Friday, 31 July 2015

Crawl Or Die

I first heard about Crawl Or Die early this year when I read about it in Starburst magazine and I thought it sounded cool, yeah the initial set up may sound familiar, an elite group of solders are tasked with transporting the last fertile human to a safe place, but despite what could be seen as a stock set up that not what this film is about.  This is what I like to call a 'night in hell' film, with the characters stuck in the most horrible situation and having to fight their way out.  And in this film, hell is an underground tunnel system where our characters must crawl through pipes of ever decreasing size while been chased by a bloodthirsty monster.  When I first read that it really peaked my interest!

Originally titles Crawl Bitch Crawl, a better title but not exactly supermarket DVD section friendly, Crawl Or Die is the debut feature from Oklahoma Ward and came out in 2014. The film recently premiered on the Horror Channel here in the UK so I jumped at the chance to finally see it, after hearing both good and bad opinions of the film online I went in thinking I would either love or hate this film and I'm happy to say I loved it! That been said I don't know if I will sit though it again for a long long time, I'll explain why in a few paragraphs.

We get a few hints into what this world is like, space travel has been achieved, cryogenic sleep also has, a virus has spread through the human race making almost every woman infertile and what ever this virus is there seems to be no cure so they have devised a plan to start up again on a new planet; Earth-2. This is all given to us in a flash back of the soldiers briefing, one of only a few scenes with substantial dialogue, for most the rest of the film characters remain silent, the soldiers at the beginning give orders and examine the situation but there is no room for chit chat here, though latter on we do get small scenes of characters talking.

The creature is an interesting design, people have already noted it has some similarities to the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't see that but it also has many other elements like large spider legs, big clawed hands, etc.  It seems more like a miss match of many things especially insects, and how it drags itself through the tunnels chasing after our characters does help to set it apart from other movie monsters.  Though I do understand why some see it as been a bit too close to the Xenomorph, I personally feel it's different enough to set itself apart.

Special props have to be given to lead actress Nicole Alonso as Tank, a no nonsense badass with a blond mohawk and big black boots, she does great with the material. At first she lets little to no emotion show and pushes through the situation with tough determination, and while she remains tough and determined we see her defences getting chipped away through the film, little moments like when she first see a comrade killed by the creature and there is a short few seconds where you can see the fear in her eyes, almost taking over, but it doesn’t. There are also large portions of the film where Alonso is acting alone but she has enough skill to keep you invested in her character.  Tank keeps going even as fear and anger build inside her and I rooted for her through out the film.

Watching horror films I have felt scared many times, tense just as many , suspense has held me on the edge of my seat and had me hiding behind the sofa, and sometimes I have been left feeling unsettled by a film, this is one of those films. The reason I said I may not watch this again for a long time is because in the latter half as Tank found herself in smaller and smaller pipes and rooms I genuinely felt unsettles and uncomfortable, my stomach was clenching up in knots as I felt like I was in those tunnels with her. Not a pleasant feeling, and though I wanted to reach over and turn the TV off I couldn't, I was already drawn in and had to see how this was going to end.

Oklahoma Ward shows here that he already has major skills, he clearly has a keen eye for cinematography and editing.  And while the film still has the look and feel of low budget independence (not a bad thing) you can see the skill of the film maker and his team.  I look forward to seeing what Ward will do in the future.

I really enjoyed this film though I can understand why other people may not, to be honest I wasn't as sure on it at first but by the half way point I was hooked.  I've already heard some people complain about the lack of back story such as where the creature came from, who built these tunnels and why?  But really I didn't find these to be questions that needed answering, at least not in this film.  The film is about this event, this one night in hell and I feel that taking time to go into these details would have distracted from that, we are given enough to know there is a larger world out there and what it is about but that isn't the focus of this story, nor should it have been, it's this event and this story we are been told.  Ward has stated that this is the first film in a trilogy and while I'm usually the first to role my eyes when I hear the words 'maybe they are saving it for later' in reference to something not fully developed in a pice of media, I think the sequels are the place to answer these questions and explore this world more, and if that is where they go I look forward to seeing it.

Give this one a go guys, it's fun, scary and can punch you right in the gut, but it has been nicknamed 'The Most Claustrophobic Movie Ever Made' for a reason, you have been warned.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers

Thats title, what can I say, it is beautiful!

So what happened when you get two of the best scream queens of the 80's and the original Leatherface himself to star in your noir parody flick? You end up with a wonderful pice of 80's cheese!

Released in 1988 Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is a light hearted noir film (as light hearted as you can be with cartoon levers of blood splattering over nude women), our hero is Jack Chandler (Jay Richardson), a private dick searching for a teenage runaway, he is the typical noir lead, from his outfits to his mannerisms and his narration, everything about him echos back to the classic noir pictures of the 1940's and 50's. We have two female leads in the film; Linnea Quigley as the girl Chandler is searching for and Michelle Bauer as one of the titular chainsaw wielding hookers, though many more women fill out their ranks as well.

Another highlight of the film for me is Gunnar Hansen as the leader of the chainsaw cult (credited as The Stranger but referred to as Master by his followers), I'm a big texas Chainsaw Massacre fan so seeing the original Leatherface himself is a real treat.  Perhaps not the best actor in this film (it had been over ten years since his last acting role), Hansen still manages to delivered his crazy cult leader dialog with sincerity and seriousness that makes the ridiculous lines all the more hilarious. I have to say, my favourite line in the film is when The Stranger is giving a speech to his followers, done completely straight and very reminiscent of similar scenes in retro cultist B-movies, but for the last line he goes game show host to present 'The Virgin Dance of the Double Chainsaws', this isn't done is a mugging to the audience way and his change of tone just adds a punctuation mark to how silly his dialogue really is, it is also my favourite line in the film.

