Film Review: GERMAN CONCENTRATION CAMPS: FACTUAL SURVEY

Hello Again.

Every so often, I find it beneficial to take time out from watching fictional horror works, and remind myself of the real horrors that once existed, throughout history. An emotional recalibration, of sorts. This allows me to never become desensitised to some of the graphic and unsettling material I often view.

Thankfully, nothing can ever come close to the real-world horrors that took place in 1940’s in Germany, from the Nazi’s, with which the documentary film GERMAN CONCENTRATION CAMPS: FACTUAL SURVEY depicts, and which I am going to review here for you.

The Concentration Camps were considered to be, and still are considered to be, humanity’s worst ever atrocities. Even during the height of the Cold War, and the impending threat of Nuclear War in the 1980’s, never have human beings stooped so low, as to use fellow humans as medical experiments and to force them to suffer, purely for the sick enjoyment of the torturers. (The possible exception may be the events of China in 1937, at Unit 731.)

The British Film Institute (BFI) and Imperial War Museum, London (IWM), have joined together, and recently resurrected and restored a notorious piece of cinema, originally partly photographed by Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein. The film was comprised of reels of silent footage from German Concentration Camps, which is where this film gets its title from, and this film is now doing a short tour of the United Kingdom, before – we hope – an eventual UK DVD release later this year.

This 88 minute, 18-certificate documentary feature, is quite possibly the most harrowing thing I’ve watched, for the sole reason that everything you see on screen is 100% genuine! This is real-life death and suffering, writ large! The BFI and IWM realised that few viewers would be able to stomach much of what is shown. Thankfully, they have topped-and-tailed the 75 minute main feature, with an Introduction and Outro, that allows viewers to “decompress”.

In the Introduction, we meet the restoration team and staff from both the BFI and IWM, who give a brief talk about the forthcoming material. They warn you in no uncertain circumstances that what you are about to witness, will unsettle, distress and horrify the audience – as it should – and that it should be a warning to all humanity, that we never, ever repeat what happened in the Second World War. They explain why the film exists, how it came to be in the IWM’s hands, and why they decided it was necessary to be restored and given life once more.

Then the main feature begins. Much of the footage is silent, with newly-recorded narration, taken from a surviving script/outline treatment that existed. The monotone delivery is necessarily stark and non-judgemental, allowing the viewer to comprehend what we are being shown. The restoration is fantastic. Razor-sharp for the most part, considering the time and conditions under which it was obtained and created. The near-HD presentation is astounding, which makes the horrors that unfold so deeply sickening to view. There will be times, when you will need to look away, because what you will see will be so truly harrowing. And so it should be! Trying to soften the nature of the footage, would do a huge disservice to the people featured in it.

Opening with footage from Belsen Camp, it’s not long before we see the worst human suffering imaginable. Living beings, so emaciated and cruelly-treated, that their skin barely covers their skeletons. Pallid skin of young and old alike, feature and it is horrible to feel so powerless as a viewer to stop their suffering. Seeing them at their lowest, is extremely unsettling. Knowing what is about to happen to them, is a thousand times worse. Watching scene-after-unremitting-scene of degradation, is near-traumatising. Worse still when you see some of the injuries they suffer: from malnutrition, and lack of basic facilities like hot water to wash in, or clean clothes to cover themselves. One especially harrowing scene, features a man who’s genital flesh has been eaten away by his own body, trying to keep him alive. In another, we see the remains of children’s bodies, burnt in the crematoria.

Deliberately unsettling and never afraid to depict the very things we would all much prefer to deny existed, the film beautifully, but disturbingly portrays events that hopefully, the human race will never, ever repeat. After 75 minutes, the film ends – just at the point most viewers would wish it too, before it becomes prurient – and there is a necessary and much-desired Outro, in which staff from the BFI and IWM who worked on the film, talk about their reaction to seeing it for the first time, and the way it affected them, during the restoration work. Not only is it very informative, but it allows the viewer to “decompress”, and hopefully not leave the cinema feeling too depressed.

If you can get to see this film, then please, please do so, as it’s an excellent piece of cinema. Just be warned, it’s extremely harrowing! Highly recommended!

ADDENDUM: Apologies for the lack of images accompanying this review. Blogger is refusing to play-ball, and display images correctly. Once the issue is fixed, images will be accompanying this review, as per usual.

I’ll be back shortly, with another update.

Film Review: GERMAN CONCENTRATION CAMPS: FACTUAL SURVEY

Why Banning Something Isn’t Always A Bad Thing!

Welcome Everyone,

Today I want to talk to you about a new film that’s been recently banned, here in the UK, and why I don’t have an issue with it being banned.

It was recently announced on  Nerdly.co.uk   that James Cullen Bressack’s film HATE CRIME had been banned by the BBFC. Now, for those who aren’t aware of it, HATE CRIME is one of Bressack’s latest horror films. According to his IMDB page  here  he’s been a busy man, directing, producing and writing plenty of films, since his first work back in 2004. And he’s still exceedingly young – 23 years of age.

