Thursday 30 June 2011

The Greatest Soundtracks in Horror, Volume 1

The horror soundtrack....

It can make or break a film. Its well known that John Carpenters HALLOWEEN was deemed 'boring', and 'not scary at all', until the great man added his now universally adored soundtrack. Then, boom!, its a 'horror' masterpiece', and 'absolutely terrifying'. The music accompanying a horror film can, and often proves to be, the making or the dismantling of the movies atmosphere. They often elicit suspense, dread, humor, adventure and terror when all else fails. They're a directors best friend, and maintain a symbiotic alliance with the images the filmmaker creates. One cannot fully exist and flourish without the other. See? Soundtracks matter!

Friday 24 June 2011

Review : Cyrus-Mind of a Serial Killer

True events, my ass.


Mark Vadik


Mark Vadik (screenwriter)
CYRUS is getting a lot of positive feedback online, and its easy to see why. I disagree with many points other reviewers have made that its a fresh approach to the serial killer film, but it has a lot going for it. And despite this sort of movie being a dime a dozen, Mark Vadik's little genre piece does hold its own with the best of them. Mainly as it adheres to the holy trilogy of film making, namely casting, writing and directing, Its surprisingly successful with all three.

Thursday 23 June 2011

Book Review : Joe Hill - 20th Century Ghosts (Part 1)

Okay, kids. I'm gonna try something a little different here. Ive been real busy all week and can't seem to find the time to really sit down with Joe Hill's collection for any great length of time. I'm finding myself perhaps reading one or two stories then getting caught off guard by life politics. What I'd really hoped to do was breathe the whole work into my psyche in perhaps one or two sittings, but its looking less and less like an option for now. So, with that said, I'll be reviewing each of the tales within 20th CENTURY GHOSTS as and when I read them. The thing is, Hill's work has a way of subtly rearranging your thought processes, much like a psychotropic drug, it needles its way into your soul and re-assembles what you think of as rational. As accepted reality. As with all worthwhile endeavors of the spirit, (psychotropic or otherwise), time can only afford you glimpses of what you felt, envisioned and experienced while you were in that space and time. The after effects linger for a while and then, as with all beautiful things, they fade. I worry that by the time I reach tale seven I'll have lost touch with the emotional resonance that tale one held for me, and that would be doing the work a huge injustice.

Its no secret I'm a huge fan of Joe Hill's output. I don't only see this guy as a shining light in the horror world, but in the literary world in general. Of course, horror is frowned upon by 'literary sorts', whoever the fuck they are. Always the second class citizen that can never quite make the grade. Yet we all know horror is as rich with talent, meaning, and importance as any other genre out there. It offers a very broad canvas on which the artist can express him/herself. Read Clive Barkers WEAVEWORLD, or Jack Ketchum's THE LOST. Read Stephen King and Peter Straub's THE TALISMAN, and tell me horror is trash. I could give a thousand examples, but that's not what this is about. This is about capturing the moment as best I can, while 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS is still fresh in my mind and in my heart. And don't worry, as always I'll keep plot details to a strict minimum, if I even mention them at all. I'll be writing about what I feel, not giving you a rundown of the books secrets and surprises. Much as I'd love to talk in depth about the invention and strangeness on show, I'll hold back. I promise.

Oh, and if all this seems excessive, fuck it.

So with that said, lets begin. And we begin with...

BEST NEW HORROR : Here's a story that initially follows the conventions of traditional horror, (in cinema at least, and to some degree in literature), then turns it completely on its head by slowly building its setup, that of a journey into darkness in the name of knowledge, only to pull the finale from your grasp. Your held by the hand and taken someplace you know you don't wanna be going, and, just like the main character, your left there; fate undecided. Its a fucking bold introduction, I have to say. Like life, your not always gonna get a satisfactory conclusion, if your gifted with a conclusion at all. In Hill's world, its no different. In the world of FICTION however, you damn well expect a conclusion of some sort. Well, fuck you, your not getting it. BEST NEW HORROR's opens the door and invites you in, then slams the door behind you just as the lights go out. And that's no bad thing,. I sat for ten minutes after reading, gazing through the wall, imagining what came next. So, first impressions, not at all what I expected, but somehow what I SHOULD have expected.

20TH CENTURY GHOSTS : The second tale works in a far more traditional sense. It feels very nostalgic. A love letter for times long gone, and dreams painted over. Its a ghost story in the grand tradition of old. One I think many will find very easy to relate to. The loss of innocence, and of magic. It seems to me to be concerned with unwanted changes as time drifts on, essentially washing away all that was till we're left with half remembered daydreams, and ghosts of our own, following us unending into whatever the future holds. Its very sad, and brimming with romance and yearning. Like all Hill's work I've read so far, there is much more going on here than what first appears. Its rather beautiful.

