Critters (Amazon Prime Review)

15 – 85mins – 1986


 

FURRY FANGED FOOTBALLS

The Brown family’s rural Kansas farmhouse is about to become the chomping ground of a horde of hungry, malevolent alien vermin in this quintessentially 80s sci-fi/horror comedy, which plays out like Gremlins meets Ghoulies – with a multitude of iconic pop culture references thrown in for good measure!

… Keep Scuttling!

It (Cinema Review)

15 – 135mins – 2017


 

IT FOLLOWS

Tweaking the timeline of Stephen King’s thousand-word tome slightly, the filmmakers behind this box office-record breaking horror hit have, very shrewdly, hit upon a meta jackpot. While Derry is still the US town plagued by the eponymous clown-faced being, the decade has been shifted to the late 1980s and the frequency of its child-napping attacks reduced from 30 to every 27 years. Not only does this mean that the newly-greenlit sequel will take place in the modern day, its also a nice little nod to the fact that It first haunted audiences 27 years ago in ABC’s 1990 mini-series (reviewed HERE).

… Keep Scuttling!

Gothic (DVD Review)

18 – 87mins – 1986


 

CARNIVAL OF CHAOS

“As long as you are a guest in my house, you will play my games…”

Embellished with his signature idiosyncratic fusion of grotesque surrealism and indulgent eroticism, acclaimed-but-controversial visionary British director Ken Russell (Altered States) turns his fevered eye toward the fateful night in 1816 upon which young Romantic artists Shelley (Julian Sands), Mary Godwin (Natasha Richardson), her stepsister Claire Clairmont (Miriam Cyr) and the doctor Polidori (Timothy Spall) gathered at the menagerie-esque madhouse of Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne) to tell ghost stories – with the future Mrs. Shelley’s classic horror novel Frankenstein being the enduring outcome.

Enhanced by the eerie tones of a pheramin-lead score, and with thunder and lightening clashing outside, the dark and largely empty rooms of Byron’s uninviting Swiss sanctuary is chock-full of eccentric ambiguities and stock genre tropes – from cobwebs, rats, candles and ornamental skulls to bell jars, clockwork mannequins, suits of armour and all the ingredients to conduct a séance! Its an eclectic cluster which in the wrong hands could have appeared too busy, but Russell successfully manages to juggle all the elements into an elusive and evocative almost poetic fever dream.

The hired help merely roll their eyes at the surreal circus parading around them, but there is a frightening heightened intensity to even the artist’s frivolity, with their virtuous tempers giving way to an almost rabid frothing obscenity the longer the night goes on. There is a fine line between genius and madness and I do believe that Gothic sits pretty atop that very line!

Sex, drugs and creativity clash violently with perverse and wanton abandon in this trippy and stirring madhouse. “I never plan anything” Byron cries – and never a truer word spoken as Gothic is often maddeningly confusing (a severed pig’s head lies on a bedroom floor, a goblin-like creature watches the girls as they sleep fraught dreams, and just what was that alien-like head in the barn?!), but never anything less than gripping and evocative.

As the night races towards day, the imagery takes on even deeper metaphoric meaning, the fears and anxieties of the decadent author’s each contributing to the jigsaw-like monster they have created (“our creature”). The elements which run through Frankenstein are cleverly planted throughout this uneasy viewing experience which often leaves you – like the characters – feeling like you are “trapped like a dream in human form.” But unlike the characters we know we can escape simply by pressing “pause” – except we are so enraptured by the lavishly grotesque delights dancing before our eyes that we don’t want to.

Gothic [DVD]Indecent, erotic and eerily surreal, Ken Russell’s historically inaccurate Gothic won’t be to everyone’s taste, but those looking for an orgasmic sensory overload need look no further. Come the end credits you’ll be sweating, shivering – more than likely confounded – but ultimately satisfied by this lavish macabre mindfuck.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars

Under the Cherry Moon (DVD Review)

12 – 96mins – 1986 – B&W


 

BUSINESS (OR) PLEASURE

“With love there is no death.”

Being a lifelong Michael Jackson fan I’ve always been aware of Prince, but my true fandom didn’t kick-in until I belatedly purchased Warner Bros. electrifying 2001 Best Of in the lead up to the Purple One’s commercial resurgence with Musicology (2004). Over the subsequent twelve years I have devoured every major new release (be it download only, newspaper-mounted or conventionally available) whilst also dipping into the prolific artist’s vast back catalogue.

Unsurprisingly, I’m still playing catch-up, and while I’ve watched his big screen bow in Purple Rain (1984) multiple times, his unconnected follow-up two years later had never made its way into my DVD player – despite sitting on my shelf since 2008! It’s tragic that it has taken his premature passing for me to pull my finger out and finally break the seal on Under the Cherry Moon.

As well as taking the lead as goofy hustler Christopher Tracey, Prince also contributed the soundtrack (in the form of the Parade album, with backing band The Revolution) and stepped behind the camera to direct! The confident auteur’s framing and choice of shots belays his inexperience, however the first time director overindulges horribly in intense stares and extravagant campery from his cast.

“Mirror, mirror, seventeen-fold, who’s the sexiest dressed in gold?”

Shot in B&W to add a touch of class to this often tongue-in-cheek satire of the sheltered circus of the over-privileged upper class, Christopher Tracey and “business partner” Tricky (Jerome Benton of The Time) are American musicians playing bars – and wealthy women – on the French Riviera. But when the pair set out to swindle a 21-year-old heiress (Kristin Scott Thomas in her feature debut) out of her trust fund, Tracey doesn’t count on falling for his mark…

“It’s dishonest work, but it’s a living.”

Full of silly faces, catty quips (“Give her that Bela Lugosi look,”) and childish silliness (“Cabbage head!”), the tone is a bizarre and uneven choice. Tracey and Tricky are frequently being called out for being “punks,” “peasants” and “gigolos,” but seem to revel in their underhanded roguishness with unlikable bravado. Tracey is a dick, at one point out-and-out bullying KST’s Mary Sharon, but Prince’s playful charisma overpowers the uncouthness, retaining his music video exuberance for 90 minutes.

“Girls and Boys” is the only musical number integrated into the narrative, while “Kiss” is perfectly placed at a crucial point and the “Mountains” music video plays underneath the end credits. Even as the drama ramps up with Mary’s disapproving father (Steven Berkoff) setting out to end the mismatched romance once and for all, the inappropriate histrionics continue uncaged, leading to an overwrought conclusion. It is narratively unearned but now hauntingly pertinent…

“He ain’t ready, Lord… Not him, not now!”

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars