Leatherface (2017) Film Review

Origin stories-who needs them? When thinking of iconic horror monsters do we really want some explanation about where they came from or what created them?

Whatever our opinion we have had a few of these over the last decade or more. I was surprised when this film was announced so soon after the Texas Chainsaw3D film, and that it was not another sequel but a prequel ‘origin story’ of the main iconic monster of the long lasting horror franchise. In the past, often against the wishes or interest of loyal fans we have had hints at the origins of modern horror monsters such as Freddy Krueger of the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, flashbacks encounters of the past life of Pinhead from Hellraiser, and more. In my mind the most recent and probably unnecessary prequel origin tale for one of the most iconic modern monsters was the Hannibal Rising movie which looked at the early years of Hannibal Lecter of the Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal films. It was closely adapted from the short novel written by the great Thomas Harris, who created the character but it did not feel entirely called for. Did that movie take away too much of the mystery from the iconic monster that is Hannibal Lecter?

Would this new Texas Chainsaw prequel be just as unnecessary? Or would it give the iconic voiceless chainsaw wielding fiend a fresh and solid layer of realistic character?

It came free onto Netflix a few days ago so now was the time to find out I decided.

I had already heard and read many very mixed reviews and thoughts on this slightly controversial addition to the Chainsaw series. Leatherface is now up there with Dracula, Pinhead, Freddy, Phantom of the Opera and other legendary horror monsters. Many may hold the view that we don’t want to know too much about them-who they used to be, where they came from, what made them evil or unstoppable killers. The less we know, the more they may seem like some mysterious force of nature, a kind of evil energy or lifeforce.

This movie goes right back to the very start. Back to the Sawyer house out in the open fields of America. We have seen different versions of the Chainsaw family through the various sequels-there has never really been any clear explanation about why sometimes there seem to be a couple of older brothers with Leatherface, different mother figures, sometimes extra extended family members other times only one or two others. In this early beginning the story gives us a Sawyer family with a couple of older grown brothers, one simple chubby young brother, and the young Leatherface character now called Jed. The mother in this version is played by the excellent Lili Taylor, who continues to seem to get better with every film she appears in over the years. At first I thought she was only going to be in the short opening sequence of the film, but she appears throughout as it moves along. Young Jed seems to witness regular violent scenes and torture measured out by his family on unsuspecting people or police prying into their family business. The local sheriff is played by Stephen Dorff and we see that as in the 2003 remake the Texas police can be expected to be cruel and corrupt figures almost as violent as the Sawyer family. Young Jed is taken away after Sheriff Hartman comes in believing they were the reason his daughter died.

Cut to a few years later and young Jed is in some kind of mental institution for young offenders. The Sawyer mother comes to attempt to take back Jed (also now named Bud) but ends up starting a riot where the young offenders escape, cause violent bloody havoc, Jed and some others go on the run taking a young nurse who had only just starting working there. She had seen that while Jed seemed a quiet and dangerously strong young man he did seem to have a kind heart in some way. She is taken hostage along with one of the more sane and decent young men and Jed by two others who will do anything to get away. This young couple in charge have no morals and the film almost seems to morph into Natural Born Killers at this point, only set in the late 1950’s. It becomes a bloody road trip escape movie, where we seem to want the decent young man and pretty innocent nurse to escape together. Young Jed is silent and exploited by the crazed duo in charge as the Sheriff and police soon pick up their trail.

When you have known and watched the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre for a very long time (originally seeing as a banned copied VHS) the slick, Hollywood level cinematography and direction, costume and light and more take it many miles away from that original place of fear. But we have had several sequels already over the years and one prequel as well which only when so far back, not to where Leatherface was a small child as in this film. Do we know too much about the character now for him to really scare us? In a sense the discontinuity of the Sawyer family through the series does possibly help add a level of continued ambiguity for fans. This is an origin story-but can we really trust the truth of it? What is the real Sawyer Chainsaw family? Who is the real Leatherface and does this film really tell us the truth?

