Archive for the Horror Category

‘Who the hell finds robots?’

Posted in Action/adventure, Horror, Movies, Science fiction with tags on April 12, 2014 by Cara Marie

The premise of Battle of the Damned is that there has been a zombie virus outbreak in what is supposedly a city somewhere in South-East Asia. Dolph Lundgren has been sent in by a mysterious businessman, to track down said businessman’s daughter and bring her out.

Dolph Lundgren’s character is named Major Max Gatling (of course). I am now thinking of changing my name to Cara Gatling. Read more »

Movie night: Creatures from the Abyss vs Ace Attorney

Posted in Crime, Horror, Movies with tags , on March 16, 2014 by Cara Marie

Our last movie night featured what is possibly the worst movie I have ever sat all the way through. Creatures from the Abyss is a really awful Italian exploitation film, brought along by H of course.  He has promised to vet the films more thoroughly in the future.

Creatures from the Abyss is kind of like Alien if Alien were set on a scientific research yacht with mutant fish instead of aliens, and with the sex scene from Prometheus, if halfway through the sex scene the guy had turned into an alien mutant fish instead of only impregnating the woman with alien mutant fish babies. Except worse than that description makes it sound.

Also none of the characters are likable, the editing is near-incoherent, there is no budget, and really I don’t know why anyone would inflict this monstrosity on the universe.

Thankfully one of the other films H brought along was Ace Attorney, which restored my faith in film-making/humanity. Such a good movie! I enjoyed it, without ever having played the games (we were a Playstation family, okay!), and H enjoyed it, having played the games; and I think L enjoyed it too although he got quite worked up about how ridiculous the court system was.

I think the best comparison I have in terms of adaptations is to Scott Pilgrim vs the World – it takes some of the very stylised elements of the source medium and replicates them entertainingly. I mean, you have to respect this level of dedication to replicating cartoon hairstyles:

Phoenix Wright has his trademark pointy hair, despite not being a cartoon.

Unlike Scott Pilgrim vs the World, though, Ace Attorney is actually a successful movie. (Apologies to anyone who likes the Scott Pilgrim movie.) It’s not a serious movie. But it also doesn’t make fun of its source material. It takes the characters’ emotional arcs seriously.

Recent movie nights

Posted in Action/adventure, Crime, Horror, Movies with tags , on December 8, 2013 by Cara Marie

Kung-Fu Chefs

Two brothers, both excellent chefs, have a falling out that ends up with one never being able to cook again, and the other, played by Sammo Hung, getting kicked out of the family for serving a dish that made everyone sick.

Years later Hung starts cooking again, which causes his nephew to try and avenge his father’s honour by ruining Hung’s restaurant, beating everyone up, and also by hiring chefs that can defeat Hung’s protege in a reality TV show cooking contest.

Kung-Fu Chefs was hard to follow at times – not because the plot was especially convoluted, but because a bunch of connecting scenes seem to have been cut out, leaving you to wonder how people got from here to there, and why aren’t they in the refrigerator any more?

Despite that, it was a really fun film. The action scenes were enjoyable, and we all got really hungry while watching it. Which is really what you want out of a movie called Kung-Fu Chefs.

Also watched that night: Tai Chi Zero. Will leave talking about that until we’ve seen Tai Chi Hero as well.

Hard Boiled

It took a while to really get into this movie. I think it suffers from the two leads not actually meeting till quite a way into the movie. (It also suffers because after a certain point, you can’t help but compare it to another movie, which anything would suffer in comparison to.)

So: Chow Yun Fat plays Tequila, a cop driven to revenge after his partner dies in a horrific shoot-out in a bird cafe. (I mean, everyone seemed to have birds with them. I’m not sure what that was about.) Tequila is in trouble with his boss for killing the gangster they were after during the shoot-out; he’s going to be taken off the case altogether and that is not okay with Tequila.

Our other lead is played by Tony Leung (the character’s name is also Tony), and he’s a hitman being seduced into a rival gang. (I say seduced, because the rival gang boss expresses some rather romantic sentiments when he’s trying to convince Tony to join him. Maybe it was the translation, but S and I were both like, um.)

Chow Yun Fat and Tony Leung have great chemistry, and the film really picks up once the two of them are on screen together. (They’re both so young in this!) Sadly, it’s not for a while.

