Stung (2015)

  
Julie (Jessica Cook) and Paul (Matt O’Leary) are on their way out to the American countryside to cater a fancy party. However things take a turn for the sinister when a wasp nest is disturbed and the partygoers are set upon by giant mutated wasps. 

  
The wasps tear through the party, forcing some to retreat to the house in a desperate fight for their lives. Lance Henriksen plays the Mayor, Carruthers and the home owner is played by Clifton Collins Jr. The practical effects and gore are done very well. There is mild CGI, but this is a film that understands its core audience and also pays homage to the horror films of the 80’s, so the CGI is used sparingly and mainly just to show the wasps flying. 

  
More of a horror comedy, than a straight horror, there are some laugh out loud moments, particularly from Henriksen who seems to be enjoying himself. Some may recognise Matt O’Leary from another one of my favourite horrors ‘Frailty’. He plays the part of the reluctant hero quite well, and throws himself into the role. Jessica Cook is okay, but just feels like the generic damsel in distress, despite the films best efforts to make her appear otherwise. Clifton Collins Jr. is great as the hunchbacked Sydney, the homeowner with a dark secret. He seems to be able to slip into any role with ease and I’m always pleased to see him on screen. 

  
Lovers of old school horror comedy will find plenty to like here, however it’s not hard to see why this has gone straight to DVD here in the UK, as it lacks in places. That said I still recommend you give it a watch as it’s perfect beer and pizza entertainment. This copy of Stung was generously provided by the folks over at http://www.fetch.fm, and is available to pre order now with a release of October 26th….just in time for Halloween. 

  

3/5

JM

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Horror Channel interview with The Ford Brothers.

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The Ford Brothers, directors of hit zombie movie The Dead and it’s sequel, recently sat down with the Horror Channel to discuss the perils of making the movie. The Dead gets its UK TV premier on September 27th at 22:50. Take a read of their interview below:

How do you two write? For example, does one pace the floor whilst the other types?

Jon: Ha that’s funny! You hit the nail on the head! Normally you will find Howard frantically writing away while I pace the room acting out the scenarios and shouting the lines like some demented theatre actor on steroids. The writing stage is one phase of the project where we work together very well. We are almost never in conflict with each other, each jumping in where the other got to in a particular scene but also bringing together our differing perspectives and weaving them together. We can’t always say the same for the actual shoot, but on The Dead there was normally some life threatening situation taking place, which does tend to add a bit of additional pressure.

Where did the idea for The Dead come from and why set it in a foreign location?

Howard: Jon had started writing script for The Dead, in the mid to late 1980s but we didn’t really push forward and finish the script until about 20 years later shortly before shooting the film. So in essence it is genuinely and old school zombie movie that just took a lot longer to reach the screen.

It was originally going to be shot in Morocco or somewhere like that but for those who don’t know The Ford brothers shoot TV commercials in between films. Anyway, while we were out on location in West Africa we came across places of unbelievable beauty and danger in equal measure. We realised the opportunities of setting this film in a place where no one has ever been or seen before, where there are no safe places to hide in or lock down, where survival is as dangerous as the zombies themselves. Also parallels can be drawn with starvation poverty and events like the Rwandan massacres, while investigating how other religions and cultures would react to such a pandemic.. That was when we realised we could make something really special and different.

The shoot for The Dead has been well documented and is famous for what went wrong as well as what went right. What is the most enduring memory you have form the making of it?

Jon: Yes the shoot itself has become quite famous for all the problems, but for me the more pleasant enduring memory is the driving. Even though I had contracted malaria and had what seemed like endless bouts of food poisoning and other tropical illnesses, so had lost about a third of my body weight. In fact I didn’t know if I would leave this place alive or not. Still as I drove across Ghana and Burkina Faso I will never forget the vast beauty of almost everywhere you look, words or even pictures cannot describe how stunning those places actually are. I though to myself if I die now, It was still nice to have seen such beauty.

