Tuesday, 30 June 2015
What joy to find an original horror film, one that is not a creatively-bankrupt sequel, tired 'found footage' or "based" on some bullshit 'true story'.
Writer/director David Robert Mitchell's It Follows is a beautifully languid take on the familiar slasher film trope of "avoid teenage sex", turning it on its head and giving it a retro-modern style, thanks to its Detroit locations and fantastic score by Rich Vreeland (aka Disasterpeace).
The closest touchstone I can conjure is the idea of the original Nightmare On Elm Street as directed by David Lynch.
Carefree Jay (Maika Monroe) is a 19-year-old girl dating the seemingly-normal Hugh (Jake Weary), but after they have sex for the first time things turn weird.
Hugh kidnaps Jay to an abandoned parking garage and explains to her he has infected her with a supernatural STD... she is now cursed to be forever followed by an unrelenting, slow-walking, shape-changing creature (that only those infected with this curse can see) that will methodically hunt her down unless she can pass the curse on to someone else.
However, once "It" catches up with the infected person and kills them, it then turns its attention back to the person who passed the curse on to them and so on, working its way back down the chain of infection.
Death, it seems, is inevitable and can only be delayed.
Once back home, Jay enlists her younger sister, Kelly (Lili Sepe) and their friends - which includes the hormonally-driven Paul (Keir Gilchrist), who has been crushing on Jay since they were kids - to keep her safe from her unseen stalker.
It Follows isn't perfect, and occasionally slips off the rails so you catch yourself thinking "waitaminute, that doesn't make sense", but generally you'll get swept up in the verisimilitude of the scenario, the dream-like aesthetic, convincing teenage portrayals and the atmospheric settings (accentuated by the John Carpenter-esque soundtrack).
What also makes a pleasant change is we aren't spoon-fed explanations for what "It" is and why it does what it does. There is no way for the protagonists to discover this, so why should we. It is pure nightmare/urban myth fodder from start to finish.
The old school Elm Street comparison continues with Paul's pragmatic scheme to kill the creature - even though, ultimately, it kind of backfires and they have to resort to a more direct approach.
The ending is left open - again, this reflects the protagonists lack of solid evidence for what has occurred - but that doesn't mean It Follows needs a sequel. We don't need to know who created this curse. The horror works so much better with not knowing.
I've started The Great Star Wars Challenge and having watched Episode I I had some notes:
PODRACING: Where's the podracing boardgame we all want? Surely the Formula De system would be a perfect starting point, with a map of the Boonta's Eve race course and/or the Malastare course mentioned by Qui-Gon Jinn, possibly mixed in with some 'fate cards' (sabotage, malfunction, Tusken Raiders taking potshots etc).
KITSTER: I know the old Expanded Universe had a history worked out for every single character who ever appeared for even a single frame in the Saga, but now that's been swept aside, what's Kitster's story these days? A fellow slave, he was the best friend of young Anakin Skywalker on Tatooine - surely there's a gallon of dramatic irony to be milked there should an adult Kitster somehow cross paths with Darth Vader!
DO THE PEOPLE OF NABOO AGE DIFFERENTLY? When Anakin and Padmé meet, he's nine and she's 14, but by the time the next two films come around, Anakin is all grown up while Padmé doesn't appear to have aged at all. Now I know in reality it's because Jake Lloyd was replaced by Hayden Christensen to play the more adult Anakin, but in the Star Wars Universe I can't help but wonder if there's a plot hook there. Perhaps it means Palpatine (another resident of Naboo) is actually a lot older than he appears in The Phantom Menace?
MIDI-CHLORIANS vs JAR JAR BINKS: You know I can forgive George for Jar Jar. I don't like the character and the poo and fart gags don't do the Saga any favours, but then there are people in everyday that we don't get on with but have to put up with and that's how I see Jar Jar. However, the introduction of midi-chlorians I cannot forgive. It totally demystifies The Force and The Jedi - the single greatest element of the Star Wars Universe. So, in my head, I believe the Jedi were simply wrong about the midi-chlorians. Contemporary scientists are re-evaluating theories all the time in our world and I believe the midi-chlorians are just one such theory that people believed until it was disproved.
A TROPE THAT MUST DIE: The invincible army of robots (or cyborgs) who have victory in their grasp until a plucky hero knocks out their mothership and they all collapse. What sort of moronic world-conqueror designs an android army that can be taken out with the flick of a single switch? It was groan-worthy when it happened in The Phantom Menace and double so when it happened in Avengers Assemble. Never let it happen again!
Monday, 29 June 2015
It's six months until The Force Awakens and so I have challenged myself to watch, before Episode VII opens, the six films of the original saga - in chronological order, then all of Clone Wars and as much of Rebels as is available, and finally anything else Star Wars-y that I can think of (such as The Holiday Special).
However, I'm vacillating over how strict a sequence to watch things in: for instance do I watch The Holiday Special before Empire Strikes Back? Do I watch the entirety of Clone Wars after Attack Of The Clones? Do I watch Rebels after Revenge Of The Sith? And where do the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars stories fit in to the chronology ... or don't they?
The primary aim of this, beyond the simple enjoyment factor, is to study character arcs and plot lines, spot Easter Eggs and foreshadowing etc and get my head in that 'long time ago, galaxy far far away' zone ahead of The Force Awakens.
Discovered the other day that JJ Abrams is only five months older than me! Where did I go wrong?
Like the scenario of sending characters on a rescue mission in the literal Hell, I embrace the cannibal movie genre as a gamer for the simple reason that I believe the more horrific a situation the player-characters find themselves in the more heroic their deeds will be to save themselves.
Wasn't James Raggi working on a Green Inferno-style adventure at one point for Lamentations Of The Flame Princess?
As well as the obvious fantasy setting or Call of Cthulhu, this scenario would be a perfect fit for something like Hollow Earth Expedition (which would be my choice these days, if I ever felt confident enough to throw the Tuesday Knights into this situation).
Eli Roth's The Green Inferno (about a gaggle of environmental activists capured by a tribe of cannibals) is finally getting a release on September 25, after financial issues caused it to be delayed for about a year.
The DVD is already up for pre-order on Amazon, but the release date for that has been bumped to 2020.
Sunday, 28 June 2015
As fond as I am of Star Trek, one of the things that has always given Star Wars the edge for me is the presence of starfighters and particularly the X-Wing (voted number one in the feature above, of course) - the sci-fi equivalent of the Spitfire or Hurricane of World War II.
Votes have poured in thick and fast for the great HeroPress Betty or Veronica poll, but there's still time to have your say.
It's the debate that has torn Riverdale asunder for an unspecified number of years, lets settle things once and for all.
Cast your vote in the polling booth at the top of this blog.
The choices are Betty or Veronica, both or neither.
I can tell you at this stage that while there may not technically be a clear leader, there's a definite loser... so help promote your favourite!
Saturday, 27 June 2015
More incredible news coming out of Big Finish as they reveal a wave of new audio dramas featuring characters and monsters from the current iteration of Doctor Who: starting with River Song!
Alex Kingston will be stepping up to the mic as The Doctor's wife for an appearance in the Eighth Doctor box set Doctor Who: Doom Coalition 2, before returning later in 2016 for Doctor Who: The Diary of River Song, an epic four-hour adventure that takes River across space and time, seeking out the secret rulers of the universe. Paul McGann will reprise the role of the Eighth Doctor in the final instalment.
The New Series adventures continue in Doctor Who: The Churchill Years, in which Ian McNeice returns as Winston Churchill for a four-hour saga, recounting his encounters with the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors.
Finally, the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors will face a new generation of monsters in Doctor Who: Classic Doctors, New Monsters: a brand new, four-story run featuring creatures from the New Series. Peter Davison takes on the Weeping Angels, Colin Baker encounters the Judoon, Sylvester McCoy will meet the Sycorax, and Paul McGann will face a new clone batch of Sontarans on the edge of the Time War.
You can hear more about these new stories on the latest 10-minute Big Finish podcast here, capped off by a wonderfully bubbly cameo from RTD.
Scheduled for release next year, the box sets are available for pre-order now from Big Finish.
A year ago, a terrorist attack in Odessa, Texas, left the city decimated. Blamed for the tragic event, those with extraordinary abilities are in hiding or on the run from those with nefarious motives.
Two such vigilantes include Luke (Zachary Levi) and Joanne (Judith Shekoni), who are seeking to avenge a tragic loss.
Noah Bennet, aka H.R.G. (Jack Coleman), has gone off the grid but conspiracy theorist Quentin Frady (Henry Zebrowski) finds him and opens his eyes to the truth behind the Odessa tragedy.
While in hiding, some are discovering their newfound skills. Awkward teen Tommy (Robbie Kay) just wants to be normal and win the girl of his dreams, Emily (Gatlin Green), but normalcy is virtually impossible after learning of a new ability that terrifies him.
Coming from a very sheltered upbringing, a bold and ethereal teenager, Malina (Danika Yarosh), has been told she is destined for greatness.
In Tokyo, a quiet and unique young woman, Miko (Kiki Sukezane), is trying to track down her missing father while hiding an extraordinary secret that will make her a force to be reckoned with.
