GRAVE MATTER (Book Review)

Written by: Juno Dawson

Illustrated by: Alex T. Smith

Published in the UK in 2018 by: Barrington Stoke

Pages: 140


REOPENING THE DOOR

“That future wasn’t meant to be and I was an arrogant fool to challenge fate.”

A brief-yet-pointedly macabre horror novella spread over just 140 occasionally-illustrated yellow-hued pages, young adult author Juno Dawson’s twisted tale of first loves lost and best left lost is a quick read perfectly suited to entice reading adverse older teens and dyslexics alike.

… Keep Scuttling!

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Cinema Review)

12A – 133mins – 2017 – 3D


 

TURN OFF THE STARK

After five blockbuster movies taking place over two unrelated movie-verses with two separate casts and crews – all of which were released in the space of just twelve years – Marvel Comic’s friendly neighbourhood web-slinger has finally come home, in his first solo Marvel Cinematic Universe adventure following a triumphant cursory cameo in 2016’s Civil War.

… Keep Scuttling!

CLASS, 1.1 – “For Tonight We Might Die” (TV Review)

BBC Three – available from 22nd October 2016

Created and written by: Patrick Ness

Directed by: Ed Bazalgette


A DOCTOR CALLS

Arriving in a blaze of hype and publicity this third recent-times spin-off from the BBC’s flagship sci-fi drama may suffer from the most bland and unimaginative title ever, but it does boast perhaps the strongest continual link to its parent show, set as it is in Coal Hill Academy, a stalwart of the long-running serial right up to its most recent run, with Clara Oswald and Danny Pink both teaching there, and even the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) briefly becoming a caretaker.

… Keep Scuttling!

The Divergent Series: Allegiant (DVD Review)

12 – 103mins – 2016


 

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE REQUIRED

“You saved a city. Help me save the world.”

With Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Steve Jobs Winslet) killed at the close of last year’s first sequel, Insurgent, and Evelyn’s (Naomi Watts) soldiers increasing hostility within Chicago’s perimeter, Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Caleb (Ansel Elgort), Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Tori (Maggie Q) and the smug side-swapper Peter (Miles Teller) ascend the great wall and escape into the unknown beyond.

… Keep Scuttling!

The Monstrous Child (Book Review)

Written by: Francesca Simon

Illustrations by: Olivia Lomenech Gill

Published in the UK by: Faber & Faber and Profile Books, 2016

287 pages 


 

HEL HATH NO FURY LIKE A TEENAGER SCORNED

Embarrassed by her parents, peeved at her violent brothers, lonely, hateful and self-deprecating, Hel sounds like any normal teenage girl… except her father is a god, her mother a giant, one brother a wolf and the other a snake… Oh, and she’s half rotting  corpse! Meet Hel, Queen of the Dead, ruler of the Underworld and general cynical soul.

This curious genre-mashup of dysfunctional family drama, growing pains memoir and biblical fantasy comes from the rebellious mind of globally-bestselling Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon. The Monstrous Child is her first book for the booming Y.A. demographic.

With short pages and a large font type, the near-300 pages fly by – the swift pace accelerated by some scathingly wry black humour from Hel’s first person perspective. This is her tetchy testament and she demands you listen as she moans on about being banished from Asgard to the depths of her own self-named kingdom of ‘Hel’.

“I spent an eternity of hating… I spent eternity lying on a stinking bed. Sunk into myself, plotting and moaning and… dying.”

Dividing her time between fawning after the only person she has ever felt any feeling of love and joy towards (the charming but already-married Baldr) and moaning about her agonising eternity of isolation with only a dragon, a monstrous howling mutt and two near-static slaves for “company”, the book’s rapid tempo does little to enforce Hel’s timeless torment as the ages creep by towards The End of Days.

It’s also fair to say that as clever as the concept is, the novel does begin to feel a little repetitive at times, with Hel’s fixation on her niggles and teenage tendency to mope in her chamber with her bed hangings drawn (which she has sarcastically nicknamed Glimmering Misfortune) occasionally slowing down the procession of her life(less) story.

Essentially a diary of a teenage goddess, The Monstrous Child is a decent and well-observed experiment which will certainly leaving you smirking at its cruel, pitch-black sense of humour. However, it does also feel like more of a one-joke short story concept spread painfully thin – even if the hardback release does look glorious.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

The Moth Diaries (DVD Review)

15 – 79mins – 2011


 

SEX, BLOOD, DEATH… & LESBIANISM

“Sickly sweet but rotten…”

Alabaster-skinned British model Lily Cole (St. Trinians, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) conjures a haunting otherworldly peculiarity which makes her sublimely cast as Ernessa Bloch, the enigmatic new girl with a dark secret at an exclusive all-girls’ boarding school.

Sarah Bolger (Emelie, TV’s The Tudors) plays bright-but-obsessive student Rebecca who grows increasingly concerned at the intense control Ernessa seems to hold over her increasingly-frail best friend, Lucy (Sarah 11.22.63 Gadon). Is the enigmatic flame-haired wraith a coffin-slumbering vampire, or does Rebecca’s jealous simply know no bounds?

Suicide, suspicion, strangely strong shisha, sex and the supernatural are all spun together in this diminutive but evocative conspiratorial horror, based on Rachel Klein’s Y.A. novel. There are some truly impactful standout scenes – including a Carrie-esque dream sequence and a troubling peek inside Ernessa’s dusty room – but the story is compromised by some atrociously heavy-handed editing which brings up numerous plot points (swimming lessons, period pain, inappropriate kiss, outdoor sex) only to mothball any consequences.

There is some poetic flair in paralleling the inexplicable goings on with some of literature’s bloodsucking icons in Mr Davies’ (Scott Underworld Speedman) gothic fiction class, but the abrupt, sketch-like approach to assembling the narrative means The Moth Diaries ultimately fails to take flight. What is scarier than any shocks in this jump-free teen adaptation is that it was directed by the same acute eye as acclaimed thriller American Psycho, Mary Haddon.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars