The Woman in Black Film Review

Fresh from the lower chambers of The Vault’s screening of Dracula, I decided to double-up on my fill of Hammer with Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black.

Looking at the film’s twitter feed the trend of comments seemed to indicate that it scared the hell out folks, but not in the cheap jumpy way that most modern fare seems to do. This was enough to pique my interest.

The set-up is traditional: man arrives in small town on business and spends nights in haunted house while strange happenings occur around him and in the village.

What makes the film particularly effective is its modern execution. It’s a minimal and sparse affair for the first 30 minutes with very few words exchanged. In this way, The Woman in Black escapes a common fault of most ghost stories: it gets on with the business of building tension and scaring you rather than shoehorning in a contrived story to make things sound plausible.

Screenwriter Jane Goldman’s model seems to approximate John Carpenter’s The Fog or The Thing: taking the time to build up tension and wind the audience member slowly so that when the scares do come, they hit you hard.

Although the film does indeed feature a few jumpy moments, they are done in the best possible ways: corner of the eye movements, subtle (as well as full-on) manifestations of The Woman.

Praise has to go to Daniel Radcliffe for being able to convey genuine terror and madness: at points in the film I found myself questioning whether Daniel’s character was just highly strung or really seeing ghosts. Again, this is all alluded to, no stock doctor scene advising the patient to take a few pills.

Again, because the film doesn’t tread the path of having to explain there’s a ghost causing havoc, you accept there is and can enjoy the pleasure of the scares.

When I left the cinema, crowds were spilling out taking deep breaths and saying, “Whoa, that made me jump. Excellent stuff.” Couldn’t agree more.

In the age of SAWs and the like it’s great to see a traditional ghost story out-scare and outclass the competition.

posted by admin at 11:14 pm  

Dracula Restored Special Screening Première at the Old Vic Tunnels

Hammer Dracula Blu-ray restored edition

Hammer Films and the Flicker Club held a world première beneath the streets of London today: a high-definition restored version of Terrence Fisher’s Dracula (1958) with unseen footage missing from both the Warner Brothers and BFI versions.

It was only fitting then that the Holy-Grail of UK horror was served up in the Old Vic Tunnels beneath London Waterloo station, a location previously used as a mausoleum.

This was my first experience of a Flicker Club screening and the choice of venue added admirably to the atmosphere. The screening room was snug with the focus of the audience’s worship a giant screen serving as a pulpit.

The Flicker Club’s approach was refreshing. The evening began with a wonderful intro by our host for the evening, Colin, who delivered a great performance recounting the history of the tunnels and the story behind the newly restored version. Again, this was a nice touch that helped set the mood for the evening.

The National Film Center in Japan had helped unearth three missing reels which were cut from the UK release for being too racy and intense [advance warning spoilers coming below]. The reels were restored from a state of water damage and other deterioration and were added to the main feature.

Nick from Hammer Films said that when the Blu-ray version of Hammer’s Dracula hits shelves the extras will feature the missing reels as added extras, even the ones that couldn’t be restored fully.

Horror expert Kim Newman was next on stage giving his view of the film. He hit the nail on the head when he said that modern interpretations of Dracula like Coppola’s hammered home the subtext of these characters at the expense of what makes coming to see the monsters so much fun.

After that, something quite special, actress Janina Faye who starred in the film gave a reading from Bram Stoker’s book to put us all in the mood.

With a combination of a cool location, an energetic host, a retrospective and a reading from a member of the cast, the audience was well and truly primed for the main event: the film itself. How did it fair? Simply gorgeous.

As with the Dracula Prince of Darkness Blu-ray I reviewed a few weeks back the colours positively popped off the screen, so much so that it looked 3D. The beautiful colour palette in Dracula can now be fully appreciated, lending as it does a majesty and richness to the film’s telling. Your eyes literally feast on every detail.

[Spoiler alert begins now]

The cut scenes themselves last briefly, but if you’ve seen the film several times, they’ll be easy to spot.

The first scene concerns an encounter between Dracula and Mina. The cut scene shows Dracula entering Mina’s bedroom and, where we would have normally cut to an owl hooting loudly, we stay inside the bedroom and watch Dracula nuzzling Mina passionately. While the erotic subtext was there in the film already, perhaps censors felt that making it explicit in a film which already contained its fair share of blood was pushing it too much.

