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Best of Toyah
Best of Toyah

4.0 out of 5 stars Lacks a few singles, and can't include anything beyond the Safari years, but should still be Loud, Proud and Heard., 22 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Best of Toyah (Audio CD)
1998 compilation that concentrates on most of the singles released from Toyah Willcox from her first EP through to her commercial breakthrough early 1981, where she was one of the leaders of the first great female invasion of the charts (early 1981 also saw the birth of the great Kim Wilde on to the scene, but also Grace Jones, Stevie Nicks, Kirsty MacColl and Clare Grogan of Altered Images bounced up, with Pat Benatar already established) so it was a great place to be, despite the fact most if not all would suffer terrible interference, weak decisions hoisted upon them and worse from the male idiots running their labels, with little insight or sensitivity to what actually it takes to establish a music career, and keep it.

Safari was her first label and almost all the singles she made from that time (between 1979 to 1983 are on here, excepting 'Victims Of The Riddles' her first ever single, 'Bird In Flight' and a later song, 'Dawn Chorus' which was the proposed second single from her fourth album, once her third album "Anthem" had finally blown the charts open for her. It's a truly great place to start for a necessary induction-though largely and conveniently forgotten these days,Toyah was everywhere for her first years in the business, and, unlike now, comes from a time when you had to slug yourself live in often hugely challenging conditions before getting anywhere near a record deal. But she is like no one else, but that was the 80s, almost everyone had their own individual sound. She writes from great perspectives-alien abduction, paranoia, sci-fi, worshipped deities, human evil, treatment of animals, and though known primarily for the bouncy, buoyant 'It's A Mystery' and the skive off school anthem 'I Want To Be Free' (which references burning down abattoirs too), her biggest hit seemed to be the anthemic, prevailing 'Thunder In The Mountains', a song choc full of the electricity and pounding excitement she exudes at her best. There are others too, the demonic like 'Ieya', the desolation of 'Brave New World', urgent sci-fi maul of 'Rebel Run', exuberant 'Be Proud, Be Loud (Be Heard)' (no fear of that, dear), heart-breakingly beautiful ballad 'The Vow', a true rarity for her to release a ballad, and 'Good Morning Universe'-all stand out songs that are all her and no one else.

But equally important are a couple of other standout tracks that should have been singles-'Sphinx' which was a flexi-disc given away with a music mag in 1981, 'Furious Futures' and an amazing one called 'I Explode'-it's one of the most frightening things I've ever heard, and what she does with her voice is amazing. Toyah's pipes are among the strongest in the biz, and Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks have got real competition in the penned poetry, and awesome vocal gymnastics. A couple of other tracks from a few of the EPs are also listed, but these are less important. Either way it's still a definite buy. From 1979-1983, it really is the Best.


Touch
Touch
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £12.76

4.0 out of 5 stars Touch up "Touch" for Laura's best record., 22 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Touch (Audio CD)
Poor Laura. And she one of the few US artists actually to be of value yet typically unappreciated in their own country (trust the US for that!), yet she never managed the Pat Benatar longevity of impressive singles due too many dodgy choices throughout her career ('How Am I Supposed To Live Without You', 'Turn The Beat Around', 'Cry Wolf', 'Power Of Love', 'Ti Amo', 'It's Been Hard Enough Getting Over You'); in other words just way too many weak choices ruining what could have maybe rivalled the single discography of Ms Benatar or Belinda Carlisle's, but it's a sobering truth that Laura's albums aren't usually safe bets, choc of too mcuh filler, and a few horrors here and there. With this in consideration, she was lucky enough to chart five albums within the US Top 100 before the 80s closed up, yet with the 1987 album "Touch", unlike the heavily feted "Self Control" album of three years before it, she finally has a long player so bubbling under with possible singles that there is little doubt it's got to be her best all-round offering, though I've a feeling the previous one "Hold Me" (the only album she ever got all single choices perfect) may match it, but I have yet to hear that elusive, expensive work in its entirety.

Until that possibility can be proved or disproved, "Touch" is the one to hit numerous bullet points for the simple reason it contains most of her best and moving ballads, alongside faster, insistent numbers, and the album generally dumps the rather antique (if it had been better) sound of her past albums, including "Self Control" who's title track and the even more impressive 'The Lucky One' were by far the best things on it, indeed I can't believe it sold so well, considering its virtually made up of irrelevant to plain awful stuff too old for '74, never mind '84! "Touch" also dumps the treacle overload that usually hampers her album lyrics, being a generally glorious lift into the stratosphere of maturity, and her canyon sized voice flits behind raw emotional pull on such smokey lingering ballads like 'Shadow Of Love' and the no-more-chances-for-you decisiveness of 'Shattered Glass', a killer dance floor tune. Produced by the odious and criminal Stockpile, Aching and Waterhead of later Bananarama singles and the purveyor of virtual commercial death to see in the pretty duf 90s (along with Madonna the awful and the de-evolution of c/rap "music", they astonishingly do the song no harm (it helps they didn't write it), and in the same year made a double hit by remixing Deborah Harry's 'In Love With Love' into a palatable dancefloor delight, from the rather aimless and stodgy album cut it was, though again they didn't write it, but 'Whatever I Do, Wherever I Go' is them all over, it's just with Laura's vocal prowess and artistic merit, it works a lot better than a vacuous Hazell Dean. Therefore it's still a less cool inclusion, but far worse are the always present mistakes Laura can't help stocking up with, only here they can be dealt with. 'Power Of Love' is as unnecessary as the ear-shattering woman of sop Celine Dion's tryout, and I just play Jennifer Rush's every time, but 'Name Game' is just a disgusting exercise in pure pointlessness, embarrassment and something you wouldn't tolerate or even expect from a bunch of pre-schoolers at a pre-cheerleader tryout. Laura, for God's sake woman, have you no shame, can't you see how hard you've tried with the rest of the album, unlike all your others (except perhaps "Hold Me" too?) This vile piece gets obliterated for the albums own good, your sanity and her reputation, but a whole batch of quality stuff remains, as never before or since.

The opener 'Over Love' is a slow-building stunning ballad with H-I-T all over, yet this fact and its placement means nothing as Atlantic, with the true empty wisdom and unseeing vision of a typical record company, completely ignore it as such (haven't we been here before?), and do the same with the driving 'Angels Calling' (the chorus sounds like a demonic summoning, which doesn't stop it being singalong at all), while the Rick Nowels-Ellen Shipley (Belinda Carlisle songwriters) strike up their magic with the album's best cut, the pounding, blistering 'Spirit Of Love', with its ever-tense verses building to a crescendo of roaring release on the chorus. It's just big, alive, pulsing pop/rock at its best, and should have been touted everywhere as the single it is instead of another unwanted 'Power Of Love'. But the slow songs get their equal moment and 'Meaning Of The Word' is one of the strongest she ever had, coming across like a moving vista in the eyes; vivid, stark, and with more than a little hint of Foreigner's two biggest hits with the tinkling synth sections around the intro and bridges.

