Saturday, 1 November 2014

Monthly Mini-Reviews: October - Halloween Special

We made it through the horrors of All Hallows' Eve, everyone (that is unless you are a ghost reading this, in which case I apologise for my insensitive comment but commend you on being a thoroughly modern ghoul and using the internet)! However, the terror isn't over yet. Today, we have horrifying tales of a monster and a man (but which is which?), a killer with some vacancies in his motel, a ghost story on a broken-down train and a whole other world underneath a world at war. Read on, if you dare, for the Monthly Mini-Reviews... Halloween Special!

 Frankenstein (2011 Stage Play)

Mary Shelley's immortal Frankenstein has been adapted so many times over the years that there's a whole myth around the story which is far removed from Shelley's original text. In this recent theatrical version, from the combined talents of Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle and therious thespians Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller (also both Sherlocks), the story is taken back to the beginning, keeping the shape and power of Shelley's exploration of science and the ambition of men while also not afraid to embellish details to enhance the material. Namely, the duality between creation and creator is increased, which was showcased, famously, by having the two main actors swap roles every night. I have been lucky enough to see the play with both actors in the roles (it was reshown in cinemas this Halloween) and both are terrific in capturing the tragic creature and the aloof doctor and the whole thing really is an exquisite production. Much like Dr Frankenstein's experiment, Frankenstein refuses to stay dead and long may it live if it is still being interpreted in such novel ways after two hundred years.

Psycho II

Since seeing Hitchcock's seminal thriller/horror Psycho for the first time last year, I've become quite a fan (but not in a creepy copycat kind of way) of Norman Bates, having also enjoyed the television series based on the character's early years. I settled into Psycho II, then, expecting a schlocky slasher but perhaps one with a enough of a hint at the original to sustain interest. In the result, Psycho II is a decent, if superfluous, sequel to the original. This is in large part down to Anthony Perkins who once again nails the nervy charisma of Norman as his character returns to Bates Motel twenty years later and fights to prevent his 'mother' from controlling him again. While it obviously ups the gore of the original, it is mostly psychological horror on show here as we get inside the mind of a killer. It's the sort of horror film that makes you want to have a shower after watching it. Just make sure you lock the bathroom door first...

Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth

Gothic horror is not something touched on enough in Young Adult fiction, but thanks to modern master of the macabre Chris Priestley the great tradition of Poe and MR James is being kept alive in his Tales of Terror, an anthology of spooky stories linked together by a encompassing narrative. The first two in the series - Uncle Montague's... and ... From the Black Ship - I loved and this final instalment is as much of a treat at this time of year. The tales are of a consistent quality but particular highlights include the peculiar puppets of 'Gerald' and murderous murmurs of 'The Voice.' Priestley clearly is a lover of the genre which comes through in his gleeful splashes of horror and habit for giving his characters a hard time (to say the least). The whole thing is saturated in Victoriana, evoking the masters of the craft, and an old broken down steam train makes for an eerie backdrop. Be warned: not one to read while commuting.

Pan's Labyrinth 

I haven't been much of a fan of other works by Guillermo Del Toro I've seen. Though his inimitable style is obviously visually interesting his films, to me, seemed to lack a depth or heart. This is the exact opposite of the case with his Spanish language dark fantasy film, Pan's Labyrinth, which marries gorgeous visuals with an in turns disturbing and uplifting story of fairy tales and war.
The contrast of Ofelia's magical underworld, represented by the avuncular Faun (played by prolific monster man, Doug Jones, star of Hellboy, Hocus Pocus and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) with the brutality of the Spanish Civil War, characterised by the sadistic Captain Vidal (a far scarier horror villain than Dracula or the Wolfman) could be jarring but they come together to tell a tale about how there is light in even the darkest of scenarios. It is all topped off with a terrific performance from the young Ivana Baquero as the bookish but brave Ofelia, the Alice in this twisted take on the works of Lewis Carroll, Arthur Machen and others.

Pick of the Month: It's a tough choice but as I've seen the terrific Frankenstein before, the one I was most blown away by this month, of this quartet of stories to make your quiver, was Pan's Labyrinth. Well done, Pan's Labyrinth. I owe you a coke.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...