Friday 22 December 2017


Directed by Jack Burton, Starring: Michelle McTernan, Sarah Driver, Rosanna Hoult, Samantha Schnitzler, James Groom. Horror. UK, 2017, 95mins, Cert 18.

Drunken monks vs. killer tree trunks.

“I’d rather have a rusty sword shoved up my arse!”

The year is, err... (unspecified), in a place called, err... (unspecified). A brethren of drunken debauched monks are about to be slaughtered at the hands of the serving wenches they are lecherously pawing at. Unbeknown to the more pissed than pious brothers; their servants are actually a band of female warriors out for revenge against the monks who have sold their loved ones as slaves. Unbeknown to everyone however, they are about to be joined at the monastery by a handful of bedraggled gate crashing Vikings fleeing from an army of mutated tree-like demons (listed as ‘tree bastards’ in the end credits, but also colourfully described at one point as ‘splinter dicks’). 

The publicity blurb references a disparate range of film and TV comparisons, from EVIL DEAD, RED SONJA and ASSAULT ON PRECINT 13, to ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Vikings’ – none of which are remotely justified. If they’d listed CREEPSHOW on the other hand...The film opens with a falling meteor sequence lifted straight out of the ‘The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill’ segment which provides the origins of the tree mutation ‘delivered from the skies’ and bestowed upon the cursed men. Unfortunately, you then have to wait 45 minutes before these ‘tree bastards’ finally show up - which is fatal as the build up really doesn’t justify the disappointingly desiccated sub SWAMP THING like creature designs (mostly covered by robes).

Up until that point, we are treated to a barrage of luridly unsubtle ribaldry, washed down with decidedly historically unauthentic (and foul) dialogue, a decent throat slashing or two, some vicious stabby stabby dispatching, and scarred warrior leader Atheled (Michelle McTearnan) and her mini crossbow with its seemingly magically unending supply of arrows.

None of the characters are afforded anything other than rudimentary character traits, and the often misjudged attempts at humour (yes I’m including you ‘lute player’ in this observation) are largely cringe inducing. 

Yet despite the film’s numerous faults, it’s still watchable in a guilty pleasurable kind of way, never dull despite its 90+ minutes running time, and occasionally hints at what could have been given a better script and a bigger budget to properly deliver on the undeniably promising premise. Given the scope afforded to Peter Jackson to realise the ‘Ents’ in the LORD OF THE RINGS films, you can’t fault the filmmakers ambitions, but inevitably, viewer goodwill can only stretch so far before it snaps (like a twig) at these ‘tree bastards’. And you can only sell a gory death by having an actor spew up gobbets of stage blood as a substitute for an actual make-up set-piece or half-decent CGI rendition so many times before you begin to realise that the requisite gory punch line isn’t coming.

But for a first-time feature, director Jack Burton’s Viking wooded demon mash-up isn’t completely barking up the wrong tree. 

**(out of 5*)

Paul Worts

This review was originally published by FrighFest 

Monday 27 November 2017


Directed by: Jimmy Sangster, Starring: Judy Geeson, Ralph Bates, Joan Collins, Peter Cushing. Horror, UK 1972, Cert 12.

"I'm going to find something that will mark her a little, and hurt her a lot."

Originally enlisted as the supporting half of a 1972 Hammer double-bill alongside STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING (accompanied by the lurid poster tagline: ‘Women in terror!’), Jimmy Sangster’s moderately effective little thriller has now been treated to a HD restoration.

The script, known under various guises, was originally conceived by Sangster back in 1963 before it finally saw the light of day (and fear in the night – ha!) with some alterations and a bit of spit and polish by co-writer Michael Syson. Recently married 22 year old Peggy (Judy Geeson) is still recovering from a nervous breakdown when she comes to live with her ‘schoolteacher’ husband Robert (Ralph Bates) in a cottage on the grounds of a remote boy’s school. Having already survived an attempted strangulation in her former bedsit at the (gloved) hands of an unseen assailant with a prosthetic arm, things don’t bode well for Peggy’s psychological recovery when the headmaster at the school, Michael Carmichael (Peter Cushing) just so happens to also have a prosthetic arm...

