The Collection

Director: Marcus Dunstan (2012)
Starring: Josh Stewart, Emma Fitzpatrick, Lee Tergesen
Find it: IMDB

In my review of The Collector, I had a good old whine about the state of modern horror. Coming at the tail end of the whole torture tripe Zeitgeist, it was a surprisingly good horror film marred by a number of silly contrivances and a wholly predictable ending. Oh, that ending. A self-consciously cynical, sequel-baiting ending that anyone who'd ever seen a horror film before in their life would have sussed out from the moment that bloody red box appeared on the scene.

That sequel is here with The Collection, in which the Collector returns to add a few new assholes to his collection. Stewart returns as Arkin, the unfortunate would-be cat burglar added to the Collector's box set the last time around. Escaping after the Collector attacks an underground rave (thereby rendering my earlier rant redundant) Arkin finds himself free, at last. But in the very best of horror movie traditions, his ordeal is barely over before he volunteers to go toe-to-toe against the Collector again. For the Collector has kidnapped a pretty young rich girl (Fitzpatrick) and her daddy's mercenaries are out to recover her. Led by Lucello (the great Lee Tergesen) Arkin and the mercenaries enter the Collector's lair. Because, y'know, calling the police from the doorstep was apparently not an option. Collecting ensues.

The Collection is more or less a straight redo of its predecessor, and feels less original and interesting because of that. With its armed mercenaries wandering around the house getting picked off one by one, The Collection is a cross between the first Resident Evil film and Saw. There are even zombies, in the shape of the Collector's brainwashed victims, who attack the interlopers like slavering attack dogs. There are some cool traps and brutal gore gags, but too much of The Collection is like a replay of the original film. And there are at least three too many incidents of our heroes running into a room to rescue a screaming, distressed victim, only to discover that it was a trap laid by the villain. Frankly, some people deserve to be locked up in suitcases and tortured relentlessly by a twinkly-eyed man in a luchador mask. Yes, by that, I mean stupid people. I'm suggesting that stupid people should be locked up in boxes and tortured. But only mildly so. I'm not a complete psychopath.

Where it really redeems itself is in the ending. While it's by no means original and certainly not great, it is less predictable than the original movie's, and fairly satisfying. You can probably extrapolate a spoiler from that if you try hard enough, so stop thinking now, people. There's also the opening thresher sequence (similar to the opening of Ghost Ship), Josh Stewart's adorably sad-looking face, and a number of fantastically satisfying fight scenes.       

The Collection is a decent sequel packed full of enjoyable splatter, likeable characters and a truly memorable villain. It ends, once more, with the suggestion of a sequel, but we can probably do without that one. Not unless they call it The Collectables, which I would genuinely think brilliant.

The Collector

Director: Marcus Dunstan (2009)
Starring: Josh Stewart, Andrea Roth, Juan Fernandez
Find it: IMDB

Not an adaptation of John Fowles' novel of the same name, The Collector is a daft but vaguely sort of good torture guff bit which pits a likeable thief against Michael Myers in a Mexican Wrestling mask. Lots of torture and nihilism ensues, and epic fails all around.

Arkin (Stewart) is a nice-guy-handyman-come-safecracker-thief-type. Down on his luck, and needing $1 million by midnight, he decides to break into an employer's house to steal their really big jewel. Only there's a slight hiccup in the form of 'The Collector' - a serial killer who breaks into families' homes, tortures them, sets up stupid traps and steals one of their number for his 'collection' (he carries around a victim in a box, like Asami in Audition). Being a nice but misguided sorta fellow, Arkin sticks around the house. Mostly because the doors and windows are all locked. But also so's he can try to rescue Mum, Dad, Slutty Teenage Daughter and Little Girl from The Collector. Can he succeed? Can he stay hidden? Can he survive? And why doesn't he have a mobile phone?

The Collector is ostensibly Saw in a house (it was originally penned as a Saw movie) crossed with Home Alone, Die Hard, Panic Room and Halloween. It benefits from having more likeable characters than a Saw movie and an excellent central performance in Josh Stewart's Arkin. The guy is actually really, really likeable. Which I didn't expect. Unusually for a horror flick, you'll emphatically root for Arkin as he attempts to rescue the family and escape the house. This emotional investment makes for a much better moviegoing experience than that Jigsaw bullshit in which you'll hate everyone and only Donnie Wahlberg is good. Plus, there's the best Dog + Bin + Fire related death I've ever seen. At its best, The Collector is extremely tense, gripping and brutal.

