June 28, 2011

Hidden (2009)

(AKA Skjult)



"Painful memories arise when Kai Koss goes back to his childhood home after 19 years and inherits his dead mother's house."

It has honestly taken me three days (in instalments) to get through "Hidden" because, as much as I wanted to give up on it entirely, I just wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't suffer through slow, boring, nonsensical films like this occasionally.

I should have realised it was going to be crap when I saw that it was one of the "After Dark Horrorfest" movies. Since the first collection, I've done my best to avoid them but, unfortunately, I rented this through Netflix and had no idea what it even was until it arrived.

Basically, I thought it was going to be a ghost story at first but it turned out to be a difficult to follow psychological thriller with a little bit of mystery thrown in. It had a couple of gory kills and a creepy atmosphere but, ultimately, it was all trying to be too clever and was very confusing.

For those of you who want all the spoilers, it's like this. Kai Koss, played by Kristoffer Joner (who seems to be pretty famous in Norway), saw his parents get killed in a car crash when he was a boy and was abducted by a mad old woman to replace her own son who escaped from her after years of abuse. Kai is really Peter but he doesn't realise it until after the death of the old woman who he thought was his mother. As his mind starts to put two and two together, he goes on a killing spree for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Of course, you are supposed to believe that the real "Peter" is still alive all the way through and was tortured by the mother until he escaped after her death, but, no matter how arty, boring and confused the writer/director, Pål Øie, tried to make the story, it's all fairly predictable.

A lot of things in "Hidden" make no sense in a "Twin Peaks" kind of way while others are just gaping plot holes with no explanation possible. The acting is good but the characters aren't very interesting so it's a moot point. None of the performances are memorable and the whole film is a complete waste of time.

Some people might like the occasional scenes of fjords and forests or marvel at how sparse the population appears to be in this version of Norway. I've never been to Norway so I honestly have no idea if it really is isolated like that or if it's just more contrived weirdness but I really didn't like it.

The best part of "Hidden" is the song, "Out of the Cage", during the final credits. Karin Park also plays the part of the Swedish hotel receptionist but I have no idea if her character is supposed to really exist or if, as a famous popstar, she's just another figment of Kai's imagination.



You can guess where this awful movie is going, can't you? Yes, it's another one for The Dungeon and I wish I hadn't bothered spending so much time on it in the first place. I'm very glad that didn't buy "Hidden" and have no intention of ever watching it or anything else by this director ever again. I rate this film as "extremely disappointing".

June 27, 2011

Linux Mint 11 on an Acer Aspire AM1100-B1410A


Well, I finally did it. I replaced Ubuntu 9.10 on my desktop with Linux Mint 11 (Katya). The only reason I did it was because I wanted LibreOffice and Firefox 5 but it was definitely time to clear out a lot of junk which I never use anyway.

My Acer desktop is almost three years old now and it's been very good with Ubuntu 9.10. If Canonical hadn't discontinued support for "Karmic Koala" back in April, I would have been very happy with it forever though I did have to use "Minefield" instead of the real Firefox 4 at the end of its life.

Anyway, I would have gone for the latest Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwal) release but, having had no real luck with it on my laptop, I decided to put Mint 11 on it instead. Linux Mint 11 is basically the same Ubuntu operating system anyway but with a few bug fixes, all the codecs already added, a slightly different Software Manager and a Windows-style menu.

As you can see from the screencap, I started fiddling with the themes and got it looking a lot like a standard version of Ubuntu's Gnome desktop again. I really don't like the special Mint menu or the green themes so you probably wonder why I choose Linux Mint over Ubuntu at all and, now that I've installed everything, I do too. I suppose that I could have just changed the Ubuntu 11.04 settings but I honestly didn't have the patience. Linux Mint 11 already came with 90% of all the programs that I use regularly without any further downloads so it saved a lot of time. I think it took less than two hours to put everything back to how it was.

I added Xsane instead of Simple Scan (which is too slow for me) and a few other programs which you can see. I'm more of a "double-click on the desktop" person than a "quick launch" user so I always end up with a ton of icons on the desktop. It may not be the best way to do things but it makes me happy and I'm comfortable with it.

As with every Linux installation, I did have to tweak a few things to get it how I wanted. Not only did I download a ton of themes to play with (and swapped the window buttons back to the right side when I needed to) but I changed Compiz to Metacity since the latest release of the former is really buggy.

Linux Mint has sort of got rid of the Plymouth splash screen by making it completely black which is a weird thing to do but seems to make everything load slightly quicker from a cold boot. I'm not sure what else has been changed apart from removing Evolution for no good reason and Tomboy Notes is no longer the same. It can't be added to the panel in the same way which is quite annoying though it's been that way since Ubuntu 10.10.

For now, I'm almost content with Linux Mint but I'll probably wipe it when the next Ubuntu comes out in October. I still think that Ubuntu 9.04 was the best version of Linux so far and I often wish that the developers wouldn't keep changing things every six months but, other than moving to Debian completely, I have no choice if I want to stay on the bleeding edge. I never use the upgrades and always go for a complete reinstall which is no trouble at all really apart from putting a few passwords back in.

Linux Mint 11 has a few quirks including the Software Manager not refreshing to show that programs really have been installed but I've got used to it and it's only a couple of extra clicks to make sure. So far I think it's a good version of Linux but I don't feel quite as safe with it as Ubuntu 9.10 and it just doesn't look right yet. I felt the same way since Ubuntu 8.04 so I'm probably just being paranoid.

June 24, 2011

I got some more free stickers from GetGlue


I know that I said earlier that I wasn't going to post anything on here again until the weekend but I found out this morning that my actual dentist appointment for drilling and filling won't be until three weeks time. I've had an x-ray and it seems that the decay hasn't reached the pulp yet so, even though it's more than a bit painful, I just have to live with it for now. I've had worse.

Anyway, on my way out, the postman gave me my latest batch of stickers from GetGlue which cheered me almost 1% above my usual level of misery. Basically, it would take a six inch Lady Gaga dancing naked on my chest to really alleviate my suffering right now. Please feel free to send me one should such an item exist.

You notice that I got the "Fright Night" sticker even though I don't hold out much hope for the remake. I've also got a "True Blood" sticker but I've never watched even a single episode of the show.

If you want some free stickers yourself then just sign up with your Facebook or Twitter account at http://getglue.com. See the ones I got previously here: http://www.drbloodsvideovault.com/2011/06/i-got-some-free-stickers-from-getglue.html.

June 23, 2011

Intermission

Due to various unforeseen circumstances (mainly to do with the subject of my previous post), I'll be taking a short break from blogging until this weekend.

I simply haven't watched anything worth writing about other than "Fear" (1996) which I thought was going to be a horror film but turned out not to be. I also have a DVD from Netflix which I didn't know was one of those appalling "Afterdark Horrorfest" ones until I opened the envelope so I'm leaving it until I come back from the dentist later today. I'm sure it'll be just as painful.

For those of you who have wondered what my cats look like, here's a couple of pictures which I took of them for one of my other abandoned blogs.

Willow 

Suzi 

By the way, if you are also following "The Horror Cats", that is not the blog which I have given up on. After watching over 150 horror movies with cats in them, I ran out of screencaps to post for now. Stay tuned though because there will be lots more to come.

June 22, 2011

My Bad Teeth

Not really my teeth. I found these by searching Google Images.

As you probably already know, I rarely post anything personal on here except when I digress during a horror movie review but, since this is a matter of great concern to me, I decided to break the habits of a lifetime and share something intimate with you all. I have a really bad upper right molar and several more decalcified teeth that are just waiting to join in the fun.

Now I know what you are all thinking, "He's British and they all have bad teeth", but let me just ruin that Austin Powers stereotype for you by telling you that I had really good teeth until I came to America.

I can only surmise that my radical change of diet from eating fish and chips, kebabs, and every kind of curry, to not being able to find anything identifiable at all as food has led to this sorry state of tooth decay. Basically, everything that I've eaten over the last three and half years has been full of sugar, even things that shouldn't taste of sugar at all.

