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Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

Never one to miss a chance to see a classic movie on the big screen, this year I have seen more than ever:

Pandora’s Box (1929) – Seminal Louise Brooks movie, the masterpiece of director G W Pabst.  Screened thanks to the BFI in what they call a “New 2K DCP of the 2009 restoration of Munich Film Museum’s definitive cut, with score by Peer Raben”.  Telling of the rise and fall of desirable and seductive but naive young dancer Lulu (Brooks).  It still stands up as a mesmerising film nearly 90 years on with simple modern storytelling, you soon forget you are watching a silent film and just appreciate it as a film.pandorasbox1

Some Like it Hot (1959) – Screened in a stunning 4K restoration as part of the BFI comedy genius season – Two down on their luck musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) witness the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.  They escape town disguised as women with an all female band bound for the Florida sun, where they intend to skip out on the band.  There is however a complication, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe).  If there is any such thing as a perfect movie, this is it.  Sixty years later the comedy is still relevant and hilarious.  The performances (including Marilyn Monroe’s) are outstanding, but its Billy Wilder’s sharp script and direction that shine through.  What has long been my favourite film plays even better on the big screen with an audience. Some Like it Hot

Night of the Living Dead (1968) – 50 years ago was year zero for the modern zombie movie.  Just about every zombie movie in the past half century draws influence from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.  But how does it hold up as a film in its own right?  Shown in a 4K restoration, it was as good as ever, and looked better than ever.  Working as a visceral horror and a allegory of a nation tearing itself apart.  A perfect horror movie. Night of the Living Dead

Halloween (1978) – 40th Anniversary 4K restoration of John Carpenter’s slasher masterpiece.  I probably don’t need to give a plot synopsis, but will for those who are new to this classic: As a child, Michael Myers kills his teenage sister on Halloween night, fifteen years later he escapes and returns to his hometown.  Halloween didn’t invent the slasher movie, but it certainly revolutionised and popularised the genre making it a mainstay of horror throughout the 1980’s.  It has spawned multiple sequels (with another due later this month), a remake, and countless imitators, does it deserve all this?  Hell yes, it is a true horror masterpiece.  Modern audiences may find the deliberate pacing slow, they are wrong, not a second of the 91minute runtime is wasted.  Michael Myers is a blank cipher with little back-story and no discernible motive.  He is a classic movie monster, but one all the more frightening because unlike Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, or the Wolf-Man, he is just a man, he is a real world boogeyman.  The films emotion comes from Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence, but the Steadicam mounted camera is as much a character as any of these people.  If you haven’t seen it, look it out now before seeing the latest sequel. Halloween 1978

The Fog (1980) – The second in a series of John Carpenter movies to receive a 4K restoration.  A small town celebrating its centenary is enveloped by a fog that brings with it a reckoning from the past.  A spooky almost old-fashioned horror that is relatively tame, but enjoyable none the less.  Notable of the first onscreen pairing of Jamie Lee Curtis and her mother Janet Leigh. The Fog

The Evil Dead (1981) – Five young friends unwittingly release and are possessed my daemons while on holiday in a cabin in the woods.  The effects show their budget, the acting isn’t always great and the editing is conspicuous.  None of this stops it being a stone cold classic.  The Evil Dead

Escape From New York (1981) – Another remastered John Carpenter classic.  Made in 1981 and set in the future, 1997 where Manhattan has been turned into a giant maximum-security prison.  Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is sent into the prison to rescue the president after Air Force One is hijacked.  What could have been a forgettable Sci-Fi B-movie is elevated to stone cold classic by the inclusion of the iconic Snake Plissken, and more importantly Kurt Russell’s portrayal of him.  Made in a cynical post-Vietnam war/Watergate American it is strangely and frighteningly relevant today.Escape From New York

Die Hard (1988) – Towards the end of the 1980’s Die Hard rewrote the book on action movies, how has it aged?  The simple answer is very well!  It is made with typical 80’s film stock that is a little grainy and muddy looking (not as bad as 70’s, but not as bright or crisp what came before or after), other than that it is very modern.  If you saw it for the first time many of the story beats may seem a little clichéd, it isn’t, this is the archetype that everything else copied.  A treat to see on the big screen. Die Hard

