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Zombie Month Repost: Dead Set by Jamie

I don’t know if I’ve made this clear in the past but I’m quite the fan of Zombie films. I’m not sure why. There’s just something mildly appealing about being one of the few last members of a doomed species surrounded by the undead who want nothing more than to consume your flesh. That may seem odd but who wouldn’t want to be one of those survivors, no more of the drudgery of everyday life, going to work and earning a wage but fighting back the shambling hordes just so you could say you survived. Yeah, for me the Zombie Apocalypse is escapism.

There’s also a fantastic sense of hopelessness in zombie films. In the best ones it seems as though once the infection has begun to spread then the fight is already over. The zombies have already won simply through sheer numbers. The infection often seems to be global and it seems as though it’s only a matter of time before the remaining survivors succumb to either a natural or unnatural end. This is why my favourite zombie films are the original Day and Dawn of the Dead. It’s made very clear in those films that the undead dominance is practically total. The same is also true of the absolutely fantastic piece of Zombie-related televisual entertainment I’ll be looking at today, Dead Set.

Now, let’s get one thing out of the way right at the outset. Dead Set’s zombies are the runners that are becoming more and more prominent throughout zombie fiction. Whilst still being a zombie purist and preferring the shambling, rotting kind who are no real threat on their own but amass in huge numbers causing survivors to become trapped and ideally turn on each other, I will admit that, when used correctly, the runners can be effective. This was perhaps best demonstrated recently in ‘Zombieland’. Running zombies were perfect for that film because the survivors didn’t spend most of their time trapped in one location. It was essentially a road movie and in that kind of film I can see why the runners would be more effective than the traditional Romero variety.

In Dead Set, the running zombies are effective but for different reasons that Charlie Brooker, the writer of this and all-around genius, has stated himself in response to friendly criticism he received from Simon Pegg, well known slow zombie advocate. Basically the runners are used due to budgetary constraints restricting the number of crowd shots, the need to differentiate itself from Pegg’s own ‘Shaun of the Dead’, and the fact that infection needed to spread quick enough to stop an evacuation of the studio being possible. That last one will make more sense once I get into the actual review which I seem to be having some difficulty in doing. Anyway, to sum up these are all fair enough reasons.

Right, to the synopsis then. ‘Dead Set’ starts off during an eviction night for the reality series Big Brother. Throughout the day there have been reports of massive riots or some such thing occurring throughout Britain but despite the possible ramifications of this, the producer decides to take Big Brother to air as normal. During the eviction, however, something horrific happens and before long the only people left alive are those inside the Big Brother house, unaware of what’s happening outside, a show runner, the producer and the evicted contestant. There are a couple of other survivors but the main focus is really on these and, later on, the show runners boyfriend who is trying to make his way to the Big Brother house.

The show runner, Kelly, soon finds out that the outside world is pretty much devoid of life and decides to make her way into the Big Brother house, what with it being possibly the safest place in the world right now. When she makes it inside the house mates think that she’s a new contestant, albeit a fairly crazy one. When a zombie manages to get in and bites one of them, however, they soon realise the situation they are in.

And that’s pretty much where I’m going to leave the synopsis. I’ll say right now that this really is a must watch. It’s available in all of it’s fantastic five part glory through Channel 4’s YouTube page here. My apologies to people outside the UK. I know how these things often work so I wouldn’t be surprised if you find some kind of content restriction message. You can always buy the region 2 DVD, which I would recommend for anyone if I’m honest. It’s always nicer to have a physical copy of something. There are of course other methods you could employ which I will no way endorse here.

So what makes Dead Set so pants-wettingly brilliant? Well, everything really. The very idea of taking Big Brother and putting a zombie apocalypse around it, is in itself a wonderfully simple idea and allows for all the satire and commentary that the best zombie films are known for. In this case it’s reality TV that’s on the chopping block, obviously, and the culture that surrounds it. All of the contestants are the kinds of twattish stereotypes that Big Brother and it’s generally twattish audience thrive on. From blonde bimbo to flamboyantly gay transvestite, all the archetypes are covered. There’s even that one who’s a little bit stupid but likeable enough that he’d probably never actually win. From what I’ve seen of Big Brother those are generally regarded as background characters who never get much screen time because they aren’t as twattish as their housemates. I need to stop using the word twattish.

What’s interesting is that most of the characters, whilst still retaining may of their stereotypical charactersitics, manage to undergo major developments. For example Veronica, the blonde bimbo character, upon finding out about the zombie apocalypse enquires “Does this mean we’re not on the telly anymore?” but by the end she’s able to come up with a plan in order to take down a zombie lose in the garden. It manages to take what should be a relatively unlikeable cast of people and make you care about them and what happens to them in a way that I imagine Big Brother itself would have trouble doing in two months of programming.

It’s also quite clear that a large portion of the zombies are drawn to the Big Brother house, something which makes sense because most of the people there probably where fans of the show who were turned on the night of the eviction and one of the contestants even muses that they the house was almost like a temple to them in life. This echoes Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ where it is theorised that the zombies come to the mall due to some fading half-memory of their former life in which they considered it to be an important place for them. In this case the people used to come here to feed on the micro-fame of the people inside the house and now they’re back to feed on them once more, only this time in a much more literal sense.

Of course, you could talk about the satire and social commentary in zombie films until the cows come home and I’m sure people will continue to do so until the inevitable real life Zombie Apocalypse. The most important thing is how is this invasion of the undead portrayed on screen and all I’ll say is that Dead Set does not disappoint. It is exquisitely gory, revelling in the dismemberment of people by the ravenous monsters. Seriously, for a TV mini-series it seems as though absolutely no punches were pulled. You get to see a zombie get it’s head smashed in with a fire extinguisher, a zombie being carved up for bait and British television ‘favourite’ Davina McCall getting her throat bitten out. The whole thing is enhanced by the fucking fantastic sound effects, each squelch and stab being presented in sickeningly, crisp detail. Awesome. Speaking of sounds, I should also say that setting the initial zombie outbreak to Mika’s ‘Grace Kelly’ was an ingenious idea.

