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Plot: supernatural murderer spreads terror in metropolitan Newcastle.

Great Britain has a rich and storied history in horror and cult cinema spanning several decades. In the fifties and sixties Hammer Film dominated the market. Amicus and Tigon came close behind but only flourished when Hammer began ailing in the seventies. Independent producers as Peter Walker and Norman J. Warren went for a sexier, bloodier route updating the horror conventions that the old houses had used so well for the new times. In the late eighties and nineties Nigel Wingrove (from Salvation and later Redemption Films) and Alex Chandon were tipped as the next greats of British horror. What do these two very different men have in common? They both were involved with emerging extreme metal band Cradle Of Filth at one point or another. Wingrove had provided artwork and art direction to the Filth’s “The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh” and “Dusk… and Her Embrace” albums as well as the “V Empire” EP. Wingrove made a name for himself on two seperate occassions. First with his 18-minute short Visions of Ecstasy (1989) that was banned on release on charges of blasphemy and would remain so until 2008 when blasphemy laws were finally repealed. Secondly with his irreverent nunsploitation romp Sacred Flesh (2000). Since forming Redemption Films in 1993 it has specialized in obscure Eurocult and hard-to-find erotica.

Compared to the more cerebral Wingrove, Alex Chandon was cut from a different cloth entirely. Chandon made a name for himself in the micro-budget, shot-on-video school of filmmaking and picked his players coming from various counterculture scenes. He debuted with the 7-minute short Chainsaw Scumfuck (1988), inspired by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Friday the 13th (1980), and from there graduated into the 36-minute long Bad Karma (1991) and the futuristic Drillbit (1992). Before Cradle Of Fear there was the lovably bonkers Pervirella (1997) and four years later Chandon would at long last debut proper with this feature. In 1999 Chandon directed the Cradle Of Filth music video ‘From the Cradle to Enslave’ as well as the home video “PanDaemonAeon” and two years later the videos for ‘Her Ghost in the Fog’ and the Sisters Of Mercy cover ‘No Time to Cry’ plus another home video in the form of “Heavy, Left-Handed and Candid”. That collaboration was extended with Chandon offering Cradle Of Filth frontman Dani Lloyd Davey the starring role in the similarly named Cradle Of Fear with other then-members in cameo parts.

Allegedly an anthology inspired by the Amicus production Asylum (1972) from director Roy Ward Baker, Alex Chandon’s Cradle Of Fear is a showreel for the Creature Effects team who have since become an institution in modern Hollywood. Cradle Of Filth have since the most successful British metal band since Iron Maiden, if Metal Hammer is to be believed. Meanwhile Alex Chandon remains in London and is as much of an obscurity and humble unknown as he has ever been. Cradle Of Fear is, for lack of a better description, an extension and expansion upon Chainsaw Scumfuck (1988), Bad Karma (1991) and Drillbit (1992) - and, sadly, suffers from pretty much the exact same defects as those earlier shorts did. Even by forgiving standards of micro-budget, shot-on-video splatter-horror Cradle Of Fear has little more to offer than a veritable gallery of gratuitous gore and wanton depravity with the absolute thinnest veneer of story.

Roaming the streets of Newcastle upon Tyne is The Man (Dani Lloyd Davey, as Dani Filth) in search of a number of very specific (and other quite random) victims. In a goth nightclub he spots sex kitten Melanie (Emily Booth, as Emily Bouffante) and before long they retreat back his place and the two spent the night together. The day after Emily wakes up back in her apartment, not sure how she got there and what exactly happened to her the night before. She starts to have strange hallucinations walking around town and asks her friend Nikki (Melissa Forti) if she can sleep at her studio. Mel takes a sleeping pill (with more booze, of course) and starts to have stomach cramps and strange belly bulges. Mel has Nikki examine her stomach and the two girls meet their gruesome end as the demon spawn from The Man bursts from Melissa’s belly. First at the crime scene is low-rent and disgraced police inspector Peter Neilson (Edmund Dehn) who immediately feels up the lifeless body of Melissa. Supposedly because he has a supernatural gift of some kind (which is, of course, never mentioned again), but more pressingly because it reminds him of an old case. One he very much would like to forget…

