Tower Block

Director: James Nunn, Ronnie Thompson (2012)
Starring: Sheridan Smith, Russell Tovey, Jack O' Connell
Find it: IMDB

The latest in the increasingly popular subgenre of British horror movies set in and around urban estates and blocks of flats. What can I say - there's a recession on. It's Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror, Brit flick style. No hoodies, aliens or slasher villains for this terrorised tower block - no, the residents are instead beset by a psychopath with a sniper rifle, picking them off, one by one. Some chavs, an alcoholic, a schoolboy and some more chavs must combine forces to stay alive and fend off the sniper's spiteful advances. It's like Phone Booth, except not set in a Phone Booth. 

While not as original as Attack the Block (currently king of the British ghetto horror films) or as vicious as Comedown, this fast paced action thriller certainly packs enough punch for it to stand almost head and shoulders with the rest. Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps Sheridan Smith star acquits herself surprisingly well as the movie's heroine, while Jack O' Connell is admirably loathsome as chav ringleader Kurtis. Russell Tovey pops up as the flat alcoholic (his squeaky voice in full force) and Withnail & I star Ralph Brown is the most likeable of the bunch, beating up Kurtis when the film needs it most. Nothing ingratiates a character to an audience like punching a massive chav in the head (I'm allowed to say that - I'm working class).

Sadly, unlike its peers, Tower Block is a little too on-the nose. Its acting and script sounds like the work of someone who heard a chavvy sort speak once, but couldn't quite capture the essence. The film's single mother character is truly awful, like Vicky Pollard but without any of the decent acting, comedy or tracksuits. It's as cringeworthy as Lee Nelson's fucking awful Well Good Show (a blatant lie) although it is a little more tolerable than that. If only Lee Nelson's Well Good Show ended with the cheeky chappy being shot in the face with a very expensive sniper rifle, it might actually live up to the title (I'm also allowed to say that, although the sentiment is getting slightly disturbing now).

Tower Block is tense, exciting and enjoyably cruel. It may miss the target here and there, but otherwise, its marksmanship is sound.


Director: Menhaj Huda (2012)
Starring: Jacob Anderson, Jessica Barden, Adam Deacon
Find it: IMDB, Urban Dictionary

Badmans cotchin in a abandoned block of flats when a bludclart serial killer get up in dem grill and tax Lloyd's (Jacob Anderson) bitch. Badmans try to fight back and rescue Jemma, but that serial killer got mad skills. Bredren try to escape and even call the feds, but him got the place on lockdown. Not even main man Jason (Deacon) or hench Col (Duane Henry) really stand a chance against rasclart serial killer. Blud, it's bloody.

Comedown is like some mashup between chav drama Kidulthood and The Collector. Like Attack the Block, the script is well realistic, the characters believable innit. Nuff respect to Adam Deacon, whose character is a bit of a dickhead and a nutter, but a watchable one, innit. It reminded me of his character in the surprisingly watchable Anuvahood (innit, because using innit in a sentence is my attempt at sounding less posh, innit) in that Deacon ain't afraid of portraying no bell-end. With this, Anuvahood and Dead Set, Adam Deacon is on the way to becoming the definitive chav actor. Like I said, nuff said. Rather Deacon than Danny Dyer, any day.

While the basic concept may be similar to Attack the Block, it's less brainy than that shit, being content to cotch as a particularly nasty urban slasher movie. There's a sense occasionally, that Huda really hates his characters. But then, so do I. And so will you, probably. The villain in Comedown could have been some Daily Mail reading bumbaclot or Tory bastard without so much as skipping a beat, innit. The CGI toward the end is kinda whack, but otherwise, Comedown is surpisingly sick. It's the best DVD your benefits could possibly buy (unless you taxed it from Asda, you badman, you). Nuff respect must also go out to the real life chavs, who speak like this all the time. It's much harder than you'd give it credit for. Phew.      

Berberian Sound Studio

Director: Peter Strickland (2012)
Starring: Toby Jones, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Cosimo Fusco
Find it: IMDB

The sort of movie you can't say you dislike without folks going "yeah, well, you didn't get it, man" and, "well, yeah, but this isn't a horror film, is it?" or "what's the matter? Bodycount not high enough for you, psycho?" Well raspberries (the sound effect, not the fruit) to the lot of you; I did not like Berberian Sound Studio at all.