One of the most horrible things about moving to America for me was the loss of decent chocolate. With the demise of Cadbury's in the UK now too though, it was bound to happen sooner or later. American chocolate just isn't the same. It's more "vegolate" than even British chocolate, it's conched less so it's gritty, and, if you are really unlucky, most of it tastes like vomit to an English palate. Unfortunately, I like chocolate so I've had to adapt to eating the stuff and it has not been a pleasurable experience. I've often had to resort to buying the overpriced imported British equivalents just to keep my sanity. Chocolate is, however, a bad example to kick off with since, by it's very nature, it's full of sugar no matter which country makes it.

I've also succumbed to the junk food culture of MaccieD's, Taco Bell, KFC and even Burger King (which I really can't stand because it always tastes burnt). For some reason that I still can't work out, all these meat-based meals are loaded to the brim with enamel-eroding sugar. Even the bread tastes sweet as a cake here and, in case you didn't already know, bread and other cereal products are the worst things possible for human beings health-wise. We were created to eat meat, vegetables and fruit not grains. Even if you don't believe the rest of what the Bible has to say, there's a pretty good reason why Abel's meat offering was more acceptable to God than Cain's crops. Look at Eskimos with their lovely white teeth and remember that they just don't do corn flakes.

So, yeah, I'm basically just having a good bitch about the crappy food that I've been eating which is causing me to need to have a load of expensive dental treatment done. I know that I really only have myself to blame as I could have not eaten out so often and cooked at home more but, even then, I'd still be limited to what the supermarkets actually sell and, obviously, it's all foreign to me.

Over the years, I've made a lot of comparisons between British grub and the processed offal that the corporations are forcing into hungry Americans and it's not good. Where else in the world would a load of puréed mystery meat be so readily welcomed? Hot dogs, in particular, are vile things which we buy in tins in Britain, try once and never eat again, but they've somehow become the staple diet of an entire continent. Earholes, eyeballs, lips and assholes are all ground up with a load of MSG and marketed as if they are something that you absolutely should be putting in your bodies. I'm ashamed to admit that I've eaten them (though only for financial reasons) and, just like everything else, they are packed full of sugar too.

I don't want to sound like Jamie Oliver but, Christ, how did things get this bad? At what point did a nice balanced meal of meat and two veg get replaced by a bag of fat in a sugary-tasting bun? The reason seems to be nothing other than convenience. Hot dogs, hamburgers and all the deep-fried, dried-up bits of chicken are quick to cook and don't exactly need an Executive Chef (or even someone with a ServSafe certificate) to prepare them for you. Underpaid spotty teenagers think that they are line cooks just because they can stick something in a microwave and take your money for it. I feel sorry for them, sorry for the people who eat this crap, and, most of all, really sorry for myself for knowing better yet still falling for it.

Nothing is going to change because the fast food giants have got America sewn up. They even dictate what goes into supermarkets at a much higher level than most people realise. It's all about money and power in this capitalist society. You don't need to be a conspiracy theorist to realise that you are what you eat and everything that's wrong with the world stems from it. Obesity, mental health problems, war, the recession, and tooth decay are all evils brought upon us by the covert operations of the Illuminati as they establish the New World Order.

Of course, one of the alternatives would have been for me to eat like a vegetarian. Let me tell you, right now, that such a thing is so not going to happen. I'd rather eat a vegetarian than be one. Vegetarians are the most annoying, finicky eaters and irritating customers that I've ever encountered. Have you ever stood behind one in the queue in McDonald's while the pressured teenager behind the counter has to disappear for half an hour to go dig out one of the "vegetarian" meals that has been frozen into a block of ice like some old mammoth because it's been in the freezer for so long due to nobody wanting it? And are vegetarians any healthier than the rest of us? Hell, no. They have to take a ton of vitamin supplements and, news flash, they still die with just as many health problems as everybody else only quicker. I suppose that's a relief for some people though as vegetarians are always depressing creatures (which is scientifically linked to their diet) and make life miserable for omnivores everywhere.

Well, I've gone off on several tangents here but why not? It's my blog and I feel like it right now. I'm obviously really looking forward to calling my dentist in about seven hours time and trying to get seen sometime before 2012. I'm not the only one who is keeping him up to the wrists in saliva or paying for his Lamborghini and enormous mansion. Call me cynical but doesn't it seem suspicious that dentists haven't made a bigger stand against junk food? Maybe they have but I wasn't listening. That's another thing that I can be angry with myself about.

Brushing my teeth more than once a week instead of being glued to CityVille would probably have made a big difference too and I really should have gone through more than one toothbrush by now. The dentists recommend that you change your toothbrush every 3-4 months. I'm ashamed to say that I originally purchased mine sometime in 1999 and it hasn't seen much use.

My dentist often tells me that drinking four Monster energy drinks a day is pretty bad for my teeth. Supposedly it's like a thirty minute acid bath every time I guzzle one down. Again, it's the sugar, or in this case the high-fructose corn syrup, but there's nothing wrong with it in moderation according to the TV commercials. What can I say? I'm a pig for Monsters and I like the taste. Again, why should I believe anything a trained professional says? I only have myself to blame.

Anyway, I've had my rant and my teeth don't actually feel any better for it but concentrating on writing took the edge off slightly. I'm sure you'll find loads to argue with me about in this post so leave me some comments and bring it on. Maybe you'll even agree, who knows? It's just another late night post which nobody will care about once I write another anyway.

Horror movie reviews will recommence soon.

June 21, 2011

Nip/Tuck (2003–2010)



"Nip/Tuck is an American drama series created by Ryan Murphy, which aired on FX in the United States. The series focuses on McNamara/Troy, a plastic surgery practice, and follows its founders, Sean McNamara and Christian Troy. Each episode typically involves the cosmetic procedures of one or more patients, and also features the personal and professional lives of its main cast."

Basically, because I'm lazy, I've spent the last couple of days watching episodes of "Nip/Tuck" via Netflix. I bought the first two seasons as box sets a couple of years ago but never completed the collection as I used to watch "Nip/Tuck" religiously every week when I was still in England and the episodes were still too fresh in my mind. Now that it's all long since over, it's been a lot of fun revisiting some of the early episodes again though I've also realised that it was all a load of crap after the third season with "The Carver". They just couldn't match that season and the fourth one was supposed to be the last.

Someone high-up must have got a bit too greedy because season five completely jumped the shark by moving everything (and, seemingly, everybody) from Miami to Los Angeles. The internal logic of the show, such as it was, went downhill from then on but, like a lot of people, I was addicted and still watched it even though it was often cringeworthy.

Since I'm also in the habit of critiquing everything now, I might as well cover a few things which stood out. Obviously "Nip/Tuck" wasn't really horror even though the practical effects were definitely up there with the best that any horror film had to offer. I don't think there was a single episode without a load of blood and gore and, if it ever failed to deliver there, it also had a ton of increasingly depraved sex in it as well.

Dylan Walsh has since gone on to do "The Stepfather" remake which I mostly enjoyed but I think he was far more convincing as Sean McNamara. Similarly, Julian McMahon will always be Christian Troy to me even though he starred in those appalling "Fantastic Four" movies and a few episodes of "Charmed". The trouble is that if you play the same part for the number of years that these guys did then it's pretty hard to not be associated with that character forever. To give another example, Sarah Michelle Gellar will also always be Buffy to me although David Boreanaz seems to have escaped being Angel with his role as Agent Booth on "Bones".

Talking of "Bones", I was amused to see T.J. Thyne (who plays Hodgins) in one of season two's episodes where he was playing a smart-mouthed video store clerk. Christian had gone to get a video to watch with his blind girlfriend. Yes, I know it doesn't make a whole lot of sense out of context. Actually, that's the problem with a lot of the "Nip/Tuck" episodes and their strength as well. If you actually try to tell anyone how ridiculous and extreme the stories became then they'd think you were watching some kind of really bad comedy. As much as I can believe that all the actors involved must have laughed their asses off at what they were doing, it all came across as serious and sometimes very moving.

There were only a couple of things which used to annoy me about "Nip/Tuck", well, one really, I really couldn't stand Joely Richardson. Her character, Julia McNamara, always seemed to have only one of two responses to everything. Either she was touching her neck or thrusting her head forward like a chicken gasping. I never saw the attraction that she was supposed to have for the male characters in the show but I suppose that's why they call it acting.

My favourite character was Gina (played by Jessalyn Gilsig) though every actor and actress in the show demonstrated that they really could act. It still amazes me how things that were set up from the pilot episode continued throughout all 100 and the characters remained very consistent. That was damn fine drama even though the famous writers' strike almost destroyed season five and season six was ridiculously tame in comparison to the rest. "Nip/Tuck" should have ended with season four, of course, and that's why it went out more with a fizzle than a real bang.

