Review: It Comes At Night…

But Does it Deliver the Package?

Before you jump to conclusions this is a review of the new Trey Shults film, not a recent Grindr Hook-up. Although much like with online dating what you are promised in the preview isn’t exactly what you are going to get.

Everything from the jumpy tense trailer, the ominous film title and the classically creepy cabin in the woods setting suggests you are in for a paint by numbers horror film to appease the masses. The film, however, is far from that date night horror flick. Instead of leaving the cinema with the euphoric high of surviving something terrifying I was left with a sense of melancholy, questioning just what mankind is willing to do to survive.

However unlike many hormone ridden teens who will see this film I couldn’t be happier with the deception. The intensity in the trailer is there but it is strung out with a sense of foreboding and dread that keep you consistently anxious without any jump scares to relieve the mood.

Instead the cheap scares are replaced with well-developed characters, who are very well acted and have clear motivations. I know – it’s a revolutionary concept.

I wouldn’t like to pick out one actor as being particularly great as the limited cast all have a chance to shine and all do a great job of absorbing you into the world without a long winding backstory.

In fact there is next to no back story for the characters or the plot. The plot consists of a family of four and their dog in their wood cabin hiding from a deadly disease that is killing all those infected in a short space of time. This has caused many to abandon their city homes and flee to the countryside.

The film opens with the mercy killing and shallow grave cremation of the grandfather which leads to their home being discovered and broken into by a young man. After initially tying him shirtless to a tree and stuffing something in his mouth (I would have done the same) they make a gentleman’s agreement to share one family’s livestock with the others’ fortified shelter. The rest of the film is just exploring the bonding and distrust between the two families and the consequences of their actions.

This disease epidemic plot isn’t given to you up front in a traditional outbreak scene or even via a news source exclaiming the inner city horror. It is slow released throughout the film with neither the scale or the nature of the disease being fully explained.
In a very similar way there is no backstory for the characters. The main family – Paul, Sarah and their teenage son Travis are given no concrete life history.


However a happy past is cleverly suggested by a long corridor filled with smiling family portraits that instantly and subtly tells you everything you need to know.

The second family – Will, Kim and young son Andrew’s past is given more of an explanation as Will tells his family’s story to gain Paul’s trust. However a slip up by Will after a drink later suggests the only concrete back story we are given could all be a fabrication.

The set design of the film is perfect. Slopping ceilings, small hidden crawl spaces and the heavy red foreboding door create a sense of claustrophobia, dread and give a disorienting vibe. Apart from the aforementioned family portraits the only other decoration in the dimly lit cabin is the Bruegel The Elder painting “The Triumph Of Death”. Apart from just being a hellishly depressing image of the destruction man this particular piece was chosen because Bruegel was inspired to paint it by the Black Death Plague. It is this level of thought and attention to detail that permeates through the film and keeps it engaging and thrilling.


Perhaps the weirdest false advertisement around the film is the title. Nothing does actually come at night. There is no zombie like creature or attacks from others at night despite stating they don’t go out at night (not even to the outside toilet). The only thing that does come at night is Travis’s beautifully visceral nightmares that explore his grief, fears and desires. It’s the part of the film that cements its horror status and without it I’d be hard pressed to call this anything more than a tense family drama.


I don’t mean that as a negative by the way, the family drama is what makes this film so engaging. Whilst Travis’s parents argue about the current situation making their son grow up too fast it is clear that Travis himself is ready to grow up with his feelings of sexual desire obviously developing throughout the film specifically targeted at Will’s wife Kim. This is shown in a great and awkward kitchen scene between the two characters as well as Travis actively listening in to a late night interaction between Will and Kim, vicariously experiencing their intimacy.

Without heading too far into spoiler territory I can tell you the blissful family interactions – like suggesting they guess who’s poo bucket is who’s – doesn’t last.

With the fear that someone may be infected the family’s distrust of each other is immediately heightened with horrifically sad consequences as the two families throw morality aside and fight to survive.

The closing conflict does a lot without showing much. Instead of giving us a money shot, letting the actors explain the horror with their distress actually keeps the situation grounded, real and all that more harrowing.

The film ends similarly to how it opens, around the dining table – no clearly explained ending just as there was no clearly explained beginning. The surviving characters are left to continue on with life as it is now and to comprehend what the horrors they have done to survive.


Like with most films that are downbeat dark but strangely beautiful I’m left with both a sense of enjoyment and sadness. If the question is would I watch the film again I’d say no, once was probably enough (twice at the most) to experience what it has to offer without becoming manic depressive.

But if you asked me if I thought the film was good and would I recommend it to my friends then I say….


SM

Pathos/Obsession – A Taste for Fear (1988)

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A late 80s hidden gem, Pathos, or its American title Obsession – A Taste For Fear comes off like a soft porn take on The Eyes of Laura Mars, doped up on Quaaludes and Campari…

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A late entry in the cannon of Italian sleaze with more than a stab at giallo, Piccio Raffainini’s only credited filmic outing stars Virginia Hey, who will be familiar to fans of Mad Max 2, Farscape and, believe it or not, Prisoner Cell Block H. She plays Diane, an upmarket fashion photographer working in Rome. Bisexual, oozing an icy coolness to match her sharp cheekbones and wicked tongue, she’s shacked up with her lesbian lover Valerie (Gioia Scola) who shows more than a hint of jealousy when Diane’s eye wanders…

Her shoot is suddenly plagued by grisly fetishistic murders, gialloesque insofar as the killer brandishes a blade in black gloves and takes great delight in the torture of scantily clad ladies.  Diane finds herself plunged into a murder mystery that takes her deep underground into the nightlife of Rome, whilst dealing with a jealous lesbian lover and a burgeoning romance with the investigating officer…

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Bizarrely the film is also set in the future, with hints of this coming from Hey’s choice of car – some bizarre hovering hybrid that zooms through the streets of Rome at night – not to mention guns that shoot some sort of laser zapper… Without those clues you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the coked-up brainchild of an 80s New York clubkid in the making. Shoulder-pads, afros and makeup that would make a drag queen gag abound in this uber-stylish little curiosity.

