The Ministry of Truth (Minitrue)

Resplendent in Newspeak and Doublethink.

Halloween 2010: The Final CUT!

After some painstaking consideration (well, about half an hour and some Cradle Of Filth on iTunes), I’ve decided upon this year’s titles for the Halloween movie weekender (although seeing as I’m working on the Saturday, it’s not a full two days. What a load of old chuff….). I decided on making Saturday night a mash-up of the (original) Romero ‘Dead’ trilogy, a gory and infamous ‘Video Nasty’, alongside the honorific classic. As for Sunday, we begin with some creepy oldies to gently break the day in, before finishing full-on with two truly terrifying and legendary efforts.

SATURDAY NIGHT

The GEORGE A. ROMERO triple-header:

Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

Dawn Of The Dead [139min Extended Cut] (1978)

Day Of The Dead (1985)

The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981)

Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)

SUNDAY

Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931)

Dracula Prince Of Darkness (Terence Fisher, 1966)

Dead Of Night (Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer, 1945)

In The Mouth Of Madness (John Carpenter, 1995)

A Nightmare On Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984)

Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960)

Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)

Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)

The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973)

I had also considered both Guillermo Del Torro’s marvellous ‘The Devil’s Backbone‘ and Tobe Hopper’s genre-defining ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘. Depending on how Sunday finds itself with running times, they may still get a look-in.

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October 23, 2010 Posted by | Film | Leave a comment

The Guardian’s ‘Horror List’: Where they got it right. Where they got it drastically wrong.

I’ve discovered to my cost in the past that when you try to voice your choices for an ‘all-time’ genre movie list, you inevitably get flamed or, worse still, laughed at; so I’m not intending to deliver an overall critique of this list. Instead I thought I’d just highlight those titles that may have been misplaced, should not even have graced it at all; and those which (for reasons best known to the unnamed author) were shockingly absent. For the most part it’s a simple case of a reshuffle, yet there are a couple of unwelcome shockers in there too (I do, however, cheat once in my list!)

This is what they published on Friday:

1. Psycho

2. Rosemary’s Baby

3. Don’t Look Now

4. The Wicker Man

5. The Shining

6. The Exorcist

7. Nosferatu

8. Let The Right One In

9. Vampyr

10. Peeping Tom

11. The Innocents

12. Ring

13. The Haunting

14. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

15. Dead Of Night

16. The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari

17. Halloween

18. Bride Of Frankenstein

19. Les Diaboliques

20. Dracula (1958)

21. Audition

22. The Blair Witch Project

23. The Evil Dead/Evil Dead II

24. Carrie

25. Les Vampires

How about I now reshuffle it?

1. The Wicker Man

2. The Exorcist

3. Psycho

4. Nosferatu

5. Night Of The Living Dead

6. The Shining

7. Peeping Tom

8. Funny Games

9. The Evil Dead/Evil Dead II

10. Let The Right One In

11. A Nightmare On Elm Street

12. The Innocents

13. Scanners

14. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

15. Dead Of Night

16. Dracula (1958)

17. Halloween

18. Bride Of Frankenstein

19. The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari

20. Les Diaboliques

21. Audition (just recite “kiri-kiri-kiri” to any bloke who’s seen it….)

22. Ring

23. The Haunting

24. Carrie

25. Les Vampires

(ok, the cheat: I took out ‘Vampyr‘ as, for my sins, I’ve never had the opportunity to watch it. *hangs head in shame*)

Can you spot the flaws? Let’s look at them first, notably #22: ‘The Blair Witch Project

It’s pure shite. I can’t be more polite about it frankly. As a prime example of how the web was utilised as a mass-marketing tool to promote a film of such a low budget, no major studio backing and no recognisable cast, it’s perfect. As a horror movie it’s terribly derivative. Drawing from the dry well of William Castle and Val Lewton, it’s a hopeless mess, running from one twig-snap scare to another, culminating in the over-use of lack of light and a creepy, desolate old house to force it’s conclusion, one left open-ended for a sequel (which it duly got in the even-more abysmal ‘Book Of Shadows’).

