Halloween Horror Fest 2019

A lonely forest at night.  The full moon peaks through the gnarled branches, as the wind whistles a mournful lament.  In the distance, a wolf howls… and the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, involuntarily.

It’s October, and that means it’s time for – Halloween Horror Fest!

For the last few years, I’ve spent the month of October watching a load of scary movies.  Some spooky; some creepy; some funny – and some shit-your-shoes-off horrifying.

And then I write a little review.  Like this…

The Frighteners (1996)

Okay – so The Frighteners isn’t a full-on horror film exactly, but it has plenty of supernatural elements that make it ideal viewing for this time of year.  And anyway, we needed to watch something that wouldn’t scare the little ‘un too much, if she overheard it while trying to get to sleep upstairs!

Michael J Fox stars as Frank Bannister, a one time architect turned dodgy psychic investigator.  Bannister can actually communicate with spirits, but chooses to employ his ghostly buddies to help him exploit customers with phoney exorcisms.

Except townspeople are dying from fatal heart attacks, and Frank suspects that the ghost of a deranged killer is behind it all.  Unable to convince the law that his supernatural powers are genuine, Bannister becomes the chief suspect – and must clear his name and stop the killer.

Directed by Peter Jackson, this film makes a decent attempt at being spooky, funny and entertaining all in one go.  Quality performances from Fox and the cast (including a small role for the great John Astin) – combined with the directors flair and skill – keep the film rolling along enjoyably.

The special effects were state of the art in 1996, and still hold up well today – with several creepy moments realised with CGI that is actually tastefully done.

The Frighteners just manages to steer away from becoming silly, and remains good fun.  Ideal for a Halloween movie that won’t cause nightmares, it’s like Most Haunted with a plot and (more) laughs.

7/10

More macabre movies soon…

The Best of 2017

The New Year is now well underway, and I hope it’s treating you well, dear reader.  There are many more joyous blogs to unleash upon the world in 2018, but for now let’s re-cap some of the most popular from last year.

I’ve done some research, and found the Top Ten most viewed blog posts at the Virtual Hot Tub.

Here they are, in reverse order:

10. 1968 – Gig Review

In May I went to Telford’s Warehouse in Chester to witness for myself the awesome riffage of the mighty 1968.  A fine band – they have a new album coming soon, so don’t delay, dive right in and discover them now!

9. New Set Up – Death Skateboards

Summer saw the arrival of my new Death skateboards deck.  I took some nice photos of the setup looking shiny and new, then thrashed it and shined the graphics.

8. MCM Comic Con 2017 – Part 2

The second part of my blog about visiting MCM Comic Con at the NEC.  Featuring loads of Cosplay photos, which are always popular.

7. Pandan Leaf, Prestatyn

Pandan Leaf is a superb Asian restaurant in Prestatyn, North Wales; I enjoyed a sensational meal there earlier in the year.  A highly recommended place to eat, I hope this little write up helped them out.  Go there if you can.

6. Sci-Fi Weekender 2016 – Bonus Scenes

Sadly I didn’t make it to Sci-Fi Weekender in 2017.  I did have some photos left over from 2016, however, so I could post a pre-Weekender warm up.  This blog includes the now traditional “No Photos!” section.

5. Pentre Fest 2017

Pentre Fest – a weekend of underground, largely unsigned metal – right on my door step.  I went and had a great time.  This blog got more views than the review I wrote of my trip to see the last ever Black Sabbath gig!

4. Sci-Fi Weekender 2016 – The Directors Cut

Wow – I took a lot of pics in 2016.  Several more shared here.  Platinum Al and the gang are back this year, so get ready for some Sci-Fi blog action soon.

3. MCM Comic Con – Part 1

The first part of my MCM Comic Con was far more popular than the second.

2. Ye Olde Kings Head – Mostly Haunted

Things that go bump in the night at an old, haunted pub in Chester was the second most popular blog of 2017.  A great pub and a fun evening, making an interesting blog.

So there have numbers ten down to two on the Virtual Hot Tub Most Popular of 2018 countdown.  But what, I hear you cry, was number 1?

Drum roll please…

1. Dogtown & Z-Boys Playlist

My playlist compiling the songs found on the soundtrack for the frankly awesome Dogtown & Z-Boys movie storms in at number 1. Thus confirming that old school skateboarding and classic rock make an excellent movie, and a not half bad blog.

An honourable mention to the following posts, which although not written in 2017, are still performing amazingly well:

  • Santa Cruz Snowskate (2014)
  • Hammer Glamour (2013)
  • Skateboard Museum: Variflex Joker (2013)

Thanks to YOU, venerable reader, for continuing to make this blog a success.  Stay tuned and visit again, don’t be a stranger.  There are many wondrous delights still to unfold at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub; come back for a relaxing dip soon.

Ye Olde Kings Head – Mostly Haunted

Ye Olde Kings Head

Chester

Would you dare to stay a night in a 300 year old pub, in one of it’s most haunted bedrooms?  Sound like fun?  I wasn’t 100% convinced, but that’s what Mrs Platinum Al and I decided to do recently.

You’re familiar with Most Haunted, right?  Where Yvette Fielding and her intrepid group of paranormal investigators visit aged buildings to discover what ghostly goings on they can find?  Well Ye Olde Kings Head in Chester, was featured on the programme not too long ago.  We watched the programme and were intrigued by the various strange occurrences the team observed.

So Mrs Platinum Al decided she wanted to stay the night there.  In the room that was supposedly the most active with things that go bump in the night…

Not like that, you smutty lot!

