Monthly Archives: November 2012

Review: The Devil’s Business

Quick Review

This is one from the bargain shelves in the local supermarket which does turn up some strange films at times. This film is a mixture of crime drama with the occult. It has very small cast and a fairly small story that seems over-stretched to fit a film format.

Two hit men break into a house, a young guy in his 20s called Cully (Jack Gordon) and an older man called Pinner (Billy Clarke). They work for a gangster called Bruno (Harry Miller) who wants them to kill an old associate of his called Kist (Jonathan Hansler). Pinner is quiet and serious and just wants to get the job done but Cully is mouthy and talkative. Pinner has worked for Bruno for a long time but this is Cully’s first job and it is possible that his nerves are what accounts for his constant need to chat.

Pinner mentions that Kist is at the opera and they have to wait for him to come home. Since Kist is not married they don’t expect anyone else to be there to complicate things and Cully thinks he’s gay because he has books and no wife. They have some time to wait so Cully begs Pinner to tell him a story of the strangest thing he’s ever seen. Pinner reluctantly agrees and he tells Cully a ghost story of a dancer Valentina that he killed for Bruno and the way he tells it is very atmospheric. It really would make very good radio but this a film and all we get is two men sitting in the dark talking while waiting for Kist to come home.

Before we hear the end of Pinner’s story they hear a noise outside and go out to investigate. In the garage thy find lit candles, a magic circle drawn on the floor and what looks like a book of magic spells. Cully starts reading from the book but has trouble with the word homunculus and of course he makes another tiresome gay reference. Pinner finds a dead baby in a bag which disgusts both men enough to want to kill Kist without orders from Bruno. They realize that this is not just a normal job for Bruno.

Not a lot happens in this film and all of the action takes place in the one location. It is shot at night using natural light which makes it very dark. Billy Clarke and Jack Gordon are fine and Jonathan Hansler is okay as Kist but I was disappointed when I saw Bruno. He was a lot less intimidating when I saw him than the image of him I got from Cully and Pinner talking to each other. The film feels like an episode of TV show that has been padded out to film length. It might suit anyone who perfers drama to horror

Rating 5.0/10

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Posted by on November 25, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Mars Attacks

Bluray Review

Before the titles a farmer in his tractor is asking a neighbour about his barbecue but he’s not having a barbecue. Soon they find out where the smell of meat is coming from as a herd of cattle stampede down the road on fire. It certainly sets the tone for the rest of this Tim Burton film and it’s followed by a title sequence that has one of my favourite film themes by Danny Elfman. It’s one of those tunes that really gets me pumped up for a big show. The film itself is certainly a big budget star-studded spectacle and is a fun homage to 50s science fiction films.

President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) is informed that there are disc shaped craft surrounding the Earth and is shown photographs of the craft from satellites. His press secretary Jerry Ross (Martin Short) is very excited about announcing this to the public but the hawkish General Decker (Rod Steiger) sees this as major security threat. This very sensible view is side-lined by a scientist Professor Donald Kessler (Pierce Brosnan) who is dogmatically tied to the idea that advanced technology and high intelligence suggests a peaceful race just as advanced morally as they are technologically despite the very obvious evidence to the contrary from the only example of an advanced technological species we know about.

They announce the aliens to the public and we see the different main characters. In a donut shop in Nevada we have a quiet geeky emo type with long hair (Lukas Haas). His family live in a trailer park except for his senile grandmother Florence (Sylvia Sidney) who has dementia and gets people’s names wrong and she lives in a care home. His father (Joe Don Baker) is a slob with small-minded views and his mother (O-Lan Jones) and brother Billy Glen (Jack Black) are much the same. Billy Glen has volunteered at the local army base for Martian duty. There’s an ex-boxer Byron Williams (Jim Brown) working in a casino in Las Vegas dressed up like a pharaoh and his wife (Pam Grier) and two sons live in Washington DC. He’s only in Vegas for the work to support his family. Also in Vegasis Art Land (Jack Nicholson) a casino owner and his hippy new age wife Barbara (Annette Bening). Art is obsessed with getting his latest casino running but Barbara is excited by the Martians thinking they have come to save us from ourselves

Kessler goes on cheesy chat show to talk about the aliens with Nathalie Lake (Sarah Jessica Parker). Nathalie’s boyfriend is a new reporter Jason Stone (Michael J. Fox) and he’s pissed that Nathalie is getting this exclusive interview. It becomes clear why when Kessler starts flirting with Nathalie. Suddenly all the TV signals get cut off and then they receive a transmission from the Martians. The alien design is amazing and though we did not get the cards they were based on over here in UK they do look pretty close from what I’ve seen. The Martians are short and skinny with a head that looks like a skull with big brain bulging out the back. They have big bulging eyes in their lidless eye sockets. The Martian leader quacks his announcement and concludes his speech by tracing a circle in the air.

