As the Mayhem Horror Festival draws ever closer, the line-up of brilliant movies is now locked in place. Unfortunately due to conflicting schedules, they’ve had to drop I SELL THE DEAD. Not that this should impact them too much, as there is still plenty for the discerning horror fan to get his/her fangs into.
In addition to the film line-up, one of the extras we can look forward to is “Thrill Laboratory” with an experiment in fear and the audience’s reaction to it. Audience members wishing to take part can see details on their website, sounds like fun! Also, director Mike Hodges will appear on November 1 to introduce his 1989 cult horror film BLACK RAINBOW, starring Rosanna Arquette and Jason Robards.
The full programme complete with timings can now be found on their website at www.mayhemhorrorfest.co.uk
Tickets will go on sale this Thursday and here are the prices:
£50 for a weekend pass gets you into everything.
£13.50 for a Friday 30th Pass
£18.00 for a Saturday 31st Pass
£18.00 for a Sunday 1st Nov pass
Tickets will be available at the box office or book on line at www.broadway.org.uk
If you fancy free admission you can always try their competition: “Compete to meld a horror film to a non-genre film and create a hideous mutant that rampages across the land destroying everyone in its path. Take two films and slam them together using computer based magical pixie dust and send them in to us – the best example of a MONSTER MASH-UP wins a free weekend pass to Mayhem and all the goodness that this entails.”
One of the organisers of THE MAYHEM HORROR FESTIVAL has very kindly given me a few updates. Firstly, and most importantly for anyone wishing to attend, the website to purchase tickets is www.broadway.org.uk (not “co.uk” as previously stated), and tickets will be on sale in the very near future. The festival’s official site, where you can find details of their ever increasing line-up of films and special guests can still be found at www.mayhemhorrorfest.co.uk.
There are several preview screenings to be seen here: for example, Hierro, which will not be released until next year. Other freshly announced films include Colin, the low-budget zombie movie that caused a sensation at Cannes Film Festival, and when I say low-budget, I mean low – this was made for only £45! Special guest director Marc Price will be attending. The award-winning and utterly disturbing Grace has also been confirmed, along with Australian psycho thriller Coffin Rock. Also showing are the Grindhouse styled Someone’s Knocking at the Door, I Sell The Dead, The Haunting, and a special midnight screening of the original Hellraiser which will tear your soul apart…..
They will also have their very own Mayhem Vault of Horror, a special screening of the scariest shorts from the nightmare makers of the future. THE BRAM STOKER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL in Whitby, now only a few weeks away, is advertising 23 U.K. and 3 World premieres including the world premiere of Orlok 3D which is a re-imagining of the 1922 silent classic Nosferatu, based on the Dracula story. The festival has a huge line-up of films which can be seen on their website at www.bramstokerfilmfestival.com
Tickets will be on sale from this coming Tuesday. £88 buys a four day pass to all screenings and the fantastic opening night party; this is a festival not to be missed. FRIGHTFEST which starts this Thursday is promising to be better than ever this year! They have over fifteen U.K. premieres and over fifteen World premieres, along with many special guests. Films are now confirmed on their website at www.frightfest.co.uk, but if you want tickets, hurry, the sands of time are fast running out…….
Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye! I have just had more information about The Abertoir Film Festival. Abertoir which takes place in Aberystwyth, Wales, is a bargain at only £40 for the full 5 days. It takes place in a relatively small, intimate theatre, so tickets are sold on a first come, first served basis…..get yours quick!!
Opening the festival will be a rare screening of The Keep, Michael Mann’s 1983 film adaptation of F. Paul Wilsons’ novel about a Nazi occupation of a European castle that unearths terrifying evil. A very fitting start to the festival proceedings as it was filmed in Wales.
