We Are Still Here (2015)

One from the to watch pile…

We Are Still Here (2015)

Film: I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural. I don’t, which may be unusual for a fan of horror movies but because of this, a ‘ghostly’ horror movie has to be REAL good to either engage me or get a reaction from me. In general, the western output of these types of films, the ‘post-millennial ghost story’ if you will, hold very little interest to me. You know the ones: the Conjuring films, the Insidious films and their ilk, the ones that desperately try to emulate the j-horror movement of the late 90s/ early 2000s… the ones that try to put a fear of the supernatural into a generation that don’t believe in anything, and considering everything they do has to be filmed as proof, not even each other.

This film, We Are Still Here, feels very much like a film from another time and doesn’t seem to relate to those modern films at all. I imagine writer/ director Ted Georghegan, writer of Sweatshop and co-writer of Andrea Schnaas’ first English language film, Demonium, is much more a fan of of those earlier horror films as this feels like a European thriller, and maybe he does wear it a little more on his sleeve when you consider the scotch the characters are drinking is B&J Scotch, an obvious tribute to the J&B Scotch labels frequently seen in 60s and 70s giallo.

We Are Still Here tells of the Sacchetti family, Anne (Barbara Crampton) and husband Paul (Andrew Sensenig) who have moved to the country into a house that has been empty for 30 years, to escape the memories of their son who died in a car accident.

In the first two weeks they live in the house though, weird things start to happen. There’s an odd smell of smoke, the basement is always hot, and the townsfolk have a strange story regarding the history of the house and the original occupants.

Anne invites their son’s friend, Harry Lewis (Michael Patrick Nicolson) and his parents, May (Lisa Marie) and her husband, Jacob (Larry Fessenden) to visit, as May is a psychic and she may be able to contact what Anne thinks is the boys spirit… but May detects something darker, something that the town needs to feed once every 30 years….

If I’m totally honest, the thing that attracted me to this film was mainly Barbara Crampton, an actress I’ve adored since seeing her… a LOT of her… in my favourite film, Re-animator, and I’m willing to give anything she is in a go… well, except maybe for The Bold and the Beautiful.

This film was surprising in every way. The story was surprisingly good. The acting was great, the cast was a good mix, and the gore was totally unexpected. I won’t say I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it certainly is one of the better ghost stories I have seen in the past 20 years, but that may be due to the film deliberately being set in the late 70s/ early 80s.

Essentially it’s a pastiche of Fulci’s House by the Cemetery and A Nightmare on Elm Street that really works.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Bluray release which is presented in a perfect 2.35:1 image and a matchingDolby 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There is a bunch of trailers on this disc for other Áccent releases, such as Late Phases, Jug Face, In Their Skin and Static, as well as one for this film.

There is a short extra called We Are Still Here: Building A Haunted House which discusses the foundations of the story and making of the film.

There is also a commentary by Georghagen and Producer Travis Stevens which is interesting as it’s a proper ‘making of films’ type commentary.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: It was great, so yeah!

The Night Child (1975)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Night Child (1975)

Film: With the likes of Argento, Fulci, Leone and the various Bavas dominating the spotlight it would be easy to get your name lost to these far more well known Italian directors, but in amongst these is the name Massimo Dallamano. Dallamano started as a cinematographer in 1964 and worked on films like A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More, but was also an accomplished director in his own right, , as can be seen in films like 1969’s Le Malizie Di Emerge aka Venus in Furs (which he directed as ‘Max Dillman’), 1972’s Cosa Avete Fatto a Solange? aka What Have You Done To Solange? And this film, 1975;s Il Medaglione Insanguinato aka The Night Child.

The Night Child tells of recently widowered Michael Williams (played by Zombie Flesh Eaters’ Richard Johnson) and his daughter Emily (Italy’s first scream queen Nicoletta Elmi) who are to travel to Italy so Michael can film a documentary about the image of Satan in Art for the BBC. Emily, as one would expect, is extraordinarily disturbed by the death of her mother, and asks her father if he would mind if she could take a medallion from her mother’s belongings to wear as a keepsake.

Of course the old man doesn’t mind, and along with Emily’s nanny, Jill (Evelyne Stewert, aka Ida Galli from La Dolce Vita) they travel to Italy and meet up with the American producer of the documentary Joanna (Ghost of Mars’ Joanna Cassidy) and a local, Contessa Cappelli (Lila Kendrova from Polanski’s The Tenant), who knows all about a mysterious painting rumoured to have been painted by the devil himself.

