Thursday, 29 December 2011

2012: A year to be excited for movies

Every year, there are films that stand out and are important for cinema-goers, but 2011 was quite a poor year for any films with any real anticipation behind them. I think it can be agreed, 2012 does not share the same problem.

I'm not exactly breaking new ground with the trailers below, but needless to say, there are an awful lot of films to impatiently wait for in the coming months.

Ridley Scott's prequel(ish) to Alien. I am very VERY excited for this one.

I have my worries about director Christopher Nolan being able to top The Dark Knight, but this trailer does look pretty great, even with Bane's ridiculous muffled voice. Fingers crossed it breaks the streak of Spider-Man and X-Men and delivers a good closing to the trilogy.

I enjoyed the book and the previous Lord of the Rings films. Here's to hoping the adaptation lives up to the hype (instead of being boring, which the trailer kind of implies it will be).

Though straying away from the found footage tactic that has successfully worked for the previous 2 installments, REC 3 looks like it is going to be a hell of a ride. Watch out for it in March.

I'm really not a Daniel Radcliffe fan and the new Hammer Horrors output has been, well, abysmal seems too tame a word. I have to say though, the trailer seems like we might have a nice creepy film on our hands. Then again, there is an awful lot of potential for it to suck too. 50/50 chance, really.

Ok, this one might suck horribly, or might be a good old romp, assuming it is as absurd as the first one. The fact that it has the Hoff in it and Ving Rhames has shotgun legs should kind of answer that one for me.

I was a big fan of Sam Raimi's films (bar Spider-Man 3), so the decision to reboot a recent series that was still full of life is kind of ridiculous to me, and the trailer isn't exactly making me brim with excitement, but I'm a big webhead, so I'll be seeing it any way. Damn you.

A Joss Whedon penned flick about kids being hunted in the woods, but with a twist! I can imagine this being really bad. I'm wrong an awful lot though.

I know nothing about this film bar the fact it looks like it is going to be amazing! Don't Last Exorcist it up, Devil Inside!

I had to include it, for old times sake.

Nicolas 'THE BEEEEEEEEESSSSS' Cage returns as the flaming skull known as Ghost Rider, who is such a ridiculously awesome visual idea, it is amazing how wrong the first film got it, but judging by this trailer, they finally realised when your lead character is a flaming skull, the only way to go is insane.

Other films to keep an eye on, that haven't released trailers yet:
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: I know nothing of this film, except that some people are very excited for it. I'll reserve my judgement until I see a trailer.
Resident Evil: Retribution: I am almost shamefully a big fan of the Resident Evil films, even if the combined IQ of all of them is less than a smart dog, so I will gladly enjoy another 100 minutes of stupid poppy CGI action. In 3D!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D: For some reason, I am losing faith that this will be any good, but I am always up for some Leatherface action, and Bill 'The Devil's Rejects' Moseley is always good in my books.
Total Recall: Wait, this remake happened? Damn...

Well, these are the films that I think will make 2012 a great year for film. Any other flicks I may have missed? Comment below!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Superman III Robot Scene: Terrifying!

Being the holiday season, there is the inevitable Superman marathon on several channels. For most people, this brings glee and enjoyment. Not for me.

No, I remember one scene in particular all too well that was not the adventure-filled fun most people get out of the film and judging by the comments on YouTube, I am not the only one. Towards the end of Superman III is the robot scene, which was, well, terrifying for me as a kid. Watching it now, it's pretty laughable, but the idea of (SPOILER) a woman being turned in to a machine so suddenly just scared the crap out of me (END SPOILER).

The clip below isn't great quality but was the only one I could embed. You can watch a better quality version here. All you need to see is about the first 20 seconds. 

Did this terrify anyone else as a kid? Or now even?

Saturday, 24 December 2011

You MUST Know What I Think! Best of 2011

Well, it’s that time of year again when a man no one knows gives an opinion no one cares about, but for better or for worse, here is my top 20 films of 2011.

I have noticed a theme for the year seems to be films not delivering good endings based on their setups. I wonder if you’ll agree?

I should put a little disclaimer here stating there are still some films I haven’t seen that could make their way on to this list otherwise, and even though I try stick to genre films, this list is very genre-non-specific. 2012 will be a nice horror year, I promise, but for now, enjoy my opinion on cinema 2011.

21. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
The former child actors of these films have never actually delivered good performances, but the source material is engaging and the longevity and event-like nature of each film has made Harry Potter this generations Star Wars. By no means an amazing film, but great closure to wrap up the ongoing story that began in my childhood. A word has to be said for the awful effects on the coda. I didn’t notice it too much, but those I saw the film with laughed their asses off at it.

20. The Adjustment Bureau
I have a soft spot for Matt Damon, I have to say, and this idea of angels tugging at the strings of everyday life, affecting something in a minor way so it has a major knock on effect (butterfly effect?) makes for a great film. Damon plays a potentially major player in politicks, but strays off the path set for him to follow a girl. A bit slow and clichéd in places, but altogether intriguing and thoughtful, though I stand by my assertion that the ending is a hell of a let down.

