Monday, 27 September 2010

Interview With Authors Of 'The Complete History Of The Return Of The Living Dead'

When it first hit movie screens and video shelves back in the mid-eighties, The Return of the Living Dead was a big hit with horror fans. Its grungy aesthetic, spunky sensibility, outlandish gore and macabre splatstick humour perfectly balanced with requisite chills, set it apart from its contemporaries. The success of the first film ensured numerous sequels followed; the most recent of which, The Return of the Living Dead: Rave from the Grave, was produced in 2005 and was the fifth film in the series. Garnering a cult following throughout the years, the series, originally created by John Russo (co-writer of Night of the Living Dead) and Alien scribe Dan O’Bannon, is still immensely popular amongst horror fans.

A forthcoming book titled ‘The Complete History of The Return of the Living Dead’, by Christian Sellers and Gary Smart, delves into the history, production and legacy of the series; shedding light on each of the films in turn and providing an exhaustive study and appreciation of them.

I caught up with Christian and Gary recently to discuss the forthcoming book and the appeal and long-lasting legacy of the series. Read on...

What exactly was it about the The Return of the Living Dead series that compelled you to write a book on it?

Christian Sellers: I have always liked reading about the rise and fall of a franchise. It intrigues me how something can grow from nothing and become a huge phenomenon, then just as quickly it becomes a victim of its own success and self-destructs. There were two excellent books that charted the history of the Friday the 13th franchise and I knew that I wanted to document a series in a similar fashion. The Return of the Living Dead has had a complicated past and it seemed the perfect subject matter, particularly as many of the fans disliked the sequels so much. I felt that, particularly with the last two films, it was important to understand the conditions that these movies were made under and why they were so different in tone to the original film.

Gary Smart: I have been a huge fan of The Return of the Living Dead since I can remember. I have amassed a lot of memorabilia from the movies, anything I could find – magazines, lobby kits, photos. In 2007 I got in touch with Beverly Randolph via MySpace, we got talking and I told her about my love for the films and she gave me Don Calfa’s contact details. I asked Don if he would like to come to the UK for the Memorabilia at the NEC convention in Birmingham, and he agreed. He is an amazing man who is full of great stories. In 2008 I spent a week with him at his home in Yucca Valley CA. When I was there and I was hearing all these stories about The Return of the Living Dead, I thought ‘wouldn’t it be a great idea to get all these stories into a book.’ I got home and got straight in touch with Christian and we spent a year planning, debating and arguing. The main thing that convinced me to collaborate on this book was that these films have never been given the respect that they deserve and we wanted to celebrate and promote these movies and those who were involved in their creation. True classics. Having the likes of Clu Gulager, James Karen, Brian Yuzna, Don Calfa, David Trippett, Wayne Toth, Beverly Randolph, Linnea Quigley, Thom Mathews and many more have made this project very special to me and Christian; it was a labour of love!

The Return of the Living Dead and its sequels have amassed a sizable cult following over the years. What do you think the appeal of the series is?

Sellers: Dan O’Bannon successfully balanced horror and comedy, which only a handful of movies have managed. Whilst it seems like such a simple formula it is extremely difficult to pull off. If you focus on the comedy aspects too much you run the risk of turning your material into a farce, but if you make the film too horrific then the humour becomes lost. There are very few horror films I feel get the balance just right and what Dan O’Bannon did that worked a treat was that, for the most part, his cast played their parts straight. The humour came out of subtle moments instead of dumb slapstick or toilet humour, particularly through the fast-paced dialogue between the characters. I think Burt is one of the most underrated characters; I love how Clu Gulager shows no humour throughout the movie, and it is because of this that his performance works. Dan O’Bannon’s decision to place a character like Burt alongside a group of young punks was ingenious.

Smart: The humour, the costumes, the music, the great characters, and these films are so different to Romero’s Dead films. They gave a new lease of life to a stale genre. Plus Part One is funny, scary and just so well written, with some amazing performances from some great actors.

When did you first discover the series and what do you personally find so compelling about it?

Sellers: I bought the novelisation by John Russo when I was a kid without having any knowledge of the movie or its relation to Night of the Living Dead. I was immediately struck by his style of writing and the way in which he developed his characters. The humour was less prominent than in the film and he was able to explore the back-stories of the protagonists in greater detail, as is often the case with books. I found it very scary and re-read it several times before I got the chance to see the movie. Because of this, it took me a second viewing to appreciate what Dan O’Bannon had done with the film.

Smart: Like I already said, I have been a fan of these films since I was very young. I was always a horror fan and my mom says I inherited that from my granddad. My granddad Pop was quite naughty and would make copies of films back in the 80’s. He rented The Return of the Living Dead and made a copy and lent it to my dad. My dad never gave it back and when my granddad died in 1991, the VHS was still in our house. One day, being a bored 10 year old, I decided to have a mooch in the VHS unit at home and found this VHS with a sticker on it saying The Return of the Living Dead. I popped it into the VHS machine and from that moment I became hooked on the movie and zombies. I just loved it; loved the characters: the Tarman, ½ Corpse, and especially the character of Ernie, played by Don Calfa – who I recognised from the movie Foul Play.

How did you go about gaining the input of those involved in the making of the films? Did you get a chance to meet with Dan O’Bannon before he sadly passed away?

Sellers: Gary was already friends with several of the cast members from the first film so he was able to test the water with them to see if this was something they would want to be involved in. Even after all these years they still love the movie and attend various conventions, so they seemed enthusiastic about contributing. We wrote lists of everyone from all of the five movies that we could find contact details for and tried to sell the project to them. Some were easy to find, whilst others took a lot of phone calls and favours before we were able to track them down. Unfortunately, when we were about to commence work on the research we were informed that Dan O’Bannon was ill and would be unable to participate. Naturally we were disappointed, but being a huge fan of Dark Star I was extremely sad to hear that he had passed away. We knew that we should continue with the book and I only hope that if he’d had the chance to read it he would have approved.

Smart: We never met Dan, but his wife Diane has been brilliant, such a nice, loving and caring woman. Her support for this book has been great. We have been totally amazed at the support we have been given from the cast and crew, there is a real feeling that they love these movies and are happy to talk in detail about them. The funny thing is that out of all the cast and crew we contacted only two asked us for cash and surprisingly they are both from Part 3; I won’t mention their names and we decided not to use them in our book when so many others gave freely of their time and resources. Knowing key people like Beverly (Randolph), Don and Brian Peck has helped greatly as they have been able to track down other cast/crew for us. A HUGE thank you goes to our US interviewer Jon Kovel who completed some interviews for us of the cast we just couldn’t tie down on the phone.

