Monday, 31 August 2009

Mum & Dad (UK horror movie - not a guide to my parents)

This film is certainly gritty.

Essentially a married couple working at Heathrow airport are on the lookout for new members of their family. They find young adults no one will really miss and kidnap them. Then they start torturing and brainwashing them - making them want to be part of the family by threatening violence for any slight misdemeanor.

It is violent. Very violent at times, and more unsettling because it is all carried out my a middle-aged couple - not a demon in sight - and in the confines of a typical house making it very intimate and intense.

It's a film you may not have heard of. I hadn't particularly - beyond the occasional mention in some of the horror mags. But if you like a bit of gore it might be your thing.

Zombie Virus on Mulberry Street

I had hopes for this film. It looked as though it might be a decent zombie flick. I was wrong.

Although it starts pretty well, introducing the inhabitants of a New York apartment block well and giving a decent enough background to the story (everyday struggle kind of thing), the main story kind of just faded into silliness. And all because of one element - the ratty bit.

Played as a straight zombie film this could have been good, but it fell short. Sorry, I just didn't like it. I did want to.

A new sale

I received an email this morning concerning a reviews article I'd written a little while ago. It's been accepted by The Internet Review of Science Fiction. The grin hasn't stopped yet.

Theirs is a great site. It doesn't feature fiction, just articles, interviews and reviews and one of mine is to . If you want to go check them out (and I would advise you do) they can be found at http://www.irosf.com/.

My piece "Long Live the Novella" reviews four titles from UK speciality press PS Publishing

Uncle River - Camp Desolation and the Eschatology of Salt
Stephen Baxter - Starfall
Alex Irvine - Mystery Hill
Joel Lane - The Witnesses are Gone

Three really good books and one decent , you'll have to read the review when it's posted to find out more about them. Or you could pop to PS Publishing and buy them yourself and make your own mind up.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Knowing

Nicholas Cage films are usually a hit and miss affair - and in recent years I've found them far more miss than hit.

His latest film threatened his average for quite a while by being actually quite good. It's creepy (in a non-horror way). Cage plays a college professor. His son's school opens a time capsule from the 1950s which had been filled with the pupils' ideas of what the year 2009 might be like. Most of the images are the typical 1950s futuristic ideas - flying cars and the like.

Cage's son however is handed something different. His envelope contained a sheet of numbers. Cage notices that the number seem to specify dates and numbers. He traces these to the dates disastrous events in recent history and the number of people killed in them. And the last three dates on the list are still to happen.

It's an interesting concept, one that put me in mind of Robert Charles Wilson's novels. It's an idea that grabs you right from the off.

Okay the ending might not be to everyone's taste (my wife's parents certainly found it contrived) but all in all this is a decent movie. A fairly entertaining way of spending a couple of hours

Let the Right One In

I'd heard a lot of good things about this film. So much so that I was a little wary about actually watching it. I've been disappointed too many times - and yes I will admit I'm jaded. That the lead vampire was a child scared me somewhat, kids that are a little bit weird (or a lot weird) can be disconcerting. But they can most often be very, very annoying.

My wife had read and thoroughly loved the book this film is based on, so I was not alone in a little feeling of trepidation. She was more worried that there were elements of the story that they could simply not film, yet would harm the film if they were omitted.

We were both greatly relieved. This was the best vampire movie I've seen in years. It's different setting - a small Swedish community in the 1980s - worked brilliantly. The serious cold of a Swedish winter was dramatic. The film being shot with a reduced pallette effect added wonderfully to a sense of foreboding. As does its pacing. American films are rarely shot this slowly. Nothing is rushed here (with the obvious exception of the attacks). Everything is done at a deliberate steady rate, one that suits the story perfectly.

And on top of this there is the girl playing the vampire. She was superb, playing the part in a very understated way with a presence far greater than you expect from such a young actress.

All round brilliant film!

Britain's disgrace (languages)

I watched some of the Belgian Grand Prix this afternoon. I'm not the gratest of fans of the sport but I do watch the occasional race. The two Brits crashed out early so I didn't have any special interest in the result.

However an event of the end of the race made me think.

