Santa’s Slay 2005

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Seventy-four minutes is not a long time for a feature film. When you take away four minutes of opening titles and six minutes for closing titles, you’re not even left with enough time to cook a very small chicken. And yet somehow that seventy-four minutes seemed to last for tens of hours as I endured Santa’s Slay so you, good reader, really, really, reallydon’t have to.

We start with a surprisingly star studded opening scene around a Christmas dinner table. Oscar-nominated James Caan, trying to disguise himself with a moustache, is the head of the family. Spinal Tap’s Bobbi Flekman and the guy who isn’t Will Farrell from Night at the Roxbury are also there. They are moaning about Christmas and about being rich when Santa drops down the chimney and kills them all in a variety of less than interesting ways.

While Santa’s outfit has a reasonable medieval look to it, I knew there was something wrong by the way he kept tossing his victims over his shoulders and, I think the term is, “body-slamming” them. Is Santa Claus a fucking wrestler now? I looked him up; Bill Goldberg who plays Father Christmas is indeed a wrestler. He acts like it too, shouting out terrible puns, showboating like he’s in a stadium and threatening anyone who’ll listen. I imagine if you’re a fan of the World Wildlife Fund, and an eight year old boy, you might get a kick out of this. However this film is quite violent (but in a really dull way) so eight year olds probably can’t see it. Santa has a tendency to throw men onto sharp objects, or throw sharp objects at them. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to be set on fire. I’m not sure of the reasoning behind this, I’m not sure I want to know.

James Caan, the filmmakers realising he deserved better having appeared in one of the greatest films ever made (not Elf), is stabbed through the mouth with a turkey drumstick. Its a lot less exciting than it sounds.

 

Anyway, after the long opening credit sequence, we get to the plot. Sigh. Something about Santa getting revenge on an angel who he lost a curling match to a thousand years ago. No, really… I can’t even be bothered writing any more about it. Needless to say two plucky teens fight back, Douglas Smith who is given the burden of the wisecracking hero who says nothing funny at all, ever, and Emilie de Ravin (probably just before Lost and Brick) who deserved, and thankfully eventually got, better. The rest of the small town (which is actually called Hell, in a set up for an incredibly poor joke) is populated by vaguely recognisable character actors who have obviously been told they are in a comedy so to PLAY IT LOUD AND BROAD. This is not how to do comedy. This is not funny. At all. Not even once.

 

I think horror comedies are one of the hardest sub-genres to get right, Christmas horror movies can be equally difficult too, so kudos goes to these guys for trying but please, I can’t imagine anyone actually laughed while reading the script, its just awful. For example, a Jewish baker is found murdered in his shop, the policeman who finds him says, loudly: “There’s something not Kosher about this”. Pfft…

 

Another thing I noticed a lot is that the action seems sped up, like some of the stupid wrestling throws. I guess this is fair enough, but also many of the chasing scenes are sped up to the point of being comical. I don’t mean funny comical, I mean a bad joke. Was this on purpose? Was it an attempt to make the film more cartoonish? Or was it just because the film was too slow otherwise? Also there’s a sped up scene when two people were just walking and talking. Such a weird approach to editing a modern film.

Oh look, it’s just terrible. Please don’t ever watch this. It has one redeeming feature and that’s the flashback sequence, which is done in stop motion and is actually kind of charming. The rest of the film; it’s a fucking chore.

Not a good start to Christmas horror week.

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Queen of the Damned 2002

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Was anyone actually interested in a sequel to An Interview With A Vampire? I like that film but can’t remember stumbling out into the daylight thinking when is the next one coming? Well, eight years later out came Queen of the Damned, and like all bad sequels it had none of the original cast or creative talent involved. So, not so much Aliens, Empire Strikes Back or Godfather 2, as Son of the Mask, Dumb and Dumberer or Cassidy and Sundance: The Early Years.

