Saturday, 30 October 2010

DVDs for Halloween

With just one day until All Hallows Eve is upon us you may find your self with no plans for what to do. Well, that may just leave you with what I think is the best plan of all. On a cold autumn evening, the last one of October, why not curl up with some nibbles, drinks and some loved ones (or one special loved one) and put on a DVD?

Here are my picks for the best DVDs for Halloween.

All the DVDs are Halloween related and available to buy or rent.

One for the Family: The Simpson’s Tree House of Horror

Twenty years ago Bart and Lisa sat in their tree house on Halloween and recounted horror stories to each other whilst a terrified Homer listened in. As a result a new tradition was born. Every year the Simpson family come over all horror, the writers push their imagination to the limits and the viewers cackle at the spoofs and in jokes. A great family watch that just pips 'Hocus Pocus', if not just for Homer channeling Jack Torrence in 'The Shinning'.

One for the Classic Lovers: Halloween

The word classic gets used a bit too much I feel but, Halloween is exactly that. It reshaped the horror genre and bore the teen slasher phenomenon. It also made a star out of Jamie Lee Curtis and raised her horror status to icon. Who knew a Bill Shatner mask could be so frightening?

One for the Modern Retro Fans: House of a 1000 Corpses

Rob Zombie’s film, about the murderous redneck Firefly family and the mythical Dr. Satan, oozes 70s horror out of every orifice, a kind of Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets The Hills Have Eyes on speed. There are a lot of the things to like about Zombie’s first stab at horror not to mention references by the bucket load.

One for the Ladies: Ginger Snaps
So, it’s Halloween and you want to impress a young lady with a quiet night in. She doesn’t really know much about horror and leaves herself in your capable hands. You’ve chilled the drinks and popped the corn now what the hell are you going to watch? Well, first things first, steer clear of I Spit on Your Grave. If there is one horror film not appropriate for an early date that’s it. Instead, dig out Ginger Snaps. It’s cool and funny and she will relate to the subject matter, which is as good a metaphor for female puberty as Carrie ever was.

One for the Bad Movie Lovers: Night of the Demons
Directed by Kevin Tenney, starring Linnea Quigley and with a cheesy plot about a party in a morgue with naked women, sex and booze, oh, and it’s from the 80s. A good, bad movie at it’s best.
One for the Cult Fans: Donnie Darko
If one film has defined the cult film scene in recent years it’s Donnie Darko. A dark, brooding film with strange dreams, dead teens, a giant macabre rabbit and some time travel it clever to say the least and anyone who hasn’t seen it, must do at least once.

So, there we have it. Have a great Halloween and enjoy yourselves.

Monday, 25 October 2010

My article over on

Just a quick post to let you know i've had one of my articles published over on

You can read the article here.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Cash Before Creativity

Slowly over the past couple of weeks the news has filtered through that ‘Hellraiser’ will, almost certainly, be remade.

Rumours and news stories have been banded about the internet about Todd Farmer writing the first draft of the script, Patrick Lussier signing on to direct and Amber Heard linked to the lead role.

Undoubtedly though, the biggest talking point so far has been the Weinstein’s plan to follow the lead of the planned Alien remake, and make the film a PG-13.

Fans in their droves hit blogging sites, social networks and film news websites to release their anger about such a decision. I have to say, I’m on the fans side. To make such a move is nonsense.

If there was one iconic film that is not suitable to be remade as a ‘teen movie’, 'Hellraiser' is probably it. A gory, bleak film written by the unflinching Clive Barker with a heavy sadomasochistic undertone. It has subject matter as dark as Charlie Manson’s innards, Hellraiser certainly isn’t all fun and frolics.

At least that's the way the original is made. This announcement suggests that the new film is not going to be a Hellraiser film at all, this is going to be a Pinhead film.

You see Hellraiser is an intelligent film that taps into your psyche. This film isn't about the gore or the excellent make up, it's all about atmosphere and it's not suited to a younger audience. Pinhead, however, is a recognisable horror icon, who is easily replacated with a new actor.

I'm not being demeaning here. I'm sure there are teens who love the original, just as I did. There is no doubt though, if we speak in demographics here, teens are not the intended target of the source material.

However, it is the teen market that brings in the big cash. PG-13 films fair much better at the box office than R-rated ones and in recent years it become clear that Hollywood is all about the cold, hard cash. Who cares about artistic input? Can creativity pay for a mansion in Beverly Hills? No! But, mass marketed, ill conceived shit can.

So, cut the gory effects, ditch the sadomasochism, slash the themes of morality in fear and crank up the teens making bad decisions. Then, add a young, pretty actress running around in a tight, white vest while Pinhead follows behind.

Also, we'll need some big name stars. Pinhead needs to be bald and should be bigger than last time, how about Vin Diesel? In fact, let's rename him Vinhead. Maybe, he could glitter when he goes into the sun, kids love that these days.

How about Miley Cyrus, Zak Effron and that guy from One Tree Hill play the cenobites? Maybe they could finish with a sing off that Vinhead loses and gets sent to hell by Simon Cowell and some celebrity judges.

It will never happen but if you are going to turn classics into teen flicks why not go hog wild?

Anyway, I must go now I'm writing my English language, rom-com version of 'Irreversible'. Kidding.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Europe vs USA - The Conclusion

Over my previous two posts I have compared the horror outputs of Europe and the USA with a view to finding which has been better for the years 2008/09. In this post I will attempt to reach the conclusion.

America made some excellent films in this time, though they are often clouded by shoddy remakes and sloppy sequels.

However, when the films were good they were very good. Some of the films stateside really were a breath of fresh air in what sometimes felt like a smothering smog of mediocrity. New writers, producers and directors proved that if they are given a chance they can create something good fun and entertaining, something you want to watch. The problem at the moment across the Atlantic is that these opportunities are often reserved for the privileged whose name will pull in the crowds, if the film itself doesn’t.

There is no question that Europe released some excellent horror films in that period and if I had looked at 2007 too then, I believe, they would have been run away winners.

Film makers have be given a little more freedom, a little more trust and my goodness the results show. Sequels and remakes are present in European cinema but they are in the minority with new, original ideas given preference.

There is no doubt, for me, that Europe is the winner of the contest. Not just because I believe their output to be better but, also because of a growing trend in American horror to remake European films.

Two of the best received films in the US were ‘Quarantine’ and ‘The Strangers’, remakes of Spanish chiller ‘Rec’ and French home invasion film ‘Them’ respectively. Although ‘The Strangers’ is very liberal in the telling of the story and moved away from the original, the premise and plot is essentially the same.

The worrying thing for Hollywood is that this trending looks set to continue with ‘Let Me In’ virtually lurking on our doorstep, it appears that Euro remakes may be the next big thing in American horror similar to the Asian influence we saw not too long ago.

America needs something new and different to get itself back on its perch in horror terms and remakes are not the way forward. They need action quickly, before the gap between themselves and Europe widens further.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Europe vs USA - Part Two

In my last post I outlined a competition between Europe and The US comparing their horror output for 2008/09.

Then we took a look at the best The USA had to offer us and in truth if you wade through the rubbish, the remake and the sequels there were many a good film to be found.

In this post we will take a look at Europe's finest during this period.

I have grown to become a big fan of European horror recently. I'm not sure at what point this new love grew but, it definitely has blossomed within me.

A lot of excellent horror came out of Europe in 2007 and the pressure must remain on the continent to keep it up and they certainly seem to have done that so far.

Excellent films spewed forth from right across the continent with an incredible diversity.

Britain gave us the gritty and all too realistic 'Eden Lake.' A tale of a young couple terrorised by violent youths give a worrying reflection of modern communities. Then from Norway came the crazy Nazi-zombie tale, 'Dead Snow.'

Del Toro pushed all the right buttons again as he helmed Spanish ghost story 'The Orphanage' and had us jumping and weeping like nobody else could whilst France did what it does best with the sometimes brutal Martyrs.

Without doubt though the stand out film came from an unlikely source in Sweden’s ‘Let the Right One In’. A dark, macabre coming-of-age tale of two teenage vampires that was as far from ‘Twilight’ as it could possibly step within the same genre.

And, that is where European horror’s strength lies, with the gloomy, sombre edge that doesn’t need to be sugar coated. It doesn’t need a optimistic finale where “all’s well that ends well” like many (though not all) American productions. There are rarely test audiences and focus groups to switch the conclusion.

There too lies the weakness. Some of Europe’s out point not only toes the line of what is acceptable but marches straight over and tramples all in its way with little to rein them in. So, whilst the best things to come out of Europe and undoubtedly excellent, the worst can often plumb the depths.

However, is it better than all that comes from the other side of the Atlantic? I’ll give my verdict in my next post.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Europe vs USA - Part One

Last week one of the world's most prestigious sporting events took place less than one hours drive from my front door. Every two years the finest golfers in Europe take on those from the US. This year Europe edged the USA in a nail biting finish but, what if it wasn't golf? What if it was a Euro-US horror challenge? I will, over the next three posts compare and contrast the horror output for both America and Europe and decide which are better at the craft.

I will take a look at a two year period and compare the output of the regions. I won't take into account 2010 because it can take some time for non-English language films to filter through, instead let's look at 2008/2009 and, in this post we will look at the output of the US in this period.

Lots of people aren't happy with Hollywood's output in the horror genre at the moment. It's not without good reason either. It's far too easier to argue the point against American horror. In recent years the US market has been over run by unoriginal ideas, overtired franchises and unwanted remakes almost to the point of saturation. ‘Halloween 2’ seemed to prove the point as a remake of an overtired franchise filled with unoriginal ideas.

However, to think this all American horror is about would be dismissive and disrespectful to those who toil for their craft to make decent original films. In fact, the US has put out some great horror in the past few years, even if most have not been promoted as much as some of the more well known bloated turkeys that the major studios have churned out.

Take, for example, ‘The Ruins’. For anybody who hasn't seen it I recommend that you do. It's smart, well paced and original, I was surprised at how few people had seen it and it is a bit of a diamond in the rough.

However, America's good horror films don't end with carnivorous, Mexican topiary. Nor is it exclusive to little known smaller productions. ‘Zombieland’ was a big budget film, backed by a major studio, starring famous actors and featuring a celebrated cameo.
Or, what about ‘Drag Me To Hell’? Sam Raimi’s tale of gypsy curses and retribution was an excellent film by a legend of the genre. It garnered some bad reviews but I have no idea why, the film was as fun and enjoyable as some of the best in recent memory.
Also add ‘Paranormal Activity’ to the pile. A film that was genuinely frightening, ‘Paranormal Activity’ will make you afraid to go to sleep and ensure you don’t enter a room with the light off. It’s truly chilling and, in my opinion, more terrifying than the father of handheld horror The Blair Witch Project.

So, although there are A LOT of bad quality rip offs coming out of the United States at the moment, there are some real gems amongst them that don’t deserve to be lumped together with hackneyed horror put out to make a quick buck or million and to live off existing names or gimmicks that an audience already feels attached to. But, are these titles too few and far between to compete with Europe?

In my next post we will look at Europe’s output.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Review: Devil (2010)

I recently wrote a blog post in response to the question Are Horror Fans Too Biased Towards Directors? Well, it certainly seems that M. Night Shyalaman can turn a horror fan off a film quicker than most. So, it seemed like a strange decision to plaster his name over the trailers and posters for ‘Devil’. Rumours were that fans booed and mocked when his name popped up in the teaser at cinemas stateside.

This time, however, Shyalaman is not directing, nor is he writing. He is producing an idea “from the mind of M. Night Shyalaman” according to the trailer and the result is pretty damn good.

In actuality ‘Devil’ is written by Brain Nelson, who also wrote 30 Days of Night and the excellent Hard Candy, and directed by John Erick Dowdle who directed Quarantine, the remake/rip off of Spanish film Rec. What we get is something fresh, something different.

Shyalaman’s idea, that has become the premise of the film, is genius in its simplicity. Five people are trapped in a lift, one of them maybe the Devil himself.

In fact, it’s the simplicity of the film that makes it enjoyable through out. Over the past few years the US market has been saturated with torture porn or bad CGI but ‘Devil’ moves away from such cheap tricks and returns to the most powerful weapon in a film’s arsenal, its audience.

So dependant on the mind of the viewer is ‘Devil’ that, some of the film’s most tense moments come when there is nothing happening on screen at all. Each killing that takes place inside the elevator is done as the power fails, that means no lights and no CCTV. However, when there is no picture, there is still sound. Heavy breathing, scrabbling fingers, breaking glass, each sound sets you on edge, your hair on end and your imagination into overdrive.

The film is smooth and clever enough for you to leave the cinema happy with what you saw. You will keep guessing until the reveal as to whom is Satan and at some point you will believe it could be any of them. I certainly didn't see the twist coming until about 10 seconds before it did.

All in all the film is good. I would certainly recommend that people see it. It's not a classic of the genre but its certainly enjoyable and proves that M. Night Shyalaman is an excellent concept man even if he doesn't always have the skills to pull it off as a director.