With ‘Rosemary’s Baby‘, it’s another case of Roman Polanski throughly over-egging the pudding. I’d give benefit of the doubt as I’ve never read the book, but it’s just dreadful. I’ve been led to understand the idea of seemingly-normal people who turn out to be devil-worshipers is supposed to frighten me in this picture (frankly this was all done so much better five years later in ‘The Wicker Man’, which is placed at #4). Whilst it’s certainly true that Polanski is one of THE most over-rated filmmakers still working, the story is formulaic and the casting laughable, especially Mia Farrow at her most winsome.

Don’t Look Now‘ is a prime example of Nicolas Roeg’s output. Boring…boring….boring. Blah-blah-blah. Oh, how I wish I could be more constructive than this but I just can’t muster sufficient enough energy to do so as I type away, attempting to expel just how much I detest his work and ‘Don’t Look Now’ especially so. What makes it’s favour with many that much more galling is that I’m one of the few who can see through the facade of it’s desperate use of a late-addition (and somewhat controversial and incredibly unnecessary) sex scene, dropped in last-minute by Roeg under the pretence that it would detract from persistent bickering of Sutherland and Christie’s couple, when in fact it was obviously a desperate attempt to try and drag people into screenings back in ’73. Regrettably, it worked, and it’s the only reason people still harp on about this load of old cobblers ever since. “Were they really shagging?” Who gives a f…

Removing these entries, this leaves four places to fill.

A Nightmare On Elm Street‘ is an easy one to chose. The best film Wes Craven has ever made and with it he delivered to an unsuspecting filmgoer a truly terrifying and gruesome monster in the legendary Freddy Krueger. Along with Michael Myers and Jason Vorhess, Krueger has become an iconic character in modern horror, and whilst the gradual depreciation of the characterisation through successive, and less inspiring, sequels, greatly harmed his true evil and brutality (Mark Kermode once comparing his later incarnations with comedian Henny Youngman, delivering one-liners rapid-fire), Craven delivered a monster for a new age. The notion of mixing reality with dreams was brought to the screen in the most unsettling and terrifying manner for it’s time and this is why I’ve chosen to add it to the list.

If ‘Psycho’ can be in the list, then there is simply no concrete argument for not having Michael Haneke’s ‘Funny Games‘ in there either. Where Argento is the grand master of Giallo, Haneke is the crown prince of fear and violence that emanates from everyday life. Considering it was never intended as a horror movie, instead as a treatise on violence in the media, it enacts upon a very common fear of home invasion (the one place we can all attest to feeling truly safe), it’s violence is brutal, shocking and relentless. The use of the fourth wall keeps you transfixed when your humanity demands you to turn away, yet gradually you feel as if you a complicit in it’s acts of torture and sadism.

Scanners‘ is Cronenberg at the top of his game. A filmmaker who from the start has never shied away from mixing science and medicine with extreme horror, ‘Scanners’ would be the result of previous blueprints, developed from such titles as ‘Rabid’, ‘Shivers’ and ‘The Brood’. With it’s now infamous ‘exploding head’ scene and with a quite extraordinary and maniacal performance from Michael Ironside, this tale of drug-induced psychics as a new line of weapon mixes not only developed ideas drawn from science fiction, but with it’s mix of body horror, deserves it’s place in my revised list.

In adding ‘Night Of The Living Dead‘ there is little else to say. It deserves to be in the list and it’s omission is both glaring and a blatant disregard for both the zombie horror and it’s true master, George A. Romero. Whilst his most recent output has indeed lost it’s way, it’s in NOTLD, ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ and ‘Day Of The Dead’ that Romero stamped his authority on tales of the undead and global desolation. Utilising themes prevalent for the time in which the film was produced, he keyed into the strong emotions and sensitivities, none more so with NOTLD, taking the bold move to cast Dwayne Jones as it’s protagonist, Ben (who’s end still causes consternation and debate). Where ‘Blair Witch’ failed in making the most of it’s budget, NOTLD had, adjusting for inflation (as they say), had far less cash and yet delivered so much more, and a movie that helped not to only to define a genre, but to create one all of it’s own.

