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31 Days of Horror 12: Apollo 18 (2011) by Jamie

This review contains minor spoilers for Apollo 18 but honestly, were you ever going to watch Apollo 18?

During this quest to watch horror films that I haven’t seen before it’s an inevitability that, because of the nature of horror films today, I’m going to see my fair share of found footage films. It’s just the way of the world these days. Still, I’ve tried to find films that do something original with the idea and I was somewhat pleasantly surprised with both V/H/S and The Bay so it seemed as though there was some hope that it could be a filming method that could still throw up the odd gem. In this search for originality, I remembered a film which I’d heard of but not seen, one which held some promise for the originality I’d hoped for. That film was 2011’s Apollo 18. Yes, a found footage movie set on the moon. That could be cool, right?

The basic premise is that the Apollo missions officially ended after Apollo 17 but in actuality there was a secret mission, Apollo 18 that was hushed up and never known about… Until now. And boy is it crap. When I said I’d heard about this movie, I’ll admit that what I meant was I’d heard people talk about how bad it was but I’m not one just to take that  and judge it without seeing it myself. However, this is one of those instances where I kind of wish I had. There is such a great opportunity for someone to do a genuinely creepy found footage movie about the moon and these guys squandered it for cheap jump scares and a pretty uninspired “monster”. It looks like a cross between a rock and the head-crab from Half-Life.

And that’s the core problem with this movie. Wasted potential. The moon lends istelf to creepiness. It’s a giant, dark desert were the only sound you can hear is another person talking through a shoddy speaker inside your astronaut helmet and the sound of your own breath. Even movement on the moon is rendered slightly creepy because the low gravity makes it look as though everyone is bouncing in slow motion. Terrifying slow motion. What we get here instead is a bog-standard, dull found footage movie that just happens to be set on the moon. And that’s just sad for everybody.

One pint out of five because it does have a few moments that are kind of creepy, like when an astronaut goes into a crater and the only light he gets are from the occasional flash of his camera. That was kind of creative. But otherwise avoid this one because in space no one can hear your sighs of boredom. Laterz.

The reason we never went back to the Moon, it turns out, is because it's so very, very dull.

The reason we never went back to the Moon, it turns out, is because it’s so very, very dull.

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My Favourite 10 Sci-Fi Villains and Monsters: Part 2 by Jamie

Jesus Fucking Christ! What a week! I‘ve spent three days of it drunk, went back to work, foiled a few criminals and then suffered from a massively annoying bout of writers block. I had to start a new blog, People Are Fucking Idiots, just to get my creative juices flowing again. Still I‘ve finally managed to finish this list, the unfinished status of which has been hanging around my next and bugging me like… some kind of bug. Anyway, let‘s get the fuck on with it, won‘t we? Oh yeah, Spoilers Ahead

5: Terminators (The Terminator Series)

An unstoppable machine sent backwards in time with one purpose, to kill! That‘s the basic premise behind the Terminator. In the first film it‘s mission was to hunt down and kill Sarah Connor in order to prevent the birth of John Connor, the future leader of the human resistance. In the second another Terminator of the same model type is sent back to protect the young boy who would grow up to be that legendary leader but that doesn‘t mean we don‘t have another Terminator as the villain. This time it‘s the T-1000, a machine with a liquid metal form that allows it to shape shift into the form of anyone it wishes and also turn it‘s body parts into various stabbing weapons. That is fucking awesome.

Then there are the next two films in the series. Yeah, they‘re not good films but the concept behind the Terminators themselves is still fairly solid although why the technology seems to take a step backwards slightly in the 3rd film from a liquid metal adversary to a more solid form is anyone’s guess. I suppose they didn‘t want to do the same thing twice. As for the fourth film, well, I really did like the design of the Terminator model that comes before the Arnold Schwarzenegger design was pretty good. It‘s just a shame that McG couldn‘t direct his way out of a wet paper bag.

