Archive for film

THE SCARLET GOSPELS By Clive Barker – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2017 by stanleyriiks

It’s rare that I buy hardbacks, but I have quite a few of Barker’s. When I heard that the infamous Pinhead would be returning there was no way I was missing out.

Pinhead is one of the quintessential horror anti-heroes, like Jason, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Freddy Kruger, he appeared in the eighties (ok, so Michael and Leatherface led the way in the seventies) when I was approaching my teens and basically robbed me of my childhood sleep and left indelible memories of terror that I still have today. Exciting recollections of terror that instilled my on-going love of all things horror.

Pinhead was the only character to actually originate in a book, one of Barker’s Books of Blood, which was a series of collected stories that really didn’t impress me at the time, but introduced the world to splatterpunk. The books were a gore-fest.

The story was adapted into a film, very loosely based on the original story. Barker wrote and directed a film that was already a classic by the time I saw it. When I did watch it I was underwhelmed, but the Chinese puzzle box and that vision of the lead Cenobite and his symmetrical “pin-head” stayed with me, and the violence and nastiness was impressive.

Here again, Barker impresses.

The first four chapters, before Book One starts, are one of the greatest character introductions in modern horror. A group of magicians is holding a meeting to discuss the rapid decimation of their kind, and call upon the ghost of one of their recently murdered number. But the meeting is interrupted by chains and hooks and the infamous Cenobite, known as Pinhead, who has been slowly tracking down and killing every magician in the world.

What ensues is, as you would expect, horrifying, terrifying, and exactly the kind of start to a Barker book that gets a horror fan excited.

Then things go normal very briefly, as Norma, a blind woman who talks to the dead, and her friend Harry D’Amour (private investigator) do a job for a dead man that ends up with Norma being kidnapped and Harry following her and Pinhead into Hell as the Cenobite sets out to kill Lucifer. I said very briefly!

It’s a bit of a strange one this. The best part of the book is the beginning, after that the mystic of the Cenebite begins to fall apart, despite his perversions and evilness being just as bad down in hell. You kind of get numb to it as he’s doing all his evil doings to demons, so there’s little sympathy. His treatment of Norma, a nice old lady, is pretty horrible and as times quite startling. Barker isn’t afraid to hurt his characters or his readers.

The ending is a bit strange, not really satisfying all that has gone on before.

But this is the return of Pinhead, and a nasty and deliciously twisted return it is.

Barker is back, returning to create a world of horror (hell) and then sending in a terrifying creature of chaos in the form of Pinhead to destroy it.

Good, nasty fun. Pinhead returns!

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Those expecting nuclear submarines and dastardly spy shenanigans are likely to be disappointed, as Fleming experiments with an almost non-Bond Bond novel. Here we have a book narrated in the first person by a young Canadian woman in an empty motel, Vivienne Michel, reliving her past loves (basically abuse at the hands of men), and whiling away the hours until dawn arrives and she can leave. But half way through the night two men (gangsters) turn up and things get nasty. They seem intent on giving Viv a hard time and one even beats her, the threat of rape and murder hangs in the air, and when Viv tries to escape she is shot at.

Fortunately, about three quarters of the way through the novel, Bond turns up and takes matters into his own hands.

So, not your standard Bond novel then. The use of Viv as a filter for the hardened Bond character works well, and was probably a nice change for Fleming, but it could be seen as a strange departure by fans expecting a typical Bond novel.

Although there is the subtle hint of menace throughout the book, this is a strange kind of love story, with Viv becoming besotted with her hero almost as soon as he arrives. The book is enjoyable enough, Bond is on hand to help ramp up the action for the final quarter, and the book is short enough and well-written enough, to keep your attention. But this seems like a step too far from the traditional Bond stories, Fleming’s evocative and stylish prose isn’t as effective here, and the lack of action and tension that normally drive the books is missing.

Fleming was by this time moving away from his pulp fiction beginnings and into detective/mystery territory with the novels, but apart from the love-story echoes this is pure pulp. The gangster criminals in the shape of Sluggsy and Horror could easily have come from a Charlie Chan or Spider novel. A departure from the Bond canon, but not a bad book, a more female view of the action hero that is James Bond, license to thrill.

THUNDERBALL By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Possibly the most controversial of the Bond stories, as this story was developed for an original film, which wasn’t made until years later, and Fleming was sued by the film’s producers for stealing the story.

