A culturally significant part of the 70s and 80s was the rise of the independent VHS store. The story of the owners, clients, movie stars and producers that shaped the VHS era is captured perfectly by director and writer Mark Williams.
The Portsmouth based Trash Arts is becoming a prolific producer of low-budget, yet high quality films of the supernatural and horror genres. Low-key, intense and relying on skilled acting and filmmaking techniques rather than jump scares, the team of Sam Mason-Bell and Jessica Hunt give us subtle movies which true horror fans will cherish.
“As I got more into horror, I started to get more interested in films that could push social boundaries and truly disturb an audience…”
Unless one is of a certain age it might be difficult to relate to VIPCO’s feature-length release of the documentary VHS Forever? Psychotronic People. It harkens back to the dawn of serious movie watching, especially those of a subversive and transgressive nature. The documentary manages to capture the thrill of so many cinephiles to be able to access obscure, forbidden and strange films, but at the same time, shows the paranoia and very real legal concerns operators of video stores faced during the era.
“We think censorship is idiotic!”
If you are looking for a movie to watch, which combines the best of the golden days of exploitation with modern sensibilities, may I suggest Ravage? First time director, Teddy Grennan takes a common horror theme and elevates it to the sublime, with the assistance of a first-class cast and superior photography.
“When we pitched the story around, we were always asked about tone and it was always: it’s God’s green earth smashed up against man’s ill will.”
A low key, documentary/found footage horror film from Portsmouth, England based Trash Arts, The Truth Will Out, is a skillfully made movie worth checking out. Although it doesn’t break new ground as far as the genre goes, and while it isn’t full of action and cheap scares, the film thrives on its great acting and photography. A hit reality show, Hard Streets UK, hosted by the completely obnoxious and degenerate Thomas Laboss, is on its way to interview the Braussau family, Gypsies who claim to be true Wiccans. Along for the ride are Thomas’s sound and recording engineers, Stanley and Darren.
“That, ladies and gentlemen, is a petrified penis apparently.”
A welcome throwback to classic hixploitation. If you were a fan of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Mother’s Day and the golden days of R&R movies, Ravage will bring you a ton of warm and fuzzy memories. From the effective score to the absolutely beautiful photography, director Teddy Grennan elevates a rather familiar narrative far above its starkly crude subject matter. Despite a few gaps in logic and plot, this is one of the few modern horror films that treats its Grand Guignol aspects with subtlety.
“Torture is the barometer of a nation’s creativity.”
Rational boredom. Perhaps its me, that watching decades of horror films has left me jaded and able to predict the action in banal and mindless twaddle like Irrational Fear. The movie reminded me of those direct-to-video slashers of the 80s, the plastic covers promising extreme violence, sex or both and more often than not, failing to deliver. I wanted to enjoy the film, honestly, but the poor production values, shoddy camera work, incompetent direction and uneven acting wore me down. It really is a shame because there is some talent evident.
“Face them all!”
Supposedly based on Limp Bizkit front man Fred Durst’s encounter with an obsessive fan, The Fanatic manages to offend every trope in the human spectrum. I try not to pan movies, no matter how much they deserve it, but The Fanatic welcomes, yes even begs the audience to do just that. Where to begin? Why not with the film’s star, John Travolta. Travolta has had a career downturn of late with Gotti roundly recognized as his worst performance, but here he plunges into a deep, bottomless ravine. The Fanatic makes Battlefield Earth look like Blade Runner by comparison.
“Moose didn’t just cross the line. He fucking nuked it!”
Special effects master turned director, Neil Rowe gives us this disturbing, and disorienting tale about aliens and mass suicides. Audiences will immediately recognize touches of Alien, Night of the Living Dead, and War of the Worlds in this slow burn of a sci-fi/horror that shifts tone from scene to scene offering some surprises and disappointments along the way. Dark and brooding for the most part, the movie also uses its daytime scenes to great advantage. This bizarre mash of genre is reminiscent of so many other movies, at times it looks like a string of trailers.
“No one gets out!”
Sylvia and Jen Soska, known as The Soska Sisters, have made quite a name for themselves directing, writing and acting in some of most visceral, brutal horror films of the last ten years. Their breakout film, 2009’s Dead Hooker in a Trunk, attracted more attention for its controversial name than the movie itself. However, it established the style and mystique the Soska name would bring to independent film. I have to give Sylvia and Jen props for taking on the re-imagining of one of Canada’s greatest director’s best films.
“You’ve just had reconstructive surgery… You can’t take your bandages off just yet!”
When I interviewed the esteemed Producer/Director Roger Corman for Claudia Jennings’ biography, he said Unholy Rollers was his favorite of the four films Claudia appeared in for him. As Claudia’s breakthrough film, Unholy Rollers established the character she would be identified with until her death. Beautiful, fearless and ruthless, Karen Walker epitomized the Hollywood Bitch Goddess that many thought represented Claudia’s true nature. The film is noteworthy because it marked Claudia’s debut as a major B movie actress.
“A locker room look at the toughest broads in the world!”
Umberto Lenzi had quite a career during his time as a film maker. Lenzi started law school, then decided his true passion lay with movies and attended the prestigious Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. His resume’ included peplum, westerns, giallos and mysteries, all typical of Italian cinema of the time. He later retired from cinema and wrote a series of detective novels. Then in 1972 Lenzi made what many consider the first true, cannibal film, Man from the Deep River. The work contained many of the attributes of future cannibal movies; violence, sex, the consumption of raw, human flesh… The movie established Lenzi as a director of turgid, offensive films.