Universal horror: Werewolf of London (1935)


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IT SEEMS ALMOST criminal that this movie has been somewhat forgotten albeit from the hardcore cinephile.

Werewolf of London will forever be cemented in history as the first mainstream Hollywood feature to centre on lycanthropy and as such contains all the ingredients that would inspire more well-known horror films down the track, chief among these would be An American Werewolf In London.

The film centres on Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull), a wealthy English botanist who ventures into Tibet in search of the rare mariphasa plant.

Whilst on his expedition, Glendon is attacked by a werewolf but lives to tell the tale, but must carry the curse inflicted upon him.

Glendon’s quest was not a complete failure as he was able to obtain a sample of the mariphasa plant and as luck would have it contains the antidote (albeit a temporary one) to the traits of lycanthropy.

Upon his return to London, Glendon meets a fellow botanist, Dr Yogami, with a peculiar background, and just do happens to also be a werewolf.

A conflict arises between the two of them, particularly as Glendon learns that Yogami was the same werewolf that bit him in Tibet.

As his condition escalates, Glendon ventures transformed into the streets of London raising havoc and carnage and attacking and killing people along the way.

Glendon’s plight increases further when Yogami steals the plant sample for himself.

The rage boils over and an almighty clash arises, resulting in Glendon overpowering his foe.

Now succumbed to the curse, Glendon is drawn to his one true love, Lisa (Valerie Hobson) and is finally ploughed down when he is shot and killed in his attempt to murder her.

His dying words are ones of  gratitude, as he transforms back to his former self, a tragic tale, which would be conveyed to its cinema going audience and many werewolf tales to come.

Hull’s performance is impeccably sound as Wilfred Glendon and captures both his profession and eventual transformation with great believability.

In fact, one could go on to argue that it is because of his performance and believability grounds this movie into reality and harnesses his despair even further.

Credit must also go to Jack Pierce, the man responsible for Boris Karloff’s make-up as The Monster in Frankenstein, and would produce the make-up here too, although a minimal version from what he had intended.

According to accounts from Hull’s family, he had insisted on pairing back effects so that his face could be more visible and recognisable.

Despite Pierce’s disapproval, Hull would succeed in getting what he wanted with the support of studio head, Carl Laemmle.

Pierce would however get to flex his creativity once more, six years later on Lon Chaney Jr in The Wolf Man, but event that didn’t go down too well and Pierce fast got a reputation that was unlikeable among his peers.

Despite all this, director Stuart Walker was able to steer the ship and deliver a solid movie as a result, which can feel a little dated by modern standards.

Classic horror enthusiasts may enjoy the trip back to where it all began, but it is tame compared to the films being generated today.

  • Paul Farrell




Universal horror: The Mummy (2017)


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Or too many cooks spoil the cloth?

AT FIRST WHEN Universal first posed the concept of a shared Universe, now known as the Dark Universe, in order to release a string of movies that would link all their classic monsters together, I wanted to say that it was a bold approach, but it’s not exactly new.

As a fellow horror enthusiast pointed out on a social thread, Universal were the originators of the crossover worlds with the likes of House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula.

They were though, wanting to relaunch this product into a modern world for a contemporary audience, but there are a few things that prove as an obstacle to completing their vision.

And with these obstacles, Universal find themselves navigating a minefield of troubles which leads the picture to snag on every component along the way and unravel before our very eyes.

So let’s take a look at these obstacles, starting with the elephant in the room, otherwise known as…

Tom Cruise


I’ve been reading a lot about this in the past few days and something that strikes me a little is that people are very quick to point their fingers at Mr. Cruise, citing too much involvement and interference on his part.

But here’s the thing, whether or not this is true, the buck has to stop with Universal and their director.

They decided to cast Cruise in this vehicle and with that you have to expect him to bring some weight and opinion to the piece.

He is known for getting hands on with every project that he takes on, including all the stunts that he performs himself.

So why so surprised when this turns into a Tom Cruise project?

