Friday, 3 November 2017

The Art of Horror Movies - An illustrated history

Of all the genres of movies there are, none has produced movie posters that are as colourful and lurid as those created to sell the humble horror movie. In fact, the more humble the horror movie, the more lurid the cover. Some of history's greatest movie posters are reprinted in this sumptuous coffee table book that spans from the earliest silents right through to Resident Evils and Underworlds that were around and about at the cinema in recent times.

Considering the length of the publishing process, no book can ever hope to be completely up to date, but considering that the art of the movie poster is dying on its feet with the advent of photoshop and video screen advertising, this may the last book to celebrate the art of the nasty poster for nasty movies.

It's not just filled with posters for the likes of Nosferatu, The Curse of the Werewolf and (ahem) The Human Centipede, there are some original pieces that celebrate the likes of The Masque of the Red Death, The Mummy and Pan's Labyrinth.

There are words as well, though they rarely amount to half the page and don't really tell any hardcore horror or movie poster fan anything that they didn't already know about or didn't really need to know about. The words, though, are not what books like this are about. The pictures are the thing and it's unlikely that you're going to find a more comprehensive and visually appealing collection of horror movie poster art anywhere.

Horror art is always going to be something of an acquired taste and certainly this book's audience is going to be limited by the subject matter, but if you've acquired that taste then there is plenty here to enjoy.

So, with Halloween just over and Christmas on the horizon, treat the gore-lover in your life to this hefty tome of bright, black and red-drenched cinematic horror delights, the like of which we are unlikely to see again.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

At the centre of the universe, on the planet Midworld, lies the Dark Tower. It alone keeps the darkness and the monsters from invading all of the worlds in known space. The Man in Black, evils sorceror Walter, wants to destroy the tower, allowing the demons in and harnessing them to make him ruler of everything. To this end, he is kidnapping children from Earth who have mental powers known as 'shining'. These powers can be harnessed to destroy the tower, but the latest unwilling recruit falls into the hands of Roland Deschain, the last of the noble gunfighters and a man who has dedicated his life to killing the Man in Black.

THE DARK TOWER is Stephen King's magnum opus, a tale that spans several volumes and tries to combine many of his earlier works into some sort of cohesive narrative. The King Cinematic Universe, if you will. Considering the scope and scale of the source material, it was never going to be easy to pare it down into something that would satisfy as a single movie. An epic TV series would have been much more like it. However, what we have is the movie and it has been a long, hard road getting to the point where there is something on the screen bearing the name THE DARK TOWER.

Before we go any further, it is worth pointing out that the film is not bad. It's not going to rock anyone's universe, but it is far from the train wreck that some reviews would have you believe. Of course, if you are invested in the source works then having it all squashed down into this one film, and with only a 95 minute running time at that, would probably have been unacceptable no matter how good it was. That it is entertaining enough without ever being anything even remotely special was never going to be good enough. There is quite clearly a whole heap of backstory that a single flashback to a previous meeting between Roland and Walter cannot ever hope to cover.

Idris Elba is perfect casting as gunslinger Roland, being immediately tough, laconic and honourable without having to do anything to prove those things. His presence immediately screams 'hero' whilst the script tries to make him a flawed and reluctant one, without much success. Ranged against him is Matthew McConaughey's Walter, a magician who wouldn't be out of place on a Vegas stage, but who gets to do some nasty stuff to people along the way. Considering the power that he has, it is hard to see why he keeps sending incompetent underlings to do the things that he could achieve easily. The fact that his power is so immense makes the climactic showdown between the two somewhat anticlimactic, despite Roland's assault on his New York stronghold being filled with some pretty good action licks. In fact, whenever Roland gets the guns out, the film improves immensely.

Despite coming originally from the pen of Stephen King, there is relatively little horror on show. A couple of CGI demons are dealt with fairly quickly, Walter's army are rat creatures that wear ill-fitting human skins and the wizard doesn't mind torturing kids to destroy the tower that stands in his way, but this film is more interested in being a fantasy actioner. There are some vaguely amusing fish out of water antics when Roland crosses over to modern day New York from a post-apocalypse Midworld and Elba manages these with perfect timing, but there is a plot to get through and character development takes a big back seat to that. The rivalry and hatred between Roland and Walter is barely explored, so much of the impact is lost.

The film looks good and the direction is straightforward enough not to get in the way, but it also adds nothing in the way of visual excitement. A few sly references to other King works (Oh, there's It or Christine) won't cut it.

Sure to disappoint King fans and especially fans of his longest work, THE DARK TOWER is an OK time passer that never quite rises to the challenge of what it ought to have been.