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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Highlights and lowlights of 2013

Call me a stick in the mud, but generally I don't have much time or love for 'best of/worst of' lists. This time of year they seem to be everywhere, on TV, the web & in newspapers. It seems that wherever I turn someone somewhere is pontificating on their super duper top 10 of the year, as if I really care whether they put England's summer victory to retain the Ashes in the cricket or Andy Murray's win at Wimbledon at number 1 in their 'top 10 sporting moments. I may not be the Grinch that stole Christmas, but I may well be the grump who sniggered at the end of year nostalgia. As yet that fine title hasn't been made into a movie, I'm not sure why.

I don't know if it's because I find the process of defining orders of preference somewhat arbitrary and overly subjective or whether it's simply because I'm a notoriously indecisive type of guy who, for example, finds it almost impossible most mornings to choose between two breakfast options let alone sift through a whole year of movie likes and dislikes. (Btw, today after some deliberation I chose Corn Flakes over Rice Crispies). 

However, sometimes one has to do as one is told, I mean, requested. So when Andy, El Capitan of UKHORRORSCENE took time away from his swanning around London's most exclusive hotels in his quest to quaff as much free champagne and fine food as humanly possible to issue an ultimatum request for his minions writers to compile our personal end of year lists, what could I say? After my initial pleas of why, why, why??!! and general sulks went unanswered due to Andy's inaugural 'Around the UK in a taxi' feature, I decided I had two simple options. The first was to remain true to my principles, stand strong and refuse to to join the rest of the world soaking in an end of year bubble bath of nostalgia. After all, I'm a grown up adult type person with a job, house, car and other responsibilities. The second option was to simply do as I was told, after all, it's remotely possible that this could be fun.......we'll see.

So in the spirit things, here are my top 6 ( see, I can't even do a top 5 list properly) thingamajigs of the year of our Lord, 2013 (In no particular order).

1) Byzantium

Do you remember when the release of a new Vampire movie was something of an event to look forward to, to cherish? Of course I am talking about the pre-shiny spangled sparkling Twilight saga that for many of us has put more than one nail in the genre’s coffin..... if you would pardon a very bad pun. 

Since then, Zombies have become the new Vampires on TV and cinema, though the backlash against this particular genre can’t be too far way methinks. All of which makes rather interesting that the much vaunted Vampire movie Byzantium that was released in the final week of June. 

This turned out to be one of my favourite movies of the year and witnessed a triumphant return to Vampire form from Neil Jordan. In it Gemma Arterton (see the word ‘gorgeous’ in the dictionary, her name is next to it) and Saoirsi Ronan play two women who, not only have been trying to keep their blood sucking habits a secret from everyday society, they have also have been evading a rather nasty group of the fellow undead for most of the time since the 19th century. 

Eventually we find them in this film at a rather dilapidated seaside town in an effort to find safety. That is, until their secret is finally discovered….. 

While it may not have been the box office hit that it deserved to be, this was a genuinely gorgeous adaptation of the play by Moira buffing. Whilst Arterton is the personification of deliciousness herself it is Saoirsi Ronan who is quite simply excellent as the eternal teenager.

Simply sumptuous.

2) Behind The Cross (2012)
by Macabre Media

The first of two independent horror movies to make the list, BEHIND THE CROSS is a 38 minute long 2012 independent horror film from Finnish director Tomi Kerminen. I can safely say that it's like nothing I've seen for some time.

Essentially it is the story of Father Michael, who when we join him in the movie, is already well down the road on his personal journey into the depths of insanity. To say that he is having a crisis of faith would be something of an under-statement. It seems that a life that has been somewhat disturbed (courtesy of some horrifying flashback episodes to his childhood) has now manifested itself beyond simple spiritual breakdown and become the literal definition of atrocity and horror. Father Michael's monstrous acts of violence and murderous depravity mirror his continuing ability to still find a psychotic link to his faith in the hope that god will still absolve him from the terrible sins he is committing.

It isn't easy viewing, and nor should it be. Some people, even those well versed in the horror genre, will find the visual aspect of the movie brutality upsetting. Not only that, it isn't straight forward step by step story telling - oh no, it jumps cunningly from point to point in the story. Not only does this give us a sense of the insanity of the main protagonist, it also serves to install in the viewer a genuine sensation of not being in control of what we are allowing ourselves to see.

So we have themes in this movie of sex, torture, insanity and religion. So no one to upset there then? Still not offended? Well OK then, as we also have scenes of a priest masturbating in his car, masturbating also to a shop mannequin, or him urinating over his still sleeping gimp. Jolly good. What is truly interesting about this film is the connection between the murderous mind go a madman and the world of his religious life. The film is rich in the symbolism of his faith and how it interacts with the priest's descent into insanity - this truly is a voyage into the ocean depths of a madman.

