Director: Marty Weiss (2008)
Starring: Haylie Duff, Ryan Merriman, Danny Nucci
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK (region 1 only), Amazon US

Haylie Duff takes a Wrong Turn and ends up in backwoods North California, fighting off rapey inbred locals. A bunch of elements lifted from better movies combine to make the ultimate in derivative backwater horror. Deliverance has a lot to answer for.

And so a gang of annoying male fucks (played by no-one you’ve ever heard of) and annoying female fucks (Hilary Duff’s unfamous sister and a pretty blonde who’s even less famous than that) head out to hick county for a game of paintball and to engage in pre-marital intercourse.

Not even ten minutes in, and the clichés are stacking up. There’s the pre-credit kill/rape sequence (which seems awfully similiar to the beginning of the ‘new’ Hills Have Eyes 2), nicely followed by a scene in which our heroes stop off at a roadside gas station (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Deliverance, Wrong Turn, the Hills Have Eyes, Manhunt, Every Other Backwoods Horror Movie in Existence) whilst the to-be Final Girl reads conveniently placed ‘Missing Person’ posters.

After some cursory waterhole swimming scenes (all the Friday the 13th movies) and an idiotic attempt at foreshadowing (“y’know this used to be a military installation?”) the idiots set up camp and prepare to die. And of course, this is all accompanied by an enormous amount of POV shots from the bushes. Spoo-ooky.

After the shitheads take too long to realise that they’re not alone - “oh look, a hunting net and the hanging corpse of an animal” - and ignore the fact anyway - “Never mind, let’s go shoot us some shit” – there’s a pointless paintball battle and the discovery of an old house in the middle of the woods. Bollocks, did I get my DVDs mixed up and put Wrong Turn on by accident??

Anywiddle, half the team ends up captured and the other half stands around the campsite looking gormless. It’s at this point – as Duff listens to her friends whimpering and crying for help over walkie-talkie – that comes the closest to actual ‘acting’ in Backwoods. Fair enough, it’s tempered with an expression of constipation, but she does look sort of half-worried. But I digress:

The fuckwits finally realise that they’re on the menu tonight. While the blonde girl engages in a little backwoods bondage, the others run around the forest haplessly trying to fight arrows with paintballs. After meeting up with a poor-mans’ Sheriff Hoyt, Haylie manages to get herself captured too. For what is probably some very good reason, Haylie is changed into a purty white dress. Mistaken for the FBI, our pet idiots are then tortured and subjected to interminable religious lectures (hello Timber Falls!)

Blah blah blah, torture, blah blah, bondage, blah blah, rape. As you’d probably expect, the ‘in captivity’ segment takes up most of the running time. Although I suppose having the ‘characters’ spend so much time in captivity saves the scriptwriters from having to write too much ‘story’. Unfortunately, Backwoods does it worse than most, accompanying most of its bondage bullshit with religious babble and pathetic ‘motive’, most of it seemingly left over from the comparatively good Timber Falls.

Even fans of the backwoods horror sub-genre will be bored by Backwoods. Whereas the charm of such movies usually lies within seeing familiar elements combine to make something ‘new’ (well, um, if done well – like Wrong Turn 2, Severance or the other Backwoods, the movies can occasionally rise above the sum of their parts). This particular Backwoods is an example of everything that can be wrong with the subgenre. Like Manhunt or the execrable Hills Have Eyes 2 (either version) this takes all the familiar elements and simply lays them out, one after the other. There’s no twists or turns, it’s humourlessly done, and the directorial style is flat, at best. Backwoods is hard to recommend, even to aficionados of the subgenre. This is a movie so exceedingly shitty that it bypassed DVD and went straight to TV.

What starts off as being harmlessly familiar becomes something far worse; offensively bland, boring and stupid. In fact, Backwoods loses the only Scream Queen it had going, simply due to that last hour or so of religious cultist bullshit. I’m neither religious nor a hillbilly; but I wish I was, just so as I had more reasons to hate this film more than I already do.

If you must watch a movie called Backwoods, go see the good version starring Gary Oldman and Paddy Considine instead.

