Sam Ashursts House Of Horror: Slashers, cannibals and awful werewolves

Hello fright fans, my name’s Sam Ashurst and I’m Total Film’s resident cult horror expert.

I spend so much time banging on about ’70s giallo movies, ’80s VHS trash classics, ’90s serial killer flicks and ’00s foreign chillers that TF has finally decided to give me my own column. Possibly to shut me up.

Each week, I’ll be dissecting the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases, uncovering hidden gore gems, and rummaging through my VHS collection to bring you some of the most bafflingly beautiful video covers from the ’80s.

And come back every Friday for exclusive clips, interviews and cool competitions to get your plasma pumping.

So, take off your razor-tipped gloves, hang up your cobweb-covered hat and gently rest your bone-blunted axe beside the door.

And welcome to my House Of Horror…

Out: Monday £12.99 DVD

Possibly the worst aspect of Brittany’s Murphy’s final film is the dedication that pops up just before the end credits.

The film’s dedicated to her memory, but I’d much rather remember her for her brilliant turns in Sin City , Girl, Interrupted and the underrated Cherry Falls .

Hell, I’d even rather remember her for The Prophecy II than this sad film.

You can see why Murphy was attracted to the project. The script is decent (it’s essentially Flightplan in a hospital) and her role – girl whose boyfriend goes missing before a routine operation – has plenty of potential.

But her charismatic presence is let down by an amateurish production, which fails on almost every level, from the direction to the lighting.

It looks more like an Australian soap than a movie – it’s a testament to Murphy’s talent that she managed to turn in a solid performance, despite the fact she was clearly surrounded by idiots.

It might be dedicated to her, but Abandoned is instantly forgettable. Pick up one of her better movies instead.

Out: Monday £12.99 DVD

This Australian Hellraiser rip-off has some great death scenes.

One, set in a climbing school is amongst the best kills I’ve watched all year.

Unfortunately, every single moment that doesn’t involve someone’s arm snapping off or a heart suddenly exploding is so desperately dull that you’ll start to pray for your own elaborate fatality, just to make the pain stop.

There’s not a single likeable character or competent actor in this thing. Not one.

It’s so bad that I wanted to walk out of the cinema.

Unfortunately, I was watching it in my room, on DVD, and that would have involved getting out of bed.

Don’t make the same mistake. I’d advise watching it next to an open window, so you can fling it into the garden when you can’t stand it anymore.

Or, better yet, don’t watch it at all.

Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Nathan Baesel, the man behind Leslie Vernon’s mask, got his first acting break performing in church plays as a child.

We’re not sure what was in the wine back then, but it’s a minor miracle that Baesel grew up to portray Leslie Vernon, a man who’s about as far from church as Spiritual Warriors (2007) is from an Academy Award.

Behind The Mask sees a documentary crew following Vernon as he prepares for the biggest night of his career which, if your job is a slasher-killer, involves getting ready to kill a lot of innocent teenagers.

Weapons training, cardio, and even Final Girl selection are all important parts of Leslie’s preparation.

Which would be extremely hard-going if Leslie was a Jason Voorhees or a Michael Myers type, communicating mainly through heavy-breathing and the occassional grunt.

Thankfully, Vernon is as charming as he is cruel, with a seductive twinkle in his eye. He’s a brilliant creation.

Baesel’s stunning performance reminded me frequently of Man Bites Dog ‘s Ben, who was my previous favourite psycho-killer mockumentary star until Leslie stalked into town.

Vernon outdoes Ben in one key area. The character exists in a meta-world where all of our favourite slasher-icons are living, breathing human beings. Freddy, Jason and Michael are all named-checked by Vernon as living legends, who he has to live up to.

It’s a genius premise. And it’s perfectly delivered, resulting in the best postmodern horror flick since Scream.

Packed full of lovely references for slasher-addicts, a mesmerising central performance, and the most satisfying ending since Jason jumped out of the lake, this one comes highly recommended.

Nathan Baesel may have started out in church, but Leslie Vernon proves the devil has the best roles.

Looks Like:
A psychological thriller about a woman who enjoys having brain-scans in the local moonlit lake.

Actually Is
: A batshit mental supernatural/ sci-fi /giant green animated worm flick, about a gang of ghost chasers who explore an abandoned house and discover all sorts of weird nonsense there.

It features a character being covered in giant throbbing pimples after he’s had his arms and legs cut off. It’s a lot of fun.

Imaginary dialogue:
“Wow, this lake is relaxing. I’m really glad I’m not being strung up by my arms in an attic watching some weirdo cut one of my friend’s fingers off, or watching a badly animated green worm fly at my face. That would be terrible. Now, where did I put my bath salts?”

Why You Should Watch It: It’s the trailer for the worst (best?) Howling film, Howling III: The Marsupials .

So, it’ll either serve as a stark warning, or I’ve just provided your next favourite Australian-based werewolf film.

Either way, it’s hilarious.

Killer Quote:
“Wanna put a shrimp on the barbie?”

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