Sunday, 4 August 2013

Only God Forgives

I know I haven't blogged in a while, but hey, I'm blogging now. I guess I set myself a target that was too much and curtailed, but I'll try something a bit more manageable from now on.

With this in mind, yesterday I went to see the new Refn movie, Only God Forgives. It was pretty damn amazing. In fact, it's by far and away the best film I've seen this year, and the second masterpiece after Edgar Wright's The World's End.

For reasons involving me being under 18, the film being rated 18, and Devon+Cornwall Film not wanting to be shut down, I can't post my review on there- so I figured I might as well plop it here, where I have relative anonymity and I can deny everything afterwards.

Here's the review;

What a film this is! A gruelling, thrilling, beautiful and very powerful piece of absolutely gorgeous cinema that is both masterful and one of the most oppressive films I have ever seen. Much like Vithaya Pansringarm’s coldly methodical bent police officer Chang, it is merciless and takes no prisoners. This is a film that shows you the most horrific scenes of violence (that rank amongst the most affecting and nasty I’ve seen) and dares you to justify their existence in this bold, frightening vision. It is a film that overwhelms you and leaves you staggering out of the cinema in a heightened daze.

The plot in this film is thin/negligible, but films don’t always need a narrative to be gripping, and much like last years’ masterpiece The Master, this is one of those films. This is a film not about a plot, but about people, and whilst the story, regarding a mother who flies to Bangkok after her paedophilic, psychopath son is murdered, provides some kind of mechanism for the action, I found myself more and more as the film went on looking at scenes in relation to the characters- what they meant, as opposed to why they were there. This is clearly a film in which things are out of kilter, and the line between narrative and nightmare gets ever closer as it goes on, in part due to the terrifying dream sequences, and primarily due to the fact that the slight narrative itself starts to resemble a nightmare itself.

If this film sounds difficult, then don’t get me wrong, it really is, but it also a magnificently made masterwork that is scored and shot to perfection, containing a soundtrack so good you could watch this film with your eyes closed and still be gripped, and certain shots and sequences of such breath-taking beauty and power that they left me breathless. A lot of people are going to go into this expecting Drive 2 (and a lot of people are going to be very disappointed), but really this is more like Bronson, with its neon hues and shocking bursts of ultra-violence.

More than technically, however, the film is working on a deeper and more profound thematic level that I admired most of all. This is a film about mothers, sons, relationships, the nature of violence, shame and guilt. It is a cinematic challenge, and I found the way it affronted traditional notions of screen violence to be noble- the violence in this film is horrible, and it is challenging you to stay, and ultimately it makes you question why you’re watching this violence at all, much like Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, another masterpiece I greatly admire. One sequence in particular involving chopsticks had me covering my eyes. But it redeems it by being so beautiful, so rich, so heart-breaking.

The relationship between Ryan Gosling’s Julian, and Kristin Scott-Thomas’ Crystal, his mother, is at the core of the film, however, and what a troubled relationship it is indeed- this film goes sincerely Freudian as it goes on, detailing with chilling precision the nature of a mother’s power over a son, what happens when she is willing to use that to her own end, and the feelings of shame, guilt, inadequacy and powerlessness that follow in said son. Those who have criticised this film for being one-dimensional have missed vital things, in my opinion. The film contains many shots of the characters staring, impassively, but it also contains many actions, and all one needs to do is think about the impact of those actions on the other characters, and you’ll find that the film is actually a very thematically rich experience. It is about that feeling of dread that occurs when you realise that the worst possible event you could think of is about to become a reality. It is about many things. It is about people.

This film is clearly not for everyone, now much you gain from this film can be roughly dictated by how much you’re willing to analyse a film, how much you’re willing to accept screen violence and intensely sustained feelings of unease, and how much you can appreciate true craftsmanship. I did all those things and came away feeling enriched.

This is ultimately a tragic film. From the start, it is clear that the characters are all in free-fall, doomed to some truly nasty fates. But how far they fall, and what happens when they land, mark for unexpectedly moving territory. This summed up perfectly in the scenes where Chang, having just delivered his gruesome “justice”, takes to the karaoke floor to deliver his melancholic renditions of Thai pop songs in front of the devoted police force. Quite exactly what those scenes mean eludes me, but I found the juxtaposition of violence and singing thrilling, touching, horrifying and uneasy. No matter which way you slice it, this undeniable film is a magnificently made masterpiece that will no doubt endure as it slowly finds the audience it deserves. For now, it is the best film I have seen this year.


So yeah. I know loads of people are hating on this flick, but I don't know why. It's fucking incredible!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Horror Clip Of The Day

You know the drill!

I've chosen a clip from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre for today; the very final scene  where the woman is chased out of Leatherface's house, into the road, and all manner of carnage ensues.

The scene is absolutely terrifying, I think for two reasons- firstly, it's primal. Being scared of being chased is a fear we all have, and that fear is exploited in this scene. Secondly, the scene is so obtrusive, and really gets under your skin, making it wholly uncomfortable. A lot of this is down to the excellent use of sound in the sound design, which is loud and in your face constantly. The heat of the scene as well (reports of the heat on set are legendary) really adds to this thick atmosphere.

And then there's the final shot. We all know it. Leatherface twirling his chainsaw around. One day, I'll be able to effectively word the sheer awe and fear it makes me feel, and why. For now, all I'll say is this; of the many films I've seen in my life, it's almost definitely in my top five shots of all time.

I want to say check it out, but I know that most of you who read this will already have done. Either way, it's worth watching again. The scene alone is a mini-masterpiece.

BBFC Is The Warmest Colour

If your head hasn't been in the sand for the last week or so, then you might have heard that lesbian epic "Blue Is The Warmest Colour" has won the Grand Prix in Cannes; a victory notable because the film is an epic lesbian love story that just so happened to coincide with the passing of gay marriage (hooray!) in France. Clearly, then, one can speculate that the film won not because of the quality, but because of the political circumstances in the country at that time. Spielberg, head of the jury, has denied this, but who knows. 

Anyway, that's a different debate for a different post, that I'm not too bothered with.

What I want to talk about is what the film will be rated. In the UK where I live, for those who don't know, we have a fairly standard ratings system- U (for universal), then PG (for parental guidance), 12, 15, 18, then R-18 for porn. Those ratings roughly correspond to what you'd expect, with 18's containing the strongest violence, sex, swearing and drugs, and U and PG being for kids; 15 and 12 are pretty interchangeable. 

The ratings are assigned by the BBFC, "British Board of Film Classification", and no film can legally be distributed without a rating from them over here. This leads to a curious loophole where no film is actually banned in the UK- it can only ever be refused a certificate (where the film is considered to have the potential for harm, which I find silly but what the hell). This renders the film unreleasable and has the same effect as banning, but the newly liberal BBFC would never actually prohibit art, a sign of their progress in the last decade or so.

