Tokyo Vampire Hotel

Review: Tokyo Vampire Hotel

What the balls!? I feel like I could begin any post about Sion Sono with that time-honoured phrase, and I could probably just end the review right there. That wouldn’t be fair to the madcap artistry of Sono, or his fans, or anyone who stumbled upon this very odd Amazon Prime show from the Japanese master. Having been a fan of Sono’s work since the late 90s or early 2000s, a part of me wants to get all of these posts out of the way so that once his first US movie is released – the upcoming Prisoners Of The Ghostland In starring Nic Cage – people will have a nice spot to find reviews of his other work. And party because everyone Tom, Harry, and Dickhead who has never watched a foreign movie in their life is going to jump on the bandwagon, assuming Prisoners is going to be as wacky and successful as I’m hoping. 

A very brief intro to the dude if you’re new here, or to Sion Sono; he’s a Japanese movie and TV director, and he also writes. He is one of a batch of very interesting and unique Japanese filmmakers whose work divides opinion and is frequently controversial, bewildering, and critically acclaimed. If there’s one aspect which sets him apart from his peers, I would offer that it’s his use of music and editing – songs and recurring score motifs feature heavily in his work, and he frequently breaks rules and fourth walls with his editing and directing techniques. Most people will know of his work either by name or by notoriety – Suicide Club (famous for its opening shot of school girls leaping to their deaths in front of a train), Tag (already meme bait thanks to its wacky intro where a bus of school kids and teachers are sliced in half by an invisible force), and Tokyo Tribe (an unusual Japanese hip hop musical). He started out in the 80s as a director of ‘Pink Movies’ and has tried his hand (successfully) in most genres you can think of – straight supernatural horror with Exte, poignant drama in The Land Of Hope, thrillers with Cold Fish and Himizu, fantasy courtesy of Love and Peace, and of course whatever the hell Love Exposure (arguably the best film of the last twenty years) is. While he recently did a show with Netflix – the unsurprisingly controversial (and good) The Forest Of Love – he worked with Amazon Studios first on his 9 part series of whatthefuckery known as Tokyo Vampire Hotel.

The title tells you the basics – there’s a hotel in Tokyo used by vampires – but within minutes (and throughout the entire running time) the plot becomes grossly overcomplicated, confusing, and increasingly bizarre. But don’t worry – it’s purposefully silly, it has one fanged tongue firmly in the corner of its mouth, and it’s ridiculously violent and perverse; in short, it’s wonderful. It will be difficult to write about any of this without getting into spoiler territory, but I’ll do my best to summarize the premise without giving too much away – it’s enough to simply say that there are tonnes of characters whose significance wax and wane drastically, and that certain story elements and twists are introduced which may be important and others which seem important but aren’t. A. Lot. Happens.

We begin with a young girl called Minami who is out with her friends one night. Out of nowhere, a violent gang enters the restaurant she’s in and murders everybody. They apparently let Minami live. Then a rival gang comes and there’s a huge shoot-out – everybody wants this girl. Turns out the gangs are from rival vampire clans and a prophecy foretold the importance of Minami, sort of explaining why they are fighting over her. Meanwhile, there’s a fancy pants party going on in an exuberant hotel. It’s an Invitation only affair, and while some of the guests seem to know one another, most are strangers who think they are being selected for some sort of game or dating show. Our host – Yamada – is a charismatic vampire of some respected standing and he informs the guests that they have been purposely selected because of their hyperactive libidos, and that in a few hours time an apocalyptic event is going to end all life on the planet. The sex fiends will be the last surviving people on the world and it will be their job to shag as much as possible and have as many delicious babies as possible so that the vampires have a never-ending food supply. That’s about the gist of everything, but a succession of new plot reveals and characters lets us know that there’s a hell of a lot more going on under the surface – literally.

It is a confusing show and I wouldn’t hold it against anyone who bows out early. Anyone already a fan of Sono should stick around, and anyone who becomes curiously invested in any of what’s going on – the story, the characters, the punk tone, the gorgeous and zany look and feel of the things – will be rewarded with layer after layer of bonkers goodness. Everything about the show is wildly over the top – the acting, the violence, the seedy nature, the secrets. Sometimes in a show like this you need an anchor to keep you grounded – maybe you find that in Minami, maybe you find it in the vampire K, maybe it’s your need to find out what the hell the point of any of it is – for me it was simply to enjoy living inside Sono’s brilliant, demented mind for another few hours. The story has plenty of moments of intrigue and the characters who come and go at a moment’s notice all have their charm, but it’s how Sono squishes all of these aspects together in an apparent middle finger to form and expectation which kept me watching until the end. If you’re looking for a satisfying story with a beginning, middle, and end which follows the outlined premise you’ll probably be disappointed, but if you’re after a big pile of wacky stuff to laugh at and tell your mates about all punctuated by moments of sublime cinematic beauty, then Tokyo Vampire Hotel may be for you. There’s nothing like it on the market now – I’m not sure if there has ever been anything like it – and there’s no-one quiet like Sion Sono.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Tokyo Vampire Hotel!

