“We’re Gonna Need More Holy Water!”: The Bradscribe Spooktacular Halloween Horrorthon

Not For The Nervous

“That thing in the cellar is NOT my mother!”

Welcome, fellow chill-seekers! 

‘Tis the night of All Hallows Eve once again(!) Blimey, it keeps swingin’ a-round with ever-more-frightening-regularity doesn’t it?! 

The origins of Halloween can be traced back 2,000 years to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celtic New Year fell on the first day of  November – a day marking the end of summer and the harvest, and the beginning of winter: a season most associated with death. The Celts believed that on the night before their new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. Thus, on the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead were more likely to return to the mortal plain. This festival involved huge bonfires on which crops and animals were burned as sacrifices to the Celtic gods. People wore costumes – more specifically, animal heads and skins.

With Celtic territory subjugated by the Roman Empire during the first four centuries CE, two Roman festivals gradually became incorporated into the traditions of Samhain: Feralia, a day in late October on which the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead; and Pomona, a day reserved to honour the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. Her symbol was the apple – hey! That’s where we get apple-bobbing from!

In 609 CE, the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Later, the festival was expanded to include all saints, and moved from May 13 to November 1. In 1000 CE., the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day: a day to honour the dead – a deliberate attempt to replace the CelticHEATHEN!! – festival of the dead with a “church-sanctioned holiday.”

Remarkably, though, All Souls’ Day bore all the hallmarks of Samhain, with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes (especially saints, angels and devils). It also came to be known as All-hallowmas (from the Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

But you didn’t turn up here to be bludgeoned to boredom by Professor Brad, did you?! NAY! 

In a packed goody-bag of tantalizing TRICKS tonight, expect to be TREATED to some of the most groovy sights and sounds of horror! 

Speaking of groovy sights, the cobwebs of my Attila The Nun costume have been brushed ON, so expect this evening’s party to become particularly frightful. 

How about some music? Might cover the noise we make…

“Watches! Watches! Ooh, ooh, lighter fluid! And chocolate. Chocolate! Hey, how about a mink coat?” – Roger DeMarco.

Why – when yours truly doesn’t even dig zombie movies, fer cake’s sake! – does George A. Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead hold a reserved spot in my all-time Horror Top 10? 

Why, when there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the mall?

Why did so many decent, seemingly placid, Pennsylvanians volunteer to “play” all those zombie extras?!

Why did Roger, (one of the most badass protagonists in horror movie history) have to get bitten – and come back like that?

Why does such a gonzo film that so radically tonal-shifts from flesh-eating to pie fights (and back again) make for compelling viewing no matter how many times you watch it?! 

“Right, and we’re up here doing traffic reports! Wake up, sucker! We’re thieves and we’re bad guys. That’s exactly what we are. We gotta find our own way” – Peter Washington.

Perfect, baby, perfect.

 

“When the music stops, you’ll see him in the mirror standing behind you” – April Perron.

Hey, if you’re surfing through your streaming services hunting for a really scary movie to watch tonight, you might like to try Session 9 (2001). An obscure, totally under-rated chiller, even yer own buddy Brad had not heard of it until only three months ago. 

A group of guys are assigned a 2-week job to remove asbestos from an old abandoned asylum, but pretty soon they realise that the building’s dark history – especially a demonic entity known only as “Simon” – is catching up with them.  

There is such a constant, creepy feel throughout – some may find Session 9’s slow-burn atmosphere quite unsettling, yet to me, it’s a most-welcome alternative to all those wretched slasher flicks that have spoilt the horror genre. 

Disappointingly, the denouement had to be branded with that ever-so-tiresome trope of pools of blood, but the violence is, thankfully, minimal and the fear factor throughout is more psychological. 

DARE YOU to watch this shocker…

Alone. 

In the dark. 

During the witching hour…

Doctor: “And where do you live, Simon?”

Mary Hobbes: “I live in the weak… and the wounded… Doc…”

 

YOU are the caretaker. You’ve ALWAYS been the caretaker…

Wendy Torrance: “Oh, Jack. Thank God you’re here! There… Jack, there’s someone else in the hotel with us. There’s a crazy woman in one of the rooms! She tried to strangle Danny!” 

Jack Torrance: “Which room was it…?”

All twerk and no cake makes Brad a dull boy.

All twerk and no cake makes Brad a dull boy.

All twerk and no cake makes Brad a dull boy.

All twerk and no cake makes Brad a dull boy.

All twerk and no cake makes Brad a dull boy.

All twerk and no cake makes Brad a dull boy.

All twerk and no cake makes Brad a dull boy.

All twerk and no cake makes Brad a dull boy.

All twerk and no cake makes Brad a dull boy.

All twerk and no cake makes Brad a dull boy.

All twerk and no cake makes Brad a dull boy.

All twerk and no cake makes Brad a dull boy.

All twerk and no cake makes Brad a dull boy.

“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin” – Linus van Pelt.

Jumpin’ jolly jack-o’lanterns! 

You’re still here?! My MY! You are a bold bunch! Let me remind you: it gets truly horrific from here until the end of this Post. 

You have been warned! 0 _ 0

Here’s hoping you have a fearsomely-fun evening. 

Tonight, as with EVERY Hallowe’en, you can find me wrapped up cosy and snug with me hot cuppa and a tub of Terrifying Toffee Twirls™ engrossed in my all-time favourite horror movie. (You can read a celebration of it right here

Which scary movie will YOU be watching tonight? 

Not sure if my viewing experience will go as peacefully as planned…

Rumours have been circulating through our village today that the more… disreputable younglings in the community have hatched a plot to raid Brad Manor, particularly its legendary pantry of the sweetest delicacies. Have posted several of my minions on sentry duty at the North and South gates. 

Uff, naturally they are somewhat dischuffed by this – they’d much rather be out Trick-or-Treating! (bless ’em) 

No worries.

Should any of those bally miscreants manage to break in, one butcher’s at Attila in all “her” (ahem) glory and, no doubt, they will make themselves scarce pretty sharpish. Heh heh heh…. 😉 

“It was a dark and stormy night…”

Happy  Halloween!

“You have a lot of spirits in here, but there is one I’m most worried about because it is so hateful” – Lorraine Warren.

 

“WE WILL TEAR YOUR SOUL APART!” – Pinhead.

 

Stranger Th1ngs HAVE Happened!: Season One Celebration

“Something Is Going On Here!”

Please Note: This Post contains copious oodles of chocolate pudding and LOTS of tears…

Jim Hopper: “99 out of a 100 times kid goes missing, the kid is with a parent or relative.”

Joyce Byers: “What about the other time…? The one!”

If it had been on disc available to rent from the Public Library – and if my laptop had not detected a virus upon first clicking on Netflix.com last Winter – Brad would have watched Stranger Things lot sooner. 

After a spate of lousy movies and TV shows, and yearning to escape the humdrum of daily toil, the hype for this show could not be ignored forever. Upon learning that Season 1 is set in 1983 – imho, one of the best years ever! – my heart leapt, and thus, my Netflix sign-up duly completed.

