HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Thursday, October 15, 2009


A sampler of scares from around the world, Palisades Tartan's TERROR PACK VOL. 1 offers a tasty assortment of horrors with an international flavor. These may not be the most utterly nightmare-inducing films you'll ever see, but they're definitely kooky, spooky, and very entertaining.

Much of Japan's creepiest film horror is derived from their popular ghost stories and urban legends. CARVED: THE SLIT-MOUTHED WOMAN (2007) is a prime example, beginning with the rumor of the titular ghost being passed from child to child at school until the entire populace is on edge. Before long, kids start disappearing as the terrifying slit-mouthed woman, a trench-coated apparition with long black hair and a hideous visage, appears with her long, razor-sharp scissors. "Am I pretty?" she asks cryptically before snatching them away.

Two young elementary school teachers end up on the ghost's trail for various reasons--Ms. Yamashita (Eriko Satô) seeks to make amends for abusing her own daughter, while Mr. Matsuzaki (Haruhiko Katô) has a terrible personal connection that enables him to sense the ghost's next attack before it happens. They encounter her several times before a final battle in her hidden cellar of death becomes an ordeal of unspeakable horror.

CARVED isn't nearly as blood-curdlingly terrifying as some of the Asian ghost stories I've seen, but it's the kind of macabre tale that brings back that childhood feeling of walking home in the twilight after trading too many scary stories with your friends. With her staring snake eyes and gaping ear-to-ear gash of a mouth (the makeup is great), the slit-mouthed woman is an imposing presence. The acting by the kids is very good, but if seeing children getting wasted is too much for you, you might want to skip this one. Because of this factor, much of the film is more disturbing than scary.

The DVD is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround sound. The soundtrack is in Japanese with English and Spanish subtitles. Extras include "The Making of Carved", cast interviews, and original theatrical trailer and TV spots.

Kôji Shiraishi's direction is smooth and unobtrusive, with some cleverly executed shots. He stages the fright scenes well and maintains an unsettling aura of fear without relying solely on jump scares. The finale is tense and suspenseful, and the movie fades out on a disturbing open-ended note.

The Dutch horror film SLAUGHTER NIGHT, aka SL8N8 (2007) seems at first to be your typical "teens getting stalked and slaughtered" bore, but it turns into one killer spookhouse ride as soon as our stereotypical group of good kids and party animals find themselves trapped in an abandoned mine and terrorized by the vengeful ghost of a maniacal serial killer.

A prologue detailing the gruesome murder spree of one Andries Martiens (Robert Eleveld) centuries ago gets the movie off to a shocking start as he captures several children, then lops off their heads and mounts them on poles (another warning to those who find child murders hard to watch). Killing eight people in this way will allow Martiens to enter Hell and return, for reasons made clear later on. His plan is thwarted as he is captured and put to death.

Switch to present day, as our fun-loving youngsters take a tour of a vast system of mine tunnels that is haunted by Martiens' ghost. After the elevator goes on the fritz and they're trapped underground, Martiens begins to possess them one by one and resumes his headhunting expedition that was interrupted centuries before. The result is a series of extremely unnerving stalk-and-kill sequences with some gruesome and very inventive deaths (the shovel beheading is truly memorable).

Victoria Koblenko stars as Kristel, the level-headed girl whose father was recently killed in a (spectacularly staged) car crash and who is now helping them from the other world via a Ouija board. Kurt Rogiers is also good as her would-be boyfriend Mark, and Linda van der Steen is quite convincing as the spoiled bratty girl, Estrild, who becomes one hot monster later on. The EXORCIST-style makeup on the possessed characters is chilling and the actors do a great job as either terrified victims or crazed psycho-killers.

The DVD is in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround sound. Soundtrack is the original Dutch with English and Spanish subtitles. Extras include "The Making of Slaughter Night", outtakes, and the theatrical trailer.

The movie looks great and directors Frank van Geloven and Edwin Visser stage everything beautifully. Even the Shaky-Cam is used to good effect most of the time. SLAUGHTER NIGHT is one of the best movies of its kind that I've seen in a long time, maintaining a high level of fear and suspense with a pace that never lets up.

While the DVD cover of SHEITAN (2006) is clearly a ripoff of Anthony Hopkins' leering visage as HANNIBAL, I'd be hard-pressed to think of anything that the film itself could be compared to. This French "WTF?"-fest is one seriously, and I mean seriously, deranged movie.

Three unlikable, perpetually-horny party boys--Bart, Ladj, and Thai--get thrown out of a hip-hop club and follow a mysterious girl named Eve (Roxane Mesquida) home to her large family mansion in the country. The club's bartender, a nice Middle Eastern girl named Yasmine (Leïla Bekhti) tags along. The guys lust after the girls and compete for their attentions while Eve goads and teases them.

Into this scene blusters Eve's groundskeeper, Joseph (Vincent Cassel), a garrulous, overbearing, invasive force of nature who's always grinning like a loon. With his bulging eyes, handlebar moustache, and freakish demeanor, Joseph is a nerve-wracking presence whom the youngsters find alternately fascinating and disturbing. Bart is especially put off when Joseph keeps inviting him to go skinny dipping in a nearly hot spring.

Like a French version of DELIVERANCE or TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, the film places a bunch of city kids in the middle of inbred hillbilly hell and then ratchets up the "weird" factor with each new character and situation. We know something strange is going on between Joseph and his pregnant sister, whom we never see until later on, and a wild story he tells during their feast of a freshly-slaughtered goat--something about a man who makes a deal with the Devil ("Sheitan") in order to become invincible and then impregnates his sister to create a Devil child--has an uncomfortable ring of truth. By the time our protagonists finally discover the real reason why they've been invited to the house, all hell has already broken loose and there's nothing left to do but scream.

Much of SEITAN is sneaky build-up, with Joseph and the other locals being weird and the boys vying for the girls' affections (with Eve deviously egging them on). It's intriguing enough that the promise of what's to come sustains interest until a point about three-quarters through when I finally thought to myself, "This is really starting to drag." It's right about that time, however, that the Sheitan hits the fan and all that build-up suddenly starts paying off like a bank of slot machines.

The last fifteen or twenty minutes of this film are an explosion of mind-bending bizarreness that had me shaking my head in giddy disbelief. I don't want to ruin it by describing it in too much detail, but we finally get to see Joseph at his full power, and we find out what eyeballs have to do with everything, and, last but definitely not least, we meet Joseph's sister. In a word, "yikes."

First-time director Kim Chapiron does a beautiful job of putting all of this on the screen in interesting and dynamic ways, and the highly-capable cast does a convincing job with the characters. Cassell, of course, is the standout as Joseph, having a field day with the role and instantly becoming one of the most fascinating maniacs in genre history.

Like the other DVDs in this set, SHEITAN is 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround sound. The soundtrack is in French with English and Spanish subtitles. Bonus features include "The Making of Sheitan" and the original trailer.

Alternately shocking, funny, sexy, gory, and incredibly perverse--with a final shot that will be seared into your memory--SHEITAN is one of those movies that seems relatively harmless at first and then knocks you right on your ass.

If you're in the mood for a ghastly good time with some well-made, effective, and genuinely creepy flicks, TERROR PACK VOL. 1 from Palisades Tartan Video is the right stuff. I'll be looking forward to more in this series.

Buy it at

No comments: