Review- The Omen 3: The Final Conflict (1981)

Review- The Omen 3: The Final Conflict (1981)

WARNING. Spoilers!

Damien Thorn is progressing up the political ladder by hook or by crook. The methods used are exemplified by the first kill in the film in which The U.S.Ambassador to the UK crosses paths with Thorn’s Rottweiler and then goes back to his office and kills himself by blowing his brains out, completely redecorating his office and ensuring that Thorn can now occupy his now vacant position. Oh and yes, that’s Ruby Wax playing his secretary in an uncredited role.


Thorn’s ascent to the top seems like plain sailing except that Jesus has his second coming shortly after this (I love the sequence in which this happens. Damo’s dog suddenly becomes extremely unsettled and Thorn literally wakes up in a cold sweat. And so he should). If that wasn’t enough, a group of priests who know who Thorn really is, have hold of the daggers that can kill him and are trying to bump him off. The road to the top was never smooth, Damien.

This was another film that I saw on TV in the 80s as a child. I remembered that I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought of it as a very entertaining and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy (this was before Part 4 had been made). I’m pleased to report that I haven’t changed my mind on rewatching the film.

One thing that I didn’t pick up on when I first watched the film was that there’s a devilish (pun not intended) sense of humour at play here. One example is when Damien is being made up for his big TV interview. The make-up artist starts to comb his hair causing Thorn to suddenly grab the comb from her hand (he didn’t want her to see his 666 birthmark) and say ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take care of that!’ I also loved that on walking through Speaker’s Corner (with his Rottweiler!), he comes face to face with someone ranting about the second coming of the anti-Christ. He’s closer than you think!


I also loved the frankly amateurish attempts by the priests to exterminate Thorn. They make the gang in The Ladykillers look like seasoned assassins. These scenes ensure magnificent kills like the man in the TV studio who suddenly finds himself suspended upside down, swinging through the air whilst being on fire. I also loved the guy who tries to kill Thorn when he’s surrounded by the dogs used in the fox hunt he’s participating in. Doesn’t he know that Thorn is like a really evil Dr Doolittle and can get animals to kill on his behalf?

And then there’s the storyline that involves Damien getting his assistant Harvey to kill all the children born on the day Jesus recently reappeared. This is one of the darkest episodes I think I’ve ever seen in a horror film and of course, resembles what Herod ordered in the Bible. This is some dark shit and I’m surprised the censors didn’t have more to say regarding this storyline.

The casting is as fantastic as it is in the other Omen films with the adult Damien being played impeccably by Sam Neill. He’s menacing, sinister but also knows how to highlight the sly humour in the script. I couldn’t think of another actor playing the adult Damien anywhere near as well.


I loved the religious euphoria of the ending with bible passages appearing on the screen and a vision of Christ making an appearance as good triumphs over evil. It really is something to behold.

4 stars out of 5


Review- Damien: The Omen 2 (1978)

Review- Damien: The Omen 2 (1978)

This is a film that I finally got to see when it was shown on late-night TV. My family had by then purchased a VCR and so the timer facility came in handy if a film I wanted to see was on too late for me. I would watch these cinematic shockers the next morning. Damien: The Omen 2 was one such film.

The demonic sequel shenanigans start a week after the end of the original film. Archaeologist Carl Bugenhagen (the brilliant Leo McKern) learns from the papers that Damien is still alive and so tells his friend Michael Morgan (the equally brilliant Ian Hendry- one of the great things about The Omen films was their fantastic casting which lends the films more than a degree of prestige) that Damien is, in fact, the Antichrist (imagine slipping that into breakfast conversation!) and that he must be killed with the daggers seen in the first film. Morgan is unconvinced and so Bugenhagen takes Morgan to see Yigael’s Wall, an artwork by a monk who said he saw the Devil and had visions of him from various stages of his life. As they look at this work of art, the tunnel that contains the wall collapses and they are buried alive along with the daggers. This sets into motion a pattern. Throughout the film, anyone who opposes Damien or finds out the truth about him being the antichrist finds themselves dispatched brutally and under suspicious circumstances.

Flash forward seven years. Damien Thorn is now 12 years old and living with his uncle Richard (the brother of his adoptive father who tried to bump him off at the end of the original film), his second wife Ann and his cousin Mark. Damien and Mark are very close as they are roughly the same age, but this is much to the chagrin of Richard’s aunt Marion who thinks that Damien is a bad influence on Mark. ‘Yep, she’ll get it for sure!’ I thought as I watched the film. And she does!

On rewatching Damien: The Omen 2 I was alarmed at just how good it is. This could have been a case of the sequel going full exploitation and sacrificing the sophistication and directorial grace of the original. Granted, Damien: The Omen 2 isn’t as well directed as the original but it still holds its own.

But saying that, the sequel isn’t some anaemic bore-fest either. There are enough shocking sequences to satisfy the most avid horror fan. Just as the original film had some truly horrifying kills (the nanny hanging herself, the beheading by a pane of glass, the impaling by a falling lightning rod), the sequel has some that are just as brutal. A satanic crow replaces the Rottweiler from the first film and is responsible for a character having a huge heart attack and also pecks out another character’s eyes before she is run over by a truck. The death under frozen ice that occurs in the film is one of the most shocking kills I think I’ve ever seen in a movie. The fact that the victim can be seen through the ice drifting along but can’t be rescued was a nice touch (if you can call it that).

But another aspect of Damien: The Omen 2 which lifts it above just being a nasty shockfest is the character arc which Damien himself goes through. We see that he knows he’s different but doesn’t quite know why or how. This fits with any typical teenager, uncomfortable within their skin, trying to find their identity and place in the world (although it’s a bit more serious in this case). I also saw parallels with someone who might be gay and is slowly coming around to this realisation.  These sequences also reminded me of the teenage Clark Kent and his realisation of who he really is in the original Superman film.

Damien displays his otherness throughout the film in scenes like the fight he has with one of the other cadets in the military academy in which he doesn’t have to lift a finger and also when he is naming the years of historical events when questioned by one of his teachers.

The big reveal for Damien comes later on in the film which leads him to use a mirror to look for the 666 birthmark on his scalp. He finds it and looks like he’s just been winded. He runs away, finding a solitary space to scream ‘Why me?!’ This was a great touch and a great character arc for the antichrist to be. He, of course, comes to terms with his destiny later on in the film and to chilling effect.

I also loved the relationship between Damien and Mark, which ends tragically. Mark now knows that his friend is the antichrist. Damien asks him to follow him on his journey, but by doing so Mark will have to accept and approve of who Damien really is. Mark declines and drops dead after having a seizure after Damien has caused an aneurysm in his brain to burst (a very shocking death). It’s at this point that we see that Damien has accepted his position and is willing to demolish anyone who gets in his way, even someone who is as good as family and who he has just professed to love a moment earlier. This is a stunning scene and also a very shocking one.


Another aspect of the film that I love is that there are characters that know who Damien really is, are strategically placed to make his journey to adulthood as smooth as possible so that nothing can possibly jeopardise this and are seemingly in awe of Damien. One such character is Sergeant Neff at the military academy played by the ever-brilliant Lance Henricksen. There’s a huge spoiler regarding this aspect of the film but I’m certainly not going to reveal it. Let’s just say I forgot all about it on rewatching the film. I didn’t see it coming and it came as a brilliant surprise. These characters are the mirror image of the characters who discover who Damien is and try to stop him. Empathy vs lack of empathy.

Just as the first film had an esteemed cast, the sequel also has a cast that is just as respectable. William Holden, Lee Grant, the aforementioned Leo McKern, Ian Hendry and Lance Henricksen all lend weight to the film’s gravitas and inhabit their roles amazingly. Jonathan Scott-Taylor is perfect as Damien (viewers might recognise him from one of the more renowned episodes of Tales of the Unexpected entitled Galloping Foxley).

A sequel that is almost as good as, if not as good as the original film. Who would have thought it?! Damien: The Omen 2 may lack some of the polish and directorial flare of the first film but Don Taylor does a fantastic job still. In all honesty, Damien: Omen 2 feels very different to the first film and so I don’t feel the need to compare both and try to ascertain which one I like more. Both are fantastic films and I look forward to next watching Damien’s adult hijinx in The Final Conflict.


