The Coven (2015) Film Review.

I felt like writing a review of this film, the reasons being will eventually become evident.

I bumped into this film quite by chance. I was looking online at random images, and I was curious to see if I could find online the poster to the film The Craft. I did so, but then encountered this:

Those of you who have seen the cover – and poster – for The Craft, will straight away recognise just how similar it is. Well, I immediately was amused by this discovery, and started to delve deeper, to find out more. In the end, I watched it, having gotten hold of a copy. (That might prove difficult, getting hold of an unburnt copy of the DVD.)

I sat down watching this, flicking between it, and responding to replies on my forum. I think this was a large mistake on my part, because I was seeing it in smaller chunks, and wasn’t fully paying attention to it. As a result, I was getting more and more creeped out by it, as it developed. Then I had a question pop in my head, and then I realised what a steaming mess it is…

I honestly don’t know what to make of this film, and i pity the Film Board person who had to sit down and watch this to rate it. You get the feeling like they wanted it to be a horror for tweens and maybe young teenagers. But with all of the references to sex, drugs, drinking and the like, it would never obtain a rating low enough to acquire it.

You also have the Mackie twins, Holly and Cloe, in this film. It has been a long time since St. Trinians, and i was interested to see how their quality of acting was nowadays.

The film starts of in historical Highgate School. This is where it all starts to go horribly, horrendously wrong. The pupils present looked like they were rejects from the local Comprehensive, and they were sitting at single tables that made it look like an exam is about to take place. Add to that the fact that you had Dexter Fletcher arrive to teach, looking like he was a renegade Time Lord just escaped from Gallifrey. And, for some reason, he is teaching Wicca to these schoolkids. Add to that the fact that the students clearly have had prior lessons, due to mentioning Margaret Murray and the books on the topic she wrote.

I have no idea what sort of school casually teaches Wicca in its classes. It didn’t even seem to be linked to any subject, either. Truly bizarre, but Dexter Fletcher skilfully moves the pace along, and you don’t think much about it, at least not right away. But then, you get the setting up of things: The enigmatic Uri Clef had taken seven of his followers, and none were seen again.

I’ll digress here. There is lengthy reviews about Uri Clef, and how he was in a mystical fights against darker forces in Cochranian Wicca… really going into some depth about this fictional character that is only mentioned in passing. It is utter rubbish. If you pause the film at the newspaper reports, it clearly says that no-one knew who he was, or his background. He had simply appeared from no-where, and was recruiting followers by his charisma.

Of course, past dark deeds in the local woods is too much to resist for the clique of bad girls in the class. (weirdly, most of that class was female. I stopped to check, because it was completely weird.) They end up plotting and scheming to go to the Coven, a group of ancient trees in Queens Wood, stay there the night, and see what they could witness. Hardly shocking; teenagers test their stupidity levels by doing something blatantly a Bad Idea.

So, in the end, they set off, using the bus. All but one. She was trooping around the school alone, and collared by Dexter Fletcher’s character. A nice location piece… but here is the problem. Highgate School is a private school, and is obviously that. If they had made it that they were in a private school, it would have made it all so much more believable. I’m certain the school would have been okay with that, given how they are fine having school leavers produce bizarre videos of teachers weilding plastic guns, and shooting down pupils. And then there is the clip where the Head is given a suitcase full of money, and is throwing it in the air, laughing maniacally… quite, quite strange.

In any case, they bother to use the actual locations, which is something of a bonus, I guess.

The girls end up in the woods, and eventually, after a lot of drinking, smoking and drugs, start to get attacked by demonic forces. More specifically, Lucifer on a black motorcycle. Yes, you saw correctly; not content in ripping off The Craft for the poster, and then rip off Harry Potter with the beginning sequence, followed by stealing camcorders in the woods from The Blair Witch Project, they then proceeded to take from Ghost Rider as well.

And after a lot of mumbling and running around (making Scooby Doo proud in the process,) you mercifully get to the end.

I was admittedly getting creeped out by this film, until I had a question pop into my head: Why is Lucifer riding a motorcycle in the woods to get these girls? It is a very valid question: The film did start off with Wicca, which doesn’t have Lucifer, or Satan. That is Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Lazy, lazy, lazy. And worse, I was left traumatised by discovering that there were films in existence that makes David DeCoteu’s efforts look good.

