Twilight: The Graphic Novel Vol. 1

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I thought I would kill two bird with one stone by also publishing this review of Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1.

When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerising voice and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret…

This graphic-novel rendition of Twilight exists solely for the purpose of milking the cash cow – how many young women who devour the Twilight Saga books have picked up a comic book or graphic novel in their lives? I would bet not many, if any. However, there is a method to the madness, and Young Kim’s rendering of characters is beautiful, but cheapened when you notice backgrounds or establishing frames are photographs Photoshopped to look like drawings, as well as the confusing placement of images and the lettering of text (Times New Roman – really?!)

At about double the weight of the original novel, Twilight: The Graphic Novel Vol. 1 feels lofty and glossy. Save for a few sequences that are coloured, Twilight GN is almost entirely in black-and-white, however it is printed on a glossy paper that distances itself from manga printed on rough paper (which was probably the intention).

Kim’s artwork is beautiful, to say the least, and amplifies the feelings one may experience while reading Twilight – beauty, isolation, confusion – Kim’s captured it all to great effect. Of course, this being the first volume (at the time of this writing, it seems to be the only volume) it doesn’t cover the entire first novel, going up to the famous meadow and sunlight revelation scenes.

Perhaps I may be biased, but I felt this was better than the original novel – despite the fact Stephenie Meyer has to have her name in large letters on the front and spine and was probably breathing down Young Kim’s neck while she was working on this. There is a short dedication from Ms Kim at the back of the book (where, of course, most dedications are [end sarcasm]) where she writes, and I quote:

“To the reader, I sincerely hope that your own unique nature is loved, particularly by yourself… – Young Kim”

I was supremely touched by this and will buy anything I see with Young Kim’s name printed on without second-guessing. Not only is it such a broad yet personal remark that is moving to the reader, but also speaks of Edward’s feelings, especially throughout Twilight, being a monster but wishing to be loved. It’s that why I believe Twilight is popular – Edward finds happiness with Bella after a century of loneliness. It’s that loneliness I believe that is extinguished once someone like Bella can come into one’s life. It’s finding happiness just before you give up looking.

I have become lost, swirling around in the reasons why Twilight could be popular, but the graphic novel iteration is something of a mixed bag. Kim’s drawings are beautiful and romantic, the book’s layout, however, leaves much to be desired, especially with Meyer’s text being adhered to so strictly, however, for any Twilight fan out there, this is surely a no-brainer. Four skulls, half a star more than the novel version due to Kim’s fantastic artwork, but barred from five stars (don’t scoff, it could have been five stars) due to the poor layout and Photoshopped backgrounds.

 

Låt Den Rätte Komma In (2008)

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I remember hearing a bit about this little Swedish vampire movie called “Let The Right One In” and how it was amazing and fantastic. A love story between two children, one being a vampire, and the world they live in being changed as their characters change. It’s a haunting film, a depressing and painful film, as well as being a beautiful and entrancing film.

Lonely, 12-year-old Oskar is an outsider; bullied, struggling to fit in at school and left alone to fend for himself at home while his mother works nights. One evening he meets the mysterious Eli, a pale young girl, who has moved in next door. Coinciding with her arrival is a series of inexplicable disappearances and murders…

The film is a bit slow, but having watched it twice now, it’s also worth every minute. I picked up things I missed prior, and I was also able to enjoy the film more the second time around. The performances, especially those of the children – all the children, not just the two main leads – is fantastic. But the girl that plays Eli, Lina Leandersson, is quite possibly the best out of all of them. She oozes pain and wisdom and age for such a young person that you genuinely believe she’s been twelve years old for a century or so. All the actors in the film are fantastic, and it’s a shame that the big bucks get spent on actors who can’t act in Hollywood when there’s such talented people all over the world who can do the job a billion times better.

This film is beautifully shot. There are many instances where you go “Wow, that’s cool.” It’s a film that has imagery that will stick in your mind for days after you watch it, imagery that will haunt you in your sleep and in your wake. It’s an absolutely entrancing film and you can’t do anything but be absolutely pulled into this world. It’s almost like a graphic novel – every shot is specific, the camera hardly moves. It’s also a very sterile and cold looking film.

