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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The Slayer (1982)

Rating: 3.0/10
Runtime: 86
Language: English
Country: USA
Color: Color
IMDb Link:
Director: J.S. Cardone
Cast:
Sarah Kendall … Kay
Frederick Flynn … Eric
Carol Kottenbrook … Brooke
Alan McRae … David
Michael Holmes … Marsh
Paul Gandolfo … Fisherman
Newell Alexander … Kay’s Father
Ivy Jones … Kay’s Mother
Jennifer Gaffin … Young Kay
Richard Van Brakel … Young Eric
Carl Kraines … The Slayer

 

SYNOPSIS:

Siblings, Eric & his surreal artist sister Kay, her doctor husband David, her sister-in-law Brooke along with pilot Marsh become stranded on a rugged isle face off against a supernatural beast drawn to Kay who dreams of its killings.

REVIEW:

Kay (Sarah Kendall) is a painter who has been experiencing terrifying nightmares of being chased by a mysterious, bloodthirsty creature.

The imagery is starting to invade her work and affect her nerves, so a getaway is planned for her to get some relaxation in before a big gallery show.

She flies to a dark and stormy island with her husband, David (Alan McRae); her brother, Eric (Frederick Flynn); and his wife, Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook). Though she has never visited it before, Kay recognizes their rented beach house from one of her nightmares and expresses her unease, but everyone dismisses this as the result of her art getting too surreal. After Kay dreams of finding David’s disembodied head in bed with her, he disappears and is later found mangled and hanging from the roof of an old barn. Kay refuses to sleep, sure that to do so will mean more deaths, but Eric sedates her secretly, worried about her sanity. He is certain that the culprit is Marsh (Michael Holmes), the pilot who flew them to the island, though Brooke is inclined to believe Kay’s supernatural explanation. More mayhem ensues while Kay slumbers, and when she awakes alone, she is intent to stay conscious and avoid facing the slayer herself.

This is quite a creepy film, a little out-dated these days, but fun for the cheesiness-value of it all!

 

RATING: 6.2 out of 10 – See it for the Cheese!

L’été (1968) Summer

Rating: 9.0/10
Runtime: 64
Language: French
Country: France
Color: Black & White
IMDb Link: www.imdb.com/title/tt0063858

Director: Marcel Hanoun
Cast:
Graziella Buci … Graziella
Pierre-Henri Deleau

 

After the event of May 1968, a young woman shelters in the country, in a house where she waits for her partner.

 

“…‘Who creates? And for whom?’ What is important is that Hanoun does not answer these questions in a grandiloquent way.

On the contrary, far from showing a series of dramatic actions, he focuses on the in-between moments in the life of his beautiful young protagonist. He plays with fragments of the scene, re-framing the image, using frames (doors, windows, a mirror as a tableau vivant) and all of this confronts the viewer with a sort of catalog of repetitive acts, where drama and character development are absent.

These moments characterized by their pure banality end up permitting the real subject to slip through the cracks of the narrative… a whole series of scenes, sequences, images, that any other director would have cut, eliminated, removed, because they contributed neither to the narrative’s suspense nor its climax, nor to its dramatic progress, but which, because of the distance established, permit Hanoun to reveal the key, the meaning of his film: the confrontation, the controversial relation between desire and reality. In this way, the questions — Who creates? And for whom? — are reformulated in a more precise way: what one wishes for and how one seeks to change reality to satisfy this desire.”










Rating: 7/10

 

Top Ten”Hillbilly/Southern” Horror Films!

No disrespect to Hillbillies or Southerners in general is meant by this list or any of the content within it, it’s purely for fun, and I happen to love Hillbilly Horror films, and films set in the South in general.

The list is in no real particular  order at all.

 

1. Deliverance (1972)

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Although not horror specifically, this film was made in ’72 and is still very effective by today’s standards. Some of the shots of the team of guys paddling through the Cahulawassee River are still chilling to this day, especially when you realize that they’re being watched by a community of undesirable inbred locals! Check this one out if you have not done so already!

