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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in shaved_ape's LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, December 7th, 2016
1:50 am
Christmas By Inches
The Xmas holidays are edging inexorably closer. In the past week I have visited my friend Claudia (and baby Leila) in Croydon, wrapped some presents, written and posted some cards (these are jobs I hope to complete this weekend!) completed the last of my Xmas shopping, visited my friend Kate in Northampton and dropped gifts for her family there, booked tickets for the tenants at work to see an xmas Panto, decorated their lounge, received my first xmas card, heard my first brass band and am starting to feel the pinch as time is rushing forward and pland and preparations still need to be made. Three weeks from now it will be more or less over, apart from the final slog into the new year and back to normality.

Current Mood: awake
Sunday, December 4th, 2016
1:42 am
Ross Noble's Brain Dump
Back To Northampton for my friend Kate's birthday and a trip to see Ross Noble at the Derngate again. By my count this is our fourth Ross Noble gig but the first time we have taken the kids who were appropriately blown away by his mastery of weirdness and non-linear narratives etc. The first half of his show was (as usual) electrifyingly manic, the second half slightly more flat but good fun all the same. He is a comedy hero of mine and I think he might now have two more fans. Four shows feels like plenty now though, I might give him a rest for a while!

Current Mood: awake
Saturday, December 3rd, 2016
1:35 am
Kew at Night (2nd Of 3)
So back to kew again with the night walk, slightly disappointed but not entirely surprised that it didn't quite live up to the magic of last week. Part of the step down was due to us already knowing what we were going to get so the surprise element had gone. Between our first visit and our second security had been stapped up slightly so where on our first visit we could right up to (and under) some of the illuminated trees now more of it was fenced off and constrained. It was still all very lovely and a pleasant way to spend the evening in good company. recognising how much of a step down the second visit was I guess highlights how good it was last week on the first visit.

This week I have been mostly re-reading: Vietnam - An Anatomy Of A Piece by Gabrial Kolko

Current Mood: awake
Wednesday, November 30th, 2016
12:10 am
Beyond Bedlam & The British Library
A bit of a weird confluence of minor events shaped my day today. I thought that after I finished work I might be heading back to Kew gardens with one of my colleagues from work. It turns out that the Illuminated Walk isn't open at Kew at the moment on Mondays or Tuesdays. Bummer. My working day also finished (unusualy) on the Euston Road as one of my service users is currently recovering from Knee replacement surgery at University College Hospital (UCH). A plan B soon presented itself and so after work I met my friend from work and we went to see first of all the 'Beyond Bedlam' exhibition at the Wellcome Collection and then onto the British Library.
The Beyond Bedlam exhibition was one of the least coherent I have seen at the Wellcome, who are normally pretty good. There were some interesting ideas about mental health treatment - especially from those who have experienced it from the patients point of view but I didn't get as much out of the exhibition as I had hoped. The British Library was good though. My friend Lilia had never been (but recently expressed her desire to do so). We had a little look around the building and then had a look at the 'treasures of the library' exhibition which is free and if you are a lover of books (as we both are) stunning.
If either te Kew Gardens thing had worked out or if my shift hadn't been due to end at UCH on the Euston Road my evening would have taken a very different shape. This was good.

This week I Have been mostly re-reading: Bye Bye Balham by Richard Herring

Current Mood: awake
Saturday, November 26th, 2016
1:14 am
Shrigley In The Square
I managed to get out of work a bit early today when a meeting I had expected to last the whole afternoon wound up in surprisingly little time. Fired up by the Kew visit last night I decided I wanted to get out and about and see something groovy. (I havent been to a gallery or museum or anything for what feels like ages). I didn't want to waste the little bit of daylight I had so I headed straight for the river and got some nice sunset photos for that long neglected photo project of mine. I then wandered up to Trafalgar Square to see the new installation on the 4th Plinth. This time it is by an artist I really like (David Shrigley) and takes the form of an overtly positive 'thumbs up' sign (with an impossibly extended thumb to suggest that it's 'really good' rather than just 'good'. The brass sculpture is one of my favourites that have appeared on the plinth despite/because of it's simplicity and it's stark contrast to the military celebrations which adorn the other plinths in the square. It lives up to its official name and is "Really Good."