The introduction is by Brain Yuzna – how did he become involved?

Smart: That’s all down to Christian. He had previously interviewed him for a magazine article and had developed a mutual respect so Yuzna was more than happy to write the introduction – a great man! We also have a foreword by the amazing Brian Peck and closing chapters by the brilliant production designer William Stout, and Dan O’Bannon’s widow Diane O’Bannon.

Sellers: Brian’s a great guy and a real devoted fan of the horror genre. A couple of years ago I interviewed John Penney, who wrote the third movie, and some time later I was asked to do an article on the film and contacted him once again for a more detailed discussion. He put me in contact with Brian, who I was a huge fan of because of Re-Animator and Society, and he was really enthusiastic about giving an interview. When it came time to work on the book, Brian was kind enough to read through what we had done on the third film to verify its accuracy. I knew that we had to get someone important from the franchise to provide an introduction. I’m not sure if it was myself or Gary who suggested Brian but I was very grateful when he obliged.

Which film in the series is your favourite, and why?

Sellers: I guess it would have to be the first film, purely because it has everything: humour, gore, nudity and Don Calfa! It is one of those rare movies that seems to improve on every viewing and I love how indestructible the zombies were. You cut them up and the pieces come after you, burn them and the smoke will rise up and infect the surrounding area. There is literally nothing you can do to stop them. I was a huge fan of Day of the Dead when it came out, partially due to its bleak tone, and in many ways The Return of the Living Dead was just as dark, although the humour makes it a little easier to swallow. It is a great loss to cinema that Dan O’Bannon only directed two movies!

Smart: Got to be Part One, for the reasons stated before; an amazing film, and extraordinary legacy.

Why do you think the series still stands up today, given the copious amounts of zombie themed comedy-horror flicks?

Smart: These movies were the first to add comedy. Part One got the balance perfect, and that is a really hard thing to accomplish with these types of movies. Plus fans were bored with the Romero movies to a degree. 1985 saw the release of Day of the Dead which did poorly at the box office and gained negative reviews, despite now being regarded as one of Romero’s best – which I agree with. The Return of the Living Dead came out the same year and offered something different and fresh and horror fans just went for it. The series is a cult classic today. I know the later movies didn’t do as well and have had negative reviews but they are still good in their own way. Take 4 and 5, if you remove ‘The Return of the Living Dead’ from the title and called the gas something other than ‘Trioxin’ they would be good movies. They are only seen as bad movies because fans were angered by the change of the rules. I would actually like to see a remake of Part One as long as the original cast could be involved.

Sellers: I can’t stand the current run of zombie movies; they’re not even trying to be horror films. Whilst they may throw in moments of gore, they’re far too focused on action, dumb humour and pop culture references. With the exception of 28 Days Later (not technically a zombie film but it stole enough from Dawn of the Dead to be categorised as such) and Shaun of the Dead, there have been very few truly effective zombie movies over recent years. As The Return of the Living Dead proved, to make a horror comedy effective you have to take both the horror and comedy aspects seriously, otherwise it just becomes ridiculous.

How long did the entire process take and did you already have a publisher lined up when you were finished?

Smart: About 18 months in all. Me and Christian first had a rough idea through email conversations back in 2007; it wasn’t until 2008 that we started seriously talking about it and in September 2009 we started the process officially. We send out a press-kit to 5 publishers and ALL 5 were very interested. We went with Plexus because they were on the same wave-length as us from the beginning and understood what we wanted to achieve.

Sellers: The actual writing process was completed in a few weeks; it was everything that came beforehand that took so long. As a writer, I like to work quickly as I find it helps with consistency, whereas if you take months to write a book it can lose its flow. Obviously, you then proofread and perform rewrites but the bulk of the writing was done in less than a month. I find that the more detailed your research and the more concise your notes, then the easier the actual writing is. Preparation and organisation are the single most important things for a writer.

Christian – as a writer, who or what has inspired you most throughout your career thus far?

Sellers: I can’t say I have ever been knowingly inspired by any film critics as I have always just gone with my gut instinct. I began writing professionally a year or so after graduating university so I think I was still in that academic state of mind, but as I began to write I soon developed my own style. What I realised early on was when it came to interviews you can’t play it safe, you have to ask some questions that other writers may shy away from. Be confrontational, be daring, it makes for a more entertaining interview. I think as a writer I like to get under the skin and scratch away at the surface to see what is really hidden underneath, but I’m not sure who or what has influenced me in that way.

Gary, you were responsible for the look and the design of the book – who or what has inspired you most as a designer? How did you tackle this project from a design angle?

Smart: I wanted to really utilise the fantastic images that we had and compliment the amazing narrative of the book. Of course I looked at similar books and was inspired by a few of them. So I wanted big, strong, unique images and luckily that’s what we had. The hardest thing was the cover as it is a montage of characters from all five movies. We wanted to respect all five films as they are ALL part of the legacy.

Finally guys – you’re both obviously extremely passionate about these movies. Why should viewers check out The Return of the Living Dead series?

Sellers: Dan O’Bannon was a damn good writer and one day the industry will give him the recognition he deserved. Whilst the obvious choice would be Alien, he worked on the screenplays for Dark Star and Dead and Buried, which was a very underrated thriller. The script for The Return of the Living Dead was very tight and nothing was wasted. It also included one of the finest casts I have seen in a horror movie, with veterans like James Karen and Clu Gulager playing off the younger actors, particularly the excellent Thom Mathews. It is also one of those movies that fans like to quote from; it gives us nerds something to do. If I’ve had a particularly irritating afternoon and someone asks me, ‘How was your day?’ I can’t help but reply, ‘The usual… crap.’

Smart: Why else other than they are amazing gems of movies and hopefully those who haven’t watched them and stumble upon our book will go out and buy The Return of the Living Dead DVDs. If you haven’t watched them and you love the genre, you are really missing out! Finally there are probably many, many more The Return of the Living Dead stories hidden out there, so depending on the success of this book we may look at a book just on the original The Return of the Living Dead. My dream project would be a retrospective on the career of Don Calfa…. but who knows?

