The Super Nintendo Mini for Horror Fans!

So today I grabbed one of these beauties:


The Super Nintendo Mini! I preordered it several weeks ago, actually upon announcement, as this was my favourite video game system of all time.


I’ve only hooked it up to a little Sonic TV and I’ve played almost all of the 21 games, I leave the RPGs to a later date, but the unit is cute, about ten cm square and 5 or 6 cm high, but the controllers feel like they are the same size as the old ones. I bought it so I could play Super Mario and Mario Kart again, but was thrilled to find that a couple of frustrating old favs in the horror/ science fiction genre have made it on as well.


The awesome sideways scrolling…. actually, these three all are…. beat em up/ shoot em up Castlevania IV where you are making your way through a map slowly taking on harder and harder villains and obstacles.


Next is Super Ghouls and Ghosts:


Super Ghouls n Ghosts was a classic arcade game and it’s still fun and frustrating and features a brave knight in a fight against zombies, werewolves and other supernatural beasties.


Last but not least was the game Contra III: The Alien Wars


Contra III is another similar style of game but can be for two players simultaneously as two tough guys are up against an alien invasion.

So what did I think of the unit? Well, I’m not a retro gamer in the slightest and even though I appreciate the look back at the past and the fun that I had with these games, especially things like Starfox and Street Fighter in addition to the ones I mentioned above, but I’d rather super cool, realistic graphics and online connectivity with my gaming. Sure this was fun, but we certainly live in a better time for gaming now!

It’s a fun distraction, but I don’t see myself playing it for a great deal of time.

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An Awful Week for Horror Fans

There is no doubt this week has been an epic bummer.

First, we lose comic writer/ creator Len Wein:

Len Wein


Wein delivered many awesome comics and created two super-important characters in Marvel’s Wolverine and DC’s Swamp Thing, and could regularly be seen on extras to many movies discussing various subjects as his knowledge of the history of comics was quite extensive.

Swamp Thing


Next, and for me this was one that really stung, we lost artist Basil Gogos. 

Basil Gogos


One of the reasons I love to draw monsters is from growing up with Gogos’ garishly coloured and totally amazing covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland. His capacity to add an amazing depth of varied colour to portraits of characters who only have photographs in black and white was amazing!

Basil Gogo’s portrait of Frankstein


Finally we get news today that cinematic legend Harry Dean Stanton has left us!

Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien.


I was first introduced to Stanton when I first read the photo novel of Alien which I received before I got to see the film, but over the course of his career I enjoyed seeing him in things like Repo Man and The Green Mile, and even got a small shiver of excitement when he cameoed in things like The Avengers.

The To Watch Pile would like to forward our condolences to the respective families of our departed idols.

Life (2017) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Life (2017)

Australian Bluray cover


Film: Have you ever seen a trailer for a film and had it cause a horrible disorder called UERS also known as Unstoppable Eye Roll Disorder? For me, when I first saw the trailer for Life I thought, ‘wow, they have remade but not name-checked Alien’, which seemed to me to be a pretty brave thing to do, after all, Alien is a scifi/ horror film that is still relevant, and still resonates almost 40 years later!

Upon watching the film, however, I realised that yes, it is similar to Alien in two ways: one, that it takes place in space, and two, that an alien life form is at fault, but essentially this is another version of the Agatha Christie/ Ten Little Indians film (with people being picked off one by one) that has been done hundreds of times in the horror genre, and you can namecheck many giallo and slashers that use them. 

The difference with this was that this film adds in the threat of being in space, such as the film Gravity did. Sure, Alien had that same threat, but rarely were you reminded that the whole thing took place in space. It was about the isolation but that isolation could have been anywhere, and until the end and Ripley gets to the escape pod, you aren’t really reminded regularly about this taking place in space. Life constantly reminds you of its external environment, with large windows showing the external views of the space station in which the film takes place, and that exterior is both a threat and a weapon.

Anyway, what is the film about?

