Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Halloween 2 (1981)

Tagline: “More of the Night HE Came Home.”
Duration: 92 minutes

Film Quality: 3/5
Entertainment Value: 2.5/5
Gore Content: 3/5
Originality: 3/5


Following the incredible success of John Carpenter’s original ‘Halloween’, a sequel seemed inevitable, especially considering the cliffhanger ending! Shelving notions of using the ‘Halloween’ franchise for a series of unconnected, standalone movies, Carpenter and Hill agreed to bring Myers back for a second outing, ultimately deciding on a hospital as the setting for a film that, largely, takes place in the early hours of November 1st!

In a Nutshell

You can’t kill the bogeyman! With Myers shot several times and plummeting out of a top floor window we know from the end of the first movie that he’s still at large. Picking up at the precise moment the first film left off, we are reunited with the survivors struggling to come to terms with the tragic events of Halloween night. Laurie is one of those and is taken to hospital suffering from shock and her physical wounds but, unfortunately for her, Myers knows where she is and, to paraphrase an 80s action classic, he absolutely will not stop…until she is dead.

So, what’s good about it?

I’ll freely admit that I have a few problems with ‘Halloween 2’. It was the last one of the first four movies that I saw so I was well versed in the formula and how the film was likely to play out. ‘Halloween’ is a belting classic and part 4 is a very well made follow up but there’s something about part 2 that doesn’t work for me. I’ll leave that for the next section and focus on what does work for the moment.

There is a clear commitment to trying something new and I’m glad that they didn’t go down the line of setting the film several years after the first one. By setting up an open ending from the first film there seemed to be an obligation to service that. I can’t think of another slasher movie that does this, which gives it the opportunity to focus on the survivors and the aftermath which provides the film with a bit of melodrama missing from most films of its type. You can see the anger directed at Loomis and the Haddonfield community looking for someone to blame. There’s emergency services trying to come to terms with what’s happened, including the Sherriff who is forced off duty to deal with the trauma of finding out that his daughter is one of the victims. By approaching the film in this way it gives it a fairly unique, even emotional feel, a darker edge that leaves you to think in more real terms about the consequences of the deaths you watched in the first film.

I do quite like the transference of the action to the hospital setting, even if it is unnaturally quiet! Hospitals can be eerie places when virtually deserted, we’re so used to seeing them as a hive of activity. It’s also a place that subconsciously arouses feelings of unease. You would usually visit a hospital either for treatment or to visit someone who is having treatment, it’s never for a good reason. With most slasher films set around places of fun (summer camp, fairground, house party, sorority house for example), it is a gloomy and interesting place to set the scene.

It allows the film to start with little or no exposition, we get straight into the action thanks to the heavy lifting of Carpenter’s original. It is reasonably well shot and director Rick Rosenthal (only his second feature and would go on to direct ‘Halloween: Resurrection’) went on record to say he had studied the original and tried to emulate its style, going so far as to avoid onscreen gore. This element was added in later, mainly at Carpenter’s request (apparently he re-edited an original submission because it wasn’t tense or gruesome enough) due to the trend amongst contemporary slashers of trying to outdo the last one. To that end it does deliver with some fairly violent scenes, including a burning/drowning lifted from Argento’s ‘Deep Red’, a couple of throat slashings and a tough to watch syringe in the eyeball scene.

It’s also good to see Jamie Leigh Curtis back although she’s not given as much to do in this film, spending much of it in a hospital bed in a catatonic state.

And what about the bad?

It just doesn’t seem right and, for me, has some serious pacing issues! So many slasher films rely on a slow build to increase the tension so perhaps this film suffers a little by dropping us straight into the action, not really leaving it with anywhere else to go. There are a couple of slayings that take place in houses before Myers gets to the hospital but this almost feels like ‘seen it before’ filler as the film slows down to a snail’s pace in order to reset itself at the hospital. Myers is already in the picture, he’s already there killing people from the very first minute. Carpenter said himself that he struggled with the script because he was forced to tell a story that had pretty much already been told. By doing something different it does deviate from the tried and tested formula whichis where those pacing issues come from – it’s a victim of its own bold intentions. As a consequence it’s very difficult to watch in isolation, it is very much attached to the original.

Whilst praising the setting, it provides major limitations. We’re subjected to laboured shots of empty corridors with Myers hiding in the various utility rooms and maintenance offices with relatively predictable results. Bizarrely, Myers seems less omnipotent within these corridors because of its confined nature. The murders seem so pointless with security guards and medical staff who get in his way rather than the slow stalking of babysitters that provided so much of the tension and prial scares of the original. No frightened children in this one, just doctors and nurses failing in their duty of care to patients!

And then there’s the music which, though utilising the same basic score of the original, the piano is replaced by a slightly underwhelming synthesiser. In many ways the score sums up the entire film. There’s nothing specifically wrong with it and it has many of the elements of the original, it just doesn’t satisfy in the same way and comes across as trying too hard to emulate something it can’t possibly match.

Any themes?

There’s an attempt to add some reason to why Michael Myers is stalking Laurie and it’s one that Carpenter acutely disliked but ended up shaping the entire series, in fact it still does with the latest ‘Halloween’ sequels. It’s the family connection that drives Myers to kill, wanting to finish off what he started in Haddonfield all those years ago as a child. It also introduces, albeit very fleetingly, the festival of Samhain that has very strong links to Halloween and the custom of dressing up in frightening and uncanny costumes. The festival also has strong links to family and sacrifice which gives the chasing of Laurie, and subsequent pursuit of Jamie in part 4 some meaning.

Some stories of the Samhain ritual included the burning of pumpkins that contained human fat, possibly a foreshadowing of Myers’ eventual death, along with the burning of witches. It’s interesting to note that you cannot kill a witch by burning and Myers comes back in further sequels despite succumbing to an inferno at the end of this film. It would be very easy to say that the introduction of the supernatural to replace the preternatural aspects of the original was a gimmick to continue the series but the intention appeared to be, certainly according to Carpenter, to end it all here.

Release history…

Carpenter insisted on the film having more blood to compete with the shock value of other slasher movies and these additional scenes did get it into trouble with UK censors. Though initially released uncut for the 1981 Thorn EMI VHS, a total of seventeen seconds were relieved of their sequel duties for the Castle re-release. It all came from the boiled dunking which presumably created problems with the BBFC due to the violent nature (five dunkings were reduced to just two) and the potentially sexual element of the bare breasted body sinking to the ground which was also edited. Subsequent versions have come through unscathed and by today’s standards it is quite tame. As was very common with studio pictures at the time, a TV version was edited that removed all of the violence and extra shots of dialogue whilst omnipresent camerawork was inserted to pad out the running time.

Cultural impact?

It had quite an impact in the series by providing that family link that runs all the way down the middle of pretty much every sequel and reboot. It may not have been popular with Carpenter but it is what gave the franchise some legs and a relatable element, even a sense of purpose for Myers’ future endeavours. Whilst the original did supremely well without it, it is hard to imagine the sequels without that link to Laurie, perhaps why Carpenter so disliked it given his intentions for the series. The link to the supernatural also provided a plot point for the lamentable 6th instalment which managed the dubious achievement of being worse than 5!