Howard: For me it was the journey back from Ghana to Burkina Faso after the whole crew had flown out from Ouagadougou airport and I felt like ‘at least no one had actually died’ and suddenly the pressure was off my shoulders. It had felt like I had been carrying a crippling weight, no disrespect to the fantastic cast and crew but even though we were out of cash, food, without even enough fuel to get back to Ghana where I had to fly out from with the remaining cans of film, that journey was like entering heaven..

The actors are just superb and add much to the story, how did you go about casting the movie?

Jon: Thanks, yes the actors are great but all the more so for doing it in high stress and dangerous situations, or while actually suffering from malaria or typhoid while doing their art. I fondly remember Halimata, the woman with the baby, being so kind and supportive while actually dressing the fake baby and doing her costume herself, then with seconds left of light, delivering one of the greatest performances of terror I have ever seen!

Howard: We cast Rob Freeman in the UK where he was living at the time. In fact he lived virtually down the road from us which was nice as we were able to get to know him a bit and rehearse scenes together before flying out to Africa. We like to ‘know’ our key players personally rather than just meeting them in a casting session as it’s a big commitment to work together like this. We asked an ad agency we had worked with in Ghana to look for actors matching our description and Prince David Osei was one of the first we saw, It took all of one milli second to chose him. Strangely, we had worked with Prince before on an ad but just didn’t know it until he told us. We had both had our heads and shoulders covered during the commercial shoot in the heat of Africa and he thought we were Arabs so was very confused when we turned out to be Brits!

What sort of budget did you have as the effects are quite something?

Howard: We haven’t revealed this before but The Dead was actually shot for $150,000 which is ridiculously small for a movie shot on film in exotic locations around the world and we were advised not to mention this and others claimed the movie was shot for several million hence we missed out on any kudos for getting it in the can (literally the can, not a digital drive) for so little. To put that in context, another film that has been publicised on the basis it cost very little; ‘Monsters’ which is praised for being a low budget miracle shoot. It was apparently shot for $400,000 on digital with just 2 pro actors with a well-established production company lining things up and local support in each location as they went, which, don’t get me wrong, is still very impressive, but we had absolutely no back up at all and were trying to use as many physical special effects and real stunts as much as possible. Plus we were using our own money (life savings). It was a battle all the way financially and physically without any safety net at all.

Jon: The special effects are a big thanks to Dan Rickard and Max Van de Banks. What makes it really impressive is the total lack of budget resources and time. Most of the time the effects were created on the spur of the moment. It makes us laugh sometimes when you see awards being given to people who had all the money time and resources in the world. What Dan and Max achieved on virtually nothing is truly amazing! And this was after most of the fx materials had perished due to the 5 weeks we waited to get our equipment and props out of customs in Accra whilst they melted in the daily heat.

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Lord of Illusions (1995)

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Philip Swann (Kevin J . O’Connor) is a young trainee magician under the tutorship of fanatical cult leader Nix (Daniel Von Bargen). When Nix goes to far by capturing a young girl called Dorothea, Swann and some other cult members cast Nix down into a grave and seal him away from the world. 13 years later and Swann is a successful stage illusionist who is married to Dorothea (Famke Janssen). Dorothea hires private eye Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula) to protect Swann, as elsewhere a group of rogue cult members seek to resurrect Nix.

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When Swann and other cult members that buried Nix are killed, Harry and Dorothea must seek to find the killers and stop them from bringing Nix back as it could spell the end for all mankind. Scott Bakula is great as Harry D’Amour. I have always felt he was an under appreciated actor, and he does very well here. Folks who read Clive Barker’s literature and the fantastic Hellraiser comic series will know that there is much more to Harry D’Amour, as he has tackled some truly evil characters, even a man with pins in his head. Hmmm whomever could I mean?

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Famke Janssen is also good as Dorothea who is not quite a damsel in distress, and does learn to hold her own. Kevin J. O’Connor is great as Swann, and I always like the kooky characters he plays in films like Deep Rising and The Mummy. The house that belongs to Dorothea in this movie is actually the house of the director Clive Barker, bit of trivia there.

