It (1990)

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Despite the fact that this blog is named after a Stephen King book, I have not read said book. I am only half-way through Under the Dome, have The Skeleton Crew, Firestarter and Duma Key somewhere, and have only seen Stand by Me, Carrie and The Mist in their entirety (all of which are fantastic films), but I wouldn’t call myself a Stephen King fanatic; a fan, yes, but not a fanatic. I like his work, and the impact he’s had on horror as a genre as well as the general impact in literature itself, but I don’t know every detail about every story he’s written nor every aspect about his life. Add to that a fear of clowns I brought with me when I was born, and It is right up my alley.

The Losers Club, a group of seven children in Derry, Maine, bond together over visions of a demonic clown named Pennywise that is haunting all of them. Together they decide to end it, but it escapes and they make a pact to join back together should it ever return. Thirty years later, it is killing children again, and The Lucky Seven need to band together once more to bring It down.

It isn’t difficult to make clowns scary; they’re inherently frightening to begin with. Tim Curry, however, being put into the shoes of Pennywise the Clown is pure genius. You can hardly tell it’s him – the make-up is astonishing, especially at the end of part one. However, Curry doesn’t play Pennywise as straight-forward monster – there are ideas and reasons behind what he’s doing. His delivery of “Yes, Georgie, they all float.” will send shivers down my spine for years to come.

The performances of all the adults is great – some border on the melodramatic, but that’s fine. However, it’s the children, playing younger versions of the adults’ characters, that truly shine, also adding to the fact that part one is simply better and more engaging than part two, due to this fact. The story somehow works better within the confines of childhood than adulthood – in fact, I would edit out the adult scenes and just leave in the children’s scenes and market it as a horror movie for kids, because children love taking charge within a film or television show.

The film itself is a great piece of two-nighter epic television. Not once did I feel bored, nor did the pace ever feel like it was dragging along at snail-like speed. To supply a great, involving story and frightening imagery in a television program in mid-1990 must have broken down some kind of barriers. It should be required viewing for all horror movie fans!

At three hours and spread across two sides, It is a masterpiece of television production. Having not read the book, I’m in no position whatsoever to say if it was faithful or not to the novel, but in the end that isn’t actually important, as the film needs to stand on its own two feet. With a few instances of melodrama and cheese, It breaks through and delivers a masterful fright and engaging story about friendship and promise. Four skulls.

Audio:
The only audio track supplied is an English 2.0 track. Seeing as this was produced in 1990, and as a television film no less, this is no gripe. The dialogue is clear and the music creepy. There isn’t much to say about the audio, other than it gets the job done. Three skulls.

Video:
It has one of the better DVD presentations I’ve seen in my entire couch-potato career of watching films and television shows. Sure, it’s an old program, and is riddled with quite a lot of film artefacts (as well as a few instances of digital artefacts such as blocking), but it looks pretty good. I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase a Blu-Ray edition of the film in the future. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Features:
Only one major extra is provided, along with a useless “Cast and Crew” listing (isn’t that what the end credits are for?) Three skulls.

  • Audio Commentary
  • with director Tommy Lee Wallace and actors Dennis Christopher, Tim Reid, John Ritter and Richard Thomas is not what is usually my cup of tea. It’s edited together from sessions Wallace held, Thomas held, and a group session of Christopher, Reid and Ritter. However, it’s entertaining thanks to the actors as well as informative thanks to Wallace. Amazingly, I lasted the entire three-hour track with no thoughts about turning it off. It was nice to listen to a few of the people involved in making the film reminisce warmly about making the film as well as talk about the friendships towards one another, whether or not they knew of Stephen King, choices made in regards to setpieces, as well as complimenting their colleagues from people such as Olivia Hussey to all the children actors. A great listen.

Overall:
It just knocked my socks off and came out of the blue. I’ve had the DVD sitting in my collection for a while but never got around to viewing it simply because of time constraints (as well as a freakin’ scary clown on the cover). It’s a wonderful film, and eerie and creepy with a nightmare-inducing performance from Tim Curry. Unfortunately the extras are a bit lacking, but the audio commentary is a great listen for fans of the film and will feel like you’re watching the film with your friends, your friends who starred in it, talking you through the production. I hope a future Blu-Ray release will have the film uncut as one film as well as some retrospective interviews with cast and crew, King’s thoughts on the film and a “In Loving Memory” for John Ritter and Jonathan Brandis, who both passed away in 2003. An exceptional movie with an exceptional cast and great, emotional story. Three-and-a-half skulls.

The Wolfman (2010)

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Remakes and sequels and adaptations are all the rage now, because Hollywood is quickly running out of ideas. However, when a company like Universal, a company known for their classic horror films decides to remake one of the most loved films in its catalogue, chances are it will work, right?

Inspired by the classic Universal film that launched a legacy of horror, The Wolf Man brings the myth of a cursed man back to its iconic origins. Oscar winner Benicio del Toro stars as Lawrence Talbot, a haunted nobleman lured back to his family estate after his brother vanishes. Reunited with his estranged father (Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins), Talbot sets out to find his brother… and discovers a horrifying destiny for himself.

It’s obvious Universal tried to recapture the lightning in the bottle after the success of its Mummy franchise re-ignited by Van Helsing director Stephen Sommers. However, The Wolfman unfortunately is a victim of too much meddling from high up in the food chain at Universal. The stories you can find on the internet about such things like an electronic score and company editing don’t paint a pretty picture about the film.

It’s not actually a bad film, but the original, starring Lon Chaney, Jr. still remains top dog. Benecio del Toro plays Larry Talbot with such pain that it’s almost hard to sympathise with him, he’s a bit in a world of his own, detached from everyone else. Emily Blunt is a beautiful woman and fantastic actor but she seemed to be weepy all the time, with eyes constantly watery or full-on crying, and Anthony Hopkins gives what is quite possibly the worst performance he’s ever given. From the trailers I could tell that he was hiding a big secret, and I knew what that was and I was correct when I view this film – but if you have interest in watching this I won’t ruin it for you. The inclusion of Hugo Weaving’s Aberline makes the whole thing a bit crowded, and I didn’t find his character necessary at all.

Rick Baker’s make-up is top form, as usual, but it still seems to be missing something, and I can’t quite put my finger on what that is. It’s a gory film, and a modern version of the original film despite being set in Victorian England – think Sherlock Holmes with Saw-like bloodbaths.

The extended cut feels a bit slow while the theatrical cut gives no real introduction the characters to get us, the audience, involved. The extended cut should be for those who want to try to get involved with the characters while the theatrical cut should please those who just want to see blood splash across the screen.

If there’s any major problems with this, it’s that the film-makers tried to make The Wolfman more psychological and have more depth than the original 1941 film, but how is it that the original film, while cheesy by today’s standards, remains much more effective? Because less is more. Three skulls.

Audio:
All spoken languages are in Dolby Digital 5.1. A Descriptive Video Service is provided for the visually impaired. A loud track, it gives the film a pumping audio experience. The front side speakers and rear speakers give a good sense of place, providing a good epic, horror soundscape to put the audience in. Quite possibly the best audio I’ve heard on Blu-Ray. Five skulls.

Video:
It’s a bit difficult to judge the video on this disc. It’s a very recent film, and therefore looks good, but it also has a bit of softness to it, especially in close-up shots. I don’t know if this is intentional or not, but more often than not, the video it pretty nice to look at. Four skulls.

Features:
A handful of features accompany The Wolfman on Blu-Ray, and most feel like EPK material. Two-and-a-half skulls.

  • Alternate Endings Two alternate endings are provided, and both are slight variations of one another. The ending is pretty much the same as in the finished film, but what happens to Gwen and Lawrence are the slight changes.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Lawrence Talks With Gwen, Singh’s Story, Extended Mausoleum Transformation, Extended London Chase, Extended Final Fight To cut a long story short, should these have been integrated back into the film, it would have made it much more convoluted and much more crowded in content.
  • Return of The Wolfman is a twelve minute puff piece with everyone involved speaking in very Freudian terms about the story and pulling it off as if the film has much more meaning that it actually has.
  • The Beast Maker is about Rick Baker and his make-up, along with his love for the Universal Monster Movies that got him into make-up design
  • Transformation Secrets is a featurette about the visual effects. Another piece claiming “we wanted the effects to not overtake the story, but here’s this featurette about how awesome our effects are”.
  • The Wolfman Unleashed is a featurette about the stunts and action scenes in the film.
  • U-Control (on theatrical cut only) is most facts about the Wolfman and its legacy, with a few cut-away videos with people such as Rick Baker talking us through select scenes. I’m not a fan of U-Control, but the cut away videos interrupt the viewing of the film and when the video is finished, you’ve skipped ahead a few minutes in the film.
  • Steelbook casing

