Tag Archives: LBoM: Retrospectives

The End Of Little Bits?

So I’m starting New Year with a possible goodbye, or at least an au revoir.

I’ve been writing this blog for a while now and enjoyed it immensely. I’m eternally grateful to anyone who has been following/reading and surprised I still get new folk following on a weekly basis.

But things are changing here at WordPress who host this platform… money things. See, I pay a subscription every year to keep this blog going and WordPress are changing what you get for your money. Basically they want me to pay the same amount but are removing features I currently get with the package I pay for – to then charge extra for those features. And after some thinking, I don’t believe what they now want me to pay to keep this site with the same features is ultimately worth it.

Money.jpg

It’s not just the WordPress greed that is forcing my hand though. Maybe the planets have just aligned at the right time? See, this blog has always been just a fun hobby for me – I didn’t expect one follower, never mind the amount I do have. 2018 saw more people reading my inane rants and views than ever before. But as I say, this was always just a hobby. My real passion lies with writing books.

Last year I shared my idea to write a book covering the best of British game developers & publishers. And by November, I’d finished the first draft of that book. I’m currently trying to sell the idea to get it published while I work on the second draft. Plus I’m two thirds the way through writing my first novel. A vigilante thriller that’s not as straight forward as it first seems. Then I’m currently writing my second short story collection as well as outlining future book ideas. Basically, I have a hell of a lot of writing ahead of me.

Old vintage typewriter

This is what I want to do – write. Last year I wrote more in those 12 months than I have the previous two years combined. So with WordPress wanting more money and my interests lying in my books – I’ve decided not to renew my current premium account when it expires on the 17th of April, 2019.

I do work full-time, have a 14 month old daughter, write books and with this blog too – I’m just spreading myself way too thin right now and something needs to be dropped.

Now this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Little Bits of Gaming & Movies for good. I’m not going to delete the site and all my articles will still be available, plus I can still write on this blog as and when I want – I still have 20 draft articles I’ve not published. But the domain name will change as I’ll no longer be paying for it as well as some other behind the scenes stuff too that will limit my options when I drop the premium package and go the free route instead. I’ll be concentrating on my books through 2019 and this blog will just be a background thing I can dip into now and then. They’ll be fewer articles overall as I turn my attention to bigger things. But who knows what the future holds?

If my writing career kicks off, I’ll quit the day job and be a full-time writer. If that happens then I’ll have more money and more importantly, time to invest into my hobby of writing this blog. Maybe, just maybe if things work out, Little Bits of Gaming and Movies will be back bigger than ever with me able to really create something better. Maybe a whole new blog that binds my love for games, movies and my writing?

I definitely don’t want to completely close the door on this. I really do enjoy writing this blog but needs must and my dreams and aspirations lie elsewhere right now.

Thank you

But I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who’s followed me and to anyone who sits there reading my views and opinions from you folk who’ve been around for years to the ones who have only just begun following in the last few weeks or so.

Little Bits of Gaming and Movies will be hibernating for a while. Occasionally waking up with the odd article through the year, but mostly sleeping through 2019.

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Die Hard Movie Retrospective

Throughout the year I’ve been celebrating 30 years since the original Die Hard was released. I’ve covered a non-existent plot-hole, taken a look at some Die Hard trivia, compared the film to the novel it was based on, looked at every Die Hard game released as well as some Die Hard rip-off movies and I have even offered my opinion on the age old query as to whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not. Plus I have had a few nods and references to Die Hard in numerous other articles I’ve written through 2018. Yet as this year draws to a close, there is one thing I have not yet done. I’ve not done a retrospective on the films themselves.

Well with 2018 in it’s last few days and 2019 just around the corner. I can’t really end this year long celebration of 30 years since the first film was released without taking in all the films can I? I took part in my annual tradition of watching Die Hard on Christmas Eve with a glass (or three) of Jack Daniels and I’ve watched the rest of the films between then and now to make my way through the entire franchise. So here it is, my Die Hard movie retrospective. So, come read my blog, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…

Die Hard

Die Hard

Released in mid July of 1988, directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza & Jeb Stuart. The film that catapulted the then relatively unknown Bruce Willis into super stardom and cemented him as one of the most recognisable action stars ever.

Die Hard tells the story of John McClane (Bruce Willis) who is an everyday cop from New York. McClane is in L.A. to meet up with his estranged wife Holly Gennero (Bonnie Bedelia) at a Christmas party held at her place of work, Nakatomi Plaza. McClane is very much a fish out of water and doesn’t mix too well with the suits of Holly’s workplace. After asking for a place to clean up, terrorists seize control of Nakatomi Plaza taking all party goers hostage along the way, all except McClane who manages to sneak away unnoticed.

The terrorists are lead by the charismatic Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) who makes the police and FBI run through the rule book – only his intentions are not exactly what the police are anticipating. As Gruber and his men unleash their plan, McClane finds himself fighting against the odds to save to hostages, his wife and even himself as all hell breaks loose.

Die Hard is an all time classic. It is a Christmas film? Yes, for me it is… but it’s also just a great picture regardless – Christmas or not. Bruce Willis is brilliant in the role and really shut a lot of naysayers up who doubted his ability to hold a film like this back in 1988 as a leading action star. John McClane became a genuine action icon after this film and went on to appear in all the sequels too. Bonnie Bedelia playing Holly is also a joy to watch, she’s a ballsy character who takes no shit from anyone, including the leader of the terrorists himself, Hans Gruber.

Hans Gruber

Speaking of which, Gruber is quite possibly one of the greatest on screen villains ever… if not THE greatest. Alan Rickman’s performance is nothing short of pure fried gold. Gruber is charming, smart and charismatic… but then he’s also ruthless and will let nothing get in the way of his plan. He’d be just as conformable talking to you about designer suits and articles from Forbes magazine as much as he would putting a bullet between your eyes. You’re not supposed to like bad guys in films, they are called bad guys for a reason. Yet, with Gruber, you can’t help but fall in love with him a bit. This was Rickman’s first movie roll after moving to America from England and I personally do not think he ever bettered it. This is Alan Rickman at his finest on screen.

Back in 88, Die Hard blew people away. You have to bear in mind that the 80s was a decade when action films were very cookie cutter, each one being hard to distinguish from the other. You had the big, muscle bound action hero who would take on an army of bad guys with a gun that never needed reloading while the hero would emerge from the battle with nothing more than a smudge of dirt on their face. McClane was nothing like that, he was just a guy and one who had to use his brain as much as his gun – a gun that would run out of bullets. The plot of Die Hard is easy to explain and yet it’s not exactly straight forward either. There are twists and turns as McClane learns why the terrorists have crashed the Christmas party. Even when you know what is going on, there are still little bumps and surprises along the way that make you try to second guess both McClane and Gruber’s next move in this dangerous game of cat & mouse.

Die Hard – Best Scene

Die Hard is a movie chock-full of action set pieces, to pick one great action scene from several great action scenes is not easy… so my favourite scene isn’t an action one at all. Mine is one much more grounded.

Die Hard Bathroom

It’s after McClane and Gruber meet face to face for the first time, after Rickman does his best American accent to pass himself off as a Nakatomi Plaza employee, after the whole “shoot the glass” bit that leaves the barefoot McClane running over broken glass in an attempt to escape. When McClane is sitting there in the bathroom pulling shards of glass from his bloody feet. He gets on the walkie-talkie to Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) who has been supporting McClane since the shit hit the fan. McClane comes to a realisation, that there’s a good chance he’s not going to make it out of this alive. So he asks Powell to find his wife (“don’t ask me how by then you’ll know how.”) and he tells Powell, to relay a message to Holly… “Tell her that, um, she’s the best thing that ever happened to a bum like me. She’s heard me say “I love you” a thousand times. She never heard me say “I’m sorry.” I want you to tell her that, Al. Tell her that John said that he was sorry.”.

That scene is heartbreaking and for an action film, you just don’t see the hero break down like that. The hero in an 80s action film never doubted he would survive, he never asks someone to find his wife to tell her he said he’s sorry in the midst of the action. This is one of the major elements I love about the film – these human moments that show McClane as an everyday guy. The acting from Willis is top-notch too. Brilliant scene.

“I wanted this to be professional, efficient, adult, cooperative. Not a lot to ask. Alas, your Mr. Takagi did not see it that way… so he won’t be joining us for the rest of his life.”

– Hans Gruber

Die Hard 2: Die Harder

Die Hard 2

The massive success of the first film meant a sequel was a given. And 1990 saw the release of Die Hard 2: Die Harder. Reuniting several of the cast but with new director at the helm with Renny Harlin.

John McClane is back and on Christmas Eve, two years to the day after the Nakatomi Plaza incident, history repeats itself. McClane arrives at Washington Dulles International Airport to pick up Holly who is flying in from L.A. At the very start, McClane’s car gets impounded by the airport police and this is just the start of his troubles. While sitting at bar, he sees two people acting very suspiciously and decides to investigate. After getting involved in a shootout in the baggage area, McClane learns that one of the men he killed is an American soldier who was apparently already killed in action years earlier. Things just do not add up.

McClane soon discovers that ex-U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel William Stuart has taken over control of the airport along with his cohorts. Stuart wants to see the release of General Ramon Esperanza, a well known drug lord and dictator into his care. As Stuart and his henchmen do their best to disrupt the airport, McClane gets to work doing what he does best, taking out the terrorists while trying to save Holly who is still in a plane circling the airport and fast running out of fuel.

Die Hard 2 Meet

Die Hard 2: Die Harder is a very solid sequel. It’s familiar and yet fresh, it keeps very much to the staples that made the first film so damn good while also mixing thing up a bit along the way. The plot twists as it progresses and things are not as black & white as they first seem. It lacks the originality the first film has… but of course it does, its a sequel – but overall, it’s a damn good watch and for me, the best sequel in the franchise.

The cast, once more are great. Of course Bruce Willis as McClane is a joy to watch as is Bonnie Bedelia as Holly who is just as ballsy as she was in the first film. Then there is William Sadler as the main villain, Colonel Stuart. He’s no Alan Rickman, no Hans Gruber but a very enjoyable performance none the less.

The film kind of lacks that claustrophobic/enclosed setting of the original with McClane having the run of an entire airport – yet things are still restrictive. I mean, it’s not as if McClane could just walk out the front door leaning his wife stranded in the air waiting for the inevitable plane crash.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder – Best Scene

Kind of similar to the first film, my favourite scene is not one of the many action set-pieces. I’ve gone for one of the more human scenes that show McClane as just a guy. It’s after the Windsor flight 144 plane crash caused by Colonel Stuart. After McClane does all he can to try to prevent it, after he walks through the wreckage and sees a child’s stuffed toy. At that moment, he doesn’t know who’s plane it is, could’ve been his wife’s.

Die Hard 2 Windsor

It then cuts to McClane sitting there in the control room of the airport a silent, broken man. Just as with the first film, he feels useless. He did all he could and yet an entire plane full of people, including children are dead. There’s no awesome and well written line of dialogue. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and very quiet with hardly a word spoken. It’s just a man realising he is just a man and no matter what he does, it may not be enough.

“Just once, I’d like a regular, normal Christmas. Eggnog, a fuckin’ Christmas tree, a little turkey. But, no. I gotta crawl around in this motherfuckin’ tin can.”

– John McClane

Die Hard with a Vengeance

Die Hard with a Vengeance

There was a five year gap between sequels this time and 1995 saw the release of the third film in the franchise. Not only did Bruce Willis come back, but director of the original flick, John McTiernan also returned. So did the reunion create a film worthy of the original?

By now McClane and Holly are separated, she’s doing well in L.A. while he is still working as a cop in New York. When we first meet McClane in the film, he’s recovering from a hangover and on suspension from the force.  This is a John McClane on the edge with nothing no lose. Enter the mysterious Simon (Jeremy Irons) who blows up a department store in New York and specifically asks for McClane to try to stop him. Simon has McClane jumping through hoops and if he does not comply, Simon will blow up another location. While following Simon’s strict instructions, McClane crosses paths with Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson) an the two are dragged into the mad bomber’s dangerous game.

It’s latter revealed that Simon is the brother of Hans Gruber from the first film and it seems he is out for revenge over the death of his sibling who want’s McClane dead… or does he? As McClane and Carver are forced to run around New York stopping/defusing bombs, Gruber’s grand plan is revealed and it seems the apple does not fall far from the tree when it comes to the Grubers.

Die Hard with a Vengeance Simon

Okay, so I have a serious love/hate relationship with Die Hard with a Vengeance. Is it a good picture? Yes, it’s bloody entertaining. The flick literally opens up with an explosion and the action does not let up after that until the credits roll. The story is great and has twists and turns along the way. Is it a good Die Hard film though? Well that’s a more difficult question to answer. It’s got John McClane in it, it connects to the first film with the whole Gruber brother thing… but that’s about it really. They could have released this as a Bruce Willis flick with him playing a generic action hero and it would’ve worked either way.

The film just lacks something and I’m not really sure what that something is. There’s brilliant chemistry between Willis and Jackson, they honestly come across as a great coupling trough the film. The plot does a good job of not being too obvious and has some great twists. Irons is a fantastic bad guy and does feel like Hans Gruber’s brother.

