Visiting Hours

Director: Jean-Claude Lord (1982)
Starring: Lee Grant, Michael Ironside, William Shatner
Find it: IMDB

"Hey asshole, what gives?" you say, impatiently, "I come here for up-to-date reviews of the most recent horror releases, and yet here you are talking about a stupid psycho film no-one has ever heard of from 1982! I need found footage and mobile phones - not this irrelevant eighties bullshit." While there is a distinct lack of found footage and mobile phones (it was the eighties - only Gordon Gekko could afford one) is as depressingly relevant as ever. If not more so, given recent events and movements of our time.

I refer, of course, to the surprisingly popular practice of threatening to kill and/or rape women who say things that one might disagree with. Made in the early eighties, Visiting Hours doesn't even have its leading lady criticising Super Mario Bros (or whatever it is the kids are playing these days) to justify their killer's behaviour. Which just goes to show that some men will find any excuse to go around threatening to murder and rape women. In this case, it's feminist telly personality Deborah Ballin railing against domestic violence in one of her TV spots. Fantastically named psychopath Colt Hawker (Ironside) doesn't take too kindly to this woman having opinions and sets about hunting Deborah down. Well, without Twitter, the trolls of the 80s had to find alternative outlets for their aggression - like writing horrible semi-abusive letters to newspapers, for instance.

Related photograph.

After Colt's first attempt at murdering Deborah goes wrong, the pair of them wind up at the local hospital - she incapacitated with a broken arm, he determined to finish the job. It's just a shame about all those nurses and other patients that keep getting in his way - mostly down to Colt's inability to kill anyone without making a massive racket and alerting anyone and everyone in the nearby vicinity.

Ironside is fantastic as the mysoginist serial killer of the piece, his magnetic, snarling psychopath enthralling as much as he repulses and terrifies. I particularly enjoyed his leather vest, which sort of makes me wish Ironside had been cast in an early Die Hard sequel as some sort of anti-Bruce Willis, maybe also set in a hospital. Lee Grant does a sterling job as Deborah, although she's in it less than you might imagine - most of our time being spent with either Ironside or the young nurse he also has his eye on throughout. Still, when she does get to kick ass, she does so in a manner befitting Laurie Strode herself. It speaks volumes that William Shatner is in Visiting Hours and winds up being one of the least memorable things about it. Well, as set dressing goes, you can do far worse than William Shatner, whether he does anything or not.

There's an impressive atmosphere to Visiting Hours, being one of the more vicious and unpleasant pscyho-thrillers I've ever seen. It's sleazy and frequently nasty - the amount of time we spent with Colt quickly getting under the skin and keeping the audience unsettled throughout. He's deliciously unpredictable and oh-so beautifully 80s era Michael Ironside.

As effective as it is, the most notable thing about Visiting Hours (Ironside aside) is how predictably relevant it remains. It's only a YouTube or GamerGate reference away from modernity. The leather vest (shut up, it's great) and lack of mobile phones may date it a little, but, for some, violent misogyny never goes out of fashion. 


Kill Keith

Director: Andy Thompson (2011)
Starring: Marc Pickering, Keith Chegwin, Joe Pasquale, Tony Blackburn
Find it: IMDB

It's the Keith Chegwin horror movie, and it's a thing that actually exists. "Pooh," you say, "that's old news." To wit, I am not talking about his nudist game show Naked Jungle (link not suitable for work, or anywhere). Kill Keith stars British TV face and Twitter joke thief Keith 'Cheggers' Chegwin as himself, in a movie about a serial killer who busies himself knocking off rubbish celebrities. Kill Keith will be utterly meaningless to anyone unfamiliar with the likes of Chegwin, Joe Pasquale and Tony Blackburn (lucky you) - and only half-relevant to those who know who the particulars actually are. It's a movie with a very limited audience, but is all the better for it.

The celebrities play darkly skewed versions of themselves, making the whole affair seem like a gory version of Extras (although the jokes are a little less cruel than those you might have seen in Ricky Gervais's star-studded sitcom). The celebs do well, although they are in it a lot less than the film would have you believe. Squeaky Pasquale pops up just long enough to call someone a "minge" and die to a Monkees soundtrack with a cereal packet on his head. Even Cheggers himself isn't in it all that much, although he is one of the better actors assembled here. Tony Blackburn simply looks bemused - well, he is playing his own lookalike - while Russell Grant is only marginally less annoying than he is when doing his so-called day 'job' for real.

The story has lowly TV studio runner Danny (Pickering) lusting over breakfast telly host Dawn (Susannah Fielding), attempting to protect her from the violent overtures of the Breakfast Serial Killer (geddit). She of course hosts a show called The Crack of Dawn, which should give you an idea of the level of humour at work here. Geddit again. The style and direction only barely hides the fact that it really, really wants to be an Edgar Wright joint. The story, part Giallo part sitcom - struggles to be interesting despite some fun death sequences and its bizarre cameos. It's advertised as 'Saw meets Richard & Judy', but is never as horrifying or gruesome as either part of that sentence suggests (true story: Horrifying and Gruesome was the original working title for Richard & Judy).

