Sex, Leins & Videotape #31. Paignton film critic Tom Leins confronts his fears in this week’s gruesome horror DVD special!
Beth (Neve McIntosh) is a reckless single mother with a penchant for indulging in boozy sex with strangers. Her bleary-eyed routine is interrupted when a heavily-armed assault team storms her quiet, residential area and shoots dead a blood-soaked Asian man who is babbling incoherently and clutching a knife. However, the assault team aren’t merely over-reacting to a domestic violence incident -they are concerned with something far more sinister. Curious Beth is keen to investigate further, but the body-count rises rapidly, and the cul-de-sac soon runs thick with blood!
As the mysterious situation spirals out of control, Beth takes it upon herself to defy police advice, and attempts to rescue her estranged daughter Jodie -who is holed up with friends on the other side of the cul-de-sac. What follows is grisly and nail-biting in equal measure, and director Lawrence Gough blends disturbing shocks with very modern ideas of paranoia. Despite being filmed on the old set of Brookside, Salvage is no mere soap opera! Tense and well-acted, this is the latest in a long line of visceral, intimidating Brit-flicks. Freaky stuff.
A new ‘Dead’ movie by George A Romero is always going to get horror fans hot under the collar, so it is a surprise to see Survival of the Dead (Optimum) skulk onto DVD without the traditional fanfare. This sixth movie finds the 70-year-old director in sprightly form, and he evidently wasn’t dissuaded by the lack of studio backing -opting to produce the movie independently. In contrast to early rumours, Survival of the Dead isn’t a direct sequel to 2007’s underwhelming Diary of the Dead. Instead it follows the fortunes of bit-part player Sarge (Alan Van Sprang), who marauds across North America with a tight-knit posse of military drop-outs -trying to stay one step ahead of their un-dead enemies.
After an engaging start, Survival of the Dead loses its way when the group end up on Plum Island, the long-time home of the O’Flynns and the Muldoons -two warring families with drastically different opinions on how to deal with zombies. The O’Flynns believe that zombies should be put to death, but the Muldoons insist that zombies should be chained up until a cure can be found. Sarge and his troops quickly become embroiled in this cranky old turf war, and the movie goes all Wild West as it edges towards its negligible conclusion. Despite some neat touches, Survival of the Dead finds Romero’s increasingly creaky zombie saga in pretty poor shape. He may still have bags of enthusiasm for the zombie nation, but his inspiration is definitely on the wane. Having seemingly backed himself into a cinematic corner, maybe it’s time that Romero called it a day?
After raking in over $100million at the US box office, low-budget chiller Paranormal Activity (Icon) has evolved from a cult word-of-mouth spine-tingler into a monstrous success story. With a sequel already in the works, it’s time to take a look at the DVD and see what all of the fuss is about… Twenty-something suburbanites Micah and Katie are becoming increasingly disturbed by a sinister presence inside their home. Whilst Micah seems vaguely amused by the ghostly goings-on, Katie has felt haunted her whole life, and becomes increasingly troubled by the paranormal entity. When technology-savvy Micah tries to uncover the truth by setting up a high-definition video camera in the pair’s bedroom, the paranormal activity seems to increase, and a psychic suggests that Micah’s behaviour is actually agitating the presence!
Despite an impressively low-key execution and a pair of well-judged performances from the two lead actors, Paranormal Activity is a real acquired taste that doesn’t quite live up to the freaky buzz generated prior to its cinema release. After an appealing start, the movie drifts off-base in the middle, and doesn’t regain its momentum until the final few scenes. Admittedly, the ending supplies some genuine shocks, but the mundane build-up is better characterised as Paranormal In-Activity! If The Blair Witch Project sent a shiver down your spine all those years ago, then Paranormal Activity offers a similar brand of faux-frightening thrills. Approach with caution.
Widely derided as ‘a poor man’s Paranormal Activity’ upon its cinema release, The Fourth Kind (Entertainment in Video) is actually a whole lot stranger than that withering put-down suggests! Ostensibly a reconstruction of the real-life events experienced by Alaskan psychologist Abigail Tyler, The Fourth Kind blends real-life footage with a slick Hollywood reconstruction -in which the radiant Milla Jovovich stars as the haggard Mrs Tyler! What follows is a humourless, over-cooked alien abduction narrative that fails to convince at any point.
When you realize that ‘real’ footage has actually been faked using a struggling actress, the movie is rendered instantly meaningless, and you are left with a shrill mash-up of Crimewatch and Most Haunted! Convinced of its own ingenuity, The Fourth Kind is a muddled, absurd piece of work that will almost certainly fail to outwit horror-savvy audiences. Painfully self-aware, and desperately short of genuine shocks, The Fourth Kind feels strangely pointless. If you enjoy quirky, thought-provoking horror movies, you should probably avoid a close encounter with this ludicrous horror flick!