The Day The Waters Went Up And The Lights Went Down

30 11 2016

skerton-bridge

When I was at school learning Geography; the one thing I would constantly hear from all the teachers, is that the first thing you need in order to start a settlement is the close proximity of water. That is a pretty obvious resource, as though while other necessities are also required; without access to water, your little settlement is not necessarily going to last all that long. One thing though my mind ponders after the events of last year though is that; when a settlement does start-up, do they ever consider how dangerous that water source could potentially be? Much like other cities/towns/villagers around the world, Lancaster has a river. Some of the other locations of the world might have small streams, or big wide rivers; Lancaster sort of has a large wide channel for water but normally, if you were to stand on one of the bridges in Lancaster, you would see that the River Lune appears to be pretty small and shallow. It runs through the centre of Lancaster in a wide trench and pretty deep trench; but normally does not even cover the entire patch of land at the bottom. When it does get high really does depend on whether there is an equinox or if there is plenty of rain to feed it, in which case the river can be nearly lapping the street level of St George’s Quay, which is the lowest road next to the river. St George’s Quay itself has been known to struggle with the flooding at times and over the last several decades, numerous plans were drawn up to try and prevent too much, including raising the road, to building the now erected wall along the river. Even when the river is high, if you go stand on Skerton Bridge, it does not look too bad. It can be deep and the channel is wide, but only really looks high if it gets to the Quay. That all changed on December 5th 2015.

River Lune Flood 5

It was a pretty normal Saturday. It was late in the year, and I had spent the day as normal, sitting behind my Laptop on the table. My head was spinning and judging whether or not I should go and see the film Krampus having seen the trailer a few times and my parents were discussing going somewhere. I think my Dad was supposed to be preaching away, I can’t remember where and I think my Mam was debating whether or not to go with him. Sometime later, my Mam was reading off her kindle, and saw a report announcing road closures, and that there was some flooding around the River Lune. Getting a little interested by this I decided to go out and have a look. The night was pretty dark by this time, it was early December, and I had no idea what I was going to see. I just thought the river would be higher than normal, nothing else. Skerton Bridge is no more than maybe 5 minutes’ walk from my house. I walk the same route every Sunday on my way to church which is less than a few seconds away from the north bank of the Lune. When I arrived I walked onto the bridge, and was amazed at what I saw. Now I was not wearing my glasses that day, I don’t require wearing them all the time but they do help. I walked onto the bridge, and looked down on it. I knew it could be high, but I wasn’t expecting the river to be wider too.

River Lune Flood 1

The river was literally bursting its banks, on both sides. On the north side bank, there is a little hill edged into the left hand side of the bridge. It’s a steady hill which allows people the use of a small tunnel under the bridge, allowing them to cross over to the other side without running through moving traffic. Well; the tunnel had water in it. The whole bank in that area was water-logged and level with the river. I have never seen that before. I heard it may have happened once, when I was perhaps 5 years old, I was now beyond my mid-twenties. The bridge was still accessible, but nearly jammed up with traffic. As I continued to walk across the bridge in awe at what I was observing, I saw that the bank on the other side, which is flat and is something of cycle path, that too had water on it, to the same level as the river. It was the same on the other side of the bridge. The little park near Sainsbury’s feeling a patch of water, submerging pathways. I quickly went back home, before popping immediately out again, with my Mam and my Camera. The dark sky did not help me much in taking pictures, but I got some though. Then, I went over to the Millennium Bridge. The Millennium Bridge is a small footbridge which connects the end of Lune Street with the top of the Quay. Knowing how high the river usually got around the Quay, I wanted to go see. I was right, the river was high there too, but more than I thought. I walked across, and could see swells, little whirlpool like effects near the bridge supports building and turning, and on the dip with the Quay side bridge entrance, I could see the river, nearly within finger reach of the bridge’s lowest pathway dip. It was amazing to see, I took photos and a couple of videos that night, though only one video really worked.

That night was something of a mini adventure for me. It was amazing to see the river like that. To see it not just high but bursting its banks. But what happened next was completely unexpected. I was upstairs watching TV when the lights and power went out. A few seconds later they came back on again without a hitch, but then a little while later, they went out again, but like before returned to full power within seconds. The evening was without hitch for maybe an hour or so more, and then they went out again, and they stayed out. My room was dark upstairs, I could not see a thing, and the only light source was a palaver lamp a friend got me for Christmas a year before (just shake it and it lights up). I looked outside onto the street. It wasn’t just our house, the whole street was gone, even the BP Garage was unlit (although one house across the road had Christmas lights lit up and working?). I cautiously and slowly worked my way downstairs, using the palaver lamp as my only torch. When I got downstairs, there was little light other than a few torches lighting the dining room. I went to bed soon after, but being the kind of guy who still needs something of a night-light to sleep, the darkness was hard to sleep in. It was not just a little dark, it was very dark. I was relying on a wind up torch to give me some help, but as I had images from the Krampus trailer in my head, it was hard not to spook myself out, but I still managed to eventually get to sleep.

Krampus (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

The following morning I awoke, needing to grab my bearings, and remember the previous night. I tried the lamp on my bedside table, nothing happened. Expecting the power to have returned during the night, I discovered it was still off. I got up and proceeded downstairs to see what was going on. The power was still turned off, with only battery operated equipment running. But with no power, there was very little information as to what was going on. We were still able to eat some breakfast, before heading out to church. We walked down the street; some roads were covered in water, it was not the case of water coming over the lips of the hills in the area, it was more the case of the sewers overflowing and simply coming up out of the wells in the streets. When we reached the bridge, we discovered two shocks; firstly, the river was still high. I took another video, surprised to see it still high, and it was flowing strong and fast. I have never seen it do that before. It was like a large open air sewer, carrying out everything it could out to sea, in a desperate attempt to keep the balance. That was the first shock. The other was that the bridge was closed. Somehow, as reports suggested, as the winds picked up, a container had blown into the river and hit the only two road bridges in the city. Both Skerton Bridge the Greyhound Bridge and even the Millennium Bridge were inaccessible.