Final thoughts?

A strong entry in the slasher genre provided some unique moments in terms of setting but it suffers by comparison to it predecessor. I can’t reconcile this aspect of the film, it’s like listening to a cover version of your favourite song, it may well be very good for people hearing it for the first time but to ears that have already heard the original, it just doesn’t sound the same.

Memorable Quotes

Loomis: “He became an obsession with me until I realised that there was nothing within him, neither conscious nor reason that was even remotely human.”

You’ll like this if you enjoyed…

‘Halloween’, ‘Halloween 4’, ‘Black Christmas’, ‘Friday the 13th

Related Reviews…

Halloween – Click here for full review
Halloween 3: Season of the Witch – Click here for full review
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers – Click here for full review
Black Christmas – Click here for full review
The Burning– Click here for article
Friday 13th – Click here for full review

Monday, 28 October 2019

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Title: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Tagline: “Ten years ago he changed the face of Halloween. Now he’s back.”
Duration: 88 minutes

Film Quality: 3/5
Entertainment Value: 3/5
Gore Content: 2/5
Originality: 2/5


With audiences disappointed that everyone’s favourite serial killer was replaced with a mad Irish megalomaniac who put ground up pieces of Stonehenge in Halloween masks to satisfy his genocidal tendencies, it was time to give those fans the blood they’d been baying for. John Carpenter’s idea for the franchise to become a series of, ultimately unconnected standalone films was abandoned and the decision was taken to pretend that the Season of the Witch never happened and to bring Myers back from the dead.

In a Nutshell

With Myers in a comatose state for the past ten years and still under the unsympathetic treatment plan of Dr Loomis, the decision is made to transfer him. Of course it presents him with the perfect opportunity to abscond and plough a path of destruction towards Haddonfield where the seven year old daughter of the now deceased Laurie Strode still lives. He hasn’t gone there to make up for seven missed birthdays either, it’s time for another night of terror as Haddonfield relives its worst nightmare.

So, what’s good about it?

Considering that this is the third sequel to a fading horror franchise at a time when the slasher movie was so far past its prime it needed a stair lift to get onto the cinema screen, this is a pretty good effort all round. Perhaps it’s because it was the first Halloween film I had the pleasure of viewing and was already a little freaked out by the appearance of Myers’ mask but I found this to be a hugely enjoyable experience. Not realising on first viewing how close it sails to the waters of Carpenter’s original, it does enough to stand up well on its own and I’d perhaps go so far as to say that it comes, albeit a distant, second to the original in terms of those early franchise efforts.

It’s got some pretty good scares, including Jamie’s (Laurie’s 7 year old orphan) nightmares, that go some way to foreshadowing what is an incredible ending. But first I want to concentrate on that brilliant pre-credits scene at the very beginning. Perhaps it’s a nod to one of Carpenter’s original plans for unconnected films but those shots within an abandoned farm with damaged and weather beaten Halloween costumes surrounding rusty machinery is incredibly effective. It serves no purpose or relevance to the rest of the film other than to unnerve and get you in the mood for a few scares. The film doesn’t quite live up to this opening but it really is very classy, underpinned by an eerie score, and you’re left with a very uneasy feeling of what may have happened there.

The film takes a leaf out of the ‘Jaws’ playbook by wisely keeping Myers in the shadows for the most part, although this could have been due to the well-documented problems of recreating the infamous mask! After his escape we don’t see much of him and it’s really only during the last third when he comes into his own. It’s stylistically similar to Carpenter’s original in the sense that we get a few point of view shots before Myers moves into the frame, there’s an omnipresence about Myers that becomes literal at one point when Loomis and Sherriff Meeker are confronted by what ppears to be three of him. An initial, and very interesting premise looked at the effect the events of the original had on Haddonfield where the spirit and memory of Myers took on a life of its own, with the teenagers almost literally bringing Myers back to life in a spiritual sense. That scene appears to be all that remained of that interesting idea that was maybe inspired by Wes Craven’s Elm Street series.

There are a few sly winks to the original in terms of characters. No mention is made of Jamie’s Dad but her second name is Lloyd, the same surname as Jimmy in ‘Halloween 2’, whilst minor characters Tommy and Lindsay could well be the two child survivors of the original. It’s little knowing touches like that, as well as the autumnal feel from the golden leaves falling from the trees and overall feel of the movie that ensure that it fits in remarkably well as a ‘Halloween’ sequel.

And of course there’s Donald Pleasance. I always found him to be a little overbearing in the first two films. Of course Myers is a child killer but as he says himself “In many ways he was the perfect patient” which kind of makes his complete lack of compassion all the more strange. It makes more sense in this film. His rambling about pure evil and the devil’s eyes have a basis in the reality of the film so his character seems more rounded and the scars of his experience, both physical and mental are there for all to see.

And what about the bad?

It’s not that it’s a bad film, far from it. In terms of the ‘Halloween’ franchise it may well be the best of the Myers sequels, it’s just that it tries so hard to follow in the footsteps of the original that it’s in danger of bumping into it. Due to the nature of the date-themed title it will inevitably utilise similar themes and tropes of the season but come on. He escapes again, he leaves a trail of destruction again, he’s after a young family member again, his own doctor is after him again whilst rambling like a madman again. It’s a reasonably good carbon copy that is saved somewhat by the surprise ending and the fact that it’s a very accomplished film.

It also chooses to both acknowledge and ignore ‘Halloween 2’. Both Myers and Loomis have burns, despite Myers literally melting into a pile of goo in the hospital-set second instalment, yet the security guard at the start says he was shot six times, ignoring the ‘bullet wounds’ from ‘Halloween 2’. Is this a way of pretending that Laurie shot him in both eyes so would be, at best, blind never happened? Nit-picking maybe but make your mind up.

Still, if a few glaring continuity errors and not being as good as one of the greatest horror films of all time are the worst you can say about a film then they’re also doing a lot right!

Any themes?

There could have been! Carpenter’s original script suggested that the myth of Myers would somehow become real by repressing the Halloween holiday. That tremendously eerie opening scene kind of doffs its cap to that idea, suggesting that Halloween has long since been abandoned and been replaced by the frightening remnants of what it represents. As mentioned before and as referenced by Loomis himself “They’ll see his face on every corner” and that fear is made real as the ‘Simpsons’ style baying mob kill an innocent teenager believing him to be Myers. That would have been a genuinely interesting concept and it’s a shame it wasn’t properly pursued in favour of remaking the original.

When it all comes down to it it’s another family affair and it is interesting that the main deviation from the original sees Myers going for the kid instead of the babysitter which does add a different perspective to the scares. Yes, Rachael is a very resourceful final girl but it’s Jamie that we fear for most of all, putting a child at the centre of the vulnerability stakes…the scne where he chases Jmie across the rooftops is genuinely tense and frightening. It’s interesting that when she walks towards Myers and touches his hand, she shows no fear, made all the more significant by that very final scene. Another aspect of an original script that was removed involved Myers tracking down his niece to reconcile but is unable to show any emotion and resorts to violence, this remains at the very end but he’s gunned down before he can finish the act. That Jamie becomes possessed by his rage, wearing the very same clown costume worn by the young Myers all those years ago introduces the concept of destiny that is sadly discarded by Part 5 in favour of a telepathic link…sigh!

