Reviews
The Latest in Horror Entertainment

Television Review
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
2:1 - When She Was Bad
US TX: 15/09/97
Sky One UK TV première: 28/3/98
Written and Directed by Joss Whedon


BUFFY returns to Sunnydale following a relatively uneventful summer break, still haunted and affected by her confrontation with The Master. The vampires, now led by The Anointed One, plot their revenge. They plan to revive The Master by sacrificing the people who were nearby when he died: Giles, Willow, Miss Calendar and Cordelia...
The second season begins with a facelift: a new introduction (with Anthony Stewart Head doing the voice-over), and a - ahem - revamped title sequence which now features a credit for David Boreanaz (Angel). The show seems genuinely refreshed after the break, and exhibits a new-found energy and confidence throughout. Whedon's script, which positively zings with typical Buffy wit and humour, is arguably the best he's written for the series so far.
Sarah Michelle Gellar tackles the shifting moods of her character with admirable skill, adding new zest to scenes with Cordelia ("Embrace the pain, spank your inner moppet - whatever - but get over it!"), Xander ("If they have Willow, I'll kill you!") and Angel ("Come on! Kick my ass!").
Few television shows manage to convey a believable sense that life-changing actions in one episode have consequences later, making When She Was Bad particularly satisfying. It shows that the events at the end of Prophesy Girl had significant and long-reaching emotional fall-out.
By Stephen Foster


Book Review
ESCARDY GAP
By Peter Crowther and James Lovegrove
Published by Earthlight
£5.99 p/b


Escardy Gap is the name of a rural town in America. Nothing ever happens there. It's a quiet, peaceful place, full of men, women and children just doing their own thing. Their lives are shattered when a train rolls into town. This isn't any train, however, but a nightmare of oil and smoke, pulling darkened carriages, and ridden by three beautiful, chittering women. The passengers disembark. They are The Company, a collective of freaks and grotesques who wish to stay awhile in Escardy Gap and maybe put on a show for the townsfolk.
Thus begins one of the first - and best - Horror novels of 1998. The Company are much more than travelling folk, for their art is one of death and horror. One by one, the members of the Company take great pleasure in slaughtering the townsfolk in a variety of ingenious and imaginative ways. What we have here is imagination to match the strutting grotesques of Clive Barker. The writing style is easy-going and simple, and the authors obviously take a great pleasure in tearing their fictional town apart before our eyes.
But there is much more to Escardy Gap than this, for the story of the town and its demise is couched within a far wider framing story. We are introduced to a struggling writer, who sees this work as his way out of a nasty case of writers' block. As the story progresses, so the writer finds his peace, but suddenly, that piece becomes shattered when he realises that his fictional town and its desperate inhabitants may not be as fictional as he once believed.
Escardy Gap is a very clever novel. It is rewarding to read and great fun too. Rumour has it that there is a sequel already under way. I can't wait.
By David Howe