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Mr. Od Smith "d2kvirus" (Coulsdon, Surrey)

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by Christopher Fowler
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why isn't Fowler on the best seller's list?, 19 April 2004
This review is from: Demonized (Paperback)
t's starting to get me worried about how undervalued Fowler is - his full-length books are some of the best, paciest horror novels written in the past decade, and his collections of short stories never fail to impress. Yet, he isn't recognised for his genius outside the select few.
Rant aside, once again we have a fine collection of short stories on offer, although lacking the edge of the Uncut selection, they also show that Fowler has branched out into different forms of storywriting. This is clear from the first tale, We;re Going Where The Sun Shines Brightly, which is an idyllic look back to a trip around France on a double decker. OK, so it's still pretty dark in the final third, yet you don't see it coming - let alone expect something like it.
Of course, there are some classic Fowleresque stories on offer, such as Seven Feet (in my opinion, the best story in the book - although not for those with rat allergies), The Green Man and Hop are all great horror tales that conjour up lurid images of the events. Other stories also stick with the urban paranoia Fowler usually exhibits, such as American Waitress and Above the Glass Ceiling, which work very well in drawing the reader in.
Yet the departures from his usual style make this book memorable. The most notable of these are One Night Out, which is a well-written story involving a man's father returning from the dead for, you guessed it, one night, while Emotional Response is a fantastic story of two women jilted in love, plotting their revenge (no, not involving weapons, just a broken heart), that conveys the main character's spite and heartbreak so well. Meanwhile, Feral is a nice, quick and easy joke about urban foxes, pigeons and bin bag murderers, The Scorpion Jacket is a work of twisted fantasy about tailoring and ancient Constantinople, and Hitler's Houseguest being an interesting curio. However, the final tale, Cairo 6.1, feels to be a bit of a let-down when compared to the rest, as the big twist is given away far to early, and isn't saved by the punchline.
Not quite the absolute best of Fowler, but a very worthwhile addition to the collection. Now, can they hurry up and get the Disturbia picture off the ground, so he can enjoy some long-overdue success and plaudits?

The Stone Tape [DVD] [1972]
The Stone Tape [DVD] [1972]
Dvd ~ Michael Bryant|Jane Asher|Iain Cuthbertson

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remember when the BBC was good AND respected horror?, 24 Mar. 2004
This review is from: The Stone Tape [DVD] [1972] (DVD)
So, I may not have even been born when the show aired, and only knew about it for the past six months or so, making me a bit behind many of the afficianados, but there is one thing I can say after seeing it for the first time. It lives up to its reputation.
The main reason to state this is who wrote it (Nigel Kneale), who knows how to write a TV play that grabs and shakes you - 1984 and the Quatermass series show his pedigree. The way it unfolds shows this, playing more like an actual book in how it unfolds before reaching the dark core of what is happening, which is something you don't see too often. This also drags you in, wanting to see how it unfolds. Rather than regular shock tactics, the atmosphere of dread increases slowly, before unleashing at key moments as the ghost appears. In many ways, it is on the same level as the original version of The Haunting, which is a compliment if ever there was one.
The other aspect that works in The Stone Tape's favour is the acting, which is a cut above what you would expect, and also helps distract you from what you DO expect from an early 70's BBC show (plastic sets and the occasional ropey SFX). Jane Asher has to do a lot of acting for her character to work, and carries it off superbly. Michael Bryant and Ian Cuthbertson also carry themselves with aplomb, and even thge lesser characters are given a degree of gravitas with the performances (the late Michael Bates as Eddie the most notable).
Yet the reason The Stone Tape has remained in the consciousness of those who have seen it is the climax, which still packs a punch 30+ years after the show was broadcast. I'm not in the mood for spoilers, but suffice to say you'll remember it long after as well.
However, there is a shame after watching this. With the exception of the (even better) Ghostwatch in 1992, the BBC has never seen fit to give the horror genre due respect and attention, which it clearly deserves. Just watch this and remember one thing: Horror doesn't need to be blood & guts to scare you, neither does it need cliched scares. Watch and learn.