'The Complete History Of The Return Of The Living Dead' is published by Plexus Publishing Ltd and will be available October 2010. Pick up a copy of the book over at Amazon... If you can’t wait that long, here’s an exclusive sneak peek inside the book Return of the Living Dead fans have been salivating for…

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Fango Flashback: The Comeback

Provocative, grim, shocking and extremely anti-establishment in their outlook, British director Pete Walker’s “terror” films were always controversial—perhaps due to their frequent representation of an unsavory, seedy underbelly of a British society governed by convention and hypocrisy. With his previous movies, notably House of Whipcord, Frightmare and House of Mortal Sin (a.k.a. The Confessional), Walker had actively worked to subvert typically British institutions (such as class, family and the legal system) and outrage as many people as he possibly could by presenting cannibalistic pensioners, murderous priests and private prisons controlled by sadistic wardens.

1978’s The Comeback (a.k.a. The Day The Screaming Stopped), however, unfolds as a somewhat more conventional offering, and was seen as a deliberate move to reach a more mainstream audience.

Head over to Fangoria (!) to check out my full article...

Friday, 24 September 2010

Meat Grinder

Dir. Tiwa Moeithaisong

Troubled single mother Buss struggles to make ends meet and pay off her absent husband’s debts, selling noodle soup from her food cart. One day she is caught in the midst of a student riot and dragged to safety by activist Attapol, with whom she begins a tentative relationship. Buss later discovers the body of one of the rioters in her food cart and decides to cook it, adding the meat to her noodle soup. Before long, her business becomes very successful, meaning she must find a steady supply of fresh human meat to use in her cooking…

Heavily marketed as the latest Thai ‘torture-porn’ export, Meat Grinder wears its promise of gut-wrenching gore and sadistic scenes of violence rather proudly. And so it should, for they are amongst the most startling and insistent scenes of carnage ever committed to celluloid. The opening monochromatic montage depicts a woman calmly preparing a human cadaver for cooking, smearing it with herbs and spices and marinating it before tipping it into a bubbling pot. After the credits, no time is wasted in getting to the first ‘kill’; an unfortunate guy looking for his missing girlfriend – the babysitter of Buss’s little girl, and as it transpires later, the mistress of her husband. The following scene is shocking in its matter of fact violence and exhibits a humour darker than night, as Buss attacks the man with a machete, cutting his leg clean off and then throwing it at him.

Cinematographer turned director Tiwa Moeithaisong films everything unflinchingly and with a style and panache rarely seen in such films. Style overkill does however threaten to confuse events as the use of rabid editing and inconsistent deployment of black and white photography confuse matters, and it becomes quite difficult to decipher the increasingly fracturing narrative – though it could of course be argued that this perfectly conveys Buss’s ever-fraying mental state. Her blurring of past and present, real and imagined works itself up into a stifling haze.

Meat Grinder manages to set itself apart from the gore glut by exhibiting more bite than most, evoking memories of the likes of Delicatessen, Dumplings and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, before ultimately treading down its own unique, bloodied path. Incorporating elements of socio-political commentary and psychological investigation, the film unravels as an, albeit very violent and gory, exploration of a woman’s tragic freefall into madness after a stilted life of abuse and heartache. Buss is portrayed by Thai pop-singer Mai Charoenpura, whose touching, brave performance elevates the character and ensures she has the audiences’ sympathy despite the brutal acts of carnage she carries out. While she is presented to us as ‘the monster’, and make no mistake – some of the barbaric atrocities she carries out will be amongst the most flinch-inducing acts audiences will have seen – because of Charoenpura’s performance and intelligent writing, Buss is a fully realised and tragically flawed character. The images of a distraught and bloodied Buss running, knife in hand, through the market streets are harrowing and heartbreaking. A startling amount of attention is paid to her back-story, which is another surprising element to what unfolds as a very unconventional film.

As mentioned, Moeithaisong works a little political commentary into proceedings too, not least with the character of Attapol (Rattananballang Toksawat), a political activist whose last words spoken are ‘I’m the victim!’ Stock footage of the student riots for democracy from 1973 is also edited into a number of scenes as though reminding us that the present is always haunted by the past – a statement affirmed by Buss’s own flashbacks of a tragic childhood and years of abuse at the hands of her stepfather interwoven throughout the narrative. The interesting idea of food for atonement and how it nourishes and protects families is also touched upon and Moeithaisong ratchets up the tension in an expertly realised scene involving Buss stalking Nida, a female classmate of Attapol’s, around her dank charnel house, machete in hand.

Despite lurid and deeply unsettling imagery, Meat Grinder has so much more meat on its bones than your average gore-fest and promises to be a truly visceral experience that improves with each nuance-revealing viewing – you might even find that it is the sorry plight of Buss, and not the violent acts she carries out, that lingers spookily in your mind.


Dir. Adam Green

Hoping to spend some quality time at a tranquil ski resort, a trio of twenty-something’s – best friends Joe (Shawn Ashmore), Dan (Kevin Zegers), and Dan’s girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell), instead experience a chilling nightmare when they are unexpectedly stranded on a chairlift shortly after the ski resort closes for the week. Unknowingly left dangling high above the ground and with no apparent safe way down as night begins to set in, with increasing panic they soon realize that the threats of frostbite and hypothermia are the least of their worries.

Forced to take extremely desperate measures in order to survive the bitter cold, overcome unexpected obstacles and attempt to reach safety, the three friends are driven to ask not only if they have the will to survive, but also to consider what are the worst ways to die…

Having already caused quite a stir on the festival circuit, prompting responses from critics such as “terrifying… will do for skiing what Jaws did for swimming” Frozen is the latest shocker from writer-director Adam Green (Hatchet; Spiral) who is fast making a name for himself as a director of low-budget, highly effective horror fare. Taking a simple and highly relatable premise (much like the makers of the likes of Adrift and Open Water did) and milking it for all its terrifying potential, Green has crafted a highly compelling, frustrating, chilling and hand-over-mouth suspenseful man vs. nature flick. Squeezing every last drop of tension and anxiety from this simple premise, the uneasy atmosphere evident from the opening scenes, with shots of the imposing mechanics of the ski-lift and the establishing shots of endless mountains and snow, is throughout the film built to an almost overwhelming maelstrom of intensity.

The circumstances that lead to the characters being stranded are a little contrived, but hey, this small series of seemingly inconsequential events – and staggering incompetence – was necessary in order to place the three characters in the dire situation that forms the basis of the film. Once they’re trapped and the realisation of their dangerous and potentially fatal situation sinks in, then the real fun begins and the tension mounts as they become more desperate and frenzied to get out of the chairlift and onto the ground.

