Friday, 28 December 2012


Epic trailer

WRITER: Joss Whedon

DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon


Glory has Dawn and is having her prepared for the ritual bleeding which will open the portal, allowing her to return home but in the process dropping all the walls between dimensions, causing death and carnage on a global scale. If opened the only way to close the portal and thus save the world is to kill Dawn. Giles spells this out to Buffy in no uncertain words. But Buffy is resolute that nobody will be killing her little sister, no matter what, even if it means the end of the world. And she will stop anyone who tries. Thankfully the gang come up with a plan to try and prevent Glory from opening the portal to begin with hopefully bypassing the need for any Dawn killing. Using the dagonsphere retrieved from the monks who made the Key in to Dawn, plus Olaf the Troll’s mighty troll hammer, the Scoobies plan to keep Glory occupied and on the ropes until she misses her brief opportunity to open the portal.

Using poor Tara as an unwitting guide, Buffy and the gang follow the brain-sucked witch as she is mystically drawn towards the gathering of Glory’s disciples, all of them coming together at the site of the forthcoming portal opening. There, the Scoobies are met with the imposing sight of a huge tower especially built for the occasion. Meanwhile Dawn has already been taken to the top of said tower by the minions, where she’s been tied up and left ready for Glory to come and begin the ritual bleeding.

Battle quickly commences.

Using the Buffybot and the dagonsphere to confuse and distract Glory, Buffy manages to get part-way up the tower in an attempt to rescue her sister… only to be attacked by Glory. The two engage in a furious fight up and down the tower but eventually end up falling from it to then continue their fight back down on the ground. As they continue their fight, Willow sneaks up on Glory and, using a spell, manages to take back what Glory stole from Tara. This returns Tara to normal and also weakens Glory significantly.

Meanwhile Spike, Giles, Anya and Xander are pinned down by the mob. But Spike spies someone else up on the tower with Dawn. Turns out that nasty demon Doc is back. He’s armed with a knife and is looking to help Glory by starting the ritual. Willow, using magic, clears a path for Spike who makes a break for it and rushes to the top of the tower where he engages Doc in a brief but futile battle to save Dawn. Spike is quickly bested and thrown off of the tower. Wasting no more time Doc cuts Dawn, spilling her blood. And the portal begins to open.

Back down below, Buffy has finally bested a weakened Glory, pummelling her in to submission using the mighty troll hammer. Glory, defeated, turns back in to Ben as Buffy runs back up the tower to get to Dawn. As Buffy goes, so Giles comes to seemingly help a wounded Ben. But instead of helping Ben he smothers the young man, killing him, thus preventing Glory from ever returning.

Reaching the top of the tower, Buffy quickly dispatches Doc and goes to help Dawn. But Dawn refuses her help, saying that she has to die as the portal has already opened and the demon dimensions have already started bleeding in to our world. Buffy can see the portal, a growing ball of light just below them, and all the hellish creatures that are now coming through it. But even so, she stops Dawn from throwing herself off of the tower.

It is then that Buffy has an epiphany.

She finally works out what the First Slayer meant when she said that death was Buffy’s gift. Buffy also remembers that the monks said they made Dawn from her – flesh, bone and blood. The same blood courses through both girls’ veins. Summers blood - the key to everything.

Buffy makes a decision.

After whispering to a tearful Dawn, she gives her sister a kiss, then turns away, runs along the gantry and throws herself off of the tower, plunging down in to the energy vortex below.

A short time later, as the sun rises on a new day, the Scooby Gang back on the ground are devastated to see the lifeless body of Buffy who sacrificed herself to close the portal, to save the world, saving her sister too.

The final image of the episode is a lone headstone with the engraved legend reading:

Buffy Anne Summers


Devoted Sister
Beloved Friend

She Saved the World
A Lot


Self sacrifice - especially for those you love; discovering who you really are and what meaning your life truly has, and learning how best to pummel a hell god in to submission using a really big hammer.


Glory, Ben, Doc, fate.


It’s a Joss episode. It just does, okay?

The “Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer…” – for this episode, the 100th, it is a super fast compilation of all the show’s key moments from episode 1.1 right up to date. This leads in to a boy running from a vampire…only to be saved at the last minute by Buffy who fights and then stakes the vamp. The disbelieving boy asks her how she can do that, because she’s just a girl. To which Buffy replies simply, “That’s what I keep saying.” This is a pre-title sequence, which in just a couple of minutes is a perfect summation of the entire show.

Giles and Buffy arguing over killing Dawn and Buffy’s shocked reaction when Giles shouts at her.

Anya and Xander having comfort sex in the Magic Box basement.

Xander scaring himself when he suddenly uncovers the Buffybot stored in the Magic Box basement.

Anya subsequently scaring herself by uncovering a toy fluffy bunny in the magic Box basement.

Spike’s comment about Buffy’s speech not exactly being the St Crispen’s day speech, Giles’ reply and Spike’s follow up.

Xander and the wrecking ball

The Buffy vs. Glory fight up and down the tower. It’s very athletic with some great stunts and choreography.
Giles unleashes Ripper to chilling effect.

The sacrifice sequence as Buffy realises what she must do, with the slowly rising sun behind her and a tearful Dawn before her, followed by the act itself and the plunge in to the portal as overlaid we hear her earlier whispered message to Dawn.

Spike’s shattered reaction to seeing Buffy’s broken body on the ground.

The final shot: the headstone and its engraving.

Joss’s script. It brings together perfectly all the thematic strands of the show and of this season in to one perfect moment: Buffy’s realisation of who she truly is and what she has to do. It’s quite beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time.

The performances. All are at the top of their game here but once again SMG just kills it. The emotional weight and intensity of her performance is quite something. I always enjoy how Joss directs her. He likes tight close-ups on her face because he knows she sells inner turmoil and harnessed emotions so well - the look from deep in her eyes, the subtle twitch of a lip. Also worth noting is James Marsters who proves Spike is no mere monster on a leash. The last shot of him, collapsed, crying in to his hands over Buffy’s body is possibly the one single image from this episode that lingers.

Christophe Beck’s score is beautiful and emotional.


Spike gets bested by Doc a bit too easily.

The battle on the ground is a bit small scale – only about a dozen or so minions and crazy people to fight.


Devastated Spike


Guy: ‘But... you're just a girl.’
Buffy: ‘That's what I keep saying.’

Buffy: ‘I'm counting on you to protect her.’
Spike: 'Til the end of the world. Even if that happens to be tonight.’

Giles: ‘If the ritual starts every living creature in this and every other dimension imaginable will suffer unbearable torment and death. Including Dawn.’
Buffy: ‘Then the last thing she'll see is me protecting her.’

Buffy: ‘This is how many apocalypses for us now?’
Giles: ‘Six at least.’
Buffy: ‘Feels like a hundred.’
(An in joke as this is the 100th episode)

Xander: "Spike's sex-bot. Why didn't they just melt it down into scrap?"
Anya: "Maybe Willow wanted it."
Xander: "I don't think Willow feels that way about Buffy... I mean, I know she's going through a lot of changes..."
Anya: "To study."
Xander: "Right. Robotics. Science."
Anya: "Pervert."
Xander: "Other pervert."

Buffy: ‘I sacrificed Angel to save the world. I loved him so much. But I knew what was right. I don't have that anymore. I don't understand. I don't know how to live in this world if these are the choices. If everything just gets stripped away. I don't see the point. I just wish that... I just wish my mom was here.’

Xander: ‘Smart chicks are sooo hot.’ (looking fondly at Anya)
Willow: ‘You couldn't have figured that out in tenth grade?’

Buffy: "Remember: The ritual starts, we all die; and I'll kill anyone who comes near Dawn."
Spike: "Well, not exactly the St. Crispin's Day speech, was it?"
Giles: "We few, we happy few..."
Spike: "...we band of buggered."

Buffy: ‘Dawn, listen to me. Listen. I love you. I will always love you. But this is the work that I have to do. Tell Giles ... tell Giles I figured it out. And, and I'm okay. And give my love to my friends. You have to take care of them now. You have to take care of each other. You have to be strong. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world ... is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.’


In 2008 at the 60th Annual Emmy Awards, The Gift won the special audience voted award for the most memorable moment in TV history – Buffy’s end sacrifice – beating out shows such as The X-Files, E.R. and Mash amongst others.

Joss originally planned The Gift to be Buffy’s genuine finale because at the time the WB were dropping the show due to not being able to come to financial terms with the show’s maker 20th Century Fox. Thankfully though, midway through the season, rival network UPN made Fox a strong offer. They purchased Buffy and allowed it to run for a further two seasons before finally ending for real.

Here in the UK it was nearly impossible not to know what happened in this ep before it was screened. One national newspaper even ran a "Buffy Dies" special and Sky One kept on showing trailers featuring Buffy's grave, the first trailer running directly after The Weight of the World. Doh!


It’s a gift from Joss. 5 (out of 5)

And so ends my Buffy season five rewatch/review. On to season six sometime soon.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012


A short daily from this ep featuring SMG and Alyson Hannigan

WRITER: Doug Petrie

DIRECTOR: David Solomon


With Buffy catatonic Willow steps up and takes charge ordering the gang back to Sunnydale while she tries a spell to help Buffy. Spike says he knows a guy who may be able to help them defeat Glory and get Dawn back. Meanwhile Glory has Dawn back at her HQ where her minions have now almost finished building an enormous tower upon the top of which Dawn is to be used to open the portal which will allow Glory to return home. As Glory and her minions prepare Dawn for the coming ritual Glory is getting a taste of Ben’s humanity as the magic keeping them apart starts to fade. She begins to feel twinges of guilt…and hates it, making her even angrier towards poor Dawnie, and when Ben returns for brief periods he in turn begins to remember all of the terrible things Glory has done. Across town, Spike and Xander go to visit Doc, the demon who helped Dawn with the spell to raise her mom from the dead. It turns out Doc is actually a worshipper of Glory and tries to kill Spike but ends up getting stabbed himself as Spike makes off with a box Doc tried to destroy. But Doc isn't dead and opens his eyes just as Spike and Xander leave. Back to Buffy, and Willow has managed to get inside her friend’s head, following the Slayer around in her own mind as she is locked in a cycle of guilt. The cycle begins with a memory of Buffy as a little girl, witnessing baby Dawn being brought home for the first time. It then moves on to The Magic Box where adult Buffy, putting away a book, has a brief moment of wishing it would all be over. Finally, the cycle ends with Buffy smothering a grown up Dawn with a pillow, telling a horrified Willow that this is who she is, that she killed her sister and that death is her gift. The cycle then starts all over again, repeating over and over, much to Willow’s confusion. Eventually Willow figures out what is going on and manages to get through to Buffy, convincing her that Dawn is still alive and needs her help. Buffy snaps out of her catatonic state and, crying, hugs Willow. As they return to the magic shop, Xander tells Buffy that Ben and Glory are one in the same. Giles then reveals that a bloodletting ceremony will occur to open the portal and that said portal opening will bring down the barriers between all dimensions creating utter carnage and torment for humanity. And there is only one way to stop it once started. Dawn must die.