Then, weirdness ensues.

Emily starts to have strange fantasies about a medieval girl being pursued by angry and fuck-ugly townsfolk, and the murders… that is, the ‘accidents’… start to happen…

My biggest problem with this film is it’s story. I have watched the film several times now and I am still not sure if it was the painting, the medallion, the girl, or all three are the cursed thing, and this ambiguity is hard for me to get over and therefore, spoilt any enjoyment I could had have of the film. I guess the clue that should straightedges out that curly one is the fact the film in Italian is called The Cursed Medallion but if you the film, I’m not sure that completely makes sense.

Don’t get me wrong, The Night Child is exquisitely shot, with some pretty good performances from a varied cast but the story was so flat, and the ending SUCH a downer (you know those ones where it seems like the writers wrote themselves into a corner?) that I just can’t give it any real credibility, because to this reviewer, the story is the most important part of a film.

So does Dallamano deserve to be amongst those big names of Italian cinema? Well, I believe he does, as like Mario Bava and Dario Argento, he sets scenes and shoots them so wonderfully that at times you just get caught up in the art of cinema itself.

Unfortunately the story here is just far too convoluted to be a good example of his storytelling, and The Night Child simply cannot complete with that competition.

On. Side note, redhead-o-philes will love this film as in addition to young Italian film legend Nicoletta Elmi who was in stuff like Demons and Bay of Blood, and American bombshell Joanna Cassidy, almost every female character is a redhead. Is there something Dallamano is trying to say, or was he just a fan of the red? Maybe there was a subtle I nod to the medieval idea that redheads were of the beast..

The Night Child feels like, it had several initial ideas, but instead of picking just one, the writer went with all of the , resulting in somewhat of a mess. It is a well-crafted and beautifully crafted mess, but still a mess. Really for Dallamano or Elmi or possession completists only.

Score: **

Format: Arrow’s DVD presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the image is sharp, colourful and generally a decent with only occasional film artefacts present. The audio is presented either in English mono, or Italian mono with English subtitles. It is a clear soundtrack, but you will notice what almost seems to be a vinyl record styled crackling here and there. Honestly I only noticed as I was listening for audio faults, and a casual viewer may not even notice it at all. The English track does occasionally play Italian with subtitles: for completion purposes, I suppose.

Score: ***

Extras: Exorcism – Italian Style is an interesting look at the post Rosemary’s Baby/ The Exorcist Italian rip-offs of possession films with interviews with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi, screenwriter Antonio Tentori and Italian film critic Paolo Zalati.

There is also an Italian and a US trailer. the Us trailer is particularly funny with the Last House on the Left tiff of ‘keep telling yourself, it’s only a child, it’s only a child…’

Included in this DVD release from Arrow films is a booklet featuring a detailed history of Dallamano’s work by High Rising Productions Callum Waddell, which is an interesting and thorough considering it’s only 5 odd pages of text.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: I don’t believe I need to revisit this yet again.

Sin City (2005)

One from the rewatch pile…

Sin City (2005)

Film: Before these wonderful days of comic to movie blockbusters, in general, comic movies were a curio at best, and the entire history of comics to movies is littered with some absolute crap, and occasional highlights. Prior to the release of Sin City, the highs had been things like Sam Raimi’s Spiderman films, Richard Donner’s Superman and Tim Burton’s Batman, and there had been lows, like Albert Pyun’s Captain America. It used to be that to have a successful comic movie you had to satisfy the comic fans, which the more recent Marvel films have changed, by turning almost everyone into a comic film fan, but by staying true to the character or the aesthetic of a film, you could have a winner… and director Robert Rodriguez is well aware of that.

He also knows that comic creator Frank Miller, the mind behind the world of Sin City, has been through the Hollywood machine, and did not enjoy it. Rodriguez did not want to do this movie without Frank Miller on board, and so pursued Miller, including making a short film called ‘The Customer is Always Right’ to convince him that the look of the comic could be done. Using the actual graphic novels as script and storyboards, the duo created a movie that is literally every comic panel come alive, albeit with a few small trims. Every angle, every effect is all done exactly to the comic’s specifications, which, at first may not seem that spectacular, but when you consider it is a black and white comic, with an occasional splash of color, it is incredible. The monochromic look was achieved by having all performances done in front of a green screen, with the backgrounds added later. This way, Rodriguez’s digital prowess could accurately create the unique look which is exactly what something based on Millar’s vision required.

