August 17, 2015

My Top Ten Black Cats

Although you should appreciate cats every day, August 17th is officially "Black Cat Appreciation Day".

Often associated with bad luck and witchcraft, and portrayed as incarnations of evil, it's obvious that black cats have had some very bad press and a lot of misconceptions about them over the years. Horror movies, particularly, have done nothing to redress the balance.

Bearing in mind that black cats are completely harmless and lovable pets, and that their often sinister depiction in horror movies is purely fiction, here's a quick top ten list of my favourite black cats.

1. Becker from "Blacker Than the Night" (1975).

2. Mar from "The Grudge" (2004).

3. Wellington from "The Uncanny" (1977).

4. Pluto from "Masters of Horror: The Black Cat" (2006).

5. Satan from "Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key" (1972).

6. Belasco from "The Legend of Hell House" (1973).

7. Satanas from "Dr. Cyclops" (1940).

8. Mittens from "Funeral Home" (1980).

9. Hecuba from "Drag Me to Hell" (2009).

10. Ebony from "The Eye 3" (2005).

Bonus: Mr. Kittles from "Scary Movie 2" (2001).

For even more black cats, please visit: The Horror Cats - a Celebration of Felines in Horror Movies and Television.

The Horror Cats

August 16, 2015

Straight Outta Silliness

A movie called "Straight Outta Compton" is currently breaking box office records, so I'm sure that you've already seen a few memes for it on the social networks.

Other than being something to do with rappers, I have no idea what "Straight Outta Compton" is actually about. I probably won't ever see it until it ends up on Netflix anyway, but since I had nothing better to do for a few minutes, I thought I'd make a few memes for it too.

If you want to make one, the "Straight Outta Somewhere" meme generator can be found at: You can upload your own picture, change its size and contrast, and add whatever place name you want. You can't, however, correct the terrible abuse of the English language to "out of".

It's one of the cleverest and most successful marketing gimmicks (for a movie which I have no interest in) that I've seen so far.

August 14, 2015

Fright (1971)

"Young babysitter Amanda arrives at the Lloyd residence to spend the evening looking after their young son. Soon after the Lloyds leave, a series of frightening occurrences in the gloomy old house have Amanda's nerves on edge. The real terror begins, however, when the child's biological father appears after recently escaping from a nearby mental institution."

As I've been watching a few films containing outstanding portrayals of nutters recently, it would be remiss of me if I didn't say something about Peter Collinson's "Fright" (also known as "I'm Alone and I'm Scared" in America).

Although I'm one of those people who would argue until I'm red in the face that the plot of "Fright" paved the way for "Halloween" (1978), I have to admit that John Carpenter probably had no idea of this film's existence when he made his slasher classic. Psychos escaping from asylums and seeking revenge was nothing new in the horror genre even in 1971, but whereas John Carpenter added a few supernatural abilities to Michael Myers, "Fright" (scripted by Tudor Gates) deals with a much more human and sympathetic villain.

"She's a sensible girl. She won't be frightened."

"Fright" is almost a film of two distinct halves due to focusing first on Susan George as babysitter Amanda and then eclipsing her performance with the late Ian Bannen as nutty Brian. When I say "almost", it's because Susan George in her skimpy lilac mini-dress absolutely carries this film from beginning to end.

Obviously this isn't just a story with two actors such as "Sleuth" (1972), but the others are little more than supporting roles. Honor Blackman does her best to act paranoid as Helen, Cockney geezer Dennis Waterman tries to be Amanda's desperately horny boyfriend Chris, and George Cole as Jim is, well, just the same slightly amusing George Cole as he ever was. There's nothing wrong with any of their performances, and none of them are merely two-dimensional bit parts, but as I said, this is Susan George's vehicle most of all.

"From now on, the world is your lobster."

Since I wasn't really alive at the time that "Fright" came out (1972 in the USA), I have absolutely no idea about what the critics' reaction was to it. If you compare "Fright" to "The Exorcist" (1973), it's obvious that horror movies really increased in nastiness in little over a year. I know that it's like comparing oranges with apples, but "Fright" seems like a throwback to a much tamer world of horror movies. The fact that it contains some quite brutal violence and lots of screaming yet still retains a PG certification does little to persuade me otherwise.

I suppose there's just something a lot more cosy about British horror movies which the censors didn't pick up on, plus most British filmmakers didn't often go for gritty realism until much later than their American equivalents. Consequently, "Fright" is full of well-mannered Brits all saying "please" and "thank you", although on one occasion Susan George lets a lovely four-letter expletive out, and there's never any doubt in your mind that this is a horror movie.

"I wrote the theme tune, sang the theme tune..."