It’s all about the destructive power of guilt – especially misplaced guilt.


Glory, Doc, Buffy…kinda.


A nice idea. Finally, the horrendous life Buffy is forced to lead catches up with her poor damaged psyche. I mean, how many traumas can one person take? Losing Dawn to Glory after she promised never to let any harm come to her was the final straw for our poor Slayer’s mind. Time for it to take a break then. And having Willow go in to Buffy’s mind and discover the root of her problem and then address it head on is also great. Her final solution may be a bit pat and wouldn’t make her popular with practitioners of mental health care (“Snap out of it!”), but for Buff it works. Thankfully.

Great to see Kristine Sutherland back as Joyce in a memory of Buffy’s.

Great to see Joel Grey back as Doc. He does creepy/slimy really well.

The actress playing little Buffy (aged 5 or 6 maybe?) is adorable and very good, though she doesn’t look much like SMG.


Apart from the trip around the inside of Buffy’s noggin nothing much happens. Dawn gets to be ranted at by Glory some and the gang finds out about the bloodletting ritual, but that’s about it.


Frustrated Spike slapping the back of Xander’s head when Xander still can’t remember the truth about Ben and Glory, followed by their mutual yelp of pain – Xander’s due to the slap and Spike’s due to his chip firing.


Spike: "Better part of a century spent in delinquency just paid off. Hot-wired Ben's auto. Who's for getting the hell out of here?"

Spike: "Is everyone here very stoned?"

Glory: "Funny, 'cause I look around at this world you're so eager to be a part of, and all I see's six billion lunatics looking for the fastest ride out. Who's not crazy? Look around... everyone's drinkin', smokin', shootin' up, shootin' each other or just plain screwing their brains out because they don't want 'em anymore. I'm crazy? Honey, I am the original one-eyed chicklet in the kingdom of the blind 'cause at least I admit the world makes me nuts. Name one person who can take it here. That's all I'm asking. Name one."
Dawn: "Buffy."

Young Buffy: "You talk funny."
Willow: "Yes, as you'll tell me again when we're older, and in chem class."


In season 2's 'Killed By Death' the young Buffy had dark hair as did the Buffy in Dawn's memory in 'Blood Ties', but here the little girl playing Buffy has blonde hair.

The actress playing little Buffy is called Alexandra Lee and a year after being young Buffy she had the honour of being Katie, Dr Mark Greene’s last ever patient on E.R.


A reasonably weighty 3 (out of 5)



WRITER: Steven S. DeKnight

DIRECTOR: James A. Contner


Buffy grabs Dawn and makes a run for it from Glory, who gives immediate chase. After a brief battle Glory gets knocked down by a truck which allows the sisters time to escape. Regrouping with the rest of the gang, Buffy decides they all need to run away, that they can’t win this fight and must flee to somewhere safe. Spike steals them a big motor home and the gang heads out of town, out in to the desert in a vain attempt to get away from Glory. Unfortunately the Knights of Byzantium give chase on horseback and a running battle ensues along the desert highway with Buffy atop the speeding vehicle fending off the continuous attacks from the warriors on horseback. Soon though, a well-aimed spear takes out Giles in the driver’s seat and the camper turns over and crashes. The gang manages to flee the ruined van to a deserted gas station where they engage in a brief battle with the pursuing Knights, capturing the Knights’ leader in the process. Using magic Willow creates a protective barrier around the gas station as the gang prepares for a prolonged siege against the nasty Knights outside. But Giles is badly hurt and needs medical attention. So using rules of warfare Buffy negotiates a truce to allow for medical help to arrive…in the form of nurse Ben, who treats Giles and saves his life. Unfortunately Glory soon decides to make an appearance and Ben turns in to the hell god right in front of the gathered Scoobies, though only Spike amongst them can seem to remember after the fact that Ben is Glory and vice versa. After a short fight, Glory grabs Dawn and makes off, killing all the gathered knights as she leaves. A panicked Buffy rushes after her…only to find that Glory and little sis have vanished in to the night. Utterly traumatised by her failure to protect Dawn, Buffy lapses in to a catatonic state from which her friends seem unable to rouse her.


The pressure is on and everyone looks to you to make the big decisions, to tell them what to do in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Do you rise to the occasion or do you crack under the strain?


Glory and those pesky Knights of Byzantium


Rollercoaster. Spiral is a non-stop rollercoaster of an episode. It is jam packed with action and desperate decisions and desperate measures. Buffy is pushed to the edge and beyond as she has seemingly no way out of the situation she finds herself in. Fight or flight kicks in. And as fight seems impossible then flight it is. And the Slayer goes on the run.

Road Warrior. Buffy goes all Mad Max as she engages in a running battle along a desert highway against pursing warriors out for blood. It’s a big and exciting sequence with athletic fights atop (and inside) the speeding motor home as the gang fends off seemingly endless arrow, sword and spear attacks.

Buffy goes bye bye. Poor Buffy, everyone is turning to her, wanting more and more from her, and she doesn’t know what to do, except to run. She has one role in life now: protect her sister. And she fails to do that. The shock of her failure drops our girl in to a catatonic state, a glassy eyed zombie who has retreated deep in to herself, away from the big bad world. It is worth noting that Buffy’s mental health has always been a lurking issue in this series. She confesses to time spent in an institution, and reality to her always seems a fragile concept. This comes to a head in the underrated season six episode ‘Normal Again’.


I’ve fallen. Oh dear, at the start when Buffy and Dawn are running away from Glory, Dawn very quickly falls over and squeals in pain, forcing Buffy to pick her up and carry her as she runs on. A terrible cliché that makes Dawn seem pretty darn pathetic.

The Knights Who Say "Ni!” The Knights of Byzantium are still a daft concept, at least visually. They just look like Monty Python extras from The Holy Grail. How on earth would dozens of medieval garbed men on horseback brandishing deadly weapons be able to make their way around contemporary California without getting arrested and/or sectioned? And that must be one quiet highway for no one driving by to have noticed a big medieval battle and siege going on and to report it to the police.


Back flips and kicking ass atop a speeding motor home. Cool!


Glory: "Last words, Slay-runt?"
Buffy: "Just one-- Truck."

Anya: "Anybody else feel that?"
Willow: "What?"
Anya: "Cold draft of paralyzing fear?"

Anya: "We should drop a piano on her. Well, it always works for that creepy cartoon rabbit when he's running from that nice man with the speech impediment."

Anya: "Oooh, snacks! The secret to any successful migration. (pulls frying pan and Spam from her bag) Who's up for some tasty fried meat products?"

Dawn: "You're not fleeing, you're...moving at a brisk pace."
Buffy: "Quaintly referred to in some cultures as 'The Big Scairdy Run-Away'."

Tara: (looking out motor home window) “Horsies!"
Willow: "Tara!"
Giles: "Weapons?"
Spike: "Hello! You're driving one!"
Willow: "Don't hit the horsies!"
Buffy: (to Willow) "We won't!" (whispers to Giles) "Aim for the horsies."

Dawn: (bandaging Spike’s hands) "Keep the pressure on."
Spike: "Always do, Sweet Pea."


What with the Holy Grail-esque knights and Anya's offer to cook Spam there seems to be a whole Monty Python thing going on here.

Steve DeKnight’s original script was much bigger scale with more epic fights, especially in the opening escape from Glory. But Joss read it and ordered him to cut it right back as it would take weeks to film and cost millions more. Steve drew the line at the Winnebago chase though. That HAD to stay in.


It’s all too much for the Buffster 4 (out of 5)


Willow vs. Glory

WRITER: Rebecca Rand Kirshner

DIRECTOR: David Grossman


Buffy withdraws from college to take care of Dawn, who it seems has been regularly skipping school. Buffy is warned by Dawn’s school that unless things change she might be found unfit to be Dawn's legal guardian and have Dawn taken away from her. After unsuccessfully trying to convince Giles to be the stern authority figure Buffy resolves to take on the role much to Dawn’s disdain. Elsewhere and Willow and Tara have their first fight with Willow ending up storming out. Glory finds Tara sad and alone, siting on a bench at the college fair. At first Glory thinks Tara is the Key but after tasting her blood realises she isn’t. So instead Glory drains Tara’s mind, turning the poor girl in to yet another of the crazy people in Sunnydale. Meanwhile Giles, Anya and Willow capture one of Glory's minions, who reveals to them that Glory thinks Tara is the Key. Willow rushes off to save her girlfriend, but she arrives too late. Overcome with fury, Willow goes after Glory seeking revenge for what she did to poor Tara. Using some dark magic Willow manages to briefly hurt the hell god but Glory soon gets the better of the witch and Willow would be toast if it weren’t for the Buffster turning up at the last moment to save her. A short time later and Willow, Tara, Buffy and Dawn are gathered in the witches’ dorm room discussing what to do next. Suddenly a furious Glory appears by ripping out the entire outside wall. At that precise moment Tara, still out of her mind, looks at Dawn and says she sees her as pure green energy. Glory smiles coldly as she finally realises the true identity of the Key.


