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MADMAN (1981) Review by Steve Kirkham

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MADMAN (1981)

3 stars
Arrow Films. Limited Edition 4K UHD. 24th June

Yet another relatively obscure slasher gets a new lease of life on 4K UHD.

The film opens round a campfire at a summer camp for gifted children. Max (Frederick Neumann), the head counsellor, tells a tale of a farmer who “for no apparent reason, went stark raving mad”. Something of an urban legend, and going by the name of Madman Marz, he chopped up his family with an axe – and if you say his name, he will hear you and come for you… Inevitably one of the other staff, Richie (Tom Candela), hollers out his name at the top of his lungs!

Well wouldn’t you know it – before long people are being sliced and diced by the psychotic nutter, in suitably gory manner, even if not always terribly convincing. The makeup fx are at the cheaper end of the scale, which is highlighted by the 4K. But not before the plot is slowed down to take in a gratuitous lovemaking scene in a hot tub, complete with terrible, cheesy song. In between each killing, the rest of the proceedings are a bit lethargic.

Considering how much is shot in dark woods, cinematographer James Lemmo keeps things visible, with the use of a blue tint to add atmosphere. The film looks fine in 4K though some scenes have some scratching on the image. Ultimately it never rises above the obvious, though it’s probably the sort of film that has no doubt gained a cult following over the years. The ending is ambiguous (did they run out of money) and it closes with a silly song – Song of Madman Marz by producer Gary Sales. Is it a long lost classic? Not really, but it is a good solid slasher.

Originally it was going to be based on the New York urban legend of Cropsey – until the filmmakers learned about THE BURNING being made at the same time, so they had rethink. Interestingly, they originally wanted Vincent Price as the titular killer – which I suspect was wishful thinking rather than an actual possibility. The only familiar face in the cast is Gaylen Ross – of DAWN OF THE DEAD fame – though she is credited here as Alexis Dubin.

Steve Kirkham

EXTRAS
4 stars
2 x Audio Commentaries: one with writer/director Joe Ginnane, producer Gary Sales and actors Tony Fish and Paul Ehlers, and one with The Hysteria Continues

Introduction with Sales and Ehlers

A good 2022 interview with star Gaylen Ross taken from Vinegar Syndrome release (19 mins)

The Legend Still Lives! Thirty Years of Madman – an exhaustive feature-length archival documentary with Ehlers, Sales, Harriet Bass, Michael Sullivan, Carl Fredericks (Frederick Neumann) and numerous others involved in the film (91 mins)

Madman: Alive at 35 – Sales, Ehlers and star Tom Candela look back at the making of Madman, 35 years after it was filmed and reuniting Ehlers and Candela who haven’t seen each other for years. From Vinegar Syndrome release (21 mins)

The Early Career of Gary Sales – the Madman producer discusses his career in the film industry (14 mins)

Convention interviews with Sales (3 mins) and Ehlers (5 mins)

Music Inspired by Madman – a selection of songs inspired by the movie, including the track ‘Escape From Hellview’ from former CKY frontman Deron Miller. Rather odd extra – but hey fans will be fans

In Memoriam – producer Sales pays tribute to the some of the film’s late cast and crew, including director Giannone and actor Tony Fish (5 mins)

The usual Original theatrical trailer and TV spots

Stills & artwork gallery with commentary by Sales

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin and Collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by critic James Oliver, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

THE SACRAMENT (2013). Review by Steve Kirkham

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THE SACRAMENT (2013)

4 stars
Second Sight. Limited Edition and Standard Edition Blu Ray

I have always found Ti West’s work a bit hit and miss with films like THE ROOST (2005) and THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009) only so-so in my estimation – though his latest offerings X and PEARL (both 2022) were excellent and I am looking forward to MAXXXINE. So it was interesting to visit this film from 2013 which I hadn’t previously seen.

The movie opens with a screen setting the film up and explaining about VICE – the news, arts and culture online outlet that’s is known for covering the more controversial stories of the day. Sam Turner (A J Bowers) is a correspondent for the service and he is hooking up with freelance photographer Patrick Carter (Kentucker Audley), whose sister Caroline (Aimee Seimitz), who has always struggled with drug addiction, has mysteriously upped sticks from New York and moved to a sober-living community in rural Mississippi. Patrick has then received an odd letter (remember those?), with a phone number. This led him to a man who informed him his sister had left the country with her new friends. It also told him where to fly to, where a helicopter would be waiting to travel the rest of the way, to where is now living. Sounds like the basis of a possible story for the multimedia company so Sam persuades him to let himself and another VICE member, cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg) to tag along and investigate.

