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Claire

What We Do in The Shadows (2014) – Review

Like every little girl, when I grew up I wanted to be a vampire. …wait, that’s not a thing? Well, I was a weird kid. I remember watching Interview With A Vampire and being totally enamoured with Lestat and his charming arrogance, as well as being very confused by how much I wanted to be bitten by one of the Backstreet Boys in the video for ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’ – don’t act like you don’t know the song, everyone knows the song.

Vampires were dark, dangerous and totally charismatic monsters. Christopher Lee gave Dracula his now iconic look as the sultry dark lord of the night, which was only beaten by Gary Oldman in Francis-Ford-Coppola’s-Bram-Stoker’s-Dracula where he definitely made a few more of us willing to be one of his brides. Vampires were awesome. Until the dreaded Twilight saga came along. Suddenly, my beloved undead horrors became a joke, thanks to glittery pretty boy ‘vegetarian’ vamps, along with the True Blood TV series and other teenage supernatural romance novels. I was resigned to watching classic Hammer Horror and hoping that one day there would be something that would make me fall in love with vampires again.

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My patience (and occasional ranting) was rewarded with the 2014 mockumentary horror comedy, What We Do in The Shadows. I found this film through my good friend Rachel over on Tumblr – we did Film Studies together for two years in college so I trust her taste in movies – and I was immediately intrigued. Set in Wellington, New Zealand (coincidentally where one of my best friends lives) What We Do in The Shadows focuses on four vampires, Viago, Vladislav, Deacon and Petyr, who share a flat together and have agreed to be filmed by the human camera crew who are protected by wearing crucifixes and have the vampires’ word that they won’t eat them. I can’t say I’d be so trusting, but there you go.

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Viago, Vlad and Deacon are relatively young in comparison to the more Nosferatu-like Petyr, who is kept in the basement and looked after by his other flatmates. Their lives consist of sharing chores (occasionally, in Deacon’s case), going out on the town to hunt and have fun, and enjoying their hobbies of music and knitting. Things change however, when Deacon’s very patient familiar/servant Jackie brings over a few humans for the vampires to feast on and the night ends in one of them, Nick, being turned into a vampire himself. As he is welcomed into their company, Nick takes it upon himself to bring his new friends into the 21st century with technology as he adapts to his new undead life – however, he’s not exactly subtle with his new status, which brings trouble to the group’s doorstep.

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If you’re a fan of Flight of the Conchords, you’ll recognise Jemaine Clement as Vladislav ‘the Poker’ (who co-wrote and directed with Taika Waititi, who plays the delightful and sweet Viago) as well as an appearance from Rhys Darby too. The humour is very similar to Conchords as well, which should be good news for fans of the quirky Kiwi show. The characters are all likeable in their own ways and the development over the film is very believable too – especially when Nick’s lovely red-cheeked human friend Stu is introduced. Even the darkest moments are lit up with the wonderful sense of humour that runs throughout the entire thing. Then of course, there’s the Spinal Tap feel of the film, it’s funny yet feels genuine and very real. The practical special effects add to that I feel, from the copious amounts of blood to the way the vampires float and fly – in a world where CGI has become the standard for creating effects, it’s a treat to see something more tangible.

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My absolute favourite part of What We Do in The Shadows? Viago. He manages to be an adorable cinnamon roll of loveliness as well as a vampire who feast on blood – there’s no gold-eyed vegetarianism here, and yet even covered in blood, gingerly holding a tea towel, Viago is the most wonderful vampire in modern fiction. Just take one look at that adorable little smile and tell me you wouldn’t let him drain you dry. I’d even put down the towels and newspapers for him. (Bonus points go to Clement’s Vladislav, who is somehow oddly sexy in this role.)

I cannot find a single fault with this film. I’ve watched it four times since I got it, and I’ve recommended it to pretty much every friend I’ve had the chance to – you’ll find yourself feeling good after watching it. Which is more than could be said for the feeling I had after watching New Moon. Urgh.


ClaireClaire is a foul-mouthed British twenty-something who spends most of her time pretending to be an adult. Her nerd status started from an early age with her dad’s love of sci-fi and developed through a love of gaming, reading and horror. As well as volunteering for a charity, Claire writes about her life with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and mental health over at her blog, as well as tweeting nonsense over as @MouthAndSpoons. The dream is to either make it as a successful writer, or go into mental health research. She lives at home with her equally nerdy husband, their dog Lady, cat Pip and a lot of fish.

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Final Fantasy XIV – The MMO You Should Be Playing!

I’m a huge JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) nerd, a love that stemmed from dipping my toes into the Final Fantasy franchise at age 11 with the tenth installment in the main series – Final Fantasy X. It’s also the series that taught me how to use Roman numerals, if you can believe that. I fell deeply in love with the characters, the story, the way I could build and develop my party, oh, and the music. That music was the soundtrack of my teenage years, (along with Linkin Park, Muse and Evanescence… we all make poor choices okay?) and followed me to my adult years, as I picked up more Final Fantasy titles. In order, I played IX, X-2, VIII, VII, III, VI and XIII, the latter being my least favourite.

I stayed away from the first FF MMORPG (that’s a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game for anyone not familiar with the daft term) which was XI, because it didn’t appeal to me. Plus, I had somehow managed to dodge the online gaming bug that seemingly started with World of Warcraft. I had to pay monthly to play a game with strangers who were probably going to be mean to me? You’re talking to someone who gets worn out from talking to friends in real life, let alone online! I played a WoW trial for an hour a few years ago and didn’t enjoy it. When I first heard about the next MMO in the series – Final Fantasy XIV – I was intrigued. I’d heard that it was going to be available on PS3 as well as the PC, which appealed massively to me, as my PC at the time was basically an advanced typewriter.

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But… well, when FFXIV first came out, it wasn’t received very well. In fact, ‘disaster’ wasn’t even a strong enough word for it. Bugs galore, shoddy interface, lacklustre content – there was still a loyal, if frustrated, fan base for the game, and despite attempts to fix the unseemingly unfinished launch product, the game was pulled offline altogether and completely rebuilt from the ground up. Released under the title Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn with a new team in control (ALL HAIL YOSHI-P!), they literally dropped a meteor on the old story and world, bringing in a fresh start for old players and new.

So, where do I come in? Well, a friend of mine called James (check his Twitter, he’s a huge comic book nerd!) introduced it to me as he played with someone we knew. They showed me the massive in-game world, along with their characters and classes, and then told me to give it a go. I saw there was a trial available for me to play, so I installed and found myself immersed in the story from the beginning. I was a Warrior of Light, destined for something amazing as time would go on. I created my character, a human Gladiator named Kezia Walker, and started my journey in the vast world of Eorzea.

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This game would have won me over had it been a standalone game, as it ticks all the boxes that I expect from a FF title – the surroundings are absolutely gorgeous, the characters are engaging, and the story… easily the best in a long time, probably since X. And I probably don’t need to comment on the music, the composer Nobuo Uematsu is a genius, I couldn’t love him more if I tried.

I was amazed at just how much content I could do without having to build a party, or even communicate with other players. The effort was made on my behalf, matching me with other players to do the first dungeon in the story as well as other content which required four players. My role as a Gladiator put me in position of being a Tank for the party, meaning I would take the enemy’s attention away from the other members, while the DPS (damage dealers) pummeled their way through, leaving the Healer safe from harm. It was a role I didn’t quite understand, and when I found myself in a Free Company (FFXIV’s guild system) and played with more experienced players, I realised that taking charge and being a sponge for damage wasn’t quite for me.

The brilliant thing about FFXIV in my opinion, is the Job system. You start off with a class – so in my case, I was a Gladiator – which would then lead me to picking up a Job as I levelled up. This requires some experience in another class, which is an option in FFXIV. I know people who play WoW who have multiple accounts to play different roles, as that’s the only way you can, but not in FFXIV!