Of course this film, like similarly designed ones (the incredulous Adrift immediately springs to mind), have niggling little flaws and are guaranteed to have viewers shrieking at the characters on-screen as they make wrong decisions and suffer the ghastly consequences. Because of course, we the audience, would never be so dumb. Right? Wrong. Green throws in a number of twists to silence smug viewers and is able to convey how people react differently in moments of extreme circumstances. The film also has fun in subverting character types and as events progress; we learn more about the characters, their hopes and dreams, fears and short-comings. Now this is obviously not life-altering, award-winning stuff here, but the actors carry off their roles well and we’re provided with the bare minimum of information we need to at least care a little for them – if even on a merely human level. This is a taut thriller after all, solely designed to provide suspense, anxiety and give the old adrenaline glands a work out. Which it does with relative ease.

The nature of fear and how we deal with our own fears is addressed at several points throughout the course of events – to begin with its simple enough: characters discuss fears such as heights, sharks and death, which provokes a debate about horrible ways to die – some of which are slyly reflective of events to come. Many scenarios and plans to make it to the ground are offered and discussed before being implemented, with any conceivable dangers carefully hypothesised. Of course, as we know, things don’t go according to plan; unexpected events occur that add further peril and distress to the situation. Not wanting to give too much away, I shall say no more. Except that when the first blood-curdling howl of circling wolves cuts through the chilling night air, your blood might run appropriately cold.

Green also successfully conveys a sense of how long the survivors are stranded for, and more importantly, a sense of their isolation, fluctuating despair and the freezing temperatures they’re experiencing. The eerie shots of them hanging, suspending in the all-consuming darkness are wonderfully realised. The use of sound is key here – whether it’s the frenzied roar of an oncoming blizzard, the crunch of breaking bones or the sparse, echoic emptiness of the snowy morning air – it helps create a chilling, evocative atmosphere.

Boasting cameos from Rileah Vanderbilt (Hatchet; Spiral) Kane Hodder (Jason from Friday the 13th parts VII - X), Frozen is an effective, gruelling and tightly coiled film that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats and maybe make them think twice about that skiing trip they were planning.

Frozen (Momentum Pictures) will be released in UK cinemas from 24th September 2010.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Dead Cert

Dir. Steve Lawson
Tough gangster Freddie ‘Dead Cert’ Frankham (Craig Fairbrass) and his gang get more than they bargained for when a group of mysterious businessmen make an offer to buy their club, the Inferno. Unbeknownst to Freddie, the club stands on the former site of a Black Church, established as a temple of evil in the 17th Century by a Romanian warlord-turned-vampire known as The Wolf (Billy Murray). The businessmen, headed by The Wolf aka Livienko, are actually vampires hell-bent on rebuilding their empire of evil on its original, unhallowed site. Freddie and co are about to realise they’ve bitten off more than they can chew by refusing to sell. There will be blood… Lots of blood.

The second feature from director Steve Lawson (Just For The Record), is a vampires-meet-gangsters horror romp that stands alongside recent British vampire flick Beyond the Rave as a slick, modernised take on the genre, that goes some way to evoke the spirit of such contemporary-set Amicus and Hammer titles such as Dracula A.D. 1972 and The Satanic Rites Of Dracula. An intriguing blend of the vampire and Cockney gangster movie genres, Dead Cert promises much, and it mainly delivers the goods. Combining the standard ingredients of both genres and assured enough to take itself seriously, it also benefits from its a seasoned cast of familiar British acting talent including Dexter Fletcher, Lisa McAllister, Dave Legeno, Jason Flemying, Janet Montgomery (The Hills Run Red) and, in a sly, fleeting cameo, Mr British Horror himself, Danny Dyer.

Populated by tough characters more akin to what you’d find in a Guy Ritchie flick, Dead Cert plunges us into a London underworld of illegal betting, underground fighting and the cut-throat denizens who inhabit it. No one messes with this lot. Instead of taking the From Dusk Til Dawn approach by essentially switching genres halfway through, Dead Cert takes the gangster route but throws in a few creepy moments here and there to let us know that something sinister is lurking in the wings; a knowing look here, an entranced victim there. The vampires, when we eventually see them in all their g(l)ory, are of the more traditional fare: they can glamour their victims, are averse to holy water and ‘white blooming’ plants and they drink the blood of the living for sustenance.

While it takes the gangsters a while to figure out who exactly they are up against, the audience are privy to this information from the get-go. The inclusion of Van-Helsing-like harbinger of doom Mason, who tries to warn the men about their new adversaries, is a canny vintage throwback but works well enough within this context too. Steven Berkoff channels the late Donald Pleasance in his portrayal of the tortured man trying to right past wrongs and keep the eviiiiil Livienko out of London.

Writer Lawson works an interesting vampire mythology into the back-story of these characters incorporating aspects of British history, which really helps give the film some substance. Livienko (The Wolf) was flushed out of the city by emissaries of the Vatican during the Great Fire of London, and since then has been exiled in mainland Europe. Now he has returned with his undead disciples to continue his diabolical plans to expand the legions of the undead and overcome mankind. So naturally, he needs a gentleman’s club built over an ancient Black Church as a base from which to conduct his eviiiil schemes.

Lawson fleshes out his characters and gradually reveals their various motivations – honourable and otherwise. The kinds of ‘values’ usually upheld in the world of organised crime are scrutinised and subverted – the idea that family and honour are no longer as important as the likes of business and money lends proceedings an air of bleak hopelessness. Yet Lawson still presents the protagonist as a father-to-be, who does the dodgy things he does in order to ensure his wife and baby will be better off. The figure of the vampire as a threat to all this harks back to Stoker’s ‘Dracula;’ indeed aspects of that particular mythos are woven through this tale too, particularly in the bizarre pseudo-psychic/dream link Freddy shares with Livienko – and the disturbing nightmares he experiences when he begins his dealings with the man.

The taut climax is suitable bloody, unfolding in a face-off between gangsters and vampires in the red-lit, lurid nightclub, appropriately named Inferno; complete with a bevy of pole-dancing, scantily-clad and be-fanged ladies of the night.

