LIVING DEAD DIRECTOR:Rob Zombie returns…

Due sometime this year now hopefully, FANGORIA magazine site tells us that the heavy metal rock icon-turned-horror director ROB ZOMBIE has his new film LORDS OF SALEM nearly done with some definately bizarre unusual characters and plotlines. This time the horror comes from legendary witches, in the infamous Salem area.

Again, so far the visuals and poster campaign look close to the grindhouse,  cheap snuff ‘video nasty’ aesthetic. But is he in danger of repeating his now established fear film output style?

Having begun with the hugely problematic but insanely entertaining TEXAS CHAINSAW influenced HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES which finally was released in 2003, he stepped away from his known identity as lead singer of WHITE ZOMBIE and solo rock/metal artist. From that first film with it’s unending hype and controversy over cuts, editing, rating problems his following few movies have continued to be released within a fog of media scandal and rumours. Much of his success and criticism has been gained from his return to and respect for the more stripped down, low budget raw films of the seventies such as TEXAS CHAINSAW, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, BLOOD FEAST, SUSPIRIA, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and more.

As ZOMBIE’S movies continued to come, they arrived alongside the 00’s prblematic sub-genre in horror of ‘Torture Porn’ horror, with movies like HOSTEL and the SAW sequels. ZOMBIE may have shared some of the visual style accidentally, but aimed for but disturbing effect.

With his infamous remake/revision of HALLOWEEN and then it’s sequel, and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS before that, he has always seemed to want to provide undiluted honest genuine no-holds’barred shocks such as those from times before big mainstream gloss and film franchises. But how long can he continue in this same path before it feels tired?

Myself, I was not a huge fan of THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, and some of 1000 CORPSES, not personally enjoying the snuff style extended sequences. The HALLOWEEN films were interesting-not eclipsing the original, fine JOHN CARPENTER classic, though the second ZOMBIE one was more thoughtful.

Now, after his return to rock/metal with a fantastic double tour with ALICE COOPER, and other projects including comic books  and bad taste horror animated movie,  he comes back to LORDS OF SALEM and other films he has planned. Impressively, it does seem that balancing music, comics, touring, and filmmaking has not diluted or weakened the quality generally of the films. I do hope, that with LORDS OF SALEM, Mr ZOMBIE continues to shock and surprise us again, but that he also might drop some of the extended violence in place of stronger horror thrills. The spook show director will certainly return soon enough with a new movie of good gruesome fear and terror once more…

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Spare Words and Paranoid future thoughts…

Alright people, it has notably been a few days since I left some thoughts. Well, there are other jobs to be done, but here is a shameless plug-my new science fiction novel is most likely now…finished. It is, in its own way, some kind of cross between 2001 Space Odyssey and possibly 28 Days Later. Yes, they are fim references-well the latter- so I’d say it probably has expected Ballard influence right through in some sense too.

So, thinking about sci-fi(or as many now term it SF), I find myself just considering which films and books right now possibly resemble or appear to be close to a kind of near future for us in this tense, technologically confused world…

I am a huge fan of J.G.Ballard, and so rightly many of his great books and short fiction are disturbingly very close to a kind of tomorrow. Some of the best being CRASH, SUPER CANNES, HIGH RISE, CONCRETE ISLAND and then his final novel KINGDOM COME. But most likely it was his many collected short tales which shocked and facinated with amazingly original unique future visions more realistic and disturbing than most sci-fi.

Some fear that we might be coming close to living in a world close to that of books and films like A Clockwork Orange, with its malcontent angry young Droogs, the totalitarian pen pushing, file sorting control of Orwell’s 1984. For such a long time Philip K Dick was labelled a mad paranoid loon, but the more time passes so much more of his books and work seem creepily relevant. The books of William Gibson and their cyberworlds, virtual realities influenced films like The Matrix, and now could tell us much about our addiction to apps, internet, social media and the problems there.

