Archive for August, 2010

Magdalena (Beyond the Darkness)

by on Aug.22, 2010, under Daily Review

A young woman becomes possessed by the Devil and goes crazy at boarding school. Great plot. Simple and to the point. There are some other little things going on too, the death of her Grandfather who was involved with a house of ill repute, but this isn’t really explained too well, with director Walter Boos focussing more on the charms of Dagmar Hedrich as the delightfully possessed Magdalene.

This is such an odd film; don’t write it off as a European exploitation Exorcist rip off as it’s a bit more than that. The film is gripping and great to watch, but there is some real magic in the cinematography, something I’ve never seen before with frame speed, speeding up in places to make a few naked cat fights look a bit odder. There are some moments with Magdalene jumping and falling etc which are just very strange, I’m not sure if this was created with reverse film or speeded up, but the effect is just so weird which really has a good impact on the scenes, a real good possessed technique. There is a shocking demon rape scene late on in the film which is very graphic and not for the faint hearted. 

There are some gruesome moments too, the opening sequence is truly shocking, with the old bloke strung up against the door. Great framing too in this scene. The acting is pretty average, but Hedrich certainly has some charm which adds to the films watchability. Some graphic scenes splashed throughout as you’d expect from this style of film, and a bit of blasphemous bad language and bingo, you have a fine euro possession.

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Week 43

by on Aug.21, 2010, under 365 Schedule

Continuing Exorcism week. Some great looking films:-

  • Magdalena
  • Cries and Shadows
  • The Antichrist
  • Malabimba
  • L’Ossessa
  • Exorcismo
  • Help me, I’m Possessed
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The Beast Within

by on Aug.21, 2010, under Daily Review

This is a confused film to say the least. I wouldn’t be surprised to be told the production company had trouble with finance or conflict of interests with directors as it actually looks and feels like 5 films rolled into one. Damn shame as it starts out stunning.

A could break down in their car out in the wooded swamp lands. The Husband (Ronny Cox) heads for help, leaving the missus in the car. She’s brutally attacked by a strange man-beast and as a result, bares its child.  17 years later, the kid is begins to suffer with pineal gland issues which could cause death. (If not his own, probably every one else’s). The parents decide to track down the biological father. The kid is soon possessed by a strange entity which takes over his mind and actions and leads us to a devastating over the top ridiculous make up effect.

Philippe Mora directed this. At first, you can see he’s aiming for a Howling type look and feel, Even casting Bibi Besch as the rape victim who strongly resembles Dee Wallace. The film tries several routes all attempting Lovecraftian ties, but it just ends up looking and feeling like a huge mess. Paul Clemens is a poor choice for the lead role too, as the son possessed by his supernatural beast father. Parts look like a great film whilst others could be a TV drama. Shame really as this one had a bit of potential.  

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House of Exorcism

by on Aug.20, 2010, under Daily Review

This film will turn your world upside down. Never have I experienced the like which is probably Argento’s biggest influence on Suspiria & Inferno with huge crazy set pieces and colourful dialogue which takes you on a journey then leaves you mid trip, only to be offered a new direction with some dangerous characters. I feel like I’ve just watched Lynch’s Lost Highway backwards.

The plot involves Lisa (Played by the delightful Elke Sommer) who arrives in a beautiful Italian town on a tourist trip. After some mesmerising moments looking at a devilish painting her world begins to spin, she is lost in the back streets only to meet up with a ventriloquist (Telly Savalas) who reminds her of the painting. Then she’s outside of a church, she stumbles and faints and the next thing we know, she’s possessed. From her possessed state we get flash memories or dreams of another life, one where she is to marry a charming yet spooky young chap with a magical gothic mansion and a possessive old mother. She’s put off when he shows her his former darling, now a skeleton in his bed, but this doesn’t stop the young chap as he suffocates our heroin and the pair join the corpse on the bed. All the while, the ventriloquist is making appearances with dolls of people she has met along the way, some die is shocking scenes. So Lisa (Sommers) is still possessed in a hospital. A priest tries his best with her, but finds it difficult to resist the devils trickery.

