Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Talking of Horror...

Watching the excellent “History of Horror” documentary trilogy the other day (you see BBC – you can produce quality output when you put your mind to it), I began to return to my own list of classic horror films. There are a number that always register on people’s top lists and works such as Carrie, Poltergeist, The Shining, The Fog, The Exorcist and It are there for a genuine reason. There are also others such as Thw Witchfinder General, The Birds, Black Christmas, The Blair Witch Project and Dracula that have been regarded as groundbreaking for the time. However, here are a list of some of mine that I have recently returned to as being seriously disturbing…

Iconic for its age, this really has to be seen even if only to demonstrate that the very idea of being chilling is possible without resorting to blood and gore, or even sound. Most terrifying scene? Of course, it has to be the iconic shadow of the count as he makes his way up the stairs to his victim

The Curse of Frankenstein
One of the very first classic Hammer films from the 1950’s, this was our first true glimpse of the Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing chemistry. Everything about this film is perfect – from the chilling use of grainy Technicolor to paint a bleak vision of the nineteenth century countryside, to the grim, instrument-laden laboratory of the fiendish Baron Frankenstein. Most terrifying scene? The shooting of the creature as he appears from the gothic-strewn autumnal forest, gushing a torrent of claret blood from his mutilated eye-socket. Very advanced visual horror for the time.

The Wicker Man
Who can forget the response of Sergeant Howie as he reaches the apex of the hill and is led by the congregation towards the monolithic sight of the Wicker Man in which he is to be burned alive. “ O, Lord! O, Jesus Christ!” The best films cannot be classified by “type” and there is no better example than this folk-horror piece of disturbing uniqueness from the early seventies.

The Devil Rides Out
It would not be right to have a list of classic horror films and not include one influenced by the late great Dennis Wheatley. Though there are some departures from the novel, the essence of the story is captured brilliantly by the actors and Hammer do a fine job. The two stand-out sequences have to be the chilling appearance of the demonic figure in Simon’s astronomy tower and, of course, Charles Grey’s awesome line as he leaves Richard’s house: “I shall not be back... but something will”

Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Strange that something with such a demonic, terrifying title should seemingly be so lacking in gore. Not that this is necessarily lacking in gore – rather that it isn’t quite the festival of blood and mutilation that one would assume. The point of this film is the psychological impact - especially the bizarreness of the family in question – a sort of collective homage to serial killers and one that conjures up images of Ed Gein and Fred West. Most terrifying scene? Surely the final moments around the dining table where absurdity and horror combine towards the final climatic chainsaw dance.

The Omen
There are elements of both farce and camp in this film that almost push the boundary to something other than horror. However, the ever-present black hound and sense of foreboding doom keep this within the realms of the disturbing. Most terrifying scene? It has to be the moment when they break into the tomb of Damian’s mother in the Italian graveyard only to uncover the skeletal remains of a demonic jackal…

The definitive slasher movie – in fact I’m not convinced that there has ever been produced a movie to cause the viewer to jump as much as this. It has to be watched alone, but even if one was to view it in daylight in a room of hundreds, it would not be enough to stop you from having heart-failure.

Don't Look Now
I leave the best to last. Again, it is impossible to categorise this picture, but I have never witnessed anything so beautifully shot, edited, arranged and presented. Blood on the slide, a haunting drowning, the menace of foresight, the threat of a murderer in the streets of a wintery, foreboding Venice. Red flashes, a glimpse of the past and the shadow of what is to come. As for the final scenes in the bell tower, never has cinema ever disturbed so masterfully.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Government Advice

Don’t drive for more than two hours without a break (stop off at a dirty, overprice service station to queue for parking and the toilet) – if you don’t have time, then leave earlier for your journey. If you do stop off, make sure that you eat fruit not chocolate as you need to eat five fruits a day. But you can’t eat it in the car (or drink water for that matter) as it is distracting and dangerous. Actually, you can’t listen to the radio either as that is also distracting (which means that you can’t listen out for traffic reports to avoid accidents which means you’ll queue for longer). But that’s ok as if you left for your journey earlier then you would be okay. Just get up out of bed earlier – never mind the fact that you need eight hours sleep. When you get to your destination, continue to drink water and eat fruit in order to hit your quota (and stopping off for the toilet again. Never mind the fact that you can’t find a toilet as the walk counts as part of your daily exercise.

