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selected from Shivers #92

In this issue: ten pages of reviews, including:

Video / DVD Reviews •
A double bill of Lecter in Hannibal and The Silence of the Lambs, plus Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs from Herschell Gordon Lewis, The Omen Trilogy and Bless the Child

Book Reviews • Including:
Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Kelley Armstrong's Bitten, Graham Masterton’s Hair Raiser and The Journal of Horror and Erotic Cinema Necronomicon 4 edited by Andy Black

TV Reviews •
Ian Atkins' critical look at the last episodes of Buffy & Angel in the 2000-01 seasons plus full season checklists

Film Reviews • Including:
Japan's controversial Battle Royale, the long overdue Ed Gein and the revolutionary CGI of Final Fantasy

Film Review
Battle Royale

Director: Kinji Fukasaku • Starring:
Takeshi Kitano, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda
Taro Yamamoto • Cert: 18 Running Time: 113 mins
UK Release: 14th September 2001

Battle Royalle

Reviewed by Alec Worley
selected and edited from Shivers #92

Battle Royale caused a rare controversy on its release in Japan last year, when a prominent politician accused the film of having a detrimental influence over the nation's youth. The film is a macabre fable concerning teenage delinquency (currently a major concern in Japan), so it's easy to see why there was such a fuss. Based on the novel by Koshun Takami, Battle Royale is set in an alternate 21st century Japan tottering on the brink of social collapse. In response to the rise in teenage crime the government has legislated the 'Battle Royale' act.

Every year a high school class is selected via lottery. Each pupil is fitted with a mechanical collar, which blows a smoking hole in their throat if they attempt to remove it. The children are then shipped to a deserted island, given rations and a weapon (an Uzi if they're lucky, a rolled-up newspaper if they're not). They now have three days to kill the rest of their classmates. Exactly how this contest is meant to solve Japan's youth crime is never explained, and it's certainly made no clearer by the film's cryptic conclusion. Any sense of satire is subordinate to the thrill of watching these kids tear each other to pieces, and on this shallow level Battle Royale works well.

The film is involving, as this year's terrified 14-year-old contestants are released into the wild where they split up, form temporary alliances, satisfy burning rivalries, or simply kill themselves rather than participate. A shy boy bonds with the girl he secretly adored in class and swears to protect her, a popular girl finds she has a talent for systematic slaughter, and a shock-haired psycho (who signed on just for fun) gets his eager little hands on a machine-gun.

The action is solidly directed by venerable journeyman Kinji Fukasaku (70 years old with this his 50th feature) and the nastiness is interspersed with plenty of grim humour, such as the hilariously chirpy induction video and an amusingly deadpan performance from ex-teacher, now adjudicator Takeshi Kitano.Battle Royale lacks the subversive edge of the similarly themed Series 7: The Contenders, but otherwise it is a gripping wheeze that will doubtless appeal to everyone's inner sadist.

DVD Review
Blood Feast / Two Thousand Maniacs!

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
• Starring:
Thomas Wood, Connie Mason
• With: Mal Arnold (Feast), Jeffrey Allen (Maniacs)

Order Blood Feast from Blackstar today!
Order Two Thousand Maniacs from Blackstar today!
Region 2 (PAL) Retail DVDs
Ratio: 1.33:1 • Audio: Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 (224kbps)

Blood Feast on DVD

Review by Stephen Foster
selected and edited from Shivers #92

The first two parts of Lewis's much-loved, amateurish, notoriously gory trilogy, Two Thousand Maniacs! and Blood Feast, are quaintly risible, but are just the sort of cheesy movies perfectly suited to a lads' night in. Tartan's new discs make both films look terrific, especially considering their impoverished origins. The transfers are rather smeary, but the colours are often bold and extravagant. The sound is feeble and poorly mixed, and the dialogue is frequently out of sync.

The discs come with a clutch of bonus features (including a lengthy audio interview with Lewis on Blood Feast), and sport nifty animated menus, but, despite Tartan's stalwart efforts, neither compares favourably to the Region 1 versions, which come with a director/producer commentary track and extensive outtakes. Fans will doubtless want to get both versions, however. Blood Feast, the subject of a successful OPA prosecution in 1994, is presented with some nominal 'cautionary' cuts totalling about twenty-three seconds. Two Thousand Maniacs! is uncut.

Book Review
Bitten

by Kelley Armstrong
Published by Little, Brown, 7th June 2001
448pp (paperback). Order it from Amazon UK

Kelley Armstrong's Bitten
Reviewed by David Howe:
selected and edited from Shivers #92

Elena Michaels is a werewolf. Not a natural one, but one which was created by Clay when he became attracted to her. As a 'bitten' werewolf, and also a female, Elena holds a special place in the Pack: there are no other female werewolves, and only the male offspring from Human/werewolf union Change when they reach puberty. However because of her once-Human heritage, Elena longs for a normal Human life and so runs away from the Pack to live with her Human lover. But werewolf ties run deep, and soon she is summoned back to the Pack's base to help with a problem when a rival group of werewolves decides to stake a claim on the territory.

Bitten is in many respects a fairly standard tale of a woman torn between two lives: one into which she was born and one into which she was forcibly initiated. But which will win? Ultimately it doesn't really matter as Kelley Armstrong has chosen to couch her début novel in the style of a modern, first-person narrative 'woman's novel' full of Angst, love, betrayal and lashings of feeling. Elena is not afraid to wax lyrical about all aspects of her life, her choices, the thrill of hunting and shopping, and of manly pursuits with Clay and her Human boyfriend Philip.

As a Horror novel it fails dismally as it is too much a fluffy feminine soap opera, and, as I have nothing to compare it against in the female soap opera novel arena (not being drawn to read such fictions) I cannot comment on whether it succeeds there. However it is nicely written and sustained, and apart from some tedium mid-way through, it mostly achieves what it sets out to do. An enjoyable read for the most part, but nothing too special, and fairly forgettable.

Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction
Images © Little, Brown books, Metro Tartan films, Tartan Terrors video