Produced by horror specialists Black & Blue Films and recalling the previously mentioned Hammer classics, as well as later vampire movies such as Vamp and The Lost Boys, Dead Cert was selected for the opening night of the FrightFest horror film festival and will be released on DVD (£15.99) by Momentum Pictures on 27th September 2010. Special Features include: audio commentary; ‘Making of’ featurette.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

I Spit On Your Ban

The Irish Film Classification Office has banned the DVD re-release of Meir Zarchi’s notorious 1978 horror film I Spit on Your Grave. The body, formerly known as the Irish Film Censor’s Office, has in recent years actually been quite reluctant to ban films outright, so their decision has come as quite a shock to horror fans. Especially in light of a little something called the internet – which has made it easier to access such banned material. The decision comes a little less than a year after John Kelleher, seen as a liberalising influence on the board, retired. The reissue is (coincidently, surely?) timed to coincide with an upcoming remake of the grimy original which Roger Ebert called “a vile bag of garbage... without a shred of artistic distinction.” Yay.

The IFCO have stated that their reason for declining to issue a certificate for the DVD, was because of the film’s depiction of “acts of gross violence and cruelty towards humans.” Meir Zarchi commented: “It doesn’t surprise me that Ireland have decided to ban the film. It has relentlessly continued to shock and offend audiences since 1978 when it was first released, and it still does to this date. However, with the level of graphic violence and horror available these days, it’s surprising that IFCO sees this 1978 film as more offensive than some of the most daring and empty-of-content torture porn available today.”

I Spit on Your Grave is a low-budget rape-revenge thriller, starring Camille Keaton as Jennifer Hills, a New York magazine writer who heads out to a secluded cabin in the woods for peace and quiet to write her first novel. There she is brutally assaulted, raped and left for dead by four country boys. Days later, a traumatised Jennifer tracks down the men and extracts brutal, bloody and merciless revenge – prompting some critics at the time to declare the film ‘pro-feminist.’ Go girl! Nevertheless, it was at the centre of the first so-called “video nasty” scandal in the early 1980s. At that time, the UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions drew up a list of 72 films that could cause retailers to be prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act. Other films on the list – actually viewed as great publicity by canny distributors – included Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, Dario Argento’s Tenebrae and Abel Ferrara’s The Driller Killer – films now revered as classics of the genre. 

From the IFCO Press Release:

The Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO) has banned the DVD re-release of the highly controversial 1978 horror film I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE starring Buster Keaton’s granddaughter, Camille Keaton, in Ireland. UK fans of the infamous cult film, originally released under the name Day of the Woman in 1978 and later re-titled to I Spit on Your Grave, will be able to purchase the ultimate collector’s edition on DVD and Blu-ray as of today. However, Irish fans of the cult “video nasty” will be prohibited from purchasing locally, forcing them to import UK versions from Internet retailers. The decision to ban the DVD re-release of the cult classic film was due to the film depicting “acts of gross violence and cruelty (including mutilation and torture) towards humans.” I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE has gained a reputation as an extremely graphic and violent film as well as one of the most talked about films in cinema history.

The infamous cult film, originally released under the name Day of the Woman (see? It IS a feminist statement) and later re-titled I Spit on Your Grave, is still available in the UK. Movie fans in Ireland need only head up north to Northern Ireland to pick up a copy of the DVD – which features a substantial amount of extra footage previously trimmed from the cut of the original, and more extra features than you can shake an axe at. Most fans will probably just buy it online though. The movie has also been remade and will be released into cinemas across the UK and Ireland soon. The fuss caused by the DVD re-release of the original will no doubt ensure the remake (most likely a watered-down, glossed-up insipid pale imitation designed to appeal to 'tweens') will be a glowing success.

Eoghan Burke of Lace Digital Media Sales in Ireland said he was disappointed and saddened by the IFCO decision. "I thought we had moved on from these times. It just drives business away from bricks and mortar and into the hands of online, denying much needed revenue to traditional retail.”

Director Meir Zarchi is looking on the bright though, as he believes the ban will just give the movie more publicity. "Since the birth of the internet all censor boards around the world have instantly become irrelevant, IFCO included. Anyone anywhere in the universe can simply push a button on any video website store and order a disc of I Spit On Your Grave. There are no iron curtains in the skies that can stop it from landing at his or her door. Are we going through the "Lady Chatterley's Lover" syndrome all over again? The bottom line - thank you IFCO for promoting the film in Ireland." 

The Original Cult Video Nasty was released on September 20th on DVD and Blu-ray as an ultimate collector’s edition dual format - featuring new uncut material previously unseen in the UK as well as the following exclusive material:

Disc 1 (Blu-ray): Feature Film - new cut
UK Exclusive video interview with Director Meir Zarchi • Trailers • TV Spots • Radio Spots • Sleeve and poster Image Gallery • Image Gallery from Director’s Personal Collection • Reviews & Articles from Around the World • In-Depth Essay - What Do People Think & Say About ISOYG • DVD Monthly Interview • Filmographies • Audio commentary by Director Meir Zarchi & Film Critic Joe Bob Briggs

Disc 2 (DVD): Feature Film - new cut
UK Exclusive video interview with Director Meir Zarchi • Trailers • TV Spots • Radio Spots • Sleeve and poster Image Gallery • Image Gallery from Director’s Personal Collection • Reviews & Articles from Around the World • In-Depth Essay - What Do People Think & Say About ISOYG • DVD Monthly Interview • Filmographies • Audio commentary by Director Meir Zarchi & Film Critic Joe Bob Briggs

Monday, 20 September 2010

La Horde

Dirs. Yannick Dahan and Bejamin Rocher

When a high-ranking and well-respected police detective is found murdered by a gang of homicidal mobsters, a small group of his closest colleagues on the force take it upon themselves to avenge his death vigilante-style. Heavily armed and determined to see justice done, they manage to infiltrate the upper floors of the suburban high-rise apartment block that serves as the criminals’ hideout. But during the raid things go wrong and the cops find themselves overcome by the gang, who take them prisoner and begin to torture them.
Meanwhile, on ground level, the gang’s lookout men become aware of a strange disturbance in the streets immediately surrounding the building, with the sounds of explosions and sirens filling the air. Incredibly, it becomes apparent that the commotion is being caused by ever-growing crowds of crazed people with a hunger for human flesh. It’s not long before the gang of criminals and their captive cops realize they are trapped together on the top floor of an unfortified building that is becoming rapidly infested with blood-thirsty legions of the living dead. Their only chance of making it to ground level and getting out of the situation alive is to join forces, but with their numbers dwindling and each side having a score to settle, the odds of survival really don’t look good for anyone with a pulse…

The Horde has been described as Assault On Precinct 13 meets Dawn Of The Dead and is the latest addition to the ever-rising wave of extreme French horror cinema. For a country apparently prone to turn its nose up in disdain at the horror genre, it sure as hell has been producing memorable, disturbing, graphic and truly hardcore horror films for the past several years now. Haute Tension is widely regarded as being responsible for kicking of this latest craze, and the likes of Inside, Martyrs, The Pack, Ils, Calvaire and Frontiers followed in hot pursuit; each one more extreme than the last. Winner of the International Fantasy Film Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography at the 2010 Fantasporto International Film Festival, The Horde is a must-see for zombie movie fans, not least because it features scenes of genuine, edge-of-seat tension, insanely violent hand to hand combat between humans and zombies (certainly something you don’t see in most zombie flicks – and must be seen here to be believed!) but because it also takes an exceedingly fresh approach to a by now very familiar genre.

