Code Red (2013) DVD Review

CODE RED 001CODE RED (2013) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Paul Logan, Velizar Binev, Borislav Iliev, Mya-Lecia Naylor

Written by: Valeri Milev, Mathew Waynee

UK Certification: 18

UK RRP: £12.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 90 minutes

Directed by: Valeri Milev

UK Release Date: 6th January 2014

Valeri Milev’s debut feature Re-Kill (2012) was all set for a UK release as part of the After Dark label, but for some reason got pulled at the last minute. It’s a shame as it was quite a lauded little picture that featured genre icon Bruce Payne. Nevertheless Milev’s second feature HAS been released on our shores and despite the absence of any recognisable faces in the cast, the healthy budget ($6million) certainly offered this writer an amount of encouragement as to its potential quality.

We open with archive footage of Stalingrad which then blends into the movie and it must be said some quite vivid and well shot war footage. A battalion find themselves under siege and facing certain death within the confines of a ruined town. Fast forward to the present day, and freshly discovered is the war diary of one of the survivors of this raid, a soldier who witnessed the production and effects of a nerve gas created by Stalin’s henchmen. The soldier recorded what he saw in his diary, but committed suicide soon after his experience. Now the diary represents the only evidence that this gas ever existed and it has come to light that it may well be being reproduced in Bulgaria.

CODE RED 002Paul Logan plays John McGahey, a US Special Forces agent who is charged with going to Eastern Europe to track down the source of the gas. His first stop is to visit NATO doctor Anna Bennett (Manal El-Feitury) who compiled the explosive report that the authorities were very keen to hide. She tells him that she had a patient admitted who was pronounced dead, but soon after he was seen to come back to life. It was covered up by the hierarchy, but when she complained that the report wasn’t factually correct, Anna found herself suspended and thus felt compelled to act as whistle-blower.

As Logan begins his work into finding the substance and working out who exactly is behind its creation, the city is thrown into chaos by a massive explosion with the gas being released and before long the residents find themselves exposed and Anna finds herself separated from her daughter. With hordes of ravenous mutants scavenging around the concrete infested city, survival is hard – but with Special Agent John McGahey on the scene our mother and daughter may soon be reunited.

Code Red brings little originality to the horror genre, although it does make for an entertaining 90 minutes. As with most East European set horror, the acting from the locals can be a little jarring at times, but the bleak Bulgarian panelák setting offers a great deal. The make-up for the gas affected deformities is very impressive with a litany of grossly altered citizens patrolling the town, and the films ‘18’ certificate is certainly earned with some glorious gore to savour.

CODE RED 003Anna and her daughter are decently fleshed out characters and the actors playing their roles fit the parts just fine. Paul Logan is given the archetypal ‘hero’ role and his IMDb profile boasts that he’s “one of the hidden jewels in the treasury of action cinema to not [yet] hit superstar status”. I’m not sure that that’s going to happen quite yet, but charged with a role like this in a functional medium budget horror movie, he does just fine. The ending for the movie is a bit of a whimper and lacks a payoff that the previous 80 minutes had spent building, but other than that it’s a movie worth a rental.

5 out of 10

Rock Band vs Vampires – Set Report December 2013 by Luke Green

rock-band-vs-vampires-film-posterRock Band vs Vampires – Set Report December 2013 by Luke Green

It’s midday on a clear, crisp December Sunday. I’m standing on the platform at Queens Road (Peckham) station. The day is cold but bright. However, there is a sinister hardness to the light and the sun seems to be glaring down at the world through the freezing air. I’m here to pay a set visit to Rock Band vs Vampires, an independent horror comedy, currently in production. It is my first ever set visit and I am unsure what to expect. The last time I was in Peckham I watched a gang of school children try to destroy a coach they had just travelled on, using “For Sale” signs torn from people’s walls. My sense of apprehension is not abating.

rbvv1As I walk up the road toward the filming location, a police car shoots past, blue lights flashing and sirens blaring. A couple of hundred yards later, there it is, pulled up with three others and an ambulance. A policeman stands on the pavement. He looks ill. As I pass, he sneezes violently. This seems to startle him more than me, although I jump. By now I feel very uneasy.

I eventually reach the shoot venue, the chapel at the Asylum alms houses. It is a fascinating place; the alms houses converted into a more modern housing estate, with the chapel (now empty inside) taking centre stage in the middle of a terrace. A man walking some kind of bull terrier a couple of dozen yards away seems very interested in what I am doing and makes toward me without lowering his intent gaze from my person. The chapel is vaguely intimidating, but I like it more than dog walking man. I climb the steps and enter into a very small alcove. Through a small archway to my right, an eerie red light is glowing and I can hear voices beyond. I pass through the arch, the walkway bears left and I am suddenly on the threshold of a cavernous space, lined with stained glass windows.

rbvv2As I enter, I bump into a very kind and friendly woman with a camera, coming the other way. I explain who I am and why I am here and the woman (who it will later turn out is Trish, kind of an archivist for the film) guides me into the centre of the space and introduces me to Malcolm Galloway, writer and director of Rock Band vs Vampires. All about us is a hive of different activities. In one corner, make-up artists are diligently applying cosmetics to patient actresses, on the opposite side of the space another group of actresses are receiving vampire combat training, elsewhere a girl meticulously irons a green screen and all around people go about their business or chat with morning coffee and pastries.

rbvv3Fortuitously, Malcolm turns out to be just as welcoming and accommodating as Trish and we fall to chatting quite easily. It is always at the back of my mind that I should be perhaps following some more structured and official interviewing technique, but Malcolm is such a gracious and amicable host that I struggle to be “professional”. However, I manage to chuck a couple of questions into the conversation here and there.

Malcolm is an interesting and diverse character and, apart from writing, directing and acting in his first feature length film, he is also a doctor by trade (he was pathology consultant on TV show Murder on the Home Front), working three days a week and leads his own prog rock band, Hats off Gentlemen, it’s Adequate (check them out on youtube).

rbvv4In conversation, it transpires that Rock Band vs Vampires is not a project born from a love of the horror genre (although Malcolm does have a liking for the more sci-fi end of the spectrum), but was simply an idea which arose in the pub (where all the best ideas come from) and, as a writer and director, Malcolm is more informed by absurdist comedy influences, such as Edgar Wright and Monty Python. In terms of tone, Malcolm suggests the movie is similar to Flight of the Conchords, although he hadn’t watched Flight of the Conchords until other people had mentioned this likeness to him.

The plot, loosely, revolves around a conflict between two tribes of vampires, one “old skool”, occupied with all the debauchery and olde worlde grandiosity associated with traditional vampirism, the other a more business like and aggressive organisation. The titular rock band are a small, unsigned group, who traipse around the pubs and clubs of London, followed by their measly, yet loyal, number of supporters. When they are booked to play a club owned by the second vampire group, they must fight to save their fans and, so, are drawn into vampiric battle.

rbvv5As I move around the set, being introduced to other people, I come to chatting with head of production and actress, Loren Peta, who plays drummer, Pixie Coldwell, in the movie. Speaking with Loren, the trials and tribulations with making an independent film soon become apparent. Time and money are the main factors to be considered and everybody involved with the film is working on a voluntary basis (an official imdb credit being one attraction). Organising 200 plus volunteers and fitting production of the film in around everybody’s day jobs and other lives sounds like a migraine-inducing logistical nightmare to me, but Loren comes from a business development background, so is somewhat previously prepared for movie production.

rbvv6Even so, to expose yourself to that level of stress in your spare time sounds slightly demented, but then you soon realise that Rock Band vs Vampires is a true labour of love for everybody involved, which is, really, the way all good art should be. Make up girls act, visual effects artist, Raed Abbas is also co-director (he’s got experience) and everyone generally digs in and helps out. As you hear about everything that needs to be done and all the things that need to be attended to in order to achieve it, you wonder at the determination and force of character people like Malcolm and Loren must need.

