My Life In Film: Dave Jeffery

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BLADERUNNER My all-time favourite movie based on the script, the emotional integrity and philosophical themes alone. Throw in the bleakly gorgeous, often imitated, production design and Scott’s vision of a dystopian nightmare is what I would consider a masterpiece. This movie demonstrated how the perfect storm of a beautiful, poignant narrative and visual form can create something that lingers in the psyche forever. The influence of this film on so many of today’s visionary film makers is without dispute. Deserving of its ‘classic’ status, and then some.

ALIEN I was too young to see this when it came out in 1979. So I bought the Alan Dean Foster novelisation, followed quickly afterwards by the Futura Publications ALIEN: MOVIE NOVEL edited by Richard J. Anobile and the 1979 ALIEN: THE ILLUSTRATED STORY by Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson, published through Heavy Metal Magazine. In all, anything I could get my hands on. It’s a horror film set in space, at a time when such things were unique. By the time I got the VHS, I felt I knew this movie backwards. But, my God, the suspense when the thing played out on the screen was beyond what I dared hope. I didn’t get to see it on the big screen until Scott’s directors cut was released in 2003.  A true classic thanks to intense performances, set design and direction and, of course,  a great, great script.

STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE STAR WARS, the original version, the ‘Spring 1978 life-changing cinematic experience’ version. As a 14 year old kid, watching this at the Gaumont Cinema in Birmingham, and witnessing – first-hand – the birth of modern cinema. The opening shot, changing me forever.  By the end of the year I had watched it over twelve times, five time in one day when on holiday in Porthcawl. Today, like so many others, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve seen this film. When people say ‘I can’t see what all the fuss is about’, I sit back and smile. I guess you really had to be there, at the beginning, when the dream came true.

EXORCIST III This is the TRUE sequel to THE EXORCIST, written and directed by original novelist William Peter Blatty and based on his book LEGION. This movie is one of a few that had me sleeping with the light on for a few days after I’d watched it. The level of suspense and dry humour is off the scale, coupled with a smart script and an incredibly powerful performance by George C. Scott in his last movie before his death in 1999, and the terrifying Brad Dourif gives one of the performances of his career. I consider this a masterclass in creepy, nerve-jangling horror, relatively bloodless and the stuff of nightmares. This movie highlighted the importance of keeping a narrative tight and allow for the suspense to build as the story progresses. EXORCIST III is easily one of my all-time favourite horror movies.

HALLOWEEN I watched this on TV with my father after he raved on about seeing it on the cinema. At the time I was heavily into the 70’s pulp fiction horror of James Herbert and Guy N Smith. Carpenter’s seminal slasher movie had me on the edge of my seat, a masterwork of suspense and it is this type of tension I try to instil in my action adventure stories, for example FROSTBITE and TOOTH & CLAW.

JAWS I really enjoyed the book but the movie was in a league of its own when I first saw this in the summer of 1974. I remember going to see my grandfather in hospital after the screening and worrying that the shark was lurking under his bed! It was not the graphic violence on screen that left a long-standing impression, but the things you never saw, like the opening shot of the woman being mauled as she tried to clamber onto the buoy.  The idea that there was more fear in the imagination stayed with me after seeing Jaws, and this has certainly influenced the tone of some of my material over the years. Ending a chapter by suggesting what might happen rather than have the reader exposed to it in all its graphic glory is a product of watching this movie.

PLANET OF THE APES (1968) I love the original franchise but the first movie is stand out to me as a piece of classic science fiction cinema. Rod Serling and Michael Wilson’s script is a powerful and brutal indictment of the political landscape of the time, and the production takes what could’ve been a laughable premise and creates an arresting, intelligent masterpiece. I was a huge fan of the comics and still have loads of them squirreled away at my house. Like all of the films here, I watch this on an annual basis.

THE THING Back in 1982, watching John Carpenter’s claustrophobic, ultra-gory science fiction horror movie on the big screen was an experience I’ll never forget. While the world was smitten with ET, THE THING became a casualty of a schmaltzy, fun-seeking general public, fed up with cynicism. The Thing has since become recognised for what it as always been, a masterpiece of modern horror, given weight by Rob Bottin’s hideous and incredible make up creations, a beautifully sparse script and Carpenter’s acute sense of timing.

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON When John Landis released his shape-shifting horror movie in 1981, it shared the screen with two other lycanthropic films, The Howling and Wolfen. I’d loved the idea of werewolves since watching Universal’s THE WOLFMAN and Guy N Smith’s WEREWOLF BY MOONLIGHT novel in the mid-seventies. When Landis topped the tree was the perfect blend of dark humour and brutally graphic violence. This movie is often cited for its remarkable make up effects but for me it was the bursts of humour that gave the violence more punch. As Landis himself has made clear in interviews ever since, he set out to make a horror movie, not a comedy and boy did he succeed.

DREDD Created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, JUDGE DREDD has been in my life since I read the first episode in the second edition of 2000AD comic back in March 1977. The transfer of a beloved character from my childhood to the silver screen was one that filled me with a sense of unease. This was borne out by Stallone’s movie of 1995 which had great production value but for me fell flat everywhere else. When I learned of a new version, I was initially unimpressed and then I watched the movie. DREDD has become a serious contender for one of my all-time favourite movies, based purely on the script, the production values and it success at capturing the soul of those comic books I read and loved as a kid. The slow-motion violence is beautifully brutal, the ethics ambiguous, a true dystopian vision that somehow has the viewer supporting what is, in effect, a police state. This is the kind of equivocal emotion that makes this film a classic, a status that I believe, in time, will be placed upon it. Then I’ll be sitting smug saying, yeah, I told ya so!

Dave Jeffery is author of 15 novels, two collections, and numerous short stories. His Necropolis Rising series and yeti adventure Frostbite have both featured on the Amazon #1 bestseller list. His YA work features critically acclaimed Beatrice Beecham supernatural mystery series and Finding Jericho, a contemporary mental health novel that was featured on the BBC Health and the Independent Schools Entrance Examination Board’s recommended reading lists. 

Jeffery is a member of the Society of Authors, British Fantasy Society (where he is a regular book reviewer), and the Horror Writers Association. He is also a registered mental health professional with a BSc (Hons) in Mental Health Studies and a Master of Science Degree in Health Studies.

Jeffery is married with two children and lives in Worcestershire, UK.

Visit his WEBSITE for further information.

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