Director Alex Kurtzman may have handled big picture projects as a writer, but prior to The Mummy, he has handled only one other feature at the helm, People Like Us.

So was this a case that veteran actor, Cruise took advantage of this and began to steer said film instead?

Perhaps more questionable is that the script itself is so disjointed and incoherent that you wonder how someone like Kurtzman, (who also wrote this movie) with the vast amount of writing credits to his name managed to make such a botch job of it.

Which comes to the second point.

Lack of character.


Sure enough we are presented with a back story to Princess Ahmanet, but at no stage do we engage with her or identify with her plight.

This basically means that her level of menace is weakened and the fear element is lost – the anchor of the PG-13 rating on it and like the Mummy, the film spends most of the time restrained and unable to break free.

By the time that she does, it’s all too little too late.

I really had high hopes for the female Mummy component and seriously wanted her to kick arse, but when it did happen, it was fleeting and reduced to a whimper.

The supposed transformation of Russell Crowe


So restricted were the creative team behind The Mummy that even Russell Crowe was reduced to a feeble example of Mr Hyde.

On paper, this casting sounded perfect as we have seen portray some notably dark characters on screen before.

Instead we’re present with a gruff version of himself with yellowy eyes.

Sure, I get that they may have wanted to go with a more subtle approach, but why do this if the whole point is to let the monsters loose?

Zombie Vail


“You can be my wing-zombie anytime.”

While it was good to see Nick Morton (Cruise) spa with his buddy Vail at the beginning of the movie, which highlighted his recklessness, and I know I might be sounding fickle here, but it kind of got my goat, when they started riffing off An American Werewolf In London and have Vail come back as a zombie-buddy.

Even more so in the films climax, when they walk off into the sunset, ready for their next adventure.

The question is, will there another adventure?

Going off the poor box office receipts, you’d be forgiven to think that Universal would scrap their plans, but my overall feeling is that they’ll give it another push to win over their audience, which means there would be a lot riding on their next feature Bride of Frankenstein in order for them to see any payoff.

If the dominoes are now set in place for the crossover stories to take hold, then maybe, just maybe the producers will be free to flex their writing muscles and let the narrative go into some bold, new territory.

Ironically for their Dark universe to truly see any reward, Universal need to consider living up to the brand they’ve living by and take it darker.

As such, The Mummy was a mess that was placed too far into the light feel-good category for it to have the impact that horror fans were craving for.


  • Paul Farrell

Universal Horror: The Stephen Sommers era


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BACK IN 1999, Universal looked to resurrect The Mummy franchise with a fresh, new approach.

The last time the bandaged fiend had graced the screens for the picture company, was in 1955 accompanied by comedy icons Abbott and Costello.

Apparently the original premise for this remake had British horror/filmmaker Clive Barker at the helm with the offering of a much darker route that was sexually charged and filled with mysticism.

One can only wonder at the concept of Imhotep taking on the Hell Priest, Pinhead.

As it was, Universal decided on a different approach when hiring Stephen Sommers and for the next 10 years, a second wave of Mummy movies was formed.

THE MUMMY (1999)

Prior to stepping on board to write and direct the feature, Sommers had four movies under his belt with Catch Me If You Can, The Adventures of Huck Finn, The Jungle Book, and Deep Rising.

So enough charge to take the lead in a bold, new direction, one that was in complete contrast to Barker’s vision, dialing down the horror and injecting more action, special fx, and comedy.

The result saw an Indiana Jones style romp through Egypt, as the rogue-ish Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser), (who accidentally discovers the city of the dead, where the High Priest, Imhotep rests) teams up with the bookish Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) and her bumbling buffoon of a brother, aptly played by John Hannah.

The trio head back to the city, despite being warned by an Egyptian warrior, Ardeth Bey not to intervene, to discover the Book of the Living.

As they discover the statue of Anubis, deep within the tomb, they also encounter the remains of Imhotep.

