Stake Land 2 :Film Review 2017

A sequel to Stake Land which came in 2010, it has been a gap of a few years but it seems to get right back to the feel and look of that film quickly and with ease. There had been quite a bit of positive respect for the first movie at the time as it seemed to offer something with a slightly different take of the vampire/dystopian future story which had been lacking in cinemas at that time.

I did like that first film even if I did maybe feel slightly let down or confused at what had felt like very high praise, possibly too high. It was a good film though which did try to do something different enough even if it did not change the vampire/horror genre totally.

The thing that did stand out for me with the original was how the blood of the vampires in that first film seemed to appear almost like tar-very black and thick. It may have just been the setting on my television…

This new sequel has come to Netflix suddenly I was curious to see if the next chapter of the story would be worth viewing. It have a different director this time, but it has continuity as it retains the same writer whom is also the main older lead character known only as ‘Mister’.

The first film followed a young man who joins with the mysterious ‘Mister’ in a potential near future ruined world plagued by rabid vampires as the pair of them travel across to a safer place. This sequel picks up the story a while later when the pair have been separated. The young man called Martin travels alone until finally reuniting with Mister. They also save a young feral girl and move together to take down the Brotherhood.

This sequel has come when audiences have been watching shows such as the hugely popular The Walking Dead and movies like The Hunger Games. People are very familiar with bleak future dystopian lands on screen. While there are unavoidable similarities with The Walking Dead and many modern zombie movies this sequel does manage to mostly move forward with a storyline which just about keeps us interested. the Brotherhood were introduced in the first film, which stood as a symbol for what religions can often do when not held back by state or led by the most immoral and crazed leaders. As with The Walking Dead where the zombies regularly are a background threat to the narrative, vampires here are around and get in the way but the story about much more than  simply bloodsucking terror.

The concept of the ruined dystopian world run wild and lawless with all kinds of barbaric human violence besides vampires stalking around is no fresh thing here, and so the writer of Stake Land 2 continues to explore the relationship between young Martin and Mister and what is now happening with the deadly Brotherhood religion/cult. It is not taken too far, and does remind of a few 80’s fantasy movies such as Willow as well as other zombie survival flicks from Romero and others and also I am Legend.

It is really the cinematography of the film and the acting which kept me in my seat until the end. Like the first film it does look visually very convincing-vast oppressive skies, stark dried out bare landscapes around the characters. The main actors also seemed to have really built a strong connection and work well together, all very suited to their individual roles.

While it may not seem very original among the increasing numbers of dystopian post-apocalyptic movies and years of The Walking Dead on television, it is still a good enough sequel to a special first movie. There is not really too much in the way of real serious vampire imagery or gore. This is a film about a young man maturing into a grown adult and stepping right into the vampire hunter role of his adopted father figure Mister.

A contemplative but still adventurous dystopian horror sequel journey.

James E. Parsons is author of SF books Orbital Kin and Minerva Century both available now in amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones and all good bookshops in paperback, ebook and hardback. His first horror novel is published later in 2017.

 

The 17th annual Sci-Fi London Film Festival will run from the 27th April until the 6th May 2017 across London with ten days of film, live music, immersive experiences and more. This year’s event will showcase 6 world film premieres, 13 UK film premieres, 11 world short premieres and 13 UK short premieres. It will […]

via Sci-Fi London programme released — Sci-Fi Bulletin: Exploring the Universes of SF, Fantasy & Horror!

Those who were disappointed by the many deviations from HG Wells’ plot and characterisation in the BBC’s recent War of the Worlds may want to pick up a copy of a new version coming this July. Renamed The Coming of the Martians (for licensing reasons), this adaptation by Nick Scovell for Sherwood Studios is faithful to the […]

via The Coming of the Martians brings Wells’ War faithfully to life — Sci-Fi Bulletin: Exploring the Universes of SF, Fantasy & Horror!

