Friday, 29 July 2011

Hey, got a minute?

I've been wondering what you guys think of the site, what you enjoy, what doesn't work for you so much, and also how you came to find Diary of a Genre Addict in the first place. I'd like to be in touch with you guys far more than I am, so let's start!

I've started a Diary of a Genre Addict Twitter account- @genreaddict - so @ reply me there, or leave a comment here!

You can also connect by checking out the Facebook page for my new novella, DEAD THING.

Hope to speak to you all soon :)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Unhinged (1982)

I've picked this flick up as part of my quest to check out as many of the notorious 'Video Nasties' as I can, from the list of previously banned films that caused a massive amount of controversy in the 1980s (See my review of Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide for more on this). I had heard that this, one of the lesser-known titles on the list, was a pretty standard slasher, but upon discovering a copy at the right price, thought I should add it to the shenanigans here.

It's an odd one, as even though you know you're watching a film, you can't really make out any discernable script, story, acting, direction or tension throughout much of it. The story is basic (well, basic now, but it was still kinda new at the time)- three pretty girls on their way to a jazz festival (excuse my tone, but since when did pretty 1980s girls like JAZZ?) end up in an accident and must take shelter in a creepy mansion populated by a strange family and their staff. Of course, it's only a matter of time before some lunatic starts running rampant with a scythe, and we see why Unhinged ended up on the DPP's Video Nasties list.

The cast are about as wooden as it gets, and stumble over the most simple of lines, the three lead girls seem to be little more than eye candy (considering the amount of time they spend out of their clothes), the plot is full of every spooky house and slasher cliché in the book and so on, yet the film is still fun to watch. There's a great atmosphere to this nice little slasher, exploitative as it is, and a lot of this atmosphere is down to the gloriously tacky synth soundtrack.

The film is packed with nice little tense scenes where the direction is stronger and the score is used well to build that tension further. When the gore comes, it's handled well considering the budget, and while offering little that many horror fans won't have seen before, Unhinged is a worthy addition to the horror connoisseur and completist's collection. It has everything the classic slasher needs- atmosphere, gore, skin, violence and a script it took five minutes to write, delivered by a cast that had only glanced at each page once.

Granted, it's about as cheesy as it gets, but the film is a great reminder of an age when horror films relied on more than jump cuts. Indeed, when the first bloody scene arrives, it has quite an impact after you've spent half an hour getting to know these cardboard-cutout characters, and is very effective. Then there's that notorious ending, which really does come out of nowhere and leaves you a little confused, but entertained nonetheless! Unhinged is a Video Nasty which isn't all that nasty, but it's entertaining and good late-night viewing for the discerning fan of old-school slasher films.

Monday, 25 July 2011

SDCC – How I Crave You

It's been that time of year again, when myself and millions of geeks just like me wander the hallowed halls of the internet to catch glimpses of the fun going on in San Diego at the yearly San Diego Comic Con, aka SDCC. Unfortunately, I am 4,000 miles away from where it takes place and have not yet been in a position to afford to go. Thus SDCC remains a magical land where magical things happen, and not the sweaty, crowded nerdocalypse that it apparently is. Quite frankly, I am so very jealous that I could weep.

I used to write for a once-massively-popular pop culture blog, which I loved dearly while it lasted, and every year I had to cover the SDCC madness from afar by finding out every last tidbit of information I could about the panels, the unveilings, the events, the trailers, the fan reactions and everything else. It was like some form of brutal torture, which ended, every damn year, with me and a bunch of friends promising each other we'd all go next year.

After a while we all kind of gave up on ever getting there, resigned to the eternal torment of watching SDCC unfold from afar via blogs, Tweets, photo streams and shaky phone videos on YouTube. Sure, this year saw a huge amount of live streaming video from the panels and suchlike, but that could never, ever replicate the feeling of being there.

I want to wander amongst the indie publishers, the dealers, the crowds of sweaty geeks. I want to be amongst my people in our place, that coming together of like-minded souls from all over the world. I want to be surrounded by Stormtroopers, Cosplayers, stars old and new, comics creators, people I have admired for most of my life and always feel a kinship with. I want to carry around one of those enormous bags for freebies.

I want to wear my collection of geeky t-shirts with pride amidst the people that understand instead of just nodding and humouring me. I want to be amongst you, SDCC crowd. I want to share stories and meet people, hand manuscripts to publishers who won't read them, spend too much money on stuff I don't need, scream and shout when glimpsing a hero from afar and generally make a fool of myself alongside people just like me.

