Thursday, 31 May 2018

Flavours of the Month: May 2018...

Bundles of Blu-Rays, aerial dog fights from a century ago, and FWOAN's first big screening have been setting the tone of my May 2018...

Click "READ MORE" below to see this month's looks, sounds, vibes & flavours...


Wolf Creek: Series 2 - the first series was surprisingly good, even if it did feel a bit padded out, and while the second series got off to a good start (with a gleefully tense climax to episode two), the following episodes squandered much of the tension and investment by spending too much time wandering around in the outback and, most egregiously of all, on several occasions having characters do mind numbingly stupid things. Moments of complete obliviousness on the parts of certain characters rankled, but the blatant opportunities gifted to one particular character - on more than one occasion - to kill the killer were fumbled as bad as I've ever seen. You've got the drop on the killer, with a gun pointed right at them - what do you do? Shoot them, of course, but not here: no, here you miss, and then forget to reload the weapon ... even though you did just that in an earlier scene! Do you then, incredibly, get a second shot at taking down the killer? Yep. What do you do? Pick up a bludgeon at a preposterously slow pace which allows the killer to get away scot-free. WTF and, indeed, FFS! Sure, they don't want to kill the cash cow that is Mick Taylor, but you've gotta do a damn sight better job at coming up with a reason to not kill the killer than what goes on here. So, while Mick Taylor is well performed as ever, and the first two episodes were solid, it all fell apart from there. Ultimately, there just isn't six hours worth of story to squeeze out of this set-up.

The Last American Virgin (Blu-Ray) - review HERE.

Zombie Creeping Flesh (Blu-Ray) - Bruno Mattei doesn't exactly have a resume that beams with genre cinema brilliance, but nonetheless he has found followers around the world. This 1980 zombie flick is a curious mish mash of stolen ideas, blatant stock footage, and selectively tentative zombies. First, the rip-offs: hot on the heels of the success of Dawn of the Dead (George A. Romero, 1978), Mattei opts to re-use various music cues written by Goblin, which were prominently featured in Romero's cinematic landmark. Not only that, but the core group of characters are, essentially, SWAT members in blue jumpsuits (much like Roger and Peter in Dawn of the Dead), with one of them regularly going batty (akin to Roger's "yee-haw!" meltdown).

Narrative cohesion, let alone depth, is also pretty absent here. There's an intriguing environmentalist message tossed in, but it is addressed so vaguely and cack-handedly that it's ultimately disappointing. Similarly, the mission of the crack team of SWAT/Commando/Whatever guys is kind of up-in-the-air, and - despite explicit instruction to shoot the zombies in the head - they waste screeds of ammo shooting at the torsos of the zombies who, depending on what the scene calls for, will sway between ravenously aggressive to utterly somnambulent and docile.

There is a decent amount of gore, although nothing to rival Lucio Fulci's iconic and hugely successful Zombie Flesh Eaters (which came out the year prior to Mattei's effort), but an eye-popping climax does satisfy low budget gorehound hunger. Disregarding continuity, screen direction, and any semblance of storytelling vigour, the film (otherwise known as "Virus" or "Hell of the Living Dead") is a big, sloppy mess riddled with conspicuous stock footage to fill-in the gaps between disjointed shots of actors reacting (filmed on a completely different continent!) ... and yet, even with its copious flaws, for fans of Italian exploitation flicks, there's still something to enjoy. It may be too long and completely lacking in suspense, but it's barmy enough to excuse itself.

The Last Man On Earth: Season 4 - I was a little surprised this show got a fourth season, considering how Fox seemed to be doing everything it could to lose viewers through piss poor broadcasting (frequent gaps between episodes, some as long as three months), so it was great to get another 18 episodes ... unfortunately, Fox really have cancelled the show now (on a cliffhanger, no less). That aside, the skewed sense of humour and verbal invention of the show is one of its prime joys for me, all bolstered by a wonderful cast of characters who get up to all sorts of shenanigans in a post-apocalyptic playground.