Heck, Stranger Things was awesomely hookable enough to watch through several nights AND drag me away from my morning (breaks) of coffee and CONTEMPLATION to compile this Post.

Unfortunately, on this tea and scones side of The Pond, we don’t have Eggo Waffles, but seeing how chocolate pudding is universally scrumptious enough to be found in the fridges of both Hawkins Middle School AND Brad Manor, one reckoned that sumptuous treat would make an ideal accompaniment through this binge-watching malarkey. 

Okey-dokey, got your Eggos at the ready? Let’s engage! 

Mrs. Wheeler: “I hope you’re enjoying your chicken, Ted!”

Mr. Wheeler: “Hey, what did I do…? What did I dooo?”

“On his way home from a friend’s house, young Will sees something terrifying. Nearby, a sinister secret lurks in the depths of a government lab…” 

The opening eight-minute pre-credits sequence of Chapter One is a masterpiece. 

Not only effectively setting the dark and creepy premise, but, with the unexpected aid of Dungeons & Dragons, it introduces our main protagonists as a thoroughly likable gang of Tolkien-crazed perishers. At its simplistic best, this wholesome scene sets Will, Mike, Dustin and Lucas as the sort of friends we would want to have hung out with back in the day. How else can it be explained that so many viewers have become so emotionally invested in what befalls them?

Interestingly, their role-playing gaming also informs us as to which beastie we will have to confront: the Demogorgon (a Demon Prince of the Abyss, it is considered the most powerful villain in the 1st edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons). Said beastie and a “mysterious girl with psionic abilities” have gone missing from a top secret facility: Hawkins Lab on the edge of this supposedly quiet town.

What about Chief Jim Hopper (FREAKY FACT: Named after the unfortunate MIA character killed by the Predator (1987); incidentally, Hawkins became the first member of Arnie‘s combo to be eliminated by that eponymous hunter). When we are introduced to him (waking up on his sofa) the immediate reaction was: oh great, methinks, another stereotypical deadbeat cop. But, fortunately, Hopper – played exceptionally well by David Harbour – quickly establishes himself as one of the outstanding integral characters of the series, even driving the plot to such compulsive extremes.

No matter how sternly he warns the D&D gang to stay away from the hunt, they – naturally! – head off into “Mirkwood” anyway to try and find their friend themselves.

This whole opening episode is riveting to watch. And it culminates in the dramatic encounter with the “weirdo” in the woods.

It was a dark and stormy night… 

Lucas: “I bet she escaped from the nuthouse in Curly County.” 

Dustin: “You got a lotta family there?” 

Lucas: “Bite me!” 

One of the crucial factors in this show’s success – and popularity – is the gang, played by an amazing bunch of young actors. It’s oh-so-easy to see how Dustin quickly became a firm fan-favourite. But it’s Mollie Bobbie Brown as Eleven who really steals the show here. With little to no lines to work with during her introductory scenes, her expressive performance is quite easily the most striking by a child-actor seen in a long time. Dr. Brenner summed her up perfectly: “Incredible.”

Sometimes, flashbacks can screw up the narrative flow, but in Stranger Things they work really well, particularly Eleven’s unfavourable memories of “Papa.” It would be convenient, at this point, to mention how great it is to see Matthew “Birdy” Modine again, after too long away from our screens, here playing a villain for a change: Dr. Martin Brenner, Director of Hawkins Lab, and – gee whiz! – such a nasty piece of work too.

Is anybody going to mention what a swell diner Eleven finds?! Any hangout that plays Jefferson Airplane and The Seeds is a cool dive in my book. ‘Tis written: play the White Rabbit song and this White Rabbit blogger will always be pleased no end! 😉

The bickering interaction between the boys in Mike’s basement offers particularly commendable scenes. We get to learn more about their individual characters as they try to work out how to deal with the “Weirdo On Maple Street.” This scene is notable for two reasons: first, the boys learn that Eleven has “superpowers,” and secondly, that’s a swell Dark Crystal poster on his wall! 😉

If Chapter One had the best series opener ever, then Chapter Three offers arguably the most heart-wrenching end sequence of any TV drama: a child’s body is retrieved from the river; Jonathon gets a hug from his mum, whilst Mike pedals home to get a hug from his mum, as Peter Gabriel’s achingly beautiful version of Bowie’s Heroes plays.

And Brad almost chokes on his chocolate pudding. Seldom has one witnessed anything so moving during the early hours…

“Mike?! Mike what?! You were supposed to help us find him alive. You said he was alive! Why did you lie to us? What’s wrong with you? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!” – Mike Wheeler.  

Speaking of flashbacks, in one striking scene, we see the Byers brothers in an endearing bonding moment: bopping along to The Clash’s Should I Stay Or Should I Go, which later takes on creepy significance as the mystery gradually unfolds.

Oh, what the ‘eck! We’ve held off this track long enough – you just can’t have a Stranger Things Season 1 round-up without The Clash. Honestly, listening to this ol’ classic stomper will never be the same again.

This is your cue, Joyce:  

“COME ON! COME ON! TALK TO ME! I KNOW YOU’RE HERE!” 😉

Jonathan Byers: “Let me get this straight: Will, that’s not his body, because he’s “in the lights”, right? And there’s a monster in the wall! Do you even hear yourself?!” 

Joyce Byers: “I KNOW it sounds crazy! I-I-I sound crazy! You think I don’t know that? It IS crazy! But I heard him, Jonathan! He talked to me! Will is- is calling to me. And he’s out there. And he’s alone, and he’s scared, and I don’t- I don’t CARE if anyone believes me. I am not going to stop looking for him until I find him, and bring him home!

“I AM GOING TO BRING HIM HOME!!” 

Joyce Byers stubbornly refuses to accept that her youngest boy is dead. Winona Ryder plays the stressed-out mum really well here – a career-best performance, perhaps? 

Right, there are lots of good, freaky stuff in this first season, but none more so than during the fourth minute of Chapter Four. Chief Hopper leaves Joyce sitting, worried and confused, on her coffee table. The camera pulls back, and THIS begins to play.

WOW:

“You can keep the mix if you like. Really, all the best stuff is on there: Joy Division, Bowie, Television, The Smiths. It’ll totally change your life” – Jonathan Byers.

We see Jonathan Byers locked away in his bedroom, lying on his bed listening to Atmosphere by Joy Division on his headphones, trying to shut out the upsetting possibility that his mother has gone insane. 

You see, that was ME exactly thirty years ago, locked away in his bedroom, lying on his bed listening to Joy Division Atmosphere on his headphones, playing and rewinding it over and over and over again, trying to shut out all those scholastic, social or psychological problems… Watching an uncanny biopic of This Brad’s Lifeespecially at that time of night – should be unsettling, but on the contrary, it’s gratifying to learn that someone in the crew saw fit to apply such fine taste in music.

In order for El to try and locate Will, the boys have to smuggle her into the AV room at their school. So they give her a makeover – she has such boyish looks that even wearing Nancy’s old pink dress and a blonde wig – an obvious nod to E.T.’s disguise! – she still looks like Charlie Brown in drag!

