ON THE BEACH

onthebeach

You know, when I started writing up these suggestions for my Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club a couple of years back, I looked back on films about the nuclear holocaust with a mix of relief and nostalgia. In the early 1980’s it felt likely – inevitable, almost – that’d we’d all disappear in a white hot radioactive haze at some point. And then things felt like they’d somewhat improved, that we’d stepped back from the brink. Over the last ten years or so, the threat of terrorism seemed to me to make the global situation feel inherently more unpredictable, and yet the possibility of large-scale, international conflict still felt relatively distant. Am I alone in feeling the global mood begin to change again? Of course I’m not. It’s just that, for a little while at least, I think we were distracted. The reality remains: self-serving, gob-shite liars are still in charge wherever you look, working towards their own agendas at the expense of everyone and everything else. It seems that the chasm-like disconnect between leaders and the people they purport to lead is growing wider every day. As Jarvis Cocker so eloquently put it, c**ts are still running the world. Scary.

Mini-rant over.

I recently re-watched ON THE BEACH. Though dated (it was made in 1959), it was interesting to watch it again recently in light of current global tensions. It’s a film that makes you think. It’s a film that, to me, perfectly encapsulates the inevitable futility of nuclear war, and one which illustrates how defenceless we all are individually in the overall scheme of things. If our elected representatives decide to fight, it is they who take that decision. It’ll be you, me and everyone else who has to deal with the consequences.

Hit the link after the video to read more.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxMT7SQpZo4

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Possession

images-3Back in February last year I wrote about my excitement at the relaunch of Starburst Magazine. For much of the 1980’s, Starburst and Fangoria were my only sources of horror-related news. One issue I remember particularly vividly featured picture of a bizarre tentacled creature from Polish director Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 movie, POSSESSION. Of course, it was impossible to get to see the film back then – not just because I was only 10 years old, but also because it was categorised as a video nasty and whipped off the shelves here in the UK. In fact I only got to see the film earlier this year, and I’d been meaning to write about it here as part of my Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club. Possession is released on blu-ray in the UK next week, so this seemed an ideal time to feature it. If you haven’t yet seen this bizarre, haunting, disturbing film, I think you should. Watch the trailer and click the link to find out why.

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World War Z and the Hater movie

I wanted to talk about WORLD WAR Z for a couple of reasons. A discussion of the film follows (stick around for a half hour video review from Mr Simmons and I) but, before that, I have a more personal reason to be interested.

world-war-z-movie-posterFor a long time I’ve thought that the immediate future of the zombie sub-genre would, to a large extent, hinge on the success or failure of the WWZ movie. It’s fair to say that after all the well-documented issues with budgets and scripts and reshoots etc., I don’t think anyone expected the success the film has had, nor for a sequel to have been greenlit so rapidly. That has to be a good thing, I think, and I’m hopeful that, as a result, Hollywood will have a renewed interest in large budget, zombie-style movies. I would say that… the HATER movie rights have just been re-optioned.

As an enjoyable, effects-laden, dumb old zombie flick, WWZ certainly delivered. As an adaptation of Max Brook’s novel, however, it failed on just about every level. But does that really matter? Looking at things from my perspective, with a film adaptation of Hater on the horizon, I can see two sides. Sure I’d like a fairly literal interpretation of my original story to be filmed, but I’d also like the publicity and sales that a more commercial movie would hopefully generate. I have to accept that such publicity and sales might come at the expense of the integrity of my story. As wrong as it might sound, at this stage in my career with mouths to feed and bills to pay and many projects in the pipeline but few under contract, if I’m honest I’d have to say I’d rather take the cash. With Guillermo del Toro still attached to Hater I’m happy to take that chance of course, and regardless of how any movie turned out, my original book would still be available. It’s not like it would disappear or be replaced. Despite his understandable frustrations with the filmmakers, I’m sure Max Brooks is more than happy with the thousands and thousands of people who’ve picked up his book because of the film…

Right, back to WWZ. Rather than write a long blog post, I’ll let Wayne and I do the talking.

