Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 Over

A year ago today I was bitching about the state of cinema in 2013, well that's so last year. Let's do over 2014 instead.

This space is usually reserved for me to decry the apalling state of modern cinema, to point out how culturally malnourished we are as endless CGI cartoons slowly erode our cognitive abilities and push us back out into the world as mindless drones that drool over brightly coloured lunch boxes.

However a quick review of 2014 shows this to be an untruth, there's still plenty of rancid bollocks out there but there's been a sharp increase in the truly excellent stuff breaking through as well. Usually films shown in the rural multiplex struggle to worry a best of the year list but impressively in 2014 I could give you ten finest picked solely from this selection.

Presumaby the influx of intelligence smuggled in behind the popcorn is occurring in order to balance out the mind numbing imbecility of adults who wear onesies, so lets not put those dumb fuckers up against the wall just yet. Instead let's celebrate the amazing year in film with twenty favourites in reverse order, instead of the regular ten. Because it's been that fucking good.

20 Favourite New Films That I Saw On A Cinema Screen

20: Noah
A Biblical Epic that was low on the Biblical and high on the Epic.

19: Blue Ruin
An exploration of vengeance that comes off like early Coens refracted through the prism of modern indie slacker cinema.

18: Killers
This attempt to splice together two culturally different genre styles is ambitious to a fault but frequently spectacular all the same.

17: The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Jackson doesn't close the door on his expansive Middle Earth foray gently. Instead he slams it in your face over and over again with this roaring beast that essentially amounts to a two hour compendium of decapitations.

16: Face Of An Angel
An incredibly dense thought piece centred on the Amanda Knox controversy. Winterbottom probably wanted a scene with a kitchen sink in there too, but you can't have everything can you.

15: Godzilla
Purest Jaws homage with an eye kept on being visually astounding at all times.

14: Edge Of Tomorrow
Watching Tom Cruise die with such frequency was always going to capture fascination but it was a pleasure to see the repeated fatalities embedded in a joyous romp, even if the confidence of all concerned faltered in the final act.

13: The Raid 2: Berandel
To say 'not as good as The Raid' is a churlish criticism given the control exerted over this sprawling crime tale. A phenomenal achievement for only a second feature and so nearly over a bar set impossibly high by the original.

12: Interstellar
Nolan continues to explore unconvential time structures through his films, this time he's managed to house relativity inside a superb bit of Spielberg pastiche.

11: Patema Inverted [Sakasama no Patema]
Effortlessly toys with your perception all the way up until the very final fantastic minute.

10: Nightcrawler
Gyllenhall's slthering Demon enraptures as he mercilessly exploits the morally dubious news networks of America. A fine breeding ground for ancient evil if ever there was one.

9: The Wolf Of Wall Street
A Scorcese film being good is little surprise by now but to watch him deliver a film that manages to equal career highlights like Goodfellas and Casino, well that was a very welcome surprise indeed.

8: Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers weave their usual magic and present it with such ease it almost suggests that they may have figured out how to autopilot perfection.

7: Guardians Of The Galaxy
The adventures of a bloke, a sentient tree, a wise cracking racoon, a blue giant with Aspergers, a green psychopath turned good, a blue psychopath with a secret heart of gold, another blue psychopath totally beyond redemption and a purple headcase. The best application of Marvel's cinematic heft so far.

6: The Babadook
One of Frightfest's crown jewels. An old school story of hauntings and monsters intertwined with a potent tale of grief and loss that played on the nerves as though they were the strings of  a harpsichord. Most impressive is the superb ending that shows just how mature Horror has managed to become.

5: Creep
The other gem of Frightfest was simply two men and a camcorder using found footage to concoct a deeply disconcerting relationship that cleaved to the jump-scare structure of a bog standard horror movie despite never being any such thing.

4: Boyhood
A deft, subtle handling of what it is to grow up, live and remember made all the more remarkable by it's twelve year production schedule.

