Pine by Francine Toon: Book review


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It’s a sort of gothic horror for our times, although I’d describe it as more mystical than horrifying, and it brings in aspects of police procedural, but with no police.

Instead a crime is traced by 11 year old Lauren, a fairly neglected, and bullied at school, single-parent child.

Her dad, Niall, an alcoholic, has lost his wife (disappeared) in unresolved circumstances before Lauren can even remember what she looks like.  But is she dead, or is her ghost/spirit/person occupying the fringes of the novel?

Lauren has assumed mystical behaviours consistent with witchcraft, and perhaps inherited from her missing Mum.

It’s set on the edge of a pine forest in Northern Scotland and it’s written with great skill by first time novelist, Toon.  But what it scores highly on, in terms of writing panache and storytelling, it loses out a little on in tension.

It feels a little familiar and seems destined for our screens.  Indeed, for large parts. I felt I was reading a film transcript which let it down a little.

That all sounds a little dismissive, but if you are looking for a lightish read with a degree of writing quality (it’s published by Penguin after all) It’s worth picking up.

It’s a decent read.

 

 

Us: Movie Review


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The ‘tethered’ family who come to terrorise their human (or are they) doppelgängers.

The Us of the title are Jordan Peele’s ‘tethered’ doppelgängers of North Americans (pictured) who live underground. After many years underground the Rapture has arrived  as predicted in Jeremiah 11:11 and the human race faces a challenge that it will struggle to overcome.

Peele’s second horror is every bit as intellectually challenging as Get Out And like that debut features a fine central performance; this time in the form of Lupita Nyong’o, her family and their ‘tethers’.  For quite long sequences of the movie Nyong’o shares the screen with herself in absolutely seamless editing and post production that takes your breath away. In fact much of this film does that with its incredible design and vivid photography.

The main cast is almost exclusively black, but a fine cameo by Elizabeth Moss and her family is the exception.

A starting point may have been Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Nyong’o, as a young child in 1986, is drawn into this sinister underworld in a beach-side fairground show on Santa Cruz promenade. Wearing the Thriller T shirt her dad has won in a coconut shy she is taken from this world to a backdrop of Hands Across America, which was supported by Jackson.

It’s not the scariest horror you will ever see (although it has enough jumps to keep your heart going) but it’s one of the creepiest.  It sits neatly in the latest greats of the genre (Get Out, It follows) that treats its viewer with respect and keeps you guessing right to the end.

I won’t say much more as it will only lead me to spoilers but, put it this way, we are in the hands of a master craftsman here – his next movie project is a rewrite of Candyman by the way.

A Quiet Place: Movie Review.


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This horror film works extremely powerfully on a number of levels.

It perfectly demonstrates Hitchcock’s thinking “There is a distinct difference between ‘suspense’ and surprise’, and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. – if filmmakers keep spectators unaware, they can create “fifteen seconds of surprise,” but if they inform them of the impending encounter, they can produce “fifteen minutes of suspense”

In A Quiet Place director (and co-star) John Krasinski (who directed three episodes of The Office – not exactly a training ground for this) has clearly listened to Hitchcock because everything about this superb movie is driven by suspense.  I counted ten times when I leaped from my seat, but I was on the edge of it from start to finish.

It’s lean, taut, beautifully shot, expertly sound-tracked and superbly sound-crafted (absolutely essential in a movie that’s about noise).

His acting, and that of his entire family (particularly the outstanding Emily Blunt – his real life wife), is razor sharp.

And the whole thing is done and dusted in a creditable 80 minutes flat.

Bish, bash, bosh.  Job done.

Scared the shit out of you.

Now, go home.

Really, this is film craft at its finest and goes straight into my top ten horrors of all time alongside…

  • The Shining
  • It Follows
  • Get Out
  • Alien
  • Jaws
  • Psycho
  • The Exorcist
  • Rec
  • Paranormal Activity

What brings these all together (with the exception of The Shining and possibly Rec) is the lack of REAL horror.

Less, in my book, is generally more.

What makes this movie so damned good is the relationship Krasinski builds between members of the family.  His willingness to dispose of lead characters with a minimum of fuss makes the whole much more believable and credible and the fact that the story treats its audience with respect.  It has a strong beginning, middle and end although we join the story some 89 days into its telling.

The visual clues are subtle.  The emotions real, small and detailed.

