February 28, 2009

BASKET CASE 2 (1990) - the return of the fabulous gory freak brothers

(1990, USA)

I love this movie. It's twisted, dark, funny, and the monsters are the good guys.

I'm always disappointed if I don’t see something new, but Basket Case 2 delivers a cast of characters you won't see anywhere else (except of course in Basket Case 3). The extensive prosthetic masks are limited in expressiveness, but the designwork and sculpting quickly and successfully convey character and make an immediate impression.

Like, one guy is all noses, one is all mouth, another is all teeth... They lurk in a huge shadowy attic, potentially a place of nightmares. But while they look scary, crusading all-American mom Granny Ruth treats them all like an oppressed minority, which they undoubtedly are. The Frank Henenlotter twist is that they also solve their biggest problems horror-movie style, resulting in murder, madness and mayhem.

Moments after the events of Basket Case, this sequel kicks off with Duane and Belial on the run from the police, quickly finding refuge with Granny Ruth, who runs a secret hideaway for other disfigured outcasts. While their newfound happiness depends on secrecy, they soon need to evade a journalist from the gutter press, who's desperate to find the 'freak brother' killers of Times Square.

Meanwhile, Belial tries therapy to deal with his addiction... to ripping off people's faces. This he continues to struggle with, resulting in some grisly scenes, at times poorly served by the garish lighting and distant camera. The make-up effects certainly looked ten times nastier in the Fangoria and Gorezone magazine photo-spreads of the time.

Basket Case 2 is less effectively bloody, but builds upon the bizarre humour of the first with a mad story and a continuous supply of fresh mutations popping up throughout - every time you see a group of 'unique individuals', there's a new 'face' among them. Granny Ruth is the extreme embodiment of politically correct, bravely treating Belial like everyone else, despite the danger. Treating her 'unique individuals' as unquestionably normal is at once satirical, inspirational, and a huge stretch for many of us.

Director Henenlotter confidently balances the sensitivity surrounding 'freak' movies. Here, the only characters who use ‘that’ word are the villains. Freaks (1933) and The Mutations (1974) were both problematic for using actors with actual physical abnormalities. But in Basket Case 2, the effects are so exaggerated that they couldn't possibly exist, and are represented by actors in make-up, in a similarly comic book style to Alex Winter's later Freaked (1993).

Annie Ross as Granny Ruth gives a standout performance - gleeful, obsessed and blind to the deformity that surrounds her. With Kathryn Meisle as a ruthless newshound, and Heather Rattray as Granny’s assistant, Susan, the film is dominated by strong-minded women. Like the first film there are also a few non-actors threatening the believability of an otherwise professional-looking film, but you won’t forget the freakshow barker in a hurry – he totally looks the part. Ted Sorel makes a late appearance as a private detective - he starred in Stuart Gordon's follow-up to Re-animator, From Beyond (1986), where he starred as the monstrous Dr Pretorious.

Although it picks the story up at the end of Basket Case, eight years have actually passed and the cast has visibly aged. Kevin Van Hentenryck's performance now seems slightly out of step with the mostly professional cast, his acting being pushed to its limit by playing having to play Duane tipping over into dementia.

Belial again suffers continuity problems, represented by several different puppets even within a single scene. Chillingly, at one point he breaks into demonic laughter, his face animated by an actor in make-up (who I believe is Van Hentenryck playing his own brother). Overall, it's uneven, but typical of the Henenlotter universe, the fun is in the ideas. Belial even gets a girlfriend, who's a freak like him, with a beautiful face that always reminds me of Daryl Hannah.

This is a much more slick-looking film than the first, though it still has 'a 1980s straight-to-video' look. As in, there are modest and convincing sets and lighting, but they're not Hollywood flashy. The story doesn't feel at all inhibited by the budget.

Synapse DVD brought out a special edition that cramps the classic VHS aspect of 4:3, cropping it down to 16:9, but the colour and and clarity is vastly improved and there are a meaty hamper of extras. FX man Gabe Bartolos presents his footage of the extensive make-up effects that also includes a look at the filming of Frankenhooker, which was produced alongside. An interview with Henenlotter reveals that Basket Case 2 was only an afterthought in the deal, but is easily the stronger film of the two.

I was distracted by most of what Bartolos says in his modern day introduction, filmed in a working crematorium! The background activity is quite literally horrifying, and not for the easily upset.

The 4:3 'Collector's Edition' (pictured at top) was available on DVD in the UK, looking like it was taken from an unremastered analogue source, suitable for anyone nostalgic for the straight-to-video look. They manage to misspell Kevin's name on the cover and the only 'special features' are trailers.