3: Maps To The Stars
Whilst nothing to do with the body horror that had its last hurrah in Existenz, this is still by far the most 'Cronenberg' film the man himself has produced in some time with its focus on human physicality, extreme imagery and general all round weirdness. Vabina.

2: Nymph()maniac
Not the four hour torrent of hard sex action you were probably expecting. Unless you were expecting extreme long-form visual poetry on the topic of hard sex action, in which case this is exactly what you were expecting.

1: The Lego Movie
Borne out of what makes Lego itself brilliant; simplicity, fun and imagination. Best exemplified by a scene at the centre of this multi-million dollar movie consisting of a minifigure jerking about on a clearly visible piece of string. Fuck CG let's do everything with Lego from now on.

5 Favourite Films I Watched On A Little Screen

The small screen trappings were thin indeed this year, which says nothing more than that my choices maybe haven't been as discerning as they could have been. Still here's five of note;

5: Moneyball
Shows that any passion when presented well will be involving for anyone brave enough to watch it.

4: The Seventh Continent [Der Siebente Kontinent]
Haneke's first film displays that he was a master from the off.

3: Dead Of Night
The best of JoeFest was also the oldest and the one that managed to carry the coldest chill.

2: Lisa And The Devil [Lisa e il diavolo]
Bava at his most sumptuous. Common sense thrown to the wind in favour of gorgeous set dressing and stylish murders.

1: Blue Is The Warmest Colour [La vie d'Adèle]
The oldest story there is, two people falling in and out of love, presented with a raw elegance that got overlooked because of the mucky bits.

10 Shittest Films

Bad films these days are best measured in failed potential. A film like Psycho Santa carries little to no expectation of any worth and when this is exactly what's delivered it's difficult to muster anything more than a shrug, despite the fact that it's so bad it can barely be described as a film. With no budget and no talent all filmed on a shitty camcorder, it had no potential to fall short from.

The films on this list all had some potential, no matter how small (nobody expects a Michael Bay film to be any more intelligent than the average housepet, but still...) and yet they all dropped staggeringly short of their goal. They are bad films.

10. I Spit On Your Grave 2
I was intrigued as to why the same director would choose to make a totally unecessary sequel to his totally unecessary remake. Turns out it's because he wanted to make a fucking awful film in Bulgaria. He achieved his goal.

9. Transformers: Age Of Extinction
Constant attempts at simpering apology to original Transformers fans (an old school Optimus truck, the introduction of Dinobots) followed by Bay senselessly fucking it up over and over again.

8. Nymph [Mamula / Killer Mermaid]
Frightfest's worst. First bludgeons you with an hour of shit acting, then slaps you with a terrible CG killer mermaid, then Franco Nero turns up to finish the whole affair off with what may well be the worst groaning, exposition vomiting fisherman I've ever seen.

7. X-Men: The Last Stand
"I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!", ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, what? No, seriously? Fuck off.

6. The Lost
Jack Ketchum novels use hideous acts of violence to open a glimpse into the limitless abyss of human darkness, this film adaptation then misses the point entirely and tries to make it look cool leaving a very bad taste indeed. Nobs.

5. Do You Like Hitchcock? [Ti piace Hitchcock?]
Argento showing no trace of past glories or indeed any evidence that he's made a film before.

4. Annabelle
'Spin-off' is the latest cynical Hollywood excuse used to milk every last penny from a successful film and now sits neatly alongside the equally terrible 'Sequel', 'Remake' and 'Reboot'.

3. Cabin Fever 2
Total fucking train wreck of a film, whoever thought the glacial Ti West was the man to bring a madcap high school gorefest to the screen needs to be shot.

2. Aftershock
That man of course was Eli Roth, who also facilitated this mangled abortion into being. He was also responsible for Green Inferno which is only just lurking outside this ten. Which surely makes him cinema's top cunt, until Shyamalan belches out another movie that is.

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Every turtle is a charisma absence stumbling over well worn catchphrases, Megan Fox stalks about with barely concealed indignance and Splinter looks like he's just been dragged out of the back end of a cow. A spectacular mishandling of what should be a surefire property into the filmic equivalent of an unflushable turd.

