The Ninth Configuration (1980) Blu-Ray review

ninth1THE NINTH CONFIGURATION (Dir- William Peter Blatty, USA, 1980)

Starring- Stacey Keach, Scott Wilson, Ed Flanders, Jason Miller, Robert Loggia, Moses Gunn

Out Now on UK DVD & Blu-Ray from Second Sight

William Peter Blatty will most notably be known for his novel of THE EXORCIST and also for the screenplay of the film. Though despite numerous screenwriting credits, Blatty has rarely dealt directly with cinema and has only made two films, including the superb and underrated EXORCIST 3 and before that, this film, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION. Yet each of his foray’s into cinema, along with the original screenplay for the EXORCIST, EXORCIST 3 (based on his own novel LEGION) and CONFIGURATION deal with the directors primarily Christian themes of good and evil, the questioning of faith and how can such bad things happen in a world to the innocent and good and to those who believe in God and how his characters deal with these contradictions.

THE NINTH CONFIGURATION is one such complex example and having not seen it for a long time after first watching it on Channel Four in a director approved version (broadcast late 90’s/early 00’s maybe?), it remains a baffling, deliberately disjointed exercise that on this viewing has cleared up a lot more than the first watch yet still confuses and confounds.

The film is set in a castle, stylised with gargoyles and sculptures of menacing, yet awesome looking hooded figures. This castle is owned by the U.S. military who have made it a makeshift home for mentally disturbed soldiers and those of military command. On arrival to this asylum is Colonel Kane (Keach) who has been assigned to take over treatment of the patients. He meets Colonel Fell (Flanders) who helps him get used to the patients one of whom is Reno (Miller) who is trying to stage a play of the works of Shakespeare with a cast of dogs. But its former astronaut Cutshaw (Wilson) who Kane takes an interest in. He has been confined into this castle since he was dragged form the capsule of a failed Moon launch suffering an apparent mental breakdown.

ninth4Cutshaw engages Kane with questions on the existence of god and the idea of self sacrifice for the benefit of others. Kane seems to approach his patients with an apparent calmness indulging their every mean no matter how daft. Though it starts to become unclear as to whether Kane has some apparent motive behind his supposed therapy or whether he has suffered from traumas himself that he wants to forget.

Admittedly it’s hard to pinpoint what type of film THE NINTH CONFIGURATION is. A comedy. A serious drama focusing on the effects of war and duty on soldiers. Or is it a psychological thriller with theological overtones. The fact that it is hard to categorise makes the film unique in it’s own way and also frustrating in another. After seeing this a long time ago I couldn’t quite fathom what I saw and in some respects didn’t like it. Maybe I was expecting another EXORCIST style horror and my expectations where of course not met and that could just be a nice reflection on the way that as viewers/fans we expect the creator of a well known possession horror film to come up with another possession horror film and to follow through with more of the same and not confuse us with something they might want to try and to experiment with.

ninth5Though on this viewing I came away with more of an appreciation for the film. Even if that appreciation is still met with confusion. Whilst THE EXORCIST detailed a battle between good and evil over the soul of a teenage girl and the testing of faith of a catholic priest, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION debates the inherit belief in god and whether he exists in a world that allows such inhumane acts to occur and the idea of beneficial self sacrifice. In this case the debate is done between a former astronaut and a Colonel who seems to be hiding some past trauma from his previous calls of duty. Blatty handles this material well amidst the madness and chaos of the asylum with Miller auditioning dogs for roles in his Shakespeare production, Moses Gunn dressed as a black superman and Robert Loggia doing a karaoke rendition of Al Jolson in black face.

To say that the film doesn’t have a dark twisted sense of humour would be an understatement, after all we are in the midst of a group of nut jobs, to use the crude phrase. Though its these twists and turns throughout that somehow make the film uneven often at times hard to fathom especially if you are viewing this for the first time. As often as some segments are bizarre and funny we then enter into some scenes that are intense and dark. Most notably in the bar room scene where Kane and Cutshaw encounter a biker gang. It’s both at times slightly absurd in it’s depiction of the gang and intense in building up to an inevitable violent crescendo. Performance wise it’s certainly Keach and Wilson who are both excellent in their respective roles. Keach especially, who seems both world weary and drained from his time in the military and eventually conveying the build up of anger that soon reveals his character’s true nature.

ninth2.jpgIt’s a surprise to hear that he was a last minute replacement after previous star Nicol Williamson was fired after he threw a phone through a hotel window in the films location in Budapest. The supporting players seem to chew the scenery in many respects which when conveying patients in an asylum is probably good thing, especially Miller who is fantastic especially when berating dogs he auditions for his play. Cult film fans should also keep an eye out for an appearance from MANIAC star Joe Spinell who plays Miller’s “theatrical” assistant a role which wasn’t written in but somehow Spinell convinced Blatty to cast him. Visually the film is splendid with it’s castle setting being a striking superb setting and as one of the characters states in the film, with the presence of the gargoyles, seems to be the most unlikeliest place to treat the mentally ill. It also features some striking scenes most notably the superb image of a crucified figure of Jesus on the moon. A lunar crucifixion that is both startling, unusual and outlandish mirroring the state of most of the character’s in the film.

Blatty has said of his film as being the true sequel to THE EXORCIST, with EXORCIST 3 or as it was originally meant to be called LEGION, being a conclusion of a trilogy of films dealing with theological issues. Raised a Jesuit, Blatty is serious in his approach to debating the existence of a greater higher power and in many respects even those of a non belief position, can admire the man’s approach as he tackles themes with an intelligent discourse. Though most of all THE NINTH CONFIGURATION as much as it is confusing often at times frustrating is unique, one of a kind in a way, a film that without the association of the author and screenwriter of one of the most successful horror movies of all time would probably have never been green lit for production.

ninth3Even now the film stands out as an original mish-mash of theological debate, twisted surreal humour and maddening intense visuals orchestrated by someone who doesn’t care for the demands of a straightforward narrative and after 35 years the film still retains a cult following and with this new Blu Ray release from Second Sight will no doubt confront and confuse a new generation.

7.5/10

Bonus Features:

– English Subtitles for The Hard of Hearing
– Audio Commentary by Writer/ Director William Peter Blatty
– ‘The Writer/ Producer/ Director’ – Interview With William Peter Blatty
– ‘Confessions of Kane’ – Interview With Actor Stacy Keach – ‘The Debrief Of Sgt. Christian’ – Interview With Actor Stephen Powers
– ‘Designing The Configuration’ Interviews With Production Designer William Malley and Art Director J. Dennis Washington
– ‘Killer On My Mind’ – Interview With Soundtrack Composer Barry De Vorzon
– ‘The Party Behind The Curtain’ – Interviews With Actors Tom Atkins, Jason Miller, Richard Lynch and William Peter Blatty
– Mark Kermode Introduction Featurette
– Deleted Scenes and Outtakes

Second Sight announce the release of The Sleeping Room on VOD & DVD

the-sleeping-roomSecond Sight announce the release of The Sleeping Room on VOD & DVD

Following its UK première at FrightFest, Second Sight is proud to announce the UK rights acquisition of acclaimed supernatural tale of Victorian revenge, The Sleeping Room.

The directorial début of John Shackleton (Writer/Producer Panic Button) the film will make its UK début On-Demand and Download on 27 April 2015 and DVD on 11 May 2015. Produced by Gareth I Davies, The Sleeping Room marks Movie Mogul’s second feature.

Orphaned 19 year-old Brighton call girl Blue (Leila Mimmack ­ Becoming Human) is sent by her violent pimp Freddie (David Sibley ­ Downton Abbey) and his blowsy partner Cynthia (Julie Graham ­ Tower Block) to meet a new punter in Brighton, unaware of the horrifying impact it will have on her life.

As Blue begins to fall for the quirky charms of her client Bill Hepworth (Joseph Beattie ­ Hex), she’s even more intrigued by the grand Regency terraced house that he is renovating; a once infamous Victorian brothel.

Together they uncover a secret room that unlocks many dark and terrifying secrets relating to Blue’s murky family past and the death of her mother. A terrible supernatural force is about to be unleashed and nobody will escape its monstrous power unless a score for a heinous felony is settled.

Awakening demons past and present, Blue is forced to confront her own in this psychological Gothic nightmare that also stars Christopher Adamson (Pirates of the Caribbean), Chris Waller (Fright Night 2) and horror critic Billy Chainsaw.

Haunted aka It’s In The Blood (2012) DVD Review

HAUNTED 001HAUNTED aka IT’S IN THE BLOOD (2012) DVD

Directed By: Scooter Downey

Written By: Scooter Downey, Sean Elliot

Starring: Lance Henriksen, Sean Elliot, Rose Sirna, Jimmy Gonzales, Doran Ingram

UK Certification: 15

RRP: £12.99

Running Time: 77 minutes

Distributor: Second Sight

UK Release Date: 1st September 2014

Having a creative team that met in kindergarten was always going to make Haunted an intriguing proposition. The dynamic of these two close friends working together in Downey (directing, writing) and Elliot (writing, acting) had been developing for years through the process of making shorts throughout their teenage years, so in the post-college days of opportunity a full length feature seemed the natural progression. With Downey listing his influences as somewhat leftfield fare as Pumpkinhead (Stan Winston, 1988) and Fire in the Sky (Robert Lieberman, 1993), not to mention the casting of genre icon Lance Henriksen, Haunted certainly arrived through my mailbox oozing with potential.

HAUNTED 002October (Elliot) has a photographic memory. As he hitchhikes his way back home, the majority of his attention is given to a hefty tome on medicine which he fans through absorbing the content of each page in seconds. Waiting for him at home is his father Russell, the local sheriff (Henriksen). From the outset it’s obvious they have a densely complicated relationship, compounded further when the first issue they have to handle is the injured family dog which Russell unceremoniously shoots dead despite October’s valiant attempts to save it.

It’s been a number of years since father and son have spent time together, and the purpose of this weekend is to head out into the wilderness and do some hunting which will hopefully repair some old wounds. Things begin well with a solid bonding session over Russell teaching October to drive his stick shift, but once the boys enter the barren wilderness an accident leaves Russell incapacitated. With no supplies and his father unable to move, October must summon the belief to get them out of this situation. Plagued by flashbacks and hallucinations of a past trauma though, he will need to reach into the depths of his consciousness to overcome the demons that haunt him.

Part survivalist horror – part psychological drama – part dense character study – part creature feature, Haunted has many ambitious strings to its bow. For some insane reason Scooter Downey and Sean Elliot decided to forego the conventions of a by-the-numbers genre piece for their debut film, instead opting for a multi-layered conundrum of genres. It’s a gamble that could have easily failed spectacularly, but in the main their feature turns out to be an enthusiastic success.

HAUNTED 003With two narratives running concurrently, one being the contemporary hunting trip based scenario and the other providing flashbacks of why the relationship is so damaged, the films frequent change of tone keeps the viewer engaged throughout and eager to learn more about these characters.