Release history…

No issue over censorship at all, in fact quite the opposite. Concerned that the film wasn’t violent enough they shot some additional gory scenes during post production which is when we get the thumb through the head, the throat ripping and the crowbar murder.

Cultural impact?

It’d become something of a cult favourite and many regard the film as one of, if not THE best Halloween sequel. In truth it’s an above average and fairly straight down the middle slasher film at a time when they were seriously out of fashion. What it did do was bring back the horror icon and we’ve not looked back with further, pretty dire sequels churned out, two Rob Zombie ‘reboots’ that divide opinion, further Jamie Leigh-Curtis starred efforts and a brand new one that ignores all of the above, including part 4! You can’t keep a good bogey man down so for that, Part 4, we thank you!

Final thoughts?

You can watch this film with a gentle nod of approval because it does most of what you expect it to do and it doe it with quiet efficiency. Other than the opening and closing two minutes it doesn’t really do anything progressive but it does deliver the goods and reintroduced a salivating public to the Michael Myers we know and love.

Memorable Quotes

Loomis: “Six bodies, Sheriff! That's what I've seen between here and Ridgemont! A filling station in flames! I'm telling you Michael Myers is here, in this town! He's here to kill that little girl and anybody who gets in his way!”

Loomis: “You're talking about him as if he were a human being. That part of him died years ago.”

Security Guard: “Jesus ain’t got nothing to do with this place.”

You’ll like this if you enjoyed…

‘Halloween’, ‘Halloween 2’, ‘Black Christmas’

Related Reviews…

Halloween – Click here for full review
Halloween 3: Season of the Witch – Click here for full review
Black Christmas – Click here for full review
The Burning– Click here for article
Friday 13th – Click here for full review

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

The DPP 39: Video Nasties List - Part 11

In 1984, the Video Recordings Act ushered in a terrifying new era in UK home video entertainment. The regulation and subsequent censorship of home videos by the British Board of Film Classification led to a number of films being seized by the authorities and prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act 1959. In total, 39 of these films were successfully prosecuted, over the coming months The Horror Video will look very briefly at the release history of each film and its current status. To view the rest of the series…

Part 1: ‘Absurd’, ‘Anthropophagus’ and ‘Axe’, click here
Part 2: ‘Bay of Blood’, ‘The Beast in Heat’ and ‘Blood Feast’, click here
Part 3: ‘Blood Rites’, ‘Bloody Moon’ and ‘The Burning’, click here
Part 4: ‘Cannibal Apocalypse’, ‘Cannibal Ferox’ and ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, click here
Part 5: ‘The Cannibal Man’, ‘The Devil Hunter’ and ‘Don’t Go in the Woods’, click here
Part 6: ‘The Driller Killer’, ‘Evilspeak’ and ‘Expose’, click here
Part 7: ‘Faces of Death’, ‘Fight for Your Life’, ‘Flesh for Frankenstein’, click here
Part 8: ‘Forest of Fear’, ‘The Gestapo’s Last Orgy’ and ‘The House by the Cemetery’, click here
Part 9: ‘House on the Edge of the Park’, ‘I Spit on Your Grave’, ‘Island of Death’, click here
Part 10: ‘The Last House on the Left’, ‘Love Camp 7’, ‘Madhouse, click here

Title: Mardi Gras Massacre (1978)

Director: Jack Weis
Uncut Running Time: 95 minutes
Alternative Titles: None

A perfect example of how being placed on the DPP’s list and subsequently prosecuted has, on occasion, resulted in undeserved notoriety. Not quite a slasher film and not quite occult, it’s plot is not unlike H.G. Lewis’ classic piece of schlock ‘Blood Feast’ but without that all important side order of extra cheese…in fact this is more likely to induce unintentional outbursts of guffaws and smirks than anything else.

It’s not without a certain sleaze factor as an oddball named John scours the seedy underbelly of Louisiana for the most evil prostitutes so that he can tie them up, cut them up and then offer the most evil part (the heart, obviously) to a Peruvian goddess. It sounds like an entertaining premise but the execution (pun intended…sorry!) is not as good as the concept and, without the sense of delicious fun that embodied Lewis’ feast of fun, it all falls a little flat. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its place. I could well imagine watching this on the grindhouse circuit and, whilst the gore is repetitive in its use (the local butchers shop must have done a roaring trade during filming!), it is what it is…a straight shooting, very simple hybrid slasher movie that sets itself up for a sequel that never arrived.

Undeniably one of the lesser nasties, it does have something of a cult following and is still banned in the UK, though that’s most likely got nothing to do with any censorship issue and more to do with a distinct lack of interest. In terms of its release history, it saw a very brief VHS run in the UK on the Goldstar label but was courted and sacrificed to the goddess of moral panic in November 1983 and, just like any thoughts of a sequel, has never rematerialised. In terms of cuts, despite falling foul of the authorities, there has never been a censored version so if you can track it down online or on a shiny disc somewhere, it will be the full version.

Current Status: Still banned in the UK, available uncut on region free Code Red in the US.

Title: Nightmares in a Damaged Brain (1981)

Director: Romano Scavolini
Uncut Running Time: 97 minutes
Alternative Titles: ‘Nightmare’, ‘Schizo’, ‘Blood Splash’

One of the more notorious video nasties, the censorship history is just as entertaining as the film itself. Something of a ‘Halloween’ cash in with elements of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (that basic description probably makes it sound more artistic than it is) the story revolves around deviant George who undergoes a new form of psychotherapy to ‘correct’ his insanity following the brutal, sexually violent murder of his family. With his brain ‘reprogrammed’, it doesn’t stop the graphic nightmares and flashbacks, prompting him to seek out his ex-wife and family where the cycle of violence begins all over again.

As sleazy as it is nasty, there is a very unpleasant tone throughout the film that focusses on George’s sexual deviance as much as it revels in gruesome violence in glorious close up. Children are both the aggressors and the victims and there is something genuinely disturbing about seeing a child wielding an axe with hyper-violent consequences, arguably more so than seeing them as victims. We experience graphic evisceration, impalings, slicing and general destruction of bodies with lots of nudity…not surprising given that Scavolini’s history was in hardcore pornography; say no more! For fans of intense gore, his film truly delivers and it certainly stays in your (damaged?) brain for a while after the end credits, during which you will probably notice the name of a certain Tom Savini. The living legend has always denied working on the film, despite photographs and on set testimonies suggesting otherwise, some believing this could have been due to an issue over pay rather than any commentary on the quality of the film.