Current Mood: awake
Friday, November 25th, 2016
11:54 pm
Kew At Night 2016
I made the first of three planned visits (for this year) to see the illuminated 'Night Walk' at Kew Gardens. This was the first year I had gone with somebody else and it turned out to be the best I have ever seen and a really lovely night. I will be going again over the next couple of weeks and after last night I am looking forward to the repeat visits much more than I was expecting. A decent sized portion of credit needs to be attributed to my friend Lilia, my companion last night. Her enthusiasm for all aspects of the evening was infectious. I have one more trip half planned for next week and another more than half planned for the week after to share with different friends. It's pretty groovy.

This week I have been mostly re-reading: Red Planets - Marxism & Science Fiction edited by Mark Bould & China Mieville

Current Mood: awake
Sunday, November 20th, 2016
1:08 am
Mince Pie Season
Mince Pie Season has officially commenced for 2016 whether I like it or not. Firstly it was my friend Jacqui's birthday on Thursday. I couldn't see her on Thursday as I was working but I met her for coffee on my day off on Friday - the first official social engagement of the season. (If this were football it would be the equivilent of the Community Shield, signalling the start of the season without it properly starting). As it happens (without any actual planning on my part) later this day I had my first mince pie of the season as my local supermarket had some of their selection on offer at half price. Very nice they were too. I have started wrapping presents too - for the people who I will be seeing in the next two weeks and wont see again until after the holidays.
At work we are also starting to see the first stages of holiday planning. I drew up the Christmas Rotas in the week and led a tenants meeting today where the early stages of planning for the holidays were discussed with some excitement. This season is usually a bit of a long hall for me and my enthusiasm is running (if anything) slightly lower than most years. Time soon to start sucking it up and getting on with it. That's the spirit.

Current Mood: blah
Saturday, November 19th, 2016
11:57 pm
Less Great News
It turns out that my celebratory coffee on Sunday was misplaced. As it turns out my brother is out of hospital but the news is pretty mixed. The good news is that he isn't facing the loss of his toes as we feared - but the discharge from the chest infection was more to do with bed unavailability on the respiratory ward than any actual improvement in my brother's health. Obviously this isn't the worst possible news that we could have had (it could easily have been worse) but now he is back at home without having received proper treatment and has another set of demoralizing hospital experiences to add to his collection. It is such a shit run of luck for him and he deserves so much better.

This week I have been mostly re-reading: The Experience Of Defeat by Christopher Hill

Current Mood: sad
Sunday, November 13th, 2016
12:28 pm
Sunday Morning, Good News
I heard from my brother this morning. He is back out of hospital and seems to be on the mend. That's really good news. I'm going to make myself some proper coffee to celbrate!

Current Mood: relieved
12:24 pm
Strange Nostalgia
A few years ago I was in Wales talking to my friend Ian. We were at school together and shared a lot of similar interests but we discovered in the conversation that we had unknowingly shared a similar (positive) experience that had helped in a small way to form the people we have since become. Both of us got into comic books at a similar age (11 or 12) and both of us have fond memories of going to our local shop to see what comics they had on the news stand. This is shortly before we had a proper comic shop in the town. What we both remembered was the particular type of drizzly, cold, misty grey November weather at the time. Many people naturally react to to those particular conditions in a mildly negative way - it's cold and grey and wet, what's to like. We have that too - but we both found it to be evocatively linked in our memories to the excitement of the early comic buying experiences.
This was very much in my mind yesterday as I was facing the sae familiar weather patterns as I used part of my weekend off work to take a Saturday morning trip to the cinema to see the DR Strange movie. I have been waiting for a while for it to come out and for me to have enough free time to see it so there was the old familiar anticipation and mild excitement, mix that with the evocative weather and it was almost like the past 30 years haven't happened - that part of me seems to be very much alive. Who would have thought that?!

