Friday, 30 October 2009
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Here's a review I done for a film wot's good...
In these days of spiralling budgets and ridiculous special effects coming together to produce films which are often much less than the sum of their parts, it’s good to find out about a production making the headlines for exactly the opposite reasons. Colin, the zombie brainchild of director Marc Price, has become a cause celebre recently amongst the national newspapers because of its tiny budget. Did I say tiny? I meant miniscule. Did I say miniscule? I meant… a word that describes something much smaller than “miniscule”.
Colin’s budget was ridiculous – a reported £45, which simply can’t be entirely accurate. Marc reckons that all he bought during the film’s lengthy gestation period was a packet on biscuits and a crowbar – everything else was begged or borrowed – old cameras were used to film it, people worked for free, blood and special effects were concocted in his mum’s kitchen, guerrilla film-making tactics were used to film in locations they probably weren’t supposed to be in.
The usual result of such a cottage industry approach is there for all to see on screen – a shoddy mess of a thing, with bad performances, rotten effects and a “we made it up as we want along” script. But these are usually films which cost thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, more than Colin. So in a way, you come to it prepared to cut it a fair amount of slack. So what if there’s a boom mike visible at the top of the screen? Who cares if the lead stumbled over their lines, or an extra wandered in during a big speech, saw they were filming and backed away again? You’re happy to ignore these little things, cos the entire film cost less to make than a pair of cheap shoes.
However, if you’re expecting a charmingly shoddy production, you’re going to be disappointed. There are no boom mikes in shot, no awkward silences, no unintentional laughs. It is quite simply unbelievable that what you sit and watch cost so little.
Colin shares a certain amount of its look and feel with the much-lauded-but-now-in-danger-of-being-somewhat-over-exposed-on-digital-telly “zombie rom com” Shaun Of The Dead, as Britain wakes up to find out it has been taken over by a bunch of shuffling cadavers seemingly straight from Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead. But that’s about it for the Shaun comparisons, because whereas the bigger budgeted film was a perfectly pitched blend of laughs and chills, the lighter moments in Colin are few and far between. In fact, the only one comes right at the very beginning, when the titular hero is attacked in his kitchen by one of the undead, and tries to beat it off with a wooden spoon, which immediately snaps. That’s it. In a way, it almost wrong-foots you, because on seeing this your mind immediately thinks “recognisable suburban setting, dead bloke with sharp teeth, hopeless hero, comedy implement – it’s a comedy, a-la that thing with that bloke out of Spaced in it! Hurrah!”
But it isn’t. Despite succeeding in stabbing his assailant to double death, Colin realises he now has another bite to add to the nasty gash he has already showed us in his forearm – and as we all know, that means the writing is on the wall. The next minute he’s dead, then he’s up again, complete with puzzled look on his ashen face.
He makes his way out onto the London streets, and the rest of the film follows him as he gets used to his new life. But before you switch off, thinking this is some kind of touchy-feely “it’s a hard life being undead” character study, think again. Yes, our Colin is a sympathetic character in as much as there may be a spark of humanity resting somewhere behind those dead eyes, but this isn’t a film about him as much as about the things he sees on his travels – half-eaten humans watching in helpless agony as they are eaten alive, teenage gangs ignoring the dangers and attacking these new easy to mug targets, families torn in two, people setting up doomed projects to make money from the disaster… even dodgy men using undead women for some decidedly unsavoury activities.
These little vignettes play out as Colin shuffles from place to place, finding out what he must eat to survive and how he must act to get it. On the way we learn more about our hero, who simply wandered onto the screen at the beginning clutching a bloody (as in caked in blood) hammer. How did he get the gash on his arm? Who is that blonde girl who seems intent on saving him? Is he beyond salvation, or can these supposedly mindless creatures remember what it was like to be alive, and re-learn what it is to be human?
As you can probably tell, Colin isn’t just some ham-fisted attempt to remake Dawn Of The Dead on a budget (and believe me, I’ve seen a few of them) – it’s an intelligent, troubling and moving film which genuinely takes the genre and shoves it on a bit.