The film follows a bunch of Neo-Nazi thugs, as they break into a Jewish family’s house, and rape, torture and murder them. The film is of the “found footage” variety, and lasts a measly 71 minutes.

The BBFC banned the film, with the full statement reading:

HATE CRIME focuses on the terrorisation, mutilation, physical and sexual abuse and murder of the members of a Jewish family by the Neo Nazi thugs who invade their home. The physical and sexual abuse and violence are accompanied by constant strong verbal racist abuse. Little context is provided for the violence beyond an on screen statement at the end of the film that the two attackers who escaped were subsequently apprehended and that the one surviving family member was released from captivity. We have considered the attempt at the end to position the film as against hate-crime, but find it so unconvincing that it only makes matters worse.

The BBFC’s Guidelines on violence state that: “Any depiction of sadistic or sexual violence which is likely to pose a harm risk will be subject to intervention through classification, cuts or even, as a last resort, refusal to classify. We may refuse to classify content which makes sexual or sadistic violence look appealing or acceptable […] or invites viewer complicity in sexual violence or other harmful violent activities. We are also unlikely to classify content which is so demeaning or degrading to human dignity (for example, it consists of strong abuse, torture or death without any significant mitigating factors) that it may pose a harm risk.”

It is the Board’s carefully considered conclusion that the unremitting manner in which HATE CRIME focuses on physical and sexual abuse, aggravated by racist invective, means that to issue a classification to this work, even if confined to adults, would be inconsistent with the Board’s Guidelines, would risk potential harm, and would be unacceptable to broad public opinion.

Of course, the Board will always seek to deal with such concerns by means of cuts or other modifications when this is a feasible option.  However, under the heading of ‘Refusal to classify’ our Guidelines state that “As a last resort, the BBFC may refuse to classify a work, in line with the objective of preventing non-trivial harm risks to potential viewers and, through their behaviour, to society. We may do so, for example, where a central concept of the work is unacceptable, such as a sustained focus on sexual or sadistic violence. Before refusing classification we will consider whether the problems could be adequately addressed through intervention such as cuts.” The Board considered whether its concerns could be dealt with through cuts. However, given that the fact that unacceptable content runs throughout the work, cuts are not a viable option in this case and the work is therefore refused a classification.

Clearly, the BBFC have issues with the films amoral content. The certification was for a VOD (or Video-On-Demand) version of the film, to be viewable via TheHorrorShow.TV’s site, rather than a physical release to UK cinemas or for home viewing on DVD/Blu-Ray. Bressack originally said:

I am honoured to know that my mind is officially too twisted for the UK. So it goes… I find it unbelievable that a film that shows little to no on screen violence and no nudity was actually banned. it just shows the power of what is implied and peoples imagination; and is a testament to the fact that the same crimes that happen in the world are truly horrifying.

Now, the problem I have, is that the BBFC – and this may surprise some of you – don’t actually want to ban things! It does them no favours to do so. When they do, they receive a lot of criticism, not only from the film-maker themselves and/or the studio releasing their work, but also from anti-censorship campaigners.

Normally, I do become interested in something that has been banned, and have written many times about such works. It’s usually a sign of something interesting and worth my time seeking out – usually via an import DVD/Blu-Ray. HATE CRIME is out in the USA, on DVD, and has been legally available there, since 15th October 2013, via Unearthed Films: a company who have released many other controversial, and/or films that would be banned within the UK, such as Nacho Cerda’s AFTERMATH (1994) or the brutal and nihilistic PHILOSOPHY OF A KNIFE (2009, Andrey Iskanov).

HATE CRIMES (Image has been edited, to conform to various
global laws, in which Swastika imagery is illegal to show!)

Since HATE CRIMES release, it has barely raised a murmur online, showing at a few film festivals around the globe, often to extremely mixed reviews – mostly negative. Online reviewers have been similarly torn between rating it “excellent”, “thought-provoking” and “harrowing”, to “badly-made”, “gimmicky” and “wretched”!

So why am I writing about this film? Well, first of all, I need to state that I have not seen this film. As such, what I am about to say, is liable to end-up with me being labelled a hypocrite, and a clueless idiot. But, that’s fine with me. No one can ever claim to be a perfect individual, and I am certainly no angel. I say what I feel, and I write what I mean.

For James Cullen Bressack, having his film banned, wouldn’t have been an issue for me. However, what has caused me problems, is that a few days AFTER the film was banned in the UK, and he said how proud he was to have been banned, (why?), he then released this piece of ultra-defensive P.R.:

As a Jewish man, and a victim of anti -Semitic hate, I made a horror film that depicts the very thing that haunts my dreams. As an artist I wanted to tell a story to remind us that we live in a dangerous world; a world where racial violence is on the rise. It saddens me to learn that censorship is still alive and well. As a critic and journalist, you should at least see the film you are criticizing and do your research to learn that the filmmaker is Jewish. However I have to admit that I do appreciate the press.

