The Voices (film review)

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The Voices is odd, funny and dark and with these qualities it will not be for everyone. This horror, comedy as a style that I more associate with the nineties experimental filmmaking ‘Natural Born Killers’, ‘Edward Scissorhands’, even elements of ‘Meet the Applegates’ from the eighties taking small quantities of this type of film-making the director creates a weird tale which just isn’t quite dark enough to be hard hitting and not funny enough to be poignant satire. However, this creation is very much its own creature and enjoyable despite this.
Jerry is a happy go lucky character working in a bathtub factory; he is generally likable though he comes across a little naïve. Jerry lives with his dog Bosco and his cat Mr Whiskers above a disused bowling alley. Unfortunately both his pets can talk to him literally, even more unfortunate this is due to him not taking his meds. (The dog Bosco is the good part of Jerry while the cat Mr Whiskers represents his darker side of his psyche which eventually turns psychotic). He has a crush on Fiona (Gemma Arterton) who for her part is not interested. After arranging a date with her – ignoring the actual member of the admin team interested in him Lisa (Anna Kendrick) – at a local Chinese restaurant she jilts him to go on a karaoke night with the girls. When her car breaks down she gets a lift off Jerry who happens to be passing. As he is has not been taking his medication he hallucinates she is an angel he accidentally runs a deer over and kills the wounded animal with a hunting knife, Fiona not surprisingly tries to escape but gets killed (accidentally?) by Jerry. After this Fiona becomes a talking head stored in Jerry’s fridge. By the end of the film there are few more heads stored and talking to him.
I did enjoy this film I particularly liked the way the director ‘Marjane Satrapi’ uses the color and lighting ( the works overalls are pink and his apartment is dated though cheerful) until at one point he starts takes his meds and realizes the literal shit he is living in. Marjane plays with reversing the idea that we see in films of drug use, that when medicated Jerry’s world is dark and reality empty, but when not on them is perception is alive though schizophrenic and psychotic. Ryan Reynolds who plays Jerry and who voices the animals (in effect are The Voices) plays the character with charm and warmth and you can’t help but like the guy. This isn’t the film that is going to get Ryan noticed by the mainstream, he seems to not quite make it when he plays the lead – for instance ‘The Green Lantern’ – but he does have some charisma and warmth. You can’t help but feel some modicum of sorrow for the character even though he is extremely twisted. This is a departure from your usual study of the serial killer. Jerry isn’t a sociopath he has a conscious but the abuse in his childhood and the obvious schizophrenia have destroyed his sense of reasoning. He’s no Hannibal Lecter but a Norman Bates and like Norman is completely at the mercy of his own insanity. Reynolds plays with the Norman Bates persona if you can imagine Norman but a little less neurotic, more tripped out. On its own terms the film works for me it could have been darker and more dangerous but it was on the whole a good effort. The humor made it watchable and entertaining. If you have nothing better to do have a watch of this, but be warned if you have pets make sure they don’t start talking to you especially the cat.

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BONE TOMAHAWK FILM REVIEW

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There aren’t many horror westerns out there. They are a strange hybrid and hard to pull off – but they are out there! I suppose the few that I have seen really combine horror westerns and other genres mainly Sci-Fi, such as ‘High Plains Drifter’ , ‘Westworld’, ‘Grim Prairie Tales’ and ‘House 2’ which I have seen and all I highly recommend, especially High Plains Drifter and Westworld (a chilling forerunner to Terminator with Yule Brynner’s boots clacking down the corridors). Bone Tomahawk takes the western (an almost dead genre these days into weirder territory with the protagonists facing a sub-genre of horror that is as popular today as westerns are – the cannibal genre. Cannibal genre was a group of Italian films in the seventies that were based around cannibalism especially of indigenous tribes). But it has a few really good actors in it not least Kurt Russel. And what is more Kurt Russel with longish hair; somehow without his locks he’s never as good.
The film is slow burn not really gratuitous until the end, this I think is oddly enough one its strength. The most part it is a Western and it is the interaction of the characters that make this trek worthwhile. Kurt is magnificent in his role downplaying his character as the leader. While the support in this doomed tale create the hopelessness of the situation but keep going with grim determination.
It starts in suitable gruesome fashion. Two undesirables try to get away from a posse and find themselves in something that looks oddly like the forbidden ground in Pet Semetary where before you can say ‘let’s go through this Indian burial site no one will mind well, you can guess the rest.
We are then in the town of Bright Hope where there has been an abduction of the deputy sheriff, a drifter (one of the undesirables from the beginning) and the town doctor played by the beautiful ‘Lilli Simmons’ and a murder, mutilation of a stable boy, by what at first is thought to be Indians. However an actual meeting with an Indian – known as the professor – sets them straight that it is a troglodyte a savage that is piranha amongst the Indians. They are warned that any rescue attempt is futile but the sheriff is adamant and is joined by John Brooder ‘Mathew Fox’, Chicory the sheriff’s sidekick ‘Richard Jenkins’. The husband of the abducted doctor Arthur O’Dwyer played aptly by ‘Patrick Wilson’ who has been temporarily crippled in a mining accident, won’t take no for an answer and joins on the quest to get the hostages back.
It’s the trek first on horse then on foot that is the interesting study of the characters as they face a foe from quite literally the Stone age. The Troglodytes are sort of basic savages that live in caves but they have an interesting use of bone windpipes which they communicate through in whistles and wails.
This film could do with some serious editing going on way too long in the middle which makes you want to forward it somewhat causing the film to meander. But the dialogue is excellent as I believe because this is the directorial debut of S. Graig Zhaler who is a predominantly a writer. The script he also wrote which is top notch – a lot of horror films could do with some good dialogue actually a lot of modern films would be better if more attention was paid to the writing and the dialogue. On the whole this is a good effort and I’m looking forward to more S. Graig Zhaler film work in the future. It would be nice to see a little bit more Kurt Russel getting his acting chops on. Definitely worth watching if you like Westerns and something a bit different.

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Doctor Sleep by Stephen King review

WARNING SPOILERS.