We still went to church and had something of a bible study/prayer meeting, as there was only a few of us. Many people who come to our church were situated on the other side of the river. The only person to come from that side, did so by parking her car next to Carlisle Bridge, then walk across the very tall bridge that it is, and then all the way to church. It was at church though that we finally got some news regarding current issues. Firstly the lack of power was due to the substation flooding. Reports were stating that it should be back on by: Tuesday morning or evening. We also heard about some of the more serious damage caused by the river, as two people attending church at the time, living not far from us, had their house flooded overnight in a big way. Our little meeting adjourned, we went home, with the two people flooded in tow as my Mam made them some Cheese Sandwiches. Mam was pretty skillful with the beef roast bought at Sainsbury’s the previous night as she was able to have some use of the cooker and made some steaks for us to eat too. As the day went on, it became something of a more mundane and quieter Sunday than usual. Without my usual access to my Laptop or Games, I watched Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal on a portable DVD Player until it ran out of power. Mam and I sat in her Fiat Panda for a little bit to listen to The Bay radio in an attempt to find out some news, but the two clowns on the radio weren’t really all that helpful. Instead of presenting helpful and emergency news, they just sort of did a program like BBC Breakfast, getting other views of other people rather than provide the news that was really desired and needed. As evening drew in, the garage across the road opened a small hatch so some people could buy batteries and bits, so I popped across later in the afternoon to get some batteries to power lights and the radio. Apart from that, my Dad sat down with a book, and we all found ways to ride it through.

Sleeping Queens Kings and Queens

Later on I popped out for a little walk, and my senses and caution were tested as I experienced first-hand, what lack of power meant for the neighborhood on a winter’s day. I popped out with my Camera, and the night was beginning to draw in. I could still see some daylight, but it faded fast. I walked down Aldren’s lane, and saw first-hand how bad the flooding got in that area. The water may had gone, but silt remained, you could see though the patch of the wall where it had come through though, revealing a small channel where it could seep through with nothing to stop it. You could even see the level of how far inland the river got, and how high up the buildings it went, as the dark impression was still on the bricks. The whole area must have been like a mini boating pond, and a lot of silt remained on the path and road. I walked on a little bit, and got feelings and reminders of the film I Am Legend, with the dark night coming in, and houses blanketed without power. I decided to return home before it got too dark. By the time I was within reach of home, it was utter black. Not far from my home there is Ryelands Park, lit up by street lights and piercing lights of the city behind. Across the road there is of course the BP garage, and opposite to there is the once great, now nearly non-existent Skerton High School. Even on a dark winter night, you can see things. There is plenty of lighting from near and afar to light up the area. Well, on this Sunday night, none of these could be seen. I could not see the school, I could not see the faint outline of the city or Castle, I could barely see a tree in the park. In a small open space the only light being produced was from that house’s Christmas decorations, and the cars driving by, judging when it was safe to turn at a spot that once had working traffic lights. The evening was not too bad though, my Mam and Brother played some card games with me for an hour. We played Sleeping Queens and Straw, both fun games. My Dad read his book using a book mark light, and while it was cold due to the lack of heating, we still had an OK night. But like the night before, we went to bed a lot earlier than we usually do. Once again, it was dark and spooky, and getting to sleep was hard, but I managed it in the end. To be honest by this time I was feeling excited and was really enjoying some of the more social and quiet aspects of all this, and was looking forward to another quiet day.

River Lune Flood 2

The following day I woke up and tried the light; power was back on. I went downstairs and could see my Mam running around, while my Dad was busy phoning church members to see if they were ok, all the while the TV was on with News as to what was happening with the power. It was both great to see the power was back on, but also sad as it meant I had to go back to my daily routine at the time of having to do 35 hours of job searching, just to receive a tiny supply of money from Universal Credit. Anyway, I allowed myself some time to treat myself. I told everybody on Facebook I was OK with a post, and then to celebrate the return of Electricity, I chose an aptly named song to post on Facebook: The Power by Snap! I also spent some time texting and emailing others just to see if they were ok and let them know that I was ok. I also uploaded my photos and videos onto YouTube and Facebook too.

So life returned to normal? Sort of… Basically, both road bridges and Millennium Bridge were still unopened, and would remain that way until Tuesday. Well they were claiming that they wanted to make sure they were safe after the container collision. So could not really go into town unless I went the long way round, but I stayed in home to do my job search, while also making sure I put my 3DS and the portable DVD player on charge along with a few other pieces of electrical equipment just in case. It turns out that that was a good idea, as though while there was now power, it was announced that they would be turned off again later, which it was. I was able to continue doing stuff on my Laptop now it had some charge in it, but in the end, it was back to doing the other activities of being without power that I had acclimatized myself to doing the last few days: watching Going Postal and playing on the 3DS, until the batteries went out. From Tuesday onwards, it was pretty much back to normal, there were still feelings and rumours of losing power again, while the news debated the real cost and talked about the stronger tragedies of the incident: people losing their homes, possessions, road closures, broken roads and railway bridges. The news was awash with such things, while other people talked about their experiences and also rumours of more power losses to come, but did not happen, although some had to rely on generators for a while, many of which were in large areas for a week or two afterwards, not to mention the roads that needed mending, and the train bridges that needed rebuilding. But for most of us, life returned to normal. I had a dentist appointment on Tuesday, was at Barnardo’s volunteering that afternoon, and on Wednesday was attending a Christmas Party at UCLan.