Overall:
The Wolfman is disappointing remake, but after the tonne of remakes and adaptations Hollywood has thrown at us, it’s not exactly surprising. It’s a shame the whole father/son relationship bogs down a tragic and romantic story. It’s a decent film, but it’s also a relative non-event. Go buy the original film instead. Three-and-a-half skulls.

The Lost Boys (1987)

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Vampires are currently on top of the world, but have been existing in cinema since its inception. The Lost Boys, a film by Joel Schumacher made in 1987, is arguably a cult classic twenty-three years later with a large fanbase, and with good reason. It’s a fun film with great metaphors and very cool imagery.

Sam and his older brother Michael are all-American teens with all-American interests. But after they move with their mother to peaceful Santa Carla, California, things mysteriously begin to change. Michael’s not himself lately. And Mum’s not going to like what he’s turning into.

It’s hard to take this film seriously, especially nowadays with 80s hairstyles and clothing, but it’s also intentionally funny, it’s not set out to sweep the Oscars, but at the same time it’s antagonists, The Lost Boys, are forbidden – the group that everyone wants to be apart of but they know they really shouldn’t.

I’m not a giant fan on Keifer Sutherland but he obviously relishes the role of David, the leader of the Boys, and turns what could have been a very cardboard cut-out of a character into a manipulative and sly bad guy. Jason Patric, as the main character Michael has fun with his on-screen younger brother, Corey Haim (rest in peace), and makes his character likeable and vulnerable. Of course, all the fun comes from Haim as the young brother Sam, Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander as the Frog Brothers, taking the job of killing vampires too seriously for their own good.

Produced by Richard Donner, who also directed The Goonies, and directed by Joel Schumacher, The Lost Boys is a great entertainment that should satisfy anyone of any age, whether they like horror films or not – this is not a straight-up horror film either, it has humour and is more fun than your usual vampire movie. It has scares, laughs, romance, action and death by stereo. One of my favourite films in glorious high definition! Four skulls.

Audio:
There’s many Dolby 5.1 tracks presented on the disc in many languages, but there is an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track presented as well, but I didn’t notice much difference between the two English tracks besides the TrueHD track being slightly louder. The soundtrack seemed quite front-heavy with most sound playing in the center and front left and right speakers, with music in the rear right speaker and ambience/environment sounds in the left rear speaker. A bit disappointing, but it gets the job done. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Video:
For a film that’s almost a quarter of a century old, it looks pretty freakin’ good. Sure, it’s not as clean as modern films out on Blu-Ray, and there were quite a few instances of film artefacts, but it’s a significant improvement over the DVD version, and makes the movie even more tantalising to watch. Some scenes, however, do have quite a large amount of film grain – but that’s up to the viewer to decide whether that’s a good thing or not. Four skulls.

Features:
There are quite a few features presented on the disc, but most are quite short and to-the-point. Three skulls.

