Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Review - ODD THOMAS (2013)



A short-order cook who has the ability to communicate with the dead and has clairvoyant powers, seeks to thwart tragedy as dark forces gather in his hometown...

Its been a hearty long while since I read the first of Dean Koontz's beloved series of books about the titular Odd, a simple, small-town guy who works as a fry-cook, lives humbly, and also happens to see dead people and a whole lot more besides.

My memory of the novel is a strong one. I remember it being both a lighthearted supernatural jaunt and also a surprisingly affecting one. So much so, that I distinctly recall shedding tears at the books close. the details of the plot are far less hi-def in my imagination than the emotional resonance the book had with me, so it'll be up to far better, less frazzled men than me to compare and contrast between the original literary piece and this troubled adaptation. Instead, I'll review this curious genre-masher on its own merits.

I say 'troubled' as its no secret that ODD THOMAS has become embroiled in some sort of legal limbo and may never actually see a cinematic release. The details are hazy at present as to by Stephen Sommers, (THE MUMMY), latest offering has been held at arms length from the public, but it sure as hell isn't down to quality control. This is a very enjoyable, fast paced and eminently lovable work. 


The first big surprise is that its director, Sommers, isn't exactly known for the integrity of his cinematic output. His films are often fun, but he seems a strange choice to adapt a beloved work of literature. Amazingly, he does wonders here, creating an off-kilter, warm and welcoming reality in which the characters of the novel are given free reign to run amok, and what characters they are...

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Review - Haunter (2013)



HAUNTER is a strange little enigma of a film...

Starring young Abigail Breslin, ( ZOMBIELAND), its the tale of a deceased young lady who attempts to reach out to the mortal realm in a bid to save the owners of the home she haunts from suffering a similar fate as her own.

Its a film that deems to transcend its genre trapping by way of being a thoughtful, and thought-provoking puzzle-piece, and at the same time, aims to be a universally accessible ghost story/mystery, (boasting a PG13 certificate, no less), that anyone can settle into with relative ease.

 It saddens me to say, as a fan of Vincent Natali's previous works, (CUBE, GINGER SNAPS), that HAUNTER fails almost completely at the former and falls victim of the weakness' inherent in the latter.

Guest Editorial - Bad Places to Hide When Killers Come Home - Adrian Rawlings

Bad Places to Hide When Killers Come Home


Beyond the nightmarish yesteryears of werewolf transformations and hypnotic vampires is the true horror – the kind that finds its way into our homes. They say that home is where the heart is – it's where we feel safest from all the horrors of the outside world, but it's also where we're the most vulnerable. And the most effective horror movies demonstrate this. The horror-themed TV shows and movies of today know just how to hit us where we live, showing us that nowhere is safe when death comes knocking. Even Alfred Hitchcock himself once said "TV has brought murder back into the home where it belongs."

Indeed, truer words were never spoken regarding the effectiveness of horror on the home front, but have you ever wondered just what you'd do in such a (hopefully) hypothetical situation? Have you ever watched Jason or Leatherface chasing down their prey and scoffed at how poorly the victims hid themselves? We can learn a lot from these movies and, below, are some hiding places you should avoid if a killer ever decides to make a house call:

Monday, 30 September 2013

Horror Double Bill - CURSE OF CHUCKY (2013) and DARK TOUCH (2013)

It occurred to me recently that I've been treating horror cinema rather harshly of late. Our relationship has never lost that fire, but I've sorta been cheating on the genres cinematic output and focusing my attention far more on the literary side of things. I've been exploring a whole host of new authors, and re-reading some of the greats, and in doing so, I've partially abandoned the wondrous world of film for a time.

Not cool.

Well, its finally our favorite time of year - the fall, and with that comes that old familiar burning desire to vegetate on the sofa with endless buckets of popcorn, and give the better half a reason to dump our sorry, macabre-centric asses and find a more mentally balanced partner. 

I like to believe that for every leave that falls in the autumn, a horror fan somewhere on our crazy planet downs a cold one in honor of Jason, Micheal, Chucky, Freddy, Leatherface et all. Its a good time to be alive, man. And with the change in weather, I've found my second wind...

Yep, I've been watching a shit-ton of dark cinema this past week, and while it ain't all been a skip through a daisy field, there have been some pretty high watermarks to vanquish the bitter memory of the low.

But look, we're all busy here, so I'll cut to the chase...

Time ain't on my side of late, and it pains me to not get the word out about the movies I see, so I thought I'd try a different technique.

The reviews will be shorter than my usual, but hopefully concise, and maybe even point you in the direction of some movies you may have overlooked, or that may have been unfairly treated at the hands of the mainstream critics out there. Any suggestions are welcome, of course, kids.

So, no more foreplay...lets get on the bed.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Review : The Conjuring (2013)





Well hello again! 

The Horror Hotel is re-open for business. 

The perils of a new job, a new lifestyle, and taking a kicking from an 'as-yet-unspecified' illness, have led me to distance myself from the world of horror for a spell. I've been reading horror literature like a beast, (take a bow, Bryan Smith),  but I haven't really been grooving on the genres cinematic output. Too much going on, as it were. A mind unsettled makes for a poor companion in the cinema stalls...

That all changed when, out of the blue, I learned about a new horror film; (a ghost story to be precise), centered around the famous paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, (they of Amityville notoriety). A movie based on what they personally felt was their most disturbing case, and one kept under wraps until very recently, (and I won't divulge any details here). How could I resist? I love a good paranormal tale, even though by daylight I'm as skeptical and logical about such matters as can be; there's just something inherently terrifying on a primal level about a well-told spook story that never fails to freeze me blood and cut my imagination loose. As a rule, I always watch ghost stories alone, in the dark, with the shadows creeping around my shoulders for maximum effect as, (and all you horror aficionados will agree, I'm sure), it gets very hard to find effectively scary material out there. The more you watch and are exposed to; the less you tend to morph into a squealing little bitch.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Review : Maniac (2013)



Remakes don't half get a bum deal when it comes to the horror genre.

Its understandable seeing as so many of them hurl headfirst into the grand chasm of mediocrity; be it Platinum Dunes and their relentless cash-grab knock-offs of classics such as NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, or the nightmarish teen-centric likes of the PG13 PROM NIGHT.
 Its easy to forget that many are far superior to their originals, and some of them even transcend the genre to become cinematic classics in their own right, ( THE THING, THE FLY).

After a long hiatus in the land of the living, I decided to return my most beloved genre with a risky prospect...A film of which I knew little and for which I cared even less. The Elijah Wood starring, MANIAC.

Boy, am I glad I did. This film knocked it out of the park in every way imaginable, and will most certainly find its place among the hallowed few I mentioned previously. It's not only far superior to the source material, (while sticking close to it), but its something of a modern horror masterpiece in its own right. Easily the finest genre film of the year and right up there with the best of the decade, but I digress.

For those unaware, or who have yet to be subjected to the original, MANIAC tells the heartwarming tale of a mans descent into bloody lunacy, via a penchant for re-imagining the women in his life, (or at least whom he imagines to be in his life to some degree), as perfect representations of feminine grace, beauty and companionship. A noble sentiment, sure, but our hero Frankie has taken objectifying women to some rather extreme conclusions. Namely, he scalps them, dresses up mannequins in their likeness and lives with them, as lovers, even as the rot sets in.

Its not a tale for the faint of heart. The original is notorious for its unflinching depiction of violence to women, and its as gory as all hell. While a remake starring such a big name as Mr Frodo himself seems like a recipe for certain disaster, MANIAC 2013 goes right for the throat with merciless abandon from the offset. Its as unforgiving and unapologetic as any horror film I can think of. A bleak and tortured journey into a very particular madness that feels utterly authentic and jarringly painful. This is extreme horror in the vein of the French New Wave of terror cinema, (INSIDE, MARTYRS), and is sure to ruffle just as many, if not more, feathers, among those who experience it.