The reports for Blue Is The Warmest Colour all mention, at some point, the graphic and unsimulated 12 minute lesbian sex scene. I'm not a prude idiot so I have no problem with seeing such things between consenting adults on screen; in fact I think that sex as a tool in movies is vastly underused, and the films that have used it have been variable- 9 Songs was a turgid and bland mess, whereas Shortbus, which is one of the better films of the last decade, is absolutely incredible (it also contains far more sex than 9 Songs, yet seems curiously neglected in this debate. It has gay sex, blow jobs, s+m, just about everything, and yet it kind of slipped by quietly. Tangent).

Both of those films, despite containing numerous scenes of graphic and unsimulated sex, were released uncut to some considerable furore, with the left (where I align myself) praising this brave new liberalism from the censors, and the right claiming that this will mark the end of civilisation and even that this will herald a time where no woman will be able to get a part without baring all for the camera. (no, seriously. The fact that the nudity and sex in that particular film was pretty equal clearly wasn't noteworthy to that critic. But again, that's another very long post for another day- I loathe Tookey). 

Anyway, this post has been full of tangents, but I'd like to get to the point; 15 years ago, Blue Is The Warmest Colour would not have been released as an 18 by the BBFC. It would have got an R-18, legally only allowed in sex shops, and this would have frankly taken a huge dump on the chances of the film making any money in the UK. But ever since Lars Von Trier's Idioterne was released, containing a couple of seconds of a willy going into a fanny, the BBFC has been pretty lax in letting sex go by. Their criteria for this seems to be that if the sex is grounded contextually and isn't there with the primary purpose of arousing, then it's all good.

Blue Is The Warmest Colour seems to fulfil this. I'm not even slightly worried about it getting an 18 rating. It just will, very easily. I'm not sure what the point of this post is, other than to get to this eventual point. Call it my musings (I am very interested in film censorship, this won't be my last tangent). 

As a final point, this extends kinda to Trier's own Nymphomaniac, to be released at some point between the end of this year and the start of next. That film is his reported "porno", and it's almost a guarantee that unsimulated sex is on the cards. In fact, scratch that, it is a guarantee. But, I have no doubt, knowing Trier's talents, that it will also be a film heavily grounded in context. He'll almost certainly deliver a point, about female sexuality, and it will be debated for many years, but that's not here yet. For now, I can say with about 80% certainty that that film will be released uncut as well. More sex on camera. Hooray. Hooray!

(I like this picture. It works in a number of contexts)

I've Been A Busy Bee...

...a busy old bee oh I have been!

As I might have mentioned, I write for other websites than this lowly blog, and today marks the day when my first, huge, piece of writing went up on the fairly large website WhatCulture.

Give it a looksy! Dead pleased with myself I am, dead pleased...

Thanks a lot, bloggers!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Horror Clip Again

Sorry for being quieter today. It's been a busy day, and I'm literally going to crawl into bed when I'm done writing this.

I've got here a clip from Shaun Of The Dead- the bit where the jukebox plays "Don't Stop Me Now" when the zombie attacks the group.

I'm a Brit, so I guess I connect with the humour a lot, but this scene has always cracked me up because it's actually quite grotesque. A comedy of violence, if you were. But I guess that's just the infamous British humour.

Sorry. I'm not up to much analysis tonight. Watch the clip, see the film if you haven't (it's a great film), hope you enjoy it.

Peace out, cheers!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Horror Clip of the Day

It's that time of the day again!

I've chosen a clip from a film I watched very recently- today, in fact- called "Phantasm". I enjoyed it very much, would give it an 8 out of 10, it scared me a surprising amount in places, and it also included this scene, where a giant ball flies through the air and drains a man's blood out through his head.

It's an excellent little scene; atmospheric, violent, kinda camp and a little bit funny, and it serves as a microcosm for what I felt about the film as a whole.

In all honesty, if you haven't seen this film already then seriously check it out, it's a great little gem, short, sweet, and very satisfying. Hope you like the clip.

Nice Bit of Promotion

This is an odd post for me to make; I won't get anything out of it, but I feel like a good person doing this (hooray for Kantian ethics), so what the heck.

Basically, check this guy out-

He's a Dutch film reviewer who honestly makes the funniest videos you'll ever see. He's quite insightful, despite the language gap, and if you get into him, then you'll probably start to find his videos very addictive. He specialises in horror reviews, but you quickly realise that he's actually really well versed in art cinema. I'd put him in my top three current working film critics. He's probably the most entertaining.

Check him out!

Xavier Dolan

This isn't strictly horror (although, apparently his next film is a psychological horror/thriller...), but I want to write about Quebecois film-maker Xavier Dolan because he is a frankly awesome and incredible film-maker who ranks in my top three, if not my top one, current working film-makers. He's only made three films, is making a fourth one, and I've only seen two (three if you count his short film "Indochine", which is a powerful music video for the song of the same name by College Boy). One of those films possibly my favourite of all time and the other is comfortably a masterpiece, so that counts for a lot.

He's also absolutely gorgeous.

I mean look at that!

He isn't old; he's only 24, and to have made 4 films in that time says something. His first film, made in 2008, Jai Tue Ma Mere is the one I would call my favourite and is a powerful, potent, juggernaut of emotion and tenderness that left me weeping and impacted me for days. It tells a story of a young 16 year old boy, played by Dolan (he's also an actor), who is gay, and at odds with his unknowing mother. The film strips bare the truths and harsh realities of relationships with a mother at that age, and the film itself is an electrifying, virtuoso piece of work that is alive and kicking in that rarest of ways; despite being a fierce melodrama, the film feels truly real. It's semi auto-biographical (Dolan himself is gay), and frankly I connected with it; it made me think about how I'd treated my mother, and as I've said, it left me beside myself. Only one or two other films can be said to have impacted me in a similar way, and none to the extent that that film did.

He made it when he was 19, which is both impressive and accounts for the reason the film works as well as it does; the experiences Dolan presumably went through must have been fresh in his head, and Dolan is also careful to not be too one-sided; the mother in the film isn't painted out to be perfect either. The film is uncompromising and pulls no punches, and it works perfectly as a result- a controlled cinematic explosion the likes of which I've never seen before; probably my favourite film of the decade. It's gorgeous to look at, intelligent, unflinching (it has an anal sex scene!), and just about a perfect film.

Then, he made "Heartbeats", which is a more stylish and perhaps grown up film notable for it's lack of restraint; cinematically, Jai Tue was an absolute joy, employing symbolism, slow-motion, and pre-scene foreshadowing with giddy abandon, but this film really does go to eleven on that front. It basically tells a pretty simple story of two friends, a young gay man (Dolan), and his female best friend, who both become infatuated and obsessed with a mysterious, enigmatic young man called Nicolas; the film works as an exploration of the false kind of love we get when we meet someone new, that thing we actually mistake for real love; the film is as showy and superficial as the "love" the characters feel for Nicolas, but much like how that "love" draws them in perhaps against their better judgement, so are we drawn in to the stylish void.