Elsewhere, a different type of hero is emerging through former soldier Carlos (Ryan Guzman).
Friday, 26 June 2015
Things take a dark turn in the latest free supplement for the excellent old school RPG, Beyond The Wall And Other Adventures.
Across The Veil is a 25-page PDF detailing the dangers of the walking dead.
- Rules for the Underworld and the veil which separates it from the lands of the living.
- The Opened Barrow, a new Scenario Pack.
- The Risen Dead, a new Threat Pack.
- The Student of the Dark Arts, a new Character Playbook.
- New bestiary entries for undead monsters and new spells for necromancers and those who oppose them.
|My Lament Configuration - obtained from a dealer in rare antiquities |
(actually purchased from a film prop distributor)
Clive Barker is one of my favourite horror writers. I'd rank him second behind the great HPL himself.
Sadly I got about two-thirds of the way through the book before I lost the will to read on.
This is not classic Barker. This is not a new Books Of Blood.
As part of a larger scheme, 'Pinhead' steals away one of Harry's closest confidantes to Hell and Harry, and a small contingent of friends, embark on a rescue mission.
But the Hell Priest simply comes across as a thug in a Pinhead costume. His physicality and verbosity undermines the magic and mystery of the character.
He's not so much the creature from the first Hellraiser movie (or the Hellbound Heart novella) but the iteration that appears in the increasingly campier sequels.
The Scarlet Gospels is not the creepy horror story I wanted but a pulp action adventure, with moments of beautifully vivid splatterpunk gore to remind us of the Barker of old.
Even when Harry's party head to Hell (a scenario I've long talked about as a "dream Dungeons & Dragons" adventure), they do so with a flaccid, blasé attitude that renders their journey through the home of ultimate evil into - for want of a better description - a description of a group of teenagers playing Dungeons & Dragons (yeah, I know!)
For me, 'Pinhead' and his Cenobite brethren are the the greatest, enduring, cinematic creations since the classics (Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy etc).
But what added that extra little twist for me was the introduction of the Lament Configuration into their mythology - the antique puzzle box that you had to solve to summon these "explorers... in the further regions of experience. Demons to some, angels to others."
Thanks to my friend Stacey Lemmon (aka Dr Theda) over at Dr Theda's Crypt for these marvelous, faux 'blueprints' for the Lament Configuration (also known as Lemarchand's box - after the fictitious 18th Century French toymaker Philip Lemarchand, who made the Lament Configuration for black magic-obsessed aristocrat Duc de L'Isle).
I'm sure I'll return to The Scarlet Gospels soon enough (I only have just over 100 pages to go), but my initial excitement has gone and it's now simply a sense of duty, just to find out what happens to Harry and 'Pinhead' in those final pages.
In the dark of the night, strange things lurk and howl. The supernatural are not just stories to frighten unruly children or provide a plot for a cheap movie, they are real!Human(ish) is a new urban fantasy RPG from Arion Games, the publishers of Maelstrom Domesday, currently seeking funding on Kickstarter.
And what is worse, not only are they supernatural, but they are also human. Well, human-ish anyway.
Using the classic FASERIP system - as made famous in the original Marvel Super Heroes game from TSR - it is described as "a fast-paced and light game of vampires, werewolves and other supernaturals".
A thousand pounds is being sought by Saturday, July 4, and there are only two pledge levels: one gets you just the PDF while the second gets you both the PDF and a code to purchase an "at cost" print-on-demand copy of the core rulebook (via DriveThruRPG).
Check out the game's Kickstarter page for more information, sample page layouts and characters etc
Thursday, 25 June 2015
Despite the problems she's having with her web series, online superstar Melissa Hunter has still found the time to fulfill the perks she offered for last year's crowdfunding campaign.
Today in the mail, I got - all the way from sunny Los Angeles - a personalised picture of Adult Wednesday
Thank you, Melissa!
|Why yes, that is me and Hollywood legend Tony Curtis having a chat...|
When I worked for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, business magnate Mohamed Al-Fayed happened to own a private school in the area and one day he arranged for his old pal Tony Curtis ... yes, THE Tony Curtis ... to come and speak at the school.
Naturally, as resident film buff, I jumped at the chance to cover this. While I don't recall what Mr Curtis and I chatted about, my fondest memory of the day was when the star came to leave he asked if he could take my arm (he was getting on a bit then) so I could help him walk to the waiting helicopter.
Somewhere there's a picture of this Hollywood legend holding on to my arm, walking across the school grounds, but I can't find it at the moment. My late mum used to have it proudly displayed in her room, so it must be around somewhere.
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