27 Days of Fright (The Reprint) – Day Five

Originally Published Friday 10th October 2008
An American Werewolf in London
There are some things that shouldn’t go together but do. Orange and chocolate for example, or cheese and onion, or McDonald’s fries and caramel topped ice cream, or bananas and crisps in a sandwich. Like those things you wouldn’t expect comedy and horror to go together and work but there are many good examples of just that. But for every great horror comedy mash up there are about five that don’t work and unfortunately An American Werewolf in London falls into that category.
American Werewolf tells the tale of two young American tourists backpacking around the north of England where they encounter a village full of odd folk who give them strange warnings, like “stick to the road” and “beware the moon”. The two lads wonder off the road of course and are attacked by a creature out on the moors. One of the boys, Jack, is killed by the creature and the other, David, badly wounded before being rescued by tooled up villagers. Dave is moved to a hospital in London to recover and there he falls for one of his nurses who he shacks up with once he’s discharged.
It becomes apparent, through a series of nightmares and an encounter with Jack’s rotting ghost, that David has been bitten by a werewolf and that he is destined to transform into the wolf at the next full moon. On top of that, seeing as how the original wolf was killed during the attack on the moors, David’s victims will become members of the un-dead, like Jack, as David is now the last of the Werewolves. The only way for anyone to move onto the afterlife and get some peace would be for David to kill himself. The full moon rolls around and David transforms and goes on a little killing spree around old London town.

Travelling abroad without proper insurance can have surprising consequences

Once he changes back into human form, Dave tries to get himself arrested to prevent any more deaths but to no avail. His new girlfriend and one of the doctors from the hospital try to help him but are unable to prevent his transformation the next night and another round of killings before he’s finally stopped by the fine men of the Metropolitan Police.

American Werewolf fails on both fronts as it’s not scary at all and not that funny except for a couple of little moments like when David (naked as the day he was born) confronts a young lad near the zoo the morning after his first go as a werewolf, or like the end credits featuring Kermit the Frog as himself and Miss Piggy as herself as the Muppet Show was on the TV in one scene. The Yorkshire countryside setting and the age of the film (1981) creates an air more like “Withnail and I” than a horror film but the script is nowhere near as funny or as quote-able as that movie, nor does it have the excuse of being an unintentional comedy like “Gremlins”.

The premise of the film, tourists falling prey to something like a werewolf, is decent enough but poorly executed and the film is bogged down by its in-jokes (the soundtrack is made up of songs about the moon for example, and it was made by Lycanthrope Productions) as opposed to being made funnier by them. The ending (which I won’t spoil) is pretty good to be fair and the performances aren’t that bad either, though I can’t help but feel that they should have been hammed up a little to go for comedy effect.

One thumb up and one thumb down for An American Werewolf in London.

27 Days of Fright (The Reprint) – Day Four

Originally Published Thursday 9th October 2008

Poltergeist
Poltergeist was one of the first horror movies I remember seeing as a child and it still has the same power to give me the creeps today as it did back then. As horror films go it’s not particularly frightening but it is, well, creepy. What makes it so is hard to pin down, maybe it’s because of the little girl and her “they’re heeeeerrrrreeee” line or maybe it’s the stories of a curse that’s associated with the production that kinda brings the horror of the film into the real world.

Poltergeist tells the tale of a young family just living their lives in sunny California. Steven Freeling (Craig T. Nelson) is a sales rep for the company that built his house and the rest of the development they live in. His missus Diane looks after the home and is busy raising their three children. Strange things begin occurring in the house, furniture moving by itself and the like, and at first it’s quite fun. Things take a turn for the worse when one of the children, Robbie, is attacked. The attack is a diversion to cover the youngest child, Carol Anne, being taken by something in the house.

Carol Anne’s frightened parents search the house and half-built swimming pool until she is heard in the master bedroom. Oddly though, her voice is heard coming from the television. Finally accepting that something supernatural is going on the Freelings seek out the help of some scientists from the university parapsychology department. These ghostbusters are well out of their depth and have to get help themselves from a diminutive medium with a funky southern accent in order to save Carol Anne.

In many American homes the TV acts as a substitute parent

Steven Speilberg movies are easy to spot, especially any made in the early eighties. He liked to use Californian suburban tract housing developments in his movies and he loves families with problems especially things like divorce (a core feature of E.T. for example). Poltergeist is set in a Californian housing development and sure enough there is tension in the Freeling family though this is caused by the events happening to them and the different ways they handle the pressure.
Poltergeist is one of the most well known horror films and has secured for itself a place in pop culture with parodies turning up on Family Guy and The Simpsons, mostly due to young Carol Anne’s performance. It also has some of the best stories associated with it, including the use of real skeletons in some scenes leading to a curse on the film. The curse apparently manifested itself in the untimely death of Heather O’Rourke, the actress who played Carol Anne, at the age of 12.

One thing really stuck in my mind from last night’s viewing. When Steven Freeling goes to the university he tells the scientists that Diane’s age is 32 and that their eldest daughter is 15, making Diane 17 when she had her. If horror films like A Nightmare on Elm Street teach us anything it’s that those who play around with booze, drugs, or sex get what they deserve, horror movies acting as modern day morality plays. In fact during the film we see Diane do soft drugs and drink spirits while Steven hits the sauce as soon as Carol Anne vanishes. While the disturbances in the house may have been caused by the location of the place, there is definitely a subtext about the adult Freelings behaviour.

Poltergeist is a slick movie but doesn’t lose sight of what it’s about – giving you the creeps. Two thumbs up for Poltergeist.

27 Days of Fright (The Reprint) – Day Three

Originally Published Wednesday 8th October 2008

Rosemary’s Baby

We all have tells, those little quirks and gestures that give away what we’re thinking or feeling. Some people look in a certain direction when they’re lying for example, or fidget when they’re bluffing at poker. For me when I’m tired and absent minded I play with my hair and when I’m pissed drunk I sing Denis Leary’s hit song “Asshole”. Mr. Leary’s musical stylings are a party piece of mine due to the simple fact that for the most part I can remember the ranting bit, even when shitfaced. If you walk into a room or bar or are passing a certain gutter at a certain time and you see me strutting around like a deranged fool from Boston then you can rest assured that I’m three sheets to the wind at that moment. It’s one of my tells to be sure. I know the song pretty well but one thing has always bothered me about it and that’s the very last part of the rant where it trails off with a list of names… “…I’m gonna get The Duke, and Lee Marvin, and Sam Peckinpah, and John Cassavetes, and a case of whiskey, and drive down to Texas…..” I know who those guys are (or were) except for John Cassavetes, I never knew who he was until last night when I sat down to watch “Rosemary’s Baby”.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968) stars Mia Farrow (who was served divorce papers from Frank Sinatra during the making of the movie) as Rosemary and John Cassavetes as her husband Guy, a young couple in New York who move into a new apartment in a building with a history of unusual goings on and violent deaths. The couple befriend their elderly neighbours and Guy becomes particularly friendly with two meddlesome and nosey but apparently harmless old people. Life is good for Rosemary and Guy. Guy’s acting career takes a turn for the better after he lands a role vacated by an actor who suddenly turns blind and the couple plan to start a family. After a romantic dinner one night (the dessert of which was supplied by their auld neighbours) and a few too many glasses of wine, Rosemary passes out and has a messed up dream in which she is raped by a demonic creature. The following morning Guy reveals that he’d slapped one into her when she was asleep as it was the right time of the month to knock her up. (What’s really disturbing about this is not that Guy did that but that he enjoyed it in what he calls “a necrophile sort of way”).