If you’ve not yet read the book, I’d definitely recommend it. If you have and you’ve seen the film, what were your thoughts on the movie adaptation, and what are your hopes/fears for a Hater adaptation? I’d be really interested to hear them. Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter etc.

Punishment Park

Punishment Park posterAt this point in time, when news about my books is thin on the ground (I am busy writing, honest!), I’d like to try and keep your interest by making regular book and film recommendations. So here’s another submission to my ‘Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club’ (click the link for previous films), and it’s one that’s a little more obscure than some of the others I’ve posted about.

Peter Watkins is a fascinating, controversial and, in my opinion, unfairly overlooked film-maker. Click here to be reminded of my thoughts on one of his earliest films – THE WAR GAME – a 1965, Oscar-winning BBC film which portrayed the effects of a nuclear attack on Kent and which, due to it’s unflinching treatment of the subject matter, remained largely unseen for over twenty years. Today I’d like to introduce you to another of his films, PUNISHMENT PARK. A movie made in 1971 which, at the time, was effectively buried and given only the most cursory of releases.

Here’s the trailer. Click the link below to find out more.

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BEFORE DAWN

L_Mtd414Dominic Brunt is a name more familiar to UK readers as a long-running cast member of the even longer-running ITV soap, Emmerdale. But there’s another side to Dom – he’s an obsessive horror fan. As well as being one of the organisers of the annual Leeds Zombie Film Festival (click here for information on the 2013 event), he’s also the director, co-writer (along with his wife, Joanne Mitchell) and star (also with Joanne) of an excellent zombie movie, BEFORE DAWN. Here’s the trailer. Watch the clip, then click the link to read why I think Before Dawn is, for me, one of the best zombie movies to come along in a long time.

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The Impossible

Most of the film recommendations I share here are post-apocalyptic movies, but today I’m making an exception. Kind of.

Back in 2008, just after Guillermo del Toro’s involvement in the planned Hater movie had been announced, other names soon became attached to the project. Glen Mazzara (late of AMC’s The Walking Dead) wrote a script and Juan Antonio Bayona was lined up to direct. I immediately got hold of a copy of Bayona’s debut feature – The Orphanage – and was very, very impressed by the film. If you haven’t yet seen it, I suggest you check it out. Bayona was also kind enough to blurb Hater, saying ‘Be careful with Hater; chapter by chapter it will make its way into your soul ‘til it finds the seed of evil which lurks within.

The Impossible

For one reason or another (and I still don’t know exactly why), the Hater movie didn’t happen. And just for the record, because I seem to get asked several times every day, I don’t know what the current status of the project is.

Fast-forward to now, and J A Bayona’s second feature – The Impossible – has recently been released. I’m sure you’ve already heard plenty about it. The film is based on the true story of a Spanish family of five who, despite being split up and scattered by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, all managed to survive and were later reunited. The sheer improbability of their story gives rise to the title of the movie.

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Day of the Dead

I have a huge list of post-apocalyptic films I want to write about here, but I don’t seem to ever get time to do it. It was early September when my ‘post-apocalyptic movie club’ last got a mention… there’s always something else needs doing first. But when someone else asks you to write about one of your favourite PA movies, the impetus is very different. A short while ago Wayne Simmons asked me to pick a  zombie film and write about it as part on an ongoing series on his site celebrating the US release of FLU and FEVER.

I chose one of my all-time favourite horror films: George A Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD. Click here to visit Wayne’s site to read more.

You can catch Wayne and I on our last signing date of 2012 this coming weekend. We’ll be at Waterstones Swindon on 8th December.

Take Shelter

An interesting theme (which, coincidentally, is one of the underlying themes of TRUST) is how hard it is for an individual to hold on to their own beliefs in the face of massive opposition from everyone else. Today’s Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club selection is about just that. In TRUST, Tom Winter remains unsure about the aliens whilst everyone else seems intent on welcoming them with open arms. In TAKE SHELTER, Curtis (played by the excellent Michael Shannon), is convinced the world’s about to end. The bottom line is simple and stark: he’s either right or he’s insane.

