The Viking Halloween Horror Fest

Well Halloween 2018 is over, sadly.  But there are a few other movies I’ve watched in October as part of my Horror Fest, so here’s a quick overview of them.  I promise to keep this short and sweet…

The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)

Is this even a horror movie?  I consulted the oracle of all things frightful, my old Horror Top Trumps, and YES – Fu Manchu is in there.  If he’s in that card pack then this counts as horror, as far as I’m concerned. 

Having said that, The Brides of Fu Manchu is more Indiana Jones style adventure than scary movie, despite some gruesome elements.

Fu Manchu is played by Christopher Lee (in make-up, the sort of Hollywood white washing that would quite rightly cause uproar nowadays).  The evil criminal mastermind is kidnapping the daughters of prominent scientists, to bribe them into helping him create a death ray.  It’s up to Scotland Yard’s Nayland Smith (Douglas Wilmer) to stop him.

The Brides of Fu Manchu is terribly dated.  But if we can all agree to be adults and appreciate that this film was made in another age, reflecting views of an even older age, then it’s quite a rip-roaring yarn.  Take it with a pinch of salt and watch it with a wary eye.

7/10

The Viking Queen (1967)

It’s Hammer, but it’s not really horror!  The Viking Queen is (very) loosely based on the story of Boudica in Roman Britain. 

Here we have the tale of British Queen Salina (played by Carita) and nice Roman leader Justinian (Don Murray) who plan on creating a fair land for all.  And they fall in love.  Predictably, there are grumps on both Briton and Roman sides that conspire to make a right old mess of things for the romantic couple.

On first viewing, I found the historical inaccuracies too much to swallow.  Further viewings have allowed my expectations to be lowered and I’ve begun to enjoy it more.  Not for the history buffs, but The Viking Queen is an enjoyable tale (with some nasty gory bits to remind us it is Hammer, after all).

7/10

Arachnophobia (1990)

It’s Jaws with Spiders!  New doctor in town Jeff Daniels is an arachnophobe, who just happens to move his family to a new town that’s about to become deadly spider central. 

I saw this film in the cinema and don’t think I’ve ever watched it again since.  So I was surprised that it was actually still quite good fun, with the sort of scares that force the viewer to move away from any possible spider hiding places in the living room.

Good fun and quite gruesome in places, it’s too scary for young children (as I found out), although completely obvious plot-wise.  Disconnect brain and enjoy.

8/10

Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)

Much more suitable for your younger monsters, this animated feature from Dreamworks manages to entertain and pay homage to classic B-movie monsters from the past. 

Susan Murphy (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) is hit by a meteorite that mutates her into a giant, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman character.  She’s whisked off to a top secret military installation and holed up with some other monstrous types.  Eventually the creatures are brought out of confinement to defend earth from an alien invasion.

Monsters vs. Aliens features a great voice cast including Hugh Laurie (a mad scientist/The Fly-like Dr Cockroach), Seth Rogen (as The Blob-like B.O.B.), Will Arnett (as the Missing Link, a Creature from the Black Lagoon specimen) and Kiefer Sutherland as the General in charge.  Rogen in particular is hilarious.

Lots of fun, great animation and a nice message if that’s your thing.  Monster vs. Aliens is a winner.

8/10

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

The Tower of London

In early November I went to London on a work trip.  I stayed in a hotel very close to the Tower of London, just on the opposite side of Tower Bridge.  At least, I think that’s what this bridge is called.  It’s the famous one that everyone thinks is called London Bridge, much to the shame of the people of Seattle.

Anyway, while I was there, the poppies to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.  I had a spare ten minutes after I checked in to take a few photos before the light went.  Here they are.

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28 Hallowe’en Horror Fests Later

28 Weeks Later (2007)

Six months after the original outbreak of the Rage virus, the UK is a devastated wasteland in quarantine.  Slowly, re-population of the City of London begins – in restricted zones under the guardianship of US led UN forces.

