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- 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- 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- Tales From The Crypt (1972)

Review- Tales From The Crypt (1972)

Five tourists who are exploring old catacombs find themselves separated from the main group they are with and instead in the company of The Crypt Keeper. He seemingly details how each of them will die.


The film then presents five separate stories regarding each character. These are ‘All Through The House’ in which on Christmas Eve Joanne is shown bumping off her husband for his life insurance but meets with instant karma in the guise of an escaped maniac dressed as Santa Claus, ‘Reflection of Death’ in which Carl abandons his family to go and live with his mistress. This is interrupted however when they are involved in a car accident. When he escapes the car he tries to hitchhike back home but finds that anyone whom he crosses paths with are horrified by his appearance. Another story is Poetic Justice in which an old widower is hounded out of his house by his rich neighbours. The next short film is Wish You Were Here in which a couple find that they have an antique that can grant them three wishes but with disastrous consequences. The final story is Blind Alleys in which the inhabitants of a home for the blind revolt against the abusive owner of the home who lives in luxury at their expense.

The Crypt Keeper than tells the five that he wasn’t warning them of their deaths and what will happen but what had happened and how they will spend eternity for their sins as it’s too late for repentance.

This British Amicus production is excellent and directed with verve and brilliance by the ever-fantastic Freddie Francis.

The cast are to die for (pun not intended) with HRH Joan Collins, Peter Cushing and Ian Hendry being amongst the big hitters.


The stories here are based on stories from the EC Comics Tales From The Crypt and The Vault of Horror. Because of this many of the scares are visual and visceral rather than plot based. This works really well and sets the film apart from other similar works.

My favourite segment? All Through The House. I could actually watch Joan Collins all day long. She’s one of the greatest actresses to have graced the horror genre.

4 stars out of 5

Review- Tales That Witness Madness (1973)

Review- Tales That Witness Madness (1973)

A psychiatrist shows a colleague some of his clients whilst explaining their backstories.


A young boy has a nightly visitor- a tiger who will kill for him, an antique dealer has a Penny Farthing that he inherited from his aunt that allows him to travel back in time, Joan Collins finds that she must compete with a tree (!) for her husband’s affections and a young woman is sacrificed so that a character’s mother is assured a safe passage to heaven.


Tales That Witness Madness is engaging enough, has a great cast (Donald Pleasance, HRH Joanie Collins, Kim Novak) and is terrifically directed by Freddie Francis. But, it’s just a bit tame. It feels like a series of Tales of the Unexpected episodes stitched together. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but as this is film and not television there was an opportunity for more gore or freakiness.


Not the worst horror film I’ve ever seen, but there are better horror anthologies out there.

2.5 stars out of 5

Review- Corruption (1968)

Review- Corruption (1968)

Wanna see what would happen if someone as old school as Peter Cushing went to a groovy late 60s Swinging London happening? If so then Corruption is the film for you.


Cushing plays plastic surgeon Sir John Rowan who after getting into a fight with Anthony Booth’s sleazy photographer accidentally disfigures his fiancee’s face after a heat lamp falls onto her. Rowan tries experimental surgery involving the transplanting of young women’s pituitary glands which seems to make his partner’s disfigurement disappear. We see John kill a West End prostitute for this purpose. Unfortunately, the effects of this pioneering new surgery is only temporary which means that Rowan must kill time and time again to repeat the procedure and bring back his fiancee’s looks to their former glory.


Things then take a bizarre twist when a gang of friends of one of the missing girls invade the home of John and his partner.

This movie is fantastic. There are moments that are completely unhinged and insane. In other words, my favourite kind of cinema. Check out the chase scene that has been sped up and involves the characters wearing the kind of late 60s colours that make your retinas bleed. It’s like a Benny Hill sketch on acid. Also, Cushing is surprisingly maniacal when he’s bumping the women off.


Of course, there are comparisons with Eyes Without a Face that can be made but Corruption ventures into different avenues altogether.

Corruption shocked critics and audiences alike with its graphic violence at the time of its release. It still has the ability to shock today.

Off-kilter, left-field and batshit crazy. Not to be missed.

4.5 stars out of 5

Review- The Mutations (1974)

Review- The Mutations (1974)

A genetic engineering professor is trying to further his knowledge by experimenting on humans and passing on the results to the leader of a circus freak show who has a glandular disorder which has affected his appearance. He actually used to be part of the act himself.


This film is a doozy. There’s so much to love here. The opening credits of time-lapse footage of flowers blooming and mushrooms sprouting is gorgeous. This goes into a lecture being given by the professor (played by legend Donald Pleasance) and it’s so captivating that I thought that an hour and a half of this would make me happy.


I loved that the ‘freaks’ in the circus act are treated with utter respect and as the gorgeous human beings they are. The obvious reference point here is Tod Browning’s similarly brilliant film Freaks. But, The Mutations distinctly has the feel of a 70’s exploitation film. The circus act leader is played by Tom Baker (who in my humble opinion is the best Doctor Who) and as ever his performance is fantastic. I love the sequence where he goes to Soho and visits a prostitute. This reminded me of an early scene in slasher classic The Burning in which Cropsy goes in search of ahem, female company. In fact, there is another similarity here: Cropsy and Baker’s character dress in a long coat, a scarf obscuring their features resplendent with a large hat. Both characters look like the villain from a Giallo movie.

In fact, The Mutations is also a great 70’s London movie. There’s even a scene that takes place outside the Royal Albert Hall with beautiful shots of the gorgeous architecture.