February 22, 2009

DVD releases - region 2 updates

(2006, Japan TV)

At last, Ghost Hunt (2006) has been announced for a DVD release in the UK. One of the few anime series of recent years that I've enjoyed watching through to the end, it gets released on May 4th, by Manga DVD. A group of exorcists and psychics from all different religions and beliefs, team together to research a string of hauntings. More about Ghost Hunt here.

(2007, South Korea)

I recently reviewed the beautiful South Korean dark fairytale redux, Hansel & Gretel (2007). The UK gets its own DVD release on April 6th from Terracotta Distribution. See my review here.

(1970, USA)

Good news for March 23rd, one of my oldest Not On DVD wishlist movies is finally getting released, on Metrodome DVD. Pufnstuf is the 1970 movie that launched the TV series, and boasts a couple of songs from Mama Cass. This is easily more enjoyable and adult-friendly than the series, which has been out on DVD for years. I talked about the movie here in 2005! No cover art yet, that's the CD soundtrack cover.

(2008, USA)

I'm in the middle of reviewing my favourite Frank Henenlotter movies at the moment. The director of the outrageous Basket Case trilogy has a new movie out on DVD on March 2nd, from Revolver Entertainment. I'm looking forward to seeing this after I've revisited Frankenhooker ("she'll cost you an arm and a leg") and Brain Damage.

(2006, South Korea)

Out on DVD in the UK this week, is another South Korean film concerned with the nature of violence. A merciless drama in the vein of Straw Dogs and Last House on the Left. As a music professor drives a young student down a long dead-end road, his plans to seduce her run aground as he fights for survival with a gang of unhinged outlaws.

(1980, Japanese TV)

Originally a Japanese series, this was dubbed into English and given a new theme tune by Queen's Brian May. It landed in the UK in 1982 and has remained an obscure cult item until now! The English version of the series has finally been released in one DVD boxset. This programme was Britain's first taste of Japanese giant transforming robots. Unusually, it series isn't an anime, the characters are played by Terrahawks-style puppets, with extensive modelwork for the duelling spaceships. Star Fleet has its followers, but I found the puppets less likeable than Thunderbirds and the modelwork far less careful - no slow-motion is used to disguise the tiny scale of the models, and fire, dust and smoke all completely give away the size. But as a TV show, this was more rewarding than the many Star Wars derived movies of the time.

(1976, Canada)

Gently weird thriller
starring a 14-year old Jodie Foster. She plays a young teenager trying to live on her own, despite the law. Her problems multiply as she attracts the attentions of a predatory psychotic, played by Martin Sheen, when he was still being typecast as villains. This had a good run on double-bills in UK cinemas, following on from Foster's hits with Bugsy Malone, Freaky Friday and Taxi Driver.

(1970, UK)

Savage satire on Britain's upper classes, depicting the lord of the manor as completely insane. Peter O' Toole plays the aristocrat who thinks he's Christ and enjoys being crucifed every dinnertime. Dark, eccentric, funny and very long, it warranted inclusion in The Criterion Collection in the US. Peter Medak later directed wheelchair horror movie The Changeling (1980). A host of British character actors co-star, notably Arthur Lowe (if....), Carolyn Seymour (Survivors, 1975) and a barnstorming cameo from Nigel Green (The Ipcress File) in one of his final roles.

(1965, USA)

A rare underground classic has made its DVD debut in the UK. This explicitly sexual psycho thriller, shot in black and white, features a realistically seedy nightclub
full of suspicious low-lifes and plagued by murder. Among the cast are Broadway favourite Elaine Stritch, Daniel J. Travanti (Captain Furillo from Hill Street Blues) and Bruce Glover (Diamonds Are Forever). Sultry leading man Sal Mineo previously appeared alongside James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, but rarely got roles as good. This is one of his most interesting, daring even, certainly compared to the standard heroics of Krakatoa - East of Java or completely hidden in monkey make-up in Escape from the Planet of the Apes.

February 21, 2009

Twitter - micro-reviews from the Black Hole

OK, I'm going to give this new Twitter thing a try. Here's how and why...

Twitter is the online network that lists short bursts of text from every user - usually just a short word about what they're up to. If anyone else is interested, they can follow these 'micro-blogs', while publishing their own. This appears to be popular in the US and Japan and it's just taking off here in the UK.

In the Black Hole, I suck in a lot of movies that I think are going to be good. But I've stopped reviewing the bad and the boring, to bring you just recommendations of the good stuff.