I’m calling bullshit on this! He’s clearly upset that his film can’t now be legally viewed by UK viewers, which means he can’t make money from this title. But to try and glibly claim what he does in the afore-mentioned piece of P.R., is hilarious.

So, let me get this straight: his film is banned for (presumably) being extremely violent and potentially anti-Semitic (under English Law, at least), but at the same time, the film contains nothing controversial that would warrant a ban, in his view, and – because he is Jewish himself – that that means his work is wholly defensible? Is that really how you want to go about things, Mr Bressack?

This reminds me of the very same defence that Srdjan Spasojevich tried when A SERBIAN FILM came out a few years back. As you will note in my blog post  here  he said that the infamous “baby-rape” sequence was a metaphor on the rape and murder of the Serbian people, by their Government. At the time, I didn’t buy it, and neither did many others. Even those who quite liked the film, and stood up for its entire artistic existence. To my mind, this is exactly what Bressack has done. After the film’s notoriety has gained attention, and been criticised, he is now desperately trying to do some major damage-control, and defend the indefensible: to justify why his work should be allowed to be seen by over-18’s here in the UK. Claiming he is Jewish, means that automatically gives him the right to make a potentially anti-Semitic film, doesn’t wash with me. Likewise, nor does it excuse the content that the BBFC have flagged-up as being unsuitable for classification.

Clearly, the film must contain some extremely contentious material, otherwise the BBFC would never have banned it, and/or the option of cuts would have been offered to the director. As that didn’t happen, we can only conclude that the film must contain material that is potentially grossly inflammatory. If the BBFC can find a way to edit A SERBIAN FILM for an 18 rating, and we all know how extreme that film is in its cut and uncut versions, then HATE CRIME must presumably be far worse.

HATE CRIME has been compared to the 1977 film FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE from director Robert A. Endelson. In that film, a bunch of redneck prisoners flee from their prison, and wall themselves up in a local Black Ministers home. There, they terrorise, degrade and torture the Ministers family.

If you’ve not seen that film, it’s certainly a movie worthy of your time. The main difference between this and HATE CRIME however, is that in FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE, the viewer is firmly put on the side of the victim, rather than the perpetrators. As such, at no time do you either sympathise with the aggressors, no matter how much venom and bile they spout about “niggers” and “coons”! Although the film was banned in the UK, back in 1983/84, and placed on the Video Nasties list, I suspect that if it were submitted today, that it would pass through uncut, with an 18 rating. Not because the film is especially violent, as it isn’t, but purely for the racist language, which is extensive and potentially degrading. However, although the language is contextualised to a certain degree, it is still going to be seen as really inflammatory, and that is why I believe an 18 rating would be handed-out to it, rather than a more lenient 15 certificate.

HATE CRIME clearly doesn’t side with the victims, and thus it can’t use the same defence. According to some online reviews, there are scenes that feature the sexualised violence, from the eyes of the perpetrator, and you watch the scene unfold as if you were the aggressor, actively taking part in the torture. Much like a similar scene found in HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, when Henry and Otis rape and torture a family, in the infamous “home invasion” sequence. When that film came through the BBFC’s doors, James Ferman the then chief censor, had real issues with this moment, and insisted on major cuts and alterations. (Full details of these cuts and alterations can be found at this 30-minute long video link  here  courtesy of Gavin Salkeld, which I should warn you all, is not suitable for under-18’s, and isn’t work-safe either!)

Now, stylistically, it may be seen as in interesting way to get under the skin of an audience member, just as happens in HENRY, but it will also – quite often – make the scene feel even more seditionary than you intended. And then, the power and impact of the scene, suddenly doubles or triples. That is why directors have to take great care when using this stylistic technique in films.

That said, such filmic techniques are nothing new. PEEPING TOM, the classic British chiller from 1960, had its killer use a camera on a tripod with a steel blade inserted into one of the tripod’s legs, as a way to have an audience see the victim’s suffering, to demonstrate that murder is often not quick, clean and painless. It too, was similarly controversial, and the film’s notoriety permanently ended the career of its director, Michael Powell. So, this device is neither new or novel. And the recent upsurge in the “found footage” genre of horror films, stemming from films like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, have also rendered this once-innovative filmic device commonplace.

So, with the film now being banned here in the UK, what does this mean. Well, whilst many horror fans will now be eager to download or purchase this film, which is freely available from places like Amazon, I won’t be one of them. I think the film is as crass and dumb as it appears to be! Just another excuse for a director with no talent, no creativity and no ability, to make some money by being infamous. Someone whom, once all the fanboys have stopped wetting themselves over this film’s ban, will realise has produced a work with no purpose, point or relevance, other than being a grubby, repellent exploitation flick. In-and-of-itself, that’s not a problem. But the problem the BBFC has, is that the justification for the extreme content, does not override the “entertainment” side of things. Namely, the film has been created to entertain first, rather than suggest or inform the audience that such on-screen-violence is contextual or has some moral fibre to it.