There’s two ways you can view this film, and I’ll try to describe it without ruining anything. You can watch it as a straight up love story between two people, or you can see it as something more sinister happening to the main character, and it’s films that are able to have different perspectives that make them successful, because each person comes out of the cinema with their own interpretation of the story.

This film could, and should, be studied. I’m sure there’s a lot more going on that I still haven’t noticed, but it’s an important film and a film that people should go out of their way to see. This isn’t Twilight, this isn’t Underworld, this is a tragic, haunting love story between a vampire and a boy. And if that’s not scary, I don’t know what is. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Audio:
Let The Right One In is a very quiet movie; a subtle sound mix provides an unnerving experience to accompany the imagery. Rarely is music used as it is in Hollywood horror movies – the scenes of horror linger on the sound effects and screams alone. It’s a clear mix, in Swedish 5.1 (and also in DTS 5.1), with the central speaker doing most of the work. The front two speakers spit out the music while the rear speakers also deal with the music and environmental sound. Four skulls.

Video:
Let The Right One In is a bit of a bleak and depressing looking film, but it’s also one of the better looking ones I have seen on Blu-Ray. There were a lot of instances of grain, but every strand of hair was visible, you’re able to tell what fabric people’s clothes are made out of. It helps the image quality when the film is beautifully photographed, as well. Four-and-a-half skulls.

Extras:
A very tiny amount of extras made up for with an English audio-commentary and all features being in high-definition. Four skulls.

  • Audio Commentary is presented with author and screenwriter John Ajvide Lindqvist, and director Tomas Alfredson, spoken in English, much to my surprise. The commentary is informative and Lindqvist and Alfredson have a great rapport with each other, which shows in the finished film.
  • Deleted Scenes Four deleted scenes are presented. They are simply called “Scene 1”, “Scene 2” etc. Scenes two and four are sweet moments between Oskar and Eli, scene one shows Oskar being bullied and scene three is Virginia rejecting human food and drink.
  • Photo Gallery is a high-definition motion gallery with some beautiful pictures taken during production. It goes for almost four minutes and is worth a watch for budding photographers.
  • UK Trailer
  • Traitor Trailer A forced trailer at the beginning of the disc for the Don Cheadle film Traitor

Overall:
An American remake is on the way for those who are to lazy to read subtitles, but if you’re open minded and don’t mind a film outside of the safety zone of Hollywood, check this out, at least before you see the American remake. I can only rehash what I’ve already said – a bleak and beautiful film with fantastic performances, especially from Andersson. Four 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.

Psycho (1960)

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Psycho (1960)The Film: Rare is it that a film becomes so popular, that even those who have never seen it know what you’re talking about. Mention “Norman Bates” or hear that iconic Herrmann score, you know it’s from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

I had caught bits of the film on television a few years ago, and never got around to viewing it. I had, however, seen Gus van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake made in 1998, and I can only remember the ending (and a car going into a tar pit). However, when the chance to own the film on Blu-Ray hi-def, in a Steelbook came, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) steals $40,000 from one of her boss’ clients one Friday afternoon and on the drive, she stops at Bates Motel for a rest and to catch herself. It is here she meets a kind young man named Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), owner of the motel. He seems kind enough, but his mother has other ideas…

Quite possibly the earliest slasher film, and definitely one that was ballsy for its time, Psycho is a film that younger, modern-day viewers may eschew, but it should be required viewing for anyone that considers him or herself a horror aficionado. It balances character, horror, good and evil, death, and nobody in this film is perfect. One of our main characters steals $40,000, another has a split personality and murders people in that personality. It’s quite a jarring change from something like The Wasp Woman, which was a B-movie made by cult hero Roger Corman the year before. Years ahead of its time, Psycho was and is a film about right and wrong in the simplest sense, and even saying “we all go a little crazy sometimes”.

