Tag Archives: From Dusk Till Dawn

An Incomplete History of Horror Films Part VI.

The 90s horror film, a decade of plenty of hits and just as many misses.

As the 80s ended, so did our interest in blood and gore. Something that used to scare/disgust us became a joke and now used for laughs in the 90s with several notable ‘splatter’ films offering more laughs than scares. The 90s saw a rebirth of what the 60s aimed to achieve, making the everyday man scary. This decade saw a rise in grounded horror, the influx of ‘intelligent’ horror films, as well as directors refusing to call their films ‘horror’ and instead chose the label ‘thriller’. The serial killer movie became increasingly more popular and the Norman Bates-esque character began to appear more and more. But that doesn’t mean there were none of the 70s/80s horror films anymore as the 90s also had sequel upon sequel upon sequel. Some were good, some were terrible.

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The Exorcist III (1990): The second sequel to my all time favourite horror film. Writer of the original, William Peter Blatty returns as writer and director for this instalment. A body turns up with the striking resemblances to the MO of the infamous ‘Gemini Killer’ that only the police were aware of, Lt. Kinderman begins an investigation. The main problem is that the ‘Gemini Killer’ has been dead for fifteen years…

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Have you noticed how I haven’t mentioned the first sequel to The Exorcist so far? Because its absolutely terrible. However, this film is pretty damn good. An effective psychological horror that, while not as great as the original, does a damn fine job creating a strange mystery as you are left guessing who the killer is and whether the ‘Gemini Killer’ is still alive or not. This film is light on the scares as its more psychological, but that doesn’t mean there are no great scares in the film, hospital scene anyone? There are a few problems with the ending that came about as this film was never meant to be a sequel to The Exorcist. The novel by William Peter Blatty was called; Legion and has nothing to do with The Exorcist at all. The entire last third of the film was re-shot to make connections to the original film and they even hired Jason Miller, who played Father Karras in the first movie to make a few cameo appearances. Still despite a few problems, this is a good horror movie and a worthy sequel.

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Frankenhooker (1990): Directed by Frank Henenlotter and (obviously) inspired by Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. A medical student/electrician, Jeffrey Franken loses his girlfriend in a tragic lawnmower accident and only her head survives. So he sets about bringing her back and goes to the red light district to find victims for his experiment.

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The title is stupid because the film is. Another one of those horror/comedies and this is one of the better ones too. If you think a girl dying in a terrible lawnmower accident is funny, then you’ll love this picture. The movie is silly, but also pretty damn creative along the way too as the hookers are killed in ‘explosive’ ways. The effects work is impressive and you’ll see plenty of dismembered body parts and creative monsters as our mad scientist, Jeffrey Franken goes crazier and crazier as the movie progresses. Frankenhooker herself doesn’t even appear in the film until around the 55 minute mark, but its well worth the wait.

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Jacob’s Ladder (1990): This psychological horror film is directed by Adrian Lyne and stars Tim Robbins. Postal worker Jacob Singer keeps witnessing hallucinations and flashbacks to his first marriage, his dead son and his tour of duty in Vietnam. These visions continue to become increasingly more disturbing as Jacob starts to lose his grip on reality.

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This flick is genius, a psychological horror which oozes style and atmosphere. Tim Robbins as Jacob is outstanding as he struggles with his insane visions and slowly looses his grip. The hallucinations and flashbacks are done really well and can be scary one second but then next, you’ll be an emotional wreak. This picture is much more than just a movie, its an experience that will have you on the edge of your seat until its clever and satisfying conclusion. Subsequent viewings are a must with this one as you’ll spot very subtle clues the second, third, fourth time you probably missed before.

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The Silence of the Lambs (1991): Directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. This psychological thriller/horror tells the story of FBI trainee Clarice Starling who is asked to investigate a possible serial killer called, Buffalo Bill. But before Clarice can find this killer, she must earn the trust and confidence of Hannibal Lecter, an ex-psychiatrist turned murderer who who cannibalised his victims.

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The writing, directing and acting in this film are top notch. The picture is full of suspense and tension that slowly boils away leading to one of the most tense and well directed ending scenes. Of course there is the legendary Anthony Hopkins whose calming and sedate performance just adds to the overall effect as Hannibal Lecter who is both charming and yet utterly scary at the same time. Not forgetting the serial killer, Buffalo Bill played by Ted Levine, who is based on real life killers, Ed Gein and Ted Bundy. The scenes between Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling and Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter are like watching a chess game of words as they both carefully think about their questions/replies trying to get as much information as possible while also holding back revealing too much.

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Braindead (1992): AKA Dead Alive is an early film from writer/director Peter Jackson before he made it big in Hollywood. Lionel and his overbearing mother live in a small village in New Zealand. While on a secret date with a local shop girl at a zoo, mother follows Lionel where she is bitten by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey, becomes infected with a zombie-like disease and dies. Then soon after her ‘funeral’, all hell breaks loose.