Meanwhile, their counterparts, a group of Americans led by the cowardly Beni discover the Book of the Dead among some jars, which carry the preserved organs o Anch-su-Namun, mistress of Pharaoh Seti I, and lover to the afore-mentioned Imhotep.

When Evelyn reads a page from the Book of the Dead, she unwittingly awakens the High Priest, who casts the 10 plagues back to Egypt.

One by one, the Americans are dispatched with great fashion, heightening the scare partially through darkened alleys, and all-out assault on the victims.

It is down to our trio of archaeologists to put an end to Imhotep’s reign of terror and entomb him once more.

It may be nearly twenty years on since it’s release now, but I think that it’s fair to say that The Mummy still stands the test of time, partly due to the great mix of comedy and action on display, plus the chemistry between Fraser and Weisz on screen is enjoyable to watch.

Credit should also be cast towards Arnold Vosloo, who portrays Imhotep with enough menace to make it the fear placed on our protagonists seem genuine and his performance has come close in signature to his predecessor Boris Karloff some 67 years prior.

The Mummy proved to be a perfect mix to entertain and generated a generous draw at the box office, which could only mean one thing. A sequel would be a certainty.



The inevitably would occur a couple of years later and would see the return of O’Connell, Evelyn, (now married), Jonathan, Ardeth Bey and as the title suggests, the return of Imhotep.

The original players would come back to resurrect their roles and to ignite that much-loved chemistry once more for the silver screen.

Joining them in this movie is Alex O’Connell, the son of Rick and Evie, and the instigator of Imhotep’s rise from the grave.

With Alex’s life on the line, our intrepid heroes must try to save him within seven days, thus providing a tension of sorts to the mix.

Added to this is the unerring threat of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as The Scorpion King, who vowed to give Anubis his soul for the power to defeat his enemies. Here is a hint of an inevitable showdown with two foes on the horizon.

Along the way, Evelyn is captured by the reincarnated Anck-su-namun, who is eventually released but not without discovering that she lived a previous life as the Princess Neferiti. Go figure – let’s just crowbar that subplot in there.

There’s more drama in the mix as Alex is kidnapped too, then Evelyn is killed, only to be resurrected when Jonathon and Alex recite from the Book of the Dead.

The final showdown sees our heroes triumph over evil, of course, and riding off into the sunset, but the paying audience couldn’t help but feel slightly cheated by the special fx overriding care towards the character and plot, and because of this, some of the magic wasn’t carried across from its predecessor.

That didn’t deter our filmmakers from a third installment though, but first…



The last attempt that Universal took to amalgamate their Monsters universe would arrive in 2004, and would once again see Sommers at the helm to deliver the success received at box office with his previous two outings.

However, any harsh criticism that The Mummy Returns received seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as the same mistakes were repeated and furthermore, delved deeper still in the dire and diabolical.

Sommers goes hell-bent to deliver a CGI in fuelled overload with little or no care factor for the characters involved.

The result is that despite the desire to thrust the ”Monsters’ front and centre in an adrenaline, action-packed thrill-ride, there is no audience connection to said creatures and the desired impact leaves us wanting.

The usual ticks are there, with the distraught Frankenstein’s at the loss of his father who not only carries more compassion than the entire cast combined, but also the key to life – one that the melodramatic Dracula (and all-out bad-guy in this movie) played by Richard Roxburgh.

In fact the whole movie screams at high volume and extreme velocity that there’s no time to stop and think, but this is perhaps the director’s ruse all along – a vein attempt to hide that there is no substance or heart to the film at all.

As much as they try to inject some humour into the mix, with David Wenham’s friar, Carl, it’s not enough to elevate Van Helsing.

It’s saving grace if we can call it that comes in the form of the film’s leads, Kate Beckinsale as Anna Velarious (hot off the back of Underworld) delivering attitude aplenty, and Hugh Jackman as the titular character, dialling his Wolverine shtick up to 10.

Ultimately though, Van Helsing was a doomed experiment that falls short of Universal expectations and with it, the audience satisfaction.