If this was an American horror, Susan George's cussing would have one of those annoying clichés which would set her out to be either morally or mentally unstable. In "Fright", not only is our heroine very much a prototype for the even more foul-mouthed Margot Kidder in "Black Christmas" (1974), but you know that she isn't an innocent dumb blonde with a pretty face. It makes her character real.

Of course, Susan George is a fantastic piece of flawless eyecandy (or "tottie" as we Brits say) as well as being a feisty final girl. I really don't know a lot about her as an actress, but I do know that she was footballer George Best's girlfriend at one point, was married to Simon MacCorkindale, loves horses, and also starred in the infamous "Straw Dogs" (1971). If she ever looked more beautiful in a film than she did in "Fright" then I want to see it.

"Here's Brian!" doesn't have quite the same ring to it really.

Once creepy Ian Bannen turns up, however, Susan George is almost pushed completely out of the limelight by his acting prowess. Although he's not nearly as good in "Fright" as he is in "The Offence" (1972), there are some obvious parallels between the way Ian Bannen plays Brian and the suspected paedophile Kenneth Baxter.

Maybe it's because he does a trademark mumbling thing every so often, but Ian Bannen really gets under my skin (or on my last nerve). I know it's wrong to speak ill of the dead, but there was just something very sinister and menacing about Ian Bannen in every role that I've ever seen him in. He was probably a lovely man in real life though, and weirdly, that shows through too in the scene with his screen son (Tara Collinson) which looks improvised rather than scripted. I even felt a little bit sorry for nutty Brian because he's more to be pitied than blamed.

I really don't have anything else to say about "Fright" other than recommending that you watch it. Yes, it's a little bit dated now but not in a bad way. It's not really very scary or exciting either when compared to modern slashers, but it still has some effectively tense scenes.

Trivia lovers will note that the two stars of ITV's "Minder", George Cole (who played Arthur Daley) and Dennis Waterman (who played Terry McCann) were both in "Fright" eight years before their famous partnership. Oddly though, they have no scenes together.

Also watch out for a couple of self-aware "meta" moments which pre-date the "Scream" series by a quarter of a century.

R.I.P. George Cole, OBE. He died at the age of 90 on August 5th, 2015.

August 12, 2015

Nightlife (1989)

"A beautiful female vampire awakens after a hundred years of slumber to find herself in modern-day Mexico City, in this tongue-in-cheek thriller from director Daniel Taplitz."

Not to be confused with the zombie-comedy "Night Life" (with a two word title) from the same year, "Nightlife" is a made-for-TV vampire-comedy starring Maryam d'Abo, Ben Cross, and Keith Szarabajka.

As far as I know, "Nightlife" is not available on DVD, and although you will find it to watch online in all the usual places, the VHS version has become ridiculously expensive. For a low-budget TV movie which is only slightly above average, the price has obviously been driven up by VHS collectors rather than vampire movie fans. Having said that, there's still a lot to like about "Nightlife".

Dealing with the most obvious thing first, "Nightlife" has Maryam d'Abo in it only two years after her breakthrough role as a Bond-girl in "The Living Daylights". Although I don't have a "thing" for her, many people do, and she's certainly very attractive as the vampire Angelique.

"She's in better condition than my wife!"

The coincidence that there's also an Angelique (played by Lysette Anthony) in "Dark Shadows", and Ben Cross went on to play another vampire, namely Barnabas Collins, in the same 1991 TV series, won't be wasted on collectors of such trivia or vampire aficionados. As Vlad (no originality there!), Ben Cross delivers an often menacing and scenery-chewing performance, which clearly got him noticed and typecast as another vampire later.

Because "Nightlife" is a romantic-comedy at its core, Keith Szarabajka, who I've occasionally confused with a young Nick Nolte or even John Heard, plays Dr. David Zuckerman in a traditional yet occasionally comedic manner as he falls in love with his vampire patient. While not the most charismatic or heroic actor in the world (although he was great in "The Equalizer" TV series), he suits the part, and his chemistry with Maryam d'Abo mostly works.

Blurry VHS makes everyone look younger.

Having mentioned John Heard, "Nightlife" has a noticeable similarity to "Cat People" (1982), especially the relationship between Oliver Yates (John Heard) and Irena Gallier (Nastassja Kinski). Just replace Paul Gallier (Malcolm McDowell) with Ben Cross, and the "eternal triangle" is complete. I'm not saying that anyone copied anyone else here. The sexual rivalry is simply a standard element of most "rom-coms".

As a PG-13 rated vampire movie, "Nightlife" doesn't have a lot of blood, and its comedy is subdued enough to cause the drama to be slightly more serious than it should be. Glenn Shadix from "Beetlejuice" (1988) turns up as an unnamed vampire, Camille Saviola gives an over-the-top performance as Angelique's maid Rosa Mercedes, and there are a couple of witty lines, but there's nothing which will make anyone laugh out loud. I think the lack of comedy works in this movie's favour, however, and makes it a lot more palatable for those of us who don't like horror-comedies.

There's not much else to say about "Nightlife" other than it was filmed on location in Mexico City. It doesn't have many sets (and the few it does have are a bit sparse), some of the camerawork is dodgy, and the "I Put a Spell on You" song by Jay Hawkins is overused. Apart from those minor quibbles, it's fine.

With my rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia firmly in place, I'm going to rate "Nightlife' slightly higher than most people would. "Nightlife" was one of the first vampire movies which I reviewed for a magazine many years ago, and I've enjoyed it watching it again.

August 11, 2015

Tomcat: Dangerous Desires (1993)

"Jacki, a scientist involved in genetic research, meets Tom, a young modern dancer who is suffering from a degenerative nerve disease. Jacki experiments with using genetic material taken from a cat to cure him, but the cure has side effects, and Tom begins to take on feline characteristics that may turn him into a monster. The situation is further complicated by Tom's attachment to Imogen—and Jacki's growing jealousy as she fears the loss of her patient and lover."

Since there's very little information about "Tomcat: Dangerous Desires" online, and only a few short reviews which I could find, I decided that it was about time for me to redress the balance by rewatching and reviewing this "guilty pleasure" movie myself.

Although I have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about when I watch any erotic-thriller, especially one with a "CatMan" (to quote the German VHS title) and former Bond-girl Maryam d'Abo nude in it, I have to preface my review by saying that this is not entirely typical of the movies which I normally watch, but it's close enough to provide an example of things to come.

Having said that, I'll probably never watch "Tomcat: Dangerous Desires" again unless I have a very good reason to share it, but once I've finished telling you about it, I'm certain that you'll want to see this for yourself.

"I want to talk to you up close."

"Tomcat: Dangerous Desires" is a typical '90s straight-to-video product which contains all the elements that the hipsters and SyFy channel viewers now only enjoy ironically. There's mostly bad acting, horrible cheesy dialogue, and lots of softcore sex scenes involving very hot actresses.

Richard Greico's outstanding feline performance is kind of great, because he suits the role perfectly, but the ladies will be sad to learn that he only gets semi-nude. You do get to see him shirtless several times, and he shows his bottom, but you're not going to see Richard's other Richard.

Offscreen kills and nothing particularly gruesome apart from some cruelty to insects, plus an anaesthetised cat with tubes coming out of it head in grainy video-footage of the important operation, mean that the R-rating is only for the nudity and occasional swearing which doesn't get any harder than the word "Fuck!"

At the heart of "Tomcat: Dangerous Desires" is a fairly tame Frankenstein-genre plot with so many moments of humour that you can't believe the serious performances which surround them. How can this not be a comedy when the first things to give you a hint that Tom is half-cat are the types of food and bottles of milk in Tom's fridge?

"What a loser. No fucking beer!"

As a cat caregiver myself, those contents aren't much different to the ones in my fridge, give or take a couple of dozen cans of Monster, but we already have the title of the movie in our minds, and it's pretty obvious that Tom doesn't have a pet.

Because the story starts in medias res, the secret of why Tom is a little bit odd and has superhuman powers is the next thing revealed. We find out that sexy Dr. Jacki (Maryam d'Abo), who is now Tom's girlfriend (for lack of a better term at this point), has performed an unethical experiment.

Tom initially went to Dr. Jacki suffering from a terminal hereditary illness, and just as any good Canadian NHS doctor might do, she cured his genetic problem by replacing his damaged human cells with cat brain cells. Purrfect! Nothing could possible go wrong!

"You're not killing the cat!"

Here's where things start getting a bit more involved. Tom is prone to going out at night, staying out, and coming back in the morning... just like a cat. And what do tomcats need to go out for at night? Yeah, you guessed it. He's not the most faithful fella in the world.

Suffice it to say that Tom and his sexy dancing partner Imogen (Natalie Radford) start getting jiggy with it after what can only be described as the worst version of "Swan Lake" ever performed. There's wirework and flying through the air in this shit!

Not blue Bart Simpson.

Just to make sure that we still understand that Tom is a bit catty now, a playful splash of water scares him and causes him to take off his shirt (revealing a panther tattoo!), which is followed by some very astute observations and accusations about Tom's behaviour from Jacki. She's suspicious, a bit jealous, and she knows but can't prove that there's something wrong.

"You dumb, stupid, stubborn, zadnyaya chast' loshadi!"

It isn't long before the affair becomes more obvious. Without giving too much away, Jacki catches Tom and Imogen kissing at a nightclub called "Feline Sex Club". I shit you not, that's its name. Feline. Sex. Club. Nothing naughty could ever happen there!

It's not what it looks like. She's inflatable.

Lest I ruin the rest of the movie with spoilers, it's enough for you to know that Jacki and Tom break up in a bad way, a VHS tape of Jacki's experiment on Tom falls into the wrong hands a couple of times with deadly consequences, Tom becomes more unstable and unfaithful, and Imogen has a boyfriend who also becomes a problem.

"I'm King of the World... I mean King of 21 Jump Street!"

For anyone who suffers from vertigo, as Tom used to before he went all catified and found that he preferred high places, I'll just warn you that a torturous scene with Imogen might give you the heebies. It's not as bad as the one in "The Devil's Advocate" (1997) though.

"Do you like scary movies?"

Possibly the most awkward scene involves Imogen selfishly and tantalisingly having phone sex with Tom while he is on his cellphone in a public area of a hotel, but it's undeniably hot too! If watching this part of "Tomcat: Dangerous Desires" makes you want to see more of Natalie Radford, you won't need to go to another movie because she's not shy! Trust me, you'll see everything you need to eventually.

The big question, however, which I'm sure you're asking, is "Are there any cats in this movie?" I'm delighted to tell you that, yes, there are.

There's a Persian cat during the opening credits, a Tabby cat involved in the experiment, and Imogen and her boyfriend Dale (Sean Orr) share a Siamese cat. Two black and white moggies (from what appears to be stock footage which is flipped horizontally at one point) also hang out and watch Tom and Imogen run around a lumber mill near the end.

Written and directed by Paul Donovan who (according to the IMDb) also directed "Def-Con 4" (1985) and 12 episodes of the "Lexx" TV show (1997-2002), neither of which I've seen, "Tomcat: Dangerous Desires" isn't a great horror movie, but it's far from being a terrible one. It's better than 99.9% of today's progressive-liberal tainted rubbish anyway.

It may look like a TV movie, and it's more about a very weird romance than it is about horror or sci-fi, but "Tomcat: Dangerous Desires" is nicely filmed on location in Vancouver (with real cameras and tripods and stuff rather than handheld shakycams in someone's backyard), and it's an amusing little product of its time.

There's nothing to get too upset about with this movie unless you're looking for a hardcore porno or some extreme bloody violence, because it isn't one of those. It's not that "Tomcat: Dangerous Desires" doesn't have any violence at all or some absolutely beautiful and thoroughly refreshing politically incorrect moments, but it's not meant for horror purists, and it certainly isn't scary.

Yes, it really is called "CatMan" in Germany, and they replaced Maryam d'Abo with Natalie Radford on the VHS artwork. Meh. It could be worse.

Unlike the mean-spirited and humourless twonks who rated "Tomcat: Dangerous Desires" as 3.6 on the IMDb, I'm giving this highly entertaining movie 6 out of 10 because it wasn't slow, boring, or preachy, and I liked it.

August 10, 2015

Onwards and Downwards

I've noticed that a lot of bloggers who were contempories (and occasionally friends) of mine when I first started doing this "blogging thing" have given up in the last couple of years. It's always annoying when you go to a favourite blog and the blogger hasn't posted for ages, but unfortunately, enthusiasm doesn't last forever, and that's just the way things are.

Each of them had their own reasons for quitting, whether it be due to health problems, financial difficulties, or simply the fact they couldn't be bothered to write anything longer than a status update on FaceySpace anymore. In a few cases, real life changes which prompted some people to start writing are the same ones which eventually contributed to them not wishing to continue. Sadly, some very good bloggers got ill, and a couple of them even died.

I'd also hazard a guess that the reason why the majority of bloggers gave up is when they realised that they weren't going to make it, or more specifically, they weren't going to make any money out of blogging aside from a pittance of Amazon affiliate revenue.

The thing is, if you think that you're going to become rich or famous from blogging or podcasting (which is so 2006 and utterly worthless that it's hysterically funny to me and my friends), you need a damned good shake. You're too late, the ship has sailed, and the people at the top who got there first have no intention of ever letting you join them. They're laughing at you, not with you. Even the new YouTubers with floppy hair, British accents, and/or big boobs aren't getting anywhere now.

I don't mind telling you that I've made just over $10 out of this blog in the last five years, which I blame more on the rise of streaming services and hardly anybody buying DVDs/Blu-rays anymore than the more obvious fact that I'm a shitty writer. Oh yes, I do realise that I'm not much of a writer, especially when I go back and look at earlier posts where I didn't have a clue about what the Hell I was doing.

If you're new to blogging, you'll soon discover that there are very few people at the top of the writing pyramid. As the rest of us know now, that area is full of nepotism where the same bunch of people (who don't write any better than anyone else) continually cross-promote each other, kiss each other's asses, and slither around the social networks like a poisonous nest of vipers ready to knock anybody down who might look for even a moment as if they could take a few pennies away from them. Yes, it really is that cutthroat, and it's the reason why you often hear that "everyone hates everyone else". The root of this evil is jealousy over tablescraps. Like most things online, including the passive-aggressive gaslighters themselves, it's truly pathetic.

Plus, even without those horrible yet seemingly "successful" people (trust me, they really aren't all that!) to discourage you, the poorly thought out and insulting comments which all bloggers get every single day are not something which we in our naiveté ever thought we'd encounter, especially from just talking about stupid movies which we have no financial or emotional investment in. Rarely do we get something useful such as "you spelled that wrong" or "your comma is in the wrong place", but that would be nice. The Internet, generally, brings out the very worst in people and hardly ever anything nice.

I've heard that women who blog get worse insults than men, but I doubt it. There's always been too much "crying wolf", attention-seeking, and card-playing from the person who told me. Having seen how this person operates, I don't believe a word of it, and neither should you. Although the nature of the insults may sometimes be different, it's not worse. We've all been lied about and insulted because of our perceived intelligence, our looks, our sexuality, or ridiculed for the things we like. There have been often comical attempts to demonise us, label us as things we aren't, and dehumanise us to a point where we can be "called out" or "brought down" (which ironically implies that we are considered above the attacker). We've even had death threats. Death threats over movie reviews? You have got to be fucking kidding me!

Yes, the bullying is real. It usually starts with two people disagreeing, then all their social networking buddies have to join in and one-up each other with insults, and then some random idiot (usually a whiteknighter who isn't even part of the often already resolved original problem) decides to continue the vendetta because he or she has no life and this is fun. Oh, it's so much fun, isn't it? It doesn't matter that whiteknighters invariably become ostracised by everybody including the very people they pretended to be defending. So think on that the next time you want to light your flaming torches. Online grudges remain for years, and even if you think you've escaped because all you did was comment, you're all on somebody's shitlist and your time will come. Of that, just like death and taxes, you can be sure.

Blogging is not a game for sensitive souls, and whoever wrote the famous blog post which said, "Why not write a movie blog? It'll be fun!" wasn't telling you the whole truth. If I'd known what I was getting into, and the type of disgusting and clinically insane people who I was to encounter online over the years, or that I might often be tempted to become just like them, I never would have bothered to create my first website. Self-praise is no recommendation, but I can assure you that even with the mistakes I've made in the past, I'm not like them and I never will be.

As I said, I make no money from this, and blogging for me has only ever been a folly to pass the time. I'm better at it than some, and not as good as others, but from time to time, I do try to write something interesting. I probably shouldn't, but there are still a few decent people out there who like reading blogs, and we're all each other's entertainment anyway. There are even some people who enjoy reading my blog posts and for the right reasons. Imagine that! What a novelty.

Rather than go on what certain toxic people on almost defunct message boards (including their equally cowardly inciters on social networks) refer to as "an insane rant"—because I hate to break it to those armchair-psychiatrists, wordy-pricks, and holier-than-thous, but apart from occasional minor bouts of depression and physical ailments, I am perfectly sane—I'll move on from this to tell you about some things which I will endevour to be changing on my blog.

"Stick to what you know" is the best advice that you can ever be given. I've passed that cliché to people who've ignored it, and I've even been told it myself and ignored it, but we all should have listened. What I've been doing on my blog is not what I ever set out to do, and I really have no idea why. It's all pointless anyway, but I'm going to stick to what I know from now on.

Over the years, I've been dabbling in subgenres of new horror movies which I don't even care about, and that has to stop. Not only is my jaded attitude to that utter rubbish boring to read, but it's boring for me to write.

Even my cat laughs at you!

When the Summer movies dry up, all that happens at this time every year is that people get frustrated. The social networks and message boards erupt with backstabbing, shit-stirring, insults, and everyone trying to ruin each other's reputations. It's happened so many times that it's predictable and almost funny now, except obviously, if you become the recipient of the wrath of the "horror nasties". I've done it before, and I've had it done to me. None of us are angels. If you could see the thousands of screencaps which I've collected over the years of everybody (from the fandom to "celebrities"), you'd either laugh or never want to have anything to do with them again. I now choose to have nothing to do with any of these people. They can chase my ghost, for whatever it's worth, because they're all dead to me.

I almost fell into the trap of having a pop about somebody else who I don't even know last night, but I'm not going to. The stickybeaks who can't seem to stay out of each others' business online should do what I'm doing by ignoring it. In fact, everybody should be more concerned about what they are doing rather than what everybody else is up to. I can illustrate this with a story about a guy I once worked with who was so intent on watching other people not doing their jobs properly that he cut his own finger off accidentally on a lathe. Hopefully, although I know that a lot of people seem determined to misunderstand the English language that I write in, you will see my point.

