Thursday, 15 November 2018
Bling And Die
Directed by Pat Higgins
Okay... so I have a follower on Twitter called Pat Higgins. After a while... quite a few years actually... it finally dawned on me that he is a director of horror movies and I reckon he must have started following me after I gave a fairly favourable review of his film Strippers VS Werewolves (here). So I figured, if the guy is taking the trouble to follow me, I could at least watch another one or two of his movies. I went for the one which had the sexiest cover, obviously (alas, the cover is not all that representative of the content, truth be told but, it more than makes up for it in other ways) and purchased said movie to ‘add to the piles’ of unwatched art in my bedroom.
Then, disaster struck. Turns out the UK Hellbride DVD is in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which didn’t sound right to me and, frankly, I’m not about to turn the clock back to the 1980s and start having to sit through pseudo-representations of films in the wrong aspect ratios. So I jumped onto Twitter to ask him what the ratio was on this thing and... long story short and I won’t go into the details... he kindly made a copy available for me to watch in the correct set up (as opposed to the UK edition of the DVD). So a happy ending all round and... that’s when I really started to worry.
You see... I tend to review every movie I watch but I also tend to be extremely honest. I don’t answer to anyone and that’s partially because I don’t like pulling punches on the reviews I publish too much. So what would I do if I didn’t like the movie but didn’t want to hurt the writer/director’s feelings? That would be a dilemma. As it happens, I didn’t have to compromise myself on this one because, well...
When I saw the reviews of Hellbride on places like the IMDB and Amazon and then found myself finally watching the film, it raised one big question. What the heck were half of these reviewers smoking to have them all turning in such negative comments. I wasn’t expecting a modern masterpiece from this but my expectations were considerably lowered by the poe-faced responses to this one. However, although it maybe has a few minor problems (which I’m sure the director has learned and moved on from and, frankly, who am I to say what the ultimate product was supposed to look like), one of them being that it’s very obviously low budget... well, I think the people making the extra negative remarks were maybe failing to get the tone of the picture, in all honesty.
The film starts off with the history of a cursed wedding ring told through the camera panning and dissolving through a series of illustrations which look a little bit like old woodcuts, while a voice over from someone who later turns out to be a character (during the later stages of the film) gives us the full, fairly embroidered ‘facts’. The thing is, this opening narrative is done with such a relish for campiness and over the top ‘Britishness’ that the tone is set by Higgins to tell you, right from the outset, to absolutely not be taking this film seriously. So that works well for me... here’s a taste of some of the opening spiel...
“So he had the trinket blessed as best he could and stuck it away in his collection, next to the broken voodoo dolls and the badly drawn druid pornography. Eventually he died at a healthy old age of natural-ish causes.”
Come on people! This guy has a flair for comic writing and it certainly brought a smile to my face.
This is followed by a modest but nice typographic title sequence before bringing us into the film proper, with a sequence that shows our hero, one of the two main protagonists, picking out the aforementioned cursed ring at a jewellery shop so he can propose to his soulmate. The hero is called Lee, a stand up comedian played in a likeable manner by James Fisher. His bride to be, who has so much trouble with the spirit of the original owner of the ring in the long line of deaths associated with it, among other things, is called Nicole... played equally charismatically by Rebecca Jaquest.
And then a web of trouble and less than savoury events unfold as Lee, Nicole and their two friends get involved with a prelude to a wedding which ends up being something of an 'event'... more than the wedding itself, that is. Unknown to Lee is the fact that Nicole has been trying to help her dad - who is involved in shady business deals - cover up the corpse of the guy he shot, who happens to be the beloved son of a powerful crime boss he owes money to. So expecting reprisals, there are a few extra 'guests' at the wedding and, without giving too much away, the end sequence is a three way battle between... Lee, Nicole, the guests and a bunch of ‘good guy’ heavies; the rival gang’s bunch of heavies and, of course, the former owner of the ring and her devilish ‘familiar’. And that’s really all I’ll say about the story content here.
The style of the film is nicely done in places and a mixed bag in others. Like a lot of the elements of the film. For example, the opening establishing shots are achieved in a similar manner as the precredits sequence, with a series of shots in various zooms and angles moving and dissolving into different angles. It’s a nice way of doing things and I’m wondering if this is a revealing signature characteristic of this director or if it’s something he’s moved away from in later works (only one way for me to find out).
Now, one slight problem I had with the movie is that the camera view is quite up close and personal a lot of the time when I would have expected it to pull back away from the people a lot more. The only thing I can think of that this might be a symptom of is that it maybe wasn’t possible to close down certain locations as the filming went ahead and maybe things are deliberately pulled in tight to ensure no extraneous background action is caught in certain places. That’s just a guess mind... it could well be a stylistic choice as far as I know.
There’s some nice stuff in amongst this lot though. Quite apart from loving the director’s dialogue writing, with little asides from characters that drift in and out like amusing non-sequiters (this film is refreshingly different to the way this stuff would be done on a big Hollywood production). I’m wondering if he, hopefully, continues in this vein in his later works now or whether he decided to rein it in at some point but the dialogue is awesome most of the time. I mean, how can you not like throwaway marriage lines like... “You may now kill the bride.”?
There’s also a nice ‘monster’ reveal at one point which, in a film where the horror element tends to take a step back so that ‘comedy horror’ can take over, is surprisingly effective and is also genuinely creepy. It also totally shouldn’t work because it’s absolutely the simplest solution in the world to the problem of a certain shot but... yeah, I kinda liked the bravery of it. I won’t give it away here though. There’s also a really nice, fluid, one shot dream sequence that looks like it’s been filmed in a gutted church which works really well. There are a few dream sequences in the film due to the nature of the horror element in the story but this one is particularly nice.
And pretty much the majority of the characters, although mostly clichés (and there’s nothing wrong with that) are really nicely written. Also, when the leading lady mentions that her favourite death scene in cinema history is Roy Batty in Blade Runner... yeah, you just got me on your side real quick. The acting on display is one of the things which maybe, in some instances, lets the film down a little but, even when the performances seem a little less like they can carry the movie, the dialogue still shines through. Don’t get me wrong, some of the acting in this is just right... in particular James Fisher, Rebecca Jaquest, James Kavaz (as Nicole’s father) and Natalie Milner (as Nicole’s friend Carly). Some of the other performances in the film seem a little more... enthusiastic rather than great acting jobs it has to be said but the film soldiers on and, I have to say, it’s never less than entertaining. I’m really glad I got to see this one (especially in the correct aspect ratio).
And that’s me pretty much done on this one. Hellbride is not the best comedy horror I’ve seen but it’s quite an entertaining film and any negatives in there are certainly swept aside by all the good stuff. Quite a nice movie for fans of the genre and I’d definitely recommend giving this one a go... it will certainly bring a smile to your face. As for me, I’m going to have to schedule some more of this guy's work in at some point soon so, yeah, this one certainly gets a big, unnaturally mutated thumb up from me.