As with most other entries in the ‘under siege’ sub-genre, the disparate group of individuals in The Horde must put aside their differences and attempt to work together to survive. Obviously this course of action is not without its difficulties, the two groups involved belonging on opposite sides of the law – but with more in common than they’d care to admit. The characters featured here are more fleshed out than your average zombie fodder and the constantly shifting group dynamics share centre-stage with the original concept of pitting tough cops against badass criminals in a zombie-infested apocalypse. Before long, the group begins to turn against each other and the threats they encounter are from within, as well as from the zombie hordes attempting to gain entry to the building. With such initially ‘unsympathetic’ characters populating the story, the way in which the writers’ gradually flesh them out and make them more sympathetic is quite disarming.

The film also boasts a wily sense of humour - plus more than its fair share of deliberately cheesy one-liners - to counter the bleak violence and audacious situations the characters find themselves in. The ‘zombies’ in The Horde stem from Danny Boyle’s running/infected beings, though they too are shown in an oddly sympathetic light, particularly in the scene where several of the criminals overpower a female zombie, torment her and even discuss raping her as she flails mindlessly on the floor; teeth gnashing, limbs contorting. No reason is given for what causes the dead to rise/living to be infected; the audience are thrust into the ensuing bloody chaos as much as the characters are as events shoot along at break-neck speed.

While The Horde doesn’t necessarily show us something we haven’t already seen before, it still presents us with a stylish, high-octane, insanely violent, darkly funny and supremely entertaining thriller, nonetheless. And it also boasts one of the most compelling and memorable kick-ass heroines in recent memory - Aurore (Claude Perron) makes Ellen Ripley look like Maddy from Friday the 13th: The New Blood.

The Horde (cert. 18, tbc) stars Claude Perron (Chrysalis; Amelie), Eriq Ebouaney (Thirst; Transporter 3), Aurelien Récoing (Intimate Enemies) and Doudou Masta (Arthur And The Minimoys) and is  released on DVD (£15.99) by Momentum Pictures on 20th September 2010. Special Features include: ‘Making of’ featurette; ‘Rivoallan’ (9-minute short film); zombie concept art; storyboards; teaser trailer; Easter Egg – rehearsal of a scene.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

7 Days

Dir. Daniel Grou aka Podz

Middle-aged surgeon Bruno Hamel (Claude Legault), his wife Sylvie (Fanny Mallette) and their eight-year-old daughter Jasmine (Rose-Marie Coallier) live a happy, uneventful life in the suburbs of a quiet town. When Jasmine is brutally raped and murdered by a local man, Anthony Lemaire (Martin Dubreuil), Bruno hatches a meticulous plan to make him pay for his crimes. He will kidnap and torture Lemaire for seven days before executing him and then turning himself in…

Directed by Daniel Grou (Vampire High, Big Wolf On Campus, The Hunger), aka Podz, and adapted for the screen by author Patrick Senécal ('5150 Elm’s Way,' 'Evil Words') from his best-selling novel, ‘Les sept jours du talion,’ 7 Days is an intense and disturbing French Canadian thriller that has been described as 'Saw directed by Michael Haneke (Funny Games) or Lars von Trier (Antichrist).’ Coldly filmed in a stylish, yet detached manner, 7 Days is a harrowing and powerful film, but it is also a startlingly quiet film; the complete absence of music focuses and heightens the impact during the scenes of brutality and drama. Well acted and subtle to begin with, the later scenes of torture leave nothing to the imagination and after the discovery of the daughter’s dead body - filmed in a starkly matter-of-fact way – the film opens itself out into an ongoing debate about morality, human instinct and the overwhelming power of grief.

The ‘spanner in the works’ – any doubt as to the alleged killer’s guilt – is removed early on, and we are told pointedly there is no doubt at all regarding his guilt. This still isn’t enough to remove grey areas though – human rights are called into question, as is society’s bloodthirsty need for revenge and violence. Does Lemaire deserve this treatment? Does he deserve to be shown mercy? The script doesn’t really make any obvious attempts to colour his character or do anything which may make us feel for him – he is simply presented as a child killer and the audience are left to trawl through their reaction to his treatment. At times this is made all the more difficult because of how Lemaire reacts to his torture. He goads Hamel, and eventually reveals his own sorry back-story involving years of abuse and pain. A brave move on the filmmaker’s part, though arguably a manipulative one. Viewers are almost defied not to flinch during the scenes of torture in which Lemaire is whipped with a chain until he passes out, has his leg bludgeoned with a sledgehammer and is then forced to stand on his other leg with a noose around his neck, or wallow naked on the concrete floor in his own filth and blood. One cop asks why they should bother to try to save a child rapist from being tortured; to which Detective Mercure (Remy Girard) – who is himself dealing with the loss of his wife who was shot by a robber - responds by claiming it’s not Lemaire he wants to save.

When does vigilantism and the need for justice become revenge? Is it ever justified? What exceptions are there? These are but a couple of the ideas addressed throughout the story – no easy answers, if any, are provided and events are filmed in a very detached and clinical way. To call 7 Days a provocative and challenging film would be an understatement – there is far more simmering beneath the austere surface than initially obvious. There does come a point though when Hamel’s actions seem more calculating than those of a man simply wrecked with grief. The initial rage and pain has subsided and he approaches his revenge methodically. A brief exchange with a young cashier at the local gas station reveals that some people in the area have recognised who he is – but have not reported him to the police. Is this complacency, or the fact that society shares a collective ‘understanding’ of his need for ‘justice?’ The urge to lash out when attacked and the desire for revenge is a primal one. Is it intrinsically human? What would we do in this situation? Questions, questions, questions. Despite the films detached approach, 7 Days is not a ‘background’ film to be put on and tuned out to. It engages and provokes and above all, provides meaty food for thought.