So they set off to find it what has really happened to Caroline and what this Christian community called Eden Parish is all about… of course what they find and the picture that is initially painted is not all it seems to be. It is run by Father (a compelling and creepy performance by Gene Jones), who controls the place with a tight grip and even has men dotted about with guns… why, if it is such a great place to live?

Believably acted, it doesn’t take long to realise this is a modern retelling of a certain famous cult massacre, with a growing sense of dread as it moves inexorably to the conclusion we know is coming. This is really well done and whilst you know where it is going it is no less shocking and effective when it gets there. Sold ostensibly as a horror film this is actually a slow burn drama which is more a study of how people can be swept up in a cult and how one man can have such a powerful sway on what a whole group will do.

Whilst this could be included in the found footage oeuvre, it is well shot as Jake is supposed to be a professional – he even has a tripod; it does begin in that style but by the end there is cross cutting between cameras and this is more like a pseudo-documentary. Shot in Savannah, Georgia, but supposedly set in some far off country, this keeps you gripped from the outset and has an intelligent script by West who helms the film with a sure hand. The score by Tyler Bates is worthy of note as is Eric Robbins cinematography.

Steve Kirkham

EXTRAS
3 stars

New interviews with Actor AJ Bowen (30 mins); Actor Joe Swanberg (10 mins); Actor Amy Seimetz (14 mins); Actor Gene Jones (13 mins) and with Producer Peter Phok (25 mins)

Truthiness: a 10 minute video essay with Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on The Sacrament. I always find these a bit pretentious

An interesting making of The Sacrament (59 mins)

Limited Edition also gets Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Chris Malbon; 70-page book with new essays by Anton Bitel, Kat Hughes, Rich Johnson and Beth Kelly; 6 collectors’ art cards

GONJIAM: HAUNTED ASYLUM (2018) Review by Steve Kirkham

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GONJIAM: HAUNTED ASYLUM (2018)

3 stars
Second Sight. Limited Edition and Standard Edition Blu Ray

Looking to build the audience for their web series Horror Times, the creators of this online show decide they are going to visit one of the three most haunted houses in Korea – which is listed online as one of the 7 freakiest places on Earth (this is actually true). The location is Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital, closed in 1979, following the mass suicide of the patients and the disappearance of it’s director. There are lots of rumours about the abandoned buildings – with reports of ghosts and odd noises… and don’t go into Room 402, a locked room in the asylum. Whoever opens it is cursed to die. Best leave that alone then!

With a crew of 3 guys from the series going to investigate, they also recruit several others from their audience to accompany them – 3 girls and a chap. We have Ha-Joon as the producer/director of the channel. Then we have the 3 young men – Sung-Hoon, Seung-Wook and Je-Yoon and the 3 ladies – Ah-Yeon, Ji Hyun all of whom use the names of the actors (for added believability?) and Charlotte (Moon Ye-Won) who clearly decided to not follow the pack. Despite spending quite a bit of time with them at the start of the film they soon become interchangeable.

This is one of those found footage escapades, but unlike many of them this at least has people that know how to hold a camera steady – most of the time. They setup remote feeds inside the asylum, each have Go-Pro’s, plus there are professional video cameras – so unlike many of this type of movie from this sub-genre most of the footage, which is supposed to be a live stream, doesn’t give you a migraine from all the bobbing about, though there is some shakycam as things progress.

Whilst this is a HD Blu Ray presentation, the footage inevitably varies in quality, due to the very nature of shooting on various different cameras. It’s all kind of familiar territory, and we know how this will play out, though it is effectively done within the parameters of the found footage style and there aren’t too many occasions where it crosses the line into the “why are you still filming” scenario. Whilst I am no big fan of this type of movie this is better than most.