 Its no secret that Lucky McKee and Jack Ketchum's THE WOMAN was a crowd-killer of the highest order, mainly due its perceived exploitation of females. Of course, any thinking viewer could easily see that it was quite the opposite...a damning portrayal of masculine insecurity and the burning need to control the goddess' among us. MANIAC follows a similarly dark path, though this time the musings are focused on one mans psyche, past trauma's, and inability to reconcile his need for love and companionship with his urge to feel secure within his relationships. If THE WOMAN was a mirror on my fellow males own bullshit machismo, MANIAC is a daunting look into the very centre of what makes us tick. The need for understanding. The desire to hold onto those we love or believe ourselves to love, and the inherent neediness that drags modern man to his knees in a world of strong, driven women. Its a hard watch, but a worthwhile one for both guys and gals alike. Of course, not all of us go to the extremes that poor Frankie does, but that's besides the point. If cinemas great virtue is to elevate and/or exaggerate the human condition to bring us closer to some sort of understanding of ourselves, then MANIAC can only be perceived as a resounding success. It may share certain themes and ideologies with other classics, TAXI DRIVER and PEEPING TOM appear to be huge influences), but it blazes its own hellish trail with artful, thoughtful relish. Every single moment of the film is shot, edited, acted and sound-tracked to perfection to create a world that's hauntingly real.

The first thing that becomes apparent is that MANIAC is, brilliantly, shot almost entirely through the eyes of Frankie himself. All we see is through Frankie's eyes, both physical and psychological. It serves to completely immerse us in his twisted world. We share his anxiety, his delusions, his nightmares, self-repulsion and yes, his violent means to quiet his demons.

Seeing the world through Frankie's eyes is a damn painful experience, in more ways than one.

Thanks in huge part to Elijah Woods incredible turn as the traumatised, tortured killer, we not only bare witness to all his vicious externalisations of his rage and fear, we come to feel like we're waling in his shoes. We see his dark fantasies in real time as they unfold. We come to understand how they control him and cut any chance at a normal life off at the knees. Frankie is far from a cut-and-paste villain; he's a monster created solely of circumstance, and one who fights constantly to lay his demons down. We come to care about him, even  as we share in his sickening actions. Its as unpleasant as any cinematic journey I can remember, but is never less than mesmerising.

We only see Elijah, the actor, under two circumstances, and both are very smart choices. When Frankie looks in a mirror, those huge open-heart-surgery eyes of Elijah's convey intense despair and horror, while underpinning the desperate isolation that dwells within him. Secondly, and even more telling, we occasionally see the world outwith his perception, and when we do, its during his most cathartic moments....while he kills. As the camera fluidly leaves Frankie's eyes, we come to see him outside his own body as he commits his grisly crimes. The impression is that of Frankie leaving his body, and his mind/prison, in those moments of release. Its the only times he's free, and by association, is the only time we are also set free.

The whole concept works brilliantly, bypassing gimmickry and heading straight into the hallowed halls bona-fide arthouse. It's no co-incidence that this film is directed by a Frenchman.

Also of note, and equelly important is the soundtrack. Its aboslutly stunning, recalling era of the video nasty with its driven synth mantras, while sounding completely modern. Its a beautiful, haunting score that actually makes the film bearable, while complimenting is inherent tragedy. The last soundtrack to kiss visuals so passionatly and deeply, for me at least, was LOST IN TRANSLATION.

By contrasting such brutal imagery with such lush soundscapes, the film paints a very vivid, very engrossing picture of life inside a severly damaged brain, but it doesnt stop there. Whereas the original is known for its filth and grime, MANIAC 2013 juxtaposes the sleaze, dirt and decay with clean, smooth and fresh visuals. We come to see the city as an extension of Frankie, both scum-ridded and capable of beauty. Again, very clever. I'm not sure what city the tale is supposed to take place in, but perhaps its every city. Every fucked up concrete behemoth that's equal parts gutters and glamour. (For more city-ridden horror cinema, both good and bad, check out Horror Films In Las Vegas, folks)

MANIAC caught me completly off my game. Its sickeningly violent in a way few films can ever hope to reach, its almost pronographic in its detail to not only the ugliness of the world but its beauty too. Art that pushes boundaries is always welcome in my dojo, and MANIAC takes us all the way into the dank, creeping corridors of ruined childhoods, lost souls and seriously, seriously fucked up mental illness. It aint called MANIAC for nothing. This is the real deal. Its a hypnotic, techically dazzling film that scrapes away at your soul and leaves you drained, sore and satisfied. This one will stay with you for a very long time.

10 Living Dolls out of 10

Friday, 15 March 2013

Guest Review - Molly MariDawn Lampth : The Selling (2011)

Hi folks. Hotel management here.

As some of you may be aware, and many others surely are not, Ive been hard at work on creating my own horror fiction for some time now. Being the lazy bastard that I am, and never one to work any harder than is absolutely necessary, its taken up a great deal of my time, (I'm a far slower writer than most, though I like to delude myself into believing of time being a 'sacrifice on the alter of quality').

Ive recently been sending forth samples of my fictional work to all and sundry and have been very grateful to receive some very positive responses, (and no few accusations of being a demented, pervert - not least of all by my own dear mother!), and have put my own work at the forefront of all my unsavoury endeavours for the time being.

Anyway, some publishers have shown significant interest in my work, and Ive been offered a contract to produce a number of novels, with the deadline for the first being this coming June. In the tiny, precious moments of sobriety, Ive been writing, editing and sweating my ass off to get my work complete. While nothing has yet been signed by myself, the offer is on the table, but for now, my mission is to use this deadline to get my first work complete, so that should I chose to accept the contract, I'm all set to begin a fruitful and professional business partnership. This has comprised of a healthy diet of staring into space, pondering how many ways you can dissect the human body, and drinking copious amounts of scotch while wearing a smoking jacket.

I kid, though my mostly intentional alcohol problem and my constant pandering to the author stereotype has led to the Hotel becoming somewhat run-down and lacking in content. There are still some nice rooms here though - our torture chambers are second to none, and the cellar houses some very gifted 'Beasts' who will happily pleasure our guests, males and female alike - and I have brought on-board some trusted, well-mannered and able employees to help keep this thing flowing. I'll still be reviewing, and will continue my tirade against all things undeserving of the title, 'Horror', while celebrating all the wonderful things that do our genre proud, when I can. A fresh Horror Hotel Cinema piece will be going up tomorrow and I have a new section of 'True Life Horror' on the way this week for the particularly dark-hearted among you. Also, I'll drop up some less detailed, 'pocket reviews' from day to day to help inform on what I've been watching and how I felt about it.

In the meantime, my dear friend and fellow horror geek, Molly MariDawn Lampth has provided us with the first of many guest reviews, that will vary in size and style. The film she has so kindly reviewed has managed to slip past me unnoticed till now, so I myself am looking forward to checking it out. The review is short and sweet, like Molly herself, so please have a read. It sounds like fun.

Take it away, Mol....

THE SELLING (2011)


A too-honest-for-his-own good real estate agent has to sell a haunted house before its all too real ghostly inhabitants ruin his life.

I was fortunate to watch The Selling, talk about funny campy and just plain fun for a horror film. I loved Barry Bostwicks part in the film. He was nicely convincing in his small role in this fun as horror film. They cast the movie perfectly. I had no trouble with any of this film once I took it in the right context and gave up the idea of being scared. What a lark. I love haunted houses and have many real life experiences of them. Some spirits are actually funny to hang with and cause little to no mischief. I am very glad I have never experienced a haunting like the one portrayed here. To be possessed with evil is not something to mess with. I am trying hard not to give anything away but the way this all ended was delightfully unexpected. Please be sure to watch even the credits or more fun and surprises.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Double Review : The Walking Dead - Season 3 - Episodes 11 and 12

Here be spoilers. Enter of your own free-will.

I AIN'T A JUDAS


After the tension and terror of last weeks finale, you'd be forgiven for thinking that we;d be hurtling straight ahead into the war between Rik and Phil, but not so. That vicious little play by The Gov was nothing more than a prelude to a bloody, feral kiss. And like all kisses worthwhile...its the waiting that really makes it worthwhile.

This weeks episode trades action and horror for character and nostalgia, as we slow down, catch our breath, and spend some time with our gang. Its an almost action-free zone, but only if you consider excellent set-up, character interactions that sizzle, and a re-union of long lost buddies to be lacking in action. Not to mention, we finally learn the whereabouts of Tyreese and his chums, and its quite a shocker.