The Password Is Courage

The Password is Courage original film poster | Movie Poster Studio 1184

If there’s anything to learn from The Password Is Courage it’s that Dirk Bogarde was a bad-ass. Check out any biography or discussion of his past, his own part in World War 2, and many other antics; bad. ass. The Password Is Courage was by no means the first POW movie, but it’s one of the most underrated and lesser known, with an opening 10 minutes which must rank among the most entertaining I’ve seen in the genre. Make no mistake, this is neither gruelling nor overtly political, or even particularly serious, sharing more similarities with something like The Great Escape. 

The film opens with Bogarde’s Sgt-Major Coward and cohorts already in a POW camp. We don’t get to see this camp actually being as horrific as we know they could be (there were of course limits to what movies could show and what audiences could tolerate back then) but we know the Allied soldiers want freedom. Coward consistently makes a nuisance of himself and is trying to look for ways to escape – on a forced march he slips away and hides in a farmhouse. Unfortunately for him, this farmhouse is already about to be taken over by the Germans as a hospital – luckily, the Germans are idiots and they mistake Coward for an injured German soldier and award him the Iron Cross in a particularly amusing scene. All of these antics are merely set up for his actual escape as he is quickly recaptured and sent back to his POW camp. A brave move to have a fake-out escape in the opening moments and which takes up a fair chunk of the running time.

The rest of the movie follows Coward continuing to lie, cheat, and steal his way from Camp to Camp – pissing off both Germans and Allies equally in his search for freedom. He gets a friend, he meets a pretty lady, and there are moments of both action and humour. The film never comes close to striking a serious nerve and while I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a jolly romp through the worst period of the 20th Century so much as offering a clearly fictional more light-hearted take on the audacity, bravado, and luck of some of those involved.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Password Is Courage!

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Charm School!

Charm School by Roxette: Amazon.co.uk: Music

Greetings, Glancers! I’m fairly certain I’ve seen a Barbie movie called something like Charm School. That one where she’s Blair Willows. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to hear something we haven’t heard before, and by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’, and by ‘me’ I mean ‘I’. I haven’t heard any of this album before and in truth I don’t have high hopes. Charm School was the first album in ten years from Roxette, after the not so good Room Service. Marie had had a brain tumour you see, and that sort of thing gets in the way of, well, everything. But the band and Marie kept fighting and returned with another record. I have no idea what it’s like or what it’s about, but the best I’m hope for is one good single in the vein of their past greats – one song that I hear and can say ‘hey, that was actually pretty good’. Lets do this.

Way Out‘ starts out with some distant swirling before a laid back beat and acoustic guitar section starts. Per’s vocals should always take a back seat to Marie’s for me, but that’s me. It’s nice to hear that Roxette pop rock sound again, in this modern world of clipped melodies and auto-tuning. There’s some crisp guitar, some light melodies, and the chorus is as always the focal point. It’s not bad.

No One Makes It On Her Own‘ begins with Marie and piano. With a name like that, it’s easy to draw parallels with what she had been going through when gone from the public eye. Her vocals are still good, but is there some sort of mumble quality or lisp there now? Or is she struggling more with English? There’s definitely something a little different from before. Otherwise, this is very nice – a melody as simplistic as something like Imagine but honest and heartfelt. Two songs of varying B Grade quality.

She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio)‘ opens with a funky beat and strange oozing distortion. Per leads again. The verse is guff, the chorus isn’t bad but too short versus the longer verse. The verse is C or D grade, the chorus B, the bridge B – whatever that works out for you. I’d call it the weakest song so far, but the most up-tempo.

Speak To Me‘ starts with one of those oriental sounding string instruments. More Per. A better melody and verse. The Marie comes in with a blast of a chorus – that’s a very Roxette chorus, very reminiscent of their heyday. It’s good. I get the impression that this one would act as a comeback anthem for diehards. It’s not challenging, just a reminder that they can still do the big emotive power pop thing when they choose to.

