Monday, 25 February 2013
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...
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?!
Posted by Kyle Scott at 06:49
Tuesday, 19 February 2013
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.
Monday, 11 February 2013
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
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.
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...
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!
Posted by Kyle Scott at 09:23
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
Stars:Josh Merrill, Brooke Hemsath, Joel Manwaring
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