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LukeW (England)

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The Dead [DVD]
The Dead [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rob Freeman
Offered by Todays Great Deal
Price: £3.93

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Road trip - African zombie style, 11 Oct. 2011
This review is from: The Dead [DVD] (DVD)
Despite the uninspired title, The Dead is a surprisingly decent zombie film. Set in Africa during the outbreak of what may or may not be a global situation, the film tells the story of two men. One is an African solider searching for his young son after his village is decimated; the other is an American engineer who's stranded after his escape plan ditches off the coast. The American wants to get back to his wife and daughter; the African wants to find his son, and any differences between the two men don't matter when put against the horror of their situation.

Zombie films do occasionally run into the over familiar territory simply because they've been with us for so long and because film makers don't seem to always know how to come up with a fresh premise. The Dead doesn't break much new ground in the genre but it still performs well with two characters the viewer can care about and empathise with. It also gives us some stunning scenery as the men travel across a ruined country (perhaps ruined continent) in their search for a way out. There are also some superbly shot scenes of the ever present zombies in the background or filling the road. The camerawork makes full use of the landscape which brings me to one of two small downsides.

Firstly, the film occasionally overdoes it with imagery. Yes, the location is gorgeous but there are moments and shots that border on the `look at us making this film, aren't we doing well?' and detract from the horror. Secondly, the odd moment of coincidental timing stretched my patience. At the risk of spoiling anything, all I'll say is I found it hard to believe a vehicle would come along soon after one of the men had a new object to carry. Ditto a particular phone call - the timing of both events was just too convenient for me.

Minor niggles aside, The Dead is a fine example of zombie horror. Great performances and characters, an amazing landscape and first rate gore. Most enjoyable family fun.

Obviously depending who your family is.

by Adam Baker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The end of the world hasn't been this much fun in a while, 5 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Outpost (Paperback)
The Thing. 28 Days Later. Romero's Dead films. All obvious influences on Adam Baker's novel Outpost but that isn't automatically a bad thing. In fact, Baker manages the difficult job of taking his influences and bringing them together to create his own entertaining tale of the end of the world seen from an interesting POV: the people stuck at the edge of the world while cities burn and the global population falls to a frightening plague.

Baker employs a particular style of writing which, as another review mentioned, will irritate some readers. Most of the time, this sort of terse writing doesn't work for me, but it succeeds here thanks to the story and setting. The location is as bleak as it gets. Sparse, clinical writing is what's required. It also means the story feels extremely tight and claustrophobic - exactly as it would for the characters in this situation.

Given the set pieces and a particular plot development (no spoilers), I suspect Baker wrote this book with one eye on a screenplay which has the danger of producing a thinly sketched story. Thankfully, one or two of the characters' relationships and numerous passages of gorgeous writing save it. My only minor complaint is the uninspired title. The story, however, is a great fun.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 5, 2011 4:03 PM BST

Attack the Block [DVD] [2011]
Attack the Block [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Jodie Whittaker
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.59

12 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing horror/comedy(ish), 21 Sept. 2011
As film aliens only ever seem to invade somewhere in the US, it's refreshing to see them attempting an invasion in a side of London rarely seen in British cinema. Notting Hill this isn't. It's not even Grange Hill for that matter.

On Bonfire Night, a small group of kids who the Daily Mail would call a feral gang mug a nurse on her way home. Almost immediately after, an alien crashes to the ground. The kids manage to kill it and think they're bad boys for doing so. Unfortunately, their mindless actions have consequences in the form of other aliens coming to find out what happened to the first. It's obvious from early on that the nurse and kids will need to team up if they're going to survive the invasion.

The set up is interesting if not particularly original. The banter and relationship between the kids and between them and their dealer (Nick Frost) is reasonably entertaining, and the theme of consequences coming from actions is handled well. Other than that, Attack The Block is a big disappointment. Not funny enough to be classed as a comedy and not played straight enough to be taken seriously, it fails on both points. Comparisons are being made between this and Shaun of the Dead everywhere from the dvd cover to reviews here. It's not Shaun at all. Nick Frost is the only connection that can be made between the two films and his character is extremely underused. Sadly, it's not as clever or witty as its premise would suggest and while a few of the actors (namely John Boyega who plays the antihero Moses) perform their roles well, none are developed as fully as they could be. The resulting film is a big let-down.

Worth a rent if there's nothing else available on a Friday night and your expectations are low, but not a film to own.

Hobo with a Shotgun [DVD]
Hobo with a Shotgun [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rutger Hauer
Price: £2.91

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Violent, ridiculous, hilarious, 5 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Hobo with a Shotgun [DVD] (DVD)
Some films are violent. Some are unpleasant. Some are hilarious. Hobo With A Shogun manages to be all three.

