Want to be scared and repulsed for Halloween?

When I was a lad, the BBC showed a load of horror films on a regular basis. They’d show the classic Universal horrors, Hammer of course, the Roger Corman films and lots of independent films of varying quality.

One film they showed when I was probably ten at the end of the 1970’s or so is a film called Death Line. It’s the film that scared people of my generation who saw it from entering the London Underground late at night when it’s empty and the only sound you hear is far, far away and it’s a weird little clicking sound that seems to be getting nearer even though you’re walking further away from it as fast as your legs can take you….

Even now I enter the London Underground and I think there’s a tapping of water somewhere under the noise of people from all over the world rushing around the city’s Underground. Somewhere under the hectic thrust of the day there’s a wall separating us from them, whomever them may be.

The film is one which stars Donald Pleasence in a great performance supported by a cast of wonderful British actors and directed by Gary Sherman, who frankly never ever achieved anything of the quality of this film ever again. It’s a very, very well directed film and uncompromisingly brutal but the single shot which instilled a primal fear of those long, dark corridors in London’s Underground is this one. Watching this at ten quite simply fucked me up and even today, it still sends a glorious shiver down the old spine as well as making my stomach turn just a bit…

 

What I thought of And Then Emily Was Gone #4

Thoughts about #1#2 and #3.

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When a comic comes with this warning:

 WARNING: The publisher and creators can accept no liability for any distress, trauma or nausea caused by the upsetting imagery in this issue: readers continue at their own risk!

It really has to live up to it or otherwise you may as well go read Adventure Time. Deciding to take my sanity at hand I decide that it’s worth the distress, trauma and nausea plus after a bad dose of the flu over the weekend, it can’t be worse than that.

And Then Emily Was Gone has been til now an extraordinary comic which as I’ve said, has stood out in a glut of spandex clad superheroes and endless fantasy epics. The fact it can include scenes like the one below and it feels perfectly natural is wonderful and yes, it really is in David Lynch territory.

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I do however feel at times that Lynch is making stuff up as he goes along which is fine and I adore Lynch, but it at times leaves his narrative disjointed which is something Lees and Laurie don’t succumb to. Yes, they’re more than happy to have odd wee scenes but there’s an overall feeling that if they don’t add to the plot, then they aid with the characterisation which is the case here as Helligner continues to see strange apparitions and creatures.

It seems that Hellinger’s ‘filter’ is broken and he can see ‘the world of the screaming’ which means these visions are real.

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Right now there’s a feeling of real, creeping dread as this is going somewhere and that somewhere ain’t going to be nice because it’s now clear the island of Merksay isn’t a nice place, nor should I say much more in terms of plot because it’ll spoil things but I’m not going to be eating sausages for a wee while.

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Did this issue cause me distress or nausea? Well a wee bit of the latter, but it’s more a sense of unease. The best way I can describe it is that feeling you get just as someone is about to tell you something awful but they haven’t went into detail as to what it is yet, so you know something bad is happening but not what it is yet. It’s that horrible sense of not knowing which drives this book and it uses that feeling of unease brilliantly.

Sadly the series is nearly over but I hope to see what this team can do again in the future if they maintain this quality, assuming of course the climax is of the same quality as the series as a whole.

What I Thought of Judge Dredd: Superfiend

This new web series is produced by Adi Shankar producer of the 2012 Dredd film which was actually very good indeed, if somewhat lacking in the sort of humour you’d find in Dredd’s stories in 2000AD, and indeed much of the satire was missing but Dredd was a great action film that at least tried to tell a stripped down Judge Dredd story.

Judge Dredd: Superfiend is Shanktar’s thank you for fans of the Dredd film and it’s an unauthorised adaptation along the lines of the quite excellent Punisher film he did with Thomas Jane and Ron Perlman. Dirty Laundry is probably the best of the ‘bootleg’/fan films that are around because it’s suitably grim and depressing, because, well, it’s the fucking Punisher!

Superfiend suffers from taking a needlessly grim take on Dredd while at the same time trying to be flippant along the lines Alan Grant and John Wagner would manage with what looked like ease, but I know involved a lot of working out so they’d get the tone right. The story centres round Judge Sydney, a psychopath when we’re introduced to him kills a rape victim so he can kill the rapist legally under the law of Mega City One. Right away the tone is astonishingly jarring for what has been billed as a Judge Death versus Judge Dredd story, and from there we’re launched into a flashback in Sydney’s life where we see his father was a mobile dentist who would torture and kill people with young Sydney’s help.

After an encounter with the Judges, young Sydney decides to become a Judge, and one of his early tests is to execute his father. This really is all setup so we can see Sydney to be a bastard who we don’t really care about, in fact, most of the characters in this we couldn’t care about. When Sydney is taken over by Judge Death even Death seems like he’s going through the motions and Dredd himself doesn’t even show up for the first few episodes and then he feels like a cardboard cut-out of the 2000AD Dredd or that awful version of Dredd that pops up in American comics that’s supposed to be Dredd but isn’t.

