The Windmill (2016): Dutch Homage to Hammer (Review)

The Windmill, aka The Windmill Massacre

Written and directed by Nick Jongerius, The Windmill, aka ‘The Windmill Massacre,” is no Amsterdammed. This is no taut thriller dressed up like an 80’s cop/horror film.  Jongerius gives us what could be construed as a loving homage to those ’60’s and ’70’s Hammer horror films. Classics like “The Vault of Horror” or Dr. Terror’s House of Horror,  for example, where the cast all find they have died and are about to meet their just deserts, are given a nod here.

A disparate group of foreigners, a few Brits, an Aussie, a French woman and a Japanese man on a mission, all take a “Happy Holland” tour of local windmills.  Unlike the anthology films of the ”70’s, these victims are not overly heavy with an abundance of backstory. This is no in-depth retelling of their various peccadilloes that have landed them in this predicament.

We get flashes of their “sins” but that is all. (Except for Jennifer – Brit actress Charlotte Beaumont who plays a murderer from “Down Under” – who has quite a bit of backstory presented in fits and starts.)  There is no real location given in the film, although we get the impression that the events are unfolding in and around Amsterdam. 

Abe, the driver, takes his charges to at least one windmill and then on the way to another, the bus breaks down. The group narrowly escape getting injured when the vehicle falls into a canal and later on, after an abortive attempt at finding help, they all walk to another windmill off the road.

Before the reach the windmill, they find an abandoned structure that is filled with old papers. One of the papers tells of a story where a miller sells his soul to the devil. Shortly after, a very big man with a scythe and great huge wooden clogs on his feet makes an appearance.

As the tourists begin to die, the Japanese man decides that they are at the gate of hell and that he must perform a sort of exorcism.

The film itself is nothing to really get too excited about but it works, after a fashion, and we manage to get caught up in the Australian girl’s story.

While this is not an anthology theme, per se, it does feel like one. Enough so that one is thrown immediately into Hammer territory. The Dutch actor who plays Abe (Bart Klever) performs his part well and later on the film  itself gives us a satisfying O.Henry type twist.

(Hammer also specialized in these sort of endings, although each anthology managed to turn the story in its protagonist as well.)

For those who have been to Holland and seen the windmills, the tale of the devil’s miller makes a certain amount of sense. Those wooden towers with their creaking blades do seem a bit creepy and the setting in this film is spot on.

Jongerius gives us a taste of horror that borders on the religious. (Each “victim” is a sinner who did something horrible to someone else, in most cases murder, and are now going to pay the piper for their previous transgressions.)

The Windmill Murders is a solid four star film. The effects are, for the most part, practical and work very well. The movie was filmed in and around Loenen, in The Netherlands, and as a location the area was perfect for the storyline.

There were a few odd moments, for example the hookers at the small red-light district were actually not in their windows at all but standing in the doorway, and the milled flower flowing down the chute was behind glass, like a tourist mill, but apart from these instances the film flowed well.

It is on Netflix at the moment and is well worth a look. It won’t give you nightmares but it will make you jump here and there.  There is a certain amount of bloodshed and a decapitation. There is no nudity and not one sex scene.

Check out the trailer below and then head over to watch this Dutch homage to Hammer anthology horror.

Innocence: Private School Can Be Hell

Innocence: Private School Can Be Hell

 

Innocence, starring Linus Roache (Batman Begins, The Chronicles of Riddick), Kelly Reilly (Sherlock Holmes, Eden Lake), Sophie Curtis (Arbitrage, The Art of Getting By), Graham Phillips (Evan Almighty, The Good Wife) and Sarah Sutherland (Beneath the Harvest Sky, Veep) seems to say that private school can be hell. It could even imply that book clubs in upper class learning institutes are bad for your health. The film does seem to be saying a lot in the time it’s on screen and doing so very well.

Vampires Don’t Sparkle by Michael West: A Blood-soaked Bonanza

VDS-Cover-SmallI have to admit that I had given up on the world of vampire literature. Thanks to a suburban housewife in America, vampires had become a race of sulking, bloodless, pedophiles who glittered in the sun like cheap dime store jewellery.

In the sun??

Growing up on a steady diet of Hammer Horror (and yes the capitals are required) and discovering films like Near Dark, The Hunger, Fright Night, et al; I was disgusted at the thought of a “tween” vampire written by someone who did not even like vampires. It was a joke with a bloodless punchline that left a foul taste in one’s mouth.

I had given up hope of ever reading a vampire tale that would affect me so much that I had to sleep with the light on and nervously peer into darkened corners or jump, heart pounding, at every creak and pop as the house settles for the night.

But…

I had not counted on Horror Master (again the capitals are required) Michael West to collect such an array of brilliantly bloody and violent “old-fashioned” vampires. Vampires who: cannot walk in the sun and don’t look like a tawdry bit of moving glitter dust when they do, rip out throats, are cruel and vicious, have super-human strength and require a stake, and a hammer to kill.

It appears that I am not alone in my disgust at the current fad of foppish, shiny, reflective pompadour wearing sweetie-cakes who’d rather starve than rip out a throat and glut themselves on human blood. It appears that Mr West also longed for the more “traditional” Dracula type vampire and set out to find a collection of short stories where the vampires don’t sparkle…they kill.

He offers, for our entertainment and enjoyment (and terror) fifteen different stories about blood ingesting, super-human creatures who yearn for your blood from fifteen different contemporary authors. There is even a robot vampire!  But all these stories have one thing in common, apart from the fact that all the vampires in them are actually scary and would not appeal to any “tween” that I know of; these stories suffer from originality. 

They also have a wonderful Dionysian pathos that is admirable. I will admit that when I finished this blood-drenched work of art I felt (apart from uneasy about the fact that night had fallen) quite sated; akin to a tick or leech or even a mosquito after a long leisurely feast of blood from a victim.  Because the vampire is a blood sucking creature whose bodily fluid intake and exchange is as primal as the act of sex.

Michael West prefaces this collection of stories stating two things. The first is his dismay about what vampires have become in popular fiction. The second is his personal catharsis in dealing with two people who are near and dear to him being stricken with cancer.

One was a good friend and colleague who lost her battle against the horrible disease, the second is his wife, who has won her fight against this merciless killer. It is because of his personal involvement that he has donated a portion of the proceeds from the sales of this collection. He will be doing the same for his future anthologies.

If you love  more traditional vampires grab this book with both hands and read it. In a world of 2 and 3 star books and vampires who really aren’t, this collection is a real 5 star glorious bloodsucking creature of the night read.

I will leave you with Michael’s own statement about the book: “Stephenie Meyer stole this monster from Bram Stoker. We’re stealin’ it back!”

Michael with Elvira Mistress of the Dark...
Michael with Elvira Mistress of the Dark…

Let the Right One In – Hollywood Style

This is a really old one that I did almost 2 years ago. It has some trailers in it. Enjoy! Again, If you like these let me know and I’ll continue to add older ones and put some newer ones in as well. 😀

The Horror Genre: Ya Gotta Love It…

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I’ve been a fan of the horror genre ever since I got permission to stay up and watch The Birds on television at the ripe old age of ten. After getting scared so badly that after the film had finished I locked myself into the bathroom and refused to come out, I knew that anything that could affect me that much had to be a winner.

My father was completely puzzled at my bizarre behaviour, obviously forgetting all the nightmares I’d had when I was younger that had him and my mother galloping into my bedroom after my screams had disturbed their slumber. He and my mother were good parents who always explained that things in movies were not real but my Boeing 767 imagination knew otherwise and all the scary things I’d watched would visit me on a nightly basis.

I started sneaking down around midnight on the weekends to watch the local TV stations Hammer Horror Fest that they aired each weekend. *Local station? Huh! The closest station was one state away in Oklahoma. The home of  The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting with Gailard Sartain as Mazeppa Pomazoidi who did skits between commercial breaks and featured, among other guests, a young Gary Busey. Although I did not discover Mazeepa’s “madhouse” till much later, his show made me laugh and cringe at the same time.*

**If you’ve never heard of The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting click on the link preceding and read John Wooley‘s visit down memory lane as he talks about the show.**

Films were not the only medium that I adored in the horror mode. I found great collections of short stories and anthologies of stories that scared the living crap out of me. One such story was H. Russell Wakefield‘s 1928 short story The Red Lodge. It’s the story of a city fellow and his wife who move to the country and rent this riverside home and it scared me silly. This book gave me an aversion to looking out windows by means of opening the shut curtains. Combined with my Twilight Zone experience with Bill Shatner and the occupants of Red Lodge, it’s a wonder that I can look out windows at all.

