Halloween Horror Fest 2018

Yes, it’s that time of year again!  The nights are getting shorter, the wind is howling and strange things are afoot.  Halloween is almost upon us – so what better than watching a load of old scary movies to creep you out of an evening?  Yes, it’s time for another Halloween Horror Fest!

I’m starting a bit late this year, but once again I’ll be watching some fantastic (or not so fantastic) horror movies and writing bite-sized reviews.

Let’s start with…

Tales from the Crypt (1972)

Classic British horror of the seventies, but from Amicus Productions, not Hammer – this film stars many a great actor in another anthology movie.  The concept is basically a film version of some of the stories featured in the old EC horror comics of the same name (though only a couple are actually from that title).

Five strangers encounter The Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson), deep in the catacombs of a tourist attraction.  The Crypt Keeper then reveals a story for each of the protagonists.   

The first segment features a very lovely Joan Collins, as a housewife who murders her husband on Christmas Eve.  However a homicidal maniac is on the loose, which complicates Joanie’s plan to dispose of her deadly doings.  Despite the festive setting, this is a good start to proceedings.  I may dig this one out again to watch with the family at Christmas – it’ll make a change from Home Alone.

Up next is what I considered the weakest of the stories, though I can imagine it working better in comic book form.  Ian Hendry leaves his wife and family to take off with his bit on the side.  A dream premonition and nasty car crash result in a change of plans.

Peter Cushing pops up in the third tale, putting in a brilliant performance as a kindly old widower.  His snobbish neighbours decide to grind the old gent down so they can get rid of him – but revenge is on the cards.  Although Cushing’s casting is no surprise at all, he does a superb job in this role.

The fourth story is a chilling warning to be careful what you wish for; a ruthless business man (Richard Greene) comes a cropper in what is the most gruesome tale of the five.

Finally, a repugnant ex-army Major gets his comeuppance, after mistreating the inhabitants of the hoe for the blind that he’s supposed to be in charge of.  His fate is grim but well deserved!

Tales from the Crypt offers only mild innovation from the usual Amicus product, but is remarkably well done.  Freddie Francis directs and puts together a highly entertaining film that has spine chilling horror and genuinely repulsive moments.  Although a little dated, there’s still plenty to recommend this movie.

8/10 

Toy Cars from TV Shows

Cars were some of the earliest toys I ever had.  Small Matchbox, Dinky and Corgi cars; larger Dinky and Corgi too.  I had loads of them, many of them are still around in a giant plastic tub at my parents’ house.

Some of my favourite cars were the television and movie tie-ins; models that were based on the cars in my favourite programmes and films.  In some cases, these cars were more inspirational than the human characters.

Here are two cars that I have in my collection, neither of which date back to my childhood, however!  In fact, both are re-issued versions of 1970s classics that I always wanted but never owned.

First up is the fantastic Ford Gran Torino from Starsky and Hutch.  I Loved Starsky and Hutch when I was a nipper in the 70’s, and I always loved this car.  Such an iconic design; the white go-faster stripe flash down the side of the striking red vehicle.

I did have a smaller version of this car when I was a kid; hopefully it’s still around somewhere.  I’m really stoked to own this larger version though, with the mini Starsky and Hutch metal figures.  Starsky is even wearing his trademark cardigan!

Next up is another classic of late 1970’s TV – the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard.  This is the car that gave me lifelong love of Dodge Chargers.  The Confederate flag on the roof is anachronistic and awkward these days, but hey – they were simpler days.

The flag has dubious associations, but that car is COOL.  Plus it also has tiny little figures of Bo and Luke Duke with it.  No Daisy Duke though, sadly.

I never owned the General in any form when I was little, so this piece is really great to have, especially for a Charger fan like me.

Both of these cars are 1:36 scale models, re-issued by Corgi and just like the 1970’s toys I remember so well.

I’ve enjoyed this little drive down retro toy car lane; I think we’ll pay another visit with some more specimens soon.