It does throw us a twist in the story after the halfway point which makes it interesting. I really did not expect it. Maybe I was just tired or liked the idea. You then want to go back and consider the film again and the characters up to that point. Well, the people who like the film. So it is probably true that it lacks a strong consistency all through the film with the narrative-is it a horror film? a road movie? a tragic romance? It certainly is not just a simple straight ahead brutal murder splatter flick all way the through like most of the other Chainsaw movies and as most fans may have wanted to see.

I have to say that the acting does on the whole carry the film, especially Dorff as the Sheriff and Lili Taylor as Ma Sawyer. She could even get her own solo movie I would be happy. Some people moaned that Leatherface doesn’t even used a chainsaw or wear a mask until the end of the movie but well that surely makes sense in this case. It incorporate those elements into the story so that they make sense in the end and it is a tragic start to one of the most well known modern iconic horror monsters.

Like the Hannibal Rising book/movie which reveals much about the terrible childhood traumas which shaped the grown killer years down the line, this film shows us a number of things which affected the mind and life and outlook of Leatherface. Can we accept possibly knowing this much about a previously very mysteriously powerful monster?

A number of specific scenes and shots clearly set up the identity of Leatherface and suggest why he wears a skin mask of his victims, why he kills, his lack of voice and interestingly his confused identity. It even touches on his conflicted gender perception at the end previously explored to mixed opinion in the forth film.

Is this a great new addition to the Texas Chainsaw series? It may not have the usual terrifying rollercoaster nightmare experience of most of the movies in the series but it does have some good acting (which doesn’t always appear in the Chainsaw movies) and a number of very graphic moments which will please many of the bloodthirsty Chainsaw fans out there.

 

James Parsons is author of the horror novel Northern Souls out now in paperback and ebook from all good bookshops and online. He also has two science fiction novels-Orbital Kin and Minerva Century available paperback/Hardback/ebook as well published as James E. Parsons.

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Hellraiser:Judgment Film Review (2018)

*Spoilers ahead…

I could not wait. Some would forget about it for many months until they casually notice the cheaply priced UK dvd for sale but I am a huge Hellraiser nerd and so I went for it, ordered the American region dvd. Was it a huge mistake? Was I let down?

News of this next sequel in the possibly increasingly low quality series came a fair ago. The film was actually finished and held back from cinemas or dvd release last year due to some distributor/studio reasons but thankfully they came to sort things out and we can now view this new chapter in the Hellraiser cinematic world.

I don’t know how well you know the movies or the original created by the legend author/artist/filmmaker Clive Barker in the late 80’s but many fans have become very cynical and jaded about any new entry in the series. Arguably the first three movies are best and certainly probably the ones most fans liked above the others. Those movies were produced with mostly big studio financing and it can be seen on screen. Around 1996 came Hellraiser:Bloodline and at the time I was really eager to see where they would take Pinhead and the Cenobites. Well that film sadly went straight to VHS (I had to buy an ex-rental from a reliable local store) and it was some kind of tragic cinematic mess. The director took his name off the film, the studio recut the movie which just could not manage to successfully put on screen the complex and ambitious tale of medieval times, present day and sci-fi future locations on a challenging budget. The series was gone for a few years until it returned with Hellraiser:Inferno, a more intimate smaller story and the new few straight to dvd sequels remained similar to that one in budget and ambition. There have been strong rumours that some of those sequels were made from old on-spec horror scripts which simply stuck Pinhead in for a few minutes and hey presto-cheap Hellraiser sequel to make some money from the loyal fans.

The most recent sequel Hellraiser:Revelations controversially hired a new actor to play Pinhead lead Cenobite. Many fans just could not accept this, and the film was largely seen as a real waste of time and a cheap cash-in mess, the actor receiving strong criticism and negative responses.

