Friday, 31 December 2010

Year's end

My latest 'Blood Spectrum' column (of DVD & blu-ray reviews) fills seven pages of Black Static #20 (TTA Press.

This issue's line-up:

Black Christmas (6/10)
The Seventh Victim (7/10)
Siege Of The Dead (2/10)
Peeping Tom (4/10)
Predators (6/10)
Deadly Outlaw: Rekka (4/10)
Splice (8/10)
A Bay Of Blood (5/10)
Deep Red (7/10)
The Last Exorcism (1/10)
The Girl Who Played With Fire (7/10)
Missing  (4/10)

             Dreaming in death-pools - Guillermo del Toro collection
Cronos (6/10)
The Devil's Backbone (7/10) 
Pan's Labyrinth (8/10)

             Off the charts: round-up
Ong Bak 3 (3/10)
30 Days Of Night: Dark Days (2/10)
Lost Boys 3: The Thirst (3/10)
Lake Placid 3 (1/10)
A Nightmare On Elm Street (3/10)
Battle Royale (4/10)
Death Race 2 (1/10)

             Extra-discs (late arrivals)
Aftershock (4/10)
F (3/10)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Vector 264
The latest issue of BSFA critical journal, Vector #264 (Autumn 2010), includes my review of SF novel Brain Thief by Alexander Jablokov. The magazine doesn't have ratings for reviews, but I'd give this book four stars, or 7/10.

Monday, 15 November 2010

IZ #231

Interzone's last issue (November/ December) of 2010 includes my 'Laser Fodder' column of DVD & blu-ray reviews... 

The Avengers - series five (6/10)
The Brothers Bloom (7/10)
Fanboys (3/10)
Heroes - season four (4/10)
Dollhouse - season two (8/10)
Black Death (7/10)
V - season one (4/10)
Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind (3/10)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Black Static

In good time for Halloween reading, Black Static #19 (from TTA Press), includes my 'Blood Spectrum' column with nine pages of DVD and blu-ray reviews:

Black Lightning (6/10)
The Legend Of Fong Sai-yuk (7/10)
Dogtooth (5/10)
Inferno (9/10)
The Listener - season 1 (3/10)
Tears For Sale (5/10)
Bad Lieutenant - Port Of  Call: New Orleans (8/10)
The Loved Ones (6/10)
Grindhouse (Death Proof, 3/10)
Frozen (4/10)
Suck (5/10)
Zombies Of Mass Destruction (6/10)

     + rant-o-matic: round-up
Road Train (2/10)
Splintered (1/10)
The Sword With No Name (5/10)
Blood Snow (1/10)
Twelve (2/10)
Big Tits Zombie (2/10)
Life Blood (3/10)
Night Of The Demons (2/10)
The Collector (3/10)
The Experiment (4/10)
The Tortured (3/10)
Not Like Others (2/10)
Saturday Nightmares: The Ultimate Horror Expo Of All Time (0/10)

Thursday, 9 September 2010

IZ #230

Interzone #230
The latest issue (#230) of Interzone magazine includes my Laser Fodder column of DVD & blu-ray reviews, with coverage of 16 new releases...

Stargate Universe - season 1 (6/10)
After.Life (7/10)
Hunter Prey (5/10)
Kick-Ass (5/10)
Fringe - season 2 (7/10)

    blu for you
Delicatessen (7/10)
Mulholland Drive (9/10)
Death Note 1&2 (8/10)
    + round-up: when voids collide
Mega Piranha (3/10)
Centurion (3/10)
Basement (1/10)
The Last Seven (3/10)
Beyond The Rave (1/10)
Cherry Tree Lane (1/10)
Death Tube (1/10)
Mega Shark Of The Malibu (1/10)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The 'B' word

How to fix UK gov deficit & clear national debt? Emergency powers for a special wealth tax (at 95 percent) on British billionaires. Yes, BILLIONAIRE should be filed under 'obscenity'. Wealth super-tax ensures a minimum number of victims, but with maximum claw-back of dosh from greedy Brits. Let's face it, if they can't survive and live comfortably on 5 percent of a billion, then... who cares?  

Saturday, 14 August 2010

The 'A' word

Austerity seems to be a current buzzword from the Con-Dem coalition, inflicting cuts to public services. I’d really like to see austerity measures applied to churches, too… Why not abolish the ‘charitable’ status for church institutions in the UK, and make them all pay taxes at premium business rates?

There’s no reason why the organised religions should remain a special case. A lot of church properties, on prime sites in town centres, could be redeveloped for proper commercial enterprises to make better use of the locations and land, which might even provide more useful services to local communities.

Monday, 9 August 2010

More BS!

