Monster Bites - Signal of Distress


So this is a weird one, or a weird pairing at least. Of course it's clear that these are the only two films from the Millennium Godzilla series that fit together as one whole story. On the other hand they feel like the same movie being made twice. It's fun that they exist in a world in which the 1954 film events exist alongside various other Toho monsters. But then several characters established in the first story are jettisoned for the second resulting in a weird disconnect, making the goals of this combined narrative feel a little confused. I guess this sort of repeating cycle is to be expected with the studio still using the '60s and '70s for it's inspiration rather than introducing any original monsters.

Horror Bites - Brain Storm


This is certainly another case where the crazy name can't possibly live up to the film it's headlining, but as 1950s B-movies go this isn't too bad overall. Even the title card is super dramatic with exaggerated lighting bolt letters on the screen, desperately trying to sell the electrifying premise. But how to actually describe this? There's more than one fiend for a start, if you can describe them as such. I guess I'll just say it, since for better or worse this one sits under the dubious category of ... killer brain stories. Even within this decade of genre movies where scientific experiments often run amok, it's pretty silly. But that's okay too.

Review Roundup - California Dreamin'


Quentin Tarantino's films generally fall into a few specific categories whether they're crime thrillers or Westerns, but his latest effort feels broader and less self contained. For better or worse this is an everything but the kitchen sink style effort, it's long and meandering, it's part comedy and part fiction meets period recreation. There may be some through-lines about washed up actors and real life celebrities at the end of an era but it's more of a patchwork of vignettes than any sort of lean narrative. Which means while his previous efforts may have felt loose and in need of a more ruthless editor this is by far his most sprawling tale. But how much of this really matters in terms of the overall entertainment factor is debatable.



FILM OF THE MONTH Escape From New York ☆☆☆☆

HCF Review - Warriors of the Wind


If you like a mixture of Sherlock style detective work and effects fuelled wuxia action, then this is probably the series for you. Despite the ‘young’ part of the title being dropped this is actually a second prequel to the original Detective Dee adventure which means Mark Chao is back in place of the original version of the character portrayed by Andy Lau. But the title isn’t the strongest lead into this tale of magical assassins, a mystical weapons and mind control. The ‘Four Kings’ aren’t really part of the story at all, and feature as a backdrop during one brief action sequence.


HCF Review - Back to Reality


Those looking for something a little different from the usual comic book movie fare look no further. This adaptation of Joe Kelly’s 2008 coming of age drama might still contain the kinds of magic spells, giant hammers and monolithic creatures you’re expecting, but make no mistake this is a far more grounded and melancholy tale. It does still boast a few intricate visual effects moments, however despite the mentions of Harry Potter producers as an advertising hook this isn’t another family friendly romp. While the movie does contain both fantasy spectacle sequences and a positive message for younger viewers, this is a harsh real life drama first and a monster slaying escapist fantasy second.


HCF Review - Dimension Jump


There we were… now here we are. After a few short years the entirety of Bruce and Sam’s return to the world of deadite decapitations and gushing blood geysers has come to an end once more. For a while it felt like everything was new again. Well as much as it can do for a show that went back to the past and dug up a few old favourites once last time. But ultimately after three fun seasons it’s somehow ended up the way things were in 1992… a post apocalypse finale that nobody wants to follow up on.




FILM OF THE MONTH The Matrix ☆☆☆☆

Review Roundup - Mimic


There's a lot to be said for franchise fatigue a decade into the Marvel Studios film run. Films that seem to have the same tone, the same visual effects and the same cinematography can be... exhausting. But since many of them are at least above average I can often let it slide. There's a lot to be said for simple and effective hero's journey style adventures; stories that are often both fun and satisfying to watch. But what happens when structure is lacking and the pacing leaves a lot to be desired? Unfortunately in what should have been a heightened cosmic adventure this instalment often feels flat and incredibly bland, settling for dry deserts and grey concrete instead of having otherworldly aspirations.

