The Halloween Horror Fest Don’t Die

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Wow – what a cast! Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Danny Glover, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits – amongst many others – star in this comedy horror from director Jim Jarmusch.

The Dead Don’t Die tells the story of a zombie apocalypse in a small US town, as we see events unfold from the point of view of two cops on patrol (Murray and Driver). Natural phenomena begins to go awry, and following the murder of two workers in the local diner, events escalate quickly. Soon enough, the police (together with Swinton’s samurai funeral director) scramble to retain control as hordes of zombies take over.

Although there are some wonderful performances in this film – Murray and Driver’s brilliantly understated cops being the best – this film doesn’t really succeed as a comedy or a horror film. The zombie arrival is very slow, and the conclusion seems rushed. The comedy is rarely laugh out loud hilarious, it’s mostly dry humour and deadpan delivery, and there’s a lot to enjoy in the approach that the movie takes.

The Dead Don’t Die follows it’s own path, avoiding the much more in-you-face approach of Zombieland. The film is an enjoyable and worthwhile watch, but it doesn’t quite achieve its potential. It’s more of an Indie arthouse spoof of the genre, but whilst it has it’s own peculiar charms, I was expecting much more. Maybe I should know more about Jim Jarmusch. Who is he, anyway?

7/10

The Mummy (1959)

Frankenstein? Check. Dracula? Check. Next on the horror hitlist for Hammer was The Mummy, and boy does it look great in splendid colour. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are, of course, on hand; as are Terence Fisher (director) and Jimmy Sangster (writer). You can’t go wrong.

It’s 1895, and an archaeological dig in Egypt finds the ancient tomb of of Princess Ananka. John Banning (Cushing) has a broken leg, and can’t enter the tomb, though it’s probably for the best. His dad Stephen does go in, despite the protestation of the Egyptian Mehemet Bey (George Pastell) and is driven mad by… something.

On returning home, Banning senior (Felix Aylmer) is in a nursing home, receiving care for the mentally disturbed. He becomes lucid enough to warn his son that he fears the mummy of Kharis, the high priest will destroy them all for entering the tomb.

Sure enough, the Mummy of Kharis (Lee) is awoken by Bey, and begins to take revenge for the disturbance. Will Banning be able to stop it’s rampage?

Predictably excellent work from Cushing here, as expected. And Lee is imposing as ever as Kharis, looking incredibly grim emerging from a swamp. The film does drag a little in the final third, but with the beautiful sets, a lush score and a decent story, The Mummy is unmissable for any Hammer fan.

8.5/10

Sci Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 2

Sci Fi Weekender 23th – 24th March 2018

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Right back at ya with Part 2 of my report from Sci Fi Weekender 9.  Apologies for the delay, I’ve had some issues with memory banks getting wiped.

Day 2 of the festivities began with a monumental shock for our crew.  One of our team, Ensign Davies, had succumbed to a strange, planet borne virus.  When we awoke, there was no sign of our comrade.  He soon made contact however with news that he had beamed back up to the ship to recover.

Never the less, yet again the crew were falling prey to illness.  We would need all our stamina to see this campaign through.

First Mate Adam was up and out on patrol early; he went to view the new film from Tom Paton: “Black Site”.  Tom’s work had been witnessed before at SFW, and expectation was high for this new production.  Adam was happy to confirm that the movie was, indeed, excellent and well worth viewing (along with the cast and crew Q&A).

Myself, I took a local planetary transport omnibus to the nearby settlement of Porthmadog in order to feed my vinyl craving.  Crew members Greeny and Kurt remained in the static exploration cabin; monitoring visual communications.

Upon my return, the crew and I ventured out for further reconnaissance of the SFW9 event.  This involved in depth examination of merchandise for sale and photographing some of the unusual and impressive costumes on display.

Saturday evening was all set up for a big entertainment explosion in the Main Void, with the Imaginarium in full swing.  The action began with the Area 51 dancers disrupting visual scanners with fire eating and other astounding acts.  There was also Merlin the Escapologist, who managed to escape from a giant fish bowl on his head.  Or something like that, I was quite far away and it was packed out.

Whilst chilling with my crew and imbibing some refreshment, I managed to completely miss the highlight of the whole weekend: the Cosplay final.  I as absolutely horrified to realise I’d missed this, as it’s always a genuine highlight of SFW.  Luckily I was still able to capture some images of many of the guests; to my shame this was not enough however.

Instead I enjoyed the brilliant BBC Radiophonic Workshop, who performed live a veritable feast of electronic sci-fi sounds.  Chief among these of course were themes from Dr Who, a real treat that brought back some fond memories.  I’d missed the BBC Radiophonic Workshop on previous excursions, so I was delighted to hear their evocative experimental ear-worms properly.  Fantastic stuff.

I then made my exit from the Main Void, as the next feature wasn’t to my taste.  I appear to be the only person at SFW – out of hundreds – who doesn’t dig The Dark Room.  I’d seen the start of the previous night’s show and wasn’t into it.  It was just Peter Stringfellow with a bad temper.