He makes few plot mistakes (although the ‘nail’ set up is a little contrived and ‘the spaceship’ has a pretty big ‘guess what’s coming’ flag attached to it).

The gore is minimal which is how I like it.

Now, look at that list above and you can see a golden age of horror emerging: A Quiet Place, Get Out, It Follows, Rec and, just missing the list, French horror, Raw, are all pretty recent.  They are all minimalist but they are all a) brilliantly directed and b) finely acted. The craft skills are evident in abundance in all five, but none of them need a lot of gore to engage their audience.

I hope Krasinski gets his just rewards for this.

Get Out. Movie Review.


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Once in a while a movie comes along that takes a genre by the scruff of the neck and vigorously shakes it into a new shape.

This is so with Get Out, a horror movie (so the marketing blurb says) that lobs a few horror tropes into a lean and mean 104 minute thriller.  But it is really a social observation on the insidiousness of racism.  It comes out the other end as a unique movie offering.

It borrows from Pacific Heights, Psycho, Michael Haneke’s astonishing Party Games and sub-horror-porn like Saw without ever being any of them.

Without resorting to spoilers its one gigantic twist from start to finish that realises the fears of a young black American guy on a trip to the country to meet his wealthy WASP girlfriend’s family on a celebration weekend.  Every sentence uttered by every character becomes a retrospective clue as to what the outcome will be.

Given it’s described as a ‘horror’ you can expect a deal of nasty stuff in a climactic ending.  What director and screenwriter Jordan Peele (amazingly a debut outing) most cleverly does is apply Hitchcockian tension so that 89 minutes of tension are realised in a mere 15 minutes of terror in such a way that the nasty bits don’t (as so often is the case) outstay their welcome.

Superb performances all round from the five principal actors, but especially boyfriend and girlfriend Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams (Girls).

It’s should be no surprise that this has been both BAFTA and Golden Globes nominated, but it is because this genre rarely reaches this level of critical acclaim.

It’ll get Oscar nods too.

Raw: Movie review.


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Wow.  This is not for everyone.

I am reminded of the disappointment I felt seeing movies like Crash and High Rise (Both JG Ballard stories).  Like Raw they promised to be challenging and thought provoking, but both were vacuous nonsense.

This is anything but vacuous.

A case study in great acting, great tension, great music, revulsion and complete and utter oddness.

It’s a directorial debut by Julia Ducournau which is something of a coincidence because I very much enjoyed Alice Lowe’s horror debut, Prevenge, earlier this year.

It seems there is a female bloodlust going on in movieland just now and the two would sit as excellent companion pieces, although there are fewer laughs in this.

If blood puts you off give this a wide berth.  If genuine but well developed antiestablishment hokum (it is horror hokum at then of the day) is your thing you will love this.

Think early Cronenburg,

Think early Alice Lowe.  (She’s only done early so far.)

Think Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

And think the best of Lars Von Trier (Kingdom specifically.)

 

 

Personal Shopper: Movie Review


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Personal Shopper is very French.

It has the languid pace of the French New Wave, letting the movie breathe gently as its story of loss and identity gradually unfolds.

But it won’t be the average horror (even ghost) movie fan’s cup of tea.

It has no shocks for one thing, although a lot of tension.

It’s a movie that completely embraces Kristen Stewart in all her glory.  She is superb throughout with a highly naturalistic performance (that, as is her way, includes little in the way of humour and very few smiles).

Glum.  That’s the way to describe her.

She’s barely off screen and acts with mobile phones, deserted buildings and the odd human.

If you like action avoid at all costs, but for an intelligent supernatural story with brilliant acting and a highly original premise this should be just your cup of tea.

Prevenge: Movie Review. The best pregnant, slasher, comedy, horror movie…ever.


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The three  Greek Furies that feature prominently in the 1934 Noirish movie, Crime Without Passion, are the central metaphor in Alice Lowe’s extraordinarily dark Prevenge, billed as the world’s  first pregnant, slasher, comedy, horror movie.

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In it, Alice Lowe’s character, Ruth, embarks on a revenge murder spree goaded on by her helium-voiced, gestating baby.

It takes her to Wales and, in one breathtaking scene, the streets of Cardiff on Halloween night where she claims she almost needed protection from the boozed-up locals in a sequence reminiscent of Scarlett Johnassonn’s Under The Skin street walk in Glasgow.