A couple of years on and Gary J Tunnicliffe, a special effects artist who had worked on several of the sequels since Hellraiser3, has given us this next sequel. Again many fans were very sceptical and weary but in interviews Tunnicliffe was stating that he had a fresh concept for this new sequel, something that could really push the series forward and not simply for the sake of keeping the film rights for the studios. He sounded very confident in what he was telling us. We could bare in mind that he did write the terrible previous Hellraiser:Revelations sequel but he argued that the studio did what they did and he had no say in how that one was made. He stated that he offered them a couple of new Hellraiser scripts, one very extreme and one which was basically the new sequel. They eventually did give him the chance to direct it and I think it was a good thing to do.

If you are a Hellraiser fan you probably know that in the decades that the franchise has existed, there have been many sequels, comicbook tales inspired by the films, new short stories and merchandise going off in various interesting directions. Some of the sequels could have done many great things over the years but as is often the case movie studios, producers and distributors get nervous or greedy and hold back and cash in or play safe.

With Hellraiser:Judgment it is quickly obvious that Tunnicliffe does genuinely have a great personal interest in the series, the world, the character of Pinhead and where it could possibly go. So the main storyline of the film is quite standard detective murder mystery but from the first few minutes it takes us into strange and bizarre Hellraiser places we haven’t really experienced since possibly the second movie. Be prepared to wonder ‘what the hell is happening here?’ before the familiar detective plot comes into play after the main title. It looks nice and nasty, all sepia gloom and dark shadows with weird characters and a glimpse of our second new Pinhead actor.

So it moves forward as three cops-two male pals, one new female-attempt to track down a mysterious serial killer who seems inspired by Old Testament scripture for his murders. Yes that does sound like the David Fincher classic Seven and many other cop thriller/serial killer movies of the last 20 years but this brings in Pinhead and Cenobites with it. Like most of the cheap sequels, again Pinhead is not in the movie for very long at all, but actually that probably works very well-remember he only appeared in the original for a few minutes but made a lasting impression.

This sequel does feel quite similar to Hellraiser:Inferno which also had a detective hunting down a mysterious serial killer. There are a few similar steps along the film in terms of narrative, and almost wonder why Tunnicliffe did not go with more of a different or unusual plot but it largely serves to bring in Pinhead and the Hellraiser world. Now, I will not detail every unusual new character or scene we get in this new sequel. There is a new character actually played by Tunnicliffe called The Auditor who is not exactly a Cenobite but works for some department of Hell. He works with Pinhead but not for him. There is a big change this time where Tunnicliffe decides to bring in the opposite of Hell:Heaven. The director believed that in the Hellraiser world or films it should be logical that both could meet at some point and so we see an angel speak with The Auditor and later confront Pinhead. This may not go down well with some long-time fans of Hellraiser but in some ways yes it does make sense. The budget of the film may have limited how this could come across on screen but it works alright.

I should consider this new third actor taking on the role of Pinhead, one of the most iconic and well known modern horror movie monsters of the last 30 years. Paul T. Taylor dons the iconic special effects makeup and actually I think that he does put in a pretty good performance. I did miss the familiar sound of the voice of Pinhead as we known it from Doug Bradley but that was not a huge distraction really. So the previous new actor has disappeared, possibly hiding in shame of his performance in Hellraiser:Revelations but I think I would be happy to see Paul T. Taylor remain the Priest of Pain for at least one more sequel. He also personally seems very excited to be the character and understands how significant and iconic the role is in the horror world.

The film does meander along into the second half with not really too much taking place beyond a mystery killer teasing the detectives, they argue among themselves and one of them goes off alone. Meanwhile the Auditor and Pinhead are also interested in knowing who the serial killer is and where he is. This links both sides of the story and thankfully there is just about enough characterisation for us to care about the detectives and what happens to them. A couple of big twists in the plot help keep our interest, though at least one of them is probably fairly obvious-again the detective storyline not hugely original but basically serves its purpose.

Fans will be please to see some familiar cenobites return to the screen and even a cameo from another iconic horror actor which sadly missed the chance to really do something maybe more entertaining, even if as extra deleted scenes on the dvd.