And here’s the problem with Superfiend. It’s fun but it only really feels like Dredd by using the characters from the comics, but turns them into echos of what they were, or are introduced and dumped so quickly their introduction seems fairly pointless. It’s a fun series of films but it’s really for newer fans brought on after the Dredd film, or indeed, anyone not 100% familiar with the nearly 40 year history of Judge Dredd.

It’s a pity as there’s potential with Judge Dredd to do more than just fights and violence which is what writers like Pat Mills, Alan Grant and of course, John Wagner have done, but this is really for passing a spare 30 minutes or so if you’ve got nothing else to fill it with.

 

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Horselover Fat:

I’m off work due to a cold which wiped my weekend out, so I’ve been following the implosion of Scottish Labour, and the jiggerpokery it’s supporters are trying to do in order to spin Johann Lamont’s resignation as Labour ‘leader’ in Scotland as some sort of positive. In fact it’s exposed the horrible mess not just Labour in Scotland are in but the UK as a whole, not to mention in five weeks we’ve seen Better Together being totally exposed as a sad sham.

This splendid blog from Bella Caledonia does go into detail but the question is now is how Labour can survive? I don’t think they can and at this point the supporters of the party in England need to catch up with the people of Scotland realise that because Labour supported wonderful things in 1945, and dragging out Harry Leslie Smith to remind people of this isn’t telling the story of the party today or what it really stands for.

So right now the leader of Scottish Labour seems to be a choice between Jim Murphy, Kezia Dugdale and hilariously, Gordon Brown who would lead I assume via Skype.

Who would have thought that the winners in the referendum campaign would lose so badly?

Originally posted on :

Johann-Lamont-007By Mike Small

As the political fratricide within Labour rumbles on like a sort of Edgar Alan Poe spectacle it’s disconcerting that the person who is on the money about poor Johann is Alex Massie, who wrote earlier:

That Johann Lamont did not lead the Scottish Labour party terribly well was less remarkable than the fact she led it at all.’ 

The party conveyor belt has produced the following:  Donald Dewar (7 May 1999 – 11 October 2000), Henry McLeish (27 October 2000 – 8 November 2001), Jack McConnell (22 November 2001 – 15 August 2007), Wendy Alexander (14 September 2007 – 28 June 2008), Iain Gray (13 September 2008 – 17 December 2011), Johann Lamont (January 2012 – October 2014) with a sort of inevitable diminishing return so that each time they become more obscure, less credible, more ridiculous.

Devolution hasn’t really worked for Labour, reduced from the…

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What I thought of Doctor Who: In the Forest of the Night

Thoughts about Deep Breath; Into the Dalek; Robot of Sherwood Listen ; Time Heist;The Caretaker ; Kill the Moon, Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline.

One of the things that Stephen Moffat has done since taking over Doctor Who is to get in big name guest writers such as Neil Gaiman or Richard Curtis who have delivered mainly pretty high quality scripts. This week’s episode is written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, the main writer for the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony and collaborator with Michael Winterbottom on films like 24 Hour Party People as well as his children’s fiction. This is a writer with an amazing pedigree so it’s a major coup for Moffat to get him on board, but does he deliver a good script?

No. In the Forest of the Night is dreadful and from a writer of this quality it’s a crushing disappointment as he’s written some amazing stuff, but this is drivel. The plot is nonsense, even for Doctor Who which has it’s odd bit of sheer nonsense over the years but on the whole it’s normally enjoyable nonsense. This is just plodding, dull rubbish.

The plot is that Earth has been overrun with plants and trees overnight for no real reason. The Doctor thinks it’s an alien invasion while Clara is with Danny Pink and a bunch of CBBC schoolkids having a sleepover in the Natural History Museum (yes really) who wake up to discover a London overrun by a new forest. There’s a whole lot of drivel involving a girl called Maebh, some more stereotypical CBBC kiddie antics,  some wolves, a tiger scared by Danny Pinks torch (seriously) some sparkling lights, more bad CGI, a falling Nelson’s Column and a London totally devoid of all people apart from those only needed for this story. Unless it’s Christmas Day, London is constantly busy with Trafalgar Square (the main location of the story) constantly flowing with people but in this there’s a handful of schoolkids, a few army people and The Doctor.

Eventually the Doctor finds out that a massive solar flare is about to be launched at Earth from the Sun and that this will wipe out all life on Earth and there’s nothing he can do to help. In fact the Doctor doesn’t do very much in this episode apart from realise he’s as much of planet Earth as Clara is. Eventually the Doctor works out that this has happened before and the Earth grows this forest as a sort of airbag to deflect the flare thanks to the extra oxygen in the atmosphere, which is what happens. After danger is averted things go back to normal. The End.