POP ART : This has taken the number one spot as my favourite short story of all time, (sorry Laymon, I still and always will love you). I've never read anything of its sort before. Its a simple tale of friendship, longing and the impact of isolation on two souls, told in a most abstract way. I feel deeply in love with the two main characters, and by the tales end, I was numbed. Hill's work is never depressing, just touched by sadness. The main character put me in mind of one of the quietly agonised loners Nick Drake so beautifully immortalised in song. Of course, Drake's loners were not inflatable, but that's besides the point. The image I'm left with of 'Art' as he reaches for much yearned for peace, is one I'll not soon forget.

YOU WILL HEAR THE LOCUST SING : This is where things start getting disturbing. As with much of Hill's work, abstractions on reality are taken for granted. Things just are as they are. No reason. We're through the looking glass in these stories. Hill's not interested in the 'why', and why should he be? This one gets a little gruesome, and is the first tale here I would class as 'horror'. It seems caught somewhere between a dream and a night terror. And from reading this, I'd bet my last beer that Hill has a long standing love for the Sci-Fi-Horror films of the 50's. He mentions a few, (one featuring my beloved Vincent Price), but that aside, its still obvious that the affection is there. I adored this story. Lets call it a look inside the insect mind. I have no idea what else to call it.

ABRAHAM'S BOYS : Now this is horror. Here's a very tight little story that drips with suspense and unease. It takes a character whom all horror fans will be familiar with, and looks at him from a completely different angle. Maybe I'm slow, but it took me some time to realize who the hell the literary figure was. Brilliantly, even after doing so, the whole thing is still up in the air. You may be left with questions. For me that was part of the fun. This reminded me of nothing so much as the twisted genius of Richard Laymon. A macabre story that's happy to simply be a macabre story.

I'll post the 2nd half very soon. See you there...

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Review : Cold Prey 3

Oh sweet Jesus. Where do I begin with whats wrong with this film? COLD PREY and its sequel were excellent examples of the slasher movie. Those two films were about as tight as slasher movies get unless they're being directed by John Carpenter in 1978. The first one was, for all intents and purposes, the first horror film to come out of Norway, and it was pretty much a perfect example of how this sub-genre can be made to work in the right hands. It had it all. An amazing location, that echoed THE SHINING's Overlook Hotel, a cast of very capable actors, a very tight script and a fearsome 'masked maniac'. Along with its equally excellent sequel that took place directly after the original, over one long night in the hospital where we follow the previous film's, 'final girl', (HALLOWEEN 2 baby!), it took the slasher away from SCREAM's post modernism and placed it firmly in the realm of reality. Both films are lean, tight and scary thrillers. In fact, viewed back to back, these two films make a perfect three hour epic that hits all the right notes. Now on to part three in the franchise, although I'm loathe to call it that...

Tuesday 21 June 2011

News : Twitter Horror Event? Please explain..

Even if your not not 'tweeting' every fifteen seconds like your the center of the universe, its a pretty safe bet your aware of the phenomenon/craze/thing that has met and matched Facebook, as a social networking behemoth. Its been used to promote sites, help people stay in touch, and pretty much announce every detail of their lives to world, from what they ate last night to who they fucked and in what position. Like all social networking sites, there's a huge capacity for stupidity and blinding shallowness, but there's also a very positive side.

Twitter is increasingly being utilized as a creative tool and is being used in a wide variety of ingenious ways. I've come across a number of excellent tweets that are genuinely well thought out. One guy in particular is posting as Jason Voorhees, and always puts a smile on my world-weary mug. Another gentleman is using Twitter in a wholly artistic manner and is regularly tweeting as a serial killer. The fact we don't actually know this persons true identity makes it all the more intriguing. Its very easy to imagine someone pretending to pretend he's a serial killer, when in fact he's actually IS a dribbling sociopath!

The Internet has made artists and stars of us all, and that's no bad thing. It certainly keeps the ego's of your 'stars' in check. But all that aside, it allows us to express ourselves to the world at large in whatever arena we so choose. In short, if you can stomach the sour with the sweet, its fucking great.

Where am I going with all this nonsense, you ask? Well, hang fire, troops. As you all know I rarely post a news articles unless specifically dealing with independent horror, (as much as I would love to, there are plenty fully staffed sites out there, to sail that ship). This story I believe fits the bill....

