Monthly Archives: February 2015

Film Review – It Follows

Director: David Robert Mitchell

Running Time: 100 mins

Certificate: 15

Theatrical Poster

Theatrical Poster

It’s always good to see a low-budget film make it big. You could say it’s a strike for the little guy against the monopoly of the major studios. There’s been a buzz building around It Follows ever since it became the ‘breakout’ film of last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Since then it has been generating some overwhelmingly positive reviews, somewhat unusually for a film of this genre. In fact it’s the only film I can remember to have garnered a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while The Telegraph newspaper called it the most exciting film of the festival, going on to say, “With its marvelously suggestive title and thought-provoking exploration of sex, this indie chiller is a contemporary horror fan’s dream come true.”

High praise, indeed. So what’s it all about?

Well, it starts as a simple boy meets girl story. Or girl meets boy. 19-year old Jay (played by Maika Monroe) is an ordinary lass who likes swimming, hanging out and watching TV. Everything seems to be going reasonably well in her slightly awkward budding relationship, except the boy is a bit weird and often claims to see people that aren’t there. Anyway, Jay overlooks this fact and Boy and Girl do it in a car. More-or-less normal teen behaviour, you might think. But then things get really weird, as the boy drugs Jay and holds her captive. I can’t divulge why, or that would give away a crucial part of the plot. Better to see for yourself. Afterwards, Jay finds herself plagued by strange visions and the inescapable sense that someone, or something, is following her. She too starts seeing people that nobody else can. Faced with being drawn into a waking nightmare, Jay and her friends must find a way to escape the horror that seem to be only a few steps behind. It quickly becomes apparent that in order for her life to return to normality, she has to address the curse, if that’s what it is, and ‘pass it on,’ a realization which throws up some interesting moral dilemmas.  

It Follows carries on the recent trend of foregoing blood and splatter in favour of good old-fashioned chills, often calling to mind the classic, atmospheric ghost stories of old (MR James, anyone?). There are also elements which echo Hideo Nakata’s Ringu and low-budget hits like All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. The film is especially effective in its early stages, the formulaic jumps and frights getting a little predictable towards the end. But the really interesting thing is the subtext, which goes far beyond the traditional SEX = BAD epithet. This is hinted at in the press release, which says, ‘It Follows is a contemporary horror exploring teen sex, suburbia and the stuff of nightmares – a cult classic in the making.’

Who knows? They might be right.

UK Release: 27th February 2015

 

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What’s in a Name?

This week is Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival. Confusing because in the West it’s neither New Year or Spring. Anyway, this is the Year of the Sheep. To celebrate, here is a little glimpse inside Chinese culture.

During my time as an English teacher in China I met, and tried my level best to engage with, probably a couple of thousand students, with very mixed results. The vast majority were 18 to 22 years old and had limited English capabilities, even though most had been ‘learning’ the language since they were kids.

Not many classrooms have heating. This one didn't.

Not many classrooms have heating. This one didn’t.

To aid their education, the students are encouraged to take English names. It is supposed to help them identify with the language and more importantly, makes things slightly easier for foreign teachers. Most of the boys named themselves after basketball players or footballers they idolise. Every class had at least one or two Bryants, Lebrons, James’ and Davids, in which case I had to give them numbers after their name to differentiate between them. Bryant 1, Bryant 2, Bryant 3, etc.

There were also the customary smattering of cutsie girls names; Amy, Janet, Mary, etc. As mundane as they are, at least these names can be considered normal. However, a fair percentage had some pretty ridiculous names. Every foreign teacher will have come across this, and could probably supply their own expansive lists.

I know its childish and immature to make fun of people’s names, but these are not ‘real’ names. More often than not, they are just random English words the student likes the sound of. Some change their new, ‘names’ regularly, while others stick doggedly to the same non-name until they realise how stupid it is then get another one. Others kept forgetting their English names and didn’t respond even if you did remember it.

Welcome to the bizarre world of Chinese student’s ‘English names.

name-change-blackboard

Boys:

Aubrey, Casper, Cookie, Heaven, Blind, Black, Bing, Bet, Boss, Tail, Mars, Lemon, Wolf, Poseidon, Kite, Felix, Jonny X, Winter, Wisdom, Note

Girls:

Delete, Lenovo, Kitty, Emple, Emperor, Shiner, Five, Six, Seven, Turkey, Fairy, Darling, Momo, Panda, Canary, Funny, Flower, Volume, Crayon, Yoghurt, Soulmate, Dolly, Rainy, Sunny, Dolphin, Blossom, Nonchalant, Sin, Cipher, Bamboo, Jammy, Kamy, Lark, Oren, Oscar, Tequila, Wonderful.

The award for the most ridiculous name of all, however, goes to… Lube. The poor, confused thing. And a special mention should go to the most questionable CHINESE name I came across:

Wang Ke

Weirdly, as much as I protested, Wang Ke was one of the few that flatly refused to get an English name. Priceless.


X2: Another Collection of Horror

“A superb story teller, Saunders is well on his way to becoming a true master of the macabre.”

Mark Edward Hall

(Author of Soul Thief and Apocalypse island)

The sequel to 2013’s acclaimed X: A Collection of Horror features ten more slices of dark fiction from the blood-soaked pages of Fantastic Horror, Unspoken Water, Dark Valentine and several anthologies.

Also includes two previously unpublished stories, extensive notes, and original artwork by Greg Chapman.

X2-Small

Come and meet the teacher who sees dead pupils, the ambulance crew who pick up a casualty who won’t die, and the childhood friends who spend the night in a haunted pub. Along the way you can encounter a man who refuses to accept his wife’s death and goes to extreme lengths to keep the flame of love alive, the boy who just likes to watch you sleep, and maybe even pay a visit to an antique shop with a deadly secret. If you dare.

Table of Contents:

Little Dead Girl
Curiosities
Intruder
The Night Visitor
Hero of the Day
Embracing Solitude
Treat Night
Handsome Jack
Tiny Little Vampires (Flash Version)
Roadkill
Afterword

WARNING: Adult content.

UK LINK
US LINK

Available for a limited time at a special price on DeadPixel Publications.


X2 – Cover Reveal

My second volume of dark fiction, imaginatively entitled X2, will be released via Amazon on February 6. Save the date. More details to follow soon.

In the meantime, here’s a sneak preview of the cover, produced once again by the awesome Aussie Greg Chapman.

X2 Cover

X2 Cover

Check out more of Greg’s work here:

http://darkscrybe.com/


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