Sunday, 24 April 2011

Shuffle, Shuffle, Moan, Shuffle, Groan, Scream, Run!!!

There seems to be myth perpetuating within horror that’s gathering speed at a frightening rate. On some levels it’s affecting the genre and passing off perfectly sound films as trash. This myth tries to affect the way writers, producers and directors come about their ideas and the way they transfer them to the page and ultimately the big screen. So, what is this argument? Zombies have set rules.
I’m not saying zombies don’t have rules, no not at all. It is screenwriting 101 that the universe you create must have rules that you abide by. However, the rules your zombies endure should be set by you and you alone. Have your zombies shuffle, have them run, have tearing up the road on a Harley Davidson just be sure you set the rules and you stick to them.

The rules that many believe to be gospel are long standing, dating back to George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”. These rules are only in place because Romero dared to challenge the existing, tired premise of what a zombie was though. Before Romero zombie didn’t crave flesh, most never killed and they were rarely actually dead. Pre-Romero zombies were brain dead plantation workers, zombified by a bokor.

Romero stripped the zombie subgenre down to its parts before rebuilding it into something new and relevant to the culture of the period. Romero, in an act not unlike the cadavers in his films, killed the genre, resurrected it and watched it take over the world. It was bold move but it revolutionised zombie cinema and now Romero is synonymous with the undead.  

Now it seems that anybody who tries to do the same is torn to shreds and cast asunder by the same people who praise Romero, often “fanboys” who would gladly shuffle off the end of the earth if George told them to. 

Now I admire Romero and what he did for the genre but am I the only person who sees the hypocrisy in this argument? How can people praise a film maker for being daring by turning a tired format into something new a fresh, yet write off anyone who tries it subsequently?
I have read numerous articles and blog posts in recent weeks declaring that zombies have run (or at least shuffled) their course, that they aren’t nearly as entertaining or terrifying as they once were, more shambolic than shambling. 

So, maybe it’s time that zombies evolved into something to cause us terror again because the truth is the audience has evolved too. The “Dawn of the Dead” remake and Charlie Brooker’s “Dead Set” showed how terrifying fast moving zombies can be and how much more relevant they are to our culture. In a new fast moving world of fast food, instant downloads, on demand TV and anything just click of a button away maybe it’s time our zombies picked up the pace a bit or run the risk of being left behind.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Circus of Horrors

Cirque Du Soleil directed by Quentin Tarantino!” That’s how ‘Circus of Horrors’ is described by lead performer and show creator Doktor Haze. Last week I clambered from my hovel, with Mrs Fright Writer in tow, to cast a beady eye over this freak show.

So, on a cold, February night in Cardiff I find myself stood outside a theatre waiting to see the performance, but in reality, the show has already begun. A hunchback shambles his way up and down the queue entertaining the crowd.

The crowd themselves though are, kind of, part of the show. Among the ‘normal people’, a large number of the audience are dressed in a darkly gothic or deeply horror manner, as flamboyant as the performers themselves. Women in tutus and corsets, with body art and extravagantly coloured hair stand alongside shadowy men dressed in black. They are geeks and freaks, they are my kind of people.

In the foyer we are met by two scantily clad performers who greet the audience with a smile the opportunity to buy an official tour brochure and merchandise.

When we take our seats and while others pour in before the show begins we are entertained by ‘Daniel Disorderly’, the hunchback we met outside. Daniel entertains us with lewd jokes and “magic”. Then, as the show is about to begin, he runs as through the shows disclaimer with appropriate actions. We’re told it contains sexual content, nudity, bad language and is “not suitable for children, people of a nervous disposition, sissies & chavs.” It sounds like one hell of a show!

Then, as the lights go down, performer and Polish aristocracy Anastasia IV goes up, way up, performing a ballet routine through the air, high above the stage attached only by her own hair and accompanied by rock music. In the short routine we are introduced to exactly what we can expect over the next two and a half hours; sex, rock, horror, humour and death defying acts.

So begins one of the freakiest, most action packed shows you are ever likely to see on stage. Transported from an old asylum to the dystopian future metropolis “Sin City” via Mexico and Victorian London, we meet all sorts of oddities; our very flexible friend Kristina Garcia, Professor Daniel Von Henry aka Captain Dan a perverted midget, Hannibal Helmuerto a tattooed sword swallower with “floating ribs” and many other freaks including the man himself Doktor Haze.

The whole show continues at a dizzying pace. In a matter of seconds you’ll hold your breath in anticipation, gasp with horror and laugh with joy. In fact you may be glad of the interval just to catch your breath.

You’ll realise quite early in the show that, despite what Doktor Haze says, Tarantino it ain’t. No, this show is too horrifying, too gory, too much fun to be Tarantino. This show is more Fulci crossed with Rodriguez, it’s not afraid to bring things down to base level with wicked humour and smatterings of bodily fluids. Sure the acting isn’t always great and the story isn’t Shakespeare, but you will be too wrapped up atmosphere of the whole to even care.

It would recommend that everyone takes a look at the tour dates and goes to a show near them. This show really is like nothing else and with 15 years of performing under its belt it’s showing no signs of slow down.

Circus of Horrors have taken something sweet, laced it with sexuality, covered it in horror and dusted it with humour to create something far more mature and a lot more fun. It’s like adding vodka to jelly or chilli to chocolate, the innocence is gone but the pleasure is so much better.

The show beats with a black heart but it’s one that’s sprinkled with the gold glitter of showmanship. It puts glamour and horror together side by side to create something simply spectacular.

That’s all from me. I need to go to tell my wife I’m running away with the circus. Goodbye for now and in the words of Doktor Haze, ”may your dreams be nightmares."