IT’S BACK! That Was A Bit Mental is resurrected

On 1 January 2011, I launched That Was A Bit Mental.

In a rather unassuming post simply called Why, Hello There, I introduced the site as “a celebration of the more weird and wonderful movies I tend to watch”.

Over the years the site continued to grow and it eventually developed a bit of a cult following. Colleagues and Twitter followers suggested movies for me to review, usually the most bizarre films they could think of (in keeping with the site’s style).

Writing was my profession: as a video game journalist, I wrote for the likes of Official Nintendo Magazine, Nintendo Gamer and CVG all while keeping TWABM going in my free time.

TWABM, then, was my way of continuing to write for fun. There was no pressure in writing my film reviews: no editors to decide what I could and couldn’t write, no sub-editors rewriting my words to fit a house style, no strict deadlines to meet. It was my escape and my constant reminder that writing is fun.

The site looked like this in the early days

It also gave me the freedom to write in a way I was more comfortable with. My daft, conversational, sweary writing style which can now be seen in my games site Tired Old Hack was nurtured and evolved on TWABM.

A lot can change in seven years, though. At the start of 2015 CVG was closed down and I was asked to either move to Bath and join GamesRadar or take redundancy. With a payoff in my bank account – there’s no way I could have joined the site that killed the one I loved – my wife and I moved back to my native Scotland.

There I got a ‘grown-up’ job, writing for the Scottish Government website, but since my passion for writing about games hadn’t died along with CVG, I started a new gaming site called Tired Old Hack. It started to grow, and continues to do so.

I was now juggling a new home, a new 9-to-5 job, my long-running movie site and my new gaming site. Something had to give, and I started committing less time to TWABM.

While in 2014 I’d managed to write 77 film reviews, in 2015 that had slightly dropped to 56. In 2016 it plummeted to just 17.

And, in 2017, I wrote a grand total of one solitary review on the site. To all intents and purposes, That Was A Bit Mental had died.

Things have changed again. Continue reading “IT’S BACK! That Was A Bit Mental is resurrected”


Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016) review

miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-posterDirector: Tim Burton

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Ella Purnell, Samuel L Jackson, Terence Stamp, Chris O’Dowd

“Because our abilities don’t fit in the outside world, we live in places like this, where no-one can find us.” (Miss Peregrine, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children)

If you’ve read anything about Tim Burton’s latest film you’ll probably have seen countless comparisons to the X-Men movies, due to the fact it’s set in a school occupied with children with special powers.

But I’m not that lazy.

Instead, I hereby declare that Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is in fact Tim Burton’s version of The Raggy Dolls, the popular British ‘80s and ‘90s cartoon in which a group of wee dudes with abnormalities team up to fight crime or something.

(I don’t know if the Raggy Dolls actually fought crime, I didn’t really watch it. I just liked the theme tune.) Continue reading “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016) review”

Movies to watch on Halloween – The TWABM Guide (updated for 2016)

Given my love of all things horror I’m often asked at this time of year by numerous people – sometimes upwards of three – which scary movies are worth watching.

Rather than go through the minor inconvenience of advising this tiny handful of friends, I’ve instead decided to put myself through a significantly larger inconvenience in the hope it helps out many others with a similar quandary.

Naturally, the issue here is that there’s no catch-all “good horror movie” – everyone likes different things, and one man’s Scream is another man’s Scream 3.

With that in mind, this feature takes the form of thirteen different themed sections, each featuring three movies. A bunch of triple-bills, if you will, ideal for your Halloween evening’s viewing.
Continue reading “Movies to watch on Halloween – The TWABM Guide (updated for 2016)”

Actium Maximus: War Of The Alien Dinosaurs (2005) review

Actium Maximus posterDirector: Mark Hicks

Writer / Composer / Cinematographer / Casting Agent / Sound Effects Editor / Special Effects: Mark Hicks

Starring: Mark Hicks, John McCuin, Jennifer Hamill

“Qava! I want you to start rounding up all of the Laffrodites off the Boulevards en masse! They will become infamous in the Maximus.” (Polpox, Actium Maximus)

Many amateur filmmakers dream of making the next underground smash, the next low-budget gem that does a Night Of The Living Dead or Clerks and emerges from obscurity to take over the world.

Mark Hicks, who is seemingly some sort of real life Garth Merenghi figure, clearly had this goal in mind when he wrote, directed and acted in Actium Maximus. Unfortunately, during this process he failed to notice his complete lack of writing, directing and acting ability. Continue reading “Actium Maximus: War Of The Alien Dinosaurs (2005) review”

Rollerball (2002) review

Rollerball (2012) posterDirector: John McTiernan

Starring: Chris Klein, LL Cool J, Jean Reno, Rebecca Romijn, Naveen Andrews

“ROLLERBALL!” (Paul Heyman, Rollerball)

As I wrote in my recent review, the original 1975 version of Rollerball is a fantastic, prescient commentary on the way massive corporations suffocate society.

