Thursday, 25 July 2013

A Review of a brand new novel - The Fall Of The Angel Nathalie by Jamie Brindle


"Do you believe in Angels and Daemons? It doesn't really matter, because they believe in you"…..


Reading first-time published novels can occasionally be a tricky business - they can occasionally be excellent, sometimes often reasonable, but even more often be instantly forgetful (and that is being distinctly kind). However, It has been my pleasure in my last couple of book reviews to read two very different, but equally excellent first-time novels  with (Starblood, by Camilla Voiez and Siberian Hellhole, by Michael Mulvihill). 

So after answering the urgent request of the Grand Master and Generalisimo of UKHorrorScene for someone to review a brand new debut Horror Fantasy then I was pretty certain that my luck would have run out on this third occasion. After all, my weekend has gone as good as it could possibly get with England winning again in the cricket against Australia and then finding a forgotten bottle of rather expensive wine languishing in a kitchen cupboard - surely there there had to be a sting in the week's tail? There had been no more information than that the story was a horror fantasy and it was the writer's debut novel - not much to go on really.

So when the friendly and dependable postman dropped the well-wrapped package through my letter box on Wednesday I did wonder whether my run of two excellent reads was about to end. I could have started the review earlier in the week as I had been offered the choice of either an electronic copy or or in the traditional as-god-intended- paper-state every book should be - not that I'm old fashioned when it comes to books you know….well actually I am. I love the feel of them, the texture of them, the weight of them and ( call me strange) especially the sound they make when you tap them…... Yes I know….

So after opting for a proper copy of a book I eagerly unwrapped it and onto the table place the book 'The Fall Of The Angel Nathalie' by Jamie Brindle. As a consequence of opting for the paper edition I had given myself less time to read & then review it ……. In other words, if it was bad then the pain wouldn't last as long.

So, in the long anticipated and still imagined words of Bellatrix Lestrange after a night of Wizardry and Witch shenanigans  - " Well, how was it for you, Stuart?"

In all genuine honesty, The Fall Of The Angel Nathalie is quite simply a triumph.

PLOT OUTLINE

It is not my intention to give away many details of the plot. I don't hate many people in life, but people who divulge book details, or even worse, people who skip to the end of a book to read the final few pages should be taken out and shot at dawn. So consequently, i will endeavour to relay as much as I can about the story without hopefully giving too much away

The story essentially deals with a timeless battle between the Angels and daemons for the possession of human souls, ALL human souls. It is a war between the immortals fought not with weapons of destruction, because direct Intevention is not allowed. Instead we are moved, influenced, tempted with the merest of whispered suggestion in a  person's ear, a barely noticed nudge on one's will.

The fact that much of humanity no longer believes in heaven or hell, god and the devil or Angles and deamons is inconsequential. In fact it is playing right into the hands of the immortals - because it makes their job all that easier, they are everywhere and they are fighting over you.

The plot moves from the Angel's realm, the Gardens of Avalon where the grass is green and the sun always shines to the Deamon realm of Daemonhearth where pain, damnation and darkness stretches for infinity. And in-between there is the planet Earth, with it's cites of endless possibilities for battling over our souls.

So what about the character from the title, Nathalie? Well she is a powerful, beautiful Angel and her task is to make sure she stops evil being committed. The problem is that the realm hierarchies believe in the utmost importance that humans should be given as much free will as possible - direct intervention is frowned upon……And that is frustrating for Nathalie, very frustrating.

The Deamons too are bound by the same rules, they cannot intervene directly…..but they can tempt. The finely tailored and flawlessly handsome Jason, once an Angel but now fallen to become a deadly daemon is set on one particular target of his own, tempting one individual who should definitely NOT be tempted...



The story is a wonderful rich tapestry of Sin, temptation and the notion of whether we actually have, or need free will. It examines thoughts that all of us have had at one time - if we could stop evil taking shape before it happens, just how far would we go? If we choose to commit murder to stop murder, or even just to think about committing a sinful act in itself but which in turn could stop increased pain and death……does that make us just as bad, or worse.? And just because we stop someone murdering simply by the merest act of suggestion, does the fact that they wanted to in the first place mean that in their soul is damned?