President Dale is talking to a bunch of senior military staff and scientists about the Martians now that they have seen them. The First Lady Martha Dale (Glenn Close) is revolted by them at first sight but Kessler goes on about how we are probably just as hideous to them. There’s a scientist with a translation machine but what it translates the strange quacks into is nonsense that barely makes any more sense but it sounds just as ominous as it does hopeful.

The Martians transmit landing co-ordinates for the first official meeting in the Nevada desert near a town called Parumph and Decker wants to gets the troops there in force. Kessler advises that they don’t want to seem aggressive so the President puts the wimpy General Casey (Paul Winfield) in charge and tells him to invite a select audience. On the day they have few hundred invited guests and a bunch of hippies hanging around at the back of those seated. Barbara has found herself a perfect place to watch the whole thing from a hill over-looking the landing site. The media are of course there and both Nathalie and Jason are on top of their outside broadcast vans transmitting live.

All eyes are on it as a saucer comes out of the sky and lands right where they said they would. A ramp unrolls from the ship and the Martian ambassador marches out with an escort of armed men. General Casey greets him, putting out his hand to shake and the translation machine turns his greeting into Martian quacks. The ambassador replies and after a minute the translation announces the reply “We come in peace.” The crowd applaud and one of the hippies releases a white dove which flies over the heads of the crowd and over the ambassador. The ambassador whips out a gun and blasts the bird out of the sky then he blasts General Casey, burning off his flesh and just leaving a pile of red bones then other Martians open fire on the crowd. Billy Glen picks up a gun and helmet from a skeleton in a truck and goes to attack the Martians but the gun doesn’t work so he picks up a flagpole and goes to attack them with it but he gets blasted in full view of the TV cameras and his family watch him die. Nathalie gets thrown from her van and Jason jumps down from his van to go to her, crawling on the ground to avoid the blasts from the Martian weapons and the shots fired back by the army. He manages to get to her and grasp her hand but there’s a blast of a Martian weapon and Nathalie discovers she’s just holding a severed a hand and all that’s left of the rest of Jason is his skeleton. The Martians carry Nathalie’s unconscious body on to their ship and take off

President Dale is watching from the Whitehouse with his wife, his daughter Taffy (Natalie Portman), Kessler, Ross and Decker. Decker says that it was exactly what he feared but Kessler is trying to find excuses for the Martian’s behaviour, something that they did that offended them. Taffy comments that maybe bird means war to them. Martha thinks they should be destroyed and Decker is happy that at least one person sees it his way but once more he gets ignored in favour of Kessler’s idea trying to contact the Martians again. President Dale sends a message apologising for any misunderstanding and begging for another chance to meet. When the Martian leader and the ambassador read the message it gives them a good laugh.

Next day they get a message from the Martians apologising for what happened and asking to meet Congress and with idiotic naiveté they agree and get it all set up. There are crowds waiting outside the Capitol building and this time Decker is in charge of the security. President Dale and his family have to watch on TV because the Secret Service insists that it’s not a good idea for the President and congress to be in the same room for security reasons. Kessler is in Congress watching the Leader of the House introduce the Martian ambassador and his two man escort. He takes the speaker’s podium and everyone is nervous when they see him reach into his cloak but he just pulls out his speech on a metal strip. He doesn’t bother with reading it through and instead reaches into his cloak and pulls out his gun and blasts half of Congress and his escort blasts the other half. Kessler pleads with the ambassador for the sense in the violence and destruction and he gets hit over the head by a gun and knocked out. Outside Decker orders his troops to open fire on the spaceship but it really has little effect on the Martians who carry Kessler’s body onto their ship and take off.

Now they know that the Martians are hostile little arseholes and there’s no Kessler to defend their actions this time. Decker thinks he’s going to get the go-ahead to launch a nuclear strike on the Martians. Instead Dale is only interested in reassuring the public that everything will be run as normal and once more Decker is frustrated.

