Wednesday, 5 October 2011



When I saw the premise of this movie, namely 'Guy in near future that has run out of oil invents car that runs on blood', it immediately conjured up an image in my mind of what this horror-comedy would be like.

Well, the film was absolutely nothing like I expected it to be in terms of tone and mood, but it was unquestionably good.

It's a cripplingly-low budget post-modern anti-consumerist black comedy in which Vegan kindergarten teacher Archie Andrews is labouring away unsuccessfully in his attempts to create a motor which runs off of various vegetarian food sources.

We see his dilemma every day as he stops off at the vegan food kiosk ran by archetypal nice girl Lorraine, which just so happens to be directly opposite the meat kiosk (it's literally two booths in a parking lot, and works absolutely brilliantly in terms of production design contributing to the overall narrative) which is run by the stereotypical bad girl Denise.

Our hero is torn between the lovely Lorraine...

After cutting himself and spilling some blood into his vegetable fuel, Archie quickly figures out where he has been going wrong, and succeeds in becoming one of the few people in the world able to run a car. This makes him verrry popular with Denise...that is, until the car runs out of gas.

...and the decidely dirty Denise!

Soon, it becomes evident that if our hero is to be able to get his rocks off (and indeed, have enough of his own blood left to achieve and maintain an erection, let alone remain conscious!), he's going to have to start finding other sources of blood...and so the killing spree begins!

This may sound sick, but the part where he shoots the dog is one of my favourite scenes in the whole movie!

Squirrels, dogs, the homeless, the elderly, hitchhikers. All grist for the mill, and fuel for the blood car!

The mulching mechanism in the boot of the Blood Car!

The movie is also extremely suggestive sexually, with implied golden showers and F to M anal fisting. 'Last Tango in Paris' style! It really jars with the overall low-key mood of the film, but works all the same.

Stereotypically-cute hitchhiker girl

I particularly liked the ending of the film. Perhaps because I just got done reading Bronson's Loose!, but it reminded me of the end of Death Wish. Rather than stopping the killer in their midsts, the authorities seek to utilise Archie's talents for their own ends.

It's an intelligent and somewhat minimalist deadpan comedy that hits all the right notes as far as I'm concerned. Totally different to what I expected, but an extremely pleasant surprise. It's difficult to accurately sum up, but let me say that if Hollywood were to remake this movie tomorrow, it's the kind of thing that Michael Cera would be in the lead role of. It's like 'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World' spliced with 'Repo Man'. Seeing as I like both of those movies, I really enjoyed this one as well, so I can most wholehearted endorse it.

In short, buy this movie, or the cute child gets it!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


Who is more badass?

Richard 'Ninja' Harrison, star of innumerable Godfrey Ho cinematic cut-and-shut ninja this one.


Richard 'Old Man' Harrison, star of History Channel's 'Pawn Stars' and mainstay of Las Vegas' Gold & Silver Pawn shop?

...I have to say, as much as I love ninja movies, the Old Man's just shading this one for me, probably due to his pearl of wisdom about the prerequisites for calling yourself a man. Having said that, he does lack the ability to disappear into thin air or magically change into a full ninja costume (plus eyeliner) in just a split-second puff of smoke.

Still, this intriguing battle could make the basis for an interesting crossover film...imagine somebody comes into the G&S pawn shop and sells the Golden Ninja Warrior statue. After having had a buddy who is an expert look at it...

...and then totally lowballed the seller on the price...

...the shop buys the statue. Then, having seen said statue on the TV show, the remaining members of the Ninja Empire from which it was stolen resolve to liberate it from the pawn shop by fair means or foul, whereby it is discovered that ninja Richard Harrison is actually a distant relative of the Pawn Stars Harrisons, and he joins his long lost brethren in the almighty struggle to rout the fiendish evil ninjas from Las Vegas.

Think about would be like Ocean's Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen, PLUS Ninjas. What's not to love?

Joking aside, I wonder how much that Golden Ninja Warrior would actually be worth if it ever came on the market? I'm pretty sure it's not made out of real gold, but discerning film geeks everywhere would still want it, that's for sure.

Ownership would also mean you could also totally mug Steven Spielberg off if you wanted to. After all, he only owns 'Rosebud' from Citizen Kane, which I think we can all agree is a distant second in terms of cinematic prestige when compared to the Golden Ninja Warrior statue, and the incredible powers of invincibility and imperviousness to all harm (except a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick) that it can bestow.

Anyway, all things considered, the undisputed winner of this contest is definitely Richard Harrison. Hands down.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

BRONSON'S LOOSE! The Making Of The Death Wish Films

Bronson's Loose! The Making Of The Death Wish Films
By Paul Talbot
Foreword by Andrew Stevens
161 pages B&w
$15.95 US
Published by iUniverse

I've wanted to pick this one up for a while now, but the price was never 'right' for me (more on that later), so
I was very pleased to be able to source a copy from Ebay for under a fiver, postage included.