Right, I think I’ve spoken enough about this now. If you haven’t watched it yet, find a way to do so and do it now! Five pints out of five. I‘ll be back tomorrow with either a new list, a review of ‘Antichrist’ or the remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ which I‘ve decided to rewatch after my softening on the whole running zombie thing. Laterz.

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Generation X – Part 3: Squeeze by Jamie

Generation X: Squeeze (Production No. 1×02)

Written By Glen Morgan & James Wong, Directed By Harry Longstreet.

BBC Air Date: 03/10/1994

Well we finally come to the first of the ‘Monster of the Week‘ episodes of the X-Files and what a monster it is. First, the synopsis. Scully is asked to help on mysterious murder case by an old friend Agent Colton (Donal Logue). The cases are mysterious due to the fact that there seems to be no obvious point of entry and the liver is torn from each victim with the killers bare-hands. Mulder joins the investigation with his own theories and immediately gets Colton‘s back up. They apprehend a subject and, when Mulder introduces some of his own questions during a lie detector test, Colton officialy gets him taken off the investigation and the suspect, Eugene Victor Tooms (Doug Hutchins), is set free . Mulder, believing Tooms to be a genetic mutant who needs livers in order to hibernate for decades at a time, continues anyway since the case has some similarities to one of his X-Files and Scully decides to side with him instead of Colson. In the end, of course, it turns out that Mulder was right and they finally capture Tooms again.

This episode was one of the first that gave us the sense that The X-Files was going to be something more than aliens and abductions all the time and thank fuck for that. I mean, seriously, the whole over-arching mythology is alright in small doses but there is no way in hell I‘d be able to take that for an entire series. Really, it‘s these Scooby Doo-esque episodes which make the series, especially later when the mythology just becomes bloated and convoluted.

So, allow us then to delve deeper into this episode. There are some awesome moments held within. Mulder in particular is in top form. There are some great character moments when he’s dealing with Agent Colton who basically seems to view Mulder as a fucking joke. One of the first questions Colton asks Mulder if he suspects little green men are responsible for the murders. Mulder responds completely straight faced that the little men are in fact grey, from Reticula and that they are notorious for the extraction of human livers due to an iron deficiency in the Reticulan galaxy. He then asks him if he knows what liver and onion goes for in the Reticulan galaxy before turning around and doing his fucking job like a real FBI agent. This episode also features on of Mulder‘s classic lines after realising he‘s just put his hand in human bile, “Is there anyway I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?” Classic Mulder.

It‘s also nice to see Scully siding with Mulder in this episode, having had enough of Colton constantly bad mouthing him. It‘s clear that, though she may not agree with all of his ‘spooky‘ ideas, she does have a certain amount of respect for him and regards him as a partner who she is loyal to. You also get to see her kicking the ass of a killer mutant who has already killed several people showing that she‘s more than just an expert in medical science. She‘s also an expert in Ass-Kickery.

Finally onto Tooms himself. This really needed to be a strong episode in order to show that The X-Files could be more than that show about aliens and stuff and thankfully it was. This was mainly down to the character of Eugene Victor Tooms, a genetic mutant who is over one hundred years old, eats human livers in order to allow him to hibernate for periods of thirty years and also has the ability to stretch and squeeze into tiny places. That is a fucking awesome concept for a monster and it‘s the reason that Tooms remained one of the series favourite villains despite only appearing in two episodes.

I did always feel a little sorry for Tooms though. I got the impression that if he didn‘t get those livers and enter his hibernation, he‘d wither and die. Of course if he‘d just end up aging naturally at the same speed as everyone else or at a much faster rate is up for debate I suppose. You also do get the strong impression that Tooms does quite enjoy his little acts of murder.

Overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable episode that kicks of the whole ‘Monster of the Week‘ concept and kicks it off strong, deepens the characters of both Mulder and Scully and presents an awesome villain. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.



Generation X: Part 2 – Deep Throat by Jamie

Generation X: Deep Throat (Production No. 1×01)

Written By Chris Carter, Directed By Robert Mandel.
BBC Air Date: 19/09/1994

In this episode Mulder and Scully investigate the disappearance of an Air Force Colonel and a possible cover-up involving crashed UFO’s, hybrid experimental aircraft and a pseudo-Area 51. Mulder is warned to stay away from this case by a mysterious man in a bar bathroom, the titular Deep Throat, but decides to investigate anyway. He comes closer to the truth than he ever has before but also comes to experience first hand the kind of power that those behind the conspiracy wield.

There, I think I’ve got that little problem with my synopses going on forever sorted at last. Anyway, on with the review. This is the first full on episode of the X-Files complete with theme tune, opening credits sequence and is the introduction of Mark Snow as the series composer. I have to say that I really do love that theme. It just sums up the feel of the series, evoking the feeling of creepiness and mysteriousness that comes with dealing with the paranormal.

Now, this whole episode draws heavily from the myths surrounding the top secret US Air force base, Area 51 or Groom Lake even going so far as to have a parallel to the Little Ale’Inn, which is just down the road from Area 51, in the form of the Flying Saucer Restaurant. What I don’t understand is why they didn’t just go ahead and use the name Area 51? I mean, they use the real name in later episodes, including some brilliant ones that have Michael McKean making a special guest appearance. Anyway the point is that if you’re blatantly just going to use Area 51, just call it fucking Area 51.

This episode also has some great examples of some early 90s CGI in the form of a hovering triangle that has a few bright lights. Of course it’s easy to look at it now and comment about how shitty and cheesy it looks by today’s standard. We think we’re so fucking great with our ‘Avatars’ and our ‘Iron Mans’. We sicken me. Anyway, I’m sure that little nine year old me was suitably impressed watching it in the darkened living room of our house. I bet I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The most worrying thing is that it actually looks about as good as some of the CGI effects I’ve seen in the incredibly recent series ‘Spartacus: Blood And Sand’. Damn that show’s cheap looking.

As for what goes on in the episode, well, there are a few key scenes. The introduction of Deep Throat is a pretty big one and I’ll delve into that a little bit later. What you really get is an idea of the clashes between the personalities of the two agents but also how dedicated they are to ensuring each others safety. You also get an idea of just how dedicated Mulder is to trying to uncover the truth behind the conspiracy, going so far as to break into a top secret military facility and strolling onto the runway to get a better look. Honestly it’s pretty fucking stupid for someone who’s apparently a Cambridge educated FBI agent but what’re you gonna do? This is a series that kinda hinges on suspension of disbelief.

