The Dinosaur Project

Director: Sid Bennett (2012)
Starring: Natasha Loring, Matt Kane, Richard Dillane
Find it: IMDB

"The best dinosaur film since Jurassic Park!" goes most of the promotional material for The Dinosaur Project. Well, maybe, but it's also the only dinosaur film since Jurassic Park. And even that's presuming that we're not counting Jurassic Park's own sequels, since even Jurassic Park 3 is 
better than this one.
Dinosaurs are spotted near an isolated African rainforest, so a film crew heads out to investigate. A documentary maker, his sinister best friend, a disposable film crew and his horrible son all pile into a small aeroplane and head off in search of dinosaurs. The creatures try their best to hide ("doyouthinkhesaurus?") but when the plane crash lands deep in dino territory (which also happened in Jurassic Park 3) the crew find themselves dangerously out of their depth.

It looks and sounds a bit like the Land of the Lost movie from 2009, except no-one in it is as good as Danny McBride (people rarely are) and segments of it look like a Paranormal Activity. It's not as bad as Land of the Lost (hey, that 'best dinosaur film since Jurassic Park' might actually hold water, if the former had actually been a proper dinosaur film) but it's not particularly good either. The 12 rating doesn't hurt the film, although it may have been responsible for the Dinosaur Hunter's horrible son's prolonged screentime. He's like Jeff Goldblum's annoying daughter in The Lost World, but without Jeff Goldblum to counteract how boring and annoying she is.    

Grumpiness: Dissipated. 

Monsters and Troll Hunter did this sort of thing so much better. Dinosaur Hunter is a cute adventure action film with some good - but rarely outstanding - dinosaur action. Best dinosaur film since Jurassic Park? Well, maybe, but there wasn't that much competition.

K3: Prison of Hell

Director: Andreas Bethmann (2009)
Starring: Suzi-Anne, Candy-Sue, Bianca Germany
Find it: IMDB

Describing the plot of K3: Prison of Hell to a relative, I may have accidentally given off the impression that I am something of a psychopath or serial killer in training. In fact, as I tried to tactfully describe this movie to my Dear old Dad, the question "it's not a snuff film, is it?" may have been asked. It didn't help my case that K3: Prison of Hell was delivered to me via a friend, ordered from Germany and given on a nondescript DVD-RW. "It's definitely not snuff," I insisted, "snuff doesn't have an IMDB page."

That said, you won't find K3: Prison of Hell on Amazon, less because it's a snuff movie, (honest Dad, it's not) more because of all the giant cocks being sucked all over the place. Also, what with all the hardcore sexual violence, it's probably illegal here in the UK. Not snuff, though. The word 'torture porn' is bandied around horror movie territories with depressing regularity (not by me, except for when I use inverted commas) but in the case of K3: Prison of Hell, that's about right. This movie consists of nothing but torture and pornography, neither of which is particularly well done. 

The plot has lots of women in prison (it's never explained why) while the guards go around raping them all the time. I had never seen a Prison Exploitation movie before (apparently The Shawshank Redemption and Schindler's List don't count) so I Googled Prison of Hell to see what I was in for. One of the first pictures I found was of an arm shoved all the way up a poor lady's arse. Most of the action consists of things going up arses or erections going into various other orifices (usually the face). This is brought to us by infamous exploitation director Andreas Bethmann; responsible for a number of other horror/porno movies, most of which have 'rape' in the synopsis. Also involved is special effects maestro, occasional director and chum of Uwe Boll, Olaf Ittenbach. The gore effects, when they come, are decent enough - there's a reasonable head explosion scene - but otherwise, Prison of Hell is just plain boring. If you've seen one cock sucked, you've seen them all. The mix of sexual violence, titillation and torture is horrid, but that's the point. The film knows its audience (Fetlife friends, aficionados of hardcore cinema and probably Mel Gibson) very well, and everyone else won't even know it exists in the first place. Given that I don't really enjoy pornography, I was doomed from the start.  

K3: Prison of Hell is unpleasant, ugly and dull. While it will appeal to those who enjoy that sort of thing, everyone else will be either horrified or nonplussed or both at the same time. It's not really the type of movie you assign a star rating to (unless you're in the business of reviewing pornography), but I'll do so anyway. Mostly so my Dad, in case he's Googling this, can be totally sure that I'm not a lunatic nutcase who gets off on that Andreas Bethmann's prison pornographies.

Look Dad, no stars:

Come and See

Director: Elim Klimov (1985)
Starring: Aleksey Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Liubomiras Lauciavicius
Find it: IMDB

I first became aware of Come and See working my way through the Time Out Top 100 horror films. After embarrassing myself by not having seen nearly enough classics, I decided to watch every film on the list. At no. 100 - Come and See. 'Pooh', I scoffed (yes, I scoff poo) - 'They have just put this foreign language war film on the list because they want people to think that they're all classy and shit. They should have put Maniac Cop on here instead.'

Come and See might indeed be all classy and shit, but make no mistake - it deserves its place on that list. Of all the films I've seen on it, it is by far the most horrifying. And yes, it is actually better than Maniac Cop. Don't let the fact that it's based on reality put you off, either - some of the most terrifying things in the world are based in reality. That's what makes them so scary. My Ex, for example.

Digging in the mud by his home, young Flyora (Kravchenko), finds an old military-issue rifle. He immediately leaves home to join the Soviet partisan forces in their fight against Hitler, much to his mother and sisters' distress. There, he finds himself being distressed for the rest of the time, separated from his unit (who have left him behind for his own good), constantly having bombs dropped near his head and nearly drowning all the time. There's an atmosphere of deep discomfort and unpleasantness about Come and See, and that's before the Nazis even appear.

Come and See, despite not really being a proper horror film, is one of the most haunting, distressing things I have ever seen. It looks, sounds and feels like a horror film though, with a gruesome surrealist streak a mile wide. And judging by the look on poor Flyora's face, I'd venture that he finds it to be pretty damn horrifying himself.

Kravchenko gives what might be the greatest performance I have ever seen from a young person, his oh-so expressive face wordlessly conveying the sheer horror of war. It's like Apocalypse Now, remade in a little boy's face. As the Nazis eventually arrive, you really don't want to go any further or see any more. Their destruction of a small village full of people is unimaginably terrible, like some sort of Nazi Glastonbury. With its long, drawn out scenes of human suffering, it almost challenges you to keep watching.   

Come and See is powerful, distressing and incredibly moving. Is it horror? Yes, and no, but then I don't consider the term 'horror film' to be an insult. It's like a history lesson, crossed with The Shining. Come and See? Only if you like being miserable.

King of the Ants

Director: Stuart Gordon (2003)
Starring: Chris L. McKenna, George Wendt, Daniel Baldwin
Find it: IMDB

In which I continue to hunt down everything my favourite director (probably) has ever done. Next on the list - King of the Ants, which has nothing to do with HP Lovecraft and doesn't even have Jeffrey Combs in it. To add to the film's strangeness, there's lovely George Wendt, a Baldwin brother and it being based on a book by Charlie Higson. Yes, George Wendt from off've Cheers, a Baldwin that isn't Alec (or even Stephen) and that nice Charlie Higson from off've The Fast Show. Nobody in King of the Ants acts quite how you'd expect them to, except for maybe Daniel Baldwin, who just does an impression of his own brother (not Stephen) the whole time.

Young drifter Sean (McKenna) is an odd-job man without prospects until Duke (Wendt) comes along, offering the lad a job. Sean is tasked with following and eventually murdering the fellow from off've Office Space (Ron Livingston) - a task he takes to with remarkable gusto. I was personally very happy with this development, since Ron Livingston was the worst thing about Office Space. Expecting to get paid, Sean is disappointed when Duke and his gangster boss (a Baldwin) refuse. An attempt to blackmail Baldwin and his goons goes terribly awry when Baldwin has him kidnapped and smacked repeatedly around the head with a golf club.

The violence in King of the Ants is shockingly real. Every blow about the head Sean receives reverberates with us, the audience, until we come to dread his daily beatings as much as he does. The film's second half falls into somewhat standard revenge thriller territory, although it is a lot more grisly than most. I'll never look at George Wendt in quite the same way, that's for sure. Nor Vernon Wells, for that matter. Graduated from playing the one-note villain in Commando, Wells is actually one of the film's most sympathetic characters - and he's actually playing a bad guy. I was very disappointed by the fact he hadn't brought his magnificent vest over from that film.

