Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Black Cat (1981)

Lucio Fulci does Midsomer Murders.

Bad things about cats
  • They shit in your garden.
  • They climb your curtains and your wife's legs.
  • They steal your elderly neighbour's roast beef.
  • Trying to get two of them in a box to take to the vet is a Gordian knot sized problem.
  • Until you check, you can never be entirely sure if the little fuckers are alive or dead.
  • They are the harbingers of death and leave misery in their wake.
Good things about cats
  • They are not wasps.
Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Funhouse (1981)

Why is it that the things that are supposed to fill us with joy have this weird filmic flipside of death and horror? Carnivals, clowns, ventriloquist dummies, holidays, magicians, sex, drugs, James Corden; they may all sound fun but trust me kids, they're not!

I'd love to see a British take on a funfair horror film with aging, greasy-quiffed Teds, fags dangling from their lower lips taking on tramp-stamped and Hilfiger-clad staffie walkers with crooked air-rifles and hook-a-duck poles while a distorted and stretched 30-year-old 'Now That's What I Call Music' tape plays over the PA. Starring David Essex, Alvin Stardust and Phil Daniels. Ringo Starr would die first.

10 out of 10 for the carnies, production design and puppets but the rest is pretty average and the monster is a bit shit.

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

The Brides of Dracula (1960)

Brides of Dracula has no Christopher Lee but instead stars David Peel as blonde, Drac-a-like, Baron Meinster. But at least Peter Cushing's here and Cushing does what Cushing does best - the bounciest and most athletic Van Helsing we all know and love.

Jack Asher as DP shoots like Bava and the film is vivid and full of purples and reds and yellows. The sets are wonderful and how they managed to create those European villages mansions and castles in a small country house in Berkshire, I'll never know. The dressers, sculpters and technicians all deserve medals. A beautiful film.

There are so many memorable performances apart from the aforementioned Cushing. Peel is excellent as Drac... ahem, Meinster and starts as boyish and charming but swiftly turns cruel and quietly commanding. Yvonne Monlaur is very, very French and vulnerable as his Bride to be. Andree Melly as Gina, another bride, is beautiful in a wide-eyed Barbara Steele way. Normally I dislike comic-relief in horror films but Miles Malleson as Dr. Tobler was pretty funny and didn't irritate me all all. I kept expecting Martita Hunt's Baroness Meinster to exclaim "A handbag!". But, out of all these great performances the one that will stick in your memory is Freda Jackson as Greta/Frau Blücher; insane, cackling and hilarious.

Hammer managed to cram a huge amount of vampire mythology into this film that would pave the way for further excursions into Transylvania and I love the way they were so creative with their vampire deaths. Nowadays Brides of Dracula would be considered quite tame (how times change - the original X certificate has been reduced to a 12) but it still has plenty of gothic chills - the scene where a newly created bride claws her way out of her grave is great. There are occasional scenes of gore though including some very good holy water burns. And what a score!

If there is a fault, it has to be the decision to have a blonde vampire. Blonde... really? I'll have no truck with blonde vampires!

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Frankenstein (1931)

Isn't it is a little ironic that the creature created by the modern Prometheus is afraid of fire? And that laboratory would never pass a Health & Safety audit!

Sure, it's the Reader's Digest edit of Shelley's tale but this 85-year-old mixture of German expressionism and American shock is still effective and deserves to be seen by everyone if only to see Boris Karloff's terrific performance as the monstrous and pathetic creature. Then there's the hanky-pulling ending - there's nothing like a baying mob to send chills down your spine!

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

The Raid (2011)

Friday, 23 September 2016

Madhouse (1981)

Two twins. Julia, a beautiful saint who works with deaf kids, and Mary, a deformed psychopathic killer, reunite after many years apart! But wait... there's a twist!

A slow but well-crafted Giallo-tinged slasher that can be quite unnerving at times and has a great finale - yes, I even liked the dog hand-puppet! There's a decent amount of blood with a face smashing, some dog kills, stabbings and a nice hatchet job.

