Pulp Fiction (1994 USA)

PF is sick slop geared towards video store geeks. Why is this flick so bad? Its like asking why is Barbra Streisand so ugly? She just is. Pulp Fiction, similarly, is a byword for cheap, profane nastiness. Watching this causes your brain to shut off for two and a half hours while a man with a God complex strokes his ego. I can understand to some extent why it is so popular. And as for padding Quentin did achieve something remarkable: every awful stretch of dialogue is dragged out as long as it will last, and then some. It’s as if Tarantino said to himself “I think I can cram two more f words and one more line about milkshakes in here”. [Read more…]

The Blob (1958 USA)

Hardly substantial enough to be a guilty pleasure, let alone a cult film: a giant quivering mound of raspberry (or is it blackcurrant?) jelly chasing – and often catching – fleeing, highly respectable teenagers on a weekend night. From the moment we hear Burt Bacharach’s opening theme song “Beware of the Blob!” we know we’re in for a good, solid, campy light hearted fun. Refreshingly free of any scientific investigation/jargon. I like to watch this stuff for historical reasons: the 50’s cars, teens in high collar shirts and high pants, crime-free suburbia, Polio posters, proper girls, crooked teeth, chess games, super friendly cops… [Read more…]

A Cry In The Night (Mary Higgins Clark)

This is classic MH Clark. She takes the reader to the edge of anticipation, excitement, and makes you feel like you are hiding in a closet/wardrobe/cupboard – take your pick,  peeking in on what’s happening. I like all her older novels but none of the ones she’s written in the last 20 years. If you don’t mind having an unorthodox protagonist then this novel (first published in 1982) is fantastic and eerie–not every book has to have a strong leading character. Our heroine is pretty passive by modern western standards, virtually helpless, and this may upset the feminists and others who are used to women being more pro-active these days. [Read more…]

The Killers (1964 USA)

Hugely influential classic re-telling of Ernest Hemingway’s short story. This flick has inspired many a wannabe. Not really Film Noir as it was made after the genre had passed and is in colour and features no detectives or private eyes. And not even a “film” as it was originally intended as the very first made-for-television movie. With this version also featuring a murder-by-sniper scene, the recent assassination of John F. Kennedy by sniper ensured The Killers was temporarily on unsafe ground. With Ronald Reagan making his last appearance on film before moving into politics, the ’64 version of The Killers has a bit of history. [Read more…]

Slayground (Richard Stark)

This is the fourteenth entry in Richard Stark’s (the writer’s real name Was Donald E Westlake) excellent series about Parker, the amoral criminal whose carefully-laid plans almost always come undone because of some unforeseen accident or because of an act of carelessness by one of the other crooks involved in the plan. In this case, it’s the getaway driver who screws everything up. This is not the driver that Parker would have preferred, but it’s the driver that Parker had to settle for. And it’s Parker who will now have to pay the price. [Read more…]

Hell House (Richard Matheson)

Matheson really was a master of his craft. He took the conventional Gothic structure and threw it out of the window. Assaulting the reader with carnal, palpable terror, from its first page to the very end. Readers new to Hell House will be wondering how far are things going to go regarding the repulsive sexual shenanigans… What would have been shocking and new to audiences in 1971 has become a tad too familiar today, unfortunately. While this speaks volumes to the book’s cultural and literary impact – the fact that it has been copied and imitated by so many on film and on the page detracts from the book’s overall contemporary wow factor. I bet Stephen King used this as some inspiration for The Shining. [Read more…]

Happiness (1998 USA)

This sadistic 2 hour film has no plot, in the sense of a meaningful series of events. Things happen, but there is no “story.” The film functions only to document human ugliness and suffering in the most agonizing detail possible, depicting several people causing and experiencing suffering, and then eventually the credits roll. I’ve seen other films that had no story line, some of which were very good, so I don’t mean it as a criticism of Happiness. Its a fact. I’ve seen many films that depicted human suffering, the majority of my favourite films have done so to a greater or lesser degree. Art is largely about “the human condition”, and whatever else it might involve, that condition certainly has its share of suffering. [Read more…]

If You Could See Me Now (Peter Straub)

The blurb of my copy of the book manages to drop three spoilers in the space of two sentences, and then reiterates one of the spoilers just in case I was slow on the uptake. I shall endeavor to avoid doing something similar. Straub brings class to horror unlike anyone I’ve ever read. He has literary tricks up his sleeve that will keep sophisticated readers happy throughout. He is a master of tone. And not just with the mystery he puts forth in this novel, but with the way he sets up our narrator as this haughty know-it-all faced with a town of plebeians that plague him. This book is a wonderful ride to take for that reason. [Read more…]

From The Earth To The Moon (Jules Verne)

What makes From the Earth to the Moon so enjoyable is it’s sheer earnestness. Entire chapters are filled with debates about figures and equations. Verne loves to write about all the details of his little thought experiment. This is very clearly his fantasy, and had he the money, I could imagine him attempting something like this. There are some charming details. For example, they launch from southern Florida, which at the time was a large swamp with forts to guard against the indians. Also, when packing their capsule for provisions, they load up 50 gallons of brandy, because that’s how a gentleman spaceman travels.  [Read more…]

Stripes (1981 USA)

Psycho: “The name’s Francis Sawyer, but everybody calls me Psycho. Any of you guys call me Francis, and I’ll kill you.” Leon: “Ooooooh.” Psycho: “You just made the list, buddy. Also, I don’t like no one touching my stuff. So just keep your meathooks off. If I catch any of you guys in my stuff, I’ll kill you. And I don’t like nobody touching me. Any of you homos touch me, and I’ll kill you.” Sergeant Hulka: “Lighten up, Francis.” The movie is basically trying to make the Army the way Police Academy made the Police look. Dumb and unbelievable. The plot is shabby, the characters are thin and of course guys love this flick. A nude woman within the first few minutes of the film. Two scenes involving multiple nude women. Bikini mud wrestling. The DVD even throws in even more gratuitous nudity than the original contained. [Read more…]

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