August 30, 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)

"When her mother disappears, Clary Fray learns that she descends from a line of warriors who protect our world from demons. She joins forces with others like her and heads into a dangerous alternate New York called Downworld."

Based on the YA fantasy-horror novel by alleged plagiarist Cassandra Clare, "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" is yet another wannabe "Twilight" replacement which has turned out to be a huge flop at the box office. I can't say that I'm surprised.

Since I'm not a reader or a "young adult", I've never heard of the series of books which this movie is based on before. I also have no idea if the allegations of plagiarism against the author are true or due to "cloning" and homaging, but either way, "The Mortal Instruments" appears to be little more than a bland conflation of "Night Watch" (2004), "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Percy Jackson and the Olympians", the "Prophecy" series, and a plethora of clichéd offerings from the "demon-hunting" subgenre. Ironically, given that "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" is produced by Constantin Films, there's a very slight feeling of "Constantine" (2005) about this too. Unfortunately, that's where the good stuff ends.

"The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" is overlong at 130 minutes, and pacing problems don't help to alleviate the boredom between brief and confusing action scenes. Harald Zwart's previous effort, "The Karate Kid" remake, also suffered from the same issues, but it's probably not entirely his fault this time. I imagine that producer and author interference influenced things quite badly; conflation of characters, casting choices, accent changes, rewrites, and the desire for a PG-13 rating to get more asses on seats were all contributing factors.

Thus, "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" is a visually pleasing big-budget production, but if you think that "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy is bad news for your bladder, this movie will literally, figuratively and actually bore the piss out of you too. I lost track of the number of toilet breaks I needed, but I think it was over half a dozen. The two cans of Rockstar which were necessary to keep myself awake took their toll, but at least I didn't wet myself like I did during "The Golden Compass" (2007), and I didn't miss anything important either.

Clary and creepy Jace share a mundane moment.

The cast of pretty "teenagers" do okay in their roles although Jamie Campbell Bower (who has been in the finales of the Harry Potter series, and played Caius in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn") is quite creepy-looking as Jace. Not looks-wise but accent-wise, he's very Paul Bettany, which brings up another irony since the star of the show, Lily Collins, was also in "Priest" (2011).

As she's not really a teenager, there's no problem with complimenting Lily Collins for being hot as Clary. Hell, even if she was sixteen instead of twenty-three, Phil Collins' daughter would still be pretty, and there's nothing wrong with saying so. She's slightly upstaged in the sexiness department by Jemima West as Isabelle, but she uses her huge eyebrows and nearly always open mouth to good effect. The "teeth and eyes" acting-style strikes again, albeit slightly less so than in typical teen soap operas. I also have to mention here that there's nothing more confusing than older actresses playing younger "jailbait" characters, so be prepared to feel as grubby as I did for ogling them. Or not, as the case may be.

Apart from Robert Sheehan as scrawny Simon gratuitously taking his shirt off, there's nothing for girls to see here unless they like their Jacob substitutes to be less ripped. Needless to say, his underdeveloped bare-chestedness did absolutely nothing for me, and I didn't like his character.

Kevin Zegers (recently in "The Colony") is very underused as Alec, yet he's got nothing to be ashamed of. Being unconscious on a bed for half the movie covers a multitude of sins. MILF-tastic Lena Headey is wasted even more since she disappears very early on in the story, and several other underwritten characters also suffer from clearly being reduced to bit parts for their respective actors. "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" truly equals "The Twilight Saga" in trying to pack too much in and rushing through the characters, and that's its downfall.

The problem with any of these "Young Adult novel" adaptations is not only that "Young Adult" is a curiously self-contradictory term and genre which pleases nobody—least of all its target audience—but that characterisation is never a strong point. It's hard to care about characters just because they are pretty, especially if there's none of the fleshing out which presumably occurs in the original literary medium. Having never read a "YA" novel in my life, I can't honestly say if the authors of these papery abominations make more of their "Mary Sues", and I'm not prepared to infantilise myself to find out. Just judging them by their movie adaptations, everything from "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" through to "Beautiful Creatures", "His Dark Materials", "Camp Half-Blood" and "The Hunger Games" must be some very low-brow reading material in the first place. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Sexy Isabelle has a big pair of swords.

As an aside, I don't care how much flak I get for it, but the unrequited gay love triangle which I assume to be one of the selling points of "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" is very bizarre and completely out of place in a movie (or book) meant for little kids. Most of the target audience simply wouldn't understand it except as an insult, or they might not notice its insidiousness at all, but others are surely going to say, "What?"—and therein lies a problem. For me, the trendy, politically correct acceptance of homosexuality shown here as something completely normal rather than applicable to a minority is about as realistic and subtle as decorating half the cast with tribal "magical sigil" tattoos. It's controversial propaganda aimed at an age group which shouldn't even have a sex life, and it's not done in way that provides any explanation for differences from the norm. Briefly mentioned as it is, the Achilles-Patroclus thing comes across as contrived as an episode of "Torchwood", especially as there's another more traditional, heterosexual, and "age appropriate" love triangle going on. If you really want children to see gay romance in a movie, you should let them watch dramas such as "Another Country", "My Beautiful Laundrette" or "Brokeback Mountain", not a kiddified action-adventure/supernatural-fantasy. No? Maybe it's they're R-rated! It's not worth pressing the point however, because there's no sexual tension or chemistry between anybody in this movie. It's all very tame.

