Tuesday 21 May 2013


Directed by Gordon Flemyng, Starring: Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbens, Roberta Tovey, Jill Curzon. Science Fiction, UK, 1966, approx 84mins, cert U.

Released in UK on DVD & Blu-ray by Studiocanal on the 27th May 2013.

Following hot on the heels of the financial success of its predecessor, DALEKS’ INVASION EARTH 2150 A.D. landed in 1966. Directing responsibilities once more fell to Gordon Flemyng, who was reunited with Peter Cushing reprising the role of the Doctor and Roberta Tovey as his younger granddaughter Susan. Neither Roy Castle nor Jennie Linden were available so Bernard Cribbins (Tom Campbell) and Jill Curzon (Louise) were brought in as replacements.

The film opens as bobby on the beat Tom patrols a night-time London street and encounters a jewellery shop robbery in progress. Attacked from behind by one of the crooks he stumbles injured toward a police box further down the street....This surprisingly gritty opening scene is somewhat unexpected in a ‘U’ certificate sci-fi film. Director Flemyng underscores the sequence with the deceptively soothing strains of Bach’s Toccata and fugue in d minor and it provides a pleasingly dramatic jolt to the pre-credit proceedings.
Arriving back in London in the year 2150 A.D., the Doctor and his three companions step out of T.A.R.D.I.S. into a ruined and rubble strewn landscape which looks more like blitz ravaged London of 1940-41 than of anything remotely futuristic. Amongst the dust and debris there are prominent advertising hoardings for ‘Sugar Puffs’ (an early example of British product placement on screen) and as the characters repeatedly pass by them the camera lingers just for a second or two longer than absolutely necessary.

The Daleks have invaded Earth and appear to have pretty much laid London to waste. But a plucky band of resistance fighters, boasting amongst their ranks Ray (MR BENN) Brooks, are hiding out in Embankment Underground station and are plotting to overthrow the metallic exterminators.
This second big-screen outing for the “motorised dustbins” is far more fun (in a guilty pleasure way) than its largely by-the-numbers predecessor. The sight of a Dalek emerging from the Thames like some kind of robotic shark is almost worth the price of admission alone. Then there is the striking image of a firing squad of Daleks surrounding a wood cabin and unleashing their fire extinguisher weapons to explosive effect. If that wasn’t enough they are also busily transforming the male populace into an army of Robomen. The Daleks robotise slaves using what appears to be 1960’s hairdresser pods and deck them out in shiny black gimp-like PVC bin-liners and pre-Judge Dredd helmets with a transistor radio stuck on the side. Disguised as a Roboman, Bernard Cribbins infiltrates their flying saucer HQ, and discovers they are being fed on a diet of dolly mixtures.

The aforementioned flying saucer (resplendent with clearly visible supporting wires in flight) boasts an impressively steep entrance ramp and much fun is to be had watching the Daleks attempting to negotiate the incline. During an all out assault on the craft one of the metallic salt and pepper shakers is pushed down the ramp and you cannot but help fear for the operator inside as it gathers momentum.

The deliriously daft plot culminates in a race against the clock in a mine in Bedfordshire (now that’s a phrase one rarely gets to use). At least this time the dastardly Daleks’ dialogue is delivered without the enforced staccato which plagued the first film.

As for the humans, Bernard Cribbens (who was to return to the TV series in 2007) gets some impressively heroic moments (or rather his stunt-double does) before being given the chance by the Doctor to re-write a little piece of personal history. Peter Cushing takes more of a backseat role this time around, but still puts in a typically proficient and dependable performance. Young Roberta Tovey once more acquits herself well, but having now encountered the Daleks on both her outings with grandfather she could easily be forgiven for declining any future trips in his time-travelling police box.  

Far more entertaining and outlandish than its predecessor, this second and sadly final outing for both Cushing’s Doctor and the Daleks on the big screen provides a positive cornucopia of retro delight. 
The film transfer is as pristine as possible given the source material and as one would expect shows up the limitations of the on-screen effects employed. The soundtrack once again retains its mono origins, but would you really want to watch a flying saucer on wires roar across the screen in 7.1 surround?
Extras: A documentary on the restoration of the film; interviews with Bernard Cribbins and Gareth Own; stills gallery and trailer.