This week I have been mostly re-reading: The Lost Revolution - Germany 1918-1923 by Chris Harman

Current Mood: nostalgic
12:09 pm
Hospital Trip
About 20 minutes into my shift on Friday one of my service users had a prolongues epileptic seizure and I supported him to the local hospital in an Ambulance. It took about an hour for him to make a proper recovery but he did fully recover. We had to wait on for some tests and then for the results for the hospital to confirm all of this and then I supported him home again, The whole process took about 9.5 hours.
I was glad to do it to support the guy it's part of my job and I will do it again when required. It gave me a lot of time to reflect and remember though. It was the same hospital A&E department that I was taken to when I was ill last year. I thought a lot about how I felt that night while I sat in the cubicle just trying to relax and breathe through the oxygen mask while I waited (I thought) to be sent home. I also thought about the night a few months earlier when I supported one of my other service users through an admission process which lasted literally all through the night (from about 5pm to 6am when he was eventually admitted onto a ward). It was all too familiar, especially the zen like state you have to find for the indefinite amount of waiting.
I also spent a bunch of time thinking about my brother currently in hospital in Wales. More than once I fely a pang of guilt as here I am in London being paid to help someone in hospital when I could (should?) be in hospital helping my own brother - not that there is much help I could be. I also wondered about his mental state -more so than his actual physical condition. If being in an A&E for a few hours was bringing my previous experiences back to me what would his re-admission be doing for him? He has had many admissions in recent years and had a pretty awful time with some of them. I could only hope that he could find the zen like state to get through it - the alternative is pretty awful. I hope my brief reminder of the experience on Friday will help me empathise more with my brother's situation.

Current Mood: thoughtful
Friday, November 11th, 2016
1:13 am
Here we go again.
I heard from my sister today that our brother is back in hospital again. Once again it is a chest infection plus a major flare up in his underlying health problems. To be honest I am more worried about his mental health than his physical. A short while ago he passed a serious landmark - one full year without being admitted to hospital. He was so pleased with that (though I'm convince that there were a few close calls in that year but he was too stubborn to go back and somehow managed to struggle through). There isn't much I can do for him at this stage apart from wish him well and hope for the best. My thoughts are there, obviously.

Current Mood: worried
Thursday, November 10th, 2016
12:23 am
America. Trump. Oh shit.

To be honest, I could leave the post at that - there is no need to add more words. It's already widely accepted (even by Trump himself) that his election mirrors the Brexit vote in the UK. People who are disaffected and alienated from what mainstream 'establishment' politics have brought us cry out for change and for better or worse we get it. I suspect that just like with Brexit the promise of the 'alternative' will evaporate very quickly when it comes to the interests of ordinary folk. How quickly did the pledge to use E.U. money to fund the NHS vanish? Given that Trump is a billionaire who hangs out with billionaires and whose interests lie with other billionaires, how long will it take him to stand with the billionaires rather than with the little guys who have been shat on by the system he is supposedly breaking from. What are the odds on seeing a fairer, more just, more compassionate society on either side of the Atlantic any time soon? Will the flow of money which for decades has flowed from the poorest to the super rich even begin to trickle in the opposite direction? I'm not holding my breath.
I'm not saying that Hilary Clinton would have changed anything for the better. She is clearly part of the system which has been systematiclly shafting people for decades. Arguably that is why she didn't win. Society was not likely to improve for anyone not already rich under Hilary Clinton. It is only the really desperate that believe it will under Trump and in the meantime we are saddled with a world leader who can take objectionable opinions to frankly terrifying levels. The misery this result has already caused is all too easily felt (again there is much similarity to Brexit). No one can predict how much worse things will get now but I don't know anyone outside of the Trump camp who believes it is going to get any better.