I’m Glad You Called‘ is slow acoustic guitars and the start. It’s Marie and that lisping mumbling quality is even more prominent here. It’s quite distracting, which is a shame because the music is quite lovely – no booming drums, but lots of string accompaniment and unusual vocal choices, even when Per joins. I think this could be really good with a more powerful vocalist in their prime, or Marie twenty years earlier.

Only When I Dream‘ kicks off with the big hook first, some fuzzing guitars and synth stuff alongside it. Per propels another decent atmospheric verse forwards before Marie joins. It keeps kicking on and building and then the chorus drops suddenly. It’s pretty good too, but those transitions are slightly too sudden – like there’s a few seconds just missing to connect the pieces and heighten the emotion and solidity. Still, it’s more compelling than most of what was on the last couple of albums and it actually feels like a return to form.

Dream On‘ opens with a nice acoustic flourish before trending towards an early Britpop sound – like James or one of those bands who were doing the Britpop thing before Blur and Oasis exploded. They’ve pulled way back on the experimental outbursts from the last album and are dedicating their focus on melody, which is a big plus for a band like this. Marie gets a quick hook in there too, followed by some harpsichord type jingling.

Big Black Cadillac‘ sounds like they’re going experimental again. There’s synth humming but at least it’s melody based again rather than just chucking in sounds for the sake of it. It’s more that they’ve said ‘instead of guitars, lets try this’. The verse is silly and bouncy, the chorus better. A little similar to some other songs on the album but not so overt as to make me discount it.

In My Own Way‘ is another slow one – arpeggio and Marie, singing more clearly now. Another good melody, more building in the background. We get the few seconds of space before the chorus. But is that the chorus or just another verse? That’s a shame as there is no clear and obvious standout chorus. The rest is good, though we probably didn’t need Per’s part.

After All‘ has another quirky Britpop approach. Feels like the start of a sitcom or a kids TV show. It’s fun and silly and nonchalant. This one feels like a sleeper single.

Happy On The Outside‘ has some brief synth beats and swirls which pull back to allow Marie’s vocals through. Atmospheric again, melody focused again. The chorus clearly owes a debt to Coldplay with the way the drums and piano jangle together, but the melodies remain strong. It all seems effortless, though the cynic in me could say they’re treading water and barely trying. I don’t think that’s the case – I think it’s more a case of them finding comfort in music again and re-introducing themselves to the world in the best way they know how.

Sitting On Top Of The World‘ has more synth sounds. Marie in the verse again and more decent verse. That plinky instrumental overlay reminds me of Michael Jackson’s Someone In The Dark from ET. It’s a strong ending, gentle, easy, clean, they’re not breaking any new ground but simply saying ‘hey, we haven’t been around for a while, but we’re back and we’re still doing that thing you like’.

Well, I got more than I asked for. Quite a few songs met my categorization of ‘pretty good’. When they stick to what I feel they are best at – emotive pop – then you know you’ll get some good stuff. When they try to branch out into different styles and approaches it tends to fall to pieces. Here the softer songs are stronger, the weaker tracks reserved more for the upbeat, up-tempo, more rock oriented songs. Also, it’s a consistent album – it doesn’t bounce from sound to sound and style to style, and it’s not bloated like some of their biggest released. As such, there are plenty of songs I’d gladly listen to again. I don’t think any of them come close to their absolute best, but a few drop into the same crowd as their second tier stuff. It definitely works as a comeback album, a reminder that they can still write crowd-pleasing anthems and emotional ballads. It would take sterner critic than me to complain about that, given the length of time they’ve been away and the circumstances surrounding their absence. If you like Roxette, or if at some point you’ve enjoyed their biggest hits, there will be something here to pull you in.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Charm School!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Speak To Me. No-One Makes It On Her Own. I’m Glad You Called. Only When I Dream. Dream On. After All. Happy On The Outside. Sitting On Top Of The World.

The Wisher

*Originally written in 2003

Spliced (Movie Review) | Bloody Good Horror

Another cheap horror movie which borrows heavily from both big and cult hits of the genre, but one which manages to be quite enjoyable even if we have seen it all before. There are some good performances, some not so good, a few typical scares and jokes (some which hit, some which miss), a fair amount of blood, a simple but well executed story, and quite a creepy bad guy. Probably not worth searching for, but worth watching if it is on TV especially if you are a horror fan.

Mary is a teenage girl with a love for horror movies, always searching for the next scare. When she hears about a new film called The Wisher which has been getting good reviews from terrified audiences, she and her friends go to see it, against her father’s wishes. Mary has a habit of sleepwalking which her father believes is caused by all the rubbish she watches. A short time into the movie, Mary vomits and leaves knowing the film is too much for her. After an argument with her father she wishes he would just go away. Soon her father is dead, and Mary believes she keeps seeing the Wisher creature from the movie. She becomes paranoid and after a few more gory events related to what she has innocently wished for, she believes that The Wisher, or someone dressed up as him is stalking her, obsessively carrying out her wishes in the worst way possible. She finds out that the film makers imbued the film with subliminal messages, and thinks that school hunk Brad, who likes her, has been hypnotised by the film. She tries to find a way to reverse the process, planning to watch the film to see how it ended. The Wisher is on to her plan though…

Although everything is pretty predictable there is still enough fun to warrant watching this. There is some cheesy dialogue and effects, and you would think that once you believed that your wishes were coming true you would immediately wish for The Wisher to leave. Liane Balaban is very good as Mary, at times carrying the film on her own, and Ron Silver is good though seems uninterested in a smaller role. The rest of the cast are OK, but the film is quick and never tries to over-achieve. The Wisher itself does look scarier than your typical cheap horror movie bad guy, and the director’s best moments are when the Wisher is stalking in the shadows or on reflections. There is not much heavy violence and nothing is over-the-top. Give it a go if it’s on, but do not expect a masterpiece, just a quick piece of entertainment.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Wisher!

Life

Life movie review & film summary (2017) | Roger Ebert

If movies have taught us anything, it’s that travelling to space will either lead to jolly adventures with feisty bikini clad Princesses and furries, or gruesome/slimy/explosive death. Life explores the second option, placing the viewer in a realistic present day landscape rather than the not too distant future of Alien – one of several movies it is more than inspired by. By camping us inside the orbital real world ISS alongside a skeleton crew of cross-continental familiar faces, yet giving us fleeting glimpses of what is happening back home – births, parades, cute kids asking cute questions – Life aims to alarm us into thinking what if the guys up there right now discover something hostile?

We join our crew of six as they collect soil samples from Mars which may contain evidence of <insert title here>. Turns out there is life out there, of the single celled variety, and turns out the cell just needs a touch of glucose to get it up in the morning. One taste of sugar and the little bastard begins sprouting, stretching, and expanding. Like all babies, translucent or otherwise, it wants to explore and wreck shit. Once named (by some cute Earthlings), Calvin crushes his daddy’s hand, yeets out, and begins an adolescent rampage. While the film has rightly been called an inferior mixture of Gravity and Alien, it’s probably more accurate to say that it’s a retelling of every parent’s experience with a toddler ever, with more CG. Like every movie set in space, there’s a frantic race against time, lots of clamouring to solve impossible problems, and people picked off one by one as they fight for survival and try to prevent the ever growing, increasingly wobbly Calvin making his way to the good ol’ US of Earth.

It’s a fine watch from start to finish, without really offering anything new. It feels more like a case of updating every aspect of the movies it apes; updated special effects, updated creature effects, updated dialogue – everything to make the film more appealing to today’s audience. The only time the movie puts its neck on the line is with its ending – a refreshingly un-Hollywood ending but one you know is coming so that, once again, it comes as no surprise and dilutes any shock value it was meant to generate. Most attempts at fleshing out each character – and to the film’s credit it does try to do this – most of these attempts feel trite and not genuine. Rather than any individuality, the film offers a stock archetype and then gives each one a single thing which marks them as different from the other. Sanada is Japanese, and has a kid on the way. There’s the disabled dude who, for some reason, becomes obsessive at bringing Calvin to life, Gyllenhaal is calm and cold, but is perfectly happy living in Space, Ryan Reynolds is Ryan Reynolds etc. Each aspect totalled up amounts to a perfectly average film – if you haven’t seen Alien or Gravity then maybe this will have more of an impact on you and for a night in it passes the time without forcing you to think or become too invested, while equally staving off the boredom.

Let us know what you think of Life in the comments!

Fanboys

Making a fan service movie, which is also about fan service/fandom, is a tricky prospect these days. Geek fandom and its associated privilege, is King. People can kick and grump and moan to force someone to lost their job, to force someone into a job, to keep dissenting voices out of fandom, or to cause enough of a stink so that the fandom eventually gets what it wants. Fandoms have always been a vague mire of toxicity and inclusive joy representing both the best and worst of humanity, and both aspects have only been exacerbated by the pervasive and all encompassing nature of social media. Fanboys was released as social media was beginning to explode, but it gets around some of these issues by setting the film in the more innocent, greener pasture of 1998.

