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Monday
Jan082018

HAGSPLOITATION LEGENDS GET NEW FESTIVAL SPOTLIGHT

Though often derided as horror’s campiest subgenre, the Hagsploitation Film has undergone a critical re-appraisal in recent years. Once the starlets of Hollywood’s ‘Golden Years’, industry matriarchs such as Olivia de Havilland, Yvonne de Carlo, Shelley Winters and Myrna Loy did some of their most memorable work as ‘psycho-biddy’ anti-heroines, often caked in make-up, liquored up and swinging axes.

The Melbourne-based film society Cinemaniacs, long the champion of underappreciated genre works, launches a 2-day celebration of hags-cinema on January 12 under the moniker, ‘You’re A Vile, Sorry Little Bitch! A Celebration of Hagsploitation’. Four films that define the beautiful bravado of ‘Grand Dame Guignol’ will screen, programmed by passionate hags advocates Sally Christie and Lee Gambin. Of course, the Opening Night attraction could only be the spectacular 1962 psycho-thriller that dragged modern cinema kicking and screaming into the delirium of Hagsploitation… 

 

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (Director: Robert Aldrich; 1962)
Why is it HAGnificent? The majestic madness of Bette Davis, sparring with longtime industry rival Joan Crawford.
What is it about? In the 1920's, 6-year-old ‘Baby Jane’ Hudson was a huge vaudeville child star, her hit song “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy” defining her young stardom. Older sister, Blanche, having lived in Jane’s shadow most of her life, develops into a famous film actress in her own right, all while Baby Jane’s celebrity fades. At the height of her career, Blanche is crippled in an automobile accident for which the alcoholic Jane is thought responsible. As the years pass, the two sisters become virtual recluses in an old mansion, where a bitter and increasingly unhinged Jane cares for the helpless Blanche. When she learns Blanche is planning to sell the house and perhaps place her in a home, Jane plots a diabolical revenge.
CINEMANIACS says, “Along with Sunset Boulevard, it exposed the ugly underbelly of the throwaway machine that is Hollywood. It one of the most important horror films of the sixties and Bette Davis and Joan Crawford should be up on the genre’s mantle alongside the likes of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.”

STRAIT JACKET (Dir: William Castle; 1964)
Why is it HAGnificent? Having redefined her industry standing with …Baby Jane, Joan Crawford goes all in with some spectacular onscreen psychosis.
What is it about? With her 3 year-old daughter Carol looking on, Lucy Harbin offs her cheating husband with an axe. After twenty years locked in an asylum, Lucy is released and seeks out her daughter, now are famous sculptress with a loving beau. Carol wants her dowdy mother to look as she once did, persuading her to wear makeup, a wig and youthful clothing. But the horror of her upbringing soon begins to intrude on Carol’s new life, as it seems Mother is up to her old axe-wielding tricks when things don’t go her way. Yet, with that history of family violence, might Carol be playing a part in her mom’s re-emerging mania?
CINEMANIACS says, “Joan Crawford is on top of her game here, a performance that sings with nervous energy, relentless zeal and a “I will prove that I am the greatest and most hard working actress of the decade” vibe." 

THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK (Dir: Robert Altman; 1969)
Why is it HAGnificent? After a career of sweet, cherubic ingénues, Sandy Dennis finds fresh acting reserves as lonely, possessive spinster Frances Austen.
What is it about? A wealthy thirty-something spinster takes pity on a young man huddled in the rain on a park bench. Strangely attracted to him, she invites the young man into her home and pampers him as he listens to her incessant chatter. Her sexual advances are spurned, however, with Frances instead providing a young prostitute for her guest’s pleasure. But after locking the two in a room, Frances unleashes her twisted possessiveness in all its grim fury.
CINEMANIACS says, “In the grand cinematic tradition of ‘the psychotic woman and the kept man syndrome’, That Cold Day in The Park shares wonderful thematic and narrative constructs with Sunset Boulevard, The Beguiled and Misery. It focuses on a young woman as its ‘gorgon’, but we decided to screen the film to examine the concept of the ‘hag-to-be’”.

FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC (Dir: Jeffery Bloom; 1987)
Why is it HAGnificent? Having won an Oscar as one of cinema’s rare A-list hags, Nurse Ratched, in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Louise Fletcher was primed for melodramatic hag infamy as ‘Grandmother’ in this adaptation of Victoria Andrew’s trashy family saga.
What is it about? When their father is killed, teenagers Cathy and Chris and young siblings Cory and Carrie are put in the care of their religious-zealot grandmother. Grandma has never approved of the kids' mother Corinne, who had the children with a blood relative, and her bitterness now extends to her grandkids. The four children are locked in their grandmother's attic, far from the view of their unforgiving grandfather, and begin a desperate life trying to cope with the cruel discipline and unforgiving matriarchy wrought by their nana.
CINEMANIACS says, “Relentlessly trashy and proud of it! Louise Fletcher came to represent stoic and unfeeling authority throughout her career. Flowers in The Attic permits her to overplay the monstrousness and she revels in doing so, with delectable and dedicated vehemence.”

'YOU'RE A VILE, SORRY LITTLE BITCH! A CELEBRATION OF HAGSPLOITATION' screens January 12-13 at Melbourne's Backlot Studios. Session and ticketing details can be found at the Cinemaniacs website and the venue.

 

Thursday
Nov302017

THE MARSHES: THE ROGER SCOTT INTERVIEW

Time spent deep in one of New South Wales’ most beautiful yet misunderstood eco-systems can mess with a young man’s mind, if Roger Scott’s debut film is any indication. The Marshes is a psychological eco-thriller, brought to malevolent life by a new kind of mythological Australian killer, The Swagman. Ahead of the World Premiere of The Marshes at A Night of Horror Film Festival, Scott (pictured, below) spoke at length to SCREEN-SPACE about conjuring menace and mayhem from Australia’s dark past and stunning landscapes…

SCREEN-SPACE: When did the mythology of The Swagman, Australia's most iconic bush figure, strike you as the inspiration for a horror film?

SCOTT: Ten years ago, I was working in the Macquarie Marshes as a research assistant.  I had been struck by the landscape’s filmic nature and that it was an Australian environment that audiences never see. I had a fair amount of discontent with how we manage our landscapes, which fed into the story process. From local level water resource management through to global level climate issues, you could say I was gripped by fatalistic sense of horror. [So] horror was the only genre in which the narrative symbolism would have the power and plasticity I desired. And the fact that it was a landscape of billabongs and Coolibah trees brought Waltzing Matilda to mind. Once those elements had come together the story took on a life of it’s own.

SCREEN-SPACE: You pull a skilful bait-&-switch on your audience; the film opens with familiar genre tropes but then begins to deconstruct its own reality. What influences and inspirations did you draw upon?

SCOTT: My observations of the difference between people’s perceptions of the world they inhabit and the reality helped form that structure. To capture that, I drew upon films such as The Cabin In The Woods, Deliverance, 12 Years A Slave, The Descent, Onibaba, The Shining, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Upstream Colour, Under the Skin, Walkabout and Sampson and Delilah. Also non-film sources such as the art of Alexis Rockman, The Yellow Wallpaper and Terra Incognita. (Pictured, above; the the three leads of The Marshes, on-set) 

SCREEN-SPACE: One way you defy horror traditions is by finding terror in broad daylight. What specific challenges did that hold?

SCOTT: Trying to create tension and horror without darkness meant we were relying more heavily on performance, pacing and psychology. Deliverance is a film that does this particularly well. Lighting was still an issue, of course. Giovanni (Lorusso, DOP) is experienced at shooting against the light, aided by Andy (Robertson, gaffer) who has decades of experience lighting in tricky locations, so he was able to create great images despite the limitations. Once the characters became lost in the reed beds I wanted the light to remain ‘mid-afternoon’ for the entire time they were lost. It reinforced that sense of being trapped in a maze-like timeless limbo. This added a scheduling headache for Elisa (Pascarel, 1st AD); there was a lot of ‘cheating’ of shoot times to achieve this. Going into the grade I was hoping for enough latitude in the images for our post team to balance. Thanks to Giovanni’s skills, we were able to balance them. (Pictured, above; Mathew Cooper, left, and Sam Delich)

SCREEN-SPACE: The Marshes continues our strong cinematic tradition of being fearful of the 'The Bush', of city folk being at the mercy of the mysteries of this huge land. How did the location influence your storytelling?

SCOTT: It is common for directors to say that the location was one of the characters in the film, but this is only true when changing locations changes the story. This landscape is entwined in the story. The physical features of the land effect the movements and decisions of the characters. It provides both ‘Pria’s world and the socio-political context for the story. It also gave us a beautiful sort of eerie Australian gothic. Audiences have come to expect that when characters in an Australian movie drive inland that they will arrive in a dry red environment, so being in the marshes immediately confounds those expectations. In some ways, the story continues the cinematic tradition you refer to, but in other ways, less so; it is more about being at the mercy of the mysteries of the mind. I hope that different audiences view it in different ways.

SCREEN-SPACE: Does The Marshes further demonise country types? That the 'hillbilly horror' genre takes a condescending 'city-vs-country' approach?  

SCOTT: The fact that The Swagman is a 19th century symbol makes it harder for audiences to draw parallels between him and country people today. A character such as [Wolf Creek’s ]Mick Taylor looks and sounds like people you can find in any small town. What is unavoidable is the idea that the bush is full of monsters, but then so too is the human mind. What is so great about The Swagman is that he is deeply ingrained in the national psyche. Demonising The Swagman makes it more difficult for people to use him as a lazy stereotype to refer to the bush or country people or nationalism or any of the purposes for which he is invoked. I wanted to disrupt the familiar symbols and structures people use to think about these things, to challenge their perceptions. (Pictured, above; Scott directing actress Dafna Kronental)

SCREEN-SPACE: 'Pria' is an unconventional female horror lead; from the first scene, she's a strong, determined, intelligent woman that clearly won't be a victim easily. Tell us about creating her and what Dafna Kronental brings to the role?  

SCOTT: I spoke to a lot of women in science to develop a character formed by the wealth of her experience, providing her with particular strengths and weaknesses. I was cautioned a number of times to maintain her likability in a way that doesn’t happen for male characters. I needed a very knowledgeable person at the heart of the story that wasn’t fearful of the bush. Dafna brought her own strength and intelligence to ‘Pria’ and worked hard to define the character’s vulnerability, because her failings and vulnerability are just as important to the narrative arc as her strength. And Dafna showed great physical aptitude, performing as she did day after day in the waders, the reeds and the cloying mud. Just traversing that landscape was no mean feat, let alone performing too. (Pictured, above; Kronental, as Pria)

SCREEN-SPACE: The opportunity exists for your villain to spawn a new horror franchise; were you conscious of the 'origins' factor in your narrative? 

SCOTT: We actually joked about it a bit as we were making the film, about what The Swagman’s next “adventure” might be but there was no grand plan in terms of a franchise. Telling this story well was my primary concern.

Read our review of The MARSHES here.

THE MARSHES will have its World Premiere at A Night of Horror Film Festival. Ticket and session details are available at the event's official website)

Friday
Nov172017

PREVIEW: MONSTER FEST 2017

The nation’s slickest and sickest celebration of visceral cinema kicks off on November 23, when the 7th annual Monster Fest launches its 4-day 2017 line-up at Melbourne's iconic Lido Cinema. Feature film programmers Grant Hardie and Neil Foley know that the loyal patrons who have helped establish the festival’s reputation as Australia’s premiere genre film event expect to be challenged; this year, offerings include a killer pig, a demonic unicorn, a haunted 80’s arcade game and a newborn harbinger of the Apocalypse.