The reason for her bloody revenge spree is only revealed in drips (so I won’t spoil it – like a preview I read before the screening did for me) which adds greatly to the narrative tension.

The making of this low budget Film Four offering is remarkable.  Lowe was offered development money and finding herself pregnant used her condition to inspire this blackest of black script.  She then wrote, produced, cast and filmed (in 11 days) the whole affair before her baby arrived.

Seeing an actor perform whilst heavily pregnant, and genuinely playing a pregnant character, is a rarity (my only recollection is Frances McDormand in Fargo) and Lowe certainly makes the most of the opportunity.  Shooting took place in her late third Trimester.

The Furies are the ultimate avenging angels and she uses the extraordinary scenes from Crime Without Passion to symbolise her quest for justice, viewing the movie from the comfort of her hotel room where she takes respite, despite noisily bonking near neighbours, from her exhausting killings.

The killings themselves are simple but bloody affairs and each has hilarious set ups.  Can she complete her task before the long arm of the law catches up on her careful forensic clean ups?  You’ll have to see it to find out.

This is classic British black comedy at its best.  Using its low budget as a virtue but still making some moments of genuinely great cinematography, most notably in an exotic pet shop and a beautiful full facial dream sequence in a yoga class.

It has echoes of Mike Leigh’s early work and Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers is an obvious reference point.  Obvious because Lowe is its co-star and it too shares a murderous plotline.

But, comparisons aside, this is an entirely original take on several genres that does its damnedest to create a genre of its own.

Whether there’s room for thousands of pregnant, slasher, comedy, horror movies is debatable.

So we’ll just have to agree on one thing.  The original and best.

 

 

The Girl With All The Gifts: Movie Review


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OK I’m a sucker for a Zombie movie.  (One of my all time favourite genres.)

But this trumps mere Zombie movies.  This is a ‘kid’ Zombie movie and that raises the bar in its horrificness.

(That mask.)

(The wheelchairs.)

The main protagonist is a 10 year old Zombie being held captive in a military/medical establishment in the home counties with another 20 of her sort.

They are research fodder.

The charming, intelligent Melanie (played entirely convincingly and extremely empathetically throughout by debutant Sennia Nanua) it transpires has eaten herself out of her mother’s womb at the time that the world had fallen victim to a hideous fungal invasion that turned humans into Zombies.

Few have survived.

One is Melanie and her cronies’ teacher Helen Justineau (also well played by Gemma Arterton).  She and Melanie have a special bond that forms the backbone of the movie.

In the early establishing scenes the tension is palpable aided by an excellent soundtrack by  Cristobal Tapia de Veer, and when Paddy Considine (the good, bad guy army officer) lets  a classroom of the wheelchair bound critters have a ‘sniff’ of his humanity the reaction is unpleasant to say the least.

It becomes a road trip, as Zombie movies often do, with a series of set pieces gradually whittling down the cast (which includes the excellent Glenn Close) and gradually building the relationship between Arterton and Nanua; which is actually pretty believable.

Although the movie slightly outstays its welcome (one or two set ups too many I’d say) it’s good throughout.  Genuinely creepy, an original ‘take’ on the genre although borrowing heavily from 28 Days Later and, especially, I am Legend, which clearly inspired the excellent set-build and CGI effects of an abandoned London.

The ending lacks conviction but overall it’s a highly meritable addition to the Zombie canon.

One of the best in my opinion.

Laurence O’Keefe. My new favourite Musical theatre writer.


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In the past fortnight I have had the pleasure of being in the audience for two Larry O’Keefe Shows.  Batboy: The Musical and Heathers: The Musical.

He is best known for Legally Blonde.

I have yet to see Legally Blonde, but the two lesser shows in his income stream are both outrageous, hilarious, original and compelling from start to finish.

Both productions were university musical theatre society shows (Batboy: Glasgow Uni Cecilians and Heathers: Dundee Uni Operatic Society) and both were triumphs.

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His style is, shall we say, unorthodox and treads in the same furrow as Avenue Q, Jerry Springer The Opera and, I imagine not having seen it, Book of Mormon.

Irreverent, rude, taboo challenging.

If you’ve seen Avenue Q you’ll love ‘Everyone’s a little bit racist’ and that’s a good reference point as in these O’Keefe shows we get zero racism BUT we DO get insights into incest, homophobia, mental health issues, gang rape, mouth sword fencing and a smattering of other ‘uncomfortable’ observations.

