Extinction (2015)

Post apocalypse fiction has always been my jam – since I was a kid and wasn’t aware it was even a genre. Nowadays, every third movie, book, or video-game is set in some post apocalyptic universe while back then you maybe got one release a year. It’s saturated beyond the point of return, but it doesn’t stop creatives churning them out. Most now aren’t very good and have fallen into an endless loop of recycling, but every so often I still dip my toes in to see if there is anything fresh. 2015’s Extinction is a low budget affair featuring Matthew Fox as one of three survivors of some little seen zombie related event and deals with standard survivalist and philosophical themes. You probably haven’t seen it, but if you’re in the mood, maybe you should.

The film opens with a bus packed with civilians being escorted by the army to a safe haven – we aren’t shown or told why. Before long, the bus is attacked and Matthew Fox’s Patrick, Jeffrey Donovan’s Jack, Valeria Verau’s Emma, and a baby escape the carnage. We flash forward nine years and baby Lu is now a precocious child, living with her father Jack. Patrick lives next door, but the two men are at war due to some unspoken occurrence in the intervening years. Emma is dead. It seems to be permanently winter, and while the zombies are gone they haven’t seen another living person. Jack tries to keep up a normal life of brushing teeth and teacher Maths to Lu, while Patrick gets drunk and tries to contact the outside world with his radio, sometimes heading into town to scavenge. As this is a horror movie, you know they won’t be alone for long.

Those looking for a standard zombie fest will be disappointed – the film only has a couple of brief attacks before the climax and so the film is more about guilt and forgiveness as flashbacks and events fill in the gaps and attempt to reconcile the protagonists. The zombies here are more like the creatures from The Descent – blind mutants which Gollum around the place and rely entirely on sound to find their prey. The brief attacks are basic enough gags you’ve seen before, but the climax does allow for a certain amount of tension provided you’ve bought in to the characters and story. It ends with your standard siege, with the survivors walled inside their home as the creatures tear their way inside. Director Miguel Angel Vivas uses these moments to show off his ability – a few nice panning shots of the creatures inside the walls of the house are well done, while the quirk of the creatures being blind pays off.

There is one major negative and one major positive. The film doesn’t have the money to really pull off what it wants to – some of the effects, particularly in showing off the devastation of the world, are cheap and pull you out of the story. A few moments when characters are travelling on snowmobile or are attacked look too fake. It’s a pity, because when they rely on make-up and physical performers for the final scenes, those look perfectly acceptable. The major plus is having a great trio of actors to tell the story. Fox is great as always, able to sway between drunken despair and action man status effortlessly, while Donovan conveys fear, anger, and hopelessness with a deft care. The stand out may be Quinn McColgan as young Lu – the child who has only ever known winter, a world with only two men, yet still dreams of exploration and other kids. Good child actors are a rarity, but McColgan holds her own – not only convincingly portraying the character and delivering her lines with emotion, but paying attention to the story when she isn’t speaking – a trait which often goes noticed when the camera isn’t focusing on you as a performer. McColgan was of course by this point an experienced actor, so it’s hardly a surprise.

So who is this movie for? Most horror fans are going to go for the mainline films or the very well reviewed indies, while your standard movie fan won’t go out of their way to catch it. Fans of the cast should find it a decent showcase and for anybody interested in a slow-burning story with some slightly unusual creature action this is better than most VOD fare. If more money had been thrown at it, it would have reached its full potential.

Let us know what you thought of Extinction in the comments!

The Last Exorcism 2

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Nell returns in this interesting sequel to the found footage hit which doesn’t do enough to answer the questions viewers would have been asking after the credits rolled on the first movie. The film drops the found footage, leaves behind the documentary style, and instead adopts a more traditional approach as we find Nell trying to re-integrate with society by moving in to a halfway house for teenage girls. Rather than getting any explanation on what happened at the end of the last movie or what has happened to Nell or other characters in the interim, we pick up some time after with an apparently possessed Nell lurking in a random house. After recuperating in hospital, she is taken in by the kindly Frank, makes friends, gets a job, and begins to move on with a new life of freedom and individuality. It isn’t long before hooded figures begin stalking her, strange phenomenon breaks out in the house, and somebody finds clips of the found footage depicting the previous film on Youtube and all Hell breaks loose, literally.

While the film does contain the odd (tame) scare, it simply doesn’t have the heart and soul of its predecessor. While Part I was a genuine attempt to tell a powerful, disturbing story with twists and turns, Part II is clearly a cash-in with little regard for its central character or for existing fans. It’s a shame because there are a lot of things that work here, and Bell once again throws every ounce of her being into the performance – creating a horror icon deserving of being mentioned in the same breath as Carrie, Freddy, or Michael Myers. We have strong supporting work too in minor roles – Watson as Frank is a sympathetic figure and Julia Garner’s Gwen tows the line between good and evil. The idea of Nell trying to move on is commendable, the setting opens the doors for many ideas which never come to fruition, and the conclusion is pleasingly nefarious. What doesn’t work is the gaps in the story – we could have had Nell attempting to recount where she has been, or some sort of additional closure. The omniscient hooded figures and just-introduced characters who seem to know Nell and her demon don’t have enough history to make us interested, and the Order Of The Right Hand, apparently sent to help Nell are completely useless in their jobs and again appear out of nowhere with no back story to allow us to care.

Fans of the first film will likely want to catch up with Nell and see how everything turns out, but I imagine most will be disappointed. While there is a glacial tone and the gnawing sense that things will soon go wrong, and while certain characters are ambiguous enough for us to question their intentions, these things are inferior to how they are executed in Part 1. Stick around for the last 10 minutes and enjoy it for another excellent performance by Ashley Bell.

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Let us know in the comments what you thought of The Last Exorcism Part 2 and if you felt if lived up to its predecessor!

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

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I love apocalypse fiction in all its forms, so going into those I was hoping for it to be some sort of satire on the genre given that it was advertised as a comedy and featured Steve Carrell. What I didn’t expect was it to be a genuinely moving piece, nor did I think I would be naming it as one of the best End Of The World films I’ve seen.

The first thing to say about the movie is that Steve Carrell has dialed down his humour and performance, instead crafting something more subtle and poignant as the ironically named ‘Dodge’. The second thing is that this has all the hallmarks of a movie which will gain a cult following over the years due to a number of sweet moments which never resort to quirky humour or overt sentimentality. With a great cast, good performances, and a solid idea which plays out at its own inevitable pace, I’m saddened this didn’t make a dent at the box office but hopeful that many will experience it in the future.

Dodge is a quiet married man drifting through life in an unimportant job and an apparently loveless marriage. A news report early in the movie tells us that a final attempt to save the world from a catastrophic event has failed, and that in three weeks time all life on Earth will end. With only days left to live, we see snippets of how humanity reacts – with wanton sex, rioting, crime, suicide all seen as valid decisions. Dodge however, in true existential form, simply continues his life as if nothing has happened – returning to his job when everyone else has gone. As the days pass he thinks increasingly about his childhood love and decides he wants to go on a road-trip to find her and confess his feelings. Tagging along is the younger Penny, played by Keira Knightly, a woman who wants to get home to England to spend her final moments with her family. The two form an unlikely friendship as they travel across America witnessing and experiencing all manner of human behavior. All the while, the clock is ticking down to oblivion.

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Aside from possibly being a little too slow in places and from maybe being advertised as another hilarious Carrell venture, I don’t have anything negative to say about the movie. It charms, it will make you question what your final moments and decisions may be under the same circumstances, and while you may not re-evaluate your priorities after watching it certainly nudges you in that direction without ever being preachy. Everything is delivered in a matter-of-fact way, with only hints of the surreal, and when taken in context nothing which happens during the story seems unreasonable. Knightly and Carrell are as good as they have ever been, ably backed by Martin Sheen, Adam Brody and other in smaller roles. Steady direction, a good soundtrack, and a decent script all wrap together to complete this little gift which, as I mentioned already, deserves to be seen repeatedly by a much wider audience than it has so far reached.

Have you seen Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World? How does it fare alongside other apocalyptic movies? Let us know in the comments!

The Hunger Games (Part One)

* This review is originally from 2009

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is something of a rarity- A book specifically aimed at pre and early teens which has fully formed characters, is not patronising towards its audience, and aims to thoughfully inform rather than preach. Already garnering rave reviews from literary critics, writers as big as Stephen King, and now most importantly, from everyday readers, Collins’s book is an entertaining, action packed, ominously realistic read, portraying a fictional world which only seems a few close districts away.

Our narrator and protagonist is 16 year old Katniss, protective sister, loving daughter, fearsome hunter. She has learned to be a survivor in a world where the rich control the poor by the sword. After an unsuccessful rebellion, the rich lords of the Capitol invented an exciting solution/punishment- once a year one girl and one boy from each area of the new America are chosen to fight to the death until one survives. The prize for survival is food for your area and family, and heroic status. Watching are the millions that were not selected. Katniss volunteers herself into the Games to protect her sister, but is equally horrified when her only friend is also picked. Can they trust each other? Can they survive, and is there a future for a world so filled with injustice?

After a slightly slow and bleak start, The Hunger Games kicks into a high gear and rarely slows down. There is action and horror, but never exploitive, there is romance, but true to the plot it is never sentimental, and there are vital and unsettling lessons to learn. Collins has taken clear inspiration from other great works- 1984, Battle Royale, and to a lesser extent Lord Of The Flies. While not reaching those heights, The Hunger Games aims similarly, and doesn’t miss by much. We have empathy for the characters who are refreshingly distant, and are not people you would like to meet. The book itself is fairly long for the target audience and will definately keep readers engaged under the blanket, though there is great energy throughout ensuring the long read is also a quick one. You will be left wanting more- part two is on the way.

The 31 Days Of Halloween (Part 1)

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Aah, Halloween- the most wonderful time of the year. When even those who wouldn’t usually subject themselves to all manner of terrors decide to watch the odd scary movie or 2. Unfortunately for me, this part of the Spac Hole which I currently inhabit does not indulge in the season as seriously and joyfully as other places, so I have always felt a little deprived. Sure, we had some parties, sure we threw fireworks at Gerry’s house, and yes we would watch whatever limited choice of movies were on over the few days but compared to other places (particularly you festive folks in the US) it just didn’t seem as much damn fun. In my mind, the whole month of October should be a vessel for Halloween activities, from dressing up to trick or treating, to watching scary movies and hiding under the beds of people you don’t know with a chainsaw.

To that end I have helpfully made a few lists of classic horror movies which sould chill you to the bone, and add to the singular atmosphere of this most evil time of the year. This list of 31 movies was created so that you can split the fun over the entire month (alternatively you could wait until closer to the day and have a few marathon sessions) and let yourself tremble ever so slightly in the supposed safety of your own home. Just be sure to lock your doors and windows, close the curtains, and tuck up the kids tightly in bed (checking underneath and in closets for me) before turning off the lights. Maybe check those locks once more, you can never be too sure or too safe. Oh, what’s that? That noise from outside? I wouldn’t worry, probably just the wind. By all means go out and check, but that would mean going into the basement to find batteries for your torch. Really, just relax and watch the film, your paranoia can’t hurt you. The thing outside, yeah- it could hurt you. But you locked the doors, right?

