Tag Archives: movies

Horror Movies You May Have Missed Part V: The Bit Where The Series Goes Disastrously Downhill Until The Inevitable Remake In Twenty Years

26 Oct

I know I only wrote about this the other day, but screw it: I didn’t leave you with enough films to fill up the entire twenty-four hours of Halloween. So here are a few more movies. Take your pick!


American Mary

This film has garnered rave reviews in the horror circuit, and for good reason. American Mary is the story of a young medical student who enters the world of underground surgery. She then begins to use her surgery talents in two ways – to become the most sought-after surgeon in the body modification scene, and to seek justice on those who have wronged her. Including a great performance from the always wonderful Katharine Isabelle, American Mary is a grotesque treat.


Three… Extremes

I love a good horror anthology, and Three… Extremes is one of the best. Taking some of the top talents of Asian cinema – Fruit Chan, Park Chan-wook and Takashi Miike – Three… Extremes delivers a trio of very different but wonderfully compelling horror shorts. The pick of the bunch, for me at least, is Miike’s Box, a beautifully shot chiller.


Maniac Cop

Someone dressed as a policeman is running around New York City killing innocent people. Is it a member of the public, or is it a genuine cop on a killing spree? Detective Frank McRae is trying to find out, with the help of Jack Forrest, played by horror demi-god Bruce Campbell, a cop framed for the murders. An over-the-top slasher, Maniac Cop is low on scares but is a hell of a lot of fun.


My Little Eye

A group of people enter a secluded house for a reality TV show. The goal – to live in the house for six months. At the end of that time, they will receive 1 million dollars, as long as none of them leave. However, things may not be as they seem. Shot entirely through hidden cameras, My Little Eye gives the impression that your are watching the feed directly, and as such is incredibly immersive. Watch for a minor role from Bradley Cooper, too.


The Exorcist III

Yes, it’s a horror sequel. Yes, Exorcist II: The Heretic was awful. But you know what? The third part is actually a very good horror flick. Directed by the writer of the original Exorcist novel and screenplay adaptation, it tells the story of a detective hunting a serial killer. What concerns him about the killings is that they resemble those of a serial killer who died fifteen years earlier. A little corny but still packing some good scares, The Exorcist III is worth watching for Brad Dourif’s performance alone.



This movie has made me never want to visit Belgium again, and that’s a shame because I damn love chocolate and waffles. Travelling singer Marc Stevens gets stranded in the middle of a wood, yet is thankfully led to an inn during the middle of the night. Almost certainly an acquired taste, Calvaire is highly disturbing and very quirky, and plays out as equal parts Fargo, Misery and Deliverance.



I love a good cheesy 80s horror, and Mutant fits the bill. Also known as Night Shadows, it’s an unintentionally hilarious zombie romp. Full of classic bad-character-decision moments, and some inexplicable design choices – such as the zombies terrifyingly bleeding, erm, custard from their hands – it’s the perfect choice if you prefer some cruel laughs instead of scares. Here’s the entire movie.


Killer Crocodile

Continuing the so-bad-it’s-good vibe, here’s a 1989 creature feature that just begs to be watched. A group of environmentalists travel to a tropical delta to investigate the dumping of toxic waste. Unfortunately, this toxic waste has also created a giant crocodile that is hell bent on killing as many people as possible – including the audience, who will likely die of laughter. Jaws this ain’t.



May is a wonderful and strangely moving psychological horror, about a young woman who struggles to connect with other people. A tale of relationships, it delves deeply into May’s psychology and day-to-day troubles. Topped off by fantastic performances from Angela Bittis, Anna Faris and personal mancrush Jeremy Sisto, May is a cut above your average indie horror.



Ghostwatch is still one of the most controversial programmes in British TV history. Billed as a real-life investigation into the paranormal, this Michael Parkinson-presented documentary caused an unprecedented number of complaints, leading to the BBC putting a ban on broadcasting it for another decade. Although a little bit cheesy to watch now, some of the scenes are still very scary – particularly those regarding the poltergeist called Pipes.


And that’s that! Ten more horrors to watch. Hopefully that will do you until next year. I mean, I need at least that long to get through some more underrated horror flicks, right?



Even More Horror Movies You May Have Missed

25 Oct

Crikey! It’s been a while. But with Halloween just around the corner it’s about time I shared a few overlooked frightening films, spooky stories, and monstrous movies. Now before I get lost under my own smug alliteration, let’s get cracking!


The Changeling

There’s no better way to start a Halloween movie night than with a traditional ghost story, and The Changeling is a perfect example of one. A composer loses his family in a tragic accident, and moves to a secluded manor house. Whilst there, he is visited by the spectre of a child. An atmospheric slow-burner, the payoff is worth the wait. Whatever you do, don’t go in the attic.


Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

If you’d rather have something more light-hearted, try this instead. Two hillbillies take a well-earned holiday by a woodland lake. Unfortunately, their plans are ruined by the unfortunate arrival of a bunch of college teens. A wonderful horror subversion, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is a trope-playing laugh riot. I’ve posted a scene rather than the trailer below, as it is best to go into this film blind, to experience it all fresh.


Jug Face

Keeping with the rural theme, Jug Face is an interesting, character-driven horror. Living in the middle of the woods, a small commune worships a strange pit in the ground. The pit grants prosperity, growth, peace, but only as long as it gets what it wants in return – sacrifices. Ada learns that she is to be the next sacrifice, and tries to hide it from the rest of her family. Can she escape from what her religion demands?


The Bay

Disclaimer: don’t watch this film when eating. The inhabitants of a Chesapeake Bay town start falling under strange and deadly afflictions. Could it be tied to the deaths of a pair of environmental researchers? Told in a found footage style, from a series of different accounts, The Bay follows the mould of Jaws – the dangers of nature overlooked by complacent leaders.



