Saw VI

Director: Kevin Greutert (2009)
Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandaylor, Mark Rolston, Betsy Russell
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Agent Strahm is dead, splattered all over the inside of Hoffman's last trap. But because nobody at Lionsgate has enough money already and I was stupid enough to watch the last one, another game is set into motion. Oh goody; I really wanted to see a flashback of that one time Jigsaw had to scratch his ass during the first Saw but was pretending to be dead at the time. Saw VI has the least artistic merit of all the movies so far (I haven't seen 3D yet, mind), which is no mean feat when one considers how completely irredeemably pointless the last one was. Well in the tradition of sequels, this one is even more pointless. I'm playing for time here, because I can't actually remember what happens in this movie. Not a jot, except for that bit at the end where Hoffman ends up stuck in one of his own traps. Ha. Although we all know he'll be back for the next one.

A bit like me, because I'm an idiot and bought into that "final chapter" stuff. Bad horror fan.


Director: Yorgos Lanthimos (2009)
Starring: Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

In the interest of full disclosure: I myself was homeschooled. Whilst I was never treated to a lexicon of bullshit words, incest and mouthwash torture, the events of Dogtooth aren't exactly outside the realms of possibility. This one time, I met a kid who slept with a samurai sword under his bed and was withdrawn from school because Mom & Pop disapproved of dinosaurs. But enough of that, because no-one cares. It's an intriguing concept, and one which is milked for all its worth by director Yorgos Lanthimos.

In Dogtooth, three teenagers are sealed away on a country estate with doting but strict Mum and Dad. None of the kids have ever seen the outside world, and Mum seems content enough to stay locked away. Only Dad ever leaves their home. See, the kids believe that it's a dangerous world out there. Only when you've lost your left or right 'Dogtooth' (situated somewhere in the back of your mouth) are you old enough to go outside. Otherwise, death awaits. Ma and Pa's motivations are never really explained, but their education of the kids basically consists of teaching them bollocks definitions ("a zombie is a small yellow flower", a telephone is a salt shaker and a keyboard is a vagina) and hitting them with video tapes. The kids are also told that cats are really dangerous creatures, capable of climbing through windows to bash you one with a hammer. And Grandpa was Frank Sinatra. Also, it's perfectly fine to bone your brother. One scene sees the siblings naked in a bath as brother gropes first one sister's boobies/buttocks and then the other's. Another sees Younger Sister offering to lick out Big Sister's 'keyboard'. It's like a Greek Oldboy crossed with The Village crossed with Mum and Dad.

What with the naturalistic performances, explicit sex scenes, low-key cinematography and lashings of nudity, Dogtooth is about as arthouse a movie as one could expect to find this side of a Lars von Trier. We know that it's arthouse because none of it is really arousing and they do it with their socks on. And as such, the movie's not very accessible nor is it particularly interesting to lovers of plot or things happening. With not much happening in Dogtooth, it would be remiss of me to spoil that which actually does. It may not be horror proper, but there's enough here to disturb and peak the curiosity of even the most hardened horror fan. The incest is a bit much though. It's the inaccessability and lack of purpose that holds Dogtooth back from greatness. Somewhere towards the end, it seems like it's amping up towards a big happening - but not much does. It sort of just, well, ends. Like this.

Saw V

Director: David Hackl (2008)
Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

In a resounding "shit off" to your Saw boxset, Jigsaw's back for a fifth outing. It's ironic really. Fella gets more screentime in death than he did during his prime in the first movie (lying pretend-dead on a toilet floor not withstanding). Because the series creators seem to regard Jigsaw as an interesting character worthy of screentime, Tobin Bell's killer is crowbarred into a bunch of flashbacks and nonsensical bits which supposedly happened over the course of the first few movies. Only this time I care even less. Yes, less than this.

The whole thing trundles along in its usual way, towards a predictable climax (come on, there was no way Hoffman would ever be caught. Strahm was always destined to die the same death of all Saw heroes) intercut with various tortures and false promises of some sort of meaning. Not even the normally quite likeable Julie Benz can elevate this episode. She plays a boring, uninteresting and unlikeable businesswoman type, trapped in an underground dungeon type thing with a host of other disparate, boring, uninteresting and unlikeable people. Their big game plays out like a team building exercise, with the resounding moral message being that teamwork overcomes all. Meanwhile, Strahm was fucked from the start. His final test is unwinnable really, as the franchise needs its heroes to keep dying in order to keep going. It's very lazy and very predictable. Just for once, the twist should be a Happy Ending for all; Jigsaw and his cronies left dead and run out of silly games.

"You won't believe how it ends". My dear Saw, I couldn't give a fuck.

Saw IV

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman (2007)
Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Destroying any hope that Saw IV might resurrect Jigsaw as a zombie, Jesus or Frankenstein, the movie opens with everyone's favourite grumpy cancer patient lying dead on a table. A pointless autopsy scene ensues, apparently only present in order to outdo the previous movie's brain surgery bit. A mini tape cassette is found in his stomach. Jigsaw wants to play some more games. Well, at least he's persistent. His addictive personality is the least of his problems now though, being dead and all.

The tape is handed over to Detective Hoffman (Mandaylor). Thanks to The Girl Who Loves Horror for reminding me of his name. Considering he's supposed to be the series' villain now, he's one forgettable motherfucker. Not only that, but I have trouble telling him apart from supposed hero Detective Strahm (Patterson) so it's little wonder that I get these last three instalments all mixed up. It doesn't help that neither man has a jot of charisma to share between them. Saw IV brings us the most boring and bland gathering of protagonists and antagonists since almost ever. Gone are the bits of fun casting like Ben from off've LOST, Danny Glover or that other bloke from off've LOST.

But at least Donnie Wahlberg is back! He has hardly anything to do in his limited screentime, but for me his presence is the only worthwhile thing about Saw IV. When your movie's watchability is saved by Donnie Wahlberg, well, that's when you know you're doing something wrong. Alas, his re-introduction is rendered ultimately pointless since he gets his head smashed in with an ice cube not too long afterwards. The Saw franchise thus far reads like a giant "fuck you" to Donnie Wahlberg. Way to waste your series' best character, Saw people (yes, Whalberg's Detective is actually and unironically my favourite character). Whilst all this happens, one of the remaining cops from Wahlberg's squad is playing a game of his own. This translates into failing to save anyone from dying and then getting himself killed at the end.

There's a twist, which seems complicated but actually isn't. I suppose it's clever in its own not-clever sort of way, with the timelines and stuff, and also Hoffman is revealed to be Jigsaw's apprentice, fuelling a further bunch of instalments. Next up: Strahm is on Hoffman's tail, Julie Benz plays another stupid game and there's a flashback to Jigsaw bitching. Again.


Director: Darren Lynn Bousman (2006)
Starring: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Bahar Soomekh
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Hoping to buy himself a few more hours of valuable whingeing time, Jigsaw kidnaps a doctor lady (Soomekh) and forces her to perform brain surgery. Meanwhile, a man that looks like Zach Galifianakis but isn't finds himself locked in a grotty underground maze. Down there, Jigsaw hopes to force him to let go of past demons and stuff. But little does anyone know, the whole thing is an elaborate scheme
concocted by the big man himself to play at Alan Sugar. Saw III is essentially The Apprentice: The Movie, as the "big twist" is revealed that the whole thing is actually Amanda's final test. Except that instead of being fired she gets shot by Zach Galifianakis. Who (SPOILER) isn't actually in this movie. He's just really fat and has a beard and my brain can only handle one fat bearded man at a time.

Nowhere is my biggest problem with Jigsaw more evident than Saw III. Here his big life lessons are being taught to Geoff - a man still mourning his son. Apparently 'Saw finds mourning distasteful, because Geoff needs teaching to move on. Just piss off, already. Don't you have dolphins to swim with? Still, Saw III ties up enough loose ends and plot points to justify its existence and bring the story to a natural close.