The race was won by a Finn, with an Italian second and a German third. Nothing too unusual there. But in the post race press conference all three drivers (Raikkonen, Fisichella and Vettel) spoke near perfect English. From my travels in Europe I know that a good knowledge of English is not all that uncommon. I've had conversations in English with people I've met in Italy, Austria, France, Belgium, the Netherlands etc.

In Britain though you'd not find this the case. Okay there are a number of second generation immigrants in Britain who can speak the languages of their parents' homelands. But you find Brits without this linguistic advantage and more than half will have no real knowledge of a second language. Maybe a handful of words but no real mastery.

It does sadden me we don't get into languages as much as our European counterparts. I even take some blame upon myself. I didn't try all that hard at French when I was at school, and opted not to take German at all. I just couldn't see the point. Everything I wanted at the time (fiction, films, music etc) was in English so why spend time learning a language I didn't need.

Well I should have. In recent years I have come to understand just how useful this would have been. I've made something of an effort. I have a basic grasp of French and Italian but I couldn't conduct business in either. I just know enough to order from menus, buy tickets, ask for directions etc etc. All the stuff you need on a holiday if you want to stay clear of restaurants with "tourist menu" signs in the window or stores advertising "We speak English".

It gives me enough to get a better feeling of a country, its people and culture but far less than I want and feel our European partners deserve form us.

At my last company we were developing software for a German company. They were the customer, yet all business was conducted in English, not German. It had to be, no one at the company spoke any German. I felt ashamed.

We are Europeans. We should act the part!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Differing Opinions on Watchmen

I finally managed to find time to watch Watchmen last night. I know it's taken me a while and you could say I have been wasting my time on bad horror movies. I've probably watched a dozen B-movie horrors since buying Watchmen but hey...

In my defence I do tend to put the bad horror films on in the office whilst I am working (like now) and the whole family (makes it sound huge, there's four of us) wanted to watch Watchmen. So it had to wait until there was time when everyone else wasn't watching TV (I watch little TV, except for DVD sets of TV shows like Dexter, Millenium, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Trek, Stargate, X-Files etc and sport - mainly cricket).

So last night we decided it was time for Watchmen. I enjoyed it. We all enjoyed it. Good and dark, moody. It didn't pull any punches.

However when I got into work today and started discussing it with colleagues I found the universally didn't like it. And the reason was pacing. They all thought it was too slow and too long.

I don't agree with them, I liked the measured build up.

It has found it's way into the office so I'll be watching it again soon...whilst working of course.

(Some folks believe me to be a workaholic. They're probably right.)

Monday, 10 August 2009

Bad horror films

When I was a teenager I used to watch a lot of really bad horror films. I'd get together with a couple of friends and we'd head to the video rental store and hire a couple of films - based purely on how bad they looked. We often used as a guide the fact that the computer system in the store could identify the least rented films in the place. If no one watched them we figured they had to be bad.

These nights would include a fair smattering of Troma films, a number of straight to video movies (the best/worst of which was definitely Mutant Kid) and a decent helping of video nasties. Fantastic fun.

Well of late we've started to do it again. If you've read any of the recent posts on this blog you may have noticed this.

Anyway down to business. I have a new contender for plain bad horror. I picked up a film called Sickle. I suspected it might be bad when it was up for sale for a pound - a single pound.

Well every single fear/hope I had for this film was met. It is just bad.

The story (yeah there is one) involves an urban myth about a slaughterhouse where a couple of murders occured and a group of college students who decide to go take a look.

It's badly acted, has a terrible story and the director decided it would be a good idea to insert some gratuitous sex scenes (including one exhibitionist lesbian display). It's plain awful.

But it brought back some great memories of the mickey-taking sessions of old.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Midnight Meat Train

My recent horror film fetish is continuing. The latest film to get a viewing is this adaptation of a Clive Barker short story that stars ex-soccer player Vinnie Jones. I'd been looking forward to this for a while now. For once with a horror film everything I'd heard about it was positive.

Well the portents were good, but the film? Would it live up to my hopes? The simple answer is yes. I thought this film was fantastic fun. It's a little over the top in terms of blood at times but that's just fun. The violence is extreme in places, made more hard hitting by a cold, expressionless performance by Vinnie Jones.

