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Five Terrifying Monsters From My Childhood by Jamie

Childhood is generally a magical time filled with wonder and amazement but it is also a horrific nightmare filled with monsters. Many of these evil creatures come from watching film and they leave a lasting impression that lingers with us for the rest of our lives, lurking at all times in the back of our mind. This then is a list of some of those things which still haunt my brain to this very day. Warning: Here Be Spoilers

5. Greys (Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The X-Files, countless other things)

Whether you believe that they actually exist or not, and personally I don’t, there is something undeniably creepy about the alien species generally referred to as the Greys. There’s something about their huge black eyes and largely feature-less face that causes some kind of primal fear. I think it’s something to do with the fact that they seem completely emotionless and you can’t tell what they are thinking. There’s also the way that they are often depicted as moving in films.

Take the way that the ‘leader’ from Close Encounters moves. It‘s got a disturbing weirdness to it‘s movement, probably something to do with the limitations of the special effects but still. In other media they aren’t portrayed as anything less than terrifying, generally performing some kind of medical procedure, never saying a word just carrying out their tasks in an almost deliberate, robotic fashion.

Then there’s a film called Alien Abduction: The McPherson Tape. It’s a hand-held, Blair Witch style film that tells the tale of a family practically held hostage within their own home by some Greys that they‘ve managed to piss off. It’s cheesy as fuck but when I was younger it used to terrify me, particularly the last scene which was just creepy as fuck. Oh, and there’s also an interview with a British musician who is an alleged abductee (Actually just an actor portraying the role to try and keep up the premise that the video is real found footage) who uses the phrase ‘Big Headed Wankers’ which used to amuse me and my brothers to no end. It’s actually on YouTube, part one can be found here.

4. The Wheelers (Return To Oz)

The Wheelers are like a monstrous amalgamation of people, bicycles and hyenas. They hunt their prey on the wheels that they have in place of hands and feet, laughing like maniacs as they do so. Of course the question which is immediately raised in your mind is ‘But Jamie, if they don’t have hands, how can they possibly catch that which they are chasing?’ And whilst it’s not actually raised in the film, I have my theory.

Surely, since their hands are fucking wheels, they only have one possible method for catching their quarry and that must be their mouths. Yes, I put it to you that the Wheeler’s capture and then eat their prey. That is fucking horrible. And guess what else they do. They wear helmets which, when their head is turned down towards the ground, has a second, creepier face on it!

I will say this though, they be some stylin’ motherfuckers. They got these long sleeved, clown-esque jackets which they often accessorise with multi-coloured pipes. Above that they wear those things which I can’t remember the name of. Not sure If I ever knew the name of them actually. They often appear in cartoons involving conductors or opera singers and a character will generally grab it and roll it up like a window blind. You know the thing I’m talking about. They also wear colourful bowties. Nice.

3. The Skeksis (The Dark Crystal)

Who doesn’t love The Dark Crystal? It’s a classic in the puppet/fantasy genre and it features the innocent Gelflings, the wise urRu and the… Holy Fucking Shit! What is that hideous vulture dinosaur thing?!?! Oh dear God, keep it away! Keep it away!

Yes, the Skeksis, the evil side of the once benevolent UrSkeks race which, as we all know, was splintered into two separate races, along with the urRu, when the Dark Crystal was fractured. The Skeksis have ruled their world for over a thousand years going so far as to commit genocide against the Gelfling due to a prophecy that a Gelfling would bring an end to their rule. Not only are they evil monsters but they are evil monsters who take superstition and myth seriously. Sure the prophecy turned out to be true but it was probably quite self-fulfilling.

So terrified was I by the Skeksis when I was younger that even to this day, whenever The Dark Crystal is brought up in conversation my mother helpfully informs everyone of just how much they used to frighten me. Seriously though who could blame me? I mean just look at them, they are the very embodiment of a child’s third worst nightmare. Thankyou Jim Henson for improving my life by inventing The Muppets, Sesame Street, The Fraggles and Dinosaurs and for scarring me for life by creating The Dark Crystal and making me want to stab/shit myself in terror whenever I see a vulture. I’ve had some pretty awkward moments being ejected from zoos, I can tell you.