Curtis is an ordinary man who works hard for the family he dotes over. He has a wife and a very young, profoundly deaf daughter, and he’s a well-respected member of the tight-knit local community. But he also has a problem. He is experiencing apocalyptic visions of increasing severity with increasing regularity. As the visions continue, he begins to question his sanity. And as he struggles to maintain his grip on reality – building a shelter, stocking up on food etc. – his behaviour becomes an increasing concern to all those around him.

I thoroughly enjoyed TAKE SHELTER. It’s a very well made and acted film (particular kudos to writer/director Jeff Nicholls), and key to its success is the fact that no one – Curtis, the people who love him, the audience watching – knows if he’s right or wrong until the last scene. Special effects are used sparingly and to good effect, and the central uncertainty gives the film a sense of real unease which grows by the minute. Put yourself in his shoes… you love your family more than anything else in the world and you’d do absolutely anything to protect them. If you thought there was even the slightest chance that Armageddon was looming on the horizon, could you just sit back and do nothing?

Here’s the trailer. Grab a copy of the film and find out for yourself if Curtis is right or if he’s got it very, very wrong.

The Day Britain Stopped

I’ve long tried to understand my fascination with the end of the world. One reason is undoubtedly down to my habit of ‘people watching’ (which isn’t as voyeuristic as it sounds!). Putting characters in extreme situations – and you can’t get more extreme than the end of everything – is a wonderful way of stripping away all pretence and social niceties to expose the black and white reality of what we need to do to survive. When someone’s faced with a yes or no, sink or swim, fight or flight decision in order to stay alive, their behaviour is likely to be a lot more honest and direct than if they’re concerned about what the neighbours are thinking.

Another aspect of Armageddon which intrigues me is its perpetual closeness. I’m guessing that everything probably went okay for you yesterday and so far today, but what about tomorrow? I’m conscious that I sound like a miserable pessimist here and I apologise because I’m not, but the fact remains: anything could happen in the next five minutes. That’s a frightening prospect in itself, but it’s made even more terrifying when you consider how complex and fragile an ecosystem we all inhabit. At any moment something which is completely out of our control might trigger a chain reaction which could drastically alter our individual lives and the lives of those around us. It’s sobering stuff if you think about it (which I do… far too often and in far too much detail!).

Today’s recommendation for my Post-Apocalyptic movie club is a BBC faux-documentary from 2003 which demonstrates just that: The Day Britain Stopped.

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Virus aka Fukkatsu no hi aka Day of Resurrection

It’s a long weekend here – an extended holiday which the country probably can’t afford, in honour of something many people seem to be quite indifferent about. I thought now would be a good opportunity to recommend another film for my Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club.

Steven Soderburgh’s CONTAGION was released last year, and I was hopeful we’d finally see a decent big-budget pandemic movie. Though it was critically well received, I didn’t like the film at all. To my mind it was as unsatisfying as 1995’s OUTBREAK, but this time with Gwyneth Paltrow as the Aids Monkey (with thanks for that quote to whoever designed the ‘honest’ Contagion movie poster I’ve used here).

My problem, I think, is that I don’t like any disaster/pandemic movie with a well known cast, and Contagion had a stack of them. If I’m watching a film about the end of civilization, then the end of civilization is what I want to see. I want unknowns and people who look like you and me, not a host of overpaid, airbrushed celebrities. Witness (only if you absolutely have to) 2007’s I am Legend with Will Smith to show how even the most beautiful of post-apocalyptic scenarios can be fucked up by such casting decisions.

So my recommended movie today is definitely not Contagion. Instead, it’s a little-known Japanese-American film: VIRUS (Fukkatsu no hi). It does have a number of well known faces in it, but it was made in 1980, when the term ‘celebrity’ didn’t seem to have quite the same connotations it does today. It’s a crazy film, and here’s a trailer. Click the link below to learn more.

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