Halloween (2018) Spoiler-free review

bwhjmaobtywidr3h79o5

Dubbed ‘The Night She Came Home’, David Gordon Green’s sequel/reboot of the seminal slasher flick has been pretty much sold as Jamie Lee Curtis’ movie. And judging how Halloween wraps up the story of Laurie vs Michael you can definitely see her influence heavily overshadowing the film. But does it make for a good slasher movie?

Going into Halloween I was filled with trepidation and the kind of excitement I haven’t felt for the latest in a horror franchise for a long time. All I wanted was a solid slasher sequel. Nothing more, nothing less. And I am happy to report that Halloween delivers on its promise. Running at 106 minutes, much like most of the horror fare hitting cinemas in the last five years it could do with a trim. And for my money there are a few peripheral characters too many. Not all of whom meet the sticky end you’d hope for…

halloween-david-gordon-green

But on the whole Halloween is a fun, jump-filled creepfest. With more than one nod to the original, the movie still manages to keep its own identity. John Carpenter’s contributions to the score stand head and shoulders above the rest – one set-piece in particular where Laurie’s granddaughter Alyson (Andi Matichak) comes face-to-face with the Shape gave me chills thanks to the throwback synth that accompanied it. Set to the skittish rebeat of the iconic theme, watching Michael go crazy on his first Halloween home, stalking and slashing his way through the neighbourhood whilst the kids are outside playing trick or treat, is a spine-tingling feast for horror freaks.

During moments like these the film excels. One of the original’s greatest achievements was to capture that simple and terrifying fear that you’re not safe in your own home. The script here works it’s hardest to try and recapture that. In one scene an unsuspecting neighbour peers out into the darkness whilst telling her friend on the phone “I’d better lock the door…”, not realising The Shape is letting himself into her home right at the edge of our screens. The vulnerability of the Haddonfield residents, and indeed ourselves, couldn’t be more stark and clear.

halloween_0hero-h_2018

Another highlight is how David Gordon Green’s direction captures the physicality of Michael. Throughout the plethora of sequels The Shape became just that. A robotic man in a mask who became less scary with each passing entry. Now Michael is very much the Bogeyman, stalking with animal like intent, grunting his way through the back streets of Haddonfield and having a whale of a time slicing and dicing and posing his victims like dolls once he’s done with them. His brutality is on point – although there are some punches pulled with surprising deaths offscreen that I’m sure were intended to make us use our own twisted imaginations but instead felt a bit like a cop-out.

But if you came for grisly gore you get just enough to lap it up. If you came for a bad ass heroine protecting her loved ones like a lioness then you are in for a treat. If you came for that slow creeping chill up your spine whenever Michael’s mask is reflected in a suburban window then for the most part you’ll be pleased too.

I was impressed with the character work that’s gone into showing Laurie’s descent into the local town crank, an embarrassment to her family and now a recluse living in a self-made fortress, an obsessed alcoholic who’s life has fallen apart under the weight of the trauma she suffered 40 years ago. A surprising depth has been carved out for this iconic character and it’s much deserved. My only major gripe was despite its many strengths I just wasn’t as scared as I wanted to be… but I jumped and cowered just enough to call this the best sequel Halloween could have wished for. So don’t expect the second coming and you’ll come out smiling. A solid tribute to two horror icons – Michael and Laurie both get the follow-up they deserve. And it’s already a smash so whether we like it or not…

Roll on the sequel…

Halloween_(2018)_poster

Advertisements

VERÓNICA (2017)

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

the-new-horror-film-on-netflix-veronica-is-as-good-as-the-conjuring-740x500-2-1519801525

Having been privy to articles from Ladbible and the likes declaring the latest Spanish horror on Netflix to be the most terrifying thing to hit our screens since Katie Hopkins, the Screaming Queenz were wondering if palms had been greased for such OTT superlatives to be thrown around. So with my eyebrow arched in its favourite cynical position I sat down to watch Verónica to find out for myself.

veronica-netflix

Set in Madrid in 1991, the films follows its titular heroine as she struggles to help her work-all-night-sleep-all-day mum to raise 3 kids, whilst navigating the horrors of adolescence and awaiting her first period. Deciding life isn’t already grim enough Verónica takes to the school basement with her gal pals and plays around with a Ouija board during – you guessed it – a solar eclipse. Grieving the loss of her father, Veró wants to make contact. It won’t be the mother of all spoilers to tell you she doesn’t get hold of her dad – there’s someone or something much more dark and sinister on the line. And once she’s made contact, her demonic new friend isn’t going to leave without a fight…

So is the film indeed a shit-your-pants frightfest unlike anything we’ve ever seen before? Well… no. But for the rest of us out there once bitten twice shy after Netflix gave us the Cloverfield shitpile, I can reassure you… it’s actually not bad. In fact it’s quite good. Every demonic Ouija board haunting trope is thrown into Verónica. Troubled family life, recent bereavement, creepy kids drawing shadowy figures, there’s even a creepy old blind nun, not to mention nods to everything from Nosferatu to Paranormal Activity. But such clichés can be forgiven in a film that cranks up the emotional punch with sweet and quirky performances from its cast, primarily children who are neither terribly wooden or precocious.

veronica-lead_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqcF1WPRXYJk3HNhlFTdYm8mWdzorGJWxo4yC96z3Ap1Y

Veró’s battle with her burgeoning womanhood, high school politics and a largely absent mother are obvious but well-played. The horror of a girl’s first period is driven home with a surprisingly gruesome scene involving cannibal children that stands out like a blood-stained mattress. The film falls down with its use of dodgy CGI but then regains its scare factor with glimpses of the demon in the shadows, reflected in the TV screen (hello Signs) and leering through plate glass doors. And a decidedly downbeat ending draws the film back from the sentimental edge it teeters on just at the last minute.

So despite it being overhyped, Verónica is still worth your time. A few good scares, not to mention a synth soundtrack with more than a few nods to the original Nightmare on Elm Street score, and solid performances, mean it won’t disappoint.

While you’re here, have you heard our new podcast looking at Silence of the Lambs? If you like jizz jokes, bad Jodie Foster impressions and want to hear our opinion on whether the film is transphobic or not, click the link below:

JL

IT (2017) Review

it-movie-poster-1

Vague spoilers ahead…

I’ll tell you this straight off the bat. I think the original TV mini-series of It (1990) gets away with murder thanks to nostalgia. We saw it at just the right time, and hit the TV airwaves at just the right moment, for it to somehow become iconic and deemed terrifying. Same goes with Salem’s Lot. But watch it now and you might have a different opinion.

So when it was announced that Pennywise would be returning for a new outing on the big screen I, for one, welcomed the idea. Having read the tome of a novel, which needs a damn good edit but is utterly enthralling and almost unbearably dark in parts, I thought that maybe the new film would honour it better than the TV version. I had high hopes. And for the most part I was not disappointed. I really hoped it wouldn’t be a shot-by-shot rehash of the ‘original’ as people call it. And evidently, the team behind ‘It’ (2017) felt the same way.

The movie goes out of its way not to look or sound or feel anything like the 1990 effort. From the very start, whilst Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) helps his little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) build that paper boat, there’s a notable absence of ‘Fur Elise’ being played by mom on the piano, obviously an iconic moment from the mini series. The action is moved from the barrens to the sewers and the old house on Neibolt, with no mention of dam-building, and the updating of the action to the 80s are all obvious – and successful – attempts to distance the film from it’s 1990 counterpart. Whilst obvious similarities will be drawn when Georgie is chasing said boat down the street in torrential rain, all fears of a remake vibe are set aside when we’re introduced to Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise. Nobody is ever going to touch Tim Curry’s performance but what we have here is a whole different ballgame. As Pennywise toys with Georgie and offers him fun and frolics in a subterranean big-top, Skarsgård is clearly pulling out every trick in the book to separate himself from the shadow of Curry – and for the most part it works. It’s no massive spoiler to say Georgie meets his fate early on – but this is a more ferocious, fiendish death scene that doesn’t quite go where you’re expecting it to…

e470cd420e1f51e13806fa2aa2ad4721

Speaking of unexpected, in It we get that rare thing in a mainstream horror movie. The emotional gutpunch. Director Andrés Muschietti draws out performances from his young cast that are loaded with authenticity and heart. Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard makes Richie Tozier loveable, annoying and hilarious in equal measure. He does a roaring trade in ‘your mom’ insults and swears like a trucker – you know, like real kids do. Jack Dylan Grazer is old before his time and riddled with anxiety as hypochondriac Eddie, and poor Ben Hanscom, awkward secret poet and christened ‘tits’ because of his chunky frame, is sweetly played by Jeremy Ray Taylor. But the standouts here are Lieberher as Bill – throwing aside the shadow of tragic Jonathan Brandis to give us a new hero we totally believe, and Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, who at fifteen looks about ten years older than some of the boys. Wasn’t that always the way in school? Whilst some of the boys seemed to actively recoil from puberty, the girls towered above them and strode into early adulthood ahead of the pack. And that’s Beverly, dealing with buying her first Tampax, taking on bullies at school, and absolutely flooring the boys with her sophistication and beauty… whilst dealing with the hideous reality of life at home with her abusive single father…

