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

Friday 27 October 2017


3 points
2 points
1 point

Brought back to life via lightning and the lacklustre box-office for Jason-less Part V, Tom Mcloughlin's comedic meta-take resonated with the fans, and Alice Cooper chipped in with a memorable little ditty entitled: 'He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask).  

Freddy got to ride a broomstick and wack Johnny Depp in the face with a frying pan in Rachel Talalay's entertainingly barmy 'Final Nightmare' (yeah right), even chucking in a 3-D finale to boot!

Meanwhile, poor old Mikey ends up the subject of some garbled hocus pocus known as 'The Curse of Thorn' which thankfully would be hastily forgotten in all future instalments.

Running scores after 6 rounds:  
Friday the 13th 14
Nightmare on Elm Street 12
Halloween 10 

Thursday 26 October 2017


3 points
2 points
1 point

A candy bar acts as the deus ex machina for instigating an impressive body count at the hands of fake-Jason 'Roy' in the sleazy Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning. The fanbase wasn't sufficiently impressed enough to turn it into box-office gold, thereby persuading Paramount to resurrect old maggot face himself for Part VI. 

Back in Haddonfield Michael is given yet another godawful mask (if I were William Shatner I'd have been seriously insulted by now). At least Mikey gets to wield a pitchfork and briefly play the grim reaper with a scythe in a barn before finding himself behind bars (briefly...)

An ill-conceived (in every sense of the word) fifth instalment for Elm Street's dream demon delivers a mutant baby Freddy and an underwhelming bodycount (even in the uncut version) in the weakest entry in the franchise.

Running scores after 5 rounds:  
Friday the 13th 11
Nightmare on Elm Street 10
Halloween 9 

Wednesday 25 October 2017


3 points
2 points
1 point

After the Michael Myers-less Halloween III, the blinded in both eyes and burnt to a crisp Shape returns sporting a truly awful flattened approximation of the original mask to terrorise young Danielle Harris, whilst Donald Pleasence (also demonstrating remarkable resistance to fire) continues to pursue his nemesis all over Haddonfield. 

Freddy's skeletal remains reassemble themselves after a shot of blazing dog piss in Rennie Harlin's visually impressive Elm Street entry.  

Meanwhile, over at Crystal Lake, a nightmare confrontation between a noticeably shorter but more nimble Jason Voorhees and a shaven-headed future member of The Goonies results in a fatal (at least marketed as such) machete head slicing for Ted White's hockey-masked slaughterer. Make-up gore guru Tom Savini returns and reunites with The Prowler director Joseph Zito to up the inventive kills.  

Running scores after 4 rounds:  
Nightmare on Elm Street 9
Friday the 13th 8 
Halloween 7 

Monday 23 October 2017


3 points
2 points
1 point

This round is a tough one! Each franchise's third instalment deserves three points. Friday the 13th part 3 in 3D delivered unapologetic eye-opening and eye-popping third dimensional treats which I couldn't get enough of (despite the somewhat flimsy script and largely one dimensional cardboard characters) when it opened. Still to this day my favourite 3D film.

Then the truly left field third Halloween offering sans-Myers, with it's marvellously ludicrous evil toymaker plot and the most annoyingly catchy jingle ever committed to celluloid. 

And finally, Freddy's three-ring circus of (truly special) effects set-pieces, and Zsa Zsa Gabor! 

For sheer unadulterated pleasure it would have to be Friday the 13th in 3D, but for uniqueness and bold audacity I'm going to (reluctantly) place it third behind 'the bastard son of a hundred maniacs' and Conal Cochran, which still retain their respective qualities when viewed in 2D...

Running scores after 3 rounds:  
Nightmare on Elm Street 7
Halloween 6
Friday the 13th

Sunday 22 October 2017


Round 2  
3 points
1 point
2 points

In a swift reversal of fortune, helmer Steve Miner's glossier sequel wins the 3 points for the Friday the 13th franchise with the arrival of fully grown and hairy woodsman Jason (not drowned after all - but saved by the buoyancy of box-office takings!) looking resplendently creepy peering out of his burlap sack mask with his one good eye. Despite the somewhat MPAA muted carnage, the copious  'jump scares' land their punches more often than not, and Amy Steel's 'final girl' shines (cosplaying Mrs Voorhees!) in that scene in Jason's shack: "Jason, mother is talking to you..." 

Jack (I didn't realise I was directing the gayest horror film ever) Sholder's Elm Street sequel is a beautifully flawed guilty pleasure with Mark Patton (previously interviewed in this blog) and Kim Myers delivering two of the most endearing performances in the genre as Jessie and Lisa.

Slipping down to only 1 point this round, we have the rest of the night He came home and spent most of it in a under lit understaffed hospital trying to kill his sister (the one wearing the dodgy wig), well at least in this timeline. Halloween II suffers from having to follow in its predecessor's vastly superior footsteps, and disappoints all round (even with Dean Cundey's superb cinematography and Carpenter's inserted gore shots). Definitely a case of less is more.

Running scores after 2 rounds: each franchise is neck and neck (and neck) on 4 points.

Saturday 21 October 2017


With Halloween approaching I thought I'd attempt to directly compare each installment in the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween franchises side by side (as far as possible). Quite simply, each entry is scored either 1,2 or 3 points, with 3 points awarded for what I consider to be the best of the three entries in each round. What follows is far from scientific, completely personal, and totally unobjective. 

Full disclosure - my favourite franchise of the three is (or so I thought) the Friday the 13th series. However, as you will see, there were some very surprising scorings and the result wasn't quite as expected... 

So, just for fun, and with deep (heavy menacing) stalky breaths, here we go with each respective franchise's original feature...

Round 1

3 points

2 points
1 point

"Halloween is the perfect machine movie. Its only message is 'boo!'...Then came Friday the 13th (1980), and psycho movies started to go nastily wrong." (Kim Newman, 'Nightmare Movies').

[Whilst I don't particularly agree with Kim here as I like the trashy slashy sub-genre, in terms of genuine cinematic quality however, I understand completely where he is coming from]. 

Very tough opening call this first round as I regard all three 'classics' within the annals of the slasher and sub-slasher genre.

Halloween terrified me when I first watched it alone on late night TV as a young teen. Friday the 13th left me wide-eyed and gobsmacked when I first saw it at the ABC Edgware Road cinema in the early 80's (I was 13 years old) double-billed with Part 2. And I still remember the tangible frisson of unease throughout the circle at the Leicester Square Theatre cinema when Nancy pulled Freddy's fedora out of the nightmare...

But, John Carpenter's suspenseful seminal slasher which gave us the actual boogeyman (as a matter of fact) in Michael Myers narrowly edges out Wes Craven's surrealist, scarred dream stalker Freddy Krueger to take the opening rounds' 3 points. No disrespect to Betsy Palmer's iconic 'Mrs Voorhees' however, I love Sean Cunningham's grindhouse summer camp bloodbath too. In fact, whilst it's inarguably the less technically proficient of the three, it's the flick I'm more often inclined to revisit. (Perhaps this comparison lark wasn't such a good idea after all...)

Wednesday 18 October 2017

GOD OF WAR (Dang Kou Feng Yun) (2017)

Directed by: Gordon Chan, Starring: Vincent Zhao, Sammo Hung, Yasuaki Kurata. Action/History, 2017, 128mins, Cert 15.

In 16th century China, ruthless Japanese pirates (samurai and rogue rōnin in an uneasy alliance) invade the east coast, looting, pillaging and generally being far naughtier than Captain Jack Sparrow ever was. Having built themselves a seemingly impenetrable fortress (think Irontown from Studio Ghibli’s PRINCESS MONONOKE), stubborn old Chinese General Yu (Sammo Hung) still persists in marching his troops up the muddied slopes only to be repeatedly repelled by their better-armed Japanese pirate foe. The powers that be are understandably none too impressed with General Yu’s ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ approach and replace him with the younger, smarter strategist and niftier all-round solider General Qi (Vincent Zhao). 

Whilst it’s undeniably impressively mounted, the rather simplistic narrative spends far too much time examining the minutiae of Chinese political shenanigans and military strategy, and even (criminally) cuts one major battle scene off in its prime.  

Vincent Zhao’s fresh-faced General Qi livens proceedings up with his Rambo-like solution for penetrating the pirate’s fortified encampment and he’s also pretty nifty with those long bendy poles. Lady QI (Regina Wan), is supportive and loving one moment, but unreasonably stroppy when Qi is late home and the food’s gone cold. Yet she proves to be an accomplished and ruthless warrior herself when called upon to defend her kingdom (which isn’t even hinted at previously).

There are several incidental pleasures such as the sight of General Qi’s Ming army skimming across mudflats on wooden scooters which resemble large Dutch clogs, or the rogue Japanese pirates signalling their murderous intent by fanning themselves with light reflecting fans.
The final pirate ship showdown between the younger General Qi and Yasuaki Kurata’s elder pirate Commander Kumasawa is a splendid bloody and fiery climax (albeit one which really didn’t need the entire preceding 2 hours build-up).

Its lavish production design, sets and costumes are consistently eye-catching, and the battle scenes are visceral and not obviously CG enhanced. And whilst it didn’t quite blow me away like one of General Qi’s deadly three-eyed hand canyons, I’d take this grand scale 16th century pirate enactment over those Disney Caribbean ones any day.   
 ***(out of 5*)

Paul Worts

This review was originally published on the FrighFest website.

Saturday 14 October 2017

BITTEN (TV Series 2014-2016)

Directed by: James Dunnison (8 episodes) and 16 others. Starring: Laura Vandervoort, Greyston Holt, Greg Bryk, Paul Greene. Fantasy/horror/drama, Canada, 2014-16, 3 Seasons. Now available on Netflix UK.

“I clean up pretty well when I’m human.”

Elena Michaels (Laura Vadervoort) is the only female werewolf in the world. Having left her pack and her werewolf ex-fiancé back at the Pack’s ancestral homestead in upstate New York, Elena is trying to carve out a ‘normal’ life in the big city (Toronto) as a photographer whilst her human boyfriend Phillip is kept in the dark about her true nature. Unfortunately a mutt (rogue werewolf) begins slaughtering humans and leaving the chewed carcasses in the Pack’s territory, thereby bringing both unwanted cop attention on the pack and with it the risk of exposure to the human world. The pack’s ‘alpha’ summons all the wolfy clan back, including Elena, the pack’s best tracker. Balancing her imbedded loyalties to the pack whilst juggling her current lover in Toronto and her ex’s persistence proves increasingly challenging as the rogue hunt is merely a prelude to a coordinated pincer movement by an organised bunch of mutts intent on overthrowing the pack’s reign by marshalling some very unsavoury characters. Or, as Elena so eloquently surmises: 

“Someone’s turning psychotic murderers into werewolves.” (oh my!).

Based on ‘The Women of the Underworld’ books by Kelly Armstrong (‘Bitten’ being the first), this three season Canada television series originally ran in the UK on the Syfy channel. Season one plays like a werewolf soap opera/mob drama with the werewolf version of Don Corleone (‘Jeremy’, pack alpha) played by Greg Bryk who acts through his teeth.  Surprisingly, there’s a liberal dollop of soft-core bonking in BITTEN, and a sizable dose of naked buttocks on display. So much so, the series could easily have been titled ‘Bottom’, or perhaps even ‘Bitten on the Bottom’. The lion’s share of posterior posing is assigned to Greyston Holt’s clenching ‘Clay’, (Elena’s ex: still obsessively in love with her - not yet forgiven for that bite which turned her). When he’s not flashing his rear end, Holt acts through his furrowed brow which seems in a permanent state of overhanging curdled angst. To complete the love triangle we have Paul Greene’s bland human boyfriend Phillip (a taller buffer version of ‘Prince Charming’ from ABC’S ONCE UPON A TIME fairytale series). 

Laura Vadervoort (SMALLVILLE, V) is every fanboy’s dream pin-up, and for their first glimpses of her character Elena they are treated to her naked back (or rather her body-double’s) as she’s enthusiastically riding boyfriend Philip. Unfortunately for him, Elena has to hastily employ an impromptu precautionary lupine coital interruptus as she feels the wolf inside her bubbling up. Unlike most fictional werewolves, BITTEN’s are largely able to control and regulate their transformations at will and are seemingly not beholden to the cycle of the moon. However Elena has kept it in for too long and it wants out, so after hurriedly dressing and spinning implausibly gullible Phillip a yarn about a late night photo shoot she’s quick as a whippet out into the backstreets of Toronto and promptly stripping off again (neatly folding her designer clothes for retrieval later) before a quick perfunctory computer generated transformation into one seriously cute wolf. Creature wise (and night-vision POV) we’re more in WOLFEN territory than say the biped incarnations of DOG SOLDIERS. And as Elena is so meticulous in preserving her attire, all hopes of a scene in which she wakes up in the wolf enclosure of Toronto Zoo and has to steal a schoolboy’s balloon to preserve her dignity are soon dashed.

The CG transformation sequences are treated with an almost dismissive matter-of-factness, an elongated hand here, an extended foot there, and the odd spine-rippling effect which briefly turns their backs into hairy Toblerones. The actual finished product wolves are passable; well let’s say at least several Windows upgrades on from SHARKNADO’s VFXs. 
Plotting wise, there’s an exasperatingly inconsistent approach to the werewolves heightened senses and superhuman strengths. Elena can rip hearts and puncture veins with without blinking, yet she and the pack are often reduced to chopsocky combat with opponents who have the wherewithal to bring guns and poisoned blades to the battle. And as for the shaky central premise about Elena being the only female werewolf because, wait for it, “No woman has ever survived the change” (presumably not a reference to the menopause), Marsha Quist from THE HOWLING (to pick but one), might have something to say about how ‘rare’ they are... 

Season Two ups the supernatural stakes with the introduction of witchcraft in the shape of an evil male witch named ‘Aleister’ (yep, the only one in existence) hell-bent on fulfilling the witches long held prophecy that a male witch will bring about the ‘Undoing.’ When Elena is captured by Aleister for blood experimentation, the werewolves form an uneasy alliance with the local coven to unite against a common foe. Unlike Season One’s 13-episodes, this and Season Three benefit from a more streamlined and better paced reduced package of 10 episodes apiece. 

Season Three brings with it revelations about Elena’s parents (a deliberately unsolved crossword clue left over from Season One), another challenge to the pack’s status, and in a development so obvious it’s only surprising it took till Season Three, Elena assumes the role of pack alpha and takes drastic measures which will change the lives of the werewolves forever.

Despite its clunky plotting, risible dialogue, and bland casting, I confess that after taking a few tentative bites of BITTEN I found myself practically wolfing down its soap-like guilty pleasures with an unseemly relish. Yes, I became smitten with BITTEN.

***(out of 5*)       

Paul Worts