No Screaming Scream Queens!!!

Ghostbusters: The Game (PS3 review)

Thanks to the joy of computer games, we are spared fat, old Ghostbusters and instead get them in their prime. You are the newest recruit, fighting alongside Egon, Venkman, Ray and Winston. You’ll battle ghostly figures new (annoying great golems) and old (Stay-Puft! The Librarian!) You’ll also get to catch up with the likes of Janine and Walter Peck. It’s like Ghostbusters III… only not. And no, you can’t drive Ecto-1.

Set two years after the much-maligned events of Ghostbusters II, we find the Ghostbusters recruiting for a technician to try out their newest, most dangerous equipment. You play that technician. Since you don’t have any lines (or even really interact with anything besides ghosts) it’s up to you to simply follow the chaps around like a third-wheel, getting excited every time Ray congratulates you on a job well done.

The ‘plot’ is computer-game standard. A maguffin is on the loose, freeing a bunch of ghosts from your containment unit, whilst also opening doorways to new dimensions. All this seems to be somehow linked to Venkman’s newest squeeze (not Dana Barrett, and played by Alyssa Milano) and the Ghostbusters have to figure out what’s going on and how to stop it. It's thin, but then, nobody cares about the plot, do they?

There are two main elements to enjoying Ghostbusters: The Game. The first is strapping on a great big proton pack and getting to unleash some serious wish fulfilment on the world. The second is getting the gang back together. All the original Ghostbusters are back – from the notoriously reticent Bill Murray right down to the underused Ernie Hudson.

The best thing about the game is that it completely feels like a Ghostbusters film. It’s equal parts funny, scary and thrilling. And it’s so in-keeping with the movies’ spirit (aha, spirit… GET IT…. no pun intended though) that poor old Winston doesn’t make an appearance until well after the first act.

Playing with the ‘Busters equipment never gets old. Despite several new weapons you get later on, the proton pack remains the most fun to use. It works exactly as it does in the movies – first you’ll want to weaken the ghosties by blasting at them with your proton steams, before wrangling them in a ‘capture’ stream. As the ghouls try to break loose, you’ll be forced to bash them against walls and floors and suchlike – completely destroying the brilliantly destructible environments in the process. Other weapons include a slime gun and variants on shotgun and rocket launcher (all of which your pack niftily transforms into). The weapons are useful and generally fun to experiment with. Although fuck, why wouldn't they let me drive Ecto-1????

Unfortunately, it’s not all as perfect as one might hope. The voice acting ranges from brilliant (Ackroyd, Hudson) to bored (Murray). Harold Ramis’s Egon is great but underused, too often reduced to barking orders and instructions (he even comments on this fact in a behind-the-scenes video). AI is also disappointingly off. In battle, your fellow Ghostbusters tend to be completely useless, and you’ll spend great heaps of time reviving them from their injuries. It’s also a little disheartening to see your childhood heroes flailing about on their backs, calling for help every few minutes (Murray’s cries of “little help, yo, little help?” inparticular, gets annoying fast).

It’s also a bit too linear. There’s generally only one route through all the levels, and when there is a wee deviation, it inevitably leads only to a collectible item of some sort. The story, as mentioned earlier, could have used a little work. The game tends to spend too much time revisiting past glories (the hotel, the library, the museum… the hotel again) where a little inventiveness might have been welcomed. So, as such, it’s the levels set in the Ghost World and Lost City that work best. All too often there’s a feeling that you’re just plodding through levels just to get to the next cut-scene.

Ghostbusters: the Game, then, is something of a mixed bag. Whilst it stands head and shoulders above such lazy tie-ins as Superman Returns or Batman Begins, it’s also a little too linear to glory in the greatness of The Warriors or even Spider-man 2. Fans of the movies will no doubt love it, whilst the indifferent will perhaps find it too repetitive and linear to rate the full £40 price tag. Ghostbusters: the Game comes highly recommended by this fan, whilst also suggesting that you wait for the price to come down first… or perhaps just a weekend rental.

4/5 screaming Scream Queens!!!

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror

Director: Andrea Bianchi (1981)
Starring: Peter Bark, Karin Well, Gianlugi Chirizzi
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon US, not currently available on Region 2 DVD

Burial Ground: Nights of Terror AKA Le Notti Del Torri AKA Zombi 3 AKA Masacre Zombie AKA Zombie Dead AKA The Film With at Least Five Titles AKA Whatever the Hell You Want to Call it is an Italian Grindhouse movie of the zombie variety. It should be noted that this review is based on a dodgy (unsubtitled) streaming version of the flick, so don't expect any commentary on the script from me. (Unless you represent the authorities of some sort, in which case I was watching it completely legally on a DVD I spent real money on).

The movie opens with god being eaten messily by a bunch of zombies. Well, he has a beard and wears white. And seeing as my copy of the film was without subtitles, there’s nothing to make me believe he wasn’t god. Anyway, it looks like the zombies decided to eat god because he was making such a noise, banging on walls and stuff. That must be what they mean by ‘waking the dead’, yo ho ho.
Well, either god or Alan Moore. Most likely the latter. Like everyone else, the zombies were probably pissed off with Alan's constant bitching about Watchmen. That was a genuinely good film, dagnammit.

The god/Alan Moore-eating all done with, the credits begin to roll. Some horribly cheesy synth music plays all over the titles. Such things being part of the charm of 80s’ Grindhouse pieces, it’s a nice setup for things to come. Three couples have come to stay in a large stately manor. One of the couples has brought their young son, who is easily the best thing in the whole film… due in no small part to the fact that he’s played by a middle-aged dwarf (wearing a toupee, no less). But more on that later, because…

Not even 10 minutes in, and we get our first piece of nudity and a full-blown (no pun intended) sex scene. They just don’t make shit like this anymore. As some guy nibbles on his ladyfriend’s booby, more synth music plays. The other two couples are hard at it too. Unfortunately, just as they’re getting mid-jiggy, Horny couple no.3 are disturbed by their ‘son’, which totally ruins the mood. Particularly as he looks a little bit turned on by it all. And because he’s a middle-aged dwarf in a toupee. But I digress:

As the couples gather to eat dinner together, all the lightbulbs begin to pop, which causes a maid to burst into a fit of hysterics. And then the zombies emerge from downstairs…

Talking of zombies, those seen here have that lovely, textured, inimitable grotty look that you can only find in authentic Italian Grindhouse. There’s plenty of scenes in which zombies rise from the grass, their eyes dripping maggots. The makeup effects here are somewhat simplistic (generally bald, eyeless, rotten and wearing a dress) but effective.

After a bit more copulation from the manor’s residents (this time out in the garden, to add a bit of variety), the zombies converge on the house. Toupee dwarf kid’s father shoots a bunch of them, whilst his ‘son’ hides his face in mummy’s love-lumps. Kid sure does love those ladylumps. But we’ll come back to that later…

… Because right now, it’s on with the sex. As horny couple no.2 bone in the garden, they are disturbed by what seems to be the zombie equivalent of doggers. There’s a lot of fighting (read: an ineffectual poking with a rake, and a strangulation that lasts about five minutes) before the survivors finally hole up in the house. Things proceed from here in a manner similar to Night of the Living Dead et al, but get no less strange. There’s much demented wandering around dark castle rooms, all accompanied by that wonderful soundtrack (sadly absent from modern horror). The night draws on and the bodycount racks up.

The acting is generally melodramatic throughout, with plenty of anguished screaming and lots of close-ups of terrified, hysterical faces. If there’s a stand out performance, then it has to belong to Peter Bark as ‘young’ Michael. He doesn’t say much, since his voice has long since broken, but he steals the film anyway, particularly as the incestual stuff begins to kick in. “Oh mama….” I didn’t understand the rest of what he was saying, but it probably translates to “gimme some sugar, baby.” (And on a side note, more films should cast adult dwarves as children. If this ever gets remade, I want Warick Davis as Michael).

Anyway, the whole thing comes to a bloody climax, and gosh blimey and other exclamatives, this review has probably ended up half as long as the film itself. As you’d expect, there’s a bounty of gore and gloop, including (but not limited to) a gut-eating scene, several gunshot wounds, a bear-trap leg wound (see, Manhunt, that shit was outdated by the 80s’), lots of rotten zombie corpses, a strangulation, skull-splitting, a burning… and that’s all in the first half hour. The blood and guts never let up for long, and Burial Ground is all the better for it.

Burial Ground is pretty derivative, but brings enough sleaze and surrealism to the table for it to work. There’s more sex than you can shake a dildo at, whilst the gore gags are beautifully messy. And then, of course, there’s this:
Which is, alone, enough to earn Burial Ground 4/5 screaming Scream Queens!!! (Although, to be fair, at least two of them are screaming ironically).


Director: Pascal Laugier (2008)
Starring: Mylene Jampanoi, Morjana Alaoui
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

There’s one scene in Eli Roth’s torture-turd Hostel, where a genuine chill strikes every time. As Paxton is tricked into entering the dilapidated basement, he is dragged off by a pair of burly henchmen. Pulled kicking and screaming down the corridor, he – and the audience – realise just what awaits him. It’s a chilling moment. Paxton is slapped around the face with his own helplessness and mortality, and it strikes a chord in the audience too. It’s a universal fear. Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs takes that moment and drags it out for 99 minutes.

Martyrs starts off bleakly and never lets up. A young child escapes from a dingy basement and runs, screaming, down the street in her underwear. Once safe and sound in a kiddies’ hospital, she makes a bond with fellow abuse victim Anna, but refuses to talk about what happened to her in that basement. At night, she suffers from horrendous visions of a black-haired dead zombie girl type (think The Ring or The Grudge, except actually scary).

Fast-forward a few years, and the girls are now roughly eighteen years old apiece. Torture victim Lucie (Mylene Jampanoi) bursts into a bourgeois family home, waving a shotgun about. Lots of gory mess occurs, and it’s up to Anna (Morjana Alaoui) to clear things up.

It’s difficult to discuss Martyrs without ruining the plot. Like Takashi Miike’s Audition, this is a film that needs to be seen with a pre-spoiled mind. The first half plays out like an intense, visceral home invasion movie (think Haute Tension or a less po-faced version of Funny Games) with a few weird supernatural elements thrown in for good measure. This first half of the movie is a masterclass in storytelling and tension. At several points, you’ll wonder where Laugier can possibly go next – surely the story’s got nowhere else to go? But each and every time he pulls it off, freeing yet another unpredictable shock or twist from his bag (admittedly, you could also interpret this as a form of scriptwriting ADHD, which I wouldn't entirely argue with... but Laugier makes it work).

And then, at around the hour mark, the story changes completely. It’s left-field and shockingly cruel and, ultimately, it will either engross or alienate the audience. I, for one, respect Laugier for what he tried to do here, but feel that the (much slower paced) second half lets the film down somewhat. It’s intelligent and existential, and (just about) fits with everything that has gone before, but it just felt a tad too ‘familiar’ for this jaded horrorhead. It’s dragged out for a step or two too long (which was probably the point) and then other things happen, which are far too juicy to spoil here. They deserve seeing firsthand. Although once seen, well, you may never be able to peel a grape again.

As Martyrs ends – with a pitch-perfect flashback to the two girls playing as children running over the credits – one will probably feel like curling up into a little ball and crying. It’s heartbreaking stuff and fuck I think I need a shower just thinking about it

That’s a lot of hyperbole there, but Martyrs genuinely is that good. There’s emotion where Hostel brought us titillation. There’s intelligent debate where Funny Games gave us a lecture. There’s a good film where otherwise Captivity took a dump on the lens and called it ‘art’.

Just don’t ask me to bloody watch it again.

Freddy's Nightmares - No More Mr. Nice Guy

The first in the series of Freddy’s Nightmare on Elm Street spin-off, No More Mr. Nice Guy is a prequel to the movies, showing the events which led up to one Fred Krueger becoming an infamous dream demon and punchbag to Jason Voorhees.

The episode opens with a faux ‘news report’, complete with graphics that look like they were made on Microsoft Paint. The news reporter gives a nice little ‘WTF’ expression, before being teleported away from behind the desk. The screen then cuts to some more MS Paint graphics; this time a bunch of green and red stripes that are probably supposed to represent Freddy’s jumper.

Talking of whom, we cut to Freddy, who is clouded in the shadows of a boiler room. “No no no! Don’t be afraid. This time it isn’t one of your nightmares… this one… was mine!”

News reporter dude is back, looking confused outside of a courtroom. He informs us that we’re at the trial of Fred Krueger. Inside, a pre-burning Freddy stands at the, um stand, looking smug. Although the evidence points to Freddy being entirely guilty, he is acquitted of the charges – apparently because the arresting officers never bothered to read him his rights.

Y’know, most people tend to wear a suit to court. Freddy goes the unconventional route, wearing his usual Christmas jumper and silly hat.

But anyway, as he leaves the court, the angered jury and outraged parents vow to take the law into their own hands. Freddy, meanwhile, clears off back to his boiler room and makes lots of growling noises whilst walking around in the darkness. I wonder if the upcoming remake will include Freddy’s ice cream van? I suppose if I were a child murderer, I’d drive around in an ice cream van too.

As this is happening, melodramatic 80s’ American rock plays in the background. You’d think Freddy’d want to lay low for a while, all things considered, but he’s far more content to sit in his lair and talk to his gloves, promising them some “feed” later. It’s interesting to note that, in this episode, we get the mostly-scary Freddy that we recognise from the first few Nightmare flicks. I guess it would’ve been difficult to have Funny Freddy come out to play while he was still in child-killer mode.

Anywizz, just as Freddy shows up to kill some girls (on the same night as he’s been acquitted of child-murder? You gotta admire the man’s dedication) a lynch mob appears and torches him - “tonight… the law is on vacation”. But it’s okay, because the child murderer seems to realise he can’t be killed. He just stands there and allows the parents to douse him in petrol – even encouraging them to do so (“that’s it… pour it all over me pig… gonna have a cook out, huh?") and just as he makes like a dog and goes woof (GET IT) there’s the inevitable “I’ll be baa-aaack!” By-the-by, I don't see anyone even remotely resembling John Saxon amongst the mob, so it's hard to say where this episode lies in relation to Nightmare continuity.

The rest of the episode follows the cop who burned Freddy, setting up Kreuger’s new MO as a dream killer. Freddy taunts the cop for a bit, ramming him with his ice cream van, and then finally finishing him off in a dentists’ chair. And so ends the first episode of Freddy’s Nightmares.

It’s a shame, because this series could have been good had a little more been lavished upon it in the budget, script and acting stakes. This pilot episode, inparticular had potential. And – while it’s far from classic Freddy – it does make for interesting viewing.

No More Mr. Nice Guy is mostly shit, but gets an extra Scream Queen simply because of that potential. Expect further episodes to be reviewed sporadically, when I can be arsed to look them up on youtube.

3/5 screaming Scream Queens!!!

The Last House on the Left (2009)

Last House ’09 is not a shot by shot remake, but it is pointless enough to feel like one. It doesn’t help that Craven’s original has become endlessly copied enough for the story to feel old and redundant. And, of course, shorn of its Vietnam War subtext, there really is no reason for this film to exist.

Escaped convict Krug (pronounced like the first half of ‘Krueger’) and his son, brother and girlfriend are on the run from the law. They cross paths with pretty young things Paige and Mari. Lots of torture and rapey bullshit follows. Nastiness done with, Krug and company find themselves at Mari’s parents’ house, where Monica Potter proceeds to cry a lot and wreak gory revenge.

Not being a fan of Craven’s original flick, I was even less of a fan of this follow-up. Sure, it’s slick and flashily edited – and Monica Potter and Garret Dillahunt are exceptionally good - but there’s only so much you can do with such a story.

After too much dull nothingness, at around 40 minutes in, the first of the rapey stuff occurs. It isn’t as sensationally done as in its first incarnation, but still leaves a foul taste in the mouth. It’s ironic; director Dennis Iliads updates the violence and gruesomeness, but balks at the original’s sense of nihilism. Roll over for spoilers: only one of the girls is killed. And of course, because humanity can’t be all bad, Krug’s son turns on him in the final beat. There’s more of a ‘reason’ given to Krug’s anger towards the girls. One is led to believe that the girls would have gotten off lighter if Mari hadn’t crashed the criminals’ car. The parents’ revenge, meanwhile, seems driven more by necessity and self-defence than it is pure vengeance. Thankfully there’s no enforced urination scenes. I can go without seeing that on the big screen.

That said, however, the ‘revenge’ part of the movie works better than it did in the original; no doubt thanks to an increase in budget and more recent innovations in torture guff technology. Hella big spoiler here: Dad microwaves Krug’s head. Best thing ever, even if the fucking trailer did give it away. End spoilery bits.

Ultimately however, my distaste for the story being told - and its pervading sense of pointlessness – makes Last House ’09 feel like yet another by-the-numbers remake. Unlike the more, um, good Hills Have Eyes remake, the story here is neither interesting nor well-updated enough to work.

2/5 screaming Scream Queens!!

Prom Night (2008)

Director: Nelson McCormick (2008)
Starring: Brittany Snow, Idris Elba, Scott Porter, Jessica Stroup
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Despite having the same title and vague premise of the 1980s Jamie Lee Curtis slasher flick (no, not that one) Prom Night can hardly be described as a remake. Prom Night can best be described as an episode of The Hills or One Tree Hill with a body count. If that doesn't sound like the worst combination of anything, ever, then you have terrible taste in movies. You'll also probably quite like Prom Shite.

The movie opens with a not completely awful prologue, which sees the entire family of Donna Keppel (Brittany Snow) being murdered before her eyes. The culprit is a former teacher with a deranged crush (Jonathon Schaech). Stopping short of murdering poor Donna, the killer is arrested and committed to a lunatic asylum.

Skip three years later, and it’s Donna’s prom night. Together with her boyfriend, Bobby (Scott Porter) and school pals, she heads out to a luxurious hotel, ready to finally shake off her memories of that terrible night. Unfortunately, our killer has escaped… and he’s out for revenge. What’s a detective (Idris Elba) to do? Put Donna under protection? Cancel the prom? Tell her that the killer’s out for her blood? Well, not quite. The police decide not to say anything, because they don’t want to ruin her prom night. Now I’m no teenage girl (nor is Brittany Snow, but that’s neither here nor there), but I’m pretty sure I’d rather have my prom night ruined than, y’know, die.

Being a PG-13 piece of studio dross, Prom Night has relatively little freedom when it comes to gore, and violence and, y’know, everything that makes slasher flicks good. There’s no nudity whatsoever, and pretty much all of the murders happen off-screen (even the bodies show no stab wounds when revealed again later in the movie). Donna is so completely, utterly marked as ‘final girl’ that there’s not even any suspense. You’ll be able to see every death coming from a mile away. Incidentally, roughly 60% of the deaths occur in the same room, and are preceded by a stupid teenager wandering around calling out “who’s there?” Hell, even the Black Christmas remake (at least, the UK version) had the good sense to shake things up a bit, whilst including a bit of genuinely gruesome gore.

The acting is neither noticeably terrible nor particularly good. Everyone, bar perhaps Schaech’s bug-eyed killer, just fades into the background. This isn’t going to hurt anyone’s CV, simply because you won’t be able to remember who any of the cast actually are.

It’s slickly edited, and the setting looks reasonably pretty, but that’s about all that can be said for the flick. Everything else just feels stupid, lazy and as if it was written by a twelve-year-old.

It's offensively bland, and, because it made 22 million dollars (!) in its opening weekend, further Prom Nights are sure to come.

0/5 screaming Scream Queens!!!

Retro Horror: The Toxic Avenger

Melvin Ferd is your average movie nerd. Think a really, really creepy version of pre-radioactive Peter Parker. He works at a health club in Tromaville, New Jersey, where he is relentlessly bullied by the more muscular, attractive kids. After a prank goes wrong, Melvin ends up taking a swim in a bath of toxic waste. Thankfully this is comic-book variety toxic waste, and Melvin is soon enough transformed into a hulking great superhero; the eponymous Toxic Avenger.

Subtlelty not being one of director Lloyd Kaufman's strongest points, The Toxic Avenger is packed to the brim with bad taste humour, outrageous gore and a bombastic bombload of nudity. Viewers will either love or loathe this brand of humour - thankfully I'm an immature idiot, so I loved it.

Political correctness, thy name is Lloyd Kaufman

Once transformed into Toxie, Melvin sets about seeking revenge on those who caused his toxic-waste dip. Somehow he ends up being embraced by Tromaville as a superhero; and finds love in the shape of Sara, a blind girl he rescues from rape (Thug: "Knock knock. Sara: Who's there? Thug: Ben. Sara: Ben who? Thug: Ben dover!!" - Thug initiates rape). Such jokes aside (y'know, I think I saw those lines of dialogue on a porno once) poor Sara forms the butt of about 80% of the jokes - most of which either involve her cooking with oven cleaner, or stabbing Toxie in the love-spuds with her cane.

The violence is equally over-the-top. Highlights include a bunch of intestines being unwound from the owner's body, an old lady being shoved into a washing machine, and a lot of limbs being torn off. And, for the trifectra, there's more female nudity than you can shake a lovelength at, which is always nice.

Unfortunately, my copy of the film (the Region 2 version) seemed to have much of the gory goodness cut out, resulting in a somewhat fragmented affair. Some of the kill scenes are quite confusing, since it'll skip from (a) Toxie entering a room to (c) victim dead. It's really worth the extra effort that finding an uncut copy entails, since The Toxic Avenger needs to be seen in its full glory to be fully appreciated.

Even if you're not usually a fan of Troma productions, The Toxic Avenger really is worth seeking out. Conversationally, the novelisation is a pretty good read too.... even better than the film it's based on, in fact.

Babysitter Wanted

First published June 2009

Director: Jonas Barnes & Michael Manasseri (2008)
Starring: Sarah Thompson, Matt Dallas, Bill Moseley
Find it online: IMDB

Not actually half as awful – or even as unoriginal - as its recycled cover art might suggest, Babysitter Wanted is a rare example of STD movie making done well.

Deja vu, anyone?

Taking its cues from that familiar urban legend – y’know, the one with the babysitter receiving prank phone calls from inside the house - Babysitter Wanted starts off as one thing, and ends up being something completely different. Strangely enough, this weathered horror fan wasn’t at all bored, and (as he often tends to do during STD productions) didn’t fast-forward through a single scene.

College student Angie (a cute Sarah Thompson) is hired by a seemingly average, All-American family to babysit their precocious, stupid-cowboy-hat-wearing kid for the night. As you’d expect, no sooner do the parents clear off, than Angie is receiving disturbing phone calls and hearing things go bump in the night. Just as her stalker decides to attack, the film goes crazy insane.

Roll over for spoilers: Angie’s attacker is a priest, and the child is the son of the Devil. Complete with fucking horns. I shit thee not - the kid is quite literally Hellboy.

With a twist reminiscent of the also-not-shit The Hamiltons, Babysitter Wanted really is worth a viewing or two. Bill Moseley shows up as a surprisingly passive cop, whilst the gore is fun enough to distract from the stupidity of the story’s latter stages. Thompson is nicely cast as Angie, with just enough cutesy about her to keep the viewer rooting for the girl's plight. That said, her character's a Christian, and there's very little that compares with the glorious schadenfreude of watching a goody gumdrops Christian sweetheart (the character's surname is Allbright) being cruelly tormented and stuff. Babysitter Wanted, then, is the modern equivalent of Julius Caesar feeding Christians to lions.

Elsewhere, the acting is passable but largely unexceptional. The story, whilst impressively left-field, may be a touch too looney for some viewers. Your friendly neighbourhood reviewer enjoyed it, but then he does have terrible taste in movies.