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I suppose it would not be so far out there to state that Stephen King is part of my psyche now. After all I have been reading him since early adolescence which makes his stories part of my collective experience as any. Doctor Sleep is the sequel to The Shining one of King’s first and best novels.
I remember reading ‘The Shining’ when I was around fourteen it was part of a collection of his first three published stories in one hardback – considering, over the years how prolific he has been it’s really showing my age, and grey hair – the other two ‘Carrie’ and ‘Salem’s Lot’ have been filmed and are in the horror museum of popular culture. I only read ‘The Shining’ once ‘Salem’s lot’ twice and ‘Carrie’ his first and weakest novel never. I did try but it went nowhere – though I think the first filmed version with Sissy Spaceck to be the best. As I remember ‘The Shining’ became the standard certainly in literature of to how to write a horror novel – actually considering horror, how to write in general. The film directed by Stanly Kubrick is one of the essential films of its time and not only as a horror film. But there are a lot of differences between the novel and the film which infuriated Stephen King at the time. But let’s deal with the novel first.
The Shining dealt with Jack Torrance a writer and teacher and ex-alcoholic who becomes caretaker over the winter season, isolated and alone, with his family, Wendy his wife and Danny his youngest and only son, at the Overlook a five star historic hotel situated in the Colorado Rockies. However the hotel is haunted by malicious consciousness and several undesirable entities anyone who is a horror fan knows what these are. Things don’t go too well for Jack who eventually gets possessed by the evil incarnation of the hotel and tries to kill both his wife and son. Danny is psychic and as an imaginary friend Tony who appears to him when he focuses and in great distress (and we find out at the end of the book is actually him ten years older). When Danny first arrives at the hotel he meets Dick Halloran chef at the hotel who is also psychic and tells Danny that his psychic gifts the Halloran calls ‘Shining’. It’s this Shining that the entity and entities at the hotel want, to get it they have to kill Danny. Danny sends a psychic distress out to Halloran when things start to go from bad to worse at the Overlook. Halloran who always had misgivings about leaving the family isolated over the winter in the Overlook travels back to help Danny. Jack Torrance ends up being killed in an explosion from the boilers that ultimately destroys the hotel. The Epilogue finds Wendy and Danny being consoled by Halloran at a Main resort in the summer a year later after the death of his father.
It goes without saying that it would be a really good idea to read The Shining before Doctor Sleep. Now Doctor Sleep does it stand up to the original? Well not really though it is still a great read I found that it lacked some of the psychological horror so prevalent in the first. However it does make up for it more in excitement sort of what Aliens is to Alien, as there is more in the way of chase than the original. There are shades of King’s earlier works here ‘Firestarter’, ‘Carrie’ a little of other outside influences such as ‘The Sixth Sense’.
Danny now all grown up is taking a page out of his father’s book and has become an alcoholic and is basically drifting around going from bar fight to one night stands and hangovers. Ripping off woman he’s slept with and in general being a shit. However on one occasion a one night stand comes to haunt him. Danny physically and mentally exhausted from alcoholism settles in a town of Frazier in New Hampshire where he attends AA meetings – I have a problem with the Alcoholics Anonymous appearing more and more King’s later work (‘The Library Policeman’ from his ‘Four Past Midnight’ collection comes to mind) but he kind of goes into overkill with it here. But I digress, he eventually finds work as a care worker in an hospice for the terminal elderly, his psychic powers reawakened is able to let the dying cross over peaceably this earns the nickname ‘Doctor Sleep’.
Abra Stone a baby born a few months before the 9/11 event, which causes her to go into an inconsolable crying fit at the time, is finding her own psychic abilities growing this includes ‘Carrie’ type phenomena and after a couple of years contacting Danny. Abra ‘Shining’ is far stronger than Danny, think of Carrie on steroids.

limited-edition-doctor-sleep We are then introduced the True Knot sort of red neck middle-age folk who travel around the country looking for disasters to feed on and when resting prefer spots like Salem’s Lot or the plot of land where the Overlook hotel once stood. But far from their benign appearance as retiree travelers they are actually psychic vampires who feed on the shining which they call ‘Steam’ and they get it from torturing and killing slowly children with the gift such as Abra, though as I’ve stated, disasters such as 9/11 can be very nutritious to them.
Once their leader Rose the Hat gets wind of Abra when Abra is a young teenager and ripe for the picking she formulates a plan to kidnap and torture her for her steam which should help heal them as they have contracted measles from their last victim and are now dying off one by one.
This is a good read, apart from the AA stuff as I found it be a little preachy, but that aside it was still gripping. King at his worst is still better than most at their best so apart from the odd annoyance it still far superior to some I could mention. I found the True Knot to be somewhat a letdown as villains but I did enjoy Rose the Hat. Abra struck me as an older version of ‘Charlie’ the child hero of ‘Firestarter’. The first part of the book seems a little bit of homage to King’s earlier work and the second part tense chase sequence with revelations about Abra’s family and Jack Torrance nearing the end. I enjoyed it and was turning those pages near the end as the tension of cat and mouse between Abra and Danny verses Rose the Hat and what was left of her motley crew. This is worth reading and enjoying for the sake of itself it hasn’t the psychological impact and punch of the first novel and not the power. But sequels rarely do but I do believe that King enjoyed writing this and there is a fondness in the creative input that is in some ways like father and son relationship. Despite not being as powerful as the original, it’s well worth the effort to check it out as I found a fun, exciting and rewarding read.

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Wes Craven Horror Master (2 August 1939 – 30 August 2015)

Wesley Earl  Craven
As horror fans already know the death of Wes Craven from brain cancer late last month was a loss to the genre in his younger years would not have looked like a candidate for horror maestro. The director whose fledgling project was the infamous ‘Last House on the Left’ that would eventually bring cinema goer’s ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘Scream’. Wes Craven was brought up in a Baptist family that believed ‘horror’ films to be sinful didn’t see his first film of a more adult nature ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ until his senior college years. At that point he was hooked and after finishing his education gaining a undergraduate degree in Writing and Psychology and a Masters in writing seminars and Philosophy at John Hopkins University. His first real venture into films came in New York as a sound editor. He taught English after at Westminster College to provide for his then wife Bobby Chappel, and his two young children Jonathon and Jessica Craven.