Newcomer Elliot is outstanding as October, and finally Lance Henriksen gets a role which is worthy of the man’s talent. The complexities of this father-son relationship is portrayed effectively between the two actors as such a dynamic is central to the film’s success. Downey directs effectively and makes great use of the exterior Texas location, but it’s his script with Elliot that’s the real success and provides us with a movie that displays a virtuosity and dexterity that few of its peers can equal.

7 out of 10
Extras:
None

Absentia (2011) DVD Review

abs1ABSENTIA (2011, USA DIR- MIKE FLANAGAN)
Cast- Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine, Morgan Peter Brown, Doug Jones

Released in UK from Second Sight Films. And NEW BluRay will be released on July 7th 2014.

With his new film OCULUS currently in UK cinemas, I was certainly looking forward to seeing Mike Flanagan’s first feature ABSENTIA, especially as I pretty much viewed both in the course of one weekend, and highly recommend OCULUS, especially as that film was one I have been eagerly waiting for since finding out about its making, considering I saw Flanagan’s impressive short film that was the basis for the story of OCULUS, way back at Dead By Dawn horror festival in 2006. Nostalgia aside, that’s for another review, instead we should focus on Flanagan’s first full length film ABSENTIA.

The main basis of the story involves Tricia (Courtney Bell) who we first see taking down ‘Missing’ pictures of her husband Daniel (Morgan Peter Brown) who has been gone missing for seven years, and putting up fresh pictures in the hope of finding some information on his sudden disappearance. At the same time Tricia’s troubled sister, Callie (Katie Parker) is visiting, hoping to help her sister with her upcoming pregnancy and also get over the disappearance of Daniel and guide her through the process of declaring him to be legally dead, or In Absentia, on a legal death certificate. Callie is dealing with her own problems, a recovering drug addict and now practising Christian, she’s hoping to mend her own wounds as well as her sister’s.

Yet Tricia starts to see terrifying visions of Daniel, and at the same time Callie starts to experience some weird occurrences, that are linked to a pedestrian subway tunnel that is near to her sister’s home. Is the tunnel linked to other disappearances and is it something that is more sinister, something far worse and unexplainable? Things get even more complicated, after a superb twist which starts to throw Callie’s initial views and her liability as a sober witness in to doubt, but still leads her and her sister back to the tunnel itself.

absentia2Funded partly by kickstarter, ABSENTIA, again shows the inventiveness and cleverness of independent filmmakers, in achieving their own vision, and in this film Flanagan shows how he can deliver a superb story, with simple and restrained effect. Aside from a few visual effects the film relies on subtle scares and unsettling scenes that prove effective. He is also helped by two strong female leads, who work well with their characters and provide interesting flip sides to their worlds. Callie, recovering drug addict, who has somehow turned her life around, but is still prone to going back to her former life, is a practicing Christian, while Tricia, is haunted by terrifying visions and undergoing the deeply traumatic decision of declaring her husband legally dead, finds solace in Buddhism and meditation.

These two deeply held views in religion work against their situation as they both encounter something that seems more other worldly and unexplainable. At the same time though their suspicions about what might be in the tunnel are questioned as well, and we are lead to believe that even then something simple and more rational could be behind the disappearances. There’s particularly two brilliant scenes, where characters imagine what has happened to people who have gone missing, that they may have been hiding a secret life, or may have simply walked out, which is a nice conceit as it shows how many can hold onto hope of their loved ones, that they have to believe in something other than they simply could have disappeared.

Stylistically, the low budget does show through sometimes on ABSENTIA, but as mentioned before Flanagan works well with showing as little as possible, and relying on audience interpretation. He especially has great use of the pedestrian underground tunnel that becomes the focal point of the film. Utilising the urban environment of the tunnel, he turns it into something more sinister other than a walkway that you would walk the long way round at night to avoid. A particular excellent and unnerving scene with genre favourite Doug Jones (HELLBOY), highlights the stark despair and sinister aura that the tunnel holds, even in the daytime.

absentia3ABSENTIA is an impressive first feature and along with OCULUS, Flanagan has already made a mark in showing that he is a director to watch. What impressed me most about ABSENTIA is the spirit that it shows through working with a low budget and a budget partly funded by the use of internet donations, kickstarter funding, that adds a brilliant depth to allowing a director in creating and getting their vision on to the screen. Like with MEMORY LANE (which had an even smaller budget and which I reviewed earlier this year) ABSENTIA is a fine example of a director producing a fine piece of work through dedication and passion and with the help of others, and has led him onto bigger things, and that, even for someone such as myself who wants to bring their own story’s onto film and for any up and coming wannabe director, is an impressive notion.

8/10

UKHS is 1 TODAY . Here is 12 months packed into a few paragraphs !!

 

Happy Birthday to us , Happy Birthday to us!!

hbtm2UK Horror Scene is 1 year old today.

So just to bore everyone I am going on a little journey……

About 2 years ago I was boring someone at my work about films (nothing new there) and horror films in particular. I then went home and thought that I would set up a blog so I could bore the pants off people I didn’t know too. So The Corpsegrinder blog was started.

After a couple of months my little blog was getting pretty good reading figures and I was receiving comments and praise!! Hold on I thought , I seem to be doing something right and people seem to be enjoying what I was writing. But something was niggling me , and that was I was reading some great articles from British writers yet there was a lack of UK sites that also had a UK bias . Now I am not saying there are not any great UK sites out there (there are many) but I thought I saw a gap in the market so to speak , so I began formulating a plan for world domination.

So to cut a long story slightly shorter , I came up with a name and an idea. The name seemed to encapsulate everything I wanted from the site. I then spent weeks designing a site and then a logo which was done by my wife and inspired by a few things including the New York Hardcore music logo (and a nod to Acid Reign ) and finally perfected by the wonderful Jim Connolly (http://jimconnollydrawsstuff.blogspot.co.uk/) who now has become a UKHS writer and a friend.

And after a little tweaking then UKHS was ready to launch, so on May 6th 2013 to much fanfare (in my house) I pressed the publish button and sat back.

UKHS_logo_with_txt_WEBTwelve months later we have published over 800 articles and 72 interviews . We have had over 1 MILLION unique users. We have interviewed such people as Robin Hardy, Luke Goss, Anthony Hickox, Marilyn Burns, Dick Maas, Cindy Hinds, Jessica Cameron, Pollyanna McIntosh and many many more. Not bad !

But none of this could be done without many wonderful people who give their time AND talents freely , just for the love of genre cinema, literature and music.

I could sit here for about an hour and list everyone who has helped UKHS. But instead I will just name a few people.

Firstly UKHS would be nowhere without a guy called Dave Wain. Dave has been with us from the start and is just a hugely prolific and talented writer, Dave owns one of the last independent video stores and does the new UK DVD releases . I know that without the help of Dave then UKHS would be nowhere near the beast it is today.

Secondly Dean Sills. Dean joined UKHS around August 2013 and was eager to interview genre actors and directors, and as an actor himself he had contact with many people especially British and since then Dean has inundated us with brilliant interviews that really show what low-budget directors and actors really do on and off the camera. Again (as with Dave) Dean has been a major reason why UKHS has been a great success in it’s 1st year.

Also I want to give major thanks to the following UKHS writers in no particular order, but each brings something new and fresh to the site and I am just so proud to have them writing for UKHS . So here’s to  Oli Ryder, James Simpson, Mark Pidgeon, Joey Keogh, Luke Green, Stu Smith, James Pemberton, Stuart Anderson, Chris Cavoretto, Duane Hicks, Geoff Johnston, Jim Connolly, Marek Zacharkiw, MJ Dixon and lastly (but never leastly) Matty Budrewicz. I could have sat here and listed my favourite articles, interviews and reviews but there are just so many that I really couldn’t choose.

cheersNow there have been many people and organisations that have helped majorly and here is a short list of some – Arrow Films, Monster Pictures, Second Sight Films, Koch Media, 88 Films, 101 Films, Weinerworld, Grimmfest, Image Entertainment, Cynthia J Sellers, Wayne Simmons, Peter McKeirnon, C William Giles, Paul Norbury and finally my wonderful and supportive family as without them then I would not be doing this. And lastly a huge HUGE thank you to all our readers, Twitter followers, Facebook likers (is that a word?) and Instagram stalkers. Without you we couldn’t do what we are doing , and without the constant exceptional feedback it just wouldn’t be worth it. To horror fans everywhere THANK YOU and CHEERS!!

On a final note there will be some major changes on UKHS in the coming months as we push forward from being just a horror blog to a more professional outfit and we will have a whole new look and a more interactive and responsive layout (but this will take a few months). But rest assured we will still have the same feel of fans writing about something we all love.

May I please thank everyone involved in the 1st year of UK Horror Scene and if I have forgotten to name anyone specifically please don’t take offence as there have been thousands. The last year has shown me that there are so many wonderful people out there.

Here is to the 2nd year and lets hope it is as fun and successful as the 1st.

Cheers – Andy Deen (Editor UKHS)

Please click the links below for our social media !!

UKHS FACEBOOK

UKHS TWITTER

UKHS INSTAGRAM

 

Frankenstein – The True Story (1973) DVD Review

fr5Frankenstein – The True Story (1973)

Release Date: 10 March 2014. Cert: 12
RRP: £15.99. Running Time: 181 mins
Cat.No: 2NDVD3256. Ratio: Original Ratio ; 4:3
Region code: 2. Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0

Director: Jack Smight / Screenplay: Christopher Isherwood, Don Bachardy

Bonus feature: introduction by James Mason

A prelude (or, meaningless, self-indulgent waffle)

There could be a few deluded fools out there who might be mistaken by the title of this article from quite possibly the finest science fiction, fantasy and horror blog on the planet (that’s this blog by the way, just in case you were sat there thinking which one you had missed out on reading). Yes, there are some that may have read the word ‘Frankenstein’ and wrongly assumed that I was about to write a review on the CGI infested abomination and bastardisation of a genre classic that was the risible piece of excremental tosh that recently infested the cinema – I, Frankenstein.

However, putting my distaste (I’m not sure if you noticed that) aside in regard to that pitiful excuse of a horror film for a moment, it could well be that there are some of you out there in internetland who for some unknown twisted reason actually enjoyed it. Of course, I’m not one to judge another persons taste or right to like what they want, everyone after all is entitled to their opinion, but if you did enjoy that heap of muscle-bound superficial codswallop them you are clinically insane. Take my word for it, I have a degree in Psychology and know all about weird and twisted behaviour.

So, I suppose some review of it could be in order then, after all, this blog is supposed to reflect my balanced thoughts on a wide range of material. So OK, I saw the movie a week or so ago and quite frankly it is 2 hours or so of my life that I wish I could get back. There you go.

fr2No, this piece is definitely not anything at all to do with that reprehensible piece of lazy special effects rubbish. This review is of a far finer, intelligent and thought provoking interpretation of perhaps THE classic of Gothic horror literature than that piece of worthless junk.