In another part of town small-time crooks Sophie (Rebecca Eden) and Emma (Emma Rice) decide to burglarize the apartment of an old man (Al Stokes). The two bicker back and forth so much that they ignore the obvious fact that the elderly man is still very much at home. The world’s worst prepared robbery goes horribly, terribly awry when Sophie and Emma are attacked by the man defending his property and end up killing him in the fracas. Instead of checking the state of their victim they decide to take a bath on the premises. Once the two have soaped each other up Sophie - apparently the more upwardly mobile of the ditzy dames - turns on Emma and kills her in cold blood. Thinking the spoils of the robbery are hers for the taking Sophie gets her comeuppance from beyond the grave as she’s beset by the reanimated corpses of the studio’s occupant as well as her former partner, neither of whom are prepared to let bygones be bygones. At this point Neilson finds enough circumstantial evidence to link the current spate of homicide to Kemper (David McEwen), a detainee in Fenham Asylum in Kettering, but he has no solid proof to substantiate his findings. His superior officer chief inspector Roper (Barry Lee-Thomas) is none too pleased with his performance and urges him to crack the case.

Nick (Louie Brownsell) has erectile problems ever since losing his leg. His girlfriend Natalie (Eileen Daly) is accomodating to his disability but Nick wants nothing more than to be “a whole man” again. One day he does find a donor. His doctor operates on him and Nick is restored to his former state. Nick and Natalie have never been happier, until one day Nick’s donor leg starts having a mind of its own. The leg kills Nick and Natalie in a violent car crash. Meanwhile Inspector Neilson has taken to Kemper’s cell in Fenham Asylum where he finds a list of all his targets, himself included. Kemper is going after everybody who was behind his conviction and incarceration. Richard (Stuart Laing) works for an internet monitoring company and investigates dubious web content for a living. One night Richard happens upon The Sick Room, a live video service where customers can order custom-made homicide within the room. Richard is apprehensive of The Sick Room but soon is addicted to the sheer depravity of it all. One day he’s not ordering a custom-made murder from the web, but thanks to some intervening from The Man he IS the custom-made murder. It’s revealed that Richard was in fact Neilson’s son. Things come to a head at Fenham Asylum when Neilson confronts Kemper with The Man hiding in plain sight disguised as an armed guard leading to a bloody stand-off. Neilson is able to kill both Kemper and The Man but not without suffering a (very much implied) bloodsoaked, graphic demise himself. To nobody’s surprise, The Man (who has been orchestrating all the carnage up to this point) is Kemper’s son…

While Cradle Of Fear is superior to anything Chandon had done at that point, the writing - or lack thereof - is still the biggest sore point. All of the characters (except maybe Emily Booth and Melissa Forti in the first vignette) are unlikable to say the least. Dani Lloyd Davey’s The Man is so much of an abstract that the last-minute revelation that he’s Kemper’s son begs the question why the relationship wasn’t explored to any degree during the preceding two hours. The Man is central to the plot and there isn't a single motivating factor behind anything he does. He's a harbinger of doom, certainly - but there's nothing to go on. Not a name, or a backstory. Chandon’s screenplay offers the bare minimum in terms of story and what little plot there is exists merely to facilitate a number of gory setpieces in an anthology format. The four vignettes, lest we be remiss to mention, barely seem to have any connection to the main story. The framing story remains unresolved and goes nowhere. At no point during its two-hour runtime does Cradle Of Fear bother to explain why Kemper goes after a goth girl, two small-time crooks, a disabled person, and an internet addict; nor how The Man figures into his masterplan. Neither inspector Neilson nor The Man, the nominal leads in the feature, are given any kind of identifiable character traits, let alone that they undergo any development. Most ancillary characters aren't even named and those that are barely exist for any other reason than to be killed in some far-fetched fashion.

Despite its low-budget nature and grimey aesthetic there a few well-known faces to be found in the cast. Stuart Laing is a regular on British television with roles in Berkeley Square (1998), Cambridge Spies (2003), Holby City (2004-2008), and EastEnders (2006–07). Al Stokes was in the Aphex Twin video ‘Come to Daddy’. Eileen Daly appeared in music videos from Soft Cell and from there out carved a place in low – and micro-budget cinema with Nigel Wingrove’s Sacred Flesh (2000) as a lone highpoint. Emily Booth appeared in Event Horizon (1997), Pervirella (1997), and Sacred Flesh (2000) and was one of the hosts of video game show Bits (2000). One of Booth’s career highlights came with an appearance in the “Don’t” trailer of the Robert Rodriguez-Eli Roth exploitation homage Grindhouse (2007). She worked with Chandon again on Inbred (2011), his first feature in a decade, and a homage to the backwood horror of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977).

Cradle Of Filth fanatics will recognize Emily Booth and Eileen Daly from the ‘From the Cradle to Enslave’ music video and David McEwen (with the voice of Doug Bradley) from the ‘Her Ghost in the Fog’ video. Cradle Of Fear was as much a promotion tool for Alex Chandon as it was for Cradle Of Filth who contributed the instrumentals ‘At Gates Of Midian’ and ‘Creatures That Kissed in Cold Mirrors’ as well as ‘Lord Abortion’ and ‘Danse Macabre’ to the score. Anna Haigh has since become a much in-demand costume graphic – and concept artist in Hollywood. The same goes for Creature Effects who have worked on some of the biggest blockbusters in recent memory. Director Alex Chandon hasn’t produced a feature since Inbred (2011). It's not that Cradle Of Fear was in any short on ideas, but the anthology format didn't permit for any to be developed in any meaningful way. We'd love what could have become of the body horror vignette with Emily Booth, or the Tesis (1996) and 8MM (1999) inspired piece of found footage and torture-porn that the The Sick Room vignette could have been.

Empire Magazine called Cradle Of Fearthe best British gore film since Hellraiser. While there’s certainly an abundance of gore to be found in Cradle Of Fear to put it on the same plain as Hellraiser (1987) is just a tad too hyperbolic to do justice to either. Hellraiser (1987) was a clever and imaginative piece of subtextual horror full of arresting imagery and introduced iconic master villain Pinhead to the world. Cradle Of Fear has slumming actors, buxom babes in the buff, and a slew of unknown non-actors dying overwrought, excessively bloody deaths in a barely coherent screenplay that at no point manages to establish a narrative the way it’s typically understood. At no point does Cradle Of Fear provoke any sense of dread or tension, let alone that it inspires fear of any kind. Certainly there’s plenty of tedium to be had. It’s a farcry from the Victorian finesse of Hammer, the knickers-and-knockers exploitation of Peter Walker and Norman J. Warren and this is the last place to look for a heir apparent to Barbara Steele or Candace Glendenning. If only this was as entertaining as Pete Walker’s proto-slasher The Flesh and Blood Show (1972). Had Cradle Of Fear been half as long, twice as fun and functioned as the special effects showreel and investor prototype it ought to have been, then Alex Chandon would’ve been able to produce the feature this was probably meant to be.

Plot: can Pervirella save Condon from the evil Queen Victoria?

After the fall of the great houses of Hammer, Amicus, and Tigon and with directors-producers as Norman J. Warren and Pete Walker moving out of the filmmaking business British exploitation – and cult cinema seemed destined for obscurity. For a while, at least, that was indeed the case… until 1997. That year two figureheads of counterculture, two masters of fringe cinema joined forces for Perverilla, a vaudevillian throwback of deliberate kitsch and cheese that, for all intents and purposes, was to be a celebration of yesteryear’s celluloid heroes of the preposterous, and the grotesque. Far from a critical – and commercial success upon original release it attained something of a rabid cult following in ensuing decades. In no small part responsible for that following was it being an early outing for two future British television personalities, the last great hurrah for ailing British - and Italian exploitation mainstay David Warbeck, and a showcase for the considerable assets of a young (and often very naked) Emily Booth.

The mad genius behind Pervirella is Josh Collins - a first class honors graduate from Central St. Martins school of Art and Design in London in 1990 - who made a name for himself in British nightlife with his underground cabaret and burlesque club The Frat Shack, RHB Exotic Entertainment as well as his bars in Melbourne and Perth. Collins and his entourage are behind the annual retro music festivals Wild Weekend Festival in the UK and Spain as well as the Las Vegas Grind in Las Vegas, Nevada. With his Zombie Zoo Productions production company Collins conceptualizes, designs, and manufactures everything from sets, costumes, and props for the various live performances of his artist collective. As an avid fan of cult cinema from the sixties to eighties Collins was bound to envision his own deviant feature and with The Perv Parlor (1995) that was indeed what happened. Helming The Perv Parlor (1995) was underground filmmaker Alex Chandon who by then had helmed micro-budget splatter epics as Chainsaw Scumfuck (1988), Bad Karma (1991), and Drillbit (1992). In short, Josh Collins is the embodiment of decadence and excess, and more or less the British equivalent to notorious boob-lovers as Jim Wynorski, Andy Sidaris, or Bill Zebub.

