Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Top Ten Xmas Horrors

10: Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)

9: Christmas Evil (1980)

8: Santa's Slay (2005)

7: Elves (1989)

6: Tales From the Crypt: And All Through the House (1972)

5: Jack Frost (1997)

4: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

3: Gremlins (1984)

2: Black Christmas (1974)

1: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

How many have yous seen? What's your favourite Xmas horror?

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Movie B Bad #4: Santa's Slay (2005)

Santa's Slay is a 2005 Christmas Horror-comedy. Directed by David Steiman and starring former WCW/WWE world champion Bill Goldberg (Universal Soldier: The Return, The longest Yard), Douglas Smith and Emilie de Ravin (The Hills Have Eyes, Lost). The film was also produced by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour series)

Santa's Slay takes place during Christmas in Hell township when a particularly violent incarnation of jolly St Nick (Goldberg) rocks up on his jacked up reindeer to go on a killing spree. When local teenagers Nicolas (Smith) and Mary (De Ravin) decide to investigate the murderous happenings it is revealed, by Nicolas' grandpa, that Santa is actually the antichrist and Christmas day used to be a day of killing until Santa lost a bet on a game of curling. Ever since then Christmas day has been a day of peace and joy...until now! The has expired and it's up to the bright eyed teenagers, and crackpot Grandpa, to stop the evil Santa and save Christmas.

The main thrust of the humour in Santa's Slay is that it's a Jewish man killing Jewish people in increasingly Jewish ways all through the guise of you see what they did there? In all seriousness it's great fun to see a dehli owner impaled with a Menorah whilst a bagel curtain sways in the background and it isn't really something that's been done in horror-comedy before. For what it's worth Bill Goldberg does a great job as the grunting psychotic Santa whilst throwing in a few Bond-esque wisecracks to boot and it is an interesting idea to draw on the Germanic folklore roots of Santa Claus.

It must be said that the teenage protagonists turn in a suitably wooden, b-movie performance but luckily the film has an impressively high body count so we're not subjected to their performances for too long. The same can also be said for the supporting cast as none of the characters tend to stick in the mind unless dispatched in a particularly creative way. Speaking of which, the movie does employ some highly amusing weaponry for Santa to use such as exploding presents, smoke bomb baubles and what I can only describe as a radioactive candy cane?

Santa's Slay knows exactly what it's here to do...kill lots of people at Christmas time whilst riffing off a Jewish/Christian joke that is surprisingly never overstretched. You'll be hard pressed to find a great deal of Christmas-set, horror-comedies, except of course the Mighty Gremlins (1984), and for a movie as silly as Santa's slay that's not bad company to be in.

3 Stars ***

What did you think of Santa's Slay? Can you think of any other xmas-horror-comedies?

Friday, 13 December 2013

Friday the 13th part 2 (1981): Review

Friday the 13th part 2 is a 1981 slasher sequel. Directed by Steve Miner (House, Lake Placid) and starring Amy Steele (April Fool's Day), John Furey and Adrienne King. The film is the first in the long running series to feature Jason Voorhees as the antagonist.

Friday the 13th part 2 opens with a lengthy recap of the first film via Alice's nightmares for the benefit of audiences who had forgotten in the space of a year. Alice is quickly dispatched in a rare home visit from Jason as it becomes clear that 5 years have passed since the murderous rampage of Mrs Voorhees. Now Camp Crystal Lake has been condemned and a similar establishment has been setup down the road that will be manned this summer by manager Paul (Furey) and assistant Ginny (Steele) as well as a host of other foolish teenagers. The film continues to unfold in much the same way as the first film as "the body count continues" at the, increasingly creative, hands of Jason. When all is said and done the task falls to Ginny to outsmart the sack-headed woodsman and become the final girl.

Part 2 is very much the transitional film of the series. Maintaining the look and feel of Hitchcock-esque original whilst trying to forge it's own path through the overcrowded slasher market that it helped to create. In the process we see a horror icon in the making as the Jason character starts to take shape but is yet to be fully realised as the sack headed, dungaree wearing goon that was, visually, a take off of the 1976 film The Town that Dreaded Sundown. It makes it all the more frustrating that Jason is not revealed until the end of the film in an attempt to maintain a sense of mystery when it is plain, then and now, who the killer is.

As with many slasher films of the time the movie was neutered by the MPAA who were intent on removing any gore from the film amidst the video nasty moral panic. As a result the body count of the movie's tagline is largely imagined and not able to meet the standards established in the original film or the splatter of later films in the franchise. About the only slasher trope that is in abundance in the film is the half naked, horny teenager antics and cheesy teenage dialogue, which although entertaining, means much less without authentic psychopathic murders.

Part 2 sits in an awkward place between pioneering genre classic and iconic, if repetitive 80s sequels. Interesting to Friday the 13th completists only for its unique incarnation of Jason and memorably strong female lead character, this is perhaps the definition of a generic retread of an extremely profitable film.

** 2 Stars

What do you think of Part 2? Did you like Sack-head Jason?

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Gravity (2013): Review

Gravity is a 2013 science fiction film. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) and starring Sandra Bullock (Speed, Crash) and George Clooney (From Dusk til Dawn). Almost all of the movie was filmed on a sound stage at Shepperton studios.

Gravity follows the outer space crisis of astronauts Ryan Stone (Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (Clooney) as a series of satellites explode causing masses of debris to orbit the earth faster than a speeding bullet. This calamity not only causes our heroes to become separated from their craft and float off freely into orbit but also destroys their craft leaving foreign space stations as the only hope of survival. With earth communications severed, oxygen supplies running low and dwindling propulsion can our astronauts survive the deadly atmosphere of space.

The plot of Gravity is simple, perhaps deliberately, to accommodate the film's main strengths...tension and visual mastery. I wasn't a huge fan of the overrated Children of Men (2006) but what was made clear in that film, and in this one, is that Cuaron is a visual auteur and a technically gifted filmmaker. From the disorienting spins and jolts to the tranquil vistas of the earth below Cuaron ensures that he presents one of the most realistic and immersive space films ever created.

To further compliment the visual delights of Gravity, an excellent score is provided by Steven Price (The World's End, Attack the Block) accompanying the tonal shifts with either suspenseful strings or morose piano. This is reminiscent of the scores from Moon (2009) and Sunshine (2007), two of the greatest space-set science fiction movies, and only adds to immersive atmosphere of the film. The only criticisms of the film I could muster are a somewhat ho hum script and a typically smug and irritating George Clooney attempting (and failing) to provide comic relief.

Gravity has been prone to hyperbole from many critics, is it the film of the year?...No. Is it the greatest space film ever made?...No. Gravity is certainly the best sci-fi film of this year and one of the most immersive and visceral films you will ever see. Cuaron's technical achievements with the film tower above his contemporaries and will likely raise the bar paving the way for a new ultra stylised, yet realistic, direction for science-fiction as a treasured genre.

**** 4 Stars

What did you think of Gravity? Is it worthy of the Hype?