19. Battle: Los Angeles
Aliens attack LA. Soldiers fight aliens. Simple but effective. I always see this as the superior companion piece to the turd known as Skyline. There are definite influences from video games like Modern Warfare on show. Though flawed, the film delivers on most grounds.

18. The Thing 
This premake (prequel/remake, ain’t I clever?) is enjoyable on many levels, though suffers far too much from a ‘been there, done that’ feeling throughout. What it lacks in suspense and tension that the original delivered, this new cinematic outing of The Thing makes up for with action and sympathetic characters. Little bit of trivia: The CG is awful, but it appears it is hiding even worse practical work!

17. Insidious
Starting out very chilling and with some greats jumps, James Wans’ latest horror devolves into some cheesy territory, but with some nicely placed nods to classic supernatural flicks like Poltergeist, the film has an awful lot of charm.

16. Captain America
Another slick entry in the Marvel cannon, the film is colourful and polished and features a brilliant performance by Hugo Weaving. We have come a long way with superhero films in the past decade or so, and though not a big stand out, Captain America delivers the action-packed fun you could hope for.

15. Hobo with a Shotgun
Made to be like a low budget 70s exploitation flick, Hobo with a Shotgun goes balls-to-the-wall in how over the top it is. I haven’t seen Drive, which everyone seems to describe in a very similar manner, but here we have Rutger Hauer in all his over the top glory. Grindhouse made fun references to these kinds of films, but Hobo may be the closest to the genuine artefact that I have seen.

14. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
I can hear the groans now, but screw you. You watch a film like this for action and giant robots, and by God you get it. Though very long, the film never feels like it overstays its welcome. No, it has three very distinct acts to it, and all of them deliver their own punches. The final act with the skyscraper eating robot is not to be missed.

13. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Ah, my Katie Holmes obsession continues… I knew going in that this film probably wouldn’t deliver the goods it seemed to promise in the well executed trailer. I watched the original film, which was quite poor, and knew that a film that gets put on the shelf for as long as this one was normally is going to have some problems. That said, it is actually a good fun horror flick that, despite its downfalls (ridiculous mini-monsters, some outstandingly major plot holes) is an enjoyable romp. I’d recommend this for the young adult audience.

12. The Green Hornet
This is a shocker for me, because I was never a fan of the Green Hornet, nor was I expecting to enjoy this film, but by golly, I was wrong. The film plays like a good version of Rush Hour, and leading man Seth Rogen is in fighting form. I wasn’t expecting to find myself laughing at the film as much as I did. It seems this film will probably be quickly forgotten, which is a shame, because it is actually very worthwhile.

11. Super 8
This one had over a year of anticipation behind it, and though it didn’t quite live up to it (a rather poor final few minutes, I have to say), I did enjoy the film, especially the kids making their own super 8 movie. There was talk of this being like a successor to Cloverfield, or being the new ET, but no, unfortunately it isn’t that kind of film at all. It’s just a well executed middle of the road monster flick.

10. Source Code
Arriving in the wake of Inception, this reality-confused film was always going to have an uphill battle, but it remains, even after several viewings, a well done and much less full of itself counterpart to Christopher Nolan’s instant classic. Though it began to almost have a Twilight Zone-feel towards the end, the performances are great, and it asks some thought but not too much of the viewer.

9. X-Men First Class
I’m a sucker for an X-Men film, though the previous 2 instalments have been major letdowns. I am glad to say First Class is a great return to the standard Bryan Singer set. When I saw the film in the cinema, I thought it was a bit too long and slow moving in places, though upon a recent viewing, I think I must recant these complaints. Michael Fassbender is easily the best part of the film, but the whole show is respectful to the mutant universe (and of course, features a badass Kevin Bacon). This one is for X-Men fans and non-fans alike.

8. Scream 4
Wes Craven returns to the well with another Scream sequel that, after such an extended hiatus, was very much on the line of being either great or poor. Thankfully, it edged more to the great side. As with all the Scream films, it is very referential and self-referential, with its tongue firmly in cheek all the way through. On occasion, it gets bloated under its own pretensions of analysing the horror genre, but for better or for worse, maintains a great whodunit plot all the way throughout. Behind the first film in the series, this is a very easy second.

7. Thor
Thor is another Marvel character I am not too familiar with, and the trailers for the film didn’t exactly blow me away, but I took a chance, and did this deliver! Though it is colourful and action-packed in all the ways you expect a Marvel film to be, there is some element of class to it, by having all the action occur in middle-of-nowhere, USA. Humour plays a big factor in this ones appeal, as does some very well developed character flaws and arcs. This is one to enjoy around the holidays, as it has a universal appeal and is a great take on stories we have already seen before.

6. Paranormal Activity 3
Though it doesn’t hold a candle to the first film in the series, PA3 marks a massive increase in quality from the awful Paranormal Activity 2. Set in the 80s (which is probably the worst conceit of the film), the film doesn’t exactly do subtle, but has some great jumps and a lot of tension. When I saw it in the cinema, it was easily the most vocal response I have ever seen a crowd give. The best part? The loudest were all guys, screaming ‘WHAT THE FUCK!? WHAT THE FUCK!?’. I have my reservations about the very end of the film, but this one stands as a great one for a scary night in.

5. Burke and Hare
I have already ranted and raved about John Landis’ latest effort, featuring sterling performances from Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis. I am cheating here, because the film actually came out last year, but it has had little to no attention until this year. Huzzah for Burke and Hare!

4. Tucker and Dale Vs Evil
This is another one I have gone on about at length. Though I am not too fond of the ending, the film is otherwise a gem. It was initially produced and did the festival circuit in 2010, but it has only received its wide release this past year. If you haven’t seen it yet, get a hold of it right away, and it IS best viewed in a group. Oh, but beware, don’t watch the trailer. It’ll spoil all the best bits for you.

3. I Saw the Devil
An amazing South Korean revenge film that pulls no punches. A man kidnaps and murders a woman, but is then hunted down by her husband who, instead of exacting immediate revenge, makes the killer suffer through a series of unfortunate events. Fans of films like Kill Bill, Oldboy or Audition will love this film. It is stunningly shot and resonates in so many ways. Well directed, well written, well acted. An amazing film.

2. Red State
Kevin Smith’s first foray out of comedy and it is very fine. As I have said here, the film is an enigma in itself and is unrelenting with its twists and turns. I had known about this film for years and was always curious about it, expecting something completely different than what I got, but by all means, I enjoyed the hell out of it. On a small side note, people attacked Smith for thinking of asking fans for donations to make this film, which I personally would have loved to do (imagine having your name in the credits of a Kevin Smith film!). However, people seem to have no problem with a little film called Iron Sky being fully funded by people like you and me. Nothing against Iron Sky, it looks like it’ll be a hoot, but I think the fact fans couldn’t contribute to Red State has taken away from the almost personal approach Smith has with the entire film otherwise.

1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
An unexpected number 1, perhaps? People were ready to write off this prequel as fodder similar to Tim Burton’s ill-conceived 2001 effort, but as the trailers held a lot of promise, the film itself delivered in bucket loads. I am quite an Ape fan, fondly remembering Channel 4 running an Ape marathon, but knew that it could be a poor cash-in in this reboot-crazed age. Nope, this film is everything you could want from a film. There are great characters, engaging story and it is well shot. I was just waiting for the moment for the ape to say ‘No’, and I was not disappointed. Part sci-fi monster flick, part jailhouse exploitation, part revenge film, the film is beautiful in its characterisations (John Lithgow brought a tear to my eye), with even the CG characters delivering like no ones business. A surprisingly good film and one I know I will enjoy for a long time to come.

Worst Film of 2011:
Hellraiser: Revelations
Seriously, fuck this film.

Now, bring on 2012!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

See ALL the official trailers for PROMETHEUS here

The internet has been abuzz for the last few hours as Fox finally officially released the trailer for Ridley Scott's upcoming (kinda Alien prequel) Prometheus. Right here, you can see the foreplay and the climax that we fans have had to sit through for the past few days.

Before releasing the beautiful and pristine HD trailer (which is infinitely more nerdgasm-inducing than the poor quality leak that showed up a few weeks ago), we were treated to little teasers, or trailers for the trailer, if you will. There was one each day leading up to today, each featuring Scott giving some soundbites that aren't exactly too informative and are a bit pompous in places, but do feature some great little tidbits of info and have that familiar Alien screech, so we know that yes, this is in fact a direct tie-in to the original Alien.

3 Days To Go...

2 Days To Go...

1 Day To Go...

And finally, today, we were given this beauty:

So, what can we gather? Well, this film should be amazing! Scott has tried to make sure people know this isn't a prequel, so we probably won't have the alien as we know it, and it almost goes without saying that there will be no connection to AvP. There is possibly a hi-tech version of the eggs in front of the massive stone face. The pilot chair from the first film (minus the fossilised space jockey) makes an appearance.

What we have here is possibly my most anticipated film of the year, with an epic trailer, a tantalising one sheet, and the best tagline yet...

They went looking for our beginning... What they found could be our end...

Update: See a frame by frame analysis of the trailer here (thanks, Graham!).

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Best of Irish Unsigned 2011

Just arriving back in the door after a long day of travelling, I feel guilty for not having updated this in the past few days. But I have no energy for a proper write up of anything horror right now and feel slightly bad for all my Victor Garcia bashing. What will I do? I should try balance the scales somehow... Well, it is the season of good will and giving, and I rarely use the 'and whatever else strikes' part of my banner, so why don't I give some excellent musicians the gift of a plug?