So, a lot of what I watch never gets a mention. But to give you an idea of what I've seen that's been disqualified from Black Hole DVD Reviews, I'm going to post micro-reviews on Twitter.com as 'BlackHoleDVDs'.

I'll also mention mainstream stuff that I've enjoyed. I don't usually review heavily publicised releases on this site, because thousands of others already have. Instead, I'm writing about films and DVDs that haven't had tons of marketing, and have already been featured on every other movie blog.

So feel free to follow me over on Twitter. I'll also send out an alert for every new article on this site.

February 12, 2009

HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) - bloody good

(1958, UK, Dracula)

A compact classic Hammer Horror film, that's still working

Previously, Dracula was gothic, black and white, with a thick Eastern European accent, and no fangs. Hammer's Dracula starts with bright red Technicolor blood dripping over the titles, to signal that a new era had arrived, with a far scarier vampire. Out came the fangs, in went the stakes, and down went the necklines. The producers were fighting the censor along the way, especially after the savage critical reaction to Curse of Frankenstein which first teamed Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. What they offered was a little more sex and violence.

Lee's performance is still startling today. One minute he's a charming aristocrat, the next a wild-eyed animal - swift, strong, and single-mindedly hungry for blood. With no prosthetic make-up, his Dracula is scary because of the blood dripping from his lips, his bloodshot eyes and his demonic performance. When a crucifix comes out, he reacts like a cornered snake, and hisses in disgust. Here is a villain from Hell, clever, dangerous and evil. There's no moral dilemma - Dracula must be destroyed.

Although the film is fifty years old, Christopher Lee is still with us, still acting. While he's found a new fanbase as Sar
uman in Lord of the Rings and Count Dooku in the Star Wars franchise, he landed both roles because of the lasting impression of his Dracula films.

Lower down the cast, but also still with us is Geoffrey Bayldon. This actor often played far older characters. Here's he's a grey-haired porter, even though he was only 34! You may have seen him as the tour guide in Tales From The Crypt, creepy Max in Asylum and Theo the cloak-seller in The House that Dripped Blood. Like Lee, he's still working!

Likewise, the lovely Janina Faye as the little girl being pursued by the undead. Her scene with Van Helsing, as he protects her from the night's chill, is a lovely moment of calm amidst the horror. It's not easy finding talented child actors who act their age. I also enjoyed her roles in two Janette Scott movies The Day of the Triffids and The Beauty Jungle.

Christopher Lee starred as Dracula in six more Hammer films. They'd have used him more - but he was substituted by other actors when he put his foot down and avoided Brides of Dracula and The Legend of Seven Golden Vampires.

Horror of Dracula (as it was released in the USA) moved the character of Van Helsing into the spotlight, a character who's as virtuous as Dracula is evil. On the face of it, Van Helsing is an anti-hero, a man who digs up the dead and mutilates them, but played by Peter Cushing, he's not only pure, he's a polite and considerate gentleman as well. You couldn't find a better role model... who stakes vampires. It's a shame that modern audiences only know Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in the first Star Wars, because it was such an atypical role for a versatile and compassionate actor - my very favourite in the horror genre.

After the prologue, where the unlucky Jonathan Harker arrives at Dracula's castle, the rest of the film is spent in the company of Lee or Cushing. If that wasn't enough of a treat, there's also the distinctive Michael Gough, temporarily upgraded from his schlocky (though very enjoyable) b-movie horrors.

The story is a heavily abridged version of the rambling book, omitting most of the supernatural elements. like Dracula's shape-shifting abilities, and instead focusing on blood-drinking and the transmission of evil, as his victims become other vampires. Jimmy sangster's best script for a Dracula film fast-forwards through much of the story and loses many characters, even Renfield. Gone are the sea crossings - Dracula's castle is now a short horseride across the border from a mythical English-speaking town in central Europe. This leaves a taut, tight story, unlike the other movie versions.

After fifty years, this is still a great introduction to the crux of a classic horror tale. The period setting, combined with the film's age make it almost look like it was filmed at the turn of the century when it was supposed to take place. The only annoyances are the brief but lame comedy relief.

A newly-restored print was shown recently in London and has reportedly been remastered in high-definition. But there's no blu-ray release in sight, which could also be the film's uncensored debut in digital. I watched my region 1 DVD (pictured at top), which crops the action fairly tightly into a 16:9 frame. It's a watchable transfer for now, and is only missing a little close-up staking, as far as I know.