But I think my main problem with the film is just how “convenient” everything is. In the first two flicks, you see and feel McClane having to work things out, you see the cogs in his head grind away. In this, things just happen and he just so happens to be in the right place at the right time. Gruber just so happens to plant the bomb in the same school Caver’s nephews attend (despite the fact Carver was never part of Gruber’s initial plan), McClane just so happens to find the most knowledgeable truck driver in the whole of New York who helps him solve a clue, The bit where McClane is shot out of the aqueduct via water pressure from an exploding bomb he couldn’t predict – and just so happens to be randomly shot out at the exact time and the exact place Carver just so happens to be driving past. Or what about the fact McClane’s buddy just so happened to use his badge number as lottery number picks and how one of the bad guys kills said buddy and takes his police badge to wear… then McClane just so happens to notice said police badge while in a tricky situation that clued him into the fact the guys he is with are the bad guys?

They could’ve called this one Die Hard with a Lot of Plot Convenience. There are other moments too where things just happen because the script says so and McClane has things work out very nicely for him along the way. Things like McClane having to be told who Simon really is, when I feel that is something he should have worked out for himself. Plus I feel this film marks the dumbing down, the decline of the franchise – something the next two sequel revel in.

Die Hard with a Vengeance – Best Scene

There is no genuine human moment in this film that shows McClane as the every day guy is. But perhaps my favourite scene is one where McClane is just being McClane.

Die Hard with a Vengeance Train.jpg

It’s just after the subway train crash via one of Gruber’s bombs. After Carver has the altercation with the rookie cop (“I have to answer this phone.”). All hell breaks loose as the bomb explodes, the subway train derails and swings out casing untold damage, people run for their lives as the subway car tips over onto it’s side and crashes to a halt and it looks like no one would’ve survived that. Then McClane just pulls himself out of the wreckage laughing to himself in disbelief over he fact he’s still alive. That laugh, that McClane laugh is just perfect and adds a nice light-hearted moment to an otherwise intense scene.

“Yeah, Zeus! As in, father of Apollo? Mt. Olympus? Don’t fuck with me or I’ll shove a lightning bolt up your ass? Zeus! You got a problem with that?”

– Zeus Carver

Live Free or Die Hard

Live Free or Die Hard

I was happy with just the three flicks, the previous one was okay and has it’s problems but still served as a satisfying end to the trilogy. But they just couldn’t leave it alone and McClane was brought back in 2007. This time directed by Len Wiseman.

McClane finds himself in Washington, D.C. with expert computer hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) in the midst of a major cyber attack headed up by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) and his team of cyber terrorists. Gabriel aims to hack into government and commercial computers all over the U.S. and disable the nation’s infrastructure. Of course McClane and his new sidekick stop the bad guys.

This film has it’s fans… I’m not one of them. It’s just not Die Hard. It’s a very generic action film with none of the heart or charm of the previous ones. The plot is bland, the main villain is forgettable and McClane is just not McClane. He’s no longer the everyday cop fighting against the odds, he’s become an indestructible super hero. I mean going back to my favourite scene of the first film with McClane asking Powell to find his wife and apologise – it’s a fantastic scene that shows just how “human” he is. This film has McClane going up against a F-35B Lightning II fighter jet as a freeway crumbles around him… and winning. It’s just stupid, it’s a stupid film.

Live Free or Die Hard Jet

I said about Die Hard with a Vengeance that it marked the dumbing down and the decline of the franchise – but this film takes that to a whole new level.

Live Free or Die Hard – Best Scene

The ends credits, I could not wait for this film to end. Lets move on.

A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse… it does. So he’s back once more, this time directed by John Moore and released in 2013. Oh dear…

So now McClane is in Russia where he meets up with his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney). the father and son team up to and find themselves entangled in a global terrorist plot… and I’m bored already.

The previous film was bad but it’s watchable – just barely. This is fucking atrocious. You can always tell when I really don’t like something as the paragraphs get shorter as I really don’t want to give the film any more attention.

A Good Day to Die Hard – Best Scene

There’s this really amazing scene near the end with McClane driving a truck out of the back of a helicopter. It’s a beautiful designed and shot scene that explores the depth and the McClane character… nah, utter bollocks. The film is shit with no best scene. Even the end credits aren’t worth it.

McClane

Old McClane

Well there’s yet more as the sixth film in the franchise is in production as I write this simply called McClane. To be directed by Len Wiseman who also directed Live Free or Die Hard. The plot isn’t fully known right now but it has been said this will be both a sequel and prequel in one film.

There will be present day scenes starring Bruce Willis playing an ageing John McClane, possibly retired? But the film will also flashback to New Year’s Eve 1979 and tell the story of young John McClane as a rookie cop in New York. Details are thin on the ground right now, there are no specific story details or even a release date yet.

To be honest, I’m not at all interested in this one. For me, the franchise died a long time ago. I have little interest in seeing an 60 year old John McClane and I have even less interest in seeing a 20-something version too. I’ll just stick to the first two films and depending on my mood, the third one. If I want to watch a young McClane, I’ll just re-watch Die Hard.


 

That’s me done for 2018 folks. Just want to say a big thanks to everyone who has been reading my scrawlings over the last 12 months. I do enjoy doing these articles and I hope you enjoy reading them.

New Year

Have a great New Years, whatever you get up to.

See you in 2019…maybe…

Good And Bad Die Hard Rip-Offs

When it was released in 1988 (happy 30th), Die Hard was a revelation in action films. It took a lot of the clichés most other action films were guilty of overusing and turned them on their head. Die Hard blew film-goers away and can still hold it’s own against other actions films released now. It became as massive success and went in to spawn a huge franchise in it’s own right, not just with movies – the sixth of which (called McClane) is in production as I write this. But there were Die Hard games, comic books and all sorts of memorabilia. And I’ve been celebrating three decades of Die Hard all this year with numerous articles covering the film. 

Die Hard Art

Credit to Chris Weston over at Xombiedirge.com for this amazing fan-art.

The staggering success of Die Hard gave birth to an often used motif in action cinema, the Die Hard rip-off. For years and still even today, whenever an action film is released that features a usually lone hero going up against bad guys and normally in a confined setting, it gets lumbered with the “Die Hard on/in/at a…” label. So in no particular order or preference, here are some good and bad Die Hard rip-offs. 

Skyscraper – (A.K.A Die Hard In A Skyscraper)

Skyscraper

No, not the recent Dwayne Johnson flick of the same name, this is the 1996 Skyscraper  that took the idea of Die Hard and set it in a skyscraper… like Die Hard. Implementing the now often overused idea of the gender swap and making the hero and heroine. Starring cough “actress” Anna Nicole Smith and swapping the human and everyday main with a heart characteristics of John McClane with big tits.

Anna Nicole Smith plays Carrie Wink, a helicopter pilot who finds herself caught up in a plot involving terrorists and something to do with electronic devices… I’m not 100% sure what the plot is about to be honest or of there really is one. I’m pretty sure this film only exists to show-off Ms Smith’s breasts, at least they are the only two things I remember about the film anyway.

This is bad, this is really, really bad. But I guess Anna Nicole Smith was nice to look at.

Sudden Death – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Sports Stadium)

Sudden Death

This Jean-Claude Van Damme starring flick came out in 1995 and has “The Muscles From Brussels” taking on bad guys till Sudden Death. Released when Van Damme as at the top of his game and making a name for himself as a bankable action hero.

Set in a hockey arena, Van Damme plays fire marshal Darren McCord (its almost McClane) who attends a big hockey game with his son and daughter. While at the game, a group of terrorists arrive and hold various V.I.Ps  hostage in a luxury suite. McCord steps up to save the day and the lives of his children as the terrorists plan on blowing up the stadium when the hockey game ends unless their demands are met. 

To be honest, this one is half decent. I do love some JCVD and while this is far from his best, it’s also far from his worst. Plus you get to see JCVD kick a penguin.

Passenger 57 – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Passenger 57

From 1992 comes this high octane and cliché ridden (such as using phrases like “high octane” to describe and action film set on a plane) picture with Wesley Snipes. At the time Snipes wasn’t really known for action flicks but soon became an action star after this one… a bit like Bruce Willis with Die Hard really. 

John McClane… sorry, John Cutter played by Snipes is a retired United States Secret Service agent who now teaches self defence to flight attendants. While struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife during a botched robbery, Cutter is offered a new job as the vice president of a new anti-terrorism unit. Cutter is the 57th passenger on a flight to Los Angeles (where was Die Hard set again?) to attend a meeting regarding his new job. Oh and on the same flight is psychopathic terrorist Charles Rane being escorted by two FBI agents. Shortly after take off, things go wrong when Rane and his cohorts take control of the plane leaving Cutter to save the day.

Snipes is a good action star and this was his first proper stab at the genre. The plot is very predicable but it’s a good film overall. Always bet on the one that isn’t red.

Air Force One – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Air Force One

Yes even the Die Hard rip-off begin to rip-off the rip-offs eventually. This one is from 1997 and stars the legend that is Harrison Ford. An impressive all star cast join Ford in this high octane (sorry) action flick set in on the most famous plane in the world.

So Ford plays U.S. President James Marshall (J.M, John McClane?) who after attending a diplomatic dinner in Moscow, boards Air Force One to return to America. Only for Russian terrorists posing as the press to seize control of the plane and take hostages. Marshall is rushed to an escape pod for his own safety… only he never leaves and stays on-board to save the lives of his wife and child along with the other hostages.

So you’ve got Harrison Ford, a legendary action hero – going up against Gary Oldman, a legendary bad guy. Ford mumbles his way through the film as Oldman chews the scenery like he’s not eaten in a month… and it’s glorious.

Con Air – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Con Air

Okay so now the rip-offs are ripping off the rip-offs that are ripping off the rip-offs… I think. Also from 1997 comes this other high octane (last one I promise) plane based action film. With Nicolas Cage in the main role.

Cage is Cameron Poe, an Army Ranger who’s honourably discharged after killing a man who tired to attack his pregnant wife. Poe serves ten years in prison but is paroled two years early. He has to take his final trip home to reunite with his wife and see his daughter for the first time, as a prisoner aboard The Jailbird – a flying prison transport along with several other prisoners being transported to other jails. Of of course the bad guys take control of the plane leaving Poe to clean up the mess.

Of all the Die Hard on a plane rip-offs (there’s a lot of them), this is my favourite. Cage is brilliant as the hero with a heart plus you have John Malkovich playing the main villain. 

Under Siege – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Boat)

Under Siege

“I’m just a cook”, Steven Seagal liked to tell people back in 1992 as he continually punched people in the face on board a Navy battleship in Under Siege. At least it made a change from a plane right?

So Seagal plays Casey Ryback, he’s just a cook (honest) on board the USS Missouri. A musical band land on the battleship to entertain the troops… only they turn out to be a band of mercenaries who take control of the ship. As it turns out, Ryback is a little more than just the cook (he lied) as he’s a highly trained and experienced Navy SEAL who specialises in anti-terrorism tactics. So of course he kills the bad guys, gets the girl and saves the day. Not bad for a cook.

Perhaps one of the most famous rip-offs when people knew who Steven Seagal was. Again an enjoyable romp, nowt too special but fun… just avoid the terrible sequel.

No Contest – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Beauty Pageant)

No Contest

Yeah you read that right. Just think of all the locales already mentioned and where one could set a Die Hard rip-off… would you think a beauty contest would work? This one is from 1995 and stars very soft porn actress Shannon Tweed… she’s married to Gene Simmons you know?

Yeah this is as bad as it sounds. Tweed plays kick-boxer/actress Sharon Bell who while at A Miss Galaxy beauty pageant, fends off a gang who take hostages. The gang demand diamonds as a ransom or they’ll… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… Sorry dozed off for a while there. Oh errrrr, Robert (“Agent Johnson, no the other one”) Davi from Die Hard is in it.

This is fucking atrocious, I mean – this is Die Hard 4 & 5 levels of bad. Even worse, they made a sequel… don’t look it up.

Icebreaker – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Ski Resort)

Icebreaker.png

It’s time to hit the piste as Sean Astin plays Matt Foster – the cough “hero”. Released in 2000 a year before people would finally recognise Sean Austin as a Hobbit.

So everything is going great at the Killington ski resort. Foster, one of the resort’s Ski Patrol is seen as a bum by his soon to be father-in-law. Enter terrorist Carl Greig who takes control of the ski resort/. The plot has something to do with radio active material stolen from Russia or something. I really lost interest in this one, can’t really remember the plot if I’m honest. But whatever happened in the plot, Foster gets the chance to impress his fiancé’s father when he saves the day.

Dull film with a bland plot. Still, Bruce Campbell plays the main bad guy and that’s the only good thing about the film.

Speed – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Bus)

Speed

Very few of these Die Hard rip-offs are any good. Some of them are terrible, most of them are okay and a handful of them are fantastic. Speed is definitely one of the greats. Released in 1994 when the Die Hard rip-off still felt fresh and starring John Wick, sorry Keanu Reeves.

Reeves plays Jack Traven a young SWAT officer who finds himself trapped on a bus armed with a bomb after he thwarted a previous attempt to extort money via the use of a bomb by madman Howard Payne. When the bus hits 50 MPH, the bomb is armed and if it drops below 50, it blows up killing all on board. Pop quiz, hotshot. What do you do? Traven teams up with plucky bus driver, Annie to save the hostages on board the bus as well as themselves.

The chemistry between Keanu Reeves’ Jack Traven and Sandra Bullock as Annie is wonderful. The action is exiting and well directed. Plus you have legendary Dennis Hopper playing the mad bomber. When it comes to Die Hard rip-off, they don’t get better than this… the sequel though?