Monster Bits - Gas Panic


If there are any recurring ideas in the classic Ishiro Honda back catalogue, it's that he loves to mix crime thrillers with science fiction. Whether it's Godzilla movies that use assassins like Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster or the jewellery heist meets creature feature Dogora, this sort of mix and match approach appears fairly often. He might enjoy international co-operation and relatable human struggles, but there are also a lot of crooks with sunglasses. This is a prime example of these two worlds colliding as a man subject to a shady experiment becomes an unstoppable bank robbing murderer called 'the gas-man'. It might be a well worn idea but it's execution is very solid.

HCF Review - The Orphanage


Time for some more weird super ’70s stuff courtesy of Arrow’s American Horror Project, a series in which a variety of strange and obscure features have been curated for your viewing pleasure. In this instalment I’ll be covering the sinister fantasies of an orphaned girl with Dream No Evil. Perhaps not the most original idea ever to be put into a screenplay, but an adequate starting place for plenty of odd goings on. I suppose the inclusion of a travelling faith healer and a lot of bizarre moments along the way help. If only the rest of the plot wasn’t so very familiar, even before an intrusive narrator spells out every plot twist ahead of time…


HCF Review - The Net


The internet, like most aspects of computer technology, is always a problem for film makers in one way or another. Whether it’s the hardware itself being laughable or online services looking more like those obnoxious ‘you wouldn’t steal a car’ DVD warnings they rarely resemble real life. So while a corporate thriller depicting a business trading in adult entertainment might seem edgy and modern, there’s always a kind of artificial and dated vibe to the whole story. Still, leaving aside questions about how these increasingly fantastic websites actual operate this is a fairly engaging story about cut throat executives vying for authority. At least until its sense of reality starts to crumble elsewhere in the narrative.




FILM OF THE MONTH: Carry on Screaming ☆☆☆☆

Horror Bites - Stone Cold


Part of the 2nd Great Cinematic Catharsis Hammer-Amicus Blogathon

After watching so many of these releases from Hammer over the years I've never really stopped to think why so many of them are set in a vaguely Victorian time period. Their attempts at depicting actual history and those films set in the modern day not withstanding of course. I guess it's just visual shorthand for spooky goings on and it probably saves money. Gothic scenery and fancy threads are always nice to see, don't get me wrong I'm not complaining. But this is a story about Greek mythology right? At least on the surface. Maybe a more ancient location would have made it stand out from the crowd, after all the studio had a hand in making at least a few fantasy films.

Monster Bites - ゴジラ


So I guess it goes without saying, but the original Godzilla is a wholly different beast from anything that came before or after. As someone who usually writes about his later adventures and the many other science fiction films from Toho in the 1960s, it's a viewing experience like no other. Even knowing what's to come on a re-watch it's never an entertaining film in the usual sense. It remains a down beat shock to the system after so many films about giant sea monsters versus giant space aliens, and even without looking at the tragedy of the Lucky Dragon No.5 there's something sombre about the whole film. It might resemble The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, but it never feels the same for a variety of reasons.

Review Roundup - Sound and Fury


So here we are another year, another attempt to further a cinematic universe. And yet another attempt by Hollywood to make a Godzilla film. Things seemed to be on the right track when Kong: Skull Island injecting a much improved boost of visual clarity and style to the proceedings, and despite some dud performances it had a lot of character in all the other places that mattered. By combing the sense of scale brought to table by Gareth Edwards with the kind of monster mayhem Jordan Vogt-Roberts confidently delivered, surely this had to be a winner? Well there are certainly more creatures in the roster, but whether any of it comes together to be compelling is another question.

Review Roundup - Z-Day


There are a lot of dubious movies out there mixing Second World War images with science fiction, whether the Third Reich is depicted building moon bases or zombie stormtroopers. There's a lot to choose from but very little in terms of quality, with most of it being firmly rooted in direct to video cheapness. Many other examples exist in the realms of electronic entertainment. But what can usually be achieved in a low budget film and what can be done with the latest Id Software game engine is usually leagues apart, and while I may enjoy an occasional blast through Castle Wolfenstein it's not really something that translates to the big screen. However in the right hands this all has potential for both horror thrills and action schlock, so let's take a look at how it fares.