Pervirella was to be Collins’ most ambitious and engrossing production up to that point. A spiritual successor to his The Perv Parlor (1995) filled to the gill with oneiric fantasy images, Victorian Age period costumes, ornately designed candy-colored full-size sets, cartoony miniatures, and model animation. It was to be the scion to everything from School For Sex (1969), Zeta One (1969) and Girl Slaves Of Morgana LeFay (1971) to Flesh Gordon (1974), Marie, the Doll (1976), StarCrash (1979) and Galaxina (1980). Following in the footsteps of Luane Peters, Judy Matheson, Kirsten Lindholm, Yutte Stensgaard, Pippa Steel, and Mary and Madeleine Collinson was 21-year-old Cheshire hottie Emily Booth, a curvaceous cutie with an aversion to clothing. As Pervirella Booth was modeled after Jean-Claude Forest’s Barbarella and the Roger Vadim adaptation from 1968 where female libido is the strongest currency, as well as Modesty Blaise. Collins’ creation had a penchant for dressing in pink just as Hanna-Barbera's Penelope Pitstop from Wacky Races (1968) and there never was a situation where Pervirella couldn’t get out of by flashing her breasts or swinging her ass. Among the many guest stars are Redemption Film muses Eileen Daly, and Rebecca Eden, as well as the controversial, BAFTA award winning Jonathan Ross (BBC’s highest paid star as of 2006) and The Word and Never Mind The Buzzcocks host Mark Lamarr. Early in the production Caroline Munro was to guest star as well, but she left after a few weeks. That Pervirella was a satirical jab at the the Royal House of Windsor is an added bonus. Before America got in on the action with Superstarlet A.D. (2000), there was Pervirella.

In the realm of Condon, evil Queen Victoria (Sexton Ming) has decreed that dissidents – intelligentsia, perverts, and otherwise - are to be rounded up and summarily executed. To that end the Queen orders that a wall be built around Condon establishing her long pined after “Monarchy of Terror”. In the underground dissent and discord with the establishment are rife and soon a rebel alliance is growing in the bowels of the city. The rebels call themselves The Cult of Perv and are presided over by the Demon Nanny (Rebecca Eden). For as long as she has been their ruler the Demon Nanny and her Cult of Perv have indulged themselves in the “Sins of the Depraved”. In her death throes she gives birth to a girl (Anna McMellin) who within seconds grows into a voluptuous babe that the Pervs name Pervirella (Emily Booth, as Emily Bouffante). In Pervirella the Cult see their long prophesied savior and a fellowship is soon formed. Professor Rumphole Pump (Ron Drand), Monty (Shend, as The Shend), Sexton Ming (Anthony Waghorne), and special agent Amicus Reilly (David Warbeck) are to embark on a “Crusade Of Doom” and assist Pervirella in any way they see fit. On their zany globetrotting adventure Pervirella and her fellowship are besieged by agents of the malefic Victoria and a trio of witches. If her journey wasn’t dangerous enough Pervirella has one tiny problem: within her bountiful bosom resides a sex demon and whenever she loses her magic talisman she’s overcome by raging nymphomania and an urge to tear her clothes off; both of which she finds impossible not to indulge…

First and foremost Pervirella aimed to revitalize the British sex comedy by taking it back to its Benny Hill roots. Next to that it’s also a very lively steampunk fantastique that lovingly spoofs Eurospy conventions and that two decades prior would probably have been made in either France or Spain. It looks as if Monty Python, Peter Jackson, Renato Polselli, and Luigi Cozzi went on a bender and in their collective state of inebriation produced a screenplay that defies description. In other words, Pervirella is delightfully insane on about every level. It also happens to be Alex Chandon’s most entertaining feature by a wide margin. Here Chandon merely serves as a conduit to Collins’ vision and most, if not all, of his shortcomings are wholly absent. The candy-colored, circus sideshow, Victorian steampunk production design is a wonder to behold. It took cosplaying (a phenomenom that originally came from early 1980s Japan) and LARPing to a then-unprecendented level and we wouldn’t be surprised if much of its cult following derived from those spheres. Also not unimportant is that Pervirella at no point takes itself seriously and that its primary concern is to have fun, above all else. It’s also a good excuse to see freshfaced 21-year-old Emily Booth cavorting around in what seems like a permanent state of partial undress. Pervirella was the injection that the very British and all but extinct knickers and knockers subgenre needed. In any case, there’s an abundance of both but it never reaches Zeta One (1969) levels of camp. Pervirella even has her own swanky, sexy theme song, just like Barbarella (1968) and Galaxina (1980)!