Character, it appears, may be the key. Amongst the hundreds of volunteers, Rock Band vs Vampires does feature a couple of “star turns”. Stand up comedian, Richard Herring and daytime TV’s very own ex-Tory MP and professional camp Christmas jumper wearer, Gyles Brandreth both have parts in the film. When I ask Malcolm how he got these people involved, he answers very candidly, “I’ve never done this before, so perhaps I don’t know the boundaries, so I just phoned them up and was completely honest about what I was asking them.”

rbvv7In an industry renowned for its bullshit, you can see how this approach may be appreciated. It is the same approach that Malcolm has taken with everybody and, speaking to people around the set, you can tell that they are happy to be involved because they like and appreciate Malcolm. Thus the theme of determination comes around again; owing the responsibility of seeing such a huge project through to all these volunteers who have invested their time and effort in your vision would scare the bejesus out of me. Malcolm, however, seems to take it all in his stride, “I hadn’t thought of it like that.”

The realities of independent filmmaking return to slap everyone in the face with the news that major cast member (and lads’ mag favourite), Dani Thompson will not make it in today, due to ‘flu. This means a restructuring of the day’s schedule, as a pivotal scene cannot now be shot today.

rbvv8It is FREEZING in the asylum chapel and everybody digs in gratefully when hot roast chicken and chips arrive, whilst we wait for the sun to go down, so that shooting can begin on a massacre scene, where vampire assassins break in and slaughter the harem of their boss’ rival.

I have been on set now for over four hours and, a prior engagement down the road in New Cross means I have to leave, meaning that I, unfortunately, do not get to see the scene being shot. However, in a very kind gesture, stuntman, Wilfried Tah, and a pretty vampire called Nora offer to give me a demonstration of a ninja assassin vs vampire fight, so that I can see some action. It is great fun.

rbvv9Whether you like vampire movies, whether you like horror comedy, I would urge you to support the production of Rock Band vs Vampires; people who get off their bums and put in the effort to make things happen deserve that at the very least; maybe if we all did it, we would see more of the movies that we want to see. So like their facebook page, follow them on youtube, even offer your services – who knows, you could get an imdb credit to your name.

Luke Green                 Picture Malcolm Galloway(l) & Luke Green (r)

Ps – Special thanks to stunt and weapons coordinator, Dan, and his partner (and Rock Band vs Vampires archivist), Trish for taking such good care of me!

You can follow the progress on Rock Band vs Vampires through the links below –

Twitter – @rockvsvampires

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/RockBandVsVampires

IMDB – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3326180/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the Bed (2012) DVD Review

BED 001UNDER THE BED (2012) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Jonny Weston, Gattlin Griffith, Peter Holden, Musetta Vander

Written by: Eric Stolze

UK Certification: 15

UK RRP: £12.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 83 minutes

Directed by: Steven C. Miller

UK Release Date: 6th January 2014

There’s something comforting about a horror movie confronting one of the most primal of fears, the one that haunts all of our childhoods – that there might be something under the bed! It’s a simple yet effective play that makes for an enjoyable if flawed homage to great 80s teen horror like The Gate (1987). Another lure for me with this film was director Steven C. Miller who did the excellent Automaton Transfusion (2006) and the underrated The Aggression Scale (2012).

BED 002In Under the Bed we’re introduced to Neal (Jonny Weston) who is returning home after two years spent with his aunt. Back when he lived with his parents, Neal and his younger brother Paulie (Gattlin Griffith) felt that they were being tormented by a creature of some kind that resided under the bed. In order to kill such an entity, Neal decided to set fire to it which grew out of control and tragically killed his mother – hence his hiatus from the family abode. In his absence, he discovers that his father has begun a new relationship and his little brother still harbours the effects of the tragedy that befell them.

Moments with his father and new step-mother are suitably awkward for Neal, as are the moments when he’s out in the nearby town as old high school nemeses are quick to reacquaint themselves with the baggage laden kid. The time he spends with Paulie however rarely veers from the topic of the creature. It still lives in their bedroom meaning that the prospect of going to bed often gives way to Elm Street like methods of staying awake, with sleep deprived nightmares a regular occurrence. With Neal’s return though and the monster still in residence, they know the time has come to remove it once and for all.

From a critical point of view there’s plenty to pick at with Under the Bed, the ending is a little nutty and the first third is a little laboured. From a solely enjoyment based perspective though its 80 minutes of old school creature-filled entertainment, and when I say old school, there’s none of this Syfy CGI creature bull*h*t – this is a guy in a rubber suit!

BED 003The two brothers Neal and Paulie have great chemistry between then and form a believable bond, whilst the cynicism of the supporting players is ably demonstrated by both parents and ‘friends’. Its rated ‘15’ in the UK but little about the movie would be to the detriment of early teens, and it would make an ideal contemporary double-feature for younger viewers alongside Joe Dante’s The Hole (2009).

6.5 out of 10

The Other Hell (A.K.A. Guardian of Hell) (1981) Review

toh1THE OTHER HELL (1981)

(A.K.A. Guardian of Hell)

Dir. Bruno Mattei

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I watched my first Italian nunsploitation film. It was called THE OTHER HELL. But I am not asking for forgiveness–I think I liked it.

THE OTHER HELL opens with a nun searching for one of her sisters in the lower levels of a convent. After making her way through the well-stocked ossuary, she arrives in what first appears to be a mad scientist’s lab but is soon revealed to be the most poorly-lit embalmers’ chamber ever.

In short order, we’re treated to a treatise on how to embalm a sinful nun, the first step of which is to identify where the sin came from, which invariably is her vagina, as the embalmer, let’s call her Sister Chatty Loquacious, dramatically indicates with a knife thrust to the corpse’s fanny.She also enlightens us by explaining the dead nun had laid down with the Devil and became large with his child, a monster with black body hair and Satanic eyes which was aborted on the Sabbath, cut from the womb.

“But the threat lives on, here in the convent. The demon lives. He feeds on good, suckling at the breasts of nuns like this one here!” says Sister Loquacious, who then reveals that the embalmed corpse of the convent’s former Mother Superior is stored in a closet, and thus condemning her soul to stay a quiet prisoner of the convent for all eternity.

Sister Loquacious then sees a pair of glowing red eyes glaring at her, and proceeds to stab the other nun numerous times, including one in the minge for consistency’s sake.
All of this is before the opening credits.

A priest is brought in to investigate the series of murders at the convent, and determine whether the killings are the work of the Devil or a psychotic mind. But his superiors refuse to believe his theory that supernatural evil is at work in the convent, and call in a second, much more hip, priest to take over the investigation–the sort of intellectual who says things like, “The intricate labyrinth of the human psyche needs an explorer who can put his mind to work on the psychology of mysticism, investigate the religious mind, it’s motivations which often stem from early experiences. What we used to call Satan is no more than the negative thought that accompanies the positive.”

toh2And as the body count rises, this hip priest shakes things up and turns the convent upside down to get to the bottom of the sacrilegious scenario.Maybe not quite a gem in the rough, THE OTHER HELL is not without value, it is atmospheric and chock full of the artsy bits for which Italian horror filmmakers are known. A spontaneously combusting Bible, a curious sound which might be a bat, a parrot or a monkey emanating from nowhere. slow motion footage of a white owl in flight and a faceless woman with a cat who sleeps on a bed above which dolls are suspended on chains and swaying in some ethereal wind.