Gordon is on more straightforward ground than his Lovecraft adaptations, but King of the Ants is no less bizarre. Sean's lack of purpose in life and barely contained anger is a precursor to Gordon's Edmond, his amorality also familiar from Stuck. That sense of horror and evil bubbling beneath the surface of apparent normality is very Lovecraftian, even if the film is completely free of Cthulu and his tentacle bastards. It's an interesting film - predictable but grim, the violence cruel and not glorified. It has its surreal moments too, which are made all the odder by the movie's gritty, very real aesthetic. The sight of Kari Wuhrer unsheathing a massive cock will haunt my nightmares dreams for some time.

King of the Ants is one of Gordon's weakest movies, but it certainly has its very disturbing, nastier moments.

Keith Lemon: The Film

DirectorPaul Angunawela (2012)
Starring: Leigh Francis, Kelly Brook, Laura Aikman
Find it: IMDB

I laughed fifteen times. Given its quality, I can't, in all good conscience, give this film the 3/5 Screaming Scream Queens I'd give most passably amusing films. But then, fifteen times. That's fifteen times more than I thought I'd laugh. I can't, in the name of fairness, give this film the 0/5 Screaming Scream Queens most other reviewers would, or have. Fifteen times. That's a figure I just couldn't argue with. You see my dilemma.

Keith Lemon, for the uninitiated, is a British TV celebrity and fictional character, all at once; a less sophisticated Ali G or Borat. He's not really played by comedian Leigh Francis, as much as Francis seems to inhabit Lemon. When appearing as Keith Lemon, Francis is constantly in character. I preferred his Avid Merrion persona, but Lemon has his moments (mostly filth and catchphrases) and has certainly earned his place as the prize of ITV2's comedy mantelpiece right now.

Like Ali G and The Inbetweeners before him, Lemon's runaway success has propelled him to the big screen. Again like Ali G before him, the plot is a rags-to-riches story about  Lemon rising to fame and then quickly forgetting about his friends and family once he gets there. To be fair, friends and family are such a drag. I sat in the Premier seating in The Odeon once; by the time the film had finished, I never wanted to speak to any of those hobo losers I call my friends ever again.

It would have been nice if Francis had gone with a less played-out template for this feature film, but at least it's not Keith Lemon Abroad (probably the sequel). And besides, the film is mostly just an excuse for our crap British celebrities to have fun and maybe justify their pointless existences a little bit. The most famous person in the film is David Hasselhoff, which says a lot for the quality of celebrity here. Full disclosure: I actually  fuckin' love David Hasselhoff.

I had dreaded seeing Keith Lemon: The Film a little bit, and wound up watching it out of morbid curiosity alone. How surprised was I to laugh during the opening moments? And then again, moments later? There are plenty of Bo Selecta jokes, even if you're not too much of a Keith Lemon fan, and some of the celebrities aren't too annoying. Full disclosure: I also like Jedward, so that probably helped.

Why am I reviewing this here, though? You may ask, on a horror website, of all places? Well personally, I found it pretty damn scary, to be enjoying Keith Lemon: The Film. The discovery that you have terrible taste in comedy is a profoundly depressing one. And also, that scene in which Keith Lemon jizzes violently all over his own face is like something out of a David Cronenberg movie. 

Oh, fuck it:

Don't be such a fucking snob.

From Dusk Till Dawn

Director: Robert Rodriguez (1996)
Starring: George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel
Find it: IMDB

My favourite vampire movie of all time. My favourite George Clooney movie of all time (not that the competition was too stiff in that department). My favourite Robert Rodriguez movie of all time. My favourite Tarantino scripted movie of all time? Probably.

Perpetually angry criminals Seth and Richard Gecko (Clooney and Tarantino, who look so similar they could totally be brothers) are on the run from the law. They shack up in a desert motel and grab a holidaying ex-preacher (Keitel) and his family as hostages. The gang load up into the preacher's motor-home and sneak on over the Mexican border. There's a scene in which George Clooney punches Tarantino in the face. I'm not sure why I found that so amusing, but I wish he had done the same when Tarantino decided to cast Eli Roth in Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds. 