The action scenes are shocking and brutal, and some of the choreography is very impressive … but they go on too long. There’s a point where there’s been so much shooting you can’t tell why they’re just not all dead yet, and you’ve lost what the point of the scene was.

The final action sequence spices things up by forcing Chow Yun Fat to fight while carrying a baby, though, so I suppose I can forgive it for that ;)

Also watched that night: Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Experimental stop-motion metal-fetishist bizarrity. S told us there was no weird sex stuff. There turned out to be a lot of weird sex stuff. It was an experience.

More terrifying than the human mushroom patch

Posted in Crime, Horror, TV with tags on June 24, 2013 by Cara Marie

The heartbreaking thing about Will Graham is how completely people fail him. Hannibal hardly even counts; he’s on a while other level. Hannibal doesn’t count – we’ve known all along that he doesn’t have Will’s interests at heart. But when in the final episode Jack tells Hannibal, ‘He’s not your victim, doctor,’ and Hannibal replies, ‘Nor is he yours,’ – well, neither of those statements are true. Will is just as much a victim of Jack’s utilitarianism as he is Hannibal’s curiousity. Jack fails Will utterly, both as a manager and as a human being.

And there’s Dr Sutcliffe, who in episode ten falsifies Will’s results and thus enables Hannibal to continue his manipulation. That episode is probably the most horrifying one in the series for me. Because it is two people who Will is supposed to be able to trust – two people who have a duty and an obligation to care for him – completely disregarding his health and wellbeing. They’re looking only to satisfy their own curiousity and ambition.

Hannibal is the show’s villain. But Hannibal wouldn’t be able to do what he does without the complicity of others. If Jack hadn’t failing Will, if Dr Sutcliffe hadn’t failed Will, Hannibal couldn’t have done what he did.

As complicities to evil go, eating human flesh at Hannibal’s dinners is relatively minor.

Alien 3, or, a case study in alienating the viewer

Posted in Horror, Movies, Science fiction with tags , on October 20, 2012 by Cara Marie

Alien 3 is possibly my least favourite movie ever. It does this not just by being bad, but by trampling on everything that had gone before it.

It does this during the opening credits, when it kills off two characters whom we’ve become invested in. Just throws them out. They could have left Dwayne and Newt out of the film without killing them off. They could have included them, and used them to torture us through the course of the movie. Instead, they threw them out.

When the opening credits are so staggering, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the film.

Alien 3 is set on an all-male prison planet. This both conveniently gets rid of the need to have more than one female character and makes any women watching the movie super-uncomfortable while they wait for someone to try and rape Ripley! The movie even kindly highlights the threat:

We’re 25 prisoners in this facility. All double-Y chromos. All thieves, rapists, murderers, child-molesters. All scum. Just because they have taken on religion doesn’t make them any less dangerous. I try not to offend their convictions. I don’t want to upset the order. I don’t want ripples in the water. And I don’t want a woman walking around, giving them ideas…

While I didn’t expect any rape attempt to succeed, I was still waiting for it. It was a relief when it came, because then it was out the way.

One of the prisoners in particular was our point-of-view character for the beginning of the film. Clemens was the most sympathetic of the prisoners, the most intellectual, whose crime was one of incompetence rather than malice. He admires Ripley from the start.

Ripley straight away wants to sleep with him. A man who she doesn’t know, whom she has no especial chemistry with … and to be quite honest, who is no Michael Biehn. This made no sense to me … until I realised that I wasn’t meant to be placing myself in Ripley’s shoes. I was meant to be empathising with Clemens’s perspective. Because, I, the audience, am presumed heterosexual male, and of course I want to imagine Ripley would want to immediately jump my bones.

I’ve never been thrown out so strongly by the male gaze in a film. Ripley was so thoroughly the subject and not the object in Aliens that the difference was disconcerting as well as offensive.

Thankfully, Clemens doesn’t survive very long. After he dies; after three men have tried to rape Ripley and failed; after that the film picks up, gains some narrative drive … and still fails to be truly engaging.

I have friends who disagree, but for me the film has no redeeming features. It’s like they thought too many women liked the first two movies, so they had to alienate them as much as possible. If nothing else, they were effective in that.

Bloodtide and the Volsunga Saga

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Horror, Science fiction, Young adult with tags on October 7, 2012 by Cara Marie

I first read Melvin Burgess’ Bloodtide as a teenager, and it’s been a few years since my last reread. Bloodtide is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel. The post-apocalyptic part is the London that’s been cut off from the rest of the world after the gangs got too big. (Maybe not a proper apocalypse, but it it’s treated as one). The sci-fi part is the genetically engineered ‘half men’, who the humans think are monsters … but they’re no more monstrous than any of the human characters.

And then there’s the gods.

Bloodtide is a retelling of a small part of the Volsunga Saga, the family history before the better known tale of Sigurd and Brunhilde. (Burgess treated that in a sequel some years later.) The Volsons are one of two big-shot families in the city. The youngest Volson children are twins, Siggy (Sigmund) and Signy, and the story starts with Signy being married off, to create an alliance. Hopefully to create peace.

But Odin shows up the night of her wedding. And as always when Odin gets involved with humans, things get fucked.

Because it’s retelling a legend, because it’s a story of revenge that doesn’t get enacted for many years, the novel is weirdly paced. It’s disturbing event after disturbing event, some of which drives the story, some of which just seems random if you don’t know it’s there because it was there in the saga.

I’ve read the saga, or this part of it, since I read Bloodtide last, and it’s funny the way they combined in my head. The way Signy’s fate in the saga supplanted her fate in the novel in my memory. I was struck, rereading this, just how screwed over Signy is by the story she lives in – and also by the way Burgess draws attention to how screwed over Signy is.

The first time Odin shows up, he leaves a knife, embedded in glass like Excalibur in the stone; and none can remove the knife except the youngest Volson, Siggy. This pisses Signy’s new husband off no end (and he never ceases in coveting the knife). So we have this scene:

In a little fit of resentment, Signy made a movement towards the knife, then stopped herself. It wasn’t just that she wanted it for Conor. The fact was, she was scared she might have been able to remove it herself. Of them all, only she had not been given the chance to take the knife from the lift shaft. The boys were all put first. Maybe the knife could have been hers instead of Siggy’s. Odin had touched Siggy, but he had embraced her. Everyone seemed to have forgotten that.

Of course, no-one touched by Odin has a good life. And Signy’s is bitterest of all.

It’s a strange book. And it’s a strange choice of story, to retell as a YA novel. More because of that bitterness than because of all the violence and other disturbing themes. And it’s odd that I like it, because usually I hate stories where all the characters are awful people. Maybe because it’s obvious here how events have shaped that in them. But certainly Bloodtide transfixed me as a teenager. And I wasn’t disappointed rereading it as an adult.

Event Horizon: might have been better if it had been worse

Posted in Horror, Movies, Science fiction with tags on August 26, 2012 by Cara Marie

Event Horizon is a bad movie that could have been a good movie. The idea is basically, seven years ago this ship vanished out past Neptune. Now it’s reappeared, and a team’s been sent to investigate. Where has the ship been? What happened to all the crew?

It’s a horror movie, so the answer is HORRIBLE AWFUL (SPOILERY) THINGS. I do really like the concept of the movie, but the tone of the whole thing is somehow off. When the team get on the Event Horizon, they start hallucinating – but there’s no subtlety to the hallucinations, not even to begin with, so they fail to actually creep you out. The ‘something’s wrong here’ was too obvious.

The film also couldn’t seem to decide just how seriously to take itself – there were several moments that were presumably meant to be comic (or, I don’t know, charming character moments) but just fell flat. It was as if they’d been dropped in from another movie.

The one area the film actually did well in was the sets. In conjunction with horrible CGI, it’s true, but the sets and design were awesome. A little worrying, as in who the hell thought it was good to make the ship’s doors teethed, but cool to look at. There were awesome images in the film, it just didn’t pull them together.

I do wonder if it works better for people who are more susceptible to horror movies? I like horror, but movies don’t scare me easy. (Except The Descent. Because spelunking is terrifying.) Which I guess means I can direct more of my attention to being critical. (Or, after the movie, letting L be critical and nodding along with him. He blames a lot of its failings on the editing. That and Sam Neill seeming too much like someone’s dad to be creepy.)

So that was that bad movie. We had intended to watch other unclassy flicks like Muay Thai Giant, but were foiled by region-coding. ‘Hi, I know you bought this blu-ray completely legitimately! I’m not going to let you watch it anyway!’ Here’s an idea, movie industry, if you don’t want people to pirate things, maybe let them play the things they’ve paid for?

So we had to watch a respectable movie instead (Green Zone). Which also had problems with subtlety, but was decently made. (Plus, Matt Damon.)