The film also makes good use of iconography and visuals unique to the setting. A procession of nuns carrying tall candles walk down dark hallways, following the padre as he performs a rite of consecration. The obfuscating effect of a confessional panel is wrung for suspense. Religious art, tapestries, crucifixes and stained glass windows appear in nearly every shot.

And being a horror film, THE OTHER HELL does not disappoint with the old ultraviolence, be it death by stigmata, multiple stabbings, a very convincing priest immolation, or a severed head in an altar. Unfortunately, the film also includes the decapitation of a live chicken and a attack on a cat by a pack of dogs, which while simulated (I hope) ends with an actual, skinned feline corpse–which promptly transforms into a handful of maggots.
And last but not least, THE OTHER HELL does feature a groovy, prog rock soundtrack by Italian maestros, Goblin–although the funky music does seem a bit incongruous when played over scenes of nuns chanting.

While all of this may sound compelling, THE OTHER HELL is plagued by poor acting, the kind you can’t blame on the dubbing. It is especially painful in a scene where one nun slowly dies from her fatal stigmata, crossed eyes and all, and another where  a nun strangles someone with a rosary as convincingly as if she were struggling with removing ill-fitting stockings. And then there’s a scene where a baby’s baleful gaze compels a nun to strangle herself.

toh3There’s also a preposterous bit of super science where the hip priest, after pointing a special camera at an old drawing, literally can look into the past via a video screen.

That said, THE OTHER HELL brings together enough interesting visuals and quirky elements to make for an enjoyable, if unpredictable, film with a satisfying conclusion. Maybe not sacred, but certainly profane.

A neophyte of nunsploitation, I found THE OTHER HELL to be a tasty first sip of sacramental wine. Who knows? Nun movies might become my next bad habit.

6/10

An Interview with M J Dixon by Dean Sills

mj2An Interview with MJ Dixon by Dean Sills

Hello MJ, welcome to UK Horror Scene. Before we begin I would just like to thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to chat with us.

UKHS – You Studied for a degree in both filmmaking and screen-writing at the University Of Central Lancashire. When & how did you first discover your passion for filmmaking and what are the biggest challenges that you face when making movies?

MJ – I think it was always there, I had drawn and invented stories since I can remember, whether it was writing them down or drawing comic books, I always wanted to create. In my teens I was obsessed with writing, I would write short stories constantly, that eventually evolved into scripts in the hopes of making them into movies and when I left
school, I decided that no one was going to chase my dream for me, so I quit studying to be a web designer after about 2 years and focused on learning to make movies.

Initially the biggest challenge I had was trying to actually get hold of camera, 8mm was dead for the most part and video, although the tape was cheap, the cameras themselves were coming in at close to £1000 for the cheapest. I enrolled at the local college because I learned that they had those large S-VHS cameras that TV stations used to use and then just took every opportunity to just make terrible movies, it wasn’t until my early 20’s when cameras came down in price enough that I could afford one and even then the sacrifice was skipping lunch for 3 months.

However my next challenge came in the form of actually trying to learn the visual language of filmmaking, it’s a thing that I’m still learning about today, but I think that’s the biggest challenge of filming, is learning to accept that you never stop doing just that. Learning.

 

mj1UKHS – Let’s talk about your first feature film as a director,’Slasher House’. I love the fact you did the film in a saturated green which looks outstanding with the main character’s pillar-box hair colour and her matching lipstick. I also love the nice camera work, it’s clear to see that you have a great deal of talent. How long did it take you to write and direct ‘Slasher House’ and did you enjoy working with the stunning actress Eleanor James (Red) and the rest of the cast?

MJ – Actually Slasher House was my second Feature. In 2009 I took a bunch of friends, most of which I graduated with and we made a zero budget feature over the course of 5 months called Creepsville. We had some sound issues due to a lazy sound recordist and the film got delayed and delayed, until this year when I took some time to arrange redoing the sound, the film should be out in the new year with a bit of luck.

I started writing Slasher House in 2005 with the idea of selling it on, but making Creepsville made me really want to tackle it myself. In 2010 I revisited the script and rewrote it with a low budget in mind and 6 months later we were in an abandoned prison on the Isle Of Man shooting it. During our casting call I was approached by Eleanor James, who I had been fan of for several years and she asked if she could read the script. I was very protective over it at the time, so she was the only person outside of the main cast who read it first before agreeing. Luckily she loved it and we then went on to talk about her coming on board.

The rest of the cast was made up of people I knew or people who were looking for some exposure. Corben (Wellington Grosvenor) played Pumpkin Face in Creepsville, so I knew I wanted to work with him again, he was originally just crew, but when the original actor dropped out 3 weeks before, I actually got to choose Welly to fill the role, which is what I wanted from moment one.

Andy Greenwood was also in Creepsville and I knew he’d make and excellent killer clown, Nathan (Adam Williams) was a friend of mine and looking for some acting work. Thorn was cast very last minute as the actor we wanted just refused to get back to us, we simply needed someone with size and our producer ‘knew’ a professional wrestler who stepped in very last minute. Everyone else was cast from people we knew or people that auditioned for the lead.

 

mj3UKHS – You recently directed, produced and did the screenplay for ‘Legacy of Thorn’. Who is Thorn and what can you tell us about this movie and the cast?

MJ – stereotype, I had originally planned to do the Thorn movie first, but there just never seemed to be the right time. We then planned to do it directly after Slasher House, but of course that got held up for various reasons. It wasn’t until Slasher House was finished that I finally looked at it and said ‘this is ready’. I had been working on the script for a good part of 4/5 years and I knew it was time to just go and do it.

The film itself follows events 4 years before Slasher House, We get a glimpse of what Thorn’s own personal world is like and the people who inhabit it and we begin to flesh out his HUGE back story. After Slasher House, which was pretty straight forward, I wanted to go for something a little more abstract in regards to story telling so the film ended up being two movies, one playing backwards and one playing forward, but that hit the beats and staples of the Slasher genre, but the overall the running theme is Legacy, hence the name.

Casting wise, we chose very quickly to work within our extended network, there is very little time for finding out that people are bad to work with on set and so we went for the most part, with only recommended people. We had a couple of minor blips but nothing that shut us down, which is always a danger when you’re working on tight script and limited budget. We got some great main cast in the form of Jade Wallis, Paris Rivers, Craig Canning and Jane Haslehurst. They really are very talented young people with bright futures ahead of them and hopefully they’ll be a joy for the audience too.

 

UKHS  – How do ‘Slasher House’ and ‘Legacy of Thorn’ compare to each other and which one did you enjoy directing the most?

MJ – I think Thorn was overall more enjoyable, everyone on set seemed to want to be there to make a great movie, there were very few egos on set and that led to a much nicer experience all round. It was however much harder, as visually I had never been quite happy with some of Slasher House and so I was on a mission to get the very best out of Legacy. That meant that there was never enough time, because I wanted every frame to look as good as it could within our limits. However the sense of satisfaction at the end of most days was a decent bonus, although when I felt like I had fallen short those days were twice as bad in comparison.

Raising the bar for myself meant that I had to stay constant to that bar and some days that was pretty tough. Slasher House I had not had a lot of time to get used to the cameras and equipment and so I was running and gunning most of the time just trying to stay on track.
That caused it’s problems in post and so I was determined to fix those problems on set this time round. Over all out of 18 days I felt pretty good at the end of about 14 of em.

 

mj4UKHS – I can’t wait to see the documentary ‘Making Monsters’ which is directed by the brilliant, Damian Morter. The film analyzes the sudden boom in Micro budget filmmaking and the development of affordable technology, along with many interviews including yourself. I know indie horror films sometimes get bad publicity and the general public don’t realize the amount of work that goes into them, do you think this film will change people’s opinions and help trigger a new generation of filmmakers?

