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Bristol alt-rock quintet Birdman Cult unleash their new single, ‘Son Of Styx’ on Nov 2nd via indie label Donut Records. The single is the band’s fourth single since the band’s debut last year. It is the fourth single since the band’s 2019 debut and is a driving and slightly groovy affair, filled with a fuzzed up energy and a dark edginess. 

On the back of its release Joe Eden of Birdman Cult tells us about his top five horror films…

I’m a Horror fan, obsessive really, ever since a kid when my dad would take me to the film shop (yeah they used to exist, great times) on occasion I’d be allowed to choose anything I wanted and it was almost always some creature feature. If it didn’t have some sort of monstrous animatronic beast in it or laser slicing cyborgs it simply wasn’t worth a w*nk. 

Alien
In a lapse of parental judgment maybe, I was allowed on Halloween (as was tradition) to choose my fate, and so I reached my chubby little fingers out and grabbed ‘Alien’. Since ‘Blade Runner’ was released in 1982 Ridley Scott was as good as a god in our house, being from South Shields and all. My brother would tell me the guy from Harton Village just around the corner also made a genre-defying sci-fi-horror ‘Alien’. For 80s kids to see it along with things like Predator, Robocop and Terminator were rites of passage, I must have been 6 or 7 years old.

In a very condensed synopsis for those unfamiliar here we go – Alien (original name ‘STAR BEAST’ urggh) is a 1979 science fiction horror directed by South Tyneside Native Ridley Scott and written by Dan O’Bannon, it follows a ragtag crew of the commercial space tug Nostromo, who cross paths with the insect-like Alien, an acid blooded, multi jawed and extremely aggressive extraterrestrial set loose on the ship ripping through crew members as easy as Asda’s own brand toilet paper. Needless to say, the sombre tone and grimy art direction coupled with genuine sh*t the bed type jumps was a recipe for many sleepless nights, and what followed as a bout of OCD level checks under the bed and in dark shadowy corners to make sure no lurking Xenomorphs were creepin’ about. The film is a modern masterpiece, a feat of art direction and set design, a strange collaborative effort between filmmaker and fine artist (check out H.R Giger if you’re not familiar), it’s maybe fair to say this is the lofty intellectual predecessor of the testosterone-fuelled and Americanised 1986 sequel ‘ALIENS’ by James Cameron, which could have made this list on its own merits!

Best moment: John Hurts phallic tummy problem

The Thing
An ominous synth-laden soundtrack, 70s blow dry, mirrored aviators, and a shape-shifting, body-snatching antagonist are at the beating heart in the toothy chest of John Carpenter’s 1982 classic ‘The Thing’. This film not only scared the living sh*te out of me as a lad, but it also made me dream of the day I could grow a luxurious 70’s-esque beard that only a select lucky few like Marvin Gaye, Serpico, and our protagonist R.J. MacReady could cultivate.  I’m 35 and still waiting for second puberty to kick in so no beard yet (i just look like a meatball that’s been dropped on the carpet if I try). MacReady, an American helicopter pilot stationed at an Antarctic research station is at the centre of a claustrophobic and paranoid game of cat and mouse, or rather a Celestial tentacle head and bloke. For the soundtrack alone it is worth a watch, while John Carpenter famously writes the music for most of his films. being that The Thing was his first studio project, and had zero time, he asked Ennio Morricone to do the honours. Morricone, a five-time Oscar nominee known for his work with Sergio Leone (check out ecstasy of Gold), obliged and crafted a synthesizer-heavy score very reminiscent of Carpenter’s own composing style.

The film is one I can go back to time and time again, not only is it incredibly original (since been aped by the likes of 30 Days Of Night- which is canny too in its own right btw) it has a timeless quality being set against an icy desert, the desolate yet extreme environment is its own character in the film and helps put you as the viewer right in the middle of the action, with no way of escaping! Took me years to realise that The Thing is based on the 1938 John W. Campbell Jr. novella ‘Who Goes There?’, but is actually a sequel to the book and the movie remake in 2011 is actually a prequel to the film and is a closer companion to the original text. I know, I know who cares right? Well, I do… so do one!

Best Moment: The Chair shaking, blood boiling test!

Wickerman 
Wickerman, made in 1973, is a folk horror about a god-fearing Scottish police sergeant who is called to the island village of ‘Summerisle’ (somewhere around Mull I imagine) in search of a missing teenage girl who the (largely) toothless locals deny existed. Stranger still, however, is the sexually charged and at times murderous rituals that take place there. I have to admit I saw this film as a teen and I found it dull, just boring and a bit humdrum in that 70’s British overcast sort of way. I realise now I was being a little twerp and didn’t know my ass from my elbow, because as an adult, I think this almost takes my top spot. What’s weirdly effective about this film isn’t the big scares or special effects like some of the aforementioned horrors, but more the unique dialogue and accents that bring it closer to home. Another thing that was completely lost on me as a teenager was the soundtrack, now I’m fully obsessed with ‘Willows Song’ and how it’s used in the film, taking the angle of Celtic paganism opens up a certain strain of folk music which I’ve not seen done in a horror since or before (2019’s Midsommar paying homage to the themes). It’s a film I’ve grown up with from indifference to obsession, I find myself empathising with the ‘bad guy’ a lot more as my understanding of the world becomes more acute. Murder and sacrifice aside it’s hard to argue with some of the dialogue Christopher Lee delivers as Lord Summerisle.

“I think I could turn and live with animals. They are so placid and self-contained. They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God. Not one of them kneels to another or to his own kind that lived thousands of years ago. Not one of them is respectable or unhappy, all over the earth.”

Lee apparently wanted the role so much he agreed to do the film for free and to this day stands apart as his most unique acting role far from the hammer-horror tropes people were used to seeing him do.

Aside from the plot, this is a film worth revisiting if like me you watched it as a young’un and wasn’t that fussed. I feel like it’s truly an adult film, not least for its gratuitous boob scene starring Britt Ekland, But with themes of love sex, and death throughout there’s also a strong political subtext which is inspired. Looking past the soft-focus 70s nudity there are truly some great observations on humanity, base desire, morality, and mortality worthy of hanging next to Hieronymus Bosch.Best moment: the film’s climactic last half an hour is amazing, no spoilers just go watch it!

Day of the dead
I love a good zombie film, I often wonder why humans are into zombies? Like, what is it that we’re drawn in by? I dunno, but they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Keep your Walking Dead and Z nation tripe, I feel like there’s not been an original zombie film since ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ and it’s all been well, done to death. However, 1985’s ‘Day of the Dead’ by George A. Romero holds a special place in my still-beating heart for its camp portrayal of the American military and boffin Science geeks and pure 80s clichés (also check ‘Night of the Creeps’ or ‘Return of the Living Dead’ for a more comedy feel) but amongst it are some really interesting ideas and social commentary. Which is impressive for a gratuitous gore fest, make no mistake the buckets of blood and guts is a massive part of its appeal, sometimes it’s good to be grossed out.


So plot…Only fragments of the U.S. government and its military remain and have been forced into hiding in fortified bases with scientists desperately trying to find a cure for the outbreak. All characters, maybe excusing the female lead Sarah (played by Lori Cardille) are repugnant self-serving A**holes who exhibit all the ugliness that Romero saw in the ‘greed is good and more is better’ alpha male-driven decade of the ’80s. You find yourself sympathising with the zombies as the narrow-minded and homicidal Captain Rhodes with his band of sadistic soldiers, laugh and mock as they hack, stab and bully the starving creatures, who are personified from the hive in the form of test subject ‘Bub’, a sort of domesticated zombie with a penchant for Beethoven. It’s worth noting the female lead Sarah was a welcome change from the tough guy roid rage protagonists blowing stuff up in mainstream 80s cinema, she’s pretty much the only sane and logical person left in this seemingly overrun world and deals with macho advances that of which would make human/pig -hybrid Weinstein blush. I think it was part of an interesting trend among horror at a similar time for strong female-led stories (see also 1884’s Night of the Comet which inspired the likes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and was ushering in an end to the cheeseball square-jawed action hero’s, and for a genre that piled high corpses of the weak, screaming, big boobed victims his films were at times a bold and progressive change.

best moment: Captain Rhodes’ Demise!

 

Jaws
I know I’m not gonna win any awards for original top-five lists here, but these are heavy hitters for a reason, I’ll spare you the synopsis, it’s about a massive bloody shark with a hard-on for three blokes and terrorises them on their ‘slightly too small’ boat. This is considered possibly the greatest horror of all time, its almost Hitchcockian approach (thinking psycho) made a small idea into a colossal summer blockbuster in 1975. Jaws shared similar themes with Spielberg’s earlier film ‘Duel’ in that it’s about an unstoppable force on a relentless pursuit for blood! I think I love this film not only for its scares (I wouldn’t go in the water for a long time after seeing it and still have a phobia of Great Whites, can’t fathom that some people pay good money to go swimming with what essentially is a dinosaur in the water! I’d quite simply rather slap a Bear in the face with a wet salmon and face the grizzly consequences than dip a toe within 100 miles of one of those demon fish, I know it’s irrational but na). No not only is it big on the scares it’s pretty damn funny too. The way that quint (played by Robert shaw) and Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) exchange jibes throughout the film remains my favourite ‘odd couple’ routine on screen, they seem so natural at it, Its Rumoured that the two had a real-life disdain that Shaw fuelled on set with his whisky soaked antics (which honestly makes me just love him more)

It’s a tight film without an ounce of flab on it, every scene as delectable as the last as humorous as it is horrific with some of the greatest characters and dialogue ever committed to reel.

Best moment: Quint’s Indianapolis Speech Scene

Five more honourable mentions, if you dare!

They Live (1988, dir by John Carpenter) – Pro wrestler gets some mint sunglasses glasses that allow him to see an alien race of despotic overlords enslaving humans with capitalism, CONSUME CONSUME CONSUME!

The Orphanage (2007, dir by J. A. Bayona) – Spanish horror wherein a mother returns to her childhood home hoping to open an orphanage for disabled kids and is constantly getting buzz killed by a creepy little Doyle with a potato sack on his napper

The Witch (2015, dir by Robert Eggers) A period Horror about a puritan family in the 1630’s who encounter mad witchy goings-on around their new England farm, bring ya brown troosers!

Hereditary (2018, dir by Ari Aster) – By the fella that did ‘Midsommar’ with a similar theme of grief, this is a pitch-black film with little to no let-up from the off, it just sends you spinnin’ to hell in that sort of dreamy falling feeling! 

Exorcist (1973, dir by William Friedkin) – What’s left to say about the granddaddy of Horror? A 12-year-old girl gets possessed by a demon and a Gandalf-style exorcist turns up to battle evil! This was a film that deeply disturbed me as an impressionable 8-year-old bairn! 

 

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