The House on Sorority Row (1983)


Director: Mark Rosman (1983)
Starring: Kate McNeil, Eileen Davidson, Janis Ward, Robin Meloy
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Exactly like Black Christmas, except it isn’t Christmas and there’s no Lois Lane. Also: interminable disco scenes ala Prom Night, and a Michael Myers-lite killer, complete with a budget Doc Loomis and hysteria-overloaded Laurie. Thankfully: breasts and beheadings to make things more tolerable.

Living in the titular* sorority house, seven student girls decide to have themselves a party to celebrate their graduation. Only house mother Mrs. Slater (a blatant Mama Voorhees wannabe) is proves to be a right grumpy-pants and storms about the house, bursting the girls’ water-beds and shouting a lot. The girls decide to teach Slater a lesson, pulling a prank on the poor biddy. When said prank involves a gun and a swimming pool, you know it’s all gonna end in tears. Unfortunately, their accidental murder happens to coincide with the party they had planned. Can't cancel the band. The booze has already been bought. Sink the dead body; there's a party to be had.

The House on Sorority Row
is about as derivative as 1980s’ slasher movies can get. Every cliche imaginable is in there, accompanied by a few more for good measure. You'll be able to predict who gets killed when and where, and you'll even know when to expect the fake-out shocks. The fake-out shocks, in fact, are usually followed by fakey-looking deaths, complete with blood several shades too red, and plastic-looking limbs.

The characters are all one-note idiots, portrayed by mostly incapable actresses. (Probably) virginal Kathryn couldn't be any more signposted as the movie's Final Girl. The killer is rubbish too, using a pointed walking stick as his murder weapon of choice. But hey; there's a lot of boobs in this movie.

With that in mind, any merits are either ironic or directed by your penis. There are plenty of scenes with the girls either naked or in their nightwear, and a bunch more that are laughable in their sheer rubbishness. The high points: a girl's decapitated head left in a toilet bowl. Anything involving nudity. A lot of ridiculousness involving a dead body, a swimming pool, a roll of carpet and a dumpster. The low points: mostly everything, but shut up and look at the boobies.

There are a couple of bits that work well, and it really throws you off. The final scenes see Kathryn drugged out of her eyeballs. There's a bit with a clown, too, and it makes the killer actually seem quite scary. But then he goes and spoils it all by falling down a fucking ladder.

The House on Sorority Row is, overall, a bit of a shitty movie. But when I say that, I mean it in the very best way. Like the similarly naff Prom Night, it gets by on old fashioned sleaze and high-camp silliness. Plus: a decapitated head in a toilet.





* Tee-hee. Tit. Tits feature quite heavily in this movie and this review.

10 movies no horror fan should admit to liking...


And I'm not talking about your porn collection, you dirty bastard...

10. Because of Winn-Dixie: It's a cliche almost as old as the movie's concept: cynical movie-reviewer falls in love with cutesy dog movie. But I did. Because of Winn-Dixie is unapologetically sweet, but gets by from a bunch of earnest performances from likeable actors. Anna Sophia Robb is a face to watch; always good, even in dross like Race to Witch Mountain or that Biblical thing with the plagues. She also stars in Bridge to Terabithia, which is just fuckin' traumatic.

9. I Know Who Killed Me/The Wicker Man 2006: Suprisingly, the only horror movies on this list. I love them completely; every moment of their respective runtimes. When it comes to so-bad-it's-goodness, Lindsay Lohan and Nic Cage are King. In fact, this whole list could've included Nic Cage movies I secretly enjoy (hello Ghost Rider).

8. The Wild Thornberrys Movie: Yes, and I even saw the crossover movie they did with the Rugrats (not as good). It's a cartoon thing about a girl who can talk to animals. She travels around in a big van with her family (Tim Curry) and a monkey. Enviromental issues ensue. If memory serves, the movie pits the Thornberrys against ivory hunters.

7. Scooby Doo: The second one wasn't much cop - and I've not seen the STD sequel - but I do kinda enjoy the first live-action Scooby Doo. Velma, it turns out, is actually quite hot in real life. Okay, it's definitely shit, but I enjoyed it all the same. And it was quite a neat little touch to have Scrappy Doo revealed as the villain at the end. Oh, who am I kidding? I hate me.

6. The Fantastic Four: Not the Roger Corman version (which has its ironic merits), but I do have a sneaking, very private appreciation for the 2005 Fantastic 4. And while we're at it, Ang Lee's Hulk is better than the "re-imagining". Just sayin'.

5. Bolt: The John Travolta/Hannah Montana cartoon dog movie. A similar concept to Toy Story (not included, incidentally, because the Pixar flicks aren't guilty pleasures. They're good movies, period) but with a bit more slush. I cried like a bitch at the end.

4. About a Boy: Yes, a Hugh Grant movie. Thankfully it's his best and his least twee. For once, he doesn't play an English fop. Well, he's English and a little bit foppish, but he mostly plays an arse. An arse who forms a begrudging friendship with a troubled, bullied young lad. A bit like Bad Santa, except there's a happy ending and everyone likes each other.

3. Stardust: To be fair, Stardust is a very good movie. It's more of a romance, despite its fantasy affectations, but there's nothing wrong with that. I read the book too, which is good. Could've done without Ricky Gervais (that's more of a criticism on film in general) but it's definitely a movie worthy of your time, even for those who don't usually appreciate romance or fantasy. And hey, Michelle Pfeiffer is still very hot.

2. Grease: It's the word. John Travolta gets a second billing on this list (would have been third; but I really don't consider Face/Off a guilty pleasure). Yes, it's a musical. Yes, all the stars are about ten years too old to be at school. But the music is fun and funky. And the girl with the pink hair makes me drool.

1. Enchanted: Yes, first place goes to a Disney Princess in a big blue dress. Enchanted is one of my favourite kids' flicks of recent years. The romance is sweet, the performances are fun (possibly my favourite from James Marsters) and the jokes work. Undeniable proof that it is possible to be a fan of horror and not be dead in the heart.

Free shit: The Hungering


The Hungering is a comic I wrote and illustrated several years back. The plot: After returning from a mountain-climbing-expedition-gone-wrong, Norman Fulcher is a man haunted. He finds himself struck with an insatiable desire for human flesh. I know, the story is a rip-off of that movie you saw with John Saxon; but stick with it. Eventually, the writer/illustrator gets bored and just starts killing shit for the sake of shit. It's badly illustrated and the writing style is hackneyed and substandard. There's an obvious love for video nasties there, but it never develops a life of its own. Whichever idiot created this should instantly be banned from ever being allowed near a word-processor/pencil/crayons again.

Incidentally, it's written and illustrated by me. And you get it for free, because I wouldn't ask anyone to pay for this shit. Download it from Megaupload in pdf format.

The Hungering gets 0/5 screaming Scream Queens, because it's shit. Decide for yourself and download the bastard thing (http://www.megaupload.com/?d=5ZOR8L1V in case you're too stupid to notice the subtle weblinks scattered throughout this review).

Jennifer's Body


Director: Karyn Kusama (2009)
Starring: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried,
Find it online: IMDB

There's suspension of disbelief, and then there's Jennifer's Body. As a horror fan, I'm able to overlook a lot of silly concepts. The central plot point in Jennifer's Body, however, is something that I cannot stomach.

Sure, you can ask us to believe that a cheerleader is transformed into a man-chomping demon. I can even (try to) believe that any character played by Megan Fox is popular and functions fully in everyday society. But the central conceit that someone could mistake Megan Fox for a virgin? O' Hell, I'm stupid, but not that stupid. After a rock band sacrifices decidedly non-virginal Jennifer (Fox) in order to achieve fame, she's transformed into a man-eating demon. After becoming a succubus, Jennifer soon forgets about BFF Needy (Seyfried). OMG, so not cool. It's like a gory version of Mean Girls. And only marginally more shitty. Actually, full disclosure: I kinda liked Mean Girls. So Jennifer's Body is actually a lot more shitty.

