Monday, September 4, 2017

Ghost House

There’s just something about a packed cinema theater in the center of town. We’d arrived just after the billed show-time and have settled for front row seats – that's me, and and my eleven-year-old son Louie, who is underage for this 15 rated movie, but what are dads there for if not for smuggling underage kids into theaters to watch adult horror movies? 

GHOST HOUSE begins with a gorgeous shot - tangerine sunset, airplane landing on Bangkok concrete and we know we are in pretty safe hands with director Rich Ragsdale's team.
Julie and Jim are on a romantic holiday in exotic Thailand. They get engaged using somewhat expository dialog, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. It's a bit clunky but it looks great and sounds good and the story is set up early on. We know that Julie's camera and her curiosity aren't leading anywhere pleasant.  
Julie busies herself with photographing spirit houses (what could go wrong there, then?) when the couple meet two fellow travelers who are out to trick them

Fast forward to a night out in Bangkok's (or was that shot in Pattaya?) and the following morning spells a trip to a spooky forest where an ancient curse is transferred to Julie. She's swiftly possessed by an angry ghost and before long Julie is laid down in Gogo's relative's shack as the local monks try to unsuccessfully dislodge the spirit from her.
Their driver and guide Gogo is played by talented Bangkok actor Michael New who sparks some Thai fun and humor into proceedings. Russell Geoffrey Banks cheekily plays Robert the untrustworthy fellow traveler, and, Mark Boone Jr plays the jaded expat who has some local knowledge. 

There's some sweet red filtered cinematography as the couple seek out Boone Jr in the seedy part of town. As it transpires the jaded expat knows some locals and they discover that the curse is like a ghostly hot potato that must be passed on to another if Julie is to be freed of the spell.

The film plays out predictably but satisfactory with some nice twists towards the end. The jump factor at the cinema was real enough with some screams coming from behind. I particularly enjoyed the circular plot pattern of Gogo meeting new tourists fresh off the plane - thus the horror will continue, 

My only real niggle with the story is that we don't get to understand the antagonist as much as I'd liked to. What makes her tick, what does she want? Will she come back?  

All in all GHOST HOUSE is a pleasant surprise for horror in the region and guess what? No CGI -  just a great film score, locations, excellent supporting cast, nifty make-up, overall a worthwhile cinema experience if horror is your thing.               

Playing at theaters in Bangkok now.  

Friday, August 25, 2017

On Something

THREE new books in a new series.

On Isaan chronicles my very first short stories.

On Pulp is a collection of the early pulp stories.

On Bangkok a number of articles written about my adopted home.

These are up for grabs on all the usual platforms.

On Bangkok is FREE on iTunes.

All are up for sale and all the usual platforms.

Picture by Mark Desmond Hughes

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Gong of the Pong

I’m late for the show I curse myself walking up the three flights of stairs.

Walls decorated with lucid graffiti, a black cat shimmies past, and that dubious odor bringing back inner-city memories of the council flat kind. There's an elevator leading up to where the Black Pagoda stands predatory above Pat Pong Two - but - we got no time to wait - through two industrial doors, towards the band who are launching into a familiar number:

Waiting for my Man.

The crowd are young, old, hipster, mobster, industrial, New Age, Asian, Pan Asian, Western, and alien. Go-go dancers mingle between the crooks and trannies in the crowd....

Matthew Ficsher and his Band launch into The Velvet Underground’s Waiting for my Man. 

I complemented Gary Boyle after this, their final song, and told him I dug his skillful rendition of John Cale’s sarcastic bass line from the debut banana record. “I just listened to the live double album a couple of days ago,” he smiled.

Of course Boyle is testing me - every schoolboy knows Doug Yule bothered the four strings on that live record.  John Cale left the group and stuck around in New York.

And who could blame him?  - Performing to strippers and Drag Queens at Andy Warhol’s Factory or middle road obscurity playing in an empty basketball court in Utah?

Which would you chose?

John Cale chose the dirty gritty gender bending underground, and tonight, ladies and gentleman, so have we.

Next on stage Murder Bizkitz

The four piece play a hybrid of death metal guitar, with punk sneer and snatches of melody that have the dancing girls, well, dancing. Singer Amy Anthrax works the stage well, and the band are tight and full of beans.

This is all looking promising...    

The fresh-faced singer for Penny Time looks pretty much at home in the The Black Pagoda. And so he should, the band have some tunes. The crowd are lifted, the dancers explore their options and the night whirls on to the rhythm of the Rickenbacker.

Progressive indie outfit Count the Thief are next on stage and blast through a flawless set, the crowd are liking it, we have the sense we're at an event. Singer Danny jokes with the crowd between songs as the night accelerates forward.

Degaruda are what the people have been waiting for. The band are playing another farewell gig in the city soon, and you'd be foolish not to catch them. Intricate guitar work, complex melodies, this is an intelligent, accomplished band performing at a top level and the perfect headline act for The Gong of the Pong.

Bar Manager and entrepreneur Joe Delaney has pulled off what might be a first for Bangkok - progressive live local bands performing back to back in a red light gentleman's club.      

It may be a new direction for Bangkok, but back in Europe it's wondrously old hat. The Beatles left their Merseyside stomping grounds to play a two year stint of gigs in German strip clubs.

Haven’t times changed?

Or have they?

The Beat Goes On ...

Next up at the Gong of the Pong is the Beatles Versus The Stones.
Check the page here for DETAILS