A bit of history (or, more self indulgent historical waffle)

Many of us know the story behind the story of Frankenstein, but I’ll briefly mention it just in case there are any half-wits out there that think I, Frankenstein is where the it all actually started. The cultural phenomenon that is Frankenstein actually all began on the shores of Lake Geneva in the summer of 1816 when a group of literary friends, including a certain Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, in an effort to pass the time challenged each other to come up with a frightening ghost story. Shelley’s future wife, 19 year old Mary, was part of the entourage, eventually came up with an idea based upon a recent dream that she had experienced and which soon after she would put to paper. The title of which was Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.

It was a story that was to immediately tap into the the depths of our collective psyche with its themes of human loss, creation of life, motherhood and above all, the lengths a human being will go to scientifically manipulate and alter the laws of existence itself.

A year later the novel was finished and initially published anonymously, for this was a time when a woman and writing (particularly Gothic Horror writing) rarely went together without some form of public ridicule. By the time the revised second edition was published in 1823, this time under Mary’s name, the story had already accrued had a number of theatrical adaptations. This trend for constantly re-imagining the complex psychological and moral themes that are found in Shelley’s original text continues to this day, albeit usually in far more simplistic terms (stand up I, Frankenstein – you know I’m talking about you!).

Frankenstein and his CreatureAs far as I’ve been able to determine, since that date at the early part of the 19th century, there have been approximately 200 million billion trillion versions of Frankenstein in all its cinematic, literary, Graphic novel, television and radio forms. I’ve checked, it’s a pretty accurate number………trust me.

So it’s quite obvious that I’m not alone when I say that the story of the creation of life from the dead that originated nearly 200 years ago on the shores of Lake Geneva hasn’t just been a personal favourite of mine. Indeed I have gone on record on a number of occasions in this very blog naming James Whale’s near genius adaptation for a Universal Pictures’ Frankenstein as being my ‘first love’ of horror. The Universal produced series of movies movies with Boris Karloff et al were, and still arguably are, the most synonymous association between cinema and the original story – though the Universal adaptations and Karloff’s majestic monster are a million miles away from the what Mary Shelley first imagined. It’s safe to say I’m a little obsessed with the story that Mary wrote and so it seems is mostly everyone else on the planet. Way to capture the public’s imagination, Girl.

The review of Frankenstein:The True Story (1973). (Or, finally getting to the point and losing the waffle)

So when the marvellous people at Second Sight Films sent me the preview disc of the soon to be released gem of an adaptation, I was genuinely excited. Excited, because it was the chance to revisit a version that I first saw and loved many, many moons ago, and also excited because it was the chance to talk about a version of the man and his monster that actually didn’t make me want to stick my head in a plugged in food blender (yes, I, Frankenstein, I’m talking about you again)

fr1But what is so wonderful about this particular version, I hear you ask. Well according to the promotional material that came with the DVD it is claimed that it is “One of the most acclaimed versions of Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein: The True Story, featuring a stellar all-star cast makes its UK DVD debut thanks to Second Sight Films”

“Stellar all-star cast?” A bold claim indeed. We’ll see, Second Sight Films, we’ll see. Frankenstein: The True Story is an American 1973 made for TV two-part production, which back in the 1970’s could often be a very hit or miss affair in terms of authentic production and lazy cliched casting by the studios. However, the blurb isn’t wrong, for the cast list reads like a veritable who’s who of British character actors….well, don’t take my word for it, see for yourself.

Frankenstein: The True story.
Starring;
James Mason
Leonard Whiting
David McCallum
Jane (delicious) Seymour
Tom Baker.
Sir Ralph Richardson
Sir John Gielgud

Not bad, not bad at all. So far so good. However I do have one small word of warning out there for all Mary Shelley aficionados and lovers of her sacred text, who are under the assumption from the title that this is a faithful line by line adaptation, because it’s not. For despite the title, there are a more than a few major embellishments of the original storyline and narrative, but I assure you that the movie doesn’t suffer at all for it, quite the contrary as it happens. Let me explain.

Now then mate, you know where I can lay my hands on some spare body parts?

fr4The storyline is set in 19th century England, where Dr Victor Frankenstein (Leonard Whiting) is rather bitter and devastated over his brother’s death as a result of drowning and soon develops an obsession that he, and not god, should ultimately have the power over life and death. In essence, he is searching for the ability to bring life back from death itself.

Following a chance encounter with the bonkers Dr Henry Clerval (David McCallum), a surgeon who is experimenting with research in precisely this area. They soon begin to work together and Victor achieves what was previously thought impossible, the ability to create life from death. The result is the creation of a handsome, charismatic, highly intelligent young man – Adam (Michael Sarrazin), from rescued body parts (as you do).

At first the experiment seems a total success, not only does Adam (Adam – get it?) become alive, but he becomes the centre of attention amongst the socialites of London society with his good looks and charisma. However, unforeseen problems in the experimental process see Adam begin to physically degenerate and soon the involvement of evil and mad as a box of Frogs scientist Dr Polidori (James Mason) who, after appearing on the scene, goes on to make the proceedings even worse. For you see, Dr Polidori has the intention to create a female version of the creature in the form of an even more attractive creation, the simply excruciatingly delicious Jane Seymour. You may think that creating Jane Seymour as a companion might make things pretty good (well they would for me). Well actually, this in turn simply leads to further shocking and unimaginable horror as the story proceeds to its ever inevitable explosive climax.

Be honest – does my bum look big in this?
fr3I said a few moments ago that the term ‘True Story’ might be somewhat of a misnomer – this movie does indeed deviate from Shelley’s original text on number of major points. However, what I love about this adaptation is that it still retains much of the genuine Gothic nature, theme and tone of her work. This adaptation is actually a million miles closer to the complex and textured layers of the themes in the book than any of the (often still great) versions of the story have ever been.

This attention to the complex themes is an an obvious strength of the production, though it could for some people be something of a weakness. I say that because the running time of 3 hours may seem like something of an over-exertion for some in these more modern days of instant gratification. There will be those who find the pacing and time spent on strange things like characterisation, dialogue containing actual intelligence and performances that provide added gravitas to the text, as something that gets in the way of enjoying any thrills and chills. I don’t want to sound aloof and elitist when it comes to horror, but those are the very details of the genre that float my particular boat, however I know that there will be some for who regard such a production being flawed due to it’s lack of blood soaked horror.

Now this could get awkward…..
It is clear that a huge amount of money was spent on this truly sumptuous production, visually it is lovely with its richness of colour and texture combined with a truly remarkable attention to historical detail are at times breathtaking. The quality of the look of the film is also in part no small thanks to the restoration work that Second Sight Films have put into the movie prior to its release on the 10th March. Visually, it is a sublime treat.

Be assured, Frankenstein:The True Story is no US made faux-European monstrosity of a production with bad accents and flimsy sets, it has a genuine authentic heart and soul. This authenticity is applied in no small way to the inspired portrayal of the monster, Adam, who initially is the epitome of a beautiful creation with his brooding good looks and genuine charisma, but who slowly begins to disintegrate (literally) into a pathetic shambles of a creature. I, as many people, always felt more than a little sorry for the monster in this story, particularly Karloff’s masterful portrayal. However, the performance of Michael Sarrazin here takes that sense of sympathy to an almost unbearable level as we the audience are moved to emotions of extreme pity at Adams plight and the treatment that he receives from those that previous feted him as the prefect creation. For me, as a long time lover of Mary Shelley’s slice of literary genius, this is quite possibly one of the finest adaptations of it ever made.

fr7If anyone is still in some doubt about whether Frankenstein: The True Story is worth watching – I suggest you look at the picture to the right. I think it says it all……….

I’ll give the film 9 out of 10 and to the picture of Jane Seymour, at least 10 – as it were.

Frankenstein: The True Story is released on DVD by Second Sight Films on the 10th March 2014.

The Paranormal Diaries : Clophill (2013) DVD Review

PDC-001THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL (2013)
Dir. Michael Bartlett / Kevin Gates         88 mins
Second Sight
UK Release: 14th October 2013

This British film takes us to deepest Bedfordshire where Clophill church lies. It’s a derelict ruin that dates back to the 15th century, and in 1963 was the location of a black mass which saw tombs desecrated and animals sacrificed. Fifty years later it’s about to be the subject of a ‘documentary’.

It’s easy to dismiss this movie as found footage, and while it does conform to some of the conventional aspects of that sub-genre, 90% of this movie is actually real. The directors Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates (The Zombie Diaries) managed to film the majority of the movie having convinced the people taking part that is was an actual documentary. Villagers are spoken to as well as eye witnesses that have glimpsed a sight of something sinister, not to mention a parade of experts. This gives the movie a very intriguing feel with this pseudo-documentary intention, leaving the viewer unsure of what they’re seeing is real or manufactured.

As well as the talking heads that punctuate the film, the narrative concerns some ghost hunters that visit Clophill over successive nights with the hope of finding some evidence to back up the many tales that they’ve heard. With them they take a whole cavalcade of equipment in the form of multiple cameras, EVP readers and sound equipment – not to mention a few other props that may raise a few eyebrows such as a Ouija board.

PDC-002The first hour is wholly documentary footage with seemingly little room for fiction. It’s an absorbing watch as these genuine people lend a really unnerving build up to proceedings as they’re all so believable and honest and they bring a resolute credibility to the film. When people are interviewed on camera to recollect their experiences, they do so in chilling clarity with all their stories told with honesty and passion.

There is one specific scene in the first half of the picture where we see the use of a machine to interpret the vocalisations of ghosts. Call me naïve and gullible, but I was hooked.  Things begin to get more scripted as we enter the final third, and deliberately so as the ghostly sightings become more frequent and the tension heightens to fever pitch.

The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill is unlikely to thrill those ADHD viewers among us with its slow pace, zero gore and minimal shocks. Instead though, what Bartlett and Gates have done is to lure us in with historical fact and then patiently grow the atmosphere as the film progresses, which in turn makes this film a very tense viewing experience. Much of this of course will depend on your level of cynicism towards the subject matter, and indeed the whole idea behind the film could be a stumbling block to people’s enjoyment.

PDC-003Either way, this falls directly into the category of ‘marmite’ movies. I’ve read a number of reviews that have been very dismissive of the concept, comparing it to Most Haunted of all things. To me that’s the equivalent of comparing Robert De Niro to Danny Dyer, but each to their own taste. Personally, I think major credit should be given to the directors for taking a gamble on mixing fact with fiction. It could have backfired spectacularly, but it didn’t and because of that ambition we have an eerie, atmospheric movie that hopefully will be the first of many Paranormal Diaries.

7 out of 10

Creepshow (1982) BluRay Review

creep1CREEPSHOW – 1982

BLU – RAY RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 28TH 2013 UK

SECOND SIGHT FILMS

DIR: GEORGE A ROMERO

SCR: STEPHEN KING

STARRING: Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielson, Ted Danson, Adrienne Barbeau, Carrie Nye, Stephen King, Viveca Lindfors, Elizabeth Reagn, E.G Marshall, Ed Harris, Tom Atkins.

