The British Horror Invasion: My Favorite frighteners from the other side of the pond!




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Preface 

When asked about the cultural impact that was known as the British invasion, many Americans would refer to the Beatles or the Rolling stones. Needless to say, that they were referring to the imported music now personally speaking, As a kid, my first exposure of British Horror was without a doubt  the vast library of movies produced and distributed by the legendary Hammer Productions aka Hammer Films. These movies were mostly revisions based on the classic Universal Monsters such as Dracula and Frankenstein which the main actors were Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. To their (Hammer’s) credit, most of the films provided very good versions of classic Monsters’ mythologies. 

Despite the infamous Movie studio being responsible for my introduction to British Horror, I thought I would pay attention to UK based thrillers outside of Hammer. Besides, Hammer deserves their own spotlight! That said, here are some theatrical releases and even  televised miniseries that made the “cut”!




Psychomania
This proto-punk thriller revolves around a violent teen motorcycle gang led by Tom Latham, (who dabbles in black magic.) and refers to themselves as "The Living Dead". while, his mother and her sinister butler hold séances in their home for shits and giggles. With her help, Tom makes a pact with the devil to return from the dead. One by one, he and his fellow bikers commit suicide with the goal of returning as one of the "undead". Not all succeed, but the ones who do return, gather together at a secret place called "The Seven Witches" (a circle of standing stones), after which they continue to terrorize the locals.

The Good
Psychomaina has an unique concept and is worth checking out for its Zombie bikers  approach alone! Snazzy psychedelic soundtrack by composer John Cameron, adds depth to this movie and the theme is very haunting to say in the least.There were a few chilling suicide scenarios and the psychopath lead character Tom was unintentionally somewhat modeled after Clockwork Orange’s Alex Delange. Unabashed youth full of reckless abandon however, unlike Alex, he has a romantic side to him as he desires for Abby-his girlfriend to die, so that they both can live for all eternity. Also, you have to respect the fact that he is a mama's boy, even if his mother happens to be a witch..

The Bad
  • Although cathartic, the ending came as abrupt, I could barely stomach the silly ballad “Riding free” and what’s sad is washed up actor George Sanders (Mr. Freeze of the 1960’s Batman TV Series) committed suicide post production of the Film. 
  • Despite it’s great concept and proto punkish aesthetic, the movie itself failed to go for broke by excluding profanity, sex or onscreen killings. Y'know, the fun stuff!


And the Bloody 
On second thought, there was that disturbing scene in which one of the resurrected gang members ran over a baby carriage, along with the infant.



28 Days Later
Danny Boyle’s Zombie Post Apocalyptic classic along with George A. Romero, helped to redefine the zombie genre for modern audiences and has become a cult favorite among horror buffs and critics alike. It begins with a plague-like outbreak that has brought about this rabid population of zombified hordes leaving England into a desolate wasteland. A handful of survivors throughout their perils seek refuge within a military compound. However, the following events raise a question; who are the real monsters?

The Good
  • Performances by Cillian Murphy, Naomi Harris, Christopher Eccleston and of course, Brendan Gleeson rounded out the cast of memorable thespians in this film. 
  • Great implementation of cinematography and scary scenes followed by a haunting soundtrack with scores such as; 'In The House – In A Heartbeat and the brilliant Season song performed by The Blue States which often comes to mind.

The Bad
Many purists disregard 28 Days as a true zombie film due to the lack of archetypical flesh eating undead. Then there’s four different endings that were nihilistic than the others which gave the impression that Director Danny Boyle was indecisive on how to close the narrative until they went with a more cheerful ending and that’s probably from the feedback of test audiences.. 
What could have been interesting to release, is the alternative ending which omits the  British Soldiers’ subplot; yet it contains a very chilling conclusion. Despite it being among the best of the four endings, it was never filmed.

And the Bloody 
Selina going to “town” on one of the survivors with a machete, who became infected. The effects of the Rage virus; “bloody” indeed!




Dead Set
Although not a theatrical release, this televised miniseries pulled no punches when it came to adult situations and gore. This reality TV based horror spoof takes place primarily on the set of a fictional series of the real television show Big Brother. The five episodes that aired over five consecutive nights, chronicle a zombie outbreak that strands the housemates and production staff inside a Big Brother-esque House, which quickly becomes a safe haven from the undead…or so they thought.

The Good
  • The pacing of the series is fast since it quickly throws the cast of characters into a state of chaos as the United Kingdom is practically undone due to the outbreak.
  •  Impressive character scenarios with that dread feeling of hopelessness and once again; Running Zombies!

The Bad
  • Producer Patrick defecating in a Bucket accompanied with exaggerated sound effects. 
  • OK, you guys more than made your point when it comes to “realism” but was that scene really necessary? 
  • Limited digital distribution and still no Blu-Ray Release as of this writing.


And the Bloody
Censors be damned! I had a “Bloody” good time watching this no holds barred Zombie Post apocalypse series that predates AMC’s The Walking Dead.Oh, and then there’s that  creepy ass ending…
 



Shaun of the Dead
Edgar Wright’s SOTD is truly the one and only Zom-Com. A Movie that not only has witty dialog, but it’s a perfect balance between the two genres both Comedy and Horror. Needless to say, that it’s Britain’s love letter to George A. Romero with its references from his Dead Trilogy.

The Good
  • Gore and Laughs galore, Classic scenes such as The record toss, 
  • Imaginary scenarios involving Shaun’s plan to sit through the Zombie Outbreak while staying at the Winchester Pub.
  • Over the top performances by both Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
 

The Bad
Nothing really to add other than that downer of a matricide scene and a very bittersweet ending followed by questionable song outros i.e.  Queen’s you’re My Best Friend.

And the Bloody
David getting dismembered and disemboweled by Zombies.  (Can you say; “Choke on it”?)
Another fun homage to George Romero's filmography!



Hellraiser & Hellraiser: Hellbound
Novelist turned Director Clive Barker’s Hellbound Heart embraces the celluloid screen with the first two terrifying films based on his Novels. A high concept thriller that spawned many sequels however, Hellbound was the first and only worthy sequel of the franchise. It also placed the Cenobite character; Pinhead among other iconic Heroes of Horror like Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees and Freddy Kruger. I found Hellbound to be my favorite of the two mainly because it provided further details in regards to The Puzzle Box, Pinhead’s origin and Julia’s return. (Hell hath no fury, like a Woman scorned!)

The Good
Claire Higgins’ at her best as a temptress, who would do just about anything just to have a “Good time”Good use of practical effects for a low budgeted project. 

  • Eerie soundtrack courtesy of Christopher Young. 
  • Doug Bradley's performance as the enigmatic "Pope of Hell", Pinhead. One in particular is when Kirsy convinces Pinhead that he was once human and in doing so, redeemed himself..well until the second sequel Hell on Earth.

The Bad
  • Actor Andrew Robinson was set to star in the sequel; Hellbound but declined due to disagreement over fees and a clash of schedules. 
  • How the Channing Cenobite had easily dispatched Pinhead and his fellow Cenobites as if they were an afterthought instead of an epic battle. 
  • And speaking of Channing, what the f**k is that huge penis attached to his head?!? Projecting much, Clive? Then again, the not so good doctor was figuratively speaking,  a dick, himself. 

And The Bloody
Between gory scenes; “Jesus Wept” and “Get them off meeeee” these two films made Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street look like Romantic Comedies.

For those true Horror fans who have seen these films, I hope you enjoyed them as I have. And for those who are a tad curious, feel free to rent, own or stream but make sure you turn down the lights.

Cheers!


The Phantasman!



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