Cannibal Holocaust 2: The Beginning (Bruno Mattei, 2004)


Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980) is one of the most divisive films in the history of horror. The lurid mixture of sensational screen violence and real life animal cruelty creates a pungent masterpiece that is both reprehensible and astonishing, disturbing and fascinating.

Almost 25 years later, we finally got the long awaited sequel, Mondo Cannibal aka Cannibal Holocaust: The Beginning.  It’s directed by Bruno Mattei, the Italian schlockmeister that gave us Rats: Night of Terror and Hell of the Living Dead. Was it worth the wait?



No it most certainly was not.


Cannibal Holocaust 2 is shot on a consumer level camcorder and plays out like your most nightmarish home video fantasies come to dreadful, gasping life. It shamelessly cribs the plot and entire scenes from the original, but only after carefully excising any semblance of power, wit or intelligence from them.

What it does offer, however, are some of the greatest facial expressions ever captured on tape. But first, a warning from our lead character, Grace –

‘What you are about to see, will, I imagine, send you out of your minds.’

You have been warned.




Guys, these three frame grabs are from the first two minutes. The reason for their repulsion is that a native woman is having her intestines pulled out of her through her breasts(?). Don’t even ask how that works – anatomy is not Mattei’s strong point.

Sadly, neither is filmmaking. Despite nominally operating in the same Found Footage milieu as Deodato’s film, Mattei can’t even commit to that film’s two camera set up, constantly cutting to shots that couldn’t possible be being filmed by the camera operators.

But that, my friends, is the least of the films problems.

We are quickly introduced to our protagonist, Grace Forsyte, who has the longest arms I’ve ever seen on a person.


We know Grace is a badass, because as she walks the streets of Hong Kong, limp porno-sax plays out over a Casio drum beat. She soon discovers that her tv show has been temporarily suspended.

‘Temporarily suspended? What the hell is that supposed to mean?’ she demands. Erm, do I really need to explain it to you, Grace?


Grace is furious with the ‘powers’ from ‘administration’, and calls them every name in the book, and even some that aren’t in the book, because she just made them up.

‘Senile filthy assholes! A bunch of snot fanciers! A decrepit bunch of shit holes!’

Snot fanciers???

Soon, she meets up with Bob Manson and ‘the old squad’, a motley collection of halfwits who always look like they’re posing for their bands first album cover.


Don’t believe me? There’s more…


You see, in a pathetic concession to topicality and the ideas of the original, Grace is told that the war in Iraq has awakened a bloodlust in the public that must be satisfied. Therefore, Grace and her merry band of idiots head out to try and find proof of the existence of cannibalism.

It’s a dangerous mission, but luckily there is still time for some topless sunbathing.


Grace continues to demonstrate her way with wicked one liners, my favourite being, ‘Hope doth spring eternal, you bastard.’ I’d like to get that on a shirt. Later, when they find their first evidence of cannibalism, she says, ‘All our stomachs are jumping like palsied butterflies.

That one I don’t need on a shirt, thanks very much.

Along the way we get some stock footage that also turned up in Mattei’s Hell of the Living Dead and also, with crushing inevitability, the real life animal violence that seems to go hand in hand with this frequently loathsome genre. It seems even more bizarre and depressing coming from a film shot only a few years ago in 2004, and isn’t able to use the tired defence of ‘oh, but it happened so long ago! Things were different back then.’


Luckily, Grace soon gets us back on track by getting in a catfight with her camerawoman, causing them to roll around in the dirt while the men stand around laughing, as men do.


But goofball moments like this are becoming few and far between, and the ugly image and painful dubbing are starting to take their toll. I need some action. I need some excitement. I need…Grace grabbing a cannibal in a headlock and wrestling her to the ground! I need…Grace kneeing a cannibal in the head! Love her or hate her (I hate her), you have to admit that Grace consistently delivers. I can understand why she is ‘the host of thousands of successful programs.’

Wait…thousands? That’s a lot of programs.


After that highlight, the film plays out like Cannibal Holocaust’s devastating climax minus the devastation, wimping out on all the extreme violence and horrifying imagery. Apparently it’s okay to slice open a lizard on camera, but chopping a fake dick off is just bad taste and has to happen offscreen.


It all ends in the most extraordinary, inexplicable fashion. The old squad is dead, but the tv execs decide not to inform the public of their deaths. Instead, one of them explains that, ‘Avant garde virtual techniques will enable the audience to find them.’ Sorry, did I say explain?

It’s an appalling film that will be hated by anyone who liked the original, and equally hated by anyone who didn’t like the original.