Talking of horrifying and gruesome.

Best of the non-celebrities (and better than the celebrities) is David Easter as Dawn's acerbic co-host. Joe Tracini plays another Tony Blackburn well, while Pickering and Fielding are quite good as the leads. And you know what, I found the romantic subplot to be sweet. It's neither funny or scary enough to work as a horror, comedy or horror comedy but I enjoyed the film far more than I thought I would enjoy any movie which stars Keith Chegwin.

Like Cheggers himself, Kill Keith is a thoroughly acquired taste. If you'e unfamiliar with the intricacies of British breakfast TV and the regular faces therein, you'd be best off giving it a miss. It's weird, silly and horrendously naff. But then, so is its titular star. That's why (parts of) Britain loves him, and that's why I love Kill Keith.

The Killjoy Collection

Directors: Craig Ross Jr, Tammi Sutton, John Lechango
Starring: Trent Haaga, Angel Vargas, Victoria De Mare
Find it: Amazon

A funny thing happened as I worked my way through 88 Films' The Killjoy Collection - starting out with curiosity, turning to disappointment and then after filtering through various shades of boredom and resentment, I actually started to like the 99p franchise. I'd even go so far as to say that I was genuinely saddened when I finished the set, having no more left to see. Say, (producer) Charles Band, if you could hurry up with a fifth installment, I'd be highly appreciative.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy The Killjoy Collection, but is that a case of hate-watching or hipster irony at work? Honestly, I hope not. Sure, its first two entries are dire (some worse than others, eh Deliverance From Evil), but even that's preferable to the mass produced homogeneous nonsense (a hipster statement if ever there was one) cluttering cinemas everywhere with their 15 certificates and found footage bullshit. Killjoy, at least, tries. Its fourth entry is more original and interesting than most slasher movies could ever dare to be, slathered with with heaps of what it is that makes Full Moon great. That's the same reason I enjoy Jason Goes to Hell, Freddy's Dead, I Know Who Killed Me and The Wicker Man remake - I'll take an interesting failure over bland 'will this do?' coasting always and forever.

Also, it gives us Punchy the Hobo Clown, which I'll take over any of Pinhead's cenobites, anytime. The box set comes loaded with an appropriate amount of special features; that is to say, barely any. After all, this sort of thing is best in small doses. With two films per disc, it's a sparse release, but one that looks good on your shelf nevertheless. I'll probably never watch any of them again, but I'll be keeping hold of it, just, y'know, in case.

Anyhow, without further ado, the reviews. The Killjoy digest, if you will. Follow the links for the words:

Killjoy - In which I liken Killjoy to Oz and The Wire.
Killjoy 2: Deliverance From Evil - Bleeding clowns.
Killjoy 3 - Killjoy: with production values!
Killjoy Goes to Hell - The courtroom drama one.

Adding up that time I spent watching Killjoy and writing about Killjoy, that's at least ten hours this week I've spent thinking about Killjoy. I... I honestly don't know how to feel about that.

Killjoy Goes to Hell

Director: John Lechago (2012)
Starring: Trent Haaga, Victoria De Mare, Al Burke
Find it: IMDB

Freddy died, Leprechaun river danced himself to da hood (and space), Jason went to Hell; vengeance demon Killjoy follows in the latter's footsteps and heads off to Hell - being on trial there for letting a victim (the previous film's Jessica Whitaker) get away. Well, they couldn't send him off to da hood, since that's where he started out.

As the strongest elements of the first three (!) Killjoy movies were the makeup and nightmare sequences, it makes sense that Killjoy Goes to Hell should make those things its focus. And so a large part of the movie is actually set in Hell (which not even Jason Voorhees could muster), with a bounty of demons like Killjoy and his f(r)iends. Say what you will about the franchise, but it's a bold move to make your fourth entry in the series a courtroom drama, complete with all of the trappings. Not even A Nightmare on Elm Street went there, and Freddy Krueger: Child Murderer on Trial would have made a fantastic prequel to the series.

While the budget doesn't exactly stretch to Dante's Inferno, some adorably cheap CGI and wobbly, fluorescent sets do the job well enough. Even better, Punchy, Freakshow and Batty Boo all return too. This is punctuated with scenes set in the institution where Sandie (Whitaker) is under investigation for Killjoy's crimes. Here we find employed psychiatrists and professional police officers treating her story like a thing that could actually happen and not being fired instantly. It's just a shame that, in a role that doesn't require her to do much more than laugh, the filmmakers couldn't have found an actress capable of laughing even half-convincingly.

The upward trajectory continues. The makeup and special effects are good, Punchy the Hobo Clown gets plenty of screen time (his carny speak is particularly great) and there's a little character work going on in Killjoy and Batty's interactions. Even Haaga is less annoying than usual here, finally settling into the role. If Killjoy 3 was tolerable, his going to Hell is actually, genuinely... well, not good exactly, but it's definitely something. A slasher movie cum courtroom drama set in Hell, it's certainly original, I'll give it that.