The main focus of I AIN'T A JUDAS, is in fact, Andrea. Now before this gets your titties in a twist, it should be stated that for the most part, she merely acts as a conduit for the coming events. Like most of the season, she remains frustratingly indecisive, but whereas before now, many have saw her lack of horror at Phil's actions as baffling...now its taking on a different tone, and one that altogether more satisfying, and interesting.

First of all, I should say that I have little problem with Andrea. She hasn't been clued into what we, the audience, know about Woodbury, and yes, shes made some fucking stupid choices but I'd bet my bottom dollar many of us would make the same choices. After a year on the road, starving and, well, dying...I;d be more than willing to overlook a head-aquarium if it meant I could get some fucking sleep, a decent meal, and even a chance to get laid. Phil's a pretty convincing guy, and when you look at the whole situation through her eyes, its an easy spell to fall under.

All that's changed now, as she finally learns just how cruel, devious and downright fucking murderously crazy this guy really is..and from her old friends no less...

Although its far from a happy re-union. Its a very enjoyable one, as we get to see the group through Andrea's eyes. After all, last time she saw these folk they were rellatively well-rounded individuals hanging out on a farm. Now they're all sorts of fucked up. Not to mention, Rik treats her like a stranger, and she's lost the trust of most of the group, but the mission they give her is the meat on the bone here. In short, they give her a sharp blade and a few ideas about how to handle the Phillip situation. Carol in particular shines in these scenes, as we grasp just how damn tough and no-nonsense shes become, Again though, its the dilemma that really hits. In short...kill the fucker in his sleep and lets all move on with life.


Now, we soon come to learn that while some part of her desires to do it, she cant go through with it. Its a pretty tantalising moment, as Andrea is no longer living n the dark. Shes fully aware of whats at stake...the lives, the violence, (hell, even the kids may die, as The Gov is now recruiting his very own Hitler Youth), and yet she still cant do it. Some will view this as typical Andrea nonsense, but I think it gives new dimensions to her character...

Does she love him? Is she gong to stand by his side, no matter what? Knowing what she knows, will she take up arms against her previous group?

Shes finally been afforded a bona-fide moral dilemma, and I'm invested in her more than at any previous time since season one.

Other moments of not this week are the brilliant scene between Hershell and Merle, where we get to watch these two accomplished actors eat up the scenery with their performances. Its also a helluva lot of fun having Merle in the group, and his humanity, what little there is of it, is peeking through the curtains. The situation that Tyreese's group find themselves in is a neat one too, and will pat off some way down the line when the choice comes on whether to raise arms against Rik, (who could blame them), or learn the truth about Woodbury, (not quite as likely). No doubt the two assholes in his group will join up with The Gov, but Tyreese? Who can say?

For zombie-addicts, there is very little on display this week, though there are two things worth mentioning...theres a scene where Andrea takes a leaf about Michonnes book and 'de-claws' a zombie, (yep...that;s what I'm calling it), that is as brutal and gruesome as anything the shows offered up. Also, theres a really subtle addition of zombies in the distance in nearly every scene which really heightens the atmosphere and the sense that any conversation or interaction must be quick, as the shambling dead are ever vigilant. Its a clever choice and I hope we see a lot more of it in the future.

I AIN'T A JUDAS is a crossover episode, but its one that's deceptively full of new information. Its a prefect set-up for whats to come, and it sets the stage for some clever moral dilemma's as our groups play this life and death game of 'musical chairs'.

Oh, and the dressing down of Rik, by not only Hershell but by his own son, too? Brilliant. Emotional conflict is every bit as important in THE WALKING DEAD as is chaos and action. Another great episode in an arguably flawless season.

CLEAR

Episode twelve comes as a complete surprise in that it eschews the main story altogether for a more nuanced, even-paced snippet of life in the land of the dead. Arriving under the multi-faceted title, CLEAR, is an full-tilt example of THE WALKING DEAD at its very best. In many ways its the shows most resonant and powerful episode since the pilot. Content, atmosphere, depth and character all take precedent here; and coupled with some of the best writing the show has ever boasted and a striking performance from the mighty Lennie James, this very well may be the shows high-water mark thus far.


True, its potency would be lessened without the context in which we view it, but after three long years of watching Rik's unending journey into a darker world, its bittersweet and deeply sad to return to where it all began, and to have a light shone on just how damaging this world has become to the psyche's of those left to rot, while still breathing. It also stands as a brilliant reminder of what Andrea must have experiences last week. For us, the audience, this is our first trip back to visit Duane. And like Andrea viewed the group...with fresh eyes and no idea what hell has transpired...so do we view our old pal.

CLEAR works as a stand alone episode, (or would make a particularly excellent double-bill with the pilot), in that it leaves behind most of the characters we know and love/hate, and focuses solely on the trio of Rik, Carl and Michonne. Of course, the return of Duane is a powerful development, but this is less his story than it is a singular story detailing just how far the apocalypse has pushed Rik out there. Daune acts a particularly crazy mirror, and helps us better understand Rik's ongoing transformation, (and just where he may end up if he's not careful). But this episodes bulk is all about understanding Rik, and how he's come to interact with those around him.

In taking the enigmatic Michonne along for the ride, CLEAR manages to breath new life into her one-note character. Within the stories runtime, we get to see a side of her thats been well and truly hidden until now. I would say its long overdue, but in truth, the thawing of her heart towards these people is all teh more powerful, and uplifting, because of the time its taken. I never thought I'd use the word 'uplifting' to describe THE WALKING DEAD, but there are glimmers of light in this episode that whisper to us that all is not yet lost for Rik. Every bit as importantly, the same can b said for both Carl and Michonne. No one hear is untouched by the horrors they endure. Yet the shows underlying theme of unity really comes to the fore here, and its god-damned refreshing to feel a little sun on your face when all is so dark.

Between this episode and the previous chapter, the story has slowed from its breakneck pace to give way to some very unexpected nostalgia. A sort of nostalgia that is bot thrilling for the viewer yet unquestionably painful as we see how things have changed for these people. And two of the characters most in need of some real substance have been given the upgrade.

Michonne has rooted herself firmly in my fave characters now. As what once appeared to be lack of depth is turning out to be the exact opposite. She and Rik have real chemistry, as does she and Carl, (who continues to impress as an ever-evolving bad-ass-with-a-heart), and its easy to view the three of them as a perfect tough-as-nails nuclear family for the zombie age.

The set design in also impeccable in CLEAR, with Duane's domain looking like a survivalists wet dream meshed with a padded cell. Theres a real post-apocalyptic vibe going on there that really sells the idea of this once picturesque town going all to shit. And as I mentioned earlier, Lennie James is just fantastic as Duane. We're given a vivid interpretation of a man pushed way over the edge, and the scene between he and Rik as he described just how his boy went out, and expresses some home truths about the world they inhabit, would be the episodes highlight, were it not for its finale.

We open with a hitchhiker, and one whom our trio steadfastly refuse to acknowledge. Its cold, its disheartening, but its realistic and in keeping with tone. As we see him disappear in their rear-view mirror, the scene feels complete, but in a somewhat genius move...the episode ends with our gang making the journey back. Not only do we have a grin-inducing scene that hints at redemption for our heroes, but not ten seconds later, we learn the fate of the hitchhiker. The poor bastards been slaughtered. Our characters don't miss a beat...no emotion is betrayed. This in itself would be perfect, but in the final shot we see their vehicle reverse, as they stop to retrieve his backpack. Its cold, blackly funny, simple and brilliantly evocative of where we're going with these guys. With no words, it says a great deal, and very quickly knocks the warmth from our hearts, or at the very least dims the flames.

So, we've had an episode that reflects the calm before the coming storm, (and sets things up nicely with heroes on all damn sides), and an episode that actually knocks the quality of the whole damn thing up several notches. This has been the quiet before the cacophony. And in a season that has rarely paused for breath, its been a well-judged move on the creators. I AIN'T A JUDAS has finally given Andrea something vital to do, and set up some allegiances that i don't think anyone saw coming, and CLEAR....well, CLEAR is just fucking perfection. This season just keeps getting better and better. The stakes are incredibly high now, and everyone's potentially on the slab. With only four episodes to go...the end is coming, and its gonna get messy.