The counter argument – that regardless of Lemaire’s crimes, he still deserves to be treated fairly and his fate should be decided by the law, not vigilantism - is touched on with the introduction of the mother of one of Lemaire’s prior victims. She has been attempting to move on with her life and condemns Hamel’s actions. What happens next further separates the audience from Hamel (were we supposed to be siding with him anyway?) and his cause as his actions are clearly no longer those of a man on a personal vendetta – he seems to be cracking; his initial hardcore belief in what he was doing now seems to be in need of validation: his wife has long turned her back on him and the police seem to be closing in.

Ultimately there is no glory, no relief, no cathartic moment in which Hamel’s need for vengeance feels sated. It is easy to see why this film has drawn comparisons to the work of Haneke – it is brutal, intellectual and challenging, and its lack of any easy answers at times has as much of an impact as its scenes of pain and suffering. Hamel realises that his actions have been selfish, and more importantly, pointless. His daughter is still dead. The fact that the film lacks a big climax ensures that the events depicted within it will haunt the mind long after. The moral melting-pot has been taken off the boil, but still simmers quietly.

7 Days (cert. 18) is a relentlessly dark exploration of the mind of a man driven to the edge of sanity by his own grief. It was released on DVD (£12.99) by E1 Entertainment on 23rd August 2010.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Love Goddess of the Cannibals

Dir. Joe D’Amato

A team of geologists attempt to remove a native, allegedly cannibalistic population from their island home in order to perform atomic research. The natives' female leader has other plans though, and sets about disposing of them one by one, utilising the fine art of seduction and good old fashioned murder-by-sexy-sex to aid her quest.

Papaya (Melissa) is just your average voodoo priestess, sex siren, eco-activist and blood crazed cannibal, willing to do whatever it takes to keep her tropical island home from being exploited by pesky nuclear scientists hell-bent on building a nuclear reactor on it. And if that means stripping off her clothes every five minutes and seducing them one by one with her voluptuous body and irresistible melons, then killing them by castrating them - so be it! This is one dedicated lady who won’t be messed with.

The film opens with her emerging from the sea, strutting across the beach, entering a palm-hut, smearing fruit over a man in a sexy way before biting off his manhood and watching as her henchmen (who look like they’d be equally at home on the floor of a Seventies New York disco) torch the hut. Next up we meet Sarah (Sirpa Lane) a roving reporter holidaying in the sun, who just happens to bump into her old ‘acquaintance’ Vincent (Maurice Poli), who is on the island to install a nuclear reactor. For some reason. Scientists, eh? He’s also looking for his missing scientist buddy (Papaya’s bearded victim from the opening scene). Before long the two are busy getting reacquainted, which mainly consists of their clothes falling off, them taking showers together and partaking in copious amounts of sexy sex. While exploring the island they encounter Papaya who invites them to a strange ritual where they’re drugged and overcome by the urge to undress. Again. It eventually becomes clear that Papaya and her people don’t want a nuclear reactor on their beautiful island and she’s making sure it won’t happen by killing off all the scientists with sexy, deadly, sexy sex. Naturally Vincent falls for her while Sarah shags her way around the island in search of a juicy story.

Love Goddess of the Cannibals, or to call it by its original, somewhat less lurid title Caribbean Papaya, is something of a long lost ‘Euro cult classic’ from the ever-warped mind of Italian sex, sleaze and horror maestro, Joe ‘exploitation’ D’Amato. In a highly kitsch riot of infrequent bloody mutilation, copious Sapphic lovemaking and a hypnotic tribal score courtesy of Stelvio Cipriani, Love Goddess takes its viewers on a delirious trip into jungle-infested sleaze, violated flesh and writhing orgies of sex, death and pig innards. Essentially a soft-core erotica flick, Love Goddess includes a number of ‘horror’ elements to add to the exploitation quota. These pepper the film sporadically and include a castration, a human sacrifice and a shot of a man eating said human sacrifice’s still beating heart. There are also scenes featuring a cock fight (no, not THAT kind of cock) and butchered pigs being split open; their insides tumbling out. The rest of the film’s running time is made up of expository scenes in which characters spout at times hilarious badly-dubbed dialogue about nuclear reactors, the environment and how they love to be naked, and sex scenes in which stars Melissa and Finnish sex symbol Sirpa Lane (star of Walerian Borowczyk’s art-porn classic The Beast, and its deliriously kitsch sequel, imaginatively titled The Beast in Space) hump their way through the male cast – before eventually sleeping with each other on a utopian beach, complete with coconut trees and a roaring surf. In soft-focus, naturally.

D’Amato does manage to muster a fair degree of tension and eerie atmospherics in some of the scenes in which Vincent and Sarah explore the seemingly deserted village – and in the scene where Sarah is chased through the village by a group of young boys. Those expecting a gory cannibal fest will be bitterly disappointed though, as the film boasts about as much horror quotient as its female stars’ boast the ability to remain dressed throughout a scene. Those who are open to kitsch erotica with an irresistibly funky soundtrack and a penchant for stylishly shot scenes of Seventies love-making (re: ridiculously hairy chests, big brown nipples and immaculately trimmed lady-gardens) might be more satisfied with what’s on offer here. Love Goddess of the Cannibals doesn’t do exactly what it says on the tin, but it still manages to put the ‘tit’ in titillation. Sorry.

Love Goddess Of The Cannibals (cert. 18) was released on DVD (£15.99) by Shameless Screen Entertainment on 28th June 2010. Special Features include: Shameless ‘Rebuild’ version; alternate title sequences; theatrical trailers; Shameless trailers; reversible sleeve featuring original artwork; English and Italian audio options with optional English subtitles.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Issue 10 (!) Of Paracinema Available NOW!

As Matt over at Chuck Norris Ate My Baby so rightly pointed out, the latest issue of Paracinema magazine is now available to order! This is no ordinary issue (not that any of them could be described as ‘ordinary’ anyway), this is a big one: the tenth issue!

Independently produced to the highest standard, each issue thus far has been smartly crafted to cater to the more thoughtful genre fan – intelligent, left of centre articles on all manner of cult, exploitation and obscure cinema are the order of the day; and issue 10 is no exception. Amongst the positively tantalising array of articles included in this issue are the likes of Melodrama in Fast Motion: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls As Not Just Strange but Scathing by Adam Blomquist; Pink Socks and Monsters: Excess in Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession by Todd Garbarini and Send In the Clowns, If Your Conscience Can Handle It: The Complications of Watching Clownhouse by Emily Intravia of The Deadly Doll’s House of Horror Nonsense infamy.