A strange tall woman with a striking hairdo (Lisa Marie) gets picked up by Jerry Ross outside the Whitehouse and he brings her inside to give her a tour of the place. She never says a word, just constantly chews gum but Jerry is capable of talking for both of them. Her walk is strangely pneumatic. Jerry takes her to the secret Kennedy suite. He pours drinks and kisses her. He tries to get her to take her gum out of mouth but accidentally tears her lip open revealing that she’s wearing a mask and underneath it is a Martian. The Martian kills Jerry by clobbering him over the head with a statuette. It makes its way to the President’s bedroom and pulls of its mask. In its purse is a Martian gun and its about to kill Dale when their dog barks at it waking them up. The Martian shoots the dog and then at shoots at the bed but Martha and Dale duck out of the way. The Martian gets shot dead by a Secret Service agent.

The failure of Martian agent to kill Dale infuriates their leader and he orders a full-scale invasion. This invasion by these little buttheads has a lot of similarity to the dark humour of Gremlins. They deface Mount Rushmore, bowl over the heads on Easter Island, and while they pose in front of the Taj Mahal for a photograph a saucer blasts it.

In Las Vegas Barbara is packing and wants to leave but of course Art wants to stay and talk to group of investors. While he talks to them the investors can see Las Vegas being destroyed through the window behind him. He doesn’t know what trouble he’s in until a saucer appears outside the window and destroys the whole building. Tom Jones is on stage singing with his band and backing singers when suddenly the lights go out. When they come back on the three singers have been replaced by three Martians dancing to the music. Tom takes one look and runs off the stage warning the showgirls backstage to get running too. He gets chased by one of the Martians but escapes into the gaming hall where he runs into Byron who has just met Barbara. Barbara wants to get out of town and she has a plane but no pilot since Art got killed. Fortunately Tom can fly a plane. A gambler (Danny DeVito) recognises Tom and asks him for an autograph but the Martians blast their way in and start killing people. With another casino employee called Cindy the five of them make their way out of the casino. Byron sees a Martian about kill an old woman sitting at a slot machine and Byron punches it, breaking its helmet and killing it. They grab its guns and make their way out.

At the Whitehouse everything seems normal and there a guided tour of schoolchildren including Byron and Louise’s sons Neville and Cedric. Their tour guide gets blasted dead right in front of them and soon the Martians are swarming all over the place and blasting people and the Secret Service are fighting back. Neville and Cedric hide behind a dead Martian until the fighting moves away then they pick up the Martian’s weapons. In the hall the Secret Servicemen are getting Martha, Dale and Taffy somewhere secure but they get attacked by Martians and Taffy gets split away from them and Martha gets killed by a falling chandelier. Neville and Cedric take on the Martians and that lets them get Dale to the relative security of the war room.

In the war room Dale is depressed. He gets call from the French president who is having meeting with the Martian ambassador. Dale tries to warn him but he hears the familiar sound of the Martians killing everyone. This really depresses Dale and Decker uses this time to give him the order to sign to use the nuclear weapons. They fire a missile at the leader’s ship but before it gets there the Martians launch a dinky little device that intercepts the missile and absorbs the full blast. It flies back into the ship and the leader puts it to his mouth and inhales the blast which gives him a squeaky voice and the Martians all fall about laughing.

The Martians break though into the war room led by the ambassador. Decker fires his gun at them ranting about how the US military will take them down. The ambassador fires a different type of weapon at him and Decker shrinks to the size of a cockroach, still ranting away in a little squeaky voice and the ambassador steps on him squishing him dead. The Martians kill everyone, just leaving President Dale who steps out and gives a big speech about how powerful they could be if Earth and Mars joined forces. This seems to get to the ambassador who has a tear in his eye and he holds out his hand to Dale who accepts it. Then the hand breaks off and crawls over Dale and down his back where a large metal spike comes out of it and stabs him through the chest. He falls down dead and the Martian flag comes out of the spike and the ambassador and his men salute it

In Kansas the Martians destroy the donut shop and Richie races back home to tell his parents that the Martians are attacking but they already know and are getting armed. Richie asks about his grandmother but they don’t care so he leaves to go get her. Just as he drives off this huge Martian mecha appears operated by a Martian pilot in its head. It picks up the trailer with Richie’s parents and smashes it into another trailer. It drops the trailers and starts sprinting after Richie’s van. Richie manages to keep ahead of it and leads it  into a load of overhead electric cables that trips up the machine and kills its pilot. Richie gets to the care home and it’s under attack by Martians. Three Martians are wheeling up a huge Martian gun right behind Grandma Flo who is listening to music on her headphones and is oblivious. Richie gets there and calls out to her and she turns her head pulling out the headphones. The sound of Slim Whitman singing the Indian Love Call fills the room. The Martians’ heads start quivering like a jelly and exploding to the sound Whitman’s country style yodelling. They wire up a sound system in Richie’s van and as they drive around the sound kills the Martians. They get to the radio station and start blasting out Indian Love Call over the airwaves

