DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

You met me at a very strange time in my life...

Read my novel: Complete Darkness

Listen to the PODCAST I co-host: Hosts in the Shell

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Interview with Francesco Dimitri (Author of The Book of Hidden Things)

Matt Meets the Master of Hidden Things... Francesco Dimitri

There is a deep sense of wonder in The Book of Hidden Things. It is the compelling tale of what happens when four old school friends (who have a pact to meet up every year in the small town in Puglia they grew up in) try to discover what has happened when one of them disappeared.

Art, the charismatic leader of the group and creator of the pact, insists that the agreement must remain unshakable and enduring. But this year, he never shows up.

Is he caught up in something dangerous? There are rumours about Art - drug dealing and love stories but also bizarre and unbelievable rumours that he miraculously cured the local mafia boss’s daughter of terminal leukaemia.

In the chaos of his house, the friends find a document written by Art, the titular 'Book of Hidden Things', which promises to reveal dark secrets and wonders beyond anything previously known.

What follows is an incredible mystery where Francesco Dimitri (this is his first novel written in English, following his career as one of the most significant fantasy writers in Italy), will entrance, beguile and seduce you.

This is a book that will transport you to the gorgeous landscape of Southern Italy and make you reconsider friendship, magic, love and betrayal. I was blown away by this mystery which somehow exists somewhere outside of time itself but feels incredibly real...

Interview with Francesco:

1. Hi Francesco - loved your Book of Hidden Things, how would you describe it to those who haven't had the pleasure of reading it yet?

I am never fully at ease describing my books - in a sense, I already described them, by writing them. 

I would say that, if you like to get a sense of place, a sense of mystery, and a sense of friendship, it might be for you.

2. What were your biggest influences for the novel?

They were probably musical rather than literary. If I had to single out one, it would be Vinicio Capossela, an Italian singer-songwriter who has been working a lot on Southern Italian lore.

3. The characters are very likeable - will we see any of them again in the future?

As a cameo, maybe, but no more than that. I don’t like sequels very much… I told a piece of their life. The rest of it is their business.

4. As well as books, Darkmatters is a film review site, could you give us your top five fav films?

My top five changes every day.

One of my all-time favourite is The Blues Brothers, and I love it because it shows that you can be wacky and warm at the same time...

5. We think The Book of Hidden Things would make a great TV series - what would be your Netflix pitch for it?

It’s not in my hands right now :) TV rights have been sold, so it’s a matter of crossing fingers, mostly.

6. What piece of advice would you give readers who might have experienced something they can't explain?

Don’t try to explain it. Live it. The value of some experiences is aesthetic rather than rational.

7. We're now reading your 'That Sense of Wonder' non-fiction book. If you had to pick one thing that invokes 'wonder' in you what would that be?

The sea - the Mediterranean, in particular. As a kid, I would spend hours just sitting on the beach, close to the sea, and doing nothing much, just being there, like with an old friend. 
As a grown-up nothing has changed.

8. Finally what one thing would you want people to say about you in years to come?

That I didn’t completely waste their time x.

“Matt Adcock skilfully weaves together theological questions and SF,
in the best tradition of the genre” 

 Francesco Dimitri, author The Book of Hidden Things

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Matt visits Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey (PG)

Dir. Michael Engler

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

'Do you have enough clichés to get you through the visit?'

Much loved aristo-life ‘upstairs / downstairs’ TV show makes the jump to become a rather lovely upper-middle-class-em-up cinematic event. Downton Abbey the TV series has a huge following of over 10 million so it’s not really a surprise that director Michael Engler brings it to the big screen for the ready-made audience to enjoy.

The plot sees King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) paying Downtown a royal visit and setting many cats among the pigeons of the serving staff by announcing that they will bring their own staff to cook, clean and serve them.

"nobody smiles - nobody gets hurt"

Screenwriter Julian Fellowes, who has Downton Abbey form, does a great job of bringing subplots that include drama, tension and comedy together to make some jolly good viewing.

All of the cast get moments to shine including the royals - Princess Mary (Kate Phillips) comes to Downton but is having problems with controlling husband, Henry Lascelles (Andrew Havill) meanwhile good egg Bertie Pelham (Harry Hadden-Paton) however is still being lovely to Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael) but is torn when asked to do a royal duty.