It's less fortunate the title track catchy, worthy or grand, but it still works, while 'Cry Wolf' is laudable and boasts strings, but meant as a gentle comedown from the pounding electricity, it fails, largely because the now defunct Stevie Nicks did a far better version for her career-best album "The Other Side Of The Mirror" two years after "Touch", though I fear she's a lost cause these days. Against that power-piece it fails, though it's not unlistenable. But rounding off this enjoyably fine and accomplished record is inclusion of the 'Shattered Glass' 45's b-side, another killer called 'Statue In The Rain' which sounds exactly like it's meant for the album, and especially so when there's a horrible space of inanity to fill. Laura, all-round, you've Touch-ed and so am I.


Buffy The Vampire Slayer [1992] [DVD]
Buffy The Vampire Slayer [1992] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rutger Hauer
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £5.51

5.0 out of 5 stars Completely apart from the TV show of the same name, Buffy the movie Lays It and Slays It, so time to Raise it and Praise it., 21 July 2014
I missed seeing this not long after its release date, was totally befuddled by it when, long after the series (which is very very different, as most everyone knows), I finally got round to it. One more try a few days later-and was laughing like a comic Santa. While initially it seemed to find a footing with many people, ever since 1997 the big deal seems to be the obvious-somehow the series, like many plain okay but nothing special American shows, not content with becoming cult (!?), was hugely successful too-and bizarrely straight-faced, considering its US teen fluff exterior,but oh! The shame, the cheek. "That film, it has nothing to do with the series at all-The Series" they call it, like a church was being infiltrated by greasy rebel bikers, a laughingly backward proximate. The film had five years to itself, before creator Joss Whedon, stating deep displeasure with the way the film interpreted the script, despite him and director Fran Rubel Kuzui polishing it and the film's star character together, expanded it fully into what he wanted for the TV series. Did he get it right? According to him, yes, he got what we wanted, and I doubt it soured relations too badly with Kuzui, who is credited as executive producer of the TV show, and the silly spin-off 'Angel', who's only point really was the much lamented hot little Irish actor Glenn Quinn, previously best known for old 90s sitcom 'Roseanne', though Charisma Carpenter was pretty lovely too, and you never really see her anywhere. Kristy Swanson also seemed to suffer this.

For me the TV series can exist or not, I don't give a flea's zit, but the film, accidentally or otherwise, is actually the prototype for Amy Heckerling's fantastic teen crowd-pleaser, 'Clueless', no less, and this film, like that is anything but clueless. Yes, it's more of an extended joke and charmingly wry depiction of rather aimless spoilt LA brats, than a dark and biting true attempt at teen horror, but these preppies are all so stupidly funny, outlandishly dense and moronically a scream that it just doesn't matter. It really is 'Clueless' before there was 'Clueless' and, if he admits it, I wouldn't be at all surprised if daring visionary Gregg Araki had been tuned in too-listen to how his teen cast of disaffected daft youth of America talk to each other in "valley speak" in his films 'The Doom Generation' of '95, and more obviously 'Nowhere' of '98. I was half expecting Kristy to drop in on the last one with a "Whatever" herself. Of course his break out feature 'The Living End'-issued the same year as 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' opened at #5 at the North American box office was an entirely different kind of film.

'Buffy' the film really is pre-dates the 'Mean Girls'/'Easy A' kind of humour and virtually established it. And a surprising bunch of legendary names lend it all heft-Donald Sutherland as Merrick who hilariously turns up in a long dark coat at Buffy's gym routine (she's head cheerleader of course) and despite appearing the delightful ditz (a sort of cooler Dedee Pfeiffer 'Vamp' creation in truth, which pleases me to say no end), she lets on early there's more to her than that, as does the script when she calls Don out for looking like a "skanky old man who likes to attack young girls" and to go "forget himself"! Oucho! Later when he turns up in a locker room, she does a gasp and calls him out for appearing "in a naked place" and he "shouldn't throw knives at her head, or call her a president of the hairy mole club so he can throw things at her, cos she doesn't want to be the chosen one", but when she virtually breaks his nose with a perfect swipe, she becomes convinced she must be, backed up by his claims of seeing the recurring visions she's been having for weeks, and a feeling of super strength she now possesses, plus heightened reflexes.

Rutger Hauer is fun as Lothos a local vampire king, I don't think he'll really put off his cult fans, everyone's entitled a little fun as he done much worse than this, believe me, and Paul Ruebens as his not-quite-as-sadistic-as-he'd-like-to-be-sidekick, and Candy Clark as Buffy's dumb mum ("kiss noise darling!"); there's a few uncredited cameos by Ben Affleck, Ricki Lake and Seth Green. Of Buffy's friend set, she increasingly tires of their inane sense-free prattling and their consensus that shopping is the life's motivation to breathe. One of them is an insanely dumb Hilary Swank with braces but she's pretty nasty (for a Bev Hills twit) who tells Buffy later to prioritise her friends or "get out of my facial"! She also offends Buffy by calling Oliver Pike (Luke Perry) a "homeless poke" cos the "unwashed masses" are nothing to do with their set. To be blunt, honoured and Oscar-laden she may be, but I've yet to find a film of hers beyond this and the incredible and underrated "11:14/eleven-fourteen" that I truly rate and enjoy. Luke Perry is good breezy fun in this as well, telling mates to run if they see his vampiric friend (David Arquette in an early role) without telling them why, pleads to his van to "make me proud, honey" as he tries to outrun pursuers and when Kirsty huffs out for a bit, he tells her "The world's under attack from legions of the undead; you've gone to a mixer!"

But this is still Kristy Swanson's film and she owns it in a light-hearted yet distinctive way, and she's astoundingly funny and utterly hot to boot. Despite tiny earlier roles in two John Hughes films, and a bigger one in the 'Flowers In The Attic' adaption with Louise Fletcher prior to it, her movies have been thin on the ground since, a real shame, as in stuff that could work but likely doesn't, such as 'Soul Assassin' and 'Red Water', she's much better than them. Far better it that way than the other I guess. This film even manages a surprisingly effective jolt into poignancy at a certain point, and she plays it beautifully. A reminder it's far more than obvious fluff. One of the best films of 1992, this has a brief featurette, a few TV spots for dumb groups, and a good choice of subtitles including Hebrew, Icelandic, Polish and Croatian, plus English for the hard of hearing. The soundtrack was also pretty popular, but the best songs would be one from Bangles gal Susanna Hoffs and Aussie group The Divinyls.