The film does, ultimately, allow us to see the negative impacts of this infatuation, and could be said to have a happy ending on that front, but this is not a film you go into for morals or a message; much like Jai Tue, it exists on its own terms and allows you to make up your mind; through basing itself in the real world (albeit a frighteningly bohemian one where fancy restaurants, arthouse cinema and casual bedsharing is all okay), it allows us to connect and come to our own conclusions.

And those are his two films; more than enough for him to cement himself as probably the best film-maker working today. His films are French, very French (even though they're made in Canada), and obviously someone not particularly comfortable with homosexual themes and actions need not apply (although lighten up if that's the case!), but for those who can take them, they are superb films. They really, really are.

As a final point, he has acted in a smattering of other films, including Martyrs; however, he gets killed within fifteen minutes in that one, and I found the scene more distressing than I ought to have done.

Either way, check him out!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Triple Bills/Unoffical Trilogies

Trilogies work for films. There is nothing more satisfying than having a complete set of three films which have a beginning, middle, and an end, and in each part of that trilogy you've got a satisfying beginning, middle and end as well. It's kinda cyclical, and I'm sure there's some psychological study somewhere about how humans enjoy that resolute feeling of completion, but I don't know. I just enjoy a good triple bill when the time arises.

I've always held the idea that often the triple bills and unofficial trilogies are the best ones; by that I mean, the films that are in no way linked but still work when watched together in order. The fact that I call these unofficial trilogies is that the films involved share themes, or ideas, or deliver the same kind of message/emotional impact. I've always held three films in that kind of regard, and they are;

Martyrs, from 2008

Funny Games, from 1997 or 2007 (personally I think both versions are as good as each other)

Man Bites Dog, from 1992

Those three films are in no way linked, other than that they can all be coined "horror" in a pretty loose sense of the word, they are all certainly extreme, and Funny Games and Man Bites Dog are satirical, ish.

But I always link these three films in my head because they use the extreme content as a platform for some kind of deeper and profound message.

Martyrs piles a load of gruelling and horrible scenes one after the other, but then does a complete u-turn in the final moments and becomes a tragic, oddly hopeful treatise on the nature of death and the afterlife; the final two shots are impossible to forget. It transcends the material in the only, and best, way it could have ever done, and will leave you emotionally reeling. It's truly stunning.

Funny Games is a dark home-invasion film that's self-aware, but uses the familiar tropes of a horror film and makes it legitimately horrific. An unparalleled and relentless focus is placed on the suffering of the family at the hands of the nameless, sadistic captors, and rewatching the film makes you realise that each line, action, everything means something, and the film turns into a thought-provoking statement on the nature of screen violence and our enjoyment of it- it almost turns into an anti-film film. Divisive, but in my opinion very clever.

Then, Man Bites Dog is a superb faux-documentary which challenges audience implication with screen violence as the documentary makers, stumped for a subject, follow a charming yet sickening serial killer (much like how the media condenses violence and horror for mass consumption?), and become further embroiled in his killings and disposal of bodies, even participating at later points. The film works by both being very darkly funny, and also providing a thought point; how much does the media relish violence? How much are we taken in by? Do we end up enjoying it? Etc.

And that's that. As you can see, those three are "message" films, which hide behind the facade of a measly horror film. All three are masterpieces, and personal favourites of mine, that I hold pretty close. And they work as a normal trilogy might do, by sharing certain themes, and having those similarities in terms of transcending genre, despite being different individual films.

I guess this whole post is one big tangent, but hey. I've always found it interesting how cinema can share themes, shots, styles, things like that, and the way that no piece of cinema is truly original, and I guess you can file this whole thought-piece under that.

(as a side-point, I do think that Funny Games the remake is as valid as as the original, because if you're watching the film for the message, then the message is always going to be slightly better delivered in your native language- that's my justification for it anyhow. I love both versions at the end of the day)

My Most Humble Apologies and also A Horror Clip

As you have probably all noticed, I haven't been very busy for the last two days. Nothing in particular happened; I was just away from my house for a couple of days and couldn't get hold of any internet, annoyingly. I apologise for this, and will try and warn my faithful viewers in advance of such things happening again.

But fear not, for I am back!

And with this back-ness, I bring good tidings of a horror clip, from nothing less than the really really good film that you should see if you haven't already, David Lynch's Eraserhead.

It's the bit with the lady singing in the radiator, so nothing particularly graphic, but it's still... Almost too uncomfortable to endure. The film is constantly very scary, but this scene in particular is horrible, the way she smiles at you, the cheeks, the mellow song... Straight out of a nightmare.

Check it out!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Horror Clip of the Day no.3

It's that time of the day folks! The day where I treat you all with an excellent clip that makes your lives worth living (jokes, all your lives are special).

Today, y'all be getting this scene from House of 1000 Corpses

It's the bit towards the beginning where people try to rob Captain Spaulding's shop, and, well, he stops them, hilariously and chillingly.

Hope you all enjoy it!

The Not Very Great Gatsby

A little while ago I saw the recent version of the Great Gatsby and thought it was utter tripe. Normally I would review it here, but I reviewed it on the other website I write for (Devon+Cornwall Film, check them out).

So here it is.

I understand it's a bit cheeky to make out like I'm going to review it then link you to another website where I did actually review it, but... Well you love me, right?

I obviously go into more depth on that website but the film really was poor. It felt rushed, it was unengaging, and basically just a loud and boring mess. Unlike the book, which I remember being very good when I read it some years ago.

Don't check it out! 4/10 from me.

What Even Is Horror Anyway?

This is an interesting one... The more I think about it, the more I realise that a pure, simple horror film doesn't really exist, or is hard to find... I try to avoid such sweeping and pointless questions, but what actually is horror? I've realised that I don't really know, inasmuch as every horror film I see fits into one bracket, or sub-genre, or has elements from something else.... But pure horror, what even is that?

Thinking about the films I've seen, there are maybe three I've seen that would fall into the bracket of pure horror, aka what I conjure up in my mind when someone says the words "horror film".

The first is Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original, obviously). Because any film that includes a scene where a man who looks like this does this-

-was always going to be one that was pretty horrific. But I guess with this one there's something to do with tone, the way the film is constantly so dark and damp and hot... It's an intense film, and the whole lair of skulls and the people screaming and the general pervasive sense of discomfort makes it seem pretty purely horrific to me. It might act as something of an early precursor to the slasher film, and it's influential, and you can read a lot into it as a huge cultural phenomenon... But yeah. This is one of the three.

The second is Hellraiser. I'm not the hugest fan of Hellraiser, but I'd love to see it again one day, and it certainly kept my attention for the whole 90-odd minutes. And Pinhead is pretty cool, as you might have noticed with my blog background being, um, him. I think this one counts as pure horror to me because a lot like TCM it has a really unnerving tone and also... It's quite hard to describe. But a lot of this film consists of things like grotty S+M dungeons and hooks and chains and razors and all that, and it just gives a general sense of indecency, which I quite like from a horror film (if you've read my first blog then you'll know what I mean).

That's what I mean. To me, that's one of the things that sums up horror, and what "pure" horror is. That whole nasty, dirty, gothic, torture and monsters and pain and fear and everything. All that stuff.

Finally, then, I'm mentioning it again, but House of 1000 Corpses is the third, and purest vision of what I view horror to be that I've seen ever. Every single frame bleeds this gruey, mean vibe that I've only seen echoed in those two earlier films, and the fact that the film exists as homage to those kinds of 70's horror films probably says a lot. I'm going to use another picture to illustrate my point, from the film's finale, and I think it sums up what I mean pretty well beca-

-actually yeah I think that speaks for itself.

I guess I don't have enough followers to ask this yet, but I'm going to anyway; I invite your interpretation of what horror is. Obviously what I'm saying is 100% utterly subjective, and I'm not going to thrust my own  thoughts on you, or else they wouldn't be my thoughts. But yeah. I invite all opinions, I'd be interested to know what other people think.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Profound Sadness of the Brown Bunny

I just saw Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny and I am in quandary as to what to think of it.

I just saw Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny and I think it is a masterpiece.

I just saw Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny and I think it is a boring and vain piece of rubbish.

Each of those applies as an opening line, because this is one of the few films that has left me confused, hurt, sad, touched, and moved, for several reasons. It is a slow but ultimately very, very rewarding film that tells a story of one man, motorcyclist Bud Clay, who is on a cross-country road trip to his next race. We can see, through the many gratuitous long close-ups of his face, that he is not a happy chap at all. Basically, that's it plot-wise, aside from the bit at the end when he meets Chloe Sevigny in a motel room and THAT SCENE happens, and then it ends.

(if you've heard of the Brown Bunny before reading this, then you will know THAT SCENE, and if you don't know about the Brown Bunny, look it up and you'll know exactly what I mean by THAT SCENE)

But yeah, basically at some point during the aftermath of THAT SCENE I found myself on the verge of tears, and very distressed indeed. The film came together, I realised what it all meant, and I found myself absolutely blown away (hohoho) (I've got to stop making these puns).

Basically, the film is slow. When I say slow, I mean... Really, really slow indeed. For the first 70 minutes, nothing much happens aside from Gallo drives, makes awkward contact with various females, and we are treated to other long shots of the outside of Gallo's front window. I like slow films, I enjoy being allowed to let the themes catch up and being able to savour the little details, but this film was just on the very edge of maybe pushing my patience. This is where my confusion lies; how can I call a film a masterpiece if the first 70 minutes I wasn't even very sure I enjoyed? Added to this, I was plagued with the idea towards the beginning that the film was a huge vanity project for Gallo, seeing as it can't be very hard to make a film which consists of driving about while the camera looks at you, and then chatting up girls (who all have the names of flowers, for reasons that become evident later) while the camera looks at you. But again, the ending fixed this; it might still be a vanity project, by if it is then by god it's a noble one. Can I really call it a masterpiece with this in mind...

But call it a masterpiece I shall, among other things, because the ending really is absolutely jaw dropping. I don't just mean THAT SCENE, but that and the things that happen after it after it. It really was an astonishing piece of cinema. To compare it to other films I've seen, I'd say it's matched by the finale of Kieslowki's Short Film About Killing, and the ending of 2007's Martyrs, the kind of ending that comes from nowhere and just destroys you. Truth be told, they're the kinds of endings that I live for in films. The beautiful ones that leave you breathless.

Those are what you could call my protracted views on the Brown Bunny. I loved it, but I'm not sure why, because 70 minutes of the film held my attention and my curiosity to no special or firm degree, but then the ending nearly killed me. But I don't really care. I think watching it again knowing the ending would give it some kind of an extra poignancy, and it certainly is a film that I would love to watch again.


But I imagine in a little while it'll become a 10/10. Who knows. Does it even matter? See the film and make up your own mind.

Horror Clip Of The Day Number 2

Yesterday we had a personal favourite of mine, so today I'm giving you an absolute classic...

It's the Exorcist!

(aka the bit where she says the C-word so be careful you're not around small children, your boss, nuns, dogs, psychopaths or anyone easily influenced to such sordid ways)

The clip itself remains pretty startling even this many years on, I think because the centre of all the horror is just a child's bedroom! Home is where you're meant to feel safe, and to have that invaded is a very scary thing... The fact that it's the devil, not some guy with a mask makes it even scarier. The fact that it's targeting a family member in particular is scariest of all. You never really know what possesses (hohoho) Pazuzu to do what he does to poor old Regan, but that just adds to the horror, it's something only the devil would do. It's an obviously classic scene, but it's definitely one of those ones that'll just never age, a bit like the film itself really.

Check it out! In sensible and mature company, of course.


I wanted to write a little something about this film, because I can almost guarantee you that in five, ten, fifteen years it'll be some kind of mega cult phenomenon, and I figure that now is as good a time as any to document my opinion.

For a start, it's a very original movie. It does a very good of blending two genres; lo-fi indie character study/coming of age tale, with a gristly body/surreal horror movie. If Napoleon Dynamite and David Cronenberg got into a blender together, or even a Telepod (ho ho ho), then this is the kind of film that would be made. It's quirky, quite funny, a bit dark, and absolutely relentlessly unnerving and terrifying. I'd even be tempted to push myself and say that actually, the film is a masterpiece. It really was a very special film indeed.

The plot is quite a simple one, and the film itself is relatively short; a young girl, Pauline, a wannabe surgeon, is discovering the trials and tribulations of puberty and growing up. She has issues with her parents, who are having a tough marriage, and her relationship with her mother is... Strained at best. Her sister has cystic fibrosis and it is clear from the outset that this is one very disturbed family unit. However, the tone is set by the very first scene which I can't really describe. It's one of Pauline's many dream sequences, which all look like this, and are very creepy.

So yeah. That's pretty much the rest of the film before the climax, which I won't ruin here. We follow Pauline, her interactions with her family, her dream sequences, and each of these three strands work very well. If you removed the horror, then the film would work very well as a drama on its own, and vice versa; the two together create an interesting juxtaposition and in the end deliver a truly powerful conclusion. It's powerful because we've come to care about these characters as normal people, and when what happens happens, it's lent a more human bent (you might have gathered, I quite like people in films, they're much more interesting than explosions).

The film works on a number of levels, but the whole thing can be taken as a sort of acid-trip version of a girl discovering her own sexuality. It's a little bit like a modern-day Carrie. Despite what that picture might represent, the film is a very human drama at the core, but I've said that already. It's an odd one, but I think that's what gives it such excellent potential for cult-dom- films like this do not come along very often, and when they do they are to be treasured by people with a wide and varied interest in the genre.

Finally, it's the performances that make this film great. Annalynne McCord is amazing as Pauline, toeing the line between geeky, awkward and scary very well, and Tracey Lords as her mother puts in a staggering turn- as a woman at odds with a daughter she knows she has to love, but can't.

9/10 from me, it blew me away.

(side note, John Waters and Malcolm McDowell have cameos in this film, and they are excellent)


A non-horror one this, but I think it's an under-rated film and I really love it. When it came out in 2011 the reaction was... Split. It got a four star review from Roger Ebert, which is the hallmark of any good film, but the critical praise was hardly unanimous. Which I think is a great shame (hurhurhur).

In all seriousness, this film really is something special indeed. It's one of the most frankest portrayals of sexuality I've ever seen on screen, and the ending is absolutely devastating. It tells a very simple story; you've got a sex addict in a worker drone job, and one day his sister, who is clearly damaged in some way, comes to visit, and then things happen and it ends.

First up, right now if you think the film is going to be some kind of heart-warming drama of a man kicking his addiction while learning how to treat his sister right and amending his sordid ways... You'll be bitterly disappointed. That's part of the reason I liked it so much, and also part of the reason the critics and public were so divided. The film-makers don't preach, and instead you just feel an intense pity for Michael Fassbender's Brandon as he sees his life spiral downwards. He is a man in grip of some ferocious feelings and unable to stop them. Sex is no longer pleasurable, almost certainly was never an act of love, and has simply lost all joy for him. The orgasm is his drug and he is addicted. It's called Shame for a reason; he isn't happy with who he is, but cannot change.

Of course, it's his relationship with his sister Sissy (a brave turn from Carey Mulligan) which is what I guess you could call the core of the film, and the film is never so obvious as to spell out what happened between them years ago, but it is obvious from the outset that something did, and it has seriously affected both of their lives. Mulligan's line, "we are not bad people, we just come from a bad place", tells us all we need to know. I think to actually have revealed their history would ruin the film somewhat, if I'm honest. This is an exploration of them right now, in the moment. They are both trying to avoid, or even escape their past, so to shoehorn in some protracted reveal would just be ill-fitting (a flashback in this film would frankly ruin it).

Stylistically and structurally the film is superb, and I liked it for its depiction of people being lost in a big city (I was reminded of Taxi Driver at some points), as well as the way the film really opens up on repeat viewings. Steve McQueen directs with a certain lightness of touch, but he does put a lot of small clues in the film that can only really be appreciated on the second go. The film has a kind of cyclical structure, beginning and ending in the same place, and you can certainly read into it; it has a very cold veneer but if you look at it analytically then it really does open up (for example, at the beginning we hear Sissy's voice come through Brandon's answer-phone over and over again while Brandon doesn't react; does this reflect how Brandon has been trying to ignore Sissy, and maybe his illicit feelings for her, all his life? And so on and so forth).

Another reason I think people didn't enjoy it so much was because it is, at times, incredibly slow. There is no real forward narrative, just a succession of days which end when something happens. I can understand why a lot of people would be put off by this, but in the end it turns into the major strength of the film; everything is so natural, things happen as they would usually happen, and as the film does, inevitably, pick up some kind of momentum in the final scenes, you have become so involved that the film starts to operate in the realm of high tension; you care so much by the end that it completely knocks you for six.

Fassbender's performance is nothing less than incredible. He is both physically and mentally brave, baring all for the camera and also giving the impression of truly inhabiting the character and mindset of someone like that. (he also has a huge dong, but that's neither here nor there). The film was awarded the dreaded NC-17 in America (the less dreaded 18 over here), which shows another huge error of judgement on the part of the awful American film rating system, as despite containing many scenes of fairly graphic sex, the film actually contains a very potent and commendable message that teenagers could get; basically, that sex isn't always good and that it can ruin lives. It baffles me that films like Superbad can get away with being marketed at teenagers, yet this film is banned from them- any kid who watches this might actually think about sex, and about it's implications, but then I can only imagine Americans don't want their kids to think about sex.


At the end of it all, this film is amazing. It tells a poignant and devastating story, and stands out from the other films of 2011 for being brave, daring, and using extreme content to make a powerful point. I'd recommend it to anyone who takes films seriously, because it's not the kind of film that comes along very often. See it with an open mind, buy into it, and you may just find a masterpiece.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Horror Clip Of The Day

I don't really know if this will become a regular thing (I'm bound to run out of clips at some point... Right?)

But here's my horror clip of the day, the bit with Huey Lewis from American Psycho

The film itself isn't really a horror film, more of a dark satire cum drama with scenes of violence that serve to highlight the wider message that conformism has made us all zombies and that the male is fundamentally evil and the modern world has conditioned us into something we're not and yada yada yada

This scene is hilarious. See it, then the film, if you haven't already. Bale really puts his all into it, it's pretty unique and unmatched, I love it.

And here it is (ooh hyperlinks)

"Their early work is a little too... New wave, for my taste, but when "Sports" came out in '83...

(I made it open in a new window because there's nothing more annoying than clicking on a link and having it remove the page you were already at- I love all of you).

On Screenplays

None of you would have any reason to know this, but as well as writing about films, I also write... Films.

Basically I'm what you might call an amateur screenwriter, and to date I've got four short films, and half a whole feature written, as well as an outline for a small little zombie film that I could feasibly write in a week or so.

Two of the short films, both around 15-10 minutes (if made), are what you might call horror; zombies and mad film directors respectively, but I guess I focus far too much on the human element for anything I write to be called true horror.

Even that zombie outline I have is basically Before Sunrise but with the threat of zombies; you don't even see the zombies, they're just... There. You know they're outside, and I guess that's original if anything (I don't know any zombie films where the zombies aren't shown). But yeah, that one is just about a couple who are under threat from zombies, and it's just them in a room for (what will hopefully be about) 90 minutes. If written right, hopefully I can make it scary/touching/sad in equal measure.

The half a whole feature is a small, little, indie/character drama about a kid who finds his dad having an affair, and how he reacts to that. I kinda shifted that one around a little bit; the kid is the kind of obnoxious bellend who always takes the moral  highground, despite meaning fundamentally well, and the dad is... Well a normal dad. But it'll be combed over soon so I can't really say how it'll turn out in the end. Hopefully that'll be an interesting little piece.

Finally, two of the other short films are actually segments in a huge 24-part series that is basically meant to be a day in the life of the people at a school, and each episode is an hour long reflecting an hour in real time, and follows a different person, and all the people are linked in some way. They're all between 16-18, and are in the sixth form of a school, hence the title "Sixth Form", although each episode will just have the name of the hour they begin in, so "1AM", "2PM", etc (I like keeping things simple). Each episode will explore things like teen suicide, depression, homosexuality, abortion, drugs, sex, parents, y'know, the stuff that happens in the life of the average teenager. I don't want to mollycoddle, patronise, or be accused of passing judgement either; people can make up their own minds. It's an ambitious project I know, but I figure it's my one chance to say something relevant and true about my generation or something equally pretentious... (also with the second part I wrote, which will end up being part 17 I think, I kinda wrote an unsimulated gay blow-job in at the end... Oops)


Basically, yeah, I write about films and I also write films. There's something y'all didn't know.

