Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Cardboard Dog Halloween Movie List Part 7: Zombie Movies

It's time for our final 5 movies, our best recommendations to give your Halloween night some much needed terror. By now you have held on against bloodthirsty hillbillies, saw the sunrise on vampires, evaded werewolves in the forest but now you have your final test - to survive the attack of the undead!

Top 5 Zombie Movies

5. Dead Snow (2009)
Who doesn't love Nazis? OK, bad phrasing – who doesn't love Nazis as a movie villain? They're just the best – ask Harrison Ford. What's worse than a living Nazi? A zombie Nazi! This movie hits upon the genius idea of bringing the pesky tykes back as murderous undead. The focus of the rotting horde is as usual – hapless students who happen to be on a few days vacation. The cast are more than just body count though; Jeppe Beck Laursen is effective comedy foil and pulls off a decent Schwarzenegger impression. Director Tommy Wirkola has morbid imagination and knows his stuff, the movie has a few nice references and the final battle is a gore-charged delight.



4. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The one that kick-started it all and set director George A Romero on the road to becoming a legend. Night of the Living Dead is a film which is surprisingly creepy and graphic considering when it was made. The premise is familiar by now. The dead start to walk and before we know it, the action focuses in on a disparate group of people, barricaded in a farm-house in the hope they can survive. The piece works well as a drama as the misfit personalities fire off against each other, suggesting that the biggest enemy is within. The film shrugged off convention by casting black actor Duane Jones as the lead male, a move that felt innovative and fresh and gave the film a more unpredictable feel. The genesis for zombie movies as we know them, check it out as soon as you can.




3. 28 Weeks Later (2007)
Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later was a tough act to follow but Juan Carlos Fresnadillo managed to surpass it with this movie. More energy, more momentum and more scares, right from the start. London is now a military controlled zone as the US Army attempt to contain the disease and rebuild a society. As with all best laid plans, things turn from shit to fuck in rapid time, thanks largely to Robert Carlyle. With the Rage virus taking hold of him, Carlyle's character (Don) begins to rip the place up in a fashion that would give even Begbie brown trousers. Romero's zombies on Red Bull.



2. Day of the Dead (1985)
Follow up to Dawn of the Dead (which was a follow up to Night of the Living Dead), this entry is the best in the series. The dead have pretty much killed off civilisation and the “heroes” this time are soldiers and scientists, locked away in an underground facility. With hope for a cure to the zombie problem fading and relationships at breaking point, the undead draw ever closer to the bunker... The visual effects are just the best, the horrific imagination of the make-up department operating in overdrive – you can't help but love being grossed out by them. The whole thing descends into an aesthetically satisfying bloodbath in the last act. The standout characters are Rhodes (the megalomaniac military man) and Logan (the disturbed lead scientist). And of course, the zombies themselves. Bless.



1. Shaun of the Dead (2003)
The ultimate love letter to the zombie film becomes one of the best zombie films there is. The universe and everything in it aligned to allow this film to be so fantastic. Pegg, Frost and Wright are on the sharpest form; Pegg and Frost (as Shaun and Ed) could barely be more likeable as two regular guys, trying to figure out what the hell to do with their lives, their chemistry the kind of thing Gosling and Adams wish they could've mustered for The Notebook. Director Wright meanwhile, has so many chops and riffs on display that there's barely a moment without a neat reference, sight gag or moment of coolness. For a comedy, there's lots of gore – for a horror film, there's lots of comedy. I challenge you not to care about Shaun and Ed's relationship, Shaun and Liz's relationship or who will survive the zombie apocolypse. It's a winning film, currently celebrating it's 10th year since release. Go get a Cornetto and watch it again.



So we come to the end of our journey, weary traveller. You have listened closely to my tales of woe and terror and you have lived. Flowers never smelled so good nor wine taste so sweet! Go now on your way - and may God help you! Happy Halloween!



The Cardboard Dog Halloween Movie List Part 6: Werewolf Movies

The beast that walks among us. The Lycanthrope. The Wolfman. One of cinema's most famous and tragic monsters. To combat the current myth that werewolves like to spend their spare time in the club-house hanging out topless with other werewolves, this list has been complied. It has five of the very best werewolf films that cinema has yet to offer...

Top 5 Werewolf Movies

5. The Beast Must Die (1974)
The absolute coolest werewolf movie ever made. This is another Amicus production and has a great concept which actually deserves and requires to be updated. Basically, we have an extremely wealthy businessman turned hunter, Tom Newcliffe (an ace performance by Calvin Lockhart) who gathers a group of individuals to his country pile – as he believes one of them is a werewolf and he's in the mood for a hunt! The score is straight out of a Blaxploitation movie and the action has more than a few fine set pieces to be proud of. The most unique part of this entry? The Werewolf Break. Thirty seconds to collect your thoughts and deliver your guess as to who the hairy murderer has been all along. The film has character and is criminally underrated, however some lovely people have decided that the movie deserves a moment of glory and as such, is being shown at the Ulster Hall on Sunday 3rd November – do try to check it out. Yo, Hollywood, this one needs remade.



