Halloween (2018) Spoiler-free review

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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…

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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.

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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…

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How Do You Salva Problem Like Victor?

BEATNU

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Sorry for the silence and lack of updates here – I’ve had writing commitments that have kept me otherwise engaged!

Meantime listen to our new podcast looking at Jeepers Creepers and the dark legacy of Victor Salva. A convicted sex offender, Salva received most of his success AFTER doing jail time for his crime. In our new episode we take a look at Jeepers Creepers, and then in part 2 we will review Jeepers Creepers 2 and delve further into the real life horror of the movie’s creator. Interesting debates are sparked here – can you separate the art from the artist? Should we feel guilty for watching the movies that are created by people like Salva? If so then where do we draw the line? Salva was supported and funded by Disney and Francis Ford Coppola – so do we burn all our copies of The Godfather and The Little Mermaid? Once you scratch the surface this is a rabbit hole that has no bottom and is a continuous source of debate. We touch on it here in the first episode with much more to come in Part 2.

So settle down and listen below. And please give us your feedback! We need it like the Creeper needs eyeballs!

Strangers: Prey At Night (review)

Knock, Knock, Knock… Is an unnecessary but long awaited sequel to one of my favourite films home?

Well yeah actually. Strangers: Prey at night is stalking it’s way into theatres 5th May, and luckily I managed to see it early at one of Odeon’s Scream Unseen events and can tell you if it’s worth the extortionate price of popcorn.

Well i suppose it all depends what you want from your horror sequels. Do you want them to give you a back story of your title villains, like the final girl is actually his sister or his mother was raped and impregnated by 100 maniacs? If so then you are… wrong. Seriously let’s stop doing this. Luckily this film doesn’t cater to your desires – the masked strangers remain just that. Strangers.

Perhaps you wish sequels and remakes just didn’t exist and great stories were left alone. That’s admirable, however I’m sorry I have to welcome you back to the real world where greed crushes artistic integrity on a daily basis.

Or maybe you accept that a horror sequel is never going to be perfect and the best you could ever hope for is sped up rehash of the original film with more 80s slasher vibes and a fabulously camp synth-pop soundtrack? Well if you are the final group then you my beautiful friends are in luck because that’s exactly what you are going to get with Strangers: Prey at Night.

This story works as a stand alone film and doesn’t directly follow on from the original except for the return of our three creepy villains; Doll Face, Pin up and the Man in the Mask, this time at summer camp a la Crystal Lake. They use very similar tactics and say similar lines from their first outing suggesting an order and routine to their kill. This time though they are annoyingly sloppy at times with their killings and the repeat of some line such as their motives for killing don’t work as well this time around.

Probably the biggest downfall of the film is that apart from the soundtrack and a different cast of victims the film has nothing new to offer. Yes I don’t want a a backstory for my villains but why not improve on the original and do some actual character building – is that asking too much? Apparently so. The half unexplained rebellious daughter story arc is so forgettable the film itself forgot to give any resolution to it. Except *spoiler* maybe you don’t have to go to boarding school if not your parents are dead. Yay – off to the orphanage instead!

On the plus side the son and dad are both super hot. Unfortunately, however the accidental incest I saw vibes come from the son and daughter instead, so my latent daddy issues are left unresolved.

I don’t know if the writers didn’t know how to write two good looking teenagers with no sexual tension or if the actors themselves couldn’t hide their own sexual tension but the older brother, younger sister pep talk felt like a date that was going well right up until, you know, the murder part.

Ok so now I’ve got my problems with the film out of the way let’s move on to the good stuff. It’s scary. Admittedly I might be biased as the original has always freaked me out a lot but it has been a long time since I jumped that high in the cinema. I was so wrapped up in the creepy slow build up to scares that I even forgot scares they wasted on the trailer weere about to happen and jumped even higher.

The mix of slow stalking and jump scares is fun and effective. The tension is built in a similar way to the original: faceless people, a loud knock on the door at night, knowing that they are silently watching you. However being a sequel and with a bigger cast the speed is increased and the 3rd act becomes more action based 80s slasher than the slow methodical horror it started as. Yeah, some jumps are cheap but it all manages to work because of the natural impending doom the strangers bring with them.

Probably the most interesting choice the film makes is to have some of our strangers unmasked as the story progresses. I was in two minds over this. My initial reaction was stop it right now I don’t want to see that it will take the horror away. However after my brain digested the scene I realised all it really did was emphasise how human these killers are. They look like every other family when the mask is removed and that actually makes the reality of them even more plausible and terrifying

The soundtrack is perfection and that’s not just my bias as a massive 80s fan. The way the music is used to punctuate the violence is equally menacing and entertaining. If you were as thrilled as me at the creepy use of Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ in the trailer then the rest of the film won’t disappoint.

There is a definite ‘predator playing with its prey’ vibe throughout the film again and nowhere is this exemplified more than when one victim is trapped as the the Man in the Mask selects his music to kill them to, and Kim Wilde ‘Cambodia’ is an inspired choice.

The best use of the music and sound is during a pool fight between the son and the Man in the Mask. I don’t want to spoil this moment completely but Bonnie Tyler’s camp classic ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ is put to good use in a very fun and clever scene that was a real highlight for me.

Overall the film adds nothing much new to the original premise or the horror genre, even the ending is a homage to both John Carpenter’s Christine (1983) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). However it didn’t lose much of what made the original so bloody good. Don’t expect anything revolutionary and if you don’t like the original then don’t bother but if you did then expect to have a bloody good time on this journey.

I’d recommend you go and see it in the cinema for the full effect and if you are anything like me you will be checking the backseats of the car on the way home.

(SM)

You can hear Stephen’s review and our reviews of ‘Ghost Stories’, ‘A Quiet Place’ and ‘Terrifier’ in our new podcast. Just click below to listen!

A Quiet Place (Review)

a_quiet_place_still_3A Quiet Place (2018)

Directed by John Krasinski, who stars with real life wife Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place has crept up on the box office and reportedly had the best opening weekend of the year since Black Panther. Proof that positive buzz and good old fashioned word of mouth still has the power to make a genre outing a surprising success.

So is it any good? The answer is yes. In fact it’s very good. Smart and efficient and clocking in at a spritely 98 minutes – take note, please, a horror doesn’t need to be any longer than this – A Quiet Place packs a punch both in the fear stakes and also emotionally. Set in the near future where the planet has been invaded by spider-like creatures who are blind and hunt on sound alone, we’re thrown straight into the action as the Abbott family forage for supplies in an abandoned supermarket in a small town in rural USA. Evelyn (Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski) lead their three children barefoot and on tip-toes silently back through the woods towards home, a farm in the middle of nowhere. But tragedy strikes and we’re introduced to the terrifying alien threat in one swift and brutal attack…

Cut to months later and the Abbotts are picking up the pieces and surviving in silence, but to add another complication, Evelyn is now heavily pregnant. And newborn babies are not known for their silence… It won’t be a huge spoiler to reveal that when the baby comes along everything goes to shit and the Abbotts are thrown into a rapidly escalating battle with the monsters that lie in wait. And not all of them will survive to the finish.

A Quiet Place takes its time to get going but once the attacks begin there is barely room to breathe. The tension is hiked up to the power of ten as Krasinski’s script, refreshingly low on dialogue but a tad high on sentimentality, throws some pretty nifty set-pieces our way. The family take on the aliens in corn-fields (hello Shyamalan and Stephen King), grain-silos, a flooded basement, and at one point even in a bathtub…

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The premise – sound can kill – means the film absorbs its audience whilst at the same time encouraging them to be quiet! Who knew? In the rapidly infuriating multiplex culture of keeping the film noisy to cover the smart-phone obsessed chattering bag-rustling masses, here’s a film that actually quite cleverly silences its viewers. So not only are you more immersed in the action, but you’re actually less obnoxious at the same time. Win win!

The movie brings the scares, the tension, and excellent performances by the young cast who play the Abbott kids tug at the heart strings. Deaf actress Millie Simmonds is especially touching as daughter Regan (where have we heard that name before) who’s disability could prove to be the ultimate undoing of the marauding creatures.

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Being a hardened cynic I found some of the more sentimental moments a little queasy, but don’t let that put you off. This surprising and smart horror movie revels in treating genre fans to all the right tropes in all the right places, and reminds the jabbering masses that silence is golden.

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Now shut the fuck up and watch the damn movie.

(JL)

Beautiful Stranger

The Countess comes to Liverpool…

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We’ve been talking to Liverpool Pride about bringing queer horror to a scouse audience and they could not have been more excited. As a result, one of our favourite movies EVER is coming to Picturehouse at FACT for Halloween. Well, the day after to be precise. On Wednesday 1st November 2017 ‘Daughters of Darkness’ will be screened to an unsuspecting audience. This under-appreciated gem needs a new audience… and we’re hoping people crawl out of their crypts to enjoy it. But why?

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“I’m just an outmoded character, nothing more. You know, the beautiful stranger, slightly sad, slightly mysterious, who haunts one place after another. Two weeks ago in Nice and Monte Carlo, two days ago in Bruges….”

The gays love a tragic heroine. Throw in the glamour of this beautiful shadow of a woman languishing in the heat of the South of France, sipping cocktails and longing to be eternally youthful and you’ve got camp dynamite. Only we don’t pick up The Countess in Nice or Monaco, but in a rainy, out of season, desolate hotel in Ostend. However we do get languishing, we do get cocktails (of the troubling green variety), and we do get a tragic figure… if not a heroine, then a timely echo of the youth-obsessed culture we’re more immersed in than ever…

Countess Elizabeth Báthory doesn’t fill her face with Botox to maintain a youthful glow – but the blood of virgins. By any means necessary. She swans across Europe, her cape billowing in the wind, shimmering in an impossibly glam outfit that she got from Marlene Dietrich, with her companion du jour at her side. Right now it’s Ilona, the glum-faced young beauty styled after Louise Brooks. The Countess isn’t particularly interested with finding a hunky young man to carry her hat boxes and tuck her in at night (or should that be at dawn?), but with nubile young women just desperate to be plucked from a life of patriarchal servitude and treated to a life of luxury, trailing on her aristrocatic fur coat-tails from one penthouse to the next. Only Ilona doesn’t look too happy about it. At one point she even moans “You call this living?” The Countess, obsessed with the surface beauty of eternal youth and bourgeouis excess, fails to acknowledge that she’s not saving enslaved women and liberating them – she’s just taking them out of the frying pan and plonking them mid-sizzle into her cool blue fire. She doesn’t particularly care whether they like it or not, they just have to match her purple ostrich feather ensembles and look good on her arm at the ambassador’s party.

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If Ilona hates the ‘life’ she’s been blood-sucked into then her luck might just be in. Because when we check in with the vamps we meet newlyweds Stefan and Valerie, fresh off an overnight train having had a whirlwind marriage, en route back to England where Valerie is to meet Stefan’s formidable mother. But all is not what it seems. Stefan is a sadistic misogynist who believes women should do his bidding, and Valerie is far from happy. Stefan is also keeping a pretty big secret about his Mother – one I won’t spoil here but let’s just say the film’s queer credentials don’t end at Sapphic vampirism…

So begins a ridiculously camp and stylish tale of the seduction of Valerie by Countess Elizabeth. Made in 1970 (released in 71), the film is loaded down with problematic attitudes to both women and homosexuality. But never let that get in the way of a good horror film. Especially one as beautiful as this. Delphine Seyrig – the best damn Marlene Dietrich you’re gonna get post-Marlene Dietrich – imbues her immortal lesbian vampire with both a coquettish brass nerve and a sad, longing vulnerability. In a film with more than its share of humdinger lines and hammy performances she’s shockingly plausible as a seductress, and engaging to the very end. Whether she’s spreading her sparkly cape to warm the chilled shoulders of her shivering charge and resembling a Weimar-era giant bat in the process, or recounting graphic tales of torture whilst sipping her crème de menthe in the hotel bar, you just cannot get enough of her. She carries the film, with the other players curled at her feet. Eagle-eyed viewers of a certain age may notice that posh-boy-wifebeater Stefan is played by John Karlen, who smartened up his act ten years later, got a job on a building site and married Mary Beth in the role of Harv in Cagney and Lacey. Or you might just be too distracted by his ever-so-short tomato robe and slippers. Not to mention the fact that he treats poor Valerie like absolute dirt.

But rest assured he gets his comeuppance. This being a 70s Eurotrash lesbian vampire movie, it’s not long before Valerie falls under the spell of the Countess. Ilona, for all her whingeing, isn’t going to be happy about that – and neither is Stefan. The blood flows in some of the most awkward and inexplicable death scenes you’ll ever witness. For softcore horror fans – don’t be put off by this. The blood is minimal. However there’s plenty of nudity, with an impromptu naked moon dance from Ilona that has to be seen to be believed.

You’ll come out scratching your head – what was the film saying? Was it demonizing misogyny, the aristocracy, or was it aligning homosexuality with deviance and decadence? Or was it subverting the genre with the marabou slipper suddenly on the other foot as the Countess toys with Stefan’s masculinity and casts him aside to swoop in on his new bride? Maybe you’ll still be under the spell of the Countess and you won’t care. Whatever happens, sit back and let this languid, beautiful movie wash over you.

Fans of Screaming Queenz will remember our podcast on the movie. But if you haven’t heard it then click away below. There are spoilers so beware…

Get your tickets for this screening here. We’ll be there, possibly in our purple ostrich feathers. Come and get your teeth into it and we’ll have a good old laugh in the bar after!

http://www.fact.co.uk/whats-on/current/halloween-at-fact-with-liverpool-pride-flis-mitchell.aspx

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Bottoms up…

JL

GERALD’S GAME (2017)

Mild spoilers ahead…

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The hype machine has gone into overdrive for a certain Mr Stephen King in recent months. First ‘It’ opened to record numbers and became the highest grossing horror movie ever, then over on Netflix an altogether darker, more cerebral piece of work from the maestro of the macabre slipped in quietly to give us nightmares into the wee small hours. That would be ‘Gerald’s Game’, and what a game it is.

Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood star as Jessie and Gerald, who after eleven years of a slowly dying marriage, decide to head out to their lake house in the middle of nowhere to spice things up. What begins as an innocent sex game involving handcuffs and Viagra soon spirals into a rape fantasy and death. You only have to watch the trailer to know Gerald bites it pretty early on, keeling over from a heart attack and leaving Jessie chained to the bed with nothing but her personal demons and a very hungry rabid dog for company…

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I must admit, whilst looking forward to seeing Gerald’s Game I did wonder how they could spin out 1 hour 47 minutes of a woman chained to a bed. For the most part my worries were unfounded. Once Gerald drops dead things spiral pretty quickly. We go full throttle into Jessie’s psyche and no disturbing stone is left unturned.

One thing Stephen King has always excelled at is taking our primal childhood fears and making them a very real, terrifying reality. Fear of the dark. Monsters. The hand reaching out from under the bed. The nightmare flipside of the nuclear family. The horror of parents turning a blind eye when they should be protecting us. The desperate loneliness of insomnia where everything is at its blackest and most hopeless. All of these take centre stage.

But the true horror of this piece – and of Jessie’s life – is (mild spoiler) child abuse. With more than an echo of the wonderful film adaptation of Dolores Claiborne, we’re treated to a red-tinged flashback to a solar eclipse that heralded the end of Jessie’s childhood at the hands of her father. The nuanced performances and writing around this portion of the movie bring out the manipulative depths a child abuser will go to to keep his secret safe, and in a truly heartbreaking scene we see the trauma a young Jessie goes through as she’s emotionally blackmailed into keeping shtum. This is a rare thing indeed in any movie let alone a horror movie, to see writing and characterisation of such depth.

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Which is why it’s almost inexplicable that in the last fifteen minutes of the movie we’re treated to a script that suddenly is so schmaltzy and on the nose you start to wonder if it’s flipped into a parody of what we’ve been enjoying for the previous 90 minutes. Being a connoisseur of the camp, the trashy and the bad, I could appreciate some of the humdinger lines and wrap-it-up-in-a-pink-bow resolution in a tongue in cheek way. But seriously, having gone through the traumas we see Jessie endure for the majority of the movie, my jaw was on the floor at what the movie then became.

This in no way detracts from the film experience so don’t let that put you off. There were two moments during Gerald’s Game where I screamed and shouted in horror – you’ll know the moments when you see them. One that will put you off that burgeoning foot fetish for life, and the other that will make you wince in agony along with Jessie. The film GOES there with the horror. If you saw ‘It’ and, like me and the other Screaming Queenz, thought whilst it was a good movie it lacked the depths of horror that only Stephen King can bring? Well this movie has that in spades.

Of the two much-hyped King adaptations (I’m not even going there with Dark Tower), this one brings the pure horror that ‘It’ lacked.

Gerald’s Game is one worth playing. Just keep an eye out for The Moonlight Man…

JL

IT (2017) A Second Opinion!

Jonathan Butler chimes in with his thoughts on the new adaptation of Stephen King’s It…

It’s finally here, probably the most anticipated horror film of 2017. The expectations were high, the Tim Curry-starring mini-series being a childhood favourite of many horror fans, and Stephen King adaptations seemingly pretty hot at the minute. Now that it’s arrived what do we think?

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My feelings are mixed if I’m honest. It is a good film, but not really a good horror film if that makes sense. The greatest strengths of the film lie in the performances of the talented young cast and their interactions with each other. The performances are all superb across the board, and these genuine portrayals give a strong emotional backbone to the film.

I felt more like this film was taking its cues from the likes of The Goonies, Stand By Me and the films of Joe Dante than from anything closer to a horror film. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. Stand By Me is a favourite of mine and I’ve spoken of my fondness for Dante’s work before so I don’t mention these as distinctly negative points, just more that I feel the horror suffered for the sake of the relationship side of the story.

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My real gripes come when we look at the horror elements. It’s just not scary, like, at all. There was a distinct lack of tension built during the film’s “scary” scenes, it all comes in short little bursts of a minute and invariably ending in a massively telegraphed jump-scare. This is something of a bug-bear of mine, it’s a shortcut to scares that is hideously over-used nowadays. Although they were at least used correctly in IT, in that the jump-scares do actually come from things the characters on screen and the audience are supposed to be scared of.

This brings me to another issue of the film. For me it all feels a bit safe and rather tame for a horror film. Perhaps that’s my fault though, my tastes do tend to run a little more on the extreme side. I was disappointed to hear the news that the film’s original director Cary Fukunaga had exited the project over the dreaded “creative differences”. I was a huge fan of his work on the recent series ‘True Detective’, the bleakness and grimness of it gave me hope that we could be getting something genuinely dark and disturbing from his version of IT. The outcome ended up being that Fukunaga did want to include many of the darker elements from the novel and this was evidently too rich for the suits at New Line / Warner who balked at the idea of filming a sewer based gang-bang. Interestingly though, Fukunaga does receive a writing credit so some elements of his script do presumably make it into the finished product.

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The directing of Muschietti is competent but never really breaks any new ground and he seems to rely on the same trick to get scares. He reuses the same speed-ramping, fake stop-motion effect quite a few times. You’ve probably seen it in the trailer. I think he used the same effect in ‘Mama’ in fact, which I wasn’t a huge fan of.

While I do mention the negatives don’t let that put you off from seeing it as it is a good film, just not the film I had expected. I was hoping for a darker, nastier vision of IT and what we got instead wasn’t that, it was a bit safer and more mainstream than I had anticipated. The finished product is still good, I just feel the director did a better job of getting the “80’s childhood adventure film” elements right than he did getting the actual horror elements right, which to be fair to him is probably exactly what the studio wanted.

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Nostalgia for the 80’s is hot at the minute – making challenging films, not so much.

JB

 

Previously, on Screaming Queenz…

We’ll be back after our little Summer break next week. Meanwhile have you caught up on all our podcast episodes so far? Here’s a selection for your delectation. A mix of vampires, witches, Italian slashers and good old-fashioned monster movies. All of them come with an unhealthy dose of camp humour, poor taste and disgusting language!

From Peter Cushing to porno, the references for Fright Night come thick and fast…

So who the fuck died and made the Babadook a gay icon? With a little help from The Village People we decipher just why this demonic children’s fable cashed in on the pink pound…

Who knew the eternally young Lost Boys would ever hit 30? Well they just did, so reminisce with big hair, 80s power rock, and the dark underbelly of Hollywood paedophiles…

Which witch are you? A badass 90s high-schooler or a psychadelic 70s lesbian with a penchant for S&M? Check out our two-parter on witches in horror, both parts here:

Do you like giallo? We love giallo. What the fuck is giallo? Find out here:

There’s like 37 more episodes for you to get your teeth into over on SoundCloud but you can also hear them via Podbean and Itunes, links below. So listen, laugh, loathe if you must. Get in touch and let us know your thoughts, get me on twitter @jonnylarkin or email us at Screamingqueenz@gmail.com!

JL

http://screamingqueenz.podbean.com

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/screaming-queenz/id1070845275?mt=2

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