Based on the acclaimed short story from Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood: Volume II”, “Dread” is a psychological thriller centered on three college students who study other people’s fears. As the study unfolds, one of the students begins to seek salvation from his own obsessions by exploiting the terrors of his fellow participants. Starring Jackson Rathbone (“Twilight Saga”, “S. Darko”) and Shaun Evans (“Telstar”, “The Take”).
2009 – Certificate: 18 – USA
Rating Details: Strong language, once very strong, and strong bloody violence
8 out of 10
Last Tuesday I had to go to a meeting, in central London. I didn’t have to be there until 12:30, so I’d thought, great, that would give me a couple of hours to read the things I needed to go through, before taking a nice, comfortable trip (out of the rush-hour) on the train. I switch on my computer at 8:15. Nothing happened. No sound like I’m in a wind-tunnel (thanks to the eight fans inside the case), no meaningless messages on the monitor, no rattling of the metal case (because I’m too lazy to do up the screws from when I last pulled it to bits). No sound is not a good sign. Using my brilliant Homes-like powers of deduction, I quickly deduced that the power unit has failed, again; it’s only been about two years since I last replaced it too. (What is it with electronic things these days, does every-single one break-down after two years?) No matter; that’s a quick, two-mile round trip to Maplins for a new one and back, nothing that £70 won’t put right; then I’ll quickly put it in and it’s all fixed before it’s even 9:00. Now, Reading’s traffic system is ‘fragile’ at best. So when someone decides to try to get away from the police, crashes and gets killed, it tends to bring the whole lot to a grinding halt. I eventually got back home after 10:30; it had taken me two hours to drive less than three miles! I did get to see the aforementioned ‘incident’ on the other carriageway as I, very, very slowly, drove past it, which despite the crash happening the night before, was still totally blocking the main route into Reading from the M4. It’s not that I’m not unsympathetic. The poor guy, just 19 years old, was being chased by six police cars (including an armed response team and dog-handlers), crashed, got thrown from the vehicle and then run over by one of the police cars chasing him. I can only imagine he must have been an international terrorist, with an armed nuclear device and special powers that would somehow have enabled his clap-out Ford Fiesta to outrun any police vehicle, hence the need for such a response. He wasn’t even a Muslin, or Black either, just some local lad who’d probably done something he shouldn’t’ve. And now he’s lost his life, his family and friends are all devastated and one police officer has that on his conscience forever. I guess that puts my broken power unit into prospective. And I ended up having to stand on the train, in both directions.
The first 15 minutes of this film are a mess, as a desperate race against time takes place to introduce us to everyone and establish a back-story for them as quickly as possible. There was no sign of Judge Dredd either! Fortunately, things improved greatly after that. I have to admit that this is an excellent, modern horror, which manages to capture some of the essence of what makes films like “Saw” work so well, as opposed to just featuring a series of gross ways to hurt people. As the big ‘sticker’ in the middle of the cover proudly proclaims, it stars some guy who was in “Twilight”. No matter that this blatant bit of marketing totally spoils the cover art, (not that it’s especially inspiring but, you know, it’s the principle). Interestingly, one of the lead female characters has a huge birth mark, which I think is supposed to make us feel sorry for her. Unfortunately, they picked such a beautiful actress to play the part that she just came across as looking exotic and still really hot. Still, realism isn’t what I was watching it for; I’d had plenty of that in the traffic jam and it wasn’t fun or nice at all. Needless to say, as a vegan, the scene with vegetarian Cheryl and the bit of beef was of particular enjoyment. Will she or won’t she? It was probably horse meat anyway. If you can forgive its more irritating moments, this is a great horror and well worth watching, if you like that sort of stuff.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Recommended for masochistic vegetarians and the normal array of weirdos who get their kicks watching movies like this.
Top badass moment? It’s pretty predictable and to be honest a bit weak in badass terms, but I suppose it’s Stephen going off to try to find Cheryl after she’d been kidnapped. Not that it did either of them much good. He’d had the hots for her for ages anyway. I bet he wouldn’t have bothered if it had been someone else, me for example.
Eager for one final vacation before their lives change forever, six friends embark upon a camping trip to a remote mountainous area. By nightfall, their lives will change forever… in ways too horrific to imagine. For in the shadows awaits a pack of the most evil, vicious rejects of humanity, addicted to violence and thirsty for blood! This is “Psycho Holocaust”…
2011 – Certificate: Not Rated – USA
6 out of 10
I’m not just an uncouth, middle-aged yobbo, who only listens to angry punk music and watches slasher movies. No, I also have a cultured, respectable side, the sort that The Queen would be entirely at home with. In proof, I offer up the fact that I’ve just finished reading “The Hand of Ethelberta” by Thomas Hardy, not for the first time either. In between reading Star Trek novels I read Thomas Hardy ones. The latter is of course, the greatest writer the world has ever seen. In fact I’m a fully paid-up member of the Thomas Hardy Society. That’s how cultured I am. Unlike “The Terminator” Sara Connor’s “No fate but what we make”, Hardy’s novels generally provide more of a ‘fate will do whatever it wants with you, despite your best efforts to do otherwise, and you probably won’t like it either’ point of view. Even though it’s one of Hardy’s more light-weight stories, “The Hand of Ethelberta” once again provides us with a reminder that it’s basically pointless trying to do something about your lot in life, or dream about bettering yourself. When it comes down to it, you might win a few battles, but the war will be lost. I find Hardy an excellent counter-balance to the optimism and can-do attitude prevalent in Star Trek. Together, they help to keep me grounded! This movie is more Thomas Hardy than Star Trek.
“Six friends embark upon a camping trip to a remote mountainous area” eh? I wonder what on Earth this film could be about? Ornithology? Geology? Photography? Actually, it features three veterans of the conflict in Iraq, in a searing and damming documentary about the effects of combat on individuals and the political implications of going to war. Okay, I lied a bit. It does indeed feature three veterans (and one was a documentary film maker), but then it all sort of goes where a million low-budget horrors have gone before. In its favour, our six ‘heroes’ weren’t teenagers and even the three war veterans displayed a clear lack of fantasy indestructibleness. (Cool, a six-syllable word that Word approves of.) The latter also exhibited a genuine concern for their local environment, (an attractive woodland). It was heartening to see a couple of sick and twisted psychos busy taking two of their victims off to a location to kill them in, discussing an impending plan to turn the area into “one big fucking suburb”. A small quirk of fate and they’d have been running about, carrying out direct action in the name of Earth First instead. That’s the ‘Hardy Effect’ for you. The violence is well up to scratch and some (though not all) of the special effects are generally pretty believable. The lead baddie is suitably effective and entertaining, even though he did look a little too like Simon Pegg to be totally convincing. I kept expecting him to pick up a pile of LPs and use them as weapons. Despite the occasionally horrific bit of acting, the film works well as a B-movie and the violence scores highly on the official sick-gross-eew scale. Turning to health and safety now, a number of different tools get used in the film, including two carpenter’s saws, a claw hammer, a few hand axes, a double-headed axe and a sort of flat bladed butcher’s hatchet, as well as a chainsaw. By and large, these were used in a generally appropriate and certainly effective way, although the arm that was cut off wasn’t really secured properly and the no-handed use of one of the saws isn’t a formally recognised technique. (You may wish to give that some further though.) Unfortunately, as is often the case, the chainsaw was used with little or no attention paid to safety. I couldn’t see any PPE in use and even an idiot must surely realise that running about in a woodland carrying a running chainsaw, over uneven terrain full of trip hazards, isn’t a terribly good idea. It never fails to amaze me how few chainsaw wielding psychos use their equipment safely. Particularly in this case, considering the latter were ex-military; this was disappointing and certainly made the whole movie feel a lot less realistic. However, it did seem to start really easily, from both hot and cold, so at least it looks like it was being maintained properly, which is promising.
1 cat, 1 chainsaw and 1 decapitation. Bingo! The first film I’ve watched for ages that gets a full set. (I think the cat was just a bystander that ran onto the set though.) There’re a few other rather painful amputations too.
