Category Archives: clive barker
If you’ve been to the Biff Bam Pop! website, you know that other than the regular pop culture features, we’re all big horror fans there. Special for this month of October, and culminating today on Halloween is 31 Days of Horror.
31 Days of Horror takes a look at the past and present in horror movies, both in front of and behind the camera, horror television, horror comics, and even horror videogames.
Highlights include reviews of The Shining, The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Monster Squad, 28 Days Later, Freaks, Night of the Living Dead, The Ring, Sinister, Nightbreed, Prometheus, Paranormal Activity 4, Evil Dead, 30 Ghosts, Tomb of Dracula, Dexter The Game, “666 Park Avenue,” episode by episode analysis of the new seasons of “American Horror Story” and “The Walking Dead,” and interviews with Danielle Harris and Richard Crouse. It’s the best way to celebrate Halloween!
Oh, and if you just want to read my stuff on the site, I’m here. Happy Halloween!
I have talked about the concept of games before as simple entertainments. I wanted to play things like Grand Theft Auto and/or The Incredible Hulk because I wanted to blow off some steam and smash stuff. The game should be a simple fun getaway from everyday life. Fantasy.
Sometimes, some of these games take fantasy a bit too far, and a bit too seriously. In books, comics, television, and film, there are such things, so why not in videogames too? BioShock is one of those games. You will become immersed in a completely new world of wonder and horror that honestly I’m not sure why you would want to go there. It’s frightening, it’s disturbing, and worse than that, it lectures you.
The story of this game is that you are a plane crash survivor trapped in the underwater city of Rapture in an alternate 1960s world and you’re hunted by mutants and steampunk robots. Yeah, absorb all that. Turn out the lights and add even more horror to the mix, along with lots of questions and morality issues, and you’ve got BioShock, the love child of Ayn Rand and Clive Barker.
BioShock is a first person shooter, where inexplicably you don’t even start with anything to shoot with. You begin in the water, probably having just survived the plane crash, and you are surrounded by fire. It’s very pretty. Amazing special effect, but good luck moving on from there unless you know what you’re doing. .
Now I know there’s more to this game, as I’ve seen Crystal play it, but I can’t get past the fire myself. It’s dark and it’s scary, and so full of moral ambiguity as you explore this city built on the principles of the Objectivist movement. Oh yeah, and there’s enough child endangerment to make Batman look like a good father.
I wish I understood how to play, and that said, I wish I understood why people want to play. Low marks from me, at least so far, for BioShock.
Now, hopefully, you’ve already read part one, where I introduced my experience with the HorrorFest movies and started on the three weakest movies (of which, I only felt one, Zombies of Mass Destruction was not very good. Kill Theory meandered in mediocrity and The Graves was decent, but could have been better.)
Before I delve into the three movies for this post, I wanted to touch base on what I look for in a horror movie. Okay, most of you are probably going to say, “It scares you, right?”
Wrong. I don’t scare easily… in fact, I don’t scare hardly at all. And this isn’t internet braggadocio, this is just me. Granted, I’ll jump if startled, but that’s surprise, not fear. True fear… it’s hard for a movie to capture that for me. So what I look for in a horror movie is suspense, is keeping my interest, is drawing me in and making me forget/overlook the flaws of the movie… and if at all possible, give me the creeps. And, most importantly, entertain me.
That being said, let us move on to DREAD. Dread is based on the short story (of the same title) by Clive Barker (who, in fact, is listed as producer, so it’s entirely likely he gave his approval for the changes from the story.)
I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. It’s not so much a horror movie, until the end; leading up to that, it’s a psychological-suspense-drama. And it’s a good one, no doubt about that. The acting is decent, the story is tense, several of the characters are (mostly) likeable.
In short, several students get together to work on a project, cataloging people’s fear, their dread, what scares them, what gnaws at their sense of security. From there, things get worse as the personal issues of Quaid (quite excellently portrayed by Shaun Evans, who’s done mostly British telly – including PC Kevin Hales in the second series of Ashes to Ashes) become a danger to everyone around him.
No spoilers, but the ending is pretty uncomfortable (but that’s a good thing in this type of story.) I felt the script could have been polished up a bit, maybe with a different director (Anthony DiBlasi wrote and directed this, and I wonder if that can be a detriment more than not. Not everyone can do it as well as Christopher Nolan and others.)
I give this a six out of ten – it’s well done, but has a sense that it should be been something a bit more. I feel that they were aiming for something special, something magical with this.. and it’s not.
The second of this post is THE REEDS. Highly touted as the cream of the crop of the recent Brit-horrors, The Reeds is directed by Nick Cohen, written by Chris Baker. Don’t worry if you don’t know their names, neither is (as of yet) prolific, though both seem to have experience in British telly as well as movies.
Again, we have a trope of horror movies – a group of (young) adults go out for a party weekend in a secluded area. This time, a boat trip out in the middle of nowhere of England. From the time they arrive at their destination, things go wrong – their original boat was made a mess and the proprietor won’t rent it to them, but they end up getting another boat from him, and after dealing with some punk kids, are on their way.