Speaking of Peanuts, whilst compiling this Post, this amazing mash-up turned up.

El’s dancing and the Demogorgon’s yawn still crack me up every time.

Good grief! 😉

Joyce Byers: “If he’s so wise, why does he need fireballs? Why can’t he, y’know, outsmart the bad guys?”

Will Byers: “Most of the time, yeah, but sometimes the bad guys are smart too, y’know?” 

Joyce Byers: “Alright, I don’t know who’s been raising you, but I’m going to get you some new crayons (because it looks like he’s shooting cabbages!)” 

Lookee here: ANOTHER quintessential ’80s trope: a lone hero sneaks into a top secret facility and hiding in doorways whenever one of its dodgy denizens happens to walk down that very corridor. In this Stranger Things case, it’s Hop who sneaks into Hawkins Lab in search of that most elusive quantity: the TRUTH.

Really digged the scene following that bogus funeral for Will  in which the boys ask Mr. Clarke how to travel to another dimension. Gee, what a great teacher Mr. Clarke is! He helps the gang cope with their “mourning” by explaining the theoretical principles of parallel universes. Spiffing! 

“You guys have been thinking about Hugh Everett’s “mini-worlds” interpretaion, haven’t you?” 

Yeah, man, not a day passes… 

And so, the gang set off to find the portal that should lead them into the Upside Down. 

Chapter Five ends on a suitably sinister note, with that unlikely pair of Nancy Wheeler and Jonathon Byers venturing out to try and find that “faceless” entity she witnessed behind Steve‘s gaff. Yay, Nancy manages to escape from the Upside Down (at the beginning of Chapter Six). Did anybody doubt that she would? A particularly fine performance from Natalia Dyer, whose character develops from shy cardy-and-long-skirt-wearing school swot to assertive jacket-and-jeans urban monster-hunter. 

And – ha ha ha! – how the blazes could we forget Steve (“This is crazy. This is crazy!” etc.) Harrington? He starts off as the cool cat: “King Steve” = Stephen King – nice touch! 😉 – turns into an annoying douche halfway through this series, but redeems himself by ending up getting stuck into the spirit of urban monster-bashing. 

The same chapter ends with a gripping confrontation between Mike, Dustin and those school bullies. And wahey! Guess who shows up to save the day?

“Yeah, you’d better run! She’s our friend and she’s CRAZY!”

WOO-HOO!

One of my instant favourite scenes, and yours too, no doubt! 😉

Dustin: Do you know anything about sensory deprivation tanks, specifically how to build one?”  

Mr. Clarke: “Sensory deprivation…? What is this for?”

Dustin: Fun….?” 

Mr. Clarke: “Okay, well, why don’t we talk about it Monday, after school, okay?” 

Dustin: “You always say we should never stop being curious, to always open any curiosity door we find. Why are you keeping this curiosity door locked?” 

As expected, the penultimate chapter really gets busy, beginning with a tribute to E.T. – the gang are pursued through the Watkins streets by the “bad men” in their matching vans.

Having just wiped my face (and keyboard!) dry after that emotional embrace between Mike, Eleven and Will on the clifftop during Chapter Six’s finale, so Chapter Seven compels me to ransack the manor for MORE tissues as Lucas makes his heartfelt apology to Eleven, and Mike and Lucas shave hands – everything’s fine and dandy now?

Oh no-ho-ho! 

In come more extras from E.T. Luckily the Chief of Police turns up just in the nick of (clobberin’!) time.

Assembling a salt bath in the school gym is kinda rad, man! Another great, creepy sequence.

And as the gang wait for the grown-ups to return, Dustin goes to raid the school store for CHOCOLATE PUDDING. Attaboy, Dustin! 😉

Hey, if MY junior school had stored such a humongous stash of gooey goodness, then – by Jiminy! – all those detentions would have been way more bearable… 

“This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy! THIS IS CRAZY! What are you doing?! Are you INSANE?!” – Steve Harrington. 

And before you know it: my binge reached the final episode. Gee, it all went by so quick; but wow, what a crescendo.

At the Byers’ residence, Jonathan, Nancy and Steve are occupied with paranormal threats, while the kids are chased through their own school by the “bad men.” Meanwhile! Joyce and Hopper – Hazmatted-up and venturing into the Upside Down to rescue Will – offers another irresistibly creepy highlight. Ultimately, Hop makes a deal with the shady cohorts of Hawkins Lab but what price will he be paying…?

Eleven has a final showdown with the Demogorgon in one of the school’s classrooms, and both are whisked off… to the Upside Down? Eleven has to return in Season Two, right?! Boo-hoo! She’s just got to!  

Actually, before proceeding with Season Two, this brand new Stranger fanboy went back and watched this whole corking caboodle all over again. 

Is this love…?

“Only love makes you that crazy, sweetheart, and that damn stupid” – Florence.

Eh? Come again, Flo?!

Seriously though, this Post set out to be a Review, assessing its faults in addition to gushing over its awesomeness. Let’s face it: tried my BEST to find the WORST, but there are no niggling negatives to be gnawed at here. 

However, one crucial point should be made though:

Got to love the way in which this is described as “A Netflix Original Series.” On the contrary, of course, Stranger Things is a cut-and-paste show, with nods to The Goonies here, E.T. there, and so many references to Stephen King sprinkled everywhere! But it’s all concocted in such a deliciously fun and engrossing way that it can – and should -be savoured as a loving ode to the ’80s. And – oh yes – that synthtillating soundtrack by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein is wonderfully evocative of the best decade ever.

Primarily, what appeals to me here is that it’s not so much a horror show; rather, its emphasis leans more towards dark fantasy (an intriguing subgenre that is currently fueling some of my best fiction writing!) There is menace; there are one or two moderately gruesome moments but nothing gory. The 1983 setting is mighty fine and dandy – a story such as this could not have worked in the 21st century – gimme walkie-talkies, NOT mobile phones, ANY day! 🙂 And you know the writing is top class when it becomes impossible to select just one favourite character. 

All in all, glad that time and technology could finally coalesce in a highly fortuitous manner to make Stranger Things Season One happen for me. At last! It’s a splendid, but rare treat: watching a perfect piece of television such as this for the very first time. 

Ah yeah, this series grabbed me by the Goonies from the get-go and never let go.  

Now, Brad has to go and replenish his fridge with MORE chocolate pudding, but he WILL return VERY SOON and present you with an Xtra special feature about El, a Season 2 Review and -hey! – a Season 3 Review.

Promise 🙂

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

“Pretty… good…” 

Marks Out Of 10? ELEVEN! (or El for short) 😉

 

“Friends don’t lie…” 

 

“On My Command – Fire In A Series Of Rapid Proton Pulsations!”: More Mega Mags From Mighty Marvel

A Cool, Candy-Coated Cavalcade Of Classic Corking Comics

Dr. Rachel Sweet: “The humans will be here any second, ROM!”