But let’s end on a high. Here’s another topless sunbather along with the most outrageous mangling of a well known phrase in the history of language.

‘Hey, remember what they say about pigs claiming to be able to fly?

You look up long enough and you’ll get pig shit on your face too.’

Words to live by, guys. Words to live by.


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Horror Holidays and Movie Locations

I love visiting horror movie locations, guys.

There’s just something about walking in the footsteps of Dario Argento, Jess Franco etc that I get a real kick out of.

It all started innocently enough. My now-fianceé Heather and I were going on our first holiday together and had decided on Spain for a few days. We wanted somewhere nice and quiet to relax, and so chose a delightful little coastal town called Calpe, located just far enough away from Benidorm.

And that was where it all started.

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The Peñon de Ifach, a giant slab of limestone rising out of the sea. It’s the main tourist attraction of Calpe (and also the most dangerous – I tripped and nearly plummeted to my death), but I knew it from somewhere different.

Jess Franco’s Bloody Moon.


The Peñon de Ifach actually crops up in several Franco films, including Attack of the Robots (1966) and Eugenie (1980).


But that wasn’t even the best. Because after a bit more research, we discovered Calpe was the home to the architecture of Ricardo Bofill.

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Yeah, if you’ve ever seen Franco’s She Killed In Ecstasy, this building will be instantly recognisable.

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40 years later and nothing has really changed, apart from a fence put up for health and safety.

Right opposite is another iconic building featured in several Franco flicks.

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It was quite a feeling to imagine I was standing in the exact place that Uncle Jess must have stood with his camera. And it wasn’t over yet!

On our last day, we had to fly back home from Alicante, home to the Castle of Santa Barbara, where Franco shot several of his more gothic films, such as Count Dracula and Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein!

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The next year, we decided to go on a short break in February down to the English Peak District. We booked a lovely wee cottage in a village called Castleton. I remembered that one of my favourite zombie films, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, had been shot around the Peak District (not the Lake District, as the film seems to imply.)

I did not expect to discover that Castleton was where much of the film was actually shot!


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A 15 minute drive away was Hathersage, where the film’s first major zombie action was shot outside the church.

The sign outside was a dead giveaway that we had arrived.


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The sign is a bit splintered at the bottom, but otherwise intact after 40 years.

We looked for the big cross tombstone to get our bearings.


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And there it was. Sadly, the entrance to the cellar was padlocked, so we never got to meet Guthrie and his friends.

Not far from here was also Thor’s Cave, a magnificent cavern that you may remember from Ken Russell’s Lair of the White Worm.

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In 2015, Heather and I headed on a mini tour around Europe, taking in Munich, Lucerne, Venice and Rome, on the trail of Dario Argento.

First up was Munich, where we quickly tracked down the location of the extraordinary opening double murder of Suspiria.

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We tried to get to the plaza where the blind man has his throat ripped out, but it was being refurbished or something.

Regardless, we moved on to Switzerland, where we didn’t find any locations, but we did get engaged, and then on to Venice, where naturally we recreated the famous ending of Don’t Look Now.

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Yes, we brought the red raincoat specifically for this photo.

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Lastly, Rome. The main one here is the Piazza Mincio, where some of the action in Inferno took place.


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This is a good time to mention that my poor fianceé Heather doesn’t actually like horror movies! Though I did persuade her to sit through Living Dead at Manchester Morgue and Bloody Moon, she had never seen any Dario Argento films…until that evening in Rome, when we got back to the hotel, switched on the telly and there it was…

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Dario’s Deep Red, in unsubtitled Italian. The perfect end to a holiday!

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Rings and the sad state of studio horror

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Rings, the latest US entry in the Ring franchise, made me wonder why I even bother going to see modern studio horror films anymore.

Sadly, I’m not joking.

It’s not even as if Rings is a terrible movie, because it’s not. It’s totally competent in every conventional sense. It is professionally made by, y’know, professionals, and it money has definitely been spent on it.

It’s just so utterly soulless, so devoid of freshness and originality and ideas, so bland and homogenised that halfway through you’ve forgotten what film you’re even watching.

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It didn’t have to be this way.

I listened to an interview with the director, F. Javier Gutierrez on the Shock Waves podcast and he spoke passionately about his attempt to marry his ‘extreme ideas’ with the studio’s wish for a mainstream movie with young, attractive stars.

Javier, I believe the studio won this particular battle.

There are glimpses at the start of what could have been. An opening scare on a plane, almost entirely unrelated to the rest of the movie, suggests an over the top rollercoaster ride of multiple Sadakos (damn, I mean Samaras) emerging from every built-in tv screen, but doesn’t actually go there.

