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Modern British Cult Cinema: Centurion

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When the legendary Roman Ninth Legion are ambushed and their numbers decimated by the elusive Picts, Centurion – Quintus Dias, and a small band of Ninth Legion survivors attempt to mount a rescue of their captured General – Virilus, and escape before the wrath of their opponent destroys them all.

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Olga Kurylenko, Dominic West, David Morrisey, Ulrich Thomsen, Imogen Poots, Noel Clarke. Director:Neil Marshall. Writer: Neil Marshall.

Modern British Cult Cinema presents another fantastic film from one of our very favourite English directors – Neil Marshall, best known for earlier entertaining epics such as – Dog Soldiers, Doomsday and The Descent. Contrasting to his previous action/horror hybrids, Marshall this time tackles the ancient past with the Roman occupation of Britain in 117 AD, though his trusted trademark of copious amounts of action, violence and gore are thankfully still in full effect here.

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Based upon the infamous tale of the curious disappearance of Rome’s legendary Ninth Legion, 3,000 elite Roman troops who mysteriously vanished whilst marching from York to Scotland in 117 AD. Though historians dispute the facts behind their strange vanishing, director – Marshall gives his own account of this classic fable, and one hell of a great medieval period action extravaganza. Shot in the UK, specifically the highlands of Scotland and the English forests of Surrey and Hampshire, the movie is spectacular to behold, lavish sweeping shots of the gorgeous yet notoriously harsh Scottish highlands intercut with the tranquil but sumptuous English countryside, this movie is a feast for the eyes.

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Accomplished actor – Michael Fassbender plays Centurion Quintus Dias, a lone survivor of a midnight raid on his remote Roman outpost by a Pict warband. Eventually freed from his captors by General Virilus (Dominic West) and his Ninth Legion, Quintus chooses to stay with the legendary legion on their march into the wilds to capture or kill the Pict Commander – Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen) Recruiting a Pict scout – Etain (Olga Kurylenko) to guide them through the severe Scottish landscape, the Ninth Legion begin their march into eventual ruination and defeat.

Marshall presents us an epic and ambitious movie replete with large scale battles, and smaller bloodier skirmishes. As with all of Marshall’s previous films, he revels in portraying the ultimate aftermath of violent action, Centurion has it all – decapitation and impalement are rife – throats are cut, arrows embedded and in one particularly excruciating scene, a Legionnaire is interrupted by a spear, in a none too pleasant manner, whilst urinating, such was the era though and Centurion capture the brutal and bloody past ferociously.

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Shot on relatively small budget considering the vast scale of the story (around 14 million pounds) the film has the genuine look and scope of a production that cost at least five times that amount, the size and complexity of the film is on a grand scale, from the aforementioned cinematography, the fantastic actors and wardrobe comprising hundreds of Roman and Pict costumes and sundry weaponry. The acting turns themselves are outstanding, Fassbender is excellent as ever, embracing his role as the titular Centurion in the title brilliantly, though for me personally, the film is stolen by Olga Kurylenko’s – Etain, a strong, disquieting, dangerous but ultimately tragic character, and Olga pitch perfectly captures these emotions, even though Etain herself is mute, a sublime performance. Backing them up in great supporting roles are Dominic West as General Virilus and Ulrich Thomsen as the Pict Commander Gorlacon, amongst many others.

The dichotomy of the film though, is that throughout you are rooting for Quintus and the surviving Ninth legionnaires whilst they are hunted down by the Pict warriors, when in reality the Picts themselves were defending their homeland from the invading force that was the Roman Empire. Though Marshall does touch on this several times in a number of scenes including a sequence where Gorlacon tells captured General Virilus of Etain’s tragic past due to the Roman occupation and their ensuing brutality on the indigenous population, giving the Picts and their cause some much needed pathos.

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Very much a Brit answer to films like Gladiator, but made on about one tenth of the budget of that particular classic, Centurion is an impressive achievement. The first half of the film is an epic in every sense of the word with its massive battle scenes, the second half of the movie though is more intimate in its story as the Roman survivors are slowly hunted down one by one by their Pict pursuers. Another fantastic movie by Neil Marshall, and worth the admission price alone just for Olga Kurylenko’s acting prowess. Highly recommended.

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Modern British Cult Cinema: Solomon Kane

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After a lifetime of murder and mayhem, remorseless mercenary, Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) renounces violence after discovering that his immoral crusade has condemned his soul to hell. Yet when he returns back to his home in Devonshire, England he discovers that an even worse evil has taken reign in his lands, but will fighting back against this malefic threat ultimately result in his redemption or infernal suffering.

Cast: James Purefoy, Max Von Sydow, Pete Postlethwaite, Alice Krige, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Jason Flemyng, Mackenzie Crook. Director: Michael J. Basset. Writers: Robert E. Howard (creator) Michael J. Basset (screenplay)

Solomon Kane was ushered into existence by early 1900’s novelist Robert E. Howard, who is probably most noted for his creation of sword swinging, kingdom usurping – Conan The Barbarian. Kane’s inaugural introduction was in a 1928 issue of Weird Tales, Howard described his character as a – “sombre, gloomy man with a pale complexion and cold eyes” dressed head to toe in black, carrying two pistols and a rapier, Kane wandered the world fighting witchcraft, black magic and evil men.

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The films opening takes place during Kane’s murderous past as he and his cut-throat army of brigands invade and pillage a large fortress in Africa in 1600 AD. Whilst fighting their way to the riches and glory contained within the fortress throne room, Kane becomes separated from his heinous henchmen and confronted by the Devil’s Reaper, who discloses that Kane’s nefarious lifestyle has forfeit his soul, and the Reaper is there to deliver it unto his master, Kane refusing to yield to the demand leaps from the throne room balcony into the tempestuous seas below.

A year passes, and we catch up with Solomon in an Abbey in England where he has taken refuge to recant his former murderous ways and live a life of peace in a desperate attempt to save his soul from damnation. However, a prophetic vision of Solomon’s future by the lead Abbot, leads to Solomon being told to immediately leave the sanctity of the Abbey, as his ensuing fate does not reside within it’s sacred grounds. Deciding to return to his land of noble birth in Devonshire, Solomon is set upon by a trio of vicious mercenaries, who leave him for dead after he refuses to break his vow of peace and fight back. Found and nursed back to health by Meredith Crowthorn (Rachel Hurd-Wood) daughter of a travelling puritan family, he ends up temporarily joining them on their pilgrimage. 

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But when an encounter with a strange masked warrior and his band of zombie like minions ends with the death of the Crowthorns and kidnapping of Meredith for their necromancer master – Malachi (Jason Flemyng) Solomon breaks his vow of peace and sets out to rescue Meredith and end Malachi’s demonic reign. Thus ensues a bloody path of vengeance and retribution that will either condemn Solomon’s soul to hell or redeem it for all eternity.

British director, Michael J. Basset’s cinematic interpretation of Howard’s classic evil smiting, puritanical warrior is as close to its original source material as any fan could hope to get, it really is as if Solomon had leapt onto the silver screen from the very pages of the novels and comic-books themselves. Basset’s reverence for Howard’s original books is tangible, and the casting of native Devonshire actor James Purefoy is the icing on the proverbial cake. Purefoy is an amazing and rather underrated Brit actor, and gives his all in this superb adaptation, going from an evil, detestable character to one you actively feel pity towards, and eventually end up rooting for as the film unfolds, plus being a native of Devon, of course, his accent is spot on (trust me, I live in Devon!) Backed up by a supporting stable of excellent actors including the late Max Von Sydow, Pete Postlethwaite, and the ever entertaining Mackenzie Crook.

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The films myriad fight scenes choreographed by sword master – Richard Ryan are superbly put together, savage and brutal, akin to the era, with limbs hacked off at an alarming rate and Kane’s notoriety as a peerless warrior shine through in these stunning sequence,with Purefoy himself doing the majority of his own sword and stunt work.

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Beautifully shot by Dan Lausten in England and Prague, the film is a dark and foreboding cinematic delight, and like it’s filmic counterpart, the fantastic – Black Death, retains a classic Hammer movie feel. The English landscape is littered with broken down churches, soulless graveyards and eerie hanging corpses, replete with carrion crows and a constant deluge of rain and mud (much like the UK still is!) The film’s original soundtrack by Klaus Badelt is also outstanding, rousing and haunting in equal measure and has become one of my very favourite movie compositions. 