Its come to light that screenwriter Kristi Barnett has decided to use our beloved/hated Twitter to create a multimedia event that will run for three weeks, and it sounds very interesting. Here's the press release..
Screenwriter Kristi Barnett is taking on the world of convergence media to tell her latest story and it involves the social media phenomenon. Transmedia is a technique of telling stories across multiple platforms and formats. As new forms of internet communication evolve, more and more film makers and writers are taking the opportunity to get their stories out to the masses. Social networking has provided a platform for transmedia projects to flourish, allowing new and diverse ways of storytelling to emerge. Kristi has discovered a way to visually tell a story that no one else has tried and the key… is Twitter.
"As a writer, I am constantly stuck with a dilemma; how do I get my story telling abilities out for the world to see?" Barnett said. "To have their screenplay actually filmed and released to the public is a huge achievement but very difficult to realize.”
With this in mind, Barnett has decided to use a different approach to getting her stories in front of the public. She will be using Twitter, its third party applications like Tweetdeck, YouTube, Facebook and transmedia utility Conductrr, to tweet out the first Twitter movie over a three week live period, using pre-filmed footage and photos to supplement the story.
In fact, the production has just wrapped. The actors filmed themselves using a 1080p Kodak Pocket Zi8 Cam (shooting in 720p mode for online) and a high quality smart mobile phone; the HTC Desire Z. The HD phone is perfectly adapted for social networking sites and is a key part of the story as Karen Barley uses the phone to tweet. And it’s a creepy story to follow!

The Story of Karen Barley
Something strange is happening to Karen Barley...
Karen is convinced by her sinister Boss to take on an outdoors project in an ancient Bronze Age woods in Surrey. Her boyfriend Darren is excited about the mysterious legend of the Hurst and can’t wait to find a hidden path he’s heard of.
On first appearance the Hurst seems mundane, with traffic and people close by. But gradually they begin to experience strange sounds and druid like signs. When Darren discovers the path, he opens a portal that lets in his Other.
Convinced that her boyfriend is trying to frighten her, Karen slowly spirals into a deadly paranoia that result in tragic consequences. And all the while her madness is played out for all to see as she uses Twitter to tell everyone “what’s happening”.
Barnett says: “This is an experiment in storytelling that has not previously been done. Let’s show all the struggling writers & filmmakers who are trying to get their stories seen and heard that there is a way to push through the gates. I hope they’ll use our example to try it themselves”.

So there you have it. A truly unique multimedia event that could change the way we think of telling stories. Don't know about you lot, but I'm in.

You can follow Karen Barley on her Twitter page right here: @KarenBarley on twitter

Now I gotta get off and chat with that 'Jason Voorhees guy'. He cracks me up every time....

Review : The Tunnel (2011)


Carlo Ledesma

Determined to find the truth behind a government cover up, a news team descends into a network of abandoned underground train tunnels looking for the facts of the story. What they find there in the endless darkness is something unimaginable. Something that is hunting them, one by one. And they're running out of light...

First of all, lets get the history of this films inception out of the way. It seems that THE TUNNEL's actual merit as a work of film, has been overshadowed by its rather excellent back story. The movie was funded independently, by the filmmakers selling frames of the film online in order to finance it. It was then releases simultaneously on a variety of platforms, including DVD, pay per view, and for FREE as a torrent download. I posted an article going into a little more detail about it here. Of course, I'm all for this method of film production. Its original, its risky and its somewhat symbolic of the independent spirit that is the horror genres birthright. And, lest we all forget, it worked. The film has been well received and word of mouth is quickly bringing it to the attention of many. The real problem here is that for a film with such an original conception, the work itself does come across as very derivative.

Friday 17 June 2011

Must see! A HALLOWEEN Fan Film thats actually pretty damn good!

Here's a little treat for any Halloween fans out there. I'm talking the REAL Halloween, you understand. The one made back in the glory days of horror by the legend known as John Carpenter. There have been more fan films made in honor of his masterpiece than practically any other film or character out there, besides perhaps Friday the 13th's Hockey Headcase, Jason Voorhees. With all respect to the creators of fan films, they mostly don't float any sort of boat far from shore. Its great that they put their hearts into them and I love 'em for it. But this one...

HALLOWEEN :  RETURN OF THE SANDMAN is a really well put together little film. Its full length and it's very clear a lot of love and care has went into it. And to be honest, its a damn sight better than anything Rob Zombie has done with the franchise. The film kicks off right after Dr Loomis puts a stop to Micheal's nonsense at the end of the original, and goes off in its own direction from there. There are no white horses and Myers isn't a hillbilly. Oh, happy day!

