Origin Stories that *ruined* perfectly good characters.

10. Darth Vader (Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith) Okay, so the preamble to Anakin becoming Darth Vader is pretty fun. Watching the little fuck get his arms and legs lopped off more than makes up for the wee fuck's whiny irritations in Episode II. But the big reveal of the series' premier villain? One word: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


9. Freddy Kreuger (Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare) Fred Kreuger's origin story is probably my favourite in slasher history. They even improved it with the "bastard son of a thousand maniacs" bit in Dream Warriors. It's quite impressive that they managed to get a good few movies in before they fucked it all up. And fuck it up they did, quite impressively, with the help of Alice Cooper and a pointless daughter. Even worse is the TV episode they did.

8. Dumb and Dumber (Dumb and Dumberer) Not horror? If you've ever seen this absolute hunk of shit of a movie, then it was bound to have horrified you at some point. Dumb and Dumberer will make you wish Harry never met Lloyd at all. Quick tip: Dumb and Dumberer should be followed by a viewing of Hostel. Seeing Derek Richardson (either the Dumb or Dumberer character) tied to a chair and in the process of being murdered serves as a lovely little palette cleanser.

7. Spock (Star Trek) Don't get me wrong, the Star Trek reboot is a brilliant movie - one of my favourites of 2009, in fact. But its biggest mistake is in turning Leonard Nimoy into *shudders* Zachary Quinto.

6. Judge Dredd (Judge Dredd) Well, any origin in which a character ends up as Sylvester Stallone has to be a shitty one, but Judge Dredd's Judge Dredd is an exceptionally terrible one. On first glance, it seems to be pretty close to that as dictated by the comics. Along with brother Rico, Dredd was cloned from the DNA of Chief Judge Fargo. But, like the rest of the movie, they fucked it up somehow - turning Dreddy's birthright into some sort of "revelation" and having characters discover it through the use of naff computer trickery. This makes the list simply because it had Judge Dredd grow up to be Sylvester Stallone. Drokk that.

5. Wolverine (X Men Origins: Wolverine) So your franchise's most prominent character is suffering from amnesia. He's also gawd-knows-how-old, meaning that you've several hundred years of timeline to play with. Oh, and you fucked up the series with the last movie, so sequelization's not an option. What's a Hollywood to do? Milk it s'more with an origins tale. Now with added shit CGI. Marvel Comics' Wolverine is only an interesting character when his idiocy and ridiculousness is already highlighted (Garth Ennis' Punisher comics shows how to write the character properly) and you can show a fair bit of gore. The fella's got claws and is pretty much unkillable. Instead, Origins crams too many characters into its limp plot, and even goes so far as to include the origin of Logan's leather jacket. You know your movie is bad when the accompanying videogame adaptation actually manages to be better.


4. Jigsaw (any Saw movie that isn't 1-3) In the first and best Saw, Jigsaw was a pretty unknown figure. In fact, the closest thing the movie had to a villain proper was a pre-Lost Michael Emerson. Briefly showing up at the end of the first movie, Tobin Bell's John Kramer had to wait until the sequel before he could unveil the full extent of his evilness. Revealing that he's dying from a brain tumor, he outwits Donnie Wahlberg (probably not too hard) and escapes; dignity and scariness intact. Still not done, Kramer reappears in Saw 3, where he promptly dies. Character arc neatly tied up. Villain still pretty awesome. Unfortunately, Lionsgate could still smell plenty of lovely money to be made. Cue a bunch more sequels in which every spare moment of Jigsaw's life is flashback, showing you a bunch of shit you really didn't need to see. Consider your welcome fully worn out. Yours too, Amanda.

3. Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning) Not entirely bad Chainsaw Massacre movie. Fucking awful origin story. No surprises to be found here, just a predictable rehash of shit you've already seen. Did we really need to see Hoyt become sheriff and start up the whole cannibalism thing? Well, seeing as they'd already killed him off in the Jessica Beil thing, I suppose prequelisation was the only way forward. The Beginning was just a lazy way to bring back the original remake's 'best' (me, I found him annoying and overrated) character. Leatherface's story is briefly covered too, but no-one seems to give a shit about him anymore.