Gailard Sartain as Mazeppa. Ah childhood memories...
Gailard Sartain as Mazeppa. Ah childhood memories…

I have fond memories (and sometimes still have nightmares) about those Saturday night “creature features” and the books that helped me develop an insatiable taste for all things abnormal, scary and freakish; in other words horror.

I also remember rolling about the floor in hysterical laughter at a mates house while watching a Roger Corman-ish type film where these radioactive giant frog/men things that came out of a contaminated lake and killed local bikini clad beauties. *At one point in the film, one of these frog things shoves his hand through a plate-glass window trying to grab a mannikin, it’s arm gets cut off and what are supposed to be maggots fall out of his stump. The fact that is was obviously rice, made the scene funnier. Come to think of it, this might have been a Corman flick, I just cannot remember the title of it to verify if it is or not.*

I guess I am a lot more forgiving about horror films that other people feel derisory about. I’ve had a life long love affair with these creative geniuses and “not-so-creative” geniuses who make the films that make you want to scream; either in fear or frustration. Because, damn it, they’ve tried.

I know that horror films are the burgeoning directors first port of call when he or she is just starting out. I also know that a lot of “unknown” actors will be in the thing and that a lot of ex-stars might make the odd cameo, but…

I can still remember laughing and screaming in equal measure at Evil Dead at the drive-in. Evil Dead 2 was even better! The eye scene had us laughing, screaming and gagging all at the same time. I’ve seen other films that can equal that reaction, but not too many.

Still, I am most forgiving when it comes to films “copying” other more successful films, which in all likelihood are homages. Too many folks will poop all over a new horror film because it “borrows” from other films. But honestly? When was the last time you saw something so blazingly original that you couldn’t find a comparable film anywhere?

Ah-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h...
Ah-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h…

For me, it was The Grudge. That was the first film that I had seen in years that was: a) Great, b)original, and c) scared the crap out of me. Of course, I am talking about the American re-make with Sarah Michelle Gellar directed by Takeshi Shimzu. I only found out later that this was his fourth version of a film that he’d made over and over. So in essence the film was not “original” at all. It borrowed from the earlier versions of the film and Shimzu just kept “tweaking” the scenes until they were scary as hell.

I’ve written a few reviews recently that some people have not necessarily agreed with and that is great. Variety is the spice of life and we all have opinions (a childhood friend once told me, “Opinions are like arseholes, everybody has one.” Another friend quickly added on, “And some are bigger than others.)

Back to the reviews, I never go into a horror film (or any film for that matter) with a “preconceived” idea of what I am going to watch. I concentrate on suspending my disbelief and try to get carried away with the film’s story. Often, unless it is so glaringly obvious that a 5-year-old could spot it, I don’t even notice a lot of “copying” from other films. I just sit down popcorn on hand and coke to the side and watch.

Sometimes I am so disappointed that I will pan a film I have just seen, but not often. It has to be really  bad for me to do that and some are that bad, no argument, but I will not judge a film too harshly if the overall story is good, the acting passable and the plot twist (if any) is memorable. Ghostquake is one such dreadful film and I hated it.

Other times, I will find a film that is so blazingly original that it blows my mind. After I watch it repeatedly, I’ll then write about it and ponder why the creativity gods are so fickle and only allow this kind of brilliance to shine once in a great while. The best recent example I can think of was the plot twist in Orphan (thanks GaryLee828 for reminding me of the great film) and of course The Orphanage.

So there you have it, the reason that I am so much more accepting of films that other folks obviously do not like because they “copy” other films. In a nutshell, I love the damned genre so much, that I love even the bad films and I will go out of my way to watch them all. Books, on the other hand, are different. I am not so forgiving there. If they are so badly written that even my overactive imagination cannot connect then they are dismissed immediately and panned.

So as I prepare to trawl through Netflix to find a horror film that I’ve not yet seen, preferably low-budget and gory, I’ll leave you with this thought. Even Sam Raimi copied himself on the first Evil Dead film; it just happens, learn to live with it.

*Oh and if that Corman-ish film sounds familiar, can you give me a title? It would be much appreciated.*

Orphan: 2009 evil child fright fest.
Orphan: 2009 evil child fright fest.