There are confirmed special guest, including director Herchell Gordon Lewis who has been nicknamed ‘The Godfather of Gore’. His legendary 1963 film Blood Feast changed the face of modern horror forever. He will be presenting a special master class, explaining the ins and outs of low-budget movie making. He will also be premiering his brand new movie Grim Fairy Tale. Hellraiser’s ‘Pinhead’ Doug Bradley will attend for the second year with his presentation ‘The Man in the Mask’, a fun talk about movie make up. Abertoir will also be screening the latest in his Spinechiller series with Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, along with Doug’s new movie Umbrage. They promise more special guests to be announced later. A Night at the Grand-Guignol offers a rare and unique opportunity to experience a recreation of the legendary show in Paris, which earned a reputation as the ‘Theatre of Horror’. They even employed a resident doctor back in the day, to treat the numerous spectators who fainted each night! Designed to titillate and terrify, with a mixture of horror, laughter, and the erotic, Grand-Guignol promises bloody violence, mutilation, and scenes of a sexual nature; in short, leave the kids at home!
There will be a screening of the classic 1922 silent film Nosferatu, accompanied by a live pianist. There’ll also be a short film competition with a £1000 prize for the winner. An American Werewolf in London will be shown on their wolf-themed evening, which will also feature a movie-length documentary on the subject, called Beware the Moon. Writer Gavin Baddeley (a priest in the Church of Satan) will present an enjoyable discussion on ‘Werewolf Hunting for Fun and Profit’.
Also included are the excellent Australian horror Fragment, crazy Japanese splatter Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, a brand new high definition digital print of The Pit and the Pendulum (starring Vincent Price), and their very special Mystery Grindhouse!
Tickets should be on sale in approximately one month [keep checking their website at www.abertoir.co.uk]. At that ridiculously low price of £40 for five days in horror heaven, and with limited theatre capacity, I won’t be hanging around, and neither should you!
Steven Sheil’s 2008 British horror MUM & DAD – shot in seventeen days, on a micro-budget of only £100,000 – stands up as one of the best British horrors in recent years. Not since THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE have we seen a family this insane.
When young Polish airport worker Lena is stranded at work after missing her bus, she goes home with a friendly co-worker Birdie, who lives close by with her adoptive parents. As soon as Lena sets foot in Birdie’s home, her nightmare begins. She is coshed over the head and injected in the throat, so when she wakes up chained to a bed, she can’t scream for help. A woman tells her ‘I’m Mum; he’s Dad; you live with us now.’ Mum and Dad are no ordinary parents: Dad is a psychopathic serial killer, who gets his kicks from masturbating into the flesh he’s hacked from his victims in a very uncomfortable-to-watch scene. Mum is a seemingly gentile woman, but has a predilection for torturing her ‘children’.
It is made very clear to Lena, that she is now a ‘mummy’s girl’ and as such she should keep mum happy, or suffer dad’s consequences. From here on in, we are on a knife edge as we watch poor Lena endure horrendous acts of torture; we want her to escape, but we know if she gets caught trying she’ll suffer, and we won’t be able to stop ourselves from watching.
Steven Sheil has done a brilliant job of creating this bizarre, macabre, family who appear completely normal to the outside world. That’s the disturbing thing about this film: in many ways they are your average family, and some scenes play out almost like a soap opera. There’s an adoptive son, who is encouraged to walk in his Dad’s rather troubling footsteps, and Birdie is showing signs of wanting to be like Mum. They are a close knit family who in a very, very strange way love each other. The main difference is that, if one of the ‘children’ upsets their parents, the consequences will be a mite worse than going to bed with no supper! The Christmas Day scene displays just how far over the edge this family have gone, but at the same time shows how normal they are – ordinary, yet fantastically insane.
The lack of any musical score only makes the insanity more intense; the only real background noises are the planes flying overhead and the electrical buzzing we hear in times of acute tension. This is real edge-of-the-seat stuff, difficult to watch, but impossible to switch off.
The casting is fantastic. One couldn’t imagine anyone portraying a more convincing, loving and sinister Mum than Dido Miles, and Perry Benson’s Dad is terrifying, but also strangely amusing – which is an almost impossible balance to achieve. Olga Fedori is fantastic as the terrified but headstrong victim, and Birdie is perfectly acted by Ainsley Howard.
An uncomfortable watch, Mum & Dad will keep you on tenterhooks from beginning to end.
Mum & Dad is available on Both Region 1 and Region 2 DVD from Revolver Entertainment. Special features on both discs are identical:
I have just had more information about THE MAYHEM HORROR FESTIVAL, which I briefly mentioned here. To recap, this is running from 29th October to 1st November in Nottingham.