In summary, I don't attest to the TV series being bad at all-it's loads better than many things of recent years, just feel no desire to be drawn to it. But for what it is 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' the films slays, still does today, and that's all I need to say.


Everything
Everything
Price: £10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Who Have Nothing Need "Everything"!, 21 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Everything (Audio CD)
Much is made of the fact that the Bangles hard rocking garage sound that first brought them to apparent prominence (yet it didn't, for as late as 1985, even with one very accomplished album out, no one seemed to be listening in droves until a certain song called 'Manic Monday' appeared in 1986, and by that time, the girls had become far more melodic, with a more opened up and eclectic sound. Sniffers and die-hard moaners can call it "dumbing down" or selling out (what a laugh, surely you'd have to be selling in the first place), but the unique and highly attractive second album "Different Light" was the moment everyone got a life and realised-wow, a proper dead serious all-girl-group who write, sing, and play their instruments. And not daft like the early eighties examples were-Girlschool, Belle Stars, and yes, the Go-Gos too. Give me Belinda solo any day.

But "Different Light" had been a difficult record within the stifling stranglehold of producer David Kahne; the songs were beautiful generally, with a few that were more kooky, but the atmosphere i the studio was charged with uncertainty, and there were casualties.Glad to be shot off him, the girls took to working with record producer and novelist Davitt Sigerson who created a more relaxed working vibe, resulting in their finest album ever, and just like Abba, who started with equally odd Euro-folk ditties before they exploded into a perfect hook-filled machine of A-grade song chart brilliance, and finally became the respected emotionally resonant and achingly powerful act fuelled by excellent songcraft and musicianship they're finally recognised as today, Bangles can be and are proud of a highly sophisticated set of songs that show off just about everything (sorry) they can be proud of, and best of all, this cherry pop re-release (long overdue, yet how pointless of them not to release it with the earlier two several years before, which were already overdue themselves) includes what should have been the final song on side 2, but was dismissed to accompany the ignored side of the 'Eternal Flame' single. A truly rude state of affairs, not least cos not only did it suit the album fully, but it meant Debbi would have had three songs and not just two.

The mid-eastern tinge and pounding sexuality of first song and lead single 'In Your Room' is at once raw yet refined, yet with all the beauty of offerings like the luscious poet-ballad 'Something To Believe In', from bassist Michael, peppy 'Waiting For You' featuring Susanna and delightfully orchestral 'Be With You' from Debbi which marries drama and wistfulness to great degree; indeed when you look beyond the gorgeous production and unerring harmonies, you realise that the girls have actually put their darkest material to date on it. 'Glitter Years' rumbles along gracefully, proof hard riffing exists alongside melody, as it references Michael's time in the Runaways, 'Watching The Sky' turns increasingly psychotic, Vicki's roaring towards the end like the tuneful evoking of a banshee, she gets the edge on the usually dark Michael with this and two others, both suicide songs, one as an observer ('Bell Jar'), the other as a wish for herself ('Crash And Burn'). And quite an ingenious aside is that they're so painful without being morose, suggestive rather than overly detailed, but that's just as powerful as the listener is invited to complete the final picture scripture themselves. 'Complicated Girl' from Michael possibly takes the similarly written 'If She Knew What She Wants' from the previous album and plays out an even more solidly configured female protagonist amid a soft and perky country-lite backdrop of chiming guitar. Equally vivid is the ache and heart-stirring sadness of the lovely Vicki tune 'Make A Play For Her Now' which seems to invoke a theatre setting among a garden as the sun goes down to gentle tragedy, and Debbi's powerful and stirring 'Some Dreams Come True', a fast-paced piece of sonic perfection, but the album's utter plateau must be the towering sway and blood-rushing zing of 'I'll Set You Free', one of their best ever songs and prime candidate for one of the best songs of the 80s or any decade. Remaining is 'What I Meant To Say', as mentioned earlier, finally on here where it should always have been, only I play it as track 7 instead of 14. Chugs along with gusto, but still classy and lyrically eventful as the rest of the album.

There are two other bonus tracks, a unfortunately beefed up remix of 'I'll Set You Free' that is longer, but destroys most of the audacious harmonising and sleek musicianship of the album cut, and the extended version of 'In Your Room'. The booklet is a lavish job that includes all the lyrics, apart from 'What I Meant To Say' (daft as all of Kim Wilde's remasters from cherry pop include her b-side/extra track words). Also included are some lovely photographs of the darling quartet taken from that time. Best album of 1988, so grand it even beats Kim Wilde's much feted "Close", Sandra's "Into A Secret Land" and Til Tuesday's final masterpiece "Everything's Different Now" and the best stocking filler, though t would have spent most of 1989 selling for all that, making it possibly the best album of both years. Like with Kim's remasters, the sound is hardly an improvement on the original 1988 CD (only offensively overrated gasbags tend to get perfect album updates audio-wise), but it's still the peerless album it is, and I still happily bought it, even though I'd clicked on the old copy not long before, once the cassette died.

I deliberately avoided mentioning the gorgeous scorching ballad 'Eternal Flame' everyone goes on about, it's exactly as lovely as everyone says, but it is surrounded by "Everything" else easily of standard, and some even better. A bunch of skilled session musicians clearly helped the blend to true perfection, and some outside writers were brought in to help (as on most anyone's records), but unlike "Different Light", the girls were all involved on every song in far more detail, and their satisfaction comes through admirably. My only gripe is with the public and label and scene as ever-only four singles were picked, and no more. Every song was a perfect single, still is, and to anyone and everyone who's lost, forgotten or missed out on this entirely, regarding it rudely as just a vessel to hold 'Eternal Flame', you who lack "Everything", have nothing.


Welcome Home
Welcome Home
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.66

4.0 out of 5 stars Welcome mats out, unwelcome stats nowt, CD player on, non-Tuesday aspirators gone., 20 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Welcome Home (Audio CD)
Had a sneaking suspicion this would be the hardest album to get into, once I received it with the magical third (and their masterpiece "Everything's Different Now"), and while the debut "Voices Carry" had the luxury of being owned a good many months previous, it still too a little warming too, with little variance in the choruses and a New Wave sound that sometimes sounded musically like other bands in places, like A Flock Of Seagulls, who were making it big in the States a few years previously. Though this swiftly followed the first album (band desperate to break away from their opening sound and prove stayers and progressive?), it showed that easily enough had been spent time on it, yet for all that, it's less brighter than the first, and a big reason for that is the general absence of synths overall, and while is this not unusual in America, that favours bland guitar music generally over all else set to mundane aspirations of love, dancing and having fun, it did make this album more of slow bake, and with folk and country overtones, a few songs really struggled to rise at all.

But after replaying "Everything's Different Now" to death (and many things would pale against that), this albums tunes finally took shape and stood out. It's true that Aimee Mann is a major songwriter of true depth and emotionally rich, textured and heart-rending stuff. True, her songs are almost always about love (American songs usually are), but on this album her voice has surged into maturity dramatically, and the rather piercing and yelping stridency of her vocal acrobatics that discomfited in places on "Voices Carry" have utterly escaped into the past. A few songs I knew of already-like the immersing paranoia and pleading of 'David Denies', a delicious almost five minute hope of yearning. It should have been a single, as could the spooky and growing musculature of "Lovers' Day" and the utterly moving declaration of 'Have Mercy', it's lilting piano melody setting the beautified scene of tragedy of spent love on a disaffected individual, as perfectly lengthy as 'David Denies' (but seemingly over in seconds as all great songs are) and they would point to the utter classics that would make up their last but truly perfect album of two years later. All three boast wonderful musical interludes in the middle of the songs and call out loudest on the album and sink into the skin and senses deepest.

Of only two singles chosen, the gentle slow-building folk-rock of 'Coming Up Close' with multi-angled chorus is rather anthemic and more personable, 'What About Love' (thankfully not a Heart kind of song that suffocates mainstream US MOR radio back then, and probably still does now, but with now sounds, so even worse!) is more ordinary in outlook, but via its presentation goes beyond it somewhat, though its the weakest first single choice they ever had, being a little lacking in spark and a bit too downbeat, but its strength is still in its honesty and its expert wording, especially the verses. Perhaps it's that the chorus is simply lacking in grab and forcefulness, as they all would on their last album, but it still works. The two hardest ones to work for me were two near the end-'Sleeping And Waking' and 'Angels Never Call'-they just seemed to take ages to come alive, but they work better now, but aren't exactly grabbers and never will be, but that's fine, cos "Voices Carry" had a few songs that suffered from being a bit underdeveloped in a verse and chorus sense, and "Everything's Different Now" has all that is pretty perfect, even if a cheeky, downright blatant, yet still unremarked on lifting of Kim Wilde's 'Love Blonde' anthem-it's heavy bass swing/blues opening can't be anything else. Aimee, you cheeky mare, but that's one way of truly grabbing my attention.

But charming are the three songs remaining I haven't mentioned yet-the imploring optimistic bounce of 'On Sunday', jaunty charm of 'Will She Just Fall Down' that probably led to a kind of part 2 (the one with the 'Love Blonde' life) on album three, and the low-key sway of 'No One Is Watching You Now'. All in all, this is a mature and powerfully sung, musically superb sophomore set that astounds with maturity, and did as well as it could be expected to in a stupid environment when hag Madonna is all anyone cares about, and the usual old duffers the US can never let go off, to say nothing of the fickle, snobby and incompetent rules system that always dictates at and constrains real artists, reacting with some venom, blacklisted airplay and weak promotion when anything wants to plough ahead with its own vision of how it should be. 1986, I've discovered, was the most consistently great and quantifiable year for 80s album artists, so great in fact that a real decent album like this is a little further down my must-have list, but it remains it, tough as hell as the competition was, and the only albums from the so-called great out that year I don't have is simply because what they state is great, I don't agree with, certainly not on the albums front, so take that, any obvious names that the 80s conjures up for people. And this is also satisfying as 1986 delivered some of the best-and worst new of all-news of a new Abba album that would never, and has never, actually happened.

At around £3.50, this rarely hanging about album is a must for any 80s fan of sensible and emotionally raw music, not least cos, unlike most US artists, whether they were wanted or not, they were crazily denied an outlet in the UK to sell. Crazy. People are though, and the recording industry has the worst, And furthermore, growing pains aside and knowledge or where they would superbly end up, if 'Til Tuesday are indeed supposed to sound like this, put out the welcome mats, and stuff the unwelcome stats.


Lurking Fear [DVD] [1994] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Lurking Fear [DVD] [1994] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Jon Finch

4.0 out of 5 stars Lurking Fear's luring near and finally finally it's working here., 20 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Appearing more knockabout through sometimes scant direction and a sporadic but bungled editing response, particularly in early attack scenes that call for victims to be dragged through stained glass windows or grills in the hole, 'Lurking 'Fear', from the H.P. Lovecraft short title of pretty much the same title, is actually more focused than you would initially take from it. There will always be those that attest a film will never ever reach the source material's bull's eye, that its essence is all but gassed away as soon as filming begins (why watch them, others like me can't help but wonder), but even if this is true here, I can easily take the film on its own terms. Admittedly the introduction to set up the wonderful Ashley Laurence (in this a dead ringer for a kick-ass ninja Winona Ryder once she's free of the bookish sensitive nerd she begins as) and her reason for morphing into a hard but decent Lara Croft before there was a Lara Croft is almost lifeless, and less than impacting: blame the utterly clueless woman playing her sister, whose inability to react credibly to her mortal countdown in any way that an actual actress should, and you'll be thanking God she dies within minutes-I was about to do it myself. Up against Ashley Laurence, her deficiencies are unpardonable. May she make better grave fodder, and something has done her baby (if it's hers, what man would touch her unless stoned up past the Gods, thinking she was Ashley) and us no end of good, but it then becomes a harbouring spore for later release when another woman, younger this time, with barely more acting ability, takes her place.

As this was one of the last horrors made before the slasher boom was regretfully recreated for the late 90s, with even worse fashions to follow which continue to this day (and past it), and a H.P. Lovecraft short tome, there's no teen cast quota to fill, so the scenario and its characters slot intriguingly into place. Though Stuart Gordon, primarily wanting to film this himself either gave up or was pushed out, is not around, thankfully Jeffrey Combs is, and when I saw this so long ago, I didn't even know the man, and it's great to have him here, not least cos my fave Stuart Gordon film of all actually prevailed without him, and worked brilliantly too, though a Combs-free Gordon film is still a shock. And in this he's a doctor yet again, a fact he comments on in the making of. He's here with returning one-girl commando Ashley who wants to gut the cemetery and existing church with dynamite, in revenge for the mercy killing of her idiot sister and to save the town from a subterranean race of manic beast/wight-like beings, fleshy but non-human, who rise on stormy nights without compunction to seize, kill and eat whatever they can. The priest himself doesn't like this idea, spouting much religious pyschobabble, but he knows a force when he sees it, and he's about to face a few more.

He can worry little about a returning man, who narrates bit-parts of the story, and has finally exited jail on a wronged charge, and now wants to dig into the graveyard for the legacy his dad left him:a corpse a mortician pal of his (the late Vincent Schiavelli) told him is stuffed with a hefty sum of dollar bills (cheers, dad, least you could do, what with me languishing away for five years of hell for what exactly!), but isn't told of the psychotic nutter, who once partnered his father through years of grand larceny, in hot pursuit (Jon Finch in wonderfully funny camp but nasty Brit cockney geezer gangsta mode, yes him from 'Death On The Nile')and his two cohorts, the female being a dry-witted and mean-spirited flirt with heavy dashes of Sharon Stone in her 'Basic Instinct'/'Sliver' persona with a the sharp moves of Cynthia Rothrock, and Allison Mackee may start the film uneasily, but grows increasingly funny and forceful as the film exudes forth. A martial-art mud-fight with Ashley Laurence later on should excite a fair few viewers too, but don't expect too erotic or detailed, leave that to your filthy mind.

When they all meet up at the church, it's just lighter fluid awaiting a light, and while they glare at each other, hurling accusations back and forth, convinced they're all after the same thing, yet all the while ferocious creatures are waiting just underneath the poorly boarded up hole in the church floor they're all standing around. No, I can't truly say this film is filled with frights, tension, gore and bloodshed, but I don't feel it needs to be. The creatures, when seen, are actually quite brilliant, a perfect lamination of what undead should truly look like, where it weren't for the Hollywood idea of just diseased people acting weirdly dumber than usual. There's one present on the front cover, unlike the lousy charm-free dull choice for UK release, courtesy of 88 films, where the usual depiction of an old house (nothing to do with the film) is shown, it could be anything, like their usual 'Dead Souls' kind of trash. And trash is the only film advertised on this edition as trailers, all embarrassing killer toy stuff that couldn't even share a takeaway box with Chucky, never mind Gordon's classic 'Dolls'.

Full Moon Streaming don't seem to have much to offer at all, but should be applauded for making this low-budget little wonder lurking free, and a bit more affordable than when it usually turns up. Word of interest: though it's advertised as Region 1, this is actually a region free disc that will play on anything, making it even more valuable. Picture restoration is okay, sound quality less so, but there is a spare but fun featurette to accompany it which horror fans should find more inviting than not. Hey, it's better than a vanilla disc, look at what 'The Relic', 'Mimic' and 'The Faculty' still to this day exhibit on extras-i.e nothing! Bizarrely it's not mentioned on the back as an extra, not my first film to do this, as 'Horrible Bosses' does it too. At between £5-£7 pound, it's easily worth it, I liked it more than I did a year ago and it zips along nicely as a companion piece to the same years's 'Castle Freak', actually directed by Gordon, who probably did that when he couldn't do this, and you do get Jeff Combs in both. Both these make 1994 a damn sight better than being just remembered for nothing aside from an appalling and utterly passe "sequel" to 'Pumpkinhead' and a terrible first foray into horror for Neve Campbell called 'The Dark'. And any film that transforms Ashley from a bookish dumb-sister suffering recluse into a ball-breaking, high-kicking tough-girl with heart, with an instant command of any situation (you do wonder how anyone else here would get on without her) deserves ownership for that alone. Just be grateful you get more breaks than her, Winona, which, otherwise, would be a hugely Lurking Fear.


The Breed [DVD]
The Breed [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jorg Westerkamp
Offered by streetsahead
Price: £4.20

3.0 out of 5 stars Breed-ing heck, it's gone to 'The Pack', which still chumps going to the dogs!, 19 July 2014
This review is from: The Breed [DVD] (DVD)
This blatant imitation of 'The Pack' (why is no one saying this? Are their memories that short and foggy, or was there a mass of German shepherds in it we just didn't see?) is rather a shaggy dog-ended bit of high flying ambition that, whilst tonnes better than tension-free waste of ugly celluloid 'Wilderness' from Brit shores (whose only high point was a Sean Pertwee's disgusting death at the teeth and paws of salivating German sheps, whereupon they never featured again) is far too tangled up in Robert Clouse's far more superior picture from 1977, and even with a gap of over 20 years, with the adult cast typically replaced by twentysomething hotties (at least not notties, unlike most horror now), it barks far more of rather weak repetition and mutely going through the motions of that already present, though typically kept segregated horror, which finally saw a limited DVD release via Warner Bros. Archive Collection, but is far worthy of more than even this film seems to have achieved.

So why do I like it then? Well I must do, right, but I did agonize slightly over the star rating eventually dealt. I've always been a sucker for animal attack/nature's revenge horror and they barely get made, that's why I mainly say this is the best thing that the defunct Craven's put his name production wise since demon chiller 'They' four years before. This is naturally less original, and everything from the exotic island setting, to the abandonment of a dog pack, through to the chase scenes, from the cabin the guys are staying in being under attack, and the outhouse being infiltrated while someone is trying to find a vehicle to escape in (a scene from insect horror 'They Nest' as well) comes right out of 'The Pack' and people really need to check this out. The 'Cujo' referencing is lazy and only comes up because of the frustratingly inept, weak and insulting human narrow-mindedness that terms these days an animal attack horror can only be made if the animals are "made that way" i.e genetically engineered, modified to be a virtual Frankenstein/robotic slave to then break free as the Mary Shelley classic story makes clear. How did we ever cope in the 70s when animals were attacking us almost every year since 'Jaws' and we had a far more natural, clever and straightforward motive-realisation had finally dawned between us and global warming or just abject cruelty (see 'Orca: Killer Whale') was more than enough to set animals vying to get their own back, and 'The Pack' fell into this latter category-these were loving family pets abandoned sadistically by their owners-all breeds of dog actually, so you even had a dangerous Lassie! and to survive, they had to become feral and band together, quickly establishing a hierarchy, and setting their sights and fangs on anyone daring to step on the island they were left to rot on. So starving and revenge equals two motives.

The title of this film itself is more than a giveaway, but it's a breed of a certain non-usual horror only made today with the excess baggage of scientific engineering, though that equates revenge all in itself. 'Man's Best Friend' has also done this, much earlier, but with one dog instead of a "Pack" so that's far more 'Cujo'-ish. 'The Breed' does introduce a charming little puppy, and keeps the disgruntled competition between the two brothers at a general lockdown, the players themselves all decent tasty actors who acquit themselves well to the job in hand, with Eric Lively especially tasty and not just to the dogs. His brother is actually Kate Hudson's less famous little brother-he's a kind of palatable mix of Brandon Lee and Christian Bale, Hill Harper ('CSI-New York') finally finds a horror film aeons better than the detestable 'Pumpkinhead' sequel from 1994, and the two girls, Melanie Griffith and Duffy lookalike Taryn Manning and 'Girlfight' star Michelle Rodriguez probably register best, having the most experience, with Rodriguez performing some ballsy and believable acrobatics.