4. Silver Bullet (1985)
Or Gary Busey meets the Werewolf. Two awesome things about this movie. Gary Busey is crazy Uncle Red and Corey Haim is in it as cute-as-a-button Marty Coslaw. The story is once more set in Small Town America, this time in a town at the mercy of a werewolf with locals getting offed every full moon. In time, the beast is injured by young Marty as he sets off fireworks while completely alone in the woods. At night. During a spate of werewolf attacks. FFS. Anyway, like Steven Seagal, the beast is now out for justice and makes Marty his number one priority. Marty then tries to convince Uncle Red that he's being stalked by a werewolf – then the real fun begins.



3. Dog Soldiers (2008)
A complete surprise in that it came from nowhere AND was a predominantly British production. A film that benefited from a strong cast of likeable characters, gloomy setting and great premise, Dog Soldiers is a mix of Assault on Precinct 13, Aliens and Zulu – all flavoured superbly by director Neil Marshall. The movie follows a group of British squaddies as they find themselves under siege by a pack of werewolves in a remote farmhouse in the Scottish Highlands. The film majors on tension and humour, and you'll be on the edge of your seat as the makeshift barriers crumble and the beasts claw their way in.



2. The Howling (1982)
As luck would have it, this movie was released in the same year as our top movie, An American Werewolf in London AND also happens to be one of the best werewolf movies made (also reviewed in an earlier post here). The action is set in America and centres around a young couple who seek quiet reflection in the Californian woods. Bad luck for them, there's demonic howling at night that can only be coming from evil lycanthropes. As the nightmare unfolds around the couple, it really is a battle between man and beast – a creature at the top of the food chain. The visual effects aren't as good as An American Werewolf in London but what effects are? The horror is there and some really creepy set pieces too. All from the director of Gremlins.



1. An American Werewolf in London (1982)
Regarded as a classic amongst fanboys and general horror fans, An American Werewolf in London is still one of the very best in horror films. Horror and humour are an effective combination and director John Landis combines the two very well. Opening with two American students travelling through rural England, the film gathers pace as soon as they arrive in East Proctor – a small village terrorised by a werewolf every full moon. Upon being told to leave the local pub, the students are both attacked; one dies and one is bitten, cursed to become a werewolf. The story expands as the cursed student recovers in a London hospital, time getting closer to his monstrous transformation (which BTW is still the best transformation scene to date). Great scares and visual effects that are a real spectacle – enjoy!



Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Cardboard Dog Halloween Movie List Part 5: Vampire Movies

Mwa-ha-ha-ha! I vant to suck your blud! Thankfully (or not depending on how nostalgic you are), all things vampire have evolved since some European sex pest lurked in the corners with his cape flowing. We have regretful vampires hooked on existentialism, bat-shit crazy murdering vampires, mexican vampires, rock and roll vampires and sophisticated vampires. They're all here - five of the best blood-sucker movies you can see this season.

Top 5 Vampire movies

5. Nosferatu (1922)
One of the earliest vampire films made (so in no way influenced by Twilight) a vampire film so bad-ass that not even the Stoker estate could kill it after they discovered it was basically ripping off Dracula (they demanded all copies be destroyed but, like any good vampire, it rose from the grave). The movie is fascinating even from a historical point of view – it's SO old! But it's age only adds to the atmosphere. The actors all emote a naivety and enthusiasm typical of many silent movies, but this doesn't detract from the ride; Count Orlok is one of the most iconic and creepy screen vampires - so effective that rumour had it that Max Schrek, who played Orlok, was actually a genuine vampire...



4. Fright Night (1985)
As much as we like Colin Farrell, the recent remake of Fright Night cannot be recommended. When it's held up against the original – there's no comparison. Full of typical 80's spirit, Tom Holland's original follows high school student Charlie Brewster as he discovers that his new neighbour is indeed a vampire. The effects are great old-school fun (not going to call them fang-tastic) while the peripheral characters of Peter Vincent and Evil (as the reluctant TV host and best friend Brewster enlists to help him) are spot on as the comic relief. There's an obligatory chase-through-a-disco scene midway through but hey, it was the 80's. Too much fun to miss.



3. Near Dark (1987)
Kathryn Bigelow's very modern take on the vampire movie is sexy and dangerous. Full of dark synth courtesy of Tangerine Dream, Near dark follows Bigelow's ragtag band of vampires, led by Lance Henriksen as they take in new blood Caleb. We see farm-boy Caleb's struggle to adapt to his new nocturnal life and his shock as the reality of needing blood to live slams home – best illustrated in the notorious bar scene about half-way in. If you're expecting the pop-gore of Fright Night, forget it – when the blood is extracted it's ugly.



2. The Lost Boys (1987)
So, the chances are that this is most people's favourite vampire film (unless you have Robert Pattinson as your wallpaper). It's just the tonic for the October blues; set in Sunny California, it's got a pumping rock n roll soundtrack, a cranky grandpa, a video store, an atmospheric water-pistol showdown, two Coreys and a muscular saxophone player. And the coolest vampires known to pop culture. You know the score, go watch it.



1. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Whenever you see something like “Special Effects by: Howard Berger And Gregory Nicotero” you know you're about to see something awesome (check them out on Google or Youtube to get an idea). From Dusk till Dawn is crammed full of eye-popping, repulsive, amazing gore sequences but this is only a small part of why it's so epic. Ready? Let's go; screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, directed by Robert Rodriquez, George Clooney has rarely been cooler, we get introduced to Sex-Machine, Danny Trejo is in it, Salma Hayek parades around in lingerie, our curiousity about what it'd look like if one used another man's midriff to pump a shotgun is satisfied, Danny Trejo is in it, the soundtrack rocks, if you have to battle a horde of vampires - the Titty Twister is one of the finest places to do it, Danny Trejo is in it.



Friday, 25 October 2013

The Cardboard Dog Halloween Movie List Part 4: Supernatural Movies

Ghouls and ghosts - they can't be beat when it comes to a good scare. The terror that lurks in the dark - maybe even up in your attic... This list runs down the best supernatural films you can get your mitts on this Halloween. We have haunted homes, haunted people and haunted woods - what more do you want?!

Top 5 Supernatural Movies

5. The Amityville Horror (1979)
There's been a lot written and said about whether or not this film was based on fact; the arguments and “evidence” swung back and forth – but even that there is a debate about the origins of this movie is enough to give it currency. It all might well have happened, you can believe that for 90 minutes or so, right? Amityville is the template for all other “family stalked by demons in their own house” movies – even the recent The Conjuring feels very much like this. Here we have The Lutz family, and as we've come to expect, the malevolent forces in the house manifest themselves slowly upon the family until all that's left to do its to scarper in the middle of the night. You might argue that this isn't anything new – but at the time it was, it made the wave the others rode.



4. Poltergeist (1982)
Tobe Hooper's (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) version of The Amytiville Horror is a warmer and fuzzier take on the haunted family story. Set in sunny California and evoking feelings that it could have been only a few doors down from Elliot's house in ET, Poltergeist benefits from a great cast, great score and (for the time) great effects. When their daughter Carol-Anne is taken into the supernatural realm, the Freelings are left with no option but to get “professional” help. It could easily have been the Ghostbusters but in this case ends up being the amazing Zelda Rubinstein. Although there is a nasty force at work the movie still has that Spielberg vigour (he produced it) and characters you give a damn about. A feelgood Halloween movie.



3. Insidious (2010)
As Poltergeist was a lighter version of Amityville, Insidious is a darker version of Poltergeist. As with Poltergeist, it revolves around the disappearance of a young child into the spirit realm, the subsequent spookiness and the recruitment of a charismatic parapsychologist to solve the drama. Insidious differs as we actually get a good look at the child-snatching demon, and the menace that the spirits bring as they haunt the family. Director James Wan (The Conjuring) has a nice flair for horror, both in visual terms and for setting up a good jump-scare.



2. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
One of a raft of epic films of that year (The Matrix, Fight Club, Star Wars: Episode One...ummm), Blair Witch set the internet alight, rooting itself in people's consciousness as an urban legend – the piece was so convincing that at first, many folks believed it to be found-footage. Of course this made the film all the more effective. It's got the Halloween factor – three students set off into rural America to investigate the stories about a witch, who reportedly haunts the forest of Burkittsville. As the students get their dumb asses lost, they are increasingly tormented by...something in the woods. As the torment happens at night, you begin to feel genuine relief when daylight comes around, and as the cycle plays out you know it's going to come to a head but you're never sure how.



1. Paranormal Activity (2007)
One of the most unsettling and genuinely creepy horror movies theres been in a long time. Just when you thought “found footage” films were done for, along comes Micah and Katie and their bothersome demon and we have ourselves a new standard in terror. It's the usual tale, boy meets girl. Boy moves into house with girl. Demon terrorises the pair of them. But Paranormal Activity works on a few levels; the cast – unknowns with real chemistry and appeal, the director – shot the entire movie for about £9000, the set pieces – the tension builds and builds and there's often little in the way of visual effects. You'll sleep with the lights on for a few nights afterwards...


Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Cardboard Dog Halloween Movie List Part 3: Monster Movies

Monsters! Whether its the creepy-crawly variety or the mutated mess or the evil from beyond, monster movies can be awesome. They remind us of how good we have it in our own non-terrifying realities of phone bills and social media and, that in all likelihood, we won't have to come home to fend off our mutated pets or have to endure the horror of banishing a pin-headed demon back to hell. From corporate aliens to unimaginable inter-dimensional monsters, here's a top 5. 

Top 5 Monster Movies

They Live (1988)
Let's kick off this countdown with a movie from one of the legends of horror, John Carpenter. And now let's undermine it by saying that it stars Randy Roddy Piper. The concept of the movie is familiar, that there's an untouchable malevolent power that keeps us subordinate, that makes the poor, poorer and the rich, richer. In this case it's aliens – hidden among us and likely driving a Mercedes. The aliens are the affluent and elite; they're investment bankers, they're in positions of power and influence and they're bleeding the planet dry. Their true form can be only be seen by wearing a special pair of shades (which means Roddy can look cool as he kicks their asses). It's a story that's become even more relevant these days as the bankers have made things harder for all of us and we're practically drowning in marketing and consumerism every day. Because of this, the movie is popular with those who subscribe to the Illuminati conspiracy theory. But don't let that put you off...



