Tag Archives: The Thing

Failed Critics Podcast: Fright Night Triple Bill

Linda-Blair

Murdered in his sleep, chopped up into tiny pieces and stuffed down the back of Paul Field’s sofa. That’s what we presume is the reason behind the Underground Nights co-host taking over duties from the absent Steve Norman this week as he joins Owen Hughes and Andrew Brooker for this week’s triple bill podcast.

Each of the trio picks three films that have frightened them – not necessarily the scariest films they can think of, but rather, those that have at some point in their lives scared them beyond their senses. The theme for this triple bill was chosen with FrightFest in mind, which kicks off on Thursday this week and has a mini-preview of a couple of films that the team are keeping an eye out for.

There’s also room in the whopping 2 hour run-time for the Failed Critics to chat about more controversy over Sausage Party after last week’s damning indictment of the way that film’s producers have been treating the animators. This time, it’s the Swedish age-rating system that feels the full force of the podcast. Take that, Sweden!

New releases this week includes the return of Ricky Gervais’s comedy character David Brent in feature film Life on the Road hitting cinemas this past Friday. Brooker also shines a light on the latest horror-by-numbers, Lights Out.

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Failed Critics Podcast – COP: John Carpenter

john_carpenter

He’s old, he’s cranky, and he’s got a legion of followers that adore everything he does.

At least one of those comments should give you a clue that I am of course referring to John Carpenter and not our special guest, James Diamond.

(When has James ever been known to be cranky?)

One of the few well documented benefits of not being awarded an Oscar is that it allows a person the privilege of being received in our illustrious Corridor of Praise. And James was only too willing to help Owen Hughes and Steve Norman to induct the celebrated genre auteur.

At least we assume it was James. It sounded like James. It looked like James(‘s Skype profile). He did spend the whole episode tied to his chair, just to be on the safe side, but was still able to run through Carpenter’s career like the pro that he is. We look at where it all began with Dark Star and Halloween, through his triumphant 80’s phase and the not-so-triumphant later movies.

Also on this episode, we discuss the Academy Award nominated Spotlight, with Owen proclaiming it as one of the greatest films he’s ever seen. Speaking of awards, there was room on the episode for a quick butchers at the Screen Actors Guild recipients and a short Carpenter themed quiz, with either Owen or Steve nudging ever closer to subjecting the other to yet more horrible movies.

Join us again next week as Chris Wallace and Brian Plank return to review the latest British sitcom to get a movie adaptation, Dad’s Army.

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Failed Critics Podcast: The Crimson Halloween Beasts

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All of you that have never listened before and have seen your family die [from laughing], huh, you now have something that stands for you! That would be the Failed Critics Podcast: Halloween special.

OK, so it is a couple of weeks early, but think of all that extra time we’ve given you to source the incredible horror movies from a whole host of different decades that we discuss during our spooktacular (urrgghhhh sorry) triple bill. With picks by hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes, and guests Carole Petts and Phil Sharman, there’s plenty for you sink your fangs into (aahhhhhh sorry sorry sorry).

Before all that, we begin as we always do – with a quiz! Steve is in control of the questions and still 2-1 up after last week’s disaster (get it?) leaving Owen teetering on the edge of being handed a potentially diabolical booby prize should he be unable to prevent a joint Carole and Phil triumph. Perhaps regardless of whatever film might await either Owen or Steve, nothing could truly be more distressing than the news that a Die Hard prequel has gone into production. Still, at least there’s the London Film Festival round-up and Godzilla vs King Kong news to discuss, eh?

We even found time to sneak in a couple of new releases alongside our main triple bill feature. With reviews of Guilermo Del Toro’s latest visual gothic tale in Crimson Peak, and the very first Netflix original movie, Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba, there was plenty to talk about in this week’s episode.

Join us again next week for DE NE- NEEERRRR, DE NE- NERRRR, DE, DE NER NER NERRRR… 007 is back for his longest outing yet with the release of SPECTRE.

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Into The Bunker (S2:E2)

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @Callum Petch)

Spoilers of varying degrees for Gravity Falls abound throughout this article, up to and including a short scene from Season 2 Episode 8 “Blendin’s Game”.  You are strongly advised to go and watch Gravity Falls before reading this article.  Trust me.

gravity falls“Mabel, how can everything be so amazing and so terrible all at the same time?” – Dipper Pines

Throughout Secondary School, I had a crush on a very close friend of mine.  From pretty much the moment I saw her, I was rather head-over-heels – she was funny, tough, kind, smart, good-looking, and she voluntarily chose to acknowledge and associate with me, which meant a lot since my first year or so at Secondary School was a relentlessly lonely and miserable experience otherwise.  We hung out a lot, talked a lot, there were frequent out-of-school-hours email conversations (not IM or anything like that cos have I ever mentioned that I was a really weird kid), and became really rather close.

I also never properly told her how I felt.  I hinted a lot, wrote godawful blatantly manipulative blog posts expressing my feelings hoping that she’d never read them but steering her towards them anyway (because goddamn was I ever a sh*tty teenager), and one time – during a really, really stupid idea that our school only implemented once – I bought her a Valentine’s Day rose from our school reception and explained it away as a friendship thing.  She almost certainly figured it out because I was nowhere near as subtle as I thought I was and she was not stupid, but we never openly acknowledged it, as if we realised that bringing it into the open would make things uncomfortably weird.  And I planned to never tell her, because I could live with just being her friend.

Except that I couldn’t.  I really couldn’t.  Save for one very short and incredibly bad experience at the outset of Secondary School – another reason why my first year or so was awkward and horrible – I had never had a girlfriend (still haven’t to this day), but Secondary School is Secondary School and damn near every last one of my friends – and the majority of the people I was at least on good speaking terms with – ended up in romances of varying degrees of seriousness and success, which left me feeling left out and lonely, because I never had that experience.  Further compounding the problem was that, as friends of mine typically tend to do, we started drifting further apart the older we got, going from tight-knit buddies in Year 8 to very occasional acquaintances by Year 10.

Having realised this, and likely spurred on by the fact that my crush on her just would not die, I asked if she could meet me one lunchtime to talk.  I couldn’t have been any vaguer or, as far as my memory recalls, slightly creepy, which would have been part of the reason why she never turned up.  I took this incredibly personally.  Soon after, I arranged, through the school’s Student Services, to have her meet me for about half an hour so I could get an explanation and tell her everything, as if that would somehow change things.  That second part didn’t happen.  Instead, I non-specifically and non-committedly alluded to things in sh*tty ways, refused to accept her excuse of her having her own life and her own friends, and generally acted like a horribly possessive jerk.  The meeting ended with neither of us satisfied and, for the remaining 18 months of Secondary School and 2 years of Sixth Form that we shared, we basically never spoke to each other again.

You know how I said earlier that I was a sh*tty teenager?  That transcends just being a sh*tty teenager, for me; that was me being a pure bona-fide grade-A asshole.  I have regretted everything to do with it for the past five and a bit years.  I regretted it the moment I stepped out of that room and I still did nothing to make it right due to the resultant awkwardness between us keeping me from trying to make amends no matter how much time passed.  Seeing her was just this constant reminder of how badly I screwed up and how utterly sh*tty of a person I was, how I refused to just accept being friends with her instead of slightly creepily possessively crushing on her, and I honestly don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for it.


The Dipper Pines-Wendy Corduroy runner throughout the first season of Gravity Falls – where the 12 year-old Dipper develops a major crush on the 15 year-old Wendy – is a very divisive subject for fans of the show.  In one camp, it’s a funny, sweet, and often painful to watch plotline that constantly finds new ways to cover seemingly old ground, and excellently and realistically handles the difficulty of being friends with somebody you are quite possibly in love with, especially accentuated by the fact that, since Wendy is 3 years older than Dipper, there is only one way this story can end.  In the other camp, it’s pointless re-treading of familiar ground that wastes Wendy’s character potential by limiting her solely to stories about Dipper’s crush on her and her relationship with jerk-ass teenager Robbie, especially since there’s only one way this story can end so why bother dragging it out.

I fall into the former camp and it’s because of my experience with that girl – whose name I haven’t divulged here because she deserves better than being associated with my dickishness.  That extended awkward push-pull between having a crush that causes you tangible physical anxiety every time you accidentally think of them in that way, versus wanting to not blow that friendship you’ve built up with them by openly admitting that feeling to them, is excellently represented in Dipper Pines, which in turn resonates deeper in me and causes multiple conflicting feelings every time the plotline is brought up.  I sympathise with Dipper’s situation, I cringe and suffer along with him whenever he puts his foot in his mouth, I laugh at his jealous hallucinations of people like Robbie, I desperately root for him to beat his crush or to just admit to Wendy his true feelings, since I’d gone through all of this before myself – just without the age gap as she was in the same year as me.

It helps that Dipper shares multiple aspects with me when it comes to this type of thing: he stumbles over his own words frequently, he overthinks and over-plans every last scenario because he’s terrified of failure, he’s at his best when he just lets the situation overtake him, and he will never admit the truth to Wendy because he’s afraid of what will happen, but he also can’t just stay friends at this moment in time because the crush is killing him.  This is not meant to short-change Wendy, incidentally, who is a funny, cool, sarcastic, well-rounded and flawed character who feels like a person, someone who clearly exists outside of the show’s usage of her.  These two are incredibly well-drawn characters who feel real and that extra resonance that I have with the material wouldn’t be there if that depth wasn’t there.

This all comes to a head in “Into The Bunker”, the second episode of Season 2.  It starts off like it’s going to be yet another episode in which Dipper trips over his feelings, which I don’t have a problem with as again this kind of constant circling really can happen, in a B-Plot whilst the A-Plot pushes forward the overarching mysteries of Gravity Falls, Oregon – which are way too numerous and in-depth to touch on here; seriously, this show has the kind of attention to continuity and plotting (without ever sacrificing them at the expense of character work) that would make most live-action adult dramas feel like they’re half-assing it.

Instead, the mysteries of Gravity Falls take a backseat to bringing this runner to its logical end-game.  Despite his insistence otherwise, Dipper cannot keep hanging out with Wendy without telling her of his feelings.  When he exposes Robbie’s deception and brainwashing in “Boyz Crazy”, he’s mainly doing it out of selfish desires of wanting to have Wendy to himself, although he doesn’t realise so until after he pushes his luck too far.  By “Into The Bunker”, it’s reached breaking point, he even brings along his planned feelings speech, that he scrunched up at the beginning of the episode, in his jacket pocket because he can’t let it go.  His twin sister Mabel, fed up with all of this and realising that the sooner that he admits his feelings to Wendy the better, proceeds to shove the pair of them into what turns out to be a Decontamination Chamber to make sure that Dipper has no way of avoiding the issue.

In the end, his constant dodging and inability to come right out and admit his feelings nearly gets himself and Wendy killed by a shape-shifter, and he once again only realises this when he thinks that she’s been killed.  Running from his problems has solved nothing and if it hadn’t turned out that the ‘dead’ Wendy was actually the shape-shifter and that the real Wendy was just off-screen and heard every word of Dipper’s anguished and regretful admission of his true feelings, then he would have gone through the rest of his life carrying that regret and guilt, never letting him go.  It is, to me at least, the literalising of what metaphorically happened to me, as my refusal to just come out and say it cost me one of the strongest friendships that I ever had.