Ultimately, I know people will condemn me for my view – namely being a hypocrite for being okay with a film being banned, that I’ve not actually seen myself; and being a hypocrite for being okay with this film being banned, yet readily admitting to watching, owning and liking other, similar banned films (e.g. SNUFF 102, PHILOSOPHY OF A KNIFE, etc, etc), and that may all be true, but it’s my viewpoint.

As I’ve got older, I’ve become less and less tolerant towards films that have no moral purpose whatsoever in them. I get fed-up with the horror genre as a whole being tarnished, by directors just coming-up with more and more excuses to show ever-more-extreme content, when there’s no point for the violence in the first place, and no story. For every worthwhile work, that attempts to subvert the genre, there are a hundred others who just want to peddle ever-more brutal violence. I’ve not become desensitised to it. I’m just bored by it. There’s only so many eye-gouging’s, beheading’s, blood-letting’s, and amputations of all known bodily organs – both external and internal – I can stomach, before it all gets rather coma-inducing.

Don’t get me wrong. I still like violence. I still like gore. There’s nothing wrong with liking that stuff, or including it in your films, but for goodness sake, give me some kind of story, or point, if you want me to give you 60-120 minutes of my life, to viewing your work. Show me something innovative, rather than derivative. Give me a new take on a story or plot, not just a rehash of someone else’s ideas. If, as a director, you think that showing excessive violence is the coolest thing possible, then clearly you are not as smart as you’d like to think you are.

And on that note, I will see you back here shortly.

Why Banning Something Isn’t Always A Bad Thing!

Arrow Fanboys Are Having A Laugh

Hello again,

You have to love the hypocrisy that drips from the fingers and mouth of Arrow’s fans. It’s unintentionally hilarious at times.

As readers of my blog will probably know, Arrow released David Cronenberg’s SHIVERS on UK Blu-Ray last year, and after announcing it was going to be a new, HD presentation of the uncut version, what was released was in fact anything but uncut.

When fans of the film took to the Web, to complain and understandably vent their spleen, Arrow passed the blame onto TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) who were the organisation behind the HD print. They blamed Cronenberg, and he stated that he had not seen the film in years, and that the new HD restoration looked amazing. What he didn’t notice, was that the film was cut, in many scenes, to remove violence and gore.

As has happened before, Arrow said they would “investigate” the matter. This was back in October 2014. It’s now March 2015, and Arrow have just made an “announcement” on their Facebook page. It reads…

We’ve receive a fair few queries about the progress of this. First up, we can only apologise that it is taking far longer than we originally anticipated. We were very much hoping the situation would be resolved by the New Year but sadly this was not the case. So, the good news is we will be running a replacement programme for this one so if you have purchased a copy of our release do keep hold of those proof of purchases! The bad news is, we don’t have an exact timeline for this and at present it does look like this will be a bit of a way off. Unfortunately we’re in the hands of TIFF who have their own schedule and Shivers isn’t a priority for them at present. We are doing all we can to apply pressure and try and speed things up but sadly there isn’t too much we can do. We believe that they are scanning another element of equal quality to the restoration they initially performed so this is what we are waiting for. We could have cut in the SD elements we have – we have tested that and it looks fine – but knowing that higher quality work is underway, has made it very difficult to simply settle for SD inserts. If we’d know we’d all be waiting 5 months maybe we would have stuck with the SD option however we really want our Shivers release to be the best release possible and not simply a quick fix. As mentioned we are working hard to keep things moving and we really appreciate all of your patience and support whilst we try and reach a suitable solution. As soon as we have a concrete update on the situation we will widely publish this so do keep checking back!

This all sounds fairly decent, but as has been amply demonstrated by me, and others, they’re still trying to pass the buck onto TIFF, and implying that it was their fault, rather than Arrow’s.

Now, there are many comments added onto this Facebook post, but one that made me laugh out loud, was this one. I’ve removed their names, for privacy purposes. The censored swearing and spelling and grammar errors, are exactly how they appeared on Facebook…



ARROW FANBOY 1: Now this is customer service! Unlike 88 cut classics!

ARROW FANBOY 2: You mean 88 cu@t classics lol 88 cu@ts logic is “oh we screwed up a release” “Oh well let’s just lie about it as we don’t give a crap” great business there guys.

ARROW FANBOY 1: You put it better (name removed) haha!