River Lune Flood 4

The whole event for me personally was a weird one. At first it was surprising and something awe-inspiring; looking at what was usually a docile river turning into the controlling factor of a weekend. Losing power and taking the things in my life for granted, as though while they came back, they were gone, and I had to find other ways to use up my time, to the re-established joy of spending time with my family joy such an event could bring. A river becoming a torrent, several days without basic luxuries, being apart from many, not knowing if they were ok…or if they had knowledge of what was going on here – or if I was in it? Altogether, this event created an aftermath that would see general life return to normal, but creating a shaken experience as now I could really see the raw power of nature and what power and destruction my usually docile home town river was capable of.

River Lune Flood 3

GENEPOOL (One thing I wish I had done though was find a way into town during the night, just to experience how dark it must have been).

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Godzilla Resurgence News –Trailer

18 04 2016

G19

Within a few months of the release of the 2014 Godzilla film, and after the announcement of a sequel to that one; TOHO, the owners and original home of Godzilla announced that they were going to make a new film too, making it the first Japanese Godzilla film to be released since Final Wars in 2004.

Godzilla Final Wars Poster (Toho Co. Ltd. - 2004)

Now when I first heard this announcement, I was very excited, and confused. I did not know what this new one meant to the already announced sequel to 2014, but it appears that this new one and 2014 would have no relation and that the sequel was still going ahead, of which I was very happy, as I absolutely loved the new one. I was also rather worried too, as I had no idea whether or not I would get to see it given the historical issues with Japanese Godzilla films being shown in the UK, especially since the Millennium, as most of the showings appeared to have dried up except for that 1998 film and more recently of course the 2014 film. Anyway, I had no idea originally what to think other than excitement and worry as whether or not I will get to see it. That reason alone has restricted my excitement for the new Japanese film, and put it very bottom of my top 10 films to look forward to in 2016; because, well, why should I pour so much excitement into a film’s release if in the end I don’t get to see it?

E14

Anyway, forgetting the above issues, it is something to feel genuine excitement for. It’s a new Godzilla film from not an outside company, but by the company that gave birth to this creature over 60 years ago. It was going to be interesting to see where this one would go and what the film would involve. Would it be a sequel to a previous film, would (like the Millennium series of films) be a direct film on from the original 1954 film, what would this film be about? Over the past few months, news has been limited, but some pieces of info have been revealed over that time including a title (and one of 2 films to be released with the word Resurgence in the title this year), images of Godzilla, and even a small teaser trailer. We know that Attack on Titan director Shinji Higuchi and Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno are both co directing this film. We know that Hiroki Hasegawa, Satomi Ishihara and Yutaka Takenouchi are starring in it. Plus we know who is producing the film’s score in Shirō Sagisu. We also heard the plan that this Monster was going to be the Biggest Form of the Big G to date. Well now we have a proper trailer, and it is both exciting, but also rather worrying……….again.

G8

This new trailer does have a good look to it. it looks a lot different to previous Godzilla films, looks much bigger in content and detail, it shows pictures of the cast, as well as the obligatory running away scenes and moments with Tanks in it. The plot is still relatively unknown, but information suggests that this may be a sort of Japanese Reboot, a sort of modern retake on the original, presenting the Arrival of this new monster as being the first attack and nothing to do with any event (whether anything happened in the 1950’s), or at least that is the way I am understanding it. This trailer though, while devoid of detailed sound suggests such a thing too. The film makers did announce that it was their plan for this one to be a lot like the original film and info has suggested that too, but part of me in writing this thinks I may be skimming over a bigger issue.

But yeah, this film does look interesting, and makes me think a lot of the Gamera Heisei Trilogy in it’s current presentation, like they are going down that route and trying to pull off something with a detailed story and plan something of a series from it. The effects look pretty good, and show scenes of imagery similar to that I think of Godzilla vs Biollante, plus also some effects that look like well detailed uses of CGI, especially when you see Godzilla’s tail swing over-head.

Burning Godzilla

But as said before, I feel there is a major issue with Godzilla, in his image. It’s a widely known fact that Godzilla’s skin is shown in such a way that it looks like he is scarred, scarred from the brutal testing of the Nuclear Weapons that woke him up, scarred for life. However, his image still looks smooth, he is not a shrivelled up abomination, like an enlarged zombie from a horror movie. He has always looked reptilian. In this trailer, his in-depth image I think is very similar to that of his appearance in Godzilla vs Destoroyah in the level of red on show. Similarly I think he also looks a bit like the creature Nemesis in the Jeremy Robinson book; Project Nemesis.

Project Nemesis (Smashwords Edition - 2012)

However, his general image I think is overdone. He looks like a shrivelled up abomination, like something taken out of a horror film. He just looks awful, off-putting, not the sleek reptilian giant we all know and love. He just looks hideous and off-putting. Was this the intention? Because I sure hope not! From a distance it does not look too bad, but a close-up on his face just looks horrid. What have they done to him? When he roars, he looks like the killer Teddy Bear out of Krampus. The roar is still the same thankfully, no sign yet of a Deathray, but, what else can I say…..?

Godzilla 2016

Avoiding that point for now and secretly hoping that the design and current look is currently unfinished, it’s nice to see this film going somewhere and this recent showcasing sort of brings me back into the fold with it. Whether or not I get to see it is still hanging out there, but now I am a little bit more desiring to see it (but not for Godzilla’s appearance).

