The Babadook

Watched the new Australian psychological horror movie The Babadook the other night, and thought it was quite a good film. It had many layers, good characterisation and an original, entertaining plot – all of the essential qualities which, for me, go to make the perfect horror flick.

Basically, The Babadook tells the story of a young mother – plagued by the violent death of her husband – and her son who are persecuted in their new home by an imaginary monster right out of a child’s pop-up picture book, which they stumble upon in the house. Shades of The Shining and The Exorcist are noticeable here and there, as the malevolent, seemingly demonic force that is The Babadook begins to exert its terrifying influence on the residents in various unpleasant, terrifying ways. But does this Babadook monster really exist? Well, you will have to make up your own minds about that.

The Babadook is a movie that really has you thinking about its true meaning. Although it does purport to feature a rather creepy monster, the emphasis is not really on a living, solid creature that persistently pops out of a kids’ story book to scare its victims half to death. Instead, its multi-level storyline concentrates more on the psychological side of the turbulent mother-and-son relationship. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that The Babadook is the kind of movie that will still have you thinking about it long after you have watched it. You can interpret it in so many ways, especially in regard to what really happened to the mother and son.

The Babadook was produced by Causeway Films and is based on the short film Monster (2005), also written and directed by Kent. The movie received much critical acclaim at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

If you like your horror movies with many layers, and which give you plenty of food for thought, then I  strongly suggest you treat yourself to a copy of The Babadook (you can buy it by clicking on the image link below). I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Alan Toner
www.wirralwriter.co.uk

 

Best Valentine’s Day Horror Movies

Looking for a good, creepy movie to curl up and watch with your partner on Valentine’s Day? After all, who doesn’t love a little romance mixed with their terror? If so, then why not check out some of these best Valentine’s Day horror films:

1. My Bloody Valentine (1981) – For many people, the ultimate Valentine’s Day horror movie. An old folk tale about a deranged murderer killing those who celebrate Valentine’s Day proves to be true when a group defies the killer’s order and people start turning up dead.

2. My Bloody Valentine (the 2009 remake) – Stars the Supernatural actor Jensen Ackles as Tom Hanniger, who returns to his hometown on the tenth anniversary of the Valentine’s night massacre that claimed the lives of 22 people. Instead of a homecoming, however, Tom finds himself suspected of committing the murders, and it appears that his ex girlfriend is the only one will believes he’s innocent.

3. Valentine (2001) – Five women are stalked by an unknown assailant while preparing for Valentine’s Day.

4. Lover’s Lane (2000) – A man who committed a series of murders thirteen years ago begins to hunt down his victims’ children.

5. The Bride of Frankenstein – Yes, I know. In comparison to all the others, it’s old and creaky, but for all that, it is still a CLASSIC horror movie. Dr Frankenstein builds a lover for his notorious monster . . . with disastrous results.

Alan Toner
www.wirralwriter.co.uk

Stephen King’s Carrie – The Remake

Being an ardent Stephen King fan, and remembering just how good the 1976 movie version of his debut novel Carrie (which starred Sissy Spacek in the title role) was, I must admit that when I first heard they had remade the story and had updated it for a modern audience, I was initially a little cynical as to whether or not this new version would prove to be as good as the Sissy Spacek classic. From bitter experience, I know all too well that most of the remakes of classic horror movies have been, on the whole, most disappointing, and so naturally I wasn’t expecting great things of this new spin on Stephen King’s story of a bullied high school girl who exacts a terrifying vengeance on her classmate tormentors using her inherent powers of telekinesis. But, boy, was I wrong.

Last week, I finally decided to take the risk and buy the Carrie remake on DVD, mainly out of curiosity to see how it matched up to the 1976 movie. Well, having now watched it, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I even thought that it was better than the first movie. Julianne Moore is just brilliant in the part of Carrie’s religious zealot of a mother, as is the girl who plays Carrie herself, Chloe Grace Moretz. She flawlessly presents all three sides of the Carrie character: the frightened victim, the cautiously empowered young woman, and the blood-drenched killer.