That story is of the terrorist organisation SPECTRE, overseen by Ernst Blofeld, who have stolen two nuclear bombs and are holding the powers of the UK and US to ransom. On M’s hunch Bond is sent off to the quiet islands of the Bahamas to try to find out where the bombs might be and stop the dastardly plot.

What follows is typical Bond, beautiful women, adventure and spy-shenanigans.

In David Wolstencroft’s short introduction (I’m reading the Penguin editions) he says this is possibly Fleming at his most accomplished as a writer.  And although certainly the plot could be considered one of the most impressive of the Bond novels to date, and the words brim with life, the action sequences are good, but where is the vivid description of local flora and fauna? Where are the luxury items that make you drawl with envy? Is this a slightly more grown up Bond?

Thunderball is a good book, Fleming delivers a more mature and realistic tale of terror, that apart from the racist and misogynistic comments, wouldn’t look out of place in a modern thriller.

Bond is Bond, and you have to love a man who will stop at nothing to save his country and the world. When the stakes are this high, who else would you look at to save us? Bond, the original and the best.

MARVEL ZOMBIES By Kirkman, Phillips, Suydam – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 5, 2012 by stanleyriiks

I have a decent comic collection, but unlike books or films, they are a kind of take ‘em or leave ‘em thing for me. I’ll get into comic books for a few months, buy a load of graphic novels (stand-alone stories or mini-series are much preferable to the unending arcs of the regular issues), read most of them and then put them away in a box under the bed and not bother going to the comic shop for a few years.

I generally don’t read Marvel comics, I prefer my superheroes darker and more mature, like Batman and the Vertigo line. I like Frank Millar, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis. Traditional superheroes, like the Marvel characters, I prefer to watch now that films have surpassed the drawn page.

But Marvel Zombies intrigued me. The very idea is genius. Mix popular superheroes with zombies and see what happens.

This is not your average Marvel superhero story, and Marvel brought in none other than The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman to write it. The story seems to have already started when we enter the action, Magneto (normally a villain) is fighting for his life against the rest of the Marvel Universe who have been turned into zombies. They want to eat him. The Fantastic Four have been banished to an alternative dimension, and only The Black Panther (who is being held captive and slowly eaten) is available to stop the ravening hordes.

The Silver Surfer appears briefly, only to become more food.

Like The Walking Dead TV series (I’ve not read the comics), this is mostly about the character interactions and exploring (slightly) the zombie mythos.  It’s all fairly good stuff, nothing massively exciting, but it builds nicely towards a massive zombie battle and then, typical of comic books, leaves a nice cliff-hanger for the story to continue in the next episode (collected together in the appropriately titled Marvel Zombies 2) surprisingly enough.

The gruesome artwork and some quite shocking scenes beat out the weak story to make this book worthwhile. It’s the perfect introduction to horror comic books for those uninitiated and for fans of Marvel’s superheroes it is a stark and brutal reminder of the horror of zombies.

Good, but not great, the idea behind it is sheer genius. The execution is entertaining, and very dark, not what you would normally except from the house of ideas. Zombies rule, in the Marvel Universe too.

LOOPER – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2012 by stanleyriiks

When I saw the poster for this I got excited. With the two figures holding guns in different directions, and a review quote stating the film was this decade’s The Matrix, nothing was going to stop me watching it.

Unfortunately the film is nothing like The Matrix. The 1999 Wachowski brothers’ classic is a SF action thriller. In no sense of the words is Looper an action thriller. It’s more a drama with SF at the heart of the story, but virtually ignored in visual terms.

Set in the near-future, the story follows Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a looper. Loopers are assassins working for some form of mob in the future, sent back in time (30 years) to await their victims, who are also sent back through time where they do not yet exist. The murders are therefore untraceable. Every now and then a looper’s older self is sent back to be killed by his younger self 30 years before with a nice big payoff, and 30 years of freedom until they are sent back in time to be killed by their younger self. You still with me? One thing the film does do well is explain this.

So, Joe’s older self is sent back in the form of Bruce Willis, and instead of killing him, older Joe escapes and tries to survive, and to change the future by killing the person he believes will grow into the murderer of his wife and himself. Meanwhile the mob are trying to track down both Joes to kill both of them to close the loop.

The film is set in a futuristic Kansas City, which is seen only briefly. Half of the film is set on a farm in the middle of nowhere, where younger Joe holes up, awaiting older Joe, and falling in love with the lovely Emily Blunt.

The story travels a fairly predictable path, apart from the premise there is nothing new here. Visually this is more of a farm story, it only gets a bit exciting when an old looking Willis goes on the rampage, which is fun.

Despite a mostly decent story, and some good actors, the film ultimately falls flat because at two hours it’s too long, too boring, too dull. The brief moments of action and excitement are too few. The future Kansas City is barely glimpsed instead of explored, too much time is spent with no action, and when you get to the end of the film you’re just a bit glad it’s all over.

Remakes

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This blog is written in response to Simon Marshall-Jones column in the latest issue of the FREE Morpheus Tales Supplement: http://issuu.com/morpheustales/docs/18reviews

 

Too many remakes he says, and I can’t whole-heartedly disagree. In fact, in the main I agreed completely. Hollywood (and they are not alone in this) seem driven to re-hash, remake and ruin all of my favourite films. I would suggest, however, that the “magic” Simon talked about in his ramblings is actually a much more personal matter than the gods-aligning. The “magic” happens when you grow up with a film, when it becomes a part of your life, of your history and background, and it speaks to you at a time, on a level, that nothing else does.

In my mid-teens I watched a film called Total Recall, with that unappreciated thespian Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnie was never a great actor, but I’d grown up watching his films, and this action-romp was (apart from Star Wars) one of my first introductions to SF (despite being a die-hard fantasy and horror only fan, apart from Star Wars!). I loved the over-the-top action, that Arnie’s wife was so hot (Sharon Stone before Basic Instinct), the incredible effects, there was even an alien with three boobs (this was my mid-teens remember)! The film spoke to me, it was great. But now, Sony in their infinite wisdom, have decided to remake it. Why? Because Total Recall (1990) is now over twenty years old, and apart from the money (I’m sure that’s the main reason), they want their film to speak to a new generation.

I have been quite prepared in the past to watch remakes, and give them a go as I would any other films. Unfortunately my past experience hasn’t always been pleasant, remakes of Halloween (rubbish, an extra forty minutes of pants and then a remake tacked on to the end), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (not too bad, not that I can remember any of it), King Kong (not terrible), A Nightmare on Elm Street I am just too scared to watch in case it’s crap. But sequels are the same, and yet lack the stigma of being another version of the original. I happily sat and watched the X-Men movies, Spiderman trilogy, all the Halloween films, A Nightmare on Elm Street (up to number 6), and even saw the Star Wars prequels at the cinema (rubbish, not bad, and ok, respectively [come on Disney, time to do something great with this franchise!]). Yet we don’t have the same disdain for sequels, which are (or can be) equally derivative. Like all films, or books, the first one is usually the best and the rest that follow (be they remakes or sequels) mere imitations.

So what about the book of the film, or, more likely, the film of the book? I like the first one best. Whether it’s the book or the film, the first time I discover the story is almost always my favourite. With Harry Potter it’s the books, although the films were also pretty damn good. The James Bond books are so very different from the films it’s difficult to make a direct comparison, the same with Holmes’ adventures. Guy Richie’s new Sherlock films, although I grew up with much older versions, are great fun. Stephen King’s adapted films, except perhaps for the excellent Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me, are far better in written form. No, despite Stand By Me being one of my favourites of all time, the original story (“The Body”) is even better.

In my early years (before the age of ten, although I couldn’t narrow it down any more than that), I watched Conan The Barbarian. Classic Arnie action flick. Not the greatest film ever made, in fact, on re-watching it’s fairly tired and out-dated, but it’s still Arnie and it’s still Conan, and it’s still the original and it’s still the best. I’ve read the book too, and you’ve gotta love a Conan book. I watched the remake last year, and was pleasantly surprised. Plenty of action, well-muscled barbarian, buxom wenches, and swordplay. This is not a bad remake except for one small thing they seemed to have forgotten. Conan has blue eyes. How the hell can you make a mistake like that! It’s like taking Judge Dredd’s helmet off! (Oh yeah, they did that too). Can’t wait for that remake of Dredd though, Sly Stallone is no Judge Dredd.

Remake, sequel, adaptation, whatever the hell they do, they need to make it authentic. That’s what remakes generally lack. And that is what gets our goat. That’s what reins all those remakes, and sequels and adaptations.

But remakes are not for us. They are not made for the people who enjoyed the first version, or the second or third. They are for the new people, these films are meant to speak to them and make them feel how we first felt when we watched them. Yes, of course there should be more originality, but you can say that about publishing and TV too. Sequels galore, derivative are us, is there anyone unafraid of originality? Who will take a risk and put their money where their mouth is? Independents, small presses… If they are lucky their original work will be remade with a big budget by a soulless corporation…