Split (2017)

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We are what we believe we are. Mental patient Kevin (James McAvoy) knocks out the abusive uncle of Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) and kidnaps her and her two friends, taking them to a basement where he holds them captive. Various of his 23 personalities materialise and the girls try to play the kinder ones to make their escape. However his complex psychiatric issues are revealed in various visits to his analyst Dr Fletcher (Betty Buckley) who realises too late there is a 24th personality that her cack-handed empowering therapy has inadvertently caused to be released and just when the girls were about to get away … This feels a lot like M. Night Shyamalan, that late 90s auteurist who fell foul of his own concepts since approximately The Lady in the Water, decided to use a medical scenario to give that profitable Noughties rape/torture porn trope a workout with a psycho(logical) horror bent, filtered through our collective memories of the great Manhunter. Or something like that. Being the filmmaker he is, he structures it very well, using the backstory of Kevin’s various personalities as they materialise in front of Fletcher to give us a break from what we fear he is doing to the girls in captivity. And there are flashbacks to some very nasty experiences in Casey’s childhood. It has a grimy look which is probably what it should have, given its mostly underground setting. There’s a twist to the end which finally brings us back to the Universe the auteur created, oh, years ago, if you care that much. Not my bag, actually. I don’t like seeing girls raped or eaten even if you’re blaming it on paranoid schizophrenia or whatever you’ve chosen from the medical dictionary as a rationale to get your career back on track. Bald baby-faced McAvoy is enough to turn anyone’s stomach. Call me picky. Go on, I dare you. And step away from the therapist!

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A Boy and his Dog (1975)

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It’s 2024. World War Four lasted five days and devastated the world as we know it. Vic (Don Johnson) and his clever telepathic dog Blood (Tiger, voiced by Tim McIntire) are foraging in the dangerous and doomy post-apocalyptic landscape of the southwest US when they happen upon Topeka, an underground pastiche of real middle class life as it used to be. He’s taken in by Quilla June (Susanne Benton) who’s a sexy ruse to get him to help father a new generation for a community led by Lou Craddock (Jason Robards) – all those guys living underground don’t have Vitamin D so can’t reproduce any more.  He leaves Blood overground, much to the dog’s annoyance:  he knows something is up …  Actor L.Q. Jones directed and co-wrote (with producer Alvy Moore) the adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s 1969 novella when the author got writer’s block. Reportedly Ellison liked it pretty much until the final line – which is glib and misogynistic even for a black comedy.  Ellison’s work is focused on procreation rather than alien invasion which makes him rather unusual for the sci-fi fraternity. Johnson makes for an attractive lead – until he gets down and dirty and Tim McIntire is a wonder as Blood.  He composed the score with Ray Manzarek of The Doors (and Jaime Mendoza-Nava). Although it was a commercial failure it turned out to be hugely influential if you’ve seen the Mad Max series. Jones had hoped to make a sequel starring a girl, but once the fabulous Tiger died, the plans evaporated. Maybe …

 

Frightmare (1974)

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Aka Cover Up. And on this eve of lost souls it is only right to return to the world of Pete Walker, that sleazy trash maestro of Britcult, encompassing cannibalism, lunacy and serial killing. As you were.  Jackie Yates (Deborah Fairfax) has been dreading the release from a mental asylum of her father Edmund (Rupert Davies) and stepmother Dorothy (Sheila Keith) who apparently ate 6 of their victims in a 1957 killing spree. Now they’re back. And a lot of young people are disappearing in the neighbourhood. Time for Jackie to turn Nancy Drew with her boyfriend Graham (Paul Greenwood). The complicating issue in her quest to stop the driller killers is her stepsister Debbie (Kim Butcher!) who wanders  off at night with a biker gang and appears to have a genetic predisposition to human flesh …  Written by Walker and David McGillivray with sounds by Stanley Myers (any relation to Michael?!) in an outing which boasts the usual Walker flourishes and desposits what Rosemary Woodhouse might call a sort of chalky undertaste. Notable for an appearance by the lovely Leo Genn in his second last screen appearance ever, as psychiatrist Dr Lytell. Care in the community? Psycho on the streets! Happy Halloween!

The Survivalist (2015)

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Paintball was never like this. Or maybe if Samuel Beckett set Godot in Norn Iron after the oil supplies dried up …it would be. Ah, that’s it. Martin McCann is burying someone. He’s a paranoid hermit whose veggie forager lifestyle in this post-apocalyptic world is upset by the arrival of a feral old woman (Olwen Fouere) and her daughter (Mia Goth) and after the girl exchanges sexual favours they agree a grudging truce and hang around longer than one night. The women are planning on killing him but an assailant captures the girl and shoots him. He knifes the stranger and the women remove the bullet and cauterise the wound which needs maggots to heal. Then with an attack by 6 men on the garden they revert to Plan A while the girl tries to perform an abortion on herself … This triangular relationship based on uneasy silences, danger and treachery has a constant shifting centre and revolves around two shells and a bullet. There is minimal dialogue but the performances and Damien Elliott’s photography contribute texture to an atmospheric drama that is probably science fiction, but with added cannibalism. Yum. Written and directed by Stephen Fingleton, who  originally made this as a short called Magpie with more or less the same cast.

Prey (1977)

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Or, how a Lesbian couple’s rural idyll is messed up by a dog-faced cannibal alien (Barry Stokes) taking on the appearance of a man. Bit of a legendary cult item, this. Directed by Norman (Satan’s Slave) Warren and adapted by Max Cuff from a story by Quinn Donoghue based on DH Lawrence’s The Fox (a ‘straight’ adaptation in 1967 was made by Mark Rydell). Jo (Sally Faulkner) and Jessica (Glory Annan) live together in a fabulous house (the former site of Shepperton Studios) and take in Anders who helpfully eats all the protein he can find and reports back to his masters after killing the fox who the girls think has been killing their chickens (it’s their houseguest, obviously). His presence causes ructions between the couple, whose sexual antics he witnesses – and they are extraordinarily explicit, Warren having made his name in sex films in the Sixties. Too late do the girls realise what they have in their midst while Jo loses the plot … The film looks terrific, probably due to the crew having been assigned to a Pink Panther production and having 10 days off so they made this. There is – to say the least – an ambivalent attitude to animals. The pace is slow but this works in its favour. It actually belies the knowledge that it was written on the hoof, day to day as they shot it (and yes, I know, we’re not talking about Casablanca!) There’s an interesting synth score by Ivor Slaney. To say this is a surprising piece of work is the least of it… I will say no more. The house is fantastic. So much so that The Who moved in after the film was shot.

Zombie Flesh-Eaters (1979)

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This is it – THE legendary Lucio Fulci gorefest. It’s suitably well made with nice effects, if entirely lacking in suspense. In a nice touch however when the zombies get off the tropical island replete with witchdoctor (bien sur) they look just like everybody else in NYC.  What is perhaps most shocking is that the star is Mia Farrow’s sister Tisa. Gosh.

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

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As the proprietor of Mondo Movies, it behoves me to point out that the director Anthony Dawson aka Antonio Margheriti had a certain influence in its nomenclature – being responsible for a Mondo movie or two himself. He was mostly famous for splatter films and this is probably the best known in his English-language canon. And what can you say? Vietnam proved such fertile genre ground that an outbreak of cannibalism amongst returning vets seems altogether reasonable. Not going to give Apocalypse Now any competition, but I’ll wager that wasn’t exactly the point. John Saxon stars. In keeping with Italian gorefests, there are some very evil children in the house next door. Ain’t that the truth.