The characters of The Fall Of The Angel Nathalie are wonderfully drawn and layered. The complexities and contradictions in Nathalie and Jason are delightfully described and the cast of 'supporting' characters are given plenty of room to breath and eve love - though not always in ways that we expect. The fact that not some may not be quite as they seem keeps you guessing right to the end, there is no black and white here.

Sometimes...the best things are done by the worst people and the worst things done by the best of us.


The are a couple of negatives, though I would hardly call them complaints, more accurately they could be described merely as minor quibbles. The main one being that the story occasionally travels a little too fast with a couple of the episodes feeling ever so slightly rushed - the introduction of Nathalie's first 'understudys' Blake and Laura being a case in point. The underworld of Daemonhearth could have benefited from a more detailed description of the realm. Moreover, the relationship between Nathalie and Jason, which is the cornerstone of the narrative is merely hinted at. I would have loved to have read a more detailed back story of their relationship. The last two points to make up some elements of a future novel perhaps Mr Brindle?

However, as I mentioned these are but minor quibbles about a story that had me transfixed from the very first chapter to the heart-stopping finale. I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone who has even the most tenuous affection for Fantasy. For those of us that love fantasy with a true and unrelenting passion, then this will not disappoint. In fact it may even reaffirm those who may have become jaded and somewhat disillusioned with fantasy and horror in this post-Twilight sparkly world that we inhabit. 

To those out there who poo poo the idea of anything fantasy or horror related, then I suggest you read The fall of the Angel Nathalie - it may just change your mind.


About the Author Jamie Brindle





"Jamie was brought up by loving ex-hippy parents who sold boomerangs for a living and had a hedge maze in their back garden. He was home-educated until the age of fourteen, before being eased gently into the idea that the world, by and large, expects you to get up earlier than is really civilised for the majority of your life.

Jamie trained as a biochemist at the University of Sussex. Following graduation, he realised he would find this deeply boring, and after a brief sojourn working in a school for deaf children (which he enjoyed much more than his home-educated prejudices had led him to believe), he studied medicine at the University of Warwick. He now works as a junior doctor, and writes speculative fiction mainly as a way to ground himself after long shifts in the bizarre fantasy world of the NHS."

Overall rating 9/10







You can buy The Fall Of The Angel Nathalie HERE at Amazon








Monday, 22 July 2013

In praise of Star Wars Episode I;The Phantom Menace


All right, I'll get this out of the way straight away….

I LOVE The Phantom Menace 
- I truly do. It is in no way the disaster that many people suggest that it is. In fact, It quite simply is something of a sublime movie…..

So, there I said it. Now I could sit back and wait for the avalanche, the Tsunami, the absolute cacophony of outrage that will come from many in my fellow Geek fraternity at the sheer audacity of that comment. For few movies in the history of cinema have been condemned  and criticised as much as this was and in many ways, still is. For example, only yesterday I saw a "Kill Jar Jar Binks - save the series" t-shirt advertised on some online store. The strength of 'anti-Phantom Menace' feelings amongst many is frankly disturbing in its intensity. I would argue it is time for a re-appraisal.

For those of us that experienced the first wave of the force back in 1977, we were quite simply blessed to be part of the whole insane adventure. Prior to the arrival of Messrs Skywalker, Solo, Vader et al, the science fiction scene was dire. Star Trek was nothing but a distant memory and the genre was wallowing in memories of well meaning (and some not so well meaning) B-movies. The injection that George Lucas provided to sci-fi was seismic in proportions and arguably the greatest revolution in cinematic history that can still be felt in the genre today. 

To those that weren't around in those heady days it is difficult to explain just how exciting and new the Star Wars universe was. It was everywhere; in film, literature, merchandising, music, in fact there wasn't one facet of popular culture that wasn't affected during those mad early years which evolved into living through the release of three truly iconic films. The news. some 20 odd years after the first release that not just one, but three new Star Wars films were going to be made simply sent us all into further geek rapture.

