Reviews header Selected from Shivers #74

The Latest in Horror Entertainment
In this issue: nine pages of reviews, covering:

Video / DVD Reviews • I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Blade Runner, John Carpenter's The Thing, Ghostbusters and 8mm come to DVD

Book Reviews • Gordon Houghton's The Apprentice, Collecting Monster Toys, the BFI companion to Val Lewton's Cat People, and The Ghosts of Candleford.

TV Reviews • Newest seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and The X-Files continued, and the ITV version of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw.

Film Reviews • Mateo (Thesis) Gil's weird new movie Nadie Conoce A Nadie, plus a millennial outing with Schwarzenegger in End of Days

Video Review
I Still Know What You Did
Last Summer

Director: Danny Cannon
Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr
Region 2 (PAL) DVD
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
Reviewed by Stephen Foster
selected and edited from Shivers #74

Watching I Still Know What You Did Last Summer you’d think that Scream never happened. It takes a tired genre, and what was already a pretty overstretched premise, and takes it another step nearer being completely implausible. Or, as Mekhi Phifer’s character puts it: “It’s a long f**ked up story, and you probably won’t believe a word of it anyway.”

This time a bunch of nubile young things with ‘no nudity’ clauses in their contracts, headed by Party of Five’s Hewitt, are lured to an island in the Bahamas, just as the storm season breaks, where they are stalked by a man they thought they’d killed more than once. After about an hour where nothing much of note occurs, the film kicks into gear, but struggles to generate any real suspense, and fails to sustain enough momentum to impress.

Cannon seems to have little idea how a horror film works, and seems content with throwing out one fake scare after another. Genre fans should, at least, be delighted with Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs, who has a sizeable cameo role as the hotel manager.

Columbia’s disc presents the film to good effect, in 16:9-enhanced widescreen (2.35:1) ratio, and with an accomplished 5.1 sound mix. The disc scores well when it comes to extra features: a six-minute ‘Making of…’ featurette (little more than the trailer woven together with vacuous soundbites) and a Hewitt music video, How Do I Deal? (which has tenuous connection with the movie) are of little value, but one of the two trailers was especially-shot, and features a scene that’s not in the movie.

Book Review
The Apprentice
by Gordon Houghton
Published by Anchor Books
302pp • £9.99 tp/b

The Apprentice... of Death
Reviewed by David Howe
selected and edited from Shivers #74

Gordon Houghton was born in 1965 in Blackburn, Lancashire and studied at Oxford University. His first novel, The Dinner Party was published in 1998 and The Apprentice is his second novel.

Tired of the same old novels and authors? Fed up at how no one seems to have an original take on anything any more? Given up on finding an inspiring and entertaining novel? Well you need to read Gordon Houghton’s The Apprentice, one of the most original and blackly funny novels I have enjoyed in a long while.

The Apprentice of the title is an unnamed male, quietly minding his own business in his own grave in a corner of St Giles’ cemetery. His number comes up, and he finds himself disinterred by Death and offered an apprenticeship as his assistant: Death’s previous assistant Hades met with some unspecified and suspicious end. There is little choice, and soon the Apprentice is ensconced in the London HQ of Death and his co-workers Famine, Pestilence and War. He must trail Death over the course of a week and then, at the end of that week, if all works out, he can become a permanent member of staff, or, if not, he must die again via one of the cases he witnesses through his apprenticeship.

There follows an imaginative and well written series of bizarre deaths (by machines… by falling from a great height… by chocolate...) during which we learn much about the human condition, how Death and his fellows do their best to thwart it, and about a God who seems curiously absent from his penthouse office. The Apprentice is the sort of novel that you stumble across every so often that is so original that it screams out to be recommended. I can see it as a TV drama, or as a film.

Houghton has managed to tread the line between horror, satire and humour so well that the book works as all three, in a seemingly effortless mix of excellent characters and intriguing situations. It’s a brilliant book, one of the best handlings of undead life that I have seen, and one which I heartily recommend.

TV Review
The X-Files
7.3 Hungry

Written by Vince Gilligan
Directed by Kim Manners
US Première: 21st Nov 1999

UK Premiere: March 2000

‘You said you don’t believe in monsters. How... about... now..?’

The X-Files team
Reviewed by
Mike Fillis
selected and edited from Shivers #74

When the body of a young man is found minus the old grey matter near the Lucky Boy Burger Bar, the X-Files team is called in. “What if the man’s brain was eaten right out of his skull?” suggests Mulder, earnestly. “This is Orange County,” Scully flatly observes.

Nevertheless, the similarity between the bar’s improbably hygienic kitchen and the spic ‘n’ span home of one of its employees, Rob Roberts, suggests he might know something about the murder. Indeed he does, for Mr Roberts is the killer. But that’s not all he is.

This is an assured stand-alone episode of the new series and the first of the season to go before the cameras. Typically from the Gilligan/Manners partnership, this is a gruesome affair with a quirky sense of humour — Mulder’s off-the-wall theory to Scully about a genetic mutant running amok takes on hilarious proportions as it is broadcast over the drive-thru Tannoy system for all to hear.

Atypically, Hungry is told almost entirely from the point of view of the killer, mostly sparing us the familiar exchanges between our FBI pals and recasting Mulder, temporarily, as Columbo: He knows who his man is and pops up at every inconvenient moment to chip away at the killer’s confidence. Roberts kills, yes, savagely and uniquely, but the impulse to feed is uncontrollable. He disguises his true appearance – which he himself finds monstrous – with prosthetic make-up, only to succumb to his ‘biological imperative’. The viewer, though, soon begins to sympathize with his plight.

In fact, Gilligan’s great skill as a storyteller is to prompt polar emotional responses to his menu of victims; our glee at the deserved disposal of a loutish bully is soon countered by sadness at Rob’s inability to spare a friend from his overwhelming hunger. Any queries as to how he reached employment age undetected are quickly banished by a truly moving denouement which has as much to do with Kim Manners directing as with Chad E Donella’s quirky yet tender performance. By the way, if one of the murder victims looks uncannily like David Duchovny it’s because he’s played by Mulder stand-in Steve Kiziak. Wish-fulfillment by the director, perhaps. .?

Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000.
Images © Fox TV, Columbia, Anchor books. Not for reproduction