Tag Archives: Euro-horror

Daddy Issues

trauma 1993TRAUMA

3 Stars  1993/18/102m

“Some nightmare haunt you. Some can kill you.”

Director/Writer: Dario Argento / Writers: T.E.D. Klein, Franco Ferrrini & Gianni Romoli / Cast: Asia Argento, Christopher Rydell, Piper Laurie, Frederic Forrest, James Russo, Brad Dourif, Hope Alexander-Willis, Cory Garvin.

Body Count: 11

Disclaimer: Giallo is not a horror sub-genre I’m that familiar with. I spin the more slasher-esque films and generally like them, but don’t get all angry if I don’t fall over myself screaming their praises. I can hear my Italian grandmother rolling in her grave.

The archetypal Argento excesses of gore and sex are somewhat played down in this later venture, a confusing flick shot in Minneapolis and starring his daughter, Asia, as an anorexic teenager named Aura, who escapes from the clinic where she’s being treated and returns home on the night her parents are beheaded by a loon known oh-so-subtley as the Headhunter.

Aura is taken in by TV crewmember David, and together they embark on solving the cases ahead of the cops (a-head of. LOL. LOL. LOLLYMCLOLLOL). The killer – who uses a retracting wire device that nearly squeezes the heads off of his quarry – is after the group of nurses and doctor who are hiding a bad secret. As usual, sexy long-haired women are the chief victims of the killer’s fury and most of the unlucky victims who get in his way are also female.

trauma 1993

The eventual revelation of who it is and why wraps up some of the hanging questions, but Trauma changes its mind several times and doesn’t bother dropping any hints or building of its backstory until it’s absolutely necessary, because the killer is now unmasked and, well, people wanna know, yo.

All the same, Argento’s signature directorial approach is played to the hilt, with flawlessly engaging photography throughout (yeah, that head down the shaft is… well… you’ll see), although why he chooses to shoot his own daughter topless is a curiosity best not speculated upon ’round these parts.

The same highs of Tenebrae and Opera aren’t hit, but definitely an engaging flick and one of the few high-end 90s body count films that came before Scream.

Blurbs-of-interest: Argento’s other slasher-esque films include Deep RedOperaPhenomena (a.k.a. Creepers), Sleepless, and Tenebrae; Brad Dourif was the voice of Chucky in all original run Child’s Play films and the TV series, and is also in Chain LetterColor of NightDead ScaredUrban Legend, and both of Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies.

Anyone for a game of Operation?

anatomy 2000


4 Stars  2000/18/95m

“They can’t wait to get their hands on you…”

Director/Writer: Stefan Ruzowitzky / Cast: Franka Potente, Sebastian Blomberg, Benno Furmann, Anna Loos, Traugott Buhre, Holger Speckhahn, Arndt Schwering-Sonhey, Oliver K. Wnuk.

Body Count: 7

A classy medical slasher that’s one part Urban Legend, one part 70s thriller Coma, that gets a lot of mileage out of creepy settings and questionable characters. Some spoilers follow.

Pre-big-role Franka Potente is super-smart Paula Henning, who wins a place at the Heidelberg University, against her doctor father’s wishes. She becomes suspicious when a classmate with a rare heart condition ends up on her slab with a gum-like blood consistency.

After some covert investigation, she uncovers the secretive Anti-Hippocratic Society, an ancient order she thinks is experimenting on still-alive subjects with rare disorders to get a better insight into the diseases that will soon claim their victim’s life. Poking around in their affairs soon leads to threats on her life, with a creepy blood candle under her bed. Her new friends think she’s paranoid, or taking the presence of the AHS too seriously.

anatomie 2000

Anatomy changes tack slightly as it goes, keeping its body count fairly low in the first half and once a revelation is made that pretty much changes everything, the film becomes less of a conspiracy sect-against-honourable-doctor thriller and side-steps into slasher territory as it transpires the society is pretty much benevolent save for a couple of rogue doctors who aren’t playing by the rules. But who?

Once identities begin to be revealed, there’s a great but short chase scene where a fleeing victim is injected with the formula that turns blood to gum. As she runs, she flops and begins to seize up, left to crawl inch by inch towards sanctuary. Later on, Paula engages in cat and mouse theatrics with the scalpel-wielding killer, which features a great moment with those library shelves on rails that can be cranked and moved.

anatomy 2000

Meanwhile, the second killer, injected with the gum-stuff, desperately tries to find saline to reverse the effect. It’s excruciating as his functions slow down and he can’t get the needle to the vein in time. These scenes amp up what could’ve been a rather mediocre medical chiller, marinading it in a savagery that is offset by a little random comedy.