Damien: Omen 2 has made me look at ravens in a very different light. And I will take the stairs from now on and avoid lifts at all costs.

4 stars out of 5

Review- Amityville 3D (1983)

Review- Amityville 3D (1983)

You have a horror franchise about a haunted house. The first film is pretty well made, has a great cast and occasionally dips its toe into exploitation territory. It does well at the box office. The sequel goes FULL exploitation and even has a taboo subplot that will make even the most seasoned horror fan want to douse themselves in bleach at the griminess of it.

But how do you follow these two films up? You shoot the next instalment in 3D of course!


With this fad, two kinds of film utilised this newly resurrected and perfected format. Firstly, there were those films that would be good whether 3D was used or not. The filmmakers used the format well and clearly had a ball. It furthered how great the film was and was utilised brilliantly, not just for the horror elements of the film but also for the humourous sequences with an eye (pun not intended) to the gimmick being used (take a bow, Friday the 13th 3D).

But then you had the films that were weak to begin with and used 3D to try and mask this fact. It was almost like the producers of these films were thinking ‘Those bozos who go to see horror films will see this as it’s in 3D, even if the film stinks.’ Bums on seats and healthy box office returns were wanted, nothing more. Take a bow, Jaws 3D.


Unfortunately, Amityville 3D is nearer to Jaws 3D than it is to Jason’s adventures in the new medium. It starts out well enough with a couple of investigative reporters exposing a team of con artists who are pretending to be mediums who can communicate with the dead. They stage a seance in the notorious Amityville house (what a place to stage such an event) and then are exposed as fake during it. The reporters decide to buy the house and intend on showing that the house isn’t haunted and isn’t worthy of its paranormal reputation.

But after this, the film just degenerates into what has come before. The use of 3D is lukewarm and again pales in comparison to Friday the 13th third entry. We have Meg Ryan in a supporting role (when she became a huge star years later the subsequent DVD releases of this film would cynically give her star billing) but a good few years before she acquired her trout pout via lip fillers (imagine seeing those in 3D. Now that would be terrifying). Candy Clark also stars but not even her presence can make this enjoyable.


It’s all been seen before. When the inevitable flies made an appearance I royally rolled my eyes. What had been a knowing nod to all things giallo in the original film has now become a well-worn cliche. It will take a lot more than a few flies to terrify me.

The episode in the psychotic lift in which it travels up and down slightly faster than normal didn’t terrify me but just made me think that 1. I could be watching the excellent The Lift from the same year and 2. A lift going quicker is a cause for celebration rather than something to find horrifying.

There’s even a plot device used within the film wherein pictures taken in the house show evil faces and future victims as rotting corpses. This is a blatant rip-off of The Omen.

We even have the well-worn cliche of the Ouija board that pops up out of nowhere which just reminded me that I could be watching The Exorcist. The worst kinds of movies are the mediocre ones. A sure sign of such a film is that it makes you think of other superior movies that you could be having a much better time watching instead. Oh, and they’re boring.

And if there’s one sentiment that sums up Amityville 3D for me, it’s this. I’m glad I finally saw it as I remember the video artwork from my childhood so vividly, but boy, what a disappointment. In fact, instead of watching this turkey of a film just look at the video artwork and imagine a much better film.


1 star out of 5

Review- The Omen (1976)

Review- The Omen (1976)

There are so many major films that I remember seeing on TV when they were shown for the first time. These first screenings were such big news in the UK. Jaws, Superman and The Omen all spring to mind.


It was high time that I reinvestigated The Omen. It tells the story of Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) arriving at the hospital in which his wife Katherine has just given birth. However, events haven’t gone to plan and Thorn learns that their firstborn has died shortly after being born. However, he is told that another mother had given birth but had died during the procedure. Would he consider telling his wife that this baby was in fact the child she had given birth to? He agrees especially as she had experienced several miscarriages prior. However, strange events start to happen as the child grows up. It is soon established that the child is, in fact, the second coming of the antichrist as Thorn is approached several times by a very sinister doom-predicting priest.