With the MacGuffin-laden plot taking a back seat to the equally superficial teen romance, "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" reeks of blandness throughout. Rather than losing focus, it never has any to begin with, and it has no vitality, inertia, momentum or any other words which you can pull out of a thesaurus to describe its lack of "oomph". Maybe if the producers had gone for an R-rating instead of a PG-13, some realistic violence, goriness and horror could have spiced things up considerably more than the borderline adult dialogue and situations, but I highly doubt it. The bad guys are so underplayed that there's never any real threat to the safety of the main characters, and as I already said, it's impossible to care about any of them anyway.

"The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" is insipid, often tedious, and confusing with it, so I don't recommend it at all.

August 29, 2013

My Top Ten Spanish Horror Films

Yes, it's just another lazy "Top Ten" post, but to be even lazier, I'm not even going to say anything about these films other than post their synopses from the IMDb.

I do, of course, reserve the right to come back and add a mini-review of each film later, but all you need to know is that they are great. You can now throw away every other horror movie and thriller you own because these are the best of the best!

No, not really, but I really do wish that it was that simple.

Spain has started to become the new Canada in the way that its filmmakers borrow plots from several existing movies and mix them together, but they do it very well indeed. The cinematography in every case is exactly what real films should look like, and the actresses are the hottest in the world. If only the stories weren't so clichéd, and the movies were a little bit more brutal instead of so cerebral, Spain would rule the horror industry.

1. The Orphanage - El orfanato (2007)

"A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, which used to be an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend."

It's only $5 in Wal-mart, so you've all got this now.

Read my review here.

2. Spectre - Espectro: Regreso a Moira (2006)

"Alejandro is an elderly writer, and is driving back to the small costal village where he was born and raised. But the peaceful place of his memories has been turned into a vast tourist resort, full of brazen consumerism with no charm left at all."

The best of the "Films to Keep You Awake" (aka "Películas para no dormir") series. It's like "The Reflecting Skin" (1990), but Natalia Millán is far sexier than Lindsay Duncan.

I haven't written a full review of this yet.

3. Childish Games - Dictado (2012)

"Daniel and Laura, both teachers, are confronted by an unusual situation when Mario, a childhood friend of Daniel's, turns up acting strangely and wanting them to meet his daughter, Julia."

Bárbara Lennie is hot!

Review coming very soon!

4. [Rec] (2007)

"A television reporter and cameraman follow emergency workers into a dark apartment building and are quickly locked inside with something terrifying."

It's only "Demons 2" (1986) with shakycams, and I actually prefer "Quarantine" (the remake) in some ways, but... this has a more supernatural ending.

Read my review here.

5. Sleep Tight - Mientras duermes (2011)

"You wake day after day to the comfort and security of your home. But how safe is it really?"

A thriller/drama with horror elements... and Marta Etura, OMG!

Read my review here.

6. Thesis - Tesis (1996)

"While doing a thesis about violence, Ángela finds a snuff video where a girl is tortured until death. Soon she discovers that the girl was a former student in her faculty."

Directed by Alejandro Amenábar. Starring Ana Torrent, Fele Martínez, and Eduardo Noriega! What more do you need to know?

Review coming soon!

7. Julia's Eyes - Los ojos de Julia (2010)

"The story of a woman who is slowly losing her sight whilst trying to investigate the mysterious death of her twin sister."

I haven't written a review of this either because it's more of a thriller than a horror. But Belén Rueda again, oh yes!

8. The Devil's Backbone - El espinazo del diablo (2001)

"After Carlos, a 12-year-old whose father has died in the Spanish Civil War, arrives at an ominous boy's orphanage he discovers the school is haunted and has many dark secrets that he must uncover."

You don't even need me to review this, do you? Maybe I will one day.

9. Kidnapped - Secuestrados (2010)

"Three hooded Eastern-European criminals burst into a home in a Madrid gated community, holding the family hostage in its own home, and forcing the father to empty his credit cards."

It's a home invasion movie which makes "You're Next" look even less original. I thought I'd already reviewed it, but apparently not.

10. Painless - Insensibles (2012)

"Set in Catalonia, Painless weaves two stories: in one, starting during the Spanish Civil War and running through to the '60s, an asylum attempts to rehabilitate children who feel no pain, by teaching them physical suffering. In the second, in the present time, a brilliant neurosurgeon who needs a bone marrow transplant, discovers this dark past when he searches for his biological parents."