A understatedly fine affair, with interesting characters (Loos’ party girl with a sky-high IQ is great), upmarket production quality, and some great tension on both sides of the battle, which makes for that rare critter: A rather intelligent slasher pic. Followed by a sequel I’ve not seen, that sounds like it wouldn’t be reviewed here.

anatomy 2000 franka potente

Blurbs-of-interest: A very different looking Potente took final girl duties again in Creep.

The Dog’s Bollocks

wilderness 2006


4 Stars  2006/15/91m

“It’s not about revenge. It’s about punishment.”

Director: Michael J. Bassett / Writer: Dario Poloni / Cast: Sean Pertwee, Alex Reid, Toby Kebbell, Stephen Wright, Lenora Crichlow, Luke Neal, Ben McKay, Karly Greene, Adam Deacon, Richie Campbell, Stephen Don.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “So you want me to go out there alone to find another guy out there’s alone, when nobody’s supposed to go out there alone?”

Bollocks = slang term for testicles; also slang for an untruth or lie; The Dog’s Bollocks = something awesome, based on concept that if a dog can lick his own bollocks, they must be tasty.

Coming along during a little renaissance of gritty British horror (28 Days Later…Dog SoldiersThe Descent, and the same director’s Deathwatch), this grisly Anglo/Irish sibling of Wrong Turn with a side of The Final Terror, sees a group of youth detention / juvie hall lads packed off to a remote island for ‘character building’ after their campaign of relentless bullying ends with the suicide of a weaker dorm mate.

Caught up in the blame is newcomer Callum (Kebbell), who just wants to keep his head down, do his time, and live his life, but Hitler Youth type Steve is keen to be as disruptive as possible, much to the chagrin of grizzled guard Jed (Pertwee, givin’ all that). Despite the island being ‘uninhabited’, the group run into a similar outing from a girls’ reform school, with ex-soldier Louise (Reid, from The Descent) leading two wayward girls through the forest. There’s also a reclusive hobo about, who is soon found with his throat chewed out – last person seen stood over the body? Callum.

wilderness 2006 sean pertwee

Only Louise considers that something else is going on, but everyone else is quickly convinced when another of the group disappears, save for a bitten off arm, and Jed is crossbowed to a tree, while a quartet of attack dogs sprint on to the scene and eat him alive. It soon becomes clear somebody is taking revenge for the juvie hall suicide, and has a degree of military training on his side.

wilderness 2006 sean pertwee

The teens are soon on their own, fighting with each other, switching allegiances, and dodging the savage dogs. Callum goes all Lord of the Flies crazy, while Steve is shunned by the others for his selfishness and inability to contribute in any positive way, which results in him killing his only friend. It eventually all comes down to Callum versus the vengeful psychopath, who is an interesting flip on the Mrs Voorhees template. A further minor twist thrown in to give the second survivor something to do while the big boys fight.

wilderness 2006

Wilderness was moderately pre-cut for language to avoid an 18 certificate, but the liberal bloodletting was left intact, which is a surprise given we have people ripped apart by dogs, decapitated, immolated, and falling face first into bear traps. It’s all gruesome stuff, offset by the fact that most of the characters aren’t written much beyond their criminal archetypes, so their sticky demises aren’t particularly undeserved. Louise is the exception in the film, demonstrating smarts and concern for her charges – so it’s obvious she won’t make it out – while some of the young cast members are a bit too well-spoken to convince as thuggish dog fodder.

wilderness 2006 stephen wight

These minor flaws aside, Wilderness holds its own in the brutality stakes. It’s a kick-ass little venture that pretty much went under the radar upon release. Contemporaneous reviews were lukewarm at best and it’s easy to understand why the po-faced, blood-splattered look of it wouldn’t go down with critics as well as, say, Severance, which employed comedy as a bedfellow to its horrors. I prefer this approach though.

wilderness 2006 alex reid toby kebbell

Blurbs-of-interest: Pertwee was in Botched; Adam Deacon was later in Comedown.


As Vegan Voorhees winds down to its inevitable end, excluding anything incoming, there are only 39 titles left on my list to review, so in between the various responsibilities of life that close in like the walls of a trap from Saw MCMXVII, I found an opportunity to knock a few on the head that I don’t have a whole lot to say about…


little erin merryweather 2005


3 Stars  2005/15/81m

“A flash of red… then thump you’re dead.”

Director / Writer: David Morwick / Cast: Vigdis Anholt, David Morwick, Elizabeth Callahan, Brandon Johnson, Marcus Bonnee, Frank Ridley, William Mahoney, Heather Little.