MJ – I hope so. There is a general consensus in the ‘proper’ filming community that micro budget is a hobby, or not a real form of filmmaking, there are definitely some established filmmakers and writers who look down on it and the people who make it. These people however are in for a shock, with tech becoming more and more affordable by the day it won’t be long before the industry changes to reflect that. There are dinosaurs that are still holding onto the studio system as it stood a decade ago and as a result haven’t made a film in a decade, because they refuse to adapt.

I think horror will always be looked down on in that aspect, but you have to remember that anybody who looks down on anything is fearful of what it could become. I think that’s true with independent horror, people are getting to tell stories and that should be all that matters. We become filmmakers to have a voice, no matter what level we’re working at, its shows a weak mind to look down on that because of budgetary constraints. I always followed the saying “if you’re waiting for money, you’re not a real filmmaker'”.

I hope to see technology pave the way for anyone who wants to make movies, go out and do just that. I want to meet other people like myself who just want to go and do it and before long, we’ll have our very own Horror Hollywood right here in the UK.

 

UKHS – I am thrilled to see you are one of the many talented directors working on ‘Blaze of Gory’. When do you start work on your segment ‘If You Were Here’ and can your tell UKHS anything about your segment and who will be starring it it?

MJ – I was thrilled to get involved, there are some really talented people and I feel very blessed to part of the team. I think its a very interesting project to take on in regards to the films all being written by one young woman, Blaize Szanto, yet to see each idea come to fruition via 10 different voices is very cool and quite unique.

Our segment shoots in January, although we haven’t cast yet as it’s very tough to find the right person for story with the kind of subject matter that the segment entails. The segment essentially involves a young woman being molested by some a demon entity that resembles her dead father. It very twisted and leads to something very horrific, so we’re being very careful to give it the right context in order for it to step away from just gore, although there will be plenty of that too.

 

mj5UKHS – You specialize in horror but what genre of film would you refuse to make and why?

MJ – I don’t think I would refuse anything, a lot of my ideas have started out as something else, it’s then that I just pull it in toward the horror genre. I think there is a way of making anything work if you get the right angle and give it enough time. I’m just very happy that I love the genre so much, it kind of feels like home. I’m happy here, I understand it and I know its beats and its waves and I’m very happy to work here for the rest of my life. I can however see myself working in any genre as long as it’s combined with horror.

Don’t get me wrong there are genres that I don’t like, I’m not keen on Crime films or War movies, but that’s just my opinion and like Clint Eastwood said
“Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one” ;). I think for me I like all different kinds of things as long as they are good, I feel that way about TV , Music and Films, but when it comes down to it I like nothing better than to listen to Power Metal, whilst making Horror films and retire with an episode of Supernatural at the end of the day. My point being that I like a lot of stuff, but I prefer, like anybody, a certain thing. For me making movies isn’t about chasing what’s hot and in season, it’s about expression.

 

UKHS – If you could have dinner with three guests (living or dead), who would you choose and why?

MJ – Tough one. Changes constantly, But I’ve learned somewhat recently that you shouldn’t meet or even engage with people you admire, as most of the time it’s not a pleasant experience. That not true all the time. I met Pat Higgins earlier this year, who I’ve been a fan of for quite some time and he was nothing short of amazing and very helpful and I met a heavy metal hero of mine Blaze Bayley last year and he was such a cool humble guy, it really changed my perspective on a whole load of things.

For absolute fantasies sake though I would go with Sam Raimi (I got some Spiderman 3 shit I need to talk about, but also I get to go over Evil Dead stuff), After that you need someone funny so I’d probably go with Ryan Reynolds, I don’t know why but I just really like him as an actor. He’s made some missteps in regards to superhero movies, but I can’t help but find him hilarious and then I don’t want this to be a sausage fest so I’d have to ask Linnea Quigley, I’ve been a high fan of her for about 20 years at least, she like the ultimate scream queen. Wow looking back at that, that is weird mix.

 

mj6UKHS –  MJ, you are the vocalist of UK Metal band ‘Subject Seven’, what can you tell UKHS about your band and when did the band form?

MJ – The band formed in 2010, although we recently split due to some external issues of one of members and it was quite hurtful to see him go, so we took the choice to take a break for a while. In the meantime, we rebooted HockeyMask Heroes, a band that we formed in 2008 to write songs about horror movies. The band just realised our first new single in 4 years called ‘Nightmaker’ which is available from our site at hockeymaskheroes.tk . We’re currently in the studio writing a new album that will also include the theme for the Thorn movie that we originally wrote back in 2010 but never released.

 

UKHS – Finally, where do you see yourself in five years from now?

MJ – Dead. (lol) Seriously though, I’m just happy that I’m a position where I can just keep making movies, I hope that it continues, there is a plan in regards to the movies, and they all connect and it’s all heading somewhere, but for now I can’t really say where, but the plans are pretty epic. The most important thing is that we are moving toward self sustainability, so that we can keep on making movies for years to come. We’re working on the basis of creating what I call a ‘Micro’ Studio. In which we fully create films from beginning to end of the entire process.

UKHS – Thank you for your time MJ. Good luck with all your projects
and keep up the great work.

http://mycho.co.uk

http://slasherhouse.com

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Dutch Horror Spotlight #8: Kill Zombie! aka Zombibi (2012) DVD Review

 

kz1Dutch Horror Spotlight #8: Kill Zombie! aka Zombibi (2012)

 

Directors – Erwin van den Eshof & Martijn Smits

 

Starring – Yahya Gaier, Gigi Ravelli, Sergio Hasselbaink

 

The Dutch Horror Spotlight series finally comes to an end with the intriguing horror-comedy Kill Zombie!…

 

Aziz (Gaier) seems to be a lucky guy, he has a beautiful girlfriend who is the most desirable woman in his boring office job workplace. Aziz finds himself out of this boring job however thanks to his party animal brother. Going to a party his brother is attending the siblings find themselves in a fight with other guests. They are all arrested and locked away in the local police station for the night. But upon waking the next day, the jailbirds find that something is wrong: the police are no where in sight and they easily leave the station.

 

Walking along the streets of Amsterdam they encounter what appears to be zombies. Has the world ended? Aziz panics for his girlfriend and talks the others into getting to the office tower she is holed up in. They quickly find out that it is easier said than done…

 

kz3A Dutch attempt at Shaun of the Dead? More than likely, but Kill Zombie! is a very funny movie despite it potential inspiration. The film rarely becomes a serious horror and concentrates on the humour that the characters and their situations can create. Tijs van Marle, the writer, and the directors Smits and van den Eshof have penned and shot some very good comedy.

 

Another attraction for Kill Zombie! is Gigi Ravelli. TV presenter turned actress Ravelli is a stunning blonde whose character Kim slowly becomes the real love interest of Aziz. The two actors have good screen chemistry and the pair handle the task of ‘non-comedy’ moments in the movie well. Ravelli also has a very minor role in UKHS favourite, and previous Dutch Horror Spotlight featured flick, APP (2013).

 

The rest of the actors are all entertaining as they get the humorous tone of Kill Zombie! just right. There will be moments when the viewer will actually laugh aloud at some of the scenes as well as some genuinely witty lines (MC Hammer reference in a zombie film, anyone?). The plot flows along nicely as a result and the end will definitely leave everyone happy. After a while the language barrier doesn’t pose much of a problem as the antics of the characters speaks for themselves once the initial premise is established.

