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The Woman in Red (1984)

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SYNOPSIS:

On his way to work, Teddy spots Charlotte – an incredibly beautiful Woman in Red. He really wants to meet her – but what would his wife say?”

REVIEW:

Most people who know me would not know that from the time of it’s release in 1984 (I was just eight years old when seeing this at the cinema), that this was (and still is) one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

It is (and still remains) one of the only non-horror films in my top 3 films of all time, and will remain there for as long as I’m alive, I assure you.

There are many reasons for my love of this film,but I am guessing (who the fuck am I kidding – I know!) that the main reason is for it’s star Kelly LeBrock, who was a model before being chosen to play the role in this fantastic movie.

She was my first actress crush as a child, I joined her fan-club and everything, and I never even got a reply back still to this day!

I digress…

The film is charming, adorable in fact, and also stars Gene WIlder in his best film role. He plays Theodore Pierce (Teddy to his friends), and is his usual bumbling, soft-spoken and kind-nature self (some refer to him as a poor-man’s Woody Allen, but I’ve always considered Wilder much more of a talent than Allen, and with less of the bullshit too!).

Well 0ver two decades later, and I still adore Kelly LeBrock, have seen everything she’s been in (even tried writing to her again after Weird Science and Hard to Kill came out), but seriously, this is possibly her best role – she suites it more-so than anything else she’s been cast in (perhaps with the exception of Weird Science – but that’s a whole different review!).

I guess, being a remake of the old French classic Yves Robert film Pardon Mon Affaire, this film had a lot to live up to for film critics (who hated it). I disagree (please trust me on this).

If you need a good laugh, and to see the beautiful LeBrock in her prime, check this one out.

RATING:

10 out of 10 – CLASSIC

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Thale (2012)

Rating: 5.4
Runtime: 76
Language: Norwegian (English soft subs)
Country: Norway
Color: Colour
IMDb Link

Director: Aleksander Nordaas
Cast:
Silje Reinåmo
Erlend Nervold
Jon Sigve Skard
Morten Andresen
Roland Astrand
Sunniva Lien

Description: Considering the film’s trailer and the fact that it was the centerpiece at last year’s Screamfest, it would appear the Norwegian film Thale wishes to self identify as a horror film. While a better genre selection eludes me, that approach seems like a marketing ploy the film cannot live up to.

Thale contains brief moments of gore, small bits of tension, and even creatures one might feel compelled to call monsters, but it is not a horror film. It has little interest in violence and focuses its energy more on being atmospheric than scary. More than anything, Thale strives to tell a simple story about two buddies and some life changing secrets they’ve been keeping from each other, while adding a tragic second story about a girl who was taken from her people and abused for years.

So if you go into Thale expecting horror, even high concept but lightweight Norwegian/Finnish horror like Rare Imports or Troll Hunter, you might come away disappointed. This is more of a slow burn character drama with a couple creatures thrown in to keep things interesting.

Thale tells the story of two guys who clean up dead bodies for a living, one a seasoned pro, the other a vomiting rookie. One day, they find a weird, slightly inhuman girl in a bathtub filled with milk. She had magical powers and a tail that clearly used to be attached to her ass but is now sitting in a mini-fridge. Instead of trying to hurt, rape, or exploit this girl like we might expect, the protagonists do their best to make her happy and comfortable while waiting for some back-up to arrive who can take her off their hands. In the meantime, they reveal hidden truths to each other and work out some of their problems.

That’s all very nice, but it leads to a film with little tension or forward momentum. The mystery of what Thale is and how she came to be in that bathtub filled with sci-fi milk kind of writes itself, and the parts that don’t are delivered without any fanfare or dynamics. A weird bit of forced conflict arrives in the third act with the sudden addition of tough guy Huldra hunters who interrupt everyone’s bonding party in an attempt to capture Thale, but that stuff comes and goes a lot faster than you might expect.

That’s not really a complaint, though. This is a quiet film. And its minuscule 78-minute running time means Thale never wears out its welcome despite having a glacial pace. It provides characters worth caring about as well as visuals worth sticking around for. When Thale does finally hit its climax, we get something that’s not scary so much as it’s just really cool.

But while Thale is by all means a worthwhile and original film, its lack of weight and ambition keeps it from being anything truly special or must see. I liked it a lot but can’t imagine watching it again or thinking about it much in the future, though I have a feeling others may appreciate its Huldras more than I did.

Saam gaang (2002) aka Three

Rating: 6.3/10 (778 votes)
Runtime: 129
Language: Korean / English / Mandarin / Thai / Cantonese (English subtitles)
Country: Hong Kong / South Korea / Thailand
Color: Color
IMDb Link

Director: Peter Chan, Ji-woon Kim, Nonzee Nimibutr
Cast:
Hye-su Kim … Wife (segment “Memories”)
Bo-seok Jeong … Husband (segment “Memories”)
Suwinit Panjamawat … Gaan (segment “The Wheel”)
Leon Lai … Yu (segment “Going Home”)
Eric Tsang … Wai (segment “Going Home”)
Eugenia Yuan … Hai’er (segment “Going Home”)
Ting-Fung Li … Cheung (segment “Going Home”)

Description: [SPOILERS AHEAD]

Memories: A woman wakes up on a street without memory. A husband cannot remember why his wife left him. The woman wanders the streets trying to contact the only phone number she has on her. The husband see’s her ghost in his apartment and discovers her mutilated body in a large bag in his home (Korea). The Wheel: Extravagant cursed puppets cause fires, deaths, physical pain and a little girl to be possessed (Thailand). Going Home: A father goes in search of his missing son and is abducted by a strange man. The strangers wife has died of cancer three years prior but he keeps her in his apartment under the impression she will ‘wake up’ (Hong Kong).

Wendigo (2001)

Rating: 5.0/10
Runtime: 88
Language: English
Country: USA
Color: Color
IMDb Link

Director: Larry Fessenden
Cast:
Patricia Clarkson … Kim
Jake Weber … George
Erik Per Sullivan … Miles
John Speredakos … Otis
Christopher Wynkoop … Sheriff Tom Hale
Lloyd Oxendine … Elder
Brian Delate … Everett
Daniel Sherman … Billy
Jennifer Wiltsie … Martha
Maxx Stratton … Brandon
Richard Stratton … Earl
Dash Stratton … Little Otis
Dwayne Navara … Mechanic
Shelly Bolding … Store Owner
Susan Pellegrino … Nurse

George is a high-strung professional photographer who is starting to unravel from the stress of his work with a Manhattan advertising agency. Needing some time away from the city, Jake, his wife Kim, and their son Miles head to upstate New York to take in the winter sights, though the drive up is hardly relaxing for any of them. George accidentally hits and severely injures a deer that ran onto the icy road; after George stops to inspect the damage, he’s confronted by an angry local named Otis who flies into a rage, telling George that he and his fellow hunters had been tracking the deer for some time. An argument breaks out, which leaves George feeling deeply shaken. When George and Kim arrive at their cabin, they discover that it’s next door to Otis’ property, and they soon find that a dark and intimidating presence seems to have taken over the cottage. Since, when they stopped at a store en route to the cabin, a shopkeeper told Miles about the legend of the Wendigo, a beast from Indian folklore who is half-man, half-deer, and can change itself at will, the child begins to wonder if the creature might have something to do with his family’s sudden misfortune.

Ghost Story (1981)

Description:

Four successful elderly gentlemen, members of the Chowder Society, share a gruesome, 50-year old secret. When one of Edward Wanderley’s twin sons dies in a bizarre accident, the group begins to see a pattern of frightening events developing.

Review:

This film is one which I admit I only saw recently, I missed it when it was first released, which is a shame, as I would have liked to have  experienced it along with everyone else on it’s release.

However, this is a a film based on the Peter Straub horror novel of the same name, and it’s a real classic of the genre.

The film stars some classic people including Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, and is directed by John Irvin, who went on to direct Raw Deal, Hamburger Hill and a slew of other classics.

A lot of the scares in this film are genuine, not just put there for effect (like there are nowadays), but I really cannot say more than that without spoiling the fun.

The story-line is somewhat predictable at times (let’s be honest – you can see it coming a mile away), but it’s just so fun to see all those old actors working together in a ghost story film that you forgive it’s failures.

RATING:

a solid 6 out of 10.

 

 

 

 

 

Import/Export (2007)

Rating: 7.1/10 from 4,375 users
Runtime: 141
Language: German, Slovak, Russian and English with English subtitles
Country: Austria
Color: Color
IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0459102/

Director: Ulrich Seidl
Cast:
Ekateryna Rak … Olga
Lidiya Oleksandrivna Savka … Olgas Mutter
Oksana Ivanivna Sklyarenko … Olgas Baby
Dmytro Andriyovich Gachkov … Olgas Bruder
Natalya Baranova … Olgas Freundin in der Ukraine (as Natalija Baranova)
Miloslava Kubkova … Web Sex Hausmeisterin
Katka Ackermannová … Web Sex Girl
Lucie Radlová … Web Sex Girl
Zdenka Tothová … Web Sex Girl
Natalja Epureanu … Olgas Freundin in Österreich (as Natalia Epureanu)
Gerhard Komarek … Putzfirma Instruktor
Herta Wonesch … Frau mit ausgestopftem Fuchs
Petra Morzé … Mutter Einfamilienhaus
Lisa Hubbauer … Tochter Einfamilienhaus
Ronald Volny … Aufsicht Reinigungsfrauen Geriatrie

 

REVIEW:

Seidl’s Import/Export, for all its slender storyline, exposes uncomfortable boundaries between fiction and fly-on-the-wall documentary – and it’s no half-hearted experiment. Shocking yet beautiful, the film seamlessly blends real people’s lives with those of the story’s protagonists, as Seidl sincerely questions our understanding of what might be acceptable. And then kicks it home with a vengeance. As you wince at the relentless coldness, graphic sexuality, or the bodily functions of an Alzheimer’s patient, the film twists the screw. Yes, this is not only realistic, it is real. Maybe too real. It is happening. And much as you might struggle in the early stages, it is undeniably Art.

Yet rather than voicing a triumph of style over substance, Seidl succeeds in gripping the audience from moment to moment, through more than two and a half hours of unpredictably fascinating events. I admit I half expected a punctuated boredom from what is an inconsequential plot. But I experienced one of the more captivatingly fresh films of the year.

[Spoiler] Olga and Paul travel in opposite directions in Europe. From East to West and West to East. Trying to better their lots. Their paths never cross. But the extreme challenge of environments outside all comfort zones leaves them struggling to cope. They both have the remarkable grit of people who will do anything to survive. And, if we initially see them as lowlife (Olga leaves her child, and Paul favours a dog over his girlfriend), their desire to escape the hole they’re in – and ultimately be better people than those around them – is inspiring.

Olga, a trained nurse who is consistently short-changed by her employers, at first gets a job as an online sex-worker. She steels herself to do her best, but is flummoxed by the first client’s belligerent and barely understandable orders. When she gets work as a cleaner in neighbouring Austria, she is treated as an ignorant foreigner, a lower form of life. There to be victimised. In a hospital, her Ukrainian qualifications are worth nothing. She performs lowly duties at the behest of people whose irksome superiority belies their insecurity and lack of real understanding.

Paul goes through arduous training to become a security guard, but his confidence is shattered after a gang of youths belittle him. Owing money, he’s forced to work for his mother’s boyfriend, Michael. And Michael turns out to be a sex pervert. As they deliver gumball machines to inhospitable Eastern European housing estates, Paul becomes increasingly determined to climb from the gutter into which he’s constantly pushed.

Each scene is a surprise. We cannot guess how either character will realistically handle their impossible choices. No-one would want the crappy hand life has dealt these two. So there is grudging admiration that they don’t just lie down and die. Our own discomfort seizes on any humorous element as light relief, but it is the suppressed emotion and compassionate inner light of Olga that warms us. Her reasonableness in dealing with her aggressors. Her courage in bringing some happiness to an overlooked geriatric. The fact that no-one will ever thank her, and that the authenticity seems beyond question. It is not easy to dismiss.

There are very few professional actors in this film. A prostitute on whom Michael unleashes misogynistic and impotent anger (in front of his step-son) is a real prostitute playing a prostitute. The mentally deteriorating patients whom Olga tries to care for are real mentally deteriorating patients (Seidl went to great lengths to get permission to film them). Perhaps in the way ‘docudrama’ takes re-created scenes to portray real events, Import/Export takes real people and real locations to portray fictional lives. Like her character, Ekateryna Rak had never been to the West before playing Olga. Some of her frustration is genuine. But whatever the methods, the resulting performances are remarkable.[End of Spoiler]

While we might wish that the film had lingered a little less on the faecal or gynaecological minutiae, there is no denying the movie’s structural intensity, its social relevance, or the fact that it is hypnotic viewing. The main problem might be getting bums on seats for almost three hours of bleak and seemingly trivial life episodes.

Two unscripted slices of life that are very different to the world of any Western cinemagoer. Yet the spontaneity maintains a taut emotional precision. And carefully framed scenes are visually memorable. We recall Olga’s painful struggle to express her feelings even as she fights to use a language not her own. A man repeatedly tries to start a motorbike that doesn’t start – a haunting, lasting image of futility. Import/Export is rather like a great photographer who creates beauty from the garbage of the back-alley.

 

Slaughterhouse Rock (1988)

 

SYNOPSIS:

A man visits Alcatraz prison after having dreams about all the people who died there. When he gets there, his brother is possessed by an evil cannibal demon.

The ghost of a female heavy metal singer who was killed there tries to help the man fight the monster.

REVIEW:

Even though reading the synopsis for this late 80’s flick may seem like it’s a cash-in on the 1986 flick Trick or Treat, this film does have some very different aspects (not including the heavy metal tones that it shares with Trick or Treat).

The music is obviously what drives this film through it’s 90 minutes (which can sometimes feel a little bit overlong), but there are some very nice kills and gore effects used in this also to take into consideration when judging it.

Directed by Dimitri Logothetis who still is a working director and producer today, the film has many of the classic cliche’s of 80’s (late 80s) horror, but it is a charmer in many aspects, with some quite nasty kills, a decently high body-count and some cool effects thrown in for good measure.

There’s not too much more to say about Slaughterhouse Rock, except for – COVER ART!

Just check that cover art out at the top there – classic 80s.

RATING:    5 out of 10 – A fun ride through late 80’s horror.

 

Hack-O-Lantern (AKA Halloween Night) (1988)

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SYNOPSIS:

A kindly old grandfather is actually the leader of a murderous satanic cult which sacrifices its victims on Halloween.
REVIEW:
Directed by Jag Mundhra (an Indian born film-maker), this film is known by either the title of Hack-O-Lantern (which I saw it under), or it’s pseudonym of Halloween Night (which I believe it is more widely known).
After trying to do some heavy research relating to Hack-O-Lantern, I discovered that not much is known about this late 80’s cheesy little number (which actually looks and feels a lot more like a 70’s film).
Director Jag Mundhra passed away back in 2011, so I wasn’t able to contact him to do a small interview for the site either, sadly, so you’ll have to put up with my two-cents-worth.
The film was released direct-to-video, and I am uncertain if it had any kind of cinema/big-screen release, which is a shame really, as I recall renting it when it first came out and having to watch it on a tiny analog TV in my lounge room late one night.
Having said that, the film carries with it a very good atmosphere (both in it’s horror and non-horror scenes).
The acting in this is something probably best not spoken of – it’s 80’s, it’s horror – you’re not going to get Oscar-winning performances from these people, but they do their best (for the era), and I think carry the film forward.
In the opening, we’re introduced to the quintessential redneck American family (this film is full of cliche’s, so get ready for them all), who’s very chirpy exterior harbors some sinister inner secrets.
Turns out that old Grandpa is a part-time Satanist and this Halloween will be a special day for him and his cult, as his nephew Tommy (who is arguably his illegitimate son) will be initiated in to the psychopathic group.
Tommy’s kindly mother is aware of her father’s evil plans and pleads with Tommy to avoid the malevolent worshipers.
Meanwhile a devil masked maniac is butchering the townsfolk with a trident and leaving corpses scattered around the area.
Are the two events related?
The family will uncover the truth on this dark Halloween Night.
Halloween, rednecks, Satanism – oh my! What more could this self-confessed horror movie fiend ask for!?
Add into the mix the beautiful Katina Garner , and that’s me a very happy camper.
All in all, this is a very cheap, campy and slightly sleazy little number, the kills are average for their era, and there are enough of them to keep most horror fans cheering.
Oh and watch out for the girl who strips for the maniac thinking he was someone else and then lays on the sofa and says something like, ‘Surprise me Tommy!’.
She must have had the surprise of her soon to be terminated life when he rammed a pitchfork straight through her!
RATING:     6.2 out of 10 – A lost gem of a film, try to find it!
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