Film blogger wise everyone has grasped onto the new Coen teaser and who am I to deviate from the pack? It looks a lot darker and grittier than I expected, early reports seemed to indicate a much lighter, comedic re-make angle than this early revelation appears to be heading;
So that’s an early must see for next year. In catch-up mode I’m sad to see the passing of both Sally Menke and Arthur Penn in two days, the former was something of an unsung buttress to the success of Tarantino and the latter an underated director who made a few great films, Bonnie & Clyde obviously springs to mind but also the likes of Night Moves are worth a look, my personal favourite was Little Big Man that I remember enjoying on a late night TV screening many years ago. Interesting interview that spans his career here. It’s intruiging that a lot of great editors are women – Menke, Dede Allen, Karen Schmeer, Verna Fields (credited with ‘rescuing’ the mess of dallies that was Jaws and essentially forging that classic), Schoonmaker and of course the legendary golden age triumvirate that is covered here. To close, as much as I disliked certain elements of Kill Bill Volume 1 this work is extraordinary and was the highlight of that empty, four hour (when you factor in Part 2 ) homage;
A very quick update tonight, I’ve been quiet on the film front as there hasn’t been much to discuss – especially when you factor in the revelation that I haven’t had the time or inclination to see anything recently - but rest assured I have two events coming up over the week which should address the balance. I’ve also got a couple of other events to look forward to over the coming fortnight, firstly tickets to see the demon dog himself James Ellroy in conversation early in October;
…and I’ll be attending the William Gibson signing at Forbidden Planet on the 9th, just as I did for the Pattern Recognition book tour back in 2003. Now, there is a certain irony going on here, as I’ve just tried to book tickets to a talk he’s conducting on the 4th but because tickets are ushered through a Paypal portal I can’t manage this allegedly simple task as I already have an account which is accessed through a now defunct hotmail address that has apparently been disabled due to spam. I cannot be fucking bothered to mess around with this, especially since that event will stream live and given recent experiences I doubt I’ll be able to hike over to West London in time from Essex for a 7.00pm start. You’d have thought that this would be more manageable but here we are, I’m probably being stupid as this inconvenience I’m sure is easy to circumnavigate but I can’t be bothered. Still, here’s some related footage;
That’s a dated but fantastic documentary by the way. Maybe I’ll be dreadfully obvious and ask him what happening with that Neuromancer movie, I’ll bet he never gets asks that question eh?? And if you’re reading this Bryski, then yes I’ll get you a signed copy of his new masterpiece. I’ve started it and put it aside until I finally polish off this and this, both of which I’m in the final stretch of completing, as Gibson deserves a specific level of devotion in my book. Heh.
Ever since the notorious IЯЯƎVƎЯSIBLƎ prompted the dubious honor of igniting the largest walkout in Cannes history back in 2002 Gallic maverick Gasper Noé appears to have been paying the rent with a couple of music videos, an advert (appropriately enough) for condoms and a contributing entry to the pornography themed collection of short films Destricted whilst he struggled to secure the funding for his cherished follow-up which screened at the London Film Festival last year. Enter The Void is less a film than an experience, more an immersion into a deranged mind, a delirious hallucination that is operating on the very cusp of the cinematic medium. Connoisseurs of extreme and outré cinema rather arrogantly adopt a posture of being unshockable, of having seen it all before these days, a gauntlet that Noé’ has passionately grasped with this psychedelic fever dream, an almost distressing viewing experience both in terms of its grievous subject matter and nausea-inducing visual construction. Make no mistake, this film is harder than a diamond dildo.
The experience is embroidered within a reasonably conventional plot – in contemporary Tokyo, specifically the hyper-real, neon cloaked playground of Shinjuku, young drug dealer Oscar is living with his sister Linda, a stripper, both Americans abroad in a sleazy megalopolis of hazy narcotics, tawdry sex and degenerate urbanity. After an ecstasy deal in a sordid Gaijin bar is exposed as a sting by the police Oscar is shot dead, his drug distressed mind not entirely sure if the terrifying experience is real or imagined. Through first person POV, a style which is employed from the opening to final frame of the film, Oscar’s disembodied avatar careers through the aftermath of his killing, viewing his sister’s life and subsequent hardships as a benign, incorporeal spirit whose flashbacks to both his and Linda’s earlier life slowly weave together a narrative that illustrates the painful nature of their lives that led to this traumatic present.
From the strobed opening titles that inexorably grow to dominate the screen the viewer is submerged into an alternate reality Gehenna, a woozy, drifting, narcoleptic texture that takes the gimmicky premise of the 1947 noir The Lady In The Lake where the entire film was also mediated through the first person view of the central protagonist, Noé wielding this technique to phantasmal effect. The camera tracks, rolls and arcs from scene to scene, delving into various mise-en-scene paraphernalia to camouflage edits that evoke the stylization of Hitchcock’s Rope. As usual the visuals are only half the story, Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk reprises his musical duties from IЯЯƎVƎЯSIBLƎ to provide a complementary aural displacement with his seething, eerie soundscapes reverberating throughout the three hour experience.
Enter The Void is a fusion of the experimental formalism of Stan Brakhage and his fascination with movement, that exploration of space within the frame, a concern with using the formalist structure of cinema to develop an abstract cadence as in the Stargate sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the fractal geometries of Oscar’s serene and prismatic visions echoing the forty year pedigree of Kubrick’s journey beyond the infinite. High praise indeed since Noé’s most revered film-maker is Kubrick and 2001 his favorite film. Toward the end the visual pyrotechnics are augmented with some graphic sexual material to close the buddhist cycle of sex and death that recoils throughout the film, one shot in particular seeming to unconsciously challenge Von Triers graphic penetration shot in the opening scene of Antichrist with a retort that provoked gasps, scattered nervous applause and slack-jawed amazement with a visual that personifies the phrase ‘extreme close-up’. Enter The Void explores the contours of reality and screen representation, seemingly probing the very nature of existence. Its final, transcendent moments summate a unique experience and achievement, albeit one not for the faint hearted or easily offended.
* Yes this is a shameless re-post to drive more traffic to the site, the film gets its official release this week and has been garnering a lot of chatter. Plus I happen to think this is one of the best reviews I’ve done so I thought it deserved a better presentation than the original post, sans trailer. I might go and see it again tomorrow but Winters Bone also beckons….
