Film Review: Next of Kin (1982)

Also known as: Hell House (Philippines English title), Terror Fatal (Brazil English title)
Release Date: April 30th, 1982 (Australia)
Directed by: Tony Williams
Written by: Michael Heath, Tony Williams
Music by: Klaus Schulze
Cast: Jackie Kerin, John Jarratt, Gerda Nicolson, Alex Scott

Filmco Limited, The Film House, SIS, 89 Minutes

Review:

I had never heard of this ’80s Australian horror flick but Joe Bob Briggs did me a solid when he featured it on the most recent season of The Last Drive-In. Man, what a neat treat it was.

The film is basically a haunted house story but then, is it really? We’re never actually sure whether or not the house is full of vengeful spirits or if it’s all being orchestrated by someone sinister.

The house is an old folks home and the main character inherits this place and is left to run it. Upon her arrival there, old people start dropping like flies, as they’re murdered in strange and brutal ways. The woman is obviously in fear of what’s happening and while it appears like the threat is possibly supernatural in origin, we never see evidence of actual ghosts or demons.

What might be a turnoff for some viewers is that this picture is a real slow burn. But as Joe Bob pointed out while hosting this movie, the slow burn movies usually have the best pay offs. In regards to this one, he wasn’t wrong.

The climax is pretty incredible, actually. And it was made even better by how incredible some of the shots were. The scene where the woman is fleeing the house is cinematic perfection. Additionally, the general cinematography is impressive, especially during the final sequence in the house.

After exiting the house, there is the real climax, which takes place in a diner. This whole part of the film is also well shot and greatly executed.

Overall, Next of Kin was a pleasant surprise and immediately moved up near the top of my list of favorite Australian films.

Plus, it also features a young John Jarratt, who would later go on to be the killer in the Wolf Creek films and television series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Australian horror films.

Film Review: Audition (1999)

Release Date: October 2nd, 1999 (Vancouver International Film Festival)
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Written by: Daisuke Tengan
Based on: Audition by Ryu Murakami
Music by: Kōji Endō
Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina

Basara Pictures, Creators Company Connection, Omega Project, 115 Minutes (original), 113 Minutes (R-rated)

Review:

“Only pain and suffering will make you realize who you are.” – Asami Yamazaki

I was somewhat late to the Takashi Miike party, as this was the first film of his that I had ever seen. He had a lot of pictures under his belt by the time Audition hit the United States but this was still my introduction to the director, who many people love but I simply don’t.

That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate the man’s work rate and his effort, as he’s always working on something. But his movies typically don’t connect with me. And that’s certainly not the gore or a cultural issue, as I love lots of film with gore and if you’ve followed Talking Pulp for awhile, my love for Japanese cinema should be pretty apparent.

That being said, Audition is probably my favorite film of Takashi Miike’s after Ichi the Killer. That doesn’t mean that it’s great but I do think that it’s terrifying as fuck and damn effective.

The story is about a single father who has his friend hold fake acting auditions in an effort to screen women for the real life role of his new girlfriend. He does find what he’s looking for. However, the girl he selects is pretty much psychotic and ends up torturing and disfiguring him after she feels slighted.

The movie moves at a snail’s pace but the high points are damn good and will probably give most men nightmares.

It’s well acted, well shot and well directed. It’s much more grounded than Miike’s more surreal stuff and that’s probably why I connect to it more than most of his work.

In the end, though, many view this as a classic and I just view it as just a fucked up flick that took me two decades to revisit.

For those that think its over the top, it really isn’t when compared to some of Miike’s other pictures.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Takashi Miike films.

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: Blood of Elves’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

This book in The Witcher series is the first of the five books that form the primary saga. Before it, I read the two short story collections that were published later but have since been recommended by everyone, as the best place to start.

So I was excited getting into this one, as this is the beginning of the real journey for Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer, as well as the other core characters that come in and out of these stories.