Scripts are vital in creating a good film, everyone knows that. However if the story you are basing your movie on is absolute nonsense then the script, no matter how good, is doomed from the start. Fortunately the script here is also complete tosh, so no one has wasted any energy on polishing a turd. A film is often in trouble if it has a voice over, most film lecturers will tell you that (and there are many films to prove them wrong). However, if the film has more than one voice over you know its fucked. We only have two here, the Vampire Lestat and Marguerite Moreau as his reincarnated love or something… actually I don’t know. I’ve been watching the Dracula TV show and the romantic plots have merged into one a bit. The main story though is unique in vampire lore however because its about, god help us all, rock and roll. Okay, here goes…

The Vampire Lestat wakens from a couple of hundred years slumber (he was bored of the world so decided to sleep it out until it got more interesting, know that feeling). Upon awakening he meets a really lame alternative rock band and decides to become their leader, renaming the band The Vampire Lestat, of course. The egomaniac. Their former name wasn’t good enough apparently, something like The Smashing Pumpkins I think. Now Lestat announces to the world he is a real-life vampire and is going to hold the biggest concert ever in Death Valley, in the hope that lots of other vampires, furious that he has exposed them, will come along and… okay, I don’t know what the purpose of all this is. Meanwhile, the Queen of the Damned of the title, an original vampire from ancient times, played be Aaliyah, pops up looking for Lestat because she wants him for a mate/King so they can take over the world most likely. Plus there is some other plot involving rosey-cheeked Moreau whose family have been protected by vampires for reasons I couldn’t work out for love nor money despite rewatching the exposition scenes four times. I think that’s it plot-wise. There are flashbacks and a couple of other sub plots but really who cares? Not the filmmakers obviously.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of fun to be had here. Maybe not quite enough to fill the 101 minute running time, but at least half of it. Alot of this come from Stuart Townsend replacing Tom Cruise as Lestat. Looking like a cross between Jim Morrison and strangely Keira Knightley, Townsend constantly has a little smirk on his face as if he knows that he’s better than all this tomfoolery, but it kind of works for the character. Why he speaks in a Transylvanian accent, when I’m presuming by his name he’s French, is another matter. Also weirdly good, in a not necessarily good, but consistently crazy kind of way, is Aaliyah. She slinks about like a snake, never walking normally, constantly twisting her tiny torso, spouting gibberish lines in a unique mix of, again, Transylvanian and African, no mean feat. Despite her miniscule stature, Aaliyah seems so committed to the role that whenever she enters a room, slinking or floating, you could almost believe that this freakish creature with glowing eyes is indeed an elder goddess. Admittedly one trapped in a terrible film.

The rest of the vampires on the other hand are a bunch of wimps. They look overly-serious like they’ve spent too much time in front of the mirror practicing “Serious Vampire Face Version 1”, not that they can look in the mirror anyway. They’re also not helped by their attack moves, if we can call them that. They fly about with motion blur trails swishing out behind them that look like crap digital effects rather than something real. This is because they are crap digital effects. The same technique was used in the first Twilight movie (maybe the others, I never saw them) and looked just as stupid there.

Talking of stupid, why did Lestat want to hold his rock concert at Death Valley? It is one of the hottest places in the planet, with the least amount of shade. Sure, it was at night but you know how these parties go on and on. One minute your average vampire is snorting coke off someone’s breasts, secretly looking for a ripe vein, the next the sun is coming up and you’re toast. The gig itself is almost fun, though not the actual music which seems to be like a sub-Nine Inch Nails ‘cus that’s, like, dark innit? When the vampires attack Lestat the audience just think it is all part of the show and cheer the amazing special effects. Well I’m glad someone enjoyed them. Oops, I’m criticising effects again. Sorry, if I’m offending anyone I know who worked on it, please feel free to watch 24 Hour Party People and rip the shit out of me. For balance, when the vampires burn up, their charred corpses drift up into the air like newspaper coming off a bonfire, its almost beautiful.

Anyway, who thinks this combination of rock and horror is scary? Its not and never has been. Was Trick or Treat (1986) frightening? No. Was all that heavy metal in the background of the Freddy Kruger movies adding suspense to the atmosphere? No, it was making the whole thing jokey and daft. And this is no better. Its no wonder Tom Cruise didn’t want to come back for the sequel. Although he did do Rock of Ages, which is pretty much the same thing.

