Friday, 29 October 2010

A quiet night in with the wife...

Greetings Earthlings,
Where do I find the time?
I remember when time was a bountiful thing. Summers lasted forever. Entire weekends could be spent round a friends house. And a whole day could be wasted as one saw fit.
Alas, like sand through a tightly clenched fist does time now run through my fingers. As you get older time seems to get less and less, the days less satisfying, maybe thats what Einsteins theory of relativity is all about. The friends I dont see anymore. The hobbies I no longer pursue. The projects I no longer have time for.
A classic line I remember from Homer Simpson: If God wants me to be in church an hour a week, He should have made the week an hour longer...
Such is the precious commodity that is TIME.
Aah, but are we not told to gracefully surrender the notions of youth as we climb the temporal ladder of entropy? And what is spare time if not to be filled with mans folly?
And fill it with folly I do. Computer games have always been my guilty pleasure. Countless hours There, I said it. FUN. Sure, a certain amount of frustration as well, but the satisfaction of leading an army to victory, of governing a civilisation to the pinnacle of its existence, of commanding a fleet of Battlcruisers to interstellar war, or even on a more personal level, stabbing someone in the neck or blowing someones head off with a shotgun. Theres is nothing like it. And together with todays level of immersion its never felt so real.
Okay, well both fuss and derision swirled around Medal of Honour, Tier 1 released earlier this month. Why? Well the Medal of Honour franchise is a big, healthy, strapping brute with a solid heritage, made slightly lame by a number of successful attempts to steal its crown. The first Medal of Honour title was co-produced by none other than Steven Spielberg and was at the time one of the best Nazi trouncing FPS' out there. Having milked WWII's teats dry however, games such as Call of Duty now take us onto the modern, super-tech battlefield of today against insurgents and terrorists. A lot was expected of Medal of Honour Tier 1, thanks in no small part to clever PR and hyping it up the arse. The thing I liked the most about it was that it didnt feel as if it was trying to be Call of Duty. Which is difficult when Call of Duty has set the bench mark for modern first-person-shooters. One things for sure it doesnt surpass Call of Duty. But is fresh enough to be enjoyed. Clunky and clumsy in places and a Multiplayer that just lacks the volume of customisation that most of its rivals have, I can see why it has not ranked as highly as it should. With a big, hyped title from a strong stable like it has, I think a lot of people were expecting it to blow the bollocks off of Call of Duty. Nah! Not a chance and with Call of Duty's new title looming for a release next month this Medal of Honour title has a danger of being lost in the mix. Saying that I dont feel disappointed when I play it, and the Multiplayer will probably keep me coming back for quite some time... because it is markedly different from Call of Duty. I enjoy the gritty, atmosphere it has. You can smell the desert musk, and feel the sand on the back of your throat as you play through the campaign. Good, but not as good as perhaps it should have been.

Big D's tips on a successful marriage: Always keep a door to your world (however small) open to your partner. My wife hates horror, superheroes and computer games. Hmmm... Why havent I killed her yet?
Non, non, non. Vive Le Difference! It is our differences that keep us united. A raging ying to a sobering yang. I have always left a door to my world open to my wife, and sometimes... just sometimes, you get it just right. Seek and find or Hidden object games are a little sedate for me, but my wife and I have enjoyed them in tandem. Games like Dire Grove, Mystery at Hillcrest High, Tunguska, are just a few... Their skewed logic is sometimes infuriating but on the whole they are fun, and even more so with your loved one.
My latest triumph in marital relations was Cities XL 2011. Again a fairly recent game, and not one to get your pulse racing. But the content, the playability and the attention to detail is fabulous. Forget staring into your Aquariums, never mind tending your ant-farms, flea circuses? Thing of the past mate.
Me and my wife have built a small city and civilisation in great depth and detail, arguing... sorry deliberating over whether to put a council estate next to the executive housing complex, whether we should spend money on a pier and marina, where we should build our city dump site, and how to solve the problem of traffic congestion in the middle of town. I have just got my way and built and observatory, and she got hers by building a scenic castle on the outskirts of town, overlooking the coast. So... Cities XL 2011, nice, scenic, unrushed, stress relieving, marriage saving fun.

In closing I'd like to give a nod to Amensia: The Dark Descent. A bugdet title that delivers frights, jumps and things that go bump, wuuooooah! and aaaaaaeeerrggh! in equal measure. A stylish, atmospheric game thats not outstanding, but adequately does what you expect it to do. So, a horrible thumbs up for Amnesia: The Dark Descent, if anyone wants a frightful experience on their computer this Halloween.
(All game reviews are PC format)
Big D out.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


Now, way back in the mists of time, I remember having an Enid Blyton audio cassette. I seem to recall it was a Famous Five story involving smugglers, but werent they all? I would listen to aforementioned tape before bed, and Blyton's wholeseome yarn would lower me gently into the Land of Nod.
As I grew, however, Enid Blyton was found wanting, as my swelling lust for terror and all things horrific craved blood & monsters!
I borrowed a vinyl record from my local library, a Dracula-hybrid story of some description, and on a shopping trip to John Lewis with my mum, I asked her to buy me a new audio cassette; Tales of Terror: Edgar Allen Poe I had chosen.
Unfortunately the library record was scratched to buggery and barely audible and Poe's prose went straight over my 7 year old head. I could tell by the way the narrator was reading, that it was meant to be scary, but 'Vainly I had sought to borrow, from my books surcease of sorrow...' did little for me. What a savage, little philistinic child I was. But worry ye not, I would revisit Poe some time later and fall in love with him.
Mum was always sympathetic to my horror needs, and we would sit up late at weekends and watch horror double bills. This is converse to my dad who would take me to the Everyman Cinema in Hampstead where we would watch Sci Fi double bills. My parents were a sort of Horror-Sci Fi Jack Spratt and his wife. It has always suprised me that neither of them could make the jump either way, as there is such a blurry line between where sci fi stops and horror begins, and indeed vice versa. But all said, they could find common ground in a film like Alien.
Ill cover sci-fi in later blogs, but as we all know this is my last entry in the Halloween countdown of my personal and unforgetable moments of horror. Lists and top 10's are of course very personal and highly subjective things, and this last one brings me back again to the good old English style of horror to which I was exposed to so much of as a kid. This is horror moment No.5.

A happy 70s family in a happy car on a happy road going on a happy holiday.
That first shot of the hitch-hiker, stiff legged and motionless on the bank above the road still gives me the heebies. I remember being on holiday with my family in Spain and seeing hitch-hikers along the road as we drove around the country in our hire car. Jeezus! I begged, teary eyed and breathless not to stop and pick them up. I peered at each hitch-hiker we passed through my fingers wondering if they were the embodiment of pure evil.
The story of the Doppleganger is an ancient one, but I dont think I have ever seen it done so terrifyingly as in this episode of Hammer House of Horror's TV series: The Two faces of Evil. Yes, I even rate it above the masterful Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The directing is superb, the angles, the close-ups and the cleverly understated acting of everyone else but the wife, amplifying her helplessness, frustration and involvement in this terrifying predicament.

Of course that big haired, fat faced kid sorta reminded me of me at the time, so I stayed well away from farms and hay lofts. But you have to agree its a truly chilling moment when she looks up and sees her real child, dead and purple on the other side of the barn...
Its been fantastic sharing my horror moments with you and I hope youve enjoyed it too. Im not quite Mark Gatiss but, I could beat him up in a fight, and thats what counts.
Tune in to my next blog to discover the games me and my wife play... errr... computer games that is.
Big D out.

Friday, 22 October 2010

All aboard for the Horror Express!

This, again, is an early and disturbing memory for me. I watched tonnes of horror as a kid and even bought those horror cards with that dangerously hard bubblegum in the packet… Shit, what an Earth happened to those?
I had Horror Film compendiums, lexicons, encylopedias, both sets of the Horror Top Trumps, various grisly masks and costumes. Damn! I even went to the Queens Jubilee street party dressed as a ghost. I loved to scare and I loved to be scared. But all the horror I had soaked up as a kid started to desensitise me. The next horror film scared me just a little less than the last. But some, like the one I am about to show you, terrified me like no other before and for months gave me recurring nightmares, which I suppose is the highest accolade one could ever give a horror movie.
Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were the stars, and I remember feeling safe knowing this. They were my friends, from previous adventures in horror. They wouldn’t terrify me. Would they? Cushing had a safe, avuncular air about him and Lee was just the epitome of suave sophistication and cucumber coolness.
The story had everything: Afore mentioned Cushing and Lee, a two million year old monster in a crate, a mad Rasputinesque monk, a trans-siberian train journey, zombie cossaks and Telly Savalas.
One thing I had overlooked, indeed one thing that would have meant little to me at the time. It had a Spanish director. Get ready for bloody gore and eye fixations. Its true! Those bloody Latin horror directors. What is it with them and eyes? Splinters through eyes, shards of glass through eyes, fingers poking out eyes, red eyes, white eyes, bleeding eyes…
Despite the gore, despite Telly Savalas, it was a fantastic film. Ill even go as far as to say it still is a fantastic horror film. It’s full of silly propositions and premises and even a bit of rubber physics, but it is a horror film after all. But time has not dulled its impact. And yes, I should never have watched it at just 9 years old.

Every night at bedtime, after being tucked in, my mum would turn out the light and leave the room... Normal kids would perhaps smile a dreamy smile and close their eyes.
I would gasp in mute terror and slowly and silently scan the room for a pair of red eyes in the darkness. Oh how I miss my childhood. To believe in monsters!

Just a brief nod to nostalgia sage Hurk. Here are the opening credits to Armchair Thriller. No one to step in front of the shadow now is there? Mwuhahahahaha!

Please tune in to my next blog for the last shocking moment in my Halloween countdown.
Big D out.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Rivers of blood.

Greetings Earthlings,
BLOOD! Yup its come down to one of horrors lowest denominators.
Gore and viscera although not essential to good horror are jolly good fun if done right. It is indeed a trademark of most of the Italian horror maestros, and the so called video nasties of the 80s achieved cult status simply because they were so gorey.
This is contrary to some of horror’s absolute classics having a conspicuous absence of blood. I remember being shocked when I revisited Carpenter’s Halloween as to how little blood is actually in the film.
Halloween nostalgia moment number 3 is really a double bill. This is only because I couldn’t decide what one to show you, and then simply thought: Bollocks! Ill show em both. But they are, in my opinion, both examples of blood being used to terrifying effect.
The first clip takes me back to a time when doing PE in my underwear and singing hymns in assembly was commonplace. Take yourself back to 1980, plonk yourself on the sofa next to mum on a Saturday evening, and marvel at the 80s high fashion and kitch d├ęcor.

The second one is a great clip from a not so great film. But watch this scene and tell me you didn’t wince once… go on, I dare you…

I was quite a nosebleedy kid and had a lot of operations on my sinuses and adenoids at a young age. I remember an alarmingly protracted nose bleed at my nan's one sunday afternoon in front of the fire. I think this scene really brings back that awful sense of panic I felt when my nose bleed just wouldnt stop and all the grown ups were running around making a fuss.What adds to that unsettling panic is the woefully inadequate wisps of crumpled tissue his wife keeps giving him to stem the cascade of blood gushing out of his nose. The little fetish doll is also a nice little touch of extra horror into the bargain. The film, alas is Children of the Corn 2 and is a load of old pants of the highest order.
The first clip was of course The House that Bled to Death from Hammer Horror’s TV series. Even the revelation by the parents at the end, that the whole thing was a hoax did not make that scene any less terrifying in that half an hour of hindsight. The scene is simply unforgettable at any age, let alone when you are an 8 year old kid as I was.
Sorry the Carrie scene didn’t make it, but a bucket of pigs blood on a telekinetic psycho just doesn’t compare to a pipe that spews blood over infants at a birthday party or a nose bleed in a church that kills you as the concerned parishioners look on.
Tune in to my next blog when its all aboard for horror in my fourth moment of Halloween nostalgia.
Big D out.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Return of the dry heavies.