It was really interesting to see how they updated the story, depicting how the world of titular Carrie White would pan out today, including the bully’s (Portia Doubleday) use of her mobile phone as she films her tormenting of poor Carrie and cold-heartedly posts it on the Internet (a despicable tendency with a lot of modern-day bullies, sadly).

On the whole, director Kimberly Peirce manages to present a good, acceptable and enjoyable retelling of the Stephen King masterpiece – strongly enhanced by modern visual effects and fine acting all around. She also probes a little deeper into the turbulent relationship between Carrie and her mother Margaret. Julianne Moore embraces the maternal character superbly, with a capable and disturbing performance that plays well off Moretz.

Although this remake may not attract quite the same amount of critical acclaim as Brian De Palmer’s adaptation (which led to Oscar nominations for both Spacek and Piper Laurie) it’s nevertheless a thoroughly entertaining, gripping and watchable update for anyone who isn’t averse to  remakes of their much-loved movies.

I highly recommend that you treat yourself to a copy of this remake of Carrie today. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. I certainly wasn’t.

Alan Toner
www.wirralwriter.co.uk

 

Why I Love Peter Cushing

With his prominent cheekbones, searching big blue eyes and aquiline nose, Peter Cushing is undoubtedly one of the most striking and iconic faces in the history of horror films. He has often been described as “the gentleman of horror”, and as a lifelong Peter Cushing fan, I would certainly echo that description.

My earliest recollections of watching a Peter Cushing movie go back to the late sixties, when I first saw him in the Hammer horror movies. Staying up late to watch them every Monday evening, I was instantly captivated and enthralled by this wonderful, quietly spoken, dapper actor with the prominent face, a man who could play either Baron Frankenstein or Dracula’s arch nemesis, Dr Van Helsing, with equal skill.

It wasn’t just the Hammer movies that I loved Mr Cushing in, for he did make some excellent appearances in the Amicus films too. My favourite Cushing role in these portmanteau films was that of the tragic ex-garbage man Arthur Grimsdyke in Tales From The Crypt (1972), who is driven to committing suicide by the heartless actions of a disapproving neighbour, who hates the way Grimsdyke befriends local children and has dogs in his house, picking dirt out of what is, after all, just a simple case of a lonely, harmless old man playing the kindly uncle to the local kids. This is one of Cushing greatest roles, and I really felt sorry for Mr Grimsdyke when his tormentor finally drives the poor old man to hang himself.

However, this being a Cushing horror movie, and one where the character has been tampering with a Ouija board, it didn’t all end there, for one year later, the rotting corpse of Grimsdyke rises from the grave to exact a grisly revenge on his ruthless neighbour, ripping out his heart and leaving it for his shocked father to find the next morning, wrapped up in a blood-soaked cloth bearing a Valentine’s poem written in blood. Classic Amicus stuff! I still get goosebumps whenever I watch the part where Grimsdyke’s reanimated corpse slowly shambles out of the shadows of the neighbour’s study at the dead of night. Marvellous stuff!

Very rarely did Peter Cushing play a baddie, but when he did, he could really impress, just as unforgettably as he could when he played the kindly gentleman roles. The movie that sees Mr Cushing at his most ruthless and nasty is, for me, the 1969 classic Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. In fact, of all the Frankenstein films he starred in, this is the one that really portrays the Baron at his darkest, stooping to such shocking acts as rape and murder. He blackmails a young couple to assist him with his ever-fanatical experiments, and when the girl, Anna (played by the lovely Veronica Carlson), inadvertently sets the monster free, he viciously stabs her to death with his scalpel

In regard to Peter Cushing’s TV roles, my all time favourite has to be the one where he played the ex-Nazi-turned-pet shop-owner in the Hammer House of Horror episode The Silent Scream, which was first screened in 1980. I now have this wonderful series in my DVD collection, and I especially never get tired of watching the Cushing episode. The part where he imprisons the husband and wife down in the electrified room still gives me goosebumps whenever I watch it! Another brilliant performance from the great Peter Cushing.