Monster Bites - Monster Island


AKA Earth Destruction Directive: Godzilla vs. Gigan. So apparently the movie prior to this was considered too weird and outlandish? Maybe it was all the disco dancing and animation in Godzilla vs Hedorah that made the studio suits at Toho think twice, but at least it was something different. Casual viewers could never say that it was another formulaic release at any rate, a complaint that is certainly true here. Despite a few odd moments this is about as cheap and by the numbers as it gets with yet more aliens, and monsters that have been on screen so often they're falling to pieces. Except here they're flogging not a dead horse but poor old King Ghidorah.

Monster Bites - Fuel My Fire


Gamera gets a bad rap in terms of movie monster franchises, particularly in the original run. I can't imagine why... maybe it's because the sequels are so cheaply produced. Or the way they're aimed squarely at children. Or the dozens of videos and images available mocking everything from the theme tune to his acrobatic antics. But surely the debut film avoids a lot of this at least? Well yes and no. This is a more sombre and destructive monster movie as a whole, but it does have a few questionable inclusions that stop it from becoming a true classic. But let's take things back to the start, to the Cold War, to a time before flying turtles shot across the big screen.

Horror Bites - Monster Mash


AKA Frankenstein’s Monsters: Sanda vs. Gaira. In the grand scheme of things this is a minor foot note in the Toho back catalogue; a weird pseudo sequel without any big name monsters. Sure it says 'Frankenstein' up there, but how it actually works as a follow up to Frankenstein vs Baragon is never clear since the idea of a direct follow up was dropped somewhere during production. There are only a few vague hints this is a continuation of a previous story but nothing solid is ever set out. Like Godzilla being resurrected through lighting in Ebirah or King Kong gaining electrical powers it's a weird situation, and that's without going into all the strange titles these films were given for the German market. But as ever it's not really that important as the results are fun anyway.

Horror Bites - Turtle Power


If I had to take a guess I'd say that the Biblical excerpt in the title might just be misquoted. Maybe that whole 'we are many' line refers to an actual horde, since it's one of those clichés that must be out of context most of the time when it appears on film... but it's probably not referring to a swarm of giant bugs. From space. But I digress, let's get to the second outing of Gamera in the reboot trilogy. Out of the three this is probably the best of them and for the genre it definitely holds up well. That is considering it's another story about a giant turtle with super powers which involves the staple ingredients of rubber suits, a lot of collateral damage, and a few ecological messages.



FILM OF THE MONTH: Southern Comfort ☆☆☆☆

HCF Review - Vice Makes a Visit


Time for a bit of super-seventies euro-nonsense in the third part of Arrow’s José Larraz collection, a film which has many lurid titles to advise you of the narrative contents. In this instalment the excuse for all the skin on show isn’t psycho-thriller or vampire related but instead the occult, or at least I think that’s the idea. However for exploitation genre fans looking to pick up the trilogy this is probably the most lethargic and tepid inclusion despite a story of tarot, doomed romances and sinister uninvited guests. There’s a lot of talk about nightmares and the hands fate but there’s also a whole lot of melodrama.


Monster Bites - Zero Hour


Okay now we're really starting to push things along at full throttle, right into the kitsch zone. If the Godzilla series hadn't already become pretty silly in the 1960s with cross-over movies and storylines about monsters from outer space, then this is where it all kind of solidifies. It's cheaper and it's gaudier and in a lot of ways this is a pretty redundant film. But it's still pretty entertaining for the most part and it has a lot of fans out there. Probably because it's full of UFOs and aliens wearing sunglasses. Or maybe it's just because it includes that part where Godzilla does a victory dance.