Steve Kirkham

EXTRAS
4 stars

New audio commentary by horror journalist Mary Beth McAndrews and film critic Terry Mesnard

Fear the Unknown: Horror critic Zoë Rose Smith video essay on Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (22 mins)

Archive featuerettes:
The Beginning of the Rumours – talking heads short with Director Jun Bum-shik, Director of photography Yoon Jong-Ho and Art Director Jung Sung (4 mins)

The New Faces – about casting the film and audition footage (6 mins)

The Sanctum of Horror – about the location used and the sets (10 mins)

The Truth of the Ghostlore – about creating the ghosts for the film (7 mins)

The Live Recording – looking at how the film was shot (12 mins)

The Press Conference (15 mins)

Trailers

Limited Edition you also get: Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Luke Headland/70-page book with new essays by Sarah Appleton James Marsh, Meagan Navarro and Amber T/6 collectors’ art cards

THE EXORCISM (2024) Review by Steve Kirkham

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THE EXORCISM (2024)

3 stars
Vertigo Releasing. U.K. and Ireland Cinemas. 21st June

The film opens with an actor practicing his lines as he walks through the impressive, multi level set of the horror movie he is working on. Electricity sparks. Loud noises. Lights go out. “Please help my daughter” a voice sobs… and he is killed by what may or may not be supernatural forces.

This tragedy gives recovering alcoholic thespian Anthony Miller (well acted by Russell Crowe) an opportunity to claw back his career after several years ‘out of the loop’. He gets the part as the priest who is performing an exorcism in a film called The Georgetown Project (which is clearly meant to be a remake of a certain very famous horror movie set in that Washington DC neighbourhood – and if you don’t know what I am referring to then hand in your “horror fan” badge immediately). He is joined on set, as his assistant, by his wayward daughter Lee (Ryan Simpkins) who has been expelled from school.

Cajoled, to get a better performance, by the a-hole director Peter (Adam Goldberg), to revisit past trauma – from when he was a Catholic altar boy – it soon seems that Anthony might be slipping back to his old ways. Or are unknown forces at play?

Of course odd things start to happen, this is the set of a possession film after all, and there is even explicit reference to the “messed up shit” that happened on movies like THE OMEN (1976), THE EXORCIST (1973) and POLTERGEIST (1982).

Is something sinister happening or is it just an actor having a breakdown? This starts like a psychological horror, however in the last third it does go full on crazy – subtle it ain’t! Hamstrung by the fact it is riffing on what is considered a stone classic it does go for broke in the finale.

Having played an actual exorcist in last year’s often silly THE POPE’S EXORCIST, Crowe is excellent in capturing the mental struggles presented from playing the priest here – it’s a shame the film around him isn’t better.

Interestingly it’s directed by Joshua John Miller, who is the son of Jason Miller, who famously played Father Karras in THE EXORCIST. Tellingly this has been sitting on the shelf since 2019. It is atmospherically shot by Simon Duggan, though it does seem that none of the cast have the ability to turn on a light as everything is dark and gloomy. Whilst it starts off more as a character study, it does rely too much on the loud noise jump scare to try and jolt you out of your seat. Having said that it is kind of trashy fun by the end. David Hyde Pierce is notable as Father Conor, playing the on-set advisor.

Steve Kirkham

YOU’RE ALL GONNA DIE (2023) Review by Steve Kirkham

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YOU’RE ALL GONNA DIE (2023)

2 stars
Scatena & Rosner Films. Digital

For some reason the onscreen title drops the apostrophe from YOU’RE ALL GONNA DIE… which is probably indicative of the care taken by writer/director Dominic Ross with this poor killer on the loose chiller.

A group of social justice warriors (well at least that’s what the press releases calls them) lead by Ana (Jacquie Cardinale), believe the man being blamed for a series of highway killings is actually the wrong man. After appearing on a TV show to express their theory, they decide to head out to an abandoned summer camp, where one of the victims was found.

In the best horror tradition when you think there is crazed murderer chopping and lopping, they separate to search the area… which is always a good move. Not. What a surprise when they start being killed off one by one by the real serial killer. Colour me shocked!

‘Sometimes you have to kill the monster’ is an oft repeated line by various characters – and with the title YOU’RE ALL GONNA DIE, you expect it to do what it says on the tin. Which for the most part it does (just not very well) – we get the ubiquitous masked killer wearing a hoodie and being an equal opportunities murderer he uses a knife, a hammer, even a shotgun to kill his victims. You know whatever is to hand.

As Ana tries to stay alive and escape we get her back story being filled in to try and give some psychology to her survival instinct and make connections to her past.

The film fails to offer anything new in the serial killer stakes and is narratively all over the shop with seemingly unrelated scenes popping up and a main character who makes poor decisions (but don’t they always). Though she is in good company with her friends, who also don’t seem to have many brain cells, she just manages to stay alive longer than them. Strictly for undemanding fans of ‘killer on the loose killing everyone’ movies.