The book itself is a medium sized softback and just 161 pages thick, but boy does it look cool. Awesome full colour artwork from Death Wish 3, beautifully cropped and composed. As soon as I saw this online, I knew
I wanted it, and I have to say that this is one of those situations whereby you can judge the book by its' cover.

I love the original Death Wish movie, which is an undisputed classic, and I also have a soft spot for the sort of schlocky
action movies the sequels transmogrified into. Also, whilst I know some people can't stand him, I like Michael Winner because he
always speaks his mind, however unpopular that may be. Throw in the extremely colourful duo known as 'The Go-Go Boys' (the Cannon figureheads Golan and Globus),
and you have a very interesting mix.

The one notable absentee in the roster of interviewees is Charles Bronson, for obvious reasons, but I find this just adds to his enigmatic 'man of few words' persona.

It's exhaustively researched, and the author has interviewed a number of people related to the numerous films, including cast, crew, and upper-level production people.
Each film has a dedicated chapter, plus there are two Appendixes which detail the casts, crews, and plots of the films, plus the soundtracks. It's an easy and engrossing read.
Of particular interest are the various rejected concepts for the sequels, and various alternate endings and casting possibilities.

My favourite part? There are loads, but the peach has to be the anecdote regarding the MPAA appeals process for Death Wish 3 '...when director Michael Winner complained that Death Wish 3 was
given an X rating because it had 63 killings while the R-rated Rambo had 80 killings, the woman at the ratings board explained that most of those
killed in Rambo are Vietnamese."

Jaw dropping, ain't it? I think that merits the description 'Cartmanesque'.

Paul Talbot's book really only has one flaw...there's not enough of it! I can quite happily overlook the fact that all the pictures are in black and white, but for
me, this book was over far too quickly. I guess I should just learn to pace myself a little better.

If you like the Death Wish films, this is a must's that simple. If not, don't.

It's currently available for somewhere between £8-£10 on Amazon, which is a little more reflective of the US dollar cover price of $15.95...I seem to remember it being something like £16 when I first became aware of it,
hence I didn't buy it. Is it value for money? If you like Death Wish, then yes it is. It is a fleeting, all too brief pleasure, but a pleasure all the same.

All in all, I'm really rather pleased with my purchase here. My copy won't be finding itself back on Ebay anytime soon.

Friday, 29 July 2011

My LOVEFILM Experience

I got a letter through the post recently informing me that LOVEFILM was becoming part of the Amazon family of websites, and given that I had ordered DVDs from Amazon in the past, they were going to offer me a free 30-day trial.

To sweeten the pot even further, if I took up this offer of a free 30 day trial, I would get a £20 Amazon voucher too.

(For people who don't know me, I love books. I always have a couple of piles laying around that I haven't read yet, and that never stops me buying more...Ebooks and Kindles are for losers, baby! Anyway, you can take it as read that for £20 worth of store credit at Amazon, I'm prepared to do the sort of things that will make a whore blush.)

I read and re-read the letter, going over the small print in exacting detail to try and see where the catch was, and I couldn't see one, so I took the plunge and signed up.

There's a great selection of movies available on the site, but curiously none from appears the two companies are in dispute about how much money each should make from the venture. You can also stream films (didn't try it given that my internet connection is 'temperamental' to say the least) or rent video games (which I also didn't bother with).

I rented two films which were dispatched to me via first class, hence very little waiting. The package they come in is easily reconfigured into the postpaid return envelope (also first class, which means you send the DVDs back more quickly and get newer ones out), and there's also a spare, standalone postpaid return envelope just in case you have a disaster with the first one.

The discs come in clear plastic sleeves, with just the discs and nothing else, so it is very much 'no frills'. Both discs were in good working order and played fine.

After watching them, I put them in the envelope, posted them back,and then subsequently cancelled my account to avoid being billed when the free trial period elapsed.

You cannot cancel your membership online, but instead must phone LOVEFILM to do so (it's a free phone number). Of course, the salesperson will try and get you to delay cancelling your account (I would expect no less), but I just stuck to my guns and cancelled it.

As promised, I got an email with a £20 Amazon voucher code in it, and not long after my phone call I got an email confirming the cancellation of my account (which I can apparently reactivate at any time online by myself, should the urge take me).

All told, it was a 'does exactly what it says on the tin' experience. All parties were as good as their word, I'm happy to report.

It's a great service, just not one I feel like taking up and subscribing to at the moment. If you are looking for a movies-by-mail service, I can certainly recommend it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some books to order...


You may have noticed that I've missed two consecutive 'Music Video Mondays' posts, and here's why.

The first one I was out of town for (and subsequently internet incommunicado). For this weeks entry, I was planning on some Norwegian death metal to accompany the reviews of a few Norwegian films I rented from lovefilm during a free trial, such as Dead Snow, Cold Prey, etc.

I was going to bill this smorgasbord of all things Norwegian as a veritable 'Norgy', and was all geared up to drop it upon my unsuspecting readership.

...and then the Oslo massacre happened.

