Seven times 007: Sir Roger Moore passed away today


Ours is the loneliest profession, Mr. Bond. So uttered classic villain Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee in one of his best performances) in 1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun. He was talking to Roger Moore, of course, who sadly passed away earlier today after a short illness.

Moore played the suave British Secret Service agent 007 seven times across a 12-year span, starring in some of the best known Bond films such as Live and Let Die (1973, Moore’s first appearance in the series), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), and A View to a Kill (1985, his last Bond performance.)

Moore’s take on Ian Fleming’s best known character departed somewhat from the novels’ traditional canon, and differed significantly from Sean Connery’s portrayal. Connery, in fact, was particularly vocal in his criticism about his successor in the part.

Moore’s Bond had a more debonair, almost playboy-ish way about him. These new traits were perhaps designed to conform to the changing tastes of cinema audiences throughout the 70s and 80s, but nevertheless, it became a polarizing issue. He was nonetheless voted as Best Bond in an 2004 Academy Awards poll.

Moore was already well known even before he was offered the part of 007, due to his role as rogue-ish, charming, Robin Hood-esque criminal Simon Templar in The Saint. Based on the long-running book series by Leslie Charteris, The Saint
ran for six series on TV, starting in 1962, and featuring 118 episodes in total. Aside from playing the main character, Moore also produced and even directed some of the episodes. Later, Moore would incorporate some of Templar’s traits and nuances into his portrayal of 007.

Beyond Bond, Moore enjoyed a remarkable film career in his own right. He played tormented city worker Harold Pelham in The Man who Haunted Himself (1970), for instance. Though the film was not successful at the box office, it remained a favorite of Moore’s, by his own admission, and has earned a cult following over the years. Moore also played a significant part in the military-themed The Wild Geese (1978), and featured in many more films.

Off camera, Moore went through a couple of well publicized marriages, two of which ended in tempestuous divorces. He also had several health scares in later years. Moore was diagnosed with prostate cancer back in 1993, and underwent successful surgery. He suffered pneumonia in 2012 and was left bedridden for weeks.

Roger Moore passed away peacefully earlier today, aged 89, after a short battle with cancer. He leaves behind an immortal legacy as a somewhat divisive James Bond, for sure, and he will always be remembered as Simon Templar, the ‘good’ criminal from the classic TV series The Saint.

Rest in peace.

Alien: Covenant review


Photo credit: Fox

Of neomorphs and duplicitous synthetics

There is a moment in Alien: Covenant when David, after having taught his synthetic counterpart Walter how to play the flute earlier, hears him play a tune. David walks in and says “Whistle, and I’ll come.’

This is of course a reference to the classic ghost story ‘Whistle and I’ll come, my lad,‘ by English author M.R. James. Such reference is bound to be missed by all but the most hardcore of horror & classic literature fans, but it is a shining moment in the somewhat derivative and cliche-ridden script that underlies the latest chapter in the long running Alien story arc.

Covenant‘s main flaw is that a ‘seen-it-all-before’ sense pervades the entire movie. From the opening credits (a revisit of Alien’s original piecemeal lettering credits), to the final 20 odd minutes (a shameless reimagining of the classic final showdown scene in Aliens, where Ripley kicks the Alien Queen’s spiky ass with a Power Loader, replaced with a loading crane here), we can’t help by feeling that it’s all been done before. Scott played it safe, and used (perhaps overused) the most recognizable moments of the movie’s predecessors to convey his own story.

Bar Walter/David (by far the most interesting thing about Covenant), the characters here are unashamedly one-dimensional. Alien fodder, if you will, to be gruesomely dispatched one by one to whittle down the crew to the Final Girl (Daniels, played with great talent and intent by Katherine Ross). There are attempts to imbue some characters with an extra layer of depth. Oram, for instance, is a religious man (which is why the Company did not allow him to lead the mission, as his religious views might cloud his judgment). This also serves as a conversation point between him and David, after we learn of David’d activities since landing on this planet. But by and large, the crew is there to be offed by the alien creatures, deemed ‘neomorphs’ here. If you are seasoned enough, you can almost tell the order which they will each die in.

Covenant is full of common tropes of the horror genre, down to the ‘sex equals death’ one. I mean, when are people going to learn that nookie in deep space with an alien menace lurking around probably won’t end well. One could safely replace the classic line with ‘In space, no one can hear you come,’ (cause you will die before you do.)

We have touched upon the Walter/David duality, both roles played flawlessly by the solid Michael Fassbender.

As Walter, he is the Bishop-type. A synthetic tasked with looking after the ship and its crew, and prevent either from coming to harm. Crucially, this new-generation synthetic is purposely devoid of the willingness and ability to learn, instead being consigned to serve its masters and creators. David remarks upon this point during one of the movie’s best scenes, and a rather intimate one, too, as David teaches Walter to play the flute (I’ll do the fingering, David says,) while Walter blows down the pipe.

We also learn about the fate of Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, from Prometheus, and what happened when the Juggernaut reached the Engineers homeworld. David has been up to no good.

But Covenant’s most critical flaw is its final twist, which you can see coming from about the movie’s halfway point. It won’t be revealed here, but think of the switcheroo, and you won’t be far from the truth.

Overall, Covenant is a solid, if somewhat cliched alien-by-the-numbers yarn. It is much more cohesive than Prometheus’ disjointed proposition for sure. But it is also not a huge departure from the series as Aliens was to Alien, for example, which turned out quite the better for it. David Fincher’s Alien 3 attempted to be different and ended up disappointing because of immense production troubles, and the less said about Alien: Resurrection the better. Not even the presence of the wonderfully underrated Brad Dourif could save it from imploding.

Covenant’s ending nicely sets up the next instalment (sequel to Covenant, prequel to Alien), provisionally called ‘Alien: Awakening.

We might see something different by then. For now, it’s alien business as usual.

The death of a comedy icon: Gene Wilder passes away aged 83


“It’s pronounced “Fronkensteen”, Gene Wilder matter-of-factly advised Marty Feldman, early in the comedy classic ‘Young Frankenstein.’

One of many genius moments brought to life by the iconic and legendary actor and comedian Gene Wilder, who sadly passed away yesterday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83 years of age.

Born Jerome Silberman, Wilder began studying acting at the age of 12. He would go on to have a long and outstanding career in Hollywood and elsewhere, though his debut was actually in an Off Broadway play, ‘Roots.’

He struck up a friendship with Mel Brooks back in 1963, and such liaison would lead to Wilder’s most successful work in comedy classics such as ‘The Producers (1967),’ ‘Blazing Saddles (1974),’ and of course, ‘Young Frankenstein (1974).’ This was Wilder’s heyday, and though he did some good work in later years, specially alongside fellow comedian Richard Pryor, he arguably never reached such heights again.

His last acting work was back in 2002-2003, in two episodes of the sitcom ‘Will and Grace.’

And so the lovable actor who also brought rogue chocolate factory owner Willy Wonka to life says goodbye forever.
Wilder is survived by his fourth wife Karen Boyer, whom he married in 1991, and his nephew. His sister Corinne, predeceased him in January 2016.

Tragic: Hollywood actor Anton Yelchin dies in freak car accident at the age of 27


Some tragic news this morning, as it has been confirmed that 27-year-old actor Anton Yelchin has passed away after a freak accident involving his own vehicle.

Yelchin, who starred in movies such as the cult horror flick Green Room, Terminator: Salvation, and the Fright Night remake, was found pinned by his car against a pillar in the driveway of his home on Sunday morning. It is understood that the young actor got out of the car momentarily, and the vehicle rolled back, trapping him. It is not known why Yelchin moved behind the car.

An only child, Yelchin was born in Russia in 1989. His parents, both professional figure skaters, brought him to the US as a baby.

He was perhaps best known for playing the role of engineer Pavel Chekov of the USS Enterprise in the hugely successful reboot of the Star Trek franchise, the third installment of which is due out in July this year.

Tributes have been pouring for the young star since news of his death first broke.

Top 5 movies for Summer ’16


It has been a long, cold winter around the Emerald Island, hasn’t it. The long December evenings were dull and dreary, and every new storm hitting the country added that little bit of misery to already sodden and storm-weary souls.

Evenings are steadily becoming brighter and longer now though, and with a little bit of luck, Summer ’16 will bring some decent heat and lasting sunshine. Here’s hoping anyway.

The arrival of summer always heralds two things; regular runs from the ice cream van, and movie blockbusters. There’s a good few films looming large in the horizon, and this summer promises to yield quite a few big hitters.
Here’s a rundown of five selected summer 16 blockbusters. All these movies will premiere in Ireland between June 1 and July 30 2016.