Or so one might think. There's a further 3 (?) more stories to come yet. Well, this one story, told 3 (?) more times. A final bit is shoehorned in with Geoff's daughter, although they dropped that in favour of another apprentice story. And alas, more Jigsaw, not shutting the fuck up from beyond the grave. It's a shame that Amanda buys it in this episode, since I'd much rather have followed her in future instalments than I would (??????)* It's a bit of a mess, but still watchable enough and not yet buried beneath the heaps of horseshit and lazy flashback fuckery that would follow.

Enjoy those 3/5 screaming Scream Queens, Saw fans. It's the most you'll be seeing in a very long time - until maybe (but probably not) Saw 3D. Next up is Jigsaw's autopsy, (?) (?) and (?) followed by a twist. From this point onwards, it's all a blur.

* I actually don't know his name. And I physically don't care enough to check the IMDB.

Saw II

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman (2005)
Starring: Donnie Wahlberg, Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

The second Saw movie in a row to not suck – a streak that would go unbroken until – well, the next one. Saw II moves from its toilet beginnings to a really big house, where Jigsaw has gathered his victims to play some games (not Guitar Hero), bicker and wallop one another with nail-fettered baseball bats. On the case is detective Not-Marky Wahlberg, whose son is amongst the captives in Jigsaw's house of fun. Jigsaw is captured quite early on in the movie, but remains in control throughout, since he's one smart cookie cancer patient. The emphasis is more on action and big set-piece gore in this sequel, as opposed to the original's more subtle sense of menace and horror.

Yuk it up. Yes, I used the word 'subtle' in relation to a Saw movie.
And yes again, I know this screengrab isn't from Saw II

I actually managed to detect the twist this time around, although that doesn't really detract from the ending and the cruelty of one character's fate. SPOILER: poor Not-Marky. His suffering wouldn't end until either Saw IV, V or VI. I forget which one had the ice-blocks in it. That said, Tobin Bell's Jigsaw is given a much bigger role this time, which is a mistake depending on one's perspective and how likeable you find the character. I know you're not supposed to like horror villains, but personally, I was rooting for Not-Marky to kill him with that beating. Sadly not, and the whole thing serves only as inspiration for another big Jigsaw lecture. Yawn. There's a reason Jason and Leatherface keep their mouths shut. No-one gives a fuck, Jigsaw. Only Freddy can carry of the talky killer bit - and that's only because he says "bitch" a lot.

Donnie Wahlberg: not Mark(y)

Also given a bigger role but with marginally more success is Shawnee Smith as Amanda, one of Jigsaw's earlier victims. As we all know, Amanda would later be revealed as Jigsaw's willing apprentice and a bit of a loon, but we're here led to believe that she's stuck amongst the kidnapped. For her trouble, she ends up lobbed in a pit full of skanky old needles and told to look for a key. It's the nastiest moment in Saw II and works a lot better than some of the more elaborate traps. Of all the movies, it's this second instalment that I hate the least. The original movie might be technically better, but this sequel has an energy and pizazz that I kinda dig despite the occasional shoddiness.

The twist might be mildly guessable, but it works. The franchise saw fit to sort-of reuse it in the fifth, sixth or whatever movie because why not and screenwriting is hard. If they'd stopped now, all would have been well and good. But Jigsaw lives to grumble another day and Donnie Wahlberg ends up locked in a toilet. Next up comes some brain surgery, the waste of Shawnee Smith's potential and the exact point where the series should have ended for good.


Director: John Erick Dowdle (2010)
Starring: Old Woman, Young Woman, Guard, Salesman, Mechanic
Find it online: IMDB

Only half as bad as you expect it to be, yet legitimately terrible enough to be enjoyable on an ironic level or two. Part one of M Night Shyamalan's Night Chronicles, Devil traps five people in a lift and starts offing them one by one. Mix a doomed maintenance worker, two hapless security guards and a recovering alcoholic cop into the mix and you have a movie that's one part Final Destination, one part Saw and a little bit Signs.