Cabin in the Woods (2012)
If you haven't seen this film – beware, there are spoilers ahead, so you must make this the next horror movie you see! The buzz around this movie as it was released was that it was much more than the usual horror film. The choice of film title, demonstrates that the “cabin in the woods” is almost a sub-genre itself, and an acknowledgement from the film-makers that the audience will have many pre-conceptions of what they think they're going to see. From the opening sequence, you know its going to be different and as you watch it, you realise that there's a lot going on which will keep you guessing (a rare element these days). Why am I recommending it as a monster movie? The last quarter of the film just explodes with monsters. Any kind you can think of. A Halloween treat, see it again or see it for the first time.



The Fly (1987)
If you need a goofy but sexy leading man to play a brilliant genius in your next Sci-Fi film, there's only one guy to call – Jeff Goldblum. Independence Day, Jurassic Park and The Fly are his most successful films and in each one, he plays a charismatic brainiac. It's The Fly that's the darkest and most horrific. It's an update of the 1958 monster movie and tells the same story; scientist accidentally mixes his genes with that of a housefly and starts to merge with the insect. No better director for the update, David Cronenberg's fascination with body horror makes this film an exercise in the grotesque. When it first came out, there were reports of grown men throwing up while watching The Fly in cinemas. Maybe this was just some nifty marketing but if you have to vomit over one film, make it this one...



The Thing (1982)
Another remake of a 50's monster picture, and another from John Carpetner. Like Cronenberg's The Fly, The Thing deals with an alien which assimilates any living form by replicating it at a genetic level, destroying the host as it does so (Cronenberg would no doubt have found The Thing an interesting project). This is a licence for the film-makers to let their imaginations run wild with some insane effects and gore and with Rob Bottin and Stan Winston on board, rest assured you see some crazy shit. The action is set at a remote Antarctic outpost and amongst the gore there's a decent “whodunnit” at play as the alien conceals itself within one (or more) of the crew and the paranoia builds.



The Mist (2007)
Not The Asylum's long awaited version of The Fog, this is in fact a severely under-rated horror film, based on a Stephen King story and directed by one Frank Darabont. The Mist is the story of an apparent inter-dimensional rip which allows Lovecraftian type monsters to spew through into our world. The unfolding nightmare is told from the perspective of a handful of shoppers holed up in a convenience store in Small Town America (once again). Thomas Jane is just awesome as the man doing all he can to protect his son and decide whether to stay in the crumbling safety of store or to try to find somewhere beyond the mist itself. For gore fans, there's not loads to tweet home about but the monster design is excellent and the ending is one of the most powerful there's been.







Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Cardboard Dog Halloween Movie List Part 2: Us v Them Movies

Stranger danger. We can't help but make snap judgements of people; it's how we stereotype and compartmentalise and ultimately, how we decide what kind of person is "safe" for us to approach. If a person is too different from us, should we be wary of them? In this section, the movies listed all play on that; those unknown or rarely visited corners of society and the dangers we think might wait there for us. If we believed these movies, we might never leave our houses again...

Top 5 Us v Them

5. Straw Dogs (1971)
Straw Dogs is up there along with A Clockwork Orange and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in that it has the dubious honour of having been banned on video in the UK from its original cinematic release. Many argue that the ban was appropriate as the level of violence (and in particular sexual violence) at the time was plain shocking. The ban surely couldn't have been a huge surprise as the movie was directed by Sam Peckinpah, who had a flair for the brutal and the bloody. All that to one side, simply put, the story is about an academic (dweeby) David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) who moves to rural England with his new wife to renovate their new cottage. It's genuinely unnerving as the local bumpkins bully Hoffman's character and the menace starts to build – inevitably pushing Hoffman's placid character to defend himself in the violent finale.



4. Deliverance (1972)
Another early 70's piece here. A film which will no doubt be getting remade at some point, this tells the story of four city boys (like City Slickers except there's no Billy Crystal) who aim to travel down a section of Cahulawassee River, in the good ol' southern states of USA before developers obliterate the land entirely. From the start, when the boys stop by a decrepit gas station, the director, John Boorman, sets the scene for what our heroes are up against. It's banjo playing, bad-teeth having, cross-eyed inbreds. It's ugly and hostile but the tone has now been set. This is the movie with the banjo duel, the one where Ned Beatty squeals like a pig and the one where even macho Burt Reynolds turns into a whimpering mess.



3. The Hills Have Eyes
Instead of teens or a group of friends setting themselves up to be slaughtered one-by-one, this time we have the family unit, travelling through the desert to get to California. As you can probably assume, this turns out to be a horrible idea. The family end up getting stranded and of course, picked off by a group of savage cannibals. The mayhem is orchestrated by Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream) who demonstrates a talent for creating truly creepy villains; even the way the savages speak is enough to send chills down the spine; while pillaging through the family's trailer, one of the creeps growls, “Baby's fat. You fat. Fat an' juicy!”. Some scenes are quite dark and shocking for the time (how Big Bob Carter goes, for example), and even though there's not a ton of gore, its still an uncompromising horror flick. It's allure was enough to grant it a remake back in 2007 but the update just didn't have the same menace that a 70's horror film seems to have.