High Rise-Film Review

It is around a year since it was released, this adaptation of the classic J.G.Ballard novel from 1975 it was shown on television last week and I watched it this weekend. I am a big fan of the books and fiction of Ballard and Ben Wheatley, the director of this film has been making increasingly good and very original films for the last few years in the UK.

News of this adaptation made me very curious at the time and Wheatley even managed to pull in top Hollywood star Tom Hiddleston (Loki in the Marvel Avengers and Thor movies) and others such as Jeremy Irons, Luke Evans and others familiar faces.

Alright, so I had not read the book of High Rise but was familiar with the story concept and it seemed similar to a few other Ballard books he had written after that one which I had enjoyed. Over the years there had been a number of occasions where his books were almost put on the big screen or can be seen to have obviously influence a good number of science fiction and thriller films. The one clear adaptation which stands out was the David Cronenberg directed Crash-a version of probably the most famous and notorious Ballard book. Like that story and some others from Ballard, High Rise explores the psychologically dark and uncomfortable interests and desires of mankind in modern or near future times.

So from the slick poster artwork and trailers and knowledge of Ballard fiction I might have been expecting something extremely brutal, disturbing and challenging. Is this what I got?

To a degree yes but I may have been let down in some ways. It did not have to be just like the cold and perverse tale of Crash, and this film was actually even surprisingly humorous and retained a more restrained kind of satire I felt.

Like a number of Ballard stories it looks at how society could go over the brink and breakdown starting from what we see as the perfect example of civilized and decent western post-industrial living. With this tale, in what is built as a state-of-the-art high rise building we see the divides of class and society stacked over each other. It only takes a short of amount of time before the rich and poor begin to antagonise each other to the most absurd and extreme ways.

I was expecting Tom Hiddleston to lead the story in a more engaging way but he seemed possibly distant-but then Ballard lead characters can often seem like that. The actor Luke Evans actually puts in a very good lively performance as the rage fueled and frustrated tv actor, along with one of the better performances from Jeremy Irons in a long time.

It was fairly obvious to see clear influences of the director in the style of visuals and editing-hints of Stanley Kubrick, Nic Roeg. The music often bringing to mind A Clockwork Orange.

I think one main problem for me was that the director decided to set the film in the 1970’s when the actual book was written. if the book like other Ballard novels was intended to be set in simply a near future then this may have confused things for me. Was it that the director wanted to say things about that period of time or did he just want to really make a period film, paying homage to some of his favourite films and directors of that time?

This film then is not set in a near future for us, but a kind of alternative 1970’s where things spiral horribly out of control. I believe that I did read the director saying that the political climate of that time had interesting parallels with today and so did feel like an interesting place to put the film.

Would I personally like to see a version of High Rise set in our modern times or a contemporary new near future? The story or book may now be dated to some extent and has influenced a few films over the years already. Will our civilized  capitalist society still yet unravel and tear itself to pieces? Any future may yet be possible…

James E. Parsons is the author of Orbital Kin and Minerva Century both available from Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, WHSmith and other good bookshops internationally now. His first horror novel is due in 2017.

 

 

Cassette tapes and catchphrase killers-Horror films in the 80’s

This is my second short look at a specific decade in the history of horror films. With the 1980’s we have my decade. This was the time when I first started to rent any kind of creepy, spooky and horrible VHS video tape horror movies, usually a couple every weekend when I was well, yes just a bit too young to really be seeing these kind of things.

But you know, I must have seen practically nearly all of the horror movies available (officially) in the late 80’s, some a good number of times. So what did we get in this decade which brought a new fresh take on scares and fear film?

Of course probably the biggest and most obvious film and soon series to make a huge impact was A Nightmare on Elmstreet. Director Wes Craven who died recently had already given us a small few very original and creative fear films such as The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, but …Elmstreet was the movie which elevated him to horror filmmaking legend status. We had a new classic monster named Freddy Krugger to join the likes of Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy, Dracula. With the new bogeyman, soon he was joined by Jason in Friday the 13th and Michael Myers continued to slash and kill in their many sequels.