Read my review here.

This is how the Horror Lamers do it and get hundreds of comments, right?

August 27, 2013

Hell Baby (2013)

"An expectant couple who moves into the most haunted house in New Orleans call upon the services of the Vatican's elite exorcism team to save them from a demonic baby. "

Yeah, I know I said I was going to take a break, but I saw that other people had been writing about this movie and decided to upset myself with another crappy one for my final "Torture Tuesday" until after October.

Although the cheap-looking opening slideshow of random American "houses" in various states of disrepair made me want to switch this off immediately, I stuck with it only to discover that it was a typical American comedy, i.e. full of moronic characters (who wouldn't survive in the real world without the aid of professional carers) doing and saying stupid things.

Thus, while the concept of parodying "Rosemary's Baby", "The Amityville Horror", and "The Exorcist" isn't necessarily a bad one, the execution leaves a lot to be desired, and of course, it's not the first time that any of those movies have been spoofed. There's nothing here that hasn't already been done in the "Scary Movie" series apart from a couple of un-politically correct lines.

In its favour, the awkward scenes between Rob Corddry and Keegan Michael Key are nicely done. Their style is a bit of a half-way house between "Airplane" and "The Office", and there's nothing to complain about if you're a fan of that kind of comedy. I prefer more slapstick and cruelty, so "Hell Baby" was just like watching a '90s-style teen-comedy full of tame running gags and puerile "gross out" humour to me. Having said that, I can't fault it for not being more obscene because it's an American comedy after all and can only be judged as such.

The actresses also do a good job being ditzy. It's a toss up between Leslie Bibb and Riki Lindhome for who steals the show as the hottest, but as the latter isn't padded-up to look pregnant and gets completely naked, I think she has the edge. Further eyecandy is provided in a flashback sequence of sexy Italian nurses played by Brittney Alger, Tara Cullen, and Jessica Loyacono.

I wasn't so enamoured by the priests and cops who are aren't skewered enough for their hypocrisy to really offend anyone. There's one jibe about Catholic priests being gay, but it's barely acknowledged, and it should have gone into much darker areas. The cops are simply idiots whose skits continue the "neurons not quite connecting" style. The only thing I got out of any of their interactions is that I now know what a "Po Boy" sandwich is, and I want one.

There's not much horror in this movie apart from a naked 90-year-old woman, one off-camera murder, four kills in total, and the fight scenes with the demonic baby. The production values are decent enough and the effects aren't too bad, but the finale borrows a lot from "Basket Case" (1982) and Cindy's battle with Mr. Kittles in "Scary Movie 2" (2001).

Given that I don't like horror-comedies anyway, I'm still objectively forced to rate this as below average rather than a complete waste of time. I can see how it would amuse some people, but too many punches are pulled and not enough is made of the horror elements for "Hell Baby" to be worth anything more than a curious rental.

August 26, 2013

Another Ten New Horror Movies I Didn't Make It Through

It's that time again!

No, it's not the time of the month when I menstruate or turn into a werewolf—neither thing is possible in my case—but when I round up another batch of nasty crap which I found to be unwatchable.

I know it's only been three weeks since I last posted one of these lists, and I should have waited, but as I intend to step up my game and only watch good movies from the beginning of September through to the end of October, I need to get the remaining junk out of the way once and for all.

As usual, this list is an eclectic mix of no-budget dreck plus a couple of bigger horror titles which should never have been distributed in the first place.

1. Night of the Tentacles (2013)

"In this obscene Faustian tale, a young artist sells his soul to Satan for the new heart he so desperately needs. The only catch is that the heart is a tentacled monstrosity with a hunger for human flesh!"

This no-budget horror/sex-comedy has nothing new to offer. The acting is atrocious, and it's not horrific, sexy or funny.

Although I was initially amused, I only made it up to Dave's heart attack before I had to hit fast-forward just to find a good view of the object of his affection. Once I saw that Esther was another one of those self-harmers with a bull-ring through her snout and all that other nastiness, off it went.

2. Exorcist Chronicles (2013)

"Across the world, demonic possessions are on the increase. Two specialists are brought in and uncover a dark and terrifying worldwide plot."

Proving once again that I'm not biased in favour of movies from my own country, this student film lost me the moment anyone spoke—not that I could tell what a lot of them were saying at times anyway because the sound quality is pretty awful.

Overuse of a fish-eye lens for the faux found footage also does not endear me to something like this. I switched it to fast-forward after 10 minutes and didn't see anything worth pausing for apart from a couple of not very attractive women going topless.

3. Nobody Gets Out Alive (2013)

"A group of college students escape their troubled lives but only to find themselves fighting for their lives from a revenge seeking mad man."

You've guessed it, "Nobody Gets Out Alive" (aka "Punishment") is another low-budget slasher. Yawn!

It's all been done better in every "Friday the 13th" clone that precedes this slowly-paced turd. While I'll admit that a couple of the kills are creative, the extremely poor effects and camerawork ruins them.

I wanted to switch this off during the first couple of minutes because of how cheap it looked, but I kept going until I was bored out of my mind with the bickering teenagers making stupid decisions.

I didn't see the end and don't care. Despite a running time of only 77 minutes, it still felt too long.

4. Germ Z (2013)

"The military's attempt to shoot down an orbiting satellite unleashes a space-borne epidemic on a remote, small town."

Another lacklustre "Fangoria Presents" title which, of course, has to be about zombies because of the "Z".

I was so confused by all the jumps between times and places in the first 5 minutes that I gave up on it.

As a low-budget zombie movie, it didn't look like something which would interest me anyway.

5. 9 Days (2013)

"The saying goes that love means never having to say you're sorry... This is especially true when you're being held in a religious madman's basement with your neck chained to a wooden post."

Since I couldn't tell if this was meant to be a comedy or something which was going to make clever use of "Dante's Inferno", I gave it a chance.

I probably would have watched the whole thing if it had been made 6 years ago and had turned up in a "Pendulum Pictures" multipack, but it's too low-budget, dated and boring for me now.

The plot is nothing new, so the drama relies on the chemistry and acting between the two leads which, quite frankly, isn't very good.

I skipped through most of it to see the "torture" and nudity. Neither is worth mentioning.

6. Dark Feed (2013)

"A film crew moves into an abandoned psychiatric hospital with a shadowy past to shoot a low budget horror movie."

"Dark Feed" looks like a lot of better movies because it uses the same locations, but it plays out like 20 really bad movies with nothing to gel them together. If there's any story to this, I still don't know what it is.

We all know that Lionsgate will release any old crap nowadays instead of their hoarded back catalogue of decent movies, but this is dreadful even for them.

There are too many characters and subplots to keep track of, so after 45 minutes of head-scratching, off it went.

7. A Haunting at Silver Falls (2013)

"A small town is haunted by the twin daughters of a wrongfully convicted man. Young Jordan is sent down the path to who the real killer is only to find the killer is very close to her."

Decent production values, and Alix Elizabeth Gitter is an extremely charismatic lead, but "Silver Falls" lost me somewhere in the first half an hour due to being too "teenage" and lacking in scares.

It's got a good TV movie quality to it, and I will return to this at a later date because I like ghost stories. Thus, I'm not writing it off completely yet, even though I don't think it's going to reveal anything which I haven't seen before.

8. The Wicked (2013)

"A group of teenagers test the legend of an immortal witch and get more than they bargained for."

It's not rated, but I suspect "The Wicked" is meant to be a PG-13 or an MA-14 on TV at most. Either way, it's too clichéd and kiddified for me. The witch is too much of a "Hallowe'en costume" character to take seriously, and the teens are all cookie-cutter TV actors from Nickelodeon, "90210", and that kind of thing.

If "The Wicked" turns up in a multipack one day, it'll be on there as the "slightly below average" one which sells it, but I couldn't get more than 10 minutes in before I hit fast-forward until just before the end.

9. Infected (2013)

"A blood virus infects a small group of hunters turning a father & son trip into a fight for survival."

Michael Madsen, Christy Romano, William Forsythe and some other people who I don't know the names of are besieged by virus-carrying zombies who attack their cabin in the woods.

And that's all I really needed to know before switching it off after Tracey Sheldon gratuitously flashed her boobs around 13 minutes in.


10. Animus (2013)

"Hoping to find proof of the paranormal, five film students set out to document the legendary Copper Queen Hospital. But as the sun goes down, they experience something far worse than they ever could have imagined and they find themselves pursued by a blood thirsty maniac."

I might not expect anything good from Midnight Releasing, but hasn't this plot about film crews biting of more than they can chew been done to death already? Off the top of my head, we've had "The Blair Witch Project" and its clones, "Grave Encounters" and its sequel, "Monsters in the Woods", "Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes", "Devil's Pass", and possibly "Dark Feed" (above).

Having skipped through the padding to the cheap-looking gory stuff at the end, I probably should have watched more of this movie because the pretty girls are great screamers. Oh, well, it's too late now. I don't think I missed out on anything important.

Now that I'm up-to-date with everything available, I'm going to take a short break before concentrating on more articles and reviews of classic horror.

Give or take any new releases, I'm pleased to say that this is the end of writing about bad horror movies for me.

August 25, 2013

Should little kids be allowed to watch horror movies?

As someone who grew up with a totally uncensored TV and movie watching life, there's only one answer which I can give to this question without sounding like a hypocrite:


For years, I used to think that I was very well balanced and not affected by anything I'd seen, heard, or read, but you know what? I have been, and not in good ways. With every day that passes, I get worse too.

Let me take you back to my childhood because it's the only one which I have any experience of. I'm not a parent (unless a couple of adopted cats count), and I don't know any children. I don't even like children. I never have done, not even when I was a child myself.

