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Cradle Of Fear (2001)
Director: Alex Chandon

review by Christopher Geary

"What the fuck have I done to deserve this?" exclaims dogged Detective Inspector Neilson (Edmund Dehn), when he arrives at the scene of... yet another... murder. After two hours of this film's uneven narrative style, cringe-worthy performances from inexcusably bad actors in underwritten roles, and variable effects (oh, heavy sigh), your reviewer was asking himself the same question.

A nameless leery gent (Dani Filth) stalks the night streets, routinely crushing the skulls (see empty heads torn open like papier-m�ch�) or ripping out throats (hear neck tendons snap just like knickers elastic) when random thugs chase him. Goth club sexpot Melissa (Emily Bouffante, alias of Emily Booth), gets more than the fetish romp she bargained for when she picks up an observably mute one-night-stand who impregnates her with demon seed - resulting in her giving premature birth to a hatchling spider-baby... in a magnificent fury of splatter effects. Two bad girls on a nocturnal breaking and entering jape awaken one deaf old geezer, who provokes them so much that they take his life - along with his life's savings, but their scrawny victim just won't stay dead, so the bloodletting continues way past everyone's bedtime. Down at the local Fenham asylum (note: that's a lockup place for the criminally insane, not crooked immigrants!), a crazy-eyed inmate smuggles instructive messages out his copycat disciples who ensure the extremely violent killing spree continues, leaving the murder squad officers both clueless and powerless. Natalie (Eileen Daly, Razor Blade Smile) loves her one-legged man, but he manages to buy an illegal transplant operation and soon he's up for dancing again. Now if only there wasn't a tragic price to left pay for regaining the limb. 'The Sick Room' is a website for the dangerous visions of snuff video and, better still for drooling pervert Richard (Stuart Laing) just fired from his IT job, it's fully interactive at $1,000+ per attack on helpless prisoners. It could be very risky for the addicted Richard, though, when he goes in desperate search of the cyber-sadist dungeon's real-world origin...

Alex Chandon's horror anthology is a tribute to all those twist-in-the-tale movies from Hammer and Amicus, etc. as favoured by generations of late 20th century gore-hounds. Shot on digital video, using atmospheric North London locations, Cradle Of Fear is centred on the reprehensible Kemper (the late David McEwen), a former stage-hypnotist, convicted murderer and cannibal of children. Kemper's decades-long record of obscene crimes are, of course, simply too gross for actual depiction in screen entertainment. Instead of even suggesting such critically indefensible material, Chandon's thoroughly exploitative shocker gives us the fresh terrors committed by those under Kemper's direct influence, or the actions of unwitting followers in his footsteps. There are gratuitous puke scenes, a rape sequence that (in calculating and cynical fashion) is strobe-lit into obscurity, a maniac who guts an obviously-stuffed cat and then slurps down a tray of its entrails, some splendid CGI work (outstanding in brief hallucinatory moments) unfortunately offset by other digital effects that are terribly shoddy by comparison (a car crash is the most obvious example), lots of grisly special makeup, including probably the least convincing leg amputation ever seen on film.

As usual with this kind of film, the framing story attempts to trump all else that's gone before it, and the overall emphasis marks out its morally repugnant territory of blatantly pre-emptive rough-and-ready poetic justice for sundry killers, repeat-offenders, and sinners alike. My objection to this is not because Cradle Of Fear is necessarily a 'bad' film. It will certainly hit the panic buttons of squeamish prudes, and Chandon delivers most of the astutely timed shocks with manic glee. The big problem is that his sort of horror is not scary at all. Mostly, Cradle Of Fear is only cheesy genre rubbish with no subtext (besides its regrettably bland moralising) or subtlety. Splashing gallons of the red stuff about is typically more enjoyable when there's a strong element of humour, but filmmaker Chandon fails to recognise the importance of comedy in lowbrow horror.
Cradle of Fear

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