So there you have it. A revised top 25 Horror movie list. Is it better? Is it worse? Naturally, I would suggest it’s far superior to that which was published on Friday. Still, there’s always room for improvement, is there not…

October 23, 2010 Posted by | Film | Leave a comment

‘A History Of Horror’, the Classic Horror Campaign & Roy Ward Baker

I think it fitting that before I get into my take on the first part of Mark Gatiss’s BBC4 documentary and, having just watched Richard make us all very proud of him on the Beeb, that I should pay my somewhat belated respects to a stalwart of the British film industry and a horror master, Roy Ward Baker.

Whilst it’s true that, during an illustrious career as both a film and TV director, he will be remembered for the most brilliant ‘A Night To Remember’ (and the finest example of the telling of the Titanic disaster yet committed to film), it’s his pedigree of work with both HAMMER and Amicus that I and countless others will remember him. While never being the biggest fan of ‘Scars of Dracula’ (mostly because of Dennis Waterman), RWB helmed two of my most treasured movies: Amicus’s ‘Vault Of Horror’ and HAMMER’s ‘Quatermass And The Pit’.

‘Vault Of Horror’, based upon stories from the EC Comics, was my first experience of portmanteau horror, only seeing such gems as ‘Dr Terror’s House Of Horror’, ‘Dead Of Night’, ‘Tales From The Crypt’, Asylum (another of RWB’s efforts) etc afterward, and it remains a stalwart of my horror collection. From the Massey siblings tale of family betrayal and murder followed by a Vampirically bloodthirsty revenge in ‘Midnight Mess‘ (the sight of Daniel Massey trussed upside down with a beer tap plunged into his neck, fresh bloody nectar on tap appealed to my twisted sense of movie bloodlust!). The OCD-crazed Terry-Thomas in ‘The Neat Job‘ driving his young wife (Glynis Johns) to madness and murder with a well-planted hammer to the cranium!. A tale of theft, murder and Indian mysticism are mixed together wonderfully in the Curt Jurgens segment ‘This Trick’ll Kill You’, whilst Michael Craig come a breathless cropper over a double-cross in ‘Bargain In Death‘, the film saves the best for last with Tom Baker as an artist bent on Voodoo revenge in ‘Drawn And Quartered‘, the sight of John Witty screaming having fallen foul of a paper guillotine is truly a classic moment of gore.

Nigel Kneale himself spoke very highly of Hammer’s rendering of ‘Quatermass And The Pit,’, and of RWB more so. In this sublime and truly wonderful film version of the classic 1959 BBC production, Andrew Kier (who for me will always be the definitive Bernard Quatermass) attempts to discover the true origins of what appears to be a WW2 German V-Weapon discovered during Underground works on Hobb’s Lane station (John Carpenter would tip an honourable hat in his excellent ‘In The Mouth Of Madness’ with Hobb’s End the setting for the Lovecraftian machinations of the movie), which transpires to be a Martian spaceship buried beneath the Earth millions of years before; the film is a wondrous mix of typical Hammer fright and tension interlaced with some of the most entertaining and thrilling Science Fiction writing from one of UK’s most skilled and sadly-missed writers.

Whilst he would also contribute the the Hammer roster with ‘The Vampire Lovers’ (which woulds form part of ‘The Karnstein Trilogy’), and ‘Scars Of Dracula, both of which found favour, I will always treasure ‘A Night To Remember’, alongside ‘Vault Of Horror’ and ‘Quatermass And The Pit’ and the finest examples of a film maker at the peak of his abilities.

Moving onto more pleasant news of late, last Monday evening saw BBC4 deliver part one of ‘A History Of Horror’: Frankenstein Goes To Hollywood’. What a sumptuous, passionate and thoughtful love-letter to a genre it was too. Gatiss begins the series by divulging to us why and what it is about horror that he finds so thrilling and exciting, and recounts how he used to stay up to watch horror double-bills during his youth in the 70’s. Funny that…..

