Saturday, 31 October 2009

Next Week: A lot of fucking films

Jennifer's Body: Sex object of the decade Megan Fox goes evil, and given that Diablo Cody thought it would be hilarious for the term 'Maneater' to be taken literally, she goes Hannibal Lecter on a bunch of teenage boys. Including Beaver Casablancas from Veronica Mars. I think I will guiltily enjoy this, particularly if its funny. Expectancy level: 7/10

A Christmas Carol: A CGI'd Jim Carrey takes on the role every middle-aged comedian has got to play at some time or another, Scrooge. I have yet to really like a Robert Zemeckis animated film, The Polar Express clunked, Beowulf was an interesting failure. So less then exuberantly excited. Expectancy level: 6/10

The Men Who Stare At Goats: I'm feeling this. A return to more self-mocking territory for Clooney, which is certainly a good move, plus living legends Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey and an apparently a Ewan McGregor who has finally shaken off the post Obi Wan blues. I'm gonna go out on a limb for this one. Expectancy Level: 8/10

Bright Star: May end up getting passed over to next week given this week's glut, but I can't say I'm excited. I'm sure its good and all but its about the loves of a 17th century poet. I like to think I'm cultured but I have to age 40 years overnight to be excited about this. I'm sure I'll give it a good review though. Expectancy lvel: 7/10

Paper Heart: Semi-documentary about comedienne Charlyne Yi's (Stoner girl from Knocked up) quest to find love. Has Michael Cera in it. Semi-intrigued but I wouldn't bet on it. Expectancy level: 6/10


After having my expectations suitably lowered by a painfully overwrought trailer, I was slightly surprised by what is a dark, slightly less overwrought movie then expected. Its still very earnest, sometimes awkwardly so. But any kids movie thats sets itself in a post-apocalyptic wasteland is going to do fine by me. I think kids will like this, and while the stuttering dialogue and at times poor voice acting ( Elijah Wood is the LOTR franchise's Mark Hamill to Viggo Mortensen's Harrison Ford.) mean that this movie will never be something you can praise without hesitation. What it does do however is effectively execute its dark, troubling tone and for that I can cut it some slack.

It's story, which the 1 hour train ride home allowed me to paraphrase as Puppets against the Machine. We're in techno-fear apocalypse mode here, so its more The Matrix then The Road. Our 9 felt heroes walk the rubbled streets, hunted by a remnant of the machine army, a Giant ass bug with Doctor Octopus like tentacles. It tries in vain to create characters and antagonism within its characters, but it all clunks quite badly to be honest. In part due to our man Frodo's less then stellar showing, but also to some bad writing. Where it works are the numerous action sequences and the visual universe which it creates. This movie maintains quite the body count too, which even if they are puppets is still quite jarring for the kind of movie that it is.

A flawed if ambitious movie which nails its look but skimps on its story and characters. It was better then expected though, even if its not by much is always a good thing.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: An Education

Its hard to know what to make of this film, because while there's nothing inherently wrong with it, its just that it is kind of a run of the mill good film. If you'll excuse the oxymoron. There will be many films that are technically weaker then this, will no doubt receive lesser grades but stay in the mind longer, because they have something more distinctive about them, even if it comes in a less impeccable form. This is a film that will get tonnes of polite reviews and restrained praise, a lot of seven out of ten's, maybe pick up an Oscar nomination for screenplay or one of the actors then vanish completely from our collective consciousness. It is good. Containing plenty of high quality Brit acting, an interesting script from novelist Nick Hornby and a strong visual style that successfully evokes all things sixties, but its strengths are ones we've seen countless times before, and in exploring such familiar terrain it needed to be great in order to stand out from the crowd, rather then something you simply politely praise.

The plot follows Jenny (A fantastic and no doubt career making performance from Carey Mulligan) a straight arrowed, Straight A student who's sights are set on nothing but getting into Oxford. Then she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard) a smooth talking, richly cultured older man, who whisks her away into a world that belittles any aspirational fantasy she may have previously had. But dream worlds don't stay unblemished by reality for long. In a potentially tricky and alienating role, Mulligan manages to be funny, sympathetic and convey painful naivety when the scene calls for it. I wouldn't be surprised if she lived up to the hype of an Oscar nomination that's been surrounding this film's release. Sarsgaard wages a fiercely fought war against mastering the English accent, and for the most part he wins. Only a couple of moments clunk, but that apart he is good, if a little overshadowed. Olivia Williams gives a performance of the finest Britishness as Jenny's disapproving English teacher and Alfred Molina occasionally goes to far with his boorish parent, but nails his redeeming scene so well I give him a pass. Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike both do well by their respective characters, his a a deceptively cold con-man, hers a clueless upper-class ditz. But its Mulligan's film, and most credit will go to her and rightly so.

The film does nothing wrong except failing to do anything exceptionally right and thus will probably land toward the lower end of this year's Oscar bait.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 30 October 2009

TV Round-up

Just a quick intermission from horror posts, made further intermittent by reviews tomorrow, to do a quick check in on the roster of TV shows I'm watching right now. Some are missing, either I've only seen one or two so far this year or they come back in January. The cable shows are all borderline mid-season, whilst network shows are still relatively near the beginning. Anyway, this is how things are coming along. With proper reviews to come at the end of a show's season.


Dexter Season 4: After a close to painful third season, things are slightly better this time around. But only because of the inspired casting of John Lithgow as the new season long guest star, the same inherent problems remain with the show. With weak supporting cast, inane subplots and often weak writing This show remains kind of average whenever Michael C Hall or Lithgow aren't on screen. Rating so far (but could get better if they give Lithgow more screen-time), 6/10.

Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 7: Given the nature of the show, its impressive it has lasted this long and 7 years is nothing to sneer at. This year has a renewed verve on account of the season arc of a faux-seinfeld reunion. The plots can be a bit of a mess sometimes, but its never not funny and Larry David remains somewhat ironically one of the funniest characters on television. Rating so far: 7/10

Mad Men Season 3: This is a show I watch perhaps with less regularity then I should given how critically adored it is, but I just can never get into it. I'm sure that's my issue rather then the shows, and if you liked it before you'll only like it more now. Rating so far: 8/10


How I met Your Mother Season 5: There are signs of this show becoming slightly tired, but the one thing it has going for it is that its never lazy. Going for everything full tilt means sometimes jokes don't land, but there's been at least 3 stellar episodes so far, the best of which was the truly awesome ' Robin 101', and only one out and out dud. So I'm remaining positive. Rating so far: 7/10

The Big Bang Theory Season 3: Its funny, but with the exception of maybe House, no other show relies on a single performance quite to the extent TBBT has come to rely on Jim Parsons. Its an enjoyably unique performance though, so until the shtick gets old, which it undoubtedly will, I'm giving it a pass. Rating so far: 6/10

House M.D Season 6: After a season opener that broke from the long since static status quo, it has quite quickly returned to the same that it ever was. Which is the Hugh Laurie show, basically. Which is still greatly entertaining. Rating: 6/10

Lie To Me Season 2: The addition of The Shield Show-runner Shawn Ryan, has made little difference to what is at its core a relatively formulaic procedural. Tim Roth is great to be sure, but he's not good enough to justify this show's existence for much longer unless it starts to be a little more interesting: Rating: 5/10

Heroes Season 4: Ignore the people who tell you this show has gotten good again. It hasn't.It may not be as bad as season three, but that was one of the worst season of TV in recent memory, so that's not difficult.It retains a mess ran by people who neither understand basic story or character. There are no particularly good performances and it remains as erratic and frustrating as ever. Robert Knepper is a good addition, but at its core this show is crap, and there's nothing really to be done about that. Rating so far: 4/10


Sons Of Anarchy Season 2: The worst day for TV contains this at least. I have to say that at first a show about a motorcycle gang was not that appealing, but this season has been the bomb so far. A relentlessly shocking and consistently well put together and well acted show. Rating so far: 8/10


Modern Family Season 1: This critically raved over show is not the next Arrested Development as some have said by any means, but its funny and engaging if not mind-blowing. An interesting cast though and its early in life and has great potential. Rating so far: 7/10

Cougar Town Season 1: I only watched this truly abysmally titled show, because it comes from Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence. But so far its certainly a step down for the man. Courteney Cox is too OTT so far, and its a performance that may end up toppling the show, but it has a reasonably solid supporting cast, with Bobby Van Holt the most consistently funny thing in it as yet. But on the whole a misfire. Rating so far: 5/10


Flash-Forward Season 1: The new Lost like hell. So far dull, led by the increasingly damp squib Joseph Fiennes in the lead. His performance sums up what the whole show is so far. An undeniable disappointment that never came close to living up to its potential. The under-rated John Cho is doing a good job so far, but other-wise average in every sense of the word. Rating so far: 5/10

Supernatural Season 5: Its hard to really hate this show, because while it is bad, it tries so hard to be a show worth your time. Its relentlessly inventive, never sitting on its laurels and while it will never be the Wire, Good intentions have lead to a couple of moments this year in which the show has gloriously risen above its station. Particularly the Ben Edlund scripted 'The End' (The man responsible for the Angel episode 'Smile Time', one of the most enjoyable episodes of TV ever made.) Rating so far: 6/10

Parks and Recreation Season 2: The first season of this comedy by the creators of the Office, was a slight letdown, but its second year has been consistently funny, with everyone relaxing into their characters and containing without doubt the funniest line delivery of any show his year. He was born ready. Rating so far: 8/10

The Office Season 6: This probably has been the best comedy on the air for two years or so, and this year has kept up the good work. Featuring an expansive cast in which close to everyone is hilarious, for me this has close to surpassed its source material. Rating so far: 8/10

Community Season 1: After a hilarious pilot, probably my favorite of all the new shows,things kind of dragged along for a while, with a couple of consecutive misfires. The most recent episode 'Introduction to Statistics' however has renewed my confidence, and this is a smart, creative comedy with several great performances, most notably from Joel McHale who plays the most awesome TV douche I've seen in a while. Rating so far: 8/10

Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia Season 5: I love this show. It gets ignored by critics, by award shows and by viewers. But week to week I laugh more at this than I do anything else, and its been that way for a while. This year may not be quite as good as the third and fourth years, but it remains none the less a hilarious show that you should be watching. Rating so far: 7/10

Burn Notice Season 3: On half-season hiatus now, but its a relentlessly entertaining, deceptively clever and well-plotted action show that is just a joy to watch. When it tries to get serious sometimes things get a bit iffy, but who cares when its this fun right. Rating so far 7/10


Dollhouse Season 2: This show gets in my face. It has potential to be such a great show, but it keeps playing to the common denominator. The mis-conceived season premiere pretty much sealed this show's fate as far as this being the last season, but the recent 'Belonging' indicates things are on track and maybe we'll get one or two great episodes before this show vanishes into the ether. Rating so far 6/10

Thursday, 29 October 2009

10 Days of Horror: 7 Classic Horror Movies Made Obsolete By Rip-Offs

Everybody starts the creative process with a source of inspiration, something that makes them do what they do. Personally I rephrase random crap I find on other movie websites in a slightly more rambling and slightly less hilarious way. As far as the motion pictures are concerned, if you somehow by some glorious accident make something that has been deemed to be original, then it as an absolute certainty that movie after movie will pilfer, rob and generally do everything just to the right of plagiarism until your once unique idea has its only distinction being that it was the first. Which is something I guess, but through no fault of their own the movie becomes a lot less impressive then it was thanks to countless cash-ins.

7) Psycho
Sure it remains a good movie, Anthony Perkins is awesome and it created a critically reprehensible sub-genre but almost every part of it his been dissected and re-applied to some film or another, dramatically reducing its impact. Killers with mother issues, slasher set-pieces and nice guys that aren't all that nice appear in almost every movie of a similar tone, and then there's Brian De Palma who quite possibly made eight different veiled rip-offs of this movie. Now its something that can only be appreciated rather then enjoyed, Perkins aside.

6) Saw
As far as I can tell, the alpha of the painfully derisive torture porn genre, the horror movie of choice for this decade, has been almost made redundant within six years or so of its release. Its actually a good movie, and in a bizarre way The Dark Knight owes it a lot. But partly by its own exceptionally greedy hand, seeing as Saw 6 is currently robbing suckers blind nationwide, and partly by other countless Captivity's and The Collector's trying to get in on the game, Saw doesn't look half as clever as it did in 2004.

5) Alien
In space no-one can hear you scream. But after 20 years of rip-offs, it probably isn't that much of an issue any more. Granted the John Hurt scene still lands, but otherwise the once great idea of ten little Indians in space looks a little tired now. Particularly because my generation went into this film having previously seen Event Horizon. Which didn't look so good.

4) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
To be fair, the inbred hick wasn't getting much in the way of press but after this film we've had three decades of deformed and frightfully uneducated residents of the American south hacking those nice libertarian college kids from the north to bits, with wearing their skin as a trophy being entirely optional. To think this was once an original concept that scared the bejesus out of people.

3) Halloween
Watch this now, and I challenge you not to be underwhelmed. Still defended by today's critics who aren't ready to sell out their childhood cinematic milestones just yet. But the problem is Halloween is a decidedly average movie, with originality the only thing going for it. Now we've seen this film done better by millions of others it no longer has any purpose. Sometimes quality, like in the cases of Psycho or Alien can get you through losing impact, but if you never really had it in the first place..

2) The Sixth Sense
M. Night Shyamalan. Or the man who made the twist cool again. And the one in this movie is a killer ( Not as good as the one in usual suspects though, which will remain the best twist of all time forever.) but aside from the fact that this is one of the most spoiled movies in history, every 'Psychological' horror from here to the I inside felt a twist was an absolute necessity. Thus as the twists got weaker and more contrived people began to get sick of being constantly duped and started telling M Night to go screw himself, and because the man became so synonymous with the twist ending, it cheapened the experience compared to when it happened organically.

1) Blair Witch Project
This real footage horror movie was one of the best high concept horrors ever made. There's nothing quite like seeing something you've never seen before done this well. Sadly, many less savvy film-makers thought so too and so My Little Eye, Cloverfield, Quarantine and many thousands more inferior knock offs were born. Making this brilliant concept as tired as anything else on this list.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

10 Days of Horror: 5 legendary horror characters/species that are actually incompetent

After my last post which contained many long words chosen for their longness rather then their relevance, I need a post to get me back into the laid back half-assed swing of things. And after many painful moments of deliberation, I believe its time to expose all the great horror heroes and villains you all love so much for the incompetent losers they are. Whether it be killing teens inadequately, getting friends killed or just generally being stupid. Re-evaluation is upon them.

5) Jack Torrance, The Shining

Our boy Jack might be good at chewing the scenery and getting spoofed on the Simpson's, but in terms of being an effective psychopathic killer, this one's all talk and no action. Repeatedly bested in physical confrontation by a 20 pound Shelley Duvall, and repeatedly outsmarted by a ten year old boy. Jack just isn't up to snuff when it comes to actually paying off some of his grandstanding.