Foul language, extreme sexual references and semi-nudity pepper both shows.  They are a delight and I will forever be looking for Fringe and amateur productions in the years to come.

Thank you Larry.  You’ve made me very happy.

 

 

Intelligent Horror. It Follows


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It Follows begins how it ends.

Mysteriously.

A young woman runs from her suburban home half dressed, terrified, confused.

She crosses the road haphazardly, then runs back to her house picks up her bag and escapes in her car, with her father shouting after her trying to work out what the hell is going on.

It is not explained.

The movie then unfolds.  No captions.  No narrative.  It just unwraps itself in a way I have never seen in horror.

Whilst it nods at convention (the music is unquestionably influenced by early John Carpenter and the cast is a bunch of Sorority kids) it is completely original in every other way.

It’s beautifully shot, carefully scripted without a single ham line and has a plot that is entirely unpredictable.

The basic premise is this.  A “thing” (monster, demon, zombie, entity: call it what you like) is passed between couples having sex.  And then it follows the ‘host’ until it is passed on to the next host, again following sex.

It manifests itself as a sort of walking zombie that follows the host.  Should it catch them it will not only kill them but possibly all those in the chain behind.

That’s easy to understand.  What isn’t is how our heroine Jay, played beautifully by Maika Monroe, attempts to resolve her plight.  Really, this is a rare horror performance, understated and properly acted.  Her fear is palpable.  And she doesn’t go wandering into unlit basements every five minutes.  It’s up there with Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween.

However, the plot becomes pretty confusing, but it kind of doesn’t matter because throughout this great movie you’re just taken in by its vitality, outstanding cinematography, freshness and the endless MacGuffins.

Seriously there must be 20 times you’re expecting to be scared to death (Hitchcock style musical and SFX builds) only for nothing to happen.

Anyone walking slowly in this movie could be the ‘entity’ and that’s repeatedly used as a trick.

Another great thing about it is the setting in Detroit.  It’s never overplayed but it adds a decaying creepiness that is entirely appropriate.

It’s a great addition to the world of horror.  Not as terrifying as some say, but absorbing and pure quality from start to startling finish.

 

The Shining Girls: Silence of the Lambs meets Dr Who.


credit for image to Drops of Jupiter

credit for image to Drops of Jupiter

Peter Capaldi, the erstwhile Malcolm Tucker and the new Dr Who, would have been comfortable surveying the script for this.  But too late, it’s probably already cast.  Because it’s already  “in development” as we speak, although, perhaps surprisingly, as a TV show, rather than a theatrical release, for Leonardo Di Caprio’s production company.

Time travel.  Swearing.  Grizzly homicide.  All the stuff Capaldi would have loved.  But he’ll have to make do with The Doctor for now.

Although Soutrh African writer Lauren Beukes’ has published a novel it is really a script in disguise.

But what a script.

It’s breathtakingly original in its concept and deftly played in its exposition.

Bit by bit the plot gives itself to you as you try to disentangle the hideous crimes of a man drawn to murder by some form of malevolent force that bases itself in a run down Chicago neighbourhood, but feasts itself on the antihero’s thirst for girls that ‘shine’.

Special girls who often ‘display’ as children, but thankfully don’t face the music until early adulthood.

Beukes’ antihero is certainly of Harrisian horrendousnes.

Lector would have approved.

Some of the killings are really quite graphic, others matter of fact.  All part of a plan.  And all subtly linked.

Unlike most serial killers who have time against them (only a matter of it before detection) this one has it on his side as he skips, almost blithely from decade to decade, day to day.

Out to get this bastard is sassy, spiky, frankly odd, journalistic intern Kirby who drives her mentor/boss wild with desire but enviable restraint is observed on his part (mostly).

She, a near fatal victim, but a remarkable escapee from Harper, the aforementioned fucker upper of young girls’ lives; out for revenge.  He, an ex alcoholic, divorcee with too much life under the bridge.  Sure, it’s a cliche but Beukes just about gets away with it.  (Certainly their relationship is the weakest aspect of the novel and threatens to overwhelm a badly directed screen version.)

However, in the main dialogue is good (scripty).

Character development is decent, but hardly Dickensian.

Nevertheless the whole is decidedly superior.

Gripping, pacy, original and sufficiently distasteful to give you the taste for more.

I liked it.

Paranormal Activity 2.


There’s a fair bit of sequel snobbery being talked about PA 2.