Ye Olde Kings Head is a wonderful looking building in the Tudor style – dark wooden beams highlighting the architecture.  Inside, the pub also has a real Olde Worlde, traditional style with plenty more wooden beams, comfy chairs and an open fire.  It is indeed very charming – you would swear you’re on a film set if you didn’t know better.  There’s also a well stocked bar, live music and a friendly welcome. 

We were staying in Room 1 – supposedly the most active in the paranormal activity stakes.  The room featured an enormous four poster bed and antique looking furniture.  There were yet more old wooden beams visible, these ones a bit lower – OK for any headless spirits.  An excellent spacious bathroom completed the impressive amenities.  All very cosy and not at all spooky, I wasn’t nervous at all.

Now I’m not necessarily a believer in the supernatural.  There’s usually a plausible real world explanation for most weird events.  However I’m not a total nay-sayer either; I’m certainly interested, and if something truly bizarre occurred I’d accept it.  But it would have to be pretty out of this world and happen right in front of my eyes.

After a few drinks and a top notch evening meal, we retired to our room to begin our own paranormal investigations.  With a glass of wine (or two) for Dutch courage, we waited to see if anything would happen.  We closely observed everything in the room to see if any objects had moved.

In true Derek Acorah style, we attempted some “calling out”.  You  know, all that “Is there anybody there?” malarkey.  No, I can’t believe I did that either.  I assured our ghostly hosts – if they were there – that we meant no harm and were only curious if they would like to make contact.

Unfortunately, nothing happened.  No otherworldly voices, no items moving of their own inexplicable accord.

Although just as we were falling asleep, the television switched itself on.

Now that occurrence might be explainable in many ways: a faulty TV for one.  But the fact that the same thing had happened on the Most Haunted episode had us intrigued.  I’m not saying I was convinced, but it was an interesting coincidence.

I then fell asleep in the giant four poster, easily the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in.  Happily I slept right the way through; my main concern of this visit was having to go for a wee, in the dark, in the middle of the night.

In the morning we had a great full English breakfast and were ready for a new day.

Our investigation at Ye Olde Kings Head didn’t deliver much in the way of ghostly goings on, but we definitely had a brilliant time.  We were well looked after, with the food and drinks being excellent.  Both the pub and the room we stayed in were really warm with an almost magical ambience.

We’ll definitely visit again, and attempt some further paranormal investigations.  Perhaps it was a little disappointing that we didn’t experience anything strange.  But we both had a relaxing break in a really good pub, and that’s good enough for me.

The website for Ye Olde Kings Head is here.

The Facebook page for Ye Olde Kings Head is here.

Ye Olde Kings Head, 48-50 Lower Bridge Street, Chester CH1 1RS

Tel: 01244 324855

Hallowe’en Horror Fest of Wolves

Paranormal Xperience (2011)

A group of students travel to a deserted town to investigate the apparent paranormal activity witnessed there.  The story goes that the town doctor went mad, tortured and killed several inhabitants.  As the group conduct their exploration, the supernatural begins to manifest itself – but who is the focus?

This Spanish (subtitled) film offers a cliched cast of characters, and can’t decide if it wants to be a dramatised version of Most Haunted or Saw.  At first it’s a fairly clumsy mutation of the two, but stay with it and the actual story is worth experiencing.

Not essential viewing, but the twist is interesting (I didn’t see it coming, anyway).

7/10

The Company of Wolves (1984)

“Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle.”

Neil Jordan’s dreamlike film is often explained as an updating of the Little Red Riding Hood tale.  But there’s so much more to it than that.  coofwolves

Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) hears tales of strange men with eyebrows that meet in the middle from her grandmother (Angela Lansbury).  There are several elements of werewolf folklore, wrapped up in dreams and myths that provide a warning to young maidens – illustrating how people in years gone by were wary of the forest at night, the full moon and the howling wolves.

Although the effects are dated somewhat, the transformations from man into wolf are quite ingenious.  However this isn’t really a horror movie, it ‘s a film heavy with symbolism that explores the loss of innocence and the onset of sexual maturity.  There’s plenty to enjoy with the rich, surreal vision we are presented with, but far more to think about.

Great cameo by Terence Stamp, too.

8/10

Earth vs. Hallowe’en Horror Fest

The Thing (1982)

I’m not going to preach on about this film, let’s just say it’s pure genius.  John Carpenter’s The Thing is an excellent film – not just an excellent horror (or sci-fi) film, but an excellent film outright.

An isolated team of American scientists in the Antarctic are infiltrated by a shape changing creature from outer space.  As the mystery unfolds, the team have no idea who has been taken over by the thing and who is still human.  The tension mounts as the men’s suspicion of each other increases. title the thing

Great special effects (no CGI here) and believable performances (Kurt Russell as Mac) help, but it’s Carpenter’s ability to squeeze every ounce of unease, mistrust and anxiety out of the cast that makes it work.  A classic.

10/10

Paranormal Activity (2007)

When I first saw this film, the initial twenty minutes or so didn’t impress me.  It was like watching a feature length version of Most Haunted.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Most Haunted (great show), I just don’t want to watch a dramatised version of vaguely strange happenings when I can watch the TV show any time.  Plus, Paranormal Activity was another from the “found footage” genre, and while Blair Witch was OK I wasn’t a huge fan.

Where this film works though, is in tapping into a very primal fear – the fear of what goes on when we’re asleep.  There are some very scary moments where the viewer can’t help but wonder if anything strange occurs when they’re sleeping.  Sure, the hokum is ladled on mercilessly (frightened psychics, demonic possession) but there are genuinely hair-raising sequences that are really creepy.

The film works best when it’s low key, and plays on our fear of what goes bump in the night.  Definitely worth a watch, just don’t expect to be convinced that the “found footage” is real…

8/10