Below are the unsigned independent Irish musicians who have stepped up this year and released some great music, which can typically be found FOR FREE on their pages. There are a lot of indie Irish artists, so I am limiting it to the ones I like who have released something this past year, so it is almost a best of Irish unsigned 2011, I guess.

Also, the majority of these are female fronted and all but one have a woman involved in the band. Not intended, but there you go.

WUNDERBRA - Wunderbra

Ok, I'm a bit biased here because I spent the majority of last year hanging with singer Sal Stapleton and edited the music video for the demo version of the opening track Improve My Bust. With music centred on boobies and the likes, it can be difficult for someone like me to have this on nonstop, but I'll be damned if there isn't a ridiculous amount of charm to the way they pronounce 'lungs' with a heavy accent in Off My Chest and talk about jugs of tea (which is Sal's MO, by the by). I do find Braless in Wunderland finding its way in to my playlists frequently. It is generally a great song, but the second verse of 'Thanks for being my queen of hearts' just gives me shivers. Oooh.
Get the EP for free here.

THE DIRTY VALENTINES - 21st Century Dandies

Damn it, another biased one, as I am good friends with my 'little sister' Bev, and think these folks are just funkin' groovy as it is (ok, I won't say anything so cheesy again...). Though rough around the edges, the EP is a foot stomper with catchy hooks and memorable beats. The immediate standout is Lip Liquor, but Pavlov's Dog has come out as a real ear-catcher for me. These guys are great live and this track feels the most like their live experience for me. Keep an eye on em, I have a feeling they have some aces in the hole. Oh, a fun piece of trivia: former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic gave the guys a Twitter shout out for one of their bedroom jams.

Download the EP for free here.

KATE'S PARTY - Heartbreak Song

This is an odd one for me. Out of nowhere, I casually decided to have a listen to this track, and I have yet to stop listening to it. There's not too much I can say about these guys and gals apart from the song is possibly my favourite Irish track right now. My biggest complaint? That they made a song I can't stop listening to! They either have to stop making good songs, or else make a lot more songs as good as this. 

Download the sucker here (but I warn you, I cannot be held responsible if you become a junky in your ways of listening to the song).

WYVERN LINGO - Wyvern Lingo

Wyvern Lingo, or the band most likely to take out a restraining order owing to my slightly stalker ways, are an acoustic trio who have been around for a good few years, dipping in to electric and seem to have found a nice home with bluesy acoustic. The EP, which is available from the girls at any of their gigs, was my soundtrack to a trip to Lithuania, and I have dissected and played the songs just about every way possible. It is wrong for people their age to write lyrics with such resonance and create music with such appeal. They have been experiencing quite good publicity with the release of the EP and have been playing regularly. I recommend you check em out, and get the EP while you can. It even comes in a very snazzy packaging.

You can hear the EP here.

SOUNDS LIKE - Before The Noise

I just had to get my own shameless self promotion in here for my 'band'. Yes, my 'band' put out another collection of music, this one I'm quite fond of. Not your taste? How about checking out the new ongoing experiment that is turning into a full blown thing as time goes on? Also not your taste? Oh... Well.. Screw you. At least I recommended four bands you WILL like.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

PROMETHEUS Leaked Trailer

Hard to make out anything, but I think it's fair to say, I am VERY excited about Ridley Scott's prequel/not-prequel to Alien! The video through the link is an unfinished but official trailer that leaked out at the end of November, but disappeared very quickly by Fox wanting to hide it, so don't be too surprised if it's not online soon. It shouldn't be too long until the proper trailer is released. Dear Fox, I am so excited by this trailer!

If you can, check it out.

PROMETHEUS Leaked Trailer Enhanced De-noised Video

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Underrated and Forgotten: The Exorcist III

The Exorcist franchise spans many films, and to be honest, most of them are rubbish. You'd probably die happy if you just saw the original classic (and die unhappy if you didn't), but a major good word has to be said for the third installment. And here that kinda word is.

William Peter Blatty, the author of the initial book both pens and directs this installment, based off his novel Legion, which was based off a screenplay he wrote as a sequel to The Exorcist. Funny how things go. Rightly ignoring The Exorcist 2: The Heretic, the film is based on Lieutenant Kinderman (the detective from the first film) investigating a series of satanic murders that appear to be the MO of the Gemini killer, a serial killer who is dead.

Great detecting there, chief.

Tone-wise, this film is closer to William Friedkin's than any other, which I can imagine as having been one of the biggest things holding it back when it was released (smack dab in the middle of Return of the Living Dead and Scream). The film is very serious, which is difficult for any film that has to contend with years of parodies and media saturation that the first film created, not to mention the lash back effect of the very poor second film. Yup, the film wasn't exactly given its accolades at the time, but now, now we can rectify this grave misdoing.

It's A Wonderful Life? I love that film! This is 
definitely going to be a fun romp!

