Reviews header Selected from Shivers #89

The Latest in Horror Entertainment
In this issue: eleven pages of reviews, including:
a special overview of Overseas DVD Releases

Video / DVD Reviews •
Stephen Foster on the latest releases including the terrifying Ring in both formats, plus Funny Games and Neil Jordan’s murky parable In Dreams

Book Reviews •
Tim Lebbon's As the Sun Goes Down, Peter Straub’s disappointing Magic Terror and Mark Z Danielewski's House of Leaves

TV Reviews •
Ian Atkins on four episodes in total from the new seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel

Film Reviews •
More Japanese Horror with Audition and a low-budget British chiller called The Hole

Book Review
As the Sun Goes Down

by Tim Lebbon • Published by NightShade Books
available in the UK from Cold Tonnage, 22 Kings Lane, Windlesham, Surrey, GU20 6QJ
248pp $25.00/£19.95

Tim Lebbon's As The Sun Goes Down
Reviewed by David Howe:
selected and edited from Shivers #89

Tim Lebbon has just taken up the post of Vice President of the Horror Writers Association, and his stories continue to top the bill in any anthology lucky enough to feature them. His novella White won the British Fantasy Award in 2000 and his first solo novel.

Every once in a while, someone new and very special emerges from the British small presses, and at the moment the UK is benefiting from the talents of a number of superb writers who enliven any anthology their work appears in. Tim Lebbon is one such writer. Readers of Shivers may remember my raving about his two-story collection Faith in the Flesh, or even his novella Naming of Parts from PS Publishing. If you’re still wondering what the fuss is about, then now is your chance to find out.

NightShade books in America have just published a superb collection of Lebbon’s short fiction and it is available in the UK from Cold Tonnage. The book has a gorgeous cover courtesy of Alan Clark, and the production quality is exemplary. All this is just icing on the cracking selection of tales within. Lebbon takes us on a tour of Horror, from childhood terrors of monsters in the dark and a painful story of birth and death, through a surreal and supernatural invasion of a city by wild predators which can be seen only by one person, to a disturbed man’s mission to prevent the unique and endangered in the world from dying out. Science Fiction features in a story of hunger, Fantasy in a world where the dead rise to defend the realm, and back to Horror again with zombies, beneficial angels with a sting in their promises of wealth and good fortune, and finally to death as a man returns to the village of his youth to confront his own ghosts.

I am in awe at Lebbon’s scope and talent. He sketches in people, places and horrors deftly, and his fictions buzz and resonate with life and vitality. A couple of tales here end on a vague note, but overall this is a strong and well themed collection, taking the reader on a nightmare trip through life: from birth to childhood, into space, middle age and then death. As the Sun Goes Down should be in every Horror fan’s bookcase. Buy it now.

Overseas DVD Review special
Lost Highway

Director: David Lynch • Starring:
Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty
German Region 2 (PAL) DVD
Ratio: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic) Audio: Digital Digital 5.1 (448kbps) Order it from Amazon.de today!

Lost Highway on German DVD

Overview and review (here) by Stephen Foster
selected and edited from Shivers #89

If the introduction of the DVD format has taught dedicated film fans anything, it’s that there are often substantial benefits from investigating their options before buying copies of their favourite movies. Discriminating consumers now routinely look to the US via the Internet for the best version of a particular title, and generally find it. Some connoisseurs are also now beginning to look to other English-speaking territories, like Australia, to see if their discs offer anything that the British or American versions do not (like their anamorphic version of the Natural Born Killers Director’s Cut, with all the supplements of the packed US disc, or an uncut PAL version of The Matrix, in a proper keep case!).

Now other countries are getting the DVD bug, and are releasing discs that will have Horror fans drooling. There are reputable mail-order sites in most European countries, (including the French version of Amazon: www.amazon.fr and the German: www.amazon.de), and most seem happy to ship to the UK. Of course, there are more than a few traps for the unwary traveller. The most common problem is that some titles won’t have English audio or subtitles, although some countries, like France, are very keen on making the version originale (V.O.)available to their customers, because, bona fide cinephiles that they are, they routinely expect it. Less obvious, but perhaps equally problematic, is that the discs that do have an English soundtrack may also have non-removable foreign subtitles...

It’s impossible to absolutely guarantee that a particular machine will be able to present a particular disc without subtitles (look for phrases like sans sous-titres in French and untertitel aus in German). Some websites offer this information. It is useful to have a skimpy grasp of the language of the country you’re buying from: films are often listed under their foreign titles. It may be easier to locate a film by searching for a particular actor or the director. You should at least have a grip on a few words commonly associated with e-commerce if you’re to safely navigate the various online forms, etc. The foreign Amazon sites have very similar layouts and procedures to the UK and US versions, so anyone familiar with their system should breeze through the German and French equivalents.

One thing that may be ringing alarm bells is the thought that these foreigners use different TV standards. Well, Germany and Holland are PAL countries, the same as the UK. France broadcasts in SECAM, but is gradually switching to PAL, and their DVDs are also in PAL. Australians use PAL, too, sensible fellas.

The big Hollywood studios generally dictate the contents of their DVDs across the world, ensuring a degree of homogeny. Films made independently are often sold on to a different company in each territory, and they are generally given autonomy to market the movie in any way they damn well please. This can result in radically different discs in each country. Sometimes other countries simply have access to better materials, or have decided on different technical specifications: France has exclusive DTS versions of Sleepy Hollow and Stir of Echoes, for example.

There are some relatively mainstream American movies that haven’t had a proper DVD release anywhere other than continental Europe, like David Lynch’s Lost Highway, which was previously only available as an expensive Japanese import. Other important films, like Nic Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (available in Germany as Wenn die Gondeln Trauer tragen, and France as Ne Vous Retournez Pas, both in English with optional subtitles) are similarly neglected in the countries that actually parlay the lingo.

Lost Highway

This disc from BMG Germany is a terrific presentation of a movie that was always going to present film-to-video transfer problems, because so much of it takes place in deep shadow. The film is presented in its correct theatrical ratio of 2.35:1, which is essential since Lynch likes to make full use of the whole frame. It also boasts a powerful 5.1 audio mixes in English and German, making the best of the characteristically dense Lynchian soundtrack, Angelo Badalamenti’s score and aggressive music by acts like Rammstein and Nine Inch Nails. The disc has optional subtitles.

Some copies of this disc have significant lip-synch problems on the English version, which can be distracting, although this has apparently been rectified on more recent pressings. The disc isn’t entirely bereft of extras either: there are about ten minutes worth of sound bites from Lynch and his cast (in English), and several wide-screen German trailers.

DVD Review
Funny Games

Director: Michael Hanake • Starring:
Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Muhe, Frank Geiring
Region 0 (PAL) DVD
Ratio: 1.85:1 (Non-Anamorphic) Audio: Digital Stereo 2.0 (224kbps)
Order it from Blackstar today!

Ultraviolet on DVD

Reviewed by Stephen Foster
selected and edited from Shivers #89

Hanake’s intriguing thriller, about a family on holiday who are terrorized by a pair of init–ally charming but ultimately monstrous psychopaths, plays with audience expectations and genre conventions, and cleverly challenges the viewer to question their motives for continuing to watch the entertainment on offer.

Tartan’s disc, apparently taken from a subtitled theatrical print, is generally satisfactory, and there are few signs of annoying digital artefacts. A trailer and a brace of text supplements, including an interview with the director, are offered to sweeten the pill.

Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001.
Images © Universal, Eureka, Hodder Headline Books. Not for reproduction