Latest in Horror Entertainment
In this issue: 8 pages of reviews, covering Film Reviews The newest UK cinema releases Perdita Durango and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer Book Reviews The latest Horror titles examined, including The Fall, The Dreaming Pool and Skeletons in the Closet Video Reviews New DVD, LaserDisc or VHS editions include Species 2, The X-Files movie, City of Angels and the fascinating Pi TV Reviews Three new US-televised episodes of The X-Files
Four astronauts are heading back from an expedition to Mars, not realising that they are carrying an alien bacteria, hidden in their soil samples. Before they land the organism breaks out, and infects the crew, turning them into predators with a strong desire to procreate. Meanwhile, in a secret US laboratory, scientists led by Doctor Laura Baker (Helgenberger) have created a duplicate of the original alien/human hybrid creature, named Eve (Henstridge), who is being used by the military to test her vulnerabilities. If the infected astronauts and Eve come into contact, then the resultant offspring could take over the planet
Species II is another slice of SF hokum, certainly no worse than the original movie, but still pretty dumb. Medak handles the action scenes with some success, but seems out of his depth when handling the special effects scenes, which are often astonishingly inept.
MGM/UA's single-sided dual layer DVD version should satisfy fans of the film. It presents the film in its original 1.85:1 ratio, with 16:9 enhancement, with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. The film features many sequences that might have presented problems in the transfer stage, but the disc copes admirably well. The disc contains about ten minutes of deleted scenes, or alternate edits, including a sequence where the lead astronaut picks up a trans-sexual pole dancer in a strip club. These are of VHS quality, and add nothing other than to offer some small insight into the editing process. More interesting is Medak's commentary track, which is quite frank, and even explains how meddling from the studio adversely affected the film. A US theatrical trailer, which manages to condense the film down to one single cohesive plotline, is also included, as is a generic MGM/UA trailer. A nice eight-page colour booklet, and a beautifully-designed animated menu screen are welcome bonuses.
Time travel is usually the preserve of Science Fiction writers who use the plot device as a means to explore the future or possibly the distant past. It has not often been used in Horror and yet Simon Clark takes this simple concept and constructs a powerful tale of human endeavour.
Sam Baker is visiting an ancient Roman amphitheatre in London as a prelude to the staging of a televised rock concert. Also in the amphitheatre is a party of tourists and their guides, a local man who knows its history and assorted ice-cream sellers and other folk. Without warning, the site is hit by lightening, and all those in the amphitheatre become some-what dazed. As they move off on their separate ways it slowly becomes apparent that all is not well: televisions seem to be showing yesterday's programmes, and Sam's assistant has a conversation with someone back at the office who seems to be herself.
Suddenly, everyone finds themselves back in the amphitheatre, and Sam, in the 'dead' period between then and now sees a vision of a crucified man. This time, a group heads for the local village and find that the newspapers say it is a week ago
Before long they are all dragged back to the amphitheatre once more but this time some people are missing and it is a year before when it should be. Those who die do not come back, but for everyone else, they are returned to the Roman ruin exactly as they were when the lightning hit for the first time.
The problem is whether Sam and his new friends can figure out what is happening, and how to stop their apparent helter-skelter fall back through Time.
Clark is onto a winner with this book from the word go. Rather than take a distant past setting immediately, he breaks the reader in gently: one day; one week; one year; ten years each is meticulously observed and very believable. The writing is crisp and clear, and the characters - at least those whom Clark decides to focus on - come over as real people faced with an incredible problem.
Where the book falls down is in some of the detail: it is never quite explained what Sam's visions are all about, for example, and some of the more interesting folk who appear later in the book - the so called liminals who can exist outside of time due to an horrific genetic fusing process - are somewhat glossed over.
Despite these shortcomings, The Fall is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, and which I was sad to finish. Great ideas, great writing, great characters. What more can you ask?David Howe