This sequel to 28 Days Later takes the initial premise further, and doesn’t waste time in exploring further the horror of the Infected.  The opening scenes in particular are designed to make the heart race, as we’re thrust back into the nightmare of the scenario for the first film.  In a short while though, the audience finds itself in a precarious new society as the military attempt to reintroduce life to the dead city. 28weekslater

Both Danny Boyle and Alex Garland, who created the original movie – act as Executive Producers on 28 Weeks Later.  Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo manages to take over the reigns and deliver a solid sequel.

28 Weeks Later does not have the shock value of it’s predecessor; although a  quality cast – including Robert Carlyle, Jeremy Renner, the lovely Rose Byrne and Idris Elba – ensure this is a film worth investing your time in.

I still rate the original 28 Days Later as one of the most intense, disturbing cinematic experiences I’ve ever had.  Sequels very rarely match up to the first film.  28 Weeks Later has a pretty bloody good go, though.

8/10

PS – you can read my write up of 28 Days Later here.

Death Skateboards – My Current Set Up

Death deck, Independent trucks, Death wheels 

Recently I set up my new skateboard.  This new set up is, again, primarily Death skateboards.

The new deck is a Lee Dainton pro model – yes, he of Dirty Sanchez fame.  I’ve actually had this deck for a while, I just hadn’t got round to setting it up.  Truth be told, I’ve not done much skating for a while, due to factors like becoming a  Dad; the bastard recession killing my employment; and being busy getting fat.

I’ve kept my previous set of good old reliable Indy trucks, but invested in a new set of Death wheels (52mm).  I picked the wheels up from the very nice people at Note skate shop in Manchester on a recent visit. IMG_3168

Death are a great company, I’ve owned (and skated) many of their decks and wheels.  They’re British, and make really good products that you can depend on.

Back when I used to own a skate shop, I spoke on the phone to Death boss man Nick Zorlac a few times.  He’s a sound guy with an obvious enthusiasm and love for skateboarding. IMG_3170

I also had a brief meeting with Dainton a couple of years ago, when he and Matt Pritchard did a Dirty Sanchez show at the Tivoli in Buckley.  The conversation basically consisted of hollering “Independent for life!” at each other.

Anyway, I’ve now skated this deck and I am extremely happy with it.  No techy nerd ramblings in this blog post, this is a quality skateboard and we’ll leave it at that.  Well done Death on another fine product!

Deck only, before trucks were mounted.

Deck only, before trucks were mounted.

Son of Hallowe’en Horror Fest

28 Days Later (2002)

When Mrs Platinum Al and I went on our very first date, this was the film she wanted to see.  I’d heard it was good, and being a fan of the Director Danny Boyle’s earlier works (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting) agreed it would be a good choice.  What followed was one of the most extreme cinematic experiences I’ve ever had.  You’ve heard stories about people walking out of the cinema?  I saw that during this screening.  Audience members were getting up and leaving.  I’m sure that it wasn’t because the film was bad – it was because 28 Days Later is utterly terrifying. MV5BNzM2NDYwNjM3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDYxNzk5._V1._SX337_SY500_ (1)

Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in hospital after being in an accident.  Slowly he finds that the world he knew has crumbled, as an infectious virus called “Rage” has decimated the population by turning the victims into violent, mindless killers.  Jim meets other survivors, and together they begin a journey to find a cure for Rage, and safe refuge from the Infected.

28 Days Later was never billed as a zombie flick originally, at least not as I remember it.  Although obviously inspired by zombie movies and other post apocalyptic films, it was promoted as a film exploring what could happen following the outbreak of a pandemic.  Scenes of an abandoned London created emotions of despair that were related, in the press, to the aftermath of 9/11.  Psychologically, the audience is submitted to a world of sheer desperation that pervades every minute.

As a result, 28 Days Later gives us much more than a zombie re-hash.  It has shocks and creates tension in the viewer unlike any other film I have ever seen.  But it also asks questions: how far away are any of us, in a world of road rage and social unrest, from mindless uncontrolled violence?

Quite simply a superb film on every level, 28 Days Later horrifies beyond belief.

10/10