Then, we discover a scientist (well, a biology teacher) who has set up a large scale experiment to study Sadako (Aaaargh, Samara, whatever). A line is dropped about Samara (nailed it!) getting angry about being messed around with, and all sorts of possibilities as to where this story could go are still racing through my mind when the thread is unceremoniously forgotten about to focus on a virtual remake of the original, but with added young-people-in-their-underwear.

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And so follows a plodding retread of The Ring, tiresomely trudging from one tedious expository sequence to the next. The once-fresh scares of the Japanese original are now so hackneyed, the filmmakers don’t even bother with them, instead setting up a human villain who falls totally flat.

I almost never walk out of movies (Dogma and Air Force One are still the only two), but after checking my watch and seeing the minutes crawl by for the umpteenth time, I strongly considered it. But I stuck with it, hoping my perseverance would be rewarded with a batshit crazy conclusion, an amusing twist, anything. But the climax, when it finally limps around, is the old ‘put-the-villain’s-bones-to-rest’ idea, as fresh as Samara’s corpse at the bottom of that well.

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It’s a tedious, impotent misfire of a movie, a braindead, pandering, charmless slog aimed only at the lowest common denominator. Luckily for the studios, us horror fans are so committed, we will go and see anything.

But no more.

I’ve had enough.

I’ve had enough of sequels, of franchises, of remakes, of prequels, or remaquels, of reimaginings.

I’ve had enough of films where nothing is truly bad enough to be entertaining, but nothing is good either. I’d call it Fifty Shades of Gore, if these films had the balls to go harder than PG-13.

Frankly, I’ve had enough of studio horror.

It’s no surprise that the only great horror films of the last few years have been from just outside the mainstream, where gifted directors have been allowed to follow their own paths and put their obsessions up onscreen unexpurgated. Starry Eyes, It Follows, The Devil’s Rejects, Maniac, all films that push boundaries, that defy convention and often logic, films that stick with you.

It Follows is a great example, coming under fire from, of all people, Quentin Tarantino for not following it’s own ‘rules’. I’m sorry, but who the fuck wants rules? I’d take the strange and unsettling twists and turns of It Follows over the rigorously dry formalism of Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, which devotes it’s entire last act to explaining, in detail, something that never even needed explaining. And the man supposedly loves Fulci’s The Beyond, a film that revels in it’s own nonsensical nature and emerges triumphant as one of the great surrealist horror masterpieces.

Guys, I’ve just had an image of Fulci ramming Tarantino’s head back onto a nail and his eye popping out. Let’s take a breath to enjoy that for a moment.

I think I remember seeing an interview with that most unfairly loathed of directors, the incomparable Jess Franco, where he spoke about how we need more amateurishness in movies. Now I admit I may have dreamt this – my dreams are so boring it’s entirely possible. But regardless, it’s a great quote that perfectly sums up what I look for in a movie these days. People can laugh at Franco’s films, and deride them for not being slick and professional, but they’re missing the point.

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Because what we’re seeing is unique, a one-off vision from a one of a kind man, an idiosyncratic auteurist making deeply personal films. So what if the dubbing isn’t always great, or some shots are out of focus? So what if he has the actors move slowly because they couldn’t shoot slo-mo? So what, so what, so what. There’s a beauty and a poetry alive in his films, a personality, a stunning audio-visual synthesis. The same goes for directors like Jean Rollin, Andy Milligan, Sergio Martino et al, filmmakers whose work is recognisably their own and all the better for it.

What I think I’m saying is this; we need more idiosyncratic horror films. Now I know they’re still getting made outside the mainstream, but why can the two no longer exist hand in hand like they once did? The Exorcist, The Omen, The Shining, all studio films by serious directors. But they don’t all need to be classics like those, just give me something that isn’t bland teens being menaced by bland PG-13 ghosts to a bland soundtrack.

It can still happen.

There’s one studio that is bucking the trend, even if they’re not one of the majors.


Blumhouse Films gives it’s directors a small enough budget to allow to them to have some degree of creative control, and while it’s not always successful, it has given us entertaining and memorable fright flicks like Insidious, The Conjuring, Sinister, Oculus and The Visit.

Compare, for example, Blumhouse’s surprisingly okay Facebook horror Unfriended with the DOA studio version Friend Request, which featured the usual CGI insects. crappy girl ghosts, false jump scares and dream sequences.

What other studio would release a horror film that actually stops for five minutes to allow the lead actor to sing an Elvis song to two children, in a deeply moving scene that tells us more about the characters than a thousand expository scenes? That’s The Conjuring 2, by the way.