So now I’ve seen all the Neil Marshall

Posted in Action/adventure, Horror, Movies with tags , on June 19, 2012 by Cara Marie

I watched Dog Soldiers this afternoon, which means I’ve seen all Neil Marshall’s movies now. Good times. Dog Soldiers is his first, and it’s clearly the one with the lowest budget. But it’s tight, it’s stylistically coherent … it’s just a really good horror movie.

While I would not give up Doomsday for all the world, Marshall’s horror movies work rather better. I don’t think I ever posted about Centurion when I saw that, but whilst I enjoyed it, I can’t say it was a great movie.

Actually, it was quite funny watching Centurion, because my copy has this serious-film packaging, as if it’s an ‘important’ movie. Which I think put me off watching for a while.

But then I only had to watch it five minutes to see a Roman soldier skewered while taking a piss to remember, oh, right, this is a Neil Marshall film. He’s never one to shy away from gratuitous gore, whether that’s exploding rabbits (Doomsday) or people’s guts falling out (Dog Soldiers). And Centurion was a lot more fun (and less boring) than the reviews I’d read would have me believe.

But then, my love for Doomsday is completely non-ironic. I haven’t exactly got the classiest tastes in the world. But, I am pretty sure Dog Soldiers is actually a good film! Just as long as you’ve got a strong stomach.

iZombie and a romantic digression

Posted in Books, Comics, Fantasy, Horror, Young adult with tags , , , , , on February 20, 2012 by Cara Marie

In things-I-haven’t-been-following-issue-by-issue, iZombie has turned from just reasonably entertaining to zomg why can’t I have more now? I think it’s the sort of thing that will really pay off reading in full, and rereading it, there’s lots of moments that don’t come to pay off till later. Also, you want to reread previous volumes before starting a new one – the overarc is a multi-volume one, and it’s easy to forget things.

A thought: it is possible to portray rapid-fire romances that do work for me. (I read an interview with Clive Barker that was all, the people who are wtf about Gazza just don’t understand my art, and it annoyed me. I refuse to believe I just fail as a reader, thanks for that suggestion CB.)

So: iZombie doesn’t conflate insta-attraction with insta-love. The romance comes from the fact Gwen and Horatio spent this awesome evening really connecting. You know? I can buy the speed of the intensity because you can see the way they click.

Tamora Pierce’s Mastiff, which I read recently, does have a really rapid falling in love – but it still happens over the course of the book, we explicitly see how Beka becomes comfortable with Farmer, we see enough of his personality to understand the attraction and why she would come to love him. Plus intense circumstances and all.

Maybe Gazza would have worked better for me if we’d spent any time with him before he met Candy? I feel like it’s important to understand why both partners are attracted to one another – and we the reader already like Candy, but we know nothing about this Gazza fellow or whatever charming qualities he has. Candy doesn’t have any time to see them. And maybe you want to make a point about their trans-lifetime connection but if you want me to buy two characters being in love I have to know what there is to love.

Horatio takes down a bunch of men in black.

Even if it’s something really shallow like he’s a badass monster hunter.

Abarat: Absolute Midnight

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Horror with tags on October 23, 2011 by Cara Marie

I was very excited to see Clive Barker’s new Abarat book out the other day, particularly as I’d given up on expecting it. I’m also very impressed that it was only $45, considering the full-colour art all through, and the quality of the production. Other publishers should be ashamed.

Some thoughts:

1. I feel sorry for anyone reading this series who doesn’t like horror. Because the first two books were pretty much safe, but suddenly, wham! the world’s ending and Mater Motley is scary as hell. I am imagining all these soft-hearted people being traumatised. Well played, Clive Barker, that was sneaky of you.

2. I really really hate love at first sight. I can buy instant attraction followed by spending some quality time together discovering how much you have in common and so on, but Candy and her new love interest hardly interact, they hardly say anything to one another that isn’t hinting at how they *connect* or having conversations that really aren’t that flirty that people comment on as if they were.

I would honestly rather have Candy/Carrion, skeevy as it is. At least they’ve known each other more than five minutes! And have had proper conversations!

In fact, when it first came up, I was sure Gazza was going to turn out to be Carrion in disguise. But no such luck.

3. I don’t think it’s premature of me to start hoping Candy finishes the series as a deity. Then we could even out tropes I hate with tropes I love. And it would be awesome.