Look, I’m going on too much about this film, its a waste of my fingers. Okay so I do like the fact that all the vampires have hobbies, Lestat plays the violin, his mate enjoys painting landscapes and some other creature of the night has a lovely collection of old dolls. Not sure what the Queen of the Damned’s hobby was, unless it is impersonating snakes. Good job she does of it too.

Carrie VS Carrie VS Carrie

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I have to confess to being quite excited about this new version of Carrie. Although a massive fan of the original, and of Brian De Palma in general, even I can admit that it must have dated a fair amount with all the spilt screen/super slo mo/floating fire hose/big, big hair shenanigans. Plus the story is still one of Stephen King’s best with the central core of the tale, a bullied outsider with special powers, still being a strong and resonant one. What’s more, the talented Kimberly Peirce is directing this, so we have a strong female voice directing a story consisting almost entirely of female characters. What could go wrong? Well… nothing. Nothing went wrong, Carrie in 2013 is perfectly fine, not great; just fine. But let us also not forget that this isn’t the second time Carrie has been filmed, no it’s the third. A TV movie was made in 2002, but we’ll get to that in a bit…

Chloe Grace Mortez leads the way as Carrie in this 2013 version and a fine job she does, catching the balance between sweet and really rather weird, although she’s never actually creepy. We are very much on her side as she is humiliated when she has her first period in the school showers and the other girls throw tampons at her yelling “Plug it up!” In the other two versions Carrie really is a disconnected, freaky woman-child who, while you sympathise with her, isn’t that easy to like. Here, whether it’s on purpose or just because of Mortez’s natural charm, Carrie really is just an oddball striving to be accepted and normal, and if the odds weren’t so stacked against her, you feel like maybe she could make it.

Unfortunately two women stand in her way to happiness, and thanks to King’s prose, they are two of the most evil women in fiction. Julianne Moore plays Carrie’s mum, Margaret, with horrific malice. One minute she’s throwing her daughter in a cupboard, the next cuddling her goodnight. She also does a fair amount of self mutilation and head banging. How are you meant to cope with a mother like that? No child should have to deal with this behaviour, least of all one with telekinesis. You can always rely on Moore to put her all into a role, and this is no exception.

Also, the hilariously named Portia Doubleday is excellent as the school bitch Chris. While the character is technically a one-note bully, Doubleday invests such a sense of spoilt entitlement into her performance that you can almost understand where she comes from, although let’s face it no one is going to be on her side. I mean, getting revenge on a girl you tormented when she got her first period by pouring a bucket of pig’s blood on her and in front of the whole school at the prom at of all places, is a hideous and genius thing to do. Chris really is an absolute monster. As such I’ve always thought that the one thing De Palma’s original missed out on was (MASSIVE SPOILER) her death being rather quick and over and done with in flash, and a little bit unsatisfying because of that. Not this time round though, she meets a suitably grisly and protracted death, with an ironic image of her ugly ruined face, a reflection her ugliness on the inside. (END OF MASSIVE SPOILER)

But despite this and the suitably modern effects heavy climax, I feel that the film makers missed a trick here. They could have added an extra layer of commentary as we are essentially dealing with the quiet student who kills half her class mates. This, sadly, has become an all too familiar occurrence in the States, and I feel they could have acknowledged this somehow; but maybe it’s still too difficult a subject for mainstream cinema. Still, Carrie in 2013 is diverting enough, you could do worse… …

For example the 2002 TV movie of Carrie. It’s a little unfair as we are comparing a low budget TV version to a fair size cinema release, and a 70s classic. But they made it, so we are doing it, so tough. Okay: So it isn’t very well shot, the music is relentless and AWFUL, and a lot of the girls’ performances are unfocused and weak. It does add a fair amount of background stuff missing from the other versions, but this only serves to slow things down to a mind numbing 132 minutes. Also some of the stuff like the meteor shower (don’t ask) and the whole town on fire at the end are done on the cheap, so don’t really help proceedings.