The final effort during this era would come to an end in 2008, which says a lot about how the movie was received.

However, there was a lot going for the final act in the trilogy that shouldn’t be so easily scoffed at.

But let’s look at these pros and cons with a little bit of further dissection.

Firstly, out of the picture goes Stephen Sommers, which may actually be a good thing when you scrutinise his last couple of efforts.

Sommers has since gone on to what exactly? Directing the start of another franchise with GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra before disappearing into Egyptian dust.

In his place steps Rob Cohen, who had overseen action fare with Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Daylight, The Fast and the Furious, and XXX.

Also out was Rachel Weisz, for supposedly ‘citing problems with the script’ and to look after her newborn son.

This already sparked debate, as part of the appeal of the original movies was the chemistry between the leads.

The role of Evelyn O’Connell went to Maria Bello, who as fine an actress she is, couldn’t capture Weisz’ magic on-screen.

The script-writers do go some way to replicate this obvious change in dynamic by having Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser who does return) and Evie bored with the lack of adventure in their lives, but the damage is already done.

The leads are left to claw their way out of an impossible sandstorm of dialogue to try find that gem or sparkle between them.

The last of the returnees is John Hannah as Jonathon, but despite he’s spot on comic ability struggles to haul the deadweight of a script to life.

The injection of youth to the fore rests solely on the shoulders of a now grown up Alex O’Connell played by Luke Ford an actor schooled on the Meisner technique (a form of Method acting) in which you can’t fault him on his approach to authenticate his character, but once again the humour is missing which you could look to the script for its fault here.

Ford is believable enough, and is able to pull off the action-based moves with ease, but his character simply isn’t engaging enough.

The strengths though do reside with the Eastern contingency of the movie.

The choice to move away from Egypt and set up in China was bold, but the right one.

The franchise could have been in danger of stagnating, and this choice allowed for fresh new life to enter the fold.

Likewise the performances from Jet Li as Emperor Han aka The Dragon Emperor helped to lift the action from page to screen

As does Michelle Yeoh as Zi Yuan who performs with such gravitas that she puts the other actors to shame, such is the strength of her delivery.

It’s hard though to look beyond the faults though.

Despite the cast and crews best efforts, the audience is left with feeling like they’ve just witnessed the story as a square peg being rammed into a round hole.

A shame, as the ideas were there, but with too many of the original players falling by the wayside, the whole notion of recreating the magic.

Despite talks of a fourth instalment and Luke Ford attached to another 3 movies in the cabin, the truth was written in the sand with the poor box office return.
– Paul Farrell

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)


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I REMEMBER THE first time that I watched this film guided by the critical praise that had been heaped upon it and feeling somewhat bewildered by this.

I couldn’t get beyond Doctor Pretorius’ invention of the little people, which the FX were incredibly convincing for it’s time, but I just found that it threw me out of the picture because it defied logic and reasoning.

The science behind the novel and indeed it’s predecessor were ground in reality, but this felt like it had crossed a line and into the world of fantasy.

Some people out there might suggest that this is a good thing, but despite Bride of Frankenstein being described as James Whale’s masterpiece, I struggled.

Fast forward to today, when I sat down to review the movie once more, I still stinted at Pretorius’ revelation, but pushed this aside to discover a new-found appreciation for the film.

The opening in particular was a refreshing nod to the inspiration, and creator behind the novel, Mary Shelley.

It recounts of the now infamous discussions between Mary Shelley, her husband Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron.

In this instance she recounts how the original story was only the tip of the iceberg and ventured to tell the tale of more monsters lurking within.

It is here that the story picks up where Frankenstein left off, with the supposed demise of the monster within the burning windmill and Dr Frankenstein (Colin Clive resurrecting his role) being rescued from the rubble.

When lo and behold the monster resurfaces and swiftly dispatches a local and his wife along the way.

Our maniacal Doctor Frankenstein has softened, seeing the error of his ways and is hell bent to put an end to his studies, but is lured back into the laboratory by a fellow scientist, the afore-mentioned Pretorius.