Back in Vegas they lose the gambler on the way to the airport and he gets killed by a Martian who is in turn killed by Barbara. At the airport Tom and Barbara get the plane started while Byron and Cindy go open the hangar door. They find out that there’s a squad of Martians just outside. Byron tells Cindy to get in the plane while he distracts the Martians. He marches right up to Martians and challenges them to a fist fight and he beats several of them but they rush him en masse and as the plane takes off they see him being over-powered.

Soon the sound of Indian Love Call is being used to slaughter the Martians and their whole attack fleet is totally destroyed. Taffy presents Grandma Flo and Richie with the Congressional Medal of Honour for saving the Earh. Tom, Cindy and Barbara get to the caves full of happy tame animals and Tom sings It’s Not Unusual. Just for and extra happy ending treat we see Byron is alive and he gets to Washington DC to be greeted by Neville, Cedric and Louise.

This film is a real fun romp and it manages to get a few nice digs at the science fiction genre. In some ways it seems like perfect family fare but it can be very dark at times which might be too much for younger children. The film design and musical arrangements are just fantastic and I loved all the Martian designs.

Rating 8.0/10

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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Hellraiser – Deader

Hellraiser Series

Back to the interrupted series of reviews of the Hellraiser films and this Is last one I will be reviewing until Hellworld arrives on Netflix. It has no connection to of the other films except for Pinhead and the puzzle box and they are sidelined for most of the film and reduced to a couple of walk-on parts. It isn’t terrible and the film has a grimy sleazy downbeat feel too it but it really seems pretty far removed from the original Hellraiser

Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer) is a journalist who is willing to go that extra mile to get her story and we see her at the start off the film waking up in a crack den in a filthy room full of unconscious crack-heads where she has been researching a highly successful article called “How to be crack whore.”

Back at the office the magazine her boss Charles Richmond (Simon Kunz) isn’t too interested in her crack whore article. He has something he wants to show her and he puts on a videotape sent by a woman called Marla (Georgina Rylance). It shows a cult of young people and their leader Winter (Paul Rhys) then a cult member shooting herself in the head. Amy thinks this a bad taste snuff film but Charles tells her to keep watching. Winter inhales her dying breath then breaths into her mouth.The woman comes back to life and is warmly greeted by the other cultists When the tape finishes Amy wants to know what the hell she just watched and Charles tells her that is her assignment. The parcel with the video has a return address in Bucharest and Charles has already booked her a seat on a flight there, knowing Amy well enough to know that she’ll take the assignment.

In Bucharest Amy goes straight to Marla’s apartment. Amy bribes the landlord to let her look around for five minutes. The place is stinking and full of flies. In the bathroom she finds Marla’s body sitting on the toilet tied up with rope so the body doesn’t fall and that’s where the stink and the flies come from. She finds a parcel with the words “help us” scrawled on it. In Marla’s hand she finds the Lament Configuration puzzle box and she takes that too.

Back in her hotel room she finds another videotape and a key in the parcel from Marla begging whoever finds the tape for help and she mentions Winter using the puzzle box as a gateway to the power he uses. Amy picks up the box and wonders what Marla meant by opening it. After a few moments playing about with it the box opens and after moving about it close and sits. Then chains burst out and grab her face. She has vision of her abusive father and Pinhead (Doug Bradley) appears and says ominously, “Don’t think for a second that you’re not in danger,” then the room goes back to normal. Her phone rings and it Marla begging for her help.

Marla did mention in her video a contact that will lead Amy to Winter and his Deader cult. She goes to the underground station and after passing a woman in a cheap plastic jacket bleeding in her seat she gets on a train at the last car which unlike the others is covered in graffiti and its windows are blacked out. A guy who acts like a bouncer lets her in when she mentions the name Joey. She has to walk through a sleazy display of freaks and naked flesh and body modification and naked bodies and people who hold cardboard photos in front of themselves until she gets to Joey (Marc Warren) a smart arse English guy. Joey tries to warn her away from going near Winter and his crowd but Amy is determined and when she brings out the puzzle box Joey gets very unsettled. He gives her the address of Winter and his cult.

Amy gets off the train and standing at the platform in the station she gets the impression she’s being watched. She looks on the other platform and Winter is standing there and he walks towards her. Amy has flashbacks of her father locking her in a cupboard. Just then a subway train arrives and Winter jumps in front of it. Amy alerts the station staff and they stop the train to look for a body but of course there’s nothing there. She explains again to security guard what she saw when she sees Winter on the platform getting on a train and runs down to try to catch him while the guard chases after her. She gets grabbed a bunch of security guards on the platform. At the police station Amy get released by her boss Charles. Amy wants to know what they were going to charge her with and Charles tells her they were going to commit her to an asylum. Charles offers to drive Amy to her hotel but she says she’d rather walk.

Amy gets in a cab to take her Winter’s address in a rundown part of the city. The gate is padlocked but the key Marla left opens it. She goes in a door down stairs then down more stairs and lands in thick mud at the foot of the stairs. She goes down a tunnel and sees German shepherd dog that ignores her. She goes down dark passageway using her lighter and she hears whispers. When she turns a corner the passageway get narrower then even narrower and narrower again until she has to squeeze through. The lighter goes out and when she gets it lit again the wall seems to move with insects feeling the light. A hooded figure with knife come up behind her and raises the knife and Amy she sees person attack her and screams

Suddenly she’s now in wide passageway and a black man shushes her and tells her to follow him. He leads her to the cult as Winter brings back a skinny guy with bug eyes who was killed by knife and we see him return to life. Winter goes to a separate room and Amy follows him and she passes the Deaders they all proudly show off their fatal wounds. In a back room Winter is sitting in armchair and greets Amy by name and says he chose her which Amy strongly doubts. Amy brings out the puzzle box and asks Winter what it is. Winter says it’s a family heirloom (hinting that he’s a descendant of Le Merchand) and it’s a way to cheat death and a gateway to a world of everlasting pleasure and it belongs to him. Winter wants to know what she’s up to and he repeats what Pinhead said earlier, “Don’t think for second you’re not in danger.”

Winter needs her help to claim what he says is his. Amy doesn’t want to be like them, like Marla who killed herself and Winter says she can’t die but because she’s not alive but the more she doubts the deader she will become. For some reason out of nowhere Amy talks about how her flesh is real and she is real which seems to a response to the first video, not to something Winter just said. This is a line that gets a little well-rehearsed rant from Winter about how solidity is an illusion and how we are all essentially nothing [and since the film took its time to rant on the subject I’m going to give my thoughts. I know that an atom is usually said to be empty space because the matter in atom makes up a small fraction of the volume of an atom. But this ignores the fact that the atom has a field of force, especially electric field and it is the combination of the forces that create the macroworld concept of solidity. Just because it means something else at the molecular level it doesn’t mean matter and humans are not really real. Rant over.]

When Winter grabs her Amy gets flashbacks of her father again and she’s suddenly on the death-bed in the main room and Winter wants to know what she saw when she opened the box what is she afraid of. He needs her take next step so he can claim the box’s powers and he holds a knife at her throat and Amy screams.

She wakes up in her bathtub and sees the muddy boots that confirm she went to Winter’s place. That night she dreams of her father beating her with a belt and she wakes from nightmare. There’s a dull thunk sound and blood starts trickling down her shoulder and pooling on bed. With horror Amy discovers she has a knife in her back poking right through so that the tip comes out her front. She screams confused she thinks it’s a dream and sobs over and over that this can’t be real. Amy uses a cupboard door in bathroom to pull out the knife.

The phone rings and its Marla saying only he can bring you back. Pinhead suddenly appears and denies he had anything to what happened to her. He asks Amy why, as she stands bleeding, she feels no pain and Amy guesses that she’s dreaming but Pinhead says she has been recruited as a soldier in another man’s war. Winter thinks he cheated death but Pinhead wants their souls. Amy screams and throws something at him but he vanishes. Amy uses towels to absorb blood from her wounds but it doesn’t really work very well.

Amy goes to the subway station and the blood pools at her feet. She uses newspapers to mop up the blood and hide it from a security guard. She gets on Joey’s carriage and begs him for help. Joey tells her they all pieces in Winter’s puzzle and suddenly everyone on the train is dead and there’s chains and blood and severed limbs and a Cenobite torturing the living. She meets Marla and they get off the train. Amy just wants to go home and Marla says that where she’s going. She reveals that she was the person who stabbed Amy. Amy thinks of the phrase, “Fear is where you go to learn,” and suddenly she’s in the monochrome past back in her father’s house.

