Sunday, 22 October 2017

THE LEIGH SPENCE MOMENT: PSYCHO II


47. “The producers wish to acknowledge their debt to Sir Alfred Hitchcock.”



22/10/2017




The “Psycho” sequels have been quite hard for me to find, suppressed as they are by the memory of the original film, regarded as the ur-text of the American horror genre, and therefore more likely to deserve shelf space in stores. However, Arrow Video have now released “Psycho II” on DVD and blu-ray, under licence from Universal Pictures, so I decided to brace myself, and hand over some money.

As much as Alfred Hitchcock may have not liked the idea of sequels to his own films, “Psycho II” was always going to be out of his hands, especially by dying three years before its 1983 release: Hitchcock had sold the rights “Psycho” and his “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” TV series to Universal in 1968, with the film having already made $18 million at the box office – not bad for having spent $800,000 of your own money in the first place. When Hitchcock died, he was the third largest shareholder in Universal, a company bought in 1953 by MCA, and run by Lew Wasserman, Hitchcock’s own agent. So, “Psycho II” was just as inevitable as a way of Universal both commemorating and capitalising on Hitchcock’s work, as it was an answer to budding franchises like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th.”


I am happy to say that this is a sequel worth watching. I was worried that “Psycho II” was either going to be some hackneyed, by-the-numbers horror flick, even though its director, Richard Franklin, had studied Hitchcock’s work, and had met with him during the making of “Topaz” (1969). Fortunately, it is also not the intellectual exercise of remaking the original that Gus Van Sant’s 1998 “Psycho” is known for being. Instead, what we have is a story that makes good use of the twenty-year gap in both the film’s events and of the public’s knowledge, while learning Hitchcock’s lessons in filmmaking without just copying them (although replaying the original film’s shower scene is a bit on the nose for me).

After twenty-two years in a mental facility, Norman Bates is deemed to be fit and well, and is released, against the wishes of Marion Crane’s sister Lila, who cannot believe that a murderer is not imprisoned for life – it is pointed out from the start that he was found to be insane, not a murderer. Initially working at a diner, he befriends and helps out Mary, who was thrown out of her boyfriend’s place. Norman and Mary take up residence back at his mother’s house and Bates Motel – the sleazy manager, played to greasy perfection by Dennis Franz, is first to die, at the same point as in the first film (after about forty minutes).


As the murders occur, Norman begins to see his mother again, which Mary sees as being part of his mental illness, something that could not make him a murderer. What is worse, Mary knows who is framing Norman: Lila, her mother, who wants him put into jail, using a “mother” costume secreted in the house. The climax of the film is that those who are implicated in the murders are those that have been shown to have been cool and calculating all along, and not the one shown to be almost incapable – fortunately, Norman is shown at the very end to have regained his equilibrium, and his mother, with the use of a spade, though not in the way you might think. As much as you think that “Psycho II” might be playing with notions of mental illness, the definition of what is “sane” is also shown to be different for everyone although, as Norman Bates says in the original film, “we all go a little mad sometimes.”

The older Anthony Perkins seen in this film looks perpetually haunted, and this is to his advantage here, which is also the case for the returning Vera Miles as Lila Loomis, née Crane – his father is said to have died, presumably in an explosion with Michael Myers at the end of “Halloween II.” As Mary, Meg Tilly is the audience’s point of identification, but she is, and we are, ultimately proved wrong in the end, setting up 1986’s “Psycho III,” directed by Perkins himself.

The black and white of the original “Psycho,” and the stark string soundtrack, are traded for full colour and a lush orchestra, which could be seen as a way of muddying the waters – at the end of the first “Psycho” we got a nice summary of how Norman Bates took over his role as his own mother, but we don’t get anything so easy to understand here.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

HALLOWEEN HORROR: DAY OF THE DEAD (1985) - podcast review out now


We carry on with our appreciation of the late George A. Romero's Living Dead series, and this week we look into 1985's Day of the Dead. With the dead well and truly taking over America, we witness a small group of survivors try and understand their new landscape in an military bunker in Florida. The scientists of this bunker discover that zombies can tentatively be trained to not attack on sight, especially with the case of the docile Bub. However, the soldiers protecting them are having a hard time appreciating this fact, and start becoming more tyrannical within their confines. We discuss in this podcast what we love in Day of the Dead, including Tom Savini's brilliant make up effects, the way Romero writes human's, and how it develops the lore from the first films.

You can download this episode directly here.

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Friday, 20 October 2017

HALLOWEEN HORROR - DAY OF THE DEAD (1985) - podcast review out tomorrow


South Park: The Fractured But Whole - Richee Review

It's been a long time coming, having multiple delays, but finally the sequel to South Park: The Stick of Truth has been released with South Park: The Fractured But Whole. The sequel follows the new kids turn from king of the fantasy realm to superhero, with the super group Coon and Friends, as they look to start their superhero franchise. The team looks to find a missing cat to get the $100 reward, but have to go up against rival superhero group the Freedom Pals. 

The game has had an upgrade in combat mechanics, as you can now roam the battle field to line up attacks, multi attacks and even use environmental items to your advantage. You have a selection of super powers to choose from, you do get them all in the end though which takes away from possible later play through's. The puzzles fell a little lacklustre after a while and the fart powers don't have as bigger impact on the gameplay as the original game.

But the best thing about this game is the best thing about South Park: the humour. 
The story is interesting and goes in some really random places, bringing back old characters with the new. Downside is the story length, coming in just under 19 hours on my first play through with only two side quests to do. The collectibles look to notch up plenty more game time though, as I still have loads of outfits and other items to collect.



Even with the game being delayed there were still multiple bugs I stumbled across, from my moves tool bar disappearing to being stuck in a permanent glitch fart which forced me to reload my last check point. Other then those few problems there wasn't any other issues to report, but with the game being delayed for so long I'm a little disappointed that these issues slipped through. The game looks awesome, with South Park looking great really taking you into the little mountain town again.

More of the same from the team again. The game is witty and fun with plenty to collect and do. The story feels like a super long South Park episode, not sure how I feel about the 19 hours it took to get through the game but that's just the way of it now. Plus it has an awesome mid-credit scene like Marvel where the story, or maybe some DLC, could go from the end. Final Verdict is a 7/10: it's a good game, and a must have for fans of the series, but I feel if you're not a fan of the franchise this might leave you wanting more. Richee 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

HALLOWEEN HORROR - Society (1989)


I left Brian Yuzna's Society with so many questions. Why do the rich melt into each other and transform into slimy mounds of flesh? I get the whole "rich eating the poor" metaphor, but why, and to what end? And do the rich just get away with it all? I couldn't help but think Society may be a spiritual prequel to certain films. Maybe the Purge films, with their emphasis on the rich institutionally enabling themselves to kill the poor in a ritualistic, one day a year event. Or even Kingsman, where the aristocrats create a secret intelligence agency for the apparent good of country, even though they do nothing but accentuate class differences. What is even the purpose of this film?

Released in 1989, Society has all the 80s signifiers, most rampantly with the fashions (high cut bikini's and the hair being standout components), that give this film that retrospective goofy edge. Nothing in this film is blatantly scary, just uneasy. Firstly you have Billy Warlock playing Bill, the troubled son to the well-off Whitney family. So troubled in fact that he goes to counselling sessions to talk out his paranoid fears. He worries that he doesn't feel part of the family or part of the rich society around him. His sisters ex Blanchard (Tim Bartell) is himself also worried, and plays Bill the secret audio he recorded at Bill's sister Jenny's (Patrice Jennings) coming out party, which makes it sound like his family are engaging in a horrific orgy.


While everyone around him acts like he's gone mad, Bill is determined to prove it, and through some tangents that include upsetting his girlfriend, sleeping with a girl who can twist her whole body around, and the deaths of various people who try to help Bill only for them to mysteriously come back alive, leads us to the films notorious finale. At another gathering of the rich we discover that Bill's paranoid suspicions where true, and that he is in fact not related to his parents, but that the rich of this town are completely different to everyone else, although we never find out exactly how.

Courtesy of special effects designer Screaming Mad George, the film engulfs with a massive hit of body horror, as we witness the horrific orgy that Bill heard earlier. The rich strip down and mould their bodies together to create a formless mass of barely recognisable body parts. Blanchard is sadly sacrificed to the rich, and his own body is assimilated into theirs, in a ceremony they call "shunting". They are literally feeding off the poor, extracting whatever goodness they can from Blanchard. It is unclear as to whether this is their main source of food, or if this is some kind of process they go through in order to continue assimilating into society.


Of course, some of these effects are quite silly by today's standards, but they get across effectively the body horror Yuzna and Screaming Mad George were going for. For me, its not so much the deformation of the rich that is troublesome, its the homogeneous pile of limbs they become. They do not seem to care for individual people but instead just the whole, and just as long as the rich can continue to "shunt", then the rich will survive. But then why do they need to be rich, high-society members at all? The satire is strong in this one, as even though Bill is highly comfortable within his privileged place in society, its the competition he cannot get on with. The rest of the rich though relish on it, and of course, where there's competition, there's rules, and if you want to be a member of high-society there is a lot of rules you have to follow if you want to fit in.

The finale is a great end to a movie with a somewhat jokey premise, but the resolution is troubling. Bill kills the jock Ferguson by pulling his head out through his arse (literally), and then escapes with his friend and new girlfriend in his jeep. Meanwhile, the rich just carry on like nothing happened. Are we meant to just accept these... creatures? Does Bill? He may have defeated the bully, but the high society are still at large to kill again. A sequel, Society 2: Body Modification, was set to go into production which may have answered some of these questions, but that was unfortunately shelved.We do seem to have a mania at the moment to sequelize films from decades ago, so until that film does come out, we have only the memory of a sweaty cornucopia of affluent body parts to ponder over.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

THE SNOWMAN - podcast review out now


WARNING: spoilers heavily insinuated throughout. Based on the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbø, and directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In), The Snowman looks into the mysterious murders that are plaguing Oslo and its surrounding areas. What's the connection between them? Divorced women with young children, and a god damn snowman at each crime scene. With Michael Fassbender as alcoholic cop Harry, he teams up with a recently transferred police woman (Rebecca Ferguson) to crack the case. Also starring Toby Jones, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Val Kilmer, we break apart The Snowman and ask why this film has bombed so badly, from the killers motives to the lack of suspects, and especially its lacklustre plot.

You can download this episode directly here.

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