Sam Ashurst's House Of Horror: Slashers, cannibals and awful werewolves

Hello fright fans, my name's Sam Ashurst and I'm Total Film's resident cult horror expert.

I spend so much time banging on about '70s giallo movies, '80s VHS trash classics, '90s serial killer flicks and '00s foreign chillers that TF has finally decided to give me my own column. Possibly to shut me up.

Each week, I'll be dissecting the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases, uncovering hidden gore gems, and rummaging through my VHS collection to bring you some of the most bafflingly beautiful video covers from the '80s.

And come back every Friday for exclusive clips, interviews and cool competitions to get your plasma pumping.

So, take off your razor-tipped gloves, hang up your cobweb-covered hat and gently rest your bone-blunted axe beside the door.

And welcome to my House Of Horror...


Out: Monday £12.99 DVD

Possibly the worst aspect of Brittany's Murphy's final film is the dedication that pops up just before the end credits.
The film's dedicated to her memory, but I'd much rather remember her for her brilliant turns in Sin City Girl, Interrupted and the underrated Cherry Falls .

Hell, I'd even rather remember her for The Prophecy II than this sad film. 

You can see why Murphy was attracted to the project. The script is decent (it's essentially Flightplan in a hospital) and her role - girl whose boyfriend goes missing before a routine operation - has plenty of potential.

But her charismatic presence is let down by an amateurish production, which fails on almost every level, from the direction to the lighting.

It looks more like an Australian soap than a movie - it's a testament to Murphy's talent that she managed to turn in a solid performance, despite the fact she was clearly surrounded by idiots.

It might be dedicated to her, but Abandoned is instantly forgettable. Pick up one of her better movies instead.

Out: Monday £12.99 DVD

This Australian Hellraiser rip-off has some great death scenes.

One, set in a climbing school is amongst the best kills I've watched all year.

Unfortunately, every single moment that doesn't involve someone's arm snapping off or a heart suddenly exploding is so desperately dull that you'll start to pray for your own elaborate fatality, just to make the pain stop.

There's not a single likeable character or competent actor in this thing. Not one.

It's so bad that I wanted to walk out of the cinema.

Unfortunately, I was watching it in my room, on DVD, and that would have involved getting out of bed.

Don't make the same mistake. I'd advise watching it next to an open window, so you can fling it into the garden when you can't stand it anymore.

Or, better yet, don't watch it at all.


Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Nathan Baesel, the man behind Leslie Vernon's mask, got his first acting break performing in church plays as a child.

We're not sure what was in the wine back then, but it's a minor miracle that Baesel grew up to portray Leslie Vernon, a man who's about as far from church as Spiritual Warriors (2007) is from an Academy Award.

Behind The Mask sees a documentary crew following Vernon as he prepares for the biggest night of his career which, if your job is a slasher-killer, involves getting ready to kill a lot of innocent teenagers.

Weapons training, cardio, and even Final Girl selection are all important parts of Leslie's preparation.

Which would be extremely hard-going if Leslie was a Jason Voorhees or a Michael Myers type, communicating mainly through heavy-breathing and the occassional grunt.

Thankfully, Vernon is as charming as he is cruel, with a seductive twinkle in his eye. He's a brilliant creation.

Baesel's stunning performance reminded me frequently of Man Bites Dog 's Ben, who was my previous favourite psycho-killer mockumentary star until Leslie stalked into town.

Vernon outdoes Ben in one key area. The character exists in a meta-world where all of our favourite slasher-icons are living, breathing human beings. Freddy, Jason and Michael are all named-checked by Vernon as living legends, who he has to live up to.

It's a genius premise. And it's perfectly delivered, resulting in the best postmodern horror flick since Scream.

Packed full of lovely references for slasher-addicts, a mesmerising central performance, and the most satisfying ending since Jason jumped out of the lake, this one comes highly recommended.

Nathan Baesel may have started out in church, but Leslie Vernon proves the devil has the best roles.

Looks Like:
A psychological thriller about a woman who enjoys having brain-scans in the local moonlit lake.

Actually Is
: A batshit mental supernatural/ sci-fi /giant green animated worm flick, about a gang of ghost chasers who explore an abandoned house and discover all sorts of weird nonsense there.

It features a character being covered in giant throbbing pimples after he's had his arms and legs cut off. It's a lot of fun.

Imaginary dialogue:
"Wow, this lake is relaxing. I'm really glad I'm not being strung up by my arms in an attic watching some weirdo cut one of my friend's fingers off, or watching a badly animated green worm fly at my face. That would be terrible. Now, where did I put my bath salts?"

On a rare visit to the UK to plug the revised and updated collector’s edition of the handsomely lurid hardback Cannibal Holocaust And The Savage Cinema Of Ruggero Deodato , the 72-year-old Italian filmmaker met with Total Film's Jamie Graham over coffee and innards. OK, maybe just coffee.
A proficient pro who’s worked in many genres (including romance and musicals!), Deodato will forever be celebrated/ reviled for his strong-meat 1980 classic Cannibal Holocaust , not just the centrepiece of the director’s flesh-eating trilogy (flanked by 1977’s Last Cannibal World and 1985’s Cut And Run ) but, inarguably, the Citizen Kane of the many cannibal flicks that bust from Italy’s gut during the’70s and early ’80s.
Nineteen years before The Blair Witch Project was assembled, Cannibal Holocaust presents ‘found footage’ showing a documentary team delving deep into the Amazon jungle to record the last practicing cannibal tribes.

It ends, inevitably enough, messily, but there are moments of beauty and elegy along the way… if you can just look past the real-life animal torture and the infamous woman-spit-roasted-on-a-pole shot.
Long banned, and then heavily cut, in the UK, Cannibal Holocaust is due on Blu-ray in a Director’s Cut on 26 September 2011, and is now untrimmed bar one bit of nasty business with an unsuspecting rat.

Elsewhere Deodato has made his own ‘substitutions’ – most pertinently, his decision to scratch out the film during the horrendous turtle-torture scene – but this is the most complete version yet to wash up on UK shores.
So, Mr Deodato, about those poor fluffy animals…
How can you justify killing animals on screen?

The animals were related to Asian audiences demands. If Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand want animals… [Shrugs] The demand for animals was very high. It’s not my fault. They demanded it.

And having seen scenes from Jodorowsky in El Topo , my cut scenes were nothing! We only killed animals that were then eaten by the tribes, who would have killed them anyway. But now, I would not do it.

Did the outrage that Cannibal Holocaust provoked surprise you?

[Sergio] Leone knew people would not understand. He said to me at the time, “You will face many problems with this film. The reportage style people will not understand.”

Some critics thought the film was very interesting, and United Artists bought the rights. It played at 83 theatres in New York.
Were you aware that it was banned in the UK?

You cannot think about these things while you’re making a movie.
But after the film was made… It was banned as a Video Nasty in 1983. Did you know about this?

No. Nothing. I did not know. At that time I was so scared I just went and made romantic comedies! If I had been a real director, a director with balls, I would have fought for my film.

But it’s not in my character because I come from a very normal, caring family. Had I fought for it, I probably would have gone on to make the same sort of films for longer and become like a Tarantino or whatever.

It must have been tough, filming in dense jungle.

I knew I had found my home. I looked around me and saw no other horror films shooting in the jungle. All we had was one man [as a guide/interpreter].

He was there looking for the… [much frantic discussion ensues before the interpreter suggests that Deodato is saying ‘White Anteater’].
Is it true that you’re going to make House On The Edge Of The Park 2?

I hope so. I like the story [two punks invade a handsome villa to commit rape and torture] and want to see where it goes.
Again, you got in a lot of trouble for House On The Edge Of The Park, this time for sexual violence. It was cut in the UK by 10minutes!

I love movies so much and I didn’t want my career to be ended; this is why I toned it down a bit [after Cannibal Holocaust and The House On The Edge Of The Park , both 1980].

But that was then. Now I like my films and I stand by my films.

Ruggero Deodato was a guest of Brunel University's Cine Excess conference. Cannibal Holocaust will be released on DVD/ Blu-ray by Shameless Screen Entertainment on 26 Sept 2011.  House On The Edge of The Park will also be released by Shameless later this year

Why You Should Watch It: It's the trailer for the worst (best?) Howling film, Howling III: The Marsupials .

So, it'll either serve as a stark warning, or I've just provided your next favourite Australian-based werewolf film.

Either way, it's hilarious.

Killer Quote:
"Wanna put a shrimp on the barbie?"


Total Film


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