That said, it is a very flawed movie. Why did The Collector go to the trouble of setting up a bunch of overcomplicated traps when he already had the family tied up at his peril? How did Arkin manage to sneak in and get upstairs before he noticed the traps that were ALL OVER EVERY INCH OF THE HOUSE? Why does The Collector never wonder how his victims keep magically untying themselves? And the torture is too much. There's already a good concept and great traps. The scenes of protracted and unpleasant torture are unnecessary and overly unpleasant. And the sequel-baiting ending ruins the whole movie for me.

Sadly not.

Spoilers now, because I really fucking hate that ending: over the course of the movie, Arkin fails to rescue anyone save for the Little Girl. The Collector is temporarily defeated and Arkin is taken to safety in an ambulance. Nice place to end the movie. Except, no. The Collector rams the ambulance off've the road, kidnaps Arkin and locks him in his little red box. The end. Literally fuck off, The Collector. It's a move which pretty much sums up my biggest problem with the torture subgenre (well, aside from all the torture) - the unremitting, predictable nihilism. Just for once, I'd like to see a movie like this with a 'happy' ending. For variety's sake. Every single Saw movie has ended like this; not to mention its imitators and inspirations. You think because Se7en ended all sadlike you have to do it too? And also, because I'm utterly fed up with seeing movies in which decency and heroism are rewarded with death. I get that the villain has to survive for sequelisation. But what is the point in having your hero fall at every hurdle? The Collector should have had the confidence - or originality - to let Arkin save the family - or at least more than just one of them - and defeat the villain. The moment I saw that stupid bloody box, I knew how The Collector would play out. In the end, The Collector is depressingly predictable and predictably depressing.

Also depressingly predictable: this closing gag. It's a surprisingly good movie. But does it merit adding to your DVD stash? For Collectors only.

Zombieland: The TV Series (Pilot)

Director: Eli Craig (2013)
Starring: Kirk Ward, Tyler Ross, Maiara Walsh
Find it: IMDB

The Walking Dead a little too depressing and gory for your crybaby sensibilities? Have no fear, for the Zombieland TV series is here to show the lighter side of the zombie apocalypse. A sequel to 2009's movie, this pilot picks up not far on down the road. We rejoin Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita and Little Rock, attempting to survive in a world overrun by zombies. No eyeball gouging or limb removal (so far) for this merry band of misfits though - Zombieland: The TV Series is more akin to My Name is Earl than The Walking Dead.

Fans of the movie will be disappointed to learn that none of the actors or actresses have made the transition to the little screen. In the case of Jesse Eisenberg, that's no big loss, but when you consider that Woody Harrelson was the best thing about Zombieland, the series has a bit of an uphill struggle on its hands. And Emma Stone, of course, will always be missed, in everything (even in movies and series she had nothing to do with in the first place). While Tyler Ross is a good fit for Columbus (in a Michael Cera sort of way), Kirk Ward is no Woody Harrelson. It's as though they didn't even really try.

And that's perhaps for the best, since a bad impression of Woody Harrelson would have potentially been even worse. Ward is amusing in his own way, but doesn't really have time to give his own approximation of the character. At the moment, everyone is in the shadow of what came before, and half an hour isn't long enough to do anything about that. It does a great job of capturing the movie's atmosphere though, with many of the same tricks and ideas at play. Returning are the little on-screen 'rules for survival' and 'zombie kill of the week' bits. They're all very welcome. The plot, flimsy as it is (the guys look, unsuccesfully, for fellow survivors) serves as a nice re-introduction to our heroes. The funniest joke is a moment where Tallahassee calls Columbus "Zuckerberg." The Social Network, geddit.

I genuinely hope that Zombieland: The Series does well. This pilot is funny, comically gory and likeable. The Walking Dead may have the monopoly on TV zombies at the moment, but that shouldn't mean that we can't still have a laugh elsewhere at their expense. Frankly, moody Rick Grimes and his chums could do with lightening up a bit anyway.

Talking Cock with Drew Bolduc (The Taint/Science Team)

Drew Bolduc is the mind behind and face of The Taint - only one of the best movies I've ever discovered as a reviewer of stuff and fan of obscure horror. The Taint, for the uninitiated, is a revolting, beautiful thrill ride about Misogyny, the end of the world and raging erections. Bolduc is currently following up The Taint with Science Team, which is, in the words of the man himself, about "violence, drama" and "telepathic aliens." Personally, I can't wait. I had the chance to speak with Mr. Bolduc about all things Taint and Science Team. The two questions I really wanted answering: (1) what makes a good cock? (2) When am I gonna get a sequel to The Taint?

Joel H: Hi! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. How are you?

