Category Archives: TV

Charlie Boy (Hammer House of Horror episode 5)

Charlie Boy (Hammer House of Horror episode 5)

What is Charlie Boy about?

Close up of Charlie Boy
Close up of Charlie Boy

Charlie boy is about a couple, Graham and Sarah, who come into possession of an African idol after Graham’s uncle dies. (Sarah gives the idol the name Charlie Boy). Unbeknown to the couple, the idol is cursed and is in fact a voodoo statue.

After a disagreement with his brother, Graham – sitting at home nursing a drink – takes out his anger on the Statue. He does this as he is looking at a photograph of five close friends, himself and his brother included. The rest of the episode is then about the systematic killing (or accidental deaths) of all who appear in said photograph in the order they appear.

The episode had some juicy deaths in its 51 minutes including a man getting thrown off a horse and on to some plough spikes. Others I can’t reveal for fear of spoiling aspects of it for you, should you choose to watch it. This story is one of the grimmest to watch overall – nobody really has a good time in this one. That being said I do enjoy a good downer of a story – there’s no light without shade.

A weaker example of the series

Charlie Boy had some potential to be a great episode but unfortunately fell a bit short for me. One big thing that let it down was the soundtrack. At times the music felt like it belonged somewhere between Confessions of a Window Cleaner and Foxy Brown. It’s a shame because the idea itself was a sound one that fits with the rest of the series well. It just seemed to be poorly executed by people who had no real vision of what Hammer Horror is.

Graham and Sarah examine Charlie Boy
Graham and Sarah examine Charlie Boy

In Summary

This is one episode of The Hammer House of Horror that I think you could comfortably miss. It does have some redeeming qualities, such as a higher death count to previous episodes. So it isn’t all doom and gloom. But yer, not the best one.

The House That Bled to Death

The House That Bled to Death (Hammer House of Horror episode 4)

The House That Bled to Death kicks off strong and stays strong throughout its 50 minutes. It keeps a sustained anxiousness until it’s very final scenes.

What is ‘The house that bled to death about?

The House That Bled To Death opening
The House That Bled To Death opening

The darkest and coldest opening of the series so far. An elderly couple are together in the kitchen about to have a cup of warm milk before bed. The husband heats the milk and slips a dark powder into one of the cups. As he sits there and lets his wife drink the tainted milk, not a word is exchanged. We have no idea as to why he is murdering his wife and in the world of Hammer House of Horror it doesn’t really matter.

Fast forward some time ahead and we are with this episode’s family, the Peters family. They are buying the very same house where the murder occurred, unknowing to them, from one of the creepiest estate agents in a TV series ever. As soon as they begin moving in, strange things start happening – doors jamming, strange visions and the most gruesome death of an animal I’ve seen in the series thus far.

As they try to bare the strange goings on in the house, tensions are increased both within the family and with the neighbours and friends. The poltergeist-like happenings culminate with the most shocking child’s Birthday party I’ve ever seen. But just when you think it’s all over, we see one of the most interesting – in my opinion – closing scenes of an episode of Hammer House of Horror I’ve watched.

I wonder about the child actors

Every time I see these sorts of series or films I can’t help but wonder how the children are affected. I mean, obviously if there’s a dead body the child wouldn’t necessarily need to physically see it. Through the magic of editing this effect can be produced. But when you have a scene such as this episode’s Birthday party, where the children are directly affected, this must be an awkward conversation with the young actors’ parents.

Sophies Birthday Present
Sophies Birthday Present

Nonetheless the child actors do a really good job in this episode. Their terror is almost palpable – which is worrying on a couple of levels. Sometimes I find the younger actors more convincing than their superiors. This could simply be down to the fact that children, in their very nature, are innocent. So the horrors that befall them are that much more horrific.

In Summary

Definitely one of the strongest and most memorable episodes of the Hammer House of Horror TV series. The House That Bled To Death has everything you could want from a hammer horror series.

The feeling of claustrophobia is maintained throughout most of the episode from being limited to the interior of their house. The house too is not a house that would necessarily stand out. You would see many houses like it passing through most built up city suburbs. This in itself is scary. The fact that it isn’t some huge eerie castle or dark, set-back mansion. This is a regular house, for regular families, who have to endure some far-from-regular thungs.

Growing Pains (Hammer House of Horror episode 3)

Growing Pains (Hammer House of Horror episode 3)

What is Growing Pains about?

We open the episode to see a small boy looking around a laboratory at the different coloured powders on the shelf. He then proceeds to eat one of the powders, which immediately sends him into a trance-like fit before dying on the grass outside. His parents run out after hearing breaking glass only to find their son, William, dead in the garden.

Matthew Blakstad as James
Matthew Blakstad as James

After the tragic opening we move to some time in the near future, the length of which is never revealed. The mother is picking up her newly-adopted son, a very polite – and slightly odd – young boy. After a near-fatal accident on the way home, the boy starts to become integrated into the family.

However, something just doesn’t sit right with the parents Terence and Laurie – something about their new son just isn’t right. After an increasing number of strange, and graphically horrific, occurrences happen around the home and the father’s lab, the story ends on a darkly melancholic note.

Put the bunny back in the box

I find that any horror that is being told is almost always amplified when children are involved. Whether that involves the child as being either the victim or the perpetrator. Take the rabbit killing scene for example: if an adult breaks the neck of a rabbit on screen, yes it is horrible. However, put that action into the hands of a small child, whether possessed or not, and the violence takes on a whole new angle.

Hammer House of Horror was going places and trying things that other shows at the time just weren’t doing. At least that’s what I believe based on my limited research. We can see parallels with modern anthology series like Black Mirror and Inside No 9, which themselves are doing things others just aren’t. Both of these no doubt took some of their cues from this TV series.

Gary Bond as Terence Morton
Gary Bond as Terence Morton

Although this episode was a bit of a slow burn for me, there was still enough to enjoy it as a whole. I thought the child actor at the time, Matthew Blakstad who played adopted son James, was suitable creepy. But from all of the reviews / critiques I’ve read of this episode, all mention him as being an evil boy. Although that was the impression I had from the start, I didn’t feel that by the end. Instead, I believe him to be a sheltered boy who unwittingly becomes possessed by the late Willam.

Summary

This episode is definitely the weakest of the first three i have watched so far. Although it did have a few redeeming qualities for me. You wouldn’t be missing too much if you bypassed this episode. But, for any of you fans of the Hammer House of Horror series, you should find enough interest to warrant 50 minutes of your time.

The Thirteenth Reunion (Hammer House of Horror episode 2)

The Thirteenth Reunion (Hammer House of Horror episode 2)

Leading on from the series’ opener, Witching Time, is the second episode of the eighties British anthology series Hammer House of Horror. The Thirteenth Reunion is a step away from the supernatural – perhaps consciously so in order to display the show’s diversity.

What’s The Thirteenth Reunion about?

Ruth is a newspaper reporter who has been stuck reporting on the mundane for too long. As part of her job, she is sent to a nearby health retreat called “Think Thin”. The owner has some questionable encouragement methods and she is sent to get the story.

During her first day she meets Ben, a well to do banker who dies that evening. His death occurs soon after taking a slimming pill that was given to him by the clinic. Although she is initially shocked at the news of his death, Ruth wastes no time in turning the suspected foul-play to her advantage. The advantage being the possibility of breaking a potentially big news story on her own.

Ruth and Ben have drinks in The Thirteenth Reunion
Ruth and Ben have drinks in The Thirteenth Reunion.

She is approached at Ben’s funeral by the director, who suspects his bosses of being up to something shady with some of the bodies – Ben’s included. She takes this opportunity to team up with the funeral director to investigate his bosses’ strange goings on. These events set Ruth on her passage of exploration that ultimately lead her to an unforgettable twist ending that will leave you open-mouthed long after the credits roll.

The horror is not knowing

There is no way to talk about the closing ten minutes of this episode without ruining it for you. What I will say is that you wont see it coming, not the full story at least.

All the way through this episode we are kept in the dark almost as much as Ruth is. We do get to see some of the interactions between shady characters that she doesn’t, but never enough to give the game away.

The Thirteenth Reunion is an episode that plays its cards very close to its chest. The majority of the episode is pretty standard investigative journalist stuff and it isn’t until the final few minutes that the real horror begins. And the majority of that horror is not in what it chooses to show you, but in what it chooses not to.

Witching Time (Hammer House of Horror episode 1)

Witching Time (Hammer House of Horror episode 1)

One evening David is composing the score for a new film when a loud but brief storm hits. When his dog, Billy, goes running off, he pursues it into the nearby horse stables. However, in the stables he doesn’t find Billy; instead he finds a mysterious woman in a black robe lying in the hay.

Black magic woman

Witching Time (Hammer House of Horror episode 1)
David Winter introduces Lucinda to electricity

Lucinda claims to be a witch from the 17th Century who managed to escape her execution by sending herself forward in time to the present day. She is played excellently by fiery red head Patricia Quinn. Lucinda is probably my favourite of the four main characters in this episode. Her portrayal of the ever-maddening witch is an entertaining watch, albeit not as scary as I would expect from this series.

As she becomes infatuated with David, Lucinda finds new and interesting ways to get inside his mind. Using the knowledge of David’s wife’s infidelity to her advantage, Lucinda slowly twists his mind against her so she can try and have him to herself.

Winter is coming

I knew I recognized the actor playing David Winter by not only his face, but also his distinct delivery of his lines. It was none other than Jon Finch, who I remembered from Hitchcock’s underrated ‘Frenzy’. Finch plays David with a similar, direct intensity – even in quieter scenes – that I remembered fondly from Frenzy.

I enjoyed seeing David’s slow descent into madness as the story escalated towards its heated conclusion.

What happened to Billy?

Witching Time (Hammer House of Horror episode 1)
Lucinda Jessup frightens Mary

Although this is not the strongest – or my favourite – episode of the series, it does have one of my favourite concepts for a story. The horror is downplayed considering it’s the first episode of the Hammer House of Horror. However, there are plenty of unsettling moments that should appease the hardest of Hammer Horror fans.

Unfortunately nobody knows what happened to billy.

The Trip with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon

The Trip with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon

The Trip is a British TV sitcom starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. In it, they play semi-fictionalised versions of themselves as they travel to various restaurants in order to review them for a paper. Each series focuses on a single country.

The story that runs through The Trip is a simple one, giving plenty of space to enjoy the conversations and natural chemistry between Steve and Rob. Often we see them talking over a gorgeous looking meal in one of the restaurants they are reviewing. These conversations then tend to snowball into an array of impressions of famous people. The impressions are hilarious too, which isn’t surprising at all given the calibre of these two comedy legends.

For me, where this series really shines, is in its ability to make me feel like I’m there with them. I could just as well be on the next table over from them in the restaurant listening in.

Despite the many laughs this series has, it still has a serious thread running through it. It often explores the characters’ personal side and how they may occasionally veer off the straight and narrow. These moments aren’t played for laughs either; the whole show is very sincere from beginning to end. In fact the laughs that The Trip triggers are as organic as if you were sat in the room with them.

The friendly rivalry between the two of them is fun to watch as well, with them having occasional digs at one another’s career. There are even times when I’d think one had overstepped the mark. However, I have to remember that they are playing character versions of themselves, not their actual selves.

At the time of writing, there are three series of The Trip: ‘The Trip’, ‘The Trip to Italy’ and ‘The Trip to Spain’. (The first series was set in the countryside villages in the north of England). It is such a fun series to watch one after the other, and I’ve never got tired of sitting with them as they eat some of the worlds best looking food.

Here’s some of the moments from the series for you to taste:

American Horror Story: Cult (Episode 1 - Election Night)

American Horror Story: Cult (Episode 1 – Election Night)

American horror story is back for is 7th series this week and not a moment too soon. I really enjoyed the slight departure in last series’ Roanoke story, however it feels good to be back in the familiar horror story format along with the title sequence.

Only now we see a new kind of horror

Election Night

Sarah Paulson in American Horror Story CultWe open the story on Election night in the United States – the actual election night we witnessed last year with the election of Donald Trump. This event sets the story off for the two principal characters: Evan Peters’ Kai Anderson, and Sarah Paulson’s Ally Mayfair-Richards.

Both American Horror Story veterans, Paulson and Peters portray their characters brilliantly as always. Paulson plays one of two women in a same sex marriage with a son, whilst Peters plays a hard line Trump supporter who couldn’t be more excited that Trump got into power.

Clowns Everywhere

The result of the election causes Ally (Paulson) to relapse into phobias that she had since conquered – the most notable of these being her fear of clowns. Not only have the series creators took inspiration from the clown sightings of late last year, but they have also brought back an old favourite: Twisty the Clown from series 4 (Freak Show). Although Twisty does only get shown through the visualization of a comic that Ally and her partner’s son is reading, I really hope he somehow makes it in the flesh.

Twisty the Clown from American Horror Story

A new type of horror

American Horror Story has always been known for its graphic display of violence, in all its forms. However, for me the real horror in this episode wasn’t necessarily from the clown gang, or the butchering of a young couple by Twisty, but in the actions and attitudes of people. To be precise, people who now feel authorised to take negative actions against those they consider to be outsiders.

Another aspect of the horror, and the one that really got under my skin, was when Ally’s new babysitter, who also has a personal connection to Kai, shows her son graphic images of real deaths on the “Dark web”. Essentially explaining to him that it’s good for him to watch it in order to build up his immune system to it. This girl, played by Billie Lourd in her first AHS role, is completely sick in the head: A perfect fit for the show.

In Closing

I have good feelings for this series and love the nucleus of the story idea. There have always been elements from our own world in American Horror Story, however, this is the closest the show has felt to being right on our doorstep.

This could be one of the only good things to come as a result of Trump in power.

Twin Peaks is the best show on TV right now

No TV show goes to places in the way that Twin Peaks does, or indeed even did when its first series aired.