Craven chance came with working with Sean Cunningham who produced while Craven writ edited and directed the notorious ‘Last House on the Left’. Though the film was received generally well for its use of ‘hidden horror’ it clashed with the censors. Especially in the UK where it was banned outright and given the term ‘Video Nasty’. The BBFC did not release the uncut version until 2008 in the UK. The film had got Craven’s name noticed but it caused problems for him in his social circuit of academia with people he had went to college with causing him to lose some friends. He sought several new avenue avoiding the violence and horror of LHOTL. However, after two years and needing money he was convinced whilst in Vegas to go back to the horror territory. The story goes that a trip to the desert had inspired him to write and direct the now infamous ‘The Hills Have Eyes’. In 1981 he directed ‘Deadly Blessing’ and in 1982 ‘Swamp Thing’ both was not received well by critics and did not do well in the cinema. In 1984 he directed for TV a supernatural thriller ‘Invitation to Hell’, however things were to change in the same year when he directed the iconic horror of the eighties ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ introducing pop culture to Freddy. He directed in 1985 the surprisingly good made for TV ‘Chiller’ in 1985 and the abysmal sequel ‘The Hills Have Eyes part II’. In 1986 Craven directed for the reboot of hit and miss reboot of ‘The Twilight Zone’. And the cult sci-fi horror ‘Deadly Friend’ and Wes Kraven goes Disney ‘Casebusters’. 1987 he returns with Freddy and an ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’ which is one my favorite of the nightmare franchise. In 1988 came ‘The Serpent and The Rainbow’ with a very nasty nail scene. Wes returned to comedy short lived series ‘The People Next Door’ in 1989 and again to horror with bady Pinker in ‘Shocker’. In 1990 the thriller ‘Night Visions’, and the following year 1991 ‘The People under the Stairs’. In 1993 he collaborates with other horror directors in ‘Body Bags’ returning again with Freddy in ‘Wes Craven’s New Nightmare’. Venturing into comedy and horror in 1995 with actor/comedian Eddie Murphy for ‘Vampire in Brooklyn’. In the same year, he produced, though billed as the ‘Hills Have Eyes III (released as Mind Ripper). In 1996 he returns to cult and celebrity status with ‘Scream’ following it up in 1997 with ‘Scream 2’ and producer for the underrated ‘Wishmaster’. He returns to the director’s chair in 1999 with the surprising ‘Music Of The Heart’ starring Meryl Streep, as well as ‘Scream 3’. In 2004 he directs the low key ‘Cursed’ with one of the few parts for an adult Christina Ricci. In 2005 returns with the taunt thriller ‘Red Eye’. He directs a segment for the movie ‘Paris, je t’aime’. He directs and writes the horror ‘My Soul To Take’ in 2010 and ‘Scream 4’ in 2011. And is producer for the ‘Castle’ Series in 2013 and ‘Scream’ TV series in 2015.

The selections are few of my favorite films of Wes Craven:

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Last House on the Left
I didn’t get to see this film in its entirety until 2010 renting it from the local Blockbuster. This had to do with it being banned in the UK until 2008. The story of rape and revenge isn’t a lot of plot to go on but here the gritty camera work and juxtaposition of the ordinary turning extremely nasty was uncomfortable in 1972 and is still uncomfortable today. The actual rape itself isn’t as voyeuristic and long as it was in ‘I Spit on your Grave’ but there was a brutal element to it. The constant attacks on the girls and the explicit castrating fellatio scene created a shit storm at the time. This one is definitely worth catching with the strange moral of don’t look for illegal drugs and an eye for an eye leaves the world blind. The one thing I did like about this film as how easy it is to turn the most balanced into madness. If you haven’t seen this one it’s worth catching.

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The Hills Have Eyes
The almost biblical setting of the desert sets the modern family against the almost Stone-age savagery in this retelling of the ‘Sawney Bean’ legend. As the Carter family go head to head with the cannibal clan that live in the desert that they find themselves stranded in. I remember it fondly for the iconic picture of Michal Berryman as one of the bald psychopathic clan. I had this on video for a long time I no longer have the video and need to get either the blu ray or DVD. This strange tale is as violent as LHOTL and shows a style in direction that Wes Craven is gaining. Certainly worth checking out if you haven’t seen the original.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street
Where would the eighties horror or pop culture be without Freddie Kruger? We had Michael Myers and Jason but Freddie the child molester and murderer with a knifed glove and burnt face plus the red and black top and hat defined the horror of the eighties. And what was worse he got you in your dreams! This Psychoanalytic tale (that introduced Johnny Depp) is more restrained in its use of violence than LHOTL or THHE using an almost mystical filter of its use of light and shadow creating a constant dream state and hallucination feeling to the film. I shouldn’t need to ask whether anyone has seen this one because if you’re an avid horror fan you would have.

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The Serpent and the Rainbow
As an aside recently there is a spate of middle-class men trying to find themselves by using Ayahuasca ritual which gives the user a DMT trip. Well the main character in this does this in the beginning of the film. This films exploration of Voodoo and zombie practices ( think ‘White Zombie’ not ‘Night of the Living Dead’) is one of my personal favorites. I remember watching this several times while inebriated on the hash, a great film. Please watch it if haven’t already.

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The People under the Stairs
This frantic mad comedy/horror which tackled degeneration to cannibalism, incest, child abuse and general gimp attire before ‘Pulp Fiction’ starred Everet McGill and Wendy Robie both stars of ‘Twin Peaks’ that was extremely popular at that time. This horror romp is fun and inventive as well painful when it comes some of the torture scenes. A nightmare version of ‘Home Alone’ inventive in its approach. If you haven’t seen it do so.

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Scream
I didn’t like ‘Scream’ when I first saw it but on second viewing I really enjoyed it. Again, Wes Craven redefines the horror genre by giving an almost tongue in cheek analysis of modern horror films. This film loaded with horror film references and a twist on the usual slasher fair. A story in a story that is funny and tense. This film like ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ became a film to express the decade which it was made. Scream was successful in the box office and creating a following for the franchise. Again if you haven’t seen do so.