Rosemary gets pregnant and attends a doctor recommended by their neighbours who advises Rosemary to stick to natural medications during her pregnancy, herbal drinks and the like. As the pregnancy progresses Rosemary becomes increasingly unwell, losing weight and suffering terrible pains that her doctor keeps telling her will pass. Her friends become concerned and one friend in particular, Hutch, does some investigating into the herbs she’s been taking. Hutch falls into a coma before he can tell Rosemary what he has discovered and he eventually dies. He leaves word that a book be given to Rosemary on the subject of witchcraft. After reading the book and decoding her dying friends last message to her, Rosemary figures out that her new neighbours are part of a cult who have used her to bring about the birth of the Antichrist!

Rosemary – Yummy Mummy!

Rosemary’s Baby is a slow burner of a film and never really scares in the way that modern horrors try to; there’s no jump out of your seat moment or any gore to speak of, though there is a bit of nudey cult action during one of the dream sequences. The horror is in the situation Rosemary finds herself in and it is here that the fright lies as I can imagine that any mother goes through all sorts of paranoid moments during a pregnancy and deals with fears of things real and imagined. Rosemary is surrounded by unsympathetic people, including her dear husband, who do nothing except chastise her for her appearance despite her obvious illness and do nothing to help her as she suffers. That lack of sympathy is a really scary concept and is a common theme in horror, the last three films all have an element of people either not believing, not caring, or deliberately out to do harm; from the victims perspective the result is the same.

Rosemary’s Baby has some important lessons about trust in it. You cannot trust Old People as they are all devil worshippers, Obstetricians are the most untrustworthy medical professionals who will help devil worshippers ply their filthy trade, husbands are all lying bastards, mothers will raise Antichrists (but we knew that), and Tenacious D are definitely in league with some evil people (there’s a great scene where two old women shout out “Hail Satan” in a way that totally reminded me of Tenacious D).

Two thumbs up for Rosemary’s Baby (despite the woeful product placement) a film so good that the planned Hollywood remake can only make a balls of it.

27 Days of Fright (The Reprint) – Day Two

Originally Published Tuesday 7th October 2008

A Nightmare on Elm Street

The original Nightmare on Elm Street was released back when I was in primary school and I can still remember hearing about it from one of the kids in my class who had claimed to have seen this hit 80’s gore fest on video. Nightmare is, like Star Wars, one of the movies whose reputation preceded itself for me and it was several years later before I finally got to see it.

Jump forward in time more than twenty years and you’ll find that A Nightmare on Elm Street was last nights movie and that it still holds an amazing ability to entertain especially considering how cheaply and (to be fair) badly made it is.

For those not familiar with the film that started one of the most successful horror film franchises, Nightmare tells the tale of a group of suburban American teenagers from the same neighbourhood who are plagued with terrifying dreams of a killer with an old hat, a stripy jumper, and knives for fingers. Those dreams become even more scary when they stop being just dreams and spill out into the waking world. Those youngsters having the dreams are violently murdered one by one until we are left with Nancy (the hero of the day) and her chum Glen.

Indiana Jones really let hmself go

Nancy is determined to survive the killers rampage despite her mother trying to cure her nightmares with doctors and whatnot. While at the doctors, undergoing a form of sleep and dream analysis, Nancy is attacked again but manages to escape when her doctor and her mother wake her. This time Nancy takes a souvenir in the form of the killers hat and this prompts her dear old mum to reveal what she knows about the killer.

It turns out that a few years prior there had been a serial child killer working the area who was eventually caught by the police but got off on a technicality at trial. The local parents weren’t best pleased with this and took the law into their own hands, killing the killer, one Mr. Freddy Krueger.

Nancy determines that Freddy is out for revenge through the dream world and that the only way to end the horror is to drag him into the real world and sort him out there!

A Nightmare on Elm Street was not the first of the teen slasher flicks but it came to embody all the clichés of the genre – disbelieving parents, those experimenting with drink or drugs or sex die first, running up the stairs when they should go out the front door, and most importantly a female protagonist who starts off as soft as shite but ends up well ‘ard!

Nightmare was cheaply done and this is very evident from some of the effects and stunt work, in particular keep an eye out for the mattress used to break Freddy’s fall down the stairs near the end. But the cheapness of the production and the familiarity of the story do nothing to detract from what is definitely an out an out classic horror. Nightmare unleashed two horrors onto the world; Freddy Krueger, a villain in every sense of the word but oddly charismatic and a guy we love to hate, and Johnny Depp – Nightmare was his first film! (I kid, Depp’s OK in my book, just check out Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to see why).

For a great intro to the slasher flick phenomenon check out A Nightmare on Elm Street – but remember out the door not up the stairs! Two thumbs up for Freddy Krueger!

One thing I nearly forgot to mention – look at the state of Nancy’s mother in this film. Boozed up royally for most of the movie she doesn’t really act much until her brilliant death scene under (that’s right, under) a flaming Freddy Krueger! The droopy eyed piss-head…

27 Days of Fright (The Reprint) – Day One

Early September is a great time of year. Autumn starts to hit, there’s a nip in the air and the evenings begin to draw in. With the encroaching nights thoughts tend to turn to darkness. The darkness without and the darkness within. At this time of year my appreciation for the darker things in life definitely ramps up, I almost exclusively listen to Marilyn Manson, Tool, and Cradle of Filth around now (there’s something odd about having “Her Ghost in the Fog” blasting first thing in the morning, especially if it’s one of those bright, clear, crisp mornings).

With September here Halloween is on the horizon and our plans are already at an advanced stage and that means that the second annual horror movie fest isn’t far away. As a warm up for this years event I’m reprinting last years reviews in their entirety and will be adding a few additional remarks here and there. Some of last years films may also get a second viewing and an update to the original review. But not our first film…

Originally Published Monday 6th October 2008

First up, The Eye.

Jessica Alba (of Dark Angel fame) plays Sydney Wells, a girl who has been blind from a young age who receives a cornea transplant that restores her sight. Soon after the operation however things turn nasty as she begins seeing horrible visions. Not sure if what she is seeing is real or the result of her brain being overloaded with visual information for the first time in years she seeks out the help of a therapist, Dr. Paul Faulkner, who tries to reassure her that what’s occurring is normal. The visions persist and get worse and Sydney quickly realises that she is seeing past events and death coming for people.

Upon realising that the root of her trouble lies in her new eyes and that the reflection in the mirror isn’t her, Syd and her quack go in search of the family of the donor of the eyes trying to right whatever was wrong and put to rest the whole sorry mess.

the_eye

My friends tell me I have a face for radio! Ahhhahahahahaha!

The Eye is another of those Hong Kong horror films remade by an American studio along the lines of The Ring. I mention that film as the storylines are shockingly similar in many respects: a female lead, an unsettled spirit needing to have things put to rights before they can rest, and a dodgy male character who is bugger all use for most of the show. But The Ring isn’t the only thing that should feel ripped off by The Eye; the images of shadowy death figures coming for people is like a less humorous version of the gravelings from Dead Like Me and probably the creepiest thing in the whole flick, which really isn’t saying much, and the whole “I see dead people” has been done better elsewhere.

As for the lead actress, while Jessica Alba isn’t likely to be up for an Oscar anytime soon she is normally likeable and functional as the lead in anything, this time out however I can’t help but think she wasn’t even trying and really just showed up to collect her paycheque.

Overall, The Eye is a mediocre movie at best and hardly a horror film at all due to its utter lack of scare. The most disturbing thing for me was that the filmmakers decided to name the main character, Sydney, after the main character from the Scream series – hardly a wise move for a film trying to pass itself in its own right.

One thumb up, one thumb down for The Eye.

Microsoft Courier – is the Computer Book finally here?

Check out this link for a first glipse at a new product coming from Microsoft.

http://gizmodo.com/5365299/courier-first-details-of-microsofts-secret-tablet

Fist impressions are very favourable, though the device is in late prototyping and MS aren’t even near an official announcement (all the details on the web are the result of a leak from Microsoft).

This could be the form factor to put a much needed spark back into Microsoft and the computer world in general. If nothing else, it looks like the computer book Penny had in Inspector Gadget, so that’s cool!

553 sorry, that domain isn’t in my list of allowed rcpthosts

Here’s an annoying little error that I’ve just come across.

I’ve tried to send an email from Outlook and I’ve received a reply from “System Administrator” with the word “Undeliverable” in the subject field along with the subject of the mail I tried to send.

In the message itself I get the following:

Your message did not reach some or all of the intended recipients.

Subject:    Out TEST 1
Sent: 09/10/2009 14:49

The following recipient(s) cannot be reached:

‘mtminnock@gmail.com’ on 09/10/2009 14:49
553 sorry, that domain isn’t in my list of allowed rcpthosts (#5.7.1)

The message is a little bit cryptic as the idea of a list of allowed recipients indicates that there’s a list of disallowed recipients and that might lead you to believe that your firewall or anti-virus systems is acting up and doing more than it’s supposed to.

What’s actually happening is that Outlook is trying to tell you that your outbound email settings are wrong. In my case it was the “Outgoing mail server (SMTP)” setting that was wrong and this had been caused by my changing Internet Service Providers. My new ISP has a different SMTP server and I needed to tell Outlook what this servers name was.

In order to change the SMTP setting for a given e-mail account in Outlook you need to do the following:

1. In Outlook go to Tools > Account Settings. Select the account you want to fix and click on Change.
2. About halfway down the window that opens is a section headed “Server Information”. In the third box down enter the correct name of the SMTP server (this can be obtained from your ISP). Click Next and Finish and that’s it!

Rammstein – Liebe ist für alle da

For me, like many non-German speakers, being a fan of Rammstein is the ultimate triumph of style over substance. I have only a very basic understanding of the German language, and that is confined to those words that sound like their English counterparts. Every time a Rammstein CD enters my possession I have to either ask someone what the title means or look it up online at the same time as I’m looking up the translations to the lyrics of the songs. The obvious exception to this was Mutter, but that’s one of those words that sounds similar to its English translation.

When I’m listening to Rammstein my focus is primarily on the melodic composition of each track and the sentiment and emotional load delivered through the vocals. Not understanding the lyrics without a translator adds an air of mystery to the listening and allows me to apply whatever meaning I like to the music, though there have been occasions where finding out what a song was really about has been a shock and what I like to refer to as “The Rammstein Effect” – the realisation that, in your ignorance, you’ve applied the completely opposite meaning to piece of music then was intended (This is similar to the “Golden Brown” and “Every Breath You Take” effects, though those problems relate to people not listening to the lyrics in the first place as opposed to not speaking the language the song is written in).

Liebe ist für alle da, the latest studio album from those Germanic industrial rockers, manages to shock not only when a translation is found but before the disc has even been taken out of its cover. The standard version of the album arrives in a magnificent fold out package featuring images of the band as they enact the preparation of a banquet, with two naked women set to be the main course. The special edition, apparently, features a complete set of sex toys, one for each member of the band along with various other items that might come in handy during a night of debauchery.

orig-9332581
Liebe ist für alle da – Standard Ed. Cover

The album title translates as Love is there for Everyone and, coupled with the imagery on the cover and paraphernalia that’s sold with the different versions of the album, points to the main themes addressed by the music, notably Love and Lust, though trying to extract meaning from a Rammstein album is always a dangerous exercise. As with all previous Rammstein releases several websites have stepped up to provide English translations for the songs, but these are fraught with translator error and the problems of trying to convey the nuance of song lyrics and the associated poetry and imagery that work in German but don’t translate well. This adds to the difficulty of determining meaning from the words when you read them in English and it’s likely that the writer’s intentions that are easily derived for the German speaker are lost on everyone else to some degree.