As far as being a ‘Mythology’ episode this one isn’t as bad as later ones would become. It doesn’t have the huge, convoluted history behind it so it’s still a bit light and generally an easy watch. Since it also has a separate mystery going on beside the mythology stuff, it manages to keep you interested whereas I think that some of the later ones that had Mulder and Scully investigating the conspiracy for the sake of investigating it lacked that aspect.

Finally I’ll just go back to the fact that this episode introduces us to the character of Deep Throat, obviously based on, and possibly intended to be, the Deep Throat who leaked information during the Watergate scandal. Deep Throat was the first of many informants that would approach Mulder and do what seemed as little as possible in order to aid him in the quest for the truth. His first scene is a little odd. He approaches Mulder in the bathroom of the bar and advises him not to investigate the case as the military won’t look to kindly on an FBI investigation. I don’t know about you but if an older gentleman ever approaches me in a bar bathroom and his name is Deep Throat then I’m getting the fuck out of there. Still, he’s an important character and does help in providing some information on the conspiracy without which we’d probably be as lost as Mulder. He also finishes the episode with a fantastic line. When Mulder ask him if ‘they‘ have really are here on Earth, he responds with “Mr. Mulder, they have been here for a long, long time.” Awesome.

Overall it’s a decent enough episode if not just a bit average. I’ll give it three pints out of five. Laterz.



Generation X: A Look Back At The X-Files: Part 1 – Pilot by Jamie

It’s hard to imagine now just how big The X-Files was back in the 90s. It permeated everything and as a result the 90s was also a time filled with bullshit about the paranormal and conspiracy theories. Every week it seemed as though there was some special documentary about the Roswell Incident or whether or not the moon landings were faked. Still, as much as the X-Files was responsible for a lot of belief in complete and utter bullshit I feel as though it’s also responsible for the Sceptical movement coming to such prominence over the past 10 years or so as people battle tirelessly to undo the damage the show has done.

The show started on September 10, 1993 in the US and came to the UK in 1994. I was but a young lad of 9 when it first started and I distinctly remember watching it from the beginning and, like so many others, I completely bought into the paranormal and believed in practically all aspects of it until really quite recently. I gobbled up those documentaries, read book after book and had quite an extensive collection of magazines that dealt with the subject. Still much in the same way that the X-Files is probably at least partially responsible for the growing sceptical movement, it’s probably also the reason that I am a sceptic now myself. Without it I probably would have never paid much attention to the paranormal and so wouldn’t care about ridiculous beliefs in it either way.

The X-Files influence on me doesn’t end there either. The X-Files is possibly responsible for my having a ridiculously large DVD collection. When the series began to be released on the new format I bought them as soon as each one was released. It pretty much gave me the collecting bug and from then I was pretty much fucked and doomed to have a collection far beyond the size of anything that I really should.

So keeping the massive effect the series has had on my life in mind and considering the fact that I haven’t really watched them for years, I’ve decided to go back, revisit the show and review every damn episode. Why? Well because an undertaking of this magnitude will probably cut into my movie viewing somewhat (not to say that this will completely overtake the blog, there will still be movie related things of course including some big video things that I’ve got planned) and it’s a good excuse to have a consistent stream of things to post. Let’s get underway.

Pilot (Production No. 1X79)

Written By Chris Carter, Directed By Robert Mandel.
BBC Air Date: 19/09/1994

So then, this is it where it all begins with the imaginatively titled pilot episode, ‘Pilot’. It’s our first introduction to many a character including the Cigarette Smoking Man, their boss who isn’t Skinner at this point and, of course, Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. It’s pretty obvious that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson pretty much had the characters down from the beginning. Mulder is the sarcastic, witty and all around charming guy and Scully is the sceptical, scientific and slightly serious character that they would pretty much remain throughout the entirety of the series. The only major difference is that in this episode Scully seems a little more open to Mulder’s point of view and a little quicker to accept his paranormal explanation then she would in later episodes.

There are a few things which mark this out as a pilot. For example the iconic theme music is no where to be found at all in this episode. There’s not even an opening credit sequence, instead just a black screen filled with large white letters exclaiming that ‘The following story is inspired by actual documented accounts.’ Of course they are.

Still, other then that there’s not really that much to distinguish this from and average episode. We hear how Mulder discovered the X-Files and the story of how he saw his sister Amanda being abducted by aliens for the first time but it doesn’t really seem like the big thing that it would become later in the series, more like an event that just led to his interest in these kind of cases.

Now the story of the first episode is essentially that a small town has had a rash of unexplainable deaths, each one involving the graduating class of the local high school. Mulder and Scully go off to investigate after Scully is assigned to work with Mulder, essentially being instructed to keep an eye on exactly what he‘s up to. Mulder seems to believe that extra-terrestrials are somehow involved in the case. As they are driving towards the town the radio and clock in their car go a bit haywire and Mulder pulls over, marking the spot with a big red X.

They begin to investigate the deaths much to the chagrin of the local sheriff and medical examiner who both seem to know more then they’re letting on, arousing Scully’s suspicions. They visit two of the graduating classes remaining survivors in a hospital finding one in a wheelchair and the other in a vegetative state due to a vehicular accident that both were involved in. Mulder notices that both have strange marks on their body and decides to exhume the body of one of the former victims in order to see if it has similar marks upon it.

What they discover in the coffin is a little bit of a shock as it doesn’t appear to be the body of a human but rather that of a desiccated orang-utan. They take some X-Rays of the thing which reveals a small, metallic implant in it’s naval cavity. Mulder decides to go and check out the woods were all these incidents have been occurring… Fuck, I wanted this to be a concise synopsis. Right, on the way back from the woods the two agents experience a blinding flash of white light and seem to have lost nine minutes, a phenomenon generally reported by those who believe that they have been abducted by aliens.