The actually ending is fairly bold, especially considering the previous line of safe Hellraiser sequels and Tunnicliffe has suggested it keeps things open for a follow on sequel in future. We see Pinhead confront the angel, they argue about what should be done with the serial killer, she tricks Pinhead. He decides to kill her classic Hellraiser style with the sudden flesh ripping hooks and chains but some powerful force moves around his domain and he banished from his role, made human and left on Earth. This ending may confuse or even enrage many long-time fans. Some may just think it to be really dumb or stupid but at least Tunnicliffe has taken a bold step with a very loved and iconic horror monster. We will seen the response over time, if not a direct follow on sequel. I think it actually could, and possibly should happen. Tunnicliffe I think is evidently talented and enthusiastic enough to continue the series personally and I would welcome that. The combination of him as continuing director, Taylor as new Pinhead and a bigger budget could offer something really great next time.

So is it a new horror movie classic? No, not at all. Is it a Hellraiser sequel worth seeing? I think so. Even horror fans not really big on Hellraiser may still enjoy it on some level. It has more gore and blood than some of the sequel, a better Pinhead performance and in some ways a more bold and challenging tale to offer on screen. I say give it a go, Hellraiser fan or casual horror movie fan of any kind.

James Parsons is author horror novel Northern Souls available now as paperback & ebook from all good bookshops and online. Also his two SF books Orbital Kin and Minerva Century as paperback, ebook and hardback in shops and online as well.

The Void (2016) Film Review

This was the main movie I decided to go with this Halloween. I usually pull out a couple of horror classics or films which I really like, that way I can be sure not to be disappointed. This year I thought, no I’m going to watch one or maybe two fairly new horror flicks for a change.

Now I had heard and read quite a lot of good things about this new movie over the last year or so. I had heard that it actually had practical special effects-okay this does happen, but often they just turn out looking terrible. In this case the feedback was that these effects worked really well. Surprise there, plus I grew up on 80’s horror movies where it was all about lots of latex and animatronic effects clear to see and buckets of blood and gore all over the show so this appealed to me.

It also seemed to have a fairly distinctive and original concept and mysterious idea in the story which seemed to make it stand out from a number of recent horror movies. I’ve been waiting for something to come along which was brave enough to offer up a new mythology, a fully formed world of terror instead of yet more twenty-somethings running around with some masked killer on their trail.

So this movie seemed mysterious and confident, just what I wanted. Halloween, get ready for this in my dvd player.

If you haven’t seen it yet I won’t let out too many spoilers or I’ll try not to do so. The story takes place in and around a small town hospital with a young police officer observing a number of shocking and creepy events connecting up around him and the small set of main characters. They become trapped in the hospital as they soon notice a large number of what seem like hooded cult members surrounding the building while it is soon enough clear that something not of this world is trying to take them down…

This movie does have a strong 80’s vibe and several films come to mind while watching it such as Assault of precinct 13, The Thing, Hellraiser, Phantasm and others. It is often quite claustrophobic and intense. Considering that the directors had only previously made shorter spoof parody genre movie, with this movie they conjure up genuine serious cinematic terror all the way.

It was good to see a new horror film which soon enough moves at a quick pace and has a cast of good enough actors which help build up the panic and hysteria of the story around them. Some have said that the plot gets quite confused or disjointed as it goes on. There may a couple of plot holes but the main issue has been that many felt it was quite derivative of some of the classic 80’s horror films I have mentioned. Also there are two strands of terror coming in to attack the main characters and yes, in some ways these two elements may not exactly make totally logical sense.

I can assure you though that the film does have a bunch of really impressive set pieces, a load of blood and gore spilling out all over the place. Some of the acting may be a little hit and miss at times but generally it works well enough. Ultimately this is a genuine bold new spectacle of a horror movie. It all builds and builds toward a final head-trip of an ending.  It might be good to see some kind of sequel to this movie if the directors would be interesting in the idea.

So if you are a fan of some of the most bloody and creepy 80’s monster movies with a sharp supernatural twist this could be the one you have been waiting for right here. Dare you enter the VOID?