Seriously though, take a look at these people who cause all the trouble. There's barely a full head of hair, a mouthful of teeth, or a single-chin between them. Morbid obesity seems to be the fashion, and none of them have a penny to scratch their sweaty old asses with. Those of them who aren't continuously e-begging and who have jobs are a minority, and they aren't particularly great or intellectually fulfilling jobs at that. That's why they come online, because it gives them the opportunity to "reinvent" themselves and milk what little success they've ever had in their lives for all its worth, but nobody believes them or in them anymore. The ones who call themselves "filmmakers" and have IMDb credits for three-minute YouTube video-style shorts which you've never seen, or for donating $5 to their equally fake e-begging filmmaker friends with boring documentaries and camcorder movies which nobody wants, make us all piss ourselves with laughter. Don't even get me started on the hundreds of "screenwriters" and vanity-published authors whose work will never be read.

It's all bluff and bluster, smoke and mirrors, and the drama usually involves the same bunch of self-important, entitled, advertising-conditioned Americans (and a few Canadians, Brits, and Aussies, to be fair) who hypocritically adopt the latest trendy causes and buzzwords as they try to fool everyone into thinking that they are morally and intellectually superior, or just plain better than everyone else. They aren't. Nobody is better than anyone else. We all put on our pants one leg at a time, and have to eat and shit. They just choose to do the latter two things in the same place.

As a fellow horror blogger (who often hates me, but it's all good) once said,
"You aren't a journalist, you aren't a critic, you're just someone who has internet access!"
It wasn't aimed at me, by the way. I've paraphrased it a bit and added the exclamation mark, but his point is still a valid one and is applicable to so many people.

But I said that I wasn't going to rant, so let's move on...

I started off my "reviewing career" (which hasn't ever amounted to much) by writing about vampire movies, sometimes ghosts, and occasionally computers or cats. Those were the subjects which I was most interested in, and although I'm not an expert in any of them, I used to enjoy them. So, to cut a long story short, I'm going to rewrite (or delete) a lot of my older reviews and articles when I get time, and focus only on the things I like from now on.

I stopped writing negative reviews of bottomfeeder indie horror movies a long time ago, because they aren't worth wasting my time or yours on anyway. You aren't ever going to watch them. Really, you aren't, and I wish that I hadn't watched them either.

For those people who still don't get it after all these years (and probably never will), I'm not part of the "horror community" (if such a thing even exists) or any community for that matter. I'm not a horror "fan" or a movie "fan". I may have accidentally used that term to describe myself before, but "fanatic" is not a word that could ever apply to someone as lazy and politically apathetic as me.

I'm not a "nerd" or a "geek" either. I'm not even sure when those terms ceased to be insults, because I still think of the people they are applied to as a type to be despised, wedgied, and locked inside their own school-lockers. Maybe that's why those who think they've "taken it back" have become cyberbullies now. It's their revenge on the world. Yeah, good luck with that.

There's a ton of stuff which I don't know about movies or books or music or games or whatever, and I don't care about any of them. I like what I like and have no interest in what I don't. I have also never had any desire to write for any of the "big name" horror magazines or websites (which I don't think much of and usually avoid anyway). It's all just wasting time between meals or until we end up six feet under, rotting in a box.

Basically, I'm just like you. I'm some average "man in the street" (so to speak) who watches a lot of movies, and who one day just got bored and decided to start writing about them online. Because I don't want to sit here and write "O level exam" (or "highschool" quality) essays every day for no money—I've already been there and done that—I'm probably not going to do it for much longer either. But we shall see.

August 8, 2015

Byzantium (2012)

"Residents of a coastal town learn, with deathly consequences, the secret shared by the two mysterious women who have sought shelter at a local resort."

It looks as if the tiny pool of new horror movies has dried-up again for this year, so I've decided to start rewatching the older ones as and when they appear on Netflix. I have no idea why. I'm not even "into" horror movies anymore, but I keep on backsliding when I'm bored.

At least the choice of things to watch is slightly better than when I used to write my "Crap I've Watched on Netflix" posts, but I'm still not saying that the very small selection of horror movies available on Netflix is particularly great. This month's biggest new addition to Netflix is, as you must realise, Neil Jordan's "Byzantium".

As some people will be watching and reviewing "Byzantium" for the very first time, I thought that I should finally write something about it here too. It's not that I haven't reviewed it before, but my critique was only two or three sentences on another site which no longer exists. Back then, I honestly thought that I'd spent more time on my review than the movie actually deserved, and I'm sure that I'm not going to say anything more informative about "Byzantium" now either.

