Category Archives: Horror

Reviews from the crypt

Modern British Cult Cinema: HOWL

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Director: Paul Hyett.  Writers: Mark Huckerby, Nick Ostler. Cast: Ed Speelers, Holly Weston, Shauna McDonald, Sean Pertwee, Rosie Day.

Werewolves are awesome aren’t they? howling at the moon, voraciously stalking their prey, fighting vampires (but mostly losing, ’cause Kate Beckinsale kicks arse… obviously!) Over the decades there have been a fair few great movies based upon the shape shifting lycanthropes, dating back as far as 1935 with ‘Werewolf of London’ through classic Lon Chaney’s ‘The Wolf Man’ from 1941, and beyond with such deliciously depraved delights as The Howling, An American Werewolf In London (my personal fave), The Company Of Wolves, Ginger Snaps and the aforementioned bad-arse Beckinsale movie series ‘Underworld’ , this particular horror sub-genre has been well served over the years.

In 2002, British director Neil Marshall (Descent, Centurion, Hellboy) gave us his own vision of the classic genre with the stupendous ‘Dog Soldiers’ an absolute gem of a movie that followed a small group of British soldiers on a training mission against the S.A.S in the Scottish Highlands, but the Special Air Service turns out to be the least of their worries as they are assailed by an even deadlier force (yep, deadlier than the SAS!) a pack of ravenous lycos! The low budget horror/comedy was a huge smash hit not just in the UK but worldwide, and helped propel the career of it’s helm Neil Marshall to international stardom.

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Train guard Joe and colleague Ellen discover there are worse things than British Rail pre-packed sandwiches!

‘Howl’ is the most recent Anglo entry into this lycanthropic category, and feels very much like it’s embedded in the same universe as Dog Soldiers, in fact there’s even a cameo by brilliant British thesp – Sean Pertwee (this time with entrails intact!) though in the popular tradition of English actors named ‘Sean’ he doesn’t last too long! (seriously, English actors bearing that titular name have about the same amount of movie survivability as a red shirted Star Trek security officer!)

Train guard Joe, winding down after a long shift, is pushed into taking on a red eye journey by his new (sneery and unpleasant) supervisor. Tired but unwilling to rock the boat (train?) Joe agrees, and boards the non-stop train from Waterloo, yet his resolve and that of his fellow commuters will be tested to the utmost when the train seemingly breaks down in a dark and ominous stretch of forest miles from anywhere. With communications down and the train driver inexplicably missing, Joe attempts to keep the passengers calm, which ultimately proves futile as the train is assailed by an unknown animal, large of stature and with a blood lust for the occupants of the stricken carriages.

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“He’s, uh, behind me isn’t he?”

Howl is a tense, fun and rollickingly wild Werewolf siege movie, in the style of the aforementioned Dog Soldiers. Some decent acting from a great cast (which includes Ed Speelers of Downtown Abbey, Shauna McDonald of The Descent, and of course the legendary Sean Pertwee ) a superbly creepy setting, but most importantly of all, the gore and werewolves themselves are top notch, though the film isn’t quite up to the standards of Dog Soldiers, the creature effects in HOWL far outstrip those in Marshall’s earlier lyco opus, in fact the practical effects are some of the best I’ve seen in a UK horror for years especially considering the rather low budget nature of the film (a measly £1,000,000) Highly Recommended!

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The Black Rose Gallery

Now, if you were with us last week when we took a tantalising trip through a prescient preternatural portal that lay deep within the bowels of this malefic mansion of mystery known as Precinct1313, then you may recount that I, my colleague Pete and our psychic carrion crow of woe – Eldritch are currently being held within a small padded room in a Sanitarium, watched over by the beguiling yet utterly bewildering Dr Rose Black. Luckily I managed to smuggle in (don’t ask me where I hid it!) my trusty laptop, so in preparation for our upcoming odyssey through the ‘Chronicles Of Cassandra Vala’  a visual novel we shall be presenting right here in the Precinct, we thought we’d share a few more images of the story’s main antagonist – Black Rose.

The Cassandra Vala idea, world and characters are something that I have been living and ruminating for the past decade. The tale has gone through many, many revisions, I have experimented with different styles of writing for the narrative – comic-book, visual novel, even a choose your own adventure setting akin to the classic Fighting Fantasy books of yore.

