Trick or Treat | What’s on DVD this Halloween – Part II

From sapphic vampires to psycho killers, here are some more of this season of fear’s latest releases…

It’s just not Halloween without a few bloodsucking vampires flying about, and while I much prefer my blood type Universal, I do have a soft spot for 1960s Hammer horrors and 1970s Euro-trash like 1974’s Daughters of Darkness. But what about today’s offerings?

Dead Cert
There’s a host of familiar faces in this British horror romp. Craig Fairbrass and his tough London boys get more than they bargained for when a group of Slavic businessmen make an offer to buy their nightclub, The Inferno. Refusing to take no for an answer, bloody mayhem ensues when the foreigners turn out to be a clan of vampires, led by Billy Murray’s Prince of Darkness, Dante Livienko. This action horror really does keeps its tongue firmly in its cheek, and its great fun seeing the likes of Steven Berkoff, Jason Flemying and Dexter Fletcher ham-mer it up. Welcome to the Disco Inferno.

Life Blood
B-movie nonsense abounds in this sexy Sapphic fangfest in which two vampire lesbian lovers awake from their 40-year slumber to begin their divine mission to rid the Earth of evil. Former popsters Sophie Monk and Anya Lahiri take on the bad guys until one of them decides to go bloodsucking alone. Get the beers, pizzas and your bosom buddies over for this one.

Not Like Others
From Sweden comes this urban vampire drama, in which two bloodsucking sisters, Vera and Vanja, are trying to lead a quiet life in the suburbs of Stockholm. But when Vera kills the leader of a skinhead biker gang, the girls are forced to realise their true potential in order to survive as the gang close in. Drawing on George A Romero’s Martin and Let the Right One In for inspiration, director Peter Pontikis’ debut, shot on a shoestring, is brave attempt to modernise the vampire genre. Given a bigger budget, it just might have worked.

Higanjima: Escape from Vampire Island
Japanese anime meets Hammer horror in this gothic cartoon-like adventure that pits a group of unsuspecting young friends against winged harpies, bloodthirsty villagers, mad scientists, metal fisted ghouls and the campest bloodsucker this side of Polanki’s Fearless Vampire Killers.

Learning that his missing brother Atsushi could be still alive, school bully Akira pilots a boat with a group of friends to the remote island of Higanjima. There they discover the island’s inhabitants have been turned into vampires by an ancient evil and that Atsushi is now a powerful vampire hunter. Reuniting, the two brothers and their friends try to hatch a plan to destroy the evil.

Filmed in deep hues of blood red and violent blue favoured by Mario Bava, Vampire Island is how Hammer’s Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires should have looked. Fast, furious and hilariously camp, this is so destined for cult status.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing better than watching some poor lass running through an expertly-lit corridor from a black glove-wearing psycho accompanied by a deafening prog rock score. Apart from Arrow Video’s brilliant Dario Argento releases like Suspiria and Inferno, here’s some that caught my psycho radar.

Black Christmas
This is a perfect seasonal treat, Christmas or not. This isn’t the deadly dull 2006 remake, but Porky’s director Bob Clark’s seminal slasher that, on its original release back in 1974, was described by Variety as a ‘bloody, senseless kill-for-kicks feature’. Today it’s regarded as a post-modern masterpiece and still gives most present day slashers a run for their money. Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder and Andrea Martin play the young sorority girls who find them being stalked by an unseen serial killer in their dorm house, while veteran actor John Saxon is the cop on the case. The final scene remains one of my favourite horror moments.

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
I saw this cult-in-the-making body shock horror on the big screen and loved it, so naturally the newly-released 2-disc steelbook edition DVD is now a cherished addition to my collection. Will it be in yours? Click here for my full review.

Twelve (XII)
What would you get if you spliced Dr Phibes with Freddy Krueger…. Leonard Karlsson – that’s who. Horribly disfigured while serving time in prison, the convicted child sex abuser decides to dispense his own justice on the jury members who put him behind bars. Graphic scenes of human skin peeling ensue as Karlsson (that’s stuntman Jeremy Fitzgerald under the brilliant mask) picks his victims one by one, until there’s just a plucky waitress (Scream Queen in the making, Emily Hardy) left to dispatch. This award-winning slasher is better than you think and hats off to the filmmakers for crafting an impressive entry to the slasher/psycho genre.

Psych 9
From Bedlam to Shutter Island, mental hospitals have long been a favourite of screenwriters looking to send chills down our spine. So we have Psych 9 in which 90210’s Sara Foster plays a troubled wife who takes up a night-job in an abandoned hospital. But following a series of murders, she’s starts imagining that one of her late-night visitors could be a hammer-wielding serial killer in disguise. This psychological thriller is quite unsettlingly, and Foster really puts her heart into playing crazy. But Psych 9 is no Shutter Island, or Repulsion for that matter (the themes are very similar). I’d put this in the same ‘Needs Improvement’ box as the late Brittany Murphy’s Deadline.

Love it or hate it, the torture porn genre just isn’t going away. Long gone are the campy thrills of the Herschell Gordon Lewis era, replaced now by ever more unpleasant offerings like the bloody Thai buffet Meat Grinder. But as they say, ‘One man’s meat…’

Death Tube
Having already explored the dark side of game playing for real in Tokyo Gore School, Japan’s Yôhei Fukuda turns his attentions from mobile phones to the internet with this sick, Saw-inspired splatter-fest. And its exactly what you think, a group of individuals with no social life get hooked on watching a website showing death in real time. Soon they find themselves becoming the victims with what looks like Pudsey the bear as they costumed captor. It’s a lengthy ride and, frankly, I didn’t care for any of the cardboard characters so the film’s message about our increasingly sick need to fulfil our dark desires fell on deaf ears here. Log in at your own risk!

The Tortured
The extremely good-looking Jesse Metcalfe (Desperate Housewives) and Erika Christensen (Flight Plan) are weirdly miscast in this revenge thriller in which they play a young couple who decide to inflict their own justice on the paedophile (horror veteran Bill Moseley) who killed their son. Anyone expecting loads of bloody limp hacking will be sorely disappointed as The Tortured comes off like a made-for-TV version of the more graphic 7 Days. But anyone who likes revenge thrillers served neat will find this a chilling ride. Too bad, the DVD cover makes it look like Saw 69.

The Collector
Sick, gratuitous, torture porn. If you are expecting anything different from two writers of the Saw franchise, then turn away now as The Collector delivers exactly that. The plot, as though you cared, centres on an ex-con who plots a heist at his new employer’s remote country home, unaware that someone has rigged it with deadly traps. With its ludicrous plot, pounding soundtrack and primal execution, this is a messy affair that doesn’t deserve a sequel.

Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide
For the first time ever on DVD, all 72 films that fell foul of the Director of Public Prosecutions during the 1980s in Britain are trailer-featured in a 3-disc collector’s edition box-set. Included is Doghouse director Jake West’s documentary, Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape, charting the Video Nasties phenomenon and shedding light on one of the most scandalous eras in British film history. A must-have for true genre fans. Click here for the trailer.

If you really want to to leave the house this Halloween, Frightfest is taking over the Empire cinema in London’s Leicester Square on Saturday October 30, screening seven films guaranteed to keep you awake until Sunday morning.

Oh! bring on the slay bells, now!

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