Although I've recently seen a certain "critic" (who I have zero respect for) write that it's impossible to "hate" a movie, I'm pretty sure that I actually do hate "Byzantium". It's not just a case of "disliking it intensely" either. I loathe nearly every pretentious frame of "Byzantium" in its overly long running time apart from the sexier bits with Gemma Arterton.

Easily the best part of "Byzantium".

Yes, there really is only one good reason to ever rent or buy this movie, and it's simply to ogle Gemma Arterton channelling Kat Slater from "Eastenders" as she plays a vampire. Gemma's sexy performance as Clara, plus her deliciously violent and bloody cheesewire decapitation of a very arrogant character early on, are the only truly memorable parts of "Byzantium" for me.

Of course, "Byzantium" might be remembered by some people for being two hours of tedious yet undeniably beautiful camerawork. Nobody sane can deny that Neil Jordon's desire to make every cinematic shot equally valid as a still picture is admirable, except when that technique is clearly overused and stifles the flow of the narrative. The same thing happened recently with "It Follows" (2014), and there have been several more "slow burn" products which have made me wonder if horror directors are intentionally trying to bore their audiences to death nowadays instead of scaring them.

"Byzantium" should, however, be even more remembered for Caleb Landry Jones mumbling his lines so unintelligibly that you have to switch the subtitles on to understand what he says. Any clues as to what accent he's meant to be doing hinge around the facts that he's a Texan in real life and his Frank character has certain health problems and "issues", but it's still no excuse for such a bizarre performance. If it's any consolation, I thought that he sounded Irish.

Once again, a very tiny minority who nobody takes seriously anymore might rave about the blatant misogyny or misandry (depending on which side of the SJW fence they sit) in "Byzantium", but I won't. Make no mistake about it though, "Byzantium" is equally full of both. It's certainly not subtext here either but right in your face!

Having said that, "Byzantium" not only summarises the most common attitudes in its historically accurate depictions of the genders in certain time periods, but give or take the fantasy elements, it contains a fairly accurate depiction of how some people act in the present day. Outside of this imaginary world of the internet where he or she who shouts loudest and most often is the one who gets noticed, there's a gritty reality which isn't pleasant, and you'd only be deluding yourself to think otherwise.

Eleanor is an even more depressed teenager than Bella.

As usual, I have no time for that pseudo-philosphical and political bullshit. I only watch movies for the storytelling. To me, "Byzantium" is just another plodding vampire story where humans are considered second-class citizens and a source of food for the immortals. It's this general misanthropy of "Byzantium" which is the point that all those "reviewers with agendas" are missing.

Similarly to "Interview with the Vampire" (1994) which was also directed by Neil Jordan, and just like in Anne Rice's other novels, to be a vampire is a reward. To be mortal is only to suffer and be used until your purpose is served. In the midst of this, at least Clara thanks the lorry driver who gives her and daughter a lift, but underneath her facade, she's still a cunning, manipulative user and a deadly predator who only does things for her own benefit and personal safety at the end of the day.

Rather than providing a counterpoint, Clara's daughter Eleanor (played by the unpronounceably named Saoirse Ronan) is a 200-year-old teenager with nothing inside her but 200 years years of teenage angst, feeling sorry for herself, a holier-than-thou attitude, and general mopiness. She's still a killer though, and no matter how she might legitimise how she selects her victims in her own mind, she doesn't have any discernable conscience about it. In fact, Eleanor truly believes that she's doing her elderly victims a favour. Roll out the pro-euthanasia bandwagon and preach that message in a movie, why don't you? Not to me, you won't, because I'm not listening.

Eleanor is not the most irritating character in "Byzantium" by any means, since that role is well and truly taken by Frank, but I wouldn't want to watch any more of her than this story allows. Eleanor's romantic subplot with Frank is not "a better love story than Twilight" no matter how it brings that meme to mind. The thought of them doing the nasty makes me cringe.

Passive-aggressively bashing Twilight will not make this movie scary.

The smaller but important supporting roles (including Jonny Lee Miller as Ruthven, Sam Riley as Darvell, and Maria Doyle Kennedy as Morag) are extremely well played and provide the gravitas for "Byzantium" which prevents it from being watched on titter alert for at least the first viewing. Noel the hotel owner is as tragically comedic as any Mike Leigh character (mainly because Daniel Mays is recognisable for playing those roles before), and there are some comical scenes—one of them possibly being intentional—even so. As much as I usually hate it when people do it, "Byzantium" can't stand up to repeat viewings without making it a necessity to ridicule every scene mercilessly.

The bottom line is that "Byzantium" is an extremely slow vampire movie, and as much as it attempts to be, it is not some "high art". Credit is due when it tries to ignore the traditional vampire movie tropes and rules (except for one), and it has a decent enough but predictable story if you like vampires. You really can't and shouldn't expect anything else. It's a hundred times more entertaining than "Only Lovers Left Alive" (2013) anyway.