Recommended for would-be psychos. An excellent training film.
Top badass moment? It’s certainly a gentleman’s leg-crossing moment, but Laura’s treatment of her would-be rapist was pretty awesome; I’m just not sure how feasible it would be in real life (so says Mr. Modest-Bigboy). It wasn’t that she’d had an especially good day up to then either. A whipping, a drowning, another rape, a bashing on the head with a big rock and finding her boyfriend missing a leg, (who then promptly fell on her when she tried to help him, trapping her), do not a good day make for anyone. And let’s not forget her safe and effective use of the double-headed axe too.
I hate job interviews. I’d rather face the end of the world, on a wet day, when I’ve got a stinking cold, than be interviewed. They have the bizarre effect of temporarily rendering me insane and only capable of repeating, over and over again, that my would-be employer is the world’s worst organisation and one I despise in every way; think of the bastard corporate offspring of McDonalds, Nestle, Procter & Gamble and Rio Tinto, appointing Pol Pot, Idi Amin and Augusto Pinochet as directors and you’ll get some idea of the problem. Eric Cartman probably interviews better than me. Interviewing others however, is very different; I quite enjoy doing that as I’m a sadistic, evil psychopath, who hates absolutely everyone. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been involved in interviewing seven people for two jobs. I accept that in life I probably can’t get away with murdering every single individual on the planet, so the next best thing is to torture a small number of them, by using a legal loophole that enables me to psychologically damage people using an interrogation technique, which involves asking them a lot of deeply personal questions about their darkest fears and experiences. If I can throw in a question about Star Trek, even if it has nothing whatsoever to do with the job (and I can’t imagine why such a question every would have), so much the better. (I imagine there’s a whole sub-genera of films based around this particular fetish, although I’ve not personally come across any yet.) There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing an empty box of tissues on the table at the end of the day. Interviewing is like being an actor in a play, (a pantomime is probably the best analogy). You do and say the same things, over and over again, for each ‘victim’. I guess there’re a lot like slasher horrors too; you know a group of (generally) young people are going to go to a mysterious, isolated location, where something truly horrible will be done to them, one by one, by a strange, inhuman entity of some sort; and only one will survive! I like to think of myself as a bit like Jason Voorhees when I’m interviewing; focused on a single outcome, without a shred of compassion, empathy or humanity. This film is of course, about being interviewed…
2009 – Certificate: 18 – USA
Rating Details: Strong bloody violence and strong sex
This is the reboot of Friday 13th. So, a group of young people go somewhere and run into a bad guy with a big knife. They don’t get on. The end. I can’t really imagine there’re a lot of people who will watch this film and not already have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen. It’s not a bad film by any means, but it suffers a bit from the ‘Twilight Effect’, by which I mean it’s a horror story superimposed on a teen drama. It never truly becomes too gory, too scary or too horrifying, although to be fair it does have its moments. Critically, it manages to keep the characters sufficiently annoying and irritating, so that the viewer will never really start to sympathise with them, which is what’s important when the real point of the movie is to see them all get killed by the man in the hockey mask. There’s nothing worse than feeling a twang of sorrow for the victims when a horror icon is going about his, her, or its business.
Recommended for anyone who isn’t genetically programmed to watch reboots of old classics to automatically say something along the lines of, “well, it’s not as good as the original.” This may often be true, but just blurting it out with no thought makes you sound like a Sun reader.
No cats, 3 decapitations and no chainsaws. Only one decapitation is on-screen, but it’s done to Major Kira Nerys from Star Trek Deep Space Nine; what a tragedy of epic proportions! One of the others is only in the deleted scenes.
Top badass moment? There are surprisingly few potential choices, so in the end I’m going for Jason’s excellent throw with the full-sized, double-headed axe. Getting one of them to fly through the air any sort of distance would be hard enough, but throwing one with enough accuracy and power to fell someone who’s running fast and a good 20m or so ahead of you, is pretty impressive. What a shame he didn’t get the opportunity to take up the javelin, discus or hammer; things might have worked out very differently if he had.