  • Commentary by Joel Schumacher is a bit of a dry track, and Schumacher talks more like a fan than a director, sometimes resorting to describing what’s on the screen with a few silent spots. It’s informative, and he is constantly thankful for the actors he got and constantly praising what’s on screen from the art direction, to production design, costume design to performances.
  • The Lost Boys: A Retrospective is a half-hour mixture between a retrospective and a making-of. Somewhat generic but interesting nonetheless.
  • Inside The Vampires’ Cave: A Four-Part Making Of is just under twenty minutes with cast and crew talking about Joel Schumacher’s vision, the concept of doing the film as a horror-comedy, recreating vampires for this film as well as talk of a sequel ranging from “The Lost Girls” to “Vampire Politicians” (this featurette was made prior to The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe).
  • Vamping Out: The Undead Creations of Greg Cannom is arguably the best featurette on the disc, showing Cannom’s work as make-up and prosthetics designer as well as telling stories from production like how uncomfortable the vampiric contacts were.
  • Haimster and Feldog: The Story of the Two Coreys is a five minute piece exploring the two Corey’s relationship and how they were met on The Lost Boys and became very close friends, working together on many films.
  • Multi-Angle Commentary with Corey Feldman, Corey Haim and Jamison Newlander is just under twenty minutes with a standard definition presentation and multi-angled videos of the commentators. They were recorded separately and have a light time watching the film, with such comments like Feldman querying why he didn’t get an Oscar nomination.
  • The Lost Scenes: Deleted Scenes is comprised of mostly character pieces before Michael (Jason Patric) falls in with the Lost Boys, showing the family moving into their grandfather’s house in Santa Carla, with a few hints foreshadowing the ending of the film.
  • The Vampires’ Photo Gallery is presented in high-definition, and contains pictures of all actors who played vampires in various incarnations of their make-up.
  • The World of Vampires: An Interactive Map is merely a sub-menu where you can click options to find out about vampire legends from all over the world. It seemed to be made especially for the release of The Lost Boys on DVD, but it’s too creepy and seems out of place but is interesting nonetheless.
  • Lost in the Shadows music video by Lou Gramm is a promo music video to advertise the film, and is great for those who like 80s music videos (like me)
  • Theatrical Trailer

Overall:
The Lost Boys is a staple of vampire films and should last a long time to come. It’s fun, scary, very cool and very silly. Thirteen-year-old Rambos against vampires never loses its awesomeness. Highly recommended to all. Four skulls.

Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar

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It’s interesting what you find when you aren’t looking for anything in particular. I’m the kind of person that researches almost everything I buy; I want to make sure I’m not copped out. However, I saw this book sitting on the shelf in Big W and thought: “Hey, this looks interesting.” I continued to read the blurb and thought: “I’m interested.” There was no excitement over reading it, no feelings of having to trudge through it; I went into it with an open mind. Luckily, this chain of events has proven to be quite fruitful: thanks to author Martin Millar, his crazy cast of werewolves, supernatural creatures and humans just trying to live from paycheque to paycheque provide a fascinating template for a story bubbling with taking the familial throne, hurt lovers, violent battles and enraged fashion clients.

I read in an interview that Lonely Werewolf Girl came about because Buffy The Vampire Slayer (a show I must admit I weened and teenaged through) ended on that fateful night in 2003 as Sunnydale ker-ploded into oblivion. However, like that theory that The Big Bang was a destruction of a previous universe,leading to the creation of this universe, Buffy’s end brought about another tough, though flawed girl surrounded by the supernatural: Kalix MacRinnalch. However, there are no vampires (yet) and our hero (or is it anti-hero?) is, in fact, a werewolf.

Just like the Joss Whedon-created supernatural show, Lonely Werewolf Girl is not without its drama or comedy. It’s a well-written prose about, well, people, at its core, and the relationships, positive or negative, that those people have between each other.

What works so well about this, and it’s usual in books written in the third-person, is that Millar gets into his character’s heads: he tells the reader what the characters are thinking, whether whatever they’re thinking about his characters agree or disagree with.

The book is a rip-roaring tale set in London (prior to reading the novel, I believed it was set somewhere in America…perhaps I just completely glossed over the fact that it even says London in the blurb? Oh, the ignorance…) It’s a refreshing tale set in London in a market populated by either bloodthirsty, monstrous vampires (Guillermo Del Toro’s The Strain, the recent Daybreakers), sexually driven mysteries (True Blood) or teenage sparkly “vampires” (do I really need to say what I’m referencing here?), Millar’s Lonely Werewolf Girl breathes air into my favourite supernatural creature by providing a fine landscape for his characters to inhabit, and has also developed an almighty mythology the MacRinnalch clan adheres by, giving a true sense of history to the family and the universe he’s built up.