Black Static is three years old! Where does the time go, and all that...
Issue #18 (TTA Press) features my latest 'Blood Spectrum' column of DVD and blu-ray reviews, with coverage of 25 new releases on seven pages:

Solomon Kane (4/10)
Afterwards (4/10)
Bubba Ho-Tep (5/10)
The Storm Warriors (6/10)
Blood River (5/10)
Psychosis (3/10)
Clash Of The Titans (7/10)
Shelter (5/10)
Animals (4/10)
Manson Girl (5/10)
14 Blades (6/10)
Goemon (7/10)
The 7th Dimension (8/10)
[REC] 2 (8/10)

     + Soulless Scars: round-up...
Zombie Women Of Satan (1/10)
Bikini Girls On Ice (1/10)
Samurai Zombie (3/10)
Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler (3/10)
2001 Maniacs: Field Of Screams (1/10)
The Haunting Of Marsten Manor (1/10)
The Torment (1/10)
Meat Grinder (2/10)
The Bleeding (2/10)
The Horde (3/10)
Dead Cert (1/10)

Friday, 9 July 2010

More film & TV reviews!

My latest 'Laser Fodder' column (for Interzone #229) has review coverage of the following genre movies and TV shows, on DVD and blu-ray:

Exam (5/10)
The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue (7/10)
Mulan: Warrior Princess (5/10)
Hidden Fortress: The Last Princess (5/10)
The Lovely Bones (4/10)
Warehouse 13 - season 1 (7/10)
Ashes To Ashes - season 3 (6/10)
Cargo (7/10)
Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief (4/10)
Hierro (7/10)
Shutter Island (6/10)
Wizards (6/10)
Astro Boy (4/10)
Ponyo (2/10)
Nothing (7/10)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Fun photos

From one of those suspect but amusing emails doing the rounds...
Here are the candidates for 'contractor of the year' award...
The last one is (reportedly) the winner.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

More bloody reviews

Black Static #17 (from TTA Press) includes my 'Blood Spectrum' column of DVD & blu-ray reviews. Here's a list of this issue's coverage, plus ratings:

Dolan's Cadillac (5/10)
Stag Night (3/10)
The Stepfather - remake (4/10)
Blood (5/10)
Left Bank (6/10)
Razor's Ring (1/10)
Dorothy (7/10)
Lockjaw: Rise Of The Kulev Serpent (1/10)
Phobia (4/10)
High Lane (4/10)
True Blood: seasons 1 & 2 (5/10)
City Of The Living Dead (5/10)
Van Diemen’s Land (1/10)
The Book Of Eli (7/10)
Daybreakers (6/10)
Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre (4/10)
The Graves (3/10)
Satan’s Baby Doll (3/10)
Homecoming (3/10)
A Lizard In A Woman's Skin (4/10)
RoboGeisha (5/10)
The Wolfman - remake (6/10)
The Haunting Of Molly Hartley (2/10)
Bear (2/10)
Resurrecting The Street Walker (1/10)
Martin (8/10)
Funny Games - remake (3/10)
The Crazies - remake (6/10)
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (7/10)

Saturday, 15 May 2010

More Laser Fodder

Issue #228 (May-June 2010) of Interzone magazine is out now (subscribe to it, and Black Static, at TTA Press). My column, Laser Fodder, of DVD & blu-ray reviews has coverage of new and recent releases. I have added rating scores (marks out of ten), to all titles reviewed, as listed below...

Ghost Machine (3/10)
George And The Dragon (3/10)
The Men Who Stare At Goats (7/10)
Avatar (6/10)
Sherlock Holmes (2/10)
Valhalla Rising (7/10)
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan (4/10)
Mutants (3/10)
The Road (2/10)
The Prisoner (5/10)

Plus a round-up of Asian 'action porn'...
Bangkok Adrenaline (3/10)
Geisha Assassin (4/10)
Raging Phoenix (5/10)
Tai-Chi Master (6/10) 

The mag is published in full colour, throughout, and there's some great artwork to support the genre fiction.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Coalition metaphors

Best wishes & hopes for LibDem efforts in coalition negotiations & wrangling with Tories. (Is Clegg really capable of parliament's 'Tory wrangler' job, in long term?)

Anything in politcal playground that kicks UK gov off Lab/Tory seesaw, and lets us play with swings & roundabouts of mainstream coalition must be worth a try now!

You never know what it might lead to... 
Perhaps one day soon, if there's a united or federal Europe (with Russian partners?), we'll visit that great theme park in the sky (somewhere over the rainbow on road to utopia) and try bigger rides like grand rollercoaster of world gov?

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


In production and due for release in 2011, The Mighty Thor directed by Kenneth Branagh, sounds promising for another Marvel comic adaptation - despite worries about whether anyone can refine mythology involving a pantheon of Norse gods into a contemporary fantasy scenario that will entertain a mainstream audience. Asgardian epics worked just fine on four-colour pages, but can the peculiar content of Thor comics be transferred to genre cinema in compelling style without becoming (endearingly?) silly or, even worse, embarrassingly stupid or unforgivably pretentious?    

