Movie review: The Black Cat (1934)


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PART OF ME so wanted to connect with this movie due to its strong placement in film history, pairing horror icons Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff together for the first time.

They would do so again a further 8 times throughout their career.

Both Lugosi and Karloff would find fame through their roles in Dracula and Frankenstein respectively and each had a further outing of their own, with moderate success, so it was inevitable that these two powerhouses of their day would cross paths before too long.

It pains me to say that I really struggled with with watching this movie.

Loosely based on the short novel of the same name by Edgar Allen Poe, The Black Cat had all the hallmarks of a classic horror story.

Our central protagonists Peter and Joan find themselves as unwitting pawns in a game between psychiatrist Hjalmar Poelzig (Lugosi) and architect Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Karloff), both whom flirt with their own sanity throughout the proceedings, although Poelzig is marginally on the ‘right’ side of the tipping point.

He does at one point though try to plead for Peter and Joan’s freedom having been ensnared in Werdergasts abode, by playing a game of chess.

Werdergast certainly takes home the crazy awards though with his collection of dead women that he keeps in glass cases.

The history between these frenemies runs deep, turning all the more bitter when Poelzig is imprisoned during the war, during which time Werdergast settles down with Poelzig’s wife, who is now dead and has become a feature in one of the exhibits.

It’s something of a convoluted mess, with the drama wrenched up to the max that it feels strained and forced.

Both Karloff and Lugosi pull off all the stops as they race to the ultimate showdown between the two for the film’s climax, but by this point I’d gone past caring and simply wanted the movie to find it’s end note.

In fact, were it not for the performances from both its leads, The Black Cat wouldn’t have received the kind of recognition that fell its way upon its release.

This coupled with the music score keeps the audience barely onside and despite this being Universal’s biggest box office hit of the year, The Black Cat ends up looking more like a drowned cat than screeching for the high notes of hysteria and horror that it was clearly aiming for.

Ultimately, something of a disappointment.

  • Paul Farrell


Movie review: The Invisible Man (1933)


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IT SEEMS THAT everyone is a flutter with the confirmed announcement of Johnny Depp’s attachment to the latest Universal franchise in The Invisible Man.

News that I could have sworn had drifted into the arena a while ago now but has resurfaced with his latest Pirates of the Caribbean outing.

It’s a choice that seems logical when you look at Depp’s filmography, in particular his leanings to the macabre and gothic stories that he has graced on the screen,

As part of some of the recent articles I’ve written, I’ve been casting myself back through the Universal Horror vault and scrutinizing the films of yester-year. When the production house hit their stride off the back of successes with Dracula and Frankenstein, they began to march out similar stories, some stronger than others.

1933’s The Invisible Man happens to be one of the better movies of that era. Based on the novel by notorious science fiction writer, H.G. Wells, who happens to have hailed from my neck of the woods in Bromley, Kent, England, so top bloke then. J

In this adaptation, Universal went all out to make the special FX convincing and frightening enough that it was considered groundbreaking for its time and still stands strong today.

Whilst watching the movie, the use of this effect is certainly the centerpiece and Universal weren’t shy in using it, and threw the audience into the action, fairly early on, with a slight build up of character development before hand.

FX aside, it is Rains who steals the show with his performance as Dr Jack Griffin aka The Invisible Man in what was his debut in an American feature.

Despite the fact that we only ever see his face in the films conclusion, Rains manages to portray the maniacal menace of the doctor, (who curiously the story of his unfortunate transition is never seen) with absolute believability.

Rains would go on to feature in several Universal features including The Wolf Man and Phantom of the Opera.

But for me, he will forever be cemented as Capt. Louis Renault in Casablanca.

There is an amiable support cast too that lends weight to the strength of this film including Gloria Stuart (The Old Dark House, and the older Rose in James Cameron’s Titanic), Henry Travers (It’s A Wonderful Life), and Una O’Connor (Bride of Frankenstein).

All of whom are helmed together by the fabulous director James Whale, who also directed Universal’s last successful film, Frankenstein, proving that this was no mere fluke and would go on to achieve further success with Bride of Frankenstein.

Such was the success of this feature that it would spawn several sequels, including one that would star Vincent Price.

It as often been emanated but never in my humble opinion repeated. The less said about John Carpenter’s The Memoirs of an Invisible Man and The Hollow Man, the better.


– Paul Farrell

Movie review: Raw (2017)


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IT’S NOT OFTEN that a movie will leave me feeling that strange, eerie sense of detachment.

As if one’s soul has been ripped away from the body and thrust into the open space to drift in the emptiness.

It’s a feeling of confusion that leaves you wondering what took place that makes you feel a strange mix of emptiness and euphoria.

The last time I can recall feeling this way, was after viewing Gaspar Noe’s controversial movie, Irreversible.

Although Raw deals with a completely different subject matter, it does something similar in crashing head long into a terrain that some may find difficult to handle, and perhaps too confrontational, but in both cases, they are subjects that warrant addressing with a fresh new take, in order to shake things up a bit.

On face value there are some that might be turned away at the prospect of Raw, the tale of vegetarian Justine, (Garance Mariller, who incidentally delivers a stunning performance) who loses all sense of herself in her first week of veterinary school and eats raw meat for the first time.

All the trailers and imagery surrounding the movie have centred on a bloody Justine, who on one hand heightens the gore factor, but what it fails to convey is the sheer depth of this movie.

It’s more than a sensationalist shock-fest and deep down is a coming-of-age story.

When Justine is dropped off at University, she’s somewhat abandoned to her own devices by her parents to make her way in this strange new land.
Her only lifeline comes from her older sister, Alexia, (played by Ella Rumpf, who is equally charismatic and engaging on screen) but is far from the person that Justine once knew and because of this finds it hard to connect with.

The early scenes at the University are immersed in a world of chaos and anarchy – an almost Lord of the Flies situation, where the “Elders” are left to rule the roost and the teachers appear strangely absent and willing for the wild parties and engagements to reign.

It’s an indication to of our times and Director, Julia Ducournau in her feature debut, certainly has her finger on the pulse capturing the very heart of the youth’s struggles as they reach their sexual awakening with only each other to turn to in order to learn from. And sometimes we might not like what we see.

Admittedly, I found the first 20 minutes hard to get into, but as soon as I was immersed in the world that was created, I became instantly absorbed and willing to be taken along Justine’s journey of elation, repulsion, disgust, and delight.

The confusion she feels as she experience all these emotions at the same time, leaves her in disarray, and what at first appears to be a cruel turning point when her taste for the flesh lunges for the one lifeline that she has, only to have the tables turn in a deliciously exciting way.

The relationship that Justine has with Alexia is vital for this movie to pay off and relies on the strength of both actors. It beautifully captures that whole love/hate sibling rivalry, where blood is thicker than water and sometimes family is all we have to rely on at a time when the very thought of that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The more I think of it, the more beautiful and powerful a movie Raw appears to be. It evokes so much emotion that it lifts you up on high and lets you marinade in the bloody mess that is left behind.

Even as I write this up, I can feel that same sense of elation deep in my core.

It’s hard to shake and I can’t recommend this movie enough.

A glorious insight into the chrysalis of youth, what emerges is a thing of beauty.
I can only marvel at the wondrous sight that was presented and watch it soar high into the atmosphere.

By far and away, the best movie I’ve seen this year, and I could venture to say, the best movie I’ve seen in the last few years.

Do yourself a favour.

Go and see this movie and have your own celluloid awakening with this feast for the eyes.


– Paul Farrell

Season review: One Night in Candle Cove


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When some bright spark from the Surgeons of Horror camp came up with the notion of doing a marathon session of Syfy Australia’s latest horror drama, Channel Zero, there were nods of approval around the table, but when it came to which team member should actually perform the task, all eyes quickly settled on the only one deranged enough to take it on, yours truly, ‘Mad Moon’ Maguire.

Pathetic really, but as the night shift tends to my basic needs, I was more than willing to fill that void within the mind of Kris Straub, (who penned the story that the series is based upon) and Nick Antosca, (series creator).

The concept was a simple one, to create a 6 Part series based on the Creepy pasta stories that have become popular in recent years online, and the first subject would be centred around Candle Cove.

You may have seen images already some of the creatures that inhabit this nightmarish world, and it’s not until you immerse yourself into the story as it unfolds that Candle Cove really gets a stranglehold on your psyche and begins to mess with your mind.

There are a lot of elements at play here that were clearly inspired by known properties. Some reviewers have likened it to a cross between American Horror Story and The Twilight Zone and whilst I personally see it falling into the latter camp, I can also see aspects of David Lynch, Children of the Corn, and Stephen King.

Paul Schneider portrays the child psychologist Mike Painter, who returns his hometown after suffering his own psychotic episode.

Throughout the series, we constantly question the stability of our lead protagonist as he delves into the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of his brother all those years ago and the murders that occurred during that time.

Schneider’s performance is beautifully subdued and because of this lends weight to his spiralling madness and / or tangled web of the supernatural that we plummet into on his journey.

While the first episode sets up the intrigue that is embodied throughout Candle Cove, the second episode allows for further character development to come to fruition just before it pulls the rug from under your feet leaving you questioning just exactly who you should trust.

This is all part of the strength that lies within Candle Cove.

Just as the kids seemingly fall under some evil trance, we too are lured under its spell, falling deeper within the labyrinth of despair.

There are shocking and confronting moments all held within this disturbing world, leaving you gripped and eager to delve further into its dark recesses.

And the further we go, the more secrets there are to unfold.

By the end of the journey, we’re left satisfied with its completion, knowing that all appears to have been resolved, even though it may have strengthened our fears of puppetry, tooth monsters and anything else that maybe lurking beyond.

Roll on the next instalment of Channel Zero entitled The No-End House, due to be released in October.

  • ‘Mad Moon’ Maguire

Get Out: 6 hidden moments that lured us under its hypnotic spell


DESCRIBED AS A social thriller, Get Out is fast becoming the must-see horror film of the year.

Brought to the screens by the brilliant Jordan Peele, with his sharp observations on society and culture.

In particular, Get Out focuses on the racial divide in America.

Whilst there are some moments that are blatant statements of the issues faced in the US, there are some that are a little more subtle.

So many layers are placed in this movie that when watching, you almost feel like you’ve transcended into your very own ‘sunken place’, paralysed by in Peele’s world, searching for a way out of the madness that surrounds our central character, Chris.

Here are 7 Key moments that you may have missed on first viewing

  1.   “Run” 
    It’s a common theme within the movie – more prominent with the song Run, Rabbit Run, that’s played at the start of the movie, but emphasised even more so, with a Swahili song that also feature in the movie, which when translated, tells us to listen to your ancestors, and run.
  2. No trace of I.D.
    When Rose hits a deer with the car, did anyone notice her lack of empathy?
    Chris is drawn to see the deer as it instantly reminds him of his own mother, who was knocked down in a hit and run, but when the cops arrive,
    Rose is very quick to defend Chris and not let the Cop force home to give out his drivers licence.
    On face value, this might seem like an empowering moment as she stands up for her man, but in light of what transpires later in the movie, could be viewed as Rose covering her tracks.
    If there’s no record of her and Chris being together, she can hide all trace of his inevitable disappearance.
  3.   The Black Buck
    Briefly mentioned by Rose’s father with an off-hand comment, with his lack of love for bucks or deer is actually racist slur in post-reconstruction America.
    It was used by those in white authority on Black men who refuse to ‘tow the line’.
  4.   Silver spoon
    Speaking of bowing to authority, the method that Missy uses for her hypnosis treatment labours the point further around ‘White supremacy’ with the aid of a silver spoon.
    A symbol of how the elite can rule and control those in a ‘lesser’ position.
  5.   Cotton picker
    Slightly more obvious is Chris’ method of escape. When tied down, he literally has to pick the cotton embedded in the chair, in order to win his freedom.
    It’s a strong and profound moment in the movie.
  6.   Froot Loops and Milk divided.
    Believing that all is in order, Rose resorts to her basic behaviour and let’s her guard down in search for her next victim.
    Whilst she does this, Rose eats some Froot Loops on their own before consuming some milk.
    An odd behaviour in itself, but on closer scrutiny symbolises the separation of colour from the white that is deeply embedded in her psyche.

It feels as though I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg with this one.

Get Out is so deeply layered that it warrants a repeat viewing or two to really appreciate Peele’s work.

And with the promise of several more social thriller instalments on the way, I can’t wait to see what Peele serves up next.

  • Paul Farrell

Podcast: Devil Woman – Interview with Heidi Lee Douglas


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Heidi Lee Douglas.

If her name isn’t one your register, it should be.

An award winning writer, director who garnered recognition with her political/social film Defendant 5, Heidi Lee Douglas documented the destruction of Tasmania’s rainforest, only to suddenly find herself thrust into a legal battle.

The right of free speech was being stifled, and yet she persisted in getting the project out of the wilderness and into the limelight.

Since then, Lee Douglas has formed her own company, Dark Lake Productions with amazing results including the short gothic thriller, Little Lamb.

Now though, she has turned her attention to a new project, Devil Woman, a smart horror film that takes the viewer directly into the coal-face of human conflict over our relationship with the environment.

The film draws from the world of zombies and shape-shifters, with the added flavour of Lee Douglas’ penmanship that adds a unique voice in the horror genre.

It’s an Australian story that embodies the diverse terrain of the Tasmanian landscape.

Devil Woman is currently looking for support through crowd-funding via pozible, so if this piques your interest, then head on over and contribute.

Want to know more? Well the Surgeons team recently had the opportunity to sit down with Heidi Lee Douglas to discuss this passion project. Check out the podcast below.





Podcast: Alien (1979)


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Following the success of his film school feature Dark Star, which he collaborated with John Carpenter, Dan O’Bannon would team with his house mate, Ronald Shusett to create (arguably) the best and most iconic science fiction horror movie to date.

Once the screenplay was in place, the perfect recipe started to formulate with some fresh new faces, starting with the director, Ridley Scott with his sophomore feature, still at a point where he was willing to take on a few risks.

There must have been something that resonated deep down with Scott too, as he has returned to the franchise at the helm with 2012’s Prometheus, this years’ Alien: Covenant, and the promise of more to come.

Joining alongside him would be fellow fresh-faced actress, Sigourney Weaver, and along with it, her take on the protagonist, Ellen Ripley, would be a pioneer in the industry, paving the way for more like-minded, strong, female characters to come.

Sure, we’ve still got a long way to come yet, but Ripley is still held highly amongst fans and cinema-lovers across the globe.

Her journey would span across another 3 movies in the franchise, such was her resonance.

It helped too that her fellow cast members, all prolific in their own right would elevate, (essentially a haunted house story, albeit set in space) high, not just in the genre, but in film history.

Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, Veroncia Cartwright, and Yaphet Kotto all lend valuable weight to the proceedings.

As does the visual cinematography (Derek Vanlint) and the design, headed up by H.R. Giger, who created the look and feel of the alien creature in all it’s transitions; egg, face-hugger, baby xenomorph, to its adult version.

The film drips and oozes such an amazing treat for the senses, that it’s not surprising that it still stands the test of time.

To celebrate #alienday, the Surgeons of Horror team took it upon themselves to discuss this movie, that rightfully has become a classic.

Check out our in-depth discussions on iTunes or through our podcast feed below.

  • Paul Farrell

Movie review: Bye Bye Man (2016)


USUALLY I would try to school up a bit before watching a horror movie, which is hard to do without coming across a few spoilers.

In this instance, I’d managed to steer clear of any online chatter, namely because it didn’t receive much fan fare out here.

(Which in of itself is something of a give away).

So, I pretty much went into this cold.

So there’s only up from there, right?   Right?

Regardless I ploughed straight in and immersed myself into the movie, willing, welcoming the storyline to hit me with the best killer punch it could offer.

Instead, all I got was a lacklustre effort to introduce a new ‘monster’ to scare the new generation.

And all I could think was, ‘What ever happened to the good old days of Freddy, Jason, and Michael?’

Why does Hollywood find it so hard to introduce a new villain to the horror genre?

Is it that we have become so conditioned with the mainstream output that we can no longer be subjected to the true sense of horror villainy ever again?

Did the likes of Craven, Carpenter, and Cunningham / Miner plant such a strong foothold in the arena, that it’s proven so hard to shake ourselves free of those shackles?

We’ve had a few instances of it since with Sadako/Samara in the Rings franchise, but even then, the last outing left us wanting.

More recent successes in the genre have stemmed from the Everyman or the psychological arena to produce the scares, with the Mumblegore movement proving highly successful as a result.

So, where do we go from here?

Can we expect a return to these kind of movies again?

And more importantly will the impending It movie prove to be the movie to change all this?

There’s certainly a lot of pressure on Andrés Muschietti to deliver.

Right now though, we are subjected to the Bye Bye Man, where you can’t think or say his name or else you’ll feel the wrath of his bony finger or a slobbering bloody hound.

The film does try to pepper in the usual ingredients to make a worthy horror, but instead it gets lost in its own ethos.

There’s seances, psycho killers, and illusions to mess with your head, which plod along nicely enough, but the threat never feels real enough.

And I was a little thrown by the lead, who never really felt charismatic enough for me to care, and I too became lost in wondering who exactly I should root for and why I should actually bother.

There were a couple of surprises, namely in the appearance of Carrie Ann Moss, where the hell ha she been lately?

And a brief cameo from Faye Dunaway declaring La La Land the winner of Best Picture.

Both these women were not enough though to save this film from a dire plot whilst wanting to be something it wasn’t and will never amount to.

It’s a shame, because on paper, it had potential, but the writing was slack and the character development was sorely lacking.

  • Paul Farrell

Movie review: The Eyes of My Mother (2016)



The short running time of 77mins belies the amount of substance to be found within this movie.

Shot entirely in black and white, The Eyes of My Mother tells the story of Francisca, who lives on a farm with her mother and father.

Her mother is a trained surgeon and teaches Francisca to remove the cows eyeballs, a curious practice that Francisca adopts throughout the movie with questionable methods.

Their lives are turned upside down though when a door to door salesman, Charlie arrives at their house.

A struggle ensues that results in Charlie killing Francisca’s mother. Her father walks in on the act and over powers Charlie and chains him up in the barn.

As Francisca’s father becomes a shell of his former self, Francisca practically raised herself and constantly looks for the affection from her father.

Alone in the world, she spirals into a warped sense of reality where she removes Charlie’s Eyes and vocal chords and keeps him locked up as her ‘pet friend’.

When her father eventually passes away, Francisca becomes truly lost, preserving his body in the bath and reaching out for some sense of love and identity with the world.

It’s a beautiful shot piece with plenty of questions asked around nature vs nurture.

Are we the subject of our surroundings?

And because of this, there is genuine emotion attached to Francisca’s journey.

It packs a hefty punch which had been classed its graphic nature too hard to watch, but Nicolas Pesce’s directorial debut as a must watch and all eyes (hopefully intact) will be on his sophomore outing, Piercing, which is due out next year.

– Paul Farrell

Movie review: Unfriended (2015)


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STRAIGHT OFF THE BAT, I should declare that I’m not a big fan of found footage horror.

Don’t get me wrong, when it’s done right, it can be executed really well ala [REC], or The Tunnel, but more often than not, it doesn’t quite hit the mark for me.

And i’s fast becoming a stale genre in my book.

Despite this, Unfriended falls strangely on middle ground.

I have to commend the movie for pushing the horror genre into a contemporary setting and placing it where the current generation spend their time – through social media.

By using this format, we are introduced to a small group of friends and our intended victims.

What I also found intriguing and bold about this movie was the subject of this movie too, cyber-bullying.

A modern concept that had its fair amount of repercussions in an environment that has proved hard to police.

As the film opens up, we are given an indication of the movies intent as our protagonist, (If you can call her that) Blaire surfs the net for the death/suicide of Laura Barns, before Blaire then embarks on a cyber chat with her friends, Mitch, Jess, Adam, Ken, and Val.

However, somewhere along the way, someone has hacked into the chat room and from there on in, a series of games come about which antagonises the group and we slowly learn of their involvement in Laura Barn’s downfall, through the cyber-bullying that they played out on her.

One by one the friendships unravel and they are picked off with gruesome and bloody outcomes.

Who is behind these attacks?

Is it one of them, or could it be the spirit of Laura Barns out for revenge?

As I detailed in my intro, my verdict of Unfriended is that it lay in the middle ground and here is my reasoning.

Whilst it does push the horror genre into new and untested territory, and it certainly delivers a clever and insightful approach to this world, where it falls short is in its characterisation.

As we learn more about the friendship group and their secrets and true personalities rise to the surface, the less likeable they become.

Yes, this does make their comeuppance a deserved and relatable one, the preverbal fly in the ointment is that the audience is left not really giving a shit about what happens to these characters.

A massive flaw in my opinion.

You need to have a character that the audience can identify which otherwise the story falls flat and that is where it left me… Deflated and uninterested.

But its success in the box office and pending sequel seems to say otherwise.

I’d be keen to hear your thoughts.

  • Paul Farrell