And did anyone else notice that sheet in Morgan;s lair that said, 'Not Shitting you' on one side, and on the side with the bloody axe, said, 'Told you'? That was just fucking awesome...

No score required, as always.


Authors Note : Its been brought to my attention that this episode was written by the new Showrunner He also wrote some of season 2's standout episodes, including EIGHT MILES OUT, (another semi-standalone tale), and PRETTY MUCH DEAD ALREADY....this bodes pretty damn well for next season, despite my loyalty to Glen Mazzara's vision.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Review : The Walking Dead - Season 3 Episode 10 - Home

The long-awaited, ( a whole two months!), return of The Greatest Thing To Ever Happen In Horror Television, came and went last week in an episode that divided the critics and fans alike. Other than its nerve-shredding opening, the episode boasted a markedly slower pace than what we've come to expect this season. After the relentless action that characterised the mid-season finale; many fans expected a full-throttle showdown between our two leaders...an eight-episode blitzkrieg as it were. Of course, that was never gonna be the case. We're only just beginning the climb toward what will surely be an explosive and satisfying showdown between our two groups. First, there are things that need doing, folks...

That's not to say that this season hasn't had its moments of reflection. Its had many...Maggie and Hershells scene as the daughter awaits the fathers death comes to mind as a shatteringly powerful scene. Or how about Rik and Lori's final conversation, when it felt to all of us that perhaps there was hope for Rik, (and even Lori), to find themselves amid the losses, ( a moment that's impact only deepened as we learnt what would come next). How about Rik's first time holding his daughter, or Daryl and Carols platonic yet deeply affecting relationship, expressed through humour amidst horror, and flirtation amidst devastation? Its been a season that's found a perfect balance of plot and, and has continuously found new ways in which to portray these characters continual growth/deterioration in this environment they've been thrust into. Last weeks THE SUICIDE KING chose to take a breather...let us gather our wits and get a chance to see where our two groups were at. Glen had some brilliant and startling scenes, and it became clear that Phillip has wandered all the way off the ranch with death number two, of his daughter. Not to mention Rik has lost each and every one of his marbles...

Some saw it as an unwelcome return to season 2's ponderous pacing, others such as myself saw it as a much-needed lull in the action to regain composure. Its been heralded as the seasons worst episode, but from a storytelling standpoint, its difficult to see why. We KNOW a storm is coming, we KNOW there will be inevitable losses, and its in the anticipation of these events that the episode found its strengths.

If last weeks episode was less 'fast' than it was 'furious', in dealing with characters mental turmoil and rage through the medium of words, then HOME comes at the material with a whole different perspective. THE WALKING DEAD is arguably at its very best when it forces our characters to make decisions on the spur of the moment. In a show like the mesmerising BREAKING BAD, its all about he dialogue, but with a show set in a desperate post-apocalyptic hell-world, character growth often has a far stronger impact when its told through actions, and not words.

And with that said, you can rest easy, my attention deficit disordered detractor friends, for this weeks HOME is a straight-ahead return to the kind of relentless horror and action that Mazzara has poured into this season. It boasts two of the best action sequences in the shows history, and both serve the story as effectively as any scene of dialogue.


HOME concerns itself with a number of plot strands...on one hand, we have 'The Daryl and Merle Show', wherein our two favourite rednecks wander the undead woods, trading insults and hunting for anything that ain't rotting yet. These scenes are an absolute treat for those of us looking for more insight into who these two men are. The scenes may be brief, but are well-written and brilliantly performed, and they really do bring home just how far Daryl has come as a human being and as a man since he left his abusive brothers side. In one scene, we have what seems a throwaway line of dialogue where Merle ridicules his brothers sense of direction, only to see later, via a sight gag, that Daryl is by far the better woodsman, yet never feels the need or desire to say so. Theres also a really touching scene when Daryl removes his top to reveal a torn up and scarred back, and Merle, for the first time, realises the extent to which his brother suffered at their fathers hands. Its a small scene in a big story, but its one of the best the show has ever given us. Not only does it help identify Merle as an actual human-being, but it expertly draws on our love for Daryl, and gives a wordless insight into his past that says more than any dialogue could. I think after this scene, and taking Daryl in all context from his past to his present, (and what appears to be his future as a bona-fide leader), its safe to say that he's my favourite character on the show. I fucking love this guy. The plot strand between the two brothers ends with a fantastic action scene taking place on a bridge in which Daryl selflessly throws himself into danger to save others, as Merle watches from the sidelines trying to work out just what the fuck his sibling is doing helping these strangers. Its mostly dialogue-free, but it gives us all we need to know about the divide between these two men, while bringing all the carnage and zombie goodness we've come to expect from the show. Oh, and it manages to give us one of the best kills of the entire season, (the car boot moment...you know the one!)

'The Daryl and Merle Show' may wrap up too quickly for most, (hell...I'd happily watch an entire season of these two cats, although they do have their own video game in the pipeline!), but theres other places to be, and things to see...

We have the fallout in Woodbury after the 'terrorist attack', as we watch Phillip's wily manipulation of Andrea continue. She may come across as about as far-sighted as Ray Charles, but in many ways its understandable why she hasn't ran like hell from this guy. Sure he has a nifty collection of undead heads, and kept his dead daughter in a cage for periodic hugs and kisses, but he runs a pretty tight ship. And just when she's starting to think perhaps this fucker is a tyrant, he does a one-eighty and hands the towns leadership over to her...quelling her doubts in the process (at least for the time being). He's a smart one, that crazy bastard...

And speaking of crazy, Rik has gone over the rainbow. Any thoughts that last weeks horrifying finale was a mere blip on our leaders radar is soon put to bed, as Rik spends almost the entire episode running around the woods outside the prison, endangering both himself and his group, while he searches for Lori, and redemption. These scenes, in lesser hands, could have come off as unintentionally funny, but we have a lot invested in this guy, and the scenes are very affecting, in no small part to the welcome return of a haunting melody, (or requiem), that debuted way back in the pilot. Theres a wonderful scene between wise old Hershell and crazy Rik, that really ground the whole thing, as Rik confesses to his hallucinations, while acknowledging that his mental condition is less than perfect. Now we're into the home stretch, its become one the this seasons greatest most tantalising themes...two deeply unhinged mad-men duking it out for supremacy, with a whole town and all our beloved survivors caught in teh crossfire. Things are going to get very bloody, very quickly, and where these two guys are gonna go is anybodys guess. Im personally hoping we see Phillip, (and Rik, who I fear is not long for this world), both make it to season 4. Characters this rich would be much missed, and if teh Shane/Rik dilemma was worthy of two seasons, surely Phillip and Rik;s conflict deserves room to breath. Heres hoping. For now though, one thing is for sure, there will be blood, and we get our first taste of it in the episodes climax.

In what may well be the best directed, and most tense scene the show has ever put forward, rivalling the zombie horde on the highway and Rik's tank adventure in the pilot episode, Phillip makes his first move, and its a shocker...

Not least of all the way this mini-siege arrives..

Yep, just as we were all warming to Axel, and Coral was looking at finally getting laid, the poor guy takes a bullet to the brain, as Woodburys finest declare war on the prison, and all hell breaks loose. Its sad to see Axel go, but its one hell of a shocker, and a real 'jump out of the seat' moment. Before we know whats hit us, theres a gunfight kicking off in which it truly feels like no one is safe. I thought Glen was a dead man. And my beloved Hershell came damn close to biting the bucket as well. So did Rik, for that matter, as he's once again saved from certain death by good old Daryl. Its a strangely realistic gun battle we're treated to here, as no one really manages to shoot anyone for quite some time, other than my boy Axel, who's shot about a hundred fucking times as Coral hides underneath the poor fuckers body. Its a hugely intense battle, and with the surprise arrival of a truck full of zombies, delivered like some rotting Trojan horse into the prison, things only get more gripping. THE WALKING DEAD has always held firm to the belief that no character is safe, and its a position that really pays off in these sort of scenes. You really have no idea who's going down, or how bad they'll go out. As a statement of intent, it shows just how far The Governor is willing to go, and gives us yet another glimpse into just what floats this guys boat. He's having a fucking great time. Violence runs through this guys veins, and if this is merely his opening salvo, god only knows what he's got planned for our group.