The killer is credited as The Monster and is played by Richard Tyson, amongst a cast of unknowns. Lori Petty (Tank Girl) appears as Ana’s mum.

THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW – The Horror Films of Pete Walker Reviewed by Steve Kirkham

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THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW – The Horror Films of Pete Walker

4 stars
88 Films. Deluxe Collector’s Edition Blu ray Box Set. Limited to 3000 Units. Out Now

First off kudos the guys at 88 Films for finally getting this delayed box set out the door – with it’s numerous extras including commentaries and interviews. A worthy exploration of the work of the sometimes controversial director Pete Walker – who comes across as an affable chap in the interviews presented here, who went out of his way to stir things up, often with the help of writer David McGillivray.

All the films look good for the most part, with some exhibiting raised levels of grain in the darker sequence – several are encoded from new 2K remasters from the original negs with the balance drawn from restored HD masters.

Alongside the numerous extras shown below you also get a rigid slipcase to house the blu-ray cases with artwork by Sean Longmore – this fabulous new artwork is also used on the menu designs; 56 Page Perfect Bound book featuring essays by Simon Sheridan, Barry Forshaw and Jon Towlson; 8 Collectible Original Artwork Postcards; 2 Pairs of 3D anaglyphic glasses for use on The Flesh and Blood Show sequence.

DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE (1971)
First up is this rather lacklustre affair starring sexy Susan George as go go dancer Marianne in the Algarve, Portugal, who is on the run from someone and is picked up and rescued by slimy Sebastian (Christopher Sanford) who takes her back to London. When he suddenly proposes marriage, she realises he is a bit of wrong ‘un and tells the registrar that she has actually married the best man Eli (Barry Evans). She is right to be suspicious as Sebastian is working for her nefarious father, who goes by the name The Judge (Leo Genn).

The convoluted script by Murray Smith is basically about a large inheritance that Marianne is due to get when she turns 21 and her father and equally evil sister Hildegard (Judy Huxtable) wanting to get their hands on the money. There is a hint of an incestuous relationship between The Judge and Hildegard but she will use her womanly wiles in any way to meet their needs and get the number to the bank account!

Despite the presence of Susan George, this is all rather dull and talky, even with the mini skirts and cravats on show. Best thing here – which Walker acknowledges in one of the interviews is often highlighted in reviews – is the opening groovy credits with George having a boogie in a bikini to Cyril Ornadel’s catchy music. This is not a horror film and honestly is barely a thriller.

Some shots in the film appear to be from a lower grade source.

THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW (1972)
The film opens with blood running down the rusty struts of a seaside pier during the credits (there is a hair in the bottom of the shot – as per the original?). A young group of thespians are brought together to try and put a show together via improvisation. They set themselves up in the theatre at the end of a pier in a small seaside town and decide to sleep there, as they have no money. Cue naked and scantily clad young ladies and sexual shenanigans! Soon they are being killed off by an unknown assailant – a gloved killer. A British giallo? If only…

Supposedly inspired by Agatha Christies’ Ten Little Indians, this is more a mystery thriller whodunnit than an out and out horror, with a good looking cast of familiar faces – Ray Brooks, Jenny Hanley, Luan Peters, Robin Askwith, Judy Matheson and even Jess Conrad.

The whole thing is rather British, with the cast sitting around chatting and having cups of tea, and was Walker’s first step into actual horror – though his past in sexploitation movies is evident. Jenny Hanley, however, refused to partake in the nudity – so Pete Walker just used a body double, who was rather better endowed than she was! Brooks and Hanley are good in their roles. The twist at the end is fairly easy to guess.

The film is presented here in both it’s flat version and also as an anaglyphic 3D version with one sequence playing in stereoscopic vision. The film looks okay if not outstanding, with some shots soft and even out of focus (though this is probably as per the film as shot).

External scenes were shot at Cromer Pier with the internals of the theatre in the old Palace Pier Theatre in Brighton.

HOUSE OF WHIPCORD (1974)
Now we get to the meat of this set – with Walker starting his censor-baiting horrors.

At a swinging party (where writer David McGillivray pops up in one of his numerous cameos), young French model Anne-Marie (Penny Irving, not terribly convincing) falls for the charms of one Mark E Desade (Robert Tayman – Count Mitterehaus in Hammer’s VAMPIRE CIRCUS). Now what does that name sound like… let me think?