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2017 – The Director’s Cut

NEC Birmingham

18/19 November 2017

Over the course of 2017, I’ve visited quite a few Comic Conventions.  MCM at the NEC, Birmingham was, as always, fantastic.  I’ve already published two big, chunky blogs about my visit in November – however I had a few pics left over.

I’d like to present the final part of MCM Birmingham, with a few extra photos, for your enjoyment.

No waffle from me, just superstars doing what they do best. Just one last time to finish the year off…

There you go, all over for another year.

All the best for 2018 from Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub!

Wales Comic Con

Wales Comic Con

Saturday 2nd – Sunday 3rd December 2017

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

One more Comic Con for the year, to finish 2017 off in style.  It seems like I’ve done a lot of conventions recently!

I didn’t make it to Wrexham for Wales Comic Con back in April, but I’ve been there previously and it’s always a fun event.  Now expanded to run over two days, this winter edition of the Con was bigger than ever.

Most impressive was the calibre of the guests that appear here.  It’s a far more impressive line up than even the mighty NEC could muster recently.  Wrexham definitely punches above it’s weight in that category.

Being December, the weather was sometimes a challenge.  The Spring gathering has been lucky weather-wise, and the outside expanse has always been a fun place to hang out and take photos, meet people etc.  Cold and rain took more of a toll this time, but didn’t seem to dampen peoples spirits too much.

This event wasn’t without some criticism.  Although we had bought tickets prior, we had to queue (outside, in the rain) for about forty minutes after the doors opened to get in. 

When we did get in, we marched off to the Signing Zone to find the guests from The Walking Dead (our prime reason for being there).  After scouting around the entire area, it turned out that these particular guests were in a different Signing Zone!  Notification of this passed us by completely, if it was available at all.

Despite these organisational issues that we perceived at first, things settled down and this Comic Con turned out to be a great success.

The first hit of the day was the Q&A panel featuring Scott Wilson (Hershel) and Michael Cudlitz (Abraham) from The Walking Dead.  This was really interesting, with some quality questions from the audience.  Both Scott and Michael came across really well, with amusing anecdotes and genuine appreciation for the show and it’s fans.

We could have happily listened to these guys for much longer, but all good things come to an end and this had been unmissable.

It was then time to queue up (again!  Haha) to meet the actors from The Walking Dead.  We’re big fans in our house, in particular Mrs Platinum Al – and she was really keen to meet Michael Cudlitz.

The queue wasn’t too long or arduous, and we got to meet Mr Cudlitz and get a selfie and autographed photo.  He was very cool and gracious; he joked with fans and was very friendly.  Despite only having a short time to meet people, Michael did an excellent job of remembering names and making everyone feel very welcome.

Superb stuff, and Mrs Platinum Al’s Christmas present was now in the bag!

Talking about acquisitions, Wrexham has upped the ante with the amount of traders selling goodies.  In the past the number of dealers seemed limited (probably due to space), there were far more this time.  Good news in a wallet endangering way.

 

The Prop Knife

Remember those trick knives you used to find in joke shops?  Plastic, with a blade that retracted into the hilt when you “stabbed” something?  We took one as a prop for my daughter, who was dressed as Wednesday Addams.  Turned out to be a cool idea.  Michael Cudlitz, bless him, allowed Eloise to “stab” him in the head, walker killer style, to “stop him coming back”.  From the dead that is, not back to Wales.  Michael played along brilliantly – I didn’t get a photo though, curses!

The trick knife also came in handy for a cool zombie killer pic featuring Mrs Platinum Al (see below).

With tons of guests, Q&As, memorabilia to peruse and other activities, there was plenty to see and do.

Of course there were loads of great Cosplayers at Wales Comic Con too.  I took a few photos, but the usual issues of time and the weather meant I didn’t get too many.  I’ve shared the pics here.  Unfortunately some photos didn’t turn out (as always), hopefully these shots will provide a flavour of the event.

Thanks again to these amazing people, who have created fantastic costumes and let their creativity flow.  Thanks for allowing me to take pictures and more power to you!

