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

The Brothers Keg – Album Review

The Brothers Keg – Folklore, Myths and Legends of the Brothers Keg

APF Records

Release date: 11/09/2020

Running time: 44 minutes

Review by: Alun Jones

9.5/10

And lo, the ancient seers have foretold of the coming of the Brothers Keg.  Anticipation building slowly, the wise masters of APF Records have foretold a fortuitous event, something that would elate the masses and bring joyous union to the land.  At least it feels that way, Old Al can’t be the only one who’s been expecting something special with this release.

The Brothers Keg are a three-piece band from London way; comprising Tom Fyfe on drums, Tom Hobson on guitar and vocals and Paul Rosser on bass/vocals.  Together, their music is colossal stoner/doom with a huge sound, massive ambition, and a fine angle on self-mythologising.  The result is an album so epic, so over the top and downright fun – that the Brothers deserve every ounce of assured swagger that they no doubt possess.

Tom Hobson himself describes the sound as “HP Lovecraft meets Queen’s Flash Gordon listening to Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds at the wrong speed smoking a medieval spliff dipped in poppers.” That’s this review written really – do I need to sell this any harder to you?  

If you need more persuasion, imagine a cult sci-fi fantasy B-movie soundtrack featuring spoken word narration and bludgeoning riffs, and you’re halfway there.  Tracks like “Moorsmen” and “The Army of the Thirsty Blade Approaches” are skull splittingly mighty, generating a genuine feeling of excitement.

“No Earthly Form” and “Brahman” have it all: heavy guitar and pounding rhythm; countered with atmospheric psychedelia that the listener can absorb like a movie.  “Brahman” is nearly 13 minutes of music that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome: from meditative chanting, a killer stoner riff, and washes of acid-soaked guitars creating a spacious landscape.

The narration adds to the band’s mystique without being cheesy or silly.  Yes, it’s all ridiculously good fun – but the sheer weight of musical invention adds up to something exceptional.  Add in some glorious cover artwork (that looks like a cyborg He-Man pursued by a demented Skeletor) and “Folklore, Myths and Legends of the Brothers Keg” possesses an undeniable charisma.  I want the vinyl, the t-shirt, the poster – I want everything.  Hell, I want Brothers Keg action figures (with weapons and musical accessories, features small parts, ages 3 and up) and I want them NOW!

Another contender for album of the year?  You betcha.

Of course, the Brothers Keg aren’t the only famous brothers in rock.  Those crazy Van Halen boys are two of my favourites – oh, I used to have some wild times with them.  Like the time they pulled the thread out of the crotch of David Lee Roth’s pants, so when he performed one of his patented scissor jumps – the pants split and Diamond Dave’s family jewels were revealed for all.  You didn’t need to be in the front row to see it everything, I can tell you.

Dave had his revenge at a later gig, though.  Backstage, he switched out the blue M&Ms in a complimentary dish for laxative pills; Eddie’s tight white trousers were not a pleasant site at all that night.  Now you know why their rider has always stipulated the blue M&Ms are removed ever since.     

Check out The Brothers Keg on Bandcamp, Facebook and Instagram.

And have a look at APF records website while you’re at it.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t forget to visit Ever Metal for more awesome news and reviews!

Bram Stoker’s Halloween Horror Fest

Dracula (1992)

A difficult one, this.  Undeniably stunning to watch, this version of the classic tale from Director Francis Ford Coppola has many positives.  Unfortunately it also has some screamingly bad inconsistencies, too.

I won’t dwell too long on the plot, as the narrative manages to follow the source novel for the most part.  Suffice to say that Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) is despatched to Transylvania to arrange some London real estate for a certain Count Dracula (a brilliant Gary Oldman).  Dracula then relocates to Victorian England, where his cult of vampirism is destined to grow.

Despite following many of the key scenes from Stoker’s original book, and indeed managing to correctly include most of the characters for a change, this isn’t the definitive movie version it claims to be.  Rather, Coppola’s film is scuppered by introducing a ridiculous love story between Dracula and Mina (Winona Ryder) that wasn’t in the book.  So for every brilliantly shot tribute to the novel that Coppola makes, there’s a stake through the heart thanks to the silly romance aspect. drac

The performances vary from superb (Oldman) to annoying (Sadie Frost as Lucy).  Then there’s Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, who can’t decide how far to ram his tongue in his own cheek.

Poor old Keanu always comes under heavy criticism for his work here, and yes, his British accent is truly abominable.  In his defence, however, I would say that he looks exactly as I always imagined Jonathan Harker to look.  So give him a break.  For me, Winona Ryder is much worse – her acting and accent are both wrong, and she also looks totally out of place.

