Category Archives: Horror
Reviews from the crypt
Franklyn paints a portrait of four lost souls – Jonathan Preest, a masked vigilante who seeks revenge against the overseer of the religious regime of Meanwhile City. Manic depressive Emilia, who concocts suicidal art performances. Forlorn Milo, who is desperately searching for his one true love, and Peter, who is investigating the disappearance of his missing son, an ex military veteran. These four lives intertwined by fate across parallel worlds eventually collide, as a single bullet determines their destiny.
Cast: Eva Green, Ryan Phillippe, Sam Riley, Bernard Hill, Richard Coyle, James Faulkner. Script by: Gerald McMorrow. Directed by: Gerald McMorrow.
Franklyn is a visually rich and stunning film set across the dystopian landscape of parallel dimensions, Meanwhile City and contemporary London. It is within these dark ethereal perspectives that we encounter our four protagonists, each lost within themselves, and on an intertwined and fated path to ultimately affect each others lives, for good or ill.
Ryan Phillippe plays Preest, a masked atheist vigilante who resides in the religiously fervent Meanwhile City, a multi-faith metropolis that encourages the practice of all forms of religious reverence… except atheism. Cults and sects proliferate the city, and Preest has tasked himself with rescuing the unfortunate souls who have been kidnapped and converted into their nefarious schism. But tonight, on the rain sodden streets of this dark conurbation, loomed over by miles of cathedrals and temples, Preest is planning his revenge on the city’s religious rapture.
Eva Green gives up an emotionally charged performance as Amelia, a gothic art student who is eternally embedded in a state of manic depression, rage and sorrow. Repeatedly committing attempts of suicide, for what she constantly tells herself is just part of her art project for her course, but each venture into self-sacrifice becomes decidedly more and more risky.
Bernard Hill plays Esser, a father agonising over the disappearance of his estranged son, an ex military vet with psychogenic problems, with our quartet of protagonists rounded out by Milo, played by Sam Riley, a previously jilted spouse, whose life is thrust into emotional turmoil by the reappearance of his former childhood sweetheart.
When these parallel worlds eventually collide, a prescient bullet will inextricably change the course of these four strangers, linking their disconsolate lives in a single moment of coherence.
Franklyn is a haunting rhapsody of gothic imagery, fantastic performances from the lead actors and a nonpareil story that slowly weaves itself from from four distinctly separate storylines into one beguiling twist that brings together the protagonists of the film, changing them irrevocably.
Gerald McMorrow adapts his own script with a promising debut as a director, beautifully shot around various boroughs of London, with a solid and talented cast, and especially noteworthy performances from Eva Green and Ryan Phillippe. Franklyn is an evocative dark fairytale that provides a fascinating journey into life, love and loss. Highly recommended.
“Suddenly I heard a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door”
What makes a hero? is it their ethos of putting others before themselves, sacrificing all they hold dear to uphold what is right and just?, their ability to rise from the ashes of defeat and fight on, even knowing that it may ultimately be in vain? Hero is a rather broad term overall, is Batman a hero?, technically his primary raison d’etre is revenge, to right the wrongs done unto him as child when his parents were brutally murdered before his innocent young eyes.
So does revenge equal heroic action?, Batman of course has utilised this pent up rage and guilt over his parents untimely passing to help protect the innocent and downtrodden of Gotham from a variety of low level street thugs and malicious SuperVillains. Revenge may have been the basis for his beginning as a costumed crimefighter but his actions since have definitely propelled him to use his uniquely acquired skills for the common good.
Which brings us to the Precinct’s newest series of articles, a look at the darker side of heroics, a series that will present to you, fellow agents, our favourite broodingly sullen and ominously pessimistic characters from comics and beyond. And I can think of no better persona to begin this concatenation than vengeance driven, death cheating wraith, Eric Draven.
Now, unlike most comic book persona, The Crow shares tragedy both on and off the pages of the classic revenge tale, with the character himself emerging from the mind of his creator James O’Barr through a tragic occurrence that happened to his fiancee in 1978. Almost curse like in its nature, this tragic sequence of events followed the story of Eric Draven into the first live action depiction of the character when young and upcoming martial artist/actor Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee) was killed on the set of the movie. It’s these decidedly devastating moments that propel The Crow to be the first of our ‘Heroes From The Dark Side’ recipients…
I love the The Crow, both the original comic book and (probably even more so) the first movie. I am a Goth, have been since I was about 12 years of age, and even though I’m no longer 12, I am still a Goth (once a Goth always a Goth, as the old saying goes!) and Eric Draven is the Ultimate Goth, so when I first discovered the character way back in the early 90’s it was a revelation… a Superhero variant of me! so cool. I have also been a massive fan of Brandon Lee since… forever, the man inspired me from a very young age, it was through my admiration of the actor that I initially started practising martial arts (Kenpo Karate) in my mid twenties, and when he was tragically taken away from us, it profoundly affected me, almost as if I had known him on a more personal level than that of just a fan.
Brandon died from a gunshot wound on March 31 1993 at a film studio in North Carolina, an accidental shooting on the film set of The Crow. A .44 magnum revolver that was loaded with blanks was used in the fatal sequence, but the revolver had been used in a previous scene where it was loaded with dummy cartridges, one of these had become lodged in the barrel of the gun, so when the gun was discharged the force of the blank primer forced the dummy cartridge from the barrel, fatally wounding the young actor. Brandon was rushed to hospital, where he underwent six hours of surgery, however the attempt to save his life was unsuccessful. His death on the set of The Crow draws eerie parallels to the Eric Draven character himself, and unfortunately Brandon’s full potential as an actor and martial artist was cut tragically short.
The cult film was based upon the equally cult comic book series by American writer/artist James O’Barr. Debuting in 1989, the classic story follows Eric Draven, an undead vigilante brought back to the land of the living by a mysterious crow, to avenge his murder and also that of his fiancee.
James O’Barr’s creation of the character was for the specific reason of coping with the loss of his fiancee, Beverly, who was killed by a drunken driver in 1978. After the death of Beverly, O’Barr enlisted in the Marines and was stationed in Germany, his talent as an artist was utilised by the military, for whom he illustrated a variety combat manuals. A further inspiration for the characters contained within the series was a story he discovered in a Detroit newspaper, the murder of young couple over a $20 engagement ring.