Drew Bolduc:
Very good.

JH: How is work coming along on Science Team?

DB: We are doing fundraising now and starting preproduction.

JH: What can we expect from the film?

Violence. Drama. Telepathic aliens.

JH: Will you be acting in this, as you did The Taint?

DB: I don't think so. I would prefer to focus on being behind the camera this time. It is very hard to go from being a character to know what is going on.

JH: Can we also expect a VHS release of this?

There is a good possibility.

JH: What do you make of the recent cult resurgence of VHS technology?

DB: I don't think it is irony or anything like that. There is a permanence to VHS.

JH: You first came to our attention with The Taint, which you acted in, co-wrote and directed. Was the film well received by audiences?

DB: Yeah, surprisingly. It did really well.

JH: How did the idea for that film come about?

DB: I wanted to do horror, I wanted to shoot by the James River and I wanted to do a parody of misogyny in movies. We were men making the film, so it is a fine line to where the joke really begins and ends. The movie had to be hypocritical to work.

JH: We were particularly impressed by the many representations of cock in the film. What, in your opinion, makes for a good drawing of a cock? Length? Girth? Jizz coming out of the end? 

DB: Character.

JH: Thanks to The Taint, my friends and I enjoy screaming such things as “no! She was so hot!” whenever an attractive actress dies in a horror film. Have you had anyone quote lines from the film at you yet?

Yeah, I think so. That was one.

JH: How did Troma come to be involved with its distribution?

DB: We played at Tromadance and they contacted us about it from there.

JH: Have you met Lloyd Kaufman?

DB: Yeah, I worked on special and visual effects for his most recent film, Return to Class of Nuke 'em High.

JH: What are your ambitions?

DB: Right now, all I want to do is make Science Team.

JH: Is there anyone out there that you'd like to work with in a future film or project?

DB: Hm. Lots of people I guess. Anybody who is passionate and cares about what they do really.

JH: Which are your favourite horror movies?

DB: The Shining, The Thing, Evil Dead 2.

JH: Finally, as an enormous fan, I have to ask - do you think we'll ever see a sequel to The Taint?

DB: That is very hard to say.

JH: Drew Bolduc, thank you!

DB: Thanks!

Science Team

Eagle-eyed visitors may notice that I rarely use The Horror Review Hole to promote anything, other than myself. I once received a snotty e-mail from a PR dude, once, because of my whiny (ish) review of Saw VII. He had gone out of his way to send me a review disc, but still, fuck Saw VII. 

I'm even worse with movie news, in that people ask me to support this, or share that, and I generally don't, because dinner is ready, or Coronation Street is on (Eileen is going to Egypt this week), or I'm drunk. The one exception I'll make, every time, is for The Taint.

I first viewed The Taint in 2010 - still fairly early days for me and my reviewing of stuff. Spoiler: I loved every moment of that strange, stupid, dirty picture. I've seen mountains of no-budget shit since then, but The Taint has stayed with me. I was tainted. It's since become legendary in my circle of friends, in that I made every single one of them watch it as soon as I realised how awesome it was. I've been to journo' screenings of Evil Dead, The Hobbit and Mama. I spoke to Robert Englund and even met Eli Roth once. But The Taint is my favourite free thing I have ever seen or done. That may sound like hyperbole (and braggartry) and it probably is (Robert Englund is an awesome dude) but I fucking love The Taint. This is a beautiful movie in which a man, draped in an American flag, zooms around on a skateboard shooting Misogynists' gigantic erections off. My friends and I still shout "Noo-oooo! She was so hot!" every time a pretty girl dies in a horror film. Ahem. Gushing over, now for the other thing.

Drew Bolduc is back, with Science Team. While it looks very different to The Taint, colour me intrigued. 

You can support the film at Indiegogo and Facebook. I would urge you to do so. More on Science Team as we get it.


Director: John Wright (2012)
Starring: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey
Find it: IMDB

Ireland's number one contribution to the world of cinema (aside from Colin Farrell): some feckin' great swearing. There's no script that, with the addition of a few 'fecks' and 'gobshites', I won't be guaranteed to love. Except for Mrs. Brown's Boys. Fuck that noise. There's also a film I saw once about a horse and Tayto crisps, but I can't remember what it was called and I'm not entirely sure I didn't dream it one night after eating too many Tayto. Answers on a postcard if you have any clue what I'm talking about, because I sure as feck don't.