***(out of 5*)
Paul Worts


Directed by Gordon Flemyng, Starring: Peter Cushing, Roy Castle, Jennie Linden, Roberta Tovey. Science Fiction, UK, 1965, approx 82mins, cert U.
Released in UK on DVD & Blu-ray by Studiocanal on the 27th May 2013

Back in the mid-60’s, when the world was in the grip of Beatlemania, Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg of Amicus Productions invested in a different ‘mania’ that was sweeping the UK. Acquiring the rights to bringing Terry Nation’s creations to the big screen, they freed the Daleks from black and white TV’s and unleashed them in glorious full-colour techniscope.

At home on the telly, the first Doctor was being played by the wispy white-haired William Hartnell. Even though he could time-travel, Messrs Subotsky and Rosenberg didn’t feel Hartnell could cross the pond and brought in the venerable Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing who was better known to US audiences.

In adapting the character for the big screen the Doctor is stripped of his alien status and is merely an eccentric inventor and kindly grandfather whose surname happens to be ‘Who’. We are introduced to his granddaughters in a nicely staged domestic scene where the camera pans from the younger granddaughter Susan (Roberta Tovey), across to older sister Barbara (Jennie Linden) – both reading scientific manuals – before settling on Cushing who is engrossed in a comic. Enter Barbara’s nervous and clumsy boyfriend Ian (Roy Castle) who is invited by the Doctor to step out into the garden to see his latest invention: a time-travelling police box known as T.A.R.D.I.S. Before you know it, Ian and the Who family are flung into futuristic space and end up on the planet Skaro. Here they encounter a peaceful race called the Thals who live in the shadow of nuclear attack from the planet’s other residents – the Daleks.

The film suffers from being studio-bound and watching it today it has the feel of a big budget widescreen episode of original series STAR TREK. The forest set is at least effectively lit with bold swathes of colour, although the mutated swamp creatures hinted at sadly never materialise. As for the titled baddies themselves, their metallic dialogue is delivered with hilariously over emphasised E-NUN-CI-A-TION. Originally the Daleks were supposed to shoot fire but this was deemed too scary for children so instead they shoot (somewhat ironically) CO2 fire extinguishers.
Acting honours go to the young Roberta Tovey who is convincing and delivers possibly the least annoying child performance of all time. Cushing is as reliable as ever and an honourable mention must also go to Barrie Ingham (Alydon - the leader of the Thals), who manages to retain his dignity despite being asked to wear ridiculous false eyelashes and a blond wig.

It all moves along at a fair clip, and never outstays its welcome. For a modern audience raised on a diet of Tennant and Smith breathlessly dashing from one state of the art effects set-piece to another the film provides quite a culture shock. But it’s a charming diversion on a wet Sunday afternoon for both Dr Who completists and casual viewers alike.

The re-mastered Blu-ray image is pin-sharp and colour-rich, highlighting every detail on display (including the obvious matte work). The techniscope film grain is of course present throughout, but this, coupled with the decision not to upgrade the original mono soundtrack, adds an authentically nostalgic feel to the viewing experience. 
Extras: an audio commentary with Roberta Tovey and Jenny Linden; Dalekmania documentary; a short feature on the film’s restoration; an interview with Gareth Owen; stills gallery and trailer. 
***(out of 5*)
Paul Worts

Tuesday 14 May 2013


Directed by Calum Waddell, Starring: Corey Feldman, Tobe Hooper, Mick Garris, Tom Holland, Jeffrey Reddick, Patrick Lussier, Felissa Rose, Adam Green.                   
Documentary, UK, 2012, approx 75mins, Cert 18. 
“Lots of gore, lots of nudity: that’s a slasher film”. (Corey Feldman)
Back in 2010, Calum Waddell and Naomi Holwill were working on a 20 minute featurette entitled: “How to survive a slasher film” for Arrow Films’ Blu ray release of PIECES. Having reviewed the material they’d assembled they realised what they had could potentially be expanded into a full-length documentary. With no budget whatsoever to speak of, they combined existing material already shot with additional interviews conducted in the UK and at The Sitges Film Festival over a two year period. 

Corey Feldman - vanquisher of Jason Voorhees (sort of)
Of course the slasher sub-genre has already been given the full-documentary treatment, most notably in GOING TO PIECES: The RISE AND FALL OF THE SLASHER FILM (2006). Boasting an impressive range of contributions from such slasher film heavyweights as Carpenter, Craven and Cunningham, one could argue there was no need to attempt another documentary covering more or less the same stalking grounds – particularly one without a competing budget. But that’s precisely where SLICE AND DICE gains its unique selling point. Despite the DVD cover art depicting some of the major icons of the slasher film: Voorhees, Myers and Krueger, this documentary focuses largely away from the major franchises in favour of the lesser known, and in some cases, undervalued and unloved entries in the slasher canon. If, for example, you’re expecting to see copious clips of Freddy’s nightmarish shenanigans; Jason’s Crystal Lake slaughter fests, or Michael menacing Haddonfield then you’ll be sadly disappointed. Whether this is an entirely creative decision on the part of the makers, or merely a budgetary enforced necessity, is open to debate. You do, however, get to see Leatherface wielding his trusty chainsaw and meat pulveriser in grainy trailer footage from the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). But there’s a high degree of repetition in the range of clips used – most of which are gleaned from trailers (for example, the same sequence in THE BURNING trailer is used at least four times across the two discs). There’s also far too much footage from the PUPPETMASTER franchise – which I’m not convinced really belongs here at all – splatter: yes; slasher: no.  
Cropsey cropping fingers in The Burning
But in between the mixed bag of trailer clips and some inventive animation by editor and co-producer Holwill there’s a steady feed of genuinely diverse talking heads to provide both insightful and at times irreverent comment on the origins and conventions of the slasher genre. Marshalled into six chapters entitled: “genesis of a genre”; “rules of survival”; “the secret of slashing up a great villain”; “the final girl”; “the gore the merrier” and concluding with “you can’t kill the bogeyman”, the history of the slasher film is covered in a breathlessly entertaining 75 minutes.

FrightFest’s favourite scream queen Emily Booth credits Alfred Hitchcock’s PYSCHO as being the film which first set down the basics for the slasher blue-print. Director /writer Tom Holland (CHILD’S PLAY, PSYCHO 2) suggests some consider PEEPING TOM as being a possible contender for this honour before concurring with Emily’s choice of PSYCHO. The director of THE HILLS RUN RED, Dave Parker puts forward Agatha Christie’s TEN LITTLE INDIANS as having provided the original slasher film template – suggesting that slashers are essentially “...murder mysteries with heightened blood guts and gore – and hopefully suspense.” Emily also scores brownie points for citing the influence of the giallo – although the filmmakers drop points for listing her as a “sceam (sic) queen” on one occasion and for following up her comment on the significance of the 1970’s with a clip from TENEBRAE (1982).
Tobe Hooper also directed 'Crocodile' - but we don't talk about that
Tobe Hooper appears all too briefly muttering about meat and chains in footage which was originally recorded for the Blu ray release of THE FUNHOUSE. Corey Feldman offers his tips on how to increase your chances of survival in a slasher film (neglecting to include shaving your head and pretending to be the killer’s younger mirror-image: FRIDAY THE 13th: THE FINAL CHAPTER). And there are many other entertaining contributions far too numerous to include here.
Director Calum Waddell doesn’t impose his own views on the proceedings and this approach helps to open up the discussions and provides a fascinating and at times diverse set of perspectives on the sub-genre. The overall feel of the documentary is not so much instructional but more conversational, where the director - clearly passionate about the subject matter – is genuinely fascinated by the responses his questions stimulate.