The initial comic series gave way to the aforementioned Brandon Lee film, some rather terrible sequels (that are best left forgotten… trust me) a television series starring martial arts actor Mark Dacascos which aired in 1998 and ran for 22 episodes. Plus several novels and follow up comic book series, that while good, failed to match up (in my opinion, of course) to O’Barr’s original, lacking the emotional punch of his work. There is talk (ooooh, what a surprise!!) of a Hollywood remake of the first film, though I personally believe the movie is perfection and stands the test of time beautifully, plus I detest soulless remakes of great films from my youth.
If you are in any way shape or form, a comic book fan (you’re reading this so I’m going to assume so) then I heartily recommend the original series by James O’Barr, an emotional and poignant tale of revenge and redemption, plus the Brandon Lee movie is more than worthy of your attention, a dark gothic fairytale, with a groundbreaking performance from its young and talented star.
The Astonishing Amphitheatre of Awards once more unveils it’s secrets unto an unsuspecting world. The chamber of mysterious origin buried deep within the hallowed halls of Precinct1313 has determined to open it’s doors once more in order to bestow Special Agent status upon two more agents of 1313.
The amphitheatre shall be playing host and paying thanks to the Precinct’s most loyal followers, those remarkable agents that have given up their valuable time to read, like, and comment on our DC Comics-centric ramblings. So, welcome… Eldritch – the Precinct’s silent guardian, and carrion crow of woe will guide you to your seats (just be sure to avoid his gaze, lest you become beguiled by his malevolently malefic mind manipulation!) and so, without further ado, let’s begin the ceremony…
And tonight’s first remarkable recipient is Planetary Defence Command, this impressive individual has been an agent of 1313 since it’s inaugural inception almost three years ago. He specialises in breaking us free from the shackles of bad Sci-Fi, a talented reviewer and writer, who also gives his venerable opinion on Video-Games, Movies, and Board Games. Defence Commander, we salute you… welcome to Special Agent status.
Tonight’s second promotion goes to the illustriously ignescent Ignited Moth , our fantastic friend is a recent initiate to the Precinct, but has read, liked, and commented on each and every post that has emerged from this malefic mansion of mystery known as 1313, with her impressive artistic presence illuminating the shadowy halls of the Precinct with great comments and genuine interest. A fellow geek, she reviews TV, Film, and Comic Books, and is an extremely talented illustrator with a unique and electrifying style. Welcome to Special Agent status, my friend.
And that’s it for this week, the Amphitheatre will open it’s Daedalian Doors again soon to induct yet more of our followers to Special Agent status.
Feel free to display the Special Agent awards on your blogs, or not, I promise I won’t be upset if you don’t… or send Eldritch, the Precinct’s eerie crow around for a visit!
(Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead)
Former Royal Marine turned mercenary, D.C. (Ray Stevenson) and his ragtag group of ex-soldiers take on the task of protecting scientist, Hunt (Julian Wadham) as he searches for an old military bunker deep in Eastern Europe. Little do they know that this seemingly innocuous task will lead them straight into the hands of a long dormant and malevolent enemy… that cannot die.
Cast: Ray Stevenson, Richard Brake, Julian Wadham, Paul Blair, Enoch Frost, Michael Smiley, Brett Fancy. Writer: Rae Brunton. Director: Steve Barker.
Outpost is a fantastic British suspense/horror movie in the vein of the excellent ‘Dog Soldiers’ and Norwegian horror/comedy ‘Dead Snow’… but played straight. Ex Royal Marine D.C. (played by the always dependable Ray Stevenson of ‘Punisher Warzone’ and ‘Rome’) is tasked with guiding and protecting scientist and businessman, Hunt as he searches the depths of war torn Eastern Europe for a long forgotten WWII outpost, under dubious pretences.
Accompanying D.C. on his expedition are his mainstay group of experienced ex-soldiers, each eager for the promised large payout for what seems an apparently routine job. Upon reaching their goal however they realise that what previously seemed an effortless undertaking, gradually turns into hell on earth, as they are slowly consumed by an ancient evil, that cannot be killed by conventional means.
The intriguing central story premise surrounds the character of Hunt, a scientist sent by an unknown shadowy third party to uncover an old WWII bunker in search of, what initially the mercenaries think is lost nazi gold, but actually turns out to be a rather unusual generator with strangely supernatural properties.
English film director and screenwriter Sean Barker presents us with a fabulously creepy and chilling horror movie that really piles on the suspense to unsettling effect. The locations are shot completely in Scotland, and are a convincing replacement for the supposed Eastern European setting, especially the dark foreboding woods that surrounds the WWII bunker delivering a supremely brooding and disquieting presence and giving the film a distinctly claustrophobic effect. The gore quotient is quite high, but the film is definitely more suspense horror than out and out splatter flick.
Some well paced action sequences punctuate the slow suspenseful build up, and the enemy themselves are fiendishly well realised and exude a tone of disturbing malevolence that eminently serves to heighten their revenant revival at the halfway point of the film.
A brilliantly suspenseful British chiller, that treads well used ground but still manages to make the genre feel fresh and innovative. Some excellent acting turns from the mainly British cast list, phenomenal make up and gore effects and a notably effective and creepy setting all combine to form an extremely re-watchable zombie flick.
Excerpt Taken From – ‘In Pursuit Of Precinct1313’
The storm raged tempestuously around us as we made our way through the treacherous and foreboding woodland intent on finding our prize, a long sought after structure of otherworldly power. We had been searching for this mythical edifice since we first heard whispers of its existence years earlier. Pushing ever deeper into the dense thicket, stopping only to cut our way through the tangle of overgrown trees and foliage, which in this storm moved and weaved almost as if attempting to drive us back. Craning my head up into the driving rain and winds, I noticed my colleague, who was a few feet ahead of me, had come to a stop, his gaze transfixed on something ahead.