Moving onto censorship and the film takes on a life of its own. It’s the only one on the list that resulted in a personal prosecution with distributor David Hamilton Grant jailed for six months for the crime of releasing a version that was a whole minute longer than the BBFC-approved cut! What a time that must have been to be alive!!! Around three minutes was removed for the 1981 cinema release which led to the offending Oppidan VHS release that restored a minute of those cuts against the wishes of the authorities. Not helped by a publicity campaign that included vomit bag distribution and ‘guess the weight of the human brain in the jar’ competition (!), it wound up on the dependable DPP list in July 1983. An ‘uncut’ version was released in the UK in 2005 in Anchor Bay’s ‘Box of the Banned’, however this was another of those misleading incidents where it was simply not cut any further than the original cinema version. A shorter yet, paradoxically, more complete version was finally released by 88 Films in 2015, trimmed of non-offensive material only. Even that experienced problems and was withdrawn, likely due to paperwork not being filed correctly as it was eventually released with no incident later that year. In short…who knows what the full uncut version looks like!

Current Status: ‘Uncut’ version available on 88 Film in the UK, available in the US through Code Red missing 1’17” of material.

Title: Night of the Bloody Apes (1972)

Director: Rene Cardona
Uncut Running Time: 81 minutes
Alternative Titles: ‘The Horrible Human Beast’, ‘Horror and Sex’, ‘Gomar the Human Gorilla’

A man has open heart surgery to cure his leukaemia, turns into a man beast, goes on a kill crazy rampage and is brought to justice by a female wrestler…how many times have we heard that story? Well, in Mexico, at least once before because, believe it or not, this is a remake of the director’s earlier 1969 offering ‘La Horripilante Bestia Humana’. In fact it becomes apparent that, at the time, there was an appetite in the region for monsters and wrestlers to go toe to toe on the big screen so why not throw a bit of nudity, gore and violence into the mix. To be fair, this is fairly entertaining stuff and far too inoffensive to have wound up on the banned list, but there seems to have been a distinct lack of humour present in the appreciation of exploitation in the early 80s!

Glossing over the fact that the title promises apes in the plural (to be fair it’s not even an ape), it takes place over a period of days rather than a single night and that the most likely side effect of putting a gorilla heart into a human is tissue rejection, you can have some fun here. Some decent gore effects and nudity are present but the real highlight, and probably the reason for its inclusion on the list, was the appearance of genuine open heart surgery footage. It’s graphic, it’s far from brief and it’s the only thing about the film that is anything approaching realistic. One to watch with a beer and nachos!

The original cinema release was missing a minute, although this wasn’t the open heart surgery, instead removing much of the bedroom rape and murder as well as a stabbing. Iver released a very short lived, uncut VHS version in 1983 which was prosecuted by the end of the year, although even this version was missing two uncontentious scenes of just over a minute that was present in the 1993 Redemption DVD. Then comes a very odd 1993 VIPCO VHS release…it seems they accidentally unleashed an uncut version that was available for all of a few days before being withdrawn. Nobody seems to have seen this version but it was well documented at the time…if you have one then keep hold of it, it’s most likely highly collectible! This planned, cut version was never released until 1999 when Sovereign put it out, it was missing nearly three minutes of footage including a lot of the surgery, a beheading, scalping, eye gouging…there wasn’t much of interest left! Nucleus Films finally did the decent thing and put out the uncut version in 2012.

Current Status: Available Uncut in the UK on Nucleus Films and US via Something Weird.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

The DPP 39: Video Nasties List - Part 10

In 1984, the Video Recordings Act ushered in a terrifying new era in UK home video entertainment. The regulation and subsequent censorship of home videos by the British Board of Film Classification led to a number of films being seized by the authorities and prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act 1959. In total, 39 of these films were successfully prosecuted, over the coming months The Horror Video will look very briefly at the release history of each film and its current status. To view the rest of the series…

Part 1: ‘Absurd’, ‘Anthropophagus’ and ‘Axe’, click here
Part 2: ‘Bay of Blood’, ‘The Beast in Heat’ and ‘Blood Feast’, click here
Part 3: ‘Blood Rites’, ‘Bloody Moon’ and ‘The Burning’, click here
Part 4: ‘Cannibal Apocalypse’, ‘Cannibal Ferox’ and ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, click here
Part 5: ‘The Cannibal Man’, ‘The Devil Hunter’ and ‘Don’t Go in the Woods’, click here
Part 6: ‘The Driller Killer’, ‘Evilspeak’ and ‘Expose’, click here
Part 7: ‘Faces of Death’, ‘Fight for Your Life’, ‘Flesh for Frankenstein’, click here
Part 8: ‘Forest of Fear’, ‘The Gestapo’s Last Orgy’ and ‘The House by the Cemetery’, click here
Part 9: ‘House on the Edge of the Park’, ‘I Spit on Your Grave’, ‘Island of Death’, click here

Title: The Last House on the Left (1972)

Director: Wes Craven
Uncut Running Time: 84 minutes
Alternative Titles: ‘Krug and Company’ ‘Bad Company’, ‘Grim Company’, ‘Night of Vengeance’, ‘Sex Crime of the Century’

During the late 70s and early 80s, few films gained the level of notoriety that preceded Wes Craven’s debut flick, a rape revenge film that is blisteringly raw and did little to hint at the skilled director he would become. Telling the simple story of a couple of young women who are unfortunate enough to fall victim to a quartet of escaped criminals…sadistic rapists, torturers and serial killers every one. The girls are systematically assaulted and degraded, almost within spitting distance of their homes, managing to escape as the parents of one of the girls exacts their own, instinctively and barbarically violent revenge.

Although often hailed as such, this is far from a classic, isn’t particularly well made, is very nasty and incredibly difficult to watch in parts. It shares a number of similarities to ‘House on the Edge of the Park’ (also starring David Hess) and ‘I Spit on Your Grave’. To say that Craven went on to reinvent the slasher film twice with some style, breathe new life into the zombie film with ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’ and bring us one of the great American outback horror films with ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, you see very little of that cleverness, subtlety and creativity here that made him such a great. Having said that, it is highly effective in what it sets out to do, that being almost total revulsion. It depends on the viewer as to whether or not that’s a good thing or not. Also, the terrible attempts at humour that the two coppers bring is almost completely out of place!

It was never going to be given a fair ride by the UK censors and has the unenviable honour of being refused a cinema certificate in two different centuries! Banned from the silver screen upon its 1974 UK release it was finally unleashed on VHS courtesy of Replay in 1982 but was handcuffed in July 1983 making it one of the earlier ‘nasties’. Another cinema refusal was almost inevitable given its reputation in what should have been a relatively enlightened 2000, although it was given a cinema club certificate before being rejected for a DVD release in 2001. I don’t know what happened between then and 2002 but it was finally released on parole but even then the controversy didn’t end. Following an appeal against the 31 seconds of imposed cuts by the BBFC, our moral guardians decided to cut it further (probably out of spite!) resulting in a version missing 44 seconds of the harsher footage including urination, degradation, evisceration and more…at the same time the ‘Krug and Company’ version was released as a bonus feature with 28 seconds of cuts. By 2008 the BBFC finally had a word with itself and granted an uncut version, claiming the film to be ‘dated’! We’ve now got a staggering release from Arrow featuring three cuts of the film, all remastered in 2K, including commentaries, documentaries, retrospectives, interviews and far more than the film deserves. It’s best viewed in the context of history, censorship and a lesson in the ultimate pointlessness of censorship!