I guess its primarily about taking on new roles and stepping up and taking responsibility. Buffy is still firmly in big sister mode and is not yet filling the parenting void left by Joyce’s demise. As a kid still, Dawn needs firm rules, boundaries and guidance. Buffy can’t yet see herself in this role and so tries to convince Giles to do it. But Giles says no, realising that Buffy will have to step up as it’s the only way forward for the Summers family. Buffy gives in but attacks the problem as if she is a general ordering around a soldier and not a caring mother figure, much to Dawn’s (and Willow’s) dismay.




Tara and Willow – their relationship comes in to focus here and is put to its first relationship type test when they have their first big fight. As if there were any doubt the depth of their love becomes clear when Willow does what she does when Tara is hurt. The bit at the end with Willow feeding Tara and telling Buffy that no matter what, Tara is her girl is genuinely touching.

Buffy and Dawn – the crux of this season is Buffy taking on a more personal role of responsibility, of making her responsible for someone she cares about, giving her a new role in life, adding to her growth as a person and as a character. She takes a big if faltering step forward in that role here.

Glory – as always Clare Kramer is so much fun as the so very cute but evil and insane hell god. Her bubble bath with a loofer, a Mimosa cocktail and three blindfolded minions is highly entertaining.

The Glory vs. Willow fight – it’s a great little smackdown with the witch hurling all sorts of magic at the hell god with almost no success, though she does seem to slow her down a bit, allowing Buffy to arrive and buy them some time for an escape.

Ripper – Giles gets to go all ruthless hard man as he threatens and interrogates the captured minion. Thing is, we buy it. Giles can be genuinely scary and ruthless, as he will prove come the end of the season.

Kicking a couch – in the fight with Glory Buffy kicks a large couch at her, knocking her back. I just love that image for some reason. It’s weird but powerful. You just don’t see enough couch kicking in on-screen fights.

References - Not many genre shows get to include overt references to superheroes (X-Men), classic children’s literature (A Little Princess) and opera (Don Giovanni) in a single episode. One of the many things Buffy was great at was treating its audience as intelligent people who may love superheroes and general geekiness but may also equally love classic literature and the arts too. Basically all the same stuff Joss loves.

The cliffhanger ending – wow, what a great way to end an episode! Glory rips out an entire exterior wall only to discover poor Dawnie is her Key and is right there in front of her. Gulp.


Willow seems to have become a very powerful witch without us really noticing. I guess she has done lots more practice off screen. But to go toe to toe with a god and actually score some points is impressive.


Bath time for Glory


Glory: ‘Lotta sucky things in this dimension. Bubble baths? Not one of 'em.’

Xander (to Buffy): ‘Whatever you choose, you've got my support. Just think of me as... as your... You know, I'm searching for supportive things and I'm coming up all bras. So, something slightly more manly, think of me as that.’

Buffy: ‘It's really important that Dawn finishes her schoolwork right now.’
Willow: ‘I know it is, and I'm a big fan of school! You know me, I'm like (singing and doing a little dance), "Go school, it's your birthday"... or something to that effect.’

Willow (miserable): ‘I don't think I can sleep without her.’
Anya (helpfully): ‘You can sleep with me! (The group stares at her.) Well, now, that came out a lot more lesbian than it sounded in my head.’


In the Magic Box Xander is reading issue #109 of The X-Men titled "Ceremonies," written by Chris Claremont and pencilled by Thomas Derenick.

This episode is the first time Willow’s eyes go black.


We love it tough. 3.5 (out of 5)

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a pretty good movie. For the most part it’s a well made adventure chock full of great visual effects, creepy monsters and enough solid action to keep audiences reasonably entertained across its mammoth two hours and forty five minute running time.

But it ain’t no Lord of the Rings. A fair way from it unfortunately.

Now I’ve not read Tolkien’s The Hobbit but the story (at least as seen on film) is very simple and very episodic. Like The Lord of the Rings it is a journey and a quest film and is made up of a collection of mini adventures in the form of frantic chases, fights and last minute escapes. All of which is fine. But what’s not fine is that The Hobbit’s action sequences are just too silly and chaotic to make any real impact. And too often they have no real bearing on the actual story being told or on the characters involved. For example, I have no idea what all that mountain rock giant stuff was about. Why were they fighting each other? I don’t get it. And the chase through the underground Goblin Kingdom is just a frantic, cartoonish piece of nonsense with no real structure or pay off. Sadly there’s nothing in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to rival the emotional and visceral intensity of the Mines of Moria from Fellowship, Helms Deep from Two Towers or the final battle of Pelennor Fields from Return of the King. The thing about LotR is that every fight/battle/escape feels as if it comes at a price, taking a major toll on poor Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Boromir et al. Their battles are scary, hard won, bloody, painful. You are genuinely afraid for them. Here though, you just don’t get that. The fights and battles and escapes play more like unconnected levels on a gorgeously produced video game. You’re never really invested in what happens because it all looks and feels too OTT and cartoonish. I kinda zoned out in parts, not feeling very engaged by or emotionally involved in what was going on. I mean, there’s only so many endlessly collapsing bridges/mountains/buildings/trees and stupidly high falls for obvious CGI stuntmen that I can be bothered to care about.

Another problem is Martin Freeman. I’m not his biggest fan and he pretty much just plays himself as Bilbo – kinda hapless and bland. Lots of comedy double takes and bewildered expressions. The band of dwarves fare better with Richard Armitage very good as their leader, the grim, brooding Thorin, along with other familiar faces buried beneath make-up such as James Nesbit, Ken Stott and Being Human’s Aiden Turner. Meanwhile Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee all reprise their old Lord of the Rings roles and are all wonderful (as to be expected). Other supporting roles are perfectly fine. But by far the stand out of the cast is Andy Serkis, back as Gollum. The sequence known as Riddles in the Dark featuring Serkis as Gollum riddling against Freeman’s Bilbo, who’s become lost in caves below the Goblin Kingdom, is utterly fantastic and well worth the price of admission alone. The CGI motion capture used for Gollum is better than ever and quite astounding. But it would be nothing without Serkis’ funny/tragic/pathetic performance. In fact, it is with Gollum that the film finally comes to life, recapturing some of the sense of magic and giddy thrill it’s been missing. Boo then when its back to business as usual with yet another last minute frantic chase followed by yet another Gandalf save to end the movie on.

So, apart from the awesome Mr Serkis, is there anything else that stands out as being particularly good?

Well, yes, Howard Shore ’s score for one. It is lush and rousing and exciting, utilising familiar themes along with new ones. Also the film’s design and art direction are pretty good, as is Andrew Lesnie’s cinematography, though it does feel a little flatter than it did in LotR. Weta’s effects are mostly pretty good too if a tad cartoonish with the reliance seeming to be more on CGI this time instead of the wondrous miniatures and high quality make-up of old. Oh, and one can’t forget the sheer beauty of New Zealand and how it still thrills the eye with some simply gorgeous scenery and vistas. Another great advert for tourism to the land of the Kiwi.

In the end, I enjoyed The Hobbit well enough but not as much as I should have done. I get the feeling it should really have been just the one kick ass movie, or at a push, two kick ass movies with a lot of the fat trimmed away. But we’ll see. I hate being harsh on Jackson as I utterly adore his Lord of the Rings trilogy. And things could well pick up and improve quite a bit seeing as how next Christmas promises a very, very big dragon to fight along with plenty more nasty orcs. I just hope The Desolation of Smaug can recapture some much-needed magic and excitement and can actually make me care about all the frantic CGI shenanigans going on onscreen. I really, really do hope so. 3.5 (out of 5)

Friday, 16 November 2012


Tribute to the Buffybot

WRITER: Jane Espenson

DIRECTOR: Michael Gershman


Giles takes Buffy out to the desert for a spiritual retreat to find focus and answers about the true nature of being the Slayer. Back in Sunnydale, the robot Buffy that Spike ordered from nasty Warren back in ‘I was made to love you’ has been completed with a very happy Spike using his new Buffybot for lots of role-play sexcapades. Unfortunately Buffy’s friends spot Spike and the Buffybot cavorting in the cemetery and, thinking that it is the real Buffy, they become worried and decide on an intervention to help her. Meanwhile, Glory discovers that the Key is human and dispatches her minions to find the person most important to Buffy and then bring them to her, believing that person will almost certainly be the Key. Charged with their new mission, Glory’s minions soon spot the Buffybot with Spike, the bot being extra protective of Spike in the midst of an unexpected vampire scrap. Thinking it is the real Buffy and convinced that Spike must be the Key, the minions kidnap him and take him to Glory, who pretty quickly discovers that Spike is not in fact the Key but decides to torture him until he tells her who is. Soon after, Buffy returns home from her spiritual retreat, smack bang in to her friend’s mistaken intervention. Bewildered, poor Buff thinks her friends have lost it when they accuse her of sleeping with Spike. And that’s when the Buffybot turns up and informs the shocked group that Spike has been kidnapped by Glory and must be rescued pronto. Disgusted by the bot and afraid that Spike will tell Glory about Dawn, Buffy heads out to find the platinum vamp and to put him down once and for all, hopefully before he can spill the beans to Glory about her little sis being the Key.


It’s the continuing misadventures of Spike and his creepy and unrequited love for the Buffster. There are other themes at play here too, deeper and more serious ones about questioning what it means to be human (or a Slayer) and what effect does being outwardly hard and doing a hard and often deeply unpleasant job have on someone? These are the questions Buffy is asking herself and is worried she is losing her humanity. Maybe these are questions people in the real world ask themselves, for example people in the military who have to do awful things in order to do their duty and the toll it then takes on their soul.




Funny Buffy: Despite the Buffy soul searching and the torture of Spike (and Spike’s creepy sex doll sexcapades) Intervention is a highly fun episode. For starters it is a Jane Espenson script. And nobody brings the Buffy funny quite like Jane. The intervention itself is hilarious, especially with Xander trying to be understanding of Buffy’s supposed attraction to Spike and only making it sound as if he secretly fancies the platinum vamp himself. After the dark and emotionally intense last few episodes (especially The Body) it comes as something of a cleansing breath of air, allowing us to smile and laugh again. And a big part of that is down to…

The Buffybot: A crazily inspired creation of Joss, Jane and co, the Buffybot allows SMG to attack her role from an entirely new angle, allowing for pure and innocent comedy gold. You can tell Sarah is having way too much fun as the perpetually chirpy, childlike, Spike obsessed robobabe. She gets to blurt out truthful lines ala Anya but always with a bright and pretty smile and with a charming innocence and an eagerness to please. Thankfully Buffybot will stick around in to next season. And when she finally goes to the great robo scrap heap in the sky it says a lot that it gives the audience a genuine emotional punch, seeing as how we’ve all come to love her so much.

