Archive for December, 2011

A few of the best surprises have come courteously of lower budget film-makers this year. But my favourite and as a fan of the original, not it’s not Rise of the Apes – it’s a controversial choice… My film of 2011 is The Thing prequel. Gasp!
Here we have a few one-liners of a few horrors and science fictions that I caught this year. For the full ponderings on each title click the links. What was your horror or Sci-fi of the year?
The Dead is probably the most grounded undead film since Romero’s original trilogy.
Looks good, superb cast but painfully predictable.
Wolves, witches, demons, exorcism, possession, brooding fog, castles, dark forests, swordplay and everything you’d expect from an atmospheric fantasy period piece.
There’s some effective bloody gore, grizzly births, severed spines, dog attacks and killings
Considering its origin (based on a series of cartoon and toys) it’s solid entertainment which is being overly analysed and unfairly panned.
An alien comedy homage that you can’t help like.
If modern romance is your thing and you like science fiction there’s enjoyment to be found. Everyone else beware unscrupulous advising.

Aaron Eckhart gives it his all in a Formulaic Invasion flick

Good entertainment especially if you are a fan of Thor, but all the special effects add up to something very forgettable and feels like a vehicle simply for The Avengers film.
Constructive science fiction within a contemporary setting.

The Resident 
Maybe disturbing for many due to themes of intrusion and privacy being violated.

Sucker Punch requires a lot of patience’s for such little reward.

Nothing new, but a wonderfully acted and crafted film.
Well written, lots of fun much and very enjoyable.
Rise manages to be an emotional ride, successfully grounding the concept of the originals while eradicating Burton’s 2001 missed opportunity.
Refreshing film that has all the Hollywood polish without all the Hollywood trappings.
The period feel is captured wonderfully but there’s not enough of Weaving.
Steven Spielberg clone but warmth and wonder it generates that can’t be a bad thing.
It’s crude it’s rude, it’s politically incorrect – with dick, sheep, vagina, gay gags and jokes galore but it’s daft and arguably unoffensive as it’s simply stupid fun.
Very fast paced film with enough surprises to keep it fresh while paying homage at the same time.
Once again it builds up to a big snapping scare, its more of the same. Nevertheless, it still manages to suck you in an be intriguing – why I’ll never know.
Eerie moans and groans of the dead add to the creepy experience. Worth watching especially if you liked the first.
Borrowers meets tooth hungry Gremlins.
Gory, bloody and overall more fun than it should be due to it’s great execution and grimness
A mix of UK’s Most Haunted, USA’s Ghost Hunters (T.A.P.S) and Ghost Adventures although it’s shows what many have been wanting to see for series’.
Strong action adventure but too stylised lacking the foreboding heaviness that Conan requires.
Underground’s weakest link is that it’s not very tight and scenes are drawn out.
Fright Night has its funny creepy moments and is different enough from the original to be entertaining in its own right.
The stellar cast make it work for the most part.
Three a crowd. Period.
Clearly not much has improved since The Blair Witch Project.
John Carpenter returns to form with an effective chiller horror mystery.
A wonderful journey story with aliens as the back drop.Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows 

Dr. Watson’s Stag night, Wedding and Honeymoon go awry. Familiar faces of the first outing make appearances and it feels like a true an equal sequel.

There’s no fancy pictures with this blog post, no eye-candy, no poll and no video. For promos head over to my site. Here are words, numbers and letters. Many have already closed down the window – those still reading I thank you…
The thing about being 5’4 is that you fall under the radar. For me it is a blessing, it’s what being an underground author is all about and as you get older you shrink. Ghost writing gigs aside I turned down two projects in 2011. One for ethical reasons, the other because I preferred the films to the TV series. No one can ever accuse me of selling out.
There seems to be less reading going on these days, with more people spending time on Facebook, sort of facebook-worms and on game consoles. Lot’s of authors think a book signing makes them a good writer, even famous but in reality most people there are just browsing and not specifically there to see them. Even at conventions, the readers are there to see the ‘famous’ head-liners, the book you signed will probably end up on eBay. You are usually there as ‘padding’.
 My editor makes me look good – I have no marketing company behind me and will remain an alternative writer. Does it matter, not to me, of course everyone wants to make it like Tony Montana, however, I never have to proclaimed to be a great writer, just an engaging, neat storyteller. I’d like to think those who buy my books retain them. And story telling is a dying art. Those strong narratives are progressively being replaced by watered-down, bloated, re-jigged, reworked, repackage, mis-sold, ‘safe’ stories. Saturated and bland with anything intriguing being few and far between. The same can be said for film.
There’s no doubt that there’s a snobbery and click within the film and writing industry, it’s not just confined to those fields. All my working life and to my own detriment I’ve never been willing to play the game. And yet both Blood Hunger and Dead Pulse (outselling Blood Hunger 5-1?!) continue to be modest successes and Terminus my art-house film has exceed expectations. POWER TO THE PEOPLE! And lately power to ebooks and kindle.
That said, I am not alone there are many like myself that call a spade a spade and strive to create, not to conform. Being professional doesn’t mean you have to sellout or give in. Although these days does it matter, I’ll never be down with the kids most can’t watch a film over 89 minutes or read anything longer than a 140 character tweet. Should I cater for them or the growing and diverse following I have? You have to ask why do you do it? If your doing it for fame, money it’s unlikely you’ll make it unless you have a bagful of cash to hand over to a PR company and 15 -25% to an agent. It’s all a bottle neck smoke screen. Many of the best artists are sadly not filthy rich, so don’t get the credit they deserve, you have to search them out they are there. They could be you. Get you site, get your product, it’s true build it and they will come. Despite my latest works being part if a saturated genre, they were conceived a long time ago and are definitive and exciting horror homages.
2012 will see the release of the last of my sub-horror genre books Darkest Moons (limited Edition) which will be followed by a film adaptation.
Thanks again for all your support, you don’t have to read my books or films but keep spreading the word to keep an ageing man happy. If you are a writer or filmmaker or anyone with a dream – believe in yourself and just keep plugging. (Unless you really do suck)
Have a great 2012!
My best

P2 (2007)
An office worker called Angela (Rachel Nichols) is pursued by a voyeur psychopath after being locked in a parking garage on Christmas Eve.
I’m a sucker for films where main character just can’t get to their intended destination, The Hitcher, After hours, Judgement Night, Brake down and Hostel to name but a few spring to mind – Films with a minimal cast and a difficult situation to get out of. P2 ticks both boxes here.
First time director Franck Khalfoun builds up the tension here and makes the most out of his two leads Wes Bentley and Rachel Nichols. The score and cinematography is of a high standard and the acting is first rate for this type of thriller but it is let down by its lack of character development by the script.
Angela seems such an unlikable character that you’d like her to get killed off in the first five minutes. That said, who needs characters built? As the film unfolds, after all manner of psychological and physical hoops Angela goes through, you find your rooting for her after all. The effects are realistic and the blood mostly comes from Angela work mate. There’s a nasty scene involving a vicious dog which is not for animal lovers, so beware.
The end is satisfying as to is the film as a whole; all in all it’s a solid little thriller which includes an Elvis Christmas song. You can’t go wrong.

Screamers (1995)
A war ridden apocalyptic mining planet, a small defence robotic weapon known as Screamers have continued to evolve into something more deadly which puts both sides of the conflict survivors at risk.
Alien (1979) scribe Dan O’Bannon delivers an interesting take on the infamous writer Philip K. Dick’s short story, Second Variety.
Both Jennifer Rubin and Peter Weller are very effective as the leads in what could have be just another B-science fiction and the rest of the small cast are adequate enough. Christian Duguay direction is competent and he builds up some genuine tension when the Screamers burrow through the ground, wielding blades and attack their prey, the human war survivors.
Although the special effects are below par and are now dated, the practical effects, chopped limbs, explosions are decent and there are some great matte paintings and the costumes look excellent.
As Joe Hendricksson (Weller) journeys across wastelands to negotiate peace the film becomes more visually interesting and atmospheric with its desolate cold surroundings, sweeping snow covered landscapes and fort complex. An ominous atmosphere is created especially in the darker scenes, which have some nice surprise moments and creepy children.
Screamers is a slow satisfying paranoia sci-fi with guns and robots on a small budget. Overall, it’s certainly worth the watch if you’re a fan of the genre.

The Shining (1980)

A caretaker is isolated with his family in a hotel for the winter season, however they are not alone and the past guests and staff spirits still live on putting the caretaker, his wife and son in grave danger.
The uncut 146 minute version which only reinforced the fact that it is one of the best, if not the greatest tension driven, psychological horror films that has been made.
Thankfully Kubrick doesn’t follow Kings ‘The Shining’ novel to the letter, or we have the hedged animals coming to life and an explosive ending, while grand it would have lost the reality and realism that Kubrick creates.
Jack Nicholson’s antics, Shelley Duvall’s fear, Danny Lloyd’s performance (one of the few child leads that isn’t annoying) is first-rate as Danny. Veteran and voice of Hong Kong Phooey, Scatman Crothers is superb and the array of actors small but memorable parts including, Bladerunners Joe Turkel as Lloyd the Bartender and Barry Nelson as Manger, Stuart Ullman.
It’s not the novel, Kubrick’s the Shining one of the most impressive horror films ever made and on so many levels.

The Thing (2011) 

It is 1982, after a signal is investigated in Antartica a team accidentally find a body and ship. A team of researchers are dispatched to assist and they soon find they’ve discovered something alien and deadly.
From the opening cinematographer Michel Abramowicz frames a shot of a sweeping snow-landscape as a yellow tractor ploughs across the ice and snow with the familiar beats of the originals score. Bearded Norwegian talk in their native dialogue and you feel you’re in good hands from the outset.
Although there are two females roles Mary Elizebeth Winstead as Kate gives it that Alien- esque dynamic with a prominent male cast but over all the look and feel is that of The Thing and it feels like a true prequel.
The recreation of the sets and the 80’s music add to the fan-boy fun and Marco Beltrami score excellently reworks Ennio Morricone original track which packs it’s own punches and chills.
It’s a dark film with lots of shadows possibly more so that it’s predecessor what adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere. It’s also bloodier, and gorier with an equally fantastic autopsy scene.
There’s no getting away from comparing directors Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s Thing to the original classic. That said, for new comers watching it cold it works as a stand alone film – as a prequel to the masses its a joy.
The team are equipped bio researchers which adds extra dynamic and pace to the story, like the viewer some of the characters have equal knowledge of what The Thing creature is doing early on like its audience who have already seen Carpenters classic. However, that fact the characters are up to speed on alien creatures purpose it takes some of the everyday down to earth person handling a situation, learning more as they go along away.
There’s some effective tension and there’s a great set piece on a helicopter. Due credit to writer Eric Heisserer and Ronald D. Moore, the Norwegian dialogue adds to the realism and attention to detail. As distrust builds the story becomes even more engrossing. There’s too much CGI nevertheless there’s some nice touches involving arm braces and tooth fillings thrown into the mix and Heijningen Jr. Handles the mix of splitting heads contorted bodies and faces perfectly while creating a great sci-fi horror ride.
The sound is wonderful with familiar moaning, the tentacles flaying noise and eerie screams galore. These complement the practical and computer effects. There are some discrepancies but none that detract or couldn’t be arguably accounted for.
The acting is more than adequate aided by a solid script. There are some notable performances including Ulrich Thomse’s Doctor Sander and Jonathan Walker as Colin. Winstead really carries the film and does it surprisingly well -as a side note she’s as moody and likable as Kurt’s MacReady.
There’s not a joke in sight, it’s serious. It’s a very fast paced film with enough surprises to keep it fresh while paying homage at the same time. The closing act is bloated but arguably so was The Thing’s 1982. But like its classic counterpart all is forgiven with its great epilogue.
Overall, semi-perfect replication -like The Thing organism itself.