I’m not talking about level of graphic violence or any sort of shock factor; I’m talking sheer originality. Twin Peaks always has been, and always will be, completely original. From the unique collaboration of David Lynch and Mark Frost, this series has such a depth of story, location, and character that it is a place I’d love to live in real life – even when it’s completely terrifying.

When people keep talking about the default shows – namely Game of Thrones at the time of writing, I can’t help but roll my eyes a little. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I really like Game of Thrones, but nothing gets under my skin quite like Twin Peaks does. I try to describe it in a way to get other people into it too. I find it hard to put into words but I try. It’s like that feeling of butterflies in your stomach when there’s a huge moment of realisation or connection between characters and / or events. Of course many other series have those reveals, but I honestly don’t think any other show does it in quite the same way.

Anyone who has seen some of David Lynch’s films should know what I mean about his unique style. He has a certain vision and confidence in that vision to bring truly unique stories, visuals and sounds to the screen. This is no different in the new series of Twin Peaks. If anything his years of cinema between the original series and now, have in the very least strengthened his confidence in his vision.

Twin Peaks has evolved into 100% unfiltered David Lynch, based on the ideas of both Lynch and Frost, and I fucking love it.

His word is his bond – Negan shows who is boss

Like many of the other comments on The Walking Dead’s seventh season opening episode, I too found it the most shocking. For me this episode showcased one of the best things that the writers do – take what you think you know and turn it around.

The drawing out of the big reveal set out by last season’s finale was left just the right length for me. Not only did it keep me on the edge of my seat, anxious, it also succeeded in putting me into as close to Rick’s frame of mind as it could. I don’t think I’ve ever been as anxious and upset and angry during one episode ever before. Of any TV show. The base of my spine was aching by the end from being that anxious while watching.

I’ve seen people writing about how the show was “too much” or that it had “jumped the shark”. What a load of bull. Negan is an evil bastard and will do anything to ensure his followers do exactly what he commands. He takes no shit and leads by example. The world of the Walking Dead has always been a brutal one and I think some people have become too comfortable in Rick leading the way and being the big boss man. I’m so glad a character like Negan has come into it to truly push our heroes to their emotional and physical limits.

5 of my favourite moments in Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

There are spoilers below as I am openly writing about some of my favourite moments in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Please don’t read on if you haven’t watched the whole series. Unless you don’t mind spoilers that is.

Class Protector

It seems unbelievable that, even within the world of Buffy, no-one had noticed how the weird happenings and dangers that have plagued the students have somehow linked to Buffy Summers.

So it was great to see Buffy presented with a custom award at the school Prom towards the end of Season 3. That award was “Class Protector” and was presented by none other than Jonathan Levinson.

Giles takes the glory

Giles kills BenAfter Buffy beats Glory to a pulp with Olaf’s Hammer, she left the one-half of the shared body, Ben, on the floor. (Ben and Glory shared the same body, you see). She then warned him that Glory must never return, on pain of death.

As she walked away I remember thinking, “Oh Gosh, what a weak way to give a villain an open ending.”. That was until Giles came along and showed us a twinkle of his inner-darkness:

Giles: …[Buffy] couldn’t take a human life. She’s a hero you see. She’s not like us.
Ben: …us?

Where then Giles grabbed Ben’s mouth and nose and suffocated him right there, essentially killing him and Glory. Dark times.

Discovering The Body

In all of the fantastical moments of the Buffyverse, Demons and Vampires; spells and curses, it’s amazing how close to the human condition Buffy managed to stay. A crowning achievement of this was during season 5 when Buffy walked in on her mother, lying open-eyed, dead on the sofa.

Buffy finds JoyceNormally during Buffy the deaths were par for the course, with the slaying of Vampires and such, but this was the closest it got to real tragedy and was expertly handled by all involved.

I’d like to test that theory…

Possibly my top favourite moment, as it is with many people I think, is Giles’ cool as feck return to stand against the doped-up dark witch that was now Willow. Giles had been out of the series for a while, and in my opinion the series lacked slightly for it. But this made it all worth it when Willow, overcome with grief and high on the dark magics, met her match:

Willow: … and there’s not a person in the World who can stop me.
A bright flash of light knocks willow back several feet and on to her back. In the doorway stands Giles looking cool as heck.
Giles: I’d like to test that theory.

The Kids fight back

One of my favourite end of season finales was that of Season 3. This saw Mayor Wilkins finally reaching his ascension into… a giant snake.

Buffy graduation dayThat wasn’t the best bit though. The high point came when the school kids, who the Mayor was expecting for his first bite to eat, turned out to be armed to the teeth under their graduation gowns. Faster than sunlight they pulled out an array of weapons and gave him hell.