These don’t have to be watched in any particular order, but some would suit the big day (or night) better than others. This is not meant to be a list of the best or even my favourite horror movies (though I love them all) but rather I feel these offer something of the atmosphere of Halloween. Enjoy.

An American Werewolf in London: This one has it all- gore, jump scares, atmosphere, action, humour, and a great plot with likeable characters. WereWolves, like Vampires have taken a rather glossy beating recently. This proves that you can wrap up a love story with horror without being teeny, without being sparkly, without being demeaning to viewers with brains. Classic Halloween scene: The Nazi section.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: Wes Craven, Johnny Depp, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, and Robert Englund- lovely ingredients for a tasty Halloween Pie. This is the original and best, before the horrific character of Freddy (Here just Fred) became a snuggleable, bantering chum. What could be better for Halloween than scaring yourself so badly that you can’t sleep- knowing that something terrible may be waiting for you in your dreams. A story with more depth than it gets credit for, dealing with the Craven standard of ill-advised parenting and how the children have to cope with the mistakes of the elders, this is full of genius set pieces and bloody action. Classic Halloween Scene: Nancy gets a bloody post coital surprise- but not what you’d expect. And did they say she was 14??

Alien: Often described as Halloween in space, or a Haunted House in Space, Alien deals with our fears of isolation, of being trapped, of being in s situation way beyond our control and way above our heads. Remove the alien, remove the setting, and this could be any slasher movie from the time. However, that would be taking away the fun, the fear, the atmosphere, and the ingenuity. This is dark, claustrophobic stuff, and the perfect film for Halloween to make you look out the windows into pitch darkness and wonder if something is staring back. Classic Halloween Scene: Dallas goes hunting, but realizes too late that he is the prey.

The Blair Witch Project: Similar to Alien this deals with our fears of isolation and the un-experienced unknown, but spices things up with issues of abandonment, paranoia, and things that go bump in the woods. A classic survival tale for city folk poking their ill-prepared noses where they don’t belong, Blair Witch succeeded because of it’s innovative filming and marketing techniques. It still succeeds today amongst a rubbish tip of similar films because the plot is solid, the acting is real, the rising tension and fear played out between the characters feels exactly like how we would react, the growing dread is almost unrivalled, and the climax is absolutely chilling. Classic Halloween Scene: The search for Josh in the freakshow house at the end will get you tingling and gripping the seat every time.

Creepshow: Halloween isn’t just about traumatizing each other, it’s also about good old fashioned camp-fire tales to warm the heart and soul. This is cheesy at times, but never boring or irritating, it feels nostalgic both for children of the 80s and of the 50-60s. The tales are brief, well written and acted, the effects are still top-notch with an earthy feel, and the scares are tense and fun. Classic Halloween Scene: Trying to convince your abusive wife to enter a box where a monster lives has never looked so enjoyable.

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Candyman: Both Cliver Barker and Tony Todd are vital ingredients in any scare-fest- put them together and you’d better have a few spare pairs of pants lying around. An intellegent, sexy, city based horror which merges old world supernatural fears with the modern world of big business, CSI policework, snooping journalists, and end of the century hairdos. Barker at his height was a fountain of invention, bringing a freshness to the genre which made everyone else’s ideas look like old creaky mummy movies. Candyman merges urban myths with ancient folklore, mysticism with science, gore and shocks with beauty and lyricism. Todd’s presence is as powerful as any of the classic monsters, while Madsen gives a refreshing twist on the final girl character. Classic Halloween Scene: Hook through the chest.

Carrie: One for the teens this, though it may have aged some due to being so authentically 70s, the scares and the themes of abuse, loneliness, bullying, and separation are no less relevant or universal today. The story is simple but pumped up by ideas of religion, extremism, and psychotic mummies (not those ones). The acting by the main players is superb, there is something bleak about the whole sordid business, and we manage both to sympathize with and be scared by Carrie. And wish we had her gift. De Palma twists the tension knobs until they break off, though some of the intrusive camera guff is laughable now. Classic Halloween Scene: Everything between the bucket dropping and the school burning.

Child’s Play: The evil doll is a well worn sub genre of horror, but one which has very few, if any, classics. Child’s Play is amongst the best, and the series is certainly the most notorious. Like many 80s horrors, the series was unfairly derided for it’s supposed impact on our youth with some people going so far as blaming it for some grisly murders. As with most of these series, the quality decreased as the sequels increased, but the original remains surprisingly effective given the silly subject matter. If you don’t know the story- multi murdering maniac transfers his soul into a popular doll moments before his death, doll is picked up by young boy, doll begins murderous rampage again until it realises that it needs to sacrifice the boy to become human again. There are sure to be some laughs, some screams of just kick him in the balls and throw hm out the window!’, but maybe a few jumps too. Classic Halloween Scene: Chucky terrorizes the baby-sitter and we all jump when the phone rings.

Dawn Of The Dead: There is something quite special which you may not know about Dawn. If you watch it at Dawn- depending on where you live etc, try to time it where the film will just be ending as the sunrises. Then go for a walk immediately. It’s likely there won’t be many people around. The ones you will see will probably be shambling. The bleak nature of the film rarely hits harder than in these moments and you will surely look around yourself and feel a stark aura fill your being. There are few things more terrifying than waking up to an otherwise beautiful day and not wanting to be any part of it. Classic Halloween Scene: So many to choose from, from funny, to scary, to bleak, but I’ll go for the truck parking section as we realize that paradise can quickly become hell, and a haven can suddenly become a tomb.