On watching the film I couldn’t believe just how many scenes are now so well known. These scenes and signifiers from the film have been absorbed into the public consciousness. The name Damien now has connotations of evil when used in other productions (one example is the use of the name in the comedy series Only Fools and Horses) due to its use here first. Iconic scenes include the nanny killing herself at Damien’s fifth birthday party (‘It’s all for you, Damien!) along with Katherine’s deathly stare as she witnesses what has just happened (this image of Lee Remick’s startled expression alone must be one of the most well known of the whole of the horror genre), the 666 birthmark on Damien’s scalp, the use of the Rottweiler as guardian and demonic watch-dog of the young anti-christ, the photographer who can predict who will be next for Damien’s wrath by the strange interference he sees on the photographs he takes of the soon to be bumped-off,  the scene in which Damien is taken to a church for a wedding, the trip to the wildlife park…the list goes on.


The cast is a powerhouse of acting brilliance and lends the film massive credibility. In fact, some actors would only be signed up to act in the film if it was treated as a classy psychological thriller rather than as a tacky exploitation film (take a bow, Gregory Peck. Although, as most of you will know, I do love a gorgeous slice of exploitation). In fact, before Peck was cast other actors who were considered for the role were Oliver Reed, Roy Scheider, Dick Van Dyke and Charles Bronson. I would love to see The Omen with Bronson as part of the cast.

But, whilst The Omen is a ‘classy’ production, it still packs a punch when it comes to the kills. The nanny hanging, the priest being impaled by a falling lightning rod and the photographer’s beheading by a pale of glass are all gory and nasty enough to satiate the most ravenous horror fan.


But whilst the cast is uniformly brilliant, on this occasion I was watching intently Harvey Stephens as the infant devil child. He’s brilliant! As he’s just a child he has very little dialogue and so has to emote through facial expressions alone. Watch how his face changes on the drive up to the church, how he acts like half Beelzebub, half troublesome toddler when his mother is trying to rest, his scenes in the safari park. He is perfectly cast as sweet little child, half devilish little brat. The end scene of him smiling at the camera made my blood run cold. And he had every reason to smile. He had ‘sequel’ written all over him.


Add to this heady brew Jerry Goldsmith’s fantastic score (his use of the demonic choral singing was perfect), Richard Donner’s gorgeous direction (every shot is perfectly and stylishly framed) and the classy locales of both London and Italy and you have a horror classic.

All I can say is that I’m glad I’m gay and will never have kids. I’d love to have a Rottweiler though. Guess what I’ll call him?!

5 stars out of 5

Review- McLibel (2006)

Review- McLibel (2006)

Dave Morris and Helen Steel are members of activist group London Greenpeace. They produce a leaflet extolling the reasons as to why they are opposed to the McDonald’s chain of restaurants with reasons given such as animal cruelty, deforestation so that land can be created for their cattle to graze and the company’s hatred of trade union activity within their workplaces. They are then served a writ by the company. Whilst others have issued a public apology when this has happened in the past (Channel 4 News and Linda McCartney being two such examples) they choose to take on the multinational corporation in the courts.


This documentary is stunning. There were many moments when my mouth dropped open in disbelief at what I was seeing and the lengths McDonald’s went to in response to Dave and Helen’s criticisms of them. There was a sudden influx of new members to the group. Helen remarked to Dave that it wouldn’t surprise her if these new members were actually spies from McDonald’s. Dave says she’s being paranoid. But she wasn’t. The new members were plants from the corporation to keep tabs on group activities and what they were planning to do next. What’s more, these infiltrators who were really private investigators employed by Ronald and co. were also receiving information from The Metropolitan Police regarding the group and it’s members.

Also, Dave’s young son attends an after-school club. Out of nowhere, it’s announced that none other than Ronald McDonald (and his minders) would be paying a visit to the club, encouraging kids to eat at McDonald’s. What a coincidence.

I love the David vs Goliath aspect to this film. Two people who say that their consciences wouldn’t allow them to apologise to a big corporation just because they were faced with legal action is utterly fantastic and shows that principles and beliefs still count for something in the world.