How do you like it? Well, gentle reader, as you can see I have been experimenting with the sites design and appearance, it’s a difficult task for someone as technologically challenged as yours truly because when certain things I like seem to slot into place in terms of aesthetics it consequentially causes other dimensions go astray, it’s a constant process of trial and error which makes this endeavour quite the frustrating activity. I haven’t quite worked out how I can make the blog masthead more astute which I think is essential when balanced with other considerations, my initial, amateurish tampering will have to settle here for the moment. I’m aware that some of you regulars didn’t like the most recent change of design theme for the Frightfest coverage and I think I can understand why, let me know what you think of the current amendments. Jesus, I’ve only just realised how to embed photos ‘within’ the text as so I guess my career as a graphic designer might be hopeless…
Anyway, I didn’t get to the aforementioned The Big Uneasy screening last week because of the day job, not to bore you with the details but now that I have inherited other duties on the programme I’m managing my commitments are much more demanding. I planned to go and see Winters Bone over the weekend but the new Halo game fragged that plan, I’ll probably try for another cinema attempt at the weekend as this weeks schedule is already looking problematic. But enough of this nonsense, I’m playing the lazy and obvious post ‘card’ in the wake of the initial reviews of John Carpenters new film – which as I expected sounds terrible – as I’d like to adjust the balance and remind myself and others of just what a great movie maker he was before it all went to hell – quite literally – back in the mid-nineties. So, YT permitting here are some sequentially brilliant moments of his terrific early career, let’s begin, as always, at the beginning;
That bomb’s got a point. I wistfully remember seeing Dark Star many a time on a BBC2 transmitted early afternoon, a post school schedule which of course has been annihilated by subsequent developments in the media stratosphere (how’s that for a nonsense sentence?), its relatively clumsy production qualities are surpassed by its humor and inventiveness in my book. I wonder if any of those other early student films are lurking around the web, I must look into that for completion purposes.
One of the greatest films of all time for me, an indestructible position in the Mint’s all time top five, due to certain particulars that I won’t express here. A genre masterpiece that I’ve saving my powder on as they say for a potential future full review, just bathe in that enormously influential soundtrack…this was 1976 after all.
As I said in my previous review Halloween is incidentally dated but its footnote in film and genre history along with Psycho is assured, that uniquely profitable strand of horror all started here…
In the interests of brevity I’m ignoring the TV movie stuff so lets move on to The Fog, a direct ghost story which isn’t amazing (although again in terms of pure nostalgia I love it) which in its modest ambitions slays its contemporary pirates – ouch, that was clumsy. The film demanded numerous re-shoots after an initial assembly and I think that is apparent when you re-visit it today, however I think it still works on a direct, prudent and unassertive level, I don’t fully agree with Cousin’s commentary but I thought this introduction might be a bit more interesting than just another clip. Yes, that’s JC in that opening clip as Ben. Have you seen the remake? No? Good for you…
What more needs to be said of the majesty of Escape From New York? Well, maybe the deleted opening scene which I think was one of the great revelations of the DVD format – as I’ve mentioned here before the ability to see deleted scenes which is now padded with dull filler material was once the preserve of genuine artefacts for the film nerd. Is the scene above particularly thrilling or illuminating? No. Is it essential to the completest? Yes.
John’s first big budget experiment is one of the great cult films of the Eighties. I’ve expressed my love of this film on here before and it remains unsurpassed, I’ll get to the potential re-makes and re-imaginings at the end of this post. But lets just pause to consider that six film cluster - It’s almost perfect, in term of its ambitions and influences which outranks his contemporaries – I’m talking Romero, Fulci, Craven, Hooper, Argento, Gordon, Cohen - it’s an unmatched run of genre entertainment with its own idiosyncracies, techniques and attractions that I’d argue is unsurpassed. For my generation of genre fans, for those raised on the Spielberg’s and Lucas and Zemeckis attractions he is the unsung core influence, at least before the unfortunate deterioration began. And there were still a few moments of brilliance to come;
I’m skipping Christine in another nod to brevity, lets move on to a slightly weaker effort which still has its moments, Carpenter taking this job on the back of The Thing’s box office eclipse by an alternate extra-terrestrial juggernaut. It was bad timing for its subject matter as we wanted our aliens cute and cuddly, not catastrophic and crimson. Still, that is one of the unique beauties of the art, as the superior films (and yes I love E.T. and I have enormously affectionate memories of seeing it back in 1982 as an impressionable kid) found a new enthusiasm on the alternative VHS and Betamax formats. Which film is more prescient and perturbing? I’d argue that Starman is one of JC’s most underrated films, as the culture shifted to the ‘alien’ as saviour, as harbingers of harmony, as a force of salvation which speaks volumes of the cultural epicentre of the time, however you call it Jeff Bridges turned in a great performance which still resonates today and only his upcoming Tron revisit could potentially match this position amongst the genre community.
As far as Carpenter is one of my favourite all time top film directors I have only seen three of his films at the cinema – Halloween, The Thing and Big Trouble At Little China. If you have been paying attention then you’ll have noticed that the first two of those was over the past eighteen months or so, but I did press-gang a couple of mates of mine to see the latters absurd melange of martial arts and American machismo way back in 1986. For the record they hated it and I loved it, even at that tender age I was quite assured that it was an unserious, comedy action hybrid which wasn’t for everyone. I’ve loved seeing just how this film has garnered kudos over the years , yeah there is the obvious prescience of the martial arts films being assimilated into the US action film long before that Hong Kong wave really embedded itself into Hollywood in the early Nineties, but his deconstruction of the then contemporary action star is also a blast. Here is where it took many of its influences from, always remember that it’s all in the reflexes.
The second film in Carpenters apocalypse trilogy (after The Thing) was Prince Of Darkness which is a revisit to that Hawksian, claustrophobic climate of Assault, only this time the stakes are slightly more cataclysmic as the fate of the world rests on a bunch of students and a particularly deranged Donald Pleasance. I might give this another look this week as the film is knocking around on various sites and I haven’t seen it for a while, call me Mr. Obvious but that clip above is what everyone remembers about it.
Prescience is a rare quality, Fight Club, The Matrix, The Truman Show and Memento I’d argue all owe a debt of allegiance to JC’s last great movie, the hilarious hoopla of the crazily creepy They Live which remains a brilliant work of compacted satire, its legendary turbulence has really stood the test of time – when watching The Expendables that scene sprang to mind a few times. Yeah, sure, it falls apart at the end like much of Carpenters work but the ethos is there, the grip and imagination is there, and I’d argue that while sometimes Carpenters potential was hamstrung by budgetary constraints on this final triumph he really nailed his targets.For a lot of JC fans the guillotine fell on his career with They Live but I still detect moments of merit in his subsequent efforts, indeed this whole post was partially inspired by my revisiting of In The Mouth Of Madness last week. It’s not a great film but there are moments, there are some ideas which I can see in this movie that just weren’t quite realised and imagined that I still find attractive, the whole Lovecraft aura was at least attempted and it has some shards of intrigue and malice. The full ending is here which I like, give it a look with those ideals in mind. Plus, for you real genre weirdos it also has Darth Vader’s first screen appearance – at 00:52 - from a New Testament perspective.