August 6, 2015

It Follows (2014)

"A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after getting involved in a sexual encounter."

I've tried several times to get all the way through "It Follows" in one sitting, but I can't do it. Either I don't have the attention span anymore (which is unlikely) or it's just too boring as shit for me to want to. Thus, this isn't going to be a review as much as it will be some general bitching about the parts of "It Follows" which I noted before hitting fast-forward to get the torture over with.

From reading through what some of my online friends had to say about this movie, I understand that "It Follows" is supposed to be all "faux retro"—and it clearly seems to appeal to the hipstery "millennial" demographic who ironically weren't even alive back in the '70s, '80s, or even the '90s—but surely it should be meant for people my age (mid-40s) in that case too? So why doesn't "It Follows" generate all those happy nostalgia feelings for me? What's wrong with this picture?

The simple fact of the matter is that "It Follows" isn't to my taste as a movie. Not only are its non-specific retro qualities forced, pretentious, and inconsistent, but the slow-paced story is a load of meaningless and padded drivel with no satisfactory explanation for the "creature" or any danger of a cathartic payoff at the end.

Although the acting and dialogue is fine, the characters are somewhat flat, unlikeable, and sexually unappealing, and are too young and from the wrong country to have any cultural relevance to me even with my obligatory suspension of disbelief. As I can't identify or sympathise with American teenagers, there's no development of pathos possible.

Most importantly, however, as is the case with all new horror movies, "It Follows" is not in the least bit scary!

You'd have to tie me to a chair to make me watch this movie ever again.

I've often encountered arguments where someone says that "scary" is subjective. Well, it is to a point. Some people have varying degrees of phobias about certain things, for instance, big hairy spiders, and some people don't have any fear of those things at all. But in the case of any "scary movie", it's pretty much failed in its purpose if it doesn't have a percentage of scary for even the lowest common denominator. There are also universals which can be identified as potentially scary for other people even if you aren't scared of those things yourself, but "It Follows" doesn't contain any of them. It may be R-rated, but it's not even worth bringing the extremely sparse and still not scary "gory bits" into this discussion.

What "It Follows" does have is a decent score which sounds like John Carpenter composed parts of it (except he didn't, it was Rich Vreeland), and some initial visual similarities to "Halloween" (1978). Of course, you can film nearly any residential streets in America during Autumn and they'll look a lot like the ones in "Halloween" because nothing architecturally important has changed in the last 40 or more years. Arguing about that aspect is clearly redundant. "It Follows" is set in Detroit, Michigan, rather than Haddonfield, Illinois (or really South Pasadena, California), which only reinforces my point that America looks the same everywhere anyway.

Another big homage is to Jacques Tourneur's "Cat People" (1942) which is apparent with the indoor swimming pool scene, but it's hardly an exact match and isn't meant to be. In fact, "It Follows" owes way more to "Final Destination" (2000) for the core of its narrative, plus Brundlefly's vain attempt to delay the inevitable from "The Fly" (1986), than anything which it tips blatant nods towards. Let's face it, if you really need an allegory about sexually transmitted diseases, Bram Stoker's "Dracula" will always be the classic. It doesn't exactly take a genius to see the similarities between vampire legends and "It Follows" either.

It needed more cats. Any cats. Cats would have made it better.

I'm not the kind of philistine who would ever be stupid enough to argue that David Robert Mitchell doesn't know how to make a movie or hasn't done a great job with "It Follows" when it comes to the outstanding cinematography (which only has a few glaringly ragged handheld shots), but it's the languid pace of this thing which kills it. I'm not joking when I say that if I had to watch this movie more than once, it would soon become my go-to fix for insomnia.

One final little rant and I'm done.

I've read a ton of stuff about Maika Monroe being the new "scream queen" of horror and all that usual crap, but I don't get it. Yeah, she's an above average actress as well as being a pretty-ish blonde with only occasionally annoying lapses into vocal fry and all that jazz (for those who care), but she's certainly no Fay Wray, Ingrid Pitt, Delphine Seyrig, or even an Edwige Fenech (who wasn't blonde). I think many people need to think before throwing that "scream queen" title about willy-nilly.

And since I've accidentally mentioned it, I couldn't care less about the nudity and "sexy bits". For one thing, I'm British and nudity doesn't bother me in the slightest, and second, even the tamest porn site on the internet will show you more than "It Follows" has to offer. I have to admit that Leisa Pulido playing Greg's mother is quite the MILF though.

There are simply some movies which you know right away aren't meant for you, and lamentably, I'll have to concede that "It Follows" wasn't meant for me.

If you feel like pointing out exactly which parts of "It Follows" an adult should find shit-yer-pants-scary, you can post them in the comments section below.