All posts by Kat Doherty


DIRECTED BY:  Samuel Bayer

FEATURING, Jackie Earle Haley, , Rooney Mara

PLOT:  A group of high school students share dreams of a burned, claw-handed man named Fred Krueger. As the students begin to die in dramatic ways, the survivors discover that they share a past of secret abuse at the hands of Krueger. The final survivors take it upon themselves drag Krueger from his dream world and dispatch him once and for all.

Still from A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It really isn’t particularly weird. There are no wild grandstanding dream sequences; they’re all very similar in a “Silent Hill Lite” style. Given that the central character is a dead man who haunts people in their dreams and can exact real life revenge on their sleeping bodies, Krueger is lacking in imagination.

COMMENTS:  First of all, I should point out that I am not a fan of the Elm St. franchise.  I watched the original many years ago, and watched it again recently in light of the 2010 version, and I enjoyed it.  To my surprise many aspects of the film stood the test of time quite well.  Yes, some of the special effects had aged, but they had a wild, Tex Avery glee in their own madness that was contagious.  The fact that they were practical effects added an immediacy that was quite exciting.  The teens looked and behaved more or less like teens, making allowances for the nature of the film.  It unfolded at a good pace and we had a heroine who stepped up to the plate when called upon.

I didn’t have any objections to someone making a newer version; I  was interested to see it.  I think this movie is what publicists term a “re-imagining” rather than a remake.  The basic idea of the original has been kept.  There is a group of teens, they’re having terrible nightmares, they begin to die horribly, and the killer is Fred Krueger.  That’s as far as the similarities go however, the new film is darker both in mood and aesthetics.  At times it was hard to see where the action was taking place and what was happening.  Everything is dark.  The school is as dark as the boiler room.  The action takes place at night or during some town-wide energy saving drive where everyone seems to be using 20 watt bulbs.

Squinting in the dark has aged the teens a lot; they are a pretty mature bunch of high school Continue reading CAPSULE: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)



DIRECTED BY:  William Malone

FEATURING:  Dylan Purcell, Cherilyn Wilson, Jeffrey Combs

PLOT:  A young woman named Laura suffering from Klein-Levin Syndrome falls prey to the

Still from Parasomnia (2008)

mental control of a mesmeric killer, Byron Volpe. A young man named Danny happens upon Laura at the hospital and kidnaps her to try and save her from Volpe’s influence.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Parasomnia isn’t weird.  The real life condition certainly is, but the film is messy, disorganized and inconsistent.  The parts which are clearly intended to be weird just call up memories of other, better films.  It is a bad movie, and there are one or two moments when it almost stumbles upon weirdness thanks to its own sheer clumsiness; but even then it’s not bad enough to make it championship material.

COMMENTS: Sweet Mother of Pearl, this is a bad, bad movie. I went into it full of optimism. The opening scene has Sean Young, looking good, making a very brief cameo as Byron Volpe’s wife; she takes a phone call from her murderous, mesmerist husband and immediately jumps off a balcony. This was a smart move on her part as she then didn’t have to appear in the rest of this interminable travesty. The opening credits are also very stylish. It’s all downhill from then on.

The film is so messy and inept that I assumed it was the director’s first effort. I was surprised to find that, amongst other work, he had directed an episode of the “Masters Of Horror” series and the 1999 version of The House On Haunted Hill. Parasomnia is clearly a low budget work, but that isn’t the problem. Production values are quite high, even though the dream scenes are unimaginative. What lets the film down is the terrible plotting. And it is terrible. There are many examples of the Saturday morning serial, “and with a single bound, he was free”, plot devices. Detectives disappear just when they’re needed, handcuffs suddenly become elastic, professional medical personnel behave like witless fools.

Laura, our “sleeping beauty,” suffers from parasomnia, a sleep disorder that causes her to doze most of her life away. She is also a patient in the worst hospital in the Western world. People are allowed to wander in and out without anyone raising an eyebrow, much less an objection. Danny goes there to visit a friend who is in for “drug rehab.” He’s spending his last days before release polishing the doorknobs that he has taken from all the doors in the hospital. The staff know about this but seem to view it as an amusing eccentricity, rather than a dangerous security risk. On his friend’s recommendation Danny goes down to the “psycho ward” for a gawp at the inmates, including the famous killer Byron Volpe. Volpe is so dangerous that he is kept in Guantanamo Bay style restraints, hanging arms outstretched. His head is hooded because his terrible power is in his gaze. This doesn’t really explain how he convinced his wife to jump off the balcony, over the phone. Nor does it explain how he manages to control Laura when she leaves the hotel. What Volpe is doing in a hospital next door to Laura isn’t explained either; why isn’t he in some maximum-security facility where the nurses won’t run squealing from him at meal times?

Danny is on his way to goggle at Volpe when he spots Laura and wanders into her room to gaze creepily at her. When the doctor arrives you’d be forgiven for expecting him to call security. No, of course not; he proceeds to tell Danny all about Laura even though he’s willingly admitted that he’s just some random guy who’s wandered in off the streets. As if this wasn’t a serious enough breach of privacy, Danny is then allowed to come and visit her whenever he wants. The arrival of some doctors from a sleep institute prompts Danny to kidnap Laura before she can be transferred to their facility.

Once Danny has Laura home, he undresses her and sponge bathes the unconscious young woman. Maybe I’m alone here, but this is not a character I want to identify with. I can’t help but feel that we are meant to see Danny as our romantic hero, rescuing the damsel from the uncaring arms of the medical profession. Step back, though, and he’s a guy who has convinced himself that he has a bond with an unconscious woman with limited experience of the outside world. To further the relationship he kidnaps her; completely unprepared to care for her either emotionally or clinically, he takes her to his apartment, undresses her and fondles her naked body in the name of cleaning her. The next day he shovels cornflakes into Laura’s sleeping mouth, before leaving her sitting up, unrestrained, in a dining chair with the TV on “in case she wakes up”! Then he goes out for the day. What a guy, right? In the evening he even stops off at a bar on the way home, seemingly unconcerned that his charge could be lying in a puddle of urine with a broken neck.

And the film goes on and on like this. To make up for it the weirdness factor would have to be 11, but it’s nowhere near. There are a few dream sequences where Laura finds herself chased by Volpe-inspired creatures through a wasteland of mirrors, but there is nothing original about the scenery or the creatures. The other source of intentional weirdness comes near the end of the film. Volpe has escaped from hospital, thanks to more blithering incompetence on the part of the staff. For some reason best known to himself, he has kidnapped two female musicians, a violinist and a cellist. (I only mention this because one of the weirdest aspects of the film is how these women manage to play full orchestral arrangements on just two string instruments; but I digress). A series of agile leaps of logic and contrived plot devices leads to Danny being handcuffed to a chair, and Laura having a pair of feathered wings crudely grafted to her back. They are imprisoned in the workshop of Danny’s drug-addled friend, who spends his time out of hospital making musical automata. These creations take center stage during the climax of the movie; they are intriguing and stylish, but ultimately just window dressing.

Parasomnia left me with a bad taste, not just because it stole two hours of my life but because there’s a greasy trail of misogyny throughout the whole thing. Danny is not a modern day Prince Charming, he’s a creepy pervert, as bad in his own way as Volpe is in his. The scene which sticks in my mind is Danny taking Laura out for an ice cream, which she has never encountered before. She paddles it around on the café table before rubbing it all over her face and grinning at him childishly. Danny observes that he’s going to have to bathe her again. This would be nasty if Danny was the villain of the piece, but we’re clearly meant to sympathize with him. In case we’re in any doubt as to where our sympathies should lie there’s a little epilogue to reassure us that this relationship was meant to be. It ties in with a rambling early scene in which Danny and a friend discuss music. The friend reappears in the last five minutes with a record that he promised to give to Danny. As Danny and Laura float together in a life support tank, the song blasts out over the closing credits, but it certainly didn’t say “Happily Ever After” to me.


“…before the film has you checking your watch, bam—the finale scampers onto the screen like a giddy, pale barn spider, meshing Malone’s broken-doll obsessions with Beksinski art (Tool fans take note). It’s a weird blast of subdued energy and a sickly sumptuous spectacle to behold, and leaves you wishing there was so much more of Malone’s bizarre vision on view throughout the story.”–Chris Haberman, Fangoria (contemporaneous)


DIRECTED BY:  Freddie Francis

FEATURING:  Ursula Howells, Vanessa Howard, Michael Bryant

PLOT:  The four titular characters form a dysfunctional family living in a large, isolated house amidst rambling grounds.  Sonny and Girly regularly venture out to bring back lonely, homeless men as “friends” for the family. Each friend’s well being depends on his willingness to abide by the family’s bizarre rules and games. The latest friend adapts only too well, turning the family’s rules against them and revealing the sexual frustrations and power games simmering just below the surface gloss of nursery rhymes and tea parties.Scene from Girly (1970)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It just isn’t weird enough.  Whether you consider it weird at all probably depends on whether you grew up with this brand of self conscious black humour.  The British are traditionally fond of it, for reason’s best known to ourselves.  Murderous, nonsense-prattling dysfunctional families are as mother’s milk to us, so this really didn’t seem all that odd to me.  Pared down to basics this is a tale of four maladjusted people, who may or may not be related, who seem to be independently wealthy and are isolated from society.  They have formed a family unit and devised a set of perverse games and rules to pass the time.  Periodically they lure in a lonely outsider, subject him to their games and when he inevitably breaks a rule, they kill him and film the proceedings.  Certainly it’s a little off kilter, but  in the company of the Premier League weirdness on this site it just doesn’t measure up.

