Category Archives: Guide to Gore

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Haute Tension

2003 / d. Alexandre Aja
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An unrelenting and savage piece of horror filmmaking which grabbed the attention of filmgoers worldwide and solidified Alexandre Aja as one of the most promising modern-day horror filmmakers. True to its name, HIGH TENSION moves you to the edge of your seat and holds you there for the duration of the picture, as we follow a young woman (Marie) as she struggles to save her abducted friend from the sadistic whims of a vicious and deranged killer. See it UNCUT to really appreciate the graphic and cringe-worthy special effects, but savour it for director Aja’s sheer brilliance at building and maintaining tension. Highly recommended; this one remains a personal favourite even after several viewings.

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Hell of the Living Dead

1980 / d. Bruno Mattei
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The legendary HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (a.k.a. VIRUS, a.k.a. NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES) is the film that made Bruno Mattei a household name amongst horror fans. Not because the film is good by any means, but just the opposite: this thing watches like a bad Ed Wood movie, in more ways than one. Filled with random bits of National Geographic stock footage, the inconsistency and flat plot makes this flick like a rabid dog: in serious need of being shotgunned. Some decent effects and the usual ‘testine-gorging is all this snooze-fest has to offer.

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Hellraiser

1987 / d. Clive Barker
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Adapting his short novella THE HELLBOUND HEART into a full-length film, HELLRAISER marks the legendary Clive Barker’s debut into the realm of horror filmmaking. Though the film would be subjected to a slew of mixed sequels, the 1987 original is where it’s at. The raw, unpolished feel which permeates every frame of celluloid, lends itself to a tense and unnerving film experience. The gritty quality, haunting gothic orchestral score, and taboo subject matter create an interesting unpredictability, which thrusts the viewer into a horrifying world of pleasure, pain, beauty, and darkness.

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Hills Have Eyes, The (2006)

2006 / d. Alexandre Aja
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This, along with Rob Zombie’s redux of HALLOWEEN, were the two most pleasantly surprising films of the 2000-2009 decade. Director Alexandre Aja stupefied me with his awe inspiring skills on HIGH TENSION, and it’s no wonder he was hand-picked by Wes Craven himself to direct this flick. Gratuitous, gory, suspenseful, and filled with enough updated social commentary to make it relevant for today’s younger audiences, THE HILLS HAVE EYES will provide an ample ninety-minute shockfest you’re not soon to forget!

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I Know What You Did Last Summer

1997 / d. Jim Gillespie
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Released one year after Wes Craven’s SCREAM, this adaptation of Lois Duncan’s classic novella is considered a forerunner in the onslaught of teen slashers which characterized the late 90s and 00s (see: URBAN LEGEND, VALENTINE, FINAL DESTINATION, SWIMFAN, DISTURBIA, and others). While many of the above mentioned films have been met with varied degrees of acceptance among horror fans, it is this reviewer’s opinion that I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER belongs in the higher echelon of teen slasher films. Though frequently dismissed for its teen idol cast (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Ryan Phillipe), the quality of the film boasts surprisingly high production values, and excellent filmmaking techniques from start to finish. Overall, a solid, “teen-friendly” horror flick, followed by incredibly disappointing and very weak sequels.

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I Spit On Your Grave

1978 / d. Meir Zarchi
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A well known flick belonging to the “rape/revenge” subgenre, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is a film completely devoid of taste and decency, but also lacking any suspense or real thrills. Purely exploitative, but slow paced and even outright goofy at times, one is better off to watch Wes Craven’s 1972 gem: THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT or even the often downplayed–but far more entertaining–HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK. The only real selling point here is the groin-grabbingly-gory bathtub castration scene. Yikes.

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I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

1998 / d. Danny Cannon
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I wish I could say this film reeled in the scares, but like a fish out of water, this was just a huge flop. Julie James and her new (more alive) friends go on a tropical getaway weekend, but their plans soon hit a snag when resiliant fisherman returns. The first film should have been left alone without producers looking to cash in on its success, thus opening a whole can of worms and hitting rock bottom with this flick.

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Insidious

2010 / d. James Wan
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Effective and downright creepy endeavour from the director who brought us SAW and DEAD SILENCE. When their son falls into an unexplainable catatonic state, Josh and Renai Lambert discover that the cause of their son’s illness is far beyond anything they could have imagined in their worst nightmares. Director Wan succeeds in presenting us with a plethora of surprisingly memorable scenes that have a penchant for resurfacing in the mind during particularly dark and quiet hours. The only complaint is that the film can seem a tad unfocused, as the last half and the first half are so dramatically different. Regardless, a genuinely well-crafted and unsettling horror film. Kudos for the use of Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” which added heavily to the memorability of the flick.