The Alan Moore classic political graphic novel turned movie V For Vendetta had much to say along similar lines to 1984, about controlling facist governments and corrupt politicians distorting news media. Might it be not too long before we live in a present close to that of Ghost in the Shell anime, or the many books of Issac Asimov with his specific rules of man and robot co-existence?

I may be seeming highly paranoid here, or simply a great fan of many classic forms of science ficion in film and in written form. I think I might now go and find myself lost among more tales of future paranoia, robots with dark secrets and realities yet uploaded…

JOSS WHEDON:GENRE AVENGER?

I am talking now about the director of the hugely anticipated superhero filled THE AVENGERS movie due in a couple of months. A film which includes IRON MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, THOR, and other MARVEL characters, it was a film which many big name directors must have been so desperate to be attatched to and it eventually was handed to JOSS WHEDON.

Yes, initially I was not really a big admirer of his work while he was creating the very successful BUFFY series on television. In more recent times, I can now very much undestand the praise which was directed his way for very original different natural character writing and more interesting scripts and some of the most believable, strong, engaging female characters on television, not just genre television series.

Right now many though might be nervous over how WHEDON will handle some of the most iconic, legendary MARVEL characters and in one of the biggest mainstream super budget movies in recent times. The elements he normally works with have been magnified a thousand times now, the pressure immense. But then he was most likely chosen-and rightly as many believe-because he could produce the right kind of performance and script that a number of superhero movies have failed to do in the last few years. Like the great group performances of characters from his television shows BUFFY andFIREFLY, it is hoped he will bring a similar quality to THE AVENGERS heroes gang.

Also personally, I would look to his last television series, DOLLHOUSE which recieved a mixed level of good and bad responses and was after two series cancelled in 2010. I actually did really enjoy the series, and I would say it has been one of the best, most interesting, challenging genre sci-fi series on television in the last decade possibly. Yes, admittedly not every episode was great, it dipped and peaked regularly but generally it was a very good series which allowed WHEDON to move to more adult characters and themes. This could be why it failed to some degree, although it was uneven. But I think that DOLLHOUSE shows good potential for teh success of THE AVENGERS movie. Again, as usual like BUFFY and other work, the characters were very realistic, down to earth, but engaging while the storylines moved along well with a reasonably good balance of pace and suspense although that is where it could have tightened up.

Only now a few short months until the mighty AVENGERS movie smashed onto our cinema screens and hopefully JOSS WHEDON  will give us a mighty marvel adventure.

HAMMER HORROR:THE HORROR RETURNS?

Being a horror obsessive in a big way, I have been aware of the return of the hugely influential much loved HAMMER studios in  the last few years. They have returned rebranding themselves as ‘HAMMER’, now dealing with new films in production, books, and merchandise based on the many classic older films the studios in the UK are widely known for. To many people this was a wonderful but almost unbelievable return, but it did bring some hesitant concern over the kind of new movies it was to produce and new ventures it is pursuing as a larger brand now.

Right about now it is releasing what seems like a very impressive new film adaptation of the classic novel by Susan Hill, THE WOMAN IN BLACK starring Daniel Radcliffe from the HARRY POTTER series of movies. It has in the last couple of years put out another few movies including a well recieved successful remake of the foreign horror film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, retitled LET ME IN, starring CHLOE MORETZ, the dangerous little lady from the KICK-ASS movie.

With the HAMMER HORROR studios and their legendary films of the past, people have a certain concept of the kind of things they produced back in the day, all the way from the thirties to during their peak in the sixties and seventies wih fine actors including CHRISTOPHER LEE and PETER CUSHING. They were an infamous studio eventually known for shocking audiences and provoking, pushing censorship and horror in cinema radically.

Now returning after a couple of decades to full prominence and producing new varied products are they straying too far from the original values of HAMMER? They are still very clearly promoting the many classic movies like BRIDES OF DRACULA, THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB, ONE MILLION YEARS B.C.,QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, COUNTESS DRACULA and more.

It is very good I personally think that they are now supporting and publishing horror books, which I see as in the UK often being under represented, or sanitised to an extent. They are printing books by some personal favourites and under appreciated authors of the horror genre like GRAHAM MASTERON and SHAUN HUTSON.

They obviously have a wide brave new outlook, but how much of it is successful and embraced by older fans and new ones will take time to see. I hope they continue as one of the strongest, boldest returning British producers and defenders of high quality horror for a long time ahead.

RESIDENT EVIL: IT JUST WON’T DIE…

Okay I am talking about the RESIDENT EVIL movies now, but wait-don’t disappear. I have just watched a trailer for, yes, another sequel from the infamous PAUL WS ANDERSON for RESIDENT EVIL:RETRIBUTION, due out later 2012. Did you think there could be another after the last one? Well, financially the last one, RESIDENT EVIL:AFTERLIFE (in 3D!) seemed to do very well. It’s amazing what a gimmick will do for a franchise dying on it’s knees.

I know how critically derided and mauled this film series has been ever since the first one appeared based on the already very successful cult videogame franchise. Again, like most movies based on games, fans hoped for so much, only to be largely let down a very big way. That was to be expected really. After the horrors of the STREET FIGHTER and SUPER MARIO BROS. movies, audiences were not every expecting much for game adaptations.

I did personally quite enjoy the first film, even while I could see the negative aspects to it. The budget was big enough, MILLA JOVOVICH is always entertaining, and some of it worked very well.

Then a sequel-RES EVIL:APOCALYPSE in 2004. It again, in ways was better, trying to emulate the second, possibly best game. But then some terrible scripting, and horrendous effects and acting. It generally got worse for RES EVIL:EXTINCTION (2007) and RES EVIL:AFTERLIFE(2010).

The annoying part is that while most of these sequels are trashy, and lame, they do have often very great starting points, set ups and endings. The last couple also have almost really caught some very relevant interesting parallels with the dangers and fears of modern international mega corporations, governments, genetic engineering and chemical and biological terror. They could be so much more powerful and terrifying or at least more successful on a basic entertaining level.

The director and producers seem caught with a platform for conveying some very relevant issues, and earning absolute fortunes if they just let MILLA kick zombie butt, and stick some regular gimmick spin on top of it. The many fans of the original games-from Playstation through to XBox-did want bucket loads of non-stop blood and gore or at least more darker, complicated thiller elements which I think almost came through in the first movie.

Well, later this year we will see the next, latest sequel and see how brave or safe they are this time with the series which could be a much more powerful, shocking and brave zombie gore survival flick.

FRANK MILLER: BLACK, WHITE AND WRONG ALL OVER?

Let me start by just saying that yes, I do, like so many international comic and graphic novel fans really admire and acknowledge the debt and impact of the work from FRANK MILLER since the eighties with the legendary industry changing DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, his work on DAREDEVIL, ELECTRA, and the brutal noir inspired SIN CITY series to only mention a few.

The guy is a living legend garuanteed. Fact. But here is the question: how do we take it when perhaps even some legends of the comic world-and film and fiction world for that matter-possibly lose their way?

I am thinking of his recent views concerning the Occupy Wall street movement, which was unecpected and sad to hear and before that one of his more recent comic works-HOLY TERROR, which has recieved a good number of mixed reviews for how it portrays certain political views.

When we look up to and take inspiration from artists like MILLER, ALAN MOORE, GARTH ENNIS, KIRBY, LEE, NEIL GAIMAN, and many others it can then eventually be uncomfortable to watch them seem to really change over time, from the icons we knew, or thought we knew through media perception, into some more unbeleivable even shocking character.

In the last couple of years MILLER has produced some work and films that do possibly reflect a lower standard from the great man. It could be that I and others are judging him too critically, reading too much into his quite pulp inspired action retro work. It could be argued that his work has always been admired more for visual strength than the credibilty or political correctness of the narratives. A FRANK MILLER comic is usually very unique, with a certain style, approach and attitude. That is fine. You know what you get. It could be now thought that more of his own views are gradually appearing in his work than previously before. Does this affect how we read his amazingly visually composed comics and films? Should it?

People change over time. Even our beloved heroes in art, music, film. Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh. Many rejected some of their earlier works or distanced themselves as time passed to the sad dismay of their fans. Artists move on creatively often. I will always admire much of MILLER’s previous work but right it may be difficult to appreciate it so easily.

TODAY IN TOMORROW:THE BOUNDARIES OF SF MOVIES

Just taking a glance at some of the more recent science fiction films from the past few months and last year, to me there does seem to be an increased level of modern realism depicted in the narratives, plots and settings that many pitched. Films such as RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, SPLICE, PERFECT SENSE, CONTAGION, DISTRICT 9, IN TIME, ANOTHER EARTH. Obviously not all of these movies are reall realistic-apes taking control, aliens being abused- but I do think that genrally these films seem to suggest a return to deeper thoughtful concerns about the advances of modern scientific technological advances and dangers in our world now.

There of also of course many very successful and loved bigger more classic science fiction movies around featuring all the spaceships, aliens, UFOs, ray guns or galactic invasions that some really might love to watch while munching much overpriced popcorn while wearing awkward 3D glasses. Fine but the other stranger SF films, with smaller budgets and appearing closer to our own lives offer much lasting interest I believe.  

Helped a good deal by massively convincing CGI these days, these new films have tried to explore fears of genetic manipulation, stem-cell research, animal testing, chemical and biological warfare or outbreaks, government control and manipulation of the populace through technology and more. Some of these films and directors return almost to the challenging times of a few decades ago, and remind me of classic brave movies like THE PARALLAX VIEW, THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, SOYLENT GREEN, CAPRICORN ONE, WESTWORLD, and almost the extreme provocative films of Cronenberg like VIDEODROME, SCANNERS.

Some of these films were not just great SF genre entertainment but provocative, thoughtful, questioning films on some level making us consider possibly near future dangers ahead, for our lives, our way of living. Yes, right now there is a danger of losing much originality and freedom in the film industry with budget tightening unless you adapt a known successful book series or remake some fond movie or television series, but hopefully many filmmakers will continue to attempt to produce science fiction movies that in ways challenge us and make us question our futures ahead.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN:VAMPIRE HUNTER-CULTURAL MONSTER MASH?

ABRAHAM LINCOLN:VAMPIRE HUNTER. Yes, you read that correctly. That is really a new bizarre movie heading our way this year. What does that mean?

Is it a horror? A comedy spoof? Horror comedy? Probably.

Is it the height of contemporary post-modern cross genre cultural mainstream fictional evolution?

It originates from the recent novel of the same name from SETH GRAHAME-SMITH, also author of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, an earlier bizarre and funny mash up of fiction genre elements producing very humorous results. There are a number of similar books now including :

QUEEN VICTORIA, DEMON HUNTER-A.E.MOORAT

SENSE AND SENSABILITY AND SEA MONSTERS-BEN. H.WINTERS

HENRY VIII, WOLFMAN-A.E.MOORAT

JANE SLAYRE-BRONTE/BROWNING ERWIN

I AM SCROOGE:ZOMBIE STORY FOR CHRISTMAS-DICKENS/ADAM ROBERTS

And there are still more. These new bizarre ‘mash-up’ cross genre titles have appeared and been influenced by a number of sources over the last decade or so, from ALAN MOORE’S LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN film series, and the steampunk subgenre with examples in movies and fiction in many places.

Some have argued that some of these such as the ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER book/movie though funny, can uncomfortably distort and lambast actual historical fact in negative ways. Most of these cross genre hybrid books use classic fictional tales as their starting point, and the LINCOLN one is a stand alone here. Should it matter so much? We know real historical fact right? Or we can go and find out, and this tale stands as simply fantastical satire or interesting inventive fun.