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Queer viewers can revel in the neon-lit fashions, the icy cool bitchiness of most its female cast, the labyrinthine gay club ‘Agony and Ecstasy’ and the surprise appearance of the fabulous Grace Jones track ‘Private Life’. Man candy comes in the form of Dario Parisini, giving us 80s George Michael facial stubble with more than a whiff of ‘assume the position’ porno cop realness.

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High on lesbianism that puts the tit in titillation, low on any semblance of plot with more time spent on the fashions, the interiors and the naked ladies, this VHS treasure can be found in its entirety on YouTube here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3K3OJW2ecM

Revel in the blurry pan and scan quality and pretend you’re watching a dodgy third generation copy late at night after one too many Babychams. Surprisingly this piece of Eurotrash looks so good in bad quality I’d actually pay for a HD upgrade should that ever come about. Stranger things have happened. 88 Films I’m looking at you!

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Cheers to the fabulous Rachael Nisbet for alerting me to this neon wonder. Her amazing indepth review can be found here:

http://hypnoticcrescendos.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/obsession-taste-for-fear-1988.html

JL

Five Desperate Women!

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OK so there is no exclamation point in the original title of this TV movie from 1971, but surely it deserves one? Growing up a queer teenager with a love for glossy American soaps like Dynasty and Melrose Place, there were two words that would set my little gay heart alight at the mere hint of them. Aaron Spelling. So confronted with the possibility of a proto-slasher TV movie produced by the very man himself – and starring Stefanie Powers to boot – you could colour me very excited.

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Having struck up a Twitter friendship with the fabulous Amanda Reyes and invested in her amazing book, ‘Are You In The House Alone: A TV Movie Compendium’, my trawl through American TV movies with a campy horror edge had to begin with this gem. The premise is simple – five female friends head out to a remote island for their college reunion. Only an escaped lunatic is on the loose and looks set to pick them off one by one. So far, so slasher. But remember this is 1971, and apart from Bay of Blood (Mario Bava), slasher movies as we know them were still in their infancy. This, coupled with the fact that a TV movie couldn’t get away with showing explicit gore, nudity or a particularly high body count, meant that ‘Five Desperate Women’ would be low on the kills and the blood.

But what it’s high on is the camp! The cast of five women consists of Stefanie Powers (Hart to Hart), Joan Hackett, Jill Sommars, Denise Nicholas and the fabulously named Anjanette Comer. In that lineup you get a Southern belle drunkard, an effortlessly stylish lady of colour, a sardonic cynic, and a mentally unstable pathological liar. You can’t go wrong. Particularly when these ladies dress to impress in the best that early 70s beach-wear has to offer. Think Biba-60s it-girl by way of middle class housewife chic and you’re halfway there. In fact here’s some devastating imagery to better explain!

Our ladies are taken to the island by captain Meeker (Bradford Dillman), a shifty drifter type who’s immediately set up as the would-be killer. But once they get to the island and meet the more heroic and affable handyman Wylie – played by Robert Conrad – it becomes obvious to us hardened horror hounds that the more placid, respectable male eye candy is the one to watch. Eagle-eyed queer viewers like myself will also have one extra advantage on their side when sniffing out the bad guy. In the prologue we see the escaped convict bump off an unsuspecting man on a beach, but to keep the villain’s identity a secret we only ever see him from the waist down. To put it mildly, Captain Meeker’s posterior doesn’t match up to the killer’s, so we know the minute we see Wylie’s peachy behind that he must be the psycho!

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Like any good TV movie, Five Desperate Women is efficient in its pacing. It only has one hour ten minutes (if you take out the ad breaks) to get the job done so there is no messing around. But there’s still time for some great character development as we see dippy Dorian (Hackett) become overly attached to a stray dog and go off at the deep end in glorious camp fashion when it meets a grisly end. Spoiler – she’s also the killer’s first female victim, meeting her maker in a surprisingly scary strangling scene.

Meanwhile the other ladies turn to booze and histrionics to cope with the realisation they’re stuck on an island with a crazy person. The only way off is their boat, which of course explodes before they can reach it. So faced with spending the night here they actually do all the right things – namely they lock both men out of the house and hunker down to wait for daylight and tomorrow’s supply boat. This gives us time for some juicy dialogue between surprisingly well drawn and brilliantly acted (except for a dodgy Southern accent) characters.

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So whilst we don’t get a Michael Myers style stalk and slash massacre we do get all of the camp fun vintage TV boxes ticked. One inexplicable moment, which can only have come from a misguided attempt to eek out the tension, shows Mary Grace (Sommars) being strangled by Wylie whilst the three remaining women simply stand there and throw rocks! After almost a minute of head-scratching they do finally leap to their friend’s rescue and club the villain to death. But what the hell took them so long? Were they so whacked out on Dorian’s valium and vodka that they couldn’t bring themselves to bare their claws?

A minor quibble. Five Desperate Women is a fabulous way to pass an hour or so and well worth the watch for fans of big hair, big female voices and a nice build of tension and drama. See it here in all its VHS glory:

Thank you Amanda Reyes for bringing this gem to my attention. Grab her book here:

JL

 

Let me get a BABALEWK: The Rise, Justification for and Inevitable Fall of our Latest LGBT ICON

Just in case your wifi has been down for the last few weeks (I know that’s scary even to type) The Babadook is now the biggest LGBT icon since Dorothy dropped a house on a witch just to steal her shoes. Don’t believe me? Well check out tumblr – we aren’t even friends of Dorothy anymore! #girlbye

The Screaming Queenz blinked and missed the origins of this one and we were all left wondering what the baba-fuck? How did we miss the queerness of a film we have all praised? Silly me thought it was discussion on mental health, postnatal depression, grief and suppression of feelings all cleverly hidden behind a classic boogeyman story. Alas I was wrong, it was just a story about a monster coming out as gay, well it is 2017 now so I suppose #LoveWins.


It took a few days of bewilderment before I found out why the Babadook was now gay but it’s filled me with great joy that it was all down to simple mistagging of genre on Netflix that we homosexuals were not going to let die for at least the rest of Pride season.


It’s genuinely amazes me how quick people grabbed this idea and ran with it. They took one of the scariest films of recent years and made it into to a camp classic in a few days with nothing but a few feather boas, gay flags, an abundance of RuPaul’s Drag Race Memes… oh and a douche…

But now the glitter has settled I’m left with a few questions:

Q1. Does the Babadook actually have any right to be a gay icon?

So to be a gay icon you should have talent, a signature look, a general camp fun attitude and fight for the rights of LGBT people.

When it comes to talent I’d say he would need to be in a lot more than one film. Madonna for example has done 23, though thinking about it they have all been rather critically lame when compared to Babadook’s 98% on rotten tomatoes critical acclaim, so 1 point to Babadook.

Then I’ve seen multiple memes that have shown the Babadook can both twerk and vogue the house down boots YASSSS BABA!!!!

So talent he has in Ba-Babundance but what about a look?

Well I don’t mean to be shady because the Babadooks early 2000s smoky eye is shady enough, but Detox did the whole Black and white make up look first at the season 5 Drag Race reunion. You can’t argue that his look is instantly iconic though… he even got his face on the cover of Gay Times!

Ok then what about his camp queer attitude. I’m drawing the line here. There is no way his behaviour can be considered CAMP. He made a Mum kill her dog and didn’t even fix her dodgy hair for her. Oh wait… a quick flick through tumblr and twitter has proved me wrong.


Ok can’t argue with facts.

But wait…

“He doesn’t do anything actually positive for gay community?” I exclaim.

“Neither does Caitlin Jenner or any of the Kardashians” I hear you reply.

“Exactly, that’s why they’re not gay icons” I rebuke.

So that’s it – he fell at the last hurdle. Nice try Baba. Oh wait…


I’ll allow it then, he’s a Gay Icon and certainly a better gay role model than Sam Smith.

Q2. Is it possible to actually take a queer reading from the Babadook film?

In case you don’t know, a queer reading is when you look at a film, book, TV series or any form of art really and draw from it an LGBT subtext. It doesn’t have to be overly fact based – it’s more about a queer interpretation of the subject than “this is 100% what this artist meant to say”. Sometimes the queer subtext is on purpose but often it’s by accident or completely fan made. So can you Queer Read the Babadook?

As I stated before the film deals a lot with motherhood and mental health issues which I praised the film for when it came out. That doesn’t mean there isn’t also a gay reading there too.

I theorise that the son in the Babadook might be a homosexual character. The mother tries to deny that her son is different to her sister and the school. She repeatedly asks him why he can’t just be normal. This coupled with the lacking of a male role model and his only friend being his mother suggests a potential queerness.

Perhaps then the Babadook is the manifestation of the child trying to suppress his homosexuality for his mother. He’s so scared of being his true self he literally creates a “closet monster” that, if it gets out, will hurt his family.

The mother is traumatised by the events but with love of her son being stronger than anything she learns to slowly accept him. The Babadook is released from the closet but at least for now is kept deep down in the basement unbeknownst to anyone but the mother and son. Though they now willingly visit the subject together when the time is right.

Am I reaching…. of course I fucking am but I’m 5ft 2 I reach for everything! It’s still probably better argued than most queer readings.

Q3. Is the Babadook the first LGBT horror Icon?

Short answer NO!!!

This has been my only problem with the Babadook phenomenon. He is not the first and he’s won’t be the last Gay Horror Icon so why is everyone acting like he is?

The 2nd nightmare on elm street showed us Freddy obviously swings both ways as he seduces the male protagonist Jesse and tries to “get inside of his body”.

Jeepers Creepers’ villain is also not very shy about his need to hunt down a bus of semi naked jocks (and neither am I).

Then we have Elvira who’s camp as tits – literally.  We have transgender characters in Seed of Chucky and Sleepaway Camp, which also incidentally has gay daddies and jocks in crop tops.

There is queerness in Bride of Frankenstein, Daughters of Darkness, every Giallo film ever and the screaming Queenz personally recommend Cursed (2004) 😂

There is also that one girl Gremlin who even had a Rupaul review before the Babadook…

Q4. is the babadook here to SLAY?

So my final question is about how long this will all last. I can say after writing this I’m over it. Officially. The internet and gays are fickle – I give this til the end of pride season to be overused and discarded with a brief revival due in every gay club on the 31st October.

However the film itself is here to stay. It came out in 2014 to much praise from critics and the public. This new exposure will do nothing but further promote the film and it will deservedly grow as a fantastic example of a horror film with a deeper meaning than most.

So I say embrace the lunacy and watch a great scary film. Be prepared to be BABASHOOK!!!!

Hear our podcast on the Babadook here:

Argento and Goblin

Welcome back! As we continue to look at some the great horror collaborations we turn our attention to Dario Argento and his frequent and hugely successful work with the Italian Prog-Rock band Goblin – and two of the cult films that came out of this relationship.

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Dario Argento came to prominence in the early 70’s, his debut film being 1970’s “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.” This would be followed in 1971 by “Cat O’ nine Tails” and finishing up the trilogy with 1972’s “Four Flies on Grey Velvet”, these films are now known as Argento’s “Animal Trilogy”. Interestingly, Argento collaborated with another legendary composer for these films, who may pop up again at some point….For today though we are talking about Argento’s relationship with Goblin.