One thing that I will point out that Rodriguez did here that pretty much NO other filmmaker has done when adapting a comic is keeping accurate to the source material. It seems every Hollywood director and writer and designer needs to put THEIR own stamp on the films they make, but here, Rodriguez realised the source material was solid, and didn’t need to have his personality and ideas littering it up like the Marvel and DC films have had. There was a few colour choices that were made but they were more to define comics ideas that don’t work outside of the pages of a graphic novel.

Also, in the comics, Nancy’s dance sequences were all topless, but either Jessica Alba didn’t want to do it or they wanted to avoid a higher rating, her boobs are covered.

Just as a quick side note, Miller is a big fan of the work of Will Eisner, specifically the character The Spirit, a character he himself made a… well, not very good film of, and the noirish, city-as-a-character theme plays highly in his stories.i like Miller’s writing, but his art style usually isn’t my bag, like his sketchy style used in`his 80s run of Daredevil, The Dark Knight Returns and 300, but I loved his treatment of chiaroscuro in his Sin City books, originally published by Dark Horse under their ‘Legend’ imprint, which is also where Hellboy came from.

The story is about Sin City…a town of roughnecks, hookers, maniacs and corrupt cops. Follow stories of Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Marv (Mickey Rourke) and Dwight (Clive Owen) as they cut violent paths of collateral damage through the denizens of the town to achieve their goals.

This edition of the Australian Bluray of the films comes with 2 versions of the film… well, kinda-sorta. The individual tales that are mixed up within the movie have been recut and watched as four separate mini-features… like novellas… titled That Yellow Bastard, The Customer is Always Right, The Hard Goodbye and The Big Fat Kill. It’s a cool and interesting way to split up the stories.

Featuring a massive ensemble cast of movie stars, including Rutgers Hauer, Rosario Dawson, Nick Stahl, Jessica Alba, Benicia Del Toro and many others… including Frank Miller himself, and an entire scene directed by Quentin Tarantino!

Welcome to Sin City: don’t forget to buckle up!

Score: ****

Format: This film is presented in a stunning 1.85:1 image with a matching Dolby digital 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a pretty cool bunch of extra in this package.

Disc one has the main release of the film on it, but in addition, a branching version of the film where special effects details can be seen whilst watching the film, and there are three commentary tracks, the first is with Rodriguez and. Idler, the second is with Rodriguez and Tarantino and the final one has the audience reaction to the film at an early screening. The two commentaries are fascinating and each cover different sides of the making of films in general.

Kill ‘Em Good: Interactive Comic Book which is essential a pretty cheap, Bluray based video game similar to something like Dragon’s Lair where being quick with the buttons is the way to win.

How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller to Make the Film looks at what Rodriguez did to convince Miller to allow him to make the film.

Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino looks at the relationship between Tarantino and Rodriguez and how they came to work together in this project.

Hard Top with a Decent Engine: the Cars of Sin City has us see the amazing vehicles used for the citizens of Sin City to drive. Car fans would love this.

Booze, Braids and Guns: The Props of Sin City looks at the cool amount of props collected for the film and the dedication to getting comic accuracy.

Making the Monsters: The Special Effects Make Uo is always my favourite part of any ‘extras’ section of a film, and this didn’t disappoint, especially considering most of it was done by Greg Nicotero of The Walking Dead.

Trench Coats and Fishnets: The Costumes of Sin City looks at the outfits and costume design of the film.

There’s also a teaser and a trail for the film… and then we get into the real fun part: The Rodriguez Special Features, which include:

15 Minute Flic School is an occasional series where Rodriguez shows tricks of the filmmaking trade.

The All Green Screen version is the entire film all played without any off the special effects, sped up about 800 times and it’s interesting what they were able to accomplish!

The Long Take looks at the way Quentin Tarantino directed Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro in the scene he filmed and because it was shot on digital they could continuously shoot so you see al the direction and discussion.

Sin City: Live in Concert is footage from a concert with Bruce Willis and the Accelerators, and Rodriguez’s band Chingon.

10 Minute Cooking School is another staple/ irregular series that Rodriguez does, this time its the recipe for Sin City Breakfast Tacos!

Score: *****

WISIA: One of the best comic to film productions ever, AND a kick ass gangster film in its own right. You’ll watch it agin and again and again.

Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box

One from the reread pile…

Potable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box (2009)

It has been said that I live in the past. That my obsession with my childhood comic heroes, eighties pop music on vinyl and my persistent purchase of physical media shows a lack of an ability to move forward, and an inability to grow up…

… but enough about my wife’s opinions of me…

I have to say though that I agree with her 100%: I love nostalgia. I am easily swayed by a bad movie if it has a character or situation that reminds me of my younger days. In other words, I am the guy who likes Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the ‘new’ Star Wars films (ok, NOT The Last Jedi) and George Romero’s new Dead trilogy, and most of my book purchases are based around older collections of comics, or books about films of the era I enjoy the most… which is why I purchased a copy of Jacques Boyreau’s Portable Grindhouse: The Last Art of the VHS Box.

Immediately, before I go into the contents of the book, I must state my utter admiration for its design. Remember those old cardboard video boxes that sell-through video cassettes came in? My movie collection actually started with a copy of Bloodbath at the House of Death, and I cherished that cardboard boxed cassette until I watched it so many times I completely wore the bastard out. This book actually comes packaged in a slightly larger version of one of those boxes, and for those of us who haven’t seen one in a while, you will be wiped out by the wave of reminiscence that will wash over you.

So why is this book designed in such a fashion? Well, as the name may suggest it is a celebration of the VHS box, and its artwork, which was occasionally (usually?) of dubious quality. The introduction gives us both a look at the author’s discovery of the VHS, and then goes into the history of the format, and why so many people still love it.

The body of the book is a joy to behold: each double page features a look at the front and spine of a video box on one page (in a ¾ view), and a close up of the back, which gives either a synopsis of the film, or a look at other films released by the same company. For those of VHS age, or new collectors of the format, the distribution names will be familiar: All Seasons Entertainment, Media, Trans World Entertainment… the list goes on.

The films celebrated are mainly genre stuff, like My Bloody Valentine, Stunt Rock and The Toolbox Murders, and some more obscure titles like The Porno Killer, Midnight Intruders and Alien Massacre. There’s some non genre stuff as well, all weird in their own way, like Roger Raglin Best Kept Secrets (a video bow-hunting manual), Gary Coleman: For Safety’s Sake (a guide to being safe in your home, hosted by Gary Coleman, with his assistants Jack and Jill Example, and Nurse Helpquick) and Barbie and the Rockers: Out of this World (an animated feature which steals directly from Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.

This book is the paper version of those trailer park Bluray and dvds you can get, like Umbrella’s Drive-In Delirium collections. It’s not essential for you collection, but you will find yourself revisiting it often, and show anyone from older movie fans who remember VHS days, to modern day VHS collectors.

One with this book is it feels as though the spine of the book could crack if it’s not treated with kid gloves: no opening this up on table for this book. I really dig this book, but the packaging I admire is also detrimental to its longevity. DO NOT lend this to a book abuser!

This time is published by Fantagraphics Books, a company of whom I am a great fan as they have published some amazing comic collections in the past. Whilst this may not be the be-all and end-all of VHS cover collections, it is a wonderful look at the box art of yesteryear. Boyreau has several other books of a similar theme, including Trash: The Graphic Genius of Xploitation Movie Posters.

This is a great book, though maybe being light on text is detrimental to it being one you would revisit regularly.

Score: ***

Slender Man (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The Slender Man (2018)

Film: One of the things I love about DVD and Bluray covers, are the blurbs lifted from reviews to and add hype to a movie’s home video release. This blurb is also a poker-styled ‘tell’ of what reviewers I can trust, and those I can’t. This film, Slender Man, has a comment by a fellow human that this film is ‘Scary, chilling and thrilling’.

Sure, a provocative note like this could inspire people to buy the home video release, but what eventually happens is the viewer realises that the reviewer quoted may have been misquoted or has NEVER seen another film in their life, and possibly spent their entire life in a movie and TV-less existence.

Slender Man is based on the supernatural character created as a meme by Victor Surge, aka Eric Knudsen in 2009, which spawned video games, YouTube videos, influenced Minecraft with its ‘Enderman’ character and tragically, resulted in some real-life violence. The character has also appeared in all sorts of other media, from My Little Pony to Big Mouth.

It would appear that the makers of this film like nothing more that jumping into a phase that pop culture was going through far too late, and 2018 gave us this movie, Slender Man, written by David Birke (13 Sins, Gacy) and directed by Sylvain White, who also directed comic-book movie, The Losers, and the sequel I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer.

The story follows four teenage girls, Wren (Joey King), Hallie (Julie Goldani Telles), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair and Katie (Annalise Basso) who decide one night to do some research into an urban legend known as ‘Slender Man’. Eventually they find a video that claims that after you’ve watched it, and heard the three bells, the Slender Man will come for you.

Of course, the girls watch it and within a day, Katie goes missing, but what happened to her? The other girls start an investigation into where she went, but slowly they discover that the creature is pursuing them, and the friendship begins to fall apart…

One thing you’ll immediately notice from that synopsis is the blatant rip-off… I’m sorry, ‘homage’… of the film The Ring, with a peppering of Candyman sprinkled over the top. These sorts of things happen in horror all the time, and in actual fact the entire genre is built upon ‘borrowing’ good ideas and this is not the main problem with the film.

White’s direction of most of the action is pretty good itself, but it didn’t need to be so dark.

No, the main problem with the film is the casting. Outside of the cast of the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, I don’t think I’ve ever been presented with such a bunch of unlikable characters in my life. I’m not sure if it was White’s intention to present these kids as bored and disinterested, but they barely seem concerned for either their own or their friend’s wellbeing, which of course makes it impossible for the viewer to give a flying fandango as to whether they survive or not. This of course is a major issue because if you don’t care for the protagonist, you have no investment in the film.

…and honestly, I wish NO ONE had invested in this film.

I really can’t stress enough how much one should avoid this film. I own a lawn vacuum that doesn’t suck and blow as much as this film does.

Score: 1/2

Format: I found the image of this film to be SO dark that it can ONLY be watched in a room that has absolutely NO light source coming from anywhere at all, and had to adjust the contract a little even to watch it at night. The film is apparently presented in 2.39:1 image, but you can hardly tell. The audio is really good though and is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1.

Score: ***

Extras: The disc opens with a trailer for Insidious: The Last Key, which is perfect for this film as it also, is made for mainstream kids, boring as batshit, by the numbers horror. This trailer is also accessible from the Extras menu… if for some reason you felt the need to watch it again.

The only other extra is called Summoning Slender Man: Meet the Cast is exactly what the title would suggest. It’s interviews with the young cast and the director as they desperately try to sell a turd and pretend it’s a piece of gold.

Score: *

WISIA: Nope.

Book Review: Ad Nauseam by Michael Gingold

One from the to read pile…

Ad Nauseam by Michael Gingold

Book: I think I’ve always hoarded… I mean, ‘collected’ horror stuff. As a kid in the 70s I had toys and collected Famous Monsters Of Filmland, which graduated into Fangoria (and its many competitors like Samhain, Horrorfan, Fear and their ilk) and towards the end of that decade, VHS tapes, which became DVD and Bluray, and video games, and records, and comics…

…gawd, my collecting is exhausting!

One thing that is always nice to see though is that there is others like you and it would appear that Michael Gingold is cast of a similar die to me. Gingold is a well known staple of the horror movie fandom, being a former editor in chief of the aforementioned Fangoria, he’s written, starred in, directed and produced movies, and has written several books, such as The Frightfest Guide to Monster Movies and this book Ad Nauseam.

The basic idea of this book is to show the reader the newspaper advertisements for horror movies of the 80s, but I’ll come back to that. The source of these clippings is a young Gingold’s obsession with cutting adverts from newspapers and collecting them, a story he tells in the book’s Introduction, and I admit to understanding that completely because as a kid I collected every single Star Wars clip from the newspapers so I could scrapbook my own Star Wars comics. Gingold’s obsession has resulted in a beautiful book documenting, quite specifically, the advertising campaigns used in New York City, and some other places when the newspaper strike occurred, for horror films during the 80s.

After an introduction by Gingold, the book is broken down year-by-year with an amazing collection of amazing ads, and a sidebar which introduces the films the ads represent, and a selection of some scathing and sometimes witty reviews from the ‘film review’ section of those papers.

I really need to up my nastiness game in movie reviews to match the levels that these people reach! They are most certainly, the Super Saiyan’s of bitchiness!