The first horror movie which I can remember watching on TV was "Satan's Triangle" (1975) although I didn't really understand it. It wasn't my first experience with horror or fear anyway, I just didn't like the "scary devil man" at the end of it. At the age of 3 or 4, I was absolutely terrified by the voices of the Mysterons on Gerry Anderson's "Captain Scarlet", and there was some weird bird-creature called Raggety on "Rupert the Bear" which gave me the screaming heebies! I didn't like those things at all and preferred to watch "Rainbow" and "Pipkins". I also used to really love cartoons. All the "Merry Melodies", "Looney Toons" and "Tom and Jerry" were my thing. If I watched live action TV, it was always nearly always "Laurel and Hardy" or "The Lone Ranger". I had "The Beano", "Whizzer and Chips" and all kinds of comics as reading material, and thus, I was pretty normal for a while.

I don't remember much about the years between being 5 and 7 except for going to Infant School, catching mumps, being read to, and listening to educational radio shows about mythology. TV shows which were popular then included "Batman" and "Star Trek" reruns, "Thunderbirds", "Planet of the Apes", "The Six Million Dollar Man", and various other American shows which were also family friendly. Never a Disney fan, the only Disney I ever used to watch was "Zorro" on Saturday mornings, and I didn't even know that it was made by Disney. My toys at the time were Lego, a small platoon of Action Man (G.I. Joe) figures, Dinky and Corgi cars, and stuff like that. I'd still say that I was quite normal. I wanted every toy advertised on TV (ah, those sneaky advertisers harnessing pester power!), but I don't think I was a bad kid. I had a cat, liked animals, really liked chickens, and was quite happy. Apart from having to see an eye specialist for a rare condition I have which makes my eyes extremely sensitive to light, which led to me having to wear dark-tinted glasses which got progressively lighter as I got older, I was just like everyone else. The fact that I could and can still see in the dark almost as well as a cat is neither here nor there.

In 1976, the year of "The Omen", some other things happened which changed me forever.

1976 is, as far as I know, the hottest recorded Summer that Britain ever suffered through. The word "drought" was on everyone's lips, "I'm a water saver!" stickers were given out at school for not flushing the toilet (something I still don't do very often!), and it was so hot that you could feel the pavement melting the bottom of your trainers as you walked. I was out in the sunshine every day, wearing my special NHS sunglasses, eating Golden Wonder cheese & onion crisps and "a quarter of" whichever sweets I wanted like a good 'un.

In the midst of this hot Summer, my parents and grandmother decided that we should have a caravanning holiday in Devon. Don't judge, this was a big thing in the '70s. And so we went off to a site near the seaside. I remember buying a comic. I don't know where, but either in Paignton or Torquay was where I found "Captain Atom". I couldn't tell you which issue it was, or much about the main story except for the ending. It's the ending which is the most important part.

In the "Captain Atom" comic which I read, the final frame showed the world being destroyed by the Sun "going supernova!". As a child who had never encountered death before, who still thought that Laurel and Hardy were alive, that the howling wind down the chimney was witches flying overhead, and that little people lived inside the radio, this "supernova" thing was a matter of much concern to me. I knew nothing about outer space, the Earth, or anything about anything really.

Also during this holiday, we went to Widecombe, which is famous for the story of "Widecombe Fair". You know the song, "with Uncle Tom Cobley an' all". I ended up with a booklet about it, and on the last page was a picture of the travellers as skeletons on a skeletal mare. It freaked me out! Big time! This was death in all its glory! This was our insides! This was nasty! It was almost as terrifying to me as a picture of a jack-in-the-box called "Top Knot" who could only be killed by cutting off his one lock of hair. I'd found the latter in a book of fairytales that my mum had one day, and regretted that too.

And then there were the pixies! Oh, Jesus! Pixies were everywhere in Devon, stealing children and eating them, or whatever they did! At least that's what all the postcards and menacing "Lucky Pixie" figures would have me believe! "Don't wander off or a pixie will get you!" was something that the local shopkeepers jovially said to any little kids who were silly enough to go into their tourist trap stores.

Feeling that the Earth was going to end any second, having seen what Death looked like, and now finding out that there were demonic pixies in the world was all too much. As the saying goes, I thought and thought until I thought a hole in the ground... or until I started to have what must have been some kind of undiagnosed nervous breakdown. I remember looking at all the shiny Play People (Playmobil now) figures in a toy shop and imagined them melting. Nothing felt safe anywhere anymore, and it got to the stage where I was in tears, scared to sleep, and was absolutely terrified that my parents were going to die. I had become very aware of death and mortality!

So what's this got to do with letting little kids watch horror movies? Nothing really, except that my own history shows how impressionable kids are. You have to be very careful what you let them see or hear. Reality and fiction are too hard for children to separate no matter what adults might think about their capabilities.

I was still in a very dark place after the Summer ended. I wasn't the happy, smiling little boy that I was before, and something about darker TV shows containing death drew me to them like a bee to a flower, or a fly to dogshit. Logically, you would think that I would have stayed away from such things, so I don't know why. I'm not a psychiatrist.

Maybe I should have had some kind of intervention, medical or otherwise at this point, but instead, my parents left me to watch any TV I wanted and to stay up until the TV stations closed down. Yes, this was before 24 hour TV. We had 3 channels and "closedown" was at 10.30pm most nights. Because of my eyesight "problem", I'd sit in pole position on a footstool about two feet away from the TV set, and I watched it all! The only dreams or nightmares I ever had were of the after closedown static.

I watched the programmes meant for "Schools and Colleges", daytime TV, dramas, soaps, magazine shows, movies, quizzes, game shows, panel shows, evening TV with more adult themes, and pretty much anything but "shouty kids" programmes or the news because it was boring. I was always looking for sinister, spooky stuff, and I found it too. There were so many things that I couldn't list them all, but I do know that ITV's "Beasts" was a favourite of mine, as was a similar series called "Thriller", and the BBC's "Supernatural" series horrified me during 1977! Just hearing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor being played at the beginning was enough! Many years later I learned how to play it on an organ, but that's another story. Suffice it to say that I hardly ever watched entertainment programmes which were designed for kids. I didn't like other children, and I had nothing in common with them. Children's TV and comedies made me cringe and feel nauseous.

By the time Roald Dahl's "Tales of the Unexpected" came along in 1979, I was a truly hardened horror TV fan and TV addict. I was also listening to a lot of radio plays, reading James Herbert novels—I'd never heard of Stephen King—while the other kids were reading books about Narnia. I still thought that I was normal, but the thing is, I wasn't normal anymore. I'd killed off my childhood, and was constantly sewing seeds of depression. As I started to specialise in horror, I was doing it to fuel those original fears about my own mortality. If there was anything spooky on TV, I had to see it. If there was a magazine or book about creepy stuff, I had to have it.

Unlike other kids, I didn't feel like I could be carefree or act like I was immortal, and I was constantly looking for answers for why I wasn't. Truth is, I still am. I did know that I was a lot cleverer than other kids because things came easy to me and teachers were always telling me so. I was also very destructive, I burnt ants with a magnifying glass, I shut flies in jars and boiled them to death, and I was that "quiet one" in the classroom who hardly said a word. I found it difficult to make friends with other kids as I changed schools from Junior School to Secondary School.

By the age of 11, I was bunking off school to go back home while my parents were at work to watch TV. For some reason—I still don't have an explanation for how it started—I was hitting my parents' booze cabinet pretty regularly. I'd mix a little drop of everything together just so it wouldn't be noticed. Bell's whisky, Gordon's gin, Lamb's rum, Bacardi, Stone's ginger wine, Cinzano, Advocaat, Babycham... I had a go at them all. And these drinks made me feel normal again. I was happier, exhilerated, but never drunk.

Nobody cared that I wasn't at school. Parents weren't fined for their offspring's truancy like they are now, and I'd forge notes as and when I needed to. To say that I was at home more than I was at school would be an understatement. The school was sometimes lucky to see me a couple of times a month! I hated Secondary School. I learnt nothing there except that I was shit at team games, but I still got out of it at 16 with 8 "0" levels.

So what about the horror films?

Here's where it gets tricky because I don't know which ones I watched first. I know that I watched a lot of Universal horror movies, everything by Hammer and Amicus, all the American horror TV movies, "Jaws", "The Amityville Horror", and of course, "Salem's Lot", but these were mostly at night. I also saw "The Collector" one afternoon, and it stands out as affecting me on a "that's not fair" level whereby, in my "innocence", I wanted Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar to be together. I didn't realise that he was supposed to be mental and that he'd kidnapped her until many years later. There was an old movie one morning about a witch who has a lodger, which I've never been able to track down again, and that one really "shit-me-up"!

The thing is, I was only watching "TV friendly" horror at this point. The age of video recorders had yet to arrive, and the only movies I had seen at the cinema were "The Cat from Outer Space" (which was shit!), "Star Wars", and "Battlestar Galactica". Things like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "The Hills Have Eyes", "Halloween", and even bigger classic titles were completely unknown to me. But as I said, by the age of 11, I was a self-medicating, depressive, truanting, little asshole.

To see why I don't think that kids should be allowed to watch horror movies or anything uncensored before their brains are ready for it, just imagine how much worse I would have been if I'd had access to the types of movies we have available today! Can you imagine what a child would make of "A Serbian Film" or "The Human Centipede"? Christ, if I'd seen those, I probably would have ended up acting them out and killing somebody!

During my time on the internet, I've often seen forum posts and blogs where people have bragged about the movies they watched as kids. It's especially true of Americans born in the late '70s and '80s who say that they were allowed to see "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and all the other slashers. Some boast about they even went into cinemas to watch them theatrically while legally underage.