2. The Wicker Man (1973)
Lets be clear, this is NOT the Nicolas Cage version. Wow. Anyway, this is the original with Edward Woodward as the clean living Sergeant Howie, tasked with travelling to the remote Scottish island of Summerisle to find missing girl Rowan Morrison. Slowly, Howie finds that there must be a conspiracy at work – worse still the girl is likely being prepared for a pagan sacrifice. Trying to uncover the truth before it's too late, Howie butts heads with Lord Summerisle himself (Christopher Lee). There is much symbolism and macabre activity on the island and the locals are detached enough to generate a creepy what-the-hell-is-going-on vibe. It could also be considered a musical as theres plenty of folk tunes played throughout which will only serve to imprint Summerisle on you. The finale isn't as shocking as it once was but it's still got plenty of pathos as the fate of the unfortunate Howie is revealed. And no bees involved.



1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
As with Straw Dogs, this was banned from a video release in the UK. Upon watching it though, you'll realise that there's not a lot of gore in it. The horror comes from the insane, cannibalistic family the unlucky teens cross paths with. The family's first introduction is when the teenage fools stop to pick up a hitch-hiker (Edwin Neal). Neal plays the part so superbly that a bit of you believes he is a genuine psycho who happened to turn up during filming. From there it gets better, Jim Siedow as the father figure is disgusting - especially when he tries to comfort one of his victims as they're tied in a sack, there's Grandpa- whose skills with a mallet aren't what they used to be, and finally there's Leatherface – the brute with the eponymous chainsaw.






Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Cardboard Dog Halloween Movie List

Good tidings traveller, I greet you warmly and invite you to spend a while from the bitter midnight chill at this ramshackle and vaguely threatening tavern as I recount tales of the best movies that you could be watching this All Hallows Eve. In other words, there's a countdown list on the way.

At this time of year, you won't be able to burn a witch without coming across a top ten horror movies list; some of them are well worth considering, especially this one over at The Guardian. The problem with these? Ten movies just aren't enough! There are just too many great horror films out there to fit onto a list of ten, and why should you miss out?! So that's why I've singled out the five best movies from the most popular horror sub-genres in order to give your options more....bite? Sorry.

These lists will be posted on the blog over the next week in anticipation of the big night itself, and hopefully they'll give you a few ideas of what to watch to get in the mood.

To kick off, I've started with a sub-genre that's all about telling a good, creepy tale – the anthology...

Top 5 Horror Anthologies

5. The House That Dripped Blood (1971)
Although Hammer may have owned the 60's and 70's horror movie scene, Amicus gave them a decent run for their money and this Amicus produced film is not the only one on these lists. The cast sheet of The House That Dripped Blood is like The Expendables of horror and sci-fi; you've not just got Cushing and Lee but Jon Pertwee, Ingrid Pitt and Geoffrey Bayldon. As well as the cast, the movie has a great kitsch vibe (as you'll discover as soon as the movie starts) and stories macabre enough to get the Halloween juices flowing. The best one? Vampire tale, The Cloak, about pompous actor Paul Henderson (Pertwee) who, in order to look convincing in his latest role as a vampire, makes a purchase of a mysterious cloak that literally transforms his performance...



4. V/H/S (2012)
V/H/S has got a great retro feel to it. Not only does it tell its stories through old VHS tapes (which means it has that shaky, how-the-hell-am-I-supposed-to-autotrack-this-on-my-bluray-player) look, but the fact that the stories are told in the anthology style is in itself a throwback. There are no “stars” in this one but this only serves the film as you have no pre-conceptions about who the villains are and who will possibly meet their grisly demise. The film also works as a “found footage” piece as the movies are, as you'd expect, filmed by the characters themselves as the events happen. The best story for me is Amateur Night, where the first person POV works well to craft a moral tale of how you should be careful who you decide to pick up in a bar.



3. Asylum (1972)
Another entry from the Amicus canon, featuring Jesus of Nazereth and The Crowman (or Robert Powell and Geoffrey Bayldon). Again, suitably macabre from the start the plot here is about young Dr. Martin (Powell) who is tasked with interviewing four patients from a mental asylum as part of a job interview. If, after hearing their stories, he correctly uncovers which of the patients is the recently-gone-insane Dr. Starr – he gets the job. The stories from the unfortunate individuals are even crazier than The House That Dripped Blood, from bloodthirsty bio-mechanical robot toys to severed body parts teaming up to take revenge on the hallion responsible for separating them.



2. Creepshow (1982)
A popular title that had the strength to bear two sequels, this is more fun that fearful. Leslie Nielsen is in it for a start... Guided by an on-form Romero (who would eventually peak a few years later with Day of the Dead) and with a screenplay by Stephen King, how could this NOT hit the mark. The best story is Something to Tide You Over which features the aforementioned Nielsen and Ted Danson. Danson's character (Harry Wentworth) has been poking away at Nielsen's (Richard Vickers) wife. With the mantra “Danson Must Die” ringing over and over in his head, Leslie decides to kill the pair of them in an elaborate buried-up-to-the-neck, TV watching fashion. It plays out like an episode of Columbo until the newlydeads resurface to wreak their vengeance Romero style.



1. Trick 'r Treat (2007)
A great movie for getting into Halloween. Set on the ghoulish night itself, Trick 'r Treat revolves around the fate of several residents of “small town America”, the sort of place you'd reckon Michael Myers calls home. There's plenty of familiar faces in it, including True Blood's Anna Paquin and the awesome Brain Cox (not the TV brainiac). The film is lush with Halloween atmosphere and colourful characters ranging from werewolves to crazy psycho-killers. All the good stuff, y'know. What sets this apart from the others is the structure of the storytelling. Some tales are set up gradually, while others are going on, and the timeline isn't linear – think Pulp Fiction and you'll be closer. Best story is that of Laurie (Pacquin) as she settles on finding the right guy for her first time...