If you were a Star Wars fan in 1997 and 1998, it was a particularly exciting time. I was a lad of 15 and a fairly large fan of the franchise – not as big as my older brother, not as rabid as others, but certainly keeping an eye online for snippets of information such as they were dispersed back then. Fanboys follows a group of typical 90s nerds – comic book and sci-fi fans, but not the entitled geeks of today, and not the bullied party avoiders of the 80s. Having recently left High School and each figuring out the trials of adulthood – whether that be living in your mom’s garage, following in your father’s footsteps, or working in a comic book store – the gang meet up at a Halloween party and reconvene in anticipation of Episode I. There is an undercurrent of anger due to one of the gang seemingly growing up and leaving his friends behind, but when it is revealed that one of the group has terminal cancer and only has a few months to live, the tension is put temporarily on ice. The main problem is that the dude wants to see Episode I before he dies, but it is due for release in six months while doctors have given him no more than four. The guys decide that the only solution is to break into the infamous Skywalker ranch and catch a pre-release copy, and so they set off on a road trip across the Country.

This being a Road Movie, it hits all of the expected trappings – every mile travelled brings a new discovery about a particular character and their coming of age, each new destination features an associated humorous interlude, and as the gang get closer to their goal they learn that the journey and those you make the journey with are often more important than the final destination. Being a movie about fandom, there are plenty of in jokes, cameos, and nerdy discussion – some more ill-advised than others – from recurring battle between Star Wars and Star Trek fans, from Billy Dee Williams appearing as a character called Judge Reinhold and cameos by William Shatner, Ray Park, Carrie Fisher, Kevin Smith and other, to Harry Knowles appearing as a character (played by an actor). Sadly the film became more known for its controversial re-shoots. Early buzz was positive and George Lucas was a fan, but later re-shoots attempted to add more raunchy humour and remove important character and story elements. These re-shoots were done by director Steven Brill, famous for only making shit movies, and when a genuine fan campaign was raised pleading for the original vision of the film to be released, Brill responded with a highly publicized and idiotic rant about fandom. Eventually the original vision was mostly restored, though director Kyle Newman had barely any time to complete. This seemingly resulted in a mish mash of a film, one which has fleeting moments of potential, genuine warmth, and humour, while much of the film feels a little disjointed and unsure of what it wants to be.

Star Wars fans should nevertheless get a laid back kick out of the movie. It’s harmless and has a collection of laughs to go with the decent performers from recognisable faces – Kristen Bell, Jay Baruchel, Dan Fogler. Whether or not the reshoot controversy prevented the film from being a more rounded and well received movie we’ll likely never find out, but anyone looking for an underseen coming of age Road flick centred on friendship and fandom might want to give this a watch.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Fanboys!

In Your Room

*Originally written in 2009

See the source image

Anneke’s 3rd release since leaving The Gathering shows further growth as an individual artist and as a whole is a much lighter album than any previous work. I say ‘lighter’ with a positive slant, as this album goes for a more straight forward pop approach, revelling in Beatles-esque melodies rather than some of the more downbeat, introspective, and slower songs from previous albums. There is a sense that Anneke is smiling throughout each track and the sheer joy of writing and performing shines through. Some fans may not agree with the direction she has taken here, but there are still plenty of traditional rock moments. At its core, this is another emotional piece covering a wide array of thoughts and feelings brought to our ears by her heavenly voice.

‘Pearly’ opens the album in a suitably left of centre melodic manner. Twanging chords build gradually, while Anneke sings of desire in an openly horny fashion. The verse and chorus are catchy without being instant ear worms, and she substitutes a guitar solo with her own vocal ‘doos and dees’ – something I always enjoy. This is a strong opener which tends to grow on the listener as time passes.

‘Hey Okay!’ was the lead single and highlights the overall direction of the album. It is probably the most pop-sounding song she has ever written, and as a result is one of her most fun and infectious. It certainly isn’t the sort of fluff which makes up the charts, but rather returns to the days when melody was master and wit and talent followed in tow. Lyrically, it is a partner to the opening track as it continues the subtly sexual themes, but musically it bounces along with one of the most repeatable choruses in recent memory. The song even ends with some tongue in cheek cheerleading vocals.

‘I Want’ continues the light, bouncy introduction to the album, except that the lyrics here are more biting, dealing presumably with some guy or guys and their problems. There are some hilarious synth sounds throughout which give a retro feel and add to the humour of the lyrics, whether intentionally or not. Once again, the ‘do-di-dos’ are extremely catchy and will repeat in your head throughout the day, most often at inappropriate moments.

‘Wonder’ is the first quiet, piano driven, introspective song and as such has a downbeat tone and some heartbreaking lyrics. It re-treads some similar ground from Air but improves upon her debut’s efforts with this feeling much more tuned to heartache and sounding more relatable. It is a simple song, one of loss, one with deep feeling, and one whose simplicity will haunt the listener who has been through a similar situation.

‘The World’ opens with an ominous build-up and a series of questions directed at the listener about the state of The World. The male vocals drop in the second verse to give a different level of texture and tone before the pair duet for the chorus. This is a decent mid-album track which would have more impact in a live setting.

‘Sunny Side Up’ returns us to the lighter side of things in glorious fashion; a lovely, simple, summer song that I can find no fault with. Instantly contagious thanks to beautiful melodies throughout, and a nice string middle section replacing the usual guitar solo. Who’s Miranda?

‘Physical’ begins in acoustic fashion albeit with bitter lyrics and angry vocals which reach a wonderful peak in the chorus. Nice chorus harmonies too. I like how this one switches between sensual and angry, light and dark very easily and quickly, echoing the ‘you…me’ lyrical style. Another novel touch is replacing, or echoing the guitar solo with Anneke’s voice.

‘Home Again’ is the second sullen piano led track, and while it doesn’t pay off as well as the first, it still has strong moments, particularly on the ‘stormy day’ line thanks to the painfully yearning vocals. The verse and chorus seem a little too barren and unaffecting to have a huge emotional impact, but I’m sure there are plenty who will see this as a favourite – just not for me.

‘Wide Open’ is one of the heavier songs on the album, featuring a driving bass line and an interesting series of guitar riffs. The verses aren’t particularly memorable, but the chorus vocals are fairly powerful and the lyrics give off both a blasé air of disinterest and an honest, thankful sentiment.

‘Longest Day’ is my least favourite track on the album, a little too uneventful. There isn’t anything wrong here – it isn’t bland, it just doesn’t have enough to make it stand out from the other softer songs presented. There are good moments, naturally, like some of the melodic parts pre-chorus, and during the chorus – it feels like another track cut from Air as it has the dreamy, thoughtful sensation which permeated that album.

‘Just Fine’ is one of my favourites, a calming mid-paced rocker which has Devin Townsend’s influence all over it. I love both the verse and chorus melodies, both showing off Anneke’s wonderful range, but without doing anything spectacular. It’s another sunny, snappy song.

‘Adore’ closes the album in strong fashion, a 5 star track with stormy guitars and notable melding of vocals and melody. Anneke weaves between the usual soaring sounds and more rough edged vocals where a touch of gravel adds that extra something special. The way the melodies rise and fall along with the guitars is particularly glorious, and although the chorus is a little uneventful, it only lasts a few seconds each time.

While Air was a distinctly cold, and almost barren affair musically (not a bad thing) In Your Room is altogether warmer in tone and theme, with a much fuller musical soundscape. There are more driving rock songs, there is more variety, and there are a selection of standout memorable tracks which deserve more recognition. Anneke here has clearly found her own voice and style, and is having fun writing, recording, and performing. When the output is as strong as this, both she and us should have no complaints.

Let us know in the comments what you think of In Your Room!

The Slumber Party Massacre

The Collinsport Historical Society: Monster Serial: THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, 1982

When you call your movie ‘The Slumber Party Massacre’, there are certain things an audience might expect; namely, a slumber party, possibly some sort of massacre, and perhaps that massacre will happen at a slumber party. The periphery information – what the theme of the Slumber Party is, who is in attendance, who is doing the massacring, and why these people are being massacred – well that’s left to the excited viewer to uncover, but presumably each of these questions would also be answered. The Slumber Party Massacre answers every one of these questions – there is a slumber party (attended by a bunch of peppy high school seniors), there is a massacre (instigated by a good old fashioned escaped crim who takes a liking to this particular group of friends), the massacre does happen at the slumber party (and a little precursor or two beforehand), the theme of the slumber party is simply to drink and get stoned and bitch about people – and some of these people even show up to be massacred too. Basically, there’s a whole lot of massacring at this slumber party.

What else should be in a film with this name? If you answered boobs, then you’re correct! Boobs should be present, and boobs are present. Quite often in fact. If you’re wondering why I’m asking all these bizarre, vaguely humours questions – it’s not merely because I’m a lazy, unfunny writer, but it’s because they’re actually relevant to the context of the movie. The film was originally written as a parody or satire of the booming slasher genre – while it was never going to be as meta as Scream, it was still designed to poke fun at the exploitative nature of the genre – the male gaze and full frontal antics, the ludicrous violence, the empty-headed characters, nonsensical plots, and the killers and their ridiculous agenda/weapons/masks/unkillability. At some point between script and filming the unthinkable happened and the film instead switched into being the exact sort of film it was meant to be satirizing. What this means is that we have a film filled with the blood, guts, bad guys, killings, and boobs of your usual sleaze’n’slash-fest, but a script with strange in-jokes, characters who seem more savvy than they should be, and some proto-feminist turns. In short, it’s fucking bizarre.