Body Count: 5

At first glance, Little Erin Merryweather sounds like a few hundred other slasher films: A killer with a thing about Little Red Riding Hood is gutting students around a college campus. But wait… this time all of the victims are boys and the killer is an unhinged female. Even the stock virginal final girl has been switcheroo’d to a guy. While role-reversals have been tried several times in horror, here the angle is relatively played down by the staging. A trio of college boys form a little Scooby gang with their psych professor when the murders begin to cut closer to home.

Meanwhile, shy, dorky Peter develops a crush on library worker, Erin, who has a penchant for laying frat boys to waste and replacing their intestines with rocks, as per the original fairytale. Why she does this is never that clear, but there’s some backstory around child abuse that causes Erin to view boys as wolves.

Director and scribbler Morwick (who also plays Peter) has created his film delicately enough to ensure there’s a realistic edge to the players without forgetting the goosebump contingent, which is realised perfectly in the final library scene, which practically redefines the concept of tension.

Why only three stars? Well, it’s a little too short, a little tame, and, despite its comparable youth, looks like it could’ve been shot in the first half of the 90s. Trivial grumbles aside, this is one for those who enjoyed Malevolence (ironically also featuring actor Brandon Johnson) and aren’t bothered by a lack of grue.


MOTOR HOME MASSACRmotor home massacre 2005E

1 Stars  2005/91m

“The road ends here.”

Director/Writer: Allen Wilbanks / Cast: Shan Holleman, Nelson Bonilla, Justin Geer, Tanya Fraser, Breanne Ashley, Greg Corbett, Nichole Crisp, Todd Herring, Lane Morlote, Diana Picallo, West Cummings, Jason Von Stein.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “Last time this thing was on the road, Michael Jackson was cool.”

Seven teens embark on a doomed camping trip in this strange comic-slasher, which is about as clunky as the gears on a Winnebago. Sabrina wants to get over a break-up; sleazy Roger wants to help her achieve that; dorky Benji wants a girlfriend, and the other two couples just want sex, sex, and more sex.

After the requisite double murder that opens the film (and is shown again later when the kids are given the requisite warning about Black Creek Park by the requisite store clerk), it takes nearly an hour before they even reach the campsite, befriend a girl who is also trying to escape a bad break-up, and play crappy pranks on one another.

The slaughter eventually gets underway to decidedly underwhelming effect, while the acting gradually slides down an already slippery slope once the killer is unmasked. One amusing scene where Sabrina and Benji attempt to untie themselves is not enough to save this one, which is about as agitating as a trip in an RV with six annoying people.


leatherface texas chainsaw massacre III 1990


2 Stars  1989/18/78m

“There’s roadkill all over Texas.”

Director: Jeff Burr / Writer: David J. Schow / Cast: Kate Hodge, Ken Foree, Viggo Mortensen, William Butler, R.A. Mihailoff, Toni Hudson, Joe Unger, Tom Everett.

Body Count: 6

Laughter Lines: “What the hell is wrong with you – why don’t you leave us alone?” / “We’re hungry.” / “Never heard of pizza?”

I’ve never been much of a fan of the Texas Chainsaw franchise, a perspective reiterated by this shoddy third entry, which was much toyed with in the editing suite, resulting in a scrappy, hard to follow story, that pairs it ‘nicely’ with Kim Henkel’s ‘true sequel’, The Next Generation – which is even more punishing.

California teens Hodge and Butler are driving across Texas to Florida when they stop at the wrong garage and are tricked into taking a route that passes by the home of Leatherface and his new clan, including future Lord of the Rings fixture Mortensen as a slick psycho. The unfortunate youngsters end up getting into a car accident with Ken Foree’s survivalist and are chased through the woods for a while before California Boy is killed and California Girl is taken prisoner back at the ranch, until she escapes for revenge blah blah blah.

The first half of the pic is fine, with a nice set up and great camerawork, but once our chainsaw-toting anti-hero enters the frame, things begin to fall apart with sloppy edits and evident gore cuts, leaving the fates of several characters entirely ambiguous, although there’s some interesting harking back to the original, with Toni Hudson’s increasingly primal last survivor of a previous group who passed by providing an interesting, though too-short distraction.

Watch for the scene where Leatherface goes up against a Speak n’ Spell and loses several times over.

Blurbs-of-interest: Viggo Mortensen was in Gus Van Sant’s Psycho remake; Ken Foree was also in Halloween (2007) and Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge; Jeff Burr also directed Night of the Scarecrow and Stepfather III.


the grim reaper 1980


1.5 Stars  1980/18/82m

“It’s not the fear that tears you apart. It’s him.”

