Mid Halloween Horror Fest

Midsommar (2019)

Written and directed by Ari Aster, Midsommar is both very different from the usual horror films, and is utterly captivating. At nearly two and a half hours long, the movie takes it’s time to slowly build a feeling of inevitable dread and reach it’s finale, but I was engrossed.

Dani (Florence Pugh) is grieving from the death of her sister and parents, finding little solace in her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). Though their relationship is ending, Dani accompanies Christian and his anthropology student friends on a research trip to Sweden, to observe the mid summer rituals of a remote community. Every 90 years is a particularly special celebration, and this year is one of those – thus it’s a rare opportunity for them all.

The friends are welcomed into the commune, and begin to observe their practices and lifestyle in a land where the sun shines almost all day in summer. Gradually, the rituals become more unsettling, as the pagan rites become more and more bizarre and deadly. The isolation of Dani and her friends escalates, as the motivations of their hosts adds to their confusion.

I don’t want to give too much away about this film, as it really is superb. Some viewers will find it too long and drawn out, and the events too obscure and unexplained. But resisting the urge to rush into situations, taking time to develop the painfully unsettling atmosphere and sense of unease is handled spectacularly, I thought. There’s a level of detail in the onscreen clues and themes that is painstaking and engrossing.

Midsommar is folk horror, and comparisons to the wonderful The Wicker Man (1973) are only to be expected. There are a few scenes of brutal violence, but onscreen shocks are relegated to the minimal, sacrificed for an unbearably apprehensive descent to the conclusion. Pugh’s performance is phenomenal, her experiences are heart-breaking and disorientating and she bleeds emotion from the screen.

Deeply disturbing, yet fascinating, this particular folk horror is part mystery and part break up movie. Midsommar has been masterfully conceived and produced, it’s one of the best films – horror or otherwise – I’ve seen in a long time.

9.5/10

Halloween Horror Fest of the Black Museum

Horrors of the Black Museum (1959)

London – and there’s a murderer about! As per usual, really. A gruesome killing involving a pair of booby trapped binoculars has the police stumped, and arrogant crime journalist Edmond Bancroft can’t resist winding the cops up in his obsessive quest to find the killer. Bancroft’s research over the years has led to the creation of his own Black Museum, housing artefacts from various crime scenes.

Further ghastly deaths reveal no clues, and Bancroft admits to his doctor that he’s so engrossed in the proceedings, he goes into a state of shock when one occurs. Following a row with his mistress, after which she is mysteriously (and nastily) decapitated, we soon begin to witness another side to the writer – and his collection of weapons…

Horrors of the Black Museum doesn’t feature many surprises, but it does feature some quite horrific deaths! There’s a great British cast, including Michael Gough as Bancroft in a lurid, bloodthirsty tale. Not supernatural in any way, the plot still manages to hold the attention all these many years later.

8/10

Island of Terror (1966)

Sci-fi horror next, as a remote, tiny island of the east coast of Ireland becomes the scene of horrific deaths – locals are left as just a pile of mush, with no bones remaining in their bodies. Experts from the mainland Dr Stanley (Peter Cushing) and Dr West (Edward Judd) along with West’s lady friend Toni (Carole Gray) head over to investigate, only to be stranded with no immediate way to leave.

A nearby research lab on the island has unwittingly created new, silicon based creatures, which are rapidly multiplying. It’s not long before our heroes, and the remaining islanders, are cornered with no hope of escape against the deadly silicates. Can they find a way to stop the creatures before it’s too late for them all?

This film features a superb cast – Cushing is always a delight, and he’s great here – all giving credible performances that keep the implausible plot grounded. The creatures themselves are really quite terrible – sub-standard Dr Who globs of muck. But Island of Terror comes together nicely, with Director Terence Fisher using his skills to create an apocalyptic, Day of the Triffids style, peril filled movie.

8.5/10

Sci Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 1

Sci Fi Weekender 23th – 24th March 2018

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

2017 saw my intrepid crew and I sucked into a black hole, from which we were very lucky to escape.  Following numerous trials and tribulations within the void, we emerged eventually into a bizarre parallel dimension.  This strange new plane was warped beyond any fathomable reason; the UK was no longer in Europe and Donald Trump was President.

I know – unbelievable, right?  I was expecting apes to be in charge maybe, but not Trump.