So the The Thing re-make has wrapped and the initial detections I’ve absorbed from some podcasts whom have gleaned tales from the production do not sound promising - apparently all the effects are poor CGI and it is going for a Saw like gross-out aura without any panache or style – quite why they ever decided to make it a fucking prequel is beyond me as even with a limited budget there is enormous potential in seeing MacReady’s or Child’s return to civilisation. Also the Escape From New York re-make has been finally sanctioned – Carpenter recently revealed during a rare public appearance that he has cashed his cheque – but I guess we’ll see how that moves from script to casting and subsequent production - again I ain’t holding my breath. Final word here, or is it? Or is it? etc….
It’s been a few days since I posted anything but please be patient, there is some material en route that will address the new blog design and a specific directorial focus to celerate the changes which I’ve been wrestling with all night. When you visit the montage below I hope you’ll understand where I’m coming from, I want to get this treatsie pitch perfect. Watch this space….
In the surprise box-office hit The Last Exorcism the found-footage horror meme stumbles on ten years from its 1999 resurrection in the form of The Blair Witch Project although the genesis of this particular strand of gruesome cinema can be detected back to the notorious cannibal movies of the 1970’s. This latest entry to the sub-genre has more in common with it’s 1999 colleague in that it is an experience aiming for an effective insertion of chills and thrills rather than gore and disgust, a design achieved by presenting ‘real world’ events on a cinematic canvas that is more attuned to flights of fantasy and blissful escape. The Last Exorcism served as the closing night gala of this year’s hugely successful Frightfest, as it was a suitably high-profile finale to proceedings with the cast, director and horror superstar turned producer Eli Roth in tow for this eagerly anticipated European premiere.
In this malicious mockumentary a charismatic yet disillusioned preacher and part-time exorcist Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) has had an epiphany of sorts and invites a documentary crew into his life to illustrate how he had forged a shameful career in performing cleansing rituals on the allegedly possessed, an adumbration driven by the recent near-death illness of his beloved son and the revelation that a young autistic child had been accidentally killed in a similar deceit some weeks before. Taking a letter at random from those pleas for aid that he receives every day the Reverend and a modest two person crew of cameraman and producer / director / soundperson head down to the murky swamps of Louisiana to visit the afflicted Sweetzer family, a religious clan presided over by the gruff patriarch Louis, his hostile son Caleb and his doe-eyed, serenely innocent daughter Nell (an unearthly Ashley Bell), the apparent target of a daemon’s wicked infection. As Marcus and the team investigate the root cause of Nell’s uncertain condition and the horrific animal mutilations that have plagued the Sweetzer family home some uncomfortable conclusions are raised: is the derangement the result of an otherworldly intervention or is the cause of Nell’s distress and unconscious acts of violence a little closer to home?
The Last Exorcism is a well executed entry to the found footage movement although it does side-step the sub-genre framework a little. At certain points, non-diagetic sounds enter the frame and the editorial perspective shifts reveal that there must have been two cameras present to capture the foreboding events. The film builds a slyly tense, faintly frantic atmosphere during its opening half as the key question of whether Nell is actually possessed or merely psychologically deranged due to some terrible, all too tangible abuse colliding with her strict religious upbringing is left ambiguous, a crafty design that should keep the audience engaged and intrigued with the consequent revelations to come. Patrick Fabian convinces as the magnetic Marcus, but the real star of the film is the polysemous Nell, through a genuinely eerie and unsettling performance from relative new-comer Bell provides the requisite creeping terror through her bodily contortions and delivery of diabolical dialogue. The film comments simultaneously on the nature of ‘reality’ television and documentary cinema with all its inherent subterfuges and mis-directions – witness the original exorcism scene where we see Reverend Marcus cunningly conceal the tricks of his trade including the hidden microphones and electronic props to convince his audience of a maleficent presence being exiled – mirroring the inherent manipulations of a format that purports to be ‘real’ despite the conventions of editorial selection, of narrative crafting manipulation and time conscious appeasement that must be obeyed to deliver a coherent tale. Where the film will ultimately succeed or fail depends on individual reaction to the plot fractures of its final ten minutes; judging by the response to the conclusion (which this reviewer quite enjoyed for its unexpected twists, quite a rare achievement in the contemporary horror scene) fans either found the developments utterly ludicrous and unsatisfying or refreshing and rejuvenating. Given the film’s financial achievement – approaching $35 million against a $1.8 million production budget in the US alone – one can expect The Penultimate Exorcism hitting cinema screens sometime soon.
A cloud of extra-terrestrial excitement descended on London’s Frightfest this year as the chatter surrounding the new SF film Monsters reached fever-pitch amidst the nooks and crannies of the festivals main screening space, as SFX artist turned director Gareth Edwards remarkable debut made its UK premiere a palpable sense of enthusiasm flooded through Screen 1 of the Empire Leicester Square as arguably the best received film of the festival entranced its admiring audience. Monsters has already been pigeonholed as this years District 9, a somewhat lazy comparison as although they share similar aesthetics the film is far more of a companion piece to Duncan Jones similarly acclaimed Moon from last year. Whilst District 9 was a solid, entertaining example of genre engineering despite its bludgeoning anti-racism message Monsters surpasses its alleged progenitor as a far more finessed and subtle piece of work, a film which marks Edwards as a natural story-teller in this consistently surprising and lithe film which retains a genuine sense of wonder and mystery in its not necessarily being the fan-boy friendly monster-mash that its misleading marketing may have you believe.
Six years ago a NASA probe disintegrated upon on re-entry to the Earths atmosphere and deposited an alien species spores across the central cartography of the American continent, these seeds consequently partitioning the northern United States from Mexico with an infected zone that is perilous to traverse due to a population of deadly, exoteric immigrants that have contaminated this new dominion, the bacteria having evolved into barely glimpsed behemoths whose migrative morphology and hostile behaviour is still under human dissection. Photo-journalist Andrew Kaulder has been assigned to the area with instructions to document the current situation, his corporate paymasters instructing him to obtain footage of atrocities on the indigenous human populace, his being promised some particularly lucrative remuneration the more heart wrenching his reportage. This questionable activity is soon superseded by orders to escort the abandoned daughter of one of his bosses from a threatened Mexico back to fortress America, a journey that the couple attempt to complete via a ferry trip which would ensure they circumnavigate the polluted area, their simple plans foiled when a impromptu indiscretion on the part of Andrew results in Samantha’s passport and money being stolen, leaving them both with only one dangerous option to get home – to penetrate and surpass the chthonic perils of a land crossing across these blemished sectors, the only feasible route to the safety of the northern territories.