James E Parsons is author of two SF novels-Orbital Kin & Minerva Century. His first horror novel Northern Souls has been published this Halloween. All three are available from all good bookshops or online now.

 

 

Blair Witch (2016) film review

Did horror fans think the Blair Witch franchise would have returned to the big screen earlier than this? With the infamous original film released in 1999 and the largely disappointing rushed sequel a couple of years later it has been a very long wait for some else linked to that story.

Has the wait been worth it? Could this next sequel be a much of a controversial intense rush as the first film?

As I understand we have had to wait such a long time for another sequel due to the problems relating to the directors of the original and what bigger studios wanted to do next with the story. Obviously, they have learned from the mistake of the original sequel which disposed with the handheld found footage format and was shot just like any other regular Hollywood horror flick mostly. It made sense to return to the original format which caused such a stir back in the late 90’s but there was the challenge of how to make something new with that this time around…

The story for Blair Witch seemed fairly obvious of course-younger brother of main character of Heather from the original decided to go looking for her in this new sequel or to at least find out what exactly did happen to her and her friends around twenty years ago. With a couple of concerned but supportive friends he travels back out to Burkittsville and they meet with two young and strange people who posted some intriguing information online. Together the group go back into the woods and encounter another series of unexplainable and terrifying events.

So then we have a new set of young people, in the same place of the original film. Do they get spooked? Of course they do. Is it confusing, terrifying, nerve shaking stuff?

Well remember…in the years since the original Blair Witch Project we’ve had very many films which had looked similar or used the ‘found footage’ technique. So worked, so didn’t. I remember going to see the original after seeing the repeated tv trailers which showed many traumatized cinema goers after coming out saying how freaked out they were and clips of them in the cinema almost jumping into the air in apparently genuine fear at what was on screen.

This was not really the case. The filmmakers really knew what they were doing with promoting and marketing their very extremely low budget movie, selling it on mystery and fear as a supposedly real documentary and collected footage of young filmmakers who really did disappear in the woods.

Years later of course, we know all of this and so we will watch any new similar sequel with a large amount of  skepticism. But if you’re a horror film fan, you might go along with it all. From the trailers and early pictures it seemed that the new filmmakers this time really wanted to take what the first film had and push it up to eleven. Do we get that?

Okay so it does feel very much like the original but how could it not? It is shot hand-held, it is a group of young twentysomethings going into the woods looking for signs of unusual activity. What we have this time almost twenty years on, are much better CGI special effects which are added into what still looks like a very realistic low budget movie. Like the original, it does take a good while for anything disturbing to actually happen, and even then it isn’t much. Eventually though the witch leaves her mark and then things get shaken up for the group.

Even though this time around the young characters have better internet, smart phones, even drone cameras at their disposal it all feel so much like the original until the last hour or so. This is where it goes full ‘haunted house’ spook-show. All out confusion, panic and fear is before us, the characters are lost, terrified plucked off one by one. We do get to see much more of what could be the actual legendary famous Burkittsville witch this time. I suppose that it does all work very well, and is pretty terrifying right in this last twenty minutes. If you’ve seen the original, probably just constant de ja vu. If you have not seen the original, I think this film really will probably work very well.

I would I like to have seen them do something very different with this sequel? They could have gone somewhere else with the story, looked elsewhere into the legend of the witch and Burkittsville maybe. We’ve had the first sequel Book of Shadows which most people really hated (wait for it…I kind of like some of it somehow…I know, sorry). Is this the sequel we should have had back in 2000? Maybe it is for a number of reasons it didn’t happen back then. Should we get another sequel soon? I would go back to Burkittsville but dig around for something else next time…

James E. Parsons is author of SF books Orbital Kin & Minerva Century both available from all good bookshops now and online. His first horror novel Northern Souls is published this October.

 

Frankenstein (2015) Film Review

There have been so many films over the decades based upon the hugely influential and famous book by Mary Shelley. This new version I watched a week ago does change things around just a little and because of this does bring some new things to the story.