2. Michael Myers (Zombieweiner) Apparently young Michael Myers had a horrible blonde hair do, wore crappy rock t-shirts and looked like a sulky Village of the Damned reject. But it only gets worse. Not only was momma a stripper, but she was a Rob Zombie floozy too. To be sure, if I were trapped in a movie this shitty, I'd kill people too. There's a reason John Carpenter's character origin lasted ten minutes: all the scariness comes in Michael's 'otherness'.

1. Hannibal Lecter (Hannibal Rising) The worst Lecter book becomes by far the worst Lecter movie. A naff origin is made worse by a laughable script: "You do not honor the human pecking order, Hannibal. You're always hurting the bullies". And indeed he is. There's plenty of gore here, but nothing can hide the pointlessness of it all. There's a curious little streak wherein the movie tries to make us root for Hannibal, and has him only eating those who deserve it. A bit like Dexter, only shit and nonsensical. Hannibal Rising is a movie that will have you hate the rest of the series retrospectively.

Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead

Director: Declan O Brien (2009)
Starring: Tamer Hassan, Tom Federic, Janet Montgomery
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Who would've thought that 2003's Eliza Dushku/mutie inbreds vehicle Wrong Turn could inspire not one but two sequels? Sure, the first one was fun, tense and nasty, but did it really bring enough to the table to warrant sequelization? The second movie; Dead End - straight to DVD, no less - even turned out to be one of my favourite horror movies of the year, despite its budgetary shortcomings and thanks to lots of Henry Rollins. Could they make the hattrick? Alas, well, no. Familiarity breeds contempt - Wong Turn 3 is the weakest of the series so far.

This time around, there are less muties - it's more of an Alien concept, with the hunted under attack from just the one antagonist - and the prey, meanwhile, are a motley lot of escaped prisoners and their hostages. Like Wrong Turn 2, there's no wrong turn actually taken here. The characters all know (more or less) where they are; and it's not as if they accidentally stumbled into the area. Sure, they weren't counting on the cannibalistic likes of Three-Finger, but it's no wrong turn (stick with it, this is going somewhere).

No, the real Wrong Turn is in changing the emphasis from backwoods horror to cons-on-the-run (SEE I TOLD YOU IT WAS GOING SOMEWHERE, DIDN'T I TELL YOU, I TOLD YOU). There's less noticeable gore, no Henry Rollins and not as much of a fun splatterpunk feel to things. In fact, Wrong Turn 3 is downright boring at times. Boring, and shoddy. It's predecessor was noticeably cheap, but at least that had a sense of fun. With that missing, the movie's flaws become all the more evident.

[Thanks to Patrick at Stabbing Stabbing Stabbing who managed to tolerate my shitty sat-nav jokes and puns on the title for long enough to throw a 'cool post' award our way. He must have the wrong Review Hole, but we'll keep the award anyway]

The first thing that strikes is the terrible acting. It's acting so bad that it distracts from the nudity scene which kicks the film off. For shame. It's the weakest opening to a Wrong Turn so far; a real disappointment when compared to the Kimberly Caldwell murder which set its predecessor off to such a flying start. Perfunctory opening kill checked off, the action skips to a prison, where it emerges that some cons are planning a breakout. "That guy" actor Tamer Hassan plays gang boss Chavez. Get used to his face - he plays a bigger villainous part in this movie than the cannibals. This is fine at first, but his sub-Eastenders hardman schtick soon begins to grate.

Chavez and a bunch more cons are loaded onto a prison bus for delivery to another prison. Under the watchful eye of reluctant warden Nate (Federic), the bus crashes. The cons are freed. Prisoners and warden alike are hunted by Three-Finger and, briefly, his equally face-disabled son. And because why the hell not, things are further complicated when a van full of cash is found in the woods. What follows is too much bickering, massive machismo and the occasional gory kill (the best death scene involves a tow truck, an annoying character and some barbed wire).

