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Monthly Archives: December 2012

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The Loved Ones focuses on Lola; an insane young woman, who after being rejected by the male lead in Brent gets her father to kidnap him and go on a date with him. It’s not a usual date as she intimidates him and through a number of grotesque sequences; she tortures him. The premise is relatively simple, but through its damning nature it tortures the audience at the same time.

Lola, played by Robin McLeary with devastating macabre and accuracy delivers one of the finest horror performances of the decade. Her sadistic nature and the verbalization of each of her lines bring about a true ferociousness, matching anything the decade has seen. In Robin McLeary, we have a young woman salvaged by rejection who takes the ultimate revenge, but there’s a lot more to The Loved Ones than just “torture porn” as films of the sort are so commonly labelled. Partnering Lola as the father is John Brumpton; a man who will seemingly do anything for his daughter even if it means torture as it subsequently featured throughout. His understated, rich performances show the correlation and love between a father and daughter, and through several scenes focusing on the sexual undertones between a weird father and his daughter make The Loved Ones an even more fascination viewing, albeit despite being very disturbing.

On the opposite end, there is Brent; a young man still surrounded by his own torture knowing his responsibility behind the death of his father (as shown in the first scene of the film) becomes trapped in a life or death situation. His chaotic, but less than audible performance resonates over the film, showing a true touch of genius, due to his limited and largely unnecessary dialogue of which he is acquitted from. With relatively silent performances, emotions and feelings are unsurprisingly difficult to portray but Xavier Samuel does himself a great service.

The Loved Ones is a largely disturbing film, capable of tasking itself with the responsibility of delivering shock throughout. Its gross presentation and the realistic nature behind it give it the necessary feeling of fear and the abundantly clear atmosphere that it has makes it one of the most intense films of the year. If I tried to explain The Loved Ones concisely, I’d say it feels like a big mix up of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Carrie and Wolf Creek.

83/100

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My knowledge on In Cold Blood prior to seeing it is surprisingly limited; it’s based on the celebrated Truman Capote novel, and it centers on a murder. That’s it. Even knowing every little detail about it could not prepare me for the utter insanity of Richard Brooks’ classic 1967 masterpiece. In Cold Blood, as mentioned prior is based from Capote’s novel, which focuses on the true life murder of a family by Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, played by Robert Blake and Scott Wilson respectively. The film which allows its audience into the minds and life’s of two cold blooded killers is a sure call as one of the greatest usages in cinema to display any kind of vicarious nature to two character who we should wholly be disgusted by.

Richard Brooks’s decision to not use “big stars” is justified by the tremendous performances by Scott Wilson and especially the performance from Robert Blake. By using two actors relatively unknown to the casual eye, the impact of the terrifying and jaw-dropping scenes that unfold throughout the film is made even more staggering, adding to the already realistic presentation of the sequences (it is a true story, so this is expected) makes it purely unforgettable. Due to Robert Blake’s more recent conviction and subsequent acquittal, his performance is made even the more harrowing and convincing, allowing for the fear factor to multiply to an almost unstoppable level.

In Cold Blood is one of the finest crime films around, presenting us with powerful scenes and especially in the last few scenes, a constant blowing of wind making the scenes even tenser and challenging to watch. I think In Cold Blood is a perfect movie. It knows what it has, and it uses every moment to its advantage to give the viewer a truly unforgettable experience that will stay with them for eternity.

I need to read Capote’s novel.

100/100

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Truth be told, I’ve never been a big animation fan. I’ve seen the basic Disney features, Akira, Ghost in the Shell among several others, but I’ve never truly been hypnotised, overly entertained or left with my jaw on the floor by one. Tonight after seeing The Iron Giant, my opinion on the whole genre has been largely changed.

In The Iron Giant, we encounter the oddly named Hogarth Hughes. He is a strange, unsociable boy with very little friends. The ones he has seem disinterested in his over-ambitious stories, leaving him all alone to play with the many animals he finds. In the opening scene, a squirrel is shown to be just one of the many animals he interacts with. We are quickly introduced to this character, afraid of interaction, but deeply interested in the actions of such pets, of which his working mother is not too fond of allowing him to keep. Hogarth doesn’t allow his mother to prevent him from interaction, and this scene proves pivotal as it cements the personality of a character that we all too soon will be deeply invested in and emotionally transfixed by.