Spike the hero: Our favourite bad boy vamp gets put through the wringer here, beaten and tortured by Glory while trying to get out of him the truth about the Key. But Spike, a soulless monster, won’t give in. He would never betray Dawn. And at the end of the episode, in a nice bit of subterfuge, he gets a sweet and unexpected reward for his loyalty.

Giles doing the Hokey Pokey (or Okey Cokey to us Britishers)


I’m with Buffy here. She is shocked and kinda appalled that her friends didn’t spot pretty quick that something was up with ‘her’. They spotted back in ‘I was made to love you’ that April was a robot pretty sharpish but couldn’t make the connection when their best friend started acting just like April? Great!


Every scene with the Buffybot


Buffybot: (to Willow and co. referring to sex with Spike): "It wasn't one time. It was lots of times, and lots of different ways. I can make sketches!"

Buffybot: "Angel's lame. His hair goes straight up, and he's bloody stupid!"

Buffybot (in the midst of conversation with Willow ): "You're recently gay!"

Glory (about Spike): "What the hell is that, and why is its hair that colour?"

Buffybot (seeing Buffy): "Say! look at you! You look just like me! We're very pretty."

Buffy: “I mean I can beat up the demons until the cows come home. And then, I can beat up the cows. But I'm not sure I like what it's doing to me.”

Buffybot (going out to patrol): “Time to slay. Vampires of the world beware!”

Tara (about Buffy): “You aren't really gonna slap her, are you?”
Xander: “No, but if I have to see her straddle Spike again I will definitely knock myself unconscious.”

Spirit Guide (to Buffy): “Death is your gift.”

Xander: “No one is judging you. It's understandable. Spike is strong and mysterious and sort of compact, but well muscled.”
Buffy: “I am not having sex with Spike! But I'm starting to think that you might be!”

Spike (to Glory): “Mark my words, the Slayer is going to kick your skanky, lopsided ass — (Concerned, Glory looks at her ass.) — back to whatever place would take a cheap, whorish, fashion-victim ex-God like you.”


Nicholas Brendon was ill during the making of this episode so his twin brother Kelly stands in for him in several scenes.

Buffy’s trip to the desert might seem rather confusing and left field but the lessons she learns are key to this season and to what happens in the finale.


Buffybot alone guarantees it… 4 (out of 5)

Monday, 12 November 2012


Nice little trailer for the ep.

WRITER: Marti Noxon

DIRECTOR: Marti Noxon


Following Joyce’s funeral Dawn goes back to Willow and Tara ’s to stay overnight. While there, she tells the two witches that she wants to use magic to bring Joyce back. Tara says it shouldn’t be done as it is very dangerous and that the dead don’t come back as they were. However Willow is a little less definite on the matter. The following morning Tara and Willow leave for class and Dawn finds a book on magic that point her in the right direction to a resurrection spell. Later that same day she goes and finds some better info on resurrection spells hidden away in the Magic Box’s restricted area. And that night she heads to the graveyard to collect dirt from Joyce’s grave, which is where Spike finds her, and, knowing what she is up to, offers to help her do the spell to bring Joyce back. Spike takes Dawn to see an old man called Doc, who turns out to be a demon. Doc tells them what they need to do to complete the spell including getting hold of an egg from a Ghora demon, which won’t be easy. But the pair does manage to get the egg and Dawn goes home to conduct the resurrection ritual that Doc described. Buffy arrives home just as Dawn is about to complete the spell. Horrified at what her little sister is doing, Buffy pleads with her to stop before it is too late.


This is all about dealing with loss and grief. How different people deal in different ways. And if one could, who wouldn’t want to bring back a recently deceased loved one? Especially in the case of suddenly alone children who’ve lost the comfort and security of their only remaining parent, the one person who has always taken care of them, taken care of everything. Dawn feels utterly alone. She doesn’t understand why Buffy has been busy and businesslike about the whole horrible affair and she accuses her sister of not even caring that their mother has died.


Creepy old guy Doc I guess, but it is the idea itself, what Dawn is planning that is truly scary.


Thematically it’s a good idea, delving in to how individuals deal with the immediate loss of a loved one, especially a child losing a parent.

Angel returns for a poignant (if brief) cameo.

Joel Gray is nicely creepy as Doc. A splendid guest star to nab.

Spike bringing flowers for Joyce. No soul, huh? Could have fooled me.

While Michelle Trachtenberg is fine it is SMG who takes the acting honours. Her sweetly affecting scene with Angel is lovely and her end confrontation with Dawn is powerful and emotional. The look on her face when she thinks her mom has come home is a thing of heartbreak.

Willow’s laxer attitude to Dawn’s request to resurrect Joyce foreshadows what she will do for Buffy in early season six.


Though a nice idea the episode is kinda ‘meh’ overall. The scene with Angel is sweet and the big emotionally honest confrontation between sisters at the end is powerful and affecting. But everything in between has the feeling of functional filler. And the less said about the awful rubber Ghora demon the better. Yikes!


The final scene between heartbroken sisters.


Spike: "I liked the lady! Understand, monkey boy? She was decent. She didn't put on airs. She always had a nice cuppa for me. (pause) And she never treated me like a freak."

Willow : “I'm gonna stop by my mom's first. Been doing that a lot lately.”
Xander: “Yeah. I actually might stop by your mom's too. (She looks at him.) Well, I'm not going to my place. Those people are scary!”

Dawn: “Nobody's asking you to be Mom.”
Buffy: “Well, who's gonna be if I'm not? Huh, Dawn? Have you even thought about that? Who's gonna make things better? (crying) Who's gonna take care of us?”


This episode appears to be inspired by The Monkey's Paw, W.W. Jacobs' classic short horror story about how there's always a price to pay if you interfere with the natural order of things. The end of the story is almost identical to how this episode ends with the moral being the same.


Who wants to live forever? 2.5 (out of 5)

Saturday, 3 November 2012


And here's the last lot...

10. Alien (D: Ridley Scott, 1979)
Ridley Scott’s space based horror classic has lost none of its terrifying power in the three decades since it was first released. It also remains a truly timeless film due to Scott’s direction; the wonderfully worn down industrial look of the human world and the wonderfully weird, utterly original, utterly horrific and iconic design of the alien and everything connected to it. But the real power of the film is, like Carpenter’s Halloween, in its chilling simplicity. Mostly likeable, relatable people stalked by a horrific and seemingly unstoppable monster looking to appear suddenly from the shadows to kill them at any given moment. The cast are all great, especially Ian Holm as the treacherous android, and Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, a character that is the touchstone for her career and that defined the tough, smart, capable, yet still feminine heroes who would follow in her wake. This film looks utterly gorgeous in every way from the design to the cinematography to the miniature model effects. Plus Jerry Goldsmith goes and adds yet another classic score to his resume. Sci fi horror doesn’t get any better than this. Well, perhaps just one other movie manages to. But more about that later. Alien produced a classic sequel (Aliens), which is arguably an even better film than its progenitor, though not strictly a horror film, so is not eligible for this particular list. It also produced one very good if flawed sequel (Alien 3), one terrible sequel (Alien: Resurrection), and one interesting prequel (Prometheus). Oh, and the godawful Alien vs. Predator spin-offs too. But for sheer pant wetting class all the way you can’t top Sir Rid’s original. Because remember, in space nobody can hear you scream.

9. Poltergeist (D: Tobe Hooper, 1982)
Ah, the summer of 1982, when classic genre films fell from the sky like golden rain. It was the summer of ET, The Thing, Star Trek 2, Mad Max 2, Blade Runner, Conan the Barbarian, Tron. And a certain little horror film co-written and produced by none other than king beard himself, Steven Spielberg. The Freeling family – dad Steven (Craig T Nelson), mom Diane (JoBeth Williams), eldest daughter Dana (Dominique Dunne), young son Robbie (Oliver Robbins), and youngest daughter Carol-Anne (Heather O’Rourke) live in Cuesta Verde, California, a new build suburban housing estate. Steven also works on the estate selling the remaining houses off to new buyers. Soon, though, strange things start happening around the Freeling’s brand new house, events mostly centred on their young daughter, 6yr old blond moppet Carol-Anne, who hears whispered voices in the TV – the ‘TV People’. At first the disturbances are just strange and kinda cool. But when Carol-Anne announces that “They’re heeeere!” and then goes and vanishes in to thin air (or her closet), Mom and Dad Freeling call in the paranormal experts to investigate. The scientists, quickly finding themselves out of their depth, call in a highly regarded psychic medium to try and find out what is going on and where poor little Carol-Anne has got to. Enter four-foot nothing Tangina, one of horror cinema’s greatest characters played to the quirky hilt by the late great Zelda Rubinstein. Poltergeist is a Spielberg movie through and through, even though The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Tobe Hooper directed it. The set up and the setting are pure Spielberg - middle class suburbia where something decidedly abnormal is about to happen to normal people. Also the film's shot set ups and the way the actors are directed, especially the kids, reeks of The Beard. Poltergeist is a modern haunted house movie using (then) cutting edge special effects to tell a chilling story of ghoulies and ghosties. But primarily it is an emotional tale of helpless and harried parents who have lost a child and are desperate to find her and rebuild their fractured family. The cast is excellent with especially strong work from JoBeth Williams as Diane and Zelda Rubinstein as Tangina. But the film really hits home through the sweetly realistic performance of the cute as a button Heather O’Rourke as little Carol-Anne. It is part of the sad legacy of Poltergeist that the poor little mite passed away suddenly five years later from a misdiagnosed bowel condition. She was aged just 12. Also, Dominique Dunne who played eldest Freeling child Dana was murdered by her ex-boyfriend only five months after Poltergeist premiered. Two terrible clouds that will always hang over what is an utterly brilliant film.