Facial expressions with Megan Fox #1: Sexy


Like Homecoming, Jennifer's Body is a horror movie designed to appeal to horny teenagers and fans of atmospheric but vacuous television programmes. It looks and feels like an R-rated version of Supernatural or Smallville. I'm sure Clark Kent probably faced a succubus demon at some point, and the brothers bland of Stupernatural definitely did. All that's missing here is some combination of kryptonite, Lana Lang and a road trip. As the youth today becomes stupider and more vacuous, so do their on-screen counterparts. As a result, we get movies filled with vacuous idiots; as concerned with downloading the latest app on their iPhone as they are surviving Freddy Kreuger (there's probably an app for that).

Facial expressions with Megan Fox #2: Evil

But there's a good movie buried there somewhere here; a splatterpunk version of Carrie, ruined by the self-consciously wordy script and the presence of Megan 'Charisma Black Hole is my middle name' Fox. The character of Jennifer is every bit as unlikeable as the actress behind her. Clearly hired to entice a horny, stupid male audience, Megan Fox is completely out of place in the movie. She looks autistic and sounds stoned. Perhaps Jennifer's Body could've worked as an Indie movie with a no-name actress in the lead, but by cynically going for the stupid horny man vote, the movie loses any sense of artistic integrity. And besides, the script is far too wordy for an actress of Jennifer Fox's calibre. In future she should just stick to pouting at gigantic robots, whining about better actresses and insulting her target audience (horny children) and Michael Bay (himself a horny child).

Facial expressions with Megan Fox #3: WALKING

Talking of better actresses, Amanda Seyfried turns in a pretty good performance. It's ironic that she should be overshadowed by someone with literally no screen presence, but there you have it. She's one of the few things that make Jennifer's Body a more bearable movie; and I actually find her a lot more attractive than Megan 'Dead Behind The Eyes is also my middle name' Fox. JK Simmons is excellent as always, but doesn't get nearly enough screentime.

Facial expressions with Megan Fox #4: Gagged
(most tolerable acting style)

Jennifer's Body is a passable movie that might be a bit more enjoyable for those with a higher tolerance for Megan Fox. There are high points, certainly, but overall the movie just seems too self-satisfied, exploitative and masturbatory (hello, unecessary lesbian scene). Bored with horror now, writer Diablo Cody's next work looks to be an adaptation of Sweet Valley High. Something, I suspect, her style will be far more suited to.

Homecoming (or, Misery for the idiot generation)

Director: Morgan Freeman (not that one) 2009
Starring: Mischa Barton, Jessica Stroup, Matt Long
Find it online: IMDB

Inexplicable golden-boy quarterback Mike (Long) returns to his hometown for a Christmas break away from University, his new girlfriend Elizabeth (Stroup) in tow. Only his ex-girlfriend, Shelby (Barton) isn't too pleased, and makes said displeasure known by kidnapping Elizabeth. Cue silly ankle torture, non-menacing psychopathy and lots and lots of bland predictability.

The whole thing plays out like Misery by way of The OC. And I'm not just saying that because it stars Mischa Barton; it's because The Homecoming is a whiny, vapid little movie filled with whiny, vapid characters and terrible American rock. This movie is to Misery as Swimfan was to Fatal Attraction.
That's a lie, for a start.

As some whiny American rock plays over the credit sequence, you know what sort of movie you're in for straight away. There's not a single ugly person in Homecoming, and you'll expect Tom Welling to show up at any moment to save the day. The whole thing looks and feels like an overlong episode of Smallville/The OC/One Tree Hill/90210 (from where most of the cast has apparently been culled).

It's completely unconvincing in every respect. Mischa Barton is incapable of conveying the requisite menace for her 'character', let alone anything remotely resembling emotion. She's no Kathy Bates, that's for sure. Her voice is so fucking irritating that you'll wish you were deaf everytime she opens her stupid mouth. Jessica Stroup does fine, although she's not required to do anything other than look all doe-eyed and helpless. Matt Long is so bland I've forgotten him already. There's nothing to justify Shelby's stalkerish behaviour. Most of the characters are supposed to be university students; yet they're so unremittingly thick, you'll have a hard time believing that they've ever been even near a school in their entire lives.

Anybody who's ever watched, read or heard of Misery will find Homecoming dull and predictable. This is a scary movie for people who don't like to be scared; a thriller for those who don't like to be thrilled. And, because the target audience are unlikely to have ever watched Misery, Morgan Freeman (no... don't be silly) and his script'writers' are free to rip it off and water it down as much as they see fit. There's foot torture, but nothing even nearly as iconically wince-inducing as suffered by James Caan. Homecoming is so pussified that I was surprised to hear Shelby actually say "fuck".

On the flipside of the turd, the cast are nice to look at. There's no nudity, but Jessica Stroup does look nice in a tank-top. Oh, and there's a funny moment where she hits Shelby in the face with a bit of toilet. Also, the first thing you'd do when fleeing a psycho is take the time to pull on a goddamn jacket and slip into a pair of Ugg boots.

Homecoming, then, is a pointless, humourless, witless little movie that feels like it should be a remake of something else. Had this starred, say, Lindsay Lohan and had the good grace to embrace the tired concept, maybe there'd be a few kitsch laughs to be had. But there aren't. Watching Homecoming will teach you the true meaning of the word Misery.

Ridiculously late Reviews: 300

Director: Zack Snyder (2006)
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Michael Fassbender, Dominic West
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

In Abdomens: The Movie, Gerard Butler plays the King of a nation of Abdomens, who call themselves ‘Spartans’. As an impossibly tough voiceover (later delivered by a chappy with a face several degrees too soft) informs us, the Spartans are so tough that they throw all their deformed or weak babies off’ve clifftops. They’re bred to be super-hard, super-angry and super-stubborn. We watch as King Abs is born, doesn’t get thrown off’ve a cliff and kills a CGI wolf with a spear.

Some years later, King Abs (occasionally known as Leonidas) has grown a beard and is still an angry bastich. He has a son now, and is married to Sarah Connor Lena Headey. But because characterisation is for wimps, we get straight to the plot. And by plot, I mean killing. A Persian messenger shows up in King Abs’ city and tells him that King Xerxes is intent on ruling the world. And that Abs and the Spartans need to fall into line. The Spartans, it quickly becomes apparent, bow to no-one. King Abs kicks the messenger down a hole and declares war. He takes 300 of his best warriors and heads off to war.
300 is an adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller. But, because this review is four years late, you already knew that. This being (modern) Frank Miller, expect lots of machismo, bad female characterisation and bucketloads of violence. Once more, Miller romanticises violence and makes heroes of the knuckleheaded Spartans. There’s not a likeable character in the whole movie. There’s only one fella (Dominic West) who suggests diplomacy and, y’know, not acting like a tosser; and he’s revealed to be a rapist and a traitor. A bit like Superman in The Dark Knight Returns, but more obviously rapey.

This isn’t meant to be a bad review, since 300 is actually a pretty entertaining movie. It’s just that there isn’t much on offer other than silly macho idiots and six-packs. It’s like an inspirational film for the likes of Ross Kemp, lager-louts and bodybuilders.

It's an easy movie to mock; but that's kinda missing the point (besides, Meet the Spartans got there first - and look how that turned out). Sure, it's daft; unashamedly so. The homoeroticism is at unbelievably high levels, occasionally hand in hand with a bit of casual homophobia - and there are plenty of comparisons to be made to modern warfare and politics, should you be looking for that sort of thing. It's like the Iraq war, only Saddam's wearing more jewellery and George Bush has a six-pack.

Those looking for subtlety will be greatly disappointed with - and probably a bit angered by - 300. Everyone else should just enjoy it for what it is; a movie in which ridiculously buff blokes chop up ridiculously effeminate blokes and drop elephants off've cliffs. 300 is a movie which more or less defies criticism. Like the Spartans themselves, 300 revels in its own boneheadedness.

Yet another of those damn 'Best of' lists...


Well, everyone else is doing it. And, being a registered LAMB, I might as well join in with the other sheep (get it? Lamb... like a sheep... GET IT) and offer forth my own favourite movies of the past decade. There's a top three movies from each year, plus an overall winner at the end of the list: my favourite movie of the decade. And there's a booby (hyuk yuk, I said booby) prize for the worst too.

2000!

American Psycho
Cherry Falls
Hollow Man

2001! (A dodgy year for horror, hence a bit of barrel-scraping in the top three here).

Ghosts of Mars
Jason X (fuck off. I liked it)
Ichi the Killer

2002!

Dog Soldiers
Bubba Ho Tep
28 Days Later

2003!

Wrong Turn
Oldboy
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

2004!

Dawn of the Dead
Shaun of the Dead
Hellboy

2005!

The Descent
Three... Extremes
Land of the Dead (disappointing, but enjoyable)

2006!

The Hills Have Eyes
Slither
Feast

2007!

Death Proof (fuck the fuck off. I really liked it)
Planet Terror
REC

2008!

My Name is Bruce (flawed, but I loved it)
Midnight Meat Train

2009!

My Bloody Valentine 3D (yes, I enjoyed the hell out of it)

And now, without further ado - my most favourite and most loathed horror movies of the decade. One of the two selections will come as no surprise to anyone who has even a passing knowledge of this site.

Cue a great deal of whingeing, "why didn't you include ___" and "how dare you include ____" in the comments below. A belated happy new year to alla' y'all. And here's to another ten years of shitty horror reviews.

The Punisher: Welcome to the Bayou

Punisher MAX comics are usually gory, violent and stupid enough to warrant inclusion in the Review Hole, but Welcome to the Bayou is even more so than usual. Basically, it’s The Punisher meets Deliverance. And yes, that is every bit as beautiful as it sounds.

Frank Castle (the Punisher) is travelling the Louisiana back roads. With a gang-banger all tied up in his trunk, all is well with the world. And then he stops off in Deliverance country for gas. While in the gas station, he notices a group of drunken teenagers being eyed up by the locals. Before you can say “headcheese”, the kids are kidnapped and tied up as alligator bait/rape fodder/dinner. Being the Punisher, Castle gets himself involved. The rest of the story unfolds like a Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel. Only with added Punisher.

Following the disappointing Girls in White Dresses (good buildup – terrible waste of a good villain), Welcome to the Bayou is a great return to form for the MAX line. It’s the first time reading a Punisher arc that I didn’t miss Garth Ennis. All respect to the Ennis meister, but I don’t think this is a story he’d be particularly interested in telling. It’s a fun, gory little ditty by crime author Victor Gischler, and you certainly don’t need to have done any previous reading to enjoy it. There’s no continuity to it, and the story plays out like the most entertaining of Badass vs Cannibal Hicks movies.

The bad guys here are the Geautreaux family. They’re all paper thin character archetypes (the gorgeous loon, the demented hillbilly cousins, the muscular nutter, the demented, masked child-like crazy bloke) but that’s no bad thing in this case. The joy of it is in seeing the Punisher tear them to bits. As anyone with even a passing knowledge of the character will know, Castle specializes in city-dwelling gangster types (and, occasionally, desert-dwelling terrorist types), murdering them all to bits with a huge arsenal of guns. In Welcome to the Bayou, Castle is completely out of his comfort zone. He’s dealing with people even more fucked up than himself or Jigsaw. He’s dealing with people he can’t scare or intimidate. There’s no doubt that he’ll get out alive, but in Bayou, his journey is far weirder than he’s used to. And he has to take on much of it in his underwear.

The book is illustrated by Goran Parlov – himself no stranger to the Punisher MAX line (he also illustrated the Barracuda, Long Cold Dark and Valley Forge, Valley Forge arcs), and his style compliments the tone and the story brilliantly. There have been better Punisher illustrators, but Parlov is unmatched in depicting gory, messy and violent fight scenes; scenes which are aplenty in Welcome to the Bayou.

Maybe a love for both backwoods horror and the Punisher is neccesary if you want to love Welcome to the Bayou as much as I do. And there are a myriad of problems that still can't be ignored. There's a bit in the middle which sees a gang-banger take on narration duties, which is annoying; the baddies are dispatched too quickly; the book's far too short. Hardcore horrorheads might find it a bit predictable - there are more cliches at play here than Haylie Duff's Backwoods. But the brilliance of it all is seeing the Punisher deal with all these cliches; seeing him react to such horror as only the Punisher can.