The thing that makes the Terminators great screen villains is there relentlessness. They come from a distant future and are far beyond any technology of our time. They seem like they‘d be impossible to beat, though they are beaten in each film because otherwise it‘d be a pretty depressing way to end the film. Speaking of which, the one good thing about Terminator 3 is it‘s ending. Anyway, another aspect that makes the Terminators great as villains is there coldness, particularly the one in the first film. He may look like a human with his genetically-engineered skin but he‘s cold and calculating like a robot should be.

4: HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)

From one killer machine to another. When you think of computers who have gone a bit wrong in the circuits, you think of HAL. Represented as nothing more than a glowing red camera eye (which I have a fridge magnet of. I feel the key to a healthy diet is believing your fridge will kill you if you make a mistake), HAL watches over the crew of the Discovery, controlling the ships higher functions including life support. So if something were to go wrong with HAL‘s electronic brain, things could go pretty shitty pretty quickly.

Of course things do go wrong, HAL wouldn’t be on the list if he wasn’t, when the ships crew, David and Frank feel as though the computer has made a mistake whilst reporting a malfunction in the Discovery’s communication antenna. They decide that in order to ensure the continued success of the mission they have to disconnect HAL’s cognitive circuits, essentially removing the computers sentience. They say this in a soundproof chamber, believing that HAL can‘t hear them. They‘re right but what they don‘t realise that HAL can read lips. In order to save himself and continue carrying out his programmed directives, HAL decides that the only logical course of action is to kill the crew.

HAL proceeds to kill Frank whilst he’s carrying out repairs and switches off the life support for the crew members who are in suspended animation. Dave decides enough is enough and, after overcoming HAL’s resistance to allowing him back inside the ship, he manages to shut down HAL’s brain in a scene that makes you feel genuinely sorry for the calm-toned, glowing red eyed computer. Now, HAL does reappear in the sequel, 2010 but I haven‘t seen that in some time so I‘ll leave it here. Besides, this is the film where HAL is the true, if somewhat sympathetic, villain

3: Predator (The Predator Series)

A race of creatures scours the universe, their lives devoted to one purpose, the Hunt. These are the Predators or, as they have been referred to in expanded media, the Yautja. They search for worthy prey throughout the universe in order to prove their worth as a hunter. They adorn themselves with high-tech armour and weaponry in order to aid them in their quest. The armour allows them to bend light in such a way that allows them to almost disappear completely into their surroundings and their arsenal includes a variety of different weapons such as plasma blasters and some kind of electric spear things. If things go really tits up and for some reason they become mortally wounded during their hunt they have one more trick up their sleeve to try and ensure that there existence remains a secret. They set off a nuclear device which blows the shit out of them and their surroundings. That is pretty damn sweet.

Perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the Predators is that they seem to run their hunts with a strict code of honour. They won‘t kill an unarmed enemy, unless that enemy has proven themselves proficient enough in unarmed combat for them to take them on, they won‘t kill pregnant women and they won‘t kill children. These aren‘t your single minded killers or outright evil bastards. It‘s just that they only know one way, the way of The Hunt.

To top it all off they both look and sound cool. They would probably top my list of aliens with dreadlocks, hell they‘d probably top a list of dreadlocked characters that included humans as well. Though Sanka from ‘Cool Runnings‘ might give them a run for their money… No, no he wouldn‘t. Anyway, you also can‘t help but love what the unmasked Predators look like. They‘ve got that weird mouthgina thing with bizarre crab-leg-like protusions. They are ugly sons of bitches. As for the sound, well I love that weird clicking noise they make and the fact that they can record and playback sounds their prey make in order to confuse and entrap them is also awesome. The Predator laughing in the first film whilst the nuke counts down will stick in my mind until the day that I day.