I’m sorry, but if you’re going to take the piss out of another label – 88 Films – who are a newcomer to the UK, and are doing some pretty good work, with some excellent and definitive Blu-Ray releases, then you might want to get your own house in order first. And, if you’re going to take the piss, because 88 Films released a messed-up version of Full Moon Pictures TOURIST TRAP (which was the same faulty version that the USA got, from Full Moon Pictures, for their Blu-Ray), then do you really want me to repeat the list of all the films that Arrow have fucked-up over the years, and are a label who still continue to fuck things up, as the SHIVERS debacle continues to unfold?!

Pot. Kettle. Black. Anyone?!

Seriously, guys. If you want me to stop taking Arrow to task, for all of their gargantuan fuck-ups over the years, and in the same breath, you berate me for daring to keeping bringing these mistakes up, then you really ought to keep your own traps shut. Don’t belittle another label, and then simultaneously try to claim another label that you support, is a paragon of fucking virtue. Otherwise people like me, will be on-hand to give you a gentle reminder, that things aren’t as squeaky clean as you are claiming.

Yes, 88 Films have released the problematic TOURIST TRAP, and if you want to split-hairs, then this year’s release of THE TOXIC AVENGER 3 – which was the cut, R-Rated version (as approved by director Lloyd Kaufman, rather than an inherent fault on the part of 88 Films) – could also be included as a mistake that should have been caught too. But, ultimately, that’s two films, in less than two years of existance.

Arrow released triple that number of “mistakes” in their first couple of years, so be really careful about all the finger-pointing, or it might come back to bite you in the ass!

Arrow Fanboys Are Having A Laugh

Blu-Ray Review: [.Rec]: Apocalypse

Welcome Back,

I trust you are all in good health, as we now slowly begin to leave the Winter months behind us and enter into Spring. Today, I am going to review the final film in one of the better, more intelligent horror franchises out there. I hope you enjoy it.

The [.REC] franchise was unleashed on the world, back in 2007, courtesy of Spanish directorial duo Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza. The sequel arrived in 2009, followed by a Prequel in 2012, and this year, we see the final segment.

The franchise follows a TV news reporter, Angela Vidal – played by Manuela Velasco – for her late-night investigative journalism show “While You’re Sleeping”, in which she focuses on employees who do jobs that run overnight, whilst the rest of the country is asleep. In the original [.REC] film, she arrives at a Fire Station, and goes on a job with a local firehouse crew, to a call to help a woman trapped in her apartment. Once at the house, they encounter the local Police breaking down the woman’s apartment door, when she suddenly attacks one of the officers. Meanwhile, the disturbance disrupts other tenants in the block, and soon enough, things go haywire.

What was ground-breaking about the original franchise, was that it dealt with the world of reality TV, and the frequently abused “shaky-cam” tactic that had become abused by so many recent horror films, and put an innovative twist on it, adding into the mix another variation on the zombie/viral infestation genre. Unlike many similar films, the movie’s running time, was a short-and-sweet 81 minutes.

After its original release, the film soon gained a much-deserved reputation of being an innovative twist on the “found-footage” genre, and soon became an international success, wherever it was released.

The sequel, continued straight-on from the end of the original flick, and shows what happens to Angela, once word gets out about the mysterious viral outbreak. In many ways, it is to [.REC] what ALIENS (1986, James Cameron) was to its predecessor: a more gung-ho, adrenaline-fuelled action-oriented horror that almost outdid the already phenomenal original.

When it was announced that two more films would be made, and the franchise rested with the release of Part 4, fans were relieved to hear that the franchise was not going to be dragged through the mud, and its reputation destroyed, with endless sequels, like so many other horror franchises have had done to them.

With Part 4 or [.REC]: APOCALYPSE as it is formerly known, the tale comes full-circle, and it’s actually a pretty decent conclusion to the series. This UK, Region B Blu-Ray release came out on Monday 2nd March, and I had deliberately avoided reading-up on any previews about it, to make sure I didn’t accidentally come across any information that might spoil my enjoyment.

The action starts with the GEO’s (Grupo Especial de Operaciones – the Spanish equivalent of the Armed Guard or Homeland Security) from Part 2, desperately seeking to rescue Angela. As they plant bombs around the inside of the block, they are attacked by some of the infected tenants at the apartment block, causing the operation to fail. Guzman (Paco Manzanedo) manages to rescue Angela. We then jump to Angela waking-up on-board a boat, in the middle of the ocean, with medical tests being performed upon her, presumably to make sure she herself is not also infected. Accompanying her, the medical staff, and the crew of the boat, is her camera – which is in a pretty bad state. Thankfully, much of her footage is recoverable. Guzman notices an elderly woman wandering about the boat. She is asking everyone whether they’ve seen her daughter, or any of the wedding guests. Clearly, she is the only survivor from the third film, but is wholly unaware of what took place their.