Anyone who's seen Machete, Planet Terror or Death Proof will know what to expect with this (and like Machete, Hobo came from a fake trailer added to the release of PT and DP). For those who haven't seen those films, Hobo is basically a throwback/homage to the exploitation films of the 70s and 80s which means some extreme violence, lots of bad language, bad guys who are completely over the top and a prostitute with a heart of gold. If you watch this in the wrong frame of mind or expect to be able to take it seriously, you're going to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you have the same sense of humour as me, you'll enjoy this a lot.

The legendary Rutger Hauter plays the Hobo, a man who ends up in what might be the most corrupt and unpleasant town in America. His plan is to get enough money together to buy a lawn mower in a pawn shop and set up a business taking care of people's gardens. However, things don't go to his plan. After being beaten and witnessing various horrible scenes, his purchase is a little more gun-shaped. This is, of course, the set-up for Hauer blowing away numerous revolting characters before a showdown with the local crime outfit.

So the violence. There's a lot of it. Some is deliberately ridiculous, some is deliberately unpleasant. One scene in particular made me cough but I suppose the point could be made it wouldn't have been as effective if the characters involved hadn't been...who they were. To say any more would be to spoil. All I will say is if violence isn't your thing, you're better off with a different film.

Overall, it was great to see Hauer chewing up his scenes and lines with obvious enjoyment. Remind me not to piss him off. Or to get the in the way of the Plague (what the hell was that tentacle thing all about...?)

The Concrete Grove (The Concrete Grove Trilogy)
The Concrete Grove (The Concrete Grove Trilogy)
by Gary McMahon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Urban horror at its best, 2 Aug. 2011
Concrete Grove is my first experience of Gary McMahon's work but it definitely won't be the last. This is a dark urban horror which isn't afraid to take its readers into the shadows.

We all know those areas of towns to stay away from. They're full of criminals and dealers, and we're happy to not live there. But what about the people who don't have a choice? What about those who have to live there? Concrete Grove concerns a few of these people, principally the mother of a teenage girl who's in debt to the local crime boss, and the man who might be the one to help her or the one to make things worse.

McMahon's creation is a frightening place. Crime boss Monty Bright has a tight hold on the area and the police don't appear too interested in doing much about him. A woman, Lana, is recently widowed and struggling to look after her daughter Hailey. She's in debt to Bright, Hailey seems to be suffering from an illness which causes blackouts and the only positive in her life is her developing relationship with Tom, the man who helps Hailey home after one of her episodes. While all this is occurring, an evil force is growing in the centre of the Grove and Hailey knows much more about it than Lana realises.

On the surface, Concrete Grove might sound like a fairly straight horror complete with a teenage girl in danger and a vile figure in the shape of Monty Bright, but McMahon takes the story into much deeper places. There are also several passages of gorgeous writing which bring to life the characters in a way lacking from some horror fiction.

Overall, this is a superb read. I'm looking forward to the sequel next year.

The Banishing
The Banishing
by Fiona Dodwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric horror, 23 Jun. 2011
This review is from: The Banishing (Paperback)
I better mention upfront that I know the author of The Banishing so I can see how doing a review of her book might look a bit dodgy, but this is an honest, impartial review and Fiona knows that. So onwards:

Horror should go into uncomfortable places. From the first page, Fiona Dodwell's novel The Banishing definitely does. Domestic violence is a dark, challenging subject. Get it right and you've got a powerful story. Get it wrong and you risk trivialising an emotive, upsetting area. For the most part, The Banishing handles the issue well although I did find part of the story a little underdeveloped which I'll come to in a minute.

A young woman named Melissa has bought a house with her husband Mark. It's their first home and things are going well until Mark changes. Out with the loving husband, in with the violent and aggressive stranger who alternates between beating Melissa and being remorseful for his actions. It's not long before the situation escalates to the point of endangering Melissa's life. At the same time, strange events are happening in the house - sights and sounds of things that definitely aren't normal.

There's a superb atmosphere throughout the tale. It's deeply creepy and bleak with the almost constant rain and sense of Melissa not fitting in either at home or at work. The author definitely knows how to keep a story going and, most importantly, how to keep the reader turning the pages. I've come across writers in the past who think they have to sound like writers and end up losing track of their story. Not the case with The Banishing. However, there is an issue between Melissa and Mark (it'll spoil the story to say what it is) that I felt was skimmed over. It could have added a greater weight to their complex relationship and added more doubt to the value of Melissa's attempts to salvage her marriage.

Other than this final point, The Banishing is a highly enjoyable horror story and one which I definitely recommend.

Paul [DVD]
Paul [DVD]
Dvd ~ Simon Pegg
Price: £2.45

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars British humour in the States, 15 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Paul [DVD] (DVD)
Let's get this out of the way first: Paul isn't supposed to be the same sort of humour Pegg and Frost portrayed in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. This is its own film and possesses a broader (and occasionally a sillier) sense of humour. Just as Pegg's Run Fatboy Run went into toilet humour territory, Paul is a more accessible humour than the team's other work.

