Review of “The Loved Ones” for Doom Generation.

Those of you who are regulars on this blog will know that from time to time I get invited to do horror movie reviews for Doom Generation, which is my go to site for “reviews for the sublimely weird.” If there’s a movie they haven’t got on there, I am allowed to view and review freely and without censorship, which is quite the boon in my book! This week I had the pleasure of contributing to them once again and as always I really enjoyed the experience. It is something I will strive to do more of in future, time permitting.

Let Daddy help!
Let Daddy help!

The film I chose was a 2009 Aussie production, though from what I gathered it was only released in the States in 2012, hence the discrepancy in dates.

Before watching I did some cursory research starting with IMDB, though I always seek their advice with a measure of reservation. In this case my concerns were justified because IMDB left me stumped. The same site that gave After.Life a 5.9 rating gave The Loved Ones a 6.7, which for a decimal system is close-ish but competely subjective. If you asked me, I would equate the difference between these two movies as the distance between the earth and the moon; not much if you’re looking at it from where we’re standing but a whole other kettle of fish if you’re trying to walk it.

The Loved Ones is an Australian movie which was released in 2012 and from what I understand it’s a bit of a hidden gem in the world of teen horror films. The star, Brent (Xavier Samuel), is a typical 17 year old having his first taste of adulthood via the mediums of sex, drugs and punk rock but like all good protagonists he is a little tormented by his past. Though I do say protagonist, it’s fair to point out that as far as acting goes Brent is more like the supporting male to Lola’s (Robin McLeavy’s) Hamlet, ‘cause she’s the movie’s chassis, frame and engine, everything else is the fluffy dice hanging from the mirror.

Read the rest here.

Review of “Piercing” by Ryu Murakami

Murakami

As confusing as this might be to some readers, as far as literature goes I don’t have a favourite genre or style. I will read anything provided it is well written and interesting. Just like in music I might have a preference for rock but I will identify with anything melodious.

I don’t remember if Junichiro Tanizaki came first and that led me onto the Horror or if it was the other way around but one of my favourite go to genres is Japanese Fiction. I might have mentioned this before but I love Tanizaki for his smooth and subtle writing style which is as good as you can get for mature and ambient writing with no frills. I like Japanese authors because they form clean lines with their writing, much like a good Kinomo! One day I’ll write at length about Tanizaki if time permits but right now I’d like to cross the street to the aforementioned Japanese Horror.

A few years ago I came across Natsuo Kirino and “Grotesque,” a chilling book about murdered prostitutes and I once again came to appreciate the laconic skills of Japanese authors. Allow me also to note that even though I’d love nothing more than to read them in the language in which they were intended to be read, I am unable currently so I have to make do with translations. The quality of all the Japanese books I’ve read so far has been quite excellent so I’m led to believe the translations are good.

This week’s title, to finally get to the point, was “Piercing” by Ryu Murakami. Piercing is a short and poignant book about a seemingly balanced family man who after some sleepless nights realizes he has raging fantasies about stabbing his baby girl with an ice pick. In order to avoid this fate he decides he needs to focus his attention somewhere else and concludes that the best avenue for his drive is to stab a woman. He gives his wife and company an excuse, takes the week off work and settles into a hotel in the business district where prostitutes abound.

He plans the murder meticulously and after a quick test run he puts his plan in motion. Right from the start and while he tries to order things in his mind we find that far from the balanced individual, Kawashima is in fact a deeply troubled person who is plagued by a rather dark past initiated by an abusive mother.

On the day of the plan Kawashima orders a prostitute to his room and everything that could go wrong does. In a fated twist, his intended victim is quite unpredictable and puts several dents in his plan as the night unfolds. I won’t add spoilers this time, but suffice it to say that Murakami writes both of the characters in this book masterfully and explores their off kilter psychological universes so brilliantly that you would never question the veracity of their souls.

Though I’ve read a lot of horror and similar genres I can honestly say this book was one of the most deeply disturbing, yet thoroughly enjoyable reads I’ve experienced.

And this concludes tonight’s bulletin!

After.Life, cos I bet you missed me complaining.

This week I’m happy to announce that I’ve written another guest post for the Doom Generation movie review site, an experience I’m finding thoroughly rewarding of late. In fact, I can’t watch a movie anymore without thinking I should be reviewing it for them.