This Swiss sci-fi horror knows how to build tension. A skeleton crew keeps a deep-space cargo vessel running. Laura, one of this crew, stays sane through talking with her sister, who lives on the paradise world of Rhea. However, it becomes apparent that there is another being on the ship. The setting is perfect, the isolation and the dark industrial look keeping viewers on the edge.


Noroi: The Curse

This Japanese mockumentary already has a fearsome reputation, but it’s yet to break into the top echelons of horror imports. An investigative reporter looks into a series of strange events – supposedly psychic children, disappearances, deaths. What he discovers leads him to try and stop the manifestation of a terrible demon. Genuinely unsettling, Noroi is a real treat.


The Frighteners

Peter Jackson is, of course, best known for his work with the Lord of the Rings films. If you’re a horror fan you’ve probably seen – and loved – his earlier gory works, such as Dead Alive and Bad Taste. One film that is often overlooked, though, is comedy The Frighteners. Teaming up with Robert Zemeckis as Executive Producer, the film has a wonderful cartoonish, chaotic vibe for fans of Ghostbusters or Gremlins.



If you prefer something high-concept in your horror, then try Antiviral. Directed by Brandon Cronenberg, son of the acclaimed body horror master David Cronenberg, Antiviral shows us a world where celebrity culture and genetic engineering have disastrously combined – allowing true fans to infect themselves with the same strains of disease as their idols. It’s a fantastic debut, a terrifying world imagined well – Antiviral is bound to get under your skin.


Lie Still

A low-budget English horror, Lie Still follows John Hare, unemployed and recently single. He moves into an old apartment building, but soon realises that he may not be alone. Extremely low-key, it’s a surprisingly effective film, helped by the suitably dark setting and tapping into genuine fears of what goes bump in the night.



A historical horror, Sauna is a Finnish film set at the end of a war between Russia and Sweden. Whilst negotiating new borders, two brothers come across a village in the middle of some marshlands. There, they are faced to confront the acts they have committed.  Bleak yet artistic, with a fantastic and open-ended plot, Sauna is a real gem – not only terrifying, but a great film all round.


Have a Happy Halloween, everyone! And guess what? There are more horror recommendations to come!

You better believe it!

You better believe it!

Rob’s Top Five Films of 2012 and Top Movie Moments of 2012

1 Jan

Crikey, we’ve got a twofer here! Not only my favourite flicks of last year, but the specific moments that made me squeal with delight! Let’s get this started with the best movies, in no particular order.


21 Jump Street

I was cynical going into this. A reboot of an old eighties TV show, starring Channing Tatum and that dude from Superbad? It looked fairly decent, but that was it. Instead it ended up being the funniest film I have seen since Anchorman. Ridiculous, and with a tongue firmly placed in-cheek, 21 Jump Street delivers not only top dollar laughs but a number of fantastic action set pieces. Get it and watch it: Ice Cube’s performance alone is worth the price of the DVD.



Compliance is one of the most uncomfortable-to-watch films I have ever seen. Detailing the real-life events of a mysterious phone call to a fast food restaurant, it will make you squirm on a variety of levels. Featuring some great performances from a cast with no big names, Compliance is not a film that you enjoy, exactly. Rather than see it and be entertained, you will see it and want to have a shower and cry for a bit. More power to it, to be honest. Compliance is a serious, powerful, and emotive film and one of the great lesser-known movies of 2012.


The Dark Knight Rises

Given my huge write-up of this film earlier in the year, I was trying to find another film to take its spot on the list. But there’s no getting around it, it deserves to be here. Not only is it a fantastic film in its own right, but it completes one of the best trilogies of all time. Christopher Nolan did the impossible, by placating the majority of a hardcore fanbase whilst refusing to budge on his creative vision of a realistic superhero trilogy. An incredible feat and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.



Speaking of superhero films, Chronicle provided realism in an entirely different way. The world is fantastical, with a group of teens gaining superpowers from a crashed meteorite, but – incredibly – the characters appear to react as human beings. They don’t immediately don spandex outfits and fight crime. Instead, they focus on their own lives, and their own pain. It’s a brilliant take on the subgenre and adds a fresh new element to the found footage style.


Red Lights

Oh boy, do I love a good mystery, and Red Lights gets it right. Cillian Murphy and Sigourney Weaver are a pair of paranormal investigators, who spend their time picking apart fraudster psychics and hoax hauntings. They take on the world’s biggest psychic, played charismatically by Robert De Niro. But is he really a hoax? Red Lights is a complex film in all the right ways, leaving clues along the way to help the audience decipher the mystery of its plot. Unnerving and tense in all the right places, Red Lights is a gem that was unfairly overlooked.


So those are my top films of the year. But what about the best moments?


Prometheus – Surgery Scene

Prometheus was a flawed film in a variety of ways. But it was visually stunning and there were some absolutely incredible moments. The most memorable of these was the grotesque surgery scene that…well, see for yourself.


Sinister – Home Movies

Sinister was my horror movie of the year. Generally, it built its scares on atmosphere rather than jumps, which puts it a long way above most of this year’s other horrors. The most important parts of this were the home movies that Ethan Hawke’s crime writer finds. The clip below is a good example, but the best of the bunch involved lawn mowing. I would link it, but I don’t want to spoil it. See it for yourself.


Ted – Shoryuken

If I had to pick a comedy alongside 21 Jump Street, Ted would be it. A wonderfully charming film, it still has some great moments of shocking humour. My favourite was seeing Mark Wahlberg give a snotty brat of a kid his just deserts.


Dredd – Finale

Gosh darn this film was great. A fairly faithful adaptation of the 2000 AD character, Dredd was a bloody, violent, wonderful film harking back to the ultraviolence of eighties action. The best part was how Dredd’s character – an unstoppable force of legal righteousness – was kept in. How he deals with MaMa threatening to destroy a tower block was an iconic end to yet another great comic book adaptation.


The Dark Knight Rises – Bane’s Prison Speech

Oh, Bane. Everything about the character was fantastic: charismatic, dangerous, brutal, violent, and – most importantly – fiercely intelligent. It was everything his character in the comics was, but with crucial changes to make him applicable to Christopher Nolan’s Gotham. The best example of this was his speech in front of Blackgate Prison: a wonderful bastardization of the Occupy movement to suit his own, evil means.


So that’s the best of 2012. I’m not going to go into the bad – I’m not really that kind of fella. All I can say is that I hope that 2013 is just as good as the year just gone. It was a wonderful year for cinema, so let’s hope for an even better future.


Happy New Year to you all!

Bargain Bin Reviews: Anaconda!

20 Nov

Welcome to a new feature! I will be having a gander at often-overlooked movies. I’ll dust them off and give them a chance to impress. So, let’s get going with my first Bargain Bin Review.

Anaconda is the story of a loveable, misunderstood giant snake that is mercilessly tormented by a bunch of documentary-makers. All it wants to do is devour Jennifer Lopez and Ice Cube, but for some reason they object. Just to warn you, there will be many spoilers ahead. But, given that this review is for a fifteen year-old film, I think you can forgive me.

The movie starts off by killing Danny Trejo. His boat is attacked by some kind of nasty creature and, faced with a choice between a gooey painful death or taking his own life, he decides to shoot himself in the head. Generally, it seems as though poor Mr Trejo gets the raw deal in situations with killer beasties, such as his early demise in Predators. Here, though? Well, his character probably caught wind of the script coming his way and decided to off himself. Oh, how I wish I could join you.

God speed, Mr Trejo. You made the right decision.

After a wonderful bit of pan-pipe music, we’re then greeted to the ragtag bunch of filmmakers. First up we have J-Lo and the dashing anthropologist Eric Stoltz. They are off on the noble endeavour of documenting the existence of a rarely-seen tribe in the Amazon. The makers of Anaconda, though, have no such artistic temperament, shown by the fact that the moment you see Miss Lopez she’s, for some reason, wearing a very skimpy nightgown. Who knows, perhaps I am being too cynical and that is perfect attire for the Amazon.

They are joined by Ice Cube, the angry cameraman and one of the few voices of reason within the entire film, the production manager and attractive-but-not-famous-so-will-definitely-survive Kari Wuhrer, the constantly aroused sound guy (played, amazingly, by Owen Wilson), snooty English presenter Jonathan Hyde, and the unbearably sleazy and definitely-not-sketchy ship captain (Vincent Castellanos). If you have made any early presumptions about who is likely to survive this film, you are probably right.

Give horror-movie-survival bingo a go, I dare you!

Only a short while after they set off on their journey, they find a boat sinking into the river. They rescue the lone occupant, a Paraguayan snake-catcher played by Jon Voight. I’d just like to take a moment to tell you exactly how frickin’ creepy this guy is. He’s like if The Joker from The Dark Knight and Tommy Wiseau had a South American middle-aged lovechild. The only way he could be creepier is if he was naked the entire time, his greasy ponytail flapping in the breeze. You half expect every scene to end with him having sex with some kind of reptilian creature.

Don’t believe me? Well I took the time to make a brief compilation of a few of his weirdest moments in the film. Take a look.

In spite of the fact that their new guest is clearly not a very nice man – shown by the way that ominous music starts every time he’s visible and the fact that he is constantly staring at everyone in an outrageously evil way – they decide to welcome him aboard, and even listen to his advice on their journey. The only two crewmembers that don’t seem to trust him are the aforementioned sceptic Ice Cube and the Indiana Jones-wannabe Stoltz.

Of course, this means Stoltz – the only man willing to tell Voight “you know what, let’s not take that meandering route through the Amazon that you say will lead us to our destination” – has an accident after trying to clear vines from the boat. Incapacitated, Voight takes command and lets the crew know of his real motive: to catch a ruddy great big anaconda. Choosing not to listen to Ice ‘Voice of Reason’ Cube, Sleazy Captain, Owen Wilson and Snooty English decide to join in on the plan. First stop on their whirlwind tour of idiocy? The remains of Danny Trejo’s ship.

Unsurprisingly, this does not end well. The sleazy ship captain is the first to go, chomped right outside the boat. Owen Wilson is next. Having already survived a failed attempt at a sex scene on the shores of the Amazon at night (surely the best idea anyone has ever had), he finally succumbs to the wily Jaws wannabe.

From that chin and nose combo, you can tell that it’s Wilson.

Apparently the death of Owen was enough for the rest of the crew to decide enough is enough with the creepy ponytailed guy. J-Lo seduces Voight – in one of the most awkward-to-watch scenes I have ever seen – as the rest of the crew pounce. Tying him up, they think they’re safe. Unfortunately for them, the giant snake hadn’t quite forgotten about their previous attempts to turn it into handbags, and attacks, enjoying Snooty English as a rather fine brunch. Voight uses this as a way to escape, killing poor not-as-famous-as-J-Lo in the process.

Lopez and Ice Cube manage to fight off the anaconda and, with the help of the woken-from-his-illness Stoltz, manage to knock Voight into the river and escape. Stoltz, unfortunately, doesn’t even have time to whisper “you guys seriously trusted the weird snake catcher? Seriously?” before he once again succumbs to his wounds and passes out.

Without his guidance, the wonderful J-Lo/Cube duo are captured by the soggy but still dangerous Voight. He uses them as bait to catch a mega-snake, covering them in monkey blood. For some reason, we need to see Voight kill two monkeys over the course of this film, as if to prove that he is such an evil madman.

Thankfully, the anaconda decides, halfway through suffocating Ice Cube and Lopez, that it would rather go after the creepy-looking guy sneering at it in the corner. It eats him, spits him back out again because apparently he tastes as bad as he looks, and instead goes after J-Lo. Between them, Lopez and Ice Cube manage to trap the snake and blow it up. In spite of being set on fire, exploded, and thrown fifty feet in the air, our plucky jungle friend tries to eat them one more time, and is bludgeoned to death by Ice Cube, who apparently was sick and tired of goddamn snakes at this point.

Can I axe you a question?

And that’s about it. Anaconda, as you may imagine, is a bad movie. It sits awkwardly between its A-List budget and B-List plot, and as a result it is absolutely brilliant entertainment. It’s a trashy, violent, stupid mess with bad performances and a hackneyed plot, and I enjoyed every bloody minute of it. Anaconda is the only place to go if you want to see Ice Cube attack a giant snake with a pick-axe, all the while with an incredible pan-pipe soundtrack.


Interested in more? Be sure to head over to GeekClique.net, where future Bargain Bin Reviews will also be hosted.

In Defence of Disney’s Lucasfilm Buyout

31 Oct

By now I am sure you’ve heard the news about Disney’s spectacular Lucasfilm acquisition. Immediately after it broke, the internet was exploding with rage. One of the phrases banded about online was “this is the death of Star Wars”.

Is it really, though? This post is an attempt to give a rational, reasoned and positive argument about the takeover. I am cautiously optimistic about Star Wars: Episode VII. I am not saying that it will be a fantastic movie. It may well still end up being terrible. There are, however, reasons to be positive.

First, let’s look at Disney’s recent films. We all know their long-term history of consistently making absolutely fantastic movies. But in the last decade, there have been a number of more action-focused live-action features. We’ve had the Pirates of the Caribbean series, National Treasure, Tron: Legacy, and of course The Avengers.

“What’s that?” “Oh, it looks like another Disney buyout. Brace yourself.”

Marvel’s flagship is the main reason to be optimistic. Disney knows how to treat a franchise with a rabid fanbase. With The Avengers, they were careful not to deviate too far from the canon. They made not only one of the biggest films of this summer, but a film that achieved general acceptance from the original fanbase.

It’s more than just The Avengers, though. Disney has, over the years, shown that they are not afraid to broach adult subject matter in their films. Of course you have the subtleties of the Pixar animations – Finding Nemo, Wall-E, and Brave for instance – but even the more ‘meat-headed’ films in their catalogue sometimes move into darker territory. Tron: Legacy appears at first to be nothing more than a neon-coloured thrill-fest, until you realise that the story of the film revolves around the genocide of an entire race.

Merciless slaughter goes well with a techno beat and day-glo onesies.

Speaking briefly of Pixar, they’ve managed to create some brilliant films over the years. One in particular to point out is The Incredibles. Personally, I feel it’s one of the best superhero movies of all time, quite amazing considering that it is an animated children’s film. What is interesting is the way that Disney treats Pixar – and Marvel, for that matter. Pixar have been able to keep their own unique feel, in spite of being taken over. Disney knows that the best way to make money is to create excellent movies. Even John Carter, a huge box-office bomb, was not a bad film – it just happened to do poorly, be it because of a failure to reach a target demographic or simply hitting the market at the wrong time.

Having a consistently good end product is not something that can be said about Lucasfilm, however. Let’s face it: the Star Wars prequels are bad movies. There were strange changes made to the overall feel of the franchise, there was bizarre cinematography in every film, and awkward character tie-ins to the previous trilogy throughout. That’s without even getting into the awful acting and terrible scripts.

The rest of the original Star Wars content is not much better. The Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series was passable, but the following CGI series and feature film were sub-par. The upcoming series Star Wars Detours looks absolutely abysmal. There hasn’t been a decent Star Wars videogame since the end of the Jedi Outcast trilogy.

After being forced to do a dance routine, Han was happy to be encased in carbonite.

At least all of the above was original content. Star Wars fans have, alongside new releases, also been subject to constant re-releases of the original trilogy. Each and every time, these ‘remastered editions’ shift more and more from the first three Star Wars films, chopping and changing one of the most loved film series of all time.

So, I’ll be blunt. What exactly can Disney do to make the Star Wars franchise plunge to new depths? Will they add annoying, furry creatures? They’ve been with Star Wars since Return of the Jedi. How about unnecessary CGI that adds nothing to the films? Say hello to Jar Jar Binks and the remastered editions of the original trilogy. Wooden acting and bad scripts? Rewatch any of the prequels. Terrible musical numbers? Have another look at Jabba’s palace in the remasted Return of the Jedi. Ridiculous cash-ins in other media? Try a couple of the Star Wars video games, like Masters of Teras Kasi, Super Bombad Racing or Star Wars: Demolition.

Lucasarts have already made Han Solo take part in a dance number. I don’t think there is much Disney can do to make the Star Wars name seem any shallower.

Skyfall: A Review – Plus News!

27 Oct

2012 has been a year of much-anticipated movies. The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit – all of them would have been the most hyped-about film in any other year. Then, of course, there’s Skyfall. The trailers have had people salivating for months. Early reviews called it the best Bond film ever made. And it ever-so-nearly lives up to the hype.

Sam Mendes has done an absolutely tremendous job in bringing Bond back to the fore after the disappointing Quantum of Solace. It’s full of great performances, has a water-tight script, and best of all is absolutely stunning to look at. The direction is vibrant, varied, powerful, and even a little emotional at times. Even if it’s not the best 007 venture ever, it’s certainly the best-looking one.

Skyfall takes a lot of risks, too. It’s a serious film with a surprising level of depth for a franchise built on the foundation of “man kills man, man sleeps with woman, man makes pun”. Without going into spoiler territory, it touches a little on the aftermath of a service agent’s life after missions, and what happens to an agent left behind by his agency. Not only that, but (whisper it) Skyfall briefly delves into James Bond’s personal history, and even M’s back story.

It’s also very interesting in terms of scale. The finale is not a villain’s volcano lair; in fact, the film drops in size steadily. In the first half of the film, Bond is in his natural habitat: jet-setting across the world, killing people and getting frequent flyer miles at the same time. But slowly, the scale shortens. We go to London, and then to a plot of land in Scotland. The end, in contrast to most Bond films, is incredibly small-scale and introspective. In spite of this – or perhaps because of it – it packs an incredibly powerful punch.

It’s rounded off with some great performances too. Judy Dench gives us another look at the stoic, witty M she so successfully portrays, and Daniel Craig simmers with pent up aggression throughout. Newcomers to the series Ralph Fiennes, Naomi Harris and Ben Whishaw deserve plenty of credit as well: particularly Whishaw, who brings Q bang up to date.

Javier Bardem steals the show, though. His performance as Raoul Silva is absolutely terrifying. A Bond villain to be proud of, he is dangerous, charming, seductive, funny, and completely and utterly insane. His plot doesn’t revolve around world domination, or wealth – he is not the greedy Bond villain archetype in the style of Goldfinger. Instead, Silva is entirely focused on the destruction of M and the MI6. He’s not a Blofeld. In fact, if he’s to be compared to anyone, it’s quite possibly The Joker from The Dark Knight.

It’s not the only comparison this film bears to Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, either. There are certain directorial similarities – in particular an abundance of breathtaking location shots, and a grounded sense of realism. The most important similarity, though, is the desire to build a film around themes instead of set-pieces. Skyfall has a message beyond “watch things get blown up”, and as a result, it is a much stronger movie than your regular popcorn-munching blockbuster.

There are a few quibbles to be had, of course. There are a few more light-hearted moments that jar a little with the overall tone, and there’s a particularly silly scene with Komodo dragons that doesn’t quite work. Thankfully, the film only has these few, minor problems.

In short, Skyfall is fantastic. It sits happily in the top tier of Bond movies alongside the likes of Goldeneye, Diamonds Are Forever and You Only Live Twice, continues 2012’s magnificent run of excellent major releases, and most importantly does something new – and positive – with one of the most beloved movie franchises of all time.

Apologies for the lack of new posts in the last couple of weeks. There have been a few exciting developments recently, one of which I can talk about. A number of my film fanatic friends, along with yours truly, have formed a brand new site called Geek Clique. We’re going to bring fantastic reviews and opinion pieces on film, including both new releases and retrospectives. If you head over to the site now you’ll see a wealth of other James Bond content.

So, if you fancy having a gander it would be much appreciated!

You can also see my awkward attempts at 8-bit sprites.

More new content here, and at Geek Clique, soon.

Horror Movies You May Have Missed Part Three: The Reckoning

5 Sep

It’s been a while, but here’s another bunch of spooky movies you might not have seen.



This 1981 film is one of the most unsettling I have ever seen. Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani play a couple whose marriage has deteriorated beyond repair. She wants a divorce, but Neill is determined to try and save the relationship: if only for the sake of their son, Bob. Although it features some spectacular – and horrifying – special effects, the film succeeds mainly on the strength of its psychological nature. Paranoid and desperate, this is a film you will never forget.



Absentia is going to become a real cult classic. Released in 2011 and made on a measly budget of $70,000, it’s got the best scares-to-pound ratio of any film since The Blair Witch Project. Winner of a huge number of horror awards, the film follows two sisters trying to continue their lives after the disappearance of the elder’s husband several years earlier. But was something sinister behind his departure?


Cabin Fever 2

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t like the first Cabin Fever. It didn’t scare me, the over-the-top gore seemed a cheap trick, and the plot didn’t work for me. The sequel, though? Well that’s a different matter entirely. The only way I can describe this film is that it’s like Napoleon Dynamite if someone added a flesh-eating virus to the mix. Totally unique and compelling viewing.



In this found footage film, a group of grad students decide on a controversial film thesis – to travel into America with a group of illegal immigrants and document their journey. Unfortunately, the group is captured by an anti-immigration vigilante group, who offer them a deal: record everything that happens in their secret prison, and they will be set free. Try to interfere, and they will be killed.


Shadow of the Vampire

This movie gives us a brilliant premise: what if, whilst making Nosferatu, Director F.W. Murnau had given the role of the vampyr to an actual creature of the night? Darkly funny and deeply frightening, this film has absolutely fantastic performances from John Malkovich and Willem Defoe. Add a great supporting cast, including Cary Elwes, Udo Kier, and Eddie Izzard, and one of the best final monologues in cinema history, and you’ve got an excellent horror on your hands.


Stir of Echoes

Probably the most well-known film on this list, Stir of Echoes had the bad luck of being released very soon after The Sixth Sense. Kevin Bacon, after a hypnosis session, begins to suffer horrifying visions of a ghost of a girl. Although not particularly scary, the film has a great atmosphere, excellent performances, and puts together a genuinely compelling mystery.



I love a bit of body horror, and Society is one of the greats of the sub-genre. Equal parts funny and disgusting, the film follows a teenage boy who begins to suspect his family – and his entire town – may be more than human. Acting as both a great parable for adolescence and a scathing critique of the class system, Society shows that horror can be intelligent.



Speaking of body horror, it would be negligent of me not to mention David Cronenberg. One of the greatest directors ever, he’s been responsible for some of the best horror films ever created – but his first film is often overlooked. Made in 1975, it was once the most successful Canadian film of all time, but was so heavily controversial that Cronenberg found it difficult to get funding for further projects. Also known as They Came From Within, Cronenberg’s debut is a must watch.



A lot of horror films tap into the fears we had as children. They is no exception, and focuses around four adults that had night terrors when they were growing up. What if night terrors were because of genuine monsters, and that one day, those monsters come back? It may not be a classic, but They is a real chiller.



The final film on this list, Dread is based on a short story by Clive Barker. A team of students decides to do a film study on fear – getting to the root of what really makes people scared. Although it sometimes drops into Saw-esque territory, for the most part it is a brutal, psychologically-scarring film with surprisingly deep characters. Most impressive of all is Quaid, played by Shaun Evans, who gives a brilliant, terrifying performance.


That’s all for now! Up next, another retro review. But I’m sure that more horror recommendations will be coming your way…

Oh yes indeed.

Source Material and the Film Adaptation

6 Aug

As I’ve said before, I am not against adapting books/novels/comics/delete-as-appropriate into movies. I recognise that a lot of amazing films have been created from other sources. However, when a film is made out of a previous intellectual property, filmmakers have to tread a very careful line: to stay faithful to the source material whilst creating a story that works. And believe it or not, this is much harder than it looks.

What people fail to realise is that books and movies are very different media, and as such require very different structures and writing styles. Just because a novel has a brilliant plot, it will not necessarily transfer over into cinema. There are methods novels can employ that films cannot: use of descriptive text, use of internal monologues for characters, and a less stilted conveyance of emotion without resorting to dialogue for instance.

Excessive dialogue does not cover up other flaws in a screenplay.

Meanwhile, movies are an inherently visual medium, and must also successfully utilize the use of sound. Plots need to be more concise. Characters need to be more concrete and defined. The world of the film must be more structured, and, as it were, more real – or at least have a set of rules that must be adhered to for the audience to buy into the situations shown. Cinema is at the same time both simpler and more complex than fiction.

Having said all this, I can suggest a few main reasons why certain adaptations fall flat. First up is pacing. Fiction can have more meandering sections, where characters can be developed without it being detrimental to the overall plot. Even the most action-packed of novels can have chapters where the tension can drop and the reader can really get to know the characters. In film? Not so much. There is a bit of leeway, but characters really need to be defined by their actions, by how they look, and by what they say.

Next up, there’s the problem of back story. How exactly do you get a huge back story into a film? With a Star Wars-style opening crawl? Clichéd, but it can work sometimes. Expositional dialogue? Definitely not. The most successful back stories are created without the audience even realising: a look or an in-joke between characters, mise-en-scène to portray the world of the film – or in the case of specific props, a bit of a character’s history.  There are some examples otherwise but in general these subvert the tropes of dialogue.

One of the reasons The Joker is great is because of his two back stories. Which is real? Is either?

Then, there’s the length. Novels, in general, have quite a lot going on – a complex plot, lots of characters, back story, even large jumps through time. When the subject of an adaptation is a long text, then sacrifices need to be made. But where should these sacrifices fall? Successful adaptations take the core plot, keep other plot elements that are thematically important, and cut around that: characters that add little vibrancy or have nothing to do with the story, back story that doesn’t develop the plot of the film, and character-developing scenes. It’s incredibly hard, though, to work out what should be cut, and the director and scriptwriter are bound to upset fans of the original work. Perhaps this is why it seems that short stories often work out as better adaptations.

Finally, there’s the audience. Many adaptations fail because they ignore one simple rule: the audience is a blank slate. Lots of them, or even most of them, will not have read the original text, and they shouldn’t have to. It doesn’t matter if fans of the novel understand what is going on; if Average Joe the cinema-goer doesn’t understand it, your film doesn’t work. If a viewer has to have done homework in order to decipher a big-budget adaption, then the filmmaker has, unfortunately, done something wrong somewhere during the production. This is the one criticism I have of Edgar Wright’s fantastic Scott Pilgrim – it looked great, the correct elements were cut from the plot and cast, the art style reflected the comic perfectly, but some viewers came out of the movie not quite understanding what they had just seen. This one mistake in an otherwise wonderful film could be one of the reasons why it didn’t do that well at the box office.

Those are the major reasons that adaptations fail. So, let’s do a case study, shall we? Let’s pick David Lynch’s Dune: one of the biggest box office bombs of all time. Lynch was so unhappy with it that in certain pressings his name in the credit is replaced by Alan Smithee. Let’s not get on Lynch’s back, though – Frank Herbert’s original novel has many traps that any movie-maker could all into. It has time lapses, meandering character-developing sections, a massive back story, it’s absolutely massive, has a huge number of characters, its own vocabulary, a high-concept plot, and it’s absolutely insane. This book is potentially unfilmable – at least, as a single movie.

Lynch’s Dune fails at each and every one of these problems. Time-lapses are explained by an omniscient narrator, character developments are either explained by the same narrator or by the characters themselves – through both dialogue and internal thought. Back story? That’s the first fifteen minutes. The complete version of the film clocks in at just under three hours, and cuts still had to be made for the theatrical release that chopped up the story even further. Hardly any characters were cut, even those who, due to plot streamlining, had no point anymore. The vocabulary remains, some of it explained, some of it not. It’s still insane, and difficult to follow even if you’ve read the original text.

Worst of all though, are the additions made by Lynch himself. Obviously, additions need to be made, in terms of art style and dialogue. Sometimes even plot points and characters need to be added to make an adaptation work. Lynch, though, made some very strange choices. The evil Baron Harkonnen was given sores across his face (not mentioned in the novel), and due to the Baron being gay there were allegations of homophobia – with the sores representing the AIDS epidemic.

Then there’s this scene:

Why is a cat being milked for an antidote? Who knows. It wasn’t in the novel, that’s for sure, and doesn’t add anything to the film other than making Sting look even more mental.

How about the giant eyebrows of the Mentats? Or the seductive Bene Gesserit being made bald?

Eyebrows mean logic and baldness is sexy.

Lynch seemed to choose these additions over other points that were vital. The Mentats were included despite the Mentat/Bene Gesserit rivalry being practically removed from the film. Hawat (he who needs the cat-antidote) was kept in the film in spite of his role in the novel – helping the Harkonnens after believing that Paul Atreides’ mother betrayed him – being taken out of the movie. Gone was any feeling that Arrakis was a hard planet to live on, and indeed the value of water is not really present. And the point of the novel – that Paul Atreides is not truly a god, but has made himself seem one, is taken out. Unfortunately, Dune is far removed from the source material in all the wrong ways. It is also similar to the source material in all the wrong ways.

Film adaptations, for me, fall into one of three categories. There are the great adaptations – the films that are respectful of the source, build upon it, and adapt it into a working movie. The films that make you want to go back and read the original work, regardless of whether you’ve read it before. Then there are the films that were heavily criticized for their deviation from their source material, but are still good films in their own right. Finally, there are those that just don’t work – nonsensical plots, poor scripts, changes to the source that make no sense, and that are just bad movies.

Join me next time and I’ll take you on a whirlwind tour of the three categories of adaptations – the good, the bad, and the it-got-ugly-with-the-original-fans.

Why I Love The 90s: The Original Video Game Movies

2 Aug

I have a compulsion to watch every video game film I can find. I know most of them are trash, about 98% of them are directed by Uwe Boll, and they deviate crazily from the source material, but I can’t help but track them down, just to see how bad they are. I can count the number of passable video game movies on one hand. The only video game film that I think of as ‘good’ is Silent Hill.

Pyramid Head is a busy guy.

However, there are still plenty of enjoyable shit movies from the early days. Let’s have a look at the pioneers of the sub-genre and all of their flaws.


Super Mario Bros

Awww yeah! Super Mario Bros is the one that started it all. It’s a horrible, horrible mess of a film: part kid’s comedy, part action, part Blade Runner-esque cyberpunk nightmare. Bob Hoskins puts on a brilliant Brooklyn accent as Mario and John Leguizamo plays a snotty teenage Luigi. In spite of all its problems, I still love this movie. Dennis Hopper is brilliant as King Koopa, there are about ten billion quotable lines and some really fun set pieces. Hell, it starts with a couple of dinosaurs talking in New Yoik accents. Sure, it’s a bad film, and has nothing to do with the games, but it sits comfortably – and brilliantly – in the so-bad-it’s-good section of my movie library.


Double Dragon

We’ve all played Double Dragon, right? A kidnapped girl leads two brothers to go kick the crap out of a gang and generally be total badasses. The obvious choice for such a simple, dumb story, then is to add a bunch of jargon about a magical amulet and evil overlords. Throw the bad guy from Terminator 2 and Alyssa Milano into the mix and you’re sure to win an Oscar, right? Well, not quite. But you do get an awful movie full of 90s clichés and some awful performances. Kudos to them for making Marian, the girlfriend from the game, into an active character though.


Street Fighter

This film can be summed up entirely in a single casting choice: the lead character is Guile, a man so American he has the star-spangled banner tattooed on his arm. Who’s the best person to play this all-USA dude? Why, the Belgian actor and roundhouse-kicker Jean Claude Van Damme, of course! The movie-makers managed to squeeze a load of the characters from Street Fighter 2 in, which certainly deserves credit, but it means that the plot is completely insane. It all looks incredibly tacky, too. What saves it? Why, a brilliant performance from the late, great Raul Julia as M. Bison of course! It was his last movie role and it’s worth the cost of the DVD alone. Well, that and seeing Kylie Minogue acting. Yup.


Mortal Kombat

Aside from Silent Hill, I actually think Mortal Kombat is the best video game movie. It’s trashy and dumb, but it’s just so much darn fun. It’s also got a plot that kind of makes sense (well, in comparison to the likes of Super Mario Bros and Street Fighter), and who needs acting talent when you’ve got wise-cracking, shades-wearing kung fu heroes punching four-armed monsters in the bollocks? Great fight scenes, awesome special effects, awful one-liners: this movie has it all. Unfortunately, the sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation isn’t quite as good.


Wing Commander

Last and possibly least is 1999’s Wing Commander. The games had a great cast – with Mark Hamill and Malcolm McDowell in the brilliant Wing Commander III – and what better way to continue that trend than with the magnificent Freddie Prinze Jr. Ahem. The movie follows the usual plot of the plucky young rookies who manage to save humanity whilst being very cool and relatable for the film’s target demographic.


After these trendsetting films, the video game film adaptation trend really kicked off, particularly after the big success of the Resident Evil franchise. But for me, these 90s films are very interesting to watch back. In fact, I would rather watch Super Mario or Mortal Kombat than the likes of Max Payne or Hitman any day of the week.

Seriously, how can you ever beat scenes like this?