3) BFI Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film 

Perhaps the most exciting announcement early in 2013 were the plans for BFI's most substantial project to date for the Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film four month-long event. The ambitious programme was to include the release of 150 titles and around 1,000 screenings across the UK from August 2013 to January 2014  - and every single one of them was to be Gothic related. Not only was the size of the programme seductively enticing, so was the range of the titles that were going to be made available. 

So apart from the expected and more established offerings going to be made such as the world premiere of the digital re-mastering of Night Of The Demon (1957) and iconic Gothic releases such as Hammer Horror’s Dracula (1958)starring a certain Christopher Lee - In addition there would be cinematic and DVD releases of rare and long forgotten Gothic related productions. Many of these releases were not only being re-mastered, but there would be some titles that would not have seen the light of day in some cases since their original showing in the cinema.

As part of the programme it was my genuine pleasure to be sent for review purposes the release of a number of rare and long-thought lost examples of British Gothic televisual splendour. Two long-unseen archive TV titles, both of which are guaranteed to scare and delight in equal measure were the 1970 Play for Today entry Robin Redbreast and the few surviving, terrifying episodes of 1972’s Dead of Night television series. In addition to those two offerings there was also a release of M R James’ Classic Ghost Stories (1986), narrated by Robert Powell, which includeThe MezzotintThe Ash-TreeWailing WellThe Rose Garden and O, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad. 

It was a veritable Gothic feast - delicious.

4) World war Z

Just what is it about Brad Pitt that sees him loved and loathed in equal measures? Only yesterday I was reading my way through a list of comments and contributions to one of many online Sci-Fi & horror groups I’m part of, many of which were dealing with the much publicised Zombie flick World War Z. For anyone from another world (sic) reading the amount of bile and vitriol directed at Mr Pitt, they could be reasonably excused for assuming that the guy was responsible for walking the streets and thumping old Grannies in the face with his favourite gardening implement of choice. I mean, some of the comments were harsh – “Brad Pitt is going to be so F**king sh*t in this movie”....  “Brad Pitt should stick to being a pretty boy for Miss Jolie rather than mess with the Horror genre. I hope he dies”. A little harsh - and these were some of the more polite remarks. Suffice to say I doubt I shall not be frequenting that particular group again.

World War Z is a 2013 Zombie apocalyptic movie directed by Marc Forster and based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Max Brooks. The film’s main character is played by Brad Pitt who portrays a United Nations worker attempting to put an end to the Zombie pandemic that is sweeping around, and destroying the world. It was released on the 21st June to huge box office success and immediately galvanised opinion on its critical merits. 

I have to admit that I loved it- yes it may be overly mainstream and as I've already mentioned, Mr Pitt isn't every ones cup of Tea, but I found the movie experience a true joy.

5) Texas chainsaw Massacre 2 Bluray release.

This is included in my end of year favourites for one major reason.  When I went to see this movie on its initial release at the cinema way back in those heady days of 1986..... I didn't like it. No, I did’nt like it one little bit. I felt disappointed and almost cheated because it was so unlike the masterpiece that was its 1974 predecessor in both style and content. In fact that disappointment was so intense that  I have never watched it since. “So this isn’t exactly going to be a favourable review is it?”, I hear you say. Well don’t be so quick to judge, I’m always willing to give a movie a second chance – well, that is except for Gus Van Zant’s shot for shot remake of Psycho in 1998. Nothing, I repeat NOTHING will ever make me watch that pathetic pile of pointless remake nonsense again. So watching the digitally remastered preview disc sent by Arrow films earlier on 2013 was the very first time in 27 years that I have seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. I was fascinated to see if my attitude had changed in all that time. 

And do you know something? After finally seeing TCM2 again after all this time...... I loved it, I absolutely loved it.

I loved the morbid comedic stylisation and plot narrative that is quite clearly a product of its time with its explicit themes of 1980's politics, capitalism and greed. I love the incredible over the top performances by Dennis Hopper as Lieutenant ‘Lefty’ Enright and Bill Moseley as Chop Top. Whilst Moseley is suitably excellent as he brings his entertaining repertoire of manic insanity to his role, it is essentially the often maligned Hopper who holds the movie together as he declares war against the insane Sawyers with a little chainsaw-play of his own. I say 'often maligned' because Hopper in his later career was never afraid to go into 'manic acting mode', there are many examples of this. However, we often forget that he was amongst a whole glut of 1960's wunderkind actors who radicalised the whole approach to their acting craft. I never realised it the first time around when watching this film, but Hopper's performance despite, or possibly because of the somewhat cheesy dialogue is simply mesmerising. He simply owns this movie, chewing up and stealing every scene he is in  - sometimes with just a delicious glint in his eye.

The mistake I and many others have made over the years is that we refused to accept that TCM2 should be treated as a movie in its own right and in no way should be compared to its predecessor. The bottom line is that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and TCM2 are two entirely separate styles of film which was a purposeful intention from the director from the very start. I made the mistake the first time around of simply not enjoying TCM2 for what is really is - a funny, gory, slasher movie that's only real intention was to entertain - and it does that in spades. Is this the Citizen Kane of horror? No it isn't. Is this the Texas Chainsaw massacre of horror? No it isn't. What it is is 100 minutes of pure unadulterated joy.

6) 15-05-08

The second of the independent horror movies to make my list is 15-05-08, a 'found footage' short produced by Nottingham-based low budget horror company, Sick Bunny pictures, founded by brother duo Nikki and Jason Chatwin.

Considering that we are only witnessing just over 16 minutes of movie time, a huge amount of emotional experience is packed into it. At first, when the group of friends in a very normal suburban house on a very normal suburban road witness a light going on in what they thought was the empty house across the road, they treat it as a bit of fun. It's all giggles and bad taste jokes at first. 

However, before we the viewer have time to realise it, the tension is being raised as the mood subtly  changes, not only amongst the group of friends in the film, but also at the same time for the rest of us watching . We all begin experiencing the same rising unsettling feeling that something isn't right, until the suspense and tension has been raised to such a level before we witness the final few moments of, well, terror. The ending is simply excellent.

This is a fine movie experience. If you like your suspense built upon suspense until you're hit full in the face with the finest of brutal film climaxes - then this is nearly 17 minutes of just what you ( and I it seems) like.

So there you have it, my 'best of 2013', which was quite a bit of fun if I say so myself. Of course as soon as I click 'send' on this piece I will have thought of another dozen or so additions and substitutions to the list - bugger, I knew there was a reason I didn't do these list thingies........ I wonder if I can add a piece on The Hobbit movies? I bloody loved them! Maybe another time.

Naturally there have been a number of duds this year, as in every year there has been some good horror and Sci-Fi as well as some bad - and some of it has been very very bad. I must either not be feeling well or the festive spirit is well and truly taking me over, but I won't spend too much time dwelling on the bad. That is except for two examples of film making that annoyed me more than any rational person should have be been annoyed. 

Yes, the makers of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D and Carrie, I'm talking about you, and you should all hang your collective heads in shame. In the case of the former, taking a seminal character such as Leatherface and turning him into some sort of sympathetic hero completely contradicts any element of characterisation that was in the 1974 original. In addition, having the resident movie scream Queen become his accomplice and help bump off the population may have sounded like a clever little reversal of the usual plot device. However in reality it made no logical sense and only sent out a whole minefield of mixed moral messages.

As for the remake of Carrie - for crying out loud, just read the source material for once guys and actually pay attention to little things such as authentic characterisation. Things like, oh I don't know, having a very pretty actress play a character who is actually supposed to by plain, overweight and pimply. MTV horror is just not my bag.

See you all on the other side in 2014 folks!

This piece also features in UKHorrorScene - check out the website if you like your horror.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

When heroes are not that good at what they do......

I was watching The Big Bang Theory just the other night when a comment was made by one of the characters in the programme that Indiana Jones often messed up more than he actually got right. In fact they made the point that if he had of done absolutely nothing in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the result at the end would have been pretty much the same regardless - the Ark of the Covenant would have been found by the Nazis, taken to the Island and then they would have all been subsequently killed by its power when opened. 

This made me think a little (don't mock, I do occasionally think) and by the end of the 30 minute episode the thought had developed into something of a major ear worm. I simply could not let the thought go after I had initially asked myself - Just how many other do-gooding good guys (or gals) are actually rather pants at being the hero? Some may come close to winning, some just blindly maraud through the bad guys causing untold chaos - only achieving their original aim by blind good luck or with the help of an unlikely ally. So, where are these champion chumps ?

As it happens, it seems that there are a few and they are everywhere. So as a bit of light-hearted Christmas and end of year nonsense, here is a brief list of horrendous heroes. Any offence to heroes (super or not) living or dead is entirely deliberate :-).

Luke Skywalker

Yes well all right, I know that he destroyed the Death star in episode 4 - but that was only the result of some last minute help from good buddy Han Solo and a whisper of advice from the ghostly voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi. However think about it - if he hadn't of let the bloody busy-body R2D2 out of his sight and gone chasing after him around Tatooine, thereby finding old Ben skulking away in the mountains (and almost getting himself killed in the process) then Mr Kenobi would have lived his days out quite happily - instead he was given a bit of a kicking by Luke's dad on the Death Star. 

It didn't get much better in the next instalment when young Skywalker decides to go all 1960's Hippy to try and 'find himself' in order to be a proper grown up type Jedi. However it turns out that he isn't actually that good as we witness old Yoda continually rolling his eyes at Luke's simply laughable attempts at doing rather simple Jedi stuff. Not only that, but when the time comes for him to play the hero and rescue Han Solo and his other friends, we'll he can't even manage to pull that off. Poor old Han gets all solidified & Luke goes and misplaces his hand after a bit after a bit of a bust up with his dad.

When Luke does finally rescue Han, he only manages that after being caught by Jabba The Hut.

If all that wasn't enough, when the chosen one finally had the opportunity to bring peace to the Galaxy etc etc he couldn't manage to kill the Emperor. Instead his dad has to help him out and get rid of the ex- Mr Palpatine. This time it's the turn of his dad to pop his clogs after helping out Luke. To add insult to injury, his old man then has to deal with a personality change when he dies, changing from a nice looking grandad guy to a ghastly ghostly Hayden Christensen for the rest of eternity when George Lucas starts his annual messing around with the movies shenanigans.

And we won't even go anywhere near the little issue of Luke not realising that the woman he fancies and snogs is actually his sister ...........

Quint and Hooper (Jaws) 

The so-called shark expert fighting off
 the so-called shark...
Excellent - in this movie we get two hapless heroes for the price of one. 

A big bad great White Shark is terrorising a small holiday island. It's eating lots of people, which is a bad thing and so the Chief of Police (Brody) is worried. He runs around the Island trying to persuade people not to swim in the sea - nobody believes him. Even when when Brody manages to bring in Hooper, an expert on Sharks who has a nice shiny boat and lots of gizmo's to provide some credence to his claims, still no-one listens.

This is mainly because the town Mayor couldn't give a toss about the loss of life as long as the tourist money keeps coming in. Cue the continuing body count rise until finally Brody finally persuades the Mayor to fund the services of local expert Shark hunter (Quint) - who must be good at what he does because he has hundreds of carcasses of Sharkes that have previously crossed his path. So away the two experts trip off in Quints boat & with them, the chief- who has a morbid fear water and everything that lives in it, especially Sharks.
"Trust me, I'm wearing glasses and I have a big stick full of poison"
So this should be a walk in the park then? A world renowned sharks expert and a famous Shark killer.....what could possibly go wrong?

We'll actually everything. It doesn't help that Shark killer hero Quint completely underestimates their prey and that so-called shark expert hero Hooper completely blows his chance to kill the beast with his fancy cage and poison. Hooper's cage gets well and truly mangled, he screams like a girl as the shark tries to have him for supper and then legs it away to hide at the bottom of the sea and essentially leaves his pals to it. Thanks a bunch college boy.

Quint fares even worse - after shooting dozens of barrels and sing a few sea shanties he becomes the main meal of the day for the Great White beastie. It's left to the sea-hating, Shark non-expert to actually save the day.

The Colonial Marines (Aliens)

"Leave this to me, boys and girls"...
It could be argued that never in the history of rescues have the rescuers, who should know what they're doing, been so hapless and hopeless.

It should all have been so straightforward. The only survivor (Ripley) fresh from a rather nasty encounter with an Alien with some rather extreme salivatory condition (not forgetting its habit of popping out of people's stomachs) has been rescued from deep space.  However the rather ungrateful company that that she works for isn't too happy about the trillions of dollars of spacecraft that she destroyed in the process of whipping the Aliens arse. That is, until they go and lose contact with terraforming colonists on the planet where the Alien first did its face-hugging thing. Cue Ripley being asked nicely to back to the planet as a 'consultant'- she doesn't want to go, but it's all OK as she's going to be accompanied by the "biggest group of bad asses this side of the galaxy", the colonial Marines. No problem there then.

We'll once again, there is actually one big problem with this group of military bodyguard heroes' - at best they are a pretty clueless bunch of big gun-toting individuals, at worst they are the epitome of arrogant shoot first with their big guns and ask questions later. Half of them are big mouthed testosterone fueled individuals, the other half seem to spend most of the movie complaining that "We're all going to die'!!!!! It also doesn't help much that they are led by an officer who is as clueless as he is wet behind the ears.

So instead of actually listening to the one individual who's been there and done it, they instead go in all guns blazing, completely underestimated their adversary and proceed to be picked off en-mass. Once again it's left up to Ripley to save the day.

Samuel Loomis (Halloween)

"This time I'm gonna get you, dammit!.......Oh, bugger!"
Poor old Dr. Loomis, he tried his best but he just wasn't very good. For 15 years he had the mad as a box of Frogs, Michael Myers, under his care in a secure mental institution after the little basket-case had butchered his older sister when he was six years old. Unfortunately, in all this time none of Loomis' special treatments had had any effect.

So when Michael reaches 21 (and still barking mad) he is set to be transferred back to his home town for the murder trial. Loomis has the responsibility for transferring Michael but whoops - Michael only goes and escapes doesn't he? Bugger.

In an effort to make amends for this little bit of a cock-up, Loomis tracks Michael back to his home town where the grown up psycho has designs on a little killing spree - cue lots of running round with the good doctor trying his best to persuade the locals that there is a small matter of a deranged killer on the loose - of course, throughout the proceedings Loomis is constantly one step behind the masked maniac. That is unit the finally when the doc gets the chance to put six (yes that's right, SIX) bullets in the knife wielding nut-job..........only for the killer to get away......again.

Again, it gets worse for our latest hapless hero, for Loomis races to the girl's aid and once again shoots Michael numerous times and yet again, this does not stop him. Loomis eventually corners Michael in a room and blows it up......hopefully this time he has finally got his man?

Nope, that still didn't work as Halloween 4 sees Loomis unsuccessfully attempting to alert the police that Michael is now free - again. And once again Mr Myers goes on another doozy of a killing spree until the good doctor collapses to the floor, a gibbering sobbing wreck as he seems to be torn apart by the thought that the evil that filled Michael has now transferred itself to his niece. If only just one of those dozens of bullets that he had fired at moody Michael had hit the spot, eh?

Nope, we're not finished yet - or rather our useless hero hasn't finished being useless as he's still bumbling after his nemesis in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and also Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later. Not only that, but the inadequacies of our hapless hero were once again revisited in the remakes of Halloween and Halloween II in 2007 & 2009 respectively.

He's still probably out there on Michael's trail still........

Indiana Jones (Raiders of the lost Ark)

Indie, about to cock-up for the first time of many.....
I'll finish this article on the unfortunate hero that set off the idea for this piece in the first place.

Until it was pointed out in the TV programme, It simply hadn't  occurred to me just how ineffective good ol' Indie actually could be. It was the character of Amy (Sheldon's girlfriend) who points out...............“Indiana Jones plays no role in the outcome of the story. If he weren’t in the film, it would turn out exactly the same… If he weren’t in the movie, the Nazis would still have found the Ark, taken it to the island, opened it up, and all died, just like they did.”

It could be true, I will leave it up to those far more inclined to argue seriously the accuracy of such a statement with a close analysis of the plot - however, even if that statement does have holes within its plausibility, the essence of it will still remain - A lot of the plot DOES happen regardless of his interference.

Not only that, when he does succeed in getting something right, for example the opening scenes when he finds the golden Idol, he successfully manages to avoid death from a plethora of cunning traps only to have the thing taken off him by his rival, Belloq. We also shouldn't forget that annoying little habit that Indie seems to have of letting his girlfriend be kidnapped by the bad guys - at least 4 times by my memory.

So it's clear that as a hero he has one or two faults, as an Archaeologist he doesn't fare much better. Because most of the artifacts that he does find turn out to be a little bit on the impractical side too. The aforementioned Ark doesn't make you invincible, it just liquefies all who open it. The crystal Skull (a present from those lovely Aliens) just sends all those that become obsessed with it as mad as a box of Frogs. The Holy Grail is pretty useless when it's removed from the cave.

All in all, none of the artefacts are worth a damn on an academic archaeological level - I mean, just who back the the university is going to believe a damn word of magical powers, biblical mayhem and alien intervention? To be honest I'm not sure how he still has a job in education considering just how little teaching that he actually does - doesn't anybody even check his clocking in ticket to see that in all that time he's taught about 4 classes?

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Jersey Shore Massacre (2014)

I was sat thinking the other day (no, I really was thinking) about what my next entry was going to be in my wonderfully ground-breaking-soon-to-be-taking over the world blog. The problem was that I was 'in-between' projects: reviews of books having to wait until I have actually found the time to read them, DVD review releases delayed in the post due to something mysteriously called 'the Christmas busy period' and still not having the chance to travel and see the new Hobbit movie. In other words, I was procrastinating.
Absolutely nothing interesting to see in this poster.
Nope, ahem, nothing at all..........
So when I received a message from Teri  Tarnopol asking whether I would consider posting about the Indiegogo campaign for their upcoming movie, Jersey Shore Massacre, I was slightly curious - after all, I can't give my limited time and blog-space to any old rubbish as I only like to write about things I'm interested in. I'm a bit funny that way.  My slight curiosity soon turned to more than a little interest when I went to have a look see at the movie's IMDB page RIGHT HERE

" A blood-drenched horror/comedy that does for guidos and guidettes what Zombieland did for zombies".

"Hmmm, Stuey" I thought to myself, " Maybe I will have a little bit more of a look"  My interest level then increased just a little bit more when I read a warning that had been issued by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) stating that the film contained Graphic bloody horror violence (now that's a bit of a mouthful), Sexual content, Nudity, Language (you mean this is one of the modern talkie movies, blimey, someone better tell Charlie Chaplin) and brief drug material. I always like to be warned about just how much I can expect to be 'offended' so thank you MPAA for both warning me and at the same time piquing my interest about a film that I might otherwise have missed. 

I think it's safe to say that seeing the movie's promotional poster (left) perhaps sealed the deal on a superficial level........... but what of the movie itself I hear you ask. You know that annoying stuff that we also have to consider besides the warning of goodies just mentioned - those things like plot, effects, filmmakers and actors etc etc.

So lets do that then shall we in the form of some probing. and dare I say it, edgy questions? 

(FD) Paul Tarnopol - I assume you're from somewhere suitably glamorous?

(PT) "I was born in New York City in 1963, graduated from the American University in 1986 and have lived in Coconut Grove, Florida since 2004."

(FD) Marvellous, I'm freezing my arse off in Scotland and you live in sunny Florida. OK, provide us with a taste of your CV.

(PT) "I have an an extensive track record of producing and marketing highly successful music compilations to leading retailers such as Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart. Some of Paul’s best known albums are “The Brat Pack Years”, “Booty Jams” and “Stone Cold Metal”, produced with WWE’s Stone Cold Steve Austin."

(FD) Wrestling and Brat Packer music? well that's all well and good, but what about movies?

(PT) "In 2012 I entered the motion picture world with the production of the horror/comedy “Girls Gone Dead” starring Jerry “The King” Lawler, Linnea Quigly, Ron Jeremy and Beetlejuice.  My latest film is another horror/comedy called “Jersey Shore Massacre” which I wrote and directed.  

(FD)  I see what you did there, slipping your movie in before I did my usual thing of digressing and going off at a tangent with some intense psychological probing. Well ok, tell us about the plot.

(PT) "Jersey Shore Massacre is a blood-drenched horror comedy that does for guidos and guidettes what Zombieland did for zombies.  After losing their Seaside Heights beach rental, Teresa and her girlfriends wind up at her Uncle Vito’s hideaway in the New Jersey Pine Barrens along with five obnoxious fist pumpers. Unbeknownst to the group, a mentally deranged killer is single-handedly slaughtering them one by one in the most horrific ways imaginable, assisted only by the group’s arrogance and ignorance."

(FD) Blimey, sounds a bit good. Any more?

(PT) "Having grown up in the New York/New Jersey area, guidos and guidettes were always a part of life long before shows like “Jersey Shore”, “Jerseylicious”, “The Sopranos” and “The Real Housewives Of New Jersey” were ever dreamt of. The idea of inserting this colourful group of fist-pumpers, hairdressers and mobsters into a horror setting that also included the Jersey Devil was impossible for us to resist." 

(FD) The thing is matey, we only have your word for how good Jersey Shore Massacre will actually be. What do you have to say to that?

(PT) "We produced Jersey Shore Massacre to entertain a broad audience, not just to impress other film makers at film festivals.  However, we tested a rough cut of Jersey Shore Massacre at Orlando’s Freak Show Horror Film Festival on October 26, 2013 and walked away with the award for Best Special Effects.  We have also had the good fortune of casting some of New York’s best up and coming actors as well as our friends Ron Jeremy, Shawn C. Phillips, Nikki Delano, Alexis Ford, and SiriusXM personalities Sal Governale, Richard Christy and Bigfoot"

(FD) Bugger, winning awards before the film is even released - that's shut me up then. So how can people in Internet land help?

(PT) "After raising $350,000 and squeezing every penny of it onto the screen, we could not be happier with the results.  Best of all, Jersey Shore Massacre is 100% shot and only needs $50,000 to cover the post production costs for sound design, colour correction, a promotional trailer and the fee for its MPAA rating.  We decided to use Indiegogo to raise the final $50,000 and to reward our supporters with some really special and once-in-a-lifetime perks."

However, don't just take my word for it  - have a look at the movies Indiegogo page RIGHT HERE for more information and what perks and offers you can get for your participation.

OR check out the promotional video from the indiegogo page - but beware those guys with a problematic heart condition, it contains Danielle Dallaco who plays the role of Teresa. I'm sure that the list of actors such as Angelica Boccella, Giovanni Roselli, Ron Jeremy, Shawn C. Phillips, Chris Lazzaro, Nicole Rutigliano, John Michael Hastie and Brenton Duplessie are very talented too...... but lets just say that Danielle Dallaco has something of a future and that if she wants to send me a Facebook friend request I wouldn't say no.....:-)

BTW, yes that is THE Ron Jeremy who forms part of the cast list. I am of course far too wholesome, naive and pure of heart to know what Ron's previous career was.......... Anyone who cares to suggest otherwise will face the wrath of my overworked legal team. Besides which I always clear my intent history......

So there you have it. A Slasher horror Comedy that promises much and may well deliver. I'm looking forward to seeing Jersey Shore Massacre in 2014.

Information on Jersey Shore Massacre can be found as follows:

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Scrooge (1951)

Scrooge - 1951 | 86 mins | Comedy, Drama | B&W

I don't like the Muppets, I don't like them at all. I never have and I'm probably sure that I never will. It's a controversial viewpoint which I know will upset many, but I have my legitimate reasons.
"That bloody Frog is here somewhere.......

Even as a child I never really had much time for those supposedly loveable puppet things that celebrities almost seemed to trample over each other to get their faces on; Kermit the blooming Frog simply annoyed the hell out of me, Miss Piggy reminded me of an old schoolteacher from my Grammar school and Fozzy bear just creeped me out for some unknown reason that I couldn't ever quite put my finger on. The only character that I ever found remotely likable was the drummer, Animal. "So Stuey, what is the actual reason for this hatred of an entertainment institution?" I hear you ask. Well, partly it may be that at school one of my lesser flattering nicknames was 'Gonzo', given to me by some wit who thought that as I had a slightly bug nose it would be highly hilarious to give me that name. It could have been worse I suppose, they could have call me Joseph Merrick - now that would have been cruel. But no, I'm way past that now - after all, those years of therapy had to amount to something.....

No, it is far more than just a half-arsed witty nickname that causes me to tense up just at the very thought of Jim Henson's crazy Muppets. The thing that more or less sealed the deal was a certain adaptation of arguably the classic ghost story of all ghost stories. As far as I'm aware there have been over fifty adaptations in various forms of Charles Dickens Literary classic 'A Christmas Carol'. Some of them have been truly excellent (the 1984 TV film starring George C. Scott being of particular note) while some adaptations have been, well, less than excellent. You see, I truly love the story of A Christmas Carol, not necessarily for it's theme of personal redemption (which is a quite nice thing I suppose), no I love it because at the core of the story there is a genuine substance of spectral horror. Yet, throughout the years a light-hearted and comforting tale of amusing and eccentric ghosts visiting a rather grumpy but still humorous old Ebenezer have replaced the original feeling of fear and horror that Dickens intended when he wrote the story........ and chief amongst those guilty of such a transformation from horror to cosy are those responsible for A Muppet Christmas Carol. I tell you now, 'Funny ghosts' and Michael Caine hamming it up are not anywhere on god's green Earth near to the original authentic subject matter of the source material. And don't get me started on the bloody songs.

Thankfully the more authentic adaptations are there to remind us how powerfully chilling this story can actually be when the will arises. Whilst the aforementioned TV version starring the excellent George. C Scott is a wonderful piece of work, for me nothing has yet has ever compared on a chill-factor level as a British made black and white version of the story - Scrooge (1951).
"You bloody well let me know when you hear the first sound 
of a song in this movie"


You've got to be kidding me?! - Its A freaking Christmas Carol!

Well OK - for those 23 people in the Amazonian tribe yet to be discovered by the rest of 'civilisation' and so haven't got around to seeing any of the veritable plethora of movie versions, here is the plot in a very quick but informative way.

"Old, bitter businessman Ebenezer Scrooge hates Christmas and everybody who celebrates it - he does have one favourite Christmas pastime, which is shouting "Humbug" at all Crimbo devotees.....He especially has no time for his ever-so-nice employee Bob Cratchett who has a big annoyingly happy Family, including a crippled son called Tiny but annoyingly happy Tim.......Ebenezer is soon visited by the ghost of his dead business partner - Ghost warns him of his impending doom. Scrooge laughs it all off as the result of bad cheese, ghost gets a bit annoyed........ soon he's visited by the ghosts of Crimbo past, Crimbo present and possible Crimbo future which looks decidedly pants - It's all very very frightening with thunderbolts and lightening.......Eventually he sees the error of his selfish ways.........suddenly becomes very happy when alive to see Crimbo morning......treats everybody to free lunches & presents......buys the Cratchetts a big bird to eat......Tiny Tim is more annoyingly happy than ever...."

Yes the story for me has its faults; Tiny Tim is always genuinely annoying and if I was his older brother I would be deeply pissed off the old golden buy Tim gets all the attention. His father Bob Cratchett has always in my book deserved a bit of a slap around the chin with a wet fish for being overly wet and subservient. However even the cynic in me never fails to get sucked into the joy that Scrooge feels when waking up as a reformed man on Christmas morning.

This film is true, not only to the main episodes in the original story, but just as importantly to this blogger, faithful to its fundamental horror content. 
"But I've never even met Jim Henson!!"
For while learning from the error of ones' ways and attaining personal redemption are all well and good, it's the chilling psychological journey that Scrooge is forced to endure that has always appealed to me - and boy does this version lay on atmosphere and chill-factor galore.

The film is perhaps in some ways the most faithful in some ways to the original text and yet succeeds in adding some fascinating layers of previously unexplored back story of the character at Scrooge, in essence building upon elements of plot that Dickens at best only hinted at. For in this version the usual pantomime version of Scrooge as a grumpy yet still likable is replaced by a back story rich in detail that gives meaning and understanding to some of his behaviour. For example, Scrooge's resentment of Fred isn't purely due to his hatred of Christmas, but also because his birth resulted in the death of the only woman he ever loved, his sister.

It is partly the marvellous screenplay by Noel Langley which provided richly textured back story to Dickens' source material and partly the darkly ominous musical score from Richard Addinsell that creates a wonderful atmosphere. However, more so it is the central performance of Alistair Sim that brings out a rounded completeness to Scrooge's character - this is no cardboard cut-out performance from a giant of British cinema, it is a thing of genius. It isn't only me that believes that Sim's performance is the benchmark portrayal of Scrooge that all others should be measured by - George C. Scott himself said the very same when he was preparing for the eponymous role. 
"Look, this is where I've buried that bloody Gonzo"...

Sim's portrayal is an honest to god tour-de-force, with the more detailed back-story of his life providing him the chance to give depth, understanding and even a degree of sympathy to his selfish and outwardly seemingly downright evil treatment of the people in his life. For example, the well known antipathy he seems to have towards his nephew Fred is explained by the fact that his cherished sister died shortly after giving birth to him - an occurrence that has caused intense resentment and in some ways no little hatred towards the unknowing young man. No-one before or since has ever matched Alistair Sims magical performance of a man tortured by his past - there are moments when just a flicker of his eyes says more than a dozens of hammed up performance of Ebenezer have ever managed to do combined together.

However, this is a horror blog, so I'm especially concerned with the scare factor of this version - and by Jove does it deliver.

I mentioned earlier that numerous adaptations of this story have resulted in what we now familiarly see as a series of vaguely unsettling but more so amusing spectres providing their various warnings of impending doom. This version thankfully remains true to the chills that it should actually provide - after all, the ghosts that appear are supposed to be intending to frighten the worst of moral offenders into changing his selfish ways.  For example, the slow atmospheric build-up leading to the appearance of Scrooges' long since dead partner is so expertly done that when the Ghost of Jacob Marley finally appears it produces perhaps one of the most unnerving spectres to haunt cinema - and I genuinely mean that. Not only is the deep despair about his own fate clearly apparent in the wonderful performance of Michael Horden, his rage and frustration at Scrooges initial scepticism is deeply convincing. The fact that a range of ground-breaking special effects were also employed in this production gives a true sense of chilling gravitas to the phantasmic scenes.

If that wasn't enough for the connoisseur of the frights,  the genuine chills of the ghost of Christmas future is the forbidding shadow of impending doom that Dickens originally intended him to be. 

The fact that the entire movie was filmed on a purpose built studio is a testament to the intense and foreboding atmosphere created for this Dickensian London. The bleakness of the black and white film gives an added gothic nuance that is reminiscent of the glory days of Universal monster movies. This is simply British film-making at it's glorious best. I would strongly advise that if you are going to view this version of the film for the first time that you watch the original b&w version and not the later colourised version which goes a fair way to robbing the film's ghost sequences of much of their power to scare - stay away i say....stay away from colour!!

Oh my good god - no word of a lie, but I've just seen a trailer on TV for The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol. Kill me now.