Day Of The Dead: Surely the most grim of all the DEAD films, this is perfect Halloween viewing, not only because of the exquisite gore and effects. Claustrophobia and paranoia again play a large part, and you can’t help wondering why all these psychopaths keep getting in the way of your enjoyable apocalypse. Most people would be happily looting and whiling away their days watching DVDs, playing games, reading books, getting drunk, but there always has to be a crazy doctor or maniacal military group to spoil your good times. Halloween is all about good times, stick this on to reap the benefits. Classic Scene: When the Zombies step on the lift and it begins moving downwards- you just know all hell is about to break loose.

Day Of The Dead

Dracula (30s): A classic to chill the bones of all comers, this still has the ability to… worry those who haven’t seen it before. A film that’s almost a hundred years old- how could that possibly be scary? Well, there’s a reason why this is still considered the best version. Classic Halloween Scene: When Harker first meets The Count.

The Exorcist: Now we get into the truly demanding territory. A rarity in the genre, The Exorcist was a massive financial and critical hit upon release, pampered with awards and then…uh, banned. It may not be as hard-hitting these days, but it’s still rough, creepy stuff. Plus it is played extremely coldly, and without a hint of humour. This is as bleak as horror gets, and even the supposed happy ending leaves us with a bitter, fearful taste. Excellent performances, bewildering jump scares, and freaky moments all conspire to chill the soul and ensure you cuddle up to your beloved in bed. Classic Halloween Scene: Spider walk.

The Evil Dead: This was mostly played for scares over the played for laughs sequel, and while there is humour here, the main focus is on sudden frights and wonderful, innovative camera techniques. You’ll have fun watching this one as each character gets picked off, comes back, and gets picked off again. Classic Halloween Scene: Cheryl at the window, not in the cupboard.

Friday The 13th: One of the original slashers and one of the most successful, this one has plenty of ideas and violence, and staples of the sub genre which have now become clichés. It has dated, it is silly and quite tame, but it was made with love and ambition and freshness. The ending is shocking, the performances are ok, and there isn’t a hockey mask in sight. Classic Halloween Scene: Arrow through the neck- don’t have sex kids.

Final Destination: Another rarity- an inspired modern horror film with great ideas which blends humour and genuine frights. We have a series of characters who rather than getting picked off one by one in an uncaring fashion, are shown to be real kids with real lives, fears, and concerns- and then they are picked off one by one in increasingly exciting, tense, and innovative ways. A film which deals with our fear of death, of inevitability succeeds on every level. Classic Halloween Scene: During a heated discussion in his car, one reckless character refuses to accept that his life is pre-destined or that death is stalking his every move. To prove the point he parks his car on train tracks with his friends as the train hurtles towards them. He soon realizes he was wrong.

The Fog: One of the great campfire spook stories, The Fog is still sadly underrated. Carpenter creates a wonderful atmosphere here which suits the season perfectly- even better if you’re near the sea or if there is fog around. Classic Halloween Scene: The introduction with the wizened old sailor sets the tone for the rest of the show, and should set the tone for your night.

The Fog

Hellraiser: Another British one now, offering something different from our American cousins. We have sex, violence, lots of gore, and some S&M themed fun. This is gritty in an Eastenders sort of way- you don’t really want to look or have anything to do with these characters. Classic Halloween Scene: When Kirsty first meets the Cenobites- what is the finger in the mouth about?

Halloween: What more can I say? This is the movie which should be watched every Halloween- not only is it a genuine classic of the genre and a kick-ass movie no matter which way you look at it, it drips with and evokes that special Seasonal feeling that few things do. Make this the highlight of your night. After you’ve cut some throats. Classic Halloween Scene: Young Laurie runs screaming down her street being chased by a murderous maniac. She clambers to the front door of a neighbour, knocks and begs for help. A light is turned on. Then switched off. Did they think it was just kids messing around? Were they too afraid to help? Welcome To America folks.

Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers (70s): Some us like to dress up at Halloween as ghosts, vampires, or our favourite horror movie characters. Some people go further and pretend to be the person that the costume depicts. This definitive version of Bodysnatchers takes the idea of hiding behind a costume to dramatic and terrifying extremes- what if person next to you on the bus, your neighbour, your friend, your wife, or child was no longer the person they once were? In fact, what if some alien creature had taken their body as host and was walking around as an imperfect mockery of that person’s life? What if this alien race had designs on all your friends and everyone you’ve ever known, and what if you were next? This chilling view of a world snatched away from under our noses is all about loss of identity and mistrust, and makes for unsettling Halloween viewing. Classic Halloween Scene: The final moments. I’ll say no more.

Night Of The Living Dead: A staple of midnight viewing, the surrounding darkness makes the black and white all the more stark and cold; There are no easy answers or happy endings here. If you are watching this with a group of people, ask yourself which ones you would trust in a life/death situation. If your cosy home was surrounded suddenly by thousands of undead, who amongst you would come out as leader? Would you sit back, would you make decisions, would you think only of yourself or would you think of the safety of the group? Either way, you’re bound to get a chewing. Classic Halloween Scene: They’re coming to get you, Barbara.

Night Of The Living Dead

The Omen: So far we don’t trust our neighbours and friends, but what if you thought your son was the Antichrist? The Omen is an apocalyptic film in more than one way and is filled with strong performances, gripping and bloody deaths, and a memorable, frightening score. Music is often pivotal in horror movies, and as you clamber the stairs to bed after this, with infernal monks chanting obscenities in your head, that corner of darkness you can’t quite see clearly may fill with unspeakable evil more readily. Classic Halloween Scene: Damian decides to ride his bike.

Prince Of Darkness:  I find this to be Carpenter’s most underrated film mostly because it is awesome and should be mentioned in the same breath as Halloween and The Thing. Sure the plot is messed up with it’s evil green satanic liquid taking over zombies and bums mixed with time-travelling dream messages and psych jargon, but seriously it is awesome. It has more effective jump scares than any of his other shows and there is a creeping sense of dread and atmosphere throughout. In many ways it is classic Carpenter- a group of different thrown together in a building who have to team together or fall apart and stand against an overpowering threatening external force. It is a siege movie, it is clever for the genre though at times it doesn’t know what genre it wants to be. I think that was part of the fun though- like Big Trouble In Little China it is more than just it’s labels instead transcending notions of what it should or shouldn’t be, and is well ahead of it’s time. Classic Halloween Scene: The final survivors holding up behind some furniture while one of the crazies admires himself in a mirror with a large blade.

Ring: Please please please watch the Japanese version, not the abomination that is the remake. Sure the remake has plenty of jump moments, but it also has a deer on a boat, Brian Cox in a bath, and a director who decides it would be clever to cut away from the movie’s most important scene for the sake of a car chase. The original has Nanako Matsushima and Hiroyuki Sanada and if that isn’t enough of a recommendation then please remove thine eyes from mine page post haste. Watch this deep into the night, possibly as the last film, then play the lovely game of phone your friend once they have left to terrify them. Unfortunately the ideas first seen here have been so over-used that these games have become diluted, but the film still has an unflinching power. Not a drop of blood is shed, there are no knives, guns, or people bursting in from behind doors with a loud noise- this is the best horror film of the nineties and goes against everything that decade threw at us. And it’s a damn good story with excellent performances. Classic Halloween Scene: Sadako. TV. Sleep tight.

Scream: The second best horror movie of the nineties is the stuff of parties. By know everyone should have seen it, but many of you will have forgotten it and how good it still is. Plenty of shocks, laughs, scares, and action as well as a script the quality of which horror movies rarely get. And my beloved Neve Campbell is in it. Few horror films provide this much entertainment whilst still being scary, funny, and clever. The nods to horror movies will keep the nerds amongst your bunch happy and you can shout out when you spot a reference. Classic Halloween Scene: The final house chase scene as Neve doesn’t know where to run or who to trust.

The Shining: It’s rare for most people to get snow at Halloween, even more rare to be completely snowed in and surrounded. Try replacing the notion of snow with rain or darkness- would you want to go wandering outside if it was completely dark or hammering down? Anyway, this is another film which plays on isolation, claustrophobia, and paranoia. It’s probably best not to watch this one as a cosy night in flick with your little family- you’ll start wondering what the hell is going through each other’s minds. This is a giant of the genre with heaps of atmosphere and plenty of unsettling moments which deserves to be menti0ned at any Horror Movie Marathon. Classic Halloween Scene: Danny was warned not to go in that room. Prepare to be scared when Daddy goes looking too.

Silence Of The Lambs: The critic’s choice. Don’t invite any critics to your party as they will moan, groan, bore your girlfriends, and likely drink all your wine. There should be wine. This is nasty stuff from start to end as poor Jodie Foster tries to solve a murder whilst hiding her own fears from the unlikely Terminator Anthony Hopkins. This is better suited to smaller group viewing as it isn’t exactly cheery, blood n guts fun but it does the job when you’re on your own. Classic Halloween Scene: Anything with Bill really.

The Thing: In many ways the ultimate John Carpenter film, the ultimate macho man fest, and the number 1 examination of the paranoia which creeps into people during periods of isolation. The effects here still blow me away and they are only part of a long list of quality to describe this film- look at the cast, the performances, the music, the scares, the cinematography, and the way Carpenter drags the tension out of every shot until we don’t know who has been infected and who hasn’t. Great action adds to the great scares, but the special effects and story are kings here. Classic Halloween Scene: When the survivors are tied to chairs and Mac goes through each one by one to test if any are not human. Genius.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: This one still hurts today- it’s just so damn grim, dirty, and repulsive as to make the horror timeless. Sure they scares may be cliché now and the gore is almost non-existent, but the low down atmosphere, the miniscule budget, and the amateur (but good) performances all conspire to make this uncomfortable watching. I’m sure that there are plenty of people out there who still think that there could be a family like this in their town, just as much as I’m sure that there probably are still families or people like this in the world- maybe not in your town, but possibly the next one over. And chainsaws are awfully easy to come by these days. Classic Halloween Scene: The entire dinner scene. Truly horrific, the use of sound and various camera techniques make this one of the most intense few minutes in any horror movie.

28 Days Later: A modern classic, and one of the few great British horror movies of the last few decades. Taking riffs from Romero and King this is a post apocalyptic survivalist’s wet nightmare. Empty streets, shops to loot, cars to steal- all great if it wasn’t for the hundreds of thousands of psychopaths charging towards you in search of your blood. This is the 21st century folks, and zombies ain’t got time to amble and stumble about- these are confident, successful, modern big business, stepping up to the plate, corporate bull-shitting zombies, and they won’t take closing a door in their face for an answer. If you can’t run fast, you’re screwed. And just to make things Mega Man 9 difficult- these fiends don’t even have to bite you to kill/convert you- one drop of their blood/saliva entering your body, through a gash, a scratch, a kiss, or a tear is enough it recruit you. And sheesh! They don’t even give you time to grieve for your fallen comrade- within seconds of getting exposed, your best friend will be diving for your jugular too. My advice- kill everyone you see and hide under a pile of coats till it all goes away. Classic Halloween Scene: An abandoned car sitting in the middle of an abandoned London- nothing to fear but technology.

The Wicker Man: Nothing to fear but religion. Look closely enough and all religions begin to look like cults; they all have a figurehead, the followers worship the figurehead unquestionably and offer prayers, thanks, songs, and sacrifices, there are certain rituals usually borne of centuries long since dusted, those involved are usually inviting to outsiders in person, but have a secret hatred, anger, or issue against them once backs are turned. So we have The Wicker Man, possibly the best British Horror Film of the whole sorry lot. Aah, the confusion of two worlds colliding as we watch a upstanding lawman and guardian of his own archaic faith fall victim ever so slowly to a cult even more decrepit than his own. He knows something terrible is amiss, but it isn’t until his toes turn to cinders that he realizes his fate was sealed the second his feet touched the land. Classic Halloween Scene: When we first see Mr Straw and realize our hero’s fate.