The dogs themselves don't quite come across as the scary and malevolently justified hulks of terror that 'The Pack' offers, but that doesn't bother me anywhere near as much as the lazily derivative signposting of almost every move this film makes barking back to 1977, especially the showdown scene in the loft involving an open window and the impaling outcome. The dialogue itself borders on things people say now when empty air would be better; the one about dogs "not having cunning" particularly stupid and arrogant, and this from the smart sensitive doctor whose uncle was an animal rights activist! Did he teach him nothing? The "I prefer cats" to a tiny little puppy from Hill Harper could border on accidentally wry, but Dermot Mulroney saying the same thing to his workmates around a desperate campfire in the desolate Alaskan wilderness whilst being surrounded by the threat of grey wolves has far more resonance. 'The Grey' itself is necessarily far better, about the only animal horror daring to be made now like the 70s was still the 70s, but with generally better acting than some of those and no bleeding scientific malaise to buffer away any thought of animals thinking and acting of their own capabilities. Are we just afraid they understand us too well? And shouldn't they, seeing as we've been doing the same thing to them ever since we noticed we shared this place with other non-humans.

The most insulting bits (again why has no one commented on this) are the lazy and ridiculous notion that somehow, especially when the animal is a dog chasing you, it never catches you unless you're meant to be caught, as if somehow they're legs turn into clay after an initial outburst of speed and they go steadily backwards. 'Resident Evil'-a useless movie anyway, employs this pathetic tactic, and there's too many other to mention, whenever there are dogs. Fine, whatever, don't put the stupid slow humans in that situation if you don't want them caught. I mean, it's simple logic really. Also the tiresome and plain stupid "didn't see me here did you" when a character appears out of the side of the lens to bat away an attacking animal/person, yet they're in an open space anyway, so why would animal not see them and go for them? They're a threat, they're standing there with a weapon, of course the dog won't ignore that. Bad, very bad, and both introduction and final scene seem a rabid health-wise. Too much encumbered with the age it's made in (something the 70s never had as a shortcoming), the last scene will probably have you eyeing the ceiling and snaring louder than the dog itself, but that's how horror films ed today, show me one that doesn't, it's how they've ended since it became the 2000 fashion, and at least this one can do so without the stupid cannibal people or an idiot in a mask slashing, or an idiot just remembering the car crash that killed them, but the car crash of rolling out a standard 'Wrong Turn' couple to get attacked and killed in the credits to show us there's a threat there even if we don't see it first thing is busted to complete implausibility when the one not shown attacked shows up later covered in bites he hasn't quite died from (and how long's he been roaming around, never mind what the hell did he do to make the dogs quit and leave him alone since?) and then get attacked by said soldiers he's basically just shown them what the threat is. Utterly dumb munch to be a dumb lunch, hello we're not stupid, and the Hill Harper character has already been surrounded by dogs 'The Pack' style as a presentation of "here we are, you're first" and then they let him run off. That surplus man completely kills the scene-when animal attack, we find out eventually with what out eyes, ears, technology, communication and the evidence of bodies tell us, as 'Jaws', 'The Birds' and all the grand ones have done before us. Worse, it paints itself in the second stupid corner with the main characters because it doesn't have the dogs chase them, but even if it did, they would have to get away anyway that far into the start. And while we're on this one, why do those dogs take so long getting down to pumped lunch. Their noses and superior hearing will tell them those hotties were on the island long before the so-so script insisted it needed to be theatrically red-lit. I guess maybe they're stupid? Not the dogs the people. Animals in films HAVE to be stupid, otherwise we couldn't have them breaking social taboos and giving us what we deserve, instead of us dealing them what they don't! Stupider, still, must be the writer and director, and possibly Craven himself. Well he did do 'Scream 3' and has now continued with the series, despite hot denials after the 90s. Chump.

To confound the stupidity, the distributor and art-work of the US copy (not this one, which features all the cast, bar Lovely Lively) feature a girl (possibly not Taryn Manning either) showing her back to us kneeling in sublimation in front of a grey wolf and a Rottweiler, two animals not in this movie, nor the girl for that matter: it's only GM German Shepherds here, maybe a cross-section of breeds for 'The Breed' would be just a little too much to take for 2006. Either way, down boy. Pack it in, heaven knows you've already 'Pack'ed It Out. Breed-ing hell. Still worth buying though, but so much better if you acquire 'The Pack' and the other earlier pedigrees first. A twenty minute making of and photo gallery accompany the film, which may be a bit of a dog, mainly due to stupid inconsistencies and an almost ripped screenplay, while other animal attackers before and after it ('Bats', 'They Nest', 'Prey' (2007), 'The Thaw' (2009), 'Burning Bright', even 'Snakes On A Plane (though that does suffer from silliness and at times dodgy CGI) parade ahead, but this is addition to the horror kennel club is still worth taking home to accompany its (miles ahead of you) fellows. More doggy bag that what you'd put it one thankfully, but a little less doo-doo on screen would flourish nicely.


No Place Like Home
No Place Like Home

5.0 out of 5 stars But sometimes Another Place suffices for a injection of new life-even if We're Not In Celtic Anymore., 16 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: No Place Like Home (Audio CD)
Many people (and the US as a whole) are more than happy for the same output to be siphoned out again and again from their bands and singers, and woe betide any act that believes that progression and constantly taking on challenges alongside more familiar work is the way to operate. Pitiful, because that is what makes the best bands, singers, and makes them and their material roar out from the crowd, even if at the time it's not understood, welcomed or appreciated. But I look at Big Country in a backwards motion, and, whilst the 80s had pretty much the best artists making many of their best volumes for the peerage, I always felt Big Country, while smartly intelligent, original and standout had made such a revolutionary Celtic-rock sound that it soon shrunk their horizons, and were needed something truly revitalising to help them move out of the constraints they (and their critics and fans) had put on themselves. And suddenly they did-it was called the 90s. Stuart looked at the world around him and suddenly found his pen, voice and strings could stop referencing a long past and envelop the now.

And hug he did, picked it up and shook it till its dentures rattled, then flung it up in the air and shot it down. America, always the land that musical taste forgot and full of its own overblown yet utterly limited musical importance decided there and then, new decade, new rules and any imported 80s act that once managed the great invasion was now strictly unwanted unless it was actual less important than the sum of its actual parts as the 90s went on (U2, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds probably too). But Big Country actually started to get even better. For me, even at their most acclaimed (which doesn't always equate artistic perfection, more like a bandwagon, however brief, to jump on), I only found one of their 80s albums utterly satisfactory ("The Seer"), but now, they bravely honed an album full of big lavish sounds which the production generally favoured, unless like the impenetrable cloak of noise than enveloped "Steeltown" into a virtual tomb, something no one crazily comments on.