Where did this fairly modern trend of increasingly taking actual historical factual events and distorting them or using them as a base to then weave fantasy upon them? There are many very entertaining examples right now in SF/and FANTASY genre fiction, with many newer authors such as ADAM CHRISTOPHER, BEN AARONOVITCH, GAIL CARRIGER, possibly taking inspiration from classic and arguably forgotten legends such as JULES VERNE and H G WELLS. It should also be noted the significant influence back and forth from movies and television on new fiction books, and vice versa, and also comics and graphic novels.

I suppose I am wondering just how these genre cross over works are going to go before it is absolutely indefinable beyond belief? The genres that so many admire and dearly love such as science fiction, fantasy, horror could become ‘Historical retro horrorcom’ or ‘Fantasy realist docu-com’ hybrids. Nothing wrong with this, it is creative, it is happening and facinating to observe. It just seems the clear definitions of the kinds of stories and films we identify with are blurring and evloving into many new post-modern self reflective ironical works which at least reflect our own interests or entertainment desires.

In the unreal:Is Fantasy my reality?…

Really short burst of curiosity now, as I just wonder about much of the modern science fiction and fantasy or horror books, films or television series that we see and how much do they reflect our own worlds and should they at all?

Do I need so much in a story to be able to ‘connect’ to for me to enjoy it or relate to it in the best way?

Does that actually matter at all with genre stories, fantastical, highly unrealistic which many people easily mock? Often the characters seem to see the world in a different way, they can know things most do not, be aware of danger others ignore…maybe they are too often difficult cliches which hold back genre fiction and films or that could be just what keeps them what they are…

I think I will come back to this, possibly extend it in some form. For now, back to the dail grind, barcodes, adverts, calories, news mania  and pop culture around me…

GRAPHIC HEROES:COMIC MOVIES EXPECTED…

There are as you might know, very many comic book movie adaptations on the horizons right now, as it seems unending the bandwagon success of flims like IRON MAN/IRON MAN2, SPIDERMAN, THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA, the X-MEN movies, and many more. But are they really ever as good as they could be or should be?

Some have failed badly, some very badly. I myself do hold a fond place for strange comic inspired flops such as DICK TRACY, HOWARD THE DUCK, SPAWN and a few more. They may not have been produced to the best results, often really showing so little respect for the original comic tales they came from, and hugely angering loyal fanbases.

In the months to come ahead in 2012, we will have the opportunity to see GHOST RIDER-SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE, a fairly quick follow up to a reasonably decent first movie. I was a fan, but did see how much more could have been done with it, as is regularly the case. The comicbook has been around for decades, and changed a few times, initially a bit camp and halloween looking, eventually very graphic, bloody, violent and with a deep dark mythology and a number of interesting characters through the pages. These things were igonred in the first film, and I could cynically guess that kept it seeming more appealing to a wider, younger audience-or so the producers and distributors maybe hoped.

Again, NICOLAS CAGE  reprises the dark skull-head lead role, but things now look more girm, gritty and wild. With the directors of the CRANK movies, it it hoped to be a much more energetic frantic crazed film. Will it though be more loyal to the comic storylines and themes, perhaps even show a few of the more bizarre and strange characters too?

There is so much to use that would look absolutely stunning and impressive from those colourful, fantastic pages of the comics. Yes, could be much darker, probably closer to a kind of horror film, but that would be a truer version and I believe that would still be a huge success with many fans of dark fantasy and horror movies.

My own next few comic movies adaptaions which I am eagerly awaiting right now include IRON MAN 3(Really hope there is a good version of the MANDARIN involved), THE AVENGERS, I suppose THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, THOR 2, PREACHER (If that is ever likely to happen), DR.STRANGE(Ditto), and the new DREDD Judge Dredd film. All could be good, all could stay faithful-but how likely is that?

However they turn out, we can always return to those classic pages, where there is no budget limit on special effects, and no labels or restrictions as much as in Hollywood…