indexAbridged by James Goss from his original novelisation of the 1979 episode by Douglas Adams and David Fisher.

The Doctor and Romana arrive in Paris 1979 in hopes of a relaxing, cultured holiday, but all too soon they’re drawn into a plot to steal the Mona Lisa concocted by the mysterious Count Scarlioni. Throw a gritty British detective with a tendency to punch first and ask questions later, and a captive scientist working on time travel into the mix, and if the last of the Jagaroth have their way life on Earth won’t just be wiped out, it’ll have never existed in the first place!

Back in the day there was no Netflix, no iPlayer, no DVD boxsets and episodes of Dr Who were rarely replayed, so unless you were fortunate enough to have an early video recorder you had two options, the first was to make a sound recording of the episode, the other was to get hold of the novelisation, and from 1973 to 1991 Target books published practically every classic era story.

In recent years the BBC have resurrected the Target brand to release novelisations of modern Who episodes, including Russell T Davies writing an adaptation of Rose, and Steven Moffat with a novelisation of The Day of the Doctor. One of the few classic stories never to get the Target treatment (until now!) was City of Death.

It’s a lean novel, but no less fun for this. Of course Goss had great subject matter to work from, because the original script is a fun and frothy adventure (which depending on your view may be a good or a bad thing—some people don’t like the silliness inherent in this story, whilst others see it as a very early forerunner of how the modern show was able to marry the serious and the silly at the same time).

The dialogue sparkles, and because I’m so used to the serial it’s easy to hear the voices of Tom Baker, Lallla Ward, Julian Glover et al. So classic lines such as: “I say, what a wonderful butler! He’s so violent!” are as much a joy to read as they are to watch. Goss doesn’t just rely on the script however, and he fills in a lot of gaps, for example it’s made clearer here that Scaroth is only vaguely aware of his other splinters, in fact it seems Scarlioni doesn’t even realise he is a Jagaroth until the reveal at the end of part one which isn’t how it comes across on screen.

It isn’t perfect, but in the main what failings there are come from the source material, and to be honest the trope of aliens being responsible for human development is something that annoys me in far more Who stories than just this one.

I don’t know how this would read if you were unfamiliar with the source material, but as a fan I found this a fun read. Now I really must dig my DVD out!

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Widows

Posted: December 1, 2018 in Film reviews
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Directed by Steve McQueen. Starring Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall and Liam Neeson.

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Harry Rawlings (Neeson) is a career criminal, a renowned robber known for his meticulous planning. By contrast his wife, Veronica (Davis) is a straight arrow, she works for a teacher’s union and keeps her nose out of Harry’s business. When Harry and his team are blown up after a botched robbery, Veronica no longer has the option of looking the other way. The money Harry stole in that last job belonged to Jamal Manning (Tyree Henry) a crime boss who wants to go straight and who planned to use the money to fund his political campaign against Jack Mulligan (Farrell) the son of former alderman Tom (Duvall). Manning wants his money back and he doesn’t care that Veronica wasn’t involved in Harry’s dealings.

With her life on the line, and with the realisation that she owns nothing because everything was Harry’s, Veronica’s only option is to rely on Harry’s notebook, which contains plans for his next job. She needs help however, and so turns to the widows of the rest of Harry’s crew, including Alice (Debicki) who’s had to become an escort following her husband’s death, and Linda (Rodriguez) whose store was repossessed following her husband’s death. The only widow no interested is Amanda (Coon) who has a young son to look after, and so the women recruit Linda’s babysitter, Belle (Erivo).

Not only do they have to become a well-oiled team in a matter of days, but they also need to worry about Jamal’s psycho brother Jatemme (Kaluuya). Can they follow in their husbands’ footsteps and become master criminals, or are they doomed to fail?

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I heard a lot of good things about Widows, the cast is impressive, I love a good heist movie, was a fan of the original UK TV show, and the only other McQueen film I’d seen, 12 Years a Slave, was powerful stuff, so I was eager to catch this. Sad then to report that I came out feeling somewhat disappointed.

I can see why this has turned some critics’ heads, it’s well acted and covers more ground than the average heist movie ever will, but therein lies it’s problem, because I don’t think it really knows what kind of film it wants to be, and whilst it tackles some weighty ideas (domestic violence, inter racial marriage, political corruption, gangland violence, and police brutality amongst others) it never seems to have enough time to devote to each and every element, and as a result winds up being something of a curates egg rather than the complex socio-political crime epic it so clearly wants to be, and late on it features a contrivance so jarring it felt like a scene was missing, as characters are stranded by the road one minute, yet have a car in the very next scene. For a second I thought I was watching The Predator again, and you really have to expect better from a filmmaker as accomplished as McQueen.

Worst of all, as a thriller it commits the cardinal sin of just not being very thrilling, and even the twists and betrayals are predictable.

Where it scores points is in the casting, and McQueen has pulled an enviable group together. Davis is the centre that holds the film together, and she gets some powerful scenes as she transitions from sedate union worker to hardened criminal, and if the transformation isn’t completely sold this is more down to compacting a mini-series worth of growth into a film than Davis’ performance.

DoQ7ZCBUYAAtCJgAs Alice Debicki runs Davis a close second, and although her character suffers from the same shift in skillset, Debicki does manage to make it feel more organic, possibly because Alice had left less of a sheltered life than Veronica, and there’s a nice understated chemistry between the two characters. Debicki is an actress who’s impressed me in everything I’ve seen her in since I first watched The Man from Uncle (she’s definitely on my best Bond girls we never had list) and despite the character initially coming across as a willowy airhead, she quickly emerges in many ways as the most naturally competent member of the team.

imagesRodriguez is less well served with her part. There’s a nice subversion of her usual casting, in that she isn’t in Fast and Furious mode here, and she shows some nice vulnerability early on, but this is quickly shunted to one side because McQueen has too many other characters to focus on. Still she fares way better than Erivo who’s basically just there to make up the numbers.

Special mention has to go to Kaluuya, another actor I’ve had my eye on for a long time and, much like Debicki, an actor who constantly impresses, and here’s he’s genuinely terrifying as Jatemme, even if the character is little more than an obstacle to overcome, just a plot point. Farrell is also good, with a nuanced performance that doesn’t allow his character to fit neatly into a box. He’s a corrupt politician, yet clearly isn’t happy in the role. That leaves Neeson, who’s obviously doesn’t get much time to shine but is reassuringly Liam Neeson about it, and Duvall who, even in his late eighties, can still dominate a scene. His presence does raise memories of The Godfather though, and one can’t help but feel this was intentional, and if it was it sadly only underscores how far from The Godfather this is.

The action scenes are solid enough, but in going for gritty realism McQueen jettisons much potential for drama, and at times this is a heist movie that almost feels embarrassed at being a heist movie.

I didn’t hate it, and it’s possible that a repeat viewing would allow me to appreciate it more because there is a lot to like about it, but for now at least these widows haven’t managed to steal my affection.

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Bohemian Rhapsody

Posted: November 25, 2018 in Film reviews
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Directed by Bryan Singer. Starring Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello.

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It’s 1970 and immigrant college student Farrokh Bulsara dreams of being a rock star, though he’s mainly earning money as a baggage handler at Heathrow. He’s been following a band named Smile for some time, and fortuitously approaches them with some lyrics just after their lead singer has quit to join another band. Although initially sniffy about the odd-looking Farrokh, guitarist Brian May (Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Hardy) are won over by his voice. On the same evening Farrokh catches the eye of a young shop assistant, Mary Austin (Boynton).

With the addition of bassist John Deacon (Mazzello) the band become a success, changing their name to Queen even as Farrokh changes his name to Freddie Mercury and becomes engaged to Mary.

As the band go from strength to strength however, it becomes increasingly clear that despite his love for Mary, Freddie needs to come to terms with his sexuality. As friction builds within the band, and Freddie’s hedonistic partying threatens to get out of hand, can Queen come back together in time for the Live Aid concert, or with this band bite the dust?

 

Ok, let’s lay cards on the table right away. Bohemian Rhapsody is a cheesy story, told with broad brushstrokes, clunky dialogue and a cavalier attitude towards historical fact. This is a film with a troubled history, and a film that couldn’t be more on the nose if it were Pinocchio.

And I bloody loved it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a great film, yet somehow it manages to surpass the sum of its parts, thanks in no small part to a fine performance by Mr Robot’s Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. Given what a larger than life showman Mercury was, it’s to Malek’s testament that he manages to not only to strut his stuff in an eerily accurate way, but also imbue Mercury with a vulnerability that forms the heart of the film. Yes the teeth get a little getting used to, but once you acclimatise Malek inhabits Mercury’s skin effortlessly, and if you get a chance watch the side by side movie Live Aid and real Live Aid to truly appreciate how good his performance is, and whilst you can see why Sacha Baron Cohen was originally cast, and why Ben Whishaw was considered, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role now.

DF-26946_R.jpgMercury cuts a sad figure, suffering racism and having to deal with being gay at a time when homosexuality might have no longer been a crime, but was still frowned upon, especially by the media. His relationship with Mary is heart-breaking at times, because he so clearly loves her, just not in the way she would want him to, and Boynton is also very good as the person who grounds Freddie.

Lee, Hardy and Mazzello are all good as the bandmates, each of them doing a good job of aping the real May, Taylor and Deacon, and despite the fact that the film is primarily about Mercury, the rest of Queen are more than just background (as you’d expect given May and Taylor’s involvement in the film).

There’s sterling work from solid performers like Tom Hollander, Aidan Gillen and Allen Leach, although a cameo by a heavily made up Mike Myers and a gag about Wayne’s World plumbs the depths somewhat.

bohemian-rhapsody-3.jpgIt’s amazing the film is as coherent as it is given the troubles on set, with Singer eventually stepping aside for personal reasons after clashing with the cast and repeatedly turning up late. Dexter Fletcher came in to finish the film, but Singer retains the directorial credit and I guess we may never know how much a hand Fletcher may, or may not, have had in salvaging the film.

The film’s at its clunkiest early on, and some of the dialogue is risible. “Ah you’re Brian May, astrophysicist, and you’re Roger Taylor, dental student.” It does get more fluid as it progresses however, and even in its down points the music of Queen is always a joy to listen to, especially if Malek and co are strutting their stuff at the time, and there are genuinely heart-breaking moments, and the recreation of Queen’s Live Aid set is a glorious set piece worth the price of admission all on its own.

The film does take liberties with the truth however; Freddie didn’t meet the band and Mary on the same night, he didn’t get his HIV diagnosis until after Live Aid and the band hadn’t effectively broken up before Wembley, but artistic licence isn’t exactly unheard of in biopics, and despite concerns that the film would sugar-coat Freddie’s life, his sexuality and partying are front and centre. Of course it could go a lot further (by all accounts one of Baron Cohen’s reasons for exiting was because he wanted an R rated film) but Freddie’s promiscuity and drug taking aren’t ignored so much as softened for a more audience friendly rating.

In the end the film is much like Queen themselves. As one of the characters remarks early on, we’re a band of misfits playing music for misfits, and yet they became much, much greater than the sum of their parts, much like this film.

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Save the Cat!

Posted: November 20, 2018 in Book reviews, Regarding writing
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By Blake Snyder

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We’ve all sat in a lousy film at some time or another and thought, I could write something better than this. And so a whole industry has sprung up, with a multitude of gurus offering their patented way to million dollar script’dom…for a price, and even though the spec boom of the 1990s has long since passed, plenty of people are desperate enough to pod out as lot of money to learn the so called secrets of success.

Some books on script writing have gained more cachet than others of course, take Syd Field’s seminal work, and Save the Cat! Is one of those books, with its slightly arrogant subtitle as The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need it’s been the go to book for millions of aspiring screenwriters.

Well a million and one because obviously I’ve bought it too.

To be honest it’s only the second book on screenwriting I’ve ever bought, and the first was decades ago, because there’s a lot of great advice and guidance for aspiring screenwriters out th ere that doesn’t cost a penny, or certainly doesn’t cost very much (The University of East Anglia runs a free course through Futurelearn, and I’d also highly recommend the Scriptnotes podcast by John August and Craig Mazin. If you want to access the back catalogue it’s $1.99 a month, but the most recent 20 episodes are always free). But having said that I’d heard enough about Save the Cat to be intrigued, even though some of what I heard wasn’t that complementary.

You see what Snyder (who sadly passed away in 2009) promised was a fool proof blueprint for writing a successful script, and given the book cost less than a tenner I figured, what the hell, reasoning there was bound to be some useful information in there.

And to be fair, there is useful bits to be gleaned from this work, but I don’t think it’s the scriptwriting panacea it claims to be and certainly isn’t a skeleton key to unlock movie writing success.

The title refers to the act of having your lead prove they’re a good guy or gal by doing something worthy early on in the script, like saving a cat, although the odd thing is that he based this on Ripley saving Jones the cat in Alien, which she doesn’t actually do till near the end? It’s also worth noting that for much of Alien Ripley comes across as an officious jobsworth, none of which stops us rooting for her (especially once we realise that if she’d been allowed to keep the others outside nobody would have died…well apart from Kane obviously, but you can’t always save everyone). Anyway, the point is that even the title of the book seems a little erroneous if you give it some thought.

Snyder provides some interesting thoughts on genre, even going as far as to create his own list which is surprisingly useful, so rather than comedy/romance/horror movie etc. He lists ten genres, and here’s just a few: Buddy Love (which covers not only romance but buddy comedies) Dude with a Problem (think Die Hard) Monster in the House (which covers not only horror but a lot of thrillers) and Institutionalised (which covers anything from One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest to Police Academy).

Now we get into the meat of Snyder’s work, when he starts talking about the format of a screenplay, but this isn’t just about a three act structure, Snyder goes way deeper than this, micromanaging a script to the point where he claims that there’s effectively a tried and tested formula for writing a successful script.

He identifies 15 ‘beats’ and if you look online you’ll find numerous versions of his patented ‘Beat Sheet. This is all well and good, and structure is an important thing to get your head around, especially when you’re fairly new to screenwriting, so there’s “Theme stated” “Catalyst” “Fun and Games” and “All is Lost” to name but a few. The problem is the anal lengths Snyder insists you go to, even down to specifying exactly when certain things should happen! The catalyst must happen on page 20, you must introduce all your main characters in the first ten pages etc.

To be honest it’s a trifle ridiculous. In fairness Snyder did sell a lot of scripts, although only two of them ever got made; Blank Check (no I’ve never seen it either) and Stop or my Mom will Shoot (which again I’ve never seen but I have at least heard of) so he must have been doing something right. Even if this is the sure and certain path to success (and clearly it’s unlikely to be given how many copies of the book have been sold and the finite number of screenwriters out there) I’m not sure I want to write a cookie cutter script that hits all the right marks to impress some Hollywood reader who’s just looking for an identikit script.

But it was still an interesting read. Snyder’s prose is amiable enough (though he gets a trifle annoying at times when he becomes obsessed with how successful—or not— he feels Memento was) and there’s interesting stuff around loglines (those mini elevator pitches beloved of Hollywood) genre, structure, and the basis business of screenwriting, but I feel I’ve learned more about screenwriting from listening to John and Craig and from just watching movies/reading scripts so read it by all means, but don’t treat it as the be all and end all.  

By Alastair Reynolds

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It was a real honour to be declared runner up in the National Space Centre’s short story competition last year, but it was just as awe inspiring to meet Alistair Reynolds, and to learn he’d read and enjoyed my story! Part of my prize was a book signed by the man himself, a huge collection of short stories the size of which, to be honest, put me off at first, but I finally set a few months aside to work my way through it and what a treat.

As with any anthology some stories are better than others, some stories hit an emotional note with me and some didn’t, but all demonstrate a master of his craft. Anyway here’s a brief review of each of the stories within…

 

The book opens with Great Wall of Mars, a tale of enhanced humans and Martian terraforming that it took me a little while to get into, but once I had intrigued me greatly.

It’s followed up by Weather, a story set later in the same universe. It’s an interesting tale of space farers menaced by pirates, and the extreme measures they need to go to in order to escape, relying on an augmented human who they’re not sure they can trust.

The titular Beyond the Aquila Rift is next up, an unsettling tale of lost travellers that merges the Twilight Zone with the Matrix.

Minla’s Flowers is a neat tale of political expediency and features a character trying to save a less advanced civilisation, popping himself into cryogenic storage for a few decades at a time in order to monitor their growth. It’s a story that starts out quite sweet and winds up somewhere rather dark.

Zima Blue is probably the first story not to grip me, there’s an intriguing idea at its heart about an artist who’s now more machine than man, and his obsession with a particular shade of blue, but I’m glad it was one of the shorter stories in the collection.

Fury is about an incredibly old robot who serves as the personal protector of an equally ancient galactic emperor. When an attempt is made on the emperor’s life the robot goes in search of those behind it, but discovers secrets about himself and his emperor in the process that will change their relationship forever. It’s a story that didn’t remotely go where I expected it to, and the end is nicely done.

The Star Surgeon’s Apprentice is a gloriously gory story about cybernetically enhanced space pirates. It’s bloodthirsty and just plain bloody, but if you have a strong stomach it’s fun too.

The Sledge-Maker’s Daughter is more of a fantasy tale, albeit one with clear science fiction overtones. Set in a future Northumbria trapped in a mini ice age it features a young woman struggling to avoid the machinations of a vile suitor, and an old woman who may or may not be a witch. It’s an interesting mix of genres, and if I had a problem with it it’s that it feels like the prologue for a more epic story, rather than a self-contained story.

Diamond Dogs is a very long story, and another quite gory one, merging Steven King with films like The Cube as a group of explorers try and get to the top of an alien spaceship through room after room, each of which contains tests of increasing difficulty and penalties of increasing severity. It goes on a bit too long, and I found the eventual end a little unsatisfying, but it was delightfully devious for most of its length.

Thousandth Night was a bit of a joy, featuring as it did the characters of Campion and Purslane from House of Suns. I was already au fait with the characters and their world, and an enjoyable murder mystery ensued.

Troika is an evocative tale of a soviet cosmonaut who escapes from a hospital to try and reach an old scientist in order to tell her she was right in her theory about a mysterious alien artefact. It turns out he is the only survivor of a Russian mission to explore the artefact, but the story has an unexpected twist in the tale. I liked this one a lot, especially in its depiction of a snowbound Second Soviet. Very Quatermass.

Sleepover is the one story I didn’t read, because I read it a few months ago in The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF!

Vainglory is another story about art, and oddly another one I couldn’t quite engage with, although it’s central theme of people chiselling asteroids and creating rings around planets wasn’t uninteresting.

Trauma Pod, like Diamond Dogs, is another one that relies heavily on body horror, as a wounded solider is kept alive inside a robot which goes to increasing lengths to keep him safe. It’s very unsettling.

The Last Log of the Lachrymosa is another story featuring characters risking death to explore an alien artefact, in this case something buried in a cave system on an uninhabited planet. There’s a rough and ready piratical edge to the story I quite liked.

