My first viewing was inevitably strange, but this second experience was something else entirely. Martyrs, to some, may be representative of what is wrong with the horror genre today – it’s understandable, unfortunately – but to others, like me, Pascal Laugier’s transformative masterclass is something to behold in all its bloodthirsty brutality and shaming disinterest in the expectations of its viewers. It’s an extraordinary work because of that; Laugier’s film challenges the gruesome structure of the horror, frequently manifesting itself as evil personified with sequences flowing with the most bizarre of ways.
It’s in that which I love this movie. It’s revolting throughout, deranged in how it portrays the sadism on screen and yet it remains a fascinating gorefest from the shocking first act right the way to a final act which is too messed up to even begin to put into words. Those final sequences will be too much for some and labels of “torture porn” are inevitable, but the force of this film is strong enough and those themes are too infused with intelligence and complexities for Martyrs to be simply labelled as an overly violent modern horror. It might actually be a masterpiece.
My first taste of the London Film Festival this year and an excellent way to start with one of the more unpredictable genre-binding studies I’ve witnessed in a long time. Prior to my viewing my knowledge only extended to it containing dark themes and a quite extraordinary review suggesting the influence ranges from the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft to Richard Linklater’s romantic Before Sunrise. That is a comparison worthy of anyone’s intention, and whilst both those assessments hold weight and the interpretation is clear to witness within Spring, there’s such a bold originality to this film-making which can inadvertently remove any comparisons to Lovecraftian horror.
This isn’t just me thinking this; it’s the directors themselves who were asked about it post-film in a Q&A where they said they knew of Lovecraft, but weren’t familiar enough with his work for Spring to simply be classed as something of that form. It’s very interesting to note how Before Sunrise is indebted, however. Moments throughout Spring, the conversations in particular, are shot with the same intimacy now recognised as a Linklater trait, the camera frequently sweeping and following the film’s lovers as they bond further whilst the mystery of the horror begins to unravel and eventually comes to a very precise finale.
Aaron Moorehead & Justin Benson have created something here which could be easily mistaken for taking those two “inspirations” too far by some, but when you really analyse everything contained within this work you begin to appreciate the brilliance deep inside of it. Genre is not something which can be simply classified here, many elements scream horror at their audience but the main narrative is so reliant on romance and an occasional brand of comedy for horror to be the case here. I won’t say anymore, but this is a work which I grew fonder of it as it progressed and I’m now fascinated to see where these two directors go next.
7 years ago David Fincher released his crowning work in the shape of the unsettling, flawless masterpiece Zodiac. As far as I’m concerned the director will never work above that level – one of the finest thrillers ever created – but with Gone Girl the director has managed to craft a film with such a distinguished, spellbinding atmosphere which leaks throughout its titanic 150 minutes. Fincher’s setting here is sourced from one of the finest novels I’ve read, and honestly there is a not a more precise American director who could’ve handled the complexities of Gillian Flynn’s challenging mystery thriller better than Fincher has.
The novel is a layered work, detailing the very suspicious circumstances surrounding the disappearance of a wife (Amy Dunne) whose marriage to her husband (Nick Dunne) has become stale and uncomfortable. Flynn’s novel using detailed entries from the mind of both to describe the intimacies of their relationship and the mental state of each as the trouble escalates throughout. Using a structure such as that in a novel requires talent, but managing to sustain the distinct personality in a adaptation is the main element I feared would derail a film.
Fincher likely recognised the difficulty of this and so the Gillian Flynn composed the screenplay herself, but she works this important element very intelligent. Amy’s entries appear entirely throughout, being utilised to describe the initial suspicion raised by her disappearance and eventually what becomes of the mystery, but it’s the minimal use of narration from Nick’s side which is important. As the narrative initially exists on his side it’s not possible to provide the thoughts of the character through narration without becoming overbearing – or irritating – and so we have to rely on the intensity of Ben Affleck’s work to deliver the emotion required for that exclusion not to feel insubstantial to what Gone Girl is trying to achieve.
In truth, my read of Flynn’s novel just a year ago didn’t suspend my disbelief at the brutality of events we witness and every dramatic sequence provided a unique, masterful course of displaying astonishment. Pike’s performance here as the conniving, deadly Amy is fierce and is undoubtedly her career-defining work thus far. Gone Girl is tense, precise cinema and a worthy adaptation of one of my favourite novels.