Excision (2012) – mini-review

A troubled, blood-obsessed teen’s psychosexual awakening is the focus of this enjoyable but genuinely shocking film. As the end credits rolled I was left just staring at the screen for 5 minutes traumatised.

The casting and performances across the board are great, in particular AnnaLynne McCord as Pauline, and Traci Lords as her overbearing mother.

A solid 8, borderline 9 on the Skelpometer.

Excision is available on Prime Video

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House (1985) – mini-review

I took against this movie quite early on, and it did nothing to win me over during its runtime. The idea of presenting PTSD in a horror movie is not a terrible one, but doing so in a goofy, unfunny, unscary comedy horror is. Add to this quite possibly the worst representation of the Vietnam war ever committed to celluloid and you get something that just rubbed me up the wrong way.

Only 2 S-Points, and those are mostly just for George Wendt.

House is available to rent on Prime Video, free with Arrow Video Channel

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Coherence (2013) – mini-review

I really enjoyed this single-location, wordy sci-fi. A dinner party quickly descends into paranoia when the world is altered by a comet passing by. Best watched knowing as little as possible beforehand. I think this will also be a movie that will reward multiple viewings.

8 Skelpometer points.

Coherence is available on Prime Video

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Noroi: The Curse (2005) – mini-review

‘Found-footage’ horror mystery that makes really good use of the format. The acting adds to this, as all the characters are believable within the world of the movie. The horror aspects are genuinely chilling – usually when I am watching films my cat is on my lap and this is the only film that has made her jump! A solid 8 S-points for this Japanese gem.

Noroi: The Curse is available on Shudder

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Tag (2015) – mini-review

The first 5 minutes of this are great, and has one of the most gruesome multiple death scenes I think I have ever watched. After this though I found myself wondering about the way in which the girls were being portrayed. By the end I wasn’t sure if this was a feminist statement by the filmmaker or just exploitation with a pretty ropey justification tagged on at the end (pun intended). For me the ending felt cheap and unsatisfactory. It was mostly entertaining though, so gets a Skelpometer rating of 5 for that.

Tag is available on Prime Video

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They Look Like People (2015) review

During my reconnection with the world of horror movies over the last 3 years or so, my first venture into FrightFest was in February 2019. At this, my favourite film of the 2 days was Perry Blackshear’s The Siren (which you should seek out on Prime Video). When I saw that his earlier movie, They Look Like People was available and had a lot of same cast as The Siren, I thought it would be worth a watch. I’m glad I was right.

This story revolves around the character of Wyatt (Macleod Andrews, who also starred in my favourite movie of FrightFest 2020, A Ghost Waits) who turns up at the door of his friend Christian (Evan Dumouchel). We find out that these two have been very close in the past, but their lives have taken very different paths recently. We also discover that Wyatt believes that a race of aliens / demons is infecting the human population and are hiding within human hosts. Wyatt receives mysterious telephone calls with instructions on how to combat the infected, and to prepare himself for an upcoming battle.

The relationship between our two main characters is extremely well observed, and moments of regression into their ‘lame’ younger selves are an absolute joy to watch. The other characters that get involved are also well scripted, including Christian’s boss / love interest Mara (Margaret Ying Drake). This is ultimately a psychological horror though, and there are moments throughout that create a growing sense of unease, and the tension that we ultimately build to is almost unbearable.

They Look Like People is a superb piece of filmmaking which explores friendship, loyalty and mental health in a measured way even though it is a horror. It comes with a Skelpometer rating of 9 and is available on Prime Video.

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Luz (2018) review

In this 70 minute German movie shot on 16mm film, writer/director Tilman Singer conjures an otherworldy atmosphere from both a limited budget and just a few locations. The very first scene is drawn-out, almost wordless and shot from a distance. With this, and the colour palette, you immediately feel like you are in another time, another place. The story then unfolds in a non-linear but inventive fashion which I found enjoyable and intriguing.

The plot revolves around the titular Luz, a cab driver who enters a police station dazed and confused. At the same time a couple of strangers engage in a weird conversation in a bar nearby. The connection between these two events and the characters involved is teased out through the movie. It would be a major spoiler to say much more, but there is some supernatural peril that comes to the fore – this is a (mostly) horror blog after all!