The Opening Night audience can expect to be rattled by Chris Sun’s Boar (pictured, below), a blood-soaked reworking of the ‘killer feral pig’ myth made famous by Russell Mulcahy’s 1984 cult hit, Razorback. Starring a who’s-who of Aussie genre greats (John Jarratt, Chris Haywood, Steve Bisley, Roger Ward, Ernie Dingo) alongside US horror icon Bill Moseley (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2; House of 1000 Corpses), the Queensland-based director’s fourth feature so impressed Universal Pictures local office that they picked up the project for an Australian theatrical season. Sun, producers Kris Maric and Christine Hulsby and key cast will front a post-screening Q&A.

True to its commitment to nurture Australian talent, Monster Fest 2017 will feature the World Premiere screening of five local films. Leigh Ormsby’s The Last Hope depicts a civilisation ravaged by a virus outbreak that mutates carriers into cannibalistic monsters; Tarnation, the latest tongue-in-cheek splatterfest from Murderdrome director Daniel Armstrong; Lost Gully Road, a moody haunted house story from Donna Mcrae; Travis Bain’s home invasion thriller, Landfall; and, from the directorial duo of Addison Heath and Jasmine Jakupi, the revenge-themed carnage of The Viper’s Hex.

Drawing from the organiser’s global festival and marketplace profile, six international productions will have their Australian premieres at The Lido. They are Can Evrenol’s brutal apocalyptic thriller Housewife, the Turkish filmmaker’s highly anticipated second feature after his 2015 shocker, Baskin; the German/Austrian co-production Cold Hell, from Stefan Ruzowitzky; Lowell Dean’s absurdist horror-comedy sequel, Another Wolfcop; Canadian Adam McDonald’s woodlands-set black magic thriller, Pyewacket; and, Purgatory Road, a rare foray into the international indie sector for local underground filmmaking hero, Mark Savage. Other countries represented at the event include Estonia (Rainer Sarnet’s November); Spain (Haritz Zubillaga’s The Glass Coffin); and, The USA (Graham Skipper’s Sequence Break).

Closing Night honours go to French director Coralie Fargeat’s brutal rape-retribution drama Revenge (pictured, top), a remarkable debut work that Variety called, “an exceptionally potent and sure-handed first feature… primed to rouse the self-selected few with the stomachs to handle it.” Last year, Monster Fest launched into the Australian marketplace the last great French horror film from a woman director, Julia Ducornau’s Raw. The teen-cannibal hit took the 2016 festival’s top competitive honour before endearing itself to a huge local fan base.

Shaping as arguably the highlight of Monster Fest 2017 will be the screening of King Cohen, director Steve Mitchell’s heartfelt tribute to guerrilla filmmaking great Larry Cohen (pictured, above right). Following the 11.00pm session, five of the legendary auteur’s works will screen in a midnight-to-dawn marathon. Monster Fest is keeping the titles in the all-night session a closely guarded secret, but fans are crossing fingers that ‘Cohen classics’ such as Black Caesar, Q The Winged Serpent and the rarely-seen God Told Me To feature in this exclusive festival event.

MONSTER FEST runs November 23-27 in Melbourne, with other states to follow. Full ticket and session details can be found at the event website.

Friday
Sep152017

SITGES BOUND DOC HONOURS CANADA'S HORROR FILM FOREFATHERS

While Carpenter, Romero and Craven were crafting new wave horror works in the U.S., Canada was forging its own bloody and brave breed of genre storytellers. In director Xavier Mendik’s documentary Tax Shelter Terrors, set to screen at the prestigious Sitges Film Festival in October, some of the most influential names in Canadian film culture are finally being given their due; men who recognised that the rebellious counterculture influencers of the day would respond to bold, frightening film visions. Bolstered by healthy production sector tax initiatives (hence the film’s title), they would shape the ‘Canux-ploitation’ horror era that would become synonymous with a golden period in genre cinema….