That’s what makes the conclusion of the episode so goddamn beautiful to me.  With the truth now out in the open, Wendy and Dipper sit down and talk.  They actually talk.  Wendy admits that she kinda always knew – “You think I can’t hear that stuff you’re constantly whispering under your breath?” – she lets him down easy, Dipper understands, and the two resolve to remain friends because that, above all else, is what matters out of all of this.  And though Dipper doesn’t actually feel any better at the time by getting these feelings out in the open, the change sticks and Wendy’s subsequent appearances with the gang exist in awkwardness-free purely platonic friendship stakes.  Hell, to further drive home the point, when Dipper and Mabel travel back in time about 10 years in “Blendin’s Game” and bump into younger versions of Wendy and Tambry, he feels super-awkward when Young Wendy mentions how cute he is, as if he now understands how he made Wendy feel.

And as I sat there watching the conclusion of “Into The Bunker”, through non-stop waterfalls of tears, the awful way that I handled the first friendship that I made in Secondary School came into clear-as-day focus.  I always knew that I treated her sh*ttily, that I should have handled the situation better, that I was as pure an asshole as they come with regards to how things ended, but I don’t think I realised the extent of it and how much different things could have been until Gravity Falls laid it out in front of me like that.  Because Dipper and Wendy are so well-drawn, because the writing felt so natural, because I saw so much of myself and my own experiences in the story’s progression, it hit me like a jackhammer-shaped freight train when the inevitable conclusion came around.  “I should have just told her and moved on,” I thought to myself constantly over the next several days as the episode refused to leave my brain.  “The aftermath may not have been as smooth, but at least we could have moved on.  At least we may still have been friends.”

There is a tonne more to “Into The Bunker” – the absolutely terrifying John Carpenter’s The Thing-referencing shape-shifter villain, the outstanding animation, the way that the narrative excellently pulls the bait-and-switch on the seemingly answers-focussed plotline in favour of character-work, the badassery of Wendy, the way it balances horror and drama with comedy, The Gravity Falls Bargain Movie Showcase – and they are all individually reason enough as to why the episode could be inducted into this wing of Failed Critics, but they’re not the reason why this episode hits me so.  It’s the payoff.  It was always going to be the payoff, and though the show has and will improve even on this in the years to come – “Not What He Seems” exists, after all – for me it’s probably never going to top that final scene in the woods where Dipper and Wendy sit on the fallen tree branch and just talk.  No other scene in television is going to hit me like that scene did the first time.

In a perfect world, I would have been more like Dipper Pines in that moment, where I accepted what happened, accepted the consequences, moved on, and tried to retain that friendship.  I didn’t do that.  That will stick with me for the rest of my days, but at least I know that Dipper will be OK.  He did it right.  One of us did.

Callum Petch has got love to kill from a man of steel.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

A Decade In Horror: Halloween Special – The Eighties

It’s October! The leaves on the trees are turning brown, it’s getting darker earlier in the evening and folks are rummaging through their DVD collections, looking for their favourite horror films to watch in time for Halloween. As such, every week this month will see us expand on our Decade In Film series with a spin off article focussing on five horror films from the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties and the noughties! The format will be much the same as our regular series, but with a slight twist.

They’re heeeeeeerrrrreeeeeee. OwenMikeAndrewPaul and Liam that is, who are back with yet another Decade In Horror! This time, the gory splatter-filled eighties is under the microscope.

Yuppies, wealth, greed, Thatcherism, consumerism, social realism, neoliberalism, capitalism and many other isms. All words and phrases synonymous with the 1980’s. Money and politics defined the era in the UK, whilst across the pond horror films had grown more popular than ever before. From the camp and ethereal horrors of the sixties, to the mainstream success of films such as Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw MassacreThe Exorcist and Alien in the seventies, horror only had one avenue left to turn to. It became fun. A self awareness of the excesses of the decade seeped through to the genre as it began to poke fun at itself. Over the top levels of gore, grotesque melting rubber prosthetics and lift-fulls of blood were everywhere you turned. Whilst the dreaded word “franchise” reared its ugly mutated head, there was still space for the more intelligent horror. Although, Kubrick’s The Shining was but a mere distraction amongst the picnic hampers of evil twins, voodoo practising murderous children’s dolls and head-exploding psychic wars. First up on our list of favourites is this film from 1982…


Poltergeist (1982)

poltergeistCross over children. All are welcome. All welcome. Go into the Light. There is peace and serenity in the Light.

No list of 1980s horror would be complete without Poltergeist. It’s up there with The Shining for permeating modern culture and having the most recognisable, commonly used references. How many times have we heard “They’re Hee-re” parodied in other works?

It introduced a generation to the word and the concept of a Poltergeist as a spirit attaching itself to an individual person and, although it has its faults and technical shortcomings, there’s still an awful lot to like about it.

An ordinary family have their lives turned upside down when strange things start happening around the house. At first they seem fairly benign but they soon turn extremely sinister.

The sheer normalness of the targeted family gives the “It could happen to you” element and the fact that person most in peril throughout the entire ordeal is a young child adds another level of emotional reaction.

Zelda Rubenstein, as Tangina the psychic is extremely good. The best performance of the film aside from the children. The main fault, in my opinion, is JoBeth Williams as the mother of the imperilled youngster. Her acting during the early part of the film seems worse with each viewing. Thankfully, she does get better as the film warms up and the pressure mounts on her character.

Poltergeist is certainly worth seeing and revisiting once in a while.

by Liam (@ElmoreLTM)


The Thing (1982)

betamaxWhether we make it or not, we can’t let that Thing freeze again. Maybe we’ll just warm things up a little around here. We’re not gettin’ outta here alive. But neither is that Thing.

More nostalgia as we reach the 80’s, as after Jaws the next most notable scare from my childhood was on a babysitting trip in 1983 with my mum. This family friend had something I craved, I wanted, I adored but surely would never be able to afford. Adjusted for inflation, these things would run to several thousand pounds today. A (Betamax) Video Cassette Player… with a copy of John Carpenter’s The Thing!

Rewatched many times, and again this week, it still holds up. The practical effects are simply brilliant for a film that is over 30 years old. The cast are all capable actors, the setting is utterly genius. Claustrophobia, tension, jump scares and effects driven gory mayhem, the dogs writhing and squirming in slime covered deformity, the head sprouting legs and being both horrific and funny… and that scene…

I can’t look at a defibrillator being used today without expecting the recipients chest to open up and bite off the arms to the elbows and fountains of blood to gush forth. I have never been or will ever be so terrified as I was that night as a just-turned 13 year old. Well played, Carpenter. Well played.

by Paul Field (@pafster)


Day of the Dead (1985)

day of the dead 2I’m runnin’ this monkey farm now, Frankenstein, and I wanna know what the fuck you’re doin’ with my time! ’cause if we’re just jerkin’ off here, I’m gonna have my men blow the piss out of those precious specimens of yours, and we’re gonna get the hell out of here, and leave you and your highfalutin asshole friends to rot in this stinkin’ sewer! Is that food enough for ya?

When deciding on my choice for this list, I was torn between two films. Both of which are semi-sequels to George A Romero’s previous zombie film, Dawn of the Dead, as chosen in our seventies Decade In Horror article. It came down to either Fulci’s magnificent Zombie Flesh Eaters, or this. In the end, I thought about which I’d rather didn’t make the cut as opposed to which I love more, and thus Day of the Dead won.

I absolutely adore this final piece in Romero’s original Dead Trilogy. In my opinion, it has the best soundtrack from any horror film, something I’m listening to right now as I write this! But it’s probably Romero’s most intelligent movie. It switches things around as the humans become less humane and the zombies start to learn morality. Or, at the very least, instead of them simply being terrifying mindless hungry ghouls (as per Night of the Living Dead), or a snide joke (as per Dawn of the Dead), you’re meant to feel sorry for them. Given a chance, they could learn to be integrated back into society. They can learn. Or…. not. They might just choke as they chow down on your internal organs.