Utilising all the skill and resource we could muster, we managed to reverse thrusters and reset our course for Pwllheli, North Wales, for Sci Fi Weekender.  The crew had missed one event, but in 2018 we would return.

The engines groaned and strained, but we were back on track.  We arrived at our destination and set up camp in our static exploration cabin.

Scouts across the galaxy had informed us that this was the ninth cycle of Sci Fi Weekender.  SFW9 would be full of the usual entertainments: VIP signings; Q&A panels; cosplay; films; games; live music and other acts.

Throw in a few decidedly lethal Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and there would, indeed, be exceptional joviality.

Alas, many VIP guests had apparently missed their trasport shuttles to reach us.  Caught in the same black hole as we had been, perhaps?  This was a bit of a blow, as I was particularly looking forward to hearing from Hugh Quarshie of Highlander (and others) fame.

Never mind, “There can be only one” – and that guest was the deviilishly delectable Emily Booth, actress and Horror Channel star.  Ms Booth’s Q&A was the first event I witnessed of the weekend and she was great.  Although the interview amounted to just a run through of her IMDB credits, Emily came across very well as both a cult star and confirmed fan.  I even asked a question myself, which is a SFW first for me!

The interview did get a bit saucy at times, but the audience was well warned in advance what to expect.  To be honest, I’d love to see much more of Emily Booth’s talents.  By which I mean, of course, more of the various movies she has starred in.  Of course.

It was then time to lurk about and peruse the merchandise stalls.  There were many more this year than I’ve seen previously.  Excellent news for me, bad news for my galactic credit balance.  I did get some rad stuff though.

This was also a great time to start taking some photos.  Armed with three cameras this year (!), I took quite a few pictures but as always missed so many great cosplayers.  There were dozens that I glimpsed briefly but lost in the crowd, never to be seen again.

It was like when I watched the Cantina scene in Star Wars when I was a kid, before we had a VHS player (yes, I’m THAT old).  An amazing creation was spotted only briefly, to be replaced by yet another, and I had no rewind function.

As you can probably imagine, Friday evening was somewhat of a blur.  I do remember a couple of things that must be mentioned though.

Professor Elemental was an absolute joy to behold, as always.  The Prof dropped tongue twisting chap-hop rhymes over DJ Nick Maxwell’s funky beats.  He expertly rallied the troops and took us on a tea stained tour of the British Empire.  It was brilliantly engaging stuff, with the Professor uniting all the tribes of geekdom in a pulsating party of steampunk excitement.

Darth Elvis & the Imperials performed what I consider the best set I’ve seen them deliver, despite it being cut short.  There were favourites old and new, including “Burning Sith” and a raging cover of the Beastie Boys classic, “Sabotage” – reworked in honour of Kylo Ren.  I was down the front for a fair part of the set and I loved every second.

This band never get old.  May they live as long as Master Yoda and forever be as musically talented at Max Rebo.  Sheer fun from beginning to end!

The evening ended with some spectacular Cosplay Karaoke, which I would’ve loved to have a go of!  No idea who the winner was, all the entrants were winners in my eyes!

Day one at SFW9 was truly stellar.  My only complaint was too much Welsh bashing from several presenters over the course of events.  In this day and age that’s a bit poor.

However Sci Fi Weekender is a success because of the people.  The camaraderie amongst attendees is the true strength, regardless of what VIP interview guests are there or not.  It’s a real pleasure to catch up with old faces – and meet some new ones – in a friendly, welcoming environment like this.

That’ll do for Part One.  Beam me up!

In Part 2: we lose a red shirt, and more pics.  Stay tuned!

In Memoriam – Carrie Fisher

carrie-f

Carrie Fisher

21.10.1956 – 27.12.2016

It is with great sadness that I write this blog post, regarding the passing of Carrie Fisher.  Carrie was a great actress, writer and producer and had an immense impact on my life.

Carrie Fisher was from Hollywood royalty, and had a very successful and creative career both in front and behind the camera.  Without neglecting her many achievements, there was one role that outshone all the others.

Of course, Carrie Fisher was particularly famous for playing Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movies.  Anyone who knows me will know that I have been obsessed with Star Wars since I was five years old, so to lose someone who has been part of my life for so long has been heartbreaking.

The importance of the Leia character cannot be overstated.  The Princess was no stereotypical damsel in distress – rather she was fiesty, confident and in control.  She held a position of authority as a leader in the Rebel Alliance and was at the forefront of all the decision making and events.  She was tough and skilled (ever see her miss with a blaster?) – but also showed compassion and humour.