8/10

2. Southern Comfort (1981)

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Once again, not horror really at all, and somewhat of a cash-in (in ways) on Deliverance’s success, but this film is still solid, and the hillbilly’s who are stalking these National Guards all throughout this film are quite menacing indeed. A little more Action/Thriller than horror, but definitely check this one out, it was one of my brother and I’s favorite action flicks when it came out.

6/10

3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

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This is Tobe Hoopers best film, bar none. The overall atmosphere and feeling of dread throughout this piece is still very unsettling today, and somewhat of an achievement as a director, I feel. Although the film was followed by so many sequels and remakes, this is the best, and the only one you should really see, although The Beginning is also a good watch, as i s the official Remake of this film.

8.5/10

4. Just Before Dawn (1981) 

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Just Before the Dawn is a nice little bit of hillbilly stalker horror from 1981. Be honest, everyone likes a wild machete wielding hillbilly stalking 5 campers through the woods,right? This is actually much better than your average hillbilly slasher from the 80’s, and is led by a pretty good cast and some impressive kill-scenes.

7.0/10

5. Rituals (1977)

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Originally titled Rituals, re-titled as “The Creeper”.

Five doctors go on vacation deep in the Canadian wilderness. After all but one pair of the party’s shoes disappear, the remaining camper decides to hike out and go look for help. Soon after he leaves, however, his four companions realizes that something is very wrong when someone leaves a decapitated deer head just outside their camp. Even though they still don’t have their shoes, they decide to follow their friend’s trail out of the woods, but their path is blocked by someone who doesn’t want to see them leave the forest alive. This is a very tight and menacing slasher/horror, led be a nice cast of actors, and a very good. This film is often overlooked by people, yet it started the whole “maniac in the woods” horror genre, and it is quite good indeed.

6.5/10

6. Hunter’s Blood (1986)

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Five “city boys” travel to the country to relax by doing some hunting, drinking Bud, and generally having good time. However, the local inbred backwoods psychos turn the hunters to be the hunted, and they need all the ammo and wits they have to get out of the woods alive.This is quite a fun late 80’s hillbilly horror, one which a lot of people miss out on, purely because I think it gets lost in the mix, but check this one out!

7. Deranged (1974)

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This film came out the same year that Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out, which is why I think it got slept on a bit. It’s based on Ed Gein (who everybody knows was one sick hillbilly), a deranged rural farmer becomes a grave robber and murderer after the death of his possessive mother whom he keeps her corpse, among others, as his companions in his decaying farmhouse. There is some truly sick moments throughout this nasty piece, and it holds a special place in my heart as one of the earlier films in this genre that I saw. Robert Blossoms gives an outstanding (and very believable) performance here, worth seeing the film for alone!

8. Straw Dogs (1971)

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I first saw Straw Dogs back in about 1981, long before I should have, but it has stuck with me. This film delivers fine performances from Dustin Hoffman, the beautiful Susan George and a host of others. What sets this is apart from others of the genre is the fact that instead of American Southern hillbillies, we here have British rural countryside ones. A breath of fresh air indeed, with some incredibly nasty kills, and top-notch direction from Sam Peckinpah

9/10

9. Wrong Turn (2003)

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Even though this spawned a shit-tonne of sequels (as per usual), the original and first is still the best. The Hillbilly savages in this flick are both menacing and somewhat funny, which is quite refreshing in the genre, each hillbilly has been given a specific style, which is also a nice touch. Matched with some very nice kills, and the beautiful Eliza Dushku.

7.2/10

10. Day of the Woman (aka I Spit on your Grave) – (1978)

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This (if in order of favorites) would be my number one, but since this list is in no order, I have saved my personal best for last. The original of this film is astonishing, and everyone who is a fan of horror of exploitation films in general should know it. A knockout performance from the stunning actress Camille Keaton, this film is menacing, twisted, dark and very nasty. If you’re not a fan of rape-revenge type 70’s films, you should still check this ultimate classic out, and it’s remake from 2002.

10/10 – a Classic!