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Also I have problems with the two evil women. The usually excellent Patricia Clarkson as Margaret White underplays the role so much that she looses a lot of that character’s bite. I presume this was a reaction to Piper Laurie’s performance in the original which was so wild and crazy; it must have felt like the natural thing to do was go the other way. But that’s not what Carrie’s mum should be about. She is mad, so she needs to be played that way.

Then there is Emilie de Ravin as Chris. I love de Ravin in Lost and The Hills Have Eyes, and maybe it’s my own fault because I associate her as always sweet, if a bit moody, but here she’s just too gaddam likable to convince as a class A bitch.

This seriously undermines the drama of the story, that and the length, the never ending length. God. When it was shown on TV with adverts it would have been three hours long. I’m not surprised no one watched it. And that’s probably a good thing, as apparently this was meant to be a pilot for a TV series about the further antics of Carrie. That’s a dreadful idea. The book is short, the two cinema films are short, and we don’t want hours and hours of this TV dross version.

There is one redeeming feature here though and that’s Carrie herself. Angela Bettis made a film the year before this called May, where she plays a seriously unhinged loner with an unhealthy interest in weird dolls and men’s hands. Here she channels more of that madness into Carrie White but spends a lot of the time almost in a state of ecstasy, lost in a bizarre world of rolling eyeballs and hunchbacked insanity. It’s a really intense performance which must have been exhausting for Bettis. When she tells her mum she just wants to be normal, you really, really believe it. But she really, really is not normal in any way, shape or form. Shame the rest of the film doesn’t go as off the rails as much as she does, it might have been more fun.

And that’s really what worked about De Palma’s original. He really takes the medium of cinema and goes wild with it, descending into filmic madness, with his crazy camera work, nuts editing and excruciating slow mo, in the same way Carrie loses her mind to her to the insanity of her telekinesis. After watching the other two versions in a row and thinking that it must have dated, plus taking into account the fact that I’ve not seen it for at least twenty years, I thought I had better dig De Palma’s up from its grave and see how the original stands up.

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It’s magnificent. Right from the off with the camera floating down onto the school, girls playing volleyball, you can tell it’s on a different level. Sissy Spacek is incredible, really tragic but adorable at the same time. Rake thin and nervous as hell, there is something disturbing about her, but you totally want her to escape this living hell of school and bad parenting. Other than Carrie and her mum, De Palma pushes most of the other characters into the background. But what a mother she is. In the book a neighbour describes Margaret White as literally drooling mad on one occasion. Piper Laurie, while not actually foaming at the mouth, is, absolutely bat-shit crazy. Like all properly insane people, her performance (if you can call it that) is scarily unpredictable. She is firm and in control one minute, the next weeping and pulling her hair out.

Then there is the incredible climax at the prom. Did I say that the slo mo was dated? No way. It builds the tension up so much before the bucket of blood drops that I was actually screaming on the sofa. Rarely has there been such a perfect blend of camera work, sound and editing. There are loads of other great moments but you really should go out and rediscover them for yourselves.

Not that it’s all perfect. There’s some very goofy music here and there, and of course the haircuts. William Katt (as sweet but simple Tommy Ross) has blonde curls that seem to have a life of their own. Even in 1976 his hair must have been a distraction for audiences. Why does it defy gravity like that? How is it SO golden? Just… What the fuck? Also, most of the cast look far too old to be at school. I swear at some point I saw one “kid” who was balding. The only one who does indeed look the sixteen/seventeen she’s meant to be is Spacek, and she was 26 when she made this.

Anyway, who cares about all that? It’s still a hands-down classic. A lot of people questioned the need for a remake of Carrie, but like I said, I wasn’t one of them. However watching Brian De Palma’s one again, it really does beg the question, why bother? You ain’t going to make it better than that.

A Halloween Feast: Ten Flesh Eaters

It’s 31st October 2013 as I write this and quite frankly what I all really want is a tasty Halloween treat to keep me going. So seeing as pumpkin soup is in short supply, I bring you a selection of, in no particular order, some of the yummiest flesh eaters in the movies.

Bad Taste

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Look at that man above. This is Peter Jackson who would go onto be one of the most powerful men in the movies and win an Oscar in 2004. But even then he must have known that things would never get better than eating a man’s brains out of his head with a spoon.

