As far as vampire movies go, Perfect Creature is a virtually unknown entry, but the cool 1960’s setting and premise make it a gem buried deep beneath the radar. In an alternate future New Zealand called ‘Nuovo Zelandia’, vampires have advanced to become the next step in evolution and currently live side by side with humans in a hard won peace. Turmoil brews when a nasty rogue vampire (Leo Gregory) discovers an influenza and breaks the truce by preying on humans. This forces the powers that be to dispatch vampire operative Silus (Dougray Scott) and human police captain Lilly (Saffron Burrows) who must team up and stop the renegade bloodsucker before all out war and epidemic spread across the nation. The vampire genre has essentially been sculpted into a giant multiverse full of countless settings, timelines and concepts, and while this flick is nowhere near front and centre (while crap like the Underworld sequels get tossed heaps of money for marketing and distribution), it’s a quietly badass little piece with a well thought out concept and sly twist ending. Scott and Burrows are constantly undervalued talents whose looks and gravity always go a long way, and both of them are great here. The style is dark yet richly coloured, baroque sets with detailed chrome weaponry and lush costume design, it’s too bad there isn’t a decent BluRay, or even one at all. A solid gore fest with a brain in its head and artistic ambition to boot.
Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead is the kind of giddy visual treat you get when you give a special effects wizard like him the director’s chair as well as animatronics duties. A kind of bizarre, atmospheric backwoods fable infused with slasher sensibilities, it’s gory, grisly with a hellish supernatural vibe and an eleven foot tall monster that makes a real impression. Before all that though, there’s a surprisingly touching setup that’s sees small town farmer Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen rocks it as usual) living the quiet life in rural USA with his dog and young son (Matthew Hurley), until a roster of big city punks show up and inadvertently cause the kid’s death via an idiotic dirt-bike stunt. Devastated and heartbroken, Ed turns to a local witch (Florence Schauffler, terrifying) who skulks around the bayou in hopes of retribution. He isn’t quite careful enough what he wishes for though, for the cackling old bitch unleashes aforementioned Pumpkinhead, a nigh unstoppable demon who hunts down the teenagers one by one and starts to tear them limb from limb. Ed, not being an evil man but blinded by rage and heartbreak, sees his fatal mistake, suits up with shotgun, flamethrower and true grit and aims to do a little hunting of his own, perhaps to put an end to Pumpkinhead’s teenage mutilation derby. The monster here is actually a really scary creation from Winston and his team, all gnarly clawed fingers, gaunt skin over a skeletal gargoyle frame and leering fangs, like a Xenomorph after six rounds of chemo as it butchers these hapless kids. Henriksen is awesome in a rare lead role and really kicks ass both physically and in terms of showing the smouldering emotion in Ed’s broken soul. The forests are filled up with eerie lighting and scores of smoke machines for the unmistakable 80’s atmosphere, while Winston & Co. ensure that not only are the special effects top tier, but setting feels authentic too, having its own personality. A horror classic. I won’t weigh in on the sequels as I’ve never really gone for the plunge, but from what I’ve read they seem like garbage for the most part.
As far as horror remakes go, you can do a lot, lot worse than Fede Alvarez’s 2013 version of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. If this version and Raimi’s are to be viewed as different sides of the Evil Dead aesthetic, this would be the sober version, and Raimi’s the wasted one. The original trilogy of films were most decidedly horror, but they were raucous, silly, playful as all hell and had the kind of cheerfully sloppy, Schlock in the Box vibe of a horror comedy. Alvarez’s version sobers right up and has almost no instances of humour, save for a few quick moments. What it doesn’t lose an iota of, however, is the gut churning bodily harm inflicted on humans and deadites, this is one film that takes its violence seriously and thinks up some really interesting ways to fuck people up using hardware tools, kitchen appliances and that good ol’ rip snortin chainsaw. As long as you’re cool with that fact that the comedy elements have been ditched and the proceedings here, although no less grisly, are pretty stone-faced and grim. The troupe of ill fated folks who end up at the now iconic cabin in the woods are played by Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas. Once the Necronomicon is read from, all manner of nastiness descends on them from the surrounding woods and evil starts to possess them and.. you know the drill. Although some unwelcome CGI is used when Levy’s Mia finds herself alone in the woods and molested by a tree, once we get back to the interior of the cabin the special effects have an intimate, visceral and realistic impact. Scenes involving a SawsAll and an exacto knife are memorable for their ability to make you squirm and hide your eyes, which is when you know your scenes are effective. Atmosphere is also key, and although we don’t get the tactile, grainy VHS vision of the forest and hidden army of smoke machines to create the setting, the cabin/forest here are still eerily realized, especially when they head to the basement where the intense prologue of the film happened, which further sets up the mood. It’s not in the vein of Raimi or even close to as good as his original classics, but they’ve put on a super creepy, spectacularly gory (that chainsaw massacre in the blood rain is an impressive showpiece) show that should please casual fans and franchise die-hards alike. Watch for a VIP cameo after the credits too.
Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback is a dusty old monster flick set in the doldrums of Australia, and features a gigantic murderous wild boar that terrorizes local townsfolk and carries off infants into the night. It’s silly, it drags on in places and has two of *the most* irritating human antagonists, but there’s some really neat practical effects, an atmospheric dream sequence that is like a brilliant little short film within the whole, and some creaky production design that gives it personality. It’s just the human element that suffers a bit in these type of films, and very much so here. I’ve often wondered how cool it would be if they did a creature feature where the humans are almost entirely without dialogue or forced, unnecessary idiosyncratic scenes that don’t succeed in getting us invested, but rather annoyed with them. The writing is never great in stuff like this, so why have much, or even any at all? Just my two cents. The best to be found here is some gorgeous outback cinematography, moody interludes of dust-bucket scenery and a really great original score that kicks up the synths in aforementioned dream sequence. I’ve heard that they spent 250 grand on the animatronic boar beastie, which we only get to see in full in the last part of the third act, which is of course the tradition here, but they could have benefitted from more schlock and tusk action way earlier on to stir the pot and make it more interesting. On the plus side, I also heard that Steven Spielberg gave Mulcahy a phone call after seeing the film and asked how he managed to achieve the FX in the dream sequence, which is praise enough, as it’s a wickedly tactile little nightmare. While not in the sterling tier of monster films or horror flicks for me, it has its charms in places, and it’s yawn moments in others.
The Babysitter is a rip snorting fuckin great old school horror throwback, I’m excited that money is being spent on projects like this, and stoked further that Netflix is purchasing them. With a premise culled from the depths of the 80’s and a revamped modern setting complete with obligatory pop culture references to assure us that although it’s steeped in nostalgia, we are in fact in the here and now, a recipe that cunningly embraces both sides of the fence, each with grass equally green. Plus it’s a fuckin intense, R rated, batshit crazy bloodbath, with smart writing to back up the carnage. Set on a sunny suburban afternoon, young Cole (Judah Lewis) is a bullied lad with loopy parents and obligatory nerdy nostalgic affinities, as well as a special bond with his sexy, sassy babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving), who is looking out for him while the parental unit takes off on a night away. It’s party fun friendship time with the two of them, who couldn’t get along better, until… Surprise!! Bee and her clique of high school friends are actually a murdering satanist cult with blood on their hands and killing on their minds. From there it’s a deliriously gory free for all as Cole discovers this is the night he becomes a man, and has to defend himself tooth and nail from these demented weirdos, and reconcile Bee’s betrayal, a theme I was shocked they had time to explore amidst the bloody chaos. It’s silly in the vein of the Evil Dead, but polished and succinctly written by way of Scream, and peppered with deliberate pop culture Easter eggs a lá Stranger Things, an irresistible flavour overall. Pouty lipped, well endowed Samara is a true find as Bee, earning both Cole’s admiration, adoration and finally fear with her spunky, scary performance. Her little cult is populated by slightly tweaked archetypes including the token black guy (Andrew Bachelor), the slutty cheerleader (Bella Thorne), the creepy Asian chick (Hana Mae Lee) and most entertainingly the douchebag jock (Robbie Amell has fun with the role and then some). Colourful pastel production design provides a palette for gallons of gushing blood to be spilled via stabbings, shootings, impalings, vehicular decimation and one of the best shotgun to the head sequences in years that’s so sudden it even has Bee remarking “holy shit that was graphic”. I love old horror flicks and I can’t get enough of this throwback trend they’ve been doing, when they do their research and put out solid gore-fests and fright flicks, and this one is a fuckin hoot from front to back.