I do love a good disaster movie. Trouble is, they don’t make them like they used to. These days they tend to be bombastic and CGI-heavy and usually a). don’t make a lot of sense, and b). star ex-wrestlers.
My wife and I went on holiday to Norway last month, and while we were away I was reminded of a fairly recent disaster movie that I actually enjoyed. I thought it would be a good recommendation for this site. And why was I reminded of this particular film? Because our cruise ship docked in Geiranger, the beautiful and idyllic little village which is wiped out by THE WAVE (Bølgen). Here’s a photo of Lisa soaking up the sun and looking down on the village, just after telling me she hadn’t enjoyed the bus ride up the mountain, so we were going to have to walk back down…
Although anticipated, no one is really ready when the mountain pass above the scenic, narrow Norwegian fjord Geiranger collapses and creates an 85-meter high violent tsunami. A geologist is one of those caught in the middle of it.
Well this one came from out of nowhere and blew me away. Its release last year passed me by, and it’s only thanks to a casual mention of the title by a friend and coming across the movie whilst browsing Netflix that I watched it. And I’m so glad I did. I thought it was a fascinating study of loneliness – something that’s considered less and less in many twenty-first century post-apocalyptic films. The concept of being the last person left alive on the planet is something that used to be a staple of end of the world stories (with I AM LEGEND being an obvious example), and yet in today’s increasingly (superficially) interconnected society, it feels like an inevitable by-product of the apocalypse which isn’t discussed as often as I’d expect.
In THE NIGHT EATS THE WORLD our main character Sam is already alone. We meet him as he makes a return visit to his ex-partner’s flat in Paris – filled with people, noise and good times – hoping to collect the last of his belongings. He wants to get in and out fast but is persuaded to stay, and as a result of the booze he consumes to help him get through the obvious awkwardness of the situation, he passes out. When he wakes up next morning, the walls of the flat are covered in blood. He’s slept through the zombie apocalypse.
If, when my time is up, I’m ever asked to look back and recall pivotal moments in my life, the key writing-related moment I’d cite involves PAN’S LABYRINTH. It was 2006, and I’d just published HATER independently through Infected Books. The release had gone pretty well, and I was happy with how the book had been received. Then, out of the blue, I received an email from a production company in Los Angeles, enquiring about the availability of the film rights. Within a couple of weeks I was speaking to Mark Johnson (who went on to produce BREAKING BAD) about his vision for a film version of HATER. He asked me if I’d seen PAN’S LABYRINTH. I told him I had, and that I thought it was incredible. He said that was a relief, because he was hoping to get Guillermo del Toro to direct HATER.
Of course, as is often the way, things didn’t work out as planned. Del Toro became involved in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of THE HOBBIT and switched roles to produce HATER, only for the project to stall at a later stage. Even now, more than a decade later, I still get goosebumps thinking about how close we came to a del Toro adaptation of one of my books. And I know this post will inevitably result in folks asking questions about the current position of the HATER movie, so I’ll give you my stock answer: I had a meeting with the producer a week or so ago and the project is still very much alive and kicking. The script is in great shape and we’re just waiting for the stars to align. I’ll share more news the very second I’m able to.
Back to PAN’S LABYRINTH. It’s an astonishing film which rightly deserved the critical acclaim it received on release. Now, many years later, del Toro and author Cornelia Funke have adapted the story into a novel and, thanks to the publisher, I was recently able to read a copy. When I heard about the book I was concerned, and I struggled to understand why the story needed to be retold. Having read it, though, I totally get it. Remind yourself of the beauty of the film then read on below for my thoughts.
It’s 1944 and the Allies have invaded Nazi-held Europe. In Spain, a troop of soldiers are sent to a remote forest to flush out the rebels. They are led by Capitan Vidal, a murdering sadist, and with him are his new wife Carmen and her daughter from a previous marriage, 11-year-old Ofelia. Ofelia witnesses her stepfather’s sadistic brutality and is drawn into Pan’s Labyrinth, a magical world of mythical beings.
I’m sure you know Tim. He’s a very prolific, very approachable writer whose written many original novels as well as TV and movie tie-in books (including STAR WARS, ALIEN and FIREFLY). I’d known him for a while through social media then met him in person for the first time at a horror convention in Birmingham in February last year. We were table-neighbours for a very enjoyable weekend and, as is the done thing, we book-swapped at the end of the event. He went home with a copy of HATER, and I chose THE SILENCE.
I’d long known that a film adaptation of Tim’s book was in development, and we talked quite a bit about it over the weekend. Fast-forward a few weeks and I was on holiday. I devoured THE SILENCE (and thoroughly enjoyed it) in the space of a few short hours at the poolside. I was really interested to see how the film adaptation stacked up. Jump forward in time again until April this year, and THE SILENCE appeared on NETFLIX accompanied by a huge wave of publicity.
I’ve been stung by having one of my books adapted into a less-than-satisfactory movie, and I’m always nervous for fellow writers I know when films of their works are in the pipeline. So how did THE SILENCE stack up?
When the world is under attack from terrifying creatures who hunt their human prey by sound, 16-year old Ally Andrews (Kiernan Shipka), who lost her hearing at 13, and her family seek refuge in a remote haven.