Although, I have to agree that one should read the short story collections first, as they flesh out and beef up the core characters, which I thought was somewhat lacking, here, the book that was originally the starting point.

Having a lot more context going into this was a benefit, even if I already know a lot from the video games and television series.

However, as the television series only adapted stuff from the short stories, thus far, everything here was fresh and new for me and it was really cool reading this and sort of having the blanks filled between the origins of the characters and their later stories, which were used and adapted somewhat in The Witcher 3 game.

I really liked how much Triss was used in this book, as she is one of my favorite characters and it really developed her more than the short story books or the games.

I also enjoyed the stuff about Ciri’s training and how the other witchers had issues trying to raise a girl, as she was growing into a young woman.

Beyond that, I thought some parts of this dragged out a bit too long and even though there is some conflict and action, the book really feels like more of a set up to a larger tapestry than it does its own, solid body of work. That’s not necessarily bad, as this is part of a large saga but there’s not much here that stands out and gives this book its own identity.

This could also be due to the short story books sort of diminishing the overall effect of this one, as it was originally the origin of these characters for the readers who were there in the beginning.

All in all, this is still pretty damn enjoyable and it sets things up in a way that makes me excited for the other books.

I should have the review for the next one up in a few weeks.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Witcher books, comics and television shows.

Film Review: The Pit (1981)

Also known as: Teddy (alternative title)
Release Date: October 23rd, 1981
Directed by: Lew Lehman
Written by: Ian A. Stuart
Music by: Victor Davies
Cast: Sammy Snyders, Jeannie Elias, Sonja Smits

Amulet Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Abergail’s missing and so is Mrs. Oliphant, aren’t they? And Freddy and Christina… They don’t eat chocolate bars. You know what they eat?” – Jamie Benjamin

As cool, bizarre and completely ape shit as this movie is, I can’t believe I had never heard of it until this year. After stumbling upon the trailer, I had to track it down and watch it, immediately.

After seeing this, I have to wonder if those Ted movies ripped it off. They’re very different films, mind you, but both deal with a talking teddy bear. In this film, however, the bear talks to a kid and it’s more like mental voice projection than just straight up having a conversation.

Also, this is horror and the teddy bear coerces the kid to feed people to these trolls that live in a hole in the ground out in the woods. Yes, there is both a psychic talking teddy bear and a pit in the ground full of man-eating trolls. Why settle on one strange monster threat when you can have two strange monster threats?

Additionally, the kid in this is great. He plays creepy and weird really well but he’s also strangely likable and amusing. He’s also sexually frustrated, going through the early stages of puberty and I think that most males can relate to him. But honestly, he’s just a goof and everyone else in the movie, especially other kids, just continually fuck with him.

I though that the other core actors in this were good, which was impressive, as this still mostly unknown Canadian horror flick put together a competent, entertaining cast.

This is a surreal and wonderful film. It does move slow at times but it still keeps your attention because it’s so unique and original that it’s impossible not to be ensnared by it and glued to it.

Now that I know of its existence, I’m pretty sure this will be something I revisit every few years for the rest of my life.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other fantasy horror of the era but this is so bonkers and original that it’s really hard to pair.

Film Review: Maniac (1963)

Release Date: May 20th, 1963 (UK)
Directed by: Michael Carreras
Written by: Jimmy Sangster
Music by: Stanley Black
Cast: Kerwin Mathews, Nadia Gray, Liliane Brousse, Donald Houston

Hammer Films, 86 Minutes

Review:

“You take a man’s wife, Mr. Farrell, but not his money?” – Georges

Maniac is a pretty neat, lesser known Hammer picture. It’s written by Jimmy Sangster, who has written pretty much nothing but good shit for the studio. He’s probably Hammer’s most prolific writer and the films where his talent really shines are in smaller, lesser known ones like this.

This almost has a noir vibe to the story and like noir, it’s got some really wretched people and some surprising plot twists in it.