True to form I’m grumbling again but I’ll leave you to decide if it’s justified:

AFTER.LIFE

When I first read about After.Life I was very excited. On paper it was an easy sell, Liam Neeson, Christina Ricci and Jason Long are the three main stars that should have made this movie phenomenal. Plus the blurb had everything going for it: A young woman caught between life and death… and a funeral director who appears to have the gift of transitioning the dead, but might just be intent on burying her alive…

So what if IMDB only gave it six stars? Liam Neeson gives start quality to anything, especially after Taken, right? Not right. Wrong in fact!

This was another one of those super promising movies which left me feeling cheated and used by the end. Though it was well acted, I was left longing for a better story once again. It’s very sad when a movie is full of potential but sacrifices plot for the benefit of visuals.

It starts with a young couple, Paul and Anna, having sex. Half way through the deed Anna stops having fun and goes to take a shower. Her boyfriend protests that she used to enjoy it, but now suddenly doesn’t anymore. Why? We’re left to wonder. How is this plot going to thicken and how will this affect their relationship? To add more spice to the mix, she goes to take a shower and has a nose bleed. Big hint that something is wrong with her health, right? Right? After all, each scene in a movie serves as an indispensable tale telling device which propels the plot forward. Or is that just me?

The following evening Paul takes Anna out to dinner and after a botched wedding proposal she gets into her car and drives away during a rainstorm, upset that he’s just broken up with her. Despite the “what the…?” exclamations you’re all probably making, this part was actually done quite well, which is a testament to the skills of the cast. Next thing we know Anna shows up in a funeral home and Paul has to find out from her mother that she was killed in a car accident. Though he tries to see her, he is denied access by the Mortician/Funeral director Mr Deacon, played by Neeson, on the grounds that he is not really family. He goes to the police station to ask for their help (being as he is a lawyer) and is turned away, but not before seeing Anna’s wrecked and blood spattered car, implying that she was quite seriously impaled in the accident… Read the rest HERE for the spoiler and sarcasm enhanced version.

After.Life

Night Watch Review Guest Post.

A few weeks ago I was invited to write a review on a movie of my choice for the Doom Generation review site, which in their own words is a site of “movie reviews for the sublimely weird.” The site is a real treasure trove of quirky movies and offers an eclectic mix of mainly horror but also other titles which divert from the main stream. As an added bonus it has really high production values (if that term is applicable for a site), a clean look, and is super user friendly.

I loved the experience of guest writing for another site and it is definitely something I’ll be repeating in the future!

My movie of choice was Night Watch, a Russian language film with a supernatural theme. Feel free to read the review below or on their site which features pretty pictures and the trailer too!

Night Watch
Russian Language
Original Title: “Nochnoy dozor”
Director: Timur Bekmambetov

As long as humanity has existed there have been others among us. They are human yet they have abilities beyond those of ordinary men. Witches, sorcerers, shape shifters, the others are as varied as stars in the sky. The others are soldiers in the eternal war; the struggle between dark and light. Light others protected mankind from dark others who plagued and tortured humans…

Night Watch begins with a scene of two fantasy/medieval armies marching towards each other as the above narrative takes place. One is the army of light Others while the opposite is the army of dark Others. As the two armies cross paths on a gothic style bridge a battle erupts.

Geser, the leader of the light Others realizes mid battle that the two forces are equally matched and that mutual assured destruction will be the only outcome of this war. Geser and Zavulon, the leader of the dark Others, agree to a truce under the condition that a body of light Others (the Night Watch), will be formed whose task will be to protect mankind from their dark counterparts. Equally an opposite body of dark Others (Day Watch) will do the same, though it is unclear who they’re protecting.

Fast forward to Moscow in 1992, where a man named Anton tries to procure a supernatural abortion for his estranged wife’s bastard foetus under the pretext that he wants her back from the lover she’s eloped with. The witch who performs the deed, (a dark Other) is interrupted by the Night Watch (in invisible form) in the nick of time, and thus the child is saved. During this exchange it is revealed that Anton is a light Other and can see the response team as they write up the witch for violating the truce. Fast forward another 12 years and now Anton is an active member of the response team and his particular duty/skill is to catch Vampire Others. He tracks a Vampire and his illegally turned girlfriend to an abandoned building as they attempt to drink from a child. In the scuffle that ensues Anton accidentally kills the male Vampire while the boy escapes. Anton must now find him before the starving Vampire girl does. Injured and upset at having killed an Other, Anton returns to Light HQ and is healed by Geser. In assistance to his quest for the Vampire, Geser gives Anton an owl and together they try to find the boy Yegor and stop the Vampire girl. They trace him to his house and there Anton realizes that the boy is in fact the son of his former wife and also an Other.