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Inspired by UK Prog-Rock bands like “Yes”, “King Crimson” and “Emerson, Lake and Palmer” Goblin were formed in the early 70’s by the two main band members, Claudio Simonetti and Massimo Morante. Performing initially under the name “Oliver” and then working for a while as “Cherry Five” the familiar Goblin name didn’t come into being until they were asked by Argento to help create the score for 1975’s “Profondo Rosso (Deep Red)”.

For a full insight into our thoughts on Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) we have an episode all about it so feel free to check that out!

The short version for the purpose of the article is as follows; English music teacher Marc Daly (David Hemmings) currently living in Rome, witnesses the murder of neighbour (and pyschic) Helga Ullman. Marc intervenes in an attempt to save her but is unfortunately too late.

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Marc finds himself dragged into the case when he is attacked in his own home soon after. Marc remembers seeing a mysterious painting on the wall that vanishes after the murder, thinking this could be a clue to the identity of the murderer he begins investigating. Joining Marc on his quest to find the murderer is reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi) and her broken car.

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What follows is a visual masterpiece, the imagery on display in Profondo Rosso is easily some of the best in the entire Giallo genre and is well worth investigating for yourself. A beautiful mix of the modern and the classic, the timeless backdrop of Rome with modern touches throughout.

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Argento originally hired Italian pianist and composer Giorgio Gaslini to write the score for Profondo Rosso, but after hearing his intended score Argento was apparently very dissatisfied. The idea then became to have Gaslini composing the music and having it performed by prog-rock band. Legend has it that Argento was hoping to approach Pink Floyd to perform the score, not to diminish Goblin’s contribution at all, but what a collaboration that might have been!

As an alternative to the likes of ELP, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, one of Argento’s producers suggested an Italian band going by the name of “Cherry Five” and very quickly they stepped in to perform the score that Gaslini wrote. As the relationship between Gaslini and Argento broke down, Cherry Five got their chance to compose the remainder of the score, reportedly Claudio Simonetti finished it off in just one night!

The rest, as they say, is history.

The band Cherry Five changed their name to become the Goblin we all know and love.

The soudtrack LP was a huge hit for the newly born Goblin.

This was the start of a successful career for Goblin who would go on to create many soundtracks for Italian cinema over the next few years, including Joe D’amato’s “Beyond the Darkness”, Luigi Cozzi’s Alien rip-off “Contamination” as well as the international version of Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”.

Here they are looking extra cool on Italian TV!

This brings us nicely to the second of the Argento / Goblin collaborations we’re going to look at, 1977’s “Suspiria”.

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There is a full episode where we discuss our thoughts on “Suspiria” and “Inferno”, we don’t really talk about “Mother of Tears” because it’s not really very good, there are maybe one or two moments we enjoyed. “Extendable rape poles” and heads crushed in sliding toilet doors aside, we were mostly disappointed. Hear our talk on “Suspiria” here:

The short version though, to get you warmed up for listening to our episode, is as follows:

Jessica Harper stars as Suzy Bannion, an American ballet student travelling to Germany to study at the apparently prestigious Dance Academy in Freiburg. She arrives on a stormy night and despite being enrolled there nobody will open the door for her. It’s during this storm that Suzy sees another student Pat, fleeing the school in terror and running off into the night.

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What follows is certainly one of the most unique horror films ever made.

From this first scene onwards you know you are watching something special. Pat, who we just saw escape from the school, heads off to seek refuge with a friend. Whilst Pat is hiding out she is attacked by an unseen force leading to probably one of the most famous kills in all Italian Cinema.

Suzy returns to the school the next day to begin her ballet lessons and meets up with the rest of the students at the school. During her very first training session Suzy begins to feel unwell and faints.

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Suzy is prescribed a glass of red wine a day by the local doctor to help her with her fainting, not too bad! The mysterious events continue on day one as hundreds of maggots begin raining down on the students as they try to sleep.

The weird occurrences continue and this brings us to one of my favourite scenes in the film as we follow Daniel, the blind pianist from the Freiburg School, taking a walk with his guide dog when he suddenly feels himself pursued by a sinister force.

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Suspiria is said to be one of the last films ever made using the Technicolor process, this helps give the films it’s characteristic vivid and vibrant look. The use of colour is Suspiria is absolutely one of it’s strengths for me.

The other significant thing that Suspiria features is obviously the soundtrack provided by Goblin. You can see them here (kind of) performing the Suspiria intro on some sort of Italian ‘Tops of the Pops’ type show.

 

Unlike Deep Red where Goblin are mostly performing the score that somebody else composed, during the creation of Suspiria they now had full creative control, giving them free reign to push the boundaries and let their Prog-Rock sound emerge fully.

As you can see and hear from the video, the instruments used for this score are much more diverse than were used for the Profondo Rosso score, with the main theme of Suspiria including what looks like a Bouzouki and a Tabla (if anybody knows what these instruments are for sure then please let me know).

 

 

There would also be more collaborations with Argento, officially with the release of 1985’s “Phenomena” and kind of unofficially with “Tenebrae”, with the soundtrack being credited to Simonetti, Morante and Pignatelli. You can check out our episode about Tenebrae here:

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Goblin continue to perform live to this day in one form or another, I couldn’t name all the different various line-ups though. Regardless of the line-up changes over the years, Goblin have a huge cult following, they tour fairly regularly and can usually be found performing a live soundtrack accompaniment to Suspiria or Deep Red.

They can be seen early 2018 in Holland if Death Metal is your thing. Admittedly, they do seem a little out of place at a festival with the likes of Carcass, Devourment and Nunslaughter (and a couple I can’t make out) but that just goes to show how wide their influence reaches.

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Hope you enjoyed this brief intro to some of the collaborations between Argento and Goblin, there are plenty of great blogs out there if you interested in learning more and lots of great people to follow on Twitter. Hopefully a few more collaboration blogs will appear soon and also maybe a look at some of the influences of horror literature and horror cinema on music in a more general sense.