All of those qualities were massively important and showed me – and other boys of my generation and since – that women could be strong, dynamic and powerful leaders.  Leia was a role model for a generation, not just male or female.

Princess Leia was adored by women the world over and rightly so – she showed the girls that she could be just as brave and heroic as the guys.  She was intelligent and committed and she stood up for what she believed in.

This character was embodied perfectly by Carrie Fisher.  Carrie knew she was part of a big boys club and had fun with it.  In doing do, she created a figure in popular culture who will be admired and respected for generations to come.  Carrie was not without her demons – she would fight them constantly through out her life – but this tenacity was embodied in her portrayal of the Princess at the centre of the galaxy, fighting for a better life.

It’s very disheartening to note that I began my writing in 2016 with two memorial pieces for personal heroes who passed away.  It looks like my last blog of the year will be about another.

So let’s remember what Carrie Fisher – and Princess Leia – represented to so many.  Courage, faith in your beliefs, and the desire to make things better.  Those are qualities that we will all do well to take with us into the future.

Pride and Prejudice and Halloween Horror Fest

The Addams Family (1991)

We decided to watch a spooky movie as a family, and The Addams Family was a perfect choice.  In this movie version of the famous cartoon/television show, Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) has been missing for many years, but returns from the unknown to a warm welcome from his family.  But is Fester all he seems? af

This is another film that I wasn’t too fussed on when I saw it originally, way back in 1991.  Oh, that makes me feel old…

But returning to the movie all these years later I found I enjoyed it much more.  The look and feel of the family and their house is, for the most part, spot on.  Their peculiar interests and characters are suitably amusing, particularly in the case of Fester and Gomez (Raul Julia).  The only weak link is Anjelica Huston, who never cut it for me as Morticia – she has none of the allure of Carolyn Jones in the old TV show.

Stealing every scene however is Wednesday Addams, played by a very young Christina Ricci.  She gets her fair share of memorable lines and carries each of them off well.

The Addams Family is full of ghoulish laughs and was a big hit in our household.  Ideal for Halloween family fun.

8/10

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Yes, that is indeed the title of this film.  And yes, it is indeed loosely based on the Jane Austen novel.  Unlike many purists, the idea of these type of mash up movies (see also Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer – and others) appeals to me greatly.  I’m more than happy to mercilessly disregard any sense of genre loyalty for the sake of entertainment.

I should be honest and admit that I have never read Pride and Prejudice.  Nor have I seen any of the numerous film and television adaptations.  I did study Austen’s Emma for English A Level – I found it incredibly dull.

In my defence though I’ll say that I also read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – which I loved and still rate as one of my favourite books.  So I can’t be a complete philistine, surely?ppz

Anyway, back to the film.  England has fallen amidst a zombie apocalypse.  The ladies and gentlemen go about their business in their big stately homes much as one would expect, though in this version they’re now trained in deadly martial arts for self defence.

The plot follows the heroine, a tough Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and her sisters as they navigate not only the romance of the era, but a plague of zombies too.  Mr Darcy (Sam Riley) is played as a battle hardened zombie slayer, with some brilliant innovative devices for detecting the undead.

Although I’m not familiar with the source material, the dialogue and narrative seems authentic enough.  Plus the zombie element is woven in very nicely, providing a quirky additional element to the proceedings.

The second half of the film lagged a little as the characters seem to spend too much time untangling their romantic affairs and misunderstandings (just like in the unbearable Emma).  But there were a few laughs (great performance from Matt Smith as Parson Collins) and some tension in the finale to make it all worthwhile.

Put aside any prejudice you may hold yourself and give Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a chance.  Keep an open mind and it’s great fun.

8/10

So there we go – another year of Halloween Horror Fest is over.  Do not fear – there are many more horror DVDs in my collection for next year.

Fang you for joining me for Halloween Horror Fest 2016!

Halloween Horror Fest Circus

Vampire Circus (1972)

Yes it’s Hammer time at the Virtual Hot Tub, with this macabre classic from the legendary British studio!

A remote village, quarantined due to a strange plague, becomes the host to a travelling circus.  The circus entertain the villagers and distract them from their everyday woes; though they hide another motive.  That secret agenda involves a vanquished vampire count, and a despicable plot for revenge!

