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Archive for October, 2016

This was going to be a simple list for Halloween, no explanation or exposition, the best horror movie each year for the millennium, but I had a problem or two.  To quote Hail, Ceaser, “Would that it were so simple?” or “It’s complicated”; Some years where I would have to pick a film that wasn’t that great, other years with two or three modern classics.  Then we come on to the many great films that don’t make the list, films that belong more to other genres than horror, for example: Black Swan (2010), I Saw the Devil (2010), Zombieland (2009), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Shaun of the Dead (2004), Mulholland Drive (2001).  So as a result I decided to go for the best seventeen movies of the decade, one per year, if not exactly one from each year:

Ginger Snaps (2000): Whilst these days we are inundated with Vampire movies, 2000 saw the first good and original werewolf movies since An American Werewolf in London. The eponymous Ginger and her sister Brigitte are slightly weird and moody outcasts at school to begin with, then Ginger becomes a werewolf. This complicates matters somewhat! The film works as a visceral horror as well as a metaphor for puberty.Ginger Snaps

The Devil’s Backbone (2001):  Set during the Spanish civil war The Devils Backbone is one of visionary director Guillermo del Toro’s best films. More an eerie ghost story than an outright horror. Told from the point of view of an abandoned child in an uncertain situation, the characters mirror the political turmoil of the era and setting. The film is both beautiful and unnerving.The Devils Backbone

28 Days Later(2002): Zombies got reinvented as The Infected in Danny Boyles modern horror classic. Cillian Murphy awakening to a deserted London is an amazing creepy and memorable scene. Subsequent scenes offer some gruesome horror and genuine scares. Many have argued that the infected are not zombies.  Who cares if it looks like an zombie and the film is good does it really matter if it walks or runs or if it is dead, un-dead or infected?28 Days Later

Switchblade Romance(2003): Original title Haute tension, released as High Tension in some countries is a French horror/thriller directed by Alexandre Aja whose remake of The Hills Have Eyes nearly made the list too. It is a simple story of two young women who are terrorised by a crazed killer, or is it? The film is graphic, bloody and violent, it really lives up to the tag horror!Switchblade Romance

A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003): How do I talk about this film without giving anything away?  All I can say which is probably too much, it that it has the perfect twist, like Fight Club (1999) it has a twist that you never see coming, but as soon as it comes you can’t believe you didn’t see it coming. Don’t be followed by the terrible American remake; The Uninvited (2009). a-tale-of-two-sisters

The Descent (2005): With a relatively unknown cast Neil Marshall created a fantastic film. There is a great sense of foreboding from the start as the group of female friends descends into the darkness of a cave system. Foreboding gives way to unsettling before becoming seriously tense and scary. Great characters, strong performances and horrific images what more could you ask for. If I were to rank by favourite , this would be number one by a mile.The Descent

[•REC] (2007): Fake documentary horror films with shaky cameras will always be compared to Blair Witch Project but once in a while there is a great example of the genre. This Spanish film is one such example. Set in the confines of an Barcelona apartment block the film chronicles’ the beginning of a zombie outbreak. The simple story with minimal plot and down to earth dialogue is elevated by charismatic performances and some really scary moments. Like the successful Japanese horrors of recent years the film has also had the Hollywood remake treatment.rec

The Orphanage (2007): Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona the film had Guillermo del Toro attached as a producer, you would be forgiven for thinking it was one of his films. Full of layered characters and strong performances the film is more chilling and disturbing than actually scary but it will still make you jump from time to time. Like any film with Guillermo del Toro’s name on it the photography is nothing short of stunning.The Orphanage

The Mist (2007): unless you are a millennial (I think that is the first time I have ever used that word) who know him from The Walking Dead, Frank Darabont is best known for a couple of prison movies based on Stephen King stories. But he is also responsible for another King adaptation, one in the genre the writer is best known for horror.  I have only seen The Mist Once, I loved it but will probably never see it again, is this the sign of a great horror? A solid, gripping and interesting movie for most of its run time but just when you think it may turn silly the ending is brilliant and devastating.the-mist

Eden Lake (2008): A British horror thriller with a relatively low budget. From first time director James Watkins. The success and failure of the film relies on a great leading performance from Kelly Reilly. The chav, asbo, hoody kids of the movie are a clichéd Daily Mail representation of all that is wrong with modern society. The characters make stupid irrational decisions that symbolise bad horror. Despite these problems it is still a great little film.Eden Lake

Martyrs (2008): Often dismissed as torture porn, and on the surface it basically is, but beyond that it has a certain beauty, in a fucked up visceral way. It also doesn’t go where you expect it to, there are some genuine twists in the plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat if you are not too repulsed by it.Martyrs Lucie martyrs

Let the Right One In (2008): When you mention a vampire movie based on a book all people can think of these days is Twilight. While I don’t have a problem with the teen romance vampires of that particular saga this Swedish vampire movie offers so much more. The film centres on the relationship between a twelve year old boy and a girl who appears to be a similar age who turns out to be a vampire. The film explores lots of issues and lingers in the mind long after you have seen it.Let the Right One In

Drag Me to Hell (2009): 2009 is a special year, Sam Raimi is back to doing what he does best, horror with a comic twist. I shouldn’t have to describe the film, if you are reading a movie blog and you haven’t seen this film yet what is wrong with you? For those that haven’t seen it, it is the story of a young woman who becomes the victim of a supernatural curse that threatens to drag her to hell. It is funny, scary and shocking with no Lycia clad superheroes, everything a Sam Raimi film should be! Drag me to hell

Kill List (2011): The juxtaposition of the mundane make the horror, and it is seriously horrific more shocking. As is often the case with Ben Wheatley, it esoteric and ambiguous in the extreme, but is a strength not a weakness, it leaves so much unanswered that you can’t help think about, and the more you think about it the more disturbing it gets.kill-list

The Cabin in the Woods (2012): Horror movies live any other genre are full of conventions and clichés.  What would happen if you pulled them all together, play with them, parody them and subvert them?  Meta horror films, as we now know them are often considered a product of the 90’s (Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), Army of Darkness (1992), Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994), Scream (1996), Funny Games (1997)), but it could be argued they go back at least as far as Peeping Tom (1960).  Whatever your thoughts it is impossible to argue with the audacity of The Cabin in the Woods.The Cabin in the Woods

It Follows (2014): The problem with new horror movies is that all the best villains have been done, that is why it is so refreshing when something original comes along. It is even better when that original idea is more than original, it is good too. Taking the slow moving but impossible to escape menace of Halloween or Friday the 13th and giving a supernatural twist the promotes desperation and inevitability as much as fear in the characters and audience. It also helps both subvert and promote the genre in the way it plays on the ideas of the role that sex plays in horror.it follows film still

The Babadook (2014): On the surface the film is a scary supernatural horror. If it was just that, it would be fine as it is a really great example of the genre, but is goes deeper. The deeper and more disturbing film isn’t even subtext, it is as on the surface as the horror, it just takes a little time to become clear, and the horror is in the reality. The supernatural can be dismissed as hokum, but a mother dealing with grief and mental illness exacerbated by a young some with behavioural problems is real and totally terrifying.The Babadook

Honourable mentions: Bug (2006), Timecrimes (2007), Paranormal Activity (2009), Triangle (2009) The Conjiring (2013), Oculus (2014), Lights Out (2016), Train to Busan (2016).

A list thrown together from the top of my head with little research,what have I missed? 

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yes-ministerYes Minister ran for 22 episodes from 1980 to 1984. The first episode begins with The Right Honorable James (Jim) Hacker (Paul Eddington) taking up the much coveted job of Cabinet Minister to the Department of Administration, his first Cabinet Position. The somewhat hapless MP is kept on a short leash by scheming permanent secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne). All great comedy is timeless, but can a thirty-five year old political satire be relevant or funny? Simply yes. I watched the program as a child, as I would have been between 5 and 9 at the time I am sure a lot went over my head, however I remember enjoying it, that is why I have just re watched all 22 episodes. So how relevant is it today? Decide for yourself; here are some of the main plot points:

Open and transparent government
Scottish independence
Austerity
Big Brother State, government use of personal information
Page Three
government spending
Public/private partnerships
NHS spending cuts
University funding and overseas students
Government surveillance
Should the UK be part of European Union
The power of large Banks
Government Waste
Lack of diversity within the civil service, no woman in top jobs
Reforms to local government
Government cover ups /whitewash
National transport policy

The series ended with Jim becoming Prime Minister, the series was followed by: Yes, Prime Minister, it ran for 16 episodes in 1986 and 87. I am only a couple of episodes in to that but expect more of the same, the first episode is about the need, or not, for Trident and features a scene discussing if Jim would “push the button”, something that is more relevant than ever this week following Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election to as leader of the Labour party and with it, leader of the opposition and a potential future MP:

Sir Humphrey: With Trident we could obliterate the whole of Eastern Europe!
Hacker: I don’t want to obliterate the whole of Eastern Europe!
Sir Humphrey: It’s a deterrent.
Hacker: It’s a bluff. I probably wouldn’t use it.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, but they don’t know that you probably wouldn’t.
Hacker: They probably do.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, they probably know that you probably wouldn’t. But they can’t certainly know.
Hacker: They probably certainly know that I probably wouldn’t.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, but even though they probably certainly know that you probably wouldn’t, they don’t certainly know that, although you probably wouldn’t, there is no probability that you certainly would!

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After a slow summer, September saw thirteen trips to the cinema, one of the reasons I am a day late posting my movie of the month.  the other is because I couldn’t decide on the winner, here are the contenders:  

Brotherhood: Noel Clarke’s third and possibly final part of his “Hood” trilogy.  Clarke writes, directs and stars and does a great job of all three.  The best made of the trilogy and his performance is immense.    Great to see it doing well at the UK boxoffice.brotherhood

Hell or High Water: British director David Mackenzie takes on the modern western with a top script by Taylor Sheridan.  Set in small town West Texas it is very modern post fanatical crisis story.  Comparisons to No Country for Old Men (2007) are inevitable, while it isn’t as good as the Coen’s movie, it is a worthy entry into the genre.hell-or-high-water

Morgan: An exploration into humanity rolled up into a slick Sci-Fi thriller.  It is a surprising choice for director Luke (son of Ridley) Scott’s feature debut as it has many echoes of Blade Runner.  Surprisingly not that well received, I really enjoyed it.  Directed with confidence that belies a debut director; the film is lean 92 minutes, it looks fantastic and is well cast with standout performances from Kate Mara and Anya Taylor-Joy.morgan

Cafe Society: Woody Allen’s 47th feature is set against a backdrop of golden age Hollywood.    It their third film together Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart have great chemistry.  The story ambles along without any great conclusion or revelation.  Not as good as Allen’s recent best Midnight In Paris and Blue Jasmine but still worth seeing especially for a fantastic Kristen Stewart.cafe-society

One More Time With Feeling: Documentary exploring the recording and creative process of the album Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.  Made at a time of great personal tragedy for Cave it is a more sombre than 20,000 Days on Earth but still has funny moments and is totally engrossing.  Shown in 3D that is occasionally effective but largely pointless, like 3D in most movies. And the album is fantastic too by the way!one-more-time-with-feeling

Don’t Breathe: Director Fede Alvarez follows up his pointless Evil Dead remake with home invasion movie with a twist.  Quite nasty at times, it is a great little film for fans of horror/thrillers.  Unlike Hell or High Water, it only plays lip service to the economy subtext.dont-breathe

Anthropoid: True story of Operation Anthropoid, the plan to assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich in Czechoslovakia.  The first half of the film is a dark and tense thriller, the second a bolt and brash war movie, both work supremely well in an enthralling movie.anthropoid

The Girl with All the Gifts: British zombie is probably the best and most original of the genre since 28 Days Later.  It works on a surface level as an exciting and enthralling film but also explores themes of humanity, ecology and morality.the-girl-with-all-the-gifts

Blair Witch: Part remake/reboot and part sequel to 1999’s phenomenally successful and influential The Blair Witch Project.  Taken on its own merits it isn’t a bad film, it just lacks the impact and originality of the original.blair-witch

Hunt for the Wilderpeople: Taika Waititi follows up the brilliant What We Do in the Shadows with a more conventional movie.  A dysfunctional relationship between an outsider kid and a cantankerous adult,  we have seen it all before but rarely done this well and with a minimum of sentiment and cliché.hunt-for-the-wilderpeople

The Infiltrator: The true story of Robert Mazur who goes undercover in America’s war on drugs in the 1980’s.  A gripping if a little old fashioned story.  Bryan Cranston is fantastic in the lead as are Diane Kruger, John Leguizamo and Joseph Gilgun in supporting roles.the-infiltrator

Kubo and the Two Strings: Stunning Stop-motion animation from Laika.  Moments of comedy, horror and action keep the viewer enthralled as do the great voice cast, the real star is the stop motion animation.kubo-and-the-two-strings

The Magnificent Seven: Unnecessary but largely enjoyable retelling of the story.  The villain is updated to give a vague hint at a modern subtext.  Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt do a good job playing Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt leaving Ethan Hawke to be the most interesting and only nuanced character.the-magnificent-seven

There have been some fantastic films in September and half a dozen of them could have been movie of the month in other months, but three stand out from the rest: Hell or High Water, The Girl with All the Gifts and Hunt for the Wilderpeople.  The three are interchangeable, If you ask me again tomorrow I may change my mind, but for now the movie of the month is:hunt-for-the-wilderpeople

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