“Pete?” I said, placing my hand on his right shoulder, “What’s up dude?,” Pete turned his face towards me, his expression was a mix of both elation and fear, a strange combination to be sure. He motioned a nod forwards and it was then that I noticed, not more than maybe twenty or so feet ahead, a dark and ominous building that strangely felt like it was looking, right back, at me! “I, uh, think this might be it” I said in a rather flustered tone, I was rattled believe me, the storm had almost immediately stopped as we had, which in itself was extremely unsettling. Pete and I looked at each other and then uniformly moved warily forward into what was now an almost deafeningly disquieting silence.
The impressive structure loomed towards us like a brooding nightmare from a Lovecraftian novel. Pete hastened up the stone steps stopping at the entrance portentously, I arrived at his side just as he was reaching for the handle. The large oak doors slowly creaked open, and suddenly, some ‘thing’ from inside, invisible to our eyes, pushed violently through us… “Free,” it uttered, “Free, at last.” Pete, strangely unperturbed by the freakish phenomena, moved forward into the darkened halls ahead, and, with a little more trepidation, I followed…
Two years have now passed since that fate filled night, and we find ourselves still trapped here in the vast depths of Precinct1313’s comic crypts. Which overall for you, our loyal Special Agents and readers means we can continue to provide an in depth look at all things DC Comics, be it movies, merchandise or the actual comic books themselves.
This year in particular has been an exciting one for this website thanks to release of the one film that we have waited what seems like millennia for… Batman v Superman. Not only did we get to see the two most iconic Superheroes of all time clash in a spectacular battle-royale, we also were treated to the big screen debut of Wonder Woman, and Gal Gadot shone brightly in the role (damn near stealing the movie, to be honest.) Which brings us neatly onto our most viewed post this year, after the furore and misinformation about the film brought on by the “professional” critics we felt the balance had to be addressed on what is the greatest Superhero movie since Watchmen, with an article we titled – Batman v Superman: Dawn Of The Critics.
And as the Amazing Amazon continues to wow audiences on the silver screen she also reigns supreme here in the hallowed halls of Precinct1313. Our regular series – Classic Wonder Woman is approaching its fiftieth instalment and continues to be a great source of views, even more so since Gal Gadot’s sterling onscreen performance introduced the Themysciran Titan to a new fanbase. Our trek through the ancient Amazon archives has been filled with great tales of heroism, wonderment and tragedy, and the most viewed of all of these so far has been – Classic Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman (vol 3) #20.
This year marked the anniversary of the original costumed crimefighter. An astonishing eighty years in print was achieved by Lee Falk’s groundbreaking comic book creation – The Phantom. In honour of this astounding achievement, Precinct1313 became a Phantom Zone, devoting the website for an entire week of posts dedicated to just the Ghost Who Walks. ‘For Those Who Came In Late’ was the most viewed of these and was also met with an incredible 210 Facebook shares, a new record for the humble Precinct.
And so, with another year tucked under our utility belt, we continue unabated as we head full on into an even more exciting second half of 2016 for DC Comics. With the unrated cut of Batman v Superman a mere six weeks from home release and the next movie in DC’s burgeoning cinematic universe – Suicide Squad less than two months from hitting the big screen, not to mention the recent shake-up of their comic book universe with ‘Rebirth’ DC are marching forward into spandex clad dominance. And we shall be there, on the mean streets of Gotham City and the lush paradise island known as Themyscira, to bring you the news and views on the world’s most beloved heroes.
Thank you once again to everyone who has followed, liked, commented and read the posts here in the Precinct, it is ‘you’ who make this entire endeavour worthwhile.
Zombies have, in the last decade become rather de-rigeur, in fact you can’t swing a chainsaw without hitting at least another few dozen low budget movies, TV series or video games starring the reanimated flesh munching corpses. Much like an undead apocalypse itself, zombie media has hit oversaturation point. I’m sure when George Romero first introduced the modern zombie to a horrified audience back in 1968 with the seminal Night Of The Living Dead, he had absolutely no idea that these ghastly ghouls would one day be so over used, that all their dread and terror would give way to a yawn and passive indifference, zombies just aren’t scary anymore.
Of course this hasn’t always been true, when Romero’s groundbreaking introduction to the living dead first hit the cinema screen back in the sixties, it was met with revulsion and abhorrence by an audience unfamiliar with such overt graphic violence.
Romero’s low budget, independent movie was the catalyst of a thousand imitators, some were great (Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie”, Dan O’Bannon’s “Return Of The Living Dead”) but most were awful Z grade rip offs, literally hordes of terribly made and woefully acted low budget cash ins, riding on the back of the movie going public’s sudden reverence of all things undead.
It wouldn’t be long before video-game companies decided to take on this burgeoning horror phenomenon with their own interpretations, with the most prolific and famous of the digital undead games beginning in an imposing mansion in the Arklay Mountains, site of the original outbreak of the T-Virus and our initial introduction to S.T.A.R.S and the sinister Umbrella Corporation.
Resident Evil (known as Biohazard in Japan) was first unleashed to video gamers worldwide in 1996, developed by Japanese company Capcom (of Street Fighter fame) and helmed by game designer auteur Shinji Mikami. It is one of the original progenitors of survival-horror, a sub genre of gaming that takes cues from horror fiction and focuses on the survival of the main character against overwhelming odds, with limited resources at their disposal.
The first game established many of the ongoing conventions for the series, such as the limited inventory system, third person perspective, fixed camera angles for dramatic effect and the iconic typewriter save system.
The game opens with the elite members of S.T.A.R.S (Special Tactics And Rescue Service) responding to the disappearance of fellow team members who lost contact in the remote area on the outskirts of Raccoon City, known as the Arklay Mountains.
Players choose to take control of either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield at the start of the game, and then with their chosen avatar, proceed into the mysterious mansion embedded deep within the creepy forests of Arklay Mountains in search of their fellow team-mates.
The game’s graphics are a mix of three dimensional polygon characters and pre-rendered backdrops, fixed camera angles give the game an almost cinematic feel.
As your player character explores the mansion they discover documentation in the form of diary entries and audio tapes that provide story beats and exposition, as well as uncovering clues to the various puzzles that need to be undertaken to progress through the mission. The combat takes centre stage through the use of a variety of firearms discovered around the environment, though ammo conservation is important as ammunition is limited.