This reviewer cannot continue without mentioning, in detail, Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. He absolutely shines, full-stop. He’s charming, sympathetic, and vulnerable, but he is evidently hiding something – but what is it? Perkins towers over everybody else in the film and should, too, be required viewing for all aspiring actors. It’s not only his performance: symbolism oozes from the film, especially with the character of Bates – observe a stuffed owl, posed as if ready to grab small prey in its claws sitting behind Norman Bates as he talks casually with Marion Crane – a subliminal warning of what is to come.

While not as shocking as it was in 1960, Psycho is here to stay, and should be on all shelves belonging to fans of horror and fans of cinema in general. Four skulls.

Audio:
Presented in mono 2.0 and remixed Dolby 5.1, there’s nothing terribly groundbreaking to get excited about here. The mono 2.0 did me well enough, but there is a featurette about remixing the sound into 5.1 (more on that later). However, it is clear and crisp. There is no white noise from something like tape, and it does sound quite nice, even in mono 2.0. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Video:
A perfect image, even for a black-and-white film is presented on this Blu-Ray disc. Filling up the entire widescreen, grain is noticeable in quite a few scenes, as well as some film artefacts such as scratches, but it adds to the charm of the film. This reviewer will not be complaining about the image. I wouldn’t use it as a demo disc to show off my equipment, but for a film that’s fifty years old, it’s pretty damn good. Five skulls.

Special Features:
Accompanying the film are extras mostly ported from previous DVD releases, it is, however, quite a lot to get through with a lot of information given to the viewer, but due to most features being ported from previous DVD releases, not everything is in high definition, which is a shame, especially for the image galleries. Three skulls.

  • Audio commentary with Stephen Rebello, author of “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho”. Rebello does have a few quiet spots during the film, but when he speaks he always speaks entertainingly, and always has something worth saying, as well as relating to the scene playing as he is speaking, mentioning symbolism, stories from the cast revolving around a scene, etc. It reminded me of the commentaries on the Universal Monster Movie commentaries done by the film historian likes of Rudy Behlmer.
  • The Making of Psycho is a ninety-minute feature with interviews with cast and crew of the film talking about Mr. Hitchcock, what working on Psycho was like, problems during production. It contains many small facts that you can also find in the commentary and in the booklet provided, but provides some informative entertainment nonetheless.
  • In The Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy is a twenty-five minute piece examining how Alfred Hitchcock has influenced all kinds of film-makers from Steven Spielberg to Martin Scorsese to Guillermo del Toro.
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut is a fifteen minute interview between Hitchcock and French film-maker François Truffaut talking about Psycho, how much Truffaut disliked the book on which the film is based, as well as Truffaut questioning specific choices Hitchcock made during production.
  • Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho is a puff piece, advertising gone insane, constantly making the viewer aware of the fact nobody will be seated after a showing of Psycho begins to stop ruining the illusion for all involved. This short piece proves that Hitchcock didn’t just make movies – he made experiences and was an absolute showman, making sure audiences saw his films under circumstances Hitchcock wanted.
  • The Shower Scene With and Without Music is a short feature, which basically shows you how effective Bernard Herrmann’s score was to the film, and especially to the infamous shower scene. It doesn’t work well without the music, although you may think it would…
  • Shower Sequence Storyboard by Saul Bass is a motion slideshow of storyboard created for the shower sequence by Saul Bass, who also designed the opening titles for Psycho. It’s just the storyboards – it would have been nice to have a side-by-side comparison with the storyboards and final film.
  • Psycho Sound, quite possibly misprinted on the back of the case as Remastering Psycho, is a short featurette on the remixing of the soundtrack from a mono soundtrack into a 5.1 soundtrack.
  • Next is motion slideshows: The Psycho Archives, an assortment of images from production, Posters and Psycho Ads, showing the advertising for the film, Lobby Cards, showing the cards cinemas would have had on display during Psycho‘s initial theatrical run, Behind the Scenes Photographs and Publicity Stills. All are presented as video slideshows in standard definition, which is a shame, because seeing images like those of the lobby cards in high definition would have been a real treat.
  • Theatrical Trailer and Theatrical Rerelease Trailers are exactly what they are called. The theatrical trailer is a good six minutes of Alfred Hitchcock guiding the audience through Bates Motel and Bates’ house, giving a lighthearted perspective on advertising the film, while the rerelease trailers are short trailers edited from the theatrical trailer criticising the television cut of Psycho.
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents: “Lamb to the Slaughter” is an episode of Alfred Hitchcock’s Twilight Zone-esque show with a story written by Roald Dahl about a pregnant woman who murders her husband who is about to leave her and covers up her tracks, all with a wondrous mix of Hitchcock black humour and Roald Dahl’s black humour. One must ask the relevance this is to Psycho, or whether it is just an advertisement for the series on DVD.
  • Also contained in the case is a small booklet with a brief history of the production and the film’s legacy.

