I really hate aliens. Nothing personal. My brain just seems convinced that I’ll die during an alien invasion. Does that mean I actually believe in UFO sightings in the like? Not really. But the fear remains the same.
So when I watched The McPherson Tapein 2021, I was both impressed and a bit terrified. This was found footage done right in the era before The Blair Witch Project. The technique was convincing. The actors were believable. It was, to me, perfect. Rubber alien masks and all.
But while reading about The McPherson Tape, I learned that there was a 1998 remake by the same director. I was certainly intrigued. How do you improve upon something already so great?
Turns out, it’s pretty difficult. And in this case, it didn’t happen.
Like the original, Alien Abduction follows a family during an evening of celebrations. The McPhersons are gathered for Thanksgiving. Sixteen-year-old Tommy begins to film his family with his new camera.
As the family sit down for dinner, the power goes out. The three brothers (including Tommy and his camera) go out to see what the problem is. They arrive at the fusebox and see that it’s been tampered with. As they go to investigate further, they discover a ship and an alien cutting into a cow with a sort of laser.
The brothers are spotted by the aliens and run home. Much like the original, the family are terrorised throughout the night by the aliens. They kill an alien, try to keep it as a prisoner, but soon realise that it is missing. And speaking of missing? The family begin to disappear one by one.
Throughout, the movie is occasionally interrupted by interviews with the likes of police, a director and an academic. These serve no purpose whatsoever and just slow the movie’s plot down. Though once I understood that this was originally aired on UPN, I wondered if these interjections were meant to be at the end of commercial breaks. Watching it in one go, it really doesn’t work.
The remake has more sex, drinking, and racism. It also has a much longer running time. This is pretty unnecessary, as it really drags out the story. The characters, while given more screen time, are not actually more fleshed out. They’re actually really unlikable.
Overall, I was really disappointed by Alien Abduction. I really have a soft spot for The McPherson Tape and think it’s completely brilliant. It just goes to prove that budget doesn’t always mean it will make for a better movie.
If anything, I think I’ll be rewatching The McPherson Tape tonight.
Found footage is that is difficult to make feel fresh and new. To breakthrough, the ideas need to be there that sets the movie apart from the rest of the pack.
It’s pretty rare that I stumble across a found footage horror movie that is as modern and unique as Butterfly Kisses. I’m pretty amazed that this isn’t talked about more when people discuss the subgenre.
This 2018 movie is a movie within a movie within a movie. (Got it?) Gavin is a filmmaker who missed his chance at making movies his career. He’s settled for shooting wedding videos and limiting himself that way. But when he discovers a box that says “Don’t watch”, so promptly watches the footage he finds inside the box.
In comes the documentary crew, intrigued by Gavin and his passion for what he’s found on the found film. What he’s discovered is a rough cut of a movie, which is actually a documentary of a local legend called Peeping Tom. The footage is shot by college students Sophia Crane and Feldman. Just “Feldman” like Prince, I guess.
According to the legend, Peeping Tom will appear at the end of a tunnel if you stare at it without blinking for an hour before midnight. It’s a pretty lofty rule, which Crane and Feldman soon realise no one can do. But one night, after filming the tunnel before midnight, the students realise that their camera has been considered an eye, and it has won the staring competition.
Peeping Tom begins to appear in the students’ footage. Feldman is seemingly convinced it is all real. Crane is less certain of what she sees but knows it will make for a great movie.
Gavin, meanwhile, is convinced that the footage is real. His search for either student brings up nothing. So he takes it upon himself to string the footage together to make a complete movie. Despite his earnestness, no one believes him. That trick was already done with The Blair Witch Project, and no one is falling for that again.
Butterfly Kisses switches alternates between the documentary about Gavin and the footage from the students. At times it’s a bit distracting, as you rarely get to settle into what’s happening on screen. But it soon becomes apparent why this is happening: the parallels between what happened to Feldman and what’s happening to Gavin increase.
Feldman and Gavin’s demise happen seemingly happen at the same time as the footage of both men come to their ends. But what is real and what isn’t? The documentary crew aren’t entirely sure, but they each come to their own conclusions. It’s really what found footage is all about: what are we, as viewers, really willing to believe?
With modern technology, we can create fake footage of almost anything. But it’s almost as easy to disprove. Does that mean we’ve lost the ability to believe in anything and can explain the unexplained away?
I think I enjoyed Butterfly Kisses more for what it made me ponder about than the actual movie itself. Though I think it’s incredibly clever. There’s lots being played with and messed with here that fans of the genre will love picking apart.
It’s a shame this isn’t better-well known. Thanks to the random list on Twitter I saw months ago recommending this. You’re a star, whoever you are!
It was nearly two years ago that I watched my first South American giallo, Abrakadabrah. I thought it was a great homage. The visual style was beautiful, and really, that’s a big reason why I love many gialli to begin with.
So when I spied the Argentinian-Uruguayan film The Last Matinee on Arrow Player, I knew I needed to give it a whirl. And I was pretty impressed, a movie with lots of nods to its predecessors while being able to stand on its own. Not always possible with these nostalgia-drenched movies.
The Last Matinee follows young engineering student Ana as she covers her father’s late shift as a projectionist at the Opera cinema in Montevideo. Everything seems normal during a rainy night in 1993 as the audience begins to trickle in for a horror flick.
Only one of these guests isn’t just there for blood on screen. He’s there for pickled foods, blood on his black gloves…AND YOUR EYEBALLS.
As the audience and Ana continue their night unaware of the lurking danger, the black-gloved man kills off the last-remaining cinema worker. He promptly locks the rest of the unwitting victims inside. He proceeds to knock off the audience one by one.
When the film stops suddenly, one of the girls in the audience realises that two kids have a pole through their eyes. As the audience (or what’s left of them) begins to panic, Ana realises that there’s something wrong below. But the man in the black gloves is quick to find the last of them and begins to stalk them throughout the theatre.
The ending here is like if Dèmoni lost its paranormal edge and veered ever-so-slightly closer to the American urban legend-style slasher. The use of the cinema as a set is just so good, it holds its own against the likes of Popcorn and Bava.
It’s certainly slow in its build, but the last act is nonstop and delightful (and very bloody). The only thing that was lacking for me was a great twist or reveal at the end. Gialli should shock you, but here we know who the killer is all along. That is fine, but I still wanted something at the end to make me gasp or be surprised.
But that’s not massive, the rest of the ride is really enjoyable. Plus the soundtrack is soooo good. Lots of synth. Maybe not wholly appropriate for 1993, but it suits the neon-soaked scenes so well that I will allow it. Can we get it on Spotify or something though, please?
Whatever you horror directors are doing in South America, please keep it up.
We made it through another year, everyone. I’m hoping that 2021 was more bearable than 2020 was.
If anything, we had some amazing horror movies out this year. Such a wide variety of voices and stories. In the UK, we didn’t have as many movies streaming at the same time they were in cinemas, so I missed a few key ones thanks to Covid (thinking about Candyman).
Actually, while compiling this list, I realised I missed out on a lot. No changing that now with only a few days to go! Nevertheless, we’re making a list here. Who cares if I still haven’t seen Censorship? But of the horror movies I saw this year, these are my top ten 2021 releases.
I’ve gone by UK theatrical and streaming release dates. So if you see something on here that was on everyone else’s 2020, blame the stupid pandemic we’re living through.
10 There’s Someone Inside Your House dir. by Patrick Brice
I was shocked by how much I liked this movie. Predictable? Very. But it’s a solid slasher that comes from an original source material. A girl and her friends are being stalked online where their biggest secrets are being exposed.
I know this received pretty lukewarm reviews, but I watched this on one of my flights back from the US and I thank it for making two hours pass by painlessly.
9 The Found Footage Phenomenon dir. by Phillip Escott and Sarah Appleton
A nice documentary about one of horror’s most polarising subgenres: found footage. I would love for this to be done as mini series to allow more in-depth discussion about the genre and it’s development. But great work for a panini doc.
8 Till Death dir. by SK Dale
One of the biggest (but pleasant) surprises of 2021 was how much I enjoyed this Megan Fox thriller.
Fox was great as the wife of a powerful man, stuck in an unhappy marriage. When she’s taken to their remote cabin for their anniversary, she thinks things might be on the mend. But it soon becomes apparent that her husband has something much more sinister in mind.
There are great moments that held me in suspense throughout. Again, Fox was really great, especially as she had to carry much of the movie on her own.
7 Werewolves Withindir. by Josh Ruben
It will be clear from the next few movies on this list that I really favoured horror comedies this year.
Sam Richardson plays Finn, a forest ranger who goes to a small town to keep the peace over a proposed gas pipeline. But there’s more than just politics at play here. Soon the residents realise they must band together to fight a werewolf. Only, working together isn’t exactly their strong suit.
The ensemble cast is really good here, and bring the film to life really well. I loved the snowy locked room mystery, even though I guessed who the werewolf was almost straight away.
Werewolves Within was my first Ruben film, but I’ve since watched Scare Me which was one of my favourite new-to-me movies of the year.
6 Freaky dir. by Christopher Landon
Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton switch bodies and play each other’s characters to perfection. Vaughn gives a great performance here that made me laugh until my side hurt. The script is hilarious, and it’s a film I find myself enjoying more with each watch.
5 Fear Street: 1666 dir. by Leigh Janiak
This summer, Netflix gave us three Fear Street movies back-to-back. They created an entertaining world of monsters and curses.
Each of the instalments had something about them that I liked, but part three really pulled everything together. It’s part three, so I won’t go into plot because of spoilers. But it’s proof that horror was alive and well in the mainstream in 2021. Truly, thank you Netflix for this gamble.
4 Psycho Goreman dir. by Steven Kostanski
Psycho Goreman is absolutely bananas. A little girl and her brother find an extraterrestrial overlord and force him to be their friend with a magic stone. It’s hilarious, disgusting and absolutely unique.
3 The Amusement Park dir. by George A. Romero
Is it cheating to include a movie made in 1975? Maybe. But I call the shots here.
The AmusementPark is a 50-minute movie that Romero made for the Lutheran Service Society in Pittsburg about elder abuse. The Lutherans didn’t like the film’s bleakness and shelved it. The film was believed lost until rediscovered in 2017.
It certainly is bleak. An elderly man spends time at an amusement park meant only for the young. He suffers embarrassment and cons throughout a day of abuse. I found this story very hard to watch at points. But it’s poignant and makes it’s points well.
I miss Romero and his work very much. It was a blessing to be able to see new footage of his this year.
2 Malignant dir.by James Wan
Certainly one of the more polarising horror movies of the year. I adored this bat shit crazy story. It’s really a movie you should go into completely blind. Watch the trailer if you wish, but it gives literally nothing away to what unfolds in the third act. It’s in that last act that things go from a three to 100. It’s a rollercoaster that you’ll never want to get off.
Malignant is bold and ballsy. I can’t help but adore that in a movie.
1 Veneciafrenia dir. by Álex de la Iglesia
A group of Spanish friends go to Venice for a holiday of debauchery during Carnevale. They’re incredibly irritating, typical tourists. But when their group starts to dwindle in numbers, they realise someone is targeting tourists in the city.
There are two movies I’ve seen this year that I think about every day since I’ve seen them. This is one of them. It’s one of the most stunning horror movies I’ve ever seen. The sets and costuming are jaw-dropping. The plot is fun and twisty – clearly very inspired by gialli. I cannot wait to be able to watch this one again. If it’s ever released theatrically, do yourself a favour and see it on the big screen.
Christmas horror stories are a special type of twisted. It’s meant the merriest time of year, which I guess makes it all the more fun watching it become dark. Blood looks really good in the twinkling Christmas lights.
Treevenge is bonkers in all the right ways. It’s certainly a very fun and twisted short film. Essentially what is a Christmas tree version of a rape-revenge story.
It might only be sixteen minutes, but it packs a lot of punch in that time. A grove of trees live in peace in the woods until a group of men with saws and axes chop them down and terrorise them. The madmen drag the desperate trees off to a Christmas tree lot where they are sold to greedy families with ghastly grins.
When the trees are separated, decorated and humiliated, they decide to get revenge. On Christmas morning, the trees begin to attack. They really don’t hold back at all. The death scenes are essentially a love letter to Fulci’s style, particularly That Kill from Zombi 2. It’s mayhem for everyone on Christmas.
Yet for all its gore, Treevenge is absolutely gleefully silly. We have killer trees that laugh! The kills are brilliant and made me laugh in a nervous way. (It’s ok to laugh at trees killing babies?)
Director Jason Eisener also made the short “Hobo With a Shotgun”, which was featured in Grindhouse as one of the mini-trailers. The man is clearly a master at cramming a lot of action and drama into short running times.
This is one of the most demented Christmas horror movies I’ve seen in a long while. It’s certainly memorable and fun. And as someone who has never had a real Christmas tree, I’ll make sure it stays that way forever. Treevenge could be a PSA in the negative effects of the logging industry a la Rachel Leigh Cook’s heroine commercial.
I’m not sure if this is universal, but choosing a movie that everyone in the family will like is an impossible task. Turns out my family have zero interest in gialli, my dad only likes things set during wartime, my sisters watch the same three movies on repeat and my mom loves wholesome holiday classics.
When I learnt that someone had combined the much-loved Hallmark Christmas movie with a paranormal slasher, it sounded right up my alley.
Letters to Satan Claus is a Dumb Movie. And it very much is aware of that.
TV news journalist Holly Frost has been a Christmas grinch ever since her parents were killed by Satan when she was a little girl. After writing a letter to Santa Claus, misspelling “Santa” as “Satan”, the entity followed little Holly’s wishes to get rid of her parents. And on Christmas morning, Holly and her sister opened up presents containing their parents’ limbs.
After not returning to her hometown in years, she’s assigned to cover the town’s annual event, Ornaments. It’s a story that could make her lead anchor at the station.
The town is full of the usual Christmas movie suspects: quirky characters, lots of Christmas decor, and lots of hot men. There’s a lot of winks and nods to the tropes we know so well but the film makes them just ever so twisted and naughty.
With Holly’s return to town, the killings start up again. An aunt gets pushed into an oven. Some frisky teens gouge their ears out with candy canes to avoid listening to an annoying Christmas song. A friend loses her eyeballs to a snowman. The usual.
Of course no one believes Holly when she says Satan is behind the mysterious disappearances. The town turns on her when she becomes the number one suspect in the killings. Holly must write a letter to Santa and learn the way to take down Satan for good before it’s too late.
As I said before, this movie is Dumb. But it’s fun. If you’re a fan of Hallmark Christmas movies, you’ll certainly get a kick out of some of the scenes. I especially loved the sick humour of everyone’s tragic backstories.
Unfortunately, this is a Syfy channel movie. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that the blood and gore and jokes can’t push as far as they should. So while it looks beautiful, many of the jokes fall flat. But for some crazy, zany Christmas fun, this is a harmless movie that’s great for a laugh.
It sure is a treat when you stumble upon a Christmas movie that’s made in Wisconsin! Throw in cannibals and you’ve got a real holiday hit.
Trapped Alive is a 1988 slasher set in Vilas County, just over the border from Michigans UP. It’s beautiful, snowy and apparently has mines. It was produced by Windsor Lake Studios, which also made the wintery slasher The Chill Factor. Both are available from Arrow. So thank you, Arrow, for your oddly specific work in restoring Wisconsin cinema! I won’t hold it against you for not asking me to contribute to your Bill Rebane box set…
This isn’t a very Christmas movie, but it does open up with a Christmas party. So that’s enough to count for me!
When friends Robin and Monica leave Robin’s dad’s Christmas party, they head off in the snow to a different one. But along the way, the two girls have car troubles. Unbeknownst to them, a trio of convicts escape from a nearby prison. While the girls are stuck in the snow, the men hijack the car and kidnap the girls.
As one of the escapees, Randy, drives off the path and crashes into an unseen mineshaft below. Another convict, Mungo, crashes through the windshield and soon dies. Stuck in the mine, the remaining four attempt to find some light and discover a different way out of the mine.
Meanwhile, some weird shit is going on above ground. A local officer, Billy, stops at a house near the crash. There he meets a woman who lets him borrow her phone, then um, gets it on with him? The officer doesn’t bother to even get her name.
As Billy canoodles, the rest of the gang down in the mine get into plenty of trouble. Randy finds a generator and tries to fix it. He goes back to Mungo’s body to get a lighter, and he then sees that something (or someone) has eaten the body’s face and intestines.
Before he can return to the rest of the group, he’s caught by Billy, who follows him into the mine. When the two men arrive they’re able to stop “Face”, the leader of the prisoners, from assaulting Monica. They also release Robin from a dark room that Face locked her in, where she swears something was with her.
Billy handcuffs Face to a gate and Randy to the generator. But while the group tries to figure out what to do next, Face is attacked by a giant claw-thing and lifted into the air. A crazed-looking man then makes a Christmas feast out of Face.
Shocked by what they’ve seen, the survivors realise they need to escape not only the mine but a cannibal.
Spoilers ahead. But we eventually find out that the man in the mine is the house lady’s dad (whose name we learn is Rachel. Thanks for asking, Billy.). Apparently, her dad was the sole survivor of a mine collapse years ago. He survived for years after no rescue team would save him.
I have questions. Like with Death Line, why did these people just not go above ground? They clearly survived by people coming in and eating them. Surely if there’s a way in, there’s a way out? And the mine shaft that the car crashed into didn’t even seem that deep!
But we don’t watch Wisconsin-set cannibal mineshaft movies for realism!
Trapped Alive doesn’t make much sense. It also stops for several minutes just to build up as to why Randy is a good guy and we should really care about him. But it’s fun! Giant claws (I’m sure there’s a technical mining term here that I’m not aware of). Real evil villains that you love to watch die. It’s not really festive, but it does do the trick.
Veteran actor Cameron Mitchell (How to Marry a Millionare, Blood and Black Lace) gets top billing here, but as Robin’s father, he doesn’t actually get too much screen time. The crew was obviously psyched to get him and use him as much as possible. But the poor man does a lot of staring longingly into the distance.
Trapped Alive isn’t going to change lives, but it’s strange enough to warrant watching. Also shout out to the local actors whose Wisconsin accents slip through every now and then.
“You don’t know how to tell good guys from baaahd guys!”
Christmas is a time to spend with loved ones. And if you’re spending them with your family, it’s also a time where conversations inevitably get political and you have to leave the room.
The 2019 reimagining of one of my absolute favourite movies, 1974’s Black Christmas, was incredibly controversial when it came out. I saw a lot of anger that was overwhelmingly negative, and it scared me away from watching it. Not that it didn’t sound like something I’d maybe enjoy, but there were too many opinions flying around, and I knew my viewing experience would be affected by that.
That being said, it’s two years since its release, and that’s what I still attach most to this movie: the anger. So I’ve watched this movie, sat and thought about it and even discussed it with a queer friend of mine. I let my views have time to “ferment” if you will.
And after a few days of mulling over it, I think my issues with the film only grew.
Without the controversy surrounding the negative reviews upon its release, I don’t think there’s anything much remarkable about this film. We’d have forgotten about it if it hadn’t made a certain group Very Mad.
The 2019 version of Black Christmas strays even further from the original than the 2006 remake. But the bare bones are there: a group of sorority sisters are killed off at the start of Christmas break. This time, writers Sophia Takal (who also directed) and April Wolfe give the story a spin about being a sexual assault survivor. If the script had stopped there, I think we may have had something really special.
Instead, the movie spirals into this bizarre plot about a fraternity that discovered a bust of the university’s founder. And that bust gives them power over women? I mean, don’t they already have that without magic.
Riley (played by an uncharismatic Imogen Poots) was sexually assaulted by a fraternity member when she was younger. When she and several of her sisters perform a reworked version of “Up on the Housetop”, they publicly call out frat houses’ rape culture. Riley’s more social-conscious sister, Kris, gets the girls women into trouble when the video goes viral.
This seemingly triggers a number of attacks on sorority sisters around campus. The violence is nonexistent here. It had a PG-13 rating, which the director wanted in order to appeal to a younger crowd (which I get, but I don’t think was successful). But the ladies all win in the end because we’re badass.
And hooray. The women win. But this doesn’t feel like much of a win.
As someone who has been assaulted, like nearly every single one of my friends, this movie was nice to see, but it didn’t really feel like I took anything from it. I didn’t feel vindicated. But if it helps anyone out there, I’m so glad it did.
But by making the villains supernatural, it no longer felt like someone fighting my demons on screen. It was a fantasy no longer rooted in reality. Laurie Strode’s PTSD in Halloween (2018) felt so much more to me. That film really addressed the aftermath of trauma so well.
I felt betrayed by the messaging that this was going to be a modern, updated version of Black Christmas, which itself tackled feminist themes of abortion rights and stalking. The diversity of this film was paraded around like something to be impressed with. There weren’t any queer characters. At all! From anywhere on the spectrum! And Hollywood has an issue with never casting dark-skinned Black women. That’s 100% the case here too.
This whole movie shouted white feminism to me, and I couldn’t get past that. It centers a white woman and is about a white woman’s problems. I get it. Almost all horror is! But I’m bored of that being called “brave” and “controversial”. Nothing about it felt fresh or challenging. Maybe we’ve already changed a lot two years on.
And the film’s message takes center stage. The “horror movie” part takes a back seat. There’s no suspense or real horror. The 1974 version still makes me scream and squirm, and I’ve seen it 100 times. To be honest, though, that’s completely fine if that’s what the filmmakers wanted. I think it could have been much more effective it wasn’t trying to squeeze into the skin of another movie.
All of that being said, I thought this movie was okay. This was just a lot of fun to dissect. I wouldn’t talk anyone out of watching it. I would probably even watch this again and enjoy it still! Though I saw my low rating of the 2006 remake, and I’m wondering if that deserves a rewatch and reassessment too.
I loved the little nods to the original and the 2006 remake (the crystal unicorn, the icicle murder). And there’s even a shot paying homage to the great Exorcist 3. I also enjoyed when the plastic bag murder was turned on its head, even if it wasn’t pulled off with any great success (remember that PG-13 rating?).
And most of all: we love seeing horror created by women. There will never be too much of that.
This is definitely a movie that was a target of much more hatred than it deserved. I was honestly really waiting for something shocking to happen, but it never did. It’s a fun Christmas slasher with a message about women protecting women. We love to see it.
Maybe certain people are just a bit more fragile than they think they are.
Somehow, even weeks later, am still in a big movie slump. I have turned my mind to cotton candy by watching endless amounts of trashy television instead. But if there’s one thing I will never say no to, it’s a made-for-TV movie.
I have a big fear of people being inside my home without my knowledge. At night, I think about the Daniel LaPlante case all too much. One of my sisters lives in one of those older houses with the attic door inside the house and it terrifies me. If you stay quiet, you can hear rattling up there. It makes me run like a little girl every time.
When I saw the synopsis for Crawlspace, I was expecting something more sinister. Something that would only fuel my nightmares. But instead, this made-for-TV movie is more about the players in the tragedy.
Alice and Albert Graves are an older couple, recently moves to the countryside from the city. They’re a lonely pair, so when they meet their handyman Robert, they invite him for dinner one night.
A few nights later, they realise that Robert is living in their crawlspace below the house. The odd man initially keeps his distance, but Albert and Alice continue to try and coax him out. They begin to see him as a son they never had but always wanted.
At Christmas, Robert eventually accepts a second dinner invitation and arrives in a suit bought just for him. The Graves are pleased, and they welcome him into their home, even though he still prefers his crawlspace.
When Robert is spotted around the Graves’ homes, the locals begin to talk. The local sheriff stops by, warning the Graves that Robert isn’t to be trusted. But Alice and Albert ignore the warnings, insisting that Robert is just a misunderstood boy.
It’s unclear what exactly is wrong with Robert if anything (though he does sort of look like the Wolfman). His odd behaviour seems to be enough to fuel the locals’ distaste for him.
Things escalate with Robert and the locals as they begin to egg each other on. Robert vandalises a store. Some local boys begin harassing the Graves at their home in return.
But it’s after this that things begin to get really tragic. The movie is hardly a horror movie. It’s really just a sad tale about a group of people who make a lot of really bad choices in the name of protecting each other.
I wish we got to know a little more about Robert’s background. There are a few hints in the objects we see in his crawlspace. As he’s not much of a communicator, there’s never a real chance for him to explain his life. Despite my desire to know more, I do think that having a mystique around him does mean that it’s up to the viewer to decide whether or not Robert was acting in good faith.
This was a nice, sad little TV movie. I think it’s not very flashy by any means, but it does tell a good story and has a great cast. Arthur Kennedy as Albert and Teresa Wright as Alice were both so compelling and believable.
If you really want to ruin any holiday cheer in the air, this is a great, stark tale with a bit of a wintery feel.
I love movies made in the 70s and 80s that show off the seedier sides of their cities. The Warriors, An American Werewolf in London, Basket Case. These all show a gritty, neon-lit version of either New York or London. The cities become menacing characters themselves.
Death Line shows off a beautiful, yet sick side of 1970s London. Everything here is so brown and sad, yet beautiful: and I love it.
It was a Twitter thread about favourite Donald Pleasance roles that pointed me towards this film. And really, Pleasances absolutely steals every scene he’s in as the cynical Inspector Calhoun.
One day, Calhoun gets assigned the case of a missing gentleman, an OBE last seen at Russell Square tube station. The couple to last have seen him were students Patricia and Alex. The couple had found the man unconscious on the platform steps. When they returned with help, they discovered the body missing.
Calhoun suspects the young couple of trying to rob the man and brings them in for questioning (in Alex’s case, repeatedly). During his investigation, Calhoun learns the urban legend about a group of people who were trapped in the underground during its construction. The people trapped supposedly survived, the descendants living there still.
Low and behold: they still do live. And they love human flesh.
As Calhoun continues his investigation, Alex and Patricia get separated on the underground one night. Patricia immediately gets kidnapped by the last-remaining cannibal. It’s up to Alex to save her (well, and eventually the police).
This movie is bleak – very much a contemporary Swaney Bean story. There’s nothing pretty about it – you get some nice, lingering shots of chewed-on finger bones. The design for the cannibal character is pretty nauseating to look at. I know because I tried eating dinner while watching this.
I did find certain finer details unclear to me. So I found parts of the story disappointing. But I blame it on the quality of the video. I watched Death Line on the Plex streaming app. And I’m starting to think there’s a major issue with the app. Otherwise, I seem to only be watching movies that have the worst sound mixing ever. It was difficult to hear what was going on at times, and subtitles weren’t an option. I’d certainly watch this again with a treatment that is more kind.
The underground scenes were all filmed in Aldwych station. As long as I’ve lived here, it’s been closed. But it was a working station at the time of filming. It’s a rather creepy station to walk by these days, all gated up and graffitied. The station is the perfect place for cannibals to live.
But really, we’re all here to watch Pleasance chew the scenery. He even has a short (and maybe pointless?) scene with Christopher Lee, who plays an MI5 agent. He gives the movie a lift of comedy to stop the story from feeling one-note. He was truly one of the great, and this is definitely one of his great roles.