The Water Thief is okay, but only really interesting in that it doesn’t go where you expect it to as we follow the story of a refugee barely earning a living as a teleoperator remotely controlling robots, who eventually ends up involved in a political struggle on the Moon!

The Old Man and the Martian Sea has some wonderfully evocative imagery, and winds up being quite sad as a young girl runs away from home and meets up with a grizzled old man who takes her to one of Mars’ original settlements, now a city sunk beneath a lake.

The final story, In Babelsburg, has an interesting premise, that of a sentient space probe, but I feel it didn’t really go anywhere so it wasn’t one of my favourites.

All in all though a wonderful, if somewhat impenetrable at times, anthology that I’d recommend, maybe I should have interspersed it with other books in between every few stories though because it was like reading three novels bound together in terms of sheer size.

The Treat

Posted: October 31, 2018 in Free fiction, horror
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As it’s Halloween, when spooks and ghouls go out to play, I thought it only fair to gift you a tiny tale of terror…enjoy, and when you open the door to Trick or Treaters tonight, well maybe you’ll wonder…

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I like Halloween, it’s the one night of the year I feel safe going out.

If I walk up to someone’s front door on Halloween night they don’t cringe or scream when they open the door, don’t shut it in my face and turn out all the lights. No, on Halloween they smile at me, they talk to me, complimenting me on my costume, asking how I create such a vivid effect. I talk about using my mum’s makeup, and charcoal, lots of charcoal. Does this convince them? I don’t know, there’s a flicker in their eyes sometimes, as if they understand but can’t consciously bring themselves to accept that understanding, so they joke and give me candy.

I can’t taste the candy of course, but the wrappers are pretty.

Usually the other children play with me. It seems a different group each year, though it’s hard to tell when they’re all dressed up as witches and vampires. They’re happy for me to tag along with their little gang, though I have to be careful, if they ask who I am I stick to a first name only, never my own, and if they ask where I go to school I tell them I’m at boarding school far away.

I can’t very well tell them my school is St Michael’s, because St Michael’s burned down in 1976, the only casualty a nine year old girl who’d been playing with matches.

I stay with the other kids until they start to drift away, until they all head home. I used to stick it out to the last, until there’d be me and one other child left, but I don’t do that now. Somehow once a kid is alone with me they recognize me for who I really am, as if there’s some group hypnosis at work that keeps us all safe and happy, but only so long as we’re together. It isn’t much fun seeing one of your new friends running away from you screaming, and it isn’t fair on them; Halloween isn’t a time for real scares, it’s a time for pretend terrors.

On Halloween night I skip and play and laugh. On Halloween night I have friends, I have fun, and I almost forget…

But then midnight comes and I trudge away from bright lights and people. Midnight comes and I go back to the graveyard.

Until next year…

 

Halloween

Posted: October 27, 2018 in Film reviews, horror
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Directed by David Gordon Green. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer and Andi Matichak.

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Door to door salesmen get more intrusive by the year!

It’s forty years since Michael Myers returned to Haddonfield and murdered five people, forty years since Laurie Strode (Curtis) survived her own fateful encounter with The Shape.

Michael now lives in a mental institute. He can speak but chooses not to. Meanwhile Laurie struggles with PTSD, and has become obsessed with Michael someday returning. She’s turned her home into a fortress and trained herself to fight, although this obsession has come with a cost and her relationship with her daughter Karen (Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Matichak) is strained.

When true crime bloggers Aaron and Dana ( Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) visit Michael they show him his mask. Whilst there seems to be some sign that he senses the mask, he still says nothing. Michael’s physiatrist Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer—or Mehmet from EastEnders as some may remember him!) explains that Michael is due to be transferred to a maximum-security facility the next day.

Of course with it being almost October 31st it isn’t long before Michael escapes. Soon he’s headed for Haddonfield to wreak carnage once more, only this time Laurie will be ready for him.

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Knife to see you, to see you knife!