Once the movie was over, my first thought was that the director must be a fan of Stanley Kubrick, given the way in which some of the scenes were filmed. I’m not sure whether this is true or even a correct comparison, but it was where my brain went! The other things that sprung to mind were ‘confident’ and ‘assured’ which, for what is apparently (I haven’t researched this myself, I heard it on Strong Language and Violent Scenes podcast) a film made as a student’s dissertation, is no mean feat. In any case, I’m really excited to see what else Singer makes in the future.

Even at just over an hour this film does take its time to get to where it’s going, so this may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s right up my straße and gets a superb 9 on the Skelpometer.

Luz is available to rent or buy on Prime Video

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Xtro (1982) review

Back in the mid-to-late 80s, in the era when VHS was king, a certain type of entrepreneur sprang up in the UK prior to the big chains like Blockbuster getting themselves established. A man (almost exclusively a man) with a van would buy a load of films on VHS tape and drive around neighbourhoods renting these out to anyone who wanted them – no need for 6 pieces of ID and a photo, just a few pounds and a point towards your door ‘that’s where I live’ and the tape was yours for a couple of nights. Now I can’t speak for all of these movie rental vans, but the one that serviced my area when I was a teenager wasn’t too worried about who rented what, and certainly didn’t care about age ratings. This meant that I was able to see many things that perhaps an impressionable young lad shouldn’t have, and Xtro is exactly the type of movie I would have rented then. I don’t recall having seen it, but then again I only have hazy memories of being in hazy rooms a lot of the time in my late teens, so who knows!

I have recently started listening to an excellent podcast that ‘gives a second chance to films that might not deserve it’ – Strong Language and Violent Scenes – and Xtro was featured in one of their early episodes. I liked the sound of it from just the feedback from other listeners, so I decided to dive in. Well, what a wild dive it turned out to be!

The best way I can describe this extremely weird 1982 British horror is that it has the look and feel of a late 70s episode of Tales Of The Unexpected, crossed with a British Public Information film of the same era and directed by the bastard child of Lucio Fulci & Dario Argento. Add a dash of early Eastenders (including a character played by actual Eastenders royalty in Anna Wing ) and you might get close to understanding what you are in for. But you won’t be – this is monumentally strange, from the acting to the score everything is just that little bit off (I mean this in the best possible way) and there are some very well-made and unsettling practical effects to really get your ‘eeeew’ responses firing. It should be noted here that this film was considered as a potential ‘video nasty’ on release, however it has now been given a 15 certificate, which does seem a bit strange to me, especially as there’s a graphic ‘birthing’ scene that will never leave you once you have seen it.

Nope. I’m not stopping

In case you haven’t worked it out yet I LOVED this movie – the plot is bonkers and I’m not going to try and explain it fully here. The top line is that an alien-abducted father returns home (radically altered) after 3 years to (ostensibly) try and reclaim his place in the family home with his wife and son. There’s a whole bunch of other stuff going on – if at the end of this anybody can explain to me the lifecycle of the alien species then please get in touch. If none of that whets your appetite, there’s also a turn in this by Bond girl-to-be Maryam d’Abo, who fans of this type of film will be able to predict what scenes she will feature in and also her potential fate from her first appearance on screen.

Maryam d’Abo in Xtro

This gets an instant Hall Of Fame entry with a 9 on the Skelpometer.

Xtro is available to rent or buy on Prime Video

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City Of The Living Dead (1980) – mini-review

Forget the ‘plot’ and just bask in the atmosphere and nightmarish set-pieces. This is the first film by goremaster Lucio Fulci that I have watched in my recent(ish) horror renaissance and it won’t be my last. There’s not much to say about this – if you have heard of Fulci then you’ll know what to expect, if you haven’t then you might want to consider whether this is a movie for you – definitely not one for the squeamish!

A solid 8 S-Points. Available on Prime Video, free with Arrow Video Channel

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Dave Made A Maze (2017) – mini-review

I found this a tough film to rate – there’s so much impressive stuff in here, mostly the unique premise and stunning set-design, but after watching it I felt as flat as the cardboard that gets thrown away in the final scenes. It has taken me a while to really process this, and I think it’s because I couldn’t care less about ANY of the characters, so the peril they were experiencing didn’t leap off the screen for me. I’m glad I watched it, but can’t see me ever going back to it. 6 Skelpometer points.

Dave Made A Maze is available on Prime Video – free with Arrow Video Channel

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