Coming on the back of lat week’s excellent episode, this is even more disappointing. There’s a germ of an idea and under someone like Barry Letts we’d maybe have got a better episode, but we didn’t which is why we got this mess. Yes, the programme has played loose with science over it’s 51 years but there’s a line where as a viewer you go ‘get to fuck!’ and this is it. So on that note let’s forget this episode ever happened and think about the two-part finale (a dreadful Americanism which has sneaked into the UK) starting next week. We know it’s got Cybermen and the mystery of Missy will be explained, but it also looks like Clara has her own secret which we’ll find out soon enough.

Just no more forests please.

What I Thought of Memetic #1

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This was an expensive week for me. Lots of stuff on Comixology, a new pair of glasses to pay for and saving for something quite life-changing next year means I’m trying to curtail my comic buying to interesting stuff. Thankfully the cover to Memetic looked interesting and a read of the synopsis interested me enough to buy it with my week’s comics from Comixology.

A meme is an idea that starts with an individual, and then spreads throughout multiple persons and potentially entire societies. Richard Dawkins suggests a meme’s success comes from its effectiveness to the host. But history shows that destructive memes can spread just as rapidly through society. MEMETIC shows the progression of a weaponized meme that leads to the utter annihilation of the human race within 72 hours. The root of this apocalypse is a single image on the internet, a “meme” in the popular sense. A meme that changes everything.

 

Written by James Tynion IV and drawn by Eryk Donovan, a couple I’ve not read or seen work from before, Memetic is an apocalyptic tale that doesn’t involve aliens or zombies and it’s the lack of zombies in an apocalyptic comic that really hooked me. The idea of a meme destroyed the human race in 72 hours is a scary one, and a brilliant bit of contemporary science fiction. However is the comic any good beyond it’s one rather brilliant idea?

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Our main character Aaron, is the sort of 20-something who spends their free time online on Twitter, various forums and wanking, but he’s unaffected by this image which is, well, the sort of thing that would be shared and raved about online quite easily. In fact here it is…

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It’s a sloth giving a thumbs up against a weird background which for some reason makes everyone but Arron tingle with happiness. Thing is Arron is slightly deaf, colourblind and is moping after splitting up with his boyfriend, and everyone is obsessed with this image of a sloth giving the thumbs up. It’s all over his Facebook feed, which is what happens with memes, but it’s everywhere with nobody not posting it or talking about it. even the most popular memes aren’t that popular. Even his friend Sarah is obsessed by it. It even makes the mainstream media and becomes news.

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Memetic really is a massive surprise of a book. Yes, the apocalyptic comic is done to death and yes, it does read like a film script but it’s such a freshly original idea written well and drawn well, that it’s so easy to ignore the cliched characters which do pop up. It’s an engaging, quite fascinating bit of science fiction that breathes life into a genre which has been dragging itself along by its fingernails for some time now.

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It’s the sense of imposing doom that’s great about this story. There’s no mucking around as Tynion throws the reader right in it nor does he insult the reader’s intelligence by dumbing down some very large, complex ideas in the comic about the nature of memes, and the ease which information can spread in the internet age.

For 12 hours it’s all a funny news story if a tad annoying for those unaffected by it. Then at 12 hours bad things start happening and 500 million people become crazed lunatics. We’ve seen this sort of destruction and violence in comics like Crossed and Walking Dead, but there’s a different slant to this, even if the last half of the book does feel a bit like Stephen King’s Cell.

So what is the #GoodTimeSloth I dunno, but I hope the reveal and the payoff is as enjoyable (as the apocalypse can be) as this issue.

What I thought of The Wicked and the Divine #5

Thoughts about #1#2#3 and #4.

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Issue five of what appears to be the Hipsters comic of choice, see Lucifer trashing North London, which some of us may suggest would be an improvement. Also for something which is ostensibly a superhero book there’s been no big fight scenes causing massive destruction as yet. That isn’t the case as of this issue.

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It’s odd that it’s taken so long for such a scene to pop up, but now that it has it feels like an old friend as it’s probably the sort of action this comic needed as it was in danger of turning into a Guardian comment piece.

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The Wicked and the Divine is certainly a grower on me as I actually feel like I’m reading characters now as opposed to 2D cutouts, but then again after reading this issue it feels the previous four were just introduction and this issue is the one to kick the series off proper. I’m not going to say why as it’d ruin it, but this is the best issue yet of this series.

This feels like it’s going somewhere now and although I still have reservations about some of the flat characterisation, not to mention the art being a wee bit too clean so characters tend to look too alike, it’s a series which takes off with this issue. I hope next issue keeps the momentum up.