Current Status: Available uncut from Arrow Video in the UK, uncut on MGM in the US.

Title: Love Camp 7 (1969)

Director: Lee Frost
Uncut Running Time: 96 minutes
Alternative Titles: ‘Nazi Love Camp 7’, ‘Camp Special No.7’

This movie holds the distinction of being amongst, possibly even the very first of the Nazi ‘Sexploitation’ films, bizarrely claiming the film to be based on a true story! The plot involves a couple of (naturally beautiful!) female officers who go undercover as prisoners of war in order to extract information from a scientist who is also a prisoner in this particular concentration camp. The women are there purely for the sexual amusement of the Nazi guards so, of course, there are a number of scenes of torture, rape and degradation as the women attempt to ‘blend in’. Ultimately our heroines seek to be punished sufficiently so that they can join their scientist who has been placed in solitary confinement.

This particular genre has troubled our noble censors from the very start with its unpleasant mix of Nazi imagery, sexual violence and general sleaze for the purposes of titillating entertainment. It was never likely to find much of an audience in the UK as a consequence. As I’ve said in previous entries of this type within this rundown of the original 39 video nasties, this isn’t a genre that interests me so must confess that it isn’t one I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of viewing. That said, the censorship and banning of this film just served to give it an infamy it probably doesn’t deserve so that was the point?

In terms of censorship it’s a fairly simple story, the film has never seen the light of day with any official release in the UK since the early 80s moral panic. It was given a VHS release in 1983 through Market, swiftly falling foul of the authorities in 1985. An attempt was made to get it passed for a DVD release but it was rejected outright…cuts were considered but, as it contravened the BBFC’s strict guidance on sexualised violence, the sole purpose of the film’s existence, this idea was rejected. An uncut bootleg version was briefly available on DVD-r from some online retailers though these have also become scarce and the film quality is reputedly terrible.

Current Status: Remains banned in the UK, uncut version available on US blu ray through Blue Underground.

Title: Madhouse (1981)

Director: Ovidio G. Assonitis
Uncut Running Time: 93 minutes
Alternative Titles: ‘There was a Little Girl’, ‘And When she was Bad’, ‘Scared to Death’, ‘Flesh and the Beast’

This one is actually pretty good, so much so that it was picked up for distribution by none other than Warner Bros for distribution in parts of Europe. This Italian slasher is unusual in that the weapon of choice appears to be a dog, more specifically a Rottweiler that tears the throat of its victims, although there is one particularly nasty axe murder that is worth a tenner of any horror fan’s money! The story centres around a woman who becomes convinced that she is being stalked by her disfigured and deranged twin sister just days before their birthday. It makes some atmospheric use of its setting within a large house and is better made than many others appearing on this list. Watching it back, it was most likely the scene that sees the raging Rottweiler dispatched with a drill that saw it gain the attention of the powers that be. They had a real issue with power tools as weapons, as evidence by their treatment of ‘The Driller Killer’, ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ and ‘The Toolbox Murders’.

What’s interesting about this movie is that, rather than try and out-Giallo Dario Argento, the film instead seems to take its influence from the American slasher, slap bang in the middle its golden period. It’s very much an Italian film and perhaps comes across as more stylish than it actually is thanks to its grandiose settings, distinctive soundtrack and shocking dubbing. There were better Italian giallo/slasher hybrids to come, think of Soavi’s ‘Stage Fright’ in particular, but there’s a lot to enjoy about this film. Just don’t expect anything approaching the level of Fulci or Argento, neither in the film quality or gore content. That said, you could do a lot worse!

Medusa brought an uncut version to the UK in January 1983, releasing a truncated version later in the year which ended up in the hands of the authorities anyway…who said censorship worked? Oddly nobody tried to release the film again until Film 2000 released a piss poor copy in 2004. But, to give it its due it paved the way for Arrow to bring us a release with all the whistles and bells in 2017…happy days indeed and it’s good to see one of the better, but lesser known ‘video nasties’ finally given a worthwhile audience.

Current Status: Available Uncut in the UK and US via Arrow Video.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Psycho 2 (1983)

Tagline: “It’s 22 years later, and Norman Bates is coming home”
Duration: 113 minutes

Film Quality: 4/5
Entertainment Value: 4/5
Gore Content: 2/5
Originality: 3/5


When Robert Bloch, author of the original ‘Psycho’, wrote a follow up novel in 1982, Universal Studio panicked and swiftly commissioned a sequel of their own that wasn’t to be based on Bloch’s second tome. Bloch used his novel to satirise Hollywood and its’ persistent obsession with slasher movies, something Hollywood wanted no part of, employing Tom Holland to write the script and former Hitchcock protégé Richard Franklin to direct. It can’t be overemphasised what a daunting task this must have been; to revisit one of the slasher genre’s forefathers, a classic film in its own right and come up with a worthy sequel. Whilst they might not have performed a miracle, the film turned out to be far better than it had any right to be.

In a Nutshell

Set 22 years after the events in Hitchcock’s original, Norman Bates is declared sane and released back to his home, the Bates Motel. It’s not a decision that pleases everyone with Lila Loomis, Marion Crane’s sister, vociferously vocal against his release, certain that he will kill again. When strange things start to happen to Norman at his home, he becomes convinced his dead mother is once again trying to persuade him to kill and begins to lose his tenuous grip on sanity. Is it all a trick to get Bates recommitted or is Norman once again going slowly insane?

So, what’s good about it?

Here is a sequel that dares to do something different. It would have been very easy for them to do a simple re-tread of the first film but instead they focus on character and psychology which must have been incredibly refreshing and frustrating in equal measures for movie goers in the middle of the slasher movie boom. It almost plays out like a giallo, creating its own ambiguity by lending motive to both Norman through his previous insanity and Loomis through her anger over the killer of her sister seemingly getting away with murder. Throw in some serious mother issues, a twisty plot and you have a very taught, smart and psychological horror film.

Anthony Perkins initially refused any involvement in a sequel out of respect for the original and only came on board after agreeing to read the script. What a performance! It’s rare to see a horror film focusing on the psychology and character of the killer rather than the victim and Perkins turns in a performance of such vulnerability and sensitivity that we accept he may be the victim of an elaborate scheme. He’s all nervous twitches, sideways glances, awkward smiles, building into his performance a wall that we can’t quite see through…we don’t know any more than he does whether or not he’s killed these people. There are moments when we are afraid of him and afraid for him, it may well even top his performance from the original and it’s clear that Perkins has a tremendous affection for the character to play him the way he does.

Of course he has a wonderful script upon which to hang this performance which gives very little away. Just as we think we know what’s going on, Holland throws something in there that makes us doubt our own opinions. Holland had such a burden placed upon him to respect the original, a burden shared with director Richard Franklin who sought the advice and help of several of the original crew to recreate the set, finding several of the props, including the bird of prey that towers ominously over Marion Crane in the opening scenes. Their intention was for this to be a tribute to Hitchcock and I’m sure the great man would have approved.