The outcome is a Pyrrhic victory for the company- they win the case and Helen and Dave are ordered to pay £60,000 (which they say they won’t pay out of principal and because they don’t have the money to pay it anyway. McDonald’s don’t pursue the payment) but McDonald’s legal fees were much higher than this. And whilst some points made in the London Greenpeace leaflet were found to be libellous, the judge found half of the points made by the pair to be true.

But the greatest triumph was that it was shown that if you don’t back down, sometimes the outcome isn’t as bad as you think it will be. If you have truth and principles on your side then even the might of a huge multinational corporation can be squashed.

The young solicitor who assists Dave and Helen is none other than Keir Starmer who is now, of course, the leader of the Labour Party here in the UK.


The slaughterhouse footage won’t just make you stop eating at McDonald’s but also have you thinking about becoming vegetarian.

This is a terrific documentary that shows that sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. McLibel is the kind of honest and brave filmmaking that makes the documentary genre so important.

4.5 stars out of 5

Review- Amityville 2: The Possession (1982)

Review- Amityville 2: The Possession (1982)

Oh boy. If you’ve seen Amityville 2 you’ll know what I mean. The makers of this movie must have thought that to compete with the original film and indeed outgross it they must make it as extreme as possible. And they really succeeded.


A new family have moved into the infamous house and start to experience the kind of paranormal hi-jinx that the Lutzes experienced. You know the kind of thing- blood coming out of the taps, a strange knocking on the door when everyone else is outside, sacrilegious paintings suddenly appearing on the walls inside the property…

Just your average family…

But what I love about this film is that the new family who have moved in are completely dysfunctional already. Any family that has a father played by Burt Young is bound to be messed up. There is major animosity between him and his eldest son, Sonny. He’s also violent towards his wife and kids and then there’s that storyline. The film depicts an incestuous relationship between Sonny and his sister which made me want to run to the shower to scrub myself down with bleach after seeing it.

The question is, did the evil inside the house amplify these dysfunctional qualities within the family or were they already there?

The film then follows Sonny and his possession by the evil in the house as he starts to transform into a demon. These sequences really are something to behold and kudos must be paid to the makeup department and special effects employed. Sure, when the local priest starts to speak to Sonny’s evil inhabitant I started to think of Regan and Karras in The Exorcist but it was still an interesting final act.


The film’s director Damiano Damiani (what a name!) had actually envisaged the film as being even more extreme than the released version but had to cut a couple of scenes after negative responses from the audience at test screenings. These scenes were the anal rape of Delores by Anthony and the actual incestuous sex between Sonny and his sister.

The screenplay for this opus was written by none other than Tommy Lee Wallace who would go on to direct the fantastic Halloween 3: Season of the Witch.


Amityville 2 is sleazy, grimy and pushes boundaries even for the horror and exploitation films of that era. In other words, it’s a great piece of entertainment.

4 stars out of 5

Meathook Cinema Hall of Fame- Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Meathook Cinema Hall of Fame- Night of the Living Dead (1968)

The first time I saw George A Romero’s masterpiece Night of the Living Dead it was actually a colourised version being distributed by Palace Video (home of The Evil Dead). ‘Sacrilege!’ I hear you cry. But with no other version of the film to compare it to, I quite liked it. Even after colourisation, the film retained its power to shock and astound. I bought this version in the late 80s as sell-through video had just become ‘the thing’ with films being sold for roughly £10 a pop. It was the best tenner I had ever spent.

Then, finally, in the late ’90s widescreen films on video were the new ‘thing’. Goodbye, pan and scan with each side of the film missing. Night was released in this format and *shock horror* in the black and white it had originally been shot in. The transfer was also remarkable. I never knew the original film looked so beautiful. This Tartan release put the kitsch colourisation in the shade (no pun intended).

I then saw that through rights issues associated with the film, it was being reissued on various cheap labels as DVD became the latest film medium to buy. Most of these transfers left a lot to be desired (hello again pan and scan my old friend).

But, partly through the cultural worth of the film and partly through karma, the film would years later be released in 4K on Blu-Ray and on the ever-excellent Criterion label. This is for all intents and purposes the definitive version. It’s fantastic and packed with special features. That’s one thing about being old(er)- living through the amazing era of home videos and onwards you get to see your favourite films released on whatever the latest format is and hopefully restored and cleaned up. Hooray for film preservation.

