Reviews header
from Shivers #69
The Latest in Horror Entertainment
In this issue: nine pages of reviews, covering:
Book Reviews • featuring Hannibal by Thomas Harris, Life's a Scream, the autobiography of Ingrid Pitt, and Brotherly Love by David Case
Video / DVD Reviews • featuring The Alien Legacy (below) plus new releases of Ghostbusters and The Driller Killer

TV Reviews • We begin our reviews of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Horror Websites • Where to find out more about the great literary Horror figures, including Stoker, Lovecraft and Poe.

TV Review
Buffy Season 3: Faith Hope & Trick details
Willow transformed for Season Three Reviewed by
Ian Atkins

selected and edited from Shivers #69

'I’m gonna go out on a limb and say there’s a new Slayer in town.’ Oz
‘Does anyone believe that’s her actual hair colour?’ Cordelia

A car draws up at night containing new visitors to Sunnydale. Yes, it’s time for the season villain to make his (or her?) arrival again. However, just as the ancient vampire Kakistos proves not to be quite what is expected, neither too does the girl he is hunting. Buffy becomes drawn into the battle between Kakistos and Faith, a Slayer who seems to enjoy her job a little too much and who is making a career out of secrets. Meanwhile, Giles is playing a subtle game with his own Slayer to establish another truth, a game that ends in an anguished confession.

Secrets and lies will become an overwhelming theme of Buffy’s third season, and this is where it begins. Buffy finally relinquishes her painful secret from Becoming, Faith’s lies about her Watcher are exposed, and there’s even a neat secret for the viewer at the end of the episode. The series has just got very dark, and it only rarely lightens up before the fires of Graduation Day.

On the plus side, the interaction between the regulars is back to full power and proves some wonderful exchanges (notably Oz’s explanation of his background). Faith as a character is complex and provides a far better look at the nature of a Slayer than Kendra was allowed to give. And with Mr Trick, the series gets potentially its most powerful villain yet. A vampire who embraces technology? The implication of I Robot, You Jane that the battle between Good and Evil is now waged on electronic battlefields as much as physical is at last realized. It bodes well, as does finally having a well-drawn black character in a series where the ethnicity has been alarmingly narrow.

It’s a shame that it has taken three episodes for the series to show itself back to top form, but thankfully Faith, Hope and Trick arrives just in time.

Video Review
The Alien Legacy

Directors: Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring:Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Lance Henrikson

Region 1 (NTSC)
Alien Legacy box set Reviewed by Stephen Foster

selected and edited from Shivers #69

Fox Video has a truly terrible reputation on both sides of the Atlantic for its non-committal attitude to DVD, but their excellent Alien Legacy box set shows that they are capable of releasing product that will reaching the format’s full potential. The 20th anniversary edition set contains all four films in their original theatrical ratio (2.35:1, except Aliens, which is in 1.85:1), with Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, and enhanced for 16:9 TVs.

The extra features on the box set are weighted towards the beginning of the series. The Alien disc is replete with goodies, including a new commentary track by Ridley Scott, a fresh transfer which corrects some minor discrepancies between the film’s 70mm and standard 35mm sound mixes, deleted scenes – some not included in the UK VHS collector’s edition box set – trailers, storyboards, artwork, poster designs and photos.

Fans who already own the ground breaking NTSC laserdisc box set will also want to upgrade for the DVD’s two alternate audio tracks. One contains a rough sound mix, with on-set recordings and provisional music cues. The other presents Jerry Goldsmith’s superb score as he originally intended it, before Scott re-edited it, replacing several cues with existing material. OK, so it’s not terribly sexy, but it is something that is an undocumented part of the Alien mythology, and something that only the DVD format has been able to facilitate. It’s a great shame that the other discs in the set do not have isolated score tracks.

The restored 154-minute version of Aliens is presented next in a new high-definition transfer that’s stripped away some of the coarse grain that has blighted previous efforts. A 1986 interview with James Cameron and a good chunk of the ‘Making of…’ materials from the laserdisc box set provide added value, but nothing new has been unearthed.

Alien³ looks much better on DVD than it did on laserdisc, and a damned sight better than the turgid VHS versions. A contemporary ‘Making of…’ featurette is the only notable bonus here, missing a prime opportunity to finally release some of the notorious missing scenes. If Fox had made the effort, and perhaps also got Fincher to contribute a commentary track, then it might have resulted in the film being reappraised by its detractors.

The dust has barely settled on Alien Resurrection, so it was inevitable that a proper post mortem wasn’t a consideration, but it’s a shame to see the disc so spartan. A promotional featurette is included, which at least shows how some of the effects were created.

The box set is priced very reasonably, so even fans who don’t particularly like the third and fourth movies shouldn’t be too wary. The discs are also available separately. Fox’s offer of a fifth, hour-long ‘Making of Alien’ disc to customers who bought the box set has been a marketing fiasco of legendary proportions. Originally planned as something that would be included in the box set, either as a separate disc, or as an added feature on one of the other discs) it was soon transformed into a fifth disc that could only be obtained through a coupon system. Now only American and Canadian customers who bought copies from the first batch look likely to get the disc.

Fox will enter the British DVD market later this year (with a strictly no-frills version of Titanic) and plan to release a Region 2 version of the series. Whether they’ll be able to do a better job than their American colleagues is doubtful, but only the most patient fans will be waiting to find out…