After hearing a strange sound in the middle of the night and after numerous reports from crazy locals about a ‘Metal Man’, Hogarth decides to investigate. Luckily enough for the audience, he encounters this large figure who is the titular character of the film; The Iron Giant. But, fraying from any casual fear of this large creature, Hogarth begins to interact with the mysterious figure through hand gestures aplenty. This interaction between the two is quite a sight to see, to be honest as it allows an interaction from the audience to transcend and glow onto the screen. We begin to be encapsulated with the strange relationship between the two, and that’s where the magic of the film really begins to set off.

Kent Mansley is next introduced to as a hapless, but ambitious agent sent to investigate the rumours of the ‘Metal Man’. The character is largely generic, but the placement of such a character is only included (in my eyes anyway) as somewhat of a ‘plot filler’ for the final events of the film. In regular fashion with action films that focus heavily on a forbidden relationship, the finale sequence is predictable in truth, but that doesn’t stop it from being any less poignant than it is.

As far as animated films go, I don’t think there is one with more charm, wit, intelligence or desire than The Iron Giant. A beautiful film, which allows the audience to invest their hearts and soul into two loveable characters, who are written with such finesse and wonder that the final scenes would melt even the coldest heart.

85/100

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There are many kinds of horror films. There are ones that work on atmosphere (these tend to be the most effective), there are ones that utilise gore to shock the audience, there are ones that manipulate the audience into a full sense of security before terrifying them and then of course there is Jeepers Creepers; a film without a soul, without morals and looted with more plot holes than I can even imagine.

Frankly, I don’t care about the plot holes. I went into Jeepers Creepers with minimal expectations, perhaps hoping for something fun, a few decent scares and some gore, but I can’t quite believe what I’ve just sat through. It is a truly terrible film, but why?

The characters are written without the least notable trait of humanism, not allowing the audience to fully develop a likeness for their characters, but instead throwing us head first towards them and their stupid reactions and stupid reactions. As far as I’m concerned the lead characters should be liked enough for the audience to root for, instead of anxiously count down the seconds before their stupidity finally gets the better of them. The always irritating Justin Long and Gina Philips clearly have very little to work with concerning the nihilism of the screenplay, but their performances are not subtle or neither refined, they are loud, obnoxious and downright annoying.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that horror is the one genre where pacing is quintessential to the success or failure of the particular film, but clearly Victor Salva doesn’t realise this. The pacing of Jeepers Creepers is all over the place. Showing us a vehicle chase sequence and then shortly after a more stealthy approach as our two dumb ass leads notice strange events occurring in a house, but it’s far too long due to the turbulence of the aforementioned opening sequence.

Often with these bad horror films the predictability and conventional ism are at fault, and Jeepers Creepers isn’t different. It’s a film that has no motivation, ideas and the way it clearly brings inspiration from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for no apparent reason just makes me hate it even more. Even running at an average 90 minutes, I felt more compelled and disillusioned for it to end that Justin Long wanted to survive.

5/100

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The only other Jean-Pierre Jeunet film I’ve seen as of now is Alien: Resurrection, and I don’t think there are two films in any directors catalogue that are as different as it and Amelie. Resurrection is dark, grimy and whilst I find it to be underrated, it’s quite absurd. On the other side, we have Amelie; one of the most colourful, vibrant and heart-warming films I think I’ve ever seen.

Right from the very first shot, you can tell what sort of film you’re about to witness. There’s no problem with not being able to connect with a film like Amelie because for lack of a better term it’s a polarizing film. People will appreciate its originality, whilst others will hate it for being too quirky or just a little bit artsy. About as beautiful as films come, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie is certainly one for the open minded viewer, ready to explore the idealistic possibilities of cinema and witness something truly magical.

The titular character Amelie is a lonesome figure, but her enthusiasm for his seemingly empty life is inspiring and every step she takes, every deed she does (there’s a fair share in Amelie) and every conversation she has is filled with utter joy. Much belonging to the glorious presence of Audrey Tautou’s embodiment of this character, the film really excels on its themes through the classic look of France, the vibrant use of colours and even to the simplistic narration throughout.