Daybreakers


Director: The Spierig brothers (2009)
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, Willem Defoe, Claudia Karvan
Find it online: IMDB

A world populated mostly by vampires is far more functional than movies such as I Am Legend would have you believe. Whilst Will Smith’s bloodsuckers spent their days skulking in warehouses and letting the world go to waste, Daybreakers has them properly ruling the world; as the opening credits roll we get vampire TV, vampire Starbucks, vampire-adapted cars and vampire chavs.

Ethan Hawke plays a vampire called Edward, and he doesn’t, at any point over the movie’s running time, sparkle. He’s a haematologist, trying to create a blood substitute. Because the greedy vamps have decimated 95% of the human population, there’s a thirst on. Being a reluctant vampire, Edward refuses to drink blood and desperately wants to save humanity from extinction. Meanwhile, Boss Man Charles Bromley (Sam Neill, on fine slimy form) wants to farm the humans for their blood and sell it at a high profit.

Thing is, if Daybreaker’s vampires don’t drink blood, they start to degenerate – eventually turning into bat-like zombie hobos, so stupid that they’ll even turn on other vampires to quench their thirst. Doc Edward best hope he finds a blood replacement soon, because things are looking grim. It’s little wonder that vampires seem to be constantly smoking. Non-smokers will definitely hate this movie, since Edward perpetually seems to be wandering around with a fag in his mouth.

On his miserable travels, Edward happens across a band of humans, led by ex-vampire Willem Defoe. Apparently Defoe has himself a cure for vampirism. Full of self-loathing and general Ethan Hawkiness, Edward joins forces with the humans in an attempt to cure himself. Cue several messy fights, decapitations and well-done action set pieces.

It’s pitched as a cross between The Matrix and 28 Days Later but is actually like neither of those movies. Daybreakers actually reminded me more of a cross between Equilibrium and Blade. But I can see why they wouldn’t want to mention Equilibrium on the posters. Thankfully, it’s much better than that particular BaleBat-turd. It’s an interesting world which the vampires live in; slightly reminiscent of the reality suggested in True Blood (albeit with the vampire/human balance more than slightly skewed). It's a fun idea, and one I wouldn't mind seeing revisited in sequel form.

Ethan Hawke does his Ethan Hawke thing, and it works well here; few actors do the tortured action man thing like Hawke, and it definitely suits the character. He’s ably supported by Neill and Defoe. Bromley is undeniably a great villain, and adds a nice element of meanness to the movie. Willem Defoe is cool in everything, and is no different here. His character – nicknamed Elvis – looks and feels like a long-lost brother to Zombieland’s Tallahassee. It's just a shame that he doesn't get to share any screen time with Neill. There'd undoubtedly be sparks to be found there.

Alas, vampires have been overexposed as of late, and that hurts Daybreakers cause. Cool and fun as it may be, there’s always the overriding feeling that you’ve seen it all before. Of the other downsides, there’s a few too many Deus Ex Machina, and some of the characterisation is a bit predictable.

But despite its minor flaws, Daybreakers is a strong start to 2010 (at least, in the UK it is. It came out last year in the US) and an excellent reclamation of credibility for the otherwise loved-up and limp vampire subgenre.

The Wicker Man (1973)


Director: Robin Hardy (1973)
Starring: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Eckland
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Because TV schedulers here in Britain seem to have a thing for showing The Wicker Man every New Year (literally; I’ve watched it every year for the past three or four years) why not shoot off a few thoughts from my opinion-hole?

I first became aware of The Wicker Man at an age when I was far too young to do so. It was on New Years’ Eve, in fact, and I was about ten. New Years’ Eve being a time for stopping up past one’s normal bedtime, I got to avoid Jools Holland’s annual Hootenanny thing in favour of 1973’s The Wicker Man, which my hippy parents were very much a fan of. I didn't remember the rest of the movie, but that ending - and this movie - stuck with me until I was old enough to give the thing a proper viewing.