The original three movies, and the subsequent build up to the new releases had heightened the expectations of fans to the impossible extent that I firmly believe that no film would have ever been able to meet them. Now, don't get me wrong. I am in no way way saying The Phantom Menace is the best of the lot or that it is perfect - It certainly has numerous flaws, a couple of which I'll talk about in a moment. What I am saying is that this movie such not be treated as the much maligned Star Wars pariah that it has been since the day of it's release.

So before I go onto to change the minds of all you Phantom Menace doubters out there, i feel for evenness sake it is only fair that I mention what are regarded as two of the major flaws in the film.  Yes Jar Jar Binks and Anakin Skywalker, I'm talking about about you two!


THE NEGATIVES



Jar Jar Binks


Grab him by the throat Qui-Gon, grab him by the throat!
Of course he's one of of the main problems with this movie - that fact cannot be denied, even by we lovers of the film. The character has few redeeming qualities at all. It's almost as if George Lucas sat in his office one day and thought to himself "I want to make a character that will irritate, anger and quite possibly offend as many people in the world as possible" Well congratulations Georgie boy, you did it. I'm assuming that Binks was intended as a source of comedic relief, rather along the lines of C3P0 in the original series. 

However it all goes badly wrong. It's difficult to know whether it is the pseudo-Rastafarian voice employed by actor Ahmed Best, the offensive racial stereotyping, or simply the fact that the character is a complete moron that grates so much. His inclusion in the film was a miscalculation of gigantic proportions for not only did he seem to piss the whole of the world off, he became the focal point for all what was regarded as wrong with The Phantom Menace. 



Anakin Skywalker




It's a close call, but the second most annoying character in the film isn't too much of a stretch for most people. Now I don't want this to turn into a personal attack on the boy who played the future Mr Vader. However, Jake Lloyd was at best a bit rubbish and at worst, completely annoying. There wasn't a stage at any point in the movie where there was even a hint of the turmoil or menace that should have lain beneath the character. Whether it was Lloyd's acting inability, or bad direction from Lucas, the seminal role in the film was badly put together and ineptly one-dimensional.

In my view, people tend to overlook the some of the weaknesses of the first three movies, the clunky dialogue, the holes in some of the plot-lines to name but two things. For those that propose that the likes of Jar Jar Binks and Annakin Skywalker ruin the film beyond redemption - let me leave you with this thought. Ewoks.


THE POSITIVES

Darth Maul


Darth Cool
The Phantom Menace may not have the pervading intimidation of a heavy breathing & Asthmatic Darth Vader. It may not have the enigmatic yet charismatic presence of Boba Fett. It does however have a character that if at all possible, could arguably out-Darth Darth Vader. 

The Lightsabre fight involving Maul, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan has the excitement and complex choreography to rival anything that had been seen before, thanks in no small part to actor Ray Park's martial arts skills - and you can never go wrong in character's death scene involving him being cut in half!
Darth Maul's character had all the charisma and depth that was missing form the Anakin Skywalker character - and yet, and yet. A chance was possibly missed by Lucas as his screen time added up to approximately 3 minutes. Now that is a crime.




The visuals



Yes, The Phantom Menace has strange and confusing plot twists, dialogue that puts the cheese in Cheesy and a list of loose threads galore. However, so did the original series - for instance there is the well told story of Harrison Ford telling George Lucas that he couldn't write dialogue for shit.

There is still so much to love and appreciate about this film. Some of the battle and action scenes are quite simply breathtaking in their scope, excitement and their intricate production. The pod race through the desert has some obvious Ben Hur chariot race homage going on in it's excitement and stature. The special effects are incredible, taking the Star Wars Galaxy to new levels of colourful textured complexity. The detail afforded to the various creatures, landscapes, underwater cities, interiors and general scenery are staggering and completely convincing. These help provide the movie with a mythical storybook feel, the colours, textures and hues are simply beautiful - never has a Star Wars film looked better.

You could also add to that some magical central performances from Liam Neeson and Ian McDiarmid. It's also only for Samuel L. Jackson in it for crying out loud!