This Frankenstein film is directed by Bernard Rose (most famous for directing the first Candyman movie) and starring Carrie-Anne Moss, Danny Huston, Xavier Samuel. The begins right away with the ‘birth’ of the monster, this time called Adam (played by Xavier Samuel). We see that he is created in secret by married scientists Carrie-Anne Moss and Danny Huston. They run tests, try to teach him skills, and he starts life much like a naïve simple child. He does though possess a dangerous increased strength and eventually this almost has him terminated. After struggle, Adam escapes and runs away alone.

After this it moves along in similar fashion to the original story-the monster/Adam meets and accidentally kills a small girl, runs from police officers, blood is spilled as he runs on alone, confused and desperate.

The film is told from the point of view of the monster/Adam and set in our modern world. This does make it fairly more believable and more tragic in some ways. This does contrast in my mind with the large scale, big budget mid-90’s film version starring De Niro as the monster, with huge sets and costumes and set way back around the time that the original book was written.

Adam soon meets a friendly homeless blind-man on the streets who tries to give him advice and help him to understand people and how the world around them works. If you know the story, you can expect that eventually it all does again fall to pieces with increasing death and destruction around Adam. The end is more different to how the tale usually winds up and is trying to say something through the eyes of the monster this time.

Bernard Rose is a very talented director and while this film has a fairly low budget he does take care in crafting a very thoughtful and poetic film, while it does not shy away from explicit bloodshed and gore fairly frequently. It is probably one of the more bloodsplattered versions of Frankenstein on film but this does not ruin the film. Another director doing the same thing, with same levels of blood and gore may have put out a much more simplistic disposable movie. With this version of the classic tale, Rose opens out some different thoughts on man creating man or life in our modern technologically advanced times, but also how such an artificial being would exist, feel, struggle against our fearful, aggressive and shallow world.

James E. Parsons is author of SF books Orbital Kin and Minerva Century both out now in paperback/ebook/hardback in all good bookshops internationally and online from Waterstones, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others. His first horror novel will be published toward the end of 2017.

Flares and scares-1970’s Horror

We passed the ‘Summer of love’ but the long hair and flares were there with the prog rock and changes in filmmaking and what we could be scared by on the big screen. This period in time was during and through to the end of the Vietnam war and I believe this did have a strong effect on the films which came to us at this time. With indie film directors like Francis Ford Coppola and Dennis Hopper revolutionizing what could be a film and how it could be made, horror films soon followed in the same steps.

Over here in the UK we had the regularly successful Hammer studios still putting out their gothic flicks of macabre dread such as Countess Dracula but soon others would take things into our modern and urban homes.

Of course in 1968 George Romero gave us his first horror classic Night of the Living Dead which did seriously change horror films forever. Low budget, black and white, on the move. It seemed to feel like a live news television report almost. Even to watch it today that movie is very powerful in a number of ways.

So into the 1970’s we had Mario Bava and Jesus Franco overseas continuing with their arthouse styled horror and erotica suspense chillers but it would be Wes Craven with The Last House on the Left, The Exorcist and The Wicker Man in 1973, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974, David Cronenberg starting his run of body-horror movies with Shivers in 1975, Carrie, The Omen, To The Devil a Daughter from Hammer in 1976, in 77 Wes Craven and Cronenberg again along with Argento’s masterpiece Suspiria from Italy.

1978 was a big year when we had Romero return with the classic Dawn of the dead, but also Carpenter gave us the first Halloween. This was the one which I believe really got practically everything right on spot for a horror movie.

1979 gave us Ridley Scott’s ALIEN movie, science fiction melded into space horror. The Brood, Amityville Horror, Phantasm. There were many more in this decade but the films mentioned above each added something which made a focused change to what we were afraid of on screen and also said much about what we no longer feared.