There are plans for myself and my former house-mate to make the pilgrimage to San Diego one year, but that is still further away than I would like. Next year? I doubt it. The year after? Maybe. All I know is that the desire to go to SDCC and be part of it, even once, is as strong as it always was. Why is this? Well, if you don't understand its appeal, you'll probably never understand me or anyone like me. For the rest of us SDCC Wannabes; I feel your pain. I understand the yearning. How about we all meet up there someday? Guys and Girls, I'll see you at SDCC.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Trailer Park of Terror (2008)

With a title like that, you know pretty much what you're going to get, and depending on the sort of genre addict that you are, you're either gonna love this or hate it. Based on Imperium Comics' popular underground comic book series, Trailer Park of Terror is an absolute blast, mixing a bunch of classic horror tropes with some ridiculously fun sequences that give the flick the feel of The Evil Dead mixed with The Hills Have Eyes.

A bunch of troubled teens are being taken on a road trip by their pastor, and when they get stranded in a remote town in the wastes of the American desert, they take refuge in an apparently abandoned trailer park. Well, as long as you watch the first ten minutes of the film, you'll know that the trailer park didn't used to be abandoned, and when the kids find out just what lurks in those trailers, well, mayhem of the bloody variety ensues.

Zombies, violence, a demolition derby featuring zombies, an undead rock n' roll guitar player, man, you can tell it's from a comic, and it works damn well. The budget was modest, but everything onscreen looks great. There's some really nice cinematography going on in the film that took me rather by surprise, considering the subject matter.

The film is cheap and cheerful, but handled very well (and I do think it will gather a cult following as time progresses). The gore is nicely handled, and while very graphic it has that wonderful cartoony edge that stops it taking itself very seriously. The main characters of the troubled teenagers are actually surprisingly good, acting like the disturbed brats they're meant to be, but stepping up when the need arises.

As indie comics adaptations go, Trailer Park of Terror has to be one of the best in terms of fun and outrageous images (that guitar-playing zombie is going to take some beating in my eyes), and while it was never going to change the world, it'll certainly entertain those with a taste for crass humour, gory set-pieces, zombie hicks and strong nods to the 70s and 80s in terms of style. What's not to love?

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Coin Operated Childhood

I hate video games. Basically, you can take your myriad shiny consoles and stick them up Jabba's nasty place. It didn't used to be like this. There were halcyon days during which video games were the best thing in the world to me, but games and gaming have long since left me behind. It's not that I think they're particularly bad now, far from it, they're awe-inspiring things to behold and I'm sure they're a blast to play, but at this point in my life I have too much to do to be playing games for hours on end.

Now I like games that take a few minutes, just little filler games on my iPad or iPod Touch for killing a bit of time while waiting in a queue or whatever. That I can deal with. Major games now are too involved and complicated for me to care about. I know, they're brilliant, ground-breaking, engrossing etc, but I just don't have the time or the patience now.

Back in the day it was a different story, as the second I could get close to a proper video games arcade (remember them?), I would spend every penny I had in order to stand at those gorgeous machines. They were magical giant boxes of purest awesome, and there are a few that define parts of my childhood. A few of them stick out as being particularly wonderful, for different reasons.

The first is Moon Cresta, a scrolling spaceships-and-aliens game which was the only interesting thing about the 'Family Room' at the Norfolk Arms, a pub back home in Yorkshire that I spent far too much time in on weekends with my dad as a child. I checked out some videos of the game on YouTube recently and the music alone took me right back to those days thrashing at the joystick in frustration.

Another was Space Harrier, that classic sci-fi shoot 'em up, which when I was playing it, was set into a huge gyroscope that you would climb into, get strapped into, and be flung around and upside down as the game progressed. That was amazing. Pop culture related games soon took over my interest, with titles such as X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, Captain America and The Avengers and more sucking coins from my pockets.

Granted, I was rubbish at most of these games, but I had a ton of fun playing them, and am a little sad that there doesn't seem to be a great deal of actual fun in the games that are huge now. Am I viewing this era of video gaming through the rose-tinted kaleidoscope of nostalgia? Yes, I bloody am, and that's how I like it. Those games were superb and didn't take days or even weeks to play. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find an original Space Invaders table and weep over its beauty.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Yes, I Am Comic Book Guy

The Simpsons is a global phenomenon, we all know this, and while it can be patchy at its worst or jaw-dropingly wonderful at its best, it has to be said that the characters that populate Springfield are pretty close to the bone. You gotta love stereotypes. The thing is, we can see bits of ourselves in so many of those stereotypes that some characters become synonymous with us as people. I'm sure we all know a Homer or a Bart, but for me, I cannot escape the comparison to Comic Book Guy, that chubby, pony-tailed, bearded ubergeek that runs the Android's Dungeon.

Now, let me clarify, I'm not skinny, but I'm not fat. I have a shaven head rather than a ponytail. My girlfriend has threatened me with physical violence if I ever have a beard again (it wasn't pretty – it was 'A moth-eaten chin fringe' as my lady describes it). Aside from those points, I do cringe whenever Comic Book Guy shows up on The Simpsons because, well , it's me. I fear that somehow, Matt Groening saw inside my head or glimpsed my life and stuck it in Springfield.

I spent nine years of my adult life working in a comic store that I shopped religiously at as a child. Comics, geek merchandise and the whole way of life is in my blood. I blame my mum for taking me to see Return of the Jedi when it first came out back when I was an impressionable five-year-old. That's where it began. Then came Transformers, M.A.S.K., Masters of The Universe, The Centurions, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Visionaries and all of the other delights of the 80s.

There was no hope for me, really. I was always destined to end up working in a geek's paradise, and that's what I did. The thing is, the lifestyle inevitably leads to the development of sarcasm, a biting tone of voice and a blatant disregard for the opinions of others. When you find yourself on the business side of a comic book store counter, you develop the stoop and the attitude of our animated friend here, and before you know it, you're correcting people's references to old Star Trek episodes, X-Men lineups and 'Best Doctor Who Companion' lists while complaining that 'It was MINT before you opened it. Have you no respect?!'

I became one with trading cards, the term 'Bagged and Boarded' was a mantra, and it was perfectly normal for people to come up to me and ask in which run of the X-Men Emma Frost wore the least clothes. Jokes would be shared about the way Rob Liefeld would draw feet, or the constant gnashing of teeth on the covers of Image comics, or the subtext beneath the Kirk/Spock relationship. Ad nauseam. For nine years.

The thing is, it wasn't confined to my time working there. This is something I've spent my life doing, and I fear that one day soon I may well wake up bright yellow and complaining of the WORST... EPISODE... EVER! I tell myself I can break this cycle of geekery, I can be normal and sensible, I don't need to collect everything under the sun, but then sense hits me and I realize that, y'know, I'm perfectly happy with the fact that I am Comic Book Guy.

The store I worked in may be long gone now, but I can still feel the counter under my arms sometimes when I'm buying my fix of printed matter and someone misquotes the Green Lantern oath or argues about the age-old problem of who shot first- Han or Greedo? So now I embrace it. I know what the future has in store for me, and I am resigned to my fate as a cartoon character. Hell, that's how people have always seen me, anyway. I might as well enjoy it. Now get away from my comics and action figures, lest you sully them and reduce them from NM to VGC.

Monday, 11 July 2011

After.Life (2009)

I've been waiting ages to see this one. For a while now, After.Life has been one of those films I just never seem to get around to watching, but thanks to a couple of spare quid and an eBay account, I now own a copy and have given it a first viewing. I must say that, unlike a lot of people, I rather enjoyed it.

The film seems to have divided viewers in three ways. There are those that love it, those that hate it, and those that just didn't get it. I'm erring on the side of loving it, but not completely. I absolutely adore the premise, but the execution isn't perfect, thanks to a pacing issue here and there. On the whole though, it's well worth 95 minutes of your time if you like your horror to have a brain, as well as a cast that can actually act.

Toplined by Liam Neeson, Christina Ricci and Justin Long, After.Life tells the story of Anna (Ricci), a woman who is apparently killed in a car accident. She awakens on a slab, with funeral home director and all-round Creepy Bastard Eliot (Neeson) about to start preparing her for her own funeral! Thus begins a twisted psychological horror story with some seriously dark moments, plot twists, surprising amounts of nudity, inventive effects, an incredible atmosphere and lots of close-ups of Justin Long's nose (eh?).

There are times during After.Life where it feels as though you're watching a Guillermo Del Toro film, or a Shyalaman film that doesn't suck. The ambiguity of the ending and the differing states of consciousness during the movie all work in its favour, but it may be a little too cerebral and demanding for some viewers to deal with. I don't mean that in a derogatory sense, more the point that a lot of people may find it doesn't hold their attention as much as louder, more brash films do.

Personally I really liked the film, and was impressed with both Christina Ricci's chilling portrayal of a woman going rapidly insane due to her bizarre circumstances, and the wonderfully unnerving performance from Liam Neeson, who is able to cram so much expression into every line and every facial movement that he is as much a delight to watch in After.Life as anything else he has been in.

After.Life won't give you the answer to the riddle of what lies beyond death, but it will make you think, and provide you with a twisted psychological horror movie that won't have its powers dulled by time thanks to a timeless setting and execution. It does have its issues, such as a twist too many here and there and a middle act that goes on a little too long, but it's well made, well played, and well worth a look.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Wrong Turn (2003)

I love the Wrong Turn movies. As I see it, they continue a long tradition of stalk-and-slash movies that was really brought to the fore with the classic ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, which basically created the ‘Mutant Hicks chasing accidental victims in the middle of nowhere’ genre (you could also argue the same about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I feel Wes Craven’s original kicked it off properly). Wrong Turn is very much in the vein of those films, and this first one is the best of the three by far.

Featuring a starring turn from former Buffy The Vampire Slayer badass Eliza Dushku (who played the character of Faith in that massively popular series), the first Wrong Turn movie centres on six characters trapped in the woods of West Virginia, who must face off against mutated, inbred cannibals. Fun fun fun!

For all of its modern-day camera tricks, contemporary horror fx and cutting edge soundtrack, Wrong Turn is very much a child of the 1970s horror boom.

The characters aren’t all that well written, but they’re decent enough to care about most of them, and definitely Dushku’s Jessie character, who must become a reluctant badass in order to try and stay alive alongside the other characters.

For a film with such a basic premise, Wrong Turn is really well-shot and tightly directed by Rob Schmidt. The mutated hicks are cheesy but entertaining as the monstrous bad guys of the piece, and it does recreate the feeling of an old-school exploitation flick while never turning into a pastiche of the genre.

It was inevitable that a film with such a concise premise would spawn a coupe of cheap-ass sequels, but those cheapies are also fun in their own way. This first film is by far the best of the bunch, and Dushku is in full-on Faith mode as she yells and battles her way towards the end credits. Does she survive, or does her character take one wring turn too many? Watch it and find out, but don’t expect art. Expect entertainment. Messy entertainment.

Diary: The Sucker Punch Soundtrack Has Serious Clout

Yeah, I know opinion was wildly divided on Sucker Punch, but I loved the film, and the soundtrack possibly even moreso. The songs were perfectly chosen, the remixes and covers extremely well made and very much in the spirit of the visuals. It's a soundtrack that really conjures a mood and is awesome to write to. Check out Emily Browning's version of the Eurhythmics classic 'Sweet Dreams' below:

It's fantastic, and evokes many of the film's stunning visuals every time I hear it. Even if you hated Zack Snyder's film, I implore you to check out the soundtrack, if only to hear Bjork/Skunk Anansie's insane mashup of 'Army of Me'. Now, if the OST had been longer than just nine tracks, it would have had even more clout. Right, I'm off to go and look for giant robotic Samurai.

Diary: Zombies Going Boom

I had a few hours to kill in the flat yesterday morning while waiting for a parcel to arrive, and as such I indulged in one of my many guilty pleasures. Wait, no, not THAT, you filthy minded urchin. I watched the first two Resident Evil movies (Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Apocalypse) back to back. I love that series of cheesy, noisy, pointless flicks so much. They’re just good fun, with no pretentions of being anything other than entertainment.

Sure, they have little resemblance to the famous games they were based on, but I couldn’t give a crap, as I’m not a video games fan. I like movies, books, music and comics, so the source material’s lack of presence in the four (so far) Resident Evil movies didn’t bother me.

Neither does the omnipresent Milla Jovovich, as she seems to be having so much fun making these things. That’s something it’s nigh on impossible to fake. While they’re daft and immature, the Resident Evil movies were clearly a blast to make, and you know what? They’re even more of a blast to watch.

Give in to those guilty pleasures and have some fun with your films. I think I’ll have to follow this up next time I get a free morning by watching Extinction and Afterlife back to back. I mean, a day always gets off to a good start when you’ve been watching Zombies going BOOM.