In years gone by, I would always think that TV channels and film distributors who would pull a film or programme because it was too near the knuckle with regards to current events were mad, or at least oversensitive. Surely it would be the best time to show such a work, given that it deals with the same issues which are currently fresh in everybody's minds?

Yet now I find myself doing the same thing.

Perhaps I am getting old.

Anyway, my Norway-centric special will be posted in the near future, I just think it would be in poor taste to publish it now, so I'm going to sit on it for a while.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


As you may have read in my review of 'The Silencer', the review copy I was sent contains two excellent commentary tracks. I was then subsequently informed by Steve Lawson that the UK distributor deemed it necessary to remove the commentaries from the official UK release of the DVD because the BBFC requires itself to re-review the film (and thus re-bill for the reviewing) for each commentary track, which means that this would effectively treble the price the distributor would have to pay to get their film certified by the BBFC and thus be legal to sell in the UK.

You can check the rule out here.

I've reproduced the pertinent part below.

The BBFC received legal advice on 17th October 2007 on the issue of audio commentaries. Our advice is that audio commentaries will almost always constitute new video works and consequently require classification.

You should see what they have to say about DVD seamless branching as well!

UK filmmaker Pat Higgins has devoted one of his 'Fake Blood On The Lens' video diaries (always worth a watch, for the uninitiated) to the topic, comparing the UK release of his film 'The Devil's Music' to the US release. He hits the nail bang on the head, and I'd encourage you to watch it to see exactly what I'm talking about.

Now, I can understand the need to certify the commentary tracks to make sure they contain nothing untoward, or more specifically nothing which is not in keeping with the certificate bestowed upon the original film...for example, imagine the latest family-friendly all ages extravaganza with a commentary laden with expletives and anecdotes about which actress blew which producer to get the role, who was constantly disappearing to their trailer and doing coke or whatever, etc. That's simply not going to fly, and understandably so.

Still, perhaps a compromise solution could be reached which neither a) financially punishes smaller independent producers or b) deprives DVD-buying British customers of DVD extras, which of course provide something of a purchase incentive and thus dissuade piracy/illegal downloading to an extent.

My suggestion would be that the filmmakers should be able to simply submit a transcript of their commentary tracks, which could be reviewed for a flat fee. If submitted in a digital format, it could simply be scanned for various offensive words and certified accordingly.

I'm also perplexed at how the BBFC demands a separate certification for each soundtrack, but does not charge for two certifications of the original film...after all, surely watching it with no sound at all constitutes a 'different soundtrack', so surely two separate reviews would be called for? It's a definite inconsistency, but on the other hand, I certainly don't want to be giving them ideas.

The inevitable outcome of the policy is a simple and obvious one, UK consumers, particularly those of niche/genre cinema, will steadily begin to gravitate towards sourcing their films either from overseas (in the case of finished article hard-copy discs) or watching them online in various digital formats. This means a loss of custom and thus revenue for retailers and distributors, and ultimately filmmakers as well.

To punish filmmakers for wanting to give the paying customer value for money is simply illogical and tantamount to commercial sabotage. I recently watched the Norwegian film 'Cold Prey' on DVD, and was surprised that given that it was a fairly professionally made and well-budgeted piece, there was an absolute paucity of extras on the disc. Now, a Norwegian commentary would be of little use to most English-speaking viewers (though I actually found the dialogue suprisingly easy to follow), so you think they'd compensate by adding some other extras, but no dice. Perhaps the necessity of removing foreign-language commentaries actually makes them more appealing to English distributors?

Who is just baffling to me that British filmmakers and British customers have to suffer at the hands of the British censor, whilst everyone else gets to enjoy all the goodies that have had to be stripped off the UK version not for censorship reasons, but instead for financial ones. The only beneficiary I see from this current state of affairs is the big multinational companies like Universal, Warner Brothers, Paramount, etc., whilst the 'little guy' has to carry the can again.

Well, I guess I can stop wondering why certain films from UK filmmakers (like James Eaves' 'Bane') come out overseas long before they are released in the UK. With this nonsensical policy, the BBFC have lurched from being a begrudgingly tolerated part of 'the cost of doing business' in the British film industry firmly into the realm of aiding and abetting the phenomenon known colloquially as 'Rip Off Britain'.

If this sort of crap continues, you'll be lucky to get one commentary or any extras on future independent DVDs. Perhaps some sort of campaign is in order to encourage them to rethink this policy? Any ideas would be gratefully received...

The only possible 'out' that springs to mind is for producers to make the commentary tracks available as MP3s for download, and then people can play them on their stereo whilst watching the movie with the sound off. It's a bit of unnecessary hassle, but it could work. Of course, does this not open up a whole new can of worms? What if I decide to watch 'Toy Story' whilst listening to Satanic Death Metal or expletive-ridden Gangsta Rap? Obviously, that would be 'my choice' if I chose to do that, and thus could not be legislated against, but then surely choosing to listen to the film with one of the alternate soundtracks/commentaries is also 'my choice''s not as if James Cameron is going to burst into your house and force you to watch and listen to all the extra features on his latest film at gunpoint, is it? Ergo, it is entirely a matter of personal choice whether the commentaries are listened to or not. This new 'recorded work' is made by the actions of the end user...they must operate the DVD remote to select the option and commit to it to make it happen. Exactly the same is true of my example of watching Toy Story whilst listening to Cannibal Corpse or something.