For the uninitiated, The Wicker Man is a Hammer Horror that takes place on a small little island somewhere off the British coast. Enter Police Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward), called to investigate an anonymous report of a missing girl. Once on the island, Howie receives a very frosty reception, and notices that the residents are all behaving rather oddly – even the missing girl’s mother, who seems completely unbothered by her child’s disappearance. Whereas Nicolas Cage would have solved this by punching some bitches in the face, Sgt. Howie decides to stick around and investigate.

Just out of shot: Nic Cage riding in on his bicycle to save the day

Hopefully, you’d know this already. Howie’s investigations lead him to the doorstep of the island’s spiritual leader – Lord Summersisle (Christopher Lee) – who is also behaving rather oddly. Damn hippies. There are also, sleazes will be glad to know, quite a lot of scenes which see naked youths dancing around fires and flouting their sexuality at the virginal, repressed, Christian Howie. Chief amongst these scenes – almost as iconic as the titular Wicker Man – is barmaid Willow (Britt Eckland) who harasses poor Howie at night by dancing around naked and bouncing her lady-bits off’ve doors and suchlike. A scene which, incidentally, led husband-at-the-time Rod Stewart to attempt to have the film banned.

Inevitably, Howie’s investigations lead him into troubled waters. You should probably know how the movie ends by now, but far be it for me to spoil that for you. Wicker Man’s denouement is my favourite movie ending, ever. The movie is excellently acted by all involved (even Eckland, who admittedly doesn’t have to do much but be sexy and naked) and turns traditional horror tropes on their heads wonderfully. It all takes place in the daylight; there's next to no action or violence; no blood. The horror of it comes through the sheer unfamiliarity of the situation; it's in the villagers' friendly-yet-creepy demeanour; and it shines through in that truly wonderful, emotive climax. Religious fanatics are always scary. The Wicker Man will make you fear even the humble hippy.

I don’t have a bad word to say about The Wicker Man, which might make this a rather uninteresting review for some. For those who find The Wicker Man too slow, too English or non-actiony, they’ll always have the Nic Cage remake to content themselves with.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call Summersisle

NOT THE BEES

Director: Neil Labute (2006)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Leelee Sobieski
Find it: IMDB

I don’t know about you, but I thought that the original Hammer horror version of The Wicker Man was definitely lacking in Nicholas Cage punching women in the face. Competent direction, acting and scripting are all fine and well, but there's always room for Nicholas Cage punching women in the face, whatever the movie. If he just so happens to be dressed like a bear at the time, even better.

Thankfully, this is properly rectified in the 2006 remake, where occasionally good director Neil Labute includes plenty of scenes which depict Cage punching and kicking women upside the head like there's no tomorrow. Occasionally, he does this dressed as a bear and then half-dressed as a bear. There’s a lot of talk about how bad the movie is, but no-one seems to mention how surprisingly faithful to the original’s plot it is. In the climax, whole lines of dialogue are repeated verbatim. The only noticeable differences are Nicolas Cage, bees, more women, women being punched in the face and a general shoddy air to things.

Rewind a bit. Suffering from Post Traumatic Stress disorder, cop Edward Malus (Cage) is popping pills, looking sweaty and skiving work. Cue a letter from his ex, Willow Woodward (the surname of the original Wicker Man star, GET IT), whose daughter has recently disappeared. Eager to find the girl, Edward ships off to the small island of Summersisle to investigate. Once there, he finds a community of pagan feminists, all in a particularly unhelpful mood. Being an excellent cop, Cage eases tensions by shouting a lot and accusing them of being weird. And then later he runs around the island punching them in the face. There's a great bit reminiscent of Con Air in which Cage points a gun at someone and tells them to “step away from the bike.”

Nothing in the movie really works. The setting is completely inappropriate. There’s nothing pagan about this small, sunny American island, and their matriarchal society just feels like a lazy gimmick. Those hoping to see Leelee Sobieski bouncing naked against a door will be disappointed, since there’s no nudity in the movie. Rod Stewart would be completely inoffended.