“Let’s go get your daughter.”

8. The Shining (D: Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
Stanley Kubrick was a filmmaking god and a well known perfectionist who would do endless takes until he got exactly what he wanted. He punished his actors by doing so. None more so than poor Shelley Duvall who was reduced to a crying nervous wreck due to the endless hell she was subjected to in making The Shining. But it paid off in spades. Kubrick's film of Stephen King's haunted hotel tale is a coldly unnerving descent in to madness as writer and winter hotel caretaker Jack Torrance, seeing ghosts in the closed for the winter Overlook Hotel, descends in to homicidal madness and tries to kill his nervy wife and young psychic son. King's novel is more involved with the ghosts and the supernatural goings on which Kubrick chopped right back so that the madness of Torrance becomes the focal issue with the ghosts may or may not being part of his psychosis. Apart from a few second unit location shots the entire film was shot on soundstages in London. The Overlook hotel was built on those stages as was its snowbound exterior in a marvel of design and art direction. Technically the film is a triumph from its design to its cinematography to its editing and minimal score. But it is the intensely precise and utterly chilly direction of Kubrick's and the compelling performances by Nicholson and Duvall that truly sells the film. Nicholson has never been better being hugely scary with that axe. And your heart aches for poor Shelley, for her character and for the actress herself.

7. The Haunting (D: Robert Wise, 1963)
Robert Wise's film adaptation of Shirley Jackson's classic story The Haunting of Hill House is the greatest ghost story ever made. Wise was a genius. He was a director who worked in almost every genre and made classics in them all. For Sci-Fi see The Day the Earth Stood Still and (to a lesser extent) Star Trek: The Motion Picture. For musicals see West Side Story and The Sound of Music. For horror see this movie. The Haunting sees parasychologist Dr Markway (Richard Johnson) bringing together a small group of sensitive people to take part in an experiment at Hill House, a grand old pile that's allegedly heavily haunted. The doctor wants to prove the existence of the paranormal and hopes to do so at Hill House. The main character is Nell (Julie Harris), a fragile young woman who spent most of her adult life caring for her demanding and now deceased elderly mother. Nell is both excited and fearful to be at the creepy old Hill House. She is also strongly attracted to the thoughtful, caring and intelligent Markway. The rest of the group is made up of provocative and sensual clairvoyant Theo (Claire Bloom) and young playboy Luke (Russ Tamblyn), the future inheritor of Hill House. After a sinister warning from departing housekeeper Mrs Dudley the group settles in for what will soon become a terrifying stay in the old house as the supernatural presence there begins manifesting itself in increasingly dangerous and disturbing ways. The Haunting is gloriously old school. The emphasis is on character and the psychological impact of what scares us. Wise employs highly effective sound effects, a few subtle physical effects and creative camera set-ups and editing to make the audience uneasy and to deliver genuine shivers. He is helped by strong performances all round, especially from the wonderfully fragile Harris as Nell and the charismatic Johnson. But the real star is Wise and his technical team who deliver a truly scary ghost story without any cheap tricks all the while keeping character and story to the fore. A note of interest: the entirety of the film was shot in England doubling for the USA. This was due to the British subsidiary of MGM being the ones who put up the money. A great film then, just forget all about its appalling CGI filled 1999 remake from Speed director Jan De Bont


6. The Thing (D: John Carpenter, 1982)
Another summer of 82 classic, John Carpenter’s adaptation of John W. Campbell, JR’s novella Who Goes There, filmed once before in 1951 as Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World, is the pinnacle of sci fi horror. A US team in Antarctica discovers that an alien life form, frozen for millennia in the ice until being unwittingly awoken by Norwegian scientists and escaping, has now infiltrated their isolated base. It soon becomes apparent that the alien kills living beings, absorbs them and essentially becomes them, creating the perfect place to hide. What follows is a tale of frozen paranoia and terrifying body horror as the survivors of the US base try to discover which of their number may be a Thing while also trying to prevent it from escaping and reaching civilisation. Carpenter’s movie is stupendous in every way. It is nerve shredding tension from start to finish based around a smart, tight screenplay which gives us distinctive and relatable characters played by a top notch cast led by Kurt Russell as tough and cynical pilot Macready. Dean Cundey’s cinematography is arguably his best work to date and Ennio Morricone’s score is wonderfully low key and throbbing. But outside of Carpenter’s work, arguably the greatest impact of The Thing is in the still startling and hugely effective make up and mechanical creature effects by Rob Bottin. Along with the work of Rick Baker in a certain werewolf film Bottin’s work on The Thing remains as the high point of make up and creature effects in cinema to this day. Just watch the entirety of the defibrillator sequence and what follows. Two words: spider-head. Brrr The Thing also has a brilliant and classic Carpenter ending – bleak, nihilistic, open ended. On original release The Thing was a flop, opening and quickly closing, all the alien attention in ‘82 going to a certain little dude trying to phone home. Since then the film has become highly regarded and is now a recognised modern classic. Just as it should be.

“You gotta be fucking kidding me!”

5. The Exorcist (D: William Friedkin, 1973)
Everyone knows this film. Its name has lived in infamy for almost forty years now. The tale of a little girl called Regan (Linda Blair) who gets possessed by the Devil and who is eventually confronted by elderly Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) and young Father Karras (Jason Miller) in an attempt to drive the loathsome evil our of the child once and for all. William Friedkin’s film adapted from the William Peter Blatty novel of the same name by Blatty himself is for sure one of the most disturbing and terrifying films ever made…even if you don’t believe in the Devil. What the film does is expertly plant the idea in your head, the ‘What if…?’ It makes the seemingly absurd utterly believable. This is partly down to the slow burn character and theme driven screenplay, the realistic and gritty style of direction and the naturalistic performances, especially from Linda Blair as Regan. The reality of what this then twelve year old child had to endure, with the brilliantly horrific Dick Smith make-up, the freezing set, and the awful things she was required to do while possessed, are horrific enough by themselves, let alone the fictional story she and the director are conveying. The increasing horror of Regan’s possession is the spine of the story but I always forget the other major part, which is all about Karras, dealing with his wavering faith and the loss of his mother. Also there is Ellen Burstyn as Regan’s mother having to deal with what is happening to her daughter. And cop Kinderman (Lee J Cobb) investigating the grisly death of a friend of Regan’s mother near to their house. All of this adds up to a rich, character and story driven film filled with chilling ideas and sequences that still shock as much today as they did forty years ago. The mark of a truly great film, The Exorcist works on many levels, taking itself deathly seriously and giving its audience a cinema experience that might make them question their own personal beliefs, if only for a moment.


4. Dawn of the Dead (D: George A. Romero, 1978)
In 1978 George A. Romero ventured back in to Dead territory for the first time since Night of the Living Dead with this, his sequel to that movie. However Dawn of the Dead is a different beast to the seminal original. Night is a wonderfully dour, deathly serious, starkly shot in black and white and utterly humourless affair. Dawn, though, is bright, garish, fast paced, action packed while being highly comic book in tone and feel. Yes, it is still apocalyptic. And thanks to the legend who is Tom Savini it is still extremely gory. But this time Romero is determined to have fun with the genre he created. And also to take aim at the deficiencies of late 70’s US culture as he saw it: namely consumerism gone mad. As the zombie epidemic spreads and grows worse, helicopter pilot Stephen picks up his girlfriend - TV reporter Fran, and his SWAT Team friend Peter along with another SWAT Team buddy of Peter’s called Roger and flies off looking for a safe haven. Soon they spot a large out of town shopping mall and decide to put down there. Deciding to stay, the four secure the place, getting rid of the zombies inside and locking it down. And for a while things seem to be going well. They have everything they need with this huge palace of consumerism all to themselves. But before too long the outside world comes a calling and everything goes straight back down in to hell. Made for only $600,000 and funded and produced by Italian horror legend Dario Argento, Dawn of the Dead went on to become massively successful grossing nigh on $100m worldwide. Despite its hard core gore and shocks it also garnered wide critical acclaim with smart reviewers seeing through the gore and comic book trappings to the sly social commentary and pointed jabs at 1970’s America. To this day I cannot visit a shopping mall without thinking of how all the people shuffling around seemingly aimlessly are just like those poor mindless ‘consuming’ zombies. And it always makes me giggle.

Original Trailer

3. Halloween (D: John Carpenter, 1978)
Halloween is the film that made John Carpenter John Carpenter. I won’t bother to recant the story here as I’m sure you all know it by heart. And if not, why not? What’s wrong with you? Anyway, Halloween pretty much invented the stalk and slash movie and proved to be a huge hit and game changer for horror cinema. But whereas the countless imitators that followed would rely on gore and gimmicks, Carpenter relied on style, atmosphere and tension. Creating a genuinely scary mythic vibe to his bogeyman Michael Myers, Carpenter crafted a film that chills without trying. It's mostly a slow, steady build up to what is a nerve shreddingly tense and creepy finale as poor Laurie Strode (a career making turn from Jamie Lee Curtis) must defend herself and her babysitting charges from the seemingly unstoppable killing machine that is The Shape aka Michael Myers. With classic support from Donald Pleasance as Myers old shrink Dr Loomis who is hot on his heels, Halloween is a delicious cat and mouse affair between Loomis and Myers where you never really know who is the cat and who is the mouse. Halloween was a massive hit upon release. For a long time it was the highest grossing independent film ever. And it remains an undisputed classic, a game changer for Carpenter and for horror cinema as well as an abject lesson in filmmaking from a master. The night HE came home!

Laurie in the closet

2. Let the Right One In (D: Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
It’s 1982 and twelve year old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a meek and bullied loner living with his single mother in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm in Sweden. Lonely and resentful, Oskar soon meets the new arrival just moved in next door: a strange little girl called Eli (Lina Leandersson), dressed in rags and barefoot in the freezing snow. After several tentative meets the two become friends, eventually becoming close. Meanwhile local people have been attacked and killed, drained of blood. It soon becomes clear that Eli is a vampire and the old man living with her is her human slave/carer, who goes out each night and kills for her, getting her fresh blood. But when the old man messes up and goes and gets captured, Eli is forced to fend for herself and to possibly flee the area as the police and the suspicious locals begin to close in. Knowing now what his new friend truly is, Oskar comes to terms with it and helps Eli evade capture and doesn’t stop her when she flees the area for pastures new. But with Eli now gone, Oskar is left all alone to face what is likely to be an awful fate at the hands of his incessant tormentors. I adore this film. I connected right away with the chilly isolation, loneliness and sadness that underlies this mournful yet also rather lovely little tale of childhood disconnection, unlikely friendship and budding love. Adapted from John Adjvide Lindqvist’s novel of the same name by the author himself, Let the Right One In is a vampire film, yes, but it is also so much more. Essentially this is a love story about two lost, lonely, damaged souls who find each other amidst a world of endless snow and torment. Restrained and artful direction from Tomas Alfredson brings out wonderful performances from the films two young leads while not ever skimping on the violence and shocks. The end sequence in the swimming pool is a standout and is one of the greatest sequences in recent film memory. The film’s cinematography is sharp and stark and the score by Swedish composer Johan Söderqvist is a thing of haunting romantic beauty. It is rare enough for a horror film to be a genuinely great film. It is even rarer for it to be a deeply touching human story and a work of art that transcends its genre roots. LTROI is not just one of my favourite horror films it’s one of my favourite films. Period. It should also be noted that Matt Reeves’ splendid US adaptation of Lindqvist’s novel titled Let Me In is almost as good too.


1. An American Werewolf in London (D: John Landis, 1981)
And so here we are at my number one favourite horror movie of all time. The story goes like this. Two young American backpackers, Jack and David, are travelling around northern England. Stopping off in the creepy village of East Proctor and its extra creepy pub, the two lads are quickly sent on their way by nervous locals, the bizarre warning of stay off the moors and beware the moon ringing in their ears. Lost in the dark outdoors, the lads are soon stalked and attacked by a savage beast. Jack is killed while David survives and is taken down to a London hospital to recuperate. The police believe it was an escaped madman who was responsible while David insists it was an animal, a wolf. Before long the deceased Jack, looking like a walking meat loaf, is visiting David to warn him that they were attacked by a werewolf and that in two days time, on the full moon, David, having survived, will become a werewolf too. Jack urges David to kill himself so as not to kill anymore people and curse his victims to limbo until the wolf’s bloodline is severed. David thinks he’s going mad. Taking pity on him, comely Nurse Alex (Jenny Agutter) invites David to come stay with her when he is released from hospital the next day. The following night, though, after a last ditch attempt by Jack to warn David, David does indeed turn in to a werewolf and stalks the streets and underground of London munching on the locals. The movie ends with a chaotic and show stopping finale as David in werewolf form goes on the rampage in a busy Piccadilly Circus, Nurse Alex rushing to get to him to try and calm the savage beast before the police riddle him with bullets. Needless to say it doesn’t end well for poor David. Well, what can I say about John Landis' legendary lycanthropic classic? Lets start with this: as a life long werewolf geek this was THE horror movie that as a kid I simply HAD to see as soon as I possibly could. I followed its production through the pages of Starburst and Fangoria magazines, reading every article I could find and drooling over every awesome looking photo. When it finally came out in the cinema I got my parents to go see it, then come back and report every tiny detail. And as soon as it came out on video rental I got hold of it myself and devoured it like a ravenous werewolf chomping down on a late night underground commuter. It didn't disappoint. AAWWIL is ridiculously simply plotted, darkly funny and pant-wettingly scary. Plus it still has arguably the best make up and creature effects in cinema history courtesy of Rick Baker who won an Oscar for them (they actually had to invent a new category for him for this, one which still lasts to this day.) Oh, and it also has Jenny Agutter as a sexy nurse. Result! The cast are excellent, especially David Naughton as poor doomed David Kessler and Griffin Dunne as zombie Jack Goodman. Plus the supporting British cast are just sublime, having tons of fun with Landis’ quirky and jet black humour, even delving in to silly physical humour with the likes of the well meaning but bumbling copper Sergeant McManus. What AAWWIL also does wonderfully is capture a genuine feel of Britain in the early 80’s. The TV is terrible, the tabloid newspapers are openly salacious, and the cost of living is high and getting higher. There’s an underlying feeling of grim reality to the whole thing tempered with jet-black humour, and not just regarding the carnivorous lunar activities of poor David Kessler but also about life in general in Great Britain at the time. So, things haven’t really changed that much then. My only quibble with Landis’ movie is this (and it has always bugged): why does David turn in to a werewolf on two consecutive nights? Jack tells him he turns on the full moon. Well, there is only ever one proper full moon per month. A glaring error by Landis. I understand why for story purposes he wanted David to turn twice in a row but only a slight tweaking to werewolf lore was needed. A line of dialogue to say that, for example, that someone who is a werewolf turns every full moon and the night immediately following the full moon. Anyway, it’s a minor annoyance that doesn’t spoil the overall movie experience. The bottom line is I love this movie so much that it makes me wanna howl! Beware the moon!

Time to change in to something less comfortable

A few other titles that could (and maybe should) have been included in this countdown:

The Cabin in the Woods - Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's brilliantly fun celebration and also undercutting of the horror genre would be a top five film in this list. However the very nature of the film and what it is doing I thought would be unfair to all the 'real' horror films in the list. Cabin sits above (or below?) the specific horror genre in a genre all of its own. So I decided to leave it out of this list just to be fair on all the others. But it is utter;y brilliant!

From Dusk ‘Til Dawn – Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s rollicking gangster/vampire flick with George Clooney becoming an instant movie star and Salma Hayek as the sexiest vampire with a snake ever.

30 Days of Night – David Slade’s stylish and bloody adaptation of Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s classic comic book about a band of savage vampires attacking the small Alaskan town of Barrow after the sun sets for thirty days and nights.

The Wicker Man – Robin Hardy’s classic folk horror with Edward Woodward as a god fearing copper going to a remote Scottish island to find a missing child.

American Psycho – Mary Harron’s excellent adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis’ novel about psycho yuppie Patrick Bateman who goes mental in the 80’s. A career making performance from Christian Bale.

Let Me In – Matt Reeves’ US adaptation of John Adjvide Lindqvist’s novel Let the Right One In. A wonderful movie almost as good as the Swedish original.

The Woman – Lucky McKee’s brutal and shocking story about a feral woman captured in the wild by a family and then kept in their shed in order to try to tame her.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


And here's more...

20. The Descent (D: Neil Marshall, 2005)
Brit director Neil Marshall's second film is a super tense claustrophobic underground scarefest which sees a band of six female friends go exploring an unmapped cave system, getting lost, surviving a cave-in, only to then have to deal with hideous underground cannibalistic monsters called Crawlers. The Descent of the title not only refers to the descent underground but also to the psychological descent in to guilt, terror and madness by the main character Sarah after her husband and child are both killed in a car accident that she survived. All the actresses are excellent, especially Shauna Macdonald as Sarah, and the script by Marshall is character driven and intelligent. His direction is fantastic too, piling on the tension, atmosphere and scares. Marshall is helped no end by inspired set designs (all of the caves are interchangeable studio sets, which you'd never guess watching the film) and stunning cinematography from his regular DP Sam McCurdy, one of the best DPs currently working. To note, Marshall’s werewolf flick Dog Soldiers remains my fave of his films but I’ve left it out of this list as it’s more of a monsters vs. soldiers action movie than a horror movie, in the same way Aliens isn’t in this list either but Alien for sure will be.

19. The Eye (D: The Pang Bros., 2002)
The Pang Brothers pan-Asian chiller is a brilliantly creepy and imaginative tale which sees blind twenty year old Hong Kong classical violinist Mun getting an eye transplant which allows her to see for the first time since she was two. Unfortunately her new eyes also let her see angry spirits and ghostly apparitions of terrible tragedies which have already happened and which may yet happen. The Eye is simply a great story filled with atmosphere, strong performances, visual creativity, pant wettingly scary moments (the ghost in the elevator springs to mind) and an ending which is nothing short of horrifically spectacular. Brilliant film. Just don't bother with the lame US remake.

18. Bram Stoker's Dracula (D: Francis Ford Coppola, 1992)
Coppola's lush, bloody, romantic, erotic, grandly theatrical and wonderfully overblown take on Stoker's classic novel is my favourite film version of the story for exactly those reasons. And for Gary Oldman's startlingly original and utterly compelling take on the titular character, recast here as a tragic, romantic antihero. Simply, Oldman is amazing! His performance as either creepy wizened old man or elegant romantic lead or bloodthirsty bat demon or sex hungry Wolfman is jaw dropingly awesome. Alongside him Anthony Hopkins makes for a gloriously mad Van Helsing. Winona Ryder is lovely and full of repressed eroticism as Mina, the object of Drac's affections. Sadie Frost is adorable and sexy as flirty Lucy. And Tom Waits, Richard E Grant, Carey Elwes and Bill Campbell all provide solid support. The only duff link in the acting chain is poor old Keanu Reeves, atrociously miscast as Jonathan Harker, his being one of cinema's most embarrassingly awful performances of all time. But not even the terribleness of Keanu can sink this movie. Bram Stoker's Dracula is a visual and storytelling tour de force that harks back to old style movie making on grand sets with imaginative camera work, make-up and in-camera FX rather than snazzy editing farts and glossy CGI. It looks like a wondrously produced stage play with the actors going big as if they are indeed performing to a live audience. And it works. Also, the film doesn't skimp on the blood and the horror. The sequence where Van Helsing and co. track down and kill vampire Lucy in her tomb is stunningly shot and edited and gloriously gory. A special call out goes to the thunderously dramatic and doomladen score by Polish composer Wojciech Kilar. It's one of my all time faves. I know that this film has as many critics as it does fans. And I do understand why many don't go for it. But I do. Big time. For me, Coppola’s film is the most all round enjoyable, visually arresting and compulsively watchable version of Dracula yet made.

Vampire Lucy

17. Interview with the Vampire (D: Neil Jordan, 1994)
Neil Jordan's film of Anne Rice's classic 1976 novel is a classy and beautifully mounted production. That it stays hugely faithful to Rice's text is down to Jordan and to producer David Geffen who employed Rice herself to write the screenplay with help from Jordan. It was only when Tom Cruise was cast as the inimitable Vampire Lestat, the brat prince anti-hero of many of Rice's vampire novels that Rice and much of her fandom balked. However, after seeing Cruise's work, Rice admitted she was wrong and took out a public ad in Variety saying as much and praising Cruise's performance. As well she might. For though the story of Interview is really that of morose vampire Louis who Lestat turns back in 18th century Louisiana, it is Cruise as Lestat, a part-time presence in the film, who electrifies. He is pure savage charisma, a selfish, cruel and utterly amoral monster that enjoys inflicting pain and suffering for his own amusement. He is elegant and charming, then feral and furious. He is pure swaggering ego with fangs and an endless lust for blood. The scene where he toys with and tortures a young prostitute before killing her all to make a point to Louis is cruel and ghastly. But as we follow the undead existence of vampire Louis as he recounts his tale to a writer in a dingy contemporary San Francisco room, it is one other character and actor who comes to truly steal the film. Kirsten Dunst in her screen debut is Claudia, an orphan child who Lestat and Louis turn in to a vampire, taking as their immortal daughter. She is a child who over the decades will mature in mind, but will never grow up in body. The then twelve-year-old Dunst is fabulous as this tragic and ultimately doomed woman child. Her scenes with Brad Pitt's Louis are as touching as her scenes with Cruise's Lestat are tense and combative. Rices' script is rich and thoughtful, pondering often on the nature of life and death, of good and evil, while being filled with such tangible despair (Rice wrote the original book in order to deal with the loss of her young child). On a technical level Dante Farretti's sets are beautifully designed, being often exaggerated versions for their period. Phillippe Rousselot's photography is both lush and gloomy as needed. And the mournful choral score by Elliot Goldenthal is highly effective. Also worth noting is the FX. Digital Domain provided many subtle digital FX along with matte paintings and set extensions. The subtle CG morphing as both Louis and then Claudia become vampires is a lesson in how to do great unobtrusive CGI. And the make-up and animatronics by the late Stan Winston are some of the best he ever did. The sequence where Claudia cuts Lestat's throat and he slowly bleeds to death on the floor is a marvel of FX work combining Cruise's performance and gory make-up merged with an amazingly life like animatronic of Cruise as he writhes, bleeds, desiccates and dies in front of our eyes. As a long time fan of Rice's first tranche of Vampire Chronicles books (from Interview up to Memnoch: The Devil) I couldn't have wished for a better film version of her original beloved text. Sympathy for the Devil indeed.

Angry Claudia

16. The Company of Wolves (D: Neil Jordan, 1984)
Neil Jordan's other horror movie (at least until his new one Byzantium comes out) was partly what got him the gig for Interview with the Vampire. The Company of Wolves is a strange, lyrical, dreamlike fable based upon Little Red Riding Hood and adapted by Jordan together with the late author Angela Carter from short stories by Carter in her book The Bloody Chamber. Carter's book is a reworking of several famous (and some not so famous) fairytales such as Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast, but with a strong feminist slant, as tales of burgeoning womanhood and sexual awakening. In the movie, in contemporary times, a young girl, 14 or 15, takes to her bed and falls asleep. In her dreams now we are in a small village in a deep dark forest in long ago times. Here, the same young girl, now called Rosaleen, is being constantly warned by her parents and her granny to beware the wolves who prowl the forest and also nefarious men who will try to take her virtue. Granny tells her too that some wolves can disguise themselves as men, making them doubly dangerous. What follows are several tales told by granny of men who become wolves and all the terrible things that then happen. But Rosaleen’s sexual awakening is more powerful than any scary old tales. And she soon ignores granny’s warnings when she meets a handsome huntsman out in the woods who charms her and challenges her to a race to granny’s cottage. Of course, we all know what happens next. “Oh granny, what big eyes you have...” I'm a huge fan of fairytales and of how they can be reinvented and reinterpreted. I've read The Bloody Chamber and it is a beautifully written, hugely evocative and deeply intelligent text. Jordan's film keeps the same feel as the book and plays like a beautiful nightmare filled with classic fairytale imagery and added blood and gore and some very, very icky werewolf transformations. The film looks gorgeous with the intricate sets and lush photography making it appear far more expensive than it actually was (a budget of only £410,000.) But it is Jordan's overall style of direction – the dreamlike quality – and the thematic depth that makes this something so very special. It is the best, most fully realised, most intelligent adult fairytale ever put on screen. The cast is uniformly excellent including such luminaries as Angela Landsbury, Stephen Rea and David Warner. And George Fenton's score is darkly melodic and quite lovely. A beautiful, lyrical, scary film, The Company of Wolves stays with you, especially in your dreams...and nightmares.

The Wolfgirl

15. Candyman (D: Bernard Rose, 1992)
Bernard Rose’s film adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story The Forbidden transplants Barker’s tale of horrific urban legends from England to the US, specifically to the run down public housing estate of Cabrini Green in Chicago. Virginia Madsen is Helen, a graduate student doing a thesis on urban legends, who is investigating the legend of the Candyman, a slave who fell in love with a white woman only to be tortured and murdered for doing so. Apparently if you say his name five times in to a mirror he appears and splits you open with his hook for a hand. Several murders have happened on the Green, which the locals attribute to the Candyman. Fascinated, Helen delves deeper in to the legend and in to the world of Cabrini Green…only to find more than she ever bargained for - a bloodbath with herself as the number one murder suspect. Rose’s film is a grim, poetic, scare and blood filled nightmare of murder and possible madness. Is Candyman real? Is Helen really mad? Candyman is all about the power of legends, of folklore, of combined belief where what is real and what is believed to be real becomes blurred. It is also damn scary with several sequences that will make you jump out of your skin and cringe in horror. Madsen, always a good actress, is perhaps at her best ever here. And as Candyman himself, Tony Todd creates one of cinema’s finest and most iconic scaremongers. Also worth noting is Philip Glass’s odd, jarring and brilliantly haunting score. Be my victim!

14. The Omen (D: Richard Donner, 1976)
Not much needs to be said about Richard Donner’s classic 1976 tale of the antichrist coming to earth in the form of a little boy called Damien. We all know the story. We all know it is brilliant! Gregory Peck and Lee Remick are both splendid as the child’s unwitting adoptive parents Robert and Katherine Thorne, Robert being the current US ambassador to the UK. Donner’s film is a classy production, which follows the mystery of who and what young Damien really is, the evil that happens around him, and his adoptive father’s own investigations and eventual horrific discovery of the truth. The film is chock full of classic sequences and unforgettable moments that chill the blood to this day. It is helped enormously too by Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar winning score which is utterly foreboding in its choral grandeur and chilling Latin chants. By far the best of all the Omen films and a million times better than the dull and pointless 2006 remake.

13. The Fog (D: John Carpenter, 1980)
John Carpenter’s 1980 follow up to Halloween is an oft-overlooked classic. A gloriously atmospheric ghost story that , like Halloween, relies on mood, atmosphere and tension over gore and cheap shocks (though it does have a couple of very good shocks). The small coastal town of Antonio bay is celebrating its centenary when a creepy fog rolls in at night from the sea, sending things around town a little crazy. Soon, the ghosts of drowned lepers, betrayed by the original towns folk, return to exact their gruesome revenge on the descendants. Tom Atkins, Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau and Hal Holbrook lead the cast and do strong work. But the true star of the film is Carpenter along with his DP Dean Cundey who together create a film dripping with atmosphere and slow creeping dread. A simple but great ghost story, I never get tired of watching The Fog and always get a chill when I see a real life fog bank. Ghost lepers…brrr!

12. Evil Dead 2 (D: Sam Raimi, 1987)
Well, what can one say about Sam Raimi’s madcap surreal loony tunes horror/comedy? It’s pure bonkers genius, being a quasi remake and sequel to the first movie while utterly changing the tone from seriously grim and gruelling horror to utterly un-serious and hilarious comic book monster mash. Bruce Campbell is back as poor hapless demon fighter Ash, still stuck in that darn cabin fighting those pesky deadites as some new human arrivals turn up to make his already hard life even harder. This time, Campbell gets to unleash his inner Buster Keaton as a madcap physical comedian, beating himself up, sawing off his own hand, chasing his own possessed hand around with a shotgun… He’s brilliant! So, so funny. The monsters and gore are so cartoonish and rubbery that scares are pretty much non-existent. But when a film is this bonkers, this creative, this out and out zany, who cares about scares? Evil Dead 2 is a riot. I like the first movie but have never loved it. With Evil Dead 2 Raimi found his groove, his horror style. And knocked it outta the park. Evil Dead 2 is pure insane fun from start to end.


11. Day of the Dead (D: George A. Romero, 1985)
George A. Romero’s third zombie film is possibly his darkest, most nihilistic of them all. After the comic book styling of Dawn, Day is a grey, grim, dour look at a ruined world and its last few ruined people. A small band of scientists and military are holed up in an underground bunker apparently searching for a cure to the zombie epidemic which now seems to have claimed the world above. The scientists, led by Sarah (Lori Cardile) and the eccentric but brilliant Dr Logan (Richard Liberty) are experimenting on ‘live’ zombies with Logan thinking they can be tamed and made harmless, as demonstrated by his prize pupil Bub, the ‘smart’ zombie he’s helping learn. Meanwhile, the military types, led by the aggressive and increasingly unhinged Rhodes (Joe Pilato), are getting increasingly frustrated with the scientists and what it is they are doing. Tensions rise between the two groups and when Rhodes discovers something awful that Logan has done he loses it and things in the bunker quickly go to hell. Day of the Dead is an unrelentingly grim look at humanity and how communication between people can break down so easily and lead to terrible things. The humans ironically do not learn from their mistakes and their violent impulses, whereas the zombie Bub is the only one who is learning and controlling his horrid impulses as the humans around him descend in to violence and idiocy. Everything about Day is fabulous. The grim look of the film, the score by John Harrison, the intelligent script, and the acting – specifically Howard Sherman as Bub, the most loveable zombie ever. But above all else, Tom Savini’s make-up and gore FX reach new heights in realism and pure grossness. Real offal was used in the film. And it looks like it too. A great film filled with social commentary, great scares (the opening hands through the wall is genius) and gore by the bucket load. Just avoid the shit 2008 remake.

“Choke on ‘em!”

Top 10 coming soon.

Friday, 26 October 2012


More horror to make you poo your pants...

30. May (D. Lucky McKee, 2002)
Writer/Director Lucky McKee’s story of lonely, socially inept veterinary nurse May (Angela Bettis) who yearns for the love and companionship of the perfect friend is a disturbingly brilliant and moving little fable. May is a tragic, horrific, yet sympathetic character brought vividly to life by the wonderful Bettis, who to my mind is one of the finest actresses of her generation. Ably supported by Jeremy Sisto and Anna Faris, Bettis is compulsively watchable as she shows us the gradual fracturing of a mind and the obsessive and horrific lengths May will go to, to not be alone. McKee's script is strange, twisted, sad and poignant and his direction is artful and actor centric. He and Bettis are good friends and she appears in most of his films, almost as a muse. Their team works. More please.

29. Ju On: The Grudge (D. Takashi Shimizu, 2002)
There's been lots of different versions of this coldly creepy and highly unsettling Japanese chiller about a deadly supernatural curse, including a Korean remake, a Japanese TV remake, and a US remake starring Buffy herself as directed by the original's Japanese director. I've only seen the original and the US remake. The US remake is good but its obviously larger budget and slightly awkward and unnecessary inclusion of American characters in to a Japanese mythos stymies it somewhat. For me, the original remains the best and most effective. The scene of a poor tormented woman seeking refuge in her own bed...only for the murderous ghost to creep up over her from under her duvet is one of the simplest and scariest concepts in modern horror. Brrr!

28. Black Swan (D. Darren Aronofsky, 2010)
Darren Aronofsky's psychological art house horror sees childlike Ballerina Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) taking on the dual role of Odette and Odile in Swan Lake. Fine playing sweet, innocent Odette, the white swan, Nina has trouble embracing the darkness to play Odile, the sinister, devilish black swan. Pushed by her manipulative producer (Vincent Cassell) and overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey), and feeling threatened by newcomer dancer Lily (Mila Kunis), Nina begins to crack, believing she really is turning in to a black swan and doing all sorts of terrible things as a result. This is essentially a werewolf tale...but with a swan instead of a wolf. Aronofsky has stated as much. What it certainly is, is one utterly riveting film, beautifully directed, unsettling in places, and featuring a mesmerising (and Oscar winning) lead performance from Natalie Portman who is ably supported by Kunis, Vincent Cassell, Winona Ryder and Barbara Hershey. The ballet sequences are stunning, while ome of the main underlying themes of confronting and embracing sexuality, though nothing new, is wonderfully and artistically handled. In many ways Black Swan reminds me of Neil Jordan's splendid The Company of Wolves in its themes and approach. Simply, Black Swan is a great film, horror or otherwise. See it.

27. Bride of Frankenstein (D. James Whale, 1935)
James Whale's sequel to his own film version of Frankenstein is a wonderfully odd, darkly camp, blackly humorous classic. Taking elements from Mary Shelley's original novel which weren't used in the first movie, Whale spins a tale that sees a chastened Doctor Frankenstein being sought out by the nefarious Dr Pretorius and then being seduced in to helping Dr P with his own bizarre life creating experiments. Pretorius has also made a deal with Frankenstein’s Monster to receive his aid and to study him in exchange for the promise of creating the Monster a companion, specifically a bride. With the eventual creation of the Bride in the stitched together form of the lovely and wonderful Elsa Lanchester, who's all too brief performance is every bit as iconic as Karloff's, we get a twisted take on unworkable and unrequited love. If you've never seen this film, do yourself a favour and seek it out. Gorgeous photography and art direction help to make it essential viewing for any self respecting film fan. And to this day Lanchester's Bride remains a classic goth fox.

Here comes the Bride!

26. The Mist (D. Frank Darabont, 2007)
Frank Darabont's adaptation of Stephen King's novella is a low budget high impact tale of humanity (or lack thereof) and how we behave when we are thrown together under the worst of circumstances. A small US town gets covered in a thick mysterious mist presumed to have escaped from a nearby military base. Within the mist there are all sorts of nasty killer creatures looking to munch on the locals, many of whom take refuge in a large supermarket, barricading themselves in as best as possible. What follows is a tense, scary and tragic microcosm of human society filled with people who may end up killing each other before the monsters get a chance to. Expertly written and directed by Darabont and filled with excellent actors led by Thomas Jane, The Mist's greatest trump card, though, is its ending: a horrifically tragic and soul crushing finale. With The Mist, Darabont proved yet again that he is a master filmmaker, especially when adapting the work of Stephen King. Please make King's Cell next, Frank.

25. Night of the Living Dead (D. George A. Romero, 1968)
George A. Romero's black and white zombie classic sees the dead coming back to life to eat the living with a small group of disparate souls hiding out in an abandoned farmhouse in an effort to try and survive the ghoulish apocalypse. And there's not much more plot than that. But, like all great horror movies and genre movies in general, NotLD is really all about us. It's about human beings and how we behave to each other, how society works and doesn't work. With NotLD Romero and co-writer John Russo created a brand new sub-genre – the zombie movie. Before NotLD, zombies were just dull-brained slaves. Post NotLD and zombies became deadly flesh hungry ghouls. Without Romero there would be no 28 Days Later, no Walking Dead, no Shaun of the Dead amongst many, many others. But Romero didn't just sit on his Laurels (an in joke there), he went on to make more zombie films with Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead. Romero uses his zombie tales as social commentary on the particular eras they are made in – be it 60's Vietnam and race relations with Night, rampant 70's consumerism with Dawn, 80's militarism with Day, and 2000's gated communities, economic woes, social media and sectarian fears with Land, Diary and Survival. All hail the great god of the zombies. All hail George!

24. Near Dark (D. Kathryn Bigelow, 1987)
Kathryn Bigelow's stylish 1987 vampire western is a revolutionary film in the vampire movie sub-genre. For the first time vampires move well away from their usual gothic image, becoming feral, blood hungry nomads who prowl the vast lands of the US mid-west sadistically preying on rednecks in bars and on whoever else crosses their paths with a pulse. In this tale, easygoing cowpoke Adrian Pasdar falls for cute vamp Jenny Wright who also takes a shine to him. Unbeknownst to Pasdar, she goes and turns him in to a vamp too (though the term vampire is never used in the film and there are no fangs or glowy eyes, just throat slashing and blood drinking). Pasdar then joins her band of vamps for a while before deciding its not the (un) life for him and goes and sets out to return home to his dad and little sister. Near Dark is a stylishly bloody lesson in how to successfully reinvent a classic monster. Unfortunately it was a box office flop, losing out hugely to the other vampire movie of 1987 – the glossy big budget pop video antics of The Lost Boys, another attempted reinvention of the vampire myth. Nowadays Near Dark is rightfully regarded as a classic genre changing film, while The Lost Boys is mostly thought of as just a fun little teen movie with a great soundtrack. And what became of Near Dark’s director Kathryn Bigelow? Point Break, a divorce from James Cameron, and an Oscar for The Hurt Locker is what.

23. Martyrs (D. Pascal Laugier, 2008)
Part of the current French new wave of horror, director Pascal Laugier's Martyrs is one truly horrible film. It is also utterly brilliant! The central idea doesn't reveal itself until fairly late in to the movie, after the film has led its audience on a twisty turny tale full of bloody revenge and potential madness. In the end, what this film is about is something so disgustingly ingenious that you have to applaud it. This is deeply intelligent filmmaking. But also almost unwatchably painful filmmaking as it delves deep, deep down in to horrendous cruelty and brutality, driving home its ideas like a repeated sledgehammer to the gut. To describe any of the plot in more detail would be a disservice. If you like intelligent horror and have a strong stomach and a reasonably stable mind then seek this out now. But be warned! It is a deeply unpleasant experience. I loved the film but I fear it too and have no wish to see it again any time soon.

22. The Blair Witch Project (D. Eduardo Sanchez, Daniel Myrick, 1999)
If you don't like the ongoing craze for found footage films then you know who to blame. Back in 1999 when the internet was still young two aspiring filmmakers with no money but lots of new media savvy had a great idea. Make a zero budget horror movie pretending it came from found footage discovered after a band of students went in to the woods to investigate the local legend of a child killing witch. Then promote the resulting movie through its own interactive website, selling the events caught on cam as real while also filling in the whole witch mythology via fake historical documents and reports. And lo, the audiences did buy it. To the tune of $240 million world-wide. It didn't hurt that the movie itself was actually brilliant, being an edgy, highly creepy, highly effective little spook story that relies on characters, atmosphere and subtle sound effects as well as the power of suggestion to scare. I still think that its end sequence is one of the best end horror film sequences ever – no gore, no shock, just that utterly creepy and unnerving final image. Great movie then, plus a genuine phenomenon and trendsetter. Shame the sequel was pants.

21. Night of the Demon aka Curse of the Demon (D. Jacques Tourneur, 1957)
The second film in this countdown by French-American director Jacques Tourneur is a wonderfully creepy and classy British supernatural chiller based on the story Casting the Runes by M R James. American professor of psychology Dana Andrews travels to the UK to attend a conference only to get caught up in the dark world of curses, demonology and black magic. For much of the film we are led to believe that the nasty goings on are most likely nothing but a bunch of hocus pocus and psychological suggestion. However it eventually becomes clear that this is not the case as Andrews' investigations in to a possibly murderous sorcerer lead to him being cursed with a demon coming to take his soul. Like all Tourneur's films Night of the Demon is beautifully shot and is full of tension, mood and atmosphere and has a couple of very effective jump scares, the best involving the sudden appearance of a loudly hissing black cat. Creepy and effective, this was a film ahead of its time in many ways. Yes, the actual demon FX are a bit ropy, but by then you have been well and truly pulled in to its deadly serious and coldly creepy world of black magic and murderous demon worship.

20 to 11 will follow soon.