No Retreat, No Surrender Part 2

Ok so the other week I filled you in on the back story to my first exposure of martial arts masterpiece No Retreat No Surrender. If you’ve just tipped up, get yourself informed here, then you can come back and get into the meat of it.

So after Jason gets beat up at Kelly’s birthday party he runs home and beats hell out of the stuff in his garage dojo. His dad can no longer teach Karate because JCVD snapped his leg so now he pulls pints down at some grotty local watering hole. I mean, it’s all starting to sound like one of them sad Bruce Springsteen songs isn’t it? Continue reading

Bad Boys: And some Skittles

Join me, if you will, in 1995. I’m 11. Our household is quite heavily into basketball, Fresh Prince (even though we don’t understand half the sexy jokes), and beating each other up. Still.

So what do you think happened when we found out that Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were gonna be in an action movie, with guns, bad guys, guns, swearing, fast cars, and guns? You guessed it. Meet me on the corner by the video shop, guys. Friday, 6pm, bring your Skeleton warriors glow in the dark pyjamas (so we can match, natch) and your special fried rice.

In a bizarre ritual of which I never understood the licensing loopholes, before you were able to purchase the videos for real, wrapped in cellophane, with a bunch of leaflets inside beckoning you to purchase a crappy tshirt (“IF YOU SEE THE POLICE – WARNER BROTHER!”) or some orthopaedic shoes, you were able to procur the VHS tapes as ex-rentals. Not much difference in quality, I’m not sure how many other people who lived in Abington, Northampton were renting the Ewoks cartoon, but they came in a different box. The massive, weird, heavy, and, as we discovered exercising some of our bottomless sibling-based rage, quite dangerous rental box. The questions surrounding this were endless. Where are the real boxes? Whose job is it to swap the covers out? What are they made of that doesn’t break when you throw them off the roof at your brother? None of this was ever answered, but it didn’t matter. I loved Bad Boys so much, that once again, to save herself money, my long suffering mother purchased this movie for us ex-rental, such was the cost of keeping us in bubblicious Friday nights. And once again, I watched it every Monday before school until the next big favourite came along/the tape was worn down to a macroscopically thin band, probably snapping in the machine.

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Stand on your own- No Retreat, No Surrender PART 1

 

NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kurt McKinney, 1986

Whilst somewhat overshadowed by actual wars in which real people died, make no mistake eighties popular culture was a bloody battlefield of bitter conflict. Coke vs Pepsi, NES vs Sega, Roxanne Shante vs The Real Roxanne. All gruelling wars of attrition in their own right but they all pale in significance next to the harsh reality of my own personal Hamburger Hill….Betamax vs VHS…..

See my family didn’t have a lot of disposable cash. And whilst there was always a modest meal on the table, luxuries like video recorders were pretty far down the list of things we could afford. If I wanted to watch a movie I had to wait for it to come onto terrestrial television or hope that an invite from the kid next door  to watch a tape round there might be forthcoming. One day I will tell you all the story of how I feigned illness whilst at a classmates birthday party and weaved an intricate deception just so I could be left alone in the house to use their video player to watch Empire Strikes Back. I was eight years old.

In 1988 my dad returned home from work with a pep in his step. For a man who dug holes in the road for forty years of his life this was an unusual sight. Normally he’d drag himself through the door at the end of the day, defeated. Eat his dinner in silence then slump in the armchair and fall asleep watching the news. But today was different. He entered our home with a look of triumph upon his brow. ‘Look what I’ve got’. Out of a black bin bag he produced a bulky video recorder. My eyes flickered with delight as my Dad’s craggy features split and he smiled down at me and together, father and son hastened to the front room to set up the video recorder and commence our journey into cinematic heaven.

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Too Much Horror Business: Overdosing on the macabre at the age of 4

Not one to blow my own trumpet, but I’ve seen pretty much 95% of all Horror films ever made.

Where did I get that percentage from? My arse. I’ve absolutely no idea how many I’ve seen, but it’s a fucking lot I can assure you.

Earlier in the year my Mum told me that my fucking dickhead Dad showed me The Hills Have Eyes on VHS when I was four years old. A ridiculous thing to do and I wish he hadn’t as, apparently, I was greatly affected by it and rightly so, it’s a fucking NASTY film. But, a year later, Ghostbusters shit me up just as bad so maybe I’m just a YELLOW CHICKEN. But it ignited a love for ghoulies and ghosties that never left. It was kept burning by Fighting Fantasy books, Scream comic, 2000AD, Splatterhouse arcade machines, Garbage Pail Kids, Monster in My Pocket, Supernaturals, Oink! And the ability to draw whatever my imagination desired. The mid-late 80s was a fucking incredible time to be a young Horror fan.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

Author: Joe Boyd

This review starts on a cluttered bedroom floor in a small Derbyshire town, where two gangly teenage boys with too much hair are sat in front of an eviscerated VCR. It’s the mid-2000s, and me and my friend Mike are watching horror movies.

This always was a bit of a trip for me. Mike has a personality disorder, so spending time with him was never like hanging out with the average teenage boy. His moods are erratic, and his outlook on life switches from happy to nihilistic in an instant, flicking back just as quickly. He’s been diagnosed with ADHD before, and it’s easy to see why; his attention is constantly springing from one activity to the next. Watching horror movies is, therefore, an interesting experience.

Mike doesn’t have the patience for a whole movie, or even half of one. He watches them in bursts of energy, like a series of sprints, pausing to play a videogame or take something apart to see how it works, before catching up where he left off. When him and I get together, therefore, he skips most of the films. What I get is a kind of highlight reel of all the gory bits, as he switches out one tape for another in excited glee.