ROM: “They will find only an empty laboratory, wraith, for Firefall and I will have long since gone… And you shall be drifting in the shadow realm of limbo!”

Dr. Sweet: “Will I, ROM?! To banish me you must first recover your neutralizer, and not even you can free it! You couldn’t penetrate that force-sphere without expending all of your armor’s energy!” 

ROM: “For a Spaceknight to do so would mean death!” 

Welcome back, True Believers!

In an attempt tp slink back into a more regular blogging groove, yours truly thought it best to compile another batch of titles acquired during my Bronze Age expeditions. However, this just happens to be the one series in this blog that has, curiously, become quite a laborious chore to compile; thus a whole backlog of Reviews remain unfinished!

So how can one remedy this?

Rather than utilizing a fancy gimmick, or theme, for this Post, as per usual, ishs were selected entirely at random. By reducing the number of ishs featured per post to just FOUR, hopefully the output of these comic book reviews should increase. Also, note to self: try not to be so meticulous when discussing plot-points, especially with the more awesome ishs.

Okey-dokey, ready for some rapid proton pulsations?

Let’s get stuck in, starting with a true classic:

 

Dr. Daedalus: “See the genius of Galadorian cyber-surgery! Human organs and cells genetically grafted to spaceknight steel! We are looking at a suit of living armor!” 

The Most High One: “What we are looking at, Dr. Daedalus, is an enemy who has pursued us across the cosmos for 200 Earth years!” 

“By the Golden Gates of Galador!”

Wow, ROM, WOW! 

What a rip-roaring – and strangely moving – ish ROM #11 (October 1980) is.

The Greatest of the Spaceknights has discovered that Project Safeguard – the US government initiative set up to protect Earth from extraterrestrial threats – just happened to be established by none other than the Dire Wraiths: the most malevolent extraterrestrial threat Earth could ever face.

In this chapter, entitled: “Standoff!” ROM – held prisoner within a stasis-field in the top secret depths of Ultralab – must free himself and defeat a wraith in the guise of scientist Dr. Rachel Sweet. She is seriously dischuffed at being ordered to exterminate ROM – she would have preferred to keep him alive and learn the secrets of Galadorian cyber-surgery, thus advancing wraith-science. 

ROM wins this round, but only through the unexpected sacrifice of Archie Stryker, a petty (human) criminal who had sworn to destroy the Spaceknight (before being tricked by the wraiths and grafted into the late Firefall’s armour).

Those proton pulsations did the trick: in the climactic panel (below) the Ultralab guards burst in to confront the “evil robot from outer space.” 

Those top co-imagineers: Bill Mantlo (script) and Sal Buscema (art) have excelled themselves – this is one brilliant ish, absolutely BRILLIANT.

“She’s stallin’ — up to something! Wait! That instrument panel she’s leanin’ against… Of course! It’s gotta be tied into the intercom system! She’s been screamin’ stuff about us killin’ her for the benefit of the security forces upstairs!” – Firefall.

 

Mr. Gyrich: “As the authorized agent of the National Security Council, I hereby revoke your Avengers’ priority status! From this moment on, your ties with the federal government are severed…!”

Iron Man: “Gyrich, wait! You can’t! That affects almost everything we do…! Great! Just great! Now we can’t fly our aircraft, we can’t use our monitors, our security clearance and priority status are gone–! Now what?” 

“ANYBODY HOME?! Hey,  Avengers! Where’s the cake and the brass band, huh? HAWKEYE’S BACK!” 

Searching for pre-1981 ishs of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – especially at affordable rates! – has been one of the toughest objectives encountered during my Bronze Age expeditions. So imagine my surprise, but sheer delight, upon stumbling across The Avengers #172 (June 1978) “Holocaust In New York Harbor!”

Clint Barton returns, but to an abandoned Avengers Mansion. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, meanwhile, are uptown, having defeated Ultron in the previous ish. Upon their return, ever-dependable butler: Jarvis runs in to inform them that Atlantean rapscallion: Tyrak (Tie Rack?! arf, arf, arf) is running amok around NY harbour. Vision, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Wonder Man, and Ms. Marvel head for the waterfront to confront their fishy foe, while Iron Man stays behind to try and solve the mystery of the vanishing Avengers.

So, was this ish worth the bother?

Despite Hawkeye’s prominence on the cover, we barely get to see him. Considering how this team “were born – to fight the foes no single superhero could withstand,” this particularly ineffectual nerk could easily be sorted out by, say, Shellhead, or even the Cap – or, more appropriately, Namor The Sub-Mariner – in any of their solo adventures.

Come ON: apart from a big mouth and some right hooks, what threat does he seriously pose? Get a load of that orange vest, and those yellow fish-scale tights, especially against his sky-blue skin. But the REAL “danger” lies in those PINK BOOTS. Obviously, this ish’s colorist had been itchin’ to try out his new box of crayons…

The final panel reveals those missing Avengers encased in cryo-tubes and only the hands of a mysterious supervillain operating a snazzy console hint at a more dangerous threat to come in the subsequent ish.

But come ON!

Yer ol’ buddy Brad strode all the way across ol’ London town to track down this precious ish – only to find a noisome nautical nincompoop with a bad attitude, appalling dress sense and those blamed PINK BOOTS?!

No reward is worth this…

“Did you think that anything short of total disintegration could stop me? YOU WILL NOT TOUCH MY WIFE! You HATE the sun’s burning rays — I trust that my thermo-optic beams are equally loathsome!” – Vision.

 

Dr. Strange: “Good morrow, milord. This lady and I be weary travelers, who have journeyed far to speak with thee. Might we have a moment of thy time?” 

Sir Francis Bacon: “Indeed, sir! Sit, I prithee. I warn ye, however, that I am yet new to my governmental duties, so any pleas–!”

Dr. Strange: “No, milord. ‘Tis Bacon the philosopher and author we seek.” 

Sir Francis Bacon: “What? Not more allegations that I wrote the works of William Shakespeare, surely? I deny it absolutely!”

“By the Crimson Crystals of Cyttorak!”

Every once in a while, ’tis a joy to return to the Master of Mystic Arts!

This title radiated awesomeness whenever co-imagineers: “Smashin'” Steve Engelhart and “Genial” Gene Colan were at the helm, so the reputation of Dr. Strange #17  (August 1976) deservedly precedes it. Honouring that year’s bicentennial celebrations, this chapter: “Utopia Rising!” explored the origins of America. 

That desperate ne’er-do-well: James Mandarin has committed the ultimate crime: stolen a selection of antiquarian books from Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. One of the recovered books: “New Atlantis,” in which Sir Francis Bacon outlined the “dream of a new form of society… of free men, where neither princes nor pontiffs shall hold sway, and the governors shall be the governed,” piques the interest of Stephen’s apprentice, Clea. So he takes her back in time to Stuart London, 1618, “to plunge into the mad babble of the rabble in the tavern” to meet Sir Francis. 

After Stephen and Clea leave, they are attacked in the street by a gang of bawdy blackguard bounders, who turn out to be minor magicians…

They’d been dispatched to steal the manuscript of New Atlantis, but by whom?! 