The Hills Have Eyes

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The remake is arguably better than the original and while the cannibalism isn’t the main focus of the bizarre mutant hill billies, its more rape, terror and murder, they still like to munch down on a human or a dog or anything given half the chance.

Zombie Flesh Eaters

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The zombies in Lucio Fulci’s sort of classic are a miserable bunch. None of the knockabout fun of Romero’s zombies, they just want to eat you up in as depressing a way as possible. Except of course that zombie who pulls the above hapless victim onto a large splinter which stabs her through the eyeball. That’s just plain mean.

Death Line

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Bless the poor old git who’s whole existence has been as the great grand child of victorian workers trapped in a collapsed part of the London underground. Cut off from human interaction, when he finally does come across some commuters is it any wonder he just sees them as food. He builds up quite a collection of tasty meals and when policeman Donald Pleasence catches him all he can say is “Mind the doors!”

The Woman

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If you are going to lock a cannibalistic feral woman you find in the woods in the family shed then you have to expect that, sooner or later, said woman will escape, eat your wife’s face, tear out your heart and eat it in front of you in your dying moments. Its only fair.

Ravenous

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By all accounts the crazed look on Robert Carlyle probably wasn’t acting. The whole production was almost completely mad, with the original director walking days before production was due to begin. The late Antonia Bird was brought in to wrestle control of this tale of early pilgrims trying to survive the untamed USA, and Carlyle embraced the role of a cannibalistic military man with relish, and probably some ketchup too.

Motel Hell

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Old hicks harvest foolish passers by for their Farmer Vincent Fritters. I am not convinced that burying people up to their necks in a field is really going to work but apparently those fritters taste damned fine so what do I know.

 

Cannibal Holocaust

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I mean, I don’t really like this film, and I hate what the makers did with real animals for the sake of a cheap bit of horror. On the other hand it does have a man being tied up, castrated and then have his penis eaten in front of him, so it can’t be all bad.

Dawn of the Mummy

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Dawn of the Mummy is, by all accounts, an absolutely dreadful film. It takes forever for any of the mummies to get up and what the hell are mummys doing acting like flesh eating zombies anyway? Surely they should just moan, strangle and walk with a limp. Also, the heroes/victims are models on a fashion shoot which means a) they are all completely narcissistic and unlikable and b) they get their wammers out a lot. When the mummies finally get down to eating their way through the cast it’s a blessed relief. And its always surprising how many intestines a mummy can pull out of a fashion model’s guts.

Day of the Dead

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Come on, of course George Romero’s classics would end up here. All of his Dead films deserve to be here (well maybe not Survival) but you don’t get any better than watching that asshole Rhodes being torn in half by the zombie masses while screaming “Choke on them!!!”

Oh happy days… oh, and Happy Halloween.

The Devil’s Rock 2011

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The trouble with films about the devil or one of his minions is there comes a point where some members the audience will just throw their hands up in the air and claim the whole venture ridiculous. I presume this is because modern viewers can’t take the whole red skin, tail and horns thing seriously. This certainly happened during The Devil’s Rock when, about half way through as a clovened one showed up, my friend Leo shouted out “oh, this is going to be a silly film, isn’t it?” and then promptly lost interest in the whole affair.

 
That’s a shame because if you do like devils (and I love them, but not in a weird, sexy way) then you’ll find that The Devil’s Rock is a cracking little movie.

 
Two Kiwi Allied commandos are sent to one of the smaller Nazi occupied Channel Islands to cause some destructive mayhem,  distracting their enemies from the impending D-Day plans. However when our heroes arrive at the German’s barricade they find most of them dead and can hear a woman’s cries for help… Now if they had have watched The Keep they would have known those pesky Nazis were up to no good. They can’t be left alone for five minutes without conjuring up some supernatural deity or another.

After the opening segment of the movie involving some tense beach-plus-mine action and some very long, dark corridors, the story essentially boils down to just two rooms and three characters: one of the commandos, a Nazi officer (passionately and wildly played by Matthew Sunderland) and the chained up woman, Gina Varela. It is a wonderfully economical film, showing how to make a great tale on a tight budget if you set yourself up with strict limitations. This is helped in no end by the script which has some good surprises and a beating heart too, even if it does require Sunderland to go on a number of National Socialist tirades. Mind you, the Nazis loved a good tirade at the best of times so maybe that’s just realism for you.

 
Another bonus the film has are some really terrific make-up effects. As this is a New Zealand production I presume some folks from Weta got their hands dirty, and what a job they did. The demon make-up is some of the best since Tim Curry got all horney in Legend. Plus there’s a good splattering of blood and guts lying about, which is nice.

 
Past all the effects and Nazi shouting, what The Devil’s Rock is essentially about is the battle of good-verses-evil, like all stories about the Devil should be, and what World War Two was about also. On a smaller scale, and you don’t get much smaller scale than this, the film is about the battle over a good man’s soul and whether it can be tempted and corrupted, or if he can put the devil behind him. Okay so some of you out there might find the whole thing a bit silly, but these are universal themes people. Give it a go.

Frankenstein’s Army 2013

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Some of the best genre films come about when you take a number of different influences and ideas and meld them together to create something new, much like Frankenstein did when he created his monster. This monster of a movie doesn’t quite succeed but you can tell the film makers gave it their best shot.

Frankenstein’s Army concerns a troop of Russian soldiers at the tail end of World War 2 who, while laying to waste the now retreating Nazi forces, receive a call for help from a fellow Russian squad a few miles away. When the troop arrive at the squad’s location they find a Nazi bunker where some truly weird experiments have been occurring. What is it with Nazis and their experiments? They were obsessed, at least that’s what horror movies tell us. We’ve had Nazi zombies, werewolves, brain surgeries, devil worshipping and now, well, a mixture between zombies, steampunk and large gardening equipment. Look at these bathroom interlopers:

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There’s no two ways about it, the variety of monsters and creations are the stars of this show, and they are hideous and hilarious in equal measures. One chap has a massive drill bit protruding from his gas masked face and wanders around on stilts – how does this guy eat for god’s sake? Another is just a pair of legs sticking out of a big bass teapot with a swastika on the front. They’re nuts. They look like they’ve been thrown together by a madman, but at the same time the design is just beautiful. So are the rest of the sets and costumes, everything is dirty and used and lived in, really amazing.

There’s a problem though, I didn’t tell you this is a found footage movie did I? I like this subgenre quite a lot even if the films do end up not knowing how to end and either finish with the camera falling over or the film breaking while someone screams. As the film is set in the forties they’ve tried to make the footage look authentic by adding scratches and burn marks, they’ve added a lovely detail of when the cameraman changes lenses. However if they really wanted to make if look real they would have had to go much further, it looks like video, there’s no getting away from it. Some of the colour grading is way off what old footage would have looked like. Also it would never have been in widescreen. If they really wanted it to work it should have been in 4.3 but then of course that wouldn’t have worked as a film with modern audiences. So essentially what we have is a problem. Found footage films have to LOOK like real found footage to work, but if they had have actually made It look real it wouldn’t have been acceptable as a proper film. The upshot of this is is that they shouldn’t have made a found footage film in the first place.

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There are other problems with this choice of film style. We don’t get to know the main character until well over halfway through the story because he’s the one with the camera. What madness is this? The only thing we know about him is that he’s annoying the rest of the troop by recording them all. Nothing new there then. Also whenever the monsters rear their weird metal heads the film descends into lots of running around corridors shooting at beasties. It feels like you’re watching a first person shoot em up. It should be involving but as we barely know the characters we are left feeling remote from the action. It’s a shame because the actors give it their all, it’s just we’re given snippets of them. There’s the loose-cannon/violent soldier, the man who wants to be home with his wife and kids, the young innocent; etc etc. the usual cliches.
However we do have those glorious monsters and what mayhem they cause with all their drilling, sawing and head crushing – there’s a particularly hilarious gag involving a helmet and a brain. And you know what, despite its problems with script and shooting style I think we should forgive the film its obvious flaws, because those crazy creatures are bloody brilliant.

