A View From A Hill (2005 United Kingdom)

In the 1970s the BBC used to include a ghost story, usually by Dickens or M.R. James, in their Christmas schedules. They dropped the habit later on, but this millennium saw them reboot the series again from time to time. Here is one of the better examples. Directed by Luke Watson, this goes back to the series’ roots; the period setting instantly lends itself a quality and timeless feel, meaning it’s very hard to pin point and define exactly when it was made. [Read more…]

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Magnum Force (1973 USA)

Just in case the viewer gets carried away, or the protagonists on the screen, Harry earnestly repeats throughout Magnum Force that “a man’s got to know his limitations” and “there’s nothing wrong with shooting, as long as the right people get shot.” So bullets in bare breasts are acceptable, because the topless ladies in a swimming pool or nudes stoned at “$900 an ounce,” reinforce the morality: people who take off their clothes may have been asking for it. There’s also a gratuitous murder of a prostitute, climaxed with a shot of her killer’s face grinning through her spread legs. If that’s not offensive enough, in a dvd extra from the copy I have, shady-looking script writer, John Milius, suggests that Italians are not real Americans. [Read more…]

The Jungle Book (2016 USA)

Too much CGI can go stale very fast if the story cannot keep up. The seams will start to show and the minutes will turn to hours. Looking at all the frames of The Jungle Book, other than Neel Sethi as Mowgli, everything is wall-to-wall CGI. But the sense of story is so compelling I lost myself totally in this world. I was awestruck by the level of visual details of each creature that occupies the screen. The facial expressions mirroring its running gamut of emotions, the physical movements of each animal, the pitch-perfect voicing – who wouldn’t believe they possess a human soul? Jon Favreau really cemented his directing skills with this film.
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Phantoms (Dean Koontz)

At the beginning of this novel, the author has added an apology for writing it and I understand why. Phantoms is scary! There is something so extraordinarily powerful, capable of wiping out a whole town, capable of being everywhere at once, something omnipresent and omnipotent…and yet I had no clue what it was for a good chunk of the book. But I was aware that everyone in that town pretty much got their asses kicked (and worse), and I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t there with them. But I won’t give away any major plot spoilers. [Read more…]

The Hour Of The Oxrun Dead (Charles L Grant)

Those staples of horror–the rundown graveyard, the sinister shape in the fog, the strange noises in the night–they’re all here in spades, but rather than feeling clichéd, the late Charles L. Grant (who wrote under 5 other names as well) has fashioned them into an engaging little novel of 1970s paranoia. And his style is very moody and languid. He makes you wait, and if you enjoy the journey, that seemed to be his goal. Grant was a leading proponent of the quiet horror movement. Other than the odd quirk that might annoy the reader, like his heroine repeatedly fainting, if you like misdirection and mystery this just might be your cup of tea.
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Hell Is For Heroes (1962 USA)

Steve McQueen was striving to make it big in Hollywood and used the force of his ego to position himself as the star here. This didn’t endear him to the picture’s original director Robert Pirosh, who also wrote the screenplay. McQueen’s insistence on rewriting scenes and placing himself in the center of the action spoiled Piroff’s vision of a fighting unit that worked together with no single individual standing out. McQueen got Pirosh fired, and Don Siegel was hired with McQueen’s approval to take over. Siegel knew how to stroke McQueen’s fragile psyche, and in some cases, simply agreed to some of McQueen’s suggestions then did his own thing. If you keep a close eye on Private Reese (McQueen), this sense of embittered self confidence pervades his character throughout the story. He’s right even when he’s wrong. [Read more…]

From Beyond The Grave (1974 Britain)

A four part story film with more resonance than its predecessors. The success of this Amicus portmanteau is the unusually strong and well-integrated story, with a Yorkshire – voiced Peter Cushing enjoying himself as the sinister proprietor of ‘Temptations Antiques.’ Situated between a cemetery and a nearby demolition contractor this is a most curious of curiosity shops. Cushing’s duffel coat and cloth cap appearance seems like just another part of the shop’s antiquated décor. But mind how you treat him if you want to buy some of his object d art. Even the one honest customer who goes in has to endure a highly unpleasant experience! [Read more…]

Lock Up (1989 USA)

(Living the dream. Sly’s got a new boyfriend and some cat food. Talk about Mr Hollywood!) Frank Leone (Sylvester Stallone) is a saint. Literally. He has to do time in the big house for avenging the brutal beating of an elderly man. And he’ll only break out of prison if there’s a funeral for a loved one, or the old man that he avenged. Then back to his cell he will go like a good ‘un. Heck, when he has any free time he even spends it with his kids. And not even his blonde girlfriend, looking on approvingly, can stop him. Not a racist bone in his body either, but as an Italian stallion, he can see through those racist Anglo-Saxon types. Like warden Drumgoole and his guards, Manly and Wylie. These are the bad dudes. Lock Up isn’t subtle. [Read more…]

The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959 United Kingdom)

No, this is not the Cliff Richard story but that could be an alternate title. TMWCCD is from the era when a film could be made for 84,000 pounds, and look expensive. We have here a tale of an eminent doctor, Georges Bonnet (Anton Diffring, who stepped into the role after Peter Cushing backed out) who dabbles in sculpting. Bonnet is maintaining a pretty big secret: he’s actually a lot older than he looks, managing to stay healthy and youthful looking by a scientific process involving removing glands from unwilling donors. The problem is one can see this was developed from a stage work so the viewer has to be patient. Very patient! [Read more…]

The Woman In Black (1989 United Kingdom)

A truly memorable piece of work, once seen never forgotten. Unlike American made horror, the Brits know how to do subtle, relying on the potency of a story full of suggestion and anticipation. And when the great Nigel Kneale is involved with a script the result is usually quality and this is quality. Plus the special effects are few which lulls the viewer into thinking that this film is set in the real world, thus making us a bit more uneasy. No monsters, no blood or violence, no cliches, just terror. You’re constantly thinking: Is she there? Isn’t she? Where is she? What’s that sound? What’s upstairs? Everything’s fine…or is it? Aaah! [Read more…]

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