Anyone with their head screwed on straight should know that elaborate murder and OTT gore is no laughing matter. It seems someone should have told this month’s batch of jokers that, though, as October’s horror line-up sits with a slightly self-satisfied smirk.
First up amongst the laughing boys of genre cinema we have the highly enjoyable Dutch zombie apocalypse-fest Kill Zombie!. Taking that ubiquitous horror staple of the Shaun Of The Dead-style comedy with sentimental bits between the gore, Martijn Smits and Erwin Van Den Eshof’s film sees a rag-tag (are they ever not?) group of survivors fight Amsterdam residents turned into brain-munchers by a crashed Russian space-station. With the spunky Gigi Ravelli as a hot female cop leading a multi-racial group of bickering prisoners, the laughs come thick and fast as this unchallenging rom-zom-com unfolds.
Also taking a cue from Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s influential hit, we see how the Spanish handle things in the similarly silly Attack of the Werewolves. Also known as Game of Werewolves (a much better title), it sees our hero, semi-famous writer Tomas, returns to his childhood home to write his memoirs, only to find a gypsy’s curse has taken hold of the villagers. With some nice slapstick, emotional depth and a few decent turns from character comic actors, this is great, gory, unpretentious fun.
What should have been another lighthearted romp, next, is the creature feature Dragon Wasps. Evoking memories of the silly likes of Sharktopus or Megashark Vs Giant Octopus, unfortunately this subtle character study about massive, mutant, fire-breathing relatives of the already pretty scary real-life komodo dragon wasps in Belize’s jungles takes itself far too seriously. Great setting aside, avoid this.
The last of this month’s tongue-in-cheekers comes, surprisingly, in the form of the third installment in the ground-breaking [REC], franchise, the vastly inferior [REC] Genesis.
You’ll remember the classy found-footage utter shit-your-pants scariness of the first two movies, right? Well, how about ditching that along with half of the creative partnership and replacing it with a really not-that-scary, not-that-funny (it’s set at a family wedding with the clichéd laughs that entails) comedy horror paying tribute to Braindead’s chainsaw larks and marketed like a dire Resident Evil sequel? Not for you? Not a surprise.
Speaking of dire sequels, it seems it’s time for another unasked-for Wrong Turn movie, Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings. By now, you know the schtick: deformed redneck family tortures and kills unlikeable lost teens for kicks. The twist? This one’s a prequel, set in an abandoned asylum. Zero suspense, a standard set of horrible teens and generally more of the same.
Next up we have Underground, a tale of Iraq war veterans and their friends sheltering from gang warfare in a network of tunnels under the city. Needless to say, there happens to be a bunch of downright selfish light-starved mutants thankfully picking these horrible people off one by one. With the odd interesting hint at some kind of military/political allegory abandoned in favour of gory deaths, unfortunately this movie never threatens to break out to the surface.
Also dealing with creatures from Down Under (not Australia), Sean Hogan’s low-budget British ghost story, The Devil’s Business, follows two hit-men sent to kill one Mr Kist, an infernal target who proves more difficult to off than expected. Starting with creepy anecdotes in a static setting, with the action slowly picking up pace, a fine performance from Billy Clarke as a tired veteran killer sadly fails to save this from falling between stolid, theatrical TV movie and extended Tales From The Dark Side episode.
It’s been a bit hit-and-miss so far, though we finish on a real high with Steven C. Miller’s masterful suspense thriller The Aggression Scale. Reuniting Twin Peaks stars Ray Wise and Dana Ashbrook as charismatic villains, this slickly-produced, effortlessly stylish home invasion flick follows two step-siblings (Ryan Hartwig and Fabianna Therese) as they take on, R-rated Home Alone stylee, the criminals who have killed their parents.
With some great performances, particularly from the creepy Ashbrook and Hartwig as silent nutjob Owen, The Aggression Scale is a tight, spare showcase in original, quality film-making that is neither exploitative nor compromised.
Watch the trailer for The Aggression Scale…
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