Love and Lust are addressed in varying forms, none of them too conventional. Frühling in Paris seems to deal with an encounter with a French prostitute and some of the lyrics are in French (lead singer Till Lindemann’s linguistic abilities shining through once again); Wiener Blut addresses the horror and perverse lust of the Fritzl case in Austria where a girl was held captive by her father in the basement of their home; Roter Sand is about a jealous lover killing the singer; and while there’s some debate on-line, Ich tu dir weh is (superficially, at least) about an S&M style relationship.

The first single from the album, Pussy, is a fine example of Rammstein understanding how some German’s can be perceived by the rest of the world with a performance that’s reminiscent of the German character in Super Troopers who gets caught driving his Porsche far too fast with his gorgeous wife while a thumping euro-dance track blasts from the stereo. The lyric “so what’s the problem?” could be any exchange student getting caught in a pub doing something lewd. The single allows the bands sense of humor to shine and it’s telling that the song features directly after the very dark and sinister Wiener Blut, after which something is needed to lighten the mood.

The themes of the album are such that it would be possible for the music to take a dark turn too easily, especially as Rammstein don’t seem afraid to allow the notion of lust to lead to perversion. The cover artwork for the album plays on the notion of the German cannibal, there are songs that detail imprisonment, domination, and revenge killings, so if it wasn’t for a light touch of humor here and there Liebe ist für alle da could be a real downer.

1253136023_rammstein-pussy-cds-2009
Pussy – Single Cover

At first I wasn’t sure about this album, it seemed bland and easy to criticise with none of the tracks memorable, nothing that you would hum to yourself. I thought this right up to the point where I caught myself humming one of the songs as I absent-mindedly roamed around the house one evening. That was the turning point for me and this album. I listened again and gave each track the attention they deserve.

Pussy, is the fulcrum on which the album pivots, tracks build up to it and then slide back down on the far side. The strange thing is that Pussy (the song, not the, y’know, other thing), while memorable and pop-ish is probably the weakest track on the album, let down by its general sentiment and lyrical content. The nature of Pussy is probably why the rest of the album is easy to dismiss, once you hear this track it gets lodged in your head and drowns out the rest of the material, so after one or two casual listens you think that Pussy is the be all and end all of the album, that it’s representative of the whole thing which couldn’t be further from the truth.

The songs either side of Pussy are more mature, and strangely for a Rammstein release, subtle in their workings, particularly Mehr and Roter Sand that both start off with a low, lonely, almost melancholy feel and slowly build up higher and higher, not loud and brash, but in a victorious, celebratory fashion, like there’s something there to be proud of and worth singing about, though once you do lay your hands on a translation you’ll discover this not to be the case at all and a fine example of that Rammstein effect.

My initial dismissal of Liebe ist für alle da was also due in part to a gripe that I still have concerning the intros used for each song, which layer effects and gimmicks to seemingly distinguish each track radically from its neighbors. I can only guess that this trick will come in handy when the band go on tour and fans will be better able to distinguish each track and thus cheer on que. This is a minor gripe and shouldn’t put anyone off the album, especially as once Liebe ist für alle da grows on you the different intro styles won’t matter at all.

The relative inaccessability of Liebe ist für alle da will probably limit its longevity and despite my having gone back and given the album more consideration I still can’t see myself spinning this disc too often in the future as I’d be far more likely to turn to Mutter, Rosenrot, or even Reise, Reise when in the mood for some Rammstein.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Rammstein’s Liebe ist für alle da

Rammstein – Liebe ist für alle da

1. “Rammlied” (Ramm-Song) 5:20

2. “Ich tu dir weh” (I Hurt You) 5:02

3. “Waidmanns Heil” (Hunter’s Salute/Hail) 3:33

4. “Haifisch” (Shark) 3:45

5. “B********” (Bückstabü) 4:15

6. “Frühling in Paris” (Springtime in Paris) 4:45

7. “Wiener Blut” (Viennese Blood) 3:53

8. “Pussy” 4:00

9. “Liebe ist für alle da” (Love is there for Everyone) 3:26

10. “Mehr” (More) 4:09

11. “Roter Sand” (Red Sand) 3:59