While you’re not going to highlight any of the performances as notable, everyone here is passable and entertaining, from the cannon fodder to the cannon. As bad as you’re expecting a film with this title to be, you’ll enjoy it in spite of yourself. Horror fans will enjoy the niche it owns along with the kills, the various trappings and tropes, and any non-horror fans will get a kick out of how silly it all is. On the surface it’s a typical slasher following a bunch of girls being stalked by a crazed killer and his powerdrill (shlong), and as they get picked off one by one the survivors begin to fight back in a last gasp attempt at survival. It’s just over an hour long, and as such makes for a curious and simple good time – the perfect horror party movie before moving on to something more substantial.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Slumber Party Massacre!

Nightman Listens To – Steely Dan – The Royal Scam (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

Steely Dan: The Royal Scam Album Review | Pitchfork

Greetings, Glancers! I’m back once more to embark on a voyage of discovery and listen to a classic album which I have never heard before. I have a story about this one – well, not about the album, or even the band, but just bare with me. Back in the early 2000s I was recording a variety of demos on cassette with a primitive four track recorder – most of these involved getting very drunk, eating muffins of an illicit nature, and recording myself (and a friend) playing instruments we didn’t know how to play. Inspired nonsense in other words. We would give each ‘track’ a name, and give each recording session/cassette a name. One of these was called The Steely Dan Sessions. I’m fairly certain neither of us had ever listened to Steely Dan so I have no idea where this name came from, but based on what little I know of the band I believe the name to be apt. That’s about it really. Um, thanks?

What Do I Know About Steely Dan: They play experimental/prog rock? Eclectic? I don’t know.

What Do I Know About The Royal Scam: Absolutely nothing.

Kid Charlemagne: Funky Stevie Wonder start. Nice shifts in tone. Love the shifts between minor and major. Clean and crisp production. Loose and free. Good melding of sounds and instruments. Good solo. I realise I haven’t been paying attention to the lyrics, but they’re taking about someone, not sure if it’s a fictional figure or based on a real person. Ends with another solo, fading out. Good stuff, I like it.

The Caves Of Altamira: That funky sound and production continues. I didn’t mention the vocals before, they’re not standing out to me but that’s not always a bad thing – here they slot in with everything else for a very suitable and coherent whole. Good use of the backing vocals too. It always takes something special for heavy use of brass to not tick me off, and these songs haven’t annoyed me yet. This even has a brass solo. It’s fine but I prefer the opening song.

Don’t Take Me Alive: A distorted guitar intro hints at a different sound, but then the song begins in earnest and follows the vibe of what has come before. Nothing wrong with that, and it starts out with a badass solo. The vocals feel a little low in the mix, like they’re behind the instruments? This was a stylistic choice as a lot of 70s music did something similar. Without paying specific attention, the lyrics sound more interesting than what you hear today – though that isn’t saying a lot. I suspect I’d have to delve further and read them word by word then listen again, sounds like someone on the run or making a last stand.

Sign In Stranger: A slower jazz piece, heavy on the keys, still playing with that funk. Seems to be about a guy who can hide your mistakes or flaws or give you a new life/clean slate? It’s exquisite piano/keyboard playing, just about held in place by the repetitive guitars. There’s a big brass breakout towards the end where the guitar gets to cut loose and shred for a minute but this fades out too. Not a huge fan of every song fading out without a clean cut finish.

The Fez: More funk, this one feels more like a disco track than anything else so far. There’s a blues vibe too, somehow. This is probably the most repetitive and simple track so far, not a lot to it and repeated lyrics too. It’s fine, probably my least favourite so far.

Green Earrings: I think I know what we’re getting now. Yes it’s more funk so that seems to be their style, at least on this album. The vocals here remind me somewhat of Floyd’s Animals. I can easily see me grooving along to this in the future – music which makes you want to dance or move which uses actual instruments is always preferable to me over digitized stuff, especially when it’s actually intelligent and/or inventive. Some great guitar work here again.

Haitian Divorce: They’re going for something closer to a Reggae sound. I’m not usually a fan of that sound when it’s diluted or adopted by other genres, but this is okay. It’s more laid-back and smooth than most of the other songs, good use of the wah and other effects. Some vocal parts remind of Bowie – very pronounced words and a similar delivery. I’m not sure this long needs the extra couple of minutes over most of the other songs – seems a little stretched when the same effect could have been delivered under five minutes, and it has an especially long fade-out.

Everything You Did: This is one of those songs which reminds me of cheesy sitcoms. Something about the combination of tone, instruments, and speed. It doesn’t start out like that, but the verse and by extension the chorus definitely conjure up images of smiling American faces turning around to the camera in freeze frame, green lawns, and wood panel cars. The song is just okay for me, one of the weaker ones on the album.

The Royal Scam: So we close with the title track. Starts out with lots of tinkling and twinkling. To continue the unique to me feelings, this intro makes me think of 70s US movies, cars driving down city streets at night. Once again, no idea why, except to say that’s the first thing I thought of when the song started. I’m still no in love with the vocals, too close to Bowie for my liking. The lyrics actually seem to be talking about streets so my feelings can’t have been too far off. It rises and falls, stops and starts, there is guitar, brass, and organ throughout. I’m not a huge fan of this one either but still another couple of minutes to go. More of the same really.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: It has a very rich and full sound, no doubt aided by both stellar production and skilled musicianship. I was expecting it to be prog and while there are progressive elements, I would in no way class this as being part of the prog genre – it’s important to remember than many 70s bands had that sort of expansive, adventurous vibe and were willing to experiment with sound and timing without actually becoming prog. If I can say anything negative it’s that it stays fairly rigid within its own constraints – no song is particularly faster, slower, heavier, softer, than any other. By and large the songs are all of a similar length and most of them end with a fade out, which I’m generally not big on. This contributed to the second half of the album not being as strong or interesting for me. On first listen it’s difficult to gauge quality or feelings, but there’s definitely enough here that I’d want to listen to it again and see what else the band has. I can’t speak to the band’s influence and I’ve no idea how popular they were or still are or how many sales this had, but it sounds like something which should be on the top 1000 albums.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 868/1000

What are your thoughts on The Royal Scam? Is this one of your favourites, or do you recommend a different Steely Dan offering over it? Let us know in the comments!

#Alive

Korean Thriller '#Alive' Coming To Netflix On September 8

It’s true that there is a fatigue for zombie movies at the moment. In truth, that fatigue set in over a decade ago, but that hasn’t stopped movie-makers still attempting to find a new spin on the formula or drop their own mangey undead copycat. #Alive lies somewhere in the No Man’s Land between these two camps, bringing in drones and vlogging and a different type of location, yet not really doing anything radically different from a narrative or character perspective. It’s essentially the same survivalist shtick of Night Of The Living Dead, set in a South Korean apartment block with a (mostly) single protagonist whose incompetence is his most notable trait. Luckily, the film is not overlong and is told with a certain amount of energy which compliments the youthful nature of its hero.

#Alive doesn’t take long to get to the point. A typical twenty something social media gamer type is just setting up for another day of streaming videogames with his friends and subscribers when one of his gang notices something strange on the news. As they question the validity of what they’re seeing, our protagonist hears the sudden sounds of carnage coming from outside; screams, car crashes, stampeding crowds. He looks out of his balcony to see people running and attacking each other from a few storeys below, and similar sounds are coming from right outside his door. It’s zombies, of the 28 Days Later variety. So begins the usual barricading of doors and windows, setting out food and water, and preparing weapons for an eventual attack and inevitable step outside. All the while he keeps checking his mobile, hoping for a signal, hoping for news from his family who had already left for the day when the attack began.

The Night Eats The World follows a very similar premise to this, but the two films are very different in tone and approach. #Alive is more action heavy and only half-heartedly deals with the psychological aspects of being trapped, terrified, and alone – not knowing if you’re the only person left alive in your city. The Night Eats The World is much more successful in this regard, and feels like the fresher movie even if it is the slower, more drama focused. Yoo Ah-in is perfectly serviceable as our lone survivor, suitably clumsy and naïve, yet capable of bravery when desperation calls for it. The story doesn’t truly explore his character beyond the fleeting looks at family photos or checking for texts, and I feel like the better film would have been him keeping in contact with each of the streamer friends from the start of the movie, follows their daily updates from his perspective until the power eventually goes out. The apartment location isn’t used to its full potential, at least not until the second half of the movie, and when certain reveals are made, you expect them and any twists which come along. It’s not a game-changer, but in terms of a Netflix Korean zombie movie in a contemporary setting, it manages to remain watchable without ever being scary or gruesome or particularly thought-provoking. It’s a one-off popcorn movie for people not familiar with the genre or who have a particular affinity of South Korean actors.

Let us know in the comments what you though of #Alive!