 

kz4The often oddball Dutch humour is on display throughout making this Shaun of the Dead-like seem a little different to the other ‘rip-offs’ available. Some of the jokes on offer may seem downright stupid but with its fast pace there will be some other joke or set piece happening within minutes to make up for it.

 

Kill Zombie! aka Zombibi is easily available in the UK, with English subtitles, via Amazon and even in-store at HMV. The Horror Channel have shown it in the past, so its worth ‘recording’ if they ever air it again.

 

8 out of 10

 

And, with that, the Dutch Horror Spotlight series is over. Highlights have been Zombibi as well as APP (2013) and Claustrofobia (2011). James Simpson hopes to start a ‘Eurohorror Spotlight’ series of reviews, taking a look at little seen or appreciated European horrors from over the years, soon.

James Simpson’s ‘Highly Anticipated’ Best of 2013

 

James Simpson’s ‘Highly Anticipated’ Best of 2013 Write-up.

 

 

Typical end-of-year feature coming up. James Simpson discusses his Top 5 Cinema/DVD releases of 2013 and his worst release of the year. Some titles like V/H/S were made in 2012 but didn’t get a UK release until 2013 so that is how they are on James’ frivolous list. Do you agree with what he says?

 

 

Top 5 Cinema/DVD:

 

 

  1. kinopoisk.ruAPP – Nederhorror takes a a big step towards the 21st century with this clever use of a smartphone as a killer. Well acted and directed with style APP is one to look out for in 2014 when a English subtitled version will be released.

 

 

  1. Maniac (remake) – A very strong film that doesn’t discredit the original. Elijah Wood seemed like an odd casting choice at first but thankfully delivers a believable performance. Why cant all remakes be this good?

 

 

  1. U6V/H/S – One hell of a way to kick off 2013, V/H/S shocked many by how good it is. Helping the reborn fad of horror anthology movies it features several stories that are all of a high standard. The birth of a new franchise?

 

 

  1. Evil Dead (remake) – Another remake that was actually good. In many ways it was just as gruelling as the original and was a hit worldwide. Jane Levy is outstanding as Mia, a real star performance. The use of ‘real’ gore effects made it seem gritty and ‘old school’.

 

 

  1. gravity1Gravity –Yes, not really a horror but a suspenseful tale about the struggle to stay alive despite the seemingly impossible happening at every turn to stop that struggle. Sandra Bullock stars in what is her best film to date while co-star George Clooney mugs it up for the most part. A very well directed and stunning movie.

 

 

 

Worst Film of the Year:

 

 

Darkest_Night_Poster-movie-posterDarkest Night

I had the misfortune of reviewing this for another website. A blatant Paranormal Activity/found footage-rip off flick that is devoid of any quality what so ever. Looking as if a bunch of mates decided to ‘make a movie’ because one of them got a new hand held camera, it has no lighting, no real direction, dreadful sound levels and the ‘actors’ constantly fluff their lines or stare into camera or talk over each other. The plot is an absolute joke, too.

 

 

Between Droids and Devils: Talking With Richard Stanley and Simon Boswell by Matty Budrewicz

Between Droids and Devils:
Talking With Richard Stanley and Simon Boswell
by Matty Budrewicz

Stanley and BoswellFor Tees Valley area horror nuts, the Film Club at The Forum, Darlington has been nothing short of a godsend. Not content with already having spoilt us rotten with triumphant and guest packed Barker-friendly screenings of Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut and Hellraiser, on Monday 2nd December those bastards and their Fearless Leader James Watson let loose their mighty trump card: an exquisite double whammy showcase of Hardware and Dust Devil.
Wildly imaginative and filled with the kind of go- for-broke hypnotic verve all too seldom seen in the genre, the two flicks from writer-director Richard Stanley proudly rank as two of the very best shockers of the nineteen nineties. Thrillingly, Stanley was on hand to present both movies and, in a UKHS exclusive, very kindly agreed to put up with this slightly awestruck babbling yahoo to wax lyrical about his work…

“Well, the killer robot in Hardware arrived late,” the enigmatic South African auteur explains as he settles down with a cuppa between films. “There’s originally a Hardware which began life as a one hour Super 8 called Incidents in an Expanding Universe, which I began making when I was fifteen. It was basically Hardware without the M.A.R.K. 13.”

Hardware posterAh yes, the M.A.R.K. 13- the murderous droid at the centre of Stanley’s cyberpunk gothic feature debut. A junked government experiment discovered as scrap by post-apocalyptic soldier Mo [Dylan McDermot], the M.A.R.K. 13 robot ends up on a bloody apartment-based rampage after being inadvertently re-assembled by Mo’s artist girlfriend Jill [Stacy Travis] one particulary bleak, future-shock Christmas Eve. “Incidents starts very much the same way: Shades [Mo’s best friend] comes back from space, him and Mo are wandering around town bitching, Mo’s girlfriend is a scrap metal sculptress… Basically, the whole Super 8 is the same except nothing happens. They just go back to the apartment and are all very depressed, the joke being that they’re all dreaming about the future but they’re already in the future and the future sucks! It’s not a horror-action movie, just a very depressing look at a despoiled tomorrow!” Stanley laughs.

So what did prompt the ‘bots arrival? “After getting my material rejected by numerous different production companies, obviously Terminator and Aliens happened and the general wisdom was to ‘make a monster movie’- put a monster in it and turn it into an action horror film. It just then made a kind of sense to me to do it.” Indeed, it’s an aspect that dovetails perfectly with the rest of the plot, something Stanley puts down to practice. “I think the reason the films’ world is so well developed was because it’d been rehearsed in the Super 8 and in a few of my music videos [for the Fields of the Nephilim]. We just made things even worse by dropping a malfunctioning droid into their lives!”

Dust Devil poster 2Similarly Stanley’s sophomore feature Dust Devil also has roots in earlier material, this time in the form of an aborted 16mm attempt. Finally coming to full fruition in a serial killer obsessed post-Silence of the Lambs cinematic landscape, the 1993 creeper tells the diabolical story of ‘Hitch’, a supernatural murderer [played by RoboCop 3’s Robert Burke] prowling the Namibian highways for the lost and the desperate- the eponymous Dust Devil.
Exchanging the claustrophia and brashness of Hardware in a favour of a bigger, more evocative canvas, Dust Devil is a handsome and more refined work, paradoxically both classical and experimental.

Don’t believe me? Just check out Stanley’s lush compositions and sweeping camera manoeuvres, straight out of any classic western, and then look at the unorthodoxly structured, esoteric and surreal screenplay; it’s The Searchers by way of art-horror. “It’s certainly not a linear narrative,” says Stanley. “It’s nothing like a modern day, Robert McKee three act structure, it doesn’t really follow the Hollywood wisdom on script structure. It’s kind of like a spiral, with all the characters spiralling round each other and, very often, they don’t even meet.”

Dust Devil still 2Though Stanley describes the somewhat difficult shooting of the film as “a thousand miles of rocky road”, things got a whole lot worse during editing when one of Dust Devil’s co-backing production companies Palace Films went belly up. “Yeah, Palace were forced into receivership. Their parent company basically went bankrupt and we were never really able to finish the film,” Stanley explains. “At that point the lab held on to the negative and the sound lab held on to the sound part- all the different pieces of the film were held on to by the various creditors who Palace were owing money to.”

Stanley’s struggle to get the film back is a well documented and almost legendary affair, the long and the short of it being him investing countless amounts of his own time and money into finally getting it out there in his intended version.”After about three years, I managed to get back in with David Orkin at Channel Four and some of the original investors,” he says. “I was then able to go and gain access to the original neg and the materials. I was finally able to put the film together as it was meant to be. The original [UK released] Polygram VHS was my cut of it- my original version- it just wasn’t graded very well. It was a lot darker. I don’t think they actually bothered to tell any of us or talk to the DP about it- I think they just rattled it off in one sitting at the telecine, probably at about three in the morning when it was cheap! By the time the DVD came around, we were able to go in and grade it properly.”