She accepts an invite to go away for the weekend to meet his Mum, a decision she is going to regret. She soon realises that when they arrive at the house, it is a prison, not a hotel. This “proper house of correction” is run by the nasty Mrs Wakehurst (Barbara Markham) and her husband Justice Bailey (Patrick Barr), who has dementia. It is a place where they can mete out their own form of justice on wayward women, who they believe have not received the appropriate sentence for their crimes.

They are assisted by the amusingly named Walker (Sheila Keith) and Bates (Dorothy Gordon) who guard over the girls in their charge and use whips to keep them in line.

This was the introduction of Sheila Keith into the Walker “universe” and she is memorable here as the uncompromising warden. Director Walker and scriptwriter McGillivray have crafted an often brutal “women in prison” thriller whilst taking a jab at those who think the lax morality of the day should be punished appropriately.

Also known as Stag Model Slaughter/The Photographer’s Models

FRIGHTMARE (1974)
Having played a secondary role in HOUSE OF WHIPCORD we now have the splendid Sheila Keith to the fore in FRIGHTMARE – front and centre on the original poster images brandishing a bloodied drill!

Having been freed after 15 years in a mental asylum for disturbing crimes, Dorothy Yates (Keith) and her husband Edmund (Rupert Davies) are considered rehabilitated and able to be released into society… which of course we know is a big mistake!

Their daughter Jackie (Deborah Fairfax) makes frequent visits to the couple at their isolated farmhouse, whilst also trying to keep her 15 year old wild sister Debbie (Kim Butcher) under control. Before long things start to go awry in bloody ways…

This is one of Walker’s best horrors, encompassing cannibalism, aided by Keith, who is great as the seemingly peaceful old lady – effortlessly switching to a demented psycho when needed.

Also known as Brainsuckers/Cover Up/Once Upon a Frightmare

HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN (1976)
Jenny Welch (Susan Penhaligon) meets an old friend, Bernard Cutler (Norman Eshley), when he nearly knocks her over! He is now a priest – she confides in him that she is having man trouble and he offers to be a listening ear if she needs it.

Returning to her flat, above the shop her sister Vanessa (Stephanie Beacham) owns, she finds her boyfriend moving out. Upset, she goes to the Catholic church where Bernard is, but not finding him there she goes into the confessional and speaks with Father Meldrum (Anthony Sharp) and ends up admitting she had an abortion. Well you would wouldn’t you. Unbeknownst to her he has taped her confession and is soon stalking her and killing those around her.

Another of Walker’s films where the antagonist thinks they are taking the higher moral ground and punishing those that have done something wrong – in their own twisted sense of justice. “I was put on this Earth to combat sin” declares Father Meldrum.

Once again Sheila Keith pops up as a nasty character – Miss Brabazon – this time out sporting a pair of glasses with one of the lens blacked out. Very odd.

The cast is strong and Walker is trying to court controversy with the depiction of a wayward and insane Catholic priest.

The part of the pathological priest was originally offered to Peter Cushing.

Also known as The Confessional/The Confessional Murders

SCHIZO (1976)
The opening narration helpfully explains schizophrenia or multiple/split personality… just in case you had no idea.

An older man William Haskins (Jack Watson) is upset when he see the headline ‘Ice Queen to Wed’ in the newspaper with a picture of Samantha (Lynne Frederick). So much so, he packs a suitcase, including a machete and a piece of jagged glass, and heads to London. Whilst on the train he is plagued by violent visions.

She is soon being stalked and harassed by him – he appears to know her but calls her Jean. How is he connected to her past? It takes a while but eventually people around her start to be bloodily killed by a black gloved killer… is it Haskins?

Lovely Lynne Frederick is good in her biggest starring role – she was, of course, famously married to Peter Sellers and tragically died far too young at the age of 39.

The poster declared “When the left hand doesn’t know who the right hand is killing”… though you probably won’t have too much trouble guessing who the murderer is. As it is this is a well made horror thriller with a nicely creepy seance sequence.

THE COMEBACK (1978)
In a massive stretch, crooner Jack Jones plays singer Nick Cooper in the final film in this set. The film opens with Nick’s ex-wife Gail visiting his penthouse apartment, which is in a creepy warehouse, and being attacked and bloodily killed by a maniac with a scythe, wearing an old woman mask with a shock of white hair.

He has flown over from the States to England to record a new album after several years of inactivity. His manager Webster Jones (David Doyle) sends Linda Everett (Pamela Stephenson) to meet Nick at the airport – of course, before long they are romantically involved.