Pegg and Frost play two SF fans on a road trip across the States to take in UFO country. En route, they meet Paul - an alien who isn't the wise alien of ET or the monster from the Alien films. This one drinks, smokes, swears and isn't averse to the odd funny fag. Without wanting to spoil anything, Paul needs help to make it to a particular destination because someone he refers only to as The Big Guy has sent a number of shadowy figures after him. Cue a mad dash across the country complete with hillbillies, Bible thumpers and the men in black. At the same time, there are a load of in jokes, banter and affectionate ribbing of SF culture.

Like I said, Paul has a broad sense of humour which will alienate (no pun intended) some fans of Pegg's other work. Personally, I loved Shaun, Hot Fuzz and the superb Spaced. At the same time, I enjoyed Paul a great deal. It has a silly charm mainly from the interplay between Frost and Pegg and of course from Paul himself - the funniest alien since E.T's name turned out to be short for Extra Testic -

Just watch the film.

Lucifer's Ark
Lucifer's Ark
by Simon P. Clark
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not great but still entertaining, 6 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Lucifer's Ark (Paperback)
Reading Lucifer's Ark by Simon Clark was a strange experience. I've read a couple of his other books as well as a collection of his short stories and have enjoyed them. This is definitely the weakest of the books I've read but it was still oddly enjoyable.

The basic plot could have come from a naff 70s disaster film complete with a cute kid and a threat bigger than the immediate situation. In short, a mixed group of characters are on board a ship that's sailing across the Baltic Sea en route to a remote mining community. However, the ship is also transport for the sort of nutcases last seen in Con Air. Mix in some industrial espionage and the scene's set for lots of violence and thinly drawn characters being killed in various unpleasant ways.

The book isn't particularly original and at times, the writing is weak. For example, a character delivers an impassioned speech at a key moment which reads as if prepared for a politician, not something said by a person who's been through hell. It's way too polished and threw me right out of the story. There are a couple of plot points which go nowhere and which could have added to the narrative, and gaps in logic also detract from the writing. But like I said, it's enjoyable even if I'm not sure why. Think of it along the lines of a silly action film and it's readable.

If you give this a go, definitely don't be put off from reading Clark's other work.

Blood Crazy
Blood Crazy
by Simon Clark
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Zombiesque tale via 28 Days Later and Lord of the Flies - with lots of the red stuff, 3 Jun. 2011
Zombies, extreme violence, people being extremely unpleasant to each other and the end of the world as we know it: we've been here before. While Simon Clark's Blood Crazy isn't a zombie book (in as much as the infected people are more 28 Days Later than Romero), it's close enough to the genre to fit comfortably alongside similar books and films.

In brief, the world's adults all go completely bonkers over a very short period of time. All attack and kill those younger with particular focus on their children. The situation is seen through the eyes of a young man from Doncaster who tells us early on that he's writing a book detailing the event and his experiences. It's not long before our narrator, Nick, realises that if he wants to survive, he needs to get out of Doncaster and find somewhere safe. Of course, with most of the population eager to tear his head off, this isn't going to be easy or pretty.

Clark doesn't shy away from the gore, violence or the survivors becoming as vicious as the adults. Just as Romero's zombie films are more about the flaws in society than zombies, Clark's book spends a lot of its length concerned with teenagers taking the Lord of the Flies approach to survival. If you're hoping for a `everyone pulling together' type story, then you won't like where Clarke goes with this. If, on the other hand, you think this is how we'd behave, then you could do worse than read Blood Crazy. It's not a perfect book by any means - the teens' dialogue reads as if they're all ten years older; there's some flaws in the story's logic, and the reveal of cause for the apocalypse leaves a bit to be desired - but it's worth checking out if you can find a copy.

Tomes of the Dead: I, Zombie
Tomes of the Dead: I, Zombie
by Al Ewing
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh take on a stale genre, 3 Jun. 2011
Look at the front cover. Go on. Have a peek. Gives you an idea what to expect, doesn't it? Well, whatever you expect from I, Zombie, you're wrong. For some, this book will be an unstructured mess. For others, it'll be a refreshing take on what can be an overdone genre.

Starting off like a mickey take off every pulp private eye book written (but with a zombie), the book soon changes gears into something else. Then does it again. And again. Whenever you think you've got a hold on where the story is going, it turns another corner. Like I said, some will hate this. I loved it. Each new angle works well and crucially, the changes serve the plot rather than the plot serving them.

To say more would be to spoil the book. If you're after some zombie mayhem narrated by a PI with some SF that takes in the gay New York scene from the 70s and the threat of a global apocalypse, then this is for you.

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