Monday, 28 March 2016

Remembering Tony Luke

I don't normally write 'in memoriam' pieces or obituaries. Those of you who used to read my Devil's Porridge blog know that I only did a couple of posthumous tributes - to people I knew personally whose passing would otherwise go largely unnoticed.

I discovered today that Tony Luke passed away last month after a long battle with cancer. There have been a number of tributes on comics sites so his death has not gone unnoticed - except by me. I feel bad for not knowing until six weeks later. I feel bad for having lost contact with Tony in recent years. I feel bad generally: we were about the same age and we went back a long way, Hell, I knew Tony before he dyed his hair black.

In the early/mid 1980s I was a very active member of ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Appreciation Society. Tony was a member too and I would often see him at meetings, parties and conventions. ZZ9 attracted some interesting people in those days. (Dave Julyan, composer of scores for films including Memento and The Descent, was newsletter editor at one point.)

When I started working on SFX in 1995, one of the most exciting things was the opportunity to interview people I already knew who I felt deserved more credit for their work. Tony was one of those and I did a big sit-down interview with him in 1996. You can now read the full transcript here.

Tony invited me down to Brighton where he was shooting a short for the nascent UK SciFi Channel called Archangel Thunderbird, starring Eileen Daly and Doug Bradley. He had a nightmare dealing with some fetish guy whose job it was to tie Eileen up and who spent hours doing special types of knots. It also didn't help that the various gun props had to be smuggled into the location without being seen by the heavy police presence in town for the Labour Party Conference. I think in the end Tony reshot the whole thing.

Later, he contacted me about a pop video he was making for the indie band Urusei Yasura. I travelled to a Star Trek-themed bar in London where I got to play a nerdy sci-fi geek who spills a Klingon's pint and thereby somehow turns everyone into cartoons. I vividly recall phoning Tony from a payphone at Bath bus station (mobile phones were rare things in those days) to learn that the video was going to be number one on the ITV Chart Show Indie Chart that Saturday.

I don't know when my last contact with Tony was. It was some time ago and in fact I kept wondering where he had disappeared to. He was evidently still working, producing illustrations whenever his illness allowed. I guess we just tended to move in different circles. I'm not a comics fan and have no interest in anime or manga; people who do evidently knew Tony and still saw him sometimes,

In 2003 I interviewed Tony for a second time, by email, about his CGI animated feature Dominator. For that innovative film (and Archangel Thunderbird), Tony must be considered a significant name in the British Horror Revival. His work won't be forgotten, and neither will he.

Tony never became a household name or a big star. But he did what he wanted to do, his way, without compromise. He had integrity, which meant that he had fallings-out. He never considered that a problem. He was also a bloody good laugh. And I'm sad that he's gone.

If you haven't spoken to someone for a long time, get back in contact while you can. One day it will be too late.

Rest in peace, Tony Luke.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Northern Irish slasher film Braxton screens in Belfast on 17th April

Press release: Northern Irish slasher film Braxton will receive its hometown premiere at this year’s Belfast Film Festival. The film is expected to play at 8pm on Sunday 17th April at the Movie House on Dublin Road, as part of the fest’s “NI Independent” category.

Written and directed by 21 year-old Belfast filmmaker Leo McGuigan, the film is described as “a fun throwback to the popular slasher films of the 80s and 90s, such as Scream, Halloween and My Bloody Valentine”.

It was shot throughout Northern Ireland in the summer of 2014 by a then 19 year old McGuigan. The film had its US premiere in October of 2015, where it won the “Best Foreign Slasher Feature” prize at the Fright Night Film Fest in Louisville, Kentucky, one of America’s biggest horror festivals.

“We’re really pleased with the reception the film has received so far,” McGuigan, who co-produced the film alongside Margaret McGoldrick (RTE’s Farr) remarked, “and the idea of unveiling it to a homegrown audience is exciting and terrifying at the same time. The film was genuinely a labour of love in every respect, and that’ll hopefully come through on the screen!”

The film features an ensemble cast of Northern Irish talent including Shaun Blaney (RTE’s Farr, Halo: Nightfall, The Frankenstein Chronicles) and Diona Doherty (Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model) and tells the story of a serial killer, Tommy Miller, who returns to a small town on the anniversary of his initial spree, forcing the original survivor, now police officer, (Blaney) to seek him out before it’s too late.

[Find out more about Braxton at, and here's the trailer. It looks great! - MJS]

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

DVD sleeve gallery: Tower Block

Tower Block, the cracking James Moran-scripted horror-thriller directed by Ronnie Thompson and James Nunn, was on Channel 5 this week. Here's a selection of the film's DVD artwork from around the world:

The original UK release from 2013 and the Italian DVD which used the same artwork.

The US disc and the German disc have the same basic artwork and photo of Russell Tovey. Apparently Sheridan Smith and Jack O'Connell aren't big enough in Deutschland to get their own close-ups.

Greece, Portugal and Russia all followed the German design.

Australia and Spain both opted for a slightly more colourful image.

Unique artwork for the Canadian release and the Dutch disc, both concentrating on the killer rather than the victims.

Japan always has to be different. This was the first DVD released. On the right is the second UK disc from 2015, by which time O'Connell was a big, marketable star.

Christ knows what this is. Might be Slovakian.

Jacob's Hammer finally appears on DVD this July

Jacob’s Hammer was on my list of films I really wasn’t sure would ever get released. It was shot in February 2011 and a trailer appeared on YouTube in September 2012. And that was it. Since then there's been no sign of the film.

But now here it is on, lined up for a DVD release through SGL Entertainment in July. (Let’s just hope they sort out that rogue apostrophe before then.)

Synopsis: No one sees Jacob. It's not allowed. Sadie keeps him hidden. It's best that way. She's always done that. Ever since.....well....ever since. She loves him very much. Maybe she loves him too much, because Jacob's not like other little boys. There is something wrong with Jacob. Something, sometimes, only a mother can see. Sadie would do anything for Jacob. She will always protect him no matter what. After all, he's only a child her child. He should be protected. Sadie needs to protect him. Always. Until. The night sweats and dreams she could deal with. Even the nightmarish apparitions she could live with. But when friends and family are ripped from life, ripped from her life, Sadie must confront the truth. Jacob is out of control. The ultimate evil is in her son. Perhaps, the ultimate evil IS her son. Jacob's Hammer, when a mother's love is no defense.

Directed by Angie Bojtler, the movie stars Helen Holman (Aggressive Behaviour), George McCluskey (The Zombie King), Thomas Sean Hughes, Diane Rimmer and Luis James Farouk as the evil child Jacob (he must be in his late teens by now).