Horror Bites - Hollow Earth


While Hammer would eventually make an official third entry in the Quatermass series, it's interesting that they had ideas of their own and tried to write another instalment themselves. The idea didn't pan out of course but the story is a spiritual successor in many ways, as well as being another clear sign of their movement towards horror films. It's not concerned with threats from outer space this time, but instead another story that leans into that other 1950s movie trend - atomic energy. The results perhaps still lack the kind of pacing and impact of their later technicolour efforts but it's still pretty entertaining stuff. The film might be a little dry but it still offers some B-movie fun and occasional shock value.

Horror Bites - Mother of Sighs


It's an odd thing to be excited to see a remake, particularly when the excitement is coming from me and the remake is a beloved classic I hold dear to my heart. Or something like that. But why mess with perfection just to use an existing name? Particularly when the original isn't a mainstream horror icon in the usual sense. Dario Argento and John Carpenter might go hand in hand in the dark corners of the world of horror cinema fans but there's a reason only one of them suffers frequent remakes. Still, the buzz was strangely positive and the details, while seeming very familiar, were being mixed with fresh ideas. At least on the outside. Under the surface things are far less interesting.



FILM OF THE MONTH Finally, Sunday! ☆☆☆☆

Review Roundup - Stone Protectors


To paraphrase Commando... this was the last time. Until next time? Well I'd hardly say no chance since Marvel Studios has however many decades of material lined up, but this really is an ending of sorts. Not to the entire franchise, but a nice satisfying conclusion to just about everything from Iron Man in 2008 up to now. It's also a three hour movie about heroes dealing with loss, heroes having their resolves tested and of course heroes making quips and punching things. It's certainly an action packed bonanza of epic proportions that will leave fans satisfied, but at the same time it's a monolithic film with a lot of shifts in tone and a lot of characters to cover. Like the previous chapter in the story it's one big balancing act, and with a few exceptions it generally succeeds.

Monster Bites - Mysterious Islands


Okay here we go... time for some absurd noise. Not that you can say many releases in this series or the Toho line-up as a whole are particularly sombre. But your mileage may vary here depending on your thoughts about the classic Godzilla franchise and if you think making light of the title character is a big deal or not. For all those fans who want to debate whether the big guy is a father, a mother or just an adoptive parent, there will be others who see this purely as a lurid monster comedy. Some get pretty defensive about it as if they need to defend Godzilla's stoicism, but personally I'm of the mind that this is complete nonsense and should be treated as such.

Monster Bites - The Ominous Star

GORATH (1962)

Time to take a trip into science fiction b-movie madness with yet another Ishiro Honda film. This one might be more along the lines of When Worlds Collide than anything else, but I still have to cover it here. They do manage to sneak in a hilarious arctic creature feature moment during the third act, because why wouldn't they, but this is more of an Earth versus outer space itself kind of story. A story in which they decide that to avoid a rogue planet destroying humankind they have to... move the Earth out of the way. But the tone isn't entirely ludicrous by any means and this is generally a sombre effort that is often concerned with collecting together scientific minds and making noble sacrifices for the good the world.

Monster Bites - New Mutants


For a change of pace (well in terms of approach rather than subject matter) I thought it was time to return to monster mayhem, but also to reappraise a few entries in the Godzilla series. You see these are films that I was pretty lukewarm about initially when viewing them several years prior to this. But they're instalments that fans often bring up when talking about their favourites in the franchise. So I thought what the hell, why not do a double bill of sci-fi nonsense and see if I was more invested than I remember being in the past. To cut a long story short... a good time was had by all.

Review Roundup - Warlords of Atlantis

AQUAMAN (2018)

Time for a superhero movie, just for a change. In this case everyone's least remembered barbarian Jason Momoa as Aquaman, or Arthur to his friends. See this is what I would classify as an exercise in over-indulgence. Not in the dark and grey Man of Steel sense but in a wild and ridiculous adventure sense. It's bloated and messy and often contains way too many neon laser blasting armour costumes, but at the same time this feels like an all or nothing effort with a lot of creative energy. There's also a lot of cheese. It's not a film that I would really call good... but one that I still found myself enjoying for one reason or another.