Command Performance – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Live Gig)

Command Performace

From 2009 comes this written by, directed by and starring Dolph Lundgren flick. The film is said to be (very loosely) based on a true story where Madonna performed a special live gig for Vladimir Putin… only with a large sprinkling of fantasy.

So the Russian President asks pop sensation Venus (Madonna/Venus, get it?) to perform an exclusive gig as his daughters are big fans. Lundgren plays Joe, an ex-biker, turned drummer who has to save the day when terrorists turn up at the concert and take the President, along with others as hostages. Joe teams up with young Russian agent Mikhail Kapista to kill the bad guys and save the hostages.

Dolph Lundgren is a drummer in real life and I’m pretty sure the only reason this film exists is so Lundgren can show people he can really drum… and do it well too. Just a shame the film isn’t as good as his drumming. This is one of those very mundane Die Hard rip-offs. It’s not terrible, its far from great – it just kind of is.


 

Well there you have it, a few good, and more than a few bad Die Hard rip-offs. Trust me, there’s a lot more out there – I’ve only just touched on a handful of the more famous ones as well as highlight some of the not so famous ones… Die Hard at a beauty pageant, seriously?

Die Hard Art Feet

More stunning fan-art from Chris Weston at Xombiedirge.com

Next up in my celebration of 30 years of Die Hard, I’m tackling the big one, a subject I’ve avoided for a long time. It’s December so it just seems right that I offer my own opinion on that yearly debate and eternal question that is, is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

40 Years Of Halloween: Part II

Today is Halloween and I’m back with the second part to my Halloween retrospective. After several years of terrible, terrible sequels, will things get any better?

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

Halloween H20 20 Years Later

So here we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the original Halloween film with a film that was released to celebrate the 20th anniversary. (Ohh, we’re half way there
Oh-oh, livin’ on a prayer!) Released in 1998 and directed by Steve Miner (known for his work on the Friday the 13th franchise). This ones sees the return of Laurie Strode who was killed off in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and the first film in the continual story of Michael Myers without Dr. Loomis.

So the film begins with Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) who was the assistant of Dr. Loomis from Halloween and Halloween II. She finds her home has been broken into. Marion discovers the file on Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has gone. The missing file held info on the presumed dead Laurie and her new identity of Keri Tate. Michael soon turns up, kills Marion and escapes with the file.

Now living in California Laurie Strode/Keri Tate is the headmistress of Hillcrest Academy, a private boarding school. She has moved on with her life after faking her death via a car accident to put her history behind her. Still haunted by the events of 1978, Laurie/Keri finds it hard to adjust to her new life fearing her brother Michael could return… and he does. Most of the students and teachers of Hillcrest Academy have gone on an overnight field trip to Yosemite National Park leaving only a skeleton staff at the school. However, a few of the students stayed on at the school to have a secret Halloween party in the school’s basement.

Of course the inevitable happens as Michael Myers arrives at the school to hunt down his sister… again. Michael sets about thinning out the student population and eventually comes face to face with his sister for the first time in twenty years. Laurie soon finds herself fighting for her life once more as well as trying to protect her teenage son.

My View

So this one kind of confuses me a little. Its said to be a sequel that ignores anything from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers to Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and is a direct sequel to Halloween II – which is fine, I have no problem with them doing that. There is no mention of Laurie’s daughter, Jamie from the previous three films which of course there shouldn’t be if the events of the other films didn’t happen in this timeline… but they do point out that the car crash that supposedly killed Laurie in Halloween 4 was faked. So there is continuity with the previous films. But if the previous films never happened, then why make that connection?

Well turns out that there was a direct connection. The original script was written with a scene where a student in one of Laurie/Keri’s classes does a report on the “Haddonfield Murders” and even goes into detail about Jamie Lloyd, Laurie’s daughter from the previous films. The report also details how Laurie “died” in a car accident and how Michael Myers eventually tracked down his niece and killed her. At this point, a clearly shocked Laurie/Keri leaves the classroom and throws up. Its also worth noting that John Carpenter was even set to return as director as Jamie Lee Curtis wanted to reunite, but when he asked for a $10 million directors fee (after believing he was cheated out of royalties), he walked when a deal could not be made.

Halloween H20 20 Years Later Laurie

Anyway, this was released during the resurgence of the slasher film in the 90s thanks to Wes Craven’s Scream (1996). The difference is though that Scream was self-aware, it was making fun of the genre while also paying respects to it. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later just is not that clever and comes across as another bog-standard slasher flick. Don’t get me wrong, its not a bad film at all and definitely one of the better sequels in the franchise but its also nothing special.

Its great to see Jamie Lee Curtis back in the role that made her famous two decades previously and you know what? I’ll even go so far as to say the story idea is a good one too, but overall the film just needed “something”. The previously mentioned Scream had that “something”, that hook to pull you in. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later is just very one note, very mundane and lacks punch. Its predictable, its a bit bland and really offers nothing new. Michael Myers turns up and kills teenagers… that’s about it. Its all very 90s with predictable jump scare after predictable jump scare. The last 10 minutes or so is pretty good though.

As I said, Jamie Lee Curtis is brilliant well worth watching. Plus she has the best scene in the film and one for a horror nerd such as myself to enjoy that is full of trivia. Jamie shares some screen time with her real-life mother Janet Leigh. Of course Janet famously played Marion Crane in Psycho. The character Janet is playing this film is called Norma, which was the name of Norman Bates mother from Psycho, plus the car Janet has in the scene is the exact same car she had in Psycho and even has the same license plate. Then (if you listen carefully) you’ll hear a few bars of the Psycho music play in the background.

“He sat in a sanitarium for 15 years, waiting for me. Then… one rainy night, he decides to go… Trick or Treating”

– Laurie Strode

Halloween: Resurrection

Halloween Resurrection Title

Released in 2002 from director, Rick Rosenthal who also directed Halloween II. This one picks up a few years after the previous film with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) now a patient at Grace Andersen Sanitarium after accidentally killing paramedic at the end of the previous film whom she believed was her killer brother, Michael Myers.

Acting in a catatonic state, Laurie is secretly readying herself for the return of Micheal. On Halloween night 2001, Michael breaches the security at the sanitarium and gets to Laurie. She lures him into a trap on the roof and is moments away from killing her brother (again) when he gets the better of her. Michael stabs Laurie and drops her off the roof – finally completing his mission of over twenty years. Yes, Laurie Strode is now dead.

The next year and some university students win a contest to appear on an internet reality show called Dangertainment and is set to be filmed in Michael Myers’ childhood home. The show is directed by directed by Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes). Of course Michael turns up and systematically kills the students while everything is being broadcast on the internet.

My View

This is bad, this is Halloween 46 level of bad. So lets get the only good thing about the film out of the way first. Jamie Lee Curtis back as Laurie Strode for the final time (in this continuity anyway). Yeah she’s good. Its only a small cameo role in the opening but at least it is the opening so once she’s gone you can switch the film off and watch something else instead. Jamie only agreed to do this film as long as they finally killed Laurie off as she didn’t want to appear in any more Halloween film after this… yeah, about that…

Even then, her death is not 100% definite as while she is stabbed and dropped of a roof, you don’t actually see her die on screen. She just disappears into a tree during the fall. The writing of this film is god awful and you can tell that from the terrible way they retcon the ending of the last film to suit this one. It turns out that Laurie didn’t kill Micheal at all and he swapped places with a random paramedic. You know you’re in for a bad time with this when the continuity is so damn bad that the recap at the start of this shows Laurie and Michael (not really him) drive off in an ambulance that looks nothing like the one from the end of Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, its not even close. Let this lack of detail be a warning for just how lazy and incompetent the rest of the film will be.

Halloween Resurrection Michael Myers

Stupid characters doing stupid things being killed by a stupid killer. The film is stupid. I mean, there a scene were one of the students throws black pepper in Micheal’s eyes to stop him… and it works too. This is the same Micheal Myers who has been shot multiple times, blown up, stabbed in the eyes and still kept going – but black pepper is his weakness? Halloween H20: 20 Years Later was hardly a great film, it was watchable with some okay moments and a pretty good ending. This film does away with all of that, the retconing of the good ending of the previous film is an insult and the finale to this with Busta Rhymes getting into a fistfight with Micheal Myers while saying “mother fucka” a lot is embarrassing.

There was an idea to make a sequel to this with Laurie Strode’s son from Halloween H20: 20 Years Later seeking out Micheal for revenge over killing his mother. But as this film flopped hard, the producers quickly abandoned that idea and decided to go a different route…

“You’ve heard of the tunnel. The one we all go through sooner or later. At the end, there’s a door. And waiting for you on the other side of that door is either Heaven or Hell. This that door.”

– Laurie Strode

Halloween

Halloween 2007

So the last film all but killed the franchise off, plans to make more sequels were scrapped in favor of a remake. Enter director Rob Zombie to get this film released in 2007. The baisc plot is the same as the original flick, but this one mixes in a little Halloween II as well. Young Michael Myers kills his older sister Judith and is sent to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where he becomes a patient of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell).

Fifteen year later, Micheal escapes the sanitarium and makes is way back to his old home in Haddonfield to continue his killing spree. Dr. Loomis teams up with  Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) to try to track Micheal down. Along the way, Loomis learns that Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is really the sister of Micheal and soon works out that she will be is next victim.

My View

I said in the first part about the original film that I’m not a huge fan. I like the film, I think its damn good… but I just don’t love it. So get ready with the pitchforks Halloween fans because I think this remake is a better film than the original. Yeah I said it. Not that the film doesn’t have its problems, it does. Some of the dialogue is a joke with every other word being “fuck”, a lot of the redneck characters grate at times and at a little under two hours it can be a long film for what it is. But that said, there’s a hell of a lot of great stuff in the film too.

You’ve got amazing actors such as Malcolm McDowell who is the perfect replacement for Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis. Honestly, he’s brilliant in the role. Then you have Brad Dourif, Dee Wallace, William Forsythe and Ken Foree. There is a great cast here. I  love how this is really a film of two parts. The first part telling the history and backstory of the young Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) and just why he turns put the way he does. Then the second half is pretty much where the remake kicks off proper with grown up Michael killing teenagers.

Halloween 2007Michael

The film can be tense at times with some genuine scares, something not seen in a Halloween film since Halloween III: Season of the Witch back in 1982. Where as the original was mostly bloodless, this one turns up the gore factor to eleven… but its a Rob Zombie film so what where you expecting? The picture is clearly made by someone who loves and respects the original but still wanting to do their own thing with it. Its a good film, its a good remake and for me, its better than the original as this version has a story that extends to more then just killer killing teenagers.

“Inside every one us, there exists a dark side. Most people rise above it, but some are consumed by it. Until there is nothing left, but pure evil.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween II

Halloween II 2009 Title

Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake was panned by critics, yet it still pulled in an impressive $80 million worldwide on a $15 million budget. Success meant sequel and Rob Zombie returned to continue his vision in 2009. Pretty much all the cast from the first film returned and this one picks up directly where the last film left off. After killing Micheal Myers, a shocked Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is found covered and blood wandering around the streets by Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) and she is taken to hospital. Michael’s body is put in the back of an ambulance and taken to the hospital, only he’s not really dead. He wakes up as the ambulance crashes into a cow.

The film jumps ahead two years and Laurie is now living with Sheriff Brackett and his family. Laurie begins to have nightmares of Michael and the events of the first film. Meanwhile Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) writes a book based on the events and his experiences of the previous film. Micheal Myers has been in hiding and having visions of his dead mother and his younger self who tell him to bring Laurie home. So he heads back to Haddonfield.

My View

I really enjoyed the first film (and I mean Rob Zombie’s first Halloween film), but this? What a fucking mess. Its trying to be clever, psychological, cerebral and it fails at all three. I’m pretty sure the only reason the idea of this film came about was because Michael’s mom is played by Rob Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon Zombie. As he always puts her in his movies and as she died in the first one, I’m sure the thought process was ‘Need to get the missus in the film, but she died in the first one… make her a ghost. Problem solved’. Then the film was written around the idea of Michael’s mom’s ghost.

Honestly, the whole film makes little sense. The plot is nonsensical, the story is pathetic. Its just all over the place with no clear direction. How did Rob Zombie mess this up so badly when he nailed it first time around? Its a real shame as the film gets off to a great start, the opening and scenes in the hospital are really well done. Its just a shame it all goes very wrong very quickly after that.

Halloween II 2009 Michael

The good bits? Obviously the performances from both Malcolm McDowell and Brad Dourif and that’s about it really. Oh the soundtrack is pretty great too. Other than that, best to avoid this one. I didn’t like it when I first saw it back then, I like it even less after re-watching it for this retrospective. I’m not damning the film for doing something different, I like different, that’s why Halloween III: Season of the Witch is my favourite in the franchise, because its different. But this, this is just pretentiously silly and stupid.

For almost a decade, that was it, no more Halloween. Until…

“Hey, world! Guess what. I’m Michael Myers’ sister! I’m so fucked!”

– Laurie Strode

Halloween

Halloween 2018

Okay so this is the third film in the franchise to be simply called Halloween. The 1978 original, the 2007 remake and now this. Directed by David Gordon Green and sees the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. Set forty years after the original and ignores every film in the franchise except the original flick. So really this is Halloween II but a different Halloween II to the 1981 sequel and 2009 Halloween II sequel of the remake. Phew.

So Michael Myers has been locked away in the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium since he was stopped at the end of the first film and captured. Dr. Loomis dies years ago and so Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) has taken over as Michael’s doctor. Two true-crime podcasters turn up at the sanitarium to interview Michael armed with his original mask form forty years before. They fail to get anything out if him despite mentioning the very person who stood up to him and survived his killing spree four decades ago, Laurie Strode.