This film palpably doesn’t make sense in the slightest. Not in plot, not in acting, not in directing,  Not in how they spent £615,000 as a budget on this unrelenting disaster of a film…

In the end, I was left roaming around the next week after watching it in a daze. I couldn’t believe how everyone in the process thought it a good idea to make this film, then release it.  I then started asking… could there be a way to salvage it? What could be done to make the story work? In the end, I ended up producing a story outline from that stealing pile of celluloid manure. I’m planning to write it in November, and am looking forwards to doing so.

I don’t think I’ll be watching this when I do so, for inspiration. It’d probably suck it all away from me.

Utter, utter mess of a film, and a massive disappointment. And I didn’t go in to this with high hope to begin with…

Visualising My Characters, Part 2

Last month, I ended up talking about how I go about visualising my characters. There is some more I can say on the topic, I feel.

As already stated, I use pictures from the internet to help me come up with decent enough matches to what I have in mind. I use actors and actresses, because you then tend to have a much better range; they tend to be in a number of productions over a number of years, thus allowing you to be able to look at them younger  – or older – than they would be in the story you are writing.

That said, I don’t always do that. Sometimes, through a random search, you find someone, who has an outfit that intrigues, and you try to see if there is more images of that person. Sometimes, you can find a few more. Sometimes none. Then you might have a person who has placed a couple hundred images of themselves, over a number of social media sites.

This might seem like stalking, but the key thing to understand is that I am interested in useful likenesses, and fashion concepts. Simply put, you cannot invent everything, and someone else’s bright fashion idea can readily inspire you, and you then go and adapt it for your story.

In times past, you would be looking in newspapers, keeping clippings, taking pictures and storing them in protective sleeves… nowadays, you can find useful information and images on a computer, and store them on a computer as well. This helps a lot, because now, we have software to keep track of plot details and so forth, so organisation of character sketches is a much more simpler, efficient affair… if you know how to do it.

Another thing to consider is the age of the person in the image you are referring to. It might be too young, too old… but with a little understanding of photo manipulation and editing,you can develop a simple mock-up that, whilst not elegant, gets you the description you need. You can even tweak things, turning day into night as well. Once you understand that you can make things translucent, you can create colour “filters,” that alter how something looks to a degree. It can also help to balance out lighting between photo element, too.

No photo edit, in my opinion, is ever perfect, so you should not worry if you use such programs, and you have a mistake in the image. You are not trying to create a magazine cover, you are trying to create inspiration for your story.

Another thing I like to do is try to work out the basics of a character: How old are they? Have they finished school, and if so, what level/grade were they at departure? Did they go to university? Do they have a job? Do they have parents, and if so, what are they like? Do they have siblings? Who are their friends?

It isn’t important if these details don’t end up in the story. What is important is that you understand the character, and have confidence in your knowledge and understanding of them.

Hopefully this hasn’t been a pointless ramble. I get paranoid like that; I produce something that will be either unhelpful, uninteresting, or both. With luck, it is neither.

I also suspect I will end up going back to this topic again at some point, and add some more to the topic, when i end up thinking of more to say. So folks, you’ve been warned! (I say in jest.)

The Changing Of The Guard

I have to express huge annoyance.

Firstly, it has been fifty thousand years since my last blog post. (Okay, I know it wasn’t, but it feels that way.) I hadn’t meant to have that happen, but then one thing led to another…  Still, I hope to correct this lack of activity, and try to get back to a weekly schedule. Hope…

Another way I have been annoyed is how conspiracies have been mounting up on me. I ended up with story going into confusion, as I tried to work out what happens next, (something I now know,) I ended up with the staff canteen being too much of a distraction to do too much. Then The Bluetooth keyboard packed in (It wasn’t the best of brands in the first place,) and the phone prove to be getting way too temperamental. (It turns out that having your phone fall out of your pocket – and into the toilet – isn’t the best thing for a smartphone. And no, I hadn’t flushed…) And then I had the left earphone of my earphones just die on me. So, I had to use an old pair, that wasn’t working properly, but at least still had the left earphone working.

Add to that the home internet running out as well… It felt more and more as if i was regressing backwards, and would soon be writing stories (and communicating with the wider world,) by finding a cave, getting lumps of charcoal, and then writing on the walls, hoping I could work out what I was doing. (I don’t think I’d have even fire at that point.)