Shot guerrilla style in South America with indigenous people taking the roles of locals and guides for a budget in the tens of thousands of dollars, Monsters first triumph is its evasion of the usual storytelling framework as the traditional model of introduction to this future world would be to prologue the initial discovery of the otherworldly species and then document the fledgling fracas between the extraterrestrials and homo sapiens. These conventions are side-stepped in favour by placing the activity In media res, by being centred six years into this conflict, this brave new world being subtly textured with a paraphernalia of background details embroidered into the frame, from the signage and rolling news reports, from the graffiti and newspapers, from all these elements a very credible future world is obliquely crafted, enabling the tension to focus on Andrews and Samantha’s hazardous voyage and their flourishing romance (the two have a convincing on-screen chemistry culled from a real-life relationship) in the midst of these epochal events which cement the films real focus and ambition. An early scene, set amidst a glittering composition of thousands of candle-lit graves of Mexican victims of the war marks the films atmospheric credentials, a skittish Walter Salles derived aura meshed with a Cloverfield jeopardy, enabling Monsters to wield a visual dexterity far beyond its CGI proficiency.
Like all the best speculative fiction Monsters concerns are timely, its themes finessed through an imaginary future scenario to illuminate present day cultural and societal concerns, and the notions of immigration and integration flutter throughout the film, with the symbiotic assimilation of the invaders into the Earths bio-system serving as a potent metaphor for the debates that continue to rage across Europe and the United States. Whilst these themes are clumsily handled in one dialogue heavy scene toward the end of the film these are minor quibbles, the net result is a film with more passion and integrity in one of its frames than the bloated tent poles being churned out for one thousand times its budget on the Californian coast, not to mention a film with a fresh and unique ocular texture, a modesty and deftness of touch in comparison to the usual all pervasive visual pollution that poisons most contemporary genre pictures. The SFX in Monsters are integral to the films purpose and design rather than in thrall to it, and the alien species etymology is credible and curious, culminating in a breath taking final sequence that replicates the initial awe of the dinosaurs revelation in Jurassic Park. Like a youthful Terrence Malick directing an early script revision of Close Encounters of The Third Kind, Monsters is an exhilarating triumph that serves as a strong contender for the film of the year.
Well, I’m not sure why that took so long to finish but here we are. I’ll transfer over my last Frightfest review tomorrow which leaves the field open for my first official press screening on Wednesday, I got an e-mail last week inviting me to spend an evening with Harry Shearer at the Curzon Soho for a screening and Q&A of his interesting sounding documentary on Katrina and New Orleans, hopefully I’ll be able to get back into central London in time. Finally I’d be remiss not to pay tribute to Kevin McCarthy and his famous performance in a classic piece of SF allegory, and let’s not forget his contributions to many other moments of celluloid over his long career;
Alas another legend falls. Commonly named as the ‘French Hitchcock’ Claude Chabrol was an instrumental force in the French New Wave and the Movements establishment of the politique des auteurs theory, as well as making over eighty films over a six decade career. I’ve seen about a dozen of his films including this just a month ago and he’d be the first to admit that his work has had it’s peaks and troughs, I can however strongly recommend both La Cérémonie and Merci pour le chocolat, both of which starring his late period muse Isabelle Huppert. Bradshaw is good here and the Telegraph’s obituary provides a good sypnopsis of his career.
If in a parallel dimension a young John Waters had been deposited in Australia and decided to remake the eighties rom-com Pretty In Pink then he might have unleashed Sean Byrne’s teenage love satire The Loved Ones, a deliciously entertaining black comedy that has been slowly accruing a clutch of accolades throughout its film festival appearances over the past twelve months. The film was unquestionably one of the best received slices of the Frightfest film festival despite its playing on the midnight schedule on a Sunday night – or perhaps its screening on that midnight schedule gave it that appropriate historical aura for this exploitation attuned crowd – regardless its amusing marriage of torture and teen angst generated roars of laughter and squeals of pain from this appreciative audience well before events turned more homicidal, its bizarre, satiric and genuinely humourous mélange of tone marks a picture that is destined for immortality in the cult classic canon.
Surly adolescent Brent (Xavier Samuel) like most teenagers is withdrawn, moody and anguished, although in his defence he has reason to be raging against his futile world; he accidentally killed his father and injured himself during a gruesome car accident some six months hence. Once a clean-cut athletic sort Brent has turned to the booze and weed, his warm affection for his girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine) an essential, stabilizing presence in his turbulent young life. When his mousy classmate Lola (Robin McLeavy) unexpectedly asks Brent if he would like to go to the prom with her he rejects her advances in a gentlemanly fashion, calmly explaining that he was planning to attend this social essential with his existing sweetheart. This may well be the worst decision of Brent’s recent life, his enraged paramour Lola enacts a terrible revenge for his unconscious rebuttal by kidnapping Brent with the assistance of her father for her own private prom, an intimate nightmare with just the three of them enduring the throes of pubescent pain…
Sometimes you instinctively know when you’ve just witnessed a cult classic and the The Loved Ones with its Kathy-Bates-in-Misery surrogate may have birthed this year’s most memorable screen villain. Both McLeavy as the hideous Lola and Richard Wilson as her doting father excel with hysterical (in both senses of the word) performances, the whole movie is infused with a demented glee which keep the picture snarling along over its briskly appropriate breadth, it never outstays its welcome and leaves you wanting more insanity and gags as Brent’s torment intensifies. The psychological ignition of Lola’s behaviour and her father’s slavish devotion is never explored or explained and the film is all the stronger for it, any muddling of their frenzied motivation would certainly distract from the movie’s perfect blend of humour and horror. The Loved Ones operates on a slightly fanatical level, not quite enough to plunge into parody but certainly at a heightened level of realism, a pitch at times verging on the absurd in which it is difficult to predict the next plot development, a frequently omitted ingredient in the contemporary horror film. There is a side-plot in the film concerning Brent’s friend Eric and his alternate prom experience with Mia, the goth bespoke object of Eric’s amorous affection, and this whole strand of the film never collides with the central plot in an attempt one assumes to provide a lighter comedic antidote to the deteriorating events at the substitute murderous masquerade. The Loved Ones evokes an inverted Carrie where Sissy Spacek’s telekinetic revenge was never deserved, even when events spiral out into almost Buñuelian levels of surrealism toward the film’s climax the tone and texture of the film remains captivating, it’s a glittering, modern midnight movie exemplar that you’ll reject at your peril.