The finished product (it’s never really finished though…) actually combines all of the above narrative divergence (yep, the choose your own adventure portions will also be present!) the one constant of all the different takes on storyline and characters though was the antagonist Black Rose. I’ve been on/off drawing this character for longer than the actual novel itself, I love the character and enjoy drawing her at every opportunity (consequently the titular star of the novel – Cassandra Vala herself, I have much fewer pieces of!) 

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Just ahead of the upcoming novels debut I thought it would be fun to share some of said images of Rose with you, fellow agents. Some of these pieces I drew over a decade ago, others… just last week! and it’s interesting how little visually the character hasn’t changed… “Shhhhh, I must go now, it sounds like Dr Black is back,  making her rounds, we’ll sneak another post out real soon… enjoy ”

br sketch 2This was one of the first sketches I did of the character from way back when. There were a myriad influences for Rose’s look, but absolutely the two biggest were James O’Barr’s undead vigilante – ‘The Crow’ and the creepy character Sadako from the original Japanese movie ‘Ring’.

br sketch 1.jpgAnother earlier piece, I’ve always enjoyed sitting in a coffee shop reading comics and sketching pics of Rose and her extended family… I have produced some of my best pieces at the local Caffe Nero.

br sk 3As the years passed, technology and easier usage art software became a lot more affordable, which subsequently opened up a whole new world of computer aided inking and colouring, helping my lowly sketches emerge into a explosion of almost artistic professionalism!!

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br sk 7The above piece is one of my most recent and portrays Rose and her sisters, aka – The Trinity of Thorns. At this point I had finally come to grips with the art software to the point that only the barest minimum of physical sketching is needed.

Black Rose pop art 2 - Edited.jpgAnd last, but most certainly not least, this is my most recent piece, through which I set out to pay homage to my favourite Warhol painting – his classic Marilyn Monroe pop art pic. (it also turned out to be my personal fave drawing of the rambunctious Rose!)

Thanks for stopping by fellow fans of fantastic fiction…

 

All images are copyright: Precinct1313. I am more than happy for people to share my art as long as credit is given – to Bruce @ Precinct1313.

5 Years In The Precinct – An Anniversary Special…

Hey there fellow agents of Precinct1313 and a warm welcome to our fifth anniversary celebrations! That’s right the majestic mansion of mystery is celebrating five years of random musings on the world of DC Comics and general geekery!

It’s fantastic that you’ve all been able to join us down here in the Precinct’s celebrated comic crypts, for today we not only share the third annual episode of our ongoing scintillating saga – ‘In Pursuit Of Precinct1313’  but this titular tale has been woven so that it also serves as a prescient prologue to our (loooooooong in gestation) visual novel – ‘The Chronicles Of Cassandra Vala’  That’s right fellow fans of fantastic fiction , our ten year in the writing (ten… TEN!) odyssey begins right here, and from this humble introduction, it will then spill it’s masterfully malefic mystery on a monthly basis, right here, in Precinct1313!

To our followers, readers, and fellow bloggers may I just say many, many thanks for the continuing support of the Precinct over the past half decade with your comments and likes, it’s really, really appreciated, it is YOU that makes this entire blogging endeavour worthwhile… and so, on with the show…

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Welcome fellow agents of Precinct1313 to the latest chilling chapter of  ‘In Pursuit Of Precinct1313‘  if this is your first encounter with the thrilling tale of how we first discovered this Malefic Mansion of Mystery – then why not regale yourselves with the previous chapters right here – “Three Years In The Precinct”

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In Pursuit Of Precinct1313 – Chapter III: The Chronicles Of Cassandra Vala

Darkness engulfed me as I entered the inky black void residing within the mysterious vault door, the nihility was all encompassing – no light, no sound, just vacuum. I wheeled on the spot, looking to return back through the perplexing vault egress, my heart was racing and cold beads of sweat formed on my brow, this interstice was, just, wrong… the doorway had disappeared, eaten up by the stygian dark. I was beginning to panic now, a disquieting anxiety pervaded through my fragile mind… where the hell was Pete? I moved cautiously forward, hands outstretched in front of me, scrabbling for something tangible.