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You know how earlier I said how blood and gore was now being used for comedic effect? Well Braindead is a perfect example of this. The gore in this is so ridiculously OTT and you’ll spend just as much time laughing as you will being disgusted. The movie is almost cartoon like with special effects as absurd as the characters. With a zombie baby, a pair of horny zombies that have sex continually, a kung-fu priest and an evil mother that makes Norma Bates look tame. Part zombie movie, part comedy and part love story… all covered in a visceral and violent blanket that climaxes with lawnmower, dozens of zombies and gallons upon gallons of blood. Just try to get hold of a full uncut version as even the ‘unrated cut’ is edited down to 97 minutes, while the full version runs at 104 minutes. “I kick arse for the Lord.

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Candyman (1992): Based on the story; The Forbidden by Clive Barker and directed by Bernard Rose. Helen and her friend Bernadette begin researching for a thesis on urban legends. Helen becomes obsessed by the legend of Candyman who is said to appear if you repeat his name five times in front of a mirror. She soon learns that Candyman is much more then just an urban legend.

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A slasher film with so much style and substance that does away with many of the outdated tropes. The acting is particularly great, especially for a horror movie. With Tony Todd playing the titular Candyman and being scary, but in a very calming way and Virginia Madsen as Helen is just as impressive. I read a review of this movie which stated that it “wasn’t a nice film”… that’s a compliment in my eyes. The film is dirty, grimy and certainly ‘not nice’ at all. This is a horror film for adults, not teenagers. Deliciously dark and decadent, this urban legend is a must watch.

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Bat sin fan dim: Yan yuk cha siu bau (1993): AKA The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story. Based on the real Eight Immortals Restaurant Murders that took place on 4th August, 1985 in Macau. the film is directed by Herman Yau. The rotting remains of a human are found on a beach, the police investigation leads them to a local restaurant owner, Wong Chi Hang. Wong has only recently become owner of the restaurant and the previous owners have disappeared without a trace. His customers love his pork bao and keep coming back for more. But just what did happen to the previous owners of the restaurant?

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You know how earlier I said how blood and gore was now being used for comedic effect? Well The Eight Immortals Restaurant: The Untold Story is a perfect example of the exception to the rule. This is no horror comedy, though there is some slight comic relief and this movie needs it. The Untold Story is brutally gory, how much so? Well Hong Kong film censors place films into numbered categories dependent on how severe the violence is and this film has been certified a category III. Category III movies are notorious for extreme violence or excessive sexual content and this film is no different. Extreme and excessive is just how to describe this one, its hard to watch and doesn’t shy away from its bloody, detailed violence. There is no mystery here and there isn’t meant to be, we know who the killer is right from the start. Its not who is responsible for the killings that is important but more so how the killings took place.

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Body Bags (1993): An anthology film featuring three stories directed by John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper. The Gas Station is about a young college student who arrives for her first night shift at an 24 hour gas station. She learns that a serial killer has broken out of a mental hospital and is heading her way. Hair is a tale about a middle aged, egotistical business man who tries a ‘miracle’ hair transplant operation to save his thinning hair. Eye is a yarn where a baseball player is involved in a car accident and loses one of his eyes. Worrying his career is over, he decides to undergo an experimental surgical procedure to replace his eye.

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The three tales are inter-cut and introduced by a morgue worker played briliantly by John Carpenter himself, using bad puns and cheap jokes. Also be on the look out for some great cameos from other horror directors like Sam Raimi, Wes Craven and Rodger Corman. There are plenty of in-jokes and nods too like the fact the gas station story takes place just outside Haddonfield… which is the fictional town Halloween (1978) took place. The three stories are all really enjoyable for very different reasons. An overlooked gem of a flick that is full of scares, surprises and a few laughs too. I particularly love the epilogue after the final story…

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Schramm (1993): A German film from director Jörg Buttgereit and loosely based on true crimes of Carl Panzram. Lothar Schramm is a polite and friendly taxi driver, but he suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. Schramm’s disorder drives him to self-mutilate, rape and murder and we see all of this in a flashback as the film opens with Lothar Schramm dying in a pool of his own blood after falling of a ladder.

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Director Jorg Buttgereit explained this film far better then I ever could: ‘Welcome to a trip into the mind of a serial killer.‘ This film is deranged and disgusting… yet beautifully shot and well wroth watching. Its only a short film running at a little over 60 minutes, but its a hell of an hour full of disturbing images and bloody gore. Most serial killer movies concentrate on the police POV as they track down the killer and finally stop them, this film does things very differently as we only see things from the killers POV. The things this guy gets up to are disturbing to say the least. From the murder and rape of females to hammering nails his own penis. Schramm is a bizarre and sometimes hard to watch but still worth a view regardless.

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Dellamorte Dellamore (1994): AKA Cemetery Man, an Italian horror film directed by Michele Soavi. Francesco Dellamorte works at and lives near a cemetery. A beautiful widow attends the funeral of her husband and Dellamorte falls in love with her. The two eventually have sex on the late husband’s grave and he returns from the dead… yet this is only the start of the carnage.

