Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category


I reviewed these two books in one piece. Sometimes we do that in magazines, it’s interesting to draw parallels between similar items, and it saves space, honestly. I mean, you would not believe how hard it is to try to cover all the SF, Fantasy and Horror that comes out in one month, alright?

My authorial chum Adam Roberts liked The Forest of Hands and Teeth rather more than I did. I’ll leave that as a reminder that reviews spring only from personal opinion, rather than some kind of objective vision of  creative truth.

From Death Ray #20. (more…)

Review: Kill Her Again

Posted: September 30, 2014 in Archive posts, Journalism, Reviews

Kill Her Again
Kill Her Again by Robert Gregory Browne
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Like a so-so episode of the X-Files, Browne’s book brings pulp style and a whole heap of coincidences to a fairly unlikely plot where a sinister gypsy appears to be bumping off incarnations of the same woman over and over again. To say more of it will spoil what surprises there are. Which is not to say there are many of them, the plot is pretty well signposted throughout, but the enjoyment in these crime thrillers is to be had almost exclusively from watching them click along their pre-ordained paths, not from trying to figure out who the killer is a la Agatha Christie. Bloody these plots may be, but this type of low-rent genre fiction offers a kind of comfort. This is particularly in the case of Kill Her Again, with its overtones of fate and arrow-straight seam of true love.

It’s easy to see the book as a mid-range Hollywood effort, and it is exactly as imaginative as that makes it sound. In the end it’s a massive case of sibling rivalry. The police procedural aspect of the story is a long way from Thomas Harris’ quality, while the supernatural goings on are at best serviceable. If you want the definitive scary American gypsy story, read Stephen King’s Thinner. This is pulpy trash; diverting for two hours, but one to toss in the airport trash when done.

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This review appeared originally in Death Ray #21. That was the last issue we published. I’m getting close to finishing archiving all the articles and reviews I wrote for that magazine on this site now.  What will I do then?

Below I talk briefly about South African SF. If there’s more of it visible to English eyes than there used to be, District 9 had a hand in that.

15/112 mins

Director: Neill Blomkamp

Writer: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell

Starring: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt, Sylvaine Strike

FOUR STARS

Space aliens in Johannesburg add to the city’s troubled racial mix in this action flick/ mockumentary hybrid. (“Hybrid” is the appropriate word here, by the way). Like mechs? You’ll love this.

We’d be hard pressed to come up with a list of South African science fiction, but if we could scrape one together (if you can, by the way, send it in, only the tedious Charlie Jade immediately leaps to mind) District 9 would come top of the list. (more…)


I have reviewed some really obscure films over my career, including a lot of blink-and-forget sequels. Like this one! The premise of this film (monster in the closet, basically) reminded me of the creepy, three-hundred-year-old oak wardrobe that I used to have at the foot of my bed. It was tall and deep, big enough to hide a large man in, and the door did not shut. Very spooky. One night, my little brother Tristan hid in there, waited about half an hour while I read, then jumped out shouting “Rargh!” as I was about to go to sleep. I nearly died of fright while he ran away giggling. Bastard. From Death Ray #19.

2008/94mins

FILM: TWO AND A HALF STARS

Director: Gary Jones

Writer: Brian Sieve

Starring: Erin Cahill, Chuck Hittinger, Mimi Michaels, Mat Rippy

Part three of monster-under-the-bed franchise goes to college, and why not?

Ah, the PR industry, bless it. Sometimes it’s just little too keen – Boogeyman is not, we fear to say, one of the most popular sci-fi franchises of all time, as one line had it. But it is quite creepy, we’ll give it that.

Boogeyman‘s modest success is predicated entirely on the fact that all kids, almost without exception, are frightened at one time or another that some horrible thing is going to coalesce out of their bedroom shadows and eat them. Films that exploit this childhood worry have a free pass to terror, one that can be used multiple times.

The story is not very original. The daughter of the (now deceased) psychologist from the second film is murdered by the Boogeyman. Her roommate, who witnesses the event, unleashes the monster on her entire college dorm by convincing her fellow students that it is real. It doesn’t make much sense either, the Boogeyman proves to be far from some etheric fear to begin with, jumping right out of the cupboard from the get go – people don’t need much convincing that he is real. But that’s not the point. A cast of similar (and way too cool) students are dispatched in a variety of Freddy Krueger-esque ways. That’s the point , as always with this kind of thing.

Lots of blood, some scares, plenty of cheese – your average horror, though it did scare the pants off the missus.


I wrote this review of the Battlestar Galactica reboot shortly after the series finale in 2009, for Death Ray #19. The show was not entirely successful. Looking back on it, there was too much standing around talking about who may or may not be a Cylon, and not enough seat-of-the-pants pursuit across the galaxy. Cut down perhaps by a third or so, it might have been stronger. And I can’t help but think we’ve not yet had the definitive version of this story. Still excellent, though.

FOUR STARS

It’s been a long and emotionally exhausting odyssey from the end of Colonial Civilisation, but the remnants of humanity and their one-time enemies the Cylons have finally found a home, a little place, 150,000 years later, we like to call Earth (though as it turns out, ours is not the first planet to bear such a name).

To find a suitably impressive finale to a series such as Battlestar Galactica, one of the finest pieces of television of the last decade, was obviously a tough job. Perfection is impossible, more so when you’ve been carefully cultivating an audience with a million of their own pet theories. That old adage about pleasing people all of the time springs to mind. (more…)


A review of the DVD from Death Ray #19.

2006/18/92mins

FILM: TWO STARS EXTRAS: TWO STARS

Director: Harry Basil

Writers: Brian Cleveland, Jason Cleveland

Starring: Leah Pipes, Kristin Cavallari, Josh Henderson, Lou Diamond Phillips, Geoffrey Lewis

 Urban legend gets extra adornment in this fright flick pitched right at the slumber party market.

There’s a Texan urban legend that says a certain level-crossing is haunted. The site of a terrible rail accident, where a bus load of children were smashed to bits by a train. If you stop your car short of the tracks and put it in neutral, ghostly tots will push it to safety. This tale forms the basis of Fingerprints (so called because the kids leave ghostly handprints behind). As this tragic anecdote is more of a tour guide’s aside than a story, the film has added lunatic station masters and a psychic teen to make some sort of narrative.

Said psychic teen Melanie (Pipes) is just out of rehab, she’s not a bad girl, but her first and only dalliance with heroine led to the death of her boyfriend. She herself OD’d, but was revived, with the side-effect that she can now see the dead. Becoming intrigued by the town ghost story, she unearths a darker mystery.

Pretty boys, teen troubles and a caricature of an awkward mother/ daughter relationship put this squarely in the pink corner – this is a ghost story intended for groups of teen girlies at slumber parties. It’s therefore harmless spooky stuff (rare gory moments and drug references earn it the high age rating).

It’s pretty average stuff too. Fingerprints starts well, but loses its way, its increasingly wobbly credibility finished off by a dumb coda that pushes the film right over the rails into the realms of pastiche.

Extras: An annoying on set ‘interview’ and an above average 20 minute making of, where we learn the legend is, apparently, true.