My head started to spin, and nausea began to surge through me, taking to one knee I attempted to halt the gagging queasiness, whilst striving to calm my rising anxiety and slow my thunderous heartbeat. To no avail, I felt light-headed and could feel the cold embrace of the oncoming stupor… I cascaded head first into an unconscious abyss…

“Are you okay?” – a voice greeted me through the murk that had encroached upon my mind. “Can you stand?” the disembodied voice continued. Bright light began to penetrate my latent mind, the nausea had subsided, shaking my head vigorously I glanced up to see a woman standing over me, immaculately dressed, porcelain white skin and fiery red hair were my take from this unexpected, though hopefully serendipitous encounter. “I’m not sure” I replied Where the hell am I?”

The woman took me by the arm and lifted me from my knees, surprisingly strong, her hand curled, rather painfully, in a vice like grip around my forearm  “The more pressing question is where did you come from? I mean, you’re the second person we’ve found semi-conscious in this part of the building this morning, you’re not a patient here and you certainly should not have been able to get past security and into this wing without them noticing”

“I’m sorry but… who are you, what is this place?” I could feel the wave of anxious nausea returning as I eventually stood eye to eye with my apparent liberator. She was, quite literally, a vision to behold, flawless skin, her hair an almost impossibly vermilion red, viridescent green eyes that felt as though they were boring into my inner being, my anima seemingly laid bare for her to scrutinise.

“Oh, do forgive me, my name is Black, Doctor Rose Black, I’m the chief psychologist of this esteemed institute, hmm, you still look rather unsteady, follow me, let’s get you checked over”  she took my arm, this time more gently, leading me slowly down the stark white corridor “It’s not far, how are you feeling now?”

“Confused, but not quite as queasy thankfully, you mentioned that you found someone else here earlier, it wasn’t another male, dark hair, name of Peter by any chance was it?” I glanced across at the Doctor, still hopelessly beguiled by her transcendent beauty.

“Yes, that’s right, Peter… perplexingly, he had a crow with him, it was dutifully perched on his shoulder, like some kind of pet, it really was a rather surreal sight”

Eldritch” I replied “the crow’s name is Eldritch, though to be honest, we’re more likely his pets than vice versa”  the statement felt ridiculous even as I said it, though, it was probably more than likely true. “You mentioned something about patients, an institute?”

“Yes, you have, somehow, found yourself inside Raven’s Reach Sanitarium, an institute dedicated to helping what some have deemed lost causes, mostly deeply disturbed and psychologically unbalanced individuals”  Doctor Black turned her head towards me and smiled “here they find some semblance of peace and tranquillity, as we hopefully work our way towards rehabilitation and, perhaps, reintegration”

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“We’ve arrived, if you’ll just make your way through that door on your right and wait a few moments, I’ll send one of our medical interns along to check you over” the Doctor beamed yet another impossibly radiant smile towards me before promptly guiding me through a robust steel door… then swiftly slamming it shut as I entered. I whirled on the spot, peering through the oval shaped hatch embedded within the steel barrier  “what the hell? wh-what do you think you’re doing?” I stuttered, nausea once again began to bubble up and I pressed my hands against the cold metallic door frame, to steady against the rise of the unsolicited vertigo.

“You honestly didn’t think I’d just believe you when you said you had no idea where you are, or how you got here did you? I mean come on now” Dr Black’s former radiance disappeared in an instant, replaced by a humourless, grave expression  “but not to worry, I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of things fairly soon, in the meantime, I have done you the courtesy of allowing you to share this room with your companions”

I turned to see Pete sitting on a small bed lodged in the corner of what now appeared to be a padded room, his face bore an expression of morose acceptance… ” got you too huh?” he said, “was kinda hoping you’d not get caught as well and maybe, I dunno, break me out of here?”  Pete’s shoulders slumped as he realised that, unfortunately, we were now both in the same predicament. Just to the left of Pete, perched on the bed’s headboard was Eldritch, his onyx eyes fixed upon me, a mocking look for my own ineptitude at extricating them from this peculiar predicament.