Support independently produced publications! And not just because they are independently produced and you feel obliged – but because they are lovingly built out of very little, with much heart and soul poured into them, by film fans like yourself, for film fans like you. Head over to Paracinema’s website to pre-order your copy today.

Some back issues are also still available to order… 

If you’re at all curious about Team Paracinema, head here to read an interview with the magazine’s editor and co-founder, Christine Makepeace, in which she discusses the genesis of the magazine, the seemingly everlasting appeal of cult movies and the challenges of producing an independent magazine.

PS To Team Paracinema: Congratulations on your Tenth issue. Keep up the great work.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Bring Classic Horror Films Back To Television Campaign

As you may or may not be aware, the campaign set up by Cyberschizoid has really been gathering momentum of late...

Television has become so bland in the last decade that it has become impossible to find any of the old classic horror films being screened anywhere, even on the BBC. Years ago, BBC2 would screen regular horror double bills on Saturday nights which featured cult movies from Universal, RKO, Hammer Films and beyond. This writer fondly remembers watching the likes of Cat People, The Pit and the Pendulum and Plague of the Zombies when he should have been fast asleep! My love of older horror movies can be traced back to my experiences watching these movies on the BBC as a youngster – indeed, watching the likes of the Corman/Poe cycle nowadays fills me with an unshakable air of nostalgia and joy, hard to describe to non-horror fans. It would be blissful to tune into double bills of classic horror movies on Saturday evenings during the summer months again.

If you, like me, would like to see these films back on the box, please follow the steps below, and with YOUR help, let's see if we can relive those scary summer nights of late-night Horror Double Bills on British television!! Please sign the petition! You can also Tweet about the campaign by copying and pasting the following text into a tweet: Join us and help us bring CLASSIC HORROR back to British TV. Pls RT thnx!

Please save the banner above to your server and place it on your website or blog and link to this page.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Beyond The Rave

Dir. Matthias Hoene

With the help of his ragtag group of friends, young squaddie Ed must find and win back his girlfriend Jen from the clutches of a mysterious group of hardcore ravers before he flies to Iraq in the morning. When he eventually catches up with her at an all-night rave party in the English countryside, Ed discovers that the weird ravers who are hosting the event, are looking for more than a night of fun and not everyone will make it through to see the light of dawn…

Essentially taking a concept that was touched on very briefly at the beginning of the first Blade movie (a vampire organised rave that turned into a bloodbath as the toothy ones begin to feed on the blood of the revellers), Beyond the Rave was originally an online serial aimed at the iPod generation and sufferers of ADD. Those expecting to see something more ‘traditional’ from Hammer might be disappointed – though the studio must be applauded for its innovation and efforts to engage with savvy Twenty-first century audiences. Made in conjunction with Channel 4 and films, Beyond the Rave is a feisty vampire flick for the Skins generation and continues the latest trend of vamps as hedonistic party animals.

The episodic approach, while probably much more effective if one had been watching the series as it went out online, works against it on DVD, as it is distracting and often lifts the viewer out of the film. Each ‘episode’ has its own souped-up title card and climax, which results in rather uneven pacing until the ‘third act,’ when the tension begins to build and the story at last feels as though it has found its direction and is building towards a climax. An abundance of characters, while great for a serial, also distracts in this ‘film’ cut – too many of them aren’t given much to do, except show up at the rave and fall victim to various vampires – only the core group receive any sort of characterisation. The young cast all slot easily into their roles, and several really stand out, particularly Nora Jane Noone (The Descent) as straight-talking Jen, and Lois Winstone as lovelorn vamp Lilith. Crafty cameos from the likes of Ingrid Pitt and Sadie Frost are a welcome surprise too, particularly in their subtlety.

Technically speaking, the film really punches above its weight – obviously working on limited resources and low budget, it retains a slick and glossy feel that belies its humble production values. The rave scenes in particular are atmospheric and effectively realised, particularly the rather surreal scene in which a vampire aerial artist lowers herself from the ceiling, spider-like, to claim a victim from the doped up/loved up crowd below. At times there are hints of something charmingly old fashioned that doesn’t quite sit well amongst all of the contemporary trimmings; a number of visual throwbacks occur in various forest-based scenes, and real menace is sustained in the scenes featuring a much older male vampire who stalks the teens in the woods; but overall the vintage feel is obliterated amidst the blasting techno beats (selected by dance-music maestro, Pete Tong, innit) and hip ‘street’ lingo.

When Jen encounters Melech on the dance floor, the blaring techno fades and as he sees how much she resembles his long lost love, mournful strings sweep over the soundtrack as they lock eyes and begin to twirl. Shortly after, a line of dialogue spoken by Melech, as he explains the risks of organising and marketing an underground rave, seems to speak directly of Hammer’s own situation, as it tries to claw its way back to the prominence it once held in the film industry throughout the Seventies, and the subsequent expectations audiences have built up throughout the years of its absence. “There’s a tightrope to walk when you’re getting the word out to Joe Public. Bang the drum too early and the world and its wife will appear; but leave it too late, and you’ll find yourself dancing around your handbag all on your own, wondering if you might be getting a little long in the tooth for these sorts of shenanigans.”

The inclusion of a character who is about to be shipped off to fight in Iraq is interesting, though the parallels drawn between war and vampirism feels heavy-handed. Other contemporary social issues such as immigration are touched on in the epilogue, which briefly follows the exploits of a character who became a vampire at the climax of the film. He and his new ‘family' of vampires must stow away onboard a ship, dodging port authorities to ensure their dreams of a new life elsewhere (an island off the coast of Africa is revealed to be where the vampires of the world dwell – leaving only when ‘supplies’ are low) won’t be quashed. A number of parallels are also drawn between vampirism and drug-addiction, but not in the in-your-face-way you might expect.

Beyond the Rave is fun and has its fair share of effective moments, but it is not the sum of its many parts, and it really would have benefitted from a re-edit for DVD release. Those expecting it to herald Hammer’s long awaited big comeback may be disappointed and should probably look to the forthcoming Let Me In to fill that particular expectation…

Meanwhile, here's an exclusive sneak peek at a montage featuring clips of the dark and sexy rave scenes to a hard-hitting rave soundtrack selected by Pete Tong...