Italian horror continued to disturb with Cannibal Holocaust (banned soon after home video came along) and City of the living dead. The always flamboyant and inventive director Ken Russell gave us the unsettling head-trip Altered States. City of the living dead director Umberto Lenzi also gave us the nasty Eaten Alive! which soon disappeared onto the video nasty list.

The decade began with 1980 a very good year providing classics like The Fog from John Carpenter, the very first Friday the 13th (arguably the most chilling in the series) Italian master Dario Argento continued on his great run with his Suspiria sequel Inferno-again very surreal and hallucinatory as well as terrifying.

The decade gave birth to a good few dozen or more very infamous and extreme horror movies, which were in just a couple of years banned from the UK due to Mary Whitehouse and the film censorship laws. This did not stop keen fans tracking many or all of these movies down and a strong underground video tape trading circuit existed right until the early 2000’s when censorship rules were greatly relaxed.

Continuing on from the seventies, there were so many from different parts of the globe, many increasingly gore-filled and extreme in their scenes of killings and death due to advances in practical special effects and small but numerous international film studios and distributors. It was soon noticed that cheap horror films, like kung Fu movies made good money and fast.

The auteur filmmakers would still come out with impressive slightly arthouse but classic films like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, which was great in many ways but did not actually please author Stephen King.

1981-All time genre classic An American Werewolf in London from John Landis. What a movie. Oh man, I think I actually recorded from tv and just watched it many, many times after that. Such a great film. The balance of comedy and terrifying horror was nailed just right. Added to the video nasty list we had from Italy The Beyond, The Burning and Cannibal Ferox. I’ve only seen the first of those, which is a good if confused movie.

A very young Sam Raimi gave us the soon cult surprise hit Evil Dead. Made on a low budget but actually extremely inventive visually and in direction and sound, this was a film which influenced many kinds of filmmakers for the next couple of decades. Joe Dante put out The Howling, which is often ignored or forgotten but I think it is fairly influential on werewolf movies even if the many sequels were mostly increasingly terrible.

In 1982 Creepshow was an interesting and unusual anthology film directed by George A Romero (Night of the living Dead, Martin) and with help from Stephen King. John Carpenter moved on into sci-fi horror with an update version of black and white B movie The Thing. At the time, this had special effects that were absolutely gruesome but also like nothing seen before, technically amazing. It also had an extremely suspenseful and dramatic screenplay.

1983 spat out stylish but possibly too simplistic lusty vampire film The Hunger from Tony Scott. All 80’s visuals and not enough of a story? David Cronenberg put out one of his genuine challenging and radical films in Videodrome. Dated to some extend today but still disturbing due to themes of sex, violence, voyeurism, and Freudian nightmarish imagery.

Into the mid-1980’s we saw The Company of Wolves from Neil Jordan which brought well known faery tales into a much darker vision. The first Children of the Corn film I personally did like and thought that while it was not one of the more visually over the top gore-filled bloody films, it had a strong feel of foreboding terror. Friday the 13th:The Final Chapter of course really was not at all. Gremlins was a fantastic mix up of creepy comic book horror with genuine emotional and warm moments. But 1984 gave us A Nightmare on Elmstreet and horror movies were changed for many years to come.

1985-We had Demons from Lamberto Bava (son of legendary Italian horror and B-movie director Mario) with the excessive but very creative monster and gore effects, aided by Dario Argento as producer. George Romero continued with zombies in Day of the Dead, the effects increasingly realistic thanks to FX legend Tom Savini. Troma films came along with their low-to-no budget films such as Class of Nuke Em High. Trashy, corny madness but like almost nothing else you would see. Cronenberg was back in ’86 with his own remake version of The Fly. This was a very significant and startling film. Of course coming from Cronenberg it was terrifying but intellectually challenging and stimulating while making want to puke a few times before the credits rolled. Henry: Portrait of a serial killer was banned in the UK quickly and with good reason really but it did stand out as a very different horror movie, as the film follows Henry almost from his point of view and has a number of challenging and unflinching scenes which question how we watch and why we watch horror films.