I believe that in part the movie suffered greatly from unfair comparisons to the earlier films - I agree with the people that argue that it is far inferior to any of them - barring the bloody Ewoks. What we need to do is celebrate The Phantom Menace partly on it's own merits as a singular piece of work and also as prologue to the catastrophic changes that are going to take place in the Galaxy in the years to come.

When you look at it dispassionately, it is actually a very good piece of cinema that takes us through the straightforward plot of a planetary trade dispute at an often steady and understated pace. Whereas the previous movies were seemingly a sequence of one cliff-hanger after another, this is a story that needs to take it's time to allow the viewer to immerse himself or herself in the experience by providing the underpinning of the story that has begun - The disintegration of the Republic and eventual emergence of the empire. 

There are glaring weaknesses in the film, but the various strengths far outweigh the few weaknesses. So open your mind and watch it again and see if you change your mind. If it doesn't change then that is ok. It's still a fine film in my eyes.


And remember, as great as the first 3 Star Wars movies were, one of them contained those bloody Ewoks.








Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Expedition - an Independent movie.



I must admit that I'm something of a social network tart - Facebook, Twitter, Google+…. I love them all, and I use them all (clear your dirty minds right now, I wasn't talking about using them for THAT purpose!). 

Rather, the advent of such sources of information helps me not only keep up to date (stalk) my friends and acquaintances throughout the world, they also let my keep my fingers on the pulse of the current independent film making scene that is going on. Without Social networking I simply would not be the blogging voice of a science fiction and horror movie generation….well OK, I may not be the voice of a generation right now, but it's only a matter of time before world domination is mine.

So for the past few weeks my Twitter feed has been regularly filled with Tweets ( that's how the hip kids refer to updates, Daddy-O) about a certain horror production that is soon to be off and running. At first I gave the updates nothing more than a cursory glance, after all I'm a busy blogger, intellectual and all-round caring humanitarian that is constantly striving not only for world peace but peace love and understanding for us all. It takes up a lot of my time you know.


However, the Tweets continued to come thick and fast, with bold proclamations such as;


" A contemporary twist on the monster movie filled with real characters , complex personal drama and heart thumping scares!"…….

" We're not interested in covering the screen with blood and guts"……

" the heart of this movie will contain a strong environmental message"…….

" The Fifth Dimension sci-fi/fantasy & horror blog is simply better than any other out there!!!"


Well ok, you saw through me, yes I did make the last quote up…… probably.

The point is that my interest had been piqued. I saw that something seemed to be happening out there with a number of noteworthy and exceedingly reputable blog and website sources seemingly already attracted to this project. Part of me wanted to find out more about this great sounding project, and the other part of me simply didn't want to be left out and decided that if any credit was going to be be dished out for supporting this movie then I was going to get my share….. not that I'm vain, fickle or superficial at all.

So what is this movie about?



Putting the 'Big' into 'Bigfoot'.
Synopsis:
Deep in the Amazon jungle a research team lead by a respected Professor embark on an Expedition to protect vulnerable and endangered species... but when their superstitious guides abandon them, the team, desperate to complete their study, begin to realise there is more to the jungle than they could have ever imagined.
As night falls the team realise they are in the hunting ground of a true apex predator... And before long, they will be the ones on the endangered list… 


Bloody hell - now THAT does sound good!

And who pray tell is going to be in this movie?

 Ben Loyd-Holmes perfecting his 'hero-pose'  

Well, from the information that I have gleaned through means mostly legal - performing  in “The Expedition” so far is Ben Loyd-Holmes, who I personally feel should be given the 'best name of the day today' award. 

Unusually for an independent feature he's also an actor who has been in a number of productions that I and many others will be aware of; Skyfall (Seen that, & best Bond film ever btw), Da Vinci's Demons (Seen that, enjoyed it even though it was historical inaccuracy at its most pants), Torchwood (seen that, fab), Band Of Brothers (Seen that, own that, love that beyond what is generally regarded as sane and reasonable behaviour).

