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Donnie Darko (2001, 2016, USA) 15th Anniversary (4K Restoration)

Donnie Darko (2001) 15th Anniversary

I emerge from the darkness of a doorway, blinking into the daylight of a Soho street. I look up at the sliver of wintry sky between the tops of the buildings, hoping that a random wormhole into a time portal might somehow open up.

Admittedly, this is almost a daily occurrence with me, but [at the time of writing] it is particularly significant as it is October 2nd [2016], and I have just come out of a special 15th anniversary screening of Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly’s much beloved and oft debated cult movie.

“What would you do if you knew the future?”

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Nemesis (1992, USA)

Nemesis (1992)

In 1992 Albert Pyun directed his 14th feature length film since debuting in 1982 with the sword & sorcery fantasy, The Sword and the Sorcerer. At the time of writing this review, Pyun has directed over 50 movies, so to say that Pyun, as a director, was (and still is) prolific is an understatement… He is a fucking machine!

From the moment the title appears, until the end-credits roll, Nemesis is a sequence of non-stop, over-the-top action set pieces woven together by a myriad of influences.

“In the future… it pays to be more than human.”

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Don’t Look in the Basement (1973, USA)

Don't Look in the Basement (1973)

Directed by S.F. Brownigg and released in 1973, Don’t Look in the Basement is an independent horror film that was unfortunate enough to fall foul of the UK media upon it’s 1981 home release; yet fortunate enough to not be prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act in 1985.

For me, Don’t Look in the Basement was an impulse buy on home video, spurred on by the film’s cult status and history as a ‘video nasty’.

“The line between sanity and madness can be crossed in a single step. And with this step you enter the nightmare world of terror. On the day the insane took over the asylum!”

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The Wailing (2016, South Korea)

The Wailing (2016)

The Wailing offers images that appear in many a horror films: disembowelled livestock; creepy candlelit shrines plastered with odd photographs; curtains of blindingly heavy rain; a foul-mouthed, possessed child; blackened, rabid zombies lunging at stunned victims and blood-splattered murder scenes.

It’s unlikely however, that any horror aficionado has seen all these tropes thrown with such bravado into the same melting pot, producing such a rich and unsettling brew.

“You awoke something recently that you weren’t supposed to. You disturbed it.”

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A Cure for Wellness (2016, USA / Germany)

A Cure for Wellness (2016)

What a delightful coincidence that the young actress in Gore Verbinski’s latest feature A Cure for Wellness should be named Mia Goth. Never has an appellation been more appropriate.

A Cure for Wellness proves to be an audacious, intoxicating, feverish piece of cinema – administering copious doses of Freudian symbolism and classic Gothicism. If you’re not a fan of things Gothic, or if you suffer from ichthyophobia, this may not be the film for you…

“Do you know what the cure for the human condition is? Disease. Because that’s the only way one could hope for a cure.”

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The Beastmaster (1982, USA / West Germany)

The Beastmaster (1982)

Don Coscarelli will always be famous with horror fans for his Phantasm series, but for me personally there’s two films that truly define him as a director. The wonderfully underrated 2002 horror/comedy Bubba Ho-Tep and the 1982 action/fantasy tale The Beastmaster.

The Beastmaster is a piece of trash cinema that is often forgotten for how amazing it is. It epitomises what sword & sorcery films should be. It’s shambolic storyline and ropey acting only adds to its charm.

“Don’t move. The beast is fierce. But if we show no fear, we might escape.”

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The Eyes of My Mother (2016, USA)

The Eyes of My Mother (2016)

In The Eyes of My Mother director and writer Nicolas Pesce offers a disturbing examination of serious emotional dysfunction and disorientation.

We meet a little girl named Francisca (Olivia Bond) who lives on an isolated farm with her mother and father. She is unfazed by death from this early age because her mother, formerly a surgeon in Portugal, is educating her in a dispassionate and thorough understanding of human anatomy.

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. And whether or not it is clear to you, the universe is unfolding as it should.”

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John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017, USA)

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

John Wick: Chapter 2 is a ride into hell, or, a hell of a ride – either way it’s going to drag you along with it, maybe gasping, maybe kicking and screaming, but either way, it’s an adrenalin rush. The John Wick movies are all about the momentum of action, with Wick moving so precisely, so speedily and yet so gracefully that it all becomes a mesmerising ballet of Grand Guignol.

A pre-credits action set-piece starts the movie as it means to go on, and cripes, if it isn’t an absolute corker!

“John Wick, you’re not very good at retiring.”

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Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975, USA)

Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)

With Richard Donner’s Superman still a few years off from transforming comic cinema into a legit and lucrative genre, letting the audience in on the gag and addressing its protagonist’s more antiquated elements would have been a wise move. But outside of pausing every so often to superimpose a gleam across Ron Ely’s peepers or randomly announce a new, heretofore unknown talent of Doc’s, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze does little to deconstruct its parent property or its contemporaries in the world of crime-fighting fiction. Producer George Pal took a chance on a big-screen throwback.

“Have no fear! Doc Savage is here!”

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Dance With the Dead – B​​-Sides: Volume 1 (2017)

Dance with the Dead – B​-​Sides: Volume 1 (2017)

If you don’t know who Dance With the Dead are, I suggest you wake yourself up now. The musical duo from Orange County, California have been raising the dead since 2013, with the release of their debut album, Out of Body. Since then their unique blend of dark synthwave and thrash metal has been tearing up dance floors/graveyards worldwide.

“They only come out at night!”

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Train to Busan (2016, South Korea)

Train to Busan (2016)

I usually have a bit of a problem with zombie movies – I find them dull. Yes, I know zombie fans will be throwing their Walking Dead box sets at my head (and those are some hefty tomes) but I find that, although they may be a popular horror monster, zombies are forced to rely heavily on the cheap, gross-out factor in order to distract from the fact that they have scanty horror mileage, no rich mythos to draw on and offer little scope for variation, tension or development. I am left to suppose that zombie fans are in it for the fashion statement. I am however, an Asian horror enthusiast.

“Life-or-death survival begins.”

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Rings (2017, USA)

Rings (2017)

In Rings we have the [second] long anticipated sequel to The Ring, the English language remake of the hugely successful Japanese horror Ringu. We also have a kind of Samara origin story, but this storyline seems to be less a labour of love, and instead, rather laboured.

Ringu, the celebrated Japanese horror movie that started it all, was released in 1998. We should remember that in the dark ages of the nineties, VHS tapes and creepy death-threat calls through landlines were not as yet, a form of ancient technology.

“First you watch it. Then you die.”

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