Remember the days when films were captured on, well, film? You don’t? Whippersnapper. Respectable and reserved editor Eddie Swenson does. So when he’s transferred from his quiet, restrained art house section, to the brash, blood soaked vistas of the splatter and gore department, he realises why watching hours and hours of video violence may cause one to lose their head. You see, his predecessor went out with an, errrm…bang, after chowing down on a hand grenade. So Ed’s boss Samuel Campbell ‘promotes’ him to a domain that produces the ‘Loose Limbs’ series.
Let’s get one thing straight from the start: I love Rob Zombie. From his early days in White Zombie, his carnival-like album covers, concerts and music videos, right up until his 1st feature film in 2003, House Of 1000 Corpses. This was further enhanced by the excellent and gritty The Devil’s Rejects. Then came 2012’s The Lords of Salem a refined, mature mixture of his previous attempts that has not only made me change my opinion on where Zombie was headed, but also on what I now expect from cinema itself every time I sit down to watch a film with a low-to-modest budget.
“Heretic. Witch. Devil.”
As a British kid who had little interest in American High School movies, I was shown the original 1988 film Heathers by an American friend and was much surprised and amused by the sly subversiveness of its pitch-black satire. It offered the conventional ‘Mean Girls’ social dynamics, but offset that with extremes of murder and suicide.
Made a decade before the tragic shootings at Columbine high school, Heathers is a film that appears more controversial now than it was at the time that it was made.
“Best friends, social trends and occasional murder.”
There isn’t much I haven’t already seen when it comes to horror films. I’ve been watching them ever since I was old enough to get away with it, or even before (on one occasion I got in to see The Exorcist while underage because I was accompanied by a priest!). I’ve seen all the regular horror tropes play out in scores of films, with varying degrees of success.
Although the overriding premise of Ari Aster’s first feature, Hereditary, isn’t a particularly original one, the unfolding and execution of that premise is exceptional.
“Every family tree hides a secret.”
It’s becoming easy to recognise a film by Edgar Wright – there are trademark aspects: a sense of wit, sharp editing, and a rousing soundtrack. Baby Driver, Wright’s first-ever solo screenplay, offers a premise that is a cinematic convention, but told in a wholly energising and original way. The action-movie potential of the virtuoso driver is hardly a new concept. It’s a proposition that has had its twists and turns, from Walter Hill’s The Driver, The French Connection, Bullitt and Ronin right through to Ryan Gosling’s nameless specialist in Refn’s Drive.
“All you need is one killer track.”
Continuing five years after the events that occurred on Friday the 13th, this second installment is significant for introducing audiences to director Steve Miner (House, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later). Miner previously worked with producer/director Sean S. Cunningham on projects such as The Last House on the Left and the original Friday the 13th, before carving out his directional debut with Friday the 13 Part 2. Knowing how the character of Jason Voorhees evolves as the franchise continues, Friday the 13 Part 2 feels like a particularly special entry.
“The body count continues…”
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.”
Sam Peckinpah achieved prominence as a director and writer by showing us the savagery and the effect violence had upon human beings. The Wild Bunch, a revisionist, neo-western epic. The movie shocked critics and audiences alike with an opera of bodies torn apart by various weapons and the wholesale killing of women and children. The Wild Bunch thus became the essence of a Peckinpah film, one against all his other movies were judged.
“Why is his head worth one million dollars and the lives of 21 people?”
The Green Inferno is the horror director’s homage to the Italian cannibal films of the 1970s and 1980s. Those films, such as Cannibal Holocaust, Make Them Die Slowly and Eaten Alive were in turn influenced by the sub-genre of Mondo films. These films showed actual executions, animal slaughter and other graphic scenes of barbarity. While these movies portrayed indigenous and primitive peoples in an unflattering light, the invading Western protagonists also committed unspeakable acts of violence, leading the audience to wonder who the real savages were.
“No good deed goes unpunished.”
Sometimes during the holiday season, the same nine or ten Christmas movies that appear on television can get quite stale. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale has a very different take on a Santa Claus than your typical holiday film, VERY different. As the film’s young protagonist Pietari says, “The Coca-Cola Santa is just a hoax.” In this movie, being on Santa’s naughty list gets you a far more severe punishment than just a lump of coal in your stocking.
I watched this film on a whim and was pleasantly surprised.