Night Watch is one of those movies that I’ve wanted to watch for a while but after seeing it I was in two minds about writing a review on it. Visually it is not in the same calibre as a Hollywood blockbuster but it definitely holds its own. It is gritty and pungent with a wonderfully European aesthetic, which was probably the most interesting thing about it. It is peppered with striking details that give it a very quirky feel. When Anton rejects the owl for example, she follows him home and messily takes human woman in the middle of his kitchen. After a bath for which she has waited decades, Anton asks his neighbour for women’s clothes so the owl woman ends up with a 70’s wardrobe and is left wondering if she’s in fashion. It was little touches like this that made an otherwise disjointed movie worthwhile.

I say it’s disjointed because in the middle of trying to find and protect the boy, the narrative appears to go off course. After losing the boy, Anton happens to see a woman on the train with a vortex above her head and reports it to his boss. Gesel tells him the story of a legendary cursed virgin whose powerful spell once opened a vortex allowing the forces of evil into the world. The prophecy forecasts that a cursed virgin will walk the earth once again and a final battle between light and dark will erupt, disrupting the balance forever. In the midst of all this a Great Other will appear and if he takes the side of light, then light will triumph, but there is also the risk he will choose the dark. With a storm brewing and the city plunged in darkness by a power outage Anton and his Other buddies manage to find the Cursed Virgin and undo the spell saving the city from the Vortex. While Anton’s attentions are on the Virgin however, the Vampire girl finds the boy Yegor and a fight ensues in order to save him from her desperate clutches.

The impasse is ended by the arrival of Zavulon who attacks Anton and suddenly the battle of the prophecy between light and dark erupts on the roof of Yegor’s building. In the final scene as Anton and Zavulon fight, Yegor tries to give Anton a protective charm against the Overlord Of Darkness, and in the confusion that ensues the child is almost killed by Anton. Feeling betrayed he asks Anton if he really intended to kill him when Zavulon reveals his trump card, the arrest report of the witch hired 12 years earlier by Anton to perform the supernatural abortion on Yegor’s mother which convinces the boy that Anton wanted him dead and which inevitably forces him to join the forces of Darkness, thus fulfilling the prophecy.

As far as Sci-Fi films go, Night Watch it is unusual and entertaining (though with similarities to Star Wars), but it leaves the viewer with several unanswered questions which is my bugbear with movies of any sort. Never the less, the story had potential and had it been done a little bit differently it could’ve have been an epic film. As it stands however, many parts of the story needed tightening in order to reel the viewer more convincingly into the narrative and the overall universe. I frequently found myself wondering how certain parts fell together as some scenes left me with a sense of the ridiculous rather than in awe; case in point the war on the roof and Zavulon’s use of his own spine as a sword. (Yes seriously!)

Even though it was a really good effort, there were several instances where I felt like I could virtually see the screws that held the plot together and though I wanted to be reeled in, hook, line and sinker, I felt myself sitting on the shore waiting for the line to tighten. Never the less, the atmosphere and the visuals created a movie good enough to be a cult classic and one which is definitely worth a watch.

Chuck made me do it!

I don’t normally enter short story competitions for lack of time, but something about this one had me very excited indeed! Horror and Mayhem always do…

Timmy’s Little Robot

The tree stood in the corner, lights flashing to the tinny tempo of -“The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful… And since we’ve got no place to go…Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”
Outside the temperature was average for the time of year but you wouldn’t have guessed by looking at her. The heating was cranked up to high and she was dressed in a pair of white denim hot shorts which were frayed at the edges, barely hiding the thread veins that had started to populate the top of her thigh. Her toe nails were freshly painted. ‘Xmas Red,’ the label read. It was a special edition polish with a plastic silver tone Santa charm hanging from the neck; she loved collecting limited edition nail polish; she had a whole case full of them and all the shades looked virtually the same.

She got up off the couch and went to check on Timmy but not before stopping at the mirror. Her blonde bob was as puffed as she could get it and her shiny toenails poked through the peep toe of the marabou slipper, also in white to go with her shorts. She peeked through the door wanting to make sure the kid was fast asleep before returning to the living room to wait for Robert.