Later, in a hastily-procured hotel room – Dormammu’s Demons! – the Sorcerer Supreme of the 20th century is ambushed by Stygro, the Sorcerer Supreme of the 17th century. Here, Colan is at his expressive best: the unusual, magik-tinged combat is accentuated through his distinctively giddy, mad swirls of flying furniture and twirling tomes.

The finale is marked by Sir Francis’ confession that he never intends to publish New Atlantis in its entirety:

“Let everyone believe it lost, to fan interest in its unanswered mysteries!”

And his revelation that King James had recently appointed him to direct “our colonization effort” in the New World. 

“Need I add that only those who who seek true freedom shall I send?”

Thus, Dr. Strange communicates with Clea telepathically:

“And that, Clea, is why “New Atlantis” marks the REAL beginning of America!”

A veritable Bronze Age masterpiece, brimming with class, maturity and sophistication.

“Next: Ben Franklin struts his stuff!”

Whoa, can’t wait… 

“Thou dost speak like a wine-besotted fool, Mister Strange. The drift of thy speech, therefore, eludeth me entire” – Sir Francis Bacon.

 

(Hey! Coulda swore I saw somethin’ move up there! You’re actin’ like a scared kid, Lucas – jumpin’ at shadows! But shadows don’t make noise… It sounded like it came— from behind me!) 

“SWEET JUMPING CHRISTMAS!” – Luke Cage. 

“You cooked him, Mistah Fish! Fried ‘im like a flounder!”  

Last – and probably least? – in this round-up comes Luke Cage, Power Man #29 (Feoruary 1976). It’s an odd lil curio, but with such a badass (lameass…?) title as: “No One Laughs at Mr. Fish!” how could Brad – nay, anyone! – refuse?!

Imagineered by those ever-trusty stalwarts of awesomeness, “Boisterous” Bill Mantlo (Blimey! Him again!) and “Gorgeous” George Tuska, this, unfortunately, has all the hallmarks of a last-minute filler job – desperate for ideas with a deadline fast approaching…

Therefore, in addition to being a far-fetched creation, “Mr. Fish” cannot be considered to be anything other than irrelevant and disposable. Moreover, by today’s standards, Mr. Fish’s henchmen could easily be deemed racist caricatures.

Luke, of course, is cool and tough as always, but deserved much better material than this. 

You can read this ish…and still not believe it. It’s okay, but nothing special. And probably may not stay in my collection for much longer… 

But hey!!

At least Mr. Fish didn’t have to rely on pink boots to intimidate his enemies!

Cheers!

“The others fled as I – glowing from the contaminating isotope – dove into the filthy waters of the East River! And though I stayed beneath the water for what seemed like hoursstill I burned from within! My entire being aflame as I… changed! …I knew instinctively that I would never be the same again!” – Mr. Fish.

 

The Kinks – Supersonic Rocket Ship: MARVEL Music Monday

Welcome To New Asgard!

Move aside, there, Lebowski!” – Tony Stark

Thor: “Do you know what is coursing through my veins right now?”

James Rhodes: “Cheez Whiz?”

 

Avengers: Endgame – The Bradscribe Review

Dread It. Run From It. The Bradscribe Review Arrives All The Same.

And Now It’s Here.

“Unconquerable brilliance takes Marvel to new heights… an irresistible blend of action and comedy, guaranteeing a sugar rush of delirious enjoyment” – Peter Bradshaw. 

This is the end, beautiful friend…

In a movie that is the culmination of eleven years and over twenty movies, thus transcending the rules and expectations of the superhero movie genre, where the whole objective is to conclude all super-business in a convincing and compelling closure, AND fire decisive repulsor-rayblasts to your mind, heart and – hoo-boy! – tear ducts, where do we begin?!

Tony Stark is marooned in space with the daughter of the fiend who fatally slew him; where do the original Avengers – survivors of the Snaptastrophe – go from here?

To undo the Mad Titan’s wrongdoings, and try and restore some sorta semblance of order back to the universe, before you can say: “TREE! Help me find the handle!” they have constructed a “machine” that can transport what’s left of the cast into their respective subplots…

And to that end, as expected, the following three hours deliver on so many winning levels in the best way possible. 

The only way.

The MARVEL way! 🙂

“The only complaint is that it raises the bar so high that there may well never be a superhero movie to match it…” – Matthew Norman. 

PHOOEY to those critics who dared slate this gargantuan cinematic swansong as “preposterous”(!)

Look, this is a comicbook movie fer cake’s sake, where fans don’t bat an eyelid at such Stark Raving Hazelnuts stuff as a talking raccoon, a wizard’s cloak that has a mind of its own and a giant Peter Dinklage. 

One can appreciate how (the best of) these MCU movies have been created by comicbook buffs who not only know how crazy, clever and cosmic these stories can be, but understand how they work. Essentially, Avengers: Endgame has been (ahem) assembled in such a meticulous, but oh so MARVELous way that it looks – and works – like a remastered Greatest Hits compilation, with a handful of iconic scenes from the last eleven years – including familiar faces we thought we’d never see again! – lovingly spliced in to add an always-welcome tinge of nostalgia to that unfailingly spectacular eleven-year mix of action, drama and humour. 

Moreover, this time, we are presented with an unprecedented, but irresistibly intriguing premise in a superhero movie: 

failure, and how (what’s left of) the team deal with that. 

Just when you think the First Act would dissolve into something too morose to handle, and drag a tad, once again – thankfully! – writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are at the top of their (end)game, providing one of the best scripts of the year (and not to mention, as reliable as ever, a hefty wodge of rad quotable lines! 😉 )

The depleted number of protagonists means that Avengers: Endgame offers closer attention to character study, and even sends some of their story-arcs down paths that were (dare we say it!) hitherto undreamt of. One of them in particular highly uncharacteristically crawls into a bottle (Clue: it’s NOT Ant-Man).

At the end of the day, it’s so cool to discover that – like your fav cake-scoffing blogger 😉 – Clint is just as badass with a blade as he is with a bow.

Oh, and speaking of cool, that much-anticipated Stan Lee cameo is – how we remember The Man – real classy!

“We won’t talk about the technobabble inelegantly cited in a bid to hold it all together – the equivalent of taking out an airplane’s jackscrews and replacing them with bubblegum” – Ed Whitfield: The Ooh Tray. 

At three hours and one minute, this is the longest MCU instalment; kudos to its directors: Anthony and Joe Russo for not letting the pace slip at all, not once, during these epic proceedings. Against all odds, Avengers: Endgame manages to be a worthy and thoroughly enjoyable successor to Avengers: Infinity War.

However, once that sheer exhilaration settles down and those critical faculties kick in, a few niggles pop up preventing me from bestowing it the full quota of five perfectly balanced stars. 

The biggest drawback here happens to be the biggest character: despite having a few cool scenes, Thanos is inevitably relegated to formulaic antagonist.

When Captain Larson shows up at Avengers HQ, nestling the Benatar on their front lawn, there are no gawps or gasps from Steve and co. Obviously, this universe is positively heaving with enhanced individuals of one sort or another, so “New Girl” is allowed to hang around the base, no questions asked, until the moment the script has no further need for her she has to skedaddle to some distant planet to… do something for no discernible reason… She eventually returns, making a brief, but blistering impact during the Final Act which, incidentally, looks far too cluttered and chaotic. All in all, Captain Marvel’s appearance in this movie was not substantial or integral enough to have warranted her own lousy movie almost two months ago.

Personally, last year’s masterpiece – with its towering (and harrowing) central performance, a truly Mighty Marvel Team-Up in the unexpected groovy forms of Thor and Rocket, moon-throwing and THAT unforgettable ending – seared a more indelible mark on my memory, but this is still an incredibly engrossing piece of work, and provides a fitting finale to this frenetic franchise. 

When The BIG Bradscribe MCU Countdown is due to be revised shortly, Avengers: Endgame should be riding high in the Top 10. It deserves to snap out of existence all box office records; after only three days, it’s officially become the Highest Grossing Movie Of All Time. 

The enormous, exciting, and – oh yes – emotional effects have proved remarkable, and will surely never end – this really feels like the blockbuster to end all blockbusters.

Therefore, yours truly takes this opportunity to announce The End of my forty years of cinema-going. Let’s face it: during the next ten – perhaps twenty – years, methinks it probably unlikely that we will ever experience a movie, bigger, bolder or better than this…

At the very least, watching Avengers: Endgame is infinitely preferable to being stuck in a flying doughnut billions of miles from Earth with no backup…

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

“I like this one.”

 

“We like very propulsive storytelling. We like to keep it tight and focused, and to give the audience a thrill ride. No one’s been pushing us to cut the film… we’re primarily pushing ourselves” – Anthony Russo. 

 

UVB76 – SG1: Manic Music Monday

Part Of The Journey Is The End.

When I drift off, I will dream about you. It’s always you” – Tony Stark. 

 

Some people in this galaxy DON’T dig Marvel movies. 0_0

But not us…

Not us! 

Before unleashing my Review next week, this chattering animal will be posting – midweek – a few thoughts on the soon-to-be-revealed Avengers: Endgame, so hope you can join me for that!

Ha ha! We all wondered how we would manage to wait a whole year to find out how this monumental story arc could come to a satisfying MARVELous denouement – now we are only DAYS away.

So this is it? It’s all been leading to this…

 

“Oh My God! I should’ve stayed on the bus…” – Peter Parker.

 

Magic Sword – In The Face Of Evil: MARVEL Music Monday

Here We Go!

“So much has happened since I last saw you! I lost my hammer, like yesterday, so that’s still fresh. Then I went on a journey of self-discovery. Then I met you” – Thor. 

 

This live set by Brad’s new fav band: Magic Sword was performed in Phoenix, Arizona on 19 October 2016, about a few months before this track appeared on the trailer for

Thor: Ragnarok. 

Enjoy! 

 

“Mmm mmm mmm, he’s wonderful. It is a he…?” – The Grandmaster.  

 

Captain Marvel: The Toxic Avenger

We Found Her And We Weren’t Even Looking…

captain-marvel-90s-movie-explosion-scene-official-trailer-2018-09-18

“This is an… odd superhero action movie… There’s an eccentric splurge of tonal registers from boomingly serious to quirkily droll… A lovable cat makes an important appearance…” – The Guardian.  

Imagine my nightmare. If you can…

Stuck in a packed cinema, trying to keep awake during the latest MCU instalment. Amidst a rather bland action scene – in space – one of the most annoying pop songs in living memory – by that eternally-detestable combo: No Doubt, no less! – starts to play.

Yes, it did make my one good eye roll.

No, it did NOT put a smile on my face…

You know, Bradman is NOT one to skedaddle from a battle, but in this case, the urge to split almost consumed me. 

Moreover, to compound the no-good-niggles tormenting my throbbing bonce, the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi throttled my mind: 

“I’m getting too old for this sort of shit…” 

‘0 _ 0’

After the jaw-dropping brilliance that was Avengers: Infinity War it seemed pointless going into Captain Marvel with any expectations. Nevertheless, confidence that we would get another top quality comicbook movie package remained fairly high. 

The plot is your basic “origins” tale: Nick “Two-Eyes” Fury teams up with The Cat From Outer Space and they set out on a quest to find the memory of The Woman Who Fell To Earth, with the Jude Law and the Kree Order in hot pursuit.

Okey-dokey, methinks, so far, so groovy. 

But…

Before you can say: “Higher, further, faster, baby!” it descends into a dismal display of bland performances, incoherent narrative and some of the most lame and lacklustre lines heard in a long while…

And don’t get me started about the Skrulls: those nefarious shapeshifting aliens who look here like Trekkie cosplayers. 

Quite naff Trekkie cosplayers…

Rather than the despicable race as depicted in the comics, the BIG twist here is that they are the repressed refugees of the galaxy. And we’re supposed to empathise with them? Don’t you know what they say? “Keep your friends close, your Skrulls closer.” DON’T listen to them, Carol – IT’S A TRAP…

And just why on C-53 is Ben Mendelsohn trying to do an Andy Serkis impersonation…?!

“Oh Captain, my Captain. There’s not enough on the page… It’s only two hours long and they kind of rushed through it…” – Double Toasted. 

It comes as absolutely no surprise to learn that Roy Thomas – legendary Marvel writer who co-created Carol Danvers in 1968 – felt less than impressed with this movie.

“Actually, the one thing I really hated in the film was turning the Skrulls into a peace-loving race, with the Kree as the heavies.” he said in a recent interview. “As far as I am concerned, as the principal conceptualizer of the Kree/Skrull War, (and I suspect Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would agree with me) the Skrulls and the Kree are each as bad as each other, as they say. Having the Skrulls all mushy and family-friendly at the end left a bad taste in my mouth…”

The only aspect to please him was thus: “Still, Yon-Rogg turned out to be appropriately vile, and that’s all well and good.” 

What about those 12-year old girls this film so desperately tried to impress and inspire? Incidentally, the number of that demographic in the audience at my screening could be counted on the “fingers” of MY gauntlet. And they looked bored to tears…

Wire sued Elastica for stealing their riff from Three Girl Rhumba. Nirvana lifted the bass-line from Killing Joke’s Eightites, which in turn “borrowed” from The Damned’s Life Goes On, and – hey! – here’s me slouching (nay, yawning!) in the middle of the latest MCU movie with my concentration drifting into such mundane musical matters, particularly wondering which alternative Kurt Cobain song would have sufficed instead, if at all…!

Sheesh! 

Is it any wonder that the only scene to actually move me happened to be the heartfelt tribute to Stan Lee over the Marvel logo? And the only cool scene was, of course, his cameo. He’s reading the script to Mallrats (also released in 1995), in which you can find the most extensive cameo of his illustrious acting career. 

Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have never made a comicbook movie before and, quite clearly, it shows. The montage of flashbacks from Carol’s early life are so fragmentary and ever-so-minimally informative (not helped by Skrull scientists jabbering over each clip!) that they look confusing, almost to the point of annoyance. 

Imagine what a dramatic improvement we would have if allowed to see that key moment in the comics in which teenage Carol rebels against her overbearing Dad and walks out. 

There should be a terrific performance by Lashana Lynch, as Carol’s best pal: Maria Rambeau, but, there again, the shoddy script deprives Maria’s role the chance to really shine. Moreover, the 1st Act needed a bonding moment between them – it would have instilled the emotional resonance this movie so sorely lacked. 

The fact that three writers were involved proves yet again how:

The more names involved in concocting a major studio movie script = the more incoherent that script becomes.

Again, is this really the MCU we are dealing with here…?!

“They really tried to cram it all in… boring, generic, by-the-book, which is unfortunate for Marvel’s fist female-lead movie” – Medium Popcorn. 

“Packed with action! Humour! And visual thrills!! With an origin story that makes effective use of the franchise’s signature formula!” 

Uff, well, that’s a loada’ cobblers…

Allow me to suggest (mercifully briefly!why this movie is regarded as  “good, but not great.”

Apart from the obvious observation that Larson lacks charisma, consider how Captain Marvel is supposed to be an origins story. Despite countless versions of this theme – some produced, remarkably well, within the MCU itself over this past decade! – the only spectacular revelation to be had here is the way it fails in this regard.

Bafflingly, the core of this movie is mysteriously bereft of a hero(ine)’s journey, so no revelation, atonement, redemption, or moral/ethical self-discovery. 

Wow, she had no misdeeds and failings to rectify; no life-changing lessons to learn; no knowledge to attain; no challenges to overcome; therefore, we feel no curiosity or compulsion to follow what happens to her. Subjected to the full blast of the Kree core engine does not count as a “personal transformation.”

Ultimately, this is all a meaningless spectacle. 

Always appreciated the origins story of Marvel’s other Cap: the classic, compelling Captain America: First Avenger. Where was the stirring equivalent “world doesn’t need a perfect soldier, but a good man,” speech amidst this mess? We waited and waited again for something other than a perfect Power Lady (so she doesn’t need to learn great responsibility either, yay!) but the real good – i.e. relatable, compassionate, etc. – Carol Danvers failed to show up…

Yeah, but wasn’t Goose purrrfect?! 

No.

When the “cat” freaks out, tentacles an’ all, it suddenly felt like a Men In Black movie – truly, one of the most abhorrent experiences anybody could suffer in a cinema…

Can’t get over the fact that the script is unbelievably inept. The dialogue is so clunky – Captain Clunky!

Despite having the “Supreme intelligence” onboard, there are too many dumb moments; considering all that flying: in jets, spaceships or just as herself, her “character” never gets off the ground…

This blog has been honed to practice (and hopefully perfect) my story-telling skills, for when my movie/TV breakthrough eventually comes my humble way. And yet this esteemed gig goes to…

this gaggle of amateurs…?!

Behold: the Plight of the Livid Brad?

Not at all.

Yours truly is too tired to generate any antipathy towards anyone or anything these days. So to read about these ignorant trolls wasting their energies – and our time – spewing their, quite frankly, pathetic Caps-Lock-laden rants at something they haven’t even bothered to watch(!) makes for the most bewildering behaviour.

Have reached that stage in my life whereby the race, sex – or even sexual orientation – of a character has become irrelevant, how that character is developed (or not!) however, means everything to me. 

“The film may be about women breaking their shackles, but the lead actress feels kept in check for much of the picture. Humor winds up being provided by Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury, heart by Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau, and pathos by…well, it ain’t Larson” – San Diego Reader. 

Having watched her in a couple of TV promotional interviews, Brie Larson comes across as witty and charming, so it’s a shame that “Vers”/Carol is denied the chance to bring these qualities to this muddled mix.   

Out of 21 movies, this is the first with a female lead… 

…and yet, instead, we’re all raving about how cool and funny Samuel L. Jackson as a remarkably-undistracting-de-aged Nick Fury turned out to be…

Fortunately, this interplay between Brie and Sam is fun and entertaining to watch – they obviously got along fine and dandy whilst working on Kong: Skull Island (gee, remember that?!)

Considering how Brie has signed a SEVEN-movie contract with Marvel, ensuring this Cap’s prominent role in the MCU’s Next Phase, this movie should have delivered a more substantial, more distinctive, and, if you will, more thought-provoking introduction to supposedly the most powerful hero in the MCU. Up until now, this franchise looked, and felt, meticulously planned, years in advance – from its expansive plot-unfolding to those subtle Easter Eggs – and yet this movie feels too muddled, as if hastily thrown together at-the-last-minute just to appease the crowd who have been crying out forever for a female-led Marvel superhero movie. Thus, it does not present a suitable prelude to Avengers: Endgame, in which the hotly-anticipated rematch against Thanos may likely culminate in GOOSE GOING FOR THE HEAD.

Whatever’s in store, in the ever-reliable hands of the Russo brothers, Avengers: Endgame ought to be a more epic and engaging eyeful than what we got here…

Yep, Captain Marvel is now the most powerful hero in the MCU. 

Can’t dispute that. 

She single-handedly drained my will to write for at least ten days after my trip to the cinema. And almost depleted my enthusiasm for the upcoming Endgame (!) 

One fan Comment summed it up perfectly: “If Captain Marvel has to fight Thanos, I’ll be rooting for Thanos…”

Sure, the Captain Marvel movie mahelp pass the time, but it’s not worth dropping into a Blockbuster™ for…

 

“I could 

NOT 

BELIEVE 

what I was watchin’! I almost threw my chicken strips at the screen, man!” – rapper59.

 

Sphare Sechs – Phase II: Mellow Music Monday

We Have Loved The Stars Too Fondly To Be Fearful Of The Night…  

To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit” – Stephen Hawking.

 

“The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be” – Carl Sagan.   

 

 

MANDY: The Bradscribe Review

Which Is More Bat-Shit Bananas: 

Nicolas Cage Or This Movie…?

“Like taking a bad LSD trip with David Lynch through Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist and ending up trapped inside an early Iron Maiden album cover, it’s an extraordinary sensory overload… After this absorbing, gory movie, you’ll emerge like you’ve crawled out of its guts” – Larushka Ivan-Zadeh. 

I remember all my life, raining down as cold as ice. Shadows of a man, a face through a window, crying in the night…

Heck, this man only happens to be Nicolas frickin’ Cage! Here he’s Red Miller, a lumberjack, but – hoo boy! – he’s NOT okay. “Crying?” Ha! That’s putting it mildly. Brooding in his bathroom, Cage is growling with grief and hollerin’ with hate in his own legendary, inimitable way, splashing vodka down his throat and over his wounds, ‘cos a wacko redneck hippy cult known as Children Of The New Dawn infiltrated the blissful, pine-scented haven in the Pacific Northwest which he had shared with his girlfriend, Mandy. Until they killed and cremated her...

