Tuesday 14 July 2009

DVD Reviews

Marcel Sarmiento
Review by Brad Harmer

Deadgirl is the story of two teenagers Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan). One day, JT gets Rickie to bunk off school, and the two decide to go to an abandoned mental asylum – let’s face it, these guys must know that they’re in a horror movie. No-one would spend the afternoon in an abandoned mental asylum unless they knew that they were the kind of people who were going to end up in a horror movie at some point and have decided to just get it over with as quickly as possible. They mess around for a while, before exploring the basement. Down there, they discover a large Doberman that chases them along a corridor and into another room, where they see a girl chained to a table with a plastic bag over her head. Rickie wants to call the police, but JT tells him not to. They touch her and discover that she is still alive. JT wants to rape her, but Rickie wants no part of it, and he leaves.

Rickie returns later with a gun, intending to rescue the girl. JT tells him that whilst raping her, he started hitting the girl to stop her screaming. He thought he’d killed her, but she came back to life. He shoots her three times, to show Rickie, but the girl still doesn't die...

Deadgirl is a very hard film to define. It’s horror, but doesn’t particularly fit into any of the known sub-genres. It’s not quite supernatural horror, it’s not quite psychological thriller, and it’s not quite (and, God, how I hate this label) torture-porn. It mixes elements of all of the above, but never swings too far into any of them. This could have backfired and resulted in a movie with no sense of identity, but it instead pays off big time. The result is a movie that goes in directions you don’t expect, and never strays into cliché (a constant concern for the horror pundit).

Deadgirl features elements of the supernatural, but these aren’t the actual focus of the story. The focus is about how these two friends (and some enemies) react to, and deal with the unexplained – and how they become the true monsters.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
A significant amount of punching, grappling, shooting and biting, with an over-the-top amount of gore.
Sex/Nudity: The DeadGirl is nude throughout the entire movie. Features depictions of forced sex, restraint and references to anal sex. Heh. Win.
Swearing: A realistic amount.
Summary: Possibly the most original and effective horror movie since Saw. Let down by a few minor plot-holes, but definitely a must-see movie. 9/10

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Tobe Hooper
Review by Brad Harmer

Most of the “video-nasties” from the eighties are shit. We all know that really. For all their bluster movies likes Faces of Death, SS Experiment Camp, and The Driller Killer are actually just plain old bad movies. Then there are those that were truly great movies that us, the Emotionally Fourteen, were denied decent copies of when we were growing up. I’m talking now about true classics ripped from us, like The Evil Dead, The Exorcist, Straw Dogs, anything-Lucio-Fucking-Fulci ever touched, and this – possibly one of the greatest horror movies ever made: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Sally Hardesty and her wheelchair-bound brother Franklin travel to a cemetery holding the grave of their grandfather. Aiming to investigate reports of vandalism and corpse defilement, they afterwards decide to visit the old Hardesty family homestead, and on the way, the group picks up a hitchhiker . The hitchhiker is obviously disturbed, and then slashes himself and Franklin with a straight razor before being forced from the group's van.

The group stops at a gas station to fuel their vehicle, but when they find out from the proprietor that the pumps are empty, the group continues to the homestead. Franklin tells Kirk and Pam about a local swimming hole, and the couple heads off to find it. Instead, they stumble upon a nearby house. They investigate, and the trouble begins.

“Nightmarish” is a word that gets bandied around a lot to describe the latest horror-film-of-the-month, but none of the really live up to it. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre feels like a nightmare. The constant barrage of shocking images, the surreal trophies and decor in the mysterious house, the grunting and squeaking of Leatherface, the truly awesome sound effects all combine with the narrative to create one of the most haunting and terrifying pieces of cinema ever created.

What’s amazing is how fresh is all looks. The prosthetics are still great. The acting is still surprisingly good for a horror movie. They should have saved themselves the bother of re-making this and just re-released it at the cinema.

This DVD is great. There’s not much in the way of extras, but to be honest a quick click through the Internet will give you everything you ever wanted to know about the making of this movie anyway. What is truly amazing, however, is the re-mastering job that this film has been treated to. The picture is sharp as a chainsaw tooth, and the sound is top-notch. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has finally been given the DVD treatment it deserves.

Re-released at the credit-crunch dodging RRP of £5.99 (and, as usual, with online retailers selling much cheaper), any self-respecting fan of horror needs to snatch this up. At that price, I would also recommend serious fans who already own it to get a copy as well. You only watch special features once, and the re-mastering is what this disc is all about.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Whilst there is surprisingly little on-screen gore, there are many, many torturous deaths.
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: A slightly less than realistic amount.
Summary: Who will survive, and what will be left of them? - 10/10

The Last House on the Left
Wes Craven
Review by Brad Harmer

The Last House on the Left is a hard movie. By that, I mean that it’s hard to watch comfortably, as it contains some of the most disturbing scenes of rape and torture ever shot. It’s a heart-rending tale of revenge, rivalled only by its grindhouse era compatriot I Spit On Your Grave.

Mari Collingwood plans to celebrate her 17th birthday by attending a concert with her friend, Phyllis Stone. Her parents express concern both at the band and Mari's friendship with Phyllis, but they let her go.

Phyllis and Mari head into the city for the concert. On the way, they hear a report on the car radio of a recent prison break, involving violent criminals by the names of Krug Stillo, his son Junior, Sadie, and Fred "Weasel" Podowski. After the concert which ends late at night, Mari and Phyllis stroll the streets, looking for weed. They figure that Camp Crystal Lake is way over the other side of the country, so they should be okay to listen to rock music and smoke drugs. Junior leads them back to an apartment, where they are immediately trapped. Phyllis, is punched in the stomach and raped. Meanwhile, Mari's unsuspecting parents are preparing a surprise party for her.

The next morning, the girls are locked in a car trunk and taken to the countryside. In the woods, the girls are untied, and Phylllis is subjected to torment and sadistic humiliation by the gang. Thus the stage is set for a horror movie with a strange twist.

For every great bit in The Last House on the Left, there is a bit that just plain doesn’t work. The torture and rape scenes are morbidly fascinating – judge all you want, but a good horror film is one the repulses you, and also prevents you from turning away. The music is eerily haunting (for the most part), and the violent scenes shocking in a good way. However, the comedy capers of the two clueless cops on the trail of Mari and Phyllis are too Phil Silvers for the otherwise grim story. The ending, on the one-hand, seems rather abrupt – but it is also hard to think what else could have been done with it.

Ultimately, The Last House on the Left is a great movie, but not a good one. It’s worth a look as a historical curiosity, but fans of exploitation horror would be better off purchasing The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (above), or Craven’s other classic The Hills Have Eyes.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Rape, guns, knives, throat cutting, genital mutilation.
Sex/Nudity: Full frontal female nudity, rape scenes, urination.
Swearing: A realistic amount.
Summary: I’d say “worth a look”, but this film can definitely be too much for some people. If this looks like your thing, then try before you by, as it disappoints as many people as it grosses out. – 6/10

1 comment:

  1. If a re-watching of 'The Last House On The Left' ultimately disappoints, perhaps it's time to re-watch Bergman's original 'Jungfrukällan' and see how THAT holds up.

    It has Max Von Sydow, after all: how bad can it be?