Whew, I’m finally getting round to wrapping up my Frightfest coverage, only one more review to go – for Monsters which I really need to sit down and devote some time to complete as I took a break over last weekend – and a couple more items I need to migrate over from Sound On Sight and that’s it. I quite simply don’t have the time or inclination to craft any more reviews, there is more than enough going on with my ‘proper’ job so you’ll have to make do with my submissions to date. Notable misses which I can partially recommend are the I Spit On Your Grave remake which may appeal to some completists and the debut of Korean first time helmer Jang Cheol-soo Bedevilled which was good, a slow-burn alternative to the rest of the carnage but the remaining films I saw aren’t really worth the time or effort. Still, the final word is I enjoyed this exercise immensely, I learnt a few things and will certainly be repeating the extravaganza next year.
Casting my eyes over the schedule for this years London Film Festival leaves me singularly unimpressed. Granted there are a few items I have sketched into my calendar – The Black Swan is getting some buzz and Aronofsky is jetting over for a Q&A, The American looks interesting with its alleged European Art Film meshed with Hollywood Action picture potential, John Sayles is always worth a look, the Carlos The Jackal bio-pic looks intriguing (all 325 minutes of it, yikes), the stalwart Takashi Miike looks like fun – but there are absolutely no ‘must-sees’ if you will, there’s no Coen film for example or Enter The Void type items that really have me excited. This is very much an initial reaction as I haven’t had the full programme through yet and am basing this analysis on a quick skim-read of the site during my lunch break so we shall see. As usual with the LFF neither of the opening or closing gala films rock my boat but if I get the potential press pass I’m up for then I’ll have to reconsider my commitment and we’ll see how it goes. Besides, if some recent plans that should shortly come to some sort of fruition pan out then I might not be in London, or in fact Europe when this all commences…..
In terms of some other stuff that’s been floating around then I enjoyed this article, a friend recently asked me why certain periods of film all have the same texture and colour palette and the best I could offer up was some weak explanation of new film stocks being introduced at the time and adopted in the art form coupled with lense choices and general developments of cinematic techniques on the part of cinematographers – the deployments of the key, fill and backlights – then one of the bullet points in that article articulates recent developments far more professionally than I could muster even if it has collated some more extensive research from here, here and here. Good stuff. If you ever thought I extrapolated too much into genre cinema then have a gander at this, an interesting read if you’re cultural theorist inclined but he does make the text-book and annoying error of lumping in the 28 Days pictures with more traditional zombie pictures – they are not fucking zombies, they are infected humans and there is a big fucking difference. I can’t remember if I posted Simon Peggs well observed genuflections on the matter but regardless here it is again. Just to repeat myself (yet) again I’m looking forward to both The Social Network and Machete over the next few months, the latter has been getting some terrific reviews on the podcasts that I’ve kind of listened too – I’ve been avoiding spoilers of course but it sounds like it’s going to be all of the explotation themed extravaganza that I wanted. Excellent;
Jesus, spot the Wilhelm Scream in that trilogy eh?
The Ford brothers’ assured zombie movie The Dead premiered at London’s Frightfest film festival last week, in a programme that was dominated by revenge themed tales it was fun to catch a a more traditionally-minded horror movie, the film is at once a carefully crafted homage to a ghastly pedigree of eidolon cinema and a moody take on the sub-genre which hauls events to freshly moldering heights. After the repeated disappointments of Godfather George’s recent entries to the canon, the opportunity to recommend a genuinely gruesome zombie film is a relief, and what The Dead may lack in terms of social commentary it compensates for in terms of atmosphere and carnage. Against the prevalence of vampires in horror cinema, the zombie movie as a sub-genre may not have expired yet… .
Yes, it’s Armageddon time again and activities have been transported from the traditional milieu of the urban jungle to the arid swathes of East Africa, as you’d expect the reanimated corpses of the dead are arising to feast on the flesh of the living, a decimation of the species due to plague, curse or medical mishap, no-one is sure is struggling to find out. After a hasty, panic fuelled army flight ditches into the sea adjacent to the East African coast Lt. Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman), a military engineer who finds himself as the only survivor of his unit. After fighting his way through a relentless horde of the ravenous undead he meets a fellow survivor, Sgt. Daniel Dembele (Prince David Oseia), a soldier for the local government who is seeking his family, whom he is sure have been relocated to a distant refugee camp. Seeking safety in numbers and understanding that two doubles the firepower and vigilance, they team up to traverse the deadly wilderness. While The Dead is not quite aiming for the buddy cop ethos of the Lethal Weapon series an uneasy camaraderie develops between the two survivors, as they both learn to trust and rely on each other in order to survive and reach safety.
Here’s a zombie movie made for the fans, with a pair of heroes who have clearly devoured their copies of the Zombie Survival handbook before the cataclysm struck. Ammo is rationed and corpses are looted for essential survival items. Constant surveillance and careful reconnaissance of new areas is the default activity. Headshots are always employed and careful retreat from overwhelming odds is the order of the day. What is most impressive about The Dead is its languid, acrid texture; it is a very atmospheric tale of the re-animated dead which hearkens back to the early days of Fulci and Romero. It has a somnolent pace that is well meshed with a sense of a perpetual, excruciating threat, and almost every scene throughout the film’s entire running (or should that be lurching?) time features a shambling corpse remorselessly seeking its next meal, and as we all know one cadaver will shortly be accompanied by two, then four, then eight accomplices in an accelerating, infectious dread that is homogeneous throughout the film. It is also the most consistently grisly movie of the festival, with much of its beautiful African landscapes in sharp opposition to the corpse-littered veldt, a hellish imagery that recalls the news footage of the Rwandan and associated massacres. The film does have some pacing issues and perhaps a little more attention could have been given to the characters of Brian and Daniel other than a simple reunion with their family plot driver - they both function as little more than ciphers which fail to generate any emotional investment in their fate. Nevertheless, The Dead’s unusual setting, its despondent aura and gentle genre adoration is certain to net it some kudos and fans amongst the horror community. Highly recommended.