Even the visuals are bad. Indeed, the CGI in Wicker Man is amongst the worst I’ve ever seen. Which is odd, considering that there was actually no need for any CGI at any point, ever, during the movie. Practical effects such as landscapes and bees are all animated; and done awfully at that. There are bees everywhere on the island, and they all look terribly fake. “Not the bees!" screams Cage, during the much-maligned finale, "they’re under my eyes!” And on that note, why the balls would a man with a serious bee allergy visit an island which is famed for its enormous quantity of bees? Its chief export is honey. Might want to bring a spacesuit.

Nicolas Cage certainly doesn’t work. He gives a masterfully bad performance. His “God no” upon seeing the Wicker Fella is brilliant (“guh nuuuuh”). I’ve always been a big Cage defender, but then, I’d never seen The Wicker Man until now. The script is never sure whether Edward is supposed to be a hard-boiled cop or a blundering idiot. He wanders around the island on a bicycle, tripping over beehives and falling through (badly animated) holes in floors and plot. The rest of the time, he’s charging around pointing guns at people and calling them stupid. A precursor, perhaps, to his Bad Lieutenant remake slash sequel: Bad Lieutenant Does Summersisle. His character’s a total arsehole throughout. I daresay they upped the jerkiness of the character to make his eventual fate more palatable to modern audiences. Whereas you genuinely felt for virginal Sergeant Howie’s (Edward Woodward) plight, and really wanted him to get away, you honestly won’t give a fuck as to whether Cage gets off’ve the island.

Wicker Man is perhaps one of the best-worst movies ever made. It’s a exercise in entertaining incompetence matched only by I Know Who Killed Me. As a result, I’m so glad this movie exists.

OR:

Freddy vs Jason vs Ash: The Nightmare Warriors (issues 2-6)

What the fuck just happened? So the first FvJvA got itself a heap of criticism for being predictable and a rehash of the horror icons’ best moments. But with Nightmare Warriors, it’s like they went in a completely opposite direction this time and turned everything on its head. Reading this shit makes Zombieiener 2 look sobering.

My early predictions were right. Following issue 1, Ash joins up with a team of survivors and saves the day. There are more than a few curveballs here, with practically every past Friday and Nightmare hero, ever showing up to get a few digs in. Most notably, ‘Dream Master’ Alice and Tommy Jarvis. And, as also hinted at early on, Freddy ends up ruling the world with the help of the Necronomicon and an army of Deadites. Because neither of them ever seem to learn (well one of them is is head-disabled and the other an arrogant paedophile), Jason allows Freddy to use him as a pawn again. I daresay this all would’ve worked out if Kuhoric had toned down the stupid. But he hasn’t. Nightmare Warriors is one of the most ridiculous comics I’ve ever read.

Freddy vs Jason vs Ash: The Bad Photoshoppening

A stupid storyline is fine in itself, but by the end, Freddy and Jason are near unrecognizable. The whole ‘world domination’ thing feels out of character for Freddy (essentially just a neighbourhood paedophile) and Jason is pretty much transformed into Billy Ray Cyrus. From issue 3 onwards, he wanders around with a girly haircut, crying for his momma. Crucially, he’s no longer as retarded. For me, no comic-book Ash has ever gelled with the Bruce Campbell version we all know and love, and Nightmare Warriors is no different. The wisecracks aren’t as witty, there’s too little slapstick and there’s none of the cowardice we’d associate with Evil Dead’s Ash. It's just some dude running around in a bad shirt, with a chainsaw stapped to his hand.

It’s well-illustrated, though, which is a nice diversion. Craig’s artwork is a lot more consistent than it was in the first arc, and is always cool to look at. There’s plenty of action over the course of the comic. The final showdown is epic stuff; it’s just a shame that the characters visibly (fucking Billy Ray Jason) and tonally aren’t as they should be.

It’s a shame that Nightmare Warriors doesn’t really work, since it’s obvious that the creators have a love for the source material. The whole thing is set up ready for a sequel. Hopefully next time, Kuhoric will tone things down a little bit, and be able to find the characters again.

2/5 screaming Scream Queens!!!