Dust Devil still 3It should be noted, however, that this wasn’t the first time Stanley had experienced what some would politely term ‘production problems’, and nor would it be the last, as any quick Googling of 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, starring Marlon Brando, and its notorious calamity-ridden production history will explain. “It seems to happen on almost every project I work on. It happened on my student film and I’m always waiting to see what’ll happen to the master or the DCP nowadays,” Stanley chuckles self-deprecatingly. “The issue of having the print taken away or having things taken out of it has been present ever since I first picked up a camera. Things are always threatening to fall into the fire or get taken over by someone!”

Thankfully, Dust Devil seems to have found its audience in the last few years, Stanley’s ‘Final Cut’ becoming something of a cult favourite. “I think it’s finally managed to triumph,” he says. “I’m hoping the old version will eventually die out. The Miramax version is under seventy minutes.” Of course- the infamous, butchered US cut. How in the hell did that happen?! “Miramax held on to the cutting copy and at some point they must’ve struck a new interneg and then continued to edit a film out of that copy. They were cutting without access to the rushes and without access to any of the other material.”

Vacation promo posterTalk soon turns to two of the director’s long mooted projects, Hardware 2: Ground Zero and Vacation. The former is an epic that would serve as both a Hardware sequel and an expansion of the ideas and inner mythology found within Dust Devil, effectively creating and closing a grandiose Richard Stanley trilogy. Whilst Hardware 2’s brilliant script is readily available to read online, getting it made is something else entirely: “Legally, it’s still tricky. I’ve thought that maybe if we could get away with it, maybe make a movie called ‘HARD.WARE’-just change the title slightly as it’s largely that that stops it happening, though ‘property’ is really the word,” Stanley explains.

“I’ve tried pitching the same script to different companies under different titles and people seem a lot less keen on taking the movie if it’s called something like ‘Droid’ or ‘Final Assembly’! Any alternate titles I’ve put down, they’ve always wanted it to be called ‘Hardware 2’ so as to have that instant connection with the franchise.”
Sadly, the inability to get Hardware 2 made is sadly mirrored by the similarly tech-phobic Vacation. “Yeah, I’ve tried for ages to get it off the ground. It’s very frustrating, that one,” sighs Stanley. “I guess maybe the politics were too extreme. It’s about an American couple holidaying on a remote island in the Middle East at a point in time where a global calamity takes out the West. America and Britain go offline forever, the tourists discovering their cellphones and credit cards won’t work anymore and people no longer have any reason to do anything they’re supposed to do anymore. Things start to slide back to a Year Zero situation.”

Interestingly, the idea of returning to savagery- be it in a post-apocalyptic sense or a more primitive one- is something of a recurring theme in Stanley’s work. What is it that makes that particular notion so appealing? “It’s something that seems sort of sickeningly inevitable to me,” the filmmaker offers. “I’m scared of the fragility of civilisation- one big magnet surge, one big solar storm and they’d take out the internet, the whole of cyberspace. Shut off cyberspace, shut off the computers and I’d imagine something like eighty five to ninety per cent of people in the cities would probably die in a matter of months. Once the basic surfaces have been shut off… I think that’s always lurking there, that fear that we might trip and fall and lose all the gains we’ve made and just explode in a fireball of violence.”

Hardware still 3As our chat draws to a close, there’s just enough time to ask about one more once-announced movie of his, Bones of the Earth- a fantastic sounding Scottish-set piece about a brain damaged terrorist type out to execute an American officer during a Highland deer cull. It’s a film that Stanley describes as “an action movie on one level, Deliverance the next and at the same time a State of the Nation address.” It’s just a shame that it too fell apart, as Stanley explains: “Well, along with Hardware 2, it’s undoubtedly the best fucking screenplay I’ve got. It’s really, really good- it still grabs me by the throat and puts tears in my eyes when I read it.

It’s just a number of extremely sad things happened on it. I was asked by the producer at that point in time to write a part for Richard Harris so I did- a huge, towering part of a two-fisted, ageing, drinking Gaelic character. He was such a brutal, doomed working class hero I was thinking ‘Fuck! We’re going to get the Oscar for this!’ and Harris himself was so happy with it… Then he fucking dies playing Dumbledore! I had such a good death lined up for him too, just such a good way out!” he laughs. “I liked the fact the script had a lot of sympathy for the terrorist character and that both he and the Harris part are essentially righteous really…

It was the last thing [director] Donald Cammell worked on, probably right before he topped himself, and I found a copy on an agent’s shelf. It was just sitting there and I just went ‘what the Hell’s this?’ and pulled it out. It was fifty pages and then just stopped, incomplete. All the work I did on it worked out extremely well too.” The thoughts of what could’ve come from a Stanley/Cammell match up are obscene, especially considering the similarities present between the two distinguished helmers. “Yeah, I only discovered that after he committed suicide.

LAutre Monde posterI hadn’t actually seen Demon Seed but I went back and watched it and thought how weird it was that he’s also made a ‘girl trapped in an apartment with a killer robot’ movie and he’s made a quasi-mystical, desert-bound serial killer movie [the excellent White of the Eye]. He also had a disastrous project with Marlon Brando too, Jericho, which kind of almost destroyed his career. However, he did make a solid gold masterpiece in the form of Performance which I haven’t done… Yet. But I’m still alive!” Stanley chuckles.

So, finally, what’s next for the idosyncratic helmer? First up is L’Autre Monde (The Other World), a feature length documentary that, at the time of talking, had just won the Director’s Award at Mórbido Fest 2013 in Pátzcuaro, Mexico. “It’s shot in the place I’ve been living the past four years, up in The Pyrenees. It’s edited down from about forty eight hours of material, basically spinning around the idea of a space-time portal or some kind of portal to another world being in the area,” says Stanley.

“Originally I was alerted to this by one of the people living up there trying to warn people about it by sticking the covers of Lucio Fulci movies to trees, trying to keep people away! It was pictures of The Gates of Hell and The Beyond hanging from things!” Beyond that, however, lies the promise of something that’s impossible to resist: Stanley’s full blown return to the horror genre, his Mother of Toads segment of portmanteau The Theatre Bizarre notwithstanding. “We are, actually, finally on the way to shooting a new one next year,” he teases. “Let’s just say it’s a metaphysical science-fiction horror movie based upon the works of HP Lovecraft… The Colour Out of Space. Fingers crossed.” Fingers crossed? I don’t know about anyone else but I’ll crossing my entire body, dammit!

Delirum soundtrackAlso present at the screening was Hardware and Dust Devil’s composer, Simon Boswell. In the evening’s undisputed highlight, the Saturn and BAFTA award nominated muso treat the intimate crowd to a live twenty minute set of some of the choicest cuts from the more genre-friendly items on his extensive filmography. From the serene acoustic seduction of Santa Sangre right up to a full blown Demons 2 rock out with Hardware and Dust Devil naturally represented in between, Boswell’s video-accompanied solo show was superb.

“I’ve been wanting to do ‘live’ for a very long time,” Boswell explains when I sit down with him. “It’s just kind of a chicken and egg thing at the minute, like whether to do it just me- which would be OK- but I’d rather do it with a full band. It’d be a bit more magical.”