She accompanies Guzman and Angela, and they meet the crew. They are told that Angela is “clean”, but she soon discovers that she is not the only person on board the boat, being tested. In a closely-guarded medical centre, deep in the bowels of the boat, she leans that some of the infected blood is being tested, to create a vaccine. But the vaccine is still being tested on others – both human and animal – much to shock of the crew. It’s not long before something goes hideously wrong, and Angela, Guzman and the rest of the boat are suddenly realising that things are about to get very crowded in here!

At 96 minutes, this is the longest of the films, but it’s surprisingly good. Despite the title, and the original intention, there is no true Apocalyptic event of any kind. Balaguero has gone on record, stating that due to the low-budget nature of all four [.REC] films – roughly 1.5 Million Euros for the first and 5.6 Million for the second, with Parts 3 and 4 being made for not much more each – undertaking a complete, national or global crisis with thousands of infected people would have been impossible to do, without resorting to poorly-created CGI (something I wrote about in my review of DEAD SNOW 2 – which can be read   here  if you wish.) or utilising thousands of extras and a lot of special effects. So, it was decided that this final film would only use the themes of an “apocalypse” in the broadest sense of the term.

To be fair, that is fine with me. Of course it would have been amazing, to see what might have happened, had the virus infected most of Spain, or possibly, the rest of the world’s population, but I think the resulting film would have been significantly weaker for it. As it stands, this final part of the franchise, retains the gutsy claustrophobia of the original, whilst including just enough action to keep it from getting boring.

The first death, doesn’t occur until about 33 minutes into the film, but trust me. It’s a really gruelling sequence, when you see what happens, and to whom! So be prepared!

For the most part, the film zips along, at a pretty punchy pace! Whilst I would have liked a little more gore and grue, as per the first three films, Part 4 still delivers a couple of nasty deaths, that will be appreciated by horror fans, but you will be left wanting a few more. In many ways, the film is a little too restrained with the gore. Whether that’s due to budgetary reasons, or lack of time, I don’t know, but this is not the darkest or nastiest part of the series.

That said, the one thing you will note, is how reminiscent and unintentionally similar it is to the afore-mentioned ALIENS. I won’t say the film plagiarises it, but there are a lot of moments that come mightily close to being so similar, that you wonder if Balaguero wasn’t heavily influenced by it, to the point of plagiarism. Those of you who have seen [.REC]: APOCALYPSE, will know what I mean. Those of you who will see it, will soon spot the similarities in the final 20 minutes or so.

It’s not a bad thing to be similar to another film. However, you do feel that the similarities are bordering so close, that you will be left with a nagging feeling, that the ending is too similar.

This is a shame, because the film wraps-up most of the franchise’s plot-lines quite well. It’s a solid film. Not a breakout hit, by any means, and you may not rewatch it for many years, but it is a solid genre hit. Not brilliant, but by no means is it a wasted purchase/rental.

If you enjoyed the first two, then you will enjoy this final part. Stay-tuned through the early parts of the end-credits, as the film includes a small coda, that hints at something more. It’s not a flawed way to end the film, but it gives the creators’ the potential chance to return to this franchise once more, at some point in the future, if they should wish too. As much as a [.REC] 5 would be fun, I really do believe, it would be better to leave [.REC]: APOCALYPSE be the end of it!

The UK Blu-Ray contains just one extra: a 30-minute “Making Of”, which is fun, but I would have liked to have heard more from the directors, and Manuela Velasco herself, about working on this franchise, and their own views on what they liked (or disliked) about the final film. The picture quality is, much like the film itself: solid, stable, dependable, without ever being anything more than that. There are two soundtrack choices: Spanish DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio, or Spanish Dolby Digital Stereo HD Master Audio, both of which do a good job, though there’s nothing here that’s going to make you go “wow” during your viewing. The accompanying English subtitles are removeable, if you wish to see the film purely in Spanish, but being in white, during the early parts of the film, they can occasionally be harder to read. This is because the film has quite a bleached, almost monochrome look to it in the first half. So white subtitles on a white/grey-white image, means the viewer occasionally strains to read them. There was only one noticeable error, in the subtitles I noted, but nothing that should harm your enjoyment in any significant factor.

Overall, this is an enjoyable horror film, and a fun and entertaining end to the series. It’s by no means the best of the series, or even the best way to end it, but it shouldn’t give most fans too much to complain about. Recommended.

Blu-Ray Review: [.Rec]: Apocalypse

New Date For Cinema City Extreme All-Nighter Event 2015!

Hi Again,

Great News! We have been able to reschedule the Cinema City Extreme All-Nighter Horrorthon!

The new date is now Saturday 21st March 2015. I have reposted the information below, including the new link from where you can pre-order tickets from, at the end of this blog post.

I am proud to present, in connection with  OurScreen  and  Cinema City / Picturehouse Norwich

CINEMA CITY EXTREME
ALL-NIGHTER HORRORTHON!