Not bad at all.

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Abby (1974)

A Bishop/archaeologist visiting Nigeria unleashes an ancient African god of sexuality which takes up residence in his pious daughter-in-law Abby, who then proceeds to puke on and molest her family, friends and random disco-dancing motherfuckers.

Abby is frequently hilarious and not, in any way, shocking (unless you find occasional bad language shocking) or horrific (unless you find wind fans and a subliminal Green Goblin horrific) with a groovy soundtrack and a messed up anti-sexual liberation subtext. I was expecting a cheap, crappy Exorcist clone but it's a lot better than that.

So kids, dig out those purity rings and go watch Abby but no snuggling in the back-row, you hear!

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Monday, 19 September 2016

Deadbeat at Dawn (1988)

With Deadbeat at Dawn, One-man-army (writer, director, actor, editor, makeup, stuntman) Jim VanBebber created one of the finest ultra-low budget films ever made.

A brutal, crank-fuelled, nihilistic, nightmare of an action film. Even better than you think it's going to be.

Just remember kids, crime does not pay!

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Burial Ground (1981)

Burning zombies, awful dubbing, Michael, scantily dressed ladies, terrible dialogue, Michael, maggots, icky body fluids, zombies with tools, rampant canoodling, intestine munching, Michael, a completely nonsensical plot, incest, Michael, decapitation, climbing zombies, inappropriate breastfeeding, zombie monks, Michael.

As wonderful and skanky as the rubber-masked and latex encrusted zombies are, they pale into insignificance once you've met Michael! A man-child so weird and spooky that the term 'uncanny valley' just doesn't do him justice. He's at the bottom of an uncanny crevasse, deeper and darker than the Mariana Trench!

At the 30 minute mark, you're thinking "how the fuck can they keep up this pace for another hour?" but it just keeps on giving! Could this be the perfect Italian zombie film?

I'm left with a migraine-inducing amount of questions but...

1) What the fuck was a bear-trap doing in the garden?
2) Why is green paint so flammable?

Fucking bonkers!

"You're getting a raise from me all right, but it has nothing to do with money."

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Nosferatu (1922)

Nearly one hundred years old and Max Schreck's Count Orlok is still the scariest of all screen vampires, with Barlow from Salem's Lot (who seems to be based on Orlok) coming a close second. Not just a great of silent cinema but a great film full stop and a corker of a Dracula adaptation.

As much as I loved the colour tints on this Masters of Cinema Blu-Ray which do a great deal to smooth out the time-worn rough edges of the print, I think I may have to get the BFI Blu-Ray as well as they go with a raw and mostly B&W restoration which seems to give the film a slightly more sinister quality.

"Listen to them, the hyenas of the night. What music they make!" doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it?

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Saturday, 17 September 2016

The Reflecting Skin (1990)

A prairie fairytale full of biblical symbolism (Cain/Cameron, Abel/Aben, Seth and there's more than a touch of Lilith to Lindsay Duncan's Dolphin Blue) and stunning imagery, told through the warped eyes of a child. The film reminded me a lot of the strange, almost-real world narrated in Tom Wait's Kentucky Avenue.

The Reflecting Skin has more than a touch of David Lynch and Terrence Malick and is stylised, off-kilter, strange, horrifying, funny and touching with a beautiful Samuel Barber-like score. A child's tale of abuse, neglect, loss, religion and sexuality.

EDIT: I've been thinking about the score and I think there's a lot of Gallipoli in it as well.

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Friday, 16 September 2016

Whistle and I’ll Come to You (2010)

James Parkin, having recently placed his wife into a nursing home, decides to head to one of their old haunts to try and recapture some sense of their past together.

This loose but interesting adaptation of the M.R. James short story is about loss. Loss of the wife he knew, loss of mental faculty, loss of time and place, loss of what was.

The small cast consisting of John Hurt, Gemma Jones, Lesley Sharp and Sophie Thompson are, as expected, terrific. There's a bit too much over-reliance on spooky objects for my liking and the ending is pretty obvious but this adaptation is very good nonetheless.