Also, if I'm watching a nailed-on 18 certificate film, such as a gory horror or high-bodycount action movie, one wonders how the choice of words used in the commentary can in any way make the depicted onscreen violence any 'worse' or potentially more 'psychologically damaging', especially if it involves the filmmakers or cast members simply discussing the experience of shooting it?

Clearly, like so many Government edicts, this whole notion is laughably half-baked. What's not laughable is that it is very much a reality that independent filmmakers in the UK have to deal with.

Monday, 11 July 2011


A new feature here at the blog, and something to get me posting more's Music Video Mondays!

My inauguaral selection is BLEED by Swedish Math Metal gods (and inventors of the 'djent' sound) MESHUGGAH.

Be advised...the video contains flashing images and therefore may not be suitable for people who suffer from epilepsy. Having said that, the sheer technical complexity of the music will probably cause you to have a seizure if you think about it too hard anyway.

Oh, and before you ask, no this video does not feature cameo appearances by Lady Gaga, ohGr, or that dude from Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey.

(My blog's format seems to clip the size of the embedded video player, so click HERE to view it on Youtube where you can enjoy the full image, the correct composition, and even watch it in fullscreen if you so desire!)

Pretty awesome, eh?

You could debate the symbolism and themes therein for months on end...I'm certainly picking up that the thread that gets cut may in fact symbolise the umbilical cord. The constant images of clockfaces and clockwork mechanisms would also seem to suggest the inescapability of time.

I can't put my finger on it, but I get a very vague Hellraiser-type vibe from it (without any aspects which really scream 'direct homage'), possibly due to the fact that the central character's desire for hidden knowledge leads to his eventual (literal) enslavement at the hands of some otherworldly being. Maybe the constant shots of chains moving about as well?

Anyway, enjoy!


Running Time: 75 mins
Directed & Produced by Steve Lawson & Simon Wyndham

I've been meaning to check out The Silencer for a long time. Firstly, it's a no-budget British film. I'm all for no-to-low budget filmmakers, doubly so if they happen to hail from my homeland.

Secondly, I thought it looked cool and that the concept had some definite potential with its' faceless/voiceless hero clad in black motorcycle leathers and a tinted helmet.

Unfortunately, it seems The Silencer first surfaced on DVD in the UK on the now-defunct Black Horse Entertainment label, which means that due to its' relative rarity, it can be difficult to scare up a copy at the sort prices I'm willing to pay when taking a punt on a low budget indie.

Sure, you can get dirt cheap ex-rental versions off of ebay, but I'm as anally-retentive about not having DVDs with 'RENTAL COPY' plastered
over them as I am anally-retentive about having proper retail versions with a sleeve and all the trimmings. What can I say...I am a DVD snob, otherwise I would have probably downloaded it off the internet or something. Where's the fun in that, I ask you?

So I was like the dog with two bones, caught between the affordable yet undesirable ex-rental copy or the brand new and sealed but priced at more than I want to pay retail version, and unable to decide on either.

Then lo and behold, out of the blue, no less than Steve Lawson (not to be confused with fellow UK director Steven Lawson) himself emails me and asks me if I'd like a review copy. Thus inadvertently solving my dilemma whilst simultaneously disproving the maxim 'If you don't ask, you don't get.'

I didn't ask, but I did get. With this is mind, I'm going to purposely NOT ask low budget indie filmmakers to send me their screeners, because the asking approach doesn't seem to be working...maybe I should make the first move and contact them? We shall see.

So, the moral of the story is that if you send me your movie, book, comic, fanzine, whatever...I WILL REVIEW IT. Steve Lawson figured it out, and this here review is the result. I am as good as my word!

So, without any further ado, here is my review of The Silencer

Glenn Salvage is Michael Eastman, an elite anti-narcotics cop who's been double crossed and left for dead. Having been shot full of lead by the henchman of the local drug kingpin, he awakes in hospital some time later to discover that thanks to some pioneering surgical techniques, his life has been saved, but his vocal chords have not. Whilst his wounds leave him mute, in a Darkman-esque twist it appears that an unexpected side-effect of the surgery has rendered him impervious to pain...but not from injury.

Suspended from the force, Eastman must now struggle to come to terms with his injuries, clear his name and exact vengeance upon those who have robbed him of everything, including the love of his life who has now shacked up with one of his corrupt former team-mates. Drug dealers, hoodlums, corrupt name it, he's going after them with a vengeance.

Spiritually, the movie feels like it should have been shot in the late 80's/early 90's in New York. I feel a more bleak urban environment (or more of the bleak urban environment that is already there) would have complimented the similarly-bleak mood of the piece. As it is, a lot of the movie is shot in the beautiful English countryside in bright sunshine (which is a rare enough combination in and of itself!) which seems a little incongruous with the overall mood of the piece.

Some full-on 80's cheese sequences shot with either blue gels or filters as the menacing back-lit silhouette figure of The Silencer suddenly strides through one of those ubiquitous clouds of steam/smoke
that always seem to be rising out of somewhere in 80's urban action flicks (like the iconic title card shot from the opening credits of 'The Equalizer') would definitely have hit the spot.

There's a subway sequence that certainly captures the right sort of mood (I'd dare say the film was given an 18 certificate on the strength of some of the grafitti alone...disgusting!), and some more sequences along those lines would certainly not have gone amiss.

One thing the filmmakers have unquestionably got right is the wonderfully ominous synth signature we hear whenever villains suddenly realise that The Silencer is there...again pure 80's, but absolutely bang on the money, thematically-speaking!

Image quality is excellent, and the use of camera movement is subtle and well-judged (as opposed to the
'We're paying for the jib/dolly for the whole day, so we might as well use it for every shot!' brigade, the spiritual twins of the irritatingly ubiquitous 'Let's use every effect and transition in Final Cut Pro just to show that we can' people).

Particularly impressive also is the use of reveals. Both Lawson and Wyndham have professional experience, so we're not looking at your usual camcorder jockeys here, and thankfully it shows.

There are certain scenes and a couple of performances which occasionally serve to betray the true budgetary level of the work, but then there are also those which punch far above the financial weight of the production too. Maye Choo has gone on to carve out a nice career in television dramas such as 'Honest' (NSFW), and Jim Clossick was also very impressive, particularly near the end of the film. I've seen a lot worse, but taking the rough with the smooth this is a very passable and fairly professional looking production. Dare I say it but this is the kind of movie that should be turning up late night on Movies4men or Movies24 (before they start with their 'erotic' programming). I'd much rather watch this than one of those second run made-for-TV Syfy channel disaster movies which all seem to closely follow the Jaws/Day After Tomorrow template.

Action and fight sequences are great. Cinematically, the subway sequence is the standout, but I think my favourite overall is his second visit to the country estate of drug dealer Sirrus Rook, complete with a pair of butterfly knives (for those not au fait with these things, I'm talking about the meat cleaver sized Chinese knives rather than the Balisong flick knives which are sometimes erroneously called Butterfly knives).
Butterfly Knives...that's what I'm talking about!

There's also a pleasing dust-up at a car scrapyard, with all the smashing of windscreens and denting of bodywork your heart could possibly desire.

Whether they needed to be or not is another question. Truth be told, if we're going to be picky, I'd probably say that The Silencer specifically belongs in the genre of vigilante films. There's definitely some martial arts action, but the nature of this particular beast is definitely
in the tradition of Death Wish and The Exterminator (the chief influence on the film, so much so that one of the characters is named Ginty by way of homage to Robert Ginty). The commentary mentions specific pains being taken to limit the style of fighting to reflect the condition of The Silencer, holding off on the big moves until the showpiece finale. Obviously, the budget did not stretch to huge amounts of onscreen gunplay with squibs going off everywhere, so hand-to-hand combat makes a very decent substitute. As it is, I think they've done a great job of serving their narrative needs (of a physically limited character) whilst still fulfilling the requirement for action.

Would an explosion or two have made it a better film? Maybe, but then we would be straying away from the vigilante genre and firmly into the territory of the action movie. Thankfully, the filmmakers elected not to use CGI explosions or anything like that. Sometimes, less is more, and nothing would ruin the suspension of disbelief more than crappy CGI. In the end, there's a lot to be said for 'keeping it real'.

What the movie does lack is a strong central antagonist or villain, which I believe is in part due to there being perhaps one too many 'key' villains, and not enough screen time being available to properly develop them and establish them as truly credible threats to our hero. There are five by my count, and with a running time of 75 minutes, that doesn't leave a lot when you consider the main character, love interest, and any of the slightly more incidental characters too (like the drug dealing Irish terrorists, for example).

Lawson himself plays one of them, and mentions in his commentary that he was struck by just how much he is in the movie, and concedes that it's probably too much.

Of course, this is one of the drawbacks to having the main character be mute...whilst there are numerous non-verbal things you can do to move the plot along, you're not going to be able to get away with this for the lion's share of the movie. The filmmaker's have obviously realised this and opted to have other characters pick up the slack in terms of dialogue and exposition rather than use flashbacks, dream sequences or internal monologues to give Eastman a voice.

At this budget level, it's a lot easier and cheaper to shoot something with Steve Lawson, because as one of the producers, he's always there. Also, lest people jump to the wrong conclusion and think that it's one of those oft-seen exercises in ego-gratification whereby the producer assiduously casts themselves in their own movie, make themselves look like a total badass, hog all the best lines and end up either in bed or the jacuzzi with one or more nubile and naked young women who, but for the fact they are being paid, would otherwise be out of said producer's league (...and believe you me, I have seen a fair few of those kind of movies), you could not be more wrong.

Lawson arguably plays the least likeable and most unsympathetic character in the entire film. A villain, but more of a pitifully detestable one than a 'cool' or fearsome villain, and without wishing to give too much away, he has a wonderful 'just when you thought he couldn't go any lower' moment towards the end of the film as he tries to placate a local drug dealer. A self-promoting role it is not, but there is a lot of it.

In addition to the inability of the central protagonist to speak is the fact that Eastman
is also fitted with a neck brace (which he removes before going into action), which prevents any movement of the head, including minimal movements such as nodding.

In such a situation where the tools of both verbal and non-verbal expression are either seriously curtailed or removed completely, some actors might tend towards
overcompensating with their facial gestures, which can have the unfortunate side-effect of descending into unintentional comedy. Fortunately, Salvage avoids falling into this trap in his depiction of Eastman. Another bonus is that they probably saved a small fortune in ADR costs by conceiving the lead character in this fashion...the filmmakers never mention this as being in any way responsible for informing or motivating their decision to have a mute lead, so I'm going to assume it's just a happy accident. If not, it's a devilishly clever money saver.

The only dialogue scene Glenn Salvage gets to do in the whole movie!

I'm happy to report that the single disc is heaving with extras, including a making of featurette, outttakes, and not one but two
(count 'em!) commentaries!

***PLEASE NOTE: Steve Lawson has informed me that the version put out by Blackhorse in the UK does NOT contain the commentary tracks like my review copy, but does contain the other extras. Please bear this in mind when I'm talking about the commentaries. I was unaware of this at the time of writing my review, but I'm leaving the sections regarding the commentaries in because I believe they help paint a fuller picture.***

The second commentary involves Lawson flying solo and giving a 'Low budget Filmmaking 101' of sorts, which is extremely honest in its' appraisal
of the film and its' inherent faults.

It's another one of these films which has been shot over the course of a year rather than a few weeks. Of course, this sort of thing matters not a jot to the man in the street, who expects it to be as good as your average $50 million Hollywood action movie. Personally, I can't help but admire what they've managed to put together with so little money.

It's highly interesting to see and hear what went wrong and how the problems were overcome, or how they impacted upon what was initially planned.

The Silencer is a film I like 'as is', off the bat as a stand alone feature, but I dare say that you'll appreciate it a lot more and respect the
achievement of the filmmakers after having listened to the commentaries. I know I certainly did.

For example, regarding my contention about too many weakly-established key villains (or 'end of level boss' types, for the video game geeks among us), there is one who is obviously there to provide a physical counterpoint to The Silencer. Alas, the actor playing him injured his leg, meaning that they were unable to display his kicking prowess in an earlier scene where he's working over a punchbag,
and that the proposed 'epic showdown' also had to be cut drastically short as well. The idea was sound enough, but unfortunately the filmmaking fates conspired to prevent it being realised in the intended manner.

Of course, in the ad hoc think-on-your-feet world of low budget filmmaking, you are going to get the occasional curveball thrown at you. Life certainly threw a few lemons in their direction on this shoot, but they made lemonade accordingly.

What's most bizarre to me is that one of the best and most striking scenes in the movie seems to have come about completely by chance. After The Silencer has dispatched a bunch of would-be rapists in the subway, he moves towards their intended victim, an Oriental girl, a reaches out to her, but she recoils and
runs away, terrified of the mute brute lurching towards her, incapable of offering so much as a reassuring word. Given that Eastman's estranged love interest is also Oriental, I feel this scene serves as a wonderful encapsulated metaphor which both mirrors and echoes his plight. Neither commentary track draws attention to any intent
behind it (I'd be crowing about it if I'd thought up putting something like that in, let me tell you...),
so I can only assume it is a happy accident, even though the fact it is shot in slow motion would tend to suggest that some thought went into it.

Either way, it really works as a cinematic device. In truth, it would have still worked with any female, but the fact we are talking about two women of similar appearance and ethnicity makes it a doubly bizarre coincidence, but doubly effective in a visual terms at the same time. For me, the single most memorable and resonant scene of the whole movie.

We later learn that this apparently coincidental casting of two ethnically-similar females also served to inform the characterisation of one of the villains (a drug dealer with something of a taste for ladies of the Asian persuasion), and also part of the storyline in the final third of the film (wherein Lawson's character reaches a whole new depth of scumbaggery).

There's also a sequence contrived to get a little 'production value' out of a real life motorcycle spill on-set. Again, whilst I like the film as is, it's only after getting the inside scoop on the making of it that you really begin to fully appreciate it for what it is.

Whilst scouring the web for some pictures with which to tart up my review, I happened across the Tesco DVD Rental page for the movie, wherein one disgruntled reviewer from Cardiff complains about wasting 90 minutes of their weekend on the film (which only has a 75 minute running time...go figure), and claims the story line rips off the Steven Seagal film 'HARD TO KILL' as well, which it plainly does not.

Another makes the ludicrous claim that The Silencer is a 'Rip off from every film with martial arts in'.

Just take a moment to reflect upon the outright stupidity of that statement. Aside from the obvious physical improbability and impracticality of such a notion, this plainly laughable assertion is easily disproved. For example, at no point in the film does Salvage homage Van Damme by doing the splits or flashing his bum, there's no wirework whatsoever, and absolutely no ninjas either.

It's a good job Tesco's doesn't rent hardcore porn DVDs (....yet. Every little helps, after all), lest he accuse the director of Sex-Starved Sorority Sluts of ripping off Cum Chugging Co-Ed Cheerleaders because their movie also features a scene where some guy ejaculates on some chick's face.

Seriously, some people do get out of their pram over nothing these days! Possibly they are getting it confused with one of the other films (at least three more by my count) called 'The Silencer', one of which stars the American Ninja himself, Michael Dudikoff!

Dudikoff's cool, but he'll never out-ninja Richard Harrison

Or this one:

Anyway, that aside, I'd definitely scarf up a retail DVD version of this if I come across it at a price I'm amenable to. Yes, I'm one of those sad people who likes them in the case with the sleeve and everything. I still buy books made from paper too. And read them.

The Silencer was actually pretty much the film I expected it to be. I could tell from the trailer that it was a cut above most low-budget stuff, and I wasn't wrong. I'm not going to lie to you and pretend it's the greatest thing since sliced bread or that it raises the bar clean out of sight. In the end, it's just an extremely decent little movie, nothing more, nothing less. Don't go in expecting a Hollywood blockbuster and you won't come out disappointed.

The storyline would definitely benefit from a little simplification, and some of the performances are a little patchy in places, but that's just a matter of personal taste. Some of the longer dialogue sequences would definitely have benefited from some intercutting of different shots. Alas, shots require set-ups, set-ups require time, and time requires money, which is something that is in short supply at this level of filmmaking. Thus, sacrifices have to be made.

In terms of mood, execution, and action scenes, The Silencer delivers quite handsomely. In the course of writing his review, I've watched it three times (once with the soundtrack, then once with each commentary), and even with the rough edges I feel I could quite happily watch it again at some point. It's very easy to watch, possibly due to the slightly shorter than average running time, although it's not noticeably short and is well paced throughout.

As I write this, the usually-Satanic IMDB has it clocked as a 6.7, which isn't probably too far from the truth, and when you consider how little was spent on it and the manner in which it was produced, it's an achievement and a half. One shudders to think what the team behind it might be capable of if given a budget somewhere between a luxury car and a small house.

If you want to make your own low budget independent films however, this one is definitely required viewing. If anything, I'd recommend it to aspiring filmmakers before martial arts fans, such is the amount of insight and revelation provided by the commentaries. As I said in my review of Infestation, I much prefer open and honest commentaries as opposed to the saccharine Hollywood ones where everybody and everything is either 'great', 'fantastic' or 'amazing'. It's refreshing to see filmmakers who not only realise what they've done wrong or could have done better, but also own up to it as well.

So, to paraphrase a famous song, as far as low budget action flicks go 'Silence(r) is golden'. If you spot a copy at a price you like, my advice would be to snap it up post haste.

Thursday, 5 May 2011


Edited by Steve Chibnall & Julian Petley

An extremely readable collection of essays regarding British horror films...there are a couple of chapters nearer the end which stray into the sort of overly-verbose territory that has me breaking out in cold sweats and having flashbacks to my Master's Degree studies, but overall I found this book to be very accessible and highly enjoyable.

It truly is a mixed bag, wth no two chapters ever really overlapping any of those that will either precede or succeed it, taking in everything from a history of British censorship to Amicus, and it is a wonderfully engaging blend, with all credit due to the editors for their inspired and judicious selection.

However, in keeping with that grandest of traditions, they have truly saved the best until last. Firstly, we have an interview with Clive Barker and Doug Bradley, and then we moveon to what must be the piece de resistance (and my favourite chapter in the book) from Richard Stanley, the director of 'Hardware'. Let me ask you, how many books have you read recently which contain gems like this?:

"In point of fact, Hardware went into pre-production at a time when I thought I had put the movie business behind me for good. Having become embroiled with a Muslim guerrilla organization, I was about as far away from the Scala as I could possibly be, doing my bit to help the mujahedin to fight the communists in Afghanistan. I had just crossed the border back into Pakistan in order to get medical attention for one of my companions who had been wounded in the battle for Jallalabad when I found myself collared by the anxious producers and returned to England to start shooting my first feature as a director."

This guy didn't direct Rambo III...he lived it. Beat that, Mr. Stallone. It certainly trumps my oft-repeated claims about having been a ninja or working in porn, that's for sure.

Stanley's contribution is worth the price of admission by itself, although his recollections of the Scala left me feeling as if I needed a shower to get clean again. It takes in a lot of topics, most interestingly the Jamie Bulger murder, in the aftermath of which Stanley was present at the parliamentary hearings on video nasties.

It really brought back some happy memories of that era for me. Anyway, I'm off to dig out my VHS of 'Hardware', and perhaps see what I can do about getting myself a copy of 'The Lair of the White Worm', by fair means or foul!!!

Let me leave you with this:

"The debacle also proved to be the last straw for my then girlfriend who had been around just long enough to know that things weren't about to get any better. Clearing my odds and ends forcefully from her appartment, she singled out a copy of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Dario Argento's debut feature, for particular condemnation 'This is exactly the sort of shit I don't need in my life any more!' she spat, flinging the tainted cassette in my general direction, followed a moment later by a VHS copy of Michael Mann's flawed occult thriller The Keep."

There but for the grace of God go I...although having women pelt you with Giallo flicks on VHS sounds like the sort of kinky sadomasochistic action that certain people would pay a pretty penny for, especially if they were the ultra-rare 'big box' rental versions. Just another thing future generations will be missing out on now that everything's gone digital.

Anyways, back on topic, is it worth the money? Well, it will cost you something like £16-17 new from Amazon, and for my money, that's a tad overpriced (although lest we forget, I am tight-fisted) when you consider the type of book you could get from FAB Press for that sort of price. Still, I got my copy from the local library, so I'm not complaining.

Is it one I'll be ading to my permanent collection, should it turn up on Ebay for £6-8 in the near future? No, probably not...if I were engaging in any sort of academic study wherein the British horror film would be covered then I'd say it was an essential buy given the amount of quoteworthy analysis contained within, but I'm not. It was very much a 'one and done' experience for me, although one that I enjoyed a great deal.

Now, why doesn't some enterprising publisher tap up Richard Stanley for an autobiography?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


Moving swiftly on from Hammer films which only exist as posters, it's time to delve into the world of films which only exist as speculative trailers.

The so-called 'faux trailer' has most recently been popularised by the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez collaboration 'Grindhouse', wherein they and a few other selected filmmakers contributed fake trailers to play inbetween the two feature presentations of 'Death Proof' and 'Planet Terror'.

Alas, 'Grindhouse' blew chunks both critically and commercially, and most people were in agreement that the faux trailers were the best thing about the film. Indeed, so much of a hoopla was made over the fake trailers that Robert Rodriguez decided to spin one of them off into a feature length movie all of its' own. That movie was 'Machete', which, despite an awesome poster, also blew chunks both critically and commercially. I hear the third time's the charm, Bobby...but then again 'Once Upon A Time In Mexico' was a poor relation to the two films that preceded, so maybe that's not the case.

Still, rumours abound about Rob Zombie perhaps doing something with 'Werewolf Women Of The SS". Could faux trailers be the newest insidious marketing/decision making technique from Hollywood? Only time will tell.

What time won't tell you, but I will, is that if you want to see awesome faux trailers for movies that will never exist, then you need to get your ass over to the the Lost Trailer Park. It's nothing short of genius, and their newest trailer 'March Madness' is their best yet!

I first heard about it by listening to the filmmakers being interviewed on the Alternative Cinema Podcast. (If you're not already listening to it, you should be!), and lo and behold, it's even more awesome than it sounded when they outlined the premise of it. Go check them out!

Also, whilst were on the subject of faux trailers, I figure I'll throw in these two from VH1's 'Scream Queens' reality show.

Reform School Zombie Squad. Surely a contender for best line never in a movie?

Vampire Outlaws

Not bad as reality TV shows go, but how much cooler would it have been if the show was geared towards unearthing 'Scream Queens' in the more classical Linnea Quigley sense of the term?

So, it seems the newest trend in moviemaking is not making movies. Who would have thought it?


Seriously, how could you go wrong with a concept like this?

Sadly it's one of many proposed Hammer projects which never got off the ground (no pun intended) and thus never made it beyond the conceptual artwork/teaser stage.

I'd seen this image floating around the web some years ago, and was just blown away by the awesome simplicity of the concept, and the fact the concept is also simply awesome. It's like an internet meme all unto itself.

What I didn't realise is just how many embryonic Hammer ideas there were that never got produced. I've recently got 'The Hammer Story' out of my local library (it's excellent and a full review shall be forthcoming!), and it's mindboggling to see the Hammer films that never were.

Oh, to be Dr. Evil with his time machine and 100 million dollars...actually, given what I've read so far, $2 million would be enough to make 10 Hammer films plus have change left over. How times have changed, and not for the better.

In the end, it all comes down to nickels and dimes, and for whatever reason the people running the US studios declined these ideas and so they never came to fruition. All that's left is some rather excellent artwork to tease us with a glimpse of what might have been.

On that thought, let me leave you with the teaser poster for 'Savage Jackboot'. Peter Cushing a a Nazi. How cool would that have been?