Anyway, I just thought I'd post something again about my non-horror viewing habits to add a bit of variety to my blog. I'm certain that I'm not the only horror blogger who watched "Nip/Tuck" though. With all the murders, rapes, mental illnesses and various mutilations that went on in the show, I don't feel ashamed that I watched what some people might consider a bit of a girls' TV show. I also used to watch "Desperate Housewives" for much the same reason but again, since the writers' strike, it never really recovered and I've lost all interest in it now.

Did you watch "Nip/Tuck"? If so, what were your favourite moments? Or do you have some other guilty pleasure TV show which you always watch?

June 19, 2011

Upcoming Horror Movie - Cat (2011)


Due to be released on July 7th, 2011, Park Min Young (who I've never heard of and I know you haven't either) will star in this Korean horror movie about pedigree cat owners being mysteriously killed.

I saw a few stills from "Cat" about three months ago but assumed it to be some kind of Asian vengeful ghost story so I wasn't quite as excited about it as I am now.

Having just been completely negative about the last three films that I've reviewed on here. I can almost promise that I am going to love "Cat" because, basically, for no other reason, it has tons of cats in it and I love cats. Yes, I have seen that viral YouTube parody video for "eHarmony" (now posted below) and I can assure you that I'm even worse than she is.



Even if "Cat" turns out to be a "murder mystery" rather than a real horror film, it's still going in my collection and will be one of the few blind buys that I make this year.

Have a look at the trailer and see what you think.

June 18, 2011

The Ward (2010)



"A thriller centered on an institutionalized young woman who becomes terrorized by a ghost."

It's hard to believe but there is actually a worse film now than "Sucker Punch". Yes, that was a major spoiler for those who even care. If you haven't seen "The Ward" yet then I simply advise you to not waste your time and money on this turd unless you are the world's biggest fan of Amber Heard. Oh, how funny, her name even rhymes.

It's not actually Amber "Mandy Lane" Heard's fault that John Carpenter tried his hardest to rip-off "Shutter Island", "Sucker Punch", "Fight Club" and "Identity" all at the same time nor is it her fault that, apart from being pretty and having great legs, she has no screen presence whatsoever. If you create a horror film this plodding with so few scares and then use TV standard cinematography, nobody is going to look like a Hollywood starlet.

Unfortunately, Amber Heard also belongs to the "eyes and teeth" (or Joey Tribbiani) school of acting which doesn't do her any favours either with her wonky front gnashers. To say that she is beyond bland is an understatement though, obviously, I don't think anyone else could do any better considering the script and terrible lines that her character (Kristen) has to say.

I think you've guessed by now that I hated watching "The Ward". The main reason for this was that I thought it was going to be a ghost story and it turned out to be one of those stupid cop-out twist-ending stories which make a mockery of everything you've watched for the hour and a half previously. As usual, I didn't see the twist coming. This time it was because I was too busy focussing on Lyndsy Fonseca until she, the only truly gorgeous girl in the film, disappeared. After that, I really struggled to keep any interest in any of it at all. Forget the tease of a shower scene from the trailer too since that's all you get to see. "The Ward" is a PG-13 in all but rating.

"The Ward" is most certainly going into The Dungeon now even though it would be foolish of me to say that it was even close to being the worst horror film that I've ever seen. If I was to compare "The Ward" to anything else in the genre then it would be one of the weaker episodes in the "Masters of Horror" or "Fear Itself" TV series though it still wouldn't be as bad as one of the "Afterdark Horrorfest" movies from the last couple of years.

Like everyone, I still think that John Carpenter was great back in the days of "Halloween", "The Fog" and "The Thing" but ever since "Ghosts of Mars" he really seems to have lost all directing ability (or credibility) in the horror genre and "The Ward" is far from being his best work.

June 17, 2011

Black Water (2007)



"A terrifying tale of survival in the mangrove swamps of Northern Australia."

This is just a quick one as there is only so much I can say about a crocodile menacing three Aussies stuck up a tree for 89 minutes.

With lots of suspense, only a few moments where things lag, and very few but effective appearances by the crocodile itself, "Black Water" is one of the best crocodile movies that I've seen for a long time (possibly ever). Based very loosely on "true events" but starring real crocodiles rather than some nasty CGI, this film was very highly recommended to me.

I didn't really like the characters all that much apart from Grace, played by Diana Glenn, and even she annoyed me a couple of times. The most irritating however was final girl Lee, who, interestingly, was played by the real-life girlfriend of Sam Worthington from the other slightly less entertaining Australian crocodile movie of 2007, "Rogue". Maeve Dermody may be nice to look at but her accent was so thick and guttural when she shouted that it was like having a large rake dragged down a chalkboard. Her character needed to be slapped on several occasions too but nobody did it which was frustrating.

Overall, I still enjoyed "Black Water" though it could have been a lot gorier to please my sicker tastes. I know there were some obvious budgetary constraints as this film appears to have been made with a $700,000 grant from the Australian Film Commission. I'm forced to just accept that what they did was adequate for most people but a lot more thrashing, churning, screaming and blood-spurting everywhere surely wouldn't have cost them any extra. At least it was still rated R for "terror/violence and language".

If you enjoy films such as "Open Water" and "Frozen" then you'll like this. The believability of the predicament and use of tension more than make up for the lack of physical action and it's a thoroughly engrossing story even though it isn't actually true. I have, however, rated it as "Just Average" not because of any objectively assessed technical deficiencies but due to my own purely subjective taste.

June 14, 2011

Super 8 (2011)



"After witnessing a mysterious train crash, a group of friends in the summer of 1979 begin noticing strange happenings going around in their small town, and begin to investigate into the creepy phenomenon."

It may not really be a horror film, but everybody is already writing about "Super 8" so I thought I'd better add my two cents as well. I'm going to cut right through the chase by telling you straightaway that J.J. Abrams has pulled off the impossible and created "Cloverfield for kids". Yes, it really is that bad.

Unlike "Cloverfield", there isn't any more of that motion-sickness inducing camerawork to get upset about. Instead, J.J. must have been watching his collection of Michael Bay movies as he's learned new ways to totally annoy his audience. Not content with just having people running in all directions screaming, now we have massive CGI mechanical things and monsters to worry about too with an abundance of explosions and lens flares.

What we have here is a typical Summer movie which tries its hardest to homage its producer Steven Spielberg's movies from the '80's but has the feel of something from the '90's, the decade that nobody cared about. All the caricatures are rolled out to show parents how they shouldn't be and to give mischievous children yet another excuse (as if they need one) for adventurous misbehaving.

"Super 8" is supposedly set in 1979 and, although the mention of a Rubik's cube is anachronistically a couple of years ahead of its time, the kids are all into making their own little zombie film using the popular "Super 8" home movie camera of the title. Did kids in America really do that? Although I can't relate to it, I do remember that Super 8 was big in Britain in the late '70s with lots of 10-year-old wannabe filmmakers sending in their feeble efforts to Michael Rodd's "Screentest" on BBC1. I'm sure everybody remembers the kid who sent in short stories made up from animating his Action Man (G.I. Joe) figures nearly every week. I never had a Super 8 camera, but I did pick up a couple of projectors from a boot sale back in the '90s and had loads of fun watching the 20 minute version of "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" until the bulbs exploded. But I digressed.

Obviously this nostalgic setting is something important to J.J. Abrams as his idol Steven Spielberg is well known for making films at an early age. Abrams, on the other hand, was more into music as a child which leaves me slightly bemused as to why none of the kids are into playing instruments. This is Abrams' film and not Spielberg's, isn't it?

Since I'm on the subject, you have to marvel at the score which sounds just like "E.T." (1982) in places while annoyingly like the "Pretty Women" song from "Sweeney Todd" (2007) in others. The music actually threw me right out of the film as I kept thinking, "Where have I heard that before?"

Of course, what you really want to know about is what happens and what the big reveal is. Well, apart from the train crash which you can see in the trailer and the whole fictional town of Lillian, Ohio, coming under attack from an escaped alien trying to make his way home, there's nothing much here for anyone with a reasoning brain. You can already guess that it's going to be a twist on Spielberg's own E.T. story coupled with Richard Donner's "The Goonies" (which was also written by Spielberg) and not much else.

The kids aren't too terrible as actors though the only one who really stands out is Elle Fanning. I have no idea what any of the others' names are or even what their character names were now that the film is over and I'll be damned if I'm going to try and play "match up" with a cast list to try and work out who was who. There's a fat kid, a short kid, a tall skinny one with glasses, yeah, you get the picture, plus a more normal looking one who provides the main focus of the story and has a bit of a love interest going on with Elle Fanning's character for as much as anyone cares. It's little kids for God's sake! It's not as if they are going to do the nasty right there on the screen or anything. The older sister is hot enough to do something but not in this PG-13 rated crap so why even bother to give her any screen time?

I'm not going to spoil it for you too much even though this film starts with a train wreck and, after a good first twenty minutes, then becomes one itself. Suffice it to say that you've seen the extra terrestrial monster before and it looks just like what a fusion of the creative minds of Abrams and Spielberg would come up with.

The final third of the film loses any interest that the group of kids were originally generating and, after a couple of "Jurassic Park" moments, the ending follows along the same lines as everything Abrams has ever done. Oh, yes, there will be scratching of heads and disappointment.

I hated this predictable and completely unoriginal rehash of everything that Spielberg already entertained us with in the '80s, but I'm not sad about it like some people will be. I never liked any of those movies to begin with. I was already into far more adult horror when I was supposedly the right age to appreciate them, and I expect the majority of kids today are the same way. "That sucked!" is already on the lips and fingertips of texting tweenagers emerging from cinemas everywhere.

"Super 8" is a soulless film that could only be enjoyed by really little kids at best which is a shame because, with a decent director who knew how to do endings, it could have been wholesome family entertainment for everyone.

Alternatives are:

June 13, 2011

I Saw the Devil (2010)



"When his pregnant fiancee becomes the latest victim of a serial killer, a secret agent blurs the line between good and evil in his pursuit of revenge."

The most obvious thing about "I Saw the Devil" is that it's a very long film. I paused it for a toilet break at the 45 minute mark and the Netflix information screen told me that I still had 1 hour and 35 minutes left! A quick look at the IMDb confirms that it is a 141 minute film or, in real money, that's 2 hours and 21 minutes of this utter drivel.

I like very few Korean films and I really didn't like this one. As usual I couldn't tell who was doing what to who or why and, since there wasn't even any sign of anything with horns, cloven hooves or a pointy tail, I was ready to switch it off in disgust after the first 20 minutes.

Only because I was working on something more important on my laptop in front of the TV, I left "I Saw the Devil" on for company which was a bit useless too as I couldn't understand anything they said without looking at the TV screen to read the subtitles every so often. On a few rare occasions, some young Korean guy was hitting people or a dirty older guy was attempting to rape and murder a few others. Basically, it was mostly all talk with a few moments of really gory action and lots of smacking people round the head with various tools until they were unconscious.

It's not that I don't have the ability to follow a film this long but simply that I don't care. I find films about serial killers completely boring and once you've seen one revenge thriller, especially if it's "The Horseman" (2008), you've seen them all.

Just like "The Horseman", the protagonists of "I Saw the Devil" suffered ludicrously debilitating injuries and still carried on as if nothing had happened. The old guy (or rather "Old Boy" since he's the star of that film) got beaten into unconsciousness, had his arm broken and his Achilles tendon sliced and yet still attempted to get some more serial killing jollies. It was all just stupid.

Since "I Saw the Devil" is Korean, and allegedly cut down from something even more brutal, yes, it's full of nicely done moments of blood and gore. Waiting for these moments to happen, however, is more torture than anything the serial killer or the vengeful secret agent on his trail can put each other through. None of the waiting created any tension, realistic character development, or even made me feel anything for the characters. It's just padding for the sake of padding and the characters remained as two-dimensional at the end as they were at the beginning.

I can guess that the arguments in praise of "I Saw the Devil" might begin with, "Well, if you'd paid attention to it then you would have enjoyed it more!" I disagree. Even if I'd been forced to watch it while wearing one of those eye-contraptions that Alex has to in "A Clockwork Orange", I've seen so many films like this already that I would still hate it. I've seen martial arts and torture in every shape and form, sometimes better but usually a lot worse, but never since "Kill Bill" have I been forced to endure something of this epic length for so little pay-off at the end.

If you were in the same position as the secret agent or cop (or whatever the hell he was) and you went through all that trouble to catch the serial killer who raped and murdered your pregnant wife, wouldn't at least a bit of genital torture or flaying alive be on the agenda? Really, for me, it's got to that stage now where all I want to see in one of these films is someone stripped of every bit of their humanity while still remaining alive and not all this pussyfooting around with baiting and childish mind games. Cat and mouse escapades like this belong to "Tom and Jerry" cartoons not adult revenge dramas.

Obviously there will be some people who will think that "I Saw the Devil" is one of the best films that they've ever seen and I don't doubt for a moment that it is the best that they've ever seen either. It's beautifully filmed for one thing and oddly reminiscent of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" while being completely different to it entirely. I can't explain that at all so you just have to trust me about the camerawork and pace for that to make any sense. I felt that "The Host" was very similar in style to the Russian "Night Watch" and "Day Watch" movies but, again, was completely unlike them in subject matter. Sometimes movies just have a "feel" to them which you can't ever explain and it's not even to do with some elusive or magical conjuring up of atmosphere by the director.

I suppose that even though, personally, I didn't get anything good out of "I Saw the Devil", I can still recommend it as something that you ought to see eventually. It doesn't go as far as "The Horseman" for sheer brutality and it has nowhere near the entertainment value of any of Michael Winner's "Death Wish" movies but, if you are a fan of Asian cinema, you will probably get some enjoyment out of it.

June 12, 2011

He Knows You're Alone (1980)



"A young bride-to-be is being stalked upon by a serial killer. She gets help from a former lover, but will they manage to escape?"

I bought "He Knows You're Alone" from Big Lots quite a while ago due to a few people talking about it on various horror forums. I only got round to watching it all the way through for the first time a couple of days ago because, unfortunately, it turned out to be one of the most amateur and boring films that I've ever had the misfortune to fall asleep to.

According to the IMDb, this "Halloween" clone was shot in just 15 days although how it even took that long beats me. Filled with terrible acting, hardly any gore, and being dated beyond belief, is only the tip of the iceberg for all the bad things I could say about this film.

Not only are several scenes almost identical to "Halloween" (1976), including shots of the killer standing outside the victim's house and looking up at the window, but the score sounds so similar to John Carpenter's music that I'm surprised that there weren't a few lawsuits at the time.

By far the worst thing for me was the pace at which the story unfolded. As much as I appreciate character development and exposition, I'd prefer it if there was some purpose behind it and not just a load of padding. None of the drawn out and stagey talking scenes made me care about any of the characters.

Freckly-chested Caitlin O'Heaney in the lead role of Amy Jensen was certainly not as strong as Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode and was actually a hundred times more annoying especially at the end where she could only run about twenty feet before stopping to see if the killer was going to catch up with her.

The only things which did interest me were what was going on it the Staten Island background. Seeing a sign for cigarettes at only 65c amused me especially as they are nearly $10 now, and, of course, all the really old electronics from 1980 are fascinating.

Of course, the main claim of "He Knows You're Alone" is that it has Tom Hanks in it for less than five minutes as a psychology student and Paul Gleason (aka Principal Richard Vernon from "The Breakfast Club") for even less time than that. I have no idea if any of the other actors and actresses were famous for anything because I don't think I've ever seen them in anything else.

I admit that the opening "film within a film" scene fooled me and, even though the technique wasn't very original, it was probably the best part of the whole thing other than the only pretty actress (whose name I don't even know) getting naked for a somewhat gratuitous shower much later on. I struggled to pay attention to everything inbetween since the rare occasions when anything did happen were so short-lived and bloodless that it really failed miserably as a worthwhile slasher.

At least the story tried to be original with the psycho initially going after brides-to-be but even that aspect was inconsistent as he randomly killed nearly everybody else too. It was all pretty tame stuff though and a certain car stunt was completely ridiculous.

"He Knows You're Alone" isn't even bad enough to be funny, it's just boring and bad. I'm not even going to get into discussing the terrible depiction of police work or the poor acting skills of Lewis Arlt as an obsessed detective who managed to do as little as possible. I still have no idea what the purpose of his character even was.

The ending alone is enough to guarantee it a place in The Dungeon even without the stupid tacked-on epilogue. I do not recommend this film.

June 11, 2011

Celebrities who should be in horror films

Sometimes, just for a bit of fun, I like to imagine female celebrities who are not in the horror film business (or just not actresses at all) in other scenarios. Whether or not they would actually be any good in any other medium is debatable but here's my list anyway.

Lady Gaga
Her music videos almost make her an actor already so why not cash in with some more literal "Monsters"? My suggestion is that she makes a horror movie called "Little Monsters" where she could, of course, play a popstar who gets to the top through black magic and finally gets torn apart by her frenzied tweenage fans.


Rachael Ray
Maybe it's just something I'd like to see but isn't the thought of Rachael Ray getting covered in EVOO and being cooked by a cannibal quite a delicious idea? For obvious reasons, it probably shouldn't be called "The Roast of Rachael Ray". Ah, the irony.


Katy Perry
Her IMDb profile suggests that she'd like to kiss several big name Hollywood actresses so why not give her the chance to do it in a horror movie? Can't you just see Katy in a remake of "The Kiss" or, since she's a cat lover, how about in a reimagining of "Eyes of the Cat" where she could play the aunt?


Sarah Palin
Without trying to be controversial, wouldn't she be ideal in the role of a wicked stepmother? It would certainly cast her against type. As long as she didn't try to play a politician, I think she'd be outstanding with a decent script.


Gwen Stefani
With her movie star looks, I'm surprised that she hasn't done more than impersonate Jean Harlow in "The Aviator". What would be a good horror role to cast her in though? I think Gwen would make a pretty good vampire like Delphine Seyrig in "Daughters of Darkness". She's the right age now to do it too.


Anna Kournikova
Although she's the world's sexiest tennis player, Anna also has some very "girl next door" looks which might give her a chance as a final girl in a slasher movie. Like most actresses in those roles, she'd only have to run about a lot and she does that already.


Shakira
She obviously needs to be a "She-wolf" of some kind but I also think that she'd make a good ghost if anyone ever attempted to make "The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall" into a movie. Maybe it's just because I want to see her dripping wet like she is in most of her music videos.


Can you think of any others who might be good in horror movies?

June 10, 2011

Orphan (2009)



"A husband and wife who recently lost their baby adopt a 9-year-old girl who is not nearly as innocent as she claims to be."

As "Orphan" is a horror movie which relies on a pretty far-fetched secret as its main selling point, it's almost impossible to review without giving away spoilers which is why I haven't even tried to write about it until now.

A few weeks ago one of the UK TV channels showed "Orphan", and it became one of the trending subjects on Twitter so quickly that people wondered what was going on with the now two-year old film. Everybody in Britain seemed to be watching "Orphan" in the same sinister way that the human race watched the shooting stars in "Day of the Triffids" or "Night of the Comet" but obviously without the apocalyptic repercussions.

Other than a programme being of some historical importance such as a Royal wedding or state funeral (neither of which interest me), I don't remember any other occasion when so many people were all glued to their TV sets at the same time. I think the last time it almost happened over anything in the horror genre was when "Salem's Lot" was first shown though some might argue that the infamous "Eastenders" Christmas episodes are often just as horrific and have the same number of viewers.

Anyway, I started to wonder why "Orphan" succeeded where so many other horror movies which had a debut on British television failed. I have no answer other than it simply being a damn good film although I can imagine that it was advertised with a ton of teaser trailers in the week before it aired.

Suffice it to say, if you are one of the very few people who hasn't seen "Orphan" then stop reading now because I am going to spoil it for you.


The big "secret" is that Esther, played by 11-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman, is not really a little girl at all but an insane 30-something Russian prostitute with dwarfism. Yes, I told you at the beginning that it was far-fetched.

The weird thing is that Isabelle Fuhrman is so good in the role that you don't doubt for a moment that she is a lot older than her physical appearance and therein lies a very disturbing problem when it comes to any adult male reactions to her character.

If this was just a "evil kid" movie such as "The Bad Seed" (1956) or "The Good Son" (1993), it would certainly not be such a controversial subject to talk about in everyday conversation. Although any mention of giving those brats a good hiding might raise a few eyebrows among ridiculously liberal parents, if anyone ever admitted to fancying Patty McCormack or Macaulay Culkin in their movies then not only would it be instantly wrong on so many levels but they'd probably be laughed at quite severely too. You see where I'm going with this? "Orphan" sets up not only a paedophile's dream scenario but it can make any normal heterosexual male severely question his reactions too.

As a fully developed and reasonably normal adult man, I can, without a shadow of a doubt, tell you that I absolutely detest children. The fact that I went to school with a load of them put me off for life (and, yes, I was a child myself then too). I don't have any clue what it would be like to be a parent since I have cats as children instead, and I try my hardest to have no interaction with anyone under the legal drinking age including relatives because, quite honestly, I can't stand kids.

But, a 30-year-old Russian prostitute with dwarfism? Yes, that very much appeals to my sicker, darker side and with all the make-up, a little black dress and some obvious padding to create a more adult body, I can honestly say that Esther was gorgeous. Where is the harm in admitting something like that? It was the filmmaker's intention to create this troublesome image and it worked. Do I feel shame that it worked on me? Not really. I don't even care that those cardboard standees of Miley Cyrus all over Wal-Mart have caught my eye a few times too. A pretty girl is a pretty girl no matter what age she is and I am secure enough about my own sexuality that I can admit it. The fact that my disgust about children means that I simply don't have it in me to want to buy a bag of sweeties and hang around playgrounds is another thing that I'm happy to admit publicly. The sweets will always be mine, I'm not sharing, and getting on that roundabout when nobody is around to spin until I puke is something that you probably don't really want to know about anyway.

The most disturbing scene in "Orphan" is not the revelation that the adopted 9-year-old is really a deranged adult murdereress but Esther's attempted seduction of Peter Sarsgaard. Not only is this clearly horrible for all the paedophilic reasons you can imagine but is it just me or does Peter Sarsgaard sound like he's gay throughout the film? I know that he's a thoroughly rampant heterosexual in real life so it threw me a bit that he delivered a lot of his lines with such a stereotypical affectation. This also created even more questions about the scene. Was John Coleman refusing Esther's advances because he thought she was a little girl, because he was married, or because he was gay? If I was in the same position and, bear in mind that I'm talking about the scenario of the film and Esther really being an adult, I don't think that I would have refused her. Hell, I wouldn't refuse Lola from "The Loved Ones" either. Psycho chicks really do it for me.

There's really not much more that I should say about "Orphan" unless I want to dig myself a bigger hole. I think the film is excellent but, because of its "gimmick", you can't ever watch it again once you know Esther's secret unless you intend to pick holes in it for a review.

If I had to give "Orphan" a rating out of 10, it would get full marks. It's not scary as such but it has the potential to really make you question some darker aspects of human nature if you want it to. The camerawork, acting, set design and everything else (that really you should just take for granted in a real movie rather than some terrible handycam piece of crap) is all excellent as you would expect. I highly recommend "Orphan" as something which you should have in your collection if, for no other reason, you want to instigate some very probing questions with anyone you watch it with. It's a lot more subtle than sticking a potential paedo in front of "Hard Candy" (2005) to see if they fancy Ellen Page.

"Orphan" is a quality production which reminds me of the days when you could walk into Blockbuster and pick anything off the shelf without having to worry about it being a no-budget nasty with a sleeve that fools you into thinking otherwise. Choosing films just because the story itself intrigues you rather than having to worry about all the technical inadequacies would make life so much easier and I thank Jaume Collet-Serra (who also directed the "House of Wax" reimagining) for helping to bring old school filmmaking back.

June 9, 2011

Little Deaths (2011)



"Composed of three disturbingly sensual and terrifying short narratives, unified by the twin themes of sex and death."

With each section being respectively written and directed by Sean Hogan, Andrew Parkinson and Simon Rumley (who was also responsible for "Red White & Blue"), this new British horror anthology is an uneven yet still highly entertaining collection of bizarre sexual nastiness.

In the first story, "House and Home", a rich couple who abduct a homeless girl for their own sexual gratification get a lot more than they bargained for. I enjoyed this gory story most of all but it was over far too quickly.