The inevitable health loss can be counteracted by the use of either first aid sprays or three different types of combinable herbs. The capacity for carrying items on person is also limited, though extraneous items can be kept in an item box for later use. Saving is done through typewriters that are scattered through the mansion, ink ribbons must first be located before saving is possible, and once more these are in limited supply so must be used sparingly.
Player characters will fight a succession of undead and mutated creatures as they progress, from the humble zombie through, giant spiders and hulking behemoths. Also of note are the multiple endings the game can deliver depending on the actions taken by the player throughout their adventure, giving the game an impulsive replayability.
Capcom’s Resident Evil is a landmark game, it is almost single handedly responsible for the Survival-Horror genre and is one of the longest running video game franchises of all time, with the most recent game “Resident Evil Revelations 2” released this year to much praise from fan and critic alike. Though there have been a couple of missteps (Resident Evil 6 being rather mediocre) the majority of titles in the franchise have been absolute gems and are a blast to play. The original has recently seen an overhaul with an upgraded version released on platforms such as Xbox One, 360, and Playstation 4, so there’s never been a better time to immerse yourself in the wonderful world of zombies, elite swat teams and evil corporations.
When celebrated insurance investigator John Trent is hired to find missing superstar horror author Sutter Cane by his publishing company, little does he know that this seemingly mundane investigation would literally propel him into, the mouth of madness.
Cast: Sam Neill, Jurgen Prochnow, David Warner, Julie Carmen, Charlton Heston. Written by: Michael De Luca. Directed by: John Carpenter.
Reality is a strange beast, one persons perception of it can be wholly different from anothers, reality is ultimately based on conjecture, of the state of things as they are, or appear to be. It is the culmination of all your experiences that fundamentally determines how things appear to you. John Carpenter’s 1994 classic In The Mouth Of Madness takes reality and breaks it, reassembles it, and then smashes it into sub atomic particles, stamps on them, and then sets them on fire. Reality takes a real hammering in this mind warping psychological horror from the master of the macabre.
When we first meet our movies protagonist John Trent (Sam Neill) he is garbed in a strait-jacket and being unceremoniously dumped into an isolation cell in a psychiatric hospital. From this inauspicious beginning, we are transported back to discover how this seemingly intelligent and grounded professional ends up in a padded cell, on the wrong end of materiality.
Trailblazing master of horror, John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) expertly channels HP Lovecraft, especially his novella Mountains Of Madness, for this stylish and mind blending horror thriller. Carpenter is one of the pioneers of the horror genre thanks to his ground-breaking horror masterpiece Halloween, and is the perfect choice to bring the Lovecraftian inspired original script by Michael De Luca to life, and has informally described the film as the last part of his Apocalypse Trilogy preceded by The Thing and Prince Of Darkness.
Carpenter’s movie reflects magnificently the metafiction style of storytelling. Metafiction is a device used in literature and film to describe a break in the proverbial fourth wall, a story within a story, or where the characters of the fictional account realise they are just that… characters. Carpenter plays with this genre device beautifully, and serves the viewer an almost flawless metaphysical, mind bending thriller, with so many excellent twists and turns that even after a second viewing you still want to revisit it to discover more of the allusions and clues expertly hidden throughout the feature.
Remarkably well acted by the eclectic and talented cast, with Sam Neill (as is quite often the case) the most outstanding as the initially over-confident, yet increasingly bewildered principal player. Jurgen Prochnow plays missing horror author Sutter Cane, Trent’s personal holy grail, and gives a wonderful performance as an amalgam of infinite calm and dark mania. They are both backed up by a terrific secondary cast that includes English thesp David Warner as Trent’s Psychiatrist, Julie Carmen as Linda Styles Cane’s agent and Trent‘s initial guide, plus Charlton Heston as the owner of Cane‘s publishing company.
Though psychological horror plays a large part in the film, it still gives up the goods as far as straight up gore is concerned, plus there are some excellent creature effects, with a notably Lovecraftian look and feel. The film’s score is, as ever, by Carpenter himself and is fantastic, matching the onscreen visuals perfectly.
If you like your horror deep, strange and intriguing, with a side of the macabre, then In The Mouth Of Madness is for you. Carpenter weaves a dreamlike world, that is in essence an almost perfect blend of HP Lovecraft and Stephen King. It is in equal measure intelligent and haunting, and is one of the most inventive and twisted movies that Carpenter has ever wrought upon the viewer. Infinitely rewatchable, thanks to cleverly hidden clues and imagery, with outstanding acting turns from the talented cast, especially leading actor Sam Neill.
Precinct1313 Rating: 5 Cthulhu Monstrosities Out Of 5.
After a night of sex, drugs and occult ritualism in the woods, Eve Coffin wakes up naked, covered in blood and devoid of all memory of how she got there. One of her friends is missing, another finds herself in a mental asylum, and a third believes that Eve herself is responsible. Years later, Eve returns to Coffin Hill to discover that the darkness she unleashed in those dark woods a decade ago is still loose, and is surreptitiously seeping through the town of this sleepy Massachusetts hollow.
Coffin Hill is a bleak, haunting tale of witchcraft, madness, power and retribution, set against a creepy backdrop of New England. It stars Eve Coffin, an unruly and defiant teenager from a rich and powerful family, that have endured a curse that dates way back to the Salem witch trials of 1692.
Written by best selling horror/fantasy author Caitlin Kittredge, author of the popular Nocturne City and Black London series of novels. Though primarily a novel writer, Caitlin has always had a great love for the comic book medium, especially Vertigo’s Sandman series. After meeting a fellow writer who had recently been solicited by Vertigo, she managed to get her Coffin Hill series picked up for publishing by DC’s supernatural horror imprint.
Coffin Hill has proven a big hit for Vertigo and is currently on its eighteenth issue, I only recently discovered this horror gem by picking up the first trade collection and instantly fell in love with the characters, atmosphere and haunting writing style of Caitlin. The art is also outstanding, pencilled by the very talented Inaki Miranda, who formerly worked on Vertigo’s Fairest and Fables series, and a stint on DC Comic’s Birds Of Prey series.
Coffin Hill’s first two trade collections are available right now and are highly recommended to anyone with a love of dark fantasy, horror and the supernatural. Expertly crafted characters, a brooding atmosphere and compelling storyline make for a tragic tale that is an infinitely addictive page turner.