A Crow Left of the Murder... [CD + DVD]
A Crow Left of the Murder... [CD + DVD]
Offered by DLC_MUSIC
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Not particularly S.C.I.E.N.T.I.F.I.C, 22 Mar. 2004
If you are one of the crowd that loved S.C.I.E.N.C.E, but thought Morning View was feminine, turn away now and read no further. However, if you happen to love Incubus in everything they do, keep reading before you realise you should've bought this by now.
Once again, the boys from Calabasas have upped their game to such a degree, and embraced change wholeheartedly, you have yet another version of Incubus to take to heart - and before you ask, there isn't a huge gap left by Alex Katunich, as Ben Kenney slots in beautifully.
Some of the tracklisting does recall more vintage Incubus - Megalomaniac most obviously, while Pistola, Priceless and, to some extent, Zee Devil all do. as in you'll be humming them for days, most likely in the shower, unable to budge them from your mind. However, what sticks out most is the slower tracks, now looking more in place than before. The title track, Southern Girl, and personal favorite Here In My Room all seem to have taken the pattern from Morning View, but improved vastly. OK, they may not quite be Pardon Me/Wish You Were Here level, but they do seem more in context than they would on any previous album.
The DVD offers another way to see them in context, with the live footage they show from Lollapalooza (Megalomaniac & Pistola), or from the Bridge Benefit (A Crow Left...), showcasing that they will fit into their live set with no jarring whatsoever. Yet the more carefree footage is best - either the usual studio footage, or the short films on offer. Firstly is Brandon's Injury, which is hilarious, and then there's the short film (starring Mike Einziger), which is highly entertaining in its own right, and deserves to be watched.
Whereas most CD & DVD packages seem a bit overdone, trying to get a bit mor emoney from the fans (ie, the latest Korn album), this is one where it adds value to the experience, and is a worthy addition to any collection. Once again, Incubus are going to take over your summer, so better get prepared now to avoid missing out when it matters.

Courtney Crumrin Volume 2: The Coven of Mystics: Coven of Mystics v. 2 (Courtney Crumrin Tales)
Courtney Crumrin Volume 2: The Coven of Mystics: Coven of Mystics v. 2 (Courtney Crumrin Tales)
by Ted Naifeh
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great advancment of the story, 1 Mar. 2004
If you're reading this, I'll assume you've read CC & The Night Things, or picked up a copy of the recent CC in the Twilight Kingom, so if you haven't, sorry if I spoil the first one for you somewhat.
Whilst the first book focused more on Courtney trying to fit in with her new neighbours and schoolfriends, whilst having a certain skill as a magician on the side, this time the focus has moved away from the growing pains of childhood onto how COurntey is now blossoming as a person and, more importantly this time 'round, a magician/witch/whatever you want to call it.
As a result, the storylines become a lot more fantastical than before, and show the scope of Ted Naifeh's imagination to its fullest - especially the segment deep in the woods, with the cat council in session. Also, there is a stronger story arc running through events, which heightens the events that unfold rather than holding them together as before, and also explains the storyline better than the mere coincidences of the first book. The characters, especially Courtney, have come on in leaps and bounds and feel a lot more natural to read and understand, whilst the new charactwers introduced bring something to the table for their time in the spotlight.
If you ever got sick of the overexposure of Harry Potter, you must give Courtney Crumrin a try. In fact, if you're interested in dark, fantastical comics that happen to have a very humanistic edge, once again you should give it a try. In fact, this is one of the best comic series to emerge in the past few years, and should be cherished now and in the future.

Take a Look in the Mirror: +DVD
Take a Look in the Mirror: +DVD
Offered by the_record_factory
Price: £14.95