Though mostly receiving positive reviews when released, amongst both fans and critics, it unfortunately, initially only recouped about a third of its original budget (such is the case with a large swathe of films emanating from the UK) though thankfully it has gone on since its initial launch in 2009 to surpass its £33,000,000 budget through Blu-Ray and DVD sales, deservedly so as Solomon Kane is one of the greatest sword and sorcery movies ever made, and comes highly recommended.

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Modern British Cult Cinema: HOWL

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Director: Paul Hyett.  Writers: Mark Huckerby, Nick Ostler. Cast: Ed Speelers, Holly Weston, Shauna McDonald, Sean Pertwee, Rosie Day.

Werewolves are awesome aren’t they? howling at the moon, voraciously stalking their prey, fighting vampires (but mostly losing, ’cause Kate Beckinsale kicks arse… obviously!) Over the decades there have been a fair few great movies based upon the shape shifting lycanthropes, dating back as far as 1935 with ‘Werewolf of London’ through classic Lon Chaney’s ‘The Wolf Man’ from 1941, and beyond with such deliciously depraved delights as The Howling, An American Werewolf In London (my personal fave), The Company Of Wolves, Ginger Snaps and the aforementioned bad-arse Beckinsale movie series ‘Underworld’ , this particular horror sub-genre has been well served over the years.

In 2002, British director Neil Marshall (Descent, Centurion, Hellboy) gave us his own vision of the classic genre with the stupendous ‘Dog Soldiers’ an absolute gem of a movie that followed a small group of British soldiers on a training mission against the S.A.S in the Scottish Highlands, but the Special Air Service turns out to be the least of their worries as they are assailed by an even deadlier force (yep, deadlier than the SAS!) a pack of ravenous lycos! The low budget horror/comedy was a huge smash hit not just in the UK but worldwide, and helped propel the career of it’s helm Neil Marshall to international stardom.

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Train guard Joe and colleague Ellen discover there are worse things than British Rail pre-packed sandwiches!

‘Howl’ is the most recent Anglo entry into this lycanthropic category, and feels very much like it’s embedded in the same universe as Dog Soldiers, in fact there’s even a cameo by brilliant British thesp – Sean Pertwee (this time with entrails intact!) though in the popular tradition of English actors named ‘Sean’ he doesn’t last too long! (seriously, English actors bearing that titular name have about the same amount of movie survivability as a red shirted Star Trek security officer!)

Train guard Joe, winding down after a long shift, is pushed into taking on a red eye journey by his new (sneery and unpleasant) supervisor. Tired but unwilling to rock the boat (train?) Joe agrees, and boards the non-stop train from Waterloo, yet his resolve and that of his fellow commuters will be tested to the utmost when the train seemingly breaks down in a dark and ominous stretch of forest miles from anywhere. With communications down and the train driver inexplicably missing, Joe attempts to keep the passengers calm, which ultimately proves futile as the train is assailed by an unknown animal, large of stature and with a blood lust for the occupants of the stricken carriages.

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“He’s, uh, behind me isn’t he?”

Howl is a tense, fun and rollickingly wild Werewolf siege movie, in the style of the aforementioned Dog Soldiers. Some decent acting from a great cast (which includes Ed Speelers of Downtown Abbey, Shauna McDonald of The Descent, and of course the legendary Sean Pertwee ) a superbly creepy setting, but most importantly of all, the gore and werewolves themselves are top notch, though the film isn’t quite up to the standards of Dog Soldiers, the creature effects in HOWL far outstrip those in Marshall’s earlier lyco opus, in fact the practical effects are some of the best I’ve seen in a UK horror for years especially considering the rather low budget nature of the film (a measly £1,000,000) Highly Recommended!

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Modern British Cult Cinema: Franklyn

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Franklyn paints a portrait of four lost souls – Jonathan Preest, a masked vigilante who seeks revenge against the overseer of the religious regime of Meanwhile City. Manic depressive Emilia, who concocts suicidal art performances. Forlorn Milo, who is desperately searching for his one true love, and Peter, who is investigating the disappearance of his missing son, an ex military veteran. These four lives intertwined by fate across parallel worlds eventually collide, as a single bullet determines their destiny.

Cast: Eva Green, Ryan Phillippe, Sam Riley, Bernard Hill, Richard Coyle, James Faulkner. Script by: Gerald McMorrow. Directed by: Gerald McMorrow.

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Franklyn is a visually rich and stunning film set across the dystopian landscape of parallel dimensions, Meanwhile City and contemporary London. It is within these dark ethereal perspectives that we encounter our four protagonists, each lost within themselves, and on an intertwined and fated path to ultimately affect each others lives, for good or ill.

Ryan Phillippe plays Preest, a masked atheist vigilante who resides in the religiously fervent Meanwhile City, a multi-faith metropolis that encourages the practice of all forms of religious reverence… except atheism. Cults and sects proliferate the city, and Preest has tasked himself with rescuing the unfortunate souls who have been kidnapped and converted into their nefarious schism. But tonight, on the rain sodden streets of this dark conurbation, loomed over by miles of cathedrals and temples, Preest is planning his revenge on the city’s religious rapture.

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Eva Green gives up an emotionally charged performance as Amelia, a gothic art student who is eternally embedded in a state of manic depression, rage and sorrow. Repeatedly committing attempts of suicide, for what she constantly tells herself is just part of her art project for her course, but each venture into self-sacrifice becomes decidedly more and more risky.

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Bernard Hill plays Esser, a father agonising over the disappearance of his estranged son, an ex military vet with psychogenic problems, with our quartet of protagonists rounded out by Milo, played by Sam Riley, a previously jilted spouse, whose life is thrust into emotional turmoil by the reappearance of his former childhood sweetheart.

When these parallel worlds eventually collide, a prescient bullet will inextricably change the course of these four strangers, linking their disconsolate lives in a single moment of coherence.

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Franklyn is a haunting rhapsody of gothic imagery, fantastic performances from the lead actors and a nonpareil story that slowly weaves itself from four distinctly separate storylines into one beguiling twist that brings together the protagonists of the film, changing them irrevocably. 

Gerald McMorrow adapts his own script with a promising debut as a director, beautifully shot around various boroughs of London, with a solid and talented cast, and especially noteworthy performances from Eva Green and Ryan Phillippe. Franklyn is an evocative dark fairytale that provides a fascinating journey into life, love and loss. Highly recommended.

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Modern British Cult Cinema – Halloween Special: OUTPOST

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(Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead)

Former Royal Marine turned mercenary, D.C. (Ray Stevenson) and his ragtag group of ex-soldiers take on the task of protecting scientist, Hunt (Julian Wadham) as he searches for an old military bunker deep in Eastern Europe. Little do they know that this seemingly innocuous task will lead them straight into the hands of a long dormant and malevolent enemy… that cannot die.

Cast: Ray Stevenson, Richard Brake, Julian Wadham, Paul Blair, Enoch Frost, Michael Smiley, Brett Fancy. Writer: Rae Brunton. Director: Steve Barker.

Outpost is a fantastic British suspense/horror movie in the vein of the excellent ‘Dog Soldiers’ and Norwegian horror/comedy ‘Dead Snow’… but played straight. Ex Royal Marine D.C. (played by the always dependable Ray Stevenson of ‘Punisher Warzone’ and Rome’) is tasked with guiding and protecting scientist and businessman, Hunt as he searches the depths of war torn Eastern Europe for a long forgotten WWII outpost, under dubious pretences.

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Accompanying D.C. on his expedition are his mainstay group of experienced ex-soldiers, each eager for the promised large payout for what seems an apparently routine job. Upon reaching their goal however they realise that what previously seemed an effortless undertaking, gradually turns into hell on earth, as they are slowly consumed by an ancient evil, that cannot be killed by conventional means.

The intriguing central story premise surrounds the character of Hunt, a scientist sent by an unknown shadowy third party to uncover an old WWII bunker in search of, what initially the mercenaries think is lost nazi gold, but actually turns out to be a rather unusual generator with strangely supernatural properties.

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English film director and screenwriter Sean Barker presents us with a fabulously creepy and chilling horror movie that really piles on the suspense to unsettling effect. The locations are shot completely in Scotland, and are a convincing replacement for the supposed Eastern European setting, especially the dark foreboding woods that surrounds the WWII bunker delivering a supremely brooding and disquieting presence and giving the film a distinctly claustrophobic effect. The gore quotient is quite high, but the film is definitely more suspense horror than out and out splatter flick.

Some well paced action sequences punctuate the slow suspenseful build up, and the enemy themselves are fiendishly well realised and exude a tone of disturbing malevolence that eminently serves to heighten their revenant revival at the halfway point of the film.

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An Atmospheric And Creepy Suspense Horror Awaits You…

A brilliantly suspenseful British chiller, that treads well used ground but still manages to make the genre feel fresh and innovative. Some excellent acting turns from the mainly British cast list, phenomenal make up and gore effects and a notably effective and creepy setting all combine to form an extremely re-watchable zombie flick.

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Modern British Cult Cinema: Black Death

Black-Death-Poster1 14th Century England and the Bubonic plague is spreading it’s touch of death throughout the land, as towns and cities fall victim to this grisly disease, yet one isolated village is seemingly untouched by the horror. A devout monk accompanied by a small band of Knights are sent by the church to determine whether the rumours of witchcraft and necromancy protecting the villagers are true.

Cast: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice Van Houten, Andy Nyman, Tim McInnerny, David Warner. Writer: Dario Poloni. Director: Christopher Smith.

Black Death is the fourth movie by English genre director Christopher Smith following on from his previous horror movies, Creep, Severance and Triangle. Smith tackles a very dark period in English history with the movie being set in the 14th century, during the time of the bubonic plague and the systematic hunting down and killing of those believed to be practitioners of black magic and witchcraft.

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Lord of the Rings this isn’t!

Sean Bean plays Ulric, knight-crusader for the church and  leader of a small group of mercenary warriors, tasked with the mission to travel to a remote village to determine whether it is through black magic and necromancy that this community has remained untouched from the plague, whilst it has ravaged the rest of the country.

Joined on their expedition by initiate monk Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) as guide, the band of warriors wend their way through plague ridden towns and blighted forests encountering on their way, savage brigands and superstitious witch burning townsfolk. Upon finally reaching the village all at first seems normal, with the villagers friendly and helpful though untouched and seemingly unaware of the disease wreaking havoc across England, but a growing unease forms in Ulric as he investigates the town’s charismatic yet perplexing matriarch Langiva (Carice Van Houten).

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A bleak tale of witchcraft and pestilence

Christopher Smith like fellow Brit director Neil Marshall is a master of dark and creepy horror, and also like Marshall likes nothing more than to show the viewers the outcome of the barbarous nature of violence, this film does not shy away from showing us man’s inhumanity to man with realistic and brutal fight sequences and squirm inducing torture scenes, this is of course done for dramatic effect as opposed to shock value as the film encompasses a time when Britain was a brutal and cruel place, Smith effortlessly throws us headlong into the dark ages and a land divided by wars, pestilence and superstition. The acting is superlative throughout, the always watchable Sean Bean plays Ulric as a troubled, violent and pious holy knight, but ultimately he is a sympathetic and moral man caught up in an horrendous time.

Eddie Redmayne’s turn as Osmund the young monk looking for a direction in life, is amazing, his character grows emotionally throughout the movie, until, in the last sequence of the film he is almost unrecognisable in it’s fantastic twist ending. Carice Van Houten as village matriarch Langiva is beautiful, haunting and enigmatic but is deep down duplicitous and surprisingly more dangerous than the barbarous knights that were sent there to seek the truth. Other notable performances are by Smith’s regular stalwart actors Andy Nyman and Tim McInnerny, and classic English thespian David Warner appears briefly as Osmund’s superior Abbot.

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Osmund entranced by the beautiful Langiva

Black Death is a bleak and harrowing look at a desperate time in English history, it is beautifully shot and magnificently directed by Chris Smith from an original story by Dario Poloni. Evoking a feel of both early gothic Hammer movies and at times the original version of The Wicker man, this is a dark and tragic film that presents you with morally ambiguous characters and no clear division between right and wrong. The film draws you into its gloomy, desolate world and keeps you on the edge of your seat as its morbidly enthralling story slowly unravels like the characters in the film itself. Recommended to all fans of supernatural horror and classic Hammer films.

Precinct1313 Rating: 5 ‘Witch Burning Zealots’ out of 5

Modern British Cult Cinema … Halloween Special: Severance

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A team-building exercise in the deep countryside of eastern Europe becomes a bloody fight for survival when the sales team of Palisade, a multi-national arms corporation are stalked by a group of crazed and murderous ex-military soldiers.

Starring – Danny Dyer, Andy Nyman, Tim McInnerny, Toby Stephens, Laura Harris, Claudie Blakely, Babou Ceesay.