Thank you Wes Craven for your work within this horror genre and the marvelous films. RIP writer, director, editor, producer, actor, teacher Wes Craven 30 August 2015.

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They Twist And Turn

 

They twist and turn when they had breath, dressed in skin.

They twist and turn because they were almost one.

Two girl’s twins took their life when the rain fell down and they cut deep into their veins offering to the God of rain – their blood to spill.

The loss they felt of this life they hated so into to straw dolls the girls became one and anger, hatred grew, the dolls twist and turn to take other life.

 

She saw them first at a charity shop so small two fragile straw dolls twisted together facing each other at the wrist. They twisted and turned in her mind and purchase the pair she must. Both with straw red hair no larger than her hand bound in a dance they she could not help but be charmed. The night came, the fireplace lit when she heard laughter of two children singing:

‘We twist and turn and waltz and dance and kill; join us, join us’.

She looked around no one here then she saw that the dolls were gone from the table she had put them. And then she found them on the floor looking for all intents like a waltz both ready to perform.

 

Later she slept and dreamt of the pair as two children dressed in a style from another era. They sang and danced facing each other their melody rang:

‘We twist and turn and waltz and dance and kill; be our victim before the God of Rain; join us, join us be our first before the God of Rain’.

She woke the sun was streaming through the curtains, feeling even more tired than when first she had slept. She thought of the dolls and of the dream and found that in the night they had fallen from where she had displayed them before and locked in their eternal dance on the floor once more.  Carefully she put them on display again, the dream and song dancing through her mind. Unease she felt but the dolls were such a sight, what harm could they do?

Two days passed in the October drought when rain fell upon the roof; rain soon became deluge it rained through the day, and rained through the night.

 

She awoke that night sweat teasing her skin and whisper of a chill in her blood; the singing of children’s melody ran through her mind: sweet, melodic and deadly. ‘The God of Rain,’ she thought ‘The God of Rain is coming…’

She could hear the rain smell the water that pelted down on the roof. And she could hear the dancing of the dolls ushering the God of Rain.  Cautiously she got out of bed and crept down the hall to where she had displayed the dolls. Into the room she silently moved and there they were but not dolls, two children dancing each other’s arms. Two of the same dressed in white their beat the beat of the rain. ‘Join us’; she heard them say ‘be one of us before the God of Rain.’ Two steps she took and the melody of the rain and earth became one in her mind and reality melted away to a solid twirl of love, life and pain. Into the circle she went and didn’t feel the knife as one arm drew a line against her arm and the other hand did the same. The blood fresh fell like the patting of the rain that intoxicated her mind until the swirling white of the dresses of the girls, and the darkness of the room, and the blood that flowed from her arm became one. She danced, and twirled, and died. The patting of the rain and as the last of blood escaped the exsanguination of the body she saw through her tears the figure of the God of Rain. A bounty on her soul he was to claim and feeling his giant heart beating like a typhoon as her own stopped and was washed away in the blood and rain.

 

She lay dead when the rain had stopped and beside her the figurine of two became three.

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INMATE 134

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INMATE 134

Inmate 134 lay in a sea of blackness as definite as death and silent as the grave and waited. Time had no relevance to him. In another life, when he was a person, with a name not a brand title instead of inmate 134 he was called Kevin Mallous. He had begun to remember the event prolonged sensory deprivation had gave him some comfort in the form of a flesh coloured light that always made him feel empty but calm, as his memory circuits fed on his first form memories before birth

Kevin Mallous was skint he had no money and money in today’s society the only reason of value. Everything relied on the ‘Do Ray Me’ as the long dead blues singer Woody Guthrie would have told you. But he was quite bright and well adjusted, though his life had been somewhat dysfunctional. He had been born a screaming babe in a ward at Freelante Hospital maternity ward. He did not remember his mother who died from alcoholic poisoning, as well as other numerous toxins both legal and illegal, a few months after his birth. He had been made ward of state, after a disastrous stay with the sister of his late mother, who had more of a penchant for drugs than his late mother, with no other blood relatives he entered the system of fostering; some of his earlier memories of ‘order to go’ parents as they referred to by him when he was much older were o.k. But he did at six get to stay with what became his long term foster parents; the couple known as Margi and Andrew Mallous (the second name that was given to him over his paternal name Martin). They were descent enough and looked after him until he was sixteen. There was no real problem with them as Margi was teacher and Andrew an engineer both career minded had started with their career but waited too long for a biological Family. He had become in all sense their son but there was still something missing; something at a subconscious level that always alienated him from them. He was no psychologist but he did feel a sense of belonging was missing. He was close to both his surrogate parents as he was close to anyone.  He treated them as his real parents went home when he left Bradford for Portsmouth at nineteen. But he still felt severed at an emotional level. Academically he was intelligent but he had given the given-up the idea of further education as it was too expensive. Perhaps, when he had earned enough money later he would try again. He had thought about the Armed services but wasn’t keen on it though they would be a means to an end. He had worked since twenty in a bakery. Johnston bakery was a local firm in Portsmouth. But the last few years they were ailing financially as the growth of the supermarket began to bite. Nonetheless, a roaring trade they no longer had, but a staple trade kept them afloat. The job had paid for a flat and food. His luxuries came in the form of early blues music which he caught off of Margi who was a fanatic for early blues – he was also a film buff. He had managed to get a fairly decent record player with a tape player deck as one; the tape player no longer worked but the two amps that came with it and the player itself worked well despite its age, and being purchased from a local Oxfam shop not known for their electrical expertise.  He didn’t mind playing the odd game but his x-box, purchased second-hand was more than past its sell by date. He didn’t drink and was too shy for most girls. Perhaps he was wound too tight for himself but there it was. He got on with most of work colleges though he never became too close. He only joined in with conversations when it was about films or games (though strictly speaking he wasn’t a gamer and very few people had even heard of the old blues like “Son House”).

