Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Bloodbath

It seems like I haven't really had enough horror films featured on Chopping Mall lately. Which is a shame: horror films are really what this blog is all about. Even the name comes from a horror film. Perhaps there's no better time than Halloween to catch up on some splatters, slashers and spooks. So here is Chopping Mall's extra special Halloween Bloodbath Horror Film review! Here we go....


Now this was really quite something. It's a while since I've watched anything that screamed 80s any louder than this. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen anything more 80s. This is a film set in an aerobics class, with pumping disco music throughout, enormous haircuts, occasional moustaches and lots of lycra. This could almost be a museum piece: look at what people wore in those days!

Once you get over the disco beat, though, this is pretty standard slasher fare. The film is set in and around Rhonda's Gymnasium. Sadly, Rhonda's place seems to be plagued by murders. A woman is stabbed in the shower. Things go bump in the night. Etc. We get the usual crew: a slightly creepy police man who could be capable of murder; a slightly creepy strapping-handsome-gym-beefcake who could be capable of murder; some ditsy ladies who clearly aren't capable of very much apart from aerobic and squealing; Rhonda and a creepy lecherous idiot guy who we're clearly supposed to suspect as the murderer but patently isn't.

It's not really very much fun.  The gore is disappointingly minimal - although the stabbing in the shower isn't bad - the fight scenes are hilariously awful (complete with video-game-esque THWACK sounds), the acting isn't much better and the plot is nothing if not predictable. But perhaps I'm being too hard on this one: it's not without it's charm.  I'd imagine that after a few beers, or just put on as background noise, this wouldn't be so bad.

Bikini Girls on Ice

I saw this listed as one of those "so bad you will not believe your eyes" titles and ...oh boy... it certainly was. BGoI is clearly one of the many victims of the "good name - crap film" syndrome that plagues modern B-movies (See Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus.  Or, rather, don't).  But how could this be? How could you go wrong with a title like Bikini Girls on Ice? What kind of idiot would you have to be to screw that up.

Sadly, screw it up they did. BGoI - which is sadly not about ice-skating women - follows a handful of women who, whilst on their (apparently very long) way to a bikini-car-wash fundraiser, break down at an abandoned garage. Blah, blah, the usual business. There is, of course, some murderous psychopath lurking in said abandoned garage who picks off the stranded visitors one by one. At first they assume that the missing people have just wandered off but, once they've found some body parts, they realise they're living through a nightmare. Blah blah blah.

Seriously. This was astonishingly dull. Not only did it have absolutely no sense of tension or surprise (you absolutely knew what was going to happen ages before it did) but they completely forgot to create a convincing explanation for why the killer was killing! It's not even like I have high standards - the eventual motive in Aerobicide is rubbish - but I do expect at least a gesture at a decent motive.  That's really what a slasher is all about: without an explanation of the killer's motive, a slasher becomes just a string of pointless death scenes. To get away with that, you'd have to at least make those death scenes really spectacular. Sadly, these ones aren't. 

Ultimately, Bikini Girls on Ice makes 80minutes feel like a very long time and gives little by way of entertainment.


Aaaand finally: here's something to really get excited about. Killdozer, also blessed with a brilliant name, manages to live up to it.  I would call this a by-numbers killer-vehicle-terrorising-everyone flick, but I'm not sure there even is a by-numbers layout for this niche genre.

There's surprisingly little to say about it: conveniently cut-off from the rest of the world on an island in the middle of god-knows-where, a small team of basically unlikeable construction workers find themselves unexpectedly terrorised by one of their own bulldozers. Most of the film follows the machine picking them off one-by-one until they really begin to get it together and fight back.

It's absolutely as silly as it sounds. What sets it apart from disappointing modern killer-object movies (like Rubber) is that they play it absolutely dead straight. There isn't even a hint of smug, self-aware laughter here. They must have been sniggering on set but none of it carries into the film. If only more silly horror would take itself so seriously. Great fun.

Phew. All done. Let's go and watch Beetle Juice now?

Leeds International Film Festival

This week sees the return of the UK's biggest film festival outside of London! Hurrah! I've enjoyed lots of pretty great films at LIFF over the last couple of years (and have regularly promised far more reviews than I've actually written), so I'm looking forward to some more.