Nick heads to a remote large house (shot at Foxwarren Park Mansion) for peace and quiet and to write new songs. He is greeted by housekeeper Mrs B (Sheila Keith with a Scottish accent), who runs the house with her husband Mr B (Bill Owen), who tends the grounds.

He is soon hearing odd noises, a crying woman, a scream and is also plagued by nightmarish visions – real or imagined?

After the gory opener, the film takes ages for anything similar to happen – though it keeps cutting back to Gail’s body as it decomposes! Eventually someone else associated with Nick is killed… but who is the killer and why are they are carrying out these murders?

Jones is okay in the lead, and the film ambles along with bursts of violence. This is entertaining enough as a sort of Brit slasher and you may not guess who the person in the mask is. Keith is her usual reliable self as the slightly creepy caretaker.

Also known as The Day the Screaming Stopped/Encore

EXTRAS 4 stars

DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE: Brand New 2K remaster from original neg; 2 audio commentaries – one with film critic Samm Deighan and a 2006 one with Pete Walker and Jonathan Rigby; Interview with Walker talking about horror films, his films and the censor (6 mins); Cinematographer Norman Langley on the film (12 mins); Trailer

THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW: Audio commentary with Jonathan Rigby and Kevin Lyons; A three minute interview with actor Stewart Bevin; Interview with 3rd Assistant Director Terry Madden (9 mins); Trailer; Radio Spot

HOUSE OF WHIPCORD: Brand New 2K remaster from original neg; 2 audio commentaries – one with Kim Newman, Barry Forshaw and David McGillivray and a 2006 one with Pete Walker, Director of Photography Peter Jessop and moderated by Steven Chibnall; Courting Controversy: An Insider’s View of the Films of Pete Walker – this is probably the best extra on this set. A talking heads documentary directed by Jake West and put together by Nucleus, this is an excellent overview of Walker’s films with contributions from Walker and McGillivray plus Susan Penhaligon (or Sneaky Penhooligan as Walker called her), Peter Jessop and Paul Greenwood. This was made in 2004 and has been updated with upgraded clips (36 mins); House of Walker: a fascinating interview with Walker about creating the film. Directed by Simon Sheridan (11 mins); Return to the House of Whipcord: all about the disused jail in Littledean, Gloucestershire where the film was shot. The current owner Andy Jones has turned it into a museum, not just covering the film, but a stuffed to the gills exhibition space – the “Crime Through Time Collection”. Not a place to visit if you are of a sensitive nature. Directed by Simon Sheridan (11 mins); Sheila Keith: A Nice Old Lady? – Archive 13 minute talking heads about the actress. Directed by Jake West in 2005 with upgraded clips; Trailer

FRIGHTMARE: Audio commentary with Kim Newman, Barry Forshaw and David McGillivray; Audio commentary with horror experts Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth; Audio commentary from 2006 with Pete Walker, Director of Photography Peter Jessop and moderated by Steven Chibnall; Interview with Editor Robert Dearberg recorded in 2015 and directed by James McCabe (7 mins); Trailer

HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN: Brand New 2K remaster from original neg; 3 audio commentaries – one with Kim Newman, Barry Forshaw and David McGillivray, one with film critic Samm Deighan and a 2006 one with Pete Walker and Jonathan Rigby; Symphony of Horror: Interview with Walker about the music in his films “to create atmosphere… or cover up faults”. Talks about Harry South who did his earlier sex films, Cyril Ornadel, who not only wrote music for his movies but was musical director at the London Palladium and on to Stanley Myers and the horrors. Directed by Simon Sheridan (7 mins); Interviews with actors Norman Eshley and Stewart Bevan. Directed by James McCabe and shot in 2018/19 (14 mins)

SCHIZO: Audio commentary with Kim Newman, Barry Forshaw and David McGillivray; Ask Mr Walker – this was a fun extra with question submitted by friends and fans which Walker seemed to enjoy taking part in. Directed by Simon Sheridan (12 mins)

THE COMEBACK: 2 audio commentaries – one with Kim Newman, Barry Forshaw and David McGillivray and a 2006 one with Pete Walker and Jonathan Rigby; Walker’s Women: Walker talking about the numerous females he cast in his films – Susan George, Judy Matheson, Stephanie Beacham, Susan Penhaligon, Lynne Frederick, Pamela Stephenson and of course, Sheila Keith. Directed by Simon Sheridan (11 mins); Making Of: A somewhat cursory look at the making of the film with Peter Sinclair (Camera Op) and Denis Johnson Jr (Production Manager). Directed by James McCabe (7 mins); Trailer

Steve Kirkham

SORCERY (2023). Review by Steve Kirkham

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SORCERY (2023)

3 stars
Sovereign. UK Cinemas. Out Now

SORCERY is based on a true story and set on the remote island of Chiloé, Chile in the late 19th century.