The Thing (1982)

After being freed from its ancient crash site an extraterrestrial life form infiltrates an Antarctic research station, imitating taking the appearance of the researchers that it kills.
An atmospheric understated sci-fi at it best. I’ll never understand how Carpenter lost the lustre in some of the other film he made, nevertheless, his Thing is one of his best movies and also once of the best sci-fi movies ever. Despite being based on the same source material (before remakes were popular) the thing has a look and feel of it’s own and is very different from its 50’s counterpart.
The isolated setting, the astounding cinematography and scenery creates intrigue; drawing you in from the very beginning. It’s a perfect horror/sci-fi cocktail of Ennio Morricone’s haunting foreboding score, Rob Bottin and Stan Winston’s benchmark practical effects (which are to-date arguably unsurpassed) Carpenters claustrophobic set ups and Bill Lancaster screenplay.
It’s rare that every single actor is exceptional and supplied with effective dialogue. All the cast from Kurt Russell to Wilford Brimley as Blair are all captivating, great casting by Anita Dann. The characters have their own issues and as the paranoia sets in relationships are forged and other broken, building to a bold and satisfying conclusion.
This is more than just a cult film with a ‘monster’ hiding in warm places surrounded by snow, it’s a finely tuned science fiction horror masterpiece.

Die Hard (1988)

A New York cop’s holiday is cut short when a group of terrorists gate crash his wife’s office Christmas party and hold the workers for ransom.
Director John McTiernan’s Die hard is the archetype hostage action flick, often imitated rarely surpassed. It’s the sleeper hit that made Bruce Willis a star and remains sinisterly great fun to this day.
It captures that Christmas feeling perfectly with a distinguished score from the late Michael Kamen and some fine cinematography by the then unknown Jan de Bont (Speed Director).
The supporting cast are all first rate and include William Atherton, the late Paul Gleason, Bonnie Bedelia and the excellent Reginald VelJohnson as the typical cop Sgt. Al Powell. Alan Rickman, probably in his finest performance, is the heist leader Hans Gruber. His un-stereotype bad guy has oddly become a stereotype after being copied in countless action films.
Packed with compulsory 80’s one liners, over the top action and a well written script, Die Hard remains a great piece of entertainment.
Actual found footage that documents the horrifying experience of a family that moved into the infamous Amityville haunted house.
Opening with words in “1974” blah, blah “Defoe murdered his family”, blah,”Lutz” blah, “32 years later”, blah blah “what you’re about to see is real”. Then an aeroplane blonde graces the screen under torch light. After quick bloody death, your taken to the POV of a budding mini Steven Spielberg as he films his family.

It’s indicative of Paranormal Activity, the recent Grave Encounters and countless found footage films. With security camera’s installed it’s all be done and at one point it becomes a found footage within a found footage film.
Both female leads are effective enough, it’s not an awful film, the acting is at times naturalistic but the issue is that this style of horror has already been done and done better with more imagination. Every line is a cliché , opening doors, accidental deaths, the wife that doesn’t want to live in the house, no one believes the children, spook- less dark images, moving objects and so on.

At the midway mark as the ‘boyfriend’ vanishes and the police turn up you can help role your eyes as the acting and script take a turn for the worse. The son becomes annoying due to the unnecessary explanatory dialogue and the father goes laughable loopy as he goes head to head with the entity. There are a few moments in the closing scenes where director Geoff Meed slightly redeems the film but it’s too little too late.

The problem with The Amityville Haunting is that it perpetrates to be real and pushes the fact right to the end but nothing feels credible. The sound design is pretty effective if somewhat miss-placed missing the mark at times.
Overall, less effective than the Paranormal Activity series, clearly not much has improved since The Blair Witch Project.
Let I be said that after horror and films I love Christmas and the holiday season, if it’s done right you too can feel like Cliff Richard, Shakin Stevens, Slade and Wizard in one giant snowball eggnog. Ah – it’s like a Fairy Tale in New York.

‘Tis the season to be jolly – when fathers get killed in chimneys dressed as Santa, terrorist take over tower blocks and children get left Home Alone to fend off burglars!

If you take it too seriously it will consume you. Don’t become a hater and try to dissect it. Just think log fires and ‘Last Christmas’ Wham jumpers and it will all go away. Also remember some of the best stories and plays (excluding the most famous one) are set in the winter. You may want to skip a Winters Tale though.

I’d like to take this blog opportunity to thank all my readers, fans and supporters for reading my books, watching my films and spreading the word. So while the weather outside gets frightful, curl up watch the perfect Christmas film like Gremlins, Muppets Christmas Carol, Die Hard, The Thing, P2 or Misery and have yourself a merry little Christmas time.

(Okay so they’re not all technically Christmas films but you get the snow drift.)