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading!

A Small Note On Spoilers and My Posts

This is a short one, but I just wanted to say that you'll probably have noticed by now that I don't reveal too many plot details in my posts... Well this is a huge double edged-word, because on one hand you want to tell enough about the film to get people to actually want to watch it, but at the same time spoilers suck and you don't really want to have the film ruined for you...

Basically, I'm just going to assume you're all intelligent folks, and that you have at least a little bit of prior knowledge of the films I'm writing about, and ergo I can get away with filling in the very basics of the plot so anyone who has seen it can understand what I'm going on about, but anyone who hasn't can watch the film without having it ruined.

There's also another side to this, in that often when I'm writing a film I get so into it and realise that what I'm writing is incomprehensible if you don't know what the film is about... My bad! I'll try and regulate that one.

But yeah, to those who have been reading my posts so far, thanks a lot, and I hope you've been enjoying it! Thanks a lot people.

My Fave Five Cronenberg Films

I'm what you might call a pretty big fan of David Cronenberg; his films are never less than interesting, and I like him for actually bringing some brains to horror films (as well as spilling them over the floor, ho ho no...). His films stand out as being, fundamentally, thought-pieces disguised as gorefests, and it was after I watched Scanners and it interested me enough to watch more, I found myself eventually collecting and watching most of his films; as a body of work, it is singularly impressive. I don't like everything he's done, and Naked Lunch in particular was an utter, utter failure in my opinion, but when he's good he's damn near unbeatable, so here, for no real reason other than fandom, are my five David Cronenberg movies.

5) Crash

This film is a pretty odd one, but if you can avoid the whole gratuitous sex and sadomasochism thing (and let's face it, there's nothing wrong with those things), then this is an interesting and thought-provoking little film that has a really unique and unforgettable tone. It might be a very cold film, and I guess it's a little hard to take to... But well, that's the point. You're not meant to emotionally engage, or even really care or understand the characters in this film, instead I think you're just meant to observe and try and create your own meaning; it's about a lot more than getting off on car crashes, I think anyway, and I think this film is at least good as a film to discuss, and well worth getting into by the end. Not for everyone, but give it a go.

4) Eastern Promises

This is one of his non-horror films, but it's a really clever and vivid exploration of the nature of gangs and belonging, and it does have a terrific central performance from Viggo Mortensen as the cold, stony-faced, determined killer who remains a bit of a mystery right up until the very end. It's a particularly gruesome film, even for Cronenberg, but it really is worth a watch and it actually gets a little bit touching at the end. A very good film.

3) Dead Ringers

This is the first of what I consider to be Cronenberg's three "masterpieces", and I remember watching it I just got so sucked in, and it was one of those films I just didn't want to end. It's an odd one, but then I guess that applies to most of the films that Cronenberg has done. For a start, it does a very clever job of doing the whole "one actor playing two people", in this case Jeremy Irons playing twins, and in 1991 before high-tech computer effects came along, that you can never really tell it's only one actor is quite impressive indeed. The story takes some really dark turns towards the end, and the fact that the film has the thorny topic of gynaecology at the centre of it doesn't help that, but it works because it begins by emotionally involving you in the characters and then dropping the weird stuff on you later- it's an interesting and intense little movie that I would recommend to anyone.

2) The Fly

Ah, now who hasn't at least heard of the Fly! What an awesome little film it is, there probably isn't too much to say about this film that hasn't already been said, but it really really works because, a lot like Dead Ringers, it takes a lot of time getting you to know Jeff Goldblum's character before the whole body decomposition and vomit and latex gore hits, ergo making you care and making a more rounded film experience as a result. It's the only film of his that's made me cry, but the ending, with Geena Davis holding the gun... It's really emotional and tragic stuff!

1) A History of Violence

I think this was the second or third Cronenberg film I ever saw, and it's kind of atypical of him; non-horror, telling a story about a man with a family, but I guess you could argue it's just the purest version of the themes that have been present in his other films, in the sense that Cronenberg makes films about people and bodies changing, and this film explores the idea of changing who you are and what makes you you, and human nature and... Yeah. It's an intelligent film, but even if you choose not to read into it, it works perfectly as just a cinematic experience on its own. The film grabs you immediately with the awesome opening tracking shot, and then goes on to tell a really involving story... By the end you're absolutely hooked! I don't want to say too much because it's really a film that needs to be seen for itself, but yeah, it's a great film and combines both the maturity of Cronenberg's later work and the underlying themes of his earlier stuff. Mortensen as Tom Stall, supposed family man, is also incredible.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

My Ten Favouritest Horror Films

Anyone who knows me knows that as a rational, warm-blooded male, I have a fondness and predilection for the list. Lists are so... Simple. And perfect. I also figured that with this blog being called "confirmedhorroraddict" and my bio stating a love of horror films, that you probably deserve some more horror film love than has been said here (so far it's a 50/50 split of horror and quirky lo-fi indie masterpieces).

So, for no discernible reason other than I get a sad kick out of making lists like this, here is my top ten horror films of all time. This does not mean ten scariest- that's a different list, because some non-horror films have terrified me and not all the films you'll see here scared me either. So, to begin at the beginning;

1) The Exorcist

Clichéd I know, but it's the Exorcist. You can't beat it. It's absolutely terrifying, even today. It builds up, but by the hour mark this film is full-blooded, in-your-face, "damn my ovaries are screaming" terrifying, and pretty much stays that way until the end. It's also an effective and powerful human drama on top of it all, which is probably why it has endured this long and will endure for many years after. I adore it.

2) Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Another cliché, but I'll be damned if this one isn't utter, grimy genius. This one didn't so much scare me (although it did scare me) as bother me; it has a really dank, depressing, gritty atmosphere. The tales of the extreme heat on set are legend, but it really shows when you watch the film- everything is so oppressive and claustrophobic! A brilliant, classic horror movie.

3) Evil Dead 2

Now this one is just outright hilarious. No ifs, ands, or buts, this one never fails to crack me up every time I see it. It all connects; Raimi's mental editing style, Campbell's slapstick performance, the stop-motion special effects and corn-syrup blood. It's an utter blast, and absolutely groovy (ho ho ho).

4) Martyrs

This is a more recent one, but I think in a few years it'll be regarded as a great horror classic. It's a really disturbing movie, and the film can be broken down into four segments; the first thirty minutes are a gruelling revenge thriller, the second thirty minutes are a gruelling ghost story, and the third thirty minutes are a really, really, really gruelling torture-fest. But the final five minutes, where everything is revealed, is one of the most poetic and beautiful endings to any film I've ever seen. It redeems the horrors that have come before, and delivers a truly powerful message on the nature of "you should go and watch the film right now because I'm not going to ruin it for you". Damn I love that film!