I have a number of possibly guilty pleasure from the 80’s horror movies and one of them is Maximum Overdrive, directed by horror author Stephen King. The plot is fairly bonkers nutty but it has a good mix of comedy and quick moving thrills and pulp horror.

A notable series personally was also the Poltergeist movies. The very young lead actress died tragically after the third film but these films each had a good strong script and repeatedly very good groundbreaking visual effects for the time.

1987 offered us Angel Heart from great Brit director Alan Parker- detective noir thriller with voodoo occult chills and Robert DeNiro as the devil, perfect. Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson put out his very first home made film Bad Taste, showing again like Sam Raimi with Evil Dead that literally anybody could made an original horror flick in their backyard if they had the desire and creativity. One of my own favourites Hellraiser came along from the amazingly talented playwright/author/artist/filmmaker Clive Barker of Liverpool UK. Influenced in ways by Hammer horror and Roger Corman’s Poe films, Hellraiser again really pushed special practical effects much further while featuring a number of very believable and captivating performances. The Lost Boys really took off in a big way, with the beautiful young male biker vampires and gothic rock soundtrack. Near Dark gave a fresh twist on how we might see vampires in modern times.

1988 brought to screens a memorable remake of The Blob, this time much more graphic with bloody horror and hysteria. We had the first Child’s Play movie and nasty foul-mouthed killer doll Chucky crawling up beside Freddy and Jason for attention. The Hellraiser sequel Hellbound was surprising as it actually moved on and progressed with the characters and opened up the world and themes of the original film even if it was badly edited toward the end of the film resulting in some confusion of plot. Ken Russell returned with another at times trippy and bizarre adaptation of Lair of the white worm, but we could always rely on him for that kind of thing. A second Phantasm movie attempted to compete with the increasingly OTT style of the Elmstreet and Friday the 13th sequels and it was entertaining for what it was. Wes Craven gave us a very underrated and unusual film called The Serpent and the Rainbow, which focused on Haiti voodoo zombies.

With the end of the decade we had Robert Englund (Freddy Krugger himself) directorial debut 976-Evil, which was unusual and a little camp but fun. The Church from Italy, looked fantastic but featured a fairly random plot toward the end mostly serving the many visual set pieces. The first Puppet Master film was actually very different and featured some really impressive effects work with the nasty little killer puppets. From Japan we had the massively insane and terrifying in a very different way Tetsuo:Iron Man film. This was a nightmare mash-up of David Lynch, Cronenberg , cyberpunk and science fiction.

So a number of the big popular horror series including A Nightmare on Elmstreet, Friday the 13th, Halloween continued on through the decade in varying levels of quality while their iconic killers and monsters became mainstream pop culture characters somewhat diminishing their original terrifying impact on the big screen. We can see thought that there were in-between the many cheap and disposable video nasty titles from around the world a good number of films which did push the limits of visual effects, horror storytelling and the style of horror through the 80’s.

 

James E. Parsons is a SF/Horror author. His first two SF books, Orbital Kin and Minerva Century are available from all good bookshops and sites now including Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, WHSmith. His first horror novel due to be published in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beloved British anthology comic 2000 AD has been published weekly since February 1977. The 40th Anniversary Special (22 February 2017) of “the galaxy’s greatest comic” features Judge Dredd, Zombo, Ro-Busters, Durham Red, Sláine, Nikolai Dante, and a 2000 AD 40th Anniversary Primer. Cover artwork by Carlos Ezquerra with a variant cover by David…

via COMIC REVIEW: 2000 AD 40th Anniversary Special — Geek Syndicate

Let’s be clear from the start: Stephen King’s book The Shining and Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining are two completely different animals. All further understanding and appreciation of either incarnation spawns from that fact. Yes, the source material for the film is the book, but it’s just that: source material that Kubrick used to mold…

via The Misunderstood Perfection of Shelley Duvall in Kubrick’s The Shining — This Is Horror