A relatively by the numbers rift on LES DIABOLIQUES (1955), director Sangster compensates for the minimalist script by wringing every last possible drop of atmosphere out of prowling through the deserted classrooms, dormitories and across the windswept school grounds after woman-in-terror Peggy.  

Peter Cushing only appears in a couple of scenes, but he lends his customary consummate excellence in conveying the nuanced character of Carmichael, and his presence permeates throughout the film.

Ralph Bates struggles to convince in a role that requires a lot in order to sell the plot twists, but Joan Collins’ unblinking dispatch by rifle of a rabbit unsubtly sketches in her cold calculation as the wife of the headmaster.

There’s a strikingly effective use of school sound recordings which play at the flick of a switch and which rise to a shrieking cacophony during the film’s finale – mirroring the spiralling madness infecting the proceedings. The opening credit sequence cyclically foreshadows events to come, as does a scene in the gymnasium with a display of rope knots carefully framed behind headmaster Carmichael, and an unexpectedly open-ended conclusion helps negate the somewhat implausible and mechanical plotting preceding it, delivering if not quite fear in the night then certainly a shiver in the morning.          

***(out of 5*)

Paul Worts

This review was originally published on the FrighFest website.

Friday 10 November 2017


1 point
2 points
2 points
So, with Freddy Krueger's incinerated ashes still still not re-resurrected (to date), that only leaves these two titans of terror left to slug and slash it out for their respective franchises.
You can read my review of Halloween (2018) HERE.

My initial feeling after watching Friday the 13th (2009) on opening day was one of overwhelming disappointment. Given the potential to finally unshackle Jason from the censoriously snippy choppy inclinations of both the MPAA and the BBFC I found the majority of the kills largely unimpressive and lacking the visceral punch of the early 80's Savini latex heydays. The characters were easily some of the most hateful and unsympathetic creations ever to (dis)grace the franchise. The cinematography and scoring were uninspiring and bland, the limp jump scares failed to land, and the blink-or-you'll-miss-it tokenistically grudging monochrome flashback prologue with Nana Visitor's Mrs Voorhees foreshadowed the overall throwaway complacency of the production. Just to be clear here, none of the above criticism is directed towards Derek Mears' portrayal of Jason - which was kinetically excellent in itself - both in the cloth sack and hockey mask - and frankly deserved a better showcase.   

But, as both these lumbering sultans of slash are heavy-breathing down the back of my neck, and despite Jamie Lee Curtis' return to the retconned (with the emphasis on 'con') Halloween franchise, I am awarding 2 points to Jason and 1 to Michael. (Neither warrant the 3 maximum points).

Final score after 11 rounds (and whilst acknowledging the last 2 rounds were sans Freddy altogether): 
Friday the 13th 22
Halloween 20 & 
Nightmare on Elm Street 20

“Yes, yes, well done, Jason...’ pronounced Dumbledore. ‘However, recent events must be taken into account...”

Well, by virtue numerically of subsequent installments alone, Michael technically takes the crown from Jason, given that Mr. M from Haddonfield has now notched up both Halloween Kills (2021), and Halloween Ends (2022). Full disclosure, I thought Kills was garbage and can't bring myself to actually pay to see Ends. 

Will we ever see Jason or Freddy on the big screen again? Perhaps now that the legal tug of war between Victor Miller and Sean Cunningham appears to be finally resolved we can maybe look forward to a return to Crystal Lake. As to whether a trip to Elm Street will ever be on the cards again...

(This blog entry was updated on 16th October 2022).

Paul Worts


Wednesday 1 November 2017


3 points
2 points
For 'Round 10', Freddy is unfortunately out of the running as the 2010 reboot represents (currently) the last screen outing for the bladed-gloved dream fiend...

