Black Sunday 2

February 17th, 1990
Ashton-under-Lyme, Manchester

We arrived in Manchester Piccadily about 5.50 and noticed that the last train to Ashton went at quarter past six from Manchester Victoria – one lightning dash across town later, we discover the small letters ‘SX’ did not refer to the late, great ‘Shock Xpress’ but meant Saturdays Xcepted (no-one said BR’s employees could spell!) and we hung round for a while, finally catching a bus there instead. The driver wondered why we were off to Ashton (it obviously wasn’t the centre of the universe) and got a vague answer about films, no-one wanting to go into detail about Nekromantik’s plot.

Arriving in Ashton, the first step was to find the cinema. Possibly in revenge for my not having enclosed an SAE when I sent off for the tickets, I hadn’t been sent any info on where the festival was taking place – fortunately, the bus driver could point us in the right direction. The second step was to find the nearest pub. While perhaps not the most lively setting (the walls being plastered with LP covers for a group called Fivepenny Piece, whom I’d never heard of, but who’d managed to acquire a pair of gold discs), with bitter 25p/pint less than London at 86p, it was more than tolerable, especially once other weirdos started turning up. We stayed in there for most of the evening, making a brief sorty out for food and discovering the entire town was closed, except for McDonald’s.

Eventually headed queue-wards, and stood around for a while in an orderly fashion, until one of the organisers shouts out ‘Those of you with reserved tickets go to the front of the queue’. Great, we thought, having already got ours, and we joined the charge to the front. Uh-uh. That was ‘reserved’ as in ‘paid-for-but-haven’t-picked- up-yet’. Eventually, we got inside and found seats, downstairs with the plebs – not bad for leg-room, though after 20 hours of occupation there’s no such thing as enough. A brief sortie upstairs to grab the program and near compulsory T-shirt (which were damn good value – six quid, printed front & back) then we were off…

HOT LOVE (Jorg Buttgereit) – Made by JB before ‘Nekromantik’ (more on which later, I guess!), this short film is a simple tale of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy rapes girl & kills himself, girl gives birth to baby, baby mutates into monster and kills girl and lover with a broken bottle. Not bad going for half an hour, and almost standard Buttgereit fare! The FX, though cheap, are imaginatively used (true of the film in general) and the fact it’s in German is no problem. As with a lot of Jorg’s work, it’s a little difficult to tell where the man is being serious – for the sake of his sanity, I hope it isn’t very often… SOCIETY (Brian Yuzna) – Reviewed in TC2, so no point in saying more about it here; the first hour is just as dull as last time, though it makes more sense now, and the last thirty minutes are still seriously OTT.

I BOUGHT A VAMPIRE MOTOR-CYCLE (Dirk Campbell) – This was made by the same folks who are responsible for the TV series “Boon”, and stars a lot of the same people. According to John Wolskell, the co-producer and co-writer of it, they “set out to make a film with loads of blood and that was lots of fun”. Right on both counts – IBaVM is an outstanding entry in that difficult genre, the horror-comedy, and will be a well-deserved success if the reaction here was anything to go by – it was generally regarded as the hit of the festival. The title says it all; a Satanist is trying to summon a devil when proceedings are interrupted by a gang of Hell’s Angels who kill him. Thanks to the demonist bleeding into his motor-bike’s tank, it becomes possessed and at night, goes around seeking blood and revenge against the Hell’s Angels. This happens after it’s sold to a dispatch rider (Neil Morrisey), who has to fend off the bike, the Hell’s Angels, his girl-friend (Amanda Noah), and the police while trying to get a priest (Anthony Daniels) to turn it into an exorcised bike [ Ouch! ].

The effects, from Bob Keen’s Image Animation, are highly arterial, with the (severed) head count close to double figures – add in fingers, legs & a bisected nurse and we’re in messier territory than ever reached by Hammer. And it’s Hammer who are the closest in spirit here – although without any sexual overtones, the bike is a true ‘classic’ vampire, repelled by garlic & crucifixes and fearful of day-light; with nearly every surface capable of slicing, crushing or mutilating, it’s one mother of a machine. If the film has a problem, it’s that it tries to cram in TOO much – one or two chunks, such as a dream sequence involving a talking turd, are funny but add little to it. However, given the probably low budget (the makers &l31were very coy about it, in case it prejudices negotiations with distributors) it’s a lovely piece of work and hopefully will get a theatrical release, possibly with Blue Dolphin, the company who distributed “Bad Taste”.

NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5 (who cares?) – After the delirious Renny Harlin induced excess of NoES 4 this entry, subtitled “The Dream Child”, returns to familiar territory. Far too familiar, in fact, as I could tell inside five minutes who &l84was going to survive, with a 100% success rate. A series of annoying American teenagers get offed by Robert Englund regardless of what passes for a plot. A few mildly impressive & totally gratuitous effects are the twitches of the corpse – this is definitely stillborn.

THE STEPFATHER II (Jeff Burr) – Not having seen the original, I was worried I might have been lost here but there’s no problem as we soon find out the stepfather was a guy who went around joining families and then slaughtering them. Why? He’s a psychopath, next question. What does he do in this one? Goes around joining families and then slaughtering them. What happens at the end? Three guesses. Any more of a review would be difficult since I was asleep for most of it, though what I did see possessed some dark humour. I won’t be making an effort to see the bits I missed.

MONKEY SHINES (George Romero) – See TC2 again. I went out for a lie-down though I ended up chatting to some other ‘zine editors; Paul Higson (Bleeder’s Digest) and Dave Flint (Sheer Filth), the latter of whom is the undisputed number one of fanzine sleaze. Popped back in to see the audience jump at the end, and they did!

SALUTE OF THE JUGGER (David Peoples) – Most Mis-quoted Title of the Year; at various times I’ve heard Juggler, Jugular and Juggernaut and it was always ‘to’, and never ‘of’. This marks Rutger Hauer’s return to trash cinema, following his foray into real movies with the very good, but trash-free “Legend of the Holy Drinker’ (for which, see TC3). Here, he’s back to looking cool and kicking ass, in a post- apocalyptic society which looks a bit Mad Max-ish. The Juggers are teams of warriors who travel the land taking part in The Game to win their living – this is a cross between American football and all-in wrestling, with the object being to wrest a dog’s skull from the opposition and drop it onto a stake at their end of the pitch. There is a plot about Hauer having been thrown out of one of the cities and one of the top teams, but it’s secondary to the sequences of The Game being fought – these battles are possibly the best I’ve seen and are astonishingly well staged with relentless barrages of blows from all the competitors. Although the lack of much else and the heavy use of a gravel pit as a location are certainly deficiencies, I’ll still be heading back to see it again.

SUNDOWN (Anthony Hickox) – ‘Waxworks’, also by Hickox, was an uneven film about, surprisingly, a wax museum; one of the segments was a vampire story, well up in the running for the bloodiest scene EVER. He’s expanded up to an entire film about blood suckers, yet the amount of red stuff here is minimal – in this modern age, vampires have started creating artificial blood (and also using UV cream to let them go out in the day!). This causes friction with traditionalists who believe in hunting their prey; civil war looms. Into this comes David Carradine, as the inventor of the artificial blood, his family, and Bruce Campbell as Van Helsing, out to continue his ancestor’s work. Cue a long stream of mostly obvious jokes about garlic, as Carradine fails to believe his family’s tales until just before the final battle. ‘You’ve been watching too many horror films”, he says, a sentiment that brought a ripple of agreement from the, by now, VERY tired audience! Enjoyable rubbish is the best way to describe this one; the odd new idea and humorous situation keeps it all ticking over and Bruce Campbell is excellent. If at the end you feel as if you’d eaten a stick of candy-floss, it’s stlll a pleasant way to spend ninety minutes.

THE KISS (Pen Densham) – This one was a late replacement for “Phantom of the Opera”, which Medusa failed to come up with. Its cinema release was pretty limited, though, as the company seemed unsure of the target audience; it was introduced as having elements of “The Witch” and “The Omen”, and I can perhaps see a resemblance to “To the Devil a Daughter”, or am I being Kinski-ist again? The film centers around two sisters; Felice (Joanne Pacula), who’s been in Africa and is now a successful model into black magic, and Hilary, now married with a teenage daughter, Amy (Meredith Salenger). Hilary is killed in an auto accident and Aunt Felice comes to stay, but Amy has bad vibes about her, which get worse when ‘accidents’ start happening to Amy’s friends.

Although not especially messy in the 18-rated version we saw, the director racks up a fair bit of tension towards the end which cover up the plot deficiencies. Pacula and Salenger are both very pretty (when the latter asked “Am I old enough for sex yet?”, the ripple round the cinema suggested the male members of the audience thought so!), and I stayed awake throughout, which is more than I did for the preceding and following movies! Well crafted all round, though the Chris Walas special effects aren’t up to much (the man is very good at Gremlins, but does EVERY movie {bar “The Fly”} he does have to have them?). A film with a good chance of crossing over to a mainstream audience.

LEVIATHAN (George P. Cosmatos) – Why does Amanda Pays only appear in films with slimy creatures? “The Kindred” had the a slimy genetic experiment, this has a slimy undersea monster and “Max Headroom” had, er, Max Headroom. The next film in the Jacques Cousteau season (we’ve still got Roger Corman’s “Lords of the Deep” to come) steals a lot from “Alien”, a fair bit from “The Thing” and a tad from “Jaws”, adds Peter Weller and comes up with a workmanlike movie that is the best of the submarine bunch I’ve seen, though that’s not saying much. Workers in an undersea mine discover “Leviathan”, a sunken Russian ship that isn’t supposed to be there. The reason it’s not marked is it’s holding an especially nasty creature which wiped out the crew before it was scuttled – before you can say “Nostromo”, it’s chewing through the workforce, mutating them as it goes. Out with the weaponry – circular saws, chainsaws and flamethrowers, all of which do no good. Their employer writes them off as a tax loss (icky things at the AGM would be embarrassing), the escape capsules are blown by the doctor to save the rest of humanity from the creature, and it’s exciting climax time. Totally predictable (5-4-3-2-1-SHOCK!), but I find it impossible to actively dislike – the acting is decent, the dialogue is plausible (one up on “The Abyss” there!) and Amanda Pays gets damp.

NEKROMANTIK (Jorg Buttgereit) – Looking through old TC’s, I find I’ve often mentioned it, but never reviewed it; now seems as good a time as any. Like “Hot Love”, it’s an eternal triangle – only this time, one of the members is dead. Rob (Daktari Lorenz) works for a company who clean up the bodies after car accidents, etc. – he likes to take bits of his work home with him for his girlfriend (Beatrice M) to play with. This story really starts when he gets a whole male corpse for a bit of three-in-the-bed (in case you’re wondering, the answer is a piece of metal pipe!); unfortunately, shortly after that Rob is fired and Betty runs off with the corpse. Rob tries other ways of getting sexual satisfaction; he kills a cat and bathes in the entrails; he watches a stalk and slash movie, but has to walk out; he takes a hooker to a cemetery and can’t do anything until AFTER he’s killed her for laughing at him. Finally, he realises the way to ultimate release can only be found through his own death…

The whole film is bizarre, to say the least, yet thanks to the sympathetic portrayal, the most disturbing thing is the killing of a real rabbit in a dream sequence (just about permissible, in contrast to say “Cannibal Ferox”, as it was done without cruelty, to illustrate the processes that have turned Rob’s mind) – in the rest of the film, it’s easy to feel sympathy for the man without having to share his deviation. Thanks to Lorenz’s performance and a haunting score, it’s a movie you can appreciate, if not enjoy. Exploitation it isn’t.

And there it ended. Pretty smoothly running (save the projector suffering moral qualms in the middle of ‘Nekromantik’, which led to a five minute pause) and with nearly all the films worth watching, I reckon I’ll be there next year. As I write this, the Glasgow re-run of it has hit some trouble, the city fathers slapping an injunction on them with just 3 days to go, preventing them showing uncertificated films, which wipes out half the programme. How the organisers, Messrs. Dalglish & Bryan will cope is yet to be seen – it’s a real kick in the teeth after all their hard work but I’m sure they’ll do the very best they can.