Thursday, 31 January 2008

Guy N. Smith Book Review - Carnivore

In 1780, the mad Earl of Corby passed a decree stating that anyone who killed an animal on the Corby lands was to be put to death. But the Corby family has fallen on hard times, and the estate has been sold to John Broughton, owner of Broughton Safaris. He intends to repeal the law and set up the property to provide traditional English fieldsports for wealthy foreigners, thus enacting the Corby Curse.

Almost immediately the animals on the property start acting strangely. Creatures who normally shy away from humans are unafraid, even hostile. Soon people are being attacked by foxes, minks, snakes, bees and anything else you can think of. Even ill tempered ducks are biting the fingers of small children.

John Broughton comes up with scheme after scheme to bring the animal population under control, but they all backfire spectacularly. His dogs are virtually wiped out by wild mink. A visiting German businessman is trampled by murderous cows. Attempts to open the estate to the public are thwarted by killer rats. Pretty soon everyone is dead or gone, and it's up to John Broughton and his gamekeeper Gordon Shank to face the Corby Curse alone.

The idea of everyday animals suddenly turning on humankind can be scary, but it can also be pretty silly. Some animals, such as foxes or minks, can seem quite menacing under the right circumstances. But, honestly, pheasants? Cows? Donkeys? I was half expecting the trout to start jumping out of the water and attacking people (actually, that would have been awesome.)

None of Smith's awkward sex scenes in this book, I'm afraid. No sex at all, actually, although Mrs Broughton is accosted by a voyeuristic spider while she is masturbating in the bath.

Smith knows a great deal about gamekeeping, having written a number of books on the subject. In fact, many of his books feature a gamekeeper in some capacity. He is really in his element with this book and his depth of knowledge really brings the story to life. I have to recommend this book, if only for the line "what chance did they stand against this army of attacking pheasants?"

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Guy N. Smith Book Review - Doomflight

Near the village of Fradley is a crumbling airfield with a mysterious past, filled with bizarre accidents and ritual killings. When a group of investors arrive and attempt to turn the disused airfield into a major international airport, they face opposition from a group of villagers headed by respected local Hartley Lowe. Hartley knows the truth about Fradley airfield... built on an ancient stone circle, the undead Druids seek out sacrifices for their evil gods. Unfortunately, their credibility is hurt by Lowe's tendency to babble insanely about ancient evil to anyone he comes across.

Despite a plague of strange setbacks, including the brutal murder of a local boy, construction of the airport goes ahead. Within a couple of years Fradley is competing with Heathrow and Gatwick, but their swift success is not without it's price. Soon the airport is plagued with accidents. Tension is high amongst staff and the several of the desperate investors die under mysterious circumstances. Can pilot Lance Evans and air hostess Pam Bridges escape the curse of Fradley before it is too late?

Doomflight is a pretty solid Smith book. Some of the plot elements are underdeveloped and the book doesn't end with the big bang I was expecting, but the characters are solid and the time-shifting elements are pretty neat. The book also demonstrates Smith's skill at juggling a large cast of characters. The protagonists aren't introduced until a third of the way into the book, and they are still fairly well developed.

There are the requisite hilarious sex scenes. There's a pretty dicey part where Pam figures she has to sleep with a pilot because he bought her dinner (or else people will call a "prick-teaser"... gasp!) Despite her best efforts to hide her true feelings, she sobs in shame post-coitus (if I had a dollar for every time that's happened to me...) She figures he won't sense that anything is wrong because a lot of women cry at climax. That's news to me.

This is a solid entry in the sizable Smith canon, and worth a read if you like cursed airports, Druids and combinations thereof. Fans of odd turns of phrase will be happy to note that there's no less than three instances of referring to their situation as "a gamble with death as the loser's prize".

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Nightmare City (1980)

Just so we're clear... NOT zombies

In interviews Umberto Lenzi insists that Nightmare City is not a zombie film at all. It's about people driven insane by nuclear radiation. You see, they use weapons! They run! They suck blood! Sorry Umberto, you can't fool me... I know a zombie film when I see one. Apparently the producers were hoping for a straight Fulci or Romero ripoff, and the film ended up straying from Umberto Lenzi's original vision. Although looking at Lenzi's back catalogue, I doubt we'd have ended up with Citizen Kane in any case.

After a stock-footage heavy intro, the film picks up with the news of an accident at a nuclear power plant. Hairy ace reporter Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) is assigned the task of of interviewing the plant's chief scientist Dr. Hagenbeck as he arrives at the airport.

Dean dons his reporter trenchcoat and heads down there, but upon his arrival an unmarked military transport plane flies in and lands. Soon it is surrounded by armed guards, and any notion of this film being set in the US is destroyed by the very Italian-looking police cars. Unfortunately the plane is chock full of zombies (including Dr. Hagenbeck) and they immediately start tearing their way through the guards. The question of how the zombies acquired this plane is left an exercise for the viewer.

As previously mentioned, these zombies are fast, and they aren't shy about using a machete or a machine gun. Some of them even use their knives to wipe red paint on the soldiers' throats, the fiends! The massacre goes on for quite some time before Dean and his camera man decide it might be time to hoof it back to the TV station.

Back at the station they are busy filming what appears to be the worst show on television, It's All Music, where a small group of ugly people dance around in sky blue leotards. Thankfully, Dean interrupts the broadcast with the news about the zombies. He is promptly chewed out by the station manager and General Murchison (Mel Ferrer), who insists that the story about the zombies is to be contained in order to avoid widespread panic. How he expects to keep hundreds of rampaging zombies a secret is anyone's guess. The hot-headed Dean immediately quits and goes about trying to contact his wife Anna (Laura Trotter). She is a doctor and busy at work in the Dramatic Irony wing of the hospital, where patients are musing idly about fates that no doubt will be meted out in short order. Soon, in what must be a great relief to the viewing public, the zombies bust into the studio and start performing clumsy mastectomies on the dance troupe.

Meanwhile Major Holmes (Francisco Rabal) is gettin' busy with his younger, better looking sculptor girlfriend Shiela (Maria Rosaria Omaggio), when he is interrupted by an order to get his ass back to base. He attends a meeting of top brass military honchos where, after much research, the boffins have concluded that the rampaging monsters are not, in fact, aliens. Your tax dollars at work! Ridiculous technobabble ensues, the conclusion: "Aim for the brain." Gee, and I was going to aim for the foot.

Major Holmes calls his hot girlfriend and tells her to stay put. She is reluctant, but soon discovers a bloody knife embedded in one of her sculptures. Everyone's a critic! Her friend Cindy shows up and together they decide to look around the darkened basement, where Cindy gets her eye gouged out by a wildly overacting zombie.

General Murchison sends an armed escort to bring his daughter Jessica (Stefania D'Amanio) and son-in-law Bob (Pierangelo Civera) back to the military base. Apparently the zombies aren't much of a concern to them, so they decide to sneak away for a holiday. Later, Jessica and Bob are sitting around in their camper van when their friends arrive, infected of course, and kill them. Glad we got introduced to those characters!

Meanwhile the zombies stage an ambush on the power station, cutting power to the city. Next they're off to the hospital, helping themselves to blood bags and treating surgical incisions like drinking fountains. In a conservative estimate, about fifty thousand people are stabbed to death, but Dean and his wife manage to escape in a cheap-looking ambulance.

Mrs Miller starts to go on about unchecked scientific progress and man's inhumanity to man, blah, blah, blah. Dean pulls into a petrol station, citing a lack of petrol but I'm sure he's just sick of her blather. She starts up again over coffee but thankfully some zombies crash the party and start helping themselves to the contents of the ambulance. Dean hurls a molotov cocktail at the ambulance, taking out both a handful of zombies and their only getaway vehicle. My hero!

Because it wouldn't be a zombie film without an aerial shot, Major Holmes is doing the zombie traffic report from a helicopter. He claims they're moving in a south-southeast direction, but it looks to me like they're running around in circles like a bunch of headless chooks. On the way back to base he stops in at his girlfriend's place, but she is infected. It hasn't curbed her artistic abilities, though now she has started incorporating real eyeballs into her sculptures. He blasts the back of her head clean off.

After yet more verbiage from Anna, Mr and Mrs Miller head into a church and seek help from a priest. The priest is in profile and although from our vantage point he appears normal, from where they are standing they can clearly see he is a zombie. Strangely, they don't seem to notice until he turns around and gives us a good look at his scabby infection. In what is sure to be worth a few Hail Marys, Dean bashes Padre's head in with a candelabra.

Dean and Anna head to the amusement park, salvage weapons from some dead soldiers, and prepare for a bloody showdown with the zombies. They climb to the top of a rollercoaster, for some reason, and start blasting zombie heads. Just as they are being overwhelmed, they are rescued by Major Holmes in his helicopter, but Anna transforms into an unconvincing dummy and falls to her death.

Suddenly Dean wakes up in his bed with a start! It was all a dream... or was it? Dean tells his wife he has to go and interview Dr. Hagenbeck at the airport and for two or three minutes the events at the beginning of the film replay identically. As the hatch of the plane opens, the film freezes and a title card saying "The nightmare becomes reality..." is splashed across the screen. This is even more retarded than it sounds, and makes you long for the standard Italian gut-muncher ending of just killing everyone off when the ideas and/or money run out.

The makeup effects are a little inconsistent, but there's a few nice gory set pieces and there's lot of the red stuff flying about. In fact, from the moment when the zombies start pouring out of the aircraft, barely a minute goes by when someone isn't being stabbed. Also, the fact that the zombies can actually run means the films moves at a brisk pace. There's none of those annoying scenes where people just stand there, mouth agape, watching the zombies slo-o-o-owly approach them.

From the interviews it seems that Lenzi thinks this film has something profound to say. It doesn't. This is a very stupid film, but it's so fast and action packed it doesn't outstay it's welcome. It's a lot of fun.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1980)

"What up, guys?"

Andrea Bianchi's Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror is an unpretentious film that gets down to the business of blood and boobs fairly quickly and doesn't let up until the final reel. Some bizarre casting decisions and downright ludicrous dialogue make this film a hell of a lot of fun to watch, even if it makes you feel stupid in the process.

The film opens with the impressively-bearded Professor Ayres (Raimondo Barbieri, even the actor's last name is derived from the Italian for "beard") excitedly chipping away at the walls of an Etruscan tomb. Unfortunately he awakens a bunch of zombies, and despite his protests of "I'm your friend!", that's the end of the follically gifted academic. They'll be hacking up hairballs for days!

Following a cheerful credits sequence, we are introduced to the six unlikable assholes who will be on the menu this evening. They consist of three couples: James and Leslie (Simone Mattioli and Antonella Antinori), George and Evelyn (Roberto Caporali and Mariangela Giordano) and Mark and Janet (Gianluigi Chirizzi and Karin Well) . It seems the Professor has gathered them here for... some reason. Also present are the maid Kathleen (Anna Valente) and butler Nicholas (Claudio Zucchet). We also meet Evelyn's son Michael (Peter Bark), a 10 year old boy played by a 25 year old rat-faced midget and dubbed by a grown man affecting a child's voice. He's got a serious oedipus complex and he's the scariest thing in the film.

I'll say one thing for the characters in this film, they don't waste any time in getting down to business. Leslie models some lingerie she's found (hope it's clean) and James starts with the smooth talk ("You look like a little whore, but I like that in a woman.") George and Evelyn get down to it, but they are interrupted by her freakish offspring, who creaks open the door and walks slo-o-o-owly into the room while the couple look on in horror. He's not subtle.

The next day, George and Evelyn head down to the basement for a bit of pistol practice. I think the garden might be a better place for that, what, with all the priceless artifacts scattered around here, but what do I know? Michael the mutant steps in when things inevitably turn amorous (ladies love the guns, amirite?) and you get the impression he's angling for some pistol practice of his own. Soon some zombies appear. George attempts to shoot them, to no effect, and gets his intestines torn out through his hideous skin-tight top.

Meanwhile, Janet and Mark are frolicking in the garden when they too are attacked by a zombie. They stand around for a while, watching it approach and saying things like "Oh Mark, I'm so frightened!", before their three brain cells kick in and they run away. James and Leslie hear their cries and rush to their aid. Together, they manage to bust open some zombie heads which, in a nice effect, shatter like maggot-filled pottery. During their escape back to the villa, Janet gets caught in a bear trap (must be to keep the damn kids off the lawn) but they manage to free her before she becomes breakfast.

Sealing themselves up the villa, they attempt to hold off the marauding zombies. These zombies are pretty smart, too. They can scale walls, they're a dead aim with thrown weapons and they can swing a scythe with the best of them. A couple of humans are picked off and in the ensuing chaos, Michael uses the opportunity to cop a feel. Evelyn stops him before he can close the deal ("What's wrong? I'm your son!" he protests). Awk-ward!

Mark comes up with the baffling plan of letting the zombies into the villa ("they're slow and we can outrun them!"). He figures the zombies just want to come inside and have a nap or something. Rather than laughing their asses off, everyone agrees to put the plan into action, and soon two more people have become zombie chow. The survivors hole up in the attic, and during the night the zombies get bored and leave.

The next morning, instead of hopping in their cars and driving away (think of the carbon emissions!) they decide to wander aimlessly through the countryside. They find a monastery, but all the monks are crusty old zombies, for some reason. James is toast, but the remaining three escape to a nearby building.

Zombie Michael shows up and Evelyn, probably feeling guilty for turning him down earlier, offers him her nips. Needless to say, Michael takes breast feeding to whole new level! Mark and Janet try to escape but Mark cops a circular saw to the skull (the zombies show remarkable skill in operating it for ancient Etruscans) while Janet becomes lunch. The film ends with a title card that, fittingly, manages to misspell both "prophecy" and "nights".

The effects artist, Rosario Prestopio, was assistant to Gianetti De Rossi on Zombi 2, and in this film he does a good impression of De Rossi's work. The zombies look suitably crusty and dessicated, but some of them look pretty lousy in closeup. While they don't approach the excess of Zombi 2, the gore effects are competent and plentiful. The film also has a wacky synthesizer score that fits it perfectly. While rough around the edges, this is a film that knows what people like (zombies, boobs, midgets, beards) and gives you plenty of it. If nothing else, you will be consistently entertained.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Zombie Holocaust (1980)

Zombies and cannibals? It's like they're reading my mind!

The cannibal genre was reaching it's peak in the late 70s, just as the zombie film was taking off, so it's no surprise that somebody would attempt to combine the two. Out of this idea, and very little else, comes Marino Girolami's Zombie Holocaust.

Something is afoot (or should that be a-hand?) in a New York hospital. It seems one of the orderlies is treating the morgue like an all-you-can-eat buffet. He is caught red-handed, but dives out of the nearest window (upon impact, an arm visibly pops off the dummy). He manages to utter the word "Keto" before expiring. Coincidentally, one of the doctors on hand, Lori Ridgeway (Alexandra Delli Colli), is also an anthropologist, and recognises the word as having religious significance in "all ancient dialects throughout South-East Asia". Well that narrows it down to about 4 million square kilometers. Thanks a lot, Lori!

She is subsequently interviewed by a New York Health Inspector, Dr. Peter Chandler (Ian McCollough, fresh from his appearance in Zombi 2). It seems there has been a rash of cannibalistic acts. They manage to pin "Keto" down to a single island, populated by bloodthirstly cannibals. Actually, according to Dr. Lori "all primitive peoples practiced [cannibalism], without exception". How about Italian filmmakers? In another astonishing coincidence, Lori grew up in the area, even possessing a Ketoan sacrificial dagger. Or rather, she did up until when her groovy pad was ransacked and the dagger stolen. Like the cannibalism at the hospital, they decide to conceal the robbery from the authorities for no good reason.

Anyway, Peter has somehow managed to wangle an all-expenses-paid, fact-finding trip to Keto and wants Lori to join him. Also coming along for the ride are expendable nobody George (Peter O'Neal), and obligatory annoying reporter Susan Kelly (Sherry Buchanan).

Upon arriving they meet Dr. Obrero (Donald O'Brien), who provides them with equipment, three native porters and a guide, Molotto (Dakkar, also from Zombi 2). He tries to dissuade them from going to Keto, dismissing the natives as primitive savages, "unwilling to accept any form of civilisation" (except those who emigrate to the US, I guess) but our team is undeterred. Lori slo-o-owly disrobes (one of several such scenes) and heads out for a swim, but upon her return she finds a maggotty severed head in her bed, which I guess is a Ketoan practical joke. The next day they head out to Keto, but engine trouble forces them to land at a different island, which turns out to be Keto anyway (don't ask).

Over the next few hours, two of the porters are killed by the natives, and it is treated with all the concern you'd expect in a film like this ("Bury your friend, and be quick about it!"). They also contact Obrero via radio, who instructs them to meet him at a nearby abandoned mission.

The next day, the third and final porter falls victim to a bamboo trap and is then consumed by hungry cannibals. For some reason, the cannibals go straight for the gooey intestines, which they consume raw. That can't be good for you. George suffers a similar fate and Susan is captured and carried away. Things are looking grim for Peter and Lori, but suddenly the cannibals are scared away by a few crusty zombies.

Peter and Lori make it to the abandoned mission (the same set used in Zombi 2... are you sensing a pattern here?) and meet up with Dr. Obrero, who instructs them to take his motorboat back to the mainland. Peter insists that he and Lori go alone, but when they get to the beach Peter senses something is amiss. You see, Obrero gave them directions to the wrong island on purpose, so he could conceal his illegal experiments. Peter manages to unravel Obrero's web of deceit, just in time to be attacked by a knife-wielding zombie. He lobotomises it with an outboard motor and, dismissing the idea of contacting the authorities yet again, they return to the mission.

Now we learn the fate of the annoying reporter. Dr. Obrero is using her in one of his ghastly experiments to turn people into zombie slaves! Unfortunately, before they can stop Obrero they run afoul of some of his zombies and Peter is captured while Lori is carried off by the natives.

Like many cannibal films, there is a inherent vein of racial superiority. And like those other films, they try to offset it here with a hilariously forced exchange at the beginning of the film ("But Dr. Drake, do you really think we're that much different from savages?"). Of course, that's betrayed by Dr. Obrero's implication that Peter's juicy caucasian brain is more complex and valuable than those of the locals (I wouldn't be so sure about that, Doc). This leads to one of the best lines in the film: "I could easily kill you now, but I'm determined to have your brain!". In fact, the film is at it's best during these scenes, O'Brien's scenery-chewing doc spouts some fantastic mad-scientist dialogue.

Back at the native's village, the stark nekkers Dr. Lori is painted with a remarkably tasteful floral pattern and placed on a form-fitted sacrificial altar. As one of the natives approaches her with the sacrificial knife from her apartment (I guess they shipped it back express), the altar starts to tilt back and the natives get riled up and start worshipping her, for some reason. Repeated viewings of this scene didn't help reveal the cause of the native's excitement.

The natives revolt and swarm on Dr. Obero's lab. Lori and Peter manage to escape before the building is consumed by flames, in an ending that seems very familiar. I think it was from another film... started with a "Z".

With their abundance of jungle locations, pig intestines and bearded Italians, the cannibal film and the zombie film seem like a natural fit. It's a shame, then, that Zombie Holocaust combines them in the most sloppy and unimaginative way possible. Almost every scene is poached from better films of either genre. Even the title is a lazy combination of Zombi 2 and Cannibal Holocaust, both better films released the previous year (don't expect an actual "zombie holocaust", or you will walk away disappointed).

At least it doesn't resort to the unforgivable animal cruelty found in other cannibal films, but that's like praising Ted Bundy for not being Hitler. This film doesn't just insult your intelligence, it gives it a Shin Shoryuken to the balls, but if you are a gorehound you will find a lot to enjoy.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Guy N. Smith Book Review - Night of the Crabs

This is the book that started it all, folks! When this masterpiece dropped on an unsuspecting Britain in 1976, Smith-mania swept a nation! Night of the Crabs lunchboxes, t-shirts, breakfast cereals! Well not really, but the book was quite popular. It allowed Guy N. Smith to start writing full time, at least, and could we really ask for a better gift than that?

This book is basically about giant crabs rampaging up and down the Welsh coast. If these were your garden variety giant crabs, then perhaps a giant pot of boiling water and several gallons of lemon-butter sauce might be in order, but these are some seriously tough crustaceans. Bullets ricochet harmlessly of their shells, tanks are tossed around like toys. Worst of all, King Crab, a crab more cunning than any human being and the most dangerous foe mankind has ever known!

Luckily, Professor Cliff Davenport, a brilliant marine botanist, is on the case! Cliff's nephew and his girlfriend go missing in the waters near the Welsh village of Llanbedr. Unwilling to believe that they died of accidental drowning, Cliff decides to do some snooping. He finds some strange tracks near where they dies and comes to the only sensible conclusion... they were eaten by giant crabs!

Of course, most people would think he was crazy with a story like that, but luckily Cliff has powerful contacts in both Whitehall and the Ministry of Defence, who believe him instantly because he is that awesome. He is the kind of unflappable hero whose first reaction upon seeing someone being eviscerated by a giant crab is to take a puff on his pipe (Smith himself is a pipe enthusiast and so pipe smoking is a prominent feature of his protagonists) and rub his chin thoughtfully. He even manages to take a break every two dozen pages to bang local hottie Pat Benson. What a man!

In a lean 144 pages, at least half a dozen people suffer graphic dismemberment at the claws of the giant crabs. You may think that one book might be enough for Smith to exhaust the storytelling possibilities of giant crabs. Well you'd be wrong, buddy! Smith managed to pump out five more books, all chock to the brim with clickety-clicking crustaceans!

As one amazon reviewer states "You will feel cheaper but happier for reading this book" and I really couldn't say it any better than that.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Zombi 5 - Killing Birds (1987)

One of the very few appearances of zombies in Zombi 5

The astute reader will notice that this movie came out in 1987, a year before Zombi 3 and Zombi 4 were released. The Zombie 5 title was hastily slapped on the film to link it with the Zombi franchise. The original title was simply Killing Birds, as evidenced from the unchanged title graphic. This may lead you to believe that film contains few zombies and a lot of murderous birds. Not so! This film contains very little of either.

This film was directed by incorrigable sleaze-merchant Joe D'Amato, who has never seen a bar of good taste he couldn't slither under. In fact, this film is a rather restrained entry in his oeuvre, and it's probably worse off for it. Not much here in the way of gore (or nudity, but given the actors here, that's probably a good thing). If you like poorly applied "cut-throat" prosthetics, however, you're in for a treat!

The film opens with a flashback of Vietnam vet Fred Brown (Robert Vaughn!) coming home to discover his wife in bed with another man. Well, he must be hearing Charlie in the trees, because he murders her, her lover, her parents and her pet birds before some surviving birds gouge out his eyes. Somehow he manages to explain everything to the cops and give his infant son up for adoption.

Cut to a bunch of 30 year olds in ugly 80s clothes, pretending to be college students. Yellow-slacks-enthusiast Steve (Timothy Watts) is super excited about getting funding for his research project, locating the ivory-billed woodpecker. In fact, he and his ornithology buddies can't stop talking about it. This makes for thrilling cinema.

Joining Steve on his expedition are fellow ornithologist Paul (James Villemaire), his girlfriend Mary (Leslie Cummins), future internet porn mogul Bob (James Sutterfield) and nerdy student Jennifer (Lin Gathright). It must be a slow news week, because the university newspaper is also sending along ace reporter Anne (Lara Wendel). It should be added that this whole scene at the university is scored by some cheesy sax music that makes the movie seem like an 80s teen drama.

They pile into a van driven by Ranger Brian (Sal Maggiore Jr.) and drive out to the Louisiana swamps. First stop, Dr. Fred Brown, now an ornithologist (know thine enemy, I guess). He directs them to the area where the elusive avian was last seen. While on their journey, they discover a rotten old corpse in a truck (way to hide the bodies, Fred) and freak out. I guess they get lost, because pretty soon they're back at the house from the beginning of the film and decide to stay the night. A predictable series of killings follows, culminating in the sudden appearance of Vaughn, who sacrifices himself so the survivors can escape. It is revealed that Steve is Dr. Brown's son, but if you can muster more than a yawn at this point I'd be surprised. Birds amass outside and Vaughn screams. I presume the implication is that the birds killed Vaughn, so the birds do live up to their title in the end, but only barely.

But are there any zombies? Yeah, I think they are supposed to be Vaughn's undead victims. There's only two of them so I guess the other two victims couldn't be bothered returning from the dead. To be fair, two is probably more than enough to take care of these half-wits. In one scene Rob gets his necklace caught in the generator and Paul just sits and watches while Rob gets his fingers shredded in the gears as he's choked to death. Then he goes back upstairs and blames his death on the zombies.

This film really doesn't have any reason to exist. There are barely enough ideas in this film to fill out a 10 minute short. The acting is atrocious and the dialogue, when audible, doesn't even approximate human speech. Nothing makes sense but the film is so boring you can't even be bothered questioning the enormous plot holes. I'm sure they were so desperate for something to make it stand out that linking it to the disastrous Zombi 3 and 4 seemed like a pretty good idea. Fans of zombies and killer birds would be better off watching Zombi 3, as it had more of both.

Guy N. Smith Book Review - Mania

"You are about to embark upon a journey into the darkest recesses of the human mind, an exploration of the unknown. Travel at your peril for your safety, your sanity cannot be guaranteed. For some there may be no return."

In a prose worthy of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, so begins Mania, a book that attempts to combine Rosemary's Baby and The Shining into one confusing package.

Suzannah Mitchell is taking her daughter Rosie to dance practice, when a combination of car trouble and a serious snow storm force them to take shelter in the Donnington Country House Hotel. However, this is no ordinary hotel. Formerly a dodgy care facility shut down by the authorities, the owners, George and Brenda Clements, sneakily reopened it as a hotel, and some of the former residents came back as hotel guests. How are they paying their hotel bill, in Crazy Dollars? To make things worse, the Clements' have made a pact with Satan to reincarnate their dead daughter in return for the blood sacrifice of a virgin.

Also because a woman couldn't get by without the help of a man, we have another sane hotel guest, Owain Pugh, a book collector and all around stand up guy, forced to seek shelter from the elements.

Barbara Withernshaw is a resident with a habit of adopting stray headcases, much like cats. Among her brood is Allison Darke-Smith, a mentally impaired woman who just so happens to be impregnated with the Christ child. Or the spawn of Satan. The book suggests both and never makes up it's mind.

Anyway, George's younger brother Harry is possessed by Satan and though he is killed in the process, his possessed hand detaches itself from his body, Evil Dead style, and becomes some sort of invisible phantom hand. The shadow hand then proceeds to molest every woman it comes across until it finds a foetus it can corrupt with it's demonic energy. Thus Allison gives birth to a evil deformed baby, supposedly the Clements' daughter Elspeth reborn, which then dies for some reason. Soon the phantom hand is possessing people left and right, while the Clements' attempt to capture Rose so they can offer her to Satan. Suzannah and Rosie whimper and cower while Owain does whatever needs to be done to save the day.

This book rarely makes a lick of sense, and seems more like a few different half-baked ideas crammed into one pulp novel. The idea of a dodgy hotel populated by maniacs is pretty scary in itself, the addition of the phantom hand and Satanic sacrifices just seems superfluous. The main characters frequently act like idiots, grabbing a cuppa in the hotel kitchen when most sane people would run screaming out the front door, weather be damned. Far more frightening than the phantom hand is the description of the hotel food... mushy pies and soggy chips, cooked by a filthy tramp in a kitchen that is surpassed in cleanliness by most pub toilets.

Overall this is a pretty weak entry in the Guy N. Smith canon. I paid $8.80 for this book in a secondhand bookshop, which is pretty expensive by Guy N. Smith standards. Looking at the inside page reveals it had previously sold for $1... that sounds about right.

Zombi 4 (aka Zombie 4 aka After Death) (1988)

"Does this look infected to you?"

At the end of my review of Zombi 3 I mentioned the never-ending rabbit hole of bad films. Just when you think you've found the worst that cinema can offer, you'll stumble across something that will lower the bar even further. Such is the case with Zombi 4, or After Death as it's actually called, the name Zombie 4 was retrofitted to tie it to the Zombi series. In Zombi 3, Claudio Fragasso was writer, but in this film Fragasso was elevated to the position of director and if you thought he sucked as a writer, well, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

At this time Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso were busy shooting Strike Commando 2 in the Phillipines. In order to recoup some of the costs of filming, they decided to shoot Strike Commando 2 during the day, and use the same sets and cameras to shoot Zombi 4 at night. They even flew out (star of Strike Commando 2) Brent Huff's fiance (Candace Daly) to play the main role, simply because he missed her. The results are just as rushed and sloppy as you'd expect, probably moreso.

The film opens on a tropical island with a bunch of scientists trying to track down a chubby voodoo priest as he performs some sort of voodoo ritual. Apparently the scientists were working on a cell regeneration serum but they didn't get results quick enough and the voodoo priest's cancer-riddled daughter died. An argument ensues and priest is killed, but not before the ritual is completed and his wife changes into a drooling demon. In the ensuing melee all of the scientists are killed except for one women and her little girl. She gives her daughter a necklace and tells her to run, then is quickly killed by, I don't know, zombie ninjas or something.

Flash forward twenty years, and the girl is now a sexy woman named Jenny on a boat with a bunch of hairy mercenary stereotypes. I don't know if they're on a mission or what, but they've got a bunch of chicks and beer with them. The woman suddenly remembers that this is the island where her mother was killed (must have slipped her mind), so they all decide it's a good idea to wander aimlessly through the jungle until they are attacked by zombies.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the island, three scientists (one of whom, Chuck, is played by gay porn star Jeff Stryker!) stumble across what I suppose is the old voodoo site, complete with candles, still burning after 20 years. Of course one skeptical scientist starts reading voodoo incantations aloud, thus raising some more zombies (I guess the zombies already on the island weren't enough). So are the zombies caused by the regeneration serum or the voodoo? I don't know and I suspect neither does Fragasso. Chuck gets torn up pretty bad, which should turn him into a zombie, but luckily Fragasso is too incompetent to remember.

The mercenaries and Chuck hole up in the remains of the facility. They find some weapons and more still-lit candles, which Jenny remembers are supposed to protect them from the zombies. Naturally, one of the guys blows them out because he is an idiot. One of the injured mercenaries dies and comes back as a zombie, complete with ability to speak and fire automatic weapons. Zombies amass outside and the remaining people are picked off one by one. Jenny and Chuck almost escape but Chuck ends up dead and Jenny is turned into some sort of demon thing. Cue terrible Euro rock song and roll credits.

Like in Zombi 3, the zombies are maddeningly un-zombie-like, often leaping through windows or staging ambushes. Actually, the whole film shares a lot more in common with Lamberto Bava's Demons, or Raimi's Evil Dead than any zombie film. I wouldn't have imagined it possible to dumb down the Zombi series, but this entry easily limbos under that bar. At least Zombi 3's stunning incompetence was fun to watch.

Friday, 11 January 2008

The confusing world of zombie film titles

A word on the naming of the Zombi series. This is a tricky business in the world of grindhouse cinema, where films are frequently renamed to localise a film or cash in on hot properties. The first film in the series, Dawn of the Dead, was recut and released in Europe as Zombi. The second film was called Zombi 2 in Europe, but renamed Zombie in the US and Zombie Flesh Eaters in the UK and Australia. Zombi 3 was released as Zombie 3 in the US (despite the fact that there was no Zombie 2 there) and Zombie Flesh Eaters 2 in UK/Aus.

Are we clear so far? Okay. That is essentially the end of the "official" series (even though they don't really have any connection to one another anyway, bar the zombies). In the US, two more films were renamed to shoehorn them into the series... Zombie 4 - After Death (also released in the UK as Zombie Flesh Eaters 3) and Zombie 5 - Killing Birds. To further confuse things, other unrelated zombie films have been rereleased as part of the series. The cannibal/zombie hybrid Zombie Holocaust, for instance, has been released at one time as Zombie 3 in the USA. I may review that one some time.

Zombi 3 (1988)

You expect me to do some sort of "head" pun here, don't you?
Well, screw you. I'm not your dancing monkey.

Despite it's tenuous connection to Zombi, I wouldn't call Zombi 2 a blatant cash-in. Zombi 2 has enough low budget charm and genuinely original moments to stand on it's own two feet. Zombi 3, however, was a naked grab for cash. Lucio Fulci returned as director, but providing the script was legendary hack Claudio Fragasso. Lucio Fulci was reportedly greatly dissatisfied with the script, and when Fulci criticises your narrative cohesion you've really got problems. Eventually Fulci left the project due to frequent arguments with Fragasso, combined with ill health due to the shooting location in the budget-friendly Phillipines. The material that Fulci turned in was well under feature film length, so second unit director Bruno Mattei was asked to help Fragasso complete the film.

Did the mention of that unholy writer/director combo send a mysterious cold chill running up your spine? Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso were a force to be reckoned with during the 70s and 80s, dumping a huge number of low-budget cinematic turd-bombs into the laps of undiscriminating filmgoers. Their films are legendary for their awfulness. It is still unclear which parts of Zombi 3 are attributable to which director, but the finished product is definitely more Mattei than Fulci. This is not a good thing.

Whereas the cause of the zombie outbreak is left to speculation in Zombi and Zombi 2, a cheesy opening sequence in Zombi 3 reveals it as the result of a secret government experiment to revive the dead, unimaginatively named Death 1. For some unexplained reason, a bunch of terrorists steal the cannister during transport and the lone survivor manages to split it open and spill some of the gunk on his hand during his escape. Rather than leave the country or at least get to a hospital, he checks into a hotel before turning into a zombie and chowing down on hotel staff.

Meanwhile the scientists and military types are butting heads, the military gunning for total extermination while the scientists demand more time to find an antidote. The military wins out and the hotel residents are exterminated and the bodies burnt which makes the zombie virus airbourne (Fragasso must have seen Return of the Living Dead).

Elsewhere a group of soldiers are flirting with some chicks in a van when they are attacked by a bunch of zombie birds. One of the girls is pecked to death and the survivors head over to the now abandoned (and covered in vines, for some reason) hotel. They find a box of machine guns in the basement (I guess hotel security take their job very seriously) and they are pretty chuffed even though they haven't seen anything more than some homicidal birds.

One of the fun things about zombie films, or any monster films really, is discovering the rules. How they move, how they act, how they can be killed. The problem with this film is that there is no consistency. Sometimes they'll be creeping along, hands outstretched Romero style, other times they'll be using weapons and busting out martial arts moves. In one scene a self-propelled zombie head busts out of the fridge and flies across the room, while it's body lies in wait in a kitchen cupboard to ambush hungry passersby. In fact, ambushing people seems to be pretty popular with these zombies. Leaping out from on top of buildings, in cupboards, even busting through some random pregnant woman's stomach from under a table... they sure know how to make an entrance. This unforgivable sloppiness makes it a terribly frustrating film to watch.

This film is an explosion of incompetence. Everything about the film is cheap, tacky and sloppy. Even the gore and makeup effects are half-assed. If, like me, you enjoy watching this kind of irredeemable trash you'll probably get a kick out of it, but your idea of the worst film ever made is, say, Catwoman, you're best advised to stay away and avoid finding out just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

I'm so gay for Spider-Man

Hello? Spider-Man? I am GAY! for YOU!

I'm straight but I'd totally turn for Spider-Man. I mean, Batman is still my number one, but I get the impression that he'd be kind of a distant lover, you know? Unless he's the All-Star Batman, but then he'd probably shout out "I'm the goddamn Batman!" at the moment of climax.

Of course, my Spider-Man fantasies were all just idle daydreams until the recent continuity hatchet job, where Spider-man made a deal with Mephisto to heal Aunt May in exchange for erasing his marriage to Mary Jane (and, conveniently, that he'd revealed his secret identity during Civil War). Now that Mary Jane is out of the picture I think I'm in with a chance, at least until Quesada restores things with another clumsy retcon.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Zombi 2 (aka Zombie Flesh Eaters) (1979)

Paola (Olga Karlatos) keeps an eye out for zombies

In this film a zombie fights a shark while a half-naked scuba diver looks on in terror. You might as well stop reading here, as that sentence tells you everything you need to know. Zombi (aka Dawn of the Dead) was a huge success in Italy and Zombi 2 was produced the following year as an unofficial sequel. Taking the reins this time was Lucio Fulci. He was already somewhat well-known thanks to a string of giallo films (including the notoriously violent Don't Torture a Duckling), but this was the film that would put him on the map and cement his reputation for extreme gore and graphic violence.

An abandoned yacht is found floating in New York Harbour. Two members of the coastguard investigate and discover a piano covered in noisy worms, a lot of synthesizer music and a big fat zombie. One cop manages to blast it into the water, but not before the other has his jugular torn out in a graphic fashion.

Enter one young woman, Anne (Tisa Farrow). It turns out the boat belonged to her father, who was conducting research on the remote Caribbean island of Matool. So she, along with the requisite nosy reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch), head off in search of her father, enlisting the help of seafaring couple Brian (Al Cliver) and Susan (Auretta Gay). It is around this time that the legendary shark vs zombie scene occurs, and it really is rather impressive, although I imagine naked scuba diving must chafe quite a bit.

Meanwhile on Matool, Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson) is trying to discover the cause of the zombie outbreak while his wife Paola (Olga Karlatos), fearing zombie attack, tries to convince him to leave. Her fears are well founded, as she is promptly attacked while taking a shower (of course) and her eye is slowly gouged out on a splinter of wood in one of the most notorious scenes in the film.