The basic story is that Vinnie is a serial killer who finds his victims on the New York Underground, preying on victims on the trains after 2am. A photographer encounters him and becomes obsessed with trying to find proof of his murders.

This is one of the best horror films I've seen in months - and I do watch rather a few.

Vinnie Jones is best when in these kinds of roles. He has a great look for a hardcase, or deranged killer. He plays the silent killer superbly. His screen presence is perfect here. Now we're not talking Shakespeare here, he has no lines in the film, he just has to be menacing. But he does it splendidly.

Just what I needed on a Sunday night.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

A non-horror film - surely not

I just wanted to prove I am not a one-dimensional monster when it comes to movies. Okay I like horror films and of late haved watched a great many, but this liking is not exclusive. And don't go thinking that I mean I watch science fiction movies to prove my rounded personality.

I like a good many movies of most genres - okay I'll admit there are few rom-coms on my favourites list, the American Pie style movies get very short shrift on my watching schedule. Add tot his I can say I've not been impressed with Sacha Baron Cohen - the little I have seen of his output has not enticed me to watch a whole movie. I'm not saying I think his films are bad. Far from it, I think he is a very talented man - he's spotted a style and gone for it, producing semi-real over-the-top edgy comedy that's verging on embarassing. You kow, the cringeworthy stuff.

Anyway back to my choice, or rather the family choice. I sat down with the whole family and we picked a Chinese movie called The Banquet - a kind of retelling of Hamlet in a new setting. Well it was visually beautiful as all Chinese epic movies tend to be. But the tale seemed a little odd. It definitely seemed that the western story, albeit a classic one, jarred a little against the Chinese Imperial Court backdrop. It was a really good film and maybe I was being unfair, going into watching it with such wonderful movies as The House of Flying Daggers, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Curse of the Golden Flower.

It's good but I wanted more. As I said, that could just be me.

Four more horror films

I'm having a bit of a horror film session. Over the last three days I've watched another three.
The first of these was Creep - a rather pleasing little tale of a German woman trapped in a London Underground station after the trains have stopped running who finds that she is sharing the tunnels with a killer mutant.

There are a couple of side characters, a homeless Scottish druggie and his girlfriend, a guy from work who believes our lead woman "wants him", a security guard and a sewer worker captured by the mutant. But the focus stays with the German woman and her attempts to escape the killer. It's not all that high on the gore, its story is a little predicable, but over all it's not a bad movie.

Second up was an American film called Vacancy, which sees a couple check into a motel after their car breaks down. They discover a couple of video tapes in their room. When they play them they find what seems to be a low budget amateur horror . However when they notice the action is taking place in the room they are now in, they realise they are in serious trouble.

It's a bit ho-hum at times, although the basic premise has introduced a bit of a new twist - the leasing of the video tapes. But essentially it is a tale of two people trapped in a motel in the middle of nowhere USA. Reasonably entertaining but...

Third film is a little spookier - Captivity.Elisha Cuthbert stars as a fashion model who is kidnapped and held captive in a cell where she is tortured - mostly psychological stuff. After all you wouldn't want to wreck a pretty face. But the best thing in the movie is its detached nature. The captor is somewhat distant, many of the devices operated remotely, and set up whilst Cuthbert's character has been drugged.

It has some pretty decent unsettling moments. I'd even go as far as saying I quite like this.

Final one of the selection was Pathology - starring Milo Ventimiglia from Heroes. This is more of a thriller than a straight horror. Ventimiglia plays Ted Grey, a pathologist who starts his residency at a New York hospital, only to discover his fellow residents play a little game where they kill people in imaginative ways to test the other pathologists ability to determine the cause of death. Best film of the bunch really, and quite interesting from a sf/horror fan perspective as it co-stars, in addition to Heroes' Peter Petrelli, John De Lancie (Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Alyssa Milano (Phoebe Halliwell in Charmed).

One thing I must stress though - in case you are thinking I am a little odd for watching all these horror movies. I am normal, honest. I just like horror and science fiction.