Despite the fact he didn't direct, Shyamalan's fingerprints are all over Devil. It's perhaps the most Shyamalanest of his movies to date. Which, I suppose, is why they called it a 'Night Chronicle'. I'm not sure whether this is a spoiler or not, but The Devil is supposedly hiding in an elevator, fucking with his victims and the coppers/security guards/maintenance chappy watching from CCTV. I have no idea why Satan is spending his days playing in a lift, but judging by how Devil goes down, he needs a new hobby. Said victims are a bunch of dodgy looking stereotypes who possibly have names but are only referred to in the credits as Old Woman, Young Woman, Guard, Salesman and Mechanic. Or you can refer to them as I did - Melodramatic Old Lady, Woman In Tank Top, Macho Samuel L. Wannabe, Creepy Gomez Adams Guy and Sullen Tom Hardy Wannabe. They're all pretty annoying, but entertaining enough to watch bicker and die as they do. And die they do a lot. There's not much gore, but the kills are daffy and left-field enough as to amuse or even distract from the inherent ridiculousness of the concept. By the time people are dropping toast on the floor to prove the Devil's presence, you'll either have walked out/switched off or totally get Devil for the (unintentional) joke it is.

An actual plot point in Devil

True to Shyamalan's back catalogue, there's even a twist. Does it really count as a twist when the whole movie is essentially a whodunnit? You're invited to spend the whole runtime trying to guess who The Devil is. This works especially well when the movie is viewed with an audience of idiots. I was seated just in front of one particular genius who alternated between shouting "THE OLD WOMAN'S THE DEVIL!" and "THE CREEPY GUY'S THE DEVIL" and "SHE'S THE DEVIL" and "HE'S THE DEVIL" and then just: "IT'S THE DEVIL!1!"* My guess was on it being the lift itself. Were either of us right? Just see it for yourself. And if you feel cheated by the first twist, another comes in quick succession. Sharp audience members will probably be able to predict the twist(s) and the finale, but it doesn't detract too much. The ultimate twist though, being that Devil is actually not entirely shit. Well, maybe a bit entirely shit, but more enjoyably so than Airbender or the boring one about the mermaid.

Devil is well-directed and snappy enough to at least earn it a cursory viewing. It deserves watching whilst either intoxicated or amongst an audience of imbeciles, but is still only 50% as bad as one might expect. It's disappointingly almost-decent. Bring on the next Night Chronicle.

* An audience member who laughed raucously at the Vampires Suck trailer, screamed at the Paranormal Activity 2 bit and practically pissed himself with laughter at the Jack Black Orange advert. With his yelps of "DEVIL!1!" throughout the movie, I want this motherfucker on the commentary track.

Run Fatboy Run: Tubby Horror Idiot Edition

As some of you may or may not care know, for the past eight weeks I have been training to run a 10 kilometre mini-marathon thing in memory of my late little brother, Jake. You can donate some cash to the cause here; and some already have. Thank you to the completely awesome Jinx of Totally Jinxed fame. Not only did she send a little money my way, but she provided no short supply of support too. Thanks Jinx - consider this post in your honour. Plus, your blog is one of my favourites.

Well today I went out and I ran those 10 kilometres*. I did it in one hour and three minutes - pretty good, when one considers the fact that I fully expected that little jog to properly kill me. Even better when one considers the fact that I've been doing nothing but drinking beer, eating McMuffins and watching stupid horror movies for the entirety of my 'training'. My still being alive is testament to the fact that doing things the half-assed way will out sometimes. To be fair, my viewing schedule did consist of Run Fatboy Run (my main source of inspiration), Marathon Man (useless) and Running Man (gotta be prepared for violent emergencies). I ate a Snickers bar just before too (GET IT**).

Anyhoo, it's kinda bad form to talk about oneself in a movie blog, so we'll nip it in the bud now. Thanks once more to Jinx and everyone else who donated and didn't take the piss. Thanks too to Simon Pegg, for being a massive inspiration and man-crush. Now, back to the reviews of shitty horror and silly Youtube music videos.

