April 3rd, 2009

Scary Books

Book Review: Red-Headed Stepchild

Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells

This is the first in yet another urban fantasy series. Sabina Kane is as assassin and an outcast in her dark world due to mixed blood. She is half-vampire and half-mage. She hopes her vampire family will at last show her some affection when she successfully carries out her latest task. She has to infiltrate a cult and kill its leader. The leader is talking about uniting all the children of Lilith against the children of Adam. As Sabina works on the cult leader takedown, she is stalked by a mage and nearly killed by a demon. And there are numerous mutterings about a vague prophecy. And did I mention that Sabina has a mysterious birthmark?

There is nothing original in this book, save for the fact that for these vampires it is apples that can destroy them. Which makes no sense if they are descended from Lilith as she never ate from the Tree of Knowledge. Anyway this is all workmanlike writing with plot and character developments that are telegraphed a mile off. Still the plot unfolds responably well and the writing is okay. I will read the 2nd book in this series.
Scary Books

Children of the Stones (1977)

Children of the Stones (1977)
A cult classic that featured ominous music, ominous Neolithic stones and ominous local people in the small village of Milbury. The village of Milbury is one of those cursed places where you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Into The Circle
Adam, a professor and his smart-alec son Matt arrive in Milbury. Adam's come to do a study on magnetism and the local Neolithic stones. Soon there is all kids of ominous foreshadowing that something's rotten in Milbury: the ominous landlord, the ominous painting, the local kids do very advanced math and when Adam touches a stone he has a vision and flops around on the ground like a fish. Sure it looks dated, all the interior scenes look stagy, all the men have 'He-Man' haircuts and when two kids get into a fight, one throws a punch that clearly misses the other by at least a foot but this is good.

Best Lines:
"By the time Stonehenge was completed, people had been worshipping here for, oh, a thousand years or more."
"Worshipping what?"

"Suppose they all turn out to be nutters?"

"Have you any idea what one and one make?"
"Me dad's a farmer miss."
"Explain yourself."
"Well on a farm, put one and one together, usually get a third."

Circle of Fear
Matt runs into Dai who he calls "The village idiot." Dai's been stalking Matt since he arrived in the village, but this is a good thing as Dai knows that something is rotten in Milbury, he has trouble conveying this though as his dialogue is incomprehensible. Adam befriends Margaret the curator of the rather grubby local museum and together they investigate the weirdness of the stones. It seems the stones are aligned toward something and a lot of ley lines converge on the village. One dark night, Matt sees the locals in the dark doing some weird ritual at the stones. This was another good episode. The fact this was made in the 70's is made clear when Adam has to communicate with America via a telegram.

Best Lines:
"Don't meddle with the stones."

"Nobody ever leaves the circle."

Serpent in the Circle
At Matt's school it's like 'The Stepford Children' as a previously dim-witted child is suddenly a happy clappy type who can do advanced maths. Dai shows off a weird artefact he has to Matt and his new pal Sandra. Neither child actor can actually act. Adam learns the stones align toward a supernova which is now a blackhole. Hendricks the creepy landlord is a former astronomer. This was okay.

Narrowing Circle
Nobody comments on the fact that all the families in the village are single parented ones. Matt turns out to be psychic, which leads to more rotten child acting. More people change personality. Someone comments on the strange fact that Milbury has no church. Dai is found dead. Sadly this was a mediocre ep.

Charmed Circle
Dai's body vanishes. It is clear that Hendricks is up to something when he invites Margaret and her daughter Sandra over for dinner. He shows them off his OTT dining table set and his digital clock. Sandra is more amazed by the digital clock then the solid stone dining table and chairs. Hendricks then does a villain speech and swivels around in his swivelling stone throne. For some reason Sandra and Margaret don't run away. This was good despite two extremely ridiculous moments: Hendricks swivelling chair and Matt uttering the line: "It was like I felt when Bob wasn't run over by that lorry that never appeared."

Squaring the Circle
Hendricks the self made Lord of the Manor, is a nut. Sandra and Margaret are now both happy, clappy types. Adam and Matt try to leave the village but can't. Adam starts blathering on about a time shift. This was okay.

