Monday, January 24, 2011


Ohhh my. The hot news - a cynic might say rumour at this stage - is Keanu Reeves and the Wachowskis being in talks about a two movie picture deal for sequels to the Matrix trilogy. See The Register, The Guardian, EmpireOnline and the news-breakers Ain't It Cool.

Cue, of course, all manner of beard stroking and mumbling about Hollywood lack of imagination, about ruining beautiful things with unnecessary extensions but... wait a second, back up there. This is different, isn't it? Normally when unnecessary sequels get added years after the originals, we're concerned about protecting the originals. Indiana Jones is a perfect example: three glorious films and a sequel full of aliens some years later.

With the Matrix, however, we're looking at a similar yet crucially different scenario. No-one likes the second Matrix film. No-one remembers the third Matrix film. They've already trampled mud all over the beautiful carpet. I played my vhs of the first copy to death. I watched it over and over again. I bought Empire magazine for the first time to read the previews of the sequel. And they broke it.

The first one was fantastic.
The second one was visually stunning but dire in narrative terms.
The third one... um... there was a bit with lots of computer generated people, right? And maybe some fighting? Yeah, definitely some fighting. Story? Hmmm.... something about Oracles. No wait, that was a different one... or.... wait... no, no, it's completely gone. I'd re-watch it to remind myself but I remember already having been crushingly disappointed by it the one time.

So yes, I'm not worried about what they'll do to the series as a whole and honestly believe they couldn't possibly make a film that was even worse (could they?) but despite all this, my love for the first one still exists so, please Mr Reeves et al, don't break it even more.

Of course, with such sketchy details, it could all still be a hoax.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Short Films: Treevenge

It's hard to know what to say about a short film as funny, gory, mad and wonderful as Treevenge.

The short, clocking in at about 16 minutes, is a couple of years old and comes recommended by a sackful of film festival awards, including an honourable mention at Sundance and audience-fave short at Torronto After Dark, as well as Best Short from Rue Morgue magazine.

I can see why!

The premise, though nothing especially inventive, is enjoyable and clearly gave the film-makers enormous scope to have some fun. It's Christgmas, the goose is getting fat, and all over Canada Christmas trees are being butchered by chainsaw-wielding, slack-jawed lumberjacks intent on inflicting maximum pain on the poor trees. After a very funny opening with snarling mencutting up hilariously subtitled and squealing trees, we see the trees brought into the typical family home, ready for the "best Christmas EVER!"

I think you know what follows. Several minutes of top-notch, tongue-in-cheek, laugh-out-loud slaughter, splatter and gore as the enraged trees go on a killing rampage, wreaking havoc upon their would-be tormentors.

It's gory, it's funny and it's beautiful. I can't recommend it highly enough.

The whole thing, in it's 16minute glory, is available to watch on youtube here, or embedded below. I *presume* Yer Dead films don't mind it being there, and I can't see any purchase details on their website.

Treevenge Website
Yer Dead Productions Inc. website.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Looking Back: 2010 in VAMPIRES!

First were Zombies, next it's Vampires! This is the first of my "Looking Back at 2010" posts, in which I plan to have a look at what I watched this year and see what was great (and not so great...). This is based on the list of films I watched in 2010, not necessarily (or at all!) on those released in 2010.

My 2010 count of Vampire flicks clocked in at some 27 different films, although the vast majority were Hammer films. Last year was the first time I really got to grips with Hammer Horror films and I certainly watched a lot of their Vampire outings! I'm a massive fan of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, so any of the films with them in leading roles were certainly winners. Dracula (1958), Dracula, Prince of Darkness and Taste The Blood of Dracula were particular favourites from the Dracula cycle, with an honorable mention due to Dracula AD 1972 for being so completely mad. Scars of Dracula was a pretty thin addition to the series and The Satanic Rights of Dracula was nice enough but decidedly underwhelming.

Amongst Hammer's non-Dracula vampires there are some gems and some... well... not-so-gem-like films. At the crap end of the range were Lust for a Vampire and the Vampire Circus, whilst others such as The Brides of Dracula (yeah... it might say Dracula, but it's not) and Kiss of the Vampire, both of which were fab. As for Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, a Hammer-Shaw Brothers collaboration.... I have no idea what to say. It was certainly different but I think the basic premise looked a lot better on paper than it did on screen. This was certainly not a demonstration of how best to mix the gothic and the oriental!

Much more skilled at relocating the Vampire to the Far East was Chan-Wook Park, whose staggeringly wonderful film, Thirst, is surely a must for anyone who likes Vampires. Or Korean films. Or cinema. Chan-Wook Park seems a little cursed by the fact that everyone who's seen his films seems to just want him to make Oldboy again. And again. And again. Thirst isn't Oldboy. But it is brilliant. And you should watch it.

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Similarly unmissable, although in a VERY different manner was the sublime Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl. I hardly need to say very much about this. If the title entices you and/or you've seen (and liked) any of the Machine Girl, Tokyo Gore Police etc then this is definitely one for you. If not... well it might be better if you gave it a wide berth. This is definitely one for the bonkers, genre-horror fans.

Back in Western cinema, Let The Right One In and Dusk Till Dawn both entertained me this year, but everyone knows about them so I shan't really bother banging on about them too much. Instead, I'll come to the Vampire films that I watched shortly after the stars/directors died this year. Both Lesley Nielsen and Jean Rollins were (very different) losses for cinema this year and to commemorate I watched (amongst other, non-Vampire films) Nielsen's Dracula, Dead and Loving It which was entertainingly mad and then Jean Rollin's Requiem For A Vampire and The Nude Vampire, both of which were slow, poetic films with symbolist tendencies.

And that pretty much brings me to the end! There were a couple more, the oddball Blood and Doughnuts, the brooding English Vampyres and - possibly my favourite film, possibly to be reviewed shortly - the Spanish masterpiece Arrebato, but we'll save them for later...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Looking Back: 2010 in ZOMBIES

This is the first of my "Looking Back at 2010" posts, in which I plan to have a look at what I watched this year and see what was great (and not so great...). First up: Zombies! This is based on the list of films I watched in 2010, not necessarily those released in 2010.

Last year I sat through a fair number of Zombie films and, much like the genre, I have to say they were a pretty mixed bag. My film list contains 29 that I would describe as either being Zombie films or at least significantly featuring zombies. Of these, there were a handful of true genre classics - several of which I'd seen before - including Umberto Lenzi's zombies-with-weapons masterpiece Nightmare City (which I reviewed here), Hammer's brilliant Plague of the Zombies, the creepy Spanish Tombs of the Blind Dead and cult-classic no-budget cheese-fest The Video Dead.

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By brokensbone at 2011-01-03

Somewhat less memorably, I also endured Zombie Cop and Zombie Nosh, neither of which I'd recommend even to Zombie film-fans! At this end of the scale The Asylum's I Am Legend rip-off I Am Omega sneaks in too, falling just about on the right side of watchable, but not by far.

Big name Zombie offerings were perhaps a little thin. Although Zombies are supposedly making a bit of a come back (from the dead, heh) Hollywood and big name studios are yet to put out much of any worth. As much as I love Shaun of the Dead, I'd like a few more not-comedy Zombie films, and Hollywood is not exactly leaping at the idea. George Romero's newest, Survival of the Dead, went straight to DVD and, though not a bad idea or unwatchable film, it certainly isn't comparable to his best. Zombieland was pretty disappointing too: although it started out well, it was as if some Hollywood executive had stepped in at around the half-hour mark to tell them what they were doing wrong. What's starts promisingly turns into a predictable, warm-n-fuzzy feeling inside, relationship drama with predictable characters. You mean the big mean one is actually sensitive? And the nerdy one who looks like Michael Cera will get the girl? Who'd have thought it? Come on Hollywood, get some guts and kill off lots of main characters in a depressing, violent and gory ending. Please?

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Away from the US, this year confirmed to me (as if it needed confirmation) that the Spanish are just damn good at zombies. Mucha Sangre, Kárate a Muerte en Torremolinos and [Rec] were all brilliant fun in their own ways but it was (new to me) Una De Zombies that really astonished me. It's some months since I watched it and I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but it's an incredible and clever film that plays with the viewer from start to finish. Highly recommended! It's also worth mentioning here that, although not a feature film, the Spanish short Zombies and Cigarettes is just about as much fun as you can have in 17 minutes. And it's free to watch online!

Back in the English language, I saw the compelling but utterly horrible Deadgirl - think carefully about whether you'll enjoy it before you watch it: I did, many wouldn't - and the ruthlessly intelligent Pontypool (which I shall be re-watching as soon as possible), both of which I'd recommend. Nazi Zombies made an appearance in both the hit Norweigan Dead Snow and Brit-classic Outpost, whilst I was puzzled and thrilled in equal measures by a handful of mad-as-can-be zombie flicks, including Killer Shrimps, Wild Zero and the brilliantly titles Holy Virgin vs. The Evil Dead. Excellent!

The film that eclipsed all others for this year though was the world's first zombie film set in West Africa - Burkina Faso if we're being precise - The Dead. I don't know quite what made it so much better than any zombie film I've seen in recent years. Maybe it was seeing it for free. Maybe it was sipping a pint of ale as I watched it. Or maybe it's just fantastically good. It was introduced by one of the Ford brothers who directed it (I'm afraid I don't remember which) as being a Romero inspired Zombie epic and I think they certainly achieved that. The Dead is like Zombie films used to be. It's sprawling, rural and slow. The Zombies themselves are not especially threatening, but it's the endless, lonely tension that builds and builds that brings the sense of despair.

I'm certainly no hater of the modern-day speedy zombies (and having watched Nightmare City this year I was reminded they're not actually that modern a creation at all) but The Dead is a film that throbs with the pessimistic, end-of-the-world threat that characterised early Romero and Fulci films. It's also great fun. I have no idea if/when a DVD release is scheduled but I'd recommend it to anyone!

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Well, I don't think there's any point denying that the 2nd half of 2010 was pretty disastrous in terms of keeping this blog updated... Five posts in as many months? And one of those was a post saying that I hadn't been posting enough, a post where I promised all sorts of exciting film reviews that I then never wrote.

Part of the problem, it would appear, is that I watched too many films. Early in the year I set myself the goal of watching 365 different films in the year and, though I did manage that, the goal did rather take over a lot of my free time - time that I would and could (and should?) have spent writing about films here.

I certainly did see some wonderful films over the last year. And some not so wonderful. And some utter dross. Over the next couple of days I'll write about a few of the best individual films or genres but then it's onwards into 2011!

List of 365 Films I watched last year!