The challenges of archaic language used in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's comicbook series have reportedly been avoided by the film's writers (at risk of upsetting the purist element of Thor fandom!) by opting for today’s colloquial English - but hopefully not vagaries of ‘Amglish’ (from which the phrase ‘oh my god’ acquires some new Americanism of cringe-worthy potential!), and this curiously ignores all the possibilities that are offered by tapping into Branagh’s experience at making films out of Shakespeare's texts.

Amongst many other pitfalls to be evaded, principal casting of some puny humans (not as mere templates for CGI creations, presumably) as various Norse deities has a rather amusing ‘international’ flavour, so far…
  • Australian Chris Hemsworth (Kirk’s dad in Star Trek) plays thunder god Thor
  • Welshman Anthony Hopkins could make a worthy all-father as Odin
  • Swedish star Stellan Skarsgård is likely to be good as Silvig
  • Irish beefcake Ray Stevenson (vigilante Frank Castle in Punisher: War Zone) is cast as Volstagg   
  • English–as–Eton, Tom Hiddleston comes from TV acting, for prime villainy of Loki
  • Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano is – intriguingly – assigned the role of Hogan 
  • Californian Rene Russo portrays Frigga (no jokes, please)
  • Another American actress, Jaimie Alexander (from slasher movie Rest Stop) plays Sif, consort of Thor
  • Israel-born actress Natalie Portman, interestingly, plays nurse Jane Foster 

In the comics, Jane was assistant of Dr Don Blake, the mortal who transforms into Thor, but it’s unclear, at time of writing this, whether the character of disabled medic Blake appears in this film or not. Other geeky questions and concerns include: will they keep iconic features of the comic like Thor’s magic hammer (with unpronounceable name ‘Mjöllnir’), or will he just get a battleaxe? If the film’s plot follows that familiar tale about Odin’s punishment of Thor with exile to Earth, will the storyline lapse into cliché as yet another example of tedious father–and–son reconciliation themes which infect nearly all Hollywood products nowadays? 

Like both Iron Man films, and forthcoming Captain America remake ('First Avenger…' reportedly stars Chris Evans, from Fantastic Four movies), Thor is part of build-up to Joss Whedon’s mooted 'Avengers' epic (we can only hope that it follows revisionist trend established by Ultimates comics, not the Avengers' 1960s' origin story), in prep for 2012. Ah, that’s a year of apocalypse, right? Verily not…

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Paranormals whatever

Although I find publishers’ marketing trendiness for so-called paranormal/ supernatural romance books a vaguely interesting cross-genre project, I have avoided reading any of those novels… There are simply too many series of books, the market is obviously swamped, and I prefer TV adaptations of such things on DVD – amongst a batch of boxsets, I watched Blood Ties (based on Tanya Huff’s Vicki Nelson series), and I’m likely to be reviewing True Blood (derived from Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books) for Black Static, soon.   

My concern is whether such experimenting with varied tropes is any kind of genuine literary development or worthwhile genre progress..? By making traditional horror’s creatures (vampires and werewolves, especially) the heroes/ heroines or characters in modern romantic dramas, former subgenre menaces have lost much of their gothic appeal (Buffy has a lot to answer for), and such contemporary over-familiarity risks domesticating the monsters. What’s happening to essential otherness of horror in all this? Is ‘urban fantasy’ just another gimmicky category label for bookshops or does it represent horror tamed into mediocrity? 

Hopefully, new vampire anthology, The Bitten Word (Newcon Press) - which I bought at the World Horror Convention in Brighton, will contribute something… terrifying or fascinating to whatever’s the next big thing or movement for independent publishing. Back in 1985, Tom Holland’s comedy-drama Fright Night had a vampire moving in next door to a horror fanboy, and then kidnapping/ seducing a teenager’s girlfriend, but at least Fright Night’s vampire remained (mildly) scary. When horror abandons subversive traits, adopting/ favouring romantic plots instead, and ghastly monsters/ transforming creatures are domesticated, we get awfully boring soap opera/ sitcoms like TV series Being Human.

Is that sort of material a suitable advancement of meaningful horror for 21st century, in TV, film, or books?

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

BS in colour

This month’s Black Static #16 (April–May 2010) from TTA Press is the first issue of this bi-monthly magazine to be printed in full colour throughout... and it looks glorious – from the redesigned contents listing, to Peter Tennant’s 15 pages of book reviews (a section that regularly includes interviews with genre authors).

My own 'Blood Spectrum' column also looks better than ever with a display line-up of DVD packshots, and many publicity stills from the coverage of 28 films. I have added ratings (scores out of 10) to all titles listed below…

Demon Warriors (4/10)
Cut (4/10)
Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (6/10)
The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (8/10)
2012 (7/10)
The Descent: Part 2 (6/10)
Invitation Only (5/10)

Plus – ‘Argento-mania’, reviewing four re–releases
Terror At The Opera (8/10)
The Stendhal Syndrome (8/10)
The Card Player (6/10)
Two Evil Eyes (7/10) 

‘All ye zombies’, a batch with stuff about –
Zombeak (3/10)
Survival Of The Dead (7/10)
Zombieland (5/10)
Night Of The Living Dead 3D (2/10)
Day Of The Dead (10/10)
Dance Of The Dead (5/10)

And, finally, the Dreadful Delights: round–up, which looks at –
Ong Bak 2: The Beginning (5/10)
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (4/10)
Chaw (5/10)
Give ’Em Hell, Malone (5/10)
iMurders (2/10)
Salvage (1/10)
Hellbride (1/10)
Paranormal Entity (0/10)
Henry Lee Lucas: Serial Killer (1/10)
Bitch Slap (6/10)
Backwoods Bloodbath (1/10)

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Odyssey aftermath

Final day of Odyssey 2010 was a run-around to pack non-essentials, get my bags into hotel luggage store, and checkout before 11. Jobs done, I went to see La Menace Vient de l’Espace (aka: The Menace Comes From Outer Space, 2009), a 19-minute short film with English-subtitles introduced as a ‘lost’ sci-fi classic, which is really a highly amusing pastiche, complete with female robot and portable phone, of low-budget 1950s' cinema (including This Island Earth and Earth vs. The Flying Saucers). Directed by Pierre-Axel Vuillaume-Prézeau, this envisions a modern French society radically changed by using a numeric language, and this ‘protocol 123’ is revealed as prelude to an invasion by aliens, but…

It’s very funny, so if you missed it search for the download version on You Tube. The noon panel about novels provided some insightful comments from Caroline Mullan, Graham Sleight, and Jetse de Vries, moderated by Ellen Datlow. I missed lunchtime programme item about ‘climate scepticism’ but watched and listened to first part of They Walk Amongst Us Here created by ‘Old Time Radio’ enthusiasts in the Commonwealth hall.

Left that early for a Green Room meeting before my last panel, ‘Dollhouse: Ethics and Identity’, where Steve Kilbane moderated our views on this somewhat (mildly!) controversial TV series, though I disagreed with a few of Liz Batty and Paul Cornell’s opinions about the show’s SF content. At 4pm, the closing ceremony's attendees packed the main hall, although many people from the con (including top guest Iain Banks) had already gone home.

Overall, a very well organised weekend event, with significant improvements to various tech services, despite the architectural oddities of some hotel conference rooms (a few of which were simply numbered, this time, instead of using the names they had for Orbital two years ago).

Monday, 5 April 2010

Odyssey finale

Odyssey 2010 – Monday

Yesterday was busy, starting with a panel on anthologies – Ellen Datlow, Ian Whates, Colin Harvey and Gary Couzens discussing 'the art of compilation'. Al Reynolds' talk about 'SF and the modern cosmos' had tech problems, so it started late and its colour slide-show was only screened in black-and-white. From the main hall, I went to the noon panel about 'writing meaningful reviews' moderated by John Clute, but the panellists (I'd never heard of any of them before) all had completely different perspectives, making any balanced or interactive discussion rather difficult.

I had to leave that item early, to visit Green Room, ready for my panel about Clarke (and whether he's still worth reading), where Colin Harvey moderated our discussion. With Ian Whates, Edward James, Martin McGrath, and Stephen Gaskell, opinions differed but we seemed to agree that such older SF novels ought/ should appeal to younger readers today. After, I listened to some comments from 'Not The Clarke Awards' panel, but found I hadn't read any of the books they were talking about.

Next, meeting Interzone film reviewer Nick Lowe, after his BSFA lecture on “2001 and the Narratology of Transcendence,” revealing the 'untold' story about developing the script for Clarke and Kubrick's masterpiece. I saw Roy Gray just after the dealer's room closed at 6pm, and we went to the poetry readings hosted by Birmingham's former poet laureate Chris Morgan. Roz Kaveney's readings were good, as were some others, but I forgot their names.

I had to leave that room early, in time for my panel on James Cameron's Avatar, where Jetse de Vries moderated our lively discussion of the film's merits and faults. I waited patiently for the Mitch Benn gig to start - much later than expected in the main hall, but his 'adult' comedy/ singing act was not funny and only weakly amusing. I think he's just a retarded Bill Bailey wannabe.