3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Return to form?, 28 Feb. 2004
Let me get this straight, after a couple of dodgy albums, this album is the glorious return of the Korn of old. At least, that's what certain magazines are telling us to think. The problem is, I don't, because I'm not being paid to bootlick. For startes, Issues is actually one of the best Korn albums and cruelly underrated, and Untouchables may not have been a commercial success, but since when did sales mean quality? Does that make The Darkness better than [insert name of band infinitly better than The Darkness, but who sold an iota of the albums]? Besides, Untouchables had two instant classics and a few extra good songs, this has...
Things start off promisingly with Right Now, until halfway through it turns into what Korn are supposedly rallying against - manufactured, misplaced anger than substitutes the f-word for emotion.
And before I get sidetracked, the whole point of Y'All Want A Single? is blatant hypocrisy. After all, isn't Did My Time the single from the Tomb Raider 2 soundtrack? There is no way you can justify one when the other is on the same CD. The fact Right Now was released Statside beforehand also adds to the argument.
It also doesn't help when half the album seems to become one hymoginous mass that is only broken when all of a sudden Nas turns up out of nowhere, again with little rhyme or reason. Children of the Korn worked, this doesn't - plain and simple. The cover of One also seems to fit anywhere and, once again, this was also released as a B-side for Did My Time. How can an album that is supposedly the big comeback be so damn lazy in its execution?
The DVD doesn't offer much, either. A medley of videos (missing Faget - why?), a cut & paste video for Right Now, and a couple of bits and bobs that couldn't be fit on the Deuce DVD, and lok the same. Also, you get quite worried at their reaction when they don't get the right doughnuts, considering they're supposedly trying to shed their Follow The Leader era image of stadium rock, bling-bling rock superstars.
Korn are a good band - we have ten years worth of evidence that proves this, either in albums or individual songs. However, this just doesn't fit into the mix in any way, and sticks out like a sore thumb - a thumb that tries to hard to perform something it isn't designed for. In trying to prove their mettle, Korn have managed to make the worst album of their careers. Yes, at least Life Is peachy had a few redeeming features, but this is hollow as it comes. The DVD actually makes it seem worse value, and that's worrying. Inm trying to step off the path, rather than lead the pack, they have stepped into a trap that has caused irreprable damage.
Time to re-evaluate Untouchables, and not blame Napster or Kazaa for a drop in sales, as the end result is this reflexive mish-mash of half baked ideas that sound like a band trying to copy Korn, rather than a band that IS Korn.

Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2)
Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2)
Offered by APE-GAMES
Price: £10.99

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First impressions, etc., 24 Feb. 2004
Considering I've been playing FFX-2 for a couple of days ONLY, it should be a tad presumptuous to write a review. It should, but rules are made to be broken, right?
So from the outset, the game seems light & fluffy, as opposed to the rather sombre opening to FFX (come on, it starts with Yuna - pop star!), and you will think there's something dodgy about a game that is, in essence, playing dress-up with some CGI dolls.
OK, that's what you get from looking at pictures on the 'net. Now, play the game for a while, and this isn't an issue. It's similar to switching Lulu for Auron on FFX, but with better graphics. Yes, it's a tad annoying when you get the animation for the 700th time, just as you're getting massacrered by a boss and need a White Mage ASAP, admittedly, but it's still miles away from the dogy junctioning system of FFVIII.
Naturally, the world looks as stunning (if not more so) than before, although I did miss some of the music they used, such as Besaid and Gagazet, as it has all been overhauled. However, there is a pleasant familiarity to proceedings as you run through Luca or Guadosalam, while you have new areas like Bevelle and the updated Kilika to get used to, so contempt is kept at bay. Meanwhile, the ability to jump and climb in areas also adds an edge to proceedings, as you search for chests and so forth.
And now there's the big change: the structure of the story. Rather than an elongated story from start to finish, it is broken up into Missions. Not only this, but there are more than the ones pinpointed at the mission screen. You have to explore every place to get bonus missions to receive new Garment Grids, Dress Spheres, and other goodies that help your progress. And since the story is broken into "chapters", you can't leave them and come back - so you may need a guide of some description in order to achieve the elusive 100% completion (yes, that's on offer).
Also, along with the costumes, combat has been changed. You can learn abilities during fights, rather than waiting for their conclusion when you needed 1 AP, and the combat is much faster than before, to the extent you can get combos when all three characters attack one enemy at the same time. However, there costumes have reverted back to the times of FFV - Mages can't use physical attacks, for example - Warriors, Gunners and Thieves can. So remember this if you're playing, and setting up a grid.
So, with a more complex structure and more satisfying combat than ever, why isn't this a fiv star game? Honestly, I can't say - but it doesn't feel like a Five Star Final Fantasy that parts VII and X were, yet at the same times isn't as half-baked as VIII was. Perhaps I'm going for a review too early, considering all that's on offer here, or maybe it's just spite that I can't use Wakka, Auron or Lulu again. And, yes, many characters from part X do appear, alongside new characters. In many ways, FFX-2 is like an old friend with a new look - you may recognise them, but won't be too sure at first glance.

Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Directors Cut
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Directors Cut
by Jhonen Vasquez
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.50

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's sick, it's twisted, it's...FAN-FUNKY-TASTIC!!!, 18 Feb. 2004
If you are offended by horrifically OTT ultra-violence, the darkest humour in print, astute observations of the Goth scene and the horrors of the word "Wacky!", look away now, as this is not for you. And stick to Peanuts, dammit!
Now, for the rest of us sick and twisted people (with a sense of humour), there is JTHM: The Director's Cut to pore and drool over, as Jhonen Vasquez's classic work is finally collected in one tome, which saves the effort of trying to hunt down the extremely hard to get hold of comics. However, this isn't a comics to graphic novel translation, as several strips of the comics are ommitted, but we do get some of the original strips from his school paper and undergroud fanzines, plus the very first sketches.
If you're new to Vasquez, let's just say the title is pretty self-explanitory and leave you to use your imagination. No, it isn't as ultra-nasty as Manga gets (ie, the Battle Royale books), but at times it may be a tad unsettling, especially in some of the mid-run issues - especially Issues #4 and 5. Yes, it is also laugh-out-loud funny when it wants to be, but the balance is always dead on, due to the freedom of the strip format. However, a warning for newcomers: you have a LOT of things to get used to. Not just the drawing style, but all the messages in the borders or panels, and looking out for background gags (Happy Noodle Boy pops up in random places, for example).
And if you aren't already curious, just consider this: a battle in heaven involving a flying baby, an angry nun, and 'Nny suddenly using his new power - Head Explody. Buy it, get it, and read it. Then grab any copies of I Feel Sick you can find, and some episodes of Invader Zim on video. It's your duty as a sicko...

Mafia (PS2)
Mafia (PS2)

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Call me a heretic, but..., 12 Feb. 2004
This review is from: Mafia (PS2) (Video Game)
...considering the amount of times this game has been labelled a "GTA3 rip-off", it's irronic that Mafia is actually a much better game.
Yes, you read that - this game is superior to (the highly over-rated) GTA3. Yes, there are similarities (the three-island map structure, and some of the surroundings), but this game draws you in the further you go, and varies the missions, while GTA3 pushes youaway with it's repetitive structure and the level of enjoyment you get for mowing down your 87th bus queue.
So many details improve the game, but a few are worth noting.
* The shooting missions are far more involving than randomly spraying a machine gun in the general direction of the opponents, and also much harder. It isn't "Bang - you're dead", but you have to be accurate to avoid being shot to pieces. Shooting a mafioso in the leg will stall him, but he returns fire - and usually has friends who heard you.
* The driving missions are separated from the usual driving engine, which is more involving - like Gran Turismo with head-on car collisions and drive-by shooting as mandatory.
* The plot isn't so dull and samey.
* The police are actually worth worrying about. Run red lights, break the speed limit, sideswipe pedestriand and other vehicles - they'll catch up with you. Walk down the street carrying a gun, they'll open fire. Yet this is only if they're around, rather than wherever. But don't think you can club anyone over the head - it isn't encouraged as they don't fall down dead. Unless that's in the mission, in which case get your knuckledusters on and start swinging.
Yes, you lose the freedom of jacking up your score by using a flaethrower on passers by, but that's irrelevant - there is no score. You do your job, and that's it. A simple concept, yet it works very well. Just as it's kinda fun to drive around in period cars.
Maybe the game is a bit short, and definatly linear - but you won't think that when one minute you're assassinating a hotelier and blowing up the motel, and the next fleeing from cops over rooftops. And, no, you can't avoid detection by having your car resprayed. You have to think your way out of trouble - just like a real mafiosi.