Thursday, 10 October 2013

Watched: Pacific Rim (spoilers)

Pacific Rim (2013)
Dir: Guillermo Del Toro
Cert PG-13 / Running time 131 mins

So I finally got around to watching pacific Rim. A few friends whose radar is excellent for good sci-fi films recommended that I see this movie. The fact that its premise can be boiled down into the simple terms of "Giant Robots vs Giant Monsters" didn't put me off. There's nothing like leaving your brain at the door and sitting down to a magnificently produced piece of nonsense. After having seen the movie? Its magnificently produced alright and its is definitely nonsense but there wasn't too much that was engaging about it (sorry aforementioned pals).

OK, heres my case; the acting. In a movie like this, nobody expects the performances to take an audience on the emotional journey of a Warrior or an In Bruges but we do expect something more than Suburban Commando. There's more passion in the showers in Maghaberry jail than there was from guys who are without a doubt, great actors. The exception lay with Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as brainiacs Geiszler and Gottlieb, who played it right on the nose. If there was any more ham flying around it would've been mistaken for one of Brick Top's pig-farms.

Then there were other things that I tried to dismiss but still bugged me; like whose idea was it to connect the pilot's pain receptors to align with the damage taken by the Jaegers?! When major damage was taken by Becket's Jaeger in the first battle - wouldn't he have been less compromised if he didn't replicate the robot's damage? Then, skipping along to the finale, we learn that the only way to deploy the bomb successfully is to pass through the breach - the only way to do that is to have Kaiju DNA (or bring it along with you). Fine for the first trip through but then how do you explain both Mako's and Becket's life rafts passing back through to safety?

Also, the plagiarism was somewhat distracting, for example; the human / alien mind-meld where Geiszler discovers in a Bill Pullman type way that the aliens completely consume the resources of one planet before moving on to the next... Becket and Hansen's "Maverick and Iceman" complex... even Battlefield Earth doesn't get away with it as that's what I was reminded of when Becket popped into the alien world just long enough to deposit a bomb before rejoining the regular Earthly dimension.

"Dude, if you tell me I look like Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters one more time..."
And of course, there's the complete and utter destruction of any major city once a Jaeger engages with a Kaiju. When one of these immense machines "defends" a population centre you can only imagine the complete devastation; city blocks flattened, livelihoods eradicated, total infrastructure failure. Yeah, thanks for the "help" there. Still, got to remember that even that wasn't as much damage as Superman and Zod caused in Man of Steel...

That said - I loved the spectacle of it, that can't be denied. The VFX and style was all there and those guys should be commended. For the times when the dialogue or action lulled, there was plenty to appreciate in the pure design of the movie. Gold-tipped winkle-pickers.

Is this a franchise? For me, I think I've seen enough and wouldn't feel compelled to sit through another 2 hours of the same thing - unless Del Toro takes the fight to the Kaiju's backyard. And lets David Mamet have a stab at the screenplay.







Monday, 17 June 2013

Escape From Lough Erne - teaser poster exclusive


Everyone knows by now that Barack Obama is here to begin filming on John Carpenter's big budget comeback "Escape From Lough Erne". Funded through Invest NI, NI Screen and Kickstarter the project's location was heavily lobbied by the team at NI Screen and confirmation of filming was given just days ago. Hot off the press, we have an exclusive preview of the first teaser poster (seen above).

Speaking earlier today, President Obama said "I cannot wait to begin this movie. Hopefully, all this G8 bullshit won't take up too much of my time and I can get my teeth into the role and put boots to ass ASAP!"

The movie is due for release in summer 2014.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The coolest alt movie posters we know right now...

They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But everybody knows that's bullshit. We do judge based on appearance - it helps us decide whether something is worth investing time in or not, we can't help doing it. So you can imagine how important the one-sheet is for a movie. The poster, the single image that sells the movie. I'm sure you have some favourites - or even remember a poster that was better than the movie itself...

The impression a great movie poster leaves on you is no small thing. What we've herded together right here are 10 of the coolest alternative movie posters created by artists who don't just have and obvious skill and talent but a real affection for the movies themselves. We like that.

Some of the pieces create a new vibe, some enhance the feeling you had when you remember the film, but all  of them are quite fetching really.

10. The Fly - by Strong Stuff
Considering the messy chaos of David Cronenberg's movie - the poster for this movie is remarkably clean and ordered. The macabre motif of the human / fly mash up is a nice reference to the horror within...



9. Scream - by Alex Pardee
The idea for this poster is so simple it kicks ass. Its genius! The iconic Scream mask is created by referencing Drew Barrymore's demise in the first installment; the intestines of the unfortunate girl are recreated here in a bloody heap rather splendily!



8. Reservoir Dogs - by Edgar Ascensao
Like the poster above, this one references scenes and props from the movie to really cool effect. The mixture of nik-naks and items all come together nicely to form a visceral image that sets the tone for the movie.