There is even room for some mild action for Tom Branson (Allen Leech), the Irish ex-chauffeur, and widowed son-in-law of Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), the Earl of Grantham. Things get tense when a dodgy Captain Chetwode (Campbell Moore) seems to want to check that his Irish loyalties won’t jeopardise the forthcoming King's parade.

"strike a posh pose"

Branson also gets some love interest in the form of lady’s maid Lucy (Tuppence Middleton) who serves Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton). Then, of course, there is the indomitable Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) who has a bone to pick with Bagshaw – and who still gets most of the best lines.

Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery), contrives to bring Carson (Jim Carter) back which puts the nose of new butler, Thomas (Rob James-Collier) out of joint. And with mischief afoot as the Downton under stairs crew clash with their royal counterparts who are led by nasty butler (David Haig), the scene is set for comforting, feel-good fun.

"royal visit"

There are some stunning drone shots of the titular stately home at all times of day which is almost a character in its own right. By the time the familiar music fires up, you’ll have witnessed possibly the best ever episode of Downton Abbey – and for fans that is good news indeed!

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


(4 - Jolly good times all round)

Awesomeness öööö – If you liked the TV show - you'll love the film!

Laughs ööö – Posh fun

Horror ö – Not grim

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Servants have lives too

Friday, September 20, 2019

IT - Chapters 1 & 2

IT - Chapters 1 & 2 (15)

Dir. Andy Muschietti

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

IT Chapter 1

“When you're a kid, you think that you'll always be... protected, and cared for. 
Then, one day, you realize that's not true…”

Stephen King has a lot to answer for – not least being the source material for a host of cinematic turkeys… But occasionally his manically horrific imagination brings some quality chills to the big screen such as The Shining and now we have another good one with IT.

Based on the chunky ‘80s coming-of-age novel that was previously filmed a mini-series (which itself inspired hit TV show Stranger Things) – the new IT is a classy horrific thrill ride that really delivers.

"wanna play?"

The writers have skillfully abridged the material – losing a lot of the overly gonzo stuff like cosmic turtles and keeping the core nasty narrative of an evil child-killing demonic entity that stalks the small U.S. town of Derry, Maine.

Stars of this tale are a likeable bunch of school kids known as ‘The Losers Club’ made up of: Leader ‘Bill’ (Jaeden Lieberher) whose younger brother is killed by the monstrous evil, then there is new kid in town ‘Ben’ (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and ‘Bev’ (Sophia Lillis) – the only female of the group. Also in the club are the sweary ‘Ritchie’ (Finn Wolfhard), Jewish ‘Stan’ (Wyatt Oleff), delivery boy ‘Mike’ (Chosen Jacobs) and hypochondriac ‘Eddie’ (Jack Dylan Grazer).

The youngsters are up against Bill Skarsgård’s cackling, demonic personification of evil as the clown monster called Pennywise - all sinister yellow eyes and beguiling red balloons. Pennywise can appear in a many of guises – using the children’s worst fears – and in the process single-handedly (re)kick-starting mass terror of clowns.

"Every Loser wins..."

IT certainly provides some good scares and gets pretty nasty in places – so this isn’t a film for the faint of heart. Skarsgård’s Pennywise is an iconic baddie, packing much more of a freaky punch than Tim Curry’s ‘90s version.

One interesting point is that none of the adults in the film are anything other than abusive, neglectful or distant. The kids are the only heroes but as well as the monster they also suffer at the hand of psychotic teenage bullies. It’s no fun being a child in this tale.

There is more the story of IT and a part 2 is in production that tells the tale of the losers when they are adults – just how they turn out after the horror they go through here will be fascinating…

If you want to a full-on horror with some fun moments and a decent pay off – this is IT!

"the fear is in the eyes"

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


(4 - Floats of fun and effective spookiness)

Awesomeness öööö – Many nice scenes and one killer clown

Laughs öö – Fun in places

Horror öööö – Satisfyingly nasty horror throughout

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Friends can help each other beat demons?

"guess who's back"

IT Chapter 2

We all bloat down here…

IT’s back - twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.