Of course, Peter Cushing did play many other roles outside the horror genre, and has appeared in countless stage productions, portraying such characters as Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. However, it is for his awesome performances as Baron Frankenstein and Abraham Van Helsing, along with all his other horror roles, that I shall mostly remember him. He made those parts his own – just as his great friend Christopher Lee did with Dracula and Boris Karloff did with the Frankenstein Monster – and nobody could fill his shoes in that respect.

When Peter Cushing sadly passed away in 1994, he left a big gap in the horror movie world – and, indeed, in the movie world in general – which, in my opinion, will always be hard to fill. God bless you, Peter Cushing, for giving us so many years of wonderful entertainment. You will never ever be forgotten.

Alan Toner
www.wirralwriter.co.uk

My Top 10 Boris Karloff Films

Here are my Top 10 Boris Karloff films:

1. Frankenstein (1931)

2. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

3. Son of Frankenstein (1938)

4. The Sorcerers (1967)

5. House of Frankenstein (1944)

6. Targets (1968)

7. The Curse of The Crimson Altar (1968)

8. The Raven (1935)

9. Abbott and Costello Meet Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1953)

10. Black Sabbath (1963)

What are YOUR Boris Karloff Top 10 movies? Please feel free to post them here.

Alan Toner

www.wirralwriter.co.uk

Stars In Their Eyes Revamp Was Utter Rubbish

I was VERY disappointed – as indeed a lot of other viewers were, to judge by all the furious comments on Twitter – with the revamped Stars In Their Eyes, which returned to our screens tonight, hosted by Harry Hill. I have always loved this show, and initially was really excited when I heard it was being revived. However, when I switched it on, I just could not believe what I was watching.

What the hell have they done to the traditional format we all used to love? Why have they made the show so scripted, and peppered it too much with Harry Hill’s pathetic, totally unfunny humour and crappy sketches? I have to admit, at times I felt like I was watching The Harry Hill Show and not Stars In Their Eyes. In tampering with the show’s traditional format, as was so flawlessly presented by Leslie Crowther, Matthew Kelly and Cat Deeley, the producers have made a complete dog’s breakfast of it. They should have one its ex-presenters, and left the show exactly the way it was.

I don’t think I’ll be watching this rubbish anymore. It was a total travesty of what was once a great programme to watch on a Saturday night. Now, sadly, it has been totally ruined.

Shame on you producers. You know the old saying: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Alan Toner
www.wirralwriter.co.uk

Free Download Of My New Short Story, Footsteps

Happy New Year to you all. And to celebrate the start of 2015, here’s a little treat I have for you.

I am offering as a free download my new short story, FOOTSTEPS. You can download this story now from my website at: http://www.wirralwriter.co.uk/FOOTSTEPS.pdf

If any of you download my story, I would really love to hear what you thought of it. And please don’t be afraid to be honest, as I always welcome constructive feedback.

Hope 2015 proves to be a great year for you all.

Regards
Alan
www.wirralwriter.co.uk

Annabelle Movie

Annabelle, the prequel and spin-off of the supernatural horror shocker The Conjuring, will see worldwide cinema release on October 3rd 2014.

John Gordon thinks he has found the perfect gift for both his pregnant wife Mia and their unborn child. That gift goes by the name of Annabelle, a beautiful and rare vintage doll adorned in a virginal white wedding dress. Unfortunately, the family’s love affair with the doll is soon shattered, as one terrifying night their home is invaded by members of an evil satanic cult, who violently attack John and Mia.

And mutilated bodies and demonic terror are not the only things that the cult leave behind, for they have conjured up an entity which is so powerful and malevolent that nothing they did will even compare to the sinister catalyst to sheer unbridled evil that is now Annabelle.

Like The Conjuring, Annabelle is expected to do very well at the box office, and is expected to gross around $30 – $35 million.

A bit of trivia for you: did you know that the real Annabelle doll is a large “Raggedy Ann” doll? The paranormal investigators the Warrens had a special case built for Annabelle inside their Occult Museum, where she is still on display.

