Wednesday, 20 May 2015

I've Got A Brand New Alien Harvester [Review: Evil Aliens]

Sometimes you need to turn your brain off and just watch something stupid and bloody...

Evil Aliens is a comic horror film from 2005 starring Emily Booth as a cynical TV journalist and featuring Red Dwarf's Norman Lovett sadly only in a minor role. Booth and her crew are sent to investigate an alien abduction story on an isolated Welsh farm, accompanied by an eccentric UFO expert played by Jamie Honeybourne. It soon becomes clear that the aliens are somewhat hostile, and the film progresses into a series of close encounters of the messy kind.

This film is an unashamed gorefest, and it's very clear the budget has been spent mainly on realistic blood-and-guts effect shots which are detailed, delightfully inventive and utterly gratuitous. Everything else is cheaper - the script is perhaps not as fine tuned as it could be, the aliens appear to have bought cheap Predator costumes on eBay and rendered their spaceship CGI on Microsoft Paint. The acting is all hammed-up melodrama but it carries things along while you wait for the next bloodsplattering, and I think you've got to admire the endurance of the actors in this kind of film - some of those scenes would have involved hours spent in fairly disgusting set-ups.
This is not a film to watch with the kids, due to all the extreme violence and whatnot. Also, Evil Aliens isn't a porn film per se but does contain two or three sort-of soft-porn scenes involving sex with either aliens or camera crew. Which is weirder? You decide. Overall this film was strangely compelling to watch, plus any film that ends on as bad a joke as this one gets my vote.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Lost Vikings [Review: Dragonfly]

Greeta is a Northlander, a Viking living amongst Native Americans. The Shining Star Nation has welcomed Greeta and her people into their midst but acceptance is not universal, and suspicions and superstitions remain. Without warning, Greeta is rejected by her tribe and discovers that her own family has concealed an important truth about her identity.

Dragonfly by Resa Nelson is part alternate history and part magical fantasy, drawing on the folklore of both populations. Within the unusual setting, Greeta's story is about self-discovery and growing up in many senses - becoming an adult woman, discovering her past and identity, and making choices about who to trust and who to love.

This novel gripped me from about the third chapter onwards right through to the end and I would highly recommend it. Dragonfly is the start of a second trilogy in this setting (the three Dragonslayer novels come first) however I had not read these novels so I didn't see the twists coming and I particularly enjoyed this aspect - the secrets and reveals are handled extremely well throughout. I also thought the descriptions of the various tribes were credible and there was a real sense of tension between the two cultures.

You can find out more about Dragonfly and Resa Nelson's other books on her website here.

Friday, 1 May 2015

St. Albans Film Festival Preview

The Romans were forward thinkers. When they founded their settlement at Verulaneum, who knows - perhaps in their minds' eyes they could see, in the distant future, a time when their descendents might recline in the local forum, taverna or caldarium watching a finely curated selection of entertainments, while an army of slaves fed them grapes and sweetmeats and attended to their every whim.

We will perhaps never know if they did indeed ponder on such a prediction, but if so those Roman thinkers would be gratified to know that they got it broadly right. The third St. Albans Film Festival is already in full swing (admittedly with surprisingly little slavery), and there's an exciting programme coming up this weekend. On Saturday, choose either Monsters Vs Aliens or Alien Resurrection while you swim at Westminster Lodge, head to the Maltings to see the first three Star Trek movies in their non-reimagined, pre-reboot glory, or make your way to the Town Hall for the music video programme including live music from several of the featured artists.

On Sunday look out for the Young Filmmaker short film screening, where the next Steven Spielbergs and Kathryn Bigelows are taking their first steps.

Programme and tickets via the St. Albans Film Festival website here.