5) The Strangers

This film, whilst not a classic, is pretty much the reason I got into horror- it was the first one I sat through all the way to the end (I was around 13/14), and it absolutely terrified me throughout. In fact, I'm almost scared (zing) to revisit it, for fear (superzing) that I won't find it as scary now as I did then. It was probably due to my horror virginity, for lack of a better phrase, that accounted for why I found this so terrifying.

6) Braindead

Ah man, it's Braindead! It's so gory it's unreal, but if you can look past that, this is essentially a well-meaning, earnest little horror movie about Sumatran Rat Monkeys turning people into zombies. But who would want to look past the gore?! The final 30 minutes of this film is an unparalleled bloodbath of grue and gristle that is pretty much the apex of the genre. The film itself, directed by a young Peter Jackson, goes by on this real ferocious energy, and as a result it's constantly very funny. Honestly people, if you haven't seen this one, do so right now, it's an incredible experience.

7) The Host (Gwoemul)

This Korean gem from 2006 is one of those films that hasn't been seen by many people, but is loved by those that have. It's an awesome film! It's just a big monster movie, but for me it stands out for two reasons; for a start, it's funny. Not constant, laugh out loud hilarious, but the main slacker character is very funny, and that leads me on to reason number two; that the film grounds everything, and tells the story from the perspective of, a family. A normal, dysfunctional family. By the end, you're so involved, you become so gripped, and you're clutching your seat not because a giant monster is chasing someone, but because you're scared the monster might catch one of the characters. Wicked!

8) The Saw Series

This is a very cheeky one, but I'm going to include the whole saga because it basically opened me up to the whole idea of a horror saga working, and not just watching the original and getting snobby about the rest. It's an excellent little saga, and it works because it contents itself in having a concurrent storyline that is added to and built on throughout. If I had to pick a favourite, it would probably be 2, or 6, but that doesn't matter; these films are excellent and if you can handle the nasty scenes of mutilation and stuff, give them a go.

9) House of 1000 Corpses

I only watched this, like, a day ago, but damn it was good. I've already written a pretty lengthy bit on it, so I won't say much here, but basically this film felt like the horror film I'd been waiting for my whole life. A blast.

10) The Nightmare On Elm Street

Who doesn't love Freddy? He's such a great character, and the premise for the film is still an ingenious one if you ask me. The idea of a dream killer... It's scary stuff. The film might be very dated, but on ideas alone it's a masterpiece, and looking at it today, it carries probably the epitome of that 80's "charm", with the synth and the dodgy opening titles and special effects... I love it. I also love the sequels, even if they are really quite bad.

Notable mention; The Blair Witch Project- I wouldn't necessarily call it a favourite, but it's damn scary and a proper film, with characters and things.

Lars and the Real Gosling

I guess every now and again a film comes along that really touches you. I'm pretty lucky. I had House of 1000 Corpses recently, but a little while before that I saw a film called "Lars and the Real Girl" from 2007, and that one touched me pretty spectacularly as well. Directed by Craig Gillespie and starring Ryan Gosling, I don't know... I was just touched, throughout, and not many films can do that to me. I can be touched at various points, or at the end of a film, but to have constant... Touch (I know it sounds weird). Yeah, that takes something.

The plot, that one lonely, perhaps mentally ill, man called Lars buys a sex doll, calls it Bianca, and tries to integrate it into the small town he lives in is an original one. At first everyone, including Lars' brother and sister-in-law, is hesitant and reluctant to fully accept Lars and Bianca, but everyone kinda realises how much Lars needs Bianca and so it's not long before she's being treated as just another member of the town.

I guess this one just boiled down to the character and the way he was written and acted. If you put a good character in your movie, then that gives it a roughly 90% higher chance of being liked by me, and this one had Ryan Gosling's incredible performance as main character Lars Lindstrom. Man, that performance was something. I'm a huge fan of Gosling anyway, but he really put something into the role. The first thing I noticed was that he wasn't "tic-y", like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, he was more... It was like he embodied the role, instead of trying to show it off. It was full of tiny little details, and you could tell he'd really understood what had happened to Lars and tried his hardest to get that on screen, which is amazing acting in my opinion.

I guess, and this is a personal thing, that I was touched so much by this film because in some ways I could actually understand and, I guess, relate to Lars and his behaviour- I've yet to order a sex doll (although never say never...)- but in all seriousness, Lars had this pervasive goodness to him that was impossible not to fall for. There's a scene early on in the film where Lars' sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer, in another good performance) rushes out shouting as Lars drives back home, and Lars gets out thinking something is wrong. He quickly realises that Karin only wants Lars to come over for dinner, but the way Lars panics, and then repeats "you scared me" over and over afterwards allows us to get a depth of how good a person he is; that goodness is ingrained in him. I've done a fairly shitty job of describing that scene, it definitely needs to be seen to be understood, but it was from there in that I knew I was in safe hands, and the film only got better as it went on.

A mention must, of course, go to Nancy Oliver who wrote the screenplay, and what an intelligent, insightful screenplay it is. The film could have gone a number of ways (Lars could be creepy, for example), but it always seems to go the right way; certain elements that could have been just wrong (how the townspeople react, etc), seem natural and unforced, and in particular how the Church-goers react also gives rise to the best line in the film (which I won't ruin here, but look out for it). A quick scan of the IMDB reveals that she has a history mainly in TV, but films like this make me wish she wrote more.

That's all I really have to say on this one. I was just... Side-swiped by how lovely it all was. I guess it isn't for everyone, but if you're even moderately open-minded, then give it a try. 10/10 from me, again (my second 10/10 in three days, good heavens).

How I rate films

I guess you could say I'm pretty anal about most things, but how I rate films really can turn into a little drama indeed. Basically (this is purely to give you some background on the ratings I will inevitably give to the films I talk about), I go for a very simple "something/10" rating, but it's what those numbers mean which is where it gets interesting. Basically-

1 = a film that is both artless and offended me on a personal level. So far, the only film I've seen that really did this was Sweet Sweetback's Baaadaaaassssss Song (or whatever), because it started with a scene of child pornography starring the director's own son and then only got worse. A truly nasty piece of work; probably the only film I've seen that's really worthy of a 1, although Switchblade Romance was pretty awful and homophobic in my opinion.

2 = a film that is just bad. The lowest score a film can get from me that doesn't offend me morally, personally, etc. Kill Bill vol. 1 got this from me, as it was both dull, ineptly made, and just... BAD. Any film that contents itself to show us a barrage of slaughter and call it a third act was never going to go down well from me. Probably because Tarantino is so talented as well, it would have got a 6, maybe even a 7 if it was a horror film from a lesser director.

