Friday, 27 February 2015

Doll Boy (2010)

A few years back the forums were full of talk about Doll Boy and I was going to buy it on release but shipping to the UK made it way too expensive for a short film. Luckily the director, Billy Pon, has put it up on youtube preceded by a couple of trailers for his later, full length, work.

Doll Boy has some of the best set design I've seen in a low-budget indie horror film and the Doll Boy himself (weapon of choice - a big fucking sledgehammer) is an amazingly creepy character; with his frowny, child-like mask - we are well and truly in uncanny valley. The editing is nice and tight, the acting wasn't too shabby and the effects work was pretty good. The violence itself is mostly unseen but there are several "ewww!" moments. There are some really tense scenes and the films hurtles along at breakneck speed helped by a great soundtrack.

Doll Boy has a real grotty grindhouse feel too it without it being too obvious and at 31 minutes long (including two trailers) it's well worth a watch. I'd recommend tracking down a DVD copy if possible as this one's a keeper.

See if you can guess who the "final girl" will be :)

Original letterboxd review

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Headless (2015)

Ok. First there was a film called "found", one of my favourite indie horror films of which I am the proud possessor of an original, uncut DVD. In "found", just like a rather gory Midsummer Night's Dream, there was a film within a film. A kid rents a obscure VHS movie called "Headless", of which we see a short and bloody excerpt. Shortly, due to demand, the director Scott Schirmer said they'd be filming a feature length "Headless" directed by the "found" special effects magician Arthur Cullipher. Yay! I was one of the Kickstarters and, before receiving a proper DVD copy, got to watch a pre-release on Vimeo. Here's what happened...

They've gone for a VHS grindhouse homage (similar to Tarantino and Rodriguez's Grindhouse) with a trailer for a non-existent film called Wolf Baby (which I'd love to see), a dirty, scratched celluloid look and nice period idents. It'll be interesting to see if they can hold up the late seventies feel for the whole 85 minutes. Thankfully the scratches are cleaned up a wee bit before we start the main feature... Headless!

The film starts with a bloody flashback to the original "found" in the opening title sequence which places us in familiar territory and sets up new viewers with a taste of what's to come. Just shy of a hour and a half later, Headless was an extremely gory exploitation flick, with eyeball eating, limb hacking, skull fucking and assorted other juicy, gruey shit. Freddy Krueger this isn't. Headless is relentlessly nasty with just enough narrative to get by. If there's one fault it's that some of the effects are over-used which lessens their impact. A few more imaginative kills would have spiced things up a little.

Cullipher does a good job of getting a real seventies vibe (there's beards, doobies, Farrah cuts and a fucking roller disco!) and there is a real dirty and grainy feel to the movie. Low budget, indie film making of this standard is hard to come by and I recommend it for all you nasty fuckers out there.

Original letterboxd review

StageFright: Aquarius (1987)

You could see this film as a indictment of the state of cinema, show-business and celebrity in the 1980s but I prefer to think of it as a great slasher with giallo touches and more screaming than you can shake an axe at. Stage Fright has everything you could want: tension, humour, great camera-work, decent performances, imaginative death scenes, and a killer soundtrack. Call me weird, but I'd say this could be the greatest date movie ever made?

Unfortunately Stage Fright, along with Opera, Demons and to a lesser extent The Church, was the death rattle of the glory days of Italian genre cinema.

Who'd have thought a owl-headed killer could be so terrifying?

Original letterboxd review

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Babadook (2014)

WARNING: spoilers of a sort ahead...

The Babadook is superficially a paranormal horror flick but delve just beneath the surface and we find a story about a woman with severe, untreated, post-natal depression caused by the guilt of her husbands death whilst driving her to the maternity ward. The death of the husband/fat
her creates issues for both the mother (sleep deprivation, hallucinations and paranoia) and with the son, who is fiercely protective of his mother and has a distinct lack of boundaries.

The performances of the two leads are terrific, especially Essie Davis's transformation from a caring, if sometimes over-protective mother, to a woman desperately in need of help, and finally into a monster intent on destroying, what she perceives to be, the cause of her husband's death. The main set of an old house complete with creaky floorboards, black and grey walls, flickering lights and antique furniture brings to mind haunted house / psychological horror films such as The Innocents, The Haunting and Gaslight. Added to this is sound design that further accentuates the Mothers descent into depression and paranoia.

A classy, tension filled horror film and a nail in the coffin of the shitty jump-scare movies of recent years.

Original letterboxd review

Saturday, 7 February 2015

The Rover (2014)

Guy Pearce plays Eric, a man haunted by his past and in search of his stolen car. Aided by the wounded brother of one of the thieves, they cross a near-future, Australian wasteland, leaving destruction in their wake.

The Rover is the spiritual successor to Mad Max, although the premise also reminds me of Point Blank. A protagonist with a single focus, willing to kill anyone who gets in the way of achieving his objective. The Japanese have a term, giri, that denotes the obligation of one person to another. The Rover is all about giri and this works in both directions; Pattinson's duty to the person who saved his life and Pearce's adoption of Pattinson.