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This copy of Lord of Illusions was provided by the very kind folks over at http://www.101-films.com. It is available now from all good stockists. The transfer is very nice, and with this release you get the directors cut on DVD too. It’s worth noting that the blu ray version is only of the theatrical cut. I do recommend it for those fans of horror and all things strange. It is a perfect film for a rainy night.

4/5

JM

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Bride of Re-Animator (1989)

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Those docs are at it again. Still toying with life after death, doctors Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) and Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) are looking to further their research and not only reanimate death bodies, but to actually create life from a number of parts. Fleeing from a civil war in South America where they have been since the events of the first movie, they have now set up home in a caretakers house next to a cemetery. There they can work in peace, or so they think.

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As now there are two flies in the ointment. One is Dr. Graves (Mel Stewart) who has been toying with the re-agent that was left behind after the hospital massacre in part one. Second is Lt. Leslie Chapman (Claude Earl Jones), who has his own reasons for wanting to find out what Herbert West and Dan Cain are up to. Bride of Re-Animator also sees the return of Dr. Hill (David Gale), or his head at least. After being reanimated by Dr. Graves, Dr. Hill tells him he wants revenge on Herbert West.

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Dr. West and Dr. Cain however are solely concentrated on bringing together body parts, to give life. However it will not be as easy as they hope, all leading to a bloody showdown with Dr. Hill and his assortment of freaks. This for me was a weaker movie than the first. It just took too long to get going in my book, and resulted in everything been thrown at the wall towards the end, hoping something would stick. I lay blame at Brian Yuzna, who I just don’t rate at all as a director. For me this series should have always been directed by Stuart Gordon, who just seems to understand the material better. Although this is a weak sequel, the worst in the series is Beyond Re-Animator, which is part 3. That film is also directed by Yuzna, having Spain double for America.

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This film is not terrible, but in comparison to the first movie it is clearly inferior. There is some great gore and some funny moments with mischievous reanimated body parts. I would say it’s worth a watch if you have a few mates round as I’m sure you’d enjoy it. As always Jeffrey Combs is always worth watching, he just gives his all in whatever role he is in.

3/5

JM

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The Untold Story (1993)

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Wong Chi Hang (Anthony Wong) is the owner of the Eight Immortals Restaurant in Macao. His establishment makes the finest pork buns anywhere, but just what exactly *is* inside those tasty buns? After a slew of body parts wash up on the beach Officer Lee (Danny Lee) and his team are led to the Eight Immortals Restaurant, and begin to wonder just how Wong Chi Hang came to be the proprietor.

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A series of flashbacks shed some light on the grisly reality of how Wong Chi Hang came to run the restaurant. After cheating the owner at Mahjong, he butchered the owner, his wife and their kids, so that he could own the restaurant. As the police investigate what happened to the previous owners, Wong tries to cover his tracks, dispatching anyone that might expose him.

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This is one seriously twisted movie. I have long heard of the extreme nature of the Category III movies from Asia, but never expected them to be like this. Seriously, the things that are shown here would never be allowed in Hollywood. Anthony Wong is a tour-de-force as Wong Chi Hang, so it comes as no surprise that he won an award for his role. The movie pulls no punches in terms of gore, bodies are gutted and mutilated by Wong, and you don’t even want to know what he does with a bunch of chopsticks, honestly, I knew there was a reason I use a knife and fork. The team of officers do come off as bumbling, and they’re more like the comic relief. Danny Lee begins every scene he is in with some bit of skirt on his arm, which was funny, but didn’t fit in with the overall tone of the movie. I found that it was quite jarring in terms of tone, and that the film would have worked better if it was all played straight.

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It is definitely worth a watch if you can get your hands on it. It is really shocking though, the raw intensity that Anthony Wong brings to his role really is a sight to behold. The guy is a legend of Asian cinema, and he is hands down one of my favourite Asian actors. However it is not for the squeamish, so if you don’t like gore, steer well clear.