gallery-1490698430-it-the-losers-club

And so comes the gutpunch. The reality of Beverly’s abuse, Bill’s grief at losing his little brother, not to mention Ben’s bullying and unrequited love, actually prevail over the horror of Pennywise. At its core the novel delved into the absolute trauma it can be to just grow up, make it into adolescence and come out the other side intact. And that is where this film flies high. The 80s nostalgia isn’t particularly overdone, but the truthful portrayal of the adventure – and the real life horror – of just being a kid, of that last summer you spent with your group of friends before everything changed, before shit got real – that’s what resonates in this movie.

So much so, the actual horror tropes suffer as a result. We get jump-scares, we get creaking floorboards and clowns hiding under dust sheets. The set-pieces evoke elements of Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, even more recent horror hits like The Conjuring and Insidious, and whilst some of the jumps are efficient and jolting, the horror element never quite matches the teen drama. With a lesser script, poor direction and a weaker cast, that could result in a muddled overblown mess of a film. But because you care so much for the characters and the overall package is so well done you forgive it. You go along for the ride – an epic one at two hours fifteen. But it never feels too long, nothing drags.

And yet in parts I felt like cuts had been made. After the George intro we’re introduced to Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs), with a story tweaked from the novel where he lives with an overbearing Grampa (Steven Williams looking mighty fine in his old age). But after his opening scene he vanishes for over half an hour. Similarly Stan (Wyatt Olef) is given hints of a story that then vanish and he’s ignored for most of the film. Also Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) slices and dices his way on to the screen but feels underused. You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s a three hour version out there somewhere, but given that I got through over two hours and could have watched more, I’d welcome that director’s cut.

Maybe it’ll have the darker elements only hinted at in this release? Pennywise offering Eddie a BJ, the real death of Patrick Hockstetter, the racially-motivated mass murder at the Black Spot? All were absent here. I also found it interesting that Henry Bowers was clearly an evil racist but never once used hate speech when attacking Mike – although ‘faggot’ was thrown around with (cough) gay abandon. So whilst I easily forgot the mini series I couldn’t quite let go of what was STILL missing from the novel…

So a flawed film but mainly brilliant. Go in with an open mind. Forget Tim Curry (I know, sacrilege), put your preconceptions to one side and revel in a film that for the most part is beautifully made and a luminous cast who will make you laugh and – if you’re a sap like me – cry too. Yes the frights are nothing we haven’t seen before, and it’s not quite as terrifying as it wants to be… but for a mainstream horror it delivers much more than you’d expect.

it-official-trailer-2-a.gif

That said, with a film that makes it through the gate mainly because of it’s young cast, I think for It, Chapter 2, they’ll have their work cut out to make anything as good as this. Bring it on, Pennywise…

JL

Pathos/Obsession – A Taste for Fear (1988)

740full-pathos----segreta-inquietudine-poster

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…

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 22.18.02.png

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…

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 22.13.22.png

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 22.12.38

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 22.16.11.png

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.

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 22.17.28.png

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 22.19.15.png

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.

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 23.08.49.png

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 23.09.38.png

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 23.10.33.png

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 23.10.14

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!

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 23.07.50.png

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!

1971-Five-Desperate-Women-ABC-movie-of-the-week

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.

Stefanie Powers_Anjanette Comer_Five Desperate Women_1971

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!

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 12.25.38.png

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.

original_5desperate6

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

 

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

(aka Invasion of the Flesh Hunters and a lot of other titles)

(Spoilers ahead)

cannibal_apocalypse_poster_011

 

I’ll be honest, I had two reasons to track down Cannibal Apocalypse. First up, with a title like that I was sure it would be quality exploitation trash – especially as it was one of the infamous Video Nasties. Secondly, I’ve got a major daddy crush on John Saxon. Ever since Nightmare on Elm Street he turned my head, then his brown-face ‘it’s OK it was the 80s’ portrayal of Rashid Ahmed in Dynasty sealed the deal. He’s a heaving hunk of man flesh.

vlcsnap-2011-10-24-19h06m04s223

Cannibal Apocalypse delivered on both counts. Opening in the middle of the Vietnam War, where Captain Norman Hopper (Saxon) storms a POW camp to rescue a couple of soldiers, we’re not even five minutes into the battle when a Vietnamese lady is cannibalised by the POWs… tits first! And it’s not the only time a female character loses her boobs to the chomping of a hungry cannibal. In the middle of the carnage Norman manages to get himself bitten too, but survives the attack. He wakes sweating from a dream a year later, still traumatised by his time in Nam.

cannibalapocalypse_b2_japan-9-500x389

Former POW cannibal Bukowski (John Morghen aka Giovanni Lombardo Radice of Cannibal Ferox fame) gets out of hospital and invites Norman out for a drink and a catch up. Bad timing, as Norman’s about to be seduced by jailbait neighbour Mary. A scene that can only be described as sleazetastic ensues, as Mary throws herself at Norman and… he bites her?

