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My top 10 films to watch this Halloween

Summer is gone, and that means the beast called winter is fast approaching. First though, Halloween is thrust upon us. Although here in the U.K it’s not as huge as it stateside, we still embrace it, and so i decided to put together a list of my favourite movies to watch this Halloween ranked in reverse order from 10 to 1. This is a list of my personal choices and the reasons why i love them. Disagree or want to list your own top 10? Leave a comment and let me know! So, Let’s kick things off with no 10 on my list of Halloween movies:

 

10: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY

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Say what you like about the so so sequels, but for me the first in this franchise was surprisingly effective at using the whole found footage idea. Tense and filled with suspense, it came at a time when found footage films were relatively new and, dare i say, original. If you haven’t seen it already, there was also an alternate ending shot for the film which i think is better than the one used in the theatrical cut, but even now a few years on, this is still well worthy of a watch this Halloween.

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9: SHAUN OF THE DEAD

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Cornetto! Shaun of the Dead is still one of my favourite ever movies. If i happen to catch it on TV, I’ll still watch it. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost steal the show as a couple of hapless working class people caught up in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. This is a funny film, and in my opinion the best of the Pegg/Frost Cornetto trilogy of movies (the others being HOT FUZZ and THE WORLD’S END). A great supporting cast help drive the film along as Pegg and Frost go from one blunder to another. It has comedy, zombies, blood and a couple of surprisingly touching moments. If you want something a bit lighter amid the horror this Halloween, this one is for you.

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8: CABIN IN THE WOODS

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Another one which has more laughs than scares. This film takes every cliché in horror and puts a clever twist on it that makes it an incredibly fun watch. This is mindless fun but fun nonetheless. Another one to disengage the brain and watch without taking it too seriously.

 

 

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7: JAWS

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Still one my favourite movies of all time, Jaws in a masterclass in building drama and tension. Showing how sometimes less is more, the film still stands up well today, particularly the recent Blu Ray restoration which looks stunning. I’m sure you’ve all seen this one multiple times, and Halloween is as good a time as any to dust off the DVD (or aforementioned Blu Ray) and give it another watch.  Also consider checking out the book. there are some key differences between the two versions which give a very different experience.

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6: POLTERGEIST

poltergeistForget the recent awful remake. I’m talking about the original film which scared me to death as a kid. There is one particular scene with a toy clown which, after seeing as a child scarred me for life and made me afraid of them ever since. If you’ve only seen the recent remake, you NEED to check out this original version. It succeeds everywhere the new one fails and still delivers a creepy experience years later. Perfect Halloween viewing.

 

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5: 28 DAYS LATER

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Halfway through the list and we come to one of my favourite zombie films. 28 Days Later was a bit of a sleeper hit when it was released, and with its fast moving zombies and stellar british cast, you won’t go far wrong with this one. not only is this the story of the apocalypse, but also has a lot to say about the brutality of man and how even in the face of disaster there are worse things out there than the undead.

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4: THE SHINING

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Number four on the list is Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. This is another film that i remember watching when i was younger and it scaring me. I recently watched it again when it was remastered for Blu Ray (like Jaws, with breathtaking results) and found it to be just as creepy now as it was then. The sense of foreboding and isolation is captured perfectly as the overlook hotel slowly begins to change Jack Torrance from loving husband and father to something much worse. another perfect Halloween watch.

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3: CREEPSHOW

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Anyone who knows me knows i LOVE a good horror anthology, both in written form or visual, and Creepshow is one of my favourites. it was a close call between this and the Twilight Zone movie, but i still have a soft spot for this one so it got the nod (just). I remember having a grainy VHS copy of this back in the day and having no clue that Stephen King not only wrote it, but starred in it too. (check out his super hammy performance in The lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill). Every story in this is a hit for fans of the genre.

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2: TRICK R TREAT

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I couldn’t decide for a long time between the number one and two spot. In the end, i placed Trick R Treat at number two. Another anthology of individual stories told non chronologically (Cheap plug: much like the coming reissue of my story collection, Dark Corners available on Halloween and available now to pre order HERE). Each story is brilliantly clever in their own right. You will see scenes from other tales from different perspectives and angles as we jump around the timeline of Halloween night revealing horror after horror. GO BUY IT!

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1: HALLOWEEN

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What else could top the list but the john Carpenter classic? Shot on a miniscule budget, Halloween is a masterclass in horror. The fact that our monster (the iconic Michael Myers) stalks around in daylight instead of solely jumping out of the shadows like many other films of the era gives it an edge. Then of course there is the musical score. Everyone gets goosebumps at that, surely? The sign of a good film is in how well it ages and Halloween is just as frightening today no matter how many times you may have already seen it.

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And so that’s my list. Not strictly the best films, but my favourites. Think something is wrong or have a different opinion? Leave a comment and let me know. List your favourites and why, I’d love to see what you recommend.

 

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Graphic novel review: Sick B*stards issue #1

Sick B*stards was the first black cover Matt Shaw book I ever read and I always thought it would translate well to other mediums. Now, a couple of years and a ton of success later, we have the graphic novel adaptation just about ready to release and I am excited to say I have read it and want to share my review of it here. As you know, Matt and I have worked together on and off over the years and chat daily about mostly pointless things, I and I know trying to get this off the ground has been both stressful and expensive, so I want to say how happy I am for him that not only has he done it, the results are spectacularly good. So, to the (Spoiler free) review.