Opens on: June 10

Are you a gamer? The kind with a pallid complexion, who spends nights on end battling orcs in the world of Azeroth? Even if you’re nothing of the sort, you’re likely to have heard of Warcraft.

Originally released for PC (in DOS version, if you’re old enough to remember what that is) way back in 1994, Warcraft took the gaming world by storm. Over the years, several sequels, expansion packs, novels, and all kinds of Warcraft-related merchandise and memorabilia has flooded the market.

A Warcraft movie was thus inevitable, really, but the technology to bring such epic fantasy world to life just wasn’t there at the time.

Warcraft: The Beginning, as its international release title reads, is based on the conflict between Orcs and humans, two opposing races with very different motivations to fight each other.
As its moniker indicates, it is intended to be the first movie in a new franchise. Whether it’s financially successful enough to warrant it remains to be seen.

Warcraft: The Beginning is one for the younger generation, perhaps, though fans of epic fantasy in general could do a lot worse.

The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Experiment

Opens on: June 10

The first Conjuring movie introduced paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga respectively. In 2013’s The Conjuring, the Warren duo investigate a series of paranormal events taking place at a farmhouse in Rhode Island. It did moderately well at the box office, and was well received critically.

The inevitable sequel is almost upon us. Now, the Warrens travel to the United Kingdom, where a little girl living in a council house in Enfield is being plagued by supernatural occurrences.

The film takes its inspiration from the ‘true’ events of the Enfield case, which took place in the London Borough of Enfield from 1977 to 1979. The alleged haunting involved two young girls, aged 11 and 13, living in their mother’s council house.

Independence Day: Resurgence

Opens on: June 24

One of the big names of the summer, the sequel to the 1996 mega-hit Independence Day promises to deliver more of the same alien whoop-ass action, but probably louder, with a higher alien body count, and a hell of a lot more expensive.
Roland Emmerich takes the helm again, and though Will Smith will not feature this time round (he asked for too big a salary, if the rumours are to be believed), we do get Jeff Goldblum reprising his role of smart and slightly nerdy David Levinson, a satellite expert cum world savior, and Bill Pullman as President Whitmore. Liam Hemsworth of The Hunger Games fame joins the cast.

Independence Day: Resurgence takes place two decades after the original invasion attempt.
In the intervening years, the world has been largely rebuilt, and a brand new Earth Space Defence system, constructed with salvaged alien technology, now protects the planet against any extraterrestrial menace.

However, the invading aliens had been able to send a distress signal to their home planet before their final defeat, and a much larger battle fleet is on its way to finish Earth off.

In the first movie, the alien crafts packed an energy weapon that could devastate entire cities with a single blast. In Resurgence, the newer fleet uses some sort of anti-gravity piece of kit that can uproot a whole city and hurl it upwards into oblivion. How the good guys defend against this new hardware remains unclear.

What it’s pretty clear is that Resurgence will give you more bang for your buck, and if you liked the first one, with its cheesy one-liners, paper thin plot and even thinner characters, you are likely to fall head over heels with its sequel.
The original Independence Day became the first movie ever to make 100m bucks in a single week. Resurgence will likely top that, and then some.

And did I mention that Resurgence is but the middle chapter in a planned trilogy?


Opens on July 15

It was the summer of 1984 when the smash hit Ghostbusters hit the screens worldwide.

A supernatural comedy of sorts, Ghostbusters brought together the talents of comedian Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, a veteran from Saturday Night Live, and fellow comedian Harold Ramis, as a trio of eccentric parapsychology students who get more than their bargained for after starting a ghost-trapping business.

The movie exploded worldwide, going on to make in the region of $600m at the box office. It got nominated for two Oscars, Best Visual Effects and Best Original Song (who could forget such iconic tune?), but lost in both counts.
Ghostbusters kickstarted a franchise, and a sequel, Ghostbusters II, was released in 1989. Two cartoon TV series followed, with video games and other media also launched over the years.

Now, in 2016, we’ll see a reboot of the series with an all-female cast; Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones will pick up the ghost-catching duties in this one, with Chris Hemsworth thrown in for eye-candy.

Plot wise is a rather standard fare. Four women from different backgrounds join forces against a supernatural entity that can exert control over humans. Not the most original or exciting of premises. Slime, the green blobby ghost is sure to put an appearance, if only for nostalgia value.