A.k.a. AnthropophagousMan BeastThe Savage Island

Director: Joe D’Amato / Writers: Louis Montefiori & Aristide Massaccessi / Cast: Tisa Farrow, Saverio Vallone, Zora Kerova, Margaret Donnelly, George Eastman, Mark Bodin, Serena Grandi, Bob Larsen.

Body Count: 12

Tisa Farrow – Mia’s sister – is an au pair to an English family vacationing on a remote Greek island. She hitches a ride to shore on a yacht chartered by a group of yuppies only to find the entire place is deserted, thanks to a cannibalistic psycho. Only one mystery woman and the blind daughter of Tisa’s employers are left alive.

A confusing vehicle to say the least, undecided whether it wants to connect itself to the hordes of 70s cannibal exploitation movies, or Halloween, kind of acting as a double agent between the two genres, which is a minor point of interest.

The killer is also able to slaughter swimmers from underwater in an opening act that looks like a cheap regional Jaws rip-off. He chews out the throats of other victims, even chomping on the fetus of one pregnant woman in a scene cut from several prints.

Despite the implied gore, the film is lit so poorly it’s impossible to tell what’s going on for most of it and the rushed, inconsequential climactic chase scene only houses a couple of novelty shocks, but doesn’t do enough to sideline the boring nature of it all. Absurd is the sort-of sequel, for which Eastman returned, and is much better.


zombie island massacre 1984


2 Stars  1983/18/85m

“Have a fun-filled vacation! Toe-tapping machete head dances! Glamorous zombie-style cosmetic surgery! Fabulous air-conditioned tiger pits!”

Director: John N. Carter / Writers: Logan O’Neill & William Stoddard / Cast: Rita Jenrette, David Broadnax, Tom Cantrell, Diane Clayre Holub, George Peters, Ian McMilian, Ralph Monaco, Debbie Ewing, Christopher Ferris, Kristina Wetzel, Emmett Murphy, Harriet Rawlings, Dennis Stephenson, Tom Fitzsimmons, Deborah Jason, Trevor Reid.

Body Count: 18

Fans of zombie movies have cited this as a waste of time on several occasions, thanks to its misleading… well, everything. The only zombie is a questionable one seen during a voodoo cultural show put on for a group of American tourists on a Caribbean island. After finding their bus immobilised, they hike to a local house, but there’s a leaf-disguised (!) killer knocking them off one by one.

So the title is a cheat and the production qualities are lousy, but this cheapo flick was still shot on location and, at the end, presents us with a plot twist not commonly seen, involving drug money and undercover investigations – though it has little to do with the murder spree, which are largely off-screen or tame, save for an impressively executed decapitation.

Former Washington-wife Jenrette is the chest-blessed heroine, something the film capitlises on as it opens with an overlong exploration of her in the shower. Most of her supporting cast are largely undeveloped couples on vacation, only there to bite the bullet at some point. A fair effort for completists, but don’t go out of your way to find it.

Blurb-of-interest: Harry Manfredini contributed the score, which is little more than a rehash of his Friday the 13th signature sounds.


See No Evil

eyes of crystal 2004 occhi di cristallo


3.5 Stars  2004/18/108m

A.k.a. Occhi di Cristallo

Director/Writer: Eros Puglielli / Writers: Luca Di Fulvio, Gabriella Blasi, Franco Ferrini / Cast: Luigi Lo Cascio, Lucia Jimenez, Jose Angel Egido, Simon Andreu, Carmelo Gomez, Ernestina Chavdorova Shinova, Eusebio Poncela, Branimir Petev Milandinov.

Body Count: 8

A late-to-the-party giallo which features a mystery taxidermist hacking up people in an effort to make a human doll, a la Pieces, but with about a million times as much class.

Homicide detectives Amaldi and Frese, who are undisciplined and violent and weathered respectively, find themselves in the centre of a whirlppol of seemingly unrelated events after the triple shooting of a pair of young lovers and a peeping Tom in a field. But what has it got to do with student Giudetta’s apparent obsessed stalker, and their ex-cop friend Ajaccio, who is in hospital suffering flashbacks to a fatal fire at the orphanage he grew up in?

All the staples of giallo are present and accounted for: Opera, sex, eyeballs, and a lot of blood. The latter is subdued enough to avoid looking excessive and stupid, and Puglielli keeps his film engaging considering the almost two-hour run time and non-stratospheric body count, never shying away from visual flourishes and striking shots littered throughout.

As always, all of the random threads eventually come together, while the killer’s motive is cloudy and bizarre, the film is slick and successful in its attempts to resurrect the ways of olde.

Blurb-of-interest: Eusebio Poncela was in Black Serenade.


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