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It’s Alive

1974 / d. Larry Cohen
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What should Frank and Lenore Davis expect while they’re expecting? If your answer is anything other than “the spawn of Satan”, you’re horribly wrong! After a delivery room massacre, the horrific fruit of Frank’s loins is loosed on the city, and begins carrying out an infantile bloodbath. You’ve heard of the “terrible twos“? Well here’s a case of theterrible two-days-old! IT’S ALIVE, despite hiding under the guise of a ridiculous horror film, tackles important issues like familial rejection, the fear of birthing an unhealthy child, and the pressures which stem from accepting responsibility for the actions of your children. Frank, Lenore, and their non-mutated son are all presented as exaggerated sterotypes as they would have existed in a typical 1970s family hierarchy. Frank is a man’s man, whose obligation is to protect his family above all else, whereas Lenore’s maternal instincts drive her to look past the derangement of the baby, and see it for what it essentially is: her child. Though not overly graphic, Rick Baker’s special effects are a pleasure to watch as always, and the film overall makes for an excellent watch. Highly recommended.

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JAWS

1975 / d. Stephen Speilberg
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I’ll admit, I probably went about 12 years in between viewings of JAWS. Not because I dislike the movie by any means, and not because I was too scared of it to watch it a second time; for me, it’s just one of those films that seems to get neglected. So when it was selected as the viewing material for Monster Movie Monday, I was happy to revisit it after all these years and see how it stacked up against my very vague recollection of it. Obviously it’s classic — everything down to the iconic bah-duh… bah-duh… bah-duh bah-duh bah-duh bah-duh – and the quotable dialogue (I too think you’re going to need a bigger boat, Brody). JAWS has a sort of timeless summery feel which makes it familiar and easy to enjoy during the hot months. My problem with JAWS, however, was only reaffirmed after watching it again recently. I can watch the movie and enjoy it, but I can’t pinpoint what genre I’m watching. It’s a weird blend of horror/thriller/drama, and I’ve never personally subscribed to the idea that just because it has a killer shark as its antagonist that we should all-at-once consider it a horror film. It’s not the shark itself that’s scary, it’s the idea of the shark… of something dangerous lurking beneath the water. To me, you could replace the shark with any other monster and the film could be equally tense and unnerving.

All that said, I do like JAWS, even if I do find it genre-confused and silly at times. Would I recommend it for a Monster Movie Monday viewing? Nah. It’s a serious film which demands your attention. Pop in a copy of JAWS 3D if you’re looking for a good group-viewing experience!

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Joyride

2001 / d. John Dahl
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Another Leelee Sobieski yarn, yes, but a creepy truck driver pursuing teens after a practical joke gone awry makes up for the young cast. Kinky CB radio innuendo and scary chases ala Duel keep this dark ode to the open road in the plus column. Do however avoid the video sequel JOY RIDE 2: DEAD AHEAD.

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Leprechaun

1993 / d. Mark Jones
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Never — and I mean ever – stand between a Leprechaun and their gold. And that’s pretty much the moral of the story right there. But let’s face it, you know going into this thing that you’re not about to watch another CITIZEN KANE… you’re going to watch a b-movie about a malevolent, miserly Irishman who has no pretense about killing you if you steal his Lucky Char—err, treasure. Jennifer Aniston may take top billing, but Warwick Davis is the true star here. Whether he’s spouting Irish puns, shooting festive green lightning out of his fingertips, or inflicting death-by-pogo-stick, he’s always stealing the show! Oddball writing that seems to me almost reminiscent of KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, LEPRECHAUN is campy Irish fun. In fact, you could almost say, “it’s cine-magically delicious!”

…leave me alone, I tried.

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Let the Right One In

2008 / d. Tomas Alfredson
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Poetic, haunting; a horror film which transcends the (quite often) tired banality of vampire movies, and becomes something greater: a work of fine art. Set against the backdrop of a quiet, Swedish winter, it presents us with the story of a lonely adolescent boy (Oskar) who falls in love with the girl-next-door: Eli the vampire. At the very heart of it, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is a compelling and tragic romance: two characters functioning independent of morality or ethics, driven only by desires and needs, and made all the more disturbing by their youth. There are no heroes, only people doing terrible things out of the sense of duty which comes from loving another person unconditionally. This, coupled with the stark examination of betrayal, loneliness, and corruption are what truly make this film disturbing and memorable. The title itself serves as a warning to us, the viewer: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. More than just an admonition against granting vampires permission into our homes, we are also challenged to be careful about who we invite into our lives. Let the right one in. Advice worth heeding.