When the Geckos and their hostages arrive in Mexico, they await the arrival of Seth's friends in a classy bar named The Titty Twister. It's a joint so tough that it has Danny Trejo serving drinks and Cheech Marin (heh, joint) on the door. Also, vampires. On the basis of From Dusk Till Dawn, I would have said that George Clooney would have made a great Batman. And, to be fair, if he had been allowed to play Batman and not Adam West, I still think he could have been good. Seth Gecko is a bit of a dick, but Clooney's charisma makes him difficult to dislike - even when he's menacing that lovely Harvey Keitel and his nice children. Tarantino's acting career has always been very much maligned, but he's a good fit for this movie. He basically plays a slightly more/less weird version of himself, staring at Juliette Lewis's feet all the time and occasionally murdering innocent folks. His isn't a great performance, but I like it, all the same.


And even if you don't, everyone else is so consistently great, that it really doesn't matter. There's Fred Williamson and Tom Savini playing tough guys (the latter named 'Sex Machine'), Salma Hayek, Juliette Lewis and even a cute cameo from John Saxon. As Cheech Marin says at the door, there's something to suit all tastes at the Titty Twister. Well, except maybe for those film fans who like their vampires to be a little more noble or romantic or sparkly.

Death Proof

Director: Quentin Tarantino (2007)
Starring: Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Rose McGowan, Zoe Bell
Find it: IMDB

Wherein Quentin Tarantino's worst movie is better than a lot of directors' best. Death Proof is the much-maligned second part of Grindhouse, Tarantino's double-bill collaboration with Robert Rodriguez. Where Rodriguez's Planet Terror is more fun, Tarantino delivers the more authentic Grindhouse experience - in that Death Proof is disappointing, talky, and a waste of a great concept.

And that's coming from someone who likes Death Proof more than most. Kurt Russell is Stuntman Mike, a serial killer who drives about in his stunt-car, intentionally crashing into things and murdering pretty youngsters in the process. It's a lot like Crash (not the shit one about racism - the other thing) only with a foot fetish instead of a car crash fetish. In the first half of the film, Mike harasses DJ Jungle Julia (Sidney Poitier's daughter - also called Sid) and her pals, before murdering them all in a grisly car crash. Mike himself winds up pretty battered and bruised by the end of this - a murder which has actually gone to plan - so it's fair to say that his Modus Operandi is a pretty dumb one.

Then, in the second half, he moves on to another group of friends; led by Abernathy (Dawson) and stuntwoman Zoe Bell (played by stuntwoman Zoe Bell). The second half of the film is much better than the first, featuring an incredible car chase scene, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and one of the best endings to a genre film I've ever seen. It's Girl Power at its finest. Also, if you like that sort of thing:

I think we can safely say Tarantino likes that sort of thing.

It's objectification of the female form, Jim, but not as we know it. But it's Tarantino's peculiar little obsessions and tropes that make his films so enjoyable, charming and original. It may be a lesser work compared to the likes of Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, but I would personally hold Death Proof in the same esteem as his equally enjoyable Inglourious Basterds. Even at his most self-indulgent, Tarantino knows how to write and direct the hell out of a film.

Texas Chainsaw 3D

Director: John Lussenhop (2013)
Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Dan Yeager, Trey Songz
Find it: IMDB

There's a buzz in the air. Can you hear it? Leatherface returns in Texas Chainsaw 3D, a direct sequel to what might be my favourite horror movie of all time. Texas Chainsaw 3D disposes of half of the title, three sequels and a remake (plus that film's prequel) to return to Texas, 1974. Sally Hardesty has just escaped the Sawyer homestead. Leatherface is swinging his chainsaw about, incensed by his own uselessness. And then a mob of furious locals descends upon the Sawyer family home...

Years later, Heather (Daddario) learns that she was adopted, and that her estranged grandmother has left a doozy of an inheritance in her will. Heather is now the proud owner of a massive country house. Should have read the small print though: she's also inherited her inbred cannibalistic cousin, Leatherface, who lives in the basement, probably playing World of Warcraft. It's like the plot of Castle Freak, except with Leatherface and his chainsaw instead of The Freak and its chode.

Leatherface makes his presence known during Heather's housewarming party, immediately setting about his new house guests with his massive chainsaw. Old habits die hard, eh. The first half of Texas Chainsaw 3D is rote and predictable, enlivened by a brief cameo from Bill Moseley and Leatherface's impressive physicality - he's pretty spry for an old guy; meaner and stronger than he's ever been. There are some nice little touches to the film for old fans - I particularly liked the re-appearance of his garish tie from the first flick.

The second half of the film fares better, moving the action from the old Sawyer house to the surrounding town. There an old town conspiracy is uncovered, the Mayor wears a Stetson and cuddly cult favourite Richard Riehle (okay, my cuddly cult favourite) plays a lawyer. There's a nifty sequence set at the town carnival (where Leatherface actually bumps into the Pig man from Saw) and a fairly tense bit in which a cop stalks our psychopath in the basement of his home. That he records his man-on-a-mission with FaceTime (face time, geddit) spoils the atmosphere slightly, but there's a good pay-off.  

Now we all love Leatherface (a good title for a sitcom, that) but there was no need to turn him into some sort of sympathetic antihero type. Yet that's what Texas Chainsaw 3D tries to do. It would be plausible to have the town sheriff sympathise with Leatherface if the killer hadn't just spent the last 80 minutes trying to murder everyone he could lay his chubby hands on. The finale veers from inspired to stupid, with characters making ridiculous decisions and the film descending into some sort of Revenge Horror with Leatherface playing the wronged party. I doubt poor Sally Hardesty would see it that way.

Texas Chainsaw 3D is an enjoyable disappointment. There are some decent horror and action sequences, but ultimately the film is very flawed. The characters are unsympathetic and stupid, the script silly and devoid of any humour. Worst of all, this film discards the canon of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, rendering Dennis Hopper and Chop-Top non-existent. Unforgivable. But at least that means Matthew McConaughey never existed either. Every cloud, and all that.  

Ultimately, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has one of the greatest sequels of all time. It's called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. You would do well to seek it out, no matter what the dodgy canon of Texas Chainsaw 3D tells you to do.

Batman: Year One

Director: Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery (2011)
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Eliza Dushku
Find it: IMDB

They really should have called it Jim Gordon: Year One. Batman Begins all over again in this adaptation of Frank Miller's comic book of the same name. I didn't particularly need to see yet another retelling of the tale of Batman's formative years, but Frank Miller's is pretty much the definitive version, so why not.

Mostly though, it's about honest cop James Gordon and his arrival in a city full of bent coppers, criminals and scumbags. You might not ever see his face, but Bryan Cranston delivers a perfect Commissioner Gordon performance. I had thought that Gary Oldman was good in the Dark Knight films, but Cranston blows that out of the water. When they inevitably get around to rebooting live-action Batman, they had better cast Cranston as Gordon. Also: piss off, I don't want to watch a John Blake Batman film.

Full disclosure: I am one of those twattocks who goes on about how good Breaking Bad is all the time. I fucking love Breaking Bad. Who would have thought that Malcolm in the Middle's Dad would turn out to be one of my favourite actors ever? (more full disclosure: me). He sounds exactly as I've always imagined Jim Gordon would sound. Fullest disclosure: Total Recall is still shit though, and Cranston is shit in it too.

What with Gary Oldman and Bryan Cranston, it's nice to see Commissioner Gordon get his dues. I love Tim Burton's Batman films as much (more) as any child of the 80s, but fuck Pat Hingle and his comedy incompetence.  Ben McKenzie's Batman sounds too young for my liking, but even the Dark Knight gotta star somewhere, eh? The animation is very nice - quite similar to David Mazzucchelli's artwork, from the comic book itself.

The biggest problem the film has is with its own redundancy. A lot of this material was covered in Batman Begins. Still, it does have that bit in which Batman punches a bent cop through a wall for shooting at a cat. For that alone, Year One is well worth a punt.