It has great characters and performances, perhaps none more so than Joe Pilato as the hot headed sergeant Rhodes. Romero also keeps up a tradition of having a black heroic central male character (Terry Alexander) and strong female lead. Lori Cardille as Sarah, struggling to stay sane between working on her research and coping with her PTSD suffering soldier-boyfriend, carries the film brilliantly. I also can’t talk about performances without mentioning Sherman Howard’s role as Bub, the saluting, pistol whipping, walkman wearing zombie. An iconic character in the genre; he even pops up as a cameo in The Walking Dead! Everything about this movie is fantastic. Everything.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)


Evil Dead II (1987)

TED2 - 1987It lives, out in those woods, in the dark. Something, something that’s come back from the dead.

The first Evil Dead is a masterpiece. An ultra-violent horror filmed on an ultra-low budget. Branded a “Video Nasty” and achieving near instant cult status, it is a film that should stand proud in any film lover’s collection. But The Evil Dead isn’t my favourite horror film from the 80’s. No, it’s Sam Raimi’s half sequel, half remake that gets my nod.

In the 80’s, when everyone was going for more blood and more gore, Raimi brought something interesting to the table. Something to cut through the tension and the scares, something to soften the shovel blows. Comedy. Real laugh out loud humour.

Evil Dead II sees our returning hero Ash (Bruce Campbell) back in the woods. A new girlfriend but the same old cabin with the same old demonic fiendishness outside just waiting for someone to stumble across the, now infamous, Necronomicon. As luck (?) would have it, the cabin’s previous occupant was an archaeology professor who handily recorded translations for Ash to play, releasing the demons to possess his girlfriend. Chaos and hilarity ensues as Ash is forced to decapitate her to survive. Joining forces with a research team led by the professor’s daughter, Ash and his new found friends spend the night trying to fight off the demons and get out of the woods alive.

The 1980’s is my favourite decade for horror. So many directors made their mark. Craven had Elm Street, Barker had Hellraiser and Carpenter remade The Thing. Friday the 13th, American Werewolf, Maniac and The Shining all shaped my love of film. But Evil Dead II, with its possessed hands, chainsaws and time portals is hands down my favourite from this particular melting pot.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)


The Lost Boys (1987)

the lost boysNow you know what we are, now you know what you are. You’ll never grow old, Michael, and you’ll never die. But you must feed!

Without doubt one of the most iconic vampire films from this decade. The Lost Boys stands the test of time, with its endlessly quotable lines, cool looking vampires and its awesome soundtrack. Joel Schumacher’s skilful direction allows the tone of the film to shift from horror to humour effortlessly, never feeling forced or out of place; Schumacher gets the balance just right.

The cast give some strong performances on the back of an excellent screenplay. Corey Haim and Jason Patric have a decent chemistry as brothers, mothered by the always dependable Dianne Wiest. Barnard Hughes as Grandpa adds some great comic relief along with the Frog Brothers; Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander. Yet it’s Keifer Sutherland that steals the show, his David is superb; his ice cold look, the constant menace in his voice; David is one of the great on screen vampires of this decade. Well, any decade really!

A film which came out of the shadows for me in the 80’s. I just wasn’t expecting it all to be this good. Amid all the slasher frenzy, this easily beat down the rest and emerged as my all-time favourite 80’s horror film.

by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)


Thanks for reading! We’ll be back next week, picking our top five horror films of the nineties, the decade that thought it was smarter than it actually was.

Failed Critics Triple Bill: The 80s!

Welcome to Triple Bill, where this week we discuss our favourite films of the 1980s.

James was too ill to record, and he’s still feeling dreadful so this week’s pithy and witty write-up is absolutely nowhere to be seen. Still, who needs that when you’ve got the critics discussing the best decade of cinema EVER!

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