Review of Dario Argento’s Dracula

Being a big fan of the Hammer Dracula films starring Christopher Lee (who, in my opinion, was the best Dracula ever), I always tend to view modern reboots of Stoker’s famous vampire lord with a certain degree of cynicism. For me, all the Dracula films since Christopher Lee’s have failed to recapture the magic and sheer entertainment value of the Hammer vampire, concentrating far too much on making the Count a sad, misunderstood, teen-appealing pinup boy rather than the traditionally terrifying, bloodsucking monster that we all come to expect. However, in regard to the latest take on the Dracula story – this time from Italian horror director Dario Argento – I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised, for it wasn’t a bad little movie at all. And I liked it that much that I am even keeping it my DVD collection, something I rarely do, especially in regard to modern vampire flicks.

Without giving too much away, I will say that Dario Argento’s spin on the Dracula saga is, for the most part, quite stunning and unique, for it includes certain elements (e.g. the way Dracula changes form and becomes not only the customary wolf but other animals too) which I have never seen before in a Dracula movie. There are also some quite sexy scenes in this movie too, which will raise quite a few eyebrows among those who are used to the tamer kind of vampire movie.

The photography, the costumes, the use of colors and the gothic set designs all combine beautifully to evoke great memories of the vampire movies of old. The fact that Argento made the storyline a little different to that of the Stoker novel did not at all detract from my general enjoyment of the movie, for it was quite interesting to see where the plot was going next, and after a couple of shocks I hadn’t seen coming (especially the one involving the village axeman), I even thought that maybe this story would not have the happy ending we have seen time and time again in a Dracula movie, with the vampire hunters staking Dracula in his coffin as the young hero rescues his captured fiancee from the Count’s clutches in the nick of time. It was such a dark, vicious, edgy movie that I even feared that Van Helsing himself might come to a grisly end at the hands of this monstrous, seemingly omnipotent vampire lord. Rutger Hauer – whom I loved in The Hitcher and who has played a vampire himself (in Dracula III Ascenscion and in the remake of Salem’s Lot) – is fantastic in the role of Van Helsing, and I was really on the edge of my seat at the climax of the movie when he confronts Dracula and tries to save Mina, whom Dracula has hypnotised into believing that she is his for the taking.

The awesome special effects in this movie – especially where the staked vampires dissolve into dust – were the icing on the cake, and whilst the actor who played Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann) did not really have the creepy, menacing look that Christopher Lee had, he certainly made up for this when he launched into his ferocious attacks and his stunning transformations, in which he dispatched his victims in the most bloody way imaginable.

All in all, Dario Argento’s Dracula is quite an impressive movie, and whilst I would not go as far as to say that it equals the brilliance of the Hammer Dracula films, it certainly is one I would highly recommend to any vampire fan to check out.

You can buy Dario Argento’s Dracula by clicking on the image link above this article.

Cilla TV Series

I have been watching the first part of the TV series on the early career of Cilla Black, and I have to say that from what I have seen so far, this biopic certainly does an impressive job in evoking the atmosphere of  early sixties Liverpool, and how Cilla carved a special place for herself in Merseybeat history.

Sheridan Smith plays the Liverpool singer who shot to fame during the days of The Beatles’ early gigs at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Her husband, Bobby Willis, is played by Aneurin Barnard, and the man responsible for bringing Cilla to worldwide attention, Brian Epstein, is played by Ed Stoppard. Her romance with Bobby is well told, as are all the other aspects of her life, from her relationship with her parents to her contact with The Beatles. I especially enjoyed the part where she is prompted to get up and sing in The Cavern, backed by a generous introduction by the Fab Four. This scene really conveys to you what it must have been like to have been there at that time, as Liverpool was fast becoming the centre of world attention as a result of the Merseybeat explosion.

Coming from Merseyside myself and, as such, having always been interested in anything relating to The Beatles and sixties pop, I am really enjoying this series. However, there IS one thing that puzzled me: how come they left out when Cilla had a job in the cloak room of The Cavern as a ticket collector? Although they did show her in her typing role, they omitted scenes of her taking the tickets. Maybe somebody could enlighten me on this.

The second part of Cilla will be screened this Monday, with the final episode to be shown the Monday after that. So a lorra lorra stuff still to come yet as the early life of Cilla Black is vividly rolled out for the TV viewers’ enjoyment.

by Alan Toner
www.wirralwriter.co.uk