Ghostwatch [VHS] [1992]
Ghostwatch [VHS] [1992]

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good way to creep the unsuspecting..., 12 Feb. 2004
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Ghostwatch [VHS] [1992] (VHS Tape)
After years of owning Ghostwatch on pirated VHS tapes (which run out due to everyone wanting to see what the fuss was about), it's a joy and relief to be able to get a good quality copy of your own, without snooping through TV fairs and eBay. And this comes from somebody aged 12 when they watched it on Halloween 1992.
But step away from the controversy and the temptation of this being a forbidden fruit for a decade - is it any good, or is it as bad as so many other things you weren't allowed to see (ie, Faces of Death et al)? The answer is simple - it's better, in a league with the equally realistic (and bloody frightening) The War Game.
You have to think of the context when watching it now, of course, as a certain element is lost by it not being "live on BBC1" as it was in 1992 - yet it still packs a punch and lingers in your mind after watching it, which is ultimatly the best things you can say about ANY aspect of the horror genre, from books to films.
It starts innocuously, with Parky playing his usual role of the studio anchor you can trust(TM), chairing a discussion on the paranormal, with links to an allegedly haunted house in Northolt with the Early family, as well as Sarah Greene and Craig Charles on site. It playes as you would expect a one hour (as it is set up) investigatitive documentary for the first 45 minutes or so, before events unfold one way, making it appear to be a hoax (as was the "Enfield Poltergeist" case it was based upon), before events take a much darker, more sinister turn for the worst, as the plot reveals certain details to make it even more grave.
You know it's fake by now, so aren't likely to get drawn into it (I sussed it was fake by reading the Radio Times that week - go figure), but it still has the ability to get under your skin, and contains at least one classic moment that'll have you hitting "Rewind" to try and work out what you saw.
The perfect thing to watch if you want to creep yourself out, and remind yourself British TV used to be good and possessed of a pair of balls. Alternativly, watch this and The Stone Tape back-to-back - that'll cure your narcolepsy.

Past, Present & Future [CD + DVD]
Past, Present & Future [CD + DVD]
Price: £6.87

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In case you forgot how good White/Rob Zombie were/are..., 2 Feb. 2004
It's a rare occasion for a "Best Of" set to be much good, as they usually contain songs you already own/can't stand any more/drunkenly croon to down the pub with the obligitory "Bonus Tracks" that feel like cast offs for a good reason. However, this is, in fact, a very good set not just because it has a good range of tracks, but the added value of the video disc as well.
OK, you may wonder how we got from the material from La Sexorcisto... to The Sinister Urge when you first put it on, or how Thunder Kiss '65 seems to last about a week, but at least it keep the earlier, embyonic version of the Zombie we know and love to a minimum (although WTPMF and Soul Crusher would've been good additions, all things considered), as well as where I first heard them - Feed the Gods from the Airheads soundtrack.
Maybe the material from Astro Creep: 2000... could be expanded upon, as only More Human Than Human and Supercharger Heaven figure, but they're still classic tracks in their own right and deserve to find an audience that weren't too interested in 1995. Lifting some soundtrack entries is an inspired idea but, as my fellow reviewer states, The One would've been just as good an addition.
However, once we move into the solo material, we do get the best of the best cuts, although once again I could gripe about one or two missing tracks, when you're bouncing around to Dragula this thought soon disappears faster than fromer drummer Ivan de Prume. In fact, there is only one gripe about the whole set that isn't just "I wanted Song X, Y and Z" - the cover of Blitzkrieg Bop, which just seems like a bad idea - even if it was in honour of Joey Ramone (RIP).
As for the video section, this is where the set comes alive, especially with three top notch vids (MHTH, Dragula, Never Gonna Stop...), as well as the never-before seen vid for...Phantom Stranger, which happens to be a damn good video in its own right. Yes, it misses the videos for Supercharger Heaven and Electric Head Pt. 2, but aren't you sick of my carping by now?
In fact, this is why it reminds me how good the Zombie Family Tree is - leaving me wanting more and returning to the albums is much better than stretching what material they have and lazily tossing in some offcuts. The best "Best Of" since the Smashing Pumpkins' "Rotting Apples" set, and that is as big a compliment as you can get.

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