The next restored scene occurs near the end as Cushing takes on Lee in the film’s finale. We all know that sunlight turns Dracula into fodder for the maid’s dustpan and brush, but in this extended demise scene we see Dracula clawing his on face, racking his crooked fingers from his eye sockets down to his mouth as he slowly disintegrates. Strong stuff given the time.

[End spoiler alert]

Once the film had ended, it was clear that this restored version is the one fans of Hammer needed to own in order to appreciate the larger than life aspects of the Dracula.

The session wrapped up with a QA wuth audience members for the Blu-ray extras section which was a nice acknowledgement to the fans for keeping the spirit of Hammer alive and lurking.

Kudos also has to go the folks at The Flicker Club, who served up the ultimate Dracula experience with all the added extras of the day and making this screening a fantastic fan day out.

http://www.theflickerclub.com/
http://blog.hammerfilms.com/

posted by admin at 1:09 am  

While I was sleeping

Lots to get through, so here’s the low-down:

While it’s poor form to have my last and first post about the same subject, in this case, it’s unavoidable.

Hiding in Tunnels
I’m off to the Old Vic Tunnels to catch the special screening of Dracula tomorrow. As an added bonus there’s some recently discovered footage that was nixed for being too racy by the BBFC back when the film was first released in the UK. By current standards, that probably means someone was showing a bit too much ankle. Anyway, unseen footage is unseen footage and I’m all the hell in.

Hooked on FrankenHooker
FrankenHooker Blu Ray: This has got to have been one of the best releases I’ve seen yet on BR. South-Park style humour combined with 80’s horror and bawdy colours that pop off the screen like 3D breakdancers. Seriously, if you’re in the mood for that Return of the Living Dead vibe you will not regret this gem.

It’s a Welsh Thing
Cardiff: First comic convention of the year will be under way and I’ll be making sure I carry enough antifreeze in case sinister jack frost tries to stop me reaching the Valleys. Is Cardiff in the Valleys? God knows. But, first time in Wales land, so looking forward to it.

Pimping

Yes, yes, it’s a sell, I know. But just to point out that copies of London Horror Comic are in fact available from Gosh Comics, Orbital and Forbidden Planet, so, you know, if you’re doing your local comics run look out for ’em in the independent /small press section.

posted by admin at 12:59 am  

Review: Dracula Prince of Darkness (Restored & Remastered Blu-ray version)

Dracula Prince of Darkness Blu-ray

StudioCanal and Hammer Films release a restored version of Dracula Prince of Darkness as a double-play offering on March 5, but if you’ve previously picked up the single DVD or Hammer Box set, is it worth it?
Well, simply put, yes.

DPOD has been restored in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and scanned at 2k resolution from the original negatives. The net result of this restoration jargon for you the viewer? The colours literally pop off the screen giving it an almost 3D quality.

Emerald greens, ripe reds and golden yellows lend the scenes in Dracula’s castle an opulence that makes you understand why a group of lonely travellers would want to spend the night there. It’s like watching a comic book.

LPCM sound suffices delivering a clarity that lets you hear every click of each footstep in castle Dracula, but one can’t help notice the difference in quality when switching between listening to the commentary track, which has more depth than the move track.

Extras-wise there’s a commentary track featuring the cast’s principles including Mr Lee himself, which is great.
Hammer historian Marcus Hearn delivers an insightful “Making Of” feature with interviews with the cast as well as a detailed breakdown of the film’s score and an interview with the restoration team.

Other features feel thrown in. The World of Hammer episode feature suffers in quality and should have either being improved or left off the disk. The restoration comparison, title variants, trailers and some on set footage with commentary are nice, but don’t offer that much in terms of value-add.

Given that companies like Arrow Films are leading the way in Blu-ray releases in terms of packaging and extras, Hammer should have taken a leaf out of their book for this Blu-ray release.

However, given how beautiful the HD version of this film is, it really is like seeing the film again for the first time and definitely worth buying if you’re a Hammer fan.