2. The Child Catcher (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)

The country of Vulgaria seems like quite a nice place to visit despite the awful name it suffers from. With it’s Bavarian architecture and cobbled streets it seems like the kind of place that would make really good chocolate and beer. But after staying there for a while you’d notice a disturbing lack of children and disturbing number of depressed toy-makers played by Benny Hill. You see the problem is that the Baron of Vulgaria is a child-hating, toy-loving lunatic (which I admit makes it sound like he and I would get on quite well) who has hired one of the most terrifying characters ever capture on celluloid to hunt down and capture children.

This horrible, mincing freak with his top hat and elongated nose has haunted the dreams of many a child. There’s just something so… paedophiley about him. He’d stalk the streaks of Vulgaria with his cage disguised as a free treats cart offering sweets and ice-cream to any child who happened to cross his path making us all afraid to trust those perfectly nice strangers who would offer us sweets in the park. Bastard.

To top it all off he could actually smell children! How the fuck do you escape a villain with that kind of power? You can’t hide from him because his powerful nostrils would flare and he’d soon find you. One offer of a free sweet later and BAM! You’re locked up in some dungeon type place, never to see your parents again. There is one question I do have though: When the children grow up, were they freed from their subterranean prison? I can’t imagine that the population of Vulgaria would grow if they didn’t and I’m sure it would affect morale within the country if you citizens had spent the formative years of their lives locked in a fucking dungeon by their leader.

1. The Father (Mac and Me)

This is it. The big one and I’m sure I’ll be mostly alone on it. Mac and Me was a film which tried to capitalise on the success of E.T. by being released six years later and having a shittier but similar story. I’ve kind of reviewed it before and so I shan’t go into all the plot details again. I’ll just say that there are a few things that this film is famous for a number of things. One is the scene involving the main kid in the wheelchair flying over a cliff which used to played on Conan O’Brien when Paul Rudd would come on to promote a film. The second is that the film was really nothing more than a shameless plug for McDonalds, Skittles and Coca-Cola. There is an impromptu dance number in the middle of a McDonalds, Ronald and everything. It’s pretty fucked up.

Anyway the reason that this film sticks in my mind is because of Mac’s father, an unnamed alien who used to scare the shit out of me as a kid. There was something about his gaunt expressionless face that terrified me. It never changed no matter whether he was lying dying in a cave or whether he was wielding a gun in a supermarket. Yes. That actually happened and I’m sure it did nothing to reassure me that the creature wasn’t the most horrific thing a human had ever thought up.

This was literally the best picture I could find of Mac’s dad. When the internet refuses to have a picture of something, you know it’s horrific.

The way he moved scared me as well. His awkward, drunken gait as he stumbled around, his lanky arms occasionally flailing around to randomly smack at something. Oh god, just the thought of him now terrifies me. Seriously, the image of that bastard has been so seared into my mind as the worst thing imaginable that I literally have trouble seeing that film today. Every time he appears on screen a small shiver of fear judders up my mind and hits something deep and primal within my brain.

Well, that’s that. I’m sure I’ve forgotten more than one thing that also scared me when I was a kid or perhaps I’ve just blocked it from my mind as some kind of safety mechanism to keep myself sane. Until I can regress myself and remember what those things were, we’ll just leave it here. Laterz.

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The Best And The Worst Of 2009: Part 2 by Jamie
31/12/2009, 9:00 am
Filed under: Lists, Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Well, as I write this I’m sitting at work in a hotel. It has probably been the worst night I’ve had all year. There was an altercation between some customers, blood was spilt. Fun times. So it’s appropriate that I write this, my top 5 worst films of the year on this very night. I apologise that it wasn’t up sooner but I had a banging headache yesterday and the thought of writing anything made my mind capsule angry. With that said, I’d like to add a little disclaimer. I haven’t seen every film that was released this year, obviously. Hell, I didn’t even get to see many of the films I did want to see so all I can do is list my opinion of films I did see, hence no New Moon or X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Let’s begin.

5. Terminator Salvation

The biggest crime a Terminator film can commit is to be boring. Now Salvation was certainly a better film than Terminator 3 but it was no where near as entertaining. That may seem odd but keep in mind I’m one of these people who gains a certain kind of pleasure from watching films that are bad, just as long as there’s something there that can be enjoyed.
Salvation provided me very little entertainment overall. There was the odd special effects sequence which was nice to see and it was nice to see a Terminator film that took place after Judgement Day but there was nothing really new here. For me, the film just plodded along from predictable scene to predictable scene. Some of it didn’t make even make sense. Now I know that can be said for many of the Terminator films. The timeline alone has confused the fuck out of me for years with it’s paradoxes and such but it was really obvious things. Why would the machines build robot motorbikes designed so that people could sit on them? Why did they have USB ports? Overall, this was just a massively disappointment.

4. G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra

I’ll give G.I. Joe one thing, it knew exactly what the hell it was and it didn’t try to be anything else and I have to respect it or that on some level. It didn’t try and take itself seriously like certain other films based on 80s toy-lines I could, and probably will, be mentioning. Also, G.I. Joe was never really that popular here in the UK as I remember so I wasn’t as offended by the whole experience as I’m sure some of my North American counter-parts probably were.
Still, this movie was all kinds of ridiculous, pretty much to the point where it stopped being enjoyable, and trust me, there were points when I did enjoy this film due to it’s balls out ridiculousness but there’s only so much that even I can take before I say ‘I’m sorry, that’s quite enough. I’m afraid you’ve lost me.’ And it’s hard to say exactly where that point in the movie came. Was it when The Eiffel Tower got eaten up by some kind of super weapon? Was it Dr. Who’s terrible Scottish accent? Or was it having to accept that a Wayans would somehow be considered the best of the best of the best? I just couldn’t tell you.

3. Dragonball Evolution

Another film that I have very little connection with the source material. I think I tried to watch an episode of Dragonball once and was pretty bored by the whole thing. There just seem to be a lot of fighting and shouting. I can’t exactly see what all the fuss is about.
So I went into this blind and was pretty much treated to the same experience I got with G.I. Joe, ridiculousness beyond my comfort zone but even worse than G.I. Joe because it was incomprehensible ridiculousness. I reached a point where I couldn’t fully figure out what the hell was going on, nor did I care. Something to do with the guy in the orange becoming a WereMonkey and destroying the world for the grey guy if they didn’t get all the glowy balls or something. I don’t know. It was just odd and thankfully a pretty forgettable experience.

2. Friday The 13th

Now this is where this list gets a bit more personal. Yes, Terminator Salvation was a major disappointment but I can’t say I’m a die hard Terminator fan. I love the first two films but I’m not really invested in the series. Friday the 13th is a different barrel of bananas. I love these fucking films. Sure, there are some in the series that really piss me off like part five where it wasn’t even Jason and Jason Goes to Hell which just confused the hell out of me, but there’s enough there to keep me entertained.
I’m also quite comfortable in the knowledge that the Friday the 13th films aren’t great or in some cases even good films but that doesn’t matter. They hold a special place in my heart as does that loveable be-hockey masked serial killer, Jason Voorhes. So I went into this quite looking forward to it. After all, what could they do to the series that could make it any worse than it was? How can you be the straw that breaks the camels back if the camel has a long standing series of breaking it’s back? Well, I’m not sure how but they found a way.
The worst part is, I can’t even tell you how. I don’t know why I hate this movie. I actually quite enjoyed the first half hour which were essentially quick remakes of parts one and two. The film had all the right ingredients. It had Jason in his hockey mask. It had a bunch of stereotypical teenagers and it had some pretty sweet kills but somehow it just managed to be awful and it was definitely the second angriest I’ve walked out of a cinema this year.

1. Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen

GAH! For fucks sake, don’t make me relive this again. Please, I’m begging you… Fine. This “film” was just fucking awful. I spent every fucking frame of it hating the fact that I was even there. I have never walked out of a film but I came damn fucking close during this piece of shit. I apologise for the langue but… FUCK! Seriously, this thing was actually filmed? It was actually written? Someone watched this and said “This is gold. Release it.”
It’s an incomprehensible mess. No character in this film is in anyway likeable, even Optimus Prime was a massive douche. This movie made me dislike Optimus fucking Prime. When the death of a character has more emotional resonance in an animated toy commercial posing as a film then you have big fucking problems. Fuck you movie. Fuck you. If you wanna know more about my feelings on this film, there is a video review and a written accompaniment elsewhere on this site. I honestly can’t continue writing about it again and keep my sanity. Gah… Fucking… Shit… See you in 2010. Laterz.