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The Job available to me beyond my class was Paladin – which required getting to level 30 on my Gladiator, and level 15 in the healing class Conjurer. So, I played at healing as a Conjurer, and found that I enjoyed healing way more than I ever did tanking. And although I eventually unlocked the Paladin Job, I continued to level Conjurer, before levelling up the Arcanist class to 15 so I could become a White Mage. It sounds complicated on paper, but couldn’t be easier to pick up in-game.

I also ditched my human appearance and became an adorable purple-haired Lalafell – a race that can only be described as what an anthropomorphised potato would look like – took up the stave and became a determined, if easily irritated healer. I have now been playing FFXIV for well over a year, I have made some amazing friends within my Free Company, I’ve shared some amazing experiences and have been lucky enough to see this game go from strength to strength. The original incarnation of FFXIV was known as version 1.0, A Realm Reborn was 2.0 and with the launch of the first expansion for the game called Heavensward, we are now in the era of 3.0. And with yet another free patch rolling in on February 23rd, it only gets better.

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As for the tale of plucky Lalafell White Mage Kezia Walker? Well, she’s conquered gods, downed beasts and has saved the world from oblivion more times that anyone has counted. Along with every other Warrior of Light she has encountered during her time. And you know what? She’s had a lot of fun along the way. If only her FC mates would stop slapping her…

Final Fantasy XIV Online is available on PC, PS3, PS4 and Steam. Heavensward available separately. 14 day free trial also available – and highly recommended!

Are you already playing? If you’re on the Cerberus server, look me up and we’ll do some fun things together!


ClaireClaire is a foul-mouthed British twenty-something who spends most of her time pretending to be an adult. Her nerd status started from an early age with her dad’s love of sci-fi and developed through a love of gaming, reading and horror. As well as volunteering for a charity, Claire writes about her life with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and mental health over at her blog, as well as tweeting nonsense over as @MouthAndSpoons. The dream is to either make it as a successful writer, or go into mental health research. She lives at home with her equally nerdy husband, their dog Lady, cat Pip and a lot of fish.

You, Me, and the Best End-of-the-World Show Ever!

It’s very rare that I become so enthralled with a TV show that it becomes compulsory weekly viewing, well, aside from Gogglebox and Game of Thrones. It took me until this year to finally catch up with Breaking Bad, I lost interest in Orange is The New Black after the latest season, and American Horror Story lost its shine after Asylum – although, Wes Bentley’s perfect arse is doing alright in Hotel I must admit. I digress.

I recall seeing the trailers for You, Me and the Apocalypse while dogsitting for a friend of a few months ago. I’m a big fan of most apocalyptic media, British comedy is always a huge hit and Mat Baynton (who plays protagonist Jamie) is a cutie patootie previously seen in the wonderfully funny show Horrible Histories. So, with these three factors in mind, I settled down to watch the first episode when it started here in the UK on September 30th.

The show starts with the credits – a very dishevelled looking Jamie is sitting in an underground bunker, watching on TV as a meteor begins to crash down on Earth. Each week, we see more familiar faces in the bunker there with him, a seemingly random bunch of people thrown together at the end of days.

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In the first episode, we’re introduced to bank manager Jamie, who lives a very mundane life in Slough living with his best friend Dave (Joel Fry, who some of you may recognise as Hizdahr zo Loraq from Game of Thrones) and his mum Paula (Pauline Quirke). We learn that his wife Layla went missing while they were on honeymoon seven years earlier, and he has never given up hope that she might return – despite his mum’s resignations.

We’re then taken over to America, where we meet Rhonda (Jenna Fischer from the US Office) who is in prison for a crime she didn’t commit but is willing to take the wrap for. It’s clear that she’s not exactly prison material, but she soon finds herself a friend in Leanne, a seemingly sweet Southern lady who just happens to have a Swastika tattooed on her forehead… (Megan Mullally, on fire as usual in this role)

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Suddenly, the worst news imaginable is reported after Jamie is arrested for a bizarre crime he swears he didn’t commit – an eight mile wide comet is on a collision course with the planet and it doesn’t look good for mankind. But Jamie has more important things on his mind – like, why his wife is alive and well in Russia? And why was she spotted with a man that looks strikingly similar to him?