Upon returning to their hotel they find out they receive a mysterious phone call telling them that the girl from the hospital is dead. Whilst investigating this new death, their hotel catches fire, destroying all the evidence they have gathered up to this point which really pisses Mulder off. They meet the person who had phoned them, the medical examiners daughter who it turns out was also part of the graduating class and Mulder begins to suspect that the boy in the vegetative state is involved in the murders. A visit to the hospital reveals he has dirty feet and Scully begins to turn around to Mulder’s way of thinking.

Since the soil samples that they had taken in the woods before had been destroyed in the fire they decide to the woods to gather more, only to find that the sheriff is here. It turns out that he has been tracking his son who is up and about again, having seemingly kidnapped the medical examiner’s daughter. Mulder and the sheriff witness a blinding white light surround the two youngsters whilst Scully is distracted elsewhere. When the light dissipates the two are standing there, the boy apparently aware of his surroundings once more and the mysterious marks having disappeared.

Mulder and Scully return to Washington and she presents her report on Mulder’s activities to her bosses, seemingly taking his side on the case which pisses them off to no end. The episode ends with the Cigarette smoking man putting a metallic implant, the one piece of physical evidence into a box in a massive warehouse filled with boxes probably containing masses of evidence pertaining to the supernatural in a clear homage to Indiana Jones.

So there you go. That’s the first episode of the X-Files and the beginning of, in my personal opinion, one of the greatest on-screen partnerships in all of television history. There are a few things which happen in this episode which I don’t think are ever really mentioned or explained in later episodes primarily whether or not Mulder and Scully where actually abducted. I know they are both abducted at later points in the series but I’m not sure if this experience is ever brought up again. I’m sure I’ll found out as we go along.

Still overall it’s a pretty good episode and is much better than many of the ones that would deal with aliens later on, the so called ‘Mythology’ episodes that dealt with the over-arching conspiracy. This one plays off much more like the preferred ‘Monster-Of-The-Week’ episodes even though their isn’t really a monster. Of particular note is David Duchovny who is fucking hilarious throughout this episode. Almost every other line is some witty or sarcastic remark particularly during the pairs first meeting. It’s good stuff and one of the reason I loved this show.

So there you go. That’s the first part of this ongoing X-periment. Hahaha. Did you see what I did there? I crack me up. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll get the hang of this as I go along and try and tighten up those synopses. Next up is the first of the proper Mythology episodes, ‘Deep Throat’. Until then, laterz.



Review: Dead Set by Jamie

I don’t know if I’ve made this clear in the past but I’m quite the fan of Zombie films. I’m not sure why. There’s just something mildly appealing about being one of the few last members of a doomed species surrounded by the undead who want nothing more than to consume your flesh. That may seem odd but who wouldn’t want to be one of those survivors, no more of the drudgery of everyday life, going to work and earning a wage but fighting back the shambling hordes just so you could say you survived. Yeah, for me the Zombie Apocalypse is escapism.

There’s also a fantastic sense of hopelessness in zombie films. In the best ones it seems as though once the infection has begun to spread then the fight is already over. The zombies have already won simply through sheer numbers. The infection often seems to be global and it seems as though it’s only a matter of time before the remaining survivors succumb to either a natural or unnatural end. This is why my favourite zombie films are the original Day and Dawn of the Dead. It’s made very clear in those films that the undead dominance is practically total. The same is also true of the absolutely fantastic piece of Zombie-related televisual entertainment I’ll be looking at today, Dead Set.

Now, let’s get one thing out of the way right at the outset. Dead Set’s zombies are the runners that are becoming more and more prominent throughout zombie fiction. Whilst still being a zombie purist and preferring the shambling, rotting kind who are no real threat on their own but amass in huge numbers causing survivors to become trapped and ideally turn on each other, I will admit that, when used correctly, the runners can be effective. This was perhaps best demonstrated recently in ‘Zombieland’. Running zombies were perfect for that film because the survivors didn’t spend most of their time trapped in one location. It was essentially a road movie and in that kind of film I can see why the runners would be more effective than the traditional Romero variety.

In Dead Set, the running zombies are effective but for different reasons that Charlie Brooker, the writer of this and all-around genius, has stated himself in response to friendly criticism he received from Simon Pegg, well known slow zombie advocate. Basically the runners are used due to budgetary constraints restricting the number of crowd shots, the need to differentiate itself from Pegg’s own ‘Shaun of the Dead’, and the fact that infection needed to spread quick enough to stop an evacuation of the studio being possible. That last one will make more sense once I get into the actual review which I seem to be having some difficulty in doing. Anyway, to sum up these are all fair enough reasons.

Right, to the synopsis then. ‘Dead Set’ starts off during an eviction night for the reality series Big Brother. Throughout the day there have been reports of massive riots or some such thing occurring throughout Britain but despite the possible ramifications of this, the producer decides to take Big Brother to air as normal. During the eviction, however, something horrific happens and before long the only people left alive are those inside the Big Brother house, unaware of what’s happening outside, a show runner, the producer and the evicted contestant. There are a couple of other survivors but the main focus is really on these and, later on, the show runners boyfriend who is trying to make his way to the Big Brother house.

The show runner, Kelly, soon finds out that the outside world is pretty much devoid of life and decides to make her way into the Big Brother house, what with it being possibly the safest place in the world right now. When she makes it inside the house mates think that she’s a new contestant, albeit a fairly crazy one. When a zombie manages to get in and bites one of them, however, they soon realise the situation they are in.

And that’s pretty much where I’m going to leave the synopsis. I’ll say right now that this really is a must watch. It’s available in all of it’s fantastic five part glory through Channel 4’s YouTube page here. My apologies to people outside the UK. I know how these things often work so I wouldn’t be surprised if you find some kind of content restriction message. You can always buy the region 2 DVD, which I would recommend for anyone if I’m honest. It’s always nicer to have a physical copy of something. There are of course other methods you could employ which I will no way endorse here.

So what makes Dead Set so pants-wettingly brilliant? Well, everything really. The very idea of taking Big Brother and putting a zombie apocalypse around it, is in itself a wonderfully simple idea and allows for all the satire and commentary that the best zombie films are known for. In this case it’s reality TV that’s on the chopping block, obviously, and the culture that surrounds it. All of the contestants are the kinds of twattish stereotypes that Big Brother and it’s generally twattish audience thrive on. From blonde bimbo to flamboyantly gay transvestite, all the archetypes are covered. There’s even that one who’s a little bit stupid but likeable enough that he’d probably never actually win. From what I’ve seen of Big Brother those are generally regarded as background characters who never get much screen time because they aren’t as twattish as their housemates. I need to stop using the word twattish.