 

Possibly the most beloved of all the anthology horrors, Creepshow makes its debut on Blu- Ray later this month courtesy of the folks at Second sight. Inspired by the E.C. Comics of the 40’s and 50’s King and Romero come together to spin five crazy yarns about angry zombie fathers who need their cake, poisonous meteorites, vengeful husbands, crate monsters, and bug infestations. It’s all done with a wry smile, and a tongue in its cheek and exploits its love for comic books to grand effect.

Being horror fans it’s probably safe to assume that most of you reading this have seen Creepshow before and know the five stories here pretty well. Father’s Day, is a simple tale of a vengeful Zombie father rising from the grave to avenge his death, and claim his cake! The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill is the story of a lonely hick who finds a meteorite in his yard that turns him into a giant plant. Something To Tide You Over is probably the strongest story; an angry husband finds his wife has had an affair, buries the offending couple in the sand and gleefully watches as the tide comes in and slowly drowns them.

creep2But soon enough, their watery zombies have risen from the grave and come for a revenge of their own. The Crate is another tale of revenge as a put upon husband fantasizes about murdering his nagging wife, then finds himself in possession of a crate containing a ravenous monster. The final tale: They’re Creeping Up On You tells of an evil man living alone in a supposedly bug proof apartment, only for the cockroaches to get in and give him his just desserts.

If the truth be told, Creepshow has become a rather nostalgic experience. It looks a little dated, is gleefully cartoonish, and more than a bit odd. I can’t imagine modern audiences buying into it anymore, but frankly that’s their loss. As we head into Halloween it’s a great movie to return to as it captures that spirit of fun and fear that encapsulates October and the Halloween spirit. The key word here is fun; in recent times horror has become almost entirely focussed on its nastier side, and Creepshow harks back to a time when it was okay to be fun as well as scary .

The stories sometimes feel a little under developed, and by Stephen King’s standards the screenplay feels a little slight. But it contains enough of the writer’s flourishes and knowing affection to lift it, and it has some wonderful character quirks. Romero is firing on all cylinders here, and Creepshow is a reminder of what he was once capable of, using split screen and comic book style framing to create a wonderful demented effect. There is real love for the genre present all the way through Creepshow, and it’s not often it is treated with such honest fondness.

Blu- Ray is a great home for Creepshow. Shot to resemble a living comic book, it’s full of bright blues, reds, and greens and the HD format really brings this to life. It looks vibrant and alive and Second Sight have presented a really good 1080p transfer. As a huge fan of Blu- Ray, it is always good to see older movies like this scrub up so well. It isn’t perfect, as these things never are, but whenever the frame is filled with colour, or becomes animated the format really elevates it and it looks dazzling. Tom Savini’s great practical effects look wonderfully garish here too.

The special features are much the same as the previous DVD release. The audio commentary with George Romero and Tom Savini is present, it’s affable and fun and the two make endearing hosts. There is also the great ‘Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow’ documentary. A feature length look at the making of the film with lots of interviews and anecdotes about how the film came together. Romero is a wonderfully laid back man, and it’s great to see people like Ed Harris show up to reminisce about his early days. The only glaring omission is any contribution from Stephen King, which is a shame because his involvement was integral to the whole thing working. For completests the Blu-Ray includes a second commentary featuring a host of others involved from the Director of Photography to the Property Master!

creep 3Second sight have put together a great package here, but it’s questionable as to whether it is worth buying again if you already have the DVD. The transfer is great, and if you are a die- hard fan then the Blu-Ray is definitely worth your money. However, it carries over much of the same stuff as the DVD package, so there is little new to discover here if you already own that.

FILM 8/10

FEATURES 7/10

 

Paranormal Diaries – Clophill (2013) DVD Review

CHParanormal Diaries: Clophill (2013)

 

Dir: Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates

 

Starring: Michael Bartlett, Kevin Gates, Criselda Cabitac, Craig Stovin and Mark Jeavons

 

UK Release Date – 14 October 2013 – Second Sight Films

In the March of 1963, Clophill, a ruined church in Bedfordshire was the site of a black mass performed by a group of dark witches. In 2010, a documentary filmmaking crew were sent to Clophill to document and investigate the lasting impact the event still holds over the small community. Unaware of the horrors they would soon face, the group found themselves on a terrifying path of fear leading directly to the still beating evil heart of the supernatural presence that still haunted Clophill.

Lately I appear to have developed a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to any horror film, and there appears to be a lot of them, containing the word ‘Paranormal’. I can’t imagine why exactly, therefore it was with some trepidation that I approached ‘The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill’, a new direction for ‘Zombie Diaries’ British filmmakers Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates.

Using a seemingly forgotten classic British horror staple of ‘black masses’ definitely plays to  the film’s great advantage as it marks a refreshing breath of fresh air when all other ‘Paranormal’-based horror appears to be solely be focused on the plight of upper-middle class white suburban families. ‘Clophill’ itself appears to be an absolute gift of a perfect setting of a creepy abandoned church in the middle of nowhere that no studio-built set could ever properly replicate in terms of such an authentic feel.

 

We are introduced to the film crew, lead couple and various other party members from paranormal societies on their journey up to the site and are treated to several ‘eye witness’ accounts of Clophill’s colourful history, all before anything really ‘spooky’ happens at all, the build up being key to maintaining our interest and all set for the thrills and chills to come. As a result of this, the film almost feels like a spiritual successor to the BBC’s wonderful and controversial ‘Ghost Watch’, in that these people have the natural style of acting, playing essentially themselves and very clearly not just reading from a script or waiting when the cue is for the first jump scare.

