Good morning film fiends! Here is the first of what I intend to be a weekly bulletin featuring all the best sci-fi/fantasy/horror film related content that I’ve come across on my internet forays during the preceding week. Keep those beady eyes peeled(!) on your inboxes or social media feeds for future Newsblasts from!

In this week’s roundup:

  • Check out the trailer for Occupation, an independent Australian alien invasion flick from director Luke Sparke, and starring Jango Fett himself, Temuera Morrison and Bruce Spence (the Gyro Pilot from Mad Max 2). From the look of it, this promises to be Independence Day, but good. Check out the official website and trailer below to judge for yourself.


  • Go to YouTube and watch Womp Stomp Films and director Vincente Disanti’s excellent fan film tribute to the Friday the 13th  series, Never Hike Alone.The climax features a great Easter egg that is guaranteed to delight fans of the Camp Blood saga. Given that I personally disregard all the official entries to the series after part VII, I’m minded to regard this as series canon. Yes, it really is that good. See for yourself by clicking the link below –
  • Whilst we’re on the subject of Friday the 13th, YouTube also features an excellent documentary, Friday the 13th part III – The Memorium Documentary. As the title suggests, it focuses solely on the third film in the franchise, and was produced in memory of the late Richard Brooker, the actor and former trapeze artist who portrayed Jason Voorhees in the 1982 installment. A great little time capsule of the early 80’s slasher craze, featuring reminisces by many of the cast and on set photos from the original shoot. Find the link below –


  • The trailer for belated sequel Deep Blue Sea 2 is finally here complete with explosions galore and dodgy looking cgi sharks. The original is officially regarded by this site as the second greatest shark movie ever made, so I expect very little from this blatant cash in on the current crop of bargain bin shark flicks. Still the trailer makes it look like fun –

And finally…

  • Winchester gets its UK release on February 2nd, and I’ll be bringing you a full review of the Helen Mirren shockfest in due course. Based on the legend surrounding Sarah Winchester, the real life heiress of the eponymous firearms company, who ordered continuous construction of maze like extensions to her San Jose mansion for 38 years in the belief that if building stopped then the ghosts of those killed by her late husband’s creations would find her and claim her soul in revenge. The obvious conceit of the film is that the legend is founded in truth as an excuse to indulge in some good old supernatural hi-jinks. As a fan of period set horror, I’m looking forward to this one. Check out the trailer if you haven’t already –

Before I sign off; to any aspiring independent filmakers, podcasters or film related writers out there out there reading this, let me know if you’d like me to publicize and/or review your projects, The Stricken Land is always happy to promote new talent and ideas! And as ever, please feel free to share this post and any others on here that you like, far and wide.

Watch the Skies,


Over the last couple of days I’ve found myself tweeting with an Australian chap by the name of David Black, frontman for a theatrical horror rock band called Darkness Visible and all round horror film fan.

It turns out that David is deep in production of his own hosted horror show Horror House, which is a late night half an hour slot showcasing the best new Australian short horror films. Presented in the spirit of fondly remembered horror hosts like Criswell and 80’s goth babe Elvira, It will be hosted by David himself playing the role of hapless bloodsucker Count Funghoula along with co-host Tritia DeVisha playing the role of horror goth dominatrix Mistress Boobiyana.

Yes, it all sounds as kitsch and comedic as it looks,(check out the stills below), and frankly, great fun. It’s high time we had this sort of thing back on our screens to promote new talent and creativity in fields other than bubblegum pop and tiresome variety acts. As David himself say; “The preference is always going to be for bucket loads of gore, boobs and bad taste humour.” Amen to that!


Currently, David and Tritia are busy hawking the show around the Australian networks, but are also hoping to interest one or more of the on demand services so we viewers outside the land of Oz will get a chance to see the fruits of their labours at some point. Watch this space.

In the meantime you can follow Horror House on Facebook @HorrorHouseShow  and David can also be found lurking on Twitter and Tumblr. He also has his own blog, Oz Indie Cinema, a link to which you can find in the sidebar under Blogroll.

On a related note, The Stricken Land is always and everywhere happy to promote film related projects be they indie productions, books, blogs, websites or podcasts, so if anyone reading this would like me to review and/or promote their project do let me know. I am contactable on any of the social media channels listed on the sidebar, or alternatively just leave me a comment on the site. Promotional freebies, cash bribes, free Lamborghinis or trips to the Playboy mansion are not obligatory, but will be greatly accepted.

Semper fi


Bright (USA 2017) Dir: David Ayer

Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace

The new feature length film from Netflix takes the tried and tested buddy cop formula and combines it with a boatload of high fantasy tropes to come up with this intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying action flick. The film is set in a contemporary looking Los Angeles, resembling our own world barring the fact this is a reality in which humans rub shoulders with Orcs, Elves, Dwarfs, Centaurs and Dragons, and where magic (the title refers to the epithet applied to a wielder of said power) is a fact of everyday existence.

The conceit of mashing together a contemporary action setting with fantastical elements has been done on screen before of course, most memorably in the 1989 James Caan comeback vehicle Alien Nation and its spin off tv show. Bright sticks pretty close to the formula of that movie with the mistrustful Officer Daryl Marks (Smith) and his Orc partner Nick Jakoby (Edgerton) drawn into a conspiracy bound up with this alternate world’s Tolkienesque denizens. The Orcs are a marginalised and oppressed group due to their siding with ‘The Dark Lord’ over a thousand years ago during an event referred to as the Battle of the Nine Races. Jakoby is the first Orc to make it successfully on to the police force and faces all the usual obstacles that racial prejudice throws up in our own world, not least the antipathy of his partner Marks who blames him for a shooting injury he suffered, and his suspicion that Jakoby let the perp, an Orc, free.

I won’t give too much away here, save that the plot sees our protagonists in pursuit of a ‘magic wand’, a super powerful weapon in this reality (‘its a nuclear weapon that grants wishes!’) that holds the key to resurrecting The Dark Lord and plunging the world into chaos. What this means exactly, and who or what ‘The Dark Lord’ is, and his motivations are left to the audience’s imaginations (or more likely the inevitable sequel, if reports of the film’s success is anything to go by.) The wand is being pursued by a cult of kung fu kicking Dark Elves led by Noomi Rapace (inhabiting a role she could have been born to play) who are intent on wresting it from a runaway member of the cult who has fallen under the protection of Marks and Jakoby.

The script does some nice worldbuilding mainly through snippets of dialogue and the odd Easter egg hidden across the film’s set pieces, and there are plenty of strands left hanging that can be picked up and explored in any future sequels or series. But the film ultimately fails to have the courage of its convictions, and the fantasy elements feel too much like afterthoughts bolted on to a contemporary action film with a light sprinkling of social conscience added to the brew. Unfortunately it is this element of the film that requires a defter approach (the Orcs are a spectacularly unsubtle metaphor for African Americans.) Director Ayer seems to want his film to be Colors crossed with The Lord of the Rings, but the end product lacks both the gravitas of the former and the fun spectacle of the latter. The absence of a lightness of touch in handling the race metaphor only reinforces the feeling of incongruity at the heart of the film’s approach to its central conceit.

There is a lot of genre stuff that does the racism metaphor a lot better, not least the aforementioned Alien Nation, but also X-Men, although the best of the bunch has to be the scabrous comic strip Strontium Dog, from the pages of celebrated British anthology comic 2000AD.

draining the swamp

Strontium Dog: Portrait of a Mutant (1981) – a typically scathing 2000AD take on the issue of racial injustice.

My other big fault with Bright lies with the script’s failure to explore any of the logical consequences of the film’s premise. For instance; would our civilisations, history, and economies not be radically different if humanity shared the planet with other sentient races and magic was prevalent? Has our history in this alternate world unfolded in the same way (wars of religion, the world wars, communism, the Cold War)? What about religion? I know this is supposed to be an action movie, but the likes of other alternate reality genre movies like Watchmen and Escape from New York get across more of the internal logic of their respective settings in their first ten minutes than Bright does in its entire running time.

And then there is the ubiquitous Will Smith, bestriding the production like an unwanted wedding guest. Why Netflix thought to saddle the film with a Hollywood A lister when it is the novelty of its central idea that should have been the star is a mystery. While Smith proved his serious acting chops with Michael Mann’s staid biopic Ali, his cop movie credentials are forever stained by the execrable Bad Boys, and his presence here serves only to distract from an an already thin plot. Joel Edgerton does a fine job under the prosthetics however, and it would be an injustice were he not to be given top billing and made the central character in any follow up. Smith’s character seems rather superfluous anyway, and in this day and age having a monstrous looking creature as the hero isn’t the risky approach it once might have been. Worked for Hellboy after all.
NB – as I mentioned above, the Strontium Dog comic book did the whole aliens/mutants as a metaphor for racial prejudice miles better than anyone else before or since. Created by the team of writer John Wagner (A History of Violence) and Carlos Ezquerra, who also created Judge Dredd, the strip is steeped in the cynical tradition of the spaghetti western and was born amidst the punk movement, economic dislocation and racial tensions of late seventies/early eighties Britain. The collected editions are available from Amazon, though I particularly recommend Portrait of a Mutant (1981) and its sequel Outlaw (1984) as two of the greatest, and certainly most underrated British comics of the era.

Fear not, bad movie brothers and sisters, despite the spammy title of this post your favourite movie blog has not been compromised by Russian bots or North Korean cyber hackers! I was going to title it ‘Free Sex’, but that was swiftly vetoed by the lady of the house as being far too clickbaity, and on reflection my fairer half proved to be right (a habit of hers).

With any luck I have your attention now, so I’d like to ask you all a favour – one of my objectives for the blog this year is to get more content uploaded more regularly, and in common with most bloggers I’d like to get The Stricken Land more exposure out there on the ol’ information super highway. With this in mind I’d greatly appreciate any of you peoples sharing, liking, tweeting, or using whatever media is your thing to spread the word about the blog and any content you read on it that particularly takes your fancy. Comments and reviews on the blog itself, at the Facebook page or on any of the other platforms where the blog has a presence are also gratefully received.

With that out of the way, the next post that will drop into your inboxes will be a review of the latest feature film offering from Netflix, the buddy cop action fantasy Bright.

Watch the Skies and Spread the Word!

Semper fi


Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (USA 2017) Dir: Rian Johnson

Watching this latest instalment of the Star Wars series was a rollercoaster experience; I went through alternate feelings of both loving and loathing it, punctuated by the occasional threat of boredom. And boredom is a feeling that should be anathema when watching an adventure set in a galaxy far far away.

Is this a bad movie? No. Is it a great movie? Again, no. It’s an okay Star Wars movie. Faint praise, but unfortunately the movie’s good points are more than offset by the numerous flaws carried over from its predecessor, The Force Awakens. The questions raised by that instalment are not answered here. Questions like; how exactly have the remnants of the Imperial forces once again risen to galaxy spanning dominance only 30 odd years since their Stalingrad like defeat? Why, despite their all encompassing victory at the Battle of Endor, have the rebels been reduced to an even more hunted, rag-tag shower than they were in the original trilogy? These narrative holes leave both films lacking any sense of narrative follow on from Return of the  Jedi, which they are supposed to be direct sequels to. While much better than the execrable prequels and the terminally leaden and characterless Rogue One, both this movie and The Force Awakens feel like a superfluous coda to the saga of the Skywalker clan. One wonders why the House of Mouse didn’t just have the cojones to start afresh with a new cast of characters and story arc. Alas Hollywood risk aversion won out and we are presented with The Last Jedi.

Taking up exactly where The Force Awakens left off, the Resistance led by General Leia Organa are forced to evacuate from their secret base when the First Order fleet rumbles the location and suddenly appears in system. So far so good. Even minus the traditional Fox fanfare I felt the hairs on my arms rise as the first boom of John Williams’ iconic score reverberated through the auditorium followed by the yellow crawl of the intro.

Tragically this bubble is almost immediately burst by some truly awful and incongruous humour between hotshot rebel pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac)and First Order Commander Hux (Domnhall Gleeson,one of the worst actors to grace the series, and there is some stiff competition.) At this point of the screenplay, you would have hoped the director would have taken the crayons off the scriptwriter, and we are thankfully saved from the film descending into a Spaceballs territory by a fantastic set piece space battle as the rebels attempt to break through the First Order blockade. With this sequence, Johnson more than proves a flair for directing action, which is cemented later on by the lightsaber fight between Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Kylo Ren (a scenery chewing Adam Driver, looking like he is enjoying himself immensely), and the climactic battle sequence on the salt moon.