The episode ends with a close up of Rik's face, which tells us all we need to know about where he's going. His eyes a burning with rage and hatred. The guy has lost his wife, his mate and half his group. And as if this world isn't hellish enough to struggle though, now he's got this fucking mad-dog biting at his heels!? Hell no.

HOME is perhaps one of the most balanced and suspenseful episode's we've yet seen, and it serves as one hell of an introduction as to where this ship is headed. With only six episodes to go, things are going to go straight to hell pretty soon. In the meantime, it'll be great to see how Merle interacts with the group, not to mention the fate of Tyrese's motley crew since they wisely fled from crazy Rik last episode.

Ah, the possibilities....damn I love this show!

One thing though...who the hell was that ninja driving the zombie truck?!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Horror Hotel Cinema - Hammer's 'The Phantom of the Opera' (1962)



Forget your Gerard Butler musical nonsense and your slightly dodgy Dario Argento slasher from the late 80's, (no, not TERROR AT THE OPERA, which I adore....the other one, with that fucker from WARLOCK), this top notch little production from the studio that dripped blood, is a feast for the eyes, the ears and, well, maybe not the brain, but who gives a shit..its Hammer.

That means gloriously over the top music, performances that scream brilliance and set design that never betrays the tiny budgets these horror classics were made on. It look sumptuous, as do the vast majority of Hammer's output, and its filmed in seriously glorious Technicolour. This one may be considered a lesser entry in the Hammer canon, not least of all because its sadly bereft of Cushing and /or Lee, but alongside Cheney's take on the classic character, this is perhaps the best of the batch. There are busty babes, lavish period atmosphere and a creepy-as-hell 'Phantom', so bin your girlfriends sappy lovey-dovey musical, and take a trip to Technicolour town with one of Hammer's timeless cinematic endeavours...and fuck Gerard Butler.

Enjoy...


Monday, 11 February 2013

Review : The Walking Dead - Season 3 Episode 9 - The Suicide King



It's been a long bleak winter, man...I'm amazed we survived it.

Watching the mid-season finale was a double-edged sword for all of us, wasn't it? Sure it was every bit as awesome as we hoped it would be, and it left us hanging on the wire in a most merciless manner, but damn...Soon as the episode ended, (well, perhaps a few hours later), and the heart started pumping at a rate less concurrent to fatality, we all felt the inevitable post high come-down, and what a fall it was.

As good old 'Ned Stark of Westeros' would say....'Brace yourself....winter is coming'

As Christmas and its merry corporate sponsors circled the waggon's to relieve us of our hard earned cash, buying bullshit we couldn't afford for our kids who didn't deserve it...we waited...

As relatives long lost (usually for good reason), arose from the murk of the past to drink all our most expensive booze and eat all our overcooked and undervalued food...we waited...

As Nicky Minaj's unfathomable fame continued on its gruesome ascent, unabated...we waited.

And then came the real kicker, as the stupefying news reached the net that show-runner, Glen Mazzara, (the man who dragged our favourite series up by the scruff of its neck, slapped it about, and made it the vicious, unrelenting beast it was always meant to be), was to be replaced in Season 4, and AMC  shattered much of the goodwill and yes, positive feedback, garnered by a man who truly cared about his work and the show he was running. Still, beaten and bloodied...we waited....

Yet, as good old 'Kyle Scott of The Horror Hotel' would say, 'Calm yourselves....the spring is coming'

Finally, and after so much heartache, alcohol poisoning and drug-addiction, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The universe has decided to throw us a frickin' bone, and make Sundays a day to rejoice in the glory of all that is good once more...THE WALKING DEAD IS BACK!

Yep, put down your suicide kit and throw away the dirty needles...you won;t be needing them anymore. The stellar Season 3 of the most visceral, unnerving and downright brilliant horror series of all time is once again with us. And I think I speak for all of us when I say, its been far, far too long.

Welcome back, old friend, welcome back....

SPOILERS AHEAD - IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED YET, GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!

Or should I say, 'friends', because that's what picking back up with 'The Suicide King' feels like...a long overdue reunion, albeit one seeped in misery and violence. We've all grown to love these characters, and under Mazzara's tutelage, there's not one member of Rik's group who's expendable. The loss is felt every time we see one go, and its to Mazzara's credit that his merciless pursuit of the perfect TV thriller has suffered so many casualties. No one is safe.

Episode 9 kicks off in whats now the shows default setting...'hit the fucking ground running'. Its an action-packed, heart in the mouth scene that picks up right where the mid-season finale left us so tortuously hanging...Daryl and Merle are about to square off....

The scene is indicative of what this season has stood for...razor sharp writing and action that serves to deepen the characters, and enrich the story being told.

When last we saw The Governor, he had just suffered through perhaps the most shockingly brutal brawl in terrestrial history, with the equally vicious yet far less insane, (I think), Michonne. He lost an eye in that battle, but he lost a whole lot more besides. With the 'second' death of his beloved daughter, the ever-loosening grasp he had on any sort of empathy or humanity has been brutally and tragically shorn away, and as we watch his gleeful emergence through the smoke during this episodes opening battle, it's immediately clear that the toll this new world has demanded is finally, fully being paid. He was never a beacon of sanity, but now, he's crossed even more lines. It seems like his desire to control his people and his environment is being replaced rapidly with a hatred for them; one that's long since been buried under a potent concoction of self-delusion and a fathers desperate love. With his eye now gone and the famous patch surely on the way, The Governors emotional descent is beginning to be matched by his physicality. The scars are on the surface now, for all to see, both literally and metaphorically, and it looks like we'll be seeing just how deep they run very soon.

Even more disturbing is Rik's parallel journey into madness. I've often stated that the two characters mirror each other almost perfectly, with the only real differences, being that Rik's great losses came later than Phillips, and that his morality is more deeply engrained. Though now the rot is now fully setting in, the lines are becoming even more blurred between these men. There are some scenes late in this episode that really hit home just how far Rik's mental health has deteriorated. The final moments are, in a show that's no stranger to heartbreak and misery, among its most painful and affecting so far. As we watch Rik completely lose his grasp on reality in front of his full group, including his son, the shows sense of tragedy reaches perhaps a new plateau. His breakdown is all the more excruciating as its brought on by a recurrence of the situation that led to his wife's death. He's had no time to grieve or to find balance, and the losses just keep coming. And now, with the imminent approach of The Governor and his cult, it's not looking like he'll be getting any R&R anytime soon.

More tears are shed this week as Daryl faces an impossible situation, and makes the choice to leave the group rather than leave his older brother behind. Its a frustrating choice, but its the only one a man like Daryl could make. The effect it has on Rik is very telling too, as it's clear he's come to truly rely on the man as a friend and as his strongest ally. It'll be very interesting to see where this story arc goes. Our characters are dropping like flies, either to death, despair or madness. Hell, even the normally collected and docile Glen seems to be reaching his limit with the madness this rotting world has brought in its wake. These people are the walking dead, indeed.

In fact, its the women who are holding things together with the most success at this point. Be it Andrea's reconciling of a damaged and traumatised Woodbury, or Carol's painful yet philosophical approach to Daryl's departure, or even Suzie's nurturing of Rik's new born daughter...the female of the species seem to be coping with the horrors that surround them with wits, intellect and no shortage of understanding of whats important in the dying world. Its a subtle but much welcome change from the women of Season 2, and again, credit goes to Mazzara and the writers for giving the girls some real substance and merit in this tale. (Tyrells wife, though I haven't caught her name yet, seems like another capable, strong and grounded women that will only further elevate the show).

The goodies don't end there, though. If you thought that insanity, power struggles, heartbreak and sorrow weren't enough, we now have yet more dilemma's to deal with...

A third group of survivors, introduced in Ep.8 but now taking centre stage as vital and important players in our bleak tale. Their leader, Tyrell, is an instantly likable and identifiable character, as is his wife. They're moral code is yet to be broken down. Even when faced with an opportunity to improve their less-than-promising situation by use of force, they elect to fore-go this potentially life-saving choice...they choose to trust to human decency.