I have one whinge. Why doesn't the title sequence mention M.R. James? Is says "Written by Neil Cross" but there's no "Adapted from", "Based on" or anything! The only mention is in the credits, which, as far as I'm concerned, is not enough.

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Number 13 (2006)

How the opening of a hidden letter can seal a man's fate. A tale of curses, witchcraft and a missing room.

Whereas in previous adaptations, James's heroes/victims tend to be, with a few exceptions, fairly likeable academics caught up in their own little world, this time we have Greg Wise as Professor Anderson, an egotistical and supercilious historian. An easy man to dislike and to help us there's lawyer and bon vivant Edward Jenkins (played by Tom Burke), acting as a foil and irritating Anderson with his every act. David Burke makes a welcome return as the hotel landlord after his appearance in the previous A View From a Hill.

More heavy-handed (the sound design isn't exactly subtle and the feel of the film is reminiscent of The Haunting) than A View From a Hill but this works in the film's favour, slowly building the tension until the quite physical conclusion and the cracking of an Oxford don's empiricism. Good stuff!

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

A View from a Hill (2005)

Onwards to the newer, revival Ghost Stories for Christmas and backwards to M.R. James.

Museum curator, Dr. Fanshawe, borrows a pair of binoculars seem to show scenes from the past and thus starts a tale of the dissolution of the monasteries (nicely linked to the decline of the aristocracy in the early 20th century), obsession, hangings and rural horror.

Casualty's Mark Letheren puts on a good show as the uncomfortable fish-out-of-water Fanshawe. Pip Torrens as the local squire reminded me a bit of Hugh Laurie's characters from his days in Fry & Laurie and as Bertie Wooster. David Burke deserves a special mention as the stoic butler, Patten who provides the much-needed clues that bring past deeds to light.

There's some nice photography that captures the feel of the countryside in late winter (the Gorse is flowering) and the claustrophobic terror that a night in the woods can bring. For a change, we get good production values and some great props. It's also nice to see that they seem to get James's occasional and subtle humour.

While not particularly grisly, A View From A Hill is a fine James adaptation and a worthy start to the short Christmas Ghost Story revival.

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Ice House (1978)

Another M.R. James'less story.

A country spa where the rich go to get away from it all and never want to leave.
More of a Tale of the Unexpected with touches of The Prisoner's surrealism than a Christmas Ghost Story.

The precise and formal dialogue works very well and gives the film an otherworldliness and constant sense of unease. In fact, pretty much every shiver the film delivers is conveyed by the dialogue and the way that it is spoken. Very clever.

The Icehouse is a very strange and creepy little film.

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Stigma (1977)

A modern tale of the desecration of an ancient stone site and the horrors that are be uncovered.

Filmed in the surrounds of the Avebury stone circle where the similarly spooky Children of the Stones was shot. The film juxtaposes the modern/artificial and the old/natural using close up shots of mundane household items combined with the camera continually looking out onto the standing stones. This combined with some great sound design create a real sense of dread.

Nowadays people would pay a fortune to have a stone like that in their back garden, but the seventies were a time of hardboard facings on beautiful panelled doors and boarded up Victorian fireplaces. Out with the old and in with the new, which, I guess, is very much the theme of this story.

While it may not be M.R. James (you would never get boobies in a James story!) it's still an excellent tale of terror and a more than worthy addition to the Christmas Ghost Stories strand.

Bloody good!

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Slayer (1982)

Two couples go on holiday to a remote island: Eric, a fishing-obsessed, helium-voiced irritant and his nagging wife Brooke; poodle-haired doomsayer Kay and her dull and almost invisible husband David. As far as they know, they are the only people on the island, apart from... The Slayer!

What starts off as a slow and pedestrian slasher with a few tasty kills, picks up in the second half to become an effective, atmospheric and tense thriller. Much better than I thought it would be.

Note that the score will batter you repeatedly over the head with its sledgehammer cues.