First up, as a word of warning, the black cover range of books carry a warning on the front and, as readers of Matt’s work will know, he pushes beyond the boundaries of taste and makes no apologies for it here. The opening pages of Sick B*stards  follow that theme and are both graphic and shocking, setting the scene for what is to come.  The book has a certain tone. It is dark, claustrophobic, the story essentially a post-apocalyptic tale of survival but grounded in reality a world away from the bigger scale books and movies. Issue one introduces us to a family learning to survive in the aftermath of some global catastrophe, yet there are no wastelands here which helps sell the immersion. Instead, we focus on the family who, as the story progresses reveal that dysfunctional would be too kind a word, especially when we learn how they have learned to exist in a savage new world.

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The artwork in this graphic novel is phenomenal, and embodies the bleak nature of the story and is reminiscent of Alan Moore’s sublime From Hell but with use of colour, the world is shown to us in shades of green and brown, the details in the linework subtle and yet intricate at the same time. Long story short, this is a gorgeous looking product and all involved should be incredibly proud of the end result.

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As with a lot of Matt Shaw’s works, the story told here jumps to different time periods, giving is a deeper look at the characters before the events set in the modern day. There is a certain sympathy, particularly for the son of the family, as we see his struggles to adapt to the new world and find his place within it amid the backdrop of depravity and horror that is never far away. The fact that we manage to feel sympathy for characters who should disgust us is a real strength of the story and one which I hope carries through into future issues.

All in all, Issue one of Sick B*stards is a triumph. The introduction to the story is paced just so that we learn enough to want to move forward and see what comes next. Matt and his team are currently raising funds to produce issue two, which I sincerely hope happens as it would be a shame to see this project die. If you want to support their efforts, you can do so by clicking HERE.

If you haven’t read the original book, you can pick it up via Amazon by clicking on the links below. Get it. Read it. And revel in the slightly dirty feeling it gives you.We all know you’ll enjoy it.

A rock solid 9/10 score for this one.

GET THE NOVEL THAT STARTED IT ALL, SICK B’STARDS BY MATT SHAW AT THE FOLLOWING LINKS:

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Stranger Things SEASON 1 REVIEW

A homage to 80’s horror done right.

There has been quite a reaction to the new Netflix exclusive Stranger Things. It seems that every other post on Facebook was about somebody watching and raving about it, and so, as the credits roll on the final episode, I feel ready to give my verdict to go with the zillion others out there right now.If, like me you were a child of the 80’s, then you will immediately fall in love with the tone of this series right from the start. Everything from the set and costume design to the sinister synth tones of the opening title sequence takes the viewer back to the days of The Goonies, E.T, Eirie India and of course the Horror Movies of that era. There are no mobile phones or Pokemon Go here, but BMX bikes and the great outdoors.

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The plot centres around a young boy called Mike, who, after an evening playing dungeons and Dragons with his friends, cycles home. On the way, he encounters something in the woods which follows him home. The unseen entity follows Mike to the shed, where after a tense standoff he disappears into thin air. What follows is the search for Mike as things grow more and more strange and tense by the episode.  His friends Finn Wolfhard (Mike)  Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas)  and Gaten Mattarazzo (Dustin)  who are a Goonies like bunch if ever there was one, stumble across a young girl in the woods when out looking for Mike. she is shaven headed and confused, marked by a tattooed 11 on her wrist (played expertly and with haunting conviction by 12 year old Millie Brown) who seems to have strange mind bending powers not unlike a certain girl in a certain Stephen King novel.  The interplay between the kids is charming and often funny, which are moments offset by the traumatic breakdown of Mike’s mother, played with superb believability by Winona Ryder in what has to be one of her strongest career performances to date.

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As this is a spoiler free review, i don’t really want to go too deeply into the details of the plot (as it would spoil your enjoyment of watching. As the search for Will goes on and Mike and the rest of the kids get to know the mysterious Eleven, the supporting cast are left with plenty to do. David Harbour is the town sheriff, who finds that his simple case of a missing child has started to grow into something much more intricate and potentially deadly. Natalie Dyer’s performance as the quiet desperate to do get with the in crowd Nancy Wheeler is also worthy of note, as her struggle for acceptance and eventual involvement in the overall storyline weaves in and out of the main narrative before all of the separate threads come together for the finale and the mystery is finally revealed.

If 80’s nostalgia is your thing, and you are a fan of 80’s Spielberg of the movie adaptations of Stephen king, then this is definitely worth checking out. If not, check it out anyway, if only for the soundtrack. True, Stranger Things doesn’t tread any new ground, and there are many elements you have seen before, but in a world where people spend their days chasing pokemon and staring at their computer screens, it’s refreshing to go to a time when such things didn’t happen. Thankfully, Stranger Things has been renewed for a second season, and i for one will be watching.

Final score:

8/10

Well worth a watch and a wonderful homage to the 80’s. Recommended.