Archive for horror

Review: Alien: Covenant

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2017 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Originally, Ridley Scott had the idea to make a trilogy of films that would be linked to, and eventually link up with, the Alien franchise that he started back in 1979 but would explore deeper ideas. The result was Prometheus and, on the whole, people reacted negatively to it. The general consensus was ‘It’s not like Alien’, ‘Where’s the xenomorph?’ and ‘this is too pretentious’.

Alien: Covenant is the direct sequel to Prometheus and has been through a number of scripts and titles since its original inception with Scott seemingly making changes to his original plan based on reaction to Prometheus. It feels a shame that such a visionary director appears to feel that he has to appease the audience over sticking to his original vision. So, Alien: Covenant is what Scott thinks we want, rather than exactly what he wanted to make. This is a film for the people that moaned.

The philosophical ideas explored in Prometheus are right there from even before the title appears on the screen in Alien: Covenant. Also, the over-ripe dialogue that is only really there to explain what’s going on, which was never there in Alien. In the 1979 original the characters had believable conversations about pay and profit-sharing schemes, they were space-truckers and spoke like truckers. In Prometheus, the scientists are looking for the answer to where humans came from, so the cod-philosophical dialogue made some sense. But in Alien: Covenant the majority of the cast are colonists, off to make a new planet their home. They are engineers, botanists, explorers, yet they constantly talk in ways normal people don’t.

In film, it should be ‘show, don’t tell’, but at one point Billy Crudup’s newly-promoted captain says – out loud –  that people don’t trust him because he is religious. It’s written on the faces of the actors, we can see it, it doesn’t need saying.

This sounds like an absolute slating, but there are many, many positives too. Scott is an amazing world builder, and the landscapes and sets are stunning, the gore is visceral and used sparingly to leave things to your imagination, except in one scene very early on which is super uncomfortable to watch. There also isn’t a weak link in the cast either, this is probably the first time since Tropic Thunder that  Danny McBride has turned in a performance that I’ve enjoyed. Michael Fassbender gets to show more range than previously, playing two very different (but quite similar) roles and Katherine Waterston is brilliant as this film’s Ripley stand-in who starts off weak, but proves to have hidden reserves as the horror unfolds.

You get a lot of history about what has been happening in the 10 years between the goings on in Prometheus and now. Which probably serves as a proxy for some of the stuff Scott cut from his original drafts. The other half of the movie serves as a remixed greatest hits of scenes from previous Alien movies. Which is great!

There are face-huggers scrambling around and jumping out at people, chest bursters (that isn’t quite how it happened in Aliens and gestated as fast as in the Alien v Predator films that people also had problems with), Aliens attacking from shadows/above, acid blood spraying, chases through corridors, air-locks, big machinery, small Alien mouths through the skull, and much more.

There are new thrills, one of which has been mentioned in this review already, and they are super-effective. The problem with having so much that harks back to the Alien films is that as soon as characters start to split up or investigate certain things you know what’s going to happen to them. This makes the film a lot less scary than it’s predecessors, but it’s no less tense.

The villainous character is properly insidious and keeps you guessing… to a point. And the finale of the film really has you in suspense for another film, perhaps this will be the one before Alien and Scott will finally have closed his loop, perhaps not. Maybe Neill Blomkamp will get the roll the clock back with his Alien 2.5 movie that is supposed to be set after Aliens and rewrites the timeline after Alien 3 did something almost unforgivable with two of the characters from the second film.

Either way, I’ll see and enjoy any film based around xenomorphs. Alien: Covenant may be a little messy, mainly because of the fact that Scott felt he had to diverge from his original plans, but when it works it really works, and it works more than it doesn’t. I just wish he’d stuck with his convictions.


Review: Goosebumps

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , on February 9, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan


After years and years in development limbo, finally, the Goosebumps movie has arrived. And, even though it’s been through the hands of many, many writers and filmmakers over the years it’s not a complete mess.

Jack Black’s performance as the reclusive writer is a stroke of comic genius, he has a naturally funny face and way of emoting, but doesn’t dial it up as far as he can when he can become a bit tiring. Plus, his accent choice, which falls somewhere between American, English and German is inspired. Without him, it’s doubtful that the film would have been made.

That said, the ‘teens’ who are the central protagonists of the film are really good too. The only character that grates is the aunt who is played by an overweight actress who had that typical ditsy persona that ‘fat’ characters seem to portray in Hollywood films, which is a shame.

The monster effects are really well done, so much so that it felt like quite a strong PG, but horror is balanced really well with comedy, so much so that there were no upset children or walkouts.

It probably benefits from having knowledge of the source material, but more so of horror films and Stephen King novels as most of the humour is, as usual, for the adults and the more cine-literate among the audience.

It’s not a knock out success and there are some problems, though there’s so much more right with it than wrong. Goosebumps is a smart, well written, film that knows how silly it is and works on a number of levels. It is certainly better than the regular run-of-the-mill family friendly films that usually rear their heads over the holidays.

If you have a family, go and see it, if you loved the books go and see it, if you have no interest don’t. It’s as simple as that really.