But what is it about Night of the Living Dead that makes it one of the greatest horror films ever made? The story begins with Johnny and Barbra visiting their late father’s grave. A shambling figure approaches them (giving birth to one of the most iconic lines in film history- ‘They’re coming to get you, Barbra!’) and suddenly lurches at Barbra. Johnny tries to fight his sister’s assailant but is knocked out in the tussle. Barbra makes it to a seemingly abandoned farmhouse and finds a female occupant not just dead but half-eaten. Barbra is joined by a young man called Ben after seeing other shambling figures approaching the house. It would appear that they aren’t alone in the house as a young couple called Tom and Judy and a family called the Coopers (Harry, Helen and their young daughter who has been bitten by one of the undead) have been down in the cellar the whole time.

There are mutterings from Harry that what is happening is some sort of widespread mass murder. The group then later find out from a TV news report that it is thought that a satellite that visited Venus was shot down after it was found that it contained a radiation that has caused the dead to rise up from their graves and see the living as their primary food source.

I love the fact that Night starts out like any other horror film of the era but then starts to mutate into a film that audiences had never seen up until that point whether it was regarding the action within the plot or the structure of the film.

Drive-in and Grindhouse audiences were to see the complete breakdown of society. That’s heady stuff for an evening’s entertainment and massively ambitious for a low-budget horror film from an, at that time, unknown film director.

The film was also a first in that the lead female character very quickly becomes catatonic and withdraws inside herself very quickly after reaching the farmhouse because of the trauma of what has just happened to her and her brother. If that wasn’t enough she then sees the half-eaten corpse of the previous female occupant of the farmhouse. Usually within films until that point, leading characters were established as they were there until the bitter end. Romero exploits this and demolishes audiences’ expectations. In fact, Romero even tops Hitchcock here who disposed of his supposed leading character Marion Crane in the shower in Psycho early on in that film’s runtime. Barbra for much of her screen time in Night is either withdrawn from the outside world or hysterical.

There’s a very poignant and unsettling moment when she accidentally triggers a music box to start. What would have been innocent and comforting in other circumstances is now rendered sober, sad and utterly heartbreaking as we see Barbra’s face through the slots of the contraption as it spins. The days of civilisation and order are now over. How Barbra meets her end is bother sad, vicious and ironic as she is finally reunited with her brother albeit in zombie form.

I love the film’s pessimism. One prime example is when Tom and Judy assist Ben in trying to refuel his truck at a nearby petrol pump, the petrol from the pump spills and is set alight by the lit torches they are holding. The truck with Tom and Judy in it catches fire and then explodes. We later see the zombies chowing down on the couple’s entrails. As if this wasn’t enough, when Ben approaches the house and bangs on the door to be let back in, we see Harry ignore his banging and set off back into the cellar. Ben kicks in the door, sees Harry setting off back downstairs and beats him for this. It would appear that the breakdown of society has brought out the various characters’ true natures.

Robin Wood had a theory known as the Return of the Repressed about film but was influenced by Freud. Wood argues that ‘the repressed represented the surplus that existed in society but had not been allowed to exist openly, left lingering under one’s bed or hidden in the closet.’ In Night this seems to be regarding the issue of the family. The myth of the nuclear family being the only family form or specifically the only acceptable or functional family form is attacked here. Firstly, it could be seen that the seven people who have found themselves together within the confines of the farmhouse could be seen as an alternative family form who must work together or die. With any family form, there are power struggles with, in this instance, Ben and Harry jostling for the top spot. Ben wants control for the genuine good of everyone in his new family, Harry wants to be the ‘father’ figure for the mere power and control of the position and so that he can do everything for himself rather than for anyone else.

The nuclear family in the film are shown in its reality rather than the false depiction conveyed in the media and advertising. Helen and Harry are stuck in a loveless marriage. As Helen starts a sentence at one point ‘We may not like each other…’ There is also a point in the film in which Helen has overstepped the mark with what she is saying to Harry. As he angrily throws down the cigarette he is smoking, she expectantly stops talking, almost like she knows what’s coming (a backhander). This is a very subtle depiction of the implied domestic violence within their marriage. This directly goes against the false myth of the nuclear family being the preferred and most functional family form in American society at that time.

