Archive for August, 2011

“The Smurfs Movie” (2011) Review.

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews on August 28, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Foreword by Hayley Alice Roberts: Here is a review of the recent “Smurfs” film written by my 11-year-old nephew Morgan Roberts. He mostly enjoyed the film; I realise there has been a lot of negativity surrounding the film however is the response mostly positive from a child’s perspective? and has the film opened the characters up to a whole new generation?

Bottom line: The Smurfs is an animated movie about little blue cartoon characters; young children may find this film super smurfy; it contains a few suggestive jokes and lots of smurf language.

As they scramble to get away from the evil wizard Gargamel Clumsy goes the wrong way and leads 4 of the other smurfs Papa, Smurette, Brainy, Gutsy, and Grouchy. That was the scene I enjoyed the most.

The festival of the Blue Moon is about to begin and things are going smoothly for the Smurfs until Clumsy leads the evil wizard Gargamel to their secret village.

The 3D was average however it wasn’t necessary as it wasn’t as effective compared to the other films for example “Avatar” (2010).

The smurfs has been-there-done-that a cross between “Alvin and the Chipmunks” (2007) and “Enchanted” (2007).

Morgan Roberts.

A Review of “Final Destination 5” (2011)

Posted in Uncategorized on August 28, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

WARNING: SPOILERS INCLUDED.

As my regular readers will be aware “Final Destination” is one of my favourite modern horror franchises; I ranked the first film which was released back in 2000 as my number one favourite horror movie of the noughties; I enjoy the franchise because I like the concept of the killer being something you cannot see; instead of a knife/chainsaw wielding maniac; back in 2000 the first film was pretty unique but I admit now after spurning on four sequels the premise is slightly tiresome.

I have just recently viewed the latest instalment titled “Final Destination 5” (2011) at the Odeon Cinema in Bridgend and I went for the complete 3D experience. Prior to viewing the film I took down some notes regarding my general thoughts on the movie and what I was hoping to expect;

Firstly when I discovered the franchise was still continuing I was slightly surprised as I made the assumption that the film-makers were calling it a day after 2009’s “The Final Destination” that held the tagline “Death Saved the last for 3D”; As I will explain later in the review there is actually a significance for this. On the other hand I wasn’t completely shocked because this franchise falls into the horror genre that is famous for its endless sequels and “Final Destination” seems to be ranking up there with the “Halloween”, “Friday 13th” and “Saw” franchises in terms of the number of sequels.

I was excited to learn that Tony Todd was re-appearing in this sequel and in the trailers his character was used heavily to promote the film. I have been a fan of his ever since I saw his performance in “Candyman” (1992); I think he plays creepy and mysterious very well and adds a sense of enigma in the “Final Destination” movies.

I was very sceptical when I heard about this film coming out as I felt it had been done and completed; I would have been happy if the franchise had ended on the previous film; however the trailer depicted that the deaths in this film were going to be more uncomfortable than ever so it held my interest. I also really enjoyed the use of the 3D in the previous film; it was the first film I had seen in Digital 3D at that point so it was really exciting for me at the time therefore I had a high expectation for this one and hoped it would be used to the full effect. I went into the film not expecting too much character development as for me it’s more or less been non-existent since the second film “Final Destination 2” (2003). I was of course expecting a very formulaic plot and narrative. I hoped there would be nice little homage’s paid to the original film e.g. the nod to the heroine of the first and second films Clear Rivers in “The Final Destination”. I just generally hoped that we would see something different in this movie in order to shake the franchise up a bit.

Taking these expectations into consideration I’m now going to review my “final” thoughts on the film as a whole.

As I stated earlier in the review I enjoy the concept of the killer of the piece being something you ultimately cannot see and cannot escape; this film challenged this concept with the use of Tony Todd’s character through featuring him after every death scene had taken place and having the protagonist Sam confronting him. The mystery surrounding his character is heightened especially when he informs the survivors “I’m just doing my job”; this part of the narrative therefore has a double meaning as he turns around to reveal the word “coroner” on his jacket; is he simply just some morbid guy or is he death in the flesh? I think it’s cool that the writer allows the audience to interpret this factor however they want.

As the film began I thought it was incredibly clever when the 3D effect was in place to merge the two major film companies Warner Brothers and New Line into each other; that first moment made me excited about the 3D and left me wondering if they were able to top the opening title sequence of the previous film which I was really impressed by and thought was a nice touch. Differently to the last film, number five delves straight into the title credits which for me were still impressive but I enjoyed the fourth one better; it did still give me chills and it used its 3D effects to the max with glass and blood flying everywhere. The 3D throughout the film was used just as well and it was everything a 3D movie should be; I have seen several 3D films in the cinema and in all honesty the majority of them just use it as a marketing ploy in order to sell the films but fail to deliver; the latest “Harry Potter” being an example; I have found that its horror films that take full advantage of the effect such as “My Bloody Valentine” (2009) and “Piranha” (2010) along with “The Final Destination”. This film most definitely delivered; it was that intense objects were actually flying out right into the audience and many a time felt like they were right close to my face; it was really cool to make the audience feel even more involved with the movie; giving an interactive experience.

When it came to the death scenes I thought overall they were very inventive and uncomfortable however they began to lose direction and appeared slightly over the top resulting in an anti-climax. I loved the bridge collapse and felt more on edge in comparison to number three’s rollercoaster premonition or number four’s race crash but once the premonition scene had taken place it still felt anti-climactic as Sam was telling his co-workers to vacate the bus; when watching the first film the scene of Alex’s meltdown on the plane was incredibly dramatic and intense but in this one those two elements seemed to be non-existent; personally I think that was down to weak performances which I will discuss later. The most intense death scene for me was the massage parlour as it made the audience cringe once the character had several needles stuck into him then the cuts to the office scene in-between heightened the suspense; I enjoyed the irony of the character ultimately being killed by a Budda statue which is viewed as a figure of peace. The laser eye surgery death comes in at a close second for me, it really pushed the boundaries and echoed the dentist scene of the second film; I was in a predicament of “I don’t want to look but I can’t take my eyes off the screen”; again I felt they went way over the top with this scene and should have had her killed in the lab rather than flying out the window and having her eye fall out and ran over; it just made the whole scene humorous and completely off track; leaving me feeling disappointed. It later felt like the film makers were getting slightly lazy by the time it was Dennis’s (played by David Koechner) turn to meet the grim reaper; there was a rushed build-up and it didn’t even deliver shock value; making that scene my least favourite.

In terms of the concept of the film I respect the fact that the film-makers decided to try something new and had the original design challenged; it did freshen the film up and added a new dimension with the idea of surviving death by taking someone else’s life and adding their years onto your own. I also thought it was interesting keeping one survivor who didn’t meet a sticky end in the initial premonition.

As expected the characters were incredibly unlikeable; they possessed superficial qualities and I completely hated the majority of them especially after their disrespectful actions during the funeral scene for the disaster victims. I felt Peter (Played by Miles Fisher) was a more psychotic version of Carter (Played by Kerr Smith) from the original; their storylines were almost identical as both lose their girlfriends early on in the films. I mostly found the protagonist Sam (Played by Nick D’Agosto) and his girlfriend Molly (Played by Emma Bell) tolerable (note: what was with naming them after the characters from “Ghost” (1990)!!) however in the last part of the movie Sam’s character was completely screwed up once he’d committed the act of murder as it seemed completely out of character and rushed; yeah I realise it could be argued it was self defence but for me it seemed out of place and made the protagonist unlikable. The performances overall were pretty one-dimensional and weak and but as I said it is a horror sequel and the performances were never going to be in the same league as Devon Sawa and Ali Larter from the first movie.

The ending was slightly unexpected; I had made the assumption that all the hints indicated at Sam taking a job in Paris were in place as homage’s to the first “Final Destination” and that the narrative was ironic when we see Sam and Molly on the flight. The fact that we discover that the film as a whole was a prequel was interesting and I thought it was a fun idea and nostalgic especially the shot of the side of Sam’s face burning mirroring Alex Browning of the first movie. I thought it was fun and clever how they re-used the footage of the flight 180 passengers getting off the plane suggesting that Sam and Molly had been on the plane the whole time. Once the crash occurred it would have been the perfect place to conclude the film with the franchise coming full circle; however it became tarnished and unnecessary to show the remaining survivor Nathan (Played by Arlen Escarpeta) discovering that the guy who’s place he took was going to die of natural causes anyway followed by an explosion; but then again I guess in all the “Final Destination” films everyone must die and there are no survivors and the scene reminded us of that. As the film closed I felt it was fitting to have Tony Todd warn the audience “you all be careful now” and I did love the gory little montage at the end featuring all the previous deaths from the previous films in all its 3D glory.

So; “Final Destination 5”; overall the narrative was weak and formulaic but I enjoyed the film for the 3D and the gore and the twists and turns it presented us with; it was definitely a guilty pleasure!!

My best to worst “Final Destination” films in order:

  1. “Final Destination” (2000)
  2. “Final Destination 2” (2003)
  3. “Final Destination 5” (2011)
  4. “The Final Destination” (2009)
  5. “Final Destination 3” (2006)

Hayley Alice Roberts.

“My Buffy-Fest #2” 19th August 2011- “Nightmares” (#1.10) and “The Wish” (#3.9)

Posted in Uncategorized on August 23, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Welcome to the second instalment of a little on-going series I have featured in this blog that I like to call “My Buffy-Fest”; Firstly I would like to thank my readers for assisting me in choosing which episodes I should analyse; there are so many “fangtastic” episodes to select from and I can assure you if your suggestions aren’t present at this time I will most definitely keep them in mind for future instalments. The original and first of my Buffy-analysis can be found here: https://mshayleyr1989.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/my-buffy-fest-22nd-july-2011/. This month I have chosen to review two episodes that take our beloved characters out of context and out of character; what I love about Joss Whedon is he isn’t afraid to take his audience out of their comfort zone and force us to perceive things in a brand new light. I would say the episodes selected are moderately popular but aren’t considered “Big contenders” and don’t rank up there with the likes of “Hush” (#4.10 ) “The Gift” (#5.22) or “Once More With Feeling” (#6.7); they do however serve as building blocks for major storyline’s to come. Due to time constraints this month I am only going to look at two episodes instead of three; however I will make this up to you guys in the future; I have also decided to try a new format with this review in comparison to the last one. So without further ado, let’s sink our teeth into some awesomeness that is “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”:

#Season One #Episode 10

“Nightmares”

  • Directed By Bruce Seth Green (Not the dude who played Oz!)
  • Written by Joss Whedon
  • Original Air Date: 12th May 1997

 Re-watching “Nightmares” was a bit of a blast from the past; as the episode opens the audience are presented with the “In every generation…..” sequence; for those who perhaps only tuned into the show by this episode at least have an establishing idea of what the slayer is and what is needed to know about Buffy thus far. We are presented with imagery that is typically associated as repellent against vampires such as weapons, a crucifix necklace along with sunlight over the graveyard. This sequence concludes with a powerful, strong image of Buffy holding a crossbow expressing the determination in her face and overall I just think its a powerful image of female strength; this whole sequence is incredibly nostalgic for me. On with the episode…as we begin; the setting suggests to the audience that we are witnessing a stereotypical horror film; non-digetic eerie music is present, the lighting is dark with candles as the only light, this is in place in order to set a creepy tone; Buffy has finally come face to face with the Master, which is really dropping the audience right into the deep end of the action, leaving us pondering if this will be the final showdown? Buffy mirrors the stereotypical blonde, helpless horror-movie-style victim displaying a sense of vulnerability. I liked the close-up shot of the stake falling out of Buffy’s hand, as it created a bigger sense of tension and fear and implications that our heroine may now be helpless. This scene is reminiscent of older vampire films and I like the whole “Monster Movie” style it conveys. Fortunately Buffy was only experiencing a nightmare which for now puts the audience only slightly at ease.

A major theme in this episodes is the impact adults have on us and how they shape us especially male figures e.g. there is a lot of issues directed at fathers (Joss’s feminist views surfacing again!) and also the sub-plot of the pressurising little league coach. The foreshadowing of the episode is set up through a scene of discussion between Buffy and Willow regarding Buffy’s absent father Hank visiting for the weekend; the only information the audience has about this character is that he doesn’t seem to spend a lot of time with his daughter since the divorce; the second sub-plot of the episode is introduced when we meet Wendell, a fellow class mate of our protagonists along with our first glimpse of a mysterious boy; Wendell is attacked by spiders (a common figure of phobias); this moment occurs right before we are left on a cliffhanger while the opening credits and theme song plays; the audience are kept on edge anticipating what will happen next. I was intrigued by the next scene in which the Master engages in a conversation with the Anointed One on the concept of fear; I like this as it gives the villain of the piece much more layers and makes him a strong, three-dimensional character and all the more scarier; The Master insists that fear is simply psychological and can be controlled, a statement I agree with and I also find interesting the fact that the piece of dialogue was spoken by the villain indicating he is one step ahead of the protagonists as he knows fear better than most. What I enjoy about early “Buffy” is the contrasts between the underworld and the context of normality within the high school setting; this is demonstrated once again in “Nightmares” as the shot pans up from the Hellmouth to Sunnydale High. I like how the hellmouth is too close for comfort and adds edginess to the episodes.

“Buffy” episodes are filled with plenty of twists and turns to keep us on our toes and our first false assumption to throw us off track is when we meet an aggressive Wendell, he gives out an intense speech about how his brother’s lack of care for his pet spiders resulted in them haunting his dreams; leaving the possibility open that he may be behind the spider attack! Moving on; Buffy has a strange encounter during a spur of the moment “history test” and the mysterious boy from the beginning of the episode makes another appearance making it evident he is either the victim of the piece or behind the odd encounters, either way he is definitely connected; we discover later he is a young boy in a coma who was put under pressure by his little league coach who he envisions as a monster; the monster-of-the week is very a very stereotypical image of a child’s nightmare; he is ugly looking and aggressive. This may be off course but the story reminded me slightly of the “Supernatural” (2005-Present) episode “Bedtime Stories” (#3.5) in which there were strange occurrences  due to a young girl being in a coma; she also kept appearing at every crime scene just like Billy; could “Nightmares” have inspired Eric Kripke to write that episode? Anyway Buffy’s father Hank is finally introduced; I thought it was a nice touch that when we first see him Giles is also in the scene, paralleling the two father figures in Buffy’s life. Buffy’s fear of her slaying being the reason for her parents marriage breakdown is now realised; the sense of disconnection between her and her father is demonstrated by the element of space between them when they are sitting on the bench.

I enjoy the possible “accidental” foreshadowing we get in this episode; Willow’s fear of being on stage was touched on in the epilogue of the previous episode “The Puppet Show” (#1.9) and returns again in the surreal, dream-like episode “Restless” (#4.22). Giles remarks “Dreams? That would be a musical comedy version of this. Nightmares. Our nightmares are coming true.” ironically in Buffy’s sixth season; as previously discussed there is in fact a musical episode and in the number “I’ve got  a theory”; Willow sings “: I’ve got a theory, some kid is dreamin’ / And we’re all stuck inside his wacky Broadway nightmare.” I love how self-referential Buffy is and that it nods back to its origin’s in later seasons. I wonder if when Joss was writing this episode that he envisioned the musical episode as by this point as there was no guarantee how many seasons “Buffy” was going to be around for back in 1997.

I think my favourite nightmare sequence in the episode has to be Xander’s clown chase because it is dark humour/horror at its best. I also like it because it demonstrates strong character development as Xander decides to face his fear head on.

The Season Finale “Prophecy Girl” (#1.12) is also foreshadowed as another of Buffy’s fears is realised when the Master rises; I enjoyed the pop culture reference in this scene where The Master ironically quotes Disney’s “Cinderella” (1950) “A dream is a wish your heart makes”; his taunting demonstrates the contrast with the notion that the horror of the scene is not a fairytale and again supporting the idea of controlling your own fear or nightmares. Buffy’s harrowing nightmare of being buried alive is later re-lived in “Bargaining- Part 2” (#6.2) but for real. Giles experiences the nightmare of losing Buffy twice and a sense of helplessness that he could have done more for her. The episode also treats us to the first and only time we get to see what our heroine would look like as a vampire. Finally my favourite intertextual reference in the episode is when the conflicts are resolved and the nightmare realm has left the physical world; Billy finally wakes up mirroring the finale of “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) in which he quotes “I had the strangest dream. And you were there, and you”.

I think “Nightmares” does hold out a strong message; I like the fact Buffy inspires Billy to stand up for himself and not let fear over rule him. Real Power lies in facing up to your fears.

#Season Three #Episode 9

“The Wish”

  • Directed By David Greenwalt
  • Written By Joss Whedon and Marti Noxon
  • Original Air Date 8th December 1998

Looking back on the episode “The Wish” (#3.9) I think the best way I’d describe it is ironic. The episode introduces Anya for the first time as a kind of saviour for Cordelia following her break-up with non other than Xander Harris. The episode deals with the concept of an alternate reality and answers the question of what Sunnydale would have ended up like if Buffy had never arrived?

The episode opens on an establishing shot of a woodland area; primarily associated with horror; again, similarly to “Nightmares” (#1.10) discussed in the previous review; Buffy appears like the “helpless”, stereotypical blonde victim, being throttled by a demon; this opening is very tongue in cheek; Buffy’s attempts to instruct Willow on the necessary weapon needed fails when Willow misinterprets the word “knife” for “norf” resulting in a very funny exchange; I like this moment because it is classic “Buffy” at its best. Once the demon is ganked Buffy remarks how she appreciates Vampires as Demons have to be buried (Just thought I’d add that piece of info in!). I really like the moment that follows where Buffy tells Willow and Xander she doesn’t know what she’d do without them; this challenges the ideology of what the slayer is meant to be and what is to come later in the episode; it’s also a nice moment. “The Wish” follows the episode “Lover’s Walk” (#3.8) in which Cordelia and Oz discover Willow and Xander in a romantic tryst that had been panning out over a number of episodes prior; in retrospect Xander miserably fails to rationalise his actions while Willow takes a more logical approach in terms of wanting to make it right with Oz; highlighting the contrast in character traits between the two; Willow being the smart one and Xander more aloof. I felt it was bittersweet when they both turn to Buffy for advice on how to cope; after everything she went through with Angel; her face still displays raw pain. Moving onto Cordy; the imagery and mise-en-scene indicates she is acting upon witchcraft, it is implied as we see her burning a picture of Xander; even though vengeance is a key theme of this episode, what I love about “Buffy” is its use of using the “supernatural” as a metaphor; this scene could be interpreted either way by the audience; Cordelia is either acting on the craft or merely attempting to naturally move on by ridding herself of all traces of her ex; something admittedly we all do.

As a nice touch; Amy the Witch is referenced by Willow, I think this was added in to remind us of the previous time Xander and Cordelia broke up in “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” (#2.16 ) and how her character was a vital part in Xander’s attempts to cause Cordelia hurt; the other possibility of the reference is to suggest it isn’t the last we have seen of her.

Cordelia uses the classic “moving on approach”, consisting of a new makeover and a “don’t give a shit attitude”; she is however not as thick skinned as she appears to be. Harmony mocks her and cruelly attempts to humiliate her and an innocent Jonathan; through suggesting he’s the “perfect guy” for her. This moment foreshadows the events of future episode “Earshot” (#3.18) but until then this scene may lack relevance until its re-watched; in that shot of Jonathan the isolation is displayed on his face.

Oz and Cordelia are seen dealing with their situations contrastingly; Oz is distant towards Willow; I think the scene is justified but also frustrating as Oz and Willow are one of my favourite couple’s in the verse. Cordelia purely attempts to hurt Xander by implying she is already over him; which I completely empathise with on her part.

Anya was previously introduced as part of Harmony’s clique and seemed to instantly click with Cordelia; ironically as they both end up becoming ex’s of Xander’s. The focus on Anya’s necklace indicates to the audience she isn’t what she seems as she takes a forward interest in Cordelia’s plight. Again this episode holds strong connotations of feminism which I love as Cordelia and Anya rant about men. The scene then cuts to the setting of “The Bronze” where both Cordelia and Xander over-act and exaggerate how “okay” they are in an attempt to aggravate each other. In contrast the scene also demonstrates how the characters have grown up since the first season as Buffy remarks how uncomfortable she is with the notion of it being the “scoobies” against Cordelia once more; “Buffy” is just a fantastic series for portraying strong character growth and development and featuring characters with so many layers that I think from an actor’s point of view they possibly never got bored of playing their roles; also noted is Xander and Willow’s friendship has altered since the beginning of the series; however back in Season Two’s “Bewitched; Bothered and Bewildered” (#2.16); a more than platonic relationship was hinted at. The scene in which Cordelia displays hostility toward Buffy in the alley way followed by a vampire attack is reminiscent of the scene in the pilot episode “Welcome to the Hellmouth” (#1.1) in which Cordelia demands to know “What is your childhood trauma?”; indicating that the narrative between the characters has returned back to square one. The mise-en-scene features garbage cans in which Cordelia ends up getting knocked into mirroring how she’s feeling followed by Harmony mocking her; “dumpster chic for the dumped”.

Anya’s true form is revealed after she goads Cordelia into making a wish and the episode moves into the alternate reality. This episode shows the audience and Cordelia herself how important and significant Buffy is to the world. Harmony and her superficial gang seem slightly more mature in the alternate context along with the other traumatised Sunnydale residents who are living by rules and fear. The establishing shot of the car park pays homage to Zombie-style films with the sense of isolation presented and the idea of a “ghost town”. This may be a stretch here but I think that the fact Joss made the decision to have Xander and Willow as vampires in this universe is a metaphor for Cordelia wanting them out of her life. Similarly to “Nightmares” (#1.10) the fans are treated to seeing how Willow and Xander would be perceived if they became vampires. Vampire Willow is a great character and displays Willow’s hidden confidences (later revisited in “Doppelgangland” (#3.16). Xander is also more suave and confident as a vampire and Cordelia’s worst fear is realised when she sees the hidden sexual chemistry between the fiendish pair; highlighting her insecurity along with making her character more human instead of the “Prom Queen/High School Bitch” stereotype. We then cut to the remaining survivors led by Giles ploughing away as much as they can in order to save the world; demonstrating that his character as not altered in this reality.

The vampire lore in “The Wish” suggests that vampires are attracted to bright lights perhaps to show that they have taken over and no longer have to fear the small matter of a slayer on their backs. The camera pans showing the inside of the Bronze; taking the audience into the vampire’s world and shows us the dark-going’s-on’s and shady atmosphere. With the reveal of The Master it’s as if the audience is revisiting the first season; another compliment I must pay to Joss is that he always keeps is character arc’s and stories accurate; giving a sense of authenticity to the show; it really demonstrates how much he cares for his characters. The audience get the sense of what could have happened pre-season one. The Vampires are portrayed sadistically and calculating; examples of this are seen as the Master utters the line “ I’m trying to eat but she keeps looking at me” in regards to a helpless victim and Willow showing no sense of fear at the mention of the slayer; “Buffy; Ooo Scary”; Later in the series Buffy’s “superiority complex” is delved into; and Dark Willow’s challenges her on that; however in this reality the meaning of the slayer doesn’t hold up the same strength.

The Moment where Vampire Willow locks Giles in Oz’s cage in the library foreshadows her own fate in “Doppelgangland” (#3.16). I thought it was dark humour at its best when we see the Master has a blood machine in place of the domestic coffee machine appliance. The next scene where Willow taunts a vulnerable Angel; depicted as “Puppy”; brings in an interesting, strange and unexpected dynamic between these characters; usually they wouldn’t converse unless it’s in relation to Buffy; it’s also strange to think that Willow knew Angel first along with the connotations of torture, sex and violence between them; it was different and definitely shakes things up. Vampire Willow’s famous line of “Bored now” implies how tedious it must be for vampires to be stuck in all day attempting to give the audience an empathetic feeling towards them.

Finally we come across the alternate reality version of Buffy herself who appears hardened, serious, sceptical, straight-talking and impulsive. She possesses a scar on her top lip indicating how she has fought hard. We see how Buffy would have become as a traditional slayer who lives in isolation. As she enters the Bronze tension is heightened with the sound of footsteps and banging. Buffy and Angel’s characters are completely out of context and Buffy is not as empathetic to the fact he is a vampire like she has in the real world and she does not want to understand him. Buffy is mentally tougher in this episode; she is not reliant on her friends relating back to the opening scene of the episode. The Climax to the end of the reality world that follows this is incredibly intense as scenes cut back and forth between the horror of the Master’s actions and Giles confronting Anyanka. I thought the concept of the Master’s ideology of human mass production was entertaining and added some more dark humour especially when he drained the blood into a wine glass. As I stated at the beginning the episode as a whole is completely ironic as Buffy has to kill and let innocents die; she is faced with no choice due to the path she has taken as a slayer. Anyanka describes the “Brave New World” their characters a thrust into which is also ironic because later as Anya she embraces her human identity. Its surreal seeing our beloved characters killed out of context. The moment where Angel is staked is slightly reminiscent of the opening of “Surprise” (#2.13) in which he is killed by Drusilla and cries Buffy’s name. Several other powerful moments follow this; Buffy stakes Xander and Oz kills Willow which again is metaphorical for removing her from his life. The Master eventually defeats Buffy and snaps her neck; it’s a mixed bag of powerful, stunning and tragic; the line Giles utters “because it has to be” in response to Anya questioning him about what makes him think the other world is that much better is incredibly poignant.

The tone of the episode returns to a light-hearted state as the characters return back to reality; it is now greatly significant as Anya’s character arc has begun; irony again rears its head once more as Cordelia remarks she wishes that Xander will never find anybody else again. The closing of the episode focused on our three core characters Buffy, Willow and Xander brings the episode full circle and reminds us all is right in the world again and is the perfect closure.

“The Wish” is an entertaining, slightly surreal, ironic and a significant episode; it is a treat for fans to observe our beloved characters out of context and also introduced a fabulous character to the show. Cordelia also learnt an important lesson “be careful what you wish for”.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

“I Put a Spell On You” Witches in a Film and Television Context

Posted in Uncategorized on August 17, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Following on from my analysis on Vampyr-ism I have made the decision to look at another supernatural creature in a similar vain. The concept of witches has both terrified and fascinated me over the years as the idea of what a Witch is is not simple or clean cut; In this review I want to analyse how the media has portrayed these creature’s through a number of different and varied film and television texts. The notion of Witchcraft has been present since as early as the 14th Century, it has been viewed and associated with the concept of the devil and controversially implied that it has been set out as an antagonist to Christianity; however witchcraft can also be associated with Wicca practice, using witchcraft in a safe and good intended manner. In this review I’m going to look at how witches are portrayed now and whether they are still viewed as figures of fear or empowering creatures that could be considered role models for women and a comment on feminism.

An Example of Good Vs. Evil in "The Wizard of Oz" (1939)

Let’s begin with Disney; with early films such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” (1937) and “Sleeping Beauty” (1959) Disney has taken on the traditional stereotype of what a witch may be, cruel with a hidden agenda, malicious with intentions of bringing harm to others, the witch back then was Disney’s main villainous character especially in the “Princess” films; the witch was in place to depict jealousy and loathing against the heroine of the piece. The original typical imagery Disney presented us with was that of an ugly, old, hag, draped in black, residing in a dark castle, conjuring spells presumably for evil use.

An Evil Representation: Snow White Hag

However Disney also portrayed “good” witches, supporting the wicca idea, characters such as Mary Poppins from the character-titled-film in 1964 practised magic in a positive light, through encouraging children to do their chores and taking them on wonderful adventures; she also does not resemble the conventional image of a witch, she appears friendly and doesn’t carry around the expected iconography such as a broomstick; she does fly but the “broomstick” idea is replaced with an “umbrella”. Returning to “Sleeping Beauty” (1959) contrasting against the evil Malificent is the three “good fairies or witches” who use their magic against evil; the perfect example here would be when they transform all Malificent’s deathly spells into images we associate with goodness e.g. thorns into flowers; there is a strong contrast between dark and light in that film with good ultimately prevailing; on another note I feel that children learn something through this, all children aspire to be the protagonists and heroes of Disney films and fairytale’s not the villainous characters, its a lesson demonstrating that if you behave wickedly a comeuppance is never far off. The Mary Poppins and Good Fairies characters represent wholesome, middle-aged, parental figures.

Good Witch: Mary Poppins

Interestingly the live-action film “Hocus Pocus” (1993) portrays each witch differently, the witches do display the atypical iconography of possessing broomsticks and a black cat. Bette Middler’s character is the traditional old hag stereotype, Sarah Jessica Parker’s character is an example of modern female empowerment, she uses her sexuality for manipulative gain, she is again different from the previous witches discussed as she adds glamour and doesn’t take on the conservative or hag image. Finally; Kathy Najimy’s character is in place to portray the more humours, bumbling witch for comedy value. Another example of different traits incorporated into the villainous witch character would be that of the Sea-Witch Ursula in “The Little Mermaid” (1989) she is horrid and uses her power for her own benefit however also uses her sexuality in order to take control and pursue what she wants by transforming into Vanessa. In all fairness Disney does demonstrate the different stereotypes and ideologies surrounding witches, showing the opposing sides.

3 portrayals of witches: Hocus Pocus

What has always interested me about witches and is mostly highlighted through various adaptations of the Salem Witch trials is the idea that witches acted as figures to represent moral panics and fear amongst society, unlike other “Supernatural Monsters” witches are real people who choose to dabble in the occult and it is in place to challenge what people already think they know, hence me previously stating witchcraft was viewed as the “anti-Christianity”. I am now going to look deeper into the portrayal of witches in a film context, from the mythological perceptions we have of them e.g. “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) to the outcry of fear they posses e.g. “The Crucible” (1996) and whether witches ever existed in the first place or were they simply a scapegoat for society’s flaws?

"Haxan" or "Hexen" ("Witchcraft through the Ages") (1921)

In 1921 Danish director Benjamin Christensen presented a silent documentary-styled film titled “Haxan” or “Hexen” or alternatively “Witchcraft through the Ages”; he demonstrated the deep research he accumulated on witchcraft prior to beginning the film. The director appears in the film himself discussing demonic cultural beliefs and his study of “Malleus Maleficarum”, the infamous treatise on witches that refuted all scepticism as to whether witchcraft exists. The discussion in “Haxan” suggests that disease and illness were to blame for the hysteria surrounding witchcraft; along with fear and lack of understanding towards mental illness. The film was considered perverted and graphic combining the thin line between sex and death or sex and sacrifice and witchcraft associated with all things demonic and the devil himself.

Regarding the Salem witch trials the notion of witchcraft is ultimately evil as false accusations and word of mouth resulted in the deaths of the innocent. The 1937 film “Maid of Salem” and later “The Crucible” (1996) delved into these themes. Some people used the Salem Witch trials in 1692 to their advantage and for their own personal gain; however even if witchcraft was never used and it was just pure hysteria, the idea is still indicated that witchcraft or the notion of it is all about power and manipulation linking back to the initial portrayal of the Disney witch. It was believed that these “witches” were making pacts with Satan himself; although because of the fear and hysteria that were clouding judgements in society, usually the innocent were being wrongly accused of practising. I realise that in my introduction that I depicted witches as “creatures” just like other mythical entities such as werewolves or vampires, but looking at the realism of witches and what went on in Salem, I am now going to use this term loosely as it could be argued that these “witches” are simply just power-craving humans. It is further questioned through this as to whether witchcraft was real or simply hysteria.

I realise along with “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003); I discuss “The Wizard Of Oz” (1939) to a great extent, but I think in terms of this review its essential I talk about the Wicked Witch of the West character as she reinforced the stereotype of the evil hag witch; complete with the iconic broomstick. Margaret Hamilton’s portrayal of the Wicked Witch is responsible for the archetype of how we perceive witches to look like. The Land of Oz also has its “good witches” as well as “bad witches”; despite appearing more fairy like with a wand in place of a broomstick, Glinda is titled “The Good Witch of The North” and uses her power in order to write the wrongs of the Wicked Witch of the West’s harmful attacks on Dorothy and co; the witches of Oz demonstrate that if you are horrible and wicked you will look ugly but if you help others and do good deeds you will be viewed as beautiful. We are presented with imagery of what a witch should look like however “The Wizard of Oz” still portrays that not all witches are evil and ugly; it was a very influential film in developing the popular witch stereotypes and borrowed concepts for Hans Christian Anderson and the Brother’s Grimm.

The Classic Interpretation of a Witch

Going back to more “realistic” interpretations of witchcraft and the occult, I recently watched a screening of  Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring” (1960) which again brought back the panic and fear of the Paganism VS. Christianity argument; the film implies that the rape and murder of the young daughter Karin (played by Birgitta Pettersson) was willed by Ingeri (played by Gunnel Lindblom) due to worshipping the Pagan God Odin. More than anything the biggest theme in this film is that of morality. Its indicated that paganism is associated with evil and the contrasts between the hardened, realist Ingeri and the optimistic, virginal Karin help demonstrate darkness and light,and to an extent evil and good. However when it comes down to it the focus is on Karin’s parents (Played by Max von Sydow and Brititta Valberg) who are Christians and decide to act on vengeance and commit the sin of murder anyway but later begs God for forgiveness. This film made me question whether Paganism was actually the evil side as God allowed the horrific nature of Karin’s murder happen when she was ironically on the way to church; therefore again is this ideology of witchcraft we have misunderstood?