What’s interesting is that most of the characters, whilst still retaining may of their stereotypical charactersitics, manage to undergo major developments. For example Veronica, the blonde bimbo character, upon finding out about the zombie apocalypse enquires “Does this mean we’re not on the telly anymore?” but by the end she’s able to come up with a plan in order to take down a zombie lose in the garden. It manages to take what should be a relatively unlikeable cast of people and make you care about them and what happens to them in a way that I imagine Big Brother itself would have trouble doing in two months of programming.

It’s also quite clear that a large portion of the zombies are drawn to the Big Brother house, something which makes sense because most of the people there probably where fans of the show who were turned on the night of the eviction and one of the contestants even muses that they the house was almost like a temple to them in life. This echoes Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ where it is theorised that the zombies come to the mall due to some fading half-memory of their former life in which they considered it to be an important place for them. In this case the people used to come here to feed on the micro-fame of the people inside the house and now they’re back to feed on them once more, only this time in a much more literal sense.

Of course, you could talk about the satire and social commentary in zombie films until the cows come home and I’m sure people will continue to do so until the inevitable real life Zombie Apocalypse. The most important thing is how is this invasion of the undead portrayed on screen and all I’ll say is that Dead Set does not disappoint. It is exquisitely gory, revelling in the dismemberment of people by the ravenous monsters. Seriously, for a TV mini-series it seems as though absolutely no punches were pulled. You get to see a zombie get it’s head smashed in with a fire extinguisher, a zombie being carved up for bait and British television ‘favourite’ Davina McCall getting her throat bitten out. The whole thing is enhanced by the fucking fantastic sound effects, each squelch and stab being presented in sickeningly, crisp detail. Awesome. Speaking of sounds, I should also say that setting the initial zombie outbreak to Mika’s ‘Grace Kelly’ was an ingenious idea.

Right, I think I’ve spoken enough about this now. If you haven’t watched it yet, find a way to do so and do it now! Five pints out of five. I‘ll be back tomorrow with either a new list, a review of ‘Antichrist’ or the remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ which I‘ve decided to rewatch after my softening on the whole running zombie thing. Laterz.



Top Ten TV Characters: Part 2 by Jamie
I’ve tried to avoid spoilers but in some cases it was pretty… well, unavoidable. In particular I’d skip number 3 if you haven’t seen the show. That’s a character that is very hard to describe without giving much away and I tried but I kinda failed. Right, let’s just get on with it, won’t we?

5: Dexter Morgan – Dexter

Dexter is a blood splatter analyst working for the Miami Police. He spends his day studying crime scenes in order to help find murderers. He spends his nights hunting those killers who happen to slip through the clutches of the law. Dexter has a ‘dark passenger’. Dexter is a serial killer.

His ‘dark passenger’ was born as a child when he was locked for hours with the dead body of his mother, the blood literally pooling around him. He was adopted by Harry, the first officer on the scene who soon recognised Dexter’s growing urge to kill. Harry knew that this compulsion would never go away so he decided to train Dexter, to imprint a code upon him. He would allow his adopted son to satiate his ‘dark passenger’ but only with those who truly deserved to die and couldn’t be brought to justice by any other means.

I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers… That came out wrong. Perhaps I should say that I’ve always been fascinated by the psychology of serial killers. Why do they do the terrible things that they do? Is it a case of nature? Are serial killers born? Is there something wrong with their brain from birth? Or are serial killers created? Is it some traumatic event in their childhood, some accident that causes brain damage or just a general shitty childhood in general? Wow, that’s a lot of questions.

What Dexter does well is portray that psychology. Admittedly it just gives one event in his life as the complete answer for his condition which I feel is often not the case in real life but as for the way Dexter describes his thought process, the compulsion to kill, it all seems fairly accurate. Dexter often displays some typical characteristics that are reported as being present in real life serial killers. He can be arrogant, selfish, cocky and often feels as though he has to act out emotion rather than having actual emotion. What keeps Dexter likeable is the code that Harry instilled in him and the fact that he does genuinely care about those that he chooses to get close to in real life. It also makes him somewhat redeemable despite his horrific actions.

When it comes down to it I find Dexter fascinating as a character especially the way he is portrayed by Michael C. Hall. I tried reading the first book that the series is based on but found the writers writing style very unappealing so I decided to just stick to the TV show. I heartily recommend it to everyone… Well, maybe not everyone.

4: Gabriel ‘Sylar’ Gray – Heroes

From the ‘good’ serial killer to very much the opposite. Gabriel Grey was a simple watch makers son who one day discovered he had an incredible gift. He had the ability to figure out complex problems but with it came a hunger. When Gabriel learned that he wasn’t the only one with special abilities, his hunger found its food source. He found that by killing other super powered humans and studying their brains he could gain their ability. With each kill a part of Gabriel died and he took on a new persona, the sociopath known as Sylar.

In the first season of Heroes there was no pretence with Sylar. If you had what he wanted, he knew that you had it then he as going to do everything in his power to take that from you. He’d have to kill you to take it but Sylar didn’t care. In fact, by the time he makes his first on screen appearance in Heroes it’s pretty clear that he has come to relish the act of killing, that he got great pleasure from not only taking a person’s ability but in making the powerful feel powerless. There’s also a dark wit and charm about Sylar’s character which keeps him from being too much of a monster.

Over the course of the show, Sylar’s character has developed in a few different ways. He had a spell of being powerless during the shows lacklustre second season but still maintained his murderous intent. In the third season he tried being good for a while with mixed results but it is when Sylar is at his most villainous that he’s a truly stand out character. When his need to gain more power, to become the most special person in the entire world is what’s driving him it’s what separates him from other on screen villains and makes him on that I’ll always enjoy.