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Manborg

2012/ d. Steven Kostanski
         
It’s a very rare occasion that I give a perfect score to a film.  Very few movies are perfect and being the cynical, picky bastard that I am, I can usually find something to complain about.  And to give such a high rating to a Canadian film made for less than $2000 and shot in a garage on borrowed high school equipment, well…  I suppose you deserve an explanation.

Manborg opens with an epic battle scene where we learn that humanity is rapidly losing the war against the nazi-like denizens of Hell, led by the supremely evil Count Draculon (Adam Brooks, Father’s Day).  One human soldier, in a futile act of bravery, faces the Count in an attempt to save his brother.  He is shot full of lasers for his trouble and is dragged away, presumably to his death.  An opening credits montage complete with a pulsing 80′s electronic score brings us into the future using a Robocop-meets-Universal Soldier-esque transformation scene.  Humanity has lost to Count Draculon and the remaining citizens are rounded up for experimentation, torture and gladiator style death matches.  Our titular hero (Matthew Kennedy, Father’s Day) bursts out of a crate, confused and seeking answers.  He quickly runs afoul of the Hellspawn and is captured (after a chase with laser hover boards!) along with #1 Man (Ludwig Lee), a mix of Liu Kang and Chong-Li, complete with a badly dubbed voice (Kyle Hebert).  The two are thrown in a prison with laser bars where they meet 80′s Australian stereotype Justice (Conor Sweeney, Father’s Day (noticing a trend yet?)) and his inexplicably accent-free, anime-style ass kicking sister Mina (Meredith Sweeney, yup, she’s in Father’s Day too).  The group is sent to the arena and handily dispatches a group of demons in hover cars with help from Manborg’s arsenal of hidden weaponry.  The plot is fairly easy to predict from this point with escape and eventual revolt against the oppressing forces but depth isn’t really the point.

Originally conceived as a sort of demo reel for aspiring filmmaker (and Astron-6 alum) Steven Kostanski, the sheer scope of Manborg is something to behold.  Shot almost entirely on green screen with miniature sets and some brilliant stop-motion animation to help flesh things out, this movie looks, sounds and feels far bigger than its nearly non-existent budget.  Full Moon Video, even in their heyday, would have been hard pressed to create a world so convincing with so little.  One of Manborg’s greatest strengths is its absolute refusal to let anything get too serious.  Where camp was simply a by product of low-budget filmmaking for Full Moon and other 80′s straight to video producers, Kostanski (much like Lloyd Kaufman) revels in it.  Gore is plentiful and the fight choreography (by Ludwig Lee) is excellent.  The gags are nearly constant, from the aforementioned badly dubbed #1 Man to the evil Baron and his awkward crush on Mina.  The nods to 80′s movies are just as frequent with references spanning sci-fi, horror and action genres but Manborg never feels like pastiche.  The references are presented with a wink and a nod, acknowledging influence and taking the viewer back to a time when manual tracking controls and worn out tapes were a greater concern than plot or cinematography.  If none of this appeals to you than perhaps my rating might seem extreme.  But if, like me, you’re thoroughly enjoying the recent “rewindhouse” revival of 80′s movies that never were, you won’t find a more satisfying film than Manborg.  Given Kostanski’s recent makeup effects work on Resident Evil: Retribution, Silent Hill: Revelation and Guillermo Del Toro’s upcoming Pacific Rim, we may not see another movie like this from him for a while.  I sincerely hope that isn’t the case.

 

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Martyrs

2008 / d. Pascal Laugier
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Not since my first viewing of Fred Vogel’s AUGUST UNDERGROUND had I seen a movie that so strongly elicited the response: this is fucked up. After a slow and deceptively tame exposition, a brutally sadistic development plays out, featuring such explicit and unrelenting violence it leaves the viewer feeling completely overwhelmed. In fact, if the movie has a fault it would be in its pacing: by the time we reach the shocking climax we’ve already become desensitized from the sheer violence-overkill, which softens the impact of the conclusory scenes. Regardless, it’s a dark and effective film — aggressive in its execution and memorable in its fearless showcase of tortuous special effects. But beneath the gory visceral surface lies a deep commentary, raising fundamental (and profoundly horrifying) questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, and the existence of life after death. Be forewarned: it is impossible to walk away from MARTYS untouched; its stark, nihilistic imagery will forever be burned into your mind.

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Midnight Meat Train

2008 / d. Ryuhei Kitamura
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A slick, stylized adaption of the short story by horror-prophet Clive Barker, MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN is certainly one of the best Barker movie adaptations to date. Brutally violent, well acted, and tense from start to finish. The plot-twist ending will leave you with your jaw securely resting on the floor in astonishment.

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Mother of Tears

2007 / d. Dario Argento
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The final chapter in the Three Mothers trilogy, the film has Argento’s usual penchant for boobs and blood, but is stylistically worlds apart from the first two films (SUSPIRIA and INFERNO). Argento fans may dislike the polished look, but it boasts enough bodily trauma and lewd lesbian action to keep anyone entertained.

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Mountaintop Motel Massacre

1986 / d. Jim McCullough Sr.
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The tagline reads: “Please do not disturb Evelyn. She already is.” Ah ha ha, brilliant! Unfortunately, it’s the only brilliant thing about this film. While not as bad as many of the numerous slasher films to surface from the 80s, it’s just a pretty uninspired effort all-around. However, the decent atmosphere and oddball characters make this, at the very least, entertaining.

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My Bloody Valentine 3D

2009 / d. Patrick Lussier
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Pure three-dimensional horror fun! Director Lussier sets out to remake the well-known Canadian slasher and delivers (in typical 80′s fashion) a film chocked-full of suprisingly nasty pick-axe brutality, including a scene in which a jaw is torn clean off! Good luck eating corn on the cob this summer, boy-o! Campy and violent, it also features some lengthy bits of female full-frontal, all in glorious 3D no less.

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Necronomicon

1993 / d. Christophe Grans, Shusuke Keneko, Brian Yuzna
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A Lovecraft film starring Jeffrey Combs NOT directed by Stuart Gordon? It might explain why the film is barely Lovecraftian but who the hell cares, you’re here for the gore, not for the staying-true-to-the-source-material! An anthology film with a clever wraparound story, this film uses Lovecraft as a jumping off point for some entertaining short stories with increasingly amped up gore. And tentacles. Oh boy are there tentacles. Throw in some face peeling, some limb amputation and some Mi-Go marrow munching and this is Lovecraft for gore-hounds. Criminally unavailable on (legit) DVD, dig out the old VCR, scour the pawn shops and go mad…ish.

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Night of the Demons (2010)

2010 / d. Adam Gierasch
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Some films are so bad they’re good. Others are just so bad they’re really effing awful. Such is the case with this remake of the widely enjoyed 1988 campy classic. The bottom line is this: if a film clearly possessed potential but failed to deliver because of low-budget, bad acting, poor effects, etc., then a remake should be considered. However, if a film accomplished everything it set out to do and is still enjoyed to this day, then seriously, sink money into a different project and don’t waste time making an inferior product. Redundant gore, barely passable effects, and dialogue which makes you want to brain yourself with the DVD case contribute to why you should skip this one altogether.

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Night of the Demons 2

1994 / d. Brian Trenchard-Smith
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Angela, the Halloween hostess from hell, returns to throw another killer party! When teenagers begin transforming into horrible mouth-foaming demons, it becomes up to a ruler-weilding Catholic school nun to save the day. Slapstick horror goodness from start to finish puts this one with the ranks of EVIL DEAD 2 and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Plenty of boobs, plenty of gore, and plenty of good old fashioned horror hilariaty.

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Night of the Living Dead

1968 / d. George A. Romero
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Ok, so it’s obvious that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD isn’t about the graphic human meat-chomping that characterized the later Romero pictures, but without this influential little gem, the zombie genre as we know it would not exist. An incredibly bleak and tragic tale, this low-budget black and white horror classic marked the directorial debut of Mr. Romero and set up him up for a long career in the horror industry. Followed by DAY OF THE DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD, LAND OF THE DEAD, DIARY OF THE DEAD, and SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD.

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Night of the Living Dead (1990)

1990 / d. Tom Savini
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Incredibly successful and atmospheric remake of George A. Romero’s original masterpiece. Not as heavy on the gore as you might expect, but spectacular make-up effects and convincing performances by Tony Todd and Patricia Tallman make this a personal favourite, and confirm the fact that special effects artists make excellent directors!

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Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

1985 / d. Jack Sholder
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Gimpy sequel which pales in comparison to the brilliance of the first film. FREDDY’S REVENGE brings us back to 1428 Elm Street, where the infamous Mr. Krueger is once again scheming a way to increase his bodycount. This time: by crossing over into the real world by using a (questionably gay) teenager as his vessel. Hokey-ness abounds, but some memorable scenes — including dogs with babyfaces — make this one a guilty pleasure. Watch at your own risk.