I haven’t read the comic book. I didn’t like the trailer. Whilst I quite like Michael Cera – the one and only George Michael of one of the funniest TV programmes of the past ten years – I concur that he is hugely overexposed at the moment and his last three films Youth In Revolt, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Year One were uniformly terrible. I’m getting increasingly bored of comic-book movies. I have developed a deteriorating head cold – – all in all one would expect that the latest prog of graphic novel translation to the big screen Scott Pilgrim Versus The World would leave me unimpressed and dismissive considering the factors stacked against it, all things considered I quite liked this blithe and breezy, throwaway little effort when I caught it yesterday at the local flicks as it had just about enough gags and amusing references to pander to my inner nerd. I’ll confess I was hoping for a slightly more entertaining overall venture from one of the creative lynch-pins behind the mighty Spaced, whilst Scott Pilgrim does resemble an extended episode of that well-loved series filtered through the colander of US studio backing and a frosty Canadian locale, it doesn’t quite match the excellence of its European ancestor.
Michael Cera is Scott Pilgrim, an early twenty-something who shares his Toronto life with his gossip mongering sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick), his gay roommate Wallace Wells (a faintly amusing Kieran Culkin) and his three friends and fellow band mates of ‘Sex Bob-omb’, the centrepiece of his professional life. Scott is controversially – at least socially speaking – dating his seventeen year old second generation Chinese girlfriend Knives Chau (I’m not kidding, that’s her name), a stop-gap measure to restore his romantic prowess following a devastating break-up with his one true love Envy Adams a year ago, a split prompted by her band finally making it to the big leagues. This triangle is further complicated when the beautiful Ramona (charisma vacuum Mary Elizabeth Winstead, she doesn’t get any good lines) enters his life and a halting relationship begins, an amour resulting in Scott’s characteristically immature dumping of Chau – all in all Pilgrim is a bit of an insensitive, selfish jerk throughout the film. As his romance develops the films dovetails into flourishes of geek inspired magical realism and a succession of fantastical superhero and video game structured duels with each of Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends – amongst them the likes of Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and a mucid Jason Schwartzman – must be conquered in order to win her heart and save the day.
The opening titles 8-bit rendered Universal logo and soundtrack gives you an induction of where this film is aiming to go. I suspect that your opinion of Scott Pilgrim Versus The World will depend on your opinion of people who wear ironic t-shirts, of people who reference Pixies tracks, of people immersed in video-game and otaku culture, of people for whom the phrase ‘emerald chocobos’ makes sense – alas I fall within some of these parameters and that is what made Scott Pilgrim a passably entertaining couple of hours, on the flip-side I can understand why that hipster whimsy has generated equal amounts of loathing – some people absolutely love Wes Anderson or Noah Baumbach pictures, others cannot stand the sight of them and Scott Pilgrim bluffs its way into a similar canon. The film is stuffed with in-jokes cloned from geek and nerd cultural references, from the sly musical strands (including riffs on The Warriors and some early Carpenter nods that I detected, I’m sure there are dozens of others) to video game visuals commenting on the films characters and events (power upgrades, NPC stats, extra lives, high-score points accumulation) but its real strengths lie with Edgar Wrights dazzling editing techniques, once the realism fades away and he gets to stretch his cinematic muscles the film becomes a dazzling procession of montage and split-screen manoeuvres, translated from its comic-book pedigree, into a bombardment of visual information that a reviewer, if he was being lazy, could argue was ideal for the surface-inclined, twittering, alleged attention-deficit market demographic that the film is so obviously aimed at. You’ll either love it or hate it.
There are two, maybe three genuine laugh out loud moments (I’ll avoid the obvious abbreviation as I’m thirty ‘cough-cough’ years old) throughout the film but it does feel all so very slight and so very forgettable. Perhaps that was the intention and that is the films tone lifted from the graphic novel – I’ve nothing against that of course – but judging by some of the reactions on the affectionate side I was expecting, perhaps unfairly, a more convincingly grounded emotional core to the film, that the romance would even at least partially be taken seriously . The ‘seven-exes’ structure also feels a little faulty as, well, you know he’s got to go through seven battles which couches the film into a by the numbers run-through plot wise and you know that they’ll save the best clash and the best gags for the finale. Cera continues his shtick of scarcely submerged social hysteria with a twist, in Scott Pilgrim he’s actually quite the irritating idiot which is another blot on the films charm offensive and none of the other characters are particularly memorable or amusing, but the film just about musters through on the strength of its visual charms and an adroit, geeky dexterity, no doubt further gags and references more deeply embedded than others will be revealed on potential repeat viewings. I assume its lacklustre US box office performance against an absurd budget of $60 million will curtail Mr. Wrights Hollywood career, maybe he will return to Blightly, reunite with the old gang and complete that Cornetto trilogy after all….
What’s your biggest fear? Maybe it’s those loathsome arachnids? Or perhaps those lunatic daubed clowns? The common concern of an aircraft engine failure? A Uwe Boll video game adaptation movie-marathon? Or is it being buried alive, to suffer an agonizing, choking fate, isolated and inevitable, in the dark? In director Rodrigo Cortés new film Buried, this nightmare scenario is explored to asphyxiating effect, the film serving as an efficient replacement for Frightfest’s twisted crowd on Sunday night following the inevitable withdrawal of A Serbian Film due to the UK’s most visible censorship wrangle since Cronenberg’s Crash fell similarly afoul of Westminster Council’s puritanical standards back in 1996. The claustrophobic Buried effectively plugged the hole in the festival schedule, leaving its viewers panting and gasping for air as the closing credits scrolled after an hour and a half of terrifying terrain.
After a few seconds of tense, uncertain moaning from a pitch-dark screen, a sputtering light ignites to illuminate a terrifying prospect: civilian contractor Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) has been buried alive in a constricting wooden box, the dimensions of which restrict him from moving his body more than a few inches, his slow comprehension leading to a petrified realization. Entombed with Paul is a trio of utensils – his Zippo, a pen and mobile phone with a decaying battery – these three tools being his only potential hope of rescue. It emerges that following an insurgent assault on his engineering supply convoy Paul was knocked unconscious and his colleagues were shot, an increasingly merciful fate given his precarious situation. Soon the terrorists contact Paul through the phone and demand that he co-ordinate a $5 million ransom demand with the US government, an impossible task given his relative insignificance and the administration’s aversion to negotiating with their foes. As time runs out and his oxygen supply depletes, Paul embarks on a desperate mission to save his life.
