Sadako vs. Kayako (2016)

Kōji Shiraishi directs Mizuki Yamamoto, Tina Tamashiro and Aimi Satsukawa in this crossover sequel to the Japanese J-horror hits Ringu and The Grudge.

Easily the best Grudge film I’ve seen and possibly the best Ring sequel also, this simplifies and mashes up the creaky franchises in a meat and potatoes kinda way. It is cartoonish and efficient… gorgeous Japanese teens are cast to scream and run, you buy your ticket and it delivers. A satisfying death comes every five minute (Sadako’s curse is tweaked so her fatalities come quicker). In fact the doomed girls in the Ringu strand are amusingly bimbo-ish, which makes a change of pace from the dull academics who used to watch the vengeful ghost’s home movies. Not world altering but about as good a reconditioning that tired series like this will ever get.

6

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

John Sturges directs Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan and Ernest Borgnine in this thriller where a disabled WWII Vet stops off at a one horse town full of secrets and aggression.

A pure piece of cinema, it just does what it has to do with bold, unadorned confidence. You get a modern day Western as the stranger faces down a dusty town that angle to kill him. You get a noir in the harsh daylight mystery as we and Spencer Tracy try to figure just why an entire town is so cagey and threatening. You get a blunt political allegory about racism, McCarthyism and lynch mob mentalities. Never back or side or allow a bully, never help them, as they’ll either own you or turn on you. You get a trademark Sturges manly ensemble… he directs men ganging up, men facing off and men squaring up like no one else. And in glorious Technicolor. You get the perfect line… “You’re not only wrong, you’re wrong at the top of your voice.” Can’t wait to use that one next time I have to deal with a loudmouth dickhead. Sure, some of that constantly brawling tension is ruined by the fact they clearly have settled on killing Tracy’s lone sticky beak by the end of the first act… and then they don’t… even though there’s nothing stopping them. Not even morals. Not even decency. A quibble. This is a formidable thriller.

9

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Flashdance (1983)

Adrian Lyne directs Jennifer Beals, Michael Nouri and Sunny Johnson in this dance drama where a welder dreams of becoming a professional dancer.

A surprise smash in its day, this now looks and sounds bloody incredible. The setting and plot has zero grip on reality. Yet you don’t want to pick the glowing, pulsating, gritty yet tender fairy tale apart. It just glides and seduces, the persuasive pop soundtrack never giving you a chance but to submit to its charms. What a Feelin’. Gloria. Maniac. Joe Eszterhas gets an early screen writing credit here. His crude, brash, porno Cinderella attitude means there’s the constant threat of rape or exploitation in what should be a fluffy romance / empowerment B-release. Some of dialogue is painfully nasty. Yet you could see it as soft open for Showgirls in that respect, this is the more palatable flick but they share a lot of the same swagger and ambition. Beals makes a strong impression in her only lead role of note. Shame she chose not to capitalise on her one hit while the iron was hot. She’ll always be cinema’s only cabaret dancer with a steelworker’s union card. And her Kabuki meets Maxwell VHS performance art sequence is oh so eerie you wonder why it isn’t talked about more?

7

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Movie of the Week: White Heat (1949)

Raoul Walsh directs James Cagney, Virginia Mayo and Edmond O’Brien in this gangster classic where the leader of a bunch of hoods has to contend with internal coups, undercover agents, unfaithful wives, overbearing mothers and crippling headaches.

Manages to cram in a hideout stand-off, a prison break and a chemical plant siege all into one tidy movie. Cagney is aggressive, unpredictable, funny, evil and seductive. In other words the absolute boy. The action is pretty impactful for a movie made under the Code. Well deserving of its legacy in Hollywood history.

9

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Da 5 Bloods (2020)

Spike Lee directs Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters and Isiah Whitlock Jnr. in this action drama where four Vietnam vets return to the former war zone in their old age to find a buried comrade and some hidden gold.

A brilliant ensemble with an Oscar worthy turn by Lindo. That’s the headline. The first hour of this is AAA-rating Lee. Verve, technical mastery, salty bonhomie, searing political commentary and a persuasive black history lesson. Some of his bravest storytelling gambles pay off (a very simplistic romance revived, having the pensioners play their youthful selves in the original conflict flashbacks) and the whole thing is motored by a combination of Marvin Gaye songs and fetishising ‘Nam cinema of the 80s. The moment the gold is discovered has a feel good beauty that matches Tuco running around the graveyard in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly but obviously these old boys are nowhere near as sprightly. Then everything grinds to a halt just as the action sharpens… sure, there are Mexican stand-offs, explosions and even Shakespearean soliloquies but the pace has terminally declined. Indulgence sets in, the flatter characters become more evident, we seem to be on hold when we should be in “the shit”. This is the best film Lee has made since Inside Man, his most potent since He Got Game but fuck me does it try the patience in the hodge pudge second half. A potential classic is relegated to flawed epic.

7

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2019)

Xavier Neal-Burgin directs Jordan Peele, Tony Todd and Keith David in this retrospective documentary of African-American characterisation in horror movies.

A good solid mixture of talking heads and clips, slightly undermined by trying to knock the few actual classics to fit an academic theory. For example – whole swathes of the Candyman mythology are overlooked so it can be seen as white misrepresentation (and therefore negative) of black male lust. If you’ve watched the film you’ll know the argument doesn’t fit and the story has been over simplified by the essayist here. Watching poor Tony Todd squirm in his seat having defend his brilliant performance for being outdated and racist, when it clearly isn’t, is symptomatic of when this project frequently stumbles. See also Keith David’s response to the black character always dying in service of the white lead. “I didn’t in my first film.” That film was The Thing! Or the off hand dismissal of Wes Craven for “trying” to be inclusive. The man was a former sociology professor who used horror to effectively subvert representation and values in most of his films! Horror Noire is an exhaustive survey history of a sub-genre but its overriding directive to awkwardly deify identity over quality means rubbish films are lionised while universally accepted classics often get short shrift as the directors weren’t black even if the actors are. I know I’d much rather watch The People Under the Stairs over Bones any day of the week. I think in your heart of hearts a horror fan of any colour knows this to be true too.

6

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974)

Brian Clemens directs Horst Janson, Shane Briant and Caroline Munro in this later Hammer Horror where an aristocrat travels the lands looking for vampires.

A solid adventure, possibly one of the best Hammer productions. Not in anyway scary but has a nice alternative mythology and good, clean storytelling. There’s some keen sequences of vampire detection involving bows and bells in the woods and great bit of Grand Guignol were a newly turned unfortunate is tortured as cure. Horst Janson is wooden but brooding. A bevvy of English roses including Munro’s gypsy free love sidekick and Wanda Ventham special guest milf keeps things PG sexy. Ian Hendry wanders in as mercenary for a few scenes and pretty much recalibrates the entire plot around his sneering performance. If this were a pilot for a TV show you could bet five will get you fifty that his twin would be back in future episodes to avenge his death!

7

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Dillinger (1973)

John Milius directs Warren Oates, Ben Johnson and Michelle Phillips in this gangster biopic of the infamous depression era bank robber who evaded the authorities with flair and ferocity.

I haven’t seen this since I was a kid but rewatching it was a bloody thrill. The rat-a-tat-tat of Tommy Guns and squibs, the great cast of Seventies faces in sharp suits, the energy of the montages. I’m a massive fan of Oates and Johnson and both shine in the quieter moments… turning their icons of cops-n-robbers history into flawed men. Oates plays Dillinger as an arsehole… an effective brute, more cunning than lucky. Johnson is just as brash and persuasive, knowing only a badge and a warrant separates his man of violence from the lawless breed he guns down. I prefer this to Bonnie & Clyde and Public Enemies. It is a cheaper production but one that thumps along with far more entertainment value and grit. Prestige be damned. Would make a great double bill with The Wild Bunch.

8

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Nightmare Cinema (2018)

Alejandro Brugués, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryūhei Kitamura, and David Slade direct Mickey Rourke, Elizabeth Reaser and Zarah Mahler in this horror anthology where various moviegoers enter a deserted movie palace and are shown their grisly fate.

We’ve been exploring the streaming service Shudder’s back catalogue over lockdown, hence the recent focus on horror. You can get a one month free trial by using the code SHUTIN if you are quick. But in all honesty, after making a list of anything we haven’t seen before with a good hook or familiar name we’ve already exhausted our options after two months. Still that’s a dozen decent watches for a fiver and equal amount of bad bet dross. This anthology is a good sampler of the experience as it is just as variable but at least each entry doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Alejandro Brugués’ opener sees a buxom girl being chased around the woods by a welder with murderous intent. There’s a neat twist at the midway point and the whole chapter has a cartoonish energy. Going in blind I would have guessed this is the Joe Dante directed section, so it must be worth a watch, right? 6/10

Actually Joe Dante’s turn. A very Twilight Zone-esque diversion where a beautiful girl gets trapped in a plastic surgery mystery. Wraps up just before it threatens to get repetitive and has one or two decent make-up effects that’ll stay in the brain. Elevated by a great cameo from Richard Chamberlain and a notably good lead turn by Zarah Mahler. Hopefully she’ll be in more now she’s on my scream queen radar. 7/10

This one features the poster star demon who is an impressive creation. The surrounding tale involving sexy nuns, possessed orphans and forced suicides is too choppy and jumpy to follow on a late night watch and just lost me completely. 2/10

A woman brings her kids to a psychiatrist appointment and enters a hellish filth nightmare realm. Easily the best part of this or any horror anthology ever released. This is genuinely unsettling and well performed. David Slade previously directed Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night before moving onto franchise work. Terror is clearly his forte and this proves he should stick to it. 9/10

Mick Garris’ kiddie Ghost rip-off in a hospital lacks flair and scares. Very workmanlike and a poor closer for what has been a decent rollercoaster of dips and thrills. His framing scenes with Mickey Rourke as a ghastly projectionist have far more atmosphere. 4/10

6/10

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Destination Wedding (2018)

Victor Levin directs Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves and a mountain lion in this romantic comedy where two misanthropes bicker at the furthest table of a wedding.

A very boring, falsely verbose script dwindles away to nothing. If this wasn’t two beloved stars reunited then you wouldn’t finish it. Keanu feels slightly miscast as a grouch, Winona is animated and cute. They really do elevate a joyless prospect. Who would have been the pairing if they weren’t available? Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis? Nicolas Cage and Patricia Arquette? Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald? Anna Chlumsky and Macaulay Culkin? Either way, nostalgia and a fittingly handsome setting repel a lot of sins.

5

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/