It was this decade where the big studios were confused and afraid to take serious risks and indie filmmakers were getting serious with very creative physical special effects and props, shooting all kinds of almost radical and lurid scenes which none had dared do before. The fears of the president Nixon years and nuclear war were truly present and this was manifesting into cinema screens, even if at midnight showings. Film horror was no longer set centuries of decades in the past, in had reached the present and it was savage and on the loose.

 

James E Parsons is a SF/Horror author. His first horror novel is published later this year. His previous books Orbital Kin and Minerva Century are now available in all good bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Amazon.

 

 

PHANTASM: A TALL MAN CREEPING BACK AGAIN…

I’ve just recently re-watched the often maligned and underrated horror film series PHANTASM, seeing all four movies in order for the first time. I had previously seen the first two, the the latter sequels were new to me. For those of you who like your horror movies, but perhaps do not know too much about the films, they certainly are something very different to most other fear films.

Having in the past been a bigger fan of Hellraiser, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and the Halloween film series to name a few which continued on over several sequels and franchises, this series was one which I had never fully given my attention to while they were being released.

A long time back I did somehow firstly end up seeing I think the second Phantasm movie-why that before the first, I am not too sure, but I think a friend had the VHS-and just initially judged it to be a really confusing and unoriginal mess of a film, which brought down my expectations for a long time, having before seen the very iconic film posters featuring the deadly flying steel balls and the terrifying Tall Man.

For a long time, a then placed seeing the sequels and original quite low on my list of things to do, and it remained that way until only I think maybe three or four years back when I finally saw the original possibly on television. Then, I definitely had the opinion that it certainly was a very unique, strange and fascinating horror movie.

If you have seen it, you will know it to be a very unusual film, regularly confusing, dreamlike and irregular for a horror film in a number of ways. Yes, it is sometimes a bit goofy, plain weird, but viewed alongside other horror films of the past thirty or more years, Phantasm certainly was a very influential and original film.

It was not just simply a ‘horror film’. The director, Don Coscarelli created a personal film, which was very bold and creative for the very late seventies when it was released. It seemed to have possibly had a strong influence upon films including the Elm Street Wes Craven series, the Halloween films and many others. Initially it frustrated me as I watched, the narrative chopping around, sequences seeming to jump around, possibly dream or reality for the main characters. Very much like Dario Argento’s Suspiria, it should simply be taken as a thrilling experience firstly and then judge and debated much later.

The second Phantasm movie did seem to possibly try to mimic a number of popular bigger horror films around at the time it was released in the mid-to-late eighties which probably lowered the quality and originality though it was still a very fun and entertaining sequel. The first three movies at times do regularly seem to just throw in a good few sequences which aim to just add some crazed horror action, while lacking needed narrative logic but then the series does anchor itself in a strong dream/nightmare and otherworldly extra-dimensional atmosphere which can in ways always excuse this.

I remember thinking that even while not seeing all of the Phantasm movies until now, and before seeing any of them, the video posters and artwork was just so strong and powerful and promised so much in terms of terror and horror on screen, but at least with the the first two in some ways they let me down.

I think that I was possibly hoping for something, another epic and grand series similar to the Hellraiser movies which I also very much adore. While those were initially written and directed by creator Clive Barker,in his distinctive manner, the Phantasm series were impressively and very unusually repeatedly written and directed by Coscarelli, who had a very different but still focused vision in mind.

It can seem frustrating in at least the first two Phantasm movies, that very little is clearly revealed about the origins of the Tall Man, his helpers and the threat they pose. To some viewers that might just equally be pleasingly mysterious and bring them back, ready and waiting for answers next time but others who watch the films could very easily be so frustrated and hellishly confused very quickly.

By the third Phantasm movie, things do change quite a bit-the actual production levels and style of the movie has been brought up, as it was released at arguably a strong commercial height for mainstream horror, especially horror movies which featured clear strong iconic monsters or villains like the Tall Man himself.