From the Saul Bass inspired, cascading titles it’s evident that the master of suspense would be proud; one can quite clearly imagine an intrigued Hitchcock mining Buried’s foundations for all their anxious credentials. It is quite an achievement to craft a full 90 minutes of tense, nervous atmosphere from such a restrictive location, but Cortés manages to keep his camerawork fluid and engrossing, the tension ratchets up as the plot develops and an incremental understanding and sympathy for our blue-collar victim emerges – he was simply the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. The film makes some allusions to the alternate horrors of a corporately minded, out-sourced battle-field, and the dulcet tones of a voice cameo from Stephen Tobolowky should satisfy the cult movie crowd. It is the ingenuity of screenwriter Chris Sparling that keeps proceedings tunneling along, although one sequence seems a little contrived and serves as little more than padding to expand the film’s run-time. Buried evokes the Stephen King short stories of his Skeleton Crew era and their EC comic progenitors, in that it is a tight, compact tale of terror that deftly explores its congested criteria – given its proximity to some headline making real-world horrors one assumes that this is a film that won’t be picking up a distribution deal in Chile…
Let’s break things up a little shall we? I’ve had a particularly brilliant week so I feel like celebrating with some music, plus a break from the avalanche of horror reviews seems apt. Don’t fret gentle reader, this weekends plan still revolves around completing my Monsters review, to craft a Last Exorcism report as I think it gets its official release today yesterday and I will probably catch Scott Pilgrim on Sunday to keep it real with the kids and all that nonsense, I’m actually looking forward to a film which doesn’t involve SFX, stalking or nerdy allusions - I may be disappointed. After Frightfest culminated on Monday night I’ve had a full schedule and caught up with a couple of friends for beers over a couple of sequential sessions which was excellent, I’ve cracked some problems at work and finalised a very exciting opportunity that will be amazing if I can cement the deal – we shall see. So here is some noise;
Thurston and crew always deliver.
According to his website Mr. Johnson has scored five movies – including Tony – over the past few months. Interesting….
Yes, I am trawling through that 120 Minutes website to craft this post so it will be ancient material for you young ‘uns, I make no apologies. I’d like to see Polly live, maybe one day…
Above is some ancient video inspired fun, something of a private joke, relating to a mislaid artefact – it’s a long story. Moving on to the below I think these guys may be playing in London soon, I’d like to see ‘em;
My shoes are clean. Are yours?
A restrained Surfers;
And a change of pace and genre;
I made a pact with a friend to see at least one more gig before the year is out, any recommendations?
With the sponsorship and assistance of the UK’s Total Film magazine the Frightfest organisers instituted a new filament to the festival programme last year, the Total Icon event that was awarded to John Landis who hitch-hiked over to London with a sparkling digital print of An American Werewolf in London in tow. This year the strand continued with the welcome appearance of Tobe Hooper, back in England for the first time in eighteen years, to crown a challenging double-bill of screenings including his elusive debut Eggshells followed of course with a prized big-screen outing of Hooper’s legendary The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – c’mon this is Frightfest after all – one of the key reference points of the horror genre with its repeated inclusion in the top tier of ‘best horror film ever’ lists that have been complied over the past thirty five years.
Eggshells is a delirium fuelled commentary on America’s narcotic comedown (it was originally released in 1969), a fever dream picture that concerns itself with the unconnected and frankly incoherent experiences of a group of counter-cultural types, two couples and a mute young gentlemen who reminded me of a tuned in, turned on Harpo Marx – suffice to say this is not a film for everyone but the films bizarre experimentation seemed to connect with the festivals open-minded crowd. In a mosaic of student art-film experimentation the film rejects any connective membrane and proceeds as a sequence of seemingly unbonded viginettes, the most arresting for me being the mute chap sword fighting with himself in a jump-cut combined montage, a memorable display that is superseded when he discovers a mysterious light lurking in the basement which prompts a kaleidoscopic assault of sound and bewildering pseudo-fractal imagery. Other sequences evoke the consumerist baiting conclusion to Zabriskie Point as one of the crew strips naked and torches his car and belongings, other tamperings with animation techniques remind one of the early short film efforts of David Lynch (interestingly enough from the same period), namely The Alphabet and The Grandmother. Quite what the film is trying to say will rest in the eye of the beholder but as the characters dissolve into an evaporating mist as the film concludes, an escape from their alt-home which serves as a portent of things to come with Chainsaw, the film heralds the themes of incarceration and control that have populated Hooper’s work for years to come.
Is there anything left to be said about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a film whose simple savagery remains untarnished a mere thirty-five years after its explosive release? Chainsaw remains a noxiously efficient piece of work, its atmosphere built through its lo-fi vérité construction, all those fans (like yours truly) who first caught this atrocity on slightly soiled, sordid, seventh generation VHS or Betamax format have marvelled at its continuing impact and definition of the genre, The film is powerful on the big-screen, the digital print that screened has thankfully not had all its grainy texture digitally erased (memo to Mr. Friedkin – please don’t fuck up the mooted Exorcist transfer as you did with The French Connection Blu-Ray) and its droning soundtrack remains effectively low in the submerged mix. It’s dysfunctional family unit retain their disgusting, dreadful aura and the films harrowing treatment of men and women as disposable chattel. Speaking as someone who has an affection with the consequent rise of the post-modern horror film with all its self-referential ingredients, its knowing winks to the audience and emphasis on more and more elaborate kill sequences it was refreshing to see a film that was designed to terrify and disturb its audience on a rudimentary visceral level, given the nervous laughs and scattered applause of the crowd, the majority of which must have seen the film countless times, its brutal prowess and repugnant horror remains intact.
(Shivers) - I love that scene. A brief but rewarding Q&A with Tobe Hooper followed the screenings as Total Film editor Jamie Graham lead a deft discussion of Hooper’s turbulent career, raising and putting to rest a few rumors and whispers that have coalesced around some of the more controversial elements of his library of work. Chainsaw was given an appropriate emphasis during the dialogue, Hooper explaining how he specifically timed the specific shocks and scares by careful synchronisation of frame rate and on-screen scares, given the nervous laughs and scattered applause of the crowd, the majority of which must have seen the film countless times, its brutal prowess and repugnant horror remains intact. Discussions turned to the continuing debate of 1982′s Poltergeist authorship, there has long been debate on exactly whom is behind that films genre pedigree. Hooper explained that the confusion stems from an on-set visit of a LA times journalist who observed Spielberg helming a second unit sequence, and it was from this misunderstanding that the consequent Chinese whispers have expanded to a detrimental effect on his career. The cultish Salem’s Lot and Lifeforce received some attention and it seems that there are no plans to release the long cherished four-hour cut of one of the better Stephen King adaptations, even the obscure Eaten Alive was given a brisk commentary. Jamie concluded the event with a fine question, asking Hooper whom he thought was the most promising director of the current crop of phantasmagorical fantasists, his immediate election of Guillermo del Toro igniting an appreciative flood of applause. Conversations will inevitably turn to next years icon – and one hears that a Mr. Carpenter has a new film that is close to release….