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A tongue in cheek zombie film with a lot of heart and even artistic style. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t all ‘arty-farty’ crap as there is plenty of gore and even some gratuitous nudity. Its just that the film starts out like a bog standard zombie flick but soon evolves into something so much more. The plot is involving and the characters are brilliantly realised, but then there is the cracking zombie make up effects and quite possibly the best Grim Reaper on film ever. There is a love story in here as well as a philosophical look at insanity and loneliness. A zombie movie with a heart, brain and a delicious dark humour.

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In the Mouth of Madness (1994): Directed by John Carpenter and starring Sam Neill. A Stephen King-a-like horror writer, Sutter Cane has gone missing. Insurance investigator John Trent is asked to look into Cane’s mysterious vanishing. Trent surmises that the disappearance is all an elaborate hoax to be used as publicity for Cane’s new book, but he soon learns there is much more to the writer’s strange vanishing act then he first thought.

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The third in John Carpenter’s ‘Apocalypse Trilogy’ with the first two being The Thing (1982) and Prince of Darkness (1987). I have a feeling that the writer of this film, Michael De Luca may have been inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. This film is very diverse, you’ll find people either love it or outright hate it. I personally love this flick and think its a massively overlooked Carpenter masterpiece that seemingly gets lost in his other works. Its quite an intelligent and insightful horror picture and will leave you scratching your head by the time the end credits roll. Not really a blood and gore film, though there are a few great make up effects shown. This is more of a psychological horror that plays on your mind much more. The story can be scary and gets a little dark but the script is as sharp as a tack and yet it never takes itself too seriously. I’m going to make a very bold statement here, in terms of directing I think this is John Carpenter’s best work, better than Halloween, better than The Thing.

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Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994): The man that created Freddy Krueger, Wes Craven, gets back in the director’s chair to destroy his most famous creation. Bringing back Heather Langenkamp from the original to face her nemesis one last time. Heather Langenkamp starts receiving strange phone calls from someone sounding a lot like Freddy Krueger. This comes about around the same time she is asked to return to the franchise that made her famous as its revealed that Wes has been writing a new movie… coincidence?

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This is Wes Craven’s masterpiece, his opus and yet the movie is always overlooked in favour of the less interesting, poorly made sequels in this franchise. Now I love the original Nightmare flick and think part 2 is a underrated horror film too. Then after that, from 3 onward, things just go downhill fast. Its quite poetic how it took the creator of Freddy to get things back on track after 10 years since the original. This picture is so clever and meta, I feel this is why most don’t enjoy it, they want the simplicity of the other sequels, they just want Freddy running around killing stupid teenagers and making bad puns. But for me, I got tired of this formula pretty quickly. This is a movie about making movies and the effect(s) violent films may have on the audience. This isn’t your stereotypical ‘slasher’ flick that the sequels became, this is a psychological horror that gets the brain ticking over. Heather Langenkamp who became known as Nancy from the first film is back… only she is playing Heather Langenkamp in a life that mirrored her real life at the time. Robert Englund is also back as Freddy and playing himself at the same time in a dual role. There are a ton of references to the original film as well as other actors from the franchise popping up. Cerebral is the word to use when describing this picture. Its plot is both simple and multilayered at the same time with Wes Craven himself even appearing in the film, writing/directing a film about making a film, which is the film you are actually watching. Watch the first film and then watch this directly afterwards and you’ll see just how irrelevant the sequels really are. This is why I miss Wes Craven, he was the thinking man’s horror writer/director who wasn’t afraid to break the rules now and again. Despite this flick getting high critical praise at the time, it tanked at the box office because the studio thought it would be a good idea to open against a little known film called Pulp Fiction…

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From Dusk till Dawn (1996): Written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by his best buddy, Robert Rodriguez. Starring George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel and Juliette Lewis. The notorious Gecko brothers go on the run after a bank heist. They kidnap a preacher and his family to use them and their motor-home as cover to escape into Mexico where they will meet a contact at a bar called The Titty Twister, but it seems that meeting at this bar was not the best idea.

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One of the best twists in a film ever. This film is glorious, you have the snappy dialogue and interesting characters thanks to Tarantino’s writing, blended with the kinetic and stylised directing of Rodriguez. The film is really a film of two very distinctly different halves (which I’m trying not to spoil) and yet they seem the blend together seamlessly. I quite honestly do not want to say too much about this one as I feel going into it blind is the best possible way to approach it. If you have never seen this flick then don’t read any reviews, don’t even look at the cover (if possible). Just pop the DVD/BluRay in and sit back. I do have to mention how awesome Clooney is in the film, his breakthrough film performance. He is subzero levels of cool and yet a total badass with buckets of charm too.

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The Frighteners (1996): Director Peter Jackson’s first American film and starring Michael J. Fox. Frank Bannister develops psychic abilities allowing him to see, hear, and communicate with ghosts after a car accident in which he was injured and his wife was killed. Frank befriends some of the ghosts and uses them as stooges to set up his own ghostbusting business. Frank encounters a spectre very similar to the Grim Reaper who seems to kill people (and ghosts) at random. Its up to Frank to stop this spectral killer before it kills of the entire town.

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Originally intended to be a story for the Tales From The Crypt TV show, producer Robert Zemeckis decided this would work better as a feature film. This starts out as a pretty goofy comedy, but it turns into a really effective and scary ghost story with a great sense of humour. The visual effects are amazing and still stand up today, especially the Reaper ghost who flies around town killing people and offers some genuine scares. Sadly, this was Michael J. Fox’s final starring film role before he had to semi-retire from acting due to his Parkinson’s disease. Also be on the look out for iconic horror stars like Dee Wallace and Jeffrey Combs, even Peter Jackson himself makes a cameo. A great , chilling and yet funny film that stands up well today.

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Scream (1996): Director Wes Craven is back to demolish the very genre of film that made him famous. One year after her mother’s murder, Sydney Prescott starts to receive strange phone calls from a crazed serial killer. As her classmates die off one by one, Sydney realises she is next in line and considers the possibility that this killer could have had something to do with her mother’s murder one year ago.

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This is another one of those 90s horror films that tries to be clever, it breaks down many of the ‘slasher’ movie clichés and pokes fun at them. It takes the overused and stale ‘teenagers getting drunk and being killed off by a maniac’ trope and turns it on its head. Ironically, this film single handily managed to breath new life into the ‘dead on its feet’ sub-genre of horror film it was making fun of as there was an influx of teen slasher films released after the success of Scream that all had the same looking characters, same set ups and pay offs, similar 90s rock soundtracks and even pretty much the same posters. For me, I really do not think this one hold up all that well and certainly not as clever or cerebral as New Nightmare was and still is. The way this picture pokes fun at the ‘slasher’ clichés soon become cliché in of themselves and the film just does not hold the same appeal as it did back in 96. Its still a decent romp, but its cleverness became stale way before the asinine and inevitable sequels came about a few years later.

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The Devil’s Advocate (1997): Based on Andrew Neiderman’s novel of the same name, directed by Taylor Hackford and starring, Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino and Charlize Theron. Kevin Lomax is a ruthless young attorney working in Florida who has never lost a case, he is hired by an even more ruthless law firm from New York. Kevin and his wife relocate to New York in spite of strong disagreement by his mother. His wife starts to witnesses devilish apparitions as Kevin becomes more engrossed in his work. Is there more to his new boss then Kevin realises?

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I debated putting this on the list, not because its bad… its not, this is a great film. But because I wasn’t sure if this qualifies as a horror film, I don’t think that many do consider this a horror film at all. In many ways, its not a horror film, at least not in the most common sense. Yet this an horrific tale being told, one of neglect, power and greed. There are plenty of scary/horrific imagery too especially with the visions Kevin’s wife has, plus the film has a pretty decent amount of blood and death along the way. The film builds and builds as we learn more about Kevin’s new boss, John Milton, played brilliantly by Al Pacino until the climax where he gives one of cinema’s great monologues. Where John Milton tears apart the whole theory of religion and presents the inherent contradiction of it all… nobody can do a speech like that as well as Pacino can. I really do not want to delve too deeply into this movie out of fear of giving away too much. Its a cracker with plenty of twists and turns. Is it a horror film though? For me, yet it is.

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The Faculty (1998): Directed by Robert Rodriguez. In a small town high school, the teachers and some of the students start acting a little strange. While hiding in a closet, two of the students witness the school’s nurse being strangled by two other teachers. After the students escape, they find the nurse is very much alive but also now acting strange.

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I think this film may be Robert Rodriguez’s love letter and throwback to sci-fi horror films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956/78) and The Thing (1982). It has one of those stories of alien assimilation blended with that slick 90s attitude towards horror films sparked off with Scream (1996), well the screenplay was by Kevin Williamson after all. There is a pretty good cast here including; Josh Hartnett, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Robert Patrick and Elijah Wood. The film features a nice slow build of paranoia before the inevitable reveal of the the aliens. An interesting modern twist on the sci-fi horror films from the past that manages to keep things fresh with plenty of in-jokes and references for sci-fi horror fans to spot.

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Ringu (1998): AKA Ring, a Japanese psychological horror flick from director Hideo Nakata. Based on the novel of the same name by Kôji Suzuki, which itself was inspired by the Japanese folk tale, Banchō Sarayashiki. A journalist investigates a series of deaths that occur after the victims watched a supposedly ‘cursed video’. Her investigation leads her to a holiday cabin where she discovers the tape for herself…

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No one does scary and effective ghost stories like the Japanese and this movie is one the best examples. Far superior to the American remake is every way. The direction here is both intense and gritty as it makes its way to one of the best, most creative and scariest endings to a horror film that I have ever seen. Most of the time, people recommend watching a film on the big screen, yet with this, you really have to watch it on TV at home with the lights off. The whole production feels very ‘documentary’ like and the characters are played perfectly which helps you fear for their own safety and sanity. The taught and bittersweet relationship between the two leads is really well done. Its a film based on one simple principle, that often broken rule we were constantly told as kids by our parents… ‘don’t do that’, which only spurred us on to do the exact opposite of what we were told. So DON’T watch Ringu…

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The Blair Witch Project (1999): This found footage psychological horror film is written and directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. Three film students travel to Maryland to explore a local urban legend known as The Blair Witch. The students were never heard from again and completely disappeared, but their video camera were found…

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Right, I don’t like this film, I think its just plain boring and god awful… and I’ve seen some terrible horror films over the years. Its not scary, most of the film is shot in darkness while running through a forest and I stopped being scared of the dark from the age of five. I also detest how people claim this film created the found footage sub-genre. It didn’t as I proved in the previous part with Cannibal Holocaust (1980), even more so, The Last Broadcast (1998) did what this film did the year before… and did it better too. So why is it on this list? Because I think the publicity and fiction they created to make this film appear ‘real’ is some of the best marketing for a horror film ever. The ‘missing’ posters for the characters in the film that began to pop up in our world, The Curse of the Blair Witch mockumentary broadcast on the SciFi Channel before the release of the film, the website set up that detailed the legend of The Blair Witch and featured police reports, etc. The marketing for this film was amazing and in many ways, it was far better then the film itself. IMDb even got in on the fun and listed the people in the cast list as ‘missing, presumed dead’ for the first year of the film’s release. Didn’t like the film in 1999 and I still don’t like the film in 2016, but I will always praise the marketing for this flick as being pure genius.

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Terror Firmer (1999): Directed by and starring Troma legend, Lloyd Kaufman. A low budget film crew led by their blind film director, Larry Benjamin are making a high art film when they come across a homicidal maniac only they can stop.

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This is a Troma film and if you don’t know what that is… then avoid this film. Troma is an independent film production company famous for making very low budget OTT gore-fest, exploitation films full or sex, nudity and gallons of blood. They don’t try to make deep and meaningful entertainment, their aim is to make entertaining trash with films like; The Toxic Avenger (1984), Troma’s War (1988), Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1990) and Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006) as well as dozens of others. For me, this is the best film from Troma ever. Its a clever satire of the films they make and (co-founder) Lloyd Kaufman manages to poke fun at himself and his company while still providing a hell of a film along the way. Its rude, crude and full of immature scenes… as well as stupid violence and gore. There are plenty of cameos to look out for, multiple references to some of Troma’s other films and characters. Its stupid, puerile and cheap… but its a low budget film about making a low budget film featuring a blind director… so what are you expecting?

Time to end the 90s here and take a look at modern horror films of the 2000s in part VII, the final part of my Incomplete History of Horror.

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Quentin Tarantino Part III

Well lets just dive right into it and take a look at his new film.

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The Hateful Eight: Not too much is known about the film right now, it is still being filmed as I write this.
But the basic synopsis is: In post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunters try to find shelter during a blizzard but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception.

With an impressive cast of: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks and others.

The film is said to be set in the same universe as Django Unchained, but not connected plot wise.
Could we see the return of Django even if only for a cameo?

The film already has me excited and I can not wait to go and see it.

While the official relased date is Christmas 2015, it’ll only be initially released in select cinemas with a full release set for early 2016.
Some have suggested this is due to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which will definitely be the big Christmas hit this year. But as I said in part I, I couldn’t care less about Star Wars.
So due to some “creative marketing”, I’ll have to wait until 2016 to see the film.

Still, seeing as not too long back, Quentin decided to not make this film thanks to a leaked script on the internet. I think I can wait until early 2016 to catch this flick…but it’s going to be a long wait indeed.

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So what is my favourite Quentin Tarantino film?
Though one to answer as I don’t have one favourite. So I’ll just offer my own opinion on his films so far instead.

Reservoir Dogs: This film is to Ringo Lam’s City on Fire (1987) what Sergio Leone’s Per un pugno di dollari (1964) was to Akira Kurosawa’s Yôjinbô (1961). With it being an unofficial remake. What a movie Reservoir Dogs really is, especially for a first time director…of a full theatrical feature. A heist film without a heist with 90% of the film just being dialogue with most of the film set in an empty warehouse. But it really showcased how great Tarantino is at writing his characters. This one set the bar high with many copycats trying to make similar films for years after, yet only Quentin himself could nail and even beat the high standards set by Reservoir Dogs.

Pulp Fiction: For quite a while, this was my favourite Tarantino film…but that was during the mid-late 90s when he only had 2-3 films to his name. Pulp Fiction is still one of the very best films made to date from anyone and again had other writers and directors tying to “out Tarantino” Tarantino with other similar films attempting to cash in on the character led, crime genre were the bad guys were the focus. Pulp Fiction is a simply awesome film, I’m even close to saying the best film made in the 90s.

Four Rooms: I can not stress enough how overlooked this film is. While not all four stories are great, the film as a whole is a fun watch. But Quentin Tarantino’s segment is really worth watching, full of that snappy dialogue, with interesting characters. Tarantino’s, The Man From Hollywood story is the final tale of the four, and I can safely say…they saved the best till last.