The inclusion of humans may not be surprising in this day and age of interweaving vampires and werewolves with humans (again, True Blood, Twilight, Underworld, and Buffy, of course), but what Millar does with these characters, unlike that author who wrote stories about a superhuman vampiric sparkler, is that he gives his characters dimensions, flaws, addictions, jealousy and other feelings no character should really be without, because that’s what we relate to as humans. We all have flaws, addictions and jealousy, no matter how much we try to pretend we don’t. Millar makes his characters real, and makes you care about them no matter how wooden they try to make themselves (one particular werewolf named Dominil is cold, and seemingly uncaring of events around her, but of course we get into her head to see why she is in fact this way). It truly makes for great reading.

However, not all is well. The edition I read, a recent Australian release, has a few errors in it, but do not fret – Martin Millar knows all about this. It seems that the house that published it didn’t get the memo though…no matter, you still understand what’s going on and absolutely none of the errors are major. Calling the errors ambitious to be minor errors would in itself be an overstatement. You notice them, and then proceed reading the book.

I can’t get over how much I liked this book. At the beginning I cringed at how many times Millar introduced a new character that it felt as if every single chapter would be introducing new characters (and there are 236 chapters, sure they’re only one to two pages, but still), but once the plot actually kicks in and the clockwork begins to tick away, the story is riveting and the characters’ reactions to what is going on is intriguing, and at times, surprising that you can’t do anything but forgive him as every character has a purpose and a place in this story that the effort Millar went to does actually pay off in the grand finale.

The book deserves a purchase for all fans of werewolves, all fans of the supernatural, all self-respecting fans of literature and anyone who wants to figuratively travel to London to escape this incessant vampire phase. I can’t wait for the sequel, Curse of the Wolf Girl in September this year; four out of five.

Bioshock 2 (Xbox 360)

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NOTE: There is no review of the multiplayer portion of the game.

He’s nicer than the other Daddies…

To judge Irrational Games’ Bioshock as mere by-the-books shooter would be a horrible disservice to everyone involved in the making of the game. It was a refreshing, unique, deep and moral game, filled with mesmerising graphics and textures, a creepy and atmospheric soundtrack, and some memorable characters that could haunt your nightmares, as well as an adaptive storyline and gameplay. So, naturally, I had a feeling of unease when I had heard that, yes, there was a sequel being made, but – by someone else. Of course, Bioshock has stayed in the 2K family (Irrational Games was known as 2K Boston and 2K Australia at time of Bioshock’s release); but its sequel went to 2K Marin (who developed the PS3 version of the original game).

2K Marin have not failed Andrew Ryan.

Continue reading

“Jennifer’s Body” by Rick Spears

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Just to make it clear: I have not yet seen Jennifer’s Body. I was super-psyched to see it until it “bombed” at the box office, and like usual, if it bombs in the States, it’s not worth releasing anywhere else; i.e. Australia. Here I am patiently waiting until late February when Amazon.co.uk has Jennifer’s Body on Blu-Ray so I can finally see the film I was expecting to see last December (the US Blu-Ray is region-locked to Region A, I’m Region B).

This graphic novel (not comic book) delves deeper into the world revolving around Jennifer’s Body, a film written by Diablo Cody of Juno-fame, starring Megan Fox and directed by Karyn Kasuma (Aeon Flux) but the book probably works better if you’ve actually seen the film on which it’s based. Now, I will admit I’ve read the script. Don’t ask me where I got it; I can’t remember. It was hella funny. It was twisted and clever writing, but hardly scary. If anything has changed from this draft (dated 2007; prior to Juno‘s release), it’s that they’ve added more of the horror element, judging from the trailers. However, compared to the original script, this, too, has a more horrific element.

This book is split into four chapters detailing one boy’s journey to being digested in Jennifer’s body, as well as a prologue and an epilogue. I’ll review each chapter.

Chapter one focuses on Jennifer’s first victim, a jock named Jonas who’s having a few problems on the football team, mainly, his balls are shrinking from steroid use. Add to that his girlfriend is bumping uglies with his best friend, Craig. In a fit of rage, he fights Craig, then goes home, depressed. Next day, he finds out Craig has died in a bar fire. Bereaved, Jonas seems distant, even his walnut-sized brain can comprehend emotion and sadness and loss. Enter Jennifer Check, who seemed like she was going to comfort him, only to find a nasty surprise.