Yep, Norman got bit in ‘Nam, by Bukowski, and before long we find out that the bites are contagious. And if you survive a bite, you get carnivorous too! So having been stood up by Norman, Bukowski takes himself off to the local flea pit cinema where he watches a couple getting into some serious heavy petting in the next row. He decides to join in – only he takes it that step further by chowing down on the girl’s neck. All hell breaks loose from here on in…

The cannibal part of the title is more than justified, although when I saw the word ‘apocalypse’ I was thinking more Dawn of the Dead, end of the world type action. Instead we find Norman teaming up with the other cannibals and going on the run. In a strange twist we’re expected to sympathise with the cannibals and not the cops on their trail.

You can read as much or as little into this movie as you like. On the surface it’s a straight up hard-boiled video shop classic, with dodgy dubbing on almost everyone in the cast except Saxon, and some howlers in the script. Whilst Bukowski is holed up taking pot-shots at the cops, the police captain, hard-boiled in the old fashioned sense of the word, demands to know “Is he a subversive, a queer, a black, a commy, a muslim, what the hell is he?”

Cringes and laughs aside, part of me came away wondering if the whole thing wasn’t a metaphor for PTSD. We’re privy to the suffering of Norman and his bity comrades, but the psychological trauma they suffer is met with confusion, apathy and suspicion. They infect all they come into contact with, spreading madness and terror, the horrors they’ve encountered tainting those around them. They’re a lost cause, with no resources or understanding to address the suffering they’ve had all in the name of protecting and serving their country. Sounds familiar… Eerily in the final act, Norman dons his old army uniform and opts to put himself out of his misery so as not to drag out his suffering and that of his wife, Jane (Elizabeth Turner). In an added tragic twist Jane decides to die with her husband, and both hero and heroine go out in a suicide pact. But not to leave us totally depressed, a cheeky last bite comes when we realise jailbait Mary next door and her brother have succumbed to the spreading disease and have got their old aunt chopped up for later in the freezer.

So as an exploitation movie this stands up amongst the best. Director Antonio Margheriti also had a hand in Andy Warhol’s queertastic Frankenstein and Dracula outings. And for a macho blood and guts flick we get plenty of lingering shots on John Saxon in his boxer shorts and later in just a towel. We might actually see more of his tits than any of the ladies. As always he puts in a strong performance clothed or otherwise.

saxon-1

So take from it what you will. A comment on the trauma of war and the devastating after effects on its cannon fodder, or a good old-fashioned beer-and-pizza cannibal flick? I’m happy to see it as both. But then I’m greedy. Now where did I put those entrails?

cannibal-apocalypse-murder-cult-movies-download

As always, get me on twitter to vent if you disagree, or just kiss my ass if you love what I do! Either works for me! @jonnylarkin

JL

Screaming Queenz 2: Martin’s Revenge

Welcome to Series 2 of Screaming Queenz. Listen to our new episode on ‘Neon Demon’ and you’ll be surprised to find that bitch Martin Fenerty has stolen my slot and is hosting the show! I plan to claw my way back, maybe take him from behind with a straight razor and gut him like a little gay fish.

I’m just kidding. I wouldn’t dirty my blade on him. We decided that for our second series we’d change it up. You’ll be hearing a whole lot more from Martin, Jon and Stephen as we go along.

Why did I decide to break the show up into series’ (or seasons you might want to say – that’s fine if you’re American) you might ask? No reason in particular, other than it being an excuse to find some new soundbites for the opening music and give us a reset button moment. A way to start again, go bigger and better. When I was a kid one of the queer nerdy things I used to love was waiting to see the new opening credits on a new series of Melrose Place, or Buffy, or The X Files (which never happened, well not until I stopped watching it and they brought in replacements). So this was my way of creating my own version of that. God I’m pathetic. And I love it.

Keen-eared listeners will spot familiar soundbites in there. Some not so familiar. You can think of the opening credits as a mission statement, an action plan, a promise, or maybe a threat, of things to come in the new run of shows. We’ve barely scratched the tip of the queer horror iceberg in series 1. So much still to cover.

