Thursday, 16 October 2014


You know what? I actually feel pretty confident about getting my review done quite soon, followed by another request not long afterwards!
Not now though. Obviously.
So in my last post, I talked about the fact that, despite some quite overwhelming pessimism among horror fans in recent years, there really have been some great horror villains introduced over the last decade.
The last batch I listed included the likes of Leslie Vernon and Trick ‘r Treat’s Sam. I’d argue this second group is even stronger than most of the last.
Have a look and tell me if you agree!

Mick Taylor
(Wolf Creek, 2005; Wolf Creek 2, 2014)

In 2005, Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek was a sucker-punch for unprepared cinema-goers. Combining a level of gritty and sordid realism with a genuinely disturbing atmosphere and horrifically realistic antagonist, this film was NOT an easy watch.
Loosely based on a true story (the plot takes elements from the crimes of Ivan Milat and the murder of Peter Falconio), there were tales of people walking out of the cinema during the film’s more extreme moments. And those moments were extreme.
Following three tourists as they backpack across Australia, the sense of forboding in the film builds slowly and steadily, creating an unsettling atmosphere. When the tourists make their way to the meteorite crater in Wolf Creek National Park, they return to find their car damaged. It is at this point that John Jarratt’s Mick Taylor arrives. A jovial but uncultured oaf, almost a parody of Australian-ness, Tayor is like a swearier version of Crocodile Dundee.
At first the tourists have a few laughs at Mick’s backwardness. But after they take drugged drinks from Mick, they are not laughing any more.
What follows are some of the most harrowing scenes to appear in mainstream cinemas. Every person who has seen the now infamous ‘head on a stick’ scene will never forget it.
The film shocked and terrified millions… and made an absolute shit-tonne of money.
Perhaps the biggest surprise regarding Wolf Creek 2 is that it took so long to finally get produced. But after lengthy financial wrangling, it finally happened and appeared on screens… and it was different.
Certainly not as harrowing as the first film, it featured a lot more Mick (Jarratt was every bit as amazing in the role this time round) and seemed to recognise the value of Jarratt to the first film. 
Of course more Taylor makes perfect sense, after the first film the mystery regarding the threat was well and truly out of the bag. An opening scene in which Mick takes bloody and violent revenge against two crooked traffic policemen almost paints him as an anti-hero. But only almost.
Soon Mick’s darker, misogyny and perversions come to the fore again and we are reminded that this is the same vile monster of the first film.
The film is still good, that it is less disturbing that the previous instalment may be a positive to a lot of viewers. Since then Mick’s story has been picked up in two prequel novels, Wolf Creek: Origin and Wolf Creek: Desolation Game, which the films’ creator McLean co-wrote along with Aaron Sterns and Brett McBean. I’ve heard both are good, but every bit as extreme as their cinematic parents. McLean has gone on to say that he’d like there to be more films.
The strength of these films is undoubtedly Jarratt. Rather odd casting at the time, following some early acting roles, Jarratt had since gone on to become a tv presenter for Better Homes and Gardens in Australia. As Taylor, Jarratt combines the insidious natural likeability of a blokey Aussie tv presenter, with the cold hard edge of a raving psychopath. Perhaps what makes this character so terrifying is that he embodies the real world monsters among us.
Sordid, dirty, dangerous, cruel men that view others as less than themselves, prey to be stalked and taken as and when they please.
Adding the outback bushman survival skills in an unforgiven landscape makes Mick a nightmare for those soft, ‘more civilised’ tourists he targets. Taylor is terrifying in a very real way.
Jarratt’s performance really does deserve your time. Will you enjoy Wolf Creek? Probably not. Should you see it? I really think, that if you feel brave enough, you should.

(The Hills Run Red, 2009)

I’ve always stressed the importance of a good character design for horror villains. As the monster is often silent, or at least somewhat taciturn in its dialogue, appearance is EVERYTHING. The first glimpse of the villain should inspire fear or revulsion, from there a solid platform is set to build the terror.
And few villains EVER will top the design of the disgusting, disturbing Babyface.
As played by Danko Jordanov in Dave Parker’s The Hills Run Red, Babyface is something of a meta-villain. The plot of the 2009 film sees a group of young horror fans trying to track down ‘the scariest movie ever made’ (itself called The Hills Run Red). After its premiere the director, Wilson Wyler Concannon (played by the ever brilliant William Sadler) took the only cut of his film and disappeared.
So now a handful of nerds track down Concannon’s daughter and use her knowledge to track down the director’s cabin, which happens to be the site where the film was shot. And then BADNESS happens.
Whether in the film within a film or when he appears to hunt down the film fans, Babyface is horrific. He looks the part, he is strong and vicious, but perhaps the greatest thing about the character is the way in which he completely acts against expectations in two key scenes.

In the first, rather than dumbly allow himself to be driven off by one of our characters wielding a burning branch, he casually picks up a discarded handgun and shoots him dead.
In the second, a helpless victim is tied to a chair and tries to play up his ‘mother issues’ by singing him a soothing lullaby. Babyface leans in close, before saying – in a rather urbane voice: ‘You can keep singing if it makes you feel better.’
It is even more CHILLING than it sounds.
*****END SPOILERS*****

Add in a VERY twisted backstory involving insanity and incest, and Babyface ticks a huge number of ‘Euuuuurgh’-buttons.
When it comes to onscreen atrocities, he just strengthens his standing as a brilliant bad guy.
As direct to DVD horror efforts go, this film is pretty damn good (even though I can’t help but feel it should have been even better).
But Babyface? A great, great villain that thoroughly elevates the film and makes a sub-fiver DVD purchase from amazon a no-brainer.

(Sinister, 2012)

When I watched Sinister 2 years ago, I instantly added the disturbing ‘home videos’ (ESPECIALLY the Lawn Work one) to my top three recent onscreen scares, alongside the onset of the home invasion during The Strangers and pretty much the entire last five minutes of REC.
Yet it is the force behind the atrocities shown on these tapes that I’m bringing the focus to here.
Let me say straight off, I think Sinister is a great film with one teeny wobble near the end (interpretive dancing phantom kids, I’m looking at you). If the villain were weaker, I’d still recommend it to you.
But the demonic Bughuul is pretty cool.
At first a mysterious presence in the aforementioned videos of family slaughter, Bughuul gradually becomes an all-too-real menace to struggling true-crime writer, Ellison Oswalt (played by Ethan Hawke).
After consulting a college professor named Jonas (played by Vincent D’Onofrio) over a strange sigil he has discovered, Ellison hears about the ancient Babylonian deity Bughuul, also referred to as The Eater of Children.
Who THE FUCK worships something called The Eater of Children? Even the most miserable out bastard who has had enough of kids kicking their ball into his garden wouldn’t join that particular church.
So, soon we discover exactly what Bughuul does to families (in particular the younglings, and guess what? That whole Eater of Children thing isn’t entirely accurate), how he exists in images (which he uses to traverse worlds) and why finding his sigil and deliberately moving into a former Bughuul-victims’ house was a really stupid thing for Ethan Hawke to do.
Bughuul (also referred to as Mr Boogie by STUPID CHILDREN) isn’t the most original design. I thought he looked a bit like Billy the Puppet from Saw, crossed with Slenderman with a bit of Michael Jackson thrown in for good measure. I think the MJ influence was included to really drive home how much of a threat this thing is to children. Probably.
What makes him work as a villain are his mysterious objectives; creepy, shadowy appearances throughout the film and at least one decent jump scare to his name.
Sinister 2 is due next year and I for one cannot wait. If you’ve not seen this one, give it a whirl. It’s ace.

(Laid to Rest, 2009; Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2, 2011)

Laid to Rest was one of those films that snuck under my radar when it first came out. It didn’t exactly have much fanfare, to be fair, but word of mouth among horror fans spread quite quickly and eventually I tracked it down.
And it was pretty good. A rather unique (if not entirely clear plot) and a very cool slasher villain would have been enough to get my attention, but when combined with some of the most gory, painful-looking death scenes I’ve ever seen, the film stood out from the pack.
When a sequel was released two years later, I was intrigued to see what they did with it — and my mind was blown!
Chromeskull (as played by Nick Principe in both films) clearly had an endgame in Laid to Rest, what with setting up a particular game to play with his victims and recording the whole thing via a shoulder mounted camera. But what this second film added to the mythos, was huge.
Until this point I’d assumed that the man revealed to be Jesse Cromeans (OK, that’s a shit name for a terrifying über-bastard, but you can’t win them all) was acting on his own, with the exception of the odd bribed-undertaker here and there.
The second film reveals that there is a whole corporation working for Cromean. He has a PA called Spann (super scream queen Danielle Harris in a rare unsympathetic role) and even a disgruntled and disillusioned right-hand man called Preston (played by Brian Austin Green. Yes the one from Beverley Hills 90210). He has whole teams of minions and surgeons on hand to save him from his critical injuries. Unfortunately, Preston decides to suck up/usurp control by wiping out the first film’s survivors. And Chromeskull gets the hump.
If the kills were gory and squirm-inducing in the first film, then the second is one of the nastiest and bloodiest films ever made. The kills are universally inventive and genuinely disturbing. Never before has the true agony of piercing of flesh with bladed implements been captured so well. Chromeskull, and his buddy Preston, are truly vicious.
Principe is awesome in the role and the sheer bloody spite (pun intended) shown during his murderlising propels him to the upper echelon of under-appreciated horror villains. Plus, natty black suit; smooth, bald head; leather gloves and unique knives; killer, shiny skull mask? The guy looks sharp!
Apparently a third film is on the way (and it’s needed — Chromeskull/Jesse Cromean’s story is still all too mysterious with several plot threads left dangling) as reported as recently as May this year.
Should Laid to Rest 3: Conception come to fruition, it will not slip under my radar again. Nor should it, or its predecessors, remain under yours.

Art the Clown
(The 9th Circle, 2008; Terrifier, 2011; All Hallow’s Eve, 2013)

I watch a lot of horror films. I have seen plenty and I do not scare easily. But when I watched All Hallow’s Eve last week, Art the Clown creeped me the fuck out. The journey to the recycling bins in the darkness behind my flat with my empty pizza box was NOT a fun experience.
And all because of Art the Clown.
What is it about Clowns that scares that living daylights out of people? Coulrophobia is a surprisingly common fear. If everybody were to watch All Hallow’s Eve, it would be universal.
Played fantastically by Mike Giannelli, Art the Clown is the stuff of nightmares. Originally appearing in Damien Leone’s 2008 short, The 9th Circle, Art was the standout of the production. When Leone was subsequently offered the opportunity to film a segment of an anthology in 2011, he chose Art as the antagonist and created Terrifier. He was due to shoot scenes involving Art that would be slipped into the other segments (clearly showing that people had spotted the star power of Art early on). However, eventually Leone decided to create his own feature and included the two shorts, plus a third new short, bound together by a new wraparound story. And so All Hallow’s Eve was born.
The film is a strange bird, a somewhat disjointed story about a babysitter who discovers an ominous VHS in the trick or treat bag of her young charges. Obviously, she decides to watch it (yeah, the people she’s babysitting for still have a video recorder, just go with it), but the tape may not be a harmless horror film after all. The tape serves as the way to show each segment of the anthology, with some considerably weaker than others. I found The 9th Circle daft and a bit gratuitous (frankly after Art in the intro I lost interest), while the second short involving one of the worst looking aliens ever did little to inspire much more confidence in me. In fact, the connecting story even started quite weakly. At the halfway mark, I wasn’t much of a fan… and then the film became fantastic.
The Terrifier short is brilliant and the brief segments in the house either side really pull the whole thing together. Needless to say, it is in these that Art gets his chance to shine. And he SHINES.
Creepily clad in black and white, including his make up, Art has an impossibly angular face and rotting, pointed teeth in his grinning mouth. He targets victims on Halloween, much like Trick ‘r Treat’s Sam from my last post, but unlike Sam, Art is not creepy fun.
He’s a complete fucker.
With dismemberment, mutilation and decapitation his raison d’être , Art does his job in complete silence. This doesn’t mean that he’s a typical, hulking silent slasher though, oh no.
Art is animated, his face expressive, especially when he descends into fits of silent giggles… the problem is, when he does, you aren’t laughing along. Art’s sense of humour is as dark as it gets.
That I found All Hallow’s Eve to be a bit of a slog until Art took the centrestage, then immediately fell in love with it, should be testament enough to the character. Of all the villains on these lists, Art is arguably the most terrifying of them all.
I definitely recommend you check out All Hallow’s Eve on its UK DVD release later this month.
Just don’t plan on taking anything outside to the bins that night.

Victor Crowley
(Hatchet, 2006; Hatchet II, 2010; Hatchet III, 2013)

As I said before, the biggest complaint from most horror fans seems to be that none of the scary film icons of today come close to matching their legendary predecessors from the 70s and 80s.
But what if a real fan of those infamous boogeymen were to attempt to make one, right now, for today’s audiences?
When Adam Green penned Hatchet, that was exactly what he set out to do. Marketing itself as ‘Old school American horror’, Hatchet could quite easily be Friday the 13th Part 11: Jason Takes The Bayou.
With an all-star horror cast including the likes of Robert ‘Freddy’ Englund and Tony ‘Candyman’ Todd, the film’s biggest coup was in casting the greatest Jason Voorhees ever, Kane Hodder, in the role of Victor Crowley.
An undead monster who roams Honey Island Swamp and murdering anybody who crosses his path (which, considering how remote the location is, is a surprisingly large number of people!), Victor is a ranting raving wrecking ball, hacking people to gloriously gory pieces left, right and centre. Victor was new but, importantly, he still felt familiar to fans of the genre. The cast performed admirably, very few of the jokes fell flat and the real selling point, the insanely gory practical effects were all top notch.
The film was fun, violent certainly, but entirely tongue in cheek and proved a big success. So, inevitably, the sequels followed, fleshing out Victor’s back story to include a curse at birth and a need to avenge his death at the expense of those he deems responsible. In these the lead role was taken on by Danielle Harris (her again! See what I mean when I call her a scream queen?) and boasted even larger bodycounts. In fact, one montage in the second film feels more deaths than most horror films squeeze into their entire running time!
There have been three Hatchet films to date. Each has finished in a way to suggest that more is to come, and if a fourth were to come along, I’d watch it.
The third was the weakest (perhaps down to the fact that this time Adam Green did not return to the director’s chair) but was still well worth your time.
As for Victor? Hodder can do this stuff in his sleep and you can tell he enjoys the hell out of playing Victor. He even has a few scenes sans make-up as Crowley’s father, Thomas.
The make-up and prosthetics become progressively better with each film, and the ingenuity and originality of some of Victor’s killings have to be seen to be believed.
If you miss the campy, gory, jumpy, schlocky slasher classics of yesteryear, Hatchet is for you. Victor Crowley really does takes a deserved place among peers such as The Burning’s Cropsy and Madman’s Madman Marz.