British director Christopher Smith’s Severance is his second film after the excellent London based horror Creep, Smith is a devotee of the horror genre with subsequent films: medieval-witchcraft movie Black Death (starring Sean Bean) and mind-bending horror Triangle, all highly recommended modern horror classics in their respective field. Severance however bears a difference to his other movies due to the inclusion of its fantastic black comedy, in fact the movie is as funny as it is gruesome (and boy is it gruesome!) … 

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Our hapless team of heroes and victims

Horror comedies are notoriously hard to pull off, the balancing of humour and gore takes a lot of skill from both the director and cast … too much humour and the film loses its horror edge, subsequently the horrific side can take away from its more comedic moments, but like other classic horror-comedies such as Evil Dead 2, Smith blends the two different genres masterfully producing one of the greatest comedy horrors of all time.

A scene that portrays this point perfectly comes in at about the halfway point of the movie, having just finished a ‘team-building’ paintball game  one of the group, Gordon gets his leg snared in a bear trap, this is a truly brutal and gory sequence made even more so by the actor himself (Andy Nyman) who manages to show extreme pain and terror that really brings a reality to the situation. With the other team members attempting to remove the jaws of the trap with no success, Gordon not being able to withstand the pain any longer rips his leg forcefully from the trap leaving the lower half of his limb in the bear trap, an horrific and realistic sequence … within seconds of this you are laughing out loud again as the team’s resident stoner  Steve (Danny Dyer) attempts to keep the severed limb cold by trying to force it into a small fridge on their coach with little success, until he removes the shoe and sock, with more revulsion to the smell of the foot than the actual severed limb itself, this sequence is hilarious!

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Maggie – “Have you ever taken anything seriously?” … Steve – “Ecstacy and weed!”

The mainly British cast features many well known UK actors including Danny Dyer (Outlaw, the Business), Tim McInnerny (Black Adder,Black Death), Toby Stephens (Die Another Day, Wired) and Andy Nyman (Black Death, Kick Ass 2), their on screen camaraderie in the face of this appalling threat is amazing and really keeps you rooting for the group as a whole, not your usual horror movie fare because these are characters you actually care about, so that when the inevitable slaughter begins you genuinely lament the deaths of each and every one of them.

One of the few non British actors in this is Maggie, played by American actress Laura Harris (The Faculty, 24), she is the heroine of the piece, tough and intelligent, and the only one to take the fight to the killers themselves. She is the ultimate ‘final girl’ character and you will be rooting for her all the way throughout the film … a sterling performance.

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Film heroine Maggie is so cool even the skeleton is mimicking her!

Adding to the movies already entertaining comedy and horror are other fantastically well played scenes including an amazing Rashomon style sequence where members of the team recount stories of the ramshackle eastern European lodge they are staying in. Toby Stephens character Harris uses a 20’s style silent horror to tell of the lodge being a former mental asylum, Claudie Blakely who plays Jill, tells of it being a former military camp used by murderous soldiers, complete with a realistic and uncomfortable scene of soldiers executing civilians and once more the humour comes back in as Danny Dyer’s character Steve tells everyone that it is actually a sex lodge, complete with a scene of naughty nurses and heaving bosoms!

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Blood and boobs … it’s a horror movie then!

With a great cast, wonderful scenery (mainly shot in Hungary and the Isle of Man), laugh out loud humour, realistic gore effects and in the latter half of the film, a genuinely chilling atmosphere, Severance is a movie to search out if you have never seen it before … funnier than Sean of the Dead, gorier than Evil Dead – a horror-comedy masterpiece!

Precinct1313 Rating: 5 severed legs out of 5

Modern British Cult Cinema: Doomsday

Doomsday 1 Cast: Rhona Mitra, Sean Pertwee, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, Alexander Siddig, Myanna Burring, Craig Conway. Director: Neil Marshall. Writer: Neil Marshall.

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” I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick arse … and I am all out of bubblegum”

Prolific British genre director Neil Marshall describes his movie Doomsday as a love letter to movies such as  Escape from New York, Mad Max and the Warriors … all absolute cult classics in their own right, and Doomsday is the perfect blend of these three fantastic movies with a little bit of 28 days later thrown in for good measure. Most people will more readily recognise Marshall’s film work from his earlier movies: Werewolf siege movie – Dog Soldiers and cavernous horror – the Descent, Doomsday was his third movie and my personal favourite so far.

