The Poughkeepsie Tapes is the found-footage film that disturbed me

 

Back in the 2000’s things were all over the place for horror films. There weren’t that many great ones (the footprint of 911 cast itself over the first part of the decade) but as the decade progressed things improved especially on the independent film front. I’m a horror fan since a wee boy, so the odd gem that’d come up I’d swallow up like a hungry prisoner, and by the end of the 00’s most of the once-banned video nasties were coming out on disc either uncut, or close to uncut.

Tracking down video nasties used to be fun, but now everything was easy to buy from your local HMV or through Amazon. Then in 2007 a rumour flew around the internet about a film which was deeply disturbing even if it was a found footage film which even by 2007 was wildly overused and full of awful, awful films. The Poughkeepsie Tapes was a low budget film in the found footage/mockumentary style which was familiar by now but what made it attractive was it was bloody hard to get in those pre broadband days. Sure you could find it on P2P sites but it took ages to download, and when it did there was less than an hour of the film. It wasn’t until checking online that you had to use VLC Player to watch it. In short, it was a bit of a hunt to watch the bloody thing in an age when media was readily available at the click of a mouse.

Once I did see the film it was clear this was, well, fucked up. From the off the entire film felt wrong, in a deeply disturbing WTF type of way. Yes there were easy shocks but the entire thing uneased me and even the sometimes awful acting in these films washed me by as another disturbing set-piece came up. I can’t say I enjoyed the film, but I certainly remembered it afterward.

And so it passed into memory only to pop up in conversation during those drunken ‘what films freaked you out’ conversation you’d have. Then the other day this video popped up in my recommendations.

Apart from being a pretty good review of the film, it brought back that slightly disturbed feeling so I found my copy of the film and watched it again. Yes, it still disturbed. The crap bits are still crap. However, there’s that tone and feel that this is right, in that, the film is designed to make you walk away from it feeling like you need a shower which is the sign of a good horror film, but maybe not one you’ll watch over and over again.

So give it a go, but do it in the dark.

 

 

 

RIP Max Von Sydow

As a child, my image of Max Von Sydow was from staring at pictures from The Exorcist, as at that point I was too young to watch it and it’d be at least 15 years before I did see it. I saw him as an old, frailish man.

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Yet when I saw him in Flash Gordon he was a relatively young man in all that film’s hot campy glory.

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Of course, it was a mix of Von Sydow’s wonderful acting and Dick Smith’s still astonishing makeup, and so for a while Max Von Sydow was my favourite actor. I’d eat up all his films when they landed on TV in those pre-digital, even pre VHS days so everything from The Seventh Seal to his still remarkable Jesus Christ (there’s something alien about his version of Christ I’ve never seen since) in The Greatest Story Ever Told, my favourite of the biblical epics with Ben Hur.

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There’s a ton of lost gems in Von Sydow’s C.V including the gloriously bizarre adaptation of Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf which simply has to be seen, preferably while off your face on MDMA.

1980 and 1981 saw him in some of my favourite films, including the mental Escape to Victory and Death Watch, a great SF film filmed here in a post-industrial, but pre recovery Glasgow. It’s a film I’m always recommending because it simply is a lost gem.

If I sat down and wrote a list of my favourite films, Max Von Sydow’s name would pop up over and over and over again in the credits, from Dune, to Dreamscape, to Hannah and Her Sisters, to Until the End of the World, to What Dreams Will Come, and fuck, even Judge Dredd has some moments.

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A great actor not afraid to play in genre film as well as mainstream film, and one who was such a talent he made it look effortless, but it really wasn’t. Another one who’ll be missed.

RIP Russ Cochran

If you’re a casual comics fan the name Russ Cochran will never grace the same ‘geek’ documentaries or films that lay homage to Stan Lee or Robert Downey Jr, but Cochran is quite possibly one of the most important figures in comics who sadly died this week.

Cochran’s massive contribution is carefully caretaking, and releasing the work of EC Comics in formats which do the work justice. The giant hardback box-sets are the easy sign a comics fan is not just an historian but a lover of some of the best comics ever made.

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Cochran was a comics fan who loved EC Comics, as well as the work of Carl Barks who started the entire idea of releasing comics in carefully curated editions with serious academic as well as artistic intent to preserve them for current and future generations.