Go in to this with an open mind. It isn't an easy film, but a lot of the worthwhile ones aren't. It is bleak and intelligent, bar the final scenes, that were reshot at the behest of the studio (and don't quite live up to the nihilistic tone of the rest of the film).George C. Scott, Brad Dourif and Jason Miller give amazing and solid performances, as do the whole cast, that unsettle, confuse and just outright creep out the viewer. There are many scenes that have stuck with me months after viewing the film, but the stand out has to be the hospital hallway (don't search it up or do a Google Image search, you'll just spoil it on yourself).

Instead, look at this still from a scene that must be important,
yet I don't remember at all.

So, really, I can't say much more on the film. All I can do is implore you, the experimental horror fan, to take a change of pace and try this gem that is closer to a classic horror film but scarier than most of the boatload of films out there. It's not an easy task, but this is one underrated film that deserves its second life.

PS. Though the steps don't really play any part in the film, they cover the promotional material, and in years before I saw the film, captured my imagination as to what this film actually was. They just don't make em like this any more.

Mmm... VHS...

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Is Horror Dead or More Alive Than Ever?

I don’t need to be the one to tell you that the horror genre can go through massive dry spells, which the everyday viewer takes and uses an example of why horror is lame, until the new craze, like Paranormal Activity, comes along and everyone is swept away with it. Some people are less inclined to take the good with the bad, but not the horror fan. They will stand by the genre tooth and nail. As with most things, there are ups and downs to the popularity, but a horror fan will never stray too far away from their fix, putting up with the drivel until something good comes along once again.

Drivel. Hilarious drivel.

Contrary to what some people might say, I propose to you that right now, the good is coming along. Not only that, but we have been in the midst of it for a few years now.

There is always a cycle to what horror films are popular, normally marked by the rise of the slasher film (Psycho, Halloween, and Scream) and the decline of the supernatural-themed flicks. The end of the cycle is normally denoted by a complete change of which of the two types of horror is popular. It can be questionable why the bigger impact comes with the more realistic films, but it might have to do with the general public having had enough with the supernatural or the out-there, which always goes from very strong (Gremlins) to ridiculously silly (Critters 4). Look at it yourself; there are plenty of examples of the rule of diminishing returns applying wholeheartedly to horror.

Jason is a ghost worm. This happened.

I wrote a dissertation on slasher films a few years ago (because I’m cool like that) and I came to the conclusion that a certain genre-changing film comes along every 18 years. Hitchcock’s Psycho was 1960, Carpenter’s Halloween was 1978, and Craven’s Scream was 1996. By this conclusion, we should be ready for a new game-changer in 2014. Obviously, it might not be apparent when it is released, as influence is normally only seen in hindsight, but it is an interesting one to keep an eye on.

With this theory in place, there is a definite cycle to films, and we are at the end stages of the cycle right now. As with previous cycles, there is less a focus on realism and more a focus on the supernatural. Well, folks, our cycle started with Scream in 1996, and for almost the whole decade that followed, horror was dominated by slashers that were based in realistic situations. As the craze of the slasher ended, so did the amount of slasher films. 1998 brought the Blair Witch Project as an alternative, doing amazing business and bringing its own line of imitators, and supernatural films started to kick back in to gear from there. We still endured fare like Valentine and the Urban Legend sequels, but supernatural began to infiltrate the genre yet again, with the likes of 2001’s Jeepers Creepers. Any horror fan will tell you that, with exceptions, the genre did lag a lot until this time.

 A film shouldn't anger you like this one.

Obviously it is impossible for any genre of film to continuously deliver films that will stand out, but in the past we had the likes of George Romero’s original Dead trilogy, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Last House on the Left, Hills Have Eyes, Friday the 13th, The Thing, The Shining, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Gremlins, Poltergeist, Re-Animator, and a list that goes on. No, in our cycle beginning with Scream, there had not been any standout films. J-horror, like Ringu or The Grudge, made some of the biggest impact, but leading in to 2000, popular Western cinema was awash with bloody daggers.

‘But horror still sucks!’ you might say (especially if I’m trying to make a point). ‘Look at those lame films by The Asylum, or those awful sequels produced only to cash in on their more successful predecessors.’ Well, that is true. There are some awful films out there right now, and owing to the digital revolution, where the cost of making a film was sliced (oh, how witty of me...) thanks to new technology, more and more inferior films were produced. Indeed, there is probably more horror films per year now than ever before, and a lot of it is little more than cash-in waste. Horror is notorious for rip-offs and cash-ins, but is that all there is now?


Actually, buried deep down beneath what is on the surface a floundering genre, we in fact have a fantastic Renaissance for the supernatural and over-the-top film, and horror itself.

Some people will debate with this, but over the last few years, we have been surrounded by films that might in fact be contenders for the slot of classic for future audiences, or at the very least, films that the future will look on with as much glee and fondness as we look at the Evil Dead. I’m talking about the obvious big-boy Paranormal Activity, but other great films that have been overlooked. To name but a few: REC, The Devil’s Rejects, The Human Centipede, Hostel, Piranha, 1408, Mirrors, Battle Royale, Drag Me To Hell, the Masters of Horror series, The Mist, Ruins, Ginger Snaps, the Saw franchise, Silent Hill, 28 Weeks Later, Grindhouse, The Happening, Eden Lake, Cloverfield, Pontypool, Splice, Frozen, Insidious, Red State, House of the Devil, plus some remakes that are actually worthwhile (Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street need not apply).