If Wales Comic Con keeps developing as it has, then 2018 should be even bigger and better.  The fact that the organisers can entice such amazing guests is fantastic.  Let’s hope the success continues.

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2017 – Part 2

NEC Birmingham

18/19 November 2017

Here’s Part 2 of my trip to MCM Comic Con in Birmingham recently.  I took plenty of photos – far too many for one blog post – which meant that a second chapter was required!

As I said last time, there were dozens and dozens of Cosplayers at this event.  They covered characters from many different genres, be it superheroes, science fiction, fantasy and horror.

There were DC and Marvel characters; horror monsters and fantasy heroes; Disney Princesses and Star Wars characters.  You name it, you would probably have seen a costume from it.

From well known characters to the obscure; from old classics to the latest creations, there were fantastic cosplay examples of all types.  Some resembled totally authentic movie replicas and some were novel, original reinterpretations of the familiar.

All of the people that I photographed were, as always, incredibly gracious and happy to have their photo taken.  My thanks to every single one of them.

These photos are a tribute to the talent and craft, research and dedication that these people put into their hobby.

Is there anything else to say about the day?  Well I wish I had won the lottery, so I could spend a ton of money on all the goodies I saw.  Books, comics, magazines, DVDs, toys, posters – simply too much stuff to list or discuss here.

I was lucky to pick up Grandpa Munster Funko Pop for a nice cheap price (he can keep Lily Munster company on my shelf).  Unfortunately I couldn’t afford the Bride of Frankenstein Funko though – she was far too expensive.

The day was finished off nicely with the Q&A session with Anthony Daniels.  If you need me to tell you who he is, what are you doing reading this blog?!  I’ll tell you anyway.  Anthony Daniels is, of course, the golden worry pot C-3PO in all the Star Wars movies.

Mr Daniel’s Q&A was highly entertaining, covering many stories from his experiences in a galaxy far, far away.  His anecdotes were both amusing and enlightening, and his delivery kept the audience enthralled.  Sheer gold.

At the end, we set off on our journey home several pounds lighter (cash wise) and having had a great day out.  MCM Comic Con Birmingham is highly recommended to all.  The next one is March 2018 – hopefully see you there!

The MCM Birmingham website is here.

Looks like a Part 3 might be required for this Comic Con – quite a few more pics to post.  Stay tuned…

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2017 – Part 1

NEC Birmingham

18/19 November 2017

And yes, it’s a long awaited return to the fantastic Comic Con that is MCM Birmingham!  Held every March and November at the NEC, this event is huge – and one of my favourites.  All Comic Cons are fun, but MCM Birmingham has a feel and flavour all of it’s own.

Part of that reputation is down to the pure spectacle of size.  The events halls in the NEC that house this function are truly huge – like aircraft hangers.  They seem big enough to hold the S.H.I.E.L.D. Heli-carrier, never mind an Avengers quinjet.

But the main reason that MCM Birmingham is so much fun is the people – specifically, the amazing, talented cosplayers that travel from far and wide to show their genius costumes.

Whether it’s little kids in store-bought superhero outfits or full fledged cosplay supremos spending months perfecting their craft, the whole extravaganza is awesome.

When you add in the myriad replica film props, models and paraphernalia, it all adds up to a thrilling day out.

The scale of this event seems to ramp up every time I visit it.  There a vast number of stalls, as previous, selling all manner of items.  This years hot pieces appeared to be pocket watches (want) and Funko Pops.

I resisted the joy of Funkos for a long time.  Now I wish I hadn’t, as I’ve missed several that I would’ve loved.  I started collecting them earlier this year, have a few cool ones, and want so many more.  Funko Pops seemed to be everywhere at this years Comic Con.  Which makes me happy.

There were also loads of interesting guests to meet, though due to budgetary issues I didn’t get any autographs this time.  In particular, I wanted to add the signature of Pauline Peart, who appeared in The Satanic Rites of Dracula, to my Hammer Glamour book.

Never mind, hopefully we’ll cross paths again.

We arrived early at the event, having early bird tickets.  This allowed us early entry, and it was a little quieter to begin with.