Full Circle
It seems Hendricks is doing some ritual involving the stone circle and black hole. What he is doing isn't fully explained. Adam and Matt utter technobabble as they try to foil Hendricks plan to turn them into happy clappys. Their plan depends on Hendricks not owning a watch. Hendricks plan is foiled and everyone personalities change again. Adam and his son leave town. But the final scene makes clear that the cycle can't be broken. This was okay, nothing was really explained. It was all hints and suggestion and all the more creepy for it.
Scary Books

The Young Ones Series 2 (1982 - 1984)

The classic surreal BBC alternative comedy sitcom about four students who share a squalid house. The students were Vyvyan the violent punk, Mike the diminutive wannabe cool dude wide boy, Neil the moron hippie and Rick the stupid, pompous would be anarchist. Alexei Sayle kept showing up in various roles to show off his stand up comedy rants. This show was known for shouting, violence, slapstick and surrealism.

Vyvyan's personality is summed by the fact he has four metal stars seemingly embedded into his forehead. He is extremely violent and regularly attacks Neil and Rick. He despises Rick more than he does Neil. He never harms Mike, whom he respects. Besides Mike, Vyvyan only likes his pet hamster SPG. Mike is the supposed leader, he likes to dress like a mod and utter quasi-profound statements and try to woo women. Neil is a depressed pacifist who is victimised by other housemates. Neil believes everyone and everything hates him, which is mostly true. His favourite word is "Heavy". Finally Rick is self-proclaimed anarchist, hypocritical, tantrum-throwing attention-seeker. Rick tries to impress the others to no avail.

Ep 1: Bambi
The boys go to the launderette and compete against Footlights College Oxbridge in University Challenge for their own Scumbag College. In-between these deeds, they do their usual routine of: treating Neil like a serf and Rick looks for attention, this time by trying to OD on laxatives. It is however their stint on University Challenge which descends into the most chaos.

This was a good episode which guest starred: Robbie Coltrane, Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson, Emma Thompson, Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith.

Best Lines:
"One of Vyvyvan's socks has escaped!"

"Help I'm being hassled by a killer sock!"

Ep 2: Cash
The gang are broke and burning all of their possessions for heat. When Vyvyan turns out to be pregnant, Neil is forced by his housemates to join the police. Alexei Sayle shows up to do more ranting. This wasn't that funny and was a mediocre episode.

Ep 3: Nasty
A strange package from South Africa interferes with plans to watch a video nasty on a rented VCR. This ep shows how really short Christopher Ryan (Mike) is. Apparently in 1984, VCR's cost £500. Mike and Vyv plan to watch a video nasty but they can't get the VCR to work (they haven't plugged it in). Rick and Neil get into a fight and this is the one occasion that Neil retaliates prompting Rick to flee. But all bets are off when a large ham post man delivers a mysterious parcel. Even the sight of Neil in a dress doesn't distract them. But the parcel is all part of the VCR's owner's plan.

This was very good. The best episode of series 2 and contained numerous comedic highlights such as seeing the four main characters out of character. This ep guest starred: Christopher Barrie, Dawn French, Gareth Hale and Norman Pace.

Best Lines:
"Some really selfish negative vibe merchant."

"It's a vampire!"
"In a parcel!"
"in the kitchen!"
"Hate mail!"

"He's going to turn us all into vampires and we'll all be dead and yet still alive. Like Leonard Cohen!"

Ep 4: Time
After a opening 'Dallas' spoof featuring Rick's terrible US accent, Rick wakes up in bed with a woman. She becomes the focus of the housemates desperate attentions despite the fact she is an escaped murderer. The question of Rick's virgin status prompts a long and violent fight between Rick and Vyvyan which takes place all over and through the house. Even the house going through a time warp to medieval times doesn't end the brawl. The number one rule for alternative comedy is used heavily in this ep: shout all your lines.

This was okay and correctly predicted the rise of tv stations duelling reality shows when Sayle rants about the BBC showing "Strip Sex Snooker Darts On Ice".

Ep 5: Sick
While ill, the boys must deal with an escaped criminal and worse, Neil's parents. The gang provoke a street riot during a song by Madness, then they're taken hostage by an escaped madman, then Neil's upper class Tory parents visit and that leads to a prolonged spoof on 'The Good Life'

This was good, Vyv's rant against 'The Good Life' and Ben Elton's astute observation about 'Grange Hill' were standouts.

Ep 6: Summer Holiday
Despite the fact the gang have never been seen going to lectures, it seems they actually sat their exams. Now it's summer and they are awaiting their results while fighting off boredom. It is revealed Mike's college career is based on him blackmailing various lecturers for grants and diplomas. Neil has a revenge fantasy where he turns into the Hulk and smashes his vile, obnoxious housemates. Then they are evicted and have to live on the street. So they rob a bank and escape on a bus. Vyvyan then drives the bus through a Cliff Richard billboard. The bus falls over a cliff and explodes into flames at the bottom of a quarry.  This was okay.