The boy’s room was dark save for the rocket shaped night light in the corner. It was a mess. She’d make sure he cleaned up after himself in the morning though. On the floor lay the desecrated box of the robot she’d bought him for Christmas. She’d left getting him something to the last minute so she was grateful for the pop up toy store she’d found on her way home from work.

‘Santa’s Grotto’ flashed the cheap sign in the exaggerated curly neon letters that intermittently lit up. The ‘n’ and the apostrophe buzzed on and off making it look like ‘Sa_tans Grotto’ when it got stuck. The inside was impressive though, rich and vibrant; it was much larger than it looked and all the toys were grouped by interest. Pirate outfits with realistic looking cutlasses, chemistry sets with working Bunsen burners and even wooden puzzle games made from sustainable wood sources. She sped past some old fashioned wind up monkeys and clowns that had always given her the creeps, when she saw a kid sized sports car. She considered it for a split second but rejected the thought certain it’d be too pricey. They even had one of those step on pianos she’d seen on the internet. Definitely not one of those, she thought to herself, he’ll drive me insane.

She settled on a silver vintage-design robot; it was how they imagined robots to look like in the 60’s but also modern. When she was a kid her granny had an old GE box fridge which reminded her of this robot’s solid body shape. The box was glossy and was printed with a speech bubble that said, ‘Hi! I’m Lenny the Learning Robot!’ Lenny also had fully functioning clamp hands and wheeled red feet as well as a perma-smile in the form of a ventilation grate. His eyes consisted of two red lights and on his chest was an arrow gauge. Underneath the gauge was a small cylinder printed with letters which you could move in order to form words. If you wrote a word the robot knew, the lights lit up and the arrow gauge pointed to a ‘Perfect 10!’

“This’ll do very nicely!” She told herself. He likes this kind of robot shit, or is it space stuff? Whatever! Robots, Spaceshit, it’s all the same anyway. She turned it over and looked at the price. “Fifteen bucks! Sweet!” She said loudly again and put a cigarette in her mouth. She walked to the till, paid for the robot and had them wrap it quickly, not caring that they hadn’t even taken the price tag off.
**
His reaction hadn’t been the one she expected when he opened it.
“But Moooom, I wanted a tablet!”
“Santa didn’t bring you a tablet, he brought you Lenny the lovely Robot that moves and makes words and sh.. stuff!”
“Mom, I’m seven not three, I know there’s no Santa alright?”
“Don’t say that, and don’t be so unappreciative! You’re starting to remind me of your ungrateful dad Timmy!”
“I wish he was here instead of you!” The kid spat in anger.
“Why you little…” She hovered over him and raised her hand to hit him before remembering Robert was coming over and it wouldn’t do to have an awake and screaming kid in the way. She composed herself adjusting her super tight crop top, and put a cigarette in her mouth without lighting it. “Well that’s all you’re getting. Now take your robot and go to bed!”

Timmy did as he was told. He considered going out through his window and scratching her car but it was drizzling. He took the robot to his room and left it on the ground by his shoes. Some Christmas this had turned out to be again, just him and his mom and a frozen TV dinner. He missed his dad, Christmases had been much better when he was around. He opened one of his comic books and read a bit before falling sleep.
**
The robot’s eyes lit up. He righted himself and began to roll towards Timmy’s bed. The batteries that had come with the box still lay where Timmy had chucked them unopened. Lenny clasped onto the bed covers with his little pincers and climbed all the way on top of Timmy who was sleeping soundly. He sat square in the middle of his chest and began to extend his tubular arms outwards like an expanding shower hose. The metal tentacles slowly wrapped themselves around the bed trapping the boy in the robot’s clutches. Timmy felt the pressure on his body and woke up.

“What the fuck are you?” He said through his sleepy haze.
The robot’s chest lit up allowing the letters to become visible in the dark.
LANGUAGE TIMMY!” The letters flicked quickly to form the words. Their old fashioned clicking offering no comfort.
“Get off me! Mom Help! Moooom!”
MOMMY BUSY NOW, NO HELP.” Spelled the robot as a compartment opened from inside its boxy shape, revealing another two appendages, one of which was holding a metal clamp not unlike an old clothes peg.
“What are you doing with that?” He was starting to cry now.