Aside from a commendable performance from Toby Jones, there's not much about the film I really enjoyed. Steeped in European horror history, it looks and sounds utterly groovy (with a title like that, it had better sound the dog's bollocks) and should win over a lot of horror fans on the basis of that alone. Critics and horror historians such as Kim Newman and Mark Gatiss should love this film. I should love this film. I really wanted to. It wears its influences on the same sleeve as the black leather Giallo gloves it uses to make all those glorious sound effects. All those vegetables being smashed up with hammers - Berberian Sound Studio made me hungry, more than anything else.

"You just don't get it, do you?" Unfortunately, there's not much to 'get'. It's an interesting story, about a man struggling to cope in a demanding job. I used to work at the refunds & exchanges counter at Primark; dude, I get it. Someone threw a pair of underpants in my face once and yelled "happy Christmas!" at me (this was the middle of March). I know what it's like to work in a place where barely anyone speaks your language and everyone keeps shouting at you. I work in retail. Drowning cauliflower be damned, the atmosphere at Primark beats that of an Italian sound studio into a cocked cocking hat.

Ahem. But you don't give a fuck about that. Is Berberian Sound studio a good film? It's technically quite brilliant, and many will (and do) love it. For me, something just didn't hit home, and I found it to be a hollow experience. I don't want to start bandying about words like 'pretentious' and 'wanky' but you can see how some might construe it as such. Ultimately, it's the harrowing story of a man desperately trying to get someone to refund the expenses on his flight receipt. Terrifying.

Berberian Sound Studio sounds like a winner but, for me, something was lost in translation. Maybe I just wasn't listening properly. I know, what a barbarian.   


Director: Aharon Keshales & Navot Pupashado (2010)
Starring: Lior Ashkenazi, Ania Bukstein, Danny Geva
Find it: IMDB

The fuckin' all-over-the-place tale of a useless serial killer and the victim he keeps losing in the woods. When a gang of teenagers accidentally run over a man, they have no idea what they've just unleashed upon themselves. As they decide to split up, things go from bad to worse.

Rabies, a recent Israeli slasher movie, is not the film you may expect it to be. As a fairly large group of characters bumble about in the woods, it resembles an odd cross between Tucker and Dale vs Evil (except much better) and the Brit flick Severance (except slightly better). There's so much going on that it's hard to keep track of at times, with threats and antagonists developing every which way but loose. That's deliberately vague, because Rabies' various twists and turns deserve to be seen firsthand, rather than spoiled by some shithead on the Internet. It doesn't always make for the most coherent story, although it is far more fun and original than most slasher-in-the-woods movies of recent years. In the midst of it all, there's a subplot about a man whose main motive to escape is so as he can delete an offensive message from his estranged missus' answering machine.

Rabies is consistently useless, but when a film is so enjoyable, it's hard to care. Sure, its killer and his victims make a few n00b mistakes (what sort of psychopath ties a bound and gagged victim's hands in front?) but that's all part of the charm. In a script in which one character remarks to another that "watching a girl pee is the sexiest thing in the world" (put that on your Fetlife fetishes list and smoke it) and a dog chides its owner for smoking, there's simply too much to love. Its subtitle is 'A big slasher massacre'. What more do you want?

Rob Zombie Revisited: Halloween II (2009)

Director: Rob Zombie (2009)
Starring: Scout Taylor Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Danielle Harris, Brad Dourif
Find it: IMDB

Revisiting Rob Zombie's Halloween, I was stunned to discover a newfound appreciation for this remake and its director, Mr. Robert Zombie. With his Halloween being much better than I remember it being, imagine my surprise when I found Halloween II to be much worse than I had remembered.

The action picks up immediately where the previous movie left off - Michael Myers is apparently dead, Laurie (Compton) understandably quite traumatised, and Loomis (McDowell) and Annie (Harris) are seriously injured from Michael's vicious attacks upon them. To the hospital, then, where Zombie proceeds to condense the events of the first Halloween II into the space of twenty minutes, sort of. It's a shame that it's all a dream sequence, then, because this is where Halloween II is at its best.