“Hello?”  a voice punctuated through the disquieting malaise  “are you new here?” the disembodied voice appeared to be emanating from the room to the left of our padded cell. “Uuh hey… anyway you can possibly tell us what in the hell is going on?” I furrowed my ear into the soft padding of the cell’s wall “who are you, why has that Doctor detained us in here… in fact where in the hell is here?” my voice rose and fractured in frantic agitation at the situation at hand.  “Here?” the female voice replied softly  “well currently, at least for me, here, is Raven’s Reach Sanitarium, though what ‘here’ will be as the day goes on, well, who can tell… oh, and my name’s Cassandra by the by, and as far as the Doctor is concerned…” the voice paused, as if unsure how to continue “well, uh, at this time I’m not sure who or what she is, it changes you see”

“Changes?” I queried at the disincarnate voice “what does that even mean, look, uh, Cassandra, I could really use some answers right now, I feel like I’m losing my mind” I turned to look wearily back at Pete, who sullenly shrugged and retorted – “sorry Bruce but you expected to get a straight answer from an incorporeal voice in the adjacent padded cell of a sanitarium! I mean, really!?”  I stared at Pete, succumbing to what little rationale still persisted in my mind “You’re right, I know, I just… ” huffing the air from my lungs, shoulders slumped in aquiescence, I walked to the corner of the stark white room, dropped to my knees and burrowed my face into my palms.

“Maybe you’ve always been here Bruce” Cassandra responded cryptically “and maybe, just maybe, I have too, at least, this version of me”  I peered at Pete through my fingers, who quietly mouthed  “uh huh… sanitarium”  Eldritch cocked his head towards me and nodded in conjunction with Pete. Burying my face back into the comforting darkness of my hands I wondered whether what Cassandra was saying bore some semblance of truth, I mean, here I was in a padded room, in a sanitarium no less, after walking through a mysterious portal contained within the crypts of a preternatural mansion known as Precinct1313, where I have apparently resided for the past five years, alongside my closest friend and… get this, a psychic crow, I mused that last thought over again, a psychic crow… yep, there’s a damn fine chance that I am actually, bat-shit crazy!

“She’s here” Cassandra uttered I have to go, please don’t mention that we spoke, she doesn’t like it when patients converse with one another, maybe we can talk again later, if I’m still me of course…”  I gazed anew at Pete, who just shook his head “Sanitarium dude, Sanitarium… “

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Hey there fellow agents, and if you’ve managed to stay the course of this strange tale then, thanks… ’tis much appreciated. This prologue will evolve into the monthly fable we have entitled – The Chronicles Of Cassandra Vala – below I have included a small art gallery of my early concept designs for the lead characters from the visual novel, enjoy, and whilst you’re here, why not make your way down to the Precinct’s hallowed Halls Of Quaffing to help celebrate our fifth year in existence… I would join you, but I appear to be confined within a small padded room somewhere, else! Ah well, means more booze for the rest of you huh? silver linings and all that.

The Chronicles Of Cassandra Vala – Character Concept Art –

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All text and imagery are copyright – Precinct1313.

Precinct1313’s Video-Game Vaults Presents: Resident Evil

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Zombies have, in the last decade become rather de-rigueur, in fact you can’t swing a chainsaw without hitting at least another few dozen low budget movies, TV series or video games starring re-animated flesh munching corpses. Much like an undead apocalypse itself, zombie media has hit oversaturation point. I’m sure when influential horror director 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… (that said, if I was actually to meet a zombie – I’d be pretty damn terrified! Ooh, ooh, unless it’s a zombified Christina Ricci… I adore Christina Ricci, even if she was a flesh eating, undead, green skinned, puss ridden monster… I’d still adore her! Mmmmm, went a little off topic there… on with the show!)

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 overtly graphic violence.

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Where It All Began…

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 publics 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 dead 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.

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A Creepy Mansion, Undead Foe, and a Jill Sandwich (!?) Await The Player In Capcom’s Classic…

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 design 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 and tropes for the survivalist series, such as the limited inventory system, third person perspective, fixed camera angles for dramatic effect and the iconic typewriter save system.

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Creepy Locations, Limited Ammo, and Relentless Enemies Are Hallmarks Of The Resident Evil Franchise

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. 

Graphics are a mix of three dimensional characters set against pre-rendered backdrops, fixed camera angles give the game a rather compelling cinematic feel.

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“Who’s a Good Boy Then… Uuh, Could You Please Stop Chewing On My Leg Now!”

As your chosen avatar 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.