Again, at times the plot goes a bit crazy, illogical and silly, while the actual sets, locations and special effects are the best yet in the series, at times genuinely very impressive and cool to witness. Possibly more logical than the second film, a bit funnier, and maybe better writing the third certainly also ends with a last half hour or so of very impressive plotting, finally revealing at least some answers to the continued mysteries of the series.

Finally we have the fourth movie sequel in the series, and it a number of ways it returns pleasingly to the stripped down mystery and atmosphere from the first film. I would say it even in ways definitely redeems the series, and is at times very thoughtfully plotted out. While for the first half hour or so it again follows on right after the previous sequel, it soon very impressively opens up, and challenges what we think we can expect and know about the world of Phantasm. If that is to be the very last movie in the series, then it is most certainly a very admirable final closing chapter.

While often neglected and ignored by many horror fans, viewed as cheap or derivative but as a whole surprisingly influential, entertaining and original this is a series which deserves to be seen by horror fans who like things a little different, unpredictable, weird and nutty.

The Phantasm, films may not always make clear sense, and may irritate or confuse, but they still scare and terrify as good as some of the other recent horror franchise series. Don’t just stick with Freddy, Jason, Pinhead or Jigsaw, look to see just how dangerous and mysterious the Tall Man can be.

SCREAM 4:REVIEW

So I sat down last night and watched the latest addition to the SCREAM series. It has been over ten years since the last almost unbelievably, but it does just about pick and go like there has been almost no time between.

Now in the long time that has passed since SCREAM 3, an awful lot has gone by in the world of horror movies. Good and bad things and SCREAM was a very wry intelligent series, very much known for referencing the cliches and motifs which crop up all too often and then plays around with our expectations at a hectic pace.

And this now film still certainly does. Almost comedically over the first five or so minutes before the title, it confronts and makes judgements on torture porn and the vacuous slew of dumb derivative horror such as SAW and HOSTEL, and defending good writing and directing in horrror.

Then it kicks off after the first murder. The known cast return-Sidney, Dewey, Gail when Sidney returns to her hometown for a book signing and the death and murder seems to follow her. Dewey and his new deputy begin the frantic investigation, while as Gail has writer’s block on her fiction decides to sneek back into the scene. We now meet Sidney’s young cousin Jill and her friends who make up the new young group being terrorized and attacked by Ghostface this time.

If you know the first three SCREAM movies-and if a fan of horror, you definately should by now-you know that the movie will keep you on your toes, pull out the expected direction of the plot and events as they move along dramatically with blood and shocks left right and centre. It must have been even harder to produce another script beyond SCREAM 3, which though good,  at the time moved far too much closer right into live action bloody Scooby Doo than desired. Here, it does move back toward the earlier style of the first movie, as if begining again, and it also has to take in many new additions of today’s culture not seen in the previous films- facebook, iphones, webcam live broadcast, but does this all detract too much from the pacing of the movie?

The writer-KEVIN WILLIAMSON- is a hugely talented legend in this genre, and then of course the whole franchise has been driected by the other horror legend WES CRAVEN, director of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, to only made two classics. It is almost certain that whatever they do with a SCREAM movie, it is gonig to definately for the most part be of an skillful impressive standard, even if they hit a few bad notes their work will be better than so many others.

Is it a scary movie? (Sorry, I know) The answer is that yes, it actually is sometimes. But to be honest, a great many love the SCREAM movies more for seeing just how the known tired cliches of repetitive lazy horror flicks will be addressed and turned on their heads. Is this sequel the best yet? I would still have to say no, that may still yet be SCREAM 2, which provided a more pleasing level of referential knowing parody and suspense and big style shocking thrills. This forth is very much a high quality and well crafted fast paced movie, well aware of the best and worst of the horror genre movies, and it does twist and turn surprisingly but at this stage I have to say that as a viewer I did become aware that there were only so many directions and possibilities for the narrative to go in. But then that is not the prime reason for the movie is it? This is a return to probably the most well produced post-modern inventive clever horror series, and it is great to at least see that CRAVEN and WILLIAMSON are still willing to go up against the latest changes to our culture, and the horror film genre.