When you get to your destination, do not visit the pub as you must not drink and drive, nor must you drink and not drive as any measure of alcohol will lead to heart disease and death. Do not smoke either. Best to continue gorging on water and fruit. If you must take anything else – pop a few aspirin. Or red wine for your heart. Hang on, though that’s alcohol, so you can’t have that. Have you filled out your tax returns? No? Okay, back in the car and back home with you. Actually, no you’ve already had one car journey so you better ditch the car and find a bicycle. What? Forty miles on the motorway? Tough – we have to save the planet, come on, I’m not interested in the fact that you have had a knee replacement and cant pedal up the hard shoulder of a hill… oh and better regurgitate that aspirin as our counter research shows that it might not be helpful after all…

You’d better get your skates on as you need to be home early enough to have another walk, drink some water and get your head down early enough to get your eight hours sleep… however; if you have a baby to consider as well… best get yourself a time machine.

I’ve checked and the government don’t do those.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Deer Culling – Some Sense & Nonsense…

I was interested to hear this discussion point initiated on the BBC Autumnwatch program a couple of weeks ago. I knew that it would fuel the imaginations of some people, and here we go…

“I was very upset to hear Chris say deer culling is part of country life!!! Will not be watching anymore until you bring back Bill Oddie. The killing of the Exmoor Emperor was a disgrace!!”

“There are some genuine wildlife lovers around. I get sick of hearing the' they need to be culled brigade'!!! Nature will take care of its own, if only the human race would let it!!! Killing stags to chop of their heads and mount them on walls is disgusting. Must make them feel really big strutting through our countryside stalking and killing innocent magnificent animals!!!”

Then again, there still exist those with sufficient knowledge of the issue and some common sense…

“What Chris said is the absolute truth and I totally agree with all he said. 350,000 deer is an awful lot of deer and just imagine what would happen if we stopped culling?! Within 3 years we'd have over 1 million more deer in the countryside which is already over populated anyway. Don't forget also he did say he thought the killing of the Exmoor emperor was wrong though - he didn't condone that.
Culling is very unfortunate and I don't like the idea any more than most of you but it has to be done and if there are people around, sad cases though they may be, who are prepared to pay huge sums of money to carry this out then that’s the best way to do it. Putting money back into the economy of the countryside where it is badly needed. Well done Chris for being very open and honest on this very difficult subject!”

“Hunting has been part of the country way of life for centuries from the big country parks for the Landed gentry to the lone poacher wanting a rabbit for the pot. The country communities have adapted over the years but still rely on these shoots whether it be pheasants shoots or deer stalking, they bring in a lot of money to the towns and villages that are usually ignored, it is not only the land owner that makes money it is the local communities, the country side suffered greatly when fox hunting was banned, luckily a lot of groups have got around this but a large number were made redundant and some even homeless.”

Of course the main point is this – the fox and the stag have no natural predators in the UK since creatures such as wolves have not been prevalent here for several hundred years. We are the gardeners of the land and we cannot cherry pick the influence we have simply based on the cuddle-factor of the animal in question. A dearth in game-keeping and hunting will only result in one thing – the over-population of certain species that have only increased in number due to man’s influence in the first place.

So the message is - get over it lefties – stick to your lentil soup!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Pathetic Students

Just when I thought we could sink no lower than the French, our so-called academic show their true colours and attempt to destroy London. I’ve made my point about university funding – doesn’t take a genius to realise that the current model is unsustainable, but clearly people like the moron on Five Live this morning who is studying politics and philosophy and has no idea what she wants to do, believe that four years of getting drunk and forming protest groups should be another financial behemoth to be covered by the taxpayer. (As Harriet Harman’s preposterous question in the Commons yesterday – I suggest she takes a look at her own government, whose years of wasteful spending and over-zealous promotion of ludicrous degree subjects have led to this situation).

I smirked when I heard this particular student shrug off the damage to buildings as being “only important depending on your viewpoint” – I assume she means that she questions the validity of the idea of damage to buildings owned by organisations who exist within a capitalist society. Shame she couldn’t fashion a reply when it came to the question of how she would feel had the damage been caused to her property.

A more engaging interview was conducted with a policeman who had to be called out to the riots yesterday. He was six inches from being struck by the fire extinguisher that was thrown off the building above. He described his disappointment in the events and spoke of how close he was to being killed and leaving his wife and child without a father. On the day of Armistice, when thousands of ex-servicemen and women will gather at the cenotaph to lay wreaths for those who have been killed in action, London will also be sweeping up the mess caused by these students and treated those who were left injured.

I would send the bill to damage to all of them.

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Autumn Internationals

Despite the term “autumn” this is always a mark of the start of winter for me. Hot pork rolls, pints of ale, a frosted, pale English sky and a Saturday afternoon’s take on the best the southern hemisphere has to offer at Twickenham. Usually (in recent times) the best they have to offer is too good for the Red Rose, but our time will come again…

Come on England!

Monday, 1 November 2010

A Dirge for November...

November is here and with it the cold, misty gloom that tends to precede Advent. I tend to find something English and uplifting, despite the dampness. Perhaps, then, some suitably autumnal sounds to accompany this time…a dirge for November…