Here's the original trailer

February 08, 2009

GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES - three versions, all sad

(1988, Japan, Hotaru no haka)

Most movies are for entertainment, but not all of them. Grave of the Fireflies is a grim history lesson, not as intense as say, Schindler’s List, but certainly upsetting enough. Surprisingly it was produced by Studio Ghibli, and even the look of the characters is consistent with the rest of their much more whimsical output. As usual, you get to know the characters and care about them and their plight - the main difference is that here, there’s no happy ending. It wasn’t made to depress the audience, but presumably to educate and commemorate the civilian casualties of war. The horror doesn’t always end when the bombing stops.

I’m slowly working my way through Studio Ghibli’s catalogue, and have little idea what each film is about. I only knew that Grave of the Fireflies was set in wartime, but had no idea how gruelling it was going to be - it’s not a film to go into blindly. The story is about a teenage boy, Seita, and his little sister Setsuko, aged 14 and 5 respectively. But the film opens with a stark scene where the boy dies of hunger and neglect while sleeping rough in a train station. His spirit then walks outside to see a cloud of fireflies and he meets his little sister. The film then flashes back to when they were both alive, though we have yet to learn how the little girl is going to die…

Set at the very end of the Second World War, the movie-length flashback starts just as they are hurriedly preparing for an imminent air raid on their hometown of Kobe. Seita is burying food and provisions in the ground. He then gives his little sister a piggyback and runs for his life as the American planes start dropping firebombs. Like Kobe, Tokyo and other Japanese cities, most buildings were primarily made of wood. After fiercely sustained bombing campaigns, the cities were burnt to the ground - only the occasional brick buildings remained. Separated from their Mother and with their home destroyed, they become too much of a burden for their relatives, and try and survive on their own…

The little girl looks much like the characters in My Neighbour Totoro, which was being produced at the same time. The two films were initially released in Japan as a double bill, Totoro being seen as more of a financial risk than Grave of the Fireflies. I’d assumed that Hiyao Miyazaki was the director, but it was Isao Takahata, who later made The Racoon War (Pom Poko, 1994), which was also strong on message, though not nearly as downbeat.

Grave of the Fireflies very much reminded me of the earlier Barefoot Gen (1983), which tells a similarly structured tale of a young boy and his younger brother who miraculously survive the Hiroshima atomic blast, only to try and survive the aftermath and the devastation. Also semi-autobiographical, the story of Barefoot Gen is more horrific in detail, but somehow more hopeful in tone. While Barefoot Gen was based on a manga, Grave of the Fireflies was based on a novel, both written by men who’d lived through wartime experiences.

This anime is recommended, powerfully representing life on the receiving end of bombing raids, and then strict rationing. But while I know it’s close to what must have happened, the story was frustrating by not knowing more about what prevented the children from rejoining their relatives. The recent TV adaption, made to mark the 60th anniversary of the war's end, had the luxury of being twice as long, and able to explain much more of the surrounding story.


The TV adaption adds much-needed background featuring the other characters in the story, expanding the motivations of the rest of the family that lead to this tragedy. It's just as much from the perspective of the children as their relatives. It’s expensive and ambitious for a Japanese TV drama, though some early use of simple greenscreen compositing effects look unfortunately artificial in depicting a bombed-out Kobe. The rest of the programme is beautifully shot and the firebombing scenes are remarkably dramatic and frightening, even more than the anime. Performances are all very strong, especially that of the little girl. The climax is powerful, but not nearly as sustained and haunting as the animated version. A slushy rock song over the end titles helps deflate its final moments. It would be worth checking this out after seeing the anime version, but since 2005 there's been another remake.

Last year there was a movie adaption released in Japanese cinemas. It seems strange that two live-action versions have been made so close together. But the movie is presumably partially intended for an international audience, and a sign that this is a precious story for the Japanese, one that they are eager to share. At 100 mins long, and with publicity photos indicating that it sticks close to the vision of the anime, I guess it’s intended for those who don’t like watching anime. I’ve yet to see it, but there's not long to wait.

The anime is the most available form of the story, being on DVD in many countries. I can’t find a translated version of Akiyuki Nosaka’s original 1967 novel, and it doesn't look like it's been in print in English since 1978 (see
here for a list of publications). Please beware that an American fantasy novel cheekily has exactly the same name. It’s here on Amazon but confusingly, it is nothing to do with this story.

The 2005 TV dramatisation is
available on DVD in Japan (pictured), but has no English subtitles. The Malaysian DVD is supposed to have English subtitles, but they might not be very well translated.

The 2008 live-action movie version will have
a subtitled release on DVD in Japan in March, but will hopefully eventually get a wider release.

There's more about the anime
at this official site and more links at this fansite, including a page full of screenshots to get a better idea of what to expect.

Like a history lesson, you only need to learn it once. It’s very sad to watch, and I may never see it again. But I’m glad I’ve experienced the story.

February 02, 2009

THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE (1961) - global warning

(1961, UK)

Altogether an enjoyably adult sci-fi thriller, verging on apocalyptic and ringing remarkably true during our anxieties over global warming. This film shows us what it could all look like...

The day after watching this tale of
an apocalyptic heatwave and its effects on London, we had the worst snowfall in the capital in 18 years. There was an eerie synchronicity between the movie's freak weather disasters, and the actual city in chaos.

Despite being in black and white, the movie still feels very modern, and far more believable than recent Hollywood disaster movies, like The Day After Tomorrow, where global catastrophes become a series of dramatic obstacle courses for the heroes.

The Day The Earth Caught Fire uses a more believable approach, showing the gradual effects of a world that keeps getting hotter, triggered by a series of nuclear tests. Currently it rings true with many modern anxieties about global warming and abnormal weather. When I saw this on TV in the 1970s, it just felt like pure science fiction, When it was made, the worry centred on the unknown side-effects of nuclear testing.

The film, is greatly helped by a snappy, unstereotypical cast of characters, mainly the staff at a London newspaper, hearing the news first and trying to uncover what's being withheld. The dialogue is even faster than modern films, to match the hectic environment of daily newspaper deadlines, but the boy/girl banter is just as fast and frequently witty. It's a telling sign that director Val Guest was balancing the doom with verbal parrying between the characters. Guest had previously written film scripts for a long line of British comedians, including Will Hay, Arthur Askey and The Crazy Gang. Though this is suitably more high-brow humour.

Besides a solid science-fiction premise, strongly defined characters, an endearing cast (with the exception of Edward Judd’s boozy, stroppy malcontent), it's a gritty and realistic look at the effects of a few months of non-stop global warming. There are many special effects to sell the cyclone, drought and freak fog hitting various London landmarks. Fairly tight on budget, Les Bowie and his team, which included future special effects wizard Brian Johnson, convincingly use matte paintings, blow-up photographs and crisp back projection, plus some spectacular stock footage.

Though the visual effects occasionally look impressionistic rather than real, the story is sold by the consistently sweaty cast. As temperatures soar, lawlessness breaks out and passions rise. I was surprised at how risque Janet Munro actually gets to look in this. Not revealingly nude, but very nearly almost… and complemented by subtly fruity dialogue.

Left to right: Edward Judd, Janet Munro and Leo McKern

You may have also seen leading man Edward Judd as the star of the Ray Harryhausen’s First Men In The Moon (1964), as well as the considerably lower budget Island of Terror. Leo McKern as a fellow reporter is a well-loved British comedian and actor, most famous as top TV barrister Rumpole of the Bailey. But I prefer to watch him in his zany comedy roles, such as the chief villain chasing Ringo and The Beatles in Help! (1965), and as Moriarty chasing Gene Wilder in The Aventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975). You’ve probably seen him in the first two films in 1970s The Omen series as Bugenhagen, the frazzled archaeologist, where he coincidentally appeared with Janet Munro’s second husband, Ian Hendry. Munro should have had many more good parts, but you may have seen her in Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson, or singing with Sean Connery in Darby O’Gill and the Little People (hopefully you haven’t) or even battling crawling eyes in The Trollenberg Terror.

Keen eyes might even recognise a couple of the reporters, Michael Goodliffe also appeared in Hammer's The Gorgon and To The Devil A Daughter, and Edward Underdown starred in The Hand of Night. There's even a young Michael Caine in a bit part as a policeman, just before his movie career took off.

The only blot on this landscape is the casting of the real life editor of the Daily Express newspaper. No doubt this allowed the crew to shoot in and around the actual Fleet Street building and around the printing presses, but Arthur Christiansen is an editor and not an actor, which makes for a few bizarre scenes. Though the main set of the newsroom is a faithful studio replica of the actual thing.

This is also an example of the mini-genre of British apocalypse movies where everyone takes refuge in a pub, rather than a church (see also Devil Girl From Mars and The Earth Dies Screaming). Trivia fans take note that one of the main exterior shooting locations is London's Battersea Fun Fair, which was also central to the action during the story of the giant monster Gorgo (1960).