6627633

Psycho, for instance, the ultimate in repressed sexuality brought to startling life in bloody monochrome. The cross-dressing Norman declaring that “a boy’s best friend is his mother”. Bless him. We all know where he’s coming from. Even the queens who’ve lost their mother, through fate or through design, find a best friend in a patriarch. It could be Cher cooing you to sleep through a vocoder. It could be Auntie Mame cuddling you close as she gives you your first sip of a dirty Martini. Or, indeed, it could be the malicious bitch you just poisoned, skinned and stepped into to create a better, more glamorous version of Mummy. We need to talk about Norman. And we will. Once that psychiatrist gets through explaining the ins and outs of this weird little perversion he calls transsexualism. Of course we don’t think it’s perverted. Or maybe we do and that’s why we identify with it so much? We all go a little pervy sometimes.

MCDJECR EC029

Speaking of pervy, just how many jockstrap references did Victor Salva squeeze un-lubed into his Jeepers Creepers movies? I mean seriously, a serial killing demon who likes to sniff the soiled underwear of teenage guys before ingesting their vital organs to make himself whole again? Anyone would think this stuff was written by a letchy old dirtbag. Oh. Wait. Either way we’re covering Jeepers Creepers 1 and 2 at some point down the line and we will leave no stone unturned in the debate that rages now in the horror community. Is watching these movies – and the imminent sequel – immoral in the wake of the scandal that surrounds their creator? Or should art be judged on its own merits and not those of the dirty old man behind the curtain? Which leads nicely to a love of mine I want to explore in the coming year.

Childhood horror the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Dorothy returned to Oz. When little Fairuza Balk – before she tore up the screen as uber-bitch-in-charge Nancy in The Craft – was strapped to a table about to be pumped full of electro shock therapy, the target audience cowered. The parents complained. The popcorn was ditched and eyes were shielded. But little horror-loving queens like me sat up and took notice. The promise of horror from Wizard of Oz’s Miss Gulch never quite delivered. I wanted her to track down Toto and make a little hot dog too. Anyone else? Just me? Okay I’ll take that. But what did you love as a child? What horrors crept out of that screen and thrilled you when all your friends were crying in the corner? And what went too far? That episode of ‘Hammer House of Horror’ with the hitch-hiker doppelganger and the long black fingernail STILL haunts me to this day. As does the phone-call to babysitter Jill asking if she’s checked the children in ‘When a Stranger Calls’. But it didn’t land me in therapy. It landed me in bed with my aunt and uncle terrified of the shadows but wanting more!

4357bbeea996c2a284cc866444599198

If you’re reading this then I want you to send me your favourite childhood horror – whether it thrilled you or terrified you I want to know. So tweet me at @jonnylarkin, or email screamingqueenz@gmail.com. Or just comment below.

There’s a fabulous line in the new opening montage. “Ursula Andress belongs with the transvestites, not the perverts!” It is, of course, an excerpt from the giallo ‘Bird with the Crystal Plumage.’ Giallo is something we all discovered quite recently at Screaming Queenz. We dipped our toe last year and our downloads went through the roof. Since then we’ve covered more gialli and the new series will be no different. In fact we’ll be covering so much Italian crime horror that we thought it only fitting to include the afore-mentioned snippet in our theme song. Not only did we find a subgenre oozing style and slightly misogynistic charm, we found a wading pool overflowing with campness and complex, sometimes problematic queer chops.

10489895_310943552410576_3179928329290571143_n

For the uninitiated a giallo is an Italian pulp thriller with heavy gothic horror overtones. Mainly from the 60s and 70s and then petering out in the 80s, and hailing from Catholic, macho Italy, it’s no surprise these films are laden with women being sliced and diced and often falling into the category of victim, pervert or predator. Nothing scares a macho 70s heterosexual male more than a woman he can’t fuck, a woman he can’t save, or a woman who wants to bump him off!  But scratch the surface and there’s a much more complicated narrative to explore. To write these works of art off as cheap sleazy exercises in bigotry and misogyny would be lazy. And also a travesty if you like your horror camp, kitsch and genuinely shocking. You’d be missing out on so many treats – and one of the few subgenres of horror to feature gay men and women – and trans characters – in prominent roles. Admittedly the roles range from vacuous to offensive but there are gems to behold. And we’re here to pick them out just for you.

So we hope you’ll stick with us into our second series. I don’t want to give too much away at this point but we’ve got surprises planned, although we won’t be messing with the formula too much. If it ain’t broke, don’t cut the fucker up. But as ever want your feedback. Email, tweet, whatever. Get mad.