This week I have been mostly reading: Over The Rainbow - Money, Class & Homophobia by Nicola Field

Current Mood: sad
Saturday, November 5th, 2016
12:55 am
Line Dancing Louisiana Transvestites
I have blogged here previously about the compiations I enjoy throwing together for the entertainment of myself and a small handful of friends. Giving myself an idea or theme for a coompilation gives me a reason to scour some of the seldom visited corners of my music collection, revisiting songs I may not have heard in years and sometimes discovering songs I didn't even know I had. Earlier in the year I thought of three different themes for compilations (one was a return to an idea for a compilation I had made some years ago but on a much grander scale). Since then I have worked from time to time on pulling the ideas together. I methodically worked my way from one end of my collection to the other, taking notes as I went, then I ordered my notes, uploaded cd's where necessary, allocated songs to the cd's and organised the order of the playlists, burned the discs, designed the covers and typed the track lists.
I finally finished the process today. Some of my friends have had 2 of the three sets already and they will get the third and largest set as an Xmas stocking filler. One unfortunate friend will get the whole batch in a bumper package - lucky old them! If any of them are reading this before Xmas (*Beware spoilers!*) here are the themes: One was a 2cd set of Blues/rock. I aimed for a sort of Southern states vibe that I must admit was heavily influenced by watching back to back series of True Blood a while ago. The next set was a 5 cd set based around Lind Dancing! I don't do country music (or line dancing) and do not really want anybody to think that I do. There is however something of a distinctive beat (or at least vibe) about songs which get used in Line Dancing and I put together a bunch from my own collection that fit that vibe. The final set come under the banner 'Tranny Anthems'. I did make a compilation cd (or possibly tape) of this theme a while ago, but this version runs to 7 discs! The basic idea is that some songs can (or have) crossed the gender line between male and female performers and other songs can easily do so and take on an extra significance if they do. From my own collection I identified two discs worth of general 'anthems.' one disc specifically of soul, one of jazz and three of cover versions.
I used much of my day off today putting the finishing touches to these and they are ready to go help fill some Xmas stockings. I have no ideas yet for what if any compilations I will make next - probably nothing this year so my long suffering friends can have some respite for a while!

This week I have been mostly re-reading: Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

Current Mood: awake
Thursday, November 3rd, 2016
12:24 am
The Royal Academy Unplanned
The other thing I managed to do at the weekend (apart from a Horror movie marathon challenge) was to sneak a visit to the Royal Academy. Normally I plan my visits to the gallery around exhibitions I particularly want to see but not this time. My friend and colleague Lilia had never been to the gallery before (and wasn't even clear where it was) so we planned a trip to see the gallery and whatever exhibitions they happened to have on at the time.
We ended up entertaining ourselves fairly well. The current main exhibition at the Academy features works of Abstract Expressionism from many of the leading proponents. Neither of us particularly enjoy this style but managed to find stuff to snigger and giggle at. The smaller, secondary exhibition featuring work by James Ensor (new to me!) was much more accessable and likable. Throw in a coffee and a walk around some of the ridiculously posh attractions of Piccadilly and we had a really nice afternnon.

Current Mood: awake
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016
11:51 pm
Halloween Party
There was a big Halloween party at work on Monday and I managed to get my guys along. We announced the party weeks ago and they were all so excited that I have barely heard them talk about anything else since. We organised costumes or masks for everybody that wanted them, decorated the lounge, carved pumpkins, made pumkin soup & had a horror movie night (with the original Universal Horror films so not to be too scary) and generally had a good time with the build up. I have never made much of a fuss about Halloween in previous years but having an excited audience has helped me appreciate the fun side of it all, even if it is all just a giant excuse to spend more money on tat!

This week Ihave been mostly re-reading: Remember Remember The Fifth Of November - Guy Fawkes & The Gunpowder Plot by James Sharp

Current Mood: awake
Monday, October 31st, 2016
1:55 am
Halloween Movie Challenge 2016 - Movies 26 - 31
Luckily the clocks went back this weekend (from British Summertime to G.M.T.) which gave me an additional hour to complete my 31 Horror movie challenge in time for Halloween. I am going to be working all day on the 31st so I had to get it done today. Here is the final batch.

A Simple cabin in the woods/psycho on the loose tail but the balance in the story telling is slightle off here. The back story is way too busy and the pacing for the rest of the film is far too slow to generate any kind of tension. The film looked good in terms of prosuction values and cast but failed in it's delivery.

