from Shivers #73
Reviews header

The Latest in Horror Entertainment

In this issue: twelve pages of reviews, covering:
Video / DVD Reviews • A bumper selection of Horror and Fantasy DVDs featuring the popular House trilogy, Beloved, Judge Dredd, Alligator, Ian McKellen and Brad Renfro in Apt Pupil, Lucio Fulci's The New York Ripper and the hit teen-comic-Horror, The Faculty.

TV Reviews • We feature the first two episodes of the spin-off series Angel while concluding the third season of its parent Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Plus two new episodes from The X-Files season seven.

Book Reviews • Tom Baker's The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, the anthology 999 New stories of Horror and Suspense, Andrew Cartmel's The Wise and the apocalyptic I Spied A Pale Horse

Film Reviews • This month we feature the highly acclaimed ghost story The Sixth Sense, starring Bruce Willis and the talented newcomer Haley Joel Osment, and Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow starring Johnny Depp. Plus The Rage: Carrie 2, a less-than-successful follow-up to Brain De Palma's 1976 classic of teenage isolation.

Three Houses on DVD. Is that a new form of Monopoly?Video Review
House, House II: The Second Story, House III: The Horror Show
Directors: Steve Miner, Ethan Wiley, James Isaac
Starring: George Wendt, Ayre Gross, Lance Henriksen
Region 2 (PAL) DVD


Reviewed by Stephen Foster
selected and edited from Shivers #73

The first, and best, of the House series is a schizophrenic movie that can’t decide between Horror and humour. A Horror novelist (Carrie’s William Katt) inherits a Victorian mansion, and finds that it contains the gateway to another dimension.

The second film features Ellen star Gross as another will beneficiary, lured to the house by the promise of hidden treasure. The third film is a sequel in name only, and is almost entirely unrelated. In it an executed criminal (played by Blade Runner’s Brion James) returns from the dead to stalk a cop (Millennium’s Henriksen).

All three discs present their films in full screen, in mediocre full-screen transfers which are fizzing with encoding artefacts, making them little better than VHS copies. The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0, but frequently distorted and brittle. The number of chapters on each disc, and their placement, seems to have been determined by how many on-set photos could be unearthed, and so each only has a handful. There’s no printed list, or leaflet, so it hardly matters. The ‘Photo Library’ is meagre, and practically worthless.

Digital Entertainment is another company jumping on the DVD bandwagon for purely opportunistic reasons, and this shows in their inept packaging and lack of care. Typical is the mistake on the House III sleeve, which credits ‘David Blythe’ as director, and director James Isaac as one of the stars…

Tom Baker's nasty little fableBook Review
The Boy who Kicked Pigs
By Tom Baker
Published by Faber and Faber
124pp £12.99 h/b

Reviewed by David Howe
selected and edited from Shivers #73

Tom Baker is better known as the fourth incarnation of the Doctor in BBC TV’s Doctor Who, but here he turns his hand to writing, and has come up with a thoroughly nasty little fable concerning the downfall of one Robert Caligari.

Robert is an evil child: one who torments his sister, kicking her pig money-box out of the window, and generally being horrid. One day he shoots an arrow into the backside of a horse being ridden across a motorway bridge (he was aiming for the rider’s bottom but missed). The horse bolts and jumps off the bridge onto the motorway and causes a massive pile-up during which petrol tankers ignite and many people are killed.

Robert, pleased with this, runs back to his woodland hideout but slips and falls into an old tree-bole full of sharp spikes where he remains, unfound, until he is eaten by rats and dies.

This gruesome story is related in Baker’s typical humorous style, and does raise a smile or two, but the images conjured (for instance as Robert’s lips, eyelids and eyeballs are devoured by rats when he’s still alive) are grotesque in the extreme, and, I would say, not really suitable for children of any age. This then, poses a dilemma, as the book is written by a children’s teatime hero, and has been marketed with Tim Burton-esque cartoon drawings in a manner which suggests that the book may be read or enjoyed by children. I don’t think so.

Baker has created, as it rightly says on the cover ‘a grotesque masterpiece’. Something which stands up with the worst of Shaun Hutson and Poppy Z Brite as both stomach-turning and vividly realized. A curio, but only for those of strong disposition.

Sulky? Batman-esque routines? Must be Angel...TV Review
Angel
1.1 City Of

Written and Directed by Joss Whedon
US Premiere 5 Oct 1999
UK Premiere 7 Jan 2000
Reviewed by Ian Atkins
selected and edited from Shivers #73

Series spin-offs. When they’re not strained exercises in cynical franchise extensions (The Bionic Woman, Baywatch Nights), then they’re remakes of the original where some element has been at best tinkered with (Deep Space Nine, Crusade) or at worst corrected (Xena the Warrior Princess). After a summer of rumours and trailers, Angel premiered in the States in October and a collective sigh of relief went around as dark, Millennium-itis was avoided, and yet the alternative – comedy – was controlled and not controlling.

‘It’s not all about fighting and gadgets and such. It’s about reaching out to people. Showing them that there’s love and hope still left in this world.’ Doyle

‘Got any spare change?’ Homeless Woman

‘Get a job, you lazy sow' Doyle

Buffy Summers’ vampire ex-lover has come to Los Angeles to sulk and do Batman-esque rescues of damsels-in-distress: City of’s opening illustrates this perfectly, with some nifty fights and gadgetry. Soon Irish half-demon Doyle has arrived to restate Angel’s entire back-story (using lots of Buffy clips) and so steer his destiny on behalf of the “powers that be”.

Doyle has a gift, the ability to see people in trouble while having agonizing headaches. As Cordelia states: “If I had a gift like that? I’d give it back”. As plot device it couldn’t be more obvious, and Doyle’s a lot more interesting when engaged in quick-fire dialogue with Cordelia.

Ah yes, Cordelia Chase. If one can excuse the grinding coincidence of Angel running into Cordelia again (LA after all only has a few million people, so they were bound to meet up, right?) then meeting her brings a welcome comedy relief to a show threatening to drown in its spiritual gloom while frying in its too-bright cinematography. It’s very much the Cordelia we know and love, and even her opening bravado speech about how well she’s doing in LA should ring bells with those remembering her at the end of Season Three.

But does the episode work? The plot has Doyle’s vision sending Angel after a vampire who is financing starlets and snacking on the proceeds. As such, City ofshows no more intricacy than most Buffy stories, and so the fewer regulars are having to work a lot harder to maintain the energy that pulls a viewer along. Here they just about make it, though when a show’s highlights are some snappy one-liners, and a spectacular special effect (when the vampire villain meets his demise), then more thought is required.

The regulars work well, with Charisma Carpenter in particular given some wonderful moments – not least when she discovers the slimy money-man she felt would boost her career is something else entirely: “Oh god. I’m sorry. I’m getting all weepy in front of you. I probably look really scary. I finally get invited to a nice place with... No mirrors... And... Lots of curtains... Hey, you’re a vampire!” “What? No I’m not!” “Are too!”

It’s a nervous thumbs-up for an opening episode which demonstrates the strengths in the show’s set-up, but also highlights the problem areas. Angel himself – like his vampire nature – needs others to feed off to make plot and humour work. A damsel-in-distress per week is going to make this seem old very quickly indeed.

Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Images © Fox TV, Digital Entertainment, Faber books. Not for reproduction