We all go a little mad sometimes…

(JL)

 

 

What Should You Be Watching This Halloween?

The curtains are drawn. The Jack-o-Lantern’s lit. The razor-blades are hidden in the miniature Mars bars sat next to the front door, should some precocious brat come knocking dressed in a bin bag and a road cone claiming to look like a witch. Yes, it’s Halloween night! Or it will be shortly. So what will you be watching?

The choice of horror films to watch is more overwhelming than ever. Will you be cosying up with a classic or giving something new a whirl? Well don’t decide yet. Let us Screaming Queenz guide you through our essential picks to watch from behind the sofa…

TRICK ‘R TREAT

(chosen by Stephen Moore)

tumblr_mz4war8khc1s1v3r1o1_400

John Carpenter’s classic 1978 slasher might be Halloween in name, but Trick ‘r  Treat (2007) has Halloween’s mischievously enchanting blood spilling from its very veins. The film received an enthusiastic response at festivals as early as 2007 before being met with a series of delays that culminated in finally receiving a home release in 2009. A delay such as this would usually result in a fate worse than that of the slutty girl in a slasher, but instead allowed this film to become a cult phenomenon.

The film is portmanteau in style, telling four interweaving tales that cover everything from ghostly revenge stories, vampyric series killers to seductive werewolves. Like with most films of this style some stories are less effective than others. That being said even the weakest werewolf segment makes up for its lack of bite with lashings of witty dialogue and besides who doesn’t want to watch a brassiere-popping, skin-peeling transformation sequence set to Marylin Manson’s cover of Sweet Dreams. The film is at times very creepy whether it’s time to carve the pumpkin or the tale of a haunted school bus but it never loses its sense of fun. A particular favorite scene of mine involves children who unwittingly knock on a house where their teachers are have a very raunchy alcohol fueled party. I’m fuming i never got an invite too.

And the best; I must confess, I have saved for the last. For the ruler of this Halloween land… Is an adorably creepy burlap sack wearing pumpkin headed psychopath named Sam. Sam who is naturally armed with razor blades hidden in candy ensures that all the rules of Halloween are being followed with deadly consequences. But you can’t help but fall in love with the pesky little tyke who is just trying to defend the traditions of my favorite holiday. So don’t go blowing out pumpkins before midnight or  you might get a visit from the cutest killer in the horror game.

LIFEFORCE

(chosen by Jonathan Butler)

tumblr_nh7aqtbgnq1r04g55o1_500

Released in 1985, the first collaboration between Tobe Hooper and Cannon,  the other two films being Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and the Invaders From Mars remake. From a script by Dan O’Bannon of Alien fame, based on a novel from Colin Wilson rather unimaginatively titled “The Space Vampires”

A rather nonsensical plot involving the discovery of a giant space ship hiding within the tail of  Halley’s Comet. Upon further investigation, the crew of the Space Shuttle Churchill board the ship and discover humanoid bodies in suspended animation, one of which is a naked Mathilda May!

Upon returning to Earth the Female Alien (May) promptly wakes up from her stasis and, being a space vampire, begins to absorb the “Lifeforce” from everybody she can find, leading to some creepy practical effects for these sucking victims.

Things take a drastic turn and most of London end up being turned into Zombies! I won’t spoil too much of the film as if you’ve never seen it I would recommend giving it a look, it’s currently on UK Netflix and Arrow Films have a great Blu-Ray version out.

Lifeforce is a bonkers piece of 80’s camp sci-fi horror, perfect for some Halloween viewing.

THE HAUNTING

(Chosen by Martin Fenerty)

tumblr_miv5z1kccs1qjo3g2o3_500

This a story that will haunt and disturb even the most hardened horror fan with its blurred lines of the supernatural and psychological disturbance.

Based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House, it tells the tale of Dr John Markway and the groups of individuals he recruits to stay in a supposed haunted house to help with his investigation into the reported supernatural activity that takes place there.

Hill House is an old sprawling mass with corridors that seem to move and are designed to disorientate and give a feel of a house that is almost alive. The relationships between the characters and how they influenced the events in the house and their reactions to them take centre stage and includes a subtle reference the lesbian identity of one of the characters.

DRACULA (1958 version)

(Chosen by Jon Larkin)

QtFNni.gif

Hammer’s full-blooded, vibrant Dracula is, for me, the essential telling of the classic tale. Condensed into 90 minutes and working to its budget, the streamlined version manages to scare you and thrill you more than the bloated longer, bigger budget attempts ever could.