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“Welcome to Doomsday, guess who’s on the menu?!”

Doomsday begins in 2008 in Scotland with a killer plague called the Doomsday virus rampantly infecting the majority of the population in a short space of time. The effects of the virus are harsh and fast acting, the victim breaking out initially in sores and lesions, ultimately succumbing to an unpleasant and agonising death as the virus spreads throughout their body. With the plague showing no signs of abating, the Government decide to wall Scotland off and leave the people to die, enforcing this with a large military presence at the wall to surreptitiously kill anyone who gets anywhere near the wall’s perimeter.

Decades pass and the rest of the worlds’ leaders enforce a quarantine on the whole of the British isles not allowing any traffic in or out of the country even though the virus itself seems to have been halted. With a growing population and nowhere to expand, the British people find themselves living in cramped and squalid conditions, and then in the country’s capital of London the Reaper virus once again rears its ugly head, slowly expanding its way through the city’s population. When a British satellite picks up pictures of what seems to be healthy looking people living in Scotland, a small team of  SAS soldiers and doctors are sent in to find what they believe must be a cure, given only 24 hours to succeed before the Government decide to take more dramatic action and close off the city of London and leave it’s citizens to die in agony.

Make no bones about it, that is one crazy car!

Make no bones about it, that is one crazy car!

Leading the team is a tough no-nonsense female soldier by the name of  Major Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra), herself a survivor of the original Scottish outbreak of the virus when she was airlifted out as a child by a military chopper just before the country was put under permanent quarantine, her mother was not so lucky and was left behind like so many others, giving Sinclair a personal impetus to lead the team into no mans land to recover a cure and find some semblance of peace about her mother’s fate. London born actress Rhona Mitra plays the tough but fair Major Sinclair fantastically, a statuesque former model (she was the original Lara Croft model for the first Tomb Raider game) with real acting chops, her character is essentially this film’s version of Snake Plissken from Escape from New York, even occasionally wearing a high tech eye-patch.

In fact there are so many similarities to Escape from New York in the first half of the film, the walled off part of the UK patrolled by soldiers, the team being given only 24 hours to find the cure and the music itself are all big homages to the John Carpenter classic. The second half of the movie is Marshall’s homage to George Miller’s classic Mad Max series of movies replete with crazy mohicans and punks, this time with a twist as these savages are also cannibals! In fact the references to Carpenter and Miller’s amazing movies are so prevalent that you could (and I have!) turn this into the ultimate 80’s cult movie drinking game by taking a shot every time you see a reference to one of those two great movies, I guarantee you will be pissed by the forty minute mark! … oh and keep an eye out for the two soldiers aptly named Miller and Carpenter.

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The lovely Rhona Mitra in ‘badass’ mode

The film is full of fantastic British actors, joining Rhona Mitra are … the late, great Bob Hoskins as Police chief Nelson, Malcolm McDowell as Kane the leader of a group of survivors in Scotland and the man who apparently has the cure to the virus.  Also the amazing Sean Pertwee who, like another famous British actor called Sean (Sean Bean in fact) manages to die in virtually every movie he has ever been in, it seems if you are English actor named Sean you have about the same filmic lifespan as a Star Trek red-shirted security officer!

Well you don't see that every day!

Well you don’t see that every day!

Doomsday is a cross breed of action and horror, but also manages to bizarrely (but brilliantly) add in medieval knights and castles to the mix, with at one point the captured Major Sinclair fighting a duel against a heavily armoured champion knight in a castle arena complete with baying peasants. The last twenty minutes of the film are Marshall’s version of the amazing chase sequence from the end of Mad Max 2 (aka the Road Warrior)  with Sinclair and two other survivors fleeing in a Bentley supercar whilst being chased by the cannibalistic punks in their post apocalyptic buggies and motorcycles, with the leader of the punks – Sol’s car seemingly made out of the very bones of his victims.

The film itself is not for the faint of heart and very much deserves its 18 rating, the virus effects are disgusting, the action sequences are brutal and the cannibal scenes unflinching and gloriously revolting, If you are in any way a fan of  Escape from New York or Mad Max, or even just the action horror genre in general then this movie is a must watch … fast, fun , violent and disgusting … but oh so very cool!

Precinct1313 Rating: 5 cannibal punk rockers out of 5.