Take a dash of Cabin Fever, add a garnish of The Ruins and marinade in the Ozploitation ethos of 1978′s little seen The Lost Weekend and you may have just served up Primal, a competent slice of outback horror that received its world premiere during the opening night of this year’s Frightfest film festival. Twelve thousand years ago a frantic Neanderthal attempted to warn his kin of an ancient evil through the medium of cave painting before falling prey to a venerable, unseen power. Flash-forward to the present day and a gaggle of twenty-somethings are embarking on a camping trip, these unfortunate souls unintentionally bivouacking within the perimeter of this malignant entity’s lair, a geography dominated by a claustrophobic warren of weather-distressed caves. The habitat has been corrupted by this devilish entity, the wildlife routed and twisted into an unholy blight, and soon one of the party falls prey to a gruesome disease after an ill-advised bout of midnight skinny-dipping. As her condition deteriorates and as her hunger for flesh intensifies the remaining members of the group find themselves in a desperate battle for survival, a scenario where their civilised conditioning will be stretched and shattered, before long it’s kill or be killed in the isolated Australian outback.
With terrific* films you can wallow in overwhelming praise, with bad films you can soak your quill in scathing sarcasm or vitriolic venom, but it’s the competent movies, the solidly adequate that frequently prove the most difficult to dissect. At a compact eighty minutes Primal doesn’t exceed its adroit welcome, its entertaining quips and distressing gore effects seem certain to satiate the gore-hound crowd, whilst there is not a great deal more in the movie to elevate it beyond its genre trappings its reach does not exceed its grasp and one senses that its ambitions are modestly engineered. The ‘final girl’ survivor is evident from the first frames of the movie, a character who is given just enough psychological baggage to engage with the audience and provide a vague sense of narrative closure by traversing and ultimately overcoming a traumatic event earlier in her life, an obstacle that is surpassed during the film’s modest regimen.
Primal’s amusing comic relief arbiter exits stage left earlier than necessary which leaves a gaggle of victims to be picked off sequentially, a misstep that potentially evaporates any connection with the movie but the film musters one genuinely chilling scene which recalls an effective moment from The Blair Witch Project; a captured character is heard shrieking and screaming in the vague distance with two other survivors clinging to each other in nervous dread. In its final moments Primal lurches into some Lovecraft-derived chills, a shift whose source and background is never fully explained, a decision which might count as a fault or coup depending on your personal preferences. The film does have a keen eye for genre tropes, the infected’s fear of fire is manipulated to a tension-building effect and on an artisan level the gore effects, jumps and plot machinations should keep its audience buoyant and engaged. Overall however this antipodean effort is textbook stuff, although fans will admire its slyly telegraphed dialogue flourish that is a contender for perhaps the finest one word coda since 1999′s Eyes Wide Shut.
* Yeah, I know, this is one of the weakest reviews I’ve concocted for quite a while, there is better to come. Honest.
A suitably gloomy, rain-swept August pallor ushered in London’s Frightfest film festival yesterday evening last week, the eleventh installment of one of Europe’s premier horror, fantasy and SF gatherings in the heart of the capitals West End cinema district. Ensconced at the cavernous Screen 1 of the Empire Leicester Square, the festival feeds its disturbed denizens with all the gore, grue and genre fun they can handle – one senses that this carnival of depravity would feel similarly at home in the fleapit screening halls of Soho a few minutes walk down the road – but as its popularity has exploded in recent years, new premises have been sanctioned to match the festival’s accelerating viability and rising media profile. Frightfest’s experienced programmers selected Adam Green’s Hatchet 2 as their opening film, a wise choice given director Adam Green’s close ties to the festival (the original installment premiered here back in 2006 to a rapturous reception that essentially kick-started his career) as well as being a suitably energetic and blood-curdling howl of introduction to the five days of carnage that were destined to follow.
After a rousing and strangely moving introduction to the film from Green the sequel began, events picking up immediately from the gruesome events of Hatchet in a pre-credit reprise of the murderous antics of Victor Crowley, a grotesque swamp-dwelling maniac who had recently dispatched the family of our eponymous heroine Mary-Beth, a pint-sized angel of retribution who vows revenge on the so called ’bayou butcher.’ Our shell-shocked champion enlists the assistance of the fraudulent mystic Reverend Zombie – as you may have guessed the film has had any sense of subtlety surgically removed - and with a cadre of financially frantic hunters returns to the lethal Everglades of Louisiana to retrieve the cadavers of her slain father and brother. In the best gloomy traditions of the genre Mary-Beth’s connection to her nemesis is quickly established – her father was one of a gang of teenagers whose antics led to the accidental ‘death’ of Crowley some twenty years hence – and some broad characterizations of the eight or so scavengers are glossed over before we get to the splattery events that comprise the film’s more satisfactory second half, as the abhorrent Crowley stalks and slays his doomed adversaries.
The film, like its predecessor, is a tongue-in-cheek valentine to the hack and slash pictures of the seventies and eighties, with double the body count and inventive infectiousness of its previous incarnation. Genre stars pollute the screen, including a quick cameo from Troma king Lloyd Kaufman (prompting an appreciative round of applause), Candyman’s Tony Todd (whose cameo from Hatchet is expanded to a central plot accelerant with his own nefarious schemes), and slasher legend Kane Hodder who reprises his role as the hulking, monstrous Crowley, an affectionate descendant of franchise stalwarts Freddie and Jason. All the attention is quite rightly lavished on the power-tool-assisted dismemberments and decapitations of the feckless hunters; their amusing and distressingly designed exits prompts the legendary cheering and whooping that hardcore horror aficionados know and love. It’s not subtle, but this is Frightfest after all….
After the credits had rolled the film’s stars and director took to the stage amidst a chorus of cheers and applause before launching into a frequently hilarious impromptu Q&A session with the appreciative audience. Green revealed that much of the film was shot on sound-stages, the production design delivered by the artistic crew behind The Dark Knight, their services discharged for free due to their endearment of the first Hatchet picture – quite a coup. The obvious fun that the actors had in crafting the sequel was infectious and their affection for Green was apparent, the director then fumbling a faux-pas of sorts by inadvertently revealing that his other project Frozen would might be honored with a screening during the festival – you heard it here first folks (EDIT – I must have got confused here as that never happened, maybe it was in reserve for any withdrawls as per the A Serbian Film debacle). Anyway, if you’re in the mood for some mindless genre affection, for a film whose plot trajectory can be summarized thus: revision scene, ‘legend’ episode, characterization sequence and blistering blitzkrieg, then Hatchet 2 comes warmly recommended.