Greetings Earthlings,
My second installment, although not chronological to my horror experiences, caught me at a rather delicate moment during my youthful days of drug indulgence and hence the memory is still difficult to shake.
Funnily enough it still remains one of the only Horror films I have never revisited. The memory has never been exorcised.... oh and it is one of the shittest films ever commited to celluloid. (Yeah, yeah they stopped using celluloid... blah blah)
The year is 1985 and anything goes... or rather went. Return of the Living Dead was of course a work of genius... No, no, thats not those crazy drugs talking, it can be enjoyed even now. Its no less than the horror film that spawned the now ubiquitous zombie catchphrase 'BRAINS...'  A tongue-in-cheek romp, with almost indestructible, highly mobile, talking... yes, talking, zombies. I know, I know, it sounds absolutely shit. But if you havent seen it please give yourself a treat.

1988 saw a shakey sequel, Return of the Living Dead II which was... fun, having seen the first one.
Then of course we hit the 90's... The decade that taste forgot. Ill set the scene:
Our small, merry band excitedly rented the video, we got totally stoned, we ate a bargain bucket of KFC and settled down in a dark room to watch Return of the Living Dead III...

Throughout the film she adds to her 'look', screwing rusty springs into her skin and pushing septic thumb tacks through her face. I have spared you what I consider the most pointlessly graphic and nipple piercing scenes. Needless to say it wasnt what we expected. Now please, before I continue give me credit. I can handle gore. I can watch emergency room documentaries while eating spaghetti bolognaise with meatballs, but it was the sheer pointlessness of it. A young, beautiful girl slowly and sensually mutilating herself, graphically as the camera fades gently in and out of scene like some soft porn movie. Now I think self harm was invented in the 90s as well, and I was an angst teenager up to the age of about 25, so coupled with the weed and the KFC this scene caught me just right. Luckily I wasnt the first to fold. Darren, who, credit to him is among the most stoic of Horror viewers a friend could ever wish for, pardoned himself for a series of violent wretches in the garden. Of course vomitting can be a lot like laughing. When one starts...
Thankfully I escaped with but a few bouts of the dry heavies, but you'll be glad to know that come the conclusion of our communal garden foray we reconvened back in the darkly lit room to bravely finish the pile of crap that is Return of the Living Dead III never to speak of the moment ever again.
Please tune in to my next blog for nostalgic Halloween moment 3 when things start to get a little bit bloody...
Big D out.

Nun shall pass!

Greetings Earthlings,
As the advent of Halloween rushes towards us like an over enthusiastic trick-or-treater, what better place to start my blog than with one of Big D's heaped dollops of retro horror. I say retro, as in common parlance it seems to mean something from quite a long time ago... but not that long ago... so, quite...but not.
Good. Im glad you're following me.
Five moments out of time Id like to share with you on the run up to Halloween. Five moments that shocked me at the time and left an indelible blot on my psyche. I can look back and laugh at them now, but the laugh stills sounds a little shaky and has a tinge of the uneasy.
Let me first take you back to 1978. A time, for me at least, of lost innocence never to be regained. My brother had not even began to twinkle in my dads eye, and beige Ford Cortinas were all the rage. I still like watching shows from that period for the nostalgia of the era and the seemingly empty London streets that now throng with every manner of life 7 days a week. Aah! My dear London lost...
It was 6 days before my sixth birthday and a series called Armchair Thriller aired an episode called 'Quiet as a nun'. It was before the traditional 'watershed', the 9pm demarkation point of family veiwing and adult themed TV, so I happily sat in front of the TV blissfully unaware of the horror which was about to assail me.

Okay. The spooky church. The trap door. The rocking chair... AND A FACELESS FUCKING NUN!
It was the fact that the show ended so suddenly after showing this stark and terrifying image, that amplified my own terror. I never saw the next episode, and so my boyhood years were haunted with fantasies of what a faceless nun would do to someone if ever it caught them.
I never watched the Sound of Music in quite the same way, and could never be alone in the same room with my nan's rocking chair again. At the age of 5 it could quite possibly be the moment that broke my horror hymen. But you've gotta love it. It is the very essence of horror and truly the stuff of nightmares.
Please tune in to my next blog for nostaligc Halloween moment 2 when my delicate sensibilties are churned and offended by a truly terrible film.

Big D out.