Apologies for the lack of blogging over the last few months, all that boring ‘real life’ stuff keeps getting in the way! I’m resolved to start disciplining myself to trying to post at least one or two missives per month this year as I really feel the need to start exercising the writing muscles again.

What dark corners of the cinematic underbelly have I been visiting then? Well, I’m been on a bit of a horror binge lately, so I’ve been diving into Netflix and Amazon to see what delights are on offer.

First up was the Evil Dead remake, continuing the glut of new versions of classic 70’s and early 80’s stalk and slash splatter classics. The premise of the original stays largely intact, but with the interesting twist of the main female protagonist Mia (Jane Levy) being brought to the cabin in the woods by her friends who are planning to stage an intervention over her drug addiction. I was wondering whether the film would make any play with this, perhaps introducing an element of ambiguity (are the subsequent horrific events all in Mia’s tortured mind as she undergoes cold turkey?)

Alas, the writers aren’t brave enough to go down this route, and we end up with a stock splatter movie with added gloss due to a budget higher than the threepence that Raimi and Tapert funded the gloriously overblown original with, but minus the anarchic gross out comedic edge. Average.

Next was an interesting little found-footage flick called The Bay that popped up on Netflix. I’m inclined to think that the found-footage format has long run it course, but in this case it’s the right vessel for the film’s faintly ridiculous premise of hormone riddled chicken poop being pumped into Chesapeake Bay, wherein a species of tiny ocean parasite feed on it, infects the drinking water, and…you get the picture. Manifesting first as a viral outbreak, the film deftly portrays the sense of mounting panic, and doesn’t show its hand too soon when playing the reveal. Worth a couple of hours of your time.

A Good Marriage is based on the eponymous Stephen King short story featured in his collection Full Dark, No Stars. This is an interesting premise, (wife learns that husband of twenty five years is a serial killer), that feels like an episode of an anthology series rather than a full length feature. Still it’s lifted out of its tv movie feel by great performances from Joan Allen and Anthony LaPaglia as the two leads.

So far, horror feels like a moribund genre, awash with reimaginings made with more money than passion. Rob Zombie probably has a great film in him somewhere, if he can ever move past his influences. At this point, I’m still awaiting the great white hope to come along and lift the genre out of the doldrums. If anyone has any suggestions for scary flicks that they’d like me to review, let me know in the comments.

Away from the box, I’ve been reading a couple of the late Iain M. Banks Culture novels. Now I know that these books have a lot of ardent fans, and his fictional universe is definitely one of the greatest creations in science fiction, but to be honest I’ve found the books hard going. Although his world building is up there with the likes of Herbert et al, I find his characters pretty unlikable and the prose cold. Still, the adventures of a space borne post scarcity society run by benevolent AI’s called Minds feature loads of brilliant concepts (too many to list here, just pick up a couple of the books – Consider Phlebas and The Player of Games are probably the most accessible to my mind). Just one of these books would make a very intriguing Netflix or Amazon series if the material was handled correctly. I’d be interested to know if Banks ever sold the film or TV rights to his sci-fi stuff.

After ploughing through the first season of the The Man in the High Castle, I’ve picked up a couple of alternative history novels, one of which Dominion by C J Sansom, I’m on with at the moment. The point of divergence is Halifax gaining the premiership in 1940 rather than Churchill, in the aftermath of the Norwegian campaign. Fast forward to 1952, and Britain is a nominally independent satellite state of the Reich. Hitler is rumoured to be gravely ill and factions within the party, SS, and Wehrmacht are preparing for the coming power struggle when the Fuhrer pops his clogs. Meanwhile the Russian campaign is still raging with Germany controlling European Russia, but the soviets waging a vicious guerrilla war,against the Nazis, which is slowly bleeding the economy dry. If like me, you’re disappointed with the BBC adaptation of SS-GB, then you could do worse that pick this up.