Suddenly there was fluorescent light and movement. He would have screamed his eyes felt as though they were on fire. His ears seemed to hear every moment as if the volume was switched to full and ready to burst his inner ear. But his larynx was far too wasted to offer the service of a scream, then the scream would have to be internal. Inmate 134 was pulled out of his holding chamber with enough room for a full grown man but nothing else, on a stretcher device which held a strap on each part of the lower and upper arm and three for the legs and one large strap for the chest. There was a two I.V. straps tapping the veins of both left and right arm. The stretcher that held was bowed in the centre to accommodate waste so urine and excrement didn’t build-up. The florescent light above was switched off and a blue ultraviolet light bathed the room instead. The light hurt less but still hurt. Inmate 134 could only see the ceiling which gave no indication of where he was. Only the formality of it reminded him of a factory ceiling. A man came in wearing a long coat it could have been white but in this wash of light all colours looked uniformly blue. He bent down looked at some of the readings from a small instrument panel on the side of where he was pulled from. Grunting he looked at inmate 134 and then shut the panel that contained inmate 134 – blackness again.

Kevin had first come to the offices of Perseus Chemicals because they were paying for human trials. He needed the money and they paid, he was told from one of his work colleagues, well. Perseus chemicals held an office in out of way area of Portsmouth more or less on the outskirts of the city in what had become a business park in the eighties. As in nearly all prefabbed business parks up and down the U.K. the landscape made of forlorn holding offices for business ventures that usually blew away in the wind of economic change and factories producing products that warranted shelf-life’s as secure as the offices.  Even Kevin ventured in the offices with their illustrious reception and twenty-something petite receptionist, whose smile seemed to hide a scowl.

Perseus with their logo stamped on the wall of an eagle strident a globe with Perseus written in Calibri lettering across the bird’s chest, all coveted in moulded in plastic, painted a faded gold. The offices of the company were on the first floor of a white squared building with three layers each with a different business interest. He didn’t know much of what Perseus actually did but he thought that were into some form of scientific research. He was welcomed by the petite blonde falsely smiling receptions that asked his name and gave him a formal application for the trials which appeared to be some form of sensory deprivation. He was also handed some literature about the company which he skimmed through. Apparently Perseus among other things was in the business of making decompression chambers for divers and other diverse applications.  He filled in the forms in the reception lobby and gave back the forms to the receptionist whose smile never faltered and looked moulded on to her face.

He left the office and was phoned and texts on his mobile two weeks later in November. The second interview took place in the same building but deeper into the offices of Perseus. He was interviewed by non-descript middle-aged man whose only real physical outstanding feature was that he was tall. His short clipped greying hair and bland features seemed to work well with his equally non-descript brown suit and black tie. He asked him in an overeducated voice a barrage of peripheral but still personal questions. He answered the questions easily enough. Then he was showed by the man he assumed was a researcher or doctor he only introduced himself as Phil Tolous and that he would be taking Kevin through the morning. Then Kevin was showed to another room where he was there were a few desks and a whiteboard. The room looked like a classroom without any students and therefore felt empty. He was given two papers one was examination of English and Maths (he wondered why such a company wouldn’t use a computer programme if it was for nothing more than statics, but maybe the company were cheap skates after all this was the new recession and money was never shorter, or maybe they would be feed the information in later). He quickly completed the English paper was slower on the Maths (basic Arithmetic though he conquered it at school still was a bane to him). He finished both in the time allotted then Phil came back and asked if he smoked or would like a coffee, and was shown to another waiting area where there was a crappy hot drinks dispenser. He took some change got a coffee and then Phil came back after fifteen minutes and showed him back to the classroom where he was a given a standard I.Q. test. After the completion he was showed out Phil somehow mechanical in his efficiency gave him a quick but cold handshake. He left the building and at the middle of November, a letter arrived stating that the application for test subject was successful and another brown package that had more forms arrived the next day including a guide to where the tests would take place. The package also contained literature about the house including an A5 brochure with information about the company and few thumbnails of the house named Tresill and of the team, situated at the outskirts of Portsmouth that had been converted by Perseus for the trial.  They had his bank details and the payment for £2000 for two days would be paid into his account at the completion of the tests. He didn’t bother reading the literature sent by Perseus all of it was a bit much and technically he was only interested in the financial agreement.

Kevin was happy he needed the money but it all seemed fast. He googled up the directions and cross referenced it for buses. But decided on a taxi as he didn’t really know that area too well it wasn’t miles out but still it looked secluded.

The door to inmates 134 opened and his limb body was pulled into the outside world. The figure above him he couldn’t make out his vision was blurred and his eyes seared from non-use; his hearing was less affected by the isolation by still sounds were too loud.  The figure above slowly came into view but it was distorted by the ultraviolet light. The figure seemed to be peering down on him the face a grey featureless wasteland. He felt the IVs being taken out and loosening of the restraints then something picked his skin and tabbed a vein just above where the left crook of his arm. Liquid cool and fresh but heavy was running through his veins and conquering his body. Soon his whole body was heavy and relaxed. There was tiredness that had taken hold of his body and mind inmate 134 relaxed as he was sucked into oblivion.

The house when he got there was a big and uninviting in its washed out tired walls. What it had been before he had no idea? What it was now as the sign-on entering stated was a research facility.  He paid the driver who spoke in broken English probably Polish or some other European dialect.  After he found the entrance, he rang the bell told them through the speaker, when the metallic voice enquired who he was and was buzzed through. The place was big but formal there was no reception that he could see. He was met at the door by a woman in her late forties, who politely ushered him. He was then asked if he would sign the register and be willing to spend the night. It had stipulated it on the contract so he signed the register, noting a few other names, the registers page for that day was half full. He wasn’t the first. He was then shown to a stairway and up a flight of steps. There he was shown a sparse room with a single bed and a night table not a lot else, he noticed that there was no window. There was a small wardrobe to hang his clothes and a change of clothes to pyjamas that looked like NHS ones, blue in colour. There were black cloth shoes but no socks. Almost hidden was a small door that led to a shower, newly built antiseptically white. The woman who introduced herself as Dr Elsie Wright told him to shower change into the PJs and that she would be back presently to start the tests.