7. Face/Off - by Sam Gilbey
This one is like a diagram for the few people struggling with the concept of Face/Off. It also has doves. John Woo likes doves.



6. Tootsie - by Wieslaw Walkuski
Tootsie is a great movie. It works as a comedy of the sexes, as slapstick, as an essay on how women fought their way through sleazy sexist male environments in day-to-day work and it also shows how much of a truly gruesome woman Dustin Hoffman is. This piece is quite grungy compared to the original which featured a beaming Dustin Hoffman as the eponymous "lady". We prefer this one. *shudder



5. Batman Begins - by Nicolas Alejandro Barbera
Of course there's gonna be bats on this poster BUT its all in the delivery. The theme and iconography of bats ran strong in Batman Begins and that energy is transferred into this piece. The colours are a little untraditional for a Batman movie, but then again, Batman Begins was a little untraditional for a Batman movie.


4. The Mist - by Daniel Danger
The Mist is one of the best horror movies in years and its the powerful ending of that movie that this poster references here with Lovecraftian monsters on the loose. Its simple, un-gimmicky and just damn creepy.




3. Iron Man 3 - by Paul Shipper
This is one of those pieces that has so much craft and detail, it keeps you looking and looking. Its a marvel (geddit?) Apart from the technical quality, it really captures the tone of the movie: a beleagured Tony Stark inside a vulnerable Iron Man, saying a lot while remaining understated.



2. First Blood - by Ken Taylor
This is a throwback to the classic poster style of the much loved and revered Drew Struzan. You have the main character and framing him are memorable elements of the film itself. Like Paul Shipper's poster above, theres so much to look at and admire.



1. The Thing - by Randy Ortiz
OK, so this poster is somewhat fantastic. Its a piece that begins to describe how horrific the actual film is, and the artist uses a pivotal scene in the movie (the makeshift bloodtest) as a platform. The grotesque creature fits well with the vibe of the film and the artist deserves lots of credit for making the brave choice of recreating his version of the "thing" in high detail.



Friday, 24 May 2013

Are Metallica the Kings of the Rockumentary?

With Metallica Through The Never being unleashed in cinemas from October this year, this becomes the band's third cinematic outing (in some form). It started with Metallica: Some Kind of Monster in 2004 then Mission To Lars in 2012, both of which were well received amongst both critics and audiences. It didn't matter if you liked your metal heavy of if you preferred your R with some B, the stories presented in both movies captivated all types of people - they enabled the band to transcend the perceptions so many people have of what a "rock and roll" band are.



Instead of drugs, fast cars and excess we saw...drugs, fast cars and excess BUT it came with many surprises including personal journies for the band who discovered genuine humility and enlightenment. Some Kind of Monster was intended to be yet another "making of" documentary but instead, it captured the band just as it fractured and imploded, then pulling themselves back from the abyss to become stonger and better. It was the rockumentary equivalent of a Rocky movie.

Mission to Lars is a fantastic, almost unbelieveable story of Tom Spicer, who suffers from Fragile X Syndrome - a form of autism - and who finds fascination in the drumming of Lars Ulrich. The fascination fuels a dream to one day meet Ulrich himself, a dream that Tom's brother and sister set about making come true through the movie. Like Some Kind of Monster before it, Mission To Lars' biggest surprise was it's ability to be dramatic and human; The Guardian's Kate Kellaway describes it as "a film that will make everyone who sees it want to champion it. It is original, funny and overwhelming".

Will Through The Never be as well received? There's little doubt that it'll make tons of money at the box office but will the critics use words like "moving" and "emotional" again? Unless theyre talking about the quality of the 3D and VFX, chances are slim because this is a departure from the band's previous appearances. Through The Never is a 3D movie with a fictional narrative mixed with actual concert footage and promises to be more of a "popcorn" event movie than anything. But hey, after delivering two critically acclaimed human dramas, theyve earned it! After all Nic Cage did the same thing with Con Air after Leaving Las Vegas...

So, are Metallica the Kings of the Rockumentary? Heres a rundown of the next best 5 out there...

5. Pearl Jam Twenty (2011) - directed by a certain Cameron Crowe this is everything a Pearl Jam fan could wish for, reliving their beginnings up to their present day triumphs


4. Foo Fighters: Back and Forth (2011) - a great piece on the rise, stumble, rise of one of the world's biggest bands. The lasting impression of this movie is how shrewd and driven Dave Grohl is (ask William Goldsmith).


3. Anvil: The Story Of Anvil (2008) - bittersweet tale about what it means to carry the passion for music, to forge ahead with a dream even though time to "make it happen" is running out.


2. The Filth and the Fury (2000) - this movie, like many other rockumentaries, shows the rise and subsequent disintegration of the band. Funny to see how prim the media was about a few swearwords back then too.


1. Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet (2012) - consider having a genuine skill. A skill that allows you to live doing what you love to do. Think about having the world at your feet - then for it to crumble away - irreversably. This is Jason Becker's story.


Monday, 6 May 2013

Review: The Howling (1981) Spoilers...

The Howling (1981)
Dir: Joe Dante
Cert 18 / Running time 91 mins

1981 was a good year for some folks. Ronald Reagan became POTUS and Prince Charles married young Diana Spencer. OK, not so good for her I guess... That aside, it was also a good year for werewolf movies, the best in fact. Honestly, you wait for an iconic werewolf movie to come along and you get two at the same time!