Anywhere But Here, Episode 118 – ABH Book Club: Night of the Living Dummy

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan


This is another banked episode and the first in what may become a regular run of book reviews by Tom & Ant.

Nearly a year and a half ago they talked about re-reading the Goosebumps novels as they were a big part of many people’s childhoods.

The book that has been chosen for the inaugural review is R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps story, Night of the Living Dummy. The book is about twin sisters competing to be the better ventriloquist but strange things start happening in their house involving the dummies. Could it be that the dummies are alive?

We hope you enjoy this episode and hope that we haven’t destroyed your childhood memories. Let us know on the websites below what you thought of our review. Did you re-read it so you could join in with the review, if so, how did you find the story?

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Review: The Cabin In The Woods

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2012 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Made 3 years ago, in 2009, this project was put on the shelf after MGM, the studio which produced the film, filed for bankruptcy. This kind of disappointment seems to follow Joss Whedon’s projects since the runaway success of Buffy and  Angel; for example the TV series Firefly was cancelled after just one series even though it proved popular. Luckily though, he created the successful TV series Dollhouse and landed writing and directing roles on Marvel’s Avengers: Assemble – possibly a reason Lion’s Gate bought the rights to The Cabin In The Woods and have released it just before the Avengers movie.

It’s going to be very difficult to review this film without giving too much of the plot away, because it’s a bit of a genre-bender, but I’ll try. We start off with a clichéd title sequence with blood dripping down the screen over pictures and carvings of ancient scenes showing sacrifices. And then it’s suddenly interrupted by a scene between Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford who are standing around a coffee machine in an office talking about their marriages and what they do. This sets the tone for the rest of the movie, and sometimes is the reason it detaches you from the action and causes huge amounts of confusion.

Just as suddenly as we’re taken out of the title sequence, the actual title literally screams onto the screen and we meet the young cast readying themselves for a weekend away from their studies by visiting the titular cabin. Amongst these you have all the stereotypes of teen slashers: The jock (a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth), the stoner (the hilarious Fran Krantz), the slutty blonde (Anna Hutchinson), and the two slightly nerdy ones who are being set up together (Jesse Williams and Kristen Connelly). Can you see where this is going? You’re not even half right!

Needless to say there’s something not quite right with the cabin as they are informed, in a rather aggressive way, by a red-neck gas station worker…and just about here is where I’m going to leave the plot.  Needless to say this film is a strange one; written  by both Whedon and Drew Goddard (Alias, Lost, Cloverfield), this is a reaction to the torture-porn films that have saturated the horror market in the last few years. The Cabin In The Woods takes teen horror back to its early 90s roots in films like Scream and Urban Legend in a very knowing way.

I would say that you need to go into this film with an open mind, because if you’re expecting a straightforward nuts and blots slash-em-up then you may be disappointed; however, if you think along the lines of the Lost format then you’re much closer to how this film plays out. Which is quite distracting in places, but adds an overbearing sense of intrigue to the story’s development. There is a brilliantly blood-drenched 15 minutes in the third act that is extremely enjoyable, but the ending may leave some with a sour taste in the mouth as it all seems to crescendo a little too quickly.

The Cabin In The Woods is a film made with care by genuine fans of horror, and I can’t wait to see what kind of job Whedon does on the Avengers. But here I can’t help but feel that sometimes they were just trying a bit too hard to push the envelope and actually, the more you know about the conventions of horror the less scary and more like a comedy the film becomes. That said though, it sure is something to talk about and a fast-paced, enjoyable romp.

Review: The Woman In Black

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , on February 19, 2012 by Tom Austin-Morgan

First and foremost, at the top of this review I’d like to start by saying that I’m not the biggest horror film fan in the world. Even though I have been taught to look past the screen at framing, editing, analysing the script and acting etc, there’s something about the supernatural from which I can’t switch off. But I figured this is a 12A film – how scary can it really be? Plus it’s Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role,;not being a fan of him either, I thought that even if it was scary I could just pick apart his acting and all would be well… but The Woman In Black is NOT Harry Potter!

The story follows a young widowed lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe), who is on the verge of losing his job and at the end of his tether following the death of his wife. He is given one last chance by his boss and is sent away to collect and sort out the paper work from a house owned by a recently deceased woman. So he leaves his child with the nanny and travels to the village to go to work.

Things are amiss from the very moment he arrives  and it seems that everyone in the town knows someone who has died and, even stranger, most of them seem to be children. Arthur is not made welcome by the villagers, but is taken in by a well off man named Daily (Ciarán Hinds) who has lost a child himself, but doesn’t believe the stories surrounding the tragic deaths. Not all is as it seems anywhere in this village, but Arthur soldiers on with his work visiting the house to start his work. Then everything goes very wrong.

The frights start off at the ‘chills’ level with a half-seen woman loitering in windows or out of focus in the corner of shots. Even the big jump moments are fairly benign with blocked taps and birds stuck in chimneys, but it soon gets increasingly tense, creepy and downright frightening.

