Creepshow (1982) Reviewed

Thirty years after it’s original release, George Romero‘s ‘Creepshow‘ is still a deliciously dark anthology full of macabre tales and comic dark humour. With a new Blu-Ray release thanks to Second Sight, the feature is as bright and bold as ever, with its comic book style aesthetics perfectly captured on screen.

CREEPSHOW [US 1982]

Written by Stephen King and starring a whole host of familiar names and faces from across cinema and genre film, ‘Creepshow‘ is one of those special films that transcends all ages. Whilst there are some rather dark moments, the film is essentially for both kids and adults, with the slapstick comedy and childlike escaping-reality-for-fantasy comic stories coming to like being the appeal for youngsters. Adults will no doubt like the, sometimes, very comedic touches that come out of the darkest parts of the stories. Revenge, monsters, murder, bad dancing (yes Ed Harris, you are most definitely guilty of this), it’s all there, with literally something for everyone in the form of fears, terror, phobias and characters like the excessive drunk, manipulative colleague, jilted lover and oppressive family members.

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If you’ve never seen the feature, or want to upgrade your DVD to high definition format, now is the time. The transfer looks positively stunning. Not only is the picture quality terrific but it enhances the entire experience. The colours of the comic style that the films homages are once again bright and sickly with Tom Savini‘s special effects looking devilishly beautiful. Whether it be your first time or a revisit, alone or with company, ‘Creepshow‘ is the way to go. They just don’t make anthology films like it anymore.

CREEPSHOW [US 1982]

Creepshow is out from Second Sight on 28th October, just in time for Hallowe’en, pre-order it here

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CB Screening: The Serpent and the Rainbow

Shellie Gray has been thrust face first into the horrors of Wes Craven’s most mature genre film. 

“Don’t let them bury me! I’m not dead!”

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Loosely based on Wade Davis’s ethnographic account of his experiences in Haiti, The Serpent and the Rainbow is a 1988 (Mmm… smell that vintage goodness!) offering from Wes Craven, who momentarily eschews his more slash and stab inclinations to give us an eerie tale of voodoo, claustrophobic paranoia and the primal fear of being buried and still breathing.

Dennis Alan (played by a gravelly and handsome Bill Pullman), is sent to Haiti after a stint in the jungle to investigate the case of a man deemed dead and buried over a decade ago, who has recently been seen up and pottering about (pottering, stumbling around like a zombie, same thing). The pharmaceutical company that are funding him to go have the notion that if this man was in fact in a deep coma and then somehow brought out of it, this would of course be the ideal thing to use as an anaesthetic over here in the ‘civilised world’.

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Whereas most films that concern themselves with voodoo (who do, you do, I do what? Remind me of the babe!) tend to bend elements of voodoo into the narrative in whatever way better serves the story they are trying to tell, The Serpent and the Rainbow, differs in the way that the story itself seems plausible.

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This effect is generated by the almost documentary style Wes Craven presents the film in. From the voice overs by Dennis, to the feeling that we are intruding on something quite scary and secret. The location of the film itself, both in Haiti and when Haiti got a bit hairy for the cast and crew, in the Dominican Republic, lends an air of natural authenticity to proceedings. There is a sensation of actual danger, perhaps influenced by the film’s production issues. There is never really a sense that we are watching people in costumes on sets. In short, there is a certain believability to the way the story is presented, with just enough truth in it to make it damn intimidating.

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Away from the naturalistic appearance of the narrative, there are some extremely effective dreamlike/hallucination sequences. Both occasionally deliriously trippy and full of instinctual and primal fears, these are for me some of the best parts of the film. The Val Lewton esque sequences with a distinctly deceased corpse bride for example, is liable to make you forget that phrase is normally used in conjunction with a cutesy- goth Tim Burton film.

ouchScenes later in the film, (I won’t give too much away, but boys, I’m a girl, and I crossed my legs and winced in sympathy) are powerful and intense, without ever really falling into the splatter and shock trap. All in all, The Serpent and the Rainbow is a solid and compelling film, which snares you with its uneasy and commanding sense of threat.

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Cigarette Burns Cinema will be screening The Serpent and the Rainbow on 35mm at the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley on 12th July – Tickets available here

 

The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears


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From the directing duo, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, who brought us AMER and the O is for Orgasm segment of ABC’S OF DEATH, comes our first taste of L’ETRANGE COULEUR DES LARMES DE TON CORPS (The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears).

A solid Giallo title if I’ve ever heard one, obviously riffing off the rather cumbersomely named WHAT ARE THOSE STRANGE DROPS OF BLOOD ON JENNIFER’S BODY (aka The Case of the Bloody Iris), as well as Sergio Martino’s STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH and ALL THE COLOURS OF THE DARK. All featuring the lovely Edwige Fenech… Could she be making a return to the genre…? We can only hope.

Black gloves, gorgeous women, blood splatters, classy looking, and a seven word title, all the cards are certainly in place for another winner.

Ashtray Dirt Vol 2

We’re kicking off this week’s news round-up with the latest piece of Carrie promo to be released, this pretty nifty motion poster. Whilst the tagline feels a little tacky (it’s more than a little overused now don’t you think?), the poster does give some nice glimpses into the remake’s take on the iconic prom scene. With Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore in the leads, we’ll have to wait until November to see just what director Kimberly Pierce has done with her take on the 1970s classic…

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From one remake to another, as on set photographs of Gareth Edwards’ (MonstersGodzilla remake spilt onto the net this week. Whilst not teasing a lot, we do get to see some destruction in what looks like a small fishing town and the possible evacuation of  children from their school. Rumours are circulating that the feature will show Godzilla’s roots in Japan before moving to the West although very little is coming out of the set at the moment…

Cult soundtrack label Death Waltz Recording Co. unleashed their new revamped website this week and announced their latest release, the soundtrack to 2012 remake Maniac, which will go on sale at some point in June…

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Filipino director, writer and producer Eddie Romero passed away this week aged 87. A passionate campaigner for the arts and culture of the Philipines, Romero was named the National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts in 2003 and was very active with the country’s National Comission for the Culture and Arts. Romero’s career spanned over 60 years and included both Filipino (Agila, Manila, Open City and Kamakalawa) and American movies (Savage Sisters, The Passionate Strangers and Black Mama, White Mama)…

On set photographs have also found their way onto the web of an overgrown San Francisco, the setting for next year’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In), the film takes place 15 years after its predecessor Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and see’s the growing nation of genetically evolved apes threatened by a small band of human survivors…

They were all drawn to The Keep

On 21st Feburay, we are please to team up with Electric Sheep Magazine and bring you Michael Mann’s otherworldly dream-horror THE KEEP on 35mm at the Prince Charles CinemaIn advance of which, Shellie Gray sits down with the Keep for the first time, unaware of exactly what it holds within. 


KEEP
Before Magneto and Gandalf, Ian McKellan starred in The Keep; a relatively forgotten film from Michael Mann, director of Heat and The Last of the Mohicans. Although perhaps not as accomplished as his later films, Mann’s The Keep is a nice slice of early 80s cult filmic pie, complete with a synthy, dreamlike filling.

“We are now the masters of the world!” states a later quite likeable, although woefully misinformed Nazi Officer, grinning to his cohort, as a small group of German soldiers arrive in a quaint Romanian village. He says it in that brash and overconfident tone often used before being beaten, stabbed, maimed or mutilated in a film, however after noting the curious backwards construction of the keep in which he intends to spend a few days, and finding bits of his comrades all over the place the following morning, it would be safe to say, Captain Woermann, with his wonderfully melancholy face, possibly recanted that grandiose statement.

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Prior to meeting the force that lives within the keep’s walls, we are faced with the building itself. Wonderfully daunting, full of long corridors that serve up a foreboding claustrophobia, it is, itself one of the villains of the film, along with Gabriel Byrne‘s chilling blue eyed Nazi Major and Molasar, the sadly under explored supernatural creature the keep holds prisoner.

It is true that the first time I viewed this film, I did so with a critical eye and felt it was lacking. If you find yourself in this camp I would urge you to watch the film as if you are in a dreamscape, Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack aiding the gauzy quality. Let the film float around you like a much less malevolent version of the fog accompanying the great Molasar. One could compare The Keep to Fulci‘s The Beyond, in the way that it is truly enjoyable and spectacular in its visuals and atmosphere, if you just don’t cling to the idea of a linear and ‘by the book’ plot line!

Beyond

The Keep contains some truly beautiful and haunting scenes, such as when Molasar saves Ian McKellan’s daughter (Alberta Watson) from two overly amorous Nazi’s and carries her back to her room. The two are sheathed in smoke and fog billowing around them in a beautiful rendition of the classic monster and maiden pose.

Mol

One of the undoings of the film is that it was originally two hours longer, and having been cut, seems to fall short on explaining some of the more intriguing elements of the narrative, such as the mysterious character with alarmingly purple eyes played by Scott Allen. An important thing to note is that a DVD release is not on the cards for The Keep, with Director Michael Mann practically disowning the film due to studio interference. The only way you can have a physical copy of this forgotten gem is to track it down on VHS or Laserdisc.

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The Keep is a nice solid and beautifully atmospheric film, with the occasional what the actual fuck moment. However, like I said previously, dreams often don’t come with in-depth explanations, so the best thing to do is strap in and enjoy the light show!

 

Tickets available here

Pet Semetary – Sometimes dead is better!

Or a short piece on why you shouldn’t watch this film alone.


Pet Semetary is one of the defining examples of source material rearing up into (after)life when transitioning from the curled up, well thumbed pages in your hand to the silver screen. Although followed by a less accomplished sequel in 1992, this film is chock full of the kind of images that will seep into your mind the next time you enter a dark room.

Our journey into this story of death, loss, resurrection and… death again, opens ominously. The camera tracks languidly over a cemetery (or semetary, as we are informed by the misspelled, hand made sign) for children’s much loved pets. Left behind collars sway in the breeze, hung from crudely erected markers and each stone carries with it messages of love from the child owners. At this point, you may be forgiven for nudging your neighbour and hissing “there ain’t nothing scarier than a graveyard montage respite with children’s grieving voice overs and a child choir!”. And there is nothing.scarier… Well, until we get moving through the film and find out that those angelic mournful voices are really the least of potential nightmare fuel.

The film follows Louis Creed, his highly strung wife Rachel and their two young children Ellie and Gage. Louis, a GP, and the family have moved to Maine (that mainstay location of King narratives) in order for him to accept a post at the local high school. Their nice house comes with two nice potential threats, the busy road, separating the Creed residence from that of their closest neighbour, Jud Crandall (an excellent and understated play by Fred Gwynne, yes, that Fred Gwynne) which is frequently used by enormous and speedy trucks and the eerily stone marked path that leads to the eponymous Pet Semetary.

While Ellie is the archetypical ‘annoying young child’ (although allegedly based partially on King’s own daughter… Sorry, Steve) in her screeching and precocious questioning, Gage is all blue eyes, blond hair and giggles, saved from being squished into Gage-jam (or child chutney, if you will) by a hurtling truck in the first ten minutes by none other than HERMAN MUNSTER. Yes, I know, awesome.

Jud takes the family to the Pet Semetary, as you do, and assures little Ellie Creed that it is not a scary place (Psssh, behave!) and merely a place where the dead can still speak, by way of their gravestones. This sentiment is reiterated by the ghost of Victor Pascow, a victim of a road traffic accident, who ominously informs Louis “This is the place where the dead talk, do not, however much you feel you have to, go on to the place where the dead talk”.

Pet Semetary does indeed contain an Indian burial ground, a now derided horror trope, but given that this film was made before ‘Indian burial ground’ became a cliche, it can be excused for this. Likewise the threatening music when Louis first spots the path leading to the cemetery. When watching the film, it is alarmingly easy to forget how we now make fun of these conventions and remember how damn scary they can be.

For me, the piece de resistance of terror in this film is the presence of  Rachel’s sister Zelda, whose body is twisted and ravaged by spinal meningitis. The parts where Zelda appears, dying, dead or as an apparition are truly terrifying. The noises, voice and creeping terror of these scenes fuel nightmares for weeks, if not months. You know that feeling when you are sitting in a dark room by yourself, something moves out the corner of your eye and you really, realllllly don’t want to look at it? That.

Apparently a great deal of the story is based on real events from Stephen King’s life, and as is typical of Stephen King tales, the heart of the horror is rooted in the plausible. Interview’s with King detail the time he caught his toddler son just before he was made into brat splat (sorry… kiddie custard?) by a truck when he too lived near a busy highway. Also, Ellie’s rant about the possibility of her beloved cat Church being killed in the road is taken verbatim from a similar conversation King had with his daughter.

A Father finds a way to resurrect his daughters much loved cat and spare his little girl’s heartache. As sceptical as Louis is that it will actually work, wouldn’t you toy with the idea of doing the same? However the overarching message of the film is if a man who is wearing his brain sans it’s skull cover tells you not to do something, do try to take his plea on board!

We’ll be screening Stephen King’s Pet Semetary on 16th November at the Rio Cinema – Tickets available here