A couple of weeks back I had the pleasure of catching up with my friend WAYNE SIMMONS. Wayne’s good, by the way, as a lot of you have been asking. Slightly more tattooed and bearded than you might remember, but he’s as chilled out and positive as ever. He fell out of love with the horror genre several years ago, and we’ve barely talked about it since. So imagine my surprise when he came up with a few zombie movie recommendations out of the blue. Today’s recommendation is one of those films, and it’s a movie I hadn’t heard of until Wayne told me about it. HERE ALONE is a minimalist, slow-burn horror which is well worth a couple of hours of your time.
A young woman struggles to survive on her own in the wake of a mysterious epidemic that has killed much of society, and forced her deep into the unforgiving wilderness.
Prior to re-watching the most recent (2009) BBC adaptation of DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, I’d only seen it once before. I had to psych myself up to watch it again, because my overriding memory of the 3 hours miniseries was crushing disappointment. This was the first time TRIFFIDS had been adapted for the screen with a decent budget, and yet I found it to be massively off the mark. A wasted opportunity.
Many of the novel’s story beats are there, and the Triffids themselves are very well realised, but I remember being hugely frustrated by a number of aspects of the production, to the point where I’d promised myself I wouldn’t watch it again. But then this series of posts came around, and I gritted my teeth and pressed play. My expectations were clearly better managed second time around, because I found more to enjoy on repeat viewing, but there’s no question this is certainly NOT the definitive version I’d hoped for.
There’s no trailer available as such, so here’s a BBC preview from when the series was shown over Christmas 2009 (hence the seasonal graphics at the end):
The JoBlo movie network website always has stacks of great content. One of the sections I enjoy most is the snappily titled “The Best Movie You Never Saw”, and this week it featured one of my favourite films. A quick glance at my RECOMMENDATIONS page revealed that I’d never written about it for this site, so I thought I should put that right post haste! This weekend’s film recommendation is Joel Schumacher’s startling 1993 movie, FALLING DOWN.
Freeways are clogged. Terror stalks our cities. At shops and restaurants, the customer is seldom right. Pressures of big-city life can anger anyone. But Bill Foster is more than angry. He’s about to get even.
Foster abandons his gridlocked car on the hottest day of the year and walks straight into an urban nightmare both absurdly funny and shatteringly violent. Michael Douglas is Foster, an ordinary guy at war with the frustrations of daily life. Robert Duvall is the savvy cop obsessed with stopping Foster’s citywide rampage.
Families can be funny things. It’s no surprise when you think about it: we chose our friends and our lovers, but not our parents or our siblings. Why should we be expected to get on with them when all we share is genetics and a house? Don’t read anything into this intro, by the way, I’m not about to give you the potted history of the family Moody. I’m actually just going to recommend a cracking little film to you: AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.
A family’s tense reunion turns terrifying when they get trapped in their home by an unknown force, and sinister commands begin appearing on their TV.
This week my DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS retrospective reaches peak point. If you’ve read my earlier posts you’ll know that a). TRIFFIDS is my favourite book and it’s had an enormous influence on my writing and b). I’m currently working my way through the various film and TV adaptations. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d love to write the screenplay for a Triffids movie/miniseries, so I’ve been looking at the pluses and minuses of each version to try and understand why they’ve succeeded or failed. Today we get to the 1981 BBC TV version which is, without question, the most faithful adaptation of John Wyndham’s story yet produced.
Back in the day, when there were only three UK TV channels and we were on the cusp of the home video revolution, this adaptation of TRIFFIDS occupied the primetime. It faired pretty well, with decent viewing figures, favourable reviews and plenty of media coverage. Following the release of the novel in 1951, the name Triffid came to be used to describe any over-sized or vaguely menacing-looking plant, and the beautiful design of the 1981 creature (for want of a better word) also became unexpectedly iconic. I wrote previously about how hard it must be to visualise a genuinely threatening, seven-foot tall, walking carnivorous plant, and yet visual effects designer Steve Drewett did just that. Their vivid colouring, their stings dripping with poison, and their borderline flamboyant, quiff-like styling resulted in a realisation of the Triffids like nothing seen previously or since. There’s an arrogance to their appearance. It’s almost as if they want you to come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.
But before I get into the detail and explain why I think this adaptation works so well, let’s watch the title sequence and enjoy the theme music by Christopher Gunning. I say enjoy, but if I’m honest, at the tender age of eleven, these titles scared me just about as much as the Triffids themselves!
The first screen adaptation of John Wyndham’s DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS was released in 1963, was also known as INVASION OF THE TRIFFIDS, and was directed by Steve Sekely, a Hungarian-born director with very little else of note on his long filmography. Interestingly, Sekely was supported on TRIFFIDS by an uncredited Freddie Francis (more about this later). Francis, you might remember, was the director of a number of Hammer and Amicus horror films before going on to become an Oscar-winning cinematographer who worked on many films including CAPE FEAR, GLORY and THE ELEPHANT MAN.
Interestingly, the reviews of this adaptation of TRIFFIDS are split, with many people finding a lot to enjoy in here. As a huge admirer of the novel, I was disappointed. The film suffers greatly because of its age. Have a look at the trailer, click the link, and I’ll explain why.