My zombie and vampire book continue to be successful (I’m not just making the connection it because they feature snow in a few chapters). Thanks all, I really mean it and to quote some lines from two of my favourite holiday films, “Now I have a machine gun – Ho, Ho, Ho .” “You’ll be sorry you’ll all be very, very sorry. ” and not forgetting, 
“I can see! I have…I have legs. I have… Oh shit, look at this. Legs! I can walk. …”,
“It’s Christmas, Theo. It’s the time of miracles, so be of good cheer…”
Happy holiday and have a fantastic New year!
My best A

Arguably mis-sold as a horror it’s a solid thriller but avoid watching the trailer as it gives the game away.

A family unknowingly moves into a home where several grisly murders were committed… And the killer may still be at loose.

The snowy setting from the city to the suburbs gives the film a crisp eerie quality. Director Jim Sheridan’s Dream House is lovely looking film. What appears to be a run of the mill mystery becomes an intriguing story and somewhat unpredictable drama.
Rachel Weisz’s odd American accent aside the cast are on top form with Daniel Craig pulling out all the stops. David Loucka’s screenplay takes an unexpected if somewhat unorthodox turn which is probably the films main strength. That said, the closing is messy as it tries wrap everything up quick and in a Scooby-Doo like fashion. It’s a shame as it spoils much of what came before.
The stellar cast make it work for the most part and while it contains elements of other psychological films it briefly treads some original ground.

Worth watching if only for Craig’s performance.

Four friends go to Vegas on a bachelor party but end up in an underground club. When one of their friends doesn’t return after the crazy night things take a turn for the worse when they go looking for him.
Opening with a homage of sorts playing against the expected as two victims are caged – Hostel Part Three is off to a good start. The American setting is refreshing but the unlikeable characters are also stereotype and much of the acting is painfully average. Director Scott Spiegel gives us creepy cab drivers, corridors, buildings and alleys. There’s booze, bums and boobs, drills, face pealing and bug torture.
Part three contains what you’d expect in a series that coined the phrase ‘torture porn’ but the effects are average. Despite a few lapses in logic, this entry is missing the grit, terror and feels like its just going through the motions. Michael D. Weiss’ screenplay attempts to expand the mythos but the characters don’t  appear authentic which dampens the fear factor. The last act is literally overblown with an awful twist.
While interesting, overall it’s cheap and pale in comparison to Eli Roth’s superior predecessors.
To say I don’t like remakes would be a lie, Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, The Crazies, and The Wolfman to name a few were all quite tasty but when they start remaking films less than a few years old or ones totally unnecessary something is up. 
To a certain degree (and even though he’s starred in remakes of his own films) I agree with Michael Caine “they should just remakes the bad ones.” It wasn’t a huge fan of Fright Night, I’m not a big fan of genre crossovers in general even so was 1985’s Fright Night ready to be remade that’s for you to decide but here are a few thoughts before you right it off…
After dispelling his friends concerns Charley Brewster finds that his new neighbour Jerry is a vampire and he enlists Peter Vincent a Las Vegas magician and vampire expert to help him.
The 80’s original was of its time, Fright Night (2011) successfully takes the offbeat humour of the original and reworks it into a solid piece of entertainment. Five top calibre leads in a mediocre vampire remake somehow make it work. If it were any other actors it may have disappeared into a void. Thankfully the talent of the leads in this eerie cheese-fest is the films strength. It’s not the ‘why are they doing this’ but the ‘its cool that they are doing it’ factor that’s alluring.
Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Toni Collette and the lovely Imogene Poots (28 Weeks Later) are all on form. Although Tennant is good he isn’t as involved as he should be and he lacks the dynamics due to the screenplay that Roddy McDowall gave to the character. Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Ed is notable and delivers some funny moments. Yelchin has some memorable scenes including a hilarious one-liner about a vampire hand. Farrell steals the show as the perfect intense vampire.
The effects are well executed, there are great sets, splendidly done is Vincent’s apartment and the Vegas setting gives the film a unique atmosphere and distinct look. Craig Gillespie has an eye for detail and the set pieces are slick and exciting.
The script is average and the idea feels worn. That said, Fright Night has its funny creepy moments and is different enough from the original to be entertaining in its own right.