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Player characters will fight through 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 7″ released to abundant praise from fan and critic alike. Though there have been a couple of missteps (Resident Evil 6 being rather… awful) the majority of titles in the franchise have been absolute gems and are a blast to play (with personal faves being Resi 4 and Code Veronica) The original has seen a remastered overhaul with an upgraded version released on platforms such as Xbox One Playstation 4, and as of this month – Nintendo’s fabulous Switch… which means Zombie blasting on the go! so there’s never been a better time to immerse yourself in the wonderful world of zombies, elite swat teams and evil corporations.

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Precinct1313 Presents: The Chronicles Of Cassandra Vala

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Did you know that that the malefic mansion of mystery known as  Precinct1313 originally was created to showcase my visual novel – “The Chronicles Of Cassandra Vala” a web-comic meets novel, with the added twist of classic 80’s style ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books of my youth.

Well that didn’t ultimately come to fruition here within the darkened halls of this mystic mansion. This otherworldly abode became the home for my love of DC Comics, a virtual oasis for the serious DC fan where we can discuss our adoration for the World’s greatest comic book publisher, and also worship at the shrines that are Wonder Woman and Batman, for they are the two core pillars that sustain this mythological edifice.

Cassandra Vala and her extended cast of both friend, and foe still exist of course, I have continued to create and fashion their world since their inception in the back of my mind over three years ago. The project is ongoing, the initial writing phase is almost finished, the only thing that has been holding me back from heralding Cass and her oblique world are the actual illustrations themselves. I do have a modicum of artistic talent, but, unlike my literary skills I am a ridiculously slow artist, plus I prefer to write rather than draw, but had already decided to make the story completely my own both literary and visually… so it’s been a more laboured process than I had originally desired.

Recently though, I have made a concerted effort to finish the various sketches and pieces of artwork that have held me back from sharing this unique tale, and thus Cassandra’s trials and tribulations shall be receiving my full attention, and hopefully yours too, fellow Precinct denizen. In fact you’ve already met one of the antagonists from the saga, in the form of the Precinct’s carrion crow of woe – Eldritch, who I originally envisioned as a way to connect the Precinct to Cassandra’s reality, plus if you read our “Three Years In The Precinct” anniversary special and were wondering where the malevolent and mysterious portal at the end of the tale transported myself and (very occasional) fellow Precinct contributor Pete to… well Cassandra may very well be able to answer that particular paradox…

Excerpt Taken From – “The Chronicles Of Cassandra Vala”

“Things are different, and yet, so very much the same. I don’t recognise this place… even though I’ve been here before. I know I’m not making much sense, but neither does my life. My name is Cassandra Vala, and you are definitely not going to believe what I’m about to tell you!”

 

Cassandra Vala, all images, and text are copyright: Precinct1313.

Modern British Cult Cinema: Franklyn

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Precinct1313’s Heroes From The Dark Side: The Crow

“Suddenly I heard a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door”

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Precinct1313’s Special Agent Awards: Act III

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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

Modern British Cult Cinema – Halloween Special: OUTPOST

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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An Atmospheric And Creepy Suspense Horror Awaits You…

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.

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Two Years In The Precinct…

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The Precinct, Secret Lair Of Great Comics

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.

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“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. 

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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.

DCLine - Edited (1)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. 

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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.

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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.

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The Phantom Galloped Into The History Books This Year, And Stopped Off At The Precinct For A Week Long Celebration

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. batman 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Mouth Of Madness – 1994 Movie Review

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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.

"Do You Read Sutter Cane?"

“Do you read Sutter Cane?”

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.

I'm not insane, and this is not reality!

“I’m not insane, and this is not reality!”

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.

"Lived any good books lately?"

“Lived any good books lately?”

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.

Trent and Styles visit Cane's 'fictional' Black Church

Trent and Styles visit Cane’s ‘fictional’ Black Church

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.

Precinct1313 Recommends: Coffin Hill

(Copyright-DC Comics/Vertigo)

(Copyright-DC Comics/Vertigo)

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.

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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. 

Solomon Kane: 2009 Movie Review

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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.

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‘You’re all just jealous of my awesome hair!’

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. 

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Solomon’s selfie bombed by the Crowthorns!

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.

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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.

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The Devil’s Reaper … says hi!

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

Modern British Cult Cinema: Black Death

Black-Death-Poster1 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.

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Lord of the Rings this isn’t!

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).

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A bleak tale of witchcraft and pestilence

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.

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Osmund entranced by the beautiful Langiva

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