Amy wakes up in a hospital chained to a bed. Charles is there trying to get her released. An English doctor comes in a gives her a clean bill of health and undoes the restraints. Amy wanders out into psychiatric ward and little girl draws her picture with a half evil monster face and that freaks her out. She runs out to corridor where she sees Marla looking alive in the waiting area. Amy asks why she is there and we get lines lifted out of Barkers original story about ultimate pleasure and conditions of the nerve endings the likes of which your imagination could not hope to evoke then Marla just drops it as something they say, whoever they are. Marla tells Winter can’t solve puzzle and he needs someone who can that is willing to join him. Amy starts bleeding again and sees the door to her father’s house and she relives the memory of when she murdered her father with a knife. As her father falls down dying from his wounds Amy falls down dying from her own wounds.

Amy wakes back in Winter’s place lying on the bed. He holds out knife for her to complete her journey and end her suffering. After screams and tears Amy takes the knife and while Winter the Deaders goad her on she lifts up the knife as if to stab herself but she doesn’t do it and instead picks up the puzzle box and tosses it. It opens and Pinhead and a few other Cenobites appear in a lightning storm

Winter gets hooked up and pulled apart. The Deaders are all standing conveniently in two straight lines so they are all killed by just two chains punching through the two lines. That just leaves Amy and Pinhead wants her too but Amy picks up the knife and stabs herself and the puzzle box flashes blue, Pinhead screams “NO!” and the whole building implodes.

Charles is watching the news. His secretary aks if there had been any word from Amy and Charles says no. His secretary asks if he thinks something happened to her and Charles has no idea. The secretary shows in a young female journalist and Charles talks about showing her a tape that might interest her.

This film has something interesting things going but it suffers from being shoehorned into the Hellraiser series because it really feels like a completely different story with Hellraiser elements pasted in. The Deader story is quite good and I thought the scene when Amy discovers the knife in her body was very well done thank to a convincing performance from Kari Wuhrer. I also thought the scene in the narrow passage was very tense and it got my claustrophobia working along with my dislike for crawling things moving about that I can’t see. The train scene was a bit cheesy with the freaks on display bit. The biggest failing of the film is the attempt to marry this story to the Hellraiser mythos by having the iconic puzzle box do whatever the hell the script needs it to do. I know that as an anonymous low-budget horror story I may have never seen this if it was not a Hellraiser film but it would have been interesting.

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Dark Shadows

DVD Review

I was familiar with the original Dark Shadows TV when they used to show it on the Sci Fi Channels in the 90s. It was long with complicated story-lines. I was not confident that a faithful film would be successful or that with Tim Burton in the director’s chair there would be much sign of the source material. I’m not really sure who this film is for since I don’t think the liberties taken with characters will please fans of the original TV series and there are much better collaborations between Burton and Depp than this to please their fans.

The wealthy Collins family left for America in 1760 to set up a fish processing factory in a bay they named Collinsport and with the wealth from that business they built a very large house that they called Collinwood. Their son and heir Barnabas grew into Johnny Depp who has a relationship with a servant called Angelique (Eva Green). When Angelique wants more than just sex he rejects her. Unfortunately for Barnabas, Angelique is a powerful witch and she kills his parents.

Barnabas knows that his parents were killed by magic somehow and he studies magic to try to find out how. Later Barnabas falls in love with Josette DePres (Bella Heathcote) and Angelique casts a spell to drive Josette to the edge of a cliff and throw herself to her death in front of Barnabas. A grief-stricken Barnabas throws himself off the cliff too but Angelique casts another spell and turns him into an immortal vampire so he can suffer forever. She then turns the town against him so they capture him in a metal coffin bound with chains and bury him

That’s enough back-story now, the film forwards to 1972 and a young woman who decides to call herself Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) travels on a train to Collinsport. She gets a lift from the station in a VW van from a gang of dope-smoking hippies to the gate of Collinwood. The place has certainly seen betters day and now looks a bit dilapidated and where there would usually be a garden there’s a pumpkin patch. She knocks on the door and it’s opened by the grounds-keeper Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) who is also the butler and cook. Victoria introduces herself and says she’s here for the job of tutor to one of the Collins children. Elizabeth Collins (Michelle Pfeiffer) comes down to greet her and asks her a few questions about 70s current affairs and seems pleased to find Victoria’s view to be archaic and  that she is disinterested in the modern world. Elizabeth tells Victoria about the other people staying there, Elizabeth’s daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), his son David (Gulliver McGrath) that Victoria is to tutor, a senile old cook who never says anything and a psychiatrist Dr Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter).