From Dusk Till Dawn: I still remember the first time I saw this flick and was lucky enough to not have it spoiled for me pre-viewing. Talk about yer great film twists eh? I really do not want to talk too much of this one in case some of you readers have not yet seen it. As I said previously, this is a film you need to know nothing about before seeing it. Just go watch it, don’t research it, don’t look at a cast-list or even read a synopsis…just go watch it.

Jackie Brown: I never did like this one when I first saw it…and I can’t remember why. However, the film has definitely grown on me over the years and now think it’s great. Not one of Quentin’s best films I admit, but it’s still pretty damn amazing and I find myself enjoying the film much more now than I did previously. Jackie Brown is a wonderful homage to crime “blaxploitation” cinema of the 70s, starring the queen of “blaxploitation” herself the amazing, “whole lot of woman” and sexy Pam Grier.

Kill Bill: Remember when I said Pulp Fiction was my favourite Quentin Tarantino film for a while? Well this is the film that made me change my mind. An expertly observed and executed love letter to classic Kung-Fu flicks. While the plot is as basic as it gets, with its all too simple revenge driving force. Kill Bill ends up being so much more thanks to Tarantino’s love for the genre and his (again) amazing writing/directing. You can always tell when the director loves and respects a genre, and this film displays that love and respect in every scene. I also feel this film was a turning point for Tarantino as his writing seems more “dynamic” and this is a trait that follows on from this point on.

Sin City: If you are reading this Paul, remember how long it got you to get me to watch this film? Seriously, it was a good 3-4 years. In all honesty, I never did like the look of this film back then, which was party why I never got round to watching it. Then one summer day (after getting tattoos) I relinquished and picked up a copy of Sin City on DVD and watched it that very day…and it hit me like a sledgehammer to the head. A truly stunning film is so many regards and while Quentin only directed one scene, it’s a great scene in a great film.

Death Proof: This one was a nice surprise, I never really knew what to expect with this one. Tarantino’s slice of 70s style exploitation cinema in this Grindhouse double bill was really good fun and with the underused Kurt Russell in the lead role, makes this one a must watch even if you are not a Quentin fan. That crash mid way through and car chase at the end are some of the best stunt work I’ve seen in recent years…and it was all practical, no CGI. It is a “stupid” film I admit, but it is “stupidity” done with panache.

Inglourious Basterds: Is this really a “masterpiece” as Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine says? Well you remember when I said Pulp Fiction was my favourite Quentin Tarantino film for a while, and then replaced that with Kill Bill later? You can see what’s coming here can’t you? See, this is why its so damn difficult for me to chose a favourite Quentin Tarantino film…cos for most part they are all my favourites. Inglourious Basterds is one of the best films I have seen in the last 10 years from any writer/director. This is what The Dirty Dozen (1967) would have been like if Quentin Tarantino had directed it. It’s violent, it’s tense, it’s full of memorable characters and dialogue. Yes, it is a masterpiece.

Django Unchained: Remember when I said Pulp Fiction was my favourite Quentin Tarantino film for a while…and so on…? Yup, this is one of “those” Quentin Tarantino films, one that changes my opinion…again. I grew up watching the Spaghetti Western genre, ever since my older brother, Robert introduced me to Clint Eastwood and the “Dollars Trilogy”. I love this genre, and so does Quentin…and you can tell when watching this picture. A great modern Western is a tough film to get right, I can only think of two truly great modern Westerns. Clint Eastwood’s, Unforgiven and this film right here.

So there you go, I can’t chose a favourite Tarantino film, its just impossible for me to do so. All of his directing efforts have been great, whether they be full feature films, a short story or even just one scene. Everything he does has so much polish and style to it.

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Why do I enjoy Quentin Tarantino films so damn much?
So many reasons…

1) His characters, they always seem so “real”, multi dimensional with depth and a purpose. Those characters always seem to stay with me over the years and are fondly remembered. They are never over or underused and they always seem integral to the plot even if it’s a small character with little screen-time.

2) His writing, from the stories he creates…and “borrows” to the dialogue he comes up with. How great is that “Royale with cheese” chat in Pulp Fiction? But why is it so great and memorable? really, it bears no relation to the plot of the film. It’s just two friends chatting shit, and I feel that is why his dialogue works, as it’s not “movie speak”. It really sounds and feels like how people genuinely talk to each other. All of his films have an instance of a “Royale with cheese” chat. His stories are always interesting and far deeper than they first appear too.

3) His music, how is it that Quentin Tarantino always selects the best and most apt music for his films? Have you ever watched one of his films, heard the music and felt that it does not work…even when the music is anachronistic like the use of Cat People (Putting Out The Fire) by David Bowie (1982) in Inglourious Basterds which is set in during World War II. Yes, completely the wrong decade…but that song was so damn apt, it would have been an offence not to have used it. Every tune he selects seems to be just as important as getting the right actor to play a part.