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Monday, 12 September 2016

The Ash Tree (1975)

Oh, yea!, Oh, yea! Oh, yea!
Local squire desecrates grave!
Curse wreaks havoc with wildlife!
Buxom wench suspected of witchery!

A fine and haunted performance by Edward Petherbridge as the Squire. Lalla Ward makes an all too brief appearance. A good, solid entry in the series with a killer ending that bumps it up a half-star.

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Satanic Pandemonium (1975)

AKA: The Last Temptation of Sister María.

A little slower paced and not quite as crazy as Alucarda but Satanico Pandemonium has everything you need in a nunsploitation flick: boobs, bush, a cilice, flagellation, Satan, sex, lesbian sex, corruption of the innocent, murder, torture, a fluffy lamb, and, just when I thought we'd run out of time, an orgy.

Wicked theremin, organ and drum score.

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Saturday, 10 September 2016

The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976)

Phantasmagoric and very, very sad with a brilliantly fractured, otherworldly and childlike performance by Millie Perkins as Molly, the Witch/Venus/Frigga/All-Mother/Valkyrie taking those oh-so-perfect heroes to the afterlife. More than a little subversive.

Kill yr idols!

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Friday, 9 September 2016

The Treasure of Abbot Thomas (1974)

A treasure hunt involving codes, in a monastery filled with cowled monks reciting Latin (and we all know how spooky Latin can sound). You know what this is, don't you? The Treasure of Abbot Thomas is a Dan Brown adventure! That is, if Dan Brown were any bloody good, it would be.

Again, a great cast, including the always spooky Anne Blake, but this time led by the wonderful Michael Bryant; whose character, while not as shouty as in The Stone Tape, is still very much assured in his beliefs.

The film captures the gentle humour in James' stories very well. The "slab cake" scene was hilarious. Plus there's a rather nice debunking of that most favourite of Victorian pastimes - a seance!

I do find it funny it's always M.R. James' religious characters who are supposed to be the rationalists :)

A rollicking good story with a few good scares!

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Red Shift (1978)

It's time for some, possibly incorrect, physics tempered by poetic license. If you worked out the Earth's position in space 1000 years ago this would also give you a measurement of its position in time. So, ignoring relativity, the speed of light and a few other important physical laws, if we could look at this distant planet through the time/space continuum, we would, in effect, be looking back through time and seeing our ancestors red-shifted.

Great performances from the two leads, Stephen Petcher as Tom and Lesley Dunlop as Jan. Also included in the cast are a young Daragh O'Malley (Sharpe) and Ken Hutchison (Ladyhawke). The dialogue is pretty damn good as well - it manages to mix the natural with the poetic brilliantly.

I see so much of myself in Tom. As well as his implied autism (meltdowns, fascination with data, language and specialisation), I met my wife, Zoe, when we were both young and we're still together 30 years later. Hopefully, so are Tom and Jan.

You know when you see a film and it affects you deeply and for that moment in time it overcomes any of its shortcomings and, to you at least, it is a truly great film. Witty, clever, romantic, horrific, beautiful and deeply moving.

The execs from those studios that seem to endlessly churn out terrible romantic dramas could do with watching this little British film and paying close attention to the relationship between Tom and Jan. How much sweeter could you get than these two? None. None more sweet. And none more real.

Life goes on. Time goes on. Everything changes. Everything stays the same. Love endures.

"Crewe? I've never felt romantic in Crewe!"

Letterboxd Review

Thursday, 8 September 2016

A Bay of Blood (1971)

Where the Giallo becomes the Slasher.

Another great film from Bava with twisty-turns, a high body-count, grisly death scenes (Bobby's billhook to the face was a beauty and the double-spear-death would be resurrected nearly 10 years later in Friday the 13th), those octopuses, and what an ending!

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Lost Hearts (1973)

Eleven-year-old Stephen moves to stay with his elderly cousin, Peregrine Abney, in a remote country house but will he reach his next birthday?