Wrong Turn 3 is a serviceable bit of backwoods horror, dragged down by a lack of real action, irritating characters and not enough mutie-related violence. It's a disappointment, and one which will probably kill off the franchise. Should've got a sat-nav, guys.

Sorority Row (2009)

Director: Stewart Hendler (2009)
Starring: Briana Evigan, Rumer Willis, Leah Pipes, Carrie Fisher
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

A movie with a script so bad it makes the Prom Night remake look like Shakespeare, Sorority Row is a not-very good remake of a movie that was itself pretty mediocre in the first place. And it's quite apt that they changed the title, since it doesn't really resemble the original House on Sorority Row at all. Well, other than the fact it's set at a University and the girls all die. Updated for the idiot age, however: lots of references to facebook and iphones. "Add me on facebook. I'll totally accept." Sorority Row is a movie which has a character find the killer using an app on her iphone. Ugh.

The oddest thing is the decision to change the killer's (supposed) identity. In the original flick, the bad guy was (supposed to be) the girls' monumental bitch of a House Mother. After a prank goes wrong, House Mama gets killed. Soon after, the girls start getting offed. Sorority Row has the girls (supposedly) hunted by an old friend accidentally murdered in a prank gone wrong. This little change wouldn't matter too much, if it wasn't for the presence of Carrie Fisher as the House Mother. Throughout the movie, all I wanted to see was Carrie fucking Fisher as the serial killer. The closest we get is Leia weilding a shotgun for a few scenes. She's utterly wasted here, and it's a painful glimpse of how good Sorority Row could've been.

But like the original, there's plenty of sleaze. Shower scenes and full-frontal nudity are main order of the day. With a side order of sadistic violence. Whilst Sorority Row is a shitty movie, the kill scenes do manage to impress with their originality and mean-spiritedness. It's reminiscent of the Black Christmas remake in this respect, only with a bunch more dickhead characters and a worse script. Even the killer looks quite good, boasting an original weapon and very Giallo-inspired outfit. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a killer who wears leather gloves.

Sadly, the boobs and violence can't quite make up for the rest of the all-too apparent flaws. The characters are all horrendously irritating; and made even more so by the utterly pathetic script. It's basically a rip-off of I Know What You Did Last Summer, only with a tyre iron instead of a hook. And characters even more irritating than the Ghost Whinger lady. It's good that Sorority NO manages to have strong, independent female characters, but did they have to be so vapid and unintelligent? The actresses behind them do as well as they can, but have been hobbled by the terrible script and plotting. It's a script so bad that it left me feeling depressed by young people, humanity and the state of the English language. The word "pimped" should be reserved solely for hookers; and not fucking tyre irons. Sorority Row made me want to recreate the plot of Terminator, uncreating facebook, Stewart Hendler and the scriptwriters. No amount of Rumer Willis looking surprisingly hot can hide the depressing idiocy that permiates every moment of Sorority Row's runtime.

If you have a high tolerance for morons, Sorority Row may be more enjoyable for you. There's some good kills, Princess Fucking Leia with a Shotgun and - just maybe - a halfway decent movie buried under there someplace. It's been buried very well, mind. Like Twilight, Prom Night, What Katie Did Next and Justin Beiber, this movie will depress the humanity out of you.

10 minutes of WTF: Telephone.

Obligatory Gaga joke: How Do You Annoy Lady Gaga?

Simply put, one of the craziest 'women in prison' movies ever made. If Takashi Miike were to direct music videos, they very likely would resemble Lady Gaga and Beyonce's Telephone. It's just a shame that it only lasts 10 minutes, since this is a fucking brilliant piece of moviemaking. I'm not joking, either*. I'm an unapologetic fan of The Gaga, and her videos stand up well as quality bits of horror/exploitation entertainment. Telephone might not be quite as scary or as mental as Bad Romance, but it's still pretty fun. And it has Beyonce saying what might be the twelve sexiest words ever uttered by anyone, ever.