The nuclear family within the film is also, literally attacked and eaten from the inside later in the film when we see Karen, now in zombie form, chowing down on her Dad’s arm after he has been shot by Ben. She then grabs a trowel and stabs her mother to death with it. Do we need a clearer depiction of both Romero’s, Wood’s and possibly society’s view on the myth of the nuclear family? I remember a module I took at University which was devoted to the horror film. The lecturer said ‘This is when the modern horror film was born’ and then he showed the clip of Karen killing her mother. I agree with him.

And then we have the film’s ending. Oh boy. Firstly, if you haven’t seen Night of the Living Dead, stop reading and watch it. It’s on YouTube and waiting for you! The film’s conclusion finds Ben, the only survivor, stumbling up from the basement. There is a posse of zombie hunters who see him, MAYBE mistake him for a zombie (but we don’t know for sure) and shoot him in the head. The closing credits then play with stills of Ben dead, his body being hoisted up by the posse with meat hooks and then placed on a mound and set alight.

Not only is there the fact that the only living human being from the farmhouse has been killed and the twisted irony of this event but also the fact that Ben is black and his killing by the lynch mob could obviously stand for something else. This is the most shocking conclusion of any film I’ve ever seen. The power of what we’ve just seen occur and the fate of this strong, amazing character is very difficult to watch and my blood always runs cold when I see this sequence.

Key to this scene is the music used by Romero. In fact, the music within the whole film is amazing with the director using appropriate library music for the film. This masterful use of library music would be utilised again in Romero’s sequel to Night which is, of course, Dawn of the Dead, a sequel just as brilliant as Night.

The influence of NOTLD would pop up in movies that I saw after my first viewing of this classic. The gang members in Assault on Precinct 13, the chowing down of entrails in John Waters’ Pink Flamingos and just about every other horror movie that featured zombies being prime examples.

In 1999 Night was deemed to be ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant’ by The Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. And rightly so.

If you haven’t seen NOTLD, you can’t call yourself a true horror fan. Period.

Review- The Amityville Horror (1979)

Review- The Amityville Horror (1979)

One of the first video sleeves I ever saw was for The Amityville Horror which just so happened to be on one of my favourite video labels, Guild Home Video (the people who have ever seen the opening ident for Guild will know why I love it so much) in one of the first video shops that opened in my area. The eye-popping visuals were so intoxicating as it looked like Margot Kidder was going to be attacked with an axe. After my family rented the movie, I then tracked down Jay Anson’s paperback that the movie is based on.


The film concerns a young family who move into a house where a young man had killed his entire family. And they wonder why the house price was so low.

Cue all manner of haunted house shenanigans- flies, crucifixes being turned upside down, the kids suddenly acquiring imaginary friends, red eyes being seen through the window at night, black ooze overflowing from the toilet…the list is endless.


The Amityville Horror is one of those films that divides my opinion. Sometimes I love it and find it really sinister with an ability to get under my skin. But on other occasions, it feels like every camp and childish haunted house cliche has been poured into a movie that is actually just based on a hoax. I realise that a lot of these ingredients weren’t cliches when the film was released but there are so many ‘scary’ and unnatural things that we see happen in the house (and sometimes outside it) that it feels like the filmmakers over-egged the pudding. The sheer volume of such incidents is so vast that after a while they stop being shocking or horrific.

Saying that though, I love the captions that show how long the family endured the house and its horrors. I always love it when I read the caption ‘The Last Day’. But I always think that if I had been in their situation I would have left a long time before. Like on the first day.

There are some funny moments though- watch out for the vomiting nun and the worst teeth brace you’ll ever see. It looks like some kind of torture device. Apparently, they used wire coathangers to correct wonky teeth back in the day. Who knew.


Also, Margot Kidder seems to have some kind of naughty schoolgirl, proto-Britney Spears vibe going on in this film. She’s all pigtails and short skirts with thigh-length socks. A bit pervy. Keep your fantasies in the bedroom, hun. Her husband is played by James Brolin who is here in uber-bear mode, all beard and flannel shirts. Look out for the scene of him in his tighty whiteys. Also, look at how he becomes more unhinged as the film progresses and how his physical self dramatically changes because of this.

