Category Archives: Horror

Reviews from the crypt

James Herbert: Grandmaster of Horror

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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.

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James Herbert: the English Stephen King!

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Precinct1313’s Favourite Hammer Horror Vamps…

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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)

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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!

Modern British Cult Cinema … Halloween Special: Severance

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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!) … 

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Our hapless team of heroes and victims

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!

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Maggie – “Have you ever taken anything seriously?” … Steve – “Ecstacy and weed!”

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.

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Film heroine Maggie is so cool even the skeleton is mimicking her!

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!

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Blood and boobs … it’s a horror movie then!

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

Modern British Cult Cinema: Doomsday

Doomsday 1 Cast: Rhona Mitra, Sean Pertwee, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, Alexander Siddig, Myanna Burring, Craig Conway. Director: Neil Marshall. Writer: Neil Marshall.

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” I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick arse … and I am all out of bubblegum”

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.

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“Welcome to Doomsday, guess who’s on the menu?!”

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.

Make no bones about it, that is one crazy car!

Make no bones about it, that is one crazy car!

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.

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The lovely Rhona Mitra in ‘badass’ mode

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!

Well you don't see that every day!

Well you don’t see that every day!

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.

Hallowe’en Approaches…

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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.

A Fools day

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.

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Where’s Ash and his chainsaw when you really need him?

Plus a short history of Samhain itself, prepare yourselves it’s going to get scary…

Resident Evil Remake is being…uh…Remade!?

It’s time to step cautiously once more into that sinister Raccoon City mansion, as S.T.A.R.S veterans Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield revisit their greatest adventure from the Resident Evil/Biohazard franchise.

“I keep telling you Resi 6 was not my fault..can you please stop choking me now!”

That’s right ‘master of unlocking’ fans, the 2002 gamecube remake of the 1996 survival horror classic by Capcom is being remade for current and last gen consoles. The Shinji Mikami helmed zombie blasting spook-fest will be available in early 2015 as a digital download for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 and PCCD, with all new visuals and 5.1 surround sound, plus the Xbox One, PS4 and PCCD versions will be remastered in glorious 1080p. 

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“Resi is being remade?..high five dude!”

The original Resi is by far the the best of the long running game series, though there have been other classic entries in the series..we particularly liked the new direction that Resident Evil 4 took back in 2005, others deserving of mention are Resi 2 and Code Veronica. Though of late Capcom have come under fire for slowly moving Resi away from it’s horror roots and turning the games into more generic third person action-fests, hopefully this release will sell well enough that Capcom can return the series to its survival horror origins.

They mostly come with pre-orders….mostly…

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The upcoming Alien inspired video game-Alien Isolation by Sega will also have the cast of the original 1979 Ridley Scott movie added, but here is the caveat…only by pre-ordering the game. It seems strange that a game inspired by the original sci-fi horror movie does not include the original cast as standard and can only be added by pre-ordering. The full cast of Scott’s classic movie have come back together to record dialogue for the game, I am sure later down the line the Nostromo crew will be available through dlc, as long as the game is better than the atrocious-Aliens:Colonial marines!

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“That’s right we look sad, we forgot to pre-order the game, now we can’t play as….ourselves!”

The man behind the mask

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Happy Friday the 13th fiends, today is my second favourite day of the year (Halloween being my favourite of course), so I shall be indulging in the blood soaked, hockey mask wearing awesomeness of Jason Vorhees and his various victims in the classic Friday the 13th series of movies….but which one to watch? I actually like all eleven of the movies that the maniacal Jason has appeared in to date (not including the remake which I am not overly fond of) My overall favourite though is Friday the 13th part IV:the Final Chapter (though it obviously wasn’t the ‘final chapter’ as the homicidal one went on to star in another seven movies!)

The reasons for this being my favourite are many, apart from the lovely ladies, the well written storyline and fantastic camera work, this film introduced me to two of  the greatest genre actors of all time: Corey Feldman and the amazing Crispin Glover. Corey will be best known to most people for his role in the greatest vampire movie ever made – the Lost Boys, alongside his good friend, the late great Corey Haim. The fantastic Crispin Glover is most fondly remembered as Marty McFly’s dad in Back to the Future, but has had a wealth and breadth of roles across many genres over the years. So which of the Friday movies will you be indulging in tonight?