Copycat 1995 ***

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While US cinema in the 80’s bought into the slasher genre with enthusiasm, it was slow to imitate the giallo style of Italian films of the 1970’s. Jon “The Singing Detective” Amiel helmed this 1995 film that featured Holly Hunter as tough cop MJ Monahan, and Sigourney Weaver gave one of her best performances as Helen Hudson, an agoraphobic who finds herself threatened by a serial killer whose work mimics famous murders from the past. Copycat rises to some nasty killings, but also has a empathetic view of its female characters, and the investigation is kept serious enough to rise above the exploitation genre. Support from Harry Connick Jr and Will Patton.

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The Mean Season 1975 ***

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Kurt Russell plays Malcolm Anderson a prickly reporter who becomes a conduit between a manipulative murderer known as the Numbers Killer in Phillip Borsos’s tight little Miami-set thriller. Andy Garcia is amongst the cops who gather round Anderson’s desk as he fields the calls, but when the killer homes in on the reporter’s girlfriend, played by Mariel Hemingway, the cat and mouse game becomes personal. The Mean Season’s title refers to a tropical storm, and there’[s plenty of sweaty moodiness from the leads, married to a sensibly handled plot. Borsos pushes a little too hard to shoehorn action in, with a scene in which Russell jumps across a highway bridge stretching credulity, but The Mean Season stands up as a decent entry in the serial killer genre.

Triangle 2009 ****

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Director Chris Smith has been an up and coming figure for some time, and he raised his game considerably with the complex time-shifting narrative of Triangle. Melissa George plays Jess, who sets out on a yachting trip only to dramatically capsize and then come upon a ghost ship. The crew explore the empty vessel, but it soon becomes apparent that they’re being picked off one-by-one. Who or what are picking them off is the film’s central mystery, but Smith admirably teases the narrative through a series of deft pirouettes, delivering some nightmarish imagery as he goes along. Triangle was a cult success, but it’s an accessible and intelligent film that deserves a wider audience, not least for Gilbert’s excellent performance.

Rollercoaster 1977 ***

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The always worthwhile George Segal provides a strong centre to this delightfully cheesy 1977 disaster movie, in which a mad bomber (Timothy Bottoms) leads the authorities in a merry dance with a series of radio-controlled explosions in amusement parks across the US. The authorities, in the form of Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda, are stumped, but Segal’s chain-smoking detective Harry Calder is quick off the mark in reading the situation and tracking the killer down. Rollercoaster peaks far too early with gruesome carnage as a packed rollercoaster smashes into an unsuspecting crowd, but there’s plenty of minor pleasures in the police procedural that follows. Helen Hunt plays Calder’s teenage daughter, and James Goldstone directs methodically.

God Told Me To 1978 ***

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Larry Cohen’s prolific reign as an ideas-driven maverick lead such quirky fare as It’s Alive, Q The Winged Serpent and Phone Booth,  but few of his films attain the messianic zeal of God Told Me To, a detective thriller than reaches the sordid heights of David Fincher’s Se7en, but has an off-kilter energy of its own. When New Yorkers starts spraying each other with bullets, notably Taxi’s Andy Kaufman as a policeman in a parade, cop Tony Lo Bianco discovers that all the killers claim to have heard the voice of God telling them to kill. The investigation gets about as murky as can be,  and the final lurch into horror is the coup de grace in a film packed with subversive notions and frightening conceits, well above usual genre standards.