One year later, and Laurie is now living with Sheriff Brackett (Dourif) and fellow survivor Annie. Michael is presumed dead (his body missing in action after the meat wagon hits a cow in the road) and Doctor Loomis has become a media whore celebrity, selling his lurid Michael Myers murder book. Michael's not dead though, and as another Halloween rolls around, he decides to come home. Again. This spells disaster for poor Annie, who, for the second Halloween film in a row, is brutally stabbed full of holes by Mike while stark naked. It's Laurie's story, but Annie and Sheriff Brackett are the only characters you'll actually care about. Certainly more so than Loomis, who spends most of the film acting like an asshole and then being surprised when people call him out on it. It's a real waste of a good character and great actor, especially considering that his eventual redemption ultimately comes to nothing. Compton is good as Laurie, but, like Loomis, not given good enough material. The Bracketts are the only likeable characters in the movie. I found myself genuinely, surprisingly affected by their fates in this film. 

Meanwhile, Rob Zombie has a hot wife and he wants you to know it

Then there's Michael himself, transformed from a silent boogeyman into a bearded, furious (probably quite stinky) tramp. His physicality is still the most impressive thing about this Myers, who might just be the angriest psycho we've ever seen in a slasher movie. That's not always a good thing (his guttural screaming whenever he stabs or stomps a fool to death gets annoying fast) but it does make this iteration of Michael imposing, if not scary.

It's in Halloween II that we also see glimpses of the Rob Zombie who would go on to direct Lords of Salem. Some of the imagery is great. It's a shame that it doesn't actually gel with the film (Sheri Moon Zombie and her white horse never ceases to be ridiculous) since it's a really interesting direction for a sequel to take. Fair play to Zombie for not resting on his laurels and attempting to do something different with the story. It's awful, but a different kind of awful. Like Texas Chainsaw 3D awful.  

Better this than kung-fu Busta Rhymes, or the original Laurie Strode being murdered in an embarrassing, insulting manner in the first twenty minutes. Halloween II may have killed off the franchise again, but at least it did so with style.

Rob Zombie Revisited: Halloween (2007)

Director: Robert Zombie (2007)
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane, Sheri Moon Zombie
Find it: IMDB

All the way back in the depths of 2009, I described Rob Zombie's Halloween as a "shit feast". You know how it is, when you first start blogging and reviewing things - you try to be edgy. You read a Charlie Brooker book, and you try to emulate that. Only you're 22, and your idea of being "edgy" is swearing a lot and saying that something sucks the balls of some various animal or other. Bad reviews, they say, are the easiest to write. With that in mind, I found Halloween very easy to review.

It's a bad film - I stand by that much. Is it a shit feast though? Well, while no-one ever needed to see Michael Myers sitting on a kerb crying while his mother pole dances to 'Love Hurts', I can confirm that it is indeed not a 'shit feast'. That whole review was a fuckin' shit feast. What is a shit feast, anyway?

The film kicks off in the depths of the 1980s, where young Michael Myers finds himself in the bosom of a degenerate stepfather, slutty sister and stripper mom (played, obviously, by Sheri Moon Zombie). One Halloween, after murdering a school bully with an exceptionally large stick, Michael gives in to his terrible urges and slaughters his dad, his sister and her boyfriend. The only survivors are his angelic mother (because if you were married to Sheri Moon Zombie, you'd put her in every film you made too) and infant sister. Here's the point where, in my original review, I wrote the phrase "some other stuff happens". Some other stuff does indeed happen, but still, shut up 22-year-old me. You're not nearly as funny as you think you are.

Skip to grown up Michael, now incarcerated in a mental hospital, under the supervision of Doctor Loomis (McDowell) and friendly nurse Danny Trejo. While I would have killed to see a Halloween movie in which Danny Trejo and Michael Myers duke it out for ninety minutes, that's not what we're getting. Instead, Michael breaks free from the asylum and returns to Haddonfield, to find his baby sister. There the story turns into a fairly close adaptation of Carpenter's original movie. In terms of the things Michael Myers does, anyway. Zombie's script turns Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) into a foul-mouthed little goon and her friends into foul-mouthed assholes. Everyone in Halloween is foul-mouthed, except for Michael (who doesn't speak) and Loomis (who is too classy for that sort of thing). While it hurts the film that Laurie isn't introduced until quite late into play, it works better if you view it as a telling of Michael's story and not hers.