Having said all that, you know as well as I do that we’ll still go and see the next dumb studio horror that comes out. Why? Because that’s what we, as horror fans, do.

We trawl through the shit. Sometimes the stench gets too much and we emerge gasping for air. Other times we just vomit. But sometimes…yeah, sometimes…we find that diamond. That one film that reignites our passion for horror, for the fantastic and macabre.

And that film makes it all worthwhile again.

Happy hunting guys.

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Labyrinth by Eric Mackenzie-Lamb (1980)

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Nope. Not really, anyway.

Labyrinth is difficult, because I liked it quite a bit, but it also lied to me. It promised me a gruesome lurking nightmare, something ‘even more sinister than grisly human remains’. It promised a ‘terrifying secret’. It delivered on none of this.

And yet…it’s pretty good!

It’s horror in as much as Deliverance is a horror tale. There’s a killer on the loose, who we meet in the first 40 pages or so, making a mockery of another of the books claims (’til at last the crazed killer is revealed!’), as well as a professor hiding out in a swamp from a false rape claim. There’s also the mystery of some lost Mexican money, and an opening flashback that is utterly pointless. There’s ALSO some to-do about immigrant workers, and some nonsense about an old poacher who exists solely to act as a ridiculous deus ex machina…

So yeah, despite not really being much of a horror, it’s a fairly effective thriller in parts. With the exception of one scene, it chugs along quite nicely. The scene in question follows the rules of pulp horror, whereby an ‘expert’ in something has to stop the book dead in it’s tracks with a terribly boring explanation. Childmare had it’s dreaded ‘facts about lead’ sequence, while Labyrinth goes one better with the question –


Oh god, you just know the next 5 pages are going to be eminently skippable.

Anyway, all the totally disparate storylines somehow come together in the last 50  pages or so, and it all kicks off with some vicious action culminating in a chase through the swamp.

Like I said, it’s a fun read, but I do wish it hadn’t been mis-sold as a supernatural tale of unrelenting horror. That’s just setting me up for disappointment!

WHAT BORIS THOUGHT: Boris was too busy marvelling that paperback books, only 35 years ago, cost £1.25. Now THAT is scary.

OVERALL: 3 paws out of 5

THIS EDITION: Hamlyn Books, 1980

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Bad Science 80s Horror Double Bill



Hell of the Living Dead aka Zombie Creeping Flesh (1980, Bruno Mattei)

What’s this? An Italian zombie movie you say? Well, sign me right up, I love those. Zombi, Demons, The Beyond, they’re all great. Pardon? It’s directed by who? Bruno Mattei? Oh fuck off then.

Just fuck right off.


Easily the lamest of the Dawn of the Dead rip-offs, this laughable, cack-handed garbage has eluded me for years, and I wish it had continued to do so. Scientists working at the comically named Hope Centre accidentally unleash a gas that brings the dead to life…WITH TERRIFYING CONSEQUENCES.


It begins with a pair of eggheads deep in the kind of scientific debate that is impenetrable to us normal folk.

“She may not know much about chemistry, but she knows what to do in bed.”

“I’m not surprised, that cute little ass.”

“Ha, I’m more of a tit man myself.” 

Jeez guys, can it with the scientific mumbo jumbo already!


We then meet our heroes in a direct lift from Dawn of the Dead, where a SWAT team is laying siege to a building. These guys are the best of the best, the toughest of the tough, the kind of elite, crack squad of bad-asses you only find in 80s Italian action movies.


Crikey, it looks like Dario Argento’s buff older brother (Let’s call him Mario Argento) and Woody Allen.

Here’s a great shot of our unflappable boys in action. The guy on the left seems to be having a stroke and Mario really should be looking where he’s shooting.


Inexplicably, we next find our lads driving through the jungles of Papa New Guinea, where they meet a reporter and her cameraman.


The reporter, Lia, is a handy addition to the squad. Upon encountering a small village of natives, she does what any of us would do and strips off, wearing only a thong made from leaves. Thank goodness she remembered to pack that!


There then follows a twenty – TWENTY- minute sequence that is comprised almost entirely of stock footage, including animals being gutted and what appears to be a real life human corpse.

That’s some way to suck the fun out of your stupid little movie, Bruno.

Once the stock footage ends, our heroes find themselves beset by more zombies and a massacre ensues, with their bullets mostly hitting innocent villagers.

Luckily, there’s an old jungle saying –

If lost in the jungle, just drive in a straight line. Eventually, 

you will come to a children’s play area in an Italian park.


Wow, it’s true!