Not only that but Ben Loyd-Holmes Is an ward-Winning film producer Ben Loyd-Holmes (The Hike, Art Of Darkness, Breaking Down.

The guy obviously has far more talent than any person has to right to have……It's not that I feel threatened or insignificant from someone being successful, oh no….but I don't think that I like him.


Not only that but the team itself boasts a veritable plethora of talent… with actors including;

"Kerry Lorenza- Bennett
Kerry, a graduate of East 15 Acting School, is predominantly experienced in theatre, playing Elaine in the UK tour of Calendar Girls; Messuah in The Jungle Book at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch and Hippolyta in A Midsummer’s Night Dream at the Lowry theatre, Manchester. 
Feature film credits include: Tanya in Breaking Down; Agent Rosell in Black Book and Alex in Last Man. 
Dan Caren
An experienced actor, Daniel has starred in ITV’s "Whitechapel" as well as several episodes of "The Bill". In 2011 Daniel starred in “The Hike” alongside Ben Loyd-Holmes. Dan also starred in the short film "The Girl Is Mime" with Martin Freeman
Simon Burbage
Cursed with a natural comedic talent and the ability to make even the geekiest geek likeable, Simon is an infectiously enthusiastic actor who steadfastly refuses to grow up.  A graduate of East 15 Acting School, Simons credits include “Pulp: The Movie”, “Survivors” and “Inherit The Wind” at the Old Vic Theatre in London where he starred alongside Kevin Spacey. 


There is also….


Ellie Harvie-August- Producer

Ellie is a graduate from the University of Central Lancashire where she studied Film & Television Screenwriting and gained a Bachelor of Arts there. Subsequently, Ellie has worked in marketing for film and media as well as a producer. She produced the 2012 Virgin Media Short "Breaking" & the 100% fan funded feature film "Survivors".  Ellie is currently in pre-production on her debut short film as a writer/producer "Yellow" due out in late 2013."


Honestly, I don't want to sound bitter and twisted….. but a having such a wealth of talented experience between them is really bloody annoying. It's almost as if they're saying " Look at us, we're passionate, dedicated and talented film-makers and we're going to rock your cinematic world!" Well that's OK for you guys, but what about the rest of us mere mortals? What are we supposed to do? Well I'll tell you about that in a little while.

"The Expedition” has already attracted international pledges to the production, with fans from as far as New Zealand and Australia joining a list of investors that continues to grow as each day passes. “The response from people out there to what we’re doing has been amazing. This kind of movie is normally left to big studios but, just like our movie’s tag line, we too have found a way... I’m really pleased to be making this movie and I cannot wait to bring the audience something that feels so real yet, is just so magical. It’s been a dream of mine to make a movie in this genre and together, we are making it happen”” says Producer, Ben Loyd-Holmes (@Benloydholmes) “It’s been great to connect with so many film fans across the globe so far and we hope to meet many more of you on our journey.”. 




I've said it before and i'll say it again, this new online digital and social networking world of independent filming is about exciting as anything with the opportunities out there in Internetland for enthusiastic filmmakers. And it's not just the filmmakers having all the fun, because we movie fans can also get into the action.

"As a way to involve movie fans in the production, “The Expedition” will be raising some of it’s budget via crowdfunding. The team have already set up an Indie-Go-Go page where fans can make pledges to the budget of the movie and get film related merchandise, experiences or various end credits in the movie. “For us it’s all about connecting with our audience and making this a real collaboration” says Producer Ellie Harvie-August (@Ellie_Squared) “ if we can all pull together, then we can accomplish remarkable things for independent and low budget cinema in the UK and worldwide”

Sounds great to me, anybody can be part of the magical process of filming - the contributions can start as little as £5 with the more you pay the better the perk gets. Though the rumour of a perk for a small donation will get you a manly heart hug and handshake from Mr Loyd-Holmes seems to be nothing more than rumour and innuendo that I dreamt up a few moments ago.