André Link and John Dunning (Founders of Cinépix Inc.)

Hungarian André Link immigrated to Canada in 1954, joining the sales department for International Film Distribution (IFD). Earning a reputation for his savvy business acumen, he broke from IFD and, with John Dunning founded Cinépix Inc. The fearless pair embraced the movement known as Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, releasing a slate of risqué films in defiance of the conservative agenda forged by the Catholic Church and the Duplessis government; Cinépix titles included the works of Denis Heroux’s (Valérie, 1968; L’initiation, 1970; L’amour humain, 1970) and John Sone’s films, Love in a Four Letter Word (1970) and Loving and Laughing (1971). With a young production executive called Ivan Reitman at their side, Link and Dunning executive produced David Cronenberg’s early horror classics Shivers (1975) and Rabid (1977). While Link worked the books, Dunning found the talent; their collaborations would include Reitman’s hit directorial debut, Meatballs (1979), George Mihalka’s slasher classic My Bloody Valentine (1981), veteran director J. Lee Thompson’s horror entry, Happy Birthday To Me (1981) and Lamont Johnson’s 3D sci-fi adventure Spacehunter: Adventures in The Forbidden Zone (1983). (Pictured, above; Dunning, left, and Link)

Pierre David (Producer)

Pierre David’s early productions spanned genres, from documentary (A Child Like Any Other, 1972) and kitchen sink drama (Les colombes, 1972) to broad comedy (J’ai mon voyage, 1973) and prestige pic (Je t’aime, 1974, with the late Jeanne Moreau). He recognised the young David Cronenberg as a rare talent, backing his breakout hits The Brood (1979; trailer, above), Scanners (1981) and Videodrome (1983). With the home vid sector providing a hunger for genre product, David exhibited a commitment to stylishly executed horror works, including two from director Jean-Claude Lord, the hospital horror cult classic Visiting Hours (1982) and sci-fi/horror of The Vindicator (1986); George Pan Cosmatos’ paranoid infestation thriller Of Unknown Origin (1983), with Peter Weller; Sandor Stern’s body-horror shocker Pin (1988); and, VHS hit The Dentist (1996) and its sequel (1998), from horror icon Brian Yuzna. His two diversions into feature directing were the instinctively commercial B-movie shockers, Scanner Cop (1994) and Serial Killer (1995).

William Fruet (Director)

Born in Alberta, William Fruet (pictured, right) is a writer/director whose first script, director Donald Shebib’s wilderness-set buddy film Goin’ Down the Road won Best Film at the 1970 Canadian Film Awards. He parlayed industry buzz into his directorial debut, Wedding in White (1972), a searing rape drama adapted from his own play that would win Best Picture at the 1973 Canadian Film Awards. He re-examined sexual assault in his follow-up film, the revenge-themed shocker Death Weekend (1976; aka The House by The Lake), starring Brenda Vaccaro as the rape survivor who wreaks vengeance on her attackers; the film would win Best Actress and Best Screenplay at Sitges 1976. Fruet would carve out a career of memorable Canadian genre works, including Search and Destroy (1979), the Genie-nominated Funeral Home (1980, aka Cries in The Night), the hillbilly horror of Baker County USA (1982, with Henry Silva) and the monster-snake creature feature, Spasms (1983, with Peter Fonda and Oliver Reed); one his most popular works was Killer Party (1986), one of the Canadian sector’s better entries in the ‘sorority slasher’ genre of the day.

