May 2013 horror movie DVD round-up

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First up this month is the directorial debut of one Bradley Scott Sullivan, I Didn’t Come Here To Die. Starting with the usual premise of a group of American teens camping in the woods, this knowing film playfully tinkers with the viewer’s expectations to offer that rarest of horrors: something quite original.

With human stupidity as much of an enemy as the worst Jason Vorhees figure, Scott Sullivan’s own script blends inventive death scenes with enjoyably black comedy as the ante is upped nicely to the necessary level of grim ridiculousness. A name to watch out for, then, in this post-Cabin In The Woods landscape.

Less inspiring is the belated DVD release of Yam Larana’s Asian horror remake, The Echo. In 2008, Larana remade his own original Filipino hit, Sigaw, in Hollywood, unsurprisingly backed by the producers of The Ring and The Grudge.

Jesse Bradford plays an ex-con fresh out of prison and living in his dead mother’s apartment. Trying to start anew, he begins hearing muffled sounds of what seems to be domestic violence. But the flat this noise is coming from is empty. Cue spooky strings… now!

So, as is the way in these situations, there are some creepy goings-on and certain conditions must be met to try and break the curse before the body count gets too high. Larana’s film is slickly presented with some nicely-stacked tension, though sadly there’s the overwhelming feeling of ‘been there, done that’ that proves insurmountable.

You wait a while for a curse and then two come along at once; honestly. Mario Bava’s 1972 gothic horror Baron Blood, another Bava classic where it really doesn’t matter that it’s been done before, again, features heroes trying to alter their destiny.

Citizen Kane star Joseph Cotten, slumming it slightly in his latter years (sorry Mario), hams it up brilliantly as an elderly nobleman in modern-day Austria, opposite Bava’s scream queen Elke Somme at her absolute screamiest.  Somme accompanies the young descendant of an infamous Vlad Tepes-like historical figure in researching the truth behind the bloody legend. Of course, these fools unleash a curse on the village that must be lifted. Always happens.

Some great set-pieces, enjoyably OTT performances and the trademark atmospheric direction of Bava make for another nice shot of vintage fun.

Also cropping up in the retro bucket, we have the not-technically-a-horror-but-too-good-to-leave-out Aussie post-apocalyptic melodrama, Dead End Drive-In. British director Brian Trenchard-Smith’s 1986 film rides on the coat-tails of the Mad Max trilogy but is curiously without much violence, instead focusing on satire, social commentary and teenage feelings of isolation, distrust and rebellion.

With our heroes trapped at a drive-in with no means of transport home, they join a motley selection of residents of a concentration camp of social outcasts, held captive by the drive-in’s owner.

Think of post-apocalyptic movies and you think of weird gangs, desolate wastelands and mutant frog-women stripping down to their grundies (we do here, anyway); this ambitious (though admittedly tacky) production tackles immigration, social unrest and politics. Not quite like anything else I’ve seen, this piece of Ozploitation is well worth a look.

What’s the best horror movie you’ve seen recently? Let us know below…