his work is so powerful and insidious and gross (THEY FORCE-FEED HER A POO), that it rarely makes for a very nice movie. The Girl Next Door is thoroughly unpleasant and quite upsetting. You'll want to leap through your television screen and beat those shit kids and shit woman senseless. You'll want to slap little David for not intervening sooner. His procrastination hurts the film some; it's hard to sympathise with a character who takes such a long time to make such an obviously right decision. But I suppose his procrastinating is necessary for the plot to go on as it does.

The Girl Next Door does not make for cheerful viewing. It's bleak and depressing and nihilistic and Blythe Auffarth, as Meg, is just too adorably nice. This is horror at its raw and bleakest - this, like so much of Ketchum's work, explores the lengths to which human depravity is capable. If The Girl Next Door didn't depress you enough already, well... did I mention that it's based on a true story? For shame, humanity :'-(

Midnight Meat Train


Director: Ryuhei Kitemura (2008)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Vinnie Jones, Leslie Bibb
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

Who on Earth would have thought that a fight sequence between Bradley Cooper and Vinnie Jones would make for riveting viewing? For that matter, who would have thought that any horror movie which stars Bradley Cooper or Vinnie Jones would be any way enjoyable? Well, in spite of all odds, Midnight Meat Train is a very good movie. Behind Hellraiser, I'd go as far as to say that it's my favourite Clive Barker movie. It helps, I suppose, that most Clive Barker movies are a little bit crummy.

But then Midnight Meat Train is directed by Rhuhei Kitemura, of Versus fame. He brings all the verve and splattery violence of that movie to this, the most unlikely of projects. It's an incredibly violent, gory movie, full of popped eyeballs, smashed skulls and nipples in jars. What it lacks for in subtlety, it more than makes up for with sheer fun.

A pre-hung over Bradley Cooper plays Leon, a freelance photographer promised a lucrative deal if he can capture the seedy 'heart' of the city. So in a silly move, he takes to the streets at night, photographing muggers, would-be rapists and - eventually - the serial killer Mahogany (Jones). Yes, Mahogany is a stupid name and Vinnie Jones is hardly a guarantor of quality, but Midnight Meat Train is still good. Honest, it is. The title comes from Mahogany's habit of murdering anyone who catches his train at night, hanging them up on butchers' hooks and chopping them to bits. It's realised that the key to making Jones not suck (or at least, suck less) is to not let him talk. So Mahogany doesn't have a tongue in this movie. Which is good. It means he can't say things like "I'm Mahogany, bitch."

Even without calling himself "Mahogany, bitch", it's a little hard to take Jones seriously. I do wish they'd gone with a different actor to play him (in Barker's original Books Of Blood, Mahogany is of a very different build), maybe an unknown or at least not a footballer. Not Vinnie Jones. Cooper is good; a lot better than you might expect from having seen The Hangover or The A-Team alone. I don't for an instant buy him being a match for Vinnie Jones in a fight (and what a fight; it lasts almost ten minutes and puts Freddy vs Jason to shame in the fisticuffs department), but he does well enough, all considered.

What almost derails (GEDDIT) the movie though, is its use of CGI. Midnight Meat Train has the worst use of CGI blood I have ever seen. It comes very close to ruining some of the kill scenes, which is a shame. But Kitemura brings so much skill to the direction that you'll forgive moments like these. There's even a cameo from Ted Raimi, which is just glorious.

Midnight Meat Train, then, is one train you definitely need to catch.