Director: Tony Maylam
Writers: Peter Lawrence, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Tony Maylam & Brad Grey
Starring: Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, Jason Alexander & Fisher Stevens
A bit of a cult-classic slasher film from the early days of the genre, The Burning was placed on the Video Nasties list in the 80's. Watching it now, despite a couple of gory scenes, it's hard to see why, but I still had fun with the film.
It's plot is clearly ripped off Friday the 13th (released the year before); a nasty, alcoholic groundsman who was burned in an horrific accident exacts his revenge by stalking a bunch of teenagers at a summer camp with a pair of garden shears. From then on you know the drill; teenagers get naked, do stupid stuff and crazed killer hacks them to pieces.
As I said at the start though, despite it's over-familiarity I still found myself rather enjoying the film. I think one thing that helped was the fairly realistic and amusing banter between the characters. The film's 'hero' Todd (Brian Matthews) is bland and uninteresting but the supporting cast including future stars Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter are mostly quite likeable and I actually found myself feeling disappointed when some of them got killed.
The gore is well handled too by the master Tom Savini. It's not his finest work, but Savini on a bad day is still impressive and inventive. A massacre set on a raft (deleted from some censored versions of the film) is particularly brutal and is the centrepiece of the film, still shocking to watch today.
It's obviously not a perfect film though, as mentioned before some of the lead performances are pretty weak and plain annoying at times. There's also a ridiculous amount of nudity and sexual content in it. I've got nothing against it generally, and I'd never turn my nose up to a bit of T 'n A now and again, but it does start to get pretty silly.
So if you're in the mood for an old-style slasher that doesn't offer much new, but is fun and mindless you'd do worse than dig this out from the archives.
Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl
Directors: Yoshihiro Nishimura & Naoyuki Tomomatsu
Writers: Naoyuki Tomomatsu & Shungiku Uchida
Starring: Yukie Kawamura, Eri Otoguru & Takumi Saito
Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl, what can I say? It's from the people behind Tokyo Gore Police, Stacy and Machine Girl, so if you've seen any of those films you'll know what to expect. If you haven't seen any of those films, you're in for a treat!
Plot? Er ok, when a new girl (Yukie Kawamura) comes into school and falls for the class hunk, popular girl Keiko (Eri Otoguru) isn't happy and the two become worst enemies. So far so textbook yeah? Did I mention the new girl is a vampire, and somewhere along the way Keiko is murdered and her father reanimates her corpse using various bodyparts to turn her into 'Frankenstein Girl'? Oh and it's set in a high school where students are mainly segregated into groups such as the Wrist Cutting Club and the Ganguro Girls, girls who idolise African Americans and try to dress, talk and look like them - all the way down to colouring their skin.
If you haven't guessed already (the title is a giveaway), Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl is as mad as a bag of squirrels. Most of what occurs in the film is utterly ludicrous and that, added to an insane amount of gore and bloodletting are what sells this film. Basically, take the maddest Japanese film you've ever seen, add in the goriest horror film you've ever seen, multiply it by ten and then you have Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl. It's got everything from a character using her own severed limbs to turn herself into a helicopter, song-and-dance numbers utilising a ribcage as a guitar, to a wrist slitting competition where one girl ends up slashing through her entire arm. It's all done with it's tongue firmly in it's cheek of course and with a makeshift low budget style that means the effects don't look particularly realistic. This works to it's advantage though, as if they did I think it would be much harder to stomach.
It's clearly not for everyone of course - if any of the scenes described above don't appeal to you then you won't like the film. It's crude, offensive, utterly crazy and there's enough blood in the film to fill the Great Lakes; it's not an art piece and it's not safe family entertainment put it that way. Personally I really enjoyed it, it's a hell of a lot of fun and it's insanity knows no bounds, which to me is a bonus. However, being a big fan of Machine Girl which has a similar style and appeal, I don't think this is quite as successful. Quite a few scenes are stretched out a little too far and could have been trimmed. Also, I found the Ganguro Girl's a little too offensive at times and not in the right way. I understand it's poking fun at teenage stereotypes, but it just came across as being a bit racist to me.
Fans of ultra-gory Japanese madness like Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police will lap this up, and if you like your films to be truly extreme without getting serious in any way then this should not be missed.
The House of the Devil
Director: Ti West
Writer: Ti West
Starring: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan & Mary Woronov
The House of the Devil is an affectionately accurate homage to horror films from the late 70's and early 80's, and one that works very effectively.
The film has a simple story; a college student who is hard up for cash takes on a babysitting job on the night of a lunar eclipse. When she realises that the couple who hire her don't actually have a child, things start to get a little distressing.
The film mimics the style of films from the period mentioned above perfectly. It's not just a flashy gimmick used now and again as a nod and a wink, it actually does feel like you're watching an old forgotten horror film. It also shares the same slow-burning creepy quality of the better films of that era rather than just subjecting the audience to cheap jumps and unnecessary gore. Although very little happens in the first two thirds of the film, the feeling of tension is so effective you can't help but be glued to your seat to find out what will happen in the end.
Unfortunately, I found that when the climax did arrive I felt a bit let down. It's not a bad ending by any stretch, but after such a subtle and engrossing build I felt a little cheated by a more shlocky and predictable ending.
I would still recommend it though, so long as you can appreciate the slow pace and minimal plot. It's a film that's clearly been made with a lot of love and affection for the genre, and a lot of effort has been made to create a film that references the past without sinking into parody.
Director: Paul Solet
Writer: Paul Solet
Starring: Jordan Ladd, Stephen Park & Gabrielle Rose
Maybe it was the fact that I'd already sat through 12 back-to-back horror films before watching this, but I felt like I wanted to like Grace more than I actually did.
It begins with a couple, Madeline and Michael Matheson, who are about to become parents and their problems in finding a way to bring it into the world in line with Madeline's natural and organic view of life against Michael's domineering mother's devoutly traditional ways. A car accident changes everything though, leaving Madeline a widow and seemingly killing the baby inside her. She still insists on delivering it though and miraculously it arrives into the world alive. Just as things seem to be going well however, Madeline learns that her child, Grace, is not quite normal.
It's a dark and disturbing film with an interesting concept, but for me nothing really settled. It's well made, looks good and is well performed, but it just felt unpleasant rather than powerful and was a little too slow-moving for my liking.
Although the 'evil baby' premise sounds ridiculous, the film takes matters very seriously, and this actually works, only one or two moments felt silly. However, it's seriousness doesn't help the fact that it's a difficult film to enjoy. On a metaphorical level too, the film wasn't quite as effective as it wanted to be, with some ideas handled very bluntly.
It's an odd film, not a bad one, but an unsatisfying and unlikeable experience. I imagine many people will get more from it than I did, but I found it to be a slightly disappointing ending to an otherwise fantastic festival.
More reviews from Celluloid Screams 2009:
Saturday Part 1
Saturday Part 2