Review Roundup - Annual Thing


So this late entry to the annual review catchup comes at a stage when I've kind of become tired with keeping tabs of all the newer releases and yet somehow I still feel the need to push forward. Which is kind of appropriate since all of these are sequels, with some starting to feel unwarranted. Some are definitely more tired and embarrassing than others. They're all follow ups to releases that I've enjoyed which fuels a certain level of bias but at the same time it's fair to consider how much they stand alone and work in their own right as entertainment. As someone once said it's not over 'til it's over...



Dog Soldiers ☆☆☆☆
The Private Life of Henry VIII ☆☆☆☆
The Blues Brothers ☆☆☆☆
The Running Man ☆☆☆☆

HCF Review - Strolling Invaders


While a lot of alien invasion stories tend to focus on the conflict between the human race and an unknown species, it’s interesting to see a take on the subject that is really more about the people of Earth. In fact for once the government cover story that appears part way into the film is kind of plausible. There are no flashy visual effects depicting life from another planet, and details on the invaders are pretty scant to say the least. Instead there are a lot of odd characters behaving strangely as a trio of seemingly average people wander the streets of Japan asking a lot of strange questions. What do they want, and how are they messing with the minds of so many passers by?


Review Roundup - Family Matters


I must admit I've tended to stick with old school horror films over the years, as you might have noticed from all the blog posts about Hammer and Tigon amongst other things. Still, I step into the modern world every so often to take a peek... even if the paranormal preoccupations of contemporary cinema is a bit off putting to an old relic like myself. Too many CGI mouths and eyeballs for my taste y'know. Maybe that's why I like Hereditary so much, or why some viewers might find it boring. It's a slow methodical chiller that harkens back to the likes of Don't Look Know and various other essential nightmare fuel experiences. The stuff that's not super scary in the traditional sense but feels weird and disturbing long after the credits roll.

Horror Bites - Hairy Palms


Time for a couple of firsts, combining both Hammer's only take on the Wolf Man genre and actor Oliver Reed's first starring role in a feature film. While Reed went on to make a few other appearances at Bray it's strange that this was the studio's one time foray into the realm of full moons and silver bullets. All the typical period locations and bloody horror moments are present and correct, so it's strange there was never a series of spin-offs like their vampire and mummy films. Even their rivals over at Amicus only touched on the idea a couple of times, so I guess the idea just wasn't a big favourite at the time. Maybe there's a case for this being a more unique bit of '60s monster mayhem, but maybe it's just a shaky release that failed to hit the mark.



FILM OF THE MONTH Strangers on a Train ☆☆☆☆
Casino Royale ☆☆☆☆
Knightriders ☆☆☆☆
Hereditary ☆☆☆☆

Horror Bites - Woman in a Lizard's Skin


I've often considered Plague of the Zombies to be one of my favourite Hammer productions, with it's eerie location and unsettling make-up effects. This on the other hand is one I often overlook on repeat viewings of horror films from this period, despite it being the second part of the intended double bill. With the same rural village, the same Cornish moors and the same big manor house (which still burns down at the end) it's an odd experience, but cost saving efforts like this are nothing new. I'm reminded of Dracula Prince of Darkness and Rasputin The Mad Monk sharing both cast and castles. And like those two I prefer over the other. But in this case is the second feature really a let down or is it just a less imaginative chiller?

Horror Bites - X From Outer Space


While the surge of British horror films from Hammer is generally considered to have started in full blooded colour with The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957 this is an earlier example that shows signs of the idea evolving. Or perhaps given the subject matter, mutating. Like the other films featuring eponymous rocket scientist Bernard Quatermass, this is a big screen adaptation of a television serial with a boost in production values to counter the trimmed running time. It's still in black and white, but the shameless title alteration to advertise the 'X rating' of the (admittedly pretty tame) film hints at the ghoulish sensibilities that were to follow.

