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The Latest in Horror Entertainment
In this issue: 8 pages of reviews, covering Film Reviews • the mathematical magic of Pi Book Reviews • new novels from Muriel Gray (The Furnace), John Pritchard (Dark Ages) and Dean Koontz (lower down this page) Video Reviews • New DVD, LaserDisc or VHS editions include Beetlejuice, Kiss the Girls and The Devil's Advocate Soundtracks Urban Legend, Roy Budd’s Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Funhouse TV Reviews • two new episodes from The X-Files, Terms of Endearment and SR619
Video Review
The Devil's Advocate
Director Taylor Hackford

Starring Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, Charlize Theron
Region 1 and 2 DVD, VHS Retail

selected and edited from Shivers #63

Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) is a ruthless and ambitious young prosecutor who is lured from Hicksville to a big New York law firm by its mysterious senior partner, John Milton (Al Pacino). At first all is well, but before long Lomax’s new job and new-found wealth causes a rift with his wife (Theron), who suspects that he is being groomed for something altogether more sinister and dangerous.

Devil's AdvocateHackford’s film is an all too rare example of a thoughtful modern Horror film. Although slickly executed, it’s still not as subtle as one might hope, and there are several fundamental flaws that prove impossible to reconcile. For example, the film starkly contrasts one of the cinema’s most charismatic actors with one who’d not cause ripples if you threw him in Lake Michigan. The script is wordy and eloquent, yet the characters are shallow and the story is threadbare.

There are three different versions of the film available for viewing at home. A lawsuit brought by a disgruntled artist whose work was adapted for use in the film without his permission meant that Warner was forced to modify certain shots to disguise a large sculpture that adorns the wall of Milton’s apartment. The original theatrical version of the film was briefly available on VHS, laserdisc and DVD in the US, but has been replaced with the modified version for subsequent releases, including the British rental, retail and DVD copies. The film was shot by Andrzej Bartikowiak in Panavision (2.35:1) ratio, but the UK’s ‘widescreen’ VHS tape is a worthless 1.77:1 compromise.

Anyone interested in seeing the film as envisioned by the director should get the DVD version, which is framed correctly, with 16:9 enhancement. The Region 1 version is preferable, since about half an hour of deleted scenes have been dropped from the UK disc (although it does still feature Hackford’s informative commentary track, as well as the usual inconsequential production notes, English and foreign subtitles, etc).

Both versions are dual-layered discs with excellent picture quality. The colours are a little paler on the Region 2 disc, but seem to be more natural and altogether better balanced. The film’s Dolby 5.1 sound mix is rarely flashy, but it is generally involving.

Stephen Foster

Book Review
Seize the Night
by Dean Koontz

Published by Headline
408pp £16.99 h/b

selected and edited from Shivers #63

Seize the Night is the direct sequel to Koontz’ last novel Fear Nothing and almost picks up where that previous book ends. Our hero, the afflicted Christopher Snow, becomes involved in another adventure when the child of one of his friends is snatched one night. Chris follows the trail with his trusty more-than-canine friend Orson, and finds it leads to the deserted military complex of Fort Wyvern, origin of the genetic changes still being experienced after the events of the first novel.

Snow must figure out what is happening and, with the help of his friends, the surfer dude Bobby, Sacha the radio DJ and Roosevelt and his hyper-intelligent cat Mungojerrie, save the day.

Koontz's Seize the Night Like Fear Nothing, most of Seize the Night is written as a real-time narrative. It’s set over two evenings and it is amazing that Koontz manages to keep the action going, and the tension at breaking pitch for so long. It’s a brilliant novel in the sense that it is almost un-put-downable, but there are some ideas contained in the book which could have done with more expansion.

Koontz explored Time travel before in his tour de force novel Lightning, and he returns to similar ground here, but with less success. The paradoxes that Snow and his friends experience are not resolved, although they are pointed out to the reader and then hammered home. The problem is that without a resolution, it all seems a little weak.

It is the ending that lets Seize the Night down, but I can almost forgive that, in the light of the strength of the novel up to that point. On the other hand, when a book has been so enjoyable up to the end, to find that the resolution is a little simplistic does come as a blow. I wanted things to be resolved, but in a way that satisfied me, not in a manner that suggests that Koontz had written himself into a corner and wasn’t entirely sure how to get out of it himself.

Another classic thriller from Koontz, and yet another book which is ‘not a Horror novel’ despite containing intelligent monkeys, a mutant creature of size and power, ‘sideways’ trips in Time to a dimension containing sentient body-eating maggots and a secret government project to develop both Time travel and a genetic enhancement which may mean the end of the human race …

David Howe