Dracula Prince of Darkness is released on Blu-ray double-play March 5.

posted by admin at 10:02 am  

Bigger on the inside

My friend has had a drinks cabinet made in the shape of, well, see for yourself:

Tardis Drinks Cabinet

And yes, after a few drinks, it’s bigger on the inside.

posted by admin at 10:36 pm  

A bit on the writing process

Being a self-publisher means you have to do everything yourself.

I don’t mean that in a “woe is me” way, rather it is a statement of fact that when you self-publish you have to do everything from the writing right through to the selling.

With London Horror Comic 4 soft-launched and before the convention circuit begins in full swing, I begin process of idea generation.

This is the beginning of the writing process for me and where I note down every idea, every snatch of overhead conversation and description with the hope of some or all these elements leading to a story.

I collect all these observations into a little notebook which I make regular logs in. Then, once the notebook is full, I go back through it, sifting for gold in and among the inevitable and easy clichés that prevent themselves.

When I’m collecting, I don’t self censor. And if I don’t happen to be sitting next to anyone interesting on the train, I just live record what’s around me. A cracked window, a lost glove and a dropped business card could be sings of an invisible monster eating people on the underground. On the other hand, it could be the clues in a noir detective story. How best to make them fit?

You see, stories really can come from anywhere. You just got to keep your eyes open and your notebook close to you.

posted by admin at 12:07 am  

Forbidden Planet London now stock London Horror Comic

A quick note to say that the Forbidden Planet London Megastore is now carrying copies of London Horror Comic 4 plus some copies of issues 1 and 2.

London Horror Comic now in stock at Forbidden Planet

London Horror Comic now in stock at Forbidden Planet

Details are:

179 Shaftesbury Avenue
WC2H 8JR London
+442074203666
www.forbiddenplanet.com
View on map.

If that’s not in your vicinity you can still buy copies from Gosh! Comics and Orbital Comics.

posted by admin at 12:45 am  

Experiments in Blu

Blu-ray is a format that’s been around a while now, but I only managed to sample it up close and in-depth for the first time last week.

When it comes to new video formats, I play defensive, not least because I’ve spent the past eleven years building my DVD collection (and even then there are oddities I look out for on VHS because they’ve never been released on digital) but more because I had no desire to begin the path of upgrading for what I considered minor gains.

But after having spent the weekend experiencing Blu-ray at a friend’s house, I can honestly say I’m a convert.

Watching a Blu-ray on my friend’s HD TV is the closest I’ve been to having a cinema in the front room. The picture quality, the colours—for the first time in years my eyes were held to the screen by the content of the film as well as the quality of the picture.

Blu-ray is as close as you’ll get to dreaming while you’re awake. Watching old films remastered on the format is like experiencing them for the first time again and is an immensely satisfying experience.

Now, before you’ve go off thinking what’s a blog post on Blu-ray doing on a comic’s blog, allow me to explain.

Blu-ray is closest thing film companies have to making a beautiful object out of a movie, in the same way that graphic novels should be making beautiful objects out of individual comics.

A good example of Blu-ray for comics is the Amazing Spider-Man artist’s edition: an oversized black and white reproduction of the original artwork; the closest you’ll get to owning the actual artwork.

Sadly, the majority of graphic novels or collected editions of any comics work are just that: collections packaged to sell a run, rather than provide an experience in the form of bonus materiel, quality stock and binding

I firmly believe the tipping point will come when digital comics will become the norm, but that in order for companies to make this transition, they really need to get into the habit of treating graphic novels as that final word or ultimate reading experience.

posted by admin at 11:52 pm  

J.M. DeMatteis on London Horror Comic

“I’m a huge fan of anthologies and London Horror Comic is an excellent one: a fine balance of horror and humor, scares and laughs.”

J.M. DeMatteis, writer Brooklyn Dreams/Justice League International

Serious thanks go out here to J.M.

When someone who’s work you’ve admired says something like this about your work, it just gives you the fuel to push on.

posted by admin at 8:43 pm  

London Horror Comic 4 Review on Comicsbulletin.com

“…while some of the stories are darker than others, all are effective and all — even the lighter strips — share a sense of bleak, eerie wrongness”

Over at comicsbulletin.com

Available to buy here.

Or pick up copies at Gosh! Comics in London or Orbital Comics in London.

posted by admin at 10:32 pm  
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