Kill it, as they say, with fire.

This new, extremely vicious Michael Myers is an effective boogeyman, whether he's drowning Danny Trejo in a sink or stealing Ken Foree's overalls. I can't say I was pleased to see two of my favourite cult icons murdered in such a manner, but it does set Mikey up as a force to be reckoned with. I'd like to see kung-fu Busta Rhymes try to beat up on this Shape. Maybe get his leg torn off. I had, in my earlier review, called the acting in Halloween "bad, across the board." It isn't. It's fine. Maybe Malcolm McDowell does phone it in a little, but his performance is worthwhile for his 80s hair and trendy sunglasses alone. Sheri Moon is good too, although she does seem a little crowbarred in. Although if my mom was as sexy as Sheri Moon Zombie, sure, I'd have an Oedipus complex too.

Much to my dismay, revisiting Rob Zombie's Halloween (or Zombieween, as I hilariously called it back in the day) , I didn't hate the film at all. In fact, I actually quite like it. It's a crummy Halloween movie, but a decent offbeat slasher film. There's too much swearing, the characters are annoying and the depiction of young Michael is a definite misstep, but I can't bring myself to hate Zombieween as I once did. Who knows, maybe I'm finally becoming soft, in my old age. Well, that sucks. It sucks massive giraffe balls, is what it does.   

Chernobyl Diaries

Director: Bradley Parker (2012)
Starring: Olivia Dudley, Jesse McCartney, Nathan Phillips
Find it: IMDB

Dear diary. Today, Bruce Willis was in me. Then there was a bear, six stupid kids and a really massive Russian dude. And monsters. I'm not sure who Cher Nobyl is, but her diaries have been adapted for this movie. A gang of tourists decide to 'go extreme', visiting the ruins of a village in Chernobyl. Packing into the back of their hulking Russian tour guide's van, the kids enjoy themselves at first. It's all fun and games until a bear comes rampaging through the room. Sure, the bear's the best of it, but it's not the least of their problems. When the van breaks down, youngsters and tour guide alike are left stranded in Chernobyl. And as darkness falls, it becomes apparent that they're not the only ones...

Set at the scene of one of the world's greatest tragedies, there's a chance that Chernobyl Diaries might be offensive to someone. Whatever next? The Auschwitz Chronicles? (if that is next, Hollywood, I want a credit. And paycheck. Although it's still in bad taste) Still, it's not as bad as Bruce Willis blowing up a helicopter with a truck in A Good Day to Die Hard, so at least it has that going for it. And it's a good movie, which is also more than we can say for A Good Day to Die Hard. There's Rammstein on the soundtrack, too. You can never go wrong with Rammstein.

As their visit to Chernobyl takes in such sights as a block of flats and a river, the kids have a whale of a time. A few of them even take a romantic photo posing by the ruins. My own preference would in Bruges or Switzerland but sure, Chernobyl works too. Among the pretty young things is Nathan Phillips, playing more or less the same role he did in Wolf Creek and everything else he's been in. The youths are fine, but they're all bettered by Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko) and the bear.

Written by Oren Peli, of Paranormal Activity fame, and employing a familiar concept, it's entirely surprising that Chernobyl Diaries isn't a found footage movie. That it's not makes it a lot more watchable than I had expected it to be. It's nowhere near as good as Urban Explorers (which has a similar idea but different nature of villainy) but is still better than most. The setting helps, steeped in real-life tragedy and looking so very atmospheric and moody. It doesn't have the greatest Half-Life (it'll be forgotten within a few years) but nor is it as toxic as most other mainstream horror releases these days.

The Lords of Salem

Director: Rob Zombie (2012)
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Ken Foree
Find it: IMDB

Oh yummy, my favourite - words. Don't mind me, I'm just enjoying a plate of "Rob Zombie is shit" followed by a side order of myself saying that there are "no scary Witch movies". Nom, pass the "Devil's Rejects is shit" salad, please. Ahem. When Rob Zombie first emerged as a director of horror movies in 2003 with his House of 1000 Corpses, I had completely dismissed him and his directorial debut. And then I went on to absolutely loathe that film's sequel, The Devil's Rejects. Subsequent re-viewings of those films have left me wondering just what crack I was on at the time. While far from masterpieces, neither film is even nearly as bad as I somehow came away thinking them to be. Halloween, on the other hand, still sucks (edit: damn, no it doesn't! Not entirely, anyway).