4) The Zombies, Zombieland
When zombies fail to bag themselves a single major or minor character in a whole frickin movie, they don't deserve to be called zombies. Embarrassment to their kind they are.

3) Ash, Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2
Fine, dude kills a lot of possessed people. But in the course of two movies, he loses all of his friends, two separate girlfriends and gets transported back to the 14th century. Whats the point in having a chainsaw for a hand if you just let every one around you die. He can self-preserve but he's the kind of leader that gets all of his men killed and considers it a victory.

2) Inter-dimensional giant monsters, The Mist
This is a neat little movie, but its monsters suck beyond belief. The big ones are pretty much Godzilla in size and fail to figure out how to bust through the single-glazed glass super-market wall which protects our survivors. They may be big but they are not clever.

1) Shaun, Shaun of the dead
This is the big one, because Shaun is one of the fictional heroes for the lower middle-class. The slacker who came good when the situation called for it, right? Wrong. Shaun is a moron, and does things that are ridiculously stupid again and again. Example 1: Choice of location, pulls his girlfriend out of a high rise flat, a high rise flat for fuck's sake, one of the safest places to hold down in a zombie apocalypse. To go to a ground floor pub with several entrances and exits that's its impossible to defend. Example 2: Stubborn assholism. Upon seeing the pub is already surrounded by zombies, continues in anyway. Getting his Mum, his best friend and two other innocents killed in the process. All so he can prove himself to his girlfriend. Which worked though, to be fair. Still an idiot though.

Monday, 26 October 2009

10 Days of Horror: What's the draw?

Said straightforwardly it seems like a remarkably simple question. The obvious response is to say that they're the fictional equivalent of the roller-coaster or the bungee jump. Selling you the illusion of danger from a place of complete safety. But in many ways, the origin of the genre comes from a place much less to do with adrenaline and more to do with psychology. Horror movies act as a safe environment in which our darker impulses and fantasies can be released, exorcised and eventually cleansed. In most horror movies, our surrogate is rarely the hero of the piece, rather we enjoy and are entertained by the terror and violence the villain unleashes and often we are on his/her side until the finale in which our moral indiscretion is appropriately chastised with the villain being defeated by someone who nine times out of ten is virtue incarnate, or at least becomes that way during the course of the movie. The villain punishes us for who we are and the hero is who we aspire to be.

So in that sense horror movies, or at least the less complex mainstream ones, represent our own guilt and need to be punished for all our sinful and impure ways. In the same way victims are often representations of wrong doing we experience in reality, rather then the exaggerated monsters that punish them. They may be promiscuous, amoral and jerks in some shape or form, not black and white evil, but the guy with the knife, or the ghost in the closest or the zombie that walks the earth is out to cleanse all forms of human imperfection until what is left is only the most resourceful, most noble and virtuous. In many ways horror films act is a compartmentalized version of a biblical judgment day, in which the villain is subtextually not the villain at all and instead a version of Loki, who in the context of a movie is perfectly justified in killing of whores and bullies.

We only change allegiance when the villain goes after our final girl, our final boy or whatever. The character who represents what we in the audience are supposed to aspire to and thus by passing this twisted form of judgment they defeat it. This is to say that horror movies, in their own indulgent way, are conservative morality tales, tauting age old Christian values and grotesquely punishing those who don't follow them. Just as the Bible does. The simpler horror movies at least. The Halloween's, The Scream's and the Nightmare on Elm Street's of this world.

But its clear that these movies only explore darkness and malevolence in order to exorcise it, and in that sense are much less subversive then they appear. We see these movies because whether our intellect and rational consciousness agrees or not, we subconsciously crave punishment for our indiscretions and thus seeing this done in horror movies is quite cathartic, however childish that world view might be. But the thing is once you've seen this play out more then a few times, it is inevitable that you are going to clock on to this not so subtle form of moral conditioning. Thus to ensure its own survival, the simple horror movie discovered post-modernism and irony, in a display of resourcefulness to put Neve Campbell to shame. By making light of itself, with horror comedies and spoof's and even to the particularly well educated satire's ( Although a satire is basically a spoof with the addition of subtlety, but usually their making the same points.) They could secretly push the same agenda under the guise of self-deprecation, its like Stringer Bell says, if product goes stale you don't start anew you just repackage. I may be the first person to compare the selling of drugs to horror movie subtext, and I feel good about it. Anyways, People are stupid and you should treat them as such. Meaning we can take what we always took from these films and have our own familiarity appeased too, thus selling us the same thing and allowing us to feel superior about it. The greatest trick that a perpetuator of morals or business can pull is making the individual thinks he matters, because they are much more likely to bite your ideology/merchandise if they think that they do.

With more complex horror films, however, its a different game entirely. Rather then trying to put you in your place, ethically speaking, they are more about exposing uncomfortable areas of your psyche and dis-affirming formula and the comfort that it brings. they're about making you realize things about yourself and what you believe that leave you in a place much less entertaining and much more terrifying. Both in terms of what's on screen and the crisis of identification you have with the monster rather then then hero, and in many cases the revelation that the hero is secretly the monster all along. Or they are forced to become one. There is morality in these kinds of films, but its more convoluted and the right choice isn't paved in bright lights. For example in Rosemary's Baby, forced to choose between her love for her child and the knowledge that it is very very evil. She chooses love over right and wrong. And can we really condemn her for this? Not in all honesty anyway. Similarly in films that focus solely in the villain, and there is no redeeming hero to speak of, American Psycho for instance, or Portrait of a serial killer. We are given no choice but to experience the world through a monster's eyes, and in many ways we are behind them every step of the way. It acts as a particularly twisted form of wish fulfillment that nobody wants to openly acknowledge, but every-one feels. There's a reason why a large percentage of all fiction, rather then just horror, focuses on violent confrontation in some shape or form, it just sugar coats it with moral justification. Batman beats up bad guys because its the right thing to do. Neo and Trinity kill shitloads of cops because it the right thing to do. Jack Bauer tortures and kills millions because its the right thing to do. We create this double standard because violence is something we all want to experience but don't because of the icky moral complications. So in our fantasies we create worlds where there are no implications and violence is the right and just thing to do. The horror genre is the only one to openly and consistently call bullshit on this, because in these worlds violent fantasy has consequences. People bleed when you cut them, and scream when you hurt them. They don't coddle you for what you experiencing and force you to face it and what it means.

So, for all the criticism it gets and all the protestations of crassness and inadequacy, quality horror films present a fantasy that does not exalt or celebrate or rationalize your dark impulses. A mirror is held up to all the twisted shit you allow you inner sicko to enjoy and you're forced to face up to this, so by facing darker desires honestly, and not burying them in a pit of moral panic like the Hostel's and the thousand other generic horrors out there, they have a much more valid point about the nature of human darkness and in a tribute to our own weirdness, we appreciate them for their honesty.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

10 Days of Horror: More to come.

In tradition with the pointless religious holdover of resting on a Sunday, I am going to do a slightly shorter post today, which is more of a teaser for whats to come over the next week or so. Once my snark, my list making methodologies and Rolodex of horror movie thoughts regather, more shit will be coming at you. Tomorrow is the big one, where I attempt at least to get all analytical, psychological and sociological on why we do so enjoy having the shit scared out of us. Its going to be long, pretentious and 100% awesome. So be there or have a good excuse, like you were giving blood or something. Flu season is round the corner you know. After that, more lists and hopefully the next entry in my movie countdown which entirely coincidentally will tie in to my whole horror theme. Gotta love serendipity. The act of destined inevitability rather then the movie with John Cusack. Which sucked.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

10 Days of Horror: The Best British Horror Films Of The Last 20 Years

I would go so far to say that generally speaking I have a less then passing interest in the British film industry. The majority of its output is uninspiring and we seem to get outdone by countries of similar global relevance. But in the spirit of the psychological process of denial, I have decided donate an entire post of this horror marathon to what my countrymen have given us during the course of what is roughly my lifetime. The best British horror films of the last twenty years then. Interestingly, not one of them is from the nineties. But I guess everybody gets a decade off here and there.

6) Severance
After trashing Christopher Smith's latest the other day, it seems fair to cut him some slack on this one. This film is funny in places, contains some good performances (From Andy Nyman and Tim McInnerny) and some clever black humor. Its far from amazing, but it for what it is it works, which is a lot more then can be said for some. Danny Dyer is the worst actor in history though.

5) 28 Days Later
To most people this would be higher, and it certainly is a stylish movie, but I think the second half fluffs it, despite how good Christopher Ecclestone is. Its still a landmark for re-igniting the British horror movie though, and it gave the under-rated Cillian Murphy a career.

4) Dog Soldiers
Its over the top, but the kind of OTT that can be relentlessly enjoyed. High in the running for the most entertaining horror movie of recent years, and its a pretty meanly executed siege movie. Some of the writing and acting may be a bit rough around the edges, but accomplished a super-human feat of getting a good performance of Sean Pertwee, so deserves mad props for that.

3) Shaun of the Dead
I think this is a good movie, don't get me wrong. But its a hell of an over-rated one. It gets by on its unabated love for all things zombie, an affectionate mockery rather then a scathing roasting. Also love about half the cast, Bill Nighy steals the movie with about five minutes of screen-time, and I also enjoyed Dylan Moran even if he is playing a stock douche. It also has a couple of moments of genuine darkness too, which catch you nicely by surprise.

2) The Descent
Director Neil Marshall second appearance on this list, after Dog Soldiers. The Descent is darker, more mature and contains some genuinely disturbing imagery. Marshall, proving himself a deceptively skillful master of pacing and possibly the best director of 'group of people get picked off one by one' movies that ever was. Probably the best out and out horror movie on this list given the fact that number one is a bit of a cheat.

1) Dead Man's Shoes
Yes its an arthouse movie about character but its also a slasher movie about bloody revenge too right. People get picked off one by one by the awesome Paddy Considine, who gives a performance here that will stay with you. A great example of why the best horror movies are made by non-horror directors. They just bring something else to it.

Next Week

An Education - I've seen the trailer for this, and despite its glowing reviews I expect to be underwhelmed. Stellar cast though, so I'll definitely go in giving it a chance. Expectancy level: 7/10

9 - The trailer makes it look a bit overblown, and the animation is a bit so-so so well see. Not really feeling this one. Expectancy level 5/10

This is it - Unlikely, seeing as this is the most blatant Michael Jackson cash in that ever was. Expectency level 4/10

Dead Man Running: Not a chance in hell. Expectancy level 1/10

REVIEW: Fantastic Mr Fox

My first cinematic experience at Leicester Square (and probably last given they charge 9.90 for a student ticket) was suitably humbling, given that whilst the cultured people were queuing for the London film festival, me and children under the age of ten busted in undetected to see Fantastic Mr Fox. And going in with thought of its mixed reviews and the recent middling films of Wes Anderson, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. This is a seemingly new direction for Anderson, and for the first time in a while he has made a film free of the downbeat smugness and that feared middle class whining that has dragged down many other indie films aside from his own of late. He's made this movie because it was fun and as a consequence its a much more pleasurable viewing experience. It retains the dry wit, incessant deadpanning and eclectic colour scheme that sets out his earlier work only its transported into stop-motion animation. And much more importantly I got to have a good time watching one of his films for the first time since The Royal Tenenbaums.

The story is famous, so I won't spend to long setting that up, suffice to say that its about a dual of wits between Mr.Fox, and three evil farmers who set out to destroy him. This is a kids film in theory, but I have to say that parents were enjoying this film much more then their children. There were more then a few concessions twiddling their thumbs, and that may be this films problem in theory. Its a little too intelligent in its humor, subtle with its jokes and clever with its structure for kids to get too much out of the experience. I loved it however, so even if it missed its target audience, it accidentally found a different one. Of the collection of big names filling out the voice over cast, I think I enjoyed Jason Schwartzman the most, as his delivery had me repeatedly cracking up. Clooney plays Fox as maybe a slightly more competent version of his O Brother where art thou character, which works fine. Meryl Streep gets a little underused, but does fine enough. I couldn't go much further without praising how good the film looks, with Anderson's trademark visual style fitting stop-motion like a glove.

A disarmingly fun and, pleasingly for Anderson, modest experience. He doesn't try to pretentious out Roald Dahl's work and while telling his own version of it, stays true and makes the film land. A pleasingly better then expected movie.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 23 October 2009

10 Days of Horror: 7 horror films that aren't really about what there about

Allegory is a one-stop port to credibility for the 'genre' movie. I say genre because it seems the polite and dignified way to put it, and has none of the implied ickyness that comes the term 'horror' movie. Its a great way for people to talk about horror without having to actually talk about it, not to dissimilar to when zombies are re branded as ' The Infected' or 'Ghouls' to avoid the kitsch factor that inevitably comes to pass when forced to say the word zombie. And seeing as were dealing with allegory, which is the critically appraised habit of speaking in metaphor, that seemed an appropriate way to ice-break. Anyway, the great thing about allegory is that you get the best of both worlds, you get to make important political points and scathing social commentary by means of people chopping each other to bits and getting eaten by monsters. Intellectualism by way of evisceration. The wonder that movies can be. SPOILER WARNING.

7) Aliens
Poor Ripley. You float 85 years in space, get told your kid has died of old age, get manipulated into being an adviser on a mission to save some colonists who tried to settle on LV-426 (Morons.) by everyone's favorite yuppie Carter Burke, watch the force of the American military get destroyed by a mixture of their own arrogance and slimy green things. become a surrogate mother to some random girl with a retarded name like Newt and a girlfriend to Kyle Reese only for them both to be killed in the opening seconds of Alien 3. Girl can't catch a break.

What its really about?

Vietnam. In which America tried to enforce their will on a distant land (read colonists on LV-426), got royally slaughtered (read Alien infestation), sent in the marines to sort shit and leave it to their commie god to sort them out, except it didn't work ( Read the aliens fucking up the majority of the soldiers) and thus Vietnamese and Americans killed each other until America had enough ( Read when Signourney Weaver has had enough) . The soldiers get disillusioned and the civilians disagree with their tactics ( Sigourney Weaver rips Gorman a new one. Oh Gorman.) , believing the war to be about petty political and financial motivation that doesn't have the people at its heart (Read Carter Burke = US Government, selling a good story but secretly just wanting the alien Eggs to make a weapon, and fuck anyone who gets in his way). With patriotism wearing thin the Americans Napalm the shit out of them (SW nukes the whole planet I believe.) and sulk off back to their homeland. And so James Cameron made his Vietnam movie in subtext.

6) Ginger Snaps
This film about two sisters fascinated by all things death, only for their life to take a turn for the ironic when one of them gets bitten by a werewolf. Bloodshed and Gore ensue.

What its really about?

The process of female puberty. Or when a girl becomes a woman, and the kicking and screaming that goes with it. In this movie conveyed by wolfing out. I guess horror isn't really the genre to whine about subtelty, but a biological event that happens every month ( or lunar cycle), leading to mood swings and attacking people who don't deserve it? This is allegory who's point you won't miss. Good movie though.