The Halloween franchise has a confused timeline, with sequel upon sequel upon reboot, so in many respects the decision to jettison everything after the first film, making this effectively Halloween 2 mk.2, seems a sensible one, although there are nods to the other films, in particular the original Halloween 2 which revealed Laurie was Michael’s sister (just an urban legend here). The downside of this is that it neuters Michael somewhat. Suddenly he’s not a supernatural force of nature who’s slaughtered hundreds, now he’s just a psycho who killed five people and was caught not long after Dr Loomis (the late, great Donald Pleasance) shot him and watched him fall from a first floor window. The ending of Halloween is a masterstroke of terror, heavily implying that Michael is something not quite human, now it seems he was caught with ease five minutes later, and one of several problems the film has is that Michael’s lost that sense of otherworldly dread he once had, and as horror movies go Halloween 2018 commits the cardinal sin of just not being scary.

Which isn’t to say it’s a terrible film, and isn’t to imply that I didn’t enjoy it, but it would have been nice if it had played more like a horror film and less like a Terminator 2 knockoff. Unkillable antagonist, check, survivor of an original encounter who’s gone from naïve young woman to hardened killing machine, check, child of said survivor who thinks mom’s just nuts, check…you get my drift.

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As an action thriller Halloween works well enough, and its clearly made by people who have a great affection for the original, and there are many nods to the first film, including clever reversals of iconic images (remember Laurie looking out of the window and seeing Michael across the road, well now we get Allyson seeing Laurie standing sentinel over the road) that help lift the film above being just another slasher film, and of course it’s great to hear the Halloween music again and see Michael on the big screen.

It’s a gory film, yet the increased body count does mean that a lot of Michael’s kills seem somewhat repetitive. Sure you can overdue the inventiveness to the point where it becomes laughable, but after you see Michael ram someone’s head into a wall/steering wheel/whatever multiple times it becomes a trifle boring, and too many kills seem to happen off screen as well which is a little strange (although even in the original this happened).

The cast are good and the #metoo notion of daughter, mother and grandmother coming together to battle the faceless patriarchy seems incredibly prescient given the film’s production started way before Weinstein et al.

imagesCurtis is superb, and this really is her movie, and you have to give props to a film with the balls to make a woman of nearly 60 an action hero (I mean you shouldn’t because it shouldn’t be any more ridiculous than turning Liam Neeson into the most dangerous man alive, but that’s sadly the current nature of Hollywood, though thankfully times are changing). Curtis does an excellent job of making Laurie strong and defiant, yet incredibly brittle. She wants Michael to come back so she can kill him, but she’s also still traumatised by her earlier encounter. We believe she can shoot a bullseye from half a mile away, but we can also believe she wakes up screaming in the night. If anything I wish she’d been given even more to get her teeth into. Similarly with Greer who should have got more to do (though I do think she has the film’s best moment) As Alysson Matichak is very good, and thankfully Alysson feels like her own person rather than just being a cheap copy of 1978 Laurie.

Special mention to Virginia Gardner as Vicky and Jibrail Nantambu as Julian, the little boy she babysits, who have such a affectionately snarky relationship that for a while you kinda wish the film was about them. And it’s always nice to see the ever-reliable Will Patton, here playing Deputy Hawkins, the only local cop (improbably) who takes Michael’s return seriously.

The script feels a trifle confused, and whilst some of the direction is very good in evoking moments from the original, at times it’s very flat, which feeds into the lack of atmosphere which is the film’s biggest downside. It doesn’t even have many effective jump scares because they’re telegraphed so far in advance. Even the ‘twists’ aren’t that unexpected.

As an exercise in nostalgia, and an acting canvas for Jamie Lee Curtis this is excellent, as a female led action thriller it’s good, but as a horror film it fails miserably, which is a shame because if they’d actually managed to give this film a palpable sense of dread it could have been a true classic rather than an enjoyable but ultimately forgettable curiosity.

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After 40 years Michael finally feels comfortable coming out of the closet…