A really fun movie about giant mutant wasps attacking some rich people at a garden party- turning anyone they sting almost instantly into an even bigger human/giant-mutant-wasp hybrid. There's a good cast, plenty of good gags and the whole thing is bloody good fun. I liked this movie!

A British ghost story that fails to hit any of it's marks in terms of horror and chills. It's too long, too slow, the script is poor and the only thing cheaper and more amateurish than the effects is the cast.

This movie was quite a find. A man wakes up in a large mass grave full of bodies and he has no idea of who he is or how he got there. The group of people he first meets are in a similar situation (apart from one woman who cannot speak, read or write English and therefore cannot properly communicate with the others. There are other people on the grounds of the property and in the surrounding countryside but they all clearly have something wrong with them. There is also a mrked calander counting down to an unknown event due to happen within the next couple of days...
The tension is good and the mystery stays strong with the film throughout. The final reveal does not disappoint. This is a really good film told from an original angle.

The production in this film is realy obviously cheap but it remains an interesting watch. The main character has agoraphopia and so cannot go out of her flat. Her flat howerer is haunted by several distinct spirits. At first the character remains largely oblivious to them though they are obvious to the audience. When she does see them her initial reaction is fear but then eventually she starts to communicate with them and find out what they want.
The film kind of asks an obvious question. The audience to most horror films will usually be shouting at the main character to "GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!" but what if they cannot? What if their fear of the outside is worse than their fear of the ghosts? Sadly the short film only really skims the surface of one possible answer but the qustion is original and with almost no dialogue for the first half of the film there is some interesting genuinely surreal imagery of this woman hanging out in her flat oblivious to the supernatural activity going on around her.
I would like to see the ideas in this film played out more fully but its an interesting place to start.

This documentary would make a nice companion piece to 'Albert Fish' the documentary I reviewed earlier this week. H.H. Holmes is famously America's first documented serial killer. The film (mostly using well established facts and records) descibes Holmes' background, crimes, capture and execution. The Chicago based killer was more or less a contemporary of Jack The Ripper but may have killed way more people (estimates range from a conservative 9 to upwards of 50). He also had a large building called 'The Castle' built to his own specifications with built in killing, disection and disposal rooms included. Like the other documentary about Albert Fish there is little fresh insight into the cases of either man but they are both pretty good introductions to those (like me) who are unfamiliar with the cases.

Thats me done with theis challenge for another year. Happy Halloween!

Current Mood: awake
Sunday, October 30th, 2016
2:48 am
Halloween Movie Challenge 2016 - Movies 21 - 25
Its my weekend off and I am blowing it watching a marathon of Horror movies to hit by target 31 for the challenge. Here are the latest:

This is a film that starts off with a lot of promise (and a strong concept) and remains an ok film with some nice performances but it never really gets off the ground in the horror/chills department and squanders the really good idea at it's heart. The story is that it has become legal in the U.S. for private companies to assist suicides. (That part alone is an interesting idea for a movie). The main character we follow is on her first day on the job and things are not going well for her. (Still a strong idea). We find out that the souls of those being assisted to suicide are not 'crossing over' as they should. (Still a strong idea). The rest of the movie then follows our lead character as she is paired with another colleague to help dispatch a client who has paid extra for some "special requests" with his assisted suicide - the sum of which is that a magic ritual be performed as he dies that will enable his soul to escape the angry vengeful spirits which are loitering nearby and desire to torture his soul rather than let him pass to heaven. Things get a bit messy with the film after that without ever becoming especially spooky or horrific or without making anything out of the good ideas they started with. There was plenty of good stuff here but good ideas went unexplored and after a good start the ending was disappointingly poor.

This movie has a pretty basic premise that could have worked better if it had been serviced by a better script. The main character is a young girl with Autism. Her sister is dead (suicide) but her spirit tries to protect her from her physically and mentally abusive parents. This could have worked nicely as a film but the Autism aspect was only superficially explored and the vast majority of the characters come out of the script as barely one dimensional "types": Her parents are cruel, her teacher is almost deliberately ineffective/uncaring about the abuse, the classroom assistantthat spots the abuse is deeply caring etc. Almost worse than that is the way exposition is given in the dialogue without even the smallest effort to disguise it. This is a very poor film.