There’s no Cushing or Lee in this early seventies curiosity, yet Hammer are able to create a new spin on their Gothic tales with this unusual and striking film.  The boobs and gore identify the seventies vintage of this film, yet there’s plenty of atmosphere to embellish the tale.  Vampire Circus is a novel idea, and proves what the studio could do even without relying on the big names (stars or monsters).

Sadly this isn’t a feat that Hammer would replicate often in their twilight years.  Never the less, Vampire Circus is much more hit than miss.  The viewer will witness some real spectacle, some real frights – and the dark atmosphere of Hammer horror at it’s best.  Recommended.

8/10 vampire circus

From Hell (2001)

The crimes of Jack the Ripper are given a fictionalised re-telling in this 2001 Hughes brothers film.  It’s based – very loosely – on the Alan Moore graphic novel; relying heavily on conspiracy theory, a dash of clairvoyance and Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline. from hell

The conspiracy at the heart of the story is, of course, absolute nonsense, but then the original source novel didn’t set out to identify the culprit.  Rather, From Hell was a dense tome covering the mythology and occult roots of London and it’s citizens.

The film version goes for a more straightforward dramatic approach, as we follow the case and slowly unravel the mystery of the killer’s identity.  If you can suspend disbelief, forget the ridiculousness of it all and enjoy the ride, it’s a great film.  Fantastic sets give From Hell a very genuine feel, along with some decent performances (though not all) and enough shadows and murder to make it an effective thriller.

Go and read the book – it’s an incredible work.  But I’ll happily state that despite the clichés and the total fudging of fact and fiction – let alone disregard for the source material – the film From Hell is definitely worth a watch.

8/10

Jenna Jameson Visits the Virtual Hot Tub!

There was a very special guest today at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.  A very special lady who I’m sure you will all be familiar with.

Yes, it’s the one and only, internationally famed adult super star Jenna Jameson!

Ms Jameson very kindly accepted my invitation to my Virtual Halloween Hot Tub party, and I was over joyed to welcome her.  Jenna looked fabulous in her sexy rubber witch dress, and had a fabulous time sipping cocktails and doing the Monster Mash.

Well not really, this is actually my Jenna Jameson Halloween action figure – but virtually anything can happen at the Virtual Hot Tub!

This Jenna figure has a broom stick and pumpkin to complement her revealing black dress.  She’s on a stand that features more Jack O’Lanterns and is adorned proudly with her name.

It’s a very cool figure, with amazing detail right down to the intricate tattoos.  And this ain’t no Barbie doll – Jenna is anatomically correct.  So if her dress and panties are removed, intimate details are revealed…

Anyway, a suitable spooky action figure for Halloween, I’m sure you’ll agree! P_20141030_140256

Happy First Birthday, Virtual Hot Tub!

The Top 5 Posts on the Virtual Hot Tub

Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub is now one year old!

Actually, the first anniversary was on March 24th.  So I’m late, again.  But I’ve been so busy capturing vital events like Sci-Fi Weekender, Kurt Cobain’s passing, Easter and all the other stuff that I just haven’t had time to get round to celebrating it.

So it was 24th March 2013 when I first welcomed you all to bathe in the soothing waters of the Virtual Hot Tub.  Since then, I’ve posted all manner of weird and wonderful items on the blog.  But which ones have been the most popular?

I checked out the stats; and here, in reverse order, are the most read posts in the first year of the Virtual Hot Tub’s existence:

5. Skateboard Museum: Variflex Joker

There’s obviously loads of people searching the interweb for old school skateboards.  This post about my old Variflex skateboard has been constantly showing in blog results.  Nice post – shame about the photo.  I’ll remedy that soon.  Take another look here.

4. Questions #2: Full English Breakfast Ingredients

All of the “Questions” posts fared well in the rankings, particularly the food related items.  This one was the highest placed.  Read it again here.

3. Hammer Glamour

I went blog crazy in October with my Hallowe’en Horror Fest.  This post, which counted down the top ten Hammer Horror babes, has been incredibly popular.  Lots of people Googling sex and horror, I guess.  Check it out here.

2. The Best Man’s Speech

Over 150 people have read this post, commemorating the wedding of my friends Cathryn and Jarrod.  It’s nice that this article has been read so many times.  Have another look here.

So what’s the most read blog post on the Virtual Hot Tub, in the first year?  It is:

1. A Letter to the New York Post

This piece, which recounted my experiences in New York on September 11th, caught people’s attention much more than I thought it would.  I suppose it went “viral” – more than 475 views.  It certainly received an amazing, and heart warming, response.  Thanks to all who shared it.  Read it again here.

There you go: the top 5 blog posts on Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.  Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing, thanks for being a part of it.  Your contribution – and interest – has helped make this worthwhile.

Plenty more to come, so stay tuned.

Sci-Fi Weekender part 2

Sci-Fi Weekender 28th – 30th March 2014

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Day Two – and Adam, Greeny, Kurt and myself were up bright and early to see what the day would bring.  LIE.  We had a lie in, went to get s cooked breakfast, got some supplies at the Spar, and chilled out in the chalet for a while.  We decided to wander down to see what was going just a little after the action began at midday.  Although impressed with what we’d witnessed so far, we still didn’t know what to expect.

Exploring the set up, we soon found the events and had a good look around the merchandise area.  I picked up a couple of cool items – a Star Wars figure I needed and a Countess Dracula t-shirt.  I could’ve spent a fortune if I’d had the money.  There was quite a buzz as fans scouted around for bargains and highly desirable paraphernalia.

There were numerous discussion panels, interviews and signings through out the afternoon.  Luckily I caught a very interesting talk with 2000AD creator Pat Mills, refreshingly anti-authoritarian even after all these years.  There was quite a 2000AD presence, with some of my favourite artists of all time – Glenn Fabry and Simon Bisley – in attendance.  Somebody really should make a film version of Slaine…

I also caught a very entertaining chat with The Hobbit actor Graham McTavish.  Although I’ve yet to see the film(s), his interview was still engaging; with many captivating stories from behind the scenes.

Of course, the main attraction for me (except for beer) was taking photos of all the various fans who’d taken the time and trouble to dress up as their favourite characters.  There were some amazing costumes, as shown here and in the previous post.  Again, fans were more than happy to pose for photos.  The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming with no bad vibes on display anywhere.

The highlight of the evening was the Cosplay final – those who entered the competition were judged on the best costume.  I forget who won, but the talent and care on display was highly commendable – as you can see from the photos.

There were several Cosplayers I either missed getting a photo of, or the pic turned out rubbish.  My apologies – again, I’m not a professional.  It is with great shame that I cannot present for you here Jar Jar Green Screen, General Zod, the Beast and sexy Six of Nine silver Star Trek girl.  Sorry.  But I think Silk Spectre (below) makes up for that.

Another late night ended with the “legendary” Pat Sharp spinning the wax for a packed dance floor.  All in all, a great day with a real sense of community.

Finally, I must thank Glyn again for providing not only tickets but our accommodation.  I hope these reports give you some idea of how the event was.  Cheers!

Visit the Sci-Fi Weekender site here.

Captain Blood (1935)

After a long while, I finally added this film to my DVD collection.  Originally released in 1935, Captain Blood is black and white, no CGI – switch off now if this isn’t your thing.  But you’ll be missing something special if you do.

This is the story of a doctor, Peter Blood, who through misfortune and circumstance finds himself a slave in the West Indies.  From here he escapes with his trusty comrades and commandeers a Spanish ship, his only option now a life of piracy.  We follow Captain Blood and his crew’s adventures on the seas. captainblood1

Warner Brothers took a gamble in casting the unknown Errol Flynn in the lead role.  The risk paid off – Flynn lights up the screen from the start.  A star is not so much born as presented fully formed for the audience to adore.  Olivia de Havilland, as Arabella Bishop, also found herself become an established name.  There is real on screen chemistry between the two (they’d go on to star in many other films together); both Flynn and de Havilland captivating throughout.

Director Michael Curtiz employs everything he has to create a spectacle on screen, though surprisingly most of the scenes were shot on sound stages.  Flynn’s sword fight with Basil Rathbone is energetic and deadly.  The final swing-across-the-cavern ship to ship battle is still exciting even now.

Curtiz takes his time telling the back story before we get to the piracy on the high seas.  On first viewing you may wonder when the film will actually get to the pirate part, yet the tale is told well with engaging characters and action.

Captain Blood is golden era Hollywood.  It has escapism, adventure and above all, fun.  Even without a single “Garrrrgh!”, it’s still full of pirate-y goodness.

8/10