... and on to the next twelve.

Sunday, 28 December 2014


A crazed vengeance tale centred on a demon whose height contantly fluctuates from seven foot all the way up to twenty feet or so and whose main method of dispatch is to grab somebody by the head and chuck them about a bit.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Psycho Santa


Eye-gougingly atrocious tat by a director who probably feels his greatest achievement is filming a naked lady in the shower when actually his greatest achievement is convincing himself that pissing his life away on this bollocks was a worthwhile endeavour.


Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies [IMAX 3D]

The elf/dwarf/love thing is still weak, fortunately the orgy of beheading that contains it is pretty fucking cool and goes on for ages.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Penguins Of Madagascar [3D]

The funniest part of the Madagascar series gets concentrated to a manic level of hilarity then sprinkled with extraneous additional characters to give every penguin their own plot point.

Monty Python And The Holy Grail

Charlotte's desire to watch the masters at their finest represents a clear step forward in her film watching, and her response that it would have been better if it were all a cartoon is a clear two steps backward.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Funny Games

In which Haneke makes his trademark chilling devastation all the more harrowing by quietly kicking in the fourth wall and making you responsible for what happens.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

A series of new character introductions, old character re-introductions and motifs established for maximum emotional resonance in part two where, presumably, the story will actually start.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014


A perfunctory Nordic Evil Dead clone.

Monday, 24 November 2014


Saves its meagre budget for the last third when the jerky, stop-motion titular menace finally appears on screen and shit properly kicks off.

Monday, 17 November 2014

The Drop

Subdued to the point of insouciance as stereotypes drag themselves down well worn ruts toward inevitability.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Meat Grinder [Cheuuat gaawn chim]

Confused jumble of plot twists about a noodle seller whose main ingredient is whomever most recently pissed her off. Some of the ickier gore moments did turn the stomach but this was more likely due to my foolish decision to try and eat a bowl of noodles of my own whilst watching.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Black Rock

More terrible shit centred on idiots running about an island whilst yelling and screaming.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Interstellar [IMAX]

Nolan plays fast with physics in order to generate grand spectacle. It is grand though, so fair play.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Blue Is The Warmest Colour [La vie d'Adèle]

A remarkable film of extreme contradiction in that it's as naturalistic as it is cinematic, as simple as it is deep and as happy as it is sad.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Across The River [Oltre il guado]

An unsuccessful attempt to turn a really good location into a really good film.


Horror movie that isn't a horror movie (but is actually a horror movie).

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Purge

A simple enough siege story, set during a twelve hour period where all crime is legal, made hard to follow by the persistent voice in my head loudly intoning "BUT THAT MAKES. NO. FUCKING. SENSE."

The Phantom Of The Opera

Considerably duller than you'd expect from such a landmark.

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Plank

Classic slice of British slapstick with a really big stick.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Quiet Ones

A group of young scientists retreat to a house in the countryside to conduct an experiment that attempts to fuse together a Cronenberg movie and a 70s Amicus movie with mixed success.

Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages

An absolutely fascinating 1920s perspective on medieval witch mania via crazed reconstructions, sombre intertitles and a shitload of bizarre woodcuts.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

TMNT becomes stranded in a soggy middle ground between a vocal audience who demand everything meets their expectation and a group of people making a film despite not having a fucking clue what they're doing.

The Mummy Returns

I remembered this as a silly romp. I had forgotten just how silly the romp was and how much it was slathered in video game level CGI.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Mummy


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The White Haired Witch Of Lunar Kingdom

Overblown nonsense, but with plenty of stylish fight sequences which meant I enjoyed the film no matter how much the ending demanded that I hate it.

The Face Of An Angel

Winterbottom's horror movie.
Also Winterbottom's Kaufman movie, Winterbottom's assessment of the Amanda Knox trial, Winterbottom's paean to Dante, Winterbottom's commentary on the film industry, Winterbottom's examination of mass media, Winterbottom's haunting study of separated families and, given how it all manages to neatly slot together, Winterbottom's Tetris.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Town That Dreaded Sundown

A slasher movie that has ambitions to be far more. It's not entirely successful but amongst all the eye-rolling it illicits, the ever present aspiration should be applauded.

Near Death Experience

French comedy. A phrase which here means "A morbid examination of the pointlessness of living, laced with humour so dry it's practically dessicated."

Saturday, 11 October 2014


So comically bad it's never more than two steps away from parody.

Wolf Creek 2

In which the crazed lunatic from the first film is reduced to spewing trite Kreuger-isms every time he pops up to dole out some ludicrously amplified death, which happens a few times before everything crashes to a halt with a totally absurd ending.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Gone Girl

Less a film, more an excellent visualisation of a book that made me think that I should've maybe just read it instead of waiting for Fincher to spoon-feed it into my eyes.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Incredible Hulk

Edward Norton is woefully miscast, making for terribly awkward dialogue as the film stumbles from one explosive cartoon action sequence to the next.
Charlotte said the film confused her because 'he kept saying they had no money but he always had loads of clothes'.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Maps To The Stars

Cronenberg's emotional detachment reduces lurid Hollywood satire down to an unflinching stare into the abyss. One of his finest.

The Borderlands

Found footage as a lazy alternative to actual film making, saved by an ending soaked in heavy Lovecraft overtones.

Monday, 22 September 2014


Requires a frankly ludicrous premise in order to create a microcosm of humanity which frames a fantastic story, ending with a powerful statement on society which is undermined by the frankly ludicrous premise.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Bay Of Blood [Reazione a catena/Chain Reaction/Ecologia del delitto/Ecology Of A Crime/Twitch Of The Death Nerve/Bloodbath/Carnage/Last House On The Left Part II]

The template for every tits n bodycount slasher movie that followed in its wake, with an added bonus of one of the best endings ever.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever

Staggeringly awful due to being hopelessly misjudged at every opportunity. Absolute fucking shit.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Stake Land

Ponderous, downbeat, post-apocalyptic vampire western.

Monday, 8 September 2014


The moral of the story appears to be 'Don't exploit Frank Sidebottom for your own means', which is odd because that's precisely what this film does.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh [Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh/Blade Of The Ripper/The Next Victim/Next!]

Superb Giallo about the stylish wife of a stylish diplomat who embarks on a torrid affair with a stylish suitor at the same time as her stylish ex lover reappears causing spontaneous reminiscing on the stylish sado-masochism that they used to indulge in. Of course, being a Giallo, this is just stylish filler between a series of typically stylish straight-razor murders perpetrated on a group of stylish women who exhibit a direct correlation between how short their skirt is and the amount of peril they're in.

Sunday, 31 August 2014


Strives to present grand hypotheses on Life, The Universe and Everything but Besson can't resist smothering it all in flashy gunfights.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Frightfest 2014 Reflection