“It’s great to do. I always thought most film score things are a bit insipid and reverential, sitting there watching the score being done live to a movie,” he continues. “I don’t want it to be like that- I want it to be more like a rock club! I want it to be like The Velvet Undergound with blood! That’s my goal!” It’s a wonderful idea, a notion chock full of the mischief and punk rock derring-do characteristic of Boswell’s musical beginnings in various rock and roll bands. Well, at least until a certain Italian terror titan set him on a new career path…

Phenomena soundtrack“I didn’t intend to be a film composer at all, let alone one that works in the genre!” he laughs. “It was very strange for me, kind of an accident. I just happened to be in Italy producing Italian pop stuff- I was a record producer then- and Dario Argento had seen my band Livewire, an English rock band, play in Rome. He really liked us so a friend of mine set me up with Argento and I ended up working on Phenomena, being sort of forced onto Goblin!” Boswell’s association with the mighty Argento soon led to a whole slew of assignments from the rest of the spaghetti splat pack, effectively turning the genial Brit into the poster boy for late eighties Italian horror scores thanks to his sterling work for the likes of Michele Soavi and the prolific Lamberto Bava.

“Yeah, Lamberto certainly churned them out! There was one point where I did seven in a year or something like that,” Boswell says. “He was literally getting me to do something every two or three weeks… A lot of them weren’t very good I have to admit but they do have a sort of cheesey charm!” So does Boswell include Delirium: Photo of Gioia- Bava’s batty ’87 giallo trashterpiece and a personal favourite of this humble scribe- in that bracket? “Yes!” he smiles. “That’s quite a good score of mine, I think actually. I listened to it again recently and I quite liked it, yeah. I’m actually preparing to do some of it live too. I’m going to do it all eventually, Richard’s stuff, Santa Sangre, Demons 2, StageFright, Lord of Illusions, Perdita Durango…”

Performing aside, Boswell’s future plans also include becoming part of what is arguably the collecting vogue for horror addicts lately: soundtrack reissues. “Yeah, it’s a real growth area at the minute,” he says before divulging the details of his maiden voyage- a mighty repackaged remaster of his staggering Hardware, naturally. “I’ve thought it was about due for a re-release for a while and I really, really wanted to do it on vinyl, so now’s great because it really seems like people are collecting these things again.

Hardware Soundtrack ReIssue There’s the regular double vinyl LP edition- limited to one thousand copies- and a few other cool variants, like the special boxed set which contains the vinyl, a CD copy, USB stick and a blu-ray of the film. There’s some new stuff on the soundtrack too, by the way, not just my score. There’s a lot of voice pieces and things, with Richard’s voice on the re-release new tracks. He’s doing some of the stuff that’s in the actual script for Hardware 2!” Collectors take note- Boswell’s wonderfully lavish Hardware package can be ordered now from the maestro’s website, www.simonboswell.com

So what about the soundtracks beyond Hardware? “I’m going to start working my way through them,” says Boswell. “I’ve got them all on digital tape and most of them are intact so I’ve been transferring them. I’ve got about ten ready to go so the next one may be Richard’s L’Autre Monde. I might however, just before that, do The Turn of the Screw, the one I did that starred Patsy Kensit. That soundtrack has never been released and it’s an interesting score. I’m quite proud of it, actually.”

Before leaving him to enjoy his beverage in peace, Boswell was kind enough to offer a bit of insight into the secret of his and Stanley’s fructiferous collaborations. “We trust each other, I think that’s what it is mainly. Plus, Richard always comes up with really inspiring things for me and leaves me to give my own spin on it which has, I think anyway, produced some of my best music,” he says before pausing. “Yeah, it’s certainly trust though. I think that’s a good thing, you know, especially for directors- trusting me enough in a situation to bring something new to it without ruining it.

It must be quite ordeal; I mean I’ve worked with a lot of directors and I can see their insecurities and how difficult it is for them to go through a lot of shit to get their film made and edited… Only to hand it over to some musical dickhead who could potentially fuck it up!” Boswell laughs. “There’s a lot of paranoia there! Has to be! So, I’d say that’s why we work; you find someone you trust creatively and you hang on to them because it’s one less thing to fucking worry about!”
Richard Stanley and Simon Boswell, I thank you.
**********
Once again, Simon Boswell’s Hardware soundtrack is out now and available at www.simonboswell.com
For more information on The Darlington Film Club, please visit www.theforumonline.co.uk
Special thanks to James Watson, LG White, Bish, Miss H. and, of course, Richard Stanley and Simon Boswell.
For more ramblings, follow Matty Budrewicz on twitter: @mattybudrewicz

The Cape – Graphic Novel review by Jim Connolly

cape1‘The Cape’ graphic novel review

Written by Jason Ciaramella.

Adapted from a short story by Joe Hill.

Artwork by Zach Howard and Nathan Daniel.

IDW Publishing.

I discovered ‘The Cape’ when searching for an unrelated TV show of the same name. The TV show was a fairly generic and ephemeral cash-in on the popularity of ‘Heroes’ which left me pretty under-whelmed (despite some enjoyable performances by Keith David, James Frain & Pruitt Taylor Vince).

Way more worthy of the cool mantle is this comic-book adaption of a short story by Joe Hill (Locke & Key). The credibly drawn grungy slacker superhero on the cover caught my attention and after some research I decided to give it a chance to fly or fall.

The story begins with a young version of main character Eric playing super-hero games with his brother. A slightly unusual accident involving a make-shift cape leaves Eric damaged both physically and mentally with lasting and gradually worsening head-aches and paranoia. We see those around Eric grow and evolve but by young adulthood his health issues have sapped his spirit and led him to bitterness, addiction and failure.

At his lowest point a mid-20s Eric awakens in his crusty pants in his mum’s basement to discover that the forgotten cape from his childhood accident has made him float. At this point it seems safe to assume that heroic shenanigans will lead our sad protagonist to some kind of salvation as he dons the cape and flies off into the night. Instead, things take a dark turn as Eric chooses to embrace his twisted mindset and begins a campaign of bloody vengeance against those whom he feels have wronged him. I suspect that readers prepared for a grungier Peter Parker style character to start wise-cracking at petty criminals at this point got a very nasty shock.

cape2Whilst staying firmly in the super-hero genre, albeit with a gritty real world tone, things quickly descend into horrific violence. This is complimented by the realistic reactions of everyone involved. ‘The Cape’ is a good example of a simple story confidently told with realistic but nicely stylized illustrations. The strong use of inks and organic feel to the colours sit nicely with the grubby nature of Eric and his overcast autumnal world. It’s not difficult to see how the nucleus for this book came from a guy who acquired half his genes from horror master Stephen King.

Eric contains something of Sylar, D-Fens and even the peanut flicking boozed-up evil Supes of Superman 3. His actions are increasingly deplorable and escalate at the right pace, aided no doubt by the original 4 issue format that the book collects. I’m struggling to find something negative to say about ‘The Cape’ other than that one of the additional pin-up images (by various guest artists) at the end of the book looks a bit GCSE Art and another fails to capture the character for me. Pretty minor quibbles basically.

Whilst this story feels self contained it’s cult popularity has led to a prequel story about Eric’s dad during the Vietnam War. ‘The Cape 1969’ seeks to explain the origins of the strange cape via the same creative team.

For me ‘The Cape’ soared!

Overall rating 8/10

The Best of 2013 by Joey Keogh

The Best of 2013 by Joey Keogh

 

2013 was a surprisingly good, and very varied, year for horror that, in spite of beginning with the release of ‘Texas Chainsaw 3D’ and ending with ‘Carrie’, wasn’t characterised by shitty remakes, or yet more unnecessary sequels.

This year, more so than any other, we were treated to a wide variety of thought-provoking, inventive, and very scary films that proved once and for all that there’s life in the old genre yet.