Paranormal Activity: Proof not only that horror movies still have the power to scare, entertain, and bring in the mega bucks, proof not only that a good story well executed can be more than a match for buckets of blood, but also proves that in this day and age of $200 million dollar movies that a small group with talent, an idea, and a few months worth of average salary can make a great movie. Romero did it in the 60s, Carpenter did it in the seventies, Raimi in the 80s, Myrick and Sanchez in the 90s, and now Oren Peli has continued the tradition. Using every trick in the book he has made a classic pastiche of the genre and a thrill ride akin to running naked through a field of land mines. The setting of the movie is perfect for Halloween viewing- primarily it is set in the home and most of the scares happen at night- the film invades you with a sense that you aren’t safe in your own house and makes you take a second or third glance at that cup that you swore you set on the table which now sits on the ground. Likely to lose its impact with subsequent viewings this is best served to people who haven’t seen it. The scares (while you sense them coming) are unexpected and rewarding and while the characters are painfully annoying, you’ll still soil your drawers. Classic Halloween Scene: NEVER leave your foot hanging out of bed.

Trick R Treat: Anthology movies have had their heyday- we had a succession of British hits in the 70s, then a slew of bloodier efforts in the 80s. Then for 20 years anthology fans didn’t have a lot to be excited about aside from a few cheap efforts (although Asia did produce some great ones at the turn of the century). Trick R Treat is good enough to kick start a revolution in the genre, or at least it would have been had it been released in any cinemas. Straight to DVD (yet with a decent budget and big name cast) Trick R Treat features four shorts linked by an over-arcing plot and is to Halloween what presents are to Christmas. This one is destined to be shown and loved every Halloween for years to come, possibly as a double header with Carpenter’s classic. Classic Halloween Scene: The creepy opener sets the tone for the movie and features everything we love about the season, dripping with atmosphere, and settling us in for a bumpy ride.

Trick R Treat

Please leave your comments and suggestions for films you think are best viewed at Halloween, and let us know which films terrified you when you were growing up at this time of year.

Maximum Overdrive: It Shook Me All Night Long- with scarinessness!

This is one of THE great films of the 80s, featuring some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Emilio Sheen, Lisa Simpson, and Stevie-Nix-King head up the terrific cast in this brutal, haunting, and often sad story of man versus machine set in the future (about 2 weeks I think). Based on one of King’s most famous works- Cujo, the film follows a weekend in the lives of a bunch of Hicks who are surrounded, tormented, and murdered by their favourite household appliances- microwaves, TVs, Big Blue Pleasure Devices, chair lifts, and of course staples. The main threat though comes from their cars, their motorbikes, their trucks, vans, and hover crafts. They all get stranded in a diner off Route 66, and in classic Night Of Lovely Dead style they argue and fight amongst themselves whilst trying to solve the main problem and escape the nightmare in one or three pieces.

Emil Esteves is a loner, a truck driver who just happens to pull into the diner for a burger and a litre of coffee, and perhaps to make a deposit in the traps. He meets an assortment of locals, weirdos, and workers but soon after all Hades breaks loose. One customer is in trap 1, but when he tries to flush it gurgles speech at him. ‘Honey, this la-vor-a-tory just called called me an ass hole!’ he cries. It retaliates further by spewing forth what he had previously spewed forth in a glorious twist of irony. Soon people are being stabbed, crushed, decapitated, and victimised. This film has what idiots call the likability factor. In other words- you can like it. There isn’t much of a story after the first 12 minutes as the final hour is just scenes of carnage accompanied by music by metal band ABBA. Occasionally Yardon Smith (From the Simpson Family programme) shrieks something unintelligibly which would usually make me want to cut out my eyes and replace them with some sort of larvae, but here it serves to increase the tension. With superb actings throughout, lots of killings, and plenty of naked action, this is one of the all time must sees.

Best Scene: When that weirdo looking freak (whoever he is he should never be allowed near another film again!) at the start trying to reason with a cash machine but it keeps calling him a twatbag!

Maximum Overdrive

Day Of The Dead

Day Of The Dead

Usually seen as the weakest of the trilogy, and by a long way the most gore filled, this is by no means a bad film. The film was plagued from the start with budget problems, and script re-writes. This was originally supposed to be Romero’s epic, though the finished product bears little relation to the original concept. If Romero had had better funding, certain improvements could have been made to the script, but he still provides an excellent and grim film. Like the previous films, we are given a sense of claustrophobia, of being sealed inside by what’s outside as the film is set mainly in one place. While NOTLD was set in a farmhouse, and the characters may have been able to run somewhere else, and Dawn was set in a shopping mall where all your hearts desires could be found for low low prices, this is set in an underground shelter with miles of caverns leading to nowhere: it’s as if the human race has already sealed itself in Hell. The zombies hold the earth.

The few survivors are not plain civilians as before, they work for a government which does not exist anymore, with the soldiers supposedly facilitating the scientists. Both groups are torn amongst themselves, with the soldiers under the command of Rhodes-one of the most psychotic characters ever, yet completely understandable (played with the utmost power and realism by Pilato and surely deserving of some awards), and the scientists all pulling in different directions. This is primarily a film of characterisation as we see how each person reacts to the realisation that the zombies have won. It may be true that none of the characters are likable, but this only adds to the realism as if we were in this situation, it is likely those around us would p*ss us off most of the time. Even at the end, contrary to what others say, the future holds no hope. The only escape is to hide and wait for your own inevitable death.

But the film is very funny, perhaps sometimes unintentionally, as seen in Dr. Frankenstein’s antics (“no! no, you must listen to me!” Rhodes <with machine gun> “listen to this”! ). The effects, again done by Tom Savini are simply amazing, with faces being torn apart, heads flying off, and intestines spilling everywhere-every single death scene is a masterpiece of gore. Although many horror fans do not like this, it portrays a horrifying situation like no other movie. Perhaps not even the most hardened fan can bear the grimness of what is happening, subconscious fears making them hate it???

Finally a decent DVD version of Day Of The Dead is released- the first disc is a crisp cut of the film in all it’s bloody glory. The second disc has good extras- a solid documentary, and a behind the scenes feature, as well as the usual trailers, filmographies. If you don’t have the Trilogy of the Dead box set, this is a must.

Feel free to comment on my review and the movie itself? Is this your favourite of Romero’s zombie films, or do you think this is where it started to go wrong?

Dawn Of The Dead (Remake)

Being a zombie movie fan i have much enjoyed the recent (continuing) resurgence of the genre. As i believe that Romero’s Dawn is not only the best zombie movie ever, but one of the best horror movies, i was both excited and sceptical to hear about a remake. Reasons for excitement- 1. It’s zombies. 2. A big budget. 3. If done right, could be brilliant. Reasons for scepticism- 1. A big budget. 2. Less gore, less shock value. 3. If done wrong could be awful, and possibly tarnish the name of the original in some people’s eyes.

I soon heard that the zombies would be able to run- a source of many arguments among fans and purists. On one side, the zombies were scarier because their slow speed was irrelevant, they would probably get you in the end through sheer numbers or by the fact that they don’t get tired. Slow zombies were scary because they were falling to pieces. However, on the other side, people who have recently turned may still be in good shape so should be able to run until they begin to decay. Fast zombies make the threat more immediate and therefore give rise to more jumpy moments. Fast zombies mean we have an even smaller chance of survival as we may not be able to outrun them. Some have said the zombies in this are ‘super-fast’, but this is nonsense. A zombie should only be as fast as it was before it turned, more likely slower, but will not get out of breath. All this running will however mean quicker decay. What it all boils down too in the end is whether you can make your choice effective, and in both films, both directors succeed.

A Nurse, Ana, during and after a heavy shift fails to notice the news reports that the dead are attacking the living. It is probably rubbish anyway, and she just wants to get home to suburbia. The next morning, her young neighbour enters her bedroom; She seems to be hurt. When her husband investigates, she attacks him, biting off part of his throat. He dies, the phone is engaged, but he quickly rises again and goes for his wife. When she escapes the house she witnesses chaos, people screaming, houses on fire and being attacked, her neighbour with a gun, promptly run over by an ambulance. She escapes in her car only to crash after seeing the scale of the madness. Soon she meets with a cop- Kenneth, Michael, Andre and his pregnant girlfriend Luda. They decide to hide in a local mall only to find that Store guards have claimed it for their own. However, they work out a compromise and soon other survivors join them. As the days pass, they try to work out a solution, how to maintain their safety and sanity. When an attempt to send food to Andy, a survivor on the roof of a gun shop a few hundred yards away goes wrong, the zombies get into the mall, and the remaining survivors flee. Their plan to escape to an island by boat seems good, but it is based on pure hope, and the desire to get out of their present situation, rushed, and the hordes continue to chase.

The film lacks the brains and atmosphere of Romero’s masterpiece. But it makes up for this by giving an excellent view of how contemporary people would likely react to the situation. The film begins quickly, and to the director’s credit, the pace continues throughout. Anytime something good happens, something worse happens to bring the characters to an even lower state. It is frantic, but never out of control, and their is a fair amount of tension. Once we realise the zombies are fast, we are on edge, prepared for one or one hundred to come racing round the nearest shadowy corner. The actors all do well, particularly Polley and the excellent Weber. His character is just a normal guy, a failure at many things, but who will not give up. Rhames is tough, but doesn’t set out on his own, knowing that he is needed. The soundtrack is more conventional,with booming rock songs being played over each attack, but this heightens the chaos. There is little hope left at the end, and little time for discussion over why this has happened. There are a few good set pieces, and the gore is good for a modern mainstream film. There are a few funny moments, and of course, another staple of zombie films, an annoying character-Steve. The best of the recent serious zombie films by a wide margin, lets see if Romero can regain his crown.

The DVD has a few good extras, the commentary is amusing, and the last days of Andy feature is well worth watching.

Dawn Of The Dead
As always, feel free to leave any comments- is this better than the original? How do you feel about fast zombies?

Mermaids: The Last Film

I walked into the cinema expecting this to be a film. I was right, but I thought it was going to be about women with tails swimming about the ocean, perhaps a sequel to The Little Mermaid. I was wrong. This is a film about a woman and her two daughters riding from town to town, trying to get a break. Who cares. Who writes these things? Who watches these things? Seriously. Do you want to watch a film about a mummy shouting at her daughters and flirting with Bob Hopkins? No. Then they burst into a rendition of the Cheep Cheep song written by Dusky Springfield. It wasn’t long before I fell asleep and dreamed a dream.

I dreamt that I was a mermaid, or in this case a merman, like in He-Man. I had a big, 3-pronged fork which I used to catch my dinner – giant shrimp, octopussies, sea burgers etc. I wasn’t the King or anything, but I was pretty well off as far as ocean dwellers go. I had a few concubines who would answer my every sordid whim. The main one looked like Winorda Rider, so the film had some impact on me. One day I was relaxing on the ocean floor when a little lost boy swam round the rock, shouting ‘Kali Ma! Kali Maaa!’ This disturbed me greatly, so I gathered a group of my mates and went off to investigate. The source of the trouble was a giant dragon which had erupted from the ocean floor. We started to beat it with sticks and throw crabs at it, but it laughed to see such fun and turned into Les from Coronation Street. I was quite taken by surprise, and even more so when I looked down and saw that I was no longer a merman, but a cup of tea sitting on a table on the set of Britain’s most beloved soap. Vera had a suck of me, then Rita, then the ginger one, and Les dipped a Digestive in me. Even now I feel his crumbs floating around my insides. All of a suddent, Chair came running in singing the Woop Woop song, her and Bob Hostile dancing together, faster and fasterer. The youngest daughter from Mermaids (Lionel Ricci) came bounding in, tripped and banged into me. I tipped over the edge of the table and fell towards the carpet. Just before I hit the ground, I woke up. The cinema was empty and the screen was blank. I realised I had slept over, so decided to get up and go home for some sausages and whiskey.

I noticed my watch (a Timex) had stopped. I walked out of the cinema and found that no-one was around, so I thought they were all in other screens, watching better movies. My footsteps seemed louder than usual, and there was an eerie quiet. An empty bag of Minstrels rustled on the floor. Eager to put the whole episode behind me, I made my way down the stairs and out the door. What greeted me – I can only describe as silent carnage. Cars lay upturned on the streets, bikes and clothes lay strewn in the highest branches of the trees and on top of lamp-posts. Fires were burning all around, but in their dying stages. There was no wind. No sound. Everything seemed stale and artificial like a reality TV show commissioned by Channel 4. I had a feeling in my groin like some unknown force from centuries ago had taken residence there with no intention of leaving. The air had no taste, but seemed like Polystyrene. Worse, there were no people. Shell-shocked I stumbled across the street, still looking left and right for traffic even though the nearest car sat half-in half-out of the third storey of an office block behind me. I entered the corner shop looking for some fellow humans; none were to be found. Wait! Maybe some took shelter in the pub next door from whatever had happened here. What had happened? Terrorists? Aliens? Bomb? Earthquake? Act of God? I couldn’t be sure, and my thoughts were not following logically anyway – Words bounced spontaneously about my head. Like. Unfocused. Wasps. Chasing. Jigsaw. Lullaby of descent into something something hell don’t can’t know no this isn’t me here, why, why not whine aught? The pub was no less empty than the shop before. No-one anywhere.

This was 4 days ago. I am home. I am alone. It’s getting dark and I mostly get scared at night. Mostly. I haven’t met another living soul in days. TV and radio are gone. Is there anybody out there? Let me know. I’ll be at the town hall at midday everyday for an hour. I won’t stay around for long though. I’m taking my bike down south to see if every town is the same. Head for the coast. Get a boat or swim if I must. Leave this place and find another way. Surely this can’t be the only place. Please God.

Best Bit: Taking all the DVDs from HMV now that everyone’s gone.

It can't end like this
It can’t end like this

28 Days Later: Scary Dary

It is a well known fact that I actually had my own draft of this movie written before Danny Boy decided to make it. It was about 5 years (or 1825 days to keep with the mood of the review) before this film was made that I had a dream. Actually a nightmare. There are some differences, and some similarities. His is set in present day, mine seemed to be set in a near future. In mine an experiment with chimps led to a deadly virus which turned humans into bloodthirsty rage fulled monsters. And these creatures had red eyes. Very similar, eh? Well, my creatures could shoot fire from their mouths, lasers from their eyes, and vomit acid. And also in mine, some of the creatures began to evolve, remember how to speak, and remember their past lives. In fact the only thing which gave them away was their eyes, so they all started to wear shades to cover the redness. There was a shock ending also, which I will not reveal. Anyway, I was surprised when I saw the trailer for this and thought ‘hey! They’ve nicked my idea!’ But obviously these are just coincidences and no-one ever read my script anyway. I thought it looked good and as I’d liked Boy’s earlier effort Gravespotting I thought I’d give it a go.

The best thing is this; my dream was primarily about man’s self destructive nature, and how abusing our forefathers (chimps) like many people in the world now do will only lead to chaos. Boy’s film also shows this. I have seen a disturbing trend recently in movies which try to show that monkeys spread disease, that monkeys kill people, or that they are idiots. None of these are true. Monkeys are the best, most intelligent creatures on out planet and we should revere them. Sure in the future they’re probably going to be our masters but that is all the more reason to love them now so that they befriend, rather than enslave us. Ha ha, only joking. That was a reference to another terrible film which portrays monkeys as evil. I want to see more films which show primates (that’s the scientific term) as benevolent, harmless, peaceful, fun-loving dudes.The world would be a better place if we all monkeyed about a bit more. Spiders on the other hand are the spawn of Satan, and must be crushed on sight.

This film has some scareful bits, and a few excitement moments where you’re not sure whether to scream or not. The bit where the monsters are chasing the fools through the tunnel and the bit where Silly-Ann Murphy is walking round London by himself. He should have just went to Harrods and McDonalds and made out like bandits. He wakes to find the world is empty, Day of The Tulips style, but eventually is chased by the creatures. He meets up with a small group of survivors who explain what’s going on, and they try to travel to Glasgow where there are other survivors, and better runways to escape on a plane from. They meet evil army men, they fight with the creatures, and generally have an exciting time. It’s not the best horror film I’ve seen, but considering how awesome horror films are these days it really needed more scary bits and killings. However, as I am usually too scared by horror movies I though this was just right.

Best Scene: When Murray is exploring Olde London Town and he looks into a car window- BOOM! A dead body falls by the window inside the car. Everyone jumped at that in my house!

Sorry- Zandra