Irish swearing meets slithery sci-fi horror in Grabbers, an extremely likeable Irish hybrid of Slither and Attack the Block. I'm not going to says it's like Father Ted though, because I'd only be saying that because it's funny and Irish. When nasty tentacled aliens invade a small island off've the coast of Ireland, the only way to settle their hash is to get well and truly obliterated drunk. That's my kind of alien invasion. Some proper belly laughs are to be had at the expense of the trolleyed locals attempting to fend off these slimy, 'orrible aliens.

An alcoholic cop and his partner attempt to arrange a piss-up in a brewery. Well, in a pub. With the help of the local landlord, (another) alcoholic and scientist (not all the same person. Blame my shitty sentence construction) they must band together to save Erin Island from the alien onslaught. That the characters are all so likeable makes the film a joy to watch. It's warm and sweet and funny, but not afraid to lop someone's head off when the dramatic stakes need raising. While the romance between the two leads is predictable, Coyle and Bradley just about pull it off. No, not like that. I said romance, not pornography. The tentacled, almost Lovecraftian aliens look the part, although they are secondary to the characters and the humour.

Even Being Human star Russell Tovey isn't too annoying, although his method of acting does still seem to rely too much on weird shrieks and odd noises. His drunk acting is funny to behold though. It's impressive that, with such a large cast in a relatively low-budget film, the drunk acting is pretty good. Shit drunk actors are a pet hate of mine. As is Mrs. Brown's Boys. One point doesn't have anything to do with the other - I just wanted to re-iterate how much I hate Mrs. Brown's Fucking Boys. Even worse: those stupid fucking Internet memes people keep posting on Facebook which are just a picture of that stupid pricking arsehole saying how useless men are, or some such cliched bullshit.  


Ahem. Rant over. The point being, if you watch the inevitable (and recently announced) Mrs. Brown's Boys: The Movie and not Grabbers, you're an arsehole. If you watch both, that's slightly better, but you're still an arsehole. If you watch neither or just Grabbers, well done. It's funny, clever, stupid and adorably likeable. Never mind the bollocks, see Grabbers and see it soon.  

Evil Dead (2013)

Director: Fede Alvarez (2013)
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci
Find it: IMDB

Boo hoo, another horror remake. Yes, but a halfway decent one, this time.

Evil Dead is the most terrifying film you will ever experience, apparently. Not really, but it's an experience, all the same. A remake of a highly regarded horror classic directed by the great Sam Raimi and starring the greatest Bruce Campbell, Evil Dead faced an uphill struggle from the start. With the fans rallying against his remake and clamouring for an Evil Dead 4, director Fede Alvarez was in an unenviable position. Despite my being an enormous fan of Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy, I was more open to the idea of this remake than most. Well, The Hills Have Eyes remake is one of my favourite horror movies of all time, so it would be a tad hypocritical of me to whine about remakes now, wouldn't it?

Alvarez ships his own group of pretty teenagers out to a little cabin in the woods, where Mia (Levy) is trying to kick her drug addiction. Also present - her estranged brother (Fernandez) and supportive but hippyish friends. Not present - Bruce Campbell or Ash. But this film didn't need them. It needed space to be it's own thing.

Another question on everyone's lips: can I struggle through this review without calling the film 'groovy'? Probably not, but I'll try. From beginning to end, it's a non-stop gore rollercoaster, full of incredible violence and beautiful mayhem. Evil Dead might be the most violent cinema release of all time. It's certainly the bloodiest. Limbs are torn off, dogs brutally murdered, tongues slit and bodies punctured with all manner of torture instrument. Best seen at the cinema, the screening which I attended was packed full of terrified gasps and shuddering. A press screening for Starburst Magazine (my classier review can be read here), bottles of beer and whole pizzas were handed out for free before the film. I can think of no movie less suited to having stuffed your face beforehand. Perhaps the publicists were hoping somebody would throw up or something - that always does wonders for a horror film's credibility.

Nobody chundered at the screening I attended, but everyone seemed to enjoy it. And for good reason: Evil Dead is a success. Like most remakes, it struggles a little to justify its own existence, but the constant onslaught of gore and violence will win over a great deal of horrorhounds - myself included. There's an obvious reverence for the original, and a lot of winks and nods in that general direction. Occasionally it gets a little too much - just do your own thing already! But largely, it works. Others won't be swayed (especially what with the dodgy script, bad acting and silly twist towards the end) but it's easier to watch than most horror remakes. Oh, and be sure to say in your seat after the credits roll, for the motherlode of all treats*.

Alright, I'll bite: it may not be the "most terrifying film you'll ever experience" (not even close) and nor is it as good as the original, but Evil Dead 2013 is groovy as hell.

*May not be an actual motherlode.