This year I'm lucky enough to be doing some work there - which sadly means I won't get to see half as many films as in previous years (booo!). So I'm going to preview a few I'm looking forward to (and might actually get to see) here.  Over the next couple of weeks I also plan on watching a handful of the festival films I can get my hands on and putting them up here. Obviously these will mostly be the older one - I'm not likely to find a DVD copy of Russian zombie flick Meteletsa, which is getting it's world premiere here in Leeds - but there should be a few interesting things to watch. My very own festival outside the festival.

In terms of things to look forward to, though, I'm spoilt for choice.  The most alluring horror treat, to my mind, is the sinister looking Mexican flick, Here Comes The Devil (Ahi va el diablo), which swept the horror awards at the last Fantastic Fest. I might actually get to see this one and am already pretty excited.  There's a decent spread of homegrown horror too: Heretic and Before Dawn both look particularly exciting. The latter is a straight-faced zombie movie - something all too-rare since Shaun of the Dead.  Whether either of them can possibly match last-year's glorious bloodbath of nastiness, Inbred, remains to be seen...

In terms of classics, there's Django, The Shining, King Kong vs. Godzilla AND Return of the Living Dead. All on a big screen! Coo! Sadly, I think I'll miss all of them. I might get to see Matango: Fungus of Terror though, which should probably make up for it somewhat.

Actual film reviews coming soon. Expect Belgian wheelchair-bound comedies and Canadian SciFi oddities amongst other things.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

More Bond: Double bill DaF & L&LD

Diamonds Are Forever

After the disappointment of On Her Majesty's..., I expect everyone was as glad as me to see Sean Connery resuming Bond duties, taking the role back from Lazenby for one last Bond film.  I had hazy memories of Diamonds Are Forever being - as well as one of the better titled Bonds - one that I'd particularly enjoyed. Sadly, it seems I was getting my Bond films confused: DaF is a pretty dull outing, really.

I'll give the creators some credit: the henchmen are pretty creepy. Mr Kidd and Mr. Wint march around killing off a variety of implausibly trusting truck drivers and smugglers.  It's more than can be said for Blofeld, though, who makes a fairly pathetic villain here. There's none of the mastermind threat that he had in earlier films: it seems that in each appearance he moves another step towards Dr Evil...

Most of all it isn't that DaF is bad in any real sense (at least no more bad than other Bonds) but that it's not a lot of fun.  Bond just isn't serious or important enough to get away with being boring. Even the quiet bits are supposed to be fun. Lurching between explosions, fights, car-chases, innuendo-laden chitchat and sex scenes Bond films are supposed to rattle along at a pretty relentless pace. Sadly DaF is just a little too slow. The climactic show-down just sees Bond gently bashing Blofeld's submarine against a wall... Even Lazenby had a helicopter-attack-on-mountain-fortress payoff! This one's just too tame. And not even Shirley Bassey can rescue it from that.

Live and Let Die 

L&LD can be accused of many things but it's certainly not boring. It's almost as if, face with reinventing Bond in a Roger Moore shape, the producers just decided to throw all sorts of fun at the film and see what stuck. 

It obviously cashes in heavily on the then-popular blaxploitation trend (just two years after Shaft!).  Too those unfamiliar with those films it might seem more racist than er... anything else: Bond has left genealogists in stuffy British boardrooms behind and is now traipsing through Harlem (and sticking out like a sore thumb).  For a large part of the film it does seem worryingly like every single Black character might well be a baddie, which does get a little awkward. Eventually the goodie-baddie balance is restored somewhat so it's definitely not racist, no, not at all, never. Hmm...

Either way, it's a hell of a lot of fun. They just ramped everything up a bit. We have poisonous snakes, revolving walls, super-gadgets, speedboat chases, comic characters.  This is perhaps the first Bond film that feels really self-referential - it verges on the edge of pastiche at times - but for the most part it carries it well, staying just the right side of the line.

The 'comic' sheriff was a mistake though: a Southern States, gum-chewing, noisy, moron character played for laughs, it's hard not to wince at each appearence he makes. Mercifully, his role is only brief, and it is intercut with the pretty-awesome speedboat chase.  The producers made no such mistake with the villains though: claw-handed henchman Tee-Hee, snake-wielding face-painted Baron Samedi and the mastermind-villain-who-relies-on-Tarot-cards Kananga make a pretty formidable bad-guy line-up.  Even if they do repeatedly fall for the classic mistake of explaining their entire plan first and then leaving Bond to die and looking away as he escapes.... But we can't all be perfect.

L&LD ushers in the Moore era which, if I remember rightly, brings with it a fair number of pretty awful films but, in itself, is a pretty mad and fun Bond movie.