Archive for the ‘New Review’ Category

The Kings of Shock-Rock Return: Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie at Download Festival 2011

June 21, 2011

Download Festival 2011 will be remembered for many reasons: the triumphant return of System Of A Down, security guard no. 836 who will go home with the best work story of all time, and the Sunday downpour that resulted in hoards of mud-soaked metalheads. But what it really should be remembered for was playing the honoured host to the gods of horror performance: Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie.

The 'gruesome twosome' toured the US in 2010

       Alice Cooper – Saturday Second Stage

Image courtesy of MandyHallMedia on Flickr

The immortal master of tongue-in-cheek shock rock may be getting on, but he still has bucketloads of energy to writhe around onstage with a life-size doll and perform numerous costume changes including inevitable black leathers and a lab coat for Feed My Frankenstein.

This glam spectacle reeks of camp horror, and Alice never stops performing: he swats a faux photographer with his mic stand and carries out his infamous onstage beheading. Favourites like Poison and the encore School’s Out rev up audience members old and young, and Alice even treats fans to a new song, I’ll Bite Your Face Off.

    Rob Zombie – Sunday Second Stage

A really awesome photo of Rob Zombie.

It’s been 12 gruelling years since Rob Zombie played a live show in the UK, and the soaked crowd is forced to wait in anticipation as Johnny Cash blares over the speakers.

With a flaming stage, smoke, confetti and a hoard of props including bubble machines, skeletons, monsters and robots together with a set of screens playing horror clips, shots from Zombie’s music videos and plenty of tits, this stellar spectacle brings a whole new meaning to the words horror performance.

With Mars Needs Women, Superbeast, Super Charger Heaven and More Human Than Human acting as highlights, it’s when Zombie returns on a gnarled demon podium to address his loyal subjects for the Dragula encore that the crowd really goes wild. Leaving the crowd chanting “Zombie! Zombie!” it’s clear that the horror king has risen to godlike status.

If you were lucky enough to be present, congratulations, it’s likely that you witnessed the best live horror show on earth.

The Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards

The gruesome twosome were reunited at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards on Monday June 13th, where Alice presented Zombie with the final award of the night, the Golden God award. You’ve got to love Zombie’s short and sweet acceptance speech.

Check out the full list of Golden Gods Awards winners here.

Read my reviews of Download Festival in the August issue of Metal Hammer magazine.

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Circus of Horrors Review for Guardian Cardiff

February 4, 2011

Ah, the perks of journalism.

I get to watch awesome stuff like this for free! - Copyright of The Circus of Horrors

Last night I was treated to the theatrical whirlwind that is The Circus of Horrors in Cardiff’s New Theatre, which I reviewed for Guardian Cardiff. What can I say, if you’re a fan of dwarf penis and Rob Zombie style tunes then you’ll be in for a treat.

Doktor Haze was on top form, winning the crowd over with impressive vocals and dirty jokes. In response to one woman who cringed as the sword-swallower displayed his tricks, Haze retorted: “Don’t look so horrified madam, I’m sure you’ve swallowed worse.”

Check out my review for Guardian Cardiff here.

Oh yeah, and then there’s this.

I met Doktor Haze. Oh yeah.

Trauma in Tutus: Black Swan Review

January 30, 2011

Get ready for 108 minutes of pure, raw anxiety.

Uh-oh..

Darren Aronofsky creates a whirlwind of paranoia, intensity and hysteria with the psychological modern gothic thriller that is Black Swan.

Right from the start we are hurled into the life of dedicated yet delicate New York ballet dancer Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman). She lives with her overbearing, equally anxious mother (Barbara Hershey) and appears to have no life outside of the ballet studio. From start to finish, we remain in her intense world and watch as she descends into madness.

Hey there!

Nina lands the role of her dreams, as the Swan Queen in a new version of Swan Lake that is being directed by the somewhat sleazy Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel). In this challenging role, she must embody both the white swan and its evil twin, the black swan. Although she is ideal as the virtuous white swan, she struggles to find within her the ability to play the part of its doppelgänger. Leroy slyly suggests that if she goes home and touches herself this may help her to relax. Did I mention he was somewhat sleazy?

Typically, another dancer in the company, Lily (Mila Kunis), is perfect to play the black swan. Sexy, passionate and tattooed, she is everything that Nina is not and Nina becomes obsessed with her, believing that she is out to steal the lead role.

The first half of the film moves quite slowly, emphasizing the mundane boredom and loneliness of Nina’s life. As Nina slowly loses her mind in trying to find her dark side, Aronofsky plays with the audience, challenging us to question where reality ends and fantasy begins. As we are seeing the story unfold through Nina’s eyes, it becomes impossible to know what is happening for real and what are Nina’s paranoid delusions.

Just how many Nina's are there?

Black Swan is a claustrophobic thriller about obsession and fear. Fear of sex and passion, fear of losing control and fear of imperfection. If the film’s constant feeling of biting anxiety isn’t enough, there are plenty of moments that will make for an extremely uncomfortable audience. There is frequent body mutilation, skin picking and bloody toes. Two such scenes involve Nina slowly peeling skin off of her fingers and Winona Ryder (as jaded ballet dancer Beth) jabbing a nail file into her cheeks. There is also a particularly intense masturbation scene that you definitely wouldn’t want to watch with your mother. You will be gripping your seat while also cringing into your popcorn throughout this movie.