It was also a bit quieter on the Cosplay front till later that morning.  I guess that makes sense; if you’re a cosplay afficianado, you’re more likely to be perfecting your stunning costume rather than getting in line early doors.

 

So it was a bit slow on the photo front at first, things soon got going though!  There were costumed characters of every possible description literally all over the place by midday.  I got some great pictures of as many as I could – you can see the results on this page.

As I always state, I’m by no means a professional photographer.  Luckily the camera seemed to be on form on this day (not sure I was) so I captured some pretty good images.

The results are to the credit of the cosplay enthusiasts however, not any photographic skills on my part.  My thanks to everyone of you that posed graciously for me, I hope these photos do some justice to your creative skills.  All of you were friendly and enthusiastic, my respect to you all.

And with that, we’ll conclude part 1 of this MCM Birmingham blog.  Part 2 soon – with more photos – plus anything else I can remember about the day!

Chester Comic Con – The Director’s Cut

Chester Comic Con

Sunday 24th September 2017

OK – so remember when I wrote my blog post about Chester Comic Con a while ago?  I ran out of memory space on my WordPress site and couldn’t post all of the photos I had taken.  Almost all made it, but not quite.

Then came Halloween Horror Fest, and although the space issue was solved I didn’t get chance to complete the images taken from Chester.

Until now.

Here, in true George Lucas style, I have re-visited the event and present for your enjoyment, the missing shots taken on that day.

Most of the these bonus pics simply weren’t used due to lack of space; some here are alternative versions of shots used.

Either way, I hope you enjoy.

As well as fantastic Cosplay costumes and various stalls selling all manner of wonders, there were also a few vehicles on display…

As I mentioned in the previous Chester Comic Con blog, I saw a great Q&A session with Martine Beswicke, Caroline Munro and Madeline Smith.  Best thing of the day!

Well done everyone at Chester Comic Con – it was a fab day!  Looking forward to next year.

Halloween Horror Fest Has Risen from the Grave (again)

Beetlejuice (1988)

Time for a change of pace for this year’s Halloween Horror Fest.  Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice is a spooky comedy horror, showcasing more of the Director’s trademark bizarre imagination. 

Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) are a happily married couple, living in their dream house.  They wind up dead, due to an unfortunate accident, and haunting their old home.

When a new family move in, who turn out to be less than ideal inhabitants, Adam and Barbara attempt to scare the new householders away.  After all their attempts fail, they’re left with no other choice than to recruit Beetlegeuse (Michael Keaton) to do the job for them.

Keaton is manically brilliant as sleazoid Beetlegeuse; a deranged, disreputable “bio-exorcist” with a seedy demeanour.

Burton manages to keep the film entertaining and lighthearted in his own goofy way.  Beetlejuice never becomes morbid or grim, instead it’s a fun (though dark) fantasy that oozes creativity.

8/10

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)

In which good old Christopher Lee returns as Dracula, in his third outing as the Count for Hammer. 

This time around, Drac is out for revenge when is castle is exorcised by the Monsignor (Rupert Davies).  Not having anywhere to hang out, the Count is somewhat peeved and decides to enact his vengeance on the Monsignor’s virginal niece, played by lovely Veronica Carlson.

Hammer courageously attempt to avoid re-treading the same old formula in this film, though in reality the blueprint is never cast too far away.  The actors all do a fine job, including Davies, Carlson and Barry Andrews as Paul, the token heroic figure.

Lee is fantastic of course, with commanding presence and evil red eyes creating a powerful Lord of Vampires.  And the sets look great, like Kiss of the Vampire, bigger and more realistic than earlier efforts.

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave isn’t a completely successful entry in the series, but it’s a professionally produced and entertaining film in the Gothic Hammer horror tradition.  Well worth a look.

7/10

Halloween Horror Fest House of Horrors

Ring (1998)

OK: so here, we’re talking about the Japanese original movie, Ring (or Ringu) – not the Hollywood remake.  I’m not making any kind of elitist statement, I’ve just never seen the American version. 