There’s a sense of unease, and when things start turning for the worse, panic quickly sets in. The story behind it all is rather interesting, especially once you start to figure out what really is happening.
The characters make a lot of the same stupid decisions that will grate on your nerves, but the acting is decent, the story isn’t bad… and the mystery, I really got into it.
My biggest problem was the ‘twist’ at the end. It seemed almost unimportant, unnecessary and made no sense whatsoever to me. I know I spoke before about how a good ending can save a movie, and I love a good twist as much as anyone, but this just seemed to have a twist just to have a twist, and that’s a shame, because for me, it actually degraded my whole enjoyment of the movie, and that’s why, where others are giving this high marks, I can only give it a six out of ten – had they done the ending differently, I would happily have given it a seven. Go watch it and let me know what you think.
Third, and final for the post, is SKJULT (HIDDEN), Norwegian psychological horror movie, written and directed by Pål Øie, which stars Kristoffer Joner, Karin Park and Bjarte Hjelmeland. It is the story of Kai Koss, a man who returns to his home after the death of his (cruel and twisted) mother, to take care of things. We learn that upon his escape, Kai inadvertently caused for another boy to lose his parents, and much of the drama of Kai’s return deals with that… as the movie goes along, we learn exactly what happened.
It’s a complex, almost convoluted story, one you have to stay focused upon. (Also, it is subtitled, which for some people is a turn off.) There are nuances which I suspect are cultural – as an American, I’m used to everything being explained in my entertainment. So many things are left open, and you have be able to just accept what isn’t and move on.
The cinematography is, as is common with Norwegian and Swedish movies, excellent. There is a strong sense of color, framing and contrast that you don’t see in every American film. If you’ve never seen one, I strongly recommend checking out some of the more recent films. (Another film, not exactly horror, but definitely graphic and suspenseful is THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Granted, there’s an American remake in the works, but the original is astounding.)
Back to Skjult, this movie is a very good, creepy tale. I can’t go into too much detail, as there is a mystery to the story and I don’t want to spoil it at all. It suffers slightly from cultural differences, so I can only give it 8 out of 10.
That’s it for today’s post – one more to go, with the cream of the crop – The Final and Lake Mungo.
Hi, my name is Terry Willitts and I’m honored to be guest-blogging at WELCOME TO HELL, Glenn Walker’s pop culture blog. Glenn invited me to weigh in on the most recent AfterDark Horrorfest, the fourth iteration, as I’d just watched all eight movies over the past month. Not being one to turn away a chance to give my opinion, I was more than happy to accept.
I’m a huge fan of horror movies, and while my personal preference tends to either zombie flicks or psychological horror, I do appreciate a good slasher flick, weird monster movie, and even gripping personal suspense. I’ve seen quite a few of the previous AfterDark movies, though this is the first time I’ve gotten my hands on the entire run of a festival and watched them all in a short period of time.
Without further ado, let me start with what I feel are the weakest three of the series. (Yes, this the first of three posts, and I think it best to start at the bottom and work our way up.)
First off, we have ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION. Now, if you’re like me (reference that bit above about my personal preferences in horror movies if you must), you just had a nerdgastic moment with that title alone. You know you did.
The sad thing is, the title really has nothing to do with the movie, outside of there being zombies. That title is made of unadulterated win and they should write an entirely different movie, maybe a military experiment gone wrong, etc, etc, etc, and use that title. Instead, we get a sleepy New England island that is suddenly, and inexplicably, invaded by zombies.
This movie, directed by Kevin Harnedani (who co-wrote the movie with Ramon Isao), is billed as a comedy-horror, and rightfully so – it takes a very tongue-in-cheek approach to zombies. And that’s fine.. however, it suffers from a couple major problems.
First off, the characters, are pretty much two-dimensional caricatures of society. It’s almost as if they decided that what this comedy-horror movie needed was some social commentary. Now, I’m not the sort to say that my entertainment can’t have any depth… far from it, though I’m not sure that anyone going to a tongue-in-cheek zombie movie is going to want a serving of Deep Thought with it. (I don’t think I would, really.)
The only characters that I find remotely interesting AND funny were the gay couple, Tom Hunt (Doug Fahl) and Lance Murphy (Cooper Hopkins) – and while they went with a lot of the easy jokes with them, I didn’t find them to be insulting, but actually cute, clever and they were the only ones I found myself rooting for.
The other problem for me with this movie – pink blood. There’s at least one scene where copious amounts of blood, tinged pink, is involved. I cannot remotely take a movie seriously if the blood is tinged pink. At the sight of pink blood, my suspension of disbelief is just thrown out the window. (Let me clarify something – I’m a big fan of small-budget movies. BIG fan. I’m willing to accept/forgive a lot of things, but pink blood is not one of them.)
Unless you’re intent on watching all eight movies, I strongly advise staying away from this one. There are plenty of other zombie movies out there that are much better. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a 3, and mostly for the gay couple.