This film is shot in a documentary style, borrowing a lot of the stylings of a documentary but from the opening credits onwards it is clearly NOT an actual documentary, they are just using the form to tell the story. The theme of the 'documentary' is that lots of children have died in orphanages in numbers that basically add up to mass (often unmarked) graves - and this has resulted in huge spikes of child-ghost activity at these sites. The film then begins to fail as it falls between the gaps in genres. It Clearly is not a documentary because the "evidence" presented is bonkers. Part of the problem is that despite being bonkers it is only just slightly more bonkers than some 'documentaries' that actually make it on to tv, especially the stuff that is about paranormal investigation. With a slight tweaking of the script it could have made a half decent spoof perhaps but there is little obvious humour as it stands. The run time is also far too long. Cut to about 30 minutes and shot as a spoof or 'mockumentary' this could have worked but at feature length this just dragged and dragged with many repititions. Sadly this movie for me is also a fail.

I almost didn't choose this movie because I thought it looked to cheesey - I wish I had followed my instincts. Five minutes into watching the film I strted to think it was a spoof because it was so obviously silly. When the jokes dried up I realised that it was actually not a spoof, just silly. I would have no problem with that but it fails so badly to be funny it just comes across as lame. I am not having much luck with my movie selections today.

This was easily the best film of the day for me. It's pretty basic stuff. Mostly it is a group of friends spending the weekend at a cabin in the woods. A psycho arrives to start picking them off. There is more than a touch of 'Friday the 13th' about this, which the film itself acknowledges by homaging the name Vorhees in an early scene. The baddie also has a slight touch of the supernatural about him too. All of this makes it sound a bit derivative but it is actually handled quite well. Its a decent indie production that actually manages to generate some suspense and tension even though the film's basic concept is so widely familiar. I liked this film because it was the best of all the movies I saw today but I think it would stand up to the test even if I had seen it in isolation.

Current Mood: awake
Saturday, October 29th, 2016
11:26 am
Halloween Movie Challenge 2016 - Movies 18-20
Teeing up a few more movies for my 31 Movie Halloween challenge:

Clive Owen stars in this film which does pretty well for itself - until it disappears in a puff of logic towards the end. Tho children in different countries and different times are facing the same problem - a spernatural bogeyman called "Hollowface" is lurking in the dark to get them when they are alone. The action alternates between one setting and the other (Italy and The UK) and does generate some quite creepy moments. It builds to a limax when it is revealed what it is that really links these two children and shortly after the real story of "The Hollow Man" (shame they couldn't use that title, it's aready taken) is revealed. At this point the story unravels. There is a logic to why the Italian part of the story should possibly play out the way it did but it is a bit of a stretch to see why the London part should do so. I quite liked the film overall but the ending was a bit of a let down for me.

This is such a weird film. If I had come to it in another context I probably would not consider it to be a horror. I have seen it now as part of this challenge, I found it in a horror section and on some levels it is, though it also contains equal parts comedy and spaghetti western.
A young woman ardently dreams of becomming a reality tv star. A film production crew begin working with her on a show about her own life - the twist is that the crew are all talking chickens (portrayed here by puppets) and in this world that is unremarkably normal. The chickens begin to manipulate the woman for their own ends and her world begins to crumble. A decent into a form of hell follows. In any other form this would be a deeply unforgettable film (in terms of just the story) but the chickens are superb, brilliant, weird and darkly funny. The horror label may be debatable but for a giggle at Halloween (or any time) you could do worse.

