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

Halloween Horror Fest: Double Tap

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

Has it really been over ten years since Zombieland? Indeed it has, and in this long awaited sequel, we re-join the four main characters from that original movie for – well, pretty much the same as last time, really.

Our four post apocalyptic survivors – Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) – have settled in at a disused White House, where there’s a sense of stability and the humdrum, despite the zombie hordes. When the group become separated, we’re back on familiar ground as they attempt to reunite.

There are plenty of new ideas and fun gimmicks in the movie, despite much of the premise being somewhat obvious. A love triangle with bimbo mall chick Madison, some strangely familiar new characters and a bunch of pacifist hippies help add some fun and, yes, jeopardy to the proceedings.

Not as good as the first film, obvs – and featuring a pretty dumb monster truck stunt sequence near the climax – but still hugely entertaining. Definitely worth a watch. And spicing up a cast gifted with the stunning Emma Stone by adding the incomparably beautiful Rosario Dawson is a joy to behold.

I LOVE YOU, ROSARIO!

8/10

Halloween Horror Fest Land

Zombieland (2009)

I can’t believe this film is nearly ten years old.  It seems like only yesterday I saw Zombieland in the cinema.  This movie is a horror comedy, set in a post apocalyptic America over-run with zombies.  And it’s brilliant.

We begin with shy, nerdy student Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), who is trying to make his way home to Columbus, Ohio to see if his parents are still alive.  He has developed a series of rules to stay alive such as “Beware of bathrooms” – thus far, these guides have proven solid. 

On his journey, Columbus meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a zombie killing machine who’s looking for the last Twinkie.

These two then meet up with two sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who are on their way to a California amusement park which is supposedly zombie free.

On the way there are several adventures, not least a surprise encounter with a legendary Hollywood star.  And zombies, of course.  Lots of zombies.

Zombieland is really well put together, and gets better with repeated viewings.  There’s  a lot of subtle humour that might not be obvious at first.  There are plenty of big obvious laughs too, of course, amongst nice pop culture references.

There are some jumpy scares, and a fair dose of tension, but this film is mainly all about the laughs, with some charming moments too.  If you like Shaun of the Dead, you’ll probably like Zombie land too.  But for my money, I prefer Zombieland.

Plus, Emma Stone is a total babe.  Thank you.

9/10

All Hail The Twinkie

twinkie

When I first went to the United States of America, I had a mission.  I was 27 years old and had never eaten a Twinkie.  In fact, I’d never even seen one.  Twinkies, though they are a definitive piece of American snacking, were unavailable in the UK.  So on day one of my first US trip, I went to a supermarket and found the Hostess snacks section.  Finally, I was able to experience the wonder of the Twinkie.

You may wonder why this was such a big deal.  Especially if you’re American.

I had been fascinated by this “golden sponge cake” since my childhood days, when I voraciously read every Marvel comic book I could get my hands on.  Between the thrilling tales of Spiderman, The Avengers and the Fantastic Four (amongst others) were numerous adverts for American products that fascinated my young mind.  X-Ray Specs; Sea Monkeys; t-shirts and posters for KISS, Evel Knievel and Farrah Fawcett.  I had no idea what these things were, there was nothing like them in my world.  This pop culture ephemera were tantalising clues to the world I saw on television and in films. P_20140816_141833

Also advertised within the pages of these comic book master pieces were adverts for Hostess snack foods.  There were fruit pies, cup cakes, and of course Twinkies.

These ads featured Marvel superheroes defeating the villains with the aid of snack food items.  A short one page comic strip told how the hero would be able to distract the bad guys with the treats and save the day.  The plots were somewhat random mini stories that shoe horned the products in any way they could.  My mind absorbed it all.  Of course, there were ads in DC comics too, featuring their stable of characters.  You couldn’t escape Hostess snacks anywhere in comic land.

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A typical Twinkie comic advert

Add in the fact that these cakes have been featured in films and television as well, and you have a pop culture phenomenon.  Twinkies are featured in Ghostbusters, Die Hard and Zombieland, as well as many others.  One of my favourite examples is Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, where the villain – whose touch decays everything – finds the only food he can hold without it crumbling to dust is a Twinkie.  A nice reference to the old comic ads, there – and the urban myth of Twinkies being imperishable!

But what is a Twinkie?  It’s basically a sponge finger cake, with a creamy filling.  As I found out when I first ate one, they’re not that amazing really.  In fact I was a little under whelmed.  Mr Kipling this ain’t.  But then Mr Kipling didn’t stop Galactus from devouring the planet with a Bakewell tart.

Nowadays you can find Twinkies on sale in the UK, and in various forms too. Along with the original variety, I’ve tried banana; and chocolate is available too.  All easily found in your local B&M store, and a lot cheaper than the speciality American sweet shops that sell boxes for £13 (more like £3).

They’re good, but not the most delicious of cakes.  However the Twinkie is without equal in the realms of popular culture.  At least for those, like me, raised on American superhero comics.  Twinkies are still an exotic treat, to be enjoyed with a wry smile and fond memories of those old comics. P_20151122_153035

There are some great examples of Hostess adverts in comic books here.

The Hostess cakes website is here.

More Hostess foods soon!