What to say about Emily Booth (here still calling herself Bouffante) without becoming redundant? For one thing the Bouff debuted simultaneously in Hollywood as well as in British (and, by extent, European) trash cinema. Not only did she play the lead role in a vehicle with her mind, she also made a cameo in Paul W.S. Anderson’s failed sci-fi/horror hybrid Event Horizon (1997). If anything else, it goes to show that a terrible screenplay cannot be salvaged by a swathe of respectable Hollywood actors or a big budget. Event Horizon (1997) was a lot of things, but it wasn’t good by any metric you choose to employ. Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, and Joely Richardson couldn’t save Event Horizon (1997) – so how was the Bouff going to stand a chance? No, Ems did right by focusing her mad energies on Pervirella, which was never going to have any mainstream appeal. To her credit the Bouff was able to parlay her turn in Pervirella into a lucrative television – and modeling career. Just two years later Emily rechristened herself Booth and went on to host Bits (1999–2001), season three of outTHERE (2003), as well being a regular presenter on Eat Cinema (2006) (now My Channel), videoGaiden (2008), and the Horror Channel. In between her television gigs Ems found time to act in Alex Chandon’s Cradle Of Fear (2001) anthology and Inbred (2011), among many others. Not bad at all for a bubbly British lass never afraid to take her top off when and where it mattered.

The other big name was late New Zealand actor David Warbeck, a veteran of nearly 80 films in a career that spanned a quarter of a century, then in his twilight years. Warbeck started out in theater productions, and performed with a small touring company in New Zealand before being awarded the New Zealand Arts Council scholarship in 1965. The scholarship allowed him to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England which he did for four terms. Sources differ whether Warbeck quit or was expelled (he was rumoured to have had an affair with Geraldine McEwan, the wife of Academy principal Hugh Cruttwell) which led him to a modeling career wherein he figured into various print – and television commercials as well as a number of fotoromanzi with Marisa Meil. His modeling engagements quickly led to opportunities in acting and Warbeck’s first role of note was in Trog (1970), the swansong of Hollywood Golden Age leading woman Joan Crawford. From there David was whisked to Italy by spaghetti western specialist Sergio Leone for A Fistful of Dynamite (1971). He returned to England for the Hammer horror Twins Of Evil (1971) from director John Hough and with Mary and Madeleine Collinson. In 1973 he was tipped to play James Bond in Live and Let Die (1973) before producer Albert R. Broccoli vetoed up-and-coming television actor Roger Moore from the spy-action series The Saint (1962-1969) who cut his teeth for the role as suave Simon Templeman.

In the years that followed Warbeck alternated between horror and action-adventure working for directors Lucio Fulci and Antonio Marghereti on The Last Hunter (1980), The Beyond (1981), Hunters Of the Golden Cobra (1982), and The Ark Of the Sun God (1984). Before Pervirella Warbeck’s last notable effort was Rat Man (1988) with Nelson de la Rosa. Warbeck famously shared the screen with everybody from Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner, Anthony Quinn, James Coburn, Jack Palance and Peter Cushing to embattled Italian exploitation babes as Janet Ågren, Laura Trotter, Tisa Farrow, Catriona MacColl, and Cinzia Monreale. While doing Pervirella Warbeck was under investigation for running a brothel out of his restored high Victorian gothic Hampstead palazzo, a colossus built by associates of Sir George Gilbert Scott at the time of the construction of St Pancras station. It was custodian to a miniature salon theatre that witnessed performances from Gilbert and Sullivan, George Grossmith and Ellen Terry.

That Pervirella is acquired taste almost goes without saying and it definitely isn’t for everybody. It’s intentionally kitschy in every aspect and the pastel – and cotton candy production design is enoug to send anyone away screaming. Yet there’s something strangely appealing about a steampunk pastiche that closely mirrors Flesh Gordon (1974) in terms of plot but is completely its own beast otherwise. It wouldn’t be until some twenty years later that Josh Collins took to directing his second feature with the equally irreverent and satirical Fags In the Fast Lane (2017). In the two decades after Pervirella Alex Chandon went on to produce a number of music videos for British extreme metal band Cradle Of Filth which culminated in the band featuring in his proper debut Cradle Of Fear (2001). While Cradle Of Filth exploded into the mainstream (at least in metal terms) and have carved out a very… er, interesting career path for themselves Chandon remained a humble unknown. Chandon’s most recent feature is the suprisingly entertaining Inbred (2011) and the short film compilation Shortcuts to Hell: Volume 1 (2013). Perhaps it’s unfortunate that the Pervirella universe was never expanded or explored with a sequel. Or perhaps not, as Pervirella draws as much strength from not having been tainted by sequelitis. Only one question that remains: who will replace Emily Booth as Britain's n° 1 bra-busting cult babe?