GENEPOOL





Top 7 Films Of 2015

20 01 2016

Film Reel 2015

I have never fully understood why the film award season takes place during February. It’s neither the beginning nor the end of the year. Nor have I ever understood why the film award calendar allows films released up to the award ceremony dates in February, why on earth would something like that be allowed as it’s rather confusing that a film released in January one year is omitted from the following year because it was not released in the appropriate month/year. Wouldn’t it be better just to allow awards to be given to films released in the traditional January to December 12 month period? Then you could still have the award season in February because it would allow judges an appropriate amount of time to judge which of the films they think should win that award. But then it would go to a film that no-one has either watched or even heard of. I am not saying those films are good or bad, it’s just that it doesn’t make sense that the more popular films aren’t more consistently thought about. Sure they may get bad reviews, but if people like them, there must be a decent level of fun about them for them to be included in some form of Award ceremony, and by that I don’t mean the Razzies. In the end it just makes the MTV Movie Awards look more prestigious. Anyway that’s a completely different argument and not one I am going to get into now.

MTV Movie Award

With it now being January, I thought I would do my annual list of which films I thought stood out from the pack. Last year you may remember I did a Top 10 than my usual Top 5. Well this year it is down to 7. I was on track to just doing a Top 5, but a film came out in December (I bet you can’t guess what that was) which I thought was worthy of a mention, but I do not like the number 6, so I added another one for extra value (I really like the number 7). This time around though it’s just one post, not 2, so it’s a much easier thing to be involved with. Once again, as per usual, only films that were released in the traditional 12 month period of January to December 2015 are included and the list goes in descending order with 7 not so great, and number 1 being the best film of 2015. Now the year has not been a great year for releases, there were some failures, and not much in my opinion to look forward to, however there was some surprises and discoveries.

Pom Poko (Studio Ghibli - 1994)

One of the discoveries for me though was discovering more and more the back catalogue of Japanese Animation Studio; Studio Ghibli. This year I have seen quite a few of their films for the first time and have instantly come to love the films My Neighbour Totoro and Pom Poko. Unfortunately these weren’t released in 2015, so don’t get a mention in this list, sadly. Anyway, without further ado, here are my top 7 favourite films of 2015.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm - 2015

7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – 2015 has had a large shadow over it all year round, not an Independence Day like shadow, but a great black cloud hanging over the year that at intervals would shout at you during the day. Yes it was the release of the new Star Wars, a film being highlighted by Science Fiction fans as fantastic; although that was no guarantee of that months ahead of its release, but they just ignored that bit. I used to love Star Wars, I like all of them in my own way, they are fun entertaining films, but then the fans got a bit too critical about the prequels and started to take the fun out of it. Therefore, my old love for Star Wars was gone. So, I was not looking forward to this film, but I thought I should see it anyway. Upon release I heard lots of good stuff about it, but was still unsure, then saw it. It was nice. It was nice and fun again. It was like Star Wars should have remained for me. It had new good characters, good new villains (appearances by two main characters form The Raid and The Raid 2), some interesting and fun scenes and Harrison Ford finally pulling his weight. However there was one huge problem I had with it, and it started within seconds of the film starting and carried on throughout the entire film; and that is that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a near exact frame for frame remake of Star Wars Episode IV: A NEW HOPE. Nearly everything in this film is exactly the same as the original film released in 1977. I thought the idea was to start a brand new story to take place after Jedi, so why is it then that it isn’t? I am not going to ruin it for you if you haven’t seen it yet, it is actually a nice fun film, it’s good, it was somewhat worth all the hassle from outside forces and pin pricking in your veins from the TV, but just don’t expect anything much in the way of NEW STUFF.

Krampus (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

6. KRAMPUS – (I said I bet you can’t guess) Released quite late in the year’s schedules and a film I only just got to see in the end, but overall I absolutely loved Krampus (I know that sounds wrong when said like that). It was something else, and a nice break from the consistent streams of TV adverts and trailers about a certain space movie. Krampus for those of you who don’t know much about it; is a Christmas Horror film starring the titular character from Christmas Folklore. From the first trailer I saw, I was hooked and dead set on seeing it, and I wasn’t disappointed. Terrifying and Enchanting, it was a both shocks and laughs. Very funny but also very scary, and it told both a story and a lesson in a believable setting. It was just such a fun film, and nearly made it into my Top 5. If you haven’t seen it, it is definitely worth a watch, even if Horror is not your thing, give it a try (apologies that this one is not as long as the above paragraph).

Insurgent (Lionsgate - 2015)

5. The Divergent Series: InsurgentDivergent was a fun film and a very memorable one at that too. It was a film that for the most part looked more like a Hunger Games competitor and wouldn’t live up to much. But then I saw it, and rather liked it. Then I went to see Insurgent, and I was shook back. Insurgent was such a glorious film, it was big improvement over the first. There was a lot more in action scenes, there was more going on for both the setting and characters. The main characters all greatly improved, from Shailene Woodley, to Theo James, plus it saw the introduction of a brilliant character played by Naomi Watts. There were one or two things I had issues with, the number 1 being how quickly Tris surrenders (as I had thoughts that consisted of a cross over from The Raid and the opening scene of Blade: The Series). But overall, it did things different from the genre that it birthed from, and it makes the series look more promising than how it started, I have big hopes now for the future of this series, and it all comes to this Titan of the Young Adult movie genre.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel Studios - 2015)