Now, I know earlier that Darth Vader lost a few places because of the dubious way his character was portrayed in the Star Wars prequels and the same could be said for the Predator in the ‘Alien Versus Predator’ films. It’s certainly true that the character of the Predators is somewhat diminished in those films, well the first one at least. I haven’t seen the second one and life is pretty good having not watched it so it’ll probably stay that way. Still in the first one they did basically become sidekicks to the human characters which sucked massive predsticles. However, I feel that these films can be ignored a little easier than the Star Wars prequels. There was no involvement from the characters originators so it’s a little less egregious. Oh, and to you people thinking “But what about Predator 2? That also sucked. Why doesn’t he complain about Predator 2?” Well, yeah, Predator 2 was weaker than the first but I still enjoyed the hell out of. C’mon, it’s got Danny Glover in it!

2: Khan Noonien Singh (Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn)

Khan was a genetically engineered superman who considered himself and his people to be superior to all other men. In an episode of the original series of Star Trek, Space Seed, Khan had run afoul of Captain James T. Kirk and found himself and his people stranded on a planet where Kirk hoped they would be able to make a life for themselves.

Unfortunately shit doesn‘t always go according to plan and an interplanetary disaster left Khan‘s new home world as nothing more than a desert wasteland. Unfortunately this shift in the planets ecosystem also killed Khan’s wife. Needless to say Khan is pissed. Whilst searching for a lifeless world to test the newly developed Genesis Device, the crew of the USS Reliant accidentally come across Khan and his tribe and the genetically engineered exiles manage to take control of the Reliant.

Now Khan is seeking revenge against Kirk, planning to use the Genesis device to enact it. Khan has become very enamoured with a certain book, Moby Dick, and very much sees Kirk as his white whale and pursues him relentlessly blinded anger as to the danger he is putting himself and his crew in until it‘s too late. His last speech is even taken pretty much from the book itself.

Overall, Khan is just a fantastic villain. He’s relentless, willing to do anything to put an end to Kirk and, most importantly, he believes he is entirely in the right. Also the fact that a man of Ricardo Montalban’s age didn’t require prosthetics to look as muscular as he did is incredible. And lest we forget Kahn’s name is just damn fun to yell.

1: The Xenomorph (The Alien Series)

In space no one can hear you scream. It‘s a tagline that resonates with each and every fan of sci-fi and horror. It originated in 1979 with a little film that shocked audiences to their very core. That film was Ridley Scott‘s ‘Alien’ and it introduced the world to the ultimate killing machine. It was sleek, stealthy and with a shiny black carapace. It had elements of the organic and the mechanical, it could survive the total vacuum of space and it‘s blood was an intensely strong acid. Perhaps most disturbing of all was that in order to propagate it‘s species it would commit acts of inter-species rape, implant it‘s seed inside you and was then born violently by bursting through your chest. It was the Xenomorph

The Xenomorph has been a mainstay of the cinema world since that first film. The nature of the beast has been expanded on and added too with each additional film. The second film introduced the notion that they lived a bit like ants in nests with a queen constantly laying eggs. I love ants and the Xenomorphs are like ants times awesome so naturally I love Xenomorphs. The third film introduced the idea that the Xenomorph would take on some of the genetic traits of the host that they matured inside and the fourth film… Well, the fourth film kinda sucked. Although it did show them swimming. That was pretty nice. As for AvP and it‘s sequel, well, the same rules apply here that applied for the Predator really.

It is true that the Xenomorphs have softened slightly over the years. Their acidic blood, once so potent on the Nostromo certainly seems to have diluted somewhat and one creature certainly seemed more effective than the hordes that would follow but it doesn‘t matter to me. They are almost as perfect a monster as you could find. These aren‘t the kinds of aliens that come with ships and lasers, there‘s no chance that you can turn their own technology against them nor any chance that they can be reasoned with. They are no more than primal beasts and that makes them all the more terrifying. What? Were you expecting the top of the universal food chain to be dominated by an intelligent being? Why? Because we are intelligent? You arrogant fuck. No, it makes far more sense to me that the ultimate being would be no more than instinct, tooth and claw. None of those messy emotions getting in the way of their simple goal. To kill and survive.

There you go then. That’ll do you for now. I have no idea what’ll be coming up next. I’ve got a few more movies in the Depress-A-Thon to look at so that’ll be a barrel of laughs I’m sure. For now though, I’m out of here. Laterz.



My Favourite 10 Sci-Fi Villains and Monsters: Part 1 by Jamie

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve done a good list. The reason I’m doing one now is because I’m tired. I mean really tired. Right now I’m running on about 1-2 hours sleep over a 48 hour period. Also my throat hurts. So to cut a long story short, I’m not in the mood to sit and watch something and review it properly. I’d probably fall asleep to be honest. So I’ve fallen back on a list. The problem is that lists seem like they should be easy but they are actually deceptively hard if you want to write something about each item on your list. You end up writing what basically amounts to ten mini-reviews which sometimes have to encompass entire franchises in a couple of paragraphs. So keep in mind my sleep deprived brain whilst you read this list. It’s possibly going to be a bit rambling and possibly completely incoherent at times. Anyway, spoilers ahead and let’s get the fuck on with it.

Well as the title has probably given away, this list is going to be about my favourite Sci-Fi Villains and Monsters. I think it’s pretty self explanatory so let’s just get on with it, shall we?

Am I coming of as angry? My apologies, it’s this stupid lack of sleep.

10: Lord Humongous (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)

I realise I might already be pushing the definition of Sci-Fi right out of the gate here, but I feel the Mad Max films count as sci-fi. The third is definitely the one which fits most comfortably into this genre but the series as a whole is set in a post-apocalyptic future and I’ve always considered post-apocalyptic to be a sub-genre of sci-fi so on we march.

Lord Humungus is my absolute favourite villain from the entire Mad Max series. He’s a big fucker who wears a hockey mask. I’m sure the fact that Jason is my favourite slasher villain has some impact on my enjoyment of this character. Besides that, Humungus is a fascinating character. He actually seems quite fair for a leader of a post-apocalyptic gang of roving marauders. All he wants is some gasoline and, in this cutthroat world, the only way to get it is to steal it. There’s a chance that he could have quite easily gone in there with his gang and taken it but instead he decides to offer them an honourable compromise. Sure, he kills a few people along the way but sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles in post-apocalyptic Australia.

Humungus also seems to genuinely care about his gang members. He’s not your stereotypical ruthless leader who views his followers as cannon fodder and nothing more. There’s also a hint throughout the movie that it’s the loss of someone he loves that has brought him to this point in his life though it’s never adequately explored. Finally his ‘Just walk away’ speech is one of my favourite speeches in all of cinema history and one I still quote to this day, especially if someone is doing poorly on a fruit machine.

9: The Velociraptors (The Jurassic Park Series)

Sci-fi isn’t always about the future. Sometimes it deals with ravenous beasts from the past and Jurassic Park certainly delivers with one of the most terrifying, the Velociraptors. Now, I should say right up front that the Velociraptors aren’t actually Velociraptors at all. In real life, Velociraptors were about the size of chickens. The dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are actually far more like a larger animal in the same family, Deinonychus. There are a few other issues as well such as the tails being a bit more flexible than they were in real life and a distinct lack of feathers but whatever. The point is that the fictionalised version of Velociraptors in Jurassic Park are truly terrifying.

The Raptors are fast, intelligent and deadly. They stalk their prey in such a way that if you can see one of them, there’s a good chance that there are a couple more hanging around somewhere that you can’t. Then before you know it they’re on top of you, slashing you apart with their sickle-shaped claw. And possibly the best part of the Raptors in Jurassic Park is that, in true Spielberg style, you get an idea of how dangerous they are long before you actually see them. You do, however, hear them and the sound design on the Raptors is truly brilliant. I love that screeching sound mixed in with all the bird noises that they make. It hits you in the balls of your soul. And lest we forget, they managed to kill the baddest motherfucker in Hollywood, Samuel L. Jackson. After that, only one thing could stop them, the film’s true heroine, T-Rex.