So, I have been patiently waiting for pay-day, and then swung into immediate action. First, I got myself a new keyboard, and earphones. I couldn’t get Sennheiser earphones, because they had sold out. So, I settled on Sony. I then waited until i could get to the phone shop, where I got a new phone, one that was the direct replacement of my toileted phone, which was on special offer. Add to that the maximum sized Micro SD Card it could take, and I was much poorer, but back in action.

At least, that was the plan.

Well, so far, the plan isn’t working. It is succeeding in leaps and bounds. The new phone is performing much, much better than I had envisioned, and has a larger screen as well. Which makes typing much easier. It also is much faster as well, with a good processor, and the proper amount of RAM to go and do stuff. That was a problem with the previous phone, which I nicknamed Tiger-Lily. It would do stuff, but it took quite some time to do it. Not helpful. With Optimus (the new phone,) I am blinking in shock – several days after buying it – at the sheer speed of the thing.Hare and the Tortoise indeed…

I also have been working in the Library, and am doing well there. It has hit the point where I am getting “In The Zone,” and that is a brilliant thing for me. It means that i am now doing all sorts of word play, and having fun with telling the story. I might well post up what I have been doing, to give a visual explanation.

The wonderful thing about using a Bluetooth keyboard and a smartphone, is the fact you have less weight and bulk to carry, are faster to set up and pack away, And can take the phone with you if you need the toilet, or need to look at dictionaries… something I do a lot of. There is nothing like walking to the Dictionary Shelf, taking off the shelf the particular volume you require, (A proper dictionary is a large, heavy pair of tomes,) and then rifle through the large book to find words you are looking for. It also allows for a break from sitting down, and helps get a tiny bit of exercise in.

So, this is where I am at… sort of. The story in question is now over ten thousand words, and is developing new characters that didn’t exist until a couple of days ago. I kid you not; a simple background character, once I had a reference photograph t play off of, has become a much more significant character for the story. And slowing me down in the process… Still, I am certain it will be all good, once I have finished the story. Preferably before the end of next month…

So watch this space for more details, and maybe an excerpt or two…

And I am feeling less annoyed now.

Reflecting On July 2015 Camp NaNoWriMo…

I feel quite guilty and embarrassed at not having made a post sooner. It makes me feel bad, though last month was something that… well, I’ll get into that in a little bit. But the thing is, I’ve been busy, trying to get life to resurface at my forum, not to mention getting on with posting on other forums, and getting back into circulation, so to speak.

As for last month… it was a curious, strange, but exciting time. In the end, there were four of us in the cabin, and it was a friendly, productive environment. We all got past out word targets, so that was really pleasing to see. Not so much because it makes the cabin look good, but the fact is, we all look good; we helped each other out, and contributed.

But for me… what do I feel? How did it go, from my perspective?

Well, I feel that this was very much a mixed bag for me. Certainly, I managed to get past the 10K target, but I didn’t finish the project. in fact, I have had to abandon it, because it needs a lot of restructuring, and remapping. Things you can’t do during a writing challenge. So, I went and started another project, just to try and fill the time. Of course, that has now become a fuller story than I was thinking of. thus I have managed to fail at reducing my writing pile; rather, it has increased. Full facepalms all round…

That said, I did sit down and start using software to map out the Thorns Of Lovecraft mythos time-line. This was a helpful exercise, if only to prevent an oversight from getting through into final print, and making a huge embarrassment for myself. I plan to touch on that at some point, because I feel that is a topic in its own right.

Another interesting development was the discovery of me being able to be far more portable than I first thought. Granted, i have the Netbook, but with a messed up keyboard, (the function key has gone haywire,) I have to have a full keyboard with me. Then you need a mouse, and you want the power supply as well, right? So in the end, you are carting around a small array of items and pieces, taking up space, and adding weight. So, not a really helpful option for me.

So what is the answer?

Believe it or not, it is quite simple indeed. Smart phone running Android, a Bluetooth keyboard, and a charger as a precaution. That’s it! There is WPS Office (formerly Kingsoft) available free, so you can get working a lot more readily than you think. It means that I now type first thing, before the start of work, and also after work, in the library. But I can also work elsewhere – and do. There is a cafe in town that does a nice iced lemonade. Just the ticket for writing the latest story that is stuck in my head.

So, whilst it isn’t finished, I can see this story betting done over August. Expect me to mention it, as the project progresses.