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Relic (2020, Australia / USA) BFI London Film Festival 2020 Review

Relic (2020, Australia / USA) BFI London Film Festival 2020 Review

There is horror and pity in witnessing the mind of a loved one as it unravels and fragments. This is the misfortune of Kay who is called by concerned neighbours when her elderly mother Edna disappears from her isolated home in the woods. Taking her own daughter Samantha with her for moral support, they set off to the old family house to see what might have become of Grandma Edna. The first feature from Japanese-Australian Natalie Erika James’, Relic manifests its horrors slowly, perhaps influenced in part by the bleak emotional mood of J-horror family drama.

“Everything decays.”

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Zardoz (1974, UK / USA / Ireland) Review

Zardoz (1974, UK / USA / Ireland) Review

Director John Boorman’s cerebral and eerily dystopian sci-fi tale Zardoz was released in 1974, not long after Boorman’s iconic Deliverance, and saw the director team up with Sean Connery, three years after his final official appearance as James Bond and light years away from anything either had done before.

In a post-apocalyptic 2293, Zardoz, a colossal stone head, floats over desolate plains, pausing to receive grain from masked horsemen, vomiting weapons as payment from its grimacing mouth.

“Beyond 1984, Beyond 2001, Beyond Love, Beyond Death.”

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Shirley (2020, USA) BFI London Film Festival 2020 Review

Shirley (2020, USA) London Film Festival 2020 Review

For some people, confronting a house full of ghosts might seem a more benign situation than braving a pack of judgemental housewives, especially in the 1950s, an era haunted by impossible standards for women. Finding herself amongst the snooty wives of academics, Shirley Jackson must often have been the target of their gossip and probably preferred to imagine herself trapped in ‘Hill House’. Jackson reputedly cultivated an interesting, if fearsome, persona – prickly, idiosyncratic, unkempt, contemptuous. She was tolerated in academic circles, being a successful author in her own right.

“Let’s pray for a boy. The world is too cruel to girls.”

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Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015, USA) Review

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015, USA) Review

On the night of a Condor Badge ceremony, three unlikely teenage scouts find themselves battling zombies in an attempt to save their town, prevent a pan-American outbreak and impress as many girls along the way as possible. This movie had me from the premise, but it could have easily been a total disaster. There haven’t been many stand out zombie movies over the last ten years, the exceptions being those with a fresh perspective, such as Maggie or Warm Bodies. So, I was well prepared for Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse to leave me underwhelmed. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a genuinely funny zombie flick with excellent production values and a perfect cast.

“Always bring protection.”

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Saint Maud (2019, UK) Review

Saint Maud (2019, UK) Review

Producer Jason Blum was quoted as saying, “There are not a lot of female directors period, and even less who are inclined to do horror”. It wasn’t long before Blum had to backtrack on his statement when it was pointed out to him how many female directors there were in horror, all of which were eligible to create imaginative horror features. Recently added to that group is Rose Glass, who has set her first feature, Saint Maud, in the traditionally male-dominated horror genre and was named the winner of the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award.

“Never waste your pain.”

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The Films That Made Me: Donnie Darko (2001, USA)

The Films That Made Me: Donnie Darko (2001, USA)

Donnie Darko has been firmly entrenched in my favourite top ten films since it first hit cinema screens in 2001. I re-watch it every year or two, and it never fails to engage. If you’re expecting me to explain the movie, I’m afraid that I’m just as unlikely to do so as writer/director Richard Kelly. Besides, you know you don’t really want me to, because if I did explain what every twist in the film means and how it all fits together, the movie wouldn’t intrigue you half as much. No-one really wants to see inside the workings of a cuckoo clock, they just want to see the strange little bird pop out.

“Dark. Darker. Darko.”

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The Films That Made Me: Alien (1979, UK / USA)

The Films That Made Me: Alien (1979, UK / USA)

In 2020 it’s impossible to approach Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien as a first-time viewer and feel anything resembling its original impact. Everyone has seen Scott’s vision of space taken up by countless sci-fi films and most people know each of Alien’s iconic scenes, whether they’ve seen the entire film or not. After several Alien sequels and spinoffs, countless imitators, and the wholesale cinematic plundering of Giger and Scott’s visual sci-fi language, it is hard for latter generations to imagine a time in science-fiction before Alien – a time before face-huggers, chest-bursters, and strong heroines.

“Sometimes the scariest things come from within.”

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Anna and the Apocalypse (2017, UK) Review

Anna and the Apocalypse (2017, UK) Review

A Zombie Christmas Musical… Anna and the Apocalypse has it all, and no doubt that’s why it took 6 years to make after the release of the short film Zombie Musical. Sadly one of the writers (Ryan McHenry) died before this 2017 Scottish film was released and it never received a UK cinema run. So unless you are a fan of the genre who travels to independent festivals you may never have heard of it. But, you should do. The zombies and special effects are great with plenty of gore and some really interesting fight scenes; particularly in the bowling alley which is where my favourite kill takes place.

“She’ll Slash. She’ll Stab. She’ll Sing.”

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Silent Night, Bloody Night (aka Night of the Dark Full Moon) (1972, USA) Review

Silent Night, Bloody Night (aka Night of the Dark Full Moon) (1972, USA) Review

Christmas time approaches, snow is falling and the once opulent and lively Butler House has now stood abandoned for many years following the mysterious death of its proprietor. Jeffrey Butler, grandson to the property’s namesake is in town to sell his inheritance but just why he has appeared after so long and what dark secrets lie within the Butler family history are a puzzle to the locals. An entertaining piece that often has a charm in its roughness, Silent Night, Bloody Night gives us some memorable kills complete with the help of that old favourite Kensington Gore.

“The mansion… the madness… the maniac… no escape.”

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The Crow (1994, USA) Review

The Crow (1994, USA) Review

Dark, poetic and a visual masterpiece.

The Crow is a movie that is very much dear to my heart. Released in 1994 on the back of some very serious hype (for all the wrong reasons) involving the death of star Brandon Lee, it was billed as a sort of adult version of Tim Burton’s Batman. I can clearly see why people would perceive this as it’s a very dark piece. Audiences hadn’t really seen many movies stylistically like Burton’s Batman, so it was easier to class them in the same vein. Even more so with both being comic book incarnations…

“It can’t rain all the time.”

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The Bouncer (aka Lukas) (2018, France / Belgium) Review

The Bouncer (aka Lukas) (2018, France / Belgium) Review

You know ’em, you love ’em; Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan…all beloved martial arts action stars. Discovered in the 80s, all of them have had interesting and varied careers, with plenty of highs and lows. There have been the duds and there have been shining moments of celluloid (and silver screen) magic. If you’re a fan of cult classics, these names ring a special bell, one with a resounding gong. It’s interesting to note that they’ve all displayed their serious sides as well as their comedic chops…

“You do everything they tell you, eh? You’re their little doggie!”

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The Lighthouse (2019, Canada / USA) BFI London Film Festival 2019 Review

The Lighthouse (2019, Canada / USA) London Film Festival 2019 Review

There can be few things as psychologically damaging as being trapped in solitary confinement with someone you hate. For his follow-up to The Witch, Robert Eggers delivers a grim, hallucinatory story about two men shut up in a lighthouse tower, going slowly mad in their mutual loathing. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are Tom Wake and Ephraim Winslow – arriving to work for a month-long shift at a remote, rain-lashed lighthouse, somewhere off the coast of 19th century Maine. Wake is a veteran lighthouse keeper (wickie), as salty a sea dog as one might wish to meet…

“There is enchantment in the light.”

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