8: Biff and his ancestors and descendants (The Back To The Future Series)

There aren’t many villains who have managed to alter the time stream in order to make life better for themselves. Then again, there aren’t many villains who have had their lives made drastically worse by a heroes own meddling with time. Biff is that villain. In the original time stream he was a somewhat successful man who delighted in tormenting George McFly. By the end of the first film, thanks to the interference of George’s son Marty, he was reduced to taking care of George’s car.

In the second film Biff goes one step further when a future version of himself provides a past version of himself with a sports almanac which gives him access to the results of sporting results for many, many years. This makes Biff an incredibly wealthy man, changing Sunnydale from a nice normal town to a hell on Earth, shaped by Biff himself. The film also features Griff Tannen, Biff’s grandson, who enjoys nothing more than tormenting Marty’s son. The villainous apple never falls far from the villain tree!… Or something.

The third film takes place in the Wild, Wild West and features Biff’s ancestor, Mad Dog Tannen probably the most legitimate villain in the Tannen clan. This time he’s not just a villain but he’s a proper criminal, the leader of his own posse of outlaws. He shot Doc Brown until Marty McFly once more changed history and found himself having to face of against Mad Dog instead. All in all Biff, his alternative versions, his ancestors and his descendants are just a bunch of nasty, nasty douche bags.

7: Darth Vader (The Star Wars Saga)

Ah, there was a time when Vader would have been in the top half of this list, possibly even topping it but that’s no longer justifiable taking into account his entire character arc throughout all six films. Sadly young Anakin was a massive, massive twat. Whether whining about how he was better than people gave him credit for or whining about how he loved Amidala, Anakin certainly enjoyed a good whine. He was one whiny motherfucker.

But for the sake of this list, let’s try and focus on the good times. Before the prequels all Vader was was a force-choking, light-sabre wielding, heavy breathing, father being badass with James Earl Jones’ awesome voice and David Prowse’s awesome stature. He wore black, slept in a pod and had no problem with killing off members of his crew who failed him.

And to top it all off, Vader found redemption with the help of his son. He turned on his Master, absorbed some force lighting, which allowed flashes of his skull to be seen through his helmet, and threw him to his death. Then in after a touching moment with Luke, during which we finally get to see his face and the strange harmonica he enjoyed having ready to play at any moment, he stayed aboard the Death Star ready to become one with the force. Oh and he also shares something in common with the Velociraptors because, in one of the prequels, he managed to kill the baddest motherfucker in Hollywood, Samuel L. Jackson. Hardcore.

6: The Thing (The Thing)

There are few things more terrifying than not being able to trust the people around you. One thing that is slightly more terrifying is not being able to trust the people around you whilst being completely cut off from civilisation. This is the basic premise of John Carpenter’s remake of ‘The Thing’. A group of scientists working in the Arctic Circle are suddenly attacked by a mysterious alien creature which can change it’s form to imitate any one of them.

The special effects in ‘The Thing’ still hold up to this day. The creature is disgustingly visceral and it’s transformations look incredibly painful. Some CGI effects these days wish they could look this good. The film also features on of the most unbearably tense scenes the world of cinema has ever known. The blood test sequence will literally have you sitting on the edge of your seat and have you biting your nails right down to the elbow. It should also be noted that The Thing is such a monumentally powerful creature that only one of the Earth’s greatest heroes could defeat it, Kurt Russel with a goddamn beard. Not just any beard, a goddamn beard. Fuck yeah.

Right, that’ll do for now. The sun is rising which means it’ll soon be time for me to get home to bed. Sweet, sweet bed. This list has been incredibly hard going but it’s also been fun looking back at some of my favourite bad guys from science fiction. Assuming I wake up sometime within the next 24 hours, the second part of this list should be up some time tomorrow. Laterz.




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