Kicking off by checking in on each of the ‘Losers’ – so we find Bill (James McAvoy) an author still eaten up by guilt about the death of his brother Georgie. Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is suffering at the hands of an abusive husband and Eddie (James Ransone) is still nervous about everything.

Ben (Jay Ryan) is no longer the chubby newcomer – he’s transformed into a regular sexy dude. Richie (Bill Hader) is a stand-up comedian who doesn’t let people know his sexuality. Stan, (Andy Bean) is terrified of returning to Derry and then there’s Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only one who stayed in Derry and is the one who calls them all back.

"all grown up"

The plot tips a nod about Bill not being able to end a film adaptation of his work well – and people criticising the endings of his books – which is due to lots of people not liking King’s ending of IT in the book / miniseries. Then goes on to deliver a long, drawn out plodding 3 hours that contains a few effective scenes but way too many tacky jump scares and some really rubbish CGI.

Pennywise the Clown (another committed turn from Bill Skarsgård) is scary when in his diabolical many toothed clown forms but much less so when turned into a comic looking stretched CGI hobo. The ‘scary’ scenes also don’t build up but rather each all feel self-contained, so the overall tension is lost time and again.

The cast do a good job but the movie is undone by its bloated running time, indulgent pacing and general lack of real jeopardy. The film is exceptionally long for a horror and really feels it, whilst Stephen King fans might lap up the attention to detail, the audience I saw this with were getting restless.

"is it a bird, is it a plane? no it's a clown"

There is some great, iconic even, imagery and the chemistry between the adult iterations of the Losers Club works well. Pennywise is a superb creation so it makes it such a shame that by two thirds in I was so bored. Director Muschietti does what he can – it’s not all bad – it just feels a shame that it is much less effective than Chapter One.

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


(2.5 - Bloated and messy clowning spookiness)

Awesomeness ööö – Occasionally shines

Laughs öö – Dark mirth

Horror öööö – The horror is there but weakened by lack of quality control

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Huge shoes to fill...

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (18)

Dir. Quentin Tarantino

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“To my wife and all my sweethearts. May they never meet…”

Quentin Tarantino is back with his 9th film – spinning the tall tale of what might have happened ‘Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood’. This is a love letter to 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as fading TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his long-time stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore.

Once Upon a Time is chock full of A-list stars even in small roles e.g. Al Pacino pops up for about five minutes but that’s one of the things that makes this such a rich experience. The attention to detail from the era features dodgy hippies, comedy western and war films, miniskirts and plenty of groovy music – it’s an ode to a time before mobile phones and internet...There is a breezy feelgood vibe to this bygone era of macho movie stars and old school filmmaking.


The lead characters have incredible chemistry – their bromance is a joy to watch. DiCaprio is on top form as Dalton, an actor whose luck has been down since his hit TV western series ‘Bounty Law’. Brad’s Cliff Booth, Rick's best friend but also his driver, odd-job man and kind of bodyguard too.

Booth’s is a ready-made iconic, a war vet who lives a simple life hanging out with Rick and living in a trailer behind a Drive-In movie theatre with his loyal dog Brandy. Rick meanwhile lives in a cool Hollywood Hills home alongside Hollywood royalty such as director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and his starlet wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). All is good as the two likeable leads bounce off each other – as the narrator says in Cliff Rick has: ‘a buddy who is more than a brother and a little less than a wife.’


The 18 rating and warning of ‘strong bloody violence’ however means that things are liable to get dangerous before the end credits and sure enough when the violence hits it is seriously over-the-top.

Trouble is hinted at from the moment Cliff see Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) – a hippie who might be caught up in the infamous Manson family cult. But with superb laugh-out-loud scenes like when Cliff gets to fight Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) on the set of a film it still comes as a shocking change of gear climax.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is a superb cinematic experience.

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


(5 - Tarantino bringing his 'A' game for a good time)

Awesomeness ööööö – Great fun bro banter and quality searing violence

Laughs ööö – Often very funny

Horror öööö (last 10 mins) – Do the words 'Strong bloody violence' mean anything to you?

Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Friendship is key

'my fav scene: Cliff vs Bruce Lee'