An Image of Ingeri in "The Virgin Spring" (1960)

“The Wicker Man” (1973) despite being one of my all time favourite horror films is considered to be the most accurate and respectful portrayal of Paganism; the film wanted to portray the authenticity of witch covens complete with human sacrifice. In “The Wicker Man” the witchcraft practices are carried out by the whole community, suggesting that paganism is the majority and Christianity the minority in this instance. The Pagan’s were seen praying to their God’s in order for their crops to harvest however they still manipulated Sgt. Howie (Played by Edward Woodward) for their own gain and are still depicted as “murderers” through this film. The audience’s empathy remains with our Christian protagonist.

Lord Summerailse (Played by Christopher Lee) unveiling "The Wicker Man"

Noticeably both “The Virgin Spirng” (1960) and “The Wicker Man” (1973) still support the idea that witchcraft is a harmful practice.

Later films such as “The Witches of Eastwick” (1987) showed the relationship between witches and the devil himself; for me this questions the feminist aspect of witchcraft if ultimately their purpose is to serve and commit evil deeds for a male figure. However the witches (played by Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon) eventually come to realise his corrupting influence. The film also gave the sense of witches being a part of a sisterhood culture. “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968) also dealt with the themes of the seduction of the devil displaying human greed for wealth despite the consequences and witchcraft was acted out in a community setting.

"The Witches of Eastwick" with the "Devil" (Played by Jack Nicholson)

I have touched on witches in children’s films through discussing their portrayal in Disney and arguably “The Wizard of Oz”; while many still consider The Wicked Witch of The West or The Evil Queen in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” to be films scariest witch my opinion turns to that of Angelica Huston’s portrayal of the “Grand High Witch” in the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” (1990). As a child I feared this character as she is the perfect example of the horrid, evil, ugly witch; there is nothing positive about this character and I find it even more creepy that all the witches in this film’s main goal is to set out and harm children out of hatred, again through manipulation; the film also demonstrated the witches transforming humans into animals an example of curses. This film opens the question as to whether we go through childhood viewing witches as figures of fear; luckily television programmes such as “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch” (1996-2003) (which I will discuss shortly) redeems this assumption by showing magic used for good. The portrayal of witches presented in this film is downright eerie and terrifying as well as conveying a monstrous appearance; and still scares me beyond any single horror film I have ever watched.

Pure Scariness: The Grand High Witch

Moving into the mid-to-late nineties; teen-witch horror film “The Craft” (1996) came out and delved into the idea that witchcraft is an inheritance gift. Sarah (played by Robin Tunney) inherited “witchcraft” from her mother; after beginning a new school in a new town, she comes across others like her; consisting of wicked Nancy (Played by Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Played by Neve Campbell) and Rochelle (Played by Rachel True); the witchcraft again in this film is used for darker purposes as the girls curse or hex anyone who slightly angers them. “The Craft” could be considered as an earlier, darker version of “Charmed” (1998-2006); the film used the song “How Soon Is Now?” performed by “The Smiths” for its soundtrack which later became the theme song for “Charmed”. The Witches were portrayed darkly and this was demonstrated by their gothic style (especially Fairuza Balk’s character); the film also held up the theme of “sisterhood”, binding together each of their gifts in order to create something incredibly powerful. “The Craft” still suggested and portrayed the dangerous nature of witchcraft.

Gothic, teen witches; "The Craft" (1996)

“Practical Magic” (1998) was a much lighter take on the subject; depicted as a “family film”; starring Nicole Kidman (Gillian Owens) and Sandra Bullock (Sally Owens); the film continued with the idea of witchcraft being a part of the family environment. I would argue that “Practical Magic” is a feminist film as the witches outlive any man they have a relationship with due to the family being cursed. Like “The Craft” possessing witchcraft in this film is viewed as a gift. The witches conform to the stereotypes of traditional witches through the use of symbolism e.g. a pet black cat and broomsticks and especially when they are draped in halloween costumes at the end of the film. Sandra Bullock’s character Sally attempts to live in normality but this is not the case as the community around her judge and treat her differently due to her heritage. “Practical Magic” was more about Wicca and took a more comedic approach at the lore. Still; even though they were being portrayed as “good witches” with good intentions and just wanted to protect themselves they still ended up committing the ultimate sin of murder even though it was against an unsavoury character. The audience does share a lot of empathy with these characters especially Sally as she strives for a normal life and has to contend with constant stigma in her town. “Practical Magic” deals with the subject of conspiracy, its a metaphor for accepting difference and to me is a modern adaptation of the stigma and lack of understanding witches faced just like in Salem; while still depicting the classic iconography of hexes and curses.

Sisterly Bond: "Practical Magic"

For the past decade witches and wizards have been at the forefront of the film world; yes I’m talking about the “Harry Potter” (2001-2011) series of films. Hermione (Played by Emma Watson) is a perfect role model of a “good witch” that genuinely conjures her magic to help others; she is also depicted as incredibly smart. The themes regarding witchcraft in these films are very stereotypical with the characters seen wearing pointy hats and flying around on broomsticks. “Harry Potter” ensured that witchcraft could be viewed as acceptable, despite a few campaigns that banned the books in America; I honestly cannot see anything anti-Christian about the witchcraft conveyed in these books and films when they are shown using their magic for good against evil and are looking out for each other- isn’t that what the Christian religion is meant to be promoting anyway? Many Christians panicked at the thought of “Harry Potter” prompting young children to practice any form of paganism due to the symbolism in the books and films; which I personally think is ridiculous; I think its important to have an imagination and indulge in that and also defy the villainous stereotype witches mainly posses; If people want to practice paganism I think its important to be open-minded and look into other religions and Christianity needs to accept that its not the be all and end all. The hidden sub-text in “Harry Potter” is misinterpreted and J.K Rowling herself stated that she did not use “Harry Potter” as a way of promoting occultism or wicca; but still as far as the films are concerned its nice to see witchcraft used as a metaphor in a positive manner.

Good Witch Role Model: Hermione

I am now going to move into television territory and see the similarities and dissimilarities between how witches are portrayed in comparison to film.

During the 1960’s “Bewitched” (1964-1972) was a popular sitcom that told the story of Samantha Stephens (Played by Elizabeth Montgomery) a witch who marries a mortal and reveals on their honeymoon that she possesses magical powers. Samantha came from a family of witches just like in “Practical Magic” (1998) that I previously discussed; supporting the argument of witchcraft indeed being inherited instead of learned. Samantha uses her powers against her husband’s wishes by twitching her nose, an iconic feature of the show. “Bewitched” was a light-hearted, feel-good sitcom that showed a positive stereotype of witches and used as a metaphor for family chaos. As it was set during the 1960’s Samantha’s character took on the role of a traditional housewife, her magic was in use to demonstrate efficiency and perhaps a comment on the fact women of that era had the luxury of new labour saving devices in order to contend with housework. “Bewitched” was a fun show and reinforced the positive stereotypes surrounding witchcraft. It was also the longest running “Supernatural”-based genre sitcom of its time.

Desperate Housewitch? Samantha (Played by Elizabeth Montgomery)

Another light-hearted television show featuring the theme of witchcraft was “Sabrina: The Teenage Witch” (1996-2003). Sabrina (Played by Melissa Joan Hart) was a regular teenager who again inherited the gift of magic; the majority of the series focused on Sabrina discovering who she really is with magic as a metaphor for growing up; Sabrina contends with the day-to-day trails of teenage life from high school to dating; eventually the character of her boyfriend Harvey (played by Nate Richert) learns of her special abilities. “Sabrina” looked into the possibility of there being a separate witch realm from the physical world; she lives with her Aunts; Hilda (Played by Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Played by Beth Broderick) who try to teach her more about the craft usually ending in humorous results; “Sabrina” was also in the style of a sitcom just like “Bewitched”. In regards to atypical iconography Sabrina owns a talking black cat fittingly named Salem (Voiced by Nick Bakay). The moral of “Sabrina” was all about her learning from her actions which was an important message for its young viewers; again indicating she is a strong role model. “Sabrina” overall supports the argument that witchcraft can be used in a positive light.