5) Night of the Living Dead
George Romero loved him some allegory, and every Dead movie is making some sort of sociological point in between, ahem, choking on them. The first one though, is surely just some zombie siege movie. No complexity here, just guys holed up in a farmhouse smacking down zombies with tire irons. Surely.

What Its really about?

Racism in 60's America. Oh come on. That's reaching. Except its not. Admittedly the first twenty minutes maybe is just your standard surface level ghoulfest but once we're introduced to Ben ( Read an educated black generation) , a black twenty-something who's adapting to this whole zombie situation really, really well. First saving Barbra from about 5 zombies and her own high pitched whining, then fortifying the house, figuring out a Zombie Achilles heal , finding a gun and discovering more survivors. Its safe to assume a dude know what he's doing. But White middle-class patriarch Cooper ( Read the racist and backward sect of white America) just can't accept this. He should be the one in charge and making the decisions (Read White resistance to black civil rights movements). Not this jumped up colored boy. To paraphrase. Cooper's conviction that he'd rather die then concede any ground to this man, inevitably leads to everyone getting slaughtered but plucky Ben. Who is duly shot in the head by some white farmer the minute he steps outside. Making the point that racism and hatred runs thicker then blood, or even the need to kill zombies.

4) Peeping Tom
One of the classic serial killer movies. Perverted sicko goes about killing women, filming it and watching it back. To see if he missed anything I guess. Nice guy.

What its really about?

Voyeurism of the storyteller. Sure voyeurism is a theme that Peeping Tom makes no effort to hide, but our man Mark's kind of watching is a stand in for Michael Powell's main theme, which is coming to terms with the voyeuristic nature of his life's work. The fabrication of emotions, characters and situations, often involving suffering, death and pain that he watched in silence while the cameras rolled. This is true of every aspect of storytelling. The writer lovingly creates his characters only to force upon them emotional turmoil and pain from a position of God like omniscience. ( Read Mark making the films of his kills, thus objectifying himself from the act.) The story-teller experiences his characters happiness ( Read the scene in which Mark joyfully gets Moira Shearer to innocently dance for the camera before killing her.) Their fantasies, both light and dark and their eventual destiny be it happy or tragic. Peeping Tom is an essay on the involuntary deity status being a storyteller provides, and the perversions that come with.

3) Misery
In which Kathy Bates smashes someone's leg with a sledgehammer. Other stuff happens too, like in which thinly veiled Stephen King surrogate no. 6 (James Caan) deals with a crazy fan who doesn't like the way he ended his latest novel. Coz she's crazy.

What Its really about?
Fans shutting the fuck up. Because you have to be crazy not to like the way he ends his writing right? crazy. Given that King gets endlessly criticized for his endings, this blatantly is a piece of STFU writing if there ever was one. Guys, did you write The Shining or Carrie. Did you write the script to Butch Cassidy or All The Presidents Men (William Goldman wrote the screenplay, if you didn't get that). No. You didn't. So where the fuck do you get off telling me how to write my books/screenplays. My watch cost more then you make in a year! Fuck you and your opinions. And if you continue to bug me, I will demonize you in literature, have that adapted into a movie, have you played by Kathy Bates and have her win an Oscar for portraying just how wrong you are. Now leave me alone, I have to write the sequel to Pet Cemetery.

2) The Host
This awesome Korean Monster movie is everything that can go right in the horror genre. Its fun, its scary and there's archery. This story of a monster dwelling in a city river coming a shore to feed on some Korean is a tale of a family torn apart and the love that pulls them back together. Only phrased in a way that doesn't make you want to puke all over your own face.

What its really about?

The environment. The Monster is created by the US government (of course) dumping unchecked toxins and chemicals into the city river, and as we all know if you don't take care of nature then nature will give you the finger. So substitute the monster for say as tsunami or a hurricane and you get this movie's point.

1) Dawn of The Dead

Romero mark two. The guy loves allegory what can I say. This movie makes the top spot though because its the smartest, most elegantly executed piece of horror movie allegory that exists, at least to the extent of my knowledge. Surface, its another Zombie siege movie, only taking place on a grander scale, exchanging a farmhouse for a shopping mall. Ken Foree killed enough zombies to earn a reference in Shaun of the dead, the ultimate tribute to zombie killing prowess.

What its Really about?

Consumerism. You see our Romero's zombies are innately drawn to places they felt safe in their pre-zombie existence. So it's little surprise that the corpses are naturally pulled toward a great Philadelphia shopping mall. You see we are designed and programmed by society to believe that certain things are good, some are some aren't. Family, patriotism, capitalism, football whatever. But above all to keep the world ticking we must, on pain of death buy bunch of shit we don't need down at the local mega store. Consumerism is so deeply wound into our system's that it can even survive the zombification process. You are not you're fucking khakis, fool. Only twenty years earlier and with some zombies thrown in.