The festival will feature a digital installation of the bizarre and brilliant Night of the Living Dead: ReAnimated, which is a mass collaborative artistic re-envisioning of George A. Romero’s 1968 cult classic, Night of the Living Dead. International artists and animators have been invited to select scenes from the film, and reinvent them through their artwork. The scenes have been created using everything from puppet theatre, to CGI, hand drawn animations, tattoos and more. All of this is organised across the original video’s timeline to create a completely original video track, made solely from art.
On Saturday the 31st at 3pm, the cast and crew of the BBC horror series Being Human will also be there to give us a sneak peek of the 2010 series. As it’s Halloween, there’ll be a huge fancy dress party that night too. The following day, on the 1st November, director Mike Hodges will be their special guest as they show his 1989 film Black Rainbow starring Rosanna Arquette.
The Mayhem Horror Festival also says it will run an experiment in fear, where they will monitor the effect that fear has on the audience. I’ll tell you more about that as I hear it! This is set to be a fantastic weekend of madness and mayhem, which I’m really looking forward to!
Tickets will soon be available from www.broadway.co.uk.
The GOREZONE MAGAZINE WEEKEND OF HORROR has also just shown up on my radar. Taking place on the weekend of 31st Oct and 1st November, in London’s West End, this is only a two-day event, but it promises to be a good one. Screening fourteen films over two days, including seven premieres, the fest also promises ‘personal appearances, signings, and surprises’. Details of the films on the bill at the prestigious Prince of Wales Theatre are beginning to appear on their website at www.gorezone.co.uk.
Oh dear, oh dear – it would appear that we have been a tad remiss in keeping you up to date with recent happenings in good ole’ blighty. Don’t panic folks! You will no longer be entirely reliant on Google for your news of all things British! I will grab the ‘London After Midnight’ page, give it a good few thumps on the chest, breathe some life into it, and see if I can’t get it up and running again! I’ll endeavour to keep you up to date with British festivals, Region 2 DVDs, and anything else that I think you guys over the pond are missing out on….and if you think I’ve missed something, tell me and I’ll be all over it like a bad suit.
In the first instance let’s get you up to date on the upcoming horror festivals. I’ll give you quick overview for starters and I’ll follow it up with more detail later. Here they are, and in true movie style, I’ll list them in order of appearance:
FILM4 FRIGHTFEST IN LONDON
The next one for our diaries is of course, FRIGHTFEST which is always held over August bank holiday weekend, and this year runs from 27th August to 31st August. With more than 45 films showing over 5 days [including a Halloween all nighter], this festival sure packs a lot in!
Held at the Empire Theatre in London’s Leicester Square, and sponsored for the third year by FILM4, FRIGHTFEST hit the scene in 2000 and has quickly become the largest genre festivals in the U.K. [although it may now be under threat of losing that title with the new BRAM STOKER FESTIVAL making an appearance, but more about that later]. Among the many highlights this festival has to offer, the special guests include AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON director John Landis, THE HILLS RUN RED director Dave Parker, SMASH CUT star David Hess [who also played the original Krug in 1972’s THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT], special effects make-up artist Paul Hyett, and NIGHT OF THE DEMONS remake team Adam Gjerasch and Jace Anderson.
In addition to the fantastic film line-up, [which can be seen on the festival website at www.frightfest.co.uk] and the special guests, there are several special events, including ‘Andy Nyman’s 100 Best Deaths’. Here Andy will be the well informed and very amusing host who will guide the audience through a variety of screen deaths. Andy is best known for his roles in SEVERANCE and DEAD SET and also stars in one of the films screening at FRIGHTFEST this year, BLACK DEATH.
There will also be a special seminar for screenwriters called ‘The Horror of Writing,” which will give guests the opportunity to get involved in writing a screenplay and see it through to production development.
THE DESCENT PART 2 will close the show on the 31st with almost the entire cast and crew in attendance.
You can see more details of all the films showing, which include several premieres, and all the other special guests and events by visiting the festival website, where, of course, you can also buy your tickets!
BRAM STOKER FESTIVAL AT WHITBY
The next one to look out for is THE BRAM STOKER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL which takes place from the 16th to the 19th October. Set in the beautiful coastal town of Whitby, which originally inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula story, this festival is set to become as big, if not bigger than FRIGHTFEST. Scheduled to screen over 50 films, including lots of UK, and several World premieres, THE BRAM STOKER FESTIVAL would like, if they may, to take you on a strange journey…… Once you have been greeted by their 666Gorefest and Sin City Girls, you can enjoy the opening night celebrations, which begin with a fantastic Burlesque cabaret show, and will include TRANSYLVANIA presenting THE MOCKY HORROR SHOW, which is sure to be a blast…..after all, who doesn’t want to do The Time Warp again?! The show will be interspersed with guest speakers from the film industry and will finish with a late night feature. Guests are encouraged to attend wearing suitable horrifying/vampire/character attire…[note to self: Check wardrobe!]
Whilst one of the guests has been confirmed as Ingrid Pitt, famous worldwide for her roles in Hammer horror movies such as THE VAMPIRE LOVERS and COUNTESS DRACULA, another celebrity guest is being kept firmly under wraps. They say he’ll be revealed at the festival, but is a ‘Hollywood legend’ who has ‘terrified cinema goers worldwide’ and starred in over 50 films….intriguing I’m sure you’ll agree. I’ll report back later and let you know who this special guest was!
There are several more special guests and details of these and a full line-up of the films can be found at the festival website at www.bramstokerfilmfestival.com, where you can also buy your tickets. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding this new festival, and I have a feeling that it’s here to stay, which can only be a good thing for us horror fans.
MAYHEM HORROR FEST IN NOTTINGHAM
Next up is the MAYHEM HORROR FILM FESTIVAL from 28th October to 1st November, in Nottingham, there isn’t a whole lot of information as to what’s showing yet, but it will feature Steven Sheil’s MUM & DAD [and I don’t mean he’s bringing is parents!] where Sheil will introduce his movie and host a Q & A autopsy about the making of horror movies. This festival is in its second year; having focused on shorts last year, it promises to be bigger and better in 2009.
I’ll add more information on this festival as I hear it. In the meantime you can see their website at www.mayhemhorrorfest.co.uk.
HORROR UK IN FAREHAM & ABERTOIR IN WALES
Colliding with the above there’s the HORROR UK FESTIVAL which takes place in Fareham, on 30th October to 1st November. This appears to be a small festival, with hardly any films confirmed as yet. It must be small because they say that entry is free for all film viewings and events. Their website is a work in progress, so in fairness to them, I’m sure it’ll look a bit more exciting nearer the time. www.horroruk.com. Finally we have ABERTOIR, Wales’ only horror festival which takes place from 4th November to 8th November. Details for 2009 are scant, but last year featured over 30 films, live music by Daemonia [featuring former Goblin keyboardist Claudio Simmonetti], and Doug Bradley [aka Hellraiser’s Pinhead] performing his one-man show, An Evening with Death. Check out www.aber.ac.uk for updates, but be careful: once you get past the splash page, the website (as of this posting) consisted of old information from 2008.
So, there you have it, consider yourself well and truly informed….and I’ll endeavour to keep you that way…..
Although it cannot quite live up to its reputation, Polanski’s startling psychological horror film is a bona fide genre classic.
Back in the day when newspaper and magazine critics had some influence, Roman Polanski’s REPULSION was one of the few horror films (along with Alfred Hitchock’s PSYCHO) that earned any respect. Variety called it “a classy, truly horrific psychological drama,” while the New York Times Bosley Crowther warned, “Prepare yourself to be demolished when you go to see it – and go you must, because it’s one of those films that everybody will soon be buzzing about.” At a time when British horror consisted mostly of colorful Victorian-era Gothic tales produced by Hammer Films (a company with a reputation as profitable entertainers rather than artistic visionaries), Polanski’s startling, black-and-white depiction of homicidal madness, set in swinging London, was just the sort of thing to make critics sit up and take notice, assessing REPULSION as an artistic achievement rather than a routine genre effort. It certainly didn’t hurt that Polanski had established his artistic bona fides with his 1962 feature film debut KNIFE IN THE WATER; shot in his native Poland, that three-character drama identified Polanski as an upcoming European auteur who would not be dimissed as just another genre filmmaker when he made his English-language debut with psychological horror movie.