Overall:
I’m sure many Hitchcock fans already have their hands on some iteration of Psycho, but if you’re absolutely psycho about Psycho, this release is pretty poor in the features department. For a fiftieth anniversary edition, you’d think Universal would put more effort into making the whole package a bit more special, but if you can get your hands on this Steelbook, do so. However, for those that just want to watch the movie, pick any version of this up, it’s amazing. The image is beautiful, the story great, and Anthony Perkins deserves another mention for his fantastic and pitch-perfect performance. 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.

Halloween II (2009) [Unrated Director’s Cut]

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As anyone who has read my review of Rob Zombie’s Halloween, you might know that I was immediately open to it and generally liked it basically because it was different. It wasn’t a shot-for-shot remake, but it was also a bit messy. The first half was certainly very good; Zombie’s chronicling of Michael Myers’ life stuck in institution was well explored ground and written very well, but then the second half feels like a push-pull between something like Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Psycho to Zombie’s interpretation of the original material, which is where the first film fell a bit flat. However, with the “Unrated Director’s Cut” of Halloween II, Zombie goes in a different direction yet again, and it feels like Zombie’s finally made Halloween his own.

It’s been two years since the psychotic events of October 31st in Haddonfield, Illinois, and Laurie Strode is a mess. She’s living with Annie Brackett, who used to be her best friend, but animosity has grown since the Halloween incident. She’s having bizarre visions and a revelation in the new tell-all book by Samuel Loomis catapults her into events that will finally bring a close to the Michael Myers’ rampage.

From the get-go, this isn’t your typical horror film. It doesn’t even seem like a horror film. Sure, there are deaths, stabbings, and freaky visions, but it plays out more like a drama that used horror as its basis. It’s one of the smartest moves ever made in a horror sequel. Rob Zombie is the thinking horror fan’s director, he won’t do a retreading of material, he won’t rehash ideas, he’ll keep going in different directions, and I never cease being interested in what he has to say within his films.

Scout-Taylor Compton provides a fantastic performance as Laurie Strode and really makes Strode her own; the scenes involving Strode and Margot Kidder’s psychiatrist are of a particular note, showing Strode spiralling out of control and Kidder’s psychiatrist trying to work out how to help this poor girl.

Strode is having psychotic visions, and it is one of these visions that is probably my favourite parts of the film involving lots of profanity, almost silent movie-esque looks and a glass coffin which works very well, it’s a scene that has a great impact and is visually pleasing, despite the amount of profanity being thrown at the camera.

Of particular positive notes is the inclusion of home video footage of Danielle Harris as a young Annie Brackett. The Halloween fan will know Harris played Jamie Lloyd, the niece of Michael Myers and daughter of Laurie Strode in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, and there is a poignancy of showing this footage with Harris’ history in Haddonfield. It’s quite moving actually, which leads me to Brad Dourif.

In the first film, Brad Dourif played Annie’s father, Sheriff Brackett, and it wasn’t terribly memorable. It was cool as Dourif is the voice of another horror icon, Chucky the Good Guy Doll from the Child’s Play films, but other than that, there wasn’t anything stand-out about him in Zombie’s Halloween. He completely breaks out in Halloween II, showing a father falling to pieces, and bringing such a reality to his character and such sympathy, making Brackett my favourite character in Halloween II, and is probably the best performance Dourif has ever given on screen. It’s positively fantastic, and words can’t describe how amazing his performance is…you need to see it.