This kind of film hasn’t been made, to my knowledge, for some time. The fact that Hammer has a part in its development might be a reason for it. The general trend in horror has swung towards the gore porn movies like Hostel, Saw etc, or found footage style films about hauntings like paranormal activity. The Woman In Black is neither explicit nor is it detached, it is incredibly involving and gets right under your skin.

The camera work, use of light and dark, and the score and sound effects all work together effectively to immerse you in what Arthur is being subjected to meaning that you become completely sucked into the drama unfolding onscreen. The acting seems almost secondary to the atmosphere; there is hardly any dialogue at all for long stretches which involves you more and encourages you to project your own reactions into the situation. So really, the main credit for the success of this film must go to the director, James Watkins, who previously directed the chilling British horror film Eden Lake.

Criticism for the film probably has to lie with the sensors; a 12A certificate will probably mislead some parents whose children are Daniel Radcliffe fans. I understand that the film is not an exposé of horror – there is no real gore or language to speak of – but the feeling of tension and threat should have been enough for the BBFC to consider a rating of 15. The other problem I did have with the film is the believability of Radcliffe as a father of a four-year old child and a widower, but I accept this is a problem of being slightly typecast as a boy-wizard for the whole of his career.

You should see this film, but be prepared for a real fright-fest. And don’t take your Harry Potter loving kids. They won’t like it.

BBFC bans Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)

Posted in Film, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2011 by Tom Austin-Morgan

The sequel to 2010’s ‘The Human Centipede (First Sequence)’ has been rejected for certification by the British Board of Film Classification.

BBFC Director David Cooke stated: “Unlike the first film, the sequel presents graphic images of sexual violence, forced defecation, and mutilation, and the viewer is invited to witness events from the perspective of the protagonist.  Whereas in the first film the ‘centipede’ idea is presented as a revolting medical experiment, with the focus on whether the victims will be able to escape, this sequel presents the ‘centipede’ idea as the object of the protagonist’s depraved sexual fantasy.”

The explanation continues: “The central focus of The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) is the sexual arousal of this (central) character at the idea and later the spectacle of the total degradation, humiliation, mutilation, torture, rape and murder of his naked victims. There is little attempt to portray any of the victims in the film as anything other than objects to be brutalised and degraded for the amusement and sexual arousal of the main character and for the pleasure of the viewer.”

The original film featured a mad scientist who stitched together three people mouth to anus in an attempt to create the titular centipede. This film was reluctantly passed by the BBFC, again Cooke stated, “Although the concept of the film was undoubtedly tasteless and disgusting it was a relatively traditional and conventional horror film and the board concluded that it was not in breach of our guidelines at ‘18’.”

The sequel features a man who becomes sexually obsessed with a DVD he finds of the experiment in the first film and decides to create his own. It has been banned due to a couple of explicitly sexual, violent scenes where the main character masturbates with sandpaper and later in the film he wraps barbed wire around his penis and rapes the woman at the end of the centipede after becoming aroused by the sight of the people in the centipede being forced to defecate into each others mouths.

Tom Six, the director of both films, defended the first film at the time saying that it was “scientifically accurate”. But speaking last year about the sequel he warned that “‘The Human Centipede (First Sequence)’ will be ‘My Little Pony’ in comparison to this film.”

Lashing out to ‘Empire’ Six described the decision by the BBFC to be without cause, saying: “Thank you BBFC for putting spoilers of my movie on your website and thank you for banning my film in this exceptional way. Apparently I made an horrific horror-film, but shouldn’t a good horror film be horrific? My dear people it is a f****cking MOVIE. It is all fictional. Not real. It is all make-belief. It is art. Give people their own choice to watch it or not. If people can’t handle or like my movies they just don’t watch them. If people like my movies they have to be able to see it any time, anywhere also in the UK.”

Since its founding in 1912 the BBFC has only ever  banned 13 other titles from cinematic release, three of which are still banned.

The ban may not be the nail in the coffin for this film as the first film only made $252,207, a tenth of its initial cost, at the box office but went on to make almost $2 million in DVD sales so far. But this relies on whether or not the sensors approve it for DVD release after they have already stated that even if cuts were to be made the scenes would still be too graphic and disturbing for cinematic release.

If you’re brave and want to read the full case put forward by the BBFC click here

Final Destination 5 trailer online

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2011 by Tom Austin-Morgan

It’s been nearly three years now so it must be time for another installment of the death-defying teen horror franchise Final Destination.

This time around, according to the trailer, after a suspension bridge collapses a group of survivors starts being picked off one by one by Death who, as we know from the earlier installments, doesn’t like to be cheated.

Tony Todd’s character, Mr Bludworth,  returns to play the creepy mortician from the first two films who seems to know too much about Death’s agenda.

The trailer reveals that “the game has changed” in the latest telling, just to spice it up a bit after four films of Death killing the protagonists one by one. “It’s kill or be killed” states the main character, Sam Lawstone, played by Nicholas D’Agosto star of many a big TV series but some pretty awful films. So this time it’s not just Death the teens are trying to outsmart, it’s each other…tense.

Here’s the trailer, lets hope it’s a further return to form after the success of The Final Destination in 3D in 2009. Here’s the trailer for your consideration. The film is released on August 26.