After a fight gets out of hand a group of friends run for cover but find themselves fighting for their lives against ravenous creatures lurking beneath their rave party.
Over dramatic, low budget horror flick that has some fantastic makeup and special effects in amongst the unnecessary fights,hammy dialogue and slow motion scenes.

Underground starts off very promising with the opening of an army squad fending off some nasty looking super genetic humanoids, then director Rafael Eisenman introduces us to an underground rave in an air hanger on a military base that goes on far too long. Underground’s weakest link is that it’s not very tight and scenes are drawn out. It’s well lit and shot with some good pumping tracks.
The score is a mixed bag there’s some great music cues but then it borrows from familiar scores and overcooks them. Writer Charles Morris Jr. borrows heavily from Marshall’s Descent (2005) and Smith’s Creep (2004). The young cast of actors including Eric Abercrombie and Mira Antonova do there best with the script. The Eli Wallach with a German accent lookalike aside – there’s some nice touches, a creature bursting out of an urinal, torn off ears, lobbed off arms, spooky tunnels and creepy corridors.
A lot of effort has clearly gone into Underground, it has a ‘film’ look and with some tighter editing it may have helped the viewing experience. Rafael Eisenman uses every film trick in the book and clearly has ability but it just isn’t a polished enough production, nevertheless it’s a lot bloodier, effective and atmospheric than the abundance of cheap looking horror DTV films.
Despite it’s unevenness there’s worst ways to burn a hour and a half.

 Nothing like a good mix up, cult or classic, or cult classic. Another wide range of films. First up is Stake Land – is it destined to become a cult classic? Fancy a trip down memory lane with Hell Comes to Frogtown, uncooked classic or over-cooked frogs legs? You decide…

Stake Land (2010)
An orphaned young man is saved by a vampire killer and they head north for salvation.
Stake Land is a simplistic story, it’s a rite of passage, mentoring, coming of age movie similar to Zombie Land with a boy being taken under the wing of a seasoned killer, however, director Jim Mickle’s offering is opposite in tone –it’s realistically grim, hard hitting and bloody.
Refreshingly the two leads played by young Connor Paolo and Nick Damici whether intentionally or not are cold and not very likable. The two most warming characters are a nun played by Kelly McGillis and a pregnant singer Belle, cult star Danielle Harris.
There’s plenty atmosphere in this post-apocalyptic world, the on location shoot heightens the authenticity, it cold, damp and dreary reminiscent of The Road (2009) and elements of 30 Days of Night (2007).
There are some interesting set ups notably the imaginative helicopter attack and the girl in the attic. Even though the clue is in the title it’s odd, like the sect, the vampires come across as an unnecessary distraction, they could have easily been written as infected people, mutants or something else. Through no fault of the filmmakers the influx of vampire films has cheapened the core idea for whatever reason. Nevertheless, the makeup and effects of the (un)dead are excellent. This coupled with some good solid performances and accompanying music score give credence to what could have been a b-film in any other hands.
Both Nick Damici and Jim Mickle’s script isn’t scared to kill any one off and while the antagonist twist doesn’t come as any surprise Stake Land is more about the characters journeys.
Far from a sub-par film Stake Land is a notable vampire entry and well executed horror road trip.
Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)
A few fertile men and women exist due to atomic fallout and, as a result, the government places a priority on those that can still breed. One man Sam Hell is sent under watchful eye of a nurse and guard into the wastelands to free a group of women from frog like mutant amphibians.
Hell Comes to Frog Town Is an odd ball post apocalyptic B adventure with Rowdy Rody Piper as one of the last fertile men on earth. Sadly the budget appears to have gone into the surprisingly great makeup effects.
Cheesy dialogue, wooden performances and clunky fights. Although for the most part playing on Hell’s sexual prowess there’s not enough wit or pace to give directors Donald G. Jackson and R. J. Kizer’s Frog Town that cult status. While the concept is fun explosive tracker pants, horny frogs even with the women in control it still comes across for the most part sexist and falls flat.
Piper is his amusing self but is wooden compared to his performance in They Live made the same year. Nurse Spangle is played by stunt woman, Conan star Sandahl Bergman who is in great shape but isn’t the best actress especially when put along side guards women Cec Verrell who has little screen-time. Big Bill William Smith appears and steals every scene with his presence.
It’s worth checking out to see what the fuss is about but you’re unlikely to want to revisit.