A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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It was a dark and stormy summer night on Long Island when I first saw this and I can barely re-watch it to this day. The story of serial killer Freddy Krueger and the teens whose dreams he inhabits was an epoch-defining event in the horror genre and made Wes Craven’s name as well as starting a profitable franchise and introducing Johnny Depp to the world (although he’s soon swallowed by his own bed.) Heather Langenkamp is the cop’s daughter who draws the short straw and has to lure Freddy out so he can be captured …  Don’t fall asleep. Don’t take a bath. Don’t unplug the phone. And don’t be the child of a vigilante! Perfect Halloween horror.

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Angels & Demons (2009)

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The Pope has died. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church is in conclave in Vatican City and while tension mounts among the cardinals, the anxious waiting crowds anticipate the familiar puff of smoke alerting them to the decision about their new religious leader … Enough about the plot of Robert Harris’ latest. This is Dan Brown’s prequel to the Da Vinci Code which sees Tom Hanks (p)reappearing for director Ron Howard as Robert Langdon, hired by the Vatican to assist in solving the mystery of a kidnapping – four of the preferiti have been taken, apparently by a representative of the Illuminati. Over in Switzerland there’s a problem at the Large Hadron Collider where they’re messing with the God Particle and a vial of antimatter disappears. Irish priest Ewan McGregor is in temporary charge in Rome, with Stellan Skarsgard supplying a dose of Scandi noir scepticism as head of the Swiss Guard (sadly in civvies…) so the scene is set for the collision of religion with science, ancient sects with modern technology and a tour around Bernini’s sculptures at high speed in the company of clever lady Ayelet Zurer … Oh my gosh they’ve gone and done it again, managing to turn a better book than DVC (everything’s relative, even relativity) into another sow’s ear. Gory, but you know, imagine if Mel Gibson had done it … And if you’ve just watched DVC and you think you’re hearing things, yes that’s Alfred Molina doing the narration. Rome looks stunning, as ever, even the bits made in Hollywood, because the bods in the Vatican thought it was sacrilege.

Crimson Peak (2015)

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Gothic romantic horror? I’m there. Jane Eyre, Rebecca and all that good stuff. Problem Number One. Just looking at Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska’s names gives me what I believe doctors call the Heebie Jeebies. Aren’t they bloody scary? And so is this, literally. And the casting is of course part of the situation. (Someone should ask directors why it is that they cast unlikeable actors and actresses in leading roles – seriously: why don’t they ASK SOMEONE?) You have to care about people in films, even if they are writing Gothic stories and have to be told they’ve forgotten to include a love plot – very meta. I don’t really care what happens to aspiring authoress Miss W when she leaves the US and takes off to fortune hunter Tom’s castle in England, even if she is sporting the hairdo of my favourite pre-Raphaelite heroine and her dad’s been bludgeoned to death by her sister-in-law (Jessica Chastain – see what I mean?) on a sink (horrible). Problem Number Two. This is seriously violent, gory and bloody. It may be that Guillermo del Toro (and co-writer Matthew Robbins – seriously!) wanted to twist Edith Wharton and Bluebeard into a ghastly postmodern fantasia of comic book horror but I’m with the man who said I’ll try everything once except incest and folk dancing. Did they forget to include folk dancing here? Well gee whiz everything else is thrown in … My bad. No. Theirs, actually.

Predator (1987)

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There’s something out there waiting for us and it ain’t no man. We’re all gonna DIE! If you wanted to explain the Eighties this wouldn’t be a bad place to start. It all began with a joke about how there was nobody left for Rocky Balboa to fight so the next guy would probably be an extra-terrestrial. Jim Thomas and John Thomas (no jokes there at the back) took up the challenge and in a convoluted series of developments we wound up here, with Arnie Versus Alien. A special forces commando unit is sent into the jungle to look for a cabinet minister gone AWOL. When they find him and his chopper crew skinned alive our guys know there’s something seriously amiss and they’ve been set up – and then get picked off one by one.The final confrontation is something to relish – You’re One Ugly Motherfucker! declares Arnie to his monstrous foe. And he would be right. That sexist jerk who gets his early on is the same Shane Black who was rewriting Lethal Weapon for producer Joel Silver at the time. This hits so many buttons it’s hard to find fault and director John McTiernan does a fine job. Oh, it’s a cult cracker!

Basket Case (1982)

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If you’re going to watch a cheap tongue-in-cheek horror film then it might as well be this one, a classic midnight movie. Frank Henenlotter evidently didn’t like strange sympathetic creatures so what we have here is a young man Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) wandering around NYC with a basket. He holes up in a hotel where anyone that opens the wicker wonder gets theirs. It’s a while before the big reveal and we learn that the grotesque fleshy head within is a kind of monstrous Siamese twin removed from Duane’s side when they were 12, and Duane wants to find the doc that tore them apart (literally.) They really are simpatico – until Basket (what else can I call it?) sees Duane trying to get it on with a girl and goes after her. Then the former best buds are at each other’s throats – literally! If you’re gonna make a movie like this, then you better have the conviction that this has. ET it ain’t. There were two sequels but life is too short. Isn’t it?

Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986)

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This is the film made by the the notorious Troma outfit after Toxic Avenger (1985) put them on the map. A sort of comedy horror eco splatter parody it’s dismal but some people get a kick out of it. There’s a spill at Tromaville nuclear plant and an employee sells drugs to the kids in the local high school and suddenly they’re foaming green stuff at the mouth and the girls who have underage sex have miscarriages that look like Alien complete with tendrils and teeth. Critic Anne Billson said of this that the fact that it has no redeeming qualities whatsoever lends it a certain cachet. I rest your case.

Popcorn (1991)

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It looks like WordPress are shutting me down:  was it something I said?!

In the meantime this exercise in genre features a group of film students who need money so run an all-nighter of horror flicks in a rundown theatre where something gruesome happened years ago and unfinished business rears its head in the form of a Leatherface/Freddy tribute act. There are some okay vintage creature feature pastiches. Ho hum.

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.