Tuesday, October 06, 2009

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: From the Cradle to the Grave

Halloween can be a tough time to be a horror film fan. Poseurs come crawling out of the woodwork, like worms from a zombie's head. Even the major studios try and get into the act, releasing tame remakes and retreads in the hopes that you'll plunk down your hard-earned cash.

With fright film fans jazzed up about the DVD release of the much hyped horror anthology TRICK 'R TREAT I thought it'd be a good time to take a look at another horror compilation you might have missed on its original release, Alex Chandon's balls-to-the-walls, depraved horror extravaganza CRADLE OF FEAR.

In the tradition of anthologies like DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS and CREEPSHOW, CRADLE sets up a worthy wraparound story that goes a little like this: Kemper (David McEwen), a hypnotist/child molester/serial killer/cannibal is rotting in a British asylum. In order to enact revenge on those responsible for putting him behind bars, he has 'The Man' (Cradle of Filth lead singer Dani Filth) do his bidding. What follows are four tales of horror laced with hardcore gore and extreme violence that make most recent horror outings look like Disney flicks.

Melissa (Emily Bouffante, who also starred in Chandon's PERVIRELLA) and Nikki (Melissa Forte) are slutty Goth chicks who dress in vinyl, snort coke and flirt with the pierced guy (Dani Filth) across the dance floor. Unfortunately, that pierced guy turns out to be a little more than he appears to be on the surface and when Melissa wakes the next morning she's feeling a bit more than hungover.

Pretty soon she's stumbling around town seeing disfigured creatures taunting her and crying out, some with the most disturbingly creepy makeup this side of the underrated NIGHTBREED. By the time she arrives at Nikki's flat she's got a full-blown freak-out brewing. The rest is indescribable, but let's just say that when Chandon had me ready for some Goth-chick girl-on-girl action, I got something decidedly different.

The next tale is less gore-driven and fits more into the mold of the EC Comic tales that inspired the far tamer TALES FROM THE CRYPT. When slutty Betty Page wanna-be Sophie (Rebecca Eden) and her trampy bottle blonde pal Emma (Emma Rice) decide to rob a creepy old man's house, it has all the earmarks of classic horror… dark house, creaky floor boards, hidden money, and lots of conveniently-placed blunt objects. Mix in a blood-filled bathtub and a little eye violence, and I've been given enough evidence to never pursue a life of crime!

Our third outing feels like it would have been right at home on Rod Serling's late, lamented NIGHT GALLERY. Nick's a guy who appears, on the surface, to have it all. Hot girlfriend with a great body, smooth ride, and a posh pad with all the trappings of Brit wealth. We soon see that isn't the case – in a revelation that I won't spoil – and when he tries to feel whole again his entire life ends up spinning wildly out of control… with sexy results. Oh, no wait, that should say "deadly, creepy and vomit-filled results."

The final tale of gore and depravity is fueled by everybody's favorite technology, the internet. Richard (Stuart Laing) is the son of Detective Neilson (Edmund Dehn), the cop who put Kemper behind bars. Richard, like all good Web addicts, soon tires of finding sites that are simply twisted and bizarre and stumbles on The Sick Room, home to snuff-like sequences of torture, mutilation, and fatal violence. Never does he suspect that his fascination may become his undoing.

CRADLE comes full circle in the asylum as Nielson faces off with Kemper and The Man in an orgy of blood and mayhem. Frankly, it made me weep for those days when I'd watch this sort of thing unspool at a drive-in under the night sky and the sweet aroma of cheap beer, takeout Chinese and Junior Johnson brand pork rinds. Sigh.

Shot on high end video, CRADLE OF FEAR's look only adds to its effectiveness. The crispness of the images mixed with the UK surroundings and actors gives it the feel of a BBC series gone horribly awry, which lets Chandon lull you into a false sense of security. That security is eventually, unavoidably shattered with some of the most over-the-top violence and gore this side of EVIL DEAD 2.

As for Mr. Filth? He remains silent through much of the flick, adding a menacing presence to the stories that's punctuated with a wanton glee and blood-soaked joy that makes it hard not to love the flick and his performance. It might drag a bit at two hours, but CRADLE OF FEAR is an excellent mix of black humor and paint-the-screen-red gore.

1 comment:

David A. Zuzelo said...

Cool! I've never seen this and it sounds right up my alley. I watched Chandon's DRILLBIT a few years ago and this sure sounds different!