Meanwhile, Rey is stuck at the arse end of the galaxy with a curmudgeonly Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who is doing what all Jedi do after having a pupil turn dark and joining a rapacious space tyranny – living in a hut being terminally dour. Hamill does well here, slipping back into the character like someone donning a rumpled but comfortable old raincoat. Daisy Ridley is engaging enough, refusing to let her character be subsumed by the competing screen time of a bloated cast.

The film’s midsection is where most of the faults lie. Some leaden exposition about the First Order being able to track the rebel’s  through hyperspace sees ex stormtrooper Finn (a wasted John Boyega, easily the cast member with the most presence) along with rebel pilot Rose (couldn’t the writers have thought up a more Star Warsy name than this?) despatched to a generic looking casino planet devoid of any visual references to the SW universe in order to track down some famous code breaker (a criminally wasted Benicio Del Toro doing his mumbling schtick) who can ensure the rebel fleets escape. Or something. To be honest I lost it a bit here as boredom threatened to set in listening to the characters tell each other the plot.

Doubling down, the writers then treat the audience to some sledgehammer moralising about animal rights and wealth inequality (rich people in the Star Wars universe seem to be all gun running poker demons), that skirts perilously close to trite Hollywood liberalism. There is a place for this, but if I want to watch cheap moralising and characters signalling impotent virtue, then I’ll watch something directed by George Clooney. Not in Star Wars thanks.

An attack on the rebel flagship sees the bridge destroyed and Leia blown into space, resulting in possibly the worst, most ill conceived scene in the entire series, I mean, we are talking midichlorian level awfulness here. Flung into vacuum, Leia somehow uses her undeveloped Jedi powers to envelop herself in some kind of ‘force bubble’ and navigates her way back to the ship. Yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds, no explosive decompression, no visible physical trauma (from a direct hit in the bridge and exposure to vacuum!) Not exactly Event Horizon, and yes I know it’s a Star Wars film and foremost aimed at kids, but really? Why have this scene in the first place? It serves no purpose plot wise, and looks and feels like its been tacked on from a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Dreadful.

A hilariously miscast Laura Dern then assumes the mantle of command, sporting a purple crimp hairdo (what is it with Star Wars and bad hair?), and radiating incompetence. The audience is meant to buy into this character being some kind of military genius having scored an impressive victory over the First Order in a previous battle. None of that strategic nous is displayed in the actual movie though, as the rebels continue to be picked off, resulting in a Poe led mutiny and Dern’s heroic self sacrifice in an admittedly awesome sequence of mega destruction. Perhaps if the rebellion was being led by its version of Nelson or Nimitz, rather than being run by the intergalactic equivalent of a Home Counties sewing circle, they might do a bit better.

Escaping to a nearby mineral rich moon, the rebel forces confront the First Order in the climactic battle, which, as with the opening sequence delivers the Star Wars goods in full, and is almost enough to make you forget the patience baiting elements in the previous hour and a bit.

We get a bit more hopey changey waffle, but predictably it proves useless against the First Order’s miniaturised Death Star tech, and the rebel’s once again are forced to hot foot it out of there. I don’t think the  audience is supposed to cheer for Kylo Ren, but it’s hard not to appreciate his results focused pragmatism when measured against the rebels empty virtue.

To summarise, my main gripes with the movie are it being overlong, the incongruous humour, the bizarre Leia in space sequence, the dull and laboured casino planet interlude and a stilted overall narrative. Big pluses include the superb battle sequences, which show fellow Disney property Marvel how it’s done, and showcases Johnson’s flair for space operatics. And John Boyega – get that boy an X-Wing.

There is a great Star Wars film wanting to get out here, but the movie is burdened with a story that simply doesn’t flow very well, and a portentous tone that ends up going nowhere. Maybe it’s an age thing and I’m simply too jaded by constant exposure to the dream factory’s product, but this modern crop of Star Wars movies  just fail to engage me on a visceral level. Instead they feel like just another visual effects fest in what has become a crowded field. My expectations of future films have now been officially lowered. Surprise me Disney.