REVIEW: Cirque Du Freak

Unlike most people, I do not enjoy being cynical its more that I'm forced into it by extenuating circumstances. Like the existence of this movie, which is Hollywood making a less then subtle attempt to jump on the vampire/Twilight gravy train. Its about vampires, sure but I think this film and its source novel owe a larger debt to Harry Potter. Because the stories are pretty similar. Unremarkable boy develops powers and goes to live in secret with similarly stricken freaks. Its a strange movie for what it is, occasionally veering into darker territory but remaining very much a kids movie at the same time. Its not a great movie by any means, and its two teen leads bland up the screen, but I still preferred it to twilight somehow. Man that movie sucked.

The plot is so weak its barely worth explaining, its something to do with best friends Darren and Steve, A freak-show, some kind of vampire civil war seen only in painful exposition and some kind of Vampire apprenticeship. The best thing about this movie is the unusual but effective casting of John C Reilly as Darren's vampire mentor. Whilst every-one around him is busy either being a whitebread teen or hamming it up for money, Reilly plays it pleasantly low-key and thus saves the film from being the complete waste of time the combined skills of the script and director Paul Weitz had tried so hard for it to be. Willem Dafoe is a bit of a misfire, but its an awful role, Salma Hayek continues to be unable to give a good performance in a mainstream film. I've seen Frida and know she can be a good actress when she wants to be, so how come in every Hollywood film she appears in of late she is so bad. It mystifies me.

If you love vampire films to the point where its scary you could get something out of this film, but those of you not so enamored with all things blood-sucker may want to give this tepid movie a miss

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 22 October 2009

10 Days of Horror: 7 Great horror films you've probably never seen

Sure we've all seen The Texas Chainsaw massacre, we've all seen The Shining and we've all seen The Exorcist ( Well except me, in what remains my greatest faux-pas as a film fan. I'm seeing it soon I swear.) But if you're a fan of horror, you burn through the big ticket names relatively quickly, leaving at a loss of where to go next. Thankfully desperation is the mother of invention and you find your way, maybe through endless and futile googling, maybe through having Film4 on at one in the morning, because you just had to watch American Psycho for the fifteen-thousandth time. ( That movie's fan base grows by the minute.) To all the obscure and unseen greatness that the genre has to offer. Or you could just read this.

7) The Vanishing
The Dutch, who are high in the running of most irrelevant film-making nations worldwide, did have this one under-appreciated gem to offer up. This clever concoction of Kidnap, intellectual evil and one of the most devastating endings to grace any horror movie, or movie for that matter. Remade with Jeff ' The Dude' Bridges in the role of the villain. No.

6) The Stepfather
Like many people, I came across this particular movie because of being a fan of Terry O Quinn. A.K.A John Locke from Lost. This story of a psycopath in search of the idyllic family promised to him by fifties TV is a an unexpectedly good movie. Or as good as its possible for an 80's slasher movie to be anyway. Mostly thanks to O'Quinn, who delivers a career defining performance, 20 years before giving a redefining one in the role we all know him from. Its ending is a bit shaky, as are some of the supporting cast, but Shelley Duval sucking in The Shining didn't make you enjoy Jack Nicholson any less right?

5) Cemetery Man
I have no idea why I watched this movie in the first place, but whatever, because this kind of awesomely ridiculous tribute to movie insanity is just in too short supply. We start off a cheesy Italian style zombie movie, morph into a twisted black comedy and then again into an almost existential WTF movie. Its clever ideas probably would have buckled under the straight to video acting that most of the cast had to offer, but thankfully its lead Rupert Everett, who has since been shoehorned into playing gay best friends and members of the 19th century literary aristocracy, delivers a much needed anchor to all the craziness. A movie you won't forget, whatever you think of it.

4) Eyes Without a Face
The argument that horror films born before the age of gore are redundant has never been more disproved then with this film, which goes to show that cinema just doesn't do creepy quite like it used to. This tale of a French doctor trying to restore his daughter's hideously scarred face by any means necessary is galling, to say the least. The kind of scary that genuinely gets under your skin and disturbs rather then the rinse and repeat gore that can be so easily brushed off these days.

3) Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer
This one is relatively well known, but still under -seen. This calling card for gory excess is also much cleverer then you first think. The fact that Michael Rooker's career went the way it did is a genuine shame, because he did something special here. But be warned that few films are rougher then this, both in terms of image and tone.

2) Martin
George Romero, trademarked as the creator of the zombie genre ( Night of the living Dead and Dawn of the dead are two of the best horror films ever made.) is known pretty much as a one trick pony who who can't make a good movie without some form of corpse walking around. Martin didn't disprove this theory, but it widened the parameters of the meaning of that sentence, because Romero's take on the vampire mythos is one of the most intelligent there is. Its more of a character study then an all out horror movie, but it makes it no less effective.

1) Frailty
2001 was a good year for movies, just off the top of my head I can remember Fellowship of the Ring. Amelie, Moulin Rouge, Donnie Darko and more. But the one that has stayed with me most is this small movie directed and starring Private Hudson from Aliens. Cheap jokes aside, this is a cleverlytold tale of a single father who believes that God has instructed him to hunt down demons hiding in human form, whilst his eldest son slowly begins to believe that he's gone insane. A fantastic blend of quality story-telling and intelligent high-concept horror tied to real characters. Like all the best horror movies, it actually has something to say aside from all the carnage.