You still need convincing? Well I very much doubt that you do, but just in case……

“The Expedition” will be Directed by Adam Spinks (@Adspads), who’s feature film Survivors is due for release later this year. “I’m excited to get started on bringing a remarkable project to the big screen” says Adam “ when Ben first approached me about the film I was gripped by the concept... this is a real thrill ride of a movie that will have audiences on the edge of their seats” 

Adam is a graduate of the Royal Holloway University of London and is has sizeable experience over a number of years on various film and media projects, which include directing for film and television as well as writing and producing. Adam’s feature film debut SURVIVORS is currently in post-production and is due out this winter.
So that's another successful and talented individual who now I also don't like.

The latest teaser trailer for the movie can be found RIGHT HERE

Find out more about “The Expedition” and how you could get yourself involved by visiting theses various respectable online establishments. 

Visit http://igg.me/at/theexpedition/x/13244 for advice and assistance on being a financial part of the experience. The team have until July 29th to raise the crowdfunded portion of their shooting budget - so come on people, lets do this!


You can also like “The Expedition” on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ExpeditionMovie

And follow the the annoyingly talented team on Twitter at
https://twitter.com/expeditionmovie









Friday, 5 July 2013

A series of new movie blog bites - No3 PACIFIC RIM


July 12th sees the release of the much vaunted Pacific Rim, directed by the darling of contemporary science fiction and fantasy, Guillermo del Toro…… and I must admit that I feel torn. There is part of me that is filled with a tingly anticipation, for I love in a deep obsessive way with the works of del Toro - his movies without exception are a fantasy lovers wet dream…….Cronos (1993), The Devils Backbone (2001), Hellboy (2004), Pan's Labyrinth (2006)………….so excuse me while those movies and I run away together to Vegas for a quick-fire wedding ceremony presided by an Elvis impersonator. In addition the the positives about this movie, there is a certain Ron Perlman appearing in this movie, I don't think that I need to say anymore than that.

The other part of me has more than a small amount of fear, a fear that this may be one del Toro film that may not only disappoint but may instill feelings of intense dislike. Two things are worrying me;

1) On viewing the trailer, whilst being a a wonderfully saturated CGI visual extravaganza, the production style looks rather reminiscent of the Transformer Franchise  - and I REALLY don't like those movies.

2) Dialogue such as "Tonight we cancel the Apocalypse!!!!" is on the upper end of the cheesy level of acceptance that could possibly rival the President's cringe worthy speech from Independence Day…….you know how it it goes  -"We will not go silently into the night blah blah blah…."

So which side is the movie going to fall on?


Well the story itself sounds promising. Set in the not too distant future the planet is beset by 'Kaiju', which happen to be nasty giant monsters that have risen from a gateway from a crack beneath the Pacific Ocean - blimey, I hate it when that happens. It seems that humanity is getting its little arse kicked on a humongous scale - again. The only thing that can save the day is a new weapon that has been created, the Jaegers, which are nifty gigantic robots connected to two human pilots who control them via a neural connection. The people it seems that humanity eventually sets its final desperate hopes on are a washed up has-been and an untried rookie….thankfully we haven't ever heard that before, grizzled old veteran and eager to succeed youngster - oh, hang on a minute.



I'll be honest, I'm not confident. It sounds as cliched as anything and it has enough CGI offend many who believe that the C in CGI stands for crap. I really worry that the previous del Toro movies that overflow with an abundance of intelligent dialogue and thought provoking storytelling might just be replaced by him settling for a movie that satisfies the lowest common demographic and financial denominator  However, far be it from me to pre-judge a movie that I haven't seen yet. I've been wrong before. 

Come on Guillermo, you can do it.







Monday, 1 July 2013

Psycho- the first Slasher film.





I think I was about 15 at the time when a friend and I went to the local cinema in Halifax to watch a new action movie called North Sea Hijack. We already had prior knowledge that a certain current James Bond actor was playing the lead role, but what caught the two of us well and truly by surprise was a few minutes into the film when the movie's bad guy appeared on screen…….. "Hey look, it's Norman Bates!!' No word of a lie, we really did shout that out in unison. Even at the young age a certain movie and it's star bad-guy had entered our pop culture brains.


I've often wondered what it must be like for an actor to become so defined by one particular role that it completely overshadows anything, and I mean anything that he or she could ever do again. There are throughout movie history many actors who have never shook off the shackles of their synonymous roles. William Shatner and Bela Lugosi are two names that immediately spring to mind who are arguably better known by their screen names than their own. Sometimes this typecasting comes with more than acceptable riches to go along with the fame which makes the inability to persuade an audience to accept them in other roles a little more bearable. Sometimes the riches aren't enough. Some actors embrace, or at least become comfortable with their type-casted role. Some don't.

"Yes Mother, I'm in the North Sea. I'll be home soon"
Anthony Perkins is another name that can no doubt be added to what is an extensive list. In his case, it was mainly a problem of his own making that his role of Norman Bates in Psycho was an almost note-perfect perfect portrayal of a tortured psychopathic killer.  Unfortunately, it was also a role that defined his career and for some fans the actor himself - despite a string of awards and noteworthy performances that succeeded Hitchcock's seminal masterpiece


Moreover, for many years he went as far as possible to distance himself for many years from the movie, even going as far as banning interviewers from asking him questions that had anything even remotely to do with the film or his part in it. In fact it took him 23 years to find some acceptance of the cards he had been dealt when he began work on the first of two less than exceptional sequels. 

So what is so special about the movie and the role that helped define Perkins along with his co-star Janet Leigh, but also the director that 53 years after it's creation is still ranked in the top 5 of many people's favourite horror movie?


To begin with, I’m not going to debate about whether or not Psycho is a horror, thriller, psychological thriller, or whatever genre title people would like to provide.  It is already a well worn argument that has qualified support and reasoning on all sides, as is the debate as to whether it should be referred to a ‘Slasher’ at all. 


Well, seeing as this is my review and my blog, I shall indeed propose that not only is it horror, it is rightly considered in some quarters (including yours truly) that this is the very first film that could rightly be called a Slasher movie. What is not open to debate is the impact that Psycho has had, not only within the horror/thriller genre, but also in wider popular culture with the movie and certain scenes within it being constantly referenced, revered and pastiched in equal measures. In one fair swoop Hitchcock provided respectability and even critical acclaim on a film genre that until that point had wallowed in the the world of B-movies.


THE PLOT

At its core, Psycho is essentially a masterclass of storytelling. It begins with an office worker Marion Crane (played by the excellent Janet Leigh) who is clearly unhappyduring one of their lunchtime assignations that she and her boyfriend cannot afford to get married. This problem seems to be potentially rectified when, on returning to the office she is entrusted with a huge amount of a client's money to put into the bank. 

It's not made explicitly clear in the film whether Marion has planned for some time to steal money from her employer or whether this was a spur of the moment whim - nevertheless, steal it she does and absconds from the town immediately.

This is Hitchcock's first touch of genius, because for the first 20 minutes or so of the movie we have been completely absorbed into Marion's world. We start to feel sympathy almost for her as she nervously skips town, even more so when after pulling over on a deserted highway to sleep and then awoken by a suspicious traffic policeman. He knows something isn't quite right about this woman driving alone (remember, this is the early 1960'S) and so follows her to a nearby town. Here she exchanges her old car, buys a new model and drives away into the early evening.

A she drives onwards through a torrential rainy night she realises that she needs to rest and so pulls into the remote Bates Motel. Here we are immediately introduced to a shy yet polite young owner, Norman Bates who offers Marion one of the many spare rooms in the Motel. As they chat Norman tells her that since the recent diversion of the main highway they don't really see much business anymore.

At first Marion feels in control of the conversation with is pleasant but very nervous young man, even after he also starts telling her about his mother, who Norman reveals suffers from some sort of mental illness. However, his up to now friendly and unassuming manner abruptly changes when Marin politely suggests that he should think about putting her in an institution.
"Tea, Coffee, very sharp kitchen knife?"



At this point we the audience are starting to feel that something isn't quite right, both with the Motel and its young owner. Marion thinks so too as the experience has influenced her to return back to the city and face the consequences of returning the stolen money.

After setting on returning in the morning she decides to take a shower……… 


The shower has been running for a few moments when we see a blurred figure enter the bathroom……. 

the figure comes up close to the shower curtain……….

suddenly it pulls away the curtain where the silhouetted figure of a woman is revealed……

we then see the figure raise its arm…….

in its arm is a large kitchen knife……. 

Marion is stabbed and slashed to death.




These are Hitchcock's second and third moments of genius. Firstly, the movie's central character has been killed off in the first 3rd of the film - this kind of thing never happened in the movies. The shock at the time, putting aside the manner of the death from the audience was huge. Remember, this is a world where cinema spoilers were at that time virtually non-existentent, nowadays movie industry advertising through trailers and social networking have ensured that that most plot lines AND SPOILERS are in the public domain. However, in 1960 audiences were bewildered that the protagonist didn't follow the usual arc from safety, through danger, to a final comforting ending of absolution and closure. This shock had been reinforced by Hitchcock's cunning advertising campaign - just look again at the movie poster at the top of this blog. Marion's character (in her underwear of course) is the foremost figure with the small picture of Norman to the side of it, almost as an afterthought. Even the figure of her boyfriend gets a larger treatment, even though he barely appears in the film at all.

What Hitchock actually did was to fool the audience, because everything we had seen so far had been to make us think Marion was the central character. It was actually Norman who was supplanted as the main figure in the piece. Genius.

That third stroke of genius was the pivotal moment of the movie, which is of course the shower scene. It's a clip that in itself has been referred to and referenced perhaps more times than any single scene in cinematic history. It has been analysed by people far superior to myself in the ability to dissect its appeal and power, so I won't spend too much time here talking about it. I will say that it is 3 mins and a few seconds of pure, undiluted

perfection - from the slow haunting build up, to the violence of the attack itself, ending in the camera panning down to the blood draining away and then holding on Marion's shocked face as her life ebbs away. And off course there's that screeching Violin & Cello soundtrack. Stunning stuff.

Immediately after her the death by slashing, we hear Norman shouting from his house above the motel " Mother, oh god Mother, blood!!!" He then comes rushing into the bathroom and after discovering Marion's corpse puts her body in her car which he hides away in a swamp nearby.


Soon after, a detective who has been charged with the task of tracking Marion and the stolen money after talking to her boyfriend and sister (Sam & Lila) eventually locates the Motel.
His suspicions are aroused by the evasiveness of Norman, so much so that he returns later to the Bates residence after telling Marion's sister that he was going to talk to the owners mother. Here he is murdered on the stairs, again by the shadowy female figure, who has emerged from an upstairs room.

Sam and Lila, after losing contact with the detective decide to take matters into their own hands and make their  own way to the town near the motel. Here they start asking questions about Norman's mother…..

For the two people in the world that have yet to see this masterpiece, I won't discuss any more specifics of the plot……. well except for the picture below….

" I'm a bit mad you know"


It is virtually impossible to gauge the colossal impact the movie made upon it's release. In no small way It broke countless cinematic and social rules; A couple sharing a lunchtime of illicit pleasure on screen & violent murderous acts to name but two. Psycho should also be given credit introducing, or at least re-inventing a new type of horror film, here the traditional b-movie plots of Gothic horror in medieval England or distant Eastern Europe were substituted by t the possibility of everyday horrors that were real and known to us.

Psycho isn’t regarded by some as a slasher movie, but it should be. There are many in my fellow slasher-loving fraternity that point out the lack of blood and gore in the film, but does a true slasher film have to be so? Not only does is have a demented murderer slicing up perfect strangers in the middle of nowhere, it is also a lesson in intelligent and thoughtful storytelling and audience manipulation. In addition, the movie's direct descendants in the 1970's of the seminal slasher movies such as Halloween owe everything to the first in their line.

For the purposes of the review I watched it again just the other night and believe me, it is as absurdly nerve-wracking and terrifying today as it was back in 1960.

This blog entry also provides the opening review for the UK Horror Scene website - the link can be found HERE