3: Gaius Baltar – Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica is easily my favourite TV show of recent times. I came into it late, which turned out to be a blessing because I had three seasons to watch and finally caught up with everyone else just in time for the final episode. Choosing a favourite character should have been difficult. The show is populated with so many well written and well acted personas but clearly it was blatantly obvious who my favourite was right from the beginning.

Gaius Baltar is a lot like another character who will appear later in the list. He’s incredibly intelligent, charming and has an incredible aptitude for self preservation. He wilfully manipulates the people around him in order to get what he wants which for the most part seems to be security and keeping his part in the near extinction of humanity completely hidden. There are times when it seems as though he has absolutely no remorse for his part in the attack on the colonies, especially early on in the series but as the situation around him escalates it becomes clear that his actions then and since way heavily on his soul, particularly in the fourth season. Sure, he still acts mostly in his own best interest but there are times when he acts apparently selflessly or at least as selflessly as someone like Baltar can act.

It’s in the latter part of the last season that it seems as though Baltar is most earnestly seeking some form of redemption for his past and in the last episode in particular that I think he finally finds it. Ah, the last episode of Battlestar. It had some problems like too heavy a reliance on flashbacks but I really enjoyed it. It truly moved me and I think I can honestly say it’s the only time I’ve ever been choked up at the mention of farming.

2:  Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter – Only Fools and Horses

I’m not sure if Only Fools and Horses has ever been shown much anywhere outside the UK. I’ve certainly never heard it mentioned when people of foreign nations talk about our comedies but here in Britain it’s an institution like the Royal Family… except that everyone likes Only Fools and Horses. A slow starter, the show picked up momentum as it went on until it was probably the most watched sitcom at the time. I could check and see if that’s true but I’ve got a feeling it’s probably true so why bother.

The central lynch pin of this cultural juggernaut is Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter. That’s probably not fair actually. The true lynch pin are the relationships between the characters, in particular Del Boy, brother Rodney and their Granddad/Uncle Albert but I think it’s fair to say that Del Boy is probably the most beloved character from the show.

Derek is a cockney wheeler and dealer. He runs a market stall in Peckham and has no qualms about selling shoddy merchandise or the occasional batch of stock that “fell off the back of a truck”. He always has a plan for getting rich and was oft heard to say ‘This time next year, we’ll be millionaires’ to his long suffering brother. Long suffering because Del’s schemes would often land Rodney in some ridiculous situation which would infuriate or humiliate him to no end.

Del often showed a great deal of vanity, often going out of his way to show off and try to give the impression that he was in a higher position in life than his actual social class. He would dress in suits, bedeck himself in gold and drink extravagant looking cocktails. He also seemed to be under the impression that he could speak French fluently despite believing ‘menage a trois’ is an exclamation of surprise and ‘Pot Pourri’ is the French for I don’t believe it.

Despite all of his flaws, at heart Del Boy is a good man who truly loves and cares for his family, his brother in particular. Del will sometimes implement one of his crazy schemes for the express purpose of helping out Rodney, only to have the whole situation backfire. If someone is taking advantage of Rodney then Del will always try and help out. Most importantly Del is always there for Rodney, even if it may seem to Rodney that Del is only out for himself at first.

Finally David Jason, the actor who plays Del, gave us one of the finest pieces of physical comedy ever seen in these British Isles. Enjoy.

1: Edmund Blackadder – Blackadder

The Blackadder clan are, generally speaking, a bunch of bastards. Throughout every period of British history there has been an Edmund Blackadder, be they princes, noblemen, butlers or officers during World War 1. Now for the sake of this little write up, I’ll largely be ignoring Prince Edmund from the first series of Blackadder because he’s not really the character that most people would think of when they hear the name. I’ll just say that he was a snivelling coward without much intelligence who’s main importance is beginning the Blackadder dynasty. Also Brian Blessed played his father. Brian Blessed is awesome.

In the second season, the Prince’s bastard descendant was now Lord Blackadder, a favourite around the court of Queen Elizabeth the First. This character would set the standard for the descendants to follow. This Blackadder had a charm, a wit though was still essentially a coward just a far more dashing coward than his ancestor. Sarcasm drips from Edmund’s pores particularly when dealing with his two constant companions, the dim witted Percy (or George) and the disgusting dogsbody Baldrick. In fact it’s normally the people who surround Blackadder that force him into the unlucky situations that he finds himself in. More often than not Blackadder is the most competent person and it is those incompetents who are in higher positions of power that put Edmund in some sort of danger. Not to say that he doesn’t manage to get himself in to danger, normally through his boastful nature. It is then only his quick wit and intelligence coupled with his extreme sense of self-preservation that help him survive.

What Blackadder does best is poke fun at Britain’s history. It puts a kind of modern spin on the ludicrous nature of some of the biggest events in our past. From the superstition of the Dark Ages, the hero worship and falling out of favour of Walter Raleigh, the obsessive nature of Samuel Johnson right up to the madness of trench warfare in World War 1, Blackadder take a sideways, humorous and sometimes poignant look at them all. Speaking of which…