Announcements made in Atrium bar space for 'Steampunk Ball' dance in the main hall were an increasing annoyance during late night drinking and chat, but it didn't really spoil the evening, where conversations included mysterious origins of life and the reportedly surprising popularity of Harry Harrison in Russia... I found a copy of Sentinel newsletter #5, with a picture of my first panel on Friday night. Oh, yay.

This morning, I'll be checking out, but still going to programme items, and I have one more panel to do before the closing ceremony.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Odyssey weekend

Odyssey 2010 – Saturday & Sunday morning

After breakfast on second day of convention, I missed the panel on female superheroes, and went for educational and informative 'Quantum Computing For Beginners' talk by Dr Nik Whitehead, adding some background detail to theories I'd already read about in SF books. Found a front-row seat for guest-of-honour Iain M. Banks' highly amusing interview by Jane Killick, but I had to leave main hall early in time for my panel on Watchmen, debating film's merits & faults but also talking about Alan Moore, the motion comic, and superheroes in general.

George Hay lecture (sponsored by SF Foundation) was an interesting talk by Oliver Morton about 'geoegineering'. I enjoyed the panel on 'writers and the web' – including Joe Abercrombie and John Meaney moderated by Maura McHugh. Before teatime, I saw tail end of panel discussion on geoengineering, which included Phil Huggins, Jonathan Cowie, and Morton.

First hour of SF 'tall stories' inspired by Clarke's Tales From The White Hart was very good, with Andrew J. Wilson giving best reading of most entertaining short story, but I left after that one to get a drink... and found Jetse de Vries serving whiskies at launch party for his anthology Shine – which really deserves to succeed with its theme of optimistic SF. Slowly, the Royal room cleared to make way for an exclusive preview of short genre films chosen for Sci-Fi London Film Festival. I watched the first three but then had to hurry along to room 41, for my panel about US remakes of British TV shows, where versions of Life On Mars and The Prisoner were talked about.

After 10pm, I had something to eat from limited snack-menu in the Atrium bar, and was ready for drinking and talking until about half past one. Distribution of Odyssey's Sentinel newsletter seems uneven - I got issues two, three, four, but seven, but when/ where/ what happened to issues five and six?

Now it's after breakfast on Sunday... I'm especially looking forward to this morning's guest-of-honour talk by Alastair Reynolds, and my couple of panels about Arthur C. Clarke (lunchtime), and Avatar (this evening).

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Odyssey 2010

Odyssey 2010 - 61st British SF convention

Hotel busy and I had time for a panel on book collecting before checking into top-floor room (with only car park view). Meeting & greeting, sorting out copies of Premonitions for dealer's room, and trying to avoid buying any books... then it was 4pm, time for first panel in main hall, where Iain M. Banks, Edward James and others discussed Utopia – in various fictions, while  questioning whether it could ever be realised.

Friday's teatime panel on UK vs. US TV was in small room 40, packed to capacity with more standing than sitting. Jane Killick and Gary Blog led discussion on styles, standards and examples - with Chad Dixon becoming default moderator – but no consensus was reached about quality from either side of Atlantic. I went to NewCon Press launch in Royal, but free booze was all gone, and I wasn't tempted by that new SF anthology. Looked in main hall for several minutes of UK movie première Universal Soldier: Regeneration, but even Van Damme's presence couldn't save this clunky actioner, so I left early, to visit art show launch, which seemed smaller than previous 2008 exhibition at this hotel, but which still had several excellent displays.

Opening ceremony started late and finished quickly, but 'star-scape' stage set-up, giant video display with original animation and 2001 theme music made it look grander than just intro to line-up of guests and organisers. A panel item on 'Disability and Villains' was troubled with an inactive sound system for a sizeable room, where my 10pm panel titled, 'It's Shit But We Like It' was fun and enjoyable as noisy chat about films & TV, but derailed by lack of focus. At least a techie arrived to switch the mics on.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

WHC photo

'The Year in Review' panel at World Horror Convention 2010, in Brighton...
I disagreed with Anne Billson, twice (but think I got away with it!).

Monday, 29 March 2010

Day after WHC

Sunday morning at World Horror 2010 was hectic (not helped by misplacing the programme book with all my notes!) after breakfast as we packed for 11 am checkout, so I missed the Dennis Etchison hour, and Gary McMahon's reading (sorry, mate, hope it was good..?), but I was able to catch last few minutes of a panel item, about value of awards, moderated by Andrew Hook. Having bought a print (by Bob Eggleton) from the artshow while loitering around during lunch break, I went to support Chris Teague's Pendragon Press event, launching Silversands by Gareth L. Powell.

At 3 o'clock, it was time for 'The Year In Review' panel, where I met Anne Billson (one of my favourite film critics), and talked rubbish about best horrors I watched in 2009. Despite losing David J. Howe, and Joe Jenkins (Monica Kuebler became our replacement moderator), the panel wasn't wrecked by my tired waffling. The closing ceremony was packed, while WHC organisers wisely kept shortlist of thank yous to a minimum, so many people could leave promptly (if only to face havoc on public transport due to strike action).

