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.