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Dead By Words

Love horror movies and TV? So do we. Walk down our track and enter our cabin of horrors…

Review: Society (1989)

We’re now in a rather apt political climate to revisit Brian Yuzna’s 80s horror cult classic, of the wealthy elite consuming the lower classes. Not much happens for the first 60 minutes but then…then…oh god. Can we even talk about it?!

Baywatch’s Billy Warlock plays Bill Whitney, a rich kid who doesn’t feel he quite fits in with his family although they have it all. When his sister’s ex boyfriend plays him an incriminating recording from her first society party – including incest, an orgy and what sounds like a murder – Bill becomes a bit suspicious of what his family are actually up to.

The first two Acts set up what is coming to Bill nicely, with almost David Lynch/Blue Velvet like qualities to its look and feel. Are Bill’s concerns justified or is his family, with their secret parties, a different species altogether?

Yuzna’s film is clever, satirical and never more relevant body horror. The climax is as yukky as we remember it and…hang on…doesn’t that look like Trump in the throng?

GORE RATING: Off the scale 

SCARES: 2/5

DISTURBIA: 5/5 *sob* 

RATING: 7/10

Watch it for: The ending. Oh boy!

Watch out for: Butthead! 

Review: Phantoms (1998)

In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jay (Jason Mewes) famously proclaims to Ben Affleck “Affleck, you da bomb in Phantoms, yo!” – and he’s dang well right. Phantoms is a creepy flick, based on the novel of the same name by horror author Dean R. Koontz, and it’s a solid mix of The Thing, Aliens, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Blob. There’s genuine jumps and it really does get under your skin.

Jennifer Pailey (Joanna Going) picks up her sister Lisa (Rose McGowan) from LA to bring her back to her peaceful, quiet home town of Snowfield, Colorado, where nothing much ever happens. On arrival, they find Jennifer’s housekeeper dead and the town’s 400+ residents seem to have disappeared. Cars won’t start and all electrics are going a little gaga. Add to that some strange crackly voices down the telephone.

Bumping into Affleck’s Sheriff Bryce Hammond and his two deputies – the very strange Stu (Liev Schreiber) and Steve (Nicky Katt) – it soon becomes very clear that something’s very wrong indeed. Steve is tempted outside by a woman’s screams, and is snatched away. And then a giant bloody moth turns up.

In a separate location, academic Dr Timothy Flyte (Peter O’Toole) is contacted by the FBI on a matter of national security. His research area is on the Ancient Enemy, who he suspects is behind mass disappearances in history such as Roanoke and Nanking, China. But who are the Ancient Enemy and why are they so interested in Snowfield?

The plot is rather over complicated but Phantoms is a gripping and scary film that hooks you in. You don’t know what the threat is or what form it will take – like The Thing – so you’re never quite sure what’s around the corner. The seemingly innocent, cute Labrador? Yep, stay away from him.

O’Toole hams it all up gloriously and it’s very silly, but a lot of fun. The end, gory pieces are also pretty bold and yukky. There’s some real body horror here.

And is Affleck “da bomb”? You betcha. Phantoms is a whole lot of unpleasant fun and well worth seeking out.

GORE RATING: 4/5

SCARES: 3/5

DISTURBIA: 4/5

RATING: 9/10

Watch it for: Peter O’Toole. BRILLIANT

Watch out for: That poor dog 

Review: The Driller Killer (1979)

 

One of the most infamous ‘video nasties’, Abel Ferrara’s debut film is misunderstood – many originally judged it on its video artwork alone (the cover showing a close-up of a man being drilled in the head + loadddds of blood) but it’s so much more than a splatter. It’s an arthouse exploitation film essentially – low budget but aesthetically appealing, with way out performances and some really kooky characters. It’s also one of the best punk movies ever, all kudos to the film’s house band, Tony Coca-Cola and The Roosters, who set the tone; as the movie’s opening credits state, ‘This Film Should Be Played Loud’ – that applies to the drill sounds AND the punk rock.

Ferrara directs himself as New York artist Reno, who lives with two beautiful women in a boho lifestyle but is on the edge due to taking his time on his next masterpiece, the bills coming in, the punk band practising downstairs and a growing obsession with power tools. As his rage builds, his visions of lashing out at victims with a drill also take over and he explodes in a violent rampage.

The influences of Driller Killer are everywhere, from American Psycho to Maniac. Ferrara’s performance alone is extraordinary and there’s a (really) dark humour to his rampage. We also found ourselves tapping our feet to all the punk tracks. This is late 70s New York at its finest and grittiest, and it’s a whole lot of grimy fun.

The Driller Killer is released on DVD, Blu-Ray and Dual Format on Monday 28 November from Arrow Video. 

GORE RATING: 4/5

SCARES: 1/5

DISTURBIA: 4/5

RATING: 8/10

Watch it for: Abel Ferrara’s performance

Watch out for: A drilling surprise at a bus stop 

We love – American Horror Story: Roanoke (2016)

American Horror Story’s sixth season is as terrifying as ever, with a clever spin on reality TV and an episode six twist which will have you cheering (and screaming).

Starting off all Amityville likeeeeee and cleverly reuniting the tour de force of Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. following their opposing turns on American Crime Story: The People v. O.J,  we follow married couple Shelby and Matt who move to a spooky house in the woods – the site of the lost colony of Roanoke. Sarah and Cuba are actually playing two actors playing Shelby and Matt – oh so self-reflexive! – as the real couple (Lily Rabe and Andre Holland) recount their horrific ordeal at the house on a documentary hit show. Confused? Stay with us…

As Shelby and Matt are haunted and tortured by the lost colony, led by The Butcher (played by Kathy Bates – so she’s playing an actress playing a ghost!), the documentary seems to end in episode six of Roanoke. And that’s where the real fun begins.

AHS Hotel was a fantastic hoot and Freakshow good fun also (the clown – uggggh) but Roanoke delivers some real scares and jumps. Episodes six and seven nearly had us crying and we’re horror pros!

Ryan Murphy yet again proves AHS has got legs and we want this series to run and run.

Review: The Neon Demon(2016)

Nicolas Winding Refn once again proves he’s one of the most exciting contemporary directors out there with the beautiful and thoroughly bonkers The Neon Demon. It’s a tale – actually, a fairy tale – of how LA eats up pretty young things and spits them out, as Elle Fanning’s wide eyed 16 year old Jesse appears on the modelling scene and becomes the one that everyone wants. Jesse realises the power that she holds over her fellow models, the men who cast and photograph her and the catwalk, transforming from the Goldilocks/Snow White/Alice character that she is into what everyone fears.

It’s a visual and aural feast, with the spellbinding soundtrack by Cliff Martinez full of fairy tale like music. LA is seen as a mythical land, one where fortunes can be made or you’re devoured, with Jesse exploring the weird and wonderful scenery and characters like she’s just fallen down the rabbit hole.

And then we have Suspiria. NWR is definitely referencing Argento and giallo in many of the scenes and shots, and there’s a fair bit of witchcraft and symbolism on offer. Jena Malone’s Ruby, a scary make-up artist who does bad things with corpses, befriends Jesse but her motives are suspect…her occult tattoos may just give her away.

Act III is where things go truly off the wall as Jesse is lured to Ruby’s house, following an encounter with Keanu Reeves’ vile motel manager – the worst motel manager since Norman Bates. There’s some WTF moments – and a couple of scenes reinforce you may just be watching NWR’s erotic dream – and we then lead up to an especially unpleasant ending. It may put you off your supper.

NWR is great at making you revisit immediately what you’ve just watched – we did it with Only God Forgives. His films stay with you for some time after you’ve seen them and then you realise that’s he’s pretty much a genius. The Neon Demon is as disposable as the industry it portrays, but by golly it’s beautiful rubbish. And like all good fairy tales, they’re horrific.

GORE RATING: 2/5

SCARES: 2/5

DISTURBIA: 4/5

RATING: 9/10

Watch it for: It’s like nothing you’ll have seen before. Astounding 

Watch out for: I’ve got to get Jesse out of me…

 

31 Days of Halloween – Day 31 – Halloween (1978)

John Carpenter’s Halloween is, of course, the number one Halloween horror movie. Carpenter introduces us to Michael Myers as a six year old, who kills his sister in Haddonfield, Illinois. Committed to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, he escapes aged 21 to steal an iconic mask and kill again in his home town. He doesn’t bank on tough cookie Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).

Carpenter is the king of the wide angle shot, with Laurie and her high school friends walking the streets of Haddonfield not knowing that Myers is peeping around the corner at them. We’ve also got the tremendous shot of Myers after Laurie in the ‘perfect American dream house’ – see also Nancy’s home in Elm Street and all the houses copied in It Follows and Scream – where we think his threat may have gone,  but then he pops up again in the background. With Myers we know he’s always there, and even when he’s down he’s not out.

With Jamie Lee Curtis in her debut film, she’s also the original Final Girl and she kicks ass. Add in Donald Pleasence as Myers’ unsettling psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis and Carpenter’s haunting score, and you’ll never be able to look a Halloween pumpkin in the eye again.

BEST THING ABOUT HALLOWEEN: 31 days of horror movie watching!

GORE RATING: 4/5

SCARES: 5/5

DISTURBIA: 4/5

TOTAL HALLOWEEN VIEWING RATING: 10/10

Watch it for: THE iconic Halloween movie

Watch out for: Laurie finds her friends ‘upstairs’

We really hope you’ve enjoyed being with us for 31 days in October – see you again next year!

31 Days of Halloween – Day 30 – The Shining (1980)

The Shining – for us – is second in line as the ultimate Halloween horror movie. Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece is beautiful, with sweeping interior shots of the isolated Overlook Hotel, as well as being genuinely terrifying. There’s quite a few scenes where we whimper. On repeat viewings.

Based on Stephen King’s novel, caretaker Jack Torrence (an amazing, amazinnggggggg Jack Nicholson) arrives at the hotel with his family to take care of it over its closed winter period. Son Danny (Danny Lloyd) feels bad vibes – if bad vibes can be constituted as a river of blood coming out of the hotel’s elevator door – and can also communicate telepathically with head chef Dick (Scatman Crothers). The previous hotel caretaker killed his family and then shot himself in the head, and it seems like the hotel is still holding onto those memories and ghosts – plus has a plan for Jack and his family.

Whether it’s the spooky twins – ‘Come and play with us Danny, forever…and ever…and ever….’ – through to the horrors behind the door of room 237, The Shining has iconic horror scenes which stay with you. Some of its best scenes however are the Kubrick classics of long, sideways-shooting tracking shots, with Jack in the hotel’s Gold Room meeting the ghostly, posh barman Lloyd (Joe Turkel).

Nicholson conveys his confusion, terror and ‘possession’ with just the raise of his eyebrows, whilst poor Shelley Duvall as his wife Wendy is really put through it – in the film and on set too.

Once you’ve seen The Shining, it’ll have you forever. A bit like the Overlook.

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY: *smashes typewriter*

GORE RATING: 5/5

SCARES: 5/5

DISTURBIA: 5/5

TOTAL HALLOWEEN VIEWING RATING: 10/10

Watch it for: Kubrick’s vision and Jack Nicholson. Plus it’s one of the greatest horror films ever made

Watch out for: REDRUM! REDRUM! REDRUM! REDRUM! 

31 Days of Halloween – Day 29 – Prince of Darkness (1987)

This John Carpenter chiller is one of our favourite Halloween movies – if not only for the Alice Cooper cameo.

An abandoned church in LA hosts a mysterious cylinder with swirling, green liquid. The liquid is active and strange things are happening in the city, from swarms of flies through to loads of people just staring at the skyline.

The priest (Donald Pleasence) invites a group of academics and students to investigate the liquid by camping out in the church with all of their scientific machinery – soon they start to have the same shared dream, a transmission from the future, where a shadowy figure is in the doorway to the church. THE LIQUID IS SATAN, INNIT.

Prince of Darkness takes its time to set up, but as we get into the film it is totally creepy. Typical Carpenter, he has some fantastic shots where we focus on one character but there’s plenty of action going on in the background. There’s some real shocks here too, plus you’ll want to avoid mirrors for a while.

DIALOGUE FROM PRINCE OF DARKNESS IS SAMPLED BY: DJ Shadow throughout ‘Endtroducing’ 

GORE RATING: 3/5

SCARES: 4/5

DISTURBIA: 4/5

TOTAL HALLOWEEN VIEWING RATING: 10/10

Watch it for: It’s completely creepy and dark

Watch out for: Poor Kelly’s transformation

31 Days of Halloween – Day 28 – Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1981)

Much loved, this cult classic is a crazy ride from start to finish. Bruce Campbell is back to the cabin in the woods as our hero Ash, but unfortunately his girlfriend gets possessed pretty much straight in and he has to chop her head off with a shovel. From then on, whether it’s the iconic lines of ‘Workshed’, ‘Hello Lover’ or ‘Groovy!’, Evil Dead II is full of hilariously dark moments and just the plain hilarious – see Ash taking his own hand on when it’s possessed and tries to kill him.

From eyeballs popping out and flying into mouths through to gigantic strange tree monsters and demonic mothers locked in cellars, Evil Dead II truly delivers from the big brained vision of Sam Raimi. And no other male lead is put through it as much as Bruce.

BEST LAUGHING THING IN THE CABIN: The lamp

GORE RATING: 4/5

SCARES: 3/5

DISTURBIA: 4/5

TOTAL HALLOWEEN VIEWING RATING: 10/10

Watch it for: Bruce Campbell. Nuff said

Watch out for: The constant whirrrring, haunting sounds in the woods and cabin

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