Audition (1999) – Horror thriller from the prolific director Takashi Miike.  A widower takes an offer from a friend to “audition” girls to find him a new wife.  I hadn’t seen this since watching it at the cinema on its original release, as great as I remember.  What I had forgotten, was how long it took for the horror to begin, and how quickly it became horrific. Audition

Battle Royale (2000) – Set in a near future, Japan to help suppress a problem of rising crime amongst teenagers, a class of students is randomly selected each year and sent to an island, where they are forced to fight to the death.  A modern classic that has been the benchmark for teenage dystopian movies for the past eighteen years.Battle Royale

Martyrs (2008) – Around ten years ago I watched Martyrs on DVD based on multiple recommendations. I understand it had a cinema release but certainly not at any of my local multiplexes (I didn’t visit independent cinemas often back then). My feeling at time was that I thought the film was excellent, but I didn’t want to see it again. Fast forward a decade and one of my local independent cinema’s, the Mockingbird in Birmingham advertised a 10 year anniversary screening. Never one to pass up the opportunity for seeing a classic on the big screen, how could I refuse!  On a second viewing the film is just as powerful and disturbing as before. Whereas first time around I was unsure of what to make of the ending, I now believe it is intentionally left open to interpretation. I have a stronger view on the meaning of the ending but would rather people drew their own conclusions. After all, the meaning is probably as influenced by what the viewer brings to it as what they see on the screen.Martyrs Lucie

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With fourteen screenings, October is my busiest month of the year to date.  Four of the fourteen were reissues of older horror movies (not eligible for my movie of the month). 

Black ’47 – 1847, returning home from fighting for the British Imperial Army a soldier finds Ireland in the grip of the Great Famine.  A series of events set him on revenge mission.  Taking all the tropes of a revenge western and transposing them to Ireland is surprisingly effective.  As you would expect the film doesn’t shy away from song violence’s, what is more surprising is the snippets of uncomfortable history that it manages to incorporate.  Not the widest of releases, but worth searching out.Black '47

A Star is Born – I think we can skip the synopsis, I think everyone knows the story by now.  Lady Gaga is getting all the plaudits for her performance, but it is also a career defining performance from Bradley Cooper.  Coopers direction is also confident and well measured.  Helping the film over so many movies about singers, the songs are good, and the live performances (shot at real festivals) really work.  It’s not without problems: Beyond Gaga, there are almost no female characters, and the final act is a little rushed and as such doesn’t quiet earn its ending.  Not the five star masterpiece some people are claiming, but a really good film.  I look forward to seeing more of Gaga in front of the camera, and Cooper behind it. A Star is Born

The Wife – An author (Jonathan Pryce) and his wife (Glenn Close) travel to Stockholm where the former has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  As the cracks in their relationship become clear, we learn via flashback how they dot to this point.  While there are (unsurprising)plot revelations along the way, this is more about character than plot.  The smallest of gestures tell a story, and it is an enthralling one largely thanks fantastic performances from Pryce, and particular Close.  How has she not won an Oscar yet?The Wife

The Hate U Give – A black teenage girl lives a double life, she goes to school in an affluent area, but lives in the deprived mainly black neighbourhood.  Her life is turned upside down when she is witness to the fatal shooting of a friend at a traffic stop.  The important story is poorly served by a disjointed plot and a heavy-handed narrative.  On a positive note the acting is pretty good, particularly from Amandla Stenberg in the lead. The Hate U Give

Halloween (1978) – Never one to turn down an opportunity to see a classic on the big screen, I visited my local multiplex for a 40th Anniversary Screening of Halloween.  Blumhouse Productions have an MO, making moderate budget genre movies, some of which breakout and make a shed load of money.  This isn’t a new thing, Blumhouse didn’t invent the concept, 40 years ago one of the best examples was made by a then up and coming director, John Carpenter.  I probably don’t need to give a plot synopsis, but will for those who are new to this classic: As a child, Michael Myers kills his teenage sister on Halloween night, fifteen years later he escapes and returns to his hometown.  Halloween didn’t invent the slasher movie, but it certainly revolutionised and popularised the genre making it a mainstay of horror throughout the 1980’s.  Costing around $300,000, and grossing $70 million (when you adjust for inflation, that’s around, $1.2million and $300million respectably), it is actually more fugal and more profitable than most Blumhouse movies.  It has spawned multiple sequels (with another due later this month), a remake, and countless imitators, does it deserve all this?  Hell yes, it is a true horror masterpiece.  Modern audiences may find the deliberate pacing slow, they are wrong, not a second of the 91minute runtime is wasted.  Michael Myers is a blank cipher with little back-story and no discernible motive.  He is a classic movie monster, but one all the more frightening because unlike Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, or the Wolf-Man, he is just a man, he is a real world boogeyman.  The films emotion comes from Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence, but the Steadicam mounted camera is as much a character as any of these people.  If you haven’t seen it, look it out now before seeing the latest sequel. Halloween 1978