Deranged (Blu-Ray) - Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby's low budget horror flick tells a version of the events surrounding notorious American serial killer Ed Gein (who inspired Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Silence of the Lambs, and a host of others). Those familiar with the tale of Ed Gein will see the close similarities in the story of 'Ezra Cobb' (played by Roberts Blossom - remember the old snow shovel guy from Home Alone?). It's a low budget affair with early effects work by Tom Savini (who provides an informative chat track on the extras), and a mixed bag of a film as a result. Some parts are particularly effective and grisly (the fully uncut 'brain scooping' scene), while other elements stumble a bit (the on-screen narrator). The mid-portion is a bit slow, temporarily dragging down an otherwise brief 83 minute film, but horror aficionados should definitely check it out.

The Mutilator (Blu-Ray) - review coming soon.

Coffy (Blu-Ray) - Jack Hill's 1973 blaxploitation classic starring Pam Grier about 'Coffy', a nurse-by-day and a vigilante-by-night who seeks to take down the dope pushing scum who are responsible for getting her young sister hooked on junk. Quality extras give valuable insight into the film's importance within 'blaxploitation' as well as cinema in general. To have a black female heading up an action thriller was groundbreaking at the time, and Grier's potent performance shows no signs of age as she mixes confident sexuality with rough 'n' tumble arse kicking. You don't want to be on the business end of her sawn-off shotgun!

The House On Sorority Row (Blu-Ray) - Mark Rosman's 1983 slasher flick boasts a solid story surrounding a group of college graduates who, seeking a good time without their Den Mother getting in the way, accidentally commit a murder. Not wanting to ruin their lives, which are only just beginning, they cover it up and attempt to party, but someone starts bumping them off. Rosman also achieves some good scenes of suspense, but the movie is distinctly lacking in the gore department, playing most of the kill scenes in a suggestive manner (cutting away early, shadows etc) until the final act when things kick into high gear. The audio track on the 88 Films disc leaves something to be desired as dialogue and music vary wildly in terms of volume and clarity, but this is likely down to the quality of the source materials and the subsequent remix a few years ago. Picture quality is solid, but not without some damage - but it's nice to see those old familiar 'cigarette burn' circles appearing in the top right corner.

From Beyond (Blu-Ray) - Stuart Gordon's adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's short story is a bigger budget affair than Re-Animator, and while it doesn't capture quite the same iconic nature of that 1985 splatter classic, From Beyond is a horror fan's dream of practical effects and twisted storytelling, presented here on Second Sight's uncut HD restoration. Barbara Crampton also has a great role to play throughout, flipping the power dynamic between her and co-star Jeffrey Combs from their previous outing in Re-Animator.


Green Day "American Idiot", "21st Century Breakdown", "Revolution Radio"

Class Actress "Journal Of Ardency" - as featured on the end credits of episode one of "Barry".

Nine Inch Nails "God Break Down The Door"

"For Want Of A Nail - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" - featuring tracks by Graeme Clark and Foretaste and the original score by Alex Williamson.


"How Mr Snuffles III and Others Met Their Maker" - a further round of finessing ahead of some submissions to competitions. It's good to have some time away from something you've written, because when you return to it you find various new opportunities. You might not end up making any major changes, maybe re-order some scenes, but just through small tweaks - such as streamlining existing dialogue to not only clarify the voice of the piece, but to give you small gaps to insert new pertinent material - can do a lot to polish the piece in terms of its outlook, its voice, and its narrative clarity.

"For Want Of A Nail" - the first big screening with an audience Q&A and silent auction to raise money for the charity OCD Action. More info here - and you can follow us on Facebook.

Battlefield 1 (Xbox One) - a couple of years late on this and, sure, I only do single player mode (shame there isn't a 'bots' mode like on earlier Battlefield games!), but it's a visceral outing from EA, daring to look at a conflict which has rarely been used in videogames (World War 1), although the amount of automatic weapons seems a bit unusual for the time period. The range of combat throughout keeps things fresh, and I must say it features the best flight mechanics I've seen in a very long time. Too many developers insist on making flight controls complicated or 'realistic', which simply isn't fun - here they're akin to the walking controls (but in the sky) and it makes it easy to swoop through the heavens and get into thrilling dog fights. The campaign is a bit short, but that's common for these FPS war games, and not all of the levels are as good as others, but the tragedy of 'The Great War' is put across fairly well in the globe-trotting story mode.

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