"Mutant Tool", which comes next, is the longest and most excruciatingly dull tale of a prostitute, her boyfriend and an experimental drug. I couldn't get into it and just wanted it to be over. Unfortunately, it dragged on and on with nothing much happening and no great surprise ending. I've got nothing against Andrew Parkinson and enjoyed "Dead Creatures" from ten years ago but this section seemed very out of place and quite confusing. If you make it through (although I recommend using the fast forward button), the final story is worth the wait.

Entitled "Bitch", this is the Simon Rumley section which completes the trio and has a most definite style to it. Flawed as it may be with yet another overpowering piece of background music at the end, at least this involves some poetically twisted piece of justice. I'm not sure if bestiality is more than suggested but there are at least three scenes of sado-masochism which should satisfy most sick puppies (yes, the pun is intended).

Overall, I enjoyed this low-budget anthology but it was very reminiscent of the "Urban Gothic" TV series and just as rushed except, as I've already said, for the middle story which wasn't worth wasting even five minutes on. The acting was good, the actresses were pretty and everything was as sleazy as you'd expect from a piece of gritty British filmmaking.

I know that "Little Deaths" has been doing the festival circuits and hasn't even got a distributor yet but some bright spark has been uploading it to over a dozen different places on the internet where you can watch it for free.

Judging by the quality of the streams, this must have been done by someone with access to a DVD version of the film (which was supposed to have been released in the UK on June 6th) and I wouldn't put it past one of the directors themselves as being responsible for uploading it. If I'm wrong about this and they have actually been ripped-off by a pirate then the three writers/directors should probably take some comfort from the fact that the middle section is so bad that it's doubtful that anyone would give them any money to see their film anyway.

I doubt that any of them are looking for advice from a horror blogger but, constructively, each director needs to go back and re-edit their own (or each other's) stories if they really want "Little Deaths" to be a success.

Lucky Dog Rescue Blog: Humane Society???

I saw this blog earlier and decided to repost a link to it here.

Even though I'm known for being far more of a cat person than a dog lover, I read this blog because I am also 100% opposed to these "Kill Shelters" which masquerade under the name of "Humane Societies".

If you love animals too then I encourage you to click the link and fully read the rest of this post from the "Lucky Dog Rescue Blog".

Lucky Dog Rescue Blog: Humane Society???:

What does the term “humane” really mean? Does it mean kindness, mercy, and compassion? Does it involve a concerted effort to inflict the minimum of physical and emotional pain… in an attempt to minimize suffering? Does it insist on giving consideration to all living creatures?

Shouldn’t “humane” mean that we aim to treat all humans and animals as we'd wish to be treated? That we throw good in the face of evil? That we shed light in the darkness? That we provide hope instead of despair?

Sadly, the word “humane” has been widely abused and misused by some “perceived” animal welfare organizations… in their attempts to provide misleading and deceptive descriptions of their extremely inhumane practices.

And everyone is falling for it…

June 8, 2011

Lady Gaga is still a one hit wonder



I was listening to Lady Gaga's new album, "Born This Way", earlier and as much as I tried to like any of the tracks on it, I couldn't.

There are no particularly catchy songs such as "Bad Romance", "Poker Face" or even "Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)" (from "The Fame Monster" and "The Fame" albums respectively) and, to be absolutely blunt about it, "Born This Way" is probably the most boring and generic thing that Lady Gaga has created so far.

Basically, I don't think that Lady Gaga is likely to make anything as good as "Bad Romance" ever again. If one song defines her whole career, she could do a lot worse but I really wish she'd get away from all that horrible "R&B" sound-alike crap and bring out another dance-pop masterpiece.

But what do I care anyway? I just like the way she looks.

My Top Ten Freeware Applications

Having just downloaded the beta version of Firefox 5 onto the Windows XP part of my laptop, I was disappointed to discover that Linux Mint doesn't have a version available for it yet. Since I've decided to try and make a bit more use of Windows XP while I'm waiting for somebody to fix the ACPI problems that I'm having with the new Linux kernel, even though this Microsoft operating system is nearly 10 years old now, I found that I could still keep it fairly up to date with free software.


Apart from my Lady Gaga wallpaper, here's what I've downloaded recently to try and keep the environment as close as I can to my preferred Linux.

1. VLC Media Player 1.1.9
Apart from Firefox, this is one of the first things which I download whenever I install a new operating system. For someone who watches a lot of movies like me, you can't beat VLC Media Player on any platform.

2. AbiWord 2.8.6
Whereas some people need all the bells and whistles of OpenOffice or LibreOffice, I don't actually use a word processor all that often but, when I do, I like to have it pop-up as quickly as possible. AbiWord does more than I need it to do and it's very useful for creating the occasional blog.

3. Gnumeric 1.10.14
When I need to open a spreadsheet, I add Gnumeric as well although I really have no great use for it otherwise. I once tried to make a database of my Mill Creek DVD collection but so far have never completed it. I was amazed to find that there was a Windows version of Gnumeric as I've always believed that it was a Linux only application.

4. Firefox 5
If I'm ever forced to use a barebones version of Windows, I use Internet Explorer for just long enough to download Firefox. From then on Firefox is my default web browser. Most versions of Linux have Firefox installed already or this would be number one on my list. I've also tried Google Chrome/Chromium but it's just not as good yet.

5. WinRar 4.01
I never have any use for this on Linux but as a user of WinZip for many years, I discovered that this was a much better alternative on Windows XP and I tend to need it almost instantly.

6. Adobe Reader 10.0.1
Again this is not something which I'd fall over myself to use on Linux or a Mac because it's become so bloated but I still have to have it on Windows XP to view a lot of pdf attachments and ebooks. I can't believe it's got to version 10 as there's really no reason to download anything other than version 5.

7. Skype 5.3.0.116
I've never really got into using Skype for the telephone side of things but it's a useful instant messenger at times. I could easily live without it but I find myself installing it on everything just in case I ever need it.

8. Pidgin 2.7.11
Since I use all the instant messengers, it's nice to be able to access them all in one program. Although ICQ doesn't seem to work through Pidgin anymore, this is a much better alternative to bloated offerings such as Trillian (which I used to love more than anything up until a couple of years ago).

9. The Gimp 2.6.11
I've never been able to work out how to use Adobe Photoshop as I was an avid user of Paint Shop Pro until it became completely useless to me on the newer versions of Windows. Because I got used to the GIMP's inclusion on Ubuntu, it's something that I still have to download. It does everything I need a graphic program to do and, of course, it's completely free. Seashore (a lighter version of GIMP) is the only decent alternative when I'm using a Mac.

10. CCleaner 3.07.1457
I use this a couple of times after installing everything on Windows XP and then never run it again. It's a great program for tidying up the start menu entries and cleaning the registry but of little value to me otherwise.

I also tend to download a few programs which I don't think I've ever used but I install them anyway including FileZilla, Audacity, ThunderBird and ImgBurn. I don't use FTP for anything, no longer need to edit a podcast, only use web-based email, and have nothing to burn to CD or DVD. Of course, there's always the possibility that I might need these programs one day.

For anti-virus software, I use Avira or Avast depending on whichever version is getting the best reviews at the time though I used to be very happy with AVG and ZoneAlarm before they slowed my computers down to an unusable crawl.

What are your favourite free programs?

June 7, 2011

Shuttle (2008)



"A late night airport shuttle ride home descends into darkness."

I have no idea how I found this recently or why I didn't watch it when it came out in 2008 but I'm sure it had a lot to do with "Shuttle" being marketed as a "crime drama" rather than the gory horror film that it actually is.

Somehow I must have just started randomly adding things to my Netflix queue just to see what they were about and, to be perfectly honest, I was quite prepared to switch this off after the first 60 seconds or so because it looked like it was going to be a "Turistas" rip-off like "Train" (which was also from 2008).

I'm glad I stuck with it though as it was definitely the best film that I've seen this month, full of suspense and only slightly annoying characters. If people doing all the wrong things to escape from the killers in horror movies annoys you then this will frustrate the hell out of you too but in a good way. You can learn a lot from "Shuttle" by imagining yourself in the same situation and thinking about how you would handle it differently.

Among all the obvious formulas, tropes and clichés, there are many elements of "Shuttle" which you know you've seen hundreds of times before. Everything from cellphones not working (in downtown LA!) to not making sure the villain is really dead before he comes back to get you again is thrown into the mix but it's all done so well that, if you haven't watched that many horror films, you could almost fool yourself into thinking that you are watching them for the first time even if it is all a bit far-fetched.