The final part of this book is a section called ‘The Art of the Sell’ which features and interview with Terry Levene, the president of genre movie based distributor Aquarius Releasing, the man who spearheaded so many of the genre films presented in this book’s advertising campaigns, including art, tag lines and even the subtlety of changing European director’ s names from this like ‘Lucio Fulci’ to an easier to digest (for the perhaps more prejudiced times of the 80s) ‘Louis Fuller’.

This gentlemen seems to be like a Roger Corman styled version of an advertising executive, and much like Roger Colman’s ‘boobs are the best special effects, Levene claims ‘ you’ve got to have blood, action, gore and above all, women!’

I honestly, as a massive fan of 80s horror, can’t express just how amazing and interesting this book is, though I must say that the subject matter being ‘New York City newspaper advertisements of the horror films of the 80s’, which is an incredibly small focus and probably not entirely for everyone. Rue Morgue magazine has presented the book beautifully and it was presented in a manner which was perfect on the eye.

Score: ****

The 33D Invader (2011)

One from the rewatch pile…

The 33D Invader (2011)

Film:

I just love watching international films. Sure the whole ‘subtitles’ thing may turn many people off, but the fact that we are able to watch films that aren’t restricted by Hollywood, and therefore, English cinematic conventions, is a great thing for film fans. To me, the greatest continent for a variety of genre films is Asia, with the highlights probably being Bollywood, Hong Kong action and J-horror.

This film, Mi Tao Cheng Shu Shi 33D aka The 33D Invader isn’t typical of the output we’ve previously seen from the above countries. Believe it or not, it is a mix of 80s teen sex comedy, Weird Science, The Terminator and Species (and maybe a bit of a My Stepmother is an Alien). Figure that out! The film was directed by Cash Chin, who also gave us bawdy romps like Sex and Zen II, and was written by Sean Chan, who thankfully, seems to have had nothing else he has written produced.

This totally bizarre film goes like this: in 2046, an alien race known as Xucker, through their attacks on Earth and the resulting radiation, have reduced male fertility by 99%, and so the human race is dying out. A girl named Future (Macy Wu) has been sent back in time to 2011 in order to collect ‘good’ sperm to repopulate the human race, but somehow the Xucker learn of this plan, and have also sent their best operatives, known cleverly as Xucker Number 1 (Kato Takako) and Xucker Number 2 (Hsueh Ya-Wen) to stop her.

Unfortunately, Future’s trip back through time lands her in an apartment complex populated by a bunch of bumbling and horny university students and their female, mostly promiscuous, neighbors, who whilst apparently on a study vacation, are doing anything but study. Will Future collect some decent sperm to re-populate the Earth, and will we bear witness to many scenes of naked Asian hotties while she attempts to succeed in her mission?

Let’s hope so!!

This was one of the most schizophrenic films I have ever seen. The soft-core sex scenes are filmed like they are aimed at aficionados of high-class VHS erotica with delicate lighting and soft sexy music, but the low-brow comedy is abrasive and attempts a Farelly Brothers styled grossness, highlights (or lowlights) being penis-eating, and ejaculating on a teacher in class.

This scatter-shot approach is unfortunately The 33D Invader’s biggest undoing, as it’s too explicit for a younger audience who might appreciate the sophomoric and lowbrow (and mostly inappropriate) humour, but adults won’t. If the sex had been played for laughs, which admittedly it attempts occasionally and unsuccessfully or if the entire thing had been played as a straight sci-fi flick with occasional gag as and nudity, it might have felt more complete, but the extremes, in particular the casual attitude towards rape,( which felt completely out of place amongst the infantile humour) are too far apart for it to be truly successful.

Score: **

Format: Madman’s 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is sharp enough and serves the films vivid colour scheme well. Audio is available either in the original Cantonese in Dolby Digital 5.1 or a ‘andarin dub in DTs 5.1. Considering this IS little more than a soft-core, 80s styled sex comedy, the sound is as active as you would expect. English titles are also also provided and they are a source of accidental humour as they are occasionally nonsensical.

Score: **1/2

Extras: Not much in the extras department, I am afraid. Just trailers for this film. the Raid, Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstacy, The Forbidden Legend: Sex and Chopsticks and Big Tits Zombie 3D.

Score: **

WISIA: I’ve watched it twice, that’s once too much.

First Impressions: World War Z Video Game

First impressions: World War Z on Xbox One

If there is one way to get me to play a video game, it’s throw zombies at it… well, except for Call of Duty, which is weird as it am a huge CoD fan, but not of the ‘Zombies’ part of the gameplay. Now I’ve played a fair few zombie games like Dead Rising, Dead Island, State of Decay, Zombie Army Trilogy and heaps of other games of their ilk, so,a new zombie game will always pique my interest.

Now to say I was surprised that a video had been made of World War Z, and film that is 6 years old who was based on the novel by Max Brooks from 7 years prior to that is underestimating my reaction to discovering this game.

Of course, the story (and rather than go through the intricacies of the novel or the film’s plot I’ll give a rough outline that sounds familiar) is that a virus has infected the human race that turns those infected into a zombie that moves quite fast and will do anything to continue spreading the infection… which leads to some pretty ridiculous scenes in the film of these zombies stacking on top of each other in a fervour… but the zombies won’t attack anyone who is resistant to the virus, leading adventure in this world to be finding a cure.

You know, usual zombie stuff.

This game is made for an online experience but so far I have not been able to get a game online and none of my friends play so I haven’t been able to convince any of them to get it, even though it has a budget price point of $50 (in Australia on release). Subsequently I have been playing this game offline in a local environment with bots playing as my three compatriots. This is a third-person view game and the character archetypes are all interesting and relevant to the environment they exist in ie the New York levels have a bunch of ‘New York’ looking characters, whereas the Israel levels have a more military feel. Each of these characters also have a backstory to see once you have finished any level with each of them.

Basically the game is a grinder: you have to get from Place A to Objective B, killing as many zombies as you possibly can (which swarm like bees) and once you get to B, the NPC there will say ‘we can’t do this until you do that’ which you do and then it moves onto the next level. There is a basic levelling up schedule which increases your weapon strengths and types and your character is prepared for bigger zombies like ‘screamers’ who call more zombies to your locations, and a big bruiser type who just grab and smash you.

The various locations you can play in are awesome, giving you a mixture of environments. The street/ urban look of New York, the older looking building landscape of Moscow, the more suburban/ rural environments of Israel and finally, Tokyo, it its outer lying city environments.

The missions do have a bit of variety, but it’s not SO much different than what I mentioned previously. Actually the look and the gameplay, and even the leveling up system reminds me a little of The Division… if it had a zombie mode.

All in all, my first impressions of this game are that it’s ok, not great, but a fun distraction which I am sure would be enhanced by the more online gameplay. I don’t imagine it has too much longevity though except for those who truly are a slave to the grind.

The Commuter (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The Commuter (2018)

Film: Now and again, I am more than happy to watch a generic, by-the-numbers thriller. Something that doesn’t tax the brain but can provide a generic amount of thrills to keep me interested.

You know the score already, it’s that post-Speed plot that is used, and used, and used in every quick buck, single location, Liam Neeson starring film. There’s a secret something that our hero has to has to uncover before insert-the-vehicle-here stops finally at its destination. I’m not criticising the plot, but it’s nothing original.

The film was directed by The Orphan’s Jaume Collet-Serra, who has a really interesting eye for some sequences, with a story by Ryan Engle (writer of Non-Stop and kind of proving my point), Brian Willinger and Phillip de Blasi.

Our film opens the daily life of ex-cop Michael MacCauley (surprise! Liam Neeson), now an insurance sales person who on this particular day is going to have a vastly different day to all those other ones.

Today, Michael has been sacked from his job and has been manipulated to be on a particular train at a particular time, and he finds himself sitting opposite Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who claims to be interested in the human condition and discusses some psychology with him that involves hypothetical proposition that actually ends up being a real proposition: find someone on a train, drop a GPS tracker in their bag and receive $100,000. The problem is that no-one knows what the person looks like, only that they are carrying a bag, and are getting off at a particular stop.

Being desperate, Michael accepts the ‘job’ and the investigation begins, but as you expect, he can’t ask for outside help and definitely can’t report it to the police, which he does, to his ex-partner, Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson), he realised that he is being constantly watched, and all of the sudden, Michael realises he’s in total jeopardy, and can barely trust anyone, except maybe the other regular commuters he sees every day.