Precinct1313 Rating: 5 Carrion Crows Out Of 5.
After a lifetime of murder and mayhem, remorseless mercenary Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) renounces violence after discovering that his immoral ways have condemned his soul to hell. But when he returns back to his home in England he discovers that an even worse evil has taken reign in his lands, but will fighting back against this threat ultimately result in his redemption or his infernal suffering.
Cast: James Purefoy, Max Von Sydow, Pete Postlethwaite, Alice Krige, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Jason Flemyng, Mackenzie Crook. Director: Michael J. Bassett. Writers: Robert E. Howard (original characters), Michael J. Bassett (screenplay).
Solomon Kane was created by early 1900’s novelist Robert E.Howard, probably most famous for his creation of Conan the Cimmerian, Kane’s first appearance was in a 1928 issue of Weird Tales. Howard described his character as a ‘sombre, gloomy man with a pale face and cold eyes’. Dressed head to toe in black and carrying two pistols and a rapier, Kane wandered the world fighting witchcraft, black magic and evil men.
The opening of the movie takes place during Kane’s murderous past as he and his cut-throat army of mercenaries invade and pillage a large fortress town in Africa in 1600 AD. Whilst fighting their way to the riches and glory contained within the fortress’ large throne room, Kane becomes separated from his men, confronted by the Devil’s reaper who discloses that Kane’s nefarious lifestyle has forfeit his soul, and the reaper is there to deliver Kane unto his master, Kane refuses to yield to the demon’s demand, leaping from the throne room’s window into the tempestuous seas below.
A year passes and we catch up with Solomon in an Abbey in England, he has taken refuge here in an effort to recant his former murderous ways and live life as a man of peace in a desperate attempt to save his soul from damnation. Solomon is asked to leave the sanctity of the Abbey after it’s Abbot has a prophetic vision of Solomon’s future. Deciding to return to his land of noble birth in Devonshire, Solomon during his travels is attacked by a trio of vicious mercenaries who leave him for dead after he refuses to break his vow and fight back. Found and nursed back to health by Meredith Crowthorn (Rachel Hurd-Wood) daughter of a travelling puritan family, he ends up joining them temporarily on their journey.
But when an encounter with a strange masked warrior and his band of zombie like minions ends with the death of the Crowthorns and kidnapping of Meredith for their Necromancer master Malachi (Jason flemyng), Solomon breaks his vows of peace and sets out on a path of revenge to rescue Meredith and end Malachi’s demonic reign. Thus ensues a bloody path of vengeance and retribution, that will either condemn Solomon’s soul to hell or redeem it for all eternity.
British Director Michael J.Bassett’s film interpretation of Howard’s classic evil smiting puritanical warrior is as close to it’s original source as anyone could ever hope to get, it really is as if Solomon had leapt on to the big screen from the pages of the books and comics themselves. Bassett’s reverence for Howard’s original books is tangible, and the casting of native Devonshire actor James Purefoy really is the icing on the proverbial cake, Purefoy is an amazing and very underrated actor and gives his all in this adaptation, going from an evil and detestable character to one you actively feel pity for, and ultimately end up rooting for as the film unfurls (plus being a native of Devon, his accent, of course, is spot on). Backed up by a stable of other astounding actors including, the late, great Pete Postlethwaite, acting legend Max Von Sydow and the always entertaining Mackenzie Crook.
The film’s many fight scenes choreographed by sword master Richard Ryan are superbly put together, and also very savage and gruesome, limbs are hacked off at an alarming rate and Kane’s notoriety as a peerless warrior shines through in these awesome sequences, with Purefoy doing 95% of his own stunt and sword work.
Beautifully shot by Dan Lausten in England and Prague, the film is very dark and foreboding, and again like it’s similar counterpart film Black Death also has the feel of a classic Hammer movie. The English landscape is littered with broken down churches, soulless graveyards and eerie hanging corpses replete with carrion crows and a constant deluge of rain and mud. The film’s original soundtrack by Klaus Badelt is also outstanding, rousing and haunting in equal measure, and is one of my very favourite movie compositions in years.
Receiving many positive reviews when it was unveiled amongst both critics and fans, the film in its initial release at the cinema only recouped an estimated £12,000,000 of its estimated £33,000,000 budget, but has gone on to surpass this through DVD sales and deservedly so. Solomon Kane is one of the greatest sword and sorcery films in decades and comes highly recommended.
Precinct1313 Rating: 5 ‘Puritanical Demon Slaying Warriors’ out of 5
14th Century England and the Bubonic plague is spreading it’s touch of death throughout the land, as towns and cities fall victim to this grisly disease, yet one isolated village is seemingly untouched by the horror. A devout monk accompanied by a small band of Knights are sent by the church to determine whether the rumours of witchcraft and necromancy protecting the villagers are true.
Cast: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice Van Houten, Andy Nyman, Tim McInnerny, David Warner. Writer: Dario Poloni. Director: Christopher Smith.
Black Death is the fourth movie by English genre director Christopher Smith following on from his previous horror movies, Creep, Severance and Triangle. Smith tackles a very dark period in English history with the movie being set in the 14th century, during the time of the bubonic plague and the systematic hunting down and killing of those believed to be practitioners of black magic and witchcraft.
Sean Bean plays Ulric, knight-crusader for the church and leader of a small group of mercenary warriors, tasked with the mission to travel to a remote village to determine whether it is through black magic and necromancy that this community has remained untouched from the plague, whilst it has ravaged the rest of the country.
Joined on their expedition by initiate monk Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) as guide, the band of warriors wend their way through plague ridden towns and blighted forests encountering on their way, savage brigands and superstitious witch burning townsfolk. Upon finally reaching the village all at first seems normal, with the villagers friendly and helpful though untouched and seemingly unaware of the disease wreaking havoc across England, but a growing unease forms in Ulric as he investigates the town’s charismatic yet perplexing matriarch Langiva (Carice Van Houten).
Christopher Smith like fellow Brit director Neil Marshall is a master of dark and creepy horror, and also like Marshall likes nothing more than to show the viewers the outcome of the barbarous nature of violence, this film does not shy away from showing us man’s inhumanity to man with realistic and brutal fight sequences and squirm inducing torture scenes, this is of course done for dramatic effect as opposed to shock value as the film encompasses a time when Britain was a brutal and cruel place, Smith effortlessly throws us headlong into the dark ages and a land divided by wars, pestilence and superstition. The acting is superlative throughout, the always watchable Sean Bean plays Ulric as a troubled, violent and pious holy knight, but ultimately he is a sympathetic and moral man caught up in an horrendous time.
Eddie Redmayne’s turn as Osmund the young monk looking for a direction in life, is amazing, his character grows emotionally throughout the movie, until, in the last sequence of the film he is almost unrecognisable in it’s fantastic twist ending. Carice Van Houten as village matriarch Langiva is beautiful, haunting and enigmatic but is deep down duplicitous and surprisingly more dangerous than the barbarous knights that were sent there to seek the truth. Other notable performances are by Smith’s regular stalwart actors Andy Nyman and Tim McInnerny, and classic English thespian David Warner appears briefly as Osmund’s superior Abbot.
Black Death is a bleak and harrowing look at a desperate time in English history, it is beautifully shot and magnificently directed by Chris Smith from an original story by Dario Poloni. Evoking a feel of both early gothic Hammer movies and at times the original version of The Wicker man, this is a dark and tragic film that presents you with morally ambiguous characters and no clear division between right and wrong. The film draws you into its gloomy, desolate world and keeps you on the edge of your seat as its morbidly enthralling story slowly unravels like the characters in the film itself. Recommended to all fans of supernatural horror and classic Hammer films.
Precinct1313 Rating: 5 ‘Witch Burning Zealots’ out of 5
To me James Herbert has always been as famous a horror author as Stephen King, back when I was a boy he was the most prolific writer of the dark and demented side of literature here in the UK. Famous for his intricate and detailed descriptions of various unpleasant and horrific acts of violence, his books are hard hitting and brutal and definitely not for the faint of heart. I recently recommended him to a fellow WordPresser and was surprised when she mentioned that she had never heard of him before and so for the fellow uninitiated in the works of one of England’s most beloved horror writers … read on.
James John Herbert was born in London in 1943, he was the son of Herbert Herbert (really!) who worked in London’s famous Brick Lane market as a stall holder. James attended school in Bethnal Green, that was until, at the grand old age of 11 he won a scholarship to the exclusive St Aloysius college, so exclusive in fact only around 180 pupils are admitted per year. He left the college at 15 and moved to Hornsey college of art, after joining an advertising company based there.
His first successful horror novel is the classic: The Rats, released in 1974 it told the tale of a deadly plague of giant, highly intelligent black rats who rampage across London killing the unwary and slowly taking over the city and feeding off it’s population. It was an unflinching and brutal piece and set the style and tone for his writing in later books. It was a massive success, with the initial 100,000 copies that were printed selling out in a mere 3 weeks. It was popular enough to spawn a 1982 film adaptation called Deadly Eyes, and also two novel sequels: Lair in 1979 and Domain in 1984. A graphic novel sequel to Domain came out in 1993 called The City.
From his first big success with The Rats, Herbert went on to massive critical acclaim with many subsequent and best selling fantasy horror novels including: The Survivor, Fluke, The Dark, Moon and The Magic Cottage amongst many many others. In 2010 Herbert was made ‘The Grandmaster of Horror’ by the World Horror Convention, he was presented the award by his good friend Stephen King. He was a placid and calm man who actually abhorred violence, though found that the horrors he wrote in his novels “poured out of me”. He was given an O.B.E by the Queen in 2010 to honour his work as a best selling English author, he sadly passed away 20th March 2013, leaving behind some of the most chilling and well written horror of this generation.
Classic British film production company Hammer was founded in 1934 and is mainly remembered for their slew of gothic horror movies, though the company also produced science fiction, thrillers and the occasional comedy it was their horror films that made the company famous worldwide.
Their first foray into the horror genre was in 1955 with the Quatermass experiment, from here the company would continue to make mostly dark gothic horror with the likes of The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula Prince of Darkness and Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb. Ushered into the spotlight were its stable of classic British actors – Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Donald Pleasence amongst many others, Hammer were a huge success story at the time, with its very own unique look and feel that to this day has not been replicated successfully by any other company (though British rival Amicus came close)
I personally didn’t start watching Hammer films until the mid 1980’s, I knew of them when I was a small lad in the late seventies because my older brother loved them, but was too young to appreciate them at the time. When I finally became an avid viewer of their movies, it was no surprise that I found myself more attracted to the many beautiful Hammer Scream Queens, and so this is dedicated to my personal favourites of these ‘fangtastic’ actresses.
Number 5: Valerie Leon…
Beautiful statuesque actress Valerie Leon was born in Hampstead, London in November of 1943, the eldest of four children she got her first acting part after auditioning for a stage role in Funny Girl with Barbara Streisand. From here she went on to become a well loved English actress with several appearances in many Carry On films. She is one of a few actresses that played a Bond girl twice, the first being The Spy Who Loved Me with Roger Moore in 1977 and then later on in 1983 in Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery
It was her lead role in the Hammer Horror film: Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb that garnered her a huge following, her first leading role cast her as reincarnated Egyptian Princess Tera, the film was only a moderate success for Hammer but helped propel Valerie into the limelight as ‘the’ classic English vamp seductress.
Vamp Rating: 4 reincarnated Egyptian Princesses out of 5.
Number 4: Madeline Smith…
Stunning actress Madeline Smith was born in Sussex, England in August 1949, she started her working life as an assistant in Biba, a famous boutique in London, it was here that she first was discovered and became a very successful model in the late sixties and early seventies. Her first on-screen acting role was in Hammer’s Taste The Blood Of Dracula, where she acted alongside the amazing Christopher Lee. From here she went on to be a popular recurring Hammer star with roles in Vampire Lovers and Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell. Like Valerie Leon before her, Madeline was also a Bond girl appearing in Live And Let Die with Roger Moore, also like Valerie she starred in a number of Carry On movies as well as Up Pompeii with the late comedy actor Frankie Howerd and Theatre of Blood with the great Vincent Price.
After having a daughter with her husband, actor David Buck she gradually wound down her acting career, In 2009 she was the cover star of the retrospective book Hammer Glamour, she finally returned to acting in 2011 in English television series Doctors.
Vamp Rating 4 Vampire Lovers out of 5.
Number 3: Raquel Welch…
Ravishing Raquel Welch was born in Chicago in September 1940, Raquel was a performer from a very young age, studying ballet at age seven. When she was fourteen she won her very first beauty pageant, this was the first of many for her until 1959 when she married James Welch and fell pregnant with her first child. Deciding she wanted to take up acting as a career, she enrolled at San Diego state college for drama lessons, and got several roles in local theatre productions. Her first on-screen role was in television series Bewitched, after a small role in film Swinging Summer she was contracted to work for Twentieth Century Fox in a series of films, it was here that she made classic Sci-Fi movie Fantastic Voyage in 1966, the film was a massive hit and it propelled Raquel into super-stardom. Later that same year Fox allowed Hammer to star Raquel in probably the film that she is most famous for: One Million Years BC, she was without a doubt the star of this film even though she actually only had three lines of dialogue.
The poster for the film, showing Raquel in her famous fur ‘bikini’ became one of the biggest selling posters of all time and Raquel Welch never looked back, going on to have a long and successful career.
Vamp Rating: 4.5 cave girls out of 5.
Number 2: Ingrid Pitt…
Stunning Ingrid Pitt was born in Warsaw in November of 1937, having a traumatic start to her life as she was incarcerated in a concentration camp along with her family during World War 2. After getting through this terrifying ordeal relatively unscathed, she married an American soldier whom she met in Berlin in 1950 and subsequently moved to California. Her first role was relatively minor in the film Dr Zhivago in 1965, it was in 1968 that she got her first major role in the classic war movie Where Eagles Dare, where she acted alongside Clint Eastwood and English thespian Richard Burton. It was the 1970 Hammer movie Vampire Lovers that gave Ingrid her cult vamp status and she went on to become Hammer’s most prolific female stars thanks to her stellar peformance as Elizabeth Bathory in the 1971 film Countess Dracula. Other notable roles of the time were for Hammer’s rival company Amicus in The House That Dripped Blood and a part in the classic 1973 released: The Wicker Man.
Sadly Ingrid passed away in November 2010 at at the age of 73 in her home in South London, England, though she will live on as one of the greatest horror actresses of all time.
Vamp Rating: 5 blood-bathing vampires out of 5.
Number 1: Caroline Munro…
The unbelievably beautiful Caroline Munro was born in Berkshire, England in January 1949, Caroline originally wanted a career in art and enrolled in art school in Brighton, after photographs of her entered into a photo competition being held by World class photographer David Bailey won, she went into a career as a model, landing a contract to work with Vogue magazine at age just seventeen. Her first acting role was in the original version of Casino Royale in 1967, it wasn’t until 1971 that she got her first Horror role in the Vincent Price led: The Abominable Dr Phibes.
Her first Hammer role was Dracula AD-72, where she co-starred with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. She went on to star in Hammer’s Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, but turned down the role of Vampirella because it required some amount of nudity. Like a lot of previous English Hammer actresses, she was also a Bond girl starring in the 1977 Spy Who Loved Me, other notable roles are in: At The Earth’s Core with Peter Cushing and Doug McClure and in the classic Ray Harryhausen movies: 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye Of The Tiger.
Vamp Rating: Off the scale!
A team-building exercise in the deep countryside of eastern Europe becomes a bloody fight for survival when the sales team of Palisade, a multi-national arms corporation are stalked by a group of crazed and murderous ex-military soldiers.
Starring – Danny Dyer, Andy Nyman, Tim McInnerny, Toby Stephens, Laura Harris, Claudie Blakely, Babou Ceesay.
British director Christopher Smith’s Severance is his second film after the excellent London based horror Creep, Smith is a devotee of the horror genre with subsequent films: medieval-witchcraft movie Black Death (starring Sean Bean) and mind-bending horror Triangle, all highly recommended modern horror classics in their respective field. Severance however bears a difference to his other movies due to the inclusion of its fantastic black comedy, in fact the movie is as funny as it is gruesome (and boy is it gruesome!) …
Horror comedies are notoriously hard to pull off, the balancing of humour and gore takes a lot of skill from both the director and cast … too much humour and the film loses its horror edge, subsequently the horrific side can take away from its more comedic moments, but like other classic horror-comedies such as Evil Dead 2, Smith blends the two different genres masterfully producing one of the greatest comedy horrors of all time.
A scene that portrays this point perfectly comes in at about the halfway point of the movie, having just finished a ‘team-building’ paintball game one of the group, Gordon gets his leg snared in a bear trap, this is a truly brutal and gory sequence made even more so by the actor himself (Andy Nyman) who manages to show extreme pain and terror that really brings a reality to the situation. With the other team members attempting to remove the jaws of the trap with no success, Gordon not being able to withstand the pain any longer rips his leg forcefully from the trap leaving the lower half of his limb in the bear trap, an horrific and realistic sequence … within seconds of this you are laughing out loud again as the team’s resident stoner Steve (Danny Dyer) attempts to keep the severed limb cold by trying to force it into a small fridge on their coach with little success, until he removes the shoe and sock, with more revulsion to the smell of the foot than the actual severed limb itself, this sequence is hilarious!
The mainly British cast features many well known UK actors including Danny Dyer (Outlaw, the Business), Tim McInnerny (Black Adder,Black Death), Toby Stephens (Die Another Day, Wired) and Andy Nyman (Black Death, Kick Ass 2), their on screen camaraderie in the face of this appalling threat is amazing and really keeps you rooting for the group as a whole, not your usual horror movie fare because these are characters you actually care about, so that when the inevitable slaughter begins you genuinely lament the deaths of each and every one of them.
One of the few non British actors in this is Maggie, played by American actress Laura Harris (The Faculty, 24), she is the heroine of the piece, tough and intelligent, and the only one to take the fight to the killers themselves. She is the ultimate ‘final girl’ character and you will be rooting for her all the way throughout the film … a sterling performance.