Horror Bites - Sunglasses at Night


Pre Hays Code horror movies are usually fun in a twisted sort of way and nothing exemplifies this quite as much as the James Whale adaptation of H.G. Wells' story of science gone awry. There's a certain charm to the sort of ghoulish thrills they could include before the censorship guidelines of the day were introduced. Of course they're still the kind of shocks that are within the accepted limits of this period of cinema but the death toll is surprisingly high as Dr. Griffin runs amok, even if there's never any real violence on screen. It's all done with a dark and twisted sense of humour as he rants and raves about revenge and expresses his lust for power, calling people miserable fools every few minutes. There are many classic entries in the original Universal horror series, but this is best one. It may portray a human title character, but he's certainly the most monstrous.

Horror Bites - Ghost Stories

KWAIDAN (1965)

After watching the Yokai film series and spending a lot of time with various science fiction monsters, it's time to look at something a little more unsettling from 1960s Japan. As luck would have it Kwaidan (Kaidan) combines some of my favourite things, horror anthologies and historical epics. This is a luxurious three hour experience that contains four separate chillers of varying styles and comes complete with an intermission. Whether you're into stories about cursed homes haunted by women with long black hair or samurai battle sequences this has something for everyone. But it is at the core a series of tales about ghosts, so it's probably a plus if you're a fan of those.



FILM OF THE MONTH What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? ☆☆☆☆
Fight Club ☆☆☆☆
King of Comedy ☆☆☆☆
Roma ☆☆☆☆
The Lady Vanishes ☆☆☆☆

HCF Review - Re-Enter The Nightmare


In the last decade or so it seemed as though the studio behind the Biohazard series would rather do anything but remake their most popular title. In fact for years it seemed as though they’d rather not make horror games at all. After the original Resident Evil was remade in spectacular style for the Gamecube in 2002 many players assumed the next logical step for the studio would be to continue with the revamp and offer similar definitive editions of the second and third instalments. But was not to be, and despite further entries in the mainline series such as the insect infested prequel Resident Evil Ø and the highly influential reboot Resident Evil 4… all things survival horror dwindled...


Horror Bites - Fashion House of Death


Mystery killers with black gloves seem to appear everywhere in films about murder and mayhem. From the shocking violence of Deep Red to the farcical mysteries of A Shot in the Dark it's recurring motif but tracing the roots of the Giallo body-count mystery genre seems to point to the films of Mario Bava. Here we'll take a look at one of the most striking early examples Blood and Black Lace; aka Six Women for the Murderer. It certainly brings a particular level of Italian style to the proceedings with a garish 1960s colour scheme being mixed with plenty of dark shadows and sinister lighting. So let's put on the leather and get down to business.

HCF Review - Turf Wars


He quit the gangs. They killed his girl. He became… Deadbeat at Dawn. Or so the tag-line for Jim Van Bebber’s blood drenched thriller would have you believe. But this isn’t a straightforward Hollywood revenge storyline, things are a lot weirder and a lot messier. It’s an incredibly filthy piece of work just to look at, and there are also certain visuals that might have been more at home on Arrow’s own American Horror Project. But purely as a gang warfare narrative things are a lot less cohesive both in terms of storytelling and the performances that this all hangs on.




FILM OF THE MONTH Black Christmas ☆☆☆☆
Die Hard ☆☆☆☆
Gremlins ☆☆☆☆
Lethal Weapon ☆☆☆☆
Mission Impossible: Fallout ☆☆☆☆
Paddington 2 ☆☆☆☆
The Blood on Satan's Claw ☆☆☆☆

Review Roundup - Annual Thing


To conclude at least for the time being let's take a look at what offerings have been taken up or produced by Netflix this year. As a quick aside regarding those releases I've missed, The Cloverfield Paradox is a mixed bag that is probably not worth seeing and has been done better elsewhere while The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a mixed bag that is worth checking out and could only have been made by the Joel and Ethan Cohen. There was also Mowgli, which is mostly an awkward repeat of Jon Favreau's Jungle Book until a third act twist when they remembered it was supposed to be darker. It's all over the place and is bound to be confusing or upsetting depending on the viewer. Anyway for the moment I'll call it a day and discuss some horrifying action, some horrifying horror, and some real human drama.