We watched vampires slash up a bar in From Dusk till Dawn, followed by Drew Barrymore’s fatal final phone call in Scream. We watched Final Destination – the perfect film for Mike’s attention span – in a chaotic, random order, skipping from death to death and laughing at the contextless slaughter.

In retrospect, that’s not actually much different from watching Final Destination normally.

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Kiss Me Fat Boy! – Stephen Kings IT

Now I want to preface this article by admitting that It is an obvious choice for a horror movie retrospective but it has significant importance to me – it managed to scare me off a whole genre of film up until this very day, which means I’ve missed out classics such as Jason X and Nine Lives. I cannot stand watching most horror movies and I really do believe it links closely to the clown played by the guy from Home Alone 2.

It’s best for us to go back to where this haunting began – I believe the year was 1996, I was at a friends house for what I understood would be an enjoyable birthday sleepover. I remember we played some Tekken 2, I assume we ate some breaded chicken and watched the Demon Headmaster – all things that guarantee a 9 year old a great night of entertainment.

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The Eclipse – True Past Death

“Then she knew. She knew that she was seeing a ghost, and she realized for perhaps the first time in her life, that she too would die. That her husband would die. And that her children would die. She knew in that moment, that she was looking at reality”

Is it a scarier prospect that ghosts are real, or just inventions of the mind? This is one of the fundamental questions wrestled with in the little watched Irish film “The Eclipse.” It is a film that focuses on loss, and how the people we love fill spaces in our world that don’t close easily when they’re gone. It is about holding onto whatever is left, even pain, in order to avoid forgetting, and how that can turn toxic and limiting. The film is a hybrid of a slow paced character study, relationship drama and horror. It borrows all sorts of tricks from the latter to ramp up tension and even provides a few jump scares and ghost sightings. Using voyeuristic camera angles, shots from inside darkened rooms and just behind railings or bushes, it gives the whole film a feeling of dread lurking just outside the frame. But this dread isn’t usually of the typical horror manner, it isn’t a chainsaw wielding maniac or vengeful spirit manifesting itself to expel intruders. The dread is of a more human kind. When someone loses a wife, a mother, a child or anyone really, what do they hold onto ultimately to keep their life from spinning out of control?

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Marked For Justice: Creepshow 2

As the father of a nine year old, I’m forced to watch and listen to a lot of garbage. Kids of this generation listen to some of the worst music in the history of recorded sound. It’s hard to believe but the television shows are worse. The ratio for movies fares a bit better. For every Batman Vs. Superman, at least there is usually a palate cleanser like a Rogue One or Guardians of the Galaxy available that you can watch and reaffirm your faith in film. Whenever we have to see something like Tomorrowland I quietly wonder to myself, “Dear God. Did I enjoy trash like this when I was her age?” As I pondered what I would skewer when writing this piece I realised that yes, childlike naievete can actually make a steaming pile of dog shit seem like a good movie. 

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Thirty Five Years* of Lycanthrope Love – An American Werewolf in London

“A naked American man stole my balloons”

Backpacking and travelling around the world with nothing but the clothes on your back and the stuff in your rucksack used to be all the rage. This is almost certainly why Jack and David, two clean cut all American youths and the main players in John Landis’ tale of hirsute supernatural monstrosities find themselves rambling through the wind-blasted moors of the North of England in the middle of winter. I don’t know which tourist guide told them that this was the hip and happening pace to be in the early eighties, but whichever one it was should be ripped into pieces, set on fire and buried in a deep hole.  Anyway, it starts to rain so they seek shelter in a local pub called The Slaughtered Lamb, which is a proper local watering hole for locals only and Landis makes this abundantly clear when the strangers walk in by ensuring that everyone in the crowded establishment shuts the fuck up as soon as they walk in and then stare at the poor innocents abroad as though they were a posh red wine from somewhere like Tuscany. Which, anywhere north of Watford in the early eighties, was a big no-no and in some places was enough to get you run out of town.

Soon enough though, it’s all laughs and banter as the teacher from Kes, Rick from The Young Ones and a whole host of other bit players accept their new comrades into their drinking club and all is going swimmingly until our clueless heroes start asking questions about the Pentagram on the wall, at which point they’re kicked to the curb, thrown out in the rain and warned in no uncertain terms to stay off the moors. As they walk out of the pub and the locals’ lives, there’s a lot of hand wringing and chatter in the pub about how they shouldn’t have let the lads leave while in the background there’s a Lon Chaney style howl, which despite being louder than an old lady’s telly, isn’t heard by that bloke from Kes who obviously needs a hearing aid. Cut back to the young Americans chatting about girls and what not, who being young and out in the world for the first time, venture off the path and onto the moors. The opposite of they were told to do by the more local than local locals in the Slaughtered Lamb.

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Scream: LIVER ALONE, she’s pregnant

October 1996. Scream isn’t here yet, but it’s on it’s way. And as a slash hungry 12 year old, I have never been more hungry for anything. No video shop for this one. I forwent the sweet and sour chicken balls and the comfort of my own home, such was the level of importance. Written by the executive producer of Dawson’s Creek, and directed by the man responsible for everyone’s favourite melted kiddie fiddler Freddie Kruger, Just 17 favourite Skeet Ulrich, California Man’s Rose McGowan, and Matthew Lillard off Serial Mom were going to be in a high school horror film with blood, guts, gore, and a killer in a ridiculous mask. You’ll notice I didn’t mention Neve Campbell, well that’s because she’s terrible and Party of Five was a very difficult watch, thank you. I know you all have a soft spot for her since she snogged up Denise Richards in the swimming pool in whatever that film was you all found your dick on, but she’s rubbish. Regardless, hi, you looking for your demographic? Well you found her. Even though she’s 6 years away from being allowed to watch your film…

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