Sure enough, the stakes get higher as Michael threatens to refuse to play…

The film cleverly shows the boredom and regimen of the daily commute, and how boring and repetitive those of us who have a ‘joe’ job exist from day to day, and the almost Michel Gendry way of showing the slightly differing repetition was disturbingly familiar. This, of course, juxtaposes itself brilliantly with just how screwed up Michael’s day becomes.

The only real problem I had with the story, other than it being a very familiar basic plot, is the solution to Neeson’s conundrum is actually fairly clearly shown in the early parts of the film and is quite clearly telegraphed, to the point his inability to work it out… and then miraculously figure it out make it quite frustrating, especially considering he used to be a police officer!

There’s some pretty cool big parts played by big names too, and Sam Neill as a New York police captain came as a big surprise. Also, keep an eye out for Black Panther’s Shuri, aka Letitia Wright, in a tiny bit part.

All in all a well made film with some action movie favourites in cast and stunts which all make for an easy 100 odd minute distraction. Nothing new, and you’ll forget about it in a week like that other action film… you know the one: what’s it called again?

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian region B Bluray which was presented in a perfect 2.39:1 image with a matching 7.1 Dolby Atmos surround audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a only couple of extras on this disc. One is an interview with Liam Neeson and the other a tiny barely two minute piece about the making of the film.

Score: **

WISIA: As these film are so cookie cutter and generic, it is easy to watch, and probably easy to rewatch. The cast are likeable as well so that heads me towards a rewatch too.

Creepy presents Steve Ditko

One from the reread pile…

Creepy Presents Steve Ditko (2013)

Many people in the comics industry have the word ‘legend’ attached to their names, but very few actually deserve it. Steve Ditko is certainly one of the names that DOES deserve it! He had an innovative drawing style that cemented the look for popular comic character like Spider-Man and Doctor Strange and gave us some wacky DC characters like Hawk and Dove, Shade the Changing Man and that’s not to mention his Charlton Comics output such as Captain Atom and The Question, of which the super heroic archetypes were used by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons when creation the groundbreaking Watchmen maxi series.

Ditko’s style though was really in tune with the macabre and the weird, so in the late sixties, after leaving Marvel Comics due to creative differences with Spider-man scripter Stan Lee, Ditko teamed up with Archie Goodwin at Warren Publishing, where he illustrated 16 tales for the horror comic magazines Creepy and Eerie. Even though the mighty Warren no longer exists, Dark Horse comics have managed to collect an amazing hardcover book with all these stories bound within.

And they are spectacular!

Whereas his previous comic work was strictly pencils and inks, the black and white magazine format really gave him an opportunity to expand his artwork in different ways, and a lot of this work is done in delicate ink washes which give his images a sense of depth not really seen previously.

The stories appeared in Creepy from issues 9 to 16 (the last one being the only story not written by Goodwin and instead penned by Clark Dimond and Terry Bisson) and Eerie issues 3 to 10, and mainly consist of horror stories of the Twilight Zone type, with a twist ‘shock’ ending. Those that weren’t horror though were fantasy tales in the form of Conan type warriors fighting magicians and the monsters held in their thrall.

The book itself opens with a foreword by Mark Evanier, writer of the book Kirby: King of Comics, who expands on what I stated about Ditko above, but really breaks down what made his art so special and unique. Men like Ditko and Jim Steranko and the mighty Jack Kirby weren’t forced to draw in a ‘company manner’ like those of today ( look at DC’s New 52: everyone is trying to draw like Jim Lee!) and individual styles were really embraced by the comics community.

Dark Horse has REaLLY outdone themselves with the book’s presentation as well. It’s an extraordinarily classy black square-bound book with a coloured piece of Ditko’s interior art, from the story Second Chance, which shows a typical Ditko character ‘trapped in an alternate universe being threatened by hordes of demons in a forest of human flesh and webbing’. Otherwise known as your average run-of-The-mill limbo stuff.

What particularly impressed me though in the presentation was the design of Dark Horse’s masthead for the book. You would assume that a book with this title would have the word ‘Creepy’ prominent, but instead it’s the artist name made to stand out!

Horror comics fans NEED this in their collection! It’s such a wonderful example of the work Ditko would do when he was really allowed to be let loose, and Creepy, being a magazine, wasn’t held down by the Comics Code Authority! It’s also a great time capsule of the type of horror comics we’re doing at the time, and of Archie Godwin’s skill in weaving masterful tales of the macabre.

Score: ****