Money, Money, Money: Ten Box Office Flops You Need to See

30 Jul

It seems as though every year there are big-budget movies that fall through the cracks. This summer alone we’ve had Battleship, John Carter, Rock of Ages, and potentially The Watch failing to deliver when it comes to earnings. But being a financial flop is not always indicative of being a bad-quality film. Not every film that fails is a Pluto Nash or Battlefield Earth. Here are ten box office flops that are still worth a viewing.


Death to Smoochy

Danny De Vito’s 2002 black comedy about corruption in children’s television was a huge financial failure, making only $8 million from US box office. It was hit-and-miss with the critics and even received a Razzy nomination. In spite of that, it’s still one of the funniest films I have ever seen. The film follows Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton) when his Barney-a-like character Smoochy replaces the corrupt entertainer Rainbow Randolph, brilliantly performed by Robin Williams. Along the way Mopes encounters the Irish mob, children’s charity gangsters and bung-taking agents. It’s a hilarious and smart comedy, with a unique style, brilliant script and a number of great performances.



Gattaca put Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and Uma Thurman together in 1997 and came out with $12 million from a $36 million budget.  It was a big hit with the critics and even had an Oscar nomination. Audiences chose to miss out on one of the most intelligent science fiction films ever made, creating a realistic future world where employability is entirely decided upon a person’s pre-determined life expectancy. Asking big questions about genetic engineering and the power of the health industry, Gattaca was perhaps a little too high-concept for its own good.


Strange days

Kathryn Bigalow directed this James Cameron-scribed cyberpunk thriller. In it, Ralph Fiennes plays an ex-cop who makes a living selling memories – memories that can be played and recorded via a device that hooks into the cerebral cortex. One of these memories, though, contains a horrifying secret, which leads Fiennes deeper and deeper into a dangerous conspiracy. In spite of a cast including Tom Sizemore, Juliette Lewis and Angela Bassett, and plenty of critical acclaim, Strange Days didn’t come close to making back its $42 million budget.


The Cable Guy

I think we’ve all come across this one at some point or another. A film that ‘nearly wrecked Jim Carrey’s career’ according to Homer Simpson, in fact this Ben Stiller-directed movie wasn’t a flop at all and made $60 million in America alone. Then why is it on this list? Well, because people often give it a swerve due to its notoriety. If you give it a chance you’ll find a great black comedy with some hilarious jokes, an intelligent message and a strangely prophetic vision of the future:

Not bad for a film from 1996, eh?


Cool World

Ever imagine what would happen if Who Framed Roger Rabbit had an older, weirder brother? Well, if you did, Cool World is the film for you. Gabriel Byrne is a comic book artist who is sucked into the universe he created. Unfortunately, some of the ‘toons he created want to get out. The film was plagued by rewrites that took it away from director Ralph Bashki’s original idea (the original plot involved a half-‘toon, half-human hybrid escaping from a comic book to seek revenge on its human father – awesome, I know). Although Cool World is a bit of a bloated mess, and isn’t necessarily a good movie, it’s still got lots of interesting ideas and is worth watching.


The King of Comedy

A lot of the time, you can see why a film failed, even if you don’t agree. Maybe Gattaca was too intelligent for most movie-goers; maybe Death to Smoochy was too dark given the very cartoony surface layer; maybe Strange Days was a bit too geek-friendly. I can see no reason why The King of Comedy flopped, though. It’s directed brilliantly by Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro gives possibly his best performance, and the film has a brutal, chilling quality throughout. Throw in the critique of media idols that the film presents and you’ve got a movie that, by all rights, should have been a classic. Unfortunately, only the critics seemed to see it.


Last Action Hero

Another one of the big historical failures, 1993’s Last Action Hero declared a financial loss of $26 million. In spite of this, the movie still did fairly well at the box office – but not enough to offset the whopping budget that was reported to be over $70 million. Panned by the critics at the time, the film has actually stood up to the test of time very well, giving an incisive, satirical critique of the world of action movies whilst delivering plenty of fun action set pieces.


Deep Rising

What happens if you combine Aliens with Titanic and throw Die Hard into the mix? Deep Rising, that’s what! A team of mercenaries attempt to hijack the most expensive cruise ship in the world. When they get there, they discover that evil aquatic monsters have got there before they have. An action-comedy-horror hybrid, the film is full of quotable lines and memorable (sometimes gory) scenes. Unfortunately critics and movie-goers alike didn’t agree.


Titan A.E.

This animated film, directed by Don Bluth, with Joss Whedon on the writing team and Matt Damon, Bill Pullman and Drew Barrymore in the cast, did so badly that it closed Fox Animation Studios. The movie created a wonderful setting – a humanity spread across a vibrant universe after the destruction of Earth – and gave an epic plot reminiscent of Star Wars. Unfortunately, the film fell between a younger and older demographic and a lot of people missed out on a great sci-fi movie.


Cutthroat Island

Cutthroat Island is part of one of the biggest disasters in movie history – between this and Showgirls, it forced the fantastic Carolco Pictures to close. What makes Carolco Pictures so special?  Well, only that they were responsible for the Rambo movies, Total Recall, and Terminator 2. But is Cutthroat Island really that bad? No, not really. In fact, it shares a striking number of similarities to the massive hit Pirates of the Caribbean. Geena Davis is fantastic, the plot is fun, but most importantly, it is a wonderfully entertaining adventure movie. If it had been made a few years later, with a decent marketing push behind it, I’m sure that Cutthroat Island would have been a hit.


Hopefully, this will have made you think to look beyond whether a film did well at the box office before passing judgement on its quality. Of course, some films are awful and not worth buying, but some of them are genuinely fantastic movies.


And, ahem, some of them are so awful they need to be seen.