Mrs Platinum Al introduced me to this creep-fest some years ago; I’m only surprised it’s not been viewed as part of our Halloween Horror Fest sooner.

A cursed video tape is being passed around; whoever views it dies a week later.  A reporter is investigating the story, and finds that the video isn’t just an urban myth when it strikes close to home.  With time running out, she must determine the origin of the tape and find a way to stop it.

Ingeniously creepy, Ring takes a novel idea – that sounds like exactly the type of urban legend that could be out there – and capitalises on it.  Watching the English subtitled version ads to the sense of mystery, as the viewer slowly pieces the facts together along with the protagonist.

Recommended for its imaginative premise and macabre scenes, you won’t want to watch Ring alone!

8/10

The Exorcist (1973)

I first saw The Exorcist as a student, when I was about 19.  This was in the days when the film wasn’t on video or allowed on TV, and thus it held a reputation beyond all others as the scariest film anyone would see, ever. 

A late night showing after a week of anticipation left me, at the time, convinced that this notoriety was justified.  I slept with the light on for several nights after.

But then a year later, I persuaded some other friends to go and see the movie too.  They found The Exorcist amusing more than anything, and I too was wondering what had frightened me so much.

I’ve not seen the film since then, other than catching parts of it whilst showing on TV (times have changed).  I was unsure what I would make of it.  Surely, its ability to horrify would have decreased still further after all these years?

Whilst I wasn’t terrified watching the movie again, I was greatly impressed by the whole spectacle.  The Exorcist is scary, but it’s also a very engaging and brilliantly told tale.  The acting is top quality and believable, and most of those infamous scenes still have the ability to shock.

Film critic Mark Kermode reckons this is the best film ever made.  I wouldn’t agree with that rating, but The Exorcist is a terrifically thrilling film.

William Friedkin, the Director, succeeds in making a movie which seems horribly realistic – and thus very believable.  Still powerful after all these years.  Essential viewing!

9.5/10

From Beyond the Halloween Horror Fest

The Omen (1976)

Widely regarded as a classic of the horror genre, I was never a huge fan of this movie when I first viewed it as a teen in the late 80’s.  Despite the high regard that The Omen was held in by my peers, I just didn’t find it that scary.

Watching the film again now, though, I was much more impressed by the clever story and formidable performances. 

Gregory Peck plays Robert Thorn, a US Ambassador in Italy.  When his wife, played by Lee Remick, has a stillborn child, Thorn is approached by a priest to adopt another baby as their own.  They name the child Damien, and following the family’s move to London strange things begin to happen.

A priest (Patrick Troughton) warns Thorn that the boy is the Antichrist.  Though sceptical at first, Thorn begins to investigate with a photo journalist (David Warner) also caught up in the case.  Death and destruction is always on their heels, but is it deadly coincidence or evil incarnate?

Excellent performances and a tight, fast paced narrative made The Omen far more interesting this time around.  The Director, Richard Donner, does a good job of creating a malevolent atmosphere and the chills keep coming.

Creepy rather than jump-out-of-your-skin scary, never the less The Omen stays in the mind long after the finale.  Far better than I’d given it credit for.

8/10

From Beyond the Grave (1974)

I remember first seeing this film years ago – a late night showing on TV when I got home from the pub!

From Beyond the Grave is another Amicus anthology movie.  Featuring four short stories, they are linked together by Peter Cushing’s antiques and curiosity shop, Temptations Ltd – which bookends all the events.

In the first segment, David Warner (again) buys an old mirror that brings an uninvited, murderous guest to his home.  The second, and best story, features Donald Pleasence and daughter in a weird tale of witchcraft.

The third instalment is more comedic, as a medium is involved in exorcising a demon from a business man’s life.

Finally, Ian Ogilvy and Lesley-Anne Down are confronted with a time travelling satanist in what is a far fetched, but very tense tale.

It’s all great campy 70’s horror fun, and I have a lot of love for this film.  There are several great British actors, all doing a fine job – and plenty of atmospheric chills. From Beyond the Grave is slightly dated but immensely entertaining.

7/10