Did I mention that the score is just Goblin’s music recycled from Dawn of the Dead and Contamination?


At one point, the heroine says –

“It’s terrible…those poor people can’t possibly understand what’s going on.”

Could she be talking about us?


From Beyond (1986, Stuart Gordon)

Ah From Beyond, the curiously unloved follow up to Re-Animator. Shot the year after that film by much of the same cast and crew, in many ways From Beyond is a better film, though I’ve always had a preference for horror played straight over horror comedy.


As you can see from the banks of computers and the grey sweater/brown corduroy combo, Jeffrey Combs plays a scientist who unlocks the gateway to an unseen dimension that co-exists with ours…WITH TERRIFYING CONSEQUENCES.


While lacking much of the humour of Re-Animator, From Beyond succeeds on mood and an atmosphere of utter dread, along with the expected slimy gross-out monsters and Barbara Crampton’s boobs.


It also features Dawn of the Dead’s Ken Foree, sporting a slick brown leather jacket and white turtleneck, instantly becoming my 2017 style icon.


Curiously, despite all the heads-being-twisted-off and women in S&M gear, it’s one of the truest onscreen representations of HP Lovecraft’s work I’ve ever seen.

I’m sure he would have hated it, though.

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Faceless (1987, Jess Franco)


Faceless (1987, Jess Franco)

Ah, Christmas. The season of goodwill, peace on earth, and diabolical Nazi doctors performing human face transplants.

It can mean but one thing – it’s a Jess Franco Christmas movie.

Okay, so it’s barely a Christmas movie, but look here –


No, not at the boobs, to the left – a Christmas tree! They do reference the season of bankruptcy and consumerism a few times, and it all ends with a jolly soiree on New Years Eve, so I am officially declaring Faceless a Christmas film, alongside Home Alone and Muppet Christmas Carol.


Faceless is another of Franco’s remakes of the French horror classic Eyes Without a Face, a film he first, ummm, adapted in 1962, as The Awful Dr Orloff. 25 years later and he’s at it again, even featuring a cameo from Orloff, played by the same actor, good old Howard Vernon.


Faceless is that most rare and precious of commodities – Uncle Jess working with a big budget and real actors. Franco haters can breathe a sigh of relief (or perhaps disbelief), as Franco rises to the challenge and delivers a professional, well made movie that also features all his trademarks and obsessions.


The lead role sadly falls to the worst actor in the cast, Christopher (son of Robert) Mitchum, a man so wooden he can’t even smile like a real person.


What the fuck is that even meant to be?


Crikey, even the corpse is more convincing. Luckily, the film is stolen at every turn by the wonderful Brigitte Lahaie, former porn actress and Jean Rollin muse.


Whether stabbing a needle into someone’s eye, seducing a famous actress into a three-way or running a respectable health clinic, Brigitte is always on hand to grab Faceless by the collar and drag it out of the doldrums, should the need arise.


There’s enough gore and yes, even story here to satisfy non-Franco fans. So in the spirit of giving, here’s my Christmas gift to you all – a hearty recommendation of Faceless.

What, you want more? No problem. Here’s the theme tune, which plays at least once every ten minutes.

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.

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2016 Horror Catch Up pt 2


Yoga Hosers (2016, Kevin Smith)

If Tusk tried your patience, then prepare yourself the forced wackiness of Kevin (Clerks, Chasing Amy) Smith’s desperate Yoga Hosers.

Smith’s own daughter stars alongside Johnny Depp’s daughter as two bored millennials who find themselves under attack from – big sigh – Nazi sausages.


It’s a cataclysmic shitstorm of feeble gags and Canadian stereotypes (drinking game – take a shot everytime someone says ABOOT or EH until you die from liver poisoning) that is only just made bearable by the likeable teen leads, who thankfully have not inherited the overbearing smugness of their fathers.


The whole thing ends with the girls, along with Johnny Depp covered in prosthetic warts, fighting a giant sausage hockey player in a 60s Batman parody while a punk rock version of Knick Knack Paddy Whack plays.

Come back Tusk, all is forgiven!


The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016, André Øvredal)

Maybe if we all close our eyes and wish real hard, we can forget about Kevin Smith and enjoy Norwegian director André Øvredal’s English language follow-up to Trollhunter, The Autopsy of Jane Doe.


There’s high suspense and body horror hi-jinx aplenty in this simple, contained story about a father and son performing an autopsy…THAT GOES HORRIBLY AWRY. Oh come on, like you thought it was going to go well.


To say anymore would be to spoil the surprises in store. Let’s just say that next time you hear the tinkling of a tiny bell, you’re gonna break out in a cold sweat.



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