Yes, for the first time ever in Cinema City’s 36-year-long history, I am very proud to establish this all-night-long horror film marathon, for people living in and around Norwich, in Norfolk – a delightful, Medieval city in East Anglia in England…


… and I will be your host!
Starting at 11pm, and running through the night until around 8:30am the next morning, we will be showing five, delightfully sick-and-nasty films from all over the globe, on the Big Screen, where all horror is meant to be seen! In this modern, plush, 185-seater venue, you can come and share the grisly delights of the following films:

SLEEP TIGHT (2011, Jaume Balaguero)
MARTYRS (2009, Pascal Laugier)
EXCISION (2012, Richard Band, Jnr.)
ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS (aka ZOMBIE, aka ZOMBI 2) (1979, Lucio Fulci)

We will also be premiering a  BONUS FIFTH FILM,  which will be revealed on the night itself! A film so shocking, it’s not seen the inside of a cinema, since its original release, and a film so controversial, we can’t even say the name of it here!


All films will be shown completely uncut and uncensored, in their original languages, with English Subtitles where applicable, with the exception of ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS which will be shown in a Dubbed English version, as this is the one most people know of.
  • This wonderful event is for over-18’s only, for legal reasons pertaining to UK cinema laws.
  • Tickets cost £32.50p (approximately 40 Euros or $50 US Dollars) for the whole night, and we need an absolute minimum of 100 people to attend this event, if it’s going to go ahead.
  • Tickets will reserve you a place, but actual seats are allocated on a strict first-come, first-served basis on the night of the event itself. So, you need to turn-up nice and early, if you want to get yourself a decent seat!
  • Proof Of Age may also be needed on the night too, so attendees are politely requested to bring some kind of photographic ID too, please, just in case.

All tickets can be purchased from this link here… 


…though money will NOT be taken from your debit or credit card, unless 100 people have booked!

I would very much like as many of my readers to attend this night, as is humanly possible! There are reasonably-priced hotels close to the venue, and plenty of places to eat/drink at too, if you fancy doing so, before you arrive.

Alcohol and snacks, (including popcorn and fizzy drinks), can also be bought at reasonable prices on the night, from the cinema’s kiosk and bar facilities, and alcohol can be consumed in the auditoria itself, as long as those doing so, all behave themselves!

So please, pass on the link above to anyone and everyone, and I hope to see you thereon Saturday 21st March 2015 at 11:00pm!

See you soon!
New Date For Cinema City Extreme All-Nighter Event 2015!

DEAD SNOW 2: A Blu-Ray Review

Welcome Back, Once More,

Today, I review DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS DEAD (2014, Tommy Wirkola) on its US Region-Free Blu-Ray release. And boy, what a complete disappointment it is! (A version of this review can also be seen on Amazon.co.uk too.)

Tommy Wirkola gave us the sublime DEAD SNOW in 2009 – one of the greatest and most enjoyable horror films in recent times, and then just a few years later, he gives us this – this complete cow-pat of a sequel!

Everything that made the first film great – a likeable cast; a clever, literate, fun and well-honed script, along with some great gore – is jettisoned for this shoddy, third-rate sequel! An awful second film, with almost no redeeming qualities to it, whatsoever!

Firstly, fans should be made aware, that there are two versions of this sequel:
– The English-language version, that runs to 100m 32s, and
– the “International” or Norwegian version, which runs to 100m 53s.

Both are almost identical, in terms of content, with just occasional exceptions here-and-there, except for the spoken language. However, both were filmed at the same time with the same cast and crew. Why two versions were needed, unless that is, Mr Wirkola was trying to gain more fans in Hollywood, by Anglicising his work, I don’t know. They cancel each other out, as both are neither wholly in Norwegian, nor wholly in English, to the detriment of the film as a whole!

Sadly, the UK Blu-Ray and/or DVD versions only get the International version, predominantly in Norwegian, with some English. which – if I had to choose – is a marginal improvement over the purely English-language version. The English-language version, is a US Exclusive to the US WellGo Entertainment Blu-Ray release I’ve imported and am reviewing here. Admittedly, that release is labelled as being Region A (US only) locked, but their release is – in fact – Region Free, and can be safely imported into the UK and played on the vast majority of UK Blu-Ray players and drives.

With that said, and irrespective of which release you buy, or which version of the film you view, or which country’s release you buy/rent, the film as a whole, is pretty bloody terrible. It starts off really well, with Martin (Vegar Hoel – in the green tracksuit) the only survivor from the original, getting into his car, having chainsawed his arm off, and desperately trying to escape.

Continuing off from the final moments of the original, was a great idea. As his escape is complicated by some more Nazi’s, things don’t run smoothly, and the resulting bloodbath is both side-splittingly funny and very graphic!

Alas, the film degenerates rapidly, once Martin arrives in hospital, and then tries to convince people that Nazi Zombies are about to take over the world, because of the Nazi Gold he and his friends from the original film discovered in their cabin, but were all brutally slaughtered for.