Sadly, its an choice that doesn't pay off, as Rik's capacity for trust in his species has all but died. And that's where this fantastic episode leaves us hanging. Rik's losing his groups faith, he's publicly shown the true extent of the damage the new world has wrought on his mind and soul, and he's cast good people out into the cold, dead night.

As an opener, you couldn't ask for more. THE WALKING DEAD continues its astonishing ascent to legendary greatness, and we still have seven episodes left. Sadly, as you sit in front of the box with your heart racing and your emotions roiling, you can't help but worry for the shows future. I'm sure things will work out fine, but it stings to think that the fella who handed all the naysayers their asses with this stellar season, will not be returning for Season 4. For these remaining episodes, though, THE WALKING DEAD is in the safest hands possible. The same can't be said for it's gallery of wonderful, tragic characters, but we wouldn't have it any other way. Mazzara and this show were made for each other.

No score needed, as usual... you all know it gets the highest rating.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Review : Spiders (2013)




Its not every day that I come across a giant bug movie I find it hard to get behind, man. Give me some radiated insect, some hot and sultry scientist gal, some military hi-jinx and some city/town-wide destruction, and I'm popping smiles left and right, but somehow, this months SPIDERS failed to do it for me, in any way whatsoever. Let me attempt to pinpoint the reasons why, and maybe save you a buck or ten...

First off...the plot.

SPIDERS is your typical 'space insects hurtle towards earth on a shuttle-fragment and once here presume to grow faster than Russell Crowe's beer-gut' scenario. We've been here a million times before, and lets be honest, we don't give a good shit how the giant spiders get here, just as long as when they DO get here, they fuck shit up like the MC5 circa '69. Plots, characters, acting and drama almost always get a pass in these b-movies. They get by on charm, playfulness and yes, big-ass bugs eating hapless extras. Its not much to ask. Occasionally we'll get a serious take on this thing, (MIMIC comes immediately to mind), and some of them are even stone-cold classics, (THEM! still ranks as the big daddy of the giant creep-crawly flicks, and TREMORS resides among the all-time greats like a boss), but for the most part they're simply throwaway fun. Shamelessly made and slightly shaming to watch and enjoy. Not that such confliction of standards will stop us hungry horror fans...

So, as a bug-movie enthusiast, and a well-known chronic arachnophobe, I jumped into SPIDERS with a mix of apprehension and boyish glee. A big bug bonanza made for the big screen sounded like just the ticket, man. Well you know what? It wasn't.

The show starts off pretty strong, with a cool opening shot of some space-spiders scuttling amidst the corpses of a derelict space-hub, (is that what we're calling these things? I have no fucking clue...I'm not a scientist), that pans through the devastation wrought by the little eight-legged bastards, and out into open space, where we see some random meteors smash the 'hub' to shit. This, of course, sends our little buddies on a one-way trip to New York, (obviously), where they crash into the subway, set up home, and begin to grow at 'AN ALARMING RATE!!!!!!'. The usual...so far, so good. No complaints.

Horror Hotel Cinema - The Prowler/Rosemary's Killer (1981)



Just look at that one-sheet....

I first came across THE PROWLER when I was a little kid. I remember seeing this one-sheet, (in VHS cover form) in our local video store, and being thoroughly freaked out by it. Of course, I was around 7 or 8 and so didn't see the actual film till later....much later as it happens.

I finally got my bloody mitts on this underrated slasher sometime around 2009, and it proved worth the wait for a number of reasons. The first and foremost being the effects work by none other than Tom Savini. The kills in this thing are among the most brutal of the slasher's golden era, and still hold up today as some prime nasty shit. Its a violent little bitch of a film, folks.

The second reason to give this film some eye-time is the killer himself. He's a fearsome looking bastard with his WWII fatigues and his prediliction for sharp objects.

The third, is the films atmosphere. It's a genuinely creepy little movie that, while slow in parts, has a real 80's flavor to it that's hard to resist.

Anyway, you came here not to read, but to view. So I'll shut the fuck up, and you can kick back and enjoy...have fun...


Check out this Teaser for Brian Keene Adaptation DARK HOLLOW



For anyone who's been unlucky enough to be subjected to the fuck-awful adaptation of Brian Keene's wonderful novel GHOUL, (reviewed here), and even more importantly, for any of his fans out there who were as devastated as I was to see his work being dragged through the gutter...rest easy. All hope is not yet lost of seeing a halfway decent interpretation of the man's work. Maybe even a great one...

GHOUL may well be consigned to the cinematic dustbin since Chiller fucked it up for countless future generations, but someone else is having a stab at Keene's work; taking on one of his most powerful and accomplished works...the erotically charged and creepy as hell, DARK HOLLOW....

Maybe I'm a sucker for punishment, or maybe I'm just an eternal optimist, but I have a good feeling about this one, and its mostly down to learning who's behind the camera this time. Its none other than Paul Campion, who impressed me mightily with his 2011 horror gem, THE DEVILS ROCK, (reviewed here), That film kicked a lot of ass, was tense and gory as hell, and felt authentically demonic. It also featured one hell of a villain.

Now, if you've read the novel, DARK HOLLOW you'll know just how important it is to get the villain right, (and don't worry those of you who are green, neither I nor the teaser will give the game away), and if you've seen THE DEVILS ROCK, you may, like me, find Campion to be the prefect choice. If he can bottle the novels mix of sexual depravity, occultism and violence, (and THE DEVILS ROCK says he can!), then we could be onto a real winner.

So keep your chins up, Keene fans and non-fans alike. His work may well be tended by far more caring hands in the future, and the teaser is very promising. Looks like the novels dark vibe is intact. Enjoy!


Review : Brian Keene's Ghoul (2012)


In a year of vast disappointments none has cut so deep as this long-awaited adaptation of one of Brian Keene's most beloved and admired novels...GHOUL.

Keene is something of a legend in my world. Of all the genre writers out there today; Keene is the true heir to the throne left heartrendingly empty with the shock death of Richard Laymon, (many years later and it still stings like hell). Its no secret that Keene was something of a Laymon fanatic himself, and it shines through much of his work, (his novel CASTAWAYS was an ode to the great mans work, especially the Beast House/Malcasa Point trilogy), but Keene quickly found his own voice in the over-saturated world of horror lit, and managed very quickly to rise to the top of the heap alongside Edward Lee, Bentley Little, Jack Ketchum and a few select others, as a truly ferocious writer with a singular vision of what his brand of horror would be. His books are nothing short of fantastic. All of them. He's broken new ground in the zombie genre with THE RISING and its sequel, CITY OF THE DEAD, he's upped the stakes in terms of sheer viscera with URBAN GOTHIC, and has deftly combined eroticism and fear in DARK HOLLOW. He's given us Earthworm God's, Satyrs, shape-shifters, mermaids and more, and he's done it all with a writing style thats as free-flowing and effortless as any before or since. The mans a fucking genius.

And for many of his substantial fan-base, his 80's set coming-of-age tale, GHOUL, is his most accomplished and emotionally resonant work. Shit, the man himself has stated that its his most personal and autobiographical tale so far....

It shows....GHOUL tells the tale of three young boys as they teeter on the cusp of adulthood during the mid-eighties. As people begin dissapearing in their small town, they come to suspect that something ancient and evil is living underneath the local cemetery, where they just happen to spend their summers...

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Review : 2 Hours - Horror Short (2012)

Director:

Stars:

, ,

Right of the bat, 2 HOURS pulls off something that sure ain't a common occurrence in these dark days of endless remakes, reboots and recycled plots...it finds a new and very interesting way to approach the zombie sub-genre.

Telling its tale via the lethargic, weary voiceover of its protagonist; 2 HOURS details the emotional journey of a recently infected survivor of the undead apocalypse, as he struggles to find sanctuary and a cure in the short window of time afforded to him, ( the 2 hours of the title), before his succumbing to the disease and his inevitable resurrection as a flesh-hungry monster.

As time slowly but surely passes by, and our hero delves deeper int his own psyche, we learn something of his past, of his future, of his fear and of his eventual, surprisingly beautiful acceptance of his fate. For the films twenty six minute run-time, we get to follow this one mans rapidly encroaching deterioration.