* Except for that one time I had to stop and tie my laces
** Because they used to be called Marathon - GET ITT

2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams

Director: Tim Sullivan (2010)
Starring: Bill Moseley, Lin Shaye, Christa Campbell
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Disclaimer: I didn't watch this movie all the way through. But there is actually nothing that could possibly ever have happened in the last twenty minutes to earn this shitty movie even one Scream Queen. Field Of Screams is literally unwatchable. It makes the previous Maniacs movies look Oscarworthy and Herschell Gordon Lewis like Dario Argento. 2001 Maniacs: Field Of Screams is maybe the worst movie of 2010 so far and definitely the worst STD sequel to anything half-good since Wrong Turn 3. This isn't hyperbole or the whinings of a man incapable of appreciating cheesy splatter (I loved the original 2001 Maniacs): Field Of Screams is atrocious in every single way. It's irredeemable toss without any of the spirit, creativity, fun or Robert Englund that its predecessor possesses. I hate this movie and I hate myself for watching it.

After supplies run dry back home, the 2001 Maniacs take to the road in search of fresh meat. In a school bus. Yes, a supposed 2001 maniacs travel around in an apparently TARDIS sized school bus. I'm not sure if there are even 20 maniacs in this movie, let alone 2001. They're almost outnumbered by their Northern prey. Their victims are a gaggle of Hollywood TV types, creating a TV show that's apparently supposed to be spoofing the Paris & Nicole thing. Hilarious characterisation gets us a Jewish money-grabbing director with stereotypical sideburn things, a Mexican chappy called Jesus, some blonde bimbos and black people who constantly refer to their own skin colour. Field Of Screams mistakes edginess for racism and has its characters speak in a series of racial slurs and epithets. Thankfully, I was too busy being offended by its all-out shittiness than its racism. No-one will really be offended by this movie because no-one of any consequence or intelligence will get much further than the horrible title sequence.

I feel bad for my poor brain cells but even worse for Bill Moseley and Lin Shaye, who are far too good for the likes of this crap. Moseley gives it his all, but there's only so far talent and charisma will get you when nobody else has any. I'm genuinely embarrassed for poor Shaye, forced into a series of ridiculous costumes and scenarios.

Even when one considers its low-budget splatterpunk aspirations, Field Of Screams is a failure. It's terrible, both technically and morally. I've seen better horror, better acting and better scripting on Youtube. Every single thing about it is shit. The South's Gonna Rise Again? I fucking hope not.

Dead Rising 2

In a city that looks like Las Vegas but isn't Las Vegas, stuntman motorcross person Chuck Greene battles zombies for others' entertainment. A bit like that scene with Asia Argento and the cage in Land Of The Dead, except with chainsaws and motorbikes and cheesy cutscenes. No sooner has Chuck hit the showers than the zombies break out and take the city by storm. Chuck and daughter Katey hide in an underground bunker whilst they wait for the military to arrive. But, as always, there are complications. Katey is infected and needs anti-zombification drug Zombrex every 24 hours. And also, Chuck's been framed as the outbreak's cause. Can he (you) save his daughter, clear his name and survive the next 80ish hours? Or will you spend all of your valuable time dicing and slicing zombies with a lightsaber?

Yes, a fucking lightsaber.

No, it doesn't make the noise. But it's still a fucking lightsaber and you'll spend all of your time chopping zombies to bits with it. Occasionally, if you feel like it, you'll rescue a couple of survivors and battle some psychopaths too. But mostly you'll be hacking zombies up with a lightsaber.