Chapter one’s style is not one you’d see in a graphic novel. Perhaps in a children’s comic book you can buy at your local newsagency, but not one you’d see in a – somewhat – sophisticated graphic novel. It’s all harsh edges and vivid, sometimes garish, colours, with some interesting composition. It suits the character of Jonas, implying simplicity in Jonas’ life, since he’s a dumb football jock, but there is something brewing under the surface – SHOCK! – jocks have feelings! I enjoyed this chapter, because Jonas’ priorities are amazingly out of whack, plus it was just fun to look at.

Chapter two focuses on Colin, seen in the trailers for the film, a so-far-in-touch-with-his-emotions-they-take-contol-of-him guy that goes all goth after his favourite record store closes, who has a secret crush on the hottest girl in school, Jennifer Check. He never took the chance at that one summer camp to talk to her, but after he hears her in chemistry, they’re lab partners, you see, she’s listening to Colin’s favourite band, the Dwarves. It is here they hit it off as friends, finding more and more in common with each other. When he asks her out to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Bijou Theatre on a date (with Jennifer thinking he’s talking about Rocky, claiming she “doesn’t like boxing movies”), she gives him a second chance and invites him to watch a film he’s never heard of called Aquamarine at Jennifer’s house, to which Colin agrees. However, he’s not meeting her at her house. And there’s no mermaid chick-under-twelve-flick to be seen…

This chapter was a bit odd. Rick Spears, who wrote all the chapters, prologue and epilogue as well, really got in touch with Colin’s emotions, helping him become even more realistic, however, he looks nothing like he does in the actual film, even after he goes all goth. The ending is abrupt and too short for my liking, and differs from the clip released prior to the film’s release. I enjoyed the backstory of how he dug Jennifer Check at a younger age and never had the guts to talk to her (can anyone say, “Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt!”? I know I can…), but it just seemed, I don’t know. It wasn’t the one I felt was the best visually, either. It was sort of mediocre, it didn’t stand out above the crowd.

Chapter three focuses on Ahmet from India, a character I found hilarious in the script. It chronicles his journey from India to the hole that is Devil’s Kettle for a student-exchange program, where, after a lonely two months, he joins the baseball team after a killer pitch. After the game, however, his team-mates check out his johnson, and from then on, he was called stuff like “Squid”, with his classmates saying “We want a pitcher to throw the ball, not a tentacle”, stupid stuff like that kids actually say. Sad, Ahmet from India decides to go to a local club to listen to a band named Low Shoulder. Their music ignites a passion in him, reminding him of Bollywood, so much so he gets up and dances, with everyone joining in, until something catches light in the club, and the bar goes up in flames. Luckily escaping, Ahmet from India wanders around the streets of Devil’s Kettle, until he sees another survivor, the gorgeous Jennifer Check. “Come with me. We’ll find help.” she claims. “We’ll sort this out.”

This one was interesting, giving a different viewpoint of America through the eyes of a foreigner, going so far as to say “America is horrible.” This is the most depressing chapter in the book, because it seems Ahmet from India is so out-of-place, and so lonely, and homesick, it’s almost alienating just reading it, let alone looking at the images. It does hit a high-point, however, when it goes all Bollywood on us, but when Jennifer actually sets down and begins chowing Ahmet from India up, he takes it, putting his energy into reincarnation. Not resisting, not even surprised that this is happening to him. It’s quite sad, when you think about it.

The last chapter deals with Chip, the boyfriend of Needy (who is the best friend of Jennifer). This chapter chronicles Chip’s depressing existence as boyfriend of the beautiful Needy, but getting caught jerking off by his mum, and then, the next day, caught evacuating the seamen from the Red October during class. Chip is then dumped by Needy, for his own protection, until the night of the school dance, where he bumps into Jennifer, who proclaims her love for him and tells him Needy’s been bumping uglies with Colin, a goth at school, up until he died. Then it goes into an abridged version of events depicted in the film.

This chapter was pretty good, humourous. The artwork was soft, and easy on the eyes. This chapter, like Colin’s chapter, had a too-abrupt-ending for my tastes. The ending leads into the epilogue, which shows Jennifer storming off, supposedly going home to where she’ll meet up with Needy in her shocker of an opening to the movie.

The prologue and epilogue are two, three pages, and are just book-ends for the four chapters.

All in all, I did enjoy this read, but it wasn’t anything groundbreaking. My favourite art was in the first chapter, depicting the simple world of Jonas the football jock, and in each chapter, there was at least one one-page-one-panel piece of art that was pretty cool, be it Jennifer bearing her gnashers, Ahmet from India leading the Low Shoulder Bollywood dance, or something like Needy and Jennifer in a hot fantasy shower, all naked and whatnot. I assume for those that dug the film, this would be a welcome addition to their Jennifer’s Body experience, but those that either have not seen the film (and intend to) or didn’t like the film, you probably shouldn’t bother with this. It has some cool art, some humourous writing and some good nods to the film (or at least, the script) that it should make fans of the film happy. I didn’t dig it as much as I thought I would, but I might dig it more after I finally see the movie. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Hellraiser (1987)

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3519_frontIf you have been following this blog, you might know I thoroughly dig Clive Barker and his work. Purely based on my enjoyment of The Midnight Meat Train, I decided to purchase Hellraiser as it was recently released on Blu-Ray. I had never seen the film, or any of its subsequent sequels, but I can tell you right now, ever since I was able to remember my first trips to the video shop, big bulky videos with Pinhead snarling have permeated my memory, and it is an image I associate early 90s horror cover art.

After an unsuccessful life, a family moves into a new house, but old memories makes themselves shown to the stepmother, Julia. Her husband’s brother, Frank, also her lover, has been resurrected but needs her help to fully restore himself before the Cenobites find out that he’s escaped their clutches. What follows is a horrific descent into commitment and family values.

I didn’t do the film justice with that very sub-par summary, but that’s pretty much it. Its roots live in Greek tragedy with family values at the forefront and the demonic and violent elements only apart of the background of the family drama.

As I said, the image to your left (of Pinhead’s face, at least) has lived in my memory since I was young. It didn’t help when talking to my brother about this film that he called it one of the few horror films that actually scared him. Sure, this was quite a while ago, when he was scared, but even so, that’s quite a reputation. But seeing as my heart was beating at a rate of knots during The Midnight Meat Train, so I thought I had my courage work laid out for me. Unfortunately, the film isn’t particularly scary if you’re used to horror films, like I am, and it may not help for making new fans as the film, and I say it positively, is of its time, but I know for a fact there are many Generation Xers that will shun an old movie because of its old school look. There are so many films that wouldn’t be as good if they were made today due to their age: the environment and the issues of the time the specific film was made make it more enjoyable. Personally, I love watching this as a film from the late 80s, and while, yes, a lot of the effects could be snazzied up nowadays, I doubt it would benefit the movie in any way.

The thing I said to my brother after the film ended, was the simple fact that you have to give props to Clive Barker for being original. Especially in this day and age where there are so many “brand name” films, and horror is not an exception with films like Friday the 13th and Halloween, even Hellraiser, with its seven sequels, is no exception to the “brand name” film grouping. It is the simple fact, however, that Barker breaks out of the mould (or at least did when this was originally released), if there ever was a mould in the first place, and sets out to do something different and original and imaginative that deserves one of the biggest rounds of applause imaginable. Barker’s horror is the horror you need to savour and let integrate itself into your subconscious and manifest into twisted images and nightmares. This isn’t 80s scare-moment horror. This is true horror.

Yes, I mention that it isn’t a frightening film, but the concepts offered in the film are, in fact, the frightening aspects. The sexuality, the indifference of the Cenobites (the demons whose summoning call is the puzzle box that shows itself on the cover), and the simple question of morality on the stepmother’s part for going to the effort to murder people to get the brother she truly loves back for a good round of hanky-panky.

I don’t want to sound like this is the best film in the world, but nor is it the worst, and it isn’t mediocre, but it’s not great. The word to describe it is noteworthy. This is, by many accounts, a film horror fans need to see, if they truly care about the genre in any shape or form. While the story is (somewhat) classic with the idea of family issues and forbidden love, it’s what Barker does with these ideas by intertwining them with twisted images from his horror mind that makes the film noteworthy. And if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, just give it a rent if you like old school horror, at least. It’s very eighties and very cool for being very eighties.