Portman transformed

So is it worth the hype? Portman is certainly brilliant, and the film’s success is ultimately down to her performance. The film itself isn’t particularly scary, instead it is seriously heavy viewing and not recommended for the fragile or squeamish. The melodrama, blood and eroticism of this overwhelming film are certainly intoxicating, but won’t be for everyone.

I can’t say that I’ll be rushing back for a second viewing, and it isn’t quite as captivating as Requiem for a Dream, but Black Swan has got ‘Oscar winner’ written all over it.

Spine-tingling Suspense on Stage: Ghost Stories at The Duke of York’s Theatre

January 12, 2011

It’s a rare occasion when a theatre audience squeal with fright as soon as a voice asks them to turn off their mobiles before a show begins. But when you’re waiting in anticipation to watch a play that describes itself as ‘London’s scariest phenomenon’ and warns its audience in advance that they will have to keep reminding themselves that it’s only a show, it’s inevitable that you’ll be a tad bit jumpy. And rightly so.

Talk about tantalising advertising...

The secrets of Ghost Stories have been successfully shielded from the public. In fact, they are even hidden from the audience right up until the performance begins, with the show’s program revealing zilch about the storyline. After the final curtain falls on the stage, the audience is asked to keep the secrets of Ghost Stories. Clearly, the appeal of the show is the mystery that surrounds it.

Ghost Stories is currently running at The Duke of York’s Theatre in London (appropriately enough, the theatre is supposed to be haunted), and was devised by Jeremy Dyson, who co-created The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Andy Nyman, who has worked with Derren Brown. Together they have created a piece of theatre that mixes suspense, tricks of the eye, fact and fiction, audience interaction and heart-racing fear, all packed together nicely into 80 minutes. 80 minutes that you will literally spend on the edge of your seat terrified that some hideous creature is going to land on your lap.

The allegedly haunted Duke of York's Theatre

Perhaps I should divulge some of the plot detail, but I knew nothing about the storyline of Ghost Stories before I went to see it and that was what made it so engaging. Let’s just say that it involves a skeptical University Professor and a series of haunting stories.

Despite what the show promises, it won’t leave you disturbed for days. Instead it is rife with terrifying tension that may not stay with you long after you leave the theatre, but it sure as hell will get you in the moment. The acting is compelling and humor is key throughout, with the audience laughing just as often as they were yelping.

Just some of the media success that Ghost Stories has generated

What struck me most about Ghost Stories was how brilliantly clever it was. Obviously the mystery and media attention has helped considerably in getting the audience’s fear rising before they are even led to their seats, but once the show starts the techniques used to raise terror levels are fascinating. The audience becomes involved with the show immediately and this continues throughout, making us forget that we are, in fact, an audience in a theatre. Lighting and sound are used to their full effect, but it is the use of mind-numbing suspense that makes the show. It will drive you absolutely bonkers, but in the best possible way. Dare to blink and you might miss the moments of terror.

Ghost Stories is running at The Duke of York’s Theatre until June 2011. Click here for ticket info.

Clock Lovin’ Cannibals: ‘We Are What We Are’ Review.

November 27, 2010

Talk about a dysfunctional family.

An unstable mother who enjoys obsessively shredding cloth and lives in a house full of ticking clocks, set to different times no less. An insanely creepy sweater-wearing ‘sensitive’ older brother who blubs a lot. An ever creepier sister who lurches around in a nightgown. A horny younger brother with anger issues who resembles a young Anthony Kiedis (Yes, I kind of fancied the teenage cannibal.)

Oh yeah, I guess that’s the main thing that makes them so strange. They enjoy chowing down on human flesh.

Weirdos

(What is it with me and cannibals this week!? Is it a bit wrong that I went in search of more after Cannibal Holocaust?)

Directed by Jorge Michel Grau, We Are What We Are is set in rundown Mexico City, and it sure paints a grim picture of it. Prostitutes pop up continuously throughout the film and violence is rife. As the undertaker who discovers a human finger in Daddy cannibal puts it: “It’s unbelievable how many people are eating each other in the city.”

After Daddy cannibal (who was clearly the breadwinner) dies, the remnants of this flesh-feasting family have to learn how to find food on their own. Their cannibalism appears to be less about physical sustinence (although creepy sister does rub and gnaw on a victim’s naked thigh in a perverse sexual manner at one point) and more about the bizarre family rituals that mother seems so desperate to continue. This is where the ticking clocks come in; the next ritual is due.

They do have some morals. That or they’re just picky eaters. For example, Mummy cannibal refuses to eat ‘whores’. When her sons come home with a prostitute in tow, she butchers the girl and then drives back to where they found her, before hurling the dead body at the other prostitutes in a fit of rage. Not the wisest of moves, as we discover later.

For horror lovers, the gore is sparse but when it comes it’s the sound effects that make it. Sounds of squelching and squeezing flesh are much more effective in getting the audience heaving than any blood-soaked vision. The incessant creepy music of erratic strings only adds to the creep factor.

The film is by no means brilliant. There are more than a few holes in the plot and though it attempts to delve psychologically into the familiy and their troubles it never quite gets there. Themes of homosexuality and incest are flirted with briefly but never developed. In fact, not much information is developed. The bumbling policemen who try to catch the cannibals are a pointless attempt at a humorous subplot. But all that said I can’t deny that We Are What We Are held my attention. The characters may have been checking their clocks but I never checked mine (See what I did there!?).

For me, it’s the final scene that makes it. I’ll refrain from divulging any information but I’ll just say this: it’s bloody brillant black comedy.

Check out the trailer here.