13 year old Rosa (Valentina Véliz Caileo) works in the household of a Christian family from Germany who have settled, like many others, in her country. One morning she notices all the sheep in the field outside the house are either dead or dying. When she fetches her father, who also works for them, he is blamed for the tragedy. Stefan (Sebastian Hülk), the owner, sets their vicious dogs on him, mauling him to death whilst holding back the young girl to witness the savage attack.

Rosa is understandably distraught and upset – though she sees herself as a Christian, like the family she works for, she is rejected by the mother Agnes (Annick Durán) and turns to her own people, and their ways, to try and find a path to vengeance. When the local mayor and the church offer no remedy, Rosa ends up at the house of local fisherman Mateo (Daniel Antivilo) and is soon drawn into the mystical beliefs of her community and the use of witchcraft as a means for revenge for the death of her father. As she begins to delve into the ancient ways, odd things start to happen – but it all remains rather ambiguous. Can they, for instance, turn people into canines? It’s never clear (though this is probably on purpose).

This is a slowburn folk horror, tinged with fantasy, with art house sensibilities. Beautifully shot by María Secco, in a palette of greys, browns and greens (and often in driving rain) this explores the traditions and beliefs of the indigenous natives and how being colonised has affected their way of life. Caileo is good in her screen debut, capturing the sorrow of her situation in her face. Despite some striking, often haunting imagery along the way, the script is too drawn out and fails to fully engage, lacking focus and narrative drive and leads to an unsatisfying conclusion.

This is in cinemas – though I suspect it won’t be playing at your local Odeon or Cineworld.

Steve Kirkham

MUTE WITNESS (1995). Review by Steve Kirkham

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MUTE WITNESS (1995)

4 stars
Arrow Video. Limited edition 4K UHD and Limited Edition Blu ray. Out Now

I really enjoyed this cracking little Hitchcockian thriller with horror overtones that I have to admit had previously passed me by. Now thanks to Arrow you can check it out on a great, fully restored 4K UHD release – even if the image is sometimes rather grainy, probably due to the low budget nature of the production.

The story takes place on the set of a US horror/slasher film being shot in a studio in Moscow. It opens with an over the top, almost laughable sequence – which you quickly realise is part of the movie being shot. Billy Hughes (Marina Sudina) is a mute make up fx artist who, one night, finds herself locked in the building. Then she witnesses something she shouldn’t have and must try and escape. Of course, being unable to speak, makes it rather difficult to call for help! How will she get away? Interestingly, at the time, actress Sudina didn’t speak English – which clearly didn’t matter.

This is a well made, gripping shocker directed by Anthony Waller, who also wrote the well constructed script, which draws you in and keeps you tense. The production makes good use of a mostly single location, with the studio offering ample places to try and hide or run away. Whilst the whole thing isn’t massively original, what it does do it does well – there’s a great sequence as the killers try and break into Billy’s flat.

Fay Ripley appears in an early role as Billy’s sister and there is a bizarre cameo appearance from Alec Guinness. Why bizarre? Because the director actually shot his small part some ten years previously in a Hamburg underground car park – making this Sir Alec’s final theatrical role! In the credits he is listed as Mystery Guest Star.

Since this debut Brit Waller hasn’t made much to equal this – he wrote and directed AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS (1997) and recently made the entertainingly terrible PIPER, starring Liz Hurley.