The trailer, released only three weeks ago, was viewed about 24 million times in 24 hours. It received mixed reviews, however, and it remains to be seen whether the movie simply hopes to cash in on the pull and undisputed charm of the original, or can it stand in its own right.

Jason Bourne

Opens on: July 29

The Bourne franchise kicked off back in 2002, would you believe, with now classic action thriller The Bourne Identity. Matt Damon took up the role of Jason Bourne, an operative working for a shady covert agency called Treadstone. Problem is, Bourne does not remember who he is or why people are trying to kill him, so he is forced to fight his way through assassins and other threats to find out the truth.

Based on material written by American author Robert Ludlum, The Bourne series would go on to meet great commercial success, at least the films with Matt Damon as the eponymous agent. The Bourne Legacy, a misguided reboot attempt with Jeremy Renner playing a Bourne-like operative, did not fare so well.

This summer, a new Bourne movie, succinctly titled Jason Bourne, will hit the screens towards the end of July. Matt Damon is back in the lead role, as is Julia Stiles as CIA worker Nicky Parsons. Veteran actor Tommy Lee Jones also joins the cast as a yet unnamed high ranking CIA boss.

The three Bourne movies with Matt Damon have so far grossed nearly $1 billion worldwide, and this latest sequel is sure not to disappoint fans of the series.

And that’s all she wrote. Something for everybody.


Star Wars: The legacy of The Force


Today, anything (anything) that carries the Star Wars logo sells like hotcakes. Officially licensed products flood the market, from Lego sets to coffee mugs, and everything in between. Any item that may become an object of merchandise, it surely will. And it will sell, again, and again, and again. Star Wars, in fact, single-handedly kick-started the movie merchandise business. And business is good.

And so they roll, the Star Wars dollars. The latest installment of the long-running saga, The Force Awakens, is well on its way to become the most financially successful movie, ever, effortlessly flicking away the previous chart-toppers, film titans Avatar and Titanic, without so much as a hint of remorse.

Yet, the saga’s humble beginnings took place indeed a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far removed from the current mighty glory.

American Graffiti and The Star Wars

Shortly after graduating from the University of Southern California (USC), George Lucas co-founded American Zoetrope with fellow film maker Francis Ford Coppola. Lucas wrote and directed THX 1138 (1971), a futuristic tale which received critical acclaim, but was a financial flop. He next directed the seminal American Graffiti, released by Universal Studios in 1973. American Graffiti would receive five Academy nominations, including Best Picture.

Universal Studios had actually hired Lucas for a two-movie contract, and thus Lucas began working on a new project, an epic space opera tentatively dubbed The Star Wars. Lucas didn’t know it yet, but two of those letters would forever alter the cinematographic landscape worldwide, and make him personally a very, very wealthy man.

Nevertheless, the project was almost stillborn.

Fresh from American Graffiti‘s commercial success, George Lucas actually considered retiring from film making altogether, as he felt the writing and directing process took a heavy personal toll on him. Still, harkening back to THX-1138, a movie about a grim, dehumanized world, sort of spurred Lucas on to embark on a new journey.
Taking influence from diverse sources, such as Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, and the 1930’s serial Flash Gordon, Lucas originally envisioned The Star Wars as a self-contained film, rather than a long-running saga. However, as he undertook the writing of the story, he quickly realized that the material could be greatly expanded far beyond one single film.

Still, the first draft was indeed rough. The story was contrived and convoluted, very difficult to understand. And Lucas’s poor grammar did not do it any favors, either. Altogether, Lucas wrote four major drafts for The Star Wars project, each expanding on the previous one, and making substantial alterations as he went along. Luke Starkiller became Luke Skywalker, The Imperial Space Force morphed into the Empire. The Jedi appeared, and The Star Wars dropped the article to become simply Star Wars. Slowly, all elements fell into place.

But despite his best efforts, the movie proved a hard sell. Lucas pitched the idea to United Artists and Universal Pictures; in a decision that would prove ill-advised, both refused. United Artists in fact ceased to exist as a film studio shortly after the release of Star Wars, due to the catastrophic failure of Heaven’s Gate (1980). Finally, Lucas went to Twentieth Century Fox.

They bought it, and history was made.

Filming the monster

From the outset, Star Wars proved incredibly difficult to put together. Lucas’ vision for a grandiose and epic sci-fi opera far surpassed the technical capabilities of the era (this was in the mid-seventies, remember, way before the advent of CGI and computer-aided cinematography.) The director soon realized that he had a monster in his hands, one that would take a heavy toll on him after months of gruelling filming and editing work.

The special effects required for Star Wars would turn out to be a constant source of pain and frustration for Lucas and his team. For starters, shortly after Fox accepted to make the movie, Lucas learned that the studio’s special effects department no longer existed. Hence, he created his own, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), a division of his own production company, Lucasfilm.

Yet, ILM would go from one challenge to another, as the team struggled to make things work the way Lucas wanted. George, always a man with little tolerance for failure, would not accept technical limitations. He believed the special effects would work by his sheer determination to make them so, though this proved a fallacy more often than not.
At the beginning, the spaceships would be little more that plastic models on strings. The planets, moons, etc. depicted on the movie were actually painted balls, and if you think that the escape pod used by the droids to blast off the Tantive IV frigate looks like two buckets of paint, that’s because it was made out of the halves of two paint buckets glued together and painted over.

Indeed, for a test screening for studio execs, stock footage of WW2 aircraft was actually used, simply because ILM could not produce anything workable at the time. The studio people were aghast, and came out believing that the project would be a monumental flop.

The actors hired did not fare much better. Because of the fractured nature of the filming process, scenes were shot in a random order, often without any sense of what the actual storyline was, and with Lucas making constant changes. Lucas himself often treated his actors with open disdain. His directions would often be limited to “faster” or “more intense”. At the time when Lucas lost his voice during filming, the actors actually gave him two hand written signs with those commands printed, in an act of open rebellion. The firm belief that Star Wars would be the last movie they would ever make slowly set in among cast and crew.

At one point, Lucas would work a grueling 12 or 14 hours day to get the movie editing done on time. The man swore that if he ever did manage to complete Star Wars, he’d never film another shot, ever again. He began suffering hypertension due to the immense pressure he was under, and had to be temporarily checked into hospital for rehabilitation.

To make matters worse, Lucas showed an early cut of the film to a few colleagues, Steven Spielberg and Brian de Palma among them. Reportedly, Brian de Palma spent most of the time laughing at what he considered to be the “worst movie ever.” Spielberg however, more optimistic, did accurately predict that Star Wars would make millions of dollars.

It was in this panorama of uncertainty that Lucas finished the movie. Yet, utterly convinced that it would be a massive flop that would effectively end his career, he went on holidays to Hawaii with his pal Steven Spielberg, instead of attending the movie’s premiere. During this holiday break, both men would come up with the basic premise which would go on to become Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

Fox’s people also believed the movie would be a total flop, and in fact almost sold their stake in the film, to minimize losses. However, this decision was reversed at the 11th hour.

Then, Star Wars premiered for the general public on May 25, 1977.

And the rest, as they say, it’s history.

The Star Wars legacy

From humble beginnings, and largely driven by Lucas’ determination, Star Wars soon became a worldwide phenomenon.

The film was originally shown in just 32 cinemas across America. Back in those days of 1977, pre-release marketing of a movie was virtually unheard of. Nevertheless, it soon became apparent that Fox had a massive success in their hands. Indeed, the studio’s stock value more than doubled within weeks of the film’s release. And by the time the movie reached European shores around Christmas of that year, Star Wars was well on its way to become the phenomenon that it is today.

Its cultural and cinematographic legacy cannot be denied. Apart from becoming a seemingly inexhaustible cash cow and single-handedly creating the movie merchandise business, Star Wars heralded what some believe to be the golden era of science fiction. George Lucas’ tale of a young, idealistic boy’s quest across an universe populated with bounty hunters, beautiful princesses, and evil Imperial forces, wetted the world’s appetite for all things sci-fi
Battlestar Galactica (1978), for instance, would likely not have existed had it not been for the phenomenal success of Star Wars. The seminal Blade Runner and The Thing were released in 1982, along with the more family-oriented Tron and E.T. The latter would actually topple Star Wars as the highest grossing movie ever, albeit only temporarily. Star Wars would retake the crown after its re-mastered re-release in 1997.

A myriad films would attempt (and mostly fail) to capitalize on Star Wars’ success. Hundreds of low budget sci-fi flick would flood the market. Some would gain some notoriety; The last Starfighter (1984), Dune (1984),  and Enemy Mine (1985), an update of Hell in the Pacific (1968), to name but a few.

