Saturday, 28 February 2015

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Dedicated to Leonard Nimoy.

I love this film, to me Star Trek II isn't just the best Star Trek film, nor just one of the best sci-fi film's ever, it is one of my all time favourite films due to its epic story that really raised the stakes for the Enterprise crew.

The film is less a sequel to Star Trek: The Motion Picture and is a continuation of the episode Space Seed from the first series of the show. Space Seed was about the crew of the Enterprise finding the SS Botany Bay adrift in space, a ship launched from Earth during the 1990's, on board they find Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), a genetically engineered superhuman who once ruled a quarter of Earth. Khan and his crew, along with the help of the Enterprise's historian Lieutenant Marla McGivers attempt to take over the Enterprise, they fail but Captain Kirk shows mercy. Going against regulations Kirk chooses to drops them off on Ceti Alpha V instead of taking Khan and his crew to be imprisoned on Earth.  Ceti Alpha V is a harsh world but one suited to Khan and his fellow superhuman's skills that he can form his new kingdom over, he also allows McGivers, who has fallen in love with Kahn to go with them saving her from a court-martial. The episode ends with Spock noting it would be interesting to return in 100 years to see what Khan and his people have made of the planet.

A good episode and satisfying end for Khan and his people, but little did fans at the time know that fifteen years latter they would see the after math of Kirk's blatant disregard for the rules. Producer Harve Bennett watched every episode of the original series in preparation for Star Trek II and gravitated towards the character of Khan, choosing to bring him back for the villain, writing the first treatment for the film.

In the film we see Chekov aboard the USS Reliant, doing survey work to find a planet suitable for testing 'the genesis device', he and his Captain beam down to what they believe is Ceti Alpha IV, at first they find what they expect, a desolate desert, but soon discover some cargo containers. After exploring the containers and Chekov's realisation that these are the containers from the Botany Bay they are captured by Khan, who explains that Ceti Alpha IV exploded, shifting the orbit of V making it this uninhabitable wasteland. After seeing most of his crew die at the hands of parasite creatures, including McGivers who Khan had married, he has vowed revenge against Kirk, blaming him, now him and his crew have stolen the USS Reliant he sets out to have his revenge.

There is so much to the film I don't even know where to start, as well as the themes of revenge and the past coming back to haunt there is also themes of age, loss, obsession and sacrifice, and they are all woven into a tight knit story. Khan is a great villain, never believing what he is doing is wrong or evil, he thinks his revenge is just and never realises how consuming his obsession has become.

The space battles are awesome too, not the high speed jet like battles but slower, more nautical like two submarines, the tension builds and builds and I'm on the edge of my seat no matter how many times I watch it. The first time Reliant attack the Enterprise, nearly destroying her the dread is high and the moment where Kirk agrees to discuss their surrender is a shocking moment, we rarely see Kirk at the end of his rope like that.

Oh course the famous KHAN! scream is one of the films most famous moments, and despite how it has been parodied over the years in context the scene is epic, the video of the scene is at the bottom, check it out yourself!

Oh course one of the most memorable and shocking scenes was Spock sacrificing himself to save the ship, followed by his funeral and Kirks moving eulogy. Even though I know he comes back to life in the next film I still tear up ever time Kirk says; 'Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human.'

I could go on all day about what I love about this film, I haven't even mentioned Savvik, David and Kirk's emotional scene at the end of the film, the scenes when Kirk, McCoy and Savvik beam aboard Regular I, and so many other great moments. This is a film I recommend everyone watch, even if you are not a Star Trek fan!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015


Keep away from Pumpkinhead,
Unless you're tired of living,
His enemies are mostly dead,
He's mean and unforgiving,
Laugh at him and you're undone,
But in some dreadful fashion,
Vengeance, he considers fun,
And plans it with a passion,
Time will not erase or blot,
A plot that he has brewing,

It's when you think that he's forgot,
He'll conjure your undoing,
Bolted doors and windows barred,
Guard dogs prowling in the yard,
Won't protect you in your bed,
Nothing will, from Pumpkinhead.
(poem by Ed Justin)

You might question why a monster called Pumpkinhead does not in fact have a pumpkin for a head, well don't because this film is awesome!

Directed by special effects giant Stan Winston and released in 1988 Pumpkinhead has, despite mixed review at the time, gone on to attain a cult following and it's easy to see why. Staring the always great Lance Henriksen and sporting some, unsurprisingly awesome practical effects this is a film that's great fun for both horror and monster movie fans.

We start with a scene in 1957 where Pumpkinhead is hunting a man accused of murder, he attempts to get help from a house he passes but no one will fearing the creature will kill them as well. When Pumpkinhead finally catches and kills the man it is witnessed by a young Ed Harly. Flashing to the present where the now adult Ed is a single parent running a shop with his young son Billy.

Tragedy strikes when a group of teens stop at the shop, two riding off on their dirt bikes, when Ed is off running an errand Billy is accidentally hit by one of the bikes. The guy riding the bike drives off fearing jail time due to the fact that he has been drinking, most the others go to find a phone to call for help while one stays with Billy. Ed returns and takes his son home to treat his wounds but it's to no avail and Billy dies.

Distraught Ed seeks out the Old Witch in the hills so she can help him summon Pumpkinhead, she agrees and once Ed has dug him up from the graveyard in the old pumpkin patch they send him after the teens.

Thats the set up but there is so much more to the film, though we don't get a proper look at Pumpkinhead till about midway though the film (and I must add he is a fantastic creation), he is built up though the 1957 scene and though a creepy little poem we hear some kids sing showing that he has become a bogey man and legend. Lance Henriksen gives a great performance as Ed Harley, in just a few short scenes we see how close he is with his son, and even though he is responsible for Pumpkinhead going after the teens, most of whom are innocent and did everything they could to help his son, you are still sympathetic, and when the character shows regret for his actions you don't completely judge him because we see the pain he is in and and that he isn't thinking clearly. One short scene I loved is not long after Ed and the Old Witch have summoned Pumpkinhead, Ed's driving back and you can already see the worry and regret he's carrying, but then his son appears in the car next to him and says 'why did you do it daddy?', we don't know if it was a ghost or an hallucination brought on by Ed's own regret, it's short and effective scene.

There are some more twists in the film and of course some great death scenes but I don't want to give anything else away. There are sequels, one stand alone story that just follows similar themes with a monster called Pumpkinhead and two more that follow on from this film with Lance Henriksen returning, I haven't seen any but will be checking out all the sequels as soon as I can.

I love this film and can't recommend it enough, if you get a chance check it out!

Sunday, 1 February 2015


After I started this blog a friend recommended Lifeforce as a film I should talk about, I hadn't seen it before but as luck would have it I was taking a weekend trip to London and The Prince Charles Cinema was screening the film just a couple hours after I arrived.

Based on Colin Wilson's 1976 novel The Space Vampires, Lifeforce was directed by Tobe Hooper, a man known for many horror film's including Poltergeist and perhaps most famously the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Released in 1985 the film starts with the crew of the space shuttle Churchill, a joint UK and US team on their way to research Halley's Comet, only to find an unidentified structure hidden in the tale of the comet. The structure appears to be an alien ship, miles in length, when a small group of the astronauts venture inside the discover the petrified remains of bat like aliens as well as three humanoids in suspended animation, one woman and two men. They decided to bring the humanoids and one of the bat's back to earth for study.

We cut to days latter when another shuttle is launcher to find out what happened to the Churchill which never returned to Earth and all communications ceased. It appears a fire broke out inside the ship with the only survivors been the three humanoids still in their suspended animation pods.

After researching the humanoids in London the female, called Space Girl in the credits, wakes up, killing a guard by sucking the Lifeforce out of him leaving him as the human version of a raisin. She kills more people across London before disappearing. Soon the guard she killed comes back to life and sucks the Lifeforce from another much the way Space Girl had to him, leading to the belief that these creatures are the origin of the vampire mythos.

Now we follow SAS Col. Colin Caine (Peter Firth) and the Churchill’s only human survivor Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback), who's escape pod landed in Texas and has developed a psychic link with Space Girl as they search for her in hope of preventing her infection more to become Space Vampires.

This is a good film but not prefect, sometimes the talking scenes can feel a bit wordy and a couple times characters seem to be explaining what we can already see, this could just dialogue the didn't transition well from the novel but having not read it I can't comment, ultimatly it dosen't bother me but I know others who it does. That been said the film has a lot going for it, Firth and Railsback are great in their respected roles, with Carlsen seeming to descend into madness and obsession with Space Girl while Caine keeps his cool despite the madness going on around him. Also of note is Mathilda May as Space Girl, possibly one of the most beautiful women ever she delivers a great performance despite having little to no dialogue till the third act, in fact her early scenes are her walking around nude but thanks to cinematography and music she has an other worldly and unsettling presence. There are many good performances in the films and in the later half Patrick Stewart has a small role as Dr. Armstrong.

There are some great effects but two stand out in particular, first is when the guard comes back to life, the animatronic for his shrivelled up body looks great, its moments can look clunky but I think it adds to the horror of what has happened to the guy. And second is a great scene where blood drains from two body’s and forms the shape of Space Girl, it just looks cool.

This film is worth a watch, as well as some good performances and effects, the direction is solid building lots of atmosphere and dread, but what else do you expect from Tobe Hooper?

Lifeforce is available on Blu-Ray from Arrow video.