Where "Shuttle" lacks a certain amount of credibility is in how the characters react to obvious chances to escape from their ordeal. You can tell from the start that this is going to be mainly about the two girls in the story more than the others and they do the stupidest things. I'm trying to avoid spoilers here but, seriously, if you are being held against your will by someone you've already seen kill other people and you get their gun, you know what you have to do. Also, should you ever get the chance to be released for just a moment, it's all about self-preservation and screw everybody else.

Things that stand out in a positive way are that all the actors are really good though none apart from Tony Curran as the bus driver seem to be famous for anything other than TV roles. The two girls, Peyton List and Cameron Goodman, are very easy on the eye too.

The whole story may be somewhat ludicrous but the internal logic of the film is flawless and doesn't break the "willing suspension of disbelief" enough times to make you not want to watch it all the way to the end. The gory moments are surprisingly effective and quite realistic even though, again, there's really nothing that you haven't seen done before.

Because I had no idea what "Shuttle" was about or how it was going to end, I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. It just isn't the most original movie of its kind especially as it reminded me in some ways of "Judgment Night" (1993) and "Final Jeopardy" (1985) which I highly recommend even though they aren't horror movies at all. I suppose you could almost class any of these films as "survival horror" rather than "thrillers" but usually that term is used for things like "The Hills Have Eyes" or "A Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and none of them are in the same league as those horror genre classics.

As controversial as it may be, I'm actually going to add "Shuttle" to The Vault. I'm not sure that I would watch it again for quite a while (if at all) but it was certainly better than any of the other "Hostel" clones without being "torture porn" at all.

June 6, 2011

Red White & Blue (2010)



"In Austin, Texas, the lives of three young people Erica, Franki and Nate intertwine in a fateful, tragic way and head down a rocky and violent road to heart-rending oblivion."

I watched this on Netflix last night after several online recommendations but, as much as wanted to be able to write an uber positive review of it, it wasn't very satisfying.

Basically, "Red White & Blue" [sic] was a more dramatic and far less comedic version of "Very Bad Things" (1998) but made as a revenge story with a few horror elements thrown in.

The acting was average, the camerawork was horrible, and the background music was obnoxiously overpowering in places. All the really good, gory bits at the end were too rushed to enjoy which was a shame because, without them, there's not too much of any interest at all.

I suppose the main problem was that it's supposed to be just a bleak drama more than anything else but relied on a selection of characters who were all somewhat underdeveloped. It's a bit arty and cheap looking in a lot of places too which will alienate a lot of potential viewers within the first ten minutes.

If you do intend to watch "Red White & Blue" then there are a couple of revelations here and there which make it somewhat original but, overall, it's as instantly forgettable as "Dark Justice" (2000) which was another film I watched on Netflix with several good moments amid an otherwise disappointing low-budget effort.

I grudgingly recommend "Red White & Blue" simply because once you've run out of the good films to stream on Netflix, it is one of the better independent titles that you are likely to have recommended to you. As someone who has rated 2435 movies and TV shows since joining Netflix two years ago, I don't have much left on their service which I haven't already seen. I expect if you have massive DVD collections too, you'll often feel the same disappointment.

I've rated "Red White & Blue" as "Just Average" even though to some people it may be slightly more and to others considerably less.

June 5, 2011

Death at Deadpit.com

It's been a long time since I had anything to do with the guys who run the Deadpit podcast, as I left their message board amidst a load of stupid arguing and internet drama way back in early 2008. Three years on, we're all a bit older (and some of us are wiser) and, for one of the few times in the five year history of their online "radio" show, I have to agree with a few things that were said by Wes Vance (aka "The Creepy Kentuckian").

On June 3rd, Deadpit created a tribute show to one of their fallen "brothers" named "Don Muggins". I never knew him as he joined their message board about a year after I ceased to post there and, since I'm not overly keen on going to horror conventions anymore, our paths never crossed. Maybe you knew him if you move in those circles but I didn't so it's not really my place to comment on his tragic death other than to say that the death of anyone is obviously pretty devastating for everyone left behind. I can imagine what his family and close friends are going through right now.

What actually stood out for me was one of Wes Vance's introductory comments which I've done my best to transcribe for you below.

"But, uh yeah, I mean it sort of puts in perspective, you know, like a lot of things, I mean we've had feuds with some people online and stuff like that and, you know, a couple of occasions, I still think that we were right on the money but, I mean, you know at the end of the day it's stupid, you should really like... it's people like that you should be... I guess you should really be cordial online and don't try to do the internet drama aspect of the thing."

Okay, so it's not the most eloquent statement when typed out rather than listened to, but on a couple of occasions in the last six months, Wes has let a few rather mature emotional responses out rather than just bullshitting around (as he has done in far too many Deadpit podcasts and YouTube videos).

I'll be blunt about this, I'm not a fan of Deadpit. Some of their shows were really good when they first started and still, whenever they do a celebrity interview, it's always worth a listen, but the community of geeky fans which they have acquired has really left a lot to be desired, and most of them have damaged the integrity of their show, forums and everything else in what they refer to as the "Deadpit Universe". Only 40 or so people still post anything on their message board, and there isn't a single one of them now who I would even have the patience to respond to. All the big names who used to post there have moved on to other more interesting things, and it's completely understandable.

I'm not going to be hypocritical enough to say that I didn't thoroughly enjoy trolling their ProBoards forum from time to time just to stir things up, although I'm far from being the Nemesis that they were hoping for. Most of the time I thought I was just being hilariously funny, but as I've sometimes discovered in real life too, my particular brand of British humour doesn't translate too well overseas. As both Deadpit hosts have learned, their own mouths have been their undoing on several occasions where they've almost been sued, and they've alienated a lot more people over the years than they should have still listening to their show. But, hey, it's their podcast so they can do what they want, and I'm sure somebody will still listen to it.

Some of the changes they've made have improved the show including getting rid of all the self-promoters who abused the call-in portion, and, in this latest show, Wes revealed that they've finally had enough of all the pointless home-made horror movies which far too many people have been attempting to find distribution for.

I haven't listened to Deadpit for ages. In fact, there was one year where the content was so lousy and non-horror movie related that I was just waiting for them to give up entirely. I even awarded them the title of the "Worst Horror Podcast of 2009" as a result.

The addition of Aaron Frye's fiancée, "Jessco", reading the mailbag section is a new mistake due to her inexperience and obvious lack of horror movie knowledge, but at least, they've started to get back into discussing horror again. I think this was the first show that I've listened to this year, and it comes before a rare hiatus for them which is apparently due to the dearth of new movies of any kind worth talking about.

Anyway, since we are all in the same boat with a lack of anything much to talk about until the "Fright Night" remake, I thought Deadpit was something worth mentioning on my blog. I suppose it's only fair since I was once on their "Horror Roundtable" (where, frustratingly, none of the others seemed to know the difference between a cliché and a trope) and I still get the occasional mention on their forum (although never in a good way).

I'm never going to be friends with those guys again because, from my side of all the internet drama and feuding, I felt completely backstabbed by them on far too many occasions to ever want to associate with them in future with anything more than a casual nod to their existence. I don't wish them any ill will either because the bottom line is that we are all human, all horror fans, and all just getting on with what we enjoy most. All the internet dramas and feuds are, as Wes said, really put into perspective when someone dies.

Life is short and for some people, such as Don Muggins (not his real name), it's far too short. We've all been through various tragedies and upheavals in our lives, but I think, because of the nature of the internet, we often forget that there are other people on the other side of the screen. Sometimes it's worth just stopping for a moment to remember that all the horror fans and the celebrities are mortal too.

June 2, 2011

June's Horror Cat of the Month

This month, it's Jezebel from "The Sentinel" (1977).

"Not ready for marriage, a fashion model moves into an unbelievably nice Brooklyn Heights apartment, where scary occurrences turn into a much more frightening turn of events."


Happy birthday, black and white cat!

For more horror cats, please check out http://horrorcats.blogspot.com.

June 1, 2011

And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973)



"England 1795: the young Catherine just married Charles Fengriffen and moves into his castle. She becomes victim of an old curse that lays on the family. On her wedding night she's raped by a ghost and gets pregnant."