Soon the number of zombies increase to the point where the doctor's standard practice of wrapping them in a white sheet and blasting them in the head isn't quite going to cut it. Nearly everybody dies and upon the survivors' return to New York they discover that the zombie infection has spread there too and an army of zombies are munching their way through the city. They didn't have shooting permission for this scene, so this amounts to a couple dozen extras shuffling along a bridge as decidedly nonchalant traffic passes by below.

The plot is wafer-thin, but mostly coherent, which is rare for Fulci. The film comes to life largely thanks to the visual effects of Giannetto de Rossi. The zombie makeup is simple (mostly oatmeal paste applied liberally to the face), but very effective and the gore effects are a work of art. The film was very controversial upon it's release. A huge success in it's native Italy, it was severely cut in many other countries and was placed on the list of "Video Nasties" in the UK. Some theatres in the US went the ultra-gimmicky move of handing out barf bags before screenings.

You'd be forgiven to dismiss the film as exploitative trash, as it is exploitative trash. Fulci's lingering close-ups of pulsing wounds are about as sleazy as they come. However, some of the scenes, such as the sheet-wrapped bodies slowly rising up from their slumber, are genuinely eerie. I'd say it is worth watching, especially if you are a fan of zombie films, if only to see what all the fuss was about. But make sure you watch the unrated version.

Tomb Raider

One day back in 1996, a Core Design developer named Toby Gard was working on a 3D platformer for the Playstation. He had the utterly brilliant idea that a teenage boy would probably prefer looking at a sexy woman's ass than a hairy man-ass. Thus, springing forth fully-formed from the head of Eidos like an F-cup Athena, Lara Croft was born. Despite the fact that Lara was composed of about seven crudely textured polygons, their gambit paid off (never underestimate the imagination of a teenage boy when it comes to wanking) and the game was a huge success. Okay, it was also because it was a very good game for the time, even if it did have a frustrating control system that made a woman with the skills of an olympic gymnast control like a Sherman tank.

This is what passed for sexy back in 1996

The original designer then left the project and Eidos began to do what videogame companies do best... shitting out uninspired sequels while whoring Lara out to any company willing to have her shiny-green-tank-top-clad (what is that thing made of, anyway?) bosoms plastered across their product. Lara's influence could be seen everywhere, even in terrible ripoff tv shows like Relic Hunter (anyone remember that?). The series certainly has been a success for Eidos' marketing... recognition of the brand has well and truly eclipsed the quality of any of the games.

A cynical man would say that Lara was created as a way of distancing the brand from Indiana Jones while simultaneously exploiting horny teenaged lust for pixellated boobs. And I am a cynical man. But this hasn't stopped Eidos from giving themselves a pat on back at every opportunity for creating a "feminist icon". Now Lara is a permanent fixture in any discussion of women in games, despite the fact that (until recently) the series has been spiraling the toilet with each lackluster sequel.

After Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness was vomited onto store shelves, I imagine Toby Gard had an experience not unlike discovering your estranged daughter has been reduced to turning tricks in filthy alleyways for crystal meth. He returned to the series as development of a new game was passed to Crystal Dynamics and two surprisingly good games followed... Tomb Raider Legends and Tomb Raider Anniversary. They were very successful, largely because Lara controls like a human being instead of a 30 ton armoured combat vehicle.

At the moment I'm having a blast playing Tomb Raider Anniversary, but I'm wondering how much of my enjoyment is tainted by nostalgia. The shooting is still pretty boring and repetitive. I wouldn't mind if they scrapped the combat aspect of the game altogether, although Lara's twin pistols are so iconic that I doubt they'll be going anywhere. I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do on the new generation of consoles. They'd better pull out something special (not just improved breast physics, though that'd be nice) if they want Lara to regain her crown, because 3d platformers like Prince of Persia have been running, jumping and climbing circles around Tomb Raider for years now. For now I am content in looking forward to a Tomb Raider sequel, which is a sensation I haven't felt in some time.

Guy N. Smith Book Review - Entombed

Simon Rankin's life sucks. A former Jesuit priest, a botched exorcism has shaken his faith. His ex-wife is a spectacular megabitch who is withholding his kids and using the family courts to siphon every penny from his pockets. In order to make a fresh start, he heads off to a small, unpronouncable village in Wales. Bad move, Simon, and not just because it's Wales. As every Smith fan knows, the Welsh countryside is teeming with Satanists, giant crabs, killer frogs and, in this case, haunted slate mines.

A local entrepreneur has reopened an abandoned slate mine as a tourist attraction. It is quite successful, but Simon can sense a malevolent force brewing in the depths of the mine. The mine is closed when a teenager goes missing, and others are soon to follow. His faith renewed, Simon, with the help of his new girlfriend Andrea, sets out to destroy the evil in the mine once and for all.

This one is actually very good (by the standards of Guy N. Smith, of course) and probably my favourite so far. An abandoned mine haunted by Victorian-Era child labourers is a pretty creepy concept. There are some good scenes of people groping blindly in the dark as ghosts taunt and beckon them. There's also a group (coven?) of local Satanists who are a pretty hilarious bunch, although the image of moonlit middle-aged orgies will probably be burned into my brain for some time.

There's also a hilarious scene where the priest's girlfriend is required to stay in a protective pentagram, lest she be accosted by demonic forces. Of course, her mind wanders and she starts to masturbate (who wouldn't in that situation?) and in the process breaks the boundary of the pentagram. Of course, a horny demon shows up and despite her attempts at playing hard-to-get ("I... couldn't hold out... any longer. I need... it. Badly!") he gets the leg over pretty easily. But then, it wouldn't be a Guy N Smith novel without a bizarre, poorly-written sex scene, would it?

I'd definitely recommend this one.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Zombi (aka Dawn of the Dead - European Version) (1978)

What can really be said about Dawn of the Dead that hasn't been said before? Not much, especially since it is one of my favourite films and whatever I say would end up being gushing praise. Instead I'm going to focus on the differences between the US theatrical cut and the European version of the film, released in Italy as Zombi.

Dawn of the Dead is a continuation of Night of the Living Dead. It follows a small band of survivors as they flee to a mall and try to maintain a grip onto what remains of their lives as society crumbles around them. The plot is simple, but what elevates it above most other genre entries, and what many imitators fail to realise, is that Dawn isn't about the zombies, it's about the people.