Maybe it’s because I’m not into computer games, or maybe – for once – I’m just not geeky enough.  Either way, I’m in the minority as far as The Dark Room goes, and that’s fine with me.

So off I went to see Blues Harvest, a multi talented rock band with a penchant for all things nerdy.  They put on a great show, including Star Wars themes (performed by a rock band, remember) that were simply superb – all set to a cool visual edit from the movies.

Funnily enough my memory banks appear to be somewhat fried at this point, but I do recall Blues Harvest playing a storming Bowie tribute (“Life on Mars?” and “Magic Dance”, I think!).  Their final number was the Huey Lewis and the News chestnut “The Power of Love” – rounding off a fabulous set that combined rockin’ goodness with nostalgic treats.

The night was played out by the living legend that is DJ Level Up Leroy, who did a fine job of spinning a pulsating mix of tunes.  The sci-fi theme was continued nicely with come choice cuts and awesome visuals!

And that, ladies and gentle beings, was that.  Sadly for another year, the spectacular Sci Fi Weekender was at a close.

Before I leave you, some thanks: to all the Cosplayers, you were fantastic!  Fun and friendly, everyone of you was a joy to behold.  Yet again your talent and creativity were mind boggling to see.  Well done all!  I’m sorry I didn’t get more photos, but my sincere appreciation to all of those I took pics of.

Finally, to all the Sci Fi Weekenders, from across all known worlds and galaxies: THANK YOU!  You make this event the success it is.  Sci Fi Weekender is all about camaraderie and celebrating the things we love as one big tribe (to borrow Professor Elemental’s words).  It was a pleasure to meet you again or for the first time; long may it continue.

Epic group shot

Look, I’ll tell you what.  This blog is a monster.  To save delaying posting it any longer, I’ve got no choice other than to do a Part 3.  So the final batch of photos (don’t worry, I’ve run out of ramblings) will be soon.  Stay tuned!

The Sci Fi Weekender website is here.

In Memoriam – Sir Christopher Lee

Lee

Sir Christopher Lee

27.05.1922 – 07.06.2015

I was genuinely saddened to hear that Sir Christopher Lee had passed away.  Over the years Lee had become one of my favourite actors.  Perhaps my absolute favourite.  I certainly own more DVDs of his work than any other star.

My first encounter with Lee’s films would have been the brilliant, still unsurpassed The Three Musketeers (1973).  Or perhaps his turn as one of the best Bond villains ever – in one the best Bond films – Scaramanga, in The Man with the Golden Gun.

It wasn’t until my teens that I was able to catch up with his work for Hammer (and Amicus), when ITV started showing old horror films way past the witching hour with the advent of all night television.  I stayed up late, or recorded them all on the VCR to ensure I saw them all.  Those classic British horror movies captivated me – and still do. Whether playing Frankenstein’s Creature, Dracula, The Mummy – Lee was central to their success.

Monsters had always fascinated me.  I remember drawing them from an early age, though I wasn’t old enough to watch the films.  My early horror experiences came from Marvel comics, and a few movies such as King Kong and Boggy Creek.  Oh, yes – and the series of Fu Manchu movies shown on BBC2; again starring Christopher Lee.

The link to Hammer came from Star Wars.  I loved the cantina scene – still do – with its bizarre creatures; after all, I loved monsters.  Later, a connection from Star Wars would lead me to Hammer – I discovered that Peter Cushing wasn’t just Grand Moff Tarkin.  It was inevitable that I would explore the Gothic creations of the great British horror studio.  So I was understandably thrilled to find out that Christopher Lee would become part of the Star Wars family, as Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones.

Lee had something of a resurgence from the late 1990s.  He started to work with Tim Burton and seemed like he’d found a new home.  Sleepy Hollow (1999) was Burton’s love letter to the old Hammer movies, and Lee would return again and again to participate in the Director’s dark tales.

The fact that Christopher Lee found a new audience over the last decade and a half – with the Lord of the Rings films, even a return to Hammer with The Resident (2011) – is wonderful.  And gratifying for those, like me, who’ve admired his work for a long time.

Let’s not forget the many other talents Lee displayed.  How about releasing Heavy Metal albums in his nineties?  Check them out – they’re great.  And his wartime exploits (Google it) are worthy of a film in their own right.  A life time of incredible achievement.

I had hoped, as people often do, to one day meet my hero in person.  Unrealistic, I know – but Christopher Lee was always the top of my list for the old “three people you would invite to dinner” game.  I would have loved to tell him how big a fan I am of the films he’s helped create.  Alas, that will never happen now.  It’s sad that tiny bit of a dream will never come true.

Thank you Sir Christopher Lee.  Your constant creative progression is an inspiration.  The impact you have had on our imagination – both dreams and nightmares – is your greatest gift.