“The original was made for £20 – this was £2 million and what’s the difference?” That sort of stuff. When really the answer is quite simple. The original was what it was; a super-creepy, lo fi masterpiece that was low on special effects and relatively high on fear, but not that much in the way of real jumps.

PA 2 whilst it cost more (but hey, £2m? hardly a fortune in cinema terms) also has very few special effects but has a lot more in the way of jumps. But much more significantly than this PA2 is unbelievably clever in the way that it takes the storyline of PA 1 and weaves around it a story that elucidates both parts 1 AND 2.

The jumps are largely stock in trade but they are played out beautifully and the movie is paced brilliantly. Once again Katie Featherstone and Micah Sloat convince with their unHolywood looks and performances and the introduction of Katie’s sister’s family is mostly convincing.

This is turning into a really great franchise. If PA3 (in theatres in October 2011) keeps it up (a big ask) it could even challenge the Godfather for consistency because Godfather 3 was naff.

Now before any of you think I am mad I am not saying PA1 and 2 compare to Godfather 1 and 2.

But let’s be honest few horror franchises to date have delivered their first two outings as consistently as this. Fingers crossed for part 3.

The Skin That I Live In by Almodovar


I’ve long admired Almodovar and it was with interest that I went to his his latest “horror” film.  To describe it thus is most certainly to misappropriate a psychological study of sexuality because it is most certainly not a horror movie.  Instead we see Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya develop the most unlikely relationship you’ll see in a very long time.

Banderas is electric as the cool and calculated surgeon using Anaya (wow) as his human guinea pig to develop a new kind of indestructible skin as he grieves the death of his wife as a consequance of a car fire.

It’s pretty hard to cover much more of the plot for fear of spoiling what is a tremendous film with perhaps the best twist I’ve ever seen in a cinema.  Almodovar is at his very best hear with an excellent supporting cameraman, Jose Luis Alcaine who makes the pictures zing from the digital screening that I was at.

Interestingly I saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy today as well and both were sound tracked by Alberto Iglesias.  This one brilliantly, Tinker, Tailor lamentably.

Attack The Block written and directed by Joe Cornish


I love Adam and Joe’s 6 Music show on a Saturday morning.  It’s wickedly funny and brilliantly inventive in its humour, audience engaging and cod songwriting skits (Song Wars) so the notion of Joe Cornish writing and directing an Alien movie was intriguing, if difficult to predict what the outcome might be.  But IMDB liked it so I went for it this afternoon.

Total audience?

Six.

The concept is built around what might happen if an alien invasion started in a council tower block scheme in South London and the band of brothers that inevitably unite to repel the invasion are a bunch of skanky kids and trainee villians.

It’s a nice elevator pitch, particularly when you throw in the fact that the only female in the posse is adopted, much against her will, after being held up and robbed by the bro’s in the opening scene of the film.

But I’m sorry to say it’s a bit of a curate’s egg if I’m honest.

The issue is that it can’t decide whether it’s a comedy (and if so would have been a challenger to Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland – and lost), a social commentary piece or a full-on monster movie (in which case it would be comparable to low budget shockers like Monsters, District 9 or Cloverfield – and lose to all three of them too).

In the event it’s all of these and none of them.  And that’s the problem.

It’s partly let down by casting with most of the performances at best workmanlike and at worst either amateur (which I suppose most of the cast is) or caricaturised.

The special effects are really quite good, albeit done on a budget, but imaginatively so.  In particular the monsters with their ultra-black bodies and fluorescent green teeth (nothing else) are a bit like honey monsters gone bad which gives them an air of the humorous but at times downright creepy.

I wanted to like this movie more and I suspect it’s Joe Cornish’s winning personality that has got him the funding for it and the, mostly, kind reviews.

But the truth is, it ain’t that great.

If you stumbled upon it on the telly I think you’d be pleasantly surprised but for a full ticket cinema admission it’s pushing its luck.

6/10

The Red Riding Quadrilogy by David Peace


AKA The Red Riding Quadrilogy

It’s a long time since I wrote about books here and that’s because I’ve been a long time reading this remarkable bunch of books.

Collectively they amount to around 1,200 paperback pages and each of the four novels has an overlapping but always quite different pool of characters.

Over the piece there are probably in excess of 100 significant characters that one needs to come to terms with in following the plot.

It’s challenging.

Then there’s David Peace’s style.

These are crime novels and one would expect them to crack along at a pace and that the only really issue for the reader would be to unravel the clues and spot the killer.

Not here.

David Peace is one of Granta’s most highly regarded writers, regardless of genre, and that’s because he writes with style and elan.  Part of the pleasure of this massive book (Let’s call it one book for convenience sake)  is working his writing out.

Each book is individually structured.

Each structure is a clue in itself.

Each chapter in each book has a different (anti) hero.

And then there’s the subject.

The lighter side deals with the Yorkshire Ripper murders, the heavier with child murders.

The real issue though is the polis.

Jeez.

The British Police PR department presumably do not have any of these novels on their reading lists. Because the police come across as double crossing, conceited, evil scum.  And yet many of the main protagonosts are the polis.

That’s why his writing is nothing short of challenging.  Visceral, gut wrenching, brutal, shocking, calous, taboo-less.

Unputdownable.

There.  That’s seven uncompromising (that’s eight now. Ed) words to describe his way.

Sympathy is not a word that readily springs to mind in David Peace’s world.  Did you sympathise with Cloughie in his big seller, The Damned United?

No, this a world of damnation, wolfs, swans, angels, demons, rats, dragons…underground terror.

It’s a book about the underworld.  Full stop.

It’s a book of genius.

I can’t even confess to have fully got the plot (maybe I’ve actually lost it having invested six months of my reading life into Peace’s mind)  never mind the meaning but it has been a six month reading exercise that has enthralled, terrified and utterly engaged me from start to finish.

This book (in its totality) is an epic and quite remarkable literary achievement.

Few reading experiences have or will (since reading Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as a 17 year old) affect me quite so powerfully.

Now for something lighter.

Phil Adams recommended the Death Machine to me.  I’m started on it.

Let me in


I am ashamed to say I have not yet seen the original Swedish version of this movie although it is on my list of to do’s for the very near future especially after seeing the Holywood remake which is in one hyphenated word.; Jaw-dropping.

From the very first frames it captivates you with every cinematic tool available.  The scary bits are very scary, the photography stunning and the acting beyond description for a cast starring two 12(ish) year olds.  But then Kodi Smit McPhee has previous starring as “the boy” in The Road, another mature and beautiful performance.  One wonders just how far he can go on the basis of these two Oscar quality performances.  Abby, the vampire is played by Chloe Moretz who absolutely stunned in Kick Ass as Hit Girl.

It’s billed as a horror movie but it’s actually a love story and a very moving one at that.  The quietness and intensity of the young couple’s illicit (in so many ways) relationship is at the core of the movie and their shared screen time are the real beating pulse of the movie.  You will not see a better and more intimate love story this year.

Matt Reeves, as director, is surely one of the most promising Hollywood talents out there.  His previous film, Cloverfield, is one of the most underrated films I’ve ever seen.  Why is it not considered amongst the best aliens movie ever made?  Anyway, you can be sure, that after this he will be moving onto the A list.

 

A history of Horror by Mark Gattis on BBC4


The older I get the more I savour quality horror, and I delight in my kids discovering the genre. (Oh, and they do, bit by bit.)

It takes bravery to endure good horror; and as Rudyard Kipling said;

“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Had he have been commentating on early 21st century life he’d perhaps have been saying;

“If you can stomach 90 minutes of gutwrenching horror, you’ll be  a man my son.”

The fact is that recent horror franchises, I’m thinking specifically of The Saw and Hostel, are what’s increasingly called Horror Porn and those labellers are right.  These films are gross, crass, lacking ideas…just plain sick.

What Mark Gattiss eloquently did in his series (available for now onBBC iPlayer I’m sure) was to identify the genre creators and talk to them and gain fabulous insights.

Latterly Romero loomed large and rightly so.

My favourite moment in the entire series was when John Carpenter was unapologetic about the fact that Halloween had spawned a generation of shite slasher movies.

“Why should I apologise for opening the door to the genre.  All these people realised was that you could scare people cheap.”

Carpenter did it with utter class.

 

Great night at the cinema 1920’s style


To celebrate Halloween Jeana and I went to see the 1920’s original production of Jeckyl and Hyde made by Paramount and starring John Barrymore.

It showed at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall foer one night only and was accompanied by the collosal Usher Hall organ.