Still desperate to get a story, the podcasters go to interview Laurie herself. This is when we learn of her PTSD, failed marriages and that she has a daughter and granddaughter. The family is strained and the relationship between mother, daughter and granddaughter broke down several years earlier. Laurie is given the chance to speak to Michael before he is transferred to a maximum security prison, which Laurie declines.

Dr. Sartain accompanies Michael Myers as he is transferred along with several other prisoners. Only for the bus carrying the inmates to crash, Michael escapes, tracks down those annoying podcasters, kills them and gets his mask back before heading back to Haddonfield and to Laurie. Meanwhile, Laurie learns about the crash and finds herself fighting for not only her own life but also those of her daughter and granddaughter. But Laurie hasn’t been sitting quietly knitting for the last forty years, she’s been preparing for Michael’s return.

My View

Okay so to be completely honest, I’ve not yet seen the new film. Since becoming a father last year, my cinema visits have been cut back to pretty much none. I managed to go see Bohemian Rhapsody a few days ago and that was my first time in a cinema since I watched Logan in March 2017 over a year earlier. So as I’ve not seen the film, I can’t really offer a view of it can I? I was hoping to squeeze in a viewing before doing this retrospective but it didn’t work out.

Still, while managing to avoid spoilers, I have read a few reviews and the feedback has been largely positive. The film sounds pretty damn good and Jamie Lee Curtis has been getting a lot of positive praise too. I’ll most probably have to wait until the home release before I do get to watch Halloween. At least they got John Carpenter to return for this one. Even if only as composer, executive producer, and creative consultant. He’s been directly involved in the franchise for the first time since 1982. I’m looking forward to this one if/when I eventually get to see it.

“Michael Myers killed 5 people. And he’s a human being, we need to understand. I’m twice divorced, and I’m a basket case.”

– Laurie Strode


 

Well there you have it, the entire Halloween franchise. forty years of films that are mostly terrible. I have a great deal of respect for the original even if I’m not its biggest fan. I fucking love Halloween III: Season of the Witch and think Rob Zombie’s remake was fantastic… but that’s about it for the whole series. A total of eleven films and only three that I think are truly worth watching. The new film does look and sound great, but as I’ve not yet seen it, I can’t really pass judgement – that will have to wait for later.

As an overall franchise, Halloween has many more disappointments than worthy pictures. Pretty much all horror franchises get tiresome fairly quickly with bad sequel after bad sequel and in that respect, Halloween is not one of the worst offenders. Even the absolute worst of the films still have some redeeming quality be it Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis, Jamie Lee Curtis returning several times or even the opening 10-15 minutes of the god-awful Rob Zombie’s Halloween II. Its a decent franchise, I just wished they had gone the anthology idea route after Halloween III: Season of the Witch as we could have had a great variety of Halloween based flicks for the last few decades instead of the same old crap of Michael Myers killing teenagers.

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Hellraiser: Judgment…Finally!

At the end of my Hellraiser retrospective from last Halloween, I mentioned how a tenth film in the franchise – Hellraiser: Judgment had been completed but not yet released. Well now the flick has finally been released. But the big question is, what is worth the wait?

Well seeing as I covered every film in the franchise from start to end, I guess I have to sit thought this one as well, even if just for the sake of completion. What demons (aside from Americans not being able to spell ‘judgement’ correctly) does this film hold. Is it on par with the first two films, is it a worthy sequel…or am I about to return to the depths of hell that was Hellraiser: Revelations?

Well I can’t put this off any longer so here it is.

Hellraiser: Judgment

Pinhead

From writer/director/actor Gary J. Tunnicliffe comes the tenth film in the Hellraiser movie series. Tunnicliffe is a bit of a Hellraiser veteran as he started out as a make-up artist on Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth through to Hellraiser: Hellworld – so he’s been a part of the franchise for many, many years. This flick marks his first time sitting in the director’s chair but not his first writing credit in the series as he wrote the previous film Hellraiser: Revelations. So with so such a deep pedigree within Hellraiser – he must know what he’s doing right?

Okay so its synopsis time. The film starts in Hell with Pinhead (Paul T Taylor) and The Auditor (Gary J. Tunnicliffe) discussing how they can update and evolve their soul harvesting methods. Technology on Earth has evolved over the last few decades or so and humans are no longer interested in solving the puzzle boxes that open gateways to Hell.

Meanwhile on Earth, two brothers Sean (Damon Carney) and David Carter (Randy Wayne) who are detectives are investigating a series of brutal murders based on the Ten Commandments by a killer known as “The Preceptor”. They are joined by Detective Christine Egerton (Alexandra Harris) and they discover links to a known criminal, Karl Watkins (Jeff Fenter) who has gone missing. While they go searching Watkins’ last known location, Sean falls unconscious and wakes in Hell to be saved by the angel Jophiel (Helena Grace Donald). Sean escapes Hell but not before taking the infamous puzzle box with him. But the Cenobites are not going to let Sean escape quite so easily.

My View

This film follows the same tradition of the last few Hellraiser sequels, that its one of those ‘straight to DVD’ pictures. So who this “The Preceptor”, the person going around killing people? Well its meant to be kept secret until an ‘unexpected’ reveal…but if you have an IQ over 4 than you’ll work it out pretty quickly – lets just say that Sean is depicted as being a detective with numerous problems…

The Auditor

Gary J. Tunnicliffe needs to stick to make-up effects – he’s amazing at those and this film does feature some truly stunning visuals as he was also the make-up effects designer for this one. There are some impressively disgusting moments that do feel very, very Hellraiser and I can not sing the praises of this film in that regard enough. But…he just can’t write or direct. The last flick, Hellraiser: Revelations was also written by Tunnicliffe and it is fucking terrible. The plot was bland and the characters were flat, just as they are here too. This is such a ‘meh’ film that I just can’t get either annoyed or excited about it.

I think the idea behind this one was to reboot the franchise and try to start anew, they even left it open for a sequel with one of those annoyingly popular posts credits scenes – but it fails on every level (aside from the effects work). I really enjoyed Paul T Taylor as the new Pinhead – he’s no Doug Bradley sure, but he’s certainly a hell of a lot better than Stephan Smith Collins from Hellraiser: Revelations. And that’s about it for anything good about this one. Its not the worst of the Hellraiser flick, not even close – but I can’t say its any good either. It’s Hellraiser: Hellworld quality, its a film that just exists when it doesn’t need to.

Pinhead: “Obsolete. Irrelevant in an age when desire has become amplified but where lust can be sated electronically. We need something more than just a wooden box.”


The franchise has two options from this point. Either just let it die (please no more sequels), its been on its last legs for decades now and needs to be put down. Or just let Clive Barker back in. He wanted to remake his original a few years back but the studio didn’t think that was a good idea – but green-lit all the terrible sequels since then?

This film was bad and I feel a little depressed after going through the whole franchise. But I do have one big reason to celebrate…I have no more Hellraiser films to watch and my Hellraiser retrospective is complete!

Tear Apart

Black Mirror – Every Episode Reviewed

I don’t usually cover TV shows on this blog, but I’m making an exception for this one because this show is amazing.

I guess that first I should quickly go over exactly what the show is about for anyone not in the know. Black Mirror is an anthology TV series from writer, presenter and producer – Charlie Brooker. Brooker is one of the finest acerbic, satirical writers we have here in England, his pessimistic style is second to none as he always manages to find the worst of any situation and make miserable poetry from the most dreary of topics with his use of very, very dark humour. So don’t expect happy, unicorns riding rainbows stories here – these tales are bleak, depressing and extremely downbeat.

Charlie Brooker

Black Mirror started out on the British Channel 4 for 2 seasons before being snapped up by Netflix for the 3rd and latest 4th season. As I mentioned before, its an anthology show with each story being self contained – however all the stories follow a theme and that is one of technology, the stories often show how impressive and useful technology can go very badly wrong . Brooker uses things like Facebook, Twitter, The Internet and other modern revelations to tell often bleak and disturbing yarns with twists and stings in the tail covering the pitfalls of modern technology and trends. Think Tales From The Crypt but with technology instead of horror. Most episodes are an hour long or more – with the odd exception of many of the earlier ones which run at around 45 minutes. The first and second season only contain 3 episodes each and then there was a Christmas special too. But the episode count was upped to 6 per season when Netflix brought the show from season 3 onward, bringing the total episodes to 19. While each story is self contained, from season 3 onward – Brooker started to include nods, references and Easter eggs in episodes that relate to others, meaning that all the stories (while separate) take place in one shared universe.

I’m a big fan of Charlie Brooker and I had heard a lot about this show before but never actually got around to watching it. Then season 4 aired – so I thought I would put the effort in to watch every episode from start to finish… and I have to say I thought it was sheer brilliance with every single episode being good to utter genius – not a single dud in the lot. Having just finished every episode (several more than once) including the newest season 4. I thought I would go through each and every episode with a brief synopsis before offering my view on all of them.

Now be warned, this is a show worth going into blind. I will try to avoid any major spoilers and not give away any of the endings. But as I’m covering every episode, endings will be mentioned/referenced… some mild spoilers could pop up. If you don’t want anything spoilt at all, just go watch Black Mirror now and then come back and read this article later.

Season 1 (2011)

The National Anthem

The National Anthem.jpg

British Prime Minister, Michael Callow (Rory Kinnear) is woken up in the night by a phone-call from the Home Secretary Alex Cairns (Lindsay Duncan). Callow is told that much loved member of the Royal Family – Princess Susannah (Lydia Wilson) has been kidnapped and being held for ransom. But the kidnapper does not want money…they want something very different and if Prime Minister Callow does not comply, then Princess Susannah will be killed. With the entire British nation as well as a big chunk of the rest of the world following the story and watching online – will Callow give into the kidnapper’s demands or will he let the Princess die?

My View

A great introduction to the twisted and yet beautiful mind of Charlie Brooker – if you have never experienced his genius writing before, then you can’t go far wrong with this story. Its perverted, twisted and ‘as black as night’ funny. The ransom Callow has to pay is beyond anything you could probably think up. The twist at the end is as jet black funny as it is disturbing when all is revealed and you realise just what Callow has done…stay tuned during the credits to get the final punch in the gut. This episode sets the downbeat standard that the other episodes will follow.

Fifteen Million Merits

Fifteen Million Merits

Set in the future where people are required to cycle on exercise bikes in order to power their living quarters and earn currency called ‘merits’ which are used to buy food, goods, entertainment, etc. This one tells the story of Bing (Daniel Kaluuya) who inherited fifteen million merits from his dead brother. Bing meets Abi Khan (Jessica Brown Findlay) and the two strike up a friendship. Abi is a keen singer and when Bing overhears her talent, he suggests that she tries out for the talent show – Hot Shot. Only problem is that the entrance fee is fifteen million merits – which Abi does not have…but Bing does. So he buys and gifts Abi an entrance ticket giving away his entire fortune so she can bring her dreams to life. Only things do not work out exactly as planned and Bing is left merit-less unable to buy the most basic of essentials…for now.

My View

I love the setting of the tale – a near future with technological advancements yet still being restricted. The visual style is sublime and the story pokes fun at talent shows like The X-Factor and its ilk – there’s even a Simon Cowell parody thrown in too. The twist in this one was unexpected and really caught me off guard, it felt like being hit in the face with a sledgehammer. The acting is top-notch and the juxtaposition between the flowering romance between Bing and Abi compared to what happens after the talent show audition is emotionally draining as is what happens to Bing by the time the end credits roll.

The Entire History of You

The Entire History of You.jpg

Set in a future where many people have had a groundbreaking technology called ‘grains’ implanted behind their ear. This ‘grain’ allows you to record anything the person sees or hears and then play it back anytime they want so they can relive memories from the past in vivid detail. Liam Foxwell (Toby Kebbell) is a young lawyer who just had an appraisal at work that he felt went particularly badly. He begins to replay the memory so he can see where he went wrong.  His wife Ffion (Jodie Whittaker) tries to get Liam’s mind off his failure by taking him to a dinner party where he begins to notice that his wife seems to be particularly fond of one guest – Jonas (Tom Cullen). Liam and Ffion return home but he becomes obsessed that something more than just friendship is going on between his wife and Jonas. Maybe her own ‘grain’ will reveal the truth?

My View

Just as a quick side-note: this is the only episode in the entire series so far that was not written by or based on a story Charlie Brooker. This one was written by Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show, The Thick of It). But don’t let a change in writer fool you as this is just as dark and disturbing as anything Brooker has written. Relationships are pushed to breaking point and beyond as Liam’s obsession gets out of hand. In keeping with Black Mirror tradition – the ending is unsettling and grim. The last few ending scenes are difficult to watch and while the direction the story goes in is easy to predict – it still packs a punch regardless.

Just thought I’d throw this tit-bit in too. Robert Downey. Jr actually optioned this episode to be turned in to a big Hollywood movie by his own production company – Team Downey. But as of writing, the film has yet to be made.

Season 2 (2013)

Be Right Back

Be Right Back

Young couple – Martha (Hayley Atwell) and Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) move into their new home in the countryside. While Ash is returning the van he hired for the move, he crashes and dies. Soon after and Martha discovers that she is pregnant, worrying about raising a child alone and desperately missing her partner, Martha tries out a new online service that uses the deceased’s online profile and communications to create a virtual Ash that she can talk to via a chat-bot. The more information of Ash it has, the more accurate the bot can be. So Martha begins to upload photos and videos of Ash so the bot can mimic his look and voice. The virtual Ash tells Martha about an experimental technology that allows the artificial persona to be uploaded to a blank, synthetic body – creating an android that looks and acts almost just like the real Ash before he died. But will the relationship work out and what kind of a father will the android be?