It’s also a superb action movie, with plenty of high-paced and violent sequences with rollerskates, motorbikes, fists and feet flying all over the place.

What a difference 27 years makes, then, because the 2002 remake is one of the biggest piles of vapid cockwash ever committed to celluloid. Continue reading “Rollerball (2002) review”

Rollerball (1975) review

Rollerball 1975 posterDirector: Norman Jewison

Starring: James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck, Moses Gunn

“Corporate society takes care of everything. And all it asks of anyone, all it’s ever asked of anyone ever, is not to interfere with management decisions.” (Mr Bartholomew, Rollerball)

The best futuristic movies are those grounded in reality, the ones that aren’t just flying cars and laser guns but actually feel like they really could happen in the years to come.

Although some elements of Rollerball may not fall under this category – I don’t see a sport in which deaths are considered acceptable coming any time soon – so much of it feels remarkably spot on 40 years after its release. Continue reading “Rollerball (1975) review”

Fright Night (1985) review

Fright Night posterDirector: Tom Holland

Starring: William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys, Jonathan Stark, Dorothy Fielding

“I have just been fired because nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently all they want to see are demented madmen running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins.” (Peter Vincent, Fright Night)

The classic Dracula films aside, my favourite vampire movies are the ones set in the present day, taking an ancient monster thats often hundreds of years old and putting them in a modern setting.

No, I’m not talking about that. You wash your mouth out.

I’m talking about stuff like The Lost Boys, Near Dark and Vampire In Brooklyn. Okay, not that last one either.

The point I’m struggling to make here is that Fright Night is great. Well, that could have gone better. Continue reading “Fright Night (1985) review”

Burial Ground (1981) review

Burial Ground posterDirector: Andrea Bianchi

Starring: Mariangela Giordano, Roberto Caporali, Gianluigi Chirizzi, Karin Well, Antonella Antinori, Simone Mattioli, Peter Bark

Also known as: Le Notti Del Terrore (The Nights Of Terror), The Zombie Dead

“Mother, this cloth smells of death.” (Michael, Burial Ground)

When you ask someone to name some old zombie movies, the usual suspects inevitably pop up.

The obvious contenders, the ones folk will almost unconsciously start with, are Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn Of The Dead and Day Of The Dead.

Then you may get the occasional Return Of The Living Dead, or – if the person you’re asking knows their video nasty history – Zombie Flesh Eaters.

This is all perfectly understandable, mind – all five of the above are fantastic films – but there are plenty of excellent old zombie movies that, for some reason, never quite reached that same level of universal notoriety and acclaim.

One of the finest examples is Burial Ground, or The Night Of Terrors to give it its original Italian title. Continue reading “Burial Ground (1981) review”

Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987) review

Rock n Roll Nightmare posterDirector: John Fasano

Starring: Jon Mikl Thor, Teresa Simpson, Jim Cirile, Jillian Peri, David Lane, Denise Dicandia, Frank Dietz, Liane Abel, Adam Fried

Also known as: The Edge Of Hell

“You killed no one, Bub. Or is it less familiar to call you Beelzebub? Or do you prefer Abaddon? Or, as the Hindus called you, Shaitan? Or, as you are known to answer to, Ahriman? Belial? Apollyon? Asmodeus? Because, you see… I do know you.” (John Triton, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare)

Well, now. Where to begin.

If you aren’t aware of Jon Mikl Thor, his Wikipedia page describes him as “a bodybuilding champion, actor, songwriter, screenwriter, historian, vocalist and musician”.

Having now watched Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, which was both written by Thor and starred him in the leading role, I’m almost tempted to edit that page and remove “actor” and “screenwriter”. Continue reading “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987) review”

Cloverfield (2008) review

Cloverfield posterDirector: Matt Reeves

Starring: Michael Stahl-David, Jessica Lucas, Mike Vogel, TJ Miller, Lizzy Caplan

HUD – “For all we know, it’s from another planet and it flew here.”

MARLENA – “Like Superman?”

HUD – “Yeah, exactly like… wait – you know who Superman is?”

MARLENA – “Oh. My. God. YOU know who Superman is? I’m, like, feeling something here. Are you aware of Garfield?”

For some reason despite my love of horror movies, my penchant for giant monster movies and my odd knack of stumbling upon countless found footage films (every word there linking to a different example), I’ve managed to go eight years without watching Cloverfield.

With its sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane recently released in cinemas, I figured if I was going to be late to the party I should at least do it at a relevant time.

I’m glad I did, because – and apologies if you already know this – Cloverfield is a nifty wee film. Continue reading “Cloverfield (2008) review”