Unfortunately, the supremely high level of adulation for REPULSION (which continue to this day, with a 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes) is not altogether warranted; as good as it is, the film is not perfect. Fortunately, in spite of its flaws, Polanski’s dark little gem deserves to be regarded as a mini-masterpiece, because it merges horror conventions with art house aesthetics (one of the first films to do so – after George Franju’s 1958 EYES WITHOUT A FACE) in a way that creates a nightmare all the more disturbing because it is crystal clear and contemporary, carefully establishing a believable sense of reality (instead of Gothic atmosphere) before turning on the thumb-screws.
Co-written with the agoraphobic Gerard Brach, REPULSION depicts the psychological disintegration of Carole Ledoux (Catherine Deneuve), a disturbed young woman working in a salon. Isolated and withdrawn, Carol is barely clinging to her sanity when we first meet her, living in an apartment she shares with her sister Helene (Yvonne Furneaux). Exactly what is wrong with Carol is not specified, but we have no doubt it is sexual in nature, a point emphasized when we see her lying in bed at night, listening to Helene and her boyfriend Michael (Ian Hendry) make love in the next room. When Helene and Michael depart for a vacation, Carole’s tentative connection to reality is severed, and she succumbs to paranoia. A sleazy landlord (Patrick Wymark) makes sexual advances; Carol kills him with a pair of scissors and barricades herself inside. The abyss of madness yawns before her, and into it she plunges, succumbing to nightmare visions that seem completely.
Using the simplest of resources, director Roman Polanski manages to convey Carole’s descent into madness, in a way that invites audience inside her head even while giving viewers the creeps. Much of the imagery is memorably revolting (a rotting rabbit) or surreally disturbing (hands emerging from the walls to fondle the hallucinating woman).
Nevertheless, REPULSION does not sustain full tension for its entire length; the later scenes grow repetitions, and the carefully wrought camera set ups and methodical pace border on boredom as the film wears on, slowly charting the disintegration of Carole’s last shred’s of sanity. Although Polanski makes good use of the limited space to convey Carole’s gathering claustrophobia, which climaxes in a scene wherein the walls seem to press in on her, one cannot help noticing that the space islimited. With the last half of the film set entirely in the Ledoux’s apartment, the visual possibilities tend to run dry. One loses count of the number of times the degenerating character’s psychotic solitude is interrupted by the ringing telephone, always shown in the same close-up camera angle. When Carole finally cuts the phone’s cord, it’s supposed to symbolize her final break with the outside world; instead, you want to cheer, “At last!”
The visual monotony is combined with a storyline that wears down rather than amps up. Yet strangely enough, this ultimately works in REPULSION’s favor, leaving the audience without the catharsis of an explosive climax. The “morning after” scene – a return to normality in conventional horror films, like awakening from a bad dream – is rendered here in dark and distressing terms, suggesting that the nightmare never ends. Nearly comatose, Carole is carried out of her room by Michael, but the scene plays less like a rescue than a prelude to confinement. (Ian Hendry’s briefly glimpsed expression is hard to read: is it smirking satisfaction that the unwanted third wheel will be gone from the apartment, or does he seem to have some kind of designs on Carole?).
We are denied even the satisfaction of a last-minute revelation regarding Carole’s unhinged mentality. Polanski’s camera merely zooms in on a photograph of Carole as a young girl, staring angrily at her father, suggesting that the seeds of her madness were planted in childhood, perhaps buried forever, never to be fully explained. (It has become common to interpret the photo as evidence that Carole was sexually abused by her father, but Polanski has denied this in interviews, stating that he merely wanted to show that Carol had been disturbed from a very early age, without offering an exact explanation).