4/5

JM

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Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

blood4It’s the year 2127 and Dr. Paul Merchant (Bruce Ramsay) is on a mission. His mission is to undo the mistakes of his ancestors and close shut the gates of hell, which were opened when Phillip L’Merchant (also Bruce Ramsay) created that famous toy box. After the box is given to a rich aristocrat it is used to raise a demon which will control the world. However things go awry and the demon takes on the form of a peasant girl Angelique (Valentina Vargas). Phillip L’Merchant takes the box and runs. Through the centuries Pinhead (Doug Bradley) has tracked and killed the Merchant bloodline, looking for the box.

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Dr. Paul Merchant is telling the marines on the space station about his mission, and what needs to be done. He tells them that for so long his bloodline have tried and failed to close the gates. Now Pinhead and his new cenobites have been unleashed in space, but all is not lost. Now Dr. Paul Merchant has Pinhead where he wants him, and the trap has been set.

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This movie was plagued with problems during production. The director is listed as Alan Smithee but was actuall Kevin Yagher who worked on some of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. The studio butchered the movie in his opinion, so he asked to be credited as Alan Smithee which is a pseudonym directors take when the don’t want to be credited with something they see as not being their vision.

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That being said, I really like this movie. Sure the script is wooden in places, but the space setting really lends itself to the Hellraiser mythos and there is some great gore. Doug Bradley is still great as the villainous Pinhead, and really delivers each line with relish. I don’t agree with all the hate this movie gets and I think if you like the Hellraiser movies and you’ve never seen it, then it’s well worth a watch.

4/5

JM

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Formula for a Murder (1985)

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Joanna (Christina Nagy) is a wealthy philanthropist who was confined to a wheelchair after suffering an attack at the hands of a psychotic person dressed as a priest when she was a girl. She spends most of her time at her centre for paraplegics which she owns. She meets a handsome trainer at the centre called Craig (David Warbeck) and they enter into a whirlwind romance, where Craig proposes.

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Craig however has other plans, which is actually touched on very early on in the movie. His intention is to scare Joanna to death so that he can get his hand on her money, and he is prepared to gruesomely dispatch anyone that should get in his way. Though Craig’s motive is revealed quite early on, there is still plenty of suspense and some fantastically bloodthirsty deaths. For some strange reason David Warbeck’s voice has been dubbed over by some random American actor, which is sad as I really like David’s voice. However it does nothing to really dampen the film, which is right up there with some of the other well known giallo’s.

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The camera work is done really well, with some great POV shots. I love that it uses some of the music from The New York Ripper, and has usual giallo nods like the killer wearing black leather gloves. It’s also refreshing to see David Warbeck play the villain, and he does so with oozes of charisma. I must say Shameless Films have done a wonderful job in terms of restoration on what was long feared to be a lost movie.

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There supporting roles are filled quite admirably, but this film really belongs to David Warbeck and Christina Nagy, who really get into their roles and deliver some fantastic performances. This copy of Formula for a Murder was provided by the wonderfully generous folks over at http://www.shameless-films.com. The movie is now available to buy and you can do so directly from the Shameless Films website. Its’ well worth getting a copy which also comes with your very own yellow mac, should you decide to go on a murderous spree of your own….I jest of course.

4/5

JM

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From Beyond (1986)

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Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) and Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) are researching the effect that a resonator has on the pineal gland. They believe that stimulating the gland lets people see a reality beyond our own that is otherwise invisible to the naked eye. Crawford activates the resonator and begins to see strange creatures floating around him. When he is bitten by one of these creatures, he tells Dr. Pretorius to turn the machine off. Dr. Pretorius refuses, telling Crawford that it’s giving him a feeling like no other.

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Crawford flees the laboratory and is stopped by the police. When the police find Dr. Pretorius dead, they charge Crawford with his murder. Crawford is committed to a mental asylum where he is then interviewed by Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton). Crawford tells Dr. McMichaels about what happened in the laboratory. Together with a detective Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree), the three go back to the laboratory to find out what really happened to Dr. Pretorius.