The effects are practical, and old-school practical, and in this day and age is very refreshing to the eye. The film is very low budget (I hesitated for a second by wondering whether I should put “amateurish” in that sentence instead of “low budget”, but this film could hardly be called amateurish, as Barker knows what he’s doing story-wise. If you know that, you’re golden. You have a whole crew to help you sort out the technical aspects of it), and I love the look of the low budget 80s film, plus it helps if you have an interesting, if not gripping, story to go with those visuals, because like the gloss and sheen of most CGI action extravaganzas these days, without a story, those visuals mean nothing.

The film looks pretty damn good on Blu-Ray. There was lots of grain, but that is obviously from the master copy of the film, and like its age, it helps with the enjoyment of the film. There were a few moments of digital artefacts I noticed towards the end, but they were on hardly noticeable surfaces unless you’re specifically looking for digital artefacts. The sound was good, and it did the job, but I wouldn’t call this an amazing speaker workout. It certainly helped when that music-box type music (written and composed by Christopher Young who also did the music to Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell) almost always played in a left or right speaker, front or back, rather than in the centre speaker, it added to the creepiness of the music.

There are a reasonable amount of extras provided on the disc. There are three fantastic interviews with Andrew Robinson (who played the father, Larry), Ashley Laurence (who played Kirsty) and Christopher Young (the composer). All are very frank interviews and feel as if you are the interviewer, there’s minimal editing out of potentially offensive words or comments and it just makes it a much more real and more worthy of your time for this simple reason, and I got a true kick out of all three interviews. Another featurette then dips into monotony; Hellraiser: Resurrection is a compilation of clips of interviews, and that’s pretty much it. There’s no coherence to the piece, there’s no narrator providing back story connections between interviewees, thus making a difficult watching experience. Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellraiser provides an interesting insight into the man behind the nails, providing some anecdotes from behind the scenes, and is much more in the vein of the three interviews that I got a kick out of prior to the Resurrection featurette. An audio commentary is provided with Barker and star Ashley Laurence and “moderated” by screenwriter Peter Atkins (who was involved with a lot of the Hellraiser sequels). To be quite honest, I didn’t understand the need for a moderator, as all three provide interesting and entertaining company and are sometimes quite frank with some comments (as much as you can be on commentaries, at least) and just makes an enjoyable experience to watch the film, the memories and nostalgia they provide are entertaining and provide some great insight into the making of the little film that could. A “fast film facts” factoid track is provided, but watching it at the same time as the commentary brought to light a sad fact that whoever produced the little factoids, as cool as they were designed and as good as they looked, were just reiteration of what is said in the commentary, at least up until I turned them off ten minutes in. Every factoid was mentioned two to three seconds beforehand in the commentary, almost like it was a live summary of the commentary for the deaf or hard of hearing watching the film. While that’s fine, all well and good and whatnot, it illuminates the idea of laziness on the DVD production group to not bring a diverse and differing selection of extras to the plate. There’s almost 10 minutes of pretty much the same trailer in the “Trailers & TV Spots” section, as well as poor-looking galleries (despite being overlaid with Christopher Young’s very cool score, the galleries are blurry and seem to have been pulled from a website or something with low resolution). On the back of the cover, it says two DVD-ROM features are provided: First and Final Drafts of the screenplay. Either this is a printing error, or I need a BD-ROM drive on my computer as I inserted the disc and it just ejected without doing a thing. There is also BD Live option on the disc, but each time I went onto it I never got anything, nothing showed up after I got into the Anchor Bay BD Live screen. It may be that I live in Australia and this is an American disc that nothing showed up to download, but who knows?

All-in-all, this is a fine package for horror fans (at just under $20 Australian, you can’t go wrong) and I’m quite proud of purchasing it. It’s nice to finally put an experience to that image of Pinhead snarling that has, for so long, pierced my young, fertile mind, and, thankfully, the experience was extremely pleasant (even if the subject matter is the antithesis of pleasant!) I highly recommend this to all horror fans that are not yet acquainted with the First Cenobite, and to those people who want a different horror film to spice up their lives that is original and creative and purely creepy as well as being more clever than it may have any right to be. The Blu-Ray is a fine presentation with a mere two useless extras (Hellraiser: Resurrection and the factoid track, if you leave BD-Live out) and would be a fine addition to any well-to-do horror fan’s high-definition library. Four skulls.

4