Opening track on "No Place Like Home" is the epic and genius 'We're Not In Kansas', it has hit single all over it, but don't expect idiotic Phonogram (unceremoniously dumping the band the same year Virgin were equally cruel to the great Kirsty MacColl) to notice that. Stuart and his buds have every right to feel peeved the US didn't even bother releasing this (not the first mistake they'll ever make over there or the last), but at the same time, whilst another great non-US guitar band Crowded House had upset that country with their obesity anthem 'Chocolate Cake', Stuart had at least three savage swipes at their lofty land as well, 'We're Not In Kansas' merely setting the pace, until on came the aggressive swagger and pounding strut of 'Republican Party Reptile'-killer anthem with a bitter souffle of classic lines: "He's a drinkin', huntin', shootin', fishin' son of a gun, he knows a surgeon's gonna keep his wife young, got industrial kickbacks in an offshore bank, known who to stand on and he knows how to thank". And: "Got an automatic rifle in his pick up truck, he drives me home when he's in no state to walk." Go on Nirvana, U2, Blur, try your hand at that. Thought now. Brilliantly exposed underbelly of the American presidential system and you can reference it for any parliament in any country really. But how well he hides the message of deliberate greed and mass destruction and desecration of land and sea with the jaunty country bounce of 'Beautiful People', complete with banjos and honky tonk piano, and there's a searing account of early sadistic national voyeurism on 'The Hostage Speaks', the Gulf War being well underway that year, predating the iPhone generation in doing so-if that isn't seeing the future, what is, making Big Country, for the 90s, a far more pleasing an artistic force than the 80s, but I'm not surprised, great artists improve with age and experience, others lose it. Big Country had further places to go, and fr them, unlike others, the end of the 80s was a relief, and one day, others may appreciate that.

And the other tunes on here-the lovely Duran Duran sounding ballad 'Lady Dynamite', the jazz/blues rock of 'You, Me And The Truth', deceptively peppy 'Keep On Dreaming', chipper 'Comes A Time' with a honeyed chorus that contrasts intriguingly well with its ragged and angry verse, all brandish their own sense of self. Slightly lesser so are the few remaining: 'Beat The Devil' and 'Into The Fire, which are less memorable (despite a lifting of the "come on baby, come on darling" refrain from earlier collaborater Kate Bush's 'Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)-she guested on the title track from their best 80s album, but most worrying is the horrible similarity of trashy one-hit wonder Transvision Vamp's Top 3 hit 'Baby I Don't Care' in the chorus of the rather characterless 'Leap Of Faith', Roxette doing the same thing with an album track from their "Joyride" album of the same year. What the hell? Either way, it doesn't help the song at all, despite the gospel tones, and it, like a few on here, do suffer from a rather aimless and seemingly protracted instrumental fade that seems to lose life after a full two minutes, but even then, this album is so impressive you don't care too much. And I love the almost showy but also rather naturalistic way he's adopted a mid-western twang himself vocally and with the following albums. Why not, I say it makes sense and adds even more authenticity.

A second remaster of this unique album is on its way and could bump its stature even more, let's hope so, it deserves it, and apparently it'll have a large amount of unreleased material on it. A real pity we've lost Stuart, but we'll never lose his music, his wit, his intelligence, and his biting grasp on a lot of issues, whether past, present or future, and his way of cleverly mixing sensitivity with brashness and general clarity of expression, something the bombastic and pompous twin set of the more bewilderingly admired U2 and Simple Minds never could get a balanced grip on. Neither ever went down as an album act for me either.

America, other places, and even the once loyal UK, a sad stickler perversely for US acts itself, yet unwilling to accept necessary change and advancement from their own, may have turned their noses up at this, like at almost every decent 80s act going into their second decade well, but with a weary and witty acceptance, maybe Stuart and co. just dealt with it their way. A line from the punningly titled 'Beautiful People' comes to mind-"Things were never what they used to me/we all got stuff to sell/You may fall before your pushed but it's Beautiful People I see". And finally: "If you believe your own blind eye, you're Beautiful People to me".

For "blind eye", perhaps the inserted "deaf ear" would also suffice, not least from an American sounding tune deliberately slated for a market least likely to care. We, over here, weren't great about this album either, but we need to regain our lost admiration for those we once bigged up just cos they dared to enter another decade with bravery and thrust. For when it comes to our own artists, there's No Place Like Home.


The Grey [DVD]
The Grey [DVD]
Dvd ~ Liam Neeson
Price: £3.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 50 Shades of Grey-t., 14 July 2014
This review is from: The Grey [DVD] (DVD)
Take the brutal weather conditions and crashed plane motif of 1993 thriller 'Alive', add the strong character-based interaction and rivalries of 1996 movie 'The Edge' and garnish to almost perfection with the blistering animal attack/nature run amok movement of the 70s and what you have here is an ace thriller and horror blend that marks out 2012 again as a good year for intelligent, exciting and against the grain horror (if you look for it) that dare to two finger up at the usual detritus blocking up the market).

And Liam Neeson is doing this too; at an age when most Hollywood males would have long given up trying, he has suddenly become a powerful, exacting and believable action hero, only now he's doing it in a horror film, and with a far more coherent premise, and the fact he lost his wife in real life (actress Natasha Richardson tragically died in an avoidable accident while skiing in 2009) adds a real charge to his gruff and hardened survivor veteran, he's simply the commanding presence the minute their plane crashes, and he has to muster the survivors together to make the biggest decision of all, whether to stay in the smashed remnants of a craft soon buried by snow, or take the long trundle on foot to God knows where in the hope of salvation.

What could have been just a good thriller metamorphoses into an instantly great horror film as the real threat looms in quickly-grey wolves, and this must be the first horror film ever made with them distinctly at its centre. Several pieces have toyed with them over the years among other creatures ('The Day Of The Animals', 'Wild Beasts', 'The Wilderness Family', and more recently, in the second half of 2009's 'Frozen', but never let them dominate, but dominate they do, despite often being glanced from a distance. Admittedly the heavy and brutal stuff involves expert merging if CGI with decent animatronics-which actually gives the wolves, or at least the alpha, a demonic presence, which deflates an over-sensitive reaction from Peta and The American Wolf Association among others, who rather missed the point. I love animals and the more films I see of them killing people the happier I'll be, especially as it never happens to any deserved extent outside the cinema anyway, and if anyone seeings such films is so stupid and easily swayed to hate animals over it, then they don't deserve to be (a) called an adult (b) allowed to waste an education without a penalty and (c) allowed to breathe full stop. My concern only ever stays the same-did an animal, especially one rare as a wolf, get harmed or killed for the making of this movie, and the film's commentary, plus real wolf footage only ever being used from afar kind of dissipates this thankfully, and not something we can say about 'Free Willy' is it, and that's a kid's film, so what does that say for society?

It's a wonderfully despairing film, astutely drawing true pathos and empathy from a little group that includes Dermot Mulroney (appearing in his first ever horror movie at the ripe old age of almost fifty!) an amiable and philosophising Dallas Roberts, chatterbox Joe Anderson, fretting Nonzo Anozie, and mutinous Frank Grillo as the dissenter unimpressed with Neeson's claim to authority. These are true character actors, and you feel for them, I felt for them, quite an amazing feat when you consider that they're all oil company workers who probably have this coming, not least Neeson's character whose job as company "marksman" actually involves killing an innocent endangered species. Only now, with the frozen spirit of the 70s thawing the nature's payback spirit, in full, does he ascertain a brilliant truth with the line "They're weren't eating him, they were killing him". Simplicity of the digestive system is fun, but the sense to imbue animals with complex feelings like displeasure of being invaded by unwanted aliens, and contempt at us for being motiveless killing machines without any natural need for it gives films like this an almost mystical boost, equalling a more entertaining and satisfying approach. When Neeson, as a self-confessed atheist who'd none the less "like to believe" in a higher power is heard howling to the sky (at God I presume), aside from the fact his inherent charisma promotes audience sensitivity, you still have to wonder at a species that can treat everything else like unfeeling filth to cleanse from a planet they regard as their own, yet can't comprehend that no answer could be exactly the answer from the world to themselves, and that no power of heavenly derision could equate loudly enough to convey such contempt at the utter hypocrisy.

This pounding film of grimly assailable fun puts you through the emotional grinder, and the weather itself far more hateful than anything the wolves might be threatening. Perhaps the ending is a bit of a let-down, but not in the way the silly gun-ho action crowd proclaim-after all, this is not an action film, and is thankfully free of this stupid 'Transporter'-like vices. Perhaps, too, cutting away from a certain scene regarding a given up the ghost character is even worse, having none of the impact a same scene did in the even better 'The Pack' from the 70s, but neither of these things snow on the parade, and it is, as revered critic Roger Ebert asserted, one of the best films of 2012, and No.3 for him. It doesn't exactly come with a blizzard of extras, a little grey on the northern front, but you did get an insightful director commentary, and around seven deleted scenes, one involving a polar bear. Edited soundly, visually nightmarish, heart-pounding, exciting, doom-laden yet spirited in its fight to stay alive and boasting an impressive score, its pure as driven snow evidence nature isn't black or white when it's truly in The Grey.


Jawbreaker [DVD]
Jawbreaker [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rose McGowan
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gob-stoppingly Good., 13 July 2014
This review is from: Jawbreaker [DVD] (DVD)
With influences as winning as 'Carrie' and 'Grease' in the blender, this full intention of a ready made 'Heathers' for the 90s was as good (and better) an idea than most anything the teen market had out during the decade's tale end. After all, mixing deceptive identikit high-school students with a wonderful 'Body Snatchers/Puppet Master' plot imbued with a startling and brilliant dose of 'The Breakfast Club' made 'The Faculty' the best horror of the 90s period, and for me, the best alien film bar none. If that film was under-appreciated, underrated and bewilderingly received with much trepidation, the hate imbued for writer-director's 'Jawbreaker' by the few critics who bothered to see it is nothing short of staggering, not least the lunatic consensus which decried it not only of the 90s worst films, but "the distinction of being the single worst film of 1999"! This in a year of 'American Pie', 'Magnolia', 'Payback', 'Scream 3', 'Wild Wild West', 'The Sixth Sense', 'Confessions Of A Trickbaby' and several others! but critical snottiness known no bounds.

But away from the slippery and nonsensical slope of disdainful cliques worse than the girls portrayed in films like 'Jawbreaker', Darren Stein has created a memorable, bitchy, witty, glossy and exciting black comedy that, while not necessarily relating to real life outside its strikingly multicoloured candy bubble, nor to viewers past thirty years of age either (which makes me wonder why such critics bother utilising an opinion which can only go one heavily weighted way) shows an innate grasp of its material and what it wants to do with it. Opening with a birthday prank gone horribly wrong, by way of the bone derived candy ball of its US title, queen bitch Rose McGowan in a nicely shaded performance-she's nasty, but funny, too, her dim-witted cohort Julie Benz coming out with the vilest put-downs in a startling realisation that dense can equal dangerous if it's allowed to flower, and the very lovely and conscious-driven Rebecca Gayheart debate in a disturbingly short space of time to say nothing to the police, and go to school like nothing's happened, whilst leaving their best friend in the car boot till they decide what to do with her body.

McGowan's teen witch gets off horribly on having a new niche to fill her way, and then gets to go all Frankenstein and make over a geeky "nobody" who stumbles upon their cover-up (Judy Greer, another future star) to help keep their "bloated boo boo" concealed, but Frankenstein's have a habit of running amok, or derailing, and Rebecca's nice girl Julie increasingly tries to do that, now outside the clique, but drawn to sweet Chad Christ's drama student.

Despite being little-seen and little loved, though there's lavish praise from 'Rolling Stone' on the case cover, Stein has imbued his sly little piece has since rightly attained cult status, and not least cos of who he attracted to it from adult players: Carol Kane is the high school head, Pam Grier a politely intimidating police investigator in swathes of black (how she must burn up!), plus 'Carrie' stalwarts William Katt and PJ Soles in a mainly blink-and-miss-it cameo, and even Marilyn Manson (and I can't understand why he'd want a less plastic Pete Burns alter-ego to hide behind). Even the dead girl it revolves around makes for a stunning copycat Denise Richards in 'Wild Things' swimming pool moment. All these things, the biting jokes, the swerving plot itself, the gleeful playing of all concerned, even the credits showing the manufacturer of the revolting confectionery of death and fantastic finale make this 'Jawbreaker' gob-stoppingly great smart fun, it's still as cool as when I first caught it from a video store (we had them once!) all those years ago.

A sweet/sour brightly packaged look at youth-filled America where the ugly resonates just as strongly underneath, where fitting into something horrible is everything to survive high school, and that certainly is true of much of America. A surprising amount of extras accompany this to make it even sweeter, including a filmography, director's commentary and a swift behind the scenes featurette. Not much pricier than a bag of confectionery today, and less likely to damage your teeth or your jaw. Candy for the sweet?


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