Joe Bob's Drive-In: Cradle of Fear

By JOE BOB BRIGGS, Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, Texas  |  Jan. 4, 2002 at 2:03 PM
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You have to be one brave compadre to make underground gore films in London, where they actually have laws about that sorta thing, so it's amazing to find a guy like Alex Chandon, who not only makes blood-drenched excruciatingly painful splatterpunk classics in the heart of Merrie Olde England, but does it with such realism that it makes ME sick. And I've seen 9,000 of these babies.

His latest gem is called "Cradle of Fear," a title intended as a tribute to the deathmetal band Cradle of Filth.

The star of the movie, in fact, is a leering ghoulish serial killer with a pasty white face who stalks the alleys of North London, bashing the heads of homeless guys, disemboweling thugs, and feasting on cat intestines (you don't wanna know) while carrying out some mysterious errand for a wack-job Charles Manson look-alike in a Hannibal Lecter mask who lives in the local insane asylum.

The role is played, with Method enthusiasm, by Dani Filth, lead singer for Cradle of Filth.

I can remember when the United Kingdom had a big battle over what they called "video nasties," resulting in the outright banning of titles like "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" for decades. Little did they know that a video terrorist was right there in their midst. There's nothing this guy won't show, and some of his murders are so gruesome and drawn out that I can't even figure out how he did it, just from a purely technical point of view.

Anyhoo, we've got the trolling ghoul, and we've got the lunatic ape man in his cell, and then we've got the hard-bitten police detective who keeps finding body parts all over town, and that bothers him.

Unlike most low-budget independent gore films, this one has an actual plot and halfway decent acting, although it's not clear exactly what's going on until the very last sequence. The best part is the story of an Internet addict who discovers a Web site, "The Sick Room," where he plays a game called "You Are the Murderer." In a high-tech version of "The Most Dangerous Game," he clicks on various choices -- weapon, action, target, level of aggression -- and watches hapless victims in a rubber room get clubbed, hacked and ventilated for sport.

There's a back story about the lunatic's serial-killing career when he was a carnival hypnotist, and there's some strange supernatural overlays in which the victims see deformed zombies and monstrous freaks everywhere they look on the street, and just when you think it's gone in as many directions as it can and the entire cast has died ... there's more.

Satisfies the first rule of great drive-in filmmaking: Anyone can die at any moment. And the second rule: The dead must walk.

Listen to these totals: Nineteen dead bodies. Eight breasts. Bashing. Clubbing. Stomping. Throat-ripping. Exploding heads. Mutant arachnid fetus. Thumb-slicing. Candleholder brain-bashing. Whiskey-bottle eye-gouging. Knife through the cheek. Hammer-and-chisel dental work. Cat mutilation. Multiple zombies (or facsimiles thereof). Automotive homicide. Girlfriend abuse. Face-slashing. Sledgehammer to the legs. Machete leg-hacking. Face-hammering.

Two motor vehicle crashes. Upchuck Jubilee. Arms roll. Legs roll. Heads roll. Fingers roll. Gratuitous coke-sniffing. Gratuitous midget. Roadkill.

Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Emily Bouffante as the pill-loving club girl who takes the wrong man home; Dani Filth, as the sinister, excessively pierced weird beard killer; Louie Brownsell as the one-legged man who decides he wants a live one to attach to his stump; Stuart Laing as the web head with a death habit; Edmund Dehn as the weathered inspector; Rebecca Eden as the small-time-thief-turned-serial-head-basher; and Alex Chandon, the writer, editor and director, for doing things the drive-in way.

Four stars. Joe Bob says check it out.

"Cradle of Fear" Web site:

(To reach Joe Bob, go to or email him at Snail-mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, Texas 75221.)

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