Reviews header Selected from Shivers #90

The Latest in Horror Entertainment
In this issue: ten pages of reviews, including:

Video / DVD Reviews •
Stephen Foster on the latest releases including What Lies Beneath, the Season 2 Buffy DVD box set, new Twilight Zone discs and Komodo – plus prize competitions!

Book Reviews •
RIP Richard Laymon, Simon Clark's The Night of the Triffids, Muriel Gray's The Ancient, plus erotic/grotesque Manga Ultra-Gash Inferno and The Cinema of Dario Argento in Art of Darkness

TV Reviews •
Ian Atkins' post-mortem on five Season 5 episodes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and a nice pair from Angel

Film Reviews •
David Boreanaz in Valentine, Werewolf Angst in Ginger Snaps and a satire on reality TV in Series 7: The Contenders

Book Review
Night of the Triffids

by Simon Clark
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, 7th June 2001
406pp (hardback). Order it from Amazon UK

Simon Clark's Night of the Triffids - Order it from Amazon UK
Reviewed by David Howe:
selected and edited from Shivers #90

Simon Clark is the author of seven previous novels and numerous short stories, including King Blood, Judas Tree and The Fall.

The triffids are one of the great concepts in Science Fiction: scary, ambulatory plants with a sting that can kill a human in seconds. Most people have heard of the triffids, either from the original John Wyndham novel, from the 1963 Steve Sekely film or 1981’s six-part TV series. Now author Simon Clark has returned to the original novel for this authorized sequel, which follows events some 25 years later as David Masen – son of the original book’s narrator Bill Masen – wakes up one morning to find that the world is in complete darkness.

This parallels events in the original book when the triffids’ rampage is presaged by lights in the sky which blinded all those who saw them. Under cover of this unnatural darkness, the triffids make their move, and attack the Isle of Wight stronghold of David and his friends. This is just the beginning, however, and before long an airplane recce to try and discover the extent of the cloud which is blocking out the Sun results in David separated from his friends and on a trip to New York by boat which rescues him from a floating raft of triffids.

Clark meshes together several ideas in this thrilling and, in many ways, old fashioned novel. New York is under the control of General Fielding, and seems a prosperous and happy place, moreso as David has fallen in love with Fielding’s daughter, Kerris. However this surface veneer is shattered when David discovers the reasons for the City’s prosperity, and what secret is hidden in Fielding’s past. These revelations rock the reader, and Masen is forced to join the rebels, putting him at odds with Fielding’s plans.

Through all this action, the triffids are an everpresent menace. Their eerie rattling sounds and whip-like sting placing them at a distinct advantage. Moreover Clark has his triffids evolving at a fast rate: picking up on ideas that were mooted in the original novel, the plants have grown larger, can apparently communicate with each other, are resistant to sea water, and work together to trap and kill humans – they are a truly terrifying force.

Ignore the dreadful B-movie cover to the novel, and enjoy what lies within. A fast-moving and exciting tale of love, betrayal and hidden secrets. This is superb stuff.

Film Review
Ginger Snaps

Director: John Fawcett • Starring:
Emily Perkins, Katherine Isabelle, Kris Lemche
Mimi Rogers • Cert: 18 Running Time: 104 mins
UK Release: 29th June 2001

Ginger Snaps

Reviewed by Alec Worley
selected and edited from Shivers #90

In the autumnal Canadian suburb of Bailey Falls, two grungy adolescent sisters lock themselves in their candlelit bedroom, where tough-girl Ginger (Isabelle) and shy, withdrawn Bridget (Perkins), fantasize about their own suicides. Loathed by their classmates and a source of concern for their teachers, the girls have sworn to remain together as outsiders until death. On their way to pull a midnight prank on a bitchy classmate they are attacked in the dark by some kind of animal. Ginger is badly mauled, but manages to escape with Bridget in tow. The creature gives chase and winds up splattered by a speeding truck.

Ginger’s wounds heal at an astonishing rate and once the initial panic subsides she is more pissed off by the fact that she is just had her first, and much belated, period. Angry with her own body for betraying her to conformity (a fact which her Mom (Rogers) celebrates with a blood red cake and a dinner-table announcement), Ginger doesn’t realize that she has also inherited another type of curse.

Bridget watches perplexed as her sister suddenly develops a ravenous appetite for boys (among other things), not to mention a wriggling tail at the base of her spine. Once Ginger’s erratic behaviour reaches the level of homicidal mania, Bridget is forced to turn to the local hemp dealer and part-time botanist for something to keep the wolf from the door.

Ginger Snaps is an incisive, witty and intelligent update of the lycanthropy myth that owes little to its precursors. There is plenty of crowd-pleasing carnage, but no grandstand transformation scenes and not a trace of self-parody, opting instead for the more effective low-key realism with plenty of venomous black humour.

By focusing on the growing pains of an adolescent female, the film treads similar ground to The Company of Wolves, although lycanthropy is not so much a symptom of Ginger’s sexual awakening as her rage against conformity. (“I’ve got this ache,” she says. “I thought it was for sex, but it’s to tear everything to f***ing pieces.”)

However, this is only one from the brew of themes the film offers up, including sexual disease (lycanthropy becomes a condition transferable through sex), teenage nihilism (resonant in the wake of the Columbine massacre) and sibling rivalry. A terrifically fresh and clever script by Karen Walker frees the film from the constraints of its genre. Ginger, like Seth Brundle in The Fly, dwindles into something monstrous but sympathetic. Perkins and Isabelle are both superb, while Mimi Rogers gives a hilarious portrayal of maternal misguidance. The animatronic werewolf effects are creaky, but this is not a rampant monster movie. It is a rich and thoughtful Horror film, one of the best werewolf movies in 20 years.

DVD Review

Director: Michael Lantieri • Starring:
Jill Hennessy, Billy Burke, Kevin Zegers
Region 2 (PAL) Rental DVD
Ratio: 1.78:1 (Anamorphic) Audio: Dolby Stereo 2.0 (192kbps) Order it from Blackstar today!

Komodo on DVD

Review by Stephen Foster
selected and edited from Shivers #90

An undernourished eco-thriller about giant Komodo dragons directed by experienced special effects artist Lantieri, explaining why the CGI effects are of quite a good standard. The rest of the film, about a traumatized young man being helped by a young doctor (Law and Order’s Hennessy), is relentlessly dull, though, and barely rises above B-movie status.

The UK rental disc offers a patchy widescreen presentation of what must have been a difficult film to transfer – much of it takes place in low-lighting situations, and it has a muddy palette. Despite the sleeve’s claims to a 5.1 presentation, the disc only contains a relatively flat-sounding stereo mix, which doesn’t enhance the film nearly as much as a 5.1 presentation might have.

The disc does feature a number of incidental extras, including an 11-minute ‘Making of…’ that reveals that the film, which is set in South Carolina, was shot in Australia. The UK disc also trumpets an ‘exclusive preview’ (ie trailer) for the forthcoming Ginger Snaps, (see above). This trailer actually earned the 12-certificate Komodo a 15-certificate DVD release. The US disc offers some additional features, including a commentary track, another short featurette and the sorely missed 5.1 sound mix.

Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction
Images © Optimum Releasing, Hodder & Stoughton, Mosaic Movies.