The actual singing (term used loosely, since this is by far the most tuneless of her songs) doesn't kick in until the 3 minute mark, and up til' then the action resembles a particularly sleazy, somewhat surreal prison flick. It opens with Gaga being stripped by transvestite prison guards and locked up in a cell. And no, the guards note, she doesn't have a cock. We can all see this, since she thrusts her lady-garden at the camera for all to see. There's then a bit in the yard where Gaga wears glasses made from cigarettes and locks tongues with a butch lady-con. Cue some singing, underwear dancing and mummified warning tape dancing. Then Beyonce shows up, eats a sandwich and says: "You've been a very bad girl. A very, very bad girl, Gaga." It's like they wrote a script using excerpts from my wet dreams. "Once you kill a cow, you gotta make a burger." Well, maybe not that bit.

Then they drive to a diner out in the desert and murder a rapper and a whole bunch of other people, before proceeding to dance around in their underwear. Yes, bizarre. Maybe I ate too much cheese and viagra, causing me to dream the whole thing up. You should watch the youtube clip below, just to make sure.

Quite possibly one of the daftest music videos I've ever seen, Telephone is simultaneously brilliant, shit, funny, scary, sexy and repulsive. A bit like Gaga herself, I suppose. The whole thing is styled like a Grindhouse movie, and is particularly reminiscent of the Rodriguez/Tarantino project of the same name. And like that movie, this is sure to be a divisive little video. All I know is this: I'll never look at sandwiches in the same way again.

* Well, I am a bit.

The Hills Run Red

The Hii-llls Are Alive... with the sound of torture guff. Note the Hills.

Director: Dave Parker (2009)
Starring: Sophie Monk, Tad Hilgenbrink, William Sadler, William Sadler
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Not entirely a Hills Have Eyes rip-off like the title might suggest, The Hills Run Red sees a fellow horror fanatic try to hunt down an infamous lost horror movie; supposedly banned because it's so offensive. Let's face it, horror fans, we've all been there. Not all of us, however, end up dead as a result of searching for our Holy Grails.

Tyler (Hilgenbrink) films his search for the titular movie, travelling to backwoods America where the lost gem was supposedly filmed. In tow: the director's daughter (Monk) and his friends Lalo (Alex Wyndham) and Serina (Janet Montomery). Wandering around backwater America never yeilds much good, and the kids soon end up falling afoul of Hillbillies and a Jason-type named Babyface. Violence quickly ensues. Plus lots of torture and a curious self-loathing streak.

There's unnecessary torture, shoddy acting, a terrible 'twist'. And the characters are all fucking irrititating. But with all that said, my biggest issue with The Hills Run Red is the title's deceptivity. Do note the screencaps as I explain:


There are lots of woods and trees and grass and stuff; the sorta scenery that wouldn't look out of place in a Wrong Turn or Deliverance type flick. But nothing even slightly resembling hills. I'll admit, there's plenty of things running red (mostly blood. And a red jacket and ballgags), but no hills. I'm probably* anal, but this bothered me far more than it should have. It'd be like a version of Wrong Turn where Desmond Harrington follows his map and gets straight to the job interview where he's supposed to be. It's like setting The Hills Have Eyes in the middle of a city. Where the fuck are my hills, dagnammit?


Ahem. Hills aside, there are a few other niggles and problems which prevent The Hills Run Red from achieving greatness. It's a fun, entertaining movie up until the second half. Babyface is a great-looking killer, and there's a wonderful bit where he wraps barbed wire around his own head. William Sadler is great in everything. But then they going and spoil it all, breaking out the ballgags in a massive way. Suddenly everything descends into torture nonsense. They try to make things alright again by having Sadler diatribe on the lack of artistic merit to torture porn (following about ten minutes of the stuff). You can't have your cake and eat it, fellas.