4. Avengers: Age of Ultron – Much like Insurgent, this too was a big improvement over the first film. I wasn’t expecting much from Ultron except possibly some more drivel brought on by constant mentions in the intervening films about the first Avengers film. I was glad to see that didn’t happen. I was annoyed that the opening of this film seemingly relied on the audience having to watch all the intervening films to get the full story, but as soon as Ultron took his spot, the film opened up. The cast has improved greatly, some of the love scenes between Banner and Widow I thought were possibly going in a very obvious direction, but it meant that Banner wasn’t necessarily going to get bullied like he did in the bridge scene from the 2012 film. Overall though, the film was good, brilliant in fact. All the cast were outstanding, Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson were brilliant additions, plus it was good to see Cobie Smulders return (although I did feel like the Vision looked absolutely ridiculous). It was a good story, had some good moments, plus it was wonderful to see the return of the War Machine.

Spectre (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer - 2015)

3. Spectre – Spectre was a film I kept forgetting about until it finally came out. I went to the cinema to see it (like you do when you go and see a film I suppose), and I really enjoyed it. I went to see it again, and had the same reaction. Is it better than Skyfall? I would say No to that one. Is it as good if not better than Skyfall? Definitely Yes. It is a huge spy epic with great scenes, good acting from everyone involved, all the heavy hitters in Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz and Batista, to the secondary’s like Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Ben Whishaw and Andrew Scott. Best of all though, it had in my opinion the best Bond Girl to date in Léa Seydoux (please let her be in the sequel). It was not just characters though, it had cool opening titles and theme to back them up, a fantastic car chase, great fight and action scenes, plus an ending that reminds me of V For Vendetta. Terrific stuff, whatever you’re doing MGM; you’re doing it right, keep up the good work guys.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (Lionsgate - 2015)

2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – I had been saying it for over a year, and it happened. As the curtains were charging up in the nearest plug socket, and the final scenes began to play out, I cried. It was such a big deal and moment for me; The Hunger Games series has been such a major part of my life these past 4 years, they have continuously stood out for me as some of the best and most enjoyable films that I have watched since taking a chance on the first one back in 2012, and Part 2 was no different. It had some terrific scenes, very powerful ones near the end, moments that made me cry. As the film wrapped up, I went outside, and touched the film notice board, as a sort of thank you moment, as it was there for me that the series began. This film had it all, great cast, firstly the ones we all come to love and hate from people like Jennifer Lawrence, Willow Shields and Donald Sutherland, to characters that really began to stand out, for me that was Natalie Dormer more than most, keeping an eye on her throughout. It was a film of action, a film of horror, suspense, conspiracy, but also one of love, and best of all, it ended the right way, and that was most important, that it end the correct way. A fitting end to a series that grabbed my heart and I it’s, and both never letting go until the time was right.

Jurassic World (Universal Pictures - 2015)

1. Jurassic World – What else after all that was released in 2015 could possibly be better than Jurassic World? Nothing as far as I could find, I mean its right here at the number 1 spot in a list of 7 films. Now let me just say that I actually do quite like the Lost World, but for me, I agree with everyone who says it, by saying this is the sequel we have been waiting for. Jurassic Park is still number 1 in the series, but World is not far off. It is set back on the original island, ignores the previous sequels outright (like The Force Awakens ignores A New Hope outright) and creates a chilling, fun but still terrifying new story that clings to the themes of not just the work and setting of its predecessor, but also the book that started it all. Since reading the book, I can see that the island is much like what Michael Crichton envisioned and talked about in his book when he first created Isla Nublar all those years ago. World goes in-depth with the whole thing of man’s desire to control and create, but also how once again it’s easy to lose that control. World though also delves into the world of man’s desire for the need of something new, and talks in great depth about the commercialization of everything. This all though of course goes to pot in the usual case of something getting loose and terrorizing everybody, this time in the form of a brand new dinosaur. This then takes us through a 2 hour fun-fest featuring lots of laughs backed up with great acting from the likes of Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, which all ends in the most spectacular way possible featuring the Tyrannosaur from the original film plus a brand new exhibit. By the end of it all, I had no adrenaline left in me. It was like a ride in itself, all brought together by one of Hollywood’s finest new Directors (Colin Trevorrow). Jurassic World is pure FANTASTIC.

GENEPOOL





Here Comes Santa Claus, Here Comes…..Wait; No, It’s Not Him – Krampus

6 01 2016

Krampus (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

“I know that it’s January!” Anyway; I am not all that big a fan of horror films. I like the ideas of horror films, plus have the real understanding of how a horror film should work. It’s not about blood and guts, it’s about being scared, receiving a frightful shock that makes you jump out of your chair, or not able to go to bed that night. The only Horror films I have seen so far are films like Battle Royale, The Purge, Aliens, bits of Predator and AVP. But the idea of taking such a happy time as Christmas and then subjecting the setting to an awful situation that leads to kidnap and possibly death is an interesting idea, plus also why I wanted out to point out that I know its January but am reviewing a film that is set during Christmas.

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Released in 2015 by Legendary Pictures and Universal, and Directed by Michael Dougherty; Krampus is a Christmas themed horror film based on the folklore legend of Krampus. Personally I never heard of the character of Krampus until this film came out. According to Wikipedia:

“In Austro-Bavarian Alpine folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts. Regions in Austria feature similar figures and, more widely, Krampus is one of a number of Companions of Saint Nicholas in regions of Europe. The origin of the figure is unclear; some folklorists and anthropologists have postulated a pre-Christian origin for the figure (see Germanic paganism).”