The film is amazing to watch. It’s quite something else really with so much going one, so much un-conventionalism and some shocking plot devices. All this, and it’s shot amazingly with scortching performances all around. Mario Bava is a legend, but he really is a remarkable film maker, breaking boundaries and never taking the easy route. This shows his ability to create, not only a film, but a work of art.

Interestingly, House of Exorcism is a re-edit of one of Bava’s earlier films, with the possession sequences dropped in to cash in on the Exorcist thing. I’ll be taking a look at Lisa and the Devil in a few weeks to compare the two.

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Within the Woods

by on Aug.19, 2010, under Daily Review

Back in 1978 a group of friends had a dream of making movies. Rip Tapert, Bruce Campbell, Scott Spiegel and Sam Raimi. This is the beginning of something magical which changed cinema for me and thousands of other horror fans. Their collaborative dream created one of the most original and incredible horror films ever made, even today standing up against some of the greats, The Evil Dead was made for peanuts and changed the genre forever, but here we have what came before. Within the Woods is the grounding for the Evil Dead. The bare bones of dedication and enthusiasm, which was used as leverage to gain some small financial support from local rich businessmen. It’s easy to see why they made that investment.

A group of friends head out into the woods to stay in a small remote log cabin for the weekend. Bruce (Campbell) tells Ellen (Sandweiss) of local folk lore of the burial site of an Indian tribe and for the terror which will bestow those who trouble the graves. During a picnic in the woods, Bruce disturbs such a grave by mistake which in turn causes a turn of events which will change (or should I say end) their lives.

I feel like I’m watching the a film incarnation of the Holy Grail here. I’ve read about this film since I was 15 years old and now 23 years later I’ve finally watching this amazing film. It is truly mesmerising cinema, captivating with every scene. I was gripped from the off and glued for the entire film. The acting is outstanding, script is great and camerawork is so ‘out there’, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before, apart from Evil Dead,  even though it’s style has been ripped off over the years, no-one captures this kind of style and magic.

It’s absolutely terrifying too with an amazing mix of suspense and realistic harsh gore which is something I wasn’t really expecting as it’s budget was zilch. Another thing which stands out here is the sound effect which are the signature of Evil Dead; the same is used here. Haunting spooky sounds, Possessed Bruce barking ‘Join us!’ is ridiculously effecting and horrific.

It’s amazing that so many young film makers want to make a great film but actually have no real style or creativity. Here we have this in abundance and it’s so inspiring that a masterpiece, although very rough around the edges, can be achieved without a budget, with dedication and a dream.

This is something else and has been one of the finest moments of the project so far. I urge you all to check this out.

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Summer Scars

by on Aug.18, 2010, under Daily Review

This was included at the last minute and how glad am I that I took this route? It’s great when you grab a film not knowing much about it and it turns out to be a real little gem. Right here with Summer Scars, we have such a gem.

The film focus’s on a group of kids living on a council estate in Wales. Bingo, Mugsy, Ben, Jonesy, Paul and Leanne. They make their own fun playing out in the nearby woods away from the grey concrete; it’s escapism at its most natural. But within the woods, dark things can be found. Peter is a rough looking bloke who finds the kids and bonds instantly, becoming one of the gang for the day, but his actions soon turn as the unbalanced mind of a disturbed bloke threatens the fun.

This is where it turns dark and sinister, brutal shocking and sickening. Some scenes hit you in the pit of your stomach; others turn the hairs on the back of your neck. This, I was not expecting. A super young cast with a great script and a simple plot, paired against the acting ability of Kevin Howarth (Peter). This is good stuff here and something for all concerned to be proud of, balancing social issues with friendship, adolescence, love, hate, revenge and murder. Simple enough with pure heart and loads of atmosphere which takes you on a roller coaster of emotions. Peter is a nasty piece of work and great to see a villain of this style, the kind of bloke your parents warn you about when you are a kid.

Julian Richards, director has created a stunning film with outstanding performances from a very young cast. Powerful and brutal stuff with a real heart.

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Trip with the Teacher

by on Aug.16, 2010, under Daily Review

On a field trip out to the Californian desert, a teacher faces the challenge of protecting her class of girls from crazy bikers after their school bus breaks down. What results is a torrent of abuse and violence with only one way out.

This film is nuts. I can’t believe I’ve never seen it, never even heard of it. It’s shot rock solid allowing the performances to take centre stage here which results in a kinda theatrical feel, although super harsh and graphic. This would make a stunning play.

This is top quality 70’s sleeze, seldom discovered at this kind of level. The cators cary the simple plot and keep the viewer mesmerised throughout the scenario of dominance. Zalman King, last seen in Blue Sunshine, here is outstanding in a role which stands up against David Hess’ Last House & Edge of the Park  performances. Stunning and captivating. Brenda Fogarty is great as the teacher, Susan Russell, Cathy Worthington, Jill Voight and Dina Ousley are the girls on the trip.

This was Earl Barton’s one and only movie and it’s a damn shame as it’s brilliantly shot with great pace and accuracy. As I mention, it’s the characters which run this film, allowing Barton’s script to poor, rich and dramatic. And what a performance he gets out of the cast. Scortching.  

Finally, the score is a cool funky 70’s groove which is perfect here. Igo Kantor gets the credit. I’m shocked at how cool this film is. Violence in the best possible gritty graphic taste.

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A Vacation in Hell

by on Aug.16, 2010, under Daily Review

Christ, I’ve sat through some bad films this year but this one was hard work. Whose idea was this one?

The plot is ridiculous. Four girls and a bloke decided a luxury holiday on a tropical island is getting a bit drab, all those cocktails and rich food and groovy parties and so, they escape and head off into the jungle soon the get lost. They are then set up on by tribal blokes with spears and it becomes kinda like Hills Have Eyes for day time viewing. A crazy plot as if they just carried on walking down the beach, they would have found some kind of civilisation, even a bloke selling melons, which is what basically happens at the end of the film.

Staring Priscilla Barnes, Barbara Feldon, Andrea Marcovicci and Michael Brandon. Maureen McCormack from the Brady Bunch is the highlight here. Great actress and loads of fun which makes this film barely watchable. A different director and this film would have been a totally different film. Jess Franco could have done wonders with this plot and cast, now there’s a film I’d like to see.

Lets move on and pretend this one never happened.

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The Summer of the Massacre

by on Aug.15, 2010, under Daily Review

I’m impressed that this film actually got a DVD release and that the box looks pretty good. Makes the film look like a real movie. When I say that, it’s not sarcasm as the film is obviously a very cheap production created by a small dedicated team out to achieve glory, or at least create some form of film they can be a little bit proud of. Is it any good?

It’s cheap. Did I mention that? And with cheap comes poor production, poor acting, bad direction and a crappy plot. Here we see some real heart shining through though with actors creating a spark of character with a script which was probably adlibbed which I found to be really good. This is probably the highlight for me as the actors are all doing quite a good job. Notably, Jeannette James, Chriss Jarratt, Jack Wilkie and Amy Formon. The plot is a simple one which has all the key characteristic of a classic stalk and slash flick from the 80’s. Kids lost in the woods on a camping trip. Weirdo warns them off. Classic murder of random strangers in the opening scene before the introduction of the key players. Finally, we have a nutter with a mask.

The camera work lets this film down more than anything. It’s really poor. Some overly close up shots and some crazy shaky stuff too. The first rule of making a cheap film is get a good DP and camera man. Keep steady shot to distract from the lack of inexperience, although, avoid long lingering scenes too. The next big issue is the score and foley. The score is bad, crappy keyboard and too much of it. The foley I also too much. The crazy bloke shouts and barks far too much which ruins the over all suspense of the final 20 minutes. Running around the woods could be better if it was a bit quieter and spookier.

This aside, I enjoyed the film. It’s good to see a British slasher and the film industry alive and well, and it’s reassuring to see some enthusiasm for the genre. No doubt with a bit of revenue which this film could make out of DVD sales, I’d expect Bryn Hammond (Director) to step up the game with his next movie.

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Week 42

by on Aug.14, 2010, under 365 Schedule

I was gonna end the Holiday season last week and start afresh here,but there are a few more odd films left i just need to take a look at, which then blends us into Exorcist homage season. (or should i say, creative European theft?)

  • The Summer of the Massacre
  • Trip With The Teacher
  • Vacation in Hell
  • Summer Scars
  • Within the Woods
  • House of Exorcism
  • Nero Veneziano  The Beast Within
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