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These editions were, and still are, massively expensive but Cochran also released EC reprints in a variety of formats more affordable to the average fan.

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Cochran’s contribution to comics as a medium and its fandom is immeasurable. These comics will teach you storytelling, design, scripting, everything and they’re great but for many in the 70’s and 80’s these were how people learned their first steps into the industry.

My dream is that before I die to have a full set of EC’s comics. I’ve got around a shelfload, with the Mad books being some of the most well-read comics I own. Thanks to Cochran making these things available maybe one day I will.

About the Resident Evil 3 remake trailer

The first three Resident Evil games are works of modern art. The remakes are extraordinary in they manage to capture the joy of the original games, and in some cases even improve what went before. Last year we saw Resident Evil 2 come out in a spectacular way as a remake and although the third game was obviously going to be remade nobody really expected it a year later.

But here it is. I shall be looking forward what they do as this trailer looks fantastic.

World War 3

Donald Trump is attempting to start a third world war by killing Major General Qassem Soleimani of Iran, which basically means that many of us in the UK woke up to see ‘WW3’ trending on Twitter which is quite terrifying. Now there is a school of thought that WW3 has been underway for some time mainly fought in cyberspace, but this ensures things become as risky as although Iran won’t launch a ground fight with the US (it’d last a day) but one step wrong in the Middle East and we’re in a potential nuclear situation.

Of course those of us of a certain age growing up in the 70’s and 80’s are only too aware of living under the constant threat of nuclear death. In fact we grew up with it as it was carved into our DNA as we’d been exposed to the fear of nuclear death since before we were all born.

Then it all got better once the Cold War ended and we hit that strange time in the 90s up until the 11th of September 2001, but of course I’m only talking of people in the West. Most of the rest of the world was suffering some sort of strife and didn’t enjoy that time in remission we did.

And now it’s all coming back for all of us.  It might not happen but that niggling horror in the back of my head I thought gone is back, and we can only hope wise heads prevail in the months, and years, ahead.

My top ten horror comics: 2 : Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing is DC’s version of a mud-monster archetype that goes back decades in comics, and even further, but it is by far the best known as well as being host to at least three classic runs. The first by creators Len Wein and Berni Wrightson.

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Wein and Wrightson’s run is full of Gothic angst as Swamp Thing tries to regain some measure of his lost humanity while fighting other monsters, not to mention Batman. In that story is writer Len Wein’s favourite ever panel of Batman and he’s not wrong in how bloody great it is.

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Wein and Wrightson’s run is lovely old-school horror but it was short-lived, and followed on was a run memorable only for some nice Nestor Redondo art but nothing else. Swampy was a character who drifted for nearly a decade before a writer by the name of Alan Moore was assigned the book when it was one of DC’s worst-selling titles. Moore, along with Steve Bissette, John Totleben and Rick Veitch redefined the horror comic from issue 20 of Saga of the Swamp Thing to an extent where its influence hangs over comics today. Current best-seller The Immortal Hulk owes a lot to this title, and Moore’s approach in particular.

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Moore was less influenced by horror comics of the past, and instead took a literary approach assuming the reader could, well, read, and wasn’t an idiot. Very quickly the title crawled from the swamp of near cancellation to being one of the flagships of how DC reinvented themselves in the mid-80’s by producing a critical and commercial success.

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This run is simply the best horror comics produced by either Marvel or DC. Moore also slips in and out of horror genres so one issue would be a monster of the week, followed by a sort of slasher story, then a werewolf story and then something entirely from leftfield.

SOTSTv2 p110-150By the end of the run, it was hard to imagine how to follow it but writer/artist Rick Veitch took over the chores, and did so well until DC pulled his run over a story where a lost in time Swamp Thing would meet Jesus Christ.

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But we were left with nearly 80 issues of classic stories, with Moore and company’s run being near perfection, and Veitch’s being high-quality work throughout. Sadly since then, Swamp Thing as a character hasn’t been served well (though Mark Millar’s run does deserve a mention for trying) which is a shame as there’s still potential there but to be honest how can you really follow what Moore, Veitch, Bissette and Totleben did?