Most of the cast do a serviceable job, including a very fresh faced Meg Tilly and Vera Miles reprising her role as Lila Crane/Loomis. Jerry Goldsmith provides a haunting and, at times, beautiful score that takes some of the musical cues from Bernard Herrmann’s iconic original. The set design is also superb with the Motel once again providing an ominous and imposing backdrop to what is about to occur, this time fulfilling a number of roles as the terrible place, lovers’ lane and both a place of sanctuary and danger for Bates and his damaged psyche.

Without giving too much away, just like the first film, the ending is an absolute knockout. There are a number of twists but, despite the signposts, I certainly didn’t see the final confrontation coming in what is a truly chilling conclusion. The cast and crew weren’t given the final few pages of the script until the last day of filming so this ending was concealed from them as well. I won’t say any more to preserve the outcome for any of you who haven’t seen it!

And what about the bad?

The film plays loose and fast with some of the events that occur within the film. It’s easy to accept that Bates would be declared sane after 22 years, after all it is a decent amount of time to have elapsed. However, would they really send him back to the very place that sent him insane in the first place and all of the memories, feelings and emotions that the place would inevitably trigger? It’s the equivalent of sending a recovering alcoholic to live in a brewery only on a potentially fatal scale! It’s clumsily written into the script that cutbacks prevent frequent social worker visits and I’m aware that there would be no film without this setting but it’s a bit of a leap!

Also, I know that the film has the courage of its convictions to succeed on its own merits but I’m not sure that replaying the original movie’s most revered scene at the very beginning is in the film’s best interest. It’s the equivalent of hearing an original recording of the opening of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ just before hearing another band cover it. Nothing can live up to the expectations of such a classic, horrific scene so why show it? Good though ‘Psycho 2’ is, there is no equivalent scene that lives up to that single, iconic moment from the original.

Any themes?

Despite wanting to move away from a satire of slasher films this film does subvert the genre. The character of Lila is a reflection of us, yet is displayed as the villain of the piece, manipulating Bates to question his own sanity. She wants him to lose control so that he can be recommitted, believing that normality for him IS insanity. But what do we want from ‘Psycho 2’? Is it to see Norman reintegrated into society and make a valuable contribution? Despite the fact that we can claim to be sympathetic to his situation and may be pleased to see him declared sane, the answer is ‘no’! We want, perhaps even expect, to see him slowly descend into madness again, just like Lila. At one point Lila says ‘People don’t change’ and for us, insanity would be normality restored.

It’s also an examination of how we are, ultimately, controlled by and consumed by the dead. We learn from the first film that Norman was unable to cope with the death of his mother by his own hand, internalising her strict and moralising stance on life, externalising it through murder. Lila has a similar problem, living her life through the grief and anger caused by her murdered sister. Even the film itself lives permanently in the shadow of its predecessor but isn’t that the case for all of us who have suffered a bereavement and experienced loss? That void has to filled with something.

Release history…

The film suffered a few cuts for violence by the MPAA for its original cinema release although these brief moments, most notably the crowd pleasing knife through the mouth scene, have been restored for subsequent DVD and Blu-Ray releases. Some releases have been shortened further for nudity, specifically when Meg Tilly’s character gets out of a shower whilst being watched through a peep hole. As was the norm back in the early 80s, some additional scenes were filmed and included in TV versions to pad out the runtime, allowing them to fill syndicated slots.

Cultural impact?

Since ‘Psycho 2’ there have been a further two sequels and a long running origins TV series. Of course the original ‘Psycho’ was where it all started but it was the sequel that opened the door to what followed. Would anyone else have been brave enough to touch the original had there not been this sequel to open the floodgates?

Final thoughts?

‘Psycho 2’ has a good claim to the ‘most underrated film of the 80s’  and it will forever live in the shadow of the original but, for those who take the time to watch it, it’s more than a pleasant surprise. What Holland and Franklin have created is a thoughtful, well made and well written film that adds to the original by further exploring the Bates character without ever taking anything away from Hitchcock’s classic. In a decade full of needless sequels and pale imitations, the one that we probably needed the least turned out to be the best of the bunch.

Memorable Quotes

Mary: ‘I think there’s someone else in the house.’

Norman: ‘Just don’t let them take me back to the institution.’

Norman: ‘No mother, I won’t do that…you can’t make me kill her.’

Norman: ‘Would you care to share my toasted cheese sandwich?’

You’ll like this if you enjoyed…

‘Psycho’, ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’, ‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’

Related Reviews…

Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer – Click here for full review
Deep Red – Click here for full review
Beyond the Darkness – Click here for full review
Halloween – Click here for full review

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The Evil Dead (1981)

Tagline: “The ultimate experience in gruelling terror’”
Duration: 85 minutes

Film Quality: 3.5/5
Gore Content: 4/5
Entertainment Value: 4.5/5
Originality: 4/5


When two teenage lads decided to venture into the woods, full of hope and dreams, they surely didn’t expect that kind of reaction. No, not Dale and Tucker, I’m talking about Raimi and Campbell. Having begged, borrowed and probably attained by other means, enough money to make a feature length version of their short ‘Within the Woods’, a small crew of some 13 (they really didn’t help themselves did they!!!) began pre-production on a low budget film about demonic possession that within a couple of years had secured distribution with New Line cinema and a ringing endorsement from Stephen King. Campbell and Raimi had arrived…in style!

In a nutshell

Five teens venture into the woods where they unearth a tape recorder in an old log cabin. Foolishly they play the tape and unleash a demonic force that possesses them one by one. Can they unravel the mystery of the Book of the Dead and defeat the evil?

So what’s good about it?

This a true success story and a sheer triumph of creativity that goes to show that money and marketing are not the driving forces of creativity and entertainment. Raimi and Campbell were friends from school and it was through stubbornness and an absolute desire to get this film done that the horror community was given a genuinely original and fun film. They had just $100,000 and, though you could argue that they were lucky to have a friend with connections at Cannes to give them a wider audience, it was no fluke that Stephen King publicly endorsed the film. It really is a ferociously original film!

Let’s start with Raimi’s wonderful camerawork. The shape and form of the demonic force is never shown but its presence is everywhere, largely through Raimi’s expert handling of the lens. Just watch the scene where Cheryl comes out of the cabin and she looks to her left and right. The camera never lets you see past her field of view, she is on display and we are the ones watching her along with the evil presence. It’s unnerving and there are many other scenes like that in the woods, in the cabin, long tracking shots and the now infamous camera through the woods shot at the end. There is a sequence about an hour in where almost everything is shot at an angle of 45 degrees that is astonishing and shows a talent and capacity for editing way beyond what you normally expect from a low budget gore fest.