Overall, then, it was a great convention, and hugely enjoyable gathering of old friends and new faces. I met a few more writers (including Terry Grimwood), bought some new books, sold copies of Premonitions (many thanks to Roy Gray!), and somehow managed not to get too drunk.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

WHC Saturday

World Horror Convention 2010 weekend

Despite rude awakening of Oz grand prix at 5 am (thanks, Stephen!), I was breakfasted and fully conscious in time for morning's readings by Joel Lane and Cardinal Cox, both very good indeed. Sticking to my current book-buying rule of 'hardcovers only', I got Vincent Chong's new artbook from Telos tea party, and then found a seat in lounge for WHC guest of honour interview: James Herbert, who talked about his career. 'Unrealised Nightmares' was a panel about horror films that were never made. 'Those Were The Days' was a panel about 1960s – 1980s era of genre anthologies. Although she was poorly, elderly film star Ingrid Pitt proved an endearing and very entertaining interviewee, though best described as charmingly potty.

Teatime programme item 'State Of The Art' had too many panellists for Russell room, so Ramsey Campbell switched it with 'Into The Gore Zone' from the Lounge. Once re-settled, it was good to hear F. Paul Wilson (The Keep) and Graham Masterton (The Manitou) to talk about their first novels - both filmed to good effect, decades ago. I caught last half-hour of art show reception in Britannia room and considered which print to buy. Had a nap before steak & chips, then walked down the illuminated pier where HWA Bram Stoker awards banquet was being held.

Back at the hotel bar, more drinking continued until clocks were reset an hour ahead. I enjoyed first part of Phantom Gaslight theatre, with Geoffrey Jesson recounting tragically comic but ultimately macabre tale, 'Puss-cat'. More drinking ensued and I met writer John Travis (once published by Pigasus Press), and some Facebook friends.

Friday, 26 March 2010

WHC 2010

World Horror Convention 2010

Arrived in Brighton early, quick journey via A27, easily found Royal Albion hotel on seafront. Parking hassles and rain spoilt Thursday's mood a bit, especially with having to wait for later check-in than we'd hoped... for top floor twin-room without any view. Had good feed at local chip shop, then went back to hotel in time for mid-afternoon panel item about zombies.

Opening ceremony (at teatime) was a packed out, standing room only, but we had front row seats. 'New Blood' was a panel with next generation of horror writers. Who Cares What You Think? - proved an interesting panel topic on reviewing for blogs. First day of drinking was rounded off with a couple of creepy new short stories, of great descriptive flair and subtlety, read by author Ramsey Campbell.

Friday started dry and windy during our seafront walk after breakfast. 'X Factor' offered retro movie reminiscences of panellists (both writers and artists). Tanith Lee was interviewed by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, but I forgot to ask a question about her scripts for Blake's 7... 'Size Matters' was a worthwhile panel topic on current small press activities. Left reading by Brian Lumley after a few minutes because I found his story rather boring (too much arithmetic & fractions about vampire's age!), and went to see art show, where I met artist Caroline O'Neal and poet Cardinal Cox – both contributors to Premonitions.

I bought a couple of hardcover books at Newcon Press launch, and went to interesting 'Heritages of Horror' panel, featuring critics Kim Newman and David Pirie, talking about movie books. 'Life Sucks', a discussion of vampire fiction, was final panel of day for me.


Sunday, 21 March 2010

Jekyll & Hyde

Had a fine evening out, yesterday, watching The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde staged by European Arts Company at Quay Arts Centre, Isle of Wight. This refreshingly brisk adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novella is a stylised comedy-horror that makes the best of such a low-budget production’s technical limitations with highly judicious use of special effects, and sees the whole cast also performing well-choreographed stagehand duties, adding ironic humour to this charmingly inventive minimalist recreation of the classic Victorian gaslight stalker tale. 

William Hartley plays Henry Jekyll as simpering yet ‘mad’ doctor, all repressed desire and nervous tics, who’s even cowed by haughty butler Poole (Arthur James, who also plays a publican and two other characters). Of course, just a risky tipple later, he transforms - via simple but effective theatricality of a garish waistcoat and swaggering demeanour - into untamed London lothario, egotistically prone to violence with murderous intent.

An introductory/ wraparound meta-narrative, concerning US actor Richard Mansfield (who portrayed Jekyll & Hyde at London’s Lyceum in 1888, until the Whitechapel murders forced the play’s closure), gives repertory veteran Richard Latham his first of five secondary parts. Unlike Stevenson’s original story, which contains no female characters, this stage version features Jennifer Bryden, also playing five different roles, including Jekyll’s sister.