Bad Times at the El Royale – Noir movies are full of down on their luck characters, the El Royale is a down on its luck location, a Hotel half in Nevada, half in California.  As four disparate, and somewhat desperate people find themselves at the titular establishment the story unfolds in carefully orchestrated chapters.  There is a point where you would be forgiven for thinking you are watching sub Tarantino, but then the pieces fall into place and you realise that it is better than anything Quentin Tarantino has made since 2009.  Then it suddenly gets even better.  Try and avoid the trailer. BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYAL

First Man – Spoiler alert, Neil Armstrong makes it to the moon.  Despite what the trailer or the poster tells you, this isn’t the story of how that happened.  Along the way, we do get a whistle-stop tour of the events starting around the time of the Gemini VII.  It is more the story of the man and his emotional journey.  The emotion of the story is kept in check partly by director Damien Chazelle, but mainly by the outstanding reserved performance from Ryan Gosling.  Claire Foy is also outstanding in the small part she is given.  A first rate film, but one I appreciated more than enjoyed, and respected more than loved. First Man

Mandy – Marmite! I’m not sure how well known the expression Marmite is known outside the UK, for those who don’t know, Marmite is a food spread made from yeast extract.  In the 1990’s it ran an advertising campaign based around how you either Love it, or Hate it.  The same is probably going to be true of Mandy.  I am not going to give a synopsis beyond saying it is a revenge thriller.  After seeing the film, the first thing I thought was that was the most Nicolas Cage film I have ever seen.  It therefore came as a surprise, that not only was the part not written for him, but that director Panos Cosmatos wanted him for a different character.  A totally bonkers film that is both a visual treat and a total mindfuck.  It does have some issues though.  For a start its 30 minutes too long.  The pacing is all over the place.  Expect to see this film on best and worst lists for the year. Mandy

Night of the Living Dead (1968) – 50 years ago was year zero for the modern zombie movie.  Just about every zombie movie in the past half century draws influence from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.  But how does it hold up as a film in its own right?  Shown in a 4K restoration, it was as good as ever, and looked better than ever.  Working as a visceral horror and a allegory of a nation tearing itself apart.  A perfect horror movie. Night of the Living Dead

Halloween – A sequel to the 1978 masterpiece that ignores all the previous sequels, even going as far as debunking some of the things that happened in the other sequels as rumours.  The idea is good, and Jamie Lee Curtis is outstanding.  The story is a little all over the place lacking the brilliant simplicity of the original.  An excellent final act is preceded by a slow fist act and a confused second.  It is however, never boring like many modern horrors.Halloween

Venom – Venom was poorly served in the terrible Spider-Man 3, in a post Deadpool world, this is the chance to make a funny and fun super(anti)hero movie, it fails.  The plot is a little plodding, the action isn’t a patch on anything Marvel has done in the past decade.  It does however have an ace up its sleeve, Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Riz Ahmed, all of whom are always worth watching.  A mid credit scene suggests a sequel, with the origin out of the way, hopefully a second film will live up to the promise. Venom

Bohemian Rhapsody – Biography of the band Queen, most notably its legendry front man Freddie Mercury.  It avoids any major controversy as you would expect for a biopic where two of the producers appear as characters in the story (Brian May and Roger Taylor), this doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable.  The acting is good, particularly Rami Malek as Mercury and the recreation of Live Aid is spectacular. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

The Fog (1980) – The second in a series of John Carpenter movies to receive a 4K restoration.  A small town celebrating its centenary is enveloped by a fog that brings with it a reckoning from the past.  A spooky almost old-fashioned horror that is relatively tame, but enjoyable none the less.  Notable of the first onscreen pairing of Jamie Lee Curtis and her mother Janet Leigh. The Fog