This list is all that is right with modern day horror, stretching out for the past 11 years. When put like this, it really does show that we are doing a lot better than we were in the 90s. Heck, even look at TV. Walking Dead and American Horror Story are two of the biggest shows out there, and MTV’s Death Valley is a hoot.

It is easy to point and say ‘horror today can’t hold a candle to its predecessors from the 70s and 80s’, but I completely disagree. Apart from Paranormal Activity, nothing has immediately jumped off the page and declared itself the next Dawn of the Dead, but for the true fan who knows where to look, we really are experiencing the golden age of horror.

Eli Roth, James Wan, Darren Lynn Bousman, Ti West, Alexandre Aja, Rob Zombie. These are just a few of the men looking after our interests, the ones who know what makes a decent horror film. There is plenty of crap out there to wade through, but there are also plenty of films to make me declare that now is a great time to be a horror fan.

Long live the new flesh.

What do you think? Do you think horror is better than ever or deader than a door-nail?

Friday, 9 December 2011

Burke and Hare: If you like Simon Pegg, watch!

This film passed completely under my radar, which is normally not a good sign for a film, and John Landis hasn't exactly been pumping out hits over the past few years, but I finally got a hold of, and watched, Burke and Hare, and by God, it is brilliant!

Taking major liberties on the facts and putting a comedic spin on grizzly events, the film tells of Burke (Simon Pegg) and Hare (Andy Serkis), two immigrants in early nineteenth century Edinburgh who murdered and sold the cadavers of their victims to Dr. Knox (Tom Wilkinson), who uses them for dissections in his prestigious medical school. Hare's wife (the indelible Jessica Hynes) gets in on the act (for a small portion of the profits), and Burke gets heavily involved with Ginny Hawkins (Isla Fisher), who uses him to fund her all-woman performance of Macbeth.

As it's based on history, you know how things inevitably turn out, but screw it, this film is not about the end result, but the ride to it.

It's not what it looks like...

All too rarely these days do I find myself laughing out loud to a film, but Burke and Hare did it. The casting is perfect. All the faces are a whose-who of British cinema, with Pegg and Serkis being our lovable gruesome twosome. Pegg is reunited with Jessica Hynes, who he co-starred with in Spaced and Shaun of the Dead, and though they don't share any real screen time together, just the knowledge of them working together again makes me happy in a geeky way. Tom Wilkinson plays a fantastically subtle neurotic Dr. Knox, who just wants to overcome the insurmountable odds of Tim Curry's rival school. Oh yeah, Tim Curry is in the film too, so that is also amazing. Bill Bailey acts as a hangman/narrator to the film, playing up a troll-like shtick, even though I couldn't place him at first without his beard. Sir Christopher Lee even gets in on the action with a small role that will leave you going 'Wait. Was that Christopher Lee?! What the!?'.

Brilliantly shot, fantastically written, joyfully acted, there is nothing about this film not to love. Edinburgh holds a special place in my heart, and it was fantastic to see it become not just the backdrop, but a character in its own right. The film is a brisk hour and a half (or thereabouts) and never for one second goes off track. Too many period films like to dwell on their fancy set work, but Burke and Hare avoids this trap. We know we are seeing beautiful and convincing set pieces, and never once does it feel like it is being forced down our throats. 

It's not what it looks like...

The film takes a very visceral and tragic story (seriously, don't read up on the murders before watching the film) and makes it a romp. There is no over-glorifying violence here. I can't think of any actual portrays of it besides a 'burking' (suffocating someone) and someone having a chamber pot smashed over their head. We know it is all to comic effect. The accidents, the near misses, all too hilarious. Pegg ponders how wrong killing is, while sitting on the face of Sir Christopher. Come on, this is gold! The film is populated with side characters who are invaluable. The militia and the bumbling guards, the 'protection' men, even the greyhound, all these make it a vivid and lively world that you can just sink right in to and smile all the way through, murder be damned.

It's not what it looks like...

There is no moral the film tries to pass off. If you didn't know killing was wrong before seeing this, well, you have bigger issues, my friend. What we get here is a laugh, through and through. All the way through, references to modern technology is made, but as it is only in infancy, it is still being explored (photography being a running gag, and a nice nod to Listerine). Hare and his wife have some very physical sex while discussing the opening of funeral stores... No, sorry, think more up-class. How about parlors? We even end the film with freeze frames for each of the actors, while The Proclaimers' I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) plays over the top. 

I've never lost faith in John Landis as a director. I know he hasn't exactly delivered the goods cinematically in a long time, with Blues Brothers 2000 forever staining his reputation, but his episodes of Masters of Horror are the stand out episodes of the short-lived series, and he certainly never lost it. Here, even subtle little pieces, like the gangster wearing a tiger-pattern coat, show attention to detail that many lesser directors might miss. Never a man for horror, but more the comedy of it all, he has throughout his career perfected the art of dark laughter, and Burke and Hare is another in a string of successes in the horror-comedy genre. Success, Mr. Landis. Success!

Do yourself a favour: get this film now. It is a pick-me-up in all the right ways. Highly recommended.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Cabin in the Woods: A trailer made of meh

And here it is, a day later than EVERYWHERE else, Joss Whedon's latest, Cabin In The Woods.

Ok, so it's not directed by him, but it is co-written and produced by the man. Drew Goddard of Lost, Buffy and Cloverfield fame, among others, takes the feature director chair for the first time.

First impressions of the trailer? It's quite a meh film. It looks like some fun and should be a good cinema venture, but it doesn't grab me with anything that will make it last beyond its opening (which is April 2012, for the curious). It is quite clever how it goes from the typical cabin slasher film to Running Man territory, but for anyone who thinks it's turning the hillbilly horror on its head with satire, check out Tucker & Dale Vs Evil. I'll place my bets now and say it's the better flick (though Cabin in the Woods is bound to do great business).

This film has sat on the shelf for two years, which is explained by MGMs bankruptcy, but Case 39 caught me with that lie before and I regretted wasting my time with that. Fingers crossed Cabin in the Woods is at least the Scream-esque romp the trailer sets it up to be.

I do love the teaser poster!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Thing 2011: Not As Ugly A Beast As You May Have Heard

Well, a few months behind the curve, where it arrived and died a death in American theatres, the prequel/reboot (preboot?) of The Thing finally arrived in Irish cinemas. So, this critical mess, tomato-ly rotten, classic-film-ruiner can only be a dud, right?

Well... Sorry... I liked it...

Ok, not 100% liked it, but it wasn't as big a disappointment as I was expecting. Also, it did come hot off the heels of the turd-fest known as Hellraiser: Revelations, so it had that in it's favour. No, people had been raging against this film online for the past few months, and I guess I was preparing myself for a lot worse.

You know the plot. It's the story of the Norwegian outpost that initially discover the alien that are briefly seen at the beginning of the original and are explored later. For all these years, we always assumed it would be a Norwegian crew who would speak English, á la Valkyrie (which has the best foreign-to-English language transition EVER), but nope, the crew contains Norwegians who know fluent English (bar one). This isn't too big a stretch, as most Norwegian's I know speak better English than me. However, this film is for an American audience, so we MUST have a wealth of American actors added in. I did find this a bit hackneyed, as forcing an American element in just felt awkward. That said, I cannot fault the actors who, bar one, deliver good appropriate performances.

One of the people in this picture didn't do the film any favours.

My biggest issue with the film was the same as everyone else: the CGI. I had read interviews by the filmmakers talking about how they kept things as practical as they could, and I even confirmed this to make sure I hadn't gone crazy, but lo and behold, this film could almost pass as Toy Story 4 (except for, you know, the horror and monsters). 

Faaaaakk- Actually, that one doesn't look bad.

Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. provided the practical monsters, and they are normally very reliable, but whatever they did has been completely over-layered with CG. You see the monster too much, and it just isn't terrifying. I read a rational that the monster attacks a lot here because it has never had human contact before and it isn't aware of what kind of a threat man is. This is plausible and satisfactory, but it don't make for a scary beast.

Faaaaakkk- What the hell!? Why are all the pics online
of the non-CGI effects? I cry conspiracy!!!

The film was initially going to be a remake of John Carpenter's classic, but it was thankfully changed to a prequel, though there are a lot of holdovers. The story follows the original just a bit too much, and one of the most iconic scenes, the blood tests, is replaced by a laughable scene where they see who has fillings.

For the same reason the Alien Vs Predator films don't work, this film has the technology to show a lot, and it goes overboard with its power. Unlike the AVP films, this one does work in several different ways (you knew I'd eventually say why I did like it, as opposed to tearing in to it). Apart from the stereotypical rich man villain, all the characters are likable. We like our leading lady, and she doesn't try thread on MacReady's territory and is in fact her own character.

We already know how things are going to end up, so it is all about letting it play out and, though the story is all too familiar, it is still engaging and brings back the guess-who element of the original. And speaking of the original, it ends with a nice lead in to John Carpenter's film.

And Kurt Russell... Swoon...

Overall? This is a pale imitation of Carpenter's classic, but it has a nice slow pace and is a welcome addition to modern horror. There are no big jumps and the tension is nonexistent, but this one is all about the action. It won't be remembered except as that footnote in The Thing's chronology, but as far as popcorn action and a solid flick go, this one will do it. Plus, it makes a great first date movie; it's a real ice-breaker! Haha, I'm funny...

Oh, a little sidenote, look at this picture, or more importantly, the highlighted bit...