Anyway, that’s what/who Krampus is according to folklore; I just thought I better mention some form of knowledge before I start.

The film begins with a scene of people shopping for Christmas Presents, in a similar hysteria and mad panic that people get involved in during Black Friday. After getting into a fight in the store, young boy Max (Emjay Anthony) along with his sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) and their parents Tom (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Collette) return home where Tom’s mother known as Omi (Krista Stadler) is busy making Christmas cookies. Max still believes in Christmas traditions and hopes for Christmas to be as close as that could possibly be, but the house is in chaos, and gets worse with the arrival of Sarah’s sister Linda (Allison Tolman), her husband Howard (David Koechner), their children Stevie (Lolo Owen), Jordan (Queenie Samuel), Howie Jr. (Maverick Flack), their baby daughter, and Linda and Sarah’s Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell)…oh, and their dog too. The chaos at home rises as the two family’s thoughts and beliefs begin to clash, and end with Stevie and Jordan taking Max’s letter to Santa Claus and reading it out loud during dinner, resulting in a fight. Tom tries to comfort his son, but Max decides to rip up his letter to Santa and throw it to the winds. At that moment a snow storm arrives and causes a power outage throughout the whole area. The following morning, the family struggle with the loss of heat and power, while Max is wondering about a snowman that has appeared in the front garden. A delivery man arrives with presents for the family, as well as a sack which is just left by the door. Beth decides to visit her boyfriend’s house to see if he has power; on the way though she spots a tall horned entity standing on a house rooftop. She runs away but is pursued by the strange being. She hides underneath a van, and watches as a creature with hooves walks around her. It soon leaves, but Beth is then attacked by something inside a Jack in a Box.

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The family grows worried for Beth, so Tom and Howard go outside looking for her. They find it strange that there are no other people in the area, no cars, nothing, other than for a snow plow. Back at the house, everyone else hears strange noises coming from the roof. Upon reaching Beth’s boyfriend’s house, Howard and Tom notice how much devastation around them there is, with the chimney split, and hoof prints on the floor. Upon leaving Howard is attacked by a snow monster. Tom saves him and drags him back home, telling the family to board themselves up inside. Omi, who has begun to act really strange, tells Tom to keep the fire burning. During Howard’s watch however, he falls asleep and the fire dies. While everyone else sleeps, a hook with a Gingerbread Man attached comes down the chimney. Howie Jr reaches for it and takes a bite, only for the Gingerbread man to suddenly come to life, wrap him in chain and drag him up the chimney. The family tries to save him, but is unable to do so. Omi then tells the family what is going on, and that they are being attacked by Krampus (Luke Hawker and Gideon Emery). When she was young, Omi lost her faith and hope in Christmas due to her poverty-stricken life in the village where she lived. As a result the ‘Shadow of Saint Nicholas’; Krampus came to town and took the whole town with him to the underworld, leaving Omi behind, with a Krampus Bauble to remind her of what happens when one loses their love of Christmas. Howard refuses to believe her, and goes outside where the whole garden is full of Snowmen and maliciously laughing creatures. He goes back inside. Tom forms a plan for them to try and run for the Snow Plow and find help. Meanwhile the sack of presents upstairs begins to rattle and shake. Stevie and Jordan hear Beth’s voice in the attic and go looking for her. Upon hearing the two girls scream, Tom, Sarah and Linda go into the attic and find a giant Jack in the Box creature swallowing Jordan whole. They are then attacked by the Jack in the Box and some other Christmas toys, while Howard is attacked by a trio of Gingerbread Men in the Kitchen. They are just able to fight off the creatures, but back downstairs a horde of Dark Elves burst into the front room and take the Giant Jack in the Box, Howard, Dorothy and the Baby with them. Krampus is then heard landing on the roof and descends down the chimney. Omi stays back at the house to give the retreating family some time to escape. Krampus seemingly recognizing her unleashes his monstrous, demonic toys on her.

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The rest of the family reach the snow plow, but then Tom, Linda and Sarah are all sucked into the snow by the Snow Monster from earlier. Max with Stevie in tow tries to start the plow, but it doesn’t work, and Dark Elves arrive and carry off with Stevie. Krampus then lands in front of Max, and gives him a bauble, wrapped in his ripped up letter to Santa, revealing that it was Max who caused all this to happen. Back at the House, Krampus, his minions and a chained up Stevie prepare to leave back to the Underworld, when Max shows up, throwing his bauble at Krampus and demanding he fixes everything. A pit of Lava opens up, and Max tearfully pleads for Krampus to return his family, and take him instead. In a silent moment Krampus sees Max Tears, but then begins laughing. Stevie is thrown into the pit, and Krampus drops Max in too. The following morning, Max wakes up in bed. Thinking it was all a dream, he sees the neighbourhood as it should be, heading downstairs to see his family is alright. They begin to enjoy their Christmas, when Max opens a Present with a Krampus Bauble inside, to which the whole family falls quiet. The camera then pans out to reveal the house is inside a snow globe, along with many others inside Krampus’s Workshop.

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Terrifying and Enchanting, that’s the best way to describe Krampus. It’s a term I have used since about 5 minutes after leaving the cinema (I didn’t walk out if that’s what you’re thinking). Krampus is a very clever film and one that sticks to both the modern Christmas life and the folklore legend that inspires it. It tells a story, but also teaches one; plus values. It opens up with scenes resembling the over commercialized Christmas holiday scene, with people rushing into a shop, tripping over and fighting one another in the hope of getting a present, then goes into the troubled Christmas family life with tensions between family members plus the arrival of the inappropriate and offensive in-laws. It makes the start of an over-promising Christmas family comedy film (which given by this evidence doesn’t usually work out). But then things begin to take an ugly turn, as the horrid in-laws begin to upset the family more, which instigates an unbelievable situation, which leads to horrible consequences, with each family member one by one getting picked off and killed by a supernatural entity and his minions. It begins with the over commercialized view of Christmas, but develops into teaching the true values of Christmas. It tells the story of a boy wanting the best for his family, but once is made fun of by his horrible cousins, loses his spirit for the holidays. This then leads to their terrible situation and shows that while there is heat between family members, there is still love, and once said members are lost, they are missed. So while the family life may not be paradise, there is still more value in it than any gift wrapped up in paper. The telling of this story then is much like how most good films work, it revolves around change, change from where you started from, and learning to bring about something much stronger. Even if it takes such a horrid situation to make people realize this. But then Krampus does something very clever. It does revert the narrative back to a normal life and make the idea that it was all just a dream and that everything is fine. But to prevent them returning to their old, miserable, horrid habits; they are presented with a reminder. A reminder that is true to everyone, not just one person, that what happened, was real, and that it can be done all over again just as easily. This makes both the family and audience think, and remember to take Christmas and the beliefs surrounding it more seriously in the future, because just like the film, it can all be taken away so quickly…even at this time of year.

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Krampus sticks very closely to its Christmas traditions and to its folklore legend. I mean that though into how Krampus as an entity works. Krampus is a horror film, and a very scary one at that, but the use of Christmas iconography to deliver these frights is very well done. For many who see this film, Krampus will remain a very mysterious figure that will require some access too to fully understand who he is and what he means. Krampus as a creature is more a man with creature like attachments, possibly more like a faun, but his great bulk and size, plus his two horns continue to present a monstrosity, than anything else for most of this film. For the meantime, it’s through the aforementioned use of iconography well known at Christmas time to deliver the first few frights. Things like Gingerbread Men coming to life (a scene which reminded me of the living cake scene in the Young Sherlock Holmes), traditional Christmas toys attacking the family residents, snowmen in the garden. Ok, I don’t know where Dark Elves come from, but for the most part, it comes down to Christmas traditions. Other things too like Krampus coming down the chimney (“sound familiar?”), snow globes, a giant jack in the box, a teddy bear, an angel, and even a robot, all these things work together to take the happy, joyous setting of Christmas and turn it around to create nothing but pure frights. This continues throughout most of the second act, but then come the third; it’s pretty much all reserved for the film’s titular character.

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As for the film’s cast, it is sort of filled with hits and misses. They all have their own major perks, but some are better presented than others. You do of course have the Tom and Sarah as the strong willed parents having to take care of the family. While there is a minor level of tension between them, the situation does bring them closer together. For the most part they are really strong and favorable characters who get sucked into a horrible situation, but are still level headed enough to keep their heads above the snow…as it were. While she may only appear very briefly, Beth is a pretty cool character. Playing the average teen at Christmas, more concentrated on her boyfriend than her own family, but is strong and caring enough for those around her. She is the first one at this event to see Krampus, and possibly the first victim too, but her death is a strong death and is just a taster for the misery to come. Then you get the in-laws, a miserable bunch of inappropriate. Linda is ok, but I don’t feel like she comes out all that strongly enough except for when her children are in Danger closer to the third act. Howie Jr. plays the role of a fat little kid who can’t stop eating, very much so representing the idea of gluttony during the Christmas period. He is quiet all the way through, and it is through his gluttony that he gets caught by Krampus. He is the first of a few comedy characters for this film. Jordan I feel doesn’t have much of a presence in this film to talk much about, other than being one of Howard’s very masculine like daughters. As for the comedians, this comes in the form of Howard and Dorothy. Howard is like the stereotypical, hard as nails Texan with a shotgun. His first answer is always his gun and is far more inappropriate than appropriate. A man who obviously wanted boys over girls, and enforces masculine like tendencies on his two elder daughters. He however has a redeeming quality in that he becomes a hard fighter during the fight against the monstrosities, and a worthy ally in such a situation, sort of making up for his attitudes in the films earlier scenes. Aunt Dorothy meanwhile is full on comedy, a character who just doesn’t really change. She is the negative aunt, the character who only really cares for herself in any situation, and pretty much ends hat way, but like everyone else falls silent during the end. Her role though in this is mostly just for laughs.

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Omi I find quite an interesting character as her place in the film is almost like a connotation or tribute to old American Monster Movies. Omi is someone who has experienced the wrath of Krampus before and instantly knows what’s happening and is consistently trying to prevent what is going on while everyone remains oblivious to this. She knew how it happened last time and knows what to do from that experience this time. Then she explains that its Krampus that is causing all this to happen. My mind keeps jumping to old American monster movies with her role, because she is a lot like the expert, or the scientist; the character who walks in half way through and explains the origins of the monster attacking the city, just to cover the science background and explain in detail what is really happening. I therefore feel like that towards Omi as she does just that but in a different role and context. I don’t have any problems with it, I actually quite like that and think it’s rather clever, it covers all basis and fills the audience in more with the details of the ancient legend. Then there is Max, the one who, while not the lead exactly, is the one the legend has come for. He starts off the film with belief and desire to continue the traditions of the Christmas and family, but things take an ugly turn when this is used against him by Stevie and Jordan, who use this as a ploy to have some fun. From that moment Max loses his belief in the Christmas spirit, and therefore Krampus comes calling. Throughout the film, Max plays a very strong and caring role, looking out for and trying to protect his family, even those he doesn’t like, as best as he can, but is of course the main target for Krampus, and so has to watch helplessly as his family is taken away from him. But then, as he is about to be left alone by Krampus, Max comes back, to try and get his family back, even so far as going to try and save Stevie, the instigator. While this in the end doesn’t really work out well for him, this courage and strength make him not just some weak crying kid, but a nice change with a strong one instead; and in some way is the film’s narrator too. Stevie meanwhile I find as something of a breakout role. While she does start off as this horrid instigator (and personally I think the real reason for why this is happening), I am sort of drawn towards her as a character. She remains tough most of the way through and changes herself much like everyone else, and in somewhat ironic way is the last one to be taken, despite it really being all her fault. However, despite all that bad stuff, Stevie is a really great character and I think Lolo Owen who plays her does it really well. I can see (but also hope) that Lolo Owen gets more roles in the future from her performance in this, because I think she really deserves it.