The shower was efficient but basic; the stuff he was supposed to wash with was a clear liquid rinse that had a neutral smell, which came out of a clear, square bag with a nozzle for squeezing and the centre on top of one side. He put the clothing provided for on the top seemed a little tight but the bottoms and cloth shoes fitted. His own clothes Elsie had given him a clear bag to put them in which he did. Then promptly on que Elsie appeared and took the bag of his clothes assuring that they would be laundered and ready after the tests. Then she took him down a long corridor into the belly of the building then through a steel door that was secure locked. After she punched a number in and used a white key card which she scraped vertically down the panel on the right of the door. The room at first was small a few steps in a narrow corridor led to what Kevin assumed to be the basement. Then maybe not as he looked around more like mortuary, the impression that the harsh fluorescent lights overhead shone down on the whiteness of the walls, ceiling and floor. There was two rows on each wall containing what looked like shelving’s of some kind, each shelf had a door all the doors had small electric and monitoring devices which showed lights of differing colours and readouts though what they were he wasn’t close enough to see. There were four men spread out through the room, in green garb not unlike the one he was provided with, they were looking at the readouts provided by the shelf none seemed to notice him. A fifth man sat dressed in a suit at a small desk as he entered. But even sitting down Kevin could see this guy was built large and pumped more of his fair share of weights in the gym. The man behind the desk watched him intently though made no motion to get up. Elsie went over to the closest man on the left side of the room and spoke quietly to him. Then the man quickly walked to one of the wall spaces and opened it.

“Well Mr Mallous everything is running to time.” Said Elsie her English clipped and well spoken.

“We need you for the first test to, if you don’t mind, loosening your top”. Elsie said. “There are straps” her voice lingered “but really they’re just for your own safety. “She added quickly.

“For my own safety?” asked Kevin for the first time he felt spooked. Actually he had been feeling anxious about the whole thing since he had applied.

She nodded and then added “Its Ok nothing to be worried about.”

The cot that was pulled out was at the bottom left he compliantly sat lay down in it the straps were secured and then, some wires were added to the chest for registering breathing and heart rate. He was told that he would only be in the chamber for less than half an hour. Then he would need to complete some tests. The Technician was quiet but encouraging as he laboured on him getting him ready for the chamber.

“At first there will be a blue glow in the darkness but this will eventually fade into total darkness and then when you come out.” Elsie said with a warm smile and softening of her speech so why did Kevin think her eyes seemed distant.

Then he was pushed into the chamber by the cots handles and the metal door shut. It was all lie there was no blue light or glow fading but total blackness, the complete absence of anything. In the artificial confines of the chamber where space became an absolute with no direction up or down, left or right and no sensory input; no sight; no hearing, only the feeling of the straps that eventually left him and in his extreme, he began to believe that they were part of his body. He was left free floating in an emotional bubble of terror, so profound that thought seemed to take weight. His scream was the only vortex of sound (the chamber was sound proof apart from himself his screaming and breathing, there was no other audio stimulation) had at first been the only stimulation but even that and the breathing, heavily at first slowing to a quiet rasp, then to silence. He began to fall back into his mind but eventually even that became sour and the identity of who was became less. He was left in the chamber for two days, only removed to implant the IVs, he could only scream for an hour at most before his throat was bruised.

When the cot was first moved out he was on the edge of catatonia, then the sight sound of the 3 dimensional world confused him with its solidness, he did not recognise the technician who had put him or delivered the needles for nourishment in each arm, nor the harsh words that came from his throat. Another technician had joined him and their speech of either laughter or tears made no imprint on him, but the neutrality of their behaviour confused him he could remember now that his name was Kevin but then he heard the term ‘Inmate 134’ and that had imprinted itself on his mind.  He was now for all intents and purposes ‘Inmate 134’.

Under the influence of the narcotic, that sucked him at first into oblivion, then delivered his mind to a playground where Inmate 134 believed himself to be a child of nine swinging gently on a row of swings. Inmate134 was talking to a friend he had met at school. School had been a drag that day, he had Geography last period and he hated Geography. The friend called Kevin had told him that he was actually him and that he was in danger, that all that he perceived – the playground in which he sat conversing with his friend was actually Kevin’s memories. Inmate 134 wasn’t sure to believe him or not, wasn’t his name Kevin or was it Inmate 134? It was all part of an experiment, explained Kevin who was sometimes, the age of schoolboy of nine dressed in the same school uniform as Inmate 134, and then a young man wearing casual clothes. It really depended how far he swung up and forward Kevin young, down and back Kevin old. Inmate 134 didn’t like what Kevin was saying and became agitated and began to swing faster and faster and the Kevin’s voice became a drone as he became young and old, faster and faster. He was part of an experiment a trial for money but he had been they had made a mistake or he had been horribly deceived. Up and down faster and faster Inmate 134 let go and let his body free fall through the air…

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He awoke and his eyes slowly adjusted, the drug that had been administered, had left him groggy but still kept analgesic sway on him. He was no longer in the chamber but now he was sat in a chair, the restraints (though restraints were no longer necessary, he could no more control or harbour much strength his limbs than he could control where he was) were gone. The IVs had been removed and he was redressed in clean blue hospital pyjamas. His eyes though blurred slowly came to some form of focus and he could tell that he was a large room, maybe somewhere else in the house, the room was spacious to his left side there was four large windows big enough to allow a battalion through, he couldn’t be in the house the windows were far too large for such a construction this room belonged more to a country house or mansion. He could see it was dark outside, natural dark of the night but he couldn’t from his angle see the sky but he was pretty sure that if he did look out he would see the country side. They must have moved him but to where? Was he in England anymore? He felt panic rise within him what was this place and why was he here? There was no experiment, no human trials; he was in trouble but of what kind? The room was almost empty and it was in darkness. But as his eyes became more use more focused he realised his error. It was neither in darkness or empty. At the far end was a small light possibly a lamp with his eyes he could have easily mistaken it for a reflection cast from outside. And there was figure that sat and watched him. As if by seeing the figure it came to life and stood and walked, stealthily towards him. The figure did not seem to be hurried and as it came closer he could make out the shape of the figure to be that of a woman. As she got closer he could see that she wore all white, he could make out that she wore a top and long skirt that was tailored close to the leg and fitted with an exactness that suggested they were made to measure. As she was almost on him he could see her features and make out her height to be roughly just less than six foot and with her movements she seemed to be a young woman of stature that might have belonged to a model. She was now upon him he could make out her features which were long and complex face, symmetrically beautiful.  The features were framed by her short haircut in a form of a bob which gave her face an ethereal beauty.