Spooky in that Water Babies/Secret Garden sort of way and containing some startling imagery but badly let down by the clownish performance of Joseph O'Conor as Peregrine Abney, who displays the sort of forced eccentricity you'd get in a bad Dickens adaptation. Lost Hearts would have scared the hell out of me when I was a kid but now? Not so much.

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

A Warning to the Curious (1972)

Atmospheric, steadily-paced, filled with dread and pretty gruesome for a TV adaptation of a James story, with a grisly billhook death at the very start.

Peter Vaughan leads a fine cast and is wonderfully understated as the down-at-the-heels, amateur archaeologist Mr. Paxton (it's always a treat to see Grouty in anything). After the previous year's The Stalls of Barchester, Clive Swift makes another appearance as the scholarly Dr. Black, subtly linking both stories. Make no mistake though, this is the far superior effort. Also worth a mention is Roger Milner as the odd antique shop owner.

A Warning to the Curious has one of the best scores I've ever heard, let alone on a television programme. Full of droned dissonance and rasping breathing that reminded me of the Nick Cave and Warren Ellis collaborations. Fucking brilliant!

Is it as good as Whistle and I'll Come to You? Maybe, maybe not, but it is a top-tier Christmas Ghost Story. Thank you, BFI for saving these wonderful programmes from the clutches of the ever negligent BBC.

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Around the Village Green (1937)

Fascinating - looking back at a time that is, in turn, looking further back.

I know it's a little stupid to yearn for the days of TB and "knowing your place" but my childhood was a little like this and I miss it. I learned to write on a chalkboard, fished for tadpoles and watched the old men with their pipes sat outside the pub. Where everyone knew their neighbours and steps were scrubbed once a week. On the other hand, I also remember that the houses were black with soot and those old men coughed like bust boilers.


Letterboxd Review

Robin Redbreast (1970)

A maid from up the road is affeared by our ways.

Even considering the extremely good cast, Bernard Hepton as the softly spoken, well-read and sinister cloam collector Fisher nearly steals the show.

Unsettling and primitive, a paganistic ouroboros and a corker of a folk/rural horror film. Bleedy ansome bird!

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

Not the psychedelic and existential terror of The Masque of the Red Death, but a quite different beast indeed; the tale of a man driven to the edge of insanity by the possibility that evil can be inherited.

Knowing the slender plot of the original short story, screenwriter extraordinaire, Richard Matheson wisely blends several elements from Poe into a hideously deformed, bastard child of the sort that you would lock away in your deepest dungeon, knowing that one day they would break free!

Price plays the haunted and fragile Medina brilliantly, but if there's one complaint, it's that The Pit and the Pendulum, like all good gothic horrors, needs more Barbara Steele.

Cobwebs, dungeons, gargoyles, secret passages, torture devices, lightning, skeletons, and red candles, lots and lots of red candles. This is high-gothic!

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

The Stalls of Barchester (1971)

A Poe-like tale of murder, blackmail and guilt. A straightforward telling but tense, with a real sense of foreboding and filled to the brim with spooky details.
Good to see a Hyacinth-less Clive Swift, expert on the longbow, Robert Hardy and an extremely snotty Thelma Barlow.

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

The Signalman (1976)

In which isolation, confinement and impotence can light cinders in the darkest corners of the mind, cause vibrations in the soul and signal the most terrible of horrors.

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

Monday, 5 September 2016

The Innocents (1961)

The whisper of dark secrets can corrupt, even the most innocent. But who is the innocent?

"Big rooms get bigger at night" sums up perfectly the way that the rules of the universe twist and reform, when you're young, into something otherworldly; sometimes innocent and fey, sometimes cruel and dark. A beautifully spooky film - the angles, the framing, the sound-design, the depth and contrast.

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterbox Review

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Z for Zachariah (2015)

Apparently, science is northern, black, aggressive, immoral and destructive whereas religion is southern, white, moral, natural, tolerant and wholesome.

Obvious, more than a little obnoxious and dull.

Letterboxd Review