(Saw, 2004; Saw II, 2005; Saw III, 2006; Saw IV, 2007; Saw V, 2008; Saw VI, 2009; Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, 2010)

If you want to talk about modern horror franchises, one stands out above all others — Saw. A driving force behind targeting Halloween for horror film releases at the cinema (Saw paved the way, before Paranormal Activity continued the trend), certainly a massive factor in the wave of torture p0rn films that were released over the past few years, and officially THE highest grossing horror franchise of all time, with takings of $873m worldwide (although adjusting this for inflation could well change things).
The first Saw was released a little over 10 years ago (but was in cinemas long enough to hit our deadline for this blog!) and was an undoubted phenomenon. Cheap, dirty and shocking, unlike the sequels that followed it felt a little harder, cooler and edgier. Yes it featured the series’ trademark agonisingly bloody traps but these served a plot driven by a compelling mystery — the final revelation of which was…

… the identical of the diabolical mastermind behold the whole thing, the seemingly dead man in the room with our leads, Dr Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell).
*****END SPOILERS*****

In fact, forget about spoiler warnings from here on, it is impossible to discuss this series without spoiling several of the twist endings that became as much a trademark of these films as Billy the Puppet, flesh-gouging mechanical devices and the theme song, Hello Zepp.
If you haven’t seen these films, you read on at your own risk. Might I suggest you dig them out (they are all readily available, cheap and thoroughly entertaining), watch them, then come back when you won’t be quite so spoiled.

Still here? Good.
John Kramer AKA Jigsaw is a complicated villain. A man whose life fell apart following a bungled robbery in which his pregnant wife lost their child, Kramer’s fortunes fell even lower when he was diagnosed with cancer. After his insurance company refused to pay for his treatment, Kramer attempted suicide. However, upon surviving, he gained an even greater appreciation for life… and a determination to force others to do likewise.
Taking victims who he saw as wasting the gift of life, John placed each of them in ‘tests’ to determine in they truly wanted to survive. These tests involved cruel traps and would often force those ensnared in them to mutilate themselves or others to pass. Those who failed would die and Kramer would remove a piece of skin in the shape of a jigsaw piece as a symbol that were missing a key piece of humanity — hence the Jigsaw monicker.
Those who survived would have a greater appreciation for living. In fact, it is among his surviving victims that he gained assistants and apprentices: first among these Amanda Young, but also in the final film Dr Gordon is revealed to be following his leadership.
Jigsaw believed that his games must be fair and that nobody should attempt to pass off any inferior work as his — as such when Detective Mark Hoffman used the Jigsaw killer’s M.O. as cover for a revenge-slaying, Kramer sought him out and convinced him to join the crusade.
Jigsaw is most definitely not your typical slasher villain. Sure he has the cool outfit in red or black robes, sometimes accompanied with a horrific pig mask, but the character really comes alive when he is unmasked and talking. Tobin Bell plays the role perfectly — he is truly iconic and undoubtedly up there among the A-List of horror film monsters.
His misguided motivation is very Old Testament – his crimes are about vengeance and punishment, but most importantly, they are also about redemption. There have been a whopping SEVEN films in the Saw franchise (that’s as many as Freddy Krueger managed on his own and more than Chucky, Candyman or Leatherface have racked up), varying in quality from excellent to really quite poor, but the series is one that, if you are any kind of horror fan, you NEED to have seen. Like Halloween, The Shining or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the first Saw film is essential viewing, and for that reason alone, John Kramer is deserving of a place on this list.

So that’s my full selection. Hopefully it will have convinced a few of you that the genre is not in as bad a state as you first thought. And if I’ve helped any of you discover a rare gem or new favourite, well, all the better!

Any surprises? Any glaring omissions or shockingly poor picks?
Feel free to let me know in the comments box below.

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.