“I thought it might be prudent to leave the lights off, as you need time for eyes to adjust, though the drug that you received should keep most of the pain from the eyes for a while.” She said her voice was educated and honey in its deepness but there was dislocation to it also.

“You have been under and out of commission,” there was a slight mirth to her explanation, “since November it is now the end of December.” She suddenly loomed in front of him holding the arms of the wheelchair he was now confined to her face inches from his own.

“You have missed all the commercials and films that you belonging to your class would have enjoyed.” She withdrew back to standing. Slowly she began to walk behind him. He could no longer see her but he knew she was behind him. The wheelchairs controls were set-up behind him, it was motorised and was easy to push, without the aid of the motor, and though she looked slim he knew that she had a lot of strength in her limbs. The chair lifted and he felt a slight rise as the wheels moved forward; she simply steered, he felt himself go forward at an easy pace.

“You know you’re very privileged to be chosen.” She said there was a tremor of excitement to her voice. “This is the first time that we felt as a Family that it would be appropriate to have a ‘Offering’, in an age. And of course there is tradition, and now your part of that tradition.”

She moved in sliding motion to his ear, her face close to enough to whisper. “You’re very lucky you know.” Then she was standing behind him again her motion lithe, she seemed to be poised with excitement.

“But as you may have noticed on your way in to that ghastly chamber, there were others to choose from.” Her voice was playful almost giggling the word ghastly.

Suddenly she stopped the wheelchair came to an easy halt. She seemed to be considering something and Kevin whose feelings were still slow began to feel panic but he was secured and though he was beginning to wish to scream, he found he had little will in him.

“Hah the chamber!” she said. “Almost forgot all about that. Do you know most go catatonic in there? You’re sort of awake and your resilience is a sure sign that you’ll make a great ‘Offering.”

She stopped her diatribe for a while. Kevin felt slightly nauseous; fear was growing into panic, whatever the ‘Offering’ was he felt assured it was not healthy. But still is body refused to yield to the command of panic or any other motor function. Then he felt movement as she propelled him forward.

“The ‘Fools’ as they were first called before the ‘Offering’ became the title, origins goes back further than the Romans or the Celts. Maybe, back to the Garden of Eden.” She sniggered there was cruelty to her words. “But no one really knows, certainly not the Christians, like all religions they wonder in ignorance but not us not the Family.”

His sight was becoming accustomed to the room’s darkness, it was not totally without lighting, there were bulbs fixed into the ceiling but the room was high and they cast starlight reflections when they were low like now. He was being wheeled to the centre of the room. On his left he could see some kind of cabinet, glass framed it symmetry pushed out elegantly from the wall. He couldn’t quite make out what the figure was inside it looked like a person but he couldn’t be sure. Pain was starting to make itself known around his eyes and the folds of his limbs. She stopped before the cabinet pushing the chair to her right so he was facing the exhibit.

The exhibit lights placed above and around the exhibit started to come on dimly then more brightly exposing the secret of what was exhibited. Inside sat a young man wearing a full dress dinner jacket complete with white shirt and black bow tie. He was dead and the taxidermy of the corpse was first class. He was roughly the same height and weight of Kevin but his hair which was a blonde sandy colour, unlike Kevin’s dark brown, was cut neatly on top and waved to the side with a straggle at back giving him a mullet style which seemed to date the young man in the period of 1980’s. The young man was good looking with a jaw that was squared and blue eyes set at the right distance between the nose to give him a friendly look. However his eyes seemed alive like his skin…which was not possible. The chamber in which he sat must have been air-proof. How else could he have been so well preserved?

“This was the last ‘Offering’ he as you can see looks better in death state than he did in his life. And was able to keep the Families ceremonies alive, as it were, he had some use other than his pointless, unproductive life could ever have.” Her voice had up until now a seductive purring quality but now it sounded aged like the falling of October leaves. Rustling along the ground, a funeral’s rattle for all to hear. She moved him a little from the glass partition and walked in her easy way to face him and bent down like a snake inches from his face. Her expression impossible to read as it was devoid of any emotion, other than a touch of superiority. He could feel her breath…she closed on his face as if to kiss it but instead her tongue lapped out suddenly like a serpent and licked his cheek. Her movements were fast enough that an athlete would have been jealous of her, she resumed to her height and stand her right hand crossed herself and her left reached for her jaw.

“You taste just right” She smiled to herself then added. “You will make a great contribution to the celebration.” She watched him for a few more seconds or minutes for all he knew it could have been hours.

“It’s all in the fear that gets the adrenaline going.” She towered above him a terrible and hateful mistress. “All those chambers you have seen. Yes all the chambers had occupants. All poor like you – without a dime – and all or most without family or friends who will inquire further than the law permits their efforts. They are our property, some will be harvested there is money to be made for transplants and other uses for body parts, some will be part of experiments, the Family have several research facilities and we don’t need to worry about vagaries of ethics. You see the Family compromises not just of the rich but also of…well let’s a different class. I personally believe a superior species than you.” As she spoke both her hand came to rest on something around her chest it looked like a necklace but he knew it wasn’t she held it both hand and she pushed what must have been something to notify that she had finished with this conversation. She walked away from him allowing him full view of the young man’s corpse that was on exhibit.