It’s also nicely made – sometimes to an amazing degree.
Scenes are linked with arty close-ups of flickering lights, for much of the film there is no dialogue, the soundtrack punctuated by distant car alarms and gunfire (apparently created by Marc wandering outside on bonfire night to tape some fireworks – it works brilliantly). And if you’re thinking there won’t be any effects in such a cheap film, you’d be wrong – there’s plenty of horribly realistic gore for those so inclined. Even more astonishingly, there are at least three set-piece zombie attack scenes which wouldn’t look out of place in a film like 28 Days Later. Yes, it really is that good.
Because of its episodic nature, the film never outstays its welcome, and it also means that Marc and his willing army of pretend zombies have the opportunity to experiment a bit. Scenes that stick in the mind long after the film has finished include some cellar-bound zombie sexpots with their eyes gouged out, a student party with some hungry gatecrashers, and, on a quieter note, a simply superb scene which explains the current situation on the streets of London cheaply and effectively as someone uses old newspapers with lurid headlines to cover up the windows of their house.
Everyone will get the chance to see Colin when it opens in UK cinemas in October – and I can’t recommend it highly enough. For anyone who has an interest in horror as a genre, film making on a budget or simply a love of good cinema, it’s a must-see. But take a hanky, cos the ending could have you in tears.
The only other thing I must add is I cannot wait to see what Mr Price can do with a decent budget… say, £450 next time?
Sunday, 14 June 2009
No, not me... although it would be nice to get something for all the help I've given the British film industry (ahem).
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Can't remember much about the music, to be honest (just a lot of grunting and groaning, oh, and shotguns) but thought I ought to let you know that the soundtrack for 70s sleazeathon (and let us not forget, Britain's only homegrown video nasty) Expose is now available. Never really saw it with Miss Richmond, to be honest, but Linda Hayden, that's a different story.
HARDCORE, EXPOSÉ & LET'S GET LAID!
This exciting Vocalion release brings together the original soundtracks from three classic 1970s British soft-core sex films, each of which starred 1970s glamour-puss Fiona Richmond, the then girlfriend of self-proclaimed King of Soho, Paul Raymond. This X-rated trilogy was directed by library music legend James Clarke, the man responsible for some of the finest – and funkiest – compositions in the catalogues of publishers such as KPM, Amphonic Music and Bruton Music. The disc kicks off with James’s beautiful, colourful score for 1977’s ‘Hardcore’, which purported to tell the lascivious life story of Fiona Richmond. The music ranges from the most exquisite romantic orchestral material (Tale of Two Girls, Tricky Hand) to Fender Rhodes-laden jazzy funk (Heavy Keyboard, Fruity and On Stage), all performed by a star-studded line-up of British session musicians including Barry Morgan (drums), Herbie Flowers (bass guitar), Steve Gray (keyboards) and Tristan Fry (percussion). The disc is completed by various cues from Steve Gray’s hauntingly beautiful score for 1975’s ‘Exposé’, which also starred Udo Kier and Linda Hayden, and a suite of music drawn from James Clarke’s lush, orchestral score for 1977’s ‘Let’s Get Laid!’, which paired Fiona Richmond with sex comedy star Robin Askwith.
This is the first time that any of this music has been commercially released, and all of it has been expertly remastered from the original analogue stereo tapes, for that trademark Vocalion crystal-clear sound. The accompanying booklet contains fascinating liner notes by James Clarke, as well as rare unseen photographs and original promotional material connected with the films.
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK FROM THE NORFOLK INTERNATIONAL PICTURES FILM (1977)
Conducted by Syd Dale, Music composed and arranged by James Kenelm Clarke, except*
Recorded at CTS Studio No.2, Wembley, England, 25 October 1976
Girl in the Picture
Tight for Time
Tale of Two Girls
On Stage – Part One
Photoplay – Part One
Photoplay – Part Two
Off in a Hurry
Fiona Butterfly* (James Montgomery; Graham Hurley arr James Kenelm Clarke), James Montgomery (vocal)
Home Again - Alternative take, not used in film
Fiona’s Theme (1) - Not used in film
Fiona’s Theme (2) - Not used in film
SELECTED CUES FROM THE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK OF THE NORFOLK INTERNATIONAL PICTURES FILM (1975)
Music composed and arranged by Steve Gray
Recorded at KPM Studios, London, England, 8 September 1975
House of Straw - Short version
House of Straw
House of Straw - Reprise
Suzanne Comes Back - Short version
Suzanne Comes Back
Drinks on the Terrace
LET’S GET LAID!
SUITE FROM THE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK OF THE NORFOLK INTERNATIONAL PICTURES FILM (1977)
Conducted by Johnny Pearson, Music composed and arranged by James Kenelm Clarke, except**
Recorded at CTS Studio No.2, Wembley, England, 30 June 1977
The Tension Mounts
You Turn My Legs to Water band version** (Steve Gray; Michael Robson)
You Turn My Legs to Water piano solo** (Steve Gray; Michael Robson)
On Stage – Part Two (James Kenelm Clarke) Barry Morgan’s drum solo from “Hardcore”
More info available here
Sunday, 26 April 2009
The cast includes BAFTA winner Noel Clarke (Adulthood, Kidulthood), Danny Dyer (The Football Factory, Severance), Stephen Graham (The Damned United, This Is England), Lee Ingleby (Place of Execution), Emil Marwa (East is East), Keith-Lee Castle (Young Dracula) and Neil Maskell (Rise of the Footsoldier, The Football Factory).
Thursday, 5 March 2009
Blimey, it's all about books this week, isn't it?
I just wanted to let you know that "They That Dwell..." and "The Shadow in the Stacks" from the first two BHF Books are to be reprinted soon as part of my first (hopefully not last) collection, "They That Dwell in Dark Places", from Dark Regions Press. This is to feature my previously published stories, from the BHF Books, Black Books and Filthy Creations magazine, plus a selection of new stories written specifically for the volume.
Naturally I'm hugely excited about this, but I was asked to keep quiet about it till the stories were ready. Now I've just seen it announced on the Dark Regions website, so I thought it would only be a courtesy to let you know, since it was a huge boost to have those stories published in the BHF Books.
The books will, of course, be mentioned in the book as the original place of publication for those two stories, and in the short biog piece I'm currently putting off writing.
The next big thing on the Brit horror horizon will be Lesbian Vampire Killers, and the soundtrack album is already out. Featuring tracks like "Run, you bellends!", it sounds like an absolute hoot.
Just in case you're not completely sick of it after Kill Bill resurrected the infectiously tuneless theme to Twisted Nerve, it's now available on another CD, this time with other cult movie themes.
Silva Screen Records is releasing CULT CUTS - Music From The Modern Cinema compilation on 9th March 2009.
From LALO SCHIFRIN'S supremely jazzy BULLITT score to HOWARD SHORE'S resonant theme to THE DEPARTED, CULT CUTS is an impressive 18 track compilation of the very best landmark film music which has inspired score composers over the last forty years.
Highlights include two powerful themes from KILL BILL, BERNARD HERRMANN'S spooky TWISTED NERVE and TOMOYASU HOTEI'S scintillating BATTLE WITHOUT HONOR OR HUMANITY.
You'll all be pleased to know, I'm sure, that there's a new article by me up on the Sci Fi channel's website. It's about my old mucker Chris Lee, and I've been remarkably nice about the old guy.
As probably yet another victim of that darn credit crunch, the Hammer Shop is shutting down - so this could be your last chance to get hold of those poker chips featuring Christopher Lee you've always wanted.
Sally Dickson said: "Just a note to thank all our customers over the past 3 years. The Hammer Films Shop is closing down on March 30th 2009. Please do check our Sale items!"
The shop can be found here: www.hammershop.co.uk