And there we have it. A movie not quite as interesting as the fictional one the heroes are supposed to be searching for (I'd have much preferred to see that in itself), but with enough highlights to make it worth a look, at least. It's far from the worst backwoods horror I've ever seen, but a long way from being the best, either.



No, numpty. Not that one.

Director: Toby Wilkins (2008)
Starring: Charles Baker, Jill Wagner
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

A vacationing couple find their camping weekend totally fucked up when they break the tent. (No joke and on an unrelated note: I work in a shop that sells tents. I seem to spend an eternity serving idiots like those in Splinter. The pole they were using was obviously the wrong one. That's what happens when you buy tents from Argos. Tttccchhhhh). Anyway, their tent broken, idiot couple decide to drive to the nearest motel. Only they find themselves carjacked by a loopy druggie and her shouty, sweary boyfriend. Stopping off for some gas and munchies (what would a hostage situation be without M&Ms?) they're suddenly attacked by a zombie-like creature, covered with splinters and in a very messy-looking state. What follows is a bit like The Thing, only set in a gas station and with no Kurt Russell.

Splinter is body-invasion horror with a bit of zombie thrown in. The villain of the piece is an unidentified infection; passed on from host to host via a prick of the skin, caused by the needles and spikes which emerge from the hosts' bodies upon infection. Despite the movie's relatively tight budget, it looks damn good and jolly gruesome. Splinter boasts a multitude of body parts being chopped off, people being ripped in half and lots of messy splatter. There's even a couple of Evil Dead 2 type scenes in which disembodied hands charge around attacking their owner(s). It's lovely, old-school stuff. And, best of all: no-one gets tortured.

You've probably seen much of it before, but Splinter does it with enough verve, gore and tenacity to make the story fun and interesting. That said, the ending is a bit of a letdown. The action is still plenty amped up, but it's a pretty bog-standard ending that could've used perhaps a bit more one-on-one fighting between the heroes and the nasties. Still, it's always nice to see a new horror movie with a properly horrible nasty at its fore. More of this sort of thing, please.

Happy World Book Day: 20 favourite horror books.

Books: not just for twatty geeks, honest.

It being world book day today, what better time for the Porkhead to leave his lonely Hole and visit a library. Yes, it's list time; 20 of my favourite horror books and novels. In no particular order (so don't flappin' whinge about, say, Lovecraft being above Poe). And, because this list would otherwise read like a love letter to Ketchum, King, Barker and Herbert. So only one selection per author (damn, what a choice... The Fog or Rats?) Read on to find out...

20. Dearly Devoted Dexter (Jeff Lindsay) - Well yes, the TV series is massively better, but the Dexter books are still cracking reads. But since the first book is quite close in terms of plot to the series, it suffers by comparison. This sequel however, offers something I really, really wish the series had picked up. Doakes, kidnapped by the book's villain (the one that isn't Dexter) has his hands, feet and tongue cut off. Oh, but how I would've loved to see that play out in series 2.

19. 30 Days of Night (Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith) - An idea so simple is wonderfully executed in Niles and Templesmith's cool little comic. It later became a movie, which is just as good.

18.The Walking Dead (Robert Kirkman) - An enormous zombie epic that began in 2003 and still isn't finished. Due to become a TV series soon, which is something to look forward to. More soap opera-ey than one might expect, but a seminal read, all the same.

17. The Silence of the Lambs (Thomas Harris) - A great book which later became an even better film. Shame he went and ruined it with the ending to Hannibal and then really, really ruined things with Hannibal Rising.

16. Slugs (Shaun Hutson) - Yes, a horror novel about slugs. And it's properly horrible. There's a sequel (also good) and a movie, apparently. A fun, gruesome litte addition to the animals-run-amok subgenre.

15. Through a Glass Darkly (Sheridan Le Fanu) - Who knew, University reading lists occasionally yeild something worth reading. Sure, I'd read Dracula, Frankenstein and the other classics years ago, but Uni introduced me to Le Fanu. If you like Poe and the other Victorian Gothic stuff, Le Fanu's stories are well worth a go.

14. Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems (Edgar Allan Poe) - Enough said, surely? A master of the short horror story.
Poe: master of the short horror story

13. The Fog (James Herbert) - Nope, nothing to do with the Carpenter flick of the same name, James Herbert's The Fog sees a small English village go crazy after being beset by a thick green, mysterious fog. It's a bit like The Crazies, only Herbert's knack for carnage and insanity really brings out the horror of it all. A fantastic, barnstorming read.

12. The Toxic Avenger (Lloyd Kaufman/Adam Jahnke) - Yes, the people at Troma done wrote a book. And not just any book, an adaptation of undoubtedly its finest movie; The Toxic Avenger. Whereas most adaptations of movies suck, this is a brilliant, hilarious little read. Chapter 4 is entitled "Featuring the Full Head-Crushing Scene".

11. The Strain (Guillermo Del Toro/Chuck Hogan) - Like CSI, only with vampires. And that's as good as it sounds. Bring on the rest of the trilogy.

10. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) - You know the story. And if you don't, fuck off and get down the library. I'm not talking the Robert De Niro version either; read the book.

9. Dracula (Bram Stoker) - You know the story. And if you don't, fuck off and get down the library. I'm not talking the Keanu Reeves version either; read the book.

8. Jaws (Peter Benchley) - Actually better than the movie, believe it or not. Man vs Shark: superbly depicted, with a fair bit of gore and sex thrown in for good measure. The final showdown between the humans and the Jaws is excellently done, and shark-hunter Quint is just as awesome in book form.

7. American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis) - Even more disturbing than the movie, which is quite impressive. We all know the story of Patrick Bateman, but it's a shame no-one included that scene were Bateman tricks someone into eating a urinal cake. Reading this, you can see why it was declared "unfilmable" for a while.

6. The HP Lovecraft Collection (HP Lovecraft) - A collection of his best stories. I do love me some Lovecraft. Not bad for a massively racist crazy person (one story has the protagonist's cat named "Nigger-Man"). Still, if you can get over the xenophobic undertones and the stories' relative lack of form & grace, Lovecraft is up there amongst the best.

5. IT (Stephen King) - Damn, choosing my favourite King novel is a difficult one, but IT manages to grab the gold. The story is fantastic (I really dig the multiple timelines), the characters are sympathetic and the villain is perhaps King's best.

4. The Books of Blood (Clive Barker) - Barker always shines in his short stories, and The Books of Blood are amongst my favourite. Ranging from odd (In the Hills, the Cities) to violent (The Midnight Meat Train) to cruel (Dread), Barker's Bloody Books offer everything you could possibly want from a horror author.

3. Off-season (Jack Ketchum) - Forget Offspring (itself a sequel to this novel), Off-season is where all the real fun is at. Jack Ketchum might be my favourite horror author out there, and this book showcases him at his best. It's backwoods horror, and sees some nice familes fall afoul of cannibal nasties. Ketchum rises above the chaff with his talent for depicting gruesome, visceral violence and creating properly evil villains.

2. Haunted (Chuck Palahniuk) - Simply put, the most horrible thing I have ever read. And I once tried to read Twilight. Haunted is a novel of short stories. A gaggle of wannabe writers travel to a dilapitated, locked-up house where they will all try to beat their writers' block. But , locked in as they are, craziness soon begins to set in and people begin to die (not to mention all the mutilation). And that's the overarching story. But the real meat lies in the short stories which punctuate the main narrative. There's a story about murder via foot massage. A disgusting little thing about a sex doll. And then there's Gut, which has to be read to be believed. A short story so horrible it made my manhood ache quite painfully. Once read, very never forgotten.

1. Let's Go Play at the Adams' (Mendal Johnson) - Yeech. Tied with Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door as the second-most disturbing thing I've ever read. A gang of young children one day decide to play tie-up with their babysitter. But the naughty little shites seem not to know when enough's enough. A traumatising, unforgettable book and amongst the finest I've ever read.