Sam Ashurst's House Of Horror: Psychos, Nazis and astronauts
6th May 2011 | 08:30
Plus! How to make a horror movie life-cast...
Hello fright fans, my name's Sam Ashurst and I'm Total Film's resident cult horror expert.
I spend so much time banging on about '70s giallo movies, '80s VHS trash classics, '90s serial killer flicks and '00s foreign chillers that TF have finally decided to give me my own column. Possibly to shut me up.
Each week, I'll be dissecting the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases, uncovering hidden gore gems, and rummaging through my VHS collection to bring you some of the most bafflingly beautiful video covers from the '80s.
And come back every Friday for exclusive clips, interviews and cool competitions to get your plasma pumping.
So, take off your razor-tipped gloves, hang up your cobweb-covered hat and gently rest your bone-blunted axe beside the door.
And welcome to my House Of Horror...
I Saw The Devil (2010)
Out: Monday £15.99 DVD £19.99 Blu-ray
As delirious as rolling a leper clown down a steep hill with 20 hungry jackals strapped to his back, and just as silly.
Thematically, Devil is probably supposed to be a serious treatise on the nature of evil, as we follow secret agent Kim Soo-hyeon's mission to avenge his fiancee's death at the hands of brutal serial killer Kyung-chul.
But instead of hunting Kyung-chul down and bringing him to justice, Kim Soo-hyeon decides to track him and torture him every time he's about to commit a crime.
And it's exactly as ridiculous as that sounds, with torture scenes so over-the-top you'll find yourself chuckling at the very moments you're supposed to be reaching for a sick bag.
Stylistically shot, Devil looks incredible, particularly on Blu-ray.
It's definitely recommended, but don't let anyone tell you it's the most disturbing film you'll ever see. It's less Pascal Laugier and more Monty Python. Except, you know, with more tendon-slicing scenes.
Bloodrayne: The Blood Reich (2010)
Out: Monday £15.99 DVD
And now onto a movie that's so offensively stupid it makes I Saw The Devil look like Schindler's List.
The third installment in Uwe Boll's awful Bloodrayne series is a Nazi vampire film that, like Valkryie before it, doesn't feature any German accents.
However, unlike Valkryie, it does feature Leprechaun 2's Clint Howard, an incredible amount of cleavage, and a lesbian sex scene so utterly baffling it makes you want to sign up to scientology just so you can have the whole experience brainwashed out of existence.
Still, it's a hard one to review seriously, as Boll flicks are definitely not meant to be watched alone, but with a gang of mates guffawing at every awkward encounter.
And it does come complete with a director's commentary, which is equally as unintentionally hilarious as the film it attempts to justify.
So, if you've got a beer-stocked fridge and you know all the words to Troll 2 (1990) you could do worse. But not much worse.
The Lost (2006)
"I was offered my first dream role. Travis Bickle, Michael Corleone, Hando, Samuel Bicke... and now comes Ray Pye." Says Marc Senter about his character in Chris Sivertson's The Lost (2006), a true life tale focusing on a charismatic teen lunatic.
It's a preposterously bold statement, made during the first round of promotion for a film that not very many people have heard of.
And if you haven't seen The Lost, that quote's probably infuriating enough to make you want to shave your hair into a mohawk and embark on a botched assassination attempt.
But those of us who have experienced it will probably nod, muttering: 'fair enough.'
Because Senter's portrayal of based-on-real-events nutter Pye is absolutely astonishing.
It easily deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those iconic characters, and many more.
It's a performance that feels like Crispin Glover channelling Christian Bale's Patrick Bateman during a Johnny Cash tribute act. It's an absolute stand-out in a flick that seemed custom-made for a cult-following it never found.
The script isn't perfect - it's probably around 20 pages too long. And the direction is very stylised - if we were being kind, we'd call it Tarantino-esque, unkind; Rob Zombie on a good day - and occasionally distracting.
But, despite the flaws, the appeal of The Lost all comes down to that performance - that breath-taking performance.
From the intense opening to the unforgettable final reel, Senter's Pye is never anything less than mesmerising. It's for this reason alone I've selected The Lost as my first modern classic.
So, Travis Bickle, Michael Corleone, Hando and Samuel Bicke, tell your mates Patrick Bateman, Jack Torrance and Norman Bates that there's a new psycho icon in town.
His name's Ray Pye. Do not introduce him to your girlfriend.
The Beyond (1981) released by Arrow Video
In the '80s the only way Fulci geeks could see a completely uncut copy of Lucio's masterpiece was on a fuzzy VHS, bootlegged from the original Japanese laserdisc.
Those die-hard fans will have their minds exploded into bone-flecked chunks by this glorious release, which has been restored so lovingly it looks like it was shot yesterday, on the most top of the range HD camera.
For once it won't be the eyeball-popping, dog-chomping, tarantula-chewing violence that'll make their jaws hang-open - it'll be the vivid green of a background plant, or the crystal clarity of a previously unread 'Jesus Saves' number plate.
Backed up by some great extras and some of the best package work Arrow's put out (high praise indeed), I'd open each of the seven doors of hell to retrieve this little beauty.
Looks Like: The greatest space-horror epic ever filmed. Probably about a SKY TV satellite that becomes self-aware and launches an attack on people who haven't converted to HD yet. And astronauts.
Actually Is: A borderline incoherant World War III flick featuring farm machinery as futuristic death machines and a cast that appears to be improvising after a particularly long sleep.
Imaginary Dialogue: "Look out astronaut who's just been MELTED by SAND! There's a massive bloody satellite with missiles strapped to it for some reason looming up behind you! This is awesome!"
When I was recently invited to make a guest appearance in a top secret horror short (directed by one of the coolest British directors of 2011 - more details to follow when I can reveal the project). I was excited, but I managed to play it relatively cool. "Sure," I said. "That'd be fun."
But when I was warned that I'd have to suffer through an hour or so of life-casting for the privilege of getting a gory death-scene on the big screen, I could no longer restrain myself. "I get to be life-cast?! AMAZING!"
As an '80s trash junkie, I love practical effects - and to have the chance to take part in the life-cast process was a dream made rubber flesh.
And it didn't disappoint. After making my way to Camberwell to special effects genius Dan Martin’s impossibly cool workshop - full of creatures, skeletons, fake shotguns, axes and other weird weapons - and after a first run that had to be abandoned because I was grinning too much, I set my face to a more appropriate grimace and held it in place for the 20 minutes I was covered in weird ooze.
Yep, it only took 20 minutes. And there was me getting all excited about sitting there looking like a moron for an hour.
It’s actually a fairly soothing experience – once you get over the panic that you can’t open your eyes, even if you want to – as the specially mixed liquid slowly solidifies, getting heavier and heavier as it replicates your features.
Ladies, I'm single
Then when Dan Martin and his equally awesome assistant Dan Gomer were ready, they pulled the alginate mold off my head and started smoothing it down.
Dan Martin, talking a scalpel to the back of my head
And started to fill it with molten clay.
Dan Martin pouring boiling hot liquid into my face
After a few days of hard work, it started to look like me.
Or a dead person
Then after even more hard work, it started to resemble an idiot Alfred Hitchcock (which is apparently what I look like without any hair):
Still single, ladies
And then, finally, the first stage was almost finished. I had eyes and everything.
This definitely isn't creepy
Then, it was up to Dan to add the yak hair (seriously) that would replicate my beard, then get me to set.
Come back next week to find out the fate of my fake head, and to get more vague details about the (very exciting) top secret project.
Why You Should Watch It: This ABC News special is supposed to warn parents about the dangers of kids watching VHS horrors, but somehow accidentally make them look like the most fun thing in the world.
For no obvious reason, the documentary shows kids gleefully watching treats like Evil Dead II, giddy with excitement - laughing one minute, looking happily terrified the next.
If I'd never seen a video nasty before, this doc would have sent me straight to my nearest video store before it had even finished.
And, seriously, these kids are schooled in trash classics. Asked to name his favourite scary movie, one kid says 'Slumber Party Massacre.' Even Ghostface would have let him off with knowledge like that.
We're not sure which we prefer, the wisdom of the kids, the bit when a bunch of mums are made to sit down and watch Cannibal Ferox - which is just a little bit more disturbing than Evil Dead II - or the bit when the presenter says that Alfred Hitchcock didn't resort to graphic violence in Psycho, before naming Texas Chain Saw Massacre as an example of a film that does (it doesn't).
Including interviews with trash legends like Linnea Quigley, Andy Pfeiffer of Empire Pictures and Walter Josten of Paragon Films, alongside some brilliant clips / VHS cover shots, this is a gore addict's dream doc.
Killer Quote: "You can't just say, 'Okay, you can't see it and you can't.
Because some people, they're 25 and they can't mentally handle these killings, and some people when they're three years old can see a rated R movie and know that it's not real, and have it be entertaining and scary at the same time, but not be completely inappropriate."
John Pomeroy, age 10, offering up the most intelligent argument in the whole debate.