Others would become great successes; The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), both from the creative mind of James Cameron, though The Terminator did borrow some ideas from Harlan Ellison’s short story ‘Soldier.’ Ellison in fact sued The Terminator‘s producing company, Hemdale, and its distributor, Orion Pictures, for plagiarism. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount, and Cameron was forced to add an acknowledgement to Ellison’s story in subsequent prints of the movie.

Today, Star Wars reigns king among kings. Its iconic music, opening crawl, its characters, and its mythology have long since entered into the fabric of society.

And with Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) heralding the arrival of a new trilogy, the myth is still going strong.

Netflix horror: Six of the best


The Season of the Pumpkin’s fast approaching, and those long October evenings ahead offer the perfect opportunity to fire up Netflix and enjoy some good ole’ horror yarns.

Admittedly, Netflix’s current horror catalogue is rather sparse, and kinda hit and miss. Some of the genre’s true classics are strangely missing. The Exorcist (1973), for instance, or any instalment of the Nightmare of Elm Street or Friday the 13th franchises are conspicuously absent from the streaming service, reasons unknown.

But if you’re not too choosy about your horror, there’s still something there for you. Netflix currently holds 174 titles listed as “horror”, so go and take your pick.

It’s beyond the scope of this piece to list and review every single item on Netflix’s horror catalogue, so here’s my pick for you.

The Mist (2007)

When it comes to cinematographic adaptations arising from Stephen King stories, the results range from the mildly competent to the truly dire. There are a few shining exceptions to this rule, however. Misery (1990), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and the TV adaptation of Salem’s Lot (1979) readily spring to mind.

And to a somewhat lesser degree, The Mist (2007) also ticks all the right boxes. The Mist is based on an eponymous novella by the famous American writer. Its premise is simple enough; a severe thunderstorm knocks out power in the town of Bridgton, Maine. A bunch of townsfolk gather at the local supermarket to pick up supplies, when suddenly an unearthly mist envelops the outside of the premises. It soon transpires that there is something deadly hiding within that mist, and tensions among the survivors locked inside the supermarket soon rise.

Apart from the horror elements, the dynamics and interaction of people under duress became one of the movie’s central themes. Out of all the recent Stephen King’s adaptations, The Mist certainly stands out. And the movie’s ending is worth the entry price alone.

Scream (1996)

Slasher movies were once a dime a dozen. The late 70s and 80s in particular were rife with gratuitous blood and gore, often just for the pure gross-out factor sake. Then, towards the early 90s, thirst for such cheap thrills seemed to wane among cinema-goers, and the genre fell into somewhat of a lull.

Then, near the end of the decade, the late Wes Craven rebooted the slasher movie genre with a bang. Scream (1996) hit the right chords with audiences and went on to become a huge box-office success, earning $173m worldwide. In fact, it became the highest-grossing slasher film in the US, ever.

Partly inspired by the real life events surrounding the Gainesville Ripper, Scream follows the exploits of a masked killer in a “whodunit” fashion. The film was considered somewhat unique at the time, due to the characters’ awareness of real horror films and their attempts to discuss certain horror cliches which Scream itself featured.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

If you’re into werewolves and the British countryside, this gem is most definitely for you. Beautifully shot around the misty moors of Surrey and Wales, An American… kicks off with two backpacking friends, David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) getting off a cattle truck in a country road in England. The man who gave them a lift points them in the direction of a village called East Proctor, and warns them to stay on the roads and avoid the moors.

Later that evening, they arrive at a pub named “The Slaughtered lamb”, and after a seemingly warm initial welcome by the locals, things quickly turn awkward and they are forced to leave the premises. Before they go, one of the locals tells them to “stay on the road, and beware of the full moon.’ Later that night, David and Jack wander off the road and are attacked by a large creature. Jack is killed, and David is left unconscious and in shock.

While recovering, David begins experiencing horrific visions, and his dead friend Jack pays him several visits, warning him that he will transform at the next full moon. And indeed David does transform into a werewolf, in a fantastically engaging special effects sequence which rightly earned Rick Baker an Oscar for his outstanding achievement in the pre-CGI era.

An American Werewolf in London may be an oldie, but it is certainly a goldie for horror fans.

The Babadook (2014)

The most recent entry in our pick list, The Babadook is an Australian-Canadian psychological horror film about a grieving widow after her husband’s violent death, and her six-year-old son, Sam, who suffers from nightmares of a monster lurking around their house. A strange storybook called The Babadook finds its way into the home, and Sam becomes convinced that it is the monster he’s been dreaming about.

The Babadook was made on a rather tight budget (partly financed in fact by a Kickstarter campaign), but the movie’s quality and impact proved yet again that big bucks is not a guarantee for success. The film features very strong performances from Australian actress Essie Davis in

the role of Amelia, the troubled widow, and child actor Benjamin Winspear as her son Samuel.

Below (2002)

This one is a bit of a personal niche, I admit. If you’re into World War 2 stuff, the supernatural, and submarine warfare, Below is definitely for you. Else, you might want to steer clear for more mainstream horror.

At is core, Below is a haunted house film, only set in a World War 2 sub, the USS Tiger Shark. A neat idea. Plenty of claustrophobic thrills abound as strange happenings seem to kill off its crew at an alarming rate. Is the boat haunted? What happened during the Tiger Shark’s last mission?

If you wish to find out, go and watch Below now. An interesting piece of trivia, the movie’s director, David Twohy, found far more success with its previous movie “Pitch Black (2000)”, where he introduced the character of the Furyan warrior Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) to the world.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Found footage movies were still a relative novelty near the turn of the last century. However, if one looks back far back enough, 1980’s hugely controversial Cannibal Holocaust did arguably kickstart the sub-genre.

What nobody can deny is that The Blair Witch Project (1999) did introduce the “found footage” theme to the masses, not to mention its huge financial success at the box office.

Made by a bunch of amateurs on a truly shoestring budget of about $35,000, the movie went on to make nearly $250m worldwide.

The Blair Witch Project tells the story of three student filmmakers who disappeared while hiking in the Black Hills of Maryland while working on a documentary about a local legend, the Blair Witch. The audience is informed that although the three were never seen or heard from again, the footage they are about to watch is their “found footage.”

The Blair Witch’s phenomenal success is another fine example that good and honest film making does not require a massive budget to create a classic.

And that is it. Sit down in front of the telly, choose your pick, and enjoy.

Halloween’s influence on the slasher movie genre


We approach the season of the Pumpkinhead. As winter looms, an army of ghouls and ghosts run amok around housing estates the country over. It is the time of year when the darker side of ourselves takes over, and we become someone else for a few delightful hours.

Halloween is a time of catharsis, of transformation. Of rebirth, even. Ànd back in 1978, John Carpenter’s Halloween heralded a new era for the so-called slasher genre.

In Halloween’s mythos, the Illinois town of Haddonfield becomes the hunting ground for Michael Myers, a psychopath escaped from a psychiatric institution. Soon, our killer begins stalking high school student Laurie Strode (played by a very young Jamie Lee Curtis), and serial killing of Laurie’s circle of teenage friends soon ensues. A pretty hackneyed set of ideas and conventions by today’s standards. But back in 1978, Halloween came out of nowwhere to shock and scare a great deal of cinema goers.

Made on a budget of around $300,000, Halloween went on to earn $47m at the box office in the United States alone, and around $70m worldwide, which equates to about $250m in 2014 money. This high grossing made it one of the most financially successful independent films ever released.

What is more pertinent to this article, however, is that Halloween set in stone the rules, conventions, and more common tropes of the slasher genre; the masked killer who gruesomely slays anyone who gets in his way, the scantily-clad, sex-crazed teenagers, plenty blood and guts, the so-called “final girl”, and the eventual demise of the perpetrator, which almost invariably is never final and always leads to sequel after sequel of continued bloodbath.

Throughout the 70s, 80s, and beyond, slasher movies were a dime a dozen. You have the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, for instance, with innumerable sequels, reboots, and imitations. The European market soon caught on to the craze, and Italy in particular, began producing its own version of slasher films called giallo, where over-the-top blood and gore were disgustingly common features.

To understand the slasher genre however, we must cast our minds back a little further back in time. Enter Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal film Psycho (1960). Considered one of the earliest examples of the often-derided genre, Psycho deeply revolutionized American cinema. It set new standards in terms of acceptable level of on-screen violence, for example, and put the character of the odd, loner, soft spoken, and seemingly harmless psychopath into the minds of movie audiences the world over. An Anthony Perkins at the top of his game played the part of Norman Bates with passionate aplomb. A lonely and almost child-like character controlled by his unseen mother, who in the end is revealed to have been kept as a mummified corpse in the basement, with Bates himself committing all the heinous crimes disguised as her. Psycho was based on the eponymous book by Robert Bloch, which itself was loosely inspired by the true events surrounding real-life killer Ed Gein. The life and exploits of Ed Gein would later become the inspiration for another icon of the horror genre, Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

The slasher movie works because it appeals to a basic human fear, that of being singled out and hunted by an anonymous and merciless killer.
Most, if not all of these mass murderers either wear a mask or are horribly disfigured to further dehumanize the character behind the savage acts of violence. The scare factor goes up to ten when the killer is more a thing than an actual human being. Thus, being confronted by a faceless murderer often implies the externalization of most people’s deepest fears; anymous, lonely (remember, most slasher victims die alone), and sudden death.

Slasher movies also prey on people’s lowest common denominator, of course. That of pure voyeuristic delight in witnessing these unholy acts of murder and maiming that go against all that we have been told is right and proper. Some critics believe slasher movies are profoundly mysoginistic, though such connotation is up for debate. Most movies cater for both male and female victims, after all, though the opposite is not true; almost all of slasher killers are male. Only in very few ocassions the killer turns out to be a female. Alice, Sweet Alice (1976) and Bleed (2002) being two of a very few exceptions to this rule.

But back to the film that arguably started it all (though Alice… actually predates it by two years), Halloween took the lead in an onslaught of new American cinema, cementing the career of its director, John Carpenter, and ensuring the longevity of a genre that has produced as many gems as it has churned OUT frankly embarrassing and gratuitous efforts.

The slasher movie, though somewhat fallen out of grace as of late in favor of mass-appeal blockbusters, nevertheless lives on in DVD collections the world over, and its most iconic figures endure a quasi-legendary status in the minds of an army of die-hard fans.

Ardmore Studios: Cinematic dreams on the way to Limerick



Lights, camera, action. The old mantra from the world of celluloid illusions might soon be heard loud and clear here in Limerick city. Film addicts and cinema buffs alike may see their dreams of a film studio sited in their locality realized if Innovate Limerick, a company set up by Limerick City and County Council, gets its way.

For you see, Ardmore Studios, currently headquartered in Bray, Wicklow is running out of space, and it is looking to expand right here in our own very doorstep. The company’s eyeing up a gigantic 33,445sq metres (that’s about 340,000 square feet) building unit at Plassey Technological Park to fulfill its need for further studio space. That particular building was formerly occupied by Dell, and further back in yonder years, Wang Computers. The site was purchased by Limerick businessman PJ Noonan 12 years ago, and was leased to Limerick City of Culture last year as a dedicated events venue.

Ardmore Studios opened way back in 1958, and has evolved in sync with the times ever since. The studio has played host to a large number of productions over the years, both foreign and domestic. From episodes of Fair City to Braveheart and the stylish Excalibur, Ardmore is no stranger to fame and notoriety in the international circles.

Limerick is a city of many facets, but one that is sorely lacking is the presence of a large TV and cinema studio, one facility that can breathe life into the dreams of many, one focal point that can act as catalyst to spark the collective imagination of cinema fans the city over. It’s not for lack of local talent, mind you. The likes of Richard Harris, Liam Redmond, and Daragh O’Malley were all locally born and bred. And there is a wide array of amateur actors and filmmakers out there, scoping out projects, showcasing their stuff, hoping to make it big.

Furthermore, the city of Limerick enjoys great connectivity to the wider world; Shannon airport is only a stone throw away, and with comprehensive rail and bus links to the rest of the country, business trips in and out of Ireland would be a breeze.

The former Dell building is almost purpose-built for the job. While building a studio facility from scratch would take years, the mammoth size and roof height of the erstwhile manufacturing plant could be readily transformed into a dream factory in a matter of months, if not shorter.

The financial boost to the city in terms of jobs and the general economy cannot be underestimated. The studio itself would create about 750 new jobs, with many other ancillary jobs coming onstream in its wake; catering companies, supplies, entertainment, you name it. Limerick would get a new lease of life.

Besides, rumour has it that representatives from a major US film company have recently visited Ireland, looking for a studio to shoot a production early in 2016, and Limerick would be very much in their sights if the Ardmore expansion comes to pass.

We all hope for a rebirth of a city that has been being in somewhat of a decline over the last few years. Ever since the financial crash hit Irish shores, Limerick, as many other towns and cities across the country, has suffered badly in terms of unemployment and financial hardship. The arrival of a large and seasoned studio like Ardmore might herald the onset of a new epoch for the city on the Shannon.

And as the old movie goes, one might say that this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.