There is a lot of social commentary in the film, primarily about 70s consumerism. It's about as subtle as machete to the forehead, but it's there and that's more than you can say about most zombie films. Watching the characters as they run about the mall, trying to stave off boredom and build a tiny shrine to a society that no longer exists, is simultaneously delightful and heartbreaking to watch.

The film has a much bigger budget than Night of the Living Dead and it is used to great effect. The visuals are bright and colourful. The zombies are more plentiful (but less menacing). The film is more epic in scope. There are a huge number of gore and effects shots. While some look hokey by todays standards (the bright red blood looks especially cartoonish) it doesn't detract from the film and in some ways the slapstick gore works in the film's favour.

Dawn of the Dead was partly financed by the Italians, horror maestro Dario Argento being one of them. As part of the distribution deal, Argento was given license to recut the film for it's European release. Argento cut the film down to 118 minutes (compared to the 126 minutes of the US theatrical cut) and removed a lot of the comedy and expository dialogue and apparently extended the action/gore sequences (but I didn't really notice). In doing so he blunted the satiric edge of the film and made it more of a faster paced, straightforward action/horror film. Perhaps he thought the film's goofier moments wouldn't play as well to a European audience.

Argento also rescored the film with additional music from longtime collaborators Goblin, replacing some of the lighthearted pieces (such as the mall music) with a more moody soundtrack. I'm also saddened to the see the scene where the zombie is scalped by the helicopter blades excised, even if the goofy head prosthetic made him look like Frankenstein's monster.

The sense of time passing isn't as clear in the European cut and I don't think you get the same sense of isolation and boredom from the the characters. It's still a great film, but I much prefer Romero's version. Argento's version is snappier but it seems shallower, and it excised a lot of the material that the made the film appeal to those outside of the genre fans.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Keep an eye out for ya, Stingray!

Have you ever tossed and turned on sleepless nights, wishing you looked more like Stingray? I know I have! Well, your prayers have been answered. I have created the Stingray mask. Simply save the linked image on your computer, print and cut along the dotted line to fulfill your dreams of being a murderous kung fu rapist.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Undefeatable (1994)

If you are as much on the pulse of popular culture as I am, you may have seen this clip floating around on youtube. It is from a film called Undefeatable and if you are a fan of bad films, I implore you to check it out.

This film is directed by Godfrey Ho, and if you are a fan of terrible movies, you might recognise his name as being attached to about a million ninja-related films in the 80s. No ninjas here, folks. Just B-action star, Cynthia Rothrock, playing a waitress named Kristi Jones who engages in street fights on the side to put her sister through college. Awww. As soon as we learn of Kristi's noble goals we know her sister will suffer a tragic death at the hands of the killer is order to provide motivation. And she does, giving us a truly frightening display of emotion by Cynthia.

Nick DeMarco (John Miller) is a cop trying to put Kristi on the straight and narrow while on the hunt for the killer. Miller looks totally lost in every scene he is in, like he just stumbled onto the set and is desperately trying to look like he knows what he is doing.

Nick is probably the worst cop in the world. When his leads run dry he gives up and heads down to the gym with his partner to run through some sweaty kung fu routines. No rush guys, just a serial killer on the loose. The only reason he finds the killer in the end is because Kristi's sister's college professor just so happens to be the killer's wife's psychologist. Wow, what a lucky break!

The true star of the film is the guy playing Stingray (the villain), Don Niam, or rather, Don Niam's mullet. When he is on the screen you can't take your eyes of his glorious mane of raven curls. There is really no excuse for this permed monstrosity, since the film was made in 1994. Stingray has some serious abandonment issues. His mother left him as a little boy, and when his wife leaves him it sends him over the edge. I mean, all he did was rape her while fantasizing about one of his sweaty deathmatches. You've got to work at a marriage, lady! Nothing left for Stingray to do except spray twin red streaks in his mullet and murder everyone who looks vaguely like his wife. He is also fond of popping out eyeballs and keeping them in his fishtank, leading to an ironic death and an awesomely bad post-mortem one-liner from Cynthia.

Frankly, this film is ten kinds of awesome.

Guy N. Smith Book Review - Cannibals

Happy New Year! I'm back reviewing another masterpiece from the prolific Guy N. Smith.

Some idiot Scot named Doug Geddis builds holiday homes right next to some mountain caves which house mutant cannibals. As a result the villagers shun him, and I can't really blame them. Doug's solution to the cannibal problem is to issue his guests cryptic warnings about staying off the slopes and confined to their chalet after dark. Even without the mutants, Invercurie seems the worst holiday spot in Scotland, and that's saying something.

However, this doesn't stop happy holiday-makers from streaming in. First up are Eddie and Sarah. Eddie is an older, married man having an affair with one of his students, so straight away we know they are cannibal chow.

Next are the Halseys. These people are really determined to have a holiday. They are not deterred by sullen villagers issuing veiled threats. They don't even budge when the family dog gets torn to pieces during the night. They only start to worry when their son disappears up on the mountain slopes (eaten by cannibals, natch). I'll say one thing for Guy N. Smith, he isn't shy about knocking off a few kids here and there.

A cop named Phil shows up in search of his philandering brother Eddie (who by this time is resting in the stomachs of hungry cannibals) and straight away we know he's the hero. A couple of mutant-fodder teenagers show up, their names don't matter. After a run-in with the cave mutants, a few of them confront Doug and eventually he spills the beans. There is a reason the villagers are so cagey about the cave-dwellers. It seems that many years ago people began giving birth to horrible mutants, so they dumped them in some mountain caves, dusted off their hands and called it a day. Sounds like a good plan to me!

Unfortunately it seems the mutants produce horrible offspring faster than Guy N. Smith produces horrible books. The mutants have outgrown their food supply and have started making nocturnal visits to the village in search of food. Now, angered by the holiday-makers, hungry cannibals rush down the mountain slopes and the village erupts into an orgy of violence.

There's something I love about cave-dwelling mutant cannibals. Caves are pretty spooky at the best of times, but add in mutants and I am one happy camper. Guy N. Smith pulls out all his typical tricks, padding out the body count with incidental characters. The good Reverend Macpherson is introduced and offed in just over 10 pages... a sad fate for any literary character. This one was a fun, trashy read and worth it for any fans of mutants, cannibals or Scottish villagers who say things like "On yer ain head be it".