Back in America, it might not be all doom and gloom, as Scotty McNeil (Kyle Soller) and the US General Arnold Gaines (British stalwart Paterson Joseph) are in charge of the plan that will save the world. Hopefully. Maybe. While all that’s going on, we go over to The Vatican, where Sister Celine (Gaia Scodellaro) is a nun with the sunniest disposition in the whole convent – she’s sent to work in the recently reopened office of Devil’s Advocate along with foul-mouthed, chain-smoking Father Jude Sutton (Rob Lowe is brilliant, alright?) where their job is to find the potential saviour for mankind.

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Somehow, this group of people comes together for the end of the world. Over the ten episodes, we find out the answers to questions we didn’t even know we’d have, about people we didn’t know we’d come to care about so much – Scotty is a precious being who needs to be protected at all costs, and I will fight anyone who wants to hurt him – and you’ll be fooled into thinking you’re watching a comedy when there will be times when you feel like your heart has broken in two. I loved every moment of this series and I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re a fan of Shaun of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, Monty Python and anything inbetween, then You, Me and The Apocalypse will be right up your street.

The cast is perfect, the story is extraordinary and brilliantly written, the mix of comedy and drama is just right (“You do not put people’s feet in food processors – there’s a line even in these kind of situations!”) and then there’s the fact that this series has somehow got me researching religion and theology for fun. There’s also a very satisfying amount of twists and turns that will keep you coming back for more – and trust me on one thing, just because you know the series ends when the world does, it doesn’t mean you know what’s coming…

You, Me and the Apocalypse is available in the UK on demand via Sky 1, and will soon be showing in the US on January 28th on NBC.


ClaireClaire is a foul-mouthed British twenty-something who spends most of her time pretending to be an adult. Her nerd status started from an early age with her dad’s love of sci-fi and developed through a love of gaming, reading and horror. As well as volunteering for a charity, Claire writes about her life with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and mental health over at her blog, as well as tweeting nonsense over as @MouthAndSpoons. The dream is to either make it as a successful writer, or go into mental health research. She lives at home with her equally nerdy husband, their dog Lady, cat Pip and a lot of fish.

The Top Five Books That Turned Me into a Horror Nerd

Hi. My name is Claire and I am an unashamed horror nerd. I love everything that ranges from bloody and gory, to the tortured and psychological – if it gets my heart beating fast and leaves me looking over my shoulder, then you can consider me a fan. It doesn’t matter if it’s a film, game, comic or book, if it scares the shit out of me then I will love it.

As well as consuming horror, I love creating horror. Up until this year, I was running a series online based on slenderman myth along with Irish mythology called She is The Huntress. After having to cut the series short due to personal disputes, I am now rewriting it as a novel and hope to have it released next autumn. Writing something that will pull people into reading it despite not wanting to see what’s waiting for them on the next page is a thrill in itself, and having got into horror so heavily via books – my parents couldn’t dictate what I read as a child as easily as they could read BBFC ratings on films – my ultimate hope is that I can make others feel the same chill I did.

So, how did I become so enchanted by the genre? These books had a hand in it. Sit back, get comfy, and make sure the door is locked…

Goosebumps: Welcome To Dead House – R.L. Stine (1992, Scholastic)

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Who didn’t love Goosebumps back in the day? I discovered this book in my primary school’s library, and was curious about the gorey cover. The plot follows a family that moves into a new house (something I did a fair bit in my youth) and finds that all is what it seems in their new dwelling. Suddenly, zombie children! Fake great uncles! Spooky real estate agents! A dog!

For an eight year old girl, I was holding true terror in my hands as I read along. This book lead me to read through as much of the Goosebumps range of books that I could find in any library I came across, as well as the well-loved TV series, and soon my feet were firmly placed in the genre. I also have a huge amount of admiration for author R.L. Stine who has made his living scaring children senseless. What a wonderful bastard.

Point Horror: Teacher’s Pet – Richie Tankersley Cusick (1991, Scholastic Point)

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My cousin/stand-in sister Rox got me into the Point Horror series as came to the end of my time in primary school and found I needed something a little more frightening to whet my wicked whistle. It also introduced me to a whole different type of fear – obsessive people. A naive teenage heroine who loves to write and be scared… oh, I can picture her so clearly.

Suddenly, a handsome, fragile teacher who falls for her – I always pictured him as my old history teacher Mr Clayton – and a demented stalker enter the scene and our heroine is left scared for real! It had everything I wanted in a book, suspense, drama, and a protagonist I could, strangely enough, relate to. Like ghosts, zombies and dentists, obsessive stalkers are fun to fear in fiction, but should be avoided in real life.

 Misery – Stephen King (1987, Viking)

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I actually borrowed this off my nan (AKA, my reading hero) and found it feeding further into the fears left from Teacher’s Pet. A talented writer, a demented fan, an axe… it was a perfect story. It had a heavy, claustrophobic feel to the whole story, along with the tension that built the longer that our protagonist Paul was kept captive by His Number One Fan Annie.

It opened my eyes to the legend that is Stephen King and his extensive back catalogue of horror and suspense – my particular favourites include Pet Sematary, Carrie and Cell, as well as The Running Man. His writing is sheer perfection, and I implore every horror fan out there to pick up at least one of his books in their lifetime. You won’t regret it.

The Rats – James Herbert (1974, New English Library)

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James Herbert was a superb British writer who passed away back in 2013. He was exceptionally talented for painting a gruesome picture involving gore and violence, and I recommend this book to anyone reading this just like it was recommended to me by my mom who read this back when she was my age now.

I love rats.They’re adorable, intelligent little animals and they make wonderful pets – but not the rats in this book. They are vile, disgusting mutated monsters who rise from under London and begin to attack people without provocation. One of their first victims in the book is a baby. Herbert does not shy away from shock and mutilation in his debut novel and it makes for truly unsettling reading.

American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis (1991, Vintage Books)

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The odd one out in my selection here, but the book that cemented my fear of human beings and made me question sanity as it stands. This is not a horror book, but it is still shocking, graphic and paints a picture of a deplorable human being in main character Patrick Bateman. Most people will know this story from the iconic performance that Christian Bale gave in the 2000 film adaptation – he based his version of the character on Tom Cruise – but having read the book, I can assure you that the more graphic parts were definitely left out, probably so it would actually get shown in cinemas.

As the book goes on, we are left wondering if anything we are being told by Bateman is true. Is he a psychopath? Is he leaving a bloody trail? Or is he just another jaded yuppie? It is a chilling insight into his mind – as well as a graphic tale of sex, violence and madness.


 

So there you have it! These are the books that cemented my love for the written fright. As for my currently reading section, here is what I am slowly devouring…

  • Red Dragon – Thomas Harris
  • House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
  • Horns – Joe Hill
  • Code Junkie – Jeffrey Koval Jr

If you have any horror book suggestions, or anything to say about the books I’ve spoken about here, please leave me a comment and we’ll have a chat! Until next time friends, take care – are you sure all the doors are locked?


 

ClaireClaire is a foul-mouthed British twenty-something who spends most of her time pretending to be an adult. Her nerd status started from an early age with her dad’s love of sci-fi and developed through a love of gaming, reading and horror. As well as volunteering for a charity, Claire writes about her life with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and mental health over at her blog, as well as tweeting nonsense over as @MouthAndSpoons. The dream is to either make it as a successful writer, or go into mental health research. She lives at home with her equally nerdy husband, their dog Lady, cat Pip and a lot of fish.

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