With my newfound appreciation for Mister Robert Zombie and his films, I approached The Lords of Salem hoping for the best. There's a sense, with his films, that he can be too reverent, putting casting and style before character and substance. Sure, it's cool to see Danny Trejo in a Halloween movie, but you'd be better off making sure that the story and script isn't complete arsewash first. Would The Lords of Salem buck the trend, and stand on its own two feet, gimmicky casting aside?

Mostly, yes. It also helps that there are no more Hillbillies and is instead set at a heavy metal style radio station. Heidi Hawthorne (Moon Zombie) is a DJ at Salem's Number One radio station, playing a show alongside Hermans Salvador (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Jackson (Foree). If The Lords of Salem left me with one overriding thought, it's that Ken Foree should totally have his own radio show. One fateful night, Heidi is delivered a mysterious vinyl record in a wooden box, purporting to be fresh from the recording studio of 'The Lords', a dark and mysterious local metal band. As she plays the record, Heidi sets into motion a series of events that will have terrible implications for her and all of Salem. Whoops.

Topical joke.

What follows is like a Rob Zombie version of Rosemary's Baby. There's a coven of witches, some great swearing and some truly unsettling nightmare imagery. Licking babies, blowjobs in church, goats and lots of terrifying nudity, The Lords of Salem is Rob Zombie's most effective horror film. While his other movies have been fine works of exploitation, they've never actually been scary. This should redress the balance. The all-important track by the Lords which permeates the film works well, in that it sounds genuinely chilling. Heidi's reaction to the song: that's how I feel about Adele.

Moody, grim and depressing, Salem's lot is not a happy one. It's a film which should stay with you long after the credits roll. Lords of Salem is Rob Zombie's best movie so far.

Some Guy Who Kills People

Director: Jack Perez (2011)
Starring: Kevin Corrigan, Barry Bostwick, Ariel Gade, Lucy Davis
Find it: IMDB

Not nearly enough people, he doesn't. You can't come up with a great title like that and then not have some guy killing a shitload of people. Even worse, you can't have a great title like that and then be a surprisingly touching movie about a father reconnecting with his estranged daughter. Even worse(r) than that, it's like a romantic comedy at times. I haven't been this disappointed since Tyrannosaur. Where's my fuckin' dinosaur, Paddy Considine?

Kevin Corrigan is Ken Boyd, an ice cream salesman who has only recently been released from a mental institution after a traumatic incident in his past. Ken likes to relax by drawing violent cartoons in which people he doesn't like get gruesomely murdered. But then they start showing up, actually dead, as depicted by Ken. At the same time, the daughter he never knew existed shows her face at his ice cream shop, trying to forge a relationship with the father she never knew existed. Begrudgingly, Ken agrees. It's a good job, since Some Guy Who Kills People is much better at the sweet Kevin Smith style comedy than it is the horror or thriller stuff. By the time Lucy Davis (from off've The Office and Shaun of the Dead) shows up, the film is in full-on romantic comedy mode. Davis even seems to be doing a Hugh Grant impression throughout, all affected 'ums' and 'ahs', very English and socially awkward. She's a bizarre presence, although she does wrinkle her nose in a fairly adorable manner.

Talking of adorable: Amy Gade as Ken's daughter is the standout performance. She's a talented kid - funny, sweet and not at all annoying. Corrigan is good as the disturbed, shy Ken, but the supporting cast tend to steal the limelight every time. Karen Black is ace as his mother, while Barry Boswick is very good as her suitor and town sheriff. As a human drama, it's very good. As a horror film, it stinks.  

Some Guy Who Kills people is not the film you might expect it to be. But that's fine, there's plenty of horror films about some guy just killing people and doing nothing else, anyway. There, I could be talking about ninety percent of the slasher subgenre already. Sometimes it's nice to take a break and watch something saccharine and cuddly and nice. Although I would have liked to have been warned.