Director Val Guest of course masterfully directed the Hammer versions of The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass 2, as well as the recently released (on DVD) caveman vs dinosaur flick When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth.

I got the DVD in order to finally see this in 2.35 widescreen, an unusual experience in monochrome, but was surprised that it was a far better film than I’d remembered - repeated 1.33 'pan-and-scan' TV viewings certainly didn't do it any favours. The region 2 PAL DVD, from Network, has remastered this with a fine-looking picture and sharp audio, and also restores a hot red monochrome tint, that I’d never seen before, to some scenes. Together with the extras – a recent interview with Leo McKern, trailers, behind-the-scenes photos and background notes, plus a commentary track from the late director, this is a very welcome, well-rounded release. Looks like Australia also have a DVD out as well.

Here's the trailer on YouTube, complete with correct aspect ratio, tinting, and spoilers!

February 01, 2009

KONTROLL (2003) - offbeat Hungarian subway thriller

(2003, Hungary)

After first seeing the Russian ‘vampire’ blockbuster Night Watch, I was hungry for more modern movies from Eastern Europe. Kontroll was shot in Hungary and if it'd been directed by someone like Guy Ritchie, would have been a huge hit. But it wasn’t. Kontroll certainly lead to the director, Nimrod Antal, getting a gig in Hollywood directing the horror thriller Vacancy (2007), and his next film Armored is a crime caper set in the world of armored car deliveries and should be out later this year.

In the meantime, I’m going to give Vacancy a go, but I doubt it’ll be as much fun as Kontroll which has everything – horror, drama, romance, thrills and grubby underground humour. Set entirely in the Metro subway in Hungary’s capital city Budapest, where the ticket inspectors (collectively called Control) travel the train system in teams. One lot in particular is about to cross paths with a hoodied figure who is passing off random murder as passenger suicides…

While most of the inspectors are disliked by the public, much like traffic wardens, within Control, there’s a team who are even disliked by their colleagues. Bulcsu is the leader of the pack, but sleeping on the subway platforms, wandering the system at night, what is his problem?

Director Nimrod Antal’s debut feature is instantly accessible, creating a castful of entertaining and diverse characters… Bulcsu’s team of Kontrollers include an old world-weary skinhead, a narcoleptic bully, a grubby sex pest, and the newest youngest who’s keen to learn and impress.

Besides helping with the serial murders, they have to battle public fare dodgers, a travelling gang of prostitutes, and a young parkour wannabe who loves to outrun the officials. This is all besides their rivalry with other Control teams. Bulcsu has a reputation to defend, the dangerous talent for outrunning Metro trains between stops. And of course, there’s the woman who rides around all day dressed up as a bear.

All the interlinking stories and characters make for a well-rounded film that’s alternately thrilling, chilling, funny, dark and even poetic. The kinetic cinematography regularly calms down to take in darkly beautiful tableaux in the weirdest corners of the underground, where most of the film was shot on location. The film, like Bulcsu’s character, never leaves the Metro system. The atmosphere of the unusual setting is complemented by the driving soundtrack by electro band Neo – a sort of cross between Massive Attack and The Chemical Brothers (see/hear the YouTube clips below).

As long as subtitles aren’t a problem for you, this is a very rewarding and repeatable film. Also, don’t let the introduction put you off, a five minute monologue by a Budapest Metro official pointing out rather patronisingly that the Hungarian transport system portrayed in the film is fictional and isn’t actually staffed by drunks and sex pests. Don’t expect a linear story, but more of an enthralling meandering experience that draws you into a world of eternal artificial night, perfect for viewing in the middle of the night.

Kontroll is out on DVD in the US and UK and all round Europe. I got the CD soundtrack by Neo from Amazon.de.

The official Hungarian movie website is still online here, much of it is translated into English.

I wrote about other subway films here.

Here's a promo video clip from Neo that just uses clips from the movie.

Here's another track from Neo. Both these tracks are from the movie soundtrack.

Meet British horror director Pete Walker

Seventies horror movie director Pete Walker is appearing for a Q & A session at London's BFI SouthBank on March 12th. You'll also get a chance to see one of his best films, Frightmare, which introduced psycho driller-killing years before Abel Ferrara.

Afterwards, there's a rare chance to see his last film, the not-on-DVD House of the Long Shadows, which teamed veteran horror stars Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine with Walker's own discovery Sheila Keith.

So why not revisit Pete Walker's House of Whipcord, The Comeback and Schizo, so you've got some keen questions for him...

More details about the event and screenings here on the BFI website.