Teenage Witch: Sabrina and Salem

“Charmed” (1998-2006) has been referred to in this review on a couple of occasions and now I’m going to look into the themes of this popular television programme. Admittedly; I’m not a fan and didn’t stick to it after the first four episodes therefore I am reliant on research for this section of the review. “Charmed” supports the theme of sisterhood and family that we have previously seen in films such as “The Witches of Eastwick” and “Practical Magic” as well as in “Sabrina”. The show revolves around actual witches not practitioners who posses what is known as “active powers”; each witch possess a separate power such as telekinesis and premonitions. “Charmed” is based on the idea of Wicca and they battle against demons and again use their powers for good use protecting innocents; “The Charmed Ones”  lives are split between the “Community” of having a normal life and the “Magical Community” indicating the idea of two different realms. The whole concept suggests that they have to keep their identities a secret possibly due to the lack of understanding witches have faced throughout history. The “Charmed Ones” add glamour to witchcraft and appear as normal young women; therefore not complying with the stereotypical witch we saw in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939). Similarly to other texts in this review the “Charmed” portrayal of witchcraft is overall positive and gives out the message of helping others for the greater good.

"Charmed" Sisterhood

Now I am going to discuss probably my favourite fictional witch of all time; Willow Rosenberg (Played by Alyson Hannigan) from my favourite “supernatural” television programme “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003); when the series began Willow was not a witch, it was something she learned contrasting with the concept of it being an inherited gift and part of a sisterhood; Willow was a shy but smart young girl who contributed massively and helped Buffy save the world. A lot. It wasn’t until the third season that Willow began practising her magical talents before becoming a fully-fledged witch later on. Witchcraft was used as a metaphor to transform this shy bookworm-ish character into a confident young woman; she had now found herself. Willow began using her strength and magical powers for good, battling demons with Buffy and restoring evil Angelus’s soul; however hints of her darker side were seen in Season four when werewolf boyfriend Oz (Played by Seth Green) cheated with fellow wolf Veruca (“Wild at Heart” #4.6) but due to her sweet nature she couldn’t go through with casting a harmful spell on him; her meddling with magic has often got her into trouble e.g. (“Something Blue” #4.9) and (“Tabula Rasa” #6.8). One of the most powerful feminist relationships portrayed on television was between Willow and Tara (Played by Amber Benson) using the concept of witchcraft as a metaphor for exploring her sexuality; Willow however became more powerful and used her magic for her own gain by attempting to control those around her mainly Tara (e.g, “Once More With Feeling” #6.7); eventually creator Joss Whedon used magic as a metaphor for addiction and Willow really hit a low point after the death of her lover and exacted out gruesome revenge and murder; she was eventually redeemed and saved the world. Willow possesses traits of a good witch and the wicca practice but also the darker side of black magick; her story is in place to demonstrate the harmful nature of addiction and that an individual must hit rock bottom in order to get better; therefore I would argue despite later being portrayed as a dark witch, Willow does grow and develop as a character so I would say she is a strong role model for women.

Dark Side: Willow

In “Supernatural” (2005-Present) third season; we were presented with Eric Kripke’s perceptions of what witches are. Sam (Played by Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Played by Jensen Ackles) evidently battle evil, therefore the witches conveyed in the episode titled “Malleus Maleficarum” (#3.9) are set out to cause harm to others for personal gain. I liked how they kept the suburban housewife concept and used the cover of “book club” for these women to carry out their practices with gruesome consequence’s (teeth falling out anyone?). “I hate witches. They’re always spewing their bodily fluids everywhere…it’s creepy. Y’know, it’s downright unsanitary” as Dean nicely put; indicating negative aspects surrounding witches or maybe the thought of powerful women who are in control of the supernatural intimidates our favourite hunters! That line indicates the amount of blood witches spill for sacrifice; the episode also suggests the dangers of practising magic and women being dragged into the coven are in way over their head.

Dean and the Witch-Demon "Maelleus Maleficarum"

Finally; I am going to discuss the latest episode of “True Blood” (2008-present); I have yet to watch this show as a whole however I  viewed the episode “Spellbound” (#4.8) as part of my research. I thought the concept of having witches using their powers against vampires was an interesting dynamic, powerful witches controlling vampires causing them to walk out into the sun. I thought this hybrid idea was interesting. The coven of witches showed both men and women acting on the craft which is expanding the lore out to both sexes more as witchcraft is mainly portrayed by women and extremely feminist. It is indicated in the episode that witches are walking a dangerous line mixing with vampires so are they possibly viewed as lesser creatures as they are not supernatural beings?

Witches Vs. Vamps- "True Blood"

Well; here we are at the conclusion; I hope the examples illustrated have helped gain an understanding of the different concepts surrounding witches and their practices. I think overall that all the texts discussed do give a balanced argument of the different styles of witches that are out there; in both film and television, a lot of similarities are present. Each text reinforces the witch stereotype with its atypical iconography. Magic almost always even the wicca side is shown as being used for personal gain and the results are mostly negative unless its for the good of others. The concept of witchcraft can be positive and negative and I believe if a judge from the Salem Witch Trials had a time machine and saw the influence and positive aspects that witchcraft has progressed into today, they would have a better understanding and viewed things differently. I would like to add that witches are empowering examples of strong female characters and role models for women.

Thanks for reading and look out for this review in next month’s “Independent Voice E-Zine” (http://www.theindependentvoice.org)

Hayley Alice Roberts.

My Top 10 Favourite Musicals of All Time- Part Two

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews on August 13, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Here is the continuation of my countdown on what I consider my personal favourite musicals to be of stage and screen; I don’t think we need a long introduction here; you guys know the drill…so let’s begin with number five:

5. “Grease” (1978)

 I first saw the film version of “Grease” as a child (however I think the innuendo’s completely went over my head!); nobody can deny that it is one of the classics and to an extent its themes of teenage growing pains still holds up and is still relevant to teenagers today. It is probably one of my most watched films and I have seen it on the stage on two occasions; professionally in Llandudno around ten years ago and as a toned down high school production. If looked at closer it has a lot to say about the difference in gender and how men and women are perceived differently in the film; for example in the song “Summer Nights” the lyrics entwine, however the male characters are placed in a separate location from the female characters and come off as more rebellious and crude, whereas the female’s especially Sandy (played by Olivia Newton-John) has a more innocent perspective on her romance with Danny (Played by John Travolta). The musical is also about friendship and being there when your really needed e.g. Danny filling in for Kenickie (Played by the late Jeff Conway) on Thunder road. My only issue with the musical as probably is with most people is the message it presents suggesting ultimately in order to win over a guy’s affections you have to “slut yourself up”, I think in order to enjoy the film for what it is its best not to take that part of the story too seriously, overlook it and just enjoy it for what it is; however I think Danny’s character also made an attempt to change for Sandy; therefore I think it should have been implied that no one should change for another person and accept each other for who they are deep down. “Grease” has some fantastic and memorable numbers that are addictive and catchy and people to this day still enjoy the “Grease Medley” at parties and disco’s. I also love the 50’s pop soundtrack during the school dance sequence as I am pretty obsessed with everything 1950’s; and as I stated previously, its just memorable and nostalgic.

4. “Chicago” (Film:2002) (Stage: 1975-Present)

 Out of all the “new musical movies” I think “Chicago” (2002) is the one that dazzle’s the most! Catherine Zeta-Jones (Velma Kelly) Rene Zellweger (Roxie Hart) and Richard Gere (Billy Flyn) all gave out incredible strong performances. “Chicago” has the right mix of intensity, class and to a certain degree is modern enough to keep younger audiences engaged in the story and the music. I love how the fantasy sequences bring glamour to the dreary prison setting. The “Cell Block Tango” for me is the best number and on both screen and stage it is done cleverly through dance and music; I love how all the scorned prisoners stories unfold and its darkly humours when they reveal how and why they killed their victims. The characters are larger than life and entertaining especially Mama Morton. Roxie and Velma are brilliant characters, despite being murderesses and criminals as an audience you can’t help rooting for them hoping they won’t end up on death row; its an interesting spin having the protagonist committing a horrific crime yet the audience still expressing empathy for them; I think I enjoy the twisted nature of that aspect. I have been fortunate enough to see two professional productions of “Chicago”; on the West End in 2003 and more memorably last year in my home town of Aberystwyth which I think was its first UK production of the show off the West End; definitely something to be proud of.  “Chicago” overall is dark, humours, impressive and down right entertaining and includes several memorable numbers; the opening of “All That Jazz” still gives me chills.

3. “Once More With Feeling” (2001)

 For the regular readers of my blog, you will all ready be aware that I am a complete nerd when it comes down to “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003) so the fact that this unique musical episode is on this countdown will come as no surprise. “Buffy” is a show that has several moments where it could be imagined that the characters would burst into song and its no secret that creator Joss Whedon had been itching to make a musical for so long and the perfect opportunity came in its Sixth Season; the storyline’s fit in brilliantly with the concept of a musical, Buffy (Played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) being out of touch with life after her resurrection, Spike’s (Played by James Marsters) not-so-secret infatuation with Buffy, Tara (Played by Amber Benson) being manipulated by Willow (played by Alyson Hannigan) and her descending into dark magick, Giles (Played by Anthony Head) no longer feeling needed, Xander (Played by Nicholas Brendan) and Anya’s (Played by Emma Caulfield) wedding nerves etc. I love how the cast gave it their all and the numbers brilliantly fit in with the context of the show’s current storylines. My favourite numbers have to be “Rest In Peace” performed by Spike as he can no longer hide and his feelings as they just spill out in song, I also like it because its more of a rock sounding song and definitely edgy; “Under Your Spell” performed by Tara is the perfect love song, and the episode’s antagonist the demon Sweet is sensational, Hinton Battle who played him was actually a Broadway actor, its great they added someone with that level of musical talent into the mix. The most powerful moment for me is “Something to Sing about” in which Buffy can no longer hide her emotions and reveals to her friends that she had been contented and was ripped out of heaven; it always chokes me up. I love “Once More With Feeling” it was a ground breaking piece of television and an nice little homage and comment on musicals in general.

2. “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

 I have previously discussed in a previous review how “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) has been a huge part of me growing up and I think it has been the musical that I have seen on stage the most. I love the element of escapism, the powerful portrayal of women, the infectious, catchy numbers, the quirky characters and the ultimate message of discovering who you really are. I think that its an essential part of childhood and every kid should experience it. For me “The Wizard of Oz” has stayed with me my entire life; I think it has such a strong and positive message. Dorothy is a strong heroine, she is fiercely independent and a feminist of her time and for me is one of the best role model’s in cinematic and musical history. I love the film’s optimistic tone and the characters playing as metaphor’s for people in Dorothy’s (played by Judy Garland) life. The film was ground breaking in its day and it was the hope and escapism people needed; the second world war had broken out, America had seen a collapse in Capitalism, times were depressing and “The Wizard of Oz” reminded people of what really matters and the concept of home and how we get back to what’s important to us. It really did keep up morale and still holds up today in relation to the recent recession and fear of terror. Every time I hear Judy Garland’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” I get chills and feel slightly chocked up as its just a powerful, stunning song as well as being iconic. I love the parallel idea of the physical world and the fantasy world; the realism of the Wizard’s character as a metaphor for believing in something and it not turning out how you expected. I love how the film was ahead of its time, the special effects were amazing for its day, without the option if CGI the tornado scene was created by using wind machines and dust which is impressive. My favourite numbers from “The Wizard of Oz” aren’t conventional choices I love all of them however my favourites have to be “Optimistic Voices” and the deleted scene “The Jitterbug”; I love the jazzy sound of it. “Wizard of Oz” is my second favourite musical of all time as it has stood the test of time, its easy to relate to, its message is strong and important and it provides escapism, along with several catchy, fun numbers, its part of history and I don’t think it will ever date.

My Review of the West End Version: https://mshayleyr1989.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/youve-gotta-go-there-to-come-back-oz-on-the-west-end/

…And Now…Ladies and Gentlemen; Here is what I think is the greatest musical of all time….

1. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975

 I’m aware that this is not a conventional choice and I’m guessing many would disagree with me here but “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” or “The Rocky Horror Show” as the stage version is titled is my ultimate favourite; in some respects I view it as a more grown up “Wizard of Oz”; we have these protagonists Brad (Played by Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Played by Susan Sarandon) embarking on a journey of self discovery, having their minds opened (as well as other things!) and entering a whole new bizarre world. The “Transylvanian’s” could be viewed as the “Munchkins” of the piece; I love its Horror and Sci-Fi B Movie references, how it dares to be unique and outrageous. What’s wonderful about “Rocky Horror” is its such an interactive musical that allows the audience to engage with it; It wasn’t until I saw the touring version of the stage show last year in Llandudno that I experienced the full impact and the sense of community it brings; everyone dressed up, brought props and it was just good fun. The character of Frank-N-Furter (Played by Tim Curry in the Movie and David Bedella in the touring production I saw in 2010) is a complex one, he has appeal to both men and women and posseses masculine and feminine qualities; his entrance has to be one of the absolute best character introductions I have ever seen, “Sweet Transvestite” tells the audience everything we need to know about this sexually awakened transvestite alien; I love how it invites you to explore your true self and the best number for me has to be “Don’t Dream It; Be It”, I think its a unique yet poignant message which reminds you to just be yourself ad take the chance of becoming who you are while you can. I love the fun “Frankenstein Monster” sub-plot, the Meatloaf cameo and the awesome songs. I first saw “Rocky Horror” when I was twelve and have been doing the “Time Warp” ever since! Its wonderful, wacky, down right outrageous, fun, daring, shocking and completely cult and for all those reasons it is my favourite musical of all time! It most definitely thrills, chills and fulfils!

Thank you for reading; I would love to hear what you all think of my choices and what musicals you think should have been on my list!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

My Top 10 Favourite Musicals of All Time- Part One

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews on August 7, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

So its been a while since I wrote a countdown review, last time I discussed my personal favourite horror films of the past decade (https://mshayleyr1989.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/my-top-10-horror-movies-of-the-noughties-part-one/ and https://mshayleyr1989.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/my-top-10-horror-movies-of-the-noughties-part-two/); I now am however going to discuss what is my second favourite film genre, the musical. Ever since I can remember I have had a love for theatre and have been lucky to have the opportunity to see a wide variety of plays, pantomimes and of course musicals, as seen in previous reviews I have experienced two of the best nights of my life this year and that is down to the sheer brilliance of going to the West End in London and seeing some stunning productions. The Musical for me is my favourite type of show, I love the surrealism and the use of music to tell a story to explain a characters emotions. In this review I am going to be looking at my favourite musicals from both stage and screen; so sit back, relax, enjoy and all that jazz:

10. “Ghost-The Musical” (2011-present)

I am not going to spend a lot of time on this one as I have previously written a review on the whole show which can be found here, https://mshayleyr1989.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/are-you-still-mine-a-review-of-ghost-the-musical/ and here http://www.eurythmics.me.uk/ghost-the-musical-audience-reviews/ ; however I currently can’t get enough of this show and it has been one of my biggest talking points as of late. As a musical it is very current and edgy and ambitious in terms of its use of digital imagery to create the setting for the story. The story is incredibly powerful and emotional; and due to it being a recent musical I have been fortunate enough to see the complete original cast who’s performances were beyond incredible; the leads Richard Fleeshman (Sam Wheat); Caissie Levy (Molly Jensen) Sharon D Clarke (Oda Mae Brown) and Andrew Langtree (Carl Bruner) created believable characters that kept the audience engaged. It would be my absolute dream to have the opportunity to see this show again as I have never experienced anything so magical in my entire life. I now own the cast album and fell in love with the music that captures both the tragic nature and the comedy of the show; the music seems to have a mix of rock and more soulful sounding songs especially Oda Mae’s numbers. I was delighted to hear that the West End run of the show has been extended till late 2012. All I can say is go see this show; I promise the experience is worth while and you will be absolutely spellbound. Believe.

9. “Singin’ In The Rain” (1952)

 Well what can I say?! “Singin’ In The Rain” (1952) is one of the all time classics. I initially saw this on stage in my home town back in 2004 prior to seeing the film, and I thoroughly enjoyed the production especially the iconic scene which featured actual water on stage; after viewing this I was spurned on to rent the film which I loved just as much. I have never actually been a huge fan of the older musicals in all honesty, maybe its a generation factor in some ways but I completely detest a lot of the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals such as “The Sound of Music” (1965) and “The King and I” (1956) ever since I was a child; I do however respect that they are considered classics and loved by many people but that’s just my opinion; I think what I liked about “Singin’ In The Rain” is the story; the fact that it is set in back-stage Hollywood and tells the story of the history of how the “talkies” came about; the decline of silent cinema and how technology in terms of the film industry was changing and advancing; I think the plot was what mainly held my interest. I also love how classic Hollywood this musical is; featuring entrancing dance sequences and memorable songs that can easily get stuck in the head; my personal favourite being “Good Morning”. Gene Kelly was such a fantastic dancer and his performance in the film as Don Lockwood has to be one of the best in terms of musical cinema. I think what I also enjoy about the musical is that it tells the story of the underdog who achieve’s stardom by the end; I am discussing the character of Kathy (played by Debbie Reynolds) here and I think her version of “You are my lucky Star” is one of my favourite songs in the entire musical. “Singin’ In The Rain” will definitely give you a glorious feeling!

8. “Blood Brothers” (1983- present)

 For me, “Blood Brothers” has always been a very underrated musical or as I would depict it “a play with songs”; I say this as I rarely hear people discussing it these days. Amazingly the show has remained on the West End for over twenty years and as far as I’m aware also has a touring production around the UK and has played all over the world at one time or another. Again with “Blood Brothers” similarly to the other musicals I have discussed I think the most powerful element it has is its story. The show or play mirrors a Shakespearean tragedy where the audience are taken on a lifelong journey with the characters of Mickey and Eddie; despite knowing the heartbreaking outcome we still remain transfixed with how their journey unfolds to the bitter end. What I like about “Blood Brothers” is that it feels very real, the characters are representative of people we could all know in real life and I love the true British grit it portrays; I love how it plays both tragedy and comedy very well; in terms of comedy I think its clever and daring to have the children versions of the protagonists played by adult actors; It really does give actors a chance to play such a range from child-like to the more darker parts of the play. I thought it was so clever ending the first half so upbeat with the number “Bright New Day” indicating that everything is now looking up for this working class family while lulling the audience into a false sense of security. A connection of empathy between the audience and the characters is created especially regarding Mrs Johnstone; watching her unfortunate struggle unfold is painful and her most iconic number “Tell Me Its Not True” is a massive tear-jerker. The character of the Narrator fascinated me acting as a negative conscience throughout the entire play for Mrs Johnstone; I liked his dark and superstitious nature and I think I enjoy his songs the most as he brings us back to the reality of what is happening to these characters. I have seen this show twice on the West End back in 2007 and 2008; although I would say the songs are incredibly repetitive it still has to be one of the most powerful pieces I have ever witnessed on stage.

7. “Hairspray” (2007)

 Unfortunately I have not as of yet had the opportunity to see “Hairspray” on stage; therefore I am going to purely discuss the film version that was released in 2007. This film was part of the musical-movie revival we had throughout the noughties possibly starting with “Chicago” (2003) or slightly further back with “Moulin Rouge” (2001). Ultimately I think “Hairspray” delivers a positive message demonstrating the struggle for acceptance that occurred for the African-American race during the 1960’s; I also like that the film focuses on the protagonist determined to make a positive change for the better. I think the film was brilliantly cast and all the performances are fabulous; Nikki Blonsky (who played Tracy Turnbland) offers so much potential up against the legendary performers that are John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken and Queen Latifah. The music in the film is infectious; “You Can’t Stop the Beat” is probably in my top favourite musical songs of all time; “Ladies Choice” is my second favourite number in the musical and ironically Zac Efron reminds me of a young John Travolta; I think all the musical numbers have so much energy and admittedly I do have a fascination with the dancing styles of the 1950’s and 1960’s; Queen Latifah’s rendition of “I Know where I’ve been” is the most powerful performance with lyrics inspired by the civil rights movement and for a moment does take a serious note and tones down the complete surreal nature of the film. Despite being fun and entertaining I feel that “Hairspray” is in place to educate audiences; you can’t help but feel you have taken something positive away with you after watching it. I think its important that it portrays a protagonist that isn’t conventional and that anybody can achieve their dreams if they work hard at it and make a difference. I hope that one day I will be fortunate enough to see a touring production of this musical as I would be interested to see how it is portrayed on the stage.

6. “Mamma Mia” (Stage: 1999-Present) (Film: 2008)

“Mamma Mia!” is my favourite feel-good musical of all time; having seen both the film and stage version, when I come out of either I can’t stop smiling. Some people may be sceptical as its a “Jukebox Musical”; however if all you are looking for is a simplistic, light-hearted story and enjoyable music then “Mamma Mia!” is for you and those are the reasons I enjoy it so much. I can relate to the portrayal of the Mother and Daughter relationship so I think that is what the biggest pull of the story is for me; and of course like many I have grown up listening to ABBA music and I honestly believe that it hasn’t dated. Regarding the film version, I think the locations where it was filmed are absolutely breathtaking; the choice of cast was perfect and throughout the whole film it looks like they are having so much fun making it; Meryl Streep particularly impressed me with her rendition of “The Winner Takes it All” resulting in a powerful cinematic moment. What I liked about the show is that it gave so much more than the film and added more dimensions to the story; I loved how songs such as “Knowing me, Knowing you” and “One of Us” were included in their contexts and how the second act opened with a number called “Under Attack” a dream-sequence in which gave the audience an insight into the character of Sophie’s anxiety’s surrounding her wedding and finding her father. “Mamma Mia!” is complete escapism and is incredibly feel-good as I have previously stated; I think its going to be eternally popular and like other musicals such as “Grease” (1978) it will be one that can be watched over again and again!

So there we have it; part one of my all time favourite musicals; Part 2 will be on its way very soon. I would love to hear your comments and critcisms; do you agree or disagree with my choices? and what are your favourite musicals and why?

Hayley Alice Roberts.

First Look: “Friends With Benefits”: The TV Show (2011)

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews on August 7, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Lately there has been a couple of films released surrounding the concept of “friends with benefits”; the notion of having sexual relations with a close friend without having to contend with the hardships of a relationship. So far we have had “No Strings Attached” (2011) starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher and yet to be released “Friends with Benefits” (2011) coincidently starring Natalie Portman’s “Black Swan” (2010) co-star Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake; Along with those US channel NBC has just aired a new comedy series with the same title as the Kunis/Timberlake film. These films and the Television series seem to be purely making a comment on modern day, 21st Century romance depicting how so much has evolved; people are now living longer, are more career-focused and are perhaps in no rush to settle down as much as it was a necessity to around 60 years ago; men and women also share more equality than ever or is it simply much more difficult to find a decent partner these days? Is casual sex an easy answer to fulfil intimate needs without getting hurt? I have just viewed the pilot episode of this new Television show which is evidently going to be discussed in this review and overall I found it very entertaining if not a little surreal in places. It is directed by David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers” (2005) ); Spoilers Included.

The show centres on five friends; arguably in their late-twenties to early-thirties living in Chicago all ultimately searching for one thing; finding an ideal partner however in the meantime settling for whatever they can get. Judging from the pilot the main protagonists are evidently Ben (Played by Ryan Hansen) and Sarah (Played by Danneel Ackles); already I like these characters, they have great chemistry and seem perfect for each other however the conflicts of modern day pressures seem to be preventing them from saying “yes, why don’t we get together”. Ben’s character is overly choosy and seems focused on the flaws of all the women he dates and using this trait as a scapegoat to not progress any further with the relationships. Sarah’s character on the other hand is searching for someone to settle down with, despite seeming very career-driven with having a respectable job as a doctor, her focus is on wanting to get married and having children; demonstrating how modern day attitudes conflict with the traditional values of how we should live our lives. Aaron (played by Zach Cregger) is a much more impulsive character; he appears to rush into relationships too quickly and scares off the girl by being too overpowering; I have to admit the horse gift had to be one of the funniest moments in the episode for me. His character later hooks up with the other female member of their friendship group Riley (Played by Jessica Lucas) and doesn’t seem to have a clear understanding of the concept “friends with benefits” believing he is about to embark on another realtionship; look’s like these character’s lives are about to get a whole lot more complicated. We haven’t discovered an awful lot about the final member of their group Fitz (Played by Andre Holland); he appears to be the character that the other members go to for advice; he seems very sceptical regarding his friend’s tangled love lives again questioning different values and ideas people have. What I have enjoyed so far about “Friends with Benefits” is that it challenges traditional ideologies (yes-I am aware its not the first show or film to do this) about the concept of love and what people look for in a relationship; its funny and entertaining and the characters so far are likeable. Its nice to see a show focused on adult relationships rather than the teen market a lot of shows seem to appeal to as of late. I think it has the potential to become a modern day “Friends” (1994-2004) with its comedic nature; city-setting and the fact all the characters meet up in one particular place to discuss what’s happening in their lives; I am going to stick with this show as I’m interested to see how it unfolds, plus its nice and light-hearted to watch.

Hayley Alice Roberts.