From Panos (Beyond The Black Rainbow) Cosmatos, prepare for a blood-red phantasmagoria of ethereal imagery and INSANE violence. 

Just one long horrific gonzo bloodfest, this most certainly is not.

No, in one of its most striking scenes, in order “to get the girl,” Brother Swan drives deep into the woods and blows the Horn of Abraxas, thus summoning a biker gang known as the Black Skulls – NOT your ordinary bunch of drug-addled Peter Fondas. This movie rams all logic and reality into the furnace, revelling instead as an almost-delirious, acid-drenched dark fantasy. Therefore these queasy riders just happen to be monstrous psychos in spiked leather gear – as if they chugged in from Mordor via the Mad Max wasteland – “speaking” with suitably deep and demonic drawls. Mercifully, we never get a proper butcher’s at their ugly mugs – perhaps it’s just as well! Once, apparently, they were normal men, but The Chemist cooked up “a special batch” of psychedelicacies, transforming them into the freakiest bunch of devilish antagonists since Hellraiser’s cenobites. They’re mostly depicted as menacing figures, eerily silhouetted against the thick, crimson smog…

Strange…

And eternal…

“This outrageously over the top film is nothing if not uninhibited, often visually amazing… an uncompromising midnight movie” – Peter Bradshaw. 

As you just heard, the intense images herein are ably and effectively complemented by Johann (Arrival) Johannsson’s in turns blistering and breathtaking soundtrack. Sadly, Johann passed away shortly before the film’s release last October, so there is a message: “Dedicated to our friend Johann Johannsson” during the end credits – the only time this whole production presents something sane and respectful. 

Arguably the outstanding track is the Love Theme; wonderfully evocative of Vini Reilly AND Robert Fripp at their sublime best- it’s uncanny. Even reminded me of Popol Vuh’s mesmerising score for Aguirre: Der Zorn Gottes (1974), itself a dizzying descent (down the Amazon river) into an ever-swirling madness.

If you go down in the woods tonight – hey! – you’re sure of Nicolas Cage being your BIG surprise! Having already played the Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance – (twice!) Nasty Nic knows plenty about exacting big paybacks. 

Here – by Jove! – he’s as cross as two sticks. And crazy?! Oh yes. Ol’ Rage Cage is – as we say in Blighty – a few Hobnobs™ short of a full packet…

Speaking of hobnobs, the leader of the New Dawn cult is Jeremiah Sand, a Manson-like, failed musician nutjob played by Linus Roache. Personally, it wasn’t his performance that unsettled me, but his uncanny resemblance to a disgraced ’70s UK children’s TV presenter… 

Thou shalt not mess with an unbalanced woodsman who makes his living using a chainsaw. Well, really: you’d think those dozy Dawn dipwits would know that!

Straight after his beloved has been killed, Red staggers indoors; the Children forgot to switch the TV off: cue the movie’s most surreal moment: a bizarre (and thankfully FAKE) commercial for Cheddar Goblin, a horrendous puppet barfing cheezy chunks over a couple of giggling children sitting at their breakfast table!

In order to wreak his lunatic revenge spree against Sant, his New Dawners AND the Black Skulls, Red pays a visit to an old chum: Caruthers (played by Bill “Predator” Duke) a taciturn recluse who lives in a dilapidated trailer elsewhere in the forest. He’s been looking after “The Reaper”: Red’s CROSSBOW.

And that’s not all! Whoa, no! 

Red even goes to the trouble of forging The Beast: his very own badass hippy-hackin’ AXE. Ah, those Dwarf-lords in their mountain halls would have been proud… 

It’s very convenient that Red has someone like Caruthers with which to discuss his revenge-spree. At one point, Caruthers remarks: “These arrows cut through the bone like a fat kid eats cake.”

HELLO? DID ANYBODY SAY CAKE?! 😉

“The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight” – Joseph Campbell. 

Mandy herself – played here by Andrea Riseborough – exudes a fragile and doe-eyed beauty, and uet there’s something creepy anout her otherwise innocent look. It’s like watching Shelley Duvall in The Shining all over again…

Although its never mentioned, Mandy seems to have suffered a shocking experience at some point in her past, for she has totally withdrawn from civilization, to nestle in the healing tranquility of nature, and while away her days producing comic book art. And reading dark fantasy novels. It would have been nice to see more of Andrea (Birdman) Riseborough and Nicolas (Birdy) Cage together, but let’s face it: this “visionary director” seemed far too eager to bring on this

CRAZY

EVIL. 

If teenage Brad had gawped at this, he would certainly have squealed with delight at the numerous sequences of blood-spewing on display here. But these days… 

Perhaps it’s a tad too excessive (for me).

Perhaps one has reached that stage in life where the flow of excellently-crafted words pouring forth is infinitely more preferable…

There’s no point in developing these one-dimensional cult members – everybody knows that gruesome ends await each one of them anyway! As to be expected, Red is haunted by disturbing dreams, but here, all those brief sequences are… animated.

And – oh yes – there’s a tiger. A live – not animated, LIVE – tiger. What’s it doing there…? Heck, not even yer ol’ buddy Brad can explain that one… 

Apart from a President Reagan speech on the car radio, and a couple of retro football shirts, there is little indication to suggest that this “supremely unnerving horror dimension” is actually set in 1983. Retrobrad had half-expected an ’80s soundtrack(!), but: soz, folks, there’s no Cyndi Lauper or Kajagoogoo to bop along to here…

However, there is an intriguing assortment of retro-references. The chainsaw duel is reminiscent of the duel featured in The Texas Chinsaw Massacre 2 (1986). And these proceedings commence with the classic Universal Pictures logo from the 70s (a personal fav!)

At one point, Red mutters something about: the psychotic drowns where the mystic swims, alluding to the quote by mythologist Joseph Campbell (see above!)

Incidentally, the epilogue – considering the cram-packed cavalcade of chaos and carnage that preceded it – is a surprisingly pleasant, almost-incongruous, but very much appreciated, totally non-trippy bittersweet sequence. Having shattered our senses and churned our stomachs, Cosmatos sees fit to round it all off by well and truly rending our hearts. (If you can call it that, the post-post-credits scene is just a still image – a montage of Mandy‘s artwork).

Would Brad recommend this gvindhouse show?

Aww gee, that’s a toughie.

There are some unusual and truly astonishing visual flourishes here, but, as forewarned, you will have to endure truly disturbing images lurking within. If and when you decide to watch, make sure that Auntie Mary has left the room… 

Stuff the sequels. Raze the remakes. 

We need MORE unique works like this, but: less gore, next time… please? 

And oh no, Brad will definitely NOT be sending Mandy away! 

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT:

Well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking
And I need you today, oh Mandy…”

 

Honestly, how can a “movie” as DEMENTED as this, offer such a hauntingly BEAUTIFUL Love Theme as this…? 

Caruthers: “So, what you huntin’?”

Red Miller: “Jesus freaks.”

Caruthers: “…I didn’t know they were in season, man.”

Red Miller: “Yeah, well…”