George Mihalka (Director)

With only one feature credit to his name (the ribald 1980 teen romp, Pick-up Summer), Hungarian-born George Mihalka was 26 when he was offered a derivative ‘Friday the 13th’-style script by first-time feature writer John Beaird called My Bloody Valentine (trailer, below). Genre house Cinepix recognised a keen horror voice in Mihalka, who delivered a lean, mean slasher thriller that became one of the production company's most profitable properties; Paramount picked it up for US distribution and turned it into the sleeper hit in February ‘81. Mihalka followed …Valentine with the adult comedy Scandale (1982), returning to serial killer territory with Eternal Evil (1985) and a stream of commercial pics in both English and French (Hostile Takeover, 1988; Le chemin de Damas, 1988; The Psychic, 1991). His 1993 satire La Florida earned 8 Genie nominations, winning the Golden Reel award for the highest-grossing Canadian film of the year. His most prestigious work to date was as helmer of the 1995 adaptation of the Len Deighton thriller, Bullet to Beijing, an international co-production starring Michael Caine, Michael Gambon and Mia Sara.

Steven Hoban (Producer)

At the forefront of a new generation of Canadian genre talents, producer Steve Hoban learnt his craft on a series of well-received shorts before bursting into features with director John Fawcett’s critical and commercial hit, Ginger Snaps. Starring Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins as teenagers coping with the onset of lycanthropy, the film scored three Genie nominations, became a legitimate cult hit (it has spawned two sequels) and has been lauded as a rare and insightful genre work that deals with female-centric issues. His close ties with director Vincenzo Natali were forged on the 1996 short Elevated and led to their collaboration on Nothing (2003), Splice (2009), Haunter (2013) and the 2013 television series, Darknet (produced by Hoban's production shingle, Copperheart Entertainment). Hoban tipped his hat to the great Canadian horror films of the 70s when he produced the 2006 remake of Bob Clark’s landmark shocker, Black Christmas. In 2015, Hoban stepped into the director’s chair, helming a segment of his own horror anthology production, A Christmas Horror Story. (Pictured, above; Hoban, left, on the set of A Christmas Horror Story) 

SCREEN-SPACE acknowledges and thanks producer Deke Richards for his contributions to this article.

Xavier Mendik's TAX SHELTER TERRORS screens October 12 as a work-in-progress at the 2017 SITGES Film Festival, October 5-15. Session and ticketing details can be found at the event's official website.

Monday
Aug282017

THE NEGLECTED WORKS OF TOBE HOOPER

Obituary platitudes for the late Tobe Hooper, who passed away in Los Angeles on August 27 at the age of 74, have rightly focussed upon such timeless works as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Salem’s Lot (1979), The Funhouse (1981), Poltergeist (1982) and Lifeforce (1985). 

Yet despite a career plagued by troubled productions and waning industry acceptance, there are rarely mentioned, even openly derided films made by the Texan native that exhibit his consummate craftsmanship and a dedication to the horror genre that never waivered…

EGGSHELLS (1969)
A full 5 years before he unleashed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hooper worked with the core creative team of actor/writer Kim Henkel and actor Allen Danzinger on his trippy, experimental debut. A psychedelic artefact impenetrably of its time, the director (taking a break from his lecturing duties) shot his oddity in his hometown of Austin, utilising in-camera effects work, non-conforming yet precisely framed cinematography and Euro-influenced animated sequences. Often taking a backseat to Hooper’s experimental technique, the narrative follows the intertwined lives of two counter-culture couples facing a new world of adult responsibility; mixing things up is a mute child living in the basement who shares a supernatural bond with an otherworldly force. Hooper calls the thing in the cellar, “a crypto-embryonic hyper-electric presence”; of his debut feature, he says, “It’s a real movie about 1969, kind of verite but with a little push, improvisation mixed with magic. It was about the beginning and end of the subculture.”

EATEN ALIVE (1976)
Hooper’s follow-up to …Massacre saw the director revisiting the ‘hillbilly horror’ genre of his 1974 masterpiece. But gone are the dusty backroads and shrieking machinery, replaced by a bold, giallo-influenced studio set rich in dense colour and a new four-legged killing tool. Just as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre drew upon the exploits of serial killer Ed Gein, Eaten Alive reworks the true life terror of one Joe Ball, aka ‘The Alligator Killer’, a 1930s hotel owner from the deep south who would dispose of those who crossed him by feeding them to his pet ‘gator. In an eccentric lead turn, Neville Brand is terrifying as ‘Judd’; amongst the cast are Marilyn Chambers, Hooper’s discovery from …Massacre and on the verge of her X-rated stardom, and a young Robert Englund. The film is pitched very high – audibly, of course, but also visually, through the use of detailed production design and often garish colour - and did not earn much critical or commercial favour upon its initial release. But Hooper’s flair for the gory ensured a fervent cult following, and it would re-emerge in 2015 with a pristine 2K restoration. The director’s interest in crocodilian demise resurfaced in 2000, with the slightly too-cheesy home vid entry, Crocodile; inherently horrific hotel experiences came around again in his 2004 film, Toolbox Murders.

INVADERS FROM MARS (1986)
Following the blockbuster success of Poltergeist, the late 1980s held immense promise for Hooper. But the expensive demise of his poorly-marketed passion project Lifeforce (1985) and the too-much-of-a-good-thing excesses of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II (1986) put his Hollywood cache on the brink. A lot was riding on his remake of William Cameron Menzies’ 1953 B-classic Invaders from Mars, which had secured Oscar-winner Louise Fletcher (pictured, right), Alien scribe Dan O’Bannon, a then-substantial US$12million budget and a prime early-summer release date. Despite grand scale effects (from Stan Winston and John Dykstra, no less) and a perfectly pitched sense of ironic homage more akin to his contemporary Joe Dante, the critics were merciless and the film tanked. Rattled after a tough 18 months, Hooper sought anonymity in episodic TV work (Amazing Stories; Freddy’s Nightmares; Tales From The Crypt); between 1987 and 1993, he would only make one feature, the underrated but decidedly low-key and barely-seen Brad Dourif vehicle, Spontaneous Combustion.

NIGHT TERRORS (1993)
Hooper re-entered the feature film marketplace with a film that suffered some of the toughest reviews of his career; admittedly, it has some loopy stylistic flourishes, not least of which is Robert Englund’s saucy interpretation of The Marquis de Sade (the old pals reteamed to finer effect two years later, in the Stephen King adaptation The Mangler). Yet Night Terrors is a film that highlighted the director’s increasingly humanistic respect for his female leads, a trait that harkens back to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s tough ‘final girl’, Sally (Marilyn Burns) and was intriguingly evident in the lead character, Amy (Elizabeth Berridge) from his subversive 1983 slasher hit, The Funhouse. In Night Terrors, Genie (Zoe Trilling) must navigate the denizens of the dark streets of Alexandria, Egypt, to evade the allure of a dangerous cult, determined to corrupt her all-American virtue. Genie could have played out as a flatly one-dimensional damsel in distress, but Hooper and his actress imbue her with wisdom beyond her years, sturdy physicality and a mature sexual guile. Re-examining Hooper’s oeuvre with regard to his portrayal of female strength within genre film boundaries shows a filmmaker of considerable intellect and maturity.   

DJINN (2013)
As he turned 70, Tobe Hooper took on a journeyman gig for Middle Eastern financiers Image Nation and Filmworks that explored the ancient legend of the poltergeist-like Djinn; it would be his final film. The director’s command of the technology, natural instinct for composition and storytelling strengths help punch-up a perfunctory story, which owes a healthy dose to Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. Solid scares and, again, a strong female lead (Razane Jammal) make this ideal material for Hooper, who had spent the best part of the decade writing his first novel, Midnight Movie (from which his 2009 short, Destiny Express emerged) and hanging with friend Mick Garris on the set of the TV series Masters Of Horror (where he directed two episodes, ‘The Damned Thing’ and ‘Dance of The Dead’). (Pictured, above; Hooper, centre, with the cast of Djinn).