Victoria meets everyone at dinner later where Elizabeth introduces her to Roger and Caroline who is dancing to psychedelic music and calling her young cousin a loony. Dr Hoffman staggers down to the dining room drunk. While they are sitting down to dinner David appears covered in a sheet. He gets ridiculed by Caroline and told off by Elizabeth for cutting holes in sheets. He wanted to scare Victoria and she plays along and says she was terrified. While they talk over dinner Caroline gets sent to her room for been cheeky and unpleasant. Victoria learns that they all think David is a bit strange because David talks to his dead mother. Victoria starts backing him up and talks about her thoughts on ghosts and other dimensions but Elizabeth shuts her down.

Later that night Victoria sees the ghost of Josette who tells her “He” is coming. At a construction site in town a digger finds something in the soil and at first they think it’s a gas main but when they dig around it they find it’s metal coffin bound in chains. They open the up the coffin and a very hungry Barnabas comes out and kills all the workers, apologising for this to last man he kills Barnabas heads towards town and we get a sample of what we’re in for when he sees an electric McDonalds sign and thinks it is powered by witchcraft. In town he sees the very strange sight of the 70s filtered through the mind of Tim Burton and even though Collinsport is a fairly quiet small coastal town you’d think it was a trendy swinging town in California.

Barnabas goes to Collinwood and is it not happy with the state of the place. He meets Willie in the pumpkin patch and Barnabas waves his pointy vampire hand around and hypnotises Willie and gets him to tell him what year it is and about the Collins family. He has Willie take him to get cleaned up then Barnabas goes into the house and in the large hall he introduces himself as relative from abroad to David and Caroline. Caroline mocks his archaic speech and mannerisms but David likes him because he’s creepy. Elizabeth enters and of course she recognises him from his portrait above the fire place but she doesn’t believe in the old stories and wants to know who he really is and what he’s up to. To prove that he’s who he say he is he activates a secret door down to a basement and shows her a secret stash of art and treasure. Elizabeth swears him to secrecy and agrees to let him to stay.

At breakfast next morning Elizabeth introduces Barnabas to Roger and then to Dr Hoffman went she makes her appearance. Barnabas says he going to invest in the family fish processing business. Over the years their business has been lost to rival called Angel Bay. Victoria comes down to breakfast and right away Barnabas notices her similarity to his love Josette.

Angel Bay is owned by Angelique and when she hears about the murders of the construction workers wants to know where because she realises it means that Barnabas is back at Collinwood. Angelique heads straight out there and Barnabas is surprised to see her still alive but she’s been around all this time, taking out her anger at being rejected by Barnabas on the whole Collins family. She still wants him but Barnabas is still angry about Josette being killed and then being locked in a coffin for about 200 years

This film has Burton’s style all over it and it is much more a Burton film than it is an adaptation of the Dark Shadows TV series. The films doesn’t settle very easily in any genre since as a comedy it’s not funny, as a horror there are no scares and the dramatic elements are campy and over-played. The characters are very thin with no depth at all. Barnabas Collins in particular is a mere caricature of the character played by Jonathan Fridd in the original TV series which may have been cheap and creaky but at least it had a sense of unease about it. This film is not totally horrible but it isn’t very interesting either

Rating 6.0/10

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Posted by on November 10, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Cockneys vs. Zombies

Zombie Planet

Just from the title this film sounds like a horror comedy set in London so comparisons with Shaun of the Dead are going to be obvious and many ways it is similar in that you get the typical familiar characters seen in many other London-based dramas and comedies and put them in the middle of a zombie outbreak. Original no but it has it’s stand-out moments and it has a fair share of laughs, a lot of them from a veteran cast from British TV.

In the East End of London there is a major redevelopment involving tearing down the 50-60s concrete monstrosities. One of the guys uncovers a metal sealed door with a digger. On the door the it says it is  sealed in the name of Charles II. With another worker he opens the door and they go inside. They find crypt full of human remains and one of them identifies it as a plague pit but for some reason they don’t get out right away but instead look to see if there are any valuables. They don’t see some of the corpses moving and one getting up behind them. It bite one of them and the second guy gets bitten by another zombie and the plague begins

The Maguire brothers are in their yard and Terry (Rasmus Hardiker) is pissed at Andy (Harry Treadaway) for the state of the van Andy has bought cheap for the big job they have got planned. Terry doubts it will even start and when he tries turning the key in the ignition it the engine chokes and dies. Andy thinks he’s always lucky and when he tries the key he gets it to start. Andy goes on about how lucky he is but Terry remembers that most of the trouble they get into was caused by Andy dragging Terry into fights that he started.

