It’s a while since we’ve seen a cinematic anthology of horror tales, but Ghost Stories revives that tradition with a trio of supernatural stories in the style of English portmanteau movies of the 1960s and the Ealing classic Dead of Night. The film’s writer-directors Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson have adapted Ghost Stories from their successful stage show. (Nyman is an actor, writer and magician who has devised productions for Derren Brown; Jeremy Dyson is actor, writer and co-creator of The League of Gentlemen) Their film offers a tribute to an array of old-school horror tropes.
In You Were Never Really Here, Lynne Ramsay explores the themes of abuse, violence, trauma and the corruption inherent in the powerful elite. She has re-fashioned the narrative and plot without diminishing its brutal impact, and elevated what might have been a conventional revenge flick by sheer filmmaking skill. The action of the film accelerates and ultimately concludes without necessarily developing in the conventional way. In You Were Never Really Here, Ramsay has managed to translate her singular vision into a complex, but compelling, feature film.
“I want you to hurt them.”
“We love you more than anything in the world, but sometimes…” Mom and Dad is the new feature written and directed by Brian Taylor. It proves to be a kinetic, pitch-black horror-comedy – a gleefully wicked story propelled by some crazed characters.
The story develops at a ripping pace and director Taylor and the principal players appear to have a lot of fun with the disturbing premise and the savage lunacy. Despite their violent inclinations, we never really doubt that these parents still love their kids in some bizarrely distorted way.
“Sometimes, they just want to kill you.”
Gaining accolades at film festivals around the world, The Shape of Water, Guillermo Del Toro’s latest feature, is part tribute, part pastiche, of the post-war monster movie. In his recent talk at the London Film Festival, Mr. del Toro affirmed: “Monsters are evangelical creatures for me. When I was a kid, monsters made me feel that I could fit somewhere, even if it was…an imaginary place where the grotesque and the abnormal were celebrated and accepted.”
“Unable to perceive the shape of you, I find you all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with your love. It humbles my heart, for you are everywhere.”
Based on the Manga by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, Death Note is a huge franchise in Japan. The Netflix remake rather misses the entire message of the original Death Note – which is that power corrupts. It barely touches on the themes that gave the original depth and intrigue and lacks its tension-building storytelling, which left the viewer wondering where the latest development might lead, and who would win. It’s the version for people who can’t cope with subtitles.
“Every human spends the last moments of his life in the shadow of a death god.”
If you profess a love of cinema, but have been eschewing the excellent films coming out of Korea, you really have been missing out on some top-notch entertainment. I went into Han Jae-Rim’s movie The King, knowing only that it had been described as a political thriller. That covers about half of it – it’s also a satire about corruption within Korea’s legal system, it’s a gangster movie, it’s a revenge tale and yes, it’s a crime thriller too. If Wes Anderson decided to make ‘Goodfellas’ with Ben Wheatley, The King might just be the movie they’d have aspired to. Imagine that.
“Only one will become… The King.”
Deceptively titled and oddly mis-marketed as a horror movie, Trey Edward Shults’s second feature It Comes at Night, might much more appropriately be viewed as a ‘post-apocalyptic psychological family drama’.
I’m often loath to place a movie under a genre classification, because certain movies might straddle several genres and don’t easily fit into pigeonholes.
However, if you go to see It Comes at Night expecting a conventional horror film, you will be disappointed… or perhaps you’ll be surprised.
“You can’t trust anyone but family.”
The concept of the ‘beautiful female corpse’ is by no means a new idea in the realm of gothic horror. In fact, it has been a stalwart of the genre since it began. Edgar Allan Poe was particularly partial to it and Bram Stoker took it to its natural conclusion when he hit upon the novel idea of having alluring dead ladies start walking about and seducing people.
Norwegian director André Øvredal follows up his found-footage indie sleeper Troll Hunter, with English-language debut The Autopsy of Jane Doe – a gory excursion through a dead woman’s innards.
“Every body has a secret.”
The best movies of the eighties either celebrated frivolity and gave us great entertainment, or rejected norms and pushed the boundaries towards broader innovations. Eighties indie movies were especially bold in this regard, and few directors tackled social and personal shape-shifting as deftly or entertainingly as Jonathan Demme.
The aptly titled, Something Wild gives us everything the eighties were famous for: laughs, sex, craziness, danger, secret lives, violence, drugs, nasty things in small towns and a great pop music soundtrack.
“Something Different. Something Daring. Something Dangerous.”
In Swiss Army Man, first-time directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan (the Daniels) genuinely present you with things you’re unlikely to have seen before – and that, in the current cinematic climate, is a feat in itself.
One can certainly see why Swiss Army Man was a movie that was inevitably going to polarise opinions. In a time when moviegoers are subjected to a constant barrage of remakes, reboots or sequels, I for one am not going to turn my nose up at any movie which places almost all of its bets on being singular and unique.
“We all need some body to lean on.”
Get Out concerns Chris, who is invited by his girlfriend of five months, Rose to travel upstate for the weekend to meet her parents. Chris is concerned about how Rose’s privileged white family’s might react to him, as she hasn’t told them that her boyfriend is black. Meeting the parents is a frightening prospect at the best of times, but Get Out offers a vision of a black guy’s unnerving entrance into a particularly unorthodox white world.
Chris’s girlfriend brushes off his concerns, assuring him that her parents are liberals and that he has nothing to worry about…
“Just because you’re invited, doesn’t mean you’re welcome.”
Canadian writer-director team Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie are part of the Astron-6 collective, whose work includes the playful retro horrors The Editor and Manborg.
In their feature The Void, they tone down the humour and opt for suspense and full-on Lovecraftian horror. They draw their influences from a number of sources, including Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, Anderson’s Event Horizon, Cronenberg’s The Fly, Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond and Carpenter’s The Thing and Prince of Darkness.