P.S. If you say that Suspiria is a giallo there’s a chance somebody might come and get you 😀

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JB

Let me know what you thought of this piece on twitter! https://twitter.com/cthulhu502

TWIN PEAKS – still freshly squeezed?

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I’m still blurry of eye and I wasn’t one of the hardcore Twin Peaks fans who stayed up til 2am to watch the new series premiere. Simulcast with the USA showing, the two-hour double-strength hit of weirdness was one of the most hyped television events of the decade. Having been obsessed with the original, and its spin-off movie, as a teenager/young adult you’d expect that I would be glued to the box at 2am but alas no. I opted to wake up with a hot cafetiere of damn fine coffee and usher in Monday morning in the company of one Special Agent Dale Cooper. Instead I got two Dale Coopers. And then three…

So was it worth the wait? Did it live up to the hype? I can tell you this spoiler-free. Yes it absolutely did. But whenever David Lynch is concerned you can always be sure of one thing – BE SURE OF NOTHING. Billboards, magazine covers, teasers online, all built this return up to be one massive nostalgia trip. But what you get instead is something closer to a David Lynch feature film.

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Film noir, hard-boiled crime, surreal horror, slapstick comedy, these are the words I’d use to sum up the opening episodes. Now it’s been said that Lynch would rather not refer to this as Season 3 and instead he sees it as one 18 hour block of story cut into chunks. He has a point because I sat through the first four episodes in one sitting and I now can’t remember what happened in which episode. It all felt like one long glorious movie, without chapters as we all know Mr Lynch doesn’t like his DVD chapters. You get on at the beginning and you stay on, fingers gripped to the arm-rest, staring slack-jawed at what’s in front of you until it’s over. I’m so happy that this won’t be over for another 14 instalments.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you came here for the nostalgia it’s in there. Deputy Andy and Lucy are as sweet and goofy as ever. Shelly Johnson seems to have had kids but that hasn’t stopped her hanging out at the Road House. That goes for James Hurley too, who as Shelly so eloquently puts it, is ‘still cool’. He’s still a hunk of cherry pie dreamboat too. But those snippets of familiarity are spliced sparingly across the first four episodes. Benjamin Horne and his irritant lunatic brother Jerry, Deputy Hawk out in the woods with his flashlight, and if you think Dr Jacoby was weird the first time around wait ‘til you see him with four shovels and a can of spray paint. The gang is mostly all here, although my hopes for the romance of Ed and Norma were put on hold for this four hour stint. The old town is being drip-fed back in at a leisurely pace that seems random and precise in equal measure.

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That’s not to say things haven’t changed. Bobby Briggs is now on the right side of the law – and has the uniform to prove it.

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Sheriff Truman? Which one? Michael Ontkean is nowhere to be seen but Harry’s brother played by the wonderful Robert Forster has taken his place. Lucy and Andy have gone and got themselves a quirky, nerdy son by the name of Wally, introduced in a scene that’s as painfully awkward as it is hilarious (how they ever got through a take of it without cracking up is beyond me).

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The Log Lady is at death’s door, bald from I’m guessing chemo, and is a frail shadow of her former self – but her log still has a hell of a lot of messages, thank god.

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I’ve seen some reviews mention the lack of the emotional hook that was so strong in the original. I get that, but I will say what I felt seeing the characters I love so much older, in some cases tragically withered by life, was pure emotion. The Log Lady broke my heart a little, and I’m sure the more I see what time has done to my beloved quirky residents of Twin Peaks, the more that ache will hum. But true to form the town in many ways is still what it was when we left it 25 years ago. The buzz of the streetlights just covers the sound of a rustling underbelly – reports of a kid overdosing at the high school filter through as the episodes progress, to let us know that drug problem is still there. Well Jacques Renault is still behind the bar at the Road House, what do you expect? But it’s still the kind of place where a yellow light means speed up, not slow down.

Another thing that hasn’t changed in 25 years is, of course, Dale Cooper. He’s been rooted to the spot in the Black Lodge, playing out bizarre conversations with Laura Palmer and the One Armed Man, whilst out in the real world his evil doppelganger is living a life of gun-toting crime with a mane of hair to his shoulders and a constant sneer. Told by a tree with an Eraser-head glob of talking goo atop it (obviously) that the only way he’ll get out of the Black Lodge is when his Doppelganger returns to the red-curtain purgatory, Cooper has to fight to escape. But there’s one more complication. There’s a third Cooper out there, living Vegas, dallying with hookers behind the back of his wife (Naomi Watts, no less). How? I hear you ask. Good question. Needless to say things get messy, with some slapstick humour, some hideous violence, and an upsetting amount of vomit. Kyle McLachlan plays everything perfection, and when the real Dale Cooper is left staggering through a Vegas casino after 25 years of not walking, talking or being himself, it’s both hilarious and sad.

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Throw in the return of Denise, now a high flying trans woman in the FBI, Gordon Cole, Albert, and the rather hilariously preening FBI hottie Tammy, and the worlds of Twin Peaks s2 and Fire Walk With Me come crashing together in a way that shouldn’t really work but it does. It should be noted that the Gordon/Denise scene comes with a touching moment that brings the show bang up to date, where Gordon recalls the time when Dennis became Denise, and Gordon took her bullying colleagues to task with the warning, “Change your hearts or die.” It’s a little bit beautiful.

What the opening episodes achieve is intrigue and the promise that this series could take us literally anywhere. Matthew Lilard pops up as a headteacher in the town of Buckhorn who may or may not have murdered a local librarian – echoes of Leland Palmer and the presence of the Doppelganger Cooper hint that this will be picked up in future episodes. There are also nods towards a subplot in Vegas with shady underground dealings, hitmen and hookers. And then one particular scene involving a glass box in a New York skyscraper is so utterly terrifying that it gives me hope that the new darker, badder vision of Twin Peaks will bring the horror in spades.