The makeup is fantastic and way ahead of its time. Stills of these creations were used extensively for publicity for the film.

The music by Basil Kirchin and Jack Nathan is extraordinary. It contains such leftfield fare as oscillating sounds fed through darkly psychedelic effects and loud discordant violins. The composers were truly thinking outside the box and it reminded me of the great soundtracks for such films as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes.  I hope one day the soundtrack for The Mutations will be released as an album.

The Mutations is a fantastic piece of British 70’s horror that is terrifying and hallucinatory but also very humane where it counts. It also fantastically depicts a time in British horror history when there seemed to be no limits especially when it came to imagination.

4.5 stars out of 5

Review- Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)

Review- Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)

The first thing I noticed when watching this Tigon film was the incredible cast. It’s like a wet dream for horror fans (Boris Karloff! Christopher Lee! Barbara Steele !) A welcome surprise was seeing that Mark Eden who played Alan Bradley from Coronation Street was also in the cast.


Eden plays Robert Manning who is searching for his brother who was going to Greymarsh, the town where they grew up. Robert heads to the property his brother was staying in, Craxted Lodge and finds a party to be in full swing. He meets a partygoer, Eve whose uncle, Morley (Christopher Lee) owns the property. Eve introduces them but Morley doesn’t know of Robert’s brother and convinces him to stay the night so that he can continue to look for his brother the next day. His sleep is disturbed by a very trippy nightmare that depicts some kind of ritual and a green witch (Steele) presiding over proceedings.  The next day Robert is introduced to Professor John Marsh (Karloff) who just so happens to have a collection of torture implements (red flag or red herring?) and is an expert in witchcraft and the occult (red flag or red herring?). Robert continues to search for his brother and have even freakier and frighteningly real nightmares.


I loved this Vernon Sewell-directed British horror film. I love how late 60s Swinging London culture had permeated into the film, with the party being a full-on groovy happening, man with body painting and bright colours. The filmmakers were obviously not just going for the horror crowd but also a counterculture demographic who went to see far-out movies late at night.

But this isn’t the only sequence that utilised a colour palate that could make your eyes water. The dream/nightmare sequences are stunning and very hallucinatory. I love how they end with kaleidoscope-esque visuals. I also love how the jury in the witch’s courtroom all wear animal masks with the goat mask wearer being centre stage. Events are just a little bit kinky too with the muscle-bound blacksmith wearing very skimpy trunks. He looks like he should be in a Frankie Goes To Hollywood video.


I also love how everything is accounted for using logic and rational explanations by the end, a bit like the end of an episode of Scooby Doo. Even the potential plot holes are stitched up (‘Hypnosis!’) But whilst we are led to believe that there is no real (black) magic within the film’s narrative, the film’s final frames prove otherwise.


The entire cast is fantastic and everyone is on top form. Alas, this was to be one of Karloff’s final film appearances before he ascended to the film studio in the sky.

4 stars out of 5

Review- Countess Dracula (1971)

Review- Countess Dracula (1971)

A little anecdote before I start my review. I lived in London where I went to university and studied Film. I stayed on after uni for 13 years. There were many famous people who I respected that I saw in passing and spoke to. It would take one hell of a celebrity for me to feel starstruck and not have the balls to go up and chat to. One such person was Ingrid Pitt. I’ve been smitten with this divine creature ever since I saw her in horror films when I was a boy. She was standing on a Tube station platform and I couldn’t believe my eyes. She was as regal and gorgeous as ever and she stood in such high standing for me that I was too intimidated to go up and say hello. Now, on with the review…

I first saw Countess Dracula in 1987 when Tyne Tees Television were showing most of Hammer Studio’s glorious output. The film is based on the real-life figure of Elizabeth Bathory. Pitt plays Countess Elizabeth Nadasdy who becomes younger when she bathes in the blood of young female virgins. When Elizabeth becomes younger she takes on the identity of her 17-year-old daughter Ilona whom she has arranged to be held captive in a secluded hut in a nearby forest so that Elizabeth’s secret isn’t exposed.


This film is glorious. It’s risque because of its subject matter and also brings in other taboo (for those times) elements such as lesbianism. Countess Dracula feels like it was pushing boundaries in film and clearly relishes doing it.

It’s also risque because it’s just a little bit rude. I love the scene where Elizabeth speaks to young Lieutenant Imre Toth for the first time and her gaze lowers from his face to, erm, lower down on his body. Pitt is perfect casting as the Countess with a simmering, smouldering sexuality and natural charm that is possessed in spades by the actress.


There’s also some cracking dialogue within the film. When a domestic states that her daughter is missing, Elizabeth’s husband Captain Dobi pithily replies ‘Have you tried the local whorehouse?’ I thought I was watching a John Waters film for a moment.


I also love the fact that Elizabeth gets craggier and appears to decompose when she hasn’t bathed in blood for a while. The fact that this happens suddenly and not gradually is also another great feature of the narrative and rather unfortunate for Elizabeth.

This also happens in reverse- when she receives the youth-giving elixir of a virgin’s blood, she instantly appears younger. The sequence in which a domestic cuts herself very badly with the blood splattering on Elizabeth who instantly appears younger and is revitalised is fantastic.


Countess Dracula is one of my favourite Hammer films. Perfectly cast, shot and scripted. It also introduced me to the goddess that is Ingrid Pitt. Job done.

4 stars out of 5