The Blu-Ray disc provides a great picture and sound, loud and threatening, just the way I like it. The image has changed from the cinemascope 2:35:1 of the first film to a normal widescreen image that helps bring across the raw energy the film oozes out of every grainy pore it owns. It’s a faithful representation and helps communicate the raw energy of the film well.

Deleted and alternate scenes are included which aren’t much to write home to mum about, they provide interesting but unnecessary alternative takes of different scenes. What would have been better is the inclusion of the theatrical cut. Audition footage is provided of some newcomers. While interesting to watch, is there a need for it? Do Rob Zombie/Halloween fans demand audition footage of as-yet-unknown actors? Of note is Chase Vanek, replacing Daeg Faerch as Young Michael Myers due to a growth spurt. Vanek provides a good substitute but didn’t seem as gloomy as Faerch was. Make-up test footage is also included, which, too, is interesting, but hardly necessary. A blooper reel is included which probably made me smile once or twice.

There is a fictitious band made for this film named Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures, and about nine minutes of music video is provided, intercutting black-and-white typical “music video shoot” footage with the scene in the film with sprinklings of old horror films and cartoons. They’re all the same and not my cup of tea.

Unce Seymour Coffin’s Stand Up Routines. This guy is also in the club scenes and isn’t funny, but does some jokes that may make you smile, but providing unused footage of unfunny stand-up routines for entertainment is redundant. I didn’t even make it past one minute of it. The whole joke in the film is that this guy is funny because he isn’t funny. Providing 5-10 minutes of unfunny material will keep hitting the nail on the head but eventually bore the hammer into the skull and then eventually into the brain matter, providing a painful experience. My thoughts go out to all who watch this in its entirety.

Finally is the audio commentary from Rob Zombie. Zombie is always great to listen to; he’s intelligible and explains certain ideas, cuts, and things become even more clear. He’s a great guy and while he does fall into the audio-commentary no-no of describing what is on-screen, he balances that out by explaining the ideas behind the scene or a story behind the scene, which is alright. He’s insightful company and worth checking out for Zombie fans.

The disc is highly recommended for Zombie fans and for fans of horror in general. This isn’t your typical horror film, not is it your typical Halloween film. But I liked that; it’s refreshing and visually outstanding and has some fantastic ideas. I challenge all who saw the theatrical cut and hated it to watch this fantastic, albeit somewhat slow director’s cut, and try not to change their minds.

The inclusion of the theatrical cut would have made for some nice analyses, and the inclusion of Captain Clegg music videos and Seymour Coffins’ stand up routines are unnecessary waste of precious data space. A faithful reproduction of the image and audio provides the film with a great visceral experience. I could have loved it more, but I loved it more than I expected to. Four skulls.

Black Christmas (1974)

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51pPDkCDumL._SS500_I was pretty excited to receive this in the mail after seeing the sub-par remake, but was unsure if it would be the blueprint of the remake (like the original and remake of Psycho, both the same, shot-for-shot), or whether this would be more in the vein of John Carpenter’s Halloween – I truly didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully, that’s probably the best attitude.

A sorority house over Christmas is experiencing obscene phone calls, and what few inhabitants of Pi Kappa Sig are left over the holiday break are experiencing troubling events after one of the sisters disappears without a trace.

I’m pretty sure this is my first Bob Clark film. I’ve never seen A Christmas Story, and just having a glance at his IMDb page, I’ve only seen Porky’s and Baby Geniuses (in my youth, I swear). A truly diverse director ranging from horror to comedy to children’s films, that’s a sign of true talent (even if the children’s film sucks). Four years before Michael Myers escaped Smith’s Grove, Billy terrorised Pi Kappa Sig on one fateful Christmas holiday.

From the get-go, I was hooked. I love any movie that is overtly old, and this was extremely 70s (check out Gene Shallit look-a-like just about 5-10 minutes in), and simple fact everything was handled in such a seventies manner (of course) made it so much more enjoyable to me.