Goodbyeee….
Top Ten TV Characters: Part 2
I’ve tried to avoid spoilers but in some cases it was pretty… well, unavoidable. In particular I’d skip number 3 if you haven’t seen the show. That’s a character that is very hard to describe without given much away and I tried but I kinda failed. Right, let’s just get on with it, won’t we?
5: Dexter Morgan – Dexter
Dexter is a blood splatter analyst working for the Miami Police. He spends his day studying crime scenes in order to help find murderers. He spends his nights hunting those killers who happen to slip through the clutches of the law. Dexter has a ‘dark passenger’. Dexter is a serial killer.
His ‘dark passenger’ was born as a child when he was locked for hours with the dead body of his mother, the blood literally pooling around him. He was adopted by Harry, the first officer on the scene who soon recognised Dexter’s growing urge to kill. Harry knew that this compulsion would never go away so he decided to train Dexter, to imprint a code upon him. He would allow his adopted son to satiate his ‘dark passenger’ but only with those who truly deserved to die and couldn’t be brought to justice by any other means.
I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers… That came out wrong. Perhaps I should say that I’ve always been fascinated by the psychology of serial killers. Why do they do the terrible things that they do? Is it a case of nature? Are serial killers born? Is there something wrong with their brain from birth? Or are serial killers created? Is it some traumatic event in their childhood, some accident that causes brain damage or just a general shitty childhood in general? Wow, that’s a lot of questions.
What Dexter does well is portray that psychology. Admittedly it just gives one event in his life as the complete answer for his condition which I feel is often not the case in real life but as for the way Dexter describes his thought process, the compulsion to kill, it all seems fairly accurate. Dexter often displays some typical characteristics that are reported as being present in real life serial killers. He can be arrogant, selfish, cocky and often feels as though he has to act out emotion rather than having actual emotion. What keeps Dexter likeable is the code that Harry instilled in him and the fact that he does genuinely care about those that he chooses to get close to in real life. It also makes him somewhat redeemable despite his horrific actions.
When it comes down to it I find Dexter fascinating as a character especially the way he is portrayed by Michael C. Hall. I tried reading the first book that the series is based on but found the writers writing style very unappealing so I decided to just stick to the TV show. I heartily recommend it to everyone.
4: Gabriel ‘Sylar’ Gray – Heroes
From the ‘good’ serial killer to very much the opposite. Gabriel Grey was a simple watch makers son who one day discovered he had an incredible gift. He had the ability to figure out complex problems but with it came a hunger. When Gabriel learned that he wasn’t the only one with special abilities, his hunger found its food source. He found that by killing other super powered humans and studying their brains he could gain their ability. With each kill a part of Gabriel died and he took on a new persona, the sociopath known as Sylar.
In the first season of Heroes there was no pretence with Sylar. If you had what he wanted, he knew that you had it then he as going to do everything in his power to take that from you. He’d have to kill you to take it but Sylar didn’t care. In fact, by the time he makes his first on screen appearance in Heroes it’s pretty clear that he has come to relish the act of killing, that he got great pleasure from not only taking a person’s ability but in making the powerful feel powerless. There’s also a dark wit and charm about Sylar’s character which keeps him from being too much of a monster.
Over the course of the show, Sylar’s character has developed in a few different ways. He had a spell of being powerless during the shows lacklustre second season but still maintained his murderous intent. In the third season he tried being good for a while with mixed results but it is when Sylar is at his most villainous that he’s a truly stand out character. When his need to gain more power, to become the most special person in the entire world is what’s driving him it’s what separates him from other on screen villains and makes him on that I’ll always enjoy.
4: Gaius Baltar – Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica is easily my favourite TV show of recent times. I came into it late, which turned out to be a blessing because I had three seasons to watch and finally caught up with everyone else just in time for the final episode. Choosing a favourite character should have been difficult. The show is populated with so many well written and well acted personas but clearly it was blatantly obvious who my favourite was right from the beginning.
Gaius Baltar is a lot like another character who will appear later in the list. He’s incredibly intelligent, charming and has an incredible aptitude for self preservation. He wilfully manipulates the people around him in order to get what he wants which for the most part seems to be security and keeping his part in the near extinction of humanity completely hidden. There are times when it seems as though he has absolutely no remorse for his part in the attack on the colonies, especially early on in the series but as the situation around him escalates it becomes clear that his actions then and since way heavily on his soul, particularly in the fourth season. Sure, he still acts mostly in his own best interest but there are times when he acts apparently selflessly or at least as selflessly as someone like Baltar can act.
It’s in the latter part of the last season that it seems as though Baltar is most earnestly seeking some form of redemption for his past and in the last episode in particular that I think he finally finds it. Ah, the last episode of Battlestar. It had some problems like too heavy a reliance on flashbacks but I really enjoyed it. It truly moved me and I think I can honestly say it’s the only time I’ve ever been choked up at the mention of farming.
2:  Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter – Only Fools and Horses
I’m not sure if Only Fools and Horses has ever been shown much anywhere outside the UK. I’ve certainly never heard it mentioned when people of foreign nations talk about our comedies but here in Britain it’s an institution like the Royal Family… except that everyone likes Only Fools and Horses. A slow starter, the show picked up momentum as it went on until it was probably the most watched sitcom at the time. I could check and see if that’s true but I’ve got a feeling it’s probably true so why bother.
The central lynch pin of this cultural juggernaut is Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter. That’s probably not fair actually. The true lynch pin are the relationships between the characters, in particular Del Boy, brother Rodney and their Granddad/Uncle Albert but I think it’s fair to say that Del Boy is probably the most beloved character from the show.
Derek is a cockney wheeler and dealer. He runs a market stall in Peckham and has no qualms about selling shoddy merchandise or the occasional batch of stock that “fell off the back of a truck”. He always has a plan for getting rich and was oft heard to say ‘This time next year, we’ll be millionaires’ to his long suffering brother. Long suffering because Del’s schemes would often land Rodney in some ridiculous situation which would infuriate or humiliate him to no end.
Del often showed a great deal of vanity, often going out of his way to show off and try to give the impression that he was in a higher position in life than his actual social class. He would dress in suits, bedeck himself in gold and drink extravagant looking cocktails. He also seemed to be under the impression that he could speak French fluently despite believing ‘menage a trois’ is an exclamation of surprise and ‘Pot Pourri’ is the French for I don’t believe it.
Despite all of his flaws, at heart Del Boy is a good man who truly loves and cares for his family, his brother in particular. Del will sometimes implement one of his crazy schemes for the express purpose of helping out Rodney, only to have the whole situation backfire. If someone is taking advantage of Rodney then Del will always try and help out. Most importantly Del is always there for Rodney, even if it may seem to Rodney that Del is only out for himself at first.
Finally David Jason, the actor who plays Del, gave us one of the finest pieces of physical comedy ever seen in these British Isles. Enjoy.
1: Edmund Blackadder – Blackadder
The Blackadder clan are, generally speaking, a bunch of bastards. Throughout every period of British history there has been an Edmund Blackadder, be they princes, noblemen, butlers or officers during World War 1. Now for the sake of this little write up, I’ll largely be ignoring Prince Edmund from the first series of Blackadder because he’s not really the character that most people would think of when they hear the name. I’ll just say that he was a snivelling coward without much intelligence who’s main importance is beginning the Blackadder dynasty. Also Brian Blessed played his father. Brian Blessed is awesome.
In the second season, the Prince’s bastard descendant was now Lord Blackadder, a favourite around the court of Queen Elizabeth the First. This character would set the standard for the descendants to follow. This Blackadder had a charm, a wit though was still essentially a coward just a far more dashing coward than his ancestor. Sarcasm drips from Edmund’s pores particularly when dealing with his two constant companions, the dim witted Percy (or George) and the disgusting dogsbody Baldrick. In fact it’s normally the people who surround Blackadder that force him into the unlucky situations that he finds himself in. More often than not Blackadder is the most competent person and it is those incompetents who are in higher positions of power that put Edmund in some sort of danger. Not to say that he doesn’t manage to get himself in to danger, normally through his boastful nature. It is then only his quick wit and intelligence coupled with his extreme sense of self-preservation that help him survive.
What Blackadder does best is poke fun at Britain’s history. It puts a kind of modern spin on the ludicrous nature of some of the biggest events in our past. From the superstition of the Dark Ages, the hero worship and falling out of favour of Walter Raleigh, the obsessive nature of Samuel Pepys right up to the madness of trench warfare in World War 1, Blackadder take a sideways, humorous and sometimes poignant look at them all. Speaking of which…
Goodbyeee