Despite some excellent comic timing, many of the jokes do tend to be witty (tincture as viagra tonic!) rather than hilarious. The first hour is largely good-natured fun and games (some clever business with Jekyll’s housecat, and the return ‘train journey’ to Scotland, is particularly amusing), while the second act is much less campy, delving a lot deeper into Freudian dramas that reveal psychotic alpha-male Hyde’s predatory nature, and permits a range of more ‘adult’ themes (including incest) to be explored.

The company’s play is on a tour of small theatres in UK (throughout March, April, and May, this year) and is certainly worthwhile entertainment.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Horrors in colour

My next 'Blood Spectrum' column of DVD & blu-ray reviews is done for Black Static #16. Although this issue of the magazine is still a work-in-progress, the big news is that it will be printed in full colour! Here's a couple of images taken from TTA Press editor Andy Cox's page layouts for my column, which show just how much impact adding colour to Black Static has... (Click on the images to see them full-size.)


Friday, 12 March 2010

IZ #227

My four-page 'Laser Fodder' column in Interzone #227 (T3A Press) has DVD & blu-ray review coverage of Hardwired, Thrill Seekers, Time Traveller's Wife, The Avengers - series 3, The Interceptor, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (which, admittedly, I'm dismissive of), Shane Acker's 9, Caprica TV pilot-movie, The Box, and Lathe Of Heaven remake.


Friday, 5 March 2010


I read and greatly enjoyed Jeff Lint’s The Caterer comic (#3 ‘reprint’ by Floating World). Steve Aylett ( continues to milk his phenomenal Lint mania. This perfectly ‘reproduces’ the format and printed medium of 1970s’ comics, complete with dodgy adverts and a ‘fan mail’ page. “Once again tatty curtains part on the true situation.”

When he’s not practising trademark ‘stillness’ with baffling diatribes, ‘hero’ of The Caterer, Jack Marsden, is causing untold mayhem and indulging his penchant for splash–page dreamscapes eerily reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch. This is surreal comicbook weirdness at it most deliriously offbeat, so utterly irreverent that Aylett risks losing as many readers as he’s likely to gain.

Newly minted pulp action scenes vie for attention with inconveniently preposterous dialogues and supporting characters - like (or perhaps you don’t?) Sheriff Leonard Bayard that help define friable Jack by doing things he doesn’t, such as leaning, or giving moderately sane advice (“don’t let it be udders”). But, whatever else we think of Jack, in The Caterer, we’re bound to wonder “what he’s doing now” and what he’s going to do next…

Further cause for celebration, is a new revised edition of Aylett’s implacably amusing Inflatable Volunteer.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Black Static #15

The new Black Static was just delivered, and #15 includes my regular Blood Spectrum column of DVD and blu-ray reviews. This issue's coverage looks at eight pages worth of recent and new releases. Although the magazine does not have ratings for published reviews, I have added scores to each title (a good idea?) as listed below, just for some at-a-glance info about what's good or bad entertainment.
Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat (1/10)
Street Trash (7/10)
Wrong Turn 3: Left For Dead (3/10)
Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath Of The Dragon God (4/10)
House (aka: Hausu) 7/10
Train (4/10) 
The Day Of The Triffids (6/10) 
Halloween II (1/10) 
The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto (1/10) 
Surrogates (8/10) 
Tony (3/10) 
Dante's Inferno (2/10) 
In The Electric Mist (6/10) 
Long Weekend (6/10) 
Pandorum (4/10) 
Cabin Fever (6/10) 
Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (4/10) 
Wolfhound (7/10) 
Triangle (7/10)

Plus, in the 'terror triage' round-up section - 
Sorority Row (2/10) 
Growth (3/10) 
Room 36 (5/10) 
Whiteout (4/10) 
Stan Helsing (1/10) 
Malice In Wonderland (5/10) 
Borderland (1/10) 
Jennifer's Body (2/10) 
Open Graves (2/10) 
Paranormal Activity (1/10)

Monday, 8 February 2010


Although Quentin Tarantino’s bubble burst long ago, the gasbag continues to deflate - crashing and burning, spectacularly, like the cinematic Hindenberg – throughout the pointlessly extravagant runtime of his latest wistfully eccentric, over-hyped offering, Inglourious Basterds. With each new project, it becomes clearer that self-confessed video geek Tarantino is actually just a frustrated short-film director stuck making features.

The chaptered structure of Inglourious Basterds, and most of Tarantino’s previous films, betrays a creative sensibility that’s better suited to episodic television than big screen epics. While it’s patently true that Tarantino writes engaging, highly quotable, and often quite fascinating dialogues and monologues, the impact of his work lies in lengthy but wholly self-contained ‘scenes’ or suspenseful comedy–drama sequences, not in coherent narrative structures which may hold viewers’ attention for more than two hours. A typical Tarantino film is composed entirely of witty ‘moments’, surprising incidents, and a scattering of clever 'plot' twists. Genuinely compelling storytelling, at feature–length, is not really Tarantino’s forte. Genre in-jokes, and gushingly enthusiastic sub-cultural referencing of numerous foreign or obscure movies, is what he does best.    