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The lead role though is of course the big guy – No, not Godzilla – Krampus. Just one quick thing firstly. I love the Dark Elves in this film. I didn’t know how they were going to be done when I first read about them, but the use of costumes and wonderful masks really do make them a fun, yet still terrifying, inclusion in this film. Anyway back to Krampus. The film is of course all about the titular character, the film title suggests so, and the shadowy figure in the film’s poster makes it so. For most of the early parts of this film, Krampus is merely just a suggestion, his figure is seen, but doesn’t really act. However I think this is Krampus at his best, because his legend is merely a shadow of Saint Nicholas, and so his presence is mostly just that, and I really like it. You see this monster, bigger than a man with some of the most magnificent horns (oh, and don’t forget the hooves) you have ever seen. He is like an army general leading his men from the sidelines, but then enough is enough, and here comes Krampus. His minions running to one side, following orders, and enjoying the prospect of watching their great leader getting his hands dirty. This shadowy like approach to Krampus is really rather fun and builds up magnificently to the point of where you finally see what he looks like. His character then comes out, followed by a malicious laugh later on. It’s really creepy and the buildup is so enjoyable. Despite all this though however; there is some disappointment.

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Krampus bolsters some terrific special effects for a film that was made on a relatively small budget. This lack of budget however did not seem to turn the filmmakers away. Most of the film’s special effects come in the form of costumes and puppets. The toys in the attic, the dark elves and even Krampus himself are all more like costumes and suits than CGI, and this is how most of the film’s special effects are done, however on 2 occasions at least there is also some brilliant CGI work too. The earliest of these is from Beth getting chased by Krampus, which is rather quick, but then comes the Gingerbread Men. Bringing these dastardly creatures to life is done really well, and really freaks you out when they come to life and then start attacking everyone. It’s a haunting sight, and one that will make you think twice before eating one ever again (and don’t forget their devious laugh too). There is one disappointment though I feel, and it’s the same one as mentioned at the end of the last paragraph. You see, despite all the great effects, done any way possible: either be the CGI gingerbread men, or the Dark Elves costumes, I feel like it’s a real shame that the face of Krampus is so lifeless. The film has been building up to this point for a long time, just seeing this great shadow like figure in the area, and now he finally shows us his face, and it’s a bit disappointing. The face of Krampus looks like a big mannequin face, wide mouth, but is just so dead. No movement, no life. The only thing seen moving really is the eyes, close up. Where is this great monster we have been looking forward to? Sure, he may be more human than monstrosity, but even Father Christmas has facial movement. It just feels like a wasted moment and can bring down with ease, what we have been waiting for. It sort of puts a real sour note to both this film, and this character.

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As for a soundtrack (composed by Douglas Pipes) to this film, it’s hard to really think about it, as for the most part I don’t remember hearing much in original music made specifically for a film sense. That doesn’t necessarily mean though, that there is a lack of music. The film instead makes great and ironic use of traditional songs and pieces that have become so well-known during Christmas. They’re used in some of the most ironically funny ways, such as the theme “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” which is used to depict the mass crowds running into the shopping Centre, and chaos enveloping in the last Christmas shop rush. There are a lot of instances like this taking place all over the film. The most powerful piece though I think is used during the end credits. Now for years I recognized the piece (Carol of the Bells) as a song used in Family Guy when Peter works in Burger King; but through the end credits, it was used to talk about the legend of Krampus. Now if that is what it was originally made out to be for, then it’s great to finally hear it as such, and since then leading up to Christmas, I couldn’t stop singing a sort of version of that with Krampus in the lines. It is a really nice thing to wrap the film up with, but still present a level of haunting and non-existent peace in the film’s final credits.

Terrifying and Enchanting, I used that term earlier and have since to describe Krampus the film, and I still hold to it. What I have stumbled upon here is a true Christmas cinema gem. There are many Christmas films out there, and every year like clockwork another one is released, but it’s fair to say that producing a Christmas based film is rough, because there are so many bad ones out there. What do you do for a Christmas film while still maintaining the theme of Christmas all the way through? It’s a hard thing to do because that’s what you’re setting out to do. Through the cracks of the good and the bad, every blue moon, one comes out that just shakes up the scene and becomes a legend within cinema goers during that time of year, and Krampus is one of them. It’s a film packed with laughs, frights and shocks. It’s set in a very believable setting and begins with very believable situations before developing into something else, something magnificently terrifying. It’s got a story, characters and monsters. It’s there for those who at Christmas want to see something else and while it may not be the greatest or even the scariest horror film out there, it’s definitely one of the best Christmas films. “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why; KRAMPUS IS COMING TO TOWN!”

GENEPOOL (I’m surprised Lordi wasn’t asked in helping out with the soundtrack).








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