Top 10 Films That Make Me Cry by Jamie
03/02/2009, 2:18 pm
Filed under: Lists | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jamie here. If there’s one thing I’ve come to realise over the years it’s that I’m a fucking pussy when it comes to even the slightest bit of emotion in a film, especially in recent years. I dunno what it is but the slightest sad thing happens and I’m blubbering like a bitch. In that spirit then is this, a list of my top 10 films guaranteed to make me cry. Warning: this list will contain spoilers and where available I’ve tried to show the scenes in question in video form.

10: Toy Story

Perhaps an odd choice but it’s one specific scene in particular. Buzz is determined to fly in order to prove to himself that he can fly and that he is not a toy whilst Randy Newman’s song “I Will Go Sailing No More” plays in the background. The mixture of determination and ultimate realisation combined with that song just tugs at my heart strings.

9: Home Alone

This may be the movie I have seen more times that any other in my entire life. At family Christmas gatherings it always seems to be on at some point plus it’s a particular favourite of certain family members so it’s just as likely to be on at any time of the year. What scene makes me cry? Well, the final one of course, when his mum comes back. If it doesn’t affect you then you’ve got a heart of fucking stone.

8: The Lives Of Others

The scene in which Christa-Maria, believing she had just stabbed her lover Georg in the back in exchange for her own safety decides to take her own life rather than live with guilt of what she has done. The saddest thing? The incriminating evidence had just been removed by the sympathetic agent who had been sent to spy on them.

7: The Lion King
Ah the Lion King. Truly one of the Disney classics and further proof that Disney hates parents. Seriously how many parents have died or are already dead within Disney films? So yes the scene here is, of course, the death of Simba’s father, Mufasa, and the fact that Simba blames himself. Heartbreaking.

6: Brokeback Mountain

Yes, the controversial film about two bisexual cowboys who fall in love. Leave your hang ups at the door and just fucking watch it. It’s an amazing film with a fantastic cast and it’s roles like thos that truly highlight what a great hole Heath Ledger’s death left us with, though his accents a tad dodgy in this. The film that gets the waterworks going? The last scene after Jake has been gay bashed to death when Ennis does up the shirt he retrieves from Jack’s house and is left to reminisce. It’s a simple, quiet and touching moment.

5: Lilo and Stitch

My penultimate animated entry on this list and my personal favourite Disney film. Not sure why exactly. Maybe because it’s quite different from many of the others, maybe it’s the Elvis soundtrack or maybe it’s just the way it touched me. There are several moments in this film that bring me to tears but the biggest one must be the scene that follows when Stitch decides to leave and everyone is feeling thoroughly sad.

4: The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King

There’s only one scene really that gets me in this film. It’s the scene where the Men of Gondor ride to almost certain death as Pippin sings a song for the seemingly uncaring steward of Gondor as he feast greedily. Wow.

3. Forrest Gump

Now I’ve made fun of this film quite a few times in my life, mainly due to the phrase “Magic Legs”. It’s just a damn funny thing to say. And while this film is indeed quite funny, it can also be quite touching and never quite so much as when Forrest is saying goodbye to Jenny.

2. Batman Begins

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents portrayed so poignantly. From the lead up, the murders themselves and the aftermath, everything in these scenes is perfect for really getting at the love and respect Bruce had for his parents, particularly his father and just goes to explain his clearly damaged psyche a little more. Most heartbreaking of all is when Bruce breaks into tears whilst blaming himself.

1. E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial

Really? Would anyone ever choose anything else?

Honorary Television List

Whilst making this list, I was reminded of a few things from television that had affected me over the years. Here they are in no particular order… except the best is at the end.

Extras – Big Brother Speech

I dunno what it is exactly about this scene that gets me going. Maybe it’s the fact that I was hammered having drunk an entire bottle of Baileys before watching it but I spent the night rewinding and rewatching this scene over and over again.

Futurama – The Luck Of The Fryrish

During the episode Fry is under the assumption that his brother had stolen his lucky 7 leaf clover and his name when he had gone missing. At the end of the episode it is revealed that he had actually named his son after him in one of the most moving scenes ever animated and the best use of “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds ever.

Scrubs – My Lunch

Dr. Cox orders transplants for three patients when a supply comes in. Unfortunately the organs are infected with rabies resulting in the disease being passed on to the three patients. For two of the patients, it’s not such as they would have died either way but the third could have waited another month for a transplant and Cox finally loses it. From the music to the acting, everything is perfect.

Scrubs – My Screw Up

In this episode, Dr. Cox’s best friend, and former brother in law, Ben experiences a re-emergence of his cancer. For the most of the episode it seems as though it finally went back into remission until this final scene where it becomes clear Dr. Cox has been living in denial.

Blackadder – Goodbyeee

Wow. This is it. The ultimate saddest ending of anything. Can’t help but notice that all of these have come from comedies. Strange that, maybe that’s why they are so affecting. These scenes are the opposite of what you normally expect from these programs.




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