The IMDb description of this Amicus horror really gives away everything that you need to know about the plot apart from how slowly the story unfolds.

Due to being filmed at Oakley Court, "And Now the Screaming Starts!" looks like a slightly cheaper version of a Hammer film. Starring quite a few Hammer regulars and being directed by Roy Ward Baker adds to this illusion which, of course, was the intention. On a purely personal level, I've never really liked the majority of Milton Subotsky's productions from the '70s although the Amicus anthologies do have occasional moments of brilliance. I can't quite put my finger on why, especially whenever Amicus tried to do a single story, their movies always came second best to Hammer but I'd hazard a guess that it was mainly due to trying to make them more contemporary that, ironically, dated them all really badly.

I think Amicus must have realised at the time that the period settings were what gave Hammer their edge and you can tell from "And Now the Screaming Starts!" that a lot of work went into trying to create a similar atmosphere. If only as much effort had been put into the script as the costume and set design then this would have been an instant classic. It's bloody gruesome in places, particularly the opening scene (which appears to be lifted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Hound of the Baskervilles"), and has the potential to leave a bad taste in your mouth if you think about it too much.

If there's one thing that angers me, it's the British class system and all the feudalism that it's been built on. The curse that gets put upon the Fengriffen family really is more than justifiable in my own mind and, no pun intended due to the later subject matter, I really have to hand it to Herbert Lom for making me hate the aristocracy even more than I already do. It's probably not a good digression but every time I see this particular opening rape scene, all I can think about is how corporate America with the "fire at will" laws (and other nonsense) are doing exactly the same thing in the 21st century as medieval Britain once did. Make no mistake about it, too many companies think they own their employees even when they aren't working for them and try to take away every constitutional right that they think they have. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine the over-privileged "Lord of the Manor" coming round to rape your wife and cut off your hand even today and if you just substitute "Lord" for "Corporate America" and its potential to take away everything and destroy your life according to a whim then the possibly unintentional social commentary of "And Now the Screaming Starts!" still has some power to it.

Of course, even though Henry Fengriffen's acts were illegal back in the day, you can be sure that such things (and even worse) have happened in the history of every country when the aristocracy have abused their position. I doubt that David Case's gothic novel "Fengriffen: A Chilling Tale" (which "And Now the Screaming Starts!" is based on) made much more of any of this other than a plot device for the ensuing horror story and I haven't ever read it to say for certain. Obviously, the weakness in using such a horrible, unnecessary and polarising act to set the stage for the later action is that most people are on the side of the victim and want justice to be done. None of the later generation of Fengriffens really matter from that point on.

Therein lies the biggest problem with "And Now the Screaming Starts!". There is no way that a logically thinking audience cares one iota about what happens to Ian Ogilvy and Stephanie Beacham's characters other than wanting very bad things to happen to them. There are no innocents when it comes to aristos and there is never any point when you can sympathise with their predicament.

Stephanie Beacham was an incredibly beautiful babe when she was younger (and wasn't too bad when she was a big star in a lot of high-budget '80s soaps either) and, it's possible to argue that her character, Catherine Fengriffen, is an innocent victim. I disagree. Yes, Catherine Fengriffen does all the fainting and screaming when it suits her but her reaction to her own rape is so typically upper class and dismissive that it's impossible to feel any sympathy for her. Her husband, Charles Fengriffen, is such an equally arrogant piece of work that, as much as I liked Ian Ogilvy in "The Return of the Saint" TV series, I absolutely hated him in this.

Now you might think that a film that causes such negative emotions as this would doom it to failure but actually that makes it rather good in my book. If a drama doesn't cause an emotional response from the viewer then it can be written off but "And Now the Screaming Starts!" actually tries its hardest to anger its audience on every level. Unfortunately, as a horror movie it's supposed to be scary too but none of that really works.

The special effects vary from average to ridiculous especially the severed hand crawling around and the whole thing is quite unevenly paced. Some scenes drag while the more interesting ones get rushed and, on a purely horror entertainment level, none of it is particularly satisfying.

I suppose I should mention Peter Cushing as psychiatrist Dr. Pope but only because there is nothing out of the ordinary with his performance apart from it being quite anachronistic. Patrick Magee as Dr. Whittle is much more believable but the man gives me the creeps in every film that I've ever seen him in whether he's playing a good guy or otherwise. I think his best role was in the "Blind Alleys" segment of "Tales from the Crypt" (1972) though I'm sure he will always be most remembered for playing the crippled writer Mr. Alexander in Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" (1971).

Anyway, there's not really much more to say about "And Now the Screaming Starts!" other than it having quite a predictable ghost story underneath it all. I think the intention was to make something completely original and different but it didn't quite happen. As a gothic horror story, it lacks tension and, as an exploitation movie, it lacks all the gratuitous (and not so gratuitous) nudity which really would have livened things up.

I'm moving "And Now the Screaming Starts!" from The Vault to the "Just Average" section but it's still a recommendation. "And Now the Screaming Starts!" is not Amicus' best work but it's different enough from everything else they did to stand out as an anomaly. If you like ghost stories, you'll probably like this but if you want real hardcore grisly horror then you'll be very disappointed.

I got some free stickers from GetGlue


I don't know if you've already heard of GetGlue but, if you haven't, it's another social networking site where you can make lists of your favourite things and post what you are currently doing to Twitter or Facebook without having to visit those sites individually. The big difference between GetGlue and similar sites is that they reward you with physical stickers which they post to you for free every time you get another 20 of them.

I'm not sure why GetGlue do this except that they must get paid for promoting various forms of entertainment. I'm sure the data they collect rivals the infamous Nielsen ratings although, since it's just as likely to be flawed, I don't know if they make any money from selling it on. The weakness is that it's far too easy to just collect all the stickers whether you have any interest in the movies, books, music or TV shows offered or not. I've tried to use the site properly by just collecting stickers for things that really do interest me but, as a former user of a Nielsen scanner, I know how tempting it is just to go for the rewards offered.

Anyway, yesterday I received my first sheet of stickers which I've now stuck on the lid of my Apple iBook. All that white space was just begging to be filled. The stickers are really easy to peel back off and reposition which is great for my procrastination. Yes, I like to line them all up perfectly not because I have any form of OCD but because I like things to be neat and orderly. I'm not going to take a picture though because if you've seen one laptop lid with round stickers on it, you've seen them all. GetGlue have a ton of photos on their Facebook page already from people whose sticker collections really put mine to shame.

If you want some free stickers yourself then I encourage you all to join GetGlue and start liking things. It's quite addictive for a while and also a very handy site when you need to update your Facebook and Twitter statuses at the same time.

It's time for a change



Since I'm being cooked alive by the humidity in this 90 degree weather, I just haven't got the energy or motivation to finish writing any movie reviews even though I'm currently watching "The Spell" (a TV movie from 1977 with a very young Helen Hunt in it). I need to write something though or you'll all think that I've given up blogging entirely.

Sometimes I feel like I've boxed myself in by writing yet another horror movie review blog amidst the many hundreds of others so I want to start writing about all sorts of things from now on and try to live up to those "Versatile Blogger Awards" that I keep getting.

Basically, after 17 years of reviewing horror movies (since I started in magazines back in 1994), it's not that I'm bored with the genre but I'm starting to grow out of it. I've become far more interested in playing around with Linux, Tweeting and just generally surfing the internet in search of other diversions rather than getting on with what I started doing here.

Looking back through "The Vault" at all the titles which I have still made no attempt to rewatch fills me with more disappointment than you could possibly imagine. I have one paragraph reviews for all of them from my previous website and I'm tempted to just repost them all with a YouTube trailer and be done with it. The danger of becoming a poor man's IMDb specializing in horror is an irony that has not escaped me and it's not how I wanted my blog to end up. There are too many blogs like that in existence already.

I also have a couple of other horror-centric blogs, one of which I've abandoned and another that seemed like a good idea at the time but I'm struggling to find more examples for. Starting yet another blog just to ramble on is pretty pointless when I have this one set up already.

Since I now have some regular readers, I'm going to leave the decision as to what to do with this blog open to suggestions. Feel free to leave me some comments if you want me to continue to review horror movies or if you'd prefer me to just write about any old thing that I choose. I'll still be "Dr Blood" and there'll still be videos all over the place but whether or not this stays as a horror blog is the question.