They go to see ‘Mental’ Mickey (Ashley Bashy Thomas) who Andy has arranged to help them on their “job”  and who seems very excitable. Terry is a bit worried about Mickey but Andy assures him that Mickey is okay but it doesn’t help his case when Mickey head-butts the bonnet of Terry’s car and Andy tells him he has a metal plate in his head from a war injury fighting in Iraq. They tell him that the job is on for 2 o’clock

Terry and Andy’s grandfather Ray Maguire (Alan Ford) is a resident of the Bow Bells Care Home. Terry and Andy come to the care home with precooked food for the residents. When Doreen sees them (Georgina Hale) she wants some young male company and Terry diverts her attention to Andy and jokes that his luck in there.

When they go to the dining room they see a property developer taking measurements in the kitchen and Ray tells him to clear off. The lease on the care home is nearly up and the property developer intends to turf out the elderly residents and turn the place into luxury apartments.

Ray gives the brothers stick for working in a crappy job with no money. The job that they have been talking about is a bank robbery that they have been planning to get the cash to buy off the lease on the care home and stop them having to close it down. The other residents are Peggy (Honor Blackman) who likes Ray, Eric (Dudley Sutton) who is in a wheelchair, Daryl (Tony Selby) who sells his prescription drugs to local youngsters and an old pervert Hamish (Richard Briers) who uses his binoculars to spy on female residents.

Andy and Terry discuss the robbery they have planned and they know Ray wouldn’t want them to do it. Andy brings up what their parents would think and Terry has another flashback to their parents as the East End Bonnie and Clyde and they seem to have died in similar way to them in a hail of bullets. Terry doesn’t think that following their example is a very good idea. They get the van and pick up their gang including Davy “Tuppence” (Jack Doolan) who knows about the security in the bank, their cousin Katy Maguire (Michelle Ryan) who can pick locks and of course Mickey who is bringing guns. Katy is not happy about the guns but Terry promise they are just for show but with a nickname like Mental Mickey you can probably guess how that will go. Davy has arranged their disguises which is construction worker high visibility jackets and cheap moustaches so of course Katy objects only for Davie to say she’ll get away with it because her breasts aren’t very big.

In the bank a woman called Emma (Georgia King) has been sent by the construction company to pick up cash for their payroll but she’s having trouble with officious bank teller Clive (Tony Gardner). The Maguire gang enter and a bank manager asks them if they are here for the money. She thinks they have come from the construction company for the payroll that Emma has come for and takes them back to her office where they bring out their guns and force her to take them to the safe. The payroll is £3 million which is much more than they were expecting and after a moment of doubt they decide to take it all. They think everything has gone very smoothly but the manager had pressed the silent alarm and there are several police cars waiting on them

Back at the care home a gardener is gets killed by zombies The zombie invade the care home and several residents and all the staff get taken but Ray and Peggy manage to get a group of them locked in to the kitchen which the most secure place in the building. Eric calls the creatures vampires but Eric often get things wrong and Ray points out that they are obviously zombies. They realise that Hamish still outside sleeping in the garden and call to him out of the window. He wakes just in time to see a group; of zombie shambling toward him and uses his Zimmer frame to escape, just barely keeping ahead of the zombies

At the bank Mickey takes two hostages, Clive and Emma, and promises that he will get them out of there. They leave the bank with their hostage in front at gun point as a shield. Outside the police are gone and their cars abandoned. Out in the street they see a mob of zombies coming towards them. Mickey is the first to start shooting but he’s going for body shots and one persistent zombie gets close enough to bite him. Katy tells him that everyone knows that with zombies you need to go for head shots and she shoots off the head off a zombie that is still biting Mickey. The jaw is still stuck on his arm and Mickey just leaves it there in case it tears the skin when pulls it off and even if it wasn’t a zombie that makes no sense. They all get in the van and head back to the Maguire brother’s yard and on the radio they hear that the east end of London has been sealed off to prevent the spread of an infection.

The film follows the typical zombie survival horror story only with a set of characters more typical of sitcoms and crime dramas and there are plenty of amusing differences in the outbreak, like when they come across two sets of rival football fan zombies who even in death prefer to try to kill each other than chase the living for food. It is definitely more of a comedy than a horror though it is very gory at times, which is inevitable in a zombie film. I thought the cast were great and if you’re familiar with British TV then the residents of care home will probably be very familiar to you and it is great to see them fighting zombies with such gusto.

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on November 7, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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