3 = a film with some artistic merit but is still bad. Serbian Film got this from me. It was a well made film that was very powerful and had a real stunner of an ending, but it also contained scenes that I am never, ever going to put myself through ever again. Which is a shame. But also the point. Tangent; this generally applies to any bad film that isn't a "complete" wreck.

4 = generally inept film, not noteworthy for being anything other than just an all round turd. Naked Lunch fits into this category. Damn that movie sucked.

5 = somewhere in the middle, often a film that had potential and squandered it, or a film that was very good but had some things wrong with it; Ichi the Killer was a five- I adored the style and the way it was made, but I was put off somewhat by the bit with the kid getting decapitated (although in that case I think going back in prepared might make me change my mind, I was just sideswiped was all).

6 = not bad. Y'know, those films that are, well, not that bad really. Not great, but not bad at all, those ones you'd sit through again if you had to but probably would never of your own accord. 2010's "Devil" fit this category pretty well, not a bad film, but... Meh.

7 = a good film that didn't quite hit the potential I thought it had, or a technically competent film that didn't hit me on a personal level, or just a generally good film with nothing else to it. Oldboy was a pretty good case of this. It was good, in fact, it was very very very good, but on a personal level I wasn't there (although I'd happily watch that one again).

8 = a film that works. It has a general synthesis of good elements, such as acting, plot, theme, camerawork, music, etc. Films I'd happily return to again and greatly enjoyed; not always masterpieces, and doesn't have to be either. Just a good film. Planes Trains and Automobiles would fit this category pretty well. What a lovely movie.

9 = an amazing movie, one that holds up to repeat viewings, has a powerful message, or subtext, or generally the closest a film can get to meaning something to me without actually carrying that meaning, although these can still be personal favourites. Irreversible is a good 9, because whilst it didn't change the way I shape the world or anything, it was a beautiful, harsh film that had me hooked and made me think for some days afterwards, and has stayed with me since.

10 = the best of the best. These are the films that have changed my life in some way, fulfilled me, made me unreasonably happy, these are the films I would say I know personally (how sad is that). Films I'd be willing to defend, films I love, films where if you don't like them, it stands a good chance I won't like you (just kidding...)

Yeah. This is purely to provide some kind of grounding for my ratings. It's an arbitrary list, you'd be forgiven for not caring... But yeah. I hope it's been at least somewhat interesting to read. If you've made it this far, thank you for reading!

(as a side note, I know I mentioned films that have offended me or put me off a lot in this blog, but usually I'm a pretty hardcore guy; there's nothing I won't actually sit through on the grounds of extreme content, and those three I mentioned are probably the only films that have offended me; I've seen about a thousand, so those are fairly good odds)

House of 1000 Corpses

I watched a film called "House of 1000 Corpses" last night and it made a pretty strong impression on me. Basically, when I was a kid I was taken into loads of gothic shops and I saw loads of dolls and posters and VHS tapes and skulls and horror icon figurines (Krueger, Vorhees, etc), and those things have kind of always stayed with me, they impacted me pretty heavily as a child, like I was seeing something I shouldn't be, and also probably accounts for my inclination towards the macabre that has so far been a pretty strong bit of my personality. This also led me to create what you might call an ideal, of what a horror film should be, combining all those elements of intrigue and scariness and macabre and horror and downright sleaze, and, up until I watched "House of 1000 Corpses", I'd say that that ideal had never been fulfilled- Hellraiser and Texas Chainsaw Massacre came pretty close I guess- but now I can say it has.

Where to begin? The film, directed by Rob Zombie 10 years ago, is a pretty insane piece of work. The plot, that four young geeks find themselves in the house and then at the mercy of a demented, inbred-looking family of cannibalistic satan worshippers, is nothing new, and that it takes ages for this plot to become apparent is even worse. From a purely critical review the film is nothing less than an absolute mess, the script is shoddy and takes about half an hour to actually get to the point, plot strands are weak and undeveloped to begin with, and it essentially reeks of "rush job" and "earnest first effort" for a little while before it kicks in. But it doesn't matter so much, and I certainly was able to overlook this, because stylistically, from the very first scene, the film was an absolute dream. Using negative polarities, switching colour filters mid-shot, split screen, grainy film stocks, the film attains this true grunge look that is both nasty and great fun to watch. This is probably the first reason why it hit my aforementioned "ideal"; the film is so out-there stylistically, so grubby, nasty, that it took on the qualities of the grubby little film that's been developing in my head all along; the film itself actually resembles a goth shop in many places, and for me this was a huge plus.

Secondly, the characters, or rather, one character in particular; Sid Haig's "Captain Spaulding". For a start, he's a clown, so right there he's got my attention as a horror character. Secondly, he's a Southern American trailer-trash style clown who runs a "Museum of Monsters and Madmen" in a petrol station, with an inclination towards violence that is wholly unpredictable- in his first scene, he has shot two wannabe-robbers before delivering the ultimate zinger ("Fuck your mother! Fuck your sister! Fuck your grandmother! And most of all, fuck you!"), so basically he's perfect. He is the backbone of this film, and the fact that we're never really sure of his status as good, bad, or something in the middle, only adds to this intrigue. Haig puts in a frankly excellent performance, making Spaulding an unpleasant, yet fascinating character who is the centre of this film. Look, here he is.

Added to him, we've got Bill Moseley as the leader of the "family", Otis, and his was another excellent performance indeed, playing it a lot straighter than the other actors in this film being a lot more subdued on the whole. This made him more believable as the leader, as we can see that he is evil to his very core, as opposed to the others having a bit of a laugh with everything; he takes everything seriously, and this turns into a kind of determination which is just the kind of tonal centre this film needs; him and Spaulding, despite only having one scene together, are the pillars of this film, driving the plot along and keeping you glued to the screen.

It is worth noting that we are not, at any point, invited to engage with the kids of this film. They are one-dimensional and frankly annoying, and I think this was done on purpose to not allow us to sympathise; this film is gruelling and nasty, and I think some kind of emotional investment in them would have made the film essentially unwatchable. They are basically nothing less than meat to drive the first part of the plot along, and then later just pure meat. I could get all moral right now and bemoan the treatment of both the male and female characters, but... No, god no! This only a film, dammit, and this film in particular is not the film to get moral about. So the characters were butchered, woop-de-doo.

Finally, though, it is this horrible nature of the film which accounts for why I enjoyed it so much. It really is absolutely horrible. Sadistic, callous, violent, cynical, and I'll be damned if I didn't get a kick out of every single minute of it. The final half hour, involving the ritual and the reveal of who "Dr Satan" actually is, with the underground lair and the giant monster doing operations on the guy's brain... Yeah. It has to be seen to be believed, but I can honestly say that as I saw it unfold I felt giddy with a realisation that yes, yes! this was the film I'd been waiting for all my life. It isn't for everyone, but if you're a true horror fan, then this is the one to watch.

It isn't perfect, but then, it is. 10/10.