samara-morgan-ring.jpgThe old-age argument, why fix what’s not broken? And for Asian horror films this statement speaks volumes because it was Hollywood and its abundance of money-grabbing production companies that spent a lot of time in the 2000’s decade funding Asian classic remakes.

The Asians are without a doubt the masters of horror because (unlike Americanised ideology) they do not set-out to make their audience jump out of their seat. Instead they give a visual representation and understanding of the art that is ‘ghost storytelling’, and how this complexity is better performed through aspects such as poignancy and to woe audiences rather than solely terrify and mentally-scar them. This better understanding of spirits and all things ghostly is possibly down to cultural traditions of the East compared to the West. Asian culture for example has a better understanding of the soul, which encompasses the Japanese word ‘rei’, or when translated into English can only best be described as ‘ghost’.

IVLHiNow the main reason why these remakes happen – and unfortunately will continue to happen – is because, we as a Western society disdain subtitles (well most of us anyway) and where has this deep-rooted hatred for subtitles come from? Hollywood of course! Who keep churning out these below-par adapted classics such as the Americanised (but Japanese-set) “The Grudge” (2004), remade from the Japanese supernatural horror feature “Ju-on” (2002).

Now, it’s understandably annoying having to read in order to follow what’s going on when watching a foreign film, but this subtitle repulsion per se is a problem only we as native English speakers have. Yet throughout the non-English speaking world subtitles are perceived to be a regular occurrence; indeed, in some territories within Asia it is a matter-of-course to see two separate sets of subtitles (Mandarin and Thai, for example) running along the bottom and vertically along the side of the picture. However, American studios are entirely happy to reinforce the western world’s ‘subtitle phobia’, for obvious reasons…

Shutter-1But take it from me, I’ve watched Thai horror “Shutter” (2004) with Chinese subtitles with no English in sight, so what did I do? I watched it and tried to follow the story line as best I could, and you know what? It was one of the best cinema experiences of my life because it explains itself through its imagery alone and I was fine with that – the subtitles weren’t needed! It was as if I was about to board a plane at Manchester airport with the words, “Get Britain out of the EU” plastered all over me and I went to Spain and came back drinking sangria with plans to retire in Benidorm. Basically, after all the pessimism, most of us when faced with a ‘foreign’ culture or language, learn to adapt pretty damn quick. Unfortunately, Like all Asian horror greats over recent years, Hollywood got its hands on Shutter’s story line and remade it into the 2008 version of the same title. Comparing the two, whilst the Thai version unfolds gradually in a manner that sneaks up on the viewer, 2008’s “Shutter” stumbles and uses gory special effects that seem over-the-top, whilst the original goes for the eerie and disturbing approach. However, the sad realisation is originality doesn’t always triumph over adaptation. For example, when comparing the ‘Subtitles vs. Remakes’ box office figures for the genre-defining “Ringu” (1998) and “The Ring” (2002), it is a very sad tale indeed.415576fZg3YMQF

“The Ring” outperformed its predecessor even though “Ringu” was cheaper, cleverer, is more critically acclaimed, its screenplay makes more sense through its Japanese roots, and crucially, is the scarier of the two. The term ‘Yurei’, a concept used in “Ringu” (again, a term only present in Asian culture) refers to a vengeful spirit fueled by pain. This key notion was all but glossed over in “The Ring”, which created a sense of confusion, rather than fear.

Gin_gwai_1254687120_2002It would be frivolous to think that the selected analysed few in this article are the only attempts by Hollywood to create a ‘nouvelle vague’ of Asian hits for the English mainstream market around the time now known as the “unimaginative and ideas-strapped” noughties. 2009’s “The Uninvited” was a tedious and insufficient remake of the highest-grossing Korean horror film “A Tale of Two Sisters” (2003), and Danny & Oxide Pang’s Hong Kong original frightener “Gin gwai” (2002) would later be reproduced into the more well-known, yet still dull “The Eye” (2008) .

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

In the year 2002, the originally long-titled Japanese horror drama “Honogurai Mizu no Soko kara” was released, which in 2005 would take the form of “Dark Water”. Like “Ringu”, 2002’s “Honogurai Mizu no Soko kara” was rooted in Asian culture and spearheaded through the spine-chilling writings of Koji Suzuki (Japan’s answer to Stephen King). It is a film that dramatises natural emotions such as loss and the very real burden of parenthood. These concepts make up the film’s heart of which they entwine within its supernatural themes. What’s interesting is Walter Salles’s “Dark Water” (2005) remake is probably the only work that presents a clear understanding of what is great about the screenplay of the original and shows a respect to Japanese ‘kaidan eiga’ (ghost-story film), which should be acknowledged because of the varied concepts that stretch from culture to culture in relation to the spiritual world and its relationship to the physical or ‘real’ world.



Bugs Life _ AntzNow and again Hollywood will throw the viewing audience the same bone twice and then use differing titles as to not confuse us.  Sometimes these films are damn-near identical and other times the story lines are merely suspiciously similar, but enough to make us feel as though we’re watching the same film again. No other time was this dubious decision more frequent then from the years of 1997, ’98 & ’99. The chosen paired-films below were released not just around similar times, but months apart! Strange, no?

1997(1)Dante’s Peak vs Volcano (1997)

Why they’re similar: both are natural disaster movies, which have an uncontrollable and imminent volcano eruption as their central conflict. Both main protagonists, Pierce Brosnan (Dante’s Peak) and Tommy Lee Jones (Volcano) are equally annoying and can only be described as charisma black holes.

The lesser of two evils: “Dante’s Peak” takes place within a small town setting, which rests just under a dormant volcano, so already it was always going to feel like a better movie. Whilst “Volcano” is set in downtown LA, which is just lazy story telling in itself and speaking of lazy, who names a disaster movie, “Volcano”? These generic-ass bullshit titles need to stop.

Antz vs A Bug’s Life (1998)


Why they’re similar: although they both have different designs of what an ant looks like, the main protagonist in each film is a male ant who just wants to help his fellow colony, but always ends up getting into trouble. The main thesis behind both animated classics is that the colony as a whole soon eventually realise that they are the means of production, thus that it is They who should be in charge; much to the dismay of the main villains.

The lesser of two evils: “A Bug’s Life” possesses humour that is more slapstick, whilst “Antz” is more intellectual through its darker colour schemes, un-shied away violence and is generally the more adult themed of the two. You could even go as far as to say that “Antz” could be compared to Nazi Germany (bit excessive, I know, but hear me out). The main antagonist, General Mandible (voiced by Gene Hackman) plans to kill a huge proportion of the ant colony of which he personally deems as “weak”. It’s got fascism written all over it!

Armageddon vs Deep Impact (1998)

armageddon-deep-impact_edited-1Why they’re similar: they’re not similar, they’re the same. N.A.S.A. (bloody Americans) are alerted that an asteroid is going to impact Earth. Yep, that is the crux of both these films, which were released pretty much around the same time and have been compared and contrasted ever since.

The lesser of two evils: whilst “Armageddon” director Michael Bay is at fault for releasing this ‘flag-waving drivel’, he is not alone for its unanimous failure. First of all, the title at the beginning explodes for some God unbeknownst reason. Secondly, the film sinks through its piss poor acting by all involved, apart from everyone’s fuggly (favourite ugly) supporting actor Steve Buscemi. Finally, the film is rife in cheesy one-liners i.e. “He’s got space dementia”… What?!

“Deep Impact” on the other hand spends the majority of its time character-developing on Earth and shows a more realistic version of how people would be reacting to the high possibility of the end of the world, with “Armageddon”, spending 90 per cent of its screen time in space. Bay’s logic then, “Space = Job One”.

Granted “Armageddon” is more entertaining and action packed, but “Deep Impact” just swings it as it’s more well-written, however neither are Shakespeare. Plus, Aerosmith – I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing just reminds me of school discos and the scramble to find a girl who would remotely stand there and sway with you for an awkward 4 whole minutes. Jesus.

The Matrix vs The Thirteenth Floor (1999)

Why they’re similar: these films offer theories to the existence of our world, what reality is and that everything that surrounds us is computer simulated of whichthe-matrix is controlled by a higher power.

The lesser of two evils: honestly, both films are great, but obviously “The Matrix” is the more well known and I wouldn’t be surprised if some, if not most people haven’t even heard of “The Thirteenth Floor”.

With a budget of $63 million for “The Matrix” and a lowly $16 million for “The Thirteenth Floor”, it is unexpectedly the latter that has stood the test of time visually. Upon release, “The Matrix” without a doubt stunned audiences with its CGI, but what once was ambitious at the time, is now obvious, whilst the more subtle used effects in “The Thirteenth Floor” are still stunning.

thirteenth-floorHowever, “The Matrix” is the far superior film because it is a complex, modern adaptation of Plato’s allergy of The Cave. Its philosophical theme of whether the world we see could be an illusion completely out-shadows The Thirteenth Floor’s safe approach of basing the story development on a murder-mystery plot. “The Matrix” also has an abundance of excellently choreographed fight-scenes, which is one of the reasons I’ve seen it countless times, whilst I’ve only viewed “The Thirteenth Floor” with its limited conflicts, but captivating noir-esque element the solitary time.

