Demons 2 (1986 - Lamberto Bava) - I do have to say that Lamberto Bava makes pretty movies. His colour palette is always rich, deep and saturated and he uses shadows and light quite effectively - understandable given his lineage (his father is Mario Bava). Other films of his ("Demons", "A Blade In The Dark" and "Delirium") all looked great and even had moments of tension and surprise. "Demons 2" takes the concept of the first film (people trapped in a building fighting off demons while the movie within the movie has people suffering a similar fate), uses Cronenberg's "Shivers" as the template (denizens of an apartment building are felled one by one) and drains any possible fear and dread from it. The acting and terrible dubbed-over voices are bad enough (I admit, I just can't fully get past that sometimes), but the story just seems to throw random elements together and characters abandon all sense of logic. There's absolutely no reason given for the initial demon coming out of the TV that kicks things off, but I suppose that was somewhat redeemed by the first victim being the world's whiniest birthday girl ever. After that, it's just one poorly developed character getting transformed into a demon after another. Having said that - even though I really didn't care what happened to any of the people - it was still suitably entertaining. Partly because of the look of the film and partly because you couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of it all. Case in point: goblin-boy.
The Unseen (1980 - Peter Foleg) - You know things aren't right when the director attributes his film to a pseudonym (Foleg takes the blame from Danny Steinmann). Unfortunately, I didn't find that out until after I watched this damn thing. Steinmann couldn't have been too surprised, though, could he? The usually fun character actor Sydney Lassick is WAY over-the-top in every single frame he's in and ruins any possibility of being creepy. Even though there's several attempts to build to something, it's invariably ruined by poorly executed death scenes or cringe-inducing acting. Of particular note is the painful performance of the blond camerawoman that teams with Barbara Bach's TV reporter. She's simply never met a word that she couldn't also attempt to convey via additional facial expressions. Reservation snafus have forced them and another cohort to hole up in Lassick's home while they cover a local festival. As for The Unseen itself, it really should have been left that way. It isn't actually in view for the first hour or so of the movie, but is right out in the open for the spectacularly awful last half hour. If you're gonna call something "unseen", dammit leave it that way. Hopefully the movie itself at least lives up to its title.
Session 9 (2001 - Brad Anderson) - My first viewing of this masterpiece of oppressiveness was several years ago and I immediately knew it would vault up my list of great horror movies with succeeding viewings. I finally got around to a second viewing and it turns out I was right...This is an almost perfect film in the way it builds up the atmosphere weighing on its central character. His world is crumbling just like the old asylum he and his team are cleaning up (ridding it of asbestos) and as their week long effort progresses the building seems to be engulfing them. Though Anderson's recent "Transsiberian" was fine, his previous 4 films are all a notch above. Both "Happy Accidents" and "Next Stop Wonderland" are wonderful romantic comedies (where romance and comedy play equal parts) and though "The Machinst" is best known for Christian Bale's skin and bones performance, it's also a great study in mood. His next project "Vanishing On 7th Street" (post-apocalyptic horror) could very well be great, but it'll have to go a long way to top "Session 9".
Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960 - Cyril Frankel) - Hammer Films are best known for their colourful gothic horror takes on Dracula, Frankenstein and The Werewolf and rightly so. They're all terrifc entertainment, but it's a shame some of their black and white thrillers aren't as well known. A recent 3 DVD release entitled "Icons Of Suspense" trots out 6 of their compact, taut and beautifully lensed features and I dare say that each is supremely entertaining as well. Frankel's daring take on child molestation is possibly the best of the bunch, though I'm amazed they used (according to IMDB) the following tagline: "Powerful! Shocking! Raw! Rough! Challenging! See a little girl molested!". Much of it takes place in a courtroom after a newly arrived family from England accuse an elderly gentleman of taking advantage of their daughter and a friend. The horror comes not only from the thought of what this man might do, but from the refusal of the rest of the town to help them or do anything about the situation. The old man in question is actually the father of the most powerful man in town, so even the parents of the other young girl aren't piping up. The film isn't overly graphic (ie. the last part of that tagline is fortunately not accurate), but I'm not sure it could get released today. I have to think one of the reasons it was set in Canada (Nova Scotia I believe) was in order to keep the evil outside the confines of Britain.