APRIL 1 ― It never fails to surprise me, the kind of B-grade or indie horror flicks that sometimes make it into Malaysian cinemas. Who’d have ever thought that Troll Hunter would grace local cinemas, albeit in a horrible English dub? Or that a found footage Ti West film (The Sacrament) can be experienced in a local cinema? I’ve said it before and I’ll never get tired of saying it again ― if you know what to look for, going to local cinemas can be quite a varied and exciting experience.
It’s a shame that not all the films I’ll be writing about here are still playing widely right now, but the fact remains that these unsung, underrated and very probably underseen horror flicks have somehow graced (or in case of one title, scheduled to grace) Malaysian cinema screens, and what a wonderful coincidence it is that all three of them are really fun little bloodbaths that should make you at least giggle, if not laugh out loud funny.
Don’t Kill It
Written and directed by Mike Mendez, the inspired low budget maestro behind such fan favourite SyFy titles such as Lavalantula and Big Ass Spider, his latest film has a slightly bigger budget (US$3 million or RM13 million to be exact, still peanuts compared to Hollywood) and one slightly bigger name as its star ― Dolph Lundgren.
But boy does it make a difference! Still operating within his much beloved horror comedy register, what Mendez may not have expected is to have Lundgren delivering such a cool and deadpan comic performance, that fans are now hoping (and demanding) that a new franchise is made out of his Jebediah Woodley, the demon hunter, character.
It’s a really simple story with Jebediah hunting a demon whose method of transference involves hopping into the body of the person who kills the body of the person it currently possesses, hence the film’s tagline and title ― don’t kill it. But it’s a whole load of fun thanks to the amount of hilarious one-liners and insults for Lundgren to deliver and the charming bloody practical effects when it comes the kills and injuries.
It may not arrive with much fanfare or anticipation when it played at Fantastic Fest, but it walked out a firm crowd favourite. And once you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know why.
The Night Watchmen
Another horror-comedy that quietly arrived in local cinemas last week without much promotion; I only knew about it when I saw a not very attractive poster in a cinema a few days beforehand. Like any self respecting B-grade horror comedy out there, the movie hangs its whole existence on one big hook and one hook only, which in this movie is ― vampire clowns!!
Starting the film with newsreel footage of a legendary clown and his whole troupe dying mysterious deaths in Romania and being sent home to Baltimore, director Mitchell Altieri (one half of the Butcher Brothers who did The Hamiltons and The Violent Kind) did not waste time setting up the film as we’re then taken straight away to the bunch of night watchmen of the film’s title and are introduced to each and every one of them in very quick and economical ways.
There’s the bumbling newbie who’s on his first day at work, the team leader with army experience, the joker and the mysteriously dangerous guy. And then we go straight to a coffin being mistakenly delivered to their workplace, which we all know will of course contain one of the dead clowns, presumably the legendary one.
And so the stage is set for a supremely silly and sometimes even scary vampire clown flick, with most of the comedy played in very broad strokes, with quite broad acting from a very game cast. But it still managed to elicit a lot of belly laughs and giggles from the audience I watched it with, so I guess it is indeed quite funny.
Beyond The Gates
I’ve seen this listed for an imminent cinema release in Malaysia since about two to three months ago, so hopefully it will see the light of day here soon, for it is a pretty legit and spot-on tribute to 80s horror and armed with a concept or hook that we’re not very familiar with over here on this side of the pond.
The hook concerns what is being called a VHS board game, which means that you play the board game by also popping in a video tape into your VHS player and following its instructions to play the game. Apparently these games really did exist in the 80s, so I can’t even imagine how fun it must be to play these board games.
This being a horror film, of course the VHS board game being played by the characters in this movie (they found the game in their dad’s video store, as they were clearing it up) will turn out to be horribly real as they are forced to finish the game in order to get out of its spell. Clearly a loving tribute to everything 80s, especially 80s horror, this is a passion project that lovers of the genre will no doubt receive with wide open arms, so if you can imagine a sort of horror Jumanji, and you think that it’s a pretty neat idea, then you’re in for a pretty fun ride.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.