To be honest it was hilarious in places and certainly bnot scary but some nice special effects, mainly achieved through double exposure.  Here’s a few stills from the movie that I managed to capture on my G11.  It was kinda dark as you can imagine so they could be better but you’ll get the general idea.

Screen with organ behind

They didn't exactly hold back on the subtitling

Barrymore as Jeckyl

Jeckyl falling into the hands of temptation

The experiment

Hyde pounces

I think I would like to take part in this


Zombieism is an art form.

Let’s face it.  Making a zombie movie is so easy on the face of it that you’d die laughing.  Until you try. Then you might DIE.

There is some utter zombie shit out there and the genre needs protection as much as it needs celebration.

So, this initiative, to live the (un)life must be applauded, albeit with hands that break up on contact.

Be there or be alive.

Paranormal activity


OK.  A lot has been said about how terrifying this movie is.  In truth it is a little slow and does have a number of really scary bits.  But it is blown out of proportion.  I would tell you more but don’t want to spoil it.  I took Amy and Ria and they were both pretty freaked out and hanging onto me for dear life but it’s not half as scary as Drag Me to Hell.

The lack of ANY credits whatsoever is brilliant though.  And very unnerving.

Despite the lack of truly scariness I thought it was a very interesting and original movie and brilliantly acted and cast.  These were, like, real people (gasp).

I’d recommend it despite those reservation.  7/10.

true Blood


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Watching this?

It’s cool.

HBO is really pushing the limits of taste.

Again. (See Eastbound and down.)

On two occasions in the last two episodes – the first watching Jason Stackhouse, the main protagonist’s brother masturbating so hard that the blisters on his palms are bigger than the hands they grew on AND his poor member is engorged to the point of elephantiasis, requiring a blood withdrawal of epic proportions; and the second when the aforementioned star Sookie Stackhouse indulges in a spot of self indulgence as she dreams of her desired vampire lover “taking her” – my youngest daughter had to politely remove herself from the room.

But, the fact remains, it’s a great piece of TV, wonderfully shot (the outside scenes of houses at night have an otherworldliness about them that is unique) and the script crackles and fizzes throughout.

It’s purty sexy too y’all.

the house at Amityville. (But it’s in South Queensferry)


the house at Amityville. (But it’s in South Queensferry)

Originally uploaded by mark gorman.

This creepy house has been unvieled from a covering of trees in the last week. It’s been empty for years and was put up for sale last summer. I was tempted to buy it and do it up. The day I went to view it, it was surrounded by an urban forest, but over a 24 hour period the forest has been removed. I suspect the house may not be far behind and, if so, I will try to chronicle its departure. Yuk.

I am legend


No I am not boasting.

I am talking about the new Will Smith movie.

This kind of film is what going to the flicks is all about. I was scared witless from the first moment to the last. Admittedly I hadn’t realised it was a zombie movie (of sorts) before the titles rolled and it was a good 40 minutes before we even came across one, but Jeez, this is a film designed to make you jump. I won’t spoil it but, as they say, wear brown trousers.

I know zombie flicks are overdone of late.  But that’s not a reason to overlook this freakshow.

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Will Smith is in fine form, essentially carrying the movie singlehandedly with very little human intervention. That’s because we understand him to be the last man standing after a genetically treated measels virus which was intended to eradicate the world of cancer went ugly overnight.

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The scenes that have most redolence in this movie are the truly stunning and really eerie street scenes of an abandoned New York populated only by escaped zoo animals who aren’t that handy with lawnmowers, the result being that, for example, Madison Avenue is well on its way to becoming a maize feild with a bunch of abandoned, rusting cars lying around. Whole buildings are wrapped in polythyene, presumably a failed attempt to contain the virus in some way.

Smith looks great, acts pretty well and builds up a strong relationship with his only companion, his three year old Alsation, Sam.

The film is lavish. The sound engineering is both deafening and a major component to most of the shocks.

The zombies, while CGI’d at times, are genuinely creepy. They cannot come out in daylight as UV burns them on the spot so they huddle, vampire like, in ‘hives’ in gloomy dilapidated buildings waiting for nightfall when they take over the streets with their ghoulish hounds.

In one set piece when we KNOW Will shouldn’t go into a darkened building the tention is unbearable and more drawn out than a Strictly Come Dancing result. You KNOW it will culminate in a massive fright and it does, but that doesn’t stop it being eye-wateringly scary.

This is a cracker and my first 8 out of 10 movie of 2008.

Go see.