In an age over-saturated with slick American teen drama series with a supernatural theme – many still characterised by the enduring influence of BUFFY and all of them hoping to be as long running as SUPERNATURAL – HEARTLESS is a distinctively Danish take on the form. Played commendably straight and without the smart-arse, self-aware humour that tends to dominate its U.S. equivalents, it’s an absorbing, if sometimes ponderous, eight-episode serial that has scope for further seasons.
In the early going of episode one, we witness photogenic teen twins Sofie (Julie Zangenberg) and Sebastian (Sebastian Jessen) luring and feeding in an almost vampiric fashion from an unfortunate young man in a nightclub who, as a result of their necessary act, promptly bursts into flames. The siblings have to feed on the life force of other people in order to survive and fatal consequences result if their feeding reaches a certain level. Sebastian, the more sensitive of the duo, wrestles with his own conscience of their activities, and together the twins set out to find out who and what they really are. They revisit the orphanage from which they originally ran away as infants, and discover that their mother attended an ultra-strict, rural boarding school. Joining as second year students, they learn about the dark history of the school itself – with the sadistic modern hierarchy carrying on old traditions of persecution and torture - and its inextricable links to their own bloodline.
Shot in muted tones and colours with the central school permanently enshrouded by mist, HEARTLESS is an atmospheric series built around a premise that inevitably echoes significant earlier American genre works. Sebastian (who tortuously reins in his need to feed wherever possible) gets the come-on from various girls at the school but his perfectly normal lustiness blurs with the unavoidable needs of his monstrous self when aroused, a la CAT PEOPLE. (The notion of a tortured, handsome male lead unable to fulfil romantic relationships due to the threat he poses, is of course, a throwback to BUFFY and ANGEL). The concept of family members with a desperate compulsion to feed on humans and a peculiarly incestuous relationship with each other has echoes of Stephen King’s far sillier SLEEPWALKERS. There are also CARRIE-inspired sub-plots involving the telekinetic powers of key secondary characters.
It could very easily be reincarnated as a generic, slick U.S. series, but the execution here is very Scandinavian. The tone is sombre and understated, with an underlying erotic charge and a real effort to minimise FX and melodrama in favour of a realistic approach to the potentially outlandish material. The backstory, including flashbacks to 17th century witch-hunts linked to the school principal’s three daughters, is effectively integrated into the contemporary narrative, and the performances are strong all round: the two leads are striking. For those that crave such things, there are occasional intrusions of predictably bad CGI fire and some fleeting, gratuitous shower-room nudity, but HEARTLESS has a beguiling style of its own, even when retreading age-old plot threads like the old “Only love can break the curse…” chestnut that we have seen in sundry earlier genre projects.
GAME REView – MARVEL VS. CAPCOM: INFINITE ****
Developed by Capcom. Fighting, PEGI 12
Released in UK on PS4/Xbox One by Warner Bros. on 19th September 2017, RRP £49.99.
It’s been a strange time for brawling games on consoles and PC. Take Street Fighter IV for example. It launched last year with very little single player features and an extremely rocky online mode, which made it tough to recommend given the lofty price tag.
Thankfully Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite sidesteps that mistake in favour of a feature packed disc that should please both seasoned fighting game fans, and casual players keen to try out the huge roster of kick-ass characters from the world of Marvel and Street Fighter. One of the most enjoyable modes on offer is the story mode, which takes its cues from the likes of Mortal Kombat and Injustice by blending cinematic cut scenes that ultimately bleed into bouts of fisticuffs.
Okay, the plot’s a little daft - Marvel’s Ultron and Capcom’s Sigma attempt to merge their two worlds using the Infinity Stones – but there are some fantastic moments peppered throughout, including a team-up between Ryu and The Hulk, over the course of the campaign, which clocks in at around three to five hours depending on how handle yourself in fights.
And once you’ve clocked the campaign there’s a huge wealth of content on offer, including online fights, arcade mode, training and versus mode where you can test your might against an AI opponent or a second player. However, the big difference between Infinite and previous iterations is the inclusion of the Infinity Stones in favour of a third character.
Each Stone comes with its own unique ability such as the Soul Stone’s ability to revive a downed teammate, which can be incredibly useful if you’re on the verge of defeat. They do an exceptional job of mixing up the gameplay, and can turn the tide of a fight if used wisely, so take the time to master each one if you’re serious about sinking hours into Infinite’s online mode. Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite is a hugely entertaining fighting game, and one that’s both easy to play and difficult to master, so be prepared to pour hours into this one if you’re in it for the long haul.
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