The classic theme is still there, and Laura’s Theme finally pops up in a scene with Bobby Briggs that will have longterm fans rejoicing that there’s still a heart beating in there somewhere. Sad to see Julee Cruise is gone, replaced by a band-of-the-week gimmick where each episode appears to end with a different hipster synth group at the Road House. Reminiscent of Beverly Hills 90210, I’m not sure how well this is going to fit as the series continues but one thing I’ve learned in my relationship with David Lynch? The key thing is trust. Just go with him. It’s a wild ride, it could give you nightmares, and you might end it scratching your head but for the whole time you follow his vision you will not be bored.

For that I’m hugely thankful. Now I think I’ll watch them all over again…

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The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

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Irvin Kershner’s ‘The Eyes of Laura Mars’ is a film that was on my radar as something camp and creepy and trashy before I even knew what camp was. One of those movies that popped up on late night TV in the UK during my formative years in the late 80s and then the 90s. I knew of Faye Dunaway because everybody’s mum in working class Liverpool in the 80s had a copy of ‘Mommie Dearest’ recorded off the TV. I would be treated to her histrionics regularly with my mother tutting and huffing and commenting on how awful that Joan Crawford was to those poor kids. Obviously I agreed but under my breath I was leaping to her defence purely because she was so damn fabulous.

Well a couple of years before she wowed gays and grannies with her insane and camp genius take on Joan Crawford, Dunaway struck out with this rather under-rated and glamorous thriller. The premise is enough to make a queer horror fan yelp with delight – a chic female fashion photographer in Manhattan has psychic visions of murders through the viewfinder of her Nikon FM. As she becomes embroiled in the police investigation – and falls for handsome detective Tommy Lee Jones – her fellow fashionistas and models begin to fall victim to the killer…

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Cards on the table this movie is a pretty run-of-the-mill murder mystery. The gore is sparing but effective (needle to the eye anyone?), the pacing is pretty damn slow, and you can see the ‘twist’ ending coming a mile off. So why did I love it? Well, to say this film is camp would be an understatement akin to saying Donald Trump is ‘slightly unhinged’. Peppered throughout with glamorous photo shoots, a cast who are constantly turned up to the power of 100 in the drama stakes, and a funky disco soundtrack to boot, ‘Laura Mars’ avoids sending you to sleep by throwing something in fur, diamonds or, in one case, mauve maribou feathers, right in your face to hook you back in.

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Faye Dunaway is no stranger to hamming it up and boy does she have fun chewing up the scenery here. You’ll clutch your pearls every time she tears through a warehouse screaming for her camp-as-tits agent ‘DONAAAAALLLLDDD!!! (Rene Auberjonois), or whenever she pours brandy from a decanter that looks like a giant bottle of Chanel No.5. I decided it was in fact Chanel No.5 which she guzzled by the gallon. It would certainly explain her overacting. The role of Laura was actually offered to Barbra Streisand by producer Jon Peters – at the time the two were an item. But Streisand thought the subject matter too ‘kinky’ and turned it down. She did however record the theme song – the suitably OTT ballad ‘Prisoner’. Listen and weep…

In Streisand’s hands Laura would probably come across more quirky and streetsmart than she does here. Dunaway gives us a floaty, dreamy, vulnerable but effortlessly cool Manhattan lady with bad taste in men but a flare for the more macabre side of fashion photography. Her shoots all consist of death and destruction – murder scenes, freak accidents and in one beautifully trashy moment that is downright iconic – a multi-car pile-up with dead models strewn about Columbus circle whilst two hotties in lingerie and fur coats have a cat fight amidst the wreckage. David La Chapelle was definitely taking notes.

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I spent the entirety of the film thinking I recognised many of Laura’s photographs, wondering if they were Guy Bourdin or Helmut Newton. I was right on the latter. Newton’s photographs double for Laura Mars originals in many scenes.

The psychic element coupled with the high fashion setting, not to mention the funky interiors and the police procedurals, obviously draw comparisons with gialli. And rightly so. A gloved hand, blurred vision from the killer’s POV, red herrings thrown about the place with gay abandon, not to mentions its, shall we say, leisurely pace for a thriller, make this a definite American stab at a giallo film.

More horror kudos comes in the form of John Carpenter. He penned the original story idea and screenplay, although by time it got to screen it had been rewritten under studio orders by David Zelag Goodman. Brad Dourif (Chucky himself) also features prominently, and the killer’s back-story coupled with the stalking of a fashion photographer pre-empt what was to come with ‘Maniac’ (both original and remake).

I watched ‘Laura’ on the Horror Channel, which I love but sometimes the quality of the picture is sub-par to even YouTube. So given the vibrant world the characters inhabit this definitely warrants a watch in HD. If you want high camp, high drama, a time capsule of disco era New York and a prime example of American giallo, then give Laura Mars a chance. Just don’t let her take your picture, you could end up dead.

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But at least you’ll look fabulous…

(JL)

“WE ALL GO A LITTLE MAD SOMETIMES”

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So much about Pscyho fascinates me. A balls-out, in-your-face shocker from the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, it hit the big screen in 1960 to very mixed reviews. It was seen as a cheap schlockfest, it was seen as scandalous in how it stuck two fingers up to the moral decency code that had made movies keep their clothes on for years, but most of all it thrilled the general public. So no matter how sniffy the critics might have been, it got bums on seats and became the blueprint for every slasher movie that followed over a decade later.

From its opening bars, literally coming at you thanks to the strings of Bernard Herrmann, you know you’re not in for a subtle time. Then the first scene, sliding through an open window on a hot Arizona day to find a couple of lovers half naked and post-coital, sets the tone for a film that is about sex and loneliness. Heroine Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) wants to be respectable and settle down to the life society thinks she should lead, but shock horror she’s in love with the recently separated Sam Loomis (John Gavin) who isn’t divorced yet. So like a pair of adulterers they’re forced to meet in hotel rooms that you rent by the hour for a little afternoon delight. Personally meeting John Gavin for a sex session every week in a stuffy hotel room would suit me down to the ground, but things were very different for an office working female in the 60s.