So if cheesy, slightly above-average horror flicks rock your boat, you could do much worse than Babysitter Wanted.

Lesbian Vampire Killers

First published June 2009, before James Corden became the all-consuming Evil that plagues us now.

Director: Phil Cladydon (2009)
Starring: Matthew Horne, James Corden, Lesbian Vampires, Paul McCann
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK

Hoping to emulate the success of fellow Brit stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the comedians Matthew Horne and James Corden make their big screen debut in Lesbian Vampire Killers. Aka Nuts Magazine: The Movie. Unfortunately, they forgot the humour, wit and intelligence which makes Shaun of the Dead such an excellent movie.

Like 2006’s Severance, this is a movie which feels tailor made to the lads’ mag audience. Unlike Severance, however, Horne and Corden didn't bother to include a decent script, any good jokes, scares or any of the memorably gruesome set pieces. Instead, screenwriters Hupfield and Williams fill the running time with a whole bunch of nob gags, lesbianisism and more nob gags.

That said, never mind the snobs. Lesbian Vampire Killers works on its own crude, stupid level. The eponymous vampires are nice to look at, whilst the chemistry between Horne and Corden – a (very) low-budget Pegg and Frost – is infectious. Besides, who doesn’t like a good nob gag now and then?

The 'plot' sees best mates Jimmy (Horne) and Fletch (Corden) hiking in the British countryside, with depressed Jimmy attempting to recover from being dumped by his girlfriend. Just as the holiday looks to be an all-out sausage-factory, the lads come across a busload of young, attractive ladies. They drive out to a small cabin in the woods, awaken some sapphic lesbian forces and violence/boobies/nob gags ensue.

By a Transylvanian mile, Paul McGann is the best thing in the movie; appearing as a hard-as-nails, sweary vicar. A little more blood wouldn’t have gone amiss, but the OTT violence is amusing on a trashy, low-rent sort of level.

Reviews for Lesbian Vampire Killers have been almost universally negative. And rightly so. Cinema tickets cost a shitload of money nowadays, and this certainly isn’t worth the price of admission, but it at least rates a rental or late-night TV viewing. Just be sure to stock up on alcohol/weed/crack/your drug of choice for the full effect.

Fuck, at the very least, it isn’t Ant & Dec: The Movie, which grants it one Scream Queen by proxy.

Manhunt (aka Rovdyr)

Review first published June 2009

Director: Patrik Syverson (2008)
Starring: Kristina Leganger Aaserud, Janne Beate Bones, Henriette Bruusgaard
Find itIMDB, Amazon UK 

Yet another addition to the vastly expanding pantheon of backwoods horrors, Manhunt is a small Norwegian film in the vein of Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Wrong Turn.

Set in 1974, the story follows four young people out for a relaxing weekend in the woods. During a break at a remote roadside café, the teens decide to pick up an obviously disturbed hitch-hiker. After pulling over to bicker, the four unfortunates are assaulted and knocked unconscious by a gang of particularly vicious yokels. Waking up deep in the forest, they hear the sound of a hunting horn. Guess who the intended prey is....

Hey.... Rovdyr people? the TCM called... they want their gag back.

If the synopsis there makes Manhunt (AKA Deliverance 2: The Wrong Turn Chainsaw Massacre) sound particularly unoriginal, well, that’s because it’s an entirely unoriginal movie. Right from the outset, there’s not an ounce of originality to be found, and most of the action tends to revolve around watching distressed youths running through the woods.

It doesn't help that the flick's villains aren't fully realised, nor given enough screentime. Again, they're somewhat reminiscent of Severance's baddies (tooled up loonies, camping out in the woods) and even seem to have nicked a few of their methods too. Manhunt's blatant unoriginality jumps out at every moment.

Still, Manhunt is entertaining and grisly enough to hold the viewers’ attention. The acting is of a decent calibre, whilst the ‘plot’ moves fast enough to divert from the fact that there’s nothing new being brought to the table. Entertaining, if disposable.