It’s difficult to ignore the cultural impact of Amelie and how it’s noted as one of France’s most remarkable pictures, one that truly allows its lead to express herself in more ways than one, and one that leaves a mark on the viewer for all eternity. A stunning piece of work, I admire Jean-Pierre Jeunet enormously.

91/100

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Horror is one of the starkest and most intense genres in all of cinema and the semiotics and general conventions are easy to dissect. First you’ll regularly have dark lighting to create fear and tension; you’ll more commonly have a very striking orchestral score with the same intention; there’ll be some sort of crisis or relocation of the characters; blood and gore is as common as butter on bread; more than often you’ll see a wonderful use of cinematography to escalate the fear and tension factor right to the very top; and most irritating and conventional as anything, the protagonists will be the cliché ‘dumb blonde’ who snaps her heels running away for a mass murderer, screams frequently, but always manages to survive somehow as the killer either takes too long. All in all, the semiotics and conventions of horror as a film genre are easily to take apart.

In regards to An American Werewolf in London and its place among slow-paced, darkly lit and atmospheric films, it largely applies as a horror film with the same sort of format, but fortunately for me and the rest of the audience; it doesn’t feature any ‘dumb blondes’ screaming frequently.

Instead it features two young American men, who are backpacking along the Yorkshire moors when suddenly they are attacked by what eventually appears to be a werewolf. Long before the pub locals arrive to save them, David’s friend Jack is ripped apart by this rabid animal and soon after David wakes up in a hospital bed weeks later.

Werewolf follows a straight forward linear narrative in the regard that David’s eventual transformation into this blood-sucking mythical beast is presented to us from one moment to the next so that we can connect with the character, feel his emotions and almost feel sympathetic for him when he’s eventually shot down and killed by the police department after a full moon night in which he kills multiple people without his own control.

The interpretations from Marxists and Feminists would largely differ I feel, but as Werewolf is unlike any other horror film, the presentation of characters and how they react to events are absolutely stunning at times. First we have David, who is decidedly presented as a somewhat vulnerable figure in comparison to other horrors where the man is shown as a strong person who would eventually ‘save the day’. Now that’s a bit strange when you think about that this vulnerable figure is also the same vulnerable figure who transforms into a werewolf which is about as masculine and powerful as I could imagine.

For the female protagonist we have Alex Price who plays David’s nurse. Her performance and symbolism to the film is of a high magnitude as she is the only person who David cares about and eventually in the final showdown she is the one who draws David (as the Werewolf) out of hiding to dramatically be murdered. When talking about cliché film characters, a nurse would normally be presented as a dumb, perpetrating character getting in the way of David’s transformation, but she is thankfully presented as a figure of dominance and power, but also on a more emotional level, she comes off a caring individual who also only has one love; David.

John Landis; the director has made a name for his self over the years for his over-the-top actioners such as Beverly Hills Cop and The Blues Brothers, among plenty of other very well recognisable comedies as Caddyshack, National Lampoon and Trading Places, but in the majority of his films, whether it’s been those comedies, action films or even his segment for Twilight Zone: The Movie, he has always had some dark undercurrent running throughout them, leaving a thought-provoking process for the audience long after the credits have rolled over, but it still comes as a surprise to me that this guy made An American Werewolf in London.

When thinking about horror as a genre, people tend to think about The Shining, Psycho, Carrie and Nightmare on Elm Street and as much love I have for all of those films, I feel An American Werewolf in London has been unfairly treated as is not deemed good enough to be listed among all those astonishing entries in the genre. It’s easily one of the more absorbing, terrifying and claustrophobic horrors of the 80’s, filled with triumphant dialogue and an intensity that only a few films can top. All in all it’s a shame about its lack of recognition and the unfortunate films that have tried to mimic it. There’s even a sequel to it set in Paris (which is awful, by the way), but just forget all that for a moment and let its power resonate over you like the blood dripping from the werewolf, the fog settling over the moors and the scratching atmosphere of it all and think to yourself why this isn’t listed as the greatest British horror there is.

100/100