The film outstays its welcome for four reasons:
1) At 101-minutes, it chugs along rather slowly, compared to the dynamite pace of the first film.
2) There’s almost no plot once Martin arrives in hospital. He escapes, and he fights the Nazi Zombies. That’s pretty much it!
3) The acting is absolutely horrific! Some of the worst “talent” I’ve seen in a movie, in many a year!
4) Tommy Wirkola clearly decided to forego a great script, and spend his budget on CGI effects and lots more zombies – both of which negate much of the enjoyment for the viewer.

Some of the CGI seems horribly misplaced. When Martin and Herzog, the lead Nazi Zombie, resurrect their armies of undead, they do so by punching the ground, and have the deceased brought back to life with “lightning bolts”. The effect looks cheap, and is really hammy, in my view. Worse still, the fact we have more zombies, does not mean this is a more enjoyable film. It isn’t! In fact, having about 80 or so, undead – split across the “good” and “bad” sides – just means Wirkola has to spend more time finding more interesting ways to dispatch each of those who die. There’s only so many intestine-ripping deaths, or heads being crushed, that I can stomach, before it all blends into one, gigantic mess of movie Special Effects! It all becomes mind-numbingly dull, rather than exciting, shocking or enjoyable! For every fun or shocking death, there are ten or twelve others that are pointlessly repeated.

On top of this, the acting is atrocious! Martin seems to be acting very much by-the-numbers, just shouting and screaming enough to remain plausible. But the three “Americans” who form the “Zombie Squad” (an Internet-based group who really believe that the world is being overrun by zombies) is just farcical, to the point of embarrassment! It’s a shockingly inept set of characters, marred by an even worse bunch of talentless morons, who can’t act for toffee!

To really twist the knife, in the viewers guts, two of the Zombie Squad are “American” teenage nerds/geeks, one of whom is obsessed with STAR WARS! This kind of tokenistic fan-worshipping kills the film stone dead! It’s shambolic, to the point, that you’ll feel ashamed to be spending time watch them desperately fight their way through the zombie hordes. I name and shame the following three actors: Martin Starr as Daniel (shown in the photo below), Jocelyn DeBoer as Monica, and Ingrid Haas as Blake, so you can avoid all of them, should they turn-up in any other work, in the near future. None of these three could punch their way out of a saturated paper bag. They give bad films a bad reputation, because they seem to be under the illusion, that all their hysterical screeching and shouting of “America”, in a rather pathetic piece of blatant jingoism, counts as actual acting. It doesn’t!

Yes, the film contains many fun and gory deaths, which are quite impressive. Yes, the film is mindlessly fun at times. But it all smacks of utter desperation and tragedy – and not in a good way. Even the “I Heart Norway” t-shirt, that you seen in the picture to the left, is cringe-inducingly naff!

This is ineptness, painted large, with a budget that clearly didn’t stretch to anyone remotely competent, having been completely decimated on the CGI and a fully working Army Tank! I kid you not! Even the Police officers are all hamming it up, whilst the viewer sits there, with their head in their hands just begging for this nonsense to cease as quickly as humanly possible! The latter part of the film, is a twenty-minute grudge match, with the Good Zombies fighting the Bad Nazi Zombies. It’s embarrassing to watch, for much of the time, and feels like I’m watching some talentless, bottom of the league, primary school football teams slug it out. It’s just toe-curlingly awful!

Tommy Wirkola has quite blatantly sold himself, (and that of the DEAD SNOW franchise), out! And this is absolutely a franchise, because Part 2 ends up with a post-credits coda that clearly demonstrates we are going to be seeing a DEAD SNOW 3 in the not-too-distant future.

Why did you have to sell yourself out, Mr Wirkola?! I get the impression that if you were given a smaller budget, and less time, you might have come up with something much more tightly-paced and innovative – the very things that made the first movie such a surprisingly great hit around the globe. As it stands, this is just a car-wreck of a movie, and should be immediately disassociated from the original!

Even the Extras aren’t great: the US and UK release both get a frivolous two-minute-long Special Effects featurette, that merely shows the before and after shots – most of which is CGI material. There’s a trailer, and a short-film of about 14 minutes. Considering the original film, came with an 80-minute Documentary about the “Making Of”, this is just a two-fingered-salute from the UK studio to the fans! At least the USA, gets the alternate edit of the film (the English-language version) to watch, alongside the other pitiful extras I’ve just mentioned.

Ultimately, this is a film rotten to the core. It’s barely worth renting, let alone purchasing, but either way, it sullies and degrades the original film’s name, in almost every way imaginable. And that is something Tommy Wirkola should be thoroughly ashamed of!

In my eyes, this is now another in a long line of great films, with really lousy sequels. Avoid it!

I will be back soon, to complete my article on the value of film criticism, and some more news on my Cinema City Extreme All-Nighter event. Thanks for reading!

DEAD SNOW 2: A Blu-Ray Review