My View

This one has a really interesting concept behind it. I mean, if you could bring a loved one back via autonomation using their personal profiles as a basis…would you? Its a very melancholy yarn that breaks the heart a little by the end. A dramatic, sci-fi parable about grief and love which given the technology used, doesn’t seem that far-fetched. The brilliant performances by the two leads adds a lot of depth and believability to this haunting story. Well worth a watch.

White Bear

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Waking up in an unknown house and suffering from amnesia a young woman (Lenora Crichlow) sets out to try and find out who and where she is. The only clue she has is a strange symbol being broadcast on the TV screens in the house. As she heads outside, she notices people just standing around specifically watching her, filming and taking photos with no one willing to help. She starts to get little flashbacks to a toddler, her daughter possibly? She is hunted by a shotgun wielding man wearing a mask with that same symbol from the house. As she runs for help, she meets Jem (Tuppence Middleton) who explains that the symbol began appearing on TV, computer and phone screens, turning most people into passive voyeurs and others into killers. Jem has a plan to reach the transmitter at White Bear to destroy it to stop the broadcasting of the symbol and she takes the amnesia sufferer with her. Along the way the amnesia girl starts to get more and more flashbacks of her daughter, partner/husband, locales and even the name ‘White Bear’ seems to be familiar to her too…but why?

My View

Just have to get this out of the way, this is one of the best episodes of the entire series. The ending is fucking brilliant and while as dark as other twist endings – its also unbelievably satisfying and I guarantee you’ll crack a wry smile of satisfaction once the whole picture has been revealed. Everything comes together perfectly, the acting is great, the story is compelling, the pacing is sublime and the ending is a pure genius. A fantastic episode and one worth repeat viewings so you can pick up on all the well placed and subtle hints peppered throughout the plot.

The Waldo Moment

The Waldo Moment

Struggling comedian Jamie Salter (Daniel Rigby) plays the part of a satirical animated blue bear called Waldo on a late-night, topical comedy show. Waldo becomes a huge sensation with the British public, so much so that he is even given his very own show. Despite the success of the Waldo character, his creator Jamie is depressed and feels that his life is unsatisfactory. When Jamie/Waldo crosses paths with Conservative candidate Liam Monroe (Tobias Menzies) things start to get heated as their rivalry grows. Waldo, producer Jack Napier (Jason Flemyng) suggests that Waldo should run against real politicians in an upcoming by-election. During the campaign Jamie meets Gwendolyn Harris (Chloe Pirrie), Labour candidate who, despite having no chance of winning, is entering the by-election to further her own political career. Jamie and Gwendolyn start a relationship which quickly goes awry and the rivalry between Jamie/Waldo and Liam Monroe reaches boiling point while Jaime’s life begins to fall apart and he loses control of his creation.

My View 

You know how I said in the introduction that there is not a single dud episode in the entire series? I still stand by that, but this one comes close – not because its a bad episode as its not, but more due to the fact that other episodes have been so damn great that this one just does not live up to the rest. Its a good episode but one that I feel Brooker mis-wrote, which is strange given that fact he is an amazing political satirist and this topic is right up his street. The story just lacks any real punch or depth and the ending is rather bland. The episode has some great moments – such as the late-night, topical comedy show that Waldo gets his big break on as I feel the presenter is very Brooker-esque and it seems he was making fun of himself a little. But overall, its just a ‘good’ episode that ultimately misses the mark.

Christmas Special (2014)

White Christmas

White Christmas

Matt Trent (Jon Hamm) and Joe Potter (Rafe Spall) are two lonely guys stuck in a remote house on Christmas. The two have hardly spoken in to each other in five years. Joe seems reluctant to talk about anything, so Matt decides to open up and tell Joe about himself. This takes us to the first flashback where it is revealed that Matt works as a dating coach using the ever present ‘Z-Eye’ technology, an augmented reality device that grants access to the Internet and allows Matt to see and hear what his clients witness and provide instructions to them in real time. Matt tells a story of one of his clients before revealing that the dating coach is just something he does on the side. Matt then tells Joe about his real job – which is told in another flashback. Matt’s real job has him coaching artificial intelligence inside small sized computer chips known as ‘cookies’ to help make the lives of humans easier around the house. At this point, back in the remote house, Joe begins to open up to Matt and he tells his own story about his failed relationship with Beth (Janet Montgomery) via yet another flashback.

My View

The strange thing about this episode is that I began to watch Black Mirror for the first time over the festive period and just be sheer coincidence – I watched this episode on Christmas Eve. And I have to say that this will now become a Christmas tradition to watch this episode every year around the same time. This is an utterly brilliant story and one that is well written and told. I suppose you could look a this as an anthology story within an anthology as there are really four stories contained in this one episode – the three flashbacks and the ‘current’ events, its also one of the longer episodes with a 74 minute run-time as well as the final episode before the switch to Netflix. The four stories all seem separate at first but by the time Joe finally reveals more about his past and confides in Matt, all the strands come together beautifully and you finally see the big picture. The ending is well written and in true Black Mirror fashion…pretty bleak and downbeat too. An absolute cracker of a tale and one of those that you can really enjoy repeat viewings of as you’ll notice the subtle, well placed clues second, third, forth time around as to what is going on.

Also worth noting that this is the episode where Brooker began inserting the nods and references to previous episodes and where the whole shared universe really began. So its worth keeping an eye out for those along the way as there are several to spot. And keep your eyes peeled for even more references in other episodes from this point on.

Season 3 (2016)

Nosedive

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Using a combination of eye implants and mobile devices – society has the ability to share and rate everyday activities on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. One’s rating can have an affect on their socioeconomic status. Lacie Pound (Bryce Dallas Howard) holds a 4.2 overall rating but needs a 4.5 to get a discount on her dream apartment. She tires hard to improve her rating by being overtly nice to any and everyone she meets so they rate her higher but her pleasant persona does little to help. Lacie takes a photograph of Mr. Rags, a teddy bear that she and childhood friend, Naomi (Alice Eve) made together when they were children. Naomi is a very successful socialite and very highly rated. Touched by the fond memories of Mr. Rags, Naomi asks Lacie to be maid of honour at her up and coming wedding. Lacie agrees as she thinks this could massively help her increase her rating. She writes a speech and everything – but it is when Lacie heads off to the wedding that things start to go wrong.

My View

This was the first show after the switch to Netflix and you can really tell the difference. The increase in budget shows on screen, the style is much brighter, the colours more vivid and the overall production is far more impressive. But don’t think that means the stories themselves are going soft. This is a great little story and one that pokes fun at all the people who are desperate for ‘likes and shares’ on social media platforms today. It a well observed and written satire that hits all the right buttons. The ending is quite different to others and I may even say that this one has some what of a happy ending…’happy’ for Black Mirror anyway. I really enjoyed this one – but that is probably as I detest all that attention seeking ‘like me’ on social media.

Playtest

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Cooper (Wyatt Russell – son of Kurt) leaves home to travel the world. The final leg of his tour sees him end up in London where he meets a tech journalist, Sonja (Hannah John-Kamen). Cooper’s mother calls him several times but he never answers the phone, purposely ignoring her. During his stay in London, Cooper finds his bank account has been hacked and all his money has gone. Now penniless and stuck in England, he turns to Sonja for help who shows him an app called Oddjobs which offers short term employment. SaitoGemu, a video game development company famed for their horror games are looking for people to playtest their latest software, which Cooper signs up for. At the company, Cooper meets Katie (Wunmi Mosaku), who asks him to try out a piece of their new technology – a kind of augmented reality device that can blur the lines between real life and video games. This was just an introduction to the main event and Katie takes Cooper to meet Shou (Ken Yamamura) who created the company and the advanced technology for their games. Cooper is then invited to take part in horror game where he is taken to a real mansion and left alone to face whatever horrors the mansion holds.

My View

I didn’t know who it was that played Cooper in this while I was watching it but found him very familiar and charming. Afterwards, I did some research and discovered that he was the son of Kurt Russell. Knowing that, you can really see a resemblance in both their looks and mannerisms. This one is a great tale and particularly great fun if you’re an avid gamer like myself as its full of nods and references to famous games – one so subtlety well done its easy to miss at first but explains a lot of what is going on. There are some genuine scares in this one as Cooper is stuck in the mansion and begins to question his own sanity. The ending is a belter and one that will frustrate as well as entertain. This is what Black Mirror does best with its dark and twisted storytelling – one of the great episodes and highlights of the show.

Shut Up and Dance

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While trying to clear his laptop of malware, teenager Kenny (Alex Lawther) downloads a purported anti-malware tool called Shrive. Once his laptop is clear of viruses, he decides to ‘enjoy himself’ over some adult entertainment – not knowing that the Shrive tool he used actually allows an unseen hacker to record Kenny through his laptop camera. The hacker then emails Kenny and says that they will send the video of him doing the ‘five knuckle shuffle’ to all his friends and family unless he does as the hacker asks. Kenny is sent on a chase around the city which evetually leas him to meet Hector (Jerome Flynn). It is revealed that Hector is also being blackmailed by the same hacker over him cheating on his wife with a prostitute. Both Kenny and Hector are sent on a very specific task by the hacker and if they fail, then the hacker will release the information they hold over both of them.

My View

This is a heart-pounding episode, its tense, thrilling and blisters along right up to the massive punch in the face ending. Brooker’s writing and storytelling are brilliant here as the story moves along and keeps you guessing what is going on right up to the beautifully brutal twist end. Its a simple tale, but told incredibly well with great performances. Its not preachy, it doesn’t try to get some kind of message across. Its just good ole’ plain Black Mirror storytelling with one of the best endings in the series and one you will want to watch again.

San Junipero

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A nervous and shy young woman, Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis), discovers the beach-side party town of San Junipero. Its 1987, the time of big shoulder pads and even bigger hair. In San Junipero anything goes as long as its fun. Yorkie meets Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who is a party girl through and through – the complete antithesis to the sheltered and bashful Yorkie. The two strike up a friendship as Kelly teaches Yorkie to loosen up and enjoy herself. Their friendship blossoms into romance and Yorkie and Kelly have sex, but when Yorkie tries to find Kelly later – she is nowhere to be found. As Yorkie searches for Kelly, the truth is slowly revealed.

My View

Many people consider this to be the best episode of the whole series. Its not my personal favourite but its right up there. I wrote the synopsis of this one quite short as the twist doesn’t really come at the end, but more so a little over halfway through and I didn’t want to spoil too much. This really is a wonderful piece of storytelling and I can understand why so many think of it as the best episode so far. Its well designed and the soundtrack is more than just a great reminder of the 80s as the songs have been very specifically chosen to give some subtle clues along the way, so keep them ears open. The midway reveal is a very poignant one and the overall story and end in really quite heartbreaking but heartwarming at the same time. But even with the mid-twist in this one, there is still an ending that will leave you emotionally drained. Yet another wonderful episode and one that offers a great change of pace and a very bitter-sweet conclusion.

Men Against Fire

Men Against Fire

‘Stripe’ Koinange (Malachi Kirby) and ‘Hunter’ Raiman (Madeline Brewer) are soldiers working for an unknown military organisation. There mission is to eliminate mutated humans called ‘roaches’ in Denmark. The soldiers have a neural implant called ‘MASS’ that enhances the processing of their senses and provides useful data via augmented reality. Lead by Medina (Sarah Snook) the team search and interrogate a small farming village they suspect are harbouring these so called roaches. Stripe discovers a whole hidden nest of roaches, humanoid like creatures with pale skin and razor sharp teeth. He and Hunter open fire killing them all. Stripe notices one of the roaches was holding a strange LED device and as he examines it, it flashes him in the eyes. The device disrupts his MASS interface which causes glitches. Sent out on another mission to hunt roaches, the MASS implant get worse and worse as Stripe begins to experience further glitches he sees things other soldiers can not, including what these roach creatures truly are.

My View

This one is one of the lesser episodes for me. You can pretty much see the twist coming early on and the story is pretty bland for Black Mirror. There is that trademark final gut-twist epilogue that leaves you on a downer which is probably the best part of the whole thing. Its not a terrible tale, but it certainly lacks a lot of what other episodes have.

Hated in the Nation

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Karin Parke (Kelly Macdonald) is a Chief Inspector investigating the gruesome murder  of Jo Powers (Elizabeth Berrington) along with trainee Detective Constable Blue Coulson (Faye Marsay). Jo was a journalist who had been receiving online death threats prior to her murder. Her husband claims that Jo cut her own throat with a broken wine bottle and injured him in the process as he tired to stop her, a story the police find hard to believe and suspect the husband of being the murderer. The next day and a rapper named Tusk (Charles Babalola) is also found dead after becoming a target of online hate too. The two deaths are linked to an online social media hashtag ‘game’ called ‘Game of Consequences’ where the public vote who should die next by simply leaving #DeathTo (name of victim here) on Twitter. Further investigation reveals that both deaths were caused by small, robotic bees or Autonomous Drone Insects (ADIs). These ADIs are a creation a company called Granular who use the ADIs to counteract the falling bee population. Are Granular and their ADIs really responsible for these deaths, can Karin and Blue get to the next victim of the #DeathTo game before its too late?

My View

This is the longest episode so far coming in at just under 90 minutes – its pretty much movie length. This is a great one, a nice detective thriller that brilliantly uses those annoying hashtag things people set up in a vein attempt to become popular. A compelling watch with wonderfully observed satire dished up in that unique way only Charlie Brooker can do. The ending features not only a great twist but also a devastating climax, but even before you get to the end you have a hell of a lot of story that is captivating and engrossing throughout. One of the many highlights of the series with great acting from start to finish.

Season 4 (2017)

USS Callister

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Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons) is the Chief Technical Officer and co-founder of Callister Inc. A company known for making a massively multiplayer online game called ‘Infinity’ which uses neural interfaces to play the game in a simulated reality. His co-workers dislike him and he’s treated with no respect. New employee, Nanette Cole (Cristin Milioti) is impressed with the game coding and she learns that Robert is a big fan of an old sci-fi TV show called ‘Space Fleet’. After work, Robert returns home and logs onto play a game of Infinity that is modded to incorporate elements of his favourite show Space Fleet. In the game Robert is the Captain of a spaceship, the USS Callister and members of his crew are represented by digital versions of his co-workers. As Captain, he is admired, respected and feared – the complete opposite to his real work-life. Robert often uses the game to take out the frustrations of his work life on the in-game avatars of his work colleagues. The next day at work, Robert take a shining to new employee Nanette – he swipes a disposed cup of coffee that she drank from and uses the DNA on it to upload a version of her into his modded game. Nanette wakes up inside Infinity confused and not knowing where she is. She finds her work/crew mates and they disclose everything about them and her being digital clones of their real selves and how Robert in the game is a tyrant who takes out his real world frustrations on the digital versions of his work colleagues. When Nanette refuses to cooperate with the overbearing Captain and his demands, she comes up with a plan to overthrow him, escape the game, free herself and the rest of the crew.

My View

The production on this one is brilliant, a wonderful pastiche of Star Trek wrapped around a story about a cyberbully. There is a real and genuine story being told here and the episode has a real dark tone to it, but then its also littered with funny one liners and visual jokes too. Robert Daly is a disgusting villain when in the game world but then you feel real sympathy for him being looked down on in the real world. Its an interesting dichotomy and one that works fantastically well in this yarn. An excellent start to the new season with great comic moments engulfed in a bleak and dark tale. The ending is also classic Black Mirror gloom with a little silver lining snuck in.

Arkangel

Arkangel

3 year old Sara Sambrell (Aniya Hodge) goes missing while chasing after a cat in a park. After a search, she is found safe and well near some train tracks. Her mother, Marie (Rosemarie DeWitt) agrees to participate in a free trial for something called ‘Arkangel’ – a chip that when placed inside the child’s brain that allows the parents to track them as well as monitor their health, detect the child’s stress levels, enable the parents to see whatever the child sees though a tablet and then censor anything out that the child should not be seeing. Years later and 9 year old Sara is known as ‘the walking snitch’ among her classmates at school because of her chip. A troublesome older schoolmate known as ‘Trick’ (Nicky Torchia) tries to introduce Sara to violent videos on the internet, but as she can not see them due to the chip, he instead explains violence to her as well as what blood is. Back at home and Sara tires to draw a violent picture using her own blood that she draws from her own finger. Marie sees this through her tablet and tries to intervene, but Sara lashes out and hits her mom. Marie becomes concerned over her daughters mental health due to the chip and seeks help from a doctor who tells her that the Arkangel chip can not be removed, but that she should turn the tablet off and never use the Arkangel system again. Marie does so and lets Sara out in the world for the first time without restraint on what she can see. While at school Trick shows Sara violence and sexual videos for the first time.  Now 15 and Sara (Brenna Harding) grows up without Arkangel protecting her. Her personality changes due to the influence of old school friend Trick (Owen Teague). The relationship between mother and daughter begins to break down as Marie starts to distrust Sara and contemplates reactivating the tablet and the Arkangel system to see exactly what her grown up daughter is now getting up to…but will she like what she sees?

My View

As a quick side note, this episode was directed by Jodie Foster (yes THAT Jodie Foster) and is the first episode of the show directed by a woman. A marvellous tale about trust, paranoia and overbearing parenting. The acting is solid throughout and the story asks an interesting ethical quandary about controlling our kids. While the moral of the story is quite obvious, its still well handled and told, complete with an ending that will not really shock or surprise but will still leave a lasting effect filled with bitter irony.

Crocodile

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While driving home from a night out at a club, Rob (Andrew Gower) hits and kills a cyclist. He convinces his passenger Mia (Andrea Riseborough) to help him cover up his crime by throwing the dead body and bike into a lake. Fifteen years later and Mia is married, has a son as well as a successful career. She goes on a business trip where Rob tracks her down at her hotel and shows Mia a news article about the dead cyclist and how the wife of the cyclist believes her husband is still alive and is actively looking for him. Rob suggests writing an anonymous letter explaining what happened fifteen years back, but Mia believes that the letter could be traced and tires to talk Rob out of it. They argue and Mia ends up killing Rob to keep him quiet and not risk her happy life. Shorty after, outside of her hotel, there is an accident where a self-driving pizza delivery truck hits a pedestrian which Mia witnesses. When the man who was hit by the truck contacts his insurance company, they send investigator Shazia (Kiran Sonia Sawar) to establish exactly how the accident happened. Shazia uses a device known as a ‘Recaller’ to scan a claimant’s memories. The memory reveals that Mia witnessed the accident and Shazia is hopeful that Mia’s testimony will allow her to prove the accident was the pizza truck’s fault so she can pursue a lucrative negligence suit against the owners of the truck. However its when Shazia tries to get information from Mia with the Recaller device when things start to unravel and Mia is forced to protect her family and successful life.

My View

This one is bleak – very, very, very bleak – even for a Black Mirror episode. It was filmed in Iceland and looks gorgeous using the wonderful snowy, Icelandic landscapes to great effect. The performance of Mia by Andrea Riseborough is utterly brilliant as the hardened business woman just trying to protect her family and life. The story is pretty violent with numerous deaths along the way and gets quite tense a few times too. Everything wraps up nicely as the chain of seemingly unrelated events all come together via the use of people’s memories and leads up to a chilling but deserving finale. Not one of the pure genius episodes, but still a good solid one with a satisfying resolve.

Hang the DJ

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Frank (Joe Cole) uses an artificial intelligence program called the ‘System’ and a dating app called ‘Coach’ to find a date. He is paired up with Amy (Georgina Campbell) who is also using Coach. The System which runs the Coach app pre-selects everything from where they go on their date, what they eat and even how long the relationship will last. When Frank and Amy check Coach to see how long they will be together, they are told only twelve hours. After the meal, they are taken to a pre-selected location where they spend the night together and after the twelve hours are up, they part ways. Both Frank and Amy begin to question Coach and the System as to how it manages and selects the parings of couples. Coach states that is has users go on numerous dates until their perfect mach is found while it collects data of the two people to evetually match them with their ultimate life-partner on what its known as a ‘paring day’ with a 99.8% accuracy. Later, Amy is assigned a new partner lasting nine months – Lenny (George Blagden) and Frank is assigned Nicola (Gwyneth Keyworth) for one year. A paring day celebration for a new couple is held, Frank and Amy attend with their previously chosen respective partners and they reconnect with each other once more. When their pre-chosen relationships evetually expire, Frank and Amy are once again paired up with each other by Coach, both of them agree to not check how long the relationship will last this time around. The couple really do get on and there is a genuine shared attraction there…but how will their second time around work out, has the System and Coach got it right this time?

My View

An interesting take on online dating and dating apps with great satirical undertones running through it. This is Black Mirror’s take on a glossy ‘rom-com’, its a love story done really well with a twist…and for Black Mirror, not a necessarily downbeat, depressing twist either. The acting of the two main leads is really good and this helps to emotionally affect the story. There’s also some amazing visual symbolism worth keeping an eye out for. Even though its not too hard to second guess where the episode is going and what the twist will be, it still manages to leave a lasting impression and even a smile on your face.

Metalhead

Metalhead

Three petty thieves – Bella (Maxine Peake), Tony (Clint Dyer), and Clarke (Jake Davies) break into a disused and seemingly unguarded warehouse. While Clarke is preoccupied trying to steal a van to aid their getaway – Bella and Tony enter the warehouse looking for a specific box. The box is said to contain an object that will help one of their own called Jack and it must be important if the trio are willing to risk their lives to get it. Tony finds the box, but it is being guarded by a robotic dog-like machine. The machine kills Tony and also shoots electronic trackers that embed themselves in Bella’s skin. She runs out of the warehouse without the box and escapes in a car while Clarke uses the van. The guard dog robot chases them down, kills Clarke leaving only Bella alive. She then faces a nightmare as this robotic dog-like machine chases her through a post-apocalyptic wilderness with the intent of killing Bella…but all for what? Bella must fight to survive using only her wits, guile and whatever she managed to scavenge in this desolate land.

My View

This is the shortest of all the episodes coming it at around 40 minutes…but don’t let that put you off. Its also shot stylishly in black & white which sets it apart from any other episode in the series. I suppose if I were to boil this down to basics, this is a horror/slasher movie style tale. You ever seen The Terminator? Replace the T-800 with a robotic dog and Sarah Conner with Bella and you get the general idea. Its fast paced (most of the characters get killed off in the first few minutes) and tense chase story where the female is continually being perused by a killer robot. The machine itself packs quite a few surprises, so much so that you’re never sure of exactly what it will do next or what it is capable of with its many gadgets and weapons. There’s even a few light comedic moments that ease the more tense aspects of this story. The ending is a real downer that tops off a superbly written and directed episode.

Black Museum

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While out driving, Nish’s (Letitia Wright) electric car runs out of power, while waiting for it to be recharged – she accidentally discovers and enters the Black Museum. Inside she meets the proprietor, Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge) who takes her on a tour of the museum and tells her stories connected to several of the artefacts he has collected over the years. The first tale is of Rolo’s earlier life – he used to be a neurological research recruiter. He has in his possession a neurological implant that allows the user to feel the sensations of others. Rolo persuades Dr. Peter Dawson (Daniel Lapaine) to try out the implant which would mean he can diagnose his patients with much more accuracy, leading to a higher cure rate and save many, many lives. However, Dr. Dawson starts to misuse the implant for his own benefit and things start to backfire. The second story has Rolo convincing Jack (Aldis Hodge) to transfer the consciousness of his comatose wife Carrie (Alexandra Roach) into his brain. The idea being that Carrie will feel the sensations Jack feels and that will help her feel alive once morw. When he hugs their son, she feels the benefit, etc. While her consciousness will be in Jack’s brain, her body will be euthanized and her organs donated for medial use. But the downside is that Jack no longer has any privacy with his comatose wife’s conciseness always there and their relationship breaks down. Jack evetually meets Emily (Yasha Jackson) and starts a new relationship – much to the annoyance of Carrie’s consciousness. But with no body to put Carrie into, what can Jack do? The third yarn is one of convicted murderer Clayton Leigh (Babs Olusanmokun). Rolo convinces Clayton to sign over all the rights to his post-death consciousness when he is still on death row. After his execution, Clayton is turned into a hologram and used as a sadistic attraction in the museum. Meanwhile, back at the Black Museum. The truth as to exactly who Nish is gets revealed  and her trip to the Black Museum was not by entirely an accident…

My View

Very much like the previous Christmas special episode, White Christmas, this is another anthology episode with four interconnecting stories. The three flashbacks with Rolo talking about his past life before he opened the Black Museum and the current tale involving Nish visiting the museum. Big pre-warning for this particular episode – this one is chock full of nods, references and even spoilers from previous episodes. So my advice would be to watch this one last, not only so you can have fun spotting the references – but also to avoid any of the spoilers. All of the stories work well and the way everything comes together at the end is sublime. The final twist is a belter and a great way to end the season.


So there you have it, every episode of Black Mirror covered and reviewed…and without major spoilers too. If you are a fan of these anthology style shows then I strongly suggest this one. Its really is wonderful with brilliant writing and numerous episodes worth watching more than once. They are often bleak and depressing tales, but now and again the show offers a few sliver linings along the way. The only real downside is how long we’ll have to wait for another season.

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My Personal Picks

Okay, so for a while I thought about putting all 19 episodes in a ‘top 19’ ranking order from worst to best…but then I quickly realised I think there are several episodes that I would easily put at number 1. Its not so simple to pick apart an entire show where even the lesser episodes are still worth a watch and the better ones are nothing short of genius.

Instead I thought I’d just offer a list of 10 episodes I think you should check out if you don’t feel like trawling through all 19. Not in any particular order, no ‘top 10’, no worst to best or best to worst. Just 10 solid, well made and entertaining episodes you should most definitely watch and why.

  1.  The National Anthem. The first episode and I think its a great introduction to the world of Black Mirror.
  2.  White Bear. This would definitely make it as one of my top 1 episodes. The final twist is my favourite of the entire series.
  3.  Playtest. As an avid gamer, I loved this one. Not only is it a great tale but its also full of gaming references.
  4.  Metalhead. Sheer brilliance. This one is simple but really effective. I looks beautiful and offers a stunning story.
  5.  Shut Up and Dance. This is another one that would hit my number 1 spot. Its a well paced episode with a huge middle finger of an ending.
  6.  Hated in the Nation. This almost movie length episode is a thrilling cop drama with a plot and end that will drop your jaw.
  7.  Arkangel. This one stuck a particular cord with me as I became a father to a girl myself a few months back. I really related to this one and the moral questions it raised.
  8. White Christmas. The first anthology episode is well written and acted. Everything tied together nicely and the ending is justified and dark.
  9.  San Junipero. Often cited as the best episode of the series. Not for me but its still a fantastic yarn with a heartwarming/breaking ending.
  10.  Black Museum. While I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the other anthology episode – its still a cracker and well worth watching…last.

 

What Is Your Pleasure Sir?: A Hellraiser Retrospective

Well its that time of year again. Get the jack-o’-lanterns carved, dress up as a recognisable horror icon… or just dress up as anything not connected to the celebrations at all, stock up on candy to give to annoying beggars… sorry I mean trick or treaters. And best of all, lock yourself away in front of the TV in a darkened room and watch some horror movies because… its Halloween season!

Halloween

I wasn’t sure what to do this Halloween, I suppose a profile on Harvey Weinstein could have worked as that would’ve been scary enough. The twisted sick fucker.

After last year’s humongous, seven part An Incomplete History of Horror bonanza write up. I thought I’d dial things back a little this time around and instead of covering dozens and dozens and dozens of movies, over a century of horror films – this year, I’ll just do ten. Also seeing as its the 30th anniversary since the release of the original Hellraiser this year too – seems like a great time to do a Hellraiser retrospective.

Can you believe they’ve made ten of these things? I stopped watching after number three. But I have recently put myself through the extreme torture of the other films and watched all of them over the last week or so just to write this article for you lucky folks. I hope you appreciate the abuse I’ve had to endure. Jesus wept – being ripped apart by rusty hooks on chains would’ve been less painful. There will be mild spoilers ahead, but I will try to avoid any major plot points. Also – this is gonna be a long one.

There’s a lot to cover with ten films in total. So I’ll just be doing a brief synopsis of each flick dotted with a few other details and I’ll offer my own views/opinions on each of the films. Well let’s not waste anymore time, so…

Shall we begin

Hellraiser

Hellraiser frank

From the twisted and yet strangely alluring and sedcutive mind of Clive Barker comes this tale of love, passion, betrayal and rat skinning. Hellraiser was written and directed by Barker, based on his novella The Hellbound Heart and released in 1987… happy 30th Hellraiser.

So the film starts with a guy called Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) who purchases a mysterious puzzle box (A.K.A: The Lament Configuration) from an even more mysterious seller. Frank retreats to his family home and opens the box in an unused room on the top floor – the puzzle box is said to give the solver unknown pleasures… only these ‘pleasures’ turn out to be rusty hooks attached to chains which end up quite literally tearing Frank apart. So Frank is dead before the film really gets started.

Cut to sometime later and Frank’s brother, Larry (Andrew Robinson) moves into the house with his new wife – Julia (Clare Higgins). Its shown in flashbacks that Frank and Julia had themselves a cheeky little affair shortly before Larry and Julia were wed… there’s history there. As Larry is moving their belongings into the house, he cuts his hand and heads up to the same room where Frank was killed and also where Julia is reminiscing about her torrid affair with her husband’s brother. The blood drops from Larry’s wound kick-starts a series of events that leads to the re-birth of Frank and brings with it something much, much worse… Cenobites. These are creatures from hell or as the leader himself describes themselves: “Demons to some, angels to others.”

The slowly regenerating Frank recruits his ex-lover Julia to get him more blood so he can be fully free form his hellish torture and the Cenobites. But the leader of the Cenobites wants Frank back and he enters a bargain with Larry’s daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) to take Frank back to hell at all costs.

My View

This film was awesome back in 87 but 30 year later? Yeah, its still awesome. There is a weird ‘timeless’ feel to the picture that, at the same time, comes across as very fresh too. Yeah it has some of that ’80s cheese’, but its also reminiscent of some kind of haunted house film from the 1940s but made for today. Hellraiser was a bold and visceral flick that still packs a punch now and features one of the greatest practical effects I’ve seen in a horror film.

Frank Cotton rebirth

The re-birth of Frank is right up there with the likes of the werewolf transformation scene from An American Werewolf in London or THAT dog scene from Carpenter’s The Thing. Its grotesquely gorgeous to look at and brilliantly shot with wonderful music from Christopher Young paying in the background. The film never shies away from what it is… a bloody, brilliant mess. Yet it still has a great story under all of that blood and gore, an almost Edgar Allen Poe-esque twisted tale blended with a Shakespearean love story – topped off with sublime gothic overtones.

Barker’s direction is beautiful to behold, even at its most goriest. There’s a marvellous scene where Kirsty experiences a rather twisted and yet astonishing nightmare complete with terrifying ambient sound effects that I feel is mesmerising in its direction. The fact Barker chose to shoot in a real house over a set means he restricted himself in terms of camerawork – and yet that just adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere, as he had to use tight camera shots and subtle/slight camera moves to tell his story. This is an antiquated haunted house flick in the same vein as House On Haunted Hill (1959) or The Uninvited (1944) but with an 80s twist.

There are so many great and iconic images in this film from skinless Frank smoking to Julia’s transformation into blood-splattered murderess and of course – the main man himself… Lead Cenobite.

Pinhead

The Cenobites themselves are almost regal in their appearance and mannerisms, especially the main dude. Before the sequels, before he became a horror icon – Pinhead was credited as ‘Lead Cenobite’ and played by Doug Bradley- who would go on to play Pinhead in almost every Hellraiser flick from this point onward. He has some amazing lines in this film, speaking of which….

Lead Cenobite: “We’ll tear your soul apart!”

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Julia HellraiserII

The sequel was given the green-light before the first film was even released and  Hellbound: Hellraiser II hit theatres in 1988. Back were some of the cast and crew including Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence and of course Doug Bradley. Clive Barker was gone as director, but he did write the story and serve as producer. Now in the director’s chair was Tony Randel.

Opening up with a flashback showing a glimpse of the origins of Pinhead himself – the film quickly jumps forward in time to and picks up directly where the last film left off. Kirsty has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital following the events of the previous flick. She tells anyone who will listen about the puzzle box, the Cenobites and dead uncle Frank coming back to life – but no one believes her… no one except Kyle MacRae (William Hope) the assistant of Dr Channard (Kenneth Cranham) who runs the hospital Kirsty is being kept in.

It is later revealed that Dr Channard is in fact a follower of the puzzle box himself and has the mattress that Julia died on (from the first film) brought to him. Dr Channard also has one of his more insane patients brought to him, hands the patient a razor – which he uses to cut himself spilling blood onto the mattress which brings back Julia from the Cenobites grasp.

With the help of another patient – Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), Kirsty sets out to stop Dr Channard and Julia which takes them into a Labyrinth of Hell overseen by its God called: Leviathan.

My View

Hellbound: Hellraiser II is a wonderful film to look at, the set designs are stunning and the work put into the hellish labyrinth is marvellous and very atmospheric:

Hellraiser II Labyrinth

The story picks up right after the first flick and even comes equipped with its very own recap to get you up to speed. Overall, its a solid sequel… but it lacks that distinctive Clive Barker feel that it definitely would have had if he’d directed it. The story is a bit bland and the characters lack any real depth. Its a sequel that I feel it was rushed out and needed a little more time to be fully cooked and it comes across as a less coherent film than the first. Still there are some great moments in this picture such as seeing Dr Channard turned into a Cenobite… which looks painful.

Hellraiser II Channard.jpg

We get a glimpse of who Pinhead was before he opened the box and it offers an interesting insight without spoiling too much (the sequels will do that). A good sequel and well worth checking out – but just not as great as the original.

Julia Cotton: “They’ve changed the rules of the fairy tale. I’m no longer just the wicked stepmother. Now I’m the evil queen.”

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth

Hellraiser III

Well here we go, from this point on the films get bad… very, very bad. Doug Bradley returns as Pinhead and that’s about it. Everyone else is gone including Clive Barker (though according to rumour, he did return to do some ‘patchwork’ during post production). Released in 1992 and directed by Anthony Hickox, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth is the exact point where this franchise became a franchise and the beating of the dead horse began.

Opening with a much more detailed backstory as to just who Pinhead was before opening the box. We are introduced Captain Elliot Spencer (Doug Bradley) who we see open the puzzle box and become Pinhead during World War I.

Jumping forward to present time (well, 1992), some nightclub owner called J. P. Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt) buys a unique piece of art, it just so happens this piece contains the soul of Pinhead. After being bitten by a rat, J. P. spills his blood onto the art and this awakens Pinhead – but does not release him, he needs more blood to be fully free. J. P. agrees to help Pinhead by bringing him another victim.

Meanwhile, reporter Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell) gets visions of Captain Elliot Spencer who is trapped in some kind of limbo. So Joey and ghost Elliot team up to take down Pinhead.

My View

I don’t like it – lets move on…

Of course I’m going to rip this one apart more so than Larry/Frank at the end of the first film. To be honest, this is not a terrible film – its just a terrible Hellraiser film. The wonderful, regal and enigmatic Pinhead from the first two flicks is gone and has been replaced with Freddy Krueger… pretty much. Pinhead is now this wise-cracking slasher villain spouting one liners and badly written ‘humour’. That glorious Clive Barker imaginative and creative world has been destroyed and replaced with 1990’s North Carolina. There are new Cenobites introduced and they are shit – such as that CD face one that shoots CDs at people… cos you know, 90s!

Hellraiser III Cenobites

Police cars explode as do church windows, the police are unbelievably stupid… well all characters are to be honest and the plot is pathetic. The mystique of Pinhead is obliterated by the Captain Elliot Spencer backstory that we didn’t need or want. This is a far cry from the simplicity and effectiveness of the first film.

The studio wanted to make a more mainstream horror flick and they did exactly that. It panders to that 90s horror crowd, it cashes in and sells out by trying to make Pinhead the next Jason or Freddy and he loses all of his priestly persona due to this. In fact there is a scene where Pinhead wreaks havoc in a nightclub and the scene is very reminiscent of the pool-party scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. The film is just a bog-standard, typical 90s slasher film, I suppose its worth watching if you like that kind of thing – but its just not Hellraiser. Almost forgot, Ashley Laurence has a small cameo as Kirsty.

Pistonhead Cenobite: “Relax, baby. This is better than sex.”

Hellraiser: Bloodline

Hellraiser Bloodline

This one is so bad that its directed by Alan Smithee and any self respecting film fan should know who he is…

Released in 1996 – this was the final film in the franchise to be released theatrically and also the last one that Clive Barker had any involvement in. What started out as an ambitious and interesting concept was ruined by studio interference.

Okay, so there are three different timelines going on in this flick. So we have a prequel set in the 19th century telling how the puzzle box was first created. Then there is a direct sequel set in the 90s that explains the Lament Configuration building seen at the end of the previous film, and finally – there is a future sequel in the 22nd century set on a space station.

Its 2127 when Dr. Paul Merchant (Bruce Ramsay) uses a robot to try and solve the puzzle box on board a space station: The Minos, that he created. The film then flashes back to France, 1796 where we see Dr. Merchant’s ancestor, Phillip LeMarchand (Bruce Ramsay again) as a famed toy maker who creates the puzzle box under commission for the aristocrat Duc de L’Isle (Mickey Cottrell). LeMarchand is unaware of just what the box is for as L’Isle wishes to use it to sacrifice a peasant girl to please the demon Angelique (Valentina Vargas). LeMarchand is told his bloodline is now cursed for helping to create the box and open a portal to hell before being killed.

In 1996 John Merchant (Bruce Ramsay yet again), a decedent of Phillip LeMarchand, has built a skyscraper inspired by the puzzle box. The demon Angelique travels to America and releases Pinhead from the box. The two team up to cause pain and suffering to millions and kill John Merchant who is working on an anti-puzzle box, The Elysium Configuration. Back in 2127 and it seems that the opening of the box has freed Pinhead and his cohorts… in space!

My View

This film could have been amazing. It held such promise with an idea thought up by Clive Barker that would been much more in-depth and thought out. However, the production company cut the budget, ordered director Kevin Yagher to film a new ending and alter certain scenes that changed characters and their motives (which is why he’s credited as Alan Smithee). 25 minutes were cut from the film for the sole reason to get to Pinhead quicker and it ended up becoming a hatchet job.

Hellraiser Bloodline Box

Its a damn shame too because this could have been a worthy Hellraiser sequel. There are some great moments in this one, the whole 1796 France portion telling the origins of the box are really well done and the Pinhead and Angelique relationship is fun to watch too. Yet one of the biggest problems of the film is Pinhead himself, there’s just too much of him as the production studio force him down your throat – Pinhead works best when used sparingly. Plus, save a few examples, a lot of his dialogue is just awful.

This one is very hit & miss, you can really tell that it suffers from studio interference and we can only wonder just how much better this film would have turned out if they just left Kevin Yagher to direct the film he and Clive Barker wanted to make.

Pinhead: “Hell is more ordered since your time, princess, and much less amusing.”

Hellraiser: Inferno

Hellraiser Inferno

Well this is it folks, the start of the ‘straight to DVD’ era of Hellraiser. There is also another thing the films have in common from this point onward too – none of them were written as Hellraiser films at all. What we have now is a slew of unused film scripts nobody wanted to make – spec-scripts that the production company just threw Pinhead into.

The first Hellraiser film of the new millennium as this one was released in 2000 and directed by Scott Derrickson.

So this one follows a corrupt detective, Joseph Thorne (Craig Schaeffer) with a penchant for drugs and prostitutes. Joseph is called out to a murder scene which seems ritualistic in its execution. At the murder scene, he finds the infamous puzzle box which he solves and then starts to experience strange hallucinations and visions. Joseph eventually links the murder to someone (or thing) known as ‘The Engineer’. He investigates more murders, of which the victims are his friends and associates and he is soon considered the number one suspect.

Believing he is being driven mad, Joseph seeks out the help of a psychiatrist who is not all he seems to be.

My View

If this was a straight up story about a psychologically troubled detective – it could have been a quite interesting psychological thriller. But the fact they shoehorned in Pinhead to make it a Hellraiser sequel is a major failing and as a Hellraiser sequel is how I have to look at it.

Hellraiser Inferno Girls

It has pretty much nothing to do with Hellraiser at all aside from a few tenuous links and references. There are a couple of interesting scenes – like the one above where Joseph is ‘caressed’ by two prostitute Cenobites and his decent into madness can be an entertaining journey at times. But as an overall film and Hellraiser sequel – its atrocious and insulting to the name. Pinhead is used VERY sparingly in this one, so much so that you can really tell he was just thrown in at the last minute. Remember when I said earlier that using Pinhead sparingly is a good thing? Well here he’s actually under-used in a blink and you’ll miss him appearance.

Tony Nenonen: “What’s an eight-letter word for ‘slaughterhouse’?”

Hellraiser: Hellseeker

Hellseeker Kirsty.jpg

Directed by Rick Bota and released in 2002. So this one has a nice surprise – Ashley Laurence is back as Kirsty. But is that enough to keep the most hardened Hellraiser fan happy?

Okay so this time around, Trevor Gooden (Dean Winters) survives a car crash that plunges into a river, but his wife Kirsty Cotton-Gooden (Ashley Laurence) is nowhere to be found when police divers recover the car. Is she dead and if so, where is her body? A month later and Trevor wakes up in hospital suffering a head injury that affects his memory and grasp on reality. He struggles to find out what happened to Kirsty as well as keep himself sane. Its not until Pinhead turns up and explains exactly what is going on that the truth comes out.

My View

Much like the previous film, Hellraiser: Inferno, this one is a waste of a good idea. While I’d say this flick is ‘better’ than the last one – it suffers from a lot of the same problems. This too could have been a good, stand-alone psychological thriller and quite honestly didn’t need to be a Hellraiser sequel at all. Having Ashley Laurence back as Kirsty was a great and welcome idea too. But I feel she was misused here – knowing the ending to this picture and remembering her character from the first two flicks, it makes no sense.

Hellseeker Trevor

I don’t want to spoil the ending here as its actually pretty good to be honest – even of it doesn’t make a lot of sense character-wise. Also the reunion of Kirsty and Pinhead should have been an epic meeting, yet it feels very flat and a wasted opportunity. The ending may be a decent one, but the journey getting there lacks punch and is rather tiresome.

Chief Surgeon: “You’re freaking me out. And I’m a coroner.”

Hellraiser: Deader

Hellraiser Deader

And here we are at number seven (I can’t believe I’ve made it this far). Rick Bota returns as director, the film was released in 2005 and was a continuation of the ‘straight to DVD’ formula.

Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer) is a reporter sent to Bucharest by her boss after witnessing a video tape that seems to show a ritualistic murder by a supposed cult known as ‘The Deaders’ (we have a title people!). Amy finds the puzzle box and takes it home to open it… which (of course) unleashes Pinhead… or does it?

Amy eventually tracks down Winter LeMarchand (Paul Rhys) the leaded of ‘The Deaders’ and a decedent of the creator of the puzzle box (remember Hellraiser Bloodline?). Winter believes it is his birthright to own the box and everything that entails, including becoming the leader of the Cenobites. The film then becomes a battle between ‘The Deaders’ and the Cenobites… guess who wins?

My View

You know what? I’m willing to admit that the first 20 – 30 minutes or so of this one are actually pretty damn good. The scene were Amy finds the box is a particular highlight. You get a sense of not only that you are watching a good horror film, but that you are also watching a good Hellraiser film. Its moody, atmospheric and it all feels very Hellraiser-esque. Dare I say it? It even has a Clive Barkery style and tone. But sadly, the flick falls apart quite quickly after that.

Hellraiser Deader Chains

Unfortunately, this was another one of those non-Hellraiser scripts that was sitting on the shelf doing nothing, so the producers decided to throw in Pinhead and sell it as a Hellraiser sequel… and it shows. And again, I can’t help but think that this could have been a better stand alone flick if it had done its own thing. The ending is very ‘meh’ and you can really tell that Doug Bradley was starting to get more than a little bit bored of being Pinhead as his performance feels very phoned in. A great start, but the latter part of the film is dull and almost unwatchable.

Pinhead: “Dreams are fleeting. Only nightmares last forever!”

Hellraiser: Hellworld

Hellraiser Hellworld

Yes, Rick Bota is directing again for the third time and this one was released in 2005, same year as the last movie as they were shot back to back. So given the fact the last two films were directed by the same person and filmed together and the fact they were both released the same year – you’d think they would be connected plot-wise right? Nope!

So this one is about an online video game based on the Hellraiser franchise… seriously. It is set up that the movies exist in this films universe as fiction and the game within this movie, called Hellworld (we have another title folks), is spin-off/sequel to the fictional movies. So anyway, a teenager dies while playing the game and all his friends refuse to play the game ever again… until they are invited to a special Hellworld party held in a creepy old house.

This is when we are introduced to The Host (Lance Henriksen) who is – errrm… the host of this mass sex, drugs and shitty dance music party. As the party progresses, the teens end up being killed off one by one in unoriginal ways at the hands of The Host and Pinhead.

My View

This is pretty much considered the worst of the franchise and people who say this have never seen the next film…

Yeah this one is fucking terrible, a complete mess of a picture. There are a couple of plot twists thrown in, but if you have an IQ over two – then you’ll see them coming within the first five minutes. Is Pinhead real or not… ahhhhh, who fucking cares at this point? The other films in the franchise, even the bad ones had some redeeming qualities about them – this one does not. Okay, so Lance Henriksen is a joy to watch (when isn’t he?) and that’s about it.

Hellriaser Hellworld Pinhead.jpg

The plot is stupid, the characters are flat and instantly forgettable (I honestly do not remember any of their names), the acting is wooden and by now – its quite clear that Doug Bradley is only appearing in the film to pay the mortgage. You’ll be as bored watching the film as Doug was acting in it and this film marks his final time playing Pinhead. Oh yeah, Henry ‘Superman’ Cavill is in it too, so he has been in a film worse than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Its not scary, its not atmospheric, it not entertaining, its not Hellraiser.

The Host: “Like a bad horror movie, isn’t it?”

Hellraiser: Revelations

Hellraiser Revelations.jpg

Holly fuck-balls, this is going to be a lot of fun to write up. Directed by Víctor García and released in 2011. This flick is a desperate attempt for the production company to hold onto the Hellraiser license… and it really shows too.

So this plot revolves around two teenagers (don’t remember their names, don’t give a shit either) who travel to Mexico, and they film themselves (lost footage film people) partying and so on. Yet the boys disappear. Their belongings are returned to their parents, including the footage they filmed.

Twelve months later, the families of the two missing teens gather for a dinner party. The contents of the footage the boys recorded is brought up and the film is shown in flashback via the found footage on exactly what happened to the teens when an unexpected visitor arrives.

My View

Okay, so before I get into what I think of the film, I just want to share a couple of Tweets with you from the main-man himself – Clive Barker in relation to this movie when it was marketed as ‘from the mind of Clive Barker’…

Clive Barker Tweets

Bearing in mind we are now nine films in and despite not having much to do with any of the sequels aside from some behind the scenes stuff and absolutely nothing to do with any of the films after Hellraiser: Bloodline, Clive Barker has never once spoken out about the quality of any of the sequels. This is the film that broke his silence.

I’m not sure where to start with this abomination of a movie. To be honest, I could write a stand alone article on just how terrible this one is and it would probably end up being longer than this entire (very long) retrospective. Hellraiser: Hellworld was bad, really, really bad – but this one is a whole new level of terrible. The acting feels like you are watching a day-time soap opera…and a bad one at that. The plot feels as if written by a sixteen year old with a mental age of a five year old. The dialogue makes your ears bleed and the film looks like it was shot on someone’s phone from the around 2009.

I’m going to try a little visual experiment here. So what you are about to see is a side by side comparison between the original Pinhead from the first film and the new Pinhead in this one… brace yourself…

Pinhead Comp

Sorry, but I can’t help but giggle when I see that. The original Pinhead had a mystique about him, his mannerisms were amazing, he had a screen presence whenever he appeared (even in the bad sequels) and his voice was commanding as he spouted some of the greatest lines in any horror film.

The new Pinhead however… just look at him. I think they spent about $10 on the make-up. Stephan Smith Collins who plays Pinhead in this one is no Doug Bradley. His acting is wooden and he’s about as intimidating as an ant’s fart. He looks like someone who turned up to a horror convention in a home-made costume. You know, Doug may not have given a shit in the latter sequels when he played Pinhead… but he was never this terrible.

Right here I just want to explain how I complied this whole retrospective. Over the course of nine days, I watched the Hellraiser films from the original up to Hellraiser: Hellworld. Sometimes I watched more than one film in a day, sometimes I only watched one. I would take a day off now and again in-between to look at my notes and write this article. After day nine, it was time to watch this film… and that in itself took three days. I could not watch this film in one sitting and had to split it up into three separate sessions over three days. I sat through Hellraiser: Hellworld in one sitting no problem and that was atrocious. Also, this film is only seventy five minutes long and I had to split it up into three parts over three days – just let that sink in for a while…

Hellraiser Revelations pinhead

I still giggle at that! You silly cosplayer.

So I need to move on as I think my rant against this film is going on longer than my love for the original. But I need to wrap up. Remember how I said the other sequels were made from spec-scripts and they just threw Pinhead on to make them Hellraiser films? Because of that, you can kind of excuse some of the shortcomings of the films. This one however was written from the start as a Hellraiser sequel and yet it somehow manages to have even less to do with the franchise than the others. You know, I found at least one thing worth watching of all the sequels in this franchise, whether that be a great scene, an interesting plot twist, an acting performance. There has always been something (no matter how small) that I’d say was worth watching the film for – not with Hellraiser: Revelations, this flick has nothing redeeming about it – NOTHING. Please do not waste you time with this one.

I thought I’d end up by sharing a couple of tit-bits I discovered in my research for this flick:

It’s budget was around $300, 000 (obviously only $300 of that was spent of the effects and make-up the rest on drugs for the writer and director) and took less than three weeks to film. Also, the film was only made so Dimension Films would not lose the Hellraiser license and who owns Dimension Films? The Weinstein Company as in Harvey Weinstein and only someone as sick and twisted as that fat-fuck could come up with a film this shit (yes, managed to bring everything full circle to my Harvey Weinstein jab at the start of this article).

Vagrant: “This will take you beyond the limits. Places you can’t even begin to imagine. Sensual pain.”

But its not over yet…

Hellraiser: Judgment

Hellraiser Judgment

So there’s yet another Hellraiser film (that’s ten for those counting), but I can’t offer my opinion on this one as its not been released… yet. But I can tell you what is known of the film so far.

The film revolves around three detectives who team up to track down a serial killer. As they investigate, they discover the killer has otherworldly connections. (I’m calling it right now, one of the detectives is the killer and has links to the Cenobites) And that’s about all is known about the plot. The film will feature horror icon Heather Langenkamp playing a landlady. There’s a new actor playing Pinhead too…

Paul T Taylor Pinhead

Introducing Paul T Taylor as the new Pinhead… well he doesn’t look as bad as the last one.

But will the film ever be released? It was originally announced as being released on 28th of March this year, but that obviously never happened. Then it was suggested that the delay was because they are trying for a theatrical release – Pinhead himself even made the following Facebook comment.

Hellraiser Judgment Tweet

Yet there has still not been any news on the film, not even a trailer. Its all gone very quiet on the Hellraiser: Judgment front. The film has been completed but nobody outside of the production has even seen a single frame of it. Are they really trying for a theatrical release – or is it just too bad to be seen by the public? Some people are being very optimistic about the flick, but I have my doubts and the biggest one is writer/director Gary J. Tunnicliffe. You may not recognise the name, but I do – he wrote the previous flick Hellraiser: Revelations and you know how I feel about that one.

Seeing as I’ve watched all the films up to this point, I guess I’ll have to watch this one too… if its ever released. It can’t be as bad as Hellraiser: Revelations can it?

Overall

In hell

So how do I feel about the franchise as a whole? I think its awful, one of the worst horror franchises ever made. Pinhead once said: “Your suffering will be legendary even in Hell!” And after watching the entire series over the course of almost two weeks – I now know what he meant. This franchise is the movie equivalent of Hell and the deeper you go, the worst it gets.

The first film is amazing, the second one is a damn good sequel… and then it all goes very, very wrong. A few minor highlights aside – the films from Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth onward are just not worth it. You know, if they were clever, they could do a really good meta film – kind of like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. They could make out that the Hell that Pinhead and the Cenobites take people to is a non-stop, continual showing of the Hellraiser sequels with a double screening of Hellraiser: Revelations.

And just for a little bonus – a Hellraiser merchandise video promo that was found at the end of the original VHS release in 1988. Because, why not?

But I’m not done with my 30th anniversary of Hellraiser yet – as I’ve also taken a look a the unreleased Hellraiser NES game right here.