The Evil Dead (1981) – Five young friends unwittingly release and are possessed my daemons while on holiday in a cabin in the woods.  The effects show their budget, the acting isn’t always great and the editing is conspicuous.  None of this stops it being a stone cold classic.   The Evil Dead

While A Star is Born and First man are getting all the plaudits, the one I enjoyed most and my movie of the month is: Bad Times at the El RoyaleBad Times at the El Royale (1)

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What will I be doing this Halloween? It won’t be trick or treating, in fact I have never been trick or treating in my life. Growing up Halloween was never really on my radar. I was aware of it but it wasn’t anything important. As I remember we grew pumpkins and made lanterns out of them one year (I think I was about eight). When I was a student there was usually something going on around Halloween, often involving lots of heavy metal music and dressing like a character from a horror movie. The most notable of these was when a couple of girls in the bar where I worked made me up to look like Eric Draven, it wasn’t difficult, I already had the hair. Fast forward a decade or so, and I have my own hallowed tradition, for the best part of a decade I have visited my local cinema at Halloween to watch a classic horror movie. Last year was Stanley Kubrick’s classic The Shining (1980) (on a side note, if as reported Stephen King doesn’t like the movie he is an idiot. I don’t care that it is different from his book, it is still a fantastic movie. Other opinions are available, they just happen to be wrong!). The other highlight was the first Hammer Dracula (released as Horror of Dracula in America to avoid confusion with the Universal Dracula) (1958 film) directed by Terence Fisher and starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.Dracula and The Shining

So, what am I going to see this year? Wes Craven’s seminal and influential horror A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). An ingenious and original riff on the American horror slasher film originated by Alfred Hitchcock with Psycho (1960) and perfected by John Carpenter in Halloween (1978). The notable thing I have to say I have never seen A Nightmare on Elm Street in a cinema and it has been about twenty years since I have seen it in any format.A Nightmare On Elm Street Poster

To give it my relationship to the movie a little context: I started watching Hammer Horror movies when I was bout eleven years old and then started watching other horror movies soon after. I first saw A Nightmare on Elm Street in the late 80’s when I was twelve or thirteen years old (thanks Mom for renting it for me). I then watched most of the rest of the movies as they came out but have never got around to seeing Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994). To the best of my memory I have seen it a handful of times, the last in the early 90’s when it was shown uncut on TV (I think it was Channel 4). I remember talking about it at school the next day (a biology lesson as I remember it, with Matt, Matt and John). Having all seen the movie before, we all had the same initial reaction, “fucking hell was that Johnny Depp?” beyond that, as cynical teenagers we all thought the it was fun horror movie but not scary in the way we remembered it when we were kids.nightmare_on_elm_street_johnny_depp

Looking back at the movie now my thoughts are mixed with memories of watching the Nightmare on Elm Street films as a kid, and looking at their influence now. Horror has changed a lot in recent years, many of Craven’s seminal movie have been remade, rebooted or ripped off. He was at the forefront of the so called Meta-Horror that became prevalent in the 90’s with the Scream movies. It has been suggested that on a primal level there are only two fears that we are born with, the dark and loud noises, all other fears are developed along the way. Horror movies have always played on these fears, but with A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven took it a stage further, he took the fear from the real world into the dreams, the nightmares of the characters. And that’s the genius of the movie, Leatherface, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees all stalk the real world but Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) appears in your dreams, how can you outrun your own mind? Although groundbreaking and shocking in their day they suddenly looked quite mild in comparison to the nasty torture porn movies of the 00’s. There has been a trend more recently for more mainstream horror movies that rely on cheap jump-scares rather than tension and a sense of jeopardy. This makes me yearn more for the horror of the 70’s and 80’s like A Nightmare on Elm Street.

I look forward to seeing the movie on Thursday and hope it doesn’t disappoint me.

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Inspired by Spring Breakers from earlier this year I was wondering is there a film that represents each month of the year. For some there are lots to choose from, others are a little harder to think of. Here is what I came up with:

JANUARY In Search of a Midnight Kiss (2007)
New Years Day

in search of a midnight kiss

FEBRUARY Some Like it Hot (1959)
February 14, 1929 – Saint Valentine’s Day massacre.Some Like it Hot

MARCH Piranha 3D (2010)
Spring breakPiranha 3D

APRIL A Night to Remember (1958)
April 15, 1912 – The Titanic sank. A Night To Remember

MAY Dazed and Confused (1993)
May 28, 1976 – the last day of school at Lee High School, Austin, Texas.Dazed and Confused

JUNE Bobby (2006)
June 5, 1968 – Robert F. Kennedy was shot and mortally wounded while leaving the Ambassador Hotel.Bobby

JULY Independence Day (1996)
Independence DayIndependence Day

AUGUST Richard III (1995)
On 22 August 1485 Richard III become the last English king to die in battle. Richard III

SEPTEMBER Dirty Dancing (1987)
Labour DayDirty Dancing

OCTOBER Halloween (1978)
31st OctoberHalloween

NOVEMBER Pieces of April (2013)
ThanksgivingPieces of April

DECEMBER Die hard (1988)
Christmas EveDie hard

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“In space no-one can hear you scream.”

In preparation/anticipation of the release of Prometheus a few weeks ago I watched the first two Alien movies again. I have the directors cut of Aliens, the first sequel directed by James Cameron on DVD however I only have an old VHS copy of Ridley Scott’s original film.

Commercial towing spaceship Nostromo is on route from Thedus to Earth with a cargo of twenty million tons of mineral ore and a refinery. Its crew of seven are in stasis until they are awoken when they pick up what they believe to be a distress beacon.

Looking back at Alien, aside from the grainy image of my old VHS copy, the most notable thing about the movie after all this time is not the suspense or the horror, it’s the characters. They are different characters with their own ideas, personality, prospective and their own agenda as you would expect of a the crew of a ship (in space or a regular ship in the real world). In many ways the most significant of these are Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) who give the movie a more relevant and political edge. Kane (John Hurt) has one of the most memorable scenes in film history but within the plot it is the only important thing he does. Ash (Ian Holm) comes to represent “the corporation” this is a defining element of the movie and one that has continued through all the sequels spiff offs and the new prequel Prometheus, it is also like Parker and Brett the thing that gives the movie edge and relevance beyond the genre. As captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) is an interesting character, he is more a company man than the rest of the crew but is still his own man never forgetting how far from home he is. Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) could have been there to just make up the numbers, but she does more than that, she helps give the movie balance and prospective. And finally the star, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). It seems hard to believe now but aside from a couple of bit parts Alien was her first movie. The casting was perfect, not only did it define her future career, but it helped elevate the movie beyond its genre origins.

On the surface it is a sci-fi movie but owing far more to the horror and thriller genres. Contemporary space movies of the day like Star Wars (1977) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) have a bright an hopeful outlook, Alien has more in common with John Carpenter movies Halloween (1978) and Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). The basic concept owes a debt to Agatha Christie’s 1939 novel “And Then There Were None” (originally published with a less politically correct title), itself being inspired by the nursery rhyme, Ten Little Indians. In comparison to the later films (including the Predator crossovers and the prequel Prometheus) it has a much smaller story and scope, this far from being a problem, it is actually a benefit. Its not that we don’t care where the “space jockey” or the Alien come from, it is that they are not relevant to the survival of the crew. We are focussed in on a very small part of a larger greater universe and know no more, or less than the characters in the film. It is this simplicity and intimacy that helps create a bond between character and viewer making us care what happens to them.

The effects should stand out in a film that is more than thirty years old, but they don’t. The models used to recreate the exteriors and the H.R. Giger designed “space jockey” are fantastic and a relief in this over CGI age. The interiors of the Nostromo look dated just like they do in Discovery One in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and many Star Trek movies. The important thing though is the Alien also designed by Gieger, I have heard “man in rubber suit criticism”. This really isn’t fair, sticking with the first rule of monster movies, the alien spends most of its time in the shadows, when we do see it, it really stands up. The planet is a dark rain soaked inhospitable place that exists largely in shadow and half-light, the Nostromo is made up of dim corridors, this lends itself perfectly to the movie. The style of the lighter brighter Prometheus would not work in Alien.

Like no other sci-fi or horror movie before Alien redefined two genres and possibly invented there own genre. It has aged surprisingly well and could teach the makers of a few flabby overcomplicated movies a thing or two about suspense and atmosphere. The grainy VHS version seems somehow appropriate for a movie that I first saw on late night television in the 1980’s.

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