Inglourious Basterds is billed as a WW2 ‘western’ and has Brad Pitt leading a team of Jewish American soldiers in guerrilla warfare against German troops, behind enemy lines in occupied France. Unlike the recent batch of, largely respectful, films (including Flame & Citron, Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book, Edward Zwick’s Defiance, Rønning and Sandberg’s Max Manus: Man Of War, and the adventuresome Female Agents), concerning European heroes of the Resistance movement, Tarantino’s contribution to this unanticipated cycle of retro pictures is hardly a themed biopic or even a thrilling wartime actioner (reminiscent of secret mission movies like Dirty Dozen, Guns Of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, etc).

Tarantino might well claim to be inspired by Sergio Leone, for the stylised - yet rarely stylish - presentation of various talky confrontations and violent conflicts staged for Inglourious Basterds. However, there are times when the shadow of Mel Brooks falls over exposition or characterisation. Seemingly encouraged by Tarantino to reach for a bathetic extreme, German TV actor Christoph Waltz valiantly overdoes his ‘jolly Nazi’ act in a satirical role that comes dangerously close to stupid farce, undermining his character’s supposedly fearsome reputation as ‘the Jew hunter’.

Burning down a cinema while Adolf Hitler and the assembled German high command watch a new product of Nazi propaganda sounds like appealingly dark humour about the fate of the Third Reich, but its actual effect as the vengeful climax of Inglourious Basterds is just another thoughtless irreverence. Tellingly, the film-within-a-film, Nation’s Pride, the tale of a German sniper who’s become a war hero, is granted more rhetorical significance, being accounted in greater detail, than the routinely grisly scalping exploits of the ‘basterds’ themselves.

As for the ‘alternative world’ (and, therefore, borderline sci-fi) scenario of Tarantino’s wannabe opus, there’s far superior and less bombastic entertainment found in Danny Bilson’s unpretentious B-movie, Zone Troopers (1985), which sees a group of GI Joes discover a crashed UFO in Italy, and team up with a surviving alien to fight the Nazis. Zone Troopers even has a memorable scene where one American soldier punches the Fuhrer! It’s lively honest fun, and simply better filmmaking than Tarantino’s horribly conceited effort.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Retro sci-fi #1

Watching a twin pack DVD of Farscape: Peacekeeper Wars (2004) confirms my suspicions about this rather lacklustre TV series, despite having seen only a handful of earlier episodes from its 1999 - 2003 run. An obvious Flash Gordon / Buck Rogers clone with genre junk-DNA from Blake’s 7 spliced into its humans and aliens (quite terrible muppets!) scenario, it remains terminally derivative, stuck in a space opera limbo – lost somewhere between universes epitomised by Star Trek and Star Wars. The 1980 movie version of Flash Gordon was directed by Mike Hodges in such a way that was creativity amusing but ultra campy; and everyone knew it, and so didn’t bother trying to be anything else. The same goes for similarly trashy TV shows like the formidably absurdist Lexx (1997 - 2002).

However, Farscape - great title; shame about the show! - was not content to be a ‘guilty pleasure’. It quite brazenly attempts a level of seriousness (stealing the surrealism of its finale from the uncanny deathbed closure of Kubrick’s 2001!) and fails miserably; often with dismal ‘acting’ from its main cast which struggles even to be considered as wooden, and several interactions between muppet ‘characters’ and regular actors that inject a distracting tone of pantomime farce, especially unwelcome during the scenes of ‘heightened drama’, into the space fantasy. The world of 21st century sci-fi deserves better media entertainments than this cursedly unimaginative, ultimately disposable, nonsense.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Interzone in colour

Issue #226 of Interzone (published by T3A Press) marks the great magazine's return to printing in full-colour, throughout, something not seen in these pages since #211 (July-August 2007). It certainly does brighten up the non-fiction sections and adds visual impact to the artwork produced for some of the stories. And, in future, I hope that artists illustrating new genre fiction will take advantage of this upgrade - a very positive change - in the overall quality of IZ.

My blu-ray and DVD column, 'Laser Fodder', in this issue has review coverage of District 13: Ultimatum, Godzilla, Year One, Starhyke, Bronx Warriors trilogy (of 1990: Bronx Warriors, Escape From The Bronx, New Barbarians), Moon, District 9, Misfits, Final Destination 3D, plus a round-up of Star Trek (2009), Terminator Salvation, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: season 2, Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, and G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra.