Archive for May, 2012

The Casebook of Eddie Brewer

May 26, 2012 - 7:20 pm No Comments







Set and filmed in Birmingham, The Casebook of Eddie Brewer, which premiered in Sutton Coldfield on 22nd April, finds the eponymous Eddie, played effectively by Ian Brooker, investigating reports of supernatural phenomenon in Birmingham.

The film starts with a supernatural encounter at Rookery House, Erdington, and takes the form of a mockumentary with Eddie being interviewed for a news show on the paranormal. Eddie has his own collection of supernatural antiquities, which he has collected throughout the years as a paranormal investigator.

Running at 89 minutes, the length is just right, the humour is particularly witty and there are some suitably creepy scenes too, especially involving a rather disturbing child. I mean, let’s face it. Kids are scary!

Star Ian Brooker took time out from his busy schedule to talk about Eddie’s experiences.

Theresa: Hi Ian, what can you Tell me about the film?

Ian: The film is essentially a mystery-thriller concerning the paranormal. It’s a hybrid of form and content. It’s not strictly a horror movie as it overlaps with other genres: it has humour as well as darkness, but it’s not a comedy-horror either. The humour is natural – fitting with the overall documentary realistic style of the piece. The film starts off quite light in tone but becomes progressively darker as the story develops.

Over the course of a number of weeks, a TV documentary crew follows Eddie Brewer – an old fashioned paranormal investigator as he becomes involved in a couple of disturbing and baffling local cases. He visits a suburban house where a neurotic mother is convinced that a poltergeist has entered her home and that her ten year old daughter, Lucy, is possessed by something malevolent; and a dilapidated Eighteenth Century building, Rookery House, where weird and disquieting noises have been heard in the cellar. As the story develops it becomes apparent that something sinister lies behind the phenomena.

The film is also a character study. A lonely figure, Eddie has not only to contend with sceptics and rivals in his own field who denounce his methods as anachronistic and who try to undermine his investigations, but he is dogged by personal guilt over the death of his wife, Sarah, many years before. By the end of the film, Eddie faces the greatest challenge of his life when he confronts the source of these paranormal manifestations during an all night vigil at the old house. For him it’s not just a matter of belief – it’s a matter of survival.

As well as being about the nature of belief, the film is also about loneliness and loss. Most of the characters are seen in isolation – either in their work environment or in their homes. The relationships are largely dislocated: Eddie is alone but talks to his dead wife, Glenda Blakewell is effectively a single mum bringing up her young daughter, Foster Harbinger never married etc etc. The only married couple in the film appear in a light and humorous scene. Most witnesses to the supernatural in the film are on their own when they see or hear the ghosts – as are the ghosts! Eddie needs to believe. His mission is a personal one.

Although the film is largely about the making of a documentary on the life of a paranormal investigator and Eddie’s hit and miss relationship with the director and the TV crew, it is not exclusively a documentary. The “filmed” docu-footage is only one medium through which the story unfolds. We also have the objective fourth wall, CCTV and Eddie’s own low-tech recordings. The film uses every medium to tell the story. In many ways it uses the tried and well-worn movie convention of mockumentary (Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity etc etc) – although in this case it is not “found footage” – and then subverts it: objective scenes intrude on “documentary” scenes. It will be worth watching out for how much of the paranormal activity in The Casebook of Eddie Brewer is filmed or recorded by the TV crew.

In my opinion the film works on several levels.

Theresa: How did the project go from conception to a fully fledged film?

Ian: Andy Spencer the creator, writer and director of the film developed his ideas over ten years. There was a thirty minute version of the story filmed at Rookery House by Andy as a comedy with different actors back in about 2001. I’ve seen it. Some of the dialogue is the same. You will have to ask Andy the ins and outs of what happened in development over a decade. I wasn’t involved until the late summer of 2010.

An actor friend, Sean Connolly (who plays Mike in the film) was asked by Andy to cast the film for production later in 2010 and I was approached in August of that year to see if I wanted to be involved. I didn’t know anything about the project at that point. However, soon afterwards I was sent the script in draft 4. I was very impressed. For many years I have been interested in the subject of the paranormal and have read nearly every ghost story in English and American literature and real-life cases. So I know quite a lot about the subject and I realised that Andy did too. It was very well researched, the characters were well drawn and convincing, and the story was fascinating. I’ve seen all the classic ghost stories on TV and film but was still disturbed by this story. I said I’d like to do it. I recognised that Eddie Brewer was a wonderful role for an actor, but not having done much work to camera for quite a few years I did not ask to be considered for the role. I found out later that they had all along wanted me to play the part. I accepted the role in September and shooting began at the end of October 2010. We finished principal photography in January 2011. Throughout last year we devised extra scenes which were filmed at Rookery House and were added to the edit. In September of last year we had a test screening at the Audio Suite, Digbeth. The feedback from the audience enabled us to address any issues with the film. I brought in the very talented composer Jamie Robertson (Big Finish etc) to write the score and create the sound design. He’s done a splendid job as I knew he would. His contribution to the finished product is immense. The film edit and sound design were completed in March 2012 and we had our premiere at the Flatpack Festival onMarch 18, 2012.

Theresa: Why did you chooseBirmingham to film?

Ian: Except for one actor – all the cast and crew are based either in or aroundBirmingham. The locations used were houses belonging to friends of the director. Andy has been involved for some years with the committee for the renovation of Erdington’s Rookery House and it was made available to us for filming. Rookery is a marvellous location.

Theresa: Now that you’ve had the premiere and shown Eddie Brewer, what happens to it next?

Ian: The film is being submitted to genre-specific and general film festivals here, inEurope and theUSA.

Theresa: On a personal level, what projects are you currently working on?

Ian: As well as being the lead actor on the film, I am also co-producer. We are involved in marketing the film at the moment. I am also a Ph.D research post-graduate atBirminghamUniversity. My time is divided equally between promoting the film and academic work.

Theresa: Thank you for your time.

So, it appears the future looks bright for both Ian and Eddie.

Having attended the Sutton showing, I recommend genre fans to try to catch it at available film festivals.

Ian: Thank you

Alchemist of Souls

May 20, 2012 - 8:42 pm No Comments

The Alchemist of Souls
Author: Anne Lyle
Publisher: Angry Robot
Page count/Size: 480 pp
Release date: 5th April 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Set in London during the Elizabethan period, this fantasy novel by Anne Lyle finds roguish Mal Catlyn hired by Walsingham to protect Kirren, a Skrayling ambassador.

The skraylings are a foreign nationality with their own culture and language, who look very much less than human. And Mal’s history with the skraylings makes it one hell of a tricky assignment.

Next we meet Coby, a strong female character, posing as a boy working in the theatre in order to earn a living in the hostel environs of London. We also meet Ned, Mal’s best friend who is having a love affair with actor Gabriel Parrish.

As al tries to uncover treason and protect his skrayling companion, he finds himself inexplicably drawn to Kirren the ambassador and his views begin to change.

This alternate history is atmospheric, fun and boasts colloquial dialogue that moves the novel along at a swift pace. As well as being thoroughly researched, the novel uses vivid descriptions to add life and realism to the period setting. My favourite sentence simply has to be about the local pub, which “was as busy as a brothel mattress and twice as pungent”. Brilliant!

Delivering on pace (even a game of tennis comes across exciting), Lyle also manages to examine xenophobia and homophobia particular of the time playing heavily with gender issues. The sights and scents of Elizabethan London are both vibrant and rich, and the plot delivers on plenty of twists and turns as well as political intrigue.

At the end of the book we have hints of a France bound sequel and Angry Robot have confirmed a second book in the Masques series. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what happens to Mal and Coby next.


May 14, 2012 - 8:05 pm No Comments

Starring: Corey Sevier, Eve Mauro
Running Time: 90 minutes
Release date: 14 May 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

In Pakistan, a bunch of soldiers find a bunker rammed with Islamic and Muslim zombies. As the soldiers attack, and are attacked by the zombies, one particular insurgent injects himself with a virus of some sort and rapidly transforms into a zombie. One of the soldiers gets bitten and then we have the usual zombie chaos.

Queue next scene and we meet a group of soldiers or mercs who are aware of the zombie infection and are hunting for the missing, presumed undead Osama Bin Laden. Next we meet Dusty Miller (yes, that really is her name) who is in Afghanistan looking for her missing brother Derek who is a freedom fighter, also searching for Bin Laden.

This film, which has a semi decent budget, starts with a promising soundtrack and some nice cinematography. However, it does feel as though the director is cashing in on the success of African based zombie film The Dead.

We are treated to some exposition in high level scientific language, which somehow Dusty understands. The exposition would have been unnecessary had the script writers added ten to fifteen minutes of plot development and character exploration at the beginning of the film where it was really needed.

There are many clichéd shots, and a clichéd script to go with it. Of more concern however, is the lack of connection with the characters. They are stereotypical and often one dimensional, until the point leading up to their death when they suddenly develop a back story.

I must give kudos though to the attempt made to create a strong female lead and for trying something new with the zombie genre. Which is of course the main selling point; the novelty of Muslim and Islamic zombies. There are references to 9/11 and though there does not appear to be much differentiation between insurgents and civilians, it still remains an interesting film, despite its faults.

My main issue with this film is the acting, which is at best tacky and mediocre. Perhaps the best performance is delivered by poor man’s Colin Farrell, Corey Sevier, who at least looks attractive as he spends most of the film shirtless.

In short, though it does have the novelty factor, this is a forgettable film which is quite run of the mill, with the only highlight being seeing Osama come back from the dead as a suicide chomper.

Strippers Vs Werewolves

May 14, 2012 - 12:46 pm No Comments

Strippers Vs Werewolves
Starring: Adele Silva, Billy Murray
Release date: May 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

It should have been good; oh how it should have been good. But something went wrong with an amazing concept.

Strippers Vs Werewolves just think about it, pure pulp waiting to happen. And with a cracking script, which it is, I bet the cast, producers and director thought they were on to a good thing.

Adele Silva plays stripper Justice, a.k.a Lucy, who gets into a sticky situation when Martin Kemp in a brief cameo as a werewolf, attacks her as she dances for him. Desperate to defend herself, she grabs her nearest weapon, a silver pen, and stabs it through Kemp’s eye killing him instantly.

Of course that leaves a body, which needs to be got rid of. So, the club manager played by Sara Douglas (Superman II), instructs bodyguard Franklin to help Justice carry the body and store it in the car boot. As bad luck would have it, head of the Werewolf clan played by Billy Murray (The Bill), comes across the hastily hidden body. Mayhem ensues as a war is started between strippers and werewolves.

See? Cracking script and a concept that’s wild and funny. So what went wrong?
The FX is particularly dodgy; these are the worst werewolf representations I have seen since the cutesy dog in The Howling. The acting is really not much cop. In fact, the werewolves in particular deliver painful performances. The comic panels used to split scenes doesn’t work, the jokes fall flat despite a stellar script and the 80s pop mix soundtrack grates on the nerves. On top of that the direction is poor.

Overall, this comes across like a bad Guy Ritchie film with a large helping of horror clichés. The only thing worth noting, and the best thing about the film, is a fun cameo from Robert England (Nightmare on Elm Street).

Such a shame . . . such a crying shame.

Have you got crabs?

May 13, 2012 - 4:14 pm No Comments

Author: William Meikle
Publisher: Dark Region Press
Page count/Size: 188pp
Release date: March 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

I was a little concerned when this novella started with ‘The whale farted’, but trust me on this, there is a reason. Inside the whale, hitching a ride is one of many extremely large crabs which are attacking people. As the first of the crabs breaks through the blubber, three researchers are butchered.

Marine Biologist Shona Menzies is dragged from her bed in the middle of the night by mysterious black clad men from Homeland Security. She is needed for her skills and knowledge about crustaceans because these crabs are not only large; they are bullet proof and incredibly smart. And they are looking for a breeding ground.

At the same time, Joe Porter catches one of the larger crabs at its early stage of development and tries to sell it to a New York zoo as a new exhibit. On the rampage through the New York subway system, the crabs attack and destroy everything in sight as Homeland Security led by a number of the military hunt them down.

This book plays out like a deliciously bad B movie done with style. There is plenty of gore, lots of chasing, lots of action and limbs flying everywhere.

Though Joe Porter’s later heroic actions are a little at odds with his earlier characterisation, and the cover art is a little shaky, these are my only complaints.

This is a creature feature that is a true guilty pleasure with a strong female lead and some great death scenes. At times, it even feels a little like Aliens as the military fight a particularly alien for deep in the bowels of the city.

Dedicated to Guy N Smith and pure pulp, this book is what it says on the tin. Great fun.