Yeah, that's the alien. There is no doubt in my mind. BUT WHAT CAN THIS MEAN!?!?! 

Alien Vs The Thing??

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Dear Victor, your Hellraiser film is a disgrace to cinema.

Dear Victor Garcia,

What the hell were you thinking?

I'm by no means a fan of your work (you were fighting a losing battle by making a House on Haunted Hill sequel as it was), but up until now, I could at least understand why you had got the job. I assumed that perhaps you were a horror fan but confined to sub-par scripts (which I also assume is the case of Cabin Fever 2 helmer, Ti West), but you have proven me wrong. Case in point: Hellraiser: Revelations, or, one of the worst horror movies ever made.

Apparently you have to be topless to open the box, 
even if it makes NO FUCKING SENSE.

A few days ago, I set out my disdain going in to this film, knowing it was potentially an excuse for Dimension to retain the rights to the Hellraiser franchise long enough for the long talked about remake to occur, but deep down inside, I was hoping that you, even with a meager budget allegedly far south of half a million dollars, would try make a neat little story small in scope but perhaps big in ideas. But did you? Nope.

I'm not going to summarise, nor am I going to warn about spoilers. I hope that anyone who reads this will heed my words and avoid, with this being as much about the film as they will ever know. The story is tired and taken from the previous films, though it also leaves behind some of the better ideas. It looks poor, which is shocking even at this level of budget. The acting is awful, bar one man. If this film was meant to be an 'ashcan copy', it would have been better unreleased.

Probably a better choice than chipmunk-face above.

A found footage Hellraiser might have been clever, but you abandoned this for typical third person perspective, but even fail with this. How the hell can the cinematographer of the larger share of Saw films deliver something this turd-like? You're confined to a few locations, that's fair enough. That's expected of low budget, but the trade off is that you give us characters with depth and something to ping our attention. None of these traits are seen here. Bar Steven Brand, pretty much every actor phones it in or is embarrassing to themselves. The extent of the motivation behind their dialogue seems to be 'this could be shocking. I'd better not lose any of that shock with so-called subtly '. 

You were so lucky to have this man, you have no idea.

But that might be a script problem, right? I mean, the script is dire. Every character is given a 'shocking' secret, whether it keeps in line with them or not. The script tries to bring in Blue Velvet evil behind a small town, but ends up worse than Days of our Lives. Jeez... The Hellraiser fan films are better than this... Wait, what's that? The writer was involved with them? Wow... Is this really the best that can be done with people who care about the films behind it?

Oh no! I am in mild discomfort!

Shall we look at plot holes for a moment? Why have the cars disappeared? Did the Cenobites become joyriders between this and the last film? Even if they did, they couldn't have done anything BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT SUMMONED. This is probably the only rule they have. You solve the puzzle, they come and take you. They aren't Freddy Krueger. They don't kill indiscriminately. In fact, several times we have seen them trade off people who have made a mistake for others. Why do I bring that up? Well, your big shock ending has them pick a person at random, even though the person who escaped them is right there, and the person who opened the box is literally caught holding the box. Have you never seen a Hellraiser film before?

This is Hellraiser, right?

I'm going to put it out there, it's not my favourite franchise, but it has unreal potential and is very clear in its rules. Why do the Cenobites go after the kid who didn't open the box? Why does said kid decide to hire a hooker when he has watched his best friend be taken to the other side, even though we have already established he is the 'prude' out of the two of them? Why is he seeing flashed of Hell? He didn't open the box, you know? Why does he kill the hooker? How come the friend who comes back gets him to kill more, even though he seems to be much stronger right off the bat? How come the prude doesn't die when his skin is ripped off? Why does the friend decide the best plan of escaping the Cenobites is to call them to make a deal when they seemed to have no way of getting him otherwise? Why does the sister get orgasmic while touching the box? Why does the shotgun seem to have an unlimited amount of cartridges in it? Why is the Chatterer a woman all of a sudden? Are sex changes big among demons? Why is the prude a Cenobite? When the fuck did they decide people could join the club, even without opening the box? Does Pinhead mind him ripping off his style?

"Oh no, we wore the same outfit AGAIN!"

These, and many more unanswered questions are contained in Hellraiser: Revelations. 

It looks like and is acted like a student film. It is disgraceful that this has actually managed a DVD release. I know the budget was low, and that you can be constricted by the studio, but it looks bad, it sounds bad, and frankly, is bad. I was going to make a joke about this being Castel Film quality, then I remembered the last 2 films were produced by them, and those films, while disappointing, were Casablanca compared to this.

I'm sorry, Victor. I want to like you. I want to like your work. But so far, all you have done is make shitty sequels. This last piece of shit is now making me doubt you are actually a horror fan. To say this film is disappointing is an understatement. I can only hope you went in to this knowing it wasn't a real film, and tried to wash your hands of it as quick as you could.

On the plus side, this film is the closest to Hell that any of the Hellraisers have made me feel...