Thank heavens for some authenticity with appearances for much loved characters Dr Seward (Richard E Grant, great job); Arthur Holmwood (perfectly cast as Cary Elwes) and the vampire hunter who was always my favourite, Quincey Morris (Bill Campbell).

If I ignore the stupid desecration that is the Oldman/Ryder romance, then there’s plenty to enjoy.  The sets, costume designs and cinematography are simply beautiful.  There are some ingenious ideas where the laws of physics just do not apply – such as shadows roaming randomly – which create a supernatural world.  And there is enough respect for the novel in various other ways that Coppola’s Dracula is irresistible to watch.  Not to mention plenty of blood and dismemberment, and some true horror.

So despite holding my head in my hands and screaming “WHY?!” to the heavens, Dracula is still a must see.  But please folks, read the book.  Repressed Victorian sexuality and fears of the outsider may be present there, but “Dracula” is no love story.

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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30 Days of Hallowe’en Horror Fest

OK: so I know Hallowe’en is all over.  It’s November.

And I also know that there are 31 days in October.

But I’ve still got a few short’n’sweet Horror movie reviews for you, which due to scheduling issues I haven’t had chance to write up till now.  So here we go!

30 Days of Night (2007)

The Alaskan town of Barrow is a remote place, and about to become more isolated once the month long night commences.  As the town readies itself, a number of bizarre occurrences foreshadow an unimaginable horror.  For the town will be besieged by a group of blood thirsty vampires, allowed free reign due to the towns people’s disbelief and the ongoing dark. 30-days-of-night-poster-1_6599

This film hauls vampire folklore into the 21st century and breathes life into the (undead) corpse.  The vampires are brutal, savage and powerful.  Their leader, played chillingly by Danny Huston brings an unrelenting nightmare to the people of Barrow.  This is how vampires are supposed to be – the portrayal of the undead in this film is like the re-imagining of the zombies in 28 Days Later.  Suddenly, we are confronted by vampires who are genuinely threatening.

The human leads – Josh Hartnett and lovely Melissa George – also give sympathetic performances.  The audience are presented with characters we can empathise with, and share their fear.

The bleak, snowy landscape creates a hopeless and claustrophobic atmosphere.  The premise of 30 Days of Night is ingenious, and the film delivers admirably.  Recommended viewing, if only to see how ancient vampire myth can be made relevant – and frightening – for today’s audience.

9/10

Carry On Screaming (1966)

Yes, it’s the Carry On gang in a homage of sorts to that other British film institution – Hammer.  Although the plot manages to mix up elements of House of Wax, Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein and the Addams Family, it still manages to make some sense and entertain along the way. Carry_on_screaming_(film)

Sid James is MIA, replaced in this film by Harry H. Corbett of Steptoe and Son fame.  Corbett does an impeccable job as Detective Sergeant Sidney Bung.  Also along are many of the usual faces, including Kenneth Williams, Jim Dale, Joan Simms and Charles Hawtrey.

The creepy show is stolen though by uber vamp Fenella Fielding as Valeria, in her tight red dress; who manages to smoulder like Lily Munster or (Carolyn Jones) Morticia.  Utterly gorgeous!

It’s one of the better Carry On films in my opinion, and manages to get a few good gags in along with the usual double entendres.  The monsters – Oddbod and Oddbod Junior – scared me to death when I was eight.

Carry On Screaming is great for a bit of light relief from other, truly scary films.  And it manages to create a spooky Gothic vibe, too.

7/10

The Woman in Black (2012)

Hammer studios really got back in the game with this film.  Starring Daniel Radcliffe (yes, Harry Potter) as a young lawyer sent to work in a remote old house, this film manages to inject some real frights. womaninblack

Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) travels from London to his assignment in the North at spooky old Eel Marsh House.  He’s there to examine papers of the deceased owner, but soon finds himself caught between the superstitious (and downright unfriendly) locals and whatever the presence is up at the house.

The Woman in Black was only certified as a 12 in the UK.  Hammer (quite uncharacteristically) shed blood, gore, sex and violence and instead concentrate on a film that has an overdose of jumpy frights.  The film is a classic ghost story, featuring a lonely haunted house that leaves the viewer truly unnerved.  Brilliant!

9/10

And there we have it – the end of another Hallowe’en Horror Fest.  Thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read these reviews.  I hope you had a chillingHalloween!

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.

Hallowe’en Horror Fest AD 1972

Dracula AD 1972 (1972)

1872: Count Dracula is locked in mortal combat with arch enemy, Lawrence Van Helsing.  The Count (Christopher Lee) is destroyed, though Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) also perishes from his wounds.  A disciple of the vampire collects some of the ashes, and Dracula’s ring; burying them at the site of a church.

1972: A group of young London groovers are persuaded to take part in a satanic mass “for kicks”.  Amongst the group is Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham), grand daughter of Lorrimer Van Helsing (Cushing again) and descendent of the original vampire slayer.  Little do they know that one member of the group, Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame), is himself a disciple of Dracula – and intends to resurrect the Count.  dracula_ad_1972_poster_06

Following a bloody ritual in a deconsecrated church, Dracula (Lee) is revived, and he begins to plan his revenge against the House of Van Helsing…

With this film Hammer attempted to drag their Gothic horror films into the modern era.  So in Dracula AD 1972, we’re presented with a Dracula in (then) modern day swinging London, complete with cars, rock’n’roll bands and hip young kids out for a good time.  It’s for this reason that the film is most often derided as silly, if not damn near sacrilegious.

The young hippies are given a look and slang that most surely must have been out of place by 1972.  Viewed now, the dialogue is sometimes hilarious.

Despite the harsh opinions held by many about Dracula AD 1972, I love it.  As a confirmed fan of all things from the seventies, I find it outrageously good fun to see Dracula in this anachronistic setting.  What we lose with the lack of traditional Gothic period setting, we gain in a campy, retro London with funky Blaxploitation style music and cool sets.Yes, the kids’ dialogue is ridiculous, but it’s also great fun if the audience just accepts it.

Draculaad1972

My VHS and DVD copies

As a glimpse of an imaginary 1970’s London, I find this film really enjoyable.  Part Hammer and part The Sweeney, if you will.  That it was an inspiration for Tim Burton on Dark Shadows is well documented, and hopefully means that Dracula AD 1972 is finally getting some recognition for it’s attempt to inject new blood (haha!) into the Count.

There are some bloody moments, but nothing too shocking for a modern audience.  What we do get is a great performance by Peter Cushing, who really embodies his role as occult expert with authority.  Lee, too, is imposing and majestic as Dracula, truly menacing and physically powerful.  It would’ve been great though to see the Count stalking around London for victims at night more, certainly a missed opportunity.

The youngsters give it a good go despite the atrocious (or funny) lines – Beacham and Neame are both great.  Plus Michael Coles as the Inspector gives us a character that is actually believable.

My personal favourite element of this film though is the wonderful, bewitching Caroline Munro.  Here Ms Munro appears in one of her most iconic roles as Laura Bellows, and she has never looked lovelier.  Good performance too, though it would’ve been great to see Caroline resurrected as a Bride of Dracula.

So despite some utter ridiculousness and a couple of wasted opportunities, I can only recommend Dracula AD 1972 as not only one of my favourite Hammer films, but one of my favourite films ever.  Cool soundtrack, too.

“Dig the music, kids!”

10/10 for me

9/10 for everyone else

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

The Curse of Hallowe’en Horror Fest

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

I first saw this film when I was about ten years old.  Or rather, I saw the first ten minutes.  When the initial attack occurs on the moors, my Mum switched it off.  And I’m not surprised.  Just those first few minutes were enough to make me shit my shoes off.  It would be many years later before I would actually watch the movie all the way through.

An American Werewolf in London begins with two backpacking young Americans finding their way to a mysterious village somewhere in Yorkshire.  They are attacked on the moors by a werewolf – one is killed and one survives, thus carrying on the werewolf’s curse.  Recovering in a London hospital, the survivor, David (David Naughton) is cared for by nurse Alex (Jenny Agutter).  His nightmares soon erupt into vicious attacks as he transforms, under the full moon, into a werewolf. american_werewolf_in_london_poster_04

This film is an absolute classic of the genre.  There are genuine jump-out-of-your-seat shocks, moments of bloody gore and a tragic love story that combine into a thrilling experience.  The special effects make-up (by Rick Baker) is still out standing today, particularly the transformation scene.

Often described as a “horror comedy”, there is a humorous tone in moments throughout the film which helps create the light and dark shades.  Director John Landis, however, has stated that An American Werewolf… is not a comedy, it just uses the lighter shades to create impact for the more horrible scenes.  Landis blends the moods superbly.  There are also numerous nods to the werewolf movies of the past; both verbally (The Wolfman and Curse of the Werewolf both get a nod) and in the structure of the film.

I’ve seen this film many, many times since Mum first switched channels after ten minutes. I’ve even seen it on the big screen, for a special late night showing a couple of years ago. The film’s ability to shock is now lost on me somewhat – I know when every scare is due to happen.  But I still enjoy watching this film and absorb every incredibly clever touch that Landis utilises.  It’s made a massive impression on me – I still remember the first time I was way down deep on the London underground, and gained an appreciation of the loneliness and isolation in one particular scene.

An American Werewolf In London: if you’ve not seen it, see it now.  But not in a dodgy theatre in Piccadilly Circus, obviously.

10/10