These minor quibbles are not meant to argue against REPULSION’s reputation as a classic but rather to point out that certain films seem to get a fairer shake from critics than others. This is especially true in the horror genre, where a little bit of artistry goes a long way toward earning favorable reviews that less ambitious but sometimes equally effective films also deserve. However, it would be unfair to suggest that the critical consensus is totally exaggerated; it is merely blind to the minor blemishes that mar this otherwise excellent work. REPULSION may not be perfect, but it is an excellent example of the “horror of personality” sub-genre. Its imperfections tend to fade from memory with the passage of time, eclipsed by the haunting memory of Carole’s malaise. This is a horror movie that is not afraid to shock, but the shocks are few and fleeting; instead, Polanski wants to get inside your head and make you feel the dementia troubling Carole. The director has cast a light upon the inner darkness in the twisted corners of a human mind, but instead of exposing an enlightening truth, he casts more shadows – shadows that persist long after the theatre curtain has dropped and the lights have gone up. REPULSION (1965). Directed by Roman Polanski. Screenplay by Roman Polanski and Gerard Brach; adaptation and additional dialogue by David Stone. Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Yvonne Furneaux, Patrick Wymark, Renee Houston, Valerie Taylor, James Villiers. Helen Fraser.
The month of August means only one thing to me, my Film4 FrightFest event that has taken place over the last holiday weekend for the past eight years. This horror fantasy festival started small as an offshoot of my previous efforts Shock Around The Clock and Fantasm but has now grown into the UK’s biggest genre experience. The Odeon West End in the heart of London’s Leicester Square is where it all happens – five days of previews, premieres and presentations. Think a genre-focused Cannes on a smaller scale for what our ambitions are. Anyone interested can find the full line-up here www.frightfest.co.uk.
Hghlights include Juan Antonio Bayona’s wonderful THE ORPHANAGE, produced by Guillermo del Toro (the subject of my next book by the way, when we finally sit down and talk post his HELLBOY 2 commitments), Jonathan Levine’s retro grindhouse dazzler ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, the unusual gore effort STORM WARNING (written by veteran Australian scripter Everett de Roche of PATRICK and ROADGAMES fame) and the quite brilliant WAZ, Stellan Skarsgard and Selma Blair giving amazing performances in Tom Shankland’s SE7EN riff.
We also are staging the World Premiere of Uwe Boll’s quite extraordinary slasher SEED. Like everyone else up until now I figured Boll a complete hack. But one of the main shocks of SEED is how well directed it is. Plus it contains what must be the torture-porn shock sequence of the year. (I hate that lazy phrase as much as anyone else, but it does fit here). Boll’s camera focuses on a female victim tied to a chair for over five minutes while masked maniac Seed hits her repeatedly around the head until nothing but a fleshy mush is left. As for the scenes with the imprisoned baby….SEED is going to cause many to re-evaluate Boll’s career and we have invited him over to introduce his film. I’m no boxer though and will stand well clear of any new challenge he may make!
Other Film4 FrightFest attendees promoting their anticipated 2008 releases are Neil Marshall with DOOMSDAY, Simon Hunter with MUTANT CHRONICLES and Paul Andrew Williams with THE COTTAGE. I covered the two latter films while they were in production for Fangoria and both look highly promising. MUTANT CHRONICLES will have been in post-production for two years come it’s Summer 2008 opening date mainly because the 23rd century ‘steam-punk’ setting of this sci-fi adventure thriller, based on Paradox Entertainment’s role-playing board game, is being created wholly on green screen using the same Viper Film Stream System David Fincher utilized for ZODIAC. It stores camera data digitally on D mags. The images are then registered at the visual effects houses ready for detailed electronic enhancement. Thomas Jane is the star of Hunter’s ‘FLASH GORDON meets DELICATESSEN’.
