Thursday, 22 February 2018

Arrested Development.

What a super Saturday afternoon. So many happy faces all turning out for one super comic; Space Precinct Reloaded. Connor Flanagan described it so well when he talked about the joy off working on the title, being given the opportunity to add to the Anderson Telly legend in his own way. There was a little bit of Gerry Anderson's vision in the lives off every kid who grew up in this part of the world.back in the day, and I suppose for the ages to come.
               Was knocked out by the most amazing portfolio of Dalek sketches Chris Thompson had published. Just another pleasant surprise on an afternoon blessed with many.
               Felt my own enthusiasm for comic book people reloaded.

One Way.

I have read and seen that much stuff with regard to all things Martian I almost forget we have not as yet landed a man there. Remembering The Martian, the book and the film, is almost the same as remembering an episode of The Living Planet or some such documentary about life on Earth. It just feels at this point we have been there and had any number of scrapes and hi-jinks. So attempting to assert myself in a thoroughly modern stylee I pinch myself and remind myself that this is all ahead and still in the domain of the speculative, however convincingly done.
            And One Way is a very convincing addition to that sub genre of science fiction literature.
            In much the same way as the treatment of deportees i days of yore we are at it again in days yet to be. Convicted criminals, lifers buried in the system, are offered the chance to go to Mars , to prepare the way for the colonists and scientists to follow. To get all the hard dirty work done ahead of their arrival. Building the habitats, planting the seeds for articial enviroments, draining the swamps, so to speak.
              Our neighboring planet has a ferocious terrain. To say it is inhospitable to humans is to say the surface of the sun is hot. We can trick out a life on its surface, using our wits and the artifice that is a faux habitable station. No margin for error though, there is no mercy in space. To describe it as a Devils Island in space is to undersell the scale of  its dangers. you only draw breath there by means of the most advanced breathing and re-breathing equipment. It like you, has a long distance to travel even before it is put to use and should it fail its manufacturer is quite some distance away. There are no B and Qs on Mars, well, not yet.
               In the short bio of its author on the fly of One Way I learned that SJ Morden is a rocket scientist and a doctor, who also has degrees in geology and planetary geophysics. He almost certainly knew enough before starting this book about just what it would take to get life too, and sustain life on, Mars. What was probably less certain was if he could write convincingly flawed human beings caught in extremis. Would he be able to write what amounted to a novel about the survival of a bunch of anti-heroes on the surface of a world that would kill all of them in a blink of an eye and make them sympathetic and relatable? Sent there by a company who sees them as no more than a ship load of bio-organic tools developed to do a series of jobs they had been compelled into performing by the bad shape of their lives.
               And the answer to that is; yes. Yes, yes and yes he did.So much so he had me up to the early hours reading on and on, determined to find out just what was going on and how much in human lives and human morality it was going to cost us to send a disposable workforce to the stars. I think it is SJ Morden's first book and he has hit the ground running with this one. Despite its modernity it has a great boy's own adventure quality to it.And now that I have read it its my own adventure too.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Space Precinct.

Very pleased to say that my chum Connor Flannagan is doing a signing for his new space Precinct Reloaded comic this Saturday at the Forbidden Planet Belfast Store. All are welcome and many are expected. If you fancy a very modern take on a great slice from the fabled Anderson family of telly shows please come along and support not only local talent but a great cauldron of creativity. Hurrah!
Chris Thompson has delivered a tight exciting script and Connor more than delivers the goods. Jamie Anderson himself and editor Andrew Clements are involved in so much more than an editorial sense. They have leant their goodwill and support in buckets and all involved have delivered a one shot that will prove to be a keeper for not just anyone lucky enough to be here on the day but who may well pick the title up afterwards.
                 In space everyone can see you smile.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Fiend Without A Face.

I only ever knew this film from a full page still in my Hamlyn Book Of Horror Movies( My horror movie bible growing up.) I never saw this movie growing up and I was always intrigued by that black and white still of someone being attacked by a living brain with a spine like tail. Well, if intrigue is the right word. It is a movie about a string of mysterious deaths that take place in the forest surrounding an army base and the man made monsters that stalk the leafy territory. There is very creepy foreshadowing for the fiend without a face. A horrific thumping and gurgling sound you just know was made by no creature found in nature.
             A brilliant scientist has made a terrible mistake and brought into being a creature from the id to rival any beastie to be found during the classic Philip Hinchcliffe era of Doctor Who. That is the era most people think off when considering classic Who. Without being able to put a name to it.
             The movie has a great base under siege feel to it and also manages to maintain a powerful sense of ordinariness about it. As the local population seek to discover the monster in their midst. The movie is a British made affair from 1968 and has a strong Doom Watch quality to it. The notion of bad science done for the right reasons with disastrous results. the night time forest scenes are particularly effective and their is a truly horrific scene when a hunter who has had his brain drained stumbles into a public meeting moaning and crying like a demented child. It is the gruesome aftermath of the creatures assault. One which usually ends with the human brain and spine being drawn from the victim.s body. It is Giger-like in intent. Before that was even a notion in any film makers mind. it would be another decade before such grandly imagined world building would take place but the world was waiting.
             The new frontiers of science often begin as uncharted wilderness. We fill in the gap and we discovers wonders and horrors in almost equal measure, with the scales more often dipping towards the terrifying. Ain/t discovery great....

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Prophecy (1979.)

Prophecy, made in 1979 and directed by John Frankenheimmer, is one of the most overlooked and under rated horror movies of the closing end of the seventies. Written by David Setzler, of The Omen fame, it is part old school boys own adventure yarn and chillingly ecological thriller. Yes it is a monster movie but it also has many other qualities to justify my opening statement. I watched it again recently and feel it has aged better than more successful movies of that era and certainly many of the films that came after in the following decades.
              A giant logging and paper mill organisation are felling trees at an industrial almost apocalyptic  rate and are also pumping something nasty into the waters around their factory. Watch the scene where we are introduced to the scale of the operation as the music swells, as written by Leonard Rosenman in a Wagnerian fashion, and the camera sweeps up over a wide river jammed tightly with felled floating logs. Talk about your Dark Satanic Mills, this place is Mordor in the making. The locals are suffering badly, they are sick, stagger and fall down. exhibiting the kind of drunken characteristics that lead to their stereotyping as drunken natives. A Doctor Verne and his wife Maggie are sent to make an enviromental study that might produce a case for halting the deforestation and pollution but there are many hurdles to be over come. Not least being the resistance from the logging company and its manager, who turns a blind eye to the many evils the mass felling of trees obscures. The story takes place along the banks of the Androscoggin River, a location of staggering beauty with a lively river and a dense forest that seems to rise and fall along the broken spine of a mountain.
              The movie is so well shot and makes the most of the most ominous forest locations on screen. The same sort of atmosphere that surrounds the small town of Twin Peaks with its mass of Douglas Firs swaying hauntingly in a wind with origins not of this world. In a forest that size you could believe in the existence of elder Indian spirits or even Big Foot.
              There is certainly something large roaming this forest with claws and teeth to match. John Frankenheimer directed this movie and managed to draw great performances from his tight cast which included Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire and Armand Assante. The film takes us from the heart of a rat infested ghetto in the bowels of New York tenements and back out into the wilds in the blink of an eye. "Rats gotta live too" says a corrupt and heartless tenement landlord when confronted by the mother of a child who has been subjected to rat bites. Actually they do,I suppose, but not on a diet of human children. Prophecy is a monster movie, to be sure, but it is a well crafted one with very real performances from all involved. Talia shire shines as Maggie, the mother to be who learns too late the terrible cost to be paid for us allowing the world we live on to be poisoned. While Armand Assante, youthful and blindingly handsome, radiates noble gravitas. Robert Foxworth plays a career best as the troubled doctor who desperately seeks a solution to a problem he knows the whole world shares in  but also is a man who's determination to solve the problems of the wider world blinds him to the problems closer to home.There are even a few memorable jump scares and action scenes specially during a nerve wracking night time journey through the forest where monsters dwell.
               Dark forests late on a windy night. They are a stage for the stuff of nightmares.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Return Of The Vampire.

Came across this wee 1943 gem quite by accident and what a pleasant surprise it proved to be. Bela Lugosi stars as vampire Armand Tesla ( What a great name. Almost as cool as Bela Lugosi. ) in a decades crossing yarn detailing two encounters with this arch vampire by the aristocratic Lady Jane..
At the end of that first encounter Armand Tesla is staked but revived twenty four years later when a German bombing raid over England sets in motion a chain of events which lead to him rising from the dead once more. Or rather returning to a state of being undead.
             Both times the vampire is served by a werewolf slave who saunters about their graveyard dwelling with a surprising degree of casuality. it is almost endearing were he not a psycho werewolf hybrid. Lycanthropy like this is usually best affected by Lon Chaney Jnr. himself in a Universal stylee. in the period between the two vampire encounters the world has moved on and got many shades darker. the Second World War is raging and no one knows for sure who will win althoigh every one knows for sure who must not win. In comparison to the threat of Hitler and his henchmen the notion of vampirism fades almost to timidity. Bela is charming as ever, part Murder Legendre, of White Zombie, part Dracula. he revels in his sly cruelty
             Lady Jane as played by Freida Inescourt is given much to do in this 1943 picture, playing the same woman at two different stages of her life. When a journal detailing the staking of Tesla makes its way into the hands of the police there is a very real possibility she will face criminal charges for her actions. They hanged one for such things back in the day. Lady Jane is very much the Van Helsing figure in this story and she carries it well.It is she who keeps her head when the bodies start to turn up and it is she who comes up with a way to counter this threat from beyond the grave. She is brave and strong willed and yet remains compassionate, even for her enemies. The plight of the werewolf slaves touches her and aids a surprising resolution. Audiences for this movie m its day must have sat in darkened movie theaters appreciating what a thoroughly modern conceit it is to move the story of the vampire into the present day. The passing decades since have off course turned the whole exercise into a period piece. A well formed nicely packaged one all the same. It is quite telling that in the story the idea of one of the cast having relocated to England after escaping from a Nazi concentration camp is an all too believable one, a chillingly plausible one at that. Demonstrating how difficult it was for fantastic unreal horror to hold its own in the terrifying stakes against real world horrors. It is one of the reasons we dream I suppose. Even when those dreams are bad ones.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Fug And A beast.

                                                                (From my sketchbook.)
                                                                        Meet Fug.
                                                        And one of Fug's main predators.