Lalo Schfrin’s score is excellent. On the surface, it sounds like the most cliched theme ever to be written for a film about a haunted house, all children’s voices la-la-la-ing their way through a children’s lullaby. But listen to how with each reprise of this theme throughout the film it’s made more distorted and off-kilter by the use of a water phone and electronic trickery. Also, check out the use of subsonic rumbling sounds that are actually present on the film’s soundtrack too. The music score is a lot more innovative and nuanced than on first listen.

3 stars out of 5

Review- Deep River Savages (1972)

Review- Deep River Savages (1972)

Umberto Lenzi’s film has gone by many different names with Mondo Cannibale and Sacrifice! being but two of them. But it was when it was released on UK video as Deep River Savages that it gained controversy during the Video Nasties furore.


This was actually one of the few Video Nasties I had never seen before. I was expecting some inept, scratchy awful Z-grade movie. How wrong I was! The print I saw of the film was gorgeous with the stunning cinematography being shown in all of its glory and with a colour palate that bursts from the screen. The version I watched was the UK DVD version which had all of the controversial animal cruelty cut out which I am more than OK with.

The plot concerns British photographer and Flash Gordon lookalike John Bradley travelling to Thailand to photograph the rainforest there. He accidentally kills a man who pulls a knife on him in a bar with Bradley turning the knife on his aggressor during the scuffle. He then voyages further into the rainforest and is soon taken captive by a tribe there.

There are many shocking scenes within the film and the contraption that Bradley is placed in that was predominately featured on the movie posters used to publicise the film is very much something to behold. But there is poignancy within the film with Bradley falling in love with a female member of the tribe.


Was Deep River Savages so shocking that it deserved to be banned outright and placed on the Video Nasties list? Of course not. It’s an engaging, thoroughly enjoyable yarn that is visually sumptuous. Ironically if the film didn’t receive the notoriety that it did back in the day then maybe it would have disappeared into obscurity rather than being of interest still to fans of horror and exploitation films. The print I watched had obviously been restored and cleaned up and for such a labour of love to be carried out on a film such as Deep River Savages makes me think that some people saw the film as worth preserving. That’s utterly commendable.

4 stars out of 5

Review- Jaws 2 (1978)

Review- Jaws 2 (1978)

When I first saw Jaws 2 I was 6 years old and I watched it when it was first shown on network TV. I loved it and I thought of it as a worthy sequel to the original. Would I feel the same as a 48-year-old?


Erm, no. Let’s get the obvious out of the way first (not that I really need to even write it)- Jaws 2 isn’t a patch on the original. When I’m asked what I think of as a perfect film, I instantly think of Jaws. And GoodFellas. And Bloodsucking Freaks.

Several of the original cast reappear and why wouldn’t they? They can now command top dollar for starring in a sequel to a film that was trouncing box office records at the time. Apparently lead star Scheider was unhappy about the film and was only cast so that he could get out of a three-picture deal he had at that time with the studio. Spielberg doesn’t direct but instead, Jeannot Szwarc takes over the mantle. Szwarc had directed the masterpiece Bug and would go on to direct another favourite of mine, Supergirl.

The plot- there’s another shark. That’s it. We have more opposition from Murray Hamilton’s mayor who still insists on placing dollars ahead of holidaymakers becoming potential shark chow. And Chief Brody still sounds deliriously paranoid when he tries to convince everyone that there’s now another shark.


It was like the filmmakers substituted the art and innovation of the original with even more extreme scenarios. Who would win if Jaws decided to take on a helicopter?! Guess the outcome.

But for all of its preposterous plot points, Jaws 2 is a solid hour and a half of entertainment. There’s a button in your head which has the words ‘Suspend Disbelief’ on it. Press that, grab the biggest bowl of popcorn and a few beers and Jaws 2 is a fun flick.

I love the fact that such a film should send the studios into overdrive regarding merchandise. There was even a Jaws 2 colouring book that was produced. Please try to colour within the lines of that severed arm.


2/5 stars out of 5