So should I end the comparisons there? Hell no, fortune favours the brave, so... I award 3 points  UNRESERVEDLY to
one of my absolute favourite F13 instalments (outside the original quad). Todd Farmer's audacious script placed Jason in space, and Jason (Jim) Isaacs, who sadly passed away on May 6th, 2012, directed the hell out of it. Bold, audacious, visually impressive, with a cameo from David Cronenberg, the awesome 'Uber Jason', one of the franchise's very best kills (death by liquid nitrogen) and a holographic Camp Crystal Lake!  

And 2 points to the equally much maligned Halloween II from Rob Zombie. Sorry (not sorry), but I really took to this ultra-violent retelling, and crushing the original sequel's entire premise into an opening nightmare? Bravo! 

Running scores after 10 rounds:  
Nightmare on Elm Street 20
Friday the 13th 20
Halloween 19

Monday 30 October 2017


3 points
2 points
1 point

In direct comparison, Jason Goes to Hell finds itself up against two reboots in round 9. Adam Marcus' spin on The Hidden body-swapping idea cut down on Jason's actual on-screen time, upped the gore quota (in the unrated version) and ended with Freddy's glove making a (premature) appearance.

Rob Zombie divided Halloween fans with his unique take demystifying the Shape's origins before briskly and violently re-staging most of the original. I can see why some hated it, but personally I thought it was a genuinely personal and fascinating vision and it gets the 3 points from me (controversial I know!).

Speaking of controversial, I am actually the only person in the Western Hemisphere who didn't hate the Elm Street remake either (*ducks and runs for cover*). Of course, Jackie Earle Haley had an impossible task in trying to fill Robert Englund's shoes/hat/glove/sweater etc but give the guy some slack people! I thought his portrayal was dark and mean - something that Englund's Freddy was too, once upon a time...

Running scores after 9 rounds:  
Nightmare on Elm Street 20
Friday the 13th 17
Halloween 17

Sunday 29 October 2017


3 points
2 points
1 point

I'm heading into seriously choppy waters with this round (and I'm not just talking about the questionable geography which allows Jason to sail directly from Crystal Lake to Manhattan by boat). Technically, Freddy's next cinematic outing occurs in Freddy vs. Jason, so whilst it's not exclusively an Elm Street entry, Freddy is partially riding on Jason's coattails (and collecting the 3 points this round) with the flawed but very entertaining battle of the horror icons. 

Raw deal for Kane Hodder, overlooked to play Jason for FvJ after slumming it in arguably 3 of the weakest F13 entries, of which, Jason Takes Manhattan (mostly Vancouver) is frankly lucky to even get 1 point.

Halloween: Resurrection isn't regarded highly amongst the fans of Mr. Myers, but I actually think the set-up kinda works, like a filmic version of a haunted walk-through. (I will concede that the death of Curtis' Laurie Strode is infuriatingly weak and unworthy of her character) - but Jason Takes Manhattan really is that shit. 

Running scores after 8 rounds:  
Friday the 13th 16
Nightmare on Elm Street 18
Halloween 14

Saturday 28 October 2017


Wes Craven delivered a new meta-nightmare with Heather Leathankamp, Robert Englund, John Saxton and Bob Shaye playing themselves (at least to begin with) whilst a real demon tries on the glove for size. (3 points).

Jamie Lee Curtis is finally tempted back to play Laurie 20 years after the events of Halloween II, (and wisely ignoring parts 4,5 and 6). Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Part 2,3, House) delivers an uneven but serviceable entry. (2 points).  

Kane Hodder makes his debut as the Crystal Lake avenger in Carrie vs. Jason. It's largely pants, thanks in part, it has to be said, to the absolute butchering handed out to the film by the MPAA, however, the showdown between Jason and telekinetic Tina is genuinely thrilling, and Jason's look is easily the best in the entire franchise. (So for those last 20 minutes alone I am tempted to award it 2 points, but, grudgingly, have to concede. (1 point).

Running scores after 7 rounds:  
Friday the 13th 15
Nightmare on Elm Street 15
Halloween 12