Raimi clearly knows his horror as the film works on two levels. The first half is surprisingly frightening, working more as a haunted house movie with strange noises, something in the cellar, temporary possession and an omnipotent force keeping the quintet at the cabin. There is some very creepy sound work going on here, particularly in the moments leading up to the infamous ‘tree rape’ scene and Shelly’s gruesome and very noisy demise. Those looking for a gorefest may be disappointed by the opening 40 minutes but as soon as Cheryl ‘turns’ there is more than enough splatter and gooey gore thrown at the screen. We’re treated to eye gougings, flesh eating, decapitation by axe, head loppings and a very painful moment involving an ankle and pencil (which is mightier than the sword?).

But who’d have thought that the breakout star would by Bruce Campbell’s ‘Ash’ who, certainly for the first half of the film does nothing special. In fact for most of the second half he struggles underneath book shelves or standing around not knowing what to do and Raimi seems to delight in throwing blood at him in various parts of the movie. In truth it’s the film’s superior, albeit more goofy, sequel where Raimi goes ‘Full Campbell’ and really cuts his childhood friend loose in his now trademark madcap style. However it’s this film that gave the pair their big break in a partnership that’s still giving us horror fans so much pleasure today, both in and outside the ‘Evil Dead’ universe.

What about the bad?

One of the reasons Sam Raimi made ‘Evil Dead 2’ so jovial was because of the reaction he got from some quarters to what was a fairly brutal original. Despite a thick undercurrent of black humour running throughout the film, the ‘tree rape’ scene never sat well with some critics and it does appear a little out of place with some of the other demonic attacks. I’m sure it wasn’t Raimi’s intention to trivialise rape or make it appear a little hokey but, despite it not being particularly graphic, it is pretty tasteless. With the rest of the film being such good, occasionally over the top fun I don’t think the film would have been any the worse without it.

Raimi would go on to write and direct bigger and better films and there are some elements of ‘The Evil Dead’ that don’t stand up too well to modern audiences. It has been surpassed by its own superior sequel and, despite some nifty camerawork and useful effects, it is rough around the edges and shows all the hallmarks of a low budget, amateur, independent film, albeit done VERY well and hugely enjoyable!

Any themes?

I always found it interesting that it was the women in the film who become possessed first. Could this be a heavily disguised feminist film? Okay, perhaps that’s a stretch too far but it does raise the question about whether our female characters are in fact the victims here. Traditionally it’s been the female characters who are terrorised, become the focus for our fear and the ones we identify with but not here. By making the ladies succumb to the demonic possession first, it is the males who are terrorised and the women who become the tormentors, albeit with a forced hand. This is certainly more pronounced in the second half of the film with Ash in particular bearing the brunt of the beatings.

By switching the roles and focus of the terror, it’s worth pointing out that this film was made during the height of the slasher boom. The way the film is structured is almost like an anti-slasher. You have the correct setting, a cabin in the woods becomes the terrible place, you have the female character who can ‘see’, many of the gruesome scenes involve sharp, penetrative weapons, guns are useless and there is an unseen, omnipresent force stalking the group of teens. However it is all subverted. The final girl is a boy, it is the men who are stalked and slashed, it’s the women who keep getting up after seemingly being killed and there is no unmasking, no resolution, no real escape.

Release History

Despite ‘The Evil Dead’ becoming intrinsically linked to the video nasties moral panic, it’s worth pointing out that Raimi’s film was never on the official list, or at least not the prosecuted 39 that made the DPP’s list. The original cinema version in the UK was cut by around 45 seconds and it was this version that was released by Palace on VHS and later banned in 1983, being dropped from the list in 1985. Palace picked it up again for distribution in 1990 but the BBFC failed to see the funny side, slicing a further minute from the running time. Anchor Bay brought out the full uncut VHS and DVD in 2001 and all subsequent releases have been completely uncensored.

There is a ‘Book of the Dead’ edition released in the UK which is cropped to fit a widescreen ratio rather than its natural fullscreen display. Some fans dislike this particular version as it is also slightly altered, albeit at Raimi’s request, including the removal of a lightening flash and a zoom into Cheryl’s face as she turns around having been possessed.

It’s worth pointing out that some of the newspapers that campaigned for this film to be banned (yes, I’m talking to you ‘The Sun’) were quite happy to give it away free on DVD in its uncut form as a promotion in the early 2000s to sell copies…hypocritical doesn’t quite cover it!

Cultural Impact

Massive and matches ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ and ‘Night of the Living Dead’ as one of the most culturally significant horror debuts in cinema history. It’s spawned two sequels that progressively upped the humour and slapstick whilst reducing the horror and gore, a very good remake and a TV series that continued a number of years after his own third movie ended.

It gave the world a unique directorial talent in Sam Raimi who became one of the hottest properties in Hollywood when he took a stab at the ‘Spider-man’ movies, doing a superb job on the first two, It’s refreshing to see a director who cut his teeth on the horror circuit not abandoning his own directorial traits and you could argue that his witty style and eye for the unusual camera shot was perfectly suited to bringing comic book characters to life.

And no dissection of the cultural impact of ‘The Evil Dead’ would be complete without talking about the living legend that is Bruce Campbell. There’s something reassuring about an actor like Campbell fully embracing his B-movie pedigree and breakout character persona. He’s given wonderful turns in ‘My Name is Bruce’ and ‘Bubba Ho-Tep’ with gleeful endeavour and didn’t hesitate, in fact seemingly actively pursued a return to the character of Ash for ‘Ash Vs Evil Dead’, a superb continuation of Raimi’s universe. Long may it continue!

Final thoughts

Original, entertaining, gleefully gory and revelling in its own bad taste, it’s very difficult not to enjoy ‘The Evil Dead’. It’s title suggests a zombie movie but it plays out more like a haunted house movie with a touch of the slasher and large dollop of demonic possession. Highly original, it was quite a hit on its release, raking in well over $2.5m and was the year’s biggest selling video in the UK before the BBFC put paid to that! It’s a film to go back to and enjoy over and over again, just enjoy it!

Memorable quotes

Linda: “We’re gonna get you, we’re gonna get you, not another peep, time to go to sleep.”

Evil Dead: “Join us…”

Shelly: “I don’t know what I would have done had I remained on those hot coals, burning my pretty flesh.”

Cheryl: “You will die…like the others before you, one by one we will take you.”

Ash: “You bastards, why are you torturing me like this…why?”

You’ll like this if you enjoyed…

‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’, ‘The Video Dead’, ‘Bad Taste’, ‘Cabin in the Woods’.