Before Dawn

Director: Dominic Brunt (2012)
Starring: Dominic Brunt, Joanne Mitchell, Nicky Evans
Find it: IMDB

A low-budget British zombie film, starring that Paddy from off've Emmerdale and filmed (probably) just up the road from Home Farm. My challenge in watching Before Dawn - resisting the urge to make too many 'Paddy from off've Emmerdale' jokes. Pretty sure I failed in that respect.

Which is a shame, since Paddy from off've Emmerdale deserves so much better than some witless goon constantly going, "eh, that's Paddy from off've Emmerdale" all the way through his otherwise considered, reverent zombie movie. But I do so love Paddy from off've Emmerdale.

Alas, I love Paddy and I love Emmerdale far more than I loved Before Dawn. It's nice to have a British zombie movie which takes its zombies seriously. There are some comedic touches, but not nearly as many as you might expect. In fact, the film is played shockingly straight at times. An estranged couple head to the countryside in an attempt to salvage something of their marriage. Meg (Mitchell) is career minded and constantly glued to her mobile phone; Alex (Brunt) is ill tempered and whiny. Their marriage is looking all but over when Meg encounters a zombie while out jogging in the morning. The pair hole up in their cottage and attempt to sit out the rise of the living dead, with varying levels of success.

"Varying levels of success" is a good description of Brunt's directorial debut. Visceral and gory as the zombie action is (it's reminiscent of 28 Days Later in that respect) it takes far too long to get there. The characters are too unlikeable for us to want to spend any time with them. Even Meg, the supposedly sympathetic one, is kind of horrible.

Talking of horrible.

Before Dawn is an interesting homegrown horror film, flawed as it might be. The story is engaging enough, later enlivened by the appearance of Nicky Evans from off've Shameless. There's a good joke about a box of chocolates, some properly brutal zombie action and a heartfelt (if obvious) ending.

Before Dawn may not be as great as Paddy's Emmerdale or Inbred, but it is still worth checking out, all the same.  

All Superheroes Must Die

Director: Jason Trost (2011)
Starring: James Remar, Jason Trost, Sophie Merkley, Lucas Till
Find it: IMDB

A movie I read about on years ago (as far back as 2011) and immediately became obsessed with. It's Saw with superheroes, starring Dexter's own dad, James Remar. Unsurprisingly, it didn't take long for this violent spandex movie called All Superheroes Must Die to become one of my most hotly anticipated in recent years.

Stupidly named and outfitted superhero Charge (Trost) wakes up bloodied and battered in the middle of nowhere, suffering quite the supervillain beatdown hangover and with no clue what's going on. There's an odd wound on his wrist, and his superpowers are gone. After suffering a little display of his captor's power, Charge rejoins his superhero chums, who find themselves stuck in the same situation. A nearby television crackles to life, and supervillain Rickshaw (Remar) begins his monologue. He wants to play a game...

Charge, Cutthroat (Till), Shadow (Merkley) and The Wall (Lee Valmassy) are trapped in a small, deserted town, surrounded by Rickshaw's goons and hostages. Try to escape: the hostages die and the town goes up in smoke. The only way to win out is through a series of challenges; each more dangerous and vicious than the last, with ever increasing stakes. It's like Arkham City, but without Batman's gadgets, elegance or competence. It helps Rickshaw's plan in that Charge and his friends are a bunch of imbeciles who get pretty much every civilian they encounter killed. The Wall is the only one of them with a good superhero name and they all speak like stupid children attempting a Superman impression.

Hi! You might recognise me as the only one having any fun around here.

It's like Kick-Ass crossed with The Running Man, with James Remar in the overacting Nicolas Cage/Jesse Ventura role. Seeing as only one of the youths is any good (that'll be Merkley) it's good that Remar is there to distract from all of the sullen sub-Spider-man "power and responsibility" type posturing. He's given disappointingly little to do, but he has a nice cravat and seems to be enjoying himself.

The rest of the film fails to live up to most of those expectations I built up reading about it on CHUD and various news websites over the years. Much of that is probably my fault, but it's effectively a Saw rip-off with people in crap superhero costumes instead of arrogant doctors and overly obsessed police officers. With its hard violence, unlikeable characters and cynical attitude towards superheroism, it could have been a Mark Millar adaptation.

And no-one wants that*

But for all of its flaws, All Superheroes Must Die is an enjoyable action romp, with an engaging story and very interesting concept. It could have been so much better, but as far as low-budget DVD releases go, it's a cut above most. It's certainly better than bloody zombies or Hillbillies again.

*Except for Mark Millar