16 10 2014





As one of HP’s resident horror fiends, it will probably come as no surprise for you all to learn that for the last few weeks I’ve been glued to Cilla, a biographical mini-series about the life of Liverpool’s own mistress of the dark. Joking aside, this story about Ms Black’s life isn’t nearly as diabolically bad as I had assumed and truth be told, I’m actually enjoying this swingin’ ’60s set tale.

Starring Sheridan Smith as the titular singer (and, lest we forget, host of Blind Date) the actress plays the role with just the right amount of sweetness and innocence. Essentially a love story between Cilla and her late husband Bobby Willis,the mini-series revolves around the rock ‘n’ roll scene in Liverpool, Black’s quest for chart supremacy and her boyfriend’s battles with his family for having the cheek to go out with a catholic girl (the horror…!). Both charming and slightly cheesy, the show is great fun for a music historian like myself and so far I’ve enjoyed spotting the likes of John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Martin and more.

Smith also performs all of the songs live herself and has a fine set of pipes and while admittedly the strong Scouse accents occasionally do my head in, Cilla is a great piece of Monday night fluff and by the time the show ends you feel as warm and fuzzy as the residents of Sesame Street.

Recently, I’ve also been enjoying horror/mystery show Resurrection. Airing on Watch, a channel which ironically I rarely ever look at, this American drama is based on the book The Returned by James Mott and, as you might expect from the title, is about people coming back from the dead. Now first off-I was extremely dubious about this Brad Pitt-produced show. Mostly because I’ve been reading a comic by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton called Revival which has the same/similar concept and pre-dates both the novel and programme….

However, casting my reservations about any potential rip-off/imitation aside, I watched the first episode and have been hooked since. What’s most interesting about the show is the reactions of the characters whose loved ones have been resurrected. As they’ve returned exactly as they were before they croaked and don’t look like traditional zombies/Mickey Rourke, it’s thrown people off a little and the residents of Arcadia, Missouri are generally split into two camps. Those who welcome the deceased back with open arms and see it as an opportunity to make up for lost time and those that are completely freaked out and see these creatures as the work of the evil one from down below (that would be Satan rather than Nick Cave, obviously….).

I’m only three episodes in so it’s early days, but I’ve loved by the twists and turns thus far and the presence of Samaire Armstrong certainly spices up proceedings. As for the reason why the dead are coming back to life? Personally I’m going to avoid the tried and tested “aliens are doing it” route and blame the government instead. It’s got to be either those bullshit politicians or Miley Cyrus. One of the other, like.

Staying with all things unnerving and sinister-talent show The X Factor is back on our screens for another serving of tears and tantrums (*bah-dum-tish*). While I’m aware that the programme has a veritable shed-load of detractors, personally I’m a pop culture fan and once you realise that it’s a scripted, pre-determined entity where the producers attempt to force on you who they love/loathe (yes, just like professional wrestling) I find it both enlightening (when the fuck did dungarees become cool?) and enjoyable (I’m convinced they’ve replaced Louis Walsh with one of those dolls that only speaks when you pull its string). So there.

However, I will admit that the ever-plunging shirts of the button-phobic Simon Cowell is a sight that’s far too frightening for this horror fan…



16 05 2014

I was asked to write a TV column for Hot Press a few weeks ago. The title says it all really, kids. Here’s a reprint.




Ever since I was a child I’ve had a fascination with all things frightening and creepy (think Count Dracula and demons from the eternal pit rather than Eamon Dunphy in drag there, folks). For years I’ve been positively thrilled and terrified in equal measure by macabre tales told via the medium of film, novels and comic books. In recent times, the humble tellybox has also become relied upon to provide solid instalments of spooky stories too and this rekindled love affair between horror and the small screen has yielded some pretty spectacular results, I have to say.


Though I am still currently mourning the end of the sublime, Jessica Lange-led American Horror Story: Coven, the present mainstream fascination with the darker side of life means that there have been plenty of programmes to keep me contented while I wait for the Hallowe’en debut of Freak Show, the fourth chapter of the series. One of those shows is Bates Motel on Universal.


Telling the story of a teenage Norman Bates and his mother Norma (altogether now- “MOTHERRRRRR!!”), series two of this prequel to the Hitchcock film Psycho has just started at the time of writing and I’ve been soaking up every minute of this diabolically good drama. Set in modern day America, it’s essentially a dark love story between two psychologically damaged characters. One of my favourite things about the programme is the handling of future serial killer Bates’ origins as we’re not quite certain if Norman has always been, well, a psycho, or if his mother made him this way. At least not at first anyway….


Speaking of Norman’s dear old ma, Vera Farmiga lights up the screen as the misguided, occasionally mental Norma. In some ways, Bates Motel is her show as she steals every scene she’s in. Despite playing a character with more mental problems than Jay Z (yes, that would be 100 or so), Farmiga makes her sympathetic and funny and thanks to her performances you almost forgive her controlling, borderline incestuous ways. With a third series already confirmed (sorry, I still can’t quite bring myself to use the American term of “season”), it’s looks like Bates Motel will be open for business for the next few years and I can’t wait to see where it all leads to.


Just as I was welcoming a new show in through the doors of Castle McFee this fortnight, I have also been bidding one adieu. Fox’s The Walking Dead drew to a close recently and while some have been moaning louder than the titular cadavers over the final episode of series four, I must admit I’ve been enjoying the continuing journey of Rick, Michonne et al.


Admittedly part of that reason is due to a feeling of loyalty for the source material, ie-the Image comic penned by Robert Kirkman and drawn by Charlie Adlard. I’ve been reading the book since my brother handed me the first issue ten years ago (it’s now valued at $10 000 and yes, I am insanely envious over this matter), and although the mainstream success of the TV translation has surprised and slightly bewildered me, it does my cold, black heart good to see a then unknown comic become a pop culture phenomenon.


But back to the TV show. After weathering the storm that was series two (seriously, if Rick’s son Carl had followed orders and never the left the house I swear nothing would have happened during the 13 episodes other than farmer Hershel licking his lips a lot and talking about the Baby Jesus), the fourth instalment has been an enjoyable affair. Informed by the source material more than ever, I liked getting to know some of the group of survivors a little better and without spoiling anything for those who haven’t watched the final episode yet, all I’ll say is let’s just hope Rick Grimes’ gang hasn’t eaten the meat at Terminus by the time we rejoin them for series five…