Adding to the movies already entertaining comedy and horror are other fantastically well played scenes including an amazing Rashomon style sequence where members of the team recount stories of the ramshackle eastern European lodge they are staying in. Toby Stephens character Harris uses a 20’s style silent horror to tell of the lodge being a former mental asylum, Claudie Blakely who plays Jill, tells of it being a former military camp used by murderous soldiers, complete with a realistic and uncomfortable scene of soldiers executing civilians and once more the humour comes back in as Danny Dyer’s character Steve tells everyone that it is actually a sex lodge, complete with a scene of naughty nurses and heaving bosoms!
With a great cast, wonderful scenery (mainly shot in Hungary and the Isle of Man), laugh out loud humour, realistic gore effects and in the latter half of the film, a genuinely chilling atmosphere, Severance is a movie to search out if you have never seen it before … funnier than Sean of the Dead, gorier than Evil Dead – a horror-comedy masterpiece!
Precinct1313 Rating: 5 severed legs out of 5
Prolific British genre director Neil Marshall describes his movie Doomsday as a love letter to movies such as Escape from New York, Mad Max and the Warriors … all absolute cult classics in their own right, and Doomsday is the perfect blend of these three fantastic movies with a little bit of 28 days later thrown in for good measure. Most people will more readily recognise Marshall’s film work from his earlier movies: Werewolf siege movie – Dog Soldiers and cavernous horror – the Descent, Doomsday was his third movie and my personal favourite so far.
Doomsday begins in 2008 in Scotland with a killer plague called the Doomsday virus rampantly infecting the majority of the population in a short space of time. The effects of the virus are harsh and fast acting, the victim breaking out initially in sores and lesions, ultimately succumbing to an unpleasant and agonising death as the virus spreads throughout their body. With the plague showing no signs of abating, the Government decide to wall Scotland off and leave the people to die, enforcing this with a large military presence at the wall to surreptitiously kill anyone who gets anywhere near the wall’s perimeter.
Decades pass and the rest of the worlds’ leaders enforce a quarantine on the whole of the British isles not allowing any traffic in or out of the country even though the virus itself seems to have been halted. With a growing population and nowhere to expand, the British people find themselves living in cramped and squalid conditions, and then in the country’s capital of London the Reaper virus once again rears its ugly head, slowly expanding its way through the city’s population. When a British satellite picks up pictures of what seems to be healthy looking people living in Scotland, a small team of SAS soldiers and doctors are sent in to find what they believe must be a cure, given only 24 hours to succeed before the Government decide to take more dramatic action and close off the city of London and leave it’s citizens to die in agony.
Leading the team is a tough no-nonsense female soldier by the name of Major Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra), herself a survivor of the original Scottish outbreak of the virus when she was airlifted out as a child by a military chopper just before the country was put under permanent quarantine, her mother was not so lucky and was left behind like so many others, giving Sinclair a personal impetus to lead the team into no mans land to recover a cure and find some semblance of peace about her mother’s fate. London born actress Rhona Mitra plays the tough but fair Major Sinclair fantastically, a statuesque former model (she was the original Lara Croft model for the first Tomb Raider game) with real acting chops, her character is essentially this film’s version of Snake Plissken from Escape from New York, even occasionally wearing a high tech eye-patch.
In fact there are so many similarities to Escape from New York in the first half of the film, the walled off part of the UK patrolled by soldiers, the team being given only 24 hours to find the cure and the music itself are all big homages to the John Carpenter classic. The second half of the movie is Marshall’s homage to George Miller’s classic Mad Max series of movies replete with crazy mohicans and punks, this time with a twist as these savages are also cannibals! In fact the references to Carpenter and Miller’s amazing movies are so prevalent that you could (and I have!) turn this into the ultimate 80’s cult movie drinking game by taking a shot every time you see a reference to one of those two great movies, I guarantee you will be pissed by the forty minute mark! … oh and keep an eye out for the two soldiers aptly named Miller and Carpenter.
The film is full of fantastic British actors, joining Rhona Mitra are … the late, great Bob Hoskins as Police chief Nelson, Malcolm McDowell as Kane the leader of a group of survivors in Scotland and the man who apparently has the cure to the virus. Also the amazing Sean Pertwee who, like another famous British actor called Sean (Sean Bean in fact) manages to die in virtually every movie he has ever been in, it seems if you are English actor named Sean you have about the same filmic lifespan as a Star Trek red-shirted security officer!
Doomsday is a cross breed of action and horror, but also manages to bizarrely (but brilliantly) add in medieval knights and castles to the mix, with at one point the captured Major Sinclair fighting a duel against a heavily armoured champion knight in a castle arena complete with baying peasants. The last twenty minutes of the film are Marshall’s version of the amazing chase sequence from the end of Mad Max 2 (aka the Road Warrior) with Sinclair and two other survivors fleeing in a Bentley supercar whilst being chased by the cannibalistic punks in their post apocalyptic buggies and motorcycles, with the leader of the punks – Sol’s car seemingly made out of the very bones of his victims.
The film itself is not for the faint of heart and very much deserves its 18 rating, the virus effects are disgusting, the action sequences are brutal and the cannibal scenes unflinching and gloriously revolting, If you are in any way a fan of Escape from New York or Mad Max, or even just the action horror genre in general then this movie is a must watch … fast, fun , violent and disgusting … but oh so very cool!
Precinct1313 Rating: 5 cannibal punk rockers out of 5.
Well with an online moniker like ‘ArcaneHalloween’ how can I not celebrate this ghoulish holiday, so a quick preview of what we shall be writing about on this day of the dead!
The obligatory horror movie review of course, but not Halloween itself (even though it is by far my favourite horror movie) Possible candidates are: April Fools Day – a classic horror whodunnit from the eighties, The Frighteners – fantastic Michael J.Fox supernatural movie directed by a pre-Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson, Elvira – Mistress of the Dark … cause we love Cassandra Peterson here at the Precinct.
The annual Exeter Zombie walk – on the 31st of October every year the dead rise and walk the streets of my home city of Exeter in the UK. So to celebrate we shall be risking life and limb by bringing you exclusive pictures of this undead uprising.
Plus a short history of Samhain itself, prepare yourselves it’s going to get scary…