Of course, this angle has been approached before in THE WALKING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD and others, but what sets this engaging and touching little ditty apart from its piers is its focus upon the internal, spiritual struggle our bitten buddy finds himself forced to endure. The film does feature all the good stuff...the zombie attacks...the post apocalyptic vibe we all love so much, and gore-hounds will surely be pleased with the viscera on show; but its the tone of the work that makes 2 HOURS stand on its own as a singular, original film. By utilising ambient soundscapes that range from beautiful to severely disquieting, and with the use of such a strangely languid voiceover and cinematography, the film elicits a sense of building dread and despair that feels, to be blunt, a lot like a bad acid trip. As death approaches and the leads sanity begins to crumble along with his life-force, the narrative runs the gamut from fear and loneliness to rage, insanity and ultimately peace. Its a real accomplishment to draw an audience into this fella's tale in so short a time.

Its written very well too, with the first person narrative veering from free-form dementia to declarations of love for those left behind. Again...it feels like a very harsh drug-dream. A dark night of the soul occurring just as the soul is about to be devoured by infection. The voice-over work is initially a little off-putting, as it feels almost slowed down to give a dreamlike, hazy overtone to the proceedings, but as begin to accept it as the sluggish, dying thought process of a mind who's cogs are winding down, it makes much more sense. It may be a problem for some viewers, but for me, the stoned and dethroned, ethereal vocal only helped add to the sense of otherness. Of something subtly skewed from reality.

As I mentioned, 2 HOURS was made on a minuscule budget, but this is never an issue with the immersion of the piece, either. Utilising barren and derelict locales works two-fold for the production. On one hand, it looks suitably post-apocalyptic without the use of cheap CG to cover up the cracks in the financing, and more importantly, it accentuates the sense of isolation that the lead is enduring as his death comes calling. Nothing is put to waste here. Each camera-shot, each word, each wash of ambient sound...they all serve the story being told.

2 HOURS is well worth your time whether your a zombie-fan or whether your burned out by the whole sub-genres over-exposure. Its a dark, sombre look at mortality and vague hope in a hopeless situation. There are few indie shorts out there that look this good, and even fewer that can engage on such an emotional level. If theres any justice in the world; Director Micheal Ballif and co-writer Josh Merrill are going places. The talent and the potential is clear to see. Catch this one if you can, you won't be disappointed.

8 Inner Voices out of 10


Thursday, 31 January 2013

Review : The Collection (2012)

 

Director:

Stars:

, ,


In this sequel to The Collector, a man who escapes from the vicious grips of the serial killer known as....drum roll..... "The Collector" is blackmailed to rescue an innocent girl from the killer's booby-trapped warehouse.

Hands up who's read FUNLAND by Richard Laymon...

If you have, (and you should have), you'll know that, like most if not all of the late, great Laymon's work; its a shameless, merciless, morally obtuse, violent and essentially pointless exercise is horror literature that serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever other than to scare the dick off of you and entertain you from start to finish. You'll also know that it features an extended finale, taking place in a booby-trapped, blood-spattered fun-house in which our heroes must face deadly obstacle after deadly obstacle in a gore-drenched, desperate mission to simply get the fuck outta there.

Sounds like SAW to the uninitiated, right? Sure, I can see that, (though Laymon came first, fuckers!), but the essential difference is that theres no skewed morality at work, as there is in SAW. No hard choices to be made. No grand twists waiting for the final reveal...nope; just a bunch of hapless bastards running the gauntlet in a maze construed of vicious traps, dead ends, murderous maniacs and yes, spiders.

Now, if you combine those last 100 pages of FUNLAND with ALIENS, (yeah, you heard me right), then you pretty much got your review for THE COLLECTION. Of course, Laymons book is an intelligently written and horrifying masterpiece, and ALIENS is an expertly crafted suspense ride than kick's more ass than Cynthia Rothrock on her bad week, but lets not let that stand in the way of a good comparison, shall we...

Horror Hotel Cinema - Resident Evil - The Game (1996)


Remember those halcyon days of the late nineties, when survival horror was a real force to be reckoned with?  Titles like SILENT HILL, RESIDENT EVIL and FATAL FRAME topped the charts and injected some much needed terror into our home-consoles, and our fave genre found itself a whole new playground in which to smear its bloody fingerprints. Parents the world over found their wallets a little less light as their utility bills, (namely electricity), seemed to drop in their favor, as kids all over the globe dimmed the lights, popped on the headphones, and scared themselves shitless in the name of gaming. Good days...great days, actually. I miss 'em, and I bet you do too, (if you were actually around at the time).

Well, I have a wee treat for you tonight that may just help you relive some of that yesteryear magic. I came across a full walk-through of the original RESIDENT EVIL title, with each and every moment of the game captured in its entirety. Sure, its not the same as playing it yourself, but its getting harder and harder to get your hands on this classic of old, and I don't know about you lot, but I jumped at the chance to sit through this grand old game-changer again. The sights, the sounds, the music...the terrible, terrible voice-acting...its like reuniting with a dear old friend, long lost but never forgotten.

Equally satisfying is just how cinematic the whole thing feels. Watching the game being played through, smoothly and in a timely fashion, it really shines as a creepy, genuinly atmospheric and well told story, albeit one with acting that could give TWILIGHT a run for its money.

So here it is...the original and arguably the best RESIDENT EVIL. The game that freaked out a generation, and single-handedly cemented 'Survival Horror' in gaming culture consciousness. It spawned an unending series of hyper-shitty movies, and the game series has strayed from true horror in its ensuing years, but we can't hold that against it. 'RESI EVIL', (as many of us console-kids affectionately renamed it), is a classic, and deserves all our love and admiration. I hope you enjoy this trip down a particularly dark memory lane as much as I did.

Hotel Management.

Authors note : This walk-through is Chris' story. Jill's is readily available for any of you guys enthused enough to want more.





Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Review : Silent Hill - Revelation (2012)


Stars:

Adelaide Clemens, Kit Harington and Sean Bean
When her father disappears, Heather Mason is drawn into a strange and terrifying alternate reality that holds answers to the horrific nightmares that have plagued her since childhood.

'Do you Facebook?'

Ummm, I'm not sure, man. The fuck are you talking about? Has anyone ever said this to another human being in the history of our species? I really hope not, because if that's ever been used as a chat-up line, you just KNOW that guy went home with his dick dry.

Still, this is one of many amazingly awful lines of dialogue that threaten to sink this belated sequel to the really-rather-good Christophe Gans SILENT HILL adaptation. Its to teh credit of this hugely flawed follow-up films visuals, that it somehow manages to not only stay afloat, but to actually engage me on some level for its far too short eighty-two minute run-time.

Now, I know this film has recieved an absolute hammering from critics across the globe, but the truth is, it wasn't made for them. Shit, man, it was even made for me. It was made for those guys and gals who know the lore and the landscape of the popular survival horror franchise like they know the back of their hands. And I have a feeling that it'll satisfy most of them. It may be something of a car crash in terms of writing and plotting, but it's got a wicked little pace going for it, and while the eye candy is never quite as beautiful as in the first film; it still feels like your dealing with a legitimately 'Silent Hill', product. A lesser one, yeah, but still one with a little bite now and then.

I played the games, (most of them, anyway), and I loved them. Some of them confused me, some of them scared me shitless. I'm not up on the mythology, but I dig the disturbed and disturbing tone the games utilise. The nightmarish creatures...the subtly dread-filled and mournful soundtracks...the willfull lack of logic that only adds to the sense of disorientation...it's all here on one level or another. And while REVELATION never truly captures the sense of fear that the games elicited, it was never really going to. The first film couldn't capture it either, despite its faithfulness to the source material. Why? Because your not interacting with it. It ain't you roaming around the ashen streets of this creepy little town by the gates of Hell. Its someone else. The sense of oneness is gone. to stick with the formula, (lone character roaming the town), would bore the cinema-going audience, but in bringing in more characters and action, the horror is diluted. It's a catch-22

Of course, with better direction and a better script, REVELATION would still be much more immersive and a whole lot more impactful, but for what it is, its nowhere near as bad as the majority of critics would have you believe.

Seems like with many 'professional' critics, theres a domino-effect in play. One sets fire to a films reputation, and the rest, seeking to keep face, follow the smoke. I try not to do that, and I'm not going to it here. REVELATION is a damned mess in many ways, but its never boring, its gorgeous looking, has a really talented cast, (who are so talented, they almost, ALMOST make the dialogue come to life), and most importantly...a fucking guy with a metal Pyramid on his head and a huge sword.

