It were all disemboweled cheerleaders round here when I were a lad; it seems like every modern Hollywood horror is a reworking of an often long forgotten previous picture. 'Sorority Row' is no exception; this year’s theatrical release is an interpretation of the 1983 Mark Rosman picture 'The House Of Sorority Row', and concerns six sorority girls running around in various states of undress, screaming bloody murder, and cracking gags of which 'Clueless' would be proud.
Yet where the new movie differs from the likes of 2006’s 'Black Christmas' (a debasing modern take on the 1974 original, incidentally one of my all time favourite movies) or this year's Wes Craven-produced reworking of, um, Wes Craven’s first ever film 'The Last House On The Left' (which suffered from the removal of any of the sick giggles of the 1972 original that provided respite to the genuinely sick bits), new-ish director Stewart Hendler’s movie has a script that genuinely zings and a tongue that’s never too far from the surface of its cheek.
Highlights include 'Star Wars'' Carrie Fisher with a shotgun and a late-on kill that will forever change the way I view bubble bath. Sure, it wants to be 'Scream' and it comes out as 'I Know What You Did Last Summer', but, compared to some of the reworkings I mentioned previously, it’s fucking 'Lawrence Of Arabia'.
It hasn’t all been good though – I’ve seen some terrible movies this month; while we’re on the subject of remakes, the DVD release of 2008’s 'It’s Alive' was undoubtedly the worst. It’s a familiar story - where the 1974 original was a cheesy yet fun tale of a sabre-toothed baby eating the fuck out of everything other than rusks, it’s modern day remake trades the age old rule that ‘what you can’t see is scarier than what you can’ for a law of gravity-defying, bouncing CGI mutant baby.
Oh, and director Josef Rusnak seemingly forgot to write an ending. Way to go Josef! Other terrible movies in the horror genre I have watched this month include; 'The Haunting In Connecticut', 'The Strangers' and 'The Unborn'.
Then there’s... oh, a remake! Another new DVD release, 2008’s 'The Midnight Meat Train' is a feature length telling of Clive Barker's short story of the same name, which always sets alarm bells ringing in my mind. Surely a short story implies there’s not enough in there to be stretched out into a long story? Especially when the lead is played by one Vinnie Jones – and that’s a Vinnie Jones that doesn’t even speak until the closing moments of the movie.
Regardless, Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura’s first Western film pads out the gaps with a fine line in shadowy suspense and some unflinching uber violence (which is fitting given the director turned manga staple 'Azumi' into an exquisitely choreographed slash-fest via a 2006 live action movie), until Barker's twist comes hammering home at the end. This is a much better movie than the sum of its parts would ever suggest it was.
I should mention that there’s a new nine-movie Coffin Joe box set doing the rounds at the moment, which contains everything from his classic 1964 debut, 'At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul' to 'The Strange World Of Coffin Joe' - which is so strange it doesn’t even have him in it. If you’re a fan of Coffin Joe, move on and read about me talking about phallic rocket launchers a bit further down there.
Yet if you’re not, and you have any interest in horror movie history, he might be crudely described as Latin America's spin on Freddy or Jason. Played by the Brazilian filmmaker and actor José Mojica Marins, Coffin Joe is a sadistic, lunatic funeral director with fingernails the length of a butterknife and a totally fucking brilliant beard.
It’s not on the boxset, but I’d recommend Marin’s most recent film, 2008’s 'Embodiment Of Evil' as a starting point – conceived as the third in a trilogy that started with ‘… Take Your Soul’ and moved through 1967’s 'This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse', it’s a brilliant film, and working backwards won’t harm your enjoyment one jot.
The two new movies I watched from Japan this month were typically gruesome. The first, Kôji Shiraishi’s 'Grotesque' was less a narrative film than 73 minutes of unrelenting humiliation, brutality and sadism. I felt a little bit like I was watching Doncaster Rovers in the late nineties to be honest. It’s a film that’s caused a bit of a fuss in the UK due to the BBFC’s decision not to award it any ratings certificate, saying that anyone who watched it was at “risk of harm”.
If I garrote my next door neighbour you’ll know whether that’s true or not, but to be honest I just found it all a bit boring. The basic premise, ‘young couple are kidnapped and tortured for the amusement of a total weirdo – but why?’ just reminded me of a better film, 2008’s 'WAZ'. I’d recommend you go hunt that out rather than spend your time dodging the BBFC by downloading this.
The second, the dystopian, insanely OTT blood ‘n’ guts ‘n’ satire flick 'Tokyo Gore Police', is a better title than it is an actual film, and you imagine director and noted gore pioneer Yoshihiro Nishimura started there and worked his way up to the script.
That said, there is much that is good about this movie; the Paul Verhoven-style 'RoboCop'/'Starship Troopers' infomercials that intersperse the action are funny as hell, while I swear to God I’m going to find the bubbly Japanese girl who relays the actions of the ‘Gore Police’ to the public and give her a fucking Oscar just for making me laugh so much.
The premise of the movie is that the newly privatised Tokyo police force are rooted in a battle against people they call ‘engineers’, a breed of covert criminals who can grow biological weapons out of their amputated limbs. Really it’s just an excuse for Nishimura to make people's penises fire bazookas and machine guns grow out of their eyes. Y’know, that’s fine with me.
And finally... Maybe it’s because I’m all excited about Woody Harrelson vehicle 'Zombieland' turning up next month, but I don’t feel like I’ve had anywhere near my ghoul quota for this one. It’s surprising given the fervour over all things zombie-esque this last year or so (the 'Dead Set' show, 'The Walking Dead' comic, the 'World War Z' book), but then maybe things will right themselves when teenage girls/frustrated housewives move on from sexy-yet-monobrowed vampires.
In fact, the only new zombie movie I’ve gone anywhere near this month is the recent DVD release of 2007’s 'Undead Or Alive', which is - as you imagine the fucks in marketing laughed uproariously about when they christened the damn thing – a western with zombies in it. Yet more than that, it’s almost akin to an American 'Shaun Of The Dead' in pace and tone, playing for laughs more than scares. I enjoyed it, sporadically at least. But if I don’t see a slack-jawed corpse eating someone’s brains from the inside out by this time next month, then I’m going to be having words. I don’t quite know with who, but I’m definitely having words.