The Best and The Worst of 2009: Part 1 by Jamie
28/12/2009, 8:00 am
Filed under: Lists, Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Originally I was going to finish this year with my top 50 of the past decade with maybe my top 10 worst, but I seem to have accidentally not saved my shortlist and so I’ve decided to just do this instead. Maybe I’ll try and sort out that decade list in January. Who knows? Not I… Anyway, In my opinion, 2009 was a pretty mediocre year for film. Of course this is skewed slightly by the fact that I didn’t get to see quite a lot of the films that I wanted to see and was left less than impressed by others.

Yes, this was a year for unnecessary sequels (Terminator: Salvation, Fast & Furious, The Final Destination), unnecessary remakes (Friday The 13th, Race To Witch Mountain) and terrible adaptations of popular things from other media (Dragonball Evolution, Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li) but there were a few diamonds that shone through the rough… And since I can’t think of a better way to segue into the list, here are the top five of the ones that I saw (Probable spoilers ahead. You have been warned.):

5. Avatar

If you’ve seen Ferngully, you’ve basically seen Avatar. You just have to replace fairies with 11 foot tall blue people and Tim Curry’s oily dude with a cartoonish army general. Oh, and replace that Lizard that’s voiced by Tone Lōc with a giant Pterodactyl thing. Now, this film just barely made the top five because, well, I honestly wasn’t as impressed with it as most of the world seems to have been. Yeah, the CGI was pretty impressive but the way this film was hyped up you’d think the special effects cured AIDs or something. Did they cure AIDs? Well, I don’t know, I don’t have AIDs but I’m guessing they probably don’t. All I know is that I didn’t get the same sense of awe as I did when I saw living, breathing dinosaurs for the first time in Jurassic Park or when I saw that giant mother-ship hovering over Johannesburg in District 9.
I think it’s the CGI which actually brings this film down a little. Not because it looks bad but it’s because whole scenes of this film are completely dedicated to showing it off. In fact that seems to be the main point of the entire middle of them film. It just doesn’t make for good pacing in a movie. If they’d wanted t show of the world so much then I personally think that Avatar would have worked much better as a television series where they could have layered it in throughout episodes and had a lot more time available to just show off.
Still, it has to be said that I did enjoy this film, particularly the last part which is basically one long, awesome battle. Good times. As I’ve stated before the plot is cheesy and clichéd but it’s a James Cameron movie so I was kind of expecting that and James Cameron can take the clichés and make them work.

4. Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans

What? I can’t put a Nicolas Cage film in my top five list of the year? Well, fuck you buddy. It’s my list and if I loved a Nicolas Cage film then I loved a Nicolas Cage film. You know what? I fucking loved a Nicolas Cage film. Bad Lieutenant pretty much takes all of the things that makes Nic Cage bad in all the films he’s been in recently and makes it fucking work.
Does he overact? Hell yes, he overacts! Is it to his benefit? Hell yes, it’s to his benefit! Seriously, I’ve never seen overacting work so well in a movie. It’s like the reverse of The Wicker Man or something. If I ever meet Werner Herzog I want to shake his hand for casting Nic in this film. And if you’ve been in a room with me and I’ve decided to talk about this film then you already know what my favourite scene in this film is. If you haven’t seen it and I haven’t told you about it then I’ll just say this. It involves an old lady and her carer, a breathing tube and the use of the word cunt. It’s a glorious thing to behold.