Fortunately, that was the only true “dog” out of the eight movies. From there, we’re going upwards and onwards.
Next, KILL THEORY starts off with an inmate being released from a psychiatric facility. From the discussion with the administering psych, you can tell that he’s not one hundred percent… which, of course, begs the question why is he being released? (Though, it’d be a short movie… or at least a different movie, if he hadn’t been let go.)
We then jump to a trope of horror movies – a group of students getting together for a last weekend together in a secluded house on the lake. And, after meeting all the characters (most of them are stereotypical ones, too), the killings begin. This is a directorial debut for Chris Moore, though he’s produced quite a few movies (notably the first three American Pie films and the Project Greenlight show.)
I had a huge problem with this movie – focusing the camera tightly on a person and having them scream so loud it hurts your ears while you’re watching the movie does not equate horror for me. It equates aggravation. This movie was borderline obnoxious with the fat guy (one of the stereotypical characters in this movie) just screaming at everyone, at the camera.
However, despite all of that, there is a tension to this movie that cannot be denied. The plot, though nothing original, has a couple little twists that are interesting enough to keep you hooked. And the twist at the end really made up for a lot of flaws. (I’m the sort of person who can find a movie to be kinda disappointing-ish and then have a good ending save the movie. For me, this is what happened.)
This is straight slasher-gore with a good deal of tension-suspense. Nothing extraordinary, but a decent flick in general, once look past the flaws. On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 5.
THE GRAVES is the story of two sisters who, on their last weekend together before the eldest sister goes to New York, go on a random drive into the desert and end up at the Skull City Mine roadside attraction. There, they find themselves struggling to survive against a threat both physical and supernatural.
The movie is written and directed by Brian Pulido, a comic book creator known for Lady Death and Evil Ernie. I guess this explains why the main characters are shown to be comic book geeks, though it serves absolutely no other purpose. (Well, perhaps to appeal to the geeky fan boys – the idea of two hot and sexy comic geeks is a good one – and the girls ARE very attractive.)
My biggest problem with this one is that it seemed to want to cram too much into too short a movie. (Ironic, considering that most super-hero movies do just that, and Pulido is known for being a comic creator.) I mean, this could have likely done well enough with the crazy blacksmith in the mine killing people, and perhaps a touch of the supernatural just to explain things and give it that extra edge. Instead, we also have a cult of delusional worshipers (led by a priest, played by Tony Todd – Candyman to most of you, but he’ll always be Sgt Warren to me) that just kinda… I feel that the plot meanders a bit too much, to its detriment.
In short, it’s a good movie. Not great, but certainly much better than ZoMD. Don’t go out of your way to watch it, but if you can get it for free through a free rental code for Redbox or Blockbuster Express, give it a shot. You might be more forgiving than I. On a scale of 1-10, it barely makes it past 5 to a 6.
And that’s it for part one; in the next installment, we’ll touch upon the middle 3 for me – The Reeds, Dread and Skjult (Hidden).
Lord of Illusions – I’ve seen parts of this one over the years but never the entire flick at once until today. I have always been a big fan of Clive Barker’s books and especially his short stories, but not so much his films. Visually Barker seems to always go too far over the top for me. Lord of Illusions however is subtle, and that toned down Barker works for me. Scott Bakula as Harry D’Amour, private detective with a foot in the supernatural, is a very different role for him but still suits him well. Without the horrific trappings, this is a very good film noir, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Bakula do this spin more often. He’s very good here. Well worth seeing, but not for the squeamish.
Session 9 – I’ve gotten lots of hype about this one, and having seen it, I now have no idea why. It has promise and is a fairly good premise, but when it was all over… I was just kind of “What? That’s it?” and “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Also, I’ve never understood the draw of David Caruso, and this flick does little to help.
American Dreamz – This began as a rift on the “American Idol” TV phenomenon and turned quickly into an ensemble character study. All involved are very good, especially Hugh Grant in an against-type not-so-nice role. Very funny as well as thought-provoking. It did however lose me in the end which tied up much too nicely for me.
F*ck – This is a great documentary on the F word that is both entertaining and educational. Smart, funny, and it should go without saying, there is vulgar language in this one.
Latter Days – I saw this great flick on Logo and really enjoyed it. Like the better parts of American Dreamz above, it’s also a character study. Two gay men, one a party boy and the other a Morman missionary, are forced to learn more about themselves after meeting. Written by C. Jay Cox who also wrote Sweet Home Alabama.
Silver Hawk – Another accidental but enjoyable find, this one has Michelle Yeoh as the super-heroine Silver Hawk. The plot is fairly mundane with the good girl fighting the villain who has a device to rule the world. Michelle falls seamlessly back into the Hong Kong superhero genre from her days with the Heroic Trio. The real coolness of the flick is watching her, in her mid-forties at the time, jumping and flying and fighting like she did in her twenties. She makes the Jet Li Black Mask look like a wimp. And not to be stereotyped, Michelle left the set here to work on Memoirs of a Geisha. Rock on, Ms. Yeoh!