Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Spine Chillers

Halloween may be over for another year, but reader beware, you’re still in for a scare if you pick up these three spook-tacularly haunting reads…

Book Review: DARK MATTER
Written by: Michelle Paver
Published by: Orion, 2011


With its cream-coloured snowscape cover and black and white photographs intersecting the fictional account within, teen author Michelle Paver’s first adult horror drew my attention because of its unmistakable visual comparison to Kate Mosse’s so-so period chiller The Winter Ghosts (reviewed HERE).

While I would undoubtedly proclaim Paver’s supernatural tale to be the better read, it is more successful as an intense character piece then a truly thrilling ghost story, with the paranormal proceedings played out few and far between and isolation and paranoia posing more of a pertinent problem for the haunted Arctic explorers than any long dead spirit.

Friday, 28 October 2011

No Expense Spared

Along with the Star Wars saga, the Jurassic Park trilogy has been at the summit of my hi-def wishlist since (before) the format was invented. That wish became reality this Monday with the release of the “Ultimate Trilogy” Blu-ray boxset. I’m still making my way through the dense special features, but couldn’t resist a quick whizz-through review of the films I will adore forever.

PG – 129mins – 1993

Audience’s first visit to the world’s most perilous amusement park is one of *the* shaping moments of my childhood. I can, even now, remember leaving the cinema waaaaay back in 1993 (I was 9 years old) with a new obsession – and I still rank the film as one of my favourites of all time today, some 18 years later.

Toby the Unfriendly Ghost

15 – 84mins – 2011
Written by: Christopher B. Landon
Based on characters created by: Oren Peli
Directed by: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost
Starring: Jessica Tyler Brown, Chloe Csengery, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Lauren Bittner, Dustin Ingram, Katie Featherstone, Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland


[SPOILERS] Ghost? Demon? Poltergeist? Invisible Friend? Fraud? Despite spooling back to the much referenced troubled childhoods of Paranormal Activity sisters Katie (Featherstone) and Kristi (Grayden), this third entry in the supernatural entity series still fails to comprehensively explain what the hell is haunting, taunting and hurting them. Well they have to leave something to play with in the almost guaranteed fourth instalment…

In PA3 we get a peek at the VHS home movies which disappeared from Kristi and husband Dan’s (Boland) basement in the “burglary” at the start of PA2 (reviewed HERE). Rewinding to the September of 1988, we see young Kristi (Tyler Brown) develop a disturbing camaraderie with her “invisible friend” Toby. The little girl starts talking to thin air, waking in the middle of the night and roaming the house to stare for hours at her sleeping mother (Bittner) and stepfather (Nicholas Smith).

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Never Kill a Boy on the First Date

18 – 84mins – 2009
Written by: Sean Byrne
Directed by: Sean Byrne
Starring: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Victoria Thaine, Richard Wilson, Jessica McNamee, Suzi Dougherty, Victoria Egger, Anne Scott-Pendlebury


Short film-maker Sean Byrne graduates to feature length productions with this disturbing Aussie torture flick which was marketed off the back of leading man Xavier Samuel's turn as victim-turned-vamp Riley in last year's phenomenally popular Twilight Saga: Eclipse (reviewed HERE).

Samuel plays emotionally addled high-schooler Brent, who hides the guilt and pain of killing his father in a car accident six months previous by burying himself in heavy metal and marijuana binges. When he snubs introverted wallflower Lola's (McLeacy) offer of a date to the prom, Brent is completely unaware of the danger that lays ahead. Knocked unconscious and kidnapped by Lola's deranged daddy (Brumpton), Brent wakes up to a very different dance – one where you most definitely don't want to be crowned prom king.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Hell's Playground

18 – 92mins – 2010
Screenplay by: Jane Anderson and Adam Gierasch
Based on the 1988 film written by: Joe Augustyn
Directed by: Adam Gierasch
Starring: Shannon Elizabeth, Monica Keena, Edward Furlong, John F. Beach, Michael Copon, Diora Baird, Bobbi Sue Luther, Irina Beskaravaynaya, Jamie Harris


It wasn't until looking up the cast and crew info on IMDb that I realised that this all-guts-no-glory splatter flick is actually a remake of a late eighties frightener of the same name. I'd never heard of it (or its two low-end follow-ups), but it was obviously memorable enough for someone to want to film it anew. Clearly this recent rock n' roll reimagining didn't have quite the same impact, as despite a tentative theatrical run in the third quarter of 2009, it was shelved for a year and released straight to DVD in time for the following Halloween.

It's an obvious time to market any horror flick, but Night of the Demons does at least actually take place on All Hallows Eve. After a stylised sepia-toned silent movie-riffing prologue set on October 31st 1925 sees a party piece séance bring forth a horde of possessive satanic nasties, the film fast forwards to the same house in the present day; abandoned since the supernatural tragedy, until feisty Angela (American Pie's Elizabeth) rents out the sinister property to host a rawkin' Halloween party for all the fittest girls and hunkiest boys on the block.

Monday, 24 October 2011

In Space No One Can Hear You Howl

Written by: Pierre Boulle
Translated from the French by: Xan Fielding
Originally published in: 1963
Vintage Classics Edition published in: 2011


The problem with going back to the slightly obscure source material after watching the well known film it inspired is you will always draw comparisons; it's inevitable. It only becomes something of an issue, however, when the film is a highly-regarded cult classic which kick-started a considerable decades-spanning box office, television and print franchise which you've recently feasted upon in excess to great delight: disappointment ensues because what you're reading is not what you've come to know and love.

While Pierre Boulle's allegorical Planet of the Apes (or Monkey Planet, as the French title was initially translated as) does undeniably lay the skeletal groundwork for the 1968 Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi (which I reviewed HERE) – humans travel through space and land on a world where man is a primitive and enslaved species at the mercy of their anthropomorphised primate masters – there are many differences which jar when you've come to accept the films as canon.

Roaring back to the Big Screen

Cine Review: THE LION KING 3D
U – 87mins – 1994/2011
Written by: Irene Mecchi, Jonathon Roberts and Linda Woolverton
Directed by: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
Starring the voice talents of: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Jonathon Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Madge Sinclair, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Jim Cunnings


[SPOILERS] I was planning to use the above title for a review of the recent big screen homecoming of everyone's favourite dino stomper Jurassic Park. Alas, a combination of factors (busy schedule, lack of screenings at prime times, huuuuuge second week drop off) meant that I’ll now have to wait for the Blu-ray boxset (released today, peeps - I've just picked up my copy!) to see one of my favourite films of all time remastered and in HD.

As luck would have it, another hugely popular – albeit wholly diverse – creature feature from the 90s also received a theatrical re-release this past month; replete with a retrofitted third dimension. Whether a traditional hand-drawn animated feature was well suited to a 3D conversion was arguable, but in my opinion The Lion King employed the technology more successfully than some recent live action fare (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Clash of the Titans), with the renovation most perceptible when dust, ash or fire swirled before your eyes or a bird swooped high above the African plains.