Beautifully shot and composed. The film has a yellow hue and a wide aspect ratio that captures the desolate outback perfectly. Then there's the soundtrack, and what a soundtrack. A minimalist, post-rock masterpiece that sounds like telegraph cables vibrating in a hot desert wind. Perfect.

Pearce, complete with thousand yard stare, looks as crusty as an old croc and as pissed off as a snake in a clothes mangle. He's the fifth horseman of the apocalypse and he rides a dusty black ute. Pattinson's no slouch either and carries off his "Lenny" like character perfectly.


"How the hell are you going to get to where you're going if you don't know where the fuck you are?"

Original letterboxd review

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Samurai Cop (1991)

A cheap as fuck buddy cop movie staring Matt Hannon as Joe Marshall. Joe is a maverick. Joe gets the girls. Joe has long hair and orange skin. Joe explains everything as it's happening. Joe is a chicken thief. Joe is Samurai Cop!

Samurai Cop has some of the craziest editing, framing, dialogue and acting I've ever seen in a film. It has a terrible fight choreography. It has obligatory, panties on, sex scenes. It has the same dialogue used over and over and over again. It has chins chopped off in pretty much every close-up. It has so many WTF moments I lost count. It has everything I want from a bad film.

Film-making incompetence on a grand scale and recommended to everyone who loves complete shit.

"Shoot! Shoot him!"

Original letterboxd review

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Oculus (2013)

A haunted house horror film with a difference.

There are some really interesting ideas about mental illness, childhood trauma, body image, collective hysteria, and also how we build narratives around our beliefs using flimsy and circumstantial evidence to re-enforce and justify them. Almost from the start out preconceptions are toyed with as the film does rather a nice switch-around with Gillan's maniacal character acting like someone with extreme bipolar psychosis and her, allegedly, mentally unstable brother being the voice of reason.

Unfortunately the second half ignores the ideas put forward in the first and retreats into familiar possessed object and haunted house territory with phenomena that are ever increasingly harder to blame on the main character's mental state.

There are nice touches of horror and a slowly building sense of dread. The continual flashbacks can be discombobulating but are needed to support the idea of how malleable and unreliable memory can be, especially when influenced by fear, paranoia and psychosis. If Oculus was a little more The Shining rather than The Amityville Horror then this would have been an outstanding psychological drama rather than just a very good paranormal horror film.

Original letterboxd review

Dom Hemingway (2013)

I'm at home, in bed and ill so I thought I'd give this a watch based purely on the poster and the fact that it looks like an easy, fun time. Jude Law tends to be a bit of a pretty boy in films and here he looks like some sort of East End Wolverine. Plus I have a good set of sideburns as well and, believe it or not, they're older than some of my letterboxd friends :)

Not even 5 minutes in and the dialogue is pissing me off. It's like the writer thinks that making everyone speak like a Cockney version of Hamlet would be a good and cool thing. No it's not, it's stupid and any middle-aged prison screw uttering the phrase "are you disrespecting me?" needs stabbing with a plastic pudding fork. Ernest Hemingway was famous for his ability to strip a story down to its bare bones, to rip out the purple prose, to throw away the thesaurus and build beauty from simplicity. Richard Shepard, the writer/director of Dom Hemingway, goes to the other extreme and, like Russell Brand, thinks that complexity equals intelligence.

Dom, the safecracker, gets out of prison and beats the shit out of someone with his tools of the trade - his hands. Not a wise move. Dom gets drunk and shags prostitutes. Dom smokes in a pub not realising that it's been banned for years (are there no newspapers or tv inside?). Does Dom care? Nah, you cunt! Dom soliloquises. Dom is a geezer. Dom goes to France just like British comedies of the 70s did - when things get boring send 'em abroad. How do we know we're in France? Because we get a girl on a bike. That's what the French do, ride bikes all day long. All we need is some fucking onions! Just as I thought the stereotyping couldn't get any worse, a Russian crime lord appears. Dom Hemmingway is getting on my tits. Twenty minutes in and I'm bored shitless.

So we've got your standard, low-rent, Guy Ritchie-a-like, UK gangster film that tries to be hard but comes off as a laughable mess. We got bored of Richie doing doing this shit years ago so what made Richard Sheppard think that this was a good idea? As we used to say back in the day "Oi, It ain't big and it ain't clever". The cast is largely wasted with Speed from Citizen Smith, Mark Wingett from The Bill/Quadrophenia making a brief appearance and Richard E Grant filling some screen space but, otherwise, serving little purpose.

The soundtrack, like in Richie's films, is pretty good but a soundtrack does not a film make. As an indicator of how lazy this film is, Dom's daughter's band perform The Waterboys' Fisherman's Blues. Excellent, I thought, I like that song. What was not excellent was the fact that it sounds like they used the original Waterboys' version, stripped the vocals off and added the daughter's piss-poor voice on top and to top that we've got a mandolin player obviously miming along really, really badly.

If there's one word to sum up Dom Hemingway it would be "lazy" and as Dom would have said: it's a boring, cliché ridden, ballsack of wank and I'd rather have a chorus line of one-legged ballet dancers pirouetting on my cock than watch this pompous shitfest ever again.

Original letterboxd review