THE COTTAGE looks set to unleash a new iconic horror villain on the scene in the shape of The Farmer. Director Williams made a huge splash last year in Britain with the child prostitution thriller LONDON TO BRIGHTON and is bringing the same cutting edge to his self-penned script about bungling kidnappers entering the domain of a psycho killer. Andy Serkis. Reece Shearsmith, Brit sex bomb Jennifer Ellison and HELLRAISER’s Pinhead Doug Bradley (a Williams relative) are the main cast members in this vivid chiller that just missed the Toronto Film Festival Midnight Madness deadline. UK horror production has been at a record high over the past few years and I’ve also been covering Steven Sheil’s MUM AND DAD (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE if directed by Mike Leigh), Anthony (WAXWORK, HELLRAISER III) Hickox’s return to the fear fold with the Hitchcock homage KNIFE EDGE and Sean Ellis’ THE BROKEN starring Lena (300) Heady haunted by her mirror image. My more high profile set reports have included THE GOLDEN COMPASS, INKHEART and AMUSEMENT. Next on my agenda will be what looks set to be the first title under the newly revived Hammer Horror brand, LESBIAN VAMPIRE KILLERS. Wonder if Ingrid Pitt is angling for a cameo?
A large part of my journalist life is now taken up by moderating DVD extra commentaries. I’m lucky in having done some well-reviewed ones amongst my Dario Argento output, like THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSYAL PLUMAGE. But my absolute favorite has to be the one I did recently with Oscar-winner Helen Mirren on the much-maligned Tinto Brass CALIGULA to be released soon by Image as a deluxe 4 disc boxed set. I’ve interviewed Mirren many times before before, most recently on INKHEART, and have always found her a delight. My admiration has quadrupled after her almost total recall on everything to do with the Bob Guccione produced Italian epic that became a cause celebre when he inter-cut hardcore porn into the extended running time four years after it was made in 1976.
The version we commented on was the cut overseen by UK broadcaster Mark Kermode that basically removed all the re-shot Penthouse Pet footage hewing it closer to fired Brass’ original vision. Mirren didn’t want to see any of the more outrageous inserts anyway and, at one point, covered her eyes during the head-severing torture machine scene in the gladiatorial arena. She had some tremendous anecdotes about co-stars Malcolm McDowell, Peter O’Toole and John Gielgud, writer Gore Vidal and Guccione and exploded many of the rumors that have since accumulated over the years.
Quite why Mirren was prepared to revisit such a scandalous time in her early career considering her pole position at the moment became crystal clear. She adores Brass, still keeps in touch with him and her four month salary from the movie meant she could buy her first London house giving her much needed financial security when she needed it most. Mirren really stepped up to the mark on this one making it the most enjoyable commentary experience I’ve had. 136 minutes is a long time to keep talking about any film but her wall-to-wall revelations made our session pass like lightning. Mirren is one classy lady and one who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is either. Look out for this.
In complete contrast I also recently moderated the US DVD commentary of THE BURNING, the first ever Miramax production that set the Weinstein brothers on their rise to Hollywood royalty. Director Tony Maylam was a prickly character and only wanted to talk about this one FRIDAY THE 13TH clone and nothing else about his interesting career. His prerogative of course, but I did try and convince him people would be interested in what he’d been up to for the last 25 years, especially his SPLIT SECOND problems. My argument cut no ice though, so admittedly highly interesting facts about the making of THE BURNING, was the sum total. At least he turned up unlike author Graham Masterton who completely forgot about our scheduled commentary for THE MANITOU. My next one is a live on-stage audience participation commentary for the UK DVD release of Adam Green’s HATCHET. I love Green, his new film SPIRAL is one of my current favorites, and I’m looking forward to doing this a lot.
I made sure Green was interviewed for ‘The Splat Pack’ documentary currently being produced by veteran DVD extra filmmaker Frank Woodward. When I first coined that phrase, in the UK magazine Total Film, I had no idea it would go the distance and enter popular culture. Now I’m seeing it mentioned in production notes for Alexandre Aja’s upcoming MIRROR! At least I’m not responsible for the ‘torture porn’ description. Quite how long The Splat Pack term will be used in the current anti-gore climate is debatable but Eli Roth and Neil Marshall have both told me they like being included. And most people have yet to see the best horror film of the year, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s INSIDE that spills as much blood as Peter Jackson’s DEAD ALIVE in the tale of Beatrice Dalle fetus-stealer. That’s the one film to watch for – it closes Toronto – and I can’t wait to see it again in October at my annual jaunt to the world’s best fantasy festival (apart from my own that is), in Sitges.