Pretorius seeps into a place of darkness, as he journeys into a mad new “world of Gods and Monsters” in order to see through his experiments.

The strength of the movie though doesn’t come from our protagonists but instead by our antagonist, The Monster, who is once more played by Boris Karloff.

This is his movie and his chance to shine, and shine he does as the script allows him to show more of the human, loving, and misrepresented character.

One of the most powerful scenes comes about when The Monster is stumbling around in the woods and happens to come across a blind man.

This man befriends The Monster and is not swayed by judging him by his appearance.

The friendship is a strong one, as they share in the delights of music and smoking, but this world of companionship would soon come crashing down as some passing hunters discover The Monster and he is forced to flee once more.

The subject of companionship is a strong one in this movie, and drives the plot line forward.

Pretorious seeks the companionship of a fellow scientist as he seeks to carry out his experiments; Frankenstein ultimately is willing to end this in favour of the love he has for his wife; and of course The Monster seeks friendship and when he stumbles upon Pretorius, his offer is all too great and he is willing to follow the mad man.

The cruelty would come at full force though, when The Bride (played by Elsa Lanchester, who also doubled up as Mary Shelley in the film’s prologue scene) is ‘awakened’ but finds the sight of The Monster too horrible to comprehend.

All hell breaks loose and the walls come tumbling down, crushing all but Frankenstein and his wife, who manage to escape just in time.

The film is beautifully shot with some of the framework simply stunning, and along the way has heralded some of the most iconic images to fall in the Universal Monsters universe.

Karloff hits the heart with perfect pain and angst, and his harrowing demise (albeit a rushed conclusion) is the only fitting way for his life to find closure…

Forced into a world that wouldn’t accept him and then just as swiftly dispatched from it, with a cold and abrupt end.

It is worthy successor to the original movie and probably one of the finer sequels to ever have been made.

  • Paul Farrell

Universal Horror: The Black Cat (1934)


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PART OF ME so wanted to connect with this movie due to its strong placement in film history, pairing horror icons Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff together for the first time.

They would do so again a further 8 times throughout their career.

Both Lugosi and Karloff would find fame through their roles in Dracula and Frankenstein respectively and each had a further outing of their own, with moderate success, so it was inevitable that these two powerhouses of their day would cross paths before too long.

It pains me to say that I really struggled with with watching this movie.

Loosely based on the short novel of the same name by Edgar Allen Poe, The Black Cat had all the hallmarks of a classic horror story.

Our central protagonists Peter and Joan find themselves as unwitting pawns in a game between psychiatrist Hjalmar Poelzig (Lugosi) and architect Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Karloff), both whom flirt with their own sanity throughout the proceedings, although Poelzig is marginally on the ‘right’ side of the tipping point.

He does at one point though try to plead for Peter and Joan’s freedom having been ensnared in Werdergasts abode, by playing a game of chess.

Werdergast certainly takes home the crazy awards though with his collection of dead women that he keeps in glass cases.

The history between these frenemies runs deep, turning all the more bitter when Poelzig is imprisoned during the war, during which time Werdergast settles down with Poelzig’s wife, who is now dead and has become a feature in one of the exhibits.

It’s something of a convoluted mess, with the drama wrenched up to the max that it feels strained and forced.

Both Karloff and Lugosi pull off all the stops as they race to the ultimate showdown between the two for the film’s climax, but by this point I’d gone past caring and simply wanted the movie to find it’s end note.

In fact, were it not for the performances from both its leads, The Black Cat wouldn’t have received the kind of recognition that fell its way upon its release.

This coupled with the music score keeps the audience barely onside and despite this being Universal’s biggest box office hit of the year, The Black Cat ends up looking more like a drowned cat than screeching for the high notes of hysteria and horror that it was clearly aiming for.

Ultimately, something of a disappointment.