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Directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator), and based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, this is one crazy film. It is packed to the rafters of gory and gloopy practical effects. The script and acting are a tad wobbly at times, but it adds to the overall charm and ‘B-Movie’ feel to the film. Jeffrey Combs is always good value for money. He always delivers a solid performance, no matter what the overall film is like. Ted Sorel plays the part of the perverse Dr. Pretorius brilliantly. His transformation into the hideous monster is great, and he delivers his lines with relish. I like Barbara Crampton, but she feels wasted here. She is mostly just a damsel in distress, but she reacts in some strange ways throughout the movie, even getting dressed up in bondage gear during one strange scene.

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I have never read the short story that the film is based on, so how faithful it is I couldn’t really say. But as it’s Stuart Gordon and he directed another Lovecraft tale in ‘Re-Animator’ , you know it’s a pretty safe bet for some gratuitous violence and an overall tongue in cheek tone. I really enjoy this movie, however it’s not for the squeamish, so if guts and gore aren’t your bag then steer clear. For the rest of you gorehounds, dig in and enjoy.

4/5

JM

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The 13th Warrior (1999)

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Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan (Antonio Banderas) has been banished from his homeland after sleeping with the wife of another man. On his travels he comes across a group of Norsemen who have been requested to go to the aid of a village that is being terrorised by ‘monsters’. A wise woman tells the Norsemen that 12 of them will be chosen, and that the 13th warrior will be a man not of their land. Ahmed is chosen to join the warriors in their journey.

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Whilst on their journey, Ahmed begins to earn the respect and admiration of the group, who see that he has a lot to offer them in their quest. Upon reaching the village, the group meet with the King. The King tells them that the monsters come when the “worm” has been seen in the mountains. When the ‘monsters’ attack the group, the group find that the ‘monsters’ are in fact ordinary men, albeit cannibals. The group decide that if they are to put a stop to the attacks, they must seek the enemy in their lair.

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However striking at the heart of the enemy, doesn’t quite have the effect the warriors hope for, leading to a brutal and bloody showdown. I absolutely love this movie. It has that old school epic quality to it. The story and acting are top notch. Everyone is clearly enjoying their respective roles. The action itself is visceral stuff, and doesn’t skimp on the gore.

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The film is based on a story by Michael Crichton called ‘The Eaters of the Dead’. Directed by John McTiernan, it truly is pulse pounding stuff. Omar Sharif has an extended cameo as Ahmed’s companion Melchisidek. I did read that there were problems on set and that Michael Crichton had to come in and oversee the directing of the film, but it doesn’t show. It is a brilliantly entertaining movie and one I wholeheartedly recommend.

5/5

JM

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The Venus Complex (2012)

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Michael Friday is an art professor. His life is drastically altered whilst driving home with his wife, when he finds out that she has been sleeping with another man. Michael flies into a fit of rage, and floors the accelerator, driving the car straight into a tree. Michael survives, his wife does not. Michael is then hospitalised with his injuries. Upon leaving hospital Michael finds that everything in his life no longer has the same meaning it once did. Michael’s desire to work, and study art leaves him. A different side emerges to Michael. A darker side. Michael begins having perverse sexual dreams, involving necrophilia and murder, which he starts to enjoy. To fill the gap his job once took, Michael decides to find another project, one that sees him plunge head first into insanity.

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People will most likely remember the author Barbie Wilde as the female Cenobite in Hellbound: Hellraiser II. For this first novel she has delivered a brilliant tale of lust and perversion. The story consists of Michael’s diary entries in which he speaks of his disgust and disdain for society and how it has become. He describes, in vivid detail I may add, his dreams and fantasies as they become increasingly violent in nature. Barbie Wilde has an imagination that is wonderfully vivid, creating a disturbing image of a man’s decent into madness. Yet we empathise  in places with Michael. He is not a thoroughly despicable person, despite his perversions. We understand his frustration for society and how materialistic we have all become. Credit for this goes to the author. Barbie Wilde gives heart and wit to a character that may have been overcome by his failings in the hands of other authors. If this is what she delivered for her first novel, then roll on the next one.

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This copy of The Venus Complex was graciously provided by Barbie Wilde. You can purchase your copy now from http://www.amazon.co.uk and all other major stockists.

5/5

JM