Dead Rising 2 is a free-roaming sort of affair. There's a storyline and objectives, but it's up to you whether you partake in anything, or simply wander aimlessly around battering zombies with a series of ridiculous implements and tools. The sheer amount of weapons and possibilities therein are the game's strongest point. Literally anything you see can be used as a weapon against the zombie hordes. A chainsaw is obviously going to be more effective than a pair of scissors or a dildo, but the option's there if you want it. And the myriad of tools you're given can be combined to double the awesomeness. From nailed baseball bats to chainsaw paddles to beer hats to boxing gloves with knives on, Dead Rising 2 delivers the best zombie killing action ever seen in a computer game. It harkens back to Zombies Ate My Neighbour and such filmic delights as Zombieland or Shaun Of The Dead. The emphasis on inventive slaughter by Capcom is a very wise move and will win the game a lot of fans, as will its very George Romero-ish sense of humour.

But where it fails - and fail it occasionally does - is in its terribly cheesy cut-scenes, ridiculously hard psychopath boss battles, underpowered guns, strict deadlines and a map that takes ages to traverse. Its save point system will annoy some, although it's reportedly better than that of the original Dead Rising, and the controls can be a little fiddly at time. The whole thing is nearly derailed by the sheer amount of load screens which pop up at frustrating regularity.

But there's a lot to like and a lot more to love. The kill counter is a lovely little addition. The outfit changes offer much amusement (destroying zombies dressed as a cowboy or in one's grundies brought me hours of giggles) as do the delightfully grotesque characters and boss battles. Yes, they're too hard, but psychopaths such as Chef, Slappy and a PVC chainsaw Pig look quite wonderful. Dead Rising 2 is doubtlessly a little bit broken, but should you take the time to look for and enjoy the fun bits, you'll learn to love it in spite of its unfortunate flaws.

If you've not played it, however, a 're-imagining' was released, starring the original game's Frank West. It's called Off The Record and is a superior game. Ignore this one, and fill your boots with that instead.


Dr Dale's Zombie Dictionary: the A-Z Guide to Staying Alive

If you've ever questioned how useful Lorraine Kelly or a sheep would be in the midst of a zombie apocalypse* - or find The Zombie Survival Guide a little dry - then Dr. Dale's Zombie Dictionary is most surely the book for you. If you want to survive the forthcoming zombie holocaust, I'd fully recommend this be on your reading list. Written by zombie survival guru Dale Seslick, The Zombie Survival Guide comes on the back of a Fringe show and podcast. It's a service for the good of humanity, when you think of it. The Good Doctor's A-Z takes in topics you'd expect (Armour & Weapons) and a lot of ones you really wouldn't (the YMCA, um, Lorraine Kelly). The advice given is useful, informative (it's helped me no end in Dead Rising 2) and very funny. Despite there being a lot of jokes, Doctor Dale never sacrifices good advice for a punchline. Should it get the audience it deserves, this book will save a lot of lives. Horror fans will dig references to their favourite movies too - Dawn Of The Dead, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus - whilst I really enjoyed the very British sense of humour and mentions of Emmerdale, of all things.

Unlike The Zombie Survival Guide, World War Z or some of its ilk, the book doesn't take itself too seriously. Take note Apocalypse 2012; just because the world is facing its Final Days doesn't mean we can't have a few laughs too. It's well illustrated throughout and a lot of fun. Everything a bit of good zombie literature should be, in fact.

Best of all: it comes with a full money back guarantee should you die by zombie within 30 days of its purchase.

* I would have said the sheep more than the Scot, but we won't hold that against the Doctor.

TOTAL FILM 173: The Yours Truly Edition

If you'll excuse the self-indulgent mitherings of a braggart, I beg of y'all to go out and purchase a copy of Total Film #173 (available from most good retailers... well, in Britain anyway). It's very good and it contains a list of the 25 greatest horror movies of all time, as well as interviews with Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter. But not the least because it has me in it.

Yes, do tune in to Issue 173 for my interview with Emma Watson, a Rachel McAdams/Anne Hathaway face off and lots and lots of uncredited untyping jobs. Transcribing exclusive John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper interview tapes is a highlight of this idiot horrorhound's life so far. Plus I think I might be ever so slightly a lot in love with Emma Watson. So yes, go out and buy a copy now. I'll love you forever.