Frightfest's fifteenth year, and my fourth full attendance, was always going to be different. A forced move from The Empire to Vue a couple of doors down meant the logistics of the festival were shaken up considerably, the main audience was split across three screens and films were shown on rotation allowing guests to move between screens.
You couldn't help but notice the change, the clearest example being this article. In years gone by it's here that I'd talk about all the extra stuff going on at Frightfest, but things were thin on the ground at this year's event. No onstage interviews, no quiz, no short films before features (they were all put in their own slot elsewhere), no surprise giveaways and no big names dropping by with a quick sneak peek of their latest project.
There were two mildly underwhelming previews, It Follows presented by star Maika Monroe and See No Evil 2 presented by the Soska twins via a video intro, and a handful of guest intros/QnA's. Although when Home was introduced by a writer who wasn't involved and appeared to be there solely because he had also written an American Horror movie (Sinister), you begin to question the point of it. The QnA's still had their moments of illumination, but a reduced crowd size seemed to generate a reluctance to ask questions and it probably didn't help that no roving microphone meant audience members had to bellow their queries across the auditorium.
Add in the fact that I got to watch a trailer for TV series 'The Strain' twenty six times due to it's inclusion at the beginning of every feature (festival highlight was a bloke yelling "OK, I'll fucking watch it!" after its final airing) and it was easy to start spitting doom and gloom on the perceived lack of atmosphere at this year's event. By the end though, a more important change presented itself.
Due to the reduction of extraneous guff the focus of this years Frightfest shifted considerably to the films themselves and the flexibility of the programming. Discovery screens were four times larger in the new venue, meaning plenty of tickets were available, allowing choice to be free right up until screening times. There was queueing chaos on the first couple of days generated by a combination of untrained Vue staff struggling with an illogically slow booking system and the impatience of Frightfesters who insisted on booking eight tickets at a time through this painfully drawn out nonsense. Once the unecessary panic had died down though, it was a joy to be able to just walk up and grab a ticket at any time.
And the films. This Discovery screen flexibility allowed you to tailor your viewing and with some savvy choosing I ended up watching the strongest line-up I've ever sat through at Frightfest. I opted for seven Discovery screen films, missing out on main screen fare such as Shockwave Darkside, Stage Fright and I Survived A Zombie Holocaust, films that are presently receiving a critical mauling on message boards across the internet. In exchange I got gems like R100, The Canal, Wolfcop, Creep and The House At The End Of Time.
This year's selection also demonstrated that Horror is now a very broad church indeed, I watched a couple of sci-fi movies, a bizarro asian movie and two romantic comedies as well as all the usual blood, guts and hard edits accompanied by sudden squawks of sound. The quality was so high that putting together lists of the best and worst becomes problematic. There's too many for the best list and not enough for the worst (yeah, seriously). Which means this year's lists are presented with caveats, of the worst it's only really the bottom three that should be avoided the other two simply being my least preferred. My apologies to Alan Moore.
With the best on offer, there were four clear standouts but fifth place was tricky. It could easily be given to The Samurai, Housebound, The Harvest, R100 or Alleluia. All of these are highly recommendable but I eventually opted to give fifth place to a movie that made me spontaneously clap my hands with glee as the action unfolded onscreen. Here's the lists:
5 favourites;
1) Creep [Peachfuzz]
2) The Babadook
3) The Signal
4) The House At The End Of Time [La casa del fin de los tiempos]
5) V/H/S: Viral
5 not favourites;
1) Nymph [Mamula / Killer Mermaid]
2) Among The Living [Aux yeux des vivants]
3) The Green Inferno
4) Late Phases
5) Show Pieces
Thanks to Ed, Greg, Jim and Ali for melting their brains alongside me and thanks to all the organisers for keeping a firm hold on the ball. Next year? Yeah, reckon so.

The Signal

(Frightfest Day 5)
It's really good. Not telling you why though.
An excellent end to Frightfest.

Monday, 25 August 2014

V/H/S: Viral

(Frightfest Day 5)
Stretches the rules of Found Footage past their breaking point and the wraparound story gets lost in the fuzz and clatter of digital interference. However the three stories contained within are all fucking ace so who cares about the stupid rules.


(Frightfest Day 5)
Plenty of whimsy, no aliens.

Nymph [Mamula / Killer Mermaid]

(Frightfest Day 5)
If I were to pick the worst area of disaster from the litany that comprise this shit, it would be the dialogue which sounds like it's been carved from oak and delivered with all the panache of somebody leaving a voicemail for a person they don't like.


(Frightfest Day 5)
From a director who usually suffocates his films in art house pretension it's refreshing to see a simple story elevated by art house pretension instead.

Home [At The Devil's Door]

(Frightfest Day 4)
The first two thirds present a brilliantly effective portrayal of the devil clawing his way into our world. The last third rolls out cliche with a damp squib ending.

The House At The End Of Time [La casa del fin de los tiempos]

(Frightfest Day 4)
A wonderful Rubiks Cube of a movie.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Samurai

(Frightfest Day 4)
A snarling bloke in a dress running around decapitating people with a samurai sword. What's not to like?