The film is a farce through and through, working as both a parody of noir and old cultist films, as well as a nod or too to certain horror films.   Most importantly the films is funny and I laughed out loud a good number of times, Hansen may have my favourite line but all the characters have witty dialogue that comes fast and furious, especialy from Chandler with such gems as this; 'I'd stumbled into the middle of an evil, insidious cult of chainsaw worshipping maniacs. I had to wonder if we'd let our religious freedom go too far in this country, or maybe our immigration laws were just too lax'.    Jay Richardson has great comic timing in this film and he nails the stereotypical privet investigator perfectly!

Of course both Linnea Quigley and Michelle Bauer are scream queen legends, earlier the same year as Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers was released they had both been in other cult favourite 'Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama', both are great in this film and a highlight is their chainsaw sword fight at the climax.

Many would probably not call this film too gory, and really it isn't, most of the chainsaw deaths occur with an offscreen victim while buckets or blood and halloween shop body parts are thrown at our chainsaw temptresses, the cartoony approach to the gore works perfectly for the film and its humor.

Even the credits of this films are amusing with stuff like this...

There is also a funny bit or trivia regarding the original UK VHS release of the film, due to strange rules they couldn't use the word 'Chainsaw' in the title on the box so they replaced it with a picture of a chainsaw, I suppose thats a creative way around it.

I loved this films from start to finish, if cheesy b-movies are your thing this is one you certainly must check out, and to wet your appetite enjoy this clip of The Virgin Dance Of The Double Chainsaw!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Demon Possessed (aka Chill Factor)

Everyone knows that a successful product will lead to many imitators, derivatives and straight out knock offs, such as the success of Twilight that lead to countless paranormal romances books and films aimed at teens, or the spy craze of the 60's that started with the James Bond films. But it seems that no where is this as blatant as in horror films, from the slasher boom of the 1980's to the more recent 'torture porn' subgenre that has grown in popularity since the mid 2000's.

But sometimes a single film can inspire a trend and lead to many films been made in a similar vain, such as the classic of demonic possession film The Evil Dead. And if I had to describe Demon Possessed in less than ten words it would be 'The Evil Dead meets the 90's extreme sports craze'.

Also known as The Chill Factor, a title just as bland as the original but unlike Demon Possessed it couldn't be used as an alternative title for The Evil Dead, The Exorcist or countless other works of fiction including the Doctor Who episodes The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit. This is a 1993 film written directed by Christopher Webster, his only directorial credit but he has worked as a producer on many film such as Hellraiser and Heathers, and starring a cast that for the most part only appeared in this film, though a couple have had long carers in other ares of film and TV production.

The film itself is narrated by Jeannie, and older woman now but the story she is telling is of her younger care free days when her and her boyfriend Tom went on a snowmobile holiday with two other couples. Things go south quickly when Tom is injured during a race, at the same time a snow storm blows in and the group search for shelter, eventually holding up in an abandoned summer camp, one rides off to get help. As Tom is resting and the others wait, hopping help will come they find a spinning wheel version of a oujia board and play, dispute Jeannie's protests (and considering she is the only one who knows how to use the damn thing maybe she shouldn't have explained it). Naturally using the 'Devils Eye' as it's called unleashes a demon into the cabin who possesses Tom after he had died from his injuries and then one by one the characters start to die in pretty creative ways, such as one who is impaled through the eye by a falling icicle and another who is cut up by a ceiling fan that lowers itself and comes closer and close to her neck.

The final of the film is a pretty good snowmobile chase with Jeannie and one of her possessed friends, though with the music they choose you would be forgiven if you thought this was the big race to save the Community Hall at the end of a 80's/90's sports film. The film actually does have some weird choices for music, if you misses the opening titles when watching the beginning you might think this was a rom-com or drama, but that been said I really do dig the music in this film, though some of it may not be your standard horror film affair it works and never feels as random as perhaps it should.

Naturally there is an explosive end and a final twist but I have given away enough (but below you will find the blurb from the Laser Disc which pretty much gives the whole game away anyway), this wasn't a bad film, not great and it probably blurs in with many other similar films but I was never bored and I really did find it pretty enjoyable. It is pretty well passed and even though the demon possession itself doesn’t happen till half way though it never felt slow or tedious.  And it's worth noting that both the Demon Possessed and The Chill Factor poster designees are pretty cool.  I recommend waiting for a snowy day, get some friend over and give it a go.

There are a couple off bits in the film though, such as a scene when Tom feels up his sisters ass as both their partners look on with a knowing concern only for it to never be brought up again, or how in the opening narration when it says '...his other friend Chris got engaged to a black girl...', it just feel odd that in the early 90's it would be made to sound like it's still an odd thing for a white guy to be dating a black girl, though I would have been two at the time so maybe I'm wrong.

I looked online but found no into on a DVD or any copy’s of the VHS to buy, all I found was a single copy of the laser disk on ebay, so looks like this one could be hard to track down. Luckily the whole film is on youtube under the title Fator Calafrio (with subtitles but I'm unsure of what language), so if you wanna check it out you can find it there.