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.

 

 

Origin of another species? – Life movie 2017

Out now in cinemas we have the sci-fi movie LIFE. The time it really caught my attention was when I think I saw the trailer at a cinema a few weeks ago when I went to see X-Men spin-off LOGAN.

Suddenly this new sci-fi trailer hit the screens which I had not heard of until that moment (or at least it had not caught my attention in magazines or on the internet). It features a number of well known Hollywood actors including Ryan Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal. It looked pretty good, some very good effects of some kind of space exploration mission and some mysterious new lifeform sample taken begins to dangerously evolve or mutate and grow as they return to Earth.

Of course in this brief but exciting trailer the film did resemble the SF classic ALIEN -many similarities with the spaceship crew, the visual sets and direction and the ominous mysterious alien entity threatening them. This is not at all the first or last film to look like this or display the influence of the Ridley Scott/H R Giger sci-fi/horror franchise.

How many different kinds of hostile aliens can we ever expect to see in movies? It is possibly a sub-genre of science fiction, probably mostly in film. Sometimes it works (very well) and often it is repetitive and derivative. With this new film the alien threat seems quite formless which may represent a number of things.

In the past we have had the Species film series (almost like ALIEN, having a monster designed by the late H R Giger) which though good for the first movie, became mostly predictable and boring with the sequels. It was also to a fair extent playing for cheap titillation and soft nudity thrills with the always very glamorous naked female version of the alien monster. We previously saw this in the 1980’s in the Tobe Hooper sci-fi shlocker Lifeforce (and the alien sexy female was also some kind of space vampire…)

We can probably go as far back as Invasion of the body snatchers and John Carpenter’s The Thing to see the other close influences on LIFE. Either the alien threat captures humans and infects or impregnates them, or like the Species films take on their human form. So while this is no really new vision the return of this kind of hostile alien contact to cinema screens may represent our very current social fears of terrorism and attack from the unknown. We feel the constant threat (thanks to right-wing news media) and their form may take any number of shapes and appearances.

 

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

 

 

Shellshock future:Ghost in the Shell live- action in cinemas

We are now at the end of March 2017. We are not yet hooked up or linked into the internet or web biologically or with some fusion of human body and wires or cables. Broadband connection has not entered into our internal cerebral consciousness just yet.

Over twenty years have passed since the now classic anime film Ghost in the Shell hit cinema screen, adapted from the manga comic book. Although of course inspired by the cyberpunk novels from William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and films like Total Recall and Robocop, Ghost in the Shell is arguably responsible for inspiring The Matrix trilogy and much of modern science fiction cinema ever since.

A live-action movie adaptation of this cyberpunk thriller has been a contentious idea for so many years. This was an almost perfect animated film, which pushed the visual boundaries and techniques of the medium at the time. To make a version with real actors and sets would almost be like a huge insult to the creators of this classic film.

Also like much science fiction be it in film or books, some of it has dated with the passing of two decades. The basic concept remains fascinating but any kind of inspired remake would be different in a number of ways.

For so much time Ghost in the Shell has been an animated film along with the other anime modern classic AKIRA which so many hardcore fans would defend and protect at all cost before ever wishing ever considering a live-action  remake. The questions of which actors would or should be which characters, which director could successfully take on the challenge?

Those questions are redundant now. The live-action version of Ghost in the Shell hits cinemas this weekend in the UK. We finally had international superstar Scarlet Johansson cast in the lead role of Major alongside a mix of American and Asian actors. What does it mean that a modern classic anime/manga story enlists a hugely popular American actress for the lead over an actor who comes from where the actual story originated? There has been much debated about this issue in the last year or so since during the movie production. Some people genuinely outraged at the choice of Johansson, others more accepting of her. Was she chosen for her acting or her previous similar role as Black Widow in the Marvel films? Was she picked simply because she is arguably the most famous or popular female actor in the world currently?

Putting this issue to one side perhaps the other more interesting aspect of this live-action version of Ghost in the Shell comes with the original being decades old now. The original ideas and visuals of what might be futuristic technology used by police and state now do look in some ways unbelievable and outdated. We may not exist in what we thought of as virtual reality in the early or mid-90’s but we do now have very sophisticated smart phones and computers with touch screen wifi, broadband, almost every month or so we have new devices which merge how  we use and interact with technology and the internet. It makes sense that a 2017 version of Ghost in the Shell we look even more advanced and altered than the previous film. Now that we know the future vision offered to us in the original is not what we have, but we have lived with this cyberpunk vision for years now and many of us have a kind of affectionate nostalgia for it in a similar way to the steampunk phenomenon. With this in mind, Johansson has even suggested in one magazine interview recently that the world of Ghost… is possibly a parallel version of our future or present. This is handy for sidestepping how a futuristic vision has aged alongside real technological progression.

However the live-action adaptation will be view on the big screens, it is still just one of a number of films and shows which has come from the original and continually influential movie.

 

James E. Parsons is a SF/Horror author. His books Orbital Kin and Minerva Century are available from Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, WHSmith and all good bookshops as paperback, ebook and Hardback. His first horror novel will be published later 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

Class-Doctor Who spin off series 2016-short review

Are you a huge Whovian? Been watching Doctor Who for decades, years or only just begun recently? What do you like most about the show? Have you seen any of the spin-off related show from over the years such as Sarah Jane Adventures or K-9?

At the end of 2016 we were taken to a familiar school in the world of Who over the years, Coal Hill academy. While there was a break from the Doctor and his own adventures last year, this location and a group of teenage characters came along to keep us entertained.

CLASS does come from the same place as Doctor Who (and even features him at the end of the first episode) but it is quite a surprisingly different show. This may have shocked or actually upset a great many people judging from the very mixed response in the last couple of months since it first aired in the UK on BBC3.

The eight episode series does have a loose story thread but starts with individual tales. This episodes are similar to quite a few Who episodes but edge closer to other sci-fi films and tv shows such as The Twilight Zone, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, X-Files and more. The series had been aired late night on Mondays on BBC1 due to the gore, blood, violence and occasional swearing at times.

A good few loyal Doctor Who fans may have been very surprised, and I know some have just not been impressed or happy with it at all. Why is this? It is really so bad?

Since Doctor Who successfully returned long-term in the mid-00’s and has been on the small screen ever since, the show creators have taken some inspiration and chances with that success at times, with casting, scripts and other projects. One successful early spin-off show which quickly gained a big fanbase was Torchwood. It was connected to Who and came from there but had its own set of characters and stories goin on separately. People loved that show and especially the lead character Captain Jack Harkness and his golden age Hollywood style adventure hero antics and fascinating sexuality. That show though did largely stay in the same area where the whole family could watch it together, all ages.

This probably does not really apply with CLASS. Your very small kids should not see most of this. I mean, its not as excessive as any actual 15 or 18 rated horror films but it does almost get to that level, almost. Some fans therefore may feel this betrayed where it comes from and what it should be coming from the world of Doctor Who.

This isn’t the main issue that most people have had with the show. Usually reactions I’ve read or heard take aim of the low or clichéd quality of the scriptwriting. Some thought the characters were terrible, just really predictable. Others may have commented on the acting.

For me personally, I actually did enjoy the series for most of the time and like a couple of people I know, I think it probably did get better toward the end. Some thought the opposite was true.

Well look, they couldn’t just go and make another Torchwood (though the fans have been waiting for that show to return for years now) and in a way it is like seeing a more naughty, offensive and slightly subversive part of the Doctor Who show where the lead character goes missing and the cameras turn to others around him, but for eight episodes.

I’m over twice the age of the young characters but I could mostly still believe them and understand their lives, even if sometimes maybe too tragic.

Like Doctor Who over the last decade and more it is brave at times to include people and issues relating to our modern times- gay characters, people of ethnic minority background, other countries and not have them simply be ‘joke’ characters but the ones we connect with and invest our interest in. But really the best character is Ms. Quill, who comes from Doctor Who and she acts like he ever rarely does. She is regularly aloof, obnoxious, sarcastic, funny, bored, self-interested even nasty. So then of course this all makes her very watchable and entertaining all the way through. And like the present Doctor at least, she is not young-well, she is probably middle aged at a push. While most of the series looks at each individual young character and their issues while some random wild alien invasion takes place, toward the end Miss Quill is revealed as a very interesting character.

The series comes to a highly dramatic and possibly OTT ending but this does probably leave things open for the show to return. If that will happen is yet to be confirmed. I would like to see the series return and maybe some of the flaws in the scripts and writing could be smoothed out with it next time.

 

James E. Parsons is a SF/Horror author. His SF books Orbital Kin & Minerva Century are available now from Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, WHSmith, and other good bookshops. His first horror book is published later in 2017.

 

Flares and scares-1970’s Horror

We passed the ‘Summer of love’ but the long hair and flares were there with the prog rock and changes in filmmaking and what we could be scared by on the big screen. This period in time was during and through to the end of the Vietnam war and I believe this did have a strong effect on the films which came to us at this time. With indie film directors like Francis Ford Coppola and Dennis Hopper revolutionizing what could be a film and how it could be made, horror films soon followed in the same steps.

Over here in the UK we had the regularly successful Hammer studios still putting out their gothic flicks of macabre dread such as Countess Dracula but soon others would take things into our modern and urban homes.

Of course in 1968 George Romero gave us his first horror classic Night of the Living Dead which did seriously change horror films forever. Low budget, black and white, on the move. It seemed to feel like a live news television report almost. Even to watch it today that movie is very powerful in a number of ways.

So into the 1970’s we had Mario Bava and Jesus Franco overseas continuing with their arthouse styled horror and erotica suspense chillers but it would be Wes Craven with The Last House on the Left, The Exorcist and The Wicker Man in 1973, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974, David Cronenberg starting his run of body-horror movies with Shivers in 1975, Carrie, The Omen, To The Devil a Daughter from Hammer in 1976, in 77 Wes Craven and Cronenberg again along with Argento’s masterpiece Suspiria from Italy.

1978 was a big year when we had Romero return with the classic Dawn of the dead, but also Carpenter gave us the first Halloween. This was the one which I believe really got practically everything right on spot for a horror movie.

1979 gave us Ridley Scott’s ALIEN movie, science fiction melded into space horror. The Brood, Amityville Horror, Phantasm. There were many more in this decade but the films mentioned above each added something which made a focused change to what we were afraid of on screen and also said much about what we no longer feared.

It was this decade where the big studios were confused and afraid to take serious risks and indie filmmakers were getting serious with very creative physical special effects and props, shooting all kinds of almost radical and lurid scenes which none had dared do before. The fears of the president Nixon years and nuclear war were truly present and this was manifesting into cinema screens, even if at midnight showings. Film horror was no longer set centuries of decades in the past, in had reached the present and it was savage and on the loose.

 

James E Parsons is a SF/Horror author. His first horror novel is published later this year. His previous books Orbital Kin and Minerva Century are now available in all good bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Amazon.