It was a work of Art as he viewed the exhibit, well dressed and lively skin tone, and the eyes so bright, no sign of death. He would be immortal in that state – or the closest humans knew of such things. Terror stark and solid moved within him. He didn’t want to die not now, not here. Then he felt a tugging behind him as someone pushed his chair into reverse and he heard a small motor whirl as he was pushed into motion; down through the long corridor to the panelled exit door. He could see the night sky through the long windows. The stars had come out and they shone so bright without the rude incandescence of street lighting. It was troublesome; he could only admire their beauty with such terror and so little awe. He found himself in a corridor thin with white walls leading down and at an abrupt trajectory. Then he took no notice of his surroundings or the anonymous person who pushed him because he was dribbling thickly from the side of his mouth. It wasn’t the act of the saliva, but the fact that he always hated the smell as it pooled on his cheek. Soon he found himself in what looked like an operating room but around the sides of the room appeared to be a kitchen the surrealistic clash was as real as his fear. There were two fairly sized men behind him one pushing the chair the other stood just behind him. They removed Inmate 134 to the operating table. He could hear their voices calm and collected almost dreary in their task.

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‘Inmate 134 to be anaesthetize further, but use GS, we need him feeling not moving.’ Said one, he saw large hands grasp what look like a gun but with a hypo syringe as the barrel. He took out the hypo and replaced it with another there were several lined up at the side. He felt the man’s hand probing his neck and for the first time one of his bearers came into his field of vision. He was a average looking man, no real facial features stood out just a man he’d seen a thousand times and had ignored in the street: Short brown hair, muscular neck and unconcerned hazel eyes filled his vision. The hand found the vein tapped and released the chemical into his system. Now the stiffness that had accompanied him earlier was back totally immobile.  He could still feel his nerve ending unimpeded by the drug – and so was his terror and horror. How hopeless it was to be impaled like a butterfly in a collection case.  He heard the entrance of another man. A voice talked among the other two but he recognised it. The guy he had met what felt like an eternity ago at the interview his name was Phil something. If he strained he could make out what they were saying.

‘Given 40 ml of GS. That will keep him quiet but he may gurgle which could bruise the throat tissue.’ Said one of the men who had brought him here the one he had not seen.

‘Don’t worry about the throat just the liver, spleen and heart.’ Phil’s voice spectral as ever came to him.

‘They need to be fresh they are to be served tonight the chef is on his way. Just make sure there is a little skin damage as possible.  We need his skin taunt for the process.’ He could hear the conversation no more than a few feet away as banal as cooking a turkey. And this time his heart felt like bursting with horror and hate for these fuckers. He was a turkey he was to be dissected the best portions cooked and he was to be literally stuffed – oh fuck his mind could not comprehend this. How long had these fuckers been doing this shit?

Hands came into view and relieved of this clothes they then started with the scalpel. The first incision cutting from the neck through the chest to the groin; hands that were as precise and merciless as the scalpel they wielded. He felt the chill of his skin and the warmth of his blood as it came through another incision increasing the blood flow to a river and the pain burst through his head as his body died. Clarity hit him with the pain both unbelievable in their vastness and strength. The idea of blood sacrifices through the rotten centuries; he was not the first to be stigmatised with such an ordeal – his pain would never be known or written about. An epiphany of outrage hit him to be slaughtered and devoured by these people not even demi-gods, who would mount him in an empty cage for their delusions. He heard the woman’s voice he had met in the hall; he could no longer see her face or her body but he could her scent, monstrous and inhuman her voice deep like males but seductive as a viper: ‘ To be food for the Gods, and shit for the sewer, this is your fate’. But they were not Gods demi or otherwise, whoever she was and the Family, whoever they were or thought they were they not, just sadistic cunts, privileged and blind; and the pain ooh the pain as they tore inside him.

His mind slipped back over his short years. He saw his adopted parents; saw them smile the house he lived in for most of his years. His flat, the record player; the sound of the sweet blues silenced as it fell all into dust with the memories destroying themselves. He saw his old school one of several and all the people who adopted, befriended and eventually deserted him. He saw his mother dead, young and slouched over a bottle of vodka, a needle recently collapsing her vein. And then she was alive and he was inside of her growing then he was nothing at all.

Inmate 134 was harvested his organs cooked his body was expertly drained and the solutions and mixtures were used he was mounted in the cabinet. His eyes stared out never looked more alive.

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The Tall Man (film review)

 

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If you are familiar with French horror films then the director Pascal Laugier needs no introduction (his previous films are explicit and traumatic to say the least) writes and directs ‘The Tall Man’. As with his previous offerings ‘Inside’ and ‘Martyrs’ the film as twists and turns leaving an uncomfortable feeling throughout and an unopened question at the end.

The Tall Man is a local legend in Koetaney, British Columbia where children have recently gone missing. Inspired by the internet phenomenon of the Tall Man here the legend is localised and mythologised; it becomes the explanation of children that have recently vanished in the area. The film starts with Julia (Jessica Beil) delivering a baby to an underage girl, thanks to the stepfather to a troubled family. We meet the younger daughter of this family Jenny Weaver (Jodie Ferland) later as a mute who draws and actually does know what is actually happening to the missing.

Julia goes home to her son David (Jacob Davies) who we believe she adores, after her husband – the local doctor – died a few years earlier. Tensions heighten when David is also kidnapped. Julia goes after the kidnapper crashing the van that has took him. At this point Jenny finds her and communicates that she would like to be taken also. Jenny still carries on her pursuit of the kidnapper. At this point the whole town turns against her. I’m not going to go any further into the plot as it would like ‘Martyrs’ spoil the film but the film as Laugier’s previous efforts there are a lot of red herrings that lead you down unexpected paths and nothing is quite what it seems.

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The film as many twists and turns making it feel unpredictable none of the moral ambiguities are answered, there are only opinions for these things, not any real answers. I think is camerawork is excellent as always and there was a rumour that Laugier would have the chance to direct a remake of ‘Hellraiser’ a film in look that influenced ‘Martyrs’. However, that all fell through but I’d be really interested, on the strength of this film, perhaps he could direct a series.

The idea of rich and poor and class are scrutinised here with the ending an open discussion especially in the present state of the class divide. After all is class and money the only route to happiness or contentment? And when you do reach the ending of the film – though not his strongest work – you still have to think about what the film states and with its moral ambiguity.

I don’t think this is his best work it has a feel that’s a little like it should be a series to it. But at his weakest he still head and shoulders above what can be or seem a sea of dross. If you have a few hours to kill rent or buy this one.

 

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