There is an interesting concept here at the heart of the film's story but it is let down by it's cheap seeply amateur production and a deeply unimginative ending. The idea is that a microchip has been invented that once imbedded in a person can basically allow them to grant themselves wishes. Controls are put in place to restrict the powers by time and geography (only in certain rooms and at certain times to they work). A group of people are selected by a sophisticated computer (based on psychological profiling) to come and be test subjects for the devices but one of the group is not what he seems to be. His warped desires eventually lead to killing and mayhem. The idea (though flawed) could be quite entertaining to play out but with zero budget, a poor amateur cast and a finale they builds no a predictable mess of not much at all the idea ultimately goes to waste. This is a poor film.

This week I have been mostly reading: Dead Simple by Peter James

Current Mood: awake
Friday, October 28th, 2016
1:54 am
Halloween Movie Challenge 2016 - Movies 13 - 17
It was my day off work today so I was able to kick my Halloween challenge on a bit further:

A demon S.T.D! After having sex with a boy she was dating a teenage girl learns that she has been the recipient of a demon curse. The rules are inventive and it makes for an entertaining set up. There is a demonic figure coming for you. It only moves at walking speed but it is utterly relentless. If you have sex with someone that person then becomes the demon's main target but if that person dies then the demon will start working it's way back through the list. Only people who have the curse (or have had it in the past) can see the demon and it likes to take the form of people you love.
This movie feels pretty fresh. The slow zombie rule seems to apply to this demon in that you can easily outrun it for short periods of time but it is always coming for you, night and day. Even if you pass the curse on you not only damn yourself but you will find yourself hunted again when they are killed (shooting it in the head doesn't seem to kill it though). I really enjoyed this film - it had a great balance of fun and chills.

Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy play college lecturers who test and debunk reported psychic and paranormal activity. They each have enough back story to drive their work in deeply personal ways. Robert DeNiro plays a world famous performing psychic who is coming back from retirement to sell-out blockbuster arena tours. This sets up an increasing suspenseful show down between the opposing sides. Critics/opponents of DeNiro's character have been known to die but it remains unclear right until the end of the movie whether he has powers or simply uses stooges (and occasionally armed thugs).
DeNiro plays one of his more interesting characters in recent years, not that it was much of a stretch for him. Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy I could watch in pretty much anything. The movie also has Toby Jones in a supporting role. As a thriller it comes in a little better than average but the superb cast keep it interesting.

Not Roald Dahl but Hammer Studios. It's nice to find the occasional Hammer movie which I have not preciously seen. This one features Joan Fontaine as a school teacher who first encounters witchcraft during her missionary work in Africa (which drives her to a nervous breakdown) and then (as she recovers) in a secluded, affluent English village. The African section is little more than a prologue (and one that is none to subtle with African stereotypes). The rest of the film is set in England and there are many trace elements which remind me of the (original) 'Wicker Man' though The Witches predates that film by several years and isn't as good.
This was a bit different to the Hammer films I am used to. The usual gothic elements were comparatively few and there was no Vincent Price or Christopher Lee to be seen, though there is an unexpected appearance by Leonard Rossiter who later found fame with his comic roles in tv sitcoms. The Witches is very much at the lighter end of the Horror genre but being a Hammer film there is a sort of cosy nostalgia to wallow in.

Bad Ben is a fairly straight forward modern haunted house film. It uses the found footage (from security cameras, mostly) so at times it looks and feels a bit like the 'Paranormal Activity' films. The big difference is the cast of film is just one guy. There are a few phone conversations but the entire film is carried on a single performance. There is an in-built creepiness to this kind of film that is exploited well. It isn't without its flaws (some silliness too far in some scenes and a gentle predictability a bit too often) but is a pretty fun film and remarkable because it is all just one guy on screen from start to finish.

A Young couple find themselves drugged, kidnapped and trapped in a basement. Their disturbed kidnapper deprives them of food, water and forces them to play his warped games to the point of deep psychological torture. Most of this film is just the two characters on screen and the voice of their kidnapper so like the film above ('Bed Ben') there is an impressive economy and the performances carry the film. This is a grim watch (in a good way, this is a horror film). This isn't about a big body count or impressive effects - this is two people trapped, starved and psychologically tortured. 'Fun' might not be the right word for this film but it is very effective.

Current Mood: awake
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