4) His comedy, yes you read that right…comedy. Not too many think of Quentin as being a funny writer/director…but he really is. All of his films have comedy in them, even if you don’t realise it at first. Often his comedy is very subtle and will pass you by, but it is there. He’ll also use dark comedy that many people miss. Sometimes his use of comedy is so obvious, you don’t even think about it. I watched all of the films mentioned here before writing this up (yes, even My Best Friend’s Birthday) and all of them had some form of comedy in them that made me smile or even outright laugh.

5) His actors, remember when everyone forgot about John Travolta? Who was Samuel L. Jackson before Pulp Fiction? Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, Christoph Waltz, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Pam Grier, Michael Keaton, and so on. Now of course not everyone in his films were a nobody or forgotten about pre-Tarantino. He’s attracted some big name stars too, Brad Pitt, Robert De Niro, Jamie Fox, Michael Fassbender and others. But even so, he still always manages to bring back a forgotten actor or a new name and give them the spotlight…and make it work too.

6) He’s a genre man, he makes the kind of films he grew up and enjoyed watching. He is a fanboy and his films prove as much too. From his “homages”, in jokes, references and even some of the actors he chooses. Everything is selected and pandered to perfectly fit into the genre he is trying to capture. While he does have his own unique style, his films are also very different from each other. Heist film, Kung-Fu/Samurai revenge flick, Spaghetti Western epic, Gangster/thriller picture…he’ll have a go at anything as long as it’s a genre he loves.

7) His violence, probably the biggest thing Quentin is (in)famous for. But he does not just throw in violence for the sake of having violence. Often, he makes us, the viewer, “earn” that violence. Anyone remember the “ear cutting scene” in Reservoir Dogs, remember the controversy, remember how graphic it was? The great thing about that scene is the simple fact that is was not graphic at all, in fact the camera pans away to look at a blank wall…yet people always “remember” how violent that scene was. This is the mark of a truly great film-maker, one that can make you see something that is not there.
But my favourite part of the whole “ear cutting scene” is actually something more jovial and deeply dark at the same time. I’m talking of Mr. Blonde putting the radio on and dancing around to Stuck In The Middle With You by Stealers Wheel. It’s a great, light and “bouncy” song and Michael Madsen as Mr. Blonde dancing around is a joy to watch…but somewhere in the back of your head, you know things are going to get really bad, really quickly and the whole dancing thing just makes what is to come next even more disturbing…even though you do not see “it” happen.
Of course he’s not always as “subtle” with his violence, the Crazy 88 fight from Kill Bill for example. But even here, you are teased before the big showdown. From when The Bride first enters The House of Blue Leaves, the whole scene is dragged out (in a great way) to make you wait for the vengeance fuelled blood rage that is about to come.
But I think my personal favourite piece of foreplay to the violence comes from Inglourious Basterds. That one particular scene in the German basement bar. The way Quentin slowly unfolds this undercover plot that we, the audience all know is going to go wrong, we all know its gonna end in (lots of) bloodshed…yet we are teased for what seems like hours. It’s like Quentin is saying to us, he knows you want violence, he knows you want to see some dead Nazis…and possibly some dead good guys too. But, you have to wait, and wait and wait. He makes it almost unbearable to the point you can not take your eyes of the screen so much so you do not want to blink. It’s “magical” movie making at it’s finest.
But I can not end this point without mentioning the slow-motion gun fight near the end of Django Unchained. Its so beautifully shot (and again pre-teased to us the audience), its like watching a ballet of violence.

So, what is next for Tarantino after the release of The Hateful Eight?

Well Quentin has hinted he plans to retire. I think this is terrible if true, but on the other hand. If Quentin Tarantino honestly thinks he had nothing left to offer, then maybe retirement is the best thing for him?
I’d rather Tarantino going out on top then keep making films he no longer enjoys making. But either way, it’ll be a sad day in film-making if/when Quentin Tarantino decides to end his amazing career.

But come on QT, you have more to come after The Hateful Eight…right?

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Quentin Tarantino:As far as I’m concerned, digital projection is the end of cinema. The fact that most films aren’t presented in 35 mm means that the world is lost. Digital projection is just television in cinema. I’m very hopeful that future generations will be much smarter than this generation and realize what they lost.”

Thank you for joining me on my Birthday (dependent on when you read this) and for reading my fanboyism of one of the worlds biggest film fanboys, Mr. Quentin Tarantino.
Now…”let’s go to work”.

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Quentin Tarantino Part II

So here we are, now Quentin found his film-making “soul mate” with Robert Rodriguez and they join forces to make one hell of an overlooked picture.

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Four Rooms: An unusual film to say the least. This one was an anthology flick set in a hotel with four separate stories set in “Four Rooms” of the hotel, all connected via the bellboy played by Tim Roth.
Both Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez wrote and directed their own segments within this film.

Tarantino’s story was an absolutely brilliant re-telling of Roald Dahl’s classic short story, The Man From The South. Even if you are already familiar with this story, and you most probably are more aware than you think as the story has been told and re-told many times over the years. Including a version done by Alfred Hitchcock from his TV series as well as the story being the first one ever aired from the TV show, Tales of the Unexpected.
Still, even with an already famous and known story. Quentin Tarantino manages to pull off a unique take on the tale and even bring in a great and hilarious new twist.

Four Rooms is an under appreciated and under praised flick and well worth watching, even if only for Tarantino’s segment alone.

But the Quentin and Robert joining does not end here.

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From Dusk Till Dawn: Was a collaboration between Quentin and Robert Rodriguez, with Quentin Tarantino not only writing but also taking on a starring role. But this time, directing duties were held by Robert Rodriguez.

From Dusk Till Dawn is a film that if you have no idea what it is about…it’s the best way to watch the film. This is why I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, so much so that I’ll not even use a poster that gives away plot details.
It you have not yet seen From Dusk Till Dawn, just watch this film as blindly as you can, don’t look at the cover, don’t ask friends about it.
Just watch it, it’s awesome and best left unspoiled for you.

Quentin and Robert part ways…only temporarily. As Quentin tackles his next film solo.

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Jackie Brown: A throwback to “blaxploitation” cinema of the 70s starring the awesome Pam Grier in the title role.
The film also features Michael Keaton, cast at a time when people were forgetting how he was…but still proves just how much of a great actor he really is.

Jackie Brown is a return to Quentin Tarantino’s roots of films like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Being very character based, with a plot that is not as straightforward as it first appears to be.

As the 90s are left behind, we catch up on the 2000s with Quentin Tarantino giving into his love for Kung-Fu/Samurai films.

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Kill Bill: Originally filmed as one picture, but split into two “volumes” during post-production.
Kill Bill was a tour de force of classic Kung-Fu/Samurai revenge films. This is Quentin’s “homage” to films like, Lady Snowblood.

Full of bloody, revenge fuelled violence. But also those interesting characters Quentin Tarantino is famous for. This is one of his very best films.

Us fans still await the long promised, Whole Bloody Affair. Which is both “volumes” edited together as originally intended. Quentin Tarantino has been saying is coming for over a decade now.
This cut of the film does exist and has done for many years now, as Quentin himself has shown it several times at film festivals. But still no home release.

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez team up yet again next.

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Sin City: OK, I know this is not a film directed by Quentin…though he did direct one scene and does have a directing credit due to this (see poster above), so it’s being included.

The scene Quentin directed was the one involving Dwight and Jackie Boy.
Full of Hitchcock-esque paranoia and suspense, very much put me in mind of Marion driving in her car after stealing the money in Psycho.
The “voices in her head”, the added element of the police following her, etc.

While the scene is pretty much verbatim from the graphic novel the film is based on, it still maintains that Tarantino style. It was also the first time Quentin has shot digitally, as he’s an “old school” film-maker and had always shot on film previously.

Quentin my have only shot 1 scene…but it’s a hell of a great scene in a hell of a great movie.

Sticking with the partnership, Tarantino and Rodriguez indulge in their love for exploitation cinema.

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Grindhouse: This film was really more about Quentin and Robert pandering to their own fanboyism. As both directors are huge fans of exploitation cinema.
The whole “Grindhouse” sub genre, which for those not only the know, was a form of low budget films that were relased mainly in the 70s and always heavily used exploitation as it’s selling point. Whether that exploitation be gore, sex, violence, etc.
These films would often be shown in seedy, backstreet cinemas known as Grindhouses. Hence, Grindhouse cinema.

Quentin’s film, Death Proof, in this Grindhouse double bill was a 70s inspired stalker film where the killer used his car to stalk and kill his victims, his “Death Proof” car if you will.

Kurt Russell took on the lead role of Stuntman Mike. A mysterious yet charming man that loves nothing more than stalking young girls and murdering them using his car.
It’s not a complex plot, but as simple and seedy as this film is. It’s still has that unique QT polish.

Quentin flies solo for his next film.

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Inglourious Basterds: “This is probably my masterpiece.” Declares Lt. Aldo Raine at the end of this film, many people took that line as being Quentin Tarantino himself saying this film is his masterpiece.
To be fair, it’s hard not to agree. Inglourious Basterds is a genuine masterpiece of film-making.
Brilliant modern twist on the classic WW II action/thriller all wrapped up in Quentin’s own unique style.

An amazing cast lead by Brad Pitt and his “stunning” Italian accent.
Inglourious Basterds is a simply amazing film…and indeed a masterpiece.

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Django Unchained: This was Quentin Tarantino showing his love and passion for the classic Western genre, a genre he loves so much he considers The Good, The Bad and the Ugly the “best film ever made.”
Taking an already established character…yes, for those unaware, Django (the D is silent) had already been seen on screen before…over 30 times in fact, though only two were “official”. This was Quentin Tarantino’s take on the legend that is Django.
Even the original Django (Franco Nero) appears in this version in a cameo role.

This ends part II, but join me in part III where I’ll take a quick look at Quentin Tarantino’s up and coming new flick, The Hateful Eight and just offer my own personal views on his work so far and talk about what’s next for Tarantino after his new film.

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