COMMENTS:  If you are charmed by the idea of adults chattering out nonsense in sing song voices and constantly referring to themselves in the third person then I’ve got good news for you… this film has it in spades!  I’m not entranced by it, so the first ten minutes were touch and go.  A brief cameo by character stalwart Michael Ripper was enough to distract me, though, and I gradually found myself becoming interested in what was developing.  The first fifteen minutes or so of the film are an introduction to the games and rules.  Sonny and Girly are out at the crack of dawn scouting out park benches and ferreting under newspapers in their search for a New Friend.  The last Friend has apparently proven himself unsatisfactory Continue reading CAPSULE: GIRLY [AKA MUMSY, NANNY, SONNY AND GIRLY] (1970)


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DIRECTED BY: Shozin Fukui

FEATURING: Haji Suzuki, Onn-Chan

PLOT: Pinocchio 964, a malfunctioning sex slave, is thrown out onto the street by his dissatisfied owner. Without speech or memory he stumbles, literally, into the lap of an amnesiac woman, Himiko, who takes him home to care for him. As her memory returns she undergoes a cruel personality change, returning Pinocchio to the mysterious corporation that made him.

Still from 964 Pinocchio (1991)

WHY IT’S ON THE BORDERLINE: 964 Pinocchio is certainly weird, but doesn’t hang together as a totally coherent film.  However, days later, I was still thinking about it.  I don’t think that the film is a satisfying blend of the weird and the entertaining; in fact some sequences are seriously hard work.  Pinocchio deserves a second look in the future though, because odd and confusing as it was, distasteful as some scenes were, that sad sex slave worms his way into your mind.

COMMENTS: 964 Pinocchio is quite clearly a low budget film, but it is inventive, imaginative and uncompromising.  Many scenes are filmed guerrilla style, and I found myself looking sympathetically at the bemused bystanders during some of the full-on craziness.  A film which includes a three minute vomiting scene will not be to everyone’s taste; and it’s not as if that’s an uncharacteristic sequence.  964 Pinocchio is a wet, messy film throughout.  Pinocchio emits a flood of custardy mess from some unspecified point on his head; Himiko regurgitates mounds of porridgy vomit before rolling in it and re-ingesting it; the head of the company which made Pinocchio continually eats cherries from a bowl of spittle.  The film really screams in your face and refuses to apologize for any of its bizarre imagery.

The film introduces us to one of the two central characters, Pinocchio, as he flounders unwillingly in the middle of a M-F-F threesome.  It’s an unerotic sex scene intercut with shots of a man in vague surgical garb, a huge drill bit entering someone’s head, and a voice informing someone that their memory will not return.  The opening scene really lays the film’s cards on the table; it’s just going to get more confusing from here.  Thrown onto the streets for failing to perform sexually, Pinocchio stumbles into Himiko.  She’s sitting, looking through Continue reading BORDERLINE WEIRD: 964 PINOCCHIO (1991)



FEATURING: Jeong-Myeong Cheon, Hee-soon Park, Shim Eun-Kyung, Eun Won-Jae

PLOT: Eun-Soo, a young man whose girlfriend has just told him she is pregnant, crashes his car on a lonely road and finds himself rescued by a young girl, who leads him to a strange cottage hidden in the depths of  a dense forest. The family living there tend his wounds and put him to bed. His gratitude soon turns to fear, as the “parents” disappear and he is left in charge of three children who have no intention of letting him leave.

Still from Hansel and Gretel (2007)

WHY IT’S ON THE BORDERLINE: Much as I love this film I doubt it makes the final cut. Yes, it’s odd, beautiful and moving, but it could stand more ruthless editing, something it shares with the director’s previous Antarctic Journal. The storyline is predictable in parts, especially if you’ve seen a number of “bad seed” films. The style makes it stand out but, honestly, some of the weird scares seem to be a little misplaced. Hansel and Gretel‘s weirdness seems tattooed on rather than bred in the bone.

COMMENTS: Watching Hansel and Gretel is like settling down to enjoy a nice cup of tea and a fondant fancy, only to discover that your cake is crawling with ants.  The set design is fascinating; wherever you look there is some odd detail  that catches the eye.  The color palette is lush, just the green of the woods is breathtaking.  The score is beautiful, composed by Byung-Woo Lee, who also composed the music for the sublime Tale Of Two Sisters.

In short this is a quality production, clearly made with love.  What prevents it from quite firing on all cylinders is the plot, which is a little predictable.  Sinister children with dangerous powers are something of a staple of the science-fiction and horror genres, and anyone who’s seen or read a few such stories will be fairly confident about where this is headed.  From the moment Eun-Soo sets foot in the fairy tale cottage where every day is Christmas Day and the decor makes your retinas bleed, our suspicions are roused.  They’re all but confirmed by the behavior of the “parents”.  Their rictus grins and desperate eyes scream that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  They handle their “son” as if he’s a box of sweaty gelignite and Continue reading BORDERLINE WEIRD: HANSEL AND GRETEL (2007)