Wytches

 ★★★★★ 

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During Suspiria, Dario Argento’s Italian masterpiece from 1977 about a witches coven masquerading as a dance school, there is a brilliant, audacious moment concerning the fate of a blind piano player. It sticks in my mind even now as a perfect example of how a horror film should manipulate the viewer, undermine expectations and use it against them. Take away the safety net. There should always be a splash of madness in the best horrors too. Something that crawls inside your mind and takes up residence.

Scott Snyder and Jock’s comic Wytches opens with a similarly brutal scene that promises the rest of the story isn’t taking any prisoners, including you, the poor reader. Snyder’s fast-paced, twisted narrative borders on obvious, but is grounded by strong characters, the classic Gothic fantasy horror mirrored by real-world demons. It even captures a sense of childish fables, of being captured and eaten (hopefully quickly!). But these are not the cackling pointy-hatted cliches living in ginger-bread houses, but horrific elemental… things. They live in the woods, the very trees themselves and they can give you anything you want. For an awful price, that is. Perhaps the ending seems rushed and has to give in to more routine chills, but chills they are nonetheless and the great thing is that the groundwork has been set-up for wider universe. It’s clear Snyder has only scratched the surface of his own idea and these nasty creatures are dug in very deep.

Jock brings the story to twisted life; the Wytches themselves literally so. His art distorted and frequently, purposefully messy, almost a visual equivalent of some bastard running their nails down a blackboard, and as uncomfortable as it is engrossing. The collected edition doesn’t take too long to read, but promises to linger for a lot longer. Probably while you’re trying to sleep and ignoring that “chit chit chit” noise scratching at your door… Well, pledged is pledged, eh?

Why am I reviewing a comic when normally I’m waffling on about movies? It’s because there is nothing like Wytches in Hollywood and probably never will be. I strongly believe the glory days of real horror are behind us. Foreign work like Let The Right One In or little-known fare like McKee’s The Woman shows the talent is there, but mainstream has given in to sentimentality, remakes and diminishing sequels. I seem to have misunderstood the universally acclaimed Babadook, a film I found dull and lifeless. Clever it may be, but it lacks the substantial sense of dread that Snyder’s wonderful book generates.

I highly recommend picking this up. It’s not at all expensive, even the versions with the bookplates.

https://forbiddenplanet.com/125281-wytches-1/

https://forbiddenplanet.com/144130-wytches-volume-1-bookplate-edition/

http://www.goshlondon.com/2015/06/gosh-exclusive-bookplate-edition-wytches-tp-vol-1/

The Incredible Hulk

 ★★★☆☆ 

Ok, I know a lot didn’t like Ang Lee’s The Hulk, but I thought it was one of the bravest and best comic adaptations so far. It just needed more mindless action. Well, we get that here in spades. Especially the mindless part.

It was a shame they seemed to quietly disregard the first film, as it was an excellent basis to start from. While the action with The Hulk is suitably relentless and rage-filled, the action with Bruce Banner on the run is too over the top, both thanks to Transporter director Letterier. For instance, the first act was a nice plot with Banner trying to keep his cool while falling for the local girl and fighting the local thugs. It made perfect sense for that to be reason enough to Hulk-out and cause a depressed Banner to go back on the run, after demolishing the town, but no; We have to have the stupid drop-of-blood coincidence bullshit, leading to all out fucking war. Nice cameo from Stan Lee, otherwise, too noisy and muddled. Good idea, screwed up.

In the cast, they had great actors capable of pulling off the balance between drama and action, but instead they drowned them in noise. Norton was especially good at showing Banner as scared by his own memories.

The effects were very good (again, nothing wrong with the “don’t make me Ang Lee” version) and the middle action sequence particularly Incredible (nice documentary style camera work) and the final battle are great fun, with cute Hulk-isms (police car boxing gloves! Thunderclap! It speaks!), but this story deserves better. It is at heart, such a sad character and is capable of Frankenstein style empathy, but a brief musical interlude and funny cameo from Lou Ferrigno is the closest I think we will ever get to the charm of the TV series, or comic for that matter. Bruce Banner may soon be lost to a complicated multi-film arc and the chance to make a really good stand-alone version has passed.

It needed bigger, greener balls, but The Hulk was a far better film.