The questions I always ask about this, is not only what psychological damage did seeing these movies do to the people who watched them, but why did they watch these movies in the first place? Do we all share the same sense of alienation and depression? People may say that the movies haven't affected them, but they're still watching horror movies in preference to any other today otherwise our paths would never have crossed. A lot of these people also collect weapons and own guns, not that there's any proven link between horror movies inciting violence, but statistics like that are always interesting. I know for a fact that there's something wrong with everyone who watches horror movies, especially me!

Nothing like "A Nightmare on Elm Street" or "Friday the 13th" was ever available to me. The cinema owner would have called the police if anyone under the required age had tried to see an "AA" or "X" movie, as they used to be known. My dad would have walloped the living shit out of me if I'd ever tried to do that too! The first horror movie I ever saw theatrically was "Dream Warriors", and that's so '80s that it barely counts as horror anyway. It's still not meant for little kids though!

"Horror Lamers", slasher fans, and the people who think of horror movies as comedies don't get it. They aren't real horror fans anyway nor do they understand the bigger implications. A lot of them are athiests with entitlement issues who think that they're immortal. They are all deluded, live happily in their "world of the invisible death", and would throw the contents of their stomach up several times over if they saw an accident in real life. If they saw a real dead body, they'd faint! Their grip of the difference between reality and fiction is even worse than a child's because they're in denial!

I was always more into the supernatural, especially supernatural movies where there was a religious presence. I wasn't brought up as a Christian apart from paying lip-service to being "Church of England" when asked, so my "religious education" and belief in the supernatural was formed through second-hand information from horror movies. Since I spent more time in front of horror movies than time at school, my whole moral system (or lack of one) is also based on horror movies.

Did I get into the occult like people think all horror fans do? Yes, too right I did, but not as a child. I collected all the paraphenalia and read all the books in my early 20s, and then realised that it was a crock of shit. I believed in ghosts, witches, and those bloody pixies before horror movies took over my life, and spooky books about folklore and legends were just extending my knowledge. The two things went hand-in-hand, but as far as I now know, witches and pixies aren't real. The jury is still out on ghosts. I believe in them, but I've never seen one. I don't believe in aliens though. Aliens are total bullshit!

People sometimes say things to me such as "You didn't turn out so bad!" and "Well, you're not a serial killer or anything!", but the reality is that, yes, I did turn out bad. I may have been to University, had lots of jobs and relationships, and I now live 4000 miles away from home, but I still suffer daily from depression, agoraphobia, vertigo, panic attacks, paranoia, and I really don't like people at all. The only things which definitely don't scare me are horror movies! After having Trigeminal Neuralgia—the worst pain known to man—for 2 years (8 years ago), I don't fear pain either. I don't like it much, but I don't fear it. Until you've ever repeatedly smashed your head against the wall because it's less painful than the pain inside your head, you don't know what pain is!

I've seen lots of dead bodies—too many—seen things done to people which would turn any sane person mad, and I've done some of the most heartless and cruel things to other people in my past which you would not believe! I've done even worse to myself. I'm bitter, have no feeling or compassion for anyone, and I'm almost a recluse! If it wasn't for the guilt which sometimes sneaks up on me like a ghost, I'd think I was a psychopath! I'm completely in contrast to my parents who were social, normal people who never watched a single horror movie in their lives. Actually, I think my mum may have seen "Ghoulies" when I had it on VHS, but nothing else.

Was I biologically determined to be a horror fan or to be this desensitised creature that now exists only for more horror movies and the internet? Or did watching horror turn me into something which I shouldn't have been? Dunno. Children have different ways of processing things, but without question, everybody who has been regularly exposed to horror movies is hardened to the violence and the scares. I say "exposed to" when I really mean "enjoyed watching", but you know it's true. I'm a very bad human being because of watching horror movies.

Still think it's a good idea to let little kids watch horror movies? I don't.

I often wish that I'd never seen a horror movie in my life and that I was still the happy little boy inside that I was 40 years ago, but horror messed me up. I can't turn back time.

August 24, 2013

Ghost Shark (2013)

"It's a shark that's a ghost. Need anything else?"

A lot of people avoid reviewing "Syfy Original" movies, and after watching "Ghost Shark", I can see why. Not only is this one not a patch on "Sharknado", but it doesn't even try to be anything better. "Ghost Shark" is just a lazy piece of made-for-TV filmmaking with no redeeming qualities other than the silliness of its premise and several blatant homages to "Jaws".

Knowing that there's nobody in "Ghost Shark" who I've ever heard of apart from morbidly obese Shawn C. Phillips (aka "Coolduder" from YouTube) should have been my warning not to proceed any further once the "good stuff" in the opening five-minute scene was over, but I foolishly left it playing for company as I clipped my toenails and arranged them in jars. It has to be done, and I came to the conclusion a long time ago that this is the best use for Syfy channel movies anyway.

As expected, the acting in "Ghost Shark" is all over the place, from feeble to mediocre, and the youngest-looking girl mumbles her lines so badly that the movie would benefit from subtitles. For obvious reasons including the budget and casting choices, it looks and feels like a glorified YouTube video, albeit one filmed with high-end equipment. The cheap gore effects and CGI are the only things which are somewhat entertaining in spite of themselves, but this isn't an intentionally made to be "so bad it's good" movie, it's just plain bad.

As usual, there are no characters to care about, the clichéd "teenagers" (several of whom are pushing 30 in real life!) are annoyingly entitled and selfish, and the adults aren't any better. The story is so rushed that none of them are given any time to grieve over their best friends or relatives who've been eaten by the ghost shark, but I doubt that they'd even know how to display those emotions if they were given the chance to.

You're going to need a bigger shed!

The scenes with the ghost shark go from mildly credible (considering the nature of the story) to ludicrous as this Great White doesn't remain in the sea. Taking things several steps too far, our piscine villain pops up in a freshwater swimming pool, comes out of burst pipes, and even leaps out of the rain! Yes, "Ghost Shark" really does exploit the term "jumping the shark" quite literally, which I suppose is kind of the point.

I'm not sure who the target audience is for this crap, but it certainly isn't me. Although I admit to being out of touch with "kids today" and what passes for entertainment in their ADHD world, I don't understand why or how these Syfy movies keep getting made for the two or three hundred people who watch them. I don't think I'll be watching any more.

Durr dumb... durr dumb...

August 23, 2013

My Top Ten Horror-Comedies

Although my hatred of horror-comedies is almost legendary, there are actually some horror-comedies which I like.

1. A Serbian Film (2010)

"An aging porn star agrees to participate in an 'art film' in order to make a clean break from the business, only to discover that he has been drafted into making a pedophilia and necrophilia themed snuff film."

Absolutely hilarious from start to finish.

My favourite scene other than when Vukmir majestically reveals his "Newborrrrrrn Porrrrrrn!" is when the brothers high-five each other.

2. Grotesque (2009)

"An unnamed doctor has always had everything he's ever wanted, but that has only made him develop more extreme and depraved needs. He kidnaps a young couple in the prime of their life together and forces them into a game of torment that slowly extinguishes their hopes for survival."

Full of so many lulz, it's hard to find a bit which isn't side-splitting. This is easily the greatest Japanese horror-comedy ever made! Torture has never been so much fun!

3. The Human Centipede (2009)

"A mad scientist kidnaps and mutilates a trio of tourists in order to reassemble them into a new 'pet' - a human centipede, created by stitching their mouths to each others' rectums."

An ass-to-mouth gag gleefully carried to its extremes.

Love it, love it, love it!

4. The Human Centipede 2 (2011)

"Inspired by the fictional Dr. Heiter, disturbed loner Martin dreams of creating a 12-person centipede and sets out to realize his sick fantasy."

Brilliant in its un-politically correct humour.

I almost wet myself laughing at this sequel. The baby-squishing moment is the best!

5. Mum & Dad (2008)

"Mum and Dad, and their 'adopted' children, Birdie & Elbie, work at the airport. The family live off whatever they scavenge from cargo holds, offices and hotels - including a steady stream of transient workers who populate the airport's soulless hub."

It would have scored higher if it wasn't so much like a documentary about everyday life in Britain, but it's worthy of Mike Leigh in places.

Olga Fedori is hot in it too!

6. I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

"An aspiring writer is repeatedly gang-raped, humiliated, and left for dead by four men whom she systematically hunts down to seek revenge."

One of the most frolicsome movies of the 1970s.

Rape has never been so funny unless you're being raped by a clown, and there's even one of those in the form of retarded Matthew. Merriment ensues.

7. Teeth (2007)

"Still a stranger to her own body, a high school student discovers she has a physical advantage when she becomes the object of male violence."

Vagina Dentata!!! How could that fail to be comical in any way?

Even funnier is that fact that Wal-mart banned "Teeth" from their shelves once they found out what the movie was about! Prudes!

8. Girly (1970)

"A wealthy, fatherless British clan kidnaps bums and hippies and forces them to participate in an elaborate role-playing game in which they are the perfect family; those who refuse or attempt escape are ritualistically murdered."

Everything about this movie makes me happy.

The late, great Freddie Francis directed it, and the also late Vanessa Howard is gorgeous throughout.

9. Roman (2006)

"A lonely young man's obsession with his neighbor gets the best of him, resulting in a murder, a cover-up... and a potential new romance?"

It's kind of like "Very Bad Things" but with actual comedy... and some tragedy.

Easily the best Angela Bettis and Lucky McKee collaboration to date.

10. Gremlins (1984)

"A boy inadvertantly breaks 3 important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town."

More of guilty pleasure movie than a real horror-comedy, but I do like the gremlins themselves.

It's such a pity that it's meant for little kids.