These guys deserve all the credit in the world for their work here. As you'll see, its a got a cool Allhallows Eve 'feel' to it, and the guy playing Myers is just great. The work that's went into this bad boy is pretty damned impressive. The team have really went out there way to make it look like a continuation of the original, right down to using an EXACT REPLICA of the original 'Myers House', where we witnessed Judith meet the troublesome end of young Mike's blade way back in 1978! If your a film buff you'll also get the added treat of some very familiar masks in here. Think 'Season of the Witch, among others. I can't praise this enough. I know for a lot of people its hard to get past the digital camera feel of ultra low budget film making, but seriously, give this one a look. This crew have earned some love, says I! We all need so new Myers in our lives, so get on it. Whats the alternative, R.Zombie?!

Turns out these crazy kids have made a Friday Fan Film too, AND a Texas Chainsaw Massacre one. Good to see they're keeping busy and off the streets. You can visit their YouTube page here, where you'll find all their work.

John Carpenter and Debra Hill, (rest her soul), would be proud.

And for all you lazy sum bitches out there, here's HALLOWEEN RETURN OF THE SANDMAN, in its entirety. Enjoy...

Thursday 16 June 2011

Book Review : Joe Hill 'Horns'

Joe Hill first came to my attention when I was fortunate enough to pick up his first novel, HEART SHAPED BOX, on impulse, a year or so ago. On reading the blurb on the back, I was instantly sold. ( A man who buys a ghost on EBay? Brilliant). I figured that the novel itself could never live up to such an original concept. Jesus, was I wrong. HSB was a brilliant read, and for a first novel it was damned near a miracle. Hill could have peaked with this first novel and been sailing high the rest of his career. Its that good.

With that in mind, when I picked up his second full length horror novel, HORNS, I was pretty damn excited to see where this guy would go next. I expected some pretty great things, but I never expected for a second that he would take the leaps and bounds that he has in this novel. HORNS is a masterpiece.

The concept, or at least all I KNEW of the concept, (and I advise you to take the same route), was that a young man awakens one morning after a heavy night on the sauce, to find he has horns growing out his head. That in itself lead me to believe Hill was onto a winner. I figured this would be a lighthearted tale, blending horror and comedy together in a breezy, fun filled jaunt dealing with satanism or witchcraft, and while there are some decidedly dark laughs to be found here; this book is deadly serious about its subject matter. It's by far one of the most emotionally devastating novels I've ever come across, matched only by Jack Ketchum's THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. HORNS broke my heart, but it does so much more.

Its hard to write about Hill's masterwork without giving away any plot details, or any of its many many twists. I will say that the revelations, and they come often, hit you full force in the psyche and in the heart. Yes, HORNS is a horror tale with supernatural overtones, but it goes far beyond a simple horror novel, and is infinitely deeper than I expected. Its also a very honest and insightful look at the frailty of true love. At the agonies and the ecstasies of being in that wondrous state. Its a fearless study of loss and the terrible toll it can take on the human spirit.  HORNS looks deep into the darkest recesses of the human heart and finds there both the capacity for infinite beauty, and irredeemable ugliness. It takes us for a ride down a very dark, very evil road, where the only light to guide our way is that of one mans desperate love, and desire for justice. Its powerful as hell.

And the one man I speak of is Ignatius Perrish, or Ig for short, and what a character. When we meet Ig, he's fallen a very long way, and his tale arouses immediate sympathy, (for the devil?). This is a guy like any one of us. He's made mistakes, and he's tried his best to be a good man, and its gotten him precisely fucking nowhere. Ig is instantly likable; a simple guy battling with tragedy who comes into demonic powers which may bring good or ill, for Ig and those he loves. Your with him all the way as he struggles with both the world around him and himself. If Ig is our guiding light, then its his love for Merrin, his soul mate, that shines out from within him, keeping us barely sane as we travel with him into the fire. Its Merrins presence in his heart that allows for his soul to stay essentially human, as he undergoes his dark transformation. The tale of doomed love that unfolds between these two ripped my heart out. This is one of only three books that has reduced me to tears, (one of the others being Ketchum's, TGND). Its a timeless love story, and one which dances around all the cliches and all the bullshit to get right to core of the reasons why we hurt those precious to us, often on purpose. These are real people and you may well see yourself in them. I know I did, in Ig.

To counterpoint the love so brilliantly explored here, there is its polar opposite. A villain so fucking despicable I often had to put the book down to get my head together. Hill explores in depth, the mind and 'soul' of this very human monster with just as much passion and insight as he does our 'hero's'. His actions and his mindset are revolting, yet very plausible. Its the blunt, mindless actions of this bastard that leads Ig on his hellish journey into self discovery. A better villain I've never come across. The book does contain some strong violence, and while for a guy like me that's always welcome, here the violence is very disturbing, and Hill is, wisely, far more concerned with the aftermath of violence than the act itself

The book also has a decidedly demonic vibe coursing through it, and asks very pertinent questions about what we think of as 'Satan'. The answers Hill arrives at may upset some readers, but that's to be expected. There are passages here that feel positively Satanic. One section called 'The Fire Sermon', ends with a scene so soaked in devilish imagery and wordplay, it rises to the level of mythic. New scripture for the unbelievers. This book may not be for those of the Christian variety, unless your curious about how the other half thinks, is all I'm saying.

So there you have it, Joe Hill has written a book that has taken my breathe away. I book so profoundly sad and human that I have to hold it among the very best I've ever read. Its a thriller, a horror, a beautiful love story, and a ferocious tale of good versus evil that every fan of horror, and of literature, would do well to read. HORNS is just wonderful.

10 out of 10

Upcoming Horror : The Lost Coast Tapes

Some good news for fans of the 'found footage' sub-genre. We have a new one on the way, and after the success and critical acclaim of THE TUNNEL, REC and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, these films couldn't be hotter. I, for one, adore the sub-genre when done right. Its the domain of the independent filmmaker, and forces them to use that most invaluable tool...creativity. This is the sub-genre in which careers are often forged, so lets hope that relative newcomer, Cory Grant, can hit this one out of the park. Here's the lowdown from the man himself.

“The Lost Coast Tapes” is sure to be the next most talked about film and will bring together fans of horror and suspense. Produced by New Breed Entertainment in association with Matriarch Multimedia Group, this exciting project is already gaining a noticeable buzz online.
Set on location in Humboldt County in Northern California, “The Lost Coast Tapes” documents the found footage of a skeptical journalist who aims to prove there is no such thing as Bigfoot after someone reports they have the body of a dead Sasquatch. The film will take the audience through a thrilling ride of events in the deep, dark forests and countryside of the Lost Coast, and will be sure to leave viewers on the edge of their seat.
Film is currently in production with an anticipated release date of 2012.
Follow all of the activity during the creation of the film online through various social media profiles, including tweets and posts from the actors and crew while on set.

Plot : A cynical investigative journalist and his documentary team travel to a remote cabin to debunk a Cryptozoologist's claim of finding a dead Bigfoot, but their film quickly becomes a record of their life and battle against an unseen horror.

Anything remotely to do with Bigfoot gets my damn vote right off the bat. And a documentary style film dealing with the subject is somewhat mouthwatering. The setting sounds perfect, and with a concept this cool, its looking very promising. More news as it comes, kids.

For more information on THE LOST COAST TAPES, head on over to , and you can keep up to date with whats going down.

Good luck, guys. We're rooting for ya!

Here be a quick video from the set. Look at those woods! Awesome.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Review : Needle (2010)

A college student, Ben,  inherits a 18 Century French antique box after his Father dies. The box is said to have been used during the french 'Grand Giognol' Theatre and is worth a great deal of money, but not long after Ben receives it, the antique goes missing, and his close friends begin to die, in gruesome and mysterious circumstances..

NEEDLE opens with a pretty effective coda which sets up the supernatural elements of the story. It opens strong, with some decidedly creepy music and a satisfyingly gory kill. Excellent, thought I. This looks pretty good. I always appreciate an opening that sets up a mystery. If something can grab my attention in the first five minutes, its a good bet my ass will be remaining on the couch for the next ninety minutes or what have you. Then, just as quickly as this original little intro has come; its gone. And BOOM, we're hit with a soft pop rock track playing as the camera slowly pans down into a college campus. Fuck! For the briefest of moments I had high hopes that I may have discovered a hidden gem. Sure as shit we're quickly introduced to the beautiful young cast, (no one ugly or even average looking is allowed anywhere fucking NEAR higher education, apparently), and get bombarded with the usual cliched nonsense that's come knocking on our door so many thousands of time before.

They're all here, the sex obsessed sports fanatic, the nerdy guy who's desperate to fuck the unattainable blond, the quiet and reserved hottie who wants to bang the lead actor, the lead actor who seems oblivious to what the rest of the male species can clearly see, (that she's fucking hot), the token black guy who has two lines in total, the lesbian couple who dry hump every chance they get, (why does this never happen in real life?).  All here vying for their three minutes of screen time and a chance to get slaughtered, both literally and figuratively. By the time this little GAP gang was introduced, I was ready to hit the bottle. It was gonna be a long morning. Twenty minutes into this Australian flick and I felt like I was watching an episode of Neighbours. Nothing happened, outside family drama, some partying and a whole lot of fuck all else. The only thing in the opening section of the film, (minus the coda), was the cameo by V's very own lizard queen herself, Jane Badler. That was a nice touch. Good to see her on the screen again, and she still looks pretty fine. So, we're twenty or so minutes more into our short life on the planet and things are looking bleak.

Then, all of a sudden, the,(seemingly forgotten), mystery that kicked the whole thing off comes back into play, and the film, despite all the signs, gets interesting. And it manages to hold that interest for almost the entirety of the run time. As soon as the mystery becomes central to the movie, the film switches to a mode that can best be describes as somewhere between a slasher film, an occult film and a whodunit, and it all works quite well. I'm a sucker for anything related to black magic, and the history behind the artifact causing all the mayhem is fascinating stuff. Not to mention the artifact itself makes for a pretty gruesome instrument of bloodletting. There are some nice kills to be found here. One in particular is very well shot and makes good use of the (praise Jeebus!), in camera gore effects. Add these kills to a solid whodunit and you have a fun little movie on your hands. The film I was most reminded of was the admittedly superior URBAN LEGEND. They have a similar vibe despite having very different plots.

Acting wise, its all over the place, though there are a number of decent performances. The films lead, Micheal Dorman, (TRIANGLE, DAYBREAKERS), plays decent bloke and inheritor of the death device known as, 'Le Vaudou Mort, does okay with what he has, although the character seems to become more and more of a pussy as events unfold, aren't we supposed to be rooting for this guy. Second in command, and giving a far finer performance that I expected to find here, is Travis Fimmel, ( THE EXPERIMENT), who, as the leads older brother, brings a nervous energy to his character that lends very well to the tension between the two. It was a wise choice on Director, John V. Soto's part in putting these two center stage. Most of the rest of the cast are wallpaper, frankly, and barely manage two dimensions, never mind three. Also of note, its nice to see John Jarrett here, even if he is underused. The man became an instant legend playing sadistic lunatic, Mick Taylor is the far superior Australian shocker, WOLF CREEK. He's great here as always and his touch of class is always welcome.

Direction wise, its very workmanlike. The films only directorial flourish comes from the kills scenes, which take a leaf out of Dario Argento's book, down to the black gloved hand of the killer. They work and help punctuate the tale when it hits its slow spots.

NEEDLE is a reasonably slick looking low budget horror that manages to hold the interest and tease the brain a little as you bounce from suspect to suspect. Its far from Sherlock Holmes, or even SCREAM, but its a fun diversion with a strong soundtrack, some nice kills and a cool concept. The finale lets it down a little, but overall, low budget fans could do worse than to rent this humble supernatural slasher. Its generic is its style, cinematography and setting, but manages to entertain thanks to a couple of good performances and an attention grabbing plot.

Monday 13 June 2011

News : World War Z to film in Glasgow, Scotland.

Know where I'm gonna be when they're filming it!

 Damn, this is great news for zombie fanatics living in Scotland! The $80 million dollar adaptation of Max Brooks' zombie masterpiece, 'WORLD WAR Z', will be filming in my home city of Glasgow this coming Autumn. This is great news for Scottish tourism too, and for any fans of what some see as the 'zombie bible', any news on WORLD WAR Z can't come soon enough. Glasgow's city centre and its famous, 'George's Square', will be doubling for Philadelphia due to the cities inherent similarities.

The book takes a very real look at the outcome of a zombie epidemic that sweeps across the world. Its written in a very unique form, as a historical document. The novel features a series of interviews with survivors of the world war that humanity is forced to commit to by the zombie hordes, in order to preserve our way of life. Collecting eye witness accounts of the events from everyone from dog handlers, to marines; the novel paints a truly vivid depiction of what mankind would be faced with should such a thing ever occur. In my opinion, its the best Zombie novel ever written, followed very closely by Brian Keene's, THE RISING'. If you haven't read them and you have a soft spot for our gut munching undead buddies, you really should think about checking them out.

The much anticipated adaptation, set for release in 2014, will be directed by Marc Foster, (FINDING NEVERLAND, MONSTERS BALL), adapted by Mathew Micheal Carnahan and J. Micheal Stratzynski, and will star Brad Pitt as Max Brooks himself, the journalist interviewing the survivors of the zombie holocaust. Bring it!!

I'll be following this very closely. Stay tuned.

Saturday 11 June 2011

Review : Stakeland (2010)

In an America overrun by an epidemic of vampirism. A vampire hunter takes a young boy under his care as he travels towards Canada, and the rumored safety of 'New Eden'.

Well, this came as a surprise.

I knew absolutely nothing about STAKELAND before viewing, other than having seen one image that pointed to a post apocalyptic vibe. Its always a kick going into a film blind, and finding yourself caught completely off guard by the work. In this case, I expected a cheap and cheerful vampire romp, maybe with some neat gore effects and some decent cheese to sink my teeth into. At best I hoped for a lesser version of DAYBREAKERS. What I got was a film that was far closer in concept to the recent zomcom, ZOMBIELAND, yet with a far, far darker tone.

In fact, STAKELAND is most comparable to 2009's devastating THE ROAD. A film that left me shaken for days afterwards. Of course, STAKELAND features vampires, (of a sort, more on that later), so it's never going to hit hard in the soul the way THE ROAD hit, but the influence of that film on the jet black tone here is very prominent. Both feature a ravaged world where moral bankruptcy is rapidly becoming the norm. And both are unflinching in their depiction of suffering. This film opens with a very shocking shot of a baby being bled dry and discarded like so much garbage. Its not an easy watch, and sticks to its guns till the very end.

What many are talking about, and what seems to be a point of contention for some, is the films political slant. In this vampire infested world, there is a far greater danger awaiting those trying to rebuild some semblance of life for themselves, and it comes in the form of right wing religious extremists. Vampires feature heavily in the film, yet its their human counterparts who are the real threat. As we all know, theres nothing more terrifying than man himself, and here the cruelty and the terror our heroes suffer through comes in main from the new worlds Christians, who have decided that the 'rapture' is underway, and that the vampires are, in essence, the clean up men; ridding the earth of all sinners.

We see attempts at societies being reformed, and succeeding, until the human element tears the whole thing down. Its disturbing to witness. And the point is pretty heavy hitting, but I'd argue that this film isn't anti-religion, but is in fact anti-ignorance. Christianity is shown in both light and dark shades here. And there is a VERY clear distinction made between belief and fanaticism.

The world is which STAKELAND is set is a very believable one, and the actions of both the good and the bad are not only conceivable, but are downright inescapable. Its director, Jim Mickle's commitment to authenticity and showing life's harsh realities that helps elevate this film above the pack. He's taking this whole thing VERY seriously, and its refreshing to see a horror film which in essence is based in fantasy, taking such a heartfelt and serious stance. I have to commend his vision. The film looks and feels like hell on Earth, just as it should.

Performances are excellent all round, the standouts being Nick Damici as the cold as ice 'Mister', and Danielle Harris as the heavily pregnant and cute as a button, 'Belle'. Mister is a wonderfully layered character, betraying his stone cold emotionless exterior with the barest hint of a smile here and there, and acts of human compassion that bring a tear to your eye. Danielle's 'Belle' is pure innocence and hope. She brings a lightness and naturalism to her role that cannot fail to endear. The rest of the 'family' are fantastic as well. I was shocked to learn that Kelly McGillis is one of the stars here. She's unrecognisable and while she has little to do, she makes a lasting impression, as do Connor Paolo as 'Martin', the orphaned teenager that Mister takes under his wing, and Sean Nelson as 'Willie', the good hearted marine, returned from Iraq and bitter as hell with the betrayal of his president and government.

The script is very sparse. Dialogue is rarely used as exposition. It all feels real. Its the actions, and the body language of the characters that conveys their internal struggles. You'll care deeply for this band of hopeful survivors, and you'll feel loss when loss should be felt. And the same goes with all the individuals they meet on the road. the world is so fully realised that by nature, you find yourself caring. This is an emotionally powerful film, that understands happiness can be torn away at a moments notice, and isn't afraid to portray this harsh truth.

If theres any downside, it would be the vampires themselves. They're great looking, and pretty damned frightening, yet they really are very similar to the more modern 'running zombies' we've seen time and again in recent years. We never learn where they came from, or gain any insight into their habitat or their behaviour outside of killing, (apart from one truly chilling scene in which a young, sleeping vampire is rudely woken by Martin. A scene burned into my mind). I'd have liked to have seen a little more intelligence than the mindless animals we're presented with, but really, they only serve as a natural, unavoidable threat here. The films more concerned with exploring deeper issues than vampirism. Its about the human condition, for good and ill. And how we behave when faced with an unthinkable situation. We don't all rise up to become heroes, in fact, we rarely do.

There's is hope here though. Its not all despair. As hard and painful as it is to witness what we do, there is still light. Human perseverance. The need for dreams and the chance at love in a mostly loveless world all shine through the darkness. Its all a matter of perspective.

STAKELAND is, for me, the best surprise of the year so far. Its a dark, serious film which uses our genre to explore societies weaknesses and strengths, and it bravely depicts the conclusions it reaches, whether we like them or not. this could be a future classic. Time will tell.

9 God-Bothering Lunatics out of 10

Friday 10 June 2011

Review : Fright Night ( 1985 )

This is my vampire movie. There are other vampire movies like it, but this one is mine...

I believe FRIGHT NIGHT to be the finest example of a vampire movie we have to date. In my mind its never been surpassed, and the way things are going, it never damn well will be. How did I come to regard this humble reworking of REAR WINDOW with fangs, as the zenith of the vampire sub-genre? Well, let me explain. There are a number of factors that led me to this illuminated state. And for easy access, I'll list them for you all....

1/ Jerry Dandrige: A vampire to rival the great Count Dracula himself. And perhaps even overthrow him. Jerry is the epitome of what vampirism is all about. He's cold blooded, ruthless, and oozes liquid confidence. This is a vampire in the classic mold of old, yet now he's stalking suburbia. More than anything, Jerry is a sexual predator. Seducing first Evil Ed, through fear and subtle prods at his sexuality, and then Charlies broad, through good old fashioned animal magnetism, and hypnosis.... Maybe. I think she'd have fucked him anyway, frankly. Crucially; he's damn scary. When he threatens you, you'd best be paying attention, because Jerry doesn't take prisoners, (except the schoolgirl he's planning to bone, which is just how Jerry rolls).

2/ Peter Vincent: Obvious nod to horror giants Vincent Price and Peter Cushing aside. Peter is the archetypal Van Helsing figure. Yet with an entirely original twist. Here he's a hero to fictional horror fans worldwide but is in fact, a sham. He's a scared, broken, lonely man with little to live for, who finds inside him the inner strength to become the persona others have always identified him with. He conquers his fears and rises to the challenge of becoming, "PETER VINCENT! THE GREAT VAMPIRE KILLER!". Peter is the heart and soul of the story. That he's become so beloved a character in the hearts of real horror fans across the globe is testament to Roddy McDowell's wonderful performance. And is surely a fine example of life imitating art. Also, he's a very funny character too. Check out the scene where he finally faces his fears and meets Charlie outside the mansion, only to immediately start shitting himself all over again. Human, real and brilliant.


4/ The Dandrige House: What a setting for a tale of terror! The house Jerry occupies has it all. Its a mansion torn straight from the glory days of Hammer Horror, replete with all mod cons. Dusty ornate furniture. A dark, foreboding basement for his coffin. A living fog that entwines itself around the whole property....all here. We've seen it all before in the classics, but in FRIGHT NIGHT, the damn things been dropped right next door to poor Charlies house. Its Gothic horror meets suburbia. And not since Halloween has suburbia ever felt so fucking claustrophobic. It truly feels like Charlies little corner of the world is the world entire, and there is no way out.

5/ The soundtrack is pure 80's brilliance. Something about the synth scores they used back then really gave horror an identity, and its brilliantly demonstrated here. The score adds tension where needed, and eroticism when the time is right. Its instantly recognizable to genre fans.

6/ There are no 100 year old schoolboy, 'Emo's', who live on cabbage or what-the-fuck-ever in FRIGHT NIGHT.

7/ The special effect are fantastic. Its all in camera, from the glory days before anyone, never mind George Romero and pals, would use CG for blood splatter. They're gruesome, convincing and in one particular scene involving Evil Ed, help to convey deep compassion for a monster. Many horror fans, myself included, still pine for the days when prosthetics were the only way. Watching FRIGHT NIGHT is one very good example of why.

Lock up your girlfriends!

So there you have it, an easily accessible list of reasons why FRIGHT NIGHT, for my dollar, is the king of all vampire flicks. No matter how often I see it, (and its a lot), I never lose my love or admiration for it. I wonder if we'll ever see its like again. In writing a love letter to the classic vampire films of distant years, Writer/Director Tom Holland crafted a film beloved by millions. A film that has earned its place in the pantheon of vampire greats. And for a few out there such as myself, he's taken the throne.

Check it out.

10 Cool Brewster's out of 10

Monday 6 June 2011

Review :The Woman (2011)


Lucky McKee

One morning while hunting the woods surrounding his property, a seemingly well to do family man witnesses a wild woman fishing in a river. He instantly decides to take her home and tame her, with the begrudged help of his tightly controlled family...

Straight off the bat, let me just say that I love both Lucky McKee and Jack Ketchum. Both men have produced some of horrors most original works of recent years and both have stayed very true to their visions of our world as they re profiles and careers have grown. Lucky wrote and directed one of the most heartbreaking horror films of all time in MAY. And while his later works felt diluted by interfering hands, you could still feel his energy and sense his skewed worldview in THE WOODS and RED, (another work by Ketchum).