The thing that stood out about Black Christmas was two things – it’s not filled with scares every five seconds. It’s scares are drawn out and are more creepier than full-on “scary”. This is the smartest form of horror convention, letting fear seep itself under your skin instead of giving you an outright jump every five minutes, which we all know: gets very old, very fast. The second thing that stood out to me was, while the film is set around Christmas, and Christmas stuff is in the background of every shot, the film is not horrendously Christmassy, unlike its remake, rampant with Christmas lights everywhere and warm, glowing colours despite the remake’s ugly nature.

The thing that also stands out about this film is all the characters are individualistic, there are no cookie-cut characters we’ve come to expect in horror films, even as far back as the early 80s, when Jason’s mum was getting her teen murder on. The sorority house mother is an alcoholic, hiding bottles everywhere, sometimes comically, but nearly every time we see her, she is looking for or has a bottle of alcohol in her hand pushed against her lips. All the sisters are very individual and different from each other, giving a fresh quality to the interplay between the characters, helping it feel real.

Props must be given to Olivia Hussey. She’s a fantastic “final girl” and portrays her character, Jess Bradford, in an extremely likeable way. She’s a headstrong and confident young woman and more ambitious and realistic (in terms of dealing with situations) than her boyfriend, Peter Smythe (played by Keir Dullea). She brings such bravado to the character, and I actually found her character fantastic to watch. This is the seventies, and beginnings of the second wave of feminism, and having this character, who had brains, beauty, and courage, must have been such a step out of the norm for a film, and for a horror film as well, where, more often than not, the hero would be a man and the woman would be the damsel-in-distress. When you have such a likeable character on which the film centres, you’ve got your audience hooked.

The ending is ambiguous and but I certainly have my theory about it (and it’s not about who the killer is). The phone ringing throughout the credits gives me a horrible idea that Jess Bradford, sleeping, with no-one attending at her side, gave me the idea about the actual fate of the final girl. However, you’d have to make up your own mind when you see it.

The Blu-Ray presentation is fair, but nothing extraordinary. The picture, as you may know by now, is the kind of picture I love looking at. Grainy, while being very clear representation of the film, as well as film artefact-a-plenty, made me a very happy bloke. The film was just fantastic to look at. The soundtrack was cool (I heard something, I can’t quite remember, in a speaker right near my ear, that freaked me out something chronic), but wasn’t a thorough workout for the speakers.

The effects are simple, and most you can tell were produced on a small budget, and almost amateur. There are two scenes presented with different soundtracks that were never before released, and both were a bit pointless. Subtle differences in muffled soundtrack does not an interesting Blu-Ray extra make. The 12 Days of Black Christmas is a non-linear documentary providing some insight into the production of the film, and is very by-the-books, but still worth a watch for those who want to get into the story behind the story. Three twenty-minute interviews with Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder and Art Hindle are presented, and are essentially extended, uncut versions of the snippets used in The 12 Days of Black Christmas, but still worth a watch to hear the questions coming from three very different people’s mouths and hearing their opinion on everything involving the film. Midnight Q&A is provided, twenty minutes, roughly, of Bob Clark, John Saxon and Carl Zittrer (the film’s composer) answering questions after a screening. Very amateur but worth a watch, though it would have been better to actually be sitting in the audience more than watching a recording of it. Two trailers are presented: English and French, and watch-worthy if you want to observe how trailers were done back in the good ol’ days.

While the slasher was at its infancy four years before Halloween, and my absolute love for John Carpenter’s film still reigning supreme, Black Christmas is an older and more slow and more creepy film than most slashers. The characters are well thought out and the way they’re dealing with situations was handled very realistically, much to my surprise. I would choose this when I’m in the mood for a slasher over one of the Friday the 13th films, and maybe over Halloween, and I will definitely get this out every Christmas before Santa comes. A new holiday tradition begins this year! Just make sure when you look under your tree, there isn’t a present that reads “FROM: Me, Billy”. Four skulls (purely for the film).

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