Steve Kirkham

EXTRAS
4 stars

New audio commentary by writer/director Anthony Waller
New audio commentary with production designer Matthias Kammermeier and composer Wilbert Hirsch, moderated by critic Lee Gambin
The Silent Death – visual essay by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, examining Mute Witness and snuff films (11 mins)
The Wizard Behind the Curtain – visual essay by author and critic Chris Alexander, exploring the phenomenon of the film-within-a-film and Mute Witness (23 mins)
“Snuff Movie” – fascinating presentation, created to generate interest from investors/distributors when the film was called “Snuff Movie” (25 mins)
Original location scouting footage – scout in Boston, Massachusetts, before the film moved to Moscow to shoot – basically 7 minutes of random abandoned buildings!
Original raw footage with Alec Guinness, filmed a decade prior to the rest of Mute Witness (2 mins)
Teaser trailer
Trailer
Image gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais
Double-sided foldout poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais
Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michelle Kisner

THE HOLY VIRGIN VS THE EVIL DEAD (1991) Review by Steve Kirkham

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THE HOLY VIRGIN VS THE EVIL DEAD (1991)

4 stars
88 Films. Blu ray. Out Now

Dr. Sheung (a young Donnie Yen) is having fun round a fire pit with a bunch of his female students. Suddenly the moon goes red. Lanterns burst into flames. A mad crazy vampiric man, the Moon Monster (Sonny Chang) attacks out of nowhere. Knocked unconscious in the onslaught, he awakens to find everyone dead. Of course the cops don’t believe him and he becomes suspect number one. Two cops, Inspector Chun (Ben Lam) and the rather highly strung Sgt. Hu (Sibelle Hu) are given the case.

Chow Yun Fat (played by Robert Mak/Te-Lo Mai and presumably named after a certain famous actor) is a private eye friend of Sheung’s and bails him out – assuring him he will help to find out what happened.

The green glowing-eyed monster strikes again – this time a couple making out in a car. The boyfriend is killed and she is sacrificed at a weird shrine featuring a female deity with a moustache. What’s going on? It’s not entirely clear to be honest.

It’s all to do with some ancient tribe in Chenla (now Cambodia) and the goddess that came down from the red moon – course it is! Each year this divine being demands three women to be found to serve her.

This is one of those movies where it is best not to try and make too much sense of the plot and just go with it – the monster attacks, flying through the air, is impervious to bullets, a good kicking and even being electrocuted doesn’t kill it! You get krazy kung fu, cheesy effects and a bonkers script that has a plot that almost makes sense – what’s not to like!

Overall this is a fun watch that throws everything but the kitchen sink into the mix.

The disc looks good for the most part with some darker scenes exhibiting higher levels of grain. The film is presented in two versions – the better looking of the two is the Category II, whereas the Category III, which features nudity and some violence, is a cut together with the additional alternate scenes drawn from a standard definition source with burnt in subs.

Steve Kirkham

EXTRAS
2 stars
Interview with scriptwriter/assistant director/actor Lee Ho-Kwan (28 mins)

Interview with actor Robert Mak (15 mins)

NEW LIFE (2023) Review by Steve Kirkham

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NEW LIFE (2023)

4 stars
Vertigo Releasing. Digital Download 3rd June

A desperate woman, Jessie (Hayley Erin), breathing heavily, bloodied face, seemingly afraid of something. She enters a house which she appears to be familiar with, using the key under a pot in the front. The house of her boyfriend? She washes up, revealing a black eye, and finds a change of clothes. She also finds an engagement ring hidden in a sock. No time to dwell on it as armed men have entered and she must carrying on running away – but from what or who?

We then meet Elsa Gray (Sonya Walger) who has a gun, affirmations on her window and a daily pill box with medication which she takes with resignation. She is exhibiting the early signs of what we later learn is the motor neuron disease ALS, which she is trying to keep secret as it will affect her job.

She works for some kind of clandestine organisation. A contract has come in which is already ‘spiralling out of control’ and they need their finest operative on the case, as the subject is en route to the border – ‘we can’t let her cross’ she is told. An operation swings into action to find Jessie with a back room tech team to try and find her – with Elsa out in the field in pursuit.

Meanwhile Jessie is trying to make her escape, hiding in the back of a pick-up truck, bedding down in a barn… with flashbacks to her crying in an empty dingy room. Caught stealing soup from an outhouse on a farm, instead of calling the police, the old couple that own the property take pity on her and help Jessie in her bid to get to the border.

But why has Elsa been given mission – has she been hired as she is the best or for darker reasons. What is happening with Jessie, why is she on the run? Are the two women connected in some way? Flashbacks begin to fill in the back story and build the mystery. Terrible things start to happen around Jessica – which I won’t reveal here. The script drip feeds revelations which gradually show what is really going on.

This is an efficiently told thriller with horror overtones – as things progress and more is revealed the story heads towards the inevitable finale with enough horror along the way to keep you gripped. Told in under 90 minutes, this is the directorial debut of John Rosman who also wrote the engaging, compelling script which has added resonance since Covid.