Dracula is quintessential Hammer with its nostalgic studio sets, heaving bosoms, swirling mist and teeth-shaking score by James Bernard. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a Halloween night post-pub, curled up on the couch with the leftovers from that visit to the Chinese…

Starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in their most iconic roles, Dracula is the perfect Halloween flick to sink your teeth into.

CARRY ON SCREAMING

(Chosen by Martin Fenerty)

efs-submissions

Filmed and released in 1966, Carry on Screaming stars many of the regular cast in their familiar roles. Kenneth Williams as mad scientist Dr Orlando Watt, Jim Dale as the love struck Albert Potter, Charles Hawtrey as Dan Dann the toilet man and Joyce Sims as a sharp tongued wife of Harry H Corbett’s Police Detective Bung.

An outrageous parody of the Hammer Horror films it contains enough double entendres and Edwardian spookiness to satisfy horror and Carry On fans, and also stars the wonderful Fenella Fielding in full gothic vamp mode.

An amalgam of the House of Wax and Frankenstein, it’s a romp that won’t disappoint.

THE STRANGERS

(Chosen by Stephen Moore)

My first choice taught you to always answer the door to people in masks but whilst that might save you from Sam, there’s another burlap sack headed man and his  two porcelain doll friends who might make death by candy sound like the much sweeter option. This is that perfect curl up in the dark on the sofa with some snacks film. So if you’re feeling brave I suggest you do just that this Halloween, but maybe leave the sweets outside so you can avoid the ominous chime of your doorbell.

The story of The Strangers (2008) is admittedly lacklustre. Our protagonists James and Kristen return to a secluded family home at 3am from a wedding party that resulted in a rejected marriage proposal….. AWKWARD. It’s not long after that a mysterious girl who’s face is obscured in the dark rings the doorbell asking in a timid voice for “Tamara” before departing with the creepy suggestion that she will “see them later.” From here on in there is no real plot development but what it lacks in a fleshed-out story it more than makes up with in suspense. Jump scares are present but the most effective moments involve “the strangers” lurking in the background of shots, unknown to the estranged couple. It’s a testament to the power of true tension and a fantastic score in a horror film, as the fear and dread is palatable. If you’re not on the edge of your seat you must already be hiding behind the pillow. The film’s influence can be seen in other home invasion films like “The Purge” and it’s characters are present and locked in the vault of Joss whedon’s amazing “Cabin in the woods”

Ultimately it’s the films main flaw of senselessness that is also what makes it so damn creepy. The Film opens with the ever frightful line “What you are about to see is inspired by true events. According to the FBI, there are an estimated 1.4 million violent crimes in America each year.” And whilst its actual origin is the loosest stretch of true events I’ve ever heard, the line shown below still sends a shiver down my spine…

tumblr_mk1j3nmkll1rsw1rxo1_500

THE GHOST BREAKERS

(Chosen by Jon Larkin)

large

Light-hearted fare but deceptively creepy. A horror comedy from 1940 finds Bob Hope as radio DJ Larry Lawrence being chased by disgruntled mobsters. Fleeing their bullets he stows away with society gal Mary Carter, played by the glamorous Paulette Goddard, as she sets off to Cuba where she has inherited a haunted castle.

They dodge murder attempts on the cruise ship but it’s their arrival in Cuba that gets the horror wheels in motion. Voodoo curses, some terrible racial stereotypes and slapstick humour ensue, but Mary’s arrival at the castle and her run-in with the local zombie mark a turn for the truly creepy. Gothic chills aplenty and some genuine laughs make this nostalgic, safe Halloween viewing.

And if you can’t get enough then stick on Cat and the Canary, an even creepier haunted house comedy from the year before, also starring Hope and Goddard.

SLEEPY HOLLOW

(Chosen by Jonathan Butler)

tumblr_moadxkmoja1r7bhzoo4_500

A more “traditional” Halloween film maybe and probably the last Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaboration I can say I really like, although Sweeney Todd isn’t that bad. A creepy Gothic tale with a look and feel inspired by Hammer Films and Roger Corman’s classic low-budget horror films. Burton’s signature Expressionistic/Gothic style works to great effect.

Depp does a great job as Police Constable Ichabod Crane, dispatched to the Westchester County of New York to investigate a series of grisly decapitation murders.

It is then upto Crane with the help of Christina Ricci’s Katrina Van Tassel to solve the mystery  of Sleepy Hollow and stop the Headless Horseman from killing again.

One of the strongest points for me is the cast assembled for this film, Tim Burton gathers a superb set of actors for this take on Washington Irving’s classic horror tale. When your supporting cast boasts the likes of Christopher Walken, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson and the late greats Richard Griffiths and Christopher Lee, you know it’s going to be pretty special.