The Entity 1982

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In 1982 a horror film about poltergeists came out that was in equal parts funny, scary and a great time at the movies. That film was, of course, Poltergeist and a few months later when The Entity arrived perhaps audiences thought they were going to get more of the same knockabout thrills. They would have been very, very wrong. The Entity begins with single mother Carla Mason (played by Barbara Hershey) coming home to her three children. She checks the two little girls are asleep and that her teenage son is still playing hard rock in the garage, as American teen sons did in the 80s. Then as she settles into her bedroom, preparing for sleep, she is punched hard enough to bleed, thrown onto bed and brutally raped, seemingly by an invisible force. It’s a shocking start to the story, and for a long while this horrific tone doesn’t let up. Of course it’s the old cliché: if you were in a house haunted by ghosts you’d just pack up and leave. Well, once Carla works out what the hell is going on that is exactly what she does. We’re about ten minutes into the film at this point by the way. However, this is a poor woman living in a country not know for helping those on the breadline. Initially she goes to stay with her one friend, Texan gal Cindy, but she and the kids can’t stay living on their couch, especially when Cindy’s disembodied voice of a husband complains bitterly about them from the next room. For the first half of the film most adult men are only half seen or half heard characters, not unlike the poltergeist itself; useless selfish figures merely interested in their own needs. Only Ron Silver’s doctor is seen fully and even he thinks Carla is making up the rape. Cindy, on the other hand is the kind of best friend everyone should have. While she doesn’t believe Carla is being repeatedly attacked, she still gives total support, all smiles, jokes and sleep-overs, even though there are hints that her own life is a deeply unhappy one. So financial circumstance and an inescapable need to provide a roof over her children’s heads forces Carla back to the house, where the malevolent force is waiting for her. The camera sticks close to Carla throughout this part of the film, sometimes only a few feet away like it’s waiting to pounce, at other moments it floats above her head as if looking down at her. At one point she’s alone in a psychiatrist’s office and she jerks sideways as if she’s just caught something out of the corner of her eye, not aware of the camera watching her from the floor. Barbara Hershey gives an absolutely amazing performance. In what could have been a hysterical shriek-feast of a role, Hershey makes you believe every bloody, horrific moment of this woman’s ordeal. There is an incredible scene when she talks about her past-life. Often actors will tell you that they are trying to find the “truth” of a character. If that’s what she was looking for, Hershey certainly found it. It’s one of the most profoundly sad monologues I’ve ever heard in a film and utterly heart-breaking. So The Entity sounds amazing right? I mean, horrible and intense but smart too, dealing with sexual violence and abuse with intelligence and a blinding performance from Hershey, yeah? So why isn’t everyone always talking about this film as a horror great? Or at least why isn’t it being rediscovered as a forgotten classic? Well maybe they would if the film had ended after the first hour and a half, because this is riveting cinema at its best. From the director of Superman IV and The Young Ones with Cliff Richard, who’d have thought it? However, around 90 minutes in Carla and Cindy bump into two Paranormal Scientists and from this moment the whole film goes to shit in a basket. Suddenly the dialogue plummets to nonsense, trying to explain everything scientifically with talk of “crossing across from a different plain of existence”. The two nerdy ghostbusters are pure cinema characters and could have stepped out of the other poltergeist film. There are lots of lab coats and recording instruments and it stops really being about Carla as we have scenes of men discussing her case which seem to serve no purpose to the plot at all. Then the visual effects team start getting carried away and the thing totally falls apart. There’s some early FX stuff involving Hershey’s breasts being moved about by the entity and it’s really freaky. But they do it again and it looks too fake and hokey and loses all impact. Then laser bolts start flying about like they’ve shot out of Nuclear Man’s eyeballs and we’re supposed to be impressed. We end with a truly diabolical ice effect which would have looked bad in 1982, and all this just doesn’t fit. It’s like someone else directed the last act. Such a shame. Anyway, we’re still left with a great two thirds of a movie with an unbelievably good central performance. And while as a horror film it has its faults, as a study on the effects of sexual violence and one woman’s self-belief and defiance of it, it’s terrific. Just stop the movie when the nerds show up okay?