The movies I'm referring to are of course John Landis' American Werewolf in London and Joe Dante's The Howling. The focus of this particular post is to honour the release of The Howling on Blu-Ray (albeit in USA and Canada) on June 18th.

The film is based on the book of the same name by Gary Bradner (which I finally read last year) and tells the story of a young couple who suffer a traumatic attack and are advised to duck out of the rat race for a while to enable them to get back on track. Unfortunately the location they hope will solve their problems ends up being somewhere that would test even Bear Grylls to his limit (I'd like to see his quick fix for fending off a pack of werewolves using only the blubber of a seal and some camel urine). As with many film adaptations, there are loads of differences between the book and the movie; in this instance Karen is a journalist instead of working in the hotel industry - if you want a truer reflection of the book, try the overlooked Howling IV

The movie wasn't that well received upon it's theatrical release. Much like John Carpenter's The Thing which was released shortly afterwards, The Howling was to simmer away for a few years before gaining a strong cult fanbase.

The two leads Christopher Stone and Dee Wallace, playing the aforementioned young couple, Karen and Bill were actually a real life couple; which may explain how they work so well in the movie. Wallace brings a vulnerability and sweetness to her performance which serves to enhance the tension as she tries to cope at her wits end and ultimately finds it in herself to deal with the unfolding horror. Stone is equally effective as the husband who gets led astray by Elisabeth Brooks, the local Jolie-esuqe nympho-lady-werewolf. The rest of the cast are well assembled and there's plenty of eye candy for geeks (Patrick Macnee of The Avengers, John Carridine of House of Dracula and much more similar fare, Kevin McCarthy of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers... it goes on). Macnee is spot on as the affable, paternal Dr. Waggner (another reference) the psychiatrist who is in charge of The Colony; the secluded retreat where he suggested Karen and Roy take their vacation. Waggner attempts to instill a new age philosophy amongst his "gifted" patients by bringing them to the Californian coast and subjecting them to group therapy sessions.

"Ah, theres the file I was looking for, couldn't lay my hands on it anywhere - cheers!"
Part of Karen's therapy involves regressing into the traumatic event she has tried to forget, while Bill hangs out with the menfolk, doing manly things. On the surface it all appears to be just what the couple needed but it's all underscored by the eponymous howling every night, which has the effect of freaking Karen out to the point where she suspects something's wrong. The howling itself is quite creepy and does a lot for the atmosphere of the film. Soon, Bill is bitten by a wolf (oh dear) prompting Karen's best pal Terry (Belinda Balaski) to rush to The Colony for moral support. Its a move Terry soon comes to regret as her investigative journalist instincts kick in; she discovers that Karen's original attacker lurks within the woods of the forest retreat. Her nosiness leads to one of the film's best / scariest scenes. The monster Terry is confronted with is formidable and would probably kick the ass of Naughton's American Werewolf. After that scene its strange to think that this is the same director who gave us kids movies like Gremlins, Explorers and Small Soldiers.

As with any werewolf movie the money shot is the transformation scene. The timing of the release of American Werewolf in London meant that everyone remembered Rick Baker's (still) stunning transformation scene - and rightly so. But a young Rob Bottin gave us a great scene, original, gross and still startling; the camera soaking up Eddie Quist's tortuous change.


The film's only real letdown is it's finale. After having escaped from The Colony (but not without being bitten by her newly lycanthropic husband), Karen decides to expose the hidden community of werewolves living among us by turning into one during a live news bulletin. Its a great idea and would've been fantastic - had she not actually turned into a care bear. She looks like one of Bungle's cousins. The whole house of cards would've fallen down right here had the rest of the film not been so good. Anyway...

Unlike it's counterpart, The Howling spawned many sequels, all steadily declining into obscurity - but its a testament to the idea which The Howling conceived; what if the werewolf isn't just one poor cursed soul looking for reprieve, but instead there was a pack out there, made up of those who looked at it not as a curse but a gift? That they imagined themselves the very top of the food chain and enjoyed the slaughter?

For better or worse, werewolves are enjoying a bit of a renaissance but it comes at a cost. In recent years, the image of the werewolf has been recast into a buff young teenager, while the monster itself is more akin to a force of nature to behold in awe instead of terror. Where's the horror? The wolfman needs rehab. Hooray for The Howling being released on Blu-Ray, as old as it is it feels refreshing these days.

Awesome new artwork - always helps

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Belfast's Got Evil (Dead II in Ormeau Park)

Ormeau Park, Belfast. Saturday 20th April 2013. The forest was full of screaming, demonic chanting and foul looking ghouls. Also, Evil Dead II was being screened...

The screening happened as part of the Belfast Film Festival and proved to be an inspired choice of location as many of the faithful and curious arrived and got into the spirit of things. The park became part of the film, which became part of the park... The weather could have been a lot worse, the light drizzling couldn't spoil the fun or take away the pure goodwill there is for this film. The best evidence of this was the joyous cheer that erupted when a certain Mr. Campbell uttered the word, "Groovy".

Well done to Belfast Film Festival and the local authourities for making this happen and for the hardy souls that dared venture into the woods...