Related Posts

‘Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn’ – Click here
‘Bad Taste’ – Click here
‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ – Click here
‘The Video Dead’ – Click here
‘An American Werewolf in London’ – Click here
'Braindead' - Click here

Monday, 29 January 2018

The DPP 39: Video Nasties List - Part 9

In 1984, the Video Recordings Act ushered in a terrifying new era in UK home video entertainment. The regulation and subsequent censorship of home videos by the British Board of Film Classification led to a number of films being seized by the authorities and prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act 1959. In total, 39 of these films were successfully prosecuted, over the coming months The Horror Video will look very briefly at the release history of each film and its current status. To view the rest of the series…

Part 1: ‘Absurd’, ‘Anthropophagus’ and ‘Axe’, click here
Part 2: ‘Bay of Blood’, ‘The Beast in Heat’ and ‘Blood Feast’, click here
Part 3: ‘Blood Rites’, ‘Bloody Moon’ and ‘The Burning’, click here
Part 4: ‘Cannibal Apocalypse’, ‘Cannibal Ferox’ and ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, click here
Part 5: ‘The Cannibal Man’, ‘The Devil Hunter’ and ‘Don’t Go in the Woods’ click here
Part 6: ‘The Driller Killer’, ‘Evilspeak’ and ‘Expose’. Click here
Part 7: ‘Faces of Death’, ‘Fight for Your Life’, ‘Flesh for Frankenstein’, click here
Part 8: ‘Forest of Fear’, ‘The Gestapo’s Last Orgy’ and ‘The House by the Cemetery’, click here

Title: ‘House on the Edge of the Park’ (1980)

Director: Ruggero Deodato
Uncut running time: 91 minutes
Alternative titles: ‘La Casa Speruta Nel Parco’, ‘La Casa al Confini del Parco’, ‘Der Schlitzer’

Deodato certainly knows how to cheese off the censors, this is another fairly graphic and controversial film featuring rape, torture and extreme violence. Even Deodato himself thought that the script was too violent (this was the man who made ‘Cannibal Holocaust’!) and it was perhaps inevitable that it’d end up on the UK banned list.

Essentially it’s a home invasion film where a couple of killers (who indulge in a bit of rape on the side) are invited to a party by a group of rich people who they end up helping out of a spot of car trouble. Of course it turns nasty when they make fun of their eventual assailants and, much like another film starring David Hess, ‘The Last House on the Left’, the tables are turned by their victims. It does have a decent twist in the tale at the end, albeit a little convoluted and I’m not sure it really justifies the film itself which is pretty nasty at times. That said, Deodato knows how to shoot a film and as long as you can put up with the violence, which is sexual at times and not easy to take, then it’s on the better side of the 39 films on the original DPP list.

Needless to say it was the sexual violence that got this into trouble more than anything else and it was refused even a cinema certificate in the early 80s in the UK. It’s a sign of the unregulated times that Skyline managed to put out an uncut version on VHS in October 1982, less than a year later it was successfully prosecuted and banned in July 1983. It remained unavailable until VIPCO, rather pointlessly, release a version that was missing a ridiculous 11m43s, mainly from the strong rape scenes and moments of sexual violence, this was in 2002. Shameless did a lot better, missing 43 seconds which was pretty much exclusively reserved for razors being used suggestively and intimately up and down the female form. We may one day see an uncut version, if someone can be bothered to release it, but for now the version we have isn’t at all bad.

Current status: unavailable in the UK on Shameless DVD, cut by 43 seconds, available uncut on region free Code Red in the US.

Title: ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ (1981)

Director: Meir Zarchi
Uncut running time: 94 minutes
Alternative titles: ‘Day of the Woman’, ‘I Hate Your Guts’, ‘The Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hill’

To describe this film as divisive would be an understatement with people calling it both feminist and exploitative of women in equal measure. There’s no right or wrong answer in that and I’m sure we all know the simple plot which is essentially a rape revenge film where the female victim turns the tables on her attackers. It’s monumentally brutal in its depiction of rape and incredibly difficult to watch, in fact you feel that you need to take a shower afterwards.

It’s clearly low budget and that grittiness just adds to the feeling of shock and Camille Keaton as Jennifer is astonishingly convincing. You are firmly on her side when she exacts her terrifying and brutal revenge and, from my perspective, you certainly aren’t invited to revel and enjoy the horrors that those ‘men’ inflict upon her. The writers and filmmakers make it easy for us by portraying the gang as one dimensional and pure evil, would it have been more challenging had we been given more characterisation? Their actions cause us to want to see them punished so there is a case for calling the filmmakers out for expecting us to revel and enjoy castration, decapitation and basic murder…even if it is an act of revenge. It’s a challenging film and one that asks a number of questions of the audience who, on first viewing (many may never watch it again), are likely to be too traumatised to want to think about.

The film landed itself in serious trouble with the BBFC after Wizard put out the uncut version in January 1982 and then again by Astra shortly after. By July 1983 it had been seized and successfully prosecuted, not seeing any further release until 2001 when it was brought out again on VHS by Screen Entertainment. More than seven minutes were removed, interestingly all from the rape scenes with none of the moments of revenge tinkered with.

In 2006 Screen Entertainment tried again with a version they claimed was uncut, before the BBFC removed 41 seconds. In reality what they had done is reframe some of the scenes in line with previous cuts. This had a very bizarre effect by diluting the rape scenes so much that the moments of revenge suddenly seemed a little over the top! Finally 101 Films put forward a genuinely uncut version in 2010 which suffered from 2m54s of cuts, again to the stronger elements of the rape scenes, entirely removing the rape over the rock and any exploitative emphasis that the rapists were enjoying it. I can’t see an uncut version ever being released in the UK

Current status: Available on DVD and blu-ray on 101 Films, cut by 2m54s in the UK, available uncut in the US on Anchor Bay.

Title: Island of Death (1972)

Director: Nico Mastorakis
Uncut running time: 108 minutes
Alternative title: ‘A Craving for Lust’, ‘Devils in Mykonos’, ‘Psychic Killer 2’, ‘Island of Perversion’, ‘Cruel Destination’

Hell’s Bells this is a seriously nasty film! A couple (Christopher and Celia) leave London, seemingly intent on ridding the island of Mykonos of anything they believe is perverse or unnatural and nothing is off the table. An artist is crucified and has paint poured down his throat, a policeman is hanged from his own plane, Christopher urinates on another woman before beating her half to death and decapitating her with a JCB…oh, and he also rapes a goat! It seems as if the filmmakers sole intention was to cram as much depravity and exploitatively violent scenes as possible into one film and pretty much succeeded. The twist in the tale is that the couple were brother and sister so the whole thing was driven by incestuous desires…of course it was!

All of the above may sound like a certain amount of fun but it really isn’t. It’s not particularly well made, save for a shot or two using a fish-eye lens involving a mysterious figure who haunts Celia’s dreams. Of course he turns out to be very real and is also a murderous rapist. If the intention was to make a purely exploitative film then it’s a resounding success!

The film was absolutely hammered by the BBFC who removed just over 13 minutes for its original cinema release (as ‘A Craving for Lust’) in 1976 before reverting back to its original title for an uncut VHS release by AVI. It was banned in November 1983 but, possibly due to confusion with a similarly titled Narcisco Ibanez Serrador film, was removed (but not released) from the list only to be reinstated in October 1985. It was refused a video certificate again under the name ‘Psychic Killer 2’ (it’s worth noting that this was a heavily cut version which shows the extreme nature of the material) before being released with 4m09s of cuts by VIPCO in the early 00s. Incredibly Arrow got it past the BBFC completely uncut in 2010 and it’s even been shown without cuts on the UK Horror Channel. How times have changed!

Current status: Uncut in the UK and US on Arrow Video.