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She’s boiling over, desperate for escape, trapped in a rut by her financial situation and Sam’s. So when opportunity presents itself in the form of $40,000 waved under her nose by a rich Texan, she makes a snap decision that will change her life forever, and dare I say – SPOILER – end it.

Marion jumps from one trap into another, and when she stops at the Bates Motel she meets the shy, awkward but rather gorgeous Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). He’s trapped by his own circumstances – a domineering mother, a life unfulfilled, and his crippling shyness belies a desperate loneliness. In a fantastically written and played scene Norman and Marion compare battle scars of those who are trapped and alone, and Norman convinces Marion to turn on her heels and dig herself out of her hole. But before she can do that, she needs to take a shower. And Norman’s mother isn’t happy to find her son perving over this naked lady as she switches on the hot water and begins to cleanse herself of past mistakes.

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Anyone who doesn’t know the twist that comes when Marion hops into the shower has either been living under a rock their whole life or is very lucky. In recording this podcast, Martin was surprised to find his partner Matt was indeed one of the lucky ones. What an absolute thrill to be taken by surprise when the inevitable fate befalls our heroine. That’s the thing with Psycho, there is a sense of inevitability and doom that scores its entire first half. You’re asked to sit and watch as Marion makes mistake after mistake, when all you want to do is reach into the TV and shake her, tell her to keep driving or to go back. But she doesn’t, and that’s what is so shocking. Not only does it make you feel voyeuristic and helpless, it leaves you conflicted. Because when Norman’s got a mess on his hands, you kinda want him to get away with it. A film of two halves that set the bar for shock twists as, we tend to forget, not only does it have the shock shower scene… but there is another twist 10 minutes before the ending, when Mrs Bates shows her bony face.

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Hitchcock had a wicked old sense of humour. He took glee and relish in horrifying us whether it was a bird attack on the fabulous Tippi Hedren or a dead body in a trunk whilst the corpse’s loved ones sipped wine and wondered where he’d got to. In Psycho his wicked humour plays out like a carnival ghost train. He tips a wink to the audience whilst traumatising us, which is perfectly summed up in the comedic and macabre trailer for Psycho. Here Hitch takes us around the scene of a crime, beckoning us into darkened rooms, daring us to feast our eyes on the horrors within.

Many rumours exist over the making of Psycho. That Hitch shocked Janet Leigh with cold water in the shower scene, that Anthony Perkins drew from real life (and very disturbing) experience for Norman’s mother/son relationship, and that it was the first movie to ever feature a flushing toilet! Not to mention Marion’s license plate – was it on purpose? To find out give our new podcast a listen. It’s a feature length episode with clips and music aplenty, and one where we discuss everything from Pat Hitchcock’s tranquilisers to the sad death of Anthony Perkins from Aids.

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At the heart of it we talk about our love for the movie and just what makes Psycho a bona fide slasher movie to beat them all. Apologies in advance for my constant references to Gavin and Perkins indulging in sodomy. What can I say? They were made for each other!

Get the podcast via iTunes here:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/screaming-queenz-ep-36-psycho/id1070845275?i=1000384397368&mt=2

Enjoy. You might need a shower afterwards…

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(JL)

What is The Void?

In 2015 a trailer appeared online, you can see it below as well as a link to the original Indie Go Go campaign.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-void–10#/

The creators were looking to raise money to create a horror film. Not just any horror film, a horror film that does away with the tiresome, overused CGI in favour of real practical effects, a horror film that takes us back to the 80’s when John Carpenter was king.

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What are you looking at?

The film was successfully funded and began doing the rounds at the horror festivals in 2016. The buzz was all positive, descriptions in the vein of “Assault of Precinct 13 meets the Thing with a Lovecraft twist, with a dash of Fulci” had me very excited, being a Carpenter fan and also a Lovecraft fan too. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the finished product for some time, and finally I have!

The Void comes from the writing/directing duo of Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski who have previously worked on a segment for “ABC’s of Death” and something called “Manborg” which sounds great if the title is anything to go by!

It takes place in small-town rural America, Marsh County if I recall correctly, a place where nothing much happens, the cops get to sleep on the job most nights and it seems to make no difference. Except this night is different. Officer Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) finds an injured man in the road, covered in blood and not making any sense. Carter proceeds to take him to the local emergency room, staffed by a skeleton crew.

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Things take a sinister turn when the hospital is surrounded by evil cultists.

Part of this skeleton crew is a nurse named Allison, who also happens to be Carter’s wife or maybe it’s his ex-wife, it’s never really made 100% clear. Many things about the film remain enigmatic to be honest, which some will see as a strength and others will no doubt see as a weakness, I personally am fine with things left unexplained and mysterious.

The situation very quickly falls apart as cultists surround the hospital and the people inside begin turning on each other or turning into monsters! The acting across the board is all to a solid standard, with Aaron Poole as Daniel Carter doing a particularly good job as the reluctant “leader” of the group.

Fans of 80’s horror and Carpenter specifically will no doubt be in their element, the Carpenter love is strong throughout, from the siege element reminiscent of “Assault of Precinct 13” to the tentacled, unimaginable monstrosities that rampage around the hospital, all created practically with hardly a trace of CGI to be seen.

Fans of practical effects will get a thrill out of much of the film, things like puppets and prosthetics and costumes and make-up effects all make an appearance. I do personally get tired of the CGI overload sometimes so it’s massively refreshing to see. This helps add a sort of grimy authenticity to proceedings, there’s no cartoonish CGI invading the screen every two minutes. Anybody who enjoyed the recent practical effects driven sci-fi horror “Harbinger Down” should certainly check out The Void.