And thats what lies at the core of a film like this. The acting and the character building are merely an afterthought, much like most early second-gen video games that inspired them. Its about seeing people and places that gamers have spent many hours with, and loved in those hours, come to life on the big screen. Theres a fanbase for this sort of film that will lap it up. As for me, I can't deny enjoying it, despite finding many characters superflous, and finding every single line of dialogie to be explosition. I still enoyed the ride. It's hard to hate a film that features sexy faceless nurses who like to slice and dice based on sound, or a mannequin-spider with five heads and dead staring eyes. That's some shit I can get behind, no-matter what nonsense the actors are babbling.


In fact, if anything, the films main flaw was NOT the awful script or the disjointed storytelling...it was the length. REVELATION could, and should, have been at least forty minutes longer. With some actual character depth, and far more time spent in Silent Hill, this could actually have been something pretty special. As it stands, it's not the stillborn so many proclaim it to be, but it may be missing a few chromosomes or so. Maybe even a limb...

SILENT HILL: REVELATION is not a well-made film. Nor is it a well-edited or well-written film. It is, however, a very beautiful film. And when your visuals and source material are as strong as this films are, theres still going to be something worthy amidst the wreckage. Someday perhaps we'll have a truly great Silent Hill film, (the first movie came pretty damn close in my opinion), but at least they havent pulled a RESIDENT EVIL on us. It's still firmly entrenched in the horror genre. And it has some memorable scenes of hellish carnage to groove to. Go in with low expectations, and close your ears and your wits to the stilted and preposterous dialogue, and you may actually enjoy it a little, despite yourself. I did, and I ain't afraid to say so.

5.5 Spider-Bitches out of 10

Monday, 7 January 2013

Review : HITCHCOCK (2012)


As NORTH BY NORTHWEST opens to great acclaim, an ageing Alfred Hitchcock begins to suspect he may be losing his touch. In his clamour for inspiration and something truly challenging, he comes across a little-known horror novel about a boy and his mother...a novel called PSYCHO...

Yeah, yeah...I know. It's not a horror movie, I hear you cry. That's as may be, but it centres around one of the greatest horror films ever made, (and perhaps one of the few authentically perfect movies in existence), and it deals with a man synonymous with the genre. Therefor, its getting reviewed, kids. Not only for these aforementioned reasons, but because it's a portrait of a man I have unbounded love and admiration for, and it put a grin on my mug a mile wide, and what better way to start a new year of reviews than with a film that had got me giddy as a schoolboy?

HITCHCOCK is not a film your gonna watch for any real depth or insight into the soul of this great master of horror and suspense. It's not a concise and detailed look at the film-making process, either. Theres very little of historical value here, other than surface anecdotal whimsy and the retelling of legend in a totally biased and celebratory fashion. Nope, what you get with HITCHCOCK is a surrealistic and very humorous glimpse into the situation this immortal big fat bugger found himself in, as the years began to catch up on him. What baring of the soul is witnessed by the viewer comes almost fully from our preconceived notions of the man, and in this case, (much like ED WOOD), that's no bad thing.


If your looking for a dark, intimate study of a man who was, by all accounts, a bit on the crazy side, then your in the wrong place. But if, like me, the mere mention the man puts a smile on your face and a song in your heart, then this is candy-corn and carnivals, folks. It really is a ninety minute celebration of perhaps the most single-minded sonofagun who ever directed a motion picture. A true one-off, and a man whose cunning and wit wit simply makes any scene featuring him a joy to behold.

And there really is no end to the brilliant moments here. Hitchcock whining for a drink as Alma forces him to do the gardening...his endless flirtation with Janet Leigh...his temper tantrums on set...his blaring of classical music while he enjoys cream-cake and Warner Bros cartoons...it's all gold.

At the centre of all this joviality is a man who is no stranger to horror, himself, Anthony Hopkins...and he plays old Hitch to perfection. It would have been easy to stray into caricature as so many actors do when portraying characters as colorful as big Al, (of which there are very few), but Hopkins knows how to toe the line. He plays up Hitch's many famous idiosyncrasies, while keeping the man grounded in authentic human emotion. He's simply fantastic, and he should be...he's helped by some extraordinary make-up that makes him a near dead-ringer for Hitch. As his long-suffering and fiercely intelligent wife, Alma, Helen Mirren is bang on the money. They have great chemistry, and help keep the scenes that deviate from the lightness of tone very palatable. It may be seen as a flaw that so much of the film is focused on their relationship, but at heart, HITCHCOCK is a love story. A very sweet, somewhat seasoned tale of two soul-mates, and the shit they put each other through in this weird old life. As a couple, they are never less than delightful.

And they have fine support, too. Scarlett Johansson is spot-on as Janet Leigh...both erotic and approachable, (much to Alma's misfortune), and the fella who plays Anthony Perkins is shockingly brilliant. He looks and acts exactly like the man. Its, frankly, uncanny. Though, make no mistake, as good as the support is, this is really a two-hander, and their relationship fuels the two intertwining plots overwhelmingly.

Of course, many if not all of you are less interested in Hitch's marriage than in the telling of how his arguably finest movie, (and first foray into pure horror), came to be born, ...and you wont be disappointed. Theres a real spirit of nostalgia in the scenes of filming, and the lead-up, as Hitch does battle with the evil forces of Paramount and its half-witted producers, is every bit as enthralling as the scenes of the man directing. Theres always been something gleefully mischievous about Hitchcock's persona, and in these early scenes, (and in later post-production scenes), its made clear how well this wily old dogs wits served him in his unending fight to retain complete control over his movies. And thank God he did. There are few things as gratifying in this life as seeing an true artist overcome the bureaucrats that hold them back, and HITCHCOCK playfully details our heroes manipulation of these monkeys, celebrating his victories with abandon.


There are a few darker elements in here, (Hitchcock's anger with his wife seems to fuel his directing of PSYCHO into a more vicious work than even he had contemplated, and his infamous obsession with his leading ladies is centre-front throughout the tale), but the overall tone is one of creativity and play. In one inspired storytelling choice, Alfred often holds imaginary conversations with true-life serial killer, Ed Gein, (the inspiration for PSYCHO, among other horror works, including SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, as it happens), seeking inspiration and understanding. Its an unnecessary but very entertaining method of bringing us closer to the man.

Another wonderful flourish within the tale is the style in which Alfred and Alma's relationship is told. As Hitch begins to suspect his long-time love of having an affair with her smarmy bastard of a writer friend; the film plays out like a Hitchcock suspense film. The overwrought music recalls the great work of Bernard Herman, as the portly directors suspicion grows; and its hilarious, culminating in a fantastic moment where he expresses to Alma in his trademark deadpan way, that, 'Every man is capable of murder, and with good reason'. He states this mid-argument, mind you, as she removes a cream-cake from his person.

Now, if that last sentence put a smile on your face, then you obviously know your Hitchcock, and your guaranteed to love this thing. For those unfamiliar with his work or his legend, (the hell is wrong with you!?), the film may be far less charming. In truth, though, if your unaware of Alfred Hitchcock you have no place near a cinema screen in the first place. Just saying...

A little too much screen-time is spent detailing Alma's situation with her admirer. We really only need the bare minimum of these two together to understand that shes frustrated in her life, that time could have been put to far better use with Hitch doing, well, anything, but its a small bit of gristle in an otherwise hugely enjoyable steak. It's hard to complain.

Overall, HITCHCOCK is ninety minutes of fresh summer air. It's not a serious take on the man, nor is it trying to be...its a period piece with real colour and vibrancy, and a character study that isn't afraid to simply revel in its larger-than-life protagonist and focus on fun. It's absolutely hilarious from start to finish, and never once sinks into maudlin situations or mundane excess. The tempestuous relationships at its core, (both between Hitch and Alma, and Hitch and the studio), are buoyant and light-footed, and, (as you all know how PSYCHO went down) the tale ends on a beautifully romantic and victorious high. This is some great fun, right here, guys. It had me at, 'Good evening'.....

8 Shower Curtains out of 10