 

CH2The most surprising element of the film is that considering the large number of the group, all of them are incredibly likeable. They play the part of dedicated investigators with great aplomb, act like a big family group and although the use of night vision-cam walks a tightrope over falling into ‘Most Haunted’ territory, they are not a bunch of screaming hysterical divas and refreshingly they treat any form of supernatural communication with great enthusiasm rather than over the top shrieking.

So, remarkably, we have a found footage ‘Paranormal’ horror with actual likable characters, a fantastic set-up that’s rife for genuine scares and an overall feeling of genuine unease, all the film needs now is to be scary.

Ah…

The principal problem with the ‘scares’ in this film is that in the way it is presented, it is made very clear that presumably all the characters will survive as they provide talking heads for the occurrences that happened whilst filming. This, therefore, completely removes any possible tension that could have been built up in the moments where the crew appear to be terrified about what will happen or even when one of the main characters goes ‘missing’ for a brief period of time. This problem is coupled with the fact that a large number of the film’s attempts at scaring are almost completely impossible to see. Whilst the grainy footage is in keeping with the film’s documentary aesthetic, when the camera zooms in to show us the ‘activity’, either it is completely indistinct what it is exactly we are meant to be seeing or it’s so pathetic that it hardly seems worth highlighting.

 

The best example of this is in the final shot of the film where the back gate to the lead couple’s house opens of its own accord. Not only is it profoundly underwhelming, but I literally had to rewind the scene several times in order to make out what it was exactly I was supposed to be ‘chilled’ by, only to find my efforts totally a waste of time.

You would think from the brilliant folklore the film deftly conjured up that it would be rife with supernatural occurrences and moments of unnerving, realistic terror. For the most part, however, the film focuses on the gravestone of one of the reported ghosts and only until the last ten or so minutes does the film remember the black mass concept and hastily rushes to stick it in there at the last minute and as a result it looks like a very poor man’s ‘Kill List’.

 

CH3The terribly tacked-on ending contains some of the most befuddling exposition I have ever heard as the film verges off on yet another tangent that is a clear and cynical attempt at a sequel and stoops to the same level as other ‘Paranormal’-based films that at the start of the film it had seemed so determined to avoid.

I personally cannot see this catching on in the wide horror fanbase, gore hounds are already out due to zero spilled blood and even the most patient fans of the more refined slower-paced ghostly-goings on style of horror will have their good will tested and ultimately feel aggrieved at the incredibly poor pay off. The only people I can think it would appeal to would be those who believe that ‘Most Haunted’ is actually real and have probably, never seen a horror film in their lives. The main selling point, however, is that it was certainly still better than any instalment of the ‘Paranormal Activity’ saga!

Verdict: A rare case of a found footage-style horror with likable characters and great build up but sadly completely bereft of scares 5/10

Quest For Fire (1981) BluRay Review – Second Sight Films

quest1

Quest For Fire (1981)

Dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud

UK BluRay release – August 5th 2013

Second Sight Films

Starring – Ron Perlman, Michael Gruskoff, Rae Dawn Chong, Everett McGill, Nicholas Kadi.

Quest for Fire is set 80,000 years ago. A tribe guard their one possession – fire. They care for the flame , tend it and at all times there is someone on guard, but much as they covert the giver of warmth they have no idea of how themselves to create it. So when a neighbouring tribe attack them the flame is lost and so three male members of the tribe begin an epic quest to find fire and return with it and save their tribe. Along the way they will face many tests and severe adversity but will they manage to find another source of the element they need for the day to day struggle to survive?

It has been many years since I last saw Quest For Fire and I believe that was on an old dodgy VHS copy, so when I received a BluRay copy I must admit I was eager to see what it now looked like. And wow, it looks amazing , the scenery (and there is a lot of scenery) is just stunning and the colours are bright and vivid.

The story of Quest For Fire is a very simple one as mentioned above , but there is far far more to this film than the brief synopsis above. This is a story of love, discovery, education, evolution, fear and much more. A beautiful study into the most primeval needs a human can have , the need for warmth, food and safety.

Quest For Fire is almost unique as it has no real language as such , the sounds often used here were created by author Anthony Burgess (Clockwork Orange) and also the body movement and gestures used by all the actors were specially choreographed by world-renowned zoologist Desmond Morris who held many “Ape” workshops to get the actors ready for their roles.

quest2

There are three things that stand out for me in Quest For Fire , the story which is talked about above. The Scenery which is stunning and the acting which is superb.

Quest For Fire was filmed on location in Scotland, Canada and Kenya. The landscapes are used to perfection and it gives you a real feeling of complete isolation in a strange and threatening world.

The acting is the main triumph, it could have been so easy to have played it out with grunts and chest pounding but after about 10 minutes I found myself completely caught up in the story of the tribe and having complete empathy and caring for them and their situation.

A truly unique spectacle that should be seen on BluRay, and as usual Second Sight Films have crammed some lovely extras on too.

Directors Commentary.

Commentary with Ron Perlman, Rae Dawn Chong & Michael Gruskoff.

The Making of Quest For Fire.

Interview with director Jean-Jacques Annaud.

quest3

A wonderful story of man’s struggle for survival , that is beautifully told and over the 96 minutes I came to care about the characters, and really wanted to see how the story would unfold and what the outcome would be. A real classic!

Verdict 8.5/10