Thursday, 20 February 2014

Review: 9 Days (2013) very low budget sadistic indie horror

With money raised on a Kickstarter campaign, Samuel M. Johnson promised "a scary-as-hell, "Dante's Inferno"-inspired "7" meets "Hostel." - well, that's some tall order and while the results are not terrible, it does fall short on several aspects.

9 Days: Whipped, Chained and Tortured by a Psychopath 9 Days: Whipped, Chained and Tortured by a Psychopath

9 Days: Whipped, Chained and Tortured by a Psychopath
18 year old Danielle (Maura Murphy) has run away from her abusive, adopted parents and is picked up hitchhiking by Virgil (Chris Schleicher). Despite coming across instantly as a wise-ass jerk, she accepts his lift and offer of some food at his house. Big mistake, as she wakes chained up in his basement. He tells her she will endure nine days of suffering and pain in order to cleanse her soul, and she will survive ("not like those others") if she's strong.

9 Days: Whipped, Chained and Tortured by a Psychopath 9 Days: Whipped, Chained and Tortured by a Psychopath
The premise is one that has been done to death; abduct, torture, humiliate, rinse, repeat. The added interest of elements (very loosely) taken from the first part of Dante's Divine Comedy don't actually add much more than the religious zealot. The sadistic torture isn't as graphic as one would imagine (not surprising giving the film's low budget) but is still fairly grueling.
Murphy does well in the lead, throwing herself into the part (and several nude moments - including a shower scene in black and white; whether this was as a homage to Psycho is anyone's guess) but the non-acting skills of Schleicher is where the film really falters. He is more annoying than terrifying, although his condescending tone suits the character.
9 Days: Whipped, Chained and Tortured by a Psychopath 9 Days: Whipped, Chained and Tortured by a Psychopath
The not-so-snappy DVD title of the film (not onscreen) is 9 Days: Whipped, Chained and Tortured by a Psychopath which makes it sound even more salacious and nasty. Although it's certainly not pleasant, the level of violence on display isn't too over the top, and certainly doesn't stray in August Underground territory so don't be expecting a gore-fest. Be warned, however there IS a jaunty song repeated several times which is very annoying and off-putting!
9 Days: Whipped, Chained and Tortured by a Psychopath 9 Days: Whipped, Chained and Tortured by a Psychopath
As a first feature, it's not badly put together; although the limitations of the skill/budget/experience show within the sound design and general direction (we didn't really need to see the close-up of the severed head in the fridge, it would have been far more effective and chilling just glimpsed - but, hey, they built a great prop so, why not?) , but there's many worse films out there and hopefully it will be a stepping stone for the director and crew.

5 out of 10

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Blu-ray Review: Corruption (1968) Peter Cushing

corruption film poster cushing

Unseen for many years, certainly in an uncut form, this is a welcome disc from Grindhouse Releasing. Peter Cushing, the softly spoken, gentleman of horror plays it nasty here as Sir John Rowan, a surgeon who is horrified when his younger girlfriend, Lynn (future Crossroads star Sue Lloyd), a former model, is facially burnt at a party. The fact that he is partly responsible due to fighting with an over zealous photographer (played by Confessions star Anthony Booth) no doubt spurs him on to commit some of his ghastly actions later. Using his medical skills, and access to the morgue, he acquires the pituitary gland of a recently deceased young lady, and concocts a serum, which he injects as well as using a high-tech laser, which works wonders at removing the burnt tissue, but burns through almost everything else! (this is several years before real-life laser surgery would become the norm) - an item which will play a large part in the action later.
corruption film sue lloydcorruption peter cushing tony booth sue lloyd
 corruption sue lloydcorruption kate o'mara
The operation is a success - although only for a short time, and Sir John soon has to find new donours - as fresh as possible. These include a prostitute (in the films most graphic and infamous scene - more on that later) and a lovely looking young girl on a train (Carry On and Hammer starlet Valerie Van Ost). Severing their heads in order to obtain the glands and keep his love looking beautiful.
corruption peter cushing
While away at their seaside holiday home in Seaford, East Sussex they come across a young girl who may fit the bill as a donor. Terry (Wendy Varnals) is seemingly alone, and accepts their invitation to stay. Unfortunately, she has a different agenda, as her husband Rik (Billy Murray, future star of The Bill, Dead Cert, Stalker and Strippers vs Werewolves) and his cohorts have their own plans. Which leads to a manic final act which pre-dates the surge of home invasion films seen in the 70s (such as A Clockwork Orange and The House on the Edge of the Park) and now prevalent in modern horror.
corruption vanessa howardcorruption peter cushing
There's a few more faces to watch out for, not least Kate O'Mara looking stunning as Lynn's sister, Val, Vanessa Howard (Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly and This, That and the Other) in the opening swinging party scene as a wannabe model who takes a shine to Sir John and king of the bit-parts David Lodge, who is completely out of place as a simple minded thug in Cosmo Smallpiece (*look him up if you're too young to know or not from the UK*) glasses (watch closely to see the holes drilled in the thick glass so he could see) but was cast as he was a friend of the director, Robert Hartford-Davis. His other films include The Black Torment (1964), Incense for the Damned (aka Blood Suckers, 1970) and The Sandwich Man (1966), a glorious comedy starring the cream of British talent and headlined by Michael Bentine, from his own story. It was written by the brothers Donald and Derek Ford. Derek later wrote scripts on his own, mainly in the sexploitation field and directed several including the aforementioned This, That and the Other and Keep It Up, Jack.
corruption film dollscorruption peter cushing
 corruption film corruption peter cushing
Despite being a very 60s film, there's plenty to shock and surprise here. Many people are horrified by Cushing's involvement in such a sleazy epic - he himself tried to play it down saying it wasn't as graphic at script level - but he is perfect as the acclaimed surgeon whose love and guilt make him do hideous things. The violence is startlingly effective, and repulsive. It is deliberately shot to provoke the most visceral response. Cushing's close-ups often through a fish-eye lens to distort his appearance. Making him a grotesque, sweating monster. The prostitute murder was filmed several times for the different film markets. The more common version, seen in the UK and US features Jan Waters, in bath robe and undergarments and killed swiftly but nastily by Sir John's hidden scalpel (the reveal is brilliant) while a much more graphic version has Marian Collins strip down to her tights before a brutal and bloody struggle with the surgeon running his blooded hands over her naked breasts before beginning to remove her head. For the first time, we get the chance to see both versions of the scene (and other differences) as this brilliant release features them as an extra on the DVD in the package, and as an option to view within the "continental" version of the film on the outstanding Blu-ray. Apparently another version was also filmed for Japan which had the violence but no nudity, but this seems to be missing from the vaults so is only alluded to on the excellent commentary (from horror historian/writer Jonathan Rigby and Cushing biographer David Miller).
corruption peter cushingcorruption valerie van ost
 corruption peter cushing uncut prostitutecorruption peter cushing uncut prostitute
The HD version is a revelation visually. The colours are so vibrant and lurid they literally pop from the screen. It's not a film for everyone (although I wouldn't go as far as the original publicity department and proclaim it's "not a woman's picture") but if you have a penchant for some sick thrills it will certainly satisfy. In keeping with the film, the Grindhouse Releasing Blu-ray has a reversible version of its sleazy cover; one with the victim clothed, one with her breasts on display. Bravo!
8 out of 10