My picks for the best horror movies of 2013, in no particular order:

Best Of 2013

Lords1. The Lords Of Salem

Rob Zombie finally proved his detractors wrong, that in spite of his cult classics and ill-judged Halloween reboots, he could make a damn good, very intelligent horror film, with a disturbing, Kubrick-esque nightmare trip into one woman’s possible insanity, which combined stunning visuals, with an awe-inspiring score and a shockingly eloquent central performance from his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie. A modern masterpiece, from the least likely director.


U52.  A Field In England

The very prolific Ben Wheatley made it three in a row with this incredible little film, set entirely in, well, a field in England. Starring Michael Smiley in his most unsettling role yet, with the great Reece Shearsmith as his unlikely adversary, Wheatley showed that a horror movie doesn’t need to bloody, over the top, or even very showy to be truly terrifying. Just to put it into perspective, one of the most frightening scenes takes place entirely off camera.


stokernew3. Stoker

Mia Wasikowska gave a stunning central performance as a quiet, slightly disturbed kid dealing with the loss of her father and the sudden reappearance of her suave, possibly dangerous uncle. Chan Wook-Park’s first English language feature was moody, quiet and incredibly moving, managing to lull the audience into a false sense of security before unravelling at an agonisingly slow pace. The devil really is in the details.


U44. Maniac

The definitive proof that horror remakes don’t have to suck, this bizarre story of a lonely mannequin collector who stalks and scalps women at night was Elijah Wood’s most shocking role to date, not least because he somehow managed to make his killer sympathetic, in spite of some rather damning POV shots.


noonelives5. No One Lives

Who knew that a film from ‘Midnight Meat Train’ director Ryuhei Kitamura and the rather infamous WWE Studios could be so fist-pumpingly awesome? Luke Evans hammed it up in the lead role as a villain pitched against a group of small town crooks who don’t realise quite who they’re messing with, until it’s too late. Funny, scary and completely crazy, ‘No One Lives’ also boasts one of the most jaw-droppingly awesome reveals in any horror film this year. Must be seen to be believed.


Conjuring6. The Conjuring

You’d be forgiven for thinking yet another haunted house story from the seemingly omnipresent James Wan would be more of the same – lazy gimmicks, dodgy SFX and a central premise that makes little to no sense. Happily, unlike the dreadful ‘Insidious Part 2’, which was also released this year, ‘The Conjuring’ incorporated just enough elements of classic horror to produce a spine-tingling ghost story that builds the tension effectively and delivers scare after scare without anyone needing to hear anything weird on a baby monitor.


U37. You’re Next

Adam Wingard’s ‘You’re Next’ was the most talked-about mainstream horror release of the year, and for good reason. Boasting a show-stopping central performance from everyone’s new favourite Final Girl, Erin, AKA ‘Bait’s Sharni Vinson – a chick so bad ass, she makes Katniss Everdeen look like Bella Swan – and some seriously inventive gore, this could’ve been yet another, dull home invasion thriller, a la the totally overrated ‘The Strangers’. Thankfully, it was a fun, funny and very gory exercise in how mainstream horror could, and should, be done.


hatchet38. Hatchet 3

The third instalment in Adam Green’s hugely popular ‘Hatchet’ series somehow managed to turn everything up to eleven yet again. Victor Crowley may not be the new horror icon that Green would love him to be, but he’s a formidable foe for actual horror icon Danielle Harris, and he delivers the goods in the most literal sense – from ripping off balls to pulling someone in half. Many a tear was shed when Crowley said his final goodbye, and who knows if this is really the end, but if it is, it’s a fitting end to possibly the only horror series that actually got better with each instalment.


vhs2new9. V/H/S 2

Strange to have not one, but two sequels on a Best Of list, but in this case, the Bloody Disgusting guys didn’t just learn from the mistakes of the first instalment – ‘V/H/S 2’ was such a ridiculous departure from the first flick, it’s difficult to believe it even came from the same people. With segments from talents as varied as Adam Wingard and Gareth Evans, this anthology is so inventive, each piece somehow better than the last, it almost makes the upcoming ‘ABCs Of Death 2’ look palatable. Almost.


dw510. Curse Of Chucky

This could feasibly be called a reboot, a sequel, or both but Chucky’s latest adventure was shocking for a number of reasons. Mainly, Don Mancini delivered exactly what he’d promised previously – a scary, fun, funny, and definitively Chucky film, just like the fans wanted. With a fantastic central performance from Fiona Dourif (daughter of Chucky himself, Brad Dourif) and boasting some very clever practical effects to make the old doll move yet again, ‘Curse’ proved that Chucky may be slightly outdated, but he still has his place in modern horror, and more importantly, he can still pack a punch (while delivering an insanely good one-liner).


Although this was undoubtedly a very strong year for horror, there were still a few stinkers that threatened to derail the good work done by their clearly superior contemporaries. At the risk of giving these dreadful films any more attention, here are my picks for this year’s flicks that are best avoided:


Worst Of 2013

insidious21. Insidious Part 2

It’s unclear what more there is to tell of this most boring of stories, but a third instalment is slated for a release very soon. At least Darth Maul didn’t make an appearance this time, but ‘Part 2’ was so irritatingly dull, it’s hard not to wish he head.


U22. Evil Dead

Yet another “re-imagining” of a classic film that unequivocally did not need to be remade, ‘Evil Dead’ tried to turn the gore up a few more notches, and even incorporated a nifty little plot point about recovering from a drug addiction, along with some impressive practical effects. Unfortunately, little thought was given to anything but the gore and it essentially resulted in a big ol’ “meh” once the paper-thin premise was, quite literally, torn apart.


carrie20133. Carrie

That this was the final horror release of the year was a travesty in itself. A scene-for-scene, at times word-for-word, remake of Brian De Palma’s incomparable seventies coming-of-age shocker, ‘Carrie’ left a miscast Chloe Grace Moretz to fend for herself against dodgy CGI and even dodgier, over-the-top, supporting performances in what felt more like a superhero origin story than a horror film. The decision to leave out the final money shot in favour of a crumbling CGI tombstone will surely baffle everyone for years to come. 

2013 was an awesome year overall, and lots of other shit rocked too, apart from movies. But mostly it was the movies that made it.


2013’s Honourable Mentions

Album: Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal

Oli Sykes can sing! And it’s now totally okay for bearded, tough metalheads to listen to his band because they’ve proven they can rock just as hard, if not more, than their older contemporaries.


Book: Mark Kermode – Hatchet Job

Dr. K delivered lessons in film criticism for those of us crazy enough to still consider a career in film journalism. A must-read, for film fans and critics alike.


Festival: Frightfest, as always!

With less mud and much more comfortable seats than every music festival in the country combined, FF reigns supreme for uniting horror nerds, in the gorgeous confines of the Empire cinema in Leicestar Square, with a consistently awesome line-up, wonderful guests and far too much popcorn. How long till next year!?

 

TV Show: Hannibal
A TV programme so gorgeous, it made me want to lick the screen, Hannibal also managed to give me more sleepless nights than everything else I saw this year combined.

 

Tour: Depeche Mode – Delta Machine Tour
They may be getting on a bit, but Depeche Mode still know how to rock and, with a show clocking in at over two hours, they deliver real value for money too. Plus, Dave Gahan can grind a mic stand like no one else.

Merch: Ariescope’s “Shin Pads” T-shirt
A must for horror nerds, Adam Green’s “Shin Pads” T-shirts, released towards the end of the year as a surprise for hardcore fans of his popular ‘Holliston’ TV series are everything that merchandise should be. Nobody will get it, but that’s not the point.