The robot showed no hesitation as he clamped the boy’s lips shut so he’d be unable to scream, despite the fact that his mother was now partially undressed and in the expert hands of Robert in a haze of wine. Timmy could hear the music which was blaring from the family room.

TIMMY NO BELIEVE SANTA. SANTA BELIEVE IN TIMMY THOUGH,” the letters rolled fast on the little drum.
The child looked terrified at this point and he began to sweat, the stink of piss also reached his nose despite the heavy covers that absorbed it.
SANTA SEES BAD KIDS. SANTA KNOWS WHAT TIMMY DOES TO LITTLE ANIMALS WHEN MOMMY WORKS.” The wheels flicked the words and every time one formed, the robot’s little red eyes lit up.
SANTA DISAPPOINTED AT TIMMY.

The boy shook his head violently from left to right. Snot was starting to froth under his nose where it mixed with the tears and the sweat before it dripped down the side of his neck and onto the pillow.
Lenny produced a match from within his little body and lit it against himself like they used to do in old westerns. He looked like a strange metallic half octopus with all his appendages. The flame flickered brightly for a moment, and then begun to consume the stick. The robot held it near Timmy’s face burning the child’s left eyebrow clean off. The smell of burned hair and flesh filled the room. The immobilized boy tried to shriek but it never cut through his mother’s giggling in the other room. The clamp and the tightness around his chest didn’t allow for much screaming.

The little pincer of the robot’s fourth arm reached Timmy’s eye and hovered above it for what felt like hours.
JUST LIKE TIMMY DOES TO KITTENS,” rolled the letters before the pincer fastened onto a bunch of eyelashes and pulled them clean off. A bead of blood began to form on the boy’s lid which quickly merged with his incessant tears. The eyelid also started to bloat and close over the eye.

“Please stop, I won’t do it again I promise! Please tell Santa I’ll never be mean to animals ever again, I swear!” Screamed Timmy as the peg slipped off this mouth and fell to the ground. Unfazed, Lenny dropped the detached eyelashes and used his free appendage to secure the mouth again. Without faltering he produced a blade from inside his little compartment and began to cut lines into Timmy’s chin, nose and ears. They would’ve been perfectly straight, just like the robot preferred had the boy not moved his head from left to right in his attempts to avoid the assaults. Blood seeped out of his wounds which stung from the tears and the sweat. His pillow had transformed into a sponge for bodily fluids.
When the boy finally passed out from the pain and lack of air, Lenny sat patiently on his chest and slowly unraveled his restrictive arms from around the bed.
GOOD BOY TIMMY!” Rolled the letter wheels and the eyes lit up once again.
**
She didn’t know what time it was when Robert left, but she reckoned the sun would be up soon. She was dizzy from the wine but nothing a few hours of sleep wouldn’t fix. Heading to her bedroom she thought she heard noise coming from Timmy’s room so she decided to check on him. Brat better be asleep or help me God…
She cracked the door and was struck by the smell of burned flesh, blood and piss.
“What the…?” She said to herself as she turned on the light and rushed to the unconscious boy nearly tripping up on his damn toy robot. Horrified at the state of her son, she picked him up and rushed him to hospital.
**
The sun had completely risen by the time Timmy woke up. He’d lost and gained consciousness a couple of times but he couldn’t be sure. His head and face were throbbing and he screamed as he remembered the events from the previous evening again. The nurse rushed to him and re-administered something to help him sleep. Through his haze he could see the fading form of his mother whispering with a doctor.

“It is very worrying when a child self-harms in such a way Mrs Tomlinson,” whispered the doctor.
“That’s Ms Giardino now doctor, I’m divorced,” Timmy thought he could detect a flirtatious tone in his mother’s voice.
“My apologies Ma’am,” corrected the doctor raising his brow. “I suggest you leave him here with us for a few days so that we try to calm him and get to the bottom of this. If he persists with the robot story I suggest we give him a course of Electro Convulsive Therapy in order to divorce him from the idea of toys coming to life.”
“Whatever you think is best doctor,” she said placing her hand on his arm.
**
Returning home she went to Timmy’s bedroom. On the floor lay a razor blade and some spent matches.
“Stupid little boy, could’ve burned the house down with his insanity.” She picked the robot up from the floor and put it in the same bag she’d brought it in. She didn’t look at the logo but if she had, she’d see that Santa’s Grotto had completely transformed to Satan’s Grotto. She put it in the trash and closed the lid. Attention seeking little shit, she thought to herself.