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Make-up test of creature from The Void

You’ll be surprised at the things you find when you go looking”

The influence of H.P. Lovecraft and his prominence in popular culture does seem to have been growing in recent years and The Void certainly has plenty of nods to Lovecraft and his weird fiction, which I’m sure will please Lovecraft fans.

The overall plot of the film is decidedly Lovecraftian, a sinister cult leader has summoned “a great force” to do his bidding. When confronted by Carter towards the film’s climax this cult leader is accused of playing God, to which he replies “Some things are older than God” perhaps hinting at one of Lovecraft’s Great Old One’s at work.

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We never see any obvious Lovecraftian monsters on screen, Cthulhu’s tentacles never slither on-screen or anything like that but I think this is to the film’s strength, it plays on the unknowable and imperceptible nature of most of Lovecraft’s work. What we do see however are occult rituals used to summon inexplicable monsters with the help of weird shapes and esoteric tomes, which also helps give the final third a bit of a Hellraiser vibe, not that that’s a bad thing.

Subtle nods or “Easter Eggs” as we apparently call them now can be seen throughout, the town itself I’m pretty sure is called Marsh County, referencing Innsmouth’s Obed Marsh perhaps? Even our main character Daniel Carter might be a nod to Lovecraft’s recurring character Randolph Carter. We do spot a mysterious book filled with weird shapes and diagrams and, one can assume, instructions for summoning this ancient power, perhaps collated by a mad person? We also see a storage container in the medical supply closet with the name of “West” on it, I wonder what that could be referencing?

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I may be biased because The Void takes inspiration from so much stuff that I love it almost seems like this film was made for me, it’s the perfect antidote to all the CGI driven nonsense that we get nowadays, a throwback to when a horror film was just a film, and not the start of an unending franchise with hundreds of inevitable sequels and spin-offs coming forever…

Giving a star rating on a film is always a little tricky, if like me you love practical effects and H.P. Lovecraft and Gory 80’s horror then it’s an easy 9 slimy tentacles out of 10 and I will call it highly recommended. Even casual horror fans should still get a kick out of much of the film. It’s a fun, gory throwback to a style of film making we don’t see much any more, with mind-bending imagery and a good dose of cosmic horror to get your head around.

(JB)

SS Experiment Camp (1976)

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“That Nazi’s hot!”

Words you don’t expect to be saying on a drizzly Thursday night in front of the TV. Oh who am I kidding? Give me some Hugo Boss Jack-booted and slightly camp eye candy any day, I’m not ashamed. Blame Helmut Berger, Dirk Bogarde and all the other fine actors who’ve stepped into the leather boots of a morally troubling antagonist over the years, making me question just what it is about these movies I’m so drawn to.

Well sometimes you just want to be appalled by something, don’t you? Sit down to watch A Serbian Film, The Human Centipede, or I dare say Speed 2: Cruise Control and you’ll come out of the room satisfied and dirty and in need of a long hot shower. I get my freak show kicks all over the place but nothing makes you feel quite as wrong as Nazisploitation. Whether its the high end Salon Kitty with its camp Dietrich-cum-Lady-Gaga heroine rubbing oversized shoulder-pads with midget porn and slaughter-house footage, or bad old Ilsa She Wolf of the SS, with Dyanne Thorne looking like Krystle Carrington’s Nazi cousin with her blonde bangs and giant tits… you want nasty, go Nazi.

Salon Kitty alone features so much queer imagery mixed up in its dark maze of fetish and horror that I’ll be coming back to delve deeper into that in a future blog and podcast.

So I finally went for it and grabbed the 88 Films release of SS Experiment Camp. This film reportedly kicked off the ‘video nasty’ scandal, although I could have sworn that honour goes to Driller Killer, but either way the image of a naked girl bound naked upside down under the gaze of an evil Nazi commandant was always going to ruffle feathers. Think of every heartbreaking, infuriating and downright shocking image you’ve ever seen of ‘life’ in a concentration camp. Got it? Okay. Throw that away. Stamp all over any semblance of good taste. Replace the gaunt, emaciated victims of the holocaust with cheap, make-up-covered centrefold vixens, sprinkle in some rape, mutilation and any excuse for bare breasts and you’ve got this film.

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Turned off? Repulsed? Horrified? Offended? You should be. The sheer horror loses its power when you see the execution of most of these films. I mean on one hand it makes you even more angry that they were made with such flimsy budgets and flimsier moral compasses, something so weighty, so unbelievably tragic, reduced to a tawdry sex movie with added blood and gore. But on the other hand, you came here to be shocked and offended so pipe down and watch the rest of the damn movie.

If you stick with it you’ll get a damp squib attempt at a love story, a predatory lesbian (obviously), a forced testicular transplant that must be seen to be believed, and – for fellow queer viewers and ladies who like men – you get some damn fine male flesh on show. In my ongoing crusade to re-address the balance in a genre seemingly hellbent on turning women into sex dolls splayed on a slab to be prodded, I’d like to salute the rather beautiful Mircha Carven.

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Playing Nazi soldier Helmut, he’s the piercing blue eyed boy of the third reich is considered the most virile of the lot (yeah right, he’s never picked up a Luger in those manicured model hands), and after falling for a female POW during one of the camp’s many sexperiments he becomes the object of the commandant’s unwanted attention. He’s got something the boss Nazi wants – balls, big ones, and he’ll stop at nothing to get them.

No, this really happens. Somewhere amongst the rape and torture and terrible 70s hair, a beautiful man’s balls are at peril. I’m describing it in a way that makes it sound interesting, quirky and exciting, but the execution of this and all the other plot lines is so inept its rendered almost dull. But watch it for Mircha, watch it for the boys in the barracks being coraled to take part in the naked experiments which are carried out – and I quote the marketing of this fine piece of work – “in pursuit of a better tomorrow!”

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Then go get that shower. You’re gonna need it.

(JL)