  • Paul Farrell


Universal Horror: The Invisible Man (1933)


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IT SEEMS THAT everyone is a flutter with the confirmed announcement of Johnny Depp’s attachment to the latest Universal franchise in The Invisible Man.

News that I could have sworn had drifted into the arena a while ago now but has resurfaced with his latest Pirates of the Caribbean outing.

It’s a choice that seems logical when you look at Depp’s filmography, in particular his leanings to the macabre and gothic stories that he has graced on the screen,

As part of some of the recent articles I’ve written, I’ve been casting myself back through the Universal Horror vault and scrutinizing the films of yester-year. When the production house hit their stride off the back of successes with Dracula and Frankenstein, they began to march out similar stories, some stronger than others.

1933’s The Invisible Man happens to be one of the better movies of that era. Based on the novel by notorious science fiction writer, H.G. Wells, who happens to have hailed from my neck of the woods in Bromley, Kent, England, so top bloke then. J

In this adaptation, Universal went all out to make the special FX convincing and frightening enough that it was considered groundbreaking for its time and still stands strong today.

Whilst watching the movie, the use of this effect is certainly the centerpiece and Universal weren’t shy in using it, and threw the audience into the action, fairly early on, with a slight build up of character development before hand.

FX aside, it is Rains who steals the show with his performance as Dr Jack Griffin aka The Invisible Man in what was his debut in an American feature.

Despite the fact that we only ever see his face in the films conclusion, Rains manages to portray the maniacal menace of the doctor, (who curiously the story of his unfortunate transition is never seen) with absolute believability.

Rains would go on to feature in several Universal features including The Wolf Man and Phantom of the Opera.

But for me, he will forever be cemented as Capt. Louis Renault in Casablanca.

There is an amiable support cast too that lends weight to the strength of this film including Gloria Stuart (The Old Dark House, and the older Rose in James Cameron’s Titanic), Henry Travers (It’s A Wonderful Life), and Una O’Connor (Bride of Frankenstein).

All of whom are helmed together by the fabulous director James Whale, who also directed Universal’s last successful film, Frankenstein, proving that this was no mere fluke and would go on to achieve further success with Bride of Frankenstein.

Such was the success of this feature that it would spawn several sequels, including one that would star Vincent Price.

It as often been emanated but never in my humble opinion repeated. The less said about John Carpenter’s The Memoirs of an Invisible Man and The Hollow Man, the better.


– Paul Farrell

Raw (2017)


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IT’S NOT OFTEN that a movie will leave me feeling that strange, eerie sense of detachment.

As if one’s soul has been ripped away from the body and thrust into the open space to drift in the emptiness.

It’s a feeling of confusion that leaves you wondering what took place that makes you feel a strange mix of emptiness and euphoria.

The last time I can recall feeling this way, was after viewing Gaspar Noe’s controversial movie, Irreversible.

Although Raw deals with a completely different subject matter, it does something similar in crashing head long into a terrain that some may find difficult to handle, and perhaps too confrontational, but in both cases, they are subjects that warrant addressing with a fresh new take, in order to shake things up a bit.

On face value there are some that might be turned away at the prospect of Raw, the tale of vegetarian Justine, (Garance Mariller, who incidentally delivers a stunning performance) who loses all sense of herself in her first week of veterinary school and eats raw meat for the first time.

All the trailers and imagery surrounding the movie have centred on a bloody Justine, who on one hand heightens the gore factor, but what it fails to convey is the sheer depth of this movie.

It’s more than a sensationalist shock-fest and deep down is a coming-of-age story.

When Justine is dropped off at University, she’s somewhat abandoned to her own devices by her parents to make her way in this strange new land.
Her only lifeline comes from her older sister, Alexia, (played by Ella Rumpf, who is equally charismatic and engaging on screen) but is far from the person that Justine once knew and because of this finds it hard to connect with.

The early scenes at the University are immersed in a world of chaos and anarchy – an almost Lord of the Flies situation, where the “Elders” are left to rule the roost and the teachers appear strangely absent and willing for the wild parties and engagements to reign.

It’s an indication to of our times and Director, Julia Ducournau in her feature debut, certainly has her finger on the pulse capturing the very heart of the youth’s struggles as they reach their sexual awakening with only each other to turn to in order to learn from. And sometimes we might not like what we see.

Admittedly, I found the first 20 minutes hard to get into, but as soon as I was immersed in the world that was created, I became instantly absorbed and willing to be taken along Justine’s journey of elation, repulsion, disgust, and delight.

The confusion she feels as she experience all these emotions at the same time, leaves her in disarray, and what at first appears to be a cruel turning point when her taste for the flesh lunges for the one lifeline that she has, only to have the tables turn in a deliciously exciting way.

The relationship that Justine has with Alexia is vital for this movie to pay off and relies on the strength of both actors. It beautifully captures that whole love/hate sibling rivalry, where blood is thicker than water and sometimes family is all we have to rely on at a time when the very thought of that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The more I think of it, the more beautiful and powerful a movie Raw appears to be. It evokes so much emotion that it lifts you up on high and lets you marinade in the bloody mess that is left behind.

Even as I write this up, I can feel that same sense of elation deep in my core.

It’s hard to shake and I can’t recommend this movie enough.

A glorious insight into the chrysalis of youth, what emerges is a thing of beauty.
I can only marvel at the wondrous sight that was presented and watch it soar high into the atmosphere.

By far and away, the best movie I’ve seen this year, and I could venture to say, the best movie I’ve seen in the last few years.

Do yourself a favour.

Go and see this movie and have your own celluloid awakening with this feast for the eyes.


– Paul Farrell

One Night in Candle Cove


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When some bright spark from the Surgeons of Horror camp came up with the notion of doing a marathon session of Syfy Australia’s latest horror drama, Channel Zero, there were nods of approval around the table, but when it came to which team member should actually perform the task, all eyes quickly settled on the only one deranged enough to take it on, yours truly, ‘Mad Moon’ Maguire.

Pathetic really, but as the night shift tends to my basic needs, I was more than willing to fill that void within the mind of Kris Straub, (who penned the story that the series is based upon) and Nick Antosca, (series creator).

The concept was a simple one, to create a 6 Part series based on the Creepy pasta stories that have become popular in recent years online, and the first subject would be centred around Candle Cove.

You may have seen images already some of the creatures that inhabit this nightmarish world, and it’s not until you immerse yourself into the story as it unfolds that Candle Cove really gets a stranglehold on your psyche and begins to mess with your mind.

There are a lot of elements at play here that were clearly inspired by known properties. Some reviewers have likened it to a cross between American Horror Story and The Twilight Zone and whilst I personally see it falling into the latter camp, I can also see aspects of David Lynch, Children of the Corn, and Stephen King.

Paul Schneider portrays the child psychologist Mike Painter, who returns his hometown after suffering his own psychotic episode.

Throughout the series, we constantly question the stability of our lead protagonist as he delves into the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of his brother all those years ago and the murders that occurred during that time.

Schneider’s performance is beautifully subdued and because of this lends weight to his spiralling madness and / or tangled web of the supernatural that we plummet into on his journey.

While the first episode sets up the intrigue that is embodied throughout Candle Cove, the second episode allows for further character development to come to fruition just before it pulls the rug from under your feet leaving you questioning just exactly who you should trust.

This is all part of the strength that lies within Candle Cove.

Just as the kids seemingly fall under some evil trance, we too are lured under its spell, falling deeper within the labyrinth of despair.

There are shocking and confronting moments all held within this disturbing world, leaving you gripped and eager to delve further into its dark recesses.

And the further we go, the more secrets there are to unfold.

By the end of the journey, we’re left satisfied with its completion, knowing that all appears to have been resolved, even though it may have strengthened our fears of puppetry, tooth monsters and anything else that maybe lurking beyond.

Roll on the next instalment of Channel Zero entitled The No-End House, due to be released in October.

  • ‘Mad Moon’ Maguire

Get Out: 6 hidden moments that lured us under its hypnotic spell


DESCRIBED AS A social thriller, Get Out is fast becoming the must-see horror film of the year.

Brought to the screens by the brilliant Jordan Peele, with his sharp observations on society and culture.

In particular, Get Out focuses on the racial divide in America.

Whilst there are some moments that are blatant statements of the issues faced in the US, there are some that are a little more subtle.

So many layers are placed in this movie that when watching, you almost feel like you’ve transcended into your very own ‘sunken place’, paralysed by in Peele’s world, searching for a way out of the madness that surrounds our central character, Chris.

Here are 7 Key moments that you may have missed on first viewing

  1.   “Run” 
    It’s a common theme within the movie – more prominent with the song Run, Rabbit Run, that’s played at the start of the movie, but emphasised even more so, with a Swahili song that also feature in the movie, which when translated, tells us to listen to your ancestors, and run.
  2. No trace of I.D.
    When Rose hits a deer with the car, did anyone notice her lack of empathy?
    Chris is drawn to see the deer as it instantly reminds him of his own mother, who was knocked down in a hit and run, but when the cops arrive,
    Rose is very quick to defend Chris and not let the Cop force home to give out his drivers licence.
    On face value, this might seem like an empowering moment as she stands up for her man, but in light of what transpires later in the movie, could be viewed as Rose covering her tracks.
    If there’s no record of her and Chris being together, she can hide all trace of his inevitable disappearance.
  3.   The Black Buck
    Briefly mentioned by Rose’s father with an off-hand comment, with his lack of love for bucks or deer is actually racist slur in post-reconstruction America.
    It was used by those in white authority on Black men who refuse to ‘tow the line’.
  4.   Silver spoon
    Speaking of bowing to authority, the method that Missy uses for her hypnosis treatment labours the point further around ‘White supremacy’ with the aid of a silver spoon.
    A symbol of how the elite can rule and control those in a ‘lesser’ position.
  5.   Cotton picker
    Slightly more obvious is Chris’ method of escape. When tied down, he literally has to pick the cotton embedded in the chair, in order to win his freedom.
    It’s a strong and profound moment in the movie.
  6.   Froot Loops and Milk divided.
    Believing that all is in order, Rose resorts to her basic behaviour and let’s her guard down in search for her next victim.
    Whilst she does this, Rose eats some Froot Loops on their own before consuming some milk.
    An odd behaviour in itself, but on closer scrutiny symbolises the separation of colour from the white that is deeply embedded in her psyche.

It feels as though I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg with this one.

Get Out is so deeply layered that it warrants a repeat viewing or two to really appreciate Peele’s work.

And with the promise of several more social thriller instalments on the way, I can’t wait to see what Peele serves up next.

  • Paul Farrell

Devil Woman – Interview with Heidi Lee Douglas


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Heidi Lee Douglas.

If her name isn’t one your register, it should be.

An award winning writer, director who garnered recognition with her political/social film Defendant 5, Heidi Lee Douglas documented the destruction of Tasmania’s rainforest, only to suddenly find herself thrust into a legal battle.

The right of free speech was being stifled, and yet she persisted in getting the project out of the wilderness and into the limelight.

Since then, Lee Douglas has formed her own company, Dark Lake Productions with amazing results including the short gothic thriller, Little Lamb.

Now though, she has turned her attention to a new project, Devil Woman, a smart horror film that takes the viewer directly into the coal-face of human conflict over our relationship with the environment.

The film draws from the world of zombies and shape-shifters, with the added flavour of Lee Douglas’ penmanship that adds a unique voice in the horror genre.

It’s an Australian story that embodies the diverse terrain of the Tasmanian landscape.

Devil Woman is currently looking for support through crowd-funding via pozible, so if this piques your interest, then head on over and contribute.

Want to know more? Well the Surgeons team recently had the opportunity to sit down with Heidi Lee Douglas to discuss this passion project. Check out the podcast below.