The killer is just really damn cool looking, especially for the early ’60s and in a lot of ways, the character feels like a prototype for a slasher flick bad guy, even though those weren’t a thing yet.

The killer wears a welding mask and carries a blowtorch. Granted, we see his face and he is very much just a human dude. Still, it gives off slasher vibes and the bad guy is pretty damn good and menacing. Most importantly, all the stuff with the killer in this is really damn effective.

The highlight of the film, to me, was the finale, which was shot in a cavernous tomb looking location. It was actually filmed in the huge stone galleries that were dug into the rock of the Val d’Enfer of Les Baux-de-Provence in southeastern France. The location really ups the ante in the picture and gives it something else memorable other than the killer.

My only real issue with the film is that the acting was a bit meh. I wouldn’t call it bad but the cast really could’ve used more coffee throughout the shooting day. I wouldn’t call the performances understated as much as I’d call them disinterested. Honestly, though, this really falls on the shoulders of the director or the casting agent.

Maniac is another Hammer film that has been kind of lost to time but after seeing it, the movie exceeded my expectations. It also makes me glad that I really started digging deeper into the Hammer vaults beyond the Victorian horror stuff and the films starring Peter Cushing and/or Christopher Lee.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other lesser known Hammer horror thrillers.

TV Review: In Search of… (1977-1982)

Original Run: April 17th, 1977 – March 1st, 1982
Created by: Alan Landsburg Productions
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Laurin Rinder, W. Michael Lewis, Mike Lewis
Cast: Leonard Nimoy (presenter, host, narrator)

Alan Landsburg Productions, Rhodes Productions, *syndicated, 144 Episodes, 23 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

While it’s been decades since I’ve seen this show, I used to watch it in the late ’80s and early ’90s, where it would rerun on late night syndication. It was a favorite of mine, as were many of the television shows, back then, that dealt with ghosts, aliens, cryptids and other cool, unexplainable mysteries.

Out of all of these shows, though, this one was always my favorite. That probably has a lot to do with Leonard Nimoy being the host and narrator but it also has to do with it being kind of stylish and dated, even a decade later. The low budget ’70s television panache just made it a bit more magical and otherworldly than the similar shows that were current at the time.

I had no idea that there were as many as 144 episodes until I actually bought the DVD set off of Amazon, which is really cheap, by the way.

So while I haven’t watched the series in its entirety, yet, I have revisited some of the most memorable episodes and they bring me back to that magical place I was when I first experienced them.

That being said, it’s probably hard to review this without nostalgia giving it a boost but I think it’ll hit those same notes in people that already have a love of the weird, as well as television shows from this era.

While this is presented in a documentary style, the conclusions presented in the show are simply based off of the evidence that they had at the time. The show isn’t dishonest, as it admits to conjecture in its opening introduction. However, it’s sort of a time capsule now, as it presents these mysteries through the eyes, findings and interpretations of the world nearly forty-five years ago.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other shows about mysterious phenomenon, cryptozoology and things still left unexplained by science.

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: Sword of Destiny’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

Sword of Destiny is the second of The Witcher‘s short story collections, which serve as prequels to the regular novel series. These books give more backstory and context to the core characters and help build out the world that they live in. If you want to get into this series, I’d suggest starting with these.

Like the other short story collection, which I already reviewed, some of the material here was used for episodes in the first season of The Witcher Netflix series. There are a few fresh stories, though, and the literary versions of these tales are actually better with more plot and details.

The most important story here is the one that covers the fall of Cintra and how Ciri lost everything and eventually found her way to Geralt, her destiny (and his).

Ciri’s journey to Geralt is actually covered in the two short stories at the end. However, it’s much richer and more detailed than the television series, which also appears to have made up some of its own details. Granted, some of those things could pop up in later literary stories that I haven’t read yet.

The other stories in this are all pretty entertaining but they do seem less important than the last two. Still, they all add greatly to the mythos and give you a great sense of these characters before you even get to the first regular novel.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Witcher books, comics and television shows.