So there you have it. Do you like our picks? Give us your feedback in the comments section below. Or tweet me at @jonnylarkin. Happy Halloween.

We’ll see you at midnight… but you won’t see us…

creepy-halloween-costumes-1930s-40s-4.png

creepy-vintage-halloween-costumes-2

Bleurgh, Witch?

So I took myself off to see the Blair Witch sequel with an open mind, an open heart, and an open hoodie ready to throw over my head when it got too scary. The hoodie got used plenty. But then I am a major pussy when it comes to jump scares. So is Blair Witch actually any good?

df9d5b29c8fad07b155cbb17ca43509fb32b6ab12ae9a323d096a2387f15cd3e

You’ll find out my thoughts on Monday when I publish the podcast review. But I will say that I think it’s basically The Blair Witch Project for the ADHD Smartphone Generation – for better or worse.

In the meantime get your witch fix by listening to Part 2 of my podcast on witches in horror – Wicca, Please! We start off with the psychadelic Euro sleaze campness of Baba Yaga from 1973, which had everything from lesbian Nazi boxing to a miniature S&M voodoo doll complete with leather and studs – and I don’t mean the kind from Cruising…

We also discuss where the witch myth came from – is it just a tool we use to punish women who don’t conform? Is it a manifestation of our fears of ageing, our hatred towards women who dare to be sexual, who dare to grow old, who dare to not subscribe to any ‘acceptable’ religion?

But most importantly, is the British Media’s Panto Villain Du Jour Katie Hopkins actually a descendant of Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins?

Only one way to find out. Here you go. As always, you can get me on twitter @jonnylarkin. Love to hear your feedback on the show…

Don’t Breathe Review

Don’t Breathe opens with the lifeless bloodied body of a young woman being dragged down a deserted street out in the sticks of the Detroit suburbs. From the get-go it paints itself as horror but what you get is more of a survival thriller.

dontbreathetrio-0

Bad boy Money, pretty boy Alex and young single mum Rocky are petty (and pretty) burglars. Using the keys Alex’s security firm-owning dad has hidden in his desk, they like to raid the homes of the wealthy and help themselves. When they get the opportunity to break into the home of a gulf war veteran rumoured to have accrued a small fortune after the tragic death of his daughter, they find it too good to turn down.

Just so we don’t absolutely hate our troublesome trio, we’re given a character to root for in Rocky. Stuck at home with a young daughter, having to live with her deadbeat trailer trash mom and her boyfriend, Rocky has dreams of escaping with her little girl and giving her a better life. Alex is the good boy gone bad who went Rocky to run off with, whilst Money is the more one dimensional gangsta thug who likes to whip it out and pee on the floor of his victims for extra measure.

dont-breathe-horror-movie-spoilers-tif

We have to care for them because the following turn of events would make us detest them had we not been fed some redeeming qualities. Their mark, the gulf war vet… is blind. Oh no, I hear you cry, how could we root for a bunch of no marks who’d rob from a blind man? Well… you kinda do. Because from the offset this film tells you they’re getting in above their heads.

dont-breathe-trailer-2016-horror-31gegn1tvzrmq9ehgprimi

Before they even get into the guy’s house they meet his fierce Rottweiler in a Cujo-tinged jump scare that worked its magic all over the cinema. And then the jump scares keep coming. If you’ve seen the trailer then it’s no massive spoiler to learn that The Blind Man is a bad bad dude. He’s not the kind of guy you burgle. In fact he’s not the kind of guy you’d even look at the wrong way. So when he finds these punks rooting through his house looking for his fortune, things turn real ugly, real fast.

Don’t Breathe starts out pretty generic. The jumps are in the right place. The pace whips you along nicely until you’re sucked right in, with moral dilemmas piled on top of bone-crunching violence. But (sort of spoilery) when Rocky and Alex find themselves in The Blind Man’s hidden secret chamber beneath the house, complete with bound and gagged kidnapped girl… Don’t Breathe reveals a mean streak and a very black sense of humour.

dont-breathe

Alex, as pretty as he is in a Teen Wolf boy next door way, is pretty disposable. But in Rocky we do have a plucky heroine we want to get through this ordeal. Her fight for survival leads to a pretty nasty twist involving scissors poised over her crotch, a turkey baster and a big old pot of The Blind Man’s jizz. No I kid you not. It goes there. So underneath the veneer of survival thriller we get our surprisingly nasty horror, which more than earns its stripes amongst the home invasion cannon.

Check out the trailer below. Do you agree with my review? Let me know. Tweet me at @jonnylarkin.