I like both films plenty and found that “The Thirteenth Floor” asks some unique questions such as, can consciousness emerge digitally? And if so, would we have ethical obligations to digital forms of consciousness? But there is a reason why “The Matrix” is one of the greatest films ever made, because it clearly asks one of the greatest question of all time, “What is real?”



And 3… 2… 1… Cue the projector, DVD, Blu-ray, stream, or VHS if you’re feeling a little old-school

We all have our favourite films, and we may have watched them tens of times, but what’s important is to retrace why we love that particular flick. Perhaps you started watching a film halfway through and it kept hold of you till the end. However, what’s usually the case is a film’s either recommended to you or you like the look of the trailer. All this aside, a film has to draw you in and this done with an introduction that ‘hits all the notes’.

So here are a few films that I found particularly mesmerising just by viewing the opening scene.

5) Blade (1998) Blood Rave

Dir: Stephen Norrington

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A confident young woman leads a try-hard to a secret rave club, of which he is obviously nervous about, but tries to stay cool. Once within the club, the young man then suddenly gets covered in a heavy sprinkle of blood and realises he is at the centre of a vampire ‘blood bath’. As the coven prepares to feast on him, in steps Eric “Blade” Brooks played by Wesley Snipes. What happens next is an array of broken bones, putting silver in anatomical body regions and Blade absolutely tearing the resisting vampires apart, and all this happening with Public Domain – Operation Blade blaring in the background. Better love story than Twilight? It’s a slick opening sequence, which sets-up arguably the greatest contemporary vampire film, ever.

4) Star Trek (2009) – The Future Begins

Dir: J.J. Abrams


J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek begins in the 23rd century, with the Federation starship USS Kelvin, which is investigating a highly-unusual “lighting storm” in space. From this storm emerges a Romulan ship known as the Narada, which is enormous in size compared to the USS starship. The Narada then, without warning, fires upon the Kelvin and leaves the USS starship’s Captain Robau no choice, but to negotiate a cease fire. Once on board the Narada, its Commander, Nero kills Robau after questioning him about “Ambassador Spock”, who he has no knowledge about. The Kelvin’s first officer, George Kirk orders all personnel to abandon ship, whilst he bravely pilots the Kelvin on a collision course with the Narada. As well as having characteristics of bravery, anger and trickery all in the opening sequence, this scene provides outstanding visual effects, which when first viewed will take your breath away.

3) Men In Black (1997) – The Dragonfly

Dir: Barry Sonnenfeld

Bit of a curve ball here, but Men In Black’s (MIB) opening scene is funny and everything that is nostalgic. It is set on what looks to be a warm, calm night on a dark dessert highway (sly nod to The Eagles). A steady build-up score provided by Danny Elfman begins, whichMib_000Dragonfly is assisted with the visual aid of an energetic dragonfly. Although MIB is about aliens, the fluttering Odonata insect provides a sense of alluring and mystifying escalation, which increases rapidly as the score gathers momentum.


The dragonfly takes one last flight into the moonlight and decides to dangerously weave between oncoming traffic, while all the time the viewer is wondering what the motive of this airborne maverick is. As the music climaxes, the dragonfly sees red and kamikazes itself into the windscreen of a truck, which is aptly ended with, “Goddamn bugs!”

What’s interesting about this opening sequence is, as said before, it has nothing to do with the main plot of the film, but it shows how effective, A) correctly using a splash of confusion and B) thinking outside the box can be when luring in audiences.

2) Drive (2011) – The Getaway

Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn


An unnamed driver (Ryan Gosling) stares out of a Los Angeles apartment and gives instructions to a criminal of how he will facilitate only five minutes of his time for a robbery that will be perpetrated. Within those five minutes, the driver will provide a getaway service of the highest caliber. Cue the opening getaway scene.

This scene grabs the audience immediately with a constant, unruffled, Crokett’s Theme-esque beat, and American neo-noir motif, all of which is spear-headed by a cool-headed driver who is under the clock. Once the robbery has taken place and the driver’s time limit hasn’t been breached, he begins to knit and twist between the labyrinth that is downtown LA, whilst perfecting the art of not raising suspicion by professionally, skillfully and uniquely avoiding police detection through listening to a police frequency radio channel.

The opening sequence is sharp and more importantly sterile all in one. This is important because it sets the tone for the remaining ride that the audience are about to be taken on. It’s a film about pace and a lack of extraneous elements, which ultimately provides Drive’s soul.

1) The Lion King (1994) The Circle of Life

Dir: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff


Let’s end on a high shall we. Without a doubt, The Lion King provides not just the most awe-inspiring opening sequence, but the most feel good and nostalgic too. With the rising sun and the uniting of animals all heading to welcome the new future king of Pride Rock, it is, still to this day celebrated as being the greatest animated masterpiece by Disney or maybe even of all time. It provides an opening scene that, even with the advances in animated technology over the past twenty years, has still not been surpassed.

No matter what age, whether you’ve seen it countless times or are lucky enough to experience it first time as a wide-eyed child, it will pull at the emotional heartstrings in all the right places. Its beginning is hypnotic and will forever stand the test of time. The Lion King is an imperfect film that provides waves of brilliance. However, the opening scene in question – with its hard-hitting struck notes and carefully choreographed animals, which don’t have a single flaw, slight hoof or even hairline out of place – well, that is perfect.




Now before I start this article, let me remind the reader that I’m aware Facebook doesn’t hurt people, oh no. It is people that hurt people, but what I’m trying to convey is that in some cases (not all thankfully), Facebook is being used to display disgusting views of the ignorant.

I’m sure you are aware that this notion is nothing new, but as I was scrolling through my newsfeed recently, I spotted a story that someone had shared on their timeline. The story was about a man named John Morton, a former teacher who admitted six counts of indecently assaulting several girls aged seven and eleven in the 1980’s/90’s. The former teacher has now served his jail time of 2 years and moved back to Glossop, Derbyshire.

IMG_2247[1]Although the behaviour performed by John Morton is upsetting and should not be condoned in any society, it wasn’t the article that caught my attention, but the comments left by Facebook users. The first comment that struck me was “My mate Morton lad lol”. It seems this situation is a joke to this user of which they can perversely share their opinion in a neo-language way (by using the word “lol”).

 A person who liked the first comment, had an opinion of their own by stating, “Looks like Rolf harris’s brother, Dirty scum bag !” Now, all of sudden John Morton is being compared to Rolf Harris, a convicted offender of 12 counts of indecent assault. By liking the first comment that poked-fun at the situation and then stating that John Morton is a “Dirty scum bag”, it seems this second commentor small minded hypocrite. It seems the second commenter believes it’s acceptable to laugh at child abuse and then voice their derogative and ignorant view by condemning the convicted man.

A third person then left a comment stating, “Looks like Shipman”, again relating Morton to another convicted offender, but this time it’s Dr Harold Shipman, one of the most prolific serial killers in recorded history. Granted, there are physical similarities to both Morton and Shipman, but by ‘painting them with the same brush’, (something this third commenter is intently doing) both convicted offenders are being placed in the catergory of the “Other”; this being a group of individuals that are mentally or physically separate from society.

But I ask you, what is society? Because judging by these pathetic comments, I believe Facebook has created a society in which we as the public can ‘get on our high horse’ and log in to a social network site and have our ‘two cents worth’, but not to create debate, make interesting theories or change public opinion for the better, instead we generalise and stigmatise others who are different to us or have done something indecent.

I’m not asking for Facebook to be taken away from ignorant people, I firmly believe in freedom of speech, however, what I hope this article does is makes people realise that freedom of speech is a privilege not an entitlement. Also, Facebook users need to think about the impact of what they write on social media sites because these sites are powerful tools. Take for example these commenters; in the article it states Mr Morton’s address. If this information was seen by a violent individual, then these comments may sway that individual to take physical action on a convicted offender who has already served his time and is already living a life in which I’m sure he’s looking over his shoulder everyday.

A thought to leave you with is, John Morton was caught and convicted for an offence I’m sure he regrets, but we’ve all done stupid things we are either ashamed of or regret, the only difference is, no one knows about your indiscretion(s). So I implore anyone to stop using Facebook as a way to voice their nauseating opinions and instead, use it as a way to stay informed and to share memories and life events.

If you’ve got an opinion on what you think Facebook has become or is becoming, then comment below…

The Universe I See

Earth around sun, organic materials and water and a warm climate, everywhere we look the world appears to be well designed so that the livings flourish. All it should be that simple.

An abandoned sight, inhale, snaps #film

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