Well, a very exciting experiment is coming to an end on the International Space Station (ISS): a probe that has visited Mars has returned with a sample from the surface, and that sample contains the first evidence ever of life from another planet. 

Ryan Reynolds loses this Deadpool.


This single cell organism, nicknamed ‘Calvin’, evolves and grows at a typically science fiction rate, and when it is probed by Derry (Ariyon Bakare) it freaks out and attacks him, and sure enough starts its way through the rest of the crew (played by Ryan Reynolds, Olga Dihovichnaya), Hiroyuki Sanada, Rebecca Ferguson and Jake Gyllenhaal).

It’s aggressiveness, both in evolution and attitude, would suggest that it should be kept of the earth, but how can the crew survive both the creature, and the oppressive nature of space…

The first thing I have to point out this film space-based environment is utterly convincing. This is not just due to the special effects and the practical effects, but also due to the cast’s performance. The constant motion they go through, even when ‘sitting’ together at a table is a clever acting mechanic to make sure we are aware that this all takes place on a space station. Honestly, it’s quite possibly the first film I’ve seen where no main character talks a single step, which makes for another great point insomuch as one of the characters is a paraplegic, but in space, it doesn’t matter as legs aren’t required to me mobile.

Jake Gyllenhaal abandoned is human suit for a space suit.


The tragedy of the film is Calvin isn’t realised as well. Sure it is difficult to do these kind of constantly evolving creature, but occasionally it looks flat: that doesn’t take you completely out of the film, and doesn’t effect the ultimately devastating ending, but my right eye would occasionally close in disappointment.

Another thing with Calvin is that he seems to work out things very quickly: whilst I appreciate the story needs to travel along at a clip, occasionally I did think that ‘instinct’ was replaced with ‘convenient, highly intelligent thought’ and this is my only real criticism of the film.

One thing I really did like though was a really spectacular directorial sleight-of-hand which did actually fool me, and generally I’m pretty savvy!

Life is a well executed film that echoes what has come before it without completely copying it, and has some great acting and cool effects.

Score: ***1/2

Life Australian Bluray menu screen


Format: This review was performed on the multi-region Australian release bluray of the film. It runs for approximately 104 minutes and is presented in an impeccable 2.39:1 image with an amazing DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: A bunch of extras appear on this disc:

Deleted scenes sees 6 deleted scenes that really weren’t necessary to the flow of the film and aren’t missed, though the ‘Tang’ scene shows the crew’s disappointment as to not being able to go home after the discover of the lifeform could have still slipped in.

Life: In Zero G shows how the effect of the cast being in ‘zero gravity’ for the film and how the casts acting skills, the stunt team and special effects crew achieved it.

Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin looks at the research that had gone into creating Calvin as a scientifically convincing creature, and the special effects execution of that.

Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space looks at the director’s objective on making a science fiction film that feels like it could be real.

Astronaut Diaries is a series of interstitials of the cast in character talking directly to the camera.  

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s a good movie with some great performances, but I can’t see myself revisiting it frequently, if at all.

Baby Calvin: he ain’t no Baby Groot!

R.I.P. John Hurt

This one really burns me.

It is with great regret that I report the passing of actor John Hurt, aged 77.

hurt-1

Hurt was in many film that were favourites of mine, including Alien and the Elephant Man, not to mention the role of Olivander in the Harry Potter series.

hurt-2

Most recently he played one of the Doctor’s non-Doctor incarnations in the TV series Doctor Who, my favourite TV show of all time.

hurt-3

The To Watch Pile would like to pass on their condolences to his family. Cinema lost a great one today.

Contamination (1980) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Contamination (1980)

Arrow Video’s Contamination Bluray


Film: Italian horror is totally my jam. Even though Re-animator is my favourite horror film, I can’t resist a good… or a bad Italian horror, fantasy or scifi film. They are sometimes nonsensical, sometimes brilliant, but always totally entertaining.

This film was written and directed by Luigi Cozzi, also known for Starcrash and one of my favourite films The Killer Must Kill Again, but here under the alias ‘Lewis Coates’. It has a super score by my favourite band Goblin, and really feels of it’s time, especially if you are an Italian horror film regular.

Contamination: Louise Marleau as Col. Stella Holmes


A freighter arrives in New York with a dead crew and a cargo of boxes of coffee from South America which actually contain some kind of egg which explodes if under any kind of heat, infecting those who are exposed to its bacteria, which then causes them to explode.

An investigation is started, headed by Colonel Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) along with the survivor of the first egg encounter, police lieutenant Tony Aris (Marino Masé). They experiment on a few of the eggs and come to the conclusion that they are not of this earth, and perhaps the only person who could help them is the only surviving member of a Mars mission, returned astronaut named Commander Ian Hubbard (Ian McCulloch). 

Contamination: Ian McCulloch as Cmdr. Ian Hubbard


Very soon the three are on the trail of the eggs on Earth which leads them to South America, and the secret as to how these eggs made their way here…
Cozzi’s love of science fiction is well on display here, and the heavy inclusion of 70s/ 80s Italian gore makes it a keeper. This film isn’t too disassociated from American 50s scifi as at its core, it’s actually kind of wholesome, with its military trying to end a world-threatening event plot. It’s just the exploding chests and copious amounts of blood, landed it in the list of video nasties in the 80s in the UK, which is where it’s notoriety comes from.

Contamination: eggs… so many eggs!


That finite excuse for that notoriety though may have come from Cozzi’s use of Peckingpah-esque slo-mo for every single chest explosion!!

For years people have said it’s an Alien rip off, and even though Cozzi claims to have been inspired by it, I think it’s unfair to make the comparison. Yes there are eggs, and yes, there are exploding chests, but just because these two elements feature in it to me don’t make it slightly comparable.
Contamination is heaps of sci-fi fun with a dash of 80s gore, and it’s a fit that sits well!
Score: ****

Arrow Video’s Bluray menu screen


Format: The edition of Contamination reviewed in the U.K., region A and B Bluray released by Arrow Video. The film runs for approximately 95 minutes and is presented in a nicely cleaned up 1.85:1 images with a choice of and Italian or English mono soundtrack. It’s not the sharpest image you’ll ever see, and there is the very occasional speck onscreen, but they are minor quibbles for a film of it’s vintage.

Score: ****

Extras: As ever, Arrow have the goods with this release!

Luigi Cozzi on Contamination is an older… sorry, I mean ‘archive’ interview with the director of the film, where he discusses the origins of the film and the process to make it. Cozzi narrates the whole thing, and gives us a look as some behind the scenes footage as well.

Contamination Q&A is an session of questions proposed to Cozzi and McCulloch, hosted by Arrow’s Ewan Cant. It’s an entertaining and amusing discussion for sure.

Sound of the Cyclops is a talk with Goblin keyboardist Maurizio Guarini which for me, as a Goblin fan, was really interesting.

Luigi Cozzi vs. Lewis Coates is a career retrospective interview with Cozzi.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery delves into the ‘Italian Copy’ films that aimed to emulate the success of films like Jaws, The Warriors and Dawn of the Dead, amongst others.

We also have a trailer and black and white graphic novel based on the film, which has some pretty cool indie styled artwork. I don’t get why you’d make a comic an extra on an actual disc, as I’d much prefer an ACTUAL comic included in the packaging like Arrow’s release of Demons.

Also, there is a commentary by Fangoria’s Chris Alexander which is a fan commentary, but Alexander knows his stuff!

Hidden within the disc, one will also find really cool alternate covers for the cover, one with original art and the other with cool new art by Ghoulish Gary Pullin (whose amazing artwork can be found HERE!)  and there is also a fully illustrated booklet with a piece by the aforementioned Mr. Alexander, and details of the restoration.

Score: *****

Contamination: Marino Masé as Lt. Tony Aris


WISIA: Heaps of gore and heaps of corn, you better believe I’m coming back for more!