In the first part, he goes to great and knowledgable lengths to discuss the work of those early greats of the genre: Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. I could not help but find myself in a fit of dual-awe when Gatiss witnessed the unveiling of Chaney’s make-up box. It was entranced not only by this treasure-trove but also with his look of utter amazement as if he were that young boy again, falling head-first in the magic and the thrill of horror movies for the first time. I don’t doubt that many true fans of the genre felt exactly the same way watching that singular moment of amazement.

Recounting the undeserved sadness of Bela Lugosi and the deserved success of Boris Karloff, he rounded off by giving prominence to that rarest of movie moments: a sequel that outshines the original. In this case, James Whale’s ‘The Bride Of Frankenstein’. With a nod to the efforts of Warner Bros’ and RKO, he envelop’s the early developmental stage of the genre’s Hollywood beginnings with a impassioned retrospective of ‘Son Of Frankenstein’. This coming Monday (18th) it’s ‘Horror In The Home Counties’: HAMMER!

For their part, BBC4 is doing it’s part by screening some classics along the way. Following from the first part of ‘A History Of Horror’ they lined up ‘Bride Of Frankenstein’, ‘The Cat People’ and ‘I Walked With A Zombie’. This week it’s a HAMMER/TIGON mix with Brian Donlevy’s portayal of Bernard Quatermass in ‘The Quatermass Xperiment’, ‘Brides Of Dracula’ and the Vincent Price fear-fest ‘Witchfinder General’.

Phew, still reading? Well done…..

Finally, a quite humongous round of applause and hugs all round to Richard on his ‘Point Of View’ piece! (see it HERE) Well done sir! Liked Jeremy Vine’s “the Beeb is somewhat squeamish when it comes to horror films” line! (ok, slight paraphrasing there!). The current petition count’s at 1186 so great work so far but some way off 2000! Still, let’s be positive, with what’s being going on recently, there’s light at the end of the tunnel!

Oh, and don’t forget Mark Gatiss and Rory Kineer in an new adaptation of H.G. Well’s ‘The First Men In The Moon’ on BBC4 Tuesday evening! Two fine great actors and a marvellous tale to be told. Do tune in.

Toodle-pipski.

October 17, 2010 Posted by | Film | 1 Comment

The Beeb ARE LISTENING!!!!

Good luck tomorrow Richard!

So, Richard Gladman AKA ‘cyberschizoid’ AKA the evil genius behind the Classic Horror Campaign is going to be interviewed by BBC Points Of View tomorrow (12/10) about his campaign! They also want to see the petition!

It is at this point that I, on behalf of all of us who have signed the petition and have followed Richard since the early days, wish to run about whilst flailing my arms like Kermit the Frog in celebration!!!!! Alas, you shall have to concede to a picture of everybody’s little green friend:

Well done Sir!

October 11, 2010 Posted by | Film | 1 Comment

Some very good news for the Classic Horror Campaign (well, possibly….)

Having sent an email to the BBC about the Classic Horror Campaign, on Wednesday I got an email (which turned into an eventual phone call) from a guy named Will at BBC Vision, Birmingham. Now, the long and the short of the conversation I had was that there may be ideas being floated around the Beeb about putting together “something” with Mark Gatiss relating to classic Horror (no doubt in conjunction with the upcoming 3-part documentary on BBC4 over October) and it’s fans, and would I be free over the next few weeks to take part!

At this point I started to get the impression that this guy was under the notion that I am responsible for the whole campaign, to which I categorically set the record straight (I am in no way responsible for it’s inception, running or hopefully, eventual success). Having enlightened Will as to the man who developed the campaign (not sure I can actually name him on here, so let’s go with his moniker ‘cyberschizoid‘), I suggested that they talk. So, having contacted ‘cyberschizoid’ later that day and brought him up to speed, suggesting that he speak to Will and passed on his phone number, that’s where things currently lie.

“Something” with Mark Gatiss? Hmmm? Watch. This. Space.

October 8, 2010 Posted by | Film | Leave a comment