As you’d expect from this double-act who produce supplementary material for Arrow Films’ releases, there’s a wealth of extras on this double-disc presentation. The commentary track recorded with director Waddell and Justin Kerswell (author of TEENAGE WASTELAND: THE SLASHER MOVIE UNCUT) is both fun and informative, as are the bonus ‘outtake’ (read extended) interviews with some of the contributors. Of particular note is Adam Green’s explanation for casting decisions in HATCHET 2 and his account of the trials and tribulations of releasing the film unrated in US cinemas.

Also on disc one there is footage from several premiere’s and Q & A’s of the documentary,   a music video of the theme song, and a host of trailers from Full Moon Entertainment, including the PUPPER MASTER series and SLAVES GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY (hmm...)

Disc Two features a bonus 37 minute documentary entitled: DON’T GO IN THE BACKWOODS which is itself a treat, not least because it features some additional talking heads not featured in the main documentary. Lloyd (Troma) Kaufman, Tony (Fangoria) Timpone, the much missed David Hess and Tony Todd describing the Deep South traditions of road kill stew and Catfish noodling (don’t ask) are amongst the many bonus speakers.

Then we have twenty-two slasher film trailers (with optional commentary) to add the icing to this slasherfest cake.
In conclusion, Calum Waddell and his partner in crime Naomi Holwill have produced a unique personal documentary which champions the underrated and the forgotten, and gives us the opportunity to hear from some of the rarer exponents of the art of the slasher film. 
****(out of 5*)
Paul Worts

Monday 6 May 2013


Directed by Makinov, Starring: Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Vinessa Shaw, Daniel Giménez   Horror, Mexico, 2012, 86mins, Cert 18.

In Mexico during fiesta season, Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and his pregnant wife Beth (Vinessa Shaw) are grabbing their last chance for a holiday before their baby is born. After persuading a local fisherman to lend them his small boat the couple cast off from the harbour and sail off in search of a remote island named Punta Hueca. Disembarking on the island they are greeted on the dock solely by children.
If you’ve seen Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s WHO CAN KILL A CHILD (1976), then you’ll more or less know exactly what this couple are about to witness and the ordeal they are about to be exposed to. If on the other hand, you’re approaching director Makinov’s slick, sick and disturbing remake fresh – and providing you crank your suspension of disbelief dial up to maximum setting – you’ll find yourself rewarded with a film which gradually pulls you in and will linger with you long after the end credits have rolled. 
Your disbelief does need suspending almost from the off however. With pregnant Beth throwing up in a darkened hotel room lit sporadically by exploding fireworks from the noisy festival marching past outside, you could begin to question whether this particular vacation choice was altogether appropriate. Then, you could also question why husband Francis is so keen for them to sail off to an obscure little island in a rickety boat (albeit with a newly fitted outboard motor); knowing full-well there isn’t enough fuel in the tank to make the return trip. Don’t touch that dial yet – there’s more. Upon arriving on Punta Hueca (where mobile phones presumably don’t work – I say presumably because no one mentions or attempts at any stage to use one) the couple then spend an inordinate amount of time trying to rationalise the situation before their hackles are rightly raised. And surely no self-respecting modern horror film should allow the main character to leave his partner alone on three separate occasions whilst each time pronouncing: “I’ll be right back!” (Incidentally, I also loved Francis advising his wife shortly before disappearing again with the very helpful: “If you see anyone, just scream”.      
But looking beyond all that, director Makinov still manages to build a tangible sense of tension and impending dread during the first half of the film, helped immeasurably by a brooding and effectively eerie electronic soundtrack. Then, once the true horror of Punta Hueca begins to unravel, Makinow pulls off several visceral set-pieces and a memorably macabre montage of images which you won’t forget in a hurry.

In reflection, it’s an odd choice of a film to choose to remake. Given the glut of sub-standard genre remakes it’s surprising that Makinov thought audiences would embrace this remake of, let’s be honest, a fairly obscure original to begin with. Or that there would be an audience for it at all given its subject matter.

But judging the film purely on its own merit, it certainly delivers a nasty punch - even in these jaded days of extreme cinema – and it still has the capability of setting our moral compasses spinning with the question it poses at its core.
***(out of 5*) 
Paul Worts
(Originally published by FrightFest).