3. Inglorious Basterds

Inglorious Basterds is very obviously a Quentin Tarantino film. In fact, it could almost be considered another part of Grindhouse, although I suppose that most of his films could be, some are just more obvious than others.
I know there was a lot of criticism when this film came out because there were a lot of scenes with people just talking punctuated throughout with sudden, short bursts of violence. The problem being of course that people walked into the film expecting a World War 2 film like Saving Private Ryan and what they got was a Quentin Tarantino film. I suppose there’s nothing you can really do about this kind of thing really, except for maybe hand out pamphlets explaining what the film is and what the film isn’t before they go in and see it but that seems impractical at best and stupid at worst.
One thing I really loved about this film was that most of it was in German and French with subtitles except for when it obviously benefited the characters to speak in English. I hate it when films have characters speak in English for apparently no reason except so that the audience can understand them. For example, I was watching Scarface the other night, an otherwise brilliant film, but there’s a scene where Tony is talking to his sister and mother and they are all talking in English. Why? Wouldn’t it be more natural for them to speak in Spanish? Whatever. I suppose it’s that suspension of disbelief thing that I have problems with from time to time.
Perhaps my biggest problem with the film, and to be fair it’s fairly minor, is Mike Myers as the British General. His performance was fine but his accent just seemed to slip one to many times for me to buy it,
Ooh, before I move on, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the awesome finale in the French cinema. It’s probably one of the most awesome scenes in any film I’ve seen not just this year but in the past decade. Watching two Jewish men spray bullets from boxes into the highest echelons of Nazi society below them who are in turn trying to escape from a fire, whilst the visage of a women speaking about Jewish vengeance is being projected onto the screen and then the smoke, is a truly, truly incredible thing to watch.

2. Star Trek

I would by no means consider myself a Trekkie, though I have enjoyed many a Star Trek thing over the years, in particular the original series. It’s certainly a much better series than Next Generation, with barely any of the techno-babble that haunted the later series. It was basically about three best friends in space discovering new peoples whilst one of them tried to have sex with them. Good times.
So I was a little bit wary of this film when I heard about it. Still, it turns out I had no reason to be. This film was fucking awesome on so many levels. If you’ve never seen anything Star Trek before, then you can appreciate it as a great Sci-Fi film. If you’ve seen the original series then you can appreciate it on a whole different level. There are so many little references thrown in through out the film then you’ll be a thousand times more entertained.
I really have to commend the cast of this film, in particular Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine who I thought got Spock and Kirk down perfectly. Quinto did an excellent job portraying a character who had the problem of being both part Human and part Vulcan and Pine managed to pull off that likeable cockiness that made Kirk such an enjoyable character to watch.
Now, I’m as usual I’m not afraid to admit when I’ve cried during a film and I was surprised that I got a little teary eyed on more than one occasion watching this film. Perhaps most surprising was when I welled up a little at the end when Leonard Nimoy is quoting the famous ‘Space, The Final Frontier’ speech. It’s truly a wonderful thing that completely sums up what Star Trek, nay, the human spirit is all about, the yearning to explore and discover and I had no idea that it had it ingrained itself on my psyche and affected me so much until I heard it booming from the speakers in a cinema. Still, I will agree with my mother, who’s complaining that William Shatner wasn’t in the film drove me to near insanity. It would have been nice if JJ Abrahms had gotten Shatner in to read that speech, maybe just have Spock listening to some old Captain’s Log or something. Ah well, maybe in the sequel.

1. District 9

What can I say about this film that I haven’t already said? Well, as I said earlier, I felt more awe from the special effects in this film then I did from Avatar, except the mecha-prawn which on occasion looked a little ropey. I think, in all honesty, I’m just more impressed when you can take something completely CGI and blend it with the real world, like the mothership and the prawns in this film. I don’t get too excited by a world which is pretty much totally computer-generated. That and I really, really like insectoid aliens.
This film also inspired a last minute costume change for the Saturday of Bestival, my original plan being to go as Krang’s Robot Body from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Instead I spent an entire night building a prawn arm out of bin bags, paper and a glove and went and Wikus Van De Merwe. Good times.
There is so much in this film and it can be enjoyed on so many different levels. You can enjoy it on an action and sci-fi level or on a political level or even on a comedic level, the film manages to balance all these different elements exquisitely without ever feeling bloated or boring. Ever frame of this film had me on the edge of my seat and if it isn’t recognised at the Oscars then, well, fuck the Oscars.

So that’s it. That’s my top 5 films of 2009. But I know the internet. I know what the internet likes. The internet thrives on negativity, a raw powerful anger and hatred that the anonymity the internet provides and is generally just more entertaining for all concerned. So with that in mind come back tomorrow for my Worst 5 films of 2009 and I certainly do have a large buffet of shit to choose from. Laterz.




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