Frenzy

Frenzy, noun: violent mental derangement. 2. wild excitement or agitation; distraction. 3. a bout of wild or agitated activity. Essentially, that’s us when our next book project is due and the publisher wants their manuscript (cheap plug time: Pick up a copy of Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons).

The film of the same name is befitting of its title. Frenzy is a homecoming for the Master of Suspense, and saw Hitchcock’s return to London and the film’s opener, a sweeping, lazy, placid helicopter shot of Tower Bridge and the mighty Thames, is a wonderful tonal setup.

As we land on terra firma, it’s the nasty business of politics that precedes the nasty business of murder: a local city councilor (or possibly an MP) promises to clean up the river…and in the midst of a well-intentioned/well-attended photo-op (journalists + the public) a nude form washes up on the shoreline…the body of a woman…

One of the rabble yells that it’s another “victim of the necktie murderer” and viewers’ minds are immediately sent back to the time of Jack the Ripper, the mysterious Victorian in the top-hat with medical training who terrorized Whitechapel roughly a century prior (for those who are interested, check out our review of Murder by Decree, a flick which features Christopher Plummer hot on the tail of Saucy Jack).

In a nod to the Vigilance Committee leader of  the era, headed by captain of industry George Lusk, the killer here is…Rusk. And in a tribute to Hitch’s father (a grocery man), this film’s set in Covent Gardens.

In a change of pace, here Hitch tips off viewers as to who’s done the dirty deeds. So Frenzy is not a suspense film in the traditional sense. Rather, it’s a depiction of how uber-red herring Blaney, a down-on-his-luck drinker, degenerate gambler and ex-barman, has to clear his name when his estranged missus ends up strangled in her place of business.

Without being strangled by the censors, Hitchcock is able to go all out here, and the influence of violent spectacles like The Last House on the Left no doubt left their mark. The result: more violence and mayhem then we’d seen, but still intact…Hitchcock’s incomparable visual style.

***3/4 (out of 5)

[Check out our discussion of Frenzy on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]

Killing Ground

We as horror fans sometimes fall into the trap (usually it’s a bear trap, thanks to the extreme horror movement of the early millennium, Saw, etc) that it’s necessary to reinvent the wheel. Something like Killing Ground, takes the standard backwoods maniacs prey on city slickers motif, and tweaks it just enough to provide…deliverance.

Hell, there’s a sly nod to the above…in the form of a dog named Banjo.

And speaking of music, we’ve made the blues song analogy prior and it’s worth mentioning here. Within the strictures of three chords, so much is possible to the point where Sweet Home Chicago is sufficiently different from Stormy Monday. And those 12-bar blues classics are different from say, Tracy Chapman’s Give Me One Reason.

So yes, Killing Ground is a lot like other hicksploitation films. It’s got an effete urbanite, his wife, some kids, a locale far removed from help…crappy cell reception…but it’s undeniably well-made.

It’s a great three-chord song.

There are two ex-cons we meet in a crappy bar on New Year’s, and they make their presence felt by sexually harassing the patrons and generally by being unhinged degenerates. They are boar hunters, and are comfortable in the Outback…where they lay eventually go to lay waste to two groups of city folk.

The story is non-linear, something that serves this film well.

The performances are dynamite, especially solipsistic teen Em portrayed by Tiarnie Coupland.

And unlike other survivalist horrors, we’re ever-so-gradually drawn into Killing Ground’